Indian Curry/Stew

Shrimp Masala

Seafood dishes are usually served with a side of rice but growing up, we had them with rotis or naan bought from the next door tandoor vala all the time. The joy of scooping a succulent masala laced shrimp with soft roti or paratha is something. There would be a sirke vale pyaz (vinegar soaked onions) or cucumbers to go along and on some days, no rice at all ūüôā

In northern india, in those days, shrimp were a difficult to find. A fancy items store near our house, used to carry them – a frozen pack of super tiny prawns that mom would sometimes turn into this dish. I looked a lot but could not find super small shrimp so I used what I usually buy- raw, deveined wild caught jumbo shrimp. If you happen to lay hands on shell on shrimp, use those, its a bit of hassle while eating but so worth it. This shrimp dish has a ginger, cumin and kasuri methi (fenugreek seeds) laced fresh tomato sauce. The fenugreek seeds swell up a bit after cooking and they add such a bitter sweet bite to the masala. I like to cook it in mustard oil however use any cooking oil you like. So delicious & easy when you want to rustle up a quick dinner.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1 lb(about 400gms) raw shrimp/prawns, deveined
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tbsp pure mustard oil (substitute with cooking olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 3/4 cup red onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (yield about 1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1.5 tsp hot red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (gives a red hue, can be skipped)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (amchoor, substitute with lemon juice to taste)
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, crushed between palms)
  • 1/3 cup of warm water (adjust to desired consistency of the curry, adjust amount accordingly)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Method

Rub the shrimp with 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder & pinch of salt while you make the masala.

In a heavy bottomed pan, add the oil and heat on high up till you see slow ripples and little smoke on the surface. Reduce heat to medium. Add cumin & fenugreek seeds, let crackle. Then, add onions, keep saut√©ing and cook them till golden brown. Takes about 6-8 minutes. Next, add minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling the garlicky aroma.

Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes and ginger next along with kashmiri chilli, red chilli, coriander, and turmeric powders. Add a pinch of sugar. Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pan. About 10-12 minutes. Cook thoroughly to reduce moisture from tomatoes . This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, please do not rush. Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color.

Reduce the stove to lowest. Wait for 2 minutes.Then, add the marinated shrimp next.Also add salt to taste. Stir around gently so that the shrimp are coated in the masala. Cover the pan and cook on low for 5 -8 minutes or until the shrimps are opaque. This cooking time will depend on the size of shrimp. Adjust accordingly. When the shrimp is just about done, add the water (if using) to adjust the consistency of sauce. Add the kasuri methi, amchoor and garam masala and let simmer for another 2-3 minutes till everything comes together.

Let sit covered for at least 10 minutes, undisturbed.Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Enjoy!

Indian Curry/Stew

Paneer Lababdaar

Paneer lababdaar.A rich & robust paneer curry which has bit of an influence from Mughlai cuisine in use of nuts and yogurt but the whole spices and the unique texture of the sauce from adding grated paneer sets it different. 

On those special weekends when we visited Pandara Road restaurants near India gate for dinner, this was one thing I always ordered along with tandoori rotis.The first bite of crispy ghee smeared rotis straight from the tandoor with softest paneer chunks covered in a mild yet deftly spiced sauce was no less than romance.

I was itching to write down this recipe for long and finally it happened over the labor day weekend. Such dishes are special occasion and a perfect switch up from the home style paneer curries. 

If you would like a more reddish sauce, add a bit of good quality Kashmiri chilli powder when adding other spices. Also, if you like the sauce on a sweetish side, add more sugar. Enjoy!

Recipe

For the Sauce

  • 3 tbsp oil (any neutral oil)
  • 4 cloves
  • 5-6 green cardamom
  • 1/2‚Ä≥ cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp shahjeera 
  • 2 small blades javitri (mace)
  • 1 large tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow/white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 inch fresh ginger shoot, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 Thai bird green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/3 cup raw broken cashews (or 5-6 tbsp whole cashews)
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • 2/3 cup plain whole milk thick yogurt, beaten
  • 1/2 cup-3/4 cup water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional)
  • 6 oz paneer (cut into any shape you like)
  • 1/3 cup paneer, grated
  • salt to taste
  • 5-6 tbsp heavy cream (quantity can up to 1/2 cup, depending on how rich you like)
  • a generous pinch of good quality saffron (ground to fine dust in mortar pestle),soaked in 1 tbsp warm milk
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder (fresh ground if possible)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp golden raisins
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Method

Soak the cashews in 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes. Drain and discard the water.

In a heavy bottomed pot or kadhai, heat up the oil on medium high. Add the cloves,cardamom, mace, shahjeera, cinnamon, tejpatta to hot oil and let the whole spices crackle, about 8-10 seconds or till you smell an aroma.

