You know I have madeÂ these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcasedÂ 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 cookerÂ 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,Â itÂ 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 servingÂ something away fromÂ the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signatureÂ recipe.It’s one of the recipes which sheÂ 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 ingredientsÂ 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 isÂ 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 &Â kasuri methiÂ (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 Â 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 roastÂ 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.
IngredientsÂ Â (Makes 3-4 servings)
Cooking the Lentils
1/2 cup whole blackÂ uradÂ dalÂ (lentils)
2 tbsp red kidney beans
2Â tbspÂ ghee
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
1 fat garlic clove, chopped
1Â tejpattaÂ (bay leaf)
1/2″ cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
1/4 tspÂ hingÂ (asafoetida powder)
3-4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
For theÂ BaghaarÂ (Tempering)
Â 1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
3/4 teaspoonÂ cumin seeds
2 largeÂ tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
2Â teaspoonÂ kasuri methiÂ (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
1/4 teaspoonÂ garam masala
1/4 teaspoonÂ amchoorÂ (dry mango powder or squirtÂ fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2-3Â tablespoon butterÂ
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
Cilantro to garnish
Cooking the lentilsÂ Â (This can be done a day ahead)
Stove Top MethodÂ
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 2-3Â whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. OpenÂ the pressureÂ Â cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamonÂ 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 MethodÂ
Add the cooked beansÂ 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, cinnamonÂ 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 TemperingÂ
While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a smallÂ perforated panÂ but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and Â 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 orÂ 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 Â garlic. Saute for another 30 secondsÂ 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 3/4Â 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 theÂ kasuri methi, garam masala,Â nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using)Â 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 withÂ rotisÂ (flatbreads).
Long railway journeys.Picnics.Lunch.Festivals.Breakfast.Street Side Eating.Snacks.Dinner. Name the occasion and ‘poori‘, this deep-fried,unleavened bread has been my companion. Thin, thick, staining fingersÂ with oil, flavored with ajwain(carrom seeds)or not,crispy, soft – this little puffy bread Â has been a steady thing in our kitchen, bringing us comfort and gluttony(sigh!).I could trade saturday pancakes for these, for they will bring the same deliciousness to the table.
Poke your finger to puncture that crispy skin on top, bloated from the heat of deep-frying and chew on it.Â Combine it with a spicy potato slurry or jhol and you have an overdose of carbohydrates,but, trust me you couldÂ feel bad before eating these or after, but, never ever while eating jhol-poori.It is not a that healthy,’superfood’ thing, but most good things in life bring a fraction (or more) of guilt with them! Or so I think.
Chopped or pureed vegetables like spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves are many times added to the dough as variations. You could add a lot of or less powdered spices as per your liking. You could even mix up flours – semolina, cornmeal or all-purpose flour to whole wheat flour and fry up. The tastes and texture changes but the dough takes all for there is hardly anything deep-fried which tastes less than lavish. You get what I mean,right?
A hot cup of chai,Â staleÂ poorisÂ slathered with chutney or pickles rolled into a cigar in hand is how enjoy it the most but traditionally poorisÂ are served with a side – usually a spicy potato based dish(though in many parts they serve with meats and fruit purees too) and essentially achaar(pickle), mango or lime in my grandma’s house.In my family, the side curryÂ is cooked without onion and garlic and I still make it the same .However there are no rules, if my grandma was short on time, she would sometimes slice a few sweet mangoes or so with them. Basically, you get the idea – its is delicious with just about anything.
Jhol Poori is a combination which makes an appearance atleast once a month in our house if not more. In my mums house, this forms Sunday breakfast, every other sunday. While I knead the dough, the pressure cooker hisses and the potatoesÂ boil inside.A quick tempering with simple aromatics-pungent hing(asafoetoda),smoky cumin & turmeric hit the hot ghee followed by tomatoes, green chillies & ginger,awkwardly crumbledÂ potatoes join the pot, simmer for under twenty minutes or so and done. While traditionally jhol is a term used for much thinner, almost water like consistency, we like ours on the thickish gravy side, just go stingy on the amount of water that you add, everything else remains the same.
Aloo Jhol Recipe
Preparation Time :- 30 minutes
Cooking time – About 2 hours (Depends on cut, type & size of the meat)
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
1 lb stewing mutton/lamb/beef , cubed
2 medium potatoes,peeled & quatered (You can use any potatoes of choice)
2 nos indian bay leaves (tejpatta)
1 ” cinnamon stick
2 medium red onions, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp jaggery (or brown sugar to taste)
1/4 cup mustard oil (substitute with canola/vegetable/sunflower/grapeseed oil )
salt to taste
1.5 cups water
Chopped cilantro for garnish
For the spice paste:-
10-12 whole dry red chillies (I use kashmiri mirch)
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/4 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
2 tsp coriander seeds (dhania)
6 whole green cardamom pods (hari elaichi)
4 cloves (laung)
8 black peppercorns (kali mirch)
5 plump garlic cloves
2 ” fresh piece of ginger
Water for soaking the spices (about 1/4 cup)
Whole Kashmiri mirch lends a rich, deep scarlet color to the gravy without the heat & they are easily available in indian stores. You can de-seed the chillies to reduce heat further.The actual heat in the dish comes from the use of red chilli powder & black peppercorns. However, you can also adjust the amount to tolerance.
Soak the chillies, cumin , fennel & coriander seeds, cardamom pods, cloves & peppercorns in 1/4 cup water for about 15 minutes to soften. Drain & tip into a blender. Reserve the soaking liquid. Grind the soaked spices along with garlic & ginger to a smooth paste. Use the soaking liquid if required while grinding.
