A little while away, I got this immense craving to gorge on these sweet saffron rice. It was sparked by the sticky rice pudding that we relished a night before thatÂ day. Usually, if you follow me on Instagram or here on the blog, you would have noticed that there is more savory than sweet in my feed. I had this huge sweet tooth in my teens, but somehow it faded away as I grew older. There are certain things I enjoy, a delicious chunk of homemadeÂ gulab jamun and a moist slice of butter cake, but usually sugar doesn’t get me too too excited.Â Only when there is a good enough reason to make them, I retort towards making desserts at home. Buying a single serve slice from our favorite bakery almost always seemsÂ to be a superiorÂ option than baking and frosting a whole 9 inch round which will then lurkÂ at me in the refrigerator for whole week. Its a bit too logical for some of you who swear by regularÂ dessert makingÂ but that’s how I think.
Anyhow, that same night, chatting over a Thai food takeout, we delved into discussing new year traditions growing up. My husband recollected coconut sweet balls & rice pudding, both made with palm jaggery, a typicalÂ inÂ east indian homes and I could only think of my grandmother’s zarda, only aboutÂ it. That night, I must have dreamed Â about it. The little puffy, steamy bubbles that surface on the top layer when a pot of Â basmati is slowly boiled, or of the sniff of saffron which after filling each nook and corner of our big kitchen reached out to those sitting in the verandah through two large, dark brown windows with green painted grille. Next morning this sweet saffron rice was the only thing I could think of. Out of nowhere, in the middle of summer, but I just had to recreate those memories.
Each year, every year at the dawn of the first day of the year, I woke up to a quiet house with busy kitchen. BadI mummy (my grandma) standing right infront of the stove, rice boiling onÂ one sideÂ and aroma wafting through a pot of simmering whole milk to which cloves, cardamom and nutmeg had been added. TheseÂ blonde looking rice, she remarked were an incoming of prosperity into the house. In those days, we lived in a joint family and with few guests added on the new year eve along with distribution to all house help, the quantity of zarda to be cooked would be thrice the amountÂ than usual. Speckled with ground cardamom and streaks of strong-smelling kashmiri zaffran(saffron) all through it, a bowl of it was so delicious garnished with a handful of nuts or raisins. Much like today, in those days saffron was exuberantly priced, so it came to life in cooking a few dishes on special occasions only. New Years day was one.
My mom got me these little packsÂ of saffron from India a couple of weeks back, a delicate virgin variety of this spice, it is sharp and strong. A few strands is what it took to turn rice into a golden looking treat. This recipe can be easily made vegan by using full fat coconut or cashew milk and substituting any neutral oil in place of ghee. Try using a long grain basmati rice and be watchful during cooking period for separated, fluffy grains. I have included a few notes in the recipe which will help making this sweet rice delicacy an easy task.
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
1 cup long grain basmati rice
1 green cardamom, break open
3-4 cups water to par boil the rice
1 tablespoonÂ gheeÂ (substitute with coconut oil for vegan)
1 cup whole milk (use unsweetened cashew/full fat coconut milk for vegan)
3 tablespoonÂ gheeÂ (substitute with coconut oil for vegan)
2-3 green cardamom,Â break open
1 heaping teaspoon good quality saffron
1 generous pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
3/4 cup granulated sugar (can go upto 1 cup)
3Â tablespoon roasted, unsalted nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews) + more for garnish
2 tablespoon golden raisins +Â more for garnish
Use good quality spices in this recipe.
Different varieties of saffron have different sharpness and strength. Adjust the quantity depending on the brand you are using.
To make the zarda more rich, instead ofÂ using roasted nuts, you can fry them in a small pan in 1/2 tablespoon ofÂ gheeÂ and add on top.
Wash the rice under running stream of water 2-3 times until the water runs clear. Soak the rice for 45 minutes in enough water (add a green cardamom to it)Â required forÂ parboiling. You can soak rice in the same pot that you will use for cooking.
Once the rice has soaked. Parboil the rice until 80% cooked (takes about 10 minutes).The cooking time will depend on quality of rice. Â To check the rice, take a grain and press it between the index finger and thumb. The rice grain will we brittle (break easily) and you will feel & see hard whitish bits in the center of the grain. Once the rice has parboiled, immediately drain it and gently mix a tablespoon of meltedÂ gheeÂ in the warm rice.
Â While the rice is boiling, add milk, 3 tablespoonÂ ghee, cardamom and clove to a small pot and set it to simmer on a medium low flame. Let milk simmer for 5-7 minutes on low heat and then put the stove off. Once the milk has cooled off a bit and is warm(not hot) to touch add sugar, saffron and nutmeg to it. Let sit.
In the same pot in which you parboiled the rice, add theÂ warmÂ spiced milk sugar mixture. Very gently add the drained rice to the milk. Add the nuts and raisins. Cover and let cook on medium low heat for 10-12 minutes until all the milk is absorbed and the rice is completely done. Put the stove off.
After 15-20Â minutes of sitting, gently fluff the rice with the help a fork.Garnish with more nuts and raisins if you want.
The summer mornings at my badi mummy’s (grandma) house started early with preparing for meals ahead that day. By the time I walked down half sleepy to the lobby, the central area of our house where the whole family gathered for chai in the mornings, at meal times or just to sit chatting away, the “lobby” with tiny pink and ivory marble pieces embedded in the floor and a fish aquarium decorating one corner of the wall facing the door that opened into the backyard, I would often find her either chopping vegetables,segregating them into what will be for which mealtime, kneading the dough , picking the lentils or just involved in some kitchen chore.A half filled teacup always on her side on top of a newspaper folded in quarters which she read in between of being busy.I inched to sit close to her and see what her keep busy.I would flip a few pages of the newspaper and often she told me ” hamare babuji 25 paise har mahene english padne ke leye jayda dete they”(my father spent extra money each month to let me learn english at school). In the 1930s, many old women of her age in India would not be reading english newspapers or speaking the language at that time.