Next add the onions, ginger and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes until the onions starts to turn translucent (don’t brown them). Add the soaked cashews next along with green chillies. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low now and add the coriander, turmeric Cook for 3-4 minutes on low heat until you see oil separating on the sides. Put the stove off, pick out the bay leaf & cinnamon, half of the cloves & cardamom and tip the contents into a blender. The mixture is going to be hot so wait for 10 minutes before you start blending it. Blend (use as less water as possible during blending).I do not make a very smooth paste, you can decide the texture of the sauce at this point).

Meanwhile, in the same pot or another pot, heat up the 2-3 tbsp ghee on medium. When the ghee is hot enough, start searing the paneer pieces on both sides. You could do this is batches. Once paneer is seared, take them out and in the same ghee, add the blended sauce. Stir around, lower the heat and add beaten yogurt.Cook for 6-8 minutes continuously stirring till you see little drops of oil bubbling.

Add the water now depending on the desired consistency  of sauce (I add 1/2 cup water) along with crushed kasuri methi. Check and adjust the salt. Let come to a slow boil on medium. Add the paneer cubes and grated paneer. Finish with cream, saffron infused milk, cardamom powder, sugar and raisins. Let simmer (not boil) for 5-7 minutes on very low heat. Once simmered, put off the heat and let sit covered for 2 hours.

Serve.

Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew

Lamb & Potato Stew

Meat and Potatoes. The universal comfort food. A ritual in my kitchen in the midst of cruel winters especially on days when the chilly winds clatter against the window panes, its grey and cloudy outside and inside my kitchen, meat is slow cooked long enough till it almost falls off the bone, the potatoes absorb all the flavor and the aroma of the spices permeates the atmosphere of house. A dish which evokes nostalgia of my mom’s mutton stew and of our first few years in the States.

My first tasting of lamb came in one of the ornate buffets here in Las Vegas in a mellow stew- crimson colored, cooked with carrots, speckled with herbs & tasting strongly of red wine. Since we do not consume a lot of lamb in India (mutton is more popular), we had only been roasting lamb rack ocassionally, completely oblivious of the fact how this meat would behave with spices. The tasting presented an opportunity to try it in my mum’s mutton & new potato slow cooked stouu , one in which the meat is first seared and then cooked for long good hours, often pushing lunch to evening tea time.

There is little match to the slow cooking method, for the meat slowly gives in to heat, the gelatinous flavor of the bone melts in the sauce lending it an unmatched edge over the rushed one.The key is to start ahead, much before meal time so that the stew does not miss a chance to rest for a couple of hours before serving. This stew is comforting, deeply flavorful & delicious with a earthly taste of starchy potatoes. You should give this a try before the winters go away!

Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes

Lamb & Potato Stew

Slow cooked bone in lamb and potato stew with fresh pounded spices and yogurt.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven

Ingredients

For the Stew

  • 1 lb stewing lamb
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil , substitute with cooking oil that you like to use
  • 1 whole black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 cup onions thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp hot red chilli powder adjust to tolerance
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2-3 small gold potatoes peeled
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • Salt to taste

Coarsely pound together

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 twig mace
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves

Instructions

  • Add the coarsely pounded spices to a bowl. Add the hot and kashmiri red chilli powder. Pour 1/4 cup of warm water, mix the spices into a paste and set aside.
  • In your dutch oven or any heavy bottom pot with lid, add the oil and let warm up for a few minutes until slightly smoky.
  • Add the black cardamom, cinnamom stick and bayleaf to the oil and saute for 10-15 seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
  • Next, add the sliced onions, sprinkle a pinch of sugar and let the onions brown. Keep on cooking them with stirring in between for 7-8 minutes till the onions are dark brown. This is important for color of the stew.
  • Once the onions are browned, add the lamb to the pot. Cook the lamb on medium low heat with onions for 8-9 minutes stirring continously untill you see that the lamb is browned on all sides and the edges are starting to turn dark brown.
  • Add the spice paste next, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and mix well till the lamb pieces are covered in spices. Let the spices cook with lamb and onions for good 5 minutes. Make sure that they are not sticking to bottom. If you feel so, add a tablespoon or two of water.
  • Slowly you will see that the lamb will release its water and the contents of the pot will be slightly watery. Add 1/4 cup of hot water at this stage and cover the dutch oven.
  • Let the lamb slow cook for a low stove 2-3 hours(time depends on how big or small your pieces are as well as the quality of your meat). You will need to check time to time to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom, if so, add a splash of water.
  • Once the lamb is 90 percent cooked, keeping heat low, add the beaten yogurt and mix well rigrously else the yogurt will curdle. Saute the lamb with yogurt for 5-10 minutes untill you see oil bubbles on the sides of the pot. Check and adjust the salt at this stage. At this stage, lamb will be 95 percent cooked.
  • Add the potatoes to the pot, mix and cover the lid again.Let potatoes cook for 5-8 minutes or untill fork tender.
  • Once the meat and potatoes are done, take off the stove. Add nutmeg and gently mix everything well.
  • Let the stew rest for 2 hours before serving.

