Whistling Pressure Cooker http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com Easy. Affordable. Gourmet. Mon, 12 Aug 2013 17:09:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Chicken Korma from the British Raj http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/chicken-korma/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/chicken-korma/#comments Mon, 12 Aug 2013 15:11:33 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/?p=826 Read the Rest...]]> Chicken korma

I found a recipe for korma (spelled “quorma” by the British during the days of the British Raj) in the Anglo-Indian cookbook, Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and Cookbook of the British Raj while indulging my obsession for Anglo-Indian cooking. The recipe here is modified to make it come together faster with less fuss. This means substituting chicken for the lamb in the original recipe, which is more expensive and takes longer to cook, as well as using ginger and garlic pastes instead of fresh. I love fresh ingredients as much as any foodie, but for those who love to cook nice meals in addition to having a full time job, sometimes a simple shortcut can be all that is keeping us from ordering in a greasy pizza instead of making a hot meal from scratch. I have also omitted the ground almonds to make the final dish healthier, which is why using whole-fat yogurt is essential or there is nothing to lend the creaminess that is characteristic of a korma. If you choose, you could even spike in a little cream along with the yogurt. The original recipe had called for 1 cup of ground almonds and 6 oz of cream.

What I like about this recipe is that it can be made in a single pot. In a pinch, everything from the ginger paste to the yogurt can be added all at once to the pot after adding the cinnamon and bay leaf to the hot oil and frying the chicken slightly. I have done it this way too and it makes for an easy dinner for one of those nights when I don’t even manage to get home from work until 8:45.



Chicken Korma

Yield: 6-8 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

This is a delightful, creamy one-pot chicken curry that is not spicy


3 lbs chicken legs and thighs, skinned
juice of half a lemon
2 tsp salt

1 large stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
3 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped finely
1.5 Tbsp ginger paste
1 Tbsp garlic paste
2 tsp ground turmeric
1.5 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
salt, to taste
1.5 tsp sugar
2 tsp garam masala
1 cup whole-milk yogurt (do not use low-fat for this)
freshly squeezed lime juice, about 2 tsps


Marinate the chicken in the lemon juice and 2 tsp of salt and set aside for 30 minutes.

Set a heavy lidded pot over medium-high heat. Add the ghee and oil. Once hot, add the cinammon stick and bay leaf. Stir briefly until they release their aromas, about 30s.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions and a big pinch of salt. Fry the onions without letting them brown until they are translucent, about 7-10 minutes depending on the moisture in the onions. Now add the ginger and garlic pastes and the green chilli. Fry until the raw smell goes. Now add the turmeric, coriander and cumin powders and fry till their aromas are released, 2-3 minutes.Turn the heat down to low.

Remove the chicken from its marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Turn the heat back up to medium and add to the onion and spice mixture and fry, but do not allow the chicken to get browned, about 10 minutes.

Remove the pot from heat and allow it to cool slightly. While the pot is cooling, whisk the yogurt to make it smooth. Add this to the pot, slowly, in batches, so that the yogurt does not curdle. Mix to combine everything. Add the sugar and season with salt.

Bring the curry to a gentle boil and then cover the pot. Allow it to simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often so it does not burn. At the end of the simmering, if you want to thicken the sauce, then turn the heat up slightly and evaporate some liquid; just remember to keep stirring so the bottom does not burn.

While the curry is simmering, make your rice, roti or naan to serve with the korma. In the final 10 minutes of the simmering, dry roast the garam masala powder in a hot pan. Once you can smell the aromas of the masala, add it to the curry, mixing to combine.

Once done, sprinkle with the lime juice and give one final stir to mix everything together.

Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and Cookbook of the British Raj


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Bengali goat curry and Copley Square, Boston http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/bengali-goat-curry-and-copley-square-boston/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/bengali-goat-curry-and-copley-square-boston/#comments Thu, 02 May 2013 16:06:15 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/?p=805 Read the Rest...]]> goat curry

This year – 2013 – at ten minutes shy of 3:00 PM, two misguided, and, to the best of our knowledge right now, self-radicalized brothers set off a bomb each near the finish line of the Boston Marathon at Copley Square, with the obvious intention of hurting as many people as possible. They used pressure cookers to make their bombs, the high pressure amplifying the effects of the explosives inside when the bombs went off.

I will not insult the suffering of the victims by saying I was pained by the fact that pressure cookers – my favourite cookware and the namesake for my blog – were used, but I certainly was dismayed. Pressure cookers are not used much in American kitchens. Here people use their ovens for slow and long cooking. They are thought to be mysterious, complicated –elite even – and potentially dangerous. They can be, if not used correctly, but even hot oil in a pot can be dangerous, as can an oven. In India, where most houses do not have ovens, and cylinders of cooking gas are limited and rationed, cooks use pressure cookers to speed up those spicy curries and whip up beans and lentils without soaking overnight or resorting to cans of preservative-filled foods. I love the Indian whistling pressure cooker for its place in the culinary history and heritage of the country I left to come study in America. To Indians a pressure cooker is a kitchen icon, an heirloom, and is often the only thing that keeps the fledlging cook from starving or running herself into financial ruin. 

