Brunch · Desserts/Baking

Sooji (Semolina) Halwa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sooji(semolina) Halwa

Also know as sheera, Sooji Halwa is a semolina pudding made with simple pantry staples- semolina, ghee & sugar. It tastes heavenly and takes just 30 mins to make.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4

Equipment

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Notes

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

Instant Olive Oil Tomato Pickle

Delicious, tangy and spicy in every bite, this instant tomato pickle is healthy and super delicious. As soon as warm weather comes knocking and tomatoes start appearing in the markets, I start making this instant tomato pickle. If you don’t want to use cherry tomatoes, you can use regular tomatoes, make sure that they are ripe but firm. Dont use very soft tomatoes else the pickle becomes a chutney 🙂

Picking in oil is the most common way to preserve seasonal vegetables and fruits in India. Though mustard oil is the first choice, with the rise in popularity of olive oil, with time its also a common picking oil now. You can skip or add anything to this pickle, I add sliced garlic, chilies, fresh tumeric and ginger. The combination of these work quite well together. The pickle is so good with anything- with flatbreads, on toasts, with eggs, chicken or fish or even some crackers on a cheese board. It keeps well in the fridge for about 8-10 days and gets better as it sits.

My grandmother used to keep busy entire summer pickling almost every vegetable you can think of and her pickles were the best, no one in our family has ever been able to replicate the taste and I mean it. But we keep trying from what we remember of her pickling process.

This pickle is super heathy- preserved in olive oil which is a heart friendly oil and full of anti inflammatory turmeric and ginger, a tablespoon of this pickle could well one of the best things to pair with your meals. Olive oil pickles are so fruity and here with all the fragrant indian spices, the pickling oil itself turns so flavorful with time, if you are left with just oil, dab it on your sandwiches or use it to cook parathas (yum!).

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Instant Olive Oil Tomato Pickle

A fruity & fragrant pickle made with tomatoes, garlic, ginger and fresh turmeric.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 1.5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup classic/cooking olive oil (dont use extra virgin)
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1 tsp rai (small brown mustard seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp nigella seeds
  • 3/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp anardana(dried pomegranate seeds, coarsely pounded)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5-6 fresh curry leaves
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 200 gms (about 8oz) cherry tomatoes (cut in half if too big)
  • 5-7 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh turmeric, cut in thin discs
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, cut in thin discs
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt

Instructions

  • In a pan, on low heat set the olive oil to heat. Dont let it get smoky. If the olive oil gets smoky, it will lose most of its antioxidants and flavor. Also, the spices will get burnt when you add them.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the hing and the whole spices. Keep the flame on low medium. The spices wont crackle immediately and thats what we want. Let the spices infuse for 2-3 minutes on low heat in the oil so that the aroma of spices in infused in oil.Dont leave unattended.
  • The spices will swell and you will smell a very nice aroma as they infuse in the oil. Next, add the curry leaves carefully and let infuse for another 30 seconds.
  • Add turmeric and red chilli powder to the oil, mix and let cook for 10 seconds(they should not burn) followed by the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Sprinkle salt.
  • Mix everything gently and cook for 2-3 minutes till you see that the tomatoes skins are little soft but not falling apart. Take off the stove and let cool down a bit.
  • Transfer to a clean container and keep in fridge for upto a week. Enjoy!
Desserts/Baking

Rose Pistachio Mawa Ladoo

Ladoos are must on any indian festival and these nutty beauties are super easy to whip up. Mawa makes them so creamy and melt in the mouth and the floral notes of rose water together with meaty pistachios is a match made in heaven. If you are still looking for something easy to make on Holi, try these ladoos.

These are ridiculously easy to whip up and all you need is 3 ingredients. When a recipe calls for few ingredients, I recommend good quality ones since it makes all the difference in the taste. Use fresh pistachios which are sweeter in taste, mawa with a good quality of fat content(you won’t need much ghee then) and rose water or rose essence that is not more than 6 months old.

These ladoos are not overly sweet and I like them that way, you can increase the powdered sugar by couple tablespoons if desired. I like to chop the pistachios on a cutting board instead of using a grinder, I feel that way I can control the texture of the nut powder and the taste is better too.

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Rose Pistachio Mawa Ladoo

3 ingredient, nutty Mawa Pistachio ladoos flavored with rose.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins

Ingredients

  • 200 gms mawa/mava,crumbled
  • 7 tbsp powdered/confectioners sugar
  • 180 gms coarse pistachio powder +1/4 chopped pistachios(optional) ,see notes
  • 1.5 tbsp rose water (or 1-2 drops of rose essence)
  • 1-2 tsp ghee (optional, if needed for rolling ladoos)

Instructions

  • Add mawa/mava to a nonstick pan. Place the pan on stove,switch on the stove on low heat. Let the mawa soften. Mawa softens very quickly and needs attention so that it dosent get burnt. Keep stirring using a spatula.
  • I didnt need to add any extra ghee to mawa, if you feel your mawa is on a dry side add a tablespoon or so of ghee.
  • Once mawa is soft(dont let brown), immediately add the sugar and pistachios together. Mix well untill nicely combined. Keep the heat low, cook everything for 1-2 minutes.
  • Switch off the stove and mix in the rose water and chopped pistachios(if using). Wait for 5 minutes or until the mixture feels cool enough to handle. Dont let the mixture completely cool down.
  • Smear some ghee on your hands and divide into 8-10 equal portions. Roll into smooth ladoos. Store for 3-4 days refrigerated.

