Lamb & Potato Stew

Meat and Potatoes. The universal comfort food. A ritual in my kitchen in the midst of cruel winters especially on days when the chilly winds clatter against the window panes, its grey and cloudy outside and inside my kitchen, meat is slow cooked long enough till it almost falls off the bone, the potatoes absorb all the flavor and the aroma of the spices permeates the atmosphere of house. A dish which evokes nostalgia of my mom’s mutton stew and of our first few years in the States.

My first tasting of lamb came in one of the ornate buffets here in Las Vegas in a mellow stew- crimson colored, cooked with carrots, speckled with herbs & tasting strongly of red wine. Since we do not consume a lot of lamb in India (mutton is more popular), we had only been roasting lamb rack ocassionally, completely oblivious of the fact how this meat would behave with spices. The tasting presented an opportunity to try it in my mum’s mutton & new potato slow cooked stouu , one in which the meat is first seared and then cooked for long good hours, often pushing lunch to evening tea time.

There is little match to the slow cooking method, for the meat slowly gives in to heat, the gelatinous flavor of the bone melts in the sauce lending it an unmatched edge over the rushed one.The key is to start ahead, much before meal time so that the stew does not miss a chance to rest for a couple of hours before serving. This stew is comforting, deeply flavorful & delicious with a earthly taste of starchy potatoes. You should give this a try before the winters go away!

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Lamb & Potato Stew

Slow cooked bone in lamb and potato stew with fresh pounded spices and yogurt.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven

Ingredients

For the Stew

  • 1 lb stewing lamb
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil , substitute with cooking oil that you like to use
  • 1 whole black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 cup onions thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp hot red chilli powder adjust to tolerance
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2-3 small gold potatoes peeled
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • Salt to taste

Coarsely pound together

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 twig mace
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves

Instructions

  • Add the coarsely pounded spices to a bowl. Add the hot and kashmiri red chilli powder. Pour 1/4 cup of warm water, mix the spices into a paste and set aside.
  • In your dutch oven or any heavy bottom pot with lid, add the oil and let warm up for a few minutes until slightly smoky.
  • Add the black cardamom, cinnamom stick and bayleaf to the oil and saute for 10-15 seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
  • Next, add the sliced onions, sprinkle a pinch of sugar and let the onions brown. Keep on cooking them with stirring in between for 7-8 minutes till the onions are dark brown. This is important for color of the stew.
  • Once the onions are browned, add the lamb to the pot. Cook the lamb on medium low heat with onions for 8-9 minutes stirring continously untill you see that the lamb is browned on all sides and the edges are starting to turn dark brown.
  • Add the spice paste next, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and mix well till the lamb pieces are covered in spices. Let the spices cook with lamb and onions for good 5 minutes. Make sure that they are not sticking to bottom. If you feel so, add a tablespoon or two of water.
  • Slowly you will see that the lamb will release its water and the contents of the pot will be slightly watery. Add 1/4 cup of hot water at this stage and cover the dutch oven.
  • Let the lamb slow cook for a low stove 2-3 hours(time depends on how big or small your pieces are as well as the quality of your meat). You will need to check time to time to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom, if so, add a splash of water.
  • Once the lamb is 90 percent cooked, keeping heat low, add the beaten yogurt and mix well rigrously else the yogurt will curdle. Saute the lamb with yogurt for 5-10 minutes untill you see oil bubbles on the sides of the pot. Check and adjust the salt at this stage. At this stage, lamb will be 95 percent cooked.
  • Add the potatoes to the pot, mix and cover the lid again.Let potatoes cook for 5-8 minutes or untill fork tender.
  • Once the meat and potatoes are done, take off the stove. Add nutmeg and gently mix everything well.
  • Let the stew rest for 2 hours before serving.

Pickled Red Chili Peppers (Laal Mirch Ka Achaar)

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 morningsat 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)

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Never under salt the pickle, it will go bad within few weeks.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Method

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 thinkAdd 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.

Thank you for stopping by!

Stay Spicy!

Matar Paneer

I always feel that I end up cooking many dishes just to re-create a special memory, securely nestled in my heart from the years 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 week 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 luscious matar paneer – fresh shelled peas and soft unaged cheese in a spicy sauce redolent of sweet-smelling cardamom and sharp hints 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 women of the family, after serving lunch, geared up for dinner,pulling chairs around the takht (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 shell three or four 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 use pouch inside the freezer.

When I am engrossed in such strong weaved memories, at times, it 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, 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 of matar dana. All laughs, so much fun.

Then suddenly, I feel the warmth of 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.

Printable Recipe

Matar Paneer - 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 oz paneer (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 clove
  • 1/4 inch piece of dalchini (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 teaspoon kashmiri 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 teaspoon kasuri methi, crushed between palms
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (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

Method

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 the paneer 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, dalchini & cumin seeds.Saute for 5-6 minutes till the onion start to turn light brown.

