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!
Slow cooked bone in lamb and potato stew with fresh pounded spices and yogurt.
Course: Main Course
For the Stew
1 lbstewing lamb
4tbspmustard oil, substitute with cooking oil that you like to use
1 bay leaf
2inch cinnamon stick
1 cuponionsthinly sliced
2tsp hot red chilli powderadjust to tolerance
1/2 tspkashmiri chilli powder
1/3 cupplain greek yogurtslightly beaten
1/2 tspfresh grated nutmeg
Salt to taste
Coarsely pound together
2 tspblack peppercorns
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.
I did not know of the husband’s liking for south indian flavors until we got married. It made quite a sense for someone who spent good four or five years of his college life in the southern city of Madras (now Chennai). The hostel canteen served some mean regional delicacies,he fondly recollects. My mom made a few vegetarian south indian dishes at home but those were mostly the general south indian favorites popular all over India –uttapams (savory rice pancakes),upma(breakfast porridge) ,gun powder, coconut chutneys,dosas (rice crepes) and idlis(steamed rice cakes) to name a few. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen me making south indian dishes sometimes.
After our wedding, I saw the husband ordering south indian take outs more often than not. He would enjoy those strongly spiced,super hot curries, smelling of coconut and mustard. So, over all these years I have developed a few recipes of south indian style curries, suited to our taste.Spicy, hot and with distinct flavors,these are the recipes I can bank upon when looking for something different on our dinner table.
I usually serve plain rice and a refreshing salad with such curries, however you could do some vegetables like this asparagus-peas stirfry with coconut or a simple dal(lentils)
I do not have stories to connect to this recipe today. It is not the food of my childhood. It is not something I grew up with. I do not claim that this curry belongs to some particular region of southern india,we like it in our homes and call it “south indian chicken curry”. My husband sampled it and asked me to put it up here, because this is a journal of our day today favorite foods.
The curry is quite spicy, take my word for it.I use hot dried red chillies, seeds and all and grind them with strong pungent, spices like fenugreek, mustard seeds and black peppercorns.You would need to visit indian grocer for things like curry leaves, which lend a distinct aroma and flavor to this curry. There is no substitute for them but you can skip them if you do not get. It is quite good even without them.
2-3 tablespoon tamarind pulp (use less if using store-bought, see notes)
10 fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup to 1 cup thick coconut milk (depending on how creamy and pronounced coconut taste you want)
Salt to taste
Store bought tamarind pulp is quite concentrated, tart and very salty. Use discretion when adding it.
I would not recommend using “light” coconut milk, as it makes the gravy very watery. Go for the thick, creamy one.
Marinating the chicken (This can be done up to a day in advance)
In a small sauce pan, add the 1 tablespoon oil and heat it up on low. Add all the ingredients except chicken and salt to the oil and lightly roast the spices till you smell a nice aroma. Do not let them turn brown. Let cool once roasted.
Grind the roasted spices coarsely. In a large bowl, add the chicken pieces, sprinkle salt and half the quantity of this spice rub, combine so that chicken is coated in spices, cover and let marinate refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight(preferably).
Reserve the remaining spice rub.
Making the Curry
Thirty minutes prior to cooking, take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and let sit on the counter.
In a kadhai(indian wok) or a large pot with lid, heat up the 4 tablespoon oil on medium high.Once the oil is hot, add the onions, garlic and green chillies to it. Saute and cook the onions for 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown. Add the bay leaf,cardamom, cinnamon stick and sauce for 10-12 seconds till you smell an aroma.
Next, add the marinated chicken to the pot, add salt, turmeric and stir around so that chicken pieces start to coat in the onions and garlic. Once you see that the chicken pieces have started to brown on the edges,cover the pot and let the chicken cook in its own juices until about 80% cooked, about 15-18 minutes(note that this time will depend on the cut and size of chicken pieces).
Add the reserved spice rub, ginger, curry leaves and tamarind paste next and stir around to coat the chicken. Cover and let cook on medium low for another 8-10 minutes until the chicken is almost cooked.If at any point you feel that the chicken is sticking to bottom on the pot, add a splash of water
Uncover, reduce the heat to low, and add the coconut milk to the kadhai. Do not stir immediately. Let the coconut milk combine on its own. Check and adjust the salt. Stir very gently and let simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Garnish with few curry leaves and serve with warm rice.
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)
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
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp powdered jaggery (or light brown sugar, adjust to taste)
In case you do not get tamarind pulp, bump up the vinegar quantity to 4 tbsp.
Fresh curry leaves are not substitutable. Even though the recipe dosent remain the same, you can skip if you do not get.
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.
My dad loved to entertain and this would mean as the weekend was approaching,mom would be spending most of her time brainstorming dinner menus. End of the week and the house would be choked with family and friends and even after doing it for several years,I loved the excitement in her gait on saturday mornings when we strolled to the bazaar to get groceries.There would be guests with both vegetarian and non vegetarian choices, not many with special diets but definitely all,secretly,looking forward to her deftly spiced dishes. Many from the near family would sometimes call ahead in the day with requests over the phone while others just warmed their hearts thinking of the surprise that she would bring to the table.Each time, she came up with such a fantastic menu, the array of dishes perfectly complementing each other, each course well thought, most of the food homemade and few not.
