The first thing to be spotted in markets at the turn of April or May as soon as the short fairytale called winter is over is okra pods. It probably tops the list of summer vegetables in India. I would compare the hue and cry about it to sight of fresh tomatoes here. I would accompany my grandmother to our daily vegetable vendor, leaned over his cart and gazed at the pile of okra that occupied half of the space and observed how my grandmother chose the dark green, soft, slender ones while arguing about how costly he sold his produce. Almost each week, sometimes more than once, okra formed a part of our meals. My mother tells me that it was my grandfather’s favorite vegetable so our family recipe repertoire is packed with a lot of ways to cook it. As the summer progressed, by the months of July and august and with the knock of monsoons and okra slowly losing their crisp texture, only then the focus shifted to other vegetables.
However, it was not until I met the husband that I cooked okra with potatoes. Kid you not, I had not even heard about it in all my years of living in northern parts. It’s hard to say if his suggestion to do so was driven by his childhood food memories or his obnoxious need to combine potatoes with each and every food group possible, but the deal didn’t get too bad here and these two vegetables worked beautifully the first time I cooked them. We continued discussing for many years, each chance I got to get okra home as to how the recipe can get better and better until I mastered it.
These emerald looking, slender beauties pair with earthly flavor of starchy potatoes so well. On the lines of stuffed okra, I always add fennel seeds to my okra recipes and you will need to do that to know how deliciously this grassy vegetable braces the liquorice of that spice.Try it. The deal with dealing with all the nuances which people associate with okra is not to go too stingy on oil quantity as well as not to let the vegetable steam too much while cooking. I cover it for no more than few initial minutes after its added to pan and then continue cooking uncovered till its done, this preserves the beautiful color as well as eliminates the chances of mushy okra.
Wash okra thoroughly under running water. After washing spread them on a kitchen towel and let air dry for at least 2 hours. If you are in a hurry, thoroughly wipe out the okra with paper towels so that they are completely dry.
Halve or quarter the okra lengthwise or cut as you like them. Discard the bottoms and tips.
Peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise. Try not cut them very thick or thin.
Heat up the oil on medium in a wide pan.Temper the oil with cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds. Let crackle. Add the potatoes to the pan, sprinkle a pinch of salt,stir around to coat the potatoes. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let the potatoes cook till 50%done.
Add the sliced onions and garlic next ,fry for 3-4 minutes till they start to soften and the onion starts turning brown on the edges.
Add the okra, powdered spices (except sugar, chaat masala & garam masala) and salt to the wok and mix well. Cover the lid and let cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. The okra will soften and start looking deep green .
Remove the lid, reduce heat to low and cook the okra for another 8-10 minutes till its cooked through and the potatoes are fork tender. Stir at intervals to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Once the okra & onions are soft,turn the heat to high, sprinkle the sugar and garam masala and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Each summer, last few days of school before the break started were hectic. Even after the vacations started, I remember going to school for extra classes during the high school year. By the time I returned home around noon, I was welcomed in the verandah of our house filled with the intoxicating aroma that emanated from the khus ki chik, a rustic kind of air conditioner made from reeds and laid in the form of window blinds, using the loo (indian summer winds) as a natural fan to cool the space inside. Clasping the finger numbing cold tumbler of rose sherbet that mom kept ready in the refrigerator, I stationed myself in the lobby to observed ladies of the house sitting on the jute chatai (mat) on the floor. There were all sorts of labelled containers of what is inside what around them and stained brass paraat (wide, shallow plates) infront. Sitting with legs neatly folded on top of each other, very immaculately, they picked the lentils, sometimes arguing teasingly or plainly gossiping about relatives and neighbors,their deft fingers, picking the little stones or unhusked bits all the time.They scanned through minute grains scattered in the shallow dish, separating one from the other, unmistakably picking out the hard inedible parts and segregating the cleaned portion towards the other side of the paraat.
I guess ‘picking’ the lentils is a ritual followed in many indian homes, even though most of the lentils available in the markets these days are clean and processed. It’s a kitchen habit that is passed from a generation to other, more as a traditional than need. If it’s not an arduous number of hours to be spent, a vigilant scan of the beans and lentils is what I go through each time I am about to wash or soak.
