Gluten Free · Mains · Non vegetarian · Rice Dishes

Yakhni Pulao


For a long time, I was tricked into thinking that Yakhni pulao is biryani. Most of my family, still, for some reason refers to it as biryani but its not. This is not a layered rice dish, it is a pulao. Yakhni is ” broth” and this dish is basically basmati rice cooked in a delicious made-from-scratch meat broth.

South asian broths have much more depth of flavor due to use of spices. I dont pressure cook the meat, I let it simmer for couple of hours or more depending on the quantity. Slowly the meat releases its flavor into the water along with those of the spices and herbs. The delicious yakhni is full of body and I remember mom would ladle it into teacups and give us to drink as it is as a soup.So comforting on a cold night. You can do the same if you are not in mood for a pulao.

A delicious yakhni needs bone in meat or chicken and time! There are no powdered spices and all the flavor comes from whole spices, dried chilies, ginger and garlic. Caramelizing the onions well before cooking the rice is another important step, do not rush it, brown the onions nicely, they add not only to the taste but also to the color of the pulao.

This recipe is one of my most family’s most oldest. It was cooked winter long and it is a great way to feed big families or when entertaining. You can serve it with a light chicken curry or any side but I really just like it with plain raita.

Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

For the Yakhni

  • 1 lb bone in mutton or chicken, cleaned
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1.5 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2-3 bay leaf
  • 2 whole black cardamom, slightly cracked
  • 2 cinnamon stick
  • half nutmeg
  • 7-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped 8-10 dried chillies
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water

For the Pulao

  • 1 + 1/4 cup basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1.5 cup sliced onions
  • Red chili powder to taste
  • 1 tsp shah jeera
  • 2.5 cups liquid (yakhni topped with water)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro, raita, ginger jullienes etc to serve.

Method

Step 1 Make the Yakhni (Spiced Broth)

Add everything listed under yakhni to a dutch oven. Cover the pot and set on a medium high stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 1.5 hours till the meat is fork tender but not falling apart. You can do the same thing in an instant pot or pressure cooker but slow cooked yakhni is something else 🙂 Meat releases its own juices and water as it will cook so don’t add much water in the beginning. Also please keep in mind that the cooking time of meat will depend on how small or big the cuts are. So adjust accordingly.

Once the meat is cooked, switch off the stove.Pick out the meat pieces using a spoon into a medium bowl and cover the bowl with a cling film to make sure that the meat does not dry out. Set a large colander over another large bowl and drain the yakhni in there. Dont be tempted to mash the ginger or garlic or onions, else the yakhni will lose its soupy texture. Discard the things in the colander.

Yakhni is ready. You can enjoy it as it like a soup when while it is warm with few squirts of lemon and scatter of fresh cilantro. Add a few pieces of cooked meat to make it more filling.

If you make a pulao, follow step 2 below. Keep in mind that do not make the yakhni a day ahead, the taste changes so its best to make it a couple hours before when you want to serve as soup or make a pulao.

Step 2 Make the Pulao

Wash the rice 2-3 times under a running stream of water. Soak the rice for 20 mins in enough water.

Measure the yakhni. The variety of rice I use needs double amount of liquid to cook. So I needed 2.5 cups of liquid to cook the rice. I got 2 cups of yakhni from the recipe above and I added 1/2 cup water to it.

In a wide shallow pot, (I use my braiser) or you can use a kadhai or a 12 inch pan, add the oil. Once the oil is warm, add the sliced onions. On medium heat, brown the onion. It takes about 8-10 minutes but do not rush this process.

Once the onions are dark brown, add the red chilli powder to oil along with cumin seeds and saute for 30 seconds. Add the meat to the pan and stir around with the onions for 3-5 minutes on medium heat. The meat will brown a little, once so, add the soaked rice(discard the water in which you soaked) along with yakhni (+water). Mix gently and taste the salt in the liquid, it should be sharp salty at this stage else adjust it, this makes sure that your rice comes out properly seasoned once cooked.

Cover with a lid and set the rice to cook on medium high heat, once you see that the liquid is bubbling, reduce the heat to the lowest and let cook for 20-25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft. Switch off the stove and let the pot sit undisturbed for atlest 10-12 minutes.

Uncover and using a rice spoon or a small plate, fluff up the rice from once side. Yahni pulao is ready.Serve as you wish. Taste amazing next day.

This recipe can be easily doubled. Just adjust the cooking times for both rice and meat in that case.

Enjoy!