Indian Curry/Stew

Dahi Vaale Aloo (Baby Potatoes in Yogurt sauce)

I grew up in a household where potatoes were cooked on a slightest cue for any meal of the day. We always had boiled potatoes ready to go in the fridge. My grandmother’s kitchen was pure vegetarian and dishes made with the humble spud were a staple similar to most Indian homes.

I picked a bag of baby potatoes from the store the other day and I had a few ideas in my mind. Brutal summers are raging here in Las Vegas and yogurt based curries are my go to on most days. They are light and refreshing to eat.

For this sauce, I made a dried mint scented yogurt sauce.It has notes of fennel and cardamom. I didn’t fry the potatoes before adding them to the sauce, however you can do so if you would like. The sauce is rather thickish. It pair beautifully with flatbread and a side of chutney or pickle.

Recipe (Serves 3-4)

Ingredients

For the Potatoes

  • 12-15 baby potatoes
  • water for boiling
  • 1 green cardamom + 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp salt

For the Sauce

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped (don’t use too much onions else the sauce will turn sweet)
  • 4 fat garlic cloves
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 8-10 whole raw cashews(optional)
  • 1/2 cup plain full fat yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp dried mint
  • 1.5 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp ghee or any neutral cooking oil
  • 1 inch cinnamom stick
  • 3 green cardamom
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 thai bird chillies, slit (or to taste)
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste

Method

In a large pot, add the whole spices to water and bring it to a boil. Add the washed and scrubbed potatoes and add to boiling water. Cook on high heat for about 8 minutes till the are 80% cooked. Drain, discard the spices and let potatoes cool down. If you wish you can leave them skin on, I peel them. Set aside. Note- If you wish you can pan fry or deep fry the cooled potatoes, I did not.

While the potatoes are boiling, in another pot, add the onions, ginger, garlic and cashews, add 1/2 cup water and let cook for about 5-8 mins on medium heat till the onions are soft. Tip everything into a blender jar, make a fine paste. Keep aside.

In a small bowl, mix yogurt with sugar, dried mint and garam masala. Set aside.

Note- All the above steps can be done a day in advance.

Lets begin cooking the sauce.In a heavy bottom kadai (indian wok) or a cooking pot, warm up the ghee on low medium heat. Temper with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Cook for 20 seconds. Immediately add the fennel and cumin seeds along with green chillies and let them crackle for a few seconds.

Add the onion paste. On medium low heat, stirring, cook the paste for 5-7 mins or till you start see oil separating but the color of paste should not change much.Next, add the coriander & red chili powder, saute for a minute. Add the potatoes now and stir around to cover all the potatoes in the onion masala. Reduce the heat to low and keep cooking potatoes while stirring with the onion masala for 3-4 minutes.

Add the beaten yogurt to the pot next. Immediately start mixing and continue for 2-3 minutes so as to avoid yogurt from curdling. Slowly you will see that yogurt forms part of the masala. Check and adjust the salt. We will continue to stir for few more minute till yogurt is warmed through. Slowly you will see fat from the yogurt separating in tiny bubbles.

Add 1/3 cup to 3/4 water next to the pot (depending on the sauce consistency you prefer). Mix around, let come to a slow boil and cover the pot. Let simmer for 10 minutes on low heat till the potatoes are cooked through.

Let sit for 20-30 minutes before serving with pooris or however you like ūüôā

Enjoy!

Indian Curry/Stew

Mom’s Ginger Garlic Chicken

She simply calls it ginger garlic chicken but this recipe is way more special than that. It does use a lot of ginger and garlic, but then most chicken dishes do ūüôā This is one of mom’s incredibly delicious chicken recipe and she has been asking me to make it for him for a long time.We usually get boneless chicken so it took me a while to get to it. The first chance I got to visit our halal middle eastern store last week, I got bone in chicken. This recipe, it needs chicken with bones because the main flavor comes from there. The method of cooking and the short list of ingredients here will not allow for much flavor if you use boneless chicken. There are no powdered spices and the chicken cooks in its own juices with herbs and green chillies while you bhuno(saute) it, bhuno it for good half hour without halting. Its very easy to make. The little masala that there is, it is full of ghee caramalized onions, garlic ginger and table spoons of thick full fat yogurt. Finished with fresh herbs like cilantro and mint leaves and a good dose of kasuri methi, the chicken is delicious if served as soon as it is cooked.

The only thing to be kept in mind is a wide heavy bottom kadhai or cast iron pot, its a must for that beautiful caramelization , smokiness and even cooking on open stove. An easy weeknight dish which will take you under 30 mins to make and it will still bring the feeling of “something special” to the table. On days we had unannocuned guests over, mom quickly whipped up this dish.You can even serve these chicken pieces as starters or with some doughy naan or rotis and some pyaz for a complete meal.

