I make a lot of chicken dinners though they don’t appear often here. Would you be interested in seeing more of such dinners?
This is a super hectic week for us (including many of you moms out here) With it being the last week of the school year,my older one has ton of tests and assignment submissions. Evenings are going to be extra busy and the show will be run by easy dinners.
I marinate chicken(dark bone in portions are my pick) in honey, fresh sage(it’s one of my favorite herb during this season), lemon, garlic, olive oil – few but intense flavors. A major chunk of the meal gets sorted since I have to just make easy sides while the chicken cooks.
The marinade is so flavorful, it has such bold woody sweet notes. 😍The honey I used is locally farmed in Utah by a small business and it’s such a good quality😍
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp chopped shallot
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sage honey
Few jalapeño slices(adjust to taste)
Salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper
4-6 chicken thighs, bone in
Extra honey, sea salt or lemon wedges – for serving.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust the ingredients as per your liking- if you like tangy, add more lemon, if you like sweetish- add more honey. Using a whisk mix everything together. Keep the marinade on a salty side.
Add the cleaned dry chicken pieces to a ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it. Close the bag and squish around so that the chicken is well coated in the marinade. Set in the refrigerated to marinate for atleast 12 hours. You can marinate for up to 2 days(it’s just gets better and better)
Take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before ready to cook. Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade, dry a bit(not completely with a paper towel). Preheat oven to 400F .
Warm 1-2 tbsp of oil in a cast iron skillet, once nicely warm, add the chicken skin side down in the skillet and let sear for 2-3 minutes. Using tongs, flip and sear on the other side.
Plane the skillet in the oven and let chicken roast for 30-35mins(adjust depending on how big or small your chicken pieces are). If you using a thermometer, chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Each summer, last few days of school before the break started were hectic. Even after the vacations started, I remember going to school for extra classes during the high school year. By the time I returned home around noon, I was welcomed in the verandah of our house filled with the intoxicating aroma that emanated from the khus ki chik, a rustic kind of air conditioner made from reeds and laid in the form of window blinds, using the loo (indian summer winds) as a natural fan to cool the space inside. Clasping the finger numbing cold tumbler of rose sherbet that mom kept ready in the refrigerator, I stationed myself in the lobby to observed ladies of the house sitting on the jute chatai (mat) on the floor. There were all sorts of labelled containers of what is inside what around them and stained brass paraat (wide, shallow plates) infront. Sitting with legs neatly folded on top of each other, very immaculately, they picked the lentils, sometimes arguing teasingly or plainly gossiping about relatives and neighbors,their deft fingers, picking the little stones or unhusked bits all the time.They scanned through minute grains scattered in the shallow dish, separating one from the other, unmistakably picking out the hard inedible parts and segregating the cleaned portion towards the other side of the paraat.
I guess ‘picking’ the lentils is a ritual followed in many indian homes, even though most of the lentils available in the markets these days are clean and processed. It’s a kitchen habit that is passed from a generation to other, more as a traditional than need. If it’s not an arduous number of hours to be spent, a vigilant scan of the beans and lentils is what I go through each time I am about to wash or soak.
In those years, it was dal – chawal for lunch or dinner everyday. The variety of lentil changed and so did its preparation and tempering but the menu, though a bit monotonous remained comforting. On bright, sunny summer evenings, chunks of fleshy lauki (indian summer gourd) were added to chana daal, slow cooked till the squash softened and then the turmeric hued boiled lentils were topped with a tadka (tempering) of slow caramelized onions & browned garlic, filling the kitchen with aroma ofghee & smoky cumin & green chillies. Fresh dhaniya (coriander leaves), exuberantly priced during summer months was especially purchased from our daily vegetable vendor, to be finely chopped and scattered while the daal was still hot. It did make a lot of difference.
