Category Archives: Baked Main Meal Dishes

Aloo Kulchas

During our stay in Jamshedpur recently- we were there for three weeks till we got to Mumbai this last weekend – I had the most amazing aloo kulchas at Gunchu Didi’s home, which she’d bought from the canteen in her school where they make these to order. In fact I liked them so much that when she and Usha Masi and Vijay Bhaiya cam home for dinner, I asked her to buy some for that evening too.

I can’t remember the last time an Indian bread made such an impression on me; not, I think, since the delicious, wonderfully soft and thin Maharashtrian polis that Vasanti made for us when we visited her in Pune once.

So this is going to be one of the first new recipes I am going to try my hand at once I get back to my kitchen in France.

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Jenny’s Spinach Pie

I ate this once last summer at Jenny’s and it was really quite nice.

So earlier today evening, when I happened to be in her kitchen as she made it for guests that she will have at lunch tomorrow, I noted down the quantities of the ingredients as she cooked.

It looked quite simple to put together, so I am going to try and make it some time soon.

Spinach Pie

2 rolls of store-bought pie crust

a kilo of frozen,very very finely chopped spinach

3-4 tablespoons of creme fraiche

a 210 gm bag of Gruyere cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 egg, lightly whisked

De-frost the spinach and squeeze out all the water.

In a pan, heat a little oil and fry the onion for a while.

In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach, the onion, the seasoning, the cheese and the creme fraiche.

Place one of the pie crusts at the bottom of a pie dish. Fill with the spinach mixture and spread it evenly. Cover with the second pie crust.

Brush the top with the egg and bake at 175degreesC till done.

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Filed under Baked Main Meal Dishes, Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Versatile Accompaniments

Mint- and Coriander-flavored Grilled Chicken

This is another recipe adapted from “Tikkas & Kebabs”, one of the “Chef’s Special” series published by Lustre Press in India.

I have wanted to try this one since a long time because of the very clear memory I have of the delicious mint-flavored chicken tikkas I ate once  in a restaurant in Delhi.

The girls loved this dish, when I cooked it for lunch last Wednesday.  When I told the boulanger about it – I wasn’t able to take any for him to taste because the girls and I polished it all off – he seemed to like the idea of it and has agreed to try it one Tuesday soon, instead of the usual tandoori chicken.

10-12 chicken drumsticks

100 grams of yogurt

2 tablespoons of lime juice

1 tablespoon of garlic paste

3-4 teaspoons of ginger paste

1 teaspoon of cummin powder

1 teaspoon of coriander powder

1 teaspoon of garam masala

4 tablespoons of oil

1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint leaves

4-5 tablespoons of melted butter, for basting the chicken

salt to taste ( two teaspoons or a little less, for this quantity of chicken, works for us)

Mix the ginger and garlic pastes with the salt and lemon juice.

Skin the chicken, make 3-4 incisions on each piece, toss the pieces thoroughly in the lemon juice mixture and  leave them in this marinade for 30 minutes in a large bowl.

In the meanwhile, strain the water in the yogurt by leaving it in a fine sieve for 15-20 minutes.

Mix the rest of the ingredients – except the butter – in the yogurt. Add this mixture to the chicken pieces and coat them well in it. Leave the chicken in this marinade for at least 8-1o hours, turning over the pieces once during this time.

Heat the grill to about 240 degrees Celsius, then place the chicken on a wire rack and grill till done (this takes about 40 minutes in my oven), turning the pieces over a couple of times during this time to make sure they are evenly cooked and basting with butter each time.

I love the mild but distinctive flavor of herbs here.

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Tandoori Chicken

Though what this is , actually, is oven-grilled chicken.

The girls  have always called it “red” chicken after the color of the excellent chicken that Jitender and Neelam always make at their barbeque parties and which Indira so looks forward to eating when we are invited !

The marinade – and therefore the taste of the chicken – I prepare is different from theirs though and is adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe in his  “Khazana of Indian Recipes”.

Tandoori Chicken

800 gms of chicken drumsticks

1 or 2 teaspoons of kashmiri chilli powder

4 tablespoons of lime juice

200 gms of yogurt

4-5 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic pastes

3/4 teaspoon of garam masala powder

salt to taste

about 100 ml of melted butter

2-3 limes, cut in to wedges

Skin and wash the chicken, then make cuts in several places on each piece.

In a flat bowl, mix half the lime juice and Kashmiri chilli powder and toss the chicken pieces in this mixture. Keep aside for 30 minutes.

In the meanwhile, leave the yogurt in a very fine sieve – to drain the whey – for 15-20 minutes.

