Gobi Manchurian- Fried Cauliflower in Spicy Sauce

Indo Chinese cuisine is an exciting break from the everyday meals I make at home.It cuts the boredom of rolling flatbreads, boiling lentils & picking rice – the sizzling wok replaces the whistling pressure cooker. The kitchen suddenly beams with warmth of sesame oil, tang of vinegar and smoky soya sauce.The bliss is rounded off with the kick from indian spices like red chilli powder or garam masala- you have a marriage of cuisines.A cuisine which occupies an  emotional space in the heart of every Indian & which greets them with a promise of satisfaction. The concept may sound little weird to few but for me its indulgent & addictive – I am yet to meet an Indian who doesnt like it.

Talking about Indo Chinese I tend to travel back in time to ol’ college days – I fondly think of the little hangout near college – ‘ The Yak’.  A dimly lit room, walls adorned with red & gold cloth hangings and a seating capacity of just ten – the place eternally smelled smoky & was jam packed. I have lived so many of those silly yet cute occasions of college life there, particularly the sunday evenings  when the hostel mess was off. Right from exchanging those inquisitive glances when the love birds walked in as we snacked on vinegar soaked chillies to hideous gossips that followed over slurps of steaming thupka or taming chopsticks to behave, everything was so much fun.There were no contemporary interiors or ornate themed furniture, no uniformed waiters or elegant cutlery & serveware, I doubt there was an AC even – but it was one time of life with good friends & good food.

A widely popular vegetarian dish of the indo chinese genre, Gobi Machurian is nothing but batter fried cauliflower florets in a ‘Manchurian’ sauce. Do not confuse the origins of  ‘Manchurian’ sauce – it definitely has nothing to do with that region in South East Asia. Creatively masterminded by chinese who lived in eastern parts of  india for centuries, just imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and remotely sweet sauce with hints of indian spices. Indo chinese IS what it is due to typical indian condiments – I make it a point to use the indian brands for the authentic taste. However, you can confidently use your pantry to try this recipe.

You will find streets of India dotted with vendors selling robust Indo Chinese (sometimes better) than what we prepare in our homes. Just drop the calorie bug off your mind when you hit the streets though. From traditional chowmein, chicken lollipops, chilli noodles to chop suey –  everything has the essential indian tadka. It is difficult to resist the aroma emanating from their woks when garlic & ginger saute in turmeric hued seasme oil or when soya sauce simmers with generous pinches of garam masala. Even more mouth-watering is the way those carts look – neatly arranged rows of shredded vegetables, oiled noodles and odd colored sauce bottles – promising that everything is made FRESH!

Coming back to the recipe, manchurian sauce can be dry or wet – it’s totally your call. I prepare the consistency somewhere in between. It coats the cauliflower florets thoroughly but is not runny. Anything from deep-fried cauliflower, paneer (indian cheese), chicken strips, breaded tofu, shrimp or vegetable balls can be combined with this sauce to make lip smacking appetizers or main course. This dish cannot be made in advance, it tastes best when the cauliflower is crispy (freshly fried).

Printable Recipe

Ingredients Serves 2-3

For the Gobi Fritters

  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Serrano chilli, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 fat garlic pods, minced
  • 1 tsp dark soya sauce (I use Ching’s brand)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water (or as required to make the batter)
  • Canola Oil for frying (or vegetable oil)

For the Manchurian Sauce

  • 2 tsp dark soya sauce (I use Ching’s brand)
  • 4 tbsp chilli- tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp cornstarch +4 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp pure sesame oil
  • 2 tsp ginger, chopped
  • 3 garlic pods, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white parts
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 tbsp white vinegar (or to taste)
  • For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts)

Method 

Making Cauliflower Fritters 

Cut the cauliflower florets into halves or quarters. Wash thoroughly under running water & let the water drain.

Meanwhile, in your fryer let the oil heat up. In a bowl, throughly mix all the ingredients listed to make a smooth batter . Dip the gobi florets in the paste and deep fry on low-medium heat till golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Set aside. (Tip :- Let the fritters stay warm in the oven while you make the sauce)

Note – I do not boil the cauliflower before frying. Do not fry the florets on very high heat else they will be raw from inside.

Making the Manchurian Sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together soya sauce, tomato-chilli sauce & honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix cornstarch & water and let stand.