If you know even a little about indian food, you would know that lentils are an everyday part of our meals, be it any time of the year. There are numerous ways of preparing and tempering them, native to each region of the country. The flavorings can vary from coconut, sugar, garlic to tomato based to curried to what not. This daal is my summer favorite. I guess every family has its own twist on it. Some temper it with just cumin, leaving out the garlic or onions, while some prepare it with coconut and mustard seeds. I had the opportunity to taste a variation tempered with curry leaves at one of my friend’s place. There is no right or wrong, just a choice. This is the beauty of indian food, it has no set rules. The same basic ingredients convert to a delicious outcome depending on who is handling them.Here, in my recipe, you could or could not add the squash even though it makes it hearty. Paired with rotis or steamed rice, salad and a dollop of chili achaar, it is such a satisfying complete meal for hot evenings.
2-3.5 cups of water (adjust depending on the desired consistency)
1 small bottle gourd (peeled and cut into 2″ batons)
Lime juice to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish
For the Tadka (Tempering to be added after the lentils have cooked)
3-4 tablespoon ghee (or use oil for vegan version)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small clove
generous pinch of hing powder (asafoetida)
1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2-3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 dried whole kashmiri chillies
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)
Replace lauki (bottle gourd) with your choice of summer squash (yellow squash is a good choice over green ones). You can skip the squash all together too.
The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time would be more.
Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form.A little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to daal but can be skipped if you do not have it.
If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but any neutral oil or olive oil is fine.
Thoroughly wash the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, ginger (if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 3-4 whistles (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.
If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30-40 minutes or till 95% cooked.
Once you open the lid, with the help of a whisk or a spoon, mash the lentils a bit so that they are chunky-smooth consistency. I like my lentils to have some texture, however you can mash them to consistency desired.
Add the chunks of lauki and return the pressure cooker to the stove. Cover with a plate or a lid and let simmer (not pressure cook) on medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the gourd is completely soft. If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Ideally, for this kind of daal, once it’s cooked, the grain should be intact in its shape but completely soft or cracked to look at.
While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds & clove, let crackle, about 15-20 seconds. Add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the onions and garlic and let cook till they are golden brown, taking care not to burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and cover so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.
Along with garam masala or the hot indian spice blend which got more popular in the west, I find chaat masala equally versatile and quite frequently used in my kitchen. ‘Chaat‘ translates to any snack or food item served on the streets in the northern parts of India and ‘Masala‘ in Hindi refers to any sort of (dry or wet) spice blend. If you happen to hit streets in India for food, mostly everything that you will order will come to your table speckled with generous pinches of chaat masala, of course making it lip smacking good and adding a myriad array of tart, salty and hot flavors all at once.It is essentially the spice blend which you will spot on top of pakoras(fritters), tandoori chicken, kebab platters, murgh tikka, chaat items (of course), mixed in with raita (yogurt dip) and sometimes sprinkled over side salads and onions in indian restaurants here.The one which punches all the senses in the first bite and with a tempting flavor profile of tang and heat.
I would essentially compare chaat masala to the movie theatre popcorn seasoning (oh I love those) which come in all sorts of flavors and add the much-needed zip to your treat.The only difference that can be pointed here is that even though the spice blends differ from brand to brand and home to home and cook to cook but all are referred to as just ‘chaat masala‘. If you are buying from the stores, pick up a couple of brands, try, choose your favorite and stick to it. I am using the same brand for more than a decade and its worth all your money. While you will sniff and taste warm and (slightly) bitter notes in garam masala, chaat masala is sour and peppery with a pronounced heat level. It is a strong blend, one with a kick, in aroma as well to taste.
After I came to the States, like many immigrants starting their life, building bit by bit, accepting the smoothness of life here (trust me it didn’t come easy),I recollect how in those days, we did not own a car and trip to indian grocers was a hardly a once or twice a month activity.Even after making ten lists, I would forget a lot of pantry staples. It was during that time that I delved into making my own spice blends.I found this recipe last month scribbled at the back of an old notebook while I was spring cleaning the garage of old boxes from moving and with an afternoon to kill ahead of me, I blended up some chaat masala. For those of you who happen to live in a place where indian grocer are quite far away to drive to or simply just to try your hand at homemade blends,this recipe could be a starting point. Play with it. Measure, grind, sniff and taste. Add or take items as per your liking. Let the flavor and aroma of spice that you like shine.