Appetizers/Snacks · Condiments/Spice Blends · Gluten Free · Indian Streetfood · Non vegetarian · Side Dishes

Seekh Kabab

Seekh kabab could easily be one the most popular street foods across South Asia.A street food that instantly transports me to colorful streets of Old Delhi. We often thronged to Jama Masjid in heart of the walled city to eat seekh kabab rolls which is basically kababs right off the tandoor wrapped in rumali rotis with thinly sliced onions that soften just a bit due to warmth of kabab & rotis. A few squirts of fiery green chutney and made extra smoky with sprinkles of tangy chaat masala to round up the melt in the mouth melange of spicy and smoky. 

It’s a vivid memory hard to overwrite- that of standing on the street side biting into a hot kabab while witnessing the hustle bustle of the city engulfed in aromas from flaming tandoors lined up as far as the sight goes. 

Seekh translates to “skewer” and these kababs are usually made with ground mutton, lamb or chicken, shaped into pipe like kababs and cooked on high heat. This are so delicious served with a flatbreads, lots of onions , lemon wedges and green chutney.

You can always go ahead and buy seekh kabab masala from store, and I myself go for the convenience many times, however if you make your own masala, the depth of flavors and taste is truly unmatched. Besides homeground masala, there are a few other things as noted below to be kept in mind for a great tasting seekh.

  • Use a fine ground mince with a good amount of fat. By this I mean that even if you purchase minced meat or chicken from the store, grind it using your food processor or blender. This ensures that the kababs are not going to break when you shape or cook them.
  • Use mince with good amount of fat. So if you are choosing beef or lamb – go for 85/15 variety. If you are using chicken, do not use ground chicken breast, go for ground dark portion meat. I remember my grandfather asking the butcher to add extra fat separately whenever he bought ground meat for making seekh kababs.
  • Squeeze as much water as possible from the finely chopped onions. Else the mince will start breaking when you try to skewer it after marinating.
  • Cook on high heat. The mince cooks very quickly and if you slow cook it, the kababs will dry out.
  • Grease your palms well when putting mince on the skewer. Also brush or spray oil/ghee liberally when cooking the kababs else they will come out dry.
  • You can cook them on indoor or outdoor grill. If you do not have grill, bake them in a high oven and then slide under the broiler for few minutes for a nice char.

You can use the same recipe for making kababs with any kind of meat. However, if you choose to use beef or lamb or mutton, I suggest adding 1-2 teaspoons of meat tenderizer or 1 tablespoon of fine grated green papaya. Rest everything remains the same.

Recipe

Seekh Kabab Masala (Makes 10-12 kababs)

Ingredients (makes about 1/4 cup of masala)

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 star anise flower
  • 3 green cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 1 black cardamom, pods only
  • Cinnamon – 2 inch
  • 8 whole black pepper
  • pinch of carrom seeds (ajwain)
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 2 twigs mace
  • 3-5 dried whole kashmiri chillies
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp black salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste

Method

Dry roast all the whole spices – cumin, coriander, fennel. star anise. cardamoms. cinnamon, black pepper, dried red chillies, carrom, black pepper, cloves , mace and bayleaf on very low hear for 5-6 minutes taking care not do brown them at all. Take off the stove and let cool down completely. Using a spice grinder, grind the spices to a fine powder. Sieve the ground spices to make sure that no bits remain.

In a bowl, mix the ground spice with rest of powdered spices and salt and mix well. You can double or triple this recipe and keep it in an air tight container for a month.

For Making Seekh kababs

  • 1 lb (1/2 kg) ground chicken, lamb or mutton
  • 3 tbsp roasted kaale chane (unsalted black chickpeas (without the skin), these are easily available in indian stores (substitute with 2 tbsp dry roasted besan (chick pea flour))
  • Seekh Kabab masala (recipe above, I add the entire batch of masala, you can reduce a bit if you wish)
  • 2 tbsp grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp very finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup very finely chopped onion, squeeze the water out
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 2-4 green chillies (adjust to taste)
  • salt (about 1.5 tsp, adjust to taste)
  • Ghee for brushing while cooking/grilling
  • Chaat masala, chutney, sliced onions to serve

Note – Add 1 tsp meat tenderizer or 1 tbsp fresh grated green papaya if using ground meat (beef, mutton or lamb). Everything else reminds the same.

Method

Add the ground meat or chicken to your blender or food processor fitted with metal blade and pulse a 4-5 times to grind the mince finer. Transfer to a large bowl. To take out easily from around the blade, drizzle a little oil.

Grind the roasted black chickpeas using your spice grinder or any small grinder to a fine powder. Sift using a colander over the ground meat/chicken. Add the rest of the ingredients and using your hands, gently mix everything. Do not squeeze the meat but make sure the spices, herbs and salt is evenly distributed. Cover the bowl with a cling film and let marinate refrigerated for 1 hour (for chicken) and 1.5 hours (for meat).

