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!
Slow cooked bone in lamb and potato stew with fresh pounded spices and yogurt.
Course: Main Course
For the Stew
1 lbstewing lamb
4tbspmustard oil, substitute with cooking oil that you like to use
1 bay leaf
2inch cinnamon stick
1 cuponionsthinly sliced
2tsp hot red chilli powderadjust to tolerance
1/2 tspkashmiri chilli powder
1/3 cupplain greek yogurtslightly beaten
1/2 tspfresh grated nutmeg
Salt to taste
Coarsely pound together
2 tspblack peppercorns
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.
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 matarpaneer – 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.
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
1/4 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
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.
Along with garam masala or the hot indian spice blend which got more popular in the west, I find chaat masala equally versatile and quite frequently used in my kitchen. ‘Chaat‘ translates to any snack or food item served on the streets in the northern parts of India and ‘Masala‘ in Hindi refers to any sort of (dry or wet) spice blend. If you happen to hit streets in India for food, mostly everything that you will order will come to your table speckled with generous pinches of chaat masala, of course making it lip smacking good and adding a myriad array of tart, salty and hot flavors all at once.It is essentially the spice blend which you will spot on top of pakoras(fritters), tandoori chicken, kebab platters, murgh tikka, chaat items (of course), mixed in with raita (yogurt dip) and sometimes sprinkled over side salads and onions in indian restaurants here.The one which punches all the senses in the first bite and with a tempting flavor profile of tang and heat.
I would essentially compare chaat masala to the movie theatre popcorn seasoning (oh I love those) which come in all sorts of flavors and add the much-needed zip to your treat.The only difference that can be pointed here is that even though the spice blends differ from brand to brand and home to home and cook to cook but all are referred to as just ‘chaat masala‘. If you are buying from the stores, pick up a couple of brands, try, choose your favorite and stick to it. I am using the same brand for more than a decade and its worth all your money. While you will sniff and taste warm and (slightly) bitter notes in garam masala, chaat masala is sour and peppery with a pronounced heat level. It is a strong blend, one with a kick, in aroma as well to taste.
After I came to the States, like many immigrants starting their life, building bit by bit, accepting the smoothness of life here (trust me it didn’t come easy),I recollect how in those days, we did not own a car and trip to indian grocers was a hardly a once or twice a month activity.Even after making ten lists, I would forget a lot of pantry staples. It was during that time that I delved into making my own spice blends.I found this recipe last month scribbled at the back of an old notebook while I was spring cleaning the garage of old boxes from moving and with an afternoon to kill ahead of me, I blended up some chaat masala. For those of you who happen to live in a place where indian grocer are quite far away to drive to or simply just to try your hand at homemade blends,this recipe could be a starting point. Play with it. Measure, grind, sniff and taste. Add or take items as per your liking. Let the flavor and aroma of spice that you like shine.
For all practical reasons, almost always,I go and pick up a pouch from the grocer shelf for the heck of convenience but it is less in comparison to homemade.Trust me on that. Make some and sprinkle on anything and everything you want. It goes very well on top of cut up raw vegetables like cucumbers, celery, radishes or baby carrots. Add it to marinades (just be cautious of heat) and salad dressings. Use it on grilled meats or seafood. My favorite way is to dredge a lime wedge in it and slowly savor it, try it, its addictive!
7-8 whole dried red kashmiri chillies (remove stems, adjust to taste)
scant 1/2 teaspoon ajwain (carrom) seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 small green cardamom, whole
1 small clove
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons amchoor (dry mango powder)
scant 1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder
1.5 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
1 tsp extra hot red chilli powder
1teaspoon kala namak(black salt, available in indian stores)
3-4 dried mint leaves
2 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
In a dry skillet, lightly dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole chillies, ajwain, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick, each spice one at a time, separately, on low heat. Do not let the spices turn brown. Let cool completely.
Put the roasted spices along with other items into dry coffee grinder or spice grinder and blitz to a fine powder.
Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.