She did not choose to make elaborate,time-consuming dishes if the number of guests were many but quite a variety so that everyone could spoon a favorite on their plate. All afternoon, the house smelled of few dozen or so of mutton koftassimmering inside the aluminum pot specifically reserved for cooking on such days of big meals, a show stopper as my dad would say, it was the main dish along side puffy rotis, then, there would be dishes made with paneer ,a must on north indian entertaining menus,a slow cooked side of potatoes, another crowd pleaser, her cinnamon spiced red hued dum aloo and the signature rice pilaf, brought together with ghee criped cumin seeds folded in fragrant basmati,thick, nuttydal tarka, tempered with ghee & scattered with cilantro and served with lemon wedges on side of the bowl. On few occasions, she would tend to a pot of boiling kadhiwhich by the way was a favorite of almost every aunt I know in the family,while quickly frying up ajwain scented onion pakoras on the side stove at the last moment so that the fritters remained crispy till the guests sat down to eat.
If it were winters, there would be fried seafood as starters,a winter tradition, a family favorite,when the fish season peaks in the bazaars, without a miss, fried,crispy pieces of rohu (fresh water carp) fish were served along with vinegar soaked onion rings and smoking hot green chutney.If my dad got a good deal, few kilos of white pomfret were slid into smoking mustard oil for guests. Quite in contrast to here, growing up, we consumed copious amounts of seafood during the colder months and that’s the reason I crave it every now and then. Every region in India has its own fish fry recipe, in the coastal areas of south india,fresh caught smaller fish are doused in a paste of ground coconut and red chillies before deep-frying while in the eastern parts, in a lightly brit inspired ‘fish & chips’, they fry the marinated fish after a coating of egg and bread crumbs.
However, mum uses a batter which she tells is my maternal grandfather’s recipe.The marinated fish is coated in a garlic-ginger laced,turmeric hued marinade and then scantly coated in a mix of rice and besan (chickpea) flours.She fondly recollects that during her childhood, my grandfather used to soak the rice a night before and stone grind it the following day to coat the thick,belly pieces of rohu in it and they would sit around the stove waiting in turn to get the piping hot fritter. If you happen to visit my home, mum makes fried fish the same way, she would soak the rice and hand grind it on sil-batta(stone grinder). I have adapted the recipe and use ready-made rice flour to make it quick and equally delicious.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1 lb fish (I used 4 large tilapia belly pieces cut into half or equivalent weight any small whole fish like pompano or pomfret)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
3/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp mustard oil
generous pinch of salt
3 tbsp rice flour
1/4 besan (chickpea flour)
1 tsp chaat masala
salt to taste (to taste)
Mustard Oil for frying (substitute with any high smoky point oil)
1/2 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
Clean and descale the fish pieces or ask your butcher to do it. Wash under a stream of water and pat them dry with a paper towel. In a flat dish, layer the pieces and add all the ingredients listed under marination. Rub everything with your hands to coat the fish and refrigerate for 1 hour.
15 minutes before ready to fry, take out the fish from the refrigerator and let sit on the kitchen counter. In a bowl, combine the rice flour, besan and chaat masala. Taste a pinch of this mixture before adding additional salt since chaat masala is quite salty, then adjust the salt to taste.
Set 2 inches of mustard oil (or whichever oil your are using) in a heavy bottomed, wide pot or skillet (I use my 10″ cast iron) to heat up on medium flame.While the oil is heating, add the flour mixture to the marinated fish pieces.Mix with hands such that the flour sticks to the fish.Add a light splash of water if needed. We do not want a wet batter. We do not want a thick flour batter to coat the fish, instead just a uneven coating of flour on the fish (similar to coating chicken when deep frying).
Once the oil is hot, about 325 F, add fenugreek seeds to it.Let the seeds crackle.Gently set the coated fish pieces the into hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side until medium golden brown in color. (this time will be more in case you are using whole fish). Do not fry on very high or very low heat else the fish will get soggy or remain raw inside.
Drain on paper towel and when the fish is still hot, sprinkle more chaat masala. Discard the oil.
Serve immediately with onion slices and lemon wedges and green chutney or any sauce of choice.
You could use whole small fish (like pomfret,golden pompano,trout, mackerel) or freshwater fish like rohu, katla (indian varieties) or boneless fish fillets ( cat fish, tilapia, cod, mahi-mahi) in this recipe. When using a whole fish, make incisions before you marinate.
Chaat Masala is a hot & tangy blend of spices which is easily available in indian/pakistani stores. If you do not have it, skip and add a little cayenne and crushed black pepper to the flour mix. You could squirt lemon juice for tang once you have finished frying the fish.
Many times, I use the same recipe to fry up fillets and stuff them inside tortillas or roti with coleslaw and serve as fish tacos.
A rich and aromatic dish, korma originally belonged to the shahi dastarkhwans (royal kitchens) ofMughalemperors. Deep rooted in aristrocasy, the mughlai cuisine, thus, is redolent of sweet-smelling, unique spices,delicate herbs, liberal use of ground nuts & dried fruit as well as exotic ingredients like saffron & rose petals in cooking.Dating back to the era of invasions and subsequent period of rule by the Mughals, indian cuisine, particularly north indian evolved and embraced the said style of cooking ranging from extremely spicy to mild curries,rice preparations and bread making.
With addition of ghee, nut pastes and dairy (mava (milk solids) /milk/ cream), mughlai cuisine is not your everyday fare. It is once in a while thing in our kitchen but something which we look forward to at mealtime.Those are the days when we don’t care about calorie counting or healthy eating. Nothing can beat the indulgence of soaking up all of that nutty sauce in yeasty naans or ladling it over hot steaming basmati.Nothing compares to the comfort that such hearty food brings.
