Friday, 27 February 2015

Banana Bread

Banana Bread or Cake?

There is a story to most things and everything always has a reason! 
Writing a blog has enhanced my learning process ten-fold and is one of the best rewards of being a teacher at heart.

There is a National Banana Day in USA, just gone by on 23rd of February. I am rather surprised as I have never heard of it, have you? So lets add to the celebration with a belated but fun recipe to share.

It was only during the great depression that the Banana Bread became a household word. With food shortage on the rise the housewife was forced to be innovative and frugal.
Over-ripened bananas found a niche of their own and soon the banana cake/bread  was in vogue. It is best eaten fresh, but can be toasted or even frozen. Eaten as a tea cake, thickly sliced it is often served with butter or even a hard cheese. It goes well with a cup of tea and a bowl of soup. There are many variations to it, walnuts, pecans and chocolate chips being the top 3 favourites to add-in. Served as a loaf, muffin or cupcake it is rather versatile.

Best described as a cake-like bread. Yeast was often used initially, ( perhaps prior to soda being commercialised for baking) which has slowly been replaced by baking soda and baking powder. Hence lets just say its sweet like a cake, and baked like a quick bread.

Banana bread thickly sliced ready to be toasted.

The Loaf Pan


7 baby bananas, golden and ripe
2 eggs; beaten with a fork and at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup melted salted butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda mixed in 1 tbsp warm water
1 3/4 cup flour

Prepare a loaf pan. Line the base with parchment paper and butter it all over.

In a large bowl mash the bananas with a fork. Add the sugar and eggs. Mix with a wooden spoon until it all is well amalgamated. Add the butter and give it another mix. Now add all the dry ingredients and mix it with the wooden spoon. Do not over beat, but mix it well enough for it to be all one thick batter.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes on 350F/180C and another 10 at 375F/190C to crisp it up.

Use golden baby bananas which are fully ripe. 
Use any sugar of choice. However dark brown sugar gives it a deeper taste and looks almost chocolaty!
The baking soda will start bubbling when warm water is added. This ensures that the leavening agent will work while baking and helps it give it a kick start.
Using a wooden spoon will give the cake the perfect mix. Use a rubber spatula to clean the bowl off.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Karhai Gosht

                          Karhai Gosht

                                           Karhai Meat, lamb/mutton/goat

Traditionally Karhai gosht or any other Karhai/Kadhai is simply referred to as anything that is prepared in a deep dish called a karhai/kadhai. A Karhai  is a deep dish rounded pan (a tad similar to a wok), and can be made up of cast iron, aluminium, copper, stainless steel or any other metal. Food in a Karhai is traditionally cooked on a high flame, quickly and swiftly. It generally has a tomato based thick gravy with green chillies in which the choice of meat, chicken or fish is added. Usually the meats are always with bones for added flavour. Often chunks of onion are added, as are green peppers and whole dry red chillies, fresh ginger and garlic. Adding oil to finish of the dish is part of this method of cooking.

The same Karahi is used inside out for preparing thin flat breads called rumali( means handkerchief) roti! While the karhai itself also is often used to deep fry foods like samosas.

I share my family recipe, that has a thick gravy by adding a bit of ketchup to it, ( a condiment highly frowned upon) and rather unlikely to be found in any of the roadside vendors or street cafes in the sub-continent that famously serve all types of Karhai. 

In a pan heat 2 tbsps of oil

Wash and pat dry 1 kg/2lbs pieces of lamb
 fry on a high flame till browned all over.
Lower the heat.
Sprinkle with salt and then add to the pan
2-3 dried whole long red chillies
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp ginger
cover and cook till almost done; add 2 oz of water if very dry.

In a skillet roast or fry 1 tbsp of whole cumin seeds and pour over the meat.

Mix in 3 tbsp ketchup.
Mix well.
Sprinkle on top 2 small cut tomatoes, 1 green capsicum in cubes and 2 large green chillies sliced long; these are from the capsicum family and have a sweet mild flavour rather than being spicy.
Cover and simmer about 10 minutes till all the juices of the tomato are running into each other and the meat is cooked through.

Serve hot with naans and dal fry.

