Saturday, November 15, 2014

fermented foods | amla or Indian gooseberry in brine | the best way to make brine fermented pickles

I have been using the Indian Gooseberry aka Amla or Aonla as it is called in Hindi, a lot these days. Amla starts appearing in the markets in the autumn season and keeps coming till the winter lasts. As if to provide immunity towards winter ailments in the country where winter can be really harsh and there are no central heating in homes. Winters are short but come with a few ailments thanks to lowered immunity during this time. Amla helps boost immunity but there are many people who don't like the taste of amla and completely ignore this seasonal bounty of nature.

While we love the boiled amla chutney and instant amla pickle (amle ka achar) along with random green chutneys made with coriander and mint greens and a few amla berries thrown in, there are people who detest the slightly astringent taste of amla. This amla coconut chutney is one where nobody has detected presence of amla as yet, the chutney is served with idli and dosa.

Some readers on my facebook page (Healthy Living With Sangeeta Khanna) asked me how to make brined amla so everyone in the family can eat it regularly and I was reminded of the brined amla I had tasted at a Maharashtrian friend of mine. Those were small amlas, brined whole in heavily salted brine that they serve to start with the meal as a palate cleanser and digestive.

Later I tried with segmented raw amla and sliced raw amla and both ways it was a great pickle to have on hand. I still have a kilo of brined whole amla in my pantry and use those slightly darkened berries to make green chutney sometimes. But the sliced amla works really well for salads and sandwiches or served as it is on the side just like you serve pickled jalapenos, vinegared onions or pickled gherkins etc. Sliced amla makes the brine pickle more versatile in use as you can throw a few slices in any chicken, boiled egg, tuna or sausage salad along with other greens.

You can actually make brined pickles of any vegetables you wish. Cucumbers, cabbage, ginger and garlic behave really well along with grapes, radish, turnips, carrots, beets, knol khol etc. try with any of these vegetables and add slice jalapenos, bell peppers or any other sharp spices if you wish.

How to prepare the brine? 

Brine is just a solution of 30-35 gm of table salt and a Liter of filtered water. No heating required. Just mix both till the salt dissolves.

Now you can use any vegetables sliced in bite sized pieces and pour the brine over them. Just make sure you pour enough brine to cover the vegetable slices to make sure the fermentation in anaerobic and no contamination happens to the floating slices of vegetables.

The vegetable slices start getting sour by the next day, it means the fermentation has started. Watch out for the desired sourness and once you get your kind of sourness and softness of the vegetables, just refrigerate the brined pickle and use it for a month** or so.

** the longevity of the brined salad will depend on the vegetables used. Cucumbers get really soft and loose texture after souring for 3-4 days on room temperature but stays well if refrigerated after a day of souring. But will stay good only for a month or so. Amal will get perfectly soured and free of astringent taste within 3 days and will keep well on room temperature for a year or more. So it all depends on how well the vegetable slices behave with souring and softening the tissue. Amla slices remain firm and crisp all the while.

This is how amla looks when freshly brined along with a few slices of ginger..

Ginger gives a nice pink colour to the brined pickle. See how it looks after 4 days of fermentation. This colour stay for about 6 months and later it started darkening a bit but the taste and benefits remain the same.

Few points to keep in mind when brining the vegetables..

  1. Use sterilised glass jars or ceramic jars for brine pickling.
  2. Use as much vegetables as you wish but do not fill the jar to the brim. Keep some space for the brine.
  3. Wash and clean all vegetables being used really well. Clean the knives and chopping board properly before chopping the vegetables on them.
  4. Pour the brine solution just after chopping the vegetables. Do not keep the cut vegetables open for long. 
  5. Most vegetables keep submerged if you pour enough brine over them but some vegetables like cabbage or mature radish etc may float to the surface and keep exposed to the air, put a small sterilised bowl or plate above the brined pickle to keep all vegetables submerged. This is to provide anaerobic fermentation condition to the pickle.
  6. Open the lid once a day to check contamination and taste the pickle about sourness and desired softness of the vegetable being pickled.
  7. Refrigerate once the pickle is fermented enough for your liking.
  8. Note that brined Amla doesn't need any refrigeration.
  9. You can even brine raw mango slices, Amda (Hog plums), sour plums and even small sour apples this way. All these can be used to make salads, chutneys, pesto and as a souring agent for curries and stews as desired. 
  10. Add seasoning and spices as desired.

For the above cucumber brined pickle I just sliced cucumbers and jalapeno peppers (bhavnagri mirchi) and poured brine over it. There is a kick of chilly heat in this pickle that everyone likes.

The tall bottle in the background is store bought pickled capers. We don't get capers here but you can make your own pickled capers too following the same recipe and method discussed here or just like this blogger does.

Some people make brined amla with boiled amla but that is not the best way to bring out the flavours and that is not a probiotic pickle as well. I recommend this brined pickled amla for multiple health benefits.

