Red Pork with Wine and Spices


I didn’t post a recipe this Thursday. Apologies for ruining your Thanksgiving. But here it is today, just two days late. This is a recipe for braised pork shoulder that I improvized in July and have been trying to get on the blog ever since. It finally made it through the poll for November. Do you people not like pork that much? Or are you just tired of my braised pork recipes? God knows, I’ve posted a lot of them (here, here, here, here and here). They’re all different from each other, though—I swear. The one I posted earlier this year also had white wine in it but this has a completely different flavour profile. As with that recipe, I used white wine here because I had an open bottle in the fridge. In this case though the bottle had been open for a long while and the wine had begun to approach the border of vinegar. I ended up mellowing the sauce with coconut milk. I’ve listed coconut milk as optional in the recipe though because if you’re using wine from a freshly opened bottle you might not feel the need to add any. Taste it at the end and decide. Continue reading

Baingan Masala with Mustard


The first recipe of the month featured eggplant; here now is another. I improvised this in mid-October and I think it was the last dish I made with the last of the eggplant from my garden. Truth be told, as much as we like eggplant, it’s been a bit of a relief to not be cooking it twice a week as I pretty much had been since early August! These were all long eggplant: a mix of Ping Tung (a purple varietal) and Thai Long Green. Could this recipe be adapted for globe eggplant? Probably, but cut-up globe eggplant is not going to hold its shape the way that long eggplant cut into thick disks does. Long eggplant is easily found in Indian and other Asian stores though, so that shouldn’t be a difficult hurdle to clear. The key flavour in this dish comes from a spice I threw into my grinder on a whim: black mustard seed. Its sharp bite comes through quite cleanly in the finished dish. If you are able to use mustard oil like a good Bengali then you’ll taste the sharpness even more. But it will be good even with a regular neutral oil. I also use the home-made Bengali spice blend, bhaja moshla, to add a little more punch at the end. This is not commercially available but you can use a pinch of your favourite garam masala instead (if you do, keep the pan on the heat for another minute after adding it). Continue reading

Shrimp Curry with Tomatoes


Here’s another recipe from August when I was trying my best to use up the flood of tomatoes coming in from my plot at the community garden. In this case, I also had on hand a few pounds of excellent Gulf shrimp purchased from a seafood truck that drives up from Texas to the midwest every summer. Normally, I would have made malai curry with shrimp this good but, as I said, I had a metric tonne of tomatoes to use up. And so I pulled together a relatively basic shrimp curry. Relatively, because two ingredients give the curry extra depth and bite, respectively: dessicated coconut and Sichuan peppercorn. The heat comes mostly from the black peppercorn in the spice mix, with a Kashmiri chilli [affiliate link] used more for colour. It’s a simple recipe that comes together quickly and delivers great flavour for a weeknight or weekend meal. Continue reading

Hot and Sour Baingan Masala


This recipe was on the poll for September and October and it’s time has now come. I improvized it in early August when the flood of eggplant from my community garden plot was in full flow and variety in preparation was needed to keep exhaustion at bay. It turned out so well that I made it a few more times before the growing season ended in October. My eggplant of choice for this was a variety I grew for the first time this year: Little Finger. These plants produce a profusion of very dark purple eggplants that are 3-6 inches in length and tubular in shape. As they’re not commercially available—unless there’s a specialty grower at a farmers’ market near you—you can happily substitute whatever long eggplant you do have access to. Alas, globe eggplant, either cut into rings or cubed, is not optimal for this dish as you want the eggplant pieces to hold their shape and not begin to melt into the sauce. You begin by stir-frying the sliced eggplants, setting them aside, making the wet masala and adding the fried eggplant back in for the last step. While the first step requires constant stir-frying for 10 minutes or so, it is, on the whole, a simple and quick recipe—and I think you’ll find it’s very delicious. Great with pulao or with chapatis or parathas; and excellent as both a side dish or the star of the show. Continue reading