Notes

  1. I lightly dry toast the pistachios for 2-3 minutes on a hot skillet. Don’t let the color change, toasting helps in blooming the oils of nuts.
  2. The sugar quantity can go up to 9-10 tablespoons if you like sweeter ladoos. 
  3. I chop the pistachios on a cutting board to a coarse fine powder instead of using a grinder. It takes a bit of effort but the texture and taste of nuts is really better that way. 
  4. You can replace rose with cardamom or saffron flavor if desired. 
Appetizers/Snacks · Indian Streetfood/Indo Chines

Dilli Aloo Ki Chaat

Aloo chaat from streets of Delhi is one of the best things. Shallow fried potatoes in ghee tossed with powdered spices, drizzled with chutney and served warm with a little bit of grated mooli (daikon)or onions. The chaat stalls selling this chaat can be spotted from a mile away thanks to the aroma of frying potatoes. If you take a stroll in neighborhoods of Delhi particularly in the evening, you will find a chaat corner frying this chaat on every other block.

Traditionally, they fry the potatoes in ghee and hence the aroma is so amazing. Sweet, spicy, sour and deep fried- this is one amazing chaat recipe which can be quickly whipped to satiate your cravings. It can be a quick snack for any time. Just cut up the potatoes, mix the spices and go for it.

I used a mixture of different potato varieties I could find in store. Sweet potatoes(orange & purple) and regular russet/gold and red potatoes. The naturally sweet potatoes really added so much taste to this chaat, they were my favorite, to to forget the beautiful natural colors they added.

A few things to be kept in mind when making this Chaat:-

Soaking the Potatoes:- Even though I say that this is a quick snack for anytime and really you can cut up potato chunks and make this any time, I suggest planning a bit and soaking the potatoes for at least 3-4 hours. Slice or cut potatoes in chunks , I leave the skin on because it adds a nice flavor, and soak the potatoes in sharp salty water for good 3-4 hours. The water will pull out the starches since starches are water soluble and the salt will season the potatoes in the process leading to a super flavorful potato for frying. Soaking also helps in making the potatoes crispy as the quantity of starches goes down.

Fried potatoes are the key. Shallow fried potatoes usually fried to order in the center of a large heavy tawa(griddle) in ghee give the best flavor. However, if you don’t want to use just ghee, 100% ghee, use a neutral oil like grape seed or sunflower and add a tablespoon of ghee for that particular aroma. Shallow fry on both sides with golden crispy edges for the best taste.

Kind of potatoes. Avoid using a high starch content potato like Russet. In India, usually the winter crop potatoes are the best choice since they are waxy and have a good starch to moisture ratio. Here I used a mix of potatoes- sweet potatoes, purple yams, red potatoes, idaho yellow potatoes and a few slices of russet for a great balance of flavors and textures. Bonus point being that it made the chaat super colorful with multitude of natural colors.

Spices and Chutneys– The best time of add the spices is right after the potatoes come out of the oil.The oil helps in sticking the spices to the potatoes and makes them super flavorful. As for the chutneys, you can add any kind but on the streets, they add tamarind chutney. I add the tamarind chutney, lot of it and instead of green chutney, I add a lot of fresh herbs like cilantro & mint and green chilli slices. Biting into leafy herbs gives the chaat another layer of taste.

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Dilli Wali Aloo Chaat

A spicy sweet sour potato chaat from streets of Delhi. Made with multi color potatoes.
Prep Time3 hrs 20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • Griddel, Cutting board, knifes, bowls and spoons

Ingredients

  • 3 large size potatoes (1 russet + 1 gold potato+ 1 red potato)
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 medium purple yam
  • Ghee for frying ,substitute with oil+ghee
  • 2 tsp chaat masala
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 tsp crushed anardana (dry pomegranate seeds) ,optional
  • 1.5 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp Black salt
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp Tamarind Chutney
  • 2 tbsp nylon sev
  • Grated Daikon, Sliced Onions,Green Chillies, Cilantro & Mint leaves, Pomegranate Arils