During hurricane Irene in 2011, when the electricity failed and the shiny, contemporary convection stove and oven beneath it at my in-laws’ house in Rhode Island were rendered useless, I cooked chicken tikka masala and rice in my pressure cooker over our tiny gas camping stove. Instead of ripening deli meat sandwiches made with stale bread, my in-laws and I ate a fresh, piping hot curry. The next day, when the chicken was gone, beans were made in my pressure cooker until the lights and oven were back in operation.

I introduced into our American-Bengali home the traditional Bengali Sunday lunch ritual of goat curry. K has embraced it and that meal has become a cherished institution in our hybrid-culture home. And I make it always in my pressure cooker…three whistles on high heat followed by fifteen minutes on low heat before allowing the pressure to release slowly on its own…as my mother taught me, and her mother taught her and so on.

goat curry and copley-6

Indian food has a bad rap for being complicated to cook and very ingredient heavy, and not always unjustly, but this curry requires few ingredients and just a single pot. And yes, a pressure cooker, while ideal, is not necessary; this can be made in the oven but you will have to be patient while the meat softens over several hours as you would if you were making beef stew. If you are using a pressure cooker you should be dipping your naan into the sauce in just over an hour from the time you start. The final texture of the curry should not be of the consistency of thick, immobile from heaviness, paste like curries in Indian restaurants, but should be like a stew.
I thought about the bombings again as I used my pressure cooker last week to set my caramel custard: that a pressure cooker could be used for anything other than cooking tasty food fast had never crossed my mind. I now feel nervous professing my love for my pressure cookers, and pressure cookers in general, openly.

Martinis at Samurai in Copley

After being closed for over a week, Copley Square is now back open for business. To encourage people to go shop in that part of town – not that Bostonians need a push to do that anyway – there is free parking in the entire Boylston area all week. To show our Boston spirit, we went to Copley on Friday and had a few – a few too many – drinks there on Friday after some of us from lab went there for a sushi lunch trip which turned into a bar hopping, colourful-martini competition event.

Apple Store at Copley

Kids play on the iPad mini at the Apple Store across from the Prudential Centre in Copley

But Copley was roaring with people. There was life everywhere…people, pets and plants! I loved it. Spring is here in Boston finally and Copley is open once more! 



Bengali Goat Curry (Kosha Mangsho)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

This curry takes an hour to cook from start to finish in a pressure cooker, including down time while waiting for the pressure to release and tastes even better the next day. Just the potatoes and curry makes a lip-smacking meal with some naan or roti (Indian flat-bread).

If you are making this in the oven instead, it will take 3-4 hours depending on your oven and on how tough your meat was to begin with. My mother did not cook with recipes and for the dishes that I learnt exclusively from her, I still have never really measured the amounts. She always adds spices in rough estimates based on how much meat or fish there is, how much sauce she wants in the final dish and how many people will be eating. So, if you find that there is too much or too little of something, just adjust that ingredient to taste the next time you make it.

The water boiled during the first step will be used as liquid for the curry. Meat curries taste better when starting with warm water that has been brought to a boil.


2.2 lbs (1kg) bone-in goat meat (or lamb) cut into small pieces
4 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds (optional)
2 large red onions, sliced very thin or minced
1 heaping Tbsp garlic paste (or finely minced garlic)
1 Tbsp ginger paste
salt to taste
1 large, ripe tomato, chopped roughly into small pieces
3 green chillies, slit in half lengthwise (Thai chillies if you like spicy; jalapeños with seeds removed if not)
2 tsp turmeric
10 new potatoes, (those tiny little ones) preferably white, scrubbed clean
juice of half a lime, freshly squeezed
¼ cup tightly packed cilantro leaves, minced fine


If you are using an oven, preheat your oven to 350F. Also, bring water to boil in a kettle or a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. Allow the water to boil for 3-4 minutes before turning the heat off. Set this aside for use later.

Heat a heavy, ovenproof pot with a lid (also ovenproof) or a pressure cooker on medium-high heat. Add the oil and when you see the first wisp of smoke (which should be within seconds if you heated the pot enough) add the cumin seeds if you are using them. Stir gentle until the seeds release their aromas, about 30 seconds. Do not let the seeds burn. Now add the garlic paste and stir for a minute or so until he raw flavor of garlic is gone. Now add the onions and a large pinch of salt.

Stir the onions occasionally until hey just start to brown, 5 minutes. Now add the ginger and keep frying for 2-3 minutes. Once the ginger has lost its raw smell, add the meat. Give the meat a good stir so that it is mixed well with the oil, onions and aromatics. Fry for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the meat does not burn on one side but fries uniformly.