In a wok/pan , heat up the oil to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic & ginger and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander & turmeric powder next along with the soya sauce mix made earlier. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes  on medium-high heat or till you see bubbles on the sides.Next, add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce thickens.

Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Sprinkle the garam masala & vinegar to the wok and stir everything well.Remove from heat and add the fried cauliflower to the pan & (very gently ) toss so that the florets are evenly coated. Dont stir too much with spoon at this point, else cauliflower gets mushy.

Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.

Notes :-

  1. Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari.
  2. Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds extra heat, you can substitute with plain tomato ketchup of choice.

Enjoy & Thanks for Stopping by!

Jal Jeera – Indian Tamarind & Cumin Cooler

Whats your favorite beverage? I m not much of a beverage person, but am always up for a glass of water – slightly warm during winters & at room temperature during summers.Other than that, fresh fruit & vegetable juices as well as a couple of homemade ones make it to my list.I distance myself from store-bought beverages, unconsciously.

P doesnt care much – his HUMONGOUS liking for beverages is oblivious of the concept of homemade or store bought.The need to quench the thirst comes above all the calorie counting that I do. At times, it makes me think that men have evolved to be way carefree than women in few regards.Anyhow.

As I write this, our refrigerator is stocked with all sorts of flavored lemonades, coconut water, mango nectar, soda cans & weird-looking smoothies. I m not joking. This is pretty much the same all round the year – he drinks more than he eats – I seldom tell him. Needless to say refrigerator space is one eternal bone of contention between me and P.

Jal Jeera is an essential indian summer beverage, served as an appetizer or as an accompaniment with meals.You will find a lot of street vendors serving chilled jal jeera stored in earthern pots sitting atop their decorated carts in India. It would not be inappropriate to say that Jal Jeera is another show stopper from food & drink paradise which adorns indian streets. I just can’t imagine rounding up summers without it.

A crisp concoction of tamarind water (jal) & cumin (jeera) flavored with mint, black salt, chillies & ginger. Each ingredient plays a role – tamarind & mint have cooling properties, cumin & black salt aid in digestion & chillies provide the essential indian kick. Many people use fresh lemon juice instead of tamarind pulp in their preparation and skip sugar. I like to mix spicy, sour, sweet in the version I prepare at home.

Indian Tamarind is quite sharp & fibrous in taste as compared to the Thai variety. You need to soak it for few hours in water & mash to separate seeds & fibre to extract the pulp. Now a days – readymade tamarind paste is also available in indian stores. Quite  tangy & smoky in taste, jal jeera is usually topped with boondi – puffed, crispy chickpea flour balls (available in indian stores) & crushed ice.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 Servings)

  • 1 cup tamarind pulp (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp roasted jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 18-20 fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp kala namak (black salt, substitute with table salt)
  • 1 serrano chilli (de- seeded , if desired)
  • 2 tsp red chilli flakes (adjust to tolerance)
  • 3″ fresh ginger shoot, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 5 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Table salt (to adjust)
  • 5 cups water, cold
  • To Garnish – crushed ice, boondi, mint leaves (optional)

Method :-

Tip everything except table salt & 5 cups of water into your blender. Blend for 2-3 minutes until you get a smooth but runny paste. Place a colander over a large bowl & sieve the paste through it. Note – I sieve the paste a couple of times to obtain a clear(er) drink. Place the collected paste into a jug, top with 5 cups of water. Adjust the salt.Chill till ready to serve.

Before serving, stir thoroughly, pour into glasses, garnish & serve.

Jal Jeera keeps fresh for 3-4 days, refrigerated. It can also be served as pani for indian street food- pani puri. 

Notes :-

  1. To see how to extract tamarind pulp at home, click here.
  2. Store bought tamarind paste can also be used in this recipe. The paste is more concentrated and way salty compared to home extracted version.Adjust the quantity to your liking.
  3. You can substitute tamarind pulp with lemon juice. The taste differs from traditional recipe but still good.
  4. Place cumin seeds in a sauce pan and roast over medium heat.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by.

Murgh KaliMirch – Indian BlackPepper Chicken

 

 

As the name suggests, the star here is fresh ground kali mirch or coarse black peppercorn. Combined with lots of ginger & garlic, black peppercorns provide an uncomplicated kick to the dish – which turns out to be the highlight. Succulent chicken coated in a thick masala –  I like to serve this as starter or snack with drinks. The particular thing that I absolutely like about this dish is the color from turmeric,which makes it so bright & appetizing. Less oil & easy to cook, this one is sure to delight all those of you who feel that indian recipes are difficult to follow.

