Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Spiced Popcorn with Blackened Chillis and Clarified Butter

If you’re planning to stay-in on new year’s eve and watch the crystal ball drop in Times Square parked in front of your TV, then this is the best munchy snack to have on hand. No matter how much of this spiced popcorn I make, there is never enough—I challenge you to try and resist it.

3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
24 Dry Red Chillis
6 tbsp Clarified Butter (Ghee)
2 tbsp ground Coriander
2 tsp ground Cumin
2 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
2 cups Popcorn Kernels
Salt (to taste)
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet or frying pan over high heat. When the oil is smoking, add chillis and sauté briskly for 2 mins until they are blackened. Remove chillis from pan on to a plate. When the chillis are cool to the touch, crush them with your hands and set aside.
  2. Melt the clarified butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add coriander, cumin and black pepper, stir well and turn off heat.
  3. Heat remaining oil in a large, deep pot over high heat. Add kernels and toss in oil. Put the lid on the pot and let the kernels pop. Keep the lid on until the popping sound stops, about 5-6 mins. Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle with salt, put the lid back on and shake well. Pour popcorn into a large serving bowl, sprinkle with crushed chillis and drizzle with clarified butter and spice mixture. Toss well with a large spoon and serve immediately.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Green Beans with Almonds and Champagne-Mustard Glaze

Like the roasted brussels sprouts recipe that I posted yesterday, this is another low-hassle side dish recipe that is a great accompaniment to elaborate meals. The best part of this recipe is that you can serve it fresh and warm straight from the stovetop, or make it ahead of time and put out as a cold salad.

2 lbs [1 kg] fresh Green Beans (trimmed)
4 tbsp Butter
2-3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
4 tbsp English mustard (like Colman’s), or Dijon mustard
1 tsp Thyme (finely chopped)
Salt (to taste)
1 tsp freshly ground Black pepper
2 tsp freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
½ cup Champagne, or dry White Wine
1/3 cup slivered almonds (lightly toasted)
  1. Cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling water for 5-6 mins until just crisp-tender. Drain the beans and transfer them to a large bowl of ice water, to cool them completely and to retain the vibrant, green colour. Drain the beans well. You can prepare the beans up this point a day ahead and store in the fridge.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet or frying pan over high heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 mins, then whisk in the mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and let sizzle for 2-3 mins. Deglaze the pan with lemon juice and champagne and let bubble briskly for 3-4 mins until the alcohol has evaporated and the liquid has reduced in half.
  3. Add green beans and toss well until heated through, about 5 mins. Sprinkle with almonds and mix well. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm, or let cool and serve as a cold salad.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

In preparation for big, year-end dinners, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite and trusted side dishes. This brussels sprouts recipe plays a steady role in my fall-winter roasting repertoire and is a star player in my Thanksgiving line-call. It’s less a recipe per se and more a technique that you can doctor with any combination of your favourite herbs and savoury meats (bacon, sausage, ham). In this variation, the salty and crunchy bite of the pancetta enhances the sweet muskiness of the golden, caramelised sprouts beautifully.

4 oz [100 gm] Pancetta (diced)
2 lbs [1 kg] Brussels Sprouts (cut in half vertically)
Sea Salt (to taste)
1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tbsp fresh Thyme (finely chopped)
4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  1. In a large skillet or frying pan, render pancetta over high heat until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set to drain on a paper-lined plate.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 450º F (230ºC).
  3. Put brussels sprouts and pancetta on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and thyme, drizzle with olive oil, and using your hands, toss well to mix.
  4. Roast in the oven for 30 mins, then stir the sprouts with a large spoon to ensure that the brussels sprouts caramelise evenly. Continue roasting for another 15 mins. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Bundled-up Little Sis in front of the Rockefeller Centre tree.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Caramel Apple Pie

Reader beware—this is not a quick-and-easy recipe. This is a marathon of a pie—albeit, a perfect, grand old apple pie. Do not attempt to make it if you have dinner guests arriving in 1 hour. Reserve this beauty for when you have a lazy afternoon to while away puttering in the kitchen, and loads of energy to obsess about the perfect thickness of the rolled-out crust. Honour the recipe by saving it for that special supper or holiday celebration and it will yield a glorious, golden butter-crumbly crust over a luscious sticky, tart and carameley apple core. I made it for Thanksgiving dinner last week, decorated with autumnal leaves (using the new leaf-shaped pie cutters that hubby gave me), and it generated plenty of ego-boosting oohs and aahs. This puppy is a showstopper!


