Shakshouka

I love Middle Eastern cuisine. Apart from being healthy, it also tastes very good, especially when the name sounds so good such as Shakshouka or Shakshuka. There is a certain ring to this word, like you feel this dish cannot go wrong, and you are right. This dish, apparently of Tunisian origin and quite popular across Middle East and some parts of Mediterranea, is very simple to make and makes a great pairing with warm pita bread, or even Indian naan or roti. The name comes from the Berber word 'Chakchouka' which means vegetable ragout. It later became very popular in Israel and they coined the term Shakshuka which means 'to shake things up'. The dish is spiciest version of poached eggs you will ever have, and oh, so yum.

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Ingredients Serves 2

Eggs- 4 Onion- 1 medium, sliced Thai green chillies- 6-7, depending on your desired spice level Bell pepper- 1, sliced Tomatoes- 4 medium, sliced Garlic- 2 tsps Cumin- 2 tsps Paprika- 1 tsp Oil- 1 tbsp Salt- to taste

To garnish

Red chilli flakes Cheddar cheese Parsley

Method

1. Heat up the oil and fry the onion till golden brown by constantly stirring. Now add the chillies and garlic, stir constantly for around 2 minutes.

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2. Add the cumin and paprika and mix well till the raw smell goes away.

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3. Now add the cut bell peppers, mix well.

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4. In a bowl, mash the tomatoes slightly with the back of your ladle and add this to the skillet. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Take care not to add too much since the tomato has a lot of water too.

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5. Let this cook for about 5 minutes. With the back of your ladle, make 4 dents in this mixture where you can drop the eggs. Crack open the eggs into these dents. Cover the sides of the egg with some of the mixture.

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6. Let this cook for about 5 minutes or so. You can cover the skillet and cook. Garnish with red chilli flakes, cheddar cheese and some parsley.

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Serve hot with warm pita bread. You can also serve this with a side of fresh home made hummus.

Easy chilli paneer frankie

The weather has been playing havoc in Los Angeles. After weeks of sunshine and really good weather, this morning I woke up to some gloomy, moody weather. You know the days when you want to curl up in bed, watch a couple of episodes of your favorite TV show, and drink some hot coffee. Such days for me are the days I miss my comfort food. These are generally comprised of Indian street food, ranging from samosas, chaat, vada pav, to my all time favorite dosas and coconut chutney. Today I decided to experiment making some chilli paneer frankies. I've always wondered about the origin of the word "frankie" for this famous Indian street food. Popularly known as 'Kati roll'  in Kolkata, this form of paratha or roti wrapped in different kinds of meat or vegetables with spices originated in 1932 at Nizam hotel (Hogg Street, New Market, Kolkata), a popular eating joint for the British babus. The original Kati roll was made with kati kebab rolled up in a paratha. This kind of roll had its origin in Mughlai traditions, heavily influenced by Central Asian cuisine, particularly Afghani cuisine which had a tradition of making meat wraps with Afghani bread or Naan-e-Afghani. The roots of the Mughals in Kolkata (then called Bengal) can be traced back to 12th century when Bakhtiyar Khilji a military general in King Qutub-ud-din Aybak's regime conquered Bengal and other parts of Eastern India, thus spreading Islamic rule to these parts of the country. The Kati roll must have began as an Indian version of a wrap commonly found in Central Asian cuisine (modern day döner kebab). 

Now you must be wondering what is the connection between a 'Kati roll' and a 'Frankie'. Well, they are essentially the same except, according to me, the paratha in the Kati roll is first partly fried in oil on a tawa and then cooked with an egg. This egg is broken onto the tawa, and the semi-cooked paratha is cooked on it. Hence one side of the paratha gets coated with the egg. In a frankie, the egg is mostly avoided. However, there is also another story for the origin of the frankie. This version appeared first in 1967 in Mumbai (then Bombay), in the Western part of India, when Amarjit Tibbs an Indian businessman returned back to India after being sent to London on some work. He stopped over at Beirut, Lebanon where he encountered the Wimpy's burger. According to Mr. Tibbs, a frankie is a mix between the German Frankfurter, a British Wimpy's beef burger and a Beirut boti kebab. The name 'frankie' is supposed to be based on his favorite cricketer Frank Worrell who passed away in 1967. It could also have been a short form of the German Frankfurter.

Today, the Kati roll or Frankie has become a popular food item with many variations and innovative fillings. My favorite version of this is made with paneer. You can try different fillings too, scrambled eggs, spicy potatoes, cauliflower etc. The idea is to innovate and come up with something sumptuous.

Easy chilli paneer frankie Serves 2

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Ingredients

Roti/Paratha-- 4 (I used roti bought from the Indian store. It's called 'desi roti' and comes in packets of 12 available for $2.99) Paneer- 1, chopped Onion - 1 medium, chopped Tomato- 1 medium, chopped Bell pepper- 1 medium, chopped Thai green chillies- 4, chopped Cilantro- a bunch, chopped Oil- 2 tbsp Chilli sauce- 2 tbsp Jalapeño sauce- 2 tbsp Soya sauce- 2 tbsp Ketchup- 2 tbsp Salt- to taste

Method

1. Finely chop the onion, tomato, bell pepper, chillies, and cilantro and keep aside.

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2. This is the easy version of making chilly paneer, so you need atleast 3 sauces- soya sauce, chilli sauce, and spicy jalapeño sauce. Ketchup is optional. If you use tomatoes, you can avoid the ketchup. If you want it only mildly spicy, you can add both tomatoes and ketchup.

