The first thing to be spotted in markets at the turn of April or May as soon as the short fairytale called winter is over is okra pods.Â ItÂ probably tops the list of summer vegetables in India. I would compare the hue and cry about it to sight of fresh tomatoes here. I would accompany my grandmother to our dailyÂ vegetable vendor, leaned over his cart and gazed at the pile of okra that occupied half of the space and observed how my grandmother chose the dark green, soft, slender ones while arguing about how costly he sold his produce. Almost each week, sometimes more than once, okra formed a part of our meals. My mother tells me that it was my grandfather’s favorite vegetable so our family recipe repertoire is packed with a lot ofÂ ways to cook it.Â As the summer progressed, by the months of July and august and with the knock of monsoons and okra slowly losing their crisp texture, only then the focus shifted to other vegetables.
However, it was not until I met the husband that I cooked okra with potatoes. Kid you not, I had not even heard about it in all my years of living in northern parts. It’s hard to say if his suggestion to do so was driven by his childhood food memories or his obnoxious need to combine potatoes with each and every food group possible, but the deal didn’t get too bad here and these two vegetables worked beautifully the first time I cooked them. We continued discussing for many years, each chanceÂ I got to get okra home as to how the recipe can get better and better until I mastered it.
These emerald looking, slender beauties pair with earthly flavor of starchy potatoes so well. On the lines of stuffed okra, I always add fennel seeds to my okra recipes and you will need to do that to know how deliciously this grassy vegetable braces the liquorice of that spice.Try it. The deal with dealing with all the nuances which people associate with okra is not to go too stingy on oil quantity Â as well as not to let the vegetable steam too much while cooking. I cover it for no more than few initial minutes after its added to pan and then continue cooking uncovered till its done, this preserves the beautiful color as well as eliminates the chances of mushy okra.
Wash okra thoroughly under running water. After washing spread them on a kitchen towel and let air dry for at least 2 hours. If you are in a hurry, thoroughly wipe out the okra with paper towels so that they are completely dry.
Halve or quarter the okra lengthwise or cut as you like them. Discard the bottoms and tips.
Peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise. Try not cut them very thick or thin.
Heat up the oil on medium in a wide pan.Temper the oil with cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds. Let crackle. Add the potatoes to the pan, sprinkle a pinch of salt,stir around to coat the potatoes. Reduce heat to Â low, cover the pan and let the potatoes cook till 50%done.
Add the sliced onions and garlic next ,fry for 3-4 minutes till they start to soften and the onion starts turning brown on the edges.
Add the okra, powdered spices (except sugar,Â chaat masalaÂ &Â garam masala) and salt to the wok and mix well. Cover the lid and let cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. The okra will soften and start lookingÂ deep green .
Remove the lid, reduce heat to low and cook the okra for another 8-10 minutes till its cooked through and the potatoes are fork tender. Stir at intervals to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Once the okra & onions are soft,turn the heat to high, sprinkle the sugar andÂ garam masalaÂ and saute for another 1-2Â minutes. Let sit for 15Â minutes before serving.
The summer mornings at my badi mummy’s (grandma) house started early with preparing for meals ahead that day. By the time I walked down half sleepy to the lobby, the central area of our house where the whole family gathered for chai in the mornings, at meal times or just to sit chatting away, the “lobby” with tiny pink and ivory marble pieces embedded in the floor and a fish aquarium decorating one corner of the wall facing the door that opened into the backyard, I would often find her either chopping vegetables,segregating them into what will be for which mealtime, kneading the dough , picking the lentils or just involved in some kitchen chore.A half filled teacup always on her side on top of a newspaper folded in quarters which she read in between of being busy.I inched to sit close to her and see what her keep busy.I would flip a few pages of the newspaper and often she told me ” hamare babuji 25 paise har mahene english padne ke leye jayda dete they”(my father spent extra money each month to let me learn english at school). In the 1930s, many old women of her age in India would not be reading english newspapers or speaking the language at that time.