In those years, it was dal – chawal for lunch or dinner everyday. The variety of lentil changed and so did its preparation and tempering but the menu, though a bit monotonous remained comforting. On bright, sunny summer evenings, chunks of fleshy lauki (indian summer gourd) were added to chana daal, slow cooked till the squash softened and then the turmeric hued boiled lentils were topped with a tadka (tempering) of slow caramelized onions & browned garlic, filling the kitchen with aroma ofghee & smoky cumin & green chillies. Fresh dhaniya (coriander leaves), exuberantly priced during summer months was especially purchased from our daily vegetable vendor, to be finely chopped and scattered while the daal was still hot. It did make a lot of difference.
If you know even a little about indian food, you would know that lentils are an everyday part of our meals, be it any time of the year. There are numerous ways of preparing and tempering them, native to each region of the country. The flavorings can vary from coconut, sugar, garlic to tomato based to curried to what not. This daal is my summer favorite. I guess every family has its own twist on it. Some temper it with just cumin, leaving out the garlic or onions, while some prepare it with coconut and mustard seeds. I had the opportunity to taste a variation tempered with curry leaves at one of my friend’s place. There is no right or wrong, just a choice. This is the beauty of indian food, it has no set rules. The same basic ingredients convert to a delicious outcome depending on who is handling them.Here, in my recipe, you could or could not add the squash even though it makes it hearty. Paired with rotis or steamed rice, salad and a dollop of chili achaar, it is such a satisfying complete meal for hot evenings.
2-3.5 cups of water (adjust depending on the desired consistency)
1 small bottle gourd (peeled and cut into 2″ batons)
Lime juice to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish
For the Tadka (Tempering to be added after the lentils have cooked)
3-4 tablespoon ghee (or use oil for vegan version)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small clove
generous pinch of hing powder (asafoetida)
1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2-3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 dried whole kashmiri chillies
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)
Replace lauki (bottle gourd) with your choice of summer squash (yellow squash is a good choice over green ones). You can skip the squash all together too.
The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time would be more.
Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form.A little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to daal but can be skipped if you do not have it.
If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but any neutral oil or olive oil is fine.
Thoroughly wash the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, ginger (if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 3-4 whistles (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.
If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30-40 minutes or till 95% cooked.
Once you open the lid, with the help of a whisk or a spoon, mash the lentils a bit so that they are chunky-smooth consistency. I like my lentils to have some texture, however you can mash them to consistency desired.
Add the chunks of lauki and return the pressure cooker to the stove. Cover with a plate or a lid and let simmer (not pressure cook) on medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the gourd is completely soft. If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Ideally, for this kind of daal, once it’s cooked, the grain should be intact in its shape but completely soft or cracked to look at.
While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds & clove, let crackle, about 15-20 seconds. Add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the onions and garlic and let cook till they are golden brown, taking care not to burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and cover so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.
Since last year, our indian grocer is bringing to us green mango exports straight from the heart of India. Whats different about them you would ask? They are much smaller in size, fibrous & sour and bring back picture perfect memories of those pickles & sharbatin the kitchen that I have grown up on. I am making chutney with them, as well as adding them to lentils.
However, such special things do always come with a big price tag (I paid $12 for 5 small pieces), so after spending that fortune last week, I made sure to come up with something new. After much thinking, this granita was made to beat the extreme summers that have hit our part of the world.
On a different note, this summer, I have been lucky with homegrown herbs and a little vegetable patch after trying hard for years. Each year my pots fell victim to weeds and heat but this time, so far all looks great. Even a small twig of it feels so rewarding. I used homegrown mint to infuse the refreshing notes in this recipe. It is the tang of the green mangoes enhanced with sweet lemon & tart lime juice and grassy heat of the green chili which makes it special, along with a much-needed refreshing notes from fresh, homegrown mint to a lightly sweet, healthy dessert for summer months. Granita (in Italian also granita siciliana) is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings. Originally from Sicily, it has a coarser texture. It is a very simple thing to make except that you need to stare open at a freezer scraping the bowl every other hour or so.
So if you do not desire to put in the baby sitting it needs, turn the same recipe to a sorbet. It tastes as good.
