Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Candied Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallow And Pecan Topping

I had mentioned previously that our tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with my family since my brother got married.  It’s a huge get together.  Guess what, this time we won't be celebrating together as my parents are on vacation to India and my brother and family moved to Texas.  My sis-in-law and I had been talking over the phone for the last 2 weeks and how bad we are going to miss this huge get together.  We are going to miss the most exciting black Friday shopping that me and my sis-in-law does every year just by ourselves by leaving the kids to guys to watch.  Kids are very upset too.  I promised my kids that we will celebrate Thanksgiving here at home on Wednesday and on Thursday we will have the get together by the Thomas family.

So for this Thanksgiving, I will be making my sis-in-laws sweet potato dessert that she makes during Thanksgiving.  I am the one who really finishes all the left over as I am an ardent lover of sweet potatoes.  I slightly modified the method and made them in ramekins for individual servings.  These flavorful candied sweet potatoes are super delicious and go well with Thanksgiving dinner as a dessert.  You can set it up the day before and bake it on the day of the dinner.  I made a small batch to share before Thanksgiving so that you can try it for the dinner. 

Serves - 2
2 - medium size sweet potatoes peeled and cut into small squares
2 tsp - fresh orange juice divided
2 tsp - butter divided
1 tsp - brown sugar divided
1/2 tsp - orange zest divided

mini marshmallows to top
10 - pecans for topping divided
a pinch of nutmeg powder (optional)
1/4 tsp - orange zest
1/4 tsp - brown sugar

  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Grease 2 ramekins with butter or cooking spray.  
  • Divide the cut sweet potatoes into equal portions and arrange in the ramekins.  Add 1 tsp of butter, 1/2 tsp, brown sugar, 1 tsp of orange juice and 1/4 tsp of orange zest into each ramekins and mix well.  Cover the ramekins with aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet and bake it for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes check the sweet potatoes, it should be soft.  If they are not soft and candied bake it for another 5 minutes.
  • Take the ramekins out and remove the aluminum foil.  Arrange mini marshmallows and 5 pecans in each ramekins.  Sprinkle nutmeg,orange zest and of brown sugar on the top of the marshmallow and bake till the marshmallow starts to melt a bit.  It takes between 5 - 7 minutes.  Serve them warm.

Jerk Seasoned Cornish Hens With Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing

I always find it better to adapt what my conscience tells me as goodness in a culture.  It’s always good to understand the kernel meaning and uphold the spirit of anything and everything you celebrate these days.  Thanksgiving is not merely a get together of family and friends and having a feast.  Traditionally Thanksgiving was celebrated as an occasion of special thanksgiving for the harvests with thanks and prayers among several religions.  It’s celebrated in different ways in different cultures like a harvest festival.

If I look back to my childhood days in India, I can relate Thanksgiving to something similar.  My grandpa used to own lots of rice fields, as rice is the main staple grain of Southern India.  We used to get truck loads of rice for the whole year round of use and the rest were sold right in the farm.  By the time truck comes home, there will be lot of people gathered in the backyard to process the whole cut rice plant and get the grains separated from the stems.  I still remember day and night people used to work hard and they all come to grandpa's house in the morning and the kitchen will be working day and night.  Meals were provided to the workers and the lengthy process of boiling, drying and storing the rice grain would take weeks or even a month to settle down depending on the weather and the harvest load.  All I remember was its like a festival, lots of people are there to help and there will be music/news played all the time through the radio.  Sometimes we used to play cassettes with comedy songs, dramas or even audio version of movies for the workers.  They will be loud and at times they signal us for cold drinking water by giving a special howling sound.  It was all loud, noisy and energy packed days.  I relate this to Thanksgiving because all the family gather together to be part of the harvest to help out my grandpa.  My dad used to take time off from work and go to Kerala to help grandpa when we were in North India.  When all the harvest work is done, a feast will be given to the workers and rice sacks will be donated to them and our church.  This was not the just the tradition of our family, but everyone around us used to bring a little amount of their harvested product to church and the cooks of the church used to prepare a sweet porridge out of the rice with loads of grated coconut and jaggery.  The taste of porridge still makes me drool.  I wonder if anyone does that anymore as there are no more rice fields and people are busy and stay away from farming these days.
Red skinned baby potatoes, garlic powder, parsley flakes, red chili flakes, salt,  fresh rosemary, olive oil and 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice is tossed together and wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 400 ° F for 40 minutes.