Now add the chopped tomatoes with juices, the chillies, turmeric and 2 tsp salt. Keep frying until the juices from the the tomato have dried up and oil separates out from the meat and onion mixture. Add the potatoes now. Fry for a couple minutes.

Add the boiled water from the first step. If the pot you are using is wide then add enough water to bring the liquid level to around three-quarters of the total height of the meat. If, however, your pot is narrow and tall rather than wide, then add water to cover the meat.

* If cooking in the oven, cover with the lid and place in the centre of the oven and cook until fork-tender. Check the meat after two hours, and then every hour. If the meat comes apart easily when pulled apart with two forks, it is ready.

* If cooking in an Indian whistling pressure cooker, fasten the lid and allow the cooker to come to full pressure. After three whistles, turn the heat down to low and cook for 15 minutes. Turn heat off and allow the pressure to release naturally before opening.

* If cooking in a Western pressure cooker, fasten lid and allow the pressure cooker to come to full pressure. Cook on full pressure for 5 minutes. Turn heat down to low and cook for another 12-13 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally before opening.

Taste the broth for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Squeeze the lime juice into the curry and add the cilantro leaves just before serving. Serve with naan, rice or even crusty bread.

My mother

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Whole-Wheat Ciabatta Bread http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/whole-wheat-ciabatta-bread/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/whole-wheat-ciabatta-bread/#comments Mon, 15 Apr 2013 17:30:33 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/?p=786 Read the Rest...]]> Whole-wheat ciabatta bread

After successfully executing Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread twice, I tried my hand at sandwich bread, which also turned out quite fabulous.

I decided it was time to give sourdough a try. Twice, I tried, using Mark Bittman’s sourdough starter and bread recipe from his famous book, How to cook Everything. Both times my sourdough bread turned into this dense, heavy ball of…of something… that was better suited to bludgeoning people to death with rather than eating. I was not dejected the first time — anyone can fail at following a recipe once. But when my second loaf of sourdough went south, I lost courage.

“I will leave bread baking to the professionals,” I said, ” From now on, I will  stick to just cooking.”

But K just would not let me! Any time I stop to look at artisan breads at the market, K reminds me that he loved the bread I baked at home. As I pick up a loaf and put it into my basket, he tells me that the store-bought stuff is so expensive, that I should bake my own bread again. Yesterday, he pointed out the cost of the lovely ciabatta loaf I had set my heart on. I felt so guilty that I put it back.

So today, here I am trying out a recipe for “Easy Homemade Ciabatta” from the blog Crepes of Wrath based on their lovely photo on Tastespotting, my favourite food porn site. I picked this bread because of (almost) instant gratification: No waiting until tomorrow. I make the dough, rest it for two hours and then bake. And I know whether it was a success or a failure.

And this one, baby, was a success!

I used white whole-wheat flour. Yes, it sounds contradictory. But, it just is a different wheat berry that gives you the health benefit of whole-wheat but is less dense. See, I can have my cake, uh bread, and eat it too. But use all-purpose or white bread flour by all means. And into it went salt, sugar, instant yeast and warm water. I made the dough in the food processor using a dough blade this time instead of the regular cutting blade. Mix until everything comes together and toss into a large (olive) oiled bowl.

ciabatta dough-1

I just wiped the bowl clean, oiled it and transferred the dough into it. Then I pulled one side of the dough up to stretch it, folded it over the dough and then repeated with the other side. I needed both my hands and the dough was so sticky that I just could not get a photo of me doing this. At first the dough tore when I pulled it up even a few inches, but after doing this for a good 5 minutes, the dough held much better when I pulled a bit up. This step traps air in the dough that helps give the bread its delicious air-pockets.

ciabatta dough-2

Then drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil and set aside for two hours in a warm place.

ciabatta dough-3

My apartment is  quite cold today so I decided to keep a light on near the dough to keep it warm and snug.

ciabatta dough-4

We’ve poked, pinched, prodded and pulled the dough. It is tired. Let it rest! 2 hours. Pre-heat your oven to 400F during the final 30 minutes of resting.


This is what the dough looked like after resting.

Now line a baking sheet with parchment paper and generously sprinkle flour over it. (I have foil on my baking sheet because it is old and has burn marks on it). Flour your hands and shape the dough into a log by folding it over itself once or twice. This step turned out to be easier than I thought  it would be.

ciabatta dough-6

Sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes until bread turns a golden brown and the inside sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.

Whole-wheat ciabatta bread



Whole-Wheat Ciabatta Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Easy homemade ciabatta bread.


3¼ cups white whole-wheat flour (use all-purpose or white bread flour if you prefer)
1 teaspoons instant
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
1¾ cup warm (115 degrees F) water
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for the bowl


1. Add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast to food processor bowl fitted with dough blade. Turn on and mix until everything comes together.

2. Oil a large bowl with olive oil and dump the dough into it. Pull parts of the dough up and slap back down on the dough. At first the dough will tear easily, but as you keep doing this, the dough will get stronger and stronger. Continue for 5-6 minutes.