The most important thing to be kept in mind when preparing mild curries is that you cannot go overboard with your selection of ingredients.That regal flavor of korma sauce needs deft proportions keeping in mind that one ingredient does not overpower the other. On those rare three or four occasions in a year when we dined out at the Karims, a place nestled in lanes of the Jama Masjid in Purani Dilli (Old Delhi), a restaurant with great history and luscious mughlai food delicacies, dad always fondly remarked how perfect this dish was done there ,a single morsel of the sauce tasting of tang from yogurt with pleasant richness from the nuts & dairy and finishing notes of warmth from cardamom, he said.I clearly remember that korma there had this distinct hint of kewra(screw pine essence) and with a simple jeera pilaf, it was all you could want at that particular time and day in your life.
It took a few attempts to come up with this recipe keeping in mind those expectations and the memories.I do not claim to taste like restaurants, but this recipe is definitely a keeper. It came out pretty good, if I say so myself and we really enjoyed it.
I use a bit of turmeric in mainly for the color and to enhance that hue,I finish the sauce with saffron infused in milk at the end.If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking).Another unusual thing in my recipe is the addition of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), a flavor which I really enjoy in creamy curries, you can skip if you like.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1.25 lb chicken thighs, boneless & skinless, cut into bite size pieces (see notes)
5-6 tbsp heavy cream (I quantity can up to 1/2 cup, depending how how rich you like)
a generous pinch of good quality saffron (crushed between palms to fine dust),soaked in 1 tbsp warm milk
1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
1/2 tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp golden raisins
Chopped cilantro for garnish
I like to use dark chicken meat when making curries but you can go ahead and use chicken breast in this recipe too. Even bone in chicken will work.Just remember to adjust the cooking time so that the meat dosent dry out or remain uncooked.
Hung yogurt is nothing but yogurt tied up in a cheesecloth/muslin and hung for 30-40 minutes to let its water drain.
Indian cinnamon is very sharp as compared to western sweet cinnamon. If using the latter, go ahead and add a bit more.
If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking in milk) at the end.
Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry using a paper towel. Mix up lemon juice, 3 tbsp yogurt, garam masala, pepper powder, salt, ginger & garlic in a small bowl to a thick paste and rub this paste over the chicken. Marinate the chicken for atleast 4 hours or preferably overnight, refrigerated.
When ready to cook the korma, takeout the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit on the kitchen counter. Soak the cashews and melon seeds (if using) in 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
In a heavy bottomed pot or kadhai, heat up the oil on medium high. Add the cloves,cardamom,mace, shahjeera, cinnamon, tejpatta to hot oil and let the whole spices crackle, about8-10 seconds or till you smell an aroma.
Next add the onions, ginger and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes until the onions starts to turn light brown. Add the soaked cashews and melon seeds(if using) next along with green chillies. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low now and add the coriander, turmeric along with 2/3 cup hung yogurt. Do not stir immediately else the yogurt will curdle. Wait for atlas a minute and then slowly stir around to mix yogurt with everything else in the pot.Cook the yogurt along with the masala for 5-7 minutes on low heat until you see oil separating on the sides.Put the stove off, pick out the bay leaf & cinnamon,about half of the cloves & cardamom and tip rest of the contents into a blender. The mixture is going to be hot so wait for 10-15 minutes before you start blending it.Blend (do not use water if possible during blending).I do not make a very smooth paste, you could decide the texture of the sauce at this point).
Meanwhile,in the same pot or another pot, heat up the 2-3 tbsp ghee on medium. When the ghee is hot enough, start searing the marinated chicken on both sides.You do not need to brown but a light sear is just about enough. You could do this is batches. Once all the chicken is seared, add all of it together along the blended sauce to the pot. Stir around on and cook on medium- low heat. The chicken will render its moisture and fat as it cooks and the sauce will thicken and deepen in color.Let cook till the chicken is about 95% cooked, about 6-8 minutes.
Next, add the water depending on the desired consistency of sauce (I add 1/2 cup water)along with crushed kasuri methi. Check and adjust the salt. Let come to a boil on medium. Next add the cream, saffron infused milk, cardamom powder, sugar and raisins. Let simmer (not boil) for 8-10 minutes on very low heat. Once simmered, put off the heat and let sit covered for 2 hours.
All I think of at the first sight of pomegranates in the grocery stores is to fold the plump ruby jewels with sweetish velvety yogurt and pair the raita with some kind of a spicy pilaf. To me, pulao/pilaf is a very ‘to taste’ thing in indian cuisine. It is like an assortment of things with any sort of grain, mostly rice in our case – quick, one pot but hearty. On days when mom was not in much of mood to cook, she would make some kind of a pulao – with vegetables, beans, dried lentil nuggetsor chicken. There would be pickles, salad and raita to serve along.
Come November and the knock of winter winds brought with itself a sudden rush of green and fresh produce in the vegetable bazaars of Delhi.After long, humid and harsh summers,the next few months presented a respite and a chance to indulge in cooking and eating.On few Saturdays I would accompany mom to the sabzi bazaar. Wrapped in my favorite pashmina shawl, we walked out of the house for an early evening stroll and later to purchase vegetables for the week.Those few hours were spent inhaling the crisp autumn air and watching how the nip in the air got people out of their homes, the pleasing sights of street food carts beaming with everybody, eating, chatting and sharing a quick snack with families.We stopped here and there to get buy and bargain fresh eggs, bread and dairy before reaching the sabzibazaar.Most of the faces at the bazaar were known, for it has been a place of trade between the same set of people for decades.