You may optionally add a few drops of tabasco and/or  2 tsp of sweet and sour chili sauce.
The meat should be soft and falling off the bone to be enjoyed.
The tomato and green chillies must be cooked through and soft yet hold together to be perfect. This ensures it is both infused into the gravy releasing all the flavour yet can be served without turning into a mush

For more delicious recipes from the Indian Cuisine
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Friday, 20 February 2015

Lamb Roast ~ Tandoori style

Tandoori-Style Leg of Lamb - A Twist on Sunday Roast

Legend has it that the traditional Sunday Roast began in the 15th century at the table of Henry VII where roasted pieces of beef were served to the King and his guards (Yeoman Warders, nicknamed the ‘Beefeaters’), every Sunday after church.  By the 19th century the tradition of Sunday roast after church entered most homes in Ireland and England.
Where as the roast meat was traditionally beef, the Australians carried on this tradition with lamb, and today, many of us are spoiled for choice and can cater to everyone’s palate – roast chicken, pork, or even ‘nut’ roast (for the vegetarians). A traditional roast is served with vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and lots of gravy. Condiments such as mint jelly for lamb, Cranberry jelly and mustard for pork, and horseradish for beef are an addition to the table.

But even the most splendid traditional roast can use a twist once in a while. Bringing together Parsi flavours and British traditions, this tandoori-style lamb roast will be sure to please everyone.  Still as succulent, prepared with love and care, cooked to perfection bursting with flavour. This roast is for any day of the week, a dinner party, or to share with your family. You can marinate it and freeze it if you prefer. It is best served with freshly roasted potatoes and hard-boiled eggs; And makes its own gravy.

Whole leg of Tandoori style Lamb, with roasted potatoes and hard boiled eggs.

3kg/6.6lb Leg of Lamb, washed and patted dry
The Marinade
In a bowl mix together
1 cup thick yogurt…….no water in it.
4 garlic cloves freshly grated
1 tbsp freshly ground ginger
1 tbsp freshly grated lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp red chillie powder
1 ½ tsp of  coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp mustard powder

Rub the marinade all over the leg of lamb. Let it marinate overnight. Bring it back to room temperature before you start cooking. Place the roast on a very large sheet of foil, placed in a large dish with sides.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the roast over. Bring the temperature down to 350 degrees. Bring the sides of the foil up and cover the meat completely trying to make a 'tent' of the foil to allow the steam to flow through. Cook another 3 hours. Check if the lamb is really soft and coming off the bone. Let it stand covered for 10 minutes before serving.

The hind leg of lamb is softer than the front legs.
Keep a bit of the fat on the leg of lamb to keep it moist through the long hours of cooking.

Massage the marinade into the meat with your hands, it will make a difference.( Wear a pair of gloves if you prefer) 

If you do not wish to cook the meat on the day of purchase you can freeze it for 30 days after marinating. Do not refreeze already frozen meat.

You may substitute the red chillie powder for sweet paprika if you prefer to keep the flavours without the heat of the spices.

The thickness of the yogurt depends on the percentage of milk fat in the yogurt. Greek Yogurt has upto 10% MFG( milk fat per gram) v/s the regular has 3.25% or less.

When cooking with yogurt at high heat the end result is always a curdled look. If you want a smoother gravy to serve, it is best to remove the roast to a platter and tip all the gravy into a pan. Use an immersion blender, reheat the gravy and pour all over the roast or serve on the side. Optionally add a pinch of crushed saffron threads when reheating the gravy. It adds to the richness and aromas leaving the gravy with a beautiful colour as well. 

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015


Pancakes anyone?

Today is Shrove Tuesday; also called Pancake Day.
It is easy to prepare and a favourite with most kids. Keep a box full of measured dry ingredients in your store cupboard and you will have a ready to whip up batch of fresh pancake available at all times.
Simple and fool proof it is probably the best recipe to start your children cooking with. 

The legend of Shrove Tuesday started in the Middle Ages when one had a feast for 3 days; starting Sunday and ending it on the Tuesday night. This was in order to prevent wastage by eating all things perishable before fasting began for Lent going on for the next 40 days until Easter. 
However some of these traditions have  changed since the 20th Century; It is now referred to as Pancake Day and is only focused on the Shrove Tuesday itself. 
The French like to call it Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras!! I love the French and their penchant for keeping the "curves" in style.

Pancakes are universal. Most countries have their own version and names of pancakes; chaapat, pannekoek, lahoh, palacinky, blinchiki, pfannkuchen, chachapa, crepes, dossa etc. etc. They can be either  leavened or unleavened, using any combination of flour choices like wholewheat, plain, buckwheat, spelt, rice and offer it in their traditionally special ways.