Ingredients

  • 1.5lb skinless, bone in chicken(cut into medium pieces)
  • 3 tbsp full fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • Salt
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 3-4 green cardamom
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 4-5 thai bird green chillies, slit (or to taste)
  • fresh ground black pepper – to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1.5 tbsp kauri methi
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint & cilantro
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream(optional)

Method

In a large bowl, marinate the chicken in yogurt, ginger & garlic and salt. Massage the chicken well, cover and let marinate refrigerated for atleast 2 hours, overnight is better.

Take out the chicken out of the fridge an hour before ready to cook. Heat up ghee in a wide, heavy bottomed kadai/pot. Temper the hot ghee with cumin, bay and cardamom. After 15 seconds, start adding the onions and separate the onions as you go. Add the green chillies as well. Once the onions are browned, lower the heat and add the marinated chicken. Keep on mixing continuously for 5-7 minutes to avoid curdling of yogurt.

Once the chicken starts to cook, add the black pepper and salt.Keep the flame on medium low. Don’t cover else the chicken will become watery. Keep on mixing around, tossing and turning regularly for next 25-30 minutes till the chicken is browned and cooked through. You will see the chicken starts to separate from the bone.

Add the fresh herbs and the kauri methi. Saute for 4-5 mins with the herbs. Finish with cream and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Indian Curry/Stew

Bhindi Aloo (Spiced Okra & Potatoes)

IMG_8376-2The first thing to be spotted in markets at the turn of April or May as soon as the short fairytale called winter is over is okra pods.¬†It¬†probably tops the list of summer vegetables in India. I would compare the hue and cry about it to sight of fresh tomatoes here. I would accompany my grandmother to our daily¬†vegetable vendor, leaned over his cart and gazed at the pile of okra that occupied half of the space and observed how my grandmother chose the dark green, soft, slender ones while arguing about how costly he sold his produce. Almost each week, sometimes more than once, okra formed a part of our meals. My mother tells me that it was my grandfather’s favorite vegetable so our family recipe repertoire is packed with a lot of¬†ways to cook it.¬†As the summer progressed, by the months of July and august and with the knock of monsoons and okra slowly losing their crisp texture, only then the focus shifted to other vegetables.

Sinfully Spicy : Bhindi Aloo (Spiced Potatoes & Okra)However, it was not until I met the husband that I cooked okra with potatoes. Kid you not, I had not even heard about it in all my years of living in northern parts. It’s hard to say if his suggestion to do so was driven by his childhood food memories or his obnoxious need to combine potatoes with each and every food group possible, but the deal didn’t get too bad here and these two vegetables worked beautifully the first time I cooked them. We continued discussing for many years, each chance¬†I got to get okra home as to how the recipe can get better and better until I mastered it.

Sinfully Spicy : Okra

Sinfully Spicy : Bhindi Aloo (Spiced Potatoes & Okra)These emerald looking, slender beauties pair with earthly flavor of starchy potatoes so well. On the lines of stuffed okra, I always add fennel seeds to my okra recipes and you will need to do that to know how deliciously this grassy vegetable braces the liquorice of that spice.Try it. The deal with dealing with all the nuances which people associate with okra is not to go too stingy on oil quantity  as well as not to let the vegetable steam too much while cooking. I cover it for no more than few initial minutes after its added to pan and then continue cooking uncovered till its done, this preserves the beautiful color as well as eliminates the chances of mushy okra.

Sinfully Spicy : Bhindi Aloo (Spiced Potatoes & Okra)

Serve these as a side with daal (lentils ) and rice or with skillet fried flatbreads and chutney. It is good on side as well as on its own.

Sinfully Spicy : Bhindi Aloo (Spiced Potatoes & Okra)

Appetizers/Snacks · Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew

Green Masala Trout

Sinfully Spicy : Green Masala TroutFish or any seafood is my preferred choice of protein any time of the year but particularly more during summer months. I will not bore you with stories of how lean and healthy and good for you it is, rather lets talk about the green masala that I slathered my fresh trout with.I must have laid my hands on this fresh catch after a decade or so.The last time I remember tasting trout was while on a family vacation to northern Himalayas where grilled trout was a local speciality and a lot of restaurants could be spotted showcasing it.

Sinfully Spicy : Green Masala Trout

Sinfully Spicy : Green MasalaThere are a lot of ways in which this green masala is prepared in different parts of india, depending on the region, but the basic herbs remain more or less the same. Most recipes, on the lines of green chutney, use a bunch of grassy cilantro, few mint leaves and (Thai or any hot)green chillies which are ground to a fine paste and then that green paste is your canvas. Add more flavorings to it. Think fresh desiccated coconut, think grainy brown mustard, think nuts, think capers, think soy sauce or maybe cheese.