When it was the pickling season, the attention shifted from regular tasks to raw mangoes, baby limes and chilies.To tell you the truth the pungent smell of strong pickling spices along with the piquant aroma of virgin mustard oil would be the last thing you would want to sniff at 6 in the morning but her dedication and involvement towards this business was contagious. Attention to detail boiled down to sterilizing the knifes and kitchen towels that would or could touch those chilies and mangoes,leave alone the large glass containers and spoons or bowls. In that time of no fancy appliances,magic bullets and all, hand crushing the tough seeds of fenugreek and tiny rai (brown mustard) did not come easy if you lacked sincerity. She often covered her nostrils with the end of her cotton saree, which was especially worn in any other color but white that day to guard against stains and those fragile, slightly wrinkly hands worked energetically in unison with the heavy terra-cotta mortar & pestle. In between, she paused to wipe off the spice dust off her steel framed glasses but continued with double vigor in the next few minutes.I often wondered if there could be anything, anything in this whole wide world right now which could deter her attention.
For the next few hours, the coarse ground fenugreek, nigella, fennel and mustard seeds were mixed with copious amounts of turmeric powder and salt and then doused in liters of raw, virgin mustard oil, the pungent oil, which my kitchen still feels lifeless without for I have consumed it right from childhood days. Half of the mixture was separated for the mango pickle to which she would add more chili powder later and the rest was stuffed inside plum,red peppers with slightly shriveled skin from a day or two of sun drying prior to pickling. The jars would be situated in sun to ferment for week or ten days and she found something else to keep her busy like no other.
Having lived on homemade pickles all those years of growing up, I could never acquire a taste for the store-bought ones.My tastebuds can make out the slightest hints of those citric acid and preservatives. It is my aim every season to make at least one pickle. Last year it was raw mangoes and prior to that I pickled no oil limes. It was the turn of red chili peppers as soon as I spotted them at Whole foods this time. Over the years, I have slightly changed the recipe to be more like my mom’s. Instead of stuffing the whole red chili peppers, I slit them in half and then stuff the halves. Thats the only change I have made to my badi mummy‘s recipe.
Ingredients (Makes 40 halves of pickled chilies and extra spice (masala) & oil )
18-20 whole red chili peppers (I used Fresno)
pinch of salt
4 tablespoon rai (brown mustard seeds)
2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon Nigella seeds
1.5 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1.5 tablespoon amchoor (dry mango powder, buy online here )
2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
300-350 ml virgin mustard oil, divided (or use olive oil, see notes)
You could use the same recipe to make whole stuffed red chili peppers.Instead of halving them, simply, remove the seeds and stuff with the spices.
Never under salt the pickle, it will go bad within few weeks.
If you do not like the strong taste of mustard oil, you can heat it up to do away the raw smell, cool down and then add. Or you can use olive oil in this recipe if you do not get mustard oil. The flavor of the pickle is slightly different from traditional but it works.
This is not an instant pickle recipe, the pickle is sun fermented and takes 7-10 days (or more depending on strength of sun where you live to mature and get ready to consume.
Wash and pat dry the chilies. Cut and discard the top stem and the entire green portion, then cut them into half. I discarded the seeds & veins of half the chillies,thats where the heat in the pickle comes from. You can remove seeds for all of them if you want. Layer the chilies on a wide, non reactive shallow dish, sprinkle a scant pinch of salt.
Using your coffee grinder, coarsely pulse the mustard, fennel, nigella & fenugreek seeds separately (this is important).You do not need to make a fine powder, if few specks of whole spices remain, its okay. In a small bowl mix the powdered spices together with turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt and amchoor.Taste the spice mix for salt, it should be slightly more salty than you think. Add 2-3 tablespoon mustard oil just so that the spice powder is moistened. This will be make it easy to stuff the chilies.
With dry hands, stuff whole or each half of the chilies with this spice mixture. Place the stuffed chili pepper in a wide glass dish (I use my pyrex). Add 200 ml of mustard oil, any spice mixture remaining and gently mix so that the chilies are coated in oil. At this point, the achaar will have a very strong smell and a bitter taste but thatâ€s okay. Allow it to stand in full sun for two days. Try to stir the achaar once or twice a day with a clean, dry spoon.
On the third day transfer the achaar into a glass or porcelain jar (do not use a metal container) , check and adjust the salt and top with remaining oil and mix well. Cover the mouth of the jar with a muslin cloth, tie with a string and let mature for seven to ten days in sun. (this time will depend on the strength of sun in the area you live).Stir the contents once or twice a day.
At the end of sun fermentation, the skin of chilies would have shrivelled and the strong, bitter taste will go away. Store at room temperature for up to 2-3 months. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickle.
Growing up, we ate ridiculous amounts of fish. Friday was precisely the day toÂ turn to our local fish monger, who proudly called a dimly lit, dilapidated tiny room as his shop but boasted of best quality fish in the neighborhood. The place smelled of salt and sweat and was choked with buyers most part of the day. There was the owner and two helpers who sat atÂ the back corner of the room, cleaning and cutting fish at a constant pace, hardly lifting their heads to see what was going on around them. They did not talk to each other or exchange glances, those expressionless faces often left me wondering as to what their motivation could be to come to this job everyday. Anyhow, the owner solely dealt with each customer and maintained level-headedÂ heated & humorous bargains. The regulars, obviously hadÂ a better chance compared to everyone else to snatch an unbeatable discount.
