Many times, it really takes a beating to make favorite foods from childhood healthier. I don’t know. I always feel that childhood could absorb all that gluttony of sweets, fat and carbohydrates. Not that now my metabolism won’t permit, but my mind seriously watches goes into my system. When I was changing this recipe of fried chivda(flattened rice), a favorite snack from my years of growing up and an immensely popular street food in the northern parts of india,usually served in soiled newspaper cones, I wanted the flattened rice to make the same crackling cripsy sound between my teeth as it should but did not want to sink it down in a pool of hot oil. I wanted that rich salty grease from it to drown my tastebuds and coat the roof of my palette but did not want to witness the flakes swimming and popping inside oil. Not really.
You know sometimes, you might feel that the close-to- perfect meals that you see on this blog are easy and I work wonders like michelin chefs in my home kitchen,but truth be told, on few days, there are bundles of failures and wastage (eeeks) associated with experimenting while cooking .It happens al the time with me, I dream of something and the reality of the finished dish is not so awesome. Anyhow,while I turned to my try-new-things idea, out came the cookie sheet and on the lines of making granola, I set out. I tossed the flattened rice in tablespoons of oil and actually used all the patience I could muster at that ungodly hour of the night to lay it in a single layer. I might have gone a bit too far by actually trying to separate each and every rice flake from the other with help from chopsticks under the dim night kitchen lights. Hmm. Into a low oven for under half an hour and out came the baking sheet. My fears came to life when the rice did not look or smell up to the mark, not like I dreamt it to be. I would not categorize it as inedible but the long story short, the granola procedure failed me.The count of beating went another notch up. Some other time,I told myself and retired to bed.
Then another day, in the bright of the noon, I took out the trusted cast iron skillet, heated oil to smoky and sizzled rice flakes in it and then with a lot more patience on my side, watchfully, slow roasted the chivda, stirring it continually with fork to a crispy goodness, sniffing it, observing how the toasted brown to a bowlful, one which crinkled in the mouth and coated the tastebuds with salty fat. I got it.
When we were kids, 5 pm foods were the best.No jokes. From piping hot samosas and jalebi from the neighbourhood halwai (sweets vendor) or instant noodles from neon yellow pouches, curry puffs and puddings, fruit shakes to potato balls, it was real fun everyday to see mom, badi mummy(my grandma) and aunts cook up new things for us.This chivda (flattened rice) is one from those days. During the spring and early summer season, fresh peas were tossed in cumin and green chillies and served along side. The rustic, mish mash snack plate of sorts is a burst of textures – sweet, salty, smoky and hot. The chaat masalaand bits of ginger combine with the sweetness of those peas to make up a pleasing bite. I could never get the same taste with frozen peas, you need to make this before the fresh pea season lasts. Whats more? Its gluten free, vegan and tad healthy. Go make some. Now.
Both the components of this recipe can be done ahead. Roast the chivda (flattened rice) and store it in air tight jar for up to a week. I usually make the peas 3-4 hours ahead (they have better flavor if they sit for a while) and warm up later but you can totally make them when ready to serve.
Ingredients (Serves 4-5)
For the Roasted Chivda (Flattened Rice)
4 tablespoons of oil
2.5 cups thick poha (flattened rice, available in any indian/pakistani stores)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Optional – add any nuts or seeds of choice, peanuts, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds etc
In a wide, cast iron skillet (I use my 10″) , heat up the oil to the point that it about to smoky. Put off the stove. Take a fork in one hand and start adding the flattened rice with the other, continuously stirring else it will burn. Add all of the rice, and stir so that all the flakes are coated in oil. Add the salt and stir to combine. Return the skillet to stove and on low heat, let the rice toast up. Keep on stirring it a lot of times, else it will burn and you will see that the flakes start to change color. You will smell a nutty aroma too. It takes about 8-10 minutes on low heat for the rice to completely roast and turn pale brown. This time will depend on the variety and thickness of flattened rice you are using. Adjust.
Once the flattened rice has roasted, let it cool down completely. Transfer to an air tight jar. Use a clean, dry spoon to serve it. Store up to a week.
Make Spiced Peas
In a wide pan, heat up the oil on medium heat. Once heated, temper the oil with cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle.Add the chopped onions to the pan and let the onions cook till transculent.Don’t brown them.Next, add the chopped ginger & green chili to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the blanched peas next along with garam masala and salt to taste. Stir to combine and let cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
Add the chaat masala and chopped cilantro next and stir fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes, continuously stirring.Take care that the peas do not turn mushy.
Put off the heat, add fresh lemon juice.
To serve, plate up the roasted chivda and spicy peas. Add 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar on top along with a sprinkle of red chili flakes. Enjoy with a cup of chai.
I could go on and on about my love for vegetarian dishes and fresh produce, but there are certain things from my growing years that I stopped cooking after coming to the States for I was unable to find the ingredients. Add to that list a few varieties of squashes, jackfruit and some tropical fruits.No, I am not complaining but there are few dishes from the childhood years that were deep down in the memory, their taste lingering in my mind every now and then as the seasons came and went. Arbi or colocasia or taro root belongs to that category.
A starchy vegetable that is reminiscent of the afternoons spent with badi mummy (my grandmother) in the house verandah, below the small window with green frame that opened into the kitchen. While the loo(loo is a strong, hot and dry summer afternoon wind which blows over the plains of north India) gushed outside, seated on the takhat (a wide wooden bench) she constantly greased her palms with strong-smelling mustard oil,the knife too while that small pile of the arbi infront of her was prepped for dinner. Once the plump tubers were diced, who ever, amongst the women in the family was taking dinner making forward was instructed to use copius amounts of amchoor(dry mango powder) while cooking it. A side of warm dal tadka(tempered lentils) with rice, a hot pickle and one of the most satisfying, light vegetarian meal was put together in under an hour.