Thanksgiving to me is the time to thank for all the countless blessing we enjoy in our life.  The blessings are passed on to us by the prayers and good gestures of our parents and forefathers.  Never take anything for granted that you enjoy, it can be lost in a split second by the acts of cruelty and selfishness that is invading this world day by day.  Let us not just remember one day for thanksgiving; we should be thankful for each and every day that we get to spend.  Make this life beautiful and more meaningful by thinking positive and sharing and caring for each other so that there will be peace and joy everywhere.

I know I am late in posting the recipes for Thanksgiving.  But here is what I made today so that I could share with you before Thanksgiving.  I served the Jerk seasoned spicy stuffed cornish/game hens with mushroom wild rice stuffing/dressing and a side of herb roasted red skin baby potatoes.  The juices that was left over after baking the birds had all the flavors and seasoning needed for the gravy, so I served it as the gravy for the bird.  I used turmeric in the marination to give a golden yellow hue to the bird.   I served candied Sweet Potatoes topped with marshmallows and pecans as the dessert.  

Ingredients for jerk seasoned hens
3 - cornish/game hens with skin on and cleaned
To brine
1/3 cup - salt
1/3 cup - sugar/brown sugar
8 cups - cold water
3 cloves - garlic crushed with skin
1 tbsp - black peppercorn crushed
3 - dry red chili torn (optional)
1 sprig - rosemary

3 - scallions chopped
5 cloves - garlic (big ones)
1 inch - ginger piece peeled
1/4 cup - extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - peppercorn
1 tbsp - jerk seasoning
1 tsp - brown sugar
1 - habanero/bonnet pepper flesh only (no seeds)
salt to taste

Jerk seasoning
1/2 tbsp -  garlic powder
1 tsp - cayenne pepper
1 tsp - onion powder
1 tsp - dried thyme
1 tsp - dried parsley
1 tsp - sugar 
1 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - paprika
1/2 tsp - ground allspice  
1/4 tsp - black pepper
1/4 tsp - dried crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp - ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp - ground cinnamon

Basting mix
1/4 cup - olive oil
1/2 tsp - jerk seasoning

Wild Rice mushroom stuffing
2 cups - wild and long grain rice
4 cups - chicken broth
1 tbsp - butter
1 - medium size onion slice
1 clove - garlic minced
1 cup - chicken broth
8 oz - mushrooms sliced
1/2 tsp - jerk seasoning
1/4 cup - walnuts
salt to taste


To brine
  • Dissolve the salt and sugar in the cold water in a non reactive container.  Add the crushed peppercorns, garlic and red chili into a small cheese cloth and tie it to make a small bag.  Place the cornish/game hens in the container with the brine and drop the spice bag into the container.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.

To marinate
  • Blend all the ingredients under marination to form a smooth paste.  Take the birds out of the brine. Give a rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Apply the marination inside and out side of the whole hens.  Use a skewer to poke few holes on the skin.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hrs.

  • Cook the wild and long grain rice mix in 4 cups of broth/water or as per the package direction.
  • Melt butter in a pan; roast minced garlic till golden brown.  Add onions and sliced mushroom and cook till they turn golden brown.  Add jerk seasoning and walnuts and saute for 2 more minutes.  Adjust the salt and add the chicken broth and wait till it boils for a minute.  Add the cooked rice to it.  Mix well and turn off the flame.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 ° F.
  • Transfer the rice mix to a greased baking pan and cover with an aluminum foil.  Bake for 20 minutes in .  Remove the aluminum foil and bake it for 10 minutes till the top turns light brown.

To bake
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Prepare the baking pan by lining the bottom with a heavy duty aluminum foil and greasing it with butter or cooking spray.  Stuff the birds with 2 to 3 tbsp of rice stuffing and cross the legs and tie it with a clean string.  Arrange the birds in the baking pan without touching each other.  Brush the top of the birds with basting mix.  Loosely cover with aluminum foil and cook for 1/2 hr.  Take the baking pan out and test the internal temperature.  Cook it covered till the internal temperature gets to 170 F or the thicker portion is no longer pink.  It took me 1 hr. 
  •  Remove the aluminum foil and bast the top of the bird with basting oil.  Set the oven to broil option and bake for 10 more minutes till the skin turn golden brown.  
  • Collect any juice that remains in the pan after cooking.  Take the chicken out and loosely cover with a aluminum foil and leave it out for 10 minutes undisturbed.  Brush rest of the collected juices on top of the chicken and add the rest to the stuffing.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mushroom Green Tomato Theeyal/Mushroom And Green Tomato In Roasted Coconut Gravy