I did not know of the husband’s liking for south indian flavors until we got married. It made quite a sense for someone who spent good four or five years of his college life in the southern city of Madras (now Chennai). The hostel canteen served some mean regional delicacies,he fondly recollects. My mom made a few vegetarian south indian dishes at home but those were mostly the general south indian favorites popular all over India –uttapams (savory rice pancakes),upma(breakfast porridge) ,gun powder, coconut chutneys,dosas (rice crepes) and idlis(steamed rice cakes) to name a few. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen me making south indian dishes sometimes.
After our wedding, I saw the husband ordering south indian take outs more often than not. He would enjoy those strongly spiced,super hot curries, smelling of coconut and mustard. So, over all these years I have developed a few recipes of south indian style curries, suited to our taste.Spicy, hot and with distinct flavors,these are the recipes I can bank upon when looking for something different on our dinner table.
I usually serve plain rice and a refreshing salad with such curries, however you could do some vegetables like this asparagus-peas stirfry with coconut or a simple dal(lentils)
I do not have stories to connect to this recipe today. It is not the food of my childhood. It is not something I grew up with. I do not claim that this curry belongs to some particular region of southern india,we like it in our homes and call it “south indian chicken curry”. My husband sampled it and asked me to put it up here, because this is a journal of our day today favorite foods.
The curry is quite spicy, take my word for it.I use hot dried red chillies, seeds and all and grind them with strong pungent, spices like fenugreek, mustard seeds and black peppercorns.You would need to visit indian grocer for things like curry leaves, which lend a distinct aroma and flavor to this curry. There is no substitute for them but you can skip them if you do not get. It is quite good even without them.
2-3 tablespoon tamarind pulp (use less if using store-bought, see notes)
10 fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup to 1 cup thick coconut milk (depending on how creamy and pronounced coconut taste you want)
Salt to taste
Store bought tamarind pulp is quite concentrated, tart and very salty. Use discretion when adding it.
I would not recommend using “light” coconut milk, as it makes the gravy very watery. Go for the thick, creamy one.
Marinating the chicken (This can be done up to a day in advance)
In a small sauce pan, add the 1 tablespoon oil and heat it up on low. Add all the ingredients except chicken and salt to the oil and lightly roast the spices till you smell a nice aroma. Do not let them turn brown. Let cool once roasted.
Grind the roasted spices coarsely. In a large bowl, add the chicken pieces, sprinkle salt and half the quantity of this spice rub, combine so that chicken is coated in spices, cover and let marinate refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight(preferably).
Reserve the remaining spice rub.
Making the Curry
Thirty minutes prior to cooking, take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and let sit on the counter.
In a kadhai(indian wok) or a large pot with lid, heat up the 4 tablespoon oil on medium high.Once the oil is hot, add the onions, garlic and green chillies to it. Saute and cook the onions for 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown. Add the bay leaf,cardamom, cinnamon stick and sauce for 10-12 seconds till you smell an aroma.
Next, add the marinated chicken to the pot, add salt, turmeric and stir around so that chicken pieces start to coat in the onions and garlic. Once you see that the chicken pieces have started to brown on the edges,cover the pot and let the chicken cook in its own juices until about 80% cooked, about 15-18 minutes(note that this time will depend on the cut and size of chicken pieces).
Add the reserved spice rub, ginger, curry leaves and tamarind paste next and stir around to coat the chicken. Cover and let cook on medium low for another 8-10 minutes until the chicken is almost cooked.If at any point you feel that the chicken is sticking to bottom on the pot, add a splash of water
Uncover, reduce the heat to low, and add the coconut milk to the kadhai. Do not stir immediately. Let the coconut milk combine on its own. Check and adjust the salt. Stir very gently and let simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Garnish with few curry leaves and serve with warm rice.
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 uraddal (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
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).
While I mostly wake up to pictures of snow-covered decks and coffee mugs nestled between mittens on my Instagram feed, surprisingly it has started feeling spring-like in here.Spring in January? eh! I know that sounds kind of way too early & weird but its been over a week with temperatures in late 60s and a full sleeve T-shirt is enough to roam around throughout the day.The sky is clear, the air smells crisp & pleasant and I saw many jogging in shorts today at the park.