Mom would patiently listen to household stories of few sabzi wallas(vendors), of their children not studying at school or the gas prices going up. Few complained about government not doing much for the poor and few praising their farms for such fine produce. In India, such is a way of life, so may day-to-day people slowly connect to your life and you do not even realize, it is how the society operates.I always loved to tag along with her for grocery trips just to observe how she would choose vegetables – touching them, sniffing a few, closely inspecting each piece below the flickering bulbs on the stalls of thela-wallas (street vendors with wooden wheeled carts),she took her time to select. If few of the vendors were in a mood, they would slice off a couple of apples or pluck few greens and let her taste before buying.Thick,dark-skinned capsicum to yellowish cauliflower heads to fragrant methi (fenugreek) and soa (dill) bunches to ruby kashmiri anar (pomegranates) and apples, each sample of produce brought with itself an opportunity for deliciousness.
The onset of winters also meant there would be lots of wholesome,hearty meals in the house full of warm spices and herbs. There would be exotic,rich curries and layered biryanis and indulgent desserts. Mom would make a lot of quick rice dishes to keep our stomachs nourished & satisfied. The house would be enveloped in the pungent aroma of mustard oil and earthy fragrance of basmati rice bubbling on the stove. This is one of her favorite recipes which I have changed to our liking over the years, she did not add bell peppers or potatoes, but I love the combination of both of these with chickpeas and rice so I do it more my way now. A weekly regular in our house with all kinds of variations each time.
Ingredients (Serves 3)
You could use canned chickpeas and cut down the cooking time to half but I recommend starting with dried chickpeas and cooking them in water because the resultant delicious stock will flavor the rice immensely.
For the Chickpeas (Skip this step if using canned chickpeas)
1 cup dried raw chickpeas
2 + 1/4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp oil
For the Pulao(Pilaf)
3/4 cup basmati rice
1.5 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt (skip for vegan)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika, this gives the color not the heat)
4 tbsp mustard oil (or use canola/vegetable/olive oil)
1/2 ” cinnamon stick (indian cinnamon is very sharp so I use less, adjust if using sweet cinammon)
Optional – golden raisins, silvered almonds, cashews.
Soak the chickpeas in enough water overnight or atleasrt 8-10 hours.Drain & discard the water and add the chickpeas to the pressure cooker along with baking soda, salt, water and oil. Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles on medium heat or till chickpeas are fork tender. The cooking time and number of whistles will depend on quality and size of the chickpeas and alson on pressure cooker. I use small variety chickpeas which pressure cook in about 20 minutes. If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid or your dutch over to cook the chickpeas for roughly 45-50 minutes or till fork tender. Once the chickpeas are cooked,drain and reserve the liquid (stock). Set aside.
Skip the above steps if using canned chickpeas. Open up the can and run the chickpeas under a stream of water, drain and set aside.
Wash the basmati rice under 2-3 times under a running stream of water till the water runs clear. Soak in 1.5 cups of water for 15 minutes. (You can do this while the chickpeas are cooking). Also, mix the yogurt with garam masala and kashmiri red chill powder. Set aside. If making for vegans, skip the yogurt and add these spices when you add the tomatoes.
In a wide bottomed heavy pot with lid (I use my 3 qt dutch oven), heat up the mustard oil on medium till you see little ripples on the surface and the raw smell goes away. Add cinnamon,mace bay leaf and cloves and cardamom. Wait till they crackle and you smell a nice aroma. 10-15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic next. Cook till they are light brown. About 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes next along with red chili and turmeric powder. Cook for 2-3 minutes just till the tomatoes begin to soften. Reduce heat to low and add the yogurt mixed with spices. Do not stir immediately else yogurt will curdle. Wait for 30 seconds and gently on low heat(very important) incorporate the yogurt in the masala. Cook for another 1-2 minutes on low heat till the masala starts getting shiny and turning deep reddish- brown in color. Add the potatoes & ginger next and cook along with the masala for another 1-2 minutes.
Next, drain & discard all the water from the soaking rice and add soaked rice and chickpeas to the pot. Do not stir. Measure and add the required quantity of stock (reserved from boiling chickpeas) to the pot. The quantity of stock added should be added as required by your variety of rice(My rice variety cooks in 2:1 ratio of rice to water, I add 2 tbsp extra stock ). (In case you are using canned chickpeas, add chicken/vegetable stock or plain water).
Once you have added the water, check and adjust the salt of the liquid (normally it should be little extra salty at the beginning since the rice will soak up the stock). Also add crushed kasuri methi to. Gently stir now (else the soaked rice will break) and let the rice soak in stock for another 15 minutes.
Once the rice has soaked, cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let cook covered for another 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, open the lid and add the bell peppers to the pot and very lightly mix them in with the help of a fork. Cover and let cook on low for another 2 minutes. After this, put off the stove and let sit for atleast 15 minutes.
Open the lid and add the ghee (if using) along with cilantro, nuts (if using), raisins(is using) on top and gently fluff the rice with fork.
Serve warm with raita(recipe below), salad and pickle.
Pomegranate Raita (Spiced Yogurt)
Ingredients (Serves 3)
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt,cold
1 tsp granulated sugar (or to taste)
1/4 tsp heaped roasted cumin powder
a light pinch of dried mint leaves, crush to dust between hands (optional)
1/2 tsp chaat masala (a tangy spice mix available in indian/pakistani stores or online)
1/2 tsp black salt (this salt is tangy, substitute with regular)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder (or cayanne, adjust to taste)
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (or more/less you like)
salt to taste
Few fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Beat the yogurt with everything except the pomegranate seeds & salt to smooth. I like the raita thick but if you can thin it with little water if you like. Refrigerate the yogurt for 20 minutes.Just before serving mix in the pomegranate seeds and salt. Sprinkle cilantro. Serve.
