Friday, 30 November 2012

Muro Chochchori- A game with Fish Head

A long awaiting post to be published and a big apologise to my friends and readers..I can blame it on the lovely holiday I had into the Kingdom of Wonders- Cambodia. Although I was quite optimistic to write about this before heading off, but alas, poor time management, I guess. I know you all are really really understanding ..thank you!! 

So here goes the story..For a Bong Macher Muro ( Fish Head) is very auspicious and delicacy on any important occasion. Macher Muro is an integral ingredient for all ceremonies- and mostly its a huge presentation - I mean a whole muro is presented intact on the plate or thali.

Though I must admit, as a kid, I was quite reluctant to even have a go with the Muro. I would just sometimes ponder how could one eat the bony structure and get that overwhelming taste and pleasure. Of course it was always my dad who would go for the fish head. I used to think it could be a boy thing...Oh God ..I definitely lived in a La La Land...

And then when S stepped into my La La Land, the prospective of food changed and took an entire different route.. I was told Macher Muro was one of his favourites and I actually witnessed that Muro was almost a daily ingredient in the daal ( lentils) or vegetables in my in-law's dinning table. All parts of Fish were like vital...and being a foodie, my palate changed too...This was history and the present picture- I play around muro with whatever I feel like. Made it Indian , Chinese,Malay ingredients..have used different flavours and given twists. Overall outcome has always been relished and the side effects have resulted to an entry to my son's little palette too. He would demand a share of Muro, whenever he feels like.

This was something which I was cooking to clear off my fridge before the I used a medley of stuff. Some Bong, some Singaporean, some Thai...some leftover veggies.. All married together with white snapper head.

So I grabbed-
1 White Snapper Head - cut into two halves and marinated with salt and turmeric
1 tbsp each of Ginger and Garlic Paste
1 Onion Sliced thinly
Half a Radish- Grated ( i just used up leftover radish)
1 Tomato- chopped
A handful of Kaffir Lime Leaves
2 tbsp Mustard Paste
1 tbsp- Black Pepper sauce
1 tsp of Cumin powder
1tsp Turmeric powder
1tsp Coriander powder
Some Kaffir Lime Leaves
Fresh Chillies Split
Fresh Chopped Coriander Leaves
Salt and Pepper to season

See I told you I am going to make a mix and match of spices and flavours with some Indian touch of Muro ghonto( Stir Fry of Fish Head with Veggies).

How did it all mix and match on my wok-

1. I fried the Fish Head in Mustard Oil. This is totally Bong influence ..I mean it ..The tangy and strong Mustard oil really breaks the flavour into the fish head. Need to fry it well at this step and keep it aside.

2. Then in the same oil,I sauteed the ginger and garlic. Once the zing was in the air, threw in the sliced onion and continued stirring. Waited till the translucent stage and added the grated radish. This is a funny ingredient , quite a few of you might fold your eyebrows...but honestly was a good idea and went well with the mustard paste that I added later. Let the veggie mixture cook for couple of minutes.

3. Now in goes all the blends- all the spices, black pepper sauce,mustard paste, tomatoes, lime leaves, chillies. This was when I gave a oriental angle to this dish and stirred for a while. I also added some salt and sugar. Need to be careful with the salt as the Fish head also has some salt.

4. Then I added the Fish Heads, and stirred to coat the main ingredient with all the spice. Let it cover and cook for about 6-7 minutes. 

5. Some of the fish head piece would break and that would add to the taste as well. I actually prefer them broken.

6. Finished with Coriander leaves and enjoyed with boiled rice.


Sunday, 18 November 2012


Prawns, a seafood, which is very much, my permanent guest on my dinning table every week...loved by all of us and R's favourite. And I am sure most of the kids would go for it without any hastle and stories. Last weekend, at the fish market trip, I was overwhelmed to get these fresh water , nice looking healthy prawns. The aunty ( generally the local practise in Singapore- is calling the lady at the market aunty ..the name which really makes them feel so important and helpful..and the next moment they are at your side, helping you out to get the best catch). I generally would give my full trust on them and let them go on with the stories of their catch. Brings some similarity with the Indian fish market scenes. Yes, there you go, the logic behind declaring Singapore - the best of both the worlds.

