Aam ka Achaar – Green Mango Pickle

Sinfully Spicy : Aam Ka Achaar, Green Mango Pickle #indianIf you grew up in northern India in the 80s when the sandwich & muffin culture had still not hit the subcontinent, most of you would have eaten rolled up greasy parathas (flatbread) with achaar(pickle) and a dry sabzi for school lunch. I remember that during our half hour lunch break, first fifteen minutes were to eat inside the class after which you could walk out and play or move around the school complex.I am sure many of you would have tasted pickles from friend’s dabba and talked lengths of it to mom till the point of sounding mean. If she gave into your meanness, you would find her next day noting down the recipe from your friend’s mother at the end of the school hours.

 In India, pickles or achaar is a line of cuisine in itself. Quite unlike the way western world understands pickling with vinegar and minimal spices or herbs, indian achaar are preserved in litres of oil, cups of salt and sack full of spices.You don’t call it a pickle unless oil runs down your fingers when you pick up a nibble and a strong, piquant aroma fills up the nostrils. Each and every home has a unique recipe or more depending on how the ladies of the house like to preserve their jar. Usually served as a part of meal for that tang and heat or to aid digestion or just to entice the senses, a few bottles of pickles form a part of every Indian kitchen varying in produce from season to season.In my home, the pickled root vegetables are stocked in winter months and usually both red & green chilies are pickled around spring but summer is for limes and of course, the mango!

I found kairis (small tart, indian variety green mangoes) a couple of weeks back at our local store. For the last four years or so that I have been a regular there,this was the first time ever I spotted these.Still questioning if  they were the actual ones (aka direct export from India), I only bought home six or seven,thinking all the way of what all I want to do with them.The first thing I did after putting the bags down was to rush to the kitchen and cut open a piece with a sharp knife and there it was – a white, opaque soft seed and tart flesh.I sniffed the sweet but tangy aroma.OMG, this is it. They were the real deal! I pestered the husband immediately to rush back and if anyone of you saw a crazy woman coming out of the store with couple of pounds of green mangoes in the South Las Vegas area, now you know who it was.

This achaar with raw,green mangoes is sour and hot.I use virgin mustard oil for preserving it and it lends the unique taste and aroma to it. Raw mangoes are chopped into small pieces,dried in the sun, mixed with different spices to give an aromatic & bitter note then covered in oil for the pungency. The sun cooking (fermentation) for a few days eliminates the need of refrigeration to keeps it well for a up to a year.The concentration of salt, oil and spices act as a natural preservative and you don’t need of any chemical to enhance its shelf life.

Printable Recipe 

Ingredients (Makes about 16 oz)

  • 1 lb green mangoes
  • 2 tsp saunf (fennel seeds)
  • 2 tsp methi (fenugreek seeds)
  • 3/4 tsp kalonji (nigella seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp rai (brown mustard seeds)
  • 1.5 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp powdered hing (asafoetida)
  • 1.5 tsp Salt + more if required
  • 250-300 ml virgin mustard oil,divided

Notes –

  1. Never under salt the pickle, it will go bad within few weeks.
  2. 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.
  3. The kind of mangoes I used were really tart and so the pickle came out quite tangy. If you do not get pickling mangoes, add some amchoor (dry mango powder) to the recipe for a tart note.
  4. This is not an instant pickle recipe, the pickle is sun fermented and takes 7-10 days to mature and get ready to consume.

Method

Wash and pat dry the mangoes. Cut and discard the top stem and then cut them into half, remove and discard the seed & membrane and then cut into small cubes. Layer the cubes on a wide plate, sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt and let sit in sun for 1-2 days till the skins starts to dry on edges and turning pale green. At the end of the day, remove and discard any liquid that has collected.

Using your coffee grinder, coarsely pulse the saunf, methi,kalonji and mustard seeds. In a small bowl mix these with turmeric, chili and hing, mix well.

Place the mango pieces in a wide glass dish (I use my pyrex) and add the spices mixed before. Sprinkle the salt. With a clean and dry spoon or fingers, mix well such that spices and salt loosely stick to mango pieces. Add 150 ml of mustard oil and mix it well. At this point, the achaar will have a very strong smell and a bitter taste but that’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, 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 the mango would be brownish and the strong, bitter taste will go away. Store at room temperature for up to 10-12 months. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickle. 

Enjoy & Thanks for Stopping by!

Mava Gujiya – Pastry With Coconut & Nuts filling (Eggless)

Spring has hit full force here in the valley and looks like the bright sun is here to stay. A crisp, pleasant mornings is what awaits us as we get out of the bed & I feel so inspired to stay active and finish up a lot of chores by noon. A certain kind of energy engrosses me throughout the now longer days and we have also started our evening strolls to the nearby Sunset Park. Onset of spring is also apparent in the tall peach tree in our front yard and I am already spotting a couple of buds signaling that the fruit will be here in no time. I am planning to can the fruit this year,something which I missed doing last summer.

The Indian festival of spring, Holi is round the corner and like most celebrations back home this festival is also full of food & colors(of the real kind). I prepared these coconut & mava gujiya which is categorically made during Holi in my family.It is a sorta indian empanada with a sweet filling.The eggless pastry is flaky but dense at the same time,its lightly crispy on the outside but gooey in the center from the ghee,though you can do any kind of filling but traditionally milk solids (mava) mixed with aromatic cardamom and variety of nuts are stuffed inside,making it a wholesome holiday grub.