If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water while the mince marinates. Once marinated, take the mince out of the refrigerator. Rightaway, take about 1/3 cup of the mince at a time, oil your hands and pierce the meat through the skewer. It is easier to skewer the kabab mix when the mince is cold. Using your palms and fingers, spread the meat in a cylindrical shape lengthwise on the skewer. Dont make a very thick kabab else it will not come out chewy, if you make very thin, they will dry out while high temperature cooking.

If using an oven, preheat it to the highest temperature. Mine goes upto 500F. Line a large baking tray with foil or parchment paper (this makes cleaning the tray easy) while oven is heating. Place a rack on the tray. Brush the rack with oil. Place the skewers on the rack. Liberally brush with oil or melted ghee. Cook in the hot oven for 6-8 minutes, flipping mid way. Slide under the broiler for a minute or two if you want a charred skin.

You can also grill these on a charcoal or indoor grill at the highest setting. Liberally brush with oil a few times for a moist kababs. Flip a few times for even cooking on all sides.

Once kababs are done, let it cool down on the skewer for a minute or so. Transfer to a plate from the skewers. Sprinkle with chaat masala.Serve immediately with onion, green chutney , flatbreads, lemons etc.

-Enjoy

Uncategorized

Spiced Honey Cake

With its dark golden crumb and flavor of floral honey in each bite, this cake is so perfect with a cup of tea for much needed warmth on a cold fall evening. The cake is refined sugar free and is wholly sweetened with honey. It is nicely dense (as most bundt cakes are) and so very satiating. The warmth from the spices enhances the floral notes of honey as well as makes your kitchen smell wonderful while the cake bakes. Since honey cakes tend to become dry sometimes, the recipe uses full fat greek yogurt, which makes it incredibly moist. A few lashings of whipped chocolate honey on top makes it ideal to be enjoyed as a dessert too. 

I am a huge fan of teacakes. Not only they make teatime special but they are incredibly easy to make. You do not need to make a frosting (less work!) and I mostly make mine without a mixer, this recipe is such. You just need two bowls!

The cake very keeps well in the fridge for a few days. I suggest to warm up a slice when serving, its so delicious when warmed a bit.

Recipe

Makes 1 10-inch Bundt 

Time – 30 minutes (plus baking  & cooling time)

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sunflower/vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon full fat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)

For Drizzling

  • 1/3 cup whipped chocolate honey(or you can use chocolate glaze)

Method 

  1. Liberally spray or brush the sides and center flute of a 10- inch bundt pan with oil. Set aside. 
  2. Preheat oven to 350F with rack in the middle. 
  3. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and all the spice powders together. This makes sure that everything is lump free. Set aside. 
  4. In another large bowl, crack the eggs and beat them lightly. Measure oil first and add it to the eggs. Without wiping, use the same cup in which you measured oil to measure the honey. Add to the bowl as well. Also add the yogurt and zest(if using), whisk everything nicely to combine. 
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the honey mixture, stir and fold gently with a spatula to mix everything, don’t over mix. 
  6. Pour the batter into the bundt pan (it is a runny batter so it will level itself) and bake in oven until a skewer comes out clean, 38-42 minutes. 
  7. Take the cake pan out of the oven and place on the counter and let the cake cool for 25 minutes in the pan. . 
  8. Loosen the cake from the pan using a thin spatula or a butter knife and invert on a cooling rack to completely cool down. 
  9. Drizzle American Raw honey whipped chocolate honey letting it drip along the sides. Slice and serve. 
Non vegetarian · Side Dishes · Uncategorized

A Thanksgiving Meal

This post is in collaboration with Ninja Kitchen.

Thanksgiving in 2020 is going to be so different than last years. We rarely stay home during Thanksgiving, either we visit friends or take short family trips. However, things are different this year but that should definitely stop us from celebrating with good food.

Since we are a small family, I love making cornish hens during the holiday which are abundantly available at this time of the year. There are a few simple sides, a minty yogurt raita and doughy naan. We love everything spice and hence the birds get a generous dose of spices in the form of my tandoori spiced compound butter.

Since we are a small family, I love making cornish hens during the holiday which are abundantly available at this time of the year. There are a few simple sides, a minty yogurt raita and doughy naan. We love everything spice and hence the birds get a generous dose of spices in the form of my tandoori spiced compound butter.

This recipe is different from tandoori spice paste recipe which I shared a few years ago. The is a dry rub, a mix of powdered spices which I mix with softened butter and then rub all over the bird and roast it. The bird comes out so so moist, it is incredibly delicious and there is lingering aroma of warm spices in your kitchen.

Since the bird is generously spiced, I keep the sides pretty simple. The garlic, cumin and kasoori methi roasted potatoes and simply roasted brussel sprouts pair well. The compound butter is so amazing and trust me you need to make extra and keep it in your fridge. It will go so well on tofu, paneer, fish or simply roasted vegetables.

