Murgh (Chicken)Tikka

Sinfully Spicy - Murgh(Chicken) Tikka

Spicy, smoky and succulent – you could hardly go wrong when these define the dish you make.Bites of chicken grilled to perfection and instantly sprinkled with chaat masala for that much-needed tang and served immediately. I cannot think of a better appetizer or a side to fragrant rice pilaf. If you think healthy, skip the carbs and serve over a bed of greens and you are good to go.

When cooking chicken, I make sure not to skip the marination part – it does wonders to the otherwise plain poultry. Hours of marination in yogurt and spices not only makes the chicken morsels tender but packs them with so much flavor. I always plan leftovers because these are excellent tucked inside a wrap with some green chutney (or hot sauce), mayo and few fresh veggies.

It would be false if I told you that I grew up eating home cooked chicken tikka. Every now and then when we had family dinners, tikkas of all sorts were ordered from a barbecue take out place near to our house. In India, home delivery is so common and free if you live in the same area as the restaurant. The tikkas came wrapped in layers of aluminum foil, still warm from the tandoor (clay oven).There used to be pink hued pickled pearl onions, lime wedges and chutney to go along the smoky bites.At times,it did not matter to transfer the contents on to a dinner plate, just spread open the foil and everybody helped themselves – a really informal way of entertaining if you may think so.

Tikka (meaning chunks or pieces) is an extremely popular street food back home. All kinds of marinated vegetables, paneer as well as meat and poultry are available readily for a take away or a quick mid evening snack by the road side.

However, these are not to be confused with Chicken Tikka Masala, a spicy curry from the indian subcontinent which could definitely use a tikka like these simmered in sauce. You would find a lot of recipes of making tikka in India, each using almost the same spices in varying quantities.I am sharing what I make every now and then with all kinds of herbs & an essential dollop of ghee that goes into the marinade.

Morsels of chicken marinated in yogurt and fresh ground spices and then grilled to perfection. You could use the same marinade for paneer tofu or with vegetable chunks.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the marinade

  • 3 tbsp thick plain yogurt
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/8 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder (this gives the color, not the heat)
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to tolerance)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 heaping tsp kasuri methi, crushed between palms(dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1 tbsp ghee 
  • salt
  • oil for brushing the grill top/skillet
Garnishes – Chopped Cilantro or mint, lime wedges, chaat masala.

Note –

  1.  You could use chicken breast too in this recipe. But I find that thighs turn out much more juicy and succulent.
  2. If you don not have all the whole spices mentioned above, trust your favorite tandoori spice powder & use it. Don’t skip the fresh herbs though.

Method

Clean and pat dry the chicken thighs. Cut them into bite size pieces. Rub with lemon juice, minced garlic & ginger,1/2 tsp salt and keep aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, tip in cardamom,coriander,black pepper, fenugreek, cinnamon & cloves into your coffee grinder and grind to a (not too fine) powder. Mix this powder in a bowl with yogurt,cumin powder, turmeric, chili, cilantro, green chili, kasuri methi, ghee & mint leaves. Marinate the chicken with this and keep refrigerated for at least 8 hours (overnight is best).

Take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking. Sprinkle salt to taste before ready to grill. I use my stove top grill to cook them, however you can skew them and cook over outdoor grill.These cook very well over a cast iron skillet/tava. Cook the chicken pieces to perfection flipping regularly to cook on all sides.

Serve hot along side onion rings & green chutney.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Gajar Halwa

When food connects to a memory, there is a sense of warmth that crosses the heart.That time, those days, chatter, loud laughter, aroma of food, one thought after the other and I m suddenly transported to my grandma’s house where we had a huge aangan (backyard). I used to stroll through the vegetable patch soaking in the morning sun, brushing my teeth. We used to eat lunch after coming back from school there, sitting on charpai (four-legged cots),plucking & eating delicate garlic chives. When the sun decided to call it a day, we played in the mud while the gardener picked up potatoes and harvested the winter greens.

Oh Memories,so far are thee. yet so close in my heart…

Those sweet days are behind me but as I stir couple pounds of shredded carrot on stove, I think about the days when gajar halwa was made, my grandma just scraped, peeleed & grated all morning sitting there. There were no food processors then so she used a stainless steel rectangular grater placed on top of a large paraat. In between, she chatted with the lady who came in to clean the house or the next door aunt who stopped by for a cup of tea. She even tried giving me knitting lessons if I was just lazying around but the grating never stopped.

When there are few ingredients, the recipe gets all the more tricky,this is what I learned on my trip to India couple of months back. Everytime I made it, my halwa hardly came out good. I blamed it on the variety of carrots (we get those red, juicy carrots in India during winters) or on the quality of dairy blah blah… All my bad. I was mixing up steps in the recipe is what I realized.

In India, Halwa is usually an after meal or breakfast (like in my home) treat.Made with different kinds of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and even with lentils, it is a very popular thing when it comes to desserts. 