On each visit, I saw my dad, inquiringÂ the price of one variety more than a couple of times, smirking, looking at him and then quickly pointing to some other variety in few minutes,repeating the process with all the seafoodÂ infornt of him. After good fifteen minutes or so of this (almost) wordless conversation, just looking at Â each other, soft smiles and the owner came out with his Â best offer. In less than ten minutes, we were headed back home, walking hand in hand, thinking aboutÂ fish meals later in the day.
This is usually a way of life in India. Bargaining. Close association with store owners and vendors, knowing a little more than usual about them, discussing with them, arguing with them, saying the hardest, listening the heartiest, it is often enjoyable and seldom effortless. After living in States for all these years, everytime I go to India, I vouch to put forward my best foot when out strolling and shoppingÂ in theÂ bazaars, much to theÂ disappointment of mumÂ who thinks I have kind of lost my skills.
Eating fresh water fish is another agendaÂ when visiting. Mom’s fish curry with in season rohu(carp) or fried fish withÂ surmai. This spice rubbed pomfret is another favorite and so is this mustard laced light fish curry. You could get an idea from all these recipesthat I have already shared here about how serious my love is for all seafood.
I am really lazy when it comes to cooking just for myself. If it’s not buttered toast or scrambled eggs for lunch,this quick, pan fried fish is what you will find me pampering myself with for the past couple of months. It is pretty simple and fast to put together and differs completely from another pan fried fish I have posted earlier. This recipeÂ relies on warm flavorÂ of ginger, sharp garlic and the grassy heat of green chillies along with a tang from vinegar & chaat masalaÂ toÂ Â give the required acidity as well added notes of Â heat. I pan fry the fish in virgin mustard oil, you need to try fish cooked in it to know how awesome it tastes but olive oil will work fine too. Also, broccoli or zucchini is my preferred side with seafood, however you can serve some rice pilaf or lentils too.
1/2 tablespoon chaat masala (homemadeÂ or store bought)
1 teaspoonÂ garam masala
1.5 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
1.5 or 2 tablespoon rice flour (or as needed)
salt to taste
Mustard Oil ( or grapeseed/canola oil)to cook
chopped cilantro, lime wedges to serve
If you do haveÂ chaat masala, add 3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1/4 teaspoonÂ smoked paprikaÂ to the marinade.
Pat the fish completely dry using paper towel or kitchen towels.Sprinkle with turmeric and set aside.
Meanwhile, using your mortar and pestle, smash the garlic, ginger and green chillies to a coarse paste.
In a medium bowl, add this paste along with all of the ingredients listedÂ exceptÂ the rice flour to form a marinade.Rub the fish with this marinade. Let sit refrigerated for atleast 30 minutes or not more than 1 hour.
When ready to cook, set the fish out of the refrigerator.
In a heavy bottomed, wide pan (I use my cast iron) , heat up 1-2 tablespoon of oil on medium. Mix the rice flour 1/2 tablespoon at a time with the fish. The liquid in the marinade and from the fish should be enough to moisten the rice flour. We are not looking for any batter or flour dredging here. The flour will scantly stick on the fish here and there. If you feel that you have added too much flour, use 1-2 tablespoon of water. If you feel that the marinade is still runny (this will depend on the variety and water content of the fish), add more rice flour.
Pan fry the fish on medium low heat in a single layer, flipping midway to brown on both sides. It took me about 3 minutes per sides. (If your fish cut is thicker, it will be more time to cook and vice versa).
Sprinkle with someÂ chaat masalaÂ and red chili flakes as soon as the fish is cooked, if you would like (depending on how tangy or hot you like)
Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top. Serve immediately with lime wedges, steamed broccoli or choice of steamed vegetables, rice pilaf or lentils.
I love hot,straight from the griddleÂ flatbreads.With a dollop of butter and chai (tea) on side, the taste is better thanÂ the bestÂ foods around. Growing up, in my badi mummy’s (grandma)Â house, winters were a season for parathas of all sorts.On few days we would just feed onÂ stuffed parathas for dinner with home churned white butter and pickled vegetables.It was a simple meal, yet very satisfying. My grandmother used to make parathasÂ with dough kneaded just when it was time to roll the bread,sometimes stuffing the stretchy, gluten layers with shredded mooli (daikon)Â or spiced crumbled cauliflower, and, a lot of timesÂ with the winter greens mixed in to hide but form a robust & flavorful dough. All the greens and vegetablesÂ came from the house grown patch, of whichÂ I have talked about a lot in my previous posts.On daysÂ when theÂ power was out, she would igniteÂ angithis (small clay containers of fire) in the verandah,repeatedly waving old newspapers in front of the glowing coal pieces. If the potatoes were plenty from the yard, they were put as it is inside the gusto of the brazier. We sat around the heated fire,wrapped in sweaters and shawls,our faces lighted by the flickering candles,soaking warmth of the burning charcoal, chit chatting and tearing bites from the fresh made hotÂ parathas. A few potatoes were taken out, smashed with fork, a drizzle ofÂ ghee, salt & chill powder and a rustic side was ready.With each morsel,wafted a aromatic steam smelling of garlic, fenugreek and warm spices. Many winter evenings were spent like this, no invertors or generators, a pre convenience era you would say.
MakingÂ rotisÂ orÂ parathasÂ is such an everyday thing for me. I make flatbreads of some kind each single day, it never feels like a chore, it is such a happy routine. I fail to understand when people say its too much work.They say when you love something you embrace it as joy. Maybe because I am used to it that I secretly enjoy it or I cook because I care.If you have dough in the refrigerator,its a matter of minutes to get the bread together.
