I actually look forward to calling people home. Not only does it feel nice to have a a house full of friends and laughter, but it forces me to to clean my house- and no, I am not talking about the “it-would-do” kind of cleaning but the “your-mom-will-give-a-pat-on-your-back” kind of cleaning.
Now, when you call people home or host a party of any sorts, you do expect certain hiccups. You expect it would be too hot to cook. You also expect that you would be out the previous day of the party and get a heat stroke and get a mild migraine because of that. You also expect that the party would fall on that day of the month when women get their stomach cramps and the likes. So you are cooking with a slight migraine, stomach cramps in a hot kitchen. Well, you expect all that and don’t think any of it would cause a big problem. And then you hear a shatter- more specifically you hear glass shattering and that too on your kitchen floor. Ohh..kay… – its a setback but one can get past it- its just a bottle, you can clean that. But then your realize- the bottle had oil. Not only is there glass on the floor but there is oil on the kitchen floor ( and of course you needed that oil for your party!) Now who could anticipate that! You wouldn’t, right! But, I do, thanks to my track record. I have butter fingers and I am very serious when I say that. Ask my friends. Things just slip from my hands and the more I am careful the more likely they are to slip! In fact the degree of the damage I do always depends on the cruciality of the whole situation.
But then when you have a husband like V whats there to worry. He knew I was upset plus he knew I was in all probability to slip on the oil or prick my finger on broken glass (the latter happened and the former almost did), so he opted to mop the floor when my cleaning with the newspaper trick did not work.
Well, thanks to my husband’s helping hands, I was able to get the house clean and ready for the party at home. We had our eclectic International friends for dinner and I made Indian. The menu consisted of butter chicken, dal makhani, mixed vegetable, raita and roti. For dessert, we had mango kulfi and these awesome gluten-free cupcakes that our friend had got for us. I have already posted the recipe for Dal Makhani previously on Garam Masala Tuesdays (GMT). Check it out here. I will be posting the recipe for Mango Kulfi next week. For today’s GMT, I will be talking about Butter chicken.
Originating from the period of the Mughal Empire, Murgh Makhani aka Butter chicken has survived through the ages and continues to grow in popularity due to it’s rich and flavorful gravy. It is said that the modern version of the Butter Chicken recipe was invented by a person working in the kitchen of the original Moti Mahal restaurant in Daryaganj, Delhi, during the 1960s to use up leftover Tandoori Chicken.
Butter chicken is a definite order at restaurants in India and has become quite famous abroad as well, though in a slightly modified version named Chicken Tikka Masala.
Well back in India, restaurants do not serve CTM, at least I have never seen it. I have never read it on any menu card in India, even though chicken tikka is always there under appetizers but no chicken tikka masala. Butter chicken, on the other hand, is a must in every North Indian restaurant.
CTM, primarily is a UK born dish.
Chicken Tikka Masala was apparently invented in Great Britain about the same time as the modern version of butter chicken. There is a popular story that some restaurant owner poured Campbell’s condensed tomato soup on top of Chicken Tikka because a customer demanded gravy. The topic, though, is controversial as some claim it to be originating from street food in India.
CTM became popular when it was declared as British National Dish by Robin Cook (nope, he is not the famous author of Coma, Brain and the likes, but was UK’s foreign secretary). Robin Cook’s Tikka Masala speech states CTM as “a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.“
For long I thought chicken tikka masala is what foreigners called butter chicken. But, after googling I found there are slight differences, though the concept is pretty much similar- grilled chicken in a tomato based curry. The slight differences arise in the preparation of the gravy, the kind of chicken used and the spices added.
Whereas, Butter chicken uses fresh tomatoes, CTM generally uses canned tomato puree. The gravy for butter chicken also is pretty heavy on the butter and cream, while CTM doesnt use butter at all (though I have seen recipes of CTM that do! confused? so am I!) and instead has onions. Another supposed difference lies in the kind of chicken used- one uses tandoori chicken and the other uses chicken tikka (nope, no points for guessing which uses which). Also, CTM always uses boneless chicken (since that’s what the recipe for chicken tikka calls for), whereas butter chicken is best prepared with chicken with bones, though one could use boneless pieces too. Someone also observed the use of thigh pieces or whole chicken in butter chicken, whereas CTM uses breasts pieces. Dried fenugreek leaves play a heavy role in the chicken marination for butter chicken, while they do not feature in the other, instead CTM uses cilantro/coriander in the marination.
