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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mother's Day and Caribbean Chicken with Rice

It was the global Mother's Day this weekend gone. Though UK and a few other countries have different Mother Days but we still felt the love and mushiness on Sunday as everywhere on the internet I could see special messages, wall posts, photographs and fond memories.I was, hence, trying to remember what it was like when we were small. Did we celebrate Mother's Day, Father's Day or even more common ones like Valentine's Day or even Birthdays. I don't know about others but being from a middle class Bengali family, celebrating Birthdays or Christmas were joyous occasions that me and my brother used to look forward to all year round. Birthdays meant we got to eat our favourite meals cooked specially for us at home, new clothes, a home made cake, a few friends invited over for dinner and a few story books as presents. Christmas was special not only because we got a present each and  a tiny little bright sparkly Christmas Tree from the Hogg Market, but also because Ma used to make the best fruit cake in the world and me and Dada used to steal the chopped mixed dry fruits in the middle of the night. Yes that was the best part of our childhood Christmas Days. We didn't even know that days specially dedicated to mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters or lovers existed. Maybe because Archie's Gallery or Hallmark Cards didn't exist either.

How I wish now that we were aware of Mother's Day or Father's Day when we were small kids. We loved our parents then as well. But I am sure they would have loved a special day too, a day when they would be treated like royalties, showered with presents and cards. Cards that are not shop bought, but hand made with clumsy drawings on them and tiny little prints of fingers and palms all over them.  Thinking back now I realise that we never thought of expressing our love to our parents very often. I hardly ever said 'I Love you' to Ma or Baba. I say that quite often now to Ma now. But you see talking to photos is not a very sane thing to do and fortunately or rather unfortunately photos cannot say 'I Love you too' back to you. But I am sure somewhere she is still there and she knows how much I love her or how much I used to love her when I was as small as Little T or a troublesome teenager or even a nervous bride desperate for the mom-daughter talk before the big day. Missing out on so many things have made me determined to not miss a single moment of my daughter's life. 

And there are times when I daydream. And....I have this really crazy wish! You know when you see a movie where somebody's wishes are granted by the Almighty posing as a janitor or even in those flicks where you can time travel and all that crazy stuff. So if I ever by some miracle see my Ma again, I will definitely tell her how much I love her and how much I miss her every waking second of my life. And I will give her a hand made Mother's Day card and see that beautiful heartwarming smile for one more time! 

''If wishes were horses, beggars would ride!''
Happy Mother's Day Ma. 

Caribbean Chicken with Rice

This is an One-Pot dish and is ideal for mommies on the go. It's perfect for any kind of meal and is best served with some green salad on the side. 

Recipe by Sara Lewis
Serves - 4
Prep time - 30 mins
Cooking time - 7-9 hours
Cooking temperature - medium to high

Ingredients : 

Chicken thighs and drumsticks - 8, skinned
Jerk Marinade - 1 small jar *
Sunflower Oil - 2 tbsp
Onions - 2 large, chopped
Garlic - 2 large cloves, minced
Coconut milk - 400 ml, reduced fat
Chicken stock - 300 ml
Canned Kidney beans - 410 gm, drained
Long grain rice - 200 gm
Frozen peas - a couple of handfuls
Salt and pepper

* This is a fruity curry paste that is available on the shelves of all leading supermarkets.

Method : 

Slash each chicken drumstick and thigh two or three times. Rub the chicken pieces with half a jar of Jerk marinade and keep aside for 5 minutes. 

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan, add the chicken and fry over a high heat until browned on both sides. Lift out and transfer to a plate. Add the remaining oil, onion and garlic, reduce the hear and fry for 5 minutes or until lightly browned and softened. Add the remaining Jerk marinade and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and stock, season with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to boil.

Transfer half of the mixture to the slow cooker pot, add half of the chicken pieces, all the beans and then the remaining chicken and onion and coconut milk mixture. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the chicken is tender and cooked thoroughly.

