Monday, March 29, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan (Melanzane alla Parmigiana)

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Fried eggplant slices coated with tomato sauce, layered with cheese and baked in oven. This is the simplest description of this exotic sounding dish. Yet this simple sounding dish can be such a challenge to make. The thickness of the slice, with skin or without skin, the kind of batter to use, to coat with breadcrumbs or not, the tomato sauce and the type of cheese can all play a very important role in not only how it comes out but how it tastes also.
Eggplant parmesan is a southern Italian dish and there are many versions to the origin of the name. Though many believe that the origin of the dish is due to the use of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, there are still a handful that believe that the name Parmigiana is a corruption of the word Parmiciana, a word from the Sicilian dialect, which refers to slats of wood in a shutter. The dish is so named after the slats, because the eggplant slices overlap each other just like the wooden slats in a shutter.
Irrespective of the controversy, it is a very popular dish the world over with different variations of the same existing, some even involving chicken and veal.
The variation I try does not use breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs made the dish very heavy and I prefer to use a lighter tempura like batter instead.

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant, big, cut into thin slices- 1
Mozzarella, sliced - 5-6 slices
Parmesan, grated - 1/2 Cup
Oil - For deep frying

For the batter:
Egg -1
Flour - 1 Cup
Milk - 1/4 Cup
Water - 3/4 Cup
Baking Soda - a Pinch

For tomato sauce:
Olive Oil
Tomatoes, concassed - 1 Kg
Garlic cloves, finely chopped
Onion, finely chopped - 1
Basil - 1 tsp
Black pepper, freshly ground - 2 Tsp
Salt - To Taste

1. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices and let them rest covered, so that they lose moisture and the bitterness. Leave aside.

2. To Make Tomato Sauce: Heat olive oil in a wok. Add in the onions and saute till they start to turn golden.
3. Add in the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the concassed tomatoes and 1 cup of water.
5. Cook till the sauce starts to turn thick.
6. Add the salt, black pepper powder and basil.
7. Cook for another minute. Take it off flame.

8. To Make Batter: Combine all ingredients for batter.
9. Whisk well till a thick batter forms.
10. Chill for 10-15 minutes.

11. Heat oil in a big wok.
12. Dip the eggplant slices in the batter and deep fry till done.
13. Remove and drain excess oil. Keep aside.
14. Take a baking dish and lightly oil it .
15. Spread a layer of the tomato sauce. Now dip each batter fried eggplant slice in the tomato sauce and add to the baking dish. Make a layer of eggplant slices.
16. Layer with some more tomato sauce and sprinkle the parmesan cheese.
17. Repeat this 3 more times.
18. Add the remaining tomato sauce on top and layer the mozzarella cheese.
19. Bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes.
20. Cut into slices and serve hot.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pollo alla Cacciatore

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A few weeks back, I had a colleague of mine over from Europe. Since she belongs to Italy, we got into a discussion on Italian cuisine and wine in particular. I guess, it stayed with till over the weekend and come Sunday, I was busy trying to recreate some Italian dishes that have always been my favorites.
Pollo alla Cacciatore, was first made by me when I was in the culinary institute. The term comes from the Italian term, Pollo meaning chicken and cacciatore meaning hunter. In culinary terms alla cacciatore means prepared in the hunter style, using tomatoes, herbs, mushrooms, onions and yes! wine. The choice of wine can be tricky with red wine being used in Southern parts and white wine being preferred in the Northern parts of Italy. This is a very popular dish and like many popular dishes each region has its own variation to this dish. It even has a cousin in France which is called Poulet Saute Chasseur.

Pollo alla Cacciatore

Chicken, cut into large pieces - 1 kg
Onion, finely chopped - 1
Garlic, crushed - 3 cloves
Bacon, preferably Pancetta, finely chopped - 150 gm
Mushrooms, thickly sliced - 125 gm
Red Wine - 1/3 Cup
Tomatoes, chopped - 800 gm
Brown Sugar - 1/4 tsp
Cayenne Pepper - 1/4 tsp
Oregano - 1 tsp
Thyme - 1 tsp
Bay Leaf - 1
Black Pepper - 2 tsp
Salt - To Taste
Olive Oil - 6 tblsp

1. Heat 3 tblsp oil in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic. Cook till onion turns golden brown. Add the bacon followed by the mushrooms. Cook for 5 more minutes. Transfer to another bowl.
2. Add the remaining 3 tblsp olive oil to the same pan and heat. Add the chicken pieces.
3. Cook till chicken starts to brown. Add the salt and black pepper powder.
4. Add the red wine and cook till the wine has almost evaporated.
5. Add the chopped tomatoes, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, thyme, oregano and bay leaf.
6. Add in 1/3 cup water and mix well. Cook till the mixture comes to a boil.
7. Add in the mushroom mixture that we had cooked earlier. Mix well.
8. Lower the flame and cook for 20-25 minutes on low flame stirring from time to time or till chicken in done and excess liquid has evaporated.
9. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Next Time : Eggplant Parmesan

