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Baigan Bhartha

Pretty sure this if from Indian Epicure: Classic Recipes from North India by Meera Taneja, but my cat isn’t letting me up to check.

2 large round aubergines
1/2 lb onions
1 inch root ginger, chopped fine
1t cumin seed
1t salt
1/2t chilli powder
1 green chilli, chopped fine
1lb fresh or canned tomatoes
2-3T oil

Scorch the aubergines under the grill until the skin has charred. Set aside to cool. Peel off the charred skin and chop the aubergines. Chop the onions finely, heat the oil in a deep frying pan, add the onions, green chilli, ginger, cumin seeds and chilli powder and fry until the onions are light brown. Add the aubergines and tomatoes. Cook slowly, stirring frequently. The aubergines will absorb the oil from the onions, so cook until the aubergine, tomato and onion mixture releases the oil slightly – about 15 minutes. Serve very hot. [also good with some yogurt mixed in at the very end.]

Mother’s Southern Recipes: Chicken Raft, Chicken Creole, Gumbo

My mother gave me a package of chicken breasts to use up – anyone want to come over and let me cook for you? Not only will this use up the meat, but also it will force me to get off my ass and clean my apartment (which I have been neglecting for a couple months).

Dinner would probably be chicken raft. I know – you’ve never heard of it. It’s one of my family’s recipes… and, since I promised Biz, I’m including a few of my family recipes in the post (note: measurements are almost always approximations)

Chicken Raft (Sometimes this is called Chicken & Dumplings, but this is not the vegetables, yellow gravy, and distinct floating blobs of dough – but it’s not really a Chicken Pie, either)

Boil together:

  • 2lbs cubed chicken breast
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • dried celery flakes (or 1 whole stalk celery to be removed later)

  • water to cover, plus some

Add salt & pepper when done (if using celery stalk, remove it now).

Pour chicken and onion into a large casserole dish, and then pour the water left in the pot until it almost covers the chicken.

Mix up the BisQuick biscuit recipe only slightly drier… basing the amount on 2 cups of BisQuick, more if using more chicken. (Biz – substitute any biscuit recipe that works for you)

Roll out the dough to at least the length of the casserole dish. Slice the dough into 1/4″ strips. Any excess can be wadded up and plopped into the chicken… corners first to support the raft. Then lay strips 1″ or less apart lengthwise and then widthwise (I start at the edges, then middle, and then evenly divide the space until the grid is filled).

Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes.

Open oven, but don’t remove the raft – add 1 whole stick of butter, sliced into pats and laid atop of the intersections of the raft… and add as muck milk as the dish will accommodate (pouring evenly over the crust to soften it)

Bake another 10 minutes.


Chicken Creole

bunch of chicken breasts (3-4?) (you can substitute shrimp in this recipe)
1/4 lb butter
1 onion, chopped
8-10 fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced (or 2 15oz cans of diced tomatoes)
10-12 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
fresh marjoram (optional… or can be substituted by thyme)


IN one saucepan, lightly brown bite-sized chunks of chicken breast in lots and lots of butter. Add onions and keep cooking until creamy golden. Add tomatoes, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until saucy but not watery. Salt and pepper to taste. If you have fresh marjoram, it is nice if added right at the end of cooking.

Serve over plump, white rice.


Gumbo Now, there are worlds of debate over how to make gumbo, even within the family, but this is how my mother likes it

3 medium onions
3/4 or 1 cup flour
2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken, cut up (white or dark)
smallish stalk of celery
2 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, cooked and cleaned (with tails still attached)
1 1/2 lbs crab meat (or 6-8 soft shelled crabs)

water (stock can be substituted for some of the water)
worcestershire sauce
seafood seasoning (Old Bay, or your preferred brand)


Chop up onions. Grill onions in butter until translucent.

Brown flour. Make into a roux. Add enough water to make a thick gravy.

Pour gravy into a stock pot and add onions. Add chicken. Add more water until gravy is medium thin.

Add salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, and a dash or two of seafood seasoning to taste. Add celery, bay leaves, and garlic.

Add shrimp and crab meat.

Let it cook until perfect.

You could also add scallops or lobster, but no fish or sausage or any of that crap (really – my momma says so).

Lamb roast

I have lamb. A wee little roast that is perfect for one person.

So tonight I shall:

  • Run home from work and put the lamb on a broiler pan.
  • Cut into meat and insert garlic cloves.
  • Lay rosemary on top.
  • Lay fatback on top crossing the rosemary (because the roast has had the natural fat trimmed off).
  • Roast it in the oven at 300 degrees for 40 minutes per lb or so.

Then tomorrow, I shall:

  • Cut off all the good meat leftovers from the roast (and the lamb leftovers I stole from my parents) and turn it into curry.
  • Then the rest (bones, etc.) gets turned into lamb stock.

ETA: So here is the lamb follow up

I’ve been having a stale kind of smell in my house the past couple days and had been unable to place it… well, it was the lamb. But I had plans for that lamb! So I trimmed off the most questionable bits and covered the meat with salt. About 15 minutes later, when the salt was a bit damp around the edges, I rinsed off the salt and patted the lamb dry… still smelled a little questionable, but much better… so I trimmed a couple more small bits… and prepared as planned. Only… with a slightly longer cooking time, and I did not take it out of the oven until it’s juices ran completely clear. As of now, I am not poisoned at all… and it was very tasty. Leftovers are in the fridge for curry.

ETAA: Here’s an explanation of why I have started posting about food

I grew up in a 50s kind of household — meat and potatoes. Our definition of vegetable was the box from green giant that you pop in the microwave for five minutes and stir halfway through… in fact, these days my father will only eat the sugar snap peas from there because the other vegetables are too… healthy.

So I have moved out on my own. I can now eat anything I want. Some things I can figure out with books, but my cookbook budget it limited. I also use allrecipes.com fairly frequently — they have an advanced search feature where you can search by ingredients. I have found the answers to some questions that have been bothering me for a while: for instance, the difference between a parsnip and a parsley root and what both their relationships are to parsley. But some answers I have not found yet: like what exactly is that vegetable, at my produce truck, that looks like a long seedless cucumber (only with a slightly lighter-colored skin) but has this fuzzy mass inside instead. So this is me exploring.

What don’t I know? I know basic ways to make vegetables, but I am looking for more exciting ones. I don’t know authentic approaches to ethnic cuisines. I don’t know (and am intimidated about learning) how to cook fish, bake, or even make most desserts. I’ll figure it out.