Four Clan Kitchen

What we eat everyday

Archive for February, 2011

Onion-cilantro dip (Onion chutney)

Posted by fourclankitchen on February 26, 2011

This dip is taken from the book Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan.  It has a number of exquisite recipes and if you are a vegetarian or would like to expand your repertoire of Indian foods, particularly Southern Indian foods, this book is for you.  This chutney is made by  sauteing onions with spices and then grinding the onions with cilantro/coriander leaves for freshness.  A feature of south Indian cooking, the use of lentils as spices is really well showcased here.  This dip is lovely with any flat bread or pita chips or as a side with any Indian meal.  And it could not be simpler to make.


2 tbs. oil

2 large sweet onions (or any yellow onions of your choice), diced in the food processor

2 tsp brown mustard seeds

3 dried cayenne peppers (omit if this is too hot for you)

1 green hot pepper , e.g, thai bird pepper or serrano (optional)

4 tsp washed urad dal

1/2 tsp asafetida/hing

1 marble sized dollop of tamarind concentrate

salt to taste

1/2-3/4 cup coriander leaves and tender stems (rinsed)


The original recipe requires 3 steps.  In the first step you infuse your cooking oil with spices and set these aside (tempering).  Then you saute you onions.  Finally, you  grind everything together with coriander.  I did this in 2 shots with perfectly delicious results.  So here goes.  Heat oil in a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed pan.  When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, the red and green chilies if using,  the hing and the lentils. Turn down the flame and continue to cook till the lentils are roasted and pick up a red/roasted look (2-3 min).  Now add the onions and saute till they are soft and golden-brown.  Now add the tamarind paste and mix thoroughly with the onions.  Add salt.  Allow the onions to cool, then transfer to a food processor or blender.  Add the cilantro to the food processor and blend the chutney till fairly smooth. Adjust the salt if needed. The lentils will remain partially unprocessed and will provide a contrast to the otherwise smooth chutney.  Serve as you would any dip, with pita chips or naan or as a side at an Indian or middle eastern meal.

Posted in Asian, condiments, Indian Food, Side Dishes, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Enchiladas Tacuba Style

Posted by fourclankitchen on February 20, 2011

When I saw this recipe on Rick Bayless’ website.  I knew it had to be made. Now my son requests it every week and it has supplanted the tomato sauce based bean-stuffed enchilada that I used to routinely make.  You must try this, it is better than anything you have eaten at a restaurant.  Its a multi-step process, but really worth it.

Tacuba Enchiladas (adapted from Rick Bayless, Mexico -One Plate at a Time)
1 cup (lightly packed) roughly chopped spinach leaves

2 poblano peppers, cut into large strips (about 4-5 per pepper)

2 cups milk

2 cups chicken broth

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter—or you can use vegetable oil for the sauce + 1 tbs. more for roasting vegetables

4 fat garlic cloves, skin on (or 3 cloves garlic, minced)

1 onion, coarsely chopped for roasting (optional)

1/2 cup flour

 to taste (about 2 tsp. total)

3 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken (A rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled chicken, a recipe is provided below)

12 corn tortillas

A little vegetable oil for brushing or spraying

About 1 cup Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadila) or mild cheddar


1. Roast the chicken( if you dont have any that is pre-cooked).
I like the following version for these enchiladas:  Season 6-7 skinless, boneless chicken thighs generously with a mix of oil, oregano, lemon juice, cumin, salt and paprika (these ingredients are not listed above).  Marinade for 2 hours or more in the fridge, then grill as usual.  Coarsely chop or shred the chicken by hand/with a knife.  You can also shred chicken very gently in the food processor-Do not overprocess to a pulp.

2.    Roast the vegetables. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Generously coat the garlic, onions, poblanos with oil and salt.  Roast the vegetables, till nicely browned about 30 min.

Note: The original recipe calls for chopped fresh garlic and does not use any onion.  Instead it calls  for roasting the poblanos directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly, until the skins have blistered and blackened on all side, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes under the broiler. If you go with the latter option, place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and, when handleable, rub off the blackened skin, tear open and pull out the seed pod and stem. Quickly rinse to remove any stray seeds or bits of skin. Roughly chop.