When it was the pickling season, the attention shifted from regular tasks to raw mangoes, baby limes and chilies.To tell you the truth the pungent smell of strong pickling spices along with the piquant aroma of virgin mustard oil would be the last thing you would want to sniff at 6 in the morning but her dedication and involvement towards this business was contagious. Attention to detail boiled down to sterilizing the knifes and kitchen towels that would or could touch those chilies and mangoes,leave alone the large glass containers and spoons or bowls. In that time of no fancy appliances,magic bullets and all, hand crushing the tough seeds of fenugreek and tiny rai (brown mustard) did not come easy if you lacked sincerity. She often covered her nostrils with the end of her cotton saree, which was especially worn in any other color but white that day to guard against stains and those fragile, slightly wrinkly hands worked energetically in unison with the heavy terra-cotta mortar & pestle. In between, she paused to wipe off the spice dust off her steel framed glasses but continued with double vigor in the next few minutes.I often wondered if there could be anything, anything in this whole wide world right now which could deter her attention.
For the next few hours, the coarse ground fenugreek, nigella, fennel and mustard seeds were mixed with copious amounts of turmeric powder and salt and then doused in liters of raw, virgin mustard oil, the pungent oil, which my kitchen still feels lifeless without for I have consumed it right from childhood days. Half of the mixture was separated for the mango pickle to which she would add more chili powder later and the rest was stuffed inside plum,red peppers with slightly shriveled skin from a day or two of sun drying prior to pickling. The jars would be situated in sun to ferment for week or ten days and she found something else to keep her busy like no other.
Having lived on homemade pickles all those years of growing up, I could never acquire a taste for the store-bought ones.My tastebuds can make out the slightest hints of those citric acid and preservatives. It is my aim every season to make at least one pickle. Last year it was raw mangoes and prior to that I pickled no oil limes. It was the turn of red chili peppers as soon as I spotted them at Whole foods this time. Over the years, I have slightly changed the recipe to be more like my mom’s. Instead of stuffing the whole red chili peppers, I slit them in half and then stuff the halves. Thats the only change I have made to my badi mummy‘s recipe.
Ingredients (Makes 40 halves of pickled chilies and extra spice (masala) & oil )
18-20 whole red chili peppers (I used Fresno)
pinch of salt
4 tablespoon rai (brown mustard seeds)
2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon Nigella seeds
1.5 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1.5 tablespoon amchoor (dry mango powder, buy online here )
2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
300-350 ml virgin mustard oil, divided (or use olive oil, see notes)
You could use the same recipe to make whole stuffed red chili peppers.Instead of halving them, simply, remove the seeds and stuff with the spices.
Never under salt the pickle, it will go bad within few weeks.
If you do not like the strong taste of mustard oil, you can heat it up to do away the raw smell, cool down and then add. Or you can use olive oil in this recipe if you do not get mustard oil. The flavor of the pickle is slightly different from traditional but it works.
This is not an instant pickle recipe, the pickle is sun fermented and takes 7-10 days (or more depending on strength of sun where you live to mature and get ready to consume.
Wash and pat dry the chilies. Cut and discard the top stem and the entire green portion, then cut them into half. I discarded the seeds & veins of half the chillies,thats where the heat in the pickle comes from. You can remove seeds for all of them if you want. Layer the chilies on a wide, non reactive shallow dish, sprinkle a scant pinch of salt.
Using your coffee grinder, coarsely pulse the mustard, fennel, nigella & fenugreek seeds separately (this is important).You do not need to make a fine powder, if few specks of whole spices remain, its okay. In a small bowl mix the powdered spices together with turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt and amchoor.Taste the spice mix for salt, it should be slightly more salty than you think. Add 2-3 tablespoon mustard oil just so that the spice powder is moistened. This will be make it easy to stuff the chilies.
With dry hands, stuff whole or each half of the chilies with this spice mixture. Place the stuffed chili pepper in a wide glass dish (I use my pyrex). Add 200 ml of mustard oil, any spice mixture remaining and gently mix so that the chilies are coated in oil. At this point, the achaar will have a very strong smell and a bitter taste but thatâ€™s okay. Allow it to stand in full sun for two days. Try to stir the achaar once or twice a day with a clean, dry spoon.