It is always worth having such special recipes up your sleeve for those lazy supper nights or when you have unexpected guests at home.This one is versatile – you can wrap up inside flatbreads & veggies to make rolls or top your pizza with it.I sometimes shred the leftovers into bits & stuff inside puff pastry dough & bake for a quick brunch.

Printable Recipe

Serves 2-3

Preparation time – 25 minutes (including marination time)

Cooking time – 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2″ cubes
  • For garnish – chopped cilantro, scallions
  • Fresh lemon/lime juice (to taste)

To marinate :-

  • 2 tbsp thick plain yogurt
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh lemon/lime juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2″ fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1.5 tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • 1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For tempering :-

  • 2 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with sunflower/vegetable/canola oil)
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 Serrano chillies, chopped (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt (to adjust)

Method :-

Marinate the chicken in all the ingredients listed for 20 minutes, refrigerated. Once ready to cook, take out the marinated chicken from the refrigerator & let sit on countertop.

In a thick bottomed, wide-mouthed pan, heat up the oil on high.If using mustard oil, heat it to a point when it’s slightly smoky.For other oils, heat up till you see ripples on the surface. Meanwhile, using a mortar & pestle, coarsely grind the coriander & cumin.Once the oil is heated, reduce the heat to medium & wait for 2 minutes. Add the mustard seeds & let them crackle.About 10-15 seconds. Also, add the chillies next & let them crisp up for another 10-15 seconds. Tip :- Be extra careful, mustard seeds & chillies splutter a lot when added to oil. 

Next, add the coarsely ground spices to the oil & stir for about 30-35 seconds or till you smell the aroma. Start adding marinated chicken 5-6 pieces at a time to the pan and  stir-fry over high heat for few minutes, tossing continuously.Repeat with another batch of chicken pieces. The idea is to lightly brown the outside of the chicken but still keep it juicy inside.Lower the heat once all the chicken has been added.Add the leftover marinade(if any) & stir frequently. Cook on low heat till the oil separates on the sides of the pan and the chicken is cooked. About 12-15 minutes. You can cover the pan for last 3-4 minutes of cooking. Adjust the salt, toss well and remove.Let sit covered for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish with chopped cilantro or scallions, squeeze fresh lemon juice & serve hot.

Notes:-

  1. The cooking times will differ depending on the size of chicken pieces and the cut used. If using chicken breasts, the cooking time will be about 6-8 minutes for 2″ cubes.
  2. If you like dish less hot, de-seed the chillies before you mince them.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Papri Chaat

As she poured melted dalda (shortening) through the metal beaker spout over the flour mix, her wrinkly fingers & eyes from behind the glasses worked in unison. She knew how to ration every drop of flowing oil to get the right texture of her papris to a flaky wafer. Half teaspoon more and you overdo it, one teaspoon less and you have missed the ratios for sure.I have always know indian pastry doughs made by badi mummy (grandmom) as something which were either done perfect or not done at all.

I still shy away from measuring cups & spoons when making doughs, its something I do with pure impulse & feeling. The moment I start measuring,I start to doubt my dough handling skills. There is no fun left in it anymore. A sort of nervousness takes over.Doing it for years now, I now have a feel of just how grainy the oil moistened flour should feel & can decipher what a difference half a teaspoon here & there can make. At the same time it intimidates me how foolproof this indian way of cooking is. Imperfect yet classy in its own way.

Las Vegas is quite a sob story when it comes to chaat. The less I talk about what they serve at indian restaurants in here, the better.I made papri chaat last week to salvage our month long cravings.From halal food stalls in Times Square & food trucks in LA to Toofani chaat corners in Allahabad & kathi roll vendors in Delhi, me & P  share an endless love. Creative, delicious, affordable, addictive, filling ..I fall short of adjectives to describe the street food experience. Its pure joy, a soul satisfying, deep fried haven for us. Whenever I make it at home, I choose to overlook healthy options, its like stealing the soul of chaat – I feel strongly about it.

