Red Curry Bolognese

This time we’ll take a short break from Indian cooking and visit some other Asian cuisines – the Thai cuisine. One of the best things in Thai cuisine are the hot and fragrant curry paste with which you can super quickly make a hearty and satisfying meal. It’s possible and actually pretty easy to make those pastes at home but the store bought ones are really great so no need to make the effort. Today you can easily find in the “Asian” section of any market store the yellow, green and red curry pastes.

But wait a minute.. isn’t curry an Indian thing?! Apparently no, there is an Indian curry and Thai curry on those or two completely different things. The Thai curry is a paste based on fresh chili, lemon grass, ginger (or galnagal), garlic, shallots and sometimes also shrimp paste. To all of this goodness you add some cumin seeds, coriander and turmeric. The traditional preparation is done in a mortar and pestle. The Indian curry is the name of a mix of dry spices which are roasted in a pan and grounded to a dry powder. There are infinite versions for Indian curry mixtures while most of them are based on some ratio of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric, fenugreek seeds and dried red chili.

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Hariyali aloo – Cilantro & mint potato curry

Cilantro. Either you love it or you hate it. I’m from the loving side and I tend to add some fresh cilantro leaves to just any type of food. Sadly, in the Israeli kitchen cilantro is kind of left out and parsley gets all the fame. The Thai cooking trend saved the situation a bit but still it is one of the most underrated greens.

In Indian cooking its quite the opposite, both cilantro leaves and coriander seeds are central to lots of dishes and spice mixes. This curry is called in Hindi “Hariyali Aloo” which practically means green potato. This curry is based on lots of cilantro and mint which are blended together with spices and cooked with potato cubes. The potato cubes in this recipe can be replaced with paneer cubes or chicken breast pieces.

The end result is slightly sour and has a special taste. It is served with rice or some Indian bread and is a great side-dish in a Thali.

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Lazy chocolate truffles

Making sweet dishes isn’t that simple in our home. Although I love all types of sweet things, mainly the chocolaty ones, my partner is extra picky when it comes to sweets. I usually go back to the same old cookies that were tried successfully or to the cheese cake that somehow passed the impossibly high bar. But sometimes I do want to explore and try new sweet things so usually they’ll be small and easy, so it will make sense to make them just for myself.

I firstly encountered the following recipe in some comment in Facebook but since I’ve seen it all over the net in various blogs and pages (here for example). It is practically based on two ingredients – chocolate and some fatty ingredient like tahinni, peanut butter or even almond butter. It might even work with other “butters” made from nuts or with coconut oil. This simple combination of two ingredients magically creates impressive and tasty truffles with just 5 minutes work.

There are infinite variations to this recipe, you can keep it simple and not add anything or add any type of spice you like and/or any type of nuts, whole or chopped. It can be coated with coconut shavings or cocoa powder if you want the sophisticated look. Details and some more ideas below.

The truffles are stored in the freezer, a fact that allows you to prepare a large amount in advance and eat whenever you feel like it or serve for surprise guests.

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Paneer Makhani – Paneer Butter Masala

One of the dishes that drawn me to Indian food is the curry. Rich and creamy curry, full of spices and little sweet that is cooked with paneer cheese or chicken – this dish is definitely high on my most loved foods list. However, for years I tried over and over to recreate those restaurant style curry dishes and failed miserably. Something in the texture and spice balance just didn’t work.

Lately something clicked and I suddenly got it right! The curry magic started happening in my very own kitchen 🙂 Apparently the amount of cashews plays a big role, the quality of the blander is also critical and surprisingly the curry is better with bought tomato puree instead of fresh tomatoes.

This recipe is for a curry dish called “Panir Makhani” or “Paneer Butter Masala” and it is practically a reach, buttery, spicy and sweet sauce to which you add paneer cubes or chicken pieces (or even tofu – details below). It is served with white rice or Indian bread like Nan or Roti. In the original version you’ll find much more butter but after some trial and error I arrived at the conclusion that it is completely unnecessary and it is tastier when you just add more cashew nuts (or almonds).

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Bella’s Chrein

My family isn’t really close to the Jewish traditions. We don’t celebrate most of the holidays and the various Jewish customs aren’t really present in our lives. However there were always two holidays that are celebrated in a large and festive meals – Rosh HaShana and Passover Seder. For every such event my grandma prepares a very specific menu that includes chicken soup with Kneidlach (Matzah balls), Gefilte fish and Chrein, all hand made from scratch. In Passover the menu include also Charoset and rice with surprises.