Holi was one of the most busy time in my grandma’s house. I remember how lunch & sometimes dinner was cooked early so that the later part of the day could be spent making gujiya and other savory things.It may look like a quickie but when we are talking hundreds of such homemade pastries, it was too much work. She started the preparations a week ahead, the neighborhood and all the house help were given boxes full of these as a token of the festival and since these last for almost a weeks if stored properly, we always had lots of them left as anytime snack after the festival had winded up.

Mava or Khoya is solidified milk, quite comparable to ricotta but less moist.It is used in making most of the indian sweets and desserts. You take one bite of the it and you discern that unique dense and milky taste. If you do not have access to indian stores , you could make your own mava at home (recipe here).The filling can be made a day ahead and once fried, these gujiya freeze very well too. Making gujiya is labor intensive so plan it on a not so busy day. Have fun & Happy Holi.

Ingredients (Makes 15)

For the filling (Makes extra. I had about 1/2 cup leftover filling)

  • 2-3 tbsp ghee, divided
  • 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/3 cup crushed nuts ( I used almonds & cashews)
  • 2 tbsp melon seeds, optional
  • Raisins
  • 4 oz mava/khoya, grated when cold (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the crust

  • 1.5 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp ghee, melted ( (homemade or store-bought)
  • 2-4 tbsp shortening, softened (In India, use Dalda)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (adjust quantity required for kneading)
  • Oil for  frying

For the glue

  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour + 1.5 tbsp water

For the syrup

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp green cardamom powder

Method

Make the filling:-

In a heavy bottomed pan/kadhai, heat up 1 tbsp ghee on low heat. Add desiccated coconut to it and lightly toast the coconut till you smell a nice aroma. Transfer the coconut to a big bowl.Melt another tbsp of ghee and add the nuts & melon seeds(if using) to the kadhai and toast them on low heat. Transfer to the same bowl as coconut.Next, on very low heat, melt another tbsp ghee( you might not need ghee if using homemade mava) and add the grated khoya/mava to it.On very low heat, cook the mava till it loosens and starts becoming runny. You will need to continuously stir it so that it does not stick to the bottom. Once the mava starts to clump up, transfer to the same bowl.Note – If you see a lot of fat oozing out of the mava, try to skim off as much as you can.

Let all the ingredients completely cool . Once cold, add the cardamom powder & granulated sugar and combine well. Set aside or refrigerate( if you are making a day ahead).

Make the Dough for the crust:-

Sift the flour once. Mix the flour with ghee and shortening ( a tbsp at a time) and work it with your fingers. While doing so try to make a ball of the flour, if the flour clumps up and does not break when you drop it, stop adding the shortening.Mix the flour gently with warm water. Add water slowly and handle the dough gently till it comes together. Once its together, knead for 2-3 minutes and (very important) cover it with a damp cloth and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Make the glue :-

In a small bowl, mix up 1 tbsp flour with water. It should not be lumpy. Set aside.

Making the Gujiya

Once the dough has rested, pinch equal portions of the dough and keep them covered with a damp cloth. Press each portion between palms to make a smooth ball. Roll out each portion into a 3″ circle. Dip a finger into the glue (made earlier) and spread it all around the edge of the rolled dough. Pick up the rolled dough into your palms and pinch  the centre of the edge on one side in such a way that one of the ends is closed to form a semi circle. Spoon a tablespoon of the filling and bring all the edges together to form a crescent. When you seal the edges, try to form sort of a dough border by pressing the edges so that you can make a pattern laterMake sure the edges are completely sealed, else the filling will ooze out while frying. Note – Do not overstuff the filling else when you fry the gujiyas will puff up too much and filling will ooze out.

You could leave it as it is or use back or a fork or ravioli cutter to make a pretty edge. I used my hands to pinch the dough and fold it over itself to make a pattern. Place the gujiya on a plate & cover with a damp cloth. Make all the gujiyas in the same way and let sit covered till ready to fry.

Heat up enough oil to fry the gujiyas. The oil is at the right temperature when you put a lithe dough into it and it comes up slowly to the surface without sizzling away. Fry the gujiyas 2-3 at a time on low heat, turning all around till golden fried in color. Note – Do not rush the frying, else your gujiyas will have blisters all over and they will be brown on outside but raw in the center. 

Tranfer to the top of a cooling rack and leave to cool.

Make the Syrup :-

While the gujiyas are cooling, bring the sugar & water to a boil and let simmer for 1 minutes. Add the cardamom (or saffron) and mix well. Brush this syrup on all sides of the gujiyas while they are warm.

Serve gujiyas at room temperature with thandai (spiced milk drink).If you want to freeze,let the gujiyas cool completely and store in air tight containers.

Happy Holi to all the readers.

