Mango Rasmalai

Rasmalai hardly needs an introduction. Sweet chenna(milk solids) patties dunked in chilled, sweetened thickened milk redolent of cardamom and saffron. What’s not to like when biting into a spongy rasmalai on a hot day.

I grew up eating traditional rasmalai and its cousin sister 🙂 , Indrani (have a recipe here). I was introduced to mango rasmalai a few years back and instantly loved it. Chilled mango flavored milk took the dessert to another level! I like to add sweet juicy cubes of mango as well to the milk for extra mango goodness. If you can lay your hands on kesar mango or alphonso mangoes from India, the pulp and cubes of those are the best thing to use. However, well ripened honey mangoes available here during peak summer in the USA also work great, which is what I use.

There are few steps to making rasmalai at home though its very easy. Its a four step process which involves making the thickened milk base in which to dunk the patties, making chenna from scratch followed by kneading the chenna and then boiling the chenna patties in sugar syrup. The process takes time but the only tricky steps are proper kneading and boiling the chenna patties for the right amount of time so that they are soft and melt in the mouth. Making good mithai is a learning process, it takes a lot of time and effort to get the right feel of how things should done. Trust me I have wasted many batches over the years while practicing.

Keep the below things in mind when you make rasmalai and they will turn out soft and spongy every time!

  • Use full fat milk. Dont use skim milk. Boiling milk and curdling it at a right temperature will give you softest chenna. Soft chenna means soft patties. Its simple. Bring milk to a boil and then switch off the stove before adding the curdling agent (I use white vinegar). This is super important else the chenna granules will be tough.
  • Squeeze optimum amount of whey from chenna for a set period of time, we dont want to get rid of all the liquid because we need the fat and moisture both during kneading. When you hang the chenna and it stops dripping yet its moist, this will give the best texture of the rasmalai. Understanding these things comes with practice and patience so don’t give up easily if you mess up a few times.
  • After draining, chenna must not be sticky. It should be crumbly. If chenna feels sticky, hang it a bit longer.
  • Kneading for how long is again a play of feel and impulse. Knead continuously for a good 6-8 minutes atleast to start with. Once the chenna starts feeling soft and lacey, its ready. Depends on the quality of your milk (fat quantity, homogenization, room temperature, etc).
  • If you are using fresh mangoes, grind them to a smooth pulp and sieve to remove any fibers etc before adding to milk. You can used tinned mango pulp as well if you cannot find sweet mangoes. Works well.
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Mango Rasmalai

A popular bengali sweet consisting of sweet chenna patties and sweet mango dunked in a chilled mango flavored milk base.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 10 rasmalai discs

Equipment

  • 2 large pots, colander, cheesecloth, spoons, 1 large sauce pot

Ingredients

For the Chenna Patties

  • 4 cups full fat or whole milk
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1-2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 cups ice cubes

For the Sugar Syrup

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4-5 green cardamom pods
  • 2 cups ice cubes

For the Thickened Milk

  • 3 cups full fat or whole milk
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk or sugar (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup sliced alomonds & pistachios
  • 1/2 cup smooth mango pulp (see notes)
  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 10-12 saffron strands
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom

Instructions

Make the Mango Milk base

  • In a heavy pot, add the full fat milk, bring it to boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 25-30 mins until its reduced to 1/3 rd of its volume. We dont want to thicken a lot else it will become rabri. Add condensed milk or sugar and mix well. Let simmer for another 8-10 minutes.
  • Once the milk looks velvety, switch off the stove. We dont want it to reduce or thicken a lot. Mix in the nuts,saffron & cardamom while still warm, mix and cover the milk with a lid to let cool down for 15 minutes. Once a bit cooled mix in the mango pulp. Transfer to a wide dish(wide enough so that chenna discs can be soaked in milk in a single layer when we add them). Refrigerate to chill while we make chenna patties.
  • Make the Chenna
  • Set milk to a boil in a heavy pot. Line your colander with cheesecloth/muslin.
    Once the milk is boiling, switch off the flame,wait for a minute and immediately add vinegar to it followed by ice cubes. Stir gently 2-3 times. You will see that the milk starts curdling. Let the curds form, don’t stir a lot. Once you see that all the milk has curdled and a greenish whey has separated, the ice cube would have melted awaty. Strain the curdled milk through a muslin/cheese cloth. 
  • Pour some cold water to remove the traces of vinegar. Let water flow away for 3-4 minutes and then bring together ends of the cheesecloth and tie into a small pouch. Hang it for about 20-25 minutes over sink to remove some liquid from the chenna. When the liquid stops dripping, chenna is ready to knead.
  • Make the Chenna Patties
  • Transfer the chenna to a wide dish, add the cornstarch and using the base of your palm, knead the chenna for around 8 minutes to a smooth. Use the heel of your palm, press and push the chenna away from your while kneading it. By the end it will feel soft and creamy and come together in a soft dough. Bring it all together, form into a ball, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • In a wide pot, add the sugar and water for the syrup, add the cardamom pods and set to bring it to a rolling boil. 
  • Pinch small lime size portions of the kneaded chenna and make smooth round balls.Flatten slightly into discs.
  • Once the syrup is boiling, slowly add the chenna patties in there. Dont lower the heat. Once you have added all the patties, cover the pot and let boil vigrously for 10-12 mins. You will see that the patties will grown in size (almost double or more). Dont reduce the stive else thet will deflate.
  • After 10-12 minutes, when you see that the patties are firm, switch off the flame. Do not open the lid immediately. Let sit for 6-8 minutes. Add the ice cubes next and then let the patties soak in syrup for 1-2 hours.