Gajar Halwa is an indulgent confection of shredded carrots slow cooked in milk & ghee for hours. It is a winter speciality in northern parts of India. Too bad that I am making it at the fag-end of the season (yep, it almost feels like spring in my part of the world). There are a lot of recipes which use khoya (solidified milk),condensed milk to make it rather rich & decadent.I don’t add all those because I don’t want to steal away the taste of the carrots and also that much dairy makes it quite heavy. You can add a cup or so of khoya to this recipe towards the end if you like.

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 servings)

  • 2 lb carrots (preferably organic, they make a lot of difference in taste)
  • 2 tbsp + 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 cup + 3/4 cup whole milk,warmed
  • 3/4 cup crystal sugar (can go to 1 cup) 
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • Almonds & Raisins or cashews for garnish (use roasted nuts of any kind you like)

Method

Peel the carrots and thoroughly wash them under running water, air dry the carrots completely before proceeding to grate. Using the food processor, shred the carrots.

In a heavy bottomed kadhai/pan (preferably cast iron) on medium heat, tip in 2 tbsp ghee, after it melts, add the carrots. Mix nicely so that the carrots are coated in ghee. Let the carrots cook for about 20-25 minutes, uncovered. You can stir occasionally in between so that they do not stick to the bottom.You will see a lot of steam coming up and the carrot shreds start to break down but this is fine because we want to cook off the moisture.

After 20-25 minutes of cooking, add warm milk to the kadhai/pan. Be careful when you do so because there will be splutter. Combine the milk & carrots thoroughly. Now, again let the carrot & milk mixture cook on medium – low heat. You need to stir and move around so that nothing sticks to the bottom. Keep the heat low medium. We want the carrots to cook in milk and let the water of milk liquid evaporate leaving behind milk solids. This will take approximately 2- 3hours (or more depending on how juicy your carrots are).You will see the carrots turning a dark shade of orange and little drops of fat (from ghee & milk)on the sides of the pot, some of it might start sticking to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat to low or take off from stove for few minutes if that happens.

After all the milk has evaporated, add the sugar. Immediately the carrots will become watery again. Don’t worry. Keep cooking. In about 20 minutes the water from sugar will evaporate. Add the ghee  and keep on sautéing the carrots on low heat for another 15-20 minutes.At this point, you can try to pinch a little bit of carrots between your fingers, it should feel dryish. The point is to completely dry out the carrots, they should be glossy just because of ghee. The halwa will start clumping around the spoon and start leaving the pan/kadhai. It will be darkish orange in color and you won’t be able to see long shreds of carrots you started with. 

Take the kadhai/pan off from the stove and add the chopped roasted nuts,cardamom powder & raisins and combine. Let the halwa sit for 10-15 minutes to cool down a bit.

Whenever you want to serve, reheat & serve garnished with more nuts.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Sabudana Kheer – Tapicoa Pudding (Glutenfree)

My grandma used to make sabudana kheer on days when she observed fasts, not so much otherwise.I remember skipping meals and tucking down quite a number of bowls of it on those occasions.

Like most puddings, this one does not require much effort in cooking since soaked tapioca cooks pretty fast. It was not the cooking time but the wait till sunset that got me impatient. Despite the fact that I wanted to lick it right away from the pot as soon as it was ready, we waited until prayer time. She would then ladle the kheer in bowls and spoon over generous amount of ghee sautéed raisins and almonds.

This luscious kheer is as comforting as a rice pudding, but much more smooth, almost custard like.The fluffy, opaque tapioca pearls melt down in the bubbling milk, naturally thickening it, become translucent and get pleasantly chewy as the kheer cooks. You can smell the mellow aroma of the starchy pearls and the saffron, the starch from the tapioca also makes the consistency silk-like.

Kheer forms a quintessential part of indian cuisine. It is a perfect accompaniment to spicy food and is usually a must during religious celebrations and festivals as offering to God.Wedding and special occasion menus are incomplete without certain kind of kheer, making it the most popular way of rounding off the meals.

I am such a huge fan of puddings and fail to understand how can somebody (like my husband ) doesn’t want to eat it. There’s something so comforting about a gooey, warm bowl of kheer, redolent with an aroma of saffron with nuts adding a texture.

Go imaginative with the kind of aroma you want to flavor this pudding with, I have tried, vanilla, orange zest and rose-water. It tastes as wonderful with each of them.

Print

Sabudana Kheer

Indian Tapioca pudding with saffron
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup sabudana (tapioca)
  • 2 tsp ghee
  • 1/3 cup nuts of choice ( I used sliced almond &raisins)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 whole cardamom pods
  • 10-12 saffron strands grind the saffron with a pinch of sugar and soak in 1 tbsp warm milk
  • 1/2 can (7oz) condended milk or to taste