Palak (Saag) Paneer – Spinach & Indian Cheese

I think that one of the best palak paneer that I have eaten ever is the one prepared with home grown spinach from my grandma’s house. One from the vegetable patch which sprung to life with all sorts of greens under the winter sun. It was so thoughtful how our maali (gardener) was instructed to allocate square patches to vegetables.The cilantro, dill and mint which were used so very frequently throughout the day were sown first, followed by tubers and other root vegetables.To wade away the pests, every now and then badi mummy would keep a lighted incense amongst the large coarse leaves of the eggplant area.And it worked.Last few rows were the leafy greens & other delicate creepers, just so that you go towards them only when you need to.

There were the few aromatic methi (fenugreek greens) with its distinctive bitter sweet smell and the laal chaulai having smooth & shiny leaves.Then appeared the tender garlic & onion scapes which were plucked every now & then to accompany the lunch.As compared to these spinach rows were many and more sought after. During winters, spinach became a sudden favorite in the house, it was added to lentils, tossed in salads, made into fritters with evening chai or simply stir fried with garlic & potatoes.

The juicy, fleshy short stems reminding you how simple yet nourishing mother earth’s bounty can be. The mellow, soft taste of the organic leaves hardly needed a dash of lime juice and salt to become a perfect salad alongside dal – rice.Having eaten homegrown for so many years, that fresh taste is something hard to match with anything I cook from stores.

I was always the child who ate her vegetables. I cannot eat meat for more than two days in a week. I love vegetables and if I don’t eat them for a while,my body starts missing them. On days, when I cook rich & heavy foods for the husband which I am not much in a mood for, I treat myself to palak paneer. Slow cooked spinach gives the dish a beautiful green color and creamy homemade paneer add the perfect richness.This recipe uses very less spices & no cream/butter so that the delicate taste of spinach is not overpowered by them.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 8 oz organic spinach
  • 2 – 2.5 cups water
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or any neutral oil of choice)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds, finely crushed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 fat garlic clove,minced
  • 3/4 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2-4 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • pinch of turmeric
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1.5″ fresh ginger shoot, grated
  • 1/2 tsp  kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional but recommended)
  • 6 oz paneer, cut into cubes (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream to finish off (optional)

Notes - 

  1. Use extra firm tofu in place of paneer and skip cream to make it a vegan recipe.
  2. You can lightly fry the paneer cubes in 1-2 tsp of oil before adding to the curry if you want.

Method

Add cloves to water and bring to a boil.Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the spinach leaves. Roughly chop the leaves if they are too big. Since I use baby spinach, the stems are tender, however you can pick the stems out if they are too hard.Once the water is boiling,turn off the heat & immediately add spinach to it.Let the leaves soak for 2-3 minutes and then drain. Reserve the liquid and transfer the spinach to food processor.Put in the cloves too. Pulse. I do not like to make a smooth puree however you can blend the spinach to desired texture. If needed, the reserved can be used liquid while blending.Set the blended spinach aside.

Heat up oil on high in a kadai or medium heavy bottomed pot.Once the oil is smoky, reduce the heat to medium & wait for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped onions to it along with fennel & cumin seeds (in that order) and sauté  till the onions start to lightly brown.Next add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, coriander powder, green chillies, turmeric & cinnamon to the pot and keep on cooking on medium low heat till you see oil separating on the sides of the pot. This may take 8-10 minutes. Add the spinach, ginger, and salt to the pot and mix well. Also add 1/3 cup of reserved liquid. Let the spinach cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes and then reduce the heat to low. Let cook on low heat for least 20 minutes. The spinach will bubble a lot during cooking (you can put a lid) and you will need to stir it in between to avoid sticking to bottom. Also the spinach will change color to dull green and you will start seeing glisten on the sides of the pot. At this point, add the paneer cubes and kasuri methi (if using) to the pot along with reserved liquid (quantity depending on how runny you want the dish). Also add the sugar. Cover and let cook on medium low for another 8-10 minutes till the paneer softens.

Let sit for 1-2 hours before serving. When ready to serve, add the cream, reheat and serve alongside hot flatbreads, steamed rice & salad.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by.

Warm Chickpea Chaat (Indian Salad)

Last weekend was eventful.We celebrated our little munchkin’s first birthday. I made her a smash cake and we also got an adult cake. Her reaction towards both the cakes was the same – she cried. I think the flickering candle frightened her. It’s so funny that they react completely different to how you think they might.

Taking advantage of fading winters, I made this warm chaat this weekend. The weather out here is not yet hot for a crisp cold salad & a bit too warm for soups, this chaat drizzled with imli (tamarind) chutney & tossed with fresh mint leaves perfectly fitted the onset of spring mood.We are huge fan of  textures and multiple flavors in food and that is what this chaat is full of.

In India, chaat is a savory preparation which can be categorized as street food. There are few base ingredients which essentially form part of chaat– chopped onions or grated radish/cucumber for crunch,chaat masala (tangy spice powder) for the pungency & heat, tamarind chutney adds that saucy, tart layer while the green chutney & cilantro (or any herb)add the much needed freshness.The yogurt adds the acidity as well as cools down the palate.These are usually the toppings without which a bowl of chaat is incomplete. However, you can pick or drop any as per your taste.Chaat could be layering of fried dough or diced up fruits cut up and mixed together.If you are looking for really heavy options then kachoris (stuffed fried breads) or aloo(potato) tikki are your choices.