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Paneer Moghlai Kofta in Paalak Gravy (Cottage Cheese Koftas in Spinach Garvy)

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It has been a while since I cooked a real piece de resistance for the vegetarians and this one is one such beauty that has come about in quite some time. If there is one thing that catches my fancy in kitchens it has to be the Koftas. In the hands of experts, Koftas are transported to the highest levels of culinary display.
Koftas in traditional terms are minced balls made out of popularly lamb or beef. However, it is not uncommon to find Koftas of chicken mince and for the vegetarians, koftas made of paneer, bottle gourd, mashed potatoes etc. It is derived from the Persian word Kufta meaning "to beat" or "to grind", which in those days was meant to mince meat.
The name Kofta has many variations in different parts of the world. They go by the name of Kufteh in Iran, Cufta in Croatia, Kyufte in Bulgaria, Keftes in Greek cuisine and chiftea in Romania.

Paneer Moghlai Kofta in Paalak Gravy



Paneer (Cottage Cheese or Ricotta), grated : 300 gm
Apricots, dried : 12
Almonds, Blanched : 12
Red Chili Powder : 1 Tsp
Amchoor (Dried Mango Powder) : 1/2 Tsp
Baking Powder : A Pinch
Garam Masala Powder : 1/2 Tsp
Cornflour : 1/2 Cup
Oil : To Deep Fry Koftas

Spinach, washed and rinsed in running water : 1 Kg
Onions, finely chopped : 2
Garlic Paste : 3 Tblsp
Tomato Puree : 6 Tblsp
Red Chili Powder: 1 Tsp
Black Pepper Powder : 1 Tsp
Coriander Powder : 1 Tblsp
Kasoori Methi (Dried fenugreek leaves): 1 Tblsp
Ghee ( Clarified Butter) : 2 Tblsp
Salt: To Taste



1. Refresh the apricots in water for 5 minutes.
2. Slit from one side and remove the pits. Replace the pits with the blanched almonds. Keep aside.
3. Mix all other ingredients (except oil and stuffed apricots) for koftas. Knead well to form a dough.
4. Divide into 12 equal portions and make balls.
5. Flatten each ball using your palms, being careful not to break it.
6. Place a stuffed apricot in between and make a ball again.
Make 12 such balls.

7. Chill for 10-15 minutes.
8. Heat oil in a wok.
9. Deep fry the balls till golden brown. Drain excess oil and keep aside.

1. Boil spinach in water with salt. Drain and puree in a blender.
2. Heat ghee in a pan.
3. Add chopped onions and saute till they turn translucent.
4. Add in the garlic paste. Saute till the onions start to turn golden brown.
5. Add in the masalas and saute for 3-4 minutes.
6. Add the spinach puree and cook for 5 minutes.
7. Add in the tomato puree and a cup of water.
8. Cook till it starts to take a gravy like consistency.
9. Adjust the seasonings and simmer for 5 minutes.

1. Add in the koftas to the simmering gravy.
2. Crush the kasoori methi and sprinkle on top.
3. Stir and remove from flame.
4. Serve hot.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Orange banana bread

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So how many times have you ordered bananas because your kids loved them and then watched as they started to rot. Sounds familiar. Happens at my home everytime. And then you make Banana bread to ensure they do not go wasted. The kids love it too, right. But not when it becomes a weekly or biweekly affair. Atleast not in my house. They are like some evolving species that ensures they test my skills and patience to try out something new in order to utilize the bananas. That is where the Orange banana bread comes in. An attempt to get something new in front of them. They love it, but I know I will have to start thinking for another variation to the banana bread in the coming few weeks. Till then, enjoy what you have.

Orange Banana Bread


Bananas, mashed : 3 No.
All purpose flour : 2 Cups
Baking Soda: 3/4 Tsp
Butter : 1/4 Cup
Castor Sugar : 1/2 Cup
Light brown sugar : 1/2 Cup
Eggs : 2
Orange rind, grated : 1 Tblsp
Orange Juice : 3 Tblsp
Salt : 1/2 Tsp

1. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Keep aside.
2. Cream together the butter and the sugar (both white and brown) until well blended.
3. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and continue to whisk.
4. Add in the mashed bananas, orange rind and juice. Blend well.
5. Add in the flour mixture. Mix until just moist.
6. Spoon the batter into a greased loaf pan.
7. Bake at 180 degrees celsius (350 Fahrenheit) for 50 minutes or until done.
8. Cool on a wire rack.

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