There are more than one way I have eaten this root growing up, but necessarily in savory preparations. Never saw a sweet prepared with it, quite unlike the way it is used in the rest of south asia – in making puddings and ice creams or even candy.I thronged our asian grocers almost every weekend until last week I spotted these hairy skinned, mud covered arbi tucked inside a grumpy cardboard box in the corner. Oh my! I notched a little closer, one touch between my palms and in a blink I knew they were perfectly ripe and ready to come home with me.
This recipe today is very simple, very less ingredients and really you can taste the sweet gummy tuber in this preparation. You would need to get ajwain (or carrot seeds) though, they lend an amazing flavor which enhance the unique taste as well as aids in digestion of this vegetable. A sprinkle of chaat masala and squirt of fresh lemon juice at the end is one of my favorite ways to dress it up.
1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh lemon juice at end)
salt to taste
Chopped cilantro – for garnish
Sprinkle of chaat masala (optional, to taste)
Grease your palms liberally with oil or wear gloves when handling raw taro root. It could be quite itchy without.
Finish the dish with some sour element, dry mango powder (amchoor) as in the recipe, vinegary or fresh lime/lemon juice. Sometimes, the cooked vegetable can itch the throat. But not to worry. The sour element only adds to the taste.
Using the peeler, peel off the skins of the arbi. Wash under running water. Completely dry with a kitchen towel. Slice length wise into half. Cut batons from each half.
Heat up the oil in a saute pan on medium. Temper the oil with ajwain, cumin,green chillies and hing powder.Immediately add the arbi and stir around to coat the batons in oil. Sprinkle the red chili powder and amchoor. Also add the salt. Stir again to combine.
Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let cook for 12-15 minutes till the arbi is soft but not mushy.
I did not know of the husband’s liking for south indian flavors until we got married. It made quite a sense for someone who spent good four or five years of his college life in the southern city of Madras (now Chennai). The hostel canteen served some mean regional delicacies,he fondly recollects. My mom made a few vegetarian south indian dishes at home but those were mostly the general south indian favorites popular all over India –uttapams (savory rice pancakes),upma(breakfast porridge) ,gun powder, coconut chutneys,dosas (rice crepes) and idlis(steamed rice cakes) to name a few. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen me making south indian dishes sometimes.
After our wedding, I saw the husband ordering south indian take outs more often than not. He would enjoy those strongly spiced,super hot curries, smelling of coconut and mustard. So, over all these years I have developed a few recipes of south indian style curries, suited to our taste.Spicy, hot and with distinct flavors,these are the recipes I can bank upon when looking for something different on our dinner table.
I usually serve plain rice and a refreshing salad with such curries, however you could do some vegetables like this asparagus-peas stirfry with coconut or a simple dal(lentils)
I do not have stories to connect to this recipe today. It is not the food of my childhood. It is not something I grew up with. I do not claim that this curry belongs to some particular region of southern india,we like it in our homes and call it “south indian chicken curry”. My husband sampled it and asked me to put it up here, because this is a journal of our day today favorite foods.
The curry is quite spicy, take my word for it.I use hot dried red chillies, seeds and all and grind them with strong pungent, spices like fenugreek, mustard seeds and black peppercorns.You would need to visit indian grocer for things like curry leaves, which lend a distinct aroma and flavor to this curry. There is no substitute for them but you can skip them if you do not get. It is quite good even without them.
2-3 tablespoon tamarind pulp (use less if using store-bought, see notes)
10 fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup to 1 cup thick coconut milk (depending on how creamy and pronounced coconut taste you want)
Salt to taste
Store bought tamarind pulp is quite concentrated, tart and very salty. Use discretion when adding it.
I would not recommend using “light” coconut milk, as it makes the gravy very watery. Go for the thick, creamy one.
Marinating the chicken (This can be done up to a day in advance)
In a small sauce pan, add the 1 tablespoon oil and heat it up on low. Add all the ingredients except chicken and salt to the oil and lightly roast the spices till you smell a nice aroma. Do not let them turn brown. Let cool once roasted.
Grind the roasted spices coarsely. In a large bowl, add the chicken pieces, sprinkle salt and half the quantity of this spice rub, combine so that chicken is coated in spices, cover and let marinate refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight(preferably).
Reserve the remaining spice rub.
Making the Curry
Thirty minutes prior to cooking, take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and let sit on the counter.
In a kadhai(indian wok) or a large pot with lid, heat up the 4 tablespoon oil on medium high.Once the oil is hot, add the onions, garlic and green chillies to it. Saute and cook the onions for 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown. Add the bay leaf,cardamom, cinnamon stick and sauce for 10-12 seconds till you smell an aroma.
Next, add the marinated chicken to the pot, add salt, turmeric and stir around so that chicken pieces start to coat in the onions and garlic. Once you see that the chicken pieces have started to brown on the edges,cover the pot and let the chicken cook in its own juices until about 80% cooked, about 15-18 minutes(note that this time will depend on the cut and size of chicken pieces).
Add the reserved spice rub, ginger, curry leaves and tamarind paste next and stir around to coat the chicken. Cover and let cook on medium low for another 8-10 minutes until the chicken is almost cooked.If at any point you feel that the chicken is sticking to bottom on the pot, add a splash of water
Uncover, reduce the heat to low, and add the coconut milk to the kadhai. Do not stir immediately. Let the coconut milk combine on its own. Check and adjust the salt. Stir very gently and let simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Garnish with few curry leaves and serve with warm rice.
You know I have made these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcased it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it. Put that pressure cooker to work (or the slow cooker if you want) because I have included both methods in the recipe.
Dal Makhani literally translates to “buttery lentils”. It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter, it was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings. And I can very well understand why.These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It’s not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and doze off kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet – acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it. Now, after so many years of making it, I can just tell by the look of them if they are perfectly cooked or not.