For the Piecrust:
2½ cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
8 oz. [500 gm] cold unsalted butter (cut into ¼-inch pieces)
6-8 tbsp ice water

For the Apples: 
4 lbs [2 kgs] Granny Smith apples, or any tart, green apple (peeled, cored and each cut into 8 slices)
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp freshly ground ginger
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp cornstarch  

For the Caramel:
1½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup Corn Syrup
6 oz. [200 gm] unsalted butter (cut into 6 pieces)
½ tsp salt
½ cup heavy cream

For finishing the pie:
1 egg (lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water)
2 tsp sugar

  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the 6 Tbs. ice water and pulse twice. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water, 1 tsp. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide in half. Shape each into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge and let stand for 5 minutes. Place 1 dough disk on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch deep-dish pie dish and gently press into the dish. Trim the edges flush with the rim. Roll out the second dough disk in the same manner and set aside. Gather the remaining (trimmed) scraps of dough into a ball and re-roll to a 1/8-inch-thick round. Cut out shapes using decorative pie cutters. Refrigerate the pie shell, cutouts and second dough round for 30 minutes.
  3. To prepare the apples, in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, stir together the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and lemon juice. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are just tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the cornstarch.
  4. To prepare the caramel, in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Cook until the mixture is bubbling vigorously, about 9 minutes, stirring only during the first 2 to 3 minutes of cooking. Take the saucepan off the heat and carefully stir in 1/4 cup of the cream, then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup cream. Let cool until just warm.
  5. Preheat oven to 400°F [200ºC].
  6. Remove the pie shell, cutouts and second dough round from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the apple mixture and 1 cup of the caramel; reserve the remaining caramel for serving. Pour the apple filling into the pie shell and place the top crust over the pie. Trim the edges flush with the rim and press the top and bottom crusts together. Using a knife, cut four or five 1/2-inch-long steam vents in the centre of the top crust. Brush the underside of the cutouts with egg wash and gently arrange them on the pie. Brush the entire top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Place the pie dish on a flat baking sheet (to catch any spills), and bake in the oven until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove pie from oven and let cool completely before serving. Warm the reserved caramel and serve drizzled over pieces of pie with a dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pear and Watercress Salad with Szechwan Peppercorns

The farmer’s market is now overflowing with the autumn crop of apples and pears. I picked up a few Bartlett pears earlier this week and since I like my pears soft and juicy, I stored them in a brown paper bag to ripen them more. They reached the perfect state of squidgy-ness this evening, so I saved one for breakfast tomorrow and chopped up the rest for a side salad. The recipe is a simple variation of an apple salad I had posted in April. The perfumed and slightly piney fragrance of the Szechwan peppercorns amplify the honey sweetness of the pears, all kicked-up another notch by the peppery watercress.

1 lb (½ kg) Pears, diced
Juice of ½ lemon
1½ tsp Szechwan Peppercorns
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
½ lb (250 gm) Watercress, thoroughly washed and dried
½ tsp sea salt (or kosher salt)
  1. Mix pears and lemon juice in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind Szechwan peppercorns, making sure a few peppercorns remain whole.
  3. In a small skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat, add Szechwan peppercorns and sputter for 1 minute. Pour peppercorns and oil over the pears.
  4. Add the remaining olive oil and black pepper to the pears and mix well. Let sit in the fridge for 10 mins.
  5. Add watercress to pears and toss to mix well. Garnish with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kerala-Inspired Egg Curry

I always keep a dozen eggs in the fridge at all times, so when I need to make an emergency supper with no time to shop for meat or fish, I inevitably make an egg curry. My most oft-used recipe is the classic egg curry I grew up eating—made with simple whole garam masala and onions. But in the last few years, I’ve experimented with various spice combinations and have come up with this Kerala-inspired curry, which is fast-becoming my de facto favourite.

12–16 Eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
4 tbsp Vegetable oil
2 Onions, sliced
2 whole Cloves
2 whole Cardamom pods
1 Cinnamon stick
2 Bay leaves
1 Tomato, chopped
1 tsp Turmeric powder
3-4 tsp Chilli powder (to taste)
2 tbsp ground Coriander
1 tsp ground Cumin
1 tbsp Fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp fresh ground Black pepper
1 tbsp fresh ground Ginger
1 tbsp fresh ground Garlic
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup water
Salt (to taste)
1 tbsp Mustard oil
3 tbsp whole Black Mustard
10-12 fresh Curry leaves (Sweet Neem leaves)
  1. Hard boil eggs, peel the shells and set aside. 
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Add onions, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves, and fry for 7–10 mins until golden brown and well caramelized. 
  3. Add tomatoes and fry for 5 mins. Add turmeric, chilli powder, coriander, cumin, fennel and black pepper, stir well and fry for 3–5 mins. Add ginger and garlic and continue frying for another 5 mins, until the oil separates from the spice mixture. 
  4. Add eggs and stir to coat the eggs with the spices thoroughly. Add coconut milk, water and salt, stir, put the lid on and bring to a brisk boil. Then turn the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 35–40 mins, until the oil separates from the curry and thick, pliant gravy is formed. Turn off heat. 
  5. In a large skillet or frying pan, heat mustard oil over high heat until the oil is smoking. Add mustard and curry leaves and briskly fry for 2–3 mins until the mustard starts to sputter. Remove from heat and pour the mustard and curry leaves, oil and all, into the pot with egg curry. Stir well, and let sit covered for 15–20 mins before serving.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spice-Roasted Chicken