And talking about prawns, I generally do not go for those jumbo size prawns, if I am not grilling. For gravies, or stir fries the medium size ones taste better as the spices blend more into the prawn muscles and do not leave a divorced taste from the spices. I just wanted to do it in a different way, yet not too overpowering spices. Opened my fridge to check out on my treasures..and decided to use some Thai chilli sauce to give a subtle yet different taste to the palate. Also used up some cauliflower florets - probably its a bong instinct..Prawns marry well with cauliflower and the dash of the sauce would add a bright colour to the dish.

So I used

1. Prawn- 500 gms ( deviened and shelled ofcourse)
2. Half a Cauliflower cut into florets
3. 1 Onion-Fine chopped
4. Ginger and Garlic- Grated ( 1tsp each- I went a bit more with the ginger for the zesty sauce.
5. Chillies- 2 Chopped ( I just used 1 )
6. Cumin Powder- 1 tsp
7. Coriander Powder- 1tsp
8. Turmeric- 1/2 tsp
9.Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
10. Bay Leaf- 1 or 2
11. Thai Chilli Sauce- a dash or 2 tbsp
12. Salt and Sugar to taste
13. Garnish with Garam Masala Powder ( a mix of dry roasted Cardamom, cinnamon, Cloves)

What happened in my kitchen

1. Marinated the prawns with salt and turmeric for about half an hour. This helps in bringing out more flavours. Heat some oil in a pan and saute the prawns. Do not fry for long to avoid toughness of the prawn meat.

2. Keep aside the sauteed prawns in a dish. Add some more oil to the pan and add in the cumin seeds and bay leaf. Just be patient till the seeds splutter and add the ginger garlic and chillies. Soon the sizzling sound and aromas fill the kitchen.

3. In goes the chopped onions and stir for a while. If you would like to cook with less oil, which is what I did, cover the pan for couple of minutes on low flame. The low flame cooking also induces more flavours. Add all the powder spices and the cauliflower and cover.

4. The steam inside the pan would cook the cauliflower. If you wish you could fry the cauliflowers separately.  Then add the lovely pink prawns and stir once, so that the prawns get coated with all that is happening in the pan. At this stage add the Thai chilli sauce ( the star flavour in this recipe to create the twist).

5. Stressing on, that let this dish laze around a bit on a low flying blue flame...You can add some water or stock to the dish at this stage, depending on the amount of sauce you want. I did not add much water but this is all the water which oozed out from the seafood and onion mix. And my sauce also did some wonders to the dish. The gravy should not be boiling as my photo reflects..there should be lazy bubbles here and there ( simmering in culinary terms).

6. Adjust salt and sugar. Keep peeping in as and when you feel like, opening the lid. This went on my gas stove for about 12-15 minutes.
7. Sprinkle some Garam Masala and Coriander leaves and serve with hot rice. I am sure you will get quite a few thumbs up on the dinner table..enjoy!!


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Deepavali Treats

 HAPPY DIWALI...The festival of Lights and Yummy treats!! 

Diwali is the festival of light
Diwali is the victory over evils
Let us celebrate the victory of God Over the forces of darkness

The festival of lights ....Diwali. I know most of us, specially who have spent childhood in India will get nostalgic about the fire crackers, chocolate bombs, Rockets, Anars ..the list goes on and not to mention the sweets, namkeen, the diyas, candles, decorations. I can just rewind and bring back my childhood days in Ranchi- the best place to be in for this festival. I know sounds cliche ..but yes, for you it would be your city the best place. And why not!! You have spent the most carefree, delightful childhood days. And specially for these festivals you remember the best possible memories and yes like me, we all try to atleast create some of it, if not replicate the entire surroundings, for our children. Why should they be deserted from this beautiful feeling, just because they are staying in a foreign land. Specially staying in Singapore, it has been quiet easy to embrace the festival aurora ...Spending more than 10 years in Oz Land, I had adjusted myself with the limited resources available but Singapore really opens your door to India and can compete equally, I must say. Ofcourse the Diwali melas and Kali Puja in Sydney was a great affair. 