Recipes

Tandoori Spiced Compound butter

For the tandoori masala

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom, seeds only
  • 2 green cardamom, seeds only
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 twigs mace
  • 1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves), crushed fine between palms
  • 1/2 tbsp kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chaat masala
  • 1/2 tbsp hot red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

For the Compound butter

  • 1 cup unsalted butter , very soft but not melting
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 tbsp chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Minced garlic & ginger (if you want a pronounced flavor)
  • 1-3 tbsp of tandoori masala (adjust to taste)
  • Salt

Method

Make the Tandoori Masala :- Lightly dry toast the cumin, coriander, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon and mace in a small pan for 2-3 minutes. Cool down the spices completely. Transfer to a spice grinder and make into a fine powder. Sieve the spices to make sure that their are no pieces left. In a bowl, add the spices along with rest of the spices listed. Mix everything very well. This masala can be stored in air tight container for up to two months.

Make the Compound Butter : – In a medium bowl, add the butter, oil, minced ginger and garlic (if using), chilli flakes and tandoori masala. Using a small spatula, mix everything very well. Let sit for atleast 30 minutes before using.

Tandoori Spiced Roasted Cornish Hens

  • 3 cornish hens, fresh or thawed(if using frozen)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • Tandoori spiced compound butter
  • Oil for basting

Method : Make sure that the hens are properly thawed if using frozen. Using a paper towel, completely dry them. Massage the hens with the compound butter all over.Also massage the cavity liberally. If you are using hens with skin, slide your fingers to loosen the skin and massage the butter on the breast area properly. Once massaged, let the hens sit at room temperature for one hour before roasting. I dont, but if you want, you can fill the cavity with lemon slices or herbs.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Transfer the hens to a roasting pan lined with foil (makes cleaning easy). If you dont have roasting pan, you can use foil trays with a small rack over it. do not place the hens directly on the pan, it prevents circulation of heat and the bottoms will become watery. Roast the hens for 40- 60 minutes until the temperature at the thickest part reads 165F.

If using Ninja Foodi Smart XL grill, preheat the grill on roast with preset Chicken. Once the the grill is heated it will prompt you to add food, place the hens in the roaster tray, insert the Foodi Smart thermometer between the thigh and leg and press start. The grill will automatically set the time need to reach the temperature of 165 F for well done. Once the cooking is over, the grill will shut off.

Let the hens rest covered for 15 minutes and in the mean time you can make the sides.

Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb russet potatoes, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tbsp minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Method :- Mix everything together, place on a single layer in a baking sheet and and roast in a 400F oven or 30-35 mins until the potato skins are crisped and they are browned.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb brussel sprouts, washed & prepped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Olive oil

Method:- Toss the brussel sprouts with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in a 400F over for 8-10 minutes.

Uncategorized

Garlic- Methi Poori

Poori are a festival favorite. These pooris are so delicious eaten as it is or with your favorite curry. I like to use fresh chopped methi leaves and a combination of flours which makes them just so crisp and perfect texture.

A few tablespoons of sooji(semolina) make the pooris crisp and alsohelps in making the dough not too soggy since semolina can absorb a lot of moisture. My mom always adds a little bit of grated potato to dough that she makes for pooris or bhaturas and really it make a huge difference in the taste and texture even though you cannot really taste the potato.

Make a firm dough and rest it for at least 30 minutes. Resting helps in mingling of flavors as well as the pooris come out crisp from outside and soft from inside.

Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 12-15 pooris)

  • 1/2 cup maida (all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
  • 3 tbsp fine semolina (sooji)
  • 1.5 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped methi (fenugreek) leaves
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ajwain
  • 1/4 tsp hing
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small potato (yield 1/4 cup) boiled potato, grated (not mashed)
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • Red chilli powder to taste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 5 tbsp water for kneading (or as needed)
  • Oil for frying (about 3 cups)

Method

In a wide paraat/dish sift the flours. Add the garlic, chopped methi, cilantro and all the spices. Using your hands, mix everything so that all the spices, greens and potatoes are evenly distributed.

Add the oil and mix again with the flour mixture. Add salt, mix and start adding water little by little. We want to make a tight but not a dry dough. I used about 5 tablespoons of water to get to the right dough, you might need less or more depending on the quality of your flour. Also keep in mind that due to salt in the dough, the methi leaves and cilantro will release water so the dough will get a bit soft as it rests.

Keep adding water and kneading the dough, pressing down using your knuckles, gathering it again by folding it over itself and kneading again. It will take about 5-7 minutes of kneading to get a firm dough. Make it into a ball and place in in a container and cover with a lid. Do not leave the dough to rest without covering it. Let the dough rest for ablest 30 minutes.

