Warm Chickpea Chaat (Indian Salad)

Sinfully Spicy- Warm Chickpea Chaat/Indian Salad 001

Last weekend was eventful.We celebrated our little munchkin’s first birthday. I made her a smash cake and we also got an adult cake. Her reaction towards both the cakes was the same – she cried. I think the flickering candle frightened her. It’s so funny that they react completely different to how you think they might.

Taking advantage of fading winters, I made this warm chaat this weekend. The weather out here is not yet hot for a crisp cold salad & a bit too warm for soups, this chaat drizzled with imli (tamarind) chutney & tossed with fresh mint leaves perfectly fitted the onset of spring mood.We are huge fan of  textures and multiple flavors in food and that is what this chaat is full of.

In India, chaat is a savory preparation which can be categorized as street food. There are few base ingredients which essentially form part of chaat– chopped onions or grated radish/cucumber for crunch,chaat masala (tangy spice powder) for the pungency & heat, tamarind chutney adds that saucy, tart layer while the green chutney & cilantro (or any herb)add the much needed freshness.The yogurt adds the acidity as well as cools down the palate.These are usually the toppings without which a bowl of chaat is incomplete. However, you can pick or drop any as per your taste.Chaat could be layering of fried dough or diced up fruits cut up and mixed together.If you are looking for really heavy options then kachoris (stuffed fried breads) or aloo(potato) tikki are your choices.

I like how healthy and filling this recipe turned out. You can also use black chickpeas(kala chana) or mung sprouts in this recipe and it works fine. It can be served as a perfect appetizer as well as a side dish. All the prep work like boiling chickpeas, potatoes, making the chutney, chopping toppings etc can be done a day before and then its just tossing everything together. 

I soak raw chickpeas overnight and then pressure cook them in enough water with little salt and a tsp of oil. Drain the chickpeas and reserve liquid for use as stock.

Ingredients (Serve 2)

  • 1 cup boiled chickpeas (or use canned)
  • 1 medium potato, boiled, peeled & diced into bite size pieces
  • 2 tsp oil, any neutral oil of choice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • generous pinch of hing (asofetida)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

Other ingredients/toppings

  • Chopped onions – about 1/3 cup
  • Chopped tomatoes/ Grape tomatoes
  • 2 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • Black Salt/Kala Namak ( to taste)
  • Chaat Masala (to taste) (available online or at indian grocery stores)
  • Imli/Tamarind Chutney – 2 tbsp or to taste (recipe below)
  • Roasted Cumin Powder- to taste
  • Red Chilli Powder – to taste

You can add cucumber, grated radish, pomegranate seeds, sev, crushed papris etc to add more texture and crunch.

Method 

In a pan, heat up the oil. Add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle add the hing. Once you smell the aroma, add the chickpeas & potatoes. Also add the garam masala, cumin powder and salt. Toss around for 3-5 minutes till the chickpeas look shiny.Remove from heat & add the lemon juice. Mix well.

Transfer to a large enough bowl and add the listed toppings as per taste. Toss well and serve immediately.

Imli/Tamarind Chutney

I soak raw tamarind in warm water for 4-5 hours and then mash it until pulp is separated.Sieve the pulp into a bowl and discard the seeds and thick fibers. You can also use store bought but just keep in mind that its very salty & slightly acidic so adjust seasonings accordingly. 

Ingredients (Makes about 1.5 cups)

  • 1/2 cup thick,tamarind pulp(store bought or homemade)
  • 3/4 cup – 1 cup jaggery powder/granulated sugar (adjust quantity to your sweetness)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch of hing (asafoetida)
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin seed powder
  • 1/2 tsp kala namak/black salt [available in indian stores, else replace with normal salt, adjust to taste]
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • salt to taste
  • Up to 1/2 cup water ( you may or may not need it, usually not needed when using sugar instead of jaggery)

Method

In a small sauce pan, heat the oil.Once heated add the cumin seeds, as soon as the cumin starts to crackle, add all the ingredients listed above to the pan except water.Simmer the  for atleast 20 minutes till it starts to thicken. You can adjust water once the chutney has simmered. It will thicken more on cooling. Remove from heat, let cool, transfer to a container.