For all practical reasons, almost always,I go and pick up a pouch from the grocer shelf for the heck of convenience but it is less in comparison to homemade.Trust me on that. Make some and sprinkle on anything and everything you want. It goes very well on top of cut up raw vegetables like cucumbers, celery, radishes or baby carrots. Add it to marinades (just be cautious of heat) and salad dressings. Use it on grilled meats or seafood. My favorite way is to dredge a lime wedge in it and slowly savor it, try it, its addictive!
7-8 whole dried red kashmiri chillies (remove stems, adjust to taste)
scant 1/2 teaspoon ajwain (carrom) seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 small green cardamom, whole
1 small clove
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons amchoor (dry mango powder)
scant 1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder
1.5 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
1 tsp extra hot red chilli powder
1teaspoon kala namak(black salt, available in indian stores)
3-4 dried mint leaves
2 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
In a dry skillet, lightly dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole chillies, ajwain, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick, each spice one at a time, separately, on low heat. Do not let the spices turn brown. Let cool completely.
Put the roasted spices along with other items into dry coffee grinder or spice grinder and blitz to a fine powder.
Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.
You know I have made these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcased it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it. Put that pressure cooker to work (or the slow cooker if you want) because I have included both methods in the recipe.
Dal Makhani literally translates to “buttery lentils”. It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter, it was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings. And I can very well understand why.These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It’s not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and doze off kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet – acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it. Now, after so many years of making it, I can just tell by the look of them if they are perfectly cooked or not.
In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by serving something away from the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signature recipe.It’s one of the recipes which she has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the method to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredients come naturally to her, she didn’t pick a measuring spoon if I tell you the truth.
It is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden and full of concentrated fats. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes is different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger & kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a baby food consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite. It works better with my texture -in- food kind of crazy family.
A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roast the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.
Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings)
Cooking the Lentils
1/2 cup whole black uraddal (lentils)
2 tbsp red kidney beans
2 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
1 fat garlic clove, chopped
1 tejpatta (bay leaf)
1/2″ cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
3-4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
For the Baghaar (Tempering)
1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 large tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
4 tablespoon oil(any neutral)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
2 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2-3 tablespoon butter
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
Cilantro to garnish
Cooking the lentils (This can be done a day ahead)
Stove Top Method
Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Soaking the lentils reduces the cooking times and gets rid of inedible enzymes in them so it’s a important step. Drain the lentil and beans, add the kidney beans to a small pot of water and let boil for 20 minutes separately.Then add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3 whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. Open the pressure cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.
Slow Cooker Method
Add the cooked beans along with lentils to slowcooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Set to cook for 8-10 hours.Once cooked, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom.With the help of a spoon, mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them.Let sit.
For the Tempering
While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a small perforated pan but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too.Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).
In a pot or kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the fat starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red. At this point, add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about 3/4 cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.
Once the lentils have simmered, add the kasuri methi, garam masala, nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using) and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.
Let sit for atleast 2-3 hours before serving. They get better as they sit.
Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm with rotis (flatbreads).
Hello dear readers, before we hop to our little food talk, I would like your support in nominations of this year’s Saveur blog awards. It would mean a world to me if you could stop by for a couple of minutes and drop in a nomination for my little blog if you like & appreciate what I am doing here.The nominations are open till March 13th 2015You do not need to sign up or anything. Just basic information and an email address will do. Thank you so much.
Now to our food chat! You know there is a thing about simple things in life. Many of the simple foods get lost in the day today ritual of making something ‘special’ for dinner.You don’t even realize often that the main dish tastes so awesome because of the sides that accompany it. These simple dishes are so worthy for the taste and choice they lend to our dinner table that I just realized the other day that I need to include them here, for this blog is my day today cooking journal, an agglomeration of our favorite foods.