I love mushrooms and they are so cute when available in 8oz blue containers with their snow white color and button shape.  I never think twice to pick up the mushrooms when they are fresh sitting in cute baskets in the farmer’s market aisle.  Mushroom is a beautiful subject to shoot too.  So the other day when I saw them in the market, I picked up 2 containers of these snow white cuties.  I always get excited about buying stuff and then go into a passive mode of what to do next with it.  As a blogger my notion was to take some fun pictures and come up with a recipe to blog about.  I wanted to make something Indian and came up with this idea of making Theeyal, which is a flavorful curry that is made by cooking the vegetable in spicy roasted coconut gravy.  Even though I don't make Theeyal that often, my kids could recognize the aroma of dry roasted coconut with shallots and spices.  They knew that Theeyal was on the menu for the meal for the weekend.  

I always find it difficult to style soups and curries.  They are tricky subjects to shoot.  Mushroom theeyal is a usual fare in my Mom's kitchen, but this was the first time I attempted it and it was really delicious with steamed rice.  I prefer it to have thick gravy than runny.  I made use of some green tomatoes in this recipe that I got hold of from fall season.

Do you feel that you could have styled a subject better when you look back into the pictures later?  I always feel so.  There are only rare cases when I feel otherwise.  Do you feel the same? Perseverance and patience are the basic aspects when you think about food photography and styling.  Hope I develop more patience to take better pictures. 
                      Above is a still life picture of green vegetables and fruits I took for fun.

Here is another theeyal recipe that you can find on the blog:

Asparagus Shallots Theeyal

20 - white button mushrooms
1/2 cup - green tomatoes cubed
1/2 cup - red onion sliced
3 - green chili splits
1/2 tsp - tamarind paste/a small tamarind ball
1 cup - water
1 1/2 tsp - oil
salt to taste
1 sprig - curry leaves

For dry roasting
1 1/2 cup - fresh / frozen grated coconut thawed
1/4 cup - thinly sliced shallots/pearl onions
1 tsp - coriander powder
1/2 tsp - chili powder
1/8 tsp - fenugreek powder
1/3 cup water

4 - pearl onions thinly sliced

1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1 - dry red chili
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
2 tsp - oil


  • Dry roast the grated coconut and sliced shallots on very low heat in a cast iron pan or non stick pan for 15 - 20 minutes or till the coconut turns medium brown by continuously stirring.  Add the coriander powder, chili powder and fenugreek powder and roast for 2 minutes on low heat. Turn off the stove and let it cool.  Grind the dry roasted ingredients with 1/3 cup water into a smooth paste.
  • Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup luke warm water.  Once soaked well, strain the pulp and save the water.
  • Wash the mushroom and pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut them into half and slice the halves again into 3 pieces.
  • In a non stick wok or deep pan, saute the mushrooms with onion and green chili in 1 1/2 tsp oil till the mushroom is cooked and all the moisture is absorbed.  Now add the cubed green tomatoes and adjust salt.  Cook it covered for 2 - 3 minutes till the tomatoes are cooked.  
  • Now add the coconut paste and tamarind juice without the pulp into the pan.  Add 1/2 -1 cup of water if the gravy is thick.  Cook till gravy boils for 2-3 minutes.  Adjust the salt.  Turn off the burner.
  • In a non-stick pan, splutter mustard seeds in 2 tsp of oil.  Add the shallots and dry red chili and cook till it gets golden brown.  Turn off the burner and add the curry leaves to the tempered onions.
  • Garnish the Theeyal with the tadka/tempered mustard and onions and serve the Theeyal with steaming plain rice and seasoned buttermilk.
  • You can use a ripe tomato instead of the green tomatoes. In that case you have to adjust the amount of tamarind paste to get the right amount of sourness to the curry.
  • Make sure to saute the mushroom so that the water is absorbed well before you add the green tomato because you want to overcook the tomatoes so that they will lose its shape.
  • I like theeyal to be thick rather than runny.  Adjust the amount of water per your desired consistency.
  • If you don't have a good blender, use a spice grinder/clean coffee grinder to grind the warm dry roasted coconut till its powdered well and the ground coconut starts to stick to the sides.  Now transfer this into a blender and add enough water to grind it into a smooth paste. 
  • Alternatively you can freeze the grated coconut for 30 minutes and pulse the frozen coconut in a food processor to get small flakes.  This will help to get the coconut evenly roasted without burning.
  • It is important to roast the coconut well to attain the right taste and to get a smooth coconut gravy. 
  •  If the coconut is not roasted well, it is hard to grind it into a smooth paste and the theeyal will not impart the authentic flavor. 
  • Make sure that you don't over roast the coconut and burn it.

