You do not realize the goodness associated with certain kinds of foods (and drinks) until you are of a certain age. I say this because no matter how pretty it looked, I don’t remember enjoying a glass of kanji back then.Now that I try to debate what to eat & what not to, guiltlessly gulping down this drink with the afternoon meals is a must.My container is nearing end but I am relishing it at least once a day for now.
I am not much of a beverage person, a glass of water with a lemon wedge is my treat,even when eating out.The very fact that this fermented drink does not have a speck of sugar or other usual suspects found in beverages makes it very unique and the crisp, tart flavor is truly an acquired taste. If you are a fan of pickles & mustard, this could be a treat for you in the liquid form. I would compare it to the taste of a mellow pickling liquid but with hints of spices – all of which are all actually so so good for you.
There is the star spice- the small brown mustard seeds,commonly know as rai in India, rich in omega-3 fatty acids & magnesium. Then the essential turmeric, best known for its anti inflammatory properties. Usually many don’t use it,but I add a pinch of ajwain (carom seeds) & methi dana (fenugreek seeds), both of which help in better digestion & metabolism. Additionally, fenugreek seeds help lower the blood sugars. To top it all, the sun fermentation for about a week or so further improves the nutritional value of this drink.
Kaanji is an end of winter, spring onset drink in northern parts of India, particularly Punjab. It is usually prepared during Holi, and served as a beverage.Normally, purple/black carrots are used which are available in abundance in India during February-March spring months but if you do not get those – use any kind of carrots & put in a few slices of beets for that lovely ruby color. Many recipes add turnip slices or alma (indian gooseberries) too – just to increase the nutritional value.
Sometimes, lentil nuggets (Kaanji Vada) are dunked in this sour liquid & served as a street side snack. The fluffy nuggets absorb all that liquid and turn deliciously spongy and soft to eat. Boondi ( Crispy chickpea flour drops) are what I topped my tumbler with, however you can serve it all on its own. The fermented carrots & beets can be eaten as pickles.
1.5 tsp kala namak (black salt, substitute with normal salt)
1/4 tsp red chili powder
Salt to taste
6 cups water
Sterlize a wide mouthed glass container large enough to contain 6 cups water with a non-reactive lid.
Thoroughly wash & peel the carrots and beetroot. Using a sharp knife, cut them into thin slices. You could cut them in rounds or batons, dosent matter, but the slices should not be very thick.
Bring water to a boil. While the water is boiling, using mortar & pestle, coarsely crush the mustard, ajwain & methi seeds. Place the sliced beet & carrots in the container. Add the crushed spices.Sprinkle turmeric, black salt & red chili powder on top.
When the water has boiled, take off the stove and let sit on counter top to cool down a bit. Add the hot water to the container and using a wooden spoon, stir the contents thoroughly. With another clean spoon, taste and adjust the salt. At this point the contents will taste bitter but all that will go away after fermentation.
Place the lid on the container and let sit in sun for 5-7 days. Stir 2-3 times a day with clean wooden spoon.Kaanji is ready when it starts tasting sour.The fermentation time will depend on sunlight in the place you live.
You can serve Kaanji at room temperature or chilled. Add boondi or dried mint leaves as garnish.
The fermented carrots & beets can be eaten as pickles. Kaanji can be stored for up to 2 weeks, refrigerated.
Should I eat it? How will it taste? Will it be okay to eat it in public? Similar to hesitations when trying anything new, I was a bit reluctant when I ate lamb first couple of times. It was a red wine stewed lamb T- bone at one of the elaborate buffets here and the husband was all over it. I could not help but stare at his enthusiasm. If I remember correctly, it was only lamb that he ate all night. Eventually I fell prey to his company and gave in. No points for guessing that I did not quite like it at first, you know how clingy we can get to childhood tastes- firstly the lingering taste of mutton I grew up with & secondly I am not quite up for wine sauces – not yet.
