Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oven Fried Eggplants

Oven fried eggplants are kinda like oven fried chicken. It tastes like fried eggplant but is actually baked.

Fried eggplants or “begun bhaji” is a staple in Bangladesh. Nothing beats a simply seasoned eggplant dish that goes so seamlessly with flavored rice and lentil mixture commonly known in Bengali as khichuri. Although eggplants absorb flavor very easily it also soaks up all the oil you can throw at it.  So the only way you can enjoy fried eggplants is to not fry it at all.

Here I baste the slices in a little oil and bake at a high temperature. These perfectly seasoned baked eggplants come out soft but not so mushy as to be unappetizing. It reminded me of “begun bhaji” my ma used to make only they are not the least bit oily. I ask you, what could be better? :)

You can use a large eggplant for the recipe or multiple small ones. Be aware the smaller eggplants will have more densely packed seeds. Either way this a delicious dish without the guilt of calories that come with fried food.


5 small eggplants or 1 medium sized one
Salt- 1/4  teaspoon (use 1/2 teaspoon if you like your food salty)
Red chili pepper- 1/2 teaspoon
Turmeric- 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin- 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar- 1/8  teaspoon

The small eggplants are usually available at Indian grocery stores. The greener the stem is the fresher the eggplants are going to be.

After cleaning slice the eggplants into ¼ inch thick slices.

Here’s another shot of the sliced eggplants.

Now sprinkle the spice mixture on top.

Mix it all up.

Pour oil and give a quick toss so all the slices have a light coating of oil.

Spread out  evenly on a baking tray making sure the pieces don’t overlap.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or till the slices are soft.

Serve with a side of lightly fried dried red chilies and enjoy with rice or khichuri.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tom yum soup done differently

Each country has its own version of popular cuisine, modified to suit the taste of her people. Us Bengalis, we have our own style of Thai food that native Thais would never recognize. There’s this thick soup we used to get at restaurants in Bangladesh which, in all honesty could never be called by its authentic name of “tom yum goong” meaning thai soup with prawns.

We Bengali’s take everything a little too far. Our spicy dishes are a bit spicier, and sweet dishes are a tad sweeter than the food you would get anywhere else in the world. This soup is spicier than an original tom yum but if you ask me just as flavorful, if not more . :D

So if you are not afraid of a little heat try making this Bengali tom yum.

6 cups water
6 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1-3 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
4 stalks of lemon grass
¼ cup of chicken sliced thinly
¼ cup of medium shrimp (peeled, deveined)
3 Egg yolks
3 tablespoons corn flour
½ cup canned mushroom
1teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons Vinegar

First peel off the first few outer layers from the lemon grass stalks and chop it into medium sized pieces. At this point feel free to smash the pieces with the back of your knife. This helps release the essential oils that flavor our food. These stalks although not eaten, impart a light lemony scent to the soup. 

Then separate the eggs and add a tablespoon of corn starch for each yolk. Make sure you save the whites for another dish.

And start mixing it up.

It’ll look crumbly in the beginning but have faith.

It’ll come together nicely into a thick paste.

Now, boil some water making sure it comes to a rolling boil.

And add all the chicken boullion powder. After a minute or two of boiling, add in lemon grass and the thin slices of chicken.

Now here comes the tricky part. If you add the yolk corn flour mixture directly into the hot broth you might end up with scrambled eggs as opposed to a thick creamy soup. Which I guess wouldn't taste bad, but we don’t want that for this recipe.

Take a ladel/ spoonful of the hot liquid and slowly pour it onto the egg paste and stir vigorously. 

Add another ladelful and stir again.

Pour the warm egg mixture into the broth mixture. Give it a quick stir and you'll get a smooth creamy consistency.

Add in the shrimp, ketchup, chili sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt and your soup will get a pretty orange hue. Make sure not to cook the soup for too long otherwise the shrimp will turn rubbery.

Sprinkle generous amounts of chopped cilantro and you have Bengali-Thai soup. Enjoy!! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cheery cherry chutney

I love cherries..

Who doesn’t?

Sadly though, cherry season doesn’t last very long. Unlike berries that you can find in any super market throughout the year cherries are only there for a few months. As much as I love to eat these beauties by themselves sometimes I crave just a little bit more. I had a bag of cherries sitting around in my kitchen for a few days and decided to make chutney out of it. This way I can make them last just a bit longer. I call this my "cheery cherry chutney" because it’s a glorious combination of sweet, spicy and sour . It takes me to my happy place.

The hardest part about this recipe would be pitting the cherries which I did using the chopstick method. I made x marks with a knife and pushed the pit out using a chopstick. Simply cut an x on the bottom of the cherries and push out the pit from the top using a chop stick.  You can also make life easier and smash the cherries much like you’d smash a garlic clove. You’ll be mashing them up in the pot anyways. But being me this did not occur to me till I was done pitting the entire batch. 

So here's how to make it.

1 c of pitted cherries
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 dried red chilies
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds

First you heat up the oil and temper the dry spices(mustard, dried red chillies, fennel seeds) in oil till the mustard starts to splatter and dance in the oil.

After the seeds start crackling add all the other ingredients quickly as you don’t want the mustard seeds to burn. If the seeds get burnt it gives off a bitter taste which we don’t want for the chutney.

After that you add all the other ingredients and give it a quick stir.

It’ll look very watery at this point. Cover and let it simmer on medium heat for a good 20 minutes and it’ll dry up real good.

After it’s dried up you cool it in the pan and bottle it up.

It’ll last for a few weeks in the fridge. Chutneys are very versatile. You can smear them on toast. You can savor them with rice and daal or with roasted chicken. Or my favorite, you can enjoy it simply by itself.