Meat and Potatoes. The universal comfort food. A ritual in my kitchen in the midst of cruel winters especially on days when the chilly winds clatter against the window panes, its grey and cloudy outside and inside my kitchen, meat is slow cooked long enough till it almost falls off the bone, the potatoes absorb all the flavor and the aroma of the spices permeates the atmosphere of house. A dish which evokes nostalgia of my mom’s mutton stew and of our first few years in the States.
My first tasting of lamb came in one of the ornate buffets here in Las Vegas in a mellow stew- crimson colored, cooked with carrots, speckled with herbs & tasting strongly of red wine. Since we do not consume a lot of lamb in India (mutton is more popular), we had only been roasting lamb rack ocassionally, completely oblivious of the fact how this meat would behave with spices. The tasting presented an opportunity to try it in my mum’s mutton & new potato slow cooked stouu , one in which the meat is first seared and then cooked for long good hours, often pushing lunch to evening tea time.
There is little match to the slow cooking method, for the meat slowly gives in to heat, the gelatinous flavor of the bone melts in the sauce lending it an unmatched edge over the rushed one.The key is to start ahead, much before meal time so that the stew does not miss a chance to rest for a couple of hours before serving. This stew is comforting, deeply flavorful & delicious with a earthly taste of starchy potatoes. You should give this a try before the winters go away!
Slow cooked bone in lamb and potato stew with fresh pounded spices and yogurt.
Course: Main Course
For the Stew
1 lbstewing lamb
4tbspmustard oil, substitute with cooking oil that you like to use
1 bay leaf
2inch cinnamon stick
1 cuponionsthinly sliced
2tsp hot red chilli powderadjust to tolerance
1/2 tspkashmiri chilli powder
1/3 cupplain greek yogurtslightly beaten
1/2 tspfresh grated nutmeg
Salt to taste
Coarsely pound together
2 tspblack peppercorns
Add the coarsely pounded spices to a bowl. Add the hot and kashmiri red chilli powder. Pour 1/4 cup of warm water, mix the spices into a paste and set aside.
In your dutch oven or any heavy bottom pot with lid, add the oil and let warm up for a few minutes until slightly smoky.
Add the black cardamom, cinnamom stick and bayleaf to the oil and saute for 10-15 seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
Next, add the sliced onions, sprinkle a pinch of sugar and let the onions brown. Keep on cooking them with stirring in between for 7-8 minutes till the onions are dark brown. This is important for color of the stew.
Once the onions are browned, add the lamb to the pot. Cook the lamb on medium low heat with onions for 8-9 minutes stirring continously untill you see that the lamb is browned on all sides and the edges are starting to turn dark brown.
Add the spice paste next, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and mix well till the lamb pieces are covered in spices. Let the spices cook with lamb and onions for good 5 minutes. Make sure that they are not sticking to bottom. If you feel so, add a tablespoon or two of water.
Slowly you will see that the lamb will release its water and the contents of the pot will be slightly watery. Add 1/4 cup of hot water at this stage and cover the dutch oven.
Let the lamb slow cook for a low stove 2-3 hours(time depends on how big or small your pieces are as well as the quality of your meat). You will need to check time to time to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom, if so, add a splash of water.
Once the lamb is 90 percent cooked, keeping heat low, add the beaten yogurt and mix well rigrously else the yogurt will curdle. Saute the lamb with yogurt for 5-10 minutes untill you see oil bubbles on the sides of the pot. Check and adjust the salt at this stage. At this stage, lamb will be 95 percent cooked.
Add the potatoes to the pot, mix and cover the lid again.Let potatoes cook for 5-8 minutes or untill fork tender.
Once the meat and potatoes are done, take off the stove. Add nutmeg and gently mix everything well.
I always feel that I end up cooking many dishes just to re-create a special memory, securely nestled in my heart from the yearsÂ gone by or from days of growing up. Sometimes the sight of the familiar ingredients at the store brings in with itself such a gush of thoughts that I won’t have anyother way except cheering myself up in the kitchen with them,cooking up a storm to recreate those flavors. Fresh peas during spring time, is one of such thing. For less than a second,the sight of exuberantly prized organic sweet peas at the grocer last weekÂ made little sense coupled with the effort required to prepare them. But then, I could not walk away without securing a pound in my cart to make some this lusciousÂ matarpaneer – fresh shelled peas and soft unaged cheese in a spicy sauce redolent of sweet-smelling cardamom and sharp hintsÂ of cinnamon and cloves in contrast to the sweetness of the vegetable.