Instructions

  • Thoroughly wash the poatoes. You can peel off the skin if you wish, I dont. Cut into slices (about 1/4th inch). You can cut in chunks as well.
  • Take a large bowl. Place the potatoes and sprinke 1/2 tbsp of salt. Add enough water to the bowl to cover the poatoes. Soak the potatoes for 3 hours.
  • Drain and discard the water and using a kitchen towl dry out the potatoes thorougly.
  • In a cast iron skillet heat up 2 inches of oil. I recommend taking a wide pan instead of a kadai/wok for frying. Heat on medium heat till you see ripples on the surface.
  • Add the poatoes in a single layer in the ghee. Dont overcrowd the pan, fry in 2 or more batches if needed. Fry on medium high heat till you see that potatoes are nicley browned and are crispy. Use a fork to make sure that they are tender and cooked. Dont overfry, The poatatoes should have a soft inside and crispy outside.
  • Take out the potatoes, dont drain the extra oil. Add the spices powders and chutney immediately. Or you can arranged the potatoes on a plate and sprinkle the spices and chutney.
  • Add herbs, cut up chillies, onions and daikon. Scatter some pomergrante arils and serve warm.

Notes

  1. You cam make this chaat with regular potatoes. 
  2. Feel free to add yogurt and green chutneys if you wish. 
Desserts/Baking

Thandai Spiced Badam Nankhatai

Crumbly, nutty nankhatai are everyone’s favorite. I make them often especially for the kids with different flavors and nuts. I make them with besan only, or sometimes with a mix of different flours- all purpose & semolina. There are truly so many combinations of flours and flavors.

This was the cookie which I grew up with. We had a round aluminum oven at my grandma’s place and it saw light of the day just to bake nankhatais. Every two weeks we had a fun baking session with my siblings, aunts and mom and we made tons of nankhatai. The texture of nankhatai is unique- its crumbly yet soft and mouthful. They should be crisp outside but still have a melt in the mouth centre. These nankhatai are super easy to make, just need a handful of ingredients and make for a good treat anytime.

Some tips to keep in mind when making Nankhatai.

  • I use ghee to make the dough. The ghee should be softened, it should not be melted. It should not be solid. It should be similar to softened butter. The flours bind using just ghee and no other wet ingredient, so its important that the ghee is measured properly(too much will make the cookies spread) and is of the right consistency .
  • I make nankhatai using just chickpea flour many a times (will share recipe sometime), however I feel using all purpose flour gives a nice body to the cookies and besan gives an amazing taste. Semolina can be added as well for extra crispiness.
  • The kind of sugar which is suitable is confectioners sugar or powdered sugar. Please dont use granulated or raw sugar ground at home. Store bough powdered sugar has a little bit of cornstarch which helps in the texture of the cookies.
  • Nut powder- If you have allergies, you can skip it and substitute it with equal quantity of flour. Or substitute with any kind of nut powder you fancy- cashew & pistachios work great. However keep in mind to use finely ground nuts in this recipe. Finely ground almonds are different from almond meal. If you have almond meal at home, process it to fine before using.
  • Th best way to know the if the dough is right is so feel it. The dough should come together in a ball and it should be soft yet firm. The dough should not be sticky at all. If it sticking to your hands, that means that you added more ghee and this will make the cookies spread too much when they bake, so add little flour to firm up the dough.
  • I used thandai spices(not powder) to spice up these nankhatai, you can use just cardamom powder if you wish.
  • I used gel colors to the dough in the spirit of festival of Holi, you can skip the colors and make them traditional as well.
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Thandai Spiced Nankhatai

Crumbly ghee loaded indian shortbread which are suitable for festivals, as a snack or any occasion.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time22 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 20 one bite shortbreads

Equipment

  • Mixing bowls, cookie sheet, measuring spoons and cups

Ingredients

For The Nankhatai

  • 75 gms (3/4 cup) all purpose flour
  • 25 gms(1/4 cup) besan
  • 20 gms (about 1/4 cup) finely ground almond powder
  • 75 gms(10tbsp) powdered sugar
  • 75-100 gms (1/3 cup – 1/2 cup) softened ghee, not melted adjust depending on consistency of dough
  • 1 tsp thandai spice powder (recipe below)

Thandai Spice (makes extra)

  • 1 tsp (8-10) black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 green cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 3-4 saffron threads

Instructions

  • Add all the thandai spices to a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder.
  • Place a sieve over a large bowl and sift flour, almond flour, powdered sugar and besan. Make sure that there are no lumps.
  • Add the thandai spice powder and mix with fingers to combine.
  • Add softened ghee in parts, a little at a time and start mixing with the other hand(or a soft spatula) at the same time to incorporate the ghee. Mix very well, we want to moisten each and every speck of flours with ghee- makes for a crumbly nankhatai.
  • Incorporate ghee as needed to make a soft yet firm dough. You will use anywhere from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup depending upon the absorption quality of your flour.The dough should not be loose or sticky. If needed due to wamr weather, refrigerate the dough to make handling easier.
  • Once the dough is formed, divide into 4 portions and and add gel color of your choice to dye each portion.
  • Pinch small portions (these spread a bit) of the dough and place on a baking sheet lined with paper. You can press a whole raw almond on top or any nut of choice. Place the cookies a bit apart since these spread a little(not much).
  • Refrigerate for 10 minutes(dont skip). Meanwhile preheat the oven to 325F.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes till the bottoms are light golden in color. Cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!
Desserts/Baking

Caramel Custards

These baked, thick & creamy, easy custards are super quick to make with a few basic ingredients from your pantry. This recipe gives a velvety pudding which has a toffee like sweetness and smokiness from the caramel. It is almost like a flan but instead of having a caramel base, the custards are mixed with caramel sauce and baked off. They are immensely smooth to dive into & with some fresh fruit, one of the best desserts there can be.