11/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
1 1/4 cup tepid warm milk
1 1/4 tbsp melted salted butter

Mix until smooth. Do not over beat.
Allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes.

Heat a skillet. Brush it with butter or oil. Take a large spoonful of the batter.
Hold it over the pan tilt it straight down and all the batter to drop in one large stream. It will automatically become round;(Perhaps not perfectly round). Allow the pancake to cook for 1 minute. 
Flip over. Cook for 30 seconds.
Remove in a plate. Serve warm with Maple Syrup, Golden Syrup, berries, butter, cream, honey, cream cheese and bananas, any combination you love.


This quantity will make about 12 pancakes.
I like to mix and store the dry ingredients in an airtight box in my pantry.
Take a large measuring cup and use that to mix it all in with a whisk. You can leave it in there ready to use or keep the left over covered for up to 3 days.

Do not try and change the shape of the pancake once it has been poured. It does not work!
Only a pancake maker will prepare perfectly circular pancakes.

Keep the flame on medium-high. The flame should not be larger than the base of your skillet. 
Bubbles will come up on the pancake which is time to flip it over.

For more on  crepes and a variety of recipes

click Niloufer's Kitchen: French Bistro

Mushrooms Crepes

Sweet coconut crepes

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Prawn Biryani

Prawn Biryani
Jhinga Palau

Parsi Cuisine tends to call this dish Jhinga no Palau; but in real fact it is a Prawn Biryani. 

The subtle difference between the two is very simple. 
Palau/Pilao is generally rice boiled in broth, the meat is cooked first to prepare the broth itself. (potatoes are also added to this broth to cook in).It is rather delicately flavoured with very few spices. 
Biryani on the other hand has many more ingredients. The rice is par boiled in fresh water which is salted. A bay leaf and a  few pods of cardamom are also tossed in the water to season the rice. Once the water is strained out, saffron (or yellow colouring) is added for a yellow hue to some of the rice. 

Biryani is often served at wedding feasts and auspicious occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. It has stronger spicier flavours and generally served with a yogurt raita to cool the palate. Some people like to serve it with a spicy masala dal similar to the "dhansak" (although meatless), to add to the spiciness!

In a food processor pulse together
1 cup of fried onion
2 large tomatoes
4-6 green chillies
Half a bunch of fresh coriander leaves, about 1 cup
1 generous tsp salt
Saffron threads
1 flat tsp cumin powder
Pinch of turmeric
2 flat tsp red chillie powder
½ tsp coriander powder
2 small green mango, peeled and chopped
Pinch of sugar
½ tsp Garam Masala

In a little oil fry all this together, lower heat and cover and simmer for 25 minutes till the oil separates. You will see the tiny beads of oil on the side of the pan above the 'masala'.

Add 1 kg/2.2lb shelled prawns. Cover and cook for 20 minutes till just cooked. 

Cool a bit and add 1/2 cup yogurt mixed with a pinch of salt and sugar. Mix well.

Boil together until just cooked
2 ½ cups rice
3 tsp salt
2 whole cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
Strain of the rice in a colander.

Layer with jhinga no masala/ prawns cooked in the spices.  Sprinkle a small pinch of saffron, this will give you some part of the rice with a beautiful hue of yellow colours. Cover tightly and steam for 30 minutes.Serve on a platter.

If green mangoes are unavailable, substitute the sourness with the juice of a lemon or lime. Add this after the prawns are cooked. Sometimes the prawns turn hard with lemon juice if applied while they are raw.
If you do not have time to steam, boil the rice until it is cooked through and do not leave it
al dente` or slightly under-cooked. Add a few drops of oil if you like your Biryani to have each grain of rice singularly visible! ( khulo dano). You can add this before or after draining the rice.
There is enough flavour and moisture to serve this dish on its own. Alternately serve a raita or masala dal with it on the side.

I often prepare just the masala and freeze it. Just adding the prawns while reheating the masala and making fresh rice to assemble cuts preparation time by more than half. The washing up also is minimal.

For more delicious recipes from my Parsi Cuisine click
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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Mushroom Cobblers

Mushroom Cobblers

Little cups of velvety wild mushrooms topped with a cheesy biscuit to cut the creaminess flavoured with fresh picked herbs and perhaps a touch of sweet sherry. Oooh it can taste just a little like heaven. 
Generally cobblers are fruit based. But we make our own rules creating food as an artist and here I am preparing a wild mushroom ragout- pronounced Ra gooo to start off with.
Just to share some trivia, Ragu and Ragout are different. The former a much loved meat stew from Northern Italy. While the Ragout is a stew made of vegetables, meat, fish anything. Both the words are derived from the french word ragouter  meaning  stimulating your appetite. Quite apt for sure!