I don’t remember a single time during childhood when we ate frozen peas.Fresh peas were a winter treat and the only way. My grandmother and other womenÂ of the family, after serving lunch, geared up for dinner,pulling chairs around the takhtÂ (a very old wide wooden bench still going strong in verandah of my badi mummy’s house), settling down with cups of cardamom chai and spent few good hours to shellÂ three or fourÂ kilos of grassy, plum pods, gossiping about the neighbors or the relatives, working with remarkable patience, a virtue that comes hard to me when I know there is a ready to useÂ pouch inside the freezer.
When I amÂ engrossed in such strong weavedÂ memories, at times, itÂ becomes difficult to tear away and lend to the present. The joy continues, the nostalgia gets compelling. When I spent about half hour over the weekend in the company of these fresh peas I got, I felt like a child again,Â badi mummy teasing me to lend help and just not nibble on the seeds.It was raining outside and I felt like a child again,some eighteen or twenty years back, me wearing hand knitted, red colored socks,running away with fistfuls ofÂ matar dana.Â All laughs, soÂ much fun.
Then suddenly, I feel the warmth ofÂ my daughter from behind, trying to lift her body on heels to reach for the bowl of seeds that I just shelled.Her smile breaks the array of thoughts. She is like mommy.
Matar paneer is a classic north indian dish. I have always liked it on the spicy side with the creaminess limited to that from the paneer (fresh indian cheese). Each home in india has its own version of it, there is nothing wrong or right become curry are so versatile that way.The curry is naturally gluten free since paneer is a gluten free cheese. You can very easily make this recipe vegan friendly using tofu, or any other vegan substitute. I am sharing my mom’s recipe with a little bit of extra spices added in.
Matar Paneer -Â Fresh Peas & Indian Fresh Cheese in a aromatic and spicy tomato – onion sauce
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 medium tomatoes (yield about 3/4 cup fresh tomato puree)
1 fat garlic
6 ozÂ paneerÂ (about 200 grams, homemade or store-bought, cubed, use extra firm tofu for vegan)
1/4 cup mustard oil (or use olive/vegetable oil)
1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
2 green cardamom
1/4 inch piece ofÂ dalchiniÂ (cassia bark, substitute with 1/2 inch piece of regular cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste, substitute with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne)
1/2 teaspoonÂ kashmiriÂ chilli powder (this lends the color not the heat, substitute with paprika)
salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup -1 cup water (depending on the desired consistency of sauce)
1 teaspoonÂ kasuri methi, crushed between palms
1/2 teaspoonÂ garam masalaÂ (adjust to taste)
2-3 tablespoon of heavy cream (optional, I did not use, skip for vegan )
Fresh cilantro & ginger juliennes to garnish and serve
If you are using fresh peas, shell the pods. If using frozen, thaw the peas.
Blend the tomatoes along with garlic to a fine puree. Set aside.
Soak theÂ paneerÂ cubes in warm water. Set aside. If using tofu, dry it using paper towels, cube it and let sit.
Heat up the mustard oil in a large pot, wait till you see little ripples on the surface, add the onions along with cardamom, clove,Â dalchiniÂ & cumin seeds.Saute for 5-6 minutes till the onion start to turn lightÂ brown.
I did not know of the husband’s liking for south indian flavors until we got married. It made quite a sense for someone who spent good four or five years of his college life in theÂ southern city of Madras (now Chennai). The hostel canteenÂ served some mean regional delicacies,he fondly recollects. My mom made a few vegetarian south indian dishes at home Â but those were mostly the general south indian favorites popular all over India –uttapams (savory rice pancakes),upma(breakfast porridge) ,gun powder, coconut chutneys,dosasÂ (rice crepes) and idlis(steamed rice cakes)Â to name a few. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen me making south indianÂ dishes sometimes.
After our wedding, I saw the husband ordering south indian take outs more often than not. He would enjoyÂ those strongly spiced,super hot curries, smelling of coconut and mustard. So, over all these years I have developed a few recipes of south indian style curries, suited to our taste.Spicy, hot and with distinct flavors,these are the recipes I can bank upon when looking for something different on our dinner table.
I usually serve plain rice and a refreshing salad with such curries, however you could do some vegetables like this asparagus-peas stirfry with coconut or a simple dal(lentils)
I do not have stories to connect toÂ this recipe today. It is not the food of my childhood. It is not something I grew up with. I do not claim that this curry belongs to some particular region of southern india,we like it in our homes and call it “south indian chicken curry”. My husband sampled it and asked me to put it up here, because this is a journal of our day today favorite foods.