Chaat’ is a generic word used for savory delicacies served at roadside stalls in India.The best part about indian street food is that it can be made to please all tastebuds- you decide how spicy, tangy, salty or hot you want it. Papri or Papdi are deep fried,wafer like salted discs which are served with a “to taste”  assortment of chickpeas or dried peas, hari (green) & imli (tamarind) chutneys,chopped /grated vegetables, powdered spices & yogurt. Its messy, crumbly, tangy, crunchy..oh so good!

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

Papri/Papdi  (Yields about 40-50 papris)

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sooji (semolina)
  • 1/4 cup atta (all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 tsp ajwain (carrom seeds)
  • 3/4 tsp fine salt
  • 2-3 tbsp canola/vegetable oil (see method )
  • 1/3 cup+1 tbsp luke warm water (see method)
  • Oil for frying
NoteAjwain or Carrom Seeds aid in digestion & add a typical aroma & taste to the dough. You can skip them if you dont have them & still make the papris.
Assembling a Papri Chaat Platter to Serve 2 :-
  • 12-15 papris 
  • 1/4 cup boiled Chickpeas
  • 1 small potatoes, boiled , peeled & cubed
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt whisked with 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp Imli (Tamarind) Chutney (Recipe here)
  • 2 tbsp Hari (Green) Chutney (Recipe here)
  • Chopped Onion, cilantro (or veggies of choice)
  • 1/4 tsp Kala Namak (black salt, available at indian stores)
  • 1/4 tsp Chaat Masala (available at indian stores)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • Besan Sev (Chickpea flour snack, available at indian stores, optional)

Method

Making Papris :-

In a bowl, mix together the flours, ajwain & salt. Start with 2 tbsp of oil  and start working it into the mixture. Keep on adding oil a teaspoon at a time & working it into the flour till you are just able to form a firm ball of the flour between your fingers.

Next, slowly add the water (1/4 cup to start with) and start kneading the dough. We are looking for a firm dough here (not soft & pliable).Knead the dough on a hard surface for about 3-4 minutes.Do not over knead.When just kneaded,the dough will appear tight & hard but don’t worry, after resting it will be okay.

Transfer the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp cloth & let rest for at least 20 minutes. (do not skip this step)

Divide the rested dough into about 3 equal parts. Take one part and roll it into a thin sheet.The sheet should be rolled as thin as a cotton cloth. Once rolled, if you want you can prick the sheet with a fork to prevent puffing while frying. I prefer papris slightly puffed so I do not prick. Use a round cookie cutter or a jar lid to cut into round shapes. Transfer the rounds to a plate & place covered with damp cloth till you are about to fry. Gather the remaining dough & repeat rolling & cutting till whole of the dough is exhausted.  Repeat the same for all portions of the dough.

Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. The quantity of oil used should be enough to cover the papris completely while they fry. To check the temperature of oil, pinch a little dough & tip it into the heating oil. The dough should sizzle to the top slowly without changing color. If it sizzles immediately, reduce the heat & let the oil temperature come down.

Tip in the cut papris into the heated oil, few at a time. Do not overcrowd or stack the papris in the frying pan. Fry the papris on medium-low heat until both sides are golden brown (about 3-5 minites). Papris should be fried at medium- low heat else they will become soft after cooling.

Remove browned papris with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up excess oil.Fry all the papris in batches.

Cool completely & immediately store in an air tight container for up to 4 weeks.

For assembling chaat  :-

Layer the papris in a plate. You can crush them into bite size pieces if you want or make individual servings. Top with boiled chickpeas & potatoes.Drizzle with yogurt, chutneys & chopped onions. Sprinkle kala namakchaat masala, roasted cumin powder & red pepper flakes if using. Top up with chopped cilantro & sev. Serve immediately.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by.

Bajri (Millet) Crackers With Chana Dal dip

A sense of rejuvenation entwines me as I hit the publish button.Being out of touch for more than 4 months, a part of me always felt incomplete,unfulfilled. While I was away, I realized the role of blogging in my life – I missed it. Thank you so much for all your kind emails, tweets & messages. I knew I had to be back in action soon. I am doing better than before & hope to update this space often now.