Marinate the cubed mutton in half of the spice paste for 15 minutes. Â While the mutton is marinating, heat up the oil in a heavy bottomed pot with lid on high heat till you see ripples on the surface. At this point reduce the heat to medium & wait for 2 minutes. Temper the oil withÂ tejpattaÂ & cinnamon stick. Wait for 15 seconds till you smell the aroma. Next, add the chopped onions to the pot & cook on medium heat with stirring till they turn golden brown.About 8-10 minutes.
Next, reduce the heat to low & add the chopped tomatoes along with the spice paste, red chilli powder & cook the mixture for about 8 minutes, stirring continously till you see oil separating on sides of the pot. At this point,again turn the heat to medium &Â add the marinated mutton & salt. Saute for 10-12 minutes till the mutton pieces are slightly browned. You will see water from mutton separating at this point but that’s okay.
Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low & let the lamb cook in its own juices till about 90% cooked. For the kind of mutton I used, it took approximately 40 minutes to reach that stage.Â You can use your slow cooker or pressure cooker also for cooking the mutton. I prefer to cook it lid on.
Add the potatoes & jaggery next along with 1.5 cups of water. Check the salt. Cook covered on low for another 20-25 minutes till the mutton is tender & potatoes are soft but not mushy.
Switch off the heat & let the curry sit covered for atleast 20 minutes or till ready to serve. Garnish with chopped cilantro & serve warm with salad,plain orÂ jeeraÂ rice.
Poori (Deep Fried Puffed Bread)
Ingredients (Makes 12-14 pooris)
1.5 cups atta (durum wheat flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds,optional)
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil (required while rolling the dough)
Oil for deep-frying
In a ‘paraat’ or wide dish, mix flour, salt and ajwain. Adding little water at a time, knead until smooth, 1â€“2 minutes to make a stiff dough. You can refer to step – step method on kneading rotidough in my previous post.The dough for poori has to be more firm so add lesser quantity of water.
Once kneaded, there is no need to rest the dough.Divide into equal portions.Roll each portion between palms to make balls(about the size of a lime).
Pour 1/4 cup canola oil in a small bowl. Set about 2 inches of canola oil for deep frying to heat up in a kadhai or a wide skillet.
Start with 1 ball at a time, dip the ball in bowl of oil, flatten it lightly on the rolling board and with the help of a rolling-pin, roll into a 3″ or 4″ circle, about 1/8 thick.When you are rolling, you could slather some oil if dough sticks. It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you donâ€t get perfect rounds its okay, doesn’t affect the taste. When you are rolling the dough you can lift it and move it around to get a round of uniform thickness.
To check the temperature of the oil, pinch a small portion of dough and add it to the oil, it should quickly rise to the top without changing color. If the dough rises slowly or remains at the bottom,wait for the oil to heat up.
Once the oil is hot, fry rolled up rolled dough one at a time, flipping once, lightly pressing with a slotted spoon (else it will not puff up), until puffed and golden brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the friedÂ pooriÂ to paper towels to drain. Serve hot.
The winter season back homeÂ always bought with itself a different feeling than the sun -lit mornings I wake up to here in the Valley.I ponder for few minutes and those foggy mornings & biting chilly winter winds come hovering in my mind, that peak of the cold season spread over few days atÂ the end and start of another year which forced enough reasons to wear multiple layers of clothes, those endless cravings of rich, heavyÂ food and the countless cups of hot beverages that comforted me before darting out of the homeÂ to get to work. I often recall those evening trips to crappy street food jointsÂ to carelessly stuff onÂ piping hot vegetable momos and egg rolls without any guilt or doubt. I remember those cloyingly sweetÂ adrak(ginger) chaiÂ & frothy coffeeÂ which I snuggled within myÂ palms on cold weekend mornings, lazily fliping through the newspaper on the couch. Suddenly all I canÂ feel is theÂ warmth of those memories in my heart.
What isÂ your fond winter memory? A warm bowl of soup caressingÂ your numb fingers or a strong cup of coffee to relaxÂ your clattering teeth? The silence that wraps the streets of neighborhood at fiveÂ in the evenings or the mellow sun already preparing to call it a day mid-afternoon? The crisp winds which feel the chilliest on the tip of the nose or the beautiful grey that surrounds the snow days?The beholding sight of snow sculptures outside or the beauty of the flickering fireplace inside?
I recall that badi mummy (my grandmother) would often feed us this smooth and richÂ atte ka halwa during these winter months, sometimes to soothe our sore throats, other times just as a quick after meal dessert . There we sat on a hand-woven couchÂ in the veranda, wrapped in cozyÂ layers of thin shaleen razais (velvet quilts) and oiled hair, clutching stainless steelÂ katoris (bowls) and spooning this comfortingly warm, golden brown puddingÂ into our tummies.SheÂ insisted thatÂ nothing could benefit the body more than grains &Â ghee.This halwa is indeed wholesome – whole wheat flour isÂ slow roasted in gheeÂ till its turnsÂ glistening golden then sweetened with gud(jaggery), resulting in a rich concoction few spoons of which will instantly make you feel full.
The main ingredient here is atta (durum whole wheat flour) and a fine grind is what gives the halwa a smoothÂ & velvety texture.In case you have some atta leftover from that package of durumÂ wheat flour you bought to make rotis, thisÂ is another recipe for you to try. Gud or jaggery, an unrefined sugar made from boiling date, sugar cane or palm juice is an extremely popular sweetener used all over India. It is considered a benefiting to the body in Ayurvedic medicine and is available in blocks, loaves or powdered form.The unique mild taste of jaggery adds a taste comparable to molasses and a light caramel color to the dishes.The color & the sweetness of thisÂ halwaÂ depends mainly onÂ the contentÂ of molasses in it.
You can ration the quantity of theÂ halwa you eat & serve but I suggest not reducing the amount of ghee when making this recipe else the halwa loses its rustic appeal and gets chewy. It is supposed to be enjoyed in less quantities but essentially with the richness from all that ghee.I like my halwa Â mildly sweet and the amount noted in the recipe perfect for that. You can adjust the quantity of jaggery if you like.