Once prepared and ready to serve imagine them bubbling and oozing; more rustic than delicate not for a formal dining table.
It is a rich and heavy dish so servings can be small. A fresh green salad with a touch of garlic vinaigrette accompanying this will complement  the meal.

Yummy mushroom cobblers

Serve in the bowl or slide it out on a plate.

Layered, moist and scrumptious

The Filling 1/2 cup of dried mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup hot water. Steeped for 30 minutes.
4 lbs of mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 cups finely chopped leeks
1/2 cup salted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves crushed or finely chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of oregano
freshly chopped parsley
mixed peppercorn or freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup fino sherry
1 cup cream

Heat the olive oil and the butter. Saute the mushrooms. Add the chopped leeks and the garlic. Once it has softened, sprinkle add the water through a fine sieve (remaining from the dried mushrooms that were soaked prior). Allow it to boil and bubble until the liquid is almost gone. Now sprinkle with salt and peppercorn or nutmeg, the herbs and the sherry. Mix in the cream and bring it to a boil. 
Spoon the mixture into 12 ramekins. 
When ready to bake, top each one with a scoop of the biscuit batter.
Bake in a preheated oven 375F/185C for 25 minutes until the biscuit is cooked through.

The biscuit topping
Makes 12
1 1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
50 gms/ 1.75 ozs salted butter
1 cup tepid warm buttermilk
3/4 cup grated cheese

In a bowl sift the dry ingredients. Sifting makes it lighter. Crumble in small bits of butter and 'cut' into it with two knives. Alternately using only the tips of two fingers index and middle, gently rub it together until it resembles grainy pebbles.
Add the buttermilk and bring the dough together. Add shredded cheese and just mix it in till folded. Do not over work the dough.
Leave to rest for a minimum of 2 hours.

Use your favourite mushrooms. A melange always give a better texture, consistency and are visually attractive too. Use fewer of the expensive ones, they add lots of taste. Morels are delicious as are the Shitake`, Oyster, Cremini and Chanterelles are also a good choice. The bulk should be of the brown and white mushrooms.

A sharp cheddar is the best for the biscuit. 
Scoop the biscuit with a small ice cream scoop or use two spoons to make a biscuit ball and press it down. It will be a sticky batter as the buttermilk and baking powder makes it rise almost to represent yeast like results.

The white Fino Sherry is the best for this dish.; Crisp and light.

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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Tossed Green Beans

Tossed Green Beans

The green bean is crunchy and delicious. A wonderful warm salad or a side to most protein dishes. A roast chicken, duck, roast beef or a rack of lamb?

It can be served at room temperature or warm. Lightly toasted Pecan or Walnuts takes it up a notch. Shave some Parmesan cheese over to complete as a salad. Alternately add crumbled feta or goat cheese to this. I even like adding dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds for that burst of colours and flavours to pop!! It takes minutes to prepare and not too much work is involved.

Tossed green beans with garlic and olive oil.

250 gms/1/4 lb green beans, washed and patted dry
3 freshly chopped garlic
dried mint
pinch of sugar
2 tbsp olive oil

In a pan gently heat 1 tbsp of the oil, do not over heat. Toss all the beans into the pan, sprinkle with salt and and sugar. The colour of the green beans will change as you keep tossing. Once it is shiny all over, add the chopped garlic and the rest of the olive oil, Sprinkle with crushed dry mint, cover the pan. Lower the heat and allow to cook for 5 minutes. 
This will allow it to cook through. Check for the crispness to desired texture. Toss into your dish and sprinkle with sumac. Serve.

These are thin green beans, or very young french beans. Use them whole. I like to keep the top and tail. You may cut both if you prefer. 
Initially cook on a high flame. 
It can be served at room temperature or warm. 
Add lightly toasted Pecan or Walnuts.
Shave some Parmesan cheese over to complete as a salad. Alternately add crumbled feta or goat cheese to this.
Sprinkle dry cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds for the burst of colour and flavour.
You can substitute finely chopped fresh parsley, mint or corriander leaves for the dried mint.
Instead of sumac you can sprinkle it with freshly cracked pepper.
I even often make them by adding a mix of crushed fried onions, garlic and bacon-bits (not prepackaged) with a touch of maple syrup. 

