Fried Chinese Potatoes (Koorka)

Fried Chinese Potatoes (Koorka)

The tuber known as koorka or Chinese potato in Kerala — botanical name Coleus rotundifolius — is a perennial herb native to Africa. I remember my mother making it occasionally and revelling in the delicious taste and firm texture of the dish. The Chinese potato is neither from China nor is it a potato. It belongs to the mint family.

I rarely cook it as it is difficult to clean and peel and leaves ugly black stains on the fingers. In Kerala, however, now you can get it delivered cleaned, peeled and sliced. So I cooked it and enjoyed both the cooking and the eating.

Ingredients

Koorka or Chinese potato 200 g, sliced

Garlic cloves 3, crushed

Onion 1 medium, sliced

Curry leaves, a few sprigs

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Chilli flakes 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Coconut oil 1 tbsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp

Method

Steam the koorka with salt and turmeric powder in 1/2 cup water in a pressure cooker for two whistles. Let the cooker cool naturally and open it. Continue to cook till the water evaporates.

Heat the coconut oil in a wok and add the mustard seeds.

When they stop sputtering, add the onions.

Add the garlic and curry leaves.

Add the cooked koorka and the chilli flakes.

Cook on low heat till the koorka is slightly crisp on the outside.

Serve with chapatis or rice.

Mango, tomato, onion salsa

Mango, tomato, onion salsa

I consider this summer in a bowl. It is a very welcome dish in the hot months and works well as a starter with nachos or chips and a side dish with pasta or biryani.

Ingredients

Mango 1 large, ripe

Onion 1 small, chopped

Tomato 1 medium, chopped

Green chilli 1, minced

Chilli flakes 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Method

I use a mango that is firm. It should’ve ripe, but not squishy. Peel the mango and chop it into small cubes.

Add the chopped mango, onion, tomato and green chilli to a bowl.

Add the salt and red chilli flakes and toss it till everything is mixed well.

Let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Serve with nachos or chips.

Vanilla and Almond Cake

Vanilla and Almond Cake

This is a cake that I whip up in 15 minutes and bake for 40 minutes. When guests call and say they will be at my place in less than an hour, I make this for tea and gossip. Goes well with wine as well.

A cake with a bite

Ingredients

All-purpose flour 1 1/2 cups

Eggs 3

Butter 180 g

Sugar 1 cup

Baking powder 1 tsp

Vanilla 1 tsp

Whole almonds 10

Milk 2 tbsps

Method

Cream the butter and sugar together till it is smooth.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and add to the mix. Whisk well to get the air in.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and mix into the beaten mixture.

Add the vanilla essence and milk and mix well.

Pour into a greased cake tin. I used a heart-shaped cake tin for a change.

Arrange the almonds on top. They will sink in as the batter rises in the oven.

Bake in 160 degree C oven for 40 minutes but check after 30. A toothpick stuck into the cake should come out clean.

Cool on a rack and cut into cubes. Serve with tea or red wine.

Jackfruit Biryani

Jackfruit Biryani

It is jackfruit season in Kerala and the tree in my cousin’s backyard is laden with fruit. She gave me raw jackfruit and my original plan was to cook it the traditional way with coconut. But the smell of fresh raw jackfruit as it boiled was so tempting that I decided to try to make biryani with it. This is a recipe that I developed on the fly and the end result turned out delicious.

Ingredients

Raw jackfruit 300 g, cut into cubes

Turmeric 1 tsp

Salt 1tsp

Basmati rice 2 cups, soaked for 15 minutes and drained

Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp

Onion 1 medium, sliced

Garlic cloves 5

Ginger 1” piece

Green chilli 1, chopped

Tomato 1 large, chopped

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Cumin powder 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves 1 sprig

Oil 2 tbsps

Water as needed

Method

Boil the raw jackfruit in two cups of water with salt and turmeric till all the liquid evaporates. By now the jackfruit should be tender but still succulent.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan. You can use any vegetable oil.

Add the mustard seeds. When the seeds stop sputtering, add the onions. Sauté the onions till they turn golden brown.

Crush the garlic and ginger in a stone pestle and mortar. Add this to the onions. Sauté for a few minutes till the raw smell of garlic disappears. This should take only about 2-3 minutes. Add the curry leaves.

Add the cooked jackfruit to the pan and fry for a minute.

Add the tomatoes and green chilli. Fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the drained rice and mix well. Add the spices and add about 3 cups of water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the biryani and cook till the water evaporates. By now the rice will be cooked.

Switch off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad or mango salsa.

Aloo Parantha (Potato Pancakes)

Aloo Parantha (Potato Pancakes)

Aloo paranthas or wheat pancakes stuffed with potatoes are a favourite with most people. I have found that my friends all enjoy hot potato paranthas, irrespective of race, nationality or gender.