During the initial years, we never really cooked it at home.I scurried through the supermarket aisles just looking at the the wide variety of cuts available but never really bought it.
However, once I did (thinking I will empty my spice box while cooking to layer ‘that’ taste),there was no going back. Lamb paired so beautifully with those cardamons & turmeric in my kitchen and as I cooked it more, adding indian flair to recipes, we slowly embraced it as a regular in our meals. Even though mutton mince ispopular back home, after eating it more and more, we have as much love for lamb dishes in our household now as poultry & seafood. Due to its easy availability, I have substituted all mykeema recipes with lamb mince & there is hardly anything not to like. Equally good, equally satisfying & equally delicious is all I can say.
This lamb burger is for those days when we are looking for a change & feeling lazy to cook but still want to eat at home. It is hearty. It is big, spicy and juicy. It is something which is a quick every now & then dinner for us.
I like to stuff my buns with lots of tomatoes, and with that mint laced, garlicky yogurt or whatever salad leaves at hand, however the husband keeps all that at bay. His meaty version is indulgent in itself with just the mince patty & lots & lots of onion slices and kettle chips on the side (which by the way are a must out here).
Ingredients (Makes 5-6 burgers)
1 lb lamb mince (or use mutton/beef mince)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1″ ginger shoot, minced
3 tbsp chopped mint leaves
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2-3 Thai green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 green cardamom
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
For the Yogurt Mayo
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 fat garlic clove
2 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
1/2 tbsp Lemon juice (or to taste)
Salt & pepper to taste
For assembling the burgers
Sliced Onions, Tomatoes
Pepper Jack, Colby or any easy melting cheese
To serve alongside
Fries, Chips, Onion rings, beer, hot sauce,pickles etc
In a small bowl, mix up the mayo & yogurt. Mince the garlic clove using your microplane and add the mint leaves to the yogurt. Add lemon juice, salt & pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Using your coffee grinder coarsely grind black pepper, fennel, cloves, cumin and cardamom.Set aside in the grinder itself. In a bowl, add the lamb mince. Add the garlic, ginger, mint, cilantro & green chillies. Add the ground spices over it along with nutmeg,cinnamon & olive oil.Using a fork (or your hands), lightly mix up the mince with all the herbs and spices. If you have time, you can cover the bowl with a cling film & let it sit in the fridge for 1-2 hours or else you can use it right away.
Heat up a cast iron pan. Divide the lamb mince into six equal portions.(We do not like very thick patties, so I could make 6 out of these, however if making thicker patties, divide into desired portions). Brush a tsp of oil on the pan and cook the patties on moderately high heat until well-browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip the patties and cook on the other side, about 3-4 minutes more. When cooked, add the cheese on top and cover with a lid, the cheese should melt in under a minute. Note – We like our burgers cooked through and the times are noted for that. If you like your burgers pink in bewteen, please reduce the cooking time.These burgers grill beautifully, you can use your outdoor grill to good use for cooking these.
While the patties are cooking, you will see the mince releasing a lot of fat and juice, soak it up by warming up the bun halves on the same pan.
Assemble the burgers by slathering the yogurt mayo on both sides of the buns,add in the onion & tomato slices, lettuce and place the cooked patties.
Mushrooms rarely made an appearance at meal time during my childhood years so I don’t even remember how and when I started liking them. The then winter vegetable, it was overly price and named fancy. There was this white puffy vegetable that had hit the vegetable market and no one cared about it for a while.They say it’s a kind of fungi – could be poisonous, the rumor went viral.
I still remember how small button mushrooms were cooked with just shelled, sweet tasting winter peas(matar) & gently simmered in a tomato base. In no time we sat down to scoop the stir fry with fresh-off -the skillet triangle parathas. They were mellow, meaty and pleasantly chewy. The hints of spices, just perfect to balance the natural sweetness & adding the correct depth of flavor to offset their blandness.