Let cool completely. This can sit for unto 3 weeks in a refrigerator.

Enjoy and Thanks for stopping by!

Amritsari Tawa Macchi – Pan Fried Fish

The pungent smell of the mustard oil was engrained in the walls of the shop.Over the years, a gleaming fluorescent tube had replaced the flickering bulb above the rusty shutter and a bunch of green chilies & lemon needled in a thread hung below it,the same way as it did years back, grabbing your attention more due to its location even though tactfully  situated to be hidden.Its the same dusty clock at the center of the column that I saw years back, looks like no one cared to wipe it, I told myself, waiting.

It was biting cold outside but the inside was surprisingly warm,for it was cramped with people who wanted that crispy fillet, one that just popped out of the bubbling oil in the kadhai.

He sat behind the counter, fluffing thick, spicy besan batter, side by side keeping an eye on the smoky oil and dealing with customers, all at the same time.He looked a lot older than what I could remember. The hair had turned grey and the skin was tanned sitting in oily vapor for years. You could not help but notice the facial expressions which also remained the same – calm & peaceful. Few things are best if they don’t change, I told myself again.

If you ask him the recipe, he would just smile. Maybe he didn’t have any, it was just the magic of hands. This is the taste of fish which stays with you for days – you want to go back and have some more and then more. The kind you want to talk about, spread around the word about and write stories about.

Saying that the fried fish he made sold like hot pancakes would be an understatement. He ran out of the stuff within an hour or so of starting the trade.Wrapped in soiled pieces of newspaper, topped with thin onions rings seasoned with a generous dash of chaat masala and a lime wedge to squirt, the fried fish was better than the best I have ever had in my life.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb minced lamb/beef/chicken (I use 80% lean)
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with canola/vegetable)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 green cardamom pods , cracked open
  • 1 ” cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • To garnish – chopped cilantro

Coarsely grind together:-

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns (adjust to tolerance)
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds

Method

  • In a cooking pot with lid,on high, heat up the oil till you see ripples on the surface and it smokes slightly.
  • Reduce the heat to medium.Temper the oil with bay leaf ,cinnamon stick and green cardamom pods. Add the onions next.Cook the onions till they turn light brown.About 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic & ginger next and saute for about 1 minute till you smell the aroma.
  • Next, add the coarsely ground spices to the pot.Toast the spices for another minute.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes next along with turmeric and red chilli powder.Cook for 3-5 minutes or till you see oil separating on sides of the pan.Add the potatoes next, mix together, reduce heat to low and cover the pot.Let cook covered for 8-10 minutes till the potatoes are almost 70% cooked. Remove the lid.
  • Turn heat to high and add minced lamb to the pot & and work it with a spoon for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat.The meat will start separating,changing color, sweating and becoming watery.Do not worry, everything is going as per plan.
  • Next, add yogurt, 1/4 cup water and salt to the pot. Mix well.Turn the heat to the lowest possible on your burner, cover the pot with lid and let simmer on low heat for about 22-28 minutes.You ll need to stir and check periodically to ensure that lamb is not sticking to the bottom. Add more water if needed
Note : The cooking time will vary if you are using beef or chicken. Also, do not add too much water at the beginning because ground meats leave moisture as they cook.Add water at intervals as per the consistency you want.At the end of about 20 minutes of cooking you will see that oil separating from and change in color of the ground meat. Check that the potatoes are cooked through at this point. 
  • Remove the lid,check the salt and cook on high again for 5 minutes till everything comes together.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm with flatbreads & salad.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Beetroot Tikki


Root vegetables with a soothing,earthy taste are one of my favorite. I m not talking potatoes here – everybody likes them without a doubt. I want to point towards taro, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes & ofcourse – beets. The array of colors and textures inspire me to try out different ways to enjoy them.When beets are involved, I normally start dreaming of all kinds of pink hued curries, especially my dad’s version.It takes me back to all those special meals he cooked.