This aloo parantha can be made even if you don’t have the traditional implements — chakla or marble rolling tile, belan or rolling pin, and tawa or concave griddle. The potato stuffing is mixed into a batter of whole wheat flour and water and then made into pancakes.

Ingredients

Potato 1 large, boiled, peeled and grated

Onion 1 medium, finely chopped

Green chilli 2, finely chopped

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves, a bunch, chopped

Atta or whole wheat flour 1 cup

Water for batter

Oil 1 tbsp

Method

Mix the boiled potato with the onions, green chillies, salt, coriander leaves and red chilli powder and mix well. Add the oil and mash it all together.

Add water to the atta and make a smooth better. Add half a teaspoon of salt.

Add the potato mix to the batter and whisk well. Add more water if needed.

Heat a nonstick griddle and pour a ladle full of batter. Spread to make a thick pancake. Cook for a minute and flip it over. Apply some ghee and cook.

Transfer to a plate. Make similar pancakes with the rest of the batter.

Serve hot with a salad and plain yoghurt.

Chicken Meatloaf

Chicken Meatloaf

This is an extremely moist and flavourful meatloaf that goes well with a green salad and mashed potatoes. I use Ching’s Secret brand of red chilli sauce that is delicious in this dish. I also soak the bread in skimmed milk that keeps the loaf moist. I also use a mix of red chilli sauce and tomato purée for the topping. The addition of olives, jalapeño peppers and dried oregano gives the meatloaf a robust taste.

Ingredients

Chicken mince 500 g

Bread, roughly chopped 4 cups

Skimmed milk 1 cup

Olives 10

Jalapeño pepper 2, chopped

Oregano 2 tbsps, dried

Red chilli sauce 1 cup, divided into two

Tomato purée 5 tbsps

Salt to taste

Onion 1 large, chopped

Vegetable oil 2 tbsps

Olive oil to grease the loaf pan

Method

Add the vegetable oil to a wok and sauté the onions till they turn golden brown.

Add the chicken mince and cook for 15 minutes till all the water evaporates.

Soak the bread in milk and add to a bowl. I use rye bread or sourdough bread, but any artisanal bread works.

Add the olives, jalapeño peppers, 4 tablespoons of red chilli sauce, oregano and salt to the bread.

Toss well and add the mixture to the cooked mince.

Add salt and mix well.

Transfer to a greased loaf pan and pack it down tight.

Mix the rest of the red chilli sauce and tomato purée and pour on top of the meatloaf.

Bake in 190 degree C oven for 50 minutes.

Cover with aluminium foil and leg it rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with a green salad and mashed potatoes.

Bal Mithai (fudgy milk sweet)

Bal Mithai (fudgy milk sweet)

This fudgy milk sweet with a deep chocolate colour is a delicacy from the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. It’s origins are lost in the mists of time. While some ascribe it to a local halwai in Almora, others say it came from Nepal in the 7th century A.D. and was modified by halwai Joga Lal Shah, who used milk from a particular village to make the khoya, the basis for the sweet.

This sweet needs constant attention during cooking. Prepare yourself before you start. Have a drink of water and keep your phone on silent. You can’t step away for even a second once you start cooking. Khoya burns easily and the dish will be completely spoilt.

Ingredients

Khoya 200 g

Sugar 3 tbsps

Sugar 1/2 cup

Water 1 1/2 cups

Ghee 1 tbsp

Sugar balls 2 cups

Method

Dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1 1/2 cups water and boil for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat, but keep the sugar syrup bubbling.

In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, take 1 tablespoon of ghee. Add the grated khoya and start stirring. Cook the khoya on low heat. The pictures show the way the khoya will change colour. Do not stop stirring and do not increase the heat.

When the khoya is a deep reddish brown and starts to leave oil, add 3 tablespoons of fine sugar. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

Add some of the bubbling sugar syrup.

The khoya will turn a deep chocolate colour as you continue to cook.

Keep adding the sugar syrup a little bit at a time till only about 1/4 cup remains.

When all the water is absorbed and the mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan, transfer to a greased dish. To test if the sweet is ready, put some on a plate. If you are able to roll it off easily, it is ready.

When it is cool, cut into squares. Dip each square in the sugar syrup and roll it in the sugar balls to coat all sides.

The sweet can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Mutton Rogan Josh (healthier option)

Mutton Rogan Josh (healthier option)

Traditionally Mutton Rogan Josh, a delicacy from Kashmir, is made by cooking lamb in clarified butter or ghee. Of Persian origin, rogan means oil and josh means passion, just as it does in Hindi. The intense red colour of the curry comes from a herb called ratan jot or alkanet. I don’t use it in my recipe, however. Also, I have used a mix of vegetable oil and ghee instead of just ghee, which I find too rich. I use mutton or goat meat instead of lamb. This is leaner, has more minerals and less cholesterol. I use whole fennel seeds instead of the powder as I love the taste better. I also use a pinch of turmeric, something I use for all meat dishes because of its antiseptic quality.