Then mix the yogurt with the rest of the ingredients (except the butter),  toss the chicien pieces in this marinade to coat them well and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

Pre-heat the grill to 240 degrees C, then place the chicken pieces at the top of the oven and cook till they are done, turning them over a couple of times so that all the sides are cooked evenly. Apply butter lightly with a brush each time on the surface just below the grill.

This dish is best eaten hot from the oven and lime wedges are a must-have accompaniment, for the juice to be squeezed on to each piece as it’s eaten.

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Baked Parsnip Chips

The first time I came across this vegetable was at a Christmas PTA lunch two years ago at the home of one of Indira’s classmates. The hostess provided these chips as one of the starters and I really loved their sweetness and almost herby flavor.

But then I overheard some of the French teachers at the lunch say to the lady jokingly that in France this vegetable is considered good only for horses 🙂 Since then, I have also heard people say it is “pig food”  though in England and some other countries it is in fact a common “people food ” as they eat it steamed/boiled/fried/baked or added to soups.

The very distinctive taste of those chips has stayed with me so when I spotted parsnips (panais in French) for the first time in Carrefour recently, I bought some.

This is what we are having  for dinner tonight, with a vegetable soup and garlic bread.

To see what parsnips look like(imagine a large, cream/beige carrot) check here

Baked Parsnip Chips

Two large parsnips (about 500 grams), peeled and cut in to slices, hard core removed

3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Put the parsnip slices in a large mixing bowl, season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil and toss everything together well.

Spread the slices on a baking tray in a single layer and bake until done (at least 25 minutes) at the top of the oven, at 200 degrees C.

As it turned out, Indira did not take to these tonight, just as she did not like the sweet potato chips too much. But the rest of us polished off the lot 🙂

The herb-like taste and aroma that I felt I noticed may be because this vegetable apparently belongs to the Umbelliferae family, whose other members include carrots, coriander, parsley, fennel, cumin, dill etc.

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Filed under Baked Main Meal Dishes, Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments

Yummy Vegetable Biryani

The recipe for this comes from Shefali.  She made an excellent vegetable biryani for the  birthday party we had for their son Vayun, and Noor, this last March. I had been meaning ever since to ask her for the recipe.

Then, when I was wondering what to make for dinner this last Saturday evening, to go with the tikki-chole and tandoori chicken that I was planning for the main course (we had Jenny,Stefan,and Uma and her parents’  Kate and Oliver come over to eat with us) , I remembered this biryani and felt it would round out the meal nicely.

Shefali very patiently explained the entire process to me – and it certainly is a long one – over the telephone, after which I did a trial run during the week. The girls especially loved the biryani , though Shri I guess would have liked me to not skip the fried onions that usually adorn a biryani. But there was so much oil/ghee that had gone in to the rice already, I decided I just had to skip this last bit of garnish !

Since the experiment worked out well I did make the biryani for dinner on Saturday too and our guests liked it a lot.

Instead of the traditional accompaniment of  raita, I made khamang kakdi to go with the biryani – as I wanted to include a salad on the table – and it wasn’t a bad combination.

The three girls had pasta, a leafy green salad and potato wedges that evening but I made enough so that Indira and Noor – and Shri and I, too – had the leftover biryani for lunch on Sunday and I have to say this is another dish that tastes even better the next day !

For the rice :

2 cups of Basmati rice

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

3 bay leaves

3 pods (cracked) each of green and black cardamom

5 cloves

salt, to taste (I would add 1 teaspoon)

For the vegetable mixture:

2 tablespoons of oil

3 medium carrots, peeled, washed, sliced in half along the length then diced in to 1 cm wide pieces

3 medium potatoes, peeled, washed, sliced in half along the length then diced in to 1cm-2 cm wide pieces

150-200 gms of fresh green beans, ends trimmed then diced in to 1 inch pieces

250 gms of whisked yogurt

3/4 teaspoon each of turmeric powder, red chilly powder and garam masala powder

3 tablespoons of mint-coriander paste (made with equal amounts of the two herbs) or mint-coriander chutney (I had some in the fridge so this is what I used and it added a nice tangy touch, I think)

1 large onion, chopped very fine

2 tomatoes, chopped fine or an equivalent amount of canned tomato pulp

1 and a 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger and garlic pastes

salt, to taste (I would add about 1 1/2-2 teaspoons)

You’ll also be using:

approx. 120 ml of warm milk

a generous pinch of saffron strands (I used almost  3/4 of a tablespoon, I think)

2-4 tablespoons of melted ghee

1-2 tablespoons of fresh mint leaves for garnish

Wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes. Then in a rice cooker or large sauce pan, heat the oil for the rice,fry the whole spices till their aroma is released. Now add the rice after draining it and fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the salt, 3 cups of water and cook till all the water is absorbed and the rice is almost but not entirely cooked (it should have  just a little bite left).

