Lemon Rice ~South Indian Fried Rice

South Indian Lemon Rice is one of those quick and easy dishes to prepare when you have some left over rice on hand or need to make a quick side dish that goes well with a variety of main dishes.  I love the fresh flavors and the unique taste of the curry leaves along with the crunch of the toasted cashews and split gram lentils.  No wonder it’s such a popular dish all over the Southern part of India.  The key to the flavor of this dish is keeping it at a high heat and allowing each ingredient to toast and pop to add to the depth of taste.  You have to work fast though and have all the ingredients nearby because it can burn really fast.  Recent studies have linked Turmeric with lower incidences of Alzheimer’s disease and as a great anti-inflammatory agent.  In this dish the Turmeric gives it that light, golden color with a hint of flavor that does not overshadow the lemony taste. A great way to get in some added health benefits while enjoying great taste.

Ingredients for Lemon Rice
What makes Lemon rice unique are the black mustard seeds, dried chilies and fresh curry leaves.
Heat mustard seeds and dried whole red chilies in hot oil until the seeds begin to pop and crackle
Add Sesame seeds and Split Gram lentils
Add raw, unsalted Cashews
Add golden raisins and Turmeric
Add the Curry Leaves and stir fry
Add Lemon zest and lemon juice
Mix in rice and toss
Delicious South Indian Lemon Rice

Here’s the Recipe:

Lemon Rice~South Indian Fried Rice

4 cups cooked rice (I prefer Basmati Rice)

5 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

5 dried red whole Chilies

1 tablespoon Split Gram yellow lentils

1 tsp raw Sesame Seeds

3 tablespoons Golden Raisins

1/4 cup raw unsalted Cashews

1 lemon, zested

Juice from one lemon

1 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder

2 tsp Kosher salt

10-12 fresh Curry Leaves

In a large wok or frying pan heat oil and stir fry mustard seeds and dried chilies until mustard seeds begin to pop.  Add in Sesame Seeds, lentils and salt and stir fry another 50 seconds.  Add in Cashews, Raisins and Turmeric stir fry a few seconds before adding in curry leaves and then the zest of one lemon and the juice of the entire lemon.  Stir to blend flavors and add in cooked rice, tossing well to coat.  Serve hot as a vegetarian dish or as a great side dish.

Caribbean Fry Bakes

When I was first introduced to Fry Bakes while visiting my husband’s side of the family in Barbados, I couldn’t figure out why it was called “Fry” Bakes.  You either fry something or bake it, at least that is what I thought.  But this is the local name in pretty much any English-speaking Caribbean island.  They are also referred to simply as “Bakes”.  It’s an easy way to make bread without using an oven.  Usually it’s enjoyed right on the beach, cooked up fresh and hot and served with fresh fish Ceviche or salt fish stews or in Jamaica it’s served with Salt Fish and Achee (a small green, tart fruit).  It’s delicious, it’s portable and it’s simple to make.  I’ve learned that if I want to make the Caribbean side of my family happy, all I have to do is cook up some Fry Bakes and cut up some good quality aged English Cheddar and watch everyone go crazy eating it.  Enjoy!

Proof the yeast in a glass measuring cup
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add oil and proofed yeast
Knead into a dough, cover and let it rest
Shape into dough balls
Roll out on a lightly floured surface
Fry the bakes in heated oil
Fry bakes and cheese
Caribbean Fry Bakes

Caribbean Fry Bakes

7 cups All-Purpose flour

2 tablespoons of Kosher Salt

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

2 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast

1 tsp baking powder

3 cups warm water

Vegetable oil for frying

In a glass measuring cup add sugar to one cup of warm water, stir and add in yeast and let it proof by bubbling and foaming.  In a large bowl, mix together flour salt and baking powder.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add oil and proofed yeast.  Mix in with your hands and slowly add in remaining two cups of water.  Knead until dough is soft and elastic.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 20-30 minutes.  Dough will rise during that time.  Make little dough balls, about 1 1/2 inch in diameter and roll out on a lightly floured surface  into about 3″ circles.  Heat oil in a small frying pan (medium heat) and gently place dough in oil and fry until golden brown.  Serve hot with sharp cheddar cheese slices (we love Dubliner or aged English Cheddar) or with fresh Ceviche. Makes about 35 fry bakes.