Talking about favorites, this is one of the husband’s favorite vegetarian dish.It is something that is cooked every alternate week for dinner, it is tasty and wholesome.Something unusual with bell pepper or shimla mirch (as we call it in hindi) other than adding it to noodles or stir fries. Lightly spiced peppers and potato stir fried in oil and served with lentils and rice. I have made it umpteen times in the last few years of our marriage and now I can cook this in my sleep. So very simple and quick to prepare.Not much measuring or skills needed here for this is a very straight recipe with basic indian ingredients.
Must have been the month of February.On this short trip to Delhi where days pass by in a blink,I made it a routine to accompany mom to the weekly monday bazaar in our neighborhood. A sabzi bazaar (farmer’s market) which I had been visiting after a decade but still could manage to remember faces of few vendors from the fading memories of so many years of living faraway. The same chaos & crowds, everybody in a hurry, women holding kids with one hand & vegetable bags in other, bargaining & arguing over pennies,buzzing street side eateries and rows and rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, colorful spices,handmade pottery and fragrant marigold flowers on display.An idyllic time,with spring in full swing and fresh produce in the sight.The green bell peppers, which were in season at that time in India are much smaller in size, crunchy and strong-tasting than the ones we get here in the States. I have never seen those over here.
You know with such recipes, no two people will have the same way of making them. This is how I make my version with basic pantry spices, tomatoes, garlic and lots of kasuri methi(dry fenugreek leaves) at the end. It pairs well with steamed basmati rice – dal tadka and a side of mango pickle.You could also wrap it up in triangle parathas (flatbread) and green chutney for a hearty lunch.The recipe is vegan & gluten free friendly.
2 large green bell peppers (or use 1 each of red & one green pepper, see notes)
1 large yellow potato
4 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with olive or canola)
1/4 tsp salt
1 medium red onion (~1/3 cup when chopped)
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 small tomatoes (~1/2 cup when finely chopped)
3/4 teaspoon coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder, or substitute with fresh lime juice at end)
3/4 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, skip if not available)
1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)
salt to taste
You can mix up red bell peppers and green peppers in this recipe for more color & taste variation.I do it many times and like how red bell peppers add a sweet note to it.
You can use boiled or par boiled potatoes in this recipe if you want to make it quicker. But I prefer cooking them in the same pan as the rest of the curry, since they taste better with those sticky bits at the bottom of the pan.
To retain the green color of the bell peppers, do not cover them for more than 2-3 minutes covered with lid after you add them to the pan.
Wash the bell peppers, clean & discard the seeds & veins and dice them in 2″ pieces. Also wash the potatoes and peel (or not) the skins. Cut the potatoes in similar size as the bell peppers and let soak in a bowl of water until you are ready to cook. Dry the potatoes using a kitchen or paper towel before adding it to the pan.
In a heavy bottomed, wide saute pan (I use my 10″) or a kadhai(indian wok),heat up the oil on medium till you see light ripples on the surface. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped onion and potatoes to the hot oil. Add the cumin seeds and 1/4 to salt and stir so that the potatoes are covered in oil. On low heat, cover the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes till the potatoes begin to soften. Add the chopped tomatoes next along with coriander, red chili, turmeric and amchoor powder. Stir around and cover with a lid and let cook on low heat. There should be enough liquid from the tomatoes but you can add a tablespoon or two of water if at any point you feel that the potatoes and the spice mix is sticking to the bottom of the pan.Let cook till the till the potatoes are fork tender (but not mushy).
Add the bell pepper next along with salt to taste, cover and let cook on medium heat for another 3-5 minutes till the peppers start changing color and begin to soften. I like peppers with a little bite but you can cook them longer. Add the kasuri methi & garam masala next, stir around, bump up the heat to high and let fry up for another minute or so.
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 –Diwali in India – a celebration that lasts for at least five days.
Early in the morning she would have soaked rice to make rangolis(decorations)on the floor of the puja (prayer room).The flowers would have been plucked from the garden and tucked inside moistened cloth to keep them fresh till evening.The water soaked 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 and ghee from the kitchen would be permeating the air of our house.There would be some kind of tangy chaat,stuffed dahi vadas resting inside the fridge and spicy jal jeera 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,Lord Rama returned home after fourteen years of exile and defeating the demon kind Ravana on this day. People lit their homes with diyas to celebrate his homecoming and from then the day became a reason 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, 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 Delhi are dotted with amazing halwaiwallas (sweet vendors) making and selling this best tasting confection with cashews.Instead she would be making besan ladoos, warm, nutty chickpea flour balls with ghee and sugar.