In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by serving something away from the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signature recipe.It’s one of the recipes which she has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the method to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredients come naturally to her, she didn’t pick a measuring spoon if I tell you the truth.
It is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden and full of concentrated fats. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes is different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger & kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a baby food consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite. It works better with my texture -in- food kind of crazy family.
A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roast the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.
Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings)
Cooking the Lentils
1/2 cup whole black uraddal (lentils)
2 tbsp red kidney beans
2 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
1 fat garlic clove, chopped
1 tejpatta (bay leaf)
1/2″ cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
3-4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
For the Baghaar (Tempering)
1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 large tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
4 tablespoon oil(any neutral)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
2 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2-3 tablespoon butter
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
Cilantro to garnish
Cooking the lentils (This can be done a day ahead)
Stove Top Method
Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Soaking the lentils reduces the cooking times and gets rid of inedible enzymes in them so it’s a important step. Drain the lentil and beans, add the kidney beans to a small pot of water and let boil for 20 minutes separately.Then add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3 whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. Open the pressure cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.
Slow Cooker Method
Add the cooked beans along with lentils to slowcooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Set to cook for 8-10 hours.Once cooked, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom.With the help of a spoon, mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them.Let sit.
For the Tempering
While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a small perforated pan but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too.Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).
In a pot or kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the fat starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red. At this point, add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about 3/4 cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.
Once the lentils have simmered, add the kasuri methi, garam masala, nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using) and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.
Let sit for atleast 2-3 hours before serving. They get better as they sit.
Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm with rotis (flatbreads).
I love hot,straight from the griddle flatbreads.With a dollop of butter and chai (tea) on side, the taste is better than the best foods around. Growing up, in my badi mummy’s (grandma) house, winters were a season for parathas of all sorts.On few days we would just feed on stuffed parathas for dinner with home churned white butter and pickled vegetables.It was a simple meal, yet very satisfying. My grandmother used to make parathas with dough kneaded just when it was time to roll the bread,sometimes stuffing the stretchy, gluten layers with shredded mooli (daikon) or spiced crumbled cauliflower, and, a lot of times with the winter greens mixed in to hide but form a robust & flavorful dough. All the greens and vegetables came from the house grown patch, of which I have talked about a lot in my previous posts.On days when the power was out, she would ignite angithis (small clay containers of fire) in the verandah,repeatedly waving old newspapers in front of the glowing coal pieces. If the potatoes were plenty from the yard, they were put as it is inside the gusto of the brazier. We sat around the heated fire,wrapped in sweaters and shawls,our faces lighted by the flickering candles,soaking warmth of the burning charcoal, chit chatting and tearing bites from the fresh made hot parathas. A few potatoes were taken out, smashed with fork, a drizzle of ghee, salt & chill powder and a rustic side was ready.With each morsel,wafted a aromatic steam smelling of garlic, fenugreek and warm spices. Many winter evenings were spent like this, no invertors or generators, a pre convenience era you would say.
Making rotis or parathas is such an everyday thing for me. I make flatbreads of some kind each single day, it never feels like a chore, it is such a happy routine. I fail to understand when people say its too much work.They say when you love something you embrace it as joy. Maybe because I am used to it that I secretly enjoy it or I cook because I care.If you have dough in the refrigerator,its a matter of minutes to get the bread together.
The approach of spring season is usually indicative of the end of methi season.To me it leaves behind a similar departed feeling of sorts when fresh tomatoes start vanishing at the knock of fall. I love methi leaves, I am addicted to them, sometimes I specially go to the store just to pick them, they are part of our weekly menu- they are so flavorful, addictively bitter and so good for you. I am yet to spot fresh methi leaves in non- indian grocers here in the States so you will have to make a visit to indian grocery to get these.However, few of my friends compare its taste to fresh watercress sometimes.I haven’t tried the substitution but this recipe can very well be used for any kind of greens you like – think finely shredded rainbow chard, think tucson kale or think good ol’spinach (the cooking variety).
I roll the flatbreads both as triangles as well as well in the usual circle shapes. The triangle one needs more oil to be brushed inside layers and definitely comes out much more soft & flaky.You can refer to a previous post on step by step for making triangle paratha. The husband prefers those. But you could do any way. Circles or triangles – they taste awesome!
These methiparathas are so easy to make.Throw everything together and knead the dough.They are soft, flaky and packed with taste and nutrients. Let the dough sit in the refrigerator for no more than a day or two and make them to go along with meals or just enjoy rolled up like a cigar all on its own with a cup of chai. I would recommend making them before this winter season goes away.
Ingredients (Makes 8)
1.5 cup packed fresh/frozen methi (fenugreek leaves, see notes on other greens that can be used)
1.25 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup besan (fine chickpea flour)
a generous pinch of hing (asafetida powder)
1/8 tsp ajwain (skip or substitute with celery seeds)
heaping 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3-4 tbsp neutral oil
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 scallion(spring onion) stalk, green & white parts finely chopped
3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water (or as required, see recipe)
Canola Oil for griddle frying (about 2 tbsp per paratha)
You can refer to a previous post on triangle paratha on how to shape the flatbreads.
If you want to roll parathas in circles, refer to previous post on rotis on how to do that.
If you do not get fresh methi leaves in the area you live,look for the freezer aisle. They stock frozen methi there. You can use that in this recipe after thawing it and squeezing excess water out.
Important :- Make small batches of this dough.Its gets sticky and soft as it sits and the vegetables start leaving water from the salt. I do not keep it for more than 2 days. The taste changes after a couple of days. You can half the recipe if you want.
This recipe can very well be used for any kind of greens you like – think chard, think tucson kale or think good ol’spinach (the cooking variety).
Pick the methi leaves from stems. Discard the stems and wash the methi leaves under running water so that all the dirt is washed away. Rinse the leaves well. Drain them completely.You don’t need to dry them out but ensure that the are not watery. Use a paper towel if needed. If you are using the frozen variety, squeeze water from the leaves and finely chop the methi leaves. Set aside.
