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!

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Lamb & Potato Stew

Slow cooked bone in lamb and potato stew with fresh pounded spices and yogurt.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours

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.

Matar Paneer

I 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.

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.

When 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.

Matar 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.

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!

Roasted Flattened Rice & Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda-Matar)

Many times, it really takes a beating to make favorite foods from childhood healthier. I don’t know. I always feel that childhood could absorb all that gluttony of sweets, fat and carbohydrates. Not that now my metabolism won’t permit, but my mind seriously watches goes into my system. When I was changing this recipe of fried chivda(flattened rice), a favorite snack from my years of growing up and an immensely popular street food in the northern parts of india,usually served in soiled newspaper cones, I wanted the flattened rice to make the same crackling cripsy sound between my teeth as it should  but did not want to sink it down in a pool of hot oil. I wanted that rich salty grease from it to drown my tastebuds and coat the roof of my palette but did not want to witness the flakes swimming and popping inside oil. Not really.

You know sometimes, you might feel that the close-to- perfect meals that you see on this blog are easy and I work wonders like michelin chefs in my home kitchen,but truth be told, on few days, there are bundles of failures and wastage (eeeks) associated with experimenting while cooking .It happens al the time with me, I dream of something and the reality of the finished dish is not so awesome. Anyhow,while I turned to my try-new-things idea, out came the cookie sheet and on the lines of making granola, I set out. I tossed the flattened rice in tablespoons of oil and actually used all the patience I could muster at that ungodly hour of the night to lay it in a single layer. I might have gone  a bit too far by actually trying to separate each and every rice flake from the other with help from chopsticks under the dim night kitchen lights. Hmm. Into a low oven for under half an hour and out came the baking sheet. My fears came to life when the rice did not look or smell up to the mark, not like I dreamt it to be. I would not categorize it as inedible but the long story short, the granola procedure failed me.The count of  beating went another notch up. Some other  time,I told myself and retired to bed.

Then another day, in the bright of the noon, I took out the trusted cast iron skillet, heated oil to smoky and sizzled rice flakes in it and then with a lot more patience on my side, watchfully, slow roasted the chivda, stirring it continually with fork to a crispy goodness, sniffing it, observing how the toasted brown to a bowlful, one which crinkled in the mouth and coated the tastebuds with salty fat. I got it.

When we were kids, 5 pm foods were the best.No jokes. From piping hot samosas and jalebi from the neighbourhood halwai (sweets vendor) or instant noodles from neon yellow pouches, curry puffs and puddings, fruit shakes to potato balls, it was real fun everyday to see mom, badi mummy(my grandma) and aunts cook up new things for us.This chivda (flattened rice) is one from those days. During the spring and early summer season, fresh peas were tossed in cumin and green chillies and served along side. The rustic, mish mash snack plate of sorts is a burst of textures – sweet, salty, smoky and hot. The chaat masala and bits of ginger combine with the sweetness of those peas to make up a pleasing bite. I could never get the same taste with frozen peas, you need to make this before the fresh pea season lasts. Whats more? Its gluten free, vegan and tad healthy. Go make some. Now.

 Printable Recipe

Both the components of this recipe can be done ahead. Roast the chivda (flattened rice) and store it in air tight jar for up to a week. I usually make the peas 3-4 hours ahead (they have better flavor if they sit for a while) and warm up later but you can totally make them when ready to serve.

Ingredients (Serves 4-5)

For the Roasted Chivda (Flattened Rice)

  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 2.5 cups thick poha (flattened rice, available in any indian/pakistani stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional  – add any nuts or seeds of choice, peanuts, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds etc

For the Spiced Peas

  • 10oz (about 280 grams) shelled fresh peas, blanched
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (from 1 small onion)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (about 2.5″ piece of ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • 2-3 Thai green chillies (or adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala 
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon chaat masala (skip if you do not have, and add fresh lemon juice to taste)
  • 1.5 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (from 4-5 stalks, optional)

Method

Roast the Chivda

In a wide, cast iron skillet (I use my 10″) , heat up the oil to the point that it about to smoky. Put off the stove. Take a fork in one hand and start adding the flattened rice with the other, continuously stirring else it will burn. Add all of the rice, and stir so that all the flakes are coated in oil. Add the salt and stir to combine. Return the skillet to stove and on low heat, let the rice toast up. Keep on stirring it a lot of times, else it will burn and you will see that the flakes start to change color. You will smell a nutty aroma too. It takes about 8-10 minutes on low heat for the rice to completely roast and turn pale brown. This time will depend on the variety and thickness of flattened rice you are using. Adjust.

Once the flattened rice has roasted, let it cool down completely. Transfer to an air tight jar. Use a clean, dry spoon to serve it. Store up to a week.