Add the coriander, turmeric, red chili, kashmiri chilli powder next and sauté for less than a minute. Add the blended tomatoes and reduce heat to low.Let cook slowly till you see little bubbles of oil separating on sides of the pot and the spice paste glistening. At this point, add the peas along with chopped ginger,add salt, stir to combine together with spice paste and on low heat, saute for 3-4 minutes. Add about 3/4 cup water, mix well and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for about 15-20 minutes till the peas are soft (but not mushy).Uncover and add the kasuri methi and garam masala along with paneer cubes. Stir, and again cover and on low heat, let simmer for another 10-12 minutes.

Add the heavy cream (if using) next and simmer (not boil) on very low heat for another 2-3 minutes.Once the sauce has simmered, let sit for at least 45mins -1hour or till ready to serve.

Once ready to serve, warm up the sauce and serve immediately. You can garnish with cilantro, extra cream and ginger juliennes.

Serve with rice or flatbreads.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stay Spicy!

Stir fried Arbi (Taro Root)

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.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 1 lb arbi (taro root)
  • 3 tablespoon mustard oil
  • 1/4 heaped teaspoon ajwain (carrom seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 1-2 green chillies (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 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)

Notes

  1. Grease your palms liberally with oil or wear gloves when handling raw taro root. It could be quite itchy without.
  2. 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.

Method

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.

On high heat, saute for 1-2 seconds.

Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve.

Coconut Milk Chicken Curry

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.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

For Chicken Marination 

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 8 dried red chillies (or use about 1.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper,adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (or use scant 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper)
  • a small twig of mace
  • 3 cloves
  • 1.5 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1.25 lbs chicken thighs, cut into 2.5″ pieces (or any dark meat portions, bone in or boneless)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Gravy

  • 4 tablespoon oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions (from 1 large onion)
  • 1-2 thai green chillies, slit (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 2-3 green cardamom pods, cracked open
  • 1″ cinnamon stick
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped (from 2″ piece)
  • 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

Notes –

  1. Store bought tamarind pulp is quite concentrated, tart and very salty. Use discretion when adding it.
  2. I would not recommend using “light” coconut milk, as it makes the gravy very watery. Go for the thick, creamy one.

Method

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.

Dal Makhani – Creamy Lentils



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 urad dal (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

Method

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).

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Shimla Mirch- Aloo (Spiced Green Bell Pepper & Potatoes)



You know there is a thing about simple things in life. Many of the simple foods get lost in the day today ritual of making something ‘special’ for dinner.You don’t even realize often that the main dish tastes so awesome because of the sides that accompany it. These simple dishes are so worthy for the taste and choice they lend to our dinner table that I just realized the other day that I need to include them here, for this blog is my day today cooking journal, 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 this  in my sleep. So very simple and quick to prepare.Not much measuring or skills needed here for this is a very straight recipe with basic indian ingredients.

Must have been the month of February.On this short trip to Delhi where days pass by in a blink,I made it a routine to accompany mom to the weekly monday bazaar in our neighborhood. A sabzi bazaar (farmer’s market) which I had been visiting after a decade but still could manage to remember faces of few vendors from the fading memories of so many years of living faraway. The same chaos & crowds, everybody in a hurry, women holding kids with one hand & vegetable bags in other, bargaining & arguing over pennies,buzzing street side eateries and rows and rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, colorful spices,handmade pottery and fragrant marigold flowers on display.An idyllic time,with spring in full swing and fresh produce in the sight.The green bell peppers, which were in season at that time in India are much smaller in size, crunchy and strong-tasting than the ones we get here in the States. I have never seen those over here.

You know with such recipes, no two people will have the same way of making them. This is how I make my version with basic pantry spices, tomatoes, garlic and lots of kasuri methi(dry fenugreek leaves) at the end. It pairs well with steamed basmati rice – dal tadka and a side of mango pickle.You could also wrap it up in triangle parathas (flatbread) and green chutney for a hearty lunch.The recipe is vegan & gluten free friendly.



Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Serve 2-3)

  • 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)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder, or substitute with fresh lime juice at end)
  • 3/4 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, skip if not available)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)
  • salt to taste

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. You can cut the peppers any way you want as long as you cut the potatoes the same way.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Method

Wash the bell peppers, clean & discard the seeds & veins and dice them in 2″ pieces. Also wash the potatoes and peel (or not) the skins. Cut the potatoes in similar size as the bell peppers and let soak in a bowl of water until you are ready to cook. Dry the potatoes using a kitchen or paper towel before adding it to the pan.