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3. Heat up oil. Add in onions. Fry till they are translucent. Add in chillies, bell peppers. Saute for 2 minutes and add the tomatoes. Next add in the cilantro. When the tomato gets all mushy, add in the sauces and saute till the mixture becomes dry. Chop up the paneer into smaller pieces and mix it into the mixture. Add salt. Simmer on fire for about 5 minutes and keep aside.

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4. Heat up the rotis on a hot griddle. Keep aside.

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5. For garnishing, chop up some onions and grate some parmesan or cheddar cheese. This is optional. You can also optional use chopped chilli pieces.

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6. Now to make the frankie. On a roti, spread the chilli paneer mixture in the middle. Garnish with onions and cheese. Roll it up from side to side. Cover it up in tissue or cellophane foil. Yummy frankies are now ready!

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Serve this hot with some piping hot Indian masala tea. Perfect for a cloudy and gloomy day!

Vegetarian Burrito!!

I seem to be on a burrito trippage. S really loves Mexican food. He starts drooling over nachos and ahem, subway :) So, I do try to make Mexican food time and again. I love making nachos. They are so healthy when you make them at home by substituting all the right ingredients. But today, I decided to make a burrito which I've been wanting to make for a while now. You will probably have some, if not most of the items lying around in your fridge, and hey! the best part about the burrito is, if you don't have an item which I'm going to say you need, you can just skip it! Really all you need for a burrito is some tortillas, beans and some kind of filling. Here is a way to make the burrito a little bit more interesting! Ingredients Serves 2

Tortilla- 6 numbers Refried beans- 1 can (vegetarians: make sure the beans is not cooked in pork broth) Vegetable broth- 1/2 cup Hot sauce- 2 tsp Lemon- 1 Cumin- 1 tsp Minced garlic- 1 tsp Onion- 1 diced Tomato- 1 diced Jalapenos- 2 diced Cilantro- a bunch, chopped Avocado- 2 Cheese- to garnish (I used cheddar, you can use feta as well) Olives stuffed with pimiento- about 10, chopped Salt

Optional Sour cream Romaine lettuce

Method

1. Chop onions, jalapenos, and tomato. First, we will make the guacamole. Take half of the chopped onions, half of the jalapenos, mix them together in a bowl, squeeze the lemon juice over them, season with salt and keep aside.

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2. Next up, we'll make the refried beans sauce. In a pot, add the refried beans, veggie broth, hot saunce, and cumin powder. Let this warm up on Medium-low. This should take about ten minutes, the same time as the step 1 should take.  I used:

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3. Now, we will make the salsa. This one is simple. Take the other half of the chopped onions, jalapenos, the diced tomatoes. Mix them up. Add chopped cilantro. Season with salt.

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4. Next up, heating up the tortillas. Heat up a skillet, put the tortilla on it. It should take about a minute for each side to get warmed up.

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5. Now, add the ripe avocados to the guacamole, and mash it all together. My avocados weren't so ripe (I probably put them in the fridge, which I shouldn't have!), but the riper, the better. Chop up the olives and keep aside.

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6. Yippie! now it is time to make the burrito. Take a tortilla, spread the refried beans sauce in the center. Sprinkle cheese on top. Top up with guacamole, then salsa. Now, if using the romaine lettuce and sour cream, add those. Then, garnish with chopped olives. Roll it up, munch away.

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Wash it all away with a glass of Pinot grigio or merlot! Cheers!

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Okra Broccoli stir fry

Two of my friends came over to chit chat and we got talking about this blog. They are both working professionals and after a long day's work, they don't have much time to come home and cook elaborately. This is when quick and easy dinners are handy. I normally whip up some easy vegetable stir fry and eat it with rice and yogurt. This is one such recipe I love making. You should try it too, especially if you want to cook something so delicious in a short time. Recipe: Okra Broccoli  stir fry Serves 4

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Ingredients

Okra- 1 cup Broccoli- 1 cup Pearl onion- 5 nos (if you don't have pearl onion, use red onion- 1/4 cup) Green chillies- 2 Mustard seeds- 1 tsp Turmeric powder- 1 tsp Red chilli powder- 1 tsp Coriander powder- 1 tsp Asafoetida- a pinch Curry leaf- a few (optional) Salt- to taste Oil- 2 tsp

Method

1. Clean and cut the okra into small, round pieces. Clean broccoli, cut off the stem, and mix the okra and broccoli together and keep aside. photo

2. Dice the pearl onions into small pieces.

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3. Heat oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and wait for it to splutter. Then add the onions, green chillies and saute. Now add the curry leaf (if using). Add in turmeric, red chilli and coriander powder. Add asafoetida. Saute till the raw smell is gone. Now add in the okra and broccoli and mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes. Okra broccoli fry is now ready! Serve hot with rice and yogurt.

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Kotthu roti

There are days when you still want to eat healthy but you are just too tired to spend more than ten minutes making dinner. Today was one such day. That's when I decided to make 'Kotthu roti'. There are different avatars of this dish which originated among the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. The one I made today is the simplest of all. photo (8)

Recipe: Kotthu roti

Ingredients Serves 2

Roti                   6 numbers Onion               1 cup Green chilli    2-3 Eggs                  3 Minced garlic 1 tsp Oil                       1 tbsp Curry leaf        1 sprig Red chilli         2-3 Salt

Method

1. Make the rotis on a flat skillet.

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Once you are done with the 6 rotis, stack them up and cut them into thin, long strips.

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2. In a saucepan, heat oil and add the onions and green chillies.

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3. Once the onions begin to brown, add the curry leaf, red chilli, and minced garlic.

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4. Saute for a couple of minutes, and add the eggs.

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5. Scramble them, add the roti and mix well. Add in salt.

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This dish can be served as a tea time snack, or as a light dinner along with a red kidney bean curry as accompaniment.