Make Spiced Peas

In a wide pan, heat up the oil on medium heat. Once heated, temper the oil with cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle.Add the chopped onions to the pan and let the onions cook till transculent.Don’t brown them.Next, add the chopped ginger & green chili to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the blanched peas next along with garam masala and salt to taste. Stir to combine and let cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chaat masala and chopped cilantro next and stir fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes, continuously stirring.Take care that the peas do not turn mushy.

Put off the heat, add fresh lemon juice.

To serve, plate up the roasted chivda and spicy peas. Add 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar on top along with a sprinkle of red chili flakes. Enjoy with a cup of chai.

Thank you for stopping by!

Stay Spicy.

 

Hot & Tangy Pan Fried Fish (Chatpati Macchi )

Growing up, we ate ridiculous amounts of fish. Friday was precisely the day to turn to our local fish monger, who proudly called a dimly lit, dilapidated tiny room as his shop but boasted of best quality fish in the neighborhood. The place smelled of salt and sweat and was choked with buyers most part of the day. There was the owner and two helpers who sat at the back corner of the room, cleaning and cutting fish at a constant pace, hardly lifting their heads to see what was going on around them. They did not talk to each other or exchange glances, those expressionless faces often left me wondering as to what their motivation could be to come to this job everyday. Anyhow, the owner solely dealt with each customer and maintained level-headed heated & humorous bargains. The regulars, obviously had a better chance compared to everyone else to snatch an unbeatable discount.

On each visit, I saw my dad, inquiring the price of one variety more than a couple of times, smirking, looking at him and then quickly pointing to some other variety in few minutes,repeating the process with all the seafood infornt of him. After good fifteen minutes or so of this (almost) wordless conversation, just looking at  each other, soft smiles and the owner came out with his  best offer. In less than ten minutes, we were headed back home, walking hand in hand, thinking about fish meals later in the day.

This is usually a way of life in India. Bargaining. Close association with store owners and vendors, knowing a little more than usual about them, discussing with them, arguing with them, saying the hardest, listening the heartiest, it is often enjoyable and seldom effortless. After living in States for all these years, everytime I go to India, I vouch to put forward my best foot when out strolling and shopping in the bazaars, much to the disappointment of mum who thinks I have kind of lost my skills.

Eating fresh water fish is another agenda when visiting. Mom’s fish curry with in season rohu(carp) or fried fish with surmai. This spice rubbed pomfret is another favorite and so is this mustard laced light fish curry. You could get an idea from all these recipesthat I have already shared here about how serious my love is for all seafood.

I am really lazy when it comes to cooking just for myself. If it’s not buttered toast or scrambled eggs for lunch,this quick, pan fried fish is what you will find me pampering myself with for the past couple of months. It is pretty simple and fast to put together and differs completely from another pan fried fish I have posted earlier. This recipe relies on warm flavor of ginger, sharp garlic and the grassy heat of green chillies along with a tang from vinegar & chaat masala to  give the required acidity as well added notes of  heat. I pan fry the fish in virgin mustard oil, you need to try fish cooked in it to know how awesome it tastes but olive oil will work fine too. Also, broccoli or zucchini is my preferred side with seafood, however you can serve some rice pilaf or lentils too.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1 lb fish, cleaned( I use Tilapia, I asked my butcher to cut in into 4 thick pieces. Or use ready to use thick fish fillets)
  • scant pinch turmeric powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughy chopped
  • 2 inch fresh ginger shoot, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1.5 tablespoon oil (grapeseed or canola)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard (or use bottled kasundi sauce)
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon chaat masala (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1.5 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1.5 or 2 tablespoon rice flour (or as needed)
  • salt to taste
  • Mustard Oil ( or grapeseed/canola oil)to cook
  • chopped cilantro, lime wedges to serve

Notes –

  1. If you do have chaat masala, add 3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika to the marinade.

Method

Pat the fish completely dry using paper towel or kitchen towels.Sprinkle with turmeric and set aside.

Meanwhile, using your mortar and pestle, smash the garlic, ginger and green chillies to a coarse paste.

In a medium bowl, add this paste along with all of the ingredients listed except the rice flour to form a marinade.Rub the fish with this marinade. Let sit refrigerated for atleast 30 minutes or not more than 1 hour.

When ready to cook, set the fish out of the refrigerator.

In a heavy bottomed, wide pan (I use my cast iron) , heat up 1-2 tablespoon of oil on medium. Mix the rice flour 1/2 tablespoon at a time with the fish. The liquid in the marinade and from the fish should be enough to moisten the rice flour. We are not looking for any batter or flour dredging here. The flour will scantly stick on the fish here and there. If you feel that you have added too much flour, use 1-2 tablespoon of water. If you feel that the marinade is still runny (this will depend on the variety and water content of the fish), add more rice flour.

Pan fry the fish on medium low heat in a single layer, flipping midway to brown on both sides. It took me about 3 minutes per sides. (If your fish cut is thicker, it will be more time to cook and vice versa).