1.5 tablespoon fresh lime juice (adjust quantity depending on how tart the mangoes are)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (adjust quantity depending on how tart the mangoes are)
1.5 teaspoon black salt (kala namak, reduce amount if the mangoes are really tart)
1/4 teaspoon regular salt ( or to taste)
Wash the mangoes. Bring the water to a rolling boil in a pot and add the whole mangoes. Let boil on high heat for 5-8 minutes or until the skin turns pale and they are slightly soft to touch(take care that the mango skins do not break open). Take the mangoes out of boiling water and leave to cool off. Once cooled, peel off (the skin will separate in a squeeze) and discard the skins.
While the magpies are boiling, in another small pot, combine sugar and water and place over medium heat,cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the stove, immediately add the mint stems and leaves and leave aside to steep for about 3-5 minutes (do not leave for too long else the syrup will turn bitter). Strain the syrup through a sieve and let cool down.
Transfer the mango flesh and green chili( if using) to a blender and pulse to smooth. Take out in a large bowl and add the mint simple syrup, lime & lemon juice, black salt and salt to taste to it. Mix to combine. Strain through a sieve to a smooth mixture.
Pour mixture into a 11 inch by 7 inch glass pan. Cover and let freeze for 1 hour and 30 minutes uncovered. Scrape the icy edges with a fork. Freeze again. Scrape every 45 minutes until completely frozen (about 6-8 hours). Remove from freezer every hour or so; scrape with a fork until fluffy. Once semi solid ice crystals are formed, scrape till fluffy.Cover tightly and freeze. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep frozen.
Scrape granita into bowls and serve garnished with lime wedges and mint.Dust with a pinch of chaat masala or black salt just before serving(optional).
The summer mornings at my badi mummy’s (grandma) house started early with preparing for meals ahead that day. By the time I walked down half sleepy to the lobby, the central area of our house where the whole family gathered for chai in the mornings, at meal times or just to sit chatting away, the “lobby” with tiny pink and ivory marble pieces embedded in the floor and a fish aquarium decorating one corner of the wall facing the door that opened into the backyard, I would often find her either chopping vegetables,segregating them into what will be for which mealtime, kneading the dough , picking the lentils or just involved in some kitchen chore.A half filled teacup always on her side on top of a newspaper folded in quarters which she read in between of being busy.I inched to sit close to her and see what her keep busy.I would flip a few pages of the newspaper and often she told me ” hamare babuji 25 paise har mahene english padne ke leye jayda dete they”(my father spent extra money each month to let me learn english at school). In the 1930s, many old women of her age in India would not be reading english newspapers or speaking the language at that time.
When it was the pickling season, the attention shifted from regular tasks to raw mangoes, baby limes and chilies.To tell you the truth the pungent smell of strong pickling spices along with the piquant aroma of virgin mustard oil would be the last thing you would want to sniff at 6 in the morning but her dedication and involvement towards this business was contagious. Attention to detail boiled down to sterilizing the knifes and kitchen towels that would or could touch those chilies and mangoes,leave alone the large glass containers and spoons or bowls. In that time of no fancy appliances,magic bullets and all, hand crushing the tough seeds of fenugreek and tiny rai (brown mustard) did not come easy if you lacked sincerity. She often covered her nostrils with the end of her cotton saree, which was especially worn in any other color but white that day to guard against stains and those fragile, slightly wrinkly hands worked energetically in unison with the heavy terra-cotta mortar & pestle. In between, she paused to wipe off the spice dust off her steel framed glasses but continued with double vigor in the next few minutes.I often wondered if there could be anything, anything in this whole wide world right now which could deter her attention.
For the next few hours, the coarse ground fenugreek, nigella, fennel and mustard seeds were mixed with copious amounts of turmeric powder and salt and then doused in liters of raw, virgin mustard oil, the pungent oil, which my kitchen still feels lifeless without for I have consumed it right from childhood days. Half of the mixture was separated for the mango pickle to which she would add more chili powder later and the rest was stuffed inside plum,red peppers with slightly shriveled skin from a day or two of sun drying prior to pickling. The jars would be situated in sun to ferment for week or ten days and she found something else to keep her busy like no other.