On the third day transfer the achaar into a glass or porcelain jar (do not use a metal container) , check and adjust the salt and top with remaining oil and mix well. Cover the mouth of the jar with a muslin cloth, tie with a string and let mature for seven to ten days in sun. (this time will depend on the strength of sun in the area you live).Stir the contents once or twice a day.
At the end of sun fermentation, the skin of chilies would have shrivelled and the strong, bitter taste will go away. Store at room temperature for up to 2-3 months. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickle.
I always feel that I end up cooking many dishes just to re-create a special memory, securely nestled in my heart from the yearsÂ gone by or from days of growing up. Sometimes the sight of the familiar ingredients at the store brings in with itself such a gush of thoughts that I won’t have anyother way except cheering myself up in the kitchen with them,cooking up a storm to recreate those flavors. Fresh peas during spring time, is one of such thing. For less than a second,the sight of exuberantly prized organic sweet peas at the grocer last weekÂ made little sense coupled with the effort required to prepare them. But then, I could not walk away without securing a pound in my cart to make some this lusciousÂ matarpaneer – fresh shelled peas and soft unaged cheese in a spicy sauce redolent of sweet-smelling cardamom and sharp hintsÂ of cinnamon and cloves in contrast to the sweetness of the vegetable.
I don’t remember a single time during childhood when we ate frozen peas.Fresh peas were a winter treat and the only way. My grandmother and other womenÂ of the family, after serving lunch, geared up for dinner,pulling chairs around the takhtÂ (a very old wide wooden bench still going strong in verandah of my badi mummy’s house), settling down with cups of cardamom chai and spent few good hours to shellÂ three or fourÂ kilos of grassy, plum pods, gossiping about the neighbors or the relatives, working with remarkable patience, a virtue that comes hard to me when I know there is a ready to useÂ pouch inside the freezer.
When I amÂ engrossed in such strong weavedÂ memories, at times, itÂ becomes difficult to tear away and lend to the present. The joy continues, the nostalgia gets compelling. When I spent about half hour over the weekend in the company of these fresh peas I got, I felt like a child again,Â badi mummy teasing me to lend help and just not nibble on the seeds.It was raining outside and I felt like a child again,some eighteen or twenty years back, me wearing hand knitted, red colored socks,running away with fistfuls ofÂ matar dana.Â All laughs, soÂ much fun.
Then suddenly, I feel the warmth ofÂ my daughter from behind, trying to lift her body on heels to reach for the bowl of seeds that I just shelled.Her smile breaks the array of thoughts. She is like mommy.
Matar paneer is a classic north indian dish. I have always liked it on the spicy side with the creaminess limited to that from the paneer (fresh indian cheese). Each home in india has its own version of it, there is nothing wrong or right become curry are so versatile that way.The curry is naturally gluten free since paneer is a gluten free cheese. You can very easily make this recipe vegan friendly using tofu, or any other vegan substitute. I am sharing my mom’s recipe with a little bit of extra spices added in.
Matar Paneer -Â Fresh Peas & Indian Fresh Cheese in a aromatic and spicy tomato – onion sauce
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 medium tomatoes (yield about 3/4 cup fresh tomato puree)
1 fat garlic
6 ozÂ paneerÂ (about 200 grams, homemade or store-bought, cubed, use extra firm tofu for vegan)
1/4 cup mustard oil (or use olive/vegetable oil)
1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
2 green cardamom
1/4 inch piece ofÂ dalchiniÂ (cassia bark, substitute with 1/2 inch piece of regular cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste, substitute with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne)
1/2 teaspoonÂ kashmiriÂ chilli powder (this lends the color not the heat, substitute with paprika)
salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup -1 cup water (depending on the desired consistency of sauce)
1 teaspoonÂ kasuri methi, crushed between palms
1/2 teaspoonÂ garam masalaÂ (adjust to taste)
2-3 tablespoon of heavy cream (optional, I did not use, skip for vegan )
Fresh cilantro & ginger juliennes to garnish and serve
If you are using fresh peas, shell the pods. If using frozen, thaw the peas.
Blend the tomatoes along with garlic to a fine puree. Set aside.