Sprinkle with some chaat masala and red chili flakes as soon as the fish is cooked, if you would like (depending on how tangy or hot you like)

Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top. Serve immediately with lime wedges, steamed broccoli or choice of steamed vegetables, rice pilaf or lentils.

Stir fried Arbi (Taro Root)

I could go on and on about my love for vegetarian dishes and fresh produce, but there are certain things from my growing years that I stopped cooking after coming to the States for I was unable to find the ingredients. Add to that list a few varieties of squashes, jackfruit and some tropical fruits.No, I am not complaining but there are few dishes from the childhood years that were deep down in the memory, their taste lingering in my mind every now and then as the seasons came and went. Arbi or colocasia or taro root belongs to that category.

A starchy vegetable that is reminiscent of the afternoons spent with badi mummy (my grandmother) in the house verandah, below the small window with green frame that opened into the kitchen. While the loo(loo is a strong, hot and dry summer afternoon wind which blows over the plains of north India) gushed outside, seated on the takhat (a wide wooden bench) she constantly greased her palms with strong-smelling mustard oil,the knife too while that small pile of the arbi infront of her was prepped for dinner. Once the plump tubers were diced, who ever, amongst the women in the family was taking dinner making forward was instructed to use copius amounts of amchoor(dry mango powder) while cooking it. A side of warm dal tadka(tempered lentils) with rice, a hot pickle and one of the most satisfying, light vegetarian meal was put together in under an hour.

There are more than one way I have eaten this root growing up, but necessarily in savory preparations. Never saw a sweet prepared with it, quite unlike the way it is used in the rest of south asia – in making puddings and ice creams or even candy.I thronged our asian grocers almost every weekend until last week I spotted these hairy skinned, mud covered arbi tucked inside a grumpy cardboard box in the corner. Oh my! I notched a little closer, one touch between my palms and in a blink I knew they were perfectly ripe and ready to come home with me.

This recipe today is very simple, very less ingredients and really you can taste the sweet gummy tuber in this preparation. You would need to get ajwain (or carrot seeds) though, they lend an amazing flavor which enhance the unique taste as well as aids in digestion of this vegetable. A sprinkle of chaat masala and squirt of fresh lemon juice at the end is one of my favorite ways to dress it up.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 1 lb arbi (taro root)
  • 3 tablespoon mustard oil
  • 1/4 heaped teaspoon ajwain (carrom seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 1-2 green chillies (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh lemon juice at end)
  • salt to taste
  • Chopped cilantro – for garnish
  • Sprinkle of chaat masala (optional, to taste)

Notes

  1. Grease your palms liberally with oil or wear gloves when handling raw taro root. It could be quite itchy without.
  2. Finish the dish with some sour element, dry mango powder (amchoor) as in the recipe, vinegary or fresh lime/lemon juice. Sometimes, the cooked vegetable can itch the throat. But not to worry. The sour element only adds to the taste.

Method

Using the peeler, peel off the skins of the arbi. Wash under running water. Completely dry with a kitchen towel. Slice length wise into half. Cut batons from each half.

Heat up the oil in a saute pan on medium. Temper the oil with ajwain, cumin,green chillies and hing powder.Immediately add the arbi and stir around to coat the batons in oil. Sprinkle the red chili powder and amchoor. Also add the salt. Stir again to combine.

Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let cook for 12-15 minutes till the arbi is soft but not mushy.

On high heat, saute for 1-2 seconds.

Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve.

Dal Makhani – Creamy Lentils



You know I have made these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcased it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it. Put that pressure cooker to work (or the slow cooker if you want) because I have included both methods in the recipe.

Dal Makhani literally translates to “buttery lentils”. It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter, it was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings. And I can very well understand why.These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It’s not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and doze off kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet – acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it. Now, after so many years of making it, I can just tell by the look of them if they are perfectly cooked or not.

In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by serving something away from the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signature recipe.It’s one of the recipes which she has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the method to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredients come naturally to her, she didn’t pick a measuring spoon if I tell you the truth.

It is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden and full of concentrated fats. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes is different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger & kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a baby food consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite. It works better with my texture -in- food kind of  crazy family.

A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roast the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.

Ingredients  (Makes 3-4 servings)

Cooking the Lentils

  • 1/2 cup whole black urad dal (lentils)
  • 2 tbsp red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tejpatta (bay leaf)
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Baghaar (Tempering)

  •  1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 large tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
  • 4 tablespoon oil(any neutral)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoon butter 
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
  • Cilantro to garnish

Method

Cooking the lentils  (This can be done a day ahead)

Stove Top Method 

Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Soaking the lentils reduces the cooking times and gets rid of inedible enzymes in them so it’s a important step. Drain the lentil and beans, add the kidney beans to a small pot of water and let boil for 20 minutes separately.Then add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3 whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. Open the pressure  cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.

