Chilli Chicken Gravy

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Chilli chicken, what can I say about it. It tops my favorites list, especially this version of it. As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, Indo Chinese is my favorite cuisine and for the same reason, I am very particular about how it tastes. I miss the kind of variety of Indo Chinese dishes we get in India. I haven’t found a restaurant here that serves good Indo Chinese food.

Some of the these dishes that has sweet, hot and sour taste, can be really tricky. They would taste awesome with the perfect proportions and awful if the proportions go wrong. For me, Indo Chinese and Chat varieties fall in that category. That’s my problem with these restaurants. Somehow, the proportions don’t go with my liking. The problem with most restaurants is that they make the dishes more sweet. I am a person who can manage more hot or sour taste but I totally dislike when the dish/main course is sweet.

This is my mom’s version of Chilli Chicken which has been a hit in our family and also among my friends. When I go home for vacation and return to the hostel, my friends would wait for me to get my mom’s chilli chicken and tomato rice. The combination might not sound very appetizing, but trust me, we all used to just dig in and end up licking our fingers, still wanting for more 😛

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Chicken – 300 gm
Bell pepper/Capsicum – 1 no, chopped
Onion – 1 no, chopped
Garlic – 10 pods, minced
Green chilli – 1 no
Soy sauce – 1/2 tsp
Chilli garlic sauce – 1 tbsp
Vinegar – 1/4 tsp
Ajinomotto – 2 pinches
Ground black pepper – 1/4 tsp
Cornflour – 1 heaped tsp(optional)
Oil – 5 tbsp
Salt – to taste (1/2 tsp)
Red color – 2 pinches
Coriander leaves – 5 stands(optional)
Green onion – 2 nos

To cook chicken:
Soy Sauce – 1 tsp
Vinegar – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1/2 tsp)
Water – apprx. 1/4 cup

METHOD:

1. In a saucepan, boil and cook the chicken with some soy sauce, vinegar and salt. Cook covered and add water as required. Measurement given under ‘To cook chicken’ section.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan. Fry the minced garlic till its turn light brown. Strain the extra oil and keep the fried garlic aside(on a kitchen towel for the oil to drain fully).
3. Now fry the chopped bell pepper/capsicum till it turn crisp and light brown. Strain the extra oil and keep the fried bell pepper aside(on a kitchen towel for the oil to drain fully).
4. Now in the same pan, fry chopped onion. Let it cook till it becomes light brown. To this, add the fried garlic and bell pepper(that was kept aside).
5. Add red chilli powder(optional), green chilli, salt and ajinomotto and saute well.
6. Add cooked chicken along with the stock and stir well.
7. When the stock starts to dry up, add the hot sauce(Chilli garlic sauce), vinegar and food color(mixed in 1/4 cup water) and mix well.
8. Once the sauces evenly cover the pieces, add ground black pepper. Also, add water if you want gravy.
9. If you want the sauce to be thick, mix cornflour in 1/4 cup water and mix it to the chilly chicken. (I avoided step 9 since I din’t want a thick sauce.)
10. Let it boil and when it reaches the right consistency, remove from burner.
11. Garnish with chopped green onion/chives or coriander leaves.

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Schezwan Veg Fried rice

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Indo-Chinese is one of my favourite cuisines. As much as it is available in India, so much is it scarce here in US. There are couple of restaurants here and there, but it doesn’t come even close to the ‘Chinese’ we get in India. Usually we call Indo-chinese as ‘Chinese’ in India. So I was always under the impression that, what we get in India as Chinese, is what is authentic Chinese food 😛 I know! I was sooo ignorant!!! So when I came to US, one day my colleagues were discussing about where to go for lunch. So when someone suggested Chinese, I immediately supported him 😛 and so we went to a good Chinese restaurant. To my surprise, I didn’t find any of our ‘Chinese cuisine’ dishes in the menu. Chilli chicken, Chicken manchurian, Schezwan fried rice!!! I was so disappointed, but more than my disappointment, I was confused 😀

After talking and discussing with couple of my Chinese colleagues, I came to realize the hard fact that Indo-Chinese is just a creation of us Indians or Chinese who lived in India 😉 Atleast all the dishes I mentioned, weren’t even in their dictionary, let apart it being in their menu 😛 Haha..It was a big realization that Indo Chinese is just a cuisine that came up when apparently some Chinese living in India, used some of their ingredients/spices and adapted it to Indian cooking techniques. What a find!!! 🙂 I am glad we have this amazing cuisine today.