The approach of spring season is usually indicative of the end ofÂ methiÂ season.To me it leaves behindÂ a similar departed feeling of sorts when fresh tomatoes start vanishing at the knock of fall. I loveÂ methiÂ leaves, I am addicted to them, sometimes I specially go to the store just to pick them, they are part of our weekly menu- they are so flavorful, addictively bitter and so good for you. I am yet to spot freshÂ methiÂ leaves in non- indian grocersÂ here in the States so you will have to make a visit to indian grocery to get these.However, few of my friends compare its taste to fresh watercress sometimes.I haven’t tried the substitution but this recipe can very well be used for any kind of greens you like – think finely shredded rainbow chard, think tucson kale or think good ol’spinach (the cooking variety).
I rollÂ the flatbreads both as triangles as well as well in the usual circle shapes. The triangle one needs more oil to be brushed inside layers and definitely comes out much more soft & flaky.You can refer to a previous post on step by step for makingÂ triangleÂ paratha. The husband prefers those. But you could do any way. Circles or triangles – they taste awesome!
These methiÂ parathas are so easy to make.Throw everything together and knead the dough.They are soft, flaky and packed with taste and nutrients. Let the dough sit in the refrigerator for no more than aÂ day or two and make them to go along with meals or just enjoy rolled up like a cigar all on its own with a cup of chai. I would recommend making them before this winter season goes away.
Ingredients (Makes 8)
1.5Â cup packed fresh/frozenÂ methiÂ (fenugreek leaves, see notes on other greens that can be used)
1.25 cupÂ attaÂ (whole wheat flour)
1/3Â cupÂ besanÂ (fine chickpea flour)
a generous pinch ofÂ hingÂ (asafetida powder)
1/8 tspÂ ajwainÂ (skip or substitute with celery seeds)
heaping 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3-4 tbsp neutral oil
1Â tbsp finely chopped onion
1 scallion(spring onion) stalk, green & white parts finely chopped
3Â fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water (or as required, see recipe)
Canola Oil for griddle frying (about 2 tbsp perÂ paratha)
You can refer to a previousÂ postÂ on triangleÂ parathaÂ on how to shape the flatbreads.
If you want to rollÂ parathasÂ in circles, refer to previousÂ postÂ onÂ rotisÂ on how to do that.
If you do not get freshÂ methiÂ leaves in the area you live,look for the freezer aisle. They stock frozen methi there. You can use that in this recipe after thawing it and squeezing excess water out.
ImportantÂ :- Make small batches of this dough.Its gets sticky and soft as it sits and the vegetables start leaving water from the salt. I do not keep it for more than 2 days. The taste changes after a couple of days. You can half the recipe if you want.
This recipe can very well be used for any kind of greens you like – think chard, think tucson kale or think good ol’spinach (the cooking variety).
Pick theÂ methiÂ leaves from stems. Discard the stems and wash theÂ methiÂ leaves under running water so that all the dirt is washed away.Â Rinse the leaves well. Drain them completely.You don’t need to dry them out but ensure that the are not watery. Use a paper towel if needed. If you are using the frozen variety, squeeze water from the leaves and finely chop theÂ methiÂ leaves. Set aside.
In a wide dish orÂ paraat, mix together flours,Â ajwain,Â hingÂ and turmeric. Start adding oil a tablespoon at a time and working in the flours to incorporate. Add the choppedÂ methiÂ leaves next along with onions,scallions, garlic, cilantro, ginger and green chillies. Mix together.
Add little water at a time and knead to a smooth dough. As the flourÂ absorbs water,it will start clumping up into a ball.Continue to add water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour willÂ come together.Remember not to add too much water at a time.Use your knuckles to flatten the doughÂ 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 forÂ 7-8Â minutes. At any point you feel that the flourÂ is tight or drying out, add a light splash water (but not too much)Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast). Once the dough looks and feels really really smooth, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 20-25Â minutes.Â Keep in mind not to make a very loose dough because as it sits, it will turn softer and sticky.Â Once kneaded, let rest for 15-20 minutes.
If you are not planning to makeÂ parathasÂ right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.
When ready to makeÂ parathas, uncover and divide into equal portions.Â Take each dough portion betweenÂ palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. GetÂ some looseÂ attaÂ on to the dish. Its time to makeÂ roll!
Roll and cover each ball in the looseÂ attaÂ and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly on edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.Dust the board as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust moreÂ but it will get easier as you continue.Using a rolling-pin, roll the ball into a circle 2.5â€³ in diameter. Brush a littleÂ ghee/oil on the rolled out circle.After brushing theÂ ghee, fold into a semi-circle.Brush theÂ gheeÂ on the semi-circle and fold again to form a triangle.Sprinkle the top with more flour and carefully with the help of rolling-pin, roll out until its 1/8â€³ thick.Â Note: While you are rolling out, you will need to flip over, dust flour etc and be gentle to keep the shape intact.You will not get a neatÂ triangle shape but thats how it is.
Spread someÂ oil on the heatedÂ tawa/griddle.Carefully lift the rolled out dough with your hands and place on theÂ tawa.Let cook for 2 minutes on medium heat and then flip over using a spatula.Using a spoon,spread 1 tablespoon oilÂ thoroughly on the first side while the second side is cooking.Flip again and repeat brushing oilÂ on the second side.Cook both sides till you see small brown specks and smell the aroma of cooked dough. In some cases theÂ parathaÂ will fluff up while cooking.Dont worry you did a good job if that happens. Be careful of the escaping steam though.