Assemble the Rasmalai

  • To the chilled sweet mango milk, add the cooled and soaked chenna balls. Press the chenna balls just a little before adding to sweet milk. Let chill overnight or atleast 8 hours before serving.
  • Add diced mango and extra nuts when serving. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. If you do not want to use condensed milk, you can use sugar. condensed milk gives a smoother milky taste. 
  2. Use full fat milk. Dont use skim milk. Boiling milk and curdling it at a right temperature will give you softest chenna. Soft chenna means soft patties. Its simple. Bring milk to a boil and then switch off the stove before adding the curdling agent (I use white vinegar). This is super important else the chenna granules will be tough.
  3. Squeeze optimum amount of whey from chenna for a set period of time, we dont want to get rid of all the liquid because we need the fat and moisture both during kneading. When you hang the chenna and it stops dripping yet its moist will give the best texture of the rasmalai. Understanding these things comes with practice and patience so don’t give up easily if you mess up a few times.
  4. After draining, chenna must not be sticky. It should be crumbly. If chenna feels sticky, hang it a bit more.
  5. Kneading for how long is again a play of feel and impulse. Knead continuously for a good 6-8 minutes atleast to start with. Once the chenna starts feeling soft and lacey, its ready. Depends on the quality of your milk (fat quantity, homogenization process etc).
  6. If you are using fresh mangoes, grind them to a smooth pump and sieve to remove any fibers etc before adding to milk. You can used tinned mango pulp as well if you cannot find sweet mangoes. Works well.


Bhindi Zunka /Besan Bhindi

Fleshy and sweet summer okra cooked in a masala of onion, garlic and spices and coated in roasted chickpea flour. This okra dish is so delicious as a side with daal– rice or with soft warm rotis and a bowl of yogurt. I love such simple and light meals during summer. The addition of besan(chickpea flour), one of my favorite flours, makes it taste so earthly and spices like mustard, fennel & cumin complement the combination of fresh vegetable and nutty flour.

Zunka is a Maharastrian (Western Indian) dish which is basically chickpea flour cooked in a tempering of mustard and cumin seeds along with fresh chilies and powdered spices. It is like a slurry or can be dryish. It is usually served with bhakri(flatbread bread) and pickle for a meal. It is a super light dish during summers and quite flavorful like anything made with chickpea flour is.

Here, I added fresh bhindi to the spiced chickpea flour. I also addd fennel seeds since I love the flavor with okra. Okra isn’t slimy at all once the dish finishes cooking, the dish is perfectly spiced and comes together very quickly. The is my version inspired by the iconic zunka dish, which is usually a slurry. I like this drier version with okra a lot. Here are a few things to be kept in mind while cooking okra and this dish. Keep these things in mind and your okra will never be slimy.

  1. Wash the okra at least 1-2 hours before beginning to cook and let air dry if possible. Quickly washing and wiping with paper or cloth table is okay but I recommend air drying. Do not cut okra until its completely dry else it will be super slimy.
  2. For this dish, cut the okra in longish pieces, don’t cut very thin discs.
  3. Don’t skimp on oil. Some vegetables like okra, eggplant etc cook better if the oil quantity is good. At the same time, besan(chickpea flour)also need extra oil for the right texture post cooking. Right quantity of oil also helps in reducing the slimy texture of okra since it dosent steam but stir fries well while cooking.
  4. Okra is a delicate vegetable and when fresh, it cooks quite fast. We don’t need to cover it for a long time else it loses its color, get overcooked and the texture isn’t right. Just cover for a few minutes in the beginning to get cooking started and then cook uncovered till its tender. Writing the method I follow in the recipe.
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Bhindi Zunka /Besan Bhindi (Okra Cooked in Chickpea flour)

A flavorful dish of summer okra coated in spiced chickpea flour. Pairs well with soft rotis or dal and rice.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (400gms) okra
  • 1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 5 tbsp mustard oil or any cooking oil you use
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 green or red chilies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves,finely chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • Red chilli powder to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-3 tbsp water or as needed
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)(or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (or to taste)