Unfortunately or fortunately, whenever I have Indo -Chinese food craving, I have to think of making it myself. But having said that, it is really simple if you have some of these ingredients handy. Usually, whenever you make Indo-Chinese, it turns out pretty good. So I keep making it and enjoy it each time 😛

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is rice cup, 1 cup = 180 ml

Garlic – 6-7 pods
Ginger – 1 inch size
Dry red chilli – 4 no(s)
Basmati Rice – 2 cups
Red bell pepper – 1/2 no, chopped
Green bell pepper – 1/2 no, chopped
Green peas – 1/2 cup
Carrot – 1/2 cup, chopped
Green onion – 4 strands, chopped
Onion – 1 small no(s)
Soy Sauce – 1 tbsp
Vinegar – 2 tsp
Chilli garlic sauce – 1.5 tbsp
Ajinomotto – 2 pinches
Ground black pepper – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – 5 tbsp

METHOD:

1. Soak the ginger, garlic and dry red chillies in water for an hour and grind it into a smooth paste.
2. Wash the rice and soak for 10 mins. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the rice for few mins(The color of the rice will become more solid white).
3. Cook the rice in cooker/rice cooker or any other preferred way. Keep aside.
4. Heat remaining oil in a pan and put ground ginger-garlic-dry red chilli paste.
5. Saute till the raw smell of the ginger and garlic goes off. Then put onion and cook till onions turn pink.
6. Put all vegetables(green peas, carrot, red bell pepper and green bell pepper). Saute till the vegetables cook through.
7. Then put ajinomotto, ground black pepper, soy sauce, chilli garlic sauce, vinegar and green onion.
8. Saute for few mins till the sauces mix well with the vegetables.
9. Mix cooked rice with the vegetable mix and give a good mix. Remove from heat.

Serve with chilli-vinegar and manchurian 🙂

Thai Yellow Curry-Shrimp

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I have found Thai cuisine to be very similar to our Kerala cuisine. It could be the usage of coconut milk and spicy green chillies that establishes the connection for me. Having said that, there are lot of differences too. For instance, the kind of rice used is so different that the taste changes drastically even if you have it with the same curry.

This yellow curry is very easy and is very close to the authentic Thai yellow curry. However there could be variation in the taste. What I liked the best in this curry is that fresh taste out of a shrimp curry. We rarely use celery, asparagus or basil leaves in our preparation. The flavors that these vegetables add is so distinct, that you would really enjoy the ‘NEW’ curry that you experimented.

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INGREDIENTS:

Shrimp – 10 nos
Capsicum/Bell pepper – 1/2
Onion – 1/2
Celery(sliced) – 1/4 cup
Asparagus – 2 stems
Basil leaves – 2 strands
Coriander leaves(optional if using basil leaves) – 2 strands
Ginger Garlic paste – 1/2 tsp
Green chilli – 2 nos
Tomato – 1/2 of a medium sized one
Coconut milk – 1/3 cup
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Curry powder – 3/4 tsp OR use the following optional ingredients
Salt – to taste (apprx. over 1/2 tsp)

Optional Ingredients(If not using curry powder):
Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Garam masala – 1/4 tsp

METHOD:

1. Clean and wash the shrimp and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add sliced onion and ginger garlic paste. Once the rawness of ginger garlic paste goes off, add sliced green chilli, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, curry powder(or the spices under ‘Optional Ingredients’ section).
3. Saute it for a min or two. Then add sliced tomato. Cook till tomato is done well.
4. Chop asparagus into 3 inch long pieces and add it to the pan. Let it cook for 4-5 mins.
5. Add sliced bell pepper/capsicum, celery and basil leaves. Saute and cook in medium heat for few mins. The vegetables shouldn’t get fully cooked. It should have a crunch.
6. Add the shrimp and salt and saute till it turns light pink.
7. Now add water(about 2 cups) and let it boil. Once it boils, add coconut milk and stir well.
8. Once it boils, remove from heat and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Serve with rice and hot sauce.