Once cooked & golden brown on both sides, remove from griddleÂ using a spatula & transfer to cooling rack to cool slightly so that they donâ€t become soggy , later you store them in a box lined with dry cloth or paper towel.
Long railway journeys.Picnics.Lunch.Festivals.Breakfast.Street Side Eating.Snacks.Dinner. Name the occasion and ‘poori‘, this deep-fried,unleavened bread has been my companion. Thin, thick, staining fingersÂ with oil, flavored with ajwain(carrom seeds)or not,crispy, soft – this little puffy bread Â has been a steady thing in our kitchen, bringing us comfort and gluttony(sigh!).I could trade saturday pancakes for these, for they will bring the same deliciousness to the table.
Poke your finger to puncture that crispy skin on top, bloated from the heat of deep-frying and chew on it.Â Combine it with a spicy potato slurry or jhol and you have an overdose of carbohydrates,but, trust me you couldÂ feel bad before eating these or after, but, never ever while eating jhol-poori.It is not a that healthy,’superfood’ thing, but most good things in life bring a fraction (or more) of guilt with them! Or so I think.
Chopped or pureed vegetables like spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves are many times added to the dough as variations. You could add a lot of or less powdered spices as per your liking. You could even mix up flours – semolina, cornmeal or all-purpose flour to whole wheat flour and fry up. The tastes and texture changes but the dough takes all for there is hardly anything deep-fried which tastes less than lavish. You get what I mean,right?
A hot cup of chai,Â staleÂ poorisÂ slathered with chutney or pickles rolled into a cigar in hand is how enjoy it the most but traditionally poorisÂ are served with a side – usually a spicy potato based dish(though in many parts they serve with meats and fruit purees too) and essentially achaar(pickle), mango or lime in my grandma’s house.In my family, the side curryÂ is cooked without onion and garlic and I still make it the same .However there are no rules, if my grandma was short on time, she would sometimes slice a few sweet mangoes or so with them. Basically, you get the idea – its is delicious with just about anything.
Jhol Poori is a combination which makes an appearance atleast once a month in our house if not more. In my mums house, this forms Sunday breakfast, every other sunday. While I knead the dough, the pressure cooker hisses and the potatoesÂ boil inside.A quick tempering with simple aromatics-pungent hing(asafoetoda),smoky cumin & turmeric hit the hot ghee followed by tomatoes, green chillies & ginger,awkwardly crumbledÂ potatoes join the pot, simmer for under twenty minutes or so and done. While traditionally jhol is a term used for much thinner, almost water like consistency, we like ours on the thickish gravy side, just go stingy on the amount of water that you add, everything else remains the same.
Aloo Jhol Recipe
Preparation Time :- 30 minutes
Cooking time – About 2 hours (Depends on cut, type & size of the meat)
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
1 lb stewing mutton/lamb/beef , cubed
2 medium potatoes,peeled & quatered (You can use any potatoes of choice)
2 nos indian bay leaves (tejpatta)
1 ” cinnamon stick
2 medium red onions, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp jaggery (or brown sugar to taste)
1/4 cup mustard oil (substitute with canola/vegetable/sunflower/grapeseed oil )
salt to taste
1.5 cups water
Chopped cilantro for garnish
For the spice paste:-
10-12 whole dry red chillies (I use kashmiri mirch)
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/4 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
2 tsp coriander seeds (dhania)
6 whole green cardamom pods (hari elaichi)
4 cloves (laung)
8 black peppercorns (kali mirch)
5 plump garlic cloves
2 ” fresh piece of ginger
Water for soaking the spices (about 1/4 cup)
Whole Kashmiri mirch lends a rich, deep scarlet color to the gravy without the heat & they are easily available in indian stores. You can de-seed the chillies to reduce heat further.The actual heat in the dish comes from the use of red chilli powder & black peppercorns. However, you can also adjust the amount to tolerance.
Soak the chillies, cumin , fennel & coriander seeds, cardamom pods, cloves & peppercorns in 1/4 cup water for about 15 minutes to soften. Drain & tip into a blender. Reserve the soaking liquid. Grind the soaked spices along with garlic & ginger to a smooth paste. Use the soaking liquid if required while grinding.
Marinate the cubed mutton in half of the spice paste for 15 minutes. Â While the mutton is marinating, heat up the oil in a heavy bottomed pot with lid on high heat till you see ripples on the surface. At this point reduce the heat to medium & wait for 2 minutes. Temper the oil withÂ tejpattaÂ & cinnamon stick. Wait for 15 seconds till you smell the aroma. Next, add the chopped onions to the pot & cook on medium heat with stirring till they turn golden brown.About 8-10 minutes.
Next, reduce the heat to low & add the chopped tomatoes along with the spice paste, red chilli powder & cook the mixture for about 8 minutes, stirring continously till you see oil separating on sides of the pot. At this point,again turn the heat to medium &Â add the marinated mutton & salt. Saute for 10-12 minutes till the mutton pieces are slightly browned. You will see water from mutton separating at this point but that’s okay.
Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low & let the lamb cook in its own juices till about 90% cooked. For the kind of mutton I used, it took approximately 40 minutes to reach that stage.Â You can use your slow cooker or pressure cooker also for cooking the mutton. I prefer to cook it lid on.
Add the potatoes & jaggery next along with 1.5 cups of water. Check the salt. Cook covered on low for another 20-25 minutes till the mutton is tender & potatoes are soft but not mushy.
Switch off the heat & let the curry sit covered for atleast 20 minutes or till ready to serve. Garnish with chopped cilantro & serve warm with salad,plain orÂ jeeraÂ rice.