I like how healthy and filling this recipe turned out. You can also use black chickpeas(kala chana) or mung sprouts in this recipe and it works fine. It can be served as a perfect appetizer as well as a side dish. All the prep work like boiling chickpeas, potatoes, making the chutney, chopping toppings etc can be done a day before and then its just tossing everything together. 

I soak raw chickpeas overnight and then pressure cook them in enough water with little salt and a tsp of oil. Drain the chickpeas and reserve liquid for use as stock.

Ingredients (Serve 2)

  • 1 cup boiled chickpeas (or use canned)
  • 1 medium potato, boiled, peeled & diced into bite size pieces
  • 2 tsp oil, any neutral oil of choice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • generous pinch of hing (asofetida)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

Other ingredients/toppings

  • Chopped onions – about 1/3 cup
  • Chopped tomatoes/ Grape tomatoes
  • 2 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • Black Salt/Kala Namak ( to taste)
  • Chaat Masala (to taste) (available online or at indian grocery stores)
  • Imli/Tamarind Chutney – 2 tbsp or to taste (recipe below)
  • Roasted Cumin Powder- to taste
  • Red Chilli Powder – to taste

You can add cucumber, grated radish, pomegranate seeds, sev, crushed papris etc to add more texture and crunch.

Method 

In a pan, heat up the oil. Add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle add the hing. Once you smell the aroma, add the chickpeas & potatoes. Also add the garam masala, cumin powder and salt. Toss around for 3-5 minutes till the chickpeas look shiny.Remove from heat & add the lemon juice. Mix well.

Transfer to a large enough bowl and add the listed toppings as per taste. Toss well and serve immediately.

Imli/Tamarind Chutney

I soak raw tamarind in warm water for 4-5 hours and then mash it until pulp is separated.Sieve the pulp into a bowl and discard the seeds and thick fibers. You can also use store bought but just keep in mind that its very salty & slightly acidic so adjust seasonings accordingly. 

Ingredients (Makes about 1.5 cups)

  • 1/2 cup thick,tamarind pulp(store bought or homemade)
  • 3/4 cup – 1 cup jaggery powder/granulated sugar (adjust quantity to your sweetness)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch of hing (asafoetida)
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin seed powder
  • 1/2 tsp kala namak/black salt [available in indian stores, else replace with normal salt, adjust to taste]
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • salt to taste
  • Up to 1/2 cup water ( you may or may not need it, usually not needed when using sugar instead of jaggery)

Method

In a small sauce pan, heat the oil.Once heated add the cumin seeds, as soon as the cumin starts to crackle, add all the ingredients listed above to the pan except water.Simmer the  for atleast 20 minutes till it starts to thicken. You can adjust water once the chutney has simmered. It will thicken more on cooling. Remove from heat, let cool, transfer to a container.

Let cool completely. This can sit for unto 3 weeks in a refrigerator.

Enjoy and Thanks for stopping by!

Mewa Chikki – Nut & Seed Brittle (Gluten & Grain Free)

Paani, cheeni se kam hona chahiye‘, mum replied that the quantity of water should be less than sugar. I had called in to ask the ratio of sugar and water for the syrup before setting out to make this chikki.

Agar ek katori cheeni hai to kitna paani?‘ I re worded the question knowing that if at all, sometimes she measures using katori (small bowl).The reply remained the same ‘Paani kam aur cheeni jyada‘ (more sugar, less water). I gave up knowing that those teaspoons and cups that I am slowly becoming slave to, have no place in her kitchen.

There, lies the beauty of Indian cooking,everything done with accurate approximations, andaza.There isn’t a need to fish through kitchen drawers ahead of cooking to locate cups and spoons, neither to flip through recipe books because there aren’t any written ones. My mum and aunts could cook off an entire meal discussing the neighbour’s daughter in law, it’s just eyeballing,tasting and adjusting the flavors in between. There are no hard and fast rules, the methods are traditional,the food comes out wonderful each time. It’s all about cooking with good impulse and feeling.Though it takes while to learn those techniques and pointers to dish out your bestest recipes, but once you are on it, you can trust your gut for the lifetime.

I never understood the ‘taar‘ or the number of strings method that they use to make sugar syrup for indian sweets. Putting it in a very lame way, after a few minutes of bubbling, you are supposed to squeeze the boiling sugar (ouch! ) between your thumb and index finger and count the number of strings formed to know if the right consistency has been reached.Again, something which comes with experience.

Making this chikki from scratch has been one of the most brave things I have done this summer. Studded with lots of nuts and seeds, edible gum resin (gond), not only is this good for you, but you can play around with the type and quantity of nuts in the recipe. Do  make this delicious snackage for the upcoming winter months, it promises to keep you warm and happy.

In my family, makana or foxnuts and coconut are the main ingredients in making this.Read about foxnuts in one of my earlier posts here.

Edible Gum or gond is an extract from the bark of gum tree and is used a lot in indian sweets. It is either white or brown in color, crystal like. When cooked in oil, it puffs up like popcorn and turns opaque. It provides heat to the body and is usually eaten in cold winter months. In India, it is very much used during postpartum of women since it strengthens the body and helps in lactation of new mothers.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups makhana (foxnuts), roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp gond (edible gum resin)
  • 3/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut shavings
  • 1/4 cup melon seeds
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3 tbsp ghee, divided
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • few saffron strands soaked in 1/2 tbsp of warm water (optional)

Also needed – Any well-greased plate/thaali or simply line your brownie sheet with parchment.