Soak theÂ paneerÂ cubes in warm water. Set aside. If using tofu, dry it using paper towels, cube it and let sit.
Heat up the mustard oil in a large pot, wait till you see little ripples on the surface, add the onions along with cardamom, clove,Â dalchiniÂ & cumin seeds.Saute for 5-6 minutes till the onion start to turn lightÂ brown.
It was one of the most important day of my life as we drove through wide but still crowded roads due to evening traffic, long after sun down to Kashmiri Gate,to the university campus in Old Delhi to figure out if I made it to that year’s list of DCE(Delhi College of Engineering0. I remember me and mom sat and waited in the car while dad walked out to check the noticeboard.Those fifteen minutes,that day, might have been the longest of my life as I sat and observed the varied expressions of cheer and dismay on the faces of others coming out of the red-painted door and walking towards the crowded parking lot. As many parents passed our car, clear among the noisy chaos of honks and shouting kin, I could hear the conversations of celebrations, as also the consoling whispers of ‘there are few more results left’. Every time those sounds touched my ears, my heart rejoiced for half a second and next moment, the random thoughts weaved an abyss against hope. I might have blinked my eyes lesser than usual, my throat felt dry and itchy but my glances just waited for dad to emerge out of that red-painted door. I could hear mom’s cell phone ringing constantly, every other relative & rest of the family calling in to check if I ‘got through’. She pretended to be normal, but I could segregate the egdy tones of anxiety when she uttered ‘pata nahi‘ (don’t know).
The engineering entrance exam system in India gets more tough each year than the actual exam itself mainly due to the exponential increase in number of takers. Colleges in big metropolitan cities are more sought after and it definitely boils down to minute differences in performance to rank you higher or not. I had been preparing for this exam for almost a year and as expected I was nervous on the result day. Badly.
It was 7:43 pm. Dad emerged out of the door with a flat face.My heart skipped a beat and I started sweating like a pig. I could feel my ear lobes turning red and my throat choking. We could not keep inside the car anymore and I forced myself and ran to him. Mom rushed after. I looked at him with deer eyes.He still kept a straight face. I don’t remember but for the first time in last fifteen minutes I would have opened my palms to clutch his sleeve. He looked at us and with the most lovely smile spreading across his face that I might have witnessed ever, he said ‘ho gaya, mithai khilao‘ (You got in, get the sweets!). Tears rolled down my eyes. Music to my ears. The world at my feet. I was through!
Mithai or sweets form an integral part of indian culture.Each occasion of life is celebrated with them.The streets and neighborhood of the country are dotted with sweet shops and if you find ever yourself stuck in a desert, you would be less than a mile away from one. ‘Peda‘ is one of the popular sweets from the ‘Uttar Pradesh’,and these are essentially fudgy, thick, semi soft, sweet chunks made with mava (milk solids)sugar andÂ ghee. However, these fudgy cashew almond peda, I made are dairy free as well as need very few ingredients for preparation.My daughter loves any mithai made with cashews, so these were mainly made for her though we enjoyed them as well. The slight hints from the orange paired very well withÂ the nuts even though the aroma of sweet green cardamom is more prominent. These could get addictive. These gluten-free, vegan balls can be an excellent after school snack. Make some and enjoy!
Glutenfree, Dairy Free & Vegan sweet fudge made with cashew and almond meal.
Ingredients (Makes 25 )
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1.5 cup cashew nut meal (or powdered raw cashews)
1 cup almond meal (or powdered raw almonds)
1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
6 green cardamom pods, seeds crushed
1/2 cup powdered sugar to roll
In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 12 inch 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.
Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add the cashew and almond meal to the pan. Mix everything and brace yourself for some hard work. Keep on stirring and stirring as the mix cooks on low flame. The process will be slow in the beginning and you will feel that it will take forever but do not worry. Keep on stirring, scraping the mixture on low flame, do not let the mixture stick to the sides of the skillet.