In a wide dish or paraat, mix together flours, ajwain, hing and turmeric. Start adding oil a tablespoon at a time and working in the flours to incorporate. Add the chopped methi leaves next along with onions,scallions, garlic, cilantro, ginger and green chillies. Mix together.
Add little water at a time and knead to a smooth dough. As the flour absorbs water,it will start clumping up into a ball.Continue to add water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour will come together.Remember not to add too much water at a time.Use your knuckles to flatten the dough out and then pull it all together towards yourself, using your palm & fingers, then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 7-8 minutes. At any point you feel that the flour is tight or drying out, add a light splash water (but not too much)Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast). Once the dough looks and feels really really smooth, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 20-25 minutes. Keep in mind not to make a very loose dough because as it sits, it will turn softer and sticky. Once kneaded, let rest for 15-20 minutes.
If you are not planning to make parathas right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.
When ready to make parathas, uncover and divide into equal portions. Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make roll!
Roll and cover each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly on edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.Dust the board as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.Using a rolling-pin, roll the ball into a circle 2.5″ in diameter. Brush a little ghee/oil on the rolled out circle.After brushing the ghee, fold into a semi-circle.Brush the ghee on the semi-circle and fold again to form a triangle.Sprinkle the top with more flour and carefully with the help of rolling-pin, roll out until its 1/8″ thick. Note: While you are rolling out, you will need to flip over, dust flour etc and be gentle to keep the shape intact.You will not get a neat triangle shape but thats how it is.
Spread some oil on the heated tawa/griddle.Carefully lift the rolled out dough with your hands and place on the tawa.Let cook for 2 minutes on medium heat and then flip over using a spatula.Using a spoon,spread 1 tablespoon oil thoroughly on the first side while the second side is cooking.Flip again and repeat brushing oil on the second side.Cook both sides till you see small brown specks and smell the aroma of cooked dough. In some cases the paratha will fluff up while cooking.Dont worry you did a good job if that happens. Be careful of the escaping steam though.
Once cooked & golden brown on both sides, remove from griddle using a spatula & transfer to cooling rack to cool slightly so that they don’t become soggy , later you store them in a box lined with dry cloth or paper towel.
Long railway journeys.Picnics.Lunch.Festivals.Breakfast.Street Side Eating.Snacks.Dinner. Name the occasion and ‘poori‘, this deep-fried,unleavened bread has been my companion. Thin, thick, staining fingers with oil, flavored with ajwain(carrom seeds)or not,crispy, soft – this little puffy bread has been a steady thing in our kitchen, bringing us comfort and gluttony(sigh!).I could trade saturday pancakes for these, for they will bring the same deliciousness to the table.
Poke your finger to puncture that crispy skin on top, bloated from the heat of deep-frying and chew on it. Combine it with a spicy potato slurry or jhol and you have an overdose of carbohydrates,but, trust me you could feel bad before eating these or after, but, never ever while eating jhol-poori.It is not a that healthy,’superfood’ thing, but most good things in life bring a fraction (or more) of guilt with them! Or so I think.
Chopped or pureed vegetables like spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves are many times added to the dough as variations. You could add a lot of or less powdered spices as per your liking. You could even mix up flours – semolina, cornmeal or all-purpose flour to whole wheat flour and fry up. The tastes and texture changes but the dough takes all for there is hardly anything deep-fried which tastes less than lavish. You get what I mean,right?
A hot cup of chai, stale pooris slathered with chutney or pickles rolled into a cigar in hand is how enjoy it the most but traditionally pooris are served with a side – usually a spicy potato based dish(though in many parts they serve with meats and fruit purees too) and essentially achaar(pickle), mango or lime in my grandma’s house.In my family, the side curry is cooked without onion and garlic and I still make it the same .However there are no rules, if my grandma was short on time, she would sometimes slice a few sweet mangoes or so with them. Basically, you get the idea – its is delicious with just about anything.
Jhol Poori is a combination which makes an appearance atleast once a month in our house if not more. In my mums house, this forms Sunday breakfast, every other sunday. While I knead the dough, the pressure cooker hisses and the potatoes boil inside.A quick tempering with simple aromatics-pungent hing(asafoetoda),smoky cumin & turmeric hit the hot ghee followed by tomatoes, green chillies & ginger,awkwardly crumbled potatoes join the pot, simmer for under twenty minutes or so and done. While traditionally jhol is a term used for much thinner, almost water like consistency, we like ours on the thickish gravy side, just go stingy on the amount of water that you add, everything else remains the same.
Aloo Jhol Recipe
Preparation Time :- 30 minutes
Cooking time – About 2 hours (Depends on cut, type & size of the meat)
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
1 lb stewing mutton/lamb/beef , cubed
2 medium potatoes,peeled & quatered (You can use any potatoes of choice)
2 nos indian bay leaves (tejpatta)
1 ” cinnamon stick
2 medium red onions, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp jaggery (or brown sugar to taste)
1/4 cup mustard oil (substitute with canola/vegetable/sunflower/grapeseed oil )
salt to taste
1.5 cups water
Chopped cilantro for garnish
For the spice paste:-
10-12 whole dry red chillies (I use kashmiri mirch)
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/4 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
2 tsp coriander seeds (dhania)
6 whole green cardamom pods (hari elaichi)
4 cloves (laung)
8 black peppercorns (kali mirch)
5 plump garlic cloves
2 ” fresh piece of ginger
Water for soaking the spices (about 1/4 cup)
Whole Kashmiri mirch lends a rich, deep scarlet color to the gravy without the heat & they are easily available in indian stores. You can de-seed the chillies to reduce heat further.The actual heat in the dish comes from the use of red chilli powder & black peppercorns. However, you can also adjust the amount to tolerance.
