Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fudge Brownies

I don't remember which book this is from, but I suspect I got this recipe from Meena. Anyway, for what it is worth, here it is. It makes the riches, moistest, chewiest brownies I know, and I wish some of the so-called bakeries here would use this recipe.


Butter 10 1/2 tbsp or 2/3 cup
Chocolate (cocoa powder) 7 1/2 tbsp or 1/2 cup
Eggs 2
pinch of salt
Sugar 7/8 cup
Vanilla essence 1 tsp
Flour 1/2 cup
chopped walnuts


Melt the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan or skillet. Remove from heat, add the cocoa powder and smoothen the mixture. Combine the eggs and salt, in a bowl, and beat with an electric beater till very light and fluffy (this should take about 5 minutes, with short breaks). Add the sugar and beat another two minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and the vanilla and mix gently. Mix the flour in gently with a spoon. This is important. Heavy strokes while mixing will collapse all the bubbles in the beaten eggs and make the brownies hard and heavy. Add the chopped walnuts, pour into a buttered baking dish and bake at 160 degrees for about 30 minutes. Do not overbake so as to dry out the brownies. A knife passed through it should come out almost but not quite clean.
Cover with fudge frosting and refrigerate.

Fudge Frosting

Cream 1/4 cup, sugar 1/3 cup, cocoa powder 1/2 cup, butter 2 1/2 tbsp.

Powder the sugar in a grinder (you can buy confectioners sugar but it is unnecessary). Mix the butter, chocolate and sugar over a low flame. Add the cream. The mixture should be smooth and spreadable. Spread over the brownies before refrigerating.

The fudge frosting should be smooth and glistening after it is set. However it is customary to make a few streaks in the frosting with the back of the tines of a fork.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Yakhni is a kind of mutton stew from Kashmir. It is simple to make, probably the simplest mutton recipe I know. It was taught and in fact, demonstrated to me by a Kashmiri known for his culinary skills and so the recipe I give you here is about as authentic as you are likely to get. You will need a couple of slightly non standard ingredients -- soont which is dry ginger powder (it cannot be substituted by fresh ginger!) and powdered fennel seeds (saunf). You will also need the big black cardamon, not the small green one. Also, note that Yakhni is always made with meat from the seena i.e near the breast because it is fatty. However, if you are making it in the warmer plains, like me, you may want to go easy on the fattiness of the meat. Soont and fennel powder are ubiquitous in Kashmiri cooking so if you plan on branching off in that direction, keep these handy in your kitchen.


Mutton 1/2 kilo, usually from near the breast
Dry ginger powder - 2 tbsp
Fennel powder (ground saunf) -- 2 tbsp
Black cardamon - 4
Cinnamon stick - couple of 1 inch sticks
cloves -- 4-5
Black peppercorns (optional) -- 1 tsp
Yoghurt - 1 large cup, beaten smooth
Oil -- 1 tbsp
Salt to taste


In a large pot or pressure cooker, place the mutton, add water to just barely cover it, add all the above ingredients except the yoghurt. As I said, this is a stew and the usual paraphernalia of frying meat and spices is skipped. (Trust me, it tastes great nonetheless). Boil this whole combo till the meat is cooked (about 15 - 20 minutes if using a pressure cooker). Let the cooker cool, then open it. If there is too much water, reduce it till it barely covers the meat. Cool it again and then slowly add the yoghurt. (As I have noted earlier, adding yoghurt to the hot pot makes it split). The gravy is not thick, but it should not be watery. Adjust the salt as needed, give it one final boil and serve with plain basmati rice.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Eggplant in Yoghurt Sauce (Doi Boingano)

This is a very popular recipe from Orrisa.


1 cup yoghurt
2 medium eggplants
1 medium size onion
3 green chillies
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of curry powder if available
1/4 inch piece of ginger
1 clove garlic
bunch of curry leaves
salt to taste


Beat yoghurt to make it smooth and add 1 tsp salt to it. Add oil to a kadai (wok) add mustard seeds and when they pop, add cumin seeds, chillies, ginger, curry leaves and garlic. Fry for a short time and add to the beaten yoghurt.

Cut the eggplant lengthwise, mix with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp chili powder, a pinch of generic curry powder if you have it, and turmeric. Fry in oil till cooked. (It is usually deep fried but if you want a healthier version, shallow pan fry is also fine).

Remove with a slotted spoon, drain the excess oil and add to the spiced yoghurt mixture. Allow to soak for about half and hour before serving.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fish from the East and the West

Last week I again missed my date with this blog so here are two recipes -- both for fish, since I haven't 'done' fish yet on this blog - one from Western India and the other from the East.

Prawns in mustard and coconut

This recipe is inspired by a rather fanciful dish called Daab Chingri (made popular by Oh! Calcutta)cooked inside a hollowed out coconut shell. This version dispenses with all these unnecessary flourishes and can be made at home in about fifteen minutes (not including standing time). It also tastes somewhat different and better! Credit for this goes to my wife who is from Western India but this recipe is pure Eastern. It is best made in the microwave!