Instructions

  • Wash and air-dry the okra. Trim the ends and cut each okra into maximun of 3 pieces. Set aside.
  • Take a kadai or heavy pan with lid in which you want to cook and set it on stove. First, dry roast the chickpea flour on low heat stirring continously till you smell a nice aroma but it does get not browned a lot. Takes about 6-8 minutes. Keep an eye and stir continously. Once roasted, transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.
  • Add the mustard oil (or cooking oil) to the kadai and heat up till a bit smoky. Temper the oil with mustard, fennel and cumin seeds. As soon as they crackle, add the fresh chilies and saute in oil for 30 seconds.
  • Next, on medium heat, add the onion and let the onions cook in oil till they are a nice shade of golden brown. Add the garlic next and saute for a minute till you smell a nice aroma.
  • Add the coriander and red chili powder next and saute in warm oil for a minute or so.
  • Add all the okra to the onion & spices now, sprinkle salt and mix well. Saute for 2-3 minutes with the masala. You will see that the okra will start to look deep green in color and little moist(its own juices if your okra is good quality and fresh). If you feel its not releasing its juices, add couple tablespoons of water, mix and set the stove to low medium and cover the pan with a lid.
  • Let the okra cook for 5-7 minutes covered without opening the lid in between. Remove the lid and you will see that okra is much softer, let it cook for another 6-7 minutes without the lid till its soft but not falling apart. The okra will be browned and you wont see the slime. Once okra is cooked properly, its slimy texture goes away.
  • Sprinke the besan a few tablespoons at a time and gently mix well. The besan will slowly absorb the mositure from okra and will appear sandy. Add all the besan and keep mixing. If you feel that the sabzi is looking dryish, add a tablespoon or so of water. I didnt need to add any extra water. Taste and adjust the salt.
  • Finish the dish with amchoor and garam masala.Mix well and serve warm.

Keema(Minced Meat) Bhari Mirch(Peppers)

Delicious peppers stuffed with minced meat. A delicious low carb dish which can be made with leftover keema or with a fresh cooked minced meat masala. The ground meat is stuffed in pasillo chllies and baked off, you can add a few shreds of cheese if you like. I serve them warm drizzled with a garlicky cumin yogurt slurry. A hearty indian meal which is a hit with family.

During summers, I am on a look out for light yet hearty lunches which are not necessarily salads and these peppers are just the right answer. Stuffed peppers are a classic comfort food in many cuisines and here instead of the bell peppers, I like using zesty pasilla chillies which are not hot but have lots of peppery flavor. You can cook the keema fresh and cook it a bit ahead as well and at the time of serving just stuff and bake in oven.

Some tips and variations to try in this recipe depending on how you like.

  • Choose long and firm peppers which are not wrinkled and have fresh stems. Look for dark green ones since they have better flavor.
  • Seasoning the peppers with a little bit of salt and oil and letting them stand for 10-15 minutes brings about good flavor in their flesh.
  • Protein – Use ground chicken or ground beef.
  • Vegetables- If you wish, you can add a few extra vegetables like bell peppers or peas to the ground meat. One small potato mashed with the mince tastes really good.
  • Grains- Mix some cooked rice or quinoa with the keema before stuffing.
  • Serve with a side of rotis for a full meal. They taste amazing with rotis.
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Keema Bhari Mirch (Ground Meat stuffed peppers)

Tender pasillo chillies stuffed with indian spiced keema or ground meat filling. Serve with garlic mint yogurt or wamr rotis.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 12 stuffed pepper halves

Ingredients

  • 6 pasillo chilies, sliced lengthwise and skin & seeds removed
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 pound ground meat (choose chicken, lamb, or beef)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1.5 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • Spice blend(recipe below)
  • 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro & fresh mint
  • 1-2 tbsp shredded cheese (optional)
  • Oil for brushing or cooking spray

Spice Blend

  • 1/2 tbsp corinader powder
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes(adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, add all the powdered spices, mix well and keep ready.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the insides of pepper with oil and sprinkle salt and pepper. Let stand.
  • In a heavy skillet/pan, warm up the oil and crackle the cumin seeds, bay leaf and cardamom. Add the chopped onions and cook them for 3-4 minutes till they are soften but not browned.
  • Add the ginger garlic paste and the spice blend we made. Saute for 30-40 seconds. Add the tomatoes & sugar next and cook them with the spices for 3-4 minutes on medium heat till you see oil seperating.
  • Add the ground meat, break it using a spatula and mix well with everythhing. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes till the meat is browned and has released its water. Open the lid, sprinkle the salt and then saute (bhuno) uncovered for another 8-10 minutes till all the liquid has evaporated. You will see that the meat is much deeper in color and the fat has started to release a bit. Dont dry the meat completely since it has to bake in the oven.
  • Take it off the heat, pic out the bay leaf and cardamo, mix with cilantro and mint. (At this point you can mix boiled potatoes or cooked rice) Taste and adjust the salt.
  • Divide the warm meat mixture evenly between the peppers. You might have some leftover meat.
  • Lay the peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet.Bake for 20-22 minutes. If you are using cheese, take out of the oven, top with cheese, return to the oven and bake for 5 more minutes till cheese has melted.
    These taste good if they have a slight bite. Dont overbake. Serve warm.
  • For the Yogurt Slurry – Mix 1 cup yogurt with 1/3 cup water. Grate 1-2 garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder, fresh lemom juice and 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves and add to the yogurt. Mix well.