Slow Cooker Method 

Add the cooked beans along with lentils to slowcooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Set to cook for 8-10 hours.Once cooked, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom.With the help of a spoon, mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them.Let sit.

For the Tempering 

While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a small perforated pan but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and  peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too.Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).

In a pot or kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced  garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the fat starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red. At this point, add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about 3/4 cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.

Once the lentils have simmered, add the kasuri methi, garam masala, nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using) and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.

Let sit for atleast 2-3 hours before serving. They get better as they sit.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm with rotis (flatbreads).

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Methi Ke Parathe (Fenugreek Leaves Flatbread)



I love hot,straight from the griddle flatbreads.With a dollop of butter and chai (tea) on side, the taste is better than the best foods around. Growing up, in my badi mummy’s (grandma) house, winters were a season for parathas of all sorts.On few days we would just feed on stuffed parathas for dinner with home churned white butter and pickled vegetables.It was a simple meal, yet very satisfying. My grandmother used to make parathas with dough kneaded just when it was time to roll the bread,sometimes stuffing the stretchy, gluten layers with shredded mooli (daikon) or spiced crumbled cauliflower, and, a lot of times with the winter greens mixed in to hide but form a robust & flavorful dough. All the greens and vegetables came from the house grown patch, of which I have talked about a lot in my previous posts.On days when the power was out, she would ignite angithis (small clay containers of fire) in the verandah,repeatedly waving old newspapers in front of the glowing coal pieces. If the potatoes were plenty from the yard, they were put as it is inside the gusto of the brazier. We sat around the heated fire,wrapped in sweaters and shawls,our faces lighted by the flickering candles,soaking warmth of the burning charcoal, chit chatting and tearing bites from the fresh made hot parathas. A few potatoes were taken out, smashed with fork, a drizzle of ghee, salt & chill powder and a rustic side was ready.With each morsel,wafted a aromatic steam smelling of garlic, fenugreek and warm spices. Many winter evenings were spent like this, no invertors or generators, a pre convenience era you would say.

Making rotis or parathas is such an everyday thing for me. I make flatbreads of some kind each single day, it never feels like a chore, it is such a happy routine. I fail to understand when people say its too much work.They say when you love something you embrace it as joy. Maybe because I am used to it that I secretly enjoy it or I cook because I care.If you have dough in the refrigerator,its a matter of minutes to get the bread together.

The approach of spring season is usually indicative of the end of methi season.To me it leaves behind a similar departed feeling of sorts when fresh tomatoes start vanishing at the knock of fall. I love methi leaves, I am addicted to them, sometimes I specially go to the store just to pick them, they are part of our weekly menu- they are so flavorful, addictively bitter and so good for you. I am yet to spot fresh methi leaves in non- indian grocers here in the States so you will have to make a visit to indian grocery to get these.However, few of my friends compare its taste to fresh watercress sometimes.I haven’t tried the substitution but this recipe can very well be used for any kind of greens you like – think finely shredded rainbow chard, think tucson kale or think good ol’spinach (the cooking variety).

I roll the flatbreads both as triangles as well as well in the usual circle shapes. The triangle one needs more oil to be brushed inside layers and definitely comes out much more soft & flaky.You can refer to a previous post on step by step for making triangle paratha. The husband prefers those. But you could do any way. Circles or triangles – they taste awesome!

These methi parathas are so easy to make.Throw everything together and knead the dough.They are soft, flaky and packed with taste and nutrients. Let the dough sit in the refrigerator for no more than a day or two and make them to go along with meals or just enjoy rolled up like a cigar all on its own with a cup of chai. I would recommend making them before this winter season goes away.

Ingredients (Makes 8)

  • 1.5 cup packed fresh/frozen methi (fenugreek leaves, see notes on other greens that can be used)
  • 1.25 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
  • 1/3 cup besan (fine chickpea flour)
  • a generous pinch of hing (asafetida powder)
  • 1/8 tsp ajwain (skip or substitute with celery seeds)
  • heaping 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3-4 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped onion
  • 1 scallion(spring onion) stalk, green & white parts finely chopped
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water (or as required, see recipe)
  • Canola Oil for griddle frying (about 2 tbsp per paratha)

Notes 

  1. You can refer to a previous post on triangle paratha on how to shape the flatbreads.
  2. If you want to roll parathas in circles, refer to previous post on rotis on how to do that.
  3. If you do not get fresh methi leaves in the area you live,look for the freezer aisle. They stock frozen methi there. You can use that in this recipe after thawing it and squeezing excess water out.
  4. Important :- Make small batches of this dough.Its gets sticky and soft as it sits and the vegetables start leaving water from the salt. I do not keep it for more than 2 days. The taste changes after a couple of days. You can half the recipe if you want.
  5. This recipe can very well be used for any kind of greens you like – think chard, think tucson kale or think good ol’spinach (the cooking variety).