For me, if I rewind..Diwali.. going to the market with Baba and buying fire crackers...collect so many of them. And the messy ones too like the "Saanp ( Snake) ", which used to leave black marks on the verandah. Yes, we had to sun them out on a huge lay out of newspaper..My verandah would transform to a display of fire crackers. Friends used to hop from one to another to ensure that we all had a nice combination of all the crackers. Buy new clothes of course, candles, diyas and then the aromas from the kitchen. All the sweets and authentic Indian dishes..oh yumm!! 

Let me come back to the present scene now. No more black and white right!! Yes, we did a couple of trips to the Diwali Mela , first few times with my girl friends and then of course a family one was the finale. My hubby went gala with the crackers, specially now that R is no more fearful of them. The star attraction for me was my mehendi on my hand done by my dear friend RM. It had, no doubt, a professional touch with fine artworks but the best part was the colour..uh la la..yes they all had their share of teasing me for my hubby's love for me. For those who are unaware of this, if your mehendi (Henna) colour is really bright and dark, it relates to your partner's intense love for you. So there you go. We also had some quality time - mum and son- painting diyas. And I must admit R is growing, so not much mess this year.

Then we had the decorations and lights. The house looks so different with all the glitters.

The best part of doing all these was the team work with hubby and son. I really enjoyed the family time and the little boy's excitement for all the do's.

And now the foodie time. I remembered something again my ma used to make- Shahi Tukda and tossed it from my list. Easy ingredients and quick method. Something I could just pop in from my pantry. 

What I looked for in my pantry-

For Shahi Tukda-
1. White Bread slices - preferrably day old
2. Sugar  - 1/2 cup 
3. Water-1/2 cup
4- Oil to deep fry
6. Pistachios- Chopped fine

For the kheer-
1. 500 ml full cream milk
2. Condensed Milk tin- 1/2 tin
3. Saffron Strands
4. Cardamom Pods- 2

What happened in my kitchen-

1. Prepare the Kheer/ Rabdhi. I took the short cut process and added condensed milk. Also I like this version a lot, it actually gives a rich creamy taste without too much of hard work. You could omit condensed milk and add Sugar to it. In that case go for more milk with the traditional method.
So I boiled the milk in a thick bottom pan, let it reduce half. Then added the condensed milk and the trick is continuous stirring.  Rub the saffron threads between your fingers and mix to a little bowl of few tablespoon of milk. Then add saffron induced milk to the boiling kheer. Throw in some cardamom pods after opening them. When you get the rich look, the kheer is ready to be poured. Garnish could be slivered pistachios.

2. Cut off the sides of the bread slices. I had cut them into triangles. You could even go more creative and give them funky shapes or use cookie cutters. The key here is to go by your creativity and innovativeness. Deep fry them in oil in small batches. Remember breads are really thirsty for any kind of fluid, so you need to be careful. Rest the fried bed on a lined plate before dressing them up for plating.

3. Now Sugar syrup's turn to be cooked. Boil the water and the sugar in a saucepan till its syrupy. Easy to say but I am not sure whether you are aligned with me for this. Basically if you a dip a spoon in the syrup, the spoon should have a layer sticking to it and not dripping too smooth. You could add some cardamom to this syrup to induce flavours. 

4. Now 2 methods can be followed. Either drench the bread into the syrup or pour some syrup on the slices. Depends on the amount of sweetness your tongue is longing for. 

5. Plate the slices in an angle. Pour some syrup on it and go generous with the kheer drizzling on the tukdas. Make sure to get some of the saffrons as garnish and sprinkle pistachios. After all, the aim is Shahi a lot of "Shahiness" needs to be portrayed. This dish actually used to be in the royal menu. You can serve the bread hot and cold kheer. Enjoy.

Have a safe Diwali and enjoy with your family and friends.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A Steaming Kitchen


Had some friends for dinner on the weekend and promised them for Malay food, a new entry in my kitchen. A typical characteristic of Malay Cuisine, as they say, in culinary world, a dish with a distinct blanket of oil as a drape  and rich dark colour. And here I would be unfair not to mention the aromas and appetising taste with all fresh ingredients and spices pounded and married together.