I can’t remember a single meal in my home when there weren’t homemade flatbreads to eat.Except a few days when khichdi( gooey lentils & rice) formed dinner, soft and steam filled rotis smothered with homemade ghee or with grainy white butter were brought fresh off the tawa (griddle) to everyone’s plate.You would hardly count how many you to eat,the ladies of the house took rounds to roll, puff and help each other on occasions like Sunday lunch when the whole family was eating together.Always; there were always plenty for everybody.
My badi mummy made the best rotis and parathas that I have ever tasted.She rolled perfect rounds,as if a compass or a cutter has been used with the dough, rotis so soft that you could use just thumb and index fingers to break a bite, perfectly charred with black spots from the high flame on both sides. My mother makes the second best to her, paper-thin and larger rounds but still delicate and slightly chewy.I might already be sounding obsessive with these sorts of descriptions but trust me in indian homes, especially in norther parts,roti making is a serious business.A deft technique which is taught to daughters when their wedding day approaches. It is the bread of life, something you start and end your day with. Giving away a roti to a needy & poor is symbolic of highest level of ‘punye‘ or good deed in Hindu vedas, it is a thing which subsides the hunger of animals, birds or humans equally. The daily bread is revered.
Roti is a everyday unleavened flatbread in our homes,cooked on stove, chapati is similar to roti just rolled out much thinner, phulka is another name used in India for rotis, a Hindi word denoting the puffy look of it.Parathas(skillet-fried dough) or Pooris (deep fried dough)are also made from the same dough, layered or unlayered, stuffed with fillings, rolled in all different shapes.You could see my triangle paratha as an example. But, necessarily, the dough remains the same. It is only the handling and shaping that differs Hoping I have not confused you too much!
It would be really surprising but as compared to the naan, which got more popular in the west, in indian homes, you will found rotis and parathas cooked on a daily basis. Naan, fine all purpose flour (maida) flatbread is a once in a while thing, something you order when eating at restaurants or like in my home,when mom made really special exotic curries or we had family gatherings with lots of guests, she would send us with home-made yeasty dough to the street side guy with the tandoor and we came back with stacks of naan for supper.
Let’s get to making some rotis.Shall we? I have invariably used the word ‘atta’ in my post and recipe. Atta is nothing but Hindi for whole wheat flour (loosely used for both dry, wet flour as well as the dough)
Measure the atta (durum wheat flour) and slowly, start adding (warm) water to it.In India, we use a paraat (a utensil made of brass/copper/stainless less specifically for kneading roti dough). The one you see in pictures, is some 40 year old treasure from my grandmother, still going strong.
Incorporate water in a circular motion into the atta with your fingers.Start kneading gently.
As the atta absorbs water,it will start clumping up. Continue to add water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour starts to come together.
At this point,ensure that the atta is not very dry,try to squeeze it between your palms as if making a fist and it should be soft and sticky (and messy!). Start using your knuckles to knead the atta next.
Use your knuckles to flatten it out and then pull it all together towards yourself using your palm & fingers,then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 5-7 minutes. At any point you feel that the dough is tight or drying out, add a light splash of warm water.
Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast).You could add a bit to oil while kneading to make it smoother.
Time to rest those gluten.Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 15-18 minutes.You could smear a layer of melted ghee or oil on top but you really do not need it if the proportion of water is correct and you made sure that the dough didn’t feel or look dry when kneading dough will stay moist during rest time but starts losing moisture after 20 minutes. So if you are not planning to make rotis right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.
When ready to make rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions. Approximately.If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter.
Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make rotis!
Roll each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly from edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.
Dust the board or the roti as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.
It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, doesnt affect the taste.The trick to roll perfect rotis is that when you are rolling the dough it should also be moving in circular direction by itself. If not, you can move it yourself and flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.
Another tip (from my grandmother) to get thin edges of rotis is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of the roti.
Meanwhile, place a tawa (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on high to heat up. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to store rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift the roti.
Place the roti on the hot tawa. Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too) on first side,just so you see the surface changing color or trying slightly. I would say about 25% cooked.
Flip using kitchen tongs and let cook for another 30-40 seconds on the other side. You might or might not get charred dots but do not cook on griddle for too long else the rotis will dry out.
Lift the roti with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to help it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storing rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewy rotis, so you can char them to liking.
In case, you have a electrical stove with no flame, see the recipe on how to puff up the rotis.
Very gently press on when you puff the second side too. Smear with ghee and wrap in a kitchen towel to store.
Typically, you can serve rotis as a side bread with all sorts of things – curries (both dry & wet) to lentils to as a wrap or fried and a chips or any which way you like. One of my personal favorites is warm roti, smothered with gheeand sprinkled with sugar, rolled up. In India, it is normal to consume rotis for all meals, two, sometimes three times a day,sometimes in our house we serve roti alongside spicy egg scramble for breakfast or quick lunch too.
One of my close friend once told me a very interesting way to introduce the correct way of eating rotis to the western world.”Use roti as a spoon to eat the curry and later eat the spoon”, he said.Spot on!
In other news, Sinfully Spicy was featured last week by SBS Australia as a favorite indian food blog in their food section. You could read the feature here.
2.5 cups durum wheat atta (fine ground whole wheat flour made from durum wheat)
1 +1/4 cup warm water or more/less if needed
1/2 tbsp – 1 tbsp any neutral oil (to moisten the dough when it rests, optional)
Ghee to spread on warm, cooked rotis (optional but recommended)
about 3/4 cup dry atta, needed when rolling the rotis
A wide, heavy shallow dish large enough to knead and dough. In India, we use a paraat(a brass or stainless less dish specifically for kneading roti dough). You could use your mixing bowl too but a wide dish will make it a lot easier.