NOTE: Usually I put the salt along with onions. But here if you notice, I have put the salt along with shrimp. The reason is simple. Salt will take out the moisture from onion and the vegetables quickly and leave it soft whereas for this recipe, you want the vegetables to have a crunch and not get fully cooked and soft.

Chicken/Paneer Pesto pizza(Whole wheat pizza dough)

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Pizza..and does anyone really care to make it at home?? Oh well, let me start explaining the reasons to make pizza at home. All the pizza base that we get in stores, in restaurants etc. are all made of all-purpose flour. Now if you don’t know already, all-purpose flour is not one of the healthiest options. So that’s the first and foremost reason to try this whole wheat flour pizza. Even if you find a recipe which claims to be whole wheat dough, its usually not 100% whole wheat pizza dough. I am sharing 100% whole wheat dough recipe 😛 Then comes all the other reasons which are my main reasons not to buy pizza much. The pizza bases are usually too oily, it has too much cheese in it, the pizza sauce is not always the way I like it, so on and so forth.. 🙂

Having said that if you do not want the pain of making the pizza dough by yourself, you could just buy pizza dough from stores and make this yummy pesto chicken/paneer pizza. Pesto sauce works really well for pizzas. I have been a fan of pesto pizza from the day I first had this pizza @ work.

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INGREDIENTS:

For Whole Wheat Pizza Dough:

1. Wheat flour – 1.5 cups
2. Active dry yeast – 1.5 tsp
3. Olive oil – 2 tbsp
4. Sugar – 1/2 tsp
5. Salt – to taste(apprx. 1/2 tsp)
6. Warm water – 3/4 cup

For Pesto Chicken(or Paneer) pizza topping:

1. Pesto Sauce – 1/3 cup
2. Baby Spinach leaves – 1 cup packed
3. Grilled chicken breast(cubed) – 3/4 cup
(or Paneer cubes)
4. Grated cheese – 1/4 cup
(I used Mozzarella cheese)

METHOD:
For the pizza dough:-

1. In warm water, add sugar and yeast. Close the lid and let stay for 15 mins until foamy.
2. In a stand mixer/food processor with dough blade, pulse the wheat flour, salt and olive oil well. To this add the foamy yeast mix and mix/blend well.
3. Add 2 tbsp water in case the dough is not binding well. Once done, knead by hand for 5 minutes.
4. You could skip Step 2 and 3 if you prefer to knead the dough using hands. Combine the flour mixture to form slightly firm dough(Similar to chappati dough).
5. Grease a bowl and cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rise for 2-3 hours. After 2 hours, knead the dough for 5 mins again and let it rise for another hour.
6. Once the dough rises, knead the dough using hands for 2-3 mins.
7. Spread the dough by hand onto a baking sheet/tray greased with oil/cooking spray. Alternatively, you could use a rolling pin. When you spread the dough by hand, you could make it into any shape you want. I had made a square base.
Tip: Once you have rolled out the dough, using a fork, tap the dough here and there. This will prevent any bubbles being formed while baking the pizza.

For Pesto Chicken/Paneer pizza topping:-

Skip the steps to make the pizza dough(step 1-6) if you are using store bought pizza dough. Once you have spread the dough, its time for the toppings.

8. Spread pesto sauce on the base.
9. Evenly place the spinach leaves and put the chicken/paneer cubes on top.
10. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the pizza.
11. Preheat the over to 400 degree F and bake for about 15-20 mins or until the crust is golden brown.

Pesto Sauce

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I was introduced to pesto flavor only few months back. The reason why it took me so long to try out pesto, is my aversion from anything ‘green’ alias ‘healthy’ 😀 Though I had heard that pesto flavor is good and would be liked by any Desi, I had my own reservations because I know Palak Paneer is one of the favorites of most Desis. And I know how much I dislike Palak Paneer. But for one of our lunch meetings, I had no choice but to eat a Pesto Chicken Pizza and voila! I loved it 🙂 Then I thought why not give it a try. And it turned out good. It goes really well with any sandwich or can replace your pizza sauce!

INGREDIENTS:

Fresh basil leaves – 2 cups
Pine nuts or Walnuts(chopped) – 1/4 cup
Garlic – 3 cloves
Parmesan cheese/Romano cheese(grated) – 1/4 cup
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Lime juice – 1 tsp(optional)
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1/4 tsp)

METHOD:

1. In a food processor, pulse together the basil, pine nuts/walnuts, garlic, lime juice, cheese and salt.
2. Slowly pour in the olive oil. Pulse a few more times.