Set oil to heat up in a deep kadai or pot. Pinch equal sized portions of the dough and smothen between your palms to make lime sized balls. Flatten the balls down on your work surface, (dont add any dry flour) and using a rolling pin roll into a 3 inch or 4 inch circles. Repeat for all the portions and keep the pooris covered with a dry cloth. You can use a little bit of oil if you need when rolling.

To test the oil, pinch a little portion of the dough and add it to the oil. If it comes up sizzling, oil is too hot, and if it settles to bottom, oil is cold. The dough should rise up without sizzling at the right temperature of the oil.

Fry pooris one by one. Add the rolled poori to the oil, in 2-4 seconds start pressing in down gently this will help in puffing them, these won’t puff a lot since the dough is loaded, flip and fry on second side for 8-10 seconds. Drain on a paper towel. Fry all the pooris similarly.

Serve right away or you can store them for 24 hours in your roti container.

Enjoy!

Uncategorized

Dahi Gujiya

Festivals are for special recipes and dahi gujiya are very popular during festivals in north indian homes. My grandmother used to make them on Holi and Diwali. The lentil batter is shaped into shape of gujiyas and they are stuffed with , chopped nuts, ginger, green chillies and raisins.

The soft and spongy gujiyas are a burst of tangy, spicy, sweet and salty. They take a few extra minutes than your usual dahi bade and biting into chopped nuts as you eat them is just heavenly.

If you do no want the stuff, you can use the recipe to make vadas as usual, minus the stuffing part, the recipe remains the same.I soak the gujiyas in hing water for about half hour and that makes a lot of difference. You can make ahead and store them for 4-5 days easily. Just fry and keep in the fridge. When you are ready to swerve, soak them in hot water before dunking in the yogurt.

Recipe

Ingredients (makes 10-12 gujiyas)

For the Gujiyas/vada

  • 1 cup split urad daal
  • 1/3 cup split yellow mung daal
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 green chilli, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp hing
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

For the stuffing

  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 green chillies (to taste)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped cashews
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tbsp chironji (if you can find, I could not)

For soaking

  • 3-4 cups hot water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp hing

For the yogurt

  • 2.5 cups thick yourt
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup cold water (depending on how thick or thin you like the yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tbsp chaat masala (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp kala namak
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • Salt to taste

Garnishes While Serving

  • Tamarind & green chutneys (to taste)
  • Chopped green chillies (to taste)
  • Bhujiya sev (to taste)
  • Pomegranate arils (to taste)
  • Chopped Cilantro (to taste)
  • Extra spices (same as above) for sprinking on top (see notes)

Notes

  • You can adjust the different spices and sugar in yogurt to your taste. I usually mix most spices that I sprinkle on top with the yogurt itself. It tastes a lot better.
  • Skip the stuffing part and make the regular vadas and dunk them in yogurt. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water to the lentil batter in that case and then make vadas.

Method

Step 1 :- Soak the Lentils

Place both the lentils in a large bowl and wash them a few times until the water runs clear. Soak them for not more than 5 hours. I usually soak them right in the morning when I am making chai, and make bade/gujiya at noon. If you soak them for a long time, lentil fritters tend to become oily.

Step 2 Grind the Lentils

Discard all the water from the lentils. Place them in the a high speed blender like Vitamix along with hing, green chillies and ginger. Start the blender slowly and then gradually increase the speed to medium. If you feel that the lentils need water to grind, add 1 tablespoon at a time. Don’t go beyond 2 tablespoon, use a scraper to scrape the sides of the blender. Grind everything to a almost smooth batter with just a little texture. The consistency of the batter has to be thick and pasty for the gujiyas. If you plan to make just vada without the stuffing, add extra 2 tbsp of water to the batter after grinding.

Transfer the ground lentils to a large wide bowl. In another small bowl, add 1 cup water.Keep the small bowl nearby. Start whipping the ground lentils rigorously with your hands in a circular motion. Whip them for 5-7 minutes until they are fluffy. To test if the lentils are fluffy, drop a tiny amount of ground lentils in the water in the small bowl, they should immediately float on the water. If the batter drops and settles at the bottom of water, you need to whip more. If needed, you can use a hand beater to whip the lentils.

Once lentils are whipped, add salt and whip again for 2-3 minutes.

Set enough oil in a large iron kadai or wide pan for heating up on medium low.

Step 3:-Shaping the gujiyas (Skip this step for vada)

Place a slightly thick piece of plastic (like a ziplock bag, don’t use cling film) on a flat surface. Spread a few drops of water on the plastic. Take a lime sized ball of the lentil batter. Place it on the plastic. Dip your hands in little water and flatten the lentil batter into a 3 inch circle, do not spread very thin. Put 1/2 tbsp of nut stuffing on one half of the circle (don’t add too much), lift the plastic and fold over the other half of the lentil circle to make a semi circle ( gujiya). Using wet hands, press the ends to seal nicely and make the shape neater if you wish.