Notes :-

  1. If you are using edible gum,make sure that it is completely dry (you can keep it in sun for few hours), else it will not bloom well when you roast it.
  2. Feel free to use any kind of nuts or seeds in this recipe. If you cannot find foxnuts or edible gum, you can increase the quantity of coconut, almond or walnut by equivalent amount.
  3. Use sunflower/pumpkin/pepitas in place of melon seeds.
  4. Add crasins, dried cherries, cranberries, dehydrated blueberries or raspberries to this recipe.

Method

In a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai, on low-medium heat, warm up 1 tbsp of ghee. Add the sliced foxnuts and lightly roast on low heat for 2-3 minutes till you smell the aroma. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add another 1/2 tbsp of ghee in the kadhai and add almonds, walnuts and coconut shavings to it. Lightly roast on low heat for 2-3 minutes till you smell the aroma. Take care that the nuts do not change color. Transfer to the large bowl.

Next, on very low heat add another 1 tbsp of ghee and add the gond crystals. Keep on stirring constantly, the crystals will puff up and turn opaque as they roast. This will take  about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to the large bowl.

Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of ghee to the kadhai and roast the melon seeds on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the raisins. Stir again for 1 minutes or so. Transfer to the large bowl.

Mix all the roasted nuts and seeds well in the large bowl and let sit for 5-8 minutes so that they cool down a bit.

Keep your greased plate or parchment lined dish ready.I used a 9′ X 2′ brownie pan to set the chikki.

Pour water and sugar into the kadhai next and bring to a boil on medium heat. When the sugar starts to bubble around the edges, add cardamom powder, soaked saffron and reduce heat and let simmer for about 2-3 minutes.Remove from heat and immediately pour over the roasted nuts. Stir everything quickly using a spatula so that the nuts are coated in sugar and transfer to the setting plate/pan. Lightly press with hands or spoon to spread out to a uniform thickness. Let sit at room temperature to completely cool down.

Break into desired size chunks or pieces.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping  by!

Fish Curry

While he walked down the road, we ran like hooligans to reach the market. It was well past 6 pm and the catch of the day would be sold out in an hour or so, papa told us before leaving home.The earlier your reach the shop, the robust the choice. Making our way through narrow streets, lot of traffic and chaotic roads, you could not help but inhale the stench fishy smell which filled the shop, once you reach. There sat the machali vala (fish vendor),his forehead lit up by the hanging bulb, wearing a yellowish vest, sweat drops glistening on his cheeks, arduously handling the bargains with adamant customers. On his left lay piles of fresh fish to choose from and on the right were hand-held metal scales to weigh.

Papa would choose rohu (green carp),one of the most loved fresh water fish in my family. He had his own ways as to check if it was fresh and that took time. Meanwhile, we gulped down  glassfuls of sugarcane juice or nimbu pani, playing outside.

The vendor would throw the fish towards them, shouting ‘ chotey,jaldi se tayyar kar de‘ , asking his boys sitting behind the curtains to quickly clean up and cut papa‘s fish selection.Since majority of the population flocking the market were vegetarian Hindus, butchering fish or meat in open wasn’t a pleasant sight for them.

In my grandma’s home, the utensils for cooking non vegetarian food were separate from the rest of the kitchenware. They still are. I clearly remember the grey and dark blue stained tamchini (enamel ware) which is used to (again) clean up and wash the fish at home, not in the kitchen sink but outside in the yard. ‘Thoda besan aur haldi jaroor laga dena‘, mom reminded every time to massage the fish pieces with turmeric & chickpea flour after washing, while she sauted masala in the kitchen.

Well past 9 pm,the noises in the houses settled, everyone devoted their energy to eating fish curry, taking their time to separate the bones, sniffing the hints of aroma from kasuri methi in the gravy, mixing it up with steamed rice – comforting & delicious.

When I came to States, I did not eat fish for a couple of years, the idea of fillets simply did not appeal to me. Even though I m better now, but still fillets feel like eating potatoes. It was only a year ago that I spotted an oriental market which sells fish steaks that I started making those nostalgic curries again.

The only two things fancy about this fish curry are that its cooked in pure mustard oil and the liberal use of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in the masala. Both lend the curry a deep, rich aroma and make it taste tangibly authentic.

Before we hop on to the recipe, let me highlight that kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is an aromatic herb used to flavor a lot of north indian curries and marinades. It is what makes those tandoori & butter chickens taste the way they do. Pleasantly bitter, strong-tasting but addictive, it is a great herb to add to your spice rubs, sauces and gravies. Available for a couple of dollars both online as well as at all indian stores, it has a long shelf life (more than a year or so). Trust me you REALLY need it in your pantry!

Ingredients

  • 3- 4 fish steaks (I used Tilapia steaks ,select any mild, white fish of choice)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 tbsp pure mustard oil (substitute with cooking olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • 3/4 cup red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes, finely chopped (yield about 1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1.5 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (amchoor, substitute with lemon juice to taste)
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
  • 1/4 cup of water (this depends on how watery your fish is and the desired consistency of the curry, adjust amount accordingly)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Method

Rub the fish steaks with 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

When ready to make the curry, take out the fish from the fridge and let sit at room temperature.