Wash the rice the rice about 1 hour before adding to the pot and drain the water completely. Stir in the rice after the chicken is cooked completely, replace the lid and cook on high for 45 minutes. Add the frozen peas(no need to defrost) and cook for 15 minutes more. Spoon on to plate and serve with a green salad.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Butter Chicken - a slow cooked version

First of all I apologise to all my readers for not posting anything for over a month. But those of you who know the real me will know that it is not a new thing :/. But I swear this time the it was not my laziness that was the culprit. It's just that we were all feeling quite down under the weather. We had a glimpse of Spring before it got hidden behind the grey clouds again. The Easter Holidays were the worst ones ever this year with all of us being severely unwell because of a Viral infection. We even had to rush Little T to the A&E because of a tummy bug and it caused severe dehydration. She was poorly for 2 whole weeks and the time dragged. Sometimes, when our kids are unwell, we realise how helpless we can feel as parents. You can see your child in pain but still cannot do anything about it except for offering them even more unconditional love and a safe, secured lap to lie in. 

Anyway I guess that's the part of life nobody can avoid. We all get rough patches and we try and overcome them. That's what life is all about isn't it? Oh and yes our tiny little Cherry tree finally gave us the very first blossoms. We are getting lots and lots of rain this year and my back garden is happy. I can see luscious green lawn, an array of colourful blooms and the first batch of strawberries coming out too. All these small things along with the little one's laughter is more than enough to make me happy. :)

My second baby is not very happy about the rains though. Mostly because thousands of slugs are out and about when it's damp and they are quite dangerous for pets, in case they get stuck on their skin. So I don't allow her to be outside for long. Cats and water don't actually get along very well anyway. She will still try to brave the rains for her morning outdoor ritual  - pooing in my veg patch, eating grass, drinking the fresh rain water accumulated in various empty pots and of course her most favourite activity, bird spotting, and quite literally so. She is one of the most non-violent cats I've ever fact she is probably THE most non-violent cats on the face of earth! She would definitely get a place in the party if Gandhi Ji was still around. Tom hasn't killed a fly in her life. Sometimes I pet-sit my friend's hamsters and Tom would just sit outside their cages and look at them, quite affectionately! Similarly she would sit on the lawn and look at the birds, never trying once to catch them or even scare them away. I've had her for almost 6 years now and she hasn't even hissed at anybody, let alone scratching. She is my angel in disguise.

So since everybody at home is feeling a bit better after the ordeal, I decided to make something nice but healthy at the same time to lift up everybody's mood. Hence I made this Butter Chicken but with as little butter as possible. I slow cooked it and it turned out to be a light but tasty curry dish. Here's how I made it.

Kashmiri Butter Chicken

Serves - 4
Prep time - 15 mins
Slow Cooking time - 4-5hrs

Ingredients : 

Boneless Chicken Thighs - 500 gm
Onions - 2, blended into a course paste
Ginger Paste - 1 tsp
Garlic Paste - 1tsp
1 large red chilli, halved and seeds discarded
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp, roasted and crushed **
Fennel Seeds - 1 tsp, roasted and crushed  **
Cardamom Pods - 1, roasted and crushed **
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Ground Cinnamon - 1/4 tsp
Chicken Stock - 300 ml
Tomato Puree - 2 tbsp
Fresh Cream
Butter - 25 gm
Sunflower Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Sugar - 1 tsp
Toasted Almond Flakes - 2 tbsp (Optional)

Method : 

Cut each thigh into 4-5 pieces. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the chicken pieces, a few pieces at a time. Cook on a high flame until evenly browned. Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate.
 Add the butter to the wok and when it has melted add the onion paste. Cook over moderate heat until it has just started to colour. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook for a further 3-5 minutes till the raw smell is gone. Stir in all the crushed dry spices and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato pure and cook till oil separates.

Add the stock and season with salt and sugar. Bring to boil. 

Transfer the chicken pieces to the slow cooker pot and pour in the hot onion mixture. Press the chicken pieces down below the surface of the liquid. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-7 hours. 

Stir in the cream before serving and check seasoning. Garnish with the almond flakes and serve with naan or pulao.

**Notes - It's better if you can make large batches of these dry spices and store them in air tight jars. Makes life easier and the whole cooking process quicker too. Roast large quantities(about 50gms each) of the dry spices like cumin, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon etc separately and grind them. **