The curry is quite spicy, take my word for it.I use hot dried red chillies, seedsÂ and all and grind them with strong pungent, spices like fenugreek, mustard seeds and black peppercorns.You would need to visit indian grocer for things like curry leaves, which lend a distinct aroma and flavor to this curry. There is no substitute for them but you can skip them if you do not get. It is quite good even without them.
2-3 tablespoon tamarind pulp (use less if using store-bought, see notes)
10 fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup to 1 cup thick coconut milk (depending on how creamy and pronounced coconut taste you want)
Salt to taste
Store bought tamarind pulp is quite concentrated, tart and very salty. Use discretion when adding it.
I would not recommend using “light” coconut milk, as it makes the gravy very watery. Go for the thick, creamy one.
Marinating the chickenÂ (This can be done up to a day in advance)
In a small sauce pan, add the 1 tablespoon oil and heat it up on low. Add all the ingredients except chicken and salt to the oil and lightly roast the spices till you smell a nice aroma. Do not let them turn brown. Let cool once roasted.
Grind the roasted spices coarsely. In a large bowl, add the chicken pieces, sprinkle salt and half the quantity of this spice rub, combine so that chicken is coated in spices, cover and let marinate refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight(preferably).
Reserve the remaining spice rub.
Making the Curry
Thirty minutes prior to cooking, take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and let sit on the counter.
In aÂ kadhai(indian wok) or a large pot with lid, heat up the 4 tablespoon oil on medium high.Once the oil is hot, add the onions, garlic and green chillies to it. Saute and cook the onions for 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown. Add the bay leaf,cardamom, cinnamon stick and sauce for 10-12 seconds till you smell an aroma.
Next, add the marinated chicken to the pot, add salt, turmeric and stir around so that chicken pieces start to coat in the onions and garlic. Once you see that the chicken pieces have started to brown on the edges,cover the pot and let the chicken cook in its own juices until about 80% cooked, about 15-18 minutes(note that this time will depend on the cut and size of chicken pieces).
Add the reserved spice rub, ginger, curry leaves and tamarind paste next and stir around to coat the chicken. Cover and let cook on medium low for another 8-10Â minutes until the chicken is almostÂ cooked.If at any point you feel that the chicken is sticking to bottom on the pot, add a splash of water
Uncover, reduce the heat to low, and add the coconut milk to theÂ kadhai.Â Do not stir immediately. Let the coconut milk combine on its own. Check and adjust the salt. Stir very gently and let simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Garnish with few curry leaves and serve with warm rice.
You know there is a thing about simple things in life. ManyÂ of the simple foods get lost in the day today ritual of making something ‘special’ for dinner.You don’t even realize often that the main dishÂ tastes so awesome because of the sides that accompany it. These simple dishes are so worthy for the taste and choice they lend to our dinner table that I just realized the other day that I need to include them here, for this blog is my day today cooking journal, a collection of our favorite foods.
Talking about favorites, this is one of the husband’s favorite vegetarian dish.It is something that is cooked every alternate week for dinner, it is tasty and wholesome.Something unusual with bell pepper or shimla mirch (as we call it in hindi) other than adding it to noodles or stir fries. Lightly spiced peppers and potato stir fried in oil and served with lentils and rice. I have made it umpteen times in the last few years of our marriage and now I can cook thisÂ in my sleep. So very simple and quick to prepare.Not much measuring or skills needed here for this is a very straight recipe with basic indian ingredients.
Must have been the month of February.On this short trip to DelhiÂ where days pass by in a blink,I made it a routine to accompany mom to the weekly monday bazaarÂ in our neighborhood. A sabzi bazaar (farmer’s market) which I had been visiting after a decade but still couldÂ manage to remember faces of few vendors from the fading memories of so many years of living faraway. The same chaos & crowds, everybody in a hurry, women holding kids with one hand & vegetable bags in other, bargaining & arguing over pennies,buzzing street side eateries and rows and rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, colorfulÂ spices,handmade pottery and fragrantÂ marigold flowersÂ on display.AnÂ idyllic time,with spring in full swingÂ and fresh produce in the sight.The green bell peppers, which were in season at that time in India are much smaller in size, crunchy and strong-tasting than the ones we get here in the States. I have never seen those over here.