Chicken Curry with Fennel

The last recipe of the month is for a chicken curry that I was inspired to make by and for a long-time reader of the blog, Dan Davies (who goes by yak_lord on Instagram and whisky_yak on Twitter). He has made and posted pictures of a number of my recipes over the years and I have always appreciated it: it gives me great pleasure when my recipes enter other people’s repertoires. Last month a post he made on Instagram citing one of my recipes caught my eye. He noted that he’d not used garlic and had substituted fennel for onion. At first I was foxed by this. But, of course, there was a good reason for it: a dietary restriction in his household that makes cooking with onions, garlic and other alliums untenable. This got me thinking and I resolved to come up with a chicken curry recipe that centered fennel and omitted onions and garlic from the get-go. The recipe also eschews red chilli powder and tomatoes and the spice mix includes quite a lot of poppy seed. This makes for a “white” gravy that is mild yet flavourful: the fennel brings a bright sweetness, the pepper and ginger a bit of bite and the whole garam masalas and green chillies add fragrance. For best results use chicken on the bone as without onion or garlic you need more depth of flavour in the gravy than boneless chicken will give you. Continue reading

The Red Death (Roasted Tomato and Trinidad Scorpion Chutney)


There comes a point at the end of every growing season when I tire of making and freezing more and more batches of tomato sauce for pasta for the next nine months. One of the ways I deal with the excess—after giving loads away to undeserving and ungrateful bastards—is by making spicy tomato chutney. My general go-to recipes are this and this (versions of each other). This year, however, I put a twist on the second one that turned out remarkably well. I’m not referring to the fact that I used a Trinidad Scorpion pepper from my garden (I normally grow Habaneros for my satanically hot pepper needs but our local nursery didn’t have any this year). No, the twist was that I oven-roasted the tomatoes first. I’d made a batch of regular oven-roasted tomatoes with herbs with some garden San Marzanos a few days earlier. We normally eat those in sandwiches with mozzarella and arugula etc. but it struck me that the concentrated, savoury tomato flavour would probably make an excellent spicy chutney as well. And so that’s what I did with my next batch of San Marzanos and then with an even larger batch of Amish Pastes. The result is a complex, hot chutney that you can dab small amounts of on top of sliced, dressed tomatoes, smear lightly in sandwiches or eat as you would a regular achaar/pickle alongside dal and rice. The first step—oven-roasting the tomatoes—will take a long time. But it needs no supervision and once the tomatoes are ready the rest comes together very fast. Continue reading

Zucchini “Chenchki”


A vegetable that you enjoy when it first becomes available from the garden in the summer—or in our case, our CSA—but which then increasingly begins to feel like a curse, is zucchini. I don’t grow it for that reason: it’s good but then there’s altogether too much of it. If another gardener offers you some of their zucchini it’s probably a passive-aggressive move—especially here in the upper midwest. But it is a mainstay of the CSA table earlier in the season before the more charismatic vegetables show up and so we find ourselves with a decent amount of it on hand most weeks from mid-July on. As I grill a lot in the summer, it’s easy enough to slice some zucchini, toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper and slap it on the grate. The missus makes a Korean banchan with it as well. And from time to time I put it into Bengali vegetable recipes as well. Continue reading

Kofta Curry with Green Peppers


This may be a recipe for kofta or meatball curry but really, it too had its origins in trying desperately to use up my vegetable garden bounty. The curry was made with a lot of tomato and with green Carmen peppers that had not yet turned/begun to ripen before the first killing frost a week ago. Carmen peppers turn a lovely scarlet colour when fully ripe but are also quite sweet and very tasty when green. The koftas were made here with ground beef (from Goette Farms) but you can use ground lamb or goat or even turkey (keema and koftas being the best ways for turkey to shine in the Indian kitchen in my experience). The large amount of tomato used makes the curry quite tangy and the flavour of the green peppers matches it well. It’s a pretty quick and simple preparation—largely because I don’t bother frying the koftas first—and rather tasty. Continue reading

Baingan with Malvani Masala


Here to close out September in cooking is my third eggplant recipe of the month. (The first was for Baingan-Zeera Masala and the second for Baingan “Bharta”.) Today I have for you a recipe for a simple preparation with Bedekar’s Malvani Masala. If you follow my recipe posts this may strike a chord in your memory. Back in July—when the eggplant from my garden had just begun to come in—I’d posted another recipe that used Bedekar’s Malvani Masala. Malvani cuisine is one of the cuisines of the southwestern coast of India. It’s not very well represented in the US (or the UK, I’d imagine). Indeed, it’s not even until relatively recently that packets of Malvani masala began to appear in desi groceries in the Twin Cities metro and they’re still not consistently or widely available here. Bedekar’s is the brand I’ve seen and bought but any brand of Malvani masala should be close. And if you can’t find it in a desi store near you, you can find it online. I can tell you it’s become one my go-to all-purpose masalas for quick cooking. I’ve added it to various eggplant dishes, to chicken curries and also to beef curries. It’s an easy route to big flavour. Continue reading