However, early mornings and evenings are still colder. The winter loving person that I am, I am holding on to the season in my stubborn ways. Which,mostly means cooking warm, spicy foods. For dinner, hiding indoors in the warmth of the house, I am still rustling up slow cooked curries and comfort dishes to keep us nourished.A couple of weeks back, I made this chicken vindaloo, one of the husband’s favorite things besides dal. It was a late, cold evening some five years back when we headed to dinner at one of our favorite indian restaurant here, choked with guests, smelling of strong spices and boasting of an elaborate buffet over the long weekend, that his love for all things coconut & curry leaves formed a good part of the conversation. I have been making this red-hot, tangy curry for quite a few years now and it has always hit the right chord with his tastebuds.Vindaloo is something I did not grow eating up but with time I have come up with what we like (and hope you like it too).
Wiki tells me that ‘Vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic.The Portuguese dish brought it to India (Goan region) and slowly it was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red kashmiri chillies with additional spices to evolve into vindaloo and it became a curry native to indian cuisine. This recipe here is hot and that’s why I always use potatoes for those earthly,mellow bites in between. I like to de seed few of the red chillies because I do not want it searing hot, however you can use a mild chili variety.Vindaloo pairs best with steamed rice (as with most coastal cuisine). If you would want to try different meats like lamb or pork (if you want to go the traditional Portuguese route) work in this recipe too.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
2.5 tbsp distilled white vinegar (see notes)
10-12 whole dry red Kashmiri chilies, broken into small pieces (or use 2.5 teaspoon cayenne powder,adjust to taste)
1/4 of star anise (break the whole flower and use a quarter piece)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2″ cinnamon stick
scant 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2-3 tbsp warm water (or as required)
5 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2″ ginger shoot, roughly chopped
1.5 tbsp fresh grated coconut
1tbsp tamarind pulp (easily available in indian/pakistani grocery stores)
5 fresh curry leaves (easily available in indian/pakistani grocery stores)
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed (weighed about 1.35lb, you can use cut up whole chicken or bone-in pieces too, just use dark meat portions)
1/3 cup oil, divided
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
3/4 cup onions, finely chopped
6-8 fresh curry leaves,roughly torn
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp powdered jaggery (or light brown sugar, adjust to taste)
In case you do not get tamarind pulp, bump up the vinegar quantity to 4 tbsp.
Fresh curry leaves are not substitutable. Even though the recipe dosent remain the same, you can skip if you do not get.
Deseed all or half quantity of the dried chilies if you want. In your blender jar, add vinegar, dry chillies, cloves, star anise, mustard & cumin seeds, cinnamon. Add 2-3 tbsp warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Once the chilli skins are slightly soft & the spices have soaked, add garlic, ginger, tamarind, coconut & 5 fresh curry leaves to the jar, cover the lid and blend to a smooth paste.You can add more water (1-2 tbsp) if needed but do not make a very runny paste.
In a bowl, add the chicken, add 1/2 tsp salt and add about half of this paste, coat the chicken in the paste and let sit for (not more than 15 minutes). Reserve the remaining spice paste.
While the chicken is marinating, heat up 3 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed wide pot. Once the oil is hot,add the quartered potatoes to the pot, sprinkle a generous pinch of salt and saute them, stirring on medium heat for 5 minutes till you see that their edges start to brown lightly.Take out the potatoes from the pot on a plate. Set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pot and heat up. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and on medium-low heat, saute the onions till they are golden brown. About 3-5 minutes if the onions are finely chopped. Once the onions have browned, add the reserved spice paste & torn fresh curry leaves to the pot. Stir around and on low heat, saute continually to cook till you see that the spice paste darkens in color and the water evaporates. About 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
Layer the marinated chicken in the pot. Turn the heat to medium high and let the chicken brown.After about 2 minutes, flip the chicken pieces and let brown on the other side. If you see that the heat is getting quite high, reduce it.You will slowly see lot of liquid in the pot but that’s okay. Once the chicken has browned, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let cook for about 10 minutes on low heat(adjust this time depending on how large or small your chicken pieces are). Once the chicken is about 90 % cooked, add the browned potatoes to the pot, cover and let cook for another 10 minutes on low heat, till the chicken is completely cooked and the potatoes are fork tender (ensure that the potatoes do not turn mushy. Uncover, add the jaggery (or sugar) ,water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce), check & adjust the salt. Let simmer uncovered or another 5 minutes.
Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.Serve warm with steamed rice.
A rich and aromatic dish, korma originally belonged to the shahi dastarkhwans (royal kitchens) ofMughalemperors. Deep rooted in aristrocasy, the mughlai cuisine, thus, is redolent of sweet-smelling, unique spices,delicate herbs, liberal use of ground nuts & dried fruit as well as exotic ingredients like saffron & rose petals in cooking.Dating back to the era of invasions and subsequent period of rule by the Mughals, indian cuisine, particularly north indian evolved and embraced the said style of cooking ranging from extremely spicy to mild curries,rice preparations and bread making.
With addition of ghee, nut pastes and dairy (mava (milk solids) /milk/ cream), mughlai cuisine is not your everyday fare. It is once in a while thing in our kitchen but something which we look forward to at mealtime.Those are the days when we don’t care about calorie counting or healthy eating. Nothing can beat the indulgence of soaking up all of that nutty sauce in yeasty naans or ladling it over hot steaming basmati.Nothing compares to the comfort that such hearty food brings.
The most important thing to be kept in mind when preparing mild curries is that you cannot go overboard with your selection of ingredients.That regal flavor of korma sauce needs deft proportions keeping in mind that one ingredient does not overpower the other. On those rare three or four occasions in a year when we dined out at the Karims, a place nestled in lanes of the Jama Masjid in Purani Dilli (Old Delhi), a restaurant with great history and luscious mughlai food delicacies, dad always fondly remarked how perfect this dish was done there ,a single morsel of the sauce tasting of tang from yogurt with pleasant richness from the nuts & dairy and finishing notes of warmth from cardamom, he said.I clearly remember that korma there had this distinct hint of kewra(screw pine essence) and with a simple jeera pilaf, it was all you could want at that particular time and day in your life.
It took a few attempts to come up with this recipe keeping in mind those expectations and the memories.I do not claim to taste like restaurants, but this recipe is definitely a keeper. It came out pretty good, if I say so myself and we really enjoyed it.
I use a bit of turmeric in mainly for the color and to enhance that hue,I finish the sauce with saffron infused in milk at the end.If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking).Another unusual thing in my recipe is the addition of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), a flavor which I really enjoy in creamy curries, you can skip if you like.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1.25 lb chicken thighs, boneless & skinless, cut into bite size pieces (see notes)
5-6 tbsp heavy cream (I quantity can up to 1/2 cup, depending how how rich you like)
a generous pinch of good quality saffron (crushed between palms to fine dust),soaked in 1 tbsp warm milk
1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
1/2 tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp golden raisins
Chopped cilantro for garnish
I like to use dark chicken meat when making curries but you can go ahead and use chicken breast in this recipe too. Even bone in chicken will work.Just remember to adjust the cooking time so that the meat dosent dry out or remain uncooked.
Hung yogurt is nothing but yogurt tied up in a cheesecloth/muslin and hung for 30-40 minutes to let its water drain.
Indian cinnamon is very sharp as compared to western sweet cinnamon. If using the latter, go ahead and add a bit more.
If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking in milk) at the end.
Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry using a paper towel. Mix up lemon juice, 3 tbsp yogurt, garam masala, pepper powder, salt, ginger & garlic in a small bowl to a thick paste and rub this paste over the chicken. Marinate the chicken for atleast 4 hours or preferably overnight, refrigerated.