Notes

  1. This recipe makes 12 pepper halves which isn’t easy to finish in one go unless you are serving to a big family. I store the leftovers, they taste good for next 1-2 days. Reheat for 5 minutes in a toasted oven. 
  2. If you are topping with cheese, just top the ones you are going to consume right away. 

Oats Spinach Muthiya

Muthiya is a traditional healthy Gujarati(western India) snack made with different kind of flours, vegetables and spices. The dumplings are steamed and then quickly pan fried in a tempering of sesame & mustard seeds, curry leaves and lemon juice. The balance of flavors is impeccable- sweet, spicy, tangy, yum! These irrestible, soft and crispy savory bites are good for breakfast or any time snack.

My recipe uses oat flour and chickpea flour skipping the wheat flour(which is traditionally used).The recipe is vegan and gluten free. “Mutthi” or a making a fist how the dumplings are shaped traditionally and that’s why the name. You can make fistfuls or make oval shape dumplings of dough or make long rolls and slice them(that what I find easiest to do).

Oat flour & besan dough studded with vegetables – I like to use grated lauki(opo squash) & loads of spinach and with a kick from fresh ground green chillies and ginger, these dumplings are super flavorful.

A few things to keep in mind when you make muthiya:-

  • Don’t make a very dry or a very soft dough. Since we are adding grated lauki, due to salt, the juices will be released and that’s majorly enough to bind the dough once you start squishing. Add a tablespoon or two of water if needed or you can use a dollop of yogurt as well (gives it a very good taste).
  • You can substitute lauki(opo squash) with zucchini or finely grated cabbage. Instead of spinach you can add methi (fenugreek) leaves or a combo of leafy greens.
  • Don’t make a very large batch. In my opinion, as compared to dhokla, these don’t store that well after getting pan fried, make a small batch and consume right away or same day. However, the steamed muthiya can be sliced and frozen. I make them a night before many times and temper when I am about to serve!
  • I like to grind my own oats and not grind them super fine. The texture of the muthiya is great that way. I find that using store bought oat flour makes them a bit sticky. You can substitute oats with wheat flour as well if you wish.
  • You can steam the muthiya in Instant pot as well. Find the recipe here which explains the IP method well.
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Oats Spinach Muthiya (Vegan & Glutenfree)

A popular gujarati snack made with oats, chickepea flour and vegetables like spinach & bottle gourd. Pairs beautifully with chai.
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

For the Muthiya

  • 1/2 cup ground oats (dont super fine)
  • 1/2 cup besan(chickpea flour)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated lauki (opo squash)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • Pinch of ajwain seeds
  • 2 tbsp ginger green chilli paste ,simply pound 1.5 inch knob of ginger and green chilies in mortar pestle
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • Salt to tatse
  • water or yogurt (if needed)

For tempering

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp black mustad seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 2 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 6-8 curry leaves

To sprinkle

  • Sugar, Lemon Juice, Cilantro, Grated coconut(optional)

Instructions

  • Brush a little oil on the base of your steamer basket or dish. Set up your steamer arrangement by filling it with water and keep it ready to go.
  • In a large bowl, add all the ingredients listed under "Muthiya" except water. Gently start squishing everything to combine. The lauki and spinach will start releasing their juices and you would be able to almost bring the dough together. If needed, add a tablespon of water at a time to form a firm yet soft dough. You can use yogurt in place of water as well. Dont knead the dough too much. Once a ball is formed, dough is ready.
  • Cover the dough with a cloth and rest it for 10 minutes. Meanwhile start your steamer so that the water is boiling when you are ready to steam.
  • Divide the rested dough into two portions. Shape the dough into thick logs.
  • Place the logs in the steamer. Make sure that the water is boiling when you place the logs. Steam for 18-20 minutes until a skewer when inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Switch off the stove and let sit covered to continue cooking in residual steam. After about 10-12 minutes when the logs are cool to touch, using a sharp knife, slice the logs into small portions. Use knife in a saw manner so as to not squish when you slice.
  • In a wide pan, add the oil for tempering. Crackle dried chilli, mustard and sesame seeds. Add the curry leaves, they will splutter. Place the sliced muthiya in a single layer in the tempering. Let pan fry for 3 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side.
  • Once the muthiya are pan fried lightly, switch off the stove. Sprinke sugar, lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Add the grated coconut if using.Serve immendiately!

Sooji (Semolina) Halwa

Halwa is a runny pudding made in indian homes using different kinds of grains, flours, nuts, lentils as well as fruits and vegetables.Halwa is usually pretty quick to whip up and quite popular due to ease of cooking and that it requires basic ingredients that our available in our homes. . Semolina halwa in north indian homes is cooked in a blink to translate any occasion- big or little into a celebration. It is one of the frequently cooked meetha(dessert) in my home, much more than kheer. Thats partly because, growing up my grandma made it everyday was an offering after prayers. A small bowl of nutty, melt in the mouth halwa appeared mid morning infront of us, glistening with ghee and scented with ground black cardamom. It is one of my loved memory of her- of my badi mummy, wrapped in a starched cotton saree feeding us halwa every morning 🙂

You need very basic and few ingredients for this recipe- fine semolina, ghee, sugar and whichever flavor you like- cardamom, rose or saffron. This recipe can be easily made vegan, just swap ghee with coconut oil, you can add a handful of shredded coconut to elevate the coconut flavor in that case. The halwa can be made in about 30 minutes, the most effort and patience is needed while roasting the semolina in ghee, else this is a quick recipe.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you make Sooji Halwa:-

Kind of Semolina (Sooji) – Its best to use fine semolina when making the halwa, the texture comes our great, its melt in the mouth. Avoid coarse semolina.