3. Drizzle the dough with the olive oil. Cover with a clean towel and set aside in a warm place to rest for 2 hours.

4. In the final 30 minutes of resting, pre-heat oven to 400F. When the dough has rested it will have become smooth and risen. You may see a few bubbles on the surface of the dough.

5. Transfer the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape into a log-like thing and bake at 400F for 35-40 minutes. The bread is done when it has a beautiful golden-brown exterior and sounds hollow when tapped.

Crepes of Wrath


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Gobhi (cauliflower) Manchurian — Indo-Chinese food from the street-carts of South India http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/gobhi-cauliflower-manchurian-indo-chinese-food-from-the-street-carts-of-south-india/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/gobhi-cauliflower-manchurian-indo-chinese-food-from-the-street-carts-of-south-india/#comments Sun, 07 Apr 2013 19:05:18 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/?p=775 Read the Rest...]]>  

Gobhi (cauliflower) Manchurian

No, I have not fallen off the face of the planet.

Yes, yes, I still cook most nights.

So, why have I not been posting recipes to my blog? First I was giving the blog a face-lift, then I was waiting for everything to be perfect before I started posting again. But I got busy with my PhD research, then I switched labs and started from scratch with new research, then I went and got myself hit by a car and had to recover from that. By then we had moved and I no longer had a place at which I took photos, then…I could make excuses until the sun went down.

But I will stop with the excuses and just post my recipe.

In an effort to make K appreciate cauliflower more, I decided to have him try the South Indian street food specialty, “Gobhi (cauliflower) Manchurian”. 

There was a Gobhi Manchurian street cart right on on the main road in Bangalore where I lived while in college. Every evening they set up shop on a balding patch of grass just off Bhoopasandra Main Rd where it met another street with an unpronounceable name on which my friend, Maggi lived and sold two dishes: gobhi manchurain and fried rice. An hour before they opened shop, large cauliflower florets were tossed into a thick batter with red food colour, which were first deep-fried and then stir-fried with onions, garlic, ginger and more or less spicy green peppers to your taste. You could get as a dry dish, which was served on a paper plate with just one toothpick, which three or four of us shared stading right there, on the side of the street, fighting each other for more pieces of cauliflower.

Or you could get it “with gravy”, in which case they would toss in at the end a thick cornstarch slurry and a little more food colour, which could be eaten with their fried rice, with egg for an couple more rupees.

I loved the dried version of the dish. And this is the dish I chose to introduce K to both the potential of cauliflower and South-Indian street food.



Gobhi (cauliflower) Manchurian

Yield: 4 servings as appetizer

Total Time: 45 minutes total, largely unattended

Popular addictive vegetarian street food from my college town of Bangalore, India.


1 large cauliflower, separated into large florets
3 eggs
2/3 cup cornstarch
4-5 grinds of a pepper mill (or 1 tsp ground pepper)
Half a medium-sized onion, cut crosswise into thin slices
2 tsp freshly minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger (or ginger paste)
Thai/Indian green chillies, slit in half
(1 for flavour, more if you can handle the heat)
2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp cayenne, or more to taste
Salt to taste
oil for deep frying, 1 Tbsp more oil for stir-frying at the end


Put enough oil in a deep, heavy bottomed pan (or deep fryer) and heat slowly, on medium-low heat to 350F (or until a wooden spoon inserted into the oil bubbles). The pan should be deep enough to allow room for the oil to rise and bubble after the cauliflower florets are added to the hot oil.

Beat the eggs and cornstarch together until well blended. Sprinkle in the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Mix once with a spatula and then add the cauliflower florets. Use your hands to mix and coat with the batter, being careful not to break the florets too much.

Deep-fry the cauliflower in small batches so as to not overcrowd the pot. Fry until the outside is golden but not a rich brown. Make sure the oil comes back to 350F before adding a new batch in. Drain the cauliflower on a cooling rack.

Warm 1 Tbsp of oil on medium-high heat in a fry pan until the oil starts to shimmer. Immediately add the garlic and ginger and fry for a minute until fragrant. Add the onion and fry for another minute. Add the ketchup and cook until the sauce bubbles and dries up and the colour concentrates, about 5 minutes.

Toss in the cauliflower and stir to coat with the sauce. Continue to fry for another minute or two.

Serve immediately in cheap little paper plates with toothpicks. :-)

Street vendor from Bangalore, India

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Chicken Saltimbocca http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/chicken-saltimbocca/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/chicken-saltimbocca/#comments Wed, 22 Aug 2012 23:35:00 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/2010/01/chicken-saltimbocca/ Read the Rest...]]>

 Chicken Saltimbocca

Tradionally Chicken Saltimbocca is made using sage and no cheese. The first time I made it, I didn’t have any sage on hand and stuck in some Port Salut cheese that needed using up. K loved it and moved my Chicken Saltimbocca to the top of his favourites… displacing even his long time favourite Tandoori Chicken. Chicken Saltimbocca is now one of our mainstay classy comfort foods. Since common knowledge dictates that one should not mess around with a successful formula, I have never altered my Chicken Saltimbocca recipe. If you wish to be more authentic, you could add some chopped sage with the garlic while making the pan sauce.