Method

Pick the methi leaves from stems. Discard the stems and wash the methi leaves under running water so that all the dirt is washed away. Rinse the leaves well. Drain them completely.You don’t need to dry them out but ensure that the are not watery. Use a paper towel if needed. If you are using the frozen variety, squeeze water from the leaves and finely chop the methi leaves. Set aside.

In a wide dish or paraat, mix together flours, ajwain, hing and turmeric. Start adding oil a tablespoon at a time and working in the flours to incorporate. Add the chopped methi leaves next along with onions,scallions, garlic, cilantro, ginger and green chillies. Mix together.

Add little water at a time and knead to a smooth dough. As the flour absorbs water,it will start clumping up into a ball.Continue to add water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour will come together.Remember not to add too much water at a time.Use your knuckles to flatten the dough out and then pull it all together towards yourself, using your palm & fingers, then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 7-8 minutes. At any point you feel that the flour is tight or drying out, add a light splash water (but not too much)Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast). Once the dough looks and feels really really smooth, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 20-25 minutes. Keep in mind not to make a very loose dough because as it sits, it will turn softer and sticky. Once kneaded, let rest for 15-20 minutes.

If you are not planning to make parathas right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.

When ready to make parathas, uncover and divide into equal portions. Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make roll!

Roll and cover each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly on edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.Dust the board as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.Using a rolling-pin, roll the ball into a circle 2.5″ in diameter. Brush a little ghee/oil on the rolled out circle.After brushing the ghee, fold into a semi-circle.Brush the ghee on the semi-circle and fold again to form a triangle.Sprinkle the top with more flour and carefully with the help of rolling-pin, roll out until its 1/8″ thick. Note: While you are rolling out, you will need to flip over, dust flour etc and be gentle to keep the shape intact.You will not get a neat triangle shape but thats how it is.

Spread some oil on the heated tawa/griddle.Carefully lift the rolled out dough with your hands and place on the tawa.Let cook for 2 minutes on medium heat and then flip over using a spatula.Using a spoon,spread 1 tablespoon oil thoroughly on the first side while the second side is cooking.Flip again and repeat brushing oil on the second side.Cook both sides till you see small brown specks and smell the aroma of cooked dough. In some cases the paratha will fluff up while cooking.Dont worry you did a good job if that happens. Be careful of the escaping steam though.

Once cooked & golden brown on both sides, remove from griddle using a spatula & transfer to cooling rack to cool slightly so that they donâ€t become soggy , later you store them in a box lined with dry cloth or paper towel.

Serve warm with pickle, curries, salad or raita.

Aloo Jhol-Poori (Spicy Potato Curry & Fried Puffed Flatbread)

Long railway journeys.Picnics.Lunch.Festivals.Breakfast.Street Side Eating.Snacks.Dinner. Name the occasion and ‘poori‘, this deep-fried,unleavened bread has been my companion. Thin, thick, staining fingers with oil, flavored with ajwain(carrom seeds),crispy yet soft – this little puffy bread  has been a steady thing in our kitchen, bringing us comfort and gluttony(sigh!).I could trade saturday pancakes for these, for they will bring the same deliciousness to the table.

Poke your finger to puncture that crispy skin on top, bloated from the heat of deep-frying and chew on it. Combine it with a spicy potato curry or jhol and you have an overdose of carbs, but, trust me you could feel bad before eating these or after, but, never ever while eating jhol-poori 🙂.It is not a that healthy,’superfood’ thing, but most good things in life bring a fraction (or more) of guilt with them! Or so I think.

Chopped or pureed vegetables like spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves are many times added to the dough as variations. You could add a lot of or less powdered spices as per your liking. You could even mix up flours – semolina, cornmeal or all-purpose flour to whole wheat flour and fry up. The tastes and texture changes but the dough takes all for there is hardly anything deep-fried which tastes less than lavish. You get what I mean,right?

A hot cup of chai,stale pooris  slathered with chutney or pickles rolled cigar like is how enjoy it the most but traditionally pooris are served with a side – usually a spicy potato based dish(though in many parts they serve with meats and fruit purees too) and essentially achaar(pickle), mango or lime in my grandma’s house.In my family, the side curry is cooked without onion and garlic and I still make it the same .However there are no rules, if my grandma was short on time, she would sometimes slice a few sweet mangoes or so with them. Basically, you get the idea – its is delicious with just about anything.

Jhol Poori is a combination which makes an appearance atleast once a month in our house if not more. In my mums house, this is typical Sunday breakfast. While I knead the dough, the pressure cooker hisses and the potatoes boil inside. My mom always always cooked aloo John in ghee and I do the same, the taste is so amazing. If not, you can use normal cooking oil to make it. A quick tempering with simple aromatics-pungent hing(asafoetoda),smoky cumin & turmeric hit the hot ghee along with tomatoes, green chillies & ginger, awkwardly crumbled potatoes join the pot, simmer for under twenty minutes or so and done. While traditionally jhol is a term used for much thinner, almost water like consistency, we like ours on the thickish gravy side, just go stingy on the amount of water that you add, everything else remains the same.