My husband is a huge fan of ice-cream and custards and I make these often. Even the kids love it for there is caramel in there. A little bit of sea salt cuts the caramel perfectly. These are incredibly rich and creamiest – a small portion is enough to satisfy.

What is a Caramel Custard? A caramel custard is a creamy custard made with egg yolks, cream and milk. It is mixed with scratch made caramel, flavored with vanilla(you can add cardamom or saffron instead for a different flavor profile) and the baked at a low temperature in a water bath. Doing so leads to gentle cooking of the custard and makes sure that the eggs aren’t curdled and the texture of the custard is smooth. I really love the golden color of these custards.

These custards keep well for 2-3 days in the fridge. Make sure you are using good quality ingredients, because when a recipe calls for very few, the best ingredients make it delicious.

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Caramel Custard

A rich and smooth caramel flavored custard made with simple pantry ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, French, Mexican
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • Mixing bowls, sauce pan,whisk, baking tray

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (or 2%, dont use fat free)
  • 6 egg yolks,(from large size eggs)
  • 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp sugar (substitute with brown sugar for extra smokiness)
  • Pinch sea salt

Instructions

  • To a heavy(important) bottom sauce pot, add the sugar and pour the water slowly so as not to scatter sugar on sides of the pot.
  • Place the pot on a meduim stove and let the sugar melt. Dont stir. However when you see that the sugar is starting to melt, you can gently swirl the pot.
  • Once the sugar starts to melt, keep a watch since it can quickly burn. Can take about 6-8 minutes for the sugar to melt.
  • When the sugar is completely melted, it should be a nice amber color (and not too dark), remove the pot from the stove and continously whisking, add the heavy cream.
  • Return the pot to the stove and cook whisking in between for another 3-4 minutes. Afterwards, switch off the stove, take off the sauce pot and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 300F. Place 4 ramekins in a baking tray(deep enough to fill water)
  • In a large bowl, add the egg yolks and sugar and whisk for 3-4 minutes until pale and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the milk and vanilla next and whisk again. By now, the caramel should have cooled down. Pour it over the egg mixture & milk mixture. Mix everything to combine.
  • Strain the custard base using a soup sieve into a jug.
  • Pour into the ramekins. Fill up the baking tray with hot water untill 1/3 red level of the ramekins.
  • Bake for 55 to 60 minutes until set and the centres are firm.
  • Take out of the water bath once cooked, cool to room temperature. Cover the ramekins with cling film or foil and chill for atleast 6 hours before serving.
  • Serve with a few sea salt flakes(optional) and fresh fruit.
Indian Curry/Stew

Chicken Rezala

A slow cooked creamy, mughlai inspired chicken dish from the east indian cuisine. Chicken rezala is a royal curry of chicken cooked in a white gravy fragrant with spices and creamy due to addition of ground cashew & poppy seeds paste. There is no cream or milk used. In the original form, mutton is used in rezala but I prefer using chicken.

The best thing about mughlai cooking is the use of exotic yet delicate and rich flavors. The gravy is thin, its not saucy, its slightly on the sweeter side, tangy from whole yogurt and creamy from the nut paste. The rezala dish has complex yet mild flavors.

The heat comes from ground white pepper and green chillies, there is no use of turmeric or red chilli powder. The thin layer of fat that separates from yogurt, chicken, fried onions and ghee used in cooking is indicative of its authenticity and rich taste.

I did not grow up eating this dish but after getting married, I really got interested in Bengali cuisine and this is one of the gems of the cuisine. Bengali cooking is complex, it teases your palate and caters to your senses with the use of mellow fragrant spices.

A few things to be kept in mind when making rezala.