In a heavy bottomed pan, add the oil and heat on high up till you see ripples on the surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat it till its smoking to do away the raw smell.Reduce heat to medium.Add the finely chopped onion and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes.Next, add minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling the aroma.

Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes and grated ginger  next along with chilli, coriander, and turmeric powder. Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pan. About 10-12 minutes. Cook thoroughly to reduce water. This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, please do not rush. Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color.

Add the marinated fish steaks next to the along with kasuri methi & dry mango powder. Also add salt to taste. Stir around gently so that the fish steaks are coated in the masala. Cover the pan and let the fish cook on low for 5 -8 minutes. This cooking time will depend on the variety, cut and thickness of steaks. Adjust accordingly. When the fish is just about done, add the water and let simmer for another 2-3 minutes

Once the fish is cooked through, let the curry sit covered for at least 30-40 minutes, undisturbed.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with steamed basmati rice. (You can warm the curry before serving)

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Aloo Gosht – Mutton With Potatoes

I can’t seem to forget those Sunday lunches prepared by mom. A steaming pile of basmati rice slathered in curry flavored with fresh ground spices & drippings of meat. Tender, boneless pieces of mutton which you pull apart with fingers & potatoes cooked to the point of crumbling but still retaining their shape till you serve them in the plate. Simple, homey & satisfying – plain  soul food for us. A tradition which conjures up numerous childhood memories.

Dad was sent off to the butcher early in the morning with elaborate instructions on the cut of meat he needs to get from there.And mom occupied herself in peeling garlic pods & ginger, seeding the chillies, soaking & grinding the whole spices to prepare her magical curry concoctions.The enticing aroma of freshly ground spices coupled with the patience with which she simmered the meat on low heat were the secret behind the delicious curries she made, I think. While she cooked, we used to wait for hours for the moment when the meats have passed the tooth pick test!

It’s difficult to find goat meat or mutton as we call it in Vegas but whenever I do, I have this undying wish to recreate mom’s recipes.I found a suitable stewing variety at a nearby shop couple of weeks back and a meat & potato meal was definitely on my mind. So Sunday lunch was prepared – just like at mom’s. You can add taro root, yams, turnips or beets to this recipe with excellent results. It’s just that I end up making it with potatoes each time else P will not eat it.I recommend using as fresh ingredients for the spice paste as you can find & loads of patience while the meat cooks – it can take a couple of hours.

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)
Notes:-
 
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.
 

Method:-

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.  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 with tejpatta & 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 & 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. 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 or jeera rice.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by.

Baingan Bharta (Smoky Mashed Eggplant) – Guest Post for Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums

Belated Diwali wishes to all my readers, I was not able to make anything for the blog this year, been lazy & got sweets from store 🙂 How are all my favorite people doing? Its been a while since you guys saw some action on Sinfully Spicy 🙁 I apologize for vanishing away! Life is slightly busy & I need to concentrate on few things which cannot be postphoned any further. So, even though I m regularly cooking ,blogging dosent fit the schedule always …hope you all will understand…

I m guest blogging for Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums today while she is on a little break.She is one of the most encouraging & kind blogger around, whom I have been lucky enough to be friends with. Depth of her writing, beauty of her lens & her enthusiasm has always been inspiring. If you havent checked out her blog,do drop by, I bet you will fall in love 🙂 It was a pleasant surprise when she wrote to me for a guest post. Thanks so much Rosa for inviting me to your blog.

I am sharing one of my favorite winter recipes with her wonderful readers today. Baingan Bharta or smoky & spicy mashed eggplant is one of my favorite ways to eat eggplant and the only way P eats it . Many of you would have already tasted baingan bharta in indian restaurants, now you can make it at home..How cool is that :)Check out my post on Rosa’s blog here. You can print the recipe here.

Just in case any of you is interested, have a look at a variation called hara baingan bharta which I shared long back here. Both the recipe are way different but if you are eggplant crazy like me, you have to try them all..

Ingredients: – (Serves 2-3)

▪                1 large eggplant (about 1lb)

▪                1 tsp oil (for rubbing on the eggplant)

▪                3 tbsp mustard/olive oil

▪                1 cup chopped red onions

▪                1″ fresh ginger shoot, chopped

▪                4 garlic cloves, chopped

▪                1-2 Thai green chilies, chopped (adjust to tolerance)

▪                1.25 cups chopped tomatoes

▪                1 tsp coriander seeds

▪                3-4 whole dry red chilies (adjust to tolerance)

▪                1/2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)

▪                1/2 tsp garam masala

▪                Salt to taste

▪                1 tsp mustard/olive oil (for drizzle on top, optional)

▪                Cilantro, green chilies chopped (for garnish)

Method: –

Wash the eggplant and dry the skin with a cloth. Rub1 tsp of oil all over. Use any one of the following methods to char the eggplant: –

1.              This is what I do: – Heat your stovetop on high. Char the whole eggplant, turning with the use of tongs to char on all sides, until the skin has blackened & the flesh is soft. This will take about 20-22 minutes. Keep a watch while you do this.