You know with such recipes, no two people will have the same way of making them. This is how I make my versionÂ with basic pantry spices, tomatoes, garlic and lots of kasuri methi(dry fenugreek leaves)Â at the end. It pairs well withÂ steamed basmati riceÂ â€“Â dal tadkaÂ and a side ofÂ mango pickle.You could also wrap it up inÂ triangleÂ parathasÂ (flatbread) and green chutney forÂ a hearty lunch.The recipe is vegan & gluten free friendly.
2 large green bell peppers (or use 1 each of red & one green pepper, see notes)
1 large yellow potato
4 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with olive or canola)
1/4 tsp salt
1 medium red onion (~1/2 cup when chopped)
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tomatoes (~3/4 cup when finely chopped)
1Â teaspoon coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoonÂ amchoor (dry mango powder, or substitute with fresh lime juice at end)
3/4Â teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, skip if not available)
1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)
salt to taste
You can mix up red bell peppers and green peppers in this recipe for more color & taste variation.I do it many times and like how red bell peppers add a sweet note to it.
You can cut the peppers any way you want as long as you cut the potatoes the same way.
You can use boiled or par boiled potatoes in this recipe if you want to make it quicker. But I prefer cooking them in the same pan as the rest of the curry, since they taste better with those sticky bits at the bottom of the pan.
To retain the green color of the bell peppers, do not cover them for more than 2-3 minutes covered with lid after you add them to the pan.
Wash the bell peppers, clean & discard the seeds & veins and dice them in 2″ pieces. Also wash the potatoes and peel (or not) the skins. Cut the potatoes in similar size as the bell peppers and let soak in a bowl of water until you are ready to cook. Dry the potatoes using a kitchen or paper towel before adding it to the pan.
In a heavy bottomed, wide saute pan (I use my 10″) or a kadhai(indian wok),heat up the oil on medium till you see light ripples on the surface. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped onion and potatoes to the hot oil. Add the cumin seeds and 1/4 to salt and stir so that the potatoes are covered in oil. On low heat, cover the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes till the potatoes begin to soften. Add the chopped tomatoes next along with coriander, red chili, turmeric and amchoor powder. Stir around and cover with a lid and letÂ cook on low heat. There should be enough liquid from the tomatoes but you can add a tablespoon or two of water if at any point you feel that the potatoes and the spice mix is sticking to the bottom of the pan.Let cook till theÂ till the potatoes are fork tender (but not mushy).
Add the bell pepper next along with salt to taste, cover and let cook on medium heat for another 3-5 minutes till the peppers start changing color and begin to soften. I like peppers with a little bite but you can cook them longer. Add the kasuri methi & garam masala next, stir around, bump up the heat to high and let fry up for another minute or so.
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.
While I mostly wake up to pictures of snow-covered decks and coffee mugs nestled between mittens on my Instagram feed, surprisingly it has started feeling spring-like in here.Spring in January? eh! I know that sounds kind of way too early & weird but its been over a week with temperatures in late 60s and a full sleeve T-shirt is enough to roam around throughout the day.The sky is clear, the air smells crisp & pleasant and I saw many jogging in shorts today at the park.
However, early mornings and evenings are still colder. The winter loving person that I am, I am holding on to the season in my stubborn ways. Which,mostly means cooking warm, spicy foods. For dinner, hiding indoors in the warmth of the house, I am still rustling up slow cooked curries and comfort dishes to keep us nourished.A couple of weeks back, I made this chicken vindaloo, one of the husband’s favorite things besides dal. It was a late, cold evening some five years back when we headed to dinner at one of our favorite indian restaurant here, choked with guests, smelling of strong spices and boasting of an elaborate buffet over the long weekend, that his love for all things coconut & curry leaves formed a good part of the conversation. I have been making this red-hot, tangy curry for quite a few years now and it has always hit the right chord with his tastebuds.Vindaloo is something I did not grow eating up but with time I have come up with what we like (and hope you like it too).