When ready to cook the korma, takeout the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit on the kitchen counter. Soak the cashews and melon seeds (if using) 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, about8-10 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 light brown. Add the soaked cashews and melon seeds(if using) next along with green chillies. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low now and add the coriander, turmeric along with 2/3 cup hung yogurt. Do not stir immediately else the yogurt will curdle. Wait for atlas a minute and then slowly stir around to mix yogurt with everything else in the pot.Cook the yogurt along with the masala for 5-7 minutes on low heat until you see oil separating on the sides.Put the stove off, pick out the bay leaf & cinnamon,about half of the cloves & cardamom and tip rest of the contents into a blender. The mixture is going to be hot so wait for 10-15 minutes before you start blending it.Blend (do not use water if possible during blending).I do not make a very smooth paste, you could 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 marinated chicken on both sides.You do not need to brown but a light sear is just about enough. You could do this is batches. Once all the chicken is seared, add all of it together along the blended sauce to the pot. Stir around on and cook on medium- low heat. The chicken will render its moisture and fat as it cooks and the sauce will thicken and deepen in color.Let cook till the chicken is about 95% cooked, about 6-8 minutes.
Next, add the water 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 boil on medium. Next add the cream, saffron infused milk, cardamom powder, sugar and raisins. Let simmer (not boil) for 8-10 minutes on very low heat. Once simmered, put off the heat and let sit covered for 2 hours.
All I think of at the first sight of pomegranates in the grocery stores is to fold the plump ruby jewels with sweetish velvety yogurt and pair the raita with some kind of a spicy pilaf. To me, pulao/pilaf is a very ‘to taste’ thing in indian cuisine. It is like an assortment of things with any sort of grain, mostly rice in our case – quick, one pot but hearty. On days when mom was not in much of mood to cook, she would make some kind of a pulao – with vegetables, beans, dried lentil nuggetsor chicken. There would be pickles, salad and raita to serve along.
Come November and the knock of winter winds brought with itself a sudden rush of green and fresh produce in the vegetable bazaars of Delhi.After long, humid and harsh summers,the next few months presented a respite and a chance to indulge in cooking and eating.On few Saturdays I would accompany mom to the sabzi bazaar. Wrapped in my favorite pashmina shawl, we walked out of the house for an early evening stroll and later to purchase vegetables for the week.Those few hours were spent inhaling the crisp autumn air and watching how the nip in the air got people out of their homes, the pleasing sights of street food carts beaming with everybody, eating, chatting and sharing a quick snack with families.We stopped here and there to get buy and bargain fresh eggs, bread and dairy before reaching the sabzibazaar.Most of the faces at the bazaar were known, for it has been a place of trade between the same set of people for decades.
Mom would patiently listen to household stories of few sabzi wallas(vendors), of their children not studying at school or the gas prices going up. Few complained about government not doing much for the poor and few praising their farms for such fine produce. In India, such is a way of life, so may day-to-day people slowly connect to your life and you do not even realize, it is how the society operates.I always loved to tag along with her for grocery trips just to observe how she would choose vegetables – touching them, sniffing a few, closely inspecting each piece below the flickering bulbs on the stalls of thela-wallas (street vendors with wooden wheeled carts),she took her time to select. If few of the vendors were in a mood, they would slice off a couple of apples or pluck few greens and let her taste before buying.Thick,dark-skinned capsicum to yellowish cauliflower heads to fragrant methi (fenugreek) and soa (dill) bunches to ruby kashmiri anar (pomegranates) and apples, each sample of produce brought with itself an opportunity for deliciousness.
The onset of winters also meant there would be lots of wholesome,hearty meals in the house full of warm spices and herbs. There would be exotic,rich curries and layered biryanis and indulgent desserts. Mom would make a lot of quick rice dishes to keep our stomachs nourished & satisfied. The house would be enveloped in the pungent aroma of mustard oil and earthy fragrance of basmati rice bubbling on the stove. This is one of her favorite recipes which I have changed to our liking over the years, she did not add bell peppers or potatoes, but I love the combination of both of these with chickpeas and rice so I do it more my way now. A weekly regular in our house with all kinds of variations each time.
Ingredients (Serves 3)
You could use canned chickpeas and cut down the cooking time to half but I recommend starting with dried chickpeas and cooking them in water because the resultant delicious stock will flavor the rice immensely.