2.              Preheat a grill to medium heat; you can slit the eggplant into half, grill skin side up for 25-30 minutes. If you plan to use an oven, preheat broiler to 325F and roast the eggplant for about 15-20 minutes until skin is burnt & starts to peel off.

While the eggplant is roasting, pound the coriander seeds and dry red chilies using a mortar & pestle. Set aside.

Once the eggplant has charred, using tongs, transfer it to a plate and let cool down for about 15 minutes. Peel off the charred skin from the eggplant.You can remove seeds if you want. Using a fork, mash the flesh. Set aside.

Heat oil on high in a heavy bottomed pan. When the oil is almost smoky, reduce heat to medium & add the chopped onions. Sauté for about 6-7 minutes or till the onions are translucent but not browned. Next, add the chopped ginger, garlic, green chilies and sauté for 30 seconds or till you smell the aroma. Add the coriander & red chill mixture next and sauté for another 30 seconds. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, set the heat on high again and cook the tomatoes for 7-8 minutes until they soften (but do not mush) and you see oil separating on sides of the pan.

At this point, add the mashed eggplant and salt to taste. Combine everything together, set heat to low and let cook for 3-4 minutes. You will see that the color of the mash deepens & few oil bubbles on the surface as it cooks.

Remove from heat and while still hot, add the dry mango powder and garam masala. Mix well.

Garnish with loads of chopped cilantro, green chilies, drizzle with some raw mustard/olive oil and serve warm with naan/ chapati (flatbreads)

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Saffron & Mint Chickpea Stew

Soups & Stews are my favorite things about winters. The thought of getting a chance to spend hours in front of the stove coupled with an aroma that fills up the house as spices simmer drives me nuts (in a good way). With nip in the air finally knocking here, I was thrilled while I made season’s first batch of stock & soup few days back followed by this slow cooked chickpea stew.

Store bought stocks & soups never excite me, I m the kind of girl who is crazy about fresh ingredients even if it requires heading an extra mile to get those. Can you believe that I have never bought canned chickpeas or any other beans for that matter? Nothing against them, but having grown up seeing mom soak the beans overnight, boil them next day & then use them in her recipes, even with ready-to-use options available here, I never feel like harnessing them.Somehow..

Anyhow, coming back to the recipe, bean based stews are best options for me when wanting to eat light as well as comforting. Few of you might have already guessed that this stew is heavily inspired by classic moroccan flavors – saffron, cumin, mint & black pepper make it hearty and add the required warmth for the winter season. Saffron & turmeric combined with chili powder is what gives it the lovely yellowish-golden color, nothing less than sunshine during those cold evenings. This is the kind of food, which is perfect for this time of year when I want to curl up in a blanket and watch a movie while eating.Donâ€t be bogged down by the long list of ingredients, they are mostly available in your pantry 🙂 The stew is incredibly healthy (no meat/less oil) and will leave you satisfied to the tee…trust me

We eat it more as soup with crusty bread than as main dish. For those reasons, I like to keep the gravy slightly thinner (so that we can slurp). However, this can very well serve as a main dish with rice or flatbreads. I particularly like to add starchy  (root) vegetables to this recipe coz those pair up delicious with chickpeas. Choose the veggie (s) you like (carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes etc ). The recipe does not need any baby-sitting while it cooks in. And like ALL stew recipe, I need not mention that leftovers tastes all the way better..try it!

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

If using dried chickpeas: –

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in 3 cups water overnight or at least 8 hours & drained
  • 2 cups water for boiling the chickpeas
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil

Note: – Skip the above step if using canned chickpeas and substitute with precooked ones.

  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 3 tbsp mustard / olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1″ cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, grated
  • 1/2 tsp each fennel, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, lightly pounded in mortar pestle
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tbsp red chill powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 2 large roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, slightly sour
  • 2 tsp saffron dissolved in 1/4 cup luke warm water
  • 5-6 fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
  • 2 Thai green chilies, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped Cilantro/Mint leaves for garnish

Method: –

Boil the soaked chickpeas in 2 cups water + 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp oil in a pressure cooker or in a covered pot until 90% tender. If using a pressure cooker, cook on medium-high for approximately 10 minutes & 2 whistles. If using a covered pot, on medium-high heat, this should take 30-35 minutes. Note: – Chickpeas come in all sorts of sizes; the time that I have given is for the small beans.Once boiled, drain the chickpeas & set aside. Reserve the water & mix it thoroughly with yogurt. Set aside.

Heat oil on high in a 3-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot (with lid). When oil gets smoky, add chopped onions, cinnamon, bay leaves & cloves to the pot. Sauté for about 6-8 minutes or until the onions are translucent but not browned. Next, add ginger, garlic, pounded fennel, coriander, black peppercorns and cumin to the pot.Cook for about 30 seconds or till you start smelling the spices. Reduce heat to medium and add the turmeric & chili powder next along with chopped tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until you see oil separating on sides of the pan. About 8 minutes.

Next, add the potatoes, boiled chickpeas to the pot along with yogurt mixed with water. Check the salt (remember that chickpeas were boiled in salted water) and adjust. Also depending desired gravy consistency, adjust the water in the pot. As a thumb rule, water should be enough to cover the contents as they cook. Cover the pot and let come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low & let cook till potatoes and chickpeas are tender. About 12-15 minutes. You will need to occasionally stir.