I have always been intimidated by mithai 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 up making this fudge treat this year. I was most certain that I would end up messing it up. You could perceive my confidence from 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 perfect katli came out.My daugheter, who would not eat any other indian mithai ate these little diamonds like candy,one after the other.
To me kaju katli 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 popular mithai in northern india. I always thought that it was a difficult thing to make but no, I was wrong. It is so easy, 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. We need a loose, smooth powder. Take 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 a kadhai, mix up the sugar and water. Set the pan on low flame and let the sugar dissolve. Stir (I use my rubber spatula) the solution once or twice while the sugar dissolves so that the sugar does not stick to bottom of the pan. While the sugar is dissolving, rub about 1/2 tbsp of ghee 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 some hard work. Keep on stirring and stirring as the mix cooks on low flame. The process will be slow in the beginning and you will feel that it will take forever but do not worry. Keep on stirring, scraping the mixture on low flame, do not let the mixture stick to the sides of the skillet.
After about 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 the 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 of ghee 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 with ghee in between if it starts feeling sticky.
One you get a smooth ball, flatten it out slightly. Place a 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 (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 or kewra (screw pine water) instead of rose essence .
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.
The silence of the afternoon in the house is totally different from the one at night.It is not as quiet and soothing as when its dark outside but definitely relaxing. I sit on our beige couch tucking a pillow below the knees and legs streched out to rest on the coffee table. It the time when I mostly hear the day than just seeing it. Sounds of normalcy, sounds of neglect, symphony of routine. The tap of each key on the board is louder than usual as I write this, also the tick tocking of the clock above. I raise my head and through the blinds witness how extremely windy it is outside, the tall desert palms forcibly swaying against the milky blue sky. The street is that quite so the humming of the sprinkler in the front yard is evident even through those noise proof panes and the dancing water droplets in the glaring yellow sun promising that sweet summer days are not far. The irregular clattering above our fireplace indicating how we have been putting off that exhaust pipe repair and the aquarium in the is screechy than usual due to the interrupted flow of the water through its uncleaned filter.My little girl naps in the afternoon and since I could never abide by the concept of afternoon siesta and certainly do judge people who follow it (well almost) these few hours of the day are most precious, ‘me’ time as they fancifully term it. I want to soak up in the nothingness of this moment before I rush back to regular household chores. Afternoon is also time for tea. Something simple, cozy and warm to sip on while I spend few hours practically doing nothing. The humid air in the room is intense with the aroma of lemongrass, time to get up, strain the tea and rest the hissing pot.I guess that the neighbors are soaking in their pool for I can hear a water splash every now and then, lots of laughter too.Engrossed in ‘me’ time, at the back of my head, ‘what to cook of dinner’ thoughts also hover by. I ponder over what my refrigerator stocks and mentally tick up and down a lot of ideas.It could be a cauliflower for dinner kind of day today. Some days inspiration does not come easy, particularly when we are tired of regular turmeric hued aloo gobi. If I want to make something different which does not need me to continuously stand beside the pot but still with deliciously deep flavors,I make this recipe, one of my mom’s best.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
4 tbsp virgin mustard oil (use olive or sunflower/grape seed)
3/4 cup red onions, thin sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 ” cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom, cracked open
3 whole dry chillies (adjust to tolerance, any mild hot variety will work)
Cut the cauliflower into florets. Peel the potatoes and cut them roughly the same size as cauliflower florets. Wash thoroughly under running water & let the water drain completely.Ensure that the cauliflower and potatoes are completely dry, use kitchen towel if required.
Using your coffee grinder, grind black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves, and ajwain(if using). Mix these ground spices along with nutmeg and salt to the yogurt.