Soak the chillies, cumin , fennel & coriander seeds, cardamom pods, cloves & peppercorns in 1/4 cup water for about 15 minutes to soften. Drain & tip into a blender. Reserve the soaking liquid. Grind the soaked spices along with garlic & ginger to a smooth paste. Use the soaking liquid if required while grinding.
Marinate the cubed mutton in half of the spice paste for 15 minutes. While the mutton is marinating, heat up the oil in a heavy bottomed pot with lid on high heat till you see ripples on the surface. At this point reduce the heat to medium & wait for 2 minutes. Temper the oil with tejpatta & cinnamon stick. Wait for 15 seconds till you smell the aroma. Next, add the chopped onions to the pot & cook on medium heat with stirring till they turn golden brown.About 8-10 minutes.
Next, reduce the heat to low & add the chopped tomatoes along with the spice paste, red chilli powder & cook the mixture for about 8 minutes, stirring continously till you see oil separating on sides of the pot. At this point,again turn the heat to medium & add the marinated mutton & salt. Saute for 10-12 minutes till the mutton pieces are slightly browned. You will see water from mutton separating at this point but that’s okay.
Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low & let the lamb cook in its own juices till about 90% cooked. For the kind of mutton I used, it took approximately 40 minutes to reach that stage. You can use your slow cooker or pressure cooker also for cooking the mutton. I prefer to cook it lid on.
Add the potatoes & jaggery next along with 1.5 cups of water. Check the salt. Cook covered on low for another 20-25 minutes till the mutton is tender & potatoes are soft but not mushy.
Switch off the heat & let the curry sit covered for atleast 20 minutes or till ready to serve. Garnish with chopped cilantro & serve warm with salad,plain or jeera rice.
Poori (Deep Fried Puffed Bread)
Ingredients (Makes 12-14 pooris)
1.5 cups atta (durum wheat flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds,optional)
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil (required while rolling the dough)
Oil for deep-frying
In a ‘paraat’ or wide dish, mix flour, salt and ajwain. Adding little water at a time, knead until smooth, 1–2 minutes to make a stiff dough. You can refer to step – step method on kneading rotidough in my previous post.The dough for poori has to be more firm so add lesser quantity of water.
Once kneaded, there is no need to rest the dough.Divide into equal portions.Roll each portion between palms to make balls(about the size of a lime).
Pour 1/4 cup canola oil in a small bowl. Set about 2 inches of canola oil for deep frying to heat up in a kadhai or a wide skillet.
Start with 1 ball at a time, dip the ball in bowl of oil, flatten it lightly on the rolling board and with the help of a rolling-pin, roll into a 3″ or 4″ circle, about 1/8 thick.When you are rolling, you could slather some oil if dough sticks. It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, doesn’t affect the taste. When you are rolling the dough you can lift it and move it around to get a round of uniform thickness.
To check the temperature of the oil, pinch a small portion of dough and add it to the oil, it should quickly rise to the top without changing color. If the dough rises slowly or remains at the bottom,wait for the oil to heat up.
Once the oil is hot, fry rolled up rolled dough one at a time, flipping once, lightly pressing with a slotted spoon (else it will not puff up), until puffed and golden brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the fried poori to paper towels to drain. Serve hot.
If there has to be a dish that I overindulged on during college days, it has to be Manchurian – chicken, cauliflower, vegetable, dry, gravy, sweet,spicy, salty, you name it and I would raise both my hands. With that extra cash at the end of the month, saved from pocket-money each week, I, along with few other girls could be found in all sorts of street side places in and around the college or hopping onto public transport to far away Dilli Haat.There would be plates of greasy noodles, lightly crispy vegetarian(or not) deep fried dumplings coated in spicy manchurian sauce, gossip, laughter, half-finished assignments and a compulsory side of fruit beer for late lunches.
Having said that, indeed my appreciation for this ever so popular indo chinese dish stems from those days. Mum hardly made it, for cooking indo chinese at home is slightly redundant when you are living in India because (almost) always you will end up comparing it with that fantastic taste from the sloppy joints at street side. So while the hotspots around the city are to be held responsible for my insatiable appetite towards indo chinese, I never made it at home, it was only after I moved to States some five years back that I tried recreating it at home. Take chicken in hot garlic sauce or fried rice, talk gobhi manchurian or spicy schezwan noodles,by the end of the first couple of months here, I started getting there, developing recipes with the memories of how they should taste in my head and trying to replicate that inside the super hot wok. The fact that the husband shares my love for indo chinese fare and we kind of got tired of consuming overly sweet chili chickens & hakka noodles tossed with snap peas & broccoli (yikes!) and accepting the fact that the restaurants here just do not get it(or we like to think so),it was exciting to see those similar tastes turning on our meal tables from our own kitchen.
When you make indo chinese, besides ingredients, bring along a lot of patience to the cutting board. Spend the late afternoon mincing garlic and chopping ginger.Shred those carrots and cabbage finer than you think you would need, sniff and taste that mix of soy sauce with coriander & turmeric and shy away from de seeding those hot chillies, coz boy is this one spicy cuisine or what?This vegetable machurian recipe has stayed in my kitchen for few years now. I often make it on non-meat eating days or when I have a stash of miscellaneous vegetables that need to be used up right away. I would not say that deep-frying them is the best option but then you are not eating fried chicken so its kind of okay.You know what I mean, right?After all, its veggies!
Vegetable Manchurian is a widely popular dish of the indo chinese genre. It is nothing by vegetable dumplings in a ‘Manchurian’ sauce. Do not confuse the origins of ‘Manchurian’ sauce – it definitely has nothing to do with that region in South East Asia. Creatively put together by chinese who lived in eastern parts of india for centuries, just imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and mildly sweet but hot sauce with hints of indian spices. Indo chinese is what it is due to typical indian condiments – I make it a point to use the brands from indian store for the authentic taste. However, you can confidently do few a substitutions (see notes ) and use your pantry to try this recipe.