I needed a balance with that amount of spice and richness to serve for the dinner and chose the Cantonese style steamed fish with light flavours but added lot of colours to marry with the theme and not make my Sea Bass feel out of place on the colourful table. I was a bit apprehensive too. as this was probably the first time I was going to experiment to this extent with my friends. Generally, I go safe with my Indian palette and its S and R who are frequent guinea pigs for my experimentation. Of course, my gang in Sydney would oppose, they had their share of being guinea pigs few times too. But I am happy to declare the menu was hit and thanks to my friends, they did really push me to play up with more cuisines in future.

I must say it was a good idea to go and fetch some fresh fish for this dish too. I was friendly with my uncle at the market and he butterflied the whole Sea Bass very carefully. This is a good idea if you want to make your fish the show stopper rather than just have the whole fish. And its so convenient to slice and plate to individual plates, and not to forget that the juices penetrate to all the muscles of the fish uniformly.

To place the butterflied fish on the steaming dish, just press a bit on the spine and spread the wings ( sides of the fish- I call it wings here as it is acting like a butterfly. If you are not lucky enough to the get the fish pre-cut as a butterfly , then the process would be clean the gut of the fish. Then cut along the spine, from head to tail, and loosen the fillet on each side of the fish. To a go step ahead use your knife and a bit of skill ( not actually , a lot of skill) and slit near the bone on both sides to take off the bones. This is a complex cut. I do not want to scare may go along with this recipe even without the butterfly cut, if that's going to a big issue. Just take a whole fish and clean the gut and descale etc and start over with the process. Butterflying is just a better edge over the dish.

OK now time for noting the ingredients I used-

 For the fish
1/  Whole sea Bass
2/ 1 inch Ginger - thin sliced
3/ 1 inch Ginger - Juliennes
4/ 3 Garlic cloves - thin sliced
5/  2 stalk Spring Onion- Juliennes
6/  2-3 Red chili Julienne
7/ A stalk of Lemongrass, crushed
8/  A quarter of capsicum-  very small diagonal cuts
9/ Coriander leaves chopped
10/  4 Tbsp Cooking Oil

Sea Bass waiting to be steamed with all the colourful flavouring mates

1/ 6 tbsp water
2/ 2 tbsp Light soy sauce
3/ 3 tsp Sesame oil
4/ 2 tsp Oyster Sauce
5/ 2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
6/ Chinese Wine -1 tsp
7/ Crushed Coriander root- nice wash and clean the root and crush it rough with the back of the knife
8 / 1/2 tsp Ground white pepper

Ginger Oil-
Deep Fry some ginger julienne in oil. This should be done just before serving the hot steamed fish. Pour the hot sizzling ginger oil on the fish and sprinkle the crispy ginger. I promise you this will enhance the whole dish to another level.

What happened in my kitchen-

1. Place the butterflied fish on a steaming dish. Hide some ginger and garlic slices underneath the fish and some of the greens and reds on top of the fish. Season the fish with salt. Not too much as my sauce will be salty from Soy sauce. Feed the fish with the lemongrass stalk and push it till the stomach. My photo will help you to know what I mean. Steam the fish for 15 minutes. My fish was too big for my steamer, so what I did was, wrapped the fish with foil leaving lot a space within. So not a tight wrap but  let it balloon up. I cooked my fish in a hot oven for 15 minutes. But ideally the taste and texture is much better if you can steam.

2. While the fish is steaming prepare the sauce. Add all the ingredients of the sauce in a saucepan, cook until boil. On the other hand prepare the ginger oil.

3. Key point is everything should be done simultaneously as you would need all in the same temperature zone.

4. Take the fish out and take out all the ginger, garlic, lemongrass and spring onion as they  have given up their flavours to the fish already. Pour some of the sauce over the fish. Sprinkle some greens and reds on the fish and pour the rest of the sauce. Bathe the whole fish generously with the sauce. Finish up with the ginger oil.