  1. Don’t make rezala with boneless chicken. Use bone in chicken and choose to slow cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour till the chicken is cooked rather than pressure cooking it.
  2. Always marinate the chicken.
  3. You can replace the cashews with blanced almonds if you wish.
  4. If you not every finicky about color, use black peppercorns in the recipe, the curry will be less sharp and darker in color.
  5. Use ghee for cooking, it gives an authentic taste.
  6. White peppercorns have a sharp taste compared to the black ones, be sure to check the taste to sauce as you add it so as to not land up with a very spicy sauce. The rezala has a mild sweetish taste.
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Chicken Rezala

A nutty, delicately flavored chicken dish from East indian cuisine.
Prep Time6 hrs
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian

Equipment

  • Bowls, Dutch Oven or Heavy Bottom Pot with lid

Ingredients

Marinate The Chicken

  • 1.5 lb (750gms) bone in, skinless chicken, (choose 1 whole chicken cut in 8pieces OR Chicken legs Or bone in Chicken Thighs
  • 3/4 cup plain full fat yogurt (not greek yogurt)
  • 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper powder adjust to taste
  • 1 tbsp melted ghee

For the Spice Powder

  • 2 black cardamom pods only
  • 8 green cardamom pods only
  • 2 large mace twigs
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns adjust to taste

For Making the rezala

  • 2 tsp white poppy seeds
  • 15 raw whole cashews
  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 6 dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup white or yellow onion paste
  • 1 tbsp green chilli paste adjust to taste
  • 1 tsp shah jeera
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp white peppercorn powder optional
  • 10-12 saffron strands, soaked in warm milk
  • 1-2 drops kewra water, optional

Instructions

Marinate the Chicken

  • Add the cleaned chicken pieces to a large bowl and add all the listed ingredients. Using your hands massage the chicken pices nicely with yogurt, ghee nand spices. Cover the bowl with a cling film and marinate overnight (6-8 hours). Dont skip the marination step.

Make The Spice Powder

  • In a small skillet, lightly dry toast all the spices. Place in a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Set aside.

Make the curry

  • Set the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to cooking.
  • In your wet grinder, add the poppy seeds first, add 3 tbsp water and give it a grind. Open and add cashews along with 3 tbsp of water. Grind both the things on high speed to a very fine paste. Add water if needed.
  • In a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, add the ghee and warm it up on medium heat.
  • Temper the ghee with all the whole spices and saute for 30 seconds. Take care that the spices do not burn.
  • Add the onion paste next and on low medium heat saute the onion paste till you its beginning to change to light brown in color and the oil is separating. Dont let the onions brown too much.
  • Add cumin seeds and the ginger garlic and chilli paste next and saute for a minute till you smell a nice aroma.
  • Reduce the heat to low, wait for a minute and slowly add the marinated chicken to the pot. Also add the ground spices we made earlier. Gently stir the chicken continously for 2 minutes. Let the stove be on low while you stir the chicken. This will make sure that the yogurt wont curdle.
  • After stirring for 2 minutes, cover the pot and let cook undisturbed for 10 minutes on low heat.
  • Open the pot, stir the chicken, you will see a gravy forming from water of yogurt and chicken juices. Add the cashew-poppyseeds paste we made along with salt & sugar. Stir to combine , cover the pot and let cook again for 15 minutes on medium low. While the chicken is cooking just check once or twice to make sure that nothing is sticking to bottom of pot since cashew have the tendency to stick.
  • At the end of 15 minutes, open the pot. You will see a layer of fat on the sides and top of the chicken. Make sure that the chicken pieces are cooked through but not falling apart. Depending on the quality of your chicken the time taken can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 25 minutes.
  • At the end of cooking, check and adjust the salt if needed. Add the saffron, kewra and white pepper powder. Mix and let the curry simmer for 2-3 more minutes. Switch off the stove and let stand for atleast 30 minutes before serving.
  • The sauce of rezala is not runny at all so no extra water is added so please dont add any water, it will dilute the taste of the sauce.
  • Serve with rotis. parathas or rice, as you wish.

Notes

  1. Don’t make rezala with boneless chicken. Use bone in chicken and choose to slow cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour till the chicken is cooked rather than pressure cooking it.
  2. Always marinate the chicken.
  3. You can replace the cashews with blanced almonds if you wish.
  4. If you not every finicky about color, use black peppercorns in the recipe, the curry will be less sharp and darker in color.
  5. Use ghee for cooking, it gives an authentic taste.
  6. White peppercorns have a sharp taste compared to the black ones, be sure to check the taste to sauce as you add it so as to not land up with a very spicy sauce. The rezala has a mild sweetish taste.

Indian Streetfood/Indo Chines · Lentils · Salads/Soup

Sambar (Indian Lentil & Vegetables Stew)

Sambar is an utterly popular slow cooked south indian lentil and vegetable stew which is served with idlis, dosa, vada or steamed rice. It is fragrant, nourishing and very comforting. Lentils form a huge part of indian cuisine and every region has its own speciality. Sambar is an everyday dish of the south indian region and over years because of its delicious taste and nutrient dense value, it has become one of the most popular dishes in India.

However, in our north indian family, south indian food was made once or twice a month. It was a special meal and the preparations started a couple days ahead with mom fermenting idli batter and making chutneys. Her sambar recipe is the best if you ask me. I dont claim it to be the authentic for it differs in the selection of vegetables and the way she tempered it. So unlike the drumsticks and squash loaded ones, I grew up on sambar in which went chunks of capsicum(green bell pepper) and green beans and sometimes okra or eggplant. It was a warming, soul satisfying and a beautiful medley of flavors of sambar powder and taste of vegetables.