1 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to tolerance)
3/4 cup to 1 cup stock (vegetable or chicken, don’t use water)
1 tbsp white vinegar (or to taste)
For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts), ginger, chopped green chillies
For the Deep fried Vegetable Balls
1 cup finely chopped cabbage
1/2 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green beans
1 small green chilli, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
scant 1/2 tsp Salt
4 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
Oil for deep frying
Making the Manchurian Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together soya sauce, tomato-chilli sauce & honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix cornstarch & water and let stand.
In a wok/pan , heat up the oils to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic, green chillies & ginger and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander & black pepper powder next, stir for 10 seconds and then add the soya sauce mix made earlier.Stir for a minute or so and then add the stock. Simmer for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat or till you see bubbles on the sides.Add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce starts to thicken.
Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Add the vinegar to the wok and stir everything well.Remove from heat and add the fried vegetable balls to the pan. Dont stir too much with spoon at this point.
Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.
Making the Vegetable Balls
In a large bowl, mix together all the chopped vegetables. Add salt, mix(do not squeeze) and let sit for (not more than) 10 minutes. Add the all-purpose flour and corn starch next and gently mix together. If you feel that the mixture is on a dry side add a tablespoon or so of water (ideally you will not be needing it since the vegetables leave water from sitting in salt).
Heat up 2-3 inches of oil in a frying pan on medium high. Shape into small lime size balls and add to the frying pan, Make sure that the oil is not too hot(else the balls will remain raw from inside) or too low (else they will scatter in oil). Fry, turning on all sides to golden dark brown
Drain the fried vegetable balls on a paper towel before adding to sauce (recipe above).
Serve immediately with noodles or fried rice.
Use any vegetables that you like (just do not use potato)coz trust me after frying they will anyhow taste good.
You might be tempted (like me) to use food processor to chop the vegetables but trust me it makes them watery. I recommend chopping them with knife.
Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari (for vegan)
Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds extra heat. I get this sauce from indian stores. You can use just plain tomato ketchup or add mix of sriracha & tomato ketchup for a sweet, spicy tangy flavor to the sauce.
The sauce can be made 2-3 hours in advance. Just fry up the vegetable balls and serve when you want to.
If you forsee leftovers, store the sauce and vegetable balls separately. Toss them together just when you want to serve.
The week that went by was such a mixed bag. It started when many of my spice jars came tumbling down on the counter while clumsy moi was trying to fetch something from at the back of the rack. Few of them, brought from Kerala (indian state known for its premium spices),travelled with mum last year and I was almost in tears looking at my counter.Hah, actually not! Thankfully, the jars didn’t break and as of now I am sitting on two or three cupfuls of forced homemade spice mixture of sorts which I need to put to use in future.
Then, my tripod started behaving weird.Out and out.The socket to grip the camera & lens got free and the next day the extension arm won’t stay in place.Before clicking next set of pictures, I have to get a new one now.We will see when that happens because tomorrow we are leaving for a family trip after more than a couple of years since I was pregnant. You can tag along on Instagram in case you want.It has been a long stay at home and I am really looking forward to some time away from cleaning & cooking & solo baby watching.!.Couple of trips got booked in between and got cancelled for some reason or the other, so until I set my toe on that plane, fingers crossed lovelies! Right now,while I am sitting surrounded by ziploc stuffed with cherrios & m&ms,scattered diapers,half packed bags and un ironed clothes,don’t ask me why I am writing a blog post instead. Just don’t.
My mum confirmed that she would be visiting us in December this year and I can hardly wait! Then, the weather in the Valley came dropping down. I am loving it since winters are my more favorite of the seasons. I pulled out those leg warmers and those furry, fuzzy coats. Happppy!Then, as always the cold weather succeeded in pushing me towards heavy deep-fried, robust food and earlier this week, I prepared this super spicy chill gobhi with warm tones of ginger, a strong garlic flavor and kick from chillies for our meatless monday dinner.
I have written about indo-chinese a couple of times in my previous posts. I often make indo-chinese in our house since there is not much to order from restaurants here. When making vegetarian dishes,though paneer is more popular in India, I find cauliflower as good an option too.This firm vegetable, usually cornered as bland, when coated in spicy batter, deep-fried and with hot sauce tastes meaty and satisfying. And then, technically you are eating a vegetable,so little less guilt.The dish has got some bold, saucy flavors.
There is not much chinese about this recipe or for that matter any indo-chinese recipe except the use of garlic, soy sauce & vinegar.But certainly it is not a curry and an amazing fusion dish with lots going on- cripsy, spicy, tangy, hints of sweet.Pair this recipe with plain rice, indian fried rice or serve as an appetizer or snack with drinks if you like.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
For the Sauce
2 Kashmiri dry chillies (these give a beautiful color and good amount of heat but use any mild or hot chill variety you like)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1.5 tsp cornstarch +3 tbsp cold water
4 tbsp canola oil (or vegetable or grapeseed oil)
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1-2 Thai bird chillies, finely chopped (adjust quantity of taste, de seed if you like less hot)
1/4 -1/3 cup water (or as required to make the batter)
Canola Oil for frying (or vegetable oil)
Making the Sauce
Soak the red chillies in warm water for 5-7 minutes. Using your mortar and pestle, make a smooth paste of the soaked chillies and garlic using with 1-2 tbsp of soaking water. You can de seed the chillies if you like less hot. Set aside.
Mix cornstarch with cold water. Set aside
In a wok/wide mouthed pan,heat up the oil to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic & ginger,green chillies and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Do not let burn. Next add the onions & scallion.Cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the chilli-garlic paste that we made earlier and saute till the raw smell is gone, about a minute or so. At any point you feel that the mix is drying or sticking to bottom of the pan, add a splash of water. Add soy sauce next along with tomato chill sauce and sesame oil. Saute for 1-2 minutes.Next, add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce thickens to desired consistency.