Sinfully Spicy : Green Masala Trout

Often,mom would make this.If you are a regular reader here, you would know that we grew up eating a lot of fish, which is slightly uncommon for north indian families, but we loved our seafood. She desiccated fresh coconut and mixed it with that herby, garlicky paste and then slathered it over rohu(indian green carp) steaks, coated in semolina  and pan-fried. The oily, milky shreds of coconut complemented the fatty fleshy protein even though coconut was not a very popular ingredient in her kitchen but somehow it worked in this recipe.The flavors are simple and fragrant.

In my recipe, I changed up things a bit and tried to make it glutenfree and used oven to cooking. The fish comes out moist and clean on the palate with simple, herby flavors.

Ingredients (Serves 1-2)

  • 1 trout, cleaned and descaled (weight about 1.5 lb)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, to drizzle
  • 3/4¬†cup packed fresh cilantro (from 18-20¬†sprigs)
  • 2-3¬†fresh mint leaves (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 ” shoot of fresh ginger
  • 1-2 Thai green chillies (or any hot chili, adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • 2 tablespoon finely desiccated fresh coconut
  • 1-2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Few lemon slices to insert while baking (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoon olive oil (optional, only if needed during blending)
  • Oil for frying
  • salt to taste

Note – Make sure that the herbs etc and olive oil are of good quality in this recipe.The taste and freshness goes a long way in this recipe since they are the main flavors.

Method

Pat the trout dry. Drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle liberally on both sides as well as the slit inside with salt.Set aside for 10 minutes.

In a blender, place all the ingredients listed and pulse to make a fine paste. Do not use water to thin the paste. If needed, use olive or any neutral oil. Brush this paste on both sides of the fish, stuff inside the fish. Layer sliced lemon if using. Let sit for 25-30 minutes, refrigerated.

When ready to cook. Heat up the oven to 400 F. Heat up 2-3 tablespoon oil to smoking high in a cast iron (or any oven safe pan). Put the marinated fish in the pan and let sear for 2-3 minutes. Flip and let sear on the other side. Once the fish has seared, put the pan in the preheated oven and let cook for 8-10 minutes (this time will be more or less depending on the type of fish and the cut & weight, adjust accordingly)

If you do not have an oven, after searing on both sides, put the heat to low, cover the pan and let finish cooking on its juices for 8-10 minutes, flipping once in between for even cooking.

Once the fish has cooked, squirt some fresh lime juice to taste.Serve with some steamed vegetables of steamed rice.

Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew · Lentils

Lauki-Chana Daal (Bengal Gram Lentils With Summer Squash)

Sinfully Spicy: Lauki Vaali Chana Daal (Bengal Gram Lentils With Summer Squash)  Each summer, last few days of school before the break started were hectic. Even after the vacations started, I remember going to school for extra classes during the high school year. By the time I returned home around noon, I was welcomed in the verandah of our house filled with the intoxicating aroma that emanated from the khus ki chik, a rustic kind of air conditioner made from reeds and laid in the form of window blinds, using the loo (indian summer winds) as a natural fan to cool the space inside. Clasping the finger numbing cold tumbler of rose sherbet that mom kept ready in the refrigerator, I stationed myself in the lobby to observed ladies of the house sitting on the jute chatai (mat) on the floor. There were all sorts of labelled containers of what is inside what around them and stained brass paraat (wide, shallow plates) infront. Sitting with legs neatly folded on top of each other, very immaculately, they picked the lentils, sometimes arguing teasingly or plainly gossiping about relatives and neighbors,their deft fingers, picking the little stones or unhusked bits all the time.They scanned through minute grains scattered in the shallow dish, separating one from the other, unmistakably picking out the hard inedible parts and segregating the cleaned portion towards the other side of the paraat. 

Sinfully Spicy:Chana Daal (Bengal Gram Lentils)

I guess ‘picking’ the lentils is a ritual followed in many indian homes, even though most of the lentils available in the markets these days are clean and processed. It’s a kitchen habit that is passed from a generation to other, more as a traditional than need. If it’s not an arduous number of hours to be spent, a vigilant scan of the beans and lentils is what I go through¬†each time I am about¬†to wash or soak.¬†Sinfully Spicy: Lauki Vaali Chana Daal (Bengal Gram Lentils With Summer Squash)

Sinfully Spicy: Lauki, Bottle GourdIn those years, it was dal Рchawal for lunch or dinner  everyday. The variety of lentil changed and so did its preparation and tempering but the menu, though a bit monotonous remained comforting. On bright, sunny summer evenings, chunks of fleshy lauki (indian summer gourd) were added to chana daal, slow cooked till the squash softened and then the turmeric hued boiled lentils were topped with a tadka (tempering) of slow caramelized onions & browned garlic, filling the kitchen with aroma of ghee & smoky cumin & green chillies. Fresh dhaniya (coriander leaves), exuberantly priced during summer months was especially purchased from our daily vegetable vendor, to be finely chopped and scattered while the daal was still hot. It did make a lot of difference.

