Monday, September 27, 2010

Patra Ni Maach with coconut and peanut salad

I like taking recipes from different parts of the world and trying them out on my family. Even my kids love to try new flavors and do not hesitate if the dish looks and smells different from anything they have experienced earlier. This week I took a traditional Parsi delicacy called Patra Ni Maach which literally means fish in a leaf. This dish is usually made with Hilsa variety of fish which is abundant in bones but has a wonderful taste. Pomfret is also used by many people. But here these two varieties are not easily available so I like making it with salmon.

Fish is marinated in a green marinade of mint, coriander, and coconut and then wrapped in banana leaves. In the banana leaf, it can be cooked in one of three different ways -- steaming, baking or frying. If banana leaves are difficult to find, use parchment paper or better still aluminum foil.

Patra ni maach is made on special occasions and served over a bed of rice. I tried to pair it with a salad that incorporates many of the coastal flavors and complements the fish wonderfully. the crunchiness of the coconut and peanuts along with the sour tang of lime juice gives an explosion of textures and flavors together in the mouth.

Patra Ni Maach

1/4 cup each fresh mint and coriander leaves
1/2 cup fresh desiccated coconut
2 cloves of garlic
lime juice
salt and red chili powder
4 Salmon fillets
  1. Banana leaves cleaned and dry (if available) or aluminum foil cut into 8x8 inch squares 
  2. Put the first five ingredients in a blender and make a fine paste, almost like a chutney. 
  3. Smear the chutney all over the salmon fillets and keep aside for 15 minutes. Since the marinade is acidic, any more marination will start to break down the fish. 
  4. Spread banana leaves (or foil) and place the fish fillets in the center. 
  5. wrap these into tiny bundles. If using banana leaves then you can tie the bundles with a string or secure with a toothpick so they don't open while cooking. 
  6. Steam the fish bundles for 10-15 min till fish is cooked thru. OR bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes making sure you don't overcook, otherwise fish will get tough. 
  7. You can also stick it under the broiler for 2 min to brown the top, but it's completely optional. 
  8. Serve hot in packets for everyone to open with a side of lemon rice and crunchy coconut, peanut salad.

Coconut and peanut salad
1 head Romaine lettuce shredded
2 large Carrots grated
1 Cucumber chopped into small chunks
1 cup Fresh coconut grated
1/2 cup Peanuts
Lime juice and rind of 2 limes
Chaat masala(available in all Indian grocery stores) OPTIONAL
Olive oil
Mustard seeds
Salt to taste
  1. Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. 
  2. In a small pan take 1 teaspoon of olive oil and stir in the peanuts. roast on medium high for 5 minutes constantly stirring till they impart a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and mix in chaat masala. 
  3. In another pan take about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and whet hot add the mustard seeds. Cover with a lid and remove from heat. the seeds will splatter and make a popping sound. when the sound stops open the lid and add the hot concoction the the salad. stir well. 
  4. Just before serving add peanuts, salt to taste and lime juice along with the grated rind into the salad . Stir well and enjoy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Suji halwa

Suji ka halwa or semolina pudding is one of the most widely made sweet dish in India as a prasad offering for many religious and auspicious occasions. In the Northern parts of India, we call in 'suji ka halwa' while it's referred to as 'kesari' or 'rava kesari' in the South.
Suji halwa is a must make prasad for Ashtami during the festival of Navratri. It is offered to goddess Durga and then distributed as prasad to all.
The procedure to make this dish is very simple and requires very few ingredients. The main skill involved here is the roasting of suji to the right level such that it acquires the lovely golden hue and is well roasted without getting burnt. So always work at a medium heat and you can control the level of roasting.

Suji Halwa

1 cup fine suji(semolina)
3/4 -1 cup ghee (clarified butter)
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
2 cups water plus 1 cup milk
6 Blanched almonds skinned and chopped
6 green cardamoms skinned and crushed fine
pinch Kesar(saffron) dissolved in a tsp of water
  1. The basic proportion to make suji halwa is suji:ghee:sugar: water - 1:1:1:3. I modify it a bit by substituting 1 cup milk for a cup of water and reducing the quantity of sugar and ghee. You can follow any proportion you like. 
  2. Mix sugar in the water-milk mixture and heat till sugar dissolves. Add kesar and keep aside. 
  3. Heat ghee in a pan and add suji. Fry while constantly stirring on medium heat till suji imparts a pleasant roasted aroma and becomes light brown. 
  4. Add the sugar syrup to it briskly stirring on high heat till all the syrup is absorbed and halwa starts leaving some ghee on the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. 
  5. Stir in chopped almonds and cardamon. Serve hot.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chana masala

A blend of spices, roasted to perfection and then ground coarsely. Use this spice concoction to make choley, black chana, dry matar. This spice blend is quite potent so a little goes a long way. I even use it to flavor some stir fried veggies like beans, eggplant.
Ingredients (Makes about 8 tbsp)
3 tbsp coriander seeds 
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 black cardamoms 
1 green cardamom 
1 tsp black pepper corns 
1 tsp red peppercorns 
6  cloves 
2 small pieces cinnamon
5 whole red chilies 
2 tbsp anardana powder (dry Pomegranate powder)
1/2 tsp dry mint 
  1. Take the first nine ingredients and roast them gently in a hot pan for a few minutes till fragrant. Make sure not to over roast.
  2. Cool. Grind these with anardana powder and mint to a fine powder. 
  3. Store in an air tight container.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Grilled Tilapia with pinapple salsa on crunchy peanut couscous.