Poori (Deep Fried Puffed Bread)
Ingredients (Makes 12-14 pooris)
1.5 cups atta (durum wheat flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds,optional)
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil (required while rolling the dough)
Oil for deep-frying
In a ‘paraat’ or wide dish, mix flour, salt and ajwain. Adding little water at a time, knead until smooth, 1â€“2 minutes to make a stiff dough. You can refer to step – step method on kneading rotidough in my previous post.The dough for poori has to be more firm so add lesser quantity of water.
Once kneaded, there is no need to rest the dough.Divide into equal portions.Roll each portion between palms to make balls(about the size of a lime).
Pour 1/4 cup canola oil in a small bowl. Set about 2 inches of canola oil for deep frying to heat up in a kadhai or a wide skillet.
Start with 1 ball at a time, dip the ball in bowl of oil, flatten it lightly on the rolling board and with the help of a rolling-pin, roll into a 3″ or 4″ circle, about 1/8 thick.When you are rolling, you could slather some oil if dough sticks. It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you donâ€t get perfect rounds its okay, doesn’t affect the taste. When you are rolling the dough you can lift it and move it around to get a round of uniform thickness.
To check the temperature of the oil, pinch a small portion of dough and add it to the oil, it should quickly rise to the top without changing color. If the dough rises slowly or remains at the bottom,wait for the oil to heat up.
Once the oil is hot, fry rolled up rolled dough one at a time, flipping once, lightly pressing with a slotted spoon (else it will not puff up), until puffed and golden brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the friedÂ pooriÂ to paper towels to drain. Serve hot.
My dad loved to entertain and this would mean as theÂ 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 gaitÂ onÂ saturday mornings when we strolled to the bazaar to getÂ 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 fromÂ 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 aÂ 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 theÂ aluminumÂ 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 withÂ paneer ,a must on north indian entertaining menus,aÂ slow cookedÂ side of potatoes, another crowd pleaser, her cinnamon spiced red hued dum alooÂ and the signature rice pilaf, brought together withÂ ghee criped cumin seeds folded in fragrant basmati,thick, nuttyÂ dal tarka, tempered with ghee & scattered with cilantro and served with lemon wedges on side of the bowl.Â On few occasions, she would tend to a pot of boilingÂ kadhiÂ which by the way was a favorite of almost every aunt I know in the family,while quickly frying up ajwainÂ scentedÂ onionÂ 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)Â fish were served along with vinegar soaked onion ringsÂ 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 inÂ a paste of ground coconut and red chillies before deep-frying while in the eastern parts, in a lightlyÂ 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 coatedÂ in a mix of rice and besan (chickpea)Â flours.She fondly recollects that during her childhood, my grandfather used to soak the rice a night before and stone grind it the followingÂ day to coat the thick,belly pieces of rohu in it andÂ 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 haveÂ 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 bellyÂ piecesÂ cut into half or equivalent weight any small whole fish like pompano or pomfret)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 tsp minced garlic
1Â tsp fresh minced ginger
3/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
1/4 tspÂ garam masalaÂ
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp mustard oil
generous pinch of salt
3 tbsp rice flour
1/4Â besanÂ (chickpea flour)
1Â tspÂ chaat masala
salt to taste (to taste)
MustardÂ Oil for frying (substitute with any high smoky point oil)
1/2 tspÂ methi danaÂ (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,Â besanÂ andÂ chaat masala. Taste a pinch of this mixture before adding additional salt sinceÂ chaat masalaÂ 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 orÂ skilletÂ (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.MixÂ 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. WeÂ 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 Â 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 moreÂ chaat masala.Â Discard the oil.
Serve immediately with onion slices and lemon wedges andÂ green chutneyÂ or any sauce of choice.
You could use whole small fish (like pomfret,golden pompano,trout, mackerel) or freshwater fish likeÂ rohu, katlaÂ (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 MasalaÂ is a hot & tangy blend of spices which is easily available in indian/pakistaniÂ stores. If you do not have it, skip and add a little cayenne and crushed black pepper to the flour mix. You could squirtÂ lemon juice for tang once you have finished frying the fish.
Many times, I use the same recipeÂ to fry upÂ fillets andÂ stuffÂ them inside tortillas orÂ rotiÂ with coleslaw and serve as fish tacos.
I had to pick up a bunch of these slenderÂ carrots from the store and combine them with addictively bitter freshÂ methi (fenugreek)Â leaves into this delicious stir fry. An otherwise plain-looking side dishÂ which in reality in such a perfect balance of texture and flavors, it formed a part of our winter meals justÂ once or twice in the seasonÂ because growing up, carrots were usually consumed in preparingÂ luscious halwaÂ or tangy winter pickles. Or mostly mum wouldÂ simply cut up raw carrots into sticks and squirted fresh lemon juice & dash ofÂ chaat masalaÂ on top for a healthy snack in between meals.
Not having it often could be the reason it is one of my favorite things to prepare during colder months.Who knows? But this sweet-spicy medley, very popular in north indian parts of India, when served with piping hot yellow dal, few cut up hard-boiled eggs and hot rotisÂ forms a super satisfying home meal in addition to being wholesome and nourishing.
I love the robust choice winter vegetables bring with them. I could go on about my love for produce at this time of the year – fleshy turnips, sweet beetroots and leafy greens.While many people find comfort in meats and poultry at this time when its dull and grey or perhaps snowy outside if you are on the east coast, I need a hearty stock of vegetables to strive and feel energetic through the season.If you are in India, where unlike here, fresh peas make an appearance in the winter months, you could be in for a really treat if you plan to make this along with those juicy, raspberry red carrots, native to the asian subcontinent which I am still to spot here.
