Z is for Zha Jiang Mian 

Noodles have a history that go back to 4000 years, archeological evidence shows. It had its origin in north west China. Probably, there is no food item that travelled so far around the world, with noodles in some form or other being enjoyed in every part of the world.

Zha Jian Mian, literally translated to ‘fried sauce needles’ is one of the most popular noodle dishes, most prevalent in the city of Beijing. It originated from the Shandong province of Northern China and is common to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and many other countries in the east as well, of course with minor variations.

This is one dish that must be familiar to anyone who has attempted any noodle dish. All the ingredients can be found in a Chinese grocery store. Regular wheat noodles of any shape will work very well. And extra firm tofu holds up much better without crumbling.

And you can safely make some ingredient swaps without affecting the flavor of the dish. You can use hoisin sauce in place of sweet bean sauce; only, in that case reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe as hoisin is sweeter. Japanese miso, especially if you mix the light and dark varieties (1:1) can easily replace the ground bean paste if you find it hard to get. And the chilis… you can use any of the hot chili varieties that you might have, or even a sweet chili. I used habanero because I had it in the fridge already.

And if you want to add more vegetables to the dish, you have so many options: sweet peas, snap peas, Napa cabbage, red and green peppers… any of them can be sliced this and added to the pan along with the carrots.

The meat sauce is served on top of the boiled noodles, with garnishes like sliced cucumber, radish, carrots etc and extra bean sprouts.

Z is for Zha Jiang Mian 

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:6 servings



  1. Marinate the ground pork with 1 tsp corn starch, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, and salt and pepper. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Set a large pot of water to boil.
  3. Heat the cooking oil in a largish pan over high heat. When hot, add the scallions, hot chili, and shallot. Fry, constantly stirring, till the shallots are softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the marinated ground pork and stir together breaking up any lumps. Reduce the heat to medium and cover and cook till the pork is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle some water on the pork if the mixture is drying up too fast.
  5. When the pork is cooked, bring the heat back up to high. Add the tofu to the pan and mix well. Continue frying for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the two bean sauces, soy sauce, carrots, mushrooms bean sprouts, and sugar to the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of water and stir well to combine all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Mix the remaining corn starch in a tablespoon of water. Add to the pan and mix well and continue cooking till the sauce has thickened, for about 2 more minutes. Check for seasoning. Turn off the heat and keep the pan warm.
  8. Check that the water set to boil in the pot is on full boil. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.
  9. When the noodles are done, drain them in a colander and toss with the 1 teaspoon of remaining sesame oil.
  10. Serve the noodles in bowls and top with the meat sauce mixture, with garnishes like strips of carrots and cucumbers, and bean sprouts.
Keywords:Chinese fried noodles, Noodles with meat sauce, Stir fry

Y is for Yassa au Poulet

Yassa au poulet has its origin in the southern Casamance region of Senegal. It is one of the traditional dishes of Senegal and is popular across West Africa. These days yassa’s fame has spread across the world and you will find it in many restaurants in all major cities.

If French onion soup and lemon chicken had a delicious baby… that would be yassa au poulet! The oniony, lemony, spicy sauce that the chicken is braised is so fragrant you will feel hungry right away. You can see some French influence, especially when you look at the caramelized onions. Not a surprise, as Senegal was under French rule from 1659 until 1960.

What is noteworthy about yassa is that it uses a limited number of ingredients. Onions – lots and lots of onions, lemons or limes, and mustard… these are the basics, the essentials. The rest is additions to enhance the flavor, that might vary based on the particular location it is cooked in. 

The chicken is always bone-in, skin-on, with chicken thighs, legs, drumsticks being the general rule. You can also cut up a whole chicken and make a yassa out of it. The method of cooking the chicken is flexible: on the grill, on a grill pan or in a heavy skillet. Chicken is marinated for hours, and some recipes call for cooking it in the same marinade. I have opted for a simple marinade which is discarded later.

Though yassa au poulet (yassa chicken) is the most popular, yassa lamb and yassa poisson (yassa fish) and also common, especially in southern Senegal.