I did not enjoy beets much in salads or slaws much, I have grown to enjoy them in many other ways. Being the only one at house who likes them, I have the freedom to mend & devise my own uncomplicated ways to cook them. After gulping down lots of juice glasses over the week (yup, at this age too, I dream of rosy cheeks (sigh)),I was left with a last batch of this pink bounty to be turned into these thin, crispy, pan-fried cutlets.

There is always a feeling of accomplishment & satisfaction when I am able to come up with ways to prepare vegetables without cooking them much.I dont think I can describe it.It just needs to be felt.The beets were overly sweet, I did not roast them.Finding a way to balance out the sweetness was when spices jumped into the picture. Inspired by the ever so popular potato tikkis – tangy chaat masala , green chillies, ginger, garlic & cilantro – I found myself  shaping these babies within few minutes. To start with, I was slightly nervous about the taste but after I tasted the mix, the excitement took over- for that first bite.

Tikki, a popular north indian snack is nothing but small patties or croquettes, deep or shallow fried. They are served with an assortment of chutneys, ketchup, yogurt or just as it is with hot steaming masala chai or coffee. .

These are vaguely sweetish, utterly moist to bite with semolina coating adding a texture.The intent was to keep the beet taste as unadulterated as possible. Serve these with green chutney as appetizers, over lettuce leaves to make a yummy salad or even slide them inside the buns to make a vegetarian burgers Overall, I think I will be making these a lot many times.

Makes 6-8 tikkis

Ingredients

  • 2 cup finely grated beetroot
  • 3/4 cup finely grated par boiled potatoes (substitute with leftover rice)
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1″ fresh ginger shoot, minced
  • 2-3 Thai green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp chaat masala (to taste, chaat masala is a tangy spice blend available in indian stores or online)
  • 1/8 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp white poppy seeds
  • salt to taste
For Coating 
 
  • 2 tbsp semolina 
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne)
For Pan Cooking 
2-3 tbsp canola/vegetable/olive oil (or as required for even cooking)
 

Method

Press grated beetroot between your palms to squeeze out as much juice as you can.

Tip in the squeezed beetroot along with all ingredients except salt into a large bowl & mix lightly with a wooden spoon to combine everything.Dont overwork the mixture. Dont add the salt unless ready to cook.Refrigerate the mixture until then.

Mix the ingredients of the coating, tip into a shallow dish & set aside.

When ready to cook, heat up a heavy cast iron skillet/pan on medium. You dont want the pan to be searing hot. While the pan heats up, combine the salt with the beetroot mix. Make small patties of the mix, about 2 inch dia & 1/2 inch thick. Roll the patties in the semolina mix to cover both sides.

Lightly brush 1 tbsp oil on the heated pan. Place 2-3 patties on the pan and fry them on medium-low heat,adding 1 tsp oil at a time. Cook the patties for about 3-4 minutes on each side, flipping gently with a spatula & flattening them with it slightly as they cook and turn brownish.

Repeat till all patties are fried. Serve warm with green chutney, ketchup or salad greens.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Jal Jeera – Indian Tamarind & Cumin Cooler

Whats your favorite beverage? I m not much of a beverage person, but am always up fresh fruit & vegetable juices as well as a couple of homemade coolers make it to my list.I distance myself from store-bought beverages, unconsciously.

He doesnt care much – his HUMONGOUS liking for beverages is oblivious of the concept of homemade or store bought.As I write this, our refrigerator is stocked with all sorts of flavored lemonades, coconut water, mango nectar & weird-looking smoothies. I m not joking. This is pretty much the same all round the year – he drinks more than he eats – I seldom tell him. Needless to say refrigerator space is one eternal bone of contention between us.