Slow-Cooked Mutton Curry


The first two recipes I posted this month were both for baingan/eggplant (Baingan “Bharta” and Baingan-Zeera Masala). And there’s one more to come still. But let’s take a break this week and do the one non-eggplant recipe to crack this month’s poll. This is a recipe for mutton—as we Indians refer to goat meat. If you don’t have easy—or any—access to mutton/goat meat you can make it with lamb shanks or even with beef. You want to make it with enough bones in there though. I last made this with a hind leg from the goat friends and I split at the end of last year and there were quite a few marrow/shank bones in there. I cooked it not in the pressure cooker—as I often do with my mutton curries—but long and slow on the stovetop. It is basically a first cousin, twice removed of the classic Bengali mutton dish known as kosha mangsho. The first step is to marinate the mutton overnight in yogurt and a bunch of spices (you can watch a Reel of the process here). You then saute some whole garam masala and some onions, dump in the meat with all its marinade, add some tomato, cook it down till the oil separates, then add some water, cover and cook over low heat till the meat is almost done. Then you add some halved potatoes and cook till they and the meat are done. All that’s left do is garnish with some dhania and eat it with rice, chapatis or parathas. Continue reading

Baingan “Bharta”


Almost exactly a month ago I was reeling under the onslaught of eggplant from my plot at the community garden and trying to come up with new ways/variations to cook it all. On this particular occasion I started out to make a variation on baingan bharta but things went off track fast. First, I was feeling too lazy to roast the eggplant. So I figured I’d make a version of the recipe I posted last week, for baingan-zeera masala. As I started to make the masala though I kept adding things willy nilly, almost a bit deliriously. These kinds of experiments can often end badly but wouldn’t you know it, this came out rather well: rich texture and big, bold flavour. The only problem was what to call it. Since I’d started out to make baingan bharta, and since the texture of the finished dish was not a million miles from that of bharta, I figured I’d call it that. But as it’s so far away from the canonical versions of the dish I normally think of as baingan bharta, I’ve put bharta in quotes here. If even that seems wrong to you, you can call it what you like. But do make it. I am pretty sure that if you like baingan/eggplant you will agree that it’s very good. Continue reading

Baingan-Zeera Masala


I started growing eggplant in earnest last summer. And I had such a monstrous bounty that even after giving at least half of it away we almost had more than we could cope with at home. Thankfully, eggplant is a very versatile vegetable and can be cooked in all kinds of ways and so we never tired of it. Though my readers may have, as all my recipes last September involved eggplant. And as I planted a lot of eggplant again in my community garden plot this year I find myself in a similar situation, both in our kitchen and on this blog. Four of the recipes on the poll for this month involved eggplant and it’s by a hair that we missed having another all-eggplant September: only three out of four recipes this month will feature eggplant—what a relief! Where to begin? Well, maybe with the one I made first back in August. It featured not just single garden eggplant but single plant eggplant: all of it came from one Chinese String plant in my garden. Chinese String, as the name might indicate, is a varietal that produces long thin fruit. I’d never grown or encountered it before but certainly hope I’ll be able to find it again next year as we really enjoyed it, in this preparation and others. You don’t need that specific varietal, of course—any long eggplant will do. Continue reading

Spiced Chicken Liver Mousse


Until early this year we were purchasing all our eggs and chicken from a small farm about 15 miles away from us. Eventually, coordinating times and places to meet for exchange of money and goods became a bit too much of a hassle for both parties and we stopped. But not before I acquired large amounts of various non-standard parts of chicken (from the American grocery point of view). I still have a very large bag of chicken feet in the chest freezer, for example. And I also went through a large bag of hearts and gizzards in the spring (they cooked up very nicely with onions, cauliflower and spices and tasted very good rolled in tortillas). In the spring I also made a spiced mousse with a large bag of livers and served it on bread at a potluck with some friends. It was quite popular, even among some who are not usually very liver-positive. I’ve been trying to get it on the blog since May but it’s only now that it has finally (and I must admit, improbably) made the cut. There are a few people, online and off, who have been asking for a recipe and this goes out first and foremost to them. Remember, kids: don’t let go of your dreams—they’ll come true someday. Continue reading