Instructions

  • Wash the tapioca pearls 1-2 times in water, drain the water. Add the tapioca pearls to a bowl, add 1/2 cup of water and set aside for 2 hours. The tapioca pearls will plump up as they soak. The time of soaking depends on quality of your sabudana, it can take upto 10 hours to soak.Make sure that after soaking, the tapioca pearls are soft and can easily be squeezed between thumb and finger. Drain the water(if any) after soaking. Set aside.
  • In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the ghee on low. Add the nuts to it and sauté for about 20-25 seconds till you smell the aroma. Take out in a bowl and set aside for garnish.
  • In the same pot, add the cardamom seeds and slowly pour the milk. Set the stove on medium and let milk come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let the milk reduce for 20-25 minutes. You will need to stir and scrape sides in between to make sure that the milk is not sticking to the bottom.
  • Once the milk is reduced a little, add the soaked tapioca to the pot and mix well.
  • Cook on low – medium heat for 30-35 minutes with continual stirring till you see that tapioca pearls have started to become translucent and are cooked through. The kheer will thicked and become silk like consistency as you cook it.
  • Add the saffron milk at this point mix well. Let cook for another 5-10 minutes on low till the tapioca are cooked through. You can pinch one of the pearls between fingers to check that they are soft. When the kheer is thick enough(thicken it more than you think, since condersed milk will thin it out),mix in the condensed milk, simmer for another 5 mins(keep an eye since the kheer gets little sticky) and then take off the stove and let cool down for 10 minutes.
  • You can mix the ghee sautéed nuts. Serve the kheer warm or cold garnished with more nuts (if desired) .

Notes

  1. Depending on the size and quality, you will need to soak tapioca pearls for 20 minutes (smaller variety) or up to 3-4 hours(larger variety).
  2. You could use a combination of cream & milk or half and half depending on how rich you want the pudding.
  3. The amount of milk in the recipe can be varied as per desired thickness of the pudding.
  4. Cooking time of tapioca pearls will depend on variety and how long it takes them to swell up and is cooked through.Please adjust accordingly.
  5. The pudding thickens up as it sits but you can thin it out with little warm milk if serving next day. You can boil up the milk, add to the pudding and reheat

Mewa Chikki – Nut & Seed Brittle (Gluten & Grain Free)

Paani, cheeni se kam hona chahiye‘, mum replied that the quantity of water should be less than sugar. I had called in to ask the ratio of sugar and water for the syrup before setting out to make this chikki.

Agar ek katori cheeni hai to kitna paani?‘ I re worded the question knowing that if at all, sometimes she measures using katori (small bowl).The reply remained the same ‘Paani kam aur cheeni jyada‘ (more sugar, less water). I gave up knowing that those teaspoons and cups that I am slowly becoming slave to, have no place in her kitchen.

There, lies the beauty of Indian cooking,everything done with accurate approximations, andaza.There isn’t a need to fish through kitchen drawers ahead of cooking to locate cups and spoons, neither to flip through recipe books because there aren’t any written ones. My mum and aunts could cook off an entire meal discussing the neighbour’s daughter in law, it’s just eyeballing,tasting and adjusting the flavors in between. There are no hard and fast rules, the methods are traditional,the food comes out wonderful each time. It’s all about cooking with good impulse and feeling.Though it takes while to learn those techniques and pointers to dish out your bestest recipes, but once you are on it, you can trust your gut for the lifetime.

I never understood the ‘taar‘ or the number of strings method that they use to make sugar syrup for indian sweets. Putting it in a very lame way, after a few minutes of bubbling, you are supposed to squeeze the boiling sugar (ouch! ) between your thumb and index finger and count the number of strings formed to know if the right consistency has been reached.Again, something which comes with experience.

Making this chikki from scratch has been one of the most brave things I have done this summer. Studded with lots of nuts and seeds, edible gum resin (gond), not only is this good for you, but you can play around with the type and quantity of nuts in the recipe. Do  make this delicious snackage for the upcoming winter months, it promises to keep you warm and happy.

In my family, makana or foxnuts and coconut are the main ingredients in making this.Read about foxnuts in one of my earlier posts here.

Edible Gum or gond is an extract from the bark of gum tree and is used a lot in indian sweets. It is either white or brown in color, crystal like. When cooked in oil, it puffs up like popcorn and turns opaque. It provides heat to the body and is usually eaten in cold winter months. In India, it is very much used during postpartum of women since it strengthens the body and helps in lactation of new mothers.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups makhana (foxnuts), roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp gond (edible gum resin)
  • 3/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut shavings
  • 1/4 cup melon seeds
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3 tbsp ghee, divided
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • few saffron strands soaked in 1/2 tbsp of warm water (optional)

Also needed – Any well-greased plate/thaali or simply line your brownie sheet with parchment.

Notes :-

  1. If you are using edible gum,make sure that it is completely dry (you can keep it in sun for few hours), else it will not bloom well when you roast it.
  2. Feel free to use any kind of nuts or seeds in this recipe. If you cannot find foxnuts or edible gum, you can increase the quantity of coconut, almond or walnut by equivalent amount.
  3. Use sunflower/pumpkin/pepitas in place of melon seeds.
  4. Add crasins, dried cherries, cranberries, dehydrated blueberries or raspberries to this recipe.

Method

In a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai, on low-medium heat, warm up 1 tbsp of ghee. Add the sliced foxnuts and lightly roast on low heat for 2-3 minutes till you smell the aroma. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add another 1/2 tbsp of ghee in the kadhai and add almonds, walnuts and coconut shavings to it. Lightly roast on low heat for 2-3 minutes till you smell the aroma. Take care that the nuts do not change color. Transfer to the large bowl.