Weekday lunches are quite rushed for me, you will usually find me decking up the lunch plate from what’s in the refrigerator.With a toddler who wants to explore every cabinet in the house and has to be constantly watched,I barely cook something elaborate for myself. On some days its lentils re- tempered & served with pickled vegetables or leftover chickpeas curry with a side of yogurt. Sometimes, I treat myself to quickest scrambled egg (bhurji) with flatbreads on the side.
Even after trying hard for years, I could never get my husband to like mushrooms.That leaves only me in the house who eats them.Sweet & spicy,this mushroom & pea stir fry is few of those things that I make just for myself for a quick lunch. You could buy pre sliced, cleaned mushrooms and make it extra fast.
Many versions of mushroom matar use heavy cream or nut paste for a rich version or may a times water is added to make it sort of a curry but I have always liked this dryish stir fry than gravy. I really like how the tomato base coats the mushroom keeping them perfectly moist and adding hints of acidity.If you cook the tomatoes properly, they almost taste like a chunky ketchup like (if you know what I mean).
Ingredients (Serves 2)
8 oz mushrooms
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp oil
1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped (yield about 3/4 cup)
1-2 Thai green chillies, chopped (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder, substitute with fresh lemon juice to taste)
salt to taste
pinch of sugar
Generous pinch of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, crushed between palms)
Chopped Cilantro – for garnish
Clean the mushrooms and slice them. If using frozen peas, thaw them. Set aside.
In a pan/wok/kadhai, on high, heat up the oil to smoky point.Reduce the heat to medium & add the chopped onions & garlic. When the onions start to soften & turn lightly brown, add the chopped tomatoes, green chilies, ginger, turmeric, coriander,amchoor and red chili powder to the kadhai and turn heat to medium-low. Let the tomatoes cook down and soften, cook this masala till you see oil separating on sides. At this point turn heat to medium high & add the sliced mushrooms. Also add pinch of salt. Cook the mushrooms till the are tender. They will slowly release their water and start to shrink in size. I used white button mushrooms & it took they approximately 6-8 minutes to cook. The time will depend on the variety of mushrooms you are using. Once the mushrooms are sweaty and have shrunk in size, add the peas,adjust the salt, sprinkle the sugar and also add the kasuri methi . Cover for 5 minutes on medium – low heat and let cook.
Garnish with chopped cilantro. You can also squirt little lemon juice/vinegar if you like. Serve immediately.
Spring has hit full force here in the valley and looks like the bright sun is here to stay. A crisp, pleasant mornings is what awaits us as we get out of the bed & I feel so inspired to stay active and finish up a lot of chores by noon. A certain kind of energy engrosses me throughout the now longer days and we have also started our evening strolls to the nearby Sunset Park. Onset of spring is also apparent in the tall peach tree in our front yard and I am already spotting a couple of buds signaling that the fruit will be here in no time. I am planning to can the fruit this year,something which I missed doing last summer.
The Indian festival of spring, Holi is round the corner and like most celebrations back home this festival is also full of food & colors(of the real kind). I prepared these coconut & mavagujiya which is categorically made during Holi in my family.It is a sorta indian empanada with a sweet filling.The eggless pastry is flaky but dense at the same time,its lightly crispy on the outside but gooey in the center from the ghee,though you can do any kind of filling but traditionally milk solids (mava) mixed with aromatic cardamom and variety of nuts are stuffed inside,making it a wholesome holiday grub.
Holi was one of the most busy time in my grandma’s house. I remember how lunch & sometimes dinner was cooked early so that the later part of the day could be spent making gujiya and other savory things.It may look like a quickie but when we are talking hundreds of such homemade pastries, it was too much work. She started the preparations a week ahead, the neighborhood and all the house help were given boxes full of these as a token of the festival and since these last for almost a weeks if stored properly, we always had lots of them left as anytime snack after the festival had winded up.