For recipes to serve with this dish click
Niloufer's Kitchen: French Bistro

Monday, 2 February 2015

Advieh, Spice Mix

Advieh or Adwiya is a spice blend used in  Persian Cuisine.

Basic Advieh blended powder

It is a blend of their many aromatic spices from Saffron, cinammon, ginger powder, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, mace and pepper. Different Advieh blends are used in their meats, chickens, fish and rice. It is available in most Middle Eastern Stores and many super markets in the UK. 
It may perhaps be best to make your own basic blend and then add more ingredients as and when necessary.

Make your own Basic Advieh
4tbps rose petal, dried
4tbsps freshly ground cinnamon
4 tbsps freshly ground cardamom seeds
2 tbsps freshly ground cumin
Mix and keep in an airtight jar for a year. Store in a cool dry place.

Pickled Lemons

 Pickled Lemons

Lemons are versatile; Cooking and cleaning they are useful to have in your home at all times.

Pickling lemons is relatively simple. Pick the  juiciest lemons with the smoothest, thinnest skin. Wash, pat dry and cut in equal size cubes. Sterilise a jar and start to drop in the cut pieces of lemon. Fill the jar to the top. Add 2 tsp of sea salt. Screw the lid on tightly.Give it a shake. And leave to mature in the sun. It will take 4 to 7 days to ''cook''. Do not open the bottle all along. Simply give it a shake each day. The liquid will magically appear. The salt crystals will disappear and you will be left with a ready to use pickled lemon!  This can last refrigerated for up to 1 year.

Indian Cuisine  uses them to squeeze lemon juice for added flavour over cooked food. They are called limbu/limoo in Hindi and Urdu.

The Persian Cuisine uses pieces of  fresh lemon and pickled lemon crushed in their ingredients. Persians tend to pickle small round lemons and keep them whole; they are referred to as limu.

Moroccan Cuisine tends to use pieces of pickled lemons in their Tagines/Tajines. In Arabic they are called Laymoon. 

It is very popular to have "limu pani" ( lemon water)or freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with sugar and cold water  as a refreshing drink during the hot summer months in India, Iran and the region. Some like to add fresh leaves of mint while others will add some salt to this drink.

Health practitioners are recommending a glass of warm water and freshly squeezed lemon juice on waking up each morning; it has good detox qualities that are hard to match. If you have a cut in the kitchen, rubbing it with lemon will prevent it from getting infected; Be prepared for the slight sting of this natural antiseptic! 

As far as cleaning is concerned; Use the remains of your squeezed lemon to
1.Heat it in the micro for 30 seconds to refresh it of all smells
2. Crush it in your garbage disposal unit to keep it sanitized
3. Rub it on your nails and hands to remove all the cooking odours

Do not use a dirty or wet spoon while removing the pieces of pickle.
Discard it immediately if any fungus has grown over it.
Keep it tightly closed at all times.
Using organic lemons for pickling is well worth the extra as the skins are being eaten.

Friday, 30 January 2015


Khichri/Khichdi/Khichuri is derived from a Sanskrit word simply meaning rice and lentil.

It has many variations and is popularly related to as a comfort food. The texture generally is wet rather than dry, similar to a risotto. It is often seasoned with clarified butter or pure ghee. From the Greeks to the Persians, it was a favourite of the Mughal Emperor Akbar! 

Egyptians and their neighbours add vegetables to it, while the Indian sub-continent likes to serve it with yogurt or other forms of curries. The people of Maharashtra living on the Arabian Sea however tend to add shrimp to their Khichri.

Healthy and simple, it is generally the first forms of solid food introduced to babies. Being affordable as a self contained complete meal, it is the food of the masses. Many cultures dedicate a meal of Khichri during their week of wedding festivities; yet it is never served at the wedding! 

Delicious aromatic Khichri

In a pan heat 2 tbsps of oil
Add in and fry till pale brown 2 finely sliced onions

Add in and sauté`
A small piece of  cinnamon whole     
A few cardamoms
A few cloves

Add to this
2 cups rice
½ cup red lentils
1 tsp salt
1/3 tsp turmeric
3 ½ cups of water

Cook till all the water is gone on a high flame, then cover an steam for 20 minutes on a low flame. Serve hot.

The Onions are an optional addition to this Khichri.

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