Water or Milk:- You can use either, or you can use a combination of both. I use water, not only it keeps the color of the dark amber halwa intact but it avoids the halwa from getting too rich (there is already quite a bit of ghee in there!) Also keep in mind that milk will make the halwa a bit soft or sticky to taste.

Sugar or Jaggery or Honey- Again you can use either but traditionally sugar is used and I do the same. If you are using jaggery, don’t use milk. If you use honey, the halwa will be quite sticky and has the tendency to easily burn while you “bhuno” it, since honey caramelizes fast. Also keep in mind that the taste profile sweetened with honey or jaggery is quite different from the traditional recipe.

Nuts & Flavors– Anyting you like! I like almonds and raisins because those were what my grandmother used to use. You can add cashews, makhana or pistachios or shredded coconut as well. As for the flavors, I add black cardamom seeds fresh pounded in mortar pestle and a tiny bit of rose water. You don’t taste the rose as such but it adds a nice floral aroma to the halwa. You can choose green cardamom, saffron, even vanilla 🙂

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Sooji(semolina) Halwa

Also know as sheera, Sooji Halwa is a semolina pudding made with simple pantry staples- semolina, ghee & sugar. It tastes heavenly and takes just 30 mins to make.
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

  • A heavy kadhai (preferable iron) or cast iron pan, sauce pan, bowls and spoons etc

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup melted ghee
  • 1/2 cup fine semolina
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (can go down to 1/3 cup if you prefer less sweet halwa)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 tbsp ghee (optional)
  • 2 tbsp raisins (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes)
  • 1 whole black cardamom seeds removed and crushed to a fine powder in mortar pestl
  • 7-8 almonds, thinly sliced (Use any nuts you like)
  • 1/2 tbsp rose water

Instructions

  • Add the ghee and semolina to iron kadhai (or cast iron pan). Mix well for 2 minutes so that you see all the semolina is covered in ghee. Place the kadhai on a low medium stove and begin roasting the semolina. You will have to keep an eye and keep stirring frequently for it can burn easily.
  • While the semolina is roasting, add the sugar and water to a small sauce pan or pot and set on the other stove on medium heat. In about 5-8 minutes, the sugar will dissolve in water. Switch off the stove, dont cook the syrup. We dont want any string consistency or anything. Keep the syrup near and warm.
  • Coming back to semoilina, keep on roasting it while stirring it making sure to scrape it from the bottom of the kadhai, it burns that way easily. Roast the semolina for good 10- 15 minutes(see notes) till you see that the ghee has begun to seperate and the semolina granules are dark brown in color. There should be no black specks of semolina- that means the semolina has burnt, a conistent medium heat and contuinal stirring ensures that wont happen.
  • Reduce the stove to low, and slowly add the warm sugar syrup from one side of the kadhai to the semolima while stirring it at the same time with the other hand, this makes sure that no lumps are formed. There will be spluttering so watch out.
  • As soon as the syrup is added, you will see a puddle followed by big bubbles in a minute on the surface of the halwa, your will notice that the semolina granules begin to swelled up. it will be runny, let the halwa cook on low heat. Add the raisins, almomds and black cardamom powder now.
  • Keep stirring everything gently and continue to cook the halwa for 3-4 minutes on low heat. Add 1-2 tbsp of ghee (if you wish)and mix well. The halwa will be glistening and of thick smoothie like pourable consistency by the end of 5-6 minutes. Dont let all the liquid absorb. Switch off the stove. Mix in the rose water. The halwa will thicken as it sits.
  • Serve warm garnished with nuts. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. If you don’t want a dark halwa, no problem, roast the semolina for just 5-7 minutes, until its golden in color. Rest of the recipe remains the same. 

Bhindhi Pyaz Kadhi

Spring is almost here. Yesterday I found the greenest okra at the store and instantly wanted to make kadhi with it. ‘Kadhi’ is a yogurt and chickpea flour based curry made in many ways all over India. The spice selection changes from region to region and each family has its unique way to make it.