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Poori (Puffed Fried Indian Flatbread)

Deep fried puffed flatbreads made with whole wheat atta. These are best served with a spicy aloo curry.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 pooris

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup atta (durum wheat flour)
  • 2-3 tbsp oil for dough
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ajwain
  • room temperature water
  • Oil for deep frying

Instructions

  • In a wide dish or large bowl, mix flour, salt, oil and ajwain. Mix well to combine.
  • Adding little water at a time, start kneading. I used a little over 1/2 cup of water. Add water slowly until there is no dry flour and then bring together and knead using your knuckles and fingers until smooth for about 8 minutes or so until the dough appears smooth and is firm to touch. The dough should not be soft.
  • Cover with damp flour and rest for 20 minutes.
  • Divide into equal portions.Roll each portion between palms to make balls(about the size of a lime).
  • Set about 2 inches of canola oil  for deep frying to heat up in a kadhai or in a dutch pot.
  • Keep a a little oil nearby. Start with 1 ball at a time, dip the ball in bowl of oil,  flatten it lightly on the rolling board and with the help of a rolling-pin, roll into a 3" or 4" circle, about 1/8 thick. When you are rolling, you could slather some oil if  dough sticks.
     It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you do not get perfect rounds its okay, doesn't affect the taste. When you are rolling the dough you can lift it and move it around to get a round of uniform thickness.
  • To check the temperature of the oil, pinch a small portion of dough and add it to the oil, it should quickly rise to the top without changing color. If the dough rises slowly or remains at the bottom,wait for the oil to heat up more.
  • Once the oil is hot, fry rolled pooris one at a time, flipping once, lightly pressing with a slotted spoon (else it will not puff up), until puffed and golden brown, about 30 to 45 seconds. Drian fried pooris on paper towel. Serve.
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Aloo Jhol/ Hing Vaale Aloo

A spicy potato curry usually served with pooris. These potatoes are cooked without onion or garlic and spiced with ginger, hing and cumin seeds in a tomato based sauce.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium boiled potatoes
  • 3 tbsp ghee or cooking oil
  • 3/4 tsp hing powder
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 green chili, slit
  • 1.5 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot red chili powder, adjust to taste
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1.5 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 cup water, or as needed
  • Chopped cilantro

Instructions

  • Peel the potatoes and using your hands light crush them into random pieces. Set aside.
  • In a cooking pot, warm up the ghee on low medium.
  • Once ghee is hot, add hing and then crackle the cumin seeds. Next add the ginger and green chillies together and saucer10-15 seconds.
  • Next, add the powdered spices – coriander, turmeric and red chili powder to the pot. Ad 2 tbsp water so that the spices don't burn. Saute the spices in ghee for 2 minutes or so till you smell a nice aroma.
  • Net add the tomatoes and sauce them for 4 minutes or so until you see ghee bubbles separating on the sides.
  • Add the potatoes now, sprinkle salt, mix well and sauce themfor 2-3 minutes with tomato and spices.
  • Add the water next and let come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Halfway, open the lid and mash a fe potatoes using back of the spoon, this helps in thickening the curry.
  • Switch off the stove and add the amchoor and garam masala. Mix and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Reheat, garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.

Vegetable Manchurian



If there has to be a dish that I overindulged on during college days, it has to be Manchurian – chicken, cauliflower, vegetable, dry, gravy, sweet,spicy, salty, you name it and I would raise both my hands. With that extra cash at the end of the month, saved from pocket-money each week, I, along with few other girls could be found in all sorts of street side places in and around the college or hopping onto public transport to far away Dilli Haat.There would be plates of greasy noodles, lightly crispy vegetarian(or not) deep fried dumplings coated in spicy manchurian sauce, gossip, laughter, half-finished assignments and a compulsory side of fruit beer for late lunches.

Having said that, indeed my appreciation for this ever so popular indo chinese dish stems from those days. Mum hardly made it, for cooking indo chinese at home is slightly redundant when you are living in India because (almost) always you will end up comparing  it with that fantastic taste from the sloppy joints at street side. So while the hotspots around the city are to be held responsible for  my insatiable  appetite towards indo chinese, I never made it at home, it was only after I moved to States some five years back that I tried recreating it at home. Take chicken in hot garlic sauce or fried rice, talk gobhi manchurian or spicy schezwan noodles,by the end of the first couple of  months here, I started getting there, developing recipes with the memories of how they should taste in my head and trying to replicate that inside the super hot wok. The fact that the husband shares my love for indo chinese fare and we kind of got tired of consuming overly sweet chili chickens & hakka noodles tossed with snap peas & broccoli (yikes!) and accepting the fact that the restaurants here just do not get it(or we like to think so),it was exciting to see those similar tastes turning on our meal tables from our own kitchen.