The proscuitto in this dish should be neither shaved, nor thickly sliced. Thick slices do not stick to the chicken and shaved slices will not cover the cheese. Just have the deli make thin slices for you.

Chicken Saltimbocca was my first foray into the realm of what is known as “fine cooking”. It holds a special place in my heart. And last night — at my recommendation — one of my best friends, Anu, who lives in Australia — made it for a surprise romantic dinner for her husband and he loved it too.



Chicken Saltimbocca

Yield: 1 serving

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Make-ahead note: The chicken can be prepped with the sage leaves and Proscuitto and refrigerated until ready for a few hours, while working on other parts of the meal.

This recipe is not difficult; the recipe looks long because I have included detailed instructions in technique so that the final dish comes out as you would see it on your plate at a fine Italian restaurant.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
Port Salut cheese
6 slices of Proscuitto, thinly sliced, cut into half through the middle
(6 sage leaves)
2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
freshly cracked pepper to taste
2 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
2/3 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


Cut the chicken breast at a diagonal into three pieces. This helps to keep the piece from the tapering part of the breast from being too small. Cover with a piece of cling wrap and using a meat mallet or the back of a heavy pan, meat the pieces to an equal thickness.

On the centre of the flatter side of each piece of chicken place (1 sage leaf and) a small bit of cheese -- enough to cover about a third of the piece on the chicken. Place two half-slices of Proscuitto over the cheese and press to stick on. Turn the chicken pieces over and sprinkle some freshly cracked pepper.

Heat a pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and heat until the oil shimmers. Place the chicken in the pan, proscuitto-side down and turn the heat down to medium. Cook in two batches if all the chicken does not fit in your pan at once. Pan-fry for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high and flip the chicken over. Turn the heat back down to medium and pan fry for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate. Do not worry if some of the cheese oozes out into the pan. It will get incorporated into the sauce and will make the sauce more flavourful.

Add a touch more of oil if the pan is dry followed by the chopped garlic. Stir for 30-45 seconds or until the garlic is aromatic. Now add the dry-vermouth and scrape up the browned bits. When most of the vermouth has evaporated and the liquid in the pan looks syrupy, add the chicken stock and any juices released by the fried chicken to the pan. Turn the heat up to high. Stir occasionally while allowing the stock to reduce to an almost sauce-like consistency.

Add the cold butter, one tablespoon at a time, swirling it to make an emulsion. The butter gives the sauce a nice sheen. Add the chopped parsley to the pan.

Return the chicken to the pan. Coat both sides of the chicken with the sauce.


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Ginger Crab http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/ginger-crab/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/ginger-crab/#comments Tue, 18 Oct 2011 03:27:00 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/2011/10/ginger-crab/ Read the Rest...]]> Ginger Crab

During the years we spent in Calcutta, India, my parents would plan impromptu trips to Digha, a small fishing town along the Bay of Bengal coast, only a few hours’ drive from Calcutta. I would emerge out of the car in school uniform and backpack to find my mother’s sticking her head through the wrought iron grill of our balcony shouting out to our chauffeur.

“Don’t head back to the office,” she would scream out over the din of the city and street cricket matches,
“Saheb (Sir) is coming home in a different office car. You’re coming to Digha with us; so go grab some clothes, tank up the car and be back here in an hour!”

These trips were always my father’s idea and I never got an inkling of when one was coming until it was announced. He made his decision on the spur of the moment and we always sportingly went along. Nothing makes a Bengali happier than hot food and tickets to travel somewhere. We would spend the weekend at Digha, leaving Calcutta on a Friday evening and be back again by Monday morning, but always just too late to go to school – and without the required doctor’s note too! – much to the chagrin of my teachers.

By the time Digha’s famous “Matsyakanna” (Mermaid, or literally, fish-girl) statue greeted us,  the sun would be red and swollen and falling into the water. The beach would be flaming red from afar — inch-long red crabs littered all over the sand, basking in the setting sun. I would run out of the car hoping to catch one, but each time the sneaky little things would skutter off sideways into the safety of their holes. And the beach would turn into patches of golden brown skin with old, old acne scars where had agitated their slumber.

Digha is by no means a gorgeous sea resort town. The waves are not spectacular and neither is the sand some rare colour. But it is ocean in all its fishiness and Calcuttans are drawn to it like Tolkien’s elves to the Great Sea.

I have never seen small red crabs in America. They’re too small to eat anyway. But I always am reminded of the little red crabs taking in the last of the day’s sun when I see crabs in the market, even if the ones I am buying don’t actually turn red until I throw them into hot oil.