Nasi Goreng ~ Indonesian Style Fried Rice

There are so many ways to cook rice, the possibilities are endless.  The continent of Asia alone has about a thousand variations.  I love how the same spices used in slightly different combinations can produce a totally different taste.  Nasi Goreng is an Indonesian style of fried rice.  There are many different ways of making Nasi Goreng, some people add prawns, steak or chicken, others add a variety of vegetables, basically whatever is leftover and on hand.  But some of the basic spices don’t change.  The key to Nasi Goreng is using Kecap Manis or Sweet Soy Sauce.

Kecap Manis or Sweet Soy Sauce

Kecap Manis is made from fermented soy, date palm sugar (jaggery) and several other spices.  It is quite thick and has several layers of flavor that is very different from regular soy sauce.  It is delicious.  The other must have items in Nasi Goreng are red chilis and Sambal Oelek.  I like to use both.

Red Chilis and Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek is a red chili paste found in any Asian super market (same place where you’d pick up some of the Kecap Manis).  Cumin and Coriander are also used.  This adds a slight smoky flavor and balances out the sweetness of the Kecap manis and the heat of the red chilis.

Even though garlic, cumin, coriander and chilies are regularly used in South Asian cooking, when combined with the Sambal Oelek and Sweet soy sauce it completely changes the taste.  This dish is widely eaten in Malaysia, Singapore and of course Indonesia.  Served hot with that wonderful fried egg on top, it is amazing.  You can’t stop eating it!

Left over Basmati Rice
Make a well in the middle of the wok and add eggs to the mixture
Add rice to vegetable mixture
Add caramelized onion
Nasi Goreng served with fried egg

Here’s the recipe:

Nasi Goreng

6 cups cooked rice (preferably overnight)

2 large eggs

Salt according to taste

6 tablespoons cooking oil

3 cloves of finely chopped garlic

1 onion, finely chopped

2 red chilies, seed removed and sliced finely

1 teaspoon Cumin

1 tsp Coriander seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 tbsp Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)

2 tsp Sambal Oelek

3 Stalks of celery, chopped

1 whole tomato, seeded and chopped

½ cup frozen green peas

4 finely chopped scallions

Additional eggs to serve over rice

1 large onion, thinly sliced (for caramelized onion)

In a large frying pan or wok heat oil and add 1 large onion very thinly sliced (using mandolin really helps to keep it very thin).  Cook until onions are dark golden brown in color and place in a paper towel lined pan.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until foamy. Add a little salt according to taste. Set aside. Use a food processor to process the onion, chili, tomato, Sambal Oelek, garlic, sugar, cumin and coriander until it became a thick paste.

In the same pan that the onions were caramelized earlier add the processed paste and cook until it is fragrant. Add the vegetables except for the sliced scallions and stir fry for a few minutes.  Make a well in the middle of the pan and add beaten eggs.  Stir fry eggs until cooked and mix in with the rest of vegetables.  Finally add in the cooked rice and a more cooking oil if necessary. Add the Kecap Manis (Sweet Soy Sauce) and scallions and continue frying for another 30~60 seconds, until it is well incorporated. Finally add caramelized onions and toss.

Scoop from the wok onto a plate and serve with a fried over-easy egg on top.  If using as a side dish then serve without the egg on top.

Herbed Long Green Beans

This is one of my quick go to vegetable dishes.  I love long green beans.  In the summer when I can grow my own or pick up some from the local Farmer’s Market, they are delicious.  I made these today from frozen long green beans.  I think they turn out just as great as the fresh variety.  It’s March and most Farmer’s Markets will not officially open in Utah until early June.  Although I’m waiting anxiously for warmer weather and fresher foods, I’m okay with the frozen variety for a while!

Blanch the Green beans in boiling water for a few minutes.
Heat olive oil in a saute pan and add herbs and salt
Toss to coat and serve hot.

Here’s the recipe:

Herbed Long Green Beans

1 16 oz package of frozen Long Green Beans

5 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tsp Kosher Salt

3 whole garlic cloves minced

1 tsp dried Thyme

1/2 tsp dried Oregano

1/2 tsp dried Basil

1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

In a large 6 quart pan bring water to a full rolling boil.  Add about 4-5 tablespoons of salt to the water and add frozen beans.  Cook about 5-6 minutes until beans are tender.  In a separate skillet add olive oil, kosher salt, garlic, pepper and herbs.  Stir for about 40 seconds to marry the flavors and add drained Long Green Beans and toss to coat well.  Serve warm as a side dish.  Goes great with Chicken Spinach Alfredo http://kolpona.com/2012/03/17/spinach-chicken-alfredo/