Kadhi comes from the word, “Kadhana” which means boiling the yogurt broth long enough so that it attains a velvety consistency. Done, the right way a well made Kadhi is comfort food. Mom is a champion when t comes to adding vegetables to kadhi- from okra to eggplant to spinach to fresh fenugreek leaves to mixed vegetables, she makes many kinds. If you would love to make a traditional kadhi, there is already a recipe on blog here

A few things to be kept in mind when making Kadhi

  • Don’t be tempted to add a lot of chickpea flour all at once when you mix it with the yogurt. Not only will the yogurt be become lumpy but too much chickpea flour results in a very thick kadhi.
  • When tempering, make sure that your oil is not too hot and whisk continuously as you add the yogurt to it else the yogurt will curdle.
  • Use mustard oil for the best taste, if not use ghee.
  • Use full fat yogurt or indian style dahi if you can find it.
  • The yogurt should be lightly tangy, if not place it in a warm place for few hours or 1-2 days to make it sour.
  • The spice selection is for you to decide- I like to make it north indian style with coriander seeds, cumin, ajwain and fenugreek seeds.
  • It important to boil the kadhi on low heat for good 22-25 minutes for the best consistency.
  • Stir fry the vegetables before hand in a tablespoon of oil before adding to kadhi and then finish cooking them in kadhi, gives the best taste.
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Bhindi Pyaz Kadhi

A garlicky yogurt & chickpea flour curry with okra. Serve with rice or rotis.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Cooking pot, Cooking Spoons, Mixing bowls

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup plain whole milk yogurt, slightly sour
  • 5-6 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp  extra hot red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 2.5-3 cups slightly warm water
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil
  • 15-18 tbsp okra, ends removed, cut in half if they are too long
  • 1 small onion thick sliced
  • 3 tbsp pure mustard oil (or ghee)
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • Generous pinch of hing powder
  • 1/4 tsp ajwain seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds (coarsely crushed)
  • 3-4 whole dried red chillies
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil

For the Temepring on top

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

Instructions

  • In a bowl, combine besan, yogurt,turmeric & red chilli  powder, kasuri methi (if using) salt to taste and water to make a lump free smooth mix. Let stand.
  • In a heavy bottomed pot, heat 1 tbsp mustard oil to smoking point.Remove from heat. Add the okra and char for 4-5 minutes till the skin is slightly blistered. No need to cook through. Take the okra out in a plate and set aside.
  • Add 3 tbsp mustard oil to the same pot. Let warm up. Remove from stove and let cool for a minute else spices will burn. 
  • Add cumin, ajwain, fenugreek and coriander seeds along with hing & whole red chillies. Return to stove top. When spices begin to splutter and you smell the aroma, add minced ginger. Let cook for 10-15 seconds.
  • Next,remove the pot from stove again and slowly add the besan-yogurt mixture and mix thoroughly. Return to medium heat and let the kadhi come to a boil.
  • Dont be tempted to rush this else kadhi will curdle. Once you see the kadhi starting to bubble, turn the heat to low, add the garam masala and let the kadhi simmer for about 15 minutes till it thickens slightly and is rich yellow in color.
  • Add the okra now along with sliced onion, add a little water(1/3 cup-1/2 cup) depending on the consisteny you like and let th ekadhi simmer for another 8-10 minutes till the okra is cooked through. Remove from stove and let stand.
  • Temper the Kadhi – In a small saucepan, warm up the ghee and add cumin seeds to it, when they splutter, take away from the heat and add sliced garlic and red chiilies.Return to stove and cook for a minute or so till garlic is slightly browned.
  • Top up the kadhi with this cumin garlic ghee just before serving along side rotis (flatbread) or steamed basmati rice.

Chicken Manchurian

Manchurian is a widely popular Indo Chinese dish in the indian subcontinent. Sold on streets as well as in good restaurants, it is fried vegetable or chicken dumplings in a  ‘Manchurian’ sauce. Do not confuse the origins of  ‘Manchurian’ sauce – it definitely has nothing to do with the region by the same name in South East Asia. Creatively put together by chinese who lived in eastern parts of  India for centuries, imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and mildly sweet but hot sauce with hints of spices.

We are huge fans of Indo Chinese food at home. It is a much needed break from the usual daals and curries for dinner. The flavors are enticing and a lovely balance of sweet spicy tangy umami.

Indo chinese tastes best when you use of Indian condiments – I make it a point to use the brands from Indian store for that authentic taste. However, you can very well do few a substitutions and use your pantry to try this recipe. If you have an Indian store near by, do pay a visit and try to stock on these things to try many other recipes already on my blog. There are many condiments and sauces available, but below is a terse list of sauces from the brand “Chings” which will equip you to make some delicious Indo chinese food at home.

  • Chings Dark Soy Sauce – Its thick and dark and has a strong aroma, not your regular soy sauce used for dipping dumplings or tasting. This robust sauce can stand cooking and is full of umami.
  • Chings Green Chili Sauce – This is hot. Its basically green chillies ground with vinegar and it lends a grassy heat to the recipes.
  • Chings Red Chili Sauce – This is red chilies ground with vinegar and it lends more of a smoky rounded heat to your sauce base.
  • Chings Vinegar or Chings Chili Vinegar – You choose! The latter has chilli notes along with tangy.
  • Chings Schezwan Chutney – Amazing way to start the recipe, the chili garlic base when sautéed in oil lends a beautiful fiery garlicky notes to whatever you are making. It can be served as it is on a side or tossed with noodles and rice, its just super delicious.

Here the machurian sauce is little different from the vegetable manchurian or gobi manchurian I shared earlier. The selection and measurement of condiments different because chicken needs a more robust sauce. You can serve it with fried rice or hakka noodles for a lip smacking meal.