Ginger Crab Recipe

Yield: 2 servings

This recipe is adapted from Rasa Malaysia’s Ginger Scallion Crab recipe. I did not have scallions on hand so I did not add them. I also replaced the white pepper powder with red pepper flakes.. I used smaller crabs so I needed 2. You want to have 1.5 - 2 lbs of whole crab. The dish will serve 2 quite easily when enjoyed with some steaming hot rice. The peanut oil can easily be replaced with corn oil or vegetable oil.


2 crabs (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 inches ginger, peeled and sliced into matchstick thin pieces
3 tablespoons cornstarch
oil for deep frying

For Sauce:
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon sugar
5 tablespoons hot water
3/4 teaspoon corn starch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/8 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil


Mix the corn starch for the sauce in 1 tablespoon of cold water. Set aside.

Mix the other sauce ingredients except the peanut oil together and set aside.

Clean the crab and cut into pieces. Dry well with paper towel and sprinkle the corn starch over it. Toss to evenly coat the crab pieces in the cornstarch.

Heat oil to 350F for deep frying. The oil should start form bubbles when a wooden spatula is inserted but should not froth over.

Take a handful of crab pieces, in a sieve and shake to remove any excess corn starch. Drop the crab pieces into the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Do this in batches if necessary. Remove as soon as the crab turns red.

Heat a wok and add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger slices. Stir until the release their aroma, about 30 seconds to a minute. Remove the ginger and discard.

Add the crab slices to the wok and stir quickly for a few times. Now add the sauce ingredients and stir to coat the crab in the sauce.

Stir the cornstarch and water mixture so that there are no lumps and add it to the sauce. Stir to mix and keep on heat for 2 minutes.

Serve immediate with hot jasmine rice.

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Pineapple Ginger Scones http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/pineapple-ginger-scones/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/pineapple-ginger-scones/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 19:32:00 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/2011/07/pineapple-ginger-scones/ Read the Rest...]]>

Pineapple Scones

It’s not that I cannot bake; I just do not like to. Barring cooked tuna and sardines in any way, shape or form, I eat everything. I am allergic to eggplant, but that has never really quite stopped me from eating it anyway. I do my best to ignore the varying intensities of itchiness in my throat brought about by different varieties of eggplant. However, I do not have what is commonly understood as “an evergreen sweet tooth”, with just one exception – but I will save that for another day. Besides, to me, cake batter tastes better before baking than after, so I find it hard to see the point in even putting it into the oven. If it were not for the strong resistance to pollutants, toxins and probably common food contaminating bacteria that one invariably develops when they have spent years and years in India, eating all kinds of yumminess from street-food stalls, oblivious to the rush hour traffic puffing out sooty smoke like small, scaled-down factory chimneys, I would probably have died of Salmonella poisoning or Shiga toxins by now. I once ate an entire cake’s worth of cake batter with my Bosnian roommate in Rhode Island while the preheated oven and the cake pan remained waiting in the kitchen.

To make matters worse, I don’t eat chocolate. It’s not a diet thing, or a discipline issue. Nor is it a saddening, debilitating allergic handicap. I just hate – detest, would be a more apt word – chocolate. I always have. It is an unforgivable sin for a foodie and I understand that I am hell-bound for it. But there it is. So, most desserts, so cherished by the all the world, utterly fail to seduce me. I do like a plain crème brûlée or a crème caramel, but not enough that I would inconvenience myself to make it often unless that was the only thing I was setting out to make. So why choose to bake scones without any warning? I have not eaten a scone in over 5 years. I do not sit and reminisce about them, about how unfulfilling my life is without them all around me.

But I grew up reading too much British fiction: Enid Blyton and P. G. Wodehouse. Could the Famous Five or the Secret Seven ever have had the determination and courage to pursue the motley of crooks that they did without their tummies being fuelled by scones and Devonshire cream made by a bona fide English cook? Or would tea time at Blandings Castle have ever been successful if there were no jellied scones to accompany the tea and sandwiches?  Would Jeeves, the stiff upper-lipped butler, have permitted such a travesty to befall the table of Bertie Wooster? I have never, in person, been to the English countryside in the summer (or in the winter, for that matter). Nor have I had the pleasure of visiting London. Yet I have been to these places through these books. I have smelled Yorkshire pudding and Christmas plum cake through the pages of books. I would be decidedly shocked if someone were to try to convince me that a steak and kidney pie were not among the best ways to start one’s day – even though I have eaten one just once, and even then, not for breakfast. So also have I had scones and clotted cream at tea time, and a glass of port or sherry after dinner.

The original recipe was for ginger scones, but I did not find candied ginger either at the Asian supermarket nor at the regular supermarket so I substituted candied pineapple for the ginger instead adapting a recipe I found on the Epicurious website.



Pineapple Ginger Scones

Yield: 8 scones


2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp powdered ginger
¼ tsp lemon zest
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1” cubes and frozen
2/3 cup candied pineapples, chopped into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream, plus a little more for brushing


Adjust oven rack to middle, preheat the oven to 400⁰F.

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder. Pulse to incorporate.

Add the butter, lemon zest and the powdered ginger. Pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and reaches the consistency of fine meal. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the pineapple.