Next, taste & adjust the salt. Sprinkle the garam masala, add honey & vinegar and stir everything well. (If you want a thinner sauce add some water right now).Let simmer for another 1 minutes. Put off the heat and let sit while you fry up the cauliflower (recipe below).
Deep Frying the Cauliflower
Cut the cauliflower florets into halves.Do not cut very small else the florets will turn mushy while frying and not hold up in the sauce. Wash thoroughly under running water & let the water drain.Pat the florets completely dry.
In your fryer or in a heavy bottomed wide pan/wok let the 2-3 inches of canola oil heat up. In a bowl, throughly mix all the ingredients listed to make a smooth and thick batter.Dip the gobhi florets one by one in the batter and deep fry on low-medium heat till golden brown.Drain on paper towel.
Note – I do not boil the cauliflower before frying. I want the cauliflower to have a bite after deep-frying. However, do not fry the florets on very high heat either else they will be raw from inside.
Warm up the sauce prepared earlier if it gets cold. Gently add the fried cauliflower florets to the sauce and toss. Garnish with chopped ginger, chillies and cilantro if you like. Serve immediately!
I usually make the sauce first and then fry up the cauliflower.This makes sure that the cauliflower stays crisp.If you are making the fritters first, let them stay warm in a 200 degree F oven while you make the sauce)
You can use little tomato paste and sriracha in this recipe if you do not have tomato-chilli sauce.Adjust quantity to liking. Go light on vinegar at the end since the tomato paste is quite acidic.
Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds sweetness too, you can adjust the level of sweet in this recipe either by adding ketchup or honey/agave/sugar.
A rich and aromatic dish, korma originally belonged to the shahi dastarkhwans (royal kitchens) ofMughalemperors. Deep rooted in aristrocasy, the mughlai cuisine, thus, is redolent of sweet-smelling, unique spices,delicate herbs, liberal use of ground nuts & dried fruit as well as exotic ingredients like saffron & rose petals in cooking.Dating back to the era of invasions and subsequent period of rule by the Mughals, indian cuisine, particularly north indian evolved and embraced the said style of cooking ranging from extremely spicy to mild curries,rice preparations and bread making.
With addition of ghee, nut pastes and dairy (mava (milk solids) /milk/ cream), mughlai cuisine is not your everyday fare. It is once in a while thing in our kitchen but something which we look forward to at mealtime.Those are the days when we don’t care about calorie counting or healthy eating. Nothing can beat the indulgence of soaking up all of that nutty sauce in yeasty naans or ladling it over hot steaming basmati.Nothing compares to the comfort that such hearty food brings.
The most important thing to be kept in mind when preparing mild curries is that you cannot go overboard with your selection of ingredients.That regal flavor of korma sauce needs deft proportions keeping in mind that one ingredient does not overpower the other. On those rare three or four occasions in a year when we dined out at the Karims, a place nestled in lanes of the Jama Masjid in Purani Dilli (Old Delhi), a restaurant with great history and luscious mughlai food delicacies, dad always fondly remarked how perfect this dish was done there ,a single morsel of the sauce tasting of tang from yogurt with pleasant richness from the nuts & dairy and finishing notes of warmth from cardamom, he said.I clearly remember that korma there had this distinct hint of kewra(screw pine essence) and with a simple jeera pilaf, it was all you could want at that particular time and day in your life.
It took a few attempts to come up with this recipe keeping in mind those expectations and the memories.I do not claim to taste like restaurants, but this recipe is definitely a keeper. It came out pretty good, if I say so myself and we really enjoyed it.
I use a bit of turmeric in mainly for the color and to enhance that hue,I finish the sauce with saffron infused in milk at the end.If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking).Another unusual thing in my recipe is the addition of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), a flavor which I really enjoy in creamy curries, you can skip if you like.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1.25 lb chicken thighs, boneless & skinless, cut into bite size pieces (see notes)
5-6 tbsp heavy cream (I quantity can up to 1/2 cup, depending how how rich you like)
a generous pinch of good quality saffron (crushed between palms to fine dust),soaked in 1 tbsp warm milk
1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
1/2 tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp golden raisins
Chopped cilantro for garnish
I like to use dark chicken meat when making curries but you can go ahead and use chicken breast in this recipe too. Even bone in chicken will work.Just remember to adjust the cooking time so that the meat dosent dry out or remain uncooked.
Hung yogurt is nothing but yogurt tied up in a cheesecloth/muslin and hung for 30-40 minutes to let its water drain.
Indian cinnamon is very sharp as compared to western sweet cinnamon. If using the latter, go ahead and add a bit more.
If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking in milk) at the end.
Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry using a paper towel. Mix up lemon juice, 3 tbsp yogurt, garam masala, pepper powder, salt, ginger & garlic in a small bowl to a thick paste and rub this paste over the chicken. Marinate the chicken for atleast 4 hours or preferably overnight, refrigerated.
When ready to cook the korma, takeout the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit on the kitchen counter. Soak the cashews and melon seeds (if using) in 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
In a heavy bottomed pot or kadhai, heat up the oil on medium high. Add the cloves,cardamom,mace, shahjeera, cinnamon, tejpatta to hot oil and let the whole spices crackle, about8-10 seconds or till you smell an aroma.
Next add the onions, ginger and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes until the onions starts to turn light brown. Add the soaked cashews and melon seeds(if using) next along with green chillies. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low now and add the coriander, turmeric along with 2/3 cup hung yogurt. Do not stir immediately else the yogurt will curdle. Wait for atlas a minute and then slowly stir around to mix yogurt with everything else in the pot.Cook the yogurt along with the masala for 5-7 minutes on low heat until you see oil separating on the sides.Put the stove off, pick out the bay leaf & cinnamon,about half of the cloves & cardamom and tip rest of the contents into a blender. The mixture is going to be hot so wait for 10-15 minutes before you start blending it.Blend (do not use water if possible during blending).I do not make a very smooth paste, you could decide the texture of the sauce at this point).