Mava or Khoya is solidified milk, quite comparable to ricotta but less moist.It is used in making most of the indian sweets and desserts. You take one bite of the it and you discern that unique dense and milky taste. If you do not have access to indian stores , you could make your own mava at home (recipe here).The filling can be made a day ahead and once fried, these gujiya freeze very well too. Making gujiya is labor intensive so plan it on a not so busy day. Have fun & Happy Holi.
Ingredients (Makes 15)
For the filling (Makes extra. I had about 1/2 cup leftover filling)
2-3 tbsp ghee, divided
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup crushed nuts ( I used almonds & cashews)
2 tbsp melon seeds, optional
4 oz mava/khoya, grated when cold (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
For the crust
1.5 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp ghee, melted ( (homemade or store-bought)
2-4 tbsp shortening, softened (In India, use Dalda)
1/2 cup warm water (adjust quantity required for kneading)
Oil for frying
For the glue
1 tbsp all-purpose flour + 1.5 tbsp water
For the syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp green cardamom powder
Make the filling:-
In a heavy bottomed pan/kadhai, heat up 1 tbsp ghee on low heat. Add desiccated coconut to it and lightly toast the coconut till you smell a nice aroma. Transfer the coconut to a big bowl.Melt another tbsp of ghee and add the nuts & melon seeds(if using) to the kadhai and toast them on low heat. Transfer to the same bowl as coconut.Next, on very low heat, melt another tbsp ghee( you might not need ghee if using homemade mava) and add the grated khoya/mava to it.On very low heat, cook the mava till it loosens and starts becoming runny. You will need to continuously stir it so that it does not stick to the bottom. Once the mava starts to clump up, transfer to the same bowl.Note – If you see a lot of fat oozing out of the mava, try to skim off as much as you can.
Let all the ingredients completely cool . Once cold, add the cardamom powder & granulated sugar and combine well. Set aside or refrigerate( if you are making a day ahead).
Make the Dough for the crust:-
Sift the flour once. Mix the flour with ghee and shortening ( a tbsp at a time) and work it with your fingers. While doing so try to make a ball of the flour, if the flour clumps up and does not break when you drop it, stop adding the shortening.Mix the flour gently with warm water. Add water slowly and handle the dough gently till it comes together. Once its together, knead for 2-3 minutes and (very important) cover it with a damp cloth and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Make the glue :-
In a small bowl, mix up 1 tbsp flour with water. It should not be lumpy. Set aside.
Making the Gujiya
Once the dough has rested, pinch equal portions of the dough and keep them covered with a damp cloth. Press each portion between palms to make a smooth ball. Roll out each portion into a 3″ circle. Dip a finger into the glue (made earlier) and spread it all around the edge of the rolled dough. Pick up the rolled dough into your palms and pinch the centre of the edge on one side in such a way that one of the ends is closed to form a semi circle. Spoon a tablespoon of the filling and bring all the edges together to form a crescent. When you seal the edges, try to form sort of a dough border by pressing the edges so that you can make a pattern laterMake sure the edges are completely sealed, else the filling will ooze out while frying. Note – Do not overstuff the filling else when you fry the gujiyas will puff up too much and filling will ooze out.
You could leave it as it is or use back or a fork or ravioli cutter to make a pretty edge. I used my hands to pinch the dough and fold it over itself to make a pattern. Place the gujiya on a plate & cover with a damp cloth. Make all the gujiyas in the same way and let sit covered till ready to fry.
Heat up enough oil to fry the gujiyas. The oil is at the right temperature when you put a lithe dough into it and it comes up slowly to the surface without sizzling away. Fry the gujiyas 2-3 at a time on low heat, turning all around till golden fried in color. Note – Do not rush the frying, else your gujiyas will have blisters all over and they will be brown on outside but raw in the center.
Tranfer to the top of a cooling rack and leave to cool.
Make the Syrup :-
While the gujiyas are cooling, bring the sugar & water to a boil and let simmer for 1 minutes. Add the cardamom (or saffron) and mix well. Brush this syrup on all sides of the gujiyas while they are warm.