Sinfully Spicy: Tadka, Lentil Tempering

Sinfully Spicy: Lauki Vaali Chana Daal (Bengal Gram Lentils With Summer Squash)  If you know even a little about indian food, you would know that lentils are an everyday part of our meals, be it any time of the year. There are numerous ways of preparing and tempering them, native to each region of the country. The flavorings can vary from coconut, sugar, garlic to tomato based to curried to what not. This daal is my summer favorite. I guess every family has its own twist on it. Some temper it with just cumin, leaving out the garlic or onions, while some prepare it with coconut and mustard seeds. I had the opportunity to taste a variation tempered with curry leaves at one of my friend’s place. There is no right or wrong, just a choice. This is the beauty of indian food, it has no set rules. The same basic ingredients convert to a delicious outcome depending on who is handling them.Here, in my recipe, you could or could not add the squash even though it makes it hearty. Paired with rotis¬†or steamed rice, salad and a dollop of chili¬†achaar, it is such a satisfying complete meal for¬†hot evenings.

Sinfully Spicy: Lauki Vaali Chana Daal (Bengal Gram Lentils With Summer Squash)

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

Cooking the Lentils

  • 3/4 cup¬†chana¬†daal¬†(bengal gram lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon¬†ghee¬†(or use oil for vegan version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped (yield about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger,¬†finely chopped (optional, adjust quantity to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon¬†hing¬†powder¬†(asafoetida)
  • 2-3.5 cups of water (adjust depending on the desired consistency)
  • 1 small bottle gourd (peeled and cut into 2″ batons)
  • Lime¬†juice to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

For the Tadka (Tempering to be added after the lentils have cooked)

  • 3-4 tablespoon¬†ghee¬†(or use oil for vegan version)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small clove
  • generous pinch of¬†hing¬†powder (asafoetida)
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2-3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 dried whole¬†kashmiri¬†chillies
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)

Notes

  • Replace¬†lauki¬†(bottle gourd) with your choice of summer squash (yellow squash is a good choice over green ones). You can skip the squash all together too.
  • The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time would¬†be more.
  • Hing¬†or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form.A little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to¬†daal¬†but can be skipped if you do not have it.
  • If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of¬†ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but any neutral oil or olive oil is fine.

Method

Thoroughly wash the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes,  ginger (if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 3-4 whistles (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30-40 minutes or till 95% cooked.

Once you open the lid, with the help of a whisk or a spoon, mash the lentils a bit so that they are chunky-smooth consistency. I like my lentils to have some texture, however you can mash them to consistency desired.

Add the chunks of¬†lauki¬†and return the pressure cooker to the stove. Cover with a plate or a lid and let simmer (not pressure cook) on medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the gourd is completely soft. ¬†If you like a thinner consistency of¬†dal,¬†add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium¬†heat.¬†Ideally, for this kind of¬†daal, once it’s cooked, the grain should be intact in its shape but completely soft or cracked to look at.

While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds & clove, let crackle, about 15-20 seconds. Add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the onions and garlic and let cook till they are golden brown, taking care not to burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and cover so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Scatter with chopped cilantro and serve warm.

Stay Spicy.

Appetizers/Snacks · Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew · Indian Streetfood/Indo Chines

Hot & Sour Chicken (Indo Chinese)

Sinfully Spicy : Hot & Sour Chicken #indochineseIf you asked me about what eating out during childhood years meant, I would have nothing vivid to recollect about fine dining and celebratory dinners. Except for may be the street foods which we gorged on every other evening at Arun Chaat Bhandar, a tiny one room eatery which had been around ever since I have known,the restaurant trips were rare. More so because my grandmother and mother had this undying wish to recreate all kinds of food in their kitchen and less because eating out was not as big part of the indian culture during the 1980s as it is now-a-days. Sinfully Spicy : Hot & Sour Chicken #indochineseYou can gauge that from the fact that whenever I tell my mother about anything non indian food that my daughter likes her play school, she asks me to look up the recipe on internet and cook it for her. ‘Ghar par hi bana do, accha rahega“, cook at home, it will be far better in taste, she tells me. Well, we will keep it for another day as to how I go about her suggestions (wink!) but coming back to my chidlhood days, other than the chaat corner, the other place that me and my siblings looked forward to was indo chinese food at ‘Sabus‘, a neon red-painted food van permanently situated at the front of the back wall of an old housing complex, itched with graffiti of an indian comic character, Sabu, a monstrous alien from planet Jupiter, huge & strong, bald and muscular,always wearing gumboots. It would be slightly untrue to state that we loved eating at that van just because of the noodles, there was more fun in the form of free stickers, liquid filled transparent chopsticks and cheap stamps if you placed a large order. Unlike the food trucks in the States, that red van without tyres was a lot dilapidated, with a much tamed down kitchen as far as cooking facilities & techniques available, but the food from there made sure that the street infront always smelled of soy & spices. You know that burnt, fermented savory ‘stink’?, when the soy bubbles & splutters when as soon as it hits the hot as volcano wok, that! As I write this, I can still remember the taste of food there from some 20 years ago, of the greasy chowmein and the scarlet colored chilli chicken. “It’s all in the wok”, the little Nepalese guy with golden hair and wrinkly forehead replied whenever questioned about his recipes or where he got his condiments.