Last few months have been rough, less of ups, lots of down. Keeping health issues aside, my mind was irrational, loud & restless. I had loads to complain & challenge. I denied the things which came my way, I failed to handle them. Sometimes, life takes its own course and no matter how hard you try to tame it, it does not reciprocate. The very fact that I felt a certain way at that point in my life, I had no choice but to understand that this was meant to be.The sooner I did , the easier it got. The more I questioned : “Why me?”, the difficult it became. There was no force within me that could change the situation, no magic wand or a click of fingers to set it all right, all I  got was inner strength to sail me  through. When faith falters & hopes diminish, its best to reach out for that simmering potential inside to navigate, exactly what I want to do right now.

For long, I wanted to bake crackers at home,or let me put it this way-  I wanted to experiment with savory, whole grain flour baking with an indian touch.I tried the cracker recipe below with a mix of whole wheat & fine wheat flour a couple of times, but it left me wanting for more – something more healthy perhaps? and simple,crispy, spicy too at the same time.Not the most fancy looking crackers around- these are spiced similar to deep fried indian snack – mathri and I think I got what I was looking for this time. Bajri or millet is a gluten free, whole grain widely popular in India to make porridge, flatbreads or pancakes. I did not like it much the first time I ate it but now, its an acquired taste for me especially when I want a break from carbs.

The dip to go along is made with chana (split bengal gram) lentils, which is my new found way to eat them. Rated lowest GI (glycemic index) lentils, these score high when it comes to an earthy, nutty taste.Chana dal yields better amongst lentils to dip-making coz they do not turn into a slimy mush if cooked properly. Easily available in indian stores & tasting similar to garbanzo beans, these lentils are something you would want to stock on.

P,did not care much for the crackers but liked this dip.He polished it off with baked potato chips in the name of healthy food.I found myself snacking on these batch after batch. Somehow the combo is addictive – reminds me of the rajasthani meals at Dilli Haat - bajra roti & masala chana dal.

Printable Recipe

Bajri (Millet) Crackers (Yield about 2 dozen)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fine bajri atta (millet flour)
  • 1/2 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp water (or as required for kneading the dough)
Method
Combine all the ingredients except water in a big bowl. Rub with fingers till the mixture resembles grains.
Start adding water slowly & mixing with hands so as to form a soft, pliable dough. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel & let rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat oven to 3o0 F / 150 C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.  
Knead the rested dough for 2-3 minutes and pinch into equal portions. Thinly roll out the equal portions on a flour dusted surface or between sheets of parchment. With the help of fork, pick the rolled dough so that it does not fluff while baking. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the rolled dough into desired shape. Transfer to the cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until done & crisp. You will need to check midway & flip the crackers to ensure even baking. Cool the crackers on a rack and store in air tight containers for upto 2 weeks.
Chana Dal Dip (Makes about 1.5 cups)
Ingredients
  • 1 cup chana dal (split bengal gram lentils)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic,chopped
  • 1 ” fresh ginger shoot, chopped
  • 1 serrano chili, chopped (remove seeds to adjust heat)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
Method

Soak the chana dal in water for atleast 6 hours or overnight. Pressure cook the dal along with turmeric powder & salt in the soaking liquid on high for 2 whistles. Alternatively you can cook the dal in a pot with lid (for about 40-45 minutes) till tender. Drain & reserve the liquid (this liquid can be used as stock or to knead savory doughs).Let the dal cool to room temperature.

Transfer the cooked & cooled dal to the food processor along with garlic, ginger, cilantro chili & lime juice. Pulse 10-12 times slowly adding oil until smooth. You can further adjust the consistency using the reserved cooking liquid. Check the salt & adjust if required.Transfer to the serving bowl, drizzle some olive oil, garnish with chopped cilantro & serve along with bajri crackers.(recipe above)Store refrigerated in air tight container for  4-5 days.

Note : This recipe has a strong garlic flavor. You can reduce or omit garlic quantity as per your liking.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Baingan Bharta (Smoky Mashed Eggplant) – Guest Post for Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums

Belated Diwali wishes to all my readers, I was not able to make anything for the blog this year, been lazy & got sweets from store :) How are all my favorite people doing? Its been a while since you guys saw some action on Sinfully Spicy :( I apologize for vanishing away! Life is slightly busy & I need to concentrate on few things which cannot be postphoned any further. So, even though I m regularly cooking ,blogging dosent fit the schedule always …hope you all will understand…

I m guest blogging for Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums today while she is on a little break.She is one of the most encouraging & kind blogger around, whom I have been lucky enough to be friends with. Depth of her writing, beauty of her lens & her enthusiasm has always been inspiring. If you havent checked out her blog,do drop by, I bet you will fall in love :) It was a pleasant surprise when she wrote to me for a guest post. Thanks so much Rosa for inviting me to your blog.