When you make indo chinese, besides ingredients, bring along a lot of patience to the cutting board. Spend the late afternoon mincing garlic and chopping ginger.Shred those carrots and cabbage finer than you think you would need, sniff and taste that mix of soy sauce with coriander & turmeric and shy away from de seeding those hot chillies, coz boy is this one spicy cuisine or what?This vegetable machurian recipe has stayed in my kitchen for few years now. I often make it on non-meat eating days or when I have a stash of miscellaneous vegetables that need to be used up right away. I would not say that deep-frying them is the best option but then you are not eating fried chicken so its kind of okay.You know what I mean, right?After all, its veggies!

Vegetable Manchurian is a widely popular dish of the indo chinese genre. It is nothing by vegetable dumplings in a  ‘Manchurian†sauce. Do not confuse the origins of  ‘Manchurian†sauce – it definitely has nothing to do with that region in South East Asia. Creatively put together by chinese who lived in eastern parts of  india for centuries, just imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and mildly sweet but hot sauce with hints of indian spices. Indo chinese is what it is due to typical indian condiments – I make it a point to use the brands from indian store for the authentic taste. However, you can confidently do few a substitutions (see notes ) and use your pantry to try this recipe.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

For the Manchurian Sauce

  • 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce (I use Chingâ€s brand)
  • 2 tbsp chilli- tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1.5 tsp cornstarch +4 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2  tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2-3 small green chili (use any mild/hot variety)
  • 5-7 garlic pods, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white parts
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to tolerance)
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup stock (vegetable or chicken, don’t use water)
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar (or to taste)
  • For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts), ginger, chopped green chillies

For the Deep fried Vegetable Balls

  • 1 cup finely chopped cabbage
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4  cup finely chopped green beans
  • 1 small green chilli, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • scant 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Oil for deep frying

Method 

Making the Manchurian Sauce

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

In a wok/pan , heat up the oils to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic, green chillies & ginger and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander & black pepper powder next, stir for 10 seconds and then add the soya sauce mix made earlier.Stir for a minute or so and then add the stock. Simmer for 2-3 minutes  on medium-high heat or till you see bubbles on the sides.Add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce starts to thicken.

Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Add the vinegar to the wok and stir everything well.Remove from heat and add the fried vegetable balls to the pan. Dont stir too much with spoon at this point.

Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.

Making the Vegetable Balls

In a large bowl, mix together all the chopped vegetables. Add salt, mix(do not squeeze) and let sit for (not more than) 10 minutes. Add the all-purpose flour and corn starch next and gently mix together. If you feel that the mixture is on a dry side add a tablespoon or so of water (ideally you will not be needing it since the vegetables leave water from sitting in salt).

Heat up 2-3 inches of oil in a frying pan on medium high. Shape into small lime size balls and add to the frying pan, Make sure that the oil is not too hot(else the balls will remain raw from inside) or too low (else they will scatter in oil). Fry, turning on all sides to golden dark brown

Drain the fried vegetable balls on a paper towel before adding to sauce (recipe above).

Serve immediately with noodles or fried rice.

Notes :-

  1. Use any vegetables that you like (just do not use potato)coz trust me after frying they will anyhow taste good.
  2. You might be tempted (like me) to use food processor to chop the vegetables but trust me it makes them watery. I recommend chopping them with knife.
  3. Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari (for vegan)
  4. Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds extra heat. I get this sauce from indian stores. You can use just plain tomato ketchup or add mix of sriracha & tomato ketchup for a sweet, spicy tangy flavor to the sauce.
  5. The sauce can be made 2-3 hours in advance. Just fry up the vegetable balls and serve when you want to.
  6. If you forsee leftovers, store the sauce and vegetable balls separately. Toss them together just when you want to serve.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Fried Fish



My dad loved to entertain and this would mean as the weekend was approaching,mom would be spending most of her time brainstorming dinner menus. End of the week and the house would be choked with family and friends and even after doing it for several years,I loved the excitement in her gait on saturday mornings when we strolled to the bazaar to get groceries.There would be guests with both vegetarian and non vegetarian choices, not many with special diets but definitely all,secretly,looking forward to her deftly spiced dishes. Many from the near family would sometimes call ahead in the day with requests over the phone while others just warmed their hearts thinking of the surprise that she would bring to the table.Each time, she came up with such a fantastic menu, the array of dishes perfectly complementing each other, each course well thought, most of the food homemade and few not.