Prawns (cleaned and deveined) -- 1/4 kilo
Mustard seeds -- 3 tbsp
Green chilly - 1 medium size
Coconut cream -- 1/2 cup
Kasundi (if available) -- 2 tsp
Turmeric -- 1/2 tsp
Mustard oil -- 1 tsp
Chilli powder -- 1/2 tsp or more if preferred
Coriander leaves for garnish
Salt to taste


Sprinkle the salt, turmeric and chilli powder on the prawns, mix well and keep aside.
In the small container of a blender or mixie, add the mustard seeds, a bit of salt and one green chilly, a tablespoon of water. Grind to a smooth paste.

Note: Grinding mustard in a mixie usually produces a bitter paste. The trick is to let it stand for an hour or more so it is best to do this early. Or even make it and keep it in the refrigerator the previous day for later use though that tempers the sharpness (some people prefer that).

Mix the mustard paste and the kasundi with the prawns and mustard oil, add the coconut cream and necessary salt in a microwave proof bowl. Make sure it is well mixed. Let it stand for about ten minutes (the longer the better). Microwave on high for 3 minutes (longer will make the prawns rubbery). If you use more prawns, be sure to increase microwave time but not too much. You will need to experiment with your microwave but generally prawns cook very fast. In fact, if you have got it right, it should almost melt like butter.

Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and serve. What could be simpler!

If the mustard smell is too strong for you, replace the mustard oil with some other refined oil (sunflower, peanut ...).

Warning: Many people, particularly those from the South have a marked aversion to the smell of mustard. Don't try this recipe on them.

And here is my second recipe.

Patrani Macchi

This is my simplified Patrini Macchi, a popular Parsi dish. You will need to procure some banana leaves -- it is possible to use aluminum foil but the taste is not the same.

Pomfret fish -- 1/2 kilo whole with deep gashes made in the body (you can use seer/surmai but this is best made with white pomfret)
Pudina (spearmint) - 1 cup loosely packed
Coriander leaves -- 1/2 cup loosely packed
Whole Jeera (cumin) -- 2 tsp
Garlic -- 2 -3 pods depending on size
Ginger - one inch piece or so
Black pepper whole -- 1 tsp
Lemon juice - 2 tsp or vinegar
Green chilly - 2 medium sized
salt to taste
sugar - 1/2 tsp

Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees Celsius.

Wash the pomfret, smear with salt and a little bit of the lemon juice and keep aside for about half an hour, then wash it and pat it dry (this removes the fishy taste and smell).

While the pomfret is sitting, grind all the ingredients (pudina, coriander leaves, cumin, garlic, ginger, pepper, lemon juice, green chilly, salt, sugar) above in a mixie or blender to a fine paste. It should give out a heady smell of pudina, garlic and coriander leaves. Empty out the paste into a bowl, and mix with about 1/2 a tablespoon of oil. Cut the banana leaves into squares large enough to contain one piece of pomfret. Smear the dark green side of the banana leaf with a small bit of oil, place one piece of pomfret, wrap the sides of the banana leaf around it so that it is completely enclosed and tie it with string (it is possible in the wrapping to make a little pocket and tuck the ends of the leaf into it - then you don't need a string but you need to know how to do this which I can't explain here). Do this for all the pomfret pieces. Place them in an ovenproof casserole, and place it in the oven for about 40-45 minutes.

When you take it out, the banana leaf should have slightly charred or discoloured quite a bit. Open one packet gingerly and check if the fish is done, otherwise put it back for another 10 -- 15 minutes (this is very unlikely if your oven heats properly). Take all the pieces out and serve each packet as an individual serving (let your guest unravel the string). If some ignoramuses ask you if they should eat the 'leaf' keep mum -- they will figure it out soon enough!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Shukta is a quintessential Bengali dish that marks out a typical Bengali meal. It is often claimed that each Bengali family has its own unique recipe for Shukta. While this may be an exaggeration (the basic structure is similar across families), there are indeed many minor differences which are quite noticeable in its taste.

Shukta is presumably best described as a medley of vegetables. It is always had in the beginning of the meal, with rice, even before the dal (Bengalis eat sequentially -- dal, vegetables, fish, chicken, meat...) and is never eaten too hot. I was also told it is never eaten at night, though never the reason!

Here I give my aunt's recipe, handed down through my father, and transcribed from his handwritten recipe by my wife into our scrapbook.


A bunch of vegetables in small amounts, a handful each, of eggplant, potato, radish, bitter gourd (karela), green banana, flat beans adding up to about half a kilo. This set of vegetables can be changed, but the bitter gourd and green banana are usually considered essential. All vegetables are cut into bite sized pieces.
Oil 3 tbsp
Bay leaf 1 large
mustard seeds 2 tsp
ginger paste 2 or 3 tsp
red pepper 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste


In a kadai (wok) fry the vegetables separately in the oil, so that they are half cooked. The green banana should not be fried but peeled and cut and dropped into water along with some turmeric.
After the vegetables have been fried and taken out, in the same oil (add some more if it is too reduced) add mustard seeds and the bay leaf and wait for the seeds to sputter. Put the vegetables back as well as the green banana, the ginger paste, salt, turmeric and red pepper and fry for a short while so that the vegetables get cooked.
Usually water should not be added, but if you find the vegetables sticking to the vessel, add a teaspoonful of water at a time if needed. Make sure to add the eggplant last so that they do not get overcooked. Shut off the flame. In a small bowl add a little bit of milk, some water and some flour to form a thin paste and add it to the gravy to thicken it. Boil once and remove from the heat.