See this apple and red cabbage pickled salad I make with home made vinegar of different types. The probiotic benefit from all these pickles is similar but the taste and longevity of the pickles will be different depending on the vegetables/fruits and pickling solution used.

This is the season for amla to be brined so go ahead buy some amla and slice them fine. I even added the remaining stone of the amla along with some remaining flesh after slicing to the brine and the pickle is being picked up on the dining table quite frequently.

Friday, November 14, 2014

seafood promotion at the rooftop restaurant - Le Bevedere at Le Meridien and a recipe of king scallop in chilly bean sauce

Seafood is something we crave for, something we always look forward to as we don't normally get good quality fresh seafood around here in Delhi. We do get our quota of seafood when we visit INA market and stock the fridge but that doesn't happen very frequently because of the hassle of cleaning the seafood at home. It is much more easier to order chicken or meat and start cooking immediately without any hassle of cleaning. Yes, sometimes I compromise on cooking some of my favourite foods because of cooking and cleaning hassles and prefer eating out whenever we get a chance. And we have always loved the seafood served at Le Belvedere (at Le Meridien, New Delhi) with a nice view of Lutyen's Delhi.

 It was a coincidence that Purba asked on Twitter whether we can meet any time soon and I suggested why don't we meet at Le Belvedere. It was the occasion of a preview of the soon to be held seafood promotion at the restaurant and we lapped up the opportunity. Love for seafood and joy of meeting friends after a while both being nurtured together. It was a fun lunch with sips of wine and laughter.

I started with a clear chicken soup that is one of my favourites even at home. Simple flavours with fresh crisp vegetables and generous chunks of chicken breast that comfort the soul. I started my soup late and the main course had arived by that time and the soup was so good I kept having in between my main course bites.

Pomfret in hot bean sauce was very delicately flavoured, soft and fresh but many of us found the bones a little distracting. I have always loved their lobster and this time too it was the same old good taste with fresh ingredients and flavourful sauce to accompany. Perfectly cooked and lightly seasoned I must add.

The whole red snapper looked sad in the face but packed a punch taste wise. We tasted the king fish in black pepper sauce and that was good too. But the unanimously favourite dish was the king scallop in chilly bean sauce. Chef Balkishan Chauhan was generous enough to part with the recipe for all of you. Perfect texture that results from great timing while cooking and fresh crunchy vegetables to pair it with. Loved the black mushrooms as a base and crisp snow peas.

Here is the recipe for you all. All this seafood was polished off with stir fry noodles, plain boiled rice and sticky rice. My choice is sticky rice for sure.

Pan roasted king scallop in chilly bean sauce

(4 servings) 

Quantity                          ingredients

 400 gm                         King Scallop
    2 tbsp                         Corn flour
    1 no.                           Egg
    To Taste                     Salt
    ½ tsp                          White Pepper Powder
    30 ml                         Cooking Oil
    2 tsp                          Chopped Garlic 
    2 tsp                          Chopped Ginger
    2 tsp                          Chopped Black Bean
    1 tbsp                        Red Bell Pepper
    1 tbsp                        Yellow Bell Pepper
    2 tbsp                        Green Bell Pepper
    2 tbsp                        Onion
    2 tbsp                        Spring Onions
    1 tsp                          Chilly Paste
    1 tbsp                        Soy Sauce Dark                        
    2 cup                         Fish stock
    2 tsp                          Chinese cooking wine
    2 tsp                          Sesame oil


1.   Take king scallops and wash them properly. Keep aside in cool place.
2.   Wash and cut bell peppers, onion and spring onion into dices.
3.   Marinate scallops in a mixing bowl with salt, white pepper, egg, and corn flour.
4.   Keep marinated scallops in refrigerator for ½ hr.
5.   In a wok heat the oil, add marinated scallops and cook it until golden brown in colour or tender. Keep aside.
6.   Heat oil in a wok, add chopped ginger, garlic, black bean and sauté it. Add bell pepper, onion, and spring onion toss it well.
7.   Add chilly paste, soy sauce dark, fish stock, salt, and sugar in to the mixture and bring it to boil.
8.   Add roasted scallop with mixture and heat it well check the seasoning and adjust the consistency With slurry (Corn starch and water)
9.   Add Chinese cooking wine and sesame oil and mix it.
10.       Remove from heat. Serve hot.

11.       It can be served with sticky rice or noodle.  

Try the recipe at home and recreate the magic that Chef Balkishan creates with king scallops.

Desserts were not needed but Anasuya and Chef Balkishan insisted and we tried the date pancakes and toffee banana. I took a bite of date pancake it was well made, rich flavours. Toffee banana was praised by those who tried it.

Here are the crazy bunch of people who spent a lovely time together that afternoon. 
Sipping illy coffee after the lunch and catching up on gossip.

The seafood promotion starts from 14th of this month. You might like to go and experience the view from 20th floor and the yummy seafood too.