Step 4:- Frying the gujiya

To check the temperature of oil, drop a little lentil batter into the oil, if it sizzles and rises up immediately, oil is too hot, if it drops to the bottom, the oil is cold.The oil should be medium hot. Carefully, peel the plastic away from the gujiya and place them in the oil. For making vada, you can drop little portions of lentil batter with a spoon in hot oil. Fry them in oil flipping once or twice till they are lightly golden.

Fry all the gujiyas/vadas same way and drain on paper towel. Fry in batches, don’t fry more than 2-3 gujiyas or 3-4 vadas at a time.

Step 5:- Soaking the gujiyas

Heat up 3-4 cups of water and add it to a large bowl. Mix in the salt and hing. Add the fried gujiyas to the warm water and press down with the help of a small plate (smaller than the diameter of the bowl). The more the area of the gujiyas will be soaked, they will be softer. Let them soak for about 20 minutes. They will become super soft and will fluff up slightly.

Take them out of the water, gently press between palms of you hands to remove water. Place the gujiyas in a container/plate, put the lid/cover and refrigerate for ablest 1.5 hours till the are chilled.

Step 6:-Make the Yogurt

While the gujiyas are chilling, you can make the yogurt. Beat the yogurt to smooth using a whisk, add water to thin out per desired consistency and then mix with all the spices and sugar. Taste and adjust the spices as you wish. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Step7:- Assemble

In a wide dish, add about 3/4 cup of yogurt that we made. Layer the chilled gujiyas in a single layer. Pour another 3/4 cup of yogurt on top. Reserve the remaining yogurt for when serving. Chill everything in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

Serve the chilled gujiyas as you wish with extra yogurt and garnishes.

Enjoy!

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Saffron Shortbread Sandwiches with Almond Cardamom filling (Eggless)

If you were to ask me about my favorite flavors of a mithai in cookie form, this is it! The eggless shortbread derives its beautiful color from saffron and the filling uses ground almonds with balmy green cardamom. They are moreish, buttery bites.

I make a point to add some kind of cookies to my diwali menu each year, in last years I have made nankhatai, cumin cookies and kaaju cookies. This is this year’s version and it hit all the right spots with us and the kids.

The shortbread dough is super easy to make and needs basic pantry ingredients- sugar, flour, butter etc. While the dough chills and bakes, you can make the filling.One hour is all it needs to make these and the guests are wowed.

You can use store bought good quality, almond meal, if you use almonds ground at home the filling might not be very white, but still as delicious.

A few things to keep in mind while making the shortbread.

  1. The butter has to be softened. Its a key to making a good shortbread. Leave the butter in a warm place for good amount of time to soften. Dont rush by microwaving it.
  2. Sift your flour and sugar. It makes a lot of difference in the texture of the shortbread.
  3. Chilling the dough (helps with texture of dough and flavors get time to mingle) and unbaked cookies.

Recipe (Makes 10-12 sandwiches)

For the shortbread

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1/2 tbsp warm milk

For the filling

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tbsp fine ground almond powder
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Method

  1. Grind the saffron with a pinch of sugar using mortar pestle into a fine powder. Add warm milk and let infuse.
  2. Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer. Cream them for 2 minutes until fluffy. Add the saffron and orange zest and mix well.
  3. Add the sifted flour to the butter mixture and blend well. Dump onto your work surface and knead well with your hands to mix well and make a soft dough.
  4. Wrap the dough in the cling film and chill for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Line two cookies sheets with parchment.
  6. Unwrap the dough and roll it into a 1/4 inch thickness using rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.
  7. Using a 2 inch biscuit or scalloped cookie cutter, cut the dough. Place the cookies on the parchment about an inch apart. Gather the scraps and repeat until all the dough is used up.
  8. Chili the cookies for 15-20 mins before baking.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes until they are starting to slightly brown on the edges. Dont overbake.
  10. Pull out the sheets, let cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Making the filling

While the dough and cookies chill, make the filling. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix for 2-3 minutes until well combined. You can transfer to a piping bag to make it easier to fill the cookies.

Once the cookies are completely cooled, fill one cookie with about a tablespoon of filling and make a sandwich with the second cookie.

Store in an air tight container.

Enjoy!

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Samosa Pinwheels

These little bites are not only fun to make but super delicious too. A spicy samosa filling laced with smoky cumin and green chillies all rolled up in flaky puff pastry and baked to perfection. I like to serve them with chutney and chai and they disappear in no time.

Because these are baked in puff pastry, you dont miss the deep fried crust, however they are much quicker to put together, can be made a day ahead and kept cold in the fire and baked off right before you are ready to serve.

The filling is my go to samosa filling, a potato and pea and masala smelling of hing and green chillies. Adding a few step by step pictures in this post for easy referral. Make these for your Diwali party and serve them with cocktails or chai.

