Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Indian Chicken curry with freshly ground Garam masala spices in combination with Chinese Sichuan peppercorns.

Chicken curries cooked on week days are generally based on  routine recipes but this time my instincts landed on using few unusual exotic garam masala spices and adding Chinese sichuan peppers to Garam masala blend. Recently I got whole sichuan peppercorns from local Asian grocery store. In shape and fragrance they are  similar to  Indian  spice called Tirphal. Have you ever tried chewing single raw sichuan pepper ? It is very unusual sensational experience that lasts for 15 minutes. I dropped one single sichuan pepper in my mouth, took first bite and instantly it kicked off strong tickling and numbing  sensation. It  made me very uncomfortable,  also stimulated vomiting sensation. It is  not spicy at all but it strongly affects tongue with weird multiple sensations. In order to calm down effect I ate teaspoon full ghee and coconut milk, drank cold water but no effect. It lasted around 15 minutes then slowly I felt better. This made me more curious about using Szechuan  peppers in Indian cooking. Surprisingly when used in curries they change complete chemistry and bring addictive taste. (Read Note) I used mild dose so no deep tongue numbing effect but curry was aromatic. Now Sichuan peppercorns  are part of my Garam masala pantry.
Note: Curry cooked on 10th, Feb..published on 12th April.

Ingredients :
  • 2 lb - Chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes (whole chicken with bone in pieces is much better.)
  • 2 large onions - finely chopped (3 heaped cups yield)
  • 2 inch - Ginger piece crushed to coarse texture
  • 7-8 Garlic cloves - crushed to coarse texture
  • 1/2 cup - Fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tb.spoon cooking oil
  • 2 inch long - Cinnamon
  • 2 inch long - Bay leaf
  • 1 Tb.spoon - Kashmiri or good red colored chili powder or grind 5-6 byadgi chillies with below given spice blend.
Spices for Home ground Garam Masala spice blend :
  • 1 heaped T.spoon - corriander seeds
  • 1 heaped T.spoon - fennel seeds
  • 1 T.spoon - Cumin
  • 8 cloves
  • 1/2 star anise - 3-4 petals
  • 5-6 Kabab chini
  • 5-6 Nagkeshar
  • 12-15 whole sichuan peppercorns (you can add few more for  strong kick)
Combine all above spices and grind into a fine powder.
[T.spoon = teaspoon]

Outer ring - Fennel seeds, corraider seeds, cumin seeds
Inner ring - Nagkeshar, Kabab chini, Star anise, cloves.
Center-from top - Sichuan peppers, bay leaf, cinnamon stick.

Method for preparing Curry :
  1. Marinate chicken lightly with salt. Cover and keep it aside.
  2. Combine ginger and garlic - grind  to dry coarse texture.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a thick bottomed pot ( 3-4 quart size ) Drop in cinnamon stick and bay leaf, sizzle for 15-20 seconds. Add finely chopped onions in the pot, saute over medium heat until they get transparent and soft, about  8-9 minutes.
  4. Now add dry coarse mixture of  fresh ginger and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes over  medium low heat.
  5. Then add home ground  Garam masala spice blend. (save 1 tsp for later stage) Mix well, saute for 2-3 minutes over medium low heat.
  6. Partly puree onion-spice mixture by using immersion blender, before blending move  cinnamon stick and bay leaf to one side of the pot. In absence of immersion blender scoop out half onion-spice mixture and grind to fine paste, add it back to the pot.
  7. Now add salt marinated chicken pieces, red chilli powder, salt. Combine well, turn the  heat to medium low, cover with lid and allow to cook for 8-9 minutes. Make sure pot has enough steam water generated and meat is  not sticking to the bottom, stir occasionally.
  8. Sprinkle in  reserved one tsp spice blend mixture, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust salt level. I kept thick gravy but if you wish to have more gravy then at this point add 1 cup water. Cover with lid and continue to simmer over medium heat for another 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Lower down heat to low, remove lid, continue simmering for 7-8 minutes. Shut off the heat. Add remaining chopped cilantro.  Let curry rest for few hours before serving warm with rice or roti.