A flat, clean, smooth rolling stone or surface
2-3 kitchen towels (to cover the dough when resting as well as to wrap the cooked rotis)
1-2 sheets of paper towel (I line the kitchen towel with paper towel to absorb the moisture when storing rotis else they turn too soggy)
A wide container (8-10 inch in diameter) with lid to store the wrapped rotis. If you do not have, you could use a couple of dinner plates.
Tawa or cast iron griddle (I use my 12″) to cook the rotis.
A pair of tongs to be used when puffing the rotis on direct flame
There are superior varieties of Indian wheat which are stone ground to make atta (fine whole wheat flour). Largely, you could choose between durum wheat or sharbati wheat. Infact, a lot of leading atta brands in India now have a mix of both. It is important to understand that atta is different from the pastry whole wheat flour available in baking aisles. It is a much fine ground which make the rotis soft and less chewy.You will need to visit indian/pakistani grocery stores to get it.There are multigrain and high fibre atta varieties also available and all are suitable for making rotis. A 10lb pack will usually cost you $7-$8 and it has a really good shelf life of 3-4 months.
In a wide, shallow dish measure and place the atta. With one hand slowly start adding (warm) water and mixing in circular motion with the fingers of other hand. Incorporate water a little at a time and start to kneading gently.
As the atta absorbs water,it will start clumping up into a ball.Continue to add warm water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour will come together.Remember not to add too much water at a time.
Once a ball is formed, ensure that it is not very dry by trying to squeeze the dough ball between your palms as if making a fist and it should feel soft and sticky. Start using your knuckles to knead the dough next.
Use your knuckles to flatten the dough out and then pull it all together towards yourself, using your palm & fingers, then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 7-8 minutes. At any point you feel that the dough is tight or drying out, add a light splash of warm water.The dough should not feel or look dry at any point.
Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast). Once the dough looks and feels really really smooth, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 20-25 minutes.You could smear a layer of melted ghee or oil on top but you really will not need it if the proportion of water is correct and you made sure that the dough didn’t feel or look dry when kneading. The dough will stay moist during rest time but starts losing moisture after 30 minutes. So if you are not planning to make rotis right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.
When ready to make rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions. Approximately.(Note: If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter)
Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make rotis!
Roll and cover each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly on edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.Dust the board or the roti as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.
It takes practice to get the perfect circle shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, it doesn’t affect the taste. The trick to roll perfect rotis is that when after 1-2 minutes into rolling the dough it should also be moving in circular direction by itself. If its your first time, this might not happen but remember practice will make you better and better each time. If not, you can move the roti yourself to roll and evenly flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.
Another tip to get thin edges of rotis is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of the roti as you roll.
Meanwhile, place a tawa (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on to heat up on high. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to store rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift the roti.
Place the rolled roti on the hot tawa. Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too) on first side,just so you see the surface changing color or trying slightly. I would say about 25% cooked.
Flip using kitchen tongs and let cook on the griddle on the second side for another 30-40 seconds. You might or might not get charred dots but do not cook on griddle for too long else the rotis will dry out.When you cook on the second side, you will see that little puffs coming up on the surface.
Lift the roti with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to help it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.
Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storing rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewy rotis, so you can char a little longer to liking.
In case you do not have electrical stove, you can puff up the rotis on the griddle itself. Once the second side is cooked, reduce the heat to medium and gently start pressing the roti with a soft kitchen towel on all side. It will puff up.
Smear ghee on the hot rotis and server right away or store then wrapped in a kitchen towel. I line the kitchen towel with a small piece of paper towel, this helps in preventing them from getting soggy.
In case you want to freeze the rotis (yes it can be done), make all the rotis and let them cool down to room temperature wrapped inside the towel. Then stack them on top of each other with a large piece of wax or parchment paper in between.
When wanting to use the frozen rotis, thaw them in the fridge and warm up on high for 8-10 seconds in the microwave.
Roll the dough very well and as evenly thin as possible.This helps in puffing up the rotis.
Store the leftover dough in the refrigerator for not more than 1-2 days in an air tight container.
If you are wanting to serve rotis later in the day, you can make ahead them. In this case, add 2 tbsp of melted ghee while making the dough.They will remain soft.
The thought of eating steaming rice mixed with thick, chili hued masala from the curry fills me with as much joy as that of a kid waiting upon a bowl of macaroni & cheese. In our house, a weekday suddenly turns exciting when its egg curry for dinner. It is not an immensely difficult meal to prepare and trust me it spoils your taste buds given how quick it is ready to serve. I use my basic masala recipe with a few whole spices added in.
The husband can live on eggs and for me, particularly at this time of the year when the evenings are colder, diving into a thick tomato gravy with redolent of kasuri methi and warm tones of ginger is enough to drive me hungry out of turn.
In India, egg curry is an immensely popular dish. Usually, hard-boiled eggs are thrown in the home specific curry recipe and served as a protein side to the meals. The recipe varies from home to home as well as region to region. The north indians mostly prepare it in a tomato – onion base while the south indian version is done with coconut & curry leaves.Few regions use a mustard paste base and fry up the lightly hard-boiled eggs before dunking them in the sauce.It is commonly served as a side to flatbreads or plain rice.
My mum always used to add fresh peas to the gravy but the husband prefers potatoes so I started making it that way. If you get a chance, fresh peas, sweet and tender beautifully balance the heat of the spices but potatoes taste quite delicious and comforting too.You can use just eggs too depending on how you like it. The gravy is very flavorful with normal day-to-day spices used in and comes together quickly while the eggs boil.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1 generous pinch turmeric powder
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into halves or quarters
3-4 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with canola/grapeseed oil)
1 green cardamom, cracked open
1/4″ cinnamon stick
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 small garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger (adjust quantity to taste)
1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped (slight sour variety)
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/8 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
1/2 cup water (or more depending on desired consistency)
1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, skip if you do not have)
Fresh cilantro to garnish – as much as you want
Hard Boil the eggs. I use this recipe to get perfectly hard -boiled eggs.
