Indian Home Cooking 6: Hybrid Chicken “Curry”

Ready to ServeIndian Home Cooking Week” rolls on.

For why I’ve put “curry” in quotes in the title of this recipe see my prefatory comments in this post. And if you’re wondering about the “hybrid” part, it’s not in reference to the ancestry of the chicken I used (though it was probably a hybrid too); it’s in reference to the origins of this recipe. Like yesterday’s salmon recipe this one is also not a regional recipe. It is, however, a very conscious mixing of two approaches, one Bengali and one Malayali. The recipe gets underway more or less as in the style of an excellent recipe from one of my aunts, and is finished in a manner very common in Malayali cooking (Malayali= (of) the Malayalam speaking peoples of Kerala). I don’t usually go about trying to create hybrid or Indo-fusion dishes like this one but this one just works because there’s a strong crossover to begin with.

Let’s get to it.

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Indian Home Cooking 5: Masala Salmon

Dry spicesAfter some dal and pumpkin it’s time to get non-veg with Indian Home Cooking Week.

I always go on about the regionality of Indian cuisine but this salmon recipe is not regionally specific at all. It uses combinations of ingredients and flavours that might be very loosely dubbed southwestern Indian but it’s not from any particular place. It’s a recipe I improvise anew each time I make it, and on this occasion I’m even improvising the chief mode of cooking—roasting—for the first time. Usually, I do this as a braise. I generally advise against cooking anything for the first time if there’s an audience involved, but this actually came out rather well and so here it is.

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Indian Home Cooking 4: Mishti Kumro (Pumpkin/Squash, Bengali Style)

Mishti KumroIndian Home Cooking Week kicked off yesterday with a recipe for chholar dal; here today is a recipe for a vegetable dish to eat with it: mishti kumro. “Mishti” means sweet in Bengali, and for those of you know Bengali food it may seem redundant for a Bengali dish to be qualified thus. My people have a renowned sweet tooth (though we can’t compare to most Gujaratis) and often add a bit of sugar to a lot of savoury dishes as well. The “mishti” in the name of this dish, however, is a qualifier of the second word “kumro”, which means pumpkin, and means only that the dish features sweet pumpkin—the dish itself is not particularly sweet. I’m not really sure which of the bewildering multiplicity of pumpkins and squashes available in the US is closest to the Bengali pumpkin. If I had to guess, I’d go with buttercup, but really I use whatever I have at hand: butternut, buttercup, kabocha, delicata, or in this case ambercup. Continue reading

Indian Home Cooking 3: Chholar Dal

Chholar DalHere is the first of my recipes for my Indian Home Cooking Week and fittingly it’s for a dal.

It’s hard to imagine a meal in an Indian home that doesn’t feature dal of some kind, whether it is as the fulcrum of a meal—as the primary source of protein in vegetarian households, or as a cheap source of nutrition in poorer households—or as a preliminary “course” before you move on to fish or meat. It’s eaten with rice, with chapatis and parathas and other breads, and even by itself. As with all other aspects of Indian food, there’s a strong regional aspect to dal: some dals are more prominent in some regional cuisines than others, some are traditionally not eaten at all in some regions, and even the dals that cross regions in popularity are usually prepared very differently in them. And, of course, their names change with language—one region’s toor dal is another’s arhar dal etc.

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Indian Home Cooking Week

Mr CreosoteI’m afraid I am going to be taxing the patience of my whisky readership greatly this week (or at least in a different way). I said earlier this month that I would be posting more recipes going forward and I am not a liar.

There will be no whisky reviews this week. Instead I will be posting each day this week a recipe for an Indian dish. All of them are for dishes as prepared in homes, and so often very different from what those who are used to Indian restaurant food in the West will recognize as Indian food. Together they will add up to a full menu.

Here is what is coming: Continue reading

Springbank 12 CS, Batch 7

Springbank 12 CS, Batch 7

Let us stick with the cask strength whisky but move south from the Speyside, all the way to Campbeltown: yes, it’s the Springbank 12 CS, the seventh release to be exact. This is a mix of first-fill and refill sherry casks (I’m not sure of the proportion). I’ve had some of the earlier batches, with the first batch (at 54.6%) my favourite. Again, that bottle was finished long before the blog and so I have no notes on it.