In a heavy bottomed, wide saute pan (I use my 10″) or a kadhai(indian wok),heat up the oil on medium till you see light ripples on the surface. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped onion and potatoes to the hot oil. Add the cumin seeds and 1/4 to salt and stir so that the potatoes are covered in oil. On low heat, cover the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes till the potatoes begin to soften. Add the chopped tomatoes next along with coriander, red chili, turmeric and amchoor powder. Stir around and cover with a lid and let cook on low heat. There should be enough liquid from the tomatoes but you can add a tablespoon or two of water if at any point you feel that the potatoes and the spice mix is sticking to the bottom of the pan.Let cook till the till the potatoes are fork tender (but not mushy).

Add the bell pepper next along with salt to taste, cover and let cook on medium heat for another 3-5 minutes till the peppers start changing color and begin to soften. I like peppers with a little bite but you can cook them longer. Add the kasuri methi & garam masala next, stir around, bump up the heat to high and let fry up for another minute or so.

Serve.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Aloo Jhol-Poori (Spicy Potato Curry & Fried Puffed Flatbread)

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),crispy yet 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 curry or jhol and you have an overdose of carbs, 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 cigar like 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 is typical Sunday breakfast. While I knead the dough, the pressure cooker hisses and the potatoes boil inside. My mom always always cooked aloo John in ghee and I do the same, the taste is so amazing. If not, you can use normal cooking oil to make it. A quick tempering with simple aromatics-pungent hing(asafoetoda),smoky cumin & turmeric hit the hot ghee along with 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.

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Poori (Puffed Fried Indian Flatbread)

Deep fried puffed flatbreads made with whole wheat atta. These are best served with a spicy aloo curry.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 pooris

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup atta (durum wheat flour)
  • 2-3 tbsp oil for dough
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ajwain
  • room temperature water
  • Oil for deep frying

Instructions

  • In a wide dish or large bowl, mix flour, salt, oil and ajwain. Mix well to combine.
  • Adding little water at a time, start kneading. I used a little over 1/2 cup of water. Add water slowly until there is no dry flour and then bring together and knead using your knuckles and fingers until smooth for about 8 minutes or so until the dough appears smooth and is firm to touch. The dough should not be soft.
  • Cover with damp flour and rest for 20 minutes.
  • Divide into equal portions.Roll each portion between palms to make balls(about the size of a lime).
  • Set about 2 inches of canola oil  for deep frying to heat up in a kadhai or in a dutch pot.
  • Keep a a little oil nearby. 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 do not 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 more.
  • Once the oil is hot, fry rolled pooris 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 to 45 seconds. Drian fried pooris on paper towel. Serve.
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Aloo Jhol/ Hing Vaale Aloo

A spicy potato curry usually served with pooris. These potatoes are cooked without onion or garlic and spiced with ginger, hing and cumin seeds in a tomato based sauce.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium boiled potatoes
  • 3 tbsp ghee or cooking oil
  • 3/4 tsp hing powder
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 green chili, slit
  • 1.5 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot red chili powder, adjust to taste
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1.5 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 cup water, or as needed
  • Chopped cilantro

Instructions

  • Peel the potatoes and using your hands light crush them into random pieces. Set aside.
  • In a cooking pot, warm up the ghee on low medium.
  • Once ghee is hot, add hing and then crackle the cumin seeds. Next add the ginger and green chillies together and saucer10-15 seconds.
  • Next, add the powdered spices – coriander, turmeric and red chili powder to the pot. Ad 2 tbsp water so that the spices don't burn. Saute the spices in ghee for 2 minutes or so till you smell a nice aroma.
  • Net add the tomatoes and sauce them for 4 minutes or so until you see ghee bubbles separating on the sides.
  • Add the potatoes now, sprinkle salt, mix well and sauce themfor 2-3 minutes with tomato and spices.
  • Add the water next and let come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Halfway, open the lid and mash a fe potatoes using back of the spoon, this helps in thickening the curry.
  • Switch off the stove and add the amchoor and garam masala. Mix and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Reheat, garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.

Chicken Vindaloo



While I mostly wake up to pictures of snow-covered decks and coffee mugs nestled between mittens on my Instagram feed, surprisingly it has started feeling spring-like in here.Spring in January? eh! I know that sounds kind of way too early & weird but its been over a week with temperatures in late 60s and a full sleeve T-shirt is enough to roam around throughout the day.The sky is clear, the air smells crisp & pleasant and I saw many jogging in shorts today at the park.

However, early mornings and evenings are still colder. The winter loving person that I am, I am holding on to the season in my stubborn ways. Which,mostly means cooking warm, spicy foods. For dinner, hiding indoors in the warmth of the house, I am still rustling up slow cooked curries and comfort dishes to keep us nourished.A couple of weeks back, I made this chicken vindaloo, one of the husband’s favorite things besides dal. It was a late, cold evening some five years back when we headed to dinner at one of our favorite indian restaurant here, choked with guests, smelling of strong spices and boasting of an elaborate buffet over the long weekend, that his love for all things coconut & curry leaves formed a good part of the conversation. I have been making this red-hot, tangy curry for quite a few years now and it has always hit the right chord with his tastebuds.Vindaloo is something I did not grow eating up but with time I have come up with what we like (and hope you like it too).