I make sambar like mom, with the same selection of vegetables. Be it the contrasting sweetness of jaggery and sour of fresh squeezed tamarind pulp or the chewy pungency of black mustard seeds and a subtle citrus nuttiness of curry leaves, every single slurp rings comfort into my soul..

Mom used store bought sambar powder and I do the same. We have a few favorite brands and I stock up on those whenever I go to India or someone is visiting. I sometimes find it in our indian store as well, its a pretty easy thing to find. However, if you do not have ready to use sambar powder, leave a comment and I will write you a recipe.

Many people like to use a blend of lentils but I make mine with just arhar daal (toor/pigeon pea lentils). Sambar is a easy thing to make and tastes better next day or after resting if you are serving the same day. You can prep the vegetables and make tamarind pup while the lentils are cooking(I pressure cook them) and just temper everything and simmer it for about 10-12 minutes.

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5 from 1 vote

Sambar

A flavorful,south indian pigeon pea lentil & vegetable stew. Best served with idlis, vada, dosa or steamed rice. Can be easily made vegan.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Indian

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker, Cooking Pot

Ingredients

For Boiing The Daal

  • 1 cup arhar daal (toor daal/pigeon pea lentils)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2.5 cups water

Vegetables (substitute with your choice of vegetables)

  • 1 small capsicum/green bell pepper cut into bite size pieces
  • 12-15 green beans cut into 1 inch long pieces
  • 1 medium firm tomato quatered
  • 6-8 sambar onions/pearl onions peeled

Tempering The Sambar

  • 3 tbsp oil/ ghee I use avocado oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 3/4 tsp chana daal (bengal gram lentils)
  • 3/4 tsp split urad lentils
  • 1/4 tsp hing
  • 2-3 dried red chilies
  • Pinch methi seeds
  • 12-15 fresh curry leaves
  • 2-3 tbsp thick tamarind pulp adjust to desired sourness
  • 2.5 tbsp sambar powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp jaggery powder adjust to desired sweetness

Instructions

Boil The Daal

  • Wash the lentils throughly 2-3 times under a running stream of water.
  • Place in the pressure cooker. Add 2.5 cups water and turmeric. Soak for 20 minutes.
  • Once soaked, pressure cook the lentils in the same water for 3-5 whistles on medium heat. Switch off and let pressure release naturally. While the lentils are still hot, add salt and using a wooden masher or back of spoon mash the lentils well so that no grain is visible. Set aside.
  • While the lentils are cooking you can prepare the vegetables and tamarind pulp. Keep everthing ready.

Make the Sambar

  • In a heavy bottom pot,warm up the oil. Temper the oil with mustad seeds. Once they crackle, add the hing, chana & urad dal. Cook till the lentils are browned in color.
  • Add the dried chillies and methi seeds next. Saute fo r5-6 seconds till they swell a bit.
  • Add curry leaves to the oil, they will immediatley splutter so be careful. Saute for 2-3 seconds and add all the vegetables that you are using at once. Sprinkle a pinch of salt. Saute the vegeatble for a minute or so with the spices.
  • Next sprinkle the sambar powder and red chilli powder (if using) and saute for 20 seconds.
  • Add the cooked mashed lentils next and mix well. If you feel that they are thickish, add water to thin out as per desired consistency.
  • Mix well and let come to a slow boil on medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the tamarind and jaggery. Taste and adjust the salt. Mix well.
  • Let simmer for 10-12 minutes on low medium heat stirring a bit in between. Initially you will see that there is a layer of foam on the sambar but as it cooks out, the color will deepen so will the flavors. Rest for 30 mins and serve warm!

Extra Tempering (optional but recommmended)

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil or ghee in a pan and add 1/2 tsp mustrd seeds,pinch of hing, 1-2 dried chillies and 8-10 curry leaves. Add on top of the cooked sambar and mix well.
Breads/Flatbreads · Brunch · Indian Streetfood/Indo Chines

Paneer Makhani Pizza

Paneer pizzas are a huge favorite in our house and this one is no different. From scratch pizza with a pillowy dough, quick makhani sauce made out of fresh tomatoes and topped with juicy paneer tikka. To add some kick, I add pickled jalapeños. This pizza is a riot of flavors in every bite.

Until last year, before lockdown, I considered as pizza one of the most casual food. Pizza nights were either take outs or something put together with off the shelf items from Trader Joe’s. Quick pizzas did the job but I knew in my heart that I was missing out on something.

Last year, when everyone was struggling to find yeast last year, so was I. But I kept looking and looking and nearly after a month I found yeast online. Took over 20 days to deliver and then started my quest for homemade pizza dough. 

Right from how the house smells while pizza bakes to how the dough feels between my fingers, the entire process of making pizza from scratch can be so gratifying.. It swells my heart to see kids enjoying desi pizza- one filled with orange sauce and topped paneer, it’s their huge favorite.