1 cup jaggery, powdered (I scrape jaggery from the block using a sharp knife. Jaggery is easily available in indian/pakistani stores.Use 3/4 cup raw sugar if you cannot find jaggery)
scant 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
Nuts & Raisins to serve (optional)
In a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai, heat the ghee on a medium low heat till it melts. Once the ghee has melted, add the clove and wait till it crackles. Next, addÂ the flour and roast on medium- low heat, stirring constantly until the wheat flour getsÂ golden brown colour and you smell a nutty aroma.Do not rush this step else the flour will remain raw.It should take about 10-12 minutes and you will see Â golden brown, glistening syrup like melted ghee & flour in the pan.
Meanwhile, on the second stove,Â in a sauce pan, heat water on high.Put off the stove. Wait for 1-2Â minutes. Add jaggery to the warm water and stir until the itÂ completely dissolves. If you have broken jaggery from the block and the big chunks are taking time to dissolve, heat up the water a little bit (but do not let it boil). Let sit near to stove.
Once the wheat flour has turned dark brown and it has roasted nicely,reduce heat to low and very carefully pour in the jaggery water into the roasted wheat-flour. It will splutter so be careful. Add the cardamom powder as well.
On low heat, stir quickly and continuously (to avoid lumps) and cook for a minute or less until the mixture turns smooth.Once you add the water, the mixture will immediately cup up and increase in volume.Do not cook for long time else the halwa will thicken and turn dry. Pick the cloves and discard.
Mix in the nuts and raisins (if using ) and combine.
A rich and aromatic dish, kormaÂ 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 Â rule by theÂ 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),Â 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 naansÂ or ladling it over hot steaming basmati.Nothing compares toÂ the comfort that such hearty food brings.
The most important thing to be kept in mind when preparing mild curriesÂ is that you cannot go overboard with your selection of ingredients.That regal flavor of korma sauce needs deftÂ proportions keeping in mind that one ingredient does not overpower the other. On those rare three or four occasions in a year when we dinedÂ out atÂ the Karims, a placeÂ 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 withÂ pleasant richness from the nuts & dairy and finishing notes of warmthÂ from cardamom, he said.I clearly remember thatÂ korma there had this distinct hint of kewra(screw pineÂ 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 recipeÂ is definitely a keeper. It came out pretty good, if I say so myself and we really enjoyed it.
I use a bit of Â 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 remainÂ 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 whitishÂ 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,Â 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 theÂ korma,Â 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 orÂ kadhai,Â heat up the oil on medium high. Add the cloves,cardamom,mace,Â shahjeera, cinnamon,Â tejpattaÂ 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 aÂ minute and then slowly stir around to mix yogurt with everything else in the pot.Cook the yogurt along with theÂ masalaÂ 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 ofÂ 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 2-3Â tbspÂ gheeÂ on medium. When theÂ gheeÂ 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. Â 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 Â of sauce (I addÂ 1/2Â cup water)along with crushedÂ kasuri methi.Â Check and adjust the salt.Â 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. ToÂ me,Â 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 caseÂ – 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 – withÂ vegetables,Â beans, driedÂ lentil nuggetsÂ orÂ chicken. There would be pickles, salad and raita to serveÂ 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 harshÂ summers,the next few months presented a respite and a chance to indulge in cooking and eating.OnÂ few Saturdays I would accompany mom to the sabziÂ bazaar. WrappedÂ 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 sabziÂ bazaar.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 theirÂ 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 sheÂ would choose vegetables – touching them, sniffing a few, closely inspecting each pieceÂ below the flickering bulbsÂ on the stalls ofÂ thela-wallasÂ (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 andÂ let her taste before buying.Thick,dark-skinned capsicum to yellowish cauliflower heads to fragrantÂ methiÂ (fenugreek)Â andÂ soaÂ (dill) bunches to rubyÂ kashmiriÂ anarÂ (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 dishesÂ to keep our stomachs nourished & satisfied.Â The house would be enveloped in the pungentÂ aroma of mustard oil andÂ earthy fragrance ofÂ basmati riceÂ 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. AÂ weekly regular in our house withÂ all kinds of variations each time.
Ingredients (ServesÂ 3)
You could use canned chickpeas and cut down the cooking time toÂ halfÂ 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 theÂ Pulao(Pilaf)
3/4 cupÂ basmatiÂ rice
1.5 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt (skip for vegan)
1/4 tspÂ garamÂ masala
1/2 tspÂ kashmiriÂ 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 useÂ less, adjust if using sweet cinammon)
1-2 tbspÂ gheeÂ to finish(optional, skip for vegan)
Chopped cilantro to garnish
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 theÂ basmatiÂ rice under 2-3 times under a running stream of water till the water runs clear. Soak in 1.5 cups of water for 15Â minutes. (You can do this while the chickpeas are cooking). Also, mix the yogurt withÂ garamÂ masalaÂ andÂ kashmiriÂ 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 theÂ masala. Cook for another 1-2 minutes on low heat till theÂ masalaÂ starts getting shiny and turning deepÂ reddish-Â brown in color. Add the potatoes & ginger next and cook along with theÂ masalaÂ 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 crushedÂ kasuriÂ methiÂ 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 theÂ gheeÂ (if using) along with cilantro, nuts (if using), raisins(is using) on top and gently fluff the rice with fork.
Serve warm withÂ raita(recipe below), salad and pickle.
PomegranateÂ 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 tspÂ chaat masalaÂ (a tangy spice mix available in indian/pakistaniÂ 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 theÂ raitaÂ 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.
As I sit down with a cup of chai after having washed a truck load of dishes and mopping the floors spot free, all I can think of is how back home,my mum would barely have a luxury of five minutes to relax,drink tea and breathe today. It is the largest of Hindu festivals –DiwaliÂ in India – a celebration that lasts for at least five days.