I am sharing one of my favorite winter recipes with her wonderful readers today. Baingan Bharta or smoky & spicy mashed eggplant is one of my favorite ways to eat eggplant and the only way P eats it . Many of you would have already tasted baingan bharta in indian restaurants, now you can make it at home..How cool is that :)Check out my post on Rosa’s blog here. You can print the recipe here.

Just in case any of you is interested, have a look at a variation called hara baingan bharta which I shared long back here. Both the recipe are way different but if you are eggplant crazy like me, you have to try them all..

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Saffron & Mint Chickpea Stew

Soups & Stews are my favorite things about winters. The thought of getting a chance to spend hours in front of the stove coupled with an aroma that fills up the house as spices simmer drives me nuts (in a good way). With nip in the air finally knocking here, I was thrilled while I made season’s first batch of stock & soup few days back followed by this slow cooked chickpea stew.

Store bought stocks & soups never excite me, I m the kind of girl who is crazy about fresh ingredients even if it requires heading an extra mile to get those. However, P is biggest fan of those ‘creamy’ canned soups, which his wife can never prepare in her life! He insists that she should change her style of cooking & delve into semi – home cooking, a concept which could never get the better of me. Can you believe that I have never bought canned chickpeas or any other beans for that matter? Nothing against them, but having grown up seeing mom soak the beans overnight, boil them next day & then use them in her recipes, even with ready-to-use options available here, I never feel like harnessing them.Somehow..

Anyhow, coming back to the recipe, bean based stews are best options for me when wanting to eat light as well as comforting. Few of you might have already guessed that this stew is heavily inspired by classic moroccan flavors – saffron, cumin, mint & black pepper make it hearty and add the required warmth for the winter season. Saffron & turmeric combined with chili powder is what gives it the lovely yellowish-golden color, nothing less than sunshine during those cold evenings. This is the kind of food, which is perfect for this time of year when I want to curl up in a blanket and watch a movie while eating.Don’t be bogged down by the long list of ingredients, they are mostly available in your pantry :) The stew is incredibly healthy (no meat/less oil) and will leave you satisfied to the tee…trust me

We eat it more as soup with crusty bread than as main dish. For those reasons, I like to keep the gravy slightly thinner (so that we can slurp). However, this can very well serve as a main dish with rice or flatbreads. I particularly like to add starchy  (root) vegetables to this recipe coz those pair up delicious with chickpeas. Choose the veggie (s) you like (carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes etc ). The recipe does not need any baby-sitting while it cooks in. And like ALL stew recipe, I need not mention that leftovers tastes all the way better..try it!

Printable Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients  (Serves 2-3)

If using dried chickpeas: -

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in 3 cups water overnight or at least 8 hours & drained
  • 2 cups water for boiling the chickpeas
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil

Note: – Skip the above step if using canned chickpeas and substitute with precooked ones.

  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 3 tbsp mustard / olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1″ cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, grated
  • 1/2 tsp each fennel, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, lightly pounded in mortar pestle
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tbsp red chill powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 2 large roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, slightly sour
  • 2 tsp saffron dissolved in 1/4 cup luke warm water
  • 5-6 fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
  • 2 Thai green chilies, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped Cilantro/Mint leaves for garnish

Method: -

Boil the soaked chickpeas in 2 cups water + 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp oil in a pressure cooker or in a covered pot until 90% tender. If using a pressure cooker, cook on medium-high for approximately 10 minutes & 2 whistles. If using a covered pot, on medium-high heat, this should take 30-35 minutes. Note: – Chickpeas come in all sorts of sizes; the time that I have given is for the small beans.Once boiled, drain the chickpeas & set aside. Reserve the water & mix it thoroughly with yogurt. Set aside.

Heat oil on high in a 3-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot (with lid). When oil gets smoky, add chopped onions, cinnamon, bay leaves & cloves to the pot. Sauté for about 6-8 minutes or until the onions are translucent but not browned. Next, add ginger, garlic, pounded fennel, coriander, black peppercorns and cumin to the pot.Cook for about 30 seconds or till you start smelling the spices. Reduce heat to medium and add the turmeric & chili powder next along with chopped tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until you see oil separating on sides of the pan. About 8 minutes.