In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower and potatoes with spice mixed yogurt and let sit.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot with lid on medium heat.Once the oil is just about to smoke, add the chopped onions to the pot. Also add the bay leaf, cinnamon, chilies and black cardamom. Cook the onions till golden brown. About 5-7 minutes. Next, add the grated ginger & garlic to the pot. Cook for 1 minute.Add the tomatoes to the pot and let cook for 2-3 minutes till they start to sweat.
Lower the heat, wait for few minutes (very important to avoid curdling of yogurt)and add the marinated cauliflower to the pot next and combine well.Cook for 2-3 minutes with constant stirring, You will slowly see yogurt releasing water.Cover the pot and let cook to almost done,about 18-20 minutes. (This time will depend on your variety/size of cut too)
Lift the lid, check and adjust the salt now. If you want gravy, add water to the pot and let cook for another 5-8 minutes. Try not to stir the pot else the vegetables will turn mushy.
Remove from heat and let sit covered for another at least half an hour. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm.
You do not realize the goodness associated with certain kinds of foods (and drinks) until you are of a certain age. I say this because no matter how pretty it looked, I don’t remember enjoying a glass of kanji back then.Now that I try to debate what to eat & what not to, guiltlessly gulping down this drink with the afternoon meals is a must.My container is nearing end but I am relishing it at least once a day for now.
I am not much of a beverage person, a glass of water with a lemon wedge is my treat,even when eating out.The very fact that this fermented drink does not have a speck of sugar or other usual suspects found in beverages makes it very unique and the crisp, tart flavor is truly an acquired taste. If you are a fan of pickles & mustard, this could be a treat for you in the liquid form. I would compare it to the taste of a mellow pickling liquid but with hints of spices – all of which are all actually so so good for you.
There is the star spice- the small brown mustard seeds,commonly know as rai in India, rich in omega-3 fatty acids & magnesium. Then the essential turmeric, best known for its anti inflammatory properties. Usually many don’t use it,but I add a pinch of ajwain (carom seeds) & methi dana (fenugreek seeds), both of which help in better digestion & metabolism. Additionally, fenugreek seeds help lower the blood sugars. To top it all, the sun fermentation for about a week or so further improves the nutritional value of this drink.
Kaanji is an end of winter, spring onset drink in northern parts of India, particularly Punjab. It is usually prepared during Holi, and served as a beverage.Normally, purple/black carrots are used which are available in abundance in India during February-March spring months but if you do not get those – use any kind of carrots & put in a few slices of beets for that lovely ruby color. Many recipes add turnip slices or alma (indian gooseberries) too – just to increase the nutritional value.
Sometimes, lentil nuggets (Kaanji Vada) are dunked in this sour liquid & served as a street side snack. The fluffy nuggets absorb all that liquid and turn deliciously spongy and soft to eat. Boondi ( Crispy chickpea flour drops) are what I topped my tumbler with, however you can serve it all on its own. The fermented carrots & beets can be eaten as pickles.
1.5 tsp kala namak (black salt, substitute with normal salt)
1/4 tsp red chili powder
Salt to taste
6 cups water
Sterlize a wide mouthed glass container large enough to contain 6 cups water with a non-reactive lid.
Thoroughly wash & peel the carrots and beetroot. Using a sharp knife, cut them into thin slices. You could cut them in rounds or batons, dosent matter, but the slices should not be very thick.
Bring water to a boil. While the water is boiling, using mortar & pestle, coarsely crush the mustard, ajwain & methi seeds. Place the sliced beet & carrots in the container. Add the crushed spices.Sprinkle turmeric, black salt & red chili powder on top.
When the water has boiled, take off the stove and let sit on counter top to cool down a bit. Add the hot water to the container and using a wooden spoon, stir the contents thoroughly. With another clean spoon, taste and adjust the salt. At this point the contents will taste bitter but all that will go away after fermentation.
Place the lid on the container and let sit in sun for 5-7 days. Stir 2-3 times a day with clean wooden spoon.Kaanji is ready when it starts tasting sour.The fermentation time will depend on sunlight in the place you live.