Recipe

For the Chicken Dumplings

  • 1 lb ground chicken (dark meat,dont use ground chicken breast)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tbsp red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Chopped scallions (optional)
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Fresh ground black pepper to tatse
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Oil to spray (if baking) or enough oil to deep fry

For the Manchurian Sauce

  • 1 tbsp Chings dark soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp Chings Red chilli sauce or Sriracha
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp extra hot red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 3 tbsp dark clover honey
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (its a strong unique flavor, can be skipped)
  • 1 cup+1/2 cup chicken stock (you can use 1/2 stick 1/2 water, dont use only water)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (make a slurry with 2 tbsp cold water)
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1-2 thai bird green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 2 scallion stalks, white & green parts chopped separately
  • Salt to taste
  • 1.5 tbsp vinegar (or to taste)
  • Chopped cilantro to garnish

Serve with – Fried rice, Hakka Noodles, Chili Garlic Noodles

Notes :-

  • Don’t use flavored oils like olive or coconut oil for making the sauce. Neutral Oils are best for the sauce.
  • Use any diced vegetables like bell peppers or baby corn etc in this recipe. Add them after the onions ginger & garlic have finished sautéing.
  • Add more cornstarch if you like a thickish sauce.
  • If you dont want to make ground chicken balls, you can add chicken breast or breaded fried chicken pieces to the sauce. Works great!

Method

For the Dumplings

Mix all the listed ingredients except oil in a large bowl. Gently mix everything together using spatula first and then if needed with hands without squishing a lot. Let the mix rest fir 10-15 minutes. If you feel its too sticky (depends on water content of your mince, add another tablespoon of cornstarch). Oil your palms and make lime sized balls with the mixture.You should get about 12-15.

If you are baking:- Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large sheet with parchment. Place the chicken meatballs in a single layer and spray or brush linberally with oil. Bake for 8-9 minutes until the meatballs are firm and whitish from outside. They will finish cooking in sauce.

If you are deep frying – Heat up 3 inch oil in a frying pan. Fry chicken meatballs a few at a time until golden and crispy on medium heat. Drain on a paper towel.

Set the cooked chicken meatballs aside.

Make the Sauce

In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, red chilli sauce, tomato puree, coriander & red chilli powder, sesame oil and honey. Taste this concoction a tiny bit once (this is a strong paste right now) and you can adjust the heat or sweetness as you wish. Keep it ready.

Also keep all the chopped vegetables and cornstarch slurry ready. Warm up the chicken stock a bit. Keep everything ready to go because this sauce comes together very fast once you start cooking.

In a wide wok or heavy bottomed, heat up the oil on high. Once the oil is smoky, add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger scallion white parts and green chillies all at once. Saute for 2-3 minutes until you smell a nice aroma. If you are using any vegetables, now is the time to add them and saute on high heat for 1-2 mins. Dont cook a lot, they will be perfect by the end of cooking. I did not add any vegetables.

Add the soy sauce mix we made earlier to the wok. Saute for a couple minutes on high heat continuously stirring and then add the warm chicken stock. Add the salt to taste. Reduce the heat to medium and let the stock heat up. You will start to see bubbles on the sides. At this point add the baked chicken meatballs and let them finish cooking for 2-3 minutes or so in the sauce. Dont add the meatballs if you deep fried them (We will add at the end).

Add the cornstarch slurry next and let simmer for 2 minutes until the sauce is a bit thick and smooth. Switch off the stove. If you deep fried the meatball, add them now. Add the vinegar and green parts of the scallions along with some fresh chopped cilantro. Mix together gently and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Tamarind Mackerel Curry

A very simple and sour soupy fish curry with fresh ground spices and tang from sweet tamarind and vinegar. I found fresh mackerel at the store and was immediately inspired to make this.

There are no tomatoes or yogurt like most north indian fish curries here. The much needed sour comes from vinegar, the use of which is slightly inspired by how goan fish curries are done, however I didn’t use any coconut or coconut milk in this one.

With a bowl of warm rice and few sliced onions, this is absolute delight to eat. You can use any firm mild fish in this recipe. Fresh ground spices make the aroma of the curry even more bold and I really recommend you grind them fresh, incidentally that is the only time consuming part of this recipe.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 Mackerel, cut into pieces (about 1 pound), cleaned
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/4 th piece star anise
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1-2 tsp hot red chilli powder(adjust to taste)
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 1.5 tbsp malt vinegar (less if you like less sour)
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 1 tsp jaggery (skip if using sweet tamarind)
  • Salt to tatse

Spices

  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5-6 Black peppercorns
  • 4 Cloves
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon stick

Method

Place the fish in a bowl. Sprinkle the turmeric and salt over the fish and massage nicely. Set aside for 15 mins.

Dry roast all the spices listed under “Spices” and grind them to a powder using your spice grinder. Mix the spices with red chilli & turmeric along with a couple tablespoons of water in a bowl and let stand.

In a cooking pot, add the oil. Once the oil is smoky a bit, add the star anise and saute for 10 seconds. Add the onions next and let them brown. The onions have to be browned nicely for a good flavor. Once the onions are browned, add the ginger and garlic and saute for a minute or so till you smell the aroma.