Yassa is often served with fonio, a kind of millet with a nutty flavor and similar to quinoa in appearance and texture. Is it poised to be the next great food find? Read about it here… Fonio: the grain that would defeat quinoa as king among foodies.

You can serve yassa with cooked white rice, couscous or fonio and sliced green olives.

Y is for Yassa au Poulet

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:5 servings



  1. Combine the chopped scallions, thyme, vinegar, 1 tablespoon of oil, and half the lemon juice in a bowl. Add the chicken to the bowl and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours minimum and up to 24 hours.
  2. When time to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron or any other heavy skillet. Place the chicken pieces in the hot oil, skin side down. Brown the chicken on both sides, turning over as required, about 7 to 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, place the cut onions in the pan in one layer. Season with salt. Let the onions cook without stirring for 3 to 4 minutes. Continue cooking, turning them over with a spatula occasionally. If the onions start to stick to the bottom, you may have to add a bit more oil to the pan.
  5. When the onion is well browned and caramelized, add the cut green pepper, the habanero pepper, chopped ginger and garlic, bay leaves, and mustard. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. When the green pepper has wilted, add the remaining lemon juice to the pan and check the seasoning.
  7. Add the chicken pieces to the pan, dredging them under the onions. Add a cup of water to the pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover and cook. Check once in a while to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan. If not, add a bit of water.
  8. Continue cooking till the chicken is fully cooked, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Serve with cooked rice, couscous or fonio.
Keywords:Chicken with Caramelized Onion, Oniony Lemony Spicy chicken, Senegalese Chicken, West African

X is for Xacuti

We all know that Indian curries use spices, maybe more than any other cuisine. Still, Xacuti (pronounced sha-kuthi) has more varieties of spices in it than any other curry I have encountered. This dish originates from Goa, situated on the west coast of India. It has some Portuguese connections, I am told, but with the inclusion of so many spices, I don’t know how that could be. Maybe the Portuguese chakuti underwent drastic changes when transplanted to the fertile soils of Goa, or it is just the name that got applied to a dish already existing. Whatever… the xacuti is one of the most delicious curries from the Indian subcontinent.

The spices that make Xacuti so flavorful, are mostly native to Goa. The dish can be made with fish or other seafood, chicken, veal, lamb or even hardy vegetables. I have chosen chicken (boneless, skinless) for this version.

Goan cuisine itself is well known for its unique flavors. Influenced by 451 years of Portuguese rule but rooted firmly in its native Konkani traditions, it is an expression of the best of both worlds. The hot chili peppers from South America and vinegar, introduced by the Portuguese to Goa have combined so well with the native coconuts and kokum along with the plentitude of fish locally available to produce one of the richest branches of Indian food.

The spices are dry roasted and powdered, and then added to the roasted coconut to be ground together. While dry roasting ingredients, it is a good idea to add larger sized ingredients first. In this case, add the red chilies first, give it a minute and then add the piece of nutmeg and black pepper and so on, ending with poppy seeds.

Xacuti is usually served with cooked rice or any flat bread like rotis and naans. Also great with a chunk of crusty bread.

X is for Xacuti

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings


    For the spice powder

  • For the xacuti


  1. Heat a pan on medium heat. Dry roast the ingredients for the spice powder till they are fragrant, just about a minute or so. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the coconut and sauté till lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  3. When the spices have cooled, grind them into a fine powder in a spice mill, or using a mortar and pestle.
  4. Grind the roasted coconut to a paste in a blender, adding water as required. Sieve the ground mixture, using a cheese cloth placed over a strainer to extract all the coconut milk. You can add a little bit of water to the mix, if required, to extract the liquid fully.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoon of oil in a largish pan. Add onions and sauté till transparent and the edges start to brown.
  6. Add the extracted coconut milk and mix well.
  7. Add the spice powder and turmeric powder and mix well. Season with salt. Allow to cook till it comes to a full boil.
  8. Add the chicken pieces and mix. Reduce the heat to low and cover and cook, till the chicken is done. You can add more water to cook the chicken, if the sauce is drying up.
  9. When the chicken is done, add the tamarind pulp and cook on simmer for 2 minutes.
  10. Check for seasoning and remove from the heat.
  11. Give it a squeeze of lemon and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and thin juliennes of ginger. Serve with cooked rice or flat breads of any kind.
Keywords:Chcicken xacuti, Goan Portuguese

U is for Udon Noodle Soup

Udon noodles are a popular food in Japan, especially in the southern parts of the country. Made with basic ingredients like wheat flour, water and salt, they are thicker than the regular noodles, and can be round or flat. Usually made into soup, udon can be enjoyed in hot or cold preparations. I’ve made this recipe of udon noodle soup with shrimp balls and a mix of vegetables.