Note :  I used sichuan peppers for the first time so added only 15 peppercorns. It brought mild aroma and taste. You can add 10-12 more for deeper effect that means you will be getting after taste sensation mostly on the tip of your tongue for few hours. You may not like to eat raw sichuan peppers  but relishing sichuan pepper infused curries is very different experience. Peppercorns  are powdered and roasted while cooking also combination of onion+Garam masala further reduces intensity of szechuan peppers. In my observation when they are used in Chinese cooking with lot of whole red chilies and chili oil, intensity is felt stronger. Sichuan pepper infused chinese curries are  very tasty and addictive. 

This curry will taste better if you cook with whole chicken or  red chicken meat pieces. You can  expand your imaginations to cook various vegetarian and non-veg curries with sichuan peppers. I have  cooked  sweet and sour Baingan/Vangi/Eggplant subji, it was super delicious.

Images of Whole sichuan peppercorns, clusters and seeds of sichuan peppercorns.

Indian Chicken curry infused with chinese szechuan peppers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

20 minutes walk around home on a Beautiful foggy morning in Spring.

Monday, 19th March morning was exceptionally beautiful, very peaceful  with dense fog all around. It was  around 8 a.m.  I took  20 minutes walk around community, clicked almost every minute with cell phone camera. White Dogwood flowers are currently in bloom in the city. I took few pictures keeping flower bloom in the background. As I headed back to the home suddenly it brightened up all around, Sun was trying to shine through  the clouds, it was mesmerizing peaceful moment, it felt like a momentary withdrawal from the world and in a deep connection with super natural power. I am happy to share my fog walk pictures with you. I have posted photos in the same order of capture,  also at the end I have added few previously clicked images of misty morning. Enjoy!!

Dogwood flowers bloom in Cary, NC.

pleasant moment of watching sun with direct eye contact.

4 Canadian Geese flew while I clicked Sun.

Tender young oak tree leaves and catkins in spring


Previously taken Fog pictures

November 9, 2011 - foggy neighborhood lane.

same above spot without fog on a clear sunny day.

I-40 East - Nov 22nd 2011

Raleigh blvd...(march 22nd)

Bare and leafless tree clicked while passing on 
Martin Luther king Jr. Blvd.(26th Jan)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Malpua - Indian sweet prepared for Vibrant spring time Festival of Colors - Holi.

Malpua is a very  addictive  festive sweet from North India especially  prepared during Holi festival. They  are prepared  in different parts of India with  some variation. I have attempted making them few times. These malpuas were prepared  last year but I could not post during holi time so posting it now. I repeated making them this year and served it  with  Rabdi/ Rabri. It was pure joy to prepare malpua  during pleasant spring time and savor them for holi festival. I like malpuas for soft, sweet syrupy texture and  aromatic combination of banana, fennel seeds, saffron and cardamom. This post has lots of Malpua images covering two years of preparation. Enjoy!!

Colors of Holi

Ingredients :-
  • 1 Cup Maida/all purpose flour
  • 1/4 Cup - Rawa / Rava
  • 1/4 Cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 Cup mashed ripe banana (two small size bananas)
  • 3 Tb.spoon - sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Cup milk + 1/2 cup as needed.
  • 15 Cashews - powdered
  • 8-10 Almonds - powdered (with skin is fine)
  • 1 T.spoon whole fennel seeds / saunf / badishep
  • 1 T.spoon coarse powder of fennel seeds
Ingredients for sugar syrup :-
  • 2 Cup Sugar
  • 2.5 Cup water
  • 7-8 Cardamom seeds - finely powdered
  • 2 pinches saffron strands

Method of Preparation for Malpua

Step 1 -Preparing Malpua batter
  1. Make coarse powder of 1 teaspoon fennel seeds.
  2. 15 cashews + 6-7 almonds - grind to fine powder. I used Microplane fine grater.
  3. Take one medium  size deep bowl. Grate or smash two small size ripe bananas to thick paste.
  4. Add 1/4 cup rava, 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut, 3 tbsp condensed milk, cashew+almond powder, whole fennel seeds+ fennel seed powder, combine all together with spoon or whisk.
  5. Now slowly add maida/all purpose flour and rigorously stir with spoon in circular motion until roughly combined.
  6. Now start adding milk to the batter. I used 2.5 cup milk. Keep stirring.  For more smooth flowing  consistency I used immersion blender/ stick blender, just give one minute of swirl to the batter. Cover,  keep it aside and move to prepare sugar syrup.