Despite the fact that they bottle  a lot of sherried whisky Springbank doesn’t always come up when people ask for recommendations of sherried whiskies. This is partly because their more intensely sherried whiskies are quite expensive (see the 18 yo and the absurdly priced 21 yo) and partly because the more affordable ones emphasize the quintessential distillery character (brine, leather) over sherry for sherry’s sake. That has been my experience at any rate. Let’s see if this one supports that claim.

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Aberlour A’bunadh, Batch 45

Aberlour A'bunadh Batch 45
Having reviewed the Glenfarclas 105 and the Macallan CS, I may as well complete the trifecta of iconic young, cask strength sherried malts from the Speyside. And so here is Batch 45 of the Aberlour A’bunadh (I’m not sure what number the series is up to now). As I noted in the review of the 105, the A’bunadh is very well-loved by whisky geeks—indeed, it’s probably not a stretch to say that it might be one of the most loved of contemporary malts among whisky geeks. Its name comes up seemingly on a daily basis on the Malt Maniacs Facebook page (this is an exaggeration—please do not bother counting) and you can always count on it being mentioned when someone asks for a whisky recommendation on a public forum. Its easy availability and its affordability (in relative terms, not in relation to its age, which is unknown) both probably have something to do with it, but, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, I think the real key is the batch numbering (which make every release limited and “special” and also triggers obsessive compulsive disorder, which whisky geeks are very susceptible to). It’s also, of course, usually quite good.

A comparison of four batches of the A’bunadh was among the very first reviews I posted on this blog and I am fairly certain that it is the only one of my posts that has been viewed once every single day since. I liked most of those batches and hope this one will be good as well. This was another bottle that I recently split with friends in town.

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Bangkok Thai Deli II (Saint Paul, MN)

Bangkok Thai Deli: Tilapia

After our decent but not particularly special meal at Sen Yai Sen Lek we were left with a hankering for some better Thai food. So when we found ourselves heading to the Children’s Museum in Saint Paul a few Sundays ago we followed that visit with a return to Bangkok Thai Deli for lunch (see here for my writeup of a previous meal there). On’s Kitchen is closed on Sundays or else we would have gone there, but really there’s not so very much separating On’s and Bangkok Thai Deli these days. Well, there is the fact that Bangkok Thai Deli is usually crammed for Sunday lunch which means the likelihood of both a wait and fairly spotty service, both of which we encountered. Continue reading

Macallan CS

Macallan CS

Following my review of the Glenfarclas 105, here is another cask strength, sherried beast from the Speyside: this time the Macallan CS (I actually tasted it right after the 105). I believe this has been discontinued. I’ve finished a couple of bottles of this over the years and have always liked it. I expect I will again as this is from a 2010 bottling (which was probably what my last ex-bottle was as well—my spreadsheet says I finished it in December 2011). Of course, these days a lot of Macallan’s whisky is NAS but it’s now mostly all colour-coded as we’re all apparently children. And I don’t think they put out any official cask strength whisky anymore.

I do have to say that the CS always seemed like an outlier in their lineup even before they went to the paintbox series. What I mean is that Macallan has always been associated with drinkability and a mellow palette of flavours (I don’t meant this in a pejorative sense at all) and the CS was always rather unruly. So maybe they also have greater “brand “conformity now across the lineup? I doubt that had anything to do with the decision to discontinue this expression though. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 105

Glenfarclas 105

The Glenfarclas 105 is the distillery’s young NAS* whisky—it seems like every distillery has one now—and is more specifically a challenger to the well-loved Aberlour A’bunadh in the “heavily sherried young whisky at a very high abv” category. Perhaps because Glenfarclas have not thought to release the 105 with batch numbers it’s never quite received the cult acclaim of the A’bunadh series. Or perhaps that’s because it’s just a little too young, raw and hot. At least, that was my impression on the very few occasions on which I’ve tried it in the past. Recently, however, some friends and I split some bottles and this was among them. I’m interested to see what I make of it when I’m paying a lot of attention to it.

By the way, as you probably know, the fact that the 105 is always at 60% doesn’t mean it’s ever diluted to reach that unlikely round number. Apparently, Glenfarclas vat casks at higher and lower strengths till they get to 60% (and I assume 105 refers to the proof—57% is abv in the imperial system which probably means 60% = 105%; it may say this on the bottle but I didn’t keep it after the split). So it’s always genuinely cask strength whisky. At least until we find out, Glendronach-style, that this is yet another term that means something very different to the industry from what we think it does. Continue reading