Shrimp Quesadilla

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I love Mexican fast food. But for some reason, I don’t buy quesadilla a lot. It could be the abundance of cheese in it that makes me avoid it. One day I happened to buy quesadilla from our cafeteria. They served chicken quesadilla with sour cream and salsa. That day I absolutely loved the quesadilla and I enjoyed it more coz of the tangy salsa that was served along. I thought to myself that I should try making this at home one day. Usually you see a lot of cheese quesadilla or chicken quesadilla. I thought that when I am trying something, let it be ‘not so usual’ afterall 🙂

So I decided to try making Shrimp Quesadilla. The day I decided to make this, I went all out in buying everything that would go well with it. The grocery list was huge 😛 (chips, soda, sour cream and everything required to make salsa, guacamole etc etc 🙂 ). DD pointed it out to me that buying a quesadilla from a restaurant would have worked out cheaper 😛 LOL! All I can say is that all the effort and money that went into making it was definitely worth it!!

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INGREDIENTS:

Tortilla – 4 large sized
Shrimp – 20 nos
Onion – 1 nos small sized
Garlic – 5-6 pods
Green bell pepper – 1/2 of a small sized one
Red bell pepper – 1/2 of a small sized one
Pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Cream cheese – 1.5 tbsp
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Shredded Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese – 1/4 cup
Coriander leaves – 2 or 3 strands
Salt – to taste (apprx. 1/4 tsp)

METHOD:

1. Mince shrimp in a food processor/grinder.
2. Heat oil in a pan and put finely chopped garlic. When the garlic turns light brown, add chopped onion and salt.
3. Cook till onion turns light pink. To this add pepper powder and cumin powder. Saute for few seconds.
4. Add finely chopped bell peppers. Cook till the bell pepper is little soft.
5. Add minced shrimp and sauté till the shrimp cooks through. It wouldn’t take much long to cook.
6. To this add cream cheese and mix well. Saute for 3-4 mins. Garnish with chopped coriander/cilantro leaves.
7. To make the quesadilla, take tortilla and layer the tortilla with the filling. Spread the filling evenly. Top it with some cheese.
8. You could either spread the filling in half the tortilla and fold in the other half. Or alternatively, place filling in one tortilla and place another tortilla on top of the other and press it together.
9. Once ready, heat a pan and toast the quesadilla till it becomes slightly crispy and brown on both sides. Alternatively, you could bake it in the oven at 375 deg F for 10 mins .

Serve warm Shrimp Quesadilla with sour cream, Guacamole and freshly made salsa.

Guacamole

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I got introduced to Mexican cuisine after I landed in the US. Like most other Indians, one of my favorites during initial time was Burrito from Chipotle 🙂 However, I never enjoyed Guacamole. I had never understood, why would people need to pay extra to get guacamole. Few months back, I happened to go to a home style Mexican restaurant and guacamole was a part of my order. Until that day, I hadn’t realized that guacamole can taste so good.

Another thing I realized is that there are many food items, the taste for which, you have to acquire. Avocado was one such thing for me. Since I was never exposed to it all my life, I had to acquire a taste for it. Now I like to have guacamole with chips and quesadilla. When you make it at home, you can always make it more specific to your liking. If you want to make it more spicy or tangy. It upto you and this is one of the most simplest things to make. Hardly takes 5-10 mins 🙂

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INGREDIENTS:

Avocado(ripe) – 2 nos
Tomato – 1 nos small sized
Garlic – 1 pod
Serrano pepper – 2 nos
Onion – 1/4 of a medium sized
Cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Coriander leaves – 4 strands
Salt – to taste (apprx. 1/4 tsp)

METHOD:

1. Peel and de-seed the avocado. De-seed the tomato and serrano peppers.
2. Put all the ingredients except tomato to a food processor/grinder and grind for few seconds. Note that it should not become a very smooth paste. Small chunks of avocado here and there adds more taste to guacamole.
3. Now add the tomatoes and pulse the processor 3-4 times. The idea is to have small bits of tomatoes to be seen. The tomato shouldn’t grind completely and mix to the guacamole.

There you have your delicious guacamole. Serve with chips or wrap burritos or relish with quesadilla 🙂