An Indian Holiday Feast

Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving break. It’s the start of the season of over-indulgence! Thanksgiving weekend was filled with good food, drinks, family, friends, shopping, gossip & spending time with three precious little nieces. While we have the traditional meal with all the accompaniments each year, I’ve never really been a fan of turkey. I had seen recipes for (east)Indian spiced turkey several times, and had also been meaning to try roasting a cornish hen for several years. I decided to try to meld both together and improvised along the way. The results were a delicious & colorful meal that worked for our taste buds :). And it was easy enough to make for a weeknight meal.

Tandoori Cornish Hen

The menu included:

For dessert, we had warm and sweet Gulab Jamoons 🙂

[Scroll down for recipes of items that are not hyperlinked.]

Tandoori Cornish Hen

Masala Corn

  • 1 cup corn kernels (cooked and drained) – I buy frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • salt to taste (use black salt / kala namak if available for a better flavor)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • cilantro for garnish

Mix all ingredients well and serve. The measurements are just a guide – adjust as per your taste.

 Peas & Carrot Pulao

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion – sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp green chilli paste (or 1 green chilli – slit)
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 tsp salt to taste

1) Heat oil in a medium pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow it to sizzle and pop for a few seconds.

2) Add the onion, ginger and green chilli. Saute on medium-high till translucent, stirring often.

3) Add the carrots and salt, and saute for 2 minutes.

4) Add the peas and cook for another 2 minutes.

5) Add the rice and saute for 1-2 minutes till it changes color.

6) Add 1 1/2 cups (one and a half) water and bring to boil.

7) As soon as the water comes to boil, stir once, reduce heat to LOW, and cook covered for about 12-15 minutes. Do not open the lid during this time. At end of cook time, open lid and gently fluff the rice with a spoon or fork. Check for doneness. Keep covered till ready to serve.

Raita

This recipe was given to me by my friend Sandhya’s mom and it is my most favorite raita recipe.

  • 1/2 medium grated cucumber
  • 1 cup greek yogurt / strained yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small dry red chilli
  • 2 Tbsp grated coconut
  • salt to taste

1) Wash, peel & grate the cucumber and drain for a few minutes.

2) In a small blender bowl, add half the yogurt, cumin, chilli & coconut and blend till smooth.

3) Mix all ingredients together and salt to taste.

NOTE: If you use regular yogurt, squeeze out the water from the cucumber before mixing in.

Oven Roasted Tandoori Cornish Hen

 

Tandoori Cornish Hen

After many years of wanting to make cornish hen, I finally mustered up the courage to experiment. I figured that with the accompaniments I planned to serve, we would at least have other things to eat if the meat didn’t turn out right. Let me just say that I should have made this a looooong time ago!! The chicken was moist, full of flavor, and falling off the bones. My 10 year old would have probably eaten a whole cornish hen if I let him :).

NOTE: Please take a few minutes to read the recipe before deciding if it’s easy or too complicated based on the number of steps below. I’ve laid out everything step-by-step, hence the long write up. In honesty, the whole process is pretty straight-forward and relatively easy. The only hard thing in my opinion is having to wait about 24 hours before eating.

Oven Roasted Tandoori Cornish Hen

(Serves 4)

  • 2 cornish hens – about 1 lb each (I buy the 4-packs from Costco)
  • 2-3 Tbsp oil / butter

FOR THE BRINE:

  • 32 oz buttermilk (about 4 cups)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken)
  • 8-10 whole cloves
  • 4 black cardamom pods (moti elaichi) / 6 green cardamom pod
  • 2-3 Tbsp salt (or more to taste)

1) Remove the plastic inserts from the cornish hens and wash inside & out thoroughly. Drain well.

2) Meanwhile, in a lidded container big enough to hold both birds, add all the brine ingredients and mix well. It should be on the saltier side, but don’t worry – the chicken will only absorb a little.

3) Gently immerse the hens into the brine, making sure that the brine fills the cavity and covers the whole bird. Cover the container and refrigerate overnight.