After about 20-22 minutes, you will see that the mixture starts thickening and coming together. We will shortly be getting there, once the mixture is thick, do not bother much about scraping the sides as they will be really dry. Around 24 minutes, the mixture will start resembling a soft, sticky dough and will clump up around the spatula. If you try to bring the mixture together in one place on the skillet, it will try to slowly spread (similar to how a glug of cold honey spreads on a surface). Mix in the orange zest and crushed cardamom. Put off the stove.
Immediately transfer to the greased surface and leave to cool a bit until its safe to handle. Once the dough has cooled slightly, very gently knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Remember that the dough needs to be warm when you knead so just wait till its safe to touch, do not let it cool down completely, else it will not knead and remain grainy.Do not press very hard as you knead else the nuts will start oozing their oil. You can grease you hands or the dough with ghee in between if it starts feeling sticky.
While the kneaded dough is still warm, pinch small portions of it and roll into a smooth ball. Roll the balls in powdered sugar.
Once cooled, store the peda in air tight container for up to a week.
Thank you for stopping by!
The time of cooking noted in this recipe will vary if you are using any other kind of sugar than granulated, since the water content of different varieties of sugar is different.
You can use any kind of flavorings like saffron or rose instead of orange zest & cardamom.
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 Â but did not want to sink it down in a pool of hot oil. I wanted that rich salty greaseÂ 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 blogÂ are easy and I work wonders like michelin chefs in my homeÂ kitchen,but truth be told, on few days, there are bundles of failures and wastage (eeeks)Â 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 Â 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 didÂ 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 Â beating wentÂ another notch up. Some otherÂ Â time,I told myself and retiredÂ to bed.
Then another day, in the bright of the noon, IÂ took out theÂ 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 jalebiÂ from the neighbourhood halwai (sweetsÂ 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.Â RoastÂ 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 pohaÂ (flattened rice, available in any indian/pakistani stores)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Optional Â – 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,Â heat up the oil on medium heat.Â Once heated, temper the oil with cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle.Add the choppedÂ onions to the pan and let the onions cookÂ till transculent.Don’t brown them.Next, add the chopped ginger & green chili to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the blanched peas next along with garam masala and salt to taste. Stir to combine and let cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
Add the chaat masala and chopped cilantro next and stir fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes, continuously stirring.Take care that the peas do not turn mushy.
Put off the heat, add fresh lemon juice.
To serve, plate up the roasted chivda and spicy peas. Add 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar on top along with a sprinkle of red chili flakes. Enjoy with a cup of chai.
Growing up, we ate ridiculous amounts of fish. Friday was precisely the day toÂ turn to our local fish monger, who proudly called a dimly lit, dilapidated tiny room as his shop but boasted of best quality fish in the neighborhood. The place smelled of salt and sweat and was choked with buyers most part of the day. There was the owner and two helpers who sat atÂ the back corner of the room, cleaning and cutting fish at a constant pace, hardly lifting their heads to see what was going on around them. They did not talk to each other or exchange glances, those expressionless faces often left me wondering as to what their motivation could be to come to this job everyday. Anyhow, the owner solely dealt with each customer and maintained level-headedÂ heated & humorous bargains. The regulars, obviously hadÂ a better chance compared to everyone else to snatch an unbeatable discount.
On each visit, I saw my dad, inquiringÂ the price of one variety more than a couple of times, smirking, looking at him and then quickly pointing to some other variety in few minutes,repeating the process with all the seafoodÂ infornt of him. After good fifteen minutes or so of this (almost) wordless conversation, just looking at Â each other, soft smiles and the owner came out with his Â best offer. In less than ten minutes, we were headed back home, walking hand in hand, thinking aboutÂ fish meals later in the day.
This is usually a way of life in India. Bargaining. Close association with store owners and vendors, knowing a little more than usual about them, discussing with them, arguing with them, saying the hardest, listening the heartiest, it is often enjoyable and seldom effortless. After living in States for all these years, everytime I go to India, I vouch to put forward my best foot when out strolling and shoppingÂ in theÂ bazaars, much to theÂ disappointment of mumÂ who thinks I have kind of lost my skills.
Eating fresh water fish is another agendaÂ when visiting. Mom’s fish curry with in season rohu(carp) or fried fish withÂ surmai. This spice rubbed pomfret is another favorite and so is this mustard laced light fish curry. You could get an idea from all these recipesthat I have already shared here about how serious my love is for all seafood.