If there is a dish in the world that I would never eat it is Gefilte fish… but Chrein is a different story. Every Seder I find myself drawn to this super hot and totally addictive spread and eat lots of it on top of a Matzah. You can’t compare store bough Chrein with the home made one, the taste is different but the main differentiation is the extreme and magical pungency of the home made version. The type of pungency that goes up to the forehead and down to the nose opening all your Chakras 🙂

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Gulab Jamun

The most well known dessert of Indian cuisine is called Gulab Jamun. The word “Gulab” means rose water while “Jamun” is some Indian fruit that has a shape similar to the Gulab Jamun balls. But why rose water? the sugar syrup in which the balls or soaked includes rose water and gives the Gulab Jamuns their unique flavor.

Like many other Indian desserts Gulab Jamun is based mainly on milk. Milk?! yep, apparently there is a tedious procedure in which you place milk in a pot and cook it while stirring for eternity and a little more and at the end the milk suddenly solidifies and turns into a dough. This weird but tasty dough is called Khoya (or Khoa) and it’s a great base for various sweets. In India you can buy Khoya in any supermarket and maybe you can find it in Indian grocery shops outside of India. However, if you can’t buy it you can make it at home, but in my opinion this is only for brave cooks since you really have to keep stirring milk for a very long time.

Sounds complicated? don’t worry! There is a simple and fun alternative 🙂 A very common and quick version for Gulab Jamun is one that is based on “milk powder”. This product is practically milk that is dried and than processed to a powder. You can buy it in Indian grocery shops but it can also be founds in other ethnic kitchens (Arab, Russian and more) so it is pretty easy to come across. Although the Khoya version is the best version for Gulab Jamun the powder milk version is really good – the balls turn out a little more dense and smoother outside and they require longer soaking time in the sugar syrup.

In both versions the end result is very sweet, soft with roses and cardamon aroma. This is a great desert that you eat in small doses and it fits beautifully with a cup of tea or black coffee. Think of Baklava but Indian and special.

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Onion Pakora

Fried, hot and crunchy is probably enough to make anyone happy, even someone who is vegan + non-gluten. Just be careful not to prepare that when you’re alone at home since you might end up eating too much and being completely full for the coming two days…

Onion Pakora (also known as Onion Bhaji) is an onion patty with chickpea flour and spices that is deep fried and served with various chutneys as an appetizer. In general, Pakoras are made of one or two main ingredients like onion, capsicum, eggplant, potato, spinach, paneer, cauliflower, chili etc. which is dipped in a chickpea flour and spices mixture and then deep fried.

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Lemon rice

Despite my apparent liking of spicy and hot food I usually don’t like to change anything in rice – white rice is just perfect as it is and there is really nothing better to accompany and tone down my adventurous kitchen experiments. However, rice is one of the main players in Indian cuisine and a lot of times it appears not just as a side dish but as the main course.

Rice as main course has endless amount of versions – rice with varying spices, Biryani and many more. The most common rice dish in south India is lemon rice full of crunchy surprises.

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Paneer Cheese

Am I really suggesting to make cheese at home?! Apparently it is much more simple than it sounds. Paneer, the most common cheese in Indian cuisine is prepared from only two ingredients. Paneer comes in two versions – firm Paneer and soft Paneer. The soft Paneer is less known outside of India but it is very common in Indian cooking both in spicy dishes, patties and even in deserts. This soft version is actually identical to Ricotta cheese… yep, making Ricotta cheese at home is easy peasy!

In many places you can find fresh Paneer cheese (usually the firm version) in any supermarket. In Israel that is not the case and the only option I found is to buy frozen and somewhat depressing Paneer cubes in the few Indian grocery shops here. But no worries! making Paneer at home is such a simple process that doesn’t require and special skills or dishes and is so satisfying 🙂 You can also make a large amount and freeze for a two-three months.

The Paneer cubes can be added to any dish with/without gravy, to a stir fry or even grilled on skewers. It has a neutral milky taste and a fun bite-able texture.

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Aloo Tikki – Indian potato patties

Everyone have their own weird internet hobbies. Mine is viewing funny videos in YouTube of Indian grandmas making all kinds of weird and intriguing dishes. Those videos are usually in Hindi or some other Indian language and it took me quite some time to be able to understand the recipe without understanding the language.

Lately I’ve encountered somethings called “Ragda Patties”, which is a Chaat dish based on potato patties covered with a full-of-spices chickpeas curry, topped with yogurt, fresh tomatoes, onion, more spices and chutneys. A magnificent feast indeed. This dish will definitely be unraveled one day but in the meantime I decide to start with something less ambitious – the potato patties (= Aloo Tikki).

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