Next, on very low heat add another 1 tbsp of ghee and add the gond crystals. Keep on stirring constantly, the crystals will puff up and turn opaque as they roast. This will take  about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to the large bowl.

Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of ghee to the kadhai and roast the melon seeds on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the raisins. Stir again for 1 minutes or so. Transfer to the large bowl.

Mix all the roasted nuts and seeds well in the large bowl and let sit for 5-8 minutes so that they cool down a bit.

Keep your greased plate or parchment lined dish ready.I used a 9′ X 2′ brownie pan to set the chikki.

Pour water and sugar into the kadhai next and bring to a boil on medium heat. When the sugar starts to bubble around the edges, add cardamom powder, soaked saffron and reduce heat and let simmer for about 2-3 minutes.Remove from heat and immediately pour over the roasted nuts. Stir everything quickly using a spatula so that the nuts are coated in sugar and transfer to the setting plate/pan. Lightly press with hands or spoon to spread out to a uniform thickness. Let sit at room temperature to completely cool down.

Break into desired size chunks or pieces.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping  by!

Punjabi Kadhi Pakora – Chickpea flour Fritters in a Spicy Yogurt Gravy (Glutenfree)

On those summer evenings, while we laid our folding beds in the veranda to prepare for a  sleepover under the starry sky, in the kitchen, potfuls of kadhi simmered on one of the stove tops, rice to go along with it on the other. After filling up the water koolers to the brink and in anticipation that maybe light (electricity) will come back later in the night, we waited for supper as the whole house smelled of  daintily spiced, turmeric loaded yogurt broth.

Depending on who cooked it, it would be sweet & tangy, thick or thin, spiced up or muted. My grandmother always divided the kadhi pot into two and added loads of sugar to one. Like many things, she was particular about the pakoras done right. Standing beside the sandstone countertop, her cotton saree tucked to the waist,she rigorously fluffed up cups of besan with water, stopping every few minutes to drop the batter into a katori filled with water, if  the batter drop rose to the surface, it was ready to fry up in the pungent smelling, hot mustard oil else more toil was needed. The pakoras came out perfect each time – gooey in the centre but retaining their shape in the warm broth. In those times, there were no stand mixers, hand beaters or french whisks but she had an out of the world devotion  to make delicious food for her family – fresh and filled with love.

Summers in northern parts of India are harsh, unlike the western parts, monsoon are mostly a cycle of few days of rain followed by dry spells for weeks. There were long power outages and at least once in a while the area transformers conked off, overworked. Kitchen was the last place anyone wanted to be in on such evenings. When nobody in the house was in a mood to cook, kadhi was made.It was a quick and easy dinner rescue.

Kadhi is basically a slightly sour, gluten-free yogurt based gravy which is thickened with chickpea flour. Fritters (pakoras) can be added to the broth or cut up vegetables (okra, spinach, aubergines) or sometimes it can served as it is.

These days, with a fussy, demanding little one around, I make kadhi quite more than often. It is an immensely satisfying meal. I like mine brothy, loaded with lots of cumin flavored ghee but this is optional. You can skip the garnish part from the recipe. Using pure mustard oil gives kadhi an authentic flavor, however any kind of oil can be used.

Note :- This recipe yields a soupy kadhi, if you like yours thick, just add extra 1-2 tbsp of besan.

Ingredients(Serves 2-3)

For the Pakoras 

  • 3/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1/4 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Enough water to make the batter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Mustard Oil for frying (or vegetable/canola oil)

For the Kadhi 

  • 1.5 cup plain whole milk yogurt, slightly sour
  • 6 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1 tsp crushed kasuri methi, dried fenugreek leaves (give a great flavor but can be skipped if not available)
  • 2.5 – 3 cups water
  • 3 tbsp pure mustard oil (or ghee)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Generous pinch of hing powder
  • 1/4 tso ajwain seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds (coarsely crushed)
  • 2 whole dried red chillies
  • Salt to taste

Note :- It is very important that the yogurt is sour when you make kadhi, else t will not taste good. You can leave the yogurt overnight at room temperature or inside the oven to let it sour. Garnish

  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch of hing
  • 2-3 thai green chillies , slit open, seeded if you want (optional, adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder

Method

Making the Pakoras

In a medium bowl, mix up besan, hing and turmeric powder.Slowly start adding water and with the help of a handheld beater or whisk, whip up to make a thick batter. Once properly whipped the batter will be fluffy and pale yellow. Add more or less water as needed to make a batter similar to how thick you would make for dipping hot dogs when making corn dogs.

Meanwhile, heat sufficient oil in a wok or deep fryer.When you see ripples on the oil surface,mix the salt with the batter and drop small portions (about 1/2 tbsp or so) of it into the fryer, either with a spoon or help of your fingers.Deep fry in small batches on medium heat till pakoras are golden brown. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

Note :- You can make pakoras as big or small as you like. Just note that these expand a little once added to the warm broth. Chopped onions, par boiled potatoes or any kind of herbs can be added to the batter for extra flavor.

Making the Kadhi

In a bowl, combine besan, yogurt,turmeric & red chilli  powder, kasuri methi (if using) salt to taste and water to make a lump free smooth mix. Let stand.