Early in the morning sheÂ would have soaked rice to makeÂ rangolis(decorations)on the floor of theÂ pujaÂ (prayer room).The flowers would have been plucked from the garden and tucked inside moistened cloth to keep them fresh till evening.TheÂ waterÂ soakedÂ diyas(earthern lamps)would be sun bathing by now and she would be busy taking out fancy serve ware and cutlery for evening dinner from the boxes stacked below the bed.By noon, aromas of cardamom andÂ gheeÂ from the kitchen would be permeating the air of our house.There would be some kind of tangyÂ chaat,stuffedÂ dahi vadasÂ resting inside the fridge and spicyÂ jal jeeraÂ to greet the guests.
Diwali or Deepawali,the festival of lights is celebrated by most indians as an autumn festival signifying the victory of good over evil.According to legend,LordÂ RamaÂ returned home after fourteen years of exile and defeating the demon kindÂ Ravana on this day. People lit their homes withÂ diyasÂ to celebrate his homecoming and from then the day became aÂ reasonÂ for celebration each year for the Hindus. Typically, the goddess of wealth & prosperity, Lakshmi is worshipped on this day, gifts are exchanged with friends and family, there are get togethers,Â much pomp and show, food, fun and fireworks.
I would lie if I told you that mum made Kaju katli at home. She didn’t. Never. She didn’t need to because the streets of DelhiÂ are dotted with amazingÂ halwaiwallas (sweet vendors)Â making and selling this best tasting confection with cashews.Instead she would be makingÂ besan ladoos, warm, nutty chickpea flour balls with ghee and sugar.
I have always been intimidated byÂ mithaiÂ making at home. They are an art. The ingredients are few and most of them look plain but taste so heavenly if you get the texture right. It took me a lot of pushing by the husband to take upÂ makingÂ this fudge treatÂ this year. I was most certain that I would end up messing itÂ up. You could perceive my confidence fromÂ the fact that I had planned a few things with the cashew sugar paste if everything did not come out the way it should. But, trust me I was in disbelief of how perfectÂ katliÂ came out.My daugheter, who would not eat any other indianÂ mithaiÂ ate these little diamonds like candy,one after the other.
To meÂ kaju katliÂ has always been something really exotic. Fudgy,nutty thins of ground cashews sweetened plainly with sugar, its one melt-in-the-mouth confection. It is one of the most popularÂ mithaiÂ in northern india. I always thought that it was a difficult thing to make but no, I was wrong. It is so easy,Â there are so less ingredients and few things to be kept in mind while you do it. Hopefully you get to make these delicious, gluten free & vegan treats for your family this year. Wishing all a Happy & Safe Diwali again!!
Ingredients (Makes 20-22 diamonds)
1.5 cups broken raw cashew pieces (Yield 1 cup +3/4 cup cashew powder)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp water
1-2 drops rose essence
1 tbsp ghee (Optional, required during kneading, use any vegan substitute)
Use cashews at room temperature. If you store your nuts in the fridge, take them out a night before and spread on the kitchen towel to air dry. The cashews should be at room temperature and completely dry before you start powdering them. Transfer the cashew pieces to a dry blender jar and in one go powder them as fine as you can.Â WeÂ need a loose, smooth powder.Â TakeÂ care that the cashews do not become pasty or release their oils and clump up or become sticky (this is very important). If you feel that there are few big pieces in the cashew powder, pick them out or sift the powder using a sieve, but do not overwork the blender to grind the cashews.
In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 10″ skillet) or aÂ 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. While the sugar is dissolving, rub about 1/2 tbsp ofÂ gheeÂ on a kitchen board (or the surface where you will knead) and set aside.
Once the sugar has dissolved, add the powdered cashews to the pan. Mix everything and brace yourself for someÂ hard work. KeepÂ 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 18 minutes, you will see that the mixture starts thickening and coming together.Add the rose essence (or any other flavorings) now if using and incorporate. 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 22 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 theÂ skillet, it will try to slowly spread (similar to how a glug of cold honey spreads on a surface). It took me exactly 24 minutes to reach that stage. Depending on the flame settings and water content of the sugar, you can approximately look at 22-28 minutes to reach that stage.
Immediately transfer to the greased surface and leave to cool a bit until its safe to handle.Once the cashew dough has cooled slightly, rub a teaspoon ofÂ gheeÂ on your hands and very gently knead the dough for 5-7 minutes to form a ball. 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 cashews will start oozing their oil but there should be enough pressure so that a small ball is formed. You can grease you hands or the dough withÂ gheeÂ in between if it starts feeling sticky.
One you get a smooth ball, flatten it out slightly. Place a Â large and wide sheet of wax or butter paper on the dough and using a rolling-pin, roll it out to a 1/3″ thickness, or you can roll out as thin or thick as you like. Using a sharp knife Â (or a ravioli cutter, like I did), cut into diamonds or squares or any shape you like.
Serve or store in an air tight container at room temperature for 5-6 days.
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 – cardamom, saffron orÂ kewraÂ (screw pine water) instead of rose essence .
Come end of September and its time ofÂ autumn festivitiesÂ for Indians.Hindus all over India celebrateÂ NavratriÂ (nine days of fasting & feasting),worshipping Goddess Durga Â in nine pristine forms,each form depicting a virtue .Â RamlilaÂ is a traditional, nine or ten-day long drama stagedÂ during these days in northern india to portray the life events of LordÂ Rama and his victory over the demon kingÂ Ravana.The last day which is a celebration of this triumph is observed asÂ Dusherra.