Having lived on homemade pickles all those years of growing up, I could never acquire a taste for the store-bought ones.My tastebuds can make out the slightest hints of those citric acid and preservatives. It is my aim every season to make at least one pickle. Last year it was raw mangoes and prior to that I pickled no oil limes. It was the turn of red chili peppers as soon as I spotted them at Whole foods this time. Over the years, I have slightly changed the recipe to be more like my mom’s. Instead of stuffing the whole red chili peppers, I slit them in half and then stuff the halves. Thats the only change I have made to my badi mummy‘s recipe.
Ingredients (Makes 40 halves of pickled chilies and extra spice (masala) & oil )
18-20 whole red chili peppers (I used Fresno)
pinch of salt
4 tablespoon rai (brown mustard seeds)
2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon Nigella seeds
1.5 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1.5 tablespoon amchoor (dry mango powder, buy online here )
2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
300-350 ml virgin mustard oil, divided (or use olive oil, see notes)
You could use the same recipe to make whole stuffed red chili peppers.Instead of halving them, simply, remove the seeds and stuff with the spices.
Never under salt the pickle, it will go bad within few weeks.
If you do not like the strong taste of mustard oil, you can heat it up to do away the raw smell, cool down and then add. Or you can use olive oil in this recipe if you do not get mustard oil. The flavor of the pickle is slightly different from traditional but it works.
This is not an instant pickle recipe, the pickle is sun fermented and takes 7-10 days (or more depending on strength of sun where you live to mature and get ready to consume.
Wash and pat dry the chilies. Cut and discard the top stem and the entire green portion, then cut them into half. I discarded the seeds & veins of half the chillies,thats where the heat in the pickle comes from. You can remove seeds for all of them if you want. Layer the chilies on a wide, non reactive shallow dish, sprinkle a scant pinch of salt.
Using your coffee grinder, coarsely pulse the mustard, fennel, nigella & fenugreek seeds separately (this is important).You do not need to make a fine powder, if few specks of whole spices remain, its okay. In a small bowl mix the powdered spices together with turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt and amchoor.Taste the spice mix for salt, it should be slightly more salty than you think. Add 2-3 tablespoon mustard oil just so that the spice powder is moistened. This will be make it easy to stuff the chilies.
With dry hands, stuff whole or each half of the chilies with this spice mixture. Place the stuffed chili pepper in a wide glass dish (I use my pyrex). Add 200 ml of mustard oil, any spice mixture remaining and gently mix so that the chilies are coated in oil. At this point, the achaar will have a very strong smell and a bitter taste but that’s okay. Allow it to stand in full sun for two days. Try to stir the achaar once or twice a day with a clean, dry spoon.
On the third day transfer the achaar into a glass or porcelain jar (do not use a metal container) , check and adjust the salt and top with remaining oil and mix well. Cover the mouth of the jar with a muslin cloth, tie with a string and let mature for seven to ten days in sun. (this time will depend on the strength of sun in the area you live).Stir the contents once or twice a day.
At the end of sun fermentation, the skin of chilies would have shrivelled and the strong, bitter taste will go away. Store at room temperature for up to 2-3 months. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickle.
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.
It was one of the most important day of my life as we drove through wide but still crowded roads due to evening traffic, long after sun down to Kashmiri Gate, to the university campus in Old Delhi to figure out if I made it to that year’s list of DCE or Delhi College of Engineering. I remember me and mom sat and waited in the car while dad walked out to check the notice board. Those fifteen minutes,that day, might have been the longest of my life, as I sat and observed the varied expressions of cheer and dismay on the faces of others coming out of the red-painted door and then walking towards the crowded parking lot. As many parents passed our car, clear among the noisy chaos of honks and shouting kin, I could hear the conversations of celebrations, as also the consoling whispers of ‘there are few more results left’. Every time those sounds touched my ears, my heart rejoiced for half a second and next moment, the random thoughts weaved an abyss against hope. I might have blinked my eyes lesser than usual, my throat felt dry and itchy but my glances just waited for dad to emerge out of that red-painted door. I could hear mom’s cell phone ringing constantly, every other relative & rest of the family calling in to check if I ‘got through’. She pretended to be normal, but I could segregate the egdy tones of anxiety when she uttered ‘pata nahi‘ (don’t know).