For the Chickpeas (Skip this step if using canned chickpeas)
1 cup dried raw chickpeas
2 + 1/4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp oil
For the Pulao(Pilaf)
3/4 cup basmati rice
1.5 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt (skip for vegan)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika, this gives the color not the heat)
4 tbsp mustard oil (or use canola/vegetable/olive oil)
1/2 ” cinnamon stick (indian cinnamon is very sharp so I use less, adjust if using sweet cinammon)
Optional – golden raisins, silvered almonds, cashews.
Soak the chickpeas in enough water overnight or atleasrt 8-10 hours.Drain & discard the water and add the chickpeas to the pressure cooker along with baking soda, salt, water and oil. Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles on medium heat or till chickpeas are fork tender. The cooking time and number of whistles will depend on quality and size of the chickpeas and alson on pressure cooker. I use small variety chickpeas which pressure cook in about 20 minutes. If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid or your dutch over to cook the chickpeas for roughly 45-50 minutes or till fork tender. Once the chickpeas are cooked,drain and reserve the liquid (stock). Set aside.
Skip the above steps if using canned chickpeas. Open up the can and run the chickpeas under a stream of water, drain and set aside.
Wash the basmati rice under 2-3 times under a running stream of water till the water runs clear. Soak in 1.5 cups of water for 15 minutes. (You can do this while the chickpeas are cooking). Also, mix the yogurt with garam masala and kashmiri red chill powder. Set aside. If making for vegans, skip the yogurt and add these spices when you add the tomatoes.
In a wide bottomed heavy pot with lid (I use my 3 qt dutch oven), heat up the mustard oil on medium till you see little ripples on the surface and the raw smell goes away. Add cinnamon,mace bay leaf and cloves and cardamom. Wait till they crackle and you smell a nice aroma. 10-15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic next. Cook till they are light brown. About 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes next along with red chili and turmeric powder. Cook for 2-3 minutes just till the tomatoes begin to soften. Reduce heat to low and add the yogurt mixed with spices. Do not stir immediately else yogurt will curdle. Wait for 30 seconds and gently on low heat(very important) incorporate the yogurt in the masala. Cook for another 1-2 minutes on low heat till the masala starts getting shiny and turning deep reddish- brown in color. Add the potatoes & ginger next and cook along with the masala for another 1-2 minutes.
Next, drain & discard all the water from the soaking rice and add soaked rice and chickpeas to the pot. Do not stir. Measure and add the required quantity of stock (reserved from boiling chickpeas) to the pot. The quantity of stock added should be added as required by your variety of rice(My rice variety cooks in 2:1 ratio of rice to water, I add 2 tbsp extra stock ). (In case you are using canned chickpeas, add chicken/vegetable stock or plain water).
Once you have added the water, check and adjust the salt of the liquid (normally it should be little extra salty at the beginning since the rice will soak up the stock). Also add crushed kasuri methi to. Gently stir now (else the soaked rice will break) and let the rice soak in stock for another 15 minutes.
Once the rice has soaked, cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let cook covered for another 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, open the lid and add the bell peppers to the pot and very lightly mix them in with the help of a fork. Cover and let cook on low for another 2 minutes. After this, put off the stove and let sit for atleast 15 minutes.
Open the lid and add the ghee (if using) along with cilantro, nuts (if using), raisins(is using) on top and gently fluff the rice with fork.
Serve warm with raita(recipe below), salad and pickle.
Pomegranate Raita (Spiced Yogurt)
Ingredients (Serves 3)
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt,cold
1 tsp granulated sugar (or to taste)
1/4 tsp heaped roasted cumin powder
a light pinch of dried mint leaves, crush to dust between hands (optional)
1/2 tsp chaat masala (a tangy spice mix available in indian/pakistani stores or online)
1/2 tsp black salt (this salt is tangy, substitute with regular)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder (or cayanne, adjust to taste)
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (or more/less you like)
salt to taste
Few fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Beat the yogurt with everything except the pomegranate seeds & salt to smooth. I like the raita thick but if you can thin it with little water if you like. Refrigerate the yogurt for 20 minutes.Just before serving mix in the pomegranate seeds and salt. Sprinkle cilantro. Serve.
