Sunday, February 10, 2013

Welcome to SpiceArt

Cook to express

I have now been cooking for roughly five years and I now call this a blessing of Graduate School Life!!! After nights of surviving on the ever glorious Maggi Noodles and days of brooding over Wendy's wraps-to-go, one has to miss "home-made" food - more so because of the comforting word "home" I believe.

And it is very lawful to be selfishly nostalgic about your home and complain!!! Well, thanks to the best of roommates who risked me as one of the "house-hold cooks", I did rise above and beyond overcooked rice and over-sweetened lentils!!!! And as fate would have it, despite of innumerable scars and burns I love to be  a much so that I now cook to express - happiness, joy, success, togetherness, friendship, name it! Cooking has long been established an art form and I am a beginner. Yet, I love the satisfaction and joy I see in the people I cook for...a dish well-seasoned and well-served is so wonderfully rewarding. And as they say, I have managed to reach some hearts through their stomach :)...

I try recipes from books, from package labels and of course, the internet besides the traditional Bengali cuisine that I grew up with. What I am always looking for in a recipe is authenticity and some degree of challenge - really, I do not like easy cooking. Success is not always ensured, but failure brings new insights. So, I thought of compiling recipes I found unique and food-forms I find creative to share with my friends.

Before I begin the voyage, I bow down to all Mothers because they are the greatest chefs. I have never been able to reproduce the taste of anything my Maa makes...but in trying is my tribute to her....

Oven Fried Crispy Chicken

One of those days when you crave for something crispy without the deep-frying......I thank to the broil option of the oven :) Give these a will want more....

Dish Category: Starter, Appetizers, Side Dish

Serves: 4

What I like about this recipe: Simple, easy, healthy, savoury and tasty


  1. 1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  2. 1 cup yogurt, lightly beaten
  3. 2 tbsp lemon/lime juice
  4. 1 tbsp hot sauce of choice
  5. 1 tsp garlic salt - optional
  6. 2 cloves garlic, paste
  7. 2 cups cornflakes/bread crumbs/all-purpose flour
  8. 1 egg
  9. 1 cup milk
  10. salt and black pepper to taste
  11. 2 tbsp olive oil
  12. Cooking spray
  1. Whisk the yogurt, lemon juice and garlic paste together and coat the chicken pieces well. Let marinate for 20 - 30 mins. The longer the better
  2. Preheat oven to 350 deg F
  3. Crush cornflakes (if using) in a food processor and set aside. 
  4. Beat together egg and milk, season with salt, pepper and hot sauce
  5. Dip the chicken pieces into the milk and egg mix and coat with cornflakes. Repeat after 10 minutes as the cornflakes become moist; re-dippin them in the crumbs enhances crispiness
  6. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray and place chicken pieces 
  7. Sprinkle with seasonings if desired
  8. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes...or until inside of tenders are white
  9. Broil for 5 - 6 mins or until golden and crispy on the outside
  10. Serve with your choice of sauce

Okra Shrimp Gumbo

My first shot at Creole cooking......The legendary cuisine of New Orleans.

Inspired by my dear friend Jim...a fantastic office-mate and an adventurous cook!

Recipe Source: From the book "Creole!" by Deirde Stanforth

Dish Category: Side Dish, Entree

Serves: 8 - 10

What I like about the recipe: Easy, lots of veggies, hearty and traditional

Possible Modifications: Will work great with any sea food like crabs, crawfish, go crazy! :)


  1. 2 lbs Okra
  2. 4 tbs any fat - bacon fat, I used butter
  3. 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  4. 1 onion, finely chopped
  5. 2 green onions, finely chopped
  6. 1 pod garlic, minced
  7. 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  8. 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  9. 2 lbs raw shrimp - peeled and deveined
  10. 1 tsp salt or to taste
  11. 1 tsp Cayenne pepper
  12. 5 dashes Tabasco or choice of hot sauce
  13. 1 green bay leaf
  14. 1/4 tsp thyme

  1. Wash Okra and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  2. Put 2 lbs fat in a skillet and fry Okra, stirring often to prevent burning, until it is browned and dried, with all sliminess gone
  3. In a deep cooking pot melt the remaining fat and blend in flour to make a roux, cooking and stirring until deep brown. Do this over very low heat because flour can burn
  4. Add the chopped onion, garlic, green pepper and stir to cook
  5. Add tomatoes and stir till cooked
  6. Add the cooked Okra and mix
  7. Add enough water to have atleast 2 inch standing water above the vegetable mix
  8. Add the raw shrimp
  9. Add all the seasoning and bring to a boil
  10. Let simmer cook for ~ 30 mins till the shrimp is completely cooked
Serving Suggestions: Gumbo is always served in a soup bowl over a teacup-molded mound of hot rice.
Refrigerates and reheats very well