Year after year we looked forward toÂ RamlilaÂ Â days. There would be a nip in the air,schools would be off andÂ bazaarsÂ all geared up to witness the hustle and bustle of upcoming festivals.Quite a lot of big and small fairs dotted our town,each locality showcasing its grandeur through decorations,much pomp & show,some having lighted displays,other luring crowds with musicals.Before you go into thinking about a fairyland, the ramlila grounds were dusty and crowded, cramped shoulder to shoulder with people,with flashy neon or fluorescent light banners and the music shows – a cacophony of loudspeakers which sore your ears few minutes into listening but, in those days I LOVED all of that. My enthusiasm could be might low if I visit the fair nowÂ but in those days,every evening, dressed our best,we left the house together to visit a new ramlila ground.
Walking through the dimlyÂ lit,narrow roads and holding each other’sÂ hand, carrying goodies in the other,Â we would come back home around midnight from the last day atÂ ramlila,after having witnessed the demon effigies burnt to ashesÂ and the fireworks that followed to cheer the triumphÂ of good over evil.Legs aching due to long waits in the queue for almost everything but stomachs stuffed to content with piping hotÂ jalebisÂ fresh from theÂ halwaiÂ stalls and our hands full with knickknacks bought from the toy stalls – bubble guns, imitation bows & arrows, helium balloons, pinwheels and candy.All we chatted about were the rides at the fair and how to make next few weeksÂ to Diwali fun!
Sometimes I feelÂ how growing up, for us the means of entertainment were so uncomplicated.I remember playing on terrace for hours with tinyÂ earthen pots and teaÂ cups boughtÂ from the potter stalls atÂ ramleela, on few days we played cricket for hours in theÂ aangan (yard),onÂ mostÂ evenings we wanderedÂ miles and miles in the park chasing butterflies and bees or hopelessly trying to create colorful illusions withÂ pinwheels. Festivals likeÂ Holi,Â DusherraÂ andÂ DiwaliÂ were longed for, for months. Mum tells me that I had quite a keen interest in all things culture and mythology.
No computer, no DVDs, no play stations, no just dance, no karaoke. Entertainment did not come out of Â LCD screens, it was way real. Sorry for sounding like a grandma but I dare not talk aboutÂ the simplicity of those days!
Jalebi is the one of the popularÂ mithaiÂ which was popular in my part of town on Dusherra, which falls on 3rd Oct this year.For me on this day nothing else will suffice as dessert if it’s not jalebi.Â Comparable to a funnel cake but eggless and fermented, Â jalebi is a crisp, deep-fried maida (flour) batter,soaked in sugar syrup long enough to sweeten it but not let it turn soft. The sugar syrup may or may not be flavored with cardamom, saffron or rosewater. As the fermented batter is piped into the hot oil, it swells and comes sizzling up,changing its color to golden. The crisp concentric fried batter are then dunked in warm sugar and served with cold unsweetened milk or rabdi. However, myÂ favorite way to serve hot jalebis is with dahi (plain unsweetened yogurt).
Ingredients (Makes 20-25Â Jalebis)
For theÂ Jalebi
1 cupÂ maidaÂ (all-purpose flour)
1.5 tbsp cornstarch
1.5 tbspÂ besanÂ (fine ground gram flour)
1 tsp yeast
1.5 tbsp meltedÂ gheeÂ (use any neutral oil for vegan version)
2 tbsp whole milk plain yogurt, at room temperatureÂ (skip for vegan, see notes)
1/8 tsp saffron powder (crush a few saffron threads between palms)
1-2Â drops orange food color(optional)
1/4 to 1/3 cup luke warm water + 2-3Â tbsp warm water for dissolving yeast (adjust water quantity for right consistency)
Canola/Sunflower Oil for frying (You can add 1-2 tbspÂ gheeÂ to itÂ for a nice aroma)
For the Sugar Syrup
1.5 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1-2 green cardamom pods, cracked open or 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Optional Flavorings – rose water,Â kewraÂ (screwpine water)
In a small bowl, add of scant pinch of sugar and 2-3 tbsp of warm(not hot) water, dissolve yeast and let sit for 5-8 minutes. Let the yeast bloom (you should see frothÂ on top).If the yeast does not bloom, discard and start the batch again.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sift theÂ maida, besan and cornstarch. Add the saffron powder.Using your finger, lightly mixÂ theÂ gheeÂ and yogurtÂ with the flour. Add the bloomed yeast mix, orange food color and slowly add luke warmÂ water to make a smooth,lump free batter. Be doubly sure that the batter has no lumps, it is a very important step. Add the water a little at a time and incorporate.The consistency should be like aÂ thickÂ pancake batter. Cover the bowl with a cling film and set aside in a warm place to ferment for 2-3 hours. (The batter will ferment quickly, about 1-2 hours during summer months but could take longer during winters) Do not disturb it during fermenting.
10-15 minutes before you are ready to fry theÂ jalebis,Â in a medium,wide pot, bring the sugarÂ and water to a boil. Once the sugar syrup is boiling, reduce the heat, add the cardamom and let simmer for 7-8 minutes so that the syrup thickens up Â a bit. We are not looking for any string consistency here but if you take a tiny drop of syrup in between your thumb and pointer finger, it should feel sticky and not watery. Once the sugar has simmered and thickened, add lemon juice, stir and put off the heat.Wait for 2-3 minutes and then if you are using saffron or cardamom powder or any other flavorings, add it to the sugar syrup. Let sit near to where you will fry up theÂ jalebis.
Use the widest pot or wok or pan that you have in your kitchen to fry theÂ jalebis. I use my 12″ skillet.Pour 1-2Â inches of oil in it and let heat up on medium heat.
At the end of two hours, the fermented batter will not exactly double up in volume but you would see that it is much more light and fluffy than what we started with. Once fermented, do not mix the batter much. We want it to remain airy and fluffy. Just cut and fold once or twice using a spatula (just the wayÂ we handleÂ cake frosting) and pour it into a squeezable bottle with nozzle.Â Â Try to squeeze the batter out of the nozzle, it should come out like a tooth paste from a tube. (see notes for other ways of checking batter consistency). If you feel that the batter is thick, add a little water for the right consistency or if the batter is thin, add a couple of tablespoons of flourÂ and mix gently so that there are no lumps.