Artisan French Bread with Spinach Chicken Pasta and Herbed Long Green Beans

Artisan Style French Bread

Did I mention that I love baking my own breads?  There’s something deeply satisfying about how the whole house smells when fresh bread is baking….and that first bite with a little fresh butter, it’s a thing of beauty.  Most people from Bangladesh, India or Pakistan don’t usually bake yeast breads.  Mostly because ovens are not a regular part of the average South Asian kitchen.  We have tandoori ovens and we make a lot of flat breads like Naan (recipe coming soon), Parathas, Rotis, Chapatis…  Yeast Breads are available at grocery stores but they tend to be the “wonder bread” variety.  Mass produced in factories and not the Artisan style.  It is always a wonder to most of my Bengali family that I can bake breads.  They talk about that like I’ve mastered rocket science.  Well, I do have those degrees in Chemistry and Nutrition, but really, baking bread is a no-brainer.  Try this recipe with me.  You’ll love it. And you can’t beat the taste or the price. The average cost of each loaf  is about 48 cents each.

Proof the yeast by adding a tsp of sugar into warm tap water and letting it bubble and foam
Add melted butter, salt, about half the flour and use a hand mixer to blend it in.
Knead dough with the heel of your hand to work in the rest of the flour.
Roll into a smooth ball and put in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough over so that the top is covered in oil as well.
Let it double in size (about 1 hour)
Sprinkle pans with a little corn meal
Divide dough in half and shape into 10 inch logs
Make about four cuts on top of dough and cover and let rise again.
Bake bread at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes then brush with egg white and water mixture and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes
Let it cool a little and serve warm.

Here’s the recipe:

Artisan Style French Bread

2 packages of  active dry yeast (about 4 1/2 tsp)

2 1/2 cups of warm water

1 tsp sugar

6-7 cups of all purpose flour (depends on humidity, but I usually end up using the whole 7 cups)

1 tablespoon of salt

1 tablespoon melted butter

4 tsp corn meal

1 egg white

1 tsp cold water

In a large 6 quart bowl mix warm tap water with sugar and mix well.  Add yeast and let it foam and bubble up (about 2-3 minutes).  Add salt, butter and about 4 cups of flour to yeast and mix with an electric hand mixer.  When dough is soft and sticky, begin adding the rest of the flour by hand.  Take out of the pan and knead dough lightly until it becomes nice and smooth and elastic, should take about 5 minutes.  Form the dough into a nice smooth ball.  Wash out the original pan and lightly oil it with a little oil and put the dough ball in the bowl, turning it once to coat the top with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it double in size.  Takes 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Gently punch dough down and divide evenly.  Shape into approximately 10″ logs.  Sprinkle two parchment or Silpat covered cookie sheets with 2 tsp of corn meal each.  Place dough on each cookie sheet and cut four slits on the top.  Cover and let rise again for about another 45 minutes until double in size.  Place in pre-heated 450 degree Fahrenheit  oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Take out bread and brush with egg white and water mixture (this makes it brown, glossy and amazing looking) and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes.  Let cool on a cooling rack for about 6-8 minutes before serving.

Bengali Style Green Beans

Panch Puran (pronounced “Phoron”) is one of the quintessential Bengali spice mixes. It is a mixture of five different spice seeds.  “Panch” means five and “Phoron” loosely translated means to put over high heat.  Each one of the spice seeds when toasted on a hot, dry skillet begins to jump and skip across the pan.  The flavor is fantastic.  In colloquial language that jumping and skipping of spices on a hot pan is also used to describe people in dicey situations!  A great visual don’t you think?  When life gets hot, we do tend to do a bit of jumping and skipping!

This is simple yet delicious recipe very common in everyday Bengali cuisine.  I hope you like it as much as I do!

Five seeds are: Mustard, Cumin, Fennel, Fenugreek and Kalonji

Serves 2-4

1 16oz package frozen French cut green beans

1 tsp salt

2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp Panch Phoron (Bengali 5 spice)

4 tbsp oil

½ onion, chopped

1 serrano chili seeded and chopped

In a  frying pan heat oil and add panch phoron and salt and stir fry until the seeds begin crackling, jumping and skipping (you can enjoy the show for about 2 minutes).  Add onions and green Serrano chili and stir fry until onions are soft and translucent.  Add turmeric and stir fry a few more minutes so flavors meld together.  Add green beans and stir fry until beans look well coated.  Cover and let cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until green beans are tender.  Serve warm with rice.

North African Style Couscous

Couscous is a semolina pasta made out of durum wheat.  It is a staple food in pretty much most of North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya).  It’s cooked plain or in a wonderful salad type dish and usually eaten with meat stews that are slow cooked.  This dish goes wonderfully with the Tajine style Moroccan Chicken or just by itself as a refreshing salad or side dish.