The engineering entrance exam system in India gets more tough each year than the actual exam itself mainly due to the exponential increase in number of takers. Colleges in big metropolitan cities are more sought after and it definitely boils down to minute differences in performance to rank you higher or not. I had been preparing for this exam for almost a year and as expected I was nervous on the result day. Badly.
It was 7:43 pm. Dad emerged out of the door with a flat face.My heart skipped a beat and I started sweating like a pig. I could feel my ear lobes turning red and my throat choking. We could not keep inside the car anymore and I forced myself and ran to him. Mom rushed after. I looked at him with deer eyes.He still kept a straight face. I don’t remember but for the first time in last fifteen minutes I would have opened my palms to clutch his sleeve. He looked at us and with the most lovely smile spreading across his face that I might have witnessed ever, he said ‘ho gaya, mithai khilao‘ (You got in, get the sweets!). Tears rolled down my eyes. Music to my ears. The world at my feet. I was through!
Mithai or sweets form an integral part of indian culture.Each occasion of life is celebrated with them.The streets and neighborhood of the country are dotted with sweet shops and if you find ever yourself stuck in a desert, you would be less than a mile away from one. ‘Peda‘ is one of the popular sweets from the ‘Uttar Pradesh’, the part of India my mother hails from and these are essentially fudgy, thick, semi soft, sweet chunks made with mava (milk solids)sugar and ghee. However, these fudgy cashew almond peda, I made are dairy free as well as need very few ingredients for preparation.My daughter loves any mithai made with cashews, so these were mainly made for her though we enjoyed them as well. The slight hints from the orange paired very well with the nuts even though the aroma of sweet green cardamom is more prominent. These could get addictive. These gluten-free, vegan balls can be an excellent after school snack. Make some and enjoy!
Glutenfree, Dairy Free & Vegan sweet fudge made with cashew and almond meal.
Ingredients (Makes 25 )
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1.5 cup cashew nut meal (or powdered raw cashews)
1 cup almond meal (or powdered raw almonds)
1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
6 green cardamom pods, seeds crushed
1 tbsp ghee (optional, required during kneading, use any vegan substitute)
1/2 cup powdered sugar to roll
In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 12″ skillet) or a kadhai, mix up the sugar and water. Set the pan on low flame and let the sugar dissolve. Stir (I use my rubber spatula) the solution once or twice while the sugar dissolves so that the sugar does not stick to bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, grease the surface that you will be using to knead with 1/2 tablespoon ghee.
Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add the cashew and almond meal to the pan. Mix everything and brace yourself for some hard work. Keep on stirring and stirring as the mix cooks on low flame. The process will be slow in the beginning and you will feel that it will take forever but do not worry. Keep on stirring, scraping the mixture on low flame, do not let the mixture stick to the sides of the skillet.
After about 20-22 minutes, you will see that the mixture starts thickening and coming together.We will shortly be getting there, once the mixture is thick, do not bother much about scraping the sides as they will be really dry. Around 24 minutes, the mixture will start resembling a soft, sticky dough and will clump up around the spatula. If you try to bring the mixture together in one place on the skillet, it will try to slowly spread (similar to how a glug of cold honey spreads on a surface). Mix in the orange zest and crushed cardamom. Put off the stove.
Immediately transfer to the greased surface and leave to cool a bit until its safe to handle.Once the dough has cooled slightly, rub a teaspoon of ghee on your hands and very gently knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Remember that the dough needs to be warm when you knead so just wait till its safe to touch, do not let it cool down completely, else it will not knead and remain grainy.Do not press very hard as you knead else the nuts will start oozing their oil. You can grease you hands or the dough with ghee in between if it starts feeling sticky.
While the kneaded dough is still warm, pinch small portions of it and roll into a smooth ball. Roll the balls in powdered sugar.
Once cooled, store the peda in air tight container for up to a week.
Thank you for stopping by!
The time of cooking noted in this recipe will vary if you are using any other kind of sugar than granulated, since the water content of different varieties of sugar is different.
You can use any kind of flavorings – saffron or kewra (screw pine water) instead of orange zest & cardamom.