Step1

Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 18-20 bites)

  • 2 puff pastry sheets (thawed overnight and kept cold)
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Melted (but cooled) butter for brushing

For the Samosa Filling

  • 2-3 potatoes, boiled (about 250 gms)
  • 1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp hing
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
  • 2-3 green chillies, chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp hot red chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • 1/2 tsp anardana (dried pomegranate seeds, crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder, adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Method

First make the samosa filling. Peel the boiled potatoes and using your hands, crumble them into small pieces, don’t mash them. Set aside.

In a medium pan, add the cooking oil and heat it up on medium low. Temper the oil with cumin, hing and coriander seeds, sauté for 20 seconds, do not let the spices burn. Add the chopped ginger and green chillies to the pan and sauté for about 10-15 seconds taking care not to burn anything. Take the pan off the stove if needed. Add peas to the pan, return to the stove and and sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt. Cook the peas for 1-2 minutes if using frozen, cook for 3-5 minutes if using fresh until the peas are soft. You might need to cover the pan in case of fresh peas.

Add the red chili powder next and sautĂ©. Add the potatoes to the pan and mix with everything else. Reduce the heat to low and sautĂ© on low heat for 3-5 minutes until the potatoes are warmed through and nicely combined with spices and herbs but do not turn brown. Switch off the stove. Immediately mix in rest of the ingredients – chaat masala, anardana, amchoor, roasted cumin powder. Mix, taste and adjust the salt. Mix the cilantro. Samosa filling is ready. Transfer to a bowl or let the filling completely cool down in the pan. You can make the filling a day ahead as well.

Line a large cookie baking sheet with parchment paper. Make a slurry of 1 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp water.

Making the Samosa bites. Flour your working surface and unroll the thawed puff pastry sheet. Using a rolling pin, smooth out the folds of the pastry. Spread the flour slurry on all sides of the pastry.

Add the samosa filling on long side of the pastry leaving a 1/2 inch gap. Do not over stuff. Roll gently (like you would a cinnamon bun roll) but tightly to make a log. Pinch the end gently to close. If at any time you feel that the puff pastry is getting warm, refrigerate immediately and resume work once its chilled.

Using a sharp knife, cut about 2 inch thick pinwheels out of the pastry log. Place the pinwheels on the cookie sheet 2 inches apart, they will spread.Chill the pinwheels in refrigerator for 15 minutes before you bake or you can store them covered until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 400 F (or the temperature indicated on your puff pastry brand). Brush the pinwheels nicely with melted butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until light golden brown. (start checking after 16 mins so that they are not too browned)

Serve warm with chutneys and chai.

-Enjoy!

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Rose Mawa Pots de creme

This year, among other things, I had this idea to make a luscious mousse or pudding dessert using an indian mithai staple, mawa or khoya. I wanted to keep it free of eggs and gelatin though. If you cannot already tell, mawa is one of my favorite ingredients :), it is so milky and rich and kid you not, I get a little obsessed with it as the festival season approaches.

Pots de creme is a classic French dessert literally translating to pots of cream. Imagine these little creamy pots as eating a piece of burfi with a spoon.These are ridiculously easy to make and because they are quite rich, a quarter or third of a cup portion is more than enough to satiate you. The recipe makes four servings which is perfect for a small family. As the pots chill in the fridge, they set and are fragrant with floral & lemony notes of rose and elaichi (green cardamom). I used rose syrup only that’s why the color is a faint shade of pink, however you can add food color for a more pronounced color.

You cannot use milk powder in this recipe, I tried it and the texture was quite grainy. Also full fat unsweetened coconut milk is the key here, I serve them with a dollop of whipped cream however you can use coconut cream for serving as well. Chilling is an important part of the recipe and I chill them overnight, this gives time to the flavors to mingle and the right consistency to be achieved.

Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 4)

  • 80 gms raw cashews
  • 120 gms mawa/khoya, grated
  • 1 +1/2 cup full fat thick coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 tbsp rose syrup (use few drops of food color for a dark shade)
  • 1/2 tsp rose essence
  • 2 green cardamom pods, seeds only
  • Pomegranate arils, nuts, rose petals and whipped cream for serving

Method.

Dry toast the cashews stirring continously for 2-3 minutes on very low heat. They should not turn too dark color. you will smell a nice aroma. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Once cooled, grind the cashews to a fine powder, do so a small batch at a time, and don’t over grind else oils of the cashews will be released. Use a colander to separate any big pieces form the fine powder and grind the piece again. Repeat till all the cashews have been ground. Set aside.

Return the same heavy pan to stove, keeping your stove to lowest, add the grated mawa. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, keep on stirring the mawa and cook it for no longer than 6-7 minutes (time will vary as per the quality of mawa, please adjust) until the mawa is soft and you can see it glistening. Do not let the color change. Immediately transfer to a plate and let cool down.