The thought of eating steaming rice mixed with thick, chili hued masala from the curry fills me with as much joy as that of a kid waiting upon a bowl of macaroni & cheese. In our house, a weekday suddenly turns exciting when its egg curry for dinner. It is not an immensely difficult meal to prepare and trust me it spoils your taste buds given how quick it is ready to serve. I use my basic masala recipe with a few whole spices added in.
The husband can live on eggs and for me, particularly at this time of the year when the evenings are colder, diving into a thick tomato gravy with redolent of kasuri methi and warm tones of ginger is enough to drive me hungry out of turn.
In India, egg curry is an immensely popular dish. Usually, hard-boiled eggs are thrown in the home specific curry recipe and served as a protein side to the meals. The recipe varies from home to home as well as region to region. The north indians mostly prepare it in a tomato – onion base while the south indian version is done with coconut & curry leaves.Few regions use a mustard paste base and fry up the lightly hard-boiled eggs before dunking them in the sauce.It is commonly served as a side to flatbreads or plain rice.
My mum always used to add fresh peas to the gravy but the husband prefers potatoes so I started making it that way. If you get a chance, fresh peas, sweet and tender beautifully balance the heat of the spices but potatoes taste quite delicious and comforting too.You can use just eggs too depending on how you like it. The gravy is very flavorful with normal day-to-day spices used in and comes together quickly while the eggs boil.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1 generous pinch turmeric powder
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into halves or quarters
3-4 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with canola/grapeseed oil)
1 green cardamom, cracked open
1/4″ cinnamon stick
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 small garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger (adjust quantity to taste)
1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped (slight sour variety)
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/8 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
1/2 cup water (or more depending on desired consistency)
1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, skip if you do not have)
Fresh cilantro to garnish – as much as you want
Hard Boil the eggs. I use this recipe to get perfectly hard -boiled eggs.
Peel the eggs, slit (but not all the way through) them using a sharp knife and rub them with a generous pinch of turmeric powder and let sit.
In a heavy bottomed pot, add the oil and heat on medium – high till you see faint ripples on the oil surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat it a little longer till to do away the raw smell.Reduce heat to medium. Add the cardamom and cinnamon stick and let crackle for 10-120 seconds. Add the finely chopped onions next and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes.
Next, add the garlic & ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling a nice aroma.Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with coriander,turmeric,chilli,garam masala & amchoor powder. Start to cook this masala on low heat. After about 3-4 minutes add the potatoes, cover and cook the masala till you see the oil separating on the sides of the pan. About 8-10 minutes. In between, if you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some water. .This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, do not rush.Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color and the potatoes are 90% done.
Add the turmeric rubbed eggs to the pot, sprinkle the kasuri methi, add more water (if you want a thinner gravy),cover and let cook for another 5-7 minutes. Put off the stove and let sit at least 2 hours before serving.
Whenever I pick up a bundle of palak(spinach) at the grocery store -all organic & prewashed & ready to serve and what not, always, without a miss, I think about the vegetable patch(es) in my grandmother’s house,a house where I lived in some 18 years back, having a backyard planted with tomatoes and okra during summers and cauliflowers & potatoes during winters.One where the air would strongly smell of agarbatti (incense sticks) in the evenings which were often lighted to wade away the bugs from the eggplant bush, one which had rows dotted with yellow and orange marigolds & english roses.One where each morning,I strolled along the narrow, wet sidewalks brushing my teeth,bending down to sniff the strong fragrance of tulsi (holy basil) plants.One where I spent a lot of childhood days,counting the ready-to-pluck green beans and tearing leaves apart to spot the cabbage buns. A backyard where you could find us after coming back from school, dressed in printed cotton frocks,bare feet, digging mud and playing hide and seek within the squash creepers.