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat mustard oil to smoking point.Remove from heat and let cool for around 1-2 minutes else spices will burn. Add cumin, ajwain, fenugreek and coriander seeds along with hing & whole red chillies. Return to stove top. When spices begin to splutter and you smell the aroma, add minced ginger. Let cook for 10-15 seconds.

Next,remove the pot from stove again and slowly add the besan-yogurt mixture and mix thoroughly. Return to medium heat and let the kadhi come to a boil. Dont be tempted to rush this else kadhi will curdle. Once you see the kadhi starting to bubble, turn the heat to low, add the garam masala and let the kadhi simmer for 10-15 minutes till it thickens and is rich yellow in color.Let sit till ready to serve.

When ready to serve, warm up the kadhi on medium till you see bubbles on the sides of the pot. Add the pakoras and let simmer (not boil) for about 5-8 minutes.

For Tempering

In a small saucepan, warm up the ghee and add cumin seeds to it, when they splutter, take away from the heat and add sliced green chillies.

Top up the kadhi- pakora with this cumin ghee just before serving along side rotis (flatbread) or steamed basmati rice.

Coconut Burfi (Fudge) for Diwali

Wishing everyone a prosperous & joyful Diwali.

It is Diwali day tomorrow in India.Commonly know as the festival of lights, Diwali is a five-day long fare celebrated across the country with a lot of tradition & merriment.The grandest among the Hindu festivals and dated about 11000 years back, it celebrates the homecoming of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years of banishment and a triumph over the demon king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, people of the kingdom decorated their homes, lit diyas (earthen lamps) & rejoiced.Till today, lightning a string of diyas around the house and place of worship is said to remove negativity and is symbolic of inviting gyan (knowledge) inside the house.

Sitting on the couch as I write this post on a grey, cloudy afternoon, not a single thing is fluttering outside or inside the home. All I can hear is the sound of tall palm trees swaying relentlessly in the winds. It is a strange cone of silence that draws my mind towards it, at the same time my heart is bubbling with memories of Diwali from back home. Innately, each half an hour I look at the clock & wonder what would happen as the day starts in few hours.

Mom would start by spreading the overnight soaked diyas (earthen lamps) in the courtyard to dry out before the evening , give finishing touches to her colorful rangoli. She would cook all day to feed an army of guests who will throng the house to greet & exchange gifts. Dad would keep himself busy decorating each nook & corner of the house with all kinds of luminescent lights & eating mithai (sweets) every hour. By evening, the house would be decked up as a new bride, prayers offered to goddess of wealth, Laxmi, prasad distributed among family members,dinner served among chatter & chaos followed by night long gambling, which is considered auspicious today.

‘Burfi’ or ‘Barfi’ is a very basic sweet, fudgy confectionary in India. Quite like the western counterpart, its made with loads of sugar & milk and is necessarily flavored with cardamom, saffron, fruit extracts or rose-water. Traditionally, milk solids to ground nut powders to different types of flours are used but now even fancier versions with chocolate and cheese are hugely popular . For me, Diwali is incomplete without gulab jamuns & some kind of burfi.

Like all Hindu festivals, Diwali is necessarily a sweet rally. I missed out on making any sweets at home last year, this time I was keen on doing something for sure. Anything with coconut is an instant favorite in the house. Keeping it quick & simple, I prepared this 15 minute coconut – dulce de leche burfi last night.

My grandmother’s coconut burfi recipe involves caramelizing whole milk from scratch, simmering it slowly over stove top for hours, stirring it patiently to release the natural sugars in there & achieving an intense, grainfree consistency. The creamy, gooey milk solids at the end of the toil are dreamy. If I may say, it’s probably one of the things I would love to lick for my last meal. So good!

However, for now, instead of making it from scratch, I used dulce de leche in my recipe. I love the anticipation that builds up when I m trying to tweak things in the kitchen. It all looked falling into place from the beginning , right from when coconut flakes toasted in ghee to the divine aroma that lingered while dulce de leche warmed up, loosening slowly  & combining with the ingredients. Trust me in this concoction, the humble latin spread did not disappoint. The fudge came out dense, perfectly sweet & almost melt in the mouth like. P said that it reminded him of the coconut burfi from the favorite sweet shop in his hometown. You don’t miss anything here, except maybe the opportunity of licking the pot as fresh milk thickens when you do it from scratch.