Just when the potatoes & chickpeas are fork tender, add the saffron dissolved in water along with chopped mint & green chilies (if using). Cover and let simmer for another 8 minutes. Remove from heat & add lemon juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro or mint leaves.Serve over couscous, rice or with bread.

Enjoy & Thanks for Stopping by!

Tahiri -Slow cooked Basmati Rice With Black Spices

 

Summer might be officially gone in many of the states but in my part of the world, the temperatures are still in nineties.Though the sun sets early now & morning sun has started to feel cozy and relaxing, days are still quite sunny & hot. However, it rained last weekend. We hardly get any rains out here, I think the last bit was long back in May, so whenever it comes pouring down, its time to rejoice .Usually, its super lazy day with TV or book on the couch, comfort food to fill up and loads of chai.

I literally wait for the summer to end to make some dishes.The wet & cold weekend (yup the temperatures dipped to 64 ,made me crave my grandmother’s tahiri which is one of my favorite things to make as the autumn sets in. Not missing the chance I got last weekend, this rice dish was our comfort meal. The best part being that it is a one pot meal, it has the perfect amount of spice and is loaded with satiating goodness of starchy vegetables and leftovers taste all the more better! Just few minutes of preparations & you are all set for a soul satisfying meal. It really need no side dish even coz its so much flavorful on its own, just a bowl of plain yogurt or green chutney/pickle/papad will be more than enough. If you really want to indulge, add a dollop of cold butter or ghee over the steaming bowl of rice, let it melt and find its way right to the bottom on its own & you are good to go! The best part about this dish is the bottom burnt layer of rice which is achieved by a technique called  dumpukht  (see recipe).

My best memories of eating tahiri are of Sunday lunches when we sat on charpai(cot) under the bright winter sun amid the home-grown decor of winter vegetables in my grandmother’s vegetable garden. I remember picking up fresh stalks of young garlic and onions right from the ground and eating it with tahiri.A mention of those winter lunches takes me back there and brings in the nostalgia of the food relished during those years and times spent with family.

The trio of vegetables that go into tahiri which is a speciality dish of  state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is standard – white potatoes, cauliflower & peas.These vegetables go so well with the warmth of black indian spices – cumin, black cardamom, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg .The spices are fresh ground into a paste and then rice & vegetable are cooked on along with the paste for long to bring about the depth of flavors. The result is a aromatic pot full of comfort.

Tahiri is not pilaf, its cooked low & slow by a technique called dumpukht or indirect slow heating. What differentiates it from biryani is the fact that unless you make kacchi biryani, the rice & meat/ vegetables are separately half cooked, layered & then cooked to perfection. In tahiri, rice & vegetables cook cook together and finished via dumpukht cooking. 

Print

Vegetable Tahiri/Tehri

Dum cooked basmati rice & tri of winter vegetables in a fresh ground spice psate of indain black spices.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour

Equipment

  • Wide mouthed, heavy bottomed pot with lid/iron kadhai with lid, Cast iron griddle

Ingredients

Make the Spice Paste

  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cumim seeds
  • 1 black cardamom, pods only
  • 1 tsp corinader seeds
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves

For The Tahiri

  • 1/4 cup mustard oil
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 4-5 whole dried red chillies
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 10-12 cauliflower florets
  • 1 large potato peeled and  cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice washed
  • 1.5 cup water
  • Cilnatro, Ginger Julinnes etc to garnish

Instructions

Make the Spice paste

  • Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend of a paste. Dont make too fine or too coarse paste. Set aside.

Make the Tahiri

  • Heat 2 tbsp Oil in the pot/kadhai. Add the cauliflowewr florets and potatoes and brown them for a few minutes. Take out in a plate and set aside.
  • Add the remainig oil to the kadai and heat up. Temper the oil with bayleaf, whole nutmeg and dried chillies.
  • Next, add the sliced onions. Cook the onions till they are nicely brown. About 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat and add the ground spice paste. Cook the onions with masala till you see oil seperating on sides.
  • At this point, add all the vegetables along with washed rice. Gently combine everything. Remove from heat & pour the water required for cooking the rice into the pot, add the salt and give everything a stir. Let the rice soak for 30 minutes.
  • Once the rice has soaked, place the kadai on medium stove. Cover the pot & bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, and let rice cook for 10-12 minutes (or the time required for your rice variety to get 95% cooked). Proceed to dum cooking as mentioned in the next step below.
  • While the rice is cooking, heat up a cast iron skillet or griddle ( large enough to hold the kadai ).Once the skillet is hot, reduce heat to very low, place the kadai over the skillet & let the rice cook for another 10 minutes on dum (indirect slow cooking technique).We want the bottom layer of rice to crisp up & get browned (almost). Dum cook for aboyt 25 minutes or longer depending on how crisp you want the bottom layer.
  • Once dum cooking is over, switch off the stove leave the kadai on griddle undisturbed for another 15 minutes.
  • Fluff up the rice, garnish with chopped cilantro & ginger julinnes. Serve with raita, pickle, papad etc.