I am really lazy when it comes to cooking just for myself. If it’s not buttered toast or scrambled eggs for lunch,this quick, pan fried fish is what you will find me pampering myself with for the past couple of months. It is pretty simple and fast to put together and differs completely from another pan fried fish I have posted earlier. This recipeÂ relies on warm flavorÂ of ginger, sharp garlic and the grassy heat of green chillies along with a tang from vinegar & chaat masalaÂ toÂ Â give the required acidity as well added notes of Â heat. I pan fry the fish in virgin mustard oil, you need to try fish cooked in it to know how awesome it tastes but olive oil will work fine too. Also, broccoli or zucchini is my preferred side with seafood, however you can serve some rice pilaf or lentils too.
1/2 tablespoon chaat masala (homemadeÂ or store bought)
1 teaspoonÂ garam masala
1.5 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
1.5 or 2 tablespoon rice flour (or as needed)
salt to taste
Mustard Oil ( or grapeseed/canola oil)to cook
chopped cilantro, lime wedges to serve
If you do haveÂ chaat masala, add 3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1/4 teaspoonÂ smoked paprikaÂ to the marinade.
Pat the fish completely dry using paper towel or kitchen towels.Sprinkle with turmeric and set aside.
Meanwhile, using your mortar and pestle, smash the garlic, ginger and green chillies to a coarse paste.
In a medium bowl, add this paste along with all of the ingredients listedÂ exceptÂ the rice flour to form a marinade.Rub the fish with this marinade. Let sit refrigerated for atleast 30 minutes or not more than 1 hour.
When ready to cook, set the fish out of the refrigerator.
In a heavy bottomed, wide pan (I use my cast iron) , heat up 1-2 tablespoon of oil on medium. Mix the rice flour 1/2 tablespoon at a time with the fish. The liquid in the marinade and from the fish should be enough to moisten the rice flour. We are not looking for any batter or flour dredging here. The flour will scantly stick on the fish here and there. If you feel that you have added too much flour, use 1-2 tablespoon of water. If you feel that the marinade is still runny (this will depend on the variety and water content of the fish), add more rice flour.
Pan fry the fish on medium low heat in a single layer, flipping midway to brown on both sides. It took me about 3 minutes per sides. (If your fish cut is thicker, it will be more time to cook and vice versa).
Sprinkle with someÂ chaat masalaÂ and red chili flakes as soon as the fish is cooked, if you would like (depending on how tangy or hot you like)
Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top. Serve immediately with lime wedges, steamed broccoli or choice of steamed vegetables, rice pilaf or lentils.
I could go on and on about my love for vegetarian dishes and fresh produce, but there are certain thingsÂ 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 wereÂ deep down in the memory, their taste lingering in myÂ 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 whileÂ that small pile of the arbiÂ infront of her was prepped for dinner. Once the plump tubers were diced, who ever, amongst the women in the family was taking dinner makingÂ forward was instructed to use copius amounts of amchoor(dry mango powder) whileÂ 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 coveredÂ arbi tuckedÂ inside a grumpy cardboardÂ box in theÂ corner. Oh my! I notched a little closer, one touch between my palms and in a blink I knew they wereÂ 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 teaspoonÂ amchoorÂ (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 theÂ 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 withÂ ajwain, cumin,green chillies andÂ hingÂ powder.Immediately add theÂ arbiÂ and stir around to coat the batons in oil. Sprinkle the red chili powder andÂ amchoor. Also add the salt. Stir again to combine.
Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let cook for 12-15 minutes till theÂ arbiÂ 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 theÂ southern city of Madras (now Chennai). The hostel canteenÂ served some mean regional delicacies,he fondly recollects. My mom made a few vegetarian south indian dishes at home Â but those were mostly the general south indian favorites popular all over India –uttapams (savory rice pancakes),upma(breakfast porridge) ,gun powder, coconut chutneys,dosasÂ (rice crepes) and idlis(steamed rice cakes)Â to name a few. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen me making south indianÂ dishes sometimes.