Baked Ricotta and Mushroom Pots

Pots of Baked Ricotta and Mushrooms

Recipe Source: From the book "Vegetarian Cooking - A common sense guide" 

What I like about the recipe: Super easy, quick and delicious, great for get-togethers

Dish Category: Starter

Serves: 4


  1. 20 g ( 3/4 oz) butter
  2. 1 tsp olive oil
  3. 1 and 1/2 cup sliced button mushrooms
  4. 1 garlic clove, crushed
  5. a pinch of ground nutmeg
  6. Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling - optional
  7. 400 g (14 oz) block ricotta cheese
  8. Salt or sea-salt to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F
  2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a small frying pan and add the mushrooms and garlic and briefly fry over high heat until lightly golden
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in salt and black pepper to taste
  4. Brush flour ramekins with a little extra virgin olive oil and line the bases with a circle of baking/parchment paper
  5. Gently mix the mushroom mixture and ricotta cheese. Divide among the ramekins and press down firmly
  6. Bake for 20 - 25 mins., or until the tops are crusty and the mixture has started to shrink from the side of the ramekins
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 mins. before turning out
  8. Serve hot, warm or cold, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Paalak Paneer

Paalak Paneer_North Indian Signature Vegetarian Dish with Homemade Cottage Cheese

Dish Category: Side Dish, Entree

Accompaniment: Indian flat bread, Puri, Steam rice, Paratha, choices are endless

Possible Variations: Tofu, Chicken, Potato

What I like about this dish: Very traditional, favourite at all festivities, great use of greens

  1. Spinach - 1 lb baby spinach, blanched and pureed
  2. Paneer/Cottage Cheese- 7 oz or 200 g
  3. Oil – 3 tbsp
  4. Onions – 2 medium, finely minced
  5. Ginger – 1″ pc, minced
  6. Garlic – 4 cloves, minced
  7. Warm Water – 1/2 cup
  8. Tomatoes – 2 large pureed
  9. Garam Masala - 2 tsp
  10. Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
  11. Coriander Powder – 2 tsp
  12. Red Chili Powder – to taste
  13. Salt - to taste
  14. Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp
  15. Heavy Whipping Cream – 8 tbsp (optional)
  16. Milk – to taste (optional)
  1. Heat 2 tbsp Oil in a medium non-stick pan on high heat
  2. Once Oil is hot, add in the minced Onions, stir, cover and let it cook until onions are translucent
  3. Add in the Ginger and Garlic and mix. Cook till aromatic
  4. Add in the Tomates, cover and cook till the oil separates from the mixture
  5. Keep stirring frequently as the Masala (Onion, Tomato, Ginger & Garlic mixture) tends to burn very fast. Add a little water if needed
  6. While the Masala is cooking, cube the paneer to desired size…1/2″ cubes work well
  7. In a non-stick frying pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp Oil
  8. Once Oil is hot, add in the paneer cubes and let them cook till they are golden brown on all sides
  9. Remove from the pan into a plate with paper towel to soak the excess oil
  10. In a couple of minutes, pour the Paneer into a bowl of cold water. Let it sit for 5 minutes
  11. Meanwhile, once the Masala is prepared, add in the pureed Spinach
  12. Mix and add the Garam Masala, Cumin Powder, Coriander Powder, Salt, Chili Powder & Turmeric Powder
  13. Mix well and cook for 3-5 minutes to bring a slight boil
  14. Add in the desired amount of Cream and /or Milk. Mix and cook for another few minutes
  15. Gently squeeze the water out of the Paneer and put the Paneer in the Spinach
  16. Mix gently and simmer for 3 - 5 mins.

Dahi Ke Kebab

Dahi Ke Kebab_An absolute Mughlai Delight

Dish category : Vegetarian Starter, Side Dish

What I like about the recipe: Unique and absolute delicacy, simple ingredients

  1. 1 cup hung curd (take about 1.5 cups curd in a muslin/cheese cloth and hang over the sink for atleast 2 hours). For best results full-fat Yougurt
  2. 1/2 cup besan/gram flour
  3. 1/2 tsp chilli powder or green chilli paste
  4. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  5. 2 pods green cardamom, powdered
  6. 2 cloves, powdered
  7. A pinch of powdered cinnamon (optional, I didn't add any)
  8. Salt to taste
  9. Golden raisins 
  10. Roasted Cashew

1. Hang the curd as mentioned for atleast 2 hours until you get a thick, sticky curd. To this, add the rest of the ingredients to make a thick paste-like batter. Don't add any water - if you find the mixture too thick, add milk by the tsp and if you find it too thin, add besan by the tsp.