I can not confirm the authenticity for these difference, since it is based on my observation of different recipes online and personally I feel that since both are modern recipes, originating in restaurants, the difference is primarily one of nomenclature- a difference that arose because people wanted to get attributed to the origin of the dish. For me, though, the authentic Indian dish will always be butter chicken and that is what we are making for GMT today.
Butter chicken is made by marinating chicken overnight in a yogurt, garlic, ginger paste, pepper, dried fenugreek leaves, cumin and red chilli powder mixture. The chicken is traditionally cooked in a tandoor (how I wish I had one at home), but can also be grilled, or broiled in the oven.
Makhani, the sauce, true to its name is cooked in butter (calories! but so worth it!) and pureed fresh tomatoes with various spices. Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) which is also added to the dish, lends most to the characteristic flavor of the dish. Cashew paste can also be added, and will make the gravy thicker and richer (translate: yummier).
The recipe that I use is a mix of my mother’s and Nandu’s, our cook in India. My mom gives the recipe a nice smoky twist by cooking the gravy in charcoal smoke. It adds a lot of flavor to the gravy and is pretty easy to do!
I am back with Office Thursdays. Office Thursdays was something I started to solve the problem of me baking and then having no one to eat it since V is not fond of sweets. As a result, I would end up eating most of what I baked, and you all know what havoc that does to your body. Of course, I could have just not baked at all- but I love baking and I do crave for the occasional freshly baked good- not what you get in stores but what you get fresh from the oven in your house! So some solution had to be found- one that would allow me to bake but not end up with all the calories that go into it. Thus, the idea of Office Thursdays (at that time I could come up with no better name and so it stuck) came up. Every Thursdays, V has a meeting that he conducts, and several of his co-workers attend it. So, V and I decided that I would bake for these meetings and save for two-four pieces (for the two of us), rest would be served at these meetings.
For today’s office Thursday, since it is cinco de mayo (a Mexican holiday celebrated every 5th of May to commemorate Mexican victory over the French forces in Battle of Puebla, 1862) and a lot of people at V’s office are mexican, I thought of making a traditional Mexican dessert- Tres Leches Cake. Of course, it might have been a very wrong decision- they would know how it actually tastes, so I had to turn to the best-Alton Brown. His measurements were in weights and since I do not own a weighing scale (and I call myself a passionate baker!) , I found a recipe I could work with at Brenda’s blog. Brenda has a beautiful blog and an amazing collection of recipes. Do check her out.
Tres Leches Cake: Tres in spanish means three and leche means milk. So the cake roughly translated is three milk cake. The cake is a sponge like cake that is drenched in a glaze of three different kinds of milk- condensed milk, evaporated milk and half & half. Topped with a whipped cream frosting, you can make several variations to the cake by either adding chocolate, or layering some strawberry whipped cream in between or like Brenda, adding cinnamon to the batter. No matter what you do, you will still be licking your fingers away!
This cake also goes out to one of my blogger friends, Abhi and to the girl who introduced me to his blog (one of my best friends, Elgo), both of whom had their birthday in April! I had promised Abhi a cake, so here it is! I would have made a more extravagant cake- firstly, if I knew how to and secondly, had these guys been here to eat it. Now, Abhi, for whatever reason, does not blog regularly but I have seen the pics of his culinary adventures on Facebook and they all look so mouth watering good. I wish he would blog more often so that I get to learn more from him and not just sit and admire his pictures on FB.
Now, typical to all my new baking adventures I erred here too. I had kept the eggs out in the morning so that they would be at room temperature by the time I was ready to bake the cake in the afternoon. But, when I added them, the eggs were cold, solidifying the butter a bit. Arghh!! What do I do now! I took the bowl and hugged it, hoping my body heat would help the eggs and the butter to come back to room temperature. And well it did work! A hug can melt anyone and this just proved it!
The cake is seriously addictive. While photographing I kept on eating piece after piece. Granted I was hungry after the exercise but one piece would have worked, but I just could not resist! I happily packed these for V’s office- finally there is some one to take these baked goods off my hand!
A week back, on this day- Tuesday, I started a new thing on the blog– Garam Masala Tuesdays or as someone I know put it GMT (I tell you, these things are not intentional- they just happen 🙂 !). This Tuesday its my second post for Garam Masala Tuesday and even though I have been in no mood of cooking- it has been a 2 1/2 months long break from cooking– but I had to post something today. How can I start something a week back and not live up to the promise!