Ingredients

Mutton (goat meat) 1/2 kg

Onion 1 large, sliced

Ginger 1” piece

Garlic 5 cloves

Bay leaf 1

Garam masala 2 tsps

Red chilli powder 3 tsps

Fennel seeds 1 tbsp

Ginger powder 1 tbsp

Turmeric 1/4 tsp

Yoghurt 1/2 cup, whisked

Saffron a few strands

Vegetable oil 1 tbsp

Ghee 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves for garnish

Method

Add the oil and ghee to the pressure cooker and add the onions. Cook on low heat till the onions turn golden brown and caramelise. This will take 10-15 minutes. Do not hurry this process. Stir often.

Make a paste of the red chilli powder, fennel seeds and ginger powder with a little water.

Crush the ginger and garlic in a pestle to make a rough paste.

When the onions are done, increase the heat and add the ginger-garlic paste as well as the bay leaf. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add the mutton pieces and fry for a few minutes. Add the chilli paste and mix well. Add the turmeric powder.

Add the saffron to the whisked yoghurt and add to the mutton. Add salt and mix well.

Cook till the oil begins to leave the sides of the pressure cooker.

Add 1 tsp of garam masala powder. You can either make it yourself from the whole spices or buy it from any Indian store.

Add about 1/2 cup water and close the lid. Cook on high heat for six whistles. Reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Switch off the heat and let the steam release gradually.

Open the pressure cooker, add 1 tsp of garam masala and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.

By now the mutton should be tender and almost falling off the bone. Test with a fork and if needed, cook a few minutes longer.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice or roti or naan.

Sago Kueh (Sago dessert)

Sago Kueh (Sago dessert)

Southeast Asian desserts are delicious, delicately flavoured and not as sweet as South Asian ones. They are lighter as well, mostly made from sago, sticky rice or jello. This particular dessert, Sago Kueh, has the lovely flavour of pandan and rose.

Ingredients

Sago 2 cups

Water 3 cups

Rose syrup or Roohafza 5 tbsps

Sugar 1/2 cup

Pandan leaf or kewra leaf 1

Dessicated coconut 2 cups

Method

Boil the sago with the pandan or kewra leaf till the pearls turn transparent. If needed, add more water.

Add the rose syrup or Roohafza and sugar. Continue to cook, stirring intermittently, till the syrup thickens.

Remove the pandan leaf and pour into a greased glass baking dish and steam for 20 minutes. I used the steaming option on my microwave.

Cool and chill in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.

Slice into squares and toss it in the dedicated coconut. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Cabbage leaves stuffed with chicken and rice

Cabbage leaves stuffed with chicken and rice

I was inspired by the Polish dish Golabki to experiment with Indian basmati rice and minced chicken. The gardener brought me fresh cabbages and the result is this really delicious dish. It makes a very satisfying dinner or Sunday lunch.

Ingredients

Cabbage 1 large

Basmati rice 2 cups, cooked

Chicken 500 g, minced

Onion 1 large, chopped

Coriander leaves 1/2 cup, chopped

Salt to taste

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Green chillies 2, chopped

Garlic 2 cloves, minced

Egg 1

Vegetable oil 3 tbsps

Cheddar cheese 100 g, grated

Peperoncino flakes 2 tbsps

For the sauce:

Olive oil 2 tbsps

Onion 1 medium, chopped

Tomatoes 2 medium, chopped

Tomato paste 200 g

Tomato sauce or readymade pizza sauce 200 g

Fresh basil leaves 10, shredded

Cream 3 tbsps

Italian herbs, dried 1 tbsp

Water 1 cup

Method

Heat water in a large pan and let it come to a boil. Immerse the head of cabbage in it and boil for 2 minutes. Switch off the heat and let the cabbage blanch in the water for 2 minutes more. Take out the cabbage let it drain on a plate.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok and add the onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes till the onions turn golden brown.

Add the green chillies and garlic and sauté for another 3 minutes.

Add the washed and drained chicken mince and cook for 2 minutes. Stir to break up any lumps.

Add the salt, red chilli powder and turmeric. Cook till the water evaporates.

Add the cooked rice and mix well.

Break the egg directly into the rice and mix well.

Add the coriander leaves and mix well. Switch off the heat.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Sauté till they turn translucent.

Add the basil leaves and tomatoes and cook till they turn soft.

Add the tomato paste and tomato sauce. Add the dried Italian herbs and water. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat till the sauce thickens.

Take an ovenproof dish and spread some of the sauce at the bottom.

Separate the cabbage leaves and stuff each leaf with some of the rice and chicken mixture. Roll it up and arrange in the dish.

Pour the sauce over the stuffed cabbage leaves.

Sprinkle generously with cheese.

Sprinkle peperoncino flakes on top and bake in a 180 degree C oven for 25 minutes till the cheese melts and turns brown.