Next, add the potatoes, boiled chickpeas to the pot along with yogurt mixed with water. Check the salt (remember that chickpeas were boiled in salted water) and adjust. Also depending desired gravy consistency, adjust the water in the pot. As a thumb rule, water should be enough to cover the contents as they cook. Cover the pot and let come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low & let cook till potatoes and chickpeas are tender. About 12-15 minutes. You will need to occasionally stir.

Just when the potatoes & chickpeas are fork tender, add the saffron dissolved in water along with chopped mint & green chilies (if using). Cover and let simmer for another 8 minutes. Remove from heat & add lemon juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro or mint leaves.Serve over couscous, rice or with bread.

Enjoy & Thanks for Stopping by!

Paneer Jalfrezi – A Guest Post for Prerna of India Simmer

Well the season of guest posts continues on Sinfully Spicy :) Welcome to another one..this time at one of my super favorite indian cuisine blogs – Indian Simmer!

Prerna from Indian Simmer is one person who never fails to fascinate me with her warmth & energy. Always full of excitement, I would say that she is one of the most cheerful lady I have met in the blogging world. They say that you need an eye for beauty, as much as I have known her, I feel that the kind of emotions & personality you carry around in life tend to reflect in everything you do – be it words, lens or recipes. Beautiful people make beautiful blogs – Indian Simmer is a testimonial of exactly that! Her lens is what personifies indian cuisine to the root  - Vibrant, colorful & mouthwatering!

I was honored when she asked me to guest post on her blog. Thank you so much, Prerna. Among many of her creative ideas, she came up with this series where she wants to feature her favorite blogs; well the thought of kick starting the series is jaw dropping for me. To make the series fun, she posed me with a little questionnaire, which I tried my best to answer.

Read my little chit chat & recipe for Paneer Jalfrezi on her blog here. You can find the printable recipe here.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Chettinad Chicken – A Guest Post for Kulsum of Journey Kitchen

Me & Kulsum always joke & tell each other that we are long-lost sisters, sisters who have never met or knew each other before our food blogs happened. We took off around a similar time frame in the blogging world and have been in touch for almost 2 years now. Sharing an unadulterated love for all things Indian – food, spices, culture & lifestyle, whenever we communicate via twitter or mails or comments, mostly, we end up saying “oh..I was thinking the same way too” :)..It’s like you read my mind & speak my heart! These are the reasons I adore blogging. You touch people & they form a beautiful part of your life.

It’s a pleasure to share my little bit on Kulsum’s blog today. Thanks for having me over. While we were discussing the recipe for the guest post, she suggested doing something south indian. I mostly cook north indian food at home but am a die-hard fan of south indian food..It was a rare opportunity to make one of the south indian specialties which both me & my husband like to cook in our home kitchen. So I m sharing a recipe of Chettinad Chicken, which I learnt way back in Chennai when my husband was studying there. Every time I cook it, we enjoy it thoroughly. Hope you like it too!

Check out my recipe on her blog here. You can find printable recipe here.

Enjoy & Have a lovely week ahead everyone!

Tahiri – Dum Cooked Basmati Rice With Black Spices

                                            Featured on Food Buzz Top 9Summer might be officially gone in many of the states but in my part, the temperatures are still in nineties.Though the sun sets early now & morning sun has started to feel cozy and relaxing, days are still quite sunny & hot. However, it rained last weekend. We hardly get any rains out here, I think the last bit was long back in May, so whenever it comes pouring down, its time to rejoice in my house.Usually, its super lazy day with TV or book on the couch, comfort food to fill up and loads of chai which I enjoy while sitting beside the window as rain drops rattle against the glass. Thats one corner of the house which keeps me alive amongst the gloom from cloudy skies in the rest of the apartment, especially when I m alone.

I literally wait for the summer to end to make some dishes.The wet & cold weekend (yup the temperatures dipped to 64 ),made me crave my grandmom’s tahiri which is one of my favorite things to make since the autumn sets in to the finish of winter. Not missing the little chance I got last weekend, this rice dish was our comfort meal. The best part being that this is a one pot meal, has the perfect amount of spike to it, is loaded with satiating goodness of starchy vegetables and leftovers taste all the more better! Just few minutes of preparations & you are all set for a soul satisfying meal.It really need no side dish even coz its so much flavorful on its own, just a bowl of plain yogurt or green chutney/pickle will be more than enough. If you really want to indulge, add a dollop of cold butter or ghee over the steaming bowl of rice, let it melt and find its way right to the bottom on its own & you are good to go! The best part about this dish is the bottom burnt layer of rice which is achieved by a technique called  dumpukht  (see recipe).