Step 2 - Preparing sugar syrup

Combine 2.5 cups water, 2 cup sugar in a 3 quart pot, simmer at medium heat. Once water starts to boil add cardamom power and saffron strands. Continue to simmer for 10-12 minutes over medium heat. Now increase heat to medium high and let syrup boil, do stir at regular interval. You don't have to achieve one thread syrup consistency but boil until it reaches oil like consistency. This will take around 20 minutes. Shut off the heat and let syrup pot stay on the gas burner. After you start frying malpuas, you need to keep syrup warm by switching heat  on to the lowest setting.

Step 3 - Frying and Dipping Malpus in sugar syrup.
  1. Heat 2.5 cups oil in a Kadhai/ Wok. My Kadhai was 10 inch in diameter. Maintain medium heat temperature. Fill around 2 tbsp batter in a laddle, lower laddle near to the oil and  consistently pour batter in the oil. It will form around 2.5 to 3 inch in diameter malpua. If you get thicker and smaller size malpua then add 1 tbspoon water.
  2. Once first one is done well then continue pouring multiple malpus in Kadhai. I made 3-4 at a time. (Check this years Kadhai pictures) Each side will take more than one minute to get golden brown color. After they are  fried, hold them in a slotted spoon / Zara and gently shake to drip off excess oil.
  3. Quickly place  them in a sugar  syrup pot. Gently press with spoon and immerse in the syrup, wait for one minute before you turn and immerse other side. ( For more sweet taste soak in sugar for 4-5 minutes turning one time.)  Before removing Malpua  from sugar syrup, press malpua with spoon on the side of the pot, give light pressure so that few drops of syrup is drained out. Place malpuas in a plate covered with parchment paper. You can make around 20-25 malpuas.
  4. Pouring batter in oil needs a bit practice, if you find it difficult then take open saute pan and shallow fry Malpuas. I shallow fried malpua during my first attempt, they were more thicker and larger. (check second last image.)

Malpua served with fresh fruits, nuts and  fresh mango+cream puree.

Malpua - Holi special Sweet.

Sugar syrup/Pak  in early simmering stage.

Mixing Malpoa Ingredients

Mapua batter

Malpuas are  deep fried in kadhai and soaked in sugar syrup.


This years Malpua preparation :
I maintained the same recipe, only change I made was in two ingredients that is Maida and Rava. I used  extra superfine rava  instead of coarse. Regular Maida / all purpose flour was replaced with Arrowhead Mills Organic enriched unbleached white flour. I think this white flour made few malpus puff like puri which didn't happen last year with regular maida. I made Rabdi / Rabri  to savor malpuas in more traditional way. Recipe for Rabadi follows....

 Malpua with Rabdi.

Rabadi Recipe :
Take a look at the picture below, top right corner - milk is boiling for Rabadi. I took 4 cups 2% low fat milk. Use thick bottomed heavy gauge pot or encapsulated bottom pot. Once it started to boil I added 2 pinches of saffron strands and reduced heat to lowest setting and continued frying malpuas on the side burner. After half an hour I added cardamom powder from 5-6 cardamoms. I stirred  milk  at regular intervals. This continued for almost 1.5 hours. If you are going to attend and monitor boiling process then increase the heat to medium low  so that cooking time can be cut down. I reduced milk to little less than two cups. There was lot of roughage of cream layer created while boiling the milk. I  gave one quick few seconds swirl with immersion blender. Lastly added 3 tbsp sugar, 10-12 finely chopped pistachios, 6-7 finely chopped cashew nuts and served Malpuas with rabdi.

Year 2012 - Malpua Preparation.

Malpuha dipped in sugar syrup.

Bradford pear flowers are dipped in Gulal and other Holi colors.

My first time attempted Malpuas.