Purple Potatoes, Red Masala


I’ve previously posted at least three recipes for alur-dom/dum alu (here, here and here). You might think that’s enough but here’s a fourth. Alur dom/dum alu is made in certain broad ways in the parts of India that make dishes by that name. I do like more traditional ways of making it but I also think of the name of the dish as authorizing all kinds of approaches: as long as you cook potatoes, covered, in a thick or thin gravy with masala I think you’ve made alur dom/dum alu. You may disagree but that’s how I see it. Anyway, I don’t know why I’m leading this post off with these observations because this recipe is nothing very wild or unexpected. The only really unusual thing here is the use of small purple potatoes. Everything else is just a matter of plus/minus from ways in which you might already make alur dom/dum alu. You could, of course, make this dish with small yellow or red potatoes as well but I really like the sweet flavour of purple potatoes and think they work particularly well here. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading

Mushroom and Cauliflower Curry


I love king oyster mushrooms and buy them every opportunity I get—which is to say, every time I am at a Vietnamese or other East Asian store in the Twin Cities. We cook them up in a number of different ways at home. What I have for you today is a relatively unusual prep for me for these mushrooms but otherwise fairly familiar. By which I mean that this is essentially a take on alu-gobi with the mushrooms taking the place of the potato. A little more gravy than I typically make in alu-gobi and so I’m calling it a curry. There are not very many ingredients and it comes together very easily. I start out by frying the cauliflower and mushrooms till they’re half-done. If you’re short on time you could skip this step. It won’t be quite as good but it will still be very tasty. As with a lot of my recipes, the ingredients list is really a general guideline and not a specific prescription. I used the quantities of cauliflower and mushrooms I had. You could change that ratio and still end up with a very similar dish as long as you stay close to the spice blend. Continue reading

Lamb Shank Curry with Peanuts and Potatoes


After last week’s recipe for a stew of white beans with lamb, here is another lamb recipe to close the month in cooking on the blog. Unlike last week’s recipe—which involved lamb neck—this involves lamb shanks. We get our lamb shanks from the same source as our lamb neck: Goette Farms in southern Minnesota. As with most of my cooking, this recipe was improvised, which is not to say it is wholly original: it draws on taste and texture memories of Indian and non-Indian braises and stews and may possibly evoke for you one that you are familiar with. If so, please write in below. The main ingredient here that rarely goes into my meat curries is ground peanuts—an ingredient with which you have to take some care (see below). I made this for the first time for Easter lunch this year and a couple more times since. Continue reading

Lamb and Bean Stew


Here is a recipe for a delicious stew of lamb and beans that I have made variations on a few times this year. It ends up a sort of hybrid between Indian preparations of dried beans and southern European stews/braises. As always, I use Rancho Gordo beans. My preference is to use large white beans (I’ve made it with Ayocote Blanco and Large White Lima) but smaller beans like their Flageolet or Alubia Blanca will work just as well.  For the lamb I like to use lamb neck. We get our lamb neck (and other cuts of lamb) from the excellent Goette Farms in southern Minnesota. I realize lamb neck may not be easily available everywhere. I like it because the neck bones make for excellent flavour in the stew as the meat slowly becomes tender. If you don’t have lamb neck available use whatever bone-heavy cut of lamb you can. Continue reading

Baingan Masala


Eggplant season has begun to get underway here in Minnesota—I just harvested my first eggplant today, a small Pot Black. If all goes well, we will have plenty of eggplant in August. And as I am growing three different long varieties (Ping Tung, Nagasaki and Chinese String), I am constantly on the lookout for recipes where these will particularly shine. I am happy to say that this recipe—which I improvised at the end of May—is one of them. The secret weapon here is a commercial masala mix. As I may have mentioned before, one of the things I am exploring more this year is the use of commercial regional spice mixes. There are so many of these available now at my local Indian stores and it’s a world I need to spend more time in. One of the mixes I bought back in May was Bedekar’s Malvani Masala. If you can’t find it near you, you can probably find it online. Malvani cuisine is one of the cuisines of southwestern India, the flavours of which I just love. I used this Malvani masala in a beef curry when I first got it and while that came out quite well it is in this dish that I like it even more. I add it at the point at which I would normally add whatever spice mix I would have ground myself. Coconut milk adds some richness and the final result is a dish with a sticky texture and robust flavour. Give it a go. Continue reading