Printable Recipe

Preparation time : 5 – 8 minutes

Cooking time : 10 minutes + setting time in the refrigerator or at room temperature

Ingredients Makes 8-10 squares (approx 2″ X 2″ X 1/2″ thk)

  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 3 cups dried coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • 3 tbsp almond meal (or fine crushed almonds)
  • 1 no 13.4 oz (380gms) dulce de leche can
  • 8-10 green cardamom pods or 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tsp  ghee (for greasing the tray)
  • For garnish : 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Method :-

  • Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and crush them into a fine powder using mortar & pestle.Set aside. Skip this step if using ready-to- use cardamom powder.
  • Liberally grease the tray/brownie pan you want to set the fudge in with 2 tsp ghee. Set aside.
  • In a heavy, wide-mouthed ( I use my 12″) pan, melt the 4 tbsp ghee on a low heat. Add the almond meal and roast it for 1-2 minutes until it smells fragrant but does not change color.Next,on low to medium heat, add the dried coconut flakes & toast them stirring continuously until you smell the aroma and they just start to turn light brown.About 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the crushed cardamom next & mix well.
  • Reduce heat to low. Add dulce de leche. Immediately stir everything together till the mixture clumps up together. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Put off the heat.
  • Transfer the mixture to the greased tray and spread evenly to a uniform thickness.You can use back of a spatula or spoon to smoothen out the surface. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Cover the surface with a wax paper next and let set in refrigerator (during summers) for at least 1.5 hours or outside (in winters) until firm to touch.With cold weather in,I let the tray sit on the countertop overnight.
  • Melt the white chocolate chips over a double boiler and drizzle over the fudge. Let set for another hour till the chocolate dries out.
  • Cut into neat squares using a sharp knife dipped in hot water.

Notes:-

  1. I use dried, desiccated, unsweetened coconut flakes available in the bulk supply section at Whole foods. You can use fresh or frozen coconut (skinless) in this recipe but you will need to adjust (increase) the toasting time in that case.Ensure that the moisture has totally dried out before you add the other ingredients.
  2. I stock whole green cardamom pods, break open,crush the seeds using mortar/pestle and use in my recipes. It is a much fresh & economical option.
  3. You can leave the fudge as it is or use any kind of nuts,semi sweet chocolate , edible silver/gold foil for garnishing.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Tahiri -Slow cooked Basmati Rice With Black Spices

 

Summer might be officially gone in many of the states but in my part of the world, the temperatures are still in nineties.Though the sun sets early now & morning sun has started to feel cozy and relaxing, days are still quite sunny & hot. However, it rained last weekend. We hardly get any rains out here, I think the last bit was long back in May, so whenever it comes pouring down, its time to rejoice .Usually, its super lazy day with TV or book on the couch, comfort food to fill up and loads of chai.

I literally wait for the summer to end to make some dishes.The wet & cold weekend (yup the temperatures dipped to 64 ,made me crave my grandmother’s tahiri which is one of my favorite things to make as the autumn sets in. Not missing the chance I got last weekend, this rice dish was our comfort meal. The best part being that it is a one pot meal, it has the perfect amount of spice and is loaded with satiating goodness of starchy vegetables and leftovers taste all the more better! Just few minutes of preparations & you are all set for a soul satisfying meal. It really need no side dish even coz its so much flavorful on its own, just a bowl of plain yogurt or green chutney/pickle/papad will be more than enough. If you really want to indulge, add a dollop of cold butter or ghee over the steaming bowl of rice, let it melt and find its way right to the bottom on its own & you are good to go! The best part about this dish is the bottom burnt layer of rice which is achieved by a technique called  dumpukht  (see recipe).

My best memories of eating tahiri are of Sunday lunches when we sat on charpai(cot) under the bright winter sun amid the home-grown decor of winter vegetables in my grandmother’s vegetable garden. I remember picking up fresh stalks of young garlic and onions right from the ground and eating it with tahiri.A mention of those winter lunches takes me back there and brings in the nostalgia of the food relished during those years and times spent with family.

The trio of vegetables that go into tahiri which is a speciality dish of  state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is standard – white potatoes, cauliflower & peas.These vegetables go so well with the warmth of black indian spices – cumin, black cardamom, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg .The spices are fresh ground into a paste and then rice & vegetable are cooked on along with the paste for long to bring about the depth of flavors. The result is a aromatic pot full of comfort.

Tahiri is not pilaf, its cooked low & slow by a technique called dumpukht or indirect slow heating. What differentiates it from biryani is the fact that unless you make kacchi biryani, the rice & meat/ vegetables are separately half cooked, layered & then cooked to perfection. In tahiri, rice & vegetables cook cook together and finished via dumpukht cooking. 

Print

Vegetable Tahiri/Tehri

Dum cooked basmati rice & tri of winter vegetables in a fresh ground spice psate of indain black spices.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour

Equipment

  • Wide mouthed, heavy bottomed pot with lid/iron kadhai with lid, Cast iron griddle

Ingredients

Make the Spice Paste

  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cumim seeds
  • 1 black cardamom, pods only
  • 1 tsp corinader seeds
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves

For The Tahiri

  • 1/4 cup mustard oil
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 4-5 whole dried red chillies
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 10-12 cauliflower florets
  • 1 large potato peeled and  cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice washed
  • 1.5 cup water
  • Cilnatro, Ginger Julinnes etc to garnish

Instructions

Make the Spice paste

  • Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend of a paste. Dont make too fine or too coarse paste. Set aside.