Udon noodles have their origin in China. Legend has it that a monk from Kagawa on the Shikoku island went to China in the 7th century, for studies. When he returned to Japan, he brought back the recipe for udon noodles  which was common in China at that time. It is also mentioned that a stone relic in the Takinomiya Tenmangu shrine, called the Ryutoin-ato, marks the location where the first udon was made in Japan.

Fun fact: The dough for the udon noodles is tough and difficult to handle. So it is stomped on to make it pliable. 

Most of the Japanese soups have dashi as their base. Dashi is made from bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes or kombu (edible kelp, a large brown seaweed), or both. I used instant dashi powder (available online and in some east Asian grocery stores) for this recipe.

This soup is a delightful melding of flavors. Starting with the dashi which makes a lovely broth, and the shrimp balls flavored with ginger, garlic and scallions, to the sautéed mushrooms and the still crisp snow peas and radishes, it is totally enjoyable. And the boiled eggs provide a creamy satisfying rounding off of the flavors. And it is rather easy to put together, including making the shrimp balls.

This soup is a complete meal that includes protein, starch and vegetables. Usually it is served with just hot mustard on the side.

U is for Udon Noodle Soup

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:2 servings


    For shrimp balls

  • For the soup


  1. Using a food processor (or a chopping board and heavy knife), chop together ginger, garlic, scallions, and 6 of the shrimp, adding 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar to moisten.
  2. Cut the remaining shrimp into small pieces and add to the chopped mix. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. To the mix, add the cornstarch and enough of egg white to hold the mixture together.
  4. Form into uniform small balls and set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a pot and add the mushrooms. Fry till light brown.
  6. Add 4 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil Drop in the sliced radishes and the instant dashi powder. Cover and cook.
  7. When the radishes are cooked, in about 10 minutes, add the snap peas and cabbage. Continue to cook for two minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Bring the heat down so that the liquid in the pot is on a slow simmer. Carefully add the shrimp balls to the pot and allow to cook for 3 minutes without disturbing.
  9. Add the cooked noodles and carefully mix together. Continue to cook for 3 more minutes.
  10. Take off the heat and serve in two bowls. Place two halves of boiled egg in each bowl.
  11. Serve with hot mustard or any other chili sauce on the side.
Keywords:Japanese, Shrimp, Udon soup

T is for Tahchin Morgh 

Tahchins are a Persian/Iranian rice delicacy. The name comes from the words ‘tah’ meaning bottom and ‘chin’ meaning to layer, to arrange. True to the name, a Tahchin consists of multiple layers baked together. It is one of the most popular dishes and is served for celebrations and on special occasions.

Tahchins can be cooked with meat, fish, or vegetables or plain with just the rice. Usually bone-in meat is used as it adds to the flavor. 

Creating a tahchin is an art form – the art of the tahdig. It takes expertise and practice to get it right. Tahdig is the crispy, fragrant disc of rice that form at the bottom of the dish and is the focus of a tahchin. The tahdig is separated from the main dish and served on the side along with the rest of the dish.

A tahchin has four essential layers: the bottom layer of rice, eggs, and yogurt which forms the tahdig, the spiced rice above that, the meat/fish/vegetable layer, and finally, one more rice layer. 

I have used chicken thighs for this recipe. As I found the basic chicken rather bland, I’ve spiced it up a bit more than usual for this version, taking care to use the common Iranian spices to do so.

I am not very happy with the results… I know I should have left the tahchin another 10 minutes in the oven, letting it brown further. Alas, patience is not one of my qualities!

Based on the type of tahchin, the accompaniments vary. However, yogurt and green salads are usually served with all versions.