4. Make the sauce. Place the onions (if using) and poblano peppers in a blender jar/food processor.  Add the spinach.
In a medium (3-quart) saucepan, combine the milk and broth, set over medium-low heat to warm.
In a large (4-quart) saucepan, melt the butter (or heat the oil) over medium.  Squeeze out the garlic,  then add the flour and stir the mixture for a minute.  Raise the heat to medium-high.  Pour in the warm broth mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce boils.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
Pour half the hot sauce into the blender with the peppers and spinach and blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining sauce.  Taste and season with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons.
5.    Finish the enchiladas.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish.  Stir 1 cup of the sauce into the chicken.
Lay half of the tortillas out on a baking sheet and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil; top each tortilla with another one and brush or spray those with oil.  Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes.  Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.
Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, soak a paper towel in water and wring out as much water as you can.  Wrap 6 tortillas at a time  in the wet towel and microwave on high for 30 sec.  Put together these tortillas together, before nuking the next six (This tip is courtesy Rick Bayless also)
Working quickly so that the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken up in each tortilla, then line them all up in the baking dish.  Douse evenly with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 20-30 minutes.

Posted in Main Dishes, Mexican, Poultry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Firni (Broken Rice Pudding)

Posted by fourclankitchen on February 13, 2011

My son had been cut off from his annual Valentine’s day/week sugar orgy because he had eaten in a single sitting, 16 (no misprint)  pieces of  chocolate that a gracious student brought over for our superbowl party last weekend. But the rice pudding craving hit me this weekend, and  I knew I was going to make it and eat it.  I also knew that I was not going to enoy it, unless I lifted the moratorium and allowed him to enjoy some as well.  Rather than torture both of us with the Amy Chua school of discipline, I caved immediately.  I had to, I am no tiger mom, and  it was delicious.

Since rice pudding is eaten and served at many religious festivals, the Indian version is not thickened with eggs.  Instead the milk is reduced till its approximately half its original  volume, and rice, nuts and raisins are added to further enrich the dessert.  No vanilla here.  The pudding is flavored with saffron and cardamom instead. Some people also add bay leaves and cinnamon.  This particular version called Firni, is eaten in Northern India and Pakistan and is made from rice ground into a coarse paste or powder.  Since the flavors are the same, it is only different from regular Indian rice pudding in texture, but its an interesting difference.

1/2 Cup Basmati Rice
1/2 Gallon Whole Milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk

1/4 cup almond meal (Red Mills) or finely ground blanched almonds (see below)
1/2 tsp  Cardamoms seeds
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Saffron threads
1/4 cup almonds, slivered
1/4 cup raisins

Wash rice thoroughly & drain in a colander for 15 min. Transfer to a paper towel and allow the rice to dry thoroughly- 30 min or longer.
Crush the cardamom seeds very gently in a coffee grinder so that they are partially ground.  Ideally, this is done with a mortar and pestle, but then who cares about ideally?
Now grind the rice in a coffee grinder, again very gently.  The end-consistency of the rice should be like instant tapioca pearls or grape nuts.
Blend almond meal, saffron and 1/2 cup of milk, until smooth.
Using a medium flame, bring this mix, the remaining 1/2 gallon milk, the evaporated milk and cardamom  to a boil (with constant stirring) in a heavy bottom pan.  The pan will scorch badly if you don’t stir and use low-medium heat.
Now turn the heat to very low and allow the milk to reduce for about 1/2 hour.  Stir the pot on and off, this does not have to be very frequent.
Now add the ground rice, a tablespoon at a time, blending well so that the rice does not get lumpy.  When all the rice is added, bring to a boil with constant stirring.  Continue to cook until the rice is soft, or if you prefer, al dente.
Add the sugar, almonds and raisins and cook down the milk till your pudding is of a desired consistency.  You can go anywhere from a fairly liquidy pudding to a custard-like consistency.  For the former, you need to cook about 15 more min.  For the latter, my guess would be another 1/2 hour (I did not do this).  Remember that the pudding will thicken considerably as it cools, particularly after you put it into the fridge.
Once it cools, transfer to bowls of you choice and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight., Cover the puddings with a saran wrap directly on the pudding surface if you don’t like pudding skin.  Garnish with saffron and slivered almonds before serving.