Sinfully Spicy : Hot & Sour Chicken #indochineseMy mom has been making this hot and sour chicken for so many years, the only difference being that she serves it with a runny sauce than what we ate at Sabus. I follow her recipe mostly except that I do not deep fry the chicken, rather lightly sear it before proceeding to make the sauce.This recipe is more of for an appetizer or starter course than the mains, however the husband insists on combining it some steamed jasmine rice each time. Any which way, the way that garlic & hot chili laced sauce with hints of tomato, soy and fresh cracked black pepper combines with vinegar soaked succulent morsels of chicken is just too delicious. Try it!

Sinfully Spicy : Hot & Sour Chicken #indochinese

A tangy fusion dish of vinegar soaked chicken stirred with garlic – chili paste, soy and spices. 

  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs,skinless
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce ((I use Ching‚Äôs brand)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, fresh cracked
  • 1.5 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoon of oil (for skillet frying)

Notes:

  1. Use tofu, paneer and assorted vegetables for a vegetarian version of this recipe.
  2. If you would like to deep fry the chicken before adding to the sauce, mix 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon corn starch when you marinate.

For the Sauce

  • 6 fresh garlic pods
  • 2 whole fresh Fresno chillies (or any hot chili pepper, adjust to tolerance, de seed if you like )
  • 2 teaspoon dark soya sauce (I use Ching‚Äôs brand)
  • 2 tablespoon chilli tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet, substitute with Sriracha & 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or use 1.5 – 2 tablespoons Sambal oelek )
  • 1.5 tsp honey (or brown sugar, adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon pure, untoasted sesame oil (optional but recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup chicken/vegetable stock or water
  • 3-4 tbsp oil (I used sunflower, use any neutral oil)
  • 5 scallion stalks, white & green cut separately
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to tolerance)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1.5 – 2 tbsp white vinegar (adjust to taste, or use a few dashes of balsamic vinegar)
  • For Garnish ‚Äď chopped scallions(green parts)

Method

Preparation

Clean the chicken, pat it dry. Cut the cleaned chicken into bite size pieces. Rub it with garlic, chili, soy sauce, salt & pepper, vinegar and let sit for about 25-30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, using your mortar and pestle or mini processor, crush the garlic and Fresno chillies to tiny bits.You could use some water if required for blending.

In a small bowl, mix up the soy sauce, chili tomato sauce, honey and sesame oil(if using). In another bowl, mix the cornstarch with the stock and set aside.

Cooking

In a wide skillet (I used my 12‚Ä≥), heat up 2-3 tbsp of oil on high. Pick up the marinated chicken pieces, shake to release vinegar and layer on the skillet and let sear on both sides, flipping in between. Make sure that the chicken pieces cook all the way through. This may take about 7-8 minutes or more depending on the size of pieces.

Once done, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and reserve the drippings in the skillet itself.

Add the 3 tbsp oil into the same skillet and heat it up on medium. Add the crushed garlic chili paste  and fry up these for 20-30 second or so till you smell the aroma. Be careful that the garlic does not burn (else it will be bitter). Next add the chopped onions and scallions (white parts) and cook on medium high for 3-4 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the tomatoes next and let cook till they begin to soften. Next, add the ginger along with the soy sauce mix made earlier, let cook for 3-4 minutes till everything starts looking glossy or till you see bubbles on the sides. Next, add the cornstarch mix to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-3 minutes till the sauce thickens slightly.

Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Sprinkle the red chili flakes & vinegar to the skillet and stir everything well. Add the chicken & toss so that the pieces are evenly coated.

Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.

Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew

Matar Paneer

Sinfully Spicy : Matar PaneerI always feel that I end up cooking many dishes just to re-create a special memory, securely nestled in my heart from the years¬†gone by or from days of growing up. Sometimes the sight of the familiar ingredients at the store brings in with itself such a gush of thoughts that I won’t have anyother way except cheering myself up in the kitchen with them,cooking up a storm to recreate those flavors. Fresh peas during spring time, is one of such thing. For less than a second,the sight of exuberantly prized organic sweet peas at the grocer last week¬†made little sense coupled with the effort required to prepare them. But then, I could not walk away without securing a pound in my cart to make some this luscious¬†matar paneer – fresh shelled peas and soft unaged cheese in a spicy sauce redolent of sweet-smelling cardamom and sharp hints¬†of cinnamon and cloves in contrast to the sweetness of the vegetable.