Desi pizzas are a huge hit in our home, here I make a quick makhani sauce and paneer tikka. You can use chicken as well instead of paneer. You can make the dough, the sauce as well as marinate the tikka ahead of time and just assemble and pop into the oven or pizza oven (if you have one) anytime for a quick treat!

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0 from 0 votes

Paneer Makhani Pizza

A fusion indo – italian pizza with homemade pizza dough topped with makhani sauce, juicy paneer tikka and lots of cheese.
Prep Time2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: Indian, Italian
Servings: 1 Pizza (12 inch)

Equipment

  • mixing bowls

Ingredients

Make the Pizza Dough

  • 2-2.5 cups all purpose flour (250-290gms)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (7gm)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Quick Makhani Sauce (Makes about 2 cups)

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2.5 cups tomato puree (Simply blanch 4-5 large fresh tomatoes and puree them in blender)
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tbsp kasuri methi
  • 1.5 tbsp heavy cream

Paneer Tikka

  • 150 gms paneer cut in cubes
  • 1 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder or to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemom juice
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste

Pizza Toppings

  • Shredded low moisture mozarella cheese as much or as less you like
  • Sliced Onions as much or as less you like
  • Pickled Jalapenos as much or as less you like

Instructions

Make the pizza dough

  • In a small bowl, empty the yeast packet. Add 3 tbsp luke warm water (of the 3/4 cup), add sugar, give a gentle mix and let the yeast bloom for 5 minutes. You should see bubbles once bloomed else start over.
  • In a large bowl, add the 2 cups flour salt, olive oil and garlic powder. Using your fingers mix everthing well. You can add some dried herbs to the flour as well.
  • Pour the yeast mix over the flour. Add remaining water. Using your hand mixer attached with the dough hook, mix the dough for a minute on medium speed or so till it starts clumping around the hook into a ball.
  • On a floured surface, take out the dough ball and knead for 3-4 minutes until its smooth and springs back when you press it with a finger. Add a little flour if the dough feels wet at any point. Pizza dough should not be sticky but its a pretty soft dough.
  • Place the dough in a large oiled bowl. Rub the surface of the dough ball with some olive oil. Cover with a cloth or cling film and place in warm place to rise for 1-2 hours (depends on the tempetature of where you live). The dough should double in volume after the rise.

Make the Makhani Sauce

  • In a pan, warm up the butter and oil together. Add the whole spices – cloves, cardamom & cinnmaon and saute for 15 seconds. Add the onions to the pan and saute the onions till lightly browned for about 3 minutes.
  • Once the onions are browned, add the ginger garlic paste along with the powdered spices. Saute for 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomato puree next and mix well. Let the tomato puree cook down for about 5 minutes tll you see that the sauce is thick and oil is starting to seperate. Switch off the stove. Dont dry the tomatoes too much, add 1/4 cup water if needed to make a thick slurry like consistency sauce.
  • Strain the makhani sauce into a bowl and immediately mix in the cream, garam masala and kasuri methi. Mix well. Makhani sauce is ready to go.

Make the Paneer Tikka

  • In a bowl, add all the ingredints except paneer. Using a whisk, mix well to make a smooth paste.
  • Add the paneer cubes and mix well to coat using your fingers. Marinate for 15 minutes.
  • Once marinated you can cook the paneer on a heated tawa brushing oil on all sides. Alternatively, you can skewer the paneer, brush oil and broil in oven for 3-4 minutes each side. Dont cook the panner too much since it will cook with the pizza as well.

Assebmle and Bake Pizza

  • Preheat ypur oven to 475 F. I use my seasoned cast iron skillet to bake pizza. You can use your baking sheet lined with parchment paper or pizza steel (if you have one).
  • Punch down the risen dough and on a floured surface, using your hands in a circular motion shape it in a circle.
  • Place the shaped pizza dough into the cast iron griddle/baking sheet/pizza steel.
  • Laddle makhani sauce on top of the dough leaving a little space from the edges. Add the shredded cheese over the sauce.
  • Place the paneer tikka, onions and jalapenos on top of cheese. Drizzle with a little oil.
  • Bake the dough for 8-12 minutes untill the cheese has melted and the edges are golden.
  • Slice & Serve. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Use chicken in this recipe instead of paneer to make chicken makkahi pizza.
  2. Use any kind of vegetables for topping.
  3. You make make all the elements 1-2 days in advance and assemble and bake the pizza. This dough rests well in the fridge for 2 days after proofing.  
Indian Curry/Stew

Matar Ka Nimona(Gluten free & Vegan)

Nimona is a traditional recipe made with ground green chickpeas or fresh peas in western Uttar Pradesh. My grandmother family belongs to that belt and no wonder this is one of our favorite family recipes. She cooked Nimona atleast once a week. Very arduously, she spent the entire afternoon shelling the green chickpeas which were in season during late winter. Nimona was made with peas rarely, however, I make it only with fresh peas (do not use frozen) since I dont have access to the green chickpeas. I tried the frozen chickpeas once and truly regretted it 🙂

Sweet shelled peas, blanched quickly and then ground into a coarse paste. The coarseness of the peas gives this curry a beautiful texture and if you ask a cook, the way a vegetable is cut, diced, crushed, pureed etc makes so much difference in the taste of the finished dish. Please do not make a smooth paste. In addition to grinding the peas coarsely, save a handful to add to the curry while it cooks.

