Surkh Tandoori Aloo


Aloo or potato is a perfect addition to most meals. The perfect potato in this case is a baby yellow gold ,they are so creamy and melt in your mouth,which is great considering the spice used here is a blend available in most Indian stores called Kashmiri red chili paste ,it is hot,spicy and delicious. Once again this dish is prepared in a tandoor or placed in an oven to roast.

20 baby Yukon gold potatoes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus for deep-frying

1/2 cup plain Greek yoghurt

2 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili paste

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 tsp roasted ground cumin

4 tablespoons gram flour

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Heat plenty of oil in a pan and deep fry the potatoes till they are half-cooked. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside.

Place the yogurt in a bowl. Add ginger and garlic paste ,chili paste,dry spices,salt lemon juice, oil and gram flour.Mix well.

Add the fried potatoes to the marinade and stir gently. Set aside, refrigerated for about 1 hour.

Thread the potatoes a little apart onto skewers  and roast in a preheated 400*F for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Serve hot

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Hara Bhara Paneer Tikka


On a very recent visit to India I was enticed by all the tandoor cooking. Tandoor is a special oven mostly found in Indian restaurants,it gives a moist baked flavor to foods prepared in it including several Indian specialty breads. Paneer is an Indian cheese much like ricotta ,but compressed to remove all moisture and form into a cake. In this very flavorful recipe it is combined with yoghurt ,spices and herbs ….delicious!

1/2 lb Paneer,cut into 1  1/2 inch squares

1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and roughly chopped

1 bunch fresh mint, washed and roughly chopped

2 to 4 green Serrano chilis, washed and roughly chopped

5 to 10 garlic cloves,peeled

1 cup Greek yoghurt

3 tbsp Gram flour

salt to taste

1 tsp Chaat masala

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Grind cilantro, mint, green chilis and garlic to a paste. Scoop into a bowl and stir in yoghurt, spices, salt and lemon juice.

Stir in the oil and cubed paneer so that the paneer is well coated. Refrigerate and marinate for about half an hour.

Heat a pan. Cook the paneer pieces on a moderate flame turning frequently  until evenly cooked on all sides , about 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve hot with onion rings and lemon wedges

Eggless pistachio Apricot thumbprint cookies


The visual impression of the cookies is just beautiful.The soft green from the pistachios imbedded in the cookies peeps out from the sugar rolled cookies,then filled with the pale orange of the apricot jam. I used a little almond extract and ginger to flavor these cookies plus light brown sugar for a slightly chewier cookie .These cookies travel well so they make ideal gifts to pack and send for the holidays or even mail to friends.Nothing beats a home-made cookie.

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp rice flour

1/2 cup roasted,salted pistachio nuts chopped

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 sticks ( 1/2 cup unsalted butter)

3/4 cup light brown sugar

Sugar for rolling cookies in.

Apricot jam for filling

Preheat oven to 350*F and line 2 baking pans with parchment paper. Set aside

Cream butter and light brown sugar just until combined.

Sift flour,salt and ginger,set aside.

Add almond extract to creamed butter sugar.

Stir in flour mixture followed by chopped nuts. Stir just to combine.

Using a tablespoon measure out 1 tablespoon of batter and roll into balls.Complete this with all the dough. Roll each ball in granulated sugar and place on the baking sheet.

Use your thumb or the back of a wooden spoon to make holes in the cookies,careful not to dip to the bottom of the cookie. Fill each hole with the jam and place in the preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes until golden.

Cool.Serve

Thai vegan green curry


Of all the Thai coconut based curries,Green is my favorite. It is spicy but not explosive as the paste is made with green chilis as opposed to red which  is a really acquired taste. I often buy a can of Maseri brand paste which does not contain any shrimp paste typically contained in store-bought pastes. Any number of vegetables can be added to the curry and it goes surprisingly well with green vegetables such as snow peas,peas or green beans. For protein I often add firm tofu or mock duck. In Thailand the curry is either served alongside Jasmin rice or hot Indian bread called rotis.

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

Serves 4

1 can Green curry paste or 3 tbsp home-made curry paste

2 cups coconut milk

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1/3 cup vegetable stock

1 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar

2 cups cooked vegetables of your choice,such as green beans,mushrooms,baby corn,snow peas etc

1 block firm tofu, drained,dried and cut into cubes

6 kaffir lime leaves

1/4 cup fresh Asian basil,torn

Heat a wok and add in 2 tbsp of thick coconut cream.Allow the cream to heat and add the curry paste.Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes,stirring. Add in the rest of the coconut milk, the stock, soy sauce and sugar. Allow to come to a simmer while you add in the torn kaffir lime leaves.Stir well and allow to simmer (DO NOT BOIL) for about 5 minutes.

Gently stir in the vegetables and tofu. Simmer 2 minutes ,more.

Check for seasoning and adjust.

Pour into serving bowl and garnish with basil.Serve with a bowl of steamed Jasmin rice or hot Indian Chapatis.