Meanwhile,in the same pot or another pot, heat up the 2-3 tbsp ghee on medium. When the ghee is hot enough, start searing the marinated chicken on both sides.You do not need to brown but a light sear is just about enough. You could do this is batches. Once all the chicken is seared, add all of it together along the blended sauce to the pot. Stir around on and cook on medium- low heat. The chicken will render its moisture and fat as it cooks and the sauce will thicken and deepen in color.Let cook till the chicken is about 95% cooked, about 6-8 minutes.
Next, add the water depending on the desired consistency of sauce (I add 1/2 cup water)along with crushed kasuri methi. Check and adjust the salt. Let come to a boil on medium. Next add the cream, saffron infused milk, cardamom powder, sugar and raisins. Let simmer (not boil) for 8-10 minutes on very low heat. Once simmered, put off the heat and let sit covered for 2 hours.
On evenings coming back from work, when the bus was running terribly behind schedule, I volunteerd to get down way before my stop and walk down home.The side walk still wet from the rain spells an hour or two before smelled of decaying earth and lush green foliage all along looked as fresh as just bathed.The moist breeze of monsoon evenings was a much sought break after spending the whole day in air conditioning.
The fastest way to home get to home was through of busy market surrounded by the yellow government quarters (apartments) which looked like tiny match boxes stuffed on top of each other. In India, such streets are dotted with places to eat and these little food joints have been around for so many years that they turn into local favorites.
There was is a take out restaurant which was one of our favorites for non vegetarian food in the area. All you notice as a passerby were two or three young men wearing colored vests standing in front of the clay oven (tandoor)on one side,their hands stained in spices skewing marinated birds and tikka on to the slender iron bars, and some making rumali roti (paper thin flatbreads) on the other side. The aroma of smoke & cooked dough clinged to the blanket of air surrounding the entrance and the eternal long queue at the coupon station was a common sight.
When we went to Delhi last year, I made sure that the husband tastes the food from there. I remember we ordered garlicy naan, butter chicken and tandoori chicken for home delivery. Its been quite a while and we still talk about the meal from that night so you know what I mean. There must be thousands of places in Delhi serving bestest tandoori chicken but this little restaurant thriving in a tiny pocket of big city is where most of my family memories are woven around – of celebration, of laughter of cheerful Sunday meals around the table.
This recipe took me quite a few attempts to get together. In India,the tandoori is more charred and blackish in appearance than the orange hued you see here at restaurants. Infact, if you use good quality turmeric and kashmiri chilli powder, ideally the reddish-orange color should come along on its own during high heat roasting. In India, we do not eat chicken skin, so whenever making tandoori, use skinless chicken, the meat should be succulent and moist on the inside & chewy on the outside (not crispy).
8 chicken drumsticks (my package weighed total 2 lb, you could use any dark meat cut)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne (adjust to tolerance)
10 black peppercorns
2 black cardamom, seeds only
1 green cardamom, seeds only
8 raw cashews, broken (or use 2 tbsp cashew meal)
1 small twig of cinnamon (see notes)
1/4 cup thick plain yogurt
1″ fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp garam masala
1.25 tbsp chaat masala
2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (this lends the color,not the heat)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
scant pinch of ajwain seeds
1 tbsp ghee, melted and cooled
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp good quality saffron threads (optional)
Indian cinnamon is quite sharp as compared to the sweet cinnamon used in the west, that’s why I have noted a small quantity, adjust as per taste but do not go overboard.
Black Cardamom has no substitute in this recipe. It has a woody, strong flavor and aroma much different that the sweet smelling cardamom. If you do not have it simply skip it.
Chaat Masala is a tangy blend of spices which is used in indian cuisine.In this recipe it makes the marinade thick as well as lends it distinct hints of sharpness & smokiness,if you do not have it, use some lemon juice and a bit of roasted cumin powder in its place. If you want you can order online or buy at indian/pakistani store. It keeps well for almost a year and can be used in salads, roasted vegetables or meats etc.
You can make the tandoori marinade and immediately freeze it up to a month. When using, thaw it in the refrigerator and mix in the proteins or vegetables you are using.
I recommend not using lean or boneless cuts like chicken breast for making tandoori because the high heat of cooking will immediately make the poultry chewy. You could use whole boneless thighs though.
Skin the chicken and wash it under a running steam of water. Using paper towels, completely pat the chicken dry.Using a sharp knife, make incisions in the chicken and place in a bowl. Thoroughly rub the chicken with lemon juice, salt and chili powder. Set in the refrigerator.
Lightly crush the the black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon in mortar & pestle.Place them into the blender. Add the cashews, yogurt,ginger, garlic, garam masala, chaat masala, kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, nutmeg, ajwain,ghee, saffron and salt to the blender.Blend everything very very well till a smooth paste is formed. Refrigerate this paste for 30 minutes for flavors to mix.(If its not very hot, you can leave it on the kitchen counter top else in the fridge so that yogurt does not turn sour)
Mix in the chicken and the marinade and let sit refrigerated for 18-24 hours (at least). This time of marination is really important. You could marinate up to 2 days in advance.
Once ready to cook, leave the chicken pieces out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil (this makes cleaning easy) and set a rack over it. Also, preheat your oven to its highest temperature (600 F in my case). Place the chicken pieces over the rack and roast for 20 -25 minutes or until done, basting liberally with oil. Use a lot of oil for basting, this is very important for a moist chicken. You will need to open up the oven door and brush the chicken 3-5 times, keep on turning it to cook on all sides. Alternatively you could grill the chicken outdoors,basting it at intervals
Serve hot immediately with chaat masala, onion slices, lemon wedges, fresh chopped cilantro.