Make a well in the centre; add the heavy cream. Draw in the dry ingredients until just mixed. Do not overmix.

Dump the dough onto a clean work surface. Pat the dough into a ¾“ circle and cut out circles or just break off equal bits and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bring the trimmings together and cut out more circles.

Brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for about 20 minutes. Turn the baking tray once so that the heat is evenly distributed. The baking time depends on the oven so start checking after 14 minutes. The scones are done when their surfaces are light brown and start to crack.

Allow to cool completely. Enjoy!

Not particularly healthy, but good once in a while. :)


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Tequila Flambéed Shrimp over Sautéed Asparagus and Parmesan Polenta http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/tequila-flambeed-shrimp-over-sauteed-asparagus-and-parmesan-polenta/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/tequila-flambeed-shrimp-over-sauteed-asparagus-and-parmesan-polenta/#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2011 16:36:00 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/2011/04/tequila-flambeed-shrimp-over-sauteed-asparagus-and-parmesan-polenta/ Read the Rest...]]> Flambeed Shrimp over Asparagus and Polenta

I bought a pound of shrimp a couple days ago because it was on sale. K is very picky when it comes to shrimp — it cannot just be cooked any which way, the shrimp have to have a good sear on both sides, which pretty much eliminates a lot of Italian recipes and Indian curries. I had been craving polenta since I stole some from K when it came with his braised short-rib dinner at Grafton St. When I saw the cover of the latest “Real Simple” recipe collection with a pretty picture of a shrimp dish with crispy bacon and plum tomatoes over cheesy grits, I thought I could make something like that with polenta underneath instead of grits. That cover dish was my inspiration for this dinner, but I could not make it as is because K does not like tomatoes with shrimp (if he likes tomatoes in anything but salads), and I desperately wanted some spice and cilantro, being the girl from the tropics… so I threw in those plus some tequila for a Mexican-inspired dinner with some asparagus for greenery. And out came a fancy homemade Friday night dinner in under an hour!

The recipe looks long but it a balanced meal – complete with starch, protein and greens. No need to fix a salad and a salad dressing or roast veggies to put on the side; everything is right here and is part of the main course presentation for an eye-catching dinner. This one you can definitely make for a dinner party.



Tequila Flambéed Shrimp over Sautéed Asparagus and Parmesan Polenta

The recipe looks long but it a balanced meal - complete with starch, protein and greens. No need to fix a salad and a salad dressing or roast veggies to put on the side; everything is right here and is part of the main course presentation for an eye-catching dinner. This one you can definitely make for a dinner party.


1 lb shrimp (21-30 shrimp/lb)
5 strips of bacon
2 Thai chilli peppers (can substitute with jalapeno), slit lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped coarsely
1.5 shots good Tequila (I used Hornitos)
freshly squeezed juice of half a lime
1/3 of a bunch asparagus
1/2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 dashes of Maggi Seasoning
1 package instant polenta
1 cup grated parmesan cheese


1. Cut the strips of bacon into 1" pieces. Spread the pieces out in a skillet and render the bacon fat out over medium-low heat.

2. While the bacon is on the stove, peel the shrimp, cut the asparagus into 1"pieces on the diagonal discarding the woody stems, and grate the cheese. Move the bacon pieces around so that most of the fat from the bacon is rendered and the pieces crisp up.

3. When the bacon is done, remove with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain. Turn the heat up to high so the bacon fat heats up to smoking.

4. When the fat starts to smoke add the shrimp in a single layer without overcrowding. You will need to do this in batches. Leave the shrimp undisturbed for a 1-1.5 minutes. Flip using tongs and fry the other side for 1 minute. Remove to paper towel making sure to keep the shrimp in a single layer. Repeat until all the shrimp are fried. Shrimp should not be overcooked or it turns chewy.

5. Cook the polenta according to package instructions. Mine involved bringing 4.5 cups of water to a rapid boil and then adding the polenta in while stirring constantly. The polenta thickens in about 30 seconds. Add in the cheese. Whisk or stir one last time.

6. In a small non-stick skillet, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, throw in the asparagus and spread them out in the skillet. Leave them alone for half a minute and then toss to sauté the other side. Drizzle the Maggi Seasoning over the asparagus and mix once. Turn the heat off. Set aside.

7. Return all the shrimp to the pan along with the Thai chillies and the crispy bacon slices. Remove the seeds from the chillies if you want flavour but not spice. Add the tequila (not straight from the bottle - FIRE HAZARD!) and tilt the skillet to ignite the fumes if you have a gas stove or use a piece of long pasta to ignite the flames. In both cases, keep you face away so you don't singe your eyebrows off!

8. Allow the flames to burn off. Sprinkle the cilantro and the lime juice. Mix one last time.

9. To serve, spread the polenta in the centre of the plate to in a flat round shape, make a bed of asparagus in the middle of the polenta and using a slotted spoon (to avoid any unnecessary artery-clogging bacon fat) layer 7-8 pieces of shrimp and a couple pieces of bacon on top in a mound over the asparagus for a classy, fancy dinner. Serve immediately and enjoy!