Wiki tells me that ‘Vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic.The Portuguese dish brought it to India (Goan region) and slowly it was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red kashmiri chillies with additional spices to evolve into vindaloo and it became a curry native to indian cuisine. This recipe here is hot and that’s why I always use potatoes for those earthly,mellow bites in between. I like to de seed few of the red chillies because I do not want it searing hot, however you can use a mild chili variety.Vindaloo pairs best with steamed rice (as with most coastal cuisine). If you would want to try different meats like lamb or pork (if you want to go the traditional Portuguese route) work in this recipe too.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
2.5 tbsp distilled white vinegar (see notes)
10-12 whole dry red Kashmiri chilies, broken into small pieces (or use 2.5 teaspoon cayenne powder,adjust to taste)
1/4 of star anise (break the whole flower and use a quarter piece)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2″ cinnamon stick
scant 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2-3 tbsp warm water (or as required)
5 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2″ ginger shoot, roughly chopped
1.5 tbsp fresh grated coconut
1tbsp tamarind pulp (easily available in indian/pakistani grocery stores)
5 fresh curry leaves (easily available in indian/pakistani grocery stores)
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed (weighed about 1.35lb, you can use cut up whole chicken or bone-in pieces too, just use dark meat portions)
1/3 cup oil, divided
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
3/4 cup onions, finely chopped
6-8 fresh curry leaves,roughly torn
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp powdered jaggery (or light brown sugar, adjust to taste)
In case you do not get tamarind pulp, bump up the vinegar quantity to 4 tbsp.
Fresh curry leaves are not substitutable. Even though the recipe dosent remain the same, you can skip if you do not get.
Deseed all or half quantity of the dried chilies if you want. In your blender jar, add vinegar, dry chillies, cloves, star anise, mustard & cumin seeds, cinnamon. Add 2-3 tbsp warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Once the chilli skins are slightly soft & the spices have soaked, add garlic, ginger, tamarind, coconut & 5 fresh curry leaves to the jar, cover the lid and blend to a smooth paste.You can add more water (1-2 tbsp) if needed but do not make a very runny paste.
In a bowl, add the chicken, add 1/2 tsp salt and add about half of this paste, coat the chicken in the paste and let sit for (not more than 15 minutes). Reserve the remaining spice paste.
While the chicken is marinating, heat up 3 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed wide pot. Once the oil is hot,add the quartered potatoes to the pot, sprinkle a generous pinch of salt and saute them, stirring on medium heat for 5 minutes till you see that their edges start to brown lightly.Take out the potatoes from the pot on a plate. Set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pot and heat up. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and on medium-low heat, saute the onions till they are golden brown. About 3-5 minutes if the onions are finely chopped. Once the onions have browned, add the reserved spice paste & torn fresh curry leaves to the pot. Stir around and on low heat, saute continually to cook till you see that the spice paste darkens in color and the water evaporates. About 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
Layer the marinated chicken in the pot. Turn the heat to medium high and let the chicken brown.After about 2 minutes, flip the chicken pieces and let brown on the other side. If you see that the heat is getting quite high, reduce it.You will slowly see lot of liquid in the pot but that’s okay. Once the chicken has browned, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let cook for about 10 minutes on low heat(adjust this time depending on how large or small your chicken pieces are). Once the chicken is about 90 % cooked, add the browned potatoes to the pot, cover and let cook for another 10 minutes on low heat, till the chicken is completely cooked and the potatoes are fork tender (ensure that the potatoes do not turn mushy. Uncover, add the jaggery (or sugar) ,water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce), check & adjust the salt. Let simmer uncovered or another 5 minutes.
Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.Serve warm with steamed rice.
If there has to be a dish that I overindulged on during college days, it has to be Manchurian – chicken, cauliflower, vegetable, dry, gravy, sweet,spicy, salty, you name it and I would raise both my hands. With that extra cash at the end of the month, saved from pocket-money each week, I, along with few other girls could be found in all sorts of street side placesÂ in and around the college or hopping onto public transport to far away Dilli Haat.There would be plates of greasy noodles, lightly crispy vegetarian(or not) deep fried dumplings coated in spicy manchurian sauce, gossip, laughter, half-finished assignments and aÂ compulsory side of fruit beer for late lunches.
Having said that, indeedÂ my appreciation for this ever so popularÂ indo chinese dish stems from those days. Mum hardlyÂ made it, for cooking indo chinese at home is slightly redundant when you are living in India becauseÂ (almost) always you will end up comparing Â it with that fantastic taste from theÂ sloppy joints at street side. So while the hotspots around the cityÂ are to be held responsible for Â my insatiable Â appetite towards indo chinese, I never made it at home, it was only after I moved to States some five years back that I tried recreating it at home. Take chickenÂ in hot garlic sauce or fried rice, talk gobhi manchurian or spicy schezwan noodles,by the end of the first couple ofÂ Â months here, I started getting there, developing recipes withÂ the memories of how they should taste in my head and trying to replicate that inside the super hot wok. The fact that the husband shares my love for indo chinese fare and we kind of got tired of consuming overly sweet chili chickens & hakka noodles tossed with snap peas & broccoli (yikes!) and acceptingÂ the fact that theÂ restaurants here just do not get it(or we like to think so),it wasÂ exciting to see those similar tastes turning on our meal tables from our own kitchen.