T is for Tahchin Morgh 

Difficulty:AdvancedServings:6 servings



  1. To make the Persian spice powder, lightly roast and powder together 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tsp cloves, 1” piece of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, and 2 tbsp of dried rose petals. I had to do without the rose petals as I didn’t have them on hand.
  2. Wash the basmati rice and soak for 1 hour.
  3. Marinate the chicken pieces with onion powder, garlic powder, Persian spice, salt and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cut onions. Cook on medium heat till the onion turns transparent and the edges start to brown.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and stir well.
  6. Add the tomatoes, mix and continue cooking till the chicken is done and the sauce has thickened. There should be around a cup of sauces in the pan. Allow to cool.
  7. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a largish pot and add the soaked rice. Bring the water back to boiling and cook on simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Drain in a colander and cool under running water. Set aside.
  9. Place an oven rack in the lowest position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  10. Heat the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pan. Pour into a baking dish.
  11. In a bowl, beat the egg with the yogurt, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, pinch of salt, and the saffron, if using. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked rice to the bowl and mix well.
  12. Add the rice mix to the baking dish and press down, using the bottom of a measuring cup or any such utensil.
  13. Add half of the remaining drained and cooled rice to the baking dish.
  14. Add the chicken evenly as the next layer, taking care to cover all the rice.
  15. Finally add the remaining rice and press the whole thing down, lightly.
  16. Add the 1 tablespoon of cold butter, cut into cubes, on top of the rice.
  17. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil (cut slits in the foil to vent the steam) and place on the bottom rack of the pre-heated oven.
  18. Cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  19. Invert the tahchin on to a platter. Cut into pieces and serve with accompaniments.
Keywords:Iranian rice, Persian rice, Rice and chicken, Tahdig

S is for Smørrebrød

Smørrebrød is a Danish open sandwich made of dark rye bread as the base and a variety of toppings. Pronounced ‘shmur-broht’, smorrebrod is a signature item and an integral part of the Danish food culture. The word smørrebrød has its origin from the words ‘smor’ meaning butter and ‘brod’ meaning bread.

The idea of the open-faced sandwich is supposed to have come from the middle age custom of serving food on slabs of stale bread called ‘trenchers’. Someone smart must have realized that the juices from the toppings infused the bread and added flavor to it, and started using good bread as trenchers so that the trencher could be eaten too. And Smørrebrød was born!

Back in the 19th century, when most of Scandinavia was agricultural country, lunch was the main meal of the day. The farmers would pack cold meat and the bits and pieces of the previous day’s dinner to sustain them through the day and eat them piled up on pieces of hardy bread. Thus the open-faced sandwich became the popular meal of the region.

The easy way to plan for this, is to think about the main ingredient – usually a protein – first. Roast beef, smoked (cured) salmon, cooked shrimp, boiled eggs, crab or fish cakes, cold cuts, cheeses, fruits, pickled herrings… these are just a few among the possibilities. Now think about what vegetables – pickled or fresh – will go with them. A dressing to match and something on top to make them pretty. You have the whole plan ready to go!

The bread is buttered generously and this prevents it from getting soggy from the juices of the toppings. Then you pile up the layers, making sure that all the ingredients on a slice of bread get along well together and look good.

They are eaten at celebrations or at daily meals, for any meal of the day – breakfast, lunch or dinner – and are served as starters or entree. At gatherings, often the toppings and accompaniments are passed around on platters so that people can build their own, as per choice.

There are certain rules to be followed in the serving and eating of smørrebrød. First and foremost, you eat them using a fork and knife, never picked up like an NY pizza slice. Secondly, there is a sequence in which they are to be served and eaten: pickled herrings first, other fish next, to be followed by meats and cheeses in that order. A word about the pickled herring… it is definitely an acquired taste. Just like some extreme versions of Danish licorice. But I digress. The third and most important rule is to say ‘skol’ (cheers) frequently, raising your glass. There might be other rules but these are the only ones I recall.

The recipes below are for three variations of smørrebrød, each with its own dressing: Boiled eggs and shrimp with garlicky mayo dressing, Smoked salmon with honey dill mustard dressing and Roast beef with a remoulade dressing.