This curry is gluten-free and ideally, if you cook it in mustard oil just the way it is should be, it is vegan as well. Traditionally, deep fried potatoes are added to this curry. And they are quite delicious, no question about that. However, I like to brown the potatoes in a couple tablespoons of oil rather than deep frying and later the potatoes finish cooking in the curry. Also, sautéing ground peas with the masala is an important part of making this curry. Dont be tempted to leave the peas green, the proper taste of nimona will not come through. After the peas “bhuno” with masala for good 8-10 minutes, the smokiness of the curry is just irresistible.

On some days, I like to temper the nimona, it is optional and only enhances the taste. Nimona is amazing served with rotis or steamed rice. A dollop of ghee on warm bowl of nimona is a beautiful finish. Make extra because it tastes better next day!

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5 from 1 vote

Matar Ka Nimona

An indian curry made of ground peas and fresh sweet peas.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • Food processor, Kadhai/Heavy pan

Ingredients

For Blanching the Peas

  • 10 oz (284gms) shelled fresh peas ,please dont use frozen peas
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the Curry

  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or use regular cooking oil)
  • 2 medium potatoes peeled and quatered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp hing
  • 1 medium onion,finely chopped yield about heaped 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 fat garlic cloves
  • 2 inch fresh ginger peeled
  • 1/2 tbsp corinader powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp hot red chilli powder adjust to taste
  • 3 medium tomatoes add to blender & puree smooth
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 tbsp ginger julinnes optional
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor powder adjust to taste
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder

Tempering (Optional)

  • 1.5 tbsp mustard oil (or use ghee)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger

For Serving

  • Sliced Onions, Cilantro, Ghee etc

Instructions

Blanch & Grind the Peas

  • Add salt and sugar and water to a cooking pot. Bring to a boil. Add shelled peas and switch off the stove. Let the peas stand in hot water for 3-5 mins. Drain. You can reserve the water to adjust the consistency of curry later.
  • Save 1/4 cup peas and add the rest to food processor jar fitted with metal blade and pulse 10-12 times until the peas are coarse. Dont make a smooth paste. The peas should be coarsely ground. Set aside.

Make the Nimona

  • Pound the garlic and ginger along with cumin seeds using mortar pestle. Keep ready.
  • In a wide kadhai or heavy pan, add the oil and warm on low medium heat until its slightly smoky.
  • Carefully add the poatoes to the oil, sprinkle a pinch of salt. Brown the poatoes on all the sides. Do not cook them through. Once browned, take out in a bowl and keep near.
  • Remove the kadhai from stove and temper the remainng oil with bay leaf, cardamom and cloves. Add hing. Saute for 10 seconds, be careful the spices might crackle.
  • Return the kadhai/pan back to stove. Next, add the ginger-garlic that we pounded earlier and saute in hot oil for 10 seconds. Dont let burn.
  • Add the chopped onions next and on low medium heat brown the onions stirring regularly to a nice golden color.
  • Once the onions are browned, add all the powdered spices- corinader, chilli power, tumeric to the pan. Add 2-3 tbsp of water. Saute the spices very well for 3-5minutes in oil. Once you see oil bubbles seperating, add the tomatoes and pinch of sugar. Saute the tomatoes with onions and spices for 5-6 minutes on low medum heat till you see that the masala is deep in color and the oil is seperating again.
  • Add the ground peas along with julinned ginger(if using) and mix well with the masala.Also add the reserved peas. Saute the peas with the masala for good 6-7 minutes, scrapping the sides and bottom of pan since the peas have a tendency to stick.
  • The peas will slowly start turning brown. Keep on sauteing till you see that the peas are lightish brown and bit shiny.
  • Add about a cup and a half of warm water. Add the potatoes as well. Mix everything, it should be a thick curry right now. Taste and adjust the salt. Bring to a slight boil, cover with a lid, reduce the stove to low and let simmer for 12-14 minutes untill the potatoes are fork tender. If you feel that thenimona is getting too thick for your liking, add 1/4 cup or more water. Simmer after you add water. Dont make very watery though. You will see a little thin layer of oil on stove by the end. Nimona is ready
  • Mix in the amchoor and roasted cumin powder. Add the tempering(if using). Mix well. Cover and let rest for atleast 30 minutes before serving.

Make Tempering

  • In a small sauce pan, heat up the mustard oil till smoky. Switch off the stove and the cumin and ginger. Let crackle. Add to the nimona.