Note: I used almond meal, instead of the traditional soaked and peeled almonds in this recipe, but I have to say that the almond meal was not very almondy.  I think a 1/2 tsp of almond extract might be good here.

Posted in Asian, Dessert, Indian Food, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Curried beef with peas and fenugreek leaves (methi matar keema)

Posted by fourclankitchen on February 5, 2011

This dish is loosely (very loosely) inspired by a traditional North Indian dish,  methi matar malai (fenugreek, peas and cream).  But other than the methi and matar, they really don’t have a whole lot in common.

First, a word about Methi or Fenugreek (Latin: Greek Hay).  A lot of you are familiar with it, because it is the stuff that fake vanilla and maple syrup are made out of.  It is also the strongest flavor in store bought Indian curry powder.  Fenugreek seed is used in traditional (Chinese, Indian) Medicine  to increase milk production (it really can do this in both cattle and humans) and as an antiviral and cold medicine.  In other words, this little seed packs a micro-nutrient punch and is used by many traditional cuisines.

Both the seeds and the leaves are used for cooking. The fresh leaves are mixed into batter for flat breads and they taste heavenly.  The fresh leaves like cool weather and here in the South are available January-March. After that the fresh stuff disappears and it is better to use dry fenugreek leaves (sold in Indian grocery stores as kasoori methi) because the frozen stuff is really pretty tasteless.

In this recipe, I have used both fresh fenugreek leaves and seeds. Instead of adding only fenugreek seeds, I have used panch phoran, which is a five seed mix made up of equal parts of fenugreek, fennel, cumin, Nigella/kalonji (onion) and mustard.  It is used to temper curries in the eastern part of India (Bengal, Orissa) and imparts an amazing flavor to any dish. To make the flavors even bolder, I added ground fennel seeds to the curry.  This dish has a lot of ingredients, but it is delicious and will easily last you a couple of meals.


2 small sweet onions, diced small

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 inch ginger, peeled and minced fine

5 small roma tomatoes (or 2 large, vine-ripened ones)

2 bunches fenugreek leaves, stemmed (or a handful of the dried leaves.  if you can’t find either, use spinach or leave out entirely)

1 1/2 lbs, 96% lean ground beef (goat is better, but ground lamb is too fatty for this dish)

1 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 tbs. oil

1 1/2 tsp panch phoran (available at Indian grocery stores)

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

3 bay leaves

3/4 tsp. fennel seeds, ground

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. Hungarian paprika (cayenne, if you prefer it hotter)

2 heaping tbs. of whole milk yogurt

1/2 tbs. butter

Salt to taste

cilantro leaves for garnish, optional

Heat the oil in a large pot (a thin-walled cast-iron pan works best).  When the oil is shimmering, add the panchphoran, ginger, garlic, cardamom and bay leaves and fry till fragrant. The Nigella seeds burn very quickly, so don’t dawdle here.  Add the onions and saute until they  are beginning to brown.  Then add the tomatoes and continue to saute until they lose shape and form a uniform paste with the onions.  In festive/restaurant style Indian cooking, you would continue to fry until the onion-tomato paste releases oil, essentially deep frying the paste.  But that would require a lot more oil than I have suggested here.  Now add 1/2 tsp salt.

Add the fenugreek leaves and saute until the leaves soften (about 10 min).  Then add all the remaining spices (except the cinnamon) and a little more salt.  Saute for another 2 min.  till all the spices are incorporated into the mix.  Now add the yogurt, a tbs. at a time until it is also fully incorporated.  Now add the ground beef and break it up so that no lumps remain.  Once the beef is fully cooked, add the peas.  Add a quarter cup of water and continue to cook till the beef softens and the peas are fully cooked.  Taste and adjust the salt.  Now add the cinnamon and the butter.  I have used cinnamon in place of the more traditional garam masala, so that the ground fennel and fenugreek stand out without competition. Cook for another 10 min on low heat. until the ground beef gets a stir-fried/fried feel (having a thin-walled wok helps here).  Garnish with cilantro if desired and serve with brown basmati rice or any flat bread.  The beef is also great in a sandwich with lettuce and cheddar cheese the next day for lunch.

Posted in Asian, Indian Food, Main Dishes, Meat | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: