Something's fishy - Salmon Croquettes

Though the pink fish is much loved by both the husband and I, I never really took to cooking it at home. It took just one recipe to change the status quo. A recent issue of Cooking Light had an easy and healthy recipe for salmon croquettes. What do I say about CL? Love their lo-cal take on food.

I didn't use as much mayo as listed in the recipe and omitted the flour altogether. Still the croquettes were delicious. Paired with a spinach salad they made a quick, light weekend lunch. Plus this was one time we didn't miss carbs at all!

Just remember that the mixture should be squishy. Don't keep adding flour/ crumbs until you can shape the patty well, because the croquettes firm up as they cook.


(makes 6)
2 wild salmon fillets (or a 15 oz. can)
2-3 tbsp baby dill, chopped
2 tsp lite mayo
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
1 egg white
2-3 tbsp dry bread crumbs plus more for dredging
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil or cooking spray for frying

If you are using fillets, heat a pan and coat with spray. Place salmon skin side down and turn the heat to medium high. When you see the skin begin to peel remove pan from heat. Let cool and peel skin off.

Place salmon in a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste. Shape into patties, cover with film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat a skillet and coat with oil or spray. Dredge patties in crumbs lightly and place on pan. Cook on each side until golden brown. Serve with mustard or horseradish sauce.

* Learn about wild vs. farmed salmon here.



Cooking with a wise herb

2008 appears to be a year for unexpected gifts. It started with chocolate, then decadent mango burfi from my sister in law and most recently, sachets of dried sage (get the bad pun in the title?) from the lovely Jaden. And it's only February. Hopefully the year of the Rat will continue to bring more goodies (hint).


I have been cooking all sorts of greens lately. So much that the cashier at the store asked me if I was going to use the kale and chard for an 'arrangement' like lemons! Gosh no. Methinks kale looks better in the pot than the vase.

Cannellini beans and kale is a Tuscan classic. The smooth beans complement the woodsy kale nicely. Though I prefer mashed comfort you can keep the beans whole and serve it as a soup with a little elbow pasta thrown in. Leftovers make a great pizza/ tart topping.


(serves 2-3)
1 15-oz. can of cannellini beans (or fava/ Great northern etc)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
half bunch of kale, picked, washed and roughly chopped* (or broccoli rabe/ spinach etc)
1 tsp dried sage
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + extra for drizzling
salt and freshly milled pepper to taste

Heat oil in a pan. Add minced garlic and onion. Saute till onion turns pink. Add kale and 3-4 tbsps of water. Cover and cook until leaves are tender (this takes anywhere between 7 to 10 minutes. Check periodically).

When kale is done, add beans and sage. Season to taste. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes for flavors to blend. Remove from heat. Mash beans with a potato masher until smooth. Spoon onto a serving plate, drizzle with olive oil and cheese. Serve with crusty bread.

* Kale requires a slightly longer time to cook depending on how mature the leaves are. I remove the stalk and tough stems, roughly chop it into strips and steam it until tender.


Spilling the 'Beans' - Peshawari Biryani

Yes, I am finally sharing the recipe I promised here. It's a biryani with an identity crisis. When my sister in law gave me the recipe she called it Peshawari Biryani. Jiggs Kalra makes it with kala chana and calls it Kale Moti Biryani in Prashad. And somewhere on the web it's referred to, rather uncharmingly as, Vegetarian Biryani. A rose by any other name etc. etc...

I made this biryani with kidney beans (rajma) the first time and felt they were too 'beany' for the delicate basmati rice. So this time around I used sprouted moth beans (matki). They complement the rice in taste as well as size. This is in fact one of the best things about the recipe. You can use pretty much any legumes in your pantry without compromising on the taste. The next time I plan to go a step further and combine the beans with fenugreek instead of cilantro.

Where does the casserole come in? I finish cooking the biryani on 'dum' in the oven. But the recommended 'unlayered' serving is a visual treat for parties.


(recipe from my sister in law)
(serves 2-3)
Rice -
1 cup basmati rice
1 tsp ghee/ butter
1" cinnamon, 3 cloves, 3 cardamoms
fried nuts (optional)
Beans -
1/2 cup beans of your choice (garbanzo, kidney, peas etc.)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 tomatoes, peeled and pureed
a handful each of cilantro and mint, washed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp good quality garam masala
salt to taste

Soak beans overnight. Drain and wash the next morning. (Sprout them in a colander if you wish to). Combine with enough water and cook on moderate heat until done. (You can pressure cook the beans as long as they don't turn to mush). Reserve cooking liquid.

Heat oil in a pan. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and ginger garlic paste. Saute on low heat until combined. Next add herbs and saute until fragrant. Add puree and beans. Stir and cook on medium heat until mixed and dry. Season with salt and continue stirring until the beans lose most of the moisture. Sprinkle garam masala and set aside.

Wash rice in 1-2 changes of water. Drain and set aside. In a sauce pan heat ghee and drop in the whole spices. Add rice, saute for a minute. Add 2 cups of the cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat until rice is done.

For serving spoon rice onto a large platter. Make a well in the centre and place beans. Garnish with fried nuts and serve with a raita.