Using a mortal and pestle, grind the cardamom pods to a fine powder.

In a large bowl, add the cooled mawa and sprinkle the cashews powder over it. Next add 1/2 cup coconut milk and using a whisk mix gently to make a lump free paste until all the sugar has dissolved.

Add the remaining coconut milk and heavy cream to the bowl and using a whisk, mix rigorously for 3-5 minutes till everything is combined and the mixture gets a little thickish as you whisk. Make sure that the mixture is lump free, you can run it through muslin or a strainer to make sure its smooth.You can also tip everything into a blender and pulse 2-3 times (do not overmix in blender else everything will be be whipped, we want it pourable consistency)

Add the rose syrup, rose essence and ground cardamom and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into 4 ramekins, cover with a cling film and let chill for atleast 6 hours or overnight.

Garnish with pomegranate, some nuts if desired and a dollop of whipped cream. Serve chilled.

-Enjoy!

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Khoya Paneer Kali Mirch

This north indian paneer dish is not as popular as the tomato based creamy curries but it is such a great switch up from regular curries. Fresh ground kali mirch(black pepper) is the main flavor here and the peppery sauce of browned onions and yogurt is just so delicious. To make it tad more indulgent, I add crumbled khoya & hatful of makhana to this dish and it is so good with doughy naan, especially garlic naan.

If you have browned onions ready to go, this dish takes hardly 15-20 minutes or so. I usually deep fry onions at home and keep a stash but you can use any store bought brand that you like. Refrain from using too much onions else the gravy will become sweet. I recommend using fresh ground black pepper but don’t add too much at a once, the gravy is mellow with subtle hints of spice. All in all the dish is mild, faintly sour and creamy and such an indulgent addition to any festive menu.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 50 grams raw cashews
  • 6 oz paneer, cut in chunks or triangles
  • 1/3 cup makhana (foxnuts)
  • 100 grams sliced onions
  • Oil to fry the onions, about 1/2 cup
  • 2-3 thai bird green chillies (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tbsp +2 tsp ghee
  • 2 inch cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom
  • a small twig of mace
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, pounded in a mortar pestle
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder (not roasted)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 3 tbsp thick plain full fat yogurt, whisked
  • 1 tsp sugar (or more if you like a sweetish gravy)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water (depending on consistency of gravy you like)
  • 1/4 cup grated khoya/mawa
  • 3-4 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp rose water or kewra water (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro

Method

Soak the cashews in 1/2 cup warm water for 10 mins. In a pan, add 2 tsp ghee and fry up the paneer slightly. Once done, take out in a plate and add the makhana to the remaining ghee and very light toast them for 1-2 minutes. Take out in the same plate and set aside.

Add oil for frying in a wide pan and heat it up. When the oil is hot but not smoky, add sliced onions to it. On medium heat, fry up the onions to a deep shade of brown, but don’t make them too brown. Frying in a wide pan in a single layer will avoid the onions from becoming soggy. Keep an eye and keep on stirring them. Once done, drain on a paper towel in a single layer and let cool down, they will crisp up a bit. This step can be done 2-3 days ahead. Use the oil for making any savory curry if you wish.

Add the soaked cashews (without water), onions and green chillies to a blender and blend to a smooth paste. Use little water if needed.

In a pan, add 2 tbsp of ghee and warm up on low medium heat. Temper the ghee with all the whole spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and mace. Saute the spices for 30 seconds and then add the ginger and garlic paste. Saute for 30 seconds taking care that they don’t burn. Add a splash of water if you feel that the pan is too heat when you add the ginger garlic.

Next, add the onion paste to the pan along with all the powdered spices- coriander, cumin, fennel and red chilli. Also add the black pepper powder. Saute the onions and spices on low heat for 4-5 minutes until you see little oil bubbles on the surface and sides. You will have to stir it continuously since the cashews will tend to stick to the bottom of pan.

Once sautĂ©ed, take the pan off the stove. Add the yogurt and sugar, immediately mix it with the onion masala. Keep mixing till it is nicely combined. Return to a low stove and keep on continuously mixing till the yogurt is heated through. This will ensure that the yogurt won’t curdle. It will take 5-6 minutes.

Continue to cook and when you see little bubbles of oil on the sides of the pan, add 1/2 water to the pan. Add the salt. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar high now.On low medium heat, let the gravy simmer, do not let boil. Once the gravy is simmering, add the mawa, heavy cream, paneer and makhana. Let everything simmer on low heat for 4-5 minutes. Finish the curry with garam masala. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes more. Switch off the stove and mix in the rose water if using. Gently mix everything. Cover and let the curry sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and a pinch of black pepper powder. Enjoy with naan or jeera rice.