Variations: Use panch phoron instead of mustard seeds. Dissolve some mustard powder in water and add it at the end. Traditionally, shukta is made without turmeric but some families do add it, though personally I am against it since I think it changes the taste too drastically.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mutton with Mushrooms

This week's recipe violates my maxim of not just reproducing recipes from standard cookbooks. There is a reason for this. This recipe appears in Madhur Jaffrey's first cookbook -- An invitation to Indian Cooking written in the late 70s for American readers, giving detailed instructions on how to cook Indian food as well as tips for substitution for Indian ingredients that weren't easily available in the US in those days. It was a god-send for us graduate students in the US, since most of us had only the vaguest notions of cooking. Moreover this book appears to be out of print, at least in India, which is a pity because it has/had some excellent recipes. I choose one which I have unleashed on perhaps every guest who has visited us, with phenomenal success. Moreover it is extremely simple and uses totally non-standard spices for a meat dish.

Mutton 500 gm
Mushroom packet 1 (about 150 gm)
One large onion
Jeera seeds (cumin) 1 tsp
Methi seeds (fenugreek) 1 tsp
Kalongi (onion seeds) 1 tsp
Saunf (fennel seeds) 1 tsp
Red pepper to taste
Oil 3-4 tbsp
Yogurt 1 large cup beaten smooth

1. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker or pressure pan. Add the whole spices, jeera, methi, saunf and kalonji. Wait till
they splutter, add the mutton and fry well till it is browned. (Ideally if you have the time, fry the mutton separately and add it to the spluttering spice mix). Add the red pepper powder, fry for a couple of minutes to take off the raw powdery taste. Add about a cup of water, and salt, cover with the lid and cook under pressure for about 15 minutes or whenever the mutton is almost cooked.

2. Let the cooker cool, in the meantime wash and chop the mushrooms. If they are small, dice them otherwise quarter. In this recipe you can be thrifty and chop the stems too.
Open the cooker lid, add the mushroom to the mutton, and let this mixture boil together (without pressure!) for a few minutes. The mushrooms will tend to give out a lot of water so you need to reduce this. Hence it is best not to have too much water in the mutton to start with.

3. Chop the onion in thin slices and fry in oil till translucent but not brown. Drain and set aside. Once the mushroom and mutton are cooked and excess water boiled off, let it cool and add the beaten yogurt slowly. This part needs to be done carefully otherwise the yogurt will split. Two simple tricks are to make sure the mutton is not too hot and secondly, to mix a bit of the gravy into the beaten yogurt so that both come to a similar temperature. After the yogurt has been added and mixed together, put this whole combo on a very slow simmer to reduce the gravy to a thick consistency. This is a gravy dish but it should not have a watery gravy.

4. Finally add the fried onions to the dish mix together and serve hot. It's best eaten with rice though I suppose you could eat it with chapati. It's an ideal dish for many Westerners as well as people who cannot handle spicy food.

Bengalis will have noticed that the recipe uses four out of the five spices of panch phoron which is usually a no-no for meat dishes. However this recipe uses it in a very innovative way.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Legendary Cheese Cake

I am not sure why this is legendary but the original author called it thus and in deference to him I have kept the name. I am inaugurating my Recipe site with this for a reason. In the years when the internet was in its infancy and there was no web, there was the usenet -- a worldwide internet discussion system for different topics, where like-minded people could, you guessed it, have a discussion. The usenet closed down recently and so in it's memory, here is a recipe from 1986, posted by a Rob Pike of the equally defunct Bell Labs. It works very well, but you need cream cheese which is not easily available in India (except in speciality stores at inflated prices), so as a somewhat imperfect substitute I suggest chakka -- hung curd drained of all water but not to the point of dryness.



2 cups Graham cracker crumbs (you can even use Marie biscuits)
6 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp white sugar (not if you are using Marie biscuits)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


700 gm cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Combine crust ingredients. Press crust on bottom and sides of buttered 10" springform pan and bake 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

2. Bring cheese to room temperature and beat till soft. Add sugar and blend. Add beaten eggs slowly. When well mixed, mix in very slowly (to prevent splitting) lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Pour into pre-baked crust and bake 35 minutes.

3. Take it out and allow to cool on a rack.

4. Add toppings to taste -- thinly sliced strawberries arranged in a fan, or kiwi fruit or other soft fruits that can be thinly sliced for decoration. (Hard fruits like apples are not suited for this). Refrigerate.

Note: Good cheesecake does not require gelatin. Restaurants use it to guarantee the process of setting but those are short cuts of inferior cooks. Gelatin also makes the cake harder, making it loose that soft melt in the mouth character. Needless to say gelatin is very popular with Chennai restaurants.

Eggless cheesecake: How do you set it -- I haven't a clue and I don't want to know.