Jal Jeera is an essential north indian summer beverage, served as a refresher with meals.You will find a lot of street vendors serving chilled jal jeera stored in earthern pots sitting atop their decorated carts in India. It is another show stopper of indian street food scene. I just can’t imagine rounding up summers without it.

My mom makes a mean jal jeera from scratch. She does not use any pre made spice powders, its a a crisp concoction of fresh made tamarind pulp water (jal) & roasted cumin (jeera) flavored with mint, black salt, green chillies & ginger. Each ingredient plays a role – tamarind & mint have cooling properties, cumin & black salt aid in digestion & chillies provide the essential kick. Many people use fresh lemon juice instead of tamarind pulp in their preparation and skip sugar.

There is no written recipe, like most indian moms. It is even pointless to ask for one for all I will get is how many palm fulls and pinches. I have come up with this recipe from memories of taste of her jal jeera. Hers will always be the best though.

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

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 Servings)

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

Method :-

Tip everything except table salt & water into your blender. Blend on low for 2-3 minutes until you get a semi smooth mixture. Dont make a very smooth paste.

Place a colander over a large bowl & sieve the paste through it. Note – I sieve the paste a couple of times to obtain a clear(er) drink. Place the collected paste into a jug, top with 5 cups of water. Adjust the salt.Chill till ready to serve.

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

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

Notes :-

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

Hara Baingan Bharta/Herby Roasted Eggplant

Herby and fresh, this smoky roasted eggplant bharta will convert non- eggplant lovers. Bharta refers to anything “smashed” in hindi and here it is the consistency of roasted eggplant. Full of robust flavor of garlic, ginger, raw mustard oil and fresh herbs, this bharta is an old family recipe.

Originally, this bharta was made during winters, on Makar Sankrati day along with khichdi but here in the States, the eggplant season starts mid July – August so I prefer making it more during summer time. Its really fresh, not much cooking is involved and the fresher the eggplant, the better the taste! I have changed the recipe a bit from how it used to be to fit our tastes and convenience. In those days, the herb mixture was prepared on sil batta (stone grinder) but I use food processor for the same. Secondly the garlic and ginger were added raw, but I add them to hot oil before mixing in.

This is a very easy recipe and you can do the little prep that is needed while the eggplant is roasting. You need lots of herbs, ginger, garlic and green chilies. Its super fresh and very light, like I mentioned. Mustard oil is a very prominent flavor here, however if you don’t want to consume it, use olive oil. Mind you, the taste will be different.

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Hara Baigan Bharta/Herby roasted eggplant

Smoky and herby eggplant dish made with roasted eggplant, ginger, garlic and lots of herbs. This light vegan eggplant dish comes together very quickly and is perfect for summer meals.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 3 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 large italian eggplant
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro with stems, roughly chopped
  • 4 scallion stalks, roughly chopped
  • 10-12 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp mustard oil, to be added raw
  • 1.5 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1.5 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 Thai bird green chillies, adjust to taste

Instructions

  • Rinse the eggplant very well and dry with a paper towl. Roast the eggplant on direct fire until its skin is charred and its soft and fleshy. You can grill on outdoor grill or roast the the eggplant in oven as well.
  • Let eggplant cool slightly, peel off the skin, little bits of chared skin is okay. Add the peeled eggplant to a bowl and mash it using a fork.
  • While the eggplant is roasting, add all the fresh herbs + 2 garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse 6-7 times.
  • Add the processed herbs to the eggplant along wirg salt, lime juice and 1 tsp raw mustard oil.
  • In a small pan, warm up 1.5 tbsp mustard oil for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add chopped ginger & garlic, chilies and cumin seeds.
  • Immediately add on top of eggplant and mix well until everything is combined. Taste and adjust the salt.
  • Let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!