Start by boiling

2 cups chicken stock (because it gives it such a depth of flavor but if you’re trying to make it a completely vegetarian dish then use vegetable stock or plain water) and ½ tsp kosher salt together.

Add  1 1/4 cup of couscous and  take off the heat.  Cover and let sit for 5-6 minutes.  Fluff with fork.

In a large skillet heat  ¼ cup olive oil and add 1 small chopped onion and 2 cloves of garlic minced into small pieces.

Saute  for 3-4 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the garlic is very fragrant then add the couscous and toast for 8 minutes or so, couscous should get slightly brown.

Take it off the heat and pour into a large bowl and while still warm:

Add to couscous:

½ cup feta cheese

Chopped bell peppers

Chopped avocado

½ cup flat leafed parsley

Cucumber

Toasted almonds

Flat leaf Parsley, Curly leaf parsley and Cilantro

Dressing:

¼ cup oil

1 large lemon, zested

¼ tsp salt

Pepper (fresh cracked if you can)

Juice from lemon

Whisk to make dressing.  It will become a delicious opaque golden colored dressing. Pour over couscous and toss together.  Enjoy right away as a side dish or with any Moroccan style stew!

Kitchuri

Kitchuri is a very Bengali dish.  Made with rice, lentils, vegetables and sometimes even some meat thrown in.  It’s  the South Asian version of a casserole.  The variety of “kitchuri” is as limitless as each cook’s imagination but two things remain a constant, rice and lentils.  Growing up in Bangladesh, eating Kitchuri was a delight because we usually ate it at picnics or outings, sometimes cooked over an open fire.  Often the kitchuri would have seasonal vegetables, or leftovers from the day before added to it.  I knew whenever I smelled Kitchuri cooking that good things were going to happen that day.

On a recent trip back to Bangladesh, Kitchuri took on a new meaning.  We visited Child Sponsorship Programs and villages where lives were literally being saved.  Children ate one meal a day during school, often it was their only meal.  The meal always consist of Kitchuri because of the high nutrient content and an additional source of protein such as eggs or chicken or fish.  Cooked in a giant pot, the humble Kitchuri had taken on a super hero role!

2 cups Basmati Rice

1 cup red lentils

1 whole spanish onion, chopped

3-4 serrano chillis, chopped

2 whole cinnamon sticks

3 bay leaves

4 cardamom pods, crushed

3 whole cloves

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp red chili peppers

4 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced

1/4 cup oil

salt to taste

4 cups water

1 1/2 cup Assorted chopped vegetables , such as zucchini, shredded carrots, English peas, yellow squash

Wash rice and lentils thoroughly until water runs clear and set aside.  Heat oil in a large 5-6 quart pan and add onions and Serrano chilis.  Saute 2-3 minutes.  Add cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and stir fry another 3 minutes or so until all the flavors are released.  Add 1 tsp of salt, turmeric, cumin and chili powder along with garlic and stir fry another 2 minutes.  Add all vegetables and 1/2 cup of water and stir fry for a minute or two before adding the rice and lentils and the rest of the water.  Bring mixture to boil, stir then turn down temperature to low and cover pan.  Let simmer and cook until all water is absorbed about 10-13 minutes.  When all water is absorbed, rice and lentils should be nice and tender if additional water is needed, add it at this point and cover pot for another 5-6 minutes until liquid is absorbed.  Take out cinnamon sticks and bay leaves before serving.

Spinach Pakora

16-20 fresh spinach leaves washed and dried well

1 cup of Besan (chick pea flour)

½ cup of rice flour

½ tsp  Hing or asafetida powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 – 2 tsp chili powder (to taste)

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

¾ cup water

¼ tsp baking soda

Oil for deep frying

Mix together all dry ingredients and add water.  Batter should be the consistency of pancake batter with no lumps.

Heat a small pan with oil for deep frying.  Temperature should be about 350 degrees if you’re using a thermometer otherwise add a small drop of batter into the oil if it floats to the top fairly quickly, the oil is ready.  Use medium heat so oil does not start to smoke.  Dip spinach leaves one at a time into batter and scrape most of it off by dredging it along the side of the batter pan.  The leaf should be coated but not heavily covered.  Gently place into the hot oil.  Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side until a nice golden brown color.  Take out of oil with a slotted spatula and place into a platter lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil.  Serve warm with tamarind or cilantro Chutney or even ranch dressing if desired.