Fresh produce always inspires new ideas.
Tilapia is a mild flavoured fish. To me tilapia always tastes very earthy and assumes any flavour you add to it. I love to give it very delicate spices and pair it with bold concoction of flavours. Thats why I served this combination of dishes together. The delicate earthiness of tilapia with bold and spicy punch of the pineapple salsa along with the crunch of the peanut couscous really hits the spot.
To get more information about tilapia go to

Grilled Tilapia

2 tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Red chili flakes as per the desired level of heat
1 tablespoon oregano dry
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Mix all the ingredients together and marinate the fish for 20 minutes. 
  2. Grill for 15 minutes till fish turns golden brown and cooks through. 
  3. Serve warm with tangy pineapple salsa. 

Spicy fresh pineapple salsa 
Pineapple's firm texture and sweet-sour taste is perfect for salsa. Gives a tropical touch to the meal.
1/2 a pineapple cored and chopped (bite sized)
1 large red pepper chopped
1/2 red onion chopped
Handful of fresh mint leaves chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed and minced
1⁄4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp sugar (optional)
  1. Mix all the ingredients together and chill for 2 hours. 
  2. Serve at room temperature over the grilled fish. 

Peanut Couscous

1 cup couscous
2 cups water or chicken broth
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
  1. In a saucepan bring water to boil. 
  2. Add couscous and salt and turn off the heat. 
  3. Stir, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. fluff with a fork. 
  4. In a large pan heat olive oil and stir in the vegetables. Saute for 2 min and remove from heat. 
  5. Stir in cooked couscous and peanuts and mix well. Flavor with salt and vinegar. 
  6. Serve warm.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ratatouille with steamed quinoa and grilled lemon-pepper chicken.

Dinner Menu
Steamed quinoa
Lemon pepper chicken

Who knew veggies could be so satisfying and pretty.
Ratatouille is a fall vegetable galore where practically any fall veggie can be included in the dish. It turned out to be colorful and delicious and even the kids loved it. The basic flavor is that of thyme and a combo of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, squash, and potatoes all add their own taste to this dish. I tried to make it look like Remy's dish in the movie "Ratatouille" by thinly slicing all the veggies and arranging them in a casserole by overlapping them slightly. Here is the recipe.


1 small eggplant
1 green zucchini
1 yellow zucchini
1 large red bell pepper
1/2 of a small butternut squash
2 red potatoes
1 small red onion sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 can of tomato puree
olive oil
thyme (fresh or dry)
salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pan over medium-high heat, sauté onion and garlic till they turn pink. 
  2. Add tomato purée along with seasoning and thyme and cook until the sauce bubbles up around 5-7 minutes. It should make a thin sauce. Can add a quarter cup of water if it becomes too thick. 
  3. While the sauce is making preheat the oven to 425 F and grease a large casserole dish. 
  4. Slice all the veggies keeping uniform thickness all around. This is the key to this dish cooking evenly. You can use a mandolin to slice if you prefer. Pour a bit of olive oil and season the veggies with salt, cracked black pepper and thyme and mix thoroughly to evenly coat them. 
  5. At the bottom if the casserole dish, pour the tomato sauce and cover the base evenly with it. 
  6. Arrange seasoned veges the way you see in the picture above. Sprinkle thyme on top. 
  7. Cover the dish with a parchment paper and bake for 40-45 minutes until all the veges are cooked.
Steamed quinoa
This is a new superfood gaining popularity and can be used in many different recipes. My family loved its nutty taste and it was a lot lighter in the tummy than rice. I just steamed it with salt to use as a side dish. Read more about this super grain here.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups of water or chicken broth
salt to taste
  1. Wash quinoa for 2 minutes in a strainer. this is necessary to remove a soapy residue on the seeds. 
  2. Add water and salt and bring to boil. 
  3. Simmer and cook covered for 12- 15 minutes till the seeds absorb all the liquid. fluff with a fork and enjoy.

Lemon Pepper Chicken
Ingredients: (serves 4)

3 chicken breast
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
coarsely cracked black pepper
juice and rind of 1 lemon
salt to taste
  1. Season the boneless skinless chicken breast with salt and pepper.
  2. In a separate bowl combine garlic powder, olive oil and lemon juice and rind. Rub this marinade generously on the seasoned chicken.
  3. Grill on medium high until lightly golden on top and cooked through in the middle. 
  4. Remove from heat, cover with foil and rest the meat for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.