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 1/2 packet tandoori masala of choice (I mixed in a bit of red food coloring, but this is optional)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger paste
  • 1Tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon / lime juice

4) Next morning, mix all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust salt & lemon juice as needed.

5) Remove the chicken from the brine and pick away any whole spices sticking to it. Set aside on a plate and discard the remaining brine.

6) Evenly spread the chicken with the tandoori marinade, making sure to get under the skin and in the cavity*** (see note at bottom of post). (Do not slather the marinade on in thick layers as it will be doughy and bitter when cooked. Spread generously but evenly.)

7) Return to empty brine container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. You can flip the bird over once or twice while marinating (optional), and return to the refrigerator.

TO COOK THE CHICKEN:

  • 2-3 large red potatoes
  • 1 medium green pepper (capsicum)
  • 1-2 large red onion
  • 1-2 Tbsp oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

8) Remove chicken from the refrigerator and set at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

9) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375*F.

10) Chop the red potatoes, peppers & onion into large chunks and toss with oil, salt & pepper.

11) Place in the bottom of a roasting pan sprayed lightly with oil (you can line the pan with foil for easy cleanup).

12) Use twine to gently tie the chicken legs at the ‘ankles’ :)). Poke a toothpick through each wing into the breast meat to keep the wing from spreading & getting burnt while cooking. [Google “how to truss a chicken” for more info]

13) Place the hens on the roasting rack**(see note at bottom of post). Brush/spray lightly with oil or butter, and cover lightly with foil.

14) Bake for about 35-40 minutes covered. Remove the foil, baste with some remaining marinade, turn the roasting rack around, and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Watch closely to ensure that the meat does not turn dry. Chicken is done when the juices start to run clear.

15) Remove from the oven and gently drape the foil on the chicken (DO NOT SEAL). Let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with mint chutney and/or raita. For other accompaniments, check out my Desi Holiday Feast post.

Tandoori Cornish Hen

NOTE: I don’t like poking holes in the chicken before marinating as I feel it lets the juices run out and dry the meat while cooking. You can do it if you prefer, but the cook times may need to be adjusted.

If you do not have a roasting rack to cook the cornish hen, you can crumple up aluminum foil or layer on root vegetables on the bottom of the tray to keep it away from the juices.

Guilt free Chia Seed – Pumpkin Pie Filling

Guilt Free Chia Seed - Pumpkin Pie Filling

Halloween seems to herald in the start of unhealthy eating. By the time we’re done sneaking our favorites from the kids candy stash, Thanksgiving comes around, and the holiday parties begin. If you like pie like I do, then this season is like walking in a land mine! I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest from Forks Over Knives and LOVE it. Surprisingly, my 10-year old has been enjoying it too as much as I do. You can have it for breakfast, snack or any time you get a craving for something sweet. Made with whole foods, and put together in minutes – what’s not to love about this Pumpkin Pie Filling?

Guilt Free Chia Seed - Pumpkin Pie Filling

Guilt Free Chia Seed – Pumpkin Pie Filling

(Serves 4-6)

(Adapted from Forks Over Knives)

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 cup water
  • 12-15 pitted dates
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (NOT pie filling)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds***
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1) Add the chia seeds to your blender and make it into a powder. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.

2) Add the almonds, water & dates to the blender jar and puree. (Alternately, use 1 cup of almond milk & dates).

3) Add the banana, pumpkin, vanilla & spice, and blend well.

4) If your blender is powerful, add in the chia and give it a whirl till well mixed. Add a few more tablespoons of milk or water if necessary. Otherwise, pour the liquid from the blender over the chia powder and mix well.

5) Pour into 4-6 serving dishes and chill covered for a few hours (it’s fine to eat right away too). Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.

6) My teen loves his pie crust, so I poured some into individual ready crusts for portion control.

*** If you prefer the texture of whole chia seeds, skip step 1 and mix with the pumpkin filling. This method requires several hours to set – it will not be ready to eat as soon as it is assembled.