2. Heat oil until almost smoking, shape dough into small, flat kebabs and deep fry until golden brown on both sides. Serve immediately with any Chutney/sauce of choice.

Shrimp-Stuffed Tomato

Shrimp-Stuffed Tomato Bake with Parmesan and Basil

Dish Category: Entree, Side Dish

What I like about this recipe: Easy, quick, can be prepared ahead of time for gatherings

Serves: 6


  1.  6 - 7 oz/ 170 - 200 g large, firm, ripe tomatoes
  2. 1 tsp salt
  3. 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  4. 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  5. 2 tbsp olive oil
  6. 1/4 lb shrimp, cooked, deveined and cut into small pieces
  7. 1 cup cooked orzo pasta
  8. 1/4 cup roasted/toasted nuts - optional
  9. 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  10. 1/4 tsp dried basil

  1. Make 1/8-inch slice across stem end of each tomato and keep the tops; core and seed tomatoes. Sprinkle salt inside tomatoes and place them upside down on paper towels. Let stand about 30 mins. to remove excess moisture. Press dry paper towels in to tomatoes to remove any remaining moisture
  2. Preheat oven to 375 deg F
  3. In a skillet saute the onion and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil till the onion is tender. Stir often.
  4. Add shrimp, orzo, nuts, 2 tbsp of Parmesan cheese and basil and mix well
  5. Spoon mixture in to the prepared tomatoes. Arrange in a shallow baking dish
  6. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and Parmesan cheese and cover with the tomato tops
  7. Bake for 20 mins until tops are golden brown

Indian Chai

A tall glass of Tea binds you well.....

Yes, we Indians do "cook" our tea. Simple it is one may think, but a good cup of tea or a tall glass for that matter can make your journey from Calcutta to London a swift ride!! Tea drinking might have been introduced by the British, but we have transformed black tea from a mere source of caffeine to an elixir that hold friends together. A tea stall at every corner of every Indian city will speak for evidence. Why not begin this new journey of inspiring to cook and finding expression through the process with a tall glass of ginger tea?

Servings : 2 cups

1. 2 thin slices of fresh ginger root
2. 2 tbsp Black tea of choice -  I use Assam Black Tea
3. Sugar/sweetener (optional)
4. Half cup milk
5. 1 and half cup water

Optional Accompaniments:

Anything sweet or salty, snack or savoury will be happily married to a fair and handsome Black tea :P!!


1. Boil one and half cup water (preferably using the serving cups for measurements)
2. Add the ginger slices (add more or less according to desired gingery flavor)
3. Let the ginger simmer till it softens and the aroma is awake
4. Add the tea leaves to the boiling water
5. Add the milk and give a good stir with a spoon
6. Let the liquid come to a boil
7. Strain and add sweetener if desired


One can always leave out the milk or add powdered milk. The tea leaves may be allowed to soak in for longer based on the desired strength of tea.

Chicken Enchilada

Chicken Enchilada with Tomatillo Cilantro Sauce

What I like about the recipe: Easy, simple ingredients, refrigerates and reheats well

Enchilada, literally translates to “to add chilli pepper to” which gives me the freedom to make it as hot and spicy as I like!!!
A dish with at least 12 possible variations and innumerable potential modifications is essentially so forgiving for any cook. The similarity of flavors, spices, ingredients and processing thereof between Mexican and Indian culinary exercise has always fascinated me. So I wished to begin my spree to Mexican cooking with some Enchiladas…… with as little freedom as possible!! Narrated herein the variation I tried and honestly, loved!

Servings: 4


  1.  Corn tortilla – I think flour/wheat tortillas will do as well
  2.  Chicken breast
  3. 1 large red onion finely sliced
  4. 4 cloves of garlic
  5. 2 serrano papers or to taste
  6.  Few sprigs of fresh Cilantro chopped
  7. 5-6 tomatillos
  8.  Cooking oil
  9.  Salt to taste
  10.  2 tbsp lemon/lime juice
  11.  Mexican three cheese mix – or your favorite cheese
  12.  Jalapeno peppers (Optional)