I visited India last year and everything is the same, the yard still planted with seasonal crop but now more taken care of by maali (gardener) than the family. Mom made dal and she sprinkled a bunch of chopped coriander leaves on top,picked from there. I plucked a few narangi (indian kumquat) from the bush which has now turned into a small tree in all theses years and popped it into my mouth with a pinch of salt, the burst of citrus tang running goose pimples all over my body, bringing memories with itself of the days when squirts of that sweet acid graced our daliya (breakfast porridge) every now and then. I tore up a few spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves and chewed on them, a wish which I had nestled for so many years to experience that unforgettable earthly, delicate taste all over again.
I wanted our daughter to play and get her hands dirty in the mud but she could barely crawl at that time, so that fun has to wait till our next visit. But, embraced in all these memories, I made this murgh (chicken) saag (any leafy green) last week and she really loved it. This recipe is a perfect balance of greens and protein to nourish kids and adults alike.You would have seen this dish on indian restaurant’s menus a lot. But it is not something I grew up with. I started making it regularly a couple of years back, mostly around my pregnancy years when I craved spinach all the time. This recipe has evolved a lot from the first time I cooked it.
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
For the Spice Rub on Chicken
4-5 whole dry kashmiri red chilies (adjust to tolerance)
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
2 small black cardamom pods, cracked open
2 tsp black peppercorns (adjust to tolerance)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2″ pieces
1 tsp canola or sunflower oil
Rest of the Ingredients
6-8 oz fresh spinach leaves (~ a little more than 1 cup spinach puree)
1/4- 1/3 cup water (depending on desired consistency of sauce)
3-4 tbsp heavy cream
Wash thoroughly and pat the chicken pieces completely dry. Set aside. In a small pan, dry roast the kashmiri chilies, coriander seeds, cloves, fennel,methi, cumin and black peppercorns. Transfer to a coffee grinder and coarsely grind. Mix the ground spices with turmeric, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, add the chicken, drizzle the oil and sprinkle half of the ground spices and rub so that all the pieces are covered in the spices. Reserve the rest of the spice rub. Cover the bowl and set in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours or preferably overnight to marinate.
Once ready to cook,take the chicken out from the refrigerator and let sit on kitchen counter.Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Put off the heat.Add the spinach leaves to the water and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Drain out the spinach leaves and puree in the food processor using little water if required. You can reserve the boiled water to thin out the sauce later if you want.
Meanwhile,heat up the mustard oil in another wide, heavy bottomed pot. Add the cinnamon, bay leaf and let crackle. Add the onions and garlic next. Let cook for 5-8 minutes on medium low heat until the onion starts to turn brown. At this point, carefully add the chicken pieces to the pot in a single layer (if possible), and on medium high heat, let the chicken pieces sear on one side. Flip and let sear on all sides. Next, add the tomatoes, ginger and remaining ground spice powder to the pot. Stir around and let cook on medium heat till you see, tomatoes turn soft and oil just starting to separate on the side of the pan.It might take 8-10 minutes since the chicken will also release its juices but keep on cooking.
Once you see that the chicken is about 80% cooked, add the pureed spinach along with the garammasala. Combine and cover till the spinach blends in the sauce, the raw smell is gone, it turns down in color to dark green and the chicken is completely cooked, about 10-12 minutes on medium heat. You will see little glistening spinach bubbles on the top.Open the lid, add the kasuri methi and water (depending on the consistency you want). Let simmer for another 1-2 minutes.Add the heavy cream, check and adjust the salt, let simmer for 2-3 minutes more (but do not boil).
Let sit for 2-3 hours before serving.Warm up and serve.
You can use bone in chicken for this recipe. Use dark meat portions and make incisions in the flesh with a sharp knife before you marinate it.
When you puree the spinach, do not make a smooth paste out of it (that’s why I do not use a blender). Use as less water as possible when grinding spinach.
If you like a bit of smoky flavor then you can grill the chicken but I prefer searing it in the cooking pot itself.
You could use a mix of greens – kale and spinach work beautifully, so does spinach and methi(fresh fenugreek).
The addition of heavy cream makes the dish a lot tastier and rich but you can skip the cream if you want.