To make the sandwiches, place the ingredients listed, in the order listed, in a single layer on a well buttered slice of dark rye bread. Drizzle or pipe the dressing over the toppings as indicated in the dressings recipes.

Boiled Eggs and Shrimp

Lettuce leaves

Thick slices of boiled egg

Salad shrimp

Thin slices of radish


Springs of dill

Garlicky Mayo

1/2 cup mayonnaise 

Garlic chives, chopped fine

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Drizzle over the sandwich.

Smoked Salmon

Slices of smoked salmon

Thinly sliced cucumber


Sliced cornichons

Pickled beets

Springs of dill

Honey Dill Mustard

Equal quantity honey mustard, cider vinegar, and grape seed oil (or any neutral oil)

Chopped dill sprigs

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify. Add the chopped dill, pepper and salt. Mix well and pipe over the toppings.

Roast Beef


Slices of roast beef

Rings of red onion

Thin carrot strips


Equal quantity mayonnaise and sour cream

Cornichons, chopped fine

Capers, chopped coarsely

Dijon mustard

Pinch of curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and pipe over the toppings.

R is for Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja literally means ‘old clothes’ which the dish can claim to resemble, if you use your imagination. It is the national dish of Cuba. According to a fun legend associated with the dish, a man who had no money and desperate to feed his family, started cooking his shredded clothes as he had nothing else to cook. He kept praying while the clothes cooked and tada… his old clothes turned into a delicious stew!

Though the national dish of Cuba, its origin story starts from the Iberian peninsula, in modern day Spain.The jewish community there used to prepare this slow cooked stew for sabbath. From there it spread to the seafaring Canary Islands and north Africa. Sailors from Canary Islands took the preparation to Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean. 

Ropa Vieja has a history of 500 years. Of course, originally it was cooked with beef, but ropa vieja can be cooked with pork or chicken thighs as well. I have used pork for this recipe simply because I have been cooking with beef a lot in the past few days and wanted a change.

A dish that has travelled so far, over so long a time, is bound to have some variations, especially when its footprint is spread over geographically separated areas like the Caribbean. That holds too true for ropa vieja, with versions being cooked all over the central and south Americas.

The olives and capers give the dish a bit of tartness, while the mix of peppers and onion gives it lots of color. This is the kind of dish that I cook in a large batch as it tastes better the next day. 

Ropa vieja is usually served with cooked rice and black beans. And fried strips of plantains. Rolled up in a tortilla is good too.

R is for Ropa Vieja

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:6 servings



  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a largish pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the sliced peppers, onion, garlic, cumin and bay leaves to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Stir together and cook till the vegetables are tender and the liquids have evaporated. Keep stirring till it is ready to prevent browning and sticking, about 25 minutes. Set aside when done.
  4. Season the meat well with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the meat pieces to the pan in a single layer. Brown the meat on all sides, turning as required, about 8 to 10 minutes. This can be done in batches.
  6. When all the meat has been browned, add the peppers and onions mix to the browned meat in the pan, along with any previous batches of meat.
  7. Add the olives, capers, tomatoes, and stock. Mix well, stirring and scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Cover with a lid, slightly open so that it doesn’t overflow. Continue cooking, checking on the liquid occasionally and stirring to prevent sticking. If you see there is not enough liquid, add a half cup of water to the pan.
  9. Continue cooking till the meat is tender and shreds easily when poked with a fork, about 2 hours for pork. Check the seasoning.
  10. Shred the meat using two forks and mix well. Serve with cooked rice and black beans.
Keywords:Cuban food, Pork, Ropa Vieja

Q is for Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine is known as a French dish. It gets its name from the French territory of Lorraine, lying between France and Germany. However, according to historical records, the dish originated in the medieval times in the German kingdom of Lothringen. And it is exactly this region that the French acquired and changed the name to Lorraine! In fact, the territory of Alsace-Lorraine has changed ownership between Germany and France many times, all through history. The last change took place after world war 2, when France got it from Germany.

The name quiche is originated from the German word ‘Kuchen’, meaning cake or tart.