Sinfully Spicy : Fresh Pods Matar Paneer

Sinfully Spicy : Paneer (fresh indian cheese)I don’t remember a single time during childhood when we ate frozen peas.Fresh peas were a winter treat and the only way. My grandmother and other women¬†of the family, after serving lunch, geared up for dinner,pulling chairs around the takht¬†(a very old wide wooden bench still going strong in verandah of my badi mummy’s house), settling down with cups of cardamom chai and spent few good hours to shell¬†three or four¬†kilos of grassy, plum pods, gossiping about the neighbors or the relatives, working with remarkable patience, a virtue that comes hard to me when I know there is a ready to use¬†pouch inside the freezer.

Sinfully Spicy : Shelling fresh Pods

Sinfully Spicy : Shelling fresh Pods Matar Paneer

Sinfully Spicy : Fresh PeasWhen I am engrossed in such strong weaved memories, at times, it becomes difficult to tear away and lend to the present. The joy continues, the nostalgia gets compelling. When I spent about half hour over the weekend in the company of these fresh peas I got, I felt like a child again, badi mummy teasing me to lend help and just not nibble on the seeds.It was raining outside and I felt like a child again,some eighteen or twenty years back, me wearing hand knitted, red colored socks,running away with fistfuls of matar dana. All laughs, so much fun.

Then suddenly, I feel the warmth of my daughter from behind, trying to lift her body on heels to reach for the bowl of seeds that I just shelled.Her smile breaks the array of thoughts. She is like mommy.

Sinfully Spicy : Matar PaneerMatar paneer is a classic north indian dish. I have always liked it on the spicy side with the creaminess limited to that from the paneer (fresh indian cheese). Each home in india has its own version of it, there is nothing wrong or right become curry are so versatile that way.The curry is naturally gluten free since paneer is a gluten free cheese. You can very easily make this recipe vegan friendly using tofu, or any other vegan substitute. I am sharing my mom’s recipe with a little bit of extra spices added in.

Sinfully Spicy : Matar Paneer

Sinfully Spicy : Matar Paneer

Printable Recipe

Matar Paneer –¬†Fresh Peas & Indian Fresh Cheese in a aromatic and spicy tomato – onion sauce

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 medium tomatoes (yield about 3/4 cup fresh tomato puree)
  • 1 fat garlic
  • 6 oz¬†paneer¬†(about 200 grams, homemade or store-bought, cubed, use extra firm tofu for vegan)
  • 1/4 cup mustard oil (or use olive/vegetable oil)
  • 1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1 clove
  • 1/4 inch piece of¬†dalchini¬†(cassia bark, substitute with 1/2 inch piece of regular cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste, substitute with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne)
  • 1/2 teaspoon¬†kashmiri¬†chilli powder (this lends the color not the heat, substitute with paprika)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup -1 cup water (depending on the desired consistency of sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon¬†kasuri methi, crushed between palms
  • 1/2 teaspoon¬†garam masala¬†(adjust to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoon of heavy cream (optional, I did not use, skip for vegan )
  • Fresh cilantro & ginger juliennes to garnish and serve

Method

If you are using fresh peas, shell the pods. If using frozen, thaw the peas.

Blend the tomatoes along with garlic to a fine puree. Set aside.

Soak the paneer cubes in warm water. Set aside. If using tofu, dry it using paper towels, cube it and let sit.

Heat up the mustard oil in a large pot, wait till you see little ripples on the surface, add the onions along with cardamom, clove, dalchini & cumin seeds.Saute for 5-6 minutes till the onion start to turn light brown.

Add the coriander, turmeric, red chili, kashmiri chilli powder next and sauté for less than a minute. Add the blended tomatoes and reduce heat to low.Let cook slowly till you see little bubbles of oil separating on sides of the pot and the spice paste glistening. At this point, add the peas along with chopped ginger,add salt, stir to combine together with spice paste and on low heat, saute for 3-4 minutes. Add about 3/4 cup water, mix well and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for about 15-20 minutes till the peas are soft (but not mushy).Uncover and add the kasuri methi and garam masala along with paneer cubes. Stir, and again cover and on low heat, let simmer for another 10-12 minutes.

Add the heavy cream (if using) next and simmer (not boil) on very low heat for another 2-3 minutes.Once the sauce has simmered, let sit for at least 45mins -1hour or till ready to serve.

Once ready to serve, warm up the sauce and serve immediately. You can garnish with cilantro, extra cream and ginger juliennes.

Serve with rice or flatbreads.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stay Spicy!