To test the right temperature of oil, drop a small quantity batter in the oil, it should come up sizzling to the top but without changing color (if batter changes color, reduce heat and let the oil temperature reduce a bit). Squeeze the batterout of the nozzle, applying constant pressure and making 3-4 concentric circles in the oil and sealing them in the middle.Work from outside towards inside. It takes time and experience to get proper shape and it gets better and better batch after batch.Â Do not fry more than 4-5Â jalebisÂ in a batch. Once you have piped theÂ jalebisÂ in hot oil, inÂ 2-3Â seconds they will come floating up, flip and let turn golden on the other side too. Once golden, take out of from the hot oil, tilting the spider or frying spoon so that excess oil is drained.
Add the friedÂ jalebisÂ to the warm (not hot)syrup. Let soak for not more than 25-30 seconds and take out again tilting the ladle to drain excess syrup else they will break and turn soggy.
Fry up all theÂ jalebisÂ and soak in syrup. Serve warm with cold unsweetened yogurt.
Few Tips and Notes:
Indian Cooking especiallyÂ mithaiÂ (sweets) making rides on a lot of approximations and tips and tricks learnt through experience. In our homes, rarely gadgets are used to test the oil or sugar syrup temperatures or times.Lets say we trust our sightÂ and smell senses more when cooking. Â MithaiÂ making is an art and gets better with practice. Here are few of the things I have learnt from mum and my own trials.
In case you are making theÂ jalebisÂ for vegans, skip the yogurt in the recipe and use a little more water to get the right consistency of the batter.
Addition of lemon juice to the syrup prevents crystallization of sugar as well as lends it a mild tart flavor which is typical toÂ jalebis.
Adding food coloring to the batter is a choice, if you do not want,skip it. IÂ like to add color because my mum always does and I think it looks nice to the eyes.
Usually the batter gets a little runny after fermentation, so its better to keep it on the thickish side before you set it out to ferment. You can always add water later to get the right consistency.
One of the ways to check the consistency of batter is to take a large quantity in your hands and try to drop it in the bowl from a height, about 1-2 feet, it should fall is continuously, similar to how a lace or ribbon flows.
You couldÂ use a Ziploc bag with a hole cut up at the end to make theÂ jalebis, but I find using the squeeze bottle much easier since ifÂ you keep on pressing the Ziploc bag, after a few batches, the hole becomes large in size and the jalebis become very very thick.I find the ziploc method quite messy too. TheÂ squeezable bottlesÂ are available in baking aisle for a couple of dollars. They are much expensive to buy online. But trust me, really easy and work with. Attaching a nozzle to a piping bag works fine too, just keep in mind that the thickness of theÂ jalebisÂ will depend on the nozzle size. Do not use a very big size nozzle since theÂ jalebisÂ will not cook properly inside once fried.
While frying, if the temperature of oil is too hot, theÂ jalebisÂ will come up sizzling, the batter will tear or haveÂ Â bubbles all over, it might every scatter in the oil andÂ jalebisÂ will turnÂ over crisp and not absorb syrup properly. If the oil temperature is too low, theÂ jalebisÂ will remain flat and raw inside. Once you start frying, it will take you 1-2 minutes to know the right temperature of oil, theÂ jalebisÂ should come up within few seconds (2-3secs) of piping into oil and swell as you fry but at the same time do not get too brown. Don’t worry I also had few over brown ones, so you will know when its right.
Getting the right shape of the jalebisÂ takes time, they do not have to be precise and perfect but as you make more and more, you will get a hang of it. Just keep in mind to squeeze the bottle/piping bag batter withÂ a constant pressure and work in concentric circles, outside towards inside. Again, practice will help.However, whatever shape they come out,they will taste good.
The right texture of the jalebis is crispy on outside, if you take a bite, you will notice the tubular crossection filled with syrup. Without getting more technical,just know that they are not meant to be soft.
You will have leftover syrup after theÂ jalebisÂ are soaked. I usually dunk baked bread croutons/slices in them and serve as a snack. You could refrigerate it and use to makeÂ gulab jamunsÂ if you like. Also, it can be used Â in smoothies or for making beverages too.
JalebisÂ can be stored for 2-3 days. Do not refrigerate. Just store at room temperature. I however, do not recommend or prefer storing them. Make small batches and serve rightaway.
If you ever chance upon a dinner or lunch in India, dal or lentils is a must thing on the meal table. In north indian states it could be a choice between kaali dal (black lentils) or dal tadka (the yellow ones) but in other parts, quintessentially, it has to be the yellow one. Generously tempered with a fat (ghee, coconut,mustard or sesame oil) & the crackling spices – cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves or mustard seeds, it is further flavored with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, onions, chilies (both green & red),turmeric and even jaggery (sugar).Essentially dal is quite an aromatic and soul nourishing food.
I like to compare dal preparation in Indian homes to the roasted chicken in the west. It is such a simple thing to make but the taste of dal can vary easily between two cooks.Comforting and satisfying food compounded with warm, smooth texture and laced with hints of spices. Every home has its own way of making it and that recipe is no doubt the best, certainly better than how it is done in your home (in case we get into an altercation ever!). We eat dal on days when we are sick as well as on days when we want to feast.Mostly severed with a spicy pickle (green mango in our house) and dollops of ghee on top, steamed basmati rice is the best vehicle for dal. In India, dal sums up the daily protein chunk for majority of indians who are pure vegetarians especially the ones who refrain from eggs also.