Peel the eggs, slit (but not all the way through) them using a sharp knife and rub them with a generous pinch of turmeric powder and let sit.
In a heavy bottomed pot, add the oil and heat on medium – high till you see faint ripples on the oil surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat it a little longer till to do away the raw smell.Reduce heat to medium. Add the cardamom and cinnamon stick and let crackle for 10-120 seconds. Add the finely chopped onions next and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes.
Next, add the garlic & ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling a nice aroma.Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with coriander,turmeric,chilli,garam masala & amchoor powder. Start to cook this masala on low heat. After about 3-4 minutes add the potatoes, cover and cook the masala till you see the oil separating on the sides of the pan. About 8-10 minutes. In between, if you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some water. .This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, do not rush.Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color and the potatoes are 90% done.
Add the turmeric rubbed eggs to the pot, sprinkle the kasuri methi, add more water (if you want a thinner gravy),cover and let cook for another 5-7 minutes. Put off the stove and let sit at least 2 hours before serving.
Whenever I pick up a bundle of palak(spinach) at the grocery store -all organic & prewashed & ready to serve and what not, always, without a miss, I think about the vegetable patch(es) in my grandmother’s house,a house where I lived in some 18 years back, having a backyard planted with tomatoes and okra during summers and cauliflowers & potatoes during winters.One where the air would strongly smell of agarbatti (incense sticks) in the evenings which were often lighted to wade away the bugs from the eggplant bush, one which had rows dotted with yellow and orange marigolds & english roses.One where each morning,I strolled along the narrow, wet sidewalks brushing my teeth,bending down to sniff the strong fragrance of tulsi (holy basil) plants.One where I spent a lot of childhood days,counting the ready-to-pluck green beans and tearing leaves apart to spot the cabbage buns. A backyard where you could find us after coming back from school, dressed in printed cotton frocks,bare feet, digging mud and playing hide and seek within the squash creepers.
I visited India last year and everything is the same, the yard still planted with seasonal crop but now more taken care of by maali (gardener) than the family. Mom made dal and she sprinkled a bunch of chopped coriander leaves on top,picked from there. I plucked a few narangi (indian kumquat) from the bush which has now turned into a small tree in all theses years and popped it into my mouth with a pinch of salt, the burst of citrus tang running goose pimples all over my body, bringing memories with itself of the days when squirts of that sweet acid graced our daliya (breakfast porridge) every now and then. I tore up a few spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves and chewed on them, a wish which I had nestled for so many years to experience that unforgettable earthly, delicate taste all over again.
I wanted our daughter to play and get her hands dirty in the mud but she could barely crawl at that time, so that fun has to wait till our next visit. But, embraced in all these memories, I made this murgh (chicken) saag (any leafy green) last week and she really loved it. This recipe is a perfect balance of greens and protein to nourish kids and adults alike.You would have seen this dish on indian restaurant’s menus a lot. But it is not something I grew up with. I started making it regularly a couple of years back, mostly around my pregnancy years when I craved spinach all the time. This recipe has evolved a lot from the first time I cooked it.
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
For the Spice Rub on Chicken
4-5 whole dry kashmiri red chilies (adjust to tolerance)
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
2 small black cardamom pods, cracked open
2 tsp black peppercorns (adjust to tolerance)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2″ pieces
1 tsp canola or sunflower oil
Rest of the Ingredients
6-8 oz fresh spinach leaves (~ a little more than 1 cup spinach puree)
1/4- 1/3 cup water (depending on desired consistency of sauce)
3-4 tbsp heavy cream
Wash thoroughly and pat the chicken pieces completely dry. Set aside. In a small pan, dry roast the kashmiri chilies, coriander seeds, cloves, fennel,methi, cumin and black peppercorns. Transfer to a coffee grinder and coarsely grind. Mix the ground spices with turmeric, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, add the chicken, drizzle the oil and sprinkle half of the ground spices and rub so that all the pieces are covered in the spices. Reserve the rest of the spice rub. Cover the bowl and set in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours or preferably overnight to marinate.
Once ready to cook,take the chicken out from the refrigerator and let sit on kitchen counter.Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Put off the heat.Add the spinach leaves to the water and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Drain out the spinach leaves and puree in the food processor using little water if required. You can reserve the boiled water to thin out the sauce later if you want.
Meanwhile,heat up the mustard oil in another wide, heavy bottomed pot. Add the cinnamon, bay leaf and let crackle. Add the onions and garlic next. Let cook for 5-8 minutes on medium low heat until the onion starts to turn brown. At this point, carefully add the chicken pieces to the pot in a single layer (if possible), and on medium high heat, let the chicken pieces sear on one side. Flip and let sear on all sides. Next, add the tomatoes, ginger and remaining ground spice powder to the pot. Stir around and let cook on medium heat till you see, tomatoes turn soft and oil just starting to separate on the side of the pan.It might take 8-10 minutes since the chicken will also release its juices but keep on cooking.
Once you see that the chicken is about 80% cooked, add the pureed spinach along with the garammasala. Combine and cover till the spinach blends in the sauce, the raw smell is gone, it turns down in color to dark green and the chicken is completely cooked, about 10-12 minutes on medium heat. You will see little glistening spinach bubbles on the top.Open the lid, add the kasuri methi and water (depending on the consistency you want). Let simmer for another 1-2 minutes.Add the heavy cream, check and adjust the salt, let simmer for 2-3 minutes more (but do not boil).