[For my darling Beeksies]

A good roast chicken is the perfect emblem of home and hearth. My spice-roasted version looks ingredient-heavy, but is just as simple as any other roast chicken. The toasted and hand-ground spices instill the bird with a smoky warmth and golden hue that is irresistible, and, by rotating the bird while it cooks (a trick I picked-up from Julia Child), you ensure perfect browning and heavenly, crisp skin on all sides.

3 tbsp whole Coriander
1 tbsp whole Cumin
2 tsp Fenugreek seeds
2 tsp Fennel seeds
2 whole Cardamom pods
2 whole Cloves
1 Cinnamon stick
1 Star Anise
1 tsp whole Black Pepper
1 tsp whole White Pepper
1 tsp Turmeric powder
3-4 tsp Chilli powder (to taste)
1 tbsp fresh ground Ginger
2 tbsp fresh ground Garlic
3 tbsp Mustard oil
2 tbsp plain Yogurt
Salt (to taste)
One 4lb (2 kgs) Whole Chicken
2 tbsp Ghee (or Butter), melted
  1. In a large, flat-bottomed pot, dry-roast the whole spices together over high heat for 3-4 mins until golden brown. Remove spices from pot and grind them with a mortar and pestle. In a small bowl, mix ground spices with turmeric, chilli powder, ginger, garlic, mustard oil, yogurt and salt, and set aside.
  2. Wash chicken, discard giblets and pat dry thoroughly. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken and inside the cavity. Carefully loosen the skin from the breast meat and rub spice mixture under the skin. Truss the chicken with butcher’s twine, place on a large platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hrs. About 30 minutes before cooking, remove chicken from fridge and bring down to room temperature.
  3. Preheat oven to 450ºF (230ºC). Place chicken in a roasting pan with the breast up, and set it on the middle rack of the oven. Allow chicken to brown lightly for 15 minutes, baste with ghee, then reduce the temperate to 350ºF (175ºC) and cook for another 1 hour. Turn the bird twice during the cooking so each wing side is up in turn. Baste with ghee after each turn.
  4. To check if the chicken is done, prick the thickest part of the leg with a fork. The juices should clear. Remove chicken from pan and rest on a cutting board, covered in foil, for 15-20 mins before carving.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mementos from Bar Harbor and Halifax

During lunch in Bar Harbor, I spied what looked like a surprisingly chic collection of rugs in a handicrafts store across the street. While hubby settled the bill, I decided to investigate the rugs further, and found doormats made from reclaimed fishing rope by a small Maine company called Custom Cordage. They were a perfect marriage of form and function—rugged and utilitarian, and beautifully gnarly and graphic as well. If the ropes had survived the cold, rough waters of the north Atlantic, then they could definitely withstand whatever traffic my own front door had to offer! I scooped up this dark grey one with celadon flecks and a bold yellow stripe down the middle. It picks up perfectly on the tones in the hallway carpet outside the apartment door.

This tag was attached to the doormat and explains the story behind “The Right Mat.” Watch the video below for a little insight into how the doormats came about. [Video courtesy Daily Grommet.]

In Halifax, I visited a fibre and yarn store called Loop Craft Café and bought these adorable handmade needlework notions—wooden buttons which are cross-sections of old, fallen tree branches, and a beautiful mini pincushion made from emerald green velvet and local yellow cedar burl.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A matinée on the QM2

On our last afternoon at sea, hubby and I took in a matinée performance of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Royal Court Theatre in the QM2. The cast was a group of recent RADA graduates and while the acting wasn't anything to write home about, Oscar Wilde's sparkling wit inevitably generated plenty of laughs.

Inside the Royal Court Theatre.

Lady Bracknell walks-in on Mr. Worthing proposing to Gwendolen.

Gwendolen and Cecily meet.

The two couples happily unite—Mr. Worthing & Gwendolen, Algernon & Cecily.

The final bow, with a hilarious Miss Prism (second from left) in drag.


© Copyright 2012 Shubhani Sarkar