Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chaat Salad (the Licking Salad)

Ok - so I'm not entirely sure what drew me to this recipe because honestly in the things I like/don't like but will eat category this recipe has a lot working against it.  I am not a fan of cucumber (unless it is in greek salad), I am typically not a fan of radishes. However, for some reason I decided to give this one a try.  

Now I had no idea what Chaat was, and when the recipe called for Chaat Masala I could not find it on any of my culinary adventure tours with the husband (totally something that I should do again this weekend) but I figured I could make things work.  

I have to say the salad was AMAZING! I made this one night after kidnapping by best friend Serina from work and "made' her help me clean out my fridge and then forced her to eat my home cooked Indian food (yes I'm a terrible captor in that way.)  Serina is also not a fan of most things in this recipe and down right HATES cilantro (more than spiders I would say) ... anyways she also really liked the salad (she did pick out some of the larger pieces of cilantro and if you are like her and don't like cilantro I wouldn't skip it - I would cut back on the amount and make sure the leaves are very finely minced to almost a paste). 

I don't know how to describe what the salad tastes like other than it was amazing - full of interesting textures, full of warmth and flavour while not being overwhelming. I will say I normally love salad in the summer on really hot days - but this salad (despite being a dish served cold) still had that soul warming quality I would look for in the cold winters here.  The big problem I did run into was pomegranates as they were not in season. Serina didn't miss them from the dish, but I think we both agreed that it would have been a good addition to the salad.  I did substitute in mine some pomegranate molasses which added that flavour but obviously not the pop in the mouth that would come from the seeds.

So because I could not find Chaat Masala I made my own. Turns out that masala means spice mixture  from the Hindi word for spices (honestly yes it did take me a little while to figure that out...)  Serina came to rescue and found a Chaat Masala mix recipe, which we used with some..improvising on some ingredients.  First - asafoetida (still have to find some) - but on some reading it has a strong garlic-onion flavour so I substituted onion and garlic powder. I didn't have Amchoor (still have to find some) so I used pomegranate powder instead it seemed to work but I can't wait to try this again with the proper spice mix - just know it's ok to find things close or similar and try them out. 

Chaat Masala
1 tbps cumin seeds

1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/4 tsp asafoetida  (1/4 tsp each ground garlic and onion powder)

1/2 tbsp garam masala

1/2 tbsp amchoor powder

1/2 tbsp black salt

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/8 tsp ground ginger
  1. Dry roast the cumin and fennel seeds in a small pan over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the cumin seeds darken a few shades. Add in the asafoetida(or garlic/onion powder) and stir in to mix well. Take off of the heat and use a spice grinder (aka repurposed coffee grinder) and grind until powdered. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to mix.

Chaat Salad in the bowl. 
Chaat Salad
1/2 cucumber (around 10 ounces) seeds scooped out
7 ounces radishes
4 scallions
seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 ounce cilantro
4 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 14-ounce can chickpeas
1/2 tsp child powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp chaat masala

  1. Take your sharpest knife and chop the cucumber into small cubes (each one should be about the size of a chickpea). Chop up the radishes the same way. Slice the scallions into thin rings and put everything into a salad bowl, along with the pomegranate seeds.  Finely chop the cilantro - leaves and stems - and add it to the bowl.
  2. Next, put the oil into a small frying pan on a medium heat. When it's hot, add the mustard seeds, leave them to pop, then add chickpeas. Fry the chickpeas for 3 to 5 minutes, until they start to crisp up nicely in the pan, then add the child powder, salt, sugar, and lemon juice. Turn the head down to low and add the coconut, then stir a couple of times and take off the heat.
  3. Add the spiced chickpeas to the salad bowl and sprinkle over the chaat masala.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Homemade Paneer

So one of the things I have had an interest in doing lately is making cheese - however it always seemed like it would be a long, intensive labour involved process (which seems ironic considering the types of food I make and how long I am usually in the kitchen cooking...) but when cheese is so readily available if often seemed at odds to make my own.