While the rice cooks, soak the saffron strands in the milk and start to prepare the vegetable mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a shallow frying pan and add the potatoes. Fry till they start to acquire a  crispy, golden color. Then add the carrots and the beans, and cook for a few minutes till they seem semi-cooked. Take the pan off the heat and let the vegetables cool.

Make a marinade for the vegetables by mixing the chutney and the turmeric powder, red chilly powder and garam masala powder in to the yoghurt. When the vegetables have cooled completely, add them to this mixture, toss everything together gently to coat the vegetables well and keep aside for at least an hour.

Now heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the same frying pan as the one used for the vegetables, and fry the chopped onion till it is a caramel-brown color. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes next, and fry the mixture till the tomatoes are well-blended. Add the  marinated vegetables and cook everything together till the yogurt is absorbed but take the mixture off the heat before it goes too dry. Season with salt and toss in to the vegetables.

In a large baking dish, spread half the vegetable mixture, then spread half the rice over that (after gently fluffing the rice in the pan in which you cooked it to separate the grains. While doing this, also remove all the whole spices; the rice will have absorbed their flavors in any case). Sprinkle over, evenly , half the milk and saffron mixture , and half the ghee (I skipped this bit with the ghee the first time I made the biryani and it makes no big difference to the taste, I think). Now spread the remaining vegetable mixture, then the rest of the rice, followed by the remaining milk-saffron mixture and then the ghee. Garnish with fresh mint, wrap and seal the dish well with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated oven for 1 hour, at 170-180 degrees C.

After the end of the baking time, leave the dish in the oven for 15-20 minutes, then keep the dish well-covered till you are ready to serve/eat.

Then dig in with a large serving spoon to bring up all the yummy flavors, and eat slowly to savor them 🙂

This one is so worth the effort. Thanks again, Shefali !

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Grilled Salmon or Trout with Pesto

This is just the nicest way to cook with either of these two varieties of fish.

Grilled Salmon/Trout with Pesto

250 gms of boneless fillet or pave of salmon or trout

some lime juice

salt to taste

approx 1 tablespoon of pesto

Sprinkle salt and squeeze the juice from at least 1/2 a  lime over the fillets. Keep aside for a few minutes while you heat the grill to 200degreesC.

Spread the pesto evenly over the fillets, then grill them at the top of the oven till the fish tests done – the pesto will start to char a little by this point and the fish will flake quite easily.

Serve this hot. Yum !

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And we are finally making Crepes!

Indira and Noor have always enjoyed crepes. They like both the sweet sort, filled with Nutella or some confiture, as well as the savory kind (usually made with buckwheat) that we ate last month in Valberg, when we went up to the mountains to do some snow sledding on Noor’s birthday. That day Shri had just the plain – but awesome – buckwheat crepes that come with a generous dollop of beurre de bretagne, and the girls and I had them with a really satisfying topping of ham and some cheese.

Ever since, I have thought that I must try and make crepes at home, since we all enjoy them so much, though so far I have only ever bought the packaged, sweet variety from supermarkets for the girls’ gouter.

First, a little background on crepes. They are very think pancakes, made of a variety of flours, and can be both sweet or savory. Crepes are native to the region of Brittany, in northwestern France, where they are traditionally made with  buckwheat flour and served with cider. The interesting thing about buckwheat is that it is not a variety of wheat; in fact it is not a cereal at all. It is classified as a “pseudocereal” – it is a broadleaf plant and not a grass (true cereals are grasses). Buckwheat – called sarrasin in French – is gluten-free and a rich source of proteins and iron.

And as it has turned out, crepes are just wonderfully easy and quick to make. What’s more, the substitution of whole wheat  for plain flour doesn’t make a discernible difference to the taste. I was quite relieved to see that the girls ate the ones I made today with whole wheat flour with as much enthusiasm as they did the one I made last week with white flour.

Noor and I shared one today with a filling of a little bit of a salmon spread that we both like, instead of Nutella, and that was very nice too. So I am now planning to go the whole hog and make the savory kind one day for dinner, with sarrasin flour.