I adore seafood, as you might already be noticing on the blog and on my Instagram feed. Quite a few seafood dishes popping every other day! I seem to have inherited this love from both my parents. Growing up, unlike may north indian homes, fish and prawns formed an integral part of our meals.Right from purchasing the freshest catch to patiently cooking the bought, mom and dad made sure that through growing years, our taste buds acquired an afffinty for food from the sea . Even though fresh water fish is still more popular with my family members and going by the rules, it is not food from the “sea” but you know what I mean.
Continuing my desire to develop new ways of consuming fish,I am always on a look out for ideas.Talking about ideas, I have been eating this quick salmon bowl for lunch quite a lot these days. It is quick, healthy and does not leave you with that “heavy” feeling kind of meal. I could go for a jog after this, no kidding!
I have talked about Indo chinese flavors at length in so many of my previous post. Here,here and here. These two strong asian cuisines marry again and again inside my wok, always leaving me amazed at the robust flavor of the resulting dishes. We simply adore the flavors in our home, though strict foodies(without being at fault) will dismiss it away categorizing it as unauthentic.
When you are a foodie, you draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. When I visited my local asian store a couple of weeks back, I was drawn towards the teriyaki salmon bowls on display at their asian section. Tad overpriced at first look but then I notched forward and spotted big chunks of orange salmon glazed in a beautiful dark amber colored sauce, spliced with chilies and colorful , glossy vegetables on the side.The meal was indeed mouth watering and made complete sense. Immediately, the idea of playing with indo chinese crossed my mind. Grabbing my grocery bags in both hands, I yearned to get into my kitchen and stir up something. This recipe came up on a whim.I did not even intend to post it but the colors looked so gorgeous once I plated that I took out the camera. It could be a great dinner option too. Just double the recipe for two people and if you have the time and inclination, stir up some vegetable fried rice. The aromatic indian spices, dashes of salty soy sauce & vinegar complement the rich fatty salmon in an excellent way along with the quick sweet tangy pickled vegetables which add that much-needed freshness in contrast to strong savory seasonings.
An easy recipe of salmon chunks stir fried with asian flavors. Use it as an outline and play around with the sauces/condiments used to suit your taste.
For the Salmon
1 no 6oz to 8 oz salmon fillet
1.5 teaspoon dark soy
1 fat garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoon white vinegar (adjust to taste)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (this is a strong-tasting oil, substitute with untoasted sesame oil or any neutral oil)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 fat garlic, finely chopped
1 small Thai green chili, minced (adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
Red chilli flakes to taste
1.5 tablespoon Maggi chilli tomato sauce (or use 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup mixed with cayenne)
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon honey (or to taste)
salt to taste
Add any kind of vegetables, scallions, bok choy etc to this recipe while cooking.
You could add dashes of Sriracha or hot sauce for additional heat.
For the Pickled Vegetables
3 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Thai green chilli, minced
salt to taste
2-3 radish, julienned
1 small persian cucumber, julienned
1/3 cup leftover steamed jasmine or plain rice (optional)
Using a sharp knife, cut the salmon fillet in small cubes. In a bowl, transfer the cubes and mix the soy, minced garlic, vinegar and sesame oil with it. Let sit for 10 minutes.
While the salmon is marinating, proceed to make the pickled vegetables. In another bowl, mix up the vinegar, sugar, salt and minced green chili. Mix. Add the julienned vegetables and refrigerate.
In a pan or wok, heat up the canola oil to smoky. Immediately add the chopped shallot, garlic and ginger. Saute for 1-2 minutes till you smell a nice aroma. Add the coriander powder. Saute for 1 minutes. Then add the marinated salmon text along with . Stir fry the salmon on high for 3-4 minutes. They cook up fast so keep a close eye. Towards the last minute of cooking add the chill-tomato sauce,red chill flakes,garam masala, honey and adjust the salt. Also, check the tang from vinegar at the end of cooking. You can some more if you like. Sprinkle fresh cilantro.
Serve immediately alongside some leftover rice and pickled vegetables from the refrigerator.
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 masalaand 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.
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
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.
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 mumwho 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.
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
If you do have chaat masala, add 3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika to the marinade.
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.
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.