Friday, September 30, 2011

Indian Bento 6

By request I have produced another Indian themed bento. It was quite timely since the newspaper was featuring this Indian cookbook author that wrote a book on cooking traditional Indian dishes with a slow cooker. The book is called "The Indian Slow Cooker" by Anupy Singla. I just found her blog and will be earmarking it for a full read. I enjoyed the book, but I bought the e-book version for my nook and it's just hard navigating reference material on an e-book versus have the old fashion tree killing paper version. I do like the idea of adapting a cuisine to using the fire and forget slow cooker, it's a good way to save stove space and the lack of need to supervise the cooking lets me still have a reasonable Sunday. I will say I seized the opportunity to buy yet another slow cooker bringing me up to three (ouch am I like the slow cooker version of a cat hoarder?).

This Lamb Korma recipe actually didn't come from the book. I grabbed a few recipes from online and took some liberties. The resulting dish had a thinner curry than you normally would get at the local Indian restaurant (dunno how it compares to authentic) but I'm betting they used lots of ghee (which I skipped) and a ton more heavy cream. I believe one variation (northern style) even used ground cashews for thickening. Either way the five hours of cooking made for very tender and flavorful meat. I think the only complaint I got out of this bento was that I didn't include enough rice for both the curry and the dal. I considered using the larger container for rice, but I really didn't want to "cheap out" with the rice as a filler. Goes to show you that there are just certain things you gotta have with Indian food and plenty of rice is on top of the list.

I'm still playing with my new camera and my new acquisition of a reflector to bounce some light from the sun. I'm particularly fond of this picture, the colors really pop out and the picture is nice and crisp. Oh right the food, Aloo Gobi or Spiced Cauliflower and Potato. This was the dish that was featured on the paper (and online here). I was quite a bit concerned with the lack of liquid in the recipe. But just as the author promised the whole thing really cooked down. With this dish, I used White potatoes and I wasn't necessarily happy with the texture. The potatoes were cooked all the way through, but they had a really firm texture that at first bite made me think they weren't done. I believe this is from the lower starch/waxy characteristics of the white potato. With this slow dry heat treatment, I'm wondering if a russet (baking) potato would be a better choice the higher starch content would soak up the excess liquid from the cauliflower and have better flavor.

Palak Aur Sabut Moong Dal is a green lentil with spinach stew/soup. Really it could be considered either, as a classic dal you eat it with rice, but i've seen references to this recipe called a soup, which if you think split pea then you've got the right texture in mind. I had my doubts that the moong dal would actual break down, in Chinese cooking the moong dal is used as a dessert "green bean soup" (and the moong dal is called moong bean rather than lentil). Even under pretty generous pressure cooking the bean still has a reasonable held together texture. But I suppose if you subject anything to eight hours of cooking time even the most hearty of ingredients break down.

I got pretty good marks on this bento, and the theme requester was quite happy. I'll have to circle back to the cookbook and try out a few more of the recipes. Anyhow, as always thanks for reading!

Box Contents:
  • Lamb Korma
  • Aloo Gobi
  • Palak Aur Sabut Moong Dal

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fall Preview Bento

It has been one long and hot summer here in Texas. We broke quite a few records locally, most days 100+ degree weather, most consecutive 100+ degree weather, and I believe we clinched hottest August in the US *ever*. It's been one of those summer that felt so ridiculously hot you simply have to cry at the sheer absurdity when you step outside. Last week that all changed (apparently it was only a brief respite since we're back to 100F today) and over the course of a Saturday the weather was actually quite pleasant. Tons of people went outside and enjoyed the cool weather, and if that's our preview of fall then bring it on. In honor of that very brief week long preview, I decided on my theme to be a "preview of fall".

Fall and winter foods always scream meat and potatoes to me and that's kinda what I went for this lunch. I started lunch off with a Beef Tenderloin in a Mushroom Cognac sauce. As usual I went with a Sous Vide treatment on the beef, it's really the only way to go since you're saving space and producing amazing texture. I finished the steaks in a cast iron and made a stroganoff-like pan sauce. The sauce itself called for beef broth, which I supplemented from the leftover liquid from the vacuum bag. This added a pretty strong beefy flavor more so than just the broth alone. I liked the introduction of dill from the recipe it goes with the sour cream based sauce nicely.

Meat and potatoes can be quiet the heavy combo, so I made these tomato stewed green beans. I had them simmering for a good 30 mins or so and I had to hot swap the pot (with the boil potatoes) and I think the heavy heat caused my beautiful green beans to yellow slightly (they looked fine and tasted crisp as I was about to pull them but after I turned around it changed dramatically). Goes to show you how an additional minute with too much temperature can do to you. I liked how it soften the beans a bit more so they didn't crunch like they were raw but I wish they were able to retain their color a bit better. A simple blanch and throwing in tomatoes and onions would not have been enough to infuse the beans with enough flavor. This really did require a slow and delicate cooking process. Not a complete fail, but I could have done better.

For the potatoes I made some Sour Cream Leek Mashed Potatoes and they taste just about as yummy as they sound. The sour cream and milk made for a very cream texture. I'm a bit on the fence about the use of leeks here. They didn't really add much to flavor and they seemed a little stringy in texture. Had I chopped/diced them they would have just gotten lost in the potato. In this case I think go big with the onion flavor or go home, there are plenty of good applications for leeks I just think it's a bit too subtle here perhaps some scallions. I went with a white potato, I couldn't find any yukon golds both are fine for mashing they have a lower starch content so they hold up well under boiling but I like the yukon gold variety because they can be a bit drier which would have offset the creamy texture that the sour cream added. That or I should have been more judicious about adding and mashing/stirring.

Finally, I saw an interesting recipe that required poached quince. Quince is a cousin of the pear and apple, having a bit of the characteristics of both. It's pretty old fruit and has quite a bit of history. It's a fall fruit so I figure it would be a good addition unfortunately since it isn't fall, it was a bit harder to come by. Apparently as you poach the fruit for a long time they turn a nice deep red color. I didn't have enough time to carry it that far so I went for a quick 45 mins in a bit of water honey and lemon quince. The result was a very tender fruit that had a nice aroma of honey. The fruit itself is not terribly sweet so the hint of honey and lemon really sat well with this "dessert". I could actually see steeping a bit of tea in the poaching liquid and serving it as a hot tea. (hmm. I'll have to remember that.)

It's funny how quickly you get out of practice when you're not cooking regularly, this lunch took quite a bit of effort for me despite trying my best to be organized. I'll have to work on my planning this next week as I've got a lot going on. Anyhow, Thanks for reading!

Box Contents:
  • Beef Tenderloin with Cognac mushroom sauce
  • Green Beans stewed in tomato
  • Sour Cream and Leek Mashed Potatoes
  • Honey poached Quince