Tips to grind the Roasted Coconut without an expensive blender

  • If you don't have a good blender, use a spice grinder/clean coffee grinder to grind the warm dry roasted coconut till its powdered well and the ground coconut starts to stick to the sides.  Now transfer this into a blender and add enough water to grind it into a smooth paste. 
  • Alternately you can freeze the grated coconut for 30 minutes and then pulse it in food processor to get a course powder.  This will help to get evenly roasted coconut while dry roasting it with shallots.
  • It is important to roast the coconut well to attain the right taste and to get a smooth coconut gravy. 
  •  If the coconut is not roasted well, it is hard to grind it into a smooth paste and the theeyal will not impart the authentic flavor. 
  • Make sure that you don't over roast the coconut and burn it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Super Easy One Pot Spicy Kidney Beans Curry/ Rajma Curry

The most beautiful time of the year is here, the fall.  I adore the beauty of this season.  To me the surroundings are awe inspiring for those who love to capture the scenic view through their lens.  I planned to do so, but got lazy :(. Nature splashes its canvas with vivid colors like an artist.  The gentle breeze that passes through brings in a shower of colorful leaves and makes a bed on the ground and sun's ray that strains through the yellow and orange shades of leaves embellish the surrounding with a golden hue.  One can get mesmerized by the beauty of this season.  At the same time it reminds me that it’s the beginning of something profound to come, yes the very bitter cold winter.  Moody days make me lazy and I wish to stay on the couch without moving a muscle.  But that seldom happens, because I make up my mind to go with something simple and comforting to prepare instead of lying on the couch and rely on some take out food. 

This recipe is on my lazy day cooking menu which needs no special attention.  You chop some onions and tomatoes and simply throw it with spices into the pressure cooker along with the beans and wait for some time for it to get cooked.  From start to end you need only a single pot which is the pressure cooker; there is not sautéing involved in this recipe.  This recipe can be tagged for a novice cook.  It’s that simple and you will end up with a delicious spicy Rajma curry that can be served with some pulao or steamed rice.  Last weekend when I made it, I served it with some carrot rice.

I read this quote somewhere that 'Laziness fuels more laziness'.   Are you lazy to cook an elaborate meal today?  Then this recipe is for you my friend.  A novice cook can also try this recipe without any failure.  Its fool proof and simple.

1 1/2 cup - dry kidney beans
4 cups - water
1 tsp - coriander powder
1/2 tsp - kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp - chili powder
1/2 tsp - garam masala
2 - medium tomatoes chopped
1 - medium onion chopped
2 tsp - ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - cumin seeds
salt to taste
4 tbsp - heavy cream/coconut milk
Garnish with Cilantro leaves and onion slices
  • Soak kidney beans with 6 cups of water for over night.  After soaking for minimum 8 hrs, rinse the kidney beans thoroughly in running water and drain.  Transfer the kidney beans to a pressure cooker followed by 4 cups of water.  Add rest of the ingredients to the pressure cooker except garam masala.
  • Pressure cook for 20 whistles and turn off the flame.  Once the pressure subsides, open the lid and check the texture of the beans, it should be mushy.  Using a ladle mix everything well.  Check for the gravy consistency and adjust the amount of water during this step. Add garam masala; close the lid and cook for another 5 whistles and turn off the burner.  
  • Once the pressure completely subsides, open the lid and mush the curry with the back of the ladle to get the right consistency.  Add the heavy cream or coconut milk and garnish with chopped Cilantro leaves and onion slices.  Serve with warm steamed pulao or plain basmathi rice.  

  • Pay attention to the kidney beans I had used in this recipe.  I used the light brown colored beans which cooks faster than the darker version.
  • Don't forget to soak the beans the day before.  Always discard the water in which the beans is soaked to remove the toxins the kidney beans contains.  Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all impurities from the beans even if you got an imported quality beans.
  • Adjust the amount of water and spices per your taste.  Kidney beans tastes better when the gravy is spicy.

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