Coming back to the quiche, the earlier versions of quiche Lorraine consisted of an egg and cream filling cooked in a pie crust. Later bacon, and cheese and other ingredients were added to the filling. And there is even a finer distinction that if onions are added, it is a quiche Alsacienne, and not a quiche Lorraine! 

Originally the crust was made of bread dough but a regular pie crust is used now.

Quiches became popular in the US and UK in the 1950s. The concept of a is versatility itself. A blind baked shell into which you can add any filling, topped with an egg and cream custard and baked! The fillings can be whatever you can imagine… sausage meat and mushrooms, spinach and onions, crab and tomatoes, artichoke and feta… the possible combinations are endless.

Quiche Lorraine is one of the easiest to make. It can be spiced up with the addition of tabasco or any other hot sauce.

Q is for Quiche Lorraine

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings


    For the pastry shell

  • For the quiche


  1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add a quarter teaspoon salt to the bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Cut the chilled butter into thin slices and add to the flour.
  3. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour till the butter is reduced to pea sized pieces.
  4. Add the egg yolk into the flour-butter mix and blend.
  5. Add the iced water to the flour one spoon at a time and mix with a long fork, gently and quickly. When the flour starts to stick together, gather up all the flour into a ball of dough and gently smoothen the surface.
  6. Cover the dough with cling wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Press the chilled dough to form a disc. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to form a 11 inch circle.
  9. Place the dough in a 9 or 10 inch pie pan. Fold the edges under and flute the edges.
  10. Place a piece of parchment paper over the pastry in the pie pan and fill with pie weights or dry beans.
  11. Bake for 10 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Remove the pastry shell from the oven and let cool.
  12. Fry the bacon in a pan on low heat, turning often. (It can also be prepared in the oven.) Set aside and crumple when cold.
  13. In a clean pan on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. (The bacon fat can also be used, if you prefer.)
  14. Add the sliced onions and fry till transparent and the edges start to brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  15. Add the fried onions, crumpled bacon and both cheeses to the pastry shell.
  16. Thoroughly mix together the eggs, heavy cream, nutmeg and tabasco sauce, if using. Season with salt and pepper.
  17. Pour over the onion-bacon-cheese mix in the pastry shell.
  18. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The center should be a bit jiggly as it will continue to cook.
  19. Place the quiche on a cooling rack and let cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Keywords:European, Quiche, Quiche Lorraine

P is for Paprikash 

Paprikash is a delicious stew-like dish from Hungary, with a centuries old history. The main flavoring ingredient of the dish is paprika, from which the dish’s name also originates. It is believed that it was created by the farmers of southern Hungary, the area famous for excellent quality paprika. The Hungarian National Cookbook published in 1830 contains a recipe for chicken paprikash.

The name of the dish has its origin in the Hungarian word ‘paprikás’ meaning pepper. Many types of vegetables and fruits were taken back to Europe from the Americas by the explorers during the 16th century, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers among them. Hungary became the center of red pepper cultivation thanks to suitable soil and weather conditions. And paprika – dried and powdered red pepper – was born.

The dish paprikash can be made with any meat – lamb, pork or veal – or even a mix of vegetables. However, originally the dish was made with chicken, that too, the tougher parts of chicken. Chicken is the meat most commonly used for paprikash today as well.

I have used chicken drumsticks for this recipe.

You can buy paprika in sweet, hot, and smoked varieties in the US but Hungary has seven official gradations for classifying paprika. Any of the versions will work for this recipe.

The original version of the dish cooked in Hungary does not contain tomatoes, but many versions include them. Even when tomatoes are added, it is a small quantity. I have followed the NY Times version here, of course with variations. 

Paprika starts to lose its flavor after a few months. So it is better to store the paprika in the refrigerator. 

Traditionally, paprikash used to be served with dumplings, but egg noodles have become the norm these days. You can also serve it with crusty bread. And I personally love it served over a bed of mashed potatoes. 