In this recipe, you could substitute methi leaves with any bitter greens of choice – kale or turnip, radish greens work wonderfully.To balance out the sweetness from carrots and peas, you do need a bitter elementÂ so do not skip the greens. Sometimes I add diced up sweet potatoes or white potatoes for an earthy texture, making it sweet, spicy, bitter and deliciously savory side to go along dal – rice or plain parathas(flatbreads).
Talking of fresh produce, I had a chance to visit the weekly farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Building during our trip to bay area last week. What a beautiful, fresh and gorgeous spread of produce, meats,bread and condiments it was.We spent almost half a dat there samplingÂ cheeses, raw honey, bread & hot pizza from the stand. Here are a few pictures for you guys.
A simply spiced carrots, peas and fresh fenugreek leaves dish with warm tones of ginger & cumin which can be served as a side or a warm winter salad.Â
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
4-5 medium-sized carrots (I used a bunch which had 6-7 small, slender carrots)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup packed freshÂ methiÂ leaves,Â picked
2Â tbsp mustard oil (or olive oil)
1/4 tspÂ methi dana(fenugreek seeds)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tspÂ hingÂ (asafoetida powder)
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Â small roma tomato, finely chopped (yield about 2.5 tbsp)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or paprika, adjust to tolerance)
1/2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
salt to taste
1/4 tspÂ garam masalaÂ (optional)
1/4 tspÂ amchoorÂ (dry mango powder to taste, or use fresh lemon juice to taste at the end)
Use any bitter robust green like kale (blanched) or radish & turnip greens in place of fenugreek.
We like this dish more on the sweet bitter side than with tang. Even though tomatoes &Â amchoorÂ balance the sweet, depending on how acidic your tomato is, just adjust the amount of lemon orÂ amchoor. You may or might not need it at all too.Â
Wash and peel the carrots. Pat them dry and dice them if you have the thicker ones, I cut them up into small rounds since mine were slender. Wash theÂ methiÂ leaves under running stream of water and completely dry them before chopping. If you are using fresh pea, shell the pods, if using frozen, thaw them.
In aÂ karahiÂ or heavy skillet, heat up the mustard oil on medium until the raw smell goes away. Once hot, temper the oil withÂ methi danaÂ and cumin seeds. Wait till they crackle. Turn the heat to low and immediately add the chopped garlic andÂ hing. Wait till the garlicÂ changes color to light brown,about 8-10 seconds.Be sure that the garlic does not burn. You can even put off the stove for few minutes if you feel that the oil is already hot enough.Then add the tomatoes & turmeric.Saute for aÂ minute or so on medium till the tomato begins to soften. Add the carrots (and potatoes/sweet potatoes if using) and cover. Let cook for 5-7 minutes on medium low heat till the carrots become tender(or about 80% cooked).Add a little splash of water if you feel that the carrots need moisture for cooking.
Open the lidÂ add the red chill powder along with peas, ginger and choppedÂ methi. Add salt to taste. Stir to combine everything together. Cover again and let cook for another 3-4 minutes till theÂ methiÂ leaves wilt down and peas are tender. I let the vegetables have a bite so I do not cook them for too long.Adjust the time of cooking accordingly.
For the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, bump up the heat to high, addÂ amchoor,Â garam masalaÂ and saute the vegetables for a minute or so.We call this process “bhuno” (saute on high heat) This makes the stir fry glisten and adds a depth of flavor.
A rich and aromatic dish, kormaÂ 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 Â rule by theÂ 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),Â 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 naansÂ or ladling it over hot steaming basmati.Nothing compares toÂ the comfort that such hearty food brings.
The most important thing to be kept in mind when preparing mild curriesÂ is that you cannot go overboard with your selection of ingredients.That regal flavor of korma sauce needs deftÂ proportions keeping in mind that one ingredient does not overpower the other. On those rare three or four occasions in a year when we dinedÂ out atÂ the Karims, a placeÂ 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 withÂ pleasant richness from the nuts & dairy and finishing notes of warmthÂ from cardamom, he said.I clearly remember thatÂ korma there had this distinct hint of kewra(screw pineÂ 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 recipeÂ is definitely a keeper. It came out pretty good, if I say so myself and we really enjoyed it.
I use a bit of Â 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 remainÂ 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 whitishÂ 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,Â 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 theÂ korma,Â 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 orÂ kadhai,Â heat up the oil on medium high. Add the cloves,cardamom,mace,Â shahjeera, cinnamon,Â tejpattaÂ 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 aÂ minute and then slowly stir around to mix yogurt with everything else in the pot.Cook the yogurt along with theÂ masalaÂ 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 ofÂ 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 2-3Â tbspÂ gheeÂ on medium. When theÂ gheeÂ 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. Â 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 Â of sauce (I addÂ 1/2Â cup water)along with crushedÂ kasuri methi.Â Check and adjust the salt.Â 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. ToÂ me,Â 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 caseÂ – 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 – withÂ vegetables,Â beans, driedÂ lentil nuggetsÂ orÂ chicken. There would be pickles, salad and raita to serveÂ 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 harshÂ summers,the next few months presented a respite and a chance to indulge in cooking and eating.OnÂ few Saturdays I would accompany mom to the sabziÂ bazaar. WrappedÂ 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 sabziÂ bazaar.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 theirÂ 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 sheÂ would choose vegetables – touching them, sniffing a few, closely inspecting each pieceÂ below the flickering bulbsÂ on the stalls ofÂ thela-wallasÂ (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 andÂ let her taste before buying.Thick,dark-skinned capsicum to yellowish cauliflower heads to fragrantÂ methiÂ (fenugreek)Â andÂ soaÂ (dill) bunches to rubyÂ kashmiriÂ anarÂ (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 dishesÂ to keep our stomachs nourished & satisfied.Â The house would be enveloped in the pungentÂ aroma of mustard oil andÂ earthy fragrance ofÂ basmati riceÂ 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. AÂ weekly regular in our house withÂ all kinds of variations each time.