Almond Orange flower water cookies


Almonds are my most beloved nut ever,I would add it to everything if my family allowed. I love it in salads and pasta and of course couscous,to name a few,but,as often as possible in my desserts. Perhaps it is the Maltese upbringing where all the best cookies and cakes contain almonds or thanks to my aunt in Morocco who sent me the most sublime cookies, made with,of course,Almonds!!! it is that recollection that prompted me to add the orange flower water (available at most Middle Eastern stores) . However in the absence just add the zest of one large orange as opposed to a medium one. These are buttery,light cookies to enjoy with a steaming cup of coffee or tea or…just on their own.

Makes 45

Photograph by rahul Mahtani

Preheat oven to 325*F and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.Set aside.

3  1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup Rice flour

1/2 cup toasted blanched almonds,ground

1/4 tsp table salt

3/4 cup superfine sugar plus more for sprinkling

3 sticks unsalted butter,room temperature

Zest of 1 medium orange

2 tablespoons Orange flower water

1 tsp vanilla extract

A few tablespoons of toasted blanched almonds for topping cookies

Sift flour, rice flour, almond flour and salt together. Add salt and orange zest.Stir to combine. set aside.

In a stand mixer cream butter for a few minutes to aerate and butter turns light and pale ( about 3 minutes). With mixer on medium speed start to pour in slowly the sugar so the butter fully absorbs the sugar. Continue to mix for an extra minute. Add orange flower water and vanilla extract.Stir just to combine.

Turn speed to the lowest setting. Start to add the flour mixture slowly,but just to combine.Do not over mix or the cookies will be tough.

Roll the dough out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out desired shapes and place on prepared baking sheets.

Sprinkle on nuts and sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes per sheet until pale golden. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container.

Eggless Pasta Frolla with almond filling


Having just returned from Malta has left me salivating for many of the local foods and confections of the beautiful island. While visiting I often dine al fresco in Cafe Cordina,one of the premier cafe in the capital,Valletta. They serve some of the finest pastries I have tasted. Malta is famous for pastry and cookies containing ground almonds. They serve a “bar” cookie called simply Pasta Frolla,generally referring to the type of shortbread pastry,but this one has an almond filling,or frangipani. This is my version of that amazing cookie,so very dear to my heart.

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

Makes one 9×13 sheet

PASTRY

2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter,at room temperature

1/3 cup superfine sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 tablespoons heavy cream plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce.

Sift flour and salt,set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add extracts and mix to combine. Slowly add in the cream applesauce mixture. Scape down bowl.

With mixer on lowest setting start to fold in flour salt mixture. Fold,just until combined.DO NOT OVER MIX or dough will turn heavy .

Scrape dough onto a piece of parchment paper and flatten into 2 disks. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

FILLING

8 oz toasted blanched almonds,ground finely.

1/2 cup superfine sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

zest of 1 orange

1/4 tsp salt

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Combine all ingredients till well combined. Set aside.

Assemble

Preheat oven to 350*F

Roll 1 disk of dough thinly to fit a 9 by 13 baking pan with removable bottom. Line pan with cookie dough.

Pour over and spread the almond paste. Leave a 1/4 inch border filling free all around the perimeter.

Roll out the second disk of dough and place on top of filling. Press to seal edges. Dock top with fork and sprinkle on some granulated sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden. Place on cooling rack until completely cooled before cutting into bars.

Kashmiri Dum aloo


There are very few Indian dishes,specifically North Indian dishes,my son Ashish loves. He used to call it indian stuffed potato in gravy and promptly remove the filling. i prepare these at home in the simplest way,no filling,and serve them with store-bought Garlic Naan,a treat my whole family enjoys!!!

1 lb baby potatoes,boiled till just done and peeled.

1 onion,finely chopped

2 tomatoes,peeled

2 green chilis,minced

1 inch piece fresh ginger,grated

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander ground

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 cup heavy cream

10 cashews ground with 4 cardamom pods

chopped fresh cilantro,for garnish

Mix the tomatoes,green chilis and ginger together,set aside.

Heat a saute pan and add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to heat. Prick the peeled potatoes all over with a fork (this helps the sauce to cook into the potato better). Place the potatoes in the hot pan and season with salt.Allow the potatoes to get a golden brown color and crisp up a little. Remove the potatoes to a plate and keep aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan and stir in the cumin seeds,allow them to sputter,stir in the onion. Cook for 4 to 7 minutes over medium heat until onions are wilted and cooked. Add the tomato mixture and cook for a further 5 minutes on a medium heat. Stir in the ground coriander and turmeric,season with salt.

Stir in the ground cashew/cardamom into the cooked sauce. Stir for a further 2 minutes.Stir in the heavy cream and 1 cup of water to achieve a thick gravy.

Stir in the reserved cooked potatoes and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garam masala and top with chopped cilantro.

Serve