Serve gujiyas at room temperature with thandai (spiced milk drink).If you want to freeze,let the gujiyas cool completely and store in air tight containers.
Spicy, smoky and succulent – you could hardly go wrong when these define the dish you make.Bites of chicken grilled to perfection and instantly sprinkled with chaat masala for that much-needed tang and served immediately. I cannot think of a better appetizer or a side to fragrant rice pilaf. If you think healthy, skip the carbs and serve over a bed of greens and you are good to go.
When cooking chicken, I make sure not to skip the marination part – it does wonders to the otherwise plain poultry. Hours of marination in yogurt and spices not only makes the chicken morsels tender but packs them with so much flavor. I always plan leftovers because these are excellent tucked inside a wrap with some green chutney (or hot sauce), mayo and few fresh veggies.
It would be false if I told you that I grew up eating home cooked chicken tikka. Every now and then when we had family dinners, tikkas of all sorts were ordered from a barbecue take out place near to our house. In India, home delivery is so common and free if you live in the same area as the restaurant. The tikkas came wrapped in layers of aluminum foil, still warm from the tandoor (clay oven).There used to be pink hued pickled pearl onions, lime wedges and chutney to go along the smoky bites.At times,it did not matter to transfer the contents on to a dinner plate, just spread open the foil and everybody helped themselves – a really informal way of entertaining if you may think so.
Tikka (meaning chunks or pieces) is an extremely popular street food back home. All kinds of marinated vegetables, paneer as well as meat and poultry are available readily for a take away or a quick mid evening snack by the road side.
However, these are not to be confused with Chicken Tikka Masala, a spicy curry from the indian subcontinent which could definitely use a tikka like these simmered in sauce. You would find a lot of recipes of making tikka in India, each using almost the same spices in varying quantities.I am sharing what I make every now and then with all kinds of herbs & an essential dollop of ghee that goes into the marinade.
Morsels of chicken marinated in yogurt and fresh ground spices and then grilled to perfection. You could use the same marinade for paneer tofu or with vegetable chunks.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
For the marinade
3 tbsp thick plain yogurt
1 green cardamom
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/8 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2″ cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp kashmiri chili powder (this gives the color, not the heat)
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to tolerance)
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
1 heaping tsp kasuri methi, crushed between palms(dried fenugreek leaves)
1 tbsp ghee
oil for brushing the grill top/skillet
Garnishes – Chopped Cilantro or mint, lime wedges, chaat masala.
You could use chicken breast too in this recipe. But I find that thighs turn out much more juicy and succulent.
If you don not have all the whole spices mentioned above, trust your favorite tandoori spice powder & use it. Don’t skip the fresh herbs though.
Clean and pat dry the chicken thighs. Cut them into bite size pieces. Rub with lemon juice, minced garlic & ginger,1/2 tsp salt and keep aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, tip in cardamom,coriander,black pepper, fenugreek, cinnamon & cloves into your coffee grinder and grind to a (not too fine) powder. Mix this powder in a bowl with yogurt,cumin powder, turmeric, chili, cilantro, green chili, kasuri methi, ghee & mint leaves. Marinate the chicken with this and keep refrigerated for at least 8 hours (overnight is best).
Take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking. Sprinkle salt to taste before ready to grill. I use my stove top grill to cook them, however you can skew them and cook over outdoor grill.These cook very well over a cast iron skillet/tava. Cook the chicken pieces to perfection flipping regularly to cook on all sides.
I don’t remember having Dora or Barbie themed birthday parties with perfectly frosted pretty cakes sitting in the center of the table waiting to be cut wearing those frilly birthday gowns. Yet, it was the most special day and definitely something I looked forward to for weeks.