Ingredients (ServesÂ 3)
You could use canned chickpeas and cut down the cooking time toÂ halfÂ 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 theÂ Pulao(Pilaf)
3/4 cupÂ basmatiÂ rice
1.5 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt (skip for vegan)
1/4 tspÂ garamÂ masala
1/2 tspÂ kashmiriÂ 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 useÂ less, adjust if using sweet cinammon)
1-2 tbspÂ gheeÂ to finish(optional, skip for vegan)
Chopped cilantro to garnish
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 theÂ basmatiÂ rice under 2-3 times under a running stream of water till the water runs clear. Soak in 1.5 cups of water for 15Â minutes. (You can do this while the chickpeas are cooking). Also, mix the yogurt withÂ garamÂ masalaÂ andÂ kashmiriÂ 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 theÂ masala. Cook for another 1-2 minutes on low heat till theÂ masalaÂ starts getting shiny and turning deepÂ reddish-Â brown in color. Add the potatoes & ginger next and cook along with theÂ masalaÂ 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 crushedÂ kasuriÂ methiÂ 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 theÂ gheeÂ (if using) along with cilantro, nuts (if using), raisins(is using) on top and gently fluff the rice with fork.
Serve warm withÂ raita(recipe below), salad and pickle.
PomegranateÂ 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 tspÂ chaat masalaÂ (a tangy spice mix available in indian/pakistaniÂ 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 theÂ raitaÂ 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 daysÂ when khichdi( gooey lentils & rice) formed dinner, softÂ and steam filled rotisÂ smothered with homemade gheeÂ or Â 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 mummyÂ made the best rotis and parathas that I have ever tasted.She rolled perfect rounds,as if Â 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 deftÂ techniqueÂ which is taught to daughters whenÂ their Â wedding day approaches.Â It is the bread of life, something you start and end your day with. Giving away a roti to a needy & poorÂ is symbolic of highest level of ‘punye‘ or good deed in Hindu vedas, it is a thingÂ which subsides the hunger of animals, birds or humans equally. The daily bread is revered.
RotiÂ is a everyday unleavened flatbread in our homes,cooked on stove,Â chapatiÂ is similar toÂ rotiÂ just rolled out much thinner,Â phulkaÂ is another nameÂ used in India forÂ rotis, a Hindi word denoting the puffy look of it.Parathas(skillet-fried dough) or Pooris (deep fried dough)Â areÂ also made from the sameÂ dough, layered or unlayered, stuffed with fillings, rolled in all different shapes.You could see myÂ triangleÂ parathaÂ as an example. But, necessarily, the dough remains the same. It is only the handling and shaping that differsÂ 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)Â 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 gatheringsÂ with lots of guests, she would send us with home-made yeastyÂ 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 ofÂ 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.Â 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 attaÂ 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 couldÂ smear a layer of meltedÂ gheeÂ 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.Â Approximately.If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter.
Take each dough portion betweenÂ palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. GetÂ 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 moreÂ 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,Â doesnt affect the taste.The trick to roll perfect rotisÂ is that when you are rolling the dough itÂ 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)Â to get thin edges ofÂ rotisÂ is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of theÂ 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 hotÂ tawa.Â Â Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too)Â on first side,just so you see the surface changing color orÂ 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.
LiftÂ theÂ rotiÂ with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to helpÂ 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,Â 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 laterÂ 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 featureÂ 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 aÂ paraatÂ (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 wheatÂ which are stone ground to make atta (fine whole wheat flour). Largely, you could choose between durum wheat orÂ sharbatiÂ wheat.Â Infact, a lot of leading atta brands in India now have a mix of both. It is important to understand that attaÂ 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 andÂ placeÂ the atta. With one handÂ slowly start adding (warm) water and mixing in circular motion with the fingers of other hand. Incorporate water a little at a timeÂ and start to kneading gently.
As the attaÂ 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 willÂ come together.Remember not to add too much water at a time.
Once a ball is formed,Â ensure that itÂ 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 theÂ doughÂ next.
Use your knuckles to flatten the doughÂ 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 forÂ 7-8Â 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) 20-25Â minutes.You could smear a layer of meltedÂ gheeÂ or oil on top but you really willÂ 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 makeÂ rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions.Â Approximately.(Note: If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter)
Take each dough portion betweenÂ palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. GetÂ some looseÂ attaÂ on to the dish. Its time to makeÂ rotis!
Roll and cover each ball in the looseÂ attaÂ 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 theÂ rotiÂ as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust moreÂ 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.Â The trick to roll perfectÂ rotisÂ is that when after 1-2 minutes into rolling the dough itÂ 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 rotiÂ yourself to roll and evenly flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.
Another tip to get thin edges ofÂ rotisÂ is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of theÂ roti as you roll.
Meanwhile, place aÂ tawaÂ (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on to heat up on high. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to storeÂ rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift theÂ roti.
Place theÂ rolled rotiÂ on the hotÂ tawa.Â Â Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too)Â on first side,just so you see the surface changing color orÂ 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 theÂ rotisÂ will dry out.When you cook on the second side, you will see that little puffs coming up on the surface.
LiftÂ theÂ rotiÂ with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to helpÂ it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.
Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storingÂ rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewyÂ 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.