When you make indo chinese, besides ingredients, bring along a lot of patience to the cutting board. Spend the late afternoon mincing garlic and choppingÂ ginger.Shred those carrots and cabbage finer than you think you would need, sniff and taste thatÂ mix of soy sauce with coriander & turmericÂ and shy away from de seeding those hot chillies, coz boy is this one spicy cuisine or what?This vegetable machurian recipe has stayed in my kitchen for few years now. I often make it on non-meat eatingÂ days or when I have a stash of miscellaneous vegetables that need to be used up right away. I would not say that deep-frying them is the best optionÂ but then you are not eating fried chicken so its kind of okay.You know what I mean, right?After all, its veggies!
Vegetable Manchurian is aÂ widely popular dish of the indo chinese genre. It is nothing by vegetable dumplingsÂ in aÂ Â â€˜Manchurianâ€™ sauce. Do not confuse the origins of Â â€˜Manchurianâ€™ sauce â€“ it definitely has nothing to do with that region in South East Asia. Creatively put together by chinese who lived in eastern parts of Â india for centuries, just imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and mildly sweet but hot sauce with hints of indian spices. Indo chinese is what it is due to typical indian condiments â€“ I make it a point to use the brands from indian store for the authentic taste. However, you can confidently do few a substitutions (see notes ) and use your pantry to try this recipe.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
For the Manchurian Sauce
1/2 tbspÂ dark soya sauce (I useÂ Chingâ€™sÂ brand)
1 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to tolerance)
3/4 cup to 1 cup stock (vegetable or chicken, don’t use water)
1 tbsp white vinegar (or to taste)
For Garnish â€“ chopped scallions(green parts), ginger, chopped green chillies
For the Deep fried Vegetable Balls
1Â cup finely chopped cabbage
1/2 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 Â cup finely chopped green beans
1 smallÂ greenÂ chilli, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
scant 1/2Â tsp Salt
4Â tbspÂ all purposeÂ flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
Oil forÂ deep frying
Making the Manchurian Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together soya sauce, tomato-chilli sauce & honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix cornstarch & water and let stand.
In a wok/pan , heat up the oils to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic, green chillies & ginger and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander &Â black pepperÂ powder next, stir for 10 seconds and thenÂ add the soya sauce mix made earlier.Stir for a minute or so and then add the stock. Simmer for 2-3 minutes Â on medium-high heatÂ or till you see bubbles on the sides.Add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce starts to thicken.
Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Add theÂ vinegar to the wok and stir everything well.Remove from heat and add the fried vegetable ballsÂ to the pan. Dont stir too much with spoon at this point.
Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.
Making the Vegetable Balls
In a large bowl, mix together all the chopped vegetables. Add salt, mix(do not squeeze) and let sit for (not more than) 10 minutes. Add the all-purpose flour and corn starch next and gently mix together. If you feel that the mixture is on a dry side add a tablespoon or so of water (ideally you will not be needing it since the vegetables leave water from sitting in salt).
Heat up 2-3 inches of oil in a frying pan on medium high. Shape into small lime size balls and add toÂ the frying pan, Make sure that the oil is not too hot(else the balls will remain raw from inside) or too low (else they will scatter in oil). Fry, turning on all sides to golden dark brown
Drain the fried vegetable balls on a paper towel before adding to sauce (recipe above).
Serve immediately with noodles or fried rice.
Use any vegetables that you like (just do not use potato)coz trust me after frying they will anyhow taste good.
You might be tempted (like me) to use food processor to chop the vegetables but trust me it makes them watery. I recommend chopping them with knife.
Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari (for vegan)
Adding tomato â€“ chilli sauce adds extra heat. I get this sauce from indian stores. You can use just plain tomato ketchup or add mix of sriracha & tomato ketchup for a sweet, spicy tangy flavor to the sauce.
The sauce can be made 2-3 hours in advance. Just fry up the vegetable balls and serve when you want to.
If you forsee leftovers, store the sauce and vegetable balls separately. Toss them together just when you want to serve.
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.
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.