I pretty much had a black forest cake for most of my birthdays, the indian version being a far cry from the european marvel, still many of you who grew up in India in the 80s would know how we loved it. As with most indian families any kind of celebration meant lady of the house staying in the kitchen dawn to dusk, making one dish after the other.It started with special homemade samosas for breakfast and aromatic biryani or pilaf for lunch and the best was saved for dinner. Everything the rest of the family did whole afternoon was decorating the living room like a bride with those odd colored, mismatched paper ruffles & shimmering swirls, lacking in cohesion but strings of happiness & celebration running through them for certain.
It did not feel like a birthday unless guests had scooped spicy hot chole with yeasty, puffed bhaturasand gobbled down at least a few dozens of warm homemade gulab jamuns. Sometimes, dum alooand moong dal ki goliwere added to the menu but relishing that aromatic, earthy chickpeas curry is what my most fond birthday memory is made up of.You would wonder as to whats so special about chickpeas, but in our house, chickpeas and other bean curries were limited to special occasions. Given that most of the indian kids I have known in my life LOVE chole-bhature, I was no different.
Usually, I am not hell-bent on starting traditions in the family but the equation changes when food is involved. A couple of weeks back when we celebrated little A’s birthday, amongst those pink cupcakes & chinese food, I severely yearned to eat chole- bhature and missed the time when we sat in rounds on the floor with food loaded bhojanthaals set in front of us, laughter, greasy fingers and steam emanating from straight-out-the-wok fried bread. Suddenly, it made perfect sense to make chickpea curry for the two of us and relieve those moments for a while.
Pindi Chana is a spicy chickpea curry which gets its name from Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) before India-Pak partition, where it originated.This curry is different from the regular chana masala in terms of the selection of spices and rich color from tea added during boiling the chickpeas.Don’t worry you will never taste the tea here,rather a very unique, earthy flavor,notable to this spicy preparation. Pindi Chana is a dry preparation of chickpeas coated with the masala (sauce) and is best served with a bread, salad and pickle on the side.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
For Boiling the Chickpeas (skip this step if using canned chickpeas)
1 cup chickpeas, raw
1 no black unflavored tea bag((if you are using a mild tea variety, you can use 2 bags)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oil
2 cups water
1/2 tbsp chaat masala
For the Sauce
4 tbsp mustard oil (or any neutral oil)
3/4 cup tomatoes, chopped
1.5 tsp grated fresh ginger shoot
1 fat garlic clove
1/4 tsp turmeric
1-2 Thai green chilies (adjust to tolerance)
Salt to taste
Chopped Cilantro for garnish
Grind to a coarse powder
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin
1.5 tsp coriander seeds
2 dry red chillies
1 tsp anardana (dried pomegranate seeds, use lemon juice/dry mango powder if you don’t have these)
1 small black cardamom
1/2 tsp kasuri methi(dried fenugreek leaves)
Soak the chickpeas overnight in enough water.Drain and discard the water and transfer the chickpeas to your pressure cooker. Add tea bag, salt,soda, oil and 2.5 cups water and pressure cook for 4-5 whistles or till 95% cooked. Please adjust the cooking time & number of whistles depending on your variety of chickpeas. Once cooked, drain the chickpeas, discard the tea bag and reserve the stock. Mix with chaat masala and half of the ground spice powder with the chickpeas and set aside.
In a pot, heat up the oil to smoky on high heat. Take off the stove and add the chopped tomatoes to the oil. Also add ginger and garlic. Cook on medium heat till the tomatoes soften and you see oil separating on sides of the pot. At this point, add the turmeric and rest of the spice powder to the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes till you smell a nice aroma. Add the chickpeas to the pot next with about 3/4 – 1 cup of reserved stock and green chillies. Taste and adjust the salt. Cover and let the chickpeas cook on medium low heat for 20-25 minutes or till they are completely soft but not mushy.
Let sit for 1-2 hours before serving. The sauce will thicken up and develop flavors as the dish sits. When ready to serve, reheat and if you feel that they are too dry, add little bit of reserved stock, simmer again for 5-7 minutes and serve garnished with cilantro.
Serve with bhatura, warm tortillas, pita bread or naan.