However, then I saw the recipe for paneer in the cookbook and it listed two simple ingredients - I was hooked.
Homemade Paneer

The recipe is amazingly easy and quick. I will admit that the only problem I had was figuring out when the milk was boiling. I waited and made sure that I was consistently stirring the milk to make sure that it didn't burn. I wasn't sure of what to expect when I added the lemon juice but it instantly starting to part ways and form these solid parts.

The big thing that I learned from this was cheesecloth - despite it's name and use in this type of application was probably not the best. Maybe it was because I was using cheep cheese cloth but I really had to make lots of layers to be able get a good covering on the cheese so I could squeeze out the liquid.  Next time I would probably use Muslim (fabric) instead.  I did set the cheese wrapped in the cloth in a strainer over a metal bowl and then place my mortar and pestle on top.

I eventually used the Paneer for a simple Chili Paneer dish which was fantastic - the next this to do with paneer is make paneer stuffed naan bread. 

1/2 Gallon whole milk
4 tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Put the milk in a saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring frequently so that it doesn't stick to the bottom. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down.  Add the lemon juice and stir until it curdles.  You'll see the curds separate from the whey and form lumps, at which point turn the heat off.
  2. Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and put it in the sink. Pour the cheese curds through it slowly, draining off all the liquid into the sink. Fill the saucepan with wonder and pour it over the curds again to easy any lemon juice off. 
  3. Grab the corners of the cheese cloth and squeeze the water out by twisting the top of the cloth until it's tight around the pall of paneer. Keeping it twisted, put a weight on top of it press it and leave the colander in the sink or set over a bowl so that any remaining water can drain out.
  4. Leave for 3 hours or so, until firm to the touch, and refrigerate until you're ready to use it. If stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, the paneer will keep for 3 to 4 days. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

It's been a little bit

It has been a few days since I've posted and honestly I need a bit of a break. The last two weeks have been probably the most stressful two weeks that I've had in a while and frankly I haven't wanted to be in the kitchen cooking or baking and it is the thing that tends to make me happy. 

It all started when my husband had to be scheduled for surgery (please don't get worried - it is not a major operation but it does have impacts on life and potential implications for other things). His surgery ultimately had to be rescheduled. As I already said - having the surgery on the date it was scheduled for in the first place was not great but I made it work. However, when that surgery date went up in the air and the next date we were given was in the end of March things couldn't have been worse.

We have been trying to have a baby for the last well almost two years and we have two things working against us. First - I have PCOS - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which is tons of funs (Not).  PCOS has been getting more attention lately because of people like Whitney Way Thore (Star of My Big Fat Fabulous Life) but it has been a factor in my life for the last 15+ years and affects many things including my ability to conceive.  Second - the husband has low testosterone.  He has to have an injection every three weeks to keep up his levels and the injection has certain side effects.  We had to both see our doctors to get a referral to a specialist here. Mine was easier in sorts because of a known issue that I've had to deal with before.   We finally seemed like we were on a path to actually being able to try in a meaningful way and then we had a set back with the husband's health and him having to have surgery. We now wait for him to recover before we can get the process moving again. 

When he originally came back from the specialist and confirmed what we already knew - that he would have to have surgery - it was hard because they can take a while to schedule and get in so I was originally set up for a long time - then when we go the call that his date was at the end of February I was relieved in so many ways. Then to have that pulled out from under you and be told it could be another month I could just see the delay getting longer and longer. 

The worst part for me is that a lot of family/friends are having babies right now. I am going to put this out there - it's not that I wish them bad or that I'm not happy for them it is just really really hard.  I have had this discussion with my bestie and as much as I lover her she doesn't get it. S is really the best friend a person could have and I love her to pieces - but she's never had a problem having children and that really seems to be the key. Those that have struggles with infertility understand how hard it is - its not that other people being pregnant or having babies makes you hate that person - it makes me hate myself and get very angry. It is not fair - its just not fair. I wish for the first part people would understand and I think that the easiest way to put is this - I am a woman - I am purpose built biologically to do one thing - reproduce and have a baby - so by the shear fact that my body is messed up and is working against that eats away being a woman.

I honestly don't know where this post is going but I need to vent that I'm frustrated and stressed and I'm glad that the husband is on the road to recovery and I was back in the kitchen yesterday night and back to being happy in there.