Make the Tahiri

  • Heat 2 tbsp Oil in the pot/kadhai. Add the cauliflowewr florets and potatoes and brown them for a few minutes. Take out in a plate and set aside.
  • Add the remainig oil to the kadai and heat up. Temper the oil with bayleaf, whole nutmeg and dried chillies.
  • Next, add the sliced onions. Cook the onions till they are nicely brown. About 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat and add the ground spice paste. Cook the onions with masala till you see oil seperating on sides.
  • At this point, add all the vegetables along with washed rice. Gently combine everything. Remove from heat & pour the water required for cooking the rice into the pot, add the salt and give everything a stir. Let the rice soak for 30 minutes.
  • Once the rice has soaked, place the kadai on medium stove. Cover the pot & bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, and let rice cook for 10-12 minutes (or the time required for your rice variety to get 95% cooked). Proceed to dum cooking as mentioned in the next step below.
  • While the rice is cooking, heat up a cast iron skillet or griddle ( large enough to hold the kadai ).Once the skillet is hot, reduce heat to very low, place the kadai over the skillet & let the rice cook for another 10 minutes on dum (indirect slow cooking technique).We want the bottom layer of rice to crisp up & get browned (almost). Dum cook for aboyt 25 minutes or longer depending on how crisp you want the bottom layer.
  • Once dum cooking is over, switch off the stove leave the kadai on griddle undisturbed for another 15 minutes.
  • Fluff up the rice, garnish with chopped cilantro & ginger julinnes. Serve with raita, pickle, papad etc.

Sukhi Urad Dal – Tempered Dry Lentils

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Ingredients: – (Serves 2-3) 

The recipe can be used to make any lentil variety you wish to. Just adjust the cooking time depending on the lentil type and whether it is split or whole.

  • 3/4 cup dhuli urad  (Split urad lentils, easily available in indian stores)
  • Water for Soaking (as a thumb rule, 1:3 ratio of lentils to water)
  • 1/2 cup water for cooking (or as required, depends on how old your lentils are, grain size etc)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • Fresh lime juice (as per taste)

For Tempering: –

  • 3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp sabut dhania (coriander seeds), crushed
  • 1/4 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger julians
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 3 Thai green chilies, chopped (adjust to tolerance)

Notes: Hing (asafoetida) is a pungent, unpleasant smelling indian spice but adds a lot of flavor to the tempering. Try getting it in powdered form in indian stores, trust me its worth the buy!

Method: –

Pick the urad dal and thoroughly wash it under a stream of water, 2-3 times. Let soak in enough water for at least 4-5 hours. Note: Soaking the dal is really important so that you donâ€t end up overcooking it on the stove. Once soaked, drain the water & discard. Spread the soaked lentils on a paper towel.

Cooking the Dal (lentils) – In a heavy bottomed pot with a lid/kadhai, add the soaked lentils along with turmeric powder, salt to taste & 1/2 cup of water. Note: -This quantity of water may sound less, but if your lentils are soaked properly, this amount of water is sufficient to cook them. Transfer the pot to the stovetop, cover with a lid & let the water come to a boil on high heat. When boiling, you will see some scum/foam on top of the lentils.Using a spoon, remove it. Once boiling,reduce the heat to minimum and let the lentils cook on low for about 8-10 minutes. You may need to go and gently stir once or twice in between while cooking to prevent lentils from sticking to bottom. Also if you feel that water needs to be adjusted, do so but add very less quantity of water at a time. The whole idea is not to end up with mushy lentils. We want the grains to remain intact and al dente. After you see that all the water has been absorbed by the lentils (approx 12 minutes from start), remove from heat and let the lentils sit in their own steam for 5-8 minutes. Fluff up with the help of fork once done. Tip:-Once the lentils have cooked & are hot, avoid stirring or mixing too much- they will become mushy.

Tempering the Dal: In a saucepan, add the ghee and let heat on medium. Once heated, add the cumin & coriander seeds and let crackle for about 30 secs. Be careful while adding the spices to hot ghee, they splutter. Reduce the heat to low and add the hing powder, sauté for 10 seconds. Just take care that the spices don’t burn. Add the ginger julians and garlic next and cook for 1-2 minutes till you smell the aroma. Increase the heat to medium and add the sliced onions and let the onions cook till they turn golden brown.About 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat once the onions have browned and add the red chili powder.

Immediately add this tempering to the cooked lentils along with garam masala and chopped green chilies. Mix thoroughly, adjust the salt if required and squirt some fresh lime juice.A dollop of melted ghee on top tastes amazing too.

Serve warm with flatbreads or rice.

Strawberry Phirni – Indian Semolina Pudding

This recipe was featured on 100 ways to use Strawberries at Endless Simmer

 

 

 

 

Ingredients: {Serves 4-5}

Printable Recipe

For the Strawberry Sauce:

  • 3 cups chopped strawberries [fresh or frozen]
  • 3 tbsp white granulated sugar

For Phirni [Semolina Pudding]

  • 1/2 cup fine semolina flour [suji/sooji] [available in indian stores]
  • 1 tbsp ghee [substitute with clarified butter/unsalted butter]
  • 4 cups evaporated milk [ Substitute with half n half /whole milk/soy or almond or coconut milk for vegan version]
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp white granulated sugar [ adjust to taste]
  • 2 tbsp rose-water [use 1-2 drops if using rose essence]
  • 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios & almonds [Or any nuts of choice] + Extra for garnish.