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Steamed Silken Tofu with Ginger and Scallions http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/steamed-silken-tofu-with-ginger-and-scallions/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/steamed-silken-tofu-with-ginger-and-scallions/#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2011 16:21:00 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/2011/04/steamed-silken-tofu-with-ginger-and-scallions/ Read the Rest...]]> Steamed Silken tofu

I have been trying to restrict my intake of non-vegetarian food to only one meal a day. Usually that means eating fruit smoothies for breakfast and salads for lunch. But on days that I am home I can do some experimenting with new vegetarian dishes. One day I decided to find out what all the hype about steamed silken tofu was all about. Mainly it would give me another opportunity to try out my (then) new bamboo steamer. So of course, we do not generally have a lot of tofu on hand — K hates it, and I do not love it. But my Chinese friends go on and on about the silky texture and the velvety feel of silken tofu…so off I rush to Super88 to buy myself a brick of silken tofu. My recipe is pretty much straight out of chef and restauranteur Kylie Kwong’s book, “Simple Chinese Cooking“.
This dish is simple, healthy and vegan — seldom do I have vegan fare on my blog. And for people that love tofu in its simplest form, without hiding its flavour by drowning it in sauces,  this dish is a delight!

Steamed Tofu with Stir-fried Imitation Lobster Meat



Steamed Silken Tofu with Ginger and Scallions


1 10oz packet of silken tofu
1Tb shao hsing wine (Chinese cooking wine) or dry sherry
1/3 cup water
1 Tb light soy sauce
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 Tbsp ginger, julienned
1/4 cup scallion (spring onion), julienned
1 Tb peanut oil
1 tsp sesame seed oil
pinch of Sichuan pepper and salt combo (optional)

Sichuan pepper and Salt Combo:
3 Tbsp coarse sea salt
1 Tb Sichuan peppercorns


Remove the tofu from its packet into a shallow, heat-proof bowl that will fit inside a steamer basket or in a bamboo steamer.

Cut the tofu brick across along it's length into 8 equal-sized pieces. Cover with the shao hsing wine, soy sauce, water, sugar and half the ginger. Place the bowl into the steamer and position over a wok or saucepan of boiling water. Steam for about 6 minutes or until heated through.

Remove the bowl with the tofu being mindful of the hot steam and transfer to a serving dish along with all its liquids. Spread the scallion pieces and the leftover ginger on top.

Heat the peanut oil to a small frying pan until pretty hot and carefully pour over the tofu to release its flavours. You should hear the scallions and ginger sizzle a little. Sprinkle the sesame seed oil and the Sichuan pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Sichuan pepper and Salt Combo:

Dry-roast the Sichuan peppercorns and the salt in a heavy pan, stirring constantly. When the Sichuan peppercorns start to make a popping sound and release their aromas turn off the heat. Cool at room temperature and then grind to a fine powder in either a mortar pestle or a spice/coffee grinder. Store in an airtight container.

Simple Chinese Cooking

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Making Paneer from Scratch http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/making-paneer-from-scratch/ http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/making-paneer-from-scratch/#comments Sun, 30 Jan 2011 16:41:00 +0000 Swati http://www.whistlingpressurecooker.com/2011/01/making-paneer-from-scratch/ Read the Rest...]]> Homemade Paneer

I think I stopped blogging shortly after we adopted Oscar Schindler, our cat, which means it has been almost a year now. I thought about blogging from time to time… but just never got to it. My blog would just turn into another one of my many projects that I started with great zeal but abandoned somewhere along the way when I picked up one too many newer projects. I thought nobody would notice. But my friend Nick sent me a text-message one evening; He said, “Bring back The Whistling Pressure Cooker”. And so I will. Thanks Nick. I still cook. I even still take photos of the food I cook. Why should I stop blogging about it then?

We were discussing making paneer from scratch over delicious dinner and desserts at Finale on Beacon St last night where we had gathered to celebrate Nelsa’s birthday. It comes out to be a lot cheaper than buying it from the Indian food markets… and a lot fresher. It’s best to use whole milk, although skim milk can also be used. Do NOT use whole milk! Paneer is essentially a cheese — which is a fat, and you cannot make cheese from non-fat milk without yucky chemicals. But making paneer is so easy — really — I promise.

Making homemade paneer is not a recipe, but more of a technique. Once you master it, you can always make it. Just remember that it is best to use neutral-flavoured acids like lemon juice or white vinegar. Flavoured acids like apple-cider vinegar or wine vinegar will result in paneer with a strong flavour, which is not usually desirable, especially if you are cooking Indian food since these smells are not part of the Indian culinary tradition. Some people like to add a teaspoon or two of dried herbs to their paneer to make it visually interesting and add complexity of flavour to the paneer. Feel free to experiment and have fun with it.

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