P is for Paprikash 

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings



  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degree F.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the cooking oil in an oven proof largish pan (cast iron is best).
  4. Lay the chicken pieces in a single layer in the pan. Brown for 5 minutes on each side, turning the pieces half way through. When browned all over, remove to a plate.
  5. Add the onion and pepper pieces to the pan. Stir well and scrape up any brown bits that might have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook stirring regularly, till the onions are wilted and transparent, about 6 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, stirring.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter.
  8. Add the paprika and flour to the pan, off the heat. Mix together thoroughly and return the pan to low heat.
  9. Continue cooking for 2 or 3 minutes, taking care that the paprika is not burning.
  10. Add the wine, if using, to the pan. Deglaze and let the liquid evaporate.
  11. Add the chicken stock and the tomato. Stir well to combine.
  12. Place the chicken pieces in the pan, trying not to overlap. Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces.
  13. Place the pan in the pre-heated oven. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, till the chicken is fully cooked.
  14. When done, remove from the oven and check seasoning. Mix in the sour cream. Or you can serve a dollop of the sour cream on top of each serving.
  15. Serve hot with buttered egg noodles or crusty bread. Or any other accompaniment of your choice.
Keywords:Chicken Paprikash, Hungarian, Paprika, Paprikash

O is for Oaxacan Roasted Fish

Oaxaca is the south western region of Mexico, bordering on the Pacific Ocean. And home to a food culture that sets it apart from the rest of Mexico, or for that matter, any other part of the world. What is noteworthy about Oaxacan cuisine is that it has more or less stuck true to its roots and origins, despite the outside influences. It is not surprising that many indigenous people here take pride in the fact that they never have been conquered by any European power and their food ways are untouched by European ingredients or cooking methods. In many parts of Oaxaca, wood stoves earthenware pots are still the norm. Still, maybe due to exactly for the same reasons, Oaxaca today has become a global foodie travel destination, with an increasing number of luxurious restaurants opening up, catering to global tastes.

Known as the home of the seven moles (or the thousand, according to some), Oaxaca makes the best of the diverse varieties of chiles cultivated locally. Ancho, poblano, pasilla, chilaca, chile negro are just a few examples. Ingredients are matched and paired with the chilies to produce complex dishes which sometimes take hours to make.

Though concentrating on ingredients like corn, beans, chocolate, wild herbs, and local cheese, Oaxacan cuisine has its share of meat, poultry and fish. The fish we are focusing on today, is roasted in the oven, but it can also be grilled.

The mole like marinade is cooked first which gives it an amazing complexity and depth of flavor. The marinade is slathered on the fish, inside and out, before roasting it in a high heat oven.

I selected a red branzino to make this dish. Any fish that is fairly firm fleshed and of medium size can be used. Also, selecting a fish with not too many bones will be good.

Having decided to clean and prepare the fish myself, I opted to cut the fish head off. It can be kept on, if you prefer with only the insides removed.

Remember to be careful with the salt, as the fish sauce used in the marinade contains a fair amount of salt already. Letting the fish marinate for 20 minutes greatly enhances the flavor. 

I have not tried this recipe for anything other than a whole fish so far. Maybe one of these days, I’ll try the recipe for a large piece of boneless fish.

You can combine this fish with anything from a pasta salad or a green salad to a bowl of cooked rice. 

O is for Oaxacan Roasted Fish

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:4 servings



  1. Place the ancho chilies in a bowl and add the fish sauce and apple cider vinegar to the bowl. Soak for 20 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat over to 400 F.
  3. Powder the black pepper, cumin, cloves, and oregano together.
  4. In a food processor or blender, grind together all marinade ingredients except the salt: the soaked ancho chilies with the soaking liquid, garlic, the powdered spices, and sugar. Form a smooth paste, adding a little extra water if required.
  5. Transfer this paste to a sauce pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Taste for seasoning and add salt if required.
  7. Prepare the fish by cleaning, washing and drying it with paper towels.
  8. Slather this paste on the cleaned fish inside and outside. Let sit for 20 minutes.
  9. Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil on is and place the fish on the baking sheet.
  10. Roast on the middle rack of the oven, for 8 to 10 minutes per side, turning the fish over half way through the process.
  11. Serve immediately with a salad on the side.
Keywords:Dinner, Fish, Oaxaca, Spicy