This recipe, based on the one in Linda Doeser’s “Les 100 Meilleures Recettes – Cuisine Vegetarienne” is, to borrow a phrase from Indira and her friends, easy peasy lemon squeezy 🙂

noorniceparkpohacrepes-049

Whole wheat Crepes

115-120 gms of whole wheat flour, with 1/4 tsp of salt added in (if you have time, sift these two together)

300 ml of milk ( either whole cream or half-fat)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon of sunflower oil

In a mixing bowl, stir in half the milk and the egg in to the flour till the batter is quite smooth. Add the rest of the milk, and the oil, and mix till well combined.

Ideally, leave the batter to rest for 30-60 minutes.

Heat a medium-sized crepe pan till it is very hot. Put a little knob of butter on the pan, and quickly spread it over the surface of the pan with a kitchen towel. Now lift the pan off the heat, pour 1/3 a small cup of batter on to the pan, and quickly bend and turn the pan every which way till the batter covers the entire surface of the pan. Put the pan back on the hob, turn the heat down just a little, and cook till the top of the crepe appears to be dry. Flip it over with a spatula, and cook the other side for 1/2 a minute or so, lifting every few seconds towards the end to check if it is done.

Repeat the process with the rest of the batter. Try not to keep the crepes one on top of the other as they can get difficult to separate.

(Crepes can be cooked in an oven too; more about that another time)

Keep each prepared crepe on a large surface and when it is a little cool, spread any sweet or savory filling over one half, then fold the crepe over twice to form a triangle.

Et voila ! That is all it takes to create a  great snack, or with some salad on the side, a very nice meal.

Read all about crepes here http://www.epicurean.com/articles/crepes.html and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cr%C3%AApe

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Aubergine Parmiggiana

Along with socca, ratatouille, and crepes, this southern Italian(Campania) specialty was one of those foods I discovered in a local restaurant and fell in love with soon after we came to live in France.

So I was thrilled the day I found a lovely cookbook in the English bookshop in Valbonne some years ago, called  “The Best of Mediterranean food”, by Sarah Woodward, which had a recipe for it.

And what an excellent recipe it is too. The results are as satisfying – in some cases, better – as anything I have eaten in many good restaurants here, even with the couple of variations I make (such as substituting dried oregano for fresh).

This dish is a delicious melange of lots of wonderful things, such as melted mozzarella and lots of fresh basil. Indira absolutely adores it and wishes I’d make it a lot more often. But all that cheese does it make quite heavy on the stomach, so though we are all very fond of it I make it only very occasionally.

auberginebake-002

Aubergine Parmiggiana

aubergines  750 gms

olive oil  6-7 tbsp (for grilling the aubergine)

2 small onions, chopped fine

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine

canned tomatoes 600 gms

dried oregano 1 tsp or a little more

salt  and black pepper to taste

Mozzarella  200 gms( drained weight), sliced quite thin

Basil leaves (a large-ish bunch)

freshly grated Parmesan 100-150 gms
Wash the basil leaves and keep them on a kitchen towel to dry.

In a saucepan, saute the onions  and the garlic on a low heat in 2-3 tbsp of olive oil till they are quite soft.   Now add the tomatoes, the oregano, the salt and the pepper, then turn up the heat and cook the sauce till it is quite thick. This will take about 15-20 minutes.

Slice the aubergines in to 1 cm thick pieces (lengthwise or across).  Spread these on to a large surface, sprinkle with sea salt, and press down with a heavy weight. After 30 minutes or so, this will have drawn out a lot of the juice (which often has a bitter-ish taste) of the aubergine. Mop this up with kitchen towels.

The aubergine slices can now either be deep-fried (this is the traditional way) till they are a nice golden brown color and quite soft, or grilled -after brushing slightly with olive oil- at 280-300degreesC in a pre-heated grill. This will take around 10 minutes.  The aubergines will need to be turned over once, half way, and will need a little bit of oil brushed on to the other side as well.

I grill rather than deep-fry the aubergines because the former method uses less oil but the taste of this dish definitely gains something with the latter…

Set the oven now to to heat to 180degreesC. In a large ovenproof dish, cover the base with half of the tomato sauce, then layer it with some of the aubergine slices, then 3/4ths of the mozzarella slices on top of that, followed by half the Parmesan. Spread the basil leaves next, then the rest of the aubergine slices, followed by the remaining mozzarella, the sauce, and the rest of the Parmesan.

Bake for 30 minutes near the bottom of the oven, and serve the dish as soon as it come out of the oven, or the mozzarella will go tough and stringy.

There is LOADS of taste and flavor here; all it needs to make this a complete meal is some green salad and a small portion of bread to soak up all the juices.




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