After our wedding, I saw the husband ordering south indian take outs more often than not. He would enjoyÂ 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 toÂ 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, seedsÂ 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 chickenÂ (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 aÂ 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 8-10Â minutes until the chicken is almostÂ 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 theÂ kadhai.Â 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 madeÂ these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcasedÂ it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it. Put that pressure cookerÂ to work (or the slow cooker if you want) because I have included both methods in the recipe.
Dal Makhani literally translates to “buttery lentils”. It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter,Â itÂ was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings. And I can very well understand why.These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It’s not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and doze off kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet – acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it. Now, after so many years of making it, I can just tell by the look of them if they are perfectly cooked or not.
In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by servingÂ something away fromÂ the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signatureÂ recipe.It’s one of the recipes which sheÂ has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the method to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredientsÂ come naturally to her, she didn’t pick a measuring spoon if I tell you the truth.
It is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden and full of concentrated fats. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes isÂ different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger &Â kasuri methiÂ (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a baby food consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite. It works better with my texture -in- food kind of Â crazy family.
A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roastÂ the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.
IngredientsÂ Â (Makes 3-4 servings)
Cooking the Lentils
1/2 cup whole blackÂ uradÂ dalÂ (lentils)
2 tbsp red kidney beans
2Â tbspÂ ghee
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
1 fat garlic clove, chopped
1Â tejpattaÂ (bay leaf)
1/2″ cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
1/4 tspÂ hingÂ (asafoetida powder)
3-4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
For theÂ BaghaarÂ (Tempering)
Â 1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
3/4 teaspoonÂ cumin seeds
2 largeÂ tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
2Â teaspoonÂ kasuri methiÂ (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
1/4 teaspoonÂ garam masala
1/4 teaspoonÂ amchoorÂ (dry mango powder or squirtÂ fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2-3Â tablespoon butterÂ
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
Cilantro to garnish
Cooking the lentilsÂ Â (This can be done a day ahead)
Stove Top MethodÂ
Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Soaking the lentils reduces the cooking times and gets rid of inedible enzymes in them so it’s a important step. Drain the lentil and beans, add the kidney beans to a small pot of water and let boil for 20 minutes separately.Then add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3Â whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. OpenÂ the pressureÂ Â cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamonÂ and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.
Slow Cooker MethodÂ
Add the cooked beansÂ along with lentils to slowcooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Set to cook for 8-10 hours.Once cooked, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamonÂ and cardamom.With the help of a spoon, mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them.Let sit.
For the TemperingÂ
While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a smallÂ perforated panÂ but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and Â peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too.Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).
In a pot orÂ kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced Â garlic. Saute for another 30 secondsÂ or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the fat starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red. At this point, add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about 3/4Â cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.
Once the lentils have simmered, add theÂ kasuri methi, garam masala,Â nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using)Â and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.
Let sit for atleast 2-3 hours before serving. They get better as they sit.
Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm withÂ rotisÂ (flatbreads).
You know there is a thing about simple things in life. ManyÂ 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 dishÂ 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, a collection 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 thisÂ 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 DelhiÂ where days pass by in a blink,I made it a routine to accompany mom to the weekly monday bazaarÂ in our neighborhood. A sabzi bazaar (farmer’s market) which I had been visiting after a decade but still couldÂ 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, colorfulÂ spices,handmade pottery and fragrantÂ marigold flowersÂ on display.AnÂ idyllic time,with spring in full swingÂ 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 versionÂ with basic pantry spices, tomatoes, garlic and lots of kasuri methi(dry fenugreek leaves)Â at the end. It pairs well withÂ steamed basmati riceÂ â€“Â dal tadkaÂ and a side ofÂ mango pickle.You could also wrap it up inÂ triangleÂ parathasÂ (flatbread) and green chutney forÂ 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 (~1/2 cup when chopped)
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tomatoes (~3/4 cup when finely chopped)
1Â teaspoon coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoonÂ amchoor (dry mango powder, or substitute with fresh lime juice at end)
3/4Â 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 cut the peppers any way you want as long as you cut the potatoes the same way.
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 letÂ 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 theÂ 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.