Wiki tells me that ‘Vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic.The Portuguese dish brought it to India (Goan region) and slowly it was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red kashmiri chillies with additional spices to evolve into vindaloo and it became a curry native to indian cuisine. This recipe here is hot and that’s why I always use potatoes for those earthly,mellow bites in between. I like to de seed few of the red chillies because I do not want it searing hot, however you can use a mild chili variety.Vindaloo pairs best with steamed rice (as with most coastal cuisine). If you would want to try different meats like lamb or pork (if you want to go the traditional Portuguese route) work in this recipe too.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 2.5 tbsp distilled white vinegar (see notes)
  • 10-12 whole dry red Kashmiri chilies, broken into small pieces  (or use 2.5 teaspoon cayenne powder,adjust to taste)
  • 5 cloves (laung, buy online here)
  • 1/4 of star anise (break the whole flower and use a quarter piece)
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2″ cinnamon stick
  • scant 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2-3 tbsp warm water (or as required)
  • 5 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2″ ginger shoot, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh grated coconut
  • 1tbsp tamarind pulp (easily available in indian/pakistani grocery stores)
  • 5 fresh curry leaves (easily available in indian/pakistani grocery stores)
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed (weighed about 1.35lb, you can use cut up whole chicken or bone-in pieces too, just use dark meat portions)
  • 1/3 cup oil, divided
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 3/4 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 6-8 fresh curry leaves,roughly  torn
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp powdered jaggery (or light brown sugar, adjust to taste)

Notes 

  1. In case you do not get tamarind pulp, bump up the vinegar quantity to 4 tbsp. 
  2. Fresh curry leaves are not substitutable. Even though the recipe dosent remain the same, you can skip if you do not get. 

Method

Deseed all or half quantity of the dried chilies if you want. In your blender jar, add vinegar, dry chillies, cloves, star anise, mustard & cumin seeds, cinnamon. Add 2-3 tbsp warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Once the chilli skins are slightly soft & the spices have soaked, add garlic, ginger, tamarind, coconut & 5 fresh curry leaves to the jar, cover the lid and blend to a smooth paste.You can add more water (1-2 tbsp) if needed but do not make a very runny paste.

In a bowl, add the chicken, add 1/2 tsp salt and add about half of this paste, coat the chicken in the paste and let sit for (not more than 15 minutes). Reserve the remaining spice paste.

While the chicken is marinating, heat up 3 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed wide pot. Once the oil is hot,add the quartered potatoes to the pot, sprinkle a generous pinch of salt and saute them, stirring on medium heat for 5 minutes till you see that their edges start to brown lightly.Take out the potatoes from the pot on a plate. Set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pot and heat up. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and on medium-low heat, saute the onions till they are golden brown. About 3-5 minutes if the onions are finely chopped. Once the onions have browned, add the reserved spice paste & torn fresh curry leaves to the pot. Stir around and on low heat, saute continually to cook till you see that the spice paste darkens in color and the water evaporates. About 3-4 minutes on medium heat.

Layer the marinated chicken in the pot. Turn the heat to medium high and let the chicken brown.After about 2 minutes, flip the chicken pieces and let brown on the other side. If you see that the heat is getting quite high, reduce it.You will slowly see lot of  liquid in the pot but that’s okay. Once the chicken has browned, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let cook for about 10 minutes on low heat(adjust this time depending on how large or small your chicken pieces are). Once the chicken is about 90 % cooked, add the browned potatoes to the pot, cover and let cook for another 10 minutes on low heat, till the chicken is completely cooked and the potatoes are fork tender (ensure that the potatoes do not turn mushy. Uncover, add the jaggery (or sugar) ,water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce), check & adjust the salt. Let simmer uncovered or another 5 minutes.

Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.Serve warm with steamed rice.

Vegetable Manchurian



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.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

For the Manchurian Sauce

  • 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce (I use Chingâ€s brand)
  • 2 tbsp chilli- tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1.5 tsp cornstarch +4 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2  tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2-3 small green chili (use any mild/hot variety)
  • 5-7 garlic pods, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white parts
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
  • 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

Method 

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.

Notes :-

  1. Use any vegetables that you like (just do not use potato)coz trust me after frying they will anyhow taste good.
  2. 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.
  3. Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari (for vegan)
  4. 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.
  5. The sauce can be made 2-3 hours in advance. Just fry up the vegetable balls and serve when you want to.
  6. If you forsee leftovers, store the sauce and vegetable balls separately. Toss them together just when you want to serve.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!