‘Tis the season to be jolly: Lamb with Green Peppers

Written by Meena Agarwal on November 28th, 2007 | 19 Comments


Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

I’m almost embarrassed to say what I’m going to say: I LOVE winter! Yes, I really, really, do. I love everything about it: the snow covered roof tops, cashmere sweaters and scarfs, hot chocolate dunked biscotti, Hubby Dear moaning while scraping ice off his windshield… Okay, scratch that, maybe I don’t truly enjoy watching him do that, but it’s just a part of the season I’ve come to reckon with, like baking cookies. Yes, quite like that, except not so rewarding. Well, you get what I mean!The reason for my embarrassment is because I seem to invite such odd looks from people when I say it. They all look at me in a ‘are-you-serious-or-just-plain-crazy’ kinda way. But I beg to differ! I mean, wouldn’t you prefer engulfing yourself in soft warm fabrics and eating rich stews as opposed to sweating through the day? I do at least.

Which brings me back to my favourite season: the Holidays! With the lighting of the city Christmas tree last weekend in Toronto, the official holiday season has begun. The lights have gone up, and huge cuddly Santas can be seen around town taking letters from little kids. Which also means, it’s about time I get into my Holiday skin. And to kick things off, I thought, what better than to start here. Yes, right here! On this blog. The one place I seem to spend most of my waking time at.

So I gathered all my little elves, in my case that would simply mean my brain cells, and put together a fabulous treat for you all. There will be some wonderful new features on the blog, a fantabulous Holiday Gift Guide for food lovers of all kinds, and a bunch of bewitching prizes to be won! And need I mention, a load of delicious holiday recipes to lure your friends and family with. So watch this space in the coming week when I’ll dig into my goody bag and throw a celebration your way. Until then, there’s always lamb…

LAMB WITH GREEN PEPPERS
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 45 min | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp cooking oil
fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish
water, as needed
salt, to taste

Directions:

Marinate lamb for at least an hour in a blend of yogurt and ginger-garlic paste.

Heat oil in a deep pan and add nigella and cumin seeds. Once they start to sizzle, add in sliced onions and fry till lightly browned.

Stir in spices and tomato paste, and add in the marinated lamb along with the yogurt.

Cook covered on low heat for 35-40 minutes till lamb is tender, adding water in between if it starts to dry up and stick to the pan. Season with salt and add in chopped peppers, letting it cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve warm.



Recreating Perfection: Dal Makhani (Creamy Black Lentils)

Written by Meena Agarwal on November 14th, 2007 | 83 Comments


Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

You know how there is always this ONE recipe that no matter how hard you try to replicate, you never seem to be able to hit it just right? Somehow, the taste of when you first devoured the dish still lingers on your palate, and even after a dozen of your experimented versions later, you still know that it’s not quite as close to the original. Well for me, I have one too many of those!

There’s the PERFECT Mee Goreng served by the street hawker down the lane from my Grandma’s house in Malaysia, the spicy Chole garnished with fresh chopped onions and served with giant-sized crisp Bhaturas in Delhi and the most amazingly luscious melt-in-your-mouth Tiramisu served at a corner cafe by the Colosseum in Rome, to name just a few! But of all of them, the ONE recipe that has me searching non-stop for a close flavour duplicate would definitely have to be of Dal Makhani from a little nondescript restaurant in Kuwait.

Growing up, I remember eating off the restaurant’s classic menu once too often. They were especially known for their fantastic and lip-smacking combination of Chicken Tikka, Dal Makhani and Puris. But for me, a die-hard Chicken Tikka devotee, it was always their Dal Makhani that did the deed. It’s thick, warm and creamy texture was everything I craved for anytime of the year.

Ever since I moved away from home, I have always been on a search for a Dal Makhani that would come close to my childhood indulgence. But alas, none came even near an inch to tasting anything like it. I went high and low, to some of the most fabulous Indian restaurants as well as the local take-out favourites, but none of them could win me over. I had almost given up ordering the dreaded dish until one day my Mom decided to come to my rescue. She played and she toiled a few recipes, added this and subtracted that from the ingredients, and simplified the method to suit her needs, and Voila! What can I say? Now whenever I crave some lip-smacking comfort food, all I do is enter my kitchen. It’s a perfect go-to recipe this time of year, and I need I add, an absolute hit at my Diwali bash last weekend!

DAL MAKHANI (CREAMY BLACK LENTILS)
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 30 min | Serves: 4
Special Cooking Equipment: Pressure Cooker

Ingredients:

1/2 cup whole black lentils and a handful of dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium-sized tomato, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cooking oil
fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish
water, as needed
salt, to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a pressure cooker and saute onions till lightly browned. Stir in salt, chilli powder, ginger-garlic paste, and tomato paste and fry for a few seconds.

Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes to combine well. Add lentils and beans, and enough water to cover them. Pressure cook for 15-20 minutes till lentils are soft and done. Stir in milk and let it come to a boil.

In a separate pan, make a tempering by heating butter and whole garlic cloves slit in the middle. Stir the tempering into the lentils and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

Serve warm with soft, fluffy Naans.



In the Kitchen with: Erin Ergenbright

Written by Meena Agarwal on November 12th, 2007 | 2 Comments


I first  got a chance to read Erin Ergenbright’s writing when I got my hands on this delightful read. Her voice was an instant hit with me. A while later, I was able to get hold of her ‘The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook’, a fun book with recipes gathered from, you guessed right, ex-boyfriends! I simply couldn’t pass up a chance for a tete-a-tete with her, and just had to take a peek into her kitchen habits.

What did you eat today?

Scrambled farm eggs with spinach and garlic, a banana, a tuna sandwich, part of a lemon bar from the Farmer’s Market (they never taste quite as good as they look, but I’m always tempted), a lovely caprese salad made by my friend Natalie, and, I’m more slightly ashamed to admit this because it’s a rare event (honestly) but it was late and I was hungry and there wasn’t much else in the cupboard: Annie’s macaroni and cheese (made with fresh, creamy milk from a local farm, pepper and ketchup).

What do most enjoy cooking?

I love making my mother’s picadillo recipe—it’s actually in The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook, and attributed to someone named Phil, who, in reality, didn’t cook for me. He would have, maybe, but we lived in a dormitory. And we were eighteen. Anyway, the picadillo tastes amazing, and it somehow soothes me to prepare it: it has the perfect amount of chopping and mixing and savory smells.

In your fridge, we can always find…

Farm eggs, milk, spinach, peanut butter, a variety of soft and hard cheeses, and Castelvetrano olives—these buttery olives are nearly round and the most gorgeous shade of green imaginable.

Your most cherished kitchen tool?

Not counting the coffee maker, I’d say my melon baller. Not the most used instrument in the drawer, but the most cherished, as it was my grandma’s.

The last cookbook you enjoyed?

Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels through the Great Subcontinent, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It’s part coffee table book, cookbook and travel journal, and is completely riveting.

Where does your love for food come from?

My mom is a wonderful cook—growing up we ate dinner together every night, so good food has always seemed both important and, well, “normal.”

When was the last time you cooked for a loved one? What did you make?

Apparently it wasn’t recently, since I’m having struggling to remember–ah yes: it was a sort of a summer salad medley. Curried chicken and rice salad; cucumber, red onions, tomatoes and rice wine vinegar salad, and spinach salad with strawberries and balsamic.

What is your guilty food pleasure?

Peanut butter. I eat far, far too much peanut butter.

What according to you is the one dish that everyone must try at least once?

Brussel sprouts prepared with a lot of butter and coarse ground mustard. I thought I hated brussel sprouts, but I’d like to do my part to redeem this much maligned vegetable.