Method:
For the Strawberry Sauce:-
Add the chopped strawberries and sugar to a sauce pan and let cook on low heat for about 5-8 minutes till they are soft.Once they are soft, I used my spatula to mush them in the pan itself,you can blend them to make a smooth sauce if you like.Once cooked, let cool to room temperature, if you feel that the sauce is runny after cooling, you may need to cook it little more to achieve a thicker consistency.Tip the sauce into the glasses or serving bowls and let chill.
For the Phirni :-
[While the strawberry sauce is cooking]
  • In a skillet, on very medium heat,toast the semolina flour along with ghee till its light golden in color.You will need to continuously stir the flour as it roasts and keep a watch because semolina burns easily.Takes about 5-8 minutes.
[While the semolina flour is toasting]
  • In a wide-mouthed, heavy bottomed utensil, let milk come to a boil on medium heat.Stir once or twice midway to prevent milk from sticking to the bottom of the utensil.
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and start adding the toasted semolina flour to the boiling milk and whisking thoroughly with the other hand.This is a very important step, if you do not whisk continuously, semolina will form lumps within seconds.
  • Within 5 minutes you will see that the milk starts to thicken as the semolina granules swell up and absorb milk.Continue whisking for about 3-4 minutes until you get a thick but runny consistency similar to ketchup.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.Add the granulated sugar, nuts, cardamom powder and rose-water to the semolina-milk mix and combine thoroughly.You will see that as the sugar dissolves the pudding will thin out.Note that it is important to add the sugar while the pudding is still warm.
  • Let the pudding cool to a room temperature and then add it on top of the already cooled strawberry sauce.Cover the bowls/glasses with cling film to avoid formation of skin on top and let set in the refrigerator till set [About 2-3 hours]
  • Garnish with chopped nuts or strawberries and serve chilled.

Notes:
  1. I used canned evaporated milk because we like the taste and the caramel color that it lends to the pudding.In case you will use milk and half n half, you wont get the same color.
  2. Instead of strawberry sauce, try pureed mango , sliced bananas or any other kind of fruit.Please do not use citrus fruits because that may lead to cuddling of the milk in the pudding.You can avoid the fruit sauce completely & make the pudding on its own only.
  3. The same recipe can be used to make phirni with ground rice or cornmeal.In case of rice flour,do not toast it.
  4. The pudding keeps for 2-3 days, refrigerated.
Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Aamer Dal- Red Lentils With Green Mango

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Tips on Cooking that perfect bowl of dal:-

  1. Adding salt at the beginning can toughen the grain.So preferably add salt after the lentils have cooked.
  2. Adding tomatoes/lemon juice or any acidic ingredient can lengthen the cooking time.Add these after the lentils have become almost 80% tender.
  3. Very old lentils [6 months or older] can take longer time to cook and may not taste great.Try to use a fresh batch.
  4. Adding a tsp of mustard/olive oil/ghee can really bring out the flavors of the grain.Try it.
  5. Since cooking & soaking time of each kind of lentil vary, its always better to keep a watch so that they do not overcook. A perfect cooked dal has a nutty taste to it.

Ingredients: [Serves 2]

Printable Recipe

  • 1 cup red lentils , broken
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tsp ghee (or any neutral oil)
  • 1 large, sour green mango [or 1/2 cup grated mango, or use lime juice at the end for tang]
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/3 cup chopped tomatoes
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro to garnish
  • Generous pinch of garam masala
For tempering
  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1/4 tsp Nigella seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder/cayenne (adjust to taste)

Method:
  • Peel the skin from the mango and finely grate it.Set aside.
  • In a bowl,wash the red lentils under a stream of water 2-3 times.
  • After washing, tip them in a pressure cooker or large, heavy bottomed pot along with turmeric, tomatoes, ghee and grated mango(if using) and let soak in water.Note: Although I have given the measure of water above,it is totally your call.As a thumb rule, the water should be enough to cover and rise 1.5″-2″ above the lentils. Let soak in water for at least 1.5 hours.
  • Cooking the lentils [Any one of the below]:-
  1. Using Pressure Cooker {this is what I do} :- Cook the lentils [along with soaking water] for 8-10 minutes on medium heat till the first whistle.Immediately remove from heat and wait till the steam completely escapes..Again this time will vary if you are using whole lentils.Once the lentils are cooked add salt.
  2. Cooking in a pot :-Add lentils [along with water] and simmer on medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.Once the lentils are cooked, add salt.
  • Tempering :-In a small sauce pan, heat the ghee till hot on medium heat.Add the cumin, mustard & Nigella seeds.Wait till they crackle.Add the cloves & dry chillies.Cook for 20 seconds.Remove from heat and add the red chilli powder.Immediately add this tempering to cooked dal.
  • Stir in the tempering and garnish with cilantro, sprinkle with garam masala
  • Serve warm as a soup or with steamed rice.
Notes:-
  • If you are adjusting the water after the lentils have cooked, add warm water.
  • You can cube or slice the mangoes too, grating them is a personal preference.
  • Sometimes I add a tomato or two, if my mangoes are not very sour.
  • If soaked properly, red lentils quick very quickly, to keep a watch as they cook.
Enjoy and Thanks for stopping by!