  1. Slightly grease a baking tray and preheat oven to 350 deg F
  2. Remove the green leafy part from the tomatillos
  3. Place the tomatillos, Serrano peppers and garlic cloves on the baking tray and bake for 15 – 20 mins or until the skin is slightly charred
  4. Allow to cool and remove the skin of the tomatillos
  5. Grind the tomatillos, garlic, Serrano peppers, cilantro and lime/lemon juice together into a sauce consistency – give a test taste for heat and sourness
  6. Poach the chicken breasts in boiling water, cool and shred lightly using a fork
  7. Heat oil in a skillet, sauté onions till translucent
  8. Add the chicken breasts and Jalapeno peppers if using
  9. Add enough of the green sauce to coat the chicken well and stir to mix – keep aside some sauce for topping
  10. Add salt to taste and allow the mixture to heat thoroughly
  11. Soften the tortillas in a microwave or on a skillet – preferably follow the instruction on the package
  12. The tortillas may also be soaked slightly in the sauce at this time
  13. Place enough filling in the softened (or soaked in sauce) tortillas and fold like an Enchilada
  14. Place each Enchilada in a greased baking dish with the folded side down
  15. After all the Enchiladas have been placed together, pour the remaining sauce and top with cheese as desired
  16. Bake at 350 deg F for 10 – 15 mins till the cheese has melted and is slightly golden brown

Szechwan Tofu

Szechwan Tofu from the "heavenly country"

Wikipedia says: Szechuan cuisine, Sichuan cuisine, or Szechwan cuisine (Chinese: 四川菜; pinyin: Sìchuān cài or Chinese: 川菜;pinyin: chuān cài) is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from Sichuan province in southwestern China. It has bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavour of the Sichuan pepper. Peanuts, sesame paste, and ginger are also prominent ingredients in Szechuan cooking.[1]

Sichuan is colloquially known as the "heavenly country" due to its abundance of food and natural resources. One ancient Chinese account declared that the "people of Sichuan uphold good flavour, and they are fond of hot and spicy taste.
Garlic and chilli oil is what I rely on a lot for this dish….

Recipe for the sauce:

I trusted the following source to make my own but there are several store-bought ones readily available, too!

Accompaniments: Steamed rice or fried rice; white rice or brown rice. The perfect spice and heat of the dish will be loyal to all
Instead of Tofu: This preparation is highly versatile. Tofu can be replaced with any meat, fish or vegetables.

Modifications: The heat from the sauce can be scaled up or down. The Tofu can be corn flour battered and deep fried for crispiness.


  1. 1 package Firm tofu
  2. 3 finely chooped Bell peppers - preferably green for the heat
  3. 1 medium finely chopped red Onion
  4. 3 tbsp Fresh finely minced garlic
  5. 2 tbsp Sesame oil – any cooking oil of choice may be used
  6. 2 tbsp Cornstarch/cornflower
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 2 tbsp Brown sugar (optional)
  9. Finely chopped Green onions (optional)


  1. Cut the tofu into half-inch cubes, drain well, and marinade with fresh lime juice or soy sauce. Marinate for about 20 – 20 mins
  2. Heat sesame oil in a skillet and season with garlic; fry till golden brown
  3. Add the bell peppers and onion; sauté till cooked – vegetables should not be soft but crispy
  4. Add the Szechuan sauce (as much as you prefer) and bring the mix together
  5. Add the tofu (leave the marinade behind) at this point and mix well
  6. Briskly stir in corn flour in 4 tbs cold water and add
  7. Mix very well, add salt and sugar
  8. Let simmer until the gravy thickens
  9. Garnish with finely chopped green onions
  10. Serve with hot rice

Pototao Crepe

Potato Crepe.....a treat from Ardiche, France

Recipe Source: From the book "Bocuse in your Kitchen" by Paul Bocuse
Crique is the real name in French for these savory treats from the South-Central department of France. My friend introduced to me this recipe from her home town.  Easy, delightful and a quick fix accompaniment for any meal.

What I like about this recipe: Super easy, simple and few ingredients, great with any meal

Servings: 2 -3

Accompaniments: These crepes can be served as a garnish with grilled meat or as a light lunch accompanied by a green salad with Oil and Vinegar dressing


  1. 1 lb old potatoes
  2. 1 egg
  3. Salt and pepper to taste
  4. 3 tbsp olive oil
  1. Wash the potatoes, wipe them dry and peel them
  2. Grate the potatoes coarsely, place them in a bowl with the egg, salt and pepper and mix well
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan. When very hot, add all the grated potatoes and spread them out pressing with flat spatula to make a large crepe, or pancake of even thickness
  4. Cook over moderately high heat for 6 - 8 min, or until the underside has browned
  5. Slide the crepe out into a large plate
  6. Place 1 tbsp of oil in the pan, place a second plate on top of the crepe and turn it upside down; lift off the first plate and slide the crepe back into the pan to finish cooking on the second side
  7. Serve immediately