You can serve Kaanji at room temperature or chilled. Add boondi or dried mint leaves as garnish.
The fermented carrots & beets can be eaten as pickles. Kaanji can be stored for up to 2 weeks, refrigerated.
I did not grow up eating sweet breakfasts. While a bowl of Mohan Meakins cornflakes soaked in honeyed hot milk was just for the weekends, buttered up parathas either stuffed with vegetables or rolled up with leftover curry from dinner were breakfast most of the week. The only sweet note to ours was that tall glass of cold, hand churned lassi which badi mummy (my grandma) prepared, sitting in the sun-lit veranda.
When she read too many health magazines, mom would make namkeen daliya for weeks. Refusing to eat it was not an option here, so after a while we adapted ourselves to relish it. That runny, warm daliya studded with vegetables was no less than a magic potion. Each day she added a different set of vegetables, lentils,nuts or beans but never forgot to top it off with a big dollop of ghee. It was her way of telling, I love you.
My mornings still start with a savory something and the sugar frenzy is reserved for the weekends.
‘Daliya‘ is hindi for dry or wet , sweet or savory porridge made with any kind of whole/broken grains – millet, wheat, oats, barley.
I was introduced to steel-cut oats few years back and was hooked instantly. In addition to the better nutritional facts, they were my foray into recreating recipes from childhood when I could not find indian style daliya. Steel cut oats, barley or bulgur wheat or any variety of robust grains is a better choice for this pilaf like recipe. I sometimes mix in buckwheat groats or quinoa too. If you want to use the indian style daliya, use the most coarse variety you can find.
This is an extremely delicious, diabetic friendly recipe since steel-cut oats have a far lower GI than the instant ones. The nutty oats with vibrant colored, crunchy vegetables lend it a rich texture and there could not be a better way to start your morning. Once made the oatmeal keeps good in the fridge for 1-2 days, either serve at room temperature or warm.
About 1.5 cup of water (or as required to cook the oats)
For the Oatmeal
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup corn
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1-2 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
1/4 cup cauliflower florets, cut very small
3/4 cup tomatoes, diced small
1/2 cup cabbage, fine shredded
1/4 cup bell peppers, cut into small batons
Cooked oats & quinoa (from above)
Fresh Lemon juice to taste
1-2 tsp of ghee /butter on top – optional
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Optional – Any kind of nuts you like, raisins, dried apricots, dried berries etc for a sweet/crunchy note.
One Night before
Lightly dry roast the oats & quinoa in a warm cast iron skillet on low to medium heat for 3-5 minutes till you smell a nice aroma. Set aside to cool down completely.
In a pressure cooker, tip in the roasted oats & quinoa along with water, salt and oil. Put on the lid and cook on medium heat till the first whistle blows off. Immediately switch off the heat and let sit to cool down. Do not stir the boiled oats till they are completely cold. Using a fork fluff them up, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate overnight. You need cold, cooked oats for this recipe else everything will be a sticky mess.
You can also cook the oats & quinoa in a pot with a lid till they are thoroughly cooked and all the water is absorbed. Adjust time as required.
Tip – While the oats are cooking, you can cut up all the vegetable before hand so as to save more time in the morning.
In a wide, heavy bottomed pan, heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and wait till they splutter. Add the peas and corn next, also add the ginger and chillies. Stir around for 1-2 minutes till they look shiny. Next, add the cauliflower, add a pinch of salt and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes till the florets soften a bit.
Add the tomatoes next, stir around and reduce the heat to low, cook for 2-3 minutes till the tomatoes soften and the skin starts separating , increase the heat to medium and add cabbage and bell peppers at this point and mix up everything. Cook for another 1-2 minutes till the vegetables soften a bit but retain the crunch.
Next, add the cold oats to the pan, lightly break up/fluff either using a fork or wooden spoon so as to combine with the veggies. Cook for not more than 1-2 minutes on low heat and switch off the stove. Add the lemon juice,roasted nuts etc and give it a final stir.
Before serving, add a dollop of ghee(optional) on top and garnish with chopped cilantro.