5. Serve hot and enjoy with rice.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Vegetabley Colourful


My Lunch today- Mixed Veg with Palak Chapathi
Now that I am back to those days of my having ample amount of leisure, after finishing my new expedition of gaining knowledge in Culinary skills, I will be sharing more of my kitchen stories here. Just out of the moon, felt like creating a colourful yet striking canvas on my kitchen bench top. It was getting too boring but unfortunately my fridge and pantry was not complimenting my thoughts. OK dealt with it, move on, took it as a challenge and I remembered all the techniques and culinary terms- moist heat cooking and dry heat cooking. Sorry friends, will not start one of those lectures...but kind of keep getting inclined to those terms and tips when I am cooking..Simple dish from basic and daily vegetables- Carrots, Beans, Cauliflower..I would generally make them quite simple stir fry or sautéed and that's it...Done!! But today has to be thought of using steaming, sautéeing and broiling...Looks like complex but trust me ..not complex , its just the air of using all the techniques of cooking and giving a different crunch. Actually you can start with blanching the veggies, if steaming is an issue (like not proper equipments or timing). And this is handy when you have a list of things to do simultaneously and you want to also divide your attention to your little one doing a project of his own or something. This is when multi tasking is on demand!!

OK, why did I bake again, a trick which helps to retain the colours as well as crunchiness. Of course, I could also get the similar texture with a Chinese wok and more oil and high heat...but yes here goes my health watcher mind. I actually did not use more than 1 tbsp oil and may be a teeny tiny bit of butter as a finishing touch (which could be optional). And this is another version of crunchiness ...a western shift from the Chinese wok. I think I have given quite a few reasons supporting my "Combi cooking techniques" but I can assure you that the outcome was Yummy!! And my judge at the dinning table R approved it.

What I used-

Carrot strips ( not Juliennes)- 1 large
Beans - 1 cup ( diagonal strips)
Cauliflower florets- 1 cup
Onion (chopped fine) - 1 small
Ginger (chopped fine)- 1 inch
Garlic (chopped fine)- 3 cloves
Olive oil- 1 tbsp
Italian dried herbs- 2 tbsp
Worcestershire Sauce- 1 tbsp
Sweet Chili Sauce- 1 tbsp
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Butter- a dollop to give the shine.

How I cooked-
1. Season the vegetables with salt and steam them. I actually used a bamboo steamer for the cauliflower and the beans. I used a stainless steel steamer for the carrots. Not for any particular reason but just that I wanted to do it all simultaneously. Here I rational mind, automatically which stopped me from mixing carrots with other..had to cook the lovely orangey carrots in isolation as they are fastest ones to soften. "Ladylike" ( actually read good adaptability and flexibility..!!)

2. Now put your pan on fire and add olive oil. Do not wait for it to smoke. Another bit of advice here , olive oil has a very low smoking temperature unlike your other cooking oil. And mind you it will not just smoke your garlic but actually burn it or sometimes in polished culinary tempo "caramelised garlic". Ofcoure we do not need that..we just need the nutty flavour from garlic to enhance the overall aroma and taste eventually. We are not going to be harsh on any of the vegetables here, just a soft touch and some TLC ( tender love and care). So in goes the ginger and garlic ( in the same order, as ginger takes longer time to cook than garlic). Then throw the onions and stir till translucent.

3. Now what I eyes were longing for- the colourful medley. Throw in the steamed soft yet firm veggies mix them well with already sauteed onion mixture. Coat all the pieces well , do not be biast to any.

3. Add the seasonings - Worcestershire sauce , Sweet chili Sauce, Italian herbs , salt and pepper. You could go well with chillies too but I just wanted to keep a subtle flavour. Don't want to move towards a stir fry.

4. Do not cook much on the pan. Transfer onto a warm dish, add the butter and shove it in a preheated 160 degrees oven and bake it covered for about 15 minutes. Uncover and broil for 5-6 minutes to get the colour. Ideally the hot pan used on the fire should go on the oven. But mine was not ovenproof, so warmed a glass dish in the oven for few minutes.

So here goes my fusion medley of vegetables- Subtle with flavours and crunchy veggies retaining their shine and natural colour. Have it nice and warm with Roast chicken or pasta or even love it with Indian Roti