Let sit for 2-3 hours before serving.Warm up and serve.
You can use bone in chicken for this recipe. Use dark meat portions and make incisions in the flesh with a sharp knife before you marinate it.
When you puree the spinach, do not make a smooth paste out of it (that’s why I do not use a blender). Use as less water as possible when grinding spinach.
If you like a bit of smoky flavor then you can grill the chicken but I prefer searing it in the cooking pot itself.
You could use a mix of greens – kale and spinach work beautifully, so does spinach and methi(fresh fenugreek).
The addition of heavy cream makes the dish a lot tastier and rich but you can skip the cream if you want.
On evenings coming back from work, when the bus was running terribly behind schedule, I volunteerd to get down way before my stop and walk down home.The side walk still wet from the rain spells an hour or two before smelled of decaying earth and lush green foliage all along looked as fresh as just bathed.The moist breeze of monsoon evenings was a much sought break after spending the whole day in air conditioning.
The fastest way to home get to home was through of busy market surrounded by the yellow government quarters (apartments) which looked like tiny match boxes stuffed on top of each other. In India, such streets are dotted with places to eat and these little food joints have been around for so many years that they turn into local favorites.
There was is a take out restaurant which was one of our favorites for non vegetarian food in the area. All you notice as a passerby were two or three young men wearing colored vests standing in front of the clay oven (tandoor)on one side,their hands stained in spices skewing marinated birds and tikka on to the slender iron bars, and some making rumali roti (paper thin flatbreads) on the other side. The aroma of smoke & cooked dough clinged to the blanket of air surrounding the entrance and the eternal long queue at the coupon station was a common sight.
When we went to Delhi last year, I made sure that the husband tastes the food from there. I remember we ordered garlicy naan, butter chicken and tandoori chicken for home delivery. Its been quite a while and we still talk about the meal from that night so you know what I mean. There must be thousands of places in Delhi serving bestest tandoori chicken but this little restaurant thriving in a tiny pocket of big city is where most of my family memories are woven around – of celebration, of laughter of cheerful Sunday meals around the table.
This recipe took me quite a few attempts to get together. In India,the tandoori is more charred and blackish in appearance than the orange hued you see here at restaurants. Infact, if you use good quality turmeric and kashmiri chilli powder, ideally the reddish-orange color should come along on its own during high heat roasting. In India, we do not eat chicken skin, so whenever making tandoori, use skinless chicken, the meat should be succulent and moist on the inside & chewy on the outside (not crispy).
8 chicken drumsticks (my package weighed total 2 lb, you could use any dark meat cut)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne (adjust to tolerance)
10 black peppercorns
2 black cardamom, seeds only
1 green cardamom, seeds only
8 raw cashews, broken (or use 2 tbsp cashew meal)
1 small twig of cinnamon (see notes)
1/4 cup thick plain yogurt
1″ fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp garam masala
1.25 tbsp chaat masala
2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (this lends the color,not the heat)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
scant pinch of ajwain seeds
1 tbsp ghee, melted and cooled
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp good quality saffron threads (optional)
Indian cinnamon is quite sharp as compared to the sweet cinnamon used in the west, that’s why I have noted a small quantity, adjust as per taste but do not go overboard.
Black Cardamom has no substitute in this recipe. It has a woody, strong flavor and aroma much different that the sweet smelling cardamom. If you do not have it simply skip it.
Chaat Masala is a tangy blend of spices which is used in indian cuisine.In this recipe it makes the marinade thick as well as lends it distinct hints of sharpness & smokiness,if you do not have it, use some lemon juice and a bit of roasted cumin powder in its place. If you want you can order online or buy at indian/pakistani store. It keeps well for almost a year and can be used in salads, roasted vegetables or meats etc.
You can make the tandoori marinade and immediately freeze it up to a month. When using, thaw it in the refrigerator and mix in the proteins or vegetables you are using.
I recommend not using lean or boneless cuts like chicken breast for making tandoori because the high heat of cooking will immediately make the poultry chewy. You could use whole boneless thighs though.
Skin the chicken and wash it under a running steam of water. Using paper towels, completely pat the chicken dry.Using a sharp knife, make incisions in the chicken and place in a bowl. Thoroughly rub the chicken with lemon juice, salt and chili powder. Set in the refrigerator.
Lightly crush the the black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon in mortar & pestle.Place them into the blender. Add the cashews, yogurt,ginger, garlic, garam masala, chaat masala, kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, nutmeg, ajwain,ghee, saffron and salt to the blender.Blend everything very very well till a smooth paste is formed. Refrigerate this paste for 30 minutes for flavors to mix.(If its not very hot, you can leave it on the kitchen counter top else in the fridge so that yogurt does not turn sour)
Mix in the chicken and the marinade and let sit refrigerated for 18-24 hours (at least). This time of marination is really important. You could marinate up to 2 days in advance.
Once ready to cook, leave the chicken pieces out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil (this makes cleaning easy) and set a rack over it. Also, preheat your oven to its highest temperature (600 F in my case). Place the chicken pieces over the rack and roast for 20 -25 minutes or until done, basting liberally with oil. Use a lot of oil for basting, this is very important for a moist chicken. You will need to open up the oven door and brush the chicken 3-5 times, keep on turning it to cook on all sides. Alternatively you could grill the chicken outdoors,basting it at intervals
Serve hot immediately with chaat masala, onion slices, lemon wedges, fresh chopped cilantro.