Next add the curry leaves along with the spice paste, you can add a splash of water (about 3 tbsp) and cook everything together for a few minutes till you notice the oil separating. Dont saute a lot.

Add 1 cup warm water to the pot, add salt and let come to a slow simmer. Add the fish next to the pot and let cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes. Dont let boil. You can cover if you fish but really fish cooks fast.

Once you notice that the fish is white and firm, add the vinegar, tamarind and jaggery. Gently mix everything and let cook for another 2 mins.

Switch off the stove and cover the pot. Let sit for 2 hours before serving.

-Enjoy!

Yakhni Pulao


For a long time, I was tricked into thinking that Yakhni pulao is biryani. Most of my family, still, for some reason refers to it as biryani but its not. This is not a layered rice dish, it is a pulao. Yakhni is ” broth” and this dish is basically basmati rice cooked in a delicious made-from-scratch meat broth.

South asian broths have much more depth of flavor due to use of spices. I dont pressure cook the meat, I let it simmer for couple of hours or more depending on the quantity. Slowly the meat releases its flavor into the water along with those of the spices and herbs. The delicious yakhni is full of body and I remember mom would ladle it into teacups and give us to drink as it is as a soup.So comforting on a cold night. You can do the same if you are not in mood for a pulao.

A delicious yakhni needs bone in meat or chicken and time! There are no powdered spices and all the flavor comes from whole spices, dried chilies, ginger and garlic. Caramelizing the onions well before cooking the rice is another important step, do not rush it, brown the onions nicely, they add not only to the taste but also to the color of the pulao.

This recipe is one of my most family’s most oldest. It was cooked winter long and it is a great way to feed big families or when entertaining. You can serve it with a light chicken curry or any side but I really just like it with plain raita.

Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

For the Yakhni

  • 1 lb bone in mutton or chicken, cleaned
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1.5 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2-3 bay leaf
  • 2 whole black cardamom, slightly cracked
  • 2 cinnamon stick
  • half nutmeg
  • 7-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped 8-10 dried chillies
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water

For the Pulao

  • 1 + 1/4 cup basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1.5 cup sliced onions
  • Red chili powder to taste
  • 1 tsp shah jeera
  • 2.5 cups liquid (yakhni topped with water)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro, raita, ginger jullienes etc to serve.

Method

Step 1 Make the Yakhni (Spiced Broth)

Add everything listed under yakhni to a dutch oven. Cover the pot and set on a medium high stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 1.5 hours till the meat is fork tender but not falling apart. You can do the same thing in an instant pot or pressure cooker but slow cooked yakhni is something else 🙂 Meat releases its own juices and water as it will cook so don’t add much water in the beginning. Also please keep in mind that the cooking time of meat will depend on how small or big the cuts are. So adjust accordingly.

Once the meat is cooked, switch off the stove.Pick out the meat pieces using a spoon into a medium bowl and cover the bowl with a cling film to make sure that the meat does not dry out. Set a large colander over another large bowl and drain the yakhni in there. Dont be tempted to mash the ginger or garlic or onions, else the yakhni will lose its soupy texture. Discard the things in the colander.

Yakhni is ready. You can enjoy it as it like a soup when while it is warm with few squirts of lemon and scatter of fresh cilantro. Add a few pieces of cooked meat to make it more filling.

If you make a pulao, follow step 2 below. Keep in mind that do not make the yakhni a day ahead, the taste changes so its best to make it a couple hours before when you want to serve as soup or make a pulao.

Step 2 Make the Pulao

Wash the rice 2-3 times under a running stream of water. Soak the rice for 20 mins in enough water.

Measure the yakhni. The variety of rice I use needs double amount of liquid to cook. So I needed 2.5 cups of liquid to cook the rice. I got 2 cups of yakhni from the recipe above and I added 1/2 cup water to it.

In a wide shallow pot, (I use my braiser) or you can use a kadhai or a 12 inch pan, add the oil. Once the oil is warm, add the sliced onions. On medium heat, brown the onion. It takes about 8-10 minutes but do not rush this process.

Once the onions are dark brown, add the red chilli powder to oil along with cumin seeds and saute for 30 seconds. Add the meat to the pan and stir around with the onions for 3-5 minutes on medium heat. The meat will brown a little, once so, add the soaked rice(discard the water in which you soaked) along with yakhni (+water). Mix gently and taste the salt in the liquid, it should be sharp salty at this stage else adjust it, this makes sure that your rice comes out properly seasoned once cooked.

Cover with a lid and set the rice to cook on medium high heat, once you see that the liquid is bubbling, reduce the heat to the lowest and let cook for 20-25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft. Switch off the stove and let the pot sit undisturbed for atlest 10-12 minutes.

Uncover and using a rice spoon or a small plate, fluff up the rice from once side. Yahni pulao is ready.Serve as you wish. Taste amazing next day.

This recipe can be easily doubled. Just adjust the cooking times for both rice and meat in that case.

Enjoy!

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.