Between me and the husband we are poles apart when it comes to a favorite dal. For me its the black lentils which, at some point, I could eat every day with rotis (flatbread) but he is more of a chawal (rice) – dal kind. Since I mostly lost a knack for lentils after my pregnancy (its both amazing & weird what giving birth does to you!), he is having it his way in the house now.I usually mix a couple of lentils whenever cooking and the toor/arhar (split pigeon pea lentils) are an important ingredient here. Sadly I haven’t spotted it in regular or bulk grocery stores here so you might want to visit an indian/pakistani store to get it.
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
1/3 cup arhar/toor dal (pigeon pea lentils,husked & split )
1/3 cup masoor dal (red lentils,husked & split )
2 tbsp moong dal (golden lentils,husked &split )
3 tbsp finely chopped onion (I use red onion)
1/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes (I use Roma tomatoes)
1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder, substitute with fresh lime juice to taste)
For Tadka (tempering)
4 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 whole dried kashmiri red chilies
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
2-3 whole red chilies
The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time could be more. Also keep in mind that you use either all split or all whole when choosing lentils for this recipe
Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form. It aids digestion & is used more often than not in indian cooking, also a little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to dal 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 you can use any neutral oil.
Thoroughly wash all 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 10 minutes. Add chopped onion, tomatoes,garlic, ginger(if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 1 whistle (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 completely tender.
Once you open the lid, add amchoor to the dal. With the help of a whisk or a spoon, thoroughly mash the lentils so that they are creamy. If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, return to the stove and let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds and let crackle. Also add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the garlic and let it cook for 30 seconds or so taking care that it does not 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 close the lid so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.
I can’t even begin to describe how the house smelled whenever badi mummy (my grandma) used to make besan ladoos. If you have ever worked with besan (chickpea flour) and tried roasting it, you would know what I mean. It takes an extra sniff to brace in all of it, embracing it in all your senses. It’s the aroma of home – sweet & comforting. If there is any indian mithai (sweets) which I choose over gulab jamuns, it has to be this. I just said that.
Similar to a never empty cookie jar on kitchen counters, there was hardly any time when besan ladoos were not stocked in my grandma’s house, the only difference was that these were securely kept in a stained brass jar on the top most rack in the kitchen. Just so that we only eat them after having meals and not as a meal- highly addictive as they were. Sneaking in a couple of them with cold unsweetened milk before leaving for school is one of the best ways we relished them as kids.Some of you might contest how something loaded with ghee and sugar could possibly be a morning ritual but at times few foods become such a part of you that the nourishment becomes secondary, it’s just the comfort of eating. Similar to donuts and coffee,I guess. Plus childhood could absorb in all those calories.
I think I never made besan ladoos after getting married.When mom visited me last year during my pregnancy days, she made a big batch and I was hooked again. Mindful, clean, healthy eating is fine but lets keep it away from the comfort such recipes evokes. This is one of those few recipes which takes me back in time, engages me in the memory of those years. I have put together a batch almost three or four times in last one year. Not that I eat them for breakfast but its a thorough guilty pleasure when I need sugar.
Besan(chickpea flour) ladoo (sweet confection) is an extremely popular no-occasion mithai in India.In homes these are served just to cater to sweet tooth after meals, for casual snacking or as an instant energy boost.Requiring just four ingredients, the recipe is very forgiving and gluten-free. Coarse chickpea flour is roasted in ghee till it starts emanating a nutty fragrance. Sugar, nuts and dried fruits are added and then the flour is rolled into small dumplings. Sweet and simple. You could add in a variety of nuts and seeds but I like to add only raisins. If the flour is not slow roasted properly, there will be raw after taste so bring lots of patience when you decide to make these. Other than that the recipe is a no brainer.
Ingredients (Makes 12-15 ladoos)
3/4 cup ghee (measured at room temperature)
2 cup ladoo besan (coarse chickpea flour)
1/2 cup powdered sugar +1/3 cup crystal sugar
5-6 cardamom pods
1/3 cup raisins
Coarse Chickpea Flour (Ladoo Besan/Mota Besan is easily avialbale in indian/pakistani stores)
If you do not get coarse chickpea flour, add 2-3 tbsp of fine semolina while roasting to get the right texture.If you do not want to add semolina and keep them gluten free,use usual chickpea flour that you could get but add lesser quantity of ghee (about 1/2 cup) than what is mentioned in the recipe, add more melted ghee later if you feel that the roasted flour-sugar mix is dry or if required when shaping the ladoos.
The right texture for ladoos is coarse and chewy – they should not to stick to gums.
You could use coconut oil in this recipe in place of ghee for a vegan version but frankly the taste changes totally and I did not like it much.
I add a mix of powdered and crystal raw turbinado sugar to better the chewy texture though traditionally powdered sugar (boora) is used.
The ladoos from this recipe are very moist so if in case you have a difficulty while shaping them, refrigerate the flour mix for 10-12 minutes and roll out. They will not fall apart once shaped into balls.
In a large pot, combine ghee with besan and using your fingers combine well so that there are no lumps. Transfer the mixture to a heavy bottomed kadhai/wide pan. Put the kadhai on stove and let heat on medium low for 5-7 minutes. When the kadhai has warmed up, reduce heat to low.
Cook on a low flame, stirring continuously. The slow roasting is extremely important so as to ensure that the raw taste of besan is gone. Besan will slowly start changing color and you will smell a nice aroma. After about 30-35 minutes of slow roasting, you will also see ghee starting to separate on the sides. Take off the stove, mix in the raisins (or nuts if using) and set aside to cool.
While the mixture is cooling, crack open the cardamom pods and in using mortar and pestle crush the seeds to a fine powder.
Once the roasted besan is cooled (but not cold) and easy to handle, add in the sugar and cardamom powder. Combine nicely so that everything is mixed together. Make even sized balls. You can moisten your palms with little melted ghee (if required) while making balls.