Since I had to post, and there were no two ways about it, I thought I would make something that would not require too much effort. And, something that I knew V had eaten rarely in the last 2 1/2 months. And something I love quite dearly. So it had to be Dal Makhani.
Dal Makhani is the quintessential Punjabi dish (Punjab is a state in the northern part of India). Dal means lentils and makhani means buttery; so, literally translated dal makhani reads “buttery lentils”. Dal Makhani, butter naan and butter chicken are staple to Punjabi food- the above three and rajma chawal are always top of every Punjabi’s favorite food list.
Dal makhani is a rich, creamy lentil dish that is traditionally cooked on a low simmer for hours in a pureed tomato and butter gravy. Traditionally, the dal was cooked by leaving overnight on burning charcoal. It is also called Maa ki Dal. Though Maa means mother in Hindi, Maa is also the name given to whole unskinned black lentils and hence the name for the dish.
If you notice, the common thing to most Punjabi dishes is, yes, you guessed it- butter. Ah, butter- utterly butterly delicious butter! Being a north Indian and a hard core Punjabi, now you know the reason behind my affinity to butter and the reason for my tendency to put on weight. Well, tradition is a tough thing to break from and when tradition comes in the form of butter, you know the battle is lost!
There are lot of different versions of this dish but I like this one as its easy and the results are always great. Plus, there is no chopping involved in the recipe I use (that is exactly why I chose to make it today). And requires very little time in the kitchen. It does take 2 hours for the whole preparation but you are not required to be in the kitchen the whole time. This dish is great even the next day- so feel free to make a day before you plan to serve it. The dish is great both with rice and with Indian flatbreads like chappati/roti or naan.
Look at me! While ranting about trying to lose weight, losing a ring and other mundane stuff I forgot to mention about my winnings in Vegas. Ooh yes, baby, I won, gambling in Vegas. To tell you the truth, I did not forget but I was in a double mind to mention it- since I do not want to endorse gambling on such a public forum (yes, yes I am the morally right kind of person 😉 ). So why mention today. Well, the reason why I mention it today is that I put my winnings into buying a new cookbook! Well, its funny because I remember telling V before leaving for Vegas that I’ll only play for enough money to buy this cookbook that I had been eyeing for some time now (people gamble for the enjoyment, to pay debts, buy drinks, while I play to buy cookbooks 🙂 ) . And that’s exactly what happened! I won only enough to buy me that book. This was destiny. That book was in my destiny! God wanted me to have it. So even though I just played twice on the slot machine- the moment I hit my target amount I immediately encashed it. No, this time I was not going to be greedy.
A few days back, the book (that I bought from my hard earned money), arrived in a shipment from Amazon. Happy and excited, I opened the package, and behold the beauty! There it lay Sarabeth’s Bakery From My Hand to Yours Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours – in a large white colored cover with a simple yet beautiful picture of a lady whose hands are shown holding a batch of freshly made brioche in her apron! Yes, it had me floored. For the first few moments I was just flipping through the pages, feeling the smooth and crisp paper, oggling at the beautiful pictures (I am such a sucker for cookbooks!). 🙂
It was on my bed side table that night, and I read through the first few pages and instantly knew I made a good decision in buying this book. The book is designed with elegant simplicity. Her tips and techniques are what makes this book worth buying. I do wish though she had included the recipe for her famous orange-apricot marmalade that kick started her career.
Yesterday I chose to try Sarabeth’s version of Puff Pastry.
As Sarabeth describes:
With countless amazingly, thin, buttery layers that shatter when bitten into, puff pastry is the classic layered dough.
The secret to Sarabeth’s dough is that she uses heavy cream instead of water. Ok! I know what you thinking- “heavy cream! Wasn’t it fatty enough with the butter! “. But Sarabeth believes that the added butterfat from the heavy cream gives the pastry another dimension of flavor and crispiness. Hmmm.. It just means I have to gym harder!
You can use puff pastry in a number of things. It can be used in making palmiers, tarts, mille-feuille. I will be using it to make Apple Turnovers to send to V’s office. (That’s why I am not too worried about the butter and the heavy cream going in the dough- as long as I don’t have to eat them all!)
The dough should be made at least 2 days before using. It has two parts the D’etrempe and the Beurrage