* Entry for My Legume Love Affair hosted by The Well seasoned Cook
* Trivia of the day - Using beans in cooking speaking
Hill of beans - not worth much
Spilling the beans - divulge a secret
Full of beans - bubbly



Bittersweet Love - Dill Dosa

Sneaky tactic 1: add leafy vegetable to dal
Sneaky tactic 2: add leafy vegetable to idlis, dosas & parathas
Amaranth, turnip, pumpkin, drumstick, sour greens... I'd see them in the grocery bag, decide I wasn't going to take a bite and then wipe my plate clean! Mothers... they would make impressive politicians no?

If you turned up your nose at the mere mention of dill, remember 'never say never'. These dosas are more like spongy, slightly sweet pancakes that taste only faintly dill-y (somewhere my English teacher is frowning at that line).

By the way sneaky recipes are very flexible so use brown sugar in place of jaggery or increase the amount of dill (as if that's going to happen!)


SHAEPI POLE (Sweet Dill Pancakes)
(makes 5-6)
1 cup rice
1/4 cup beaten rice (poha)
1/3 cup coconut, grated
1 cup dill, picked and washed
2-3 cardamom pods
grated jaggery (between 4 tbsps to 1/3 cup depending on taste or brown sugar)
pinch of salt

Soak rice overnight or for a minimum of 3-4 hours. Drain and wash then place in blender. Coarsely chop dill. Add to rice along with washed poha, coconut, cardamom and jaggery. Grind to a smooth paste with just a little bit of water.

Remove in a bowl. Season with salt and mix well. Cover and set aside for 15-20 minutes. Heat a griddle with oil. Pour a ladleful of the batter in the centre. Let it spread into a thick circle.

Cover and cook on moderate heat. Flip over and cook on the other side. Serve hot with a dollop of homemade ghee. Or honey or maple syrup ...

* See sweet and savory dill idlis
* Variations - use jackfruit and cucumber (grated) in place of dill



Scallion Zunka for JFI

Yes, the plan was to make a 'dum' dish with the casserole but I realized my pantry was missing a couple of ingredients. Onions on the other hand? Never run out of them.

Though authentic zunka is made with onions, I used scallions (spring onions, green onions... so many names for such a dainty looking thing!) in this recipe. The garlic/ curry leaves tadka is not common either but this is how a popular restaurant near my home makes it.


PATICHA ZUNKA (Scallion Zunka)
(serves 2-3)
1 cup chana dal (split bengal gram)*
2 bunches of scallions, finely chopped
a pinch of turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander-cumin powder
sugar and salt to taste
Seasoning -
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 garlic cloves, mashed
a sprig of curry leaves
1-2 green chillies, slit
Garnishing -
lemon juice
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

Wash then soak dal in 2 cups of water for about 2-3 hours. Grind into a coarse paste with salt and a few tablespoons of water. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add mustard seeds, garlic, curry leaves and chillies. Next add chopped scallions and saute for a minute.

Toss in the spices, a pinch of sugar and a little salt. Add dal paste. Turn heat to low, cover pan with a lid and let the dal cook (sprinkle a few drop of water if you find it's sticking to the pan). When it is dry and crumbly, squeeze a little lemon juice on top, garnish with cilantro and serve. (Zunka gets drier the longer it sits. So plan on serving immediately).


* Inspired by the 'parippu uslis' around blogosphere, I opted for chana dal instead of besan in this zunka. The resulting crumbly texture is quite delicious.
* For JFI - Onions hosted by Radhi



Peek into the Kitchen

The only coordinated 'set' in my kitchen are the dishes; almost everything else is an haphazard collection assembled over the years. And this casserole is undoubtedly one of my favorites. It is 32 years old, and has traveled across 8 cities and two countries.

It occupied the pride of place in my mother's kitchen and it does now in mine. Curries and biryanis, soups and gratins, noisy dinners, celebrations, formal meals, clumsy guests... this pot has seen everything and stood the test of time. Best of all, like women it only looks better with age.



The Nun's Revenge

No blasphemy here. That is honestly the name of the drink. This Italian hot chocolate is so delicious and indulgent, it is assumed it can't be chaste! In fact the author has compared drinking it to a religious experience :-)

I really didn't need further encouragement but as luck would have it, Padmaja's fabulous Fairtrade Goodie Bag arrived in the mail (thank you dear!). Nestled between the coffee and tea was a gorgeous bittersweet chocolate. Sign from above!


(adapted from 'Hot Chocolate: 50 heavenly Cups of Comfort')
(serves 2-3)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half*
1 tsp arrowroot
1 tbsp sugar (adjust to taste)
2 ounces fairtrade bittersweet chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao), chopped
2 to 4 strips orange zest for garnish

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the half-and-half with the arrowroot, whisking until smooth.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup of half-and-half in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. When the half-and-half begins to bubble around the edges, whisk in the sugar. Whisk in the arrowroot mixture until the half-and-half thickens slightly, usually less than a minute.

Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the chocolate until smooth. Pour into cups, top each with a piece of orange zest, and serve immediately.


* Revenge is best served... cold with low fat substitutes. So feel free to use your choice of milk. The arrowroot makes the drink creamy anyway.
* Use orange flavored liqueur or orange extract if you prefer.
* Beer is usually the drink of choice on game nights but I am sending this over to Mansi anyway for her Game Night Party event.
* Don't forget to Click liquids for January.