She did not choose to make elaborate,time-consuming dishes if the number of guests were many but quite a variety so that everyone could spoon a favorite on their plate. All afternoon, the house smelled of few dozen or so of mutton koftas simmering inside the aluminum pot specifically reserved for cooking on such days of big meals, a show stopper as my dad would say, it was the main dish along side puffy rotis, then, there would be dishes made with paneer ,a must on north indian entertaining menus,a slow cooked side of potatoes, another crowd pleaser, her cinnamon spiced red hued dum aloo and the signature rice pilaf, brought together with ghee criped cumin seeds folded in fragrant basmati,thick, nutty dal tarka, tempered with ghee & scattered with cilantro and served with lemon wedges on side of the bowl. On few occasions, she would tend to a pot of boiling kadhi which by the way was a favorite of almost every aunt I know in the family,while quickly frying up ajwain scented onion pakoras on the side stove at the last moment so that the fritters remained crispy till the guests sat down to eat.

If it were winters, there would be fried seafood as starters,a winter tradition, a family favorite,when the fish season peaks in the bazaars, without a miss, fried,crispy pieces of rohu (fresh water carp) fish were served along with vinegar soaked onion rings and smoking hot green chutney.If my dad got a good deal, few kilos of white pomfret were slid into smoking mustard oil for guests. Quite in contrast to here, growing up, we consumed copious amounts of seafood during the colder months and that’s the reason I crave it every now and then. Every region in India has its own fish fry recipe, in the coastal areas of south india,fresh caught smaller fish are doused in a paste of ground coconut and red chillies before deep-frying while in the eastern parts, in a lightly brit inspired ‘fish & chips’, they fry the marinated fish after a coating of egg and bread crumbs.

However, mum uses a batter which she tells is my maternal grandfather’s recipe.The marinated fish is coated in a garlic-ginger laced,turmeric hued marinade and then scantly coated in a mix of rice and besan (chickpea) flours.She fondly recollects that during her childhood, my grandfather used to soak the rice a night before and stone grind it the following day to coat the thick,belly pieces of rohu in it and they would sit around the stove waiting in turn to get the piping hot fritter. If you happen to visit my home, mum makes fried fish the same way, she would soak the rice and hand grind it on sil-batta(stone grinder). I have adapted the recipe and use ready-made rice flour to make it quick and equally delicious.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

For Marinating 

  • 1 lb fish (I used 4 large tilapia belly pieces cut into half or equivalent weight any small whole fish like pompano or pomfret)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
  • 3/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala 
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp mustard oil
  • generous pinch of salt

For Coating

  • 3 tbsp rice flour
  • 1/4 besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • salt to taste (to taste)

For Frying

  • Mustard Oil for frying (substitute with any high smoky point oil)
  • 1/2 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)

For Serving

  • Chaat Masala
  • Onion slices
  • Lemon Wedges

Method

Clean and descale the fish pieces or ask your butcher to do it. Wash under a stream of water and pat them dry with a paper towel. In a flat dish, layer the pieces and add all the ingredients listed under marination. Rub everything with your hands to coat the fish and refrigerate for 1 hour.

15 minutes before ready to fry, take out the fish from the refrigerator and let sit on the kitchen counter. In a bowl, combine the rice flour, besan and chaat masala. Taste a pinch of this mixture before adding additional salt since chaat masala is quite salty, then adjust the salt to taste.

Set 2 inches of mustard oil (or whichever oil your are using) in a heavy bottomed, wide pot or skillet (I use my 10″ cast iron) to heat up on medium flame.While the oil is heating, add the flour mixture to the marinated fish pieces.Mix with hands such that the flour sticks to the fish.Add a light splash of water if needed. We do not want a wet batter. We do not want a thick flour batter to coat the fish, instead just a uneven coating of flour on the fish (similar to coating chicken when deep frying).

Once the oil is hot, about 325 F, add fenugreek seeds to it.Let the seeds crackle.Gently set the coated fish pieces the into hot oil and fry for 3-4  minutes on each side until medium golden brown in color. (this time will be more in case you are using whole fish). Do not fry on very high or very low heat else the fish will get soggy or remain raw inside.
Drain on paper towel and when the fish is still hot, sprinkle more chaat masala. Discard the oil.

Serve immediately with onion slices and lemon wedges and green chutney or any sauce of choice.

Notes

  1. You could use whole small fish (like pomfret,golden pompano,trout, mackerel) or freshwater fish like rohu, katla (indian varieties) or boneless fish fillets ( cat fish, tilapia, cod, mahi-mahi) in this recipe. When using a whole fish, make incisions before you marinate.
  2. Chaat Masala is a hot & tangy blend of spices which is easily available in indian/pakistani stores. If you do not have it, skip and add a little cayenne and crushed black pepper to the flour mix. You could squirt lemon juice for tang once you have finished frying the fish.
  3. Many times, I use the same recipe to fry up fillets and stuff them inside tortillas or roti with coleslaw and serve as fish tacos.