My best memories of eating tahiri are of Sunday lunches when we sat on charpai(cot) under the bright winter sun amid the home-grown decor of winter vegetables in my grandmother’s vegetable garden. I remember picking up fresh stalks of young garlic and onions right from the soil and eating it with tahiri. The taste of unwashed, organic stuff was unmatched.I am a survivor of such homecooked authentic Indian dishes.A mention of these winter lunches still takes me back there, of the food relished during those growing years, times spent with family amid laughter & gossip.

The trio of vegetables that go into tahiri which is a speciality dish of  state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is standard – white potatoes, cauliflower & peas.Called by the same name, this dish is quite similar to a non vegetarian rice recipe popular in south indian states – where it is made with minced meat.These vegetables go so well with the warmth of black indian spices – cumin, black cardamom, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg & cinnamon. The spices are fresh ground into a paste and then rice & vegetable are open cooked on low heat along with the paste for long to bring about the depth of flavors. The result is a aromatic pot full of comfort- the rice is not hot but has the right amount of spice kick for soothing the senses.

Tahiri is not pilaf, its cooked low & slow by a technique called dumpukht or indirect slow heating. What differentiates it from biryani is the fact that unless you make kacchi biryani, the rice & meat/ vegetables are separately half cooked, layered & then cooked to perfection. In tahiri, rice & vegetables cook start to 95% doneness in the spicy broth and finished via dumpukht cooking.  I hope all these techniques make sense :)

Printable Recipe

Utensil Required : A wide mouthed, heavy bottomed pot with lid/kadhai with lid
Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1/4 cup oil (canola/vegetable/any unflavored oil)
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2″ cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamom, cracked open (substitute with 5 green cardamom)
  • 3/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 3/4  cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and  cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala 
  • Salt to taste
  • 2.5 cups water (or as required for cooking your rice variety, check package instructions)
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish
Note:- Cut the potato & cauliflower florets such that they cook perfectly in the time it takes rice to cook.
Spices to be soaked in 1/2 cup water for 30 minutes:-

  • 2 tbsp whole black peppercorns 
  • 4 whole dry red chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 ” fresh ginger shoot, peeled & crushed roughly

Method:- Pick & wash rice 2-3 times under running water. Set aside. Thaw the peas if using frozen. Tip the soaked spices above into a blender jar & churn to make a smooth mix. We dont want a too fine or too coarse textures, just ensure that the black pepper seeds are crushed properly.Transfer to a bowl & set aside.
Heat oil in the pot /kadhai on medium. Once the oil is smoking, add the sliced onions. Cook the onions till they are light brown. About 8 minutes. Next, reduce heat to low & add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, black cardamom & the ground spice mix to the pot.
Cook the spices & paste with regular stirring till you see oil separating on sides of the pot. About 6-8 minutes. At this point, add the vegetables along with washed rice to the pot. Gently combine everything to mix well.Remove from heat & pour the water required for cooking the rice into the pot, give everything a stir,add salt to taste & let the rice soak for 15 minutes.
Once the rice has soaked, transfer the pot to medium heat. Cover the pot & bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, and let cook for 10-12 minutes (or the time required for your rice variety to get 95% cooked). Turn off the heat, open the lid, add the grated nutmeg  & garam masala, gently mix with a wooden spoon & leave to steam on its own over the stove for another 5-8 minutes, undisturbed.
While the rice is steaming, heat up a cast iron skillet(enough to hold the cooking pot)on high.Once the skillet is hot, reduce heat to very low, transfer the rice pot over top of the hot skillet & let the rice steam for another 10 minutes on dum (indirect slow cooking technique).We want the bottom layer of rice to crisp up & burnt (almost). 
After 10 minutes, fluff up with a fork , garnish the rice with chopped cilantro. Serve with plain yogurt/raita & salad.
Note:- Traditionally, the sides of the pot are sealed with the help of dough to ensure tight seal between the lid & pot rim, to trap the steam & aroma within the pot..you can do so if you want. 
Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!
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