Spring has hit full force here in the valley and looks like the bright sun is here to stay. A crisp, pleasant mornings is what awaits us as we get out of the bed & I feel so inspired to stay active and finish up a lot of chores by noon.Â A certain kind of energy engrosses me throughout the now longer days and we have also started our evening strolls to the nearby Sunset Park. Onset of spring is also apparent in the tall peach treeÂ in our front yard and I am already spotting a couple of buds signaling that the fruit will be here in no time. I am planning to can the fruit this year,something which I missed doing last summer.
The Indian festival of spring, Holi is round the corner and like most celebrations back home this festival is also full of food & colors(of the real kind). I prepared these coconut & mavaÂ gujiya which is categorically made during Holi in my family.It is a sorta indian empanada with a sweet filling.The eggless pastry is flaky but dense at the same time,its lightly crispy on the outside but gooey in the center from the ghee,though you can do any kind of filling but traditionally milk solids (mava) mixed with aromatic cardamom and variety of nuts are stuffed inside,making it a wholesome holiday grub.
Holi was one of the most busy time in my grandma’s house. I remember how lunch & sometimes dinner was cooked early so that the later part of the day could be spent making gujiya and other savory things.It may look like a quickie but when we are talking hundreds of such homemade pastries, it was too much work. She started the preparations a week ahead, the neighborhood and all the house help were given boxes full of these as a token of the festival and since these last for almost a weeks if stored properly, we always had lots of them left as anytime snack after the festival had winded up.
MavaÂ orÂ KhoyaÂ is solidified milk, quite comparable to ricotta but less moist.It is used in making most of the indian sweets and desserts. You take one bite of the itÂ and you discern that unique dense and milky taste.Â If you do not have access to indian stores , you could make your own mava at home (recipe here).The filling can be made a day ahead and once fried, these gujiya freeze very well too. Making gujiya is labor intensive so plan it on a not so busy day. Have fun & Happy Holi.
Ingredients (Makes 15)
For the filling (Makes extra. I had about 1/2 cup leftover filling)
2-3 tbspÂ ghee, divided
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup crushed nuts ( I used almonds & cashews)
2 tbsp melon seeds, optional
4 ozÂ mava/khoya, grated when cold (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
For the crust
1.5 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbspÂ ghee, melted (Â (homemade or store-bought)
2-4 tbsp shortening, softened (In India, use Dalda)
1/2 cup warm water (adjust quantity required for kneading)
Oil for Â frying
For the glue
1 tbsp all-purpose flour + 1.5 tbsp water
For the syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp green cardamom powder
Make the filling:-
In a heavy bottomed pan/kadhai, heat up 1 tbspÂ gheeÂ on low heat. Add desiccated coconut to it and lightly toast the coconut till you smell a nice aroma. Transfer the coconut to a big bowl.Melt another tbsp of ghee and add the nuts & melon seeds(if using) to theÂ kadhaiÂ and toast them on low heat. Transfer to the same bowl as coconut.Next, on very low heat, melt another tbsp ghee( you might not needÂ gheeÂ if using homemadeÂ mava) and add the gratedÂ khoya/mavaÂ to it.On very low heat, cook theÂ mavaÂ till it loosens and starts becoming runny. You will need to continuously stir it so that it does not stick to the bottom. Once theÂ mavaÂ starts to clump up, transfer to the same bowl.Note – If you see a lot of fat oozing out of the mava, try to skim off as much as you can.
Let all the ingredients completely cool . Once cold, add the cardamom powder & granulated sugar and combine well. Set aside or refrigerate( if you are making a day ahead).
Make the Dough for the crust:-
Sift the flour once. Mix the flour with gheeÂ and shortening ( a tbsp at a time) and work it with your fingers. While doing so try to make a ball of the flour, if the flour clumps up and does not break when you drop it, stop adding the shortening.Mix the flour gently with warm water. Add water slowly and handle the dough gently till it comes together. Once its together, knead for 2-3 minutes and (very important) cover it with a damp cloth and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Make the glue :-
In a small bowl, mix up 1 tbsp flour with water. It should not be lumpy. Set aside.
Making the Gujiya
Once the dough has rested, pinch equal portions of the dough and keep them covered with a damp cloth. Press each portion between palms to make a smooth ball. Roll out each portion into a 3″ circle. Dip a finger into the glue (made earlier) and spread it all around the edge of the rolled dough. Pick up the rolled dough into your palms and pinch Â the centre of the edge on one side in such a way that one of the ends is closed to form a semi circle. Spoon a tablespoon of the filling and bring all the edges together to form a crescent.Â When you seal the edges, try to form sort of a dough border by pressing the edges so that you can make a pattern laterMake sure the edges are completely sealed, else the filling will ooze out while frying.Â Note – Do not overstuff the filling else when you fry the gujiyas will puff up too much and filling will ooze out.
You could leave it as it is or use back or a fork or ravioli cutter to make a pretty edge. I used my hands to pinch the dough and fold it over itself to make a pattern. Place theÂ gujiyaÂ on a plate & cover with a damp cloth. Make all theÂ gujiyasÂ in the same way and let sit covered till ready to fry.
Heat up enough oil to fry theÂ gujiyas. The oil is at the right temperature when you put a lithe dough into it and it comes up slowly to the surface without sizzling away. Fry the gujiyas 2-3 at a time on low heat, turning all around till golden fried in color.Â Note – Do not rush the frying, else your gujiyas will have blisters all over and they will be brown on outside but raw in the center.Â
Tranfer to the top of a cooling rack and leave to cool.
Make the Syrup :-
While theÂ gujiyasÂ are cooling, bring the sugar & water to a boil and let simmer for 1 minutes. Add the cardamom (or saffron) and mix well.Â Brush this syrup on all sides of theÂ gujiyasÂ while they are warm.
ServeÂ gujiyasÂ at room temperature withÂ thandaiÂ (spiced milk drink).If you want to freeze,let theÂ gujiyasÂ cool completely and store in air tight containers.