Pickles/Condiments/Spice Powders

Pickled Red Chili Peppers (Laal Mirch Ka Achaar)

Sinfully Spicy - Laal Mirch Ka Achaar, Pickled Red Chili Peppers #indianThe summer mornings at my badi mummy’s (grandma) house started early with preparing for meals ahead that day. By the time I walked down half sleepy to the lobby, the central area of our house where the whole family gathered for chai in the morningsat meal times or just to sit chatting away, the “lobby” with tiny pink and ivory marble pieces embedded in the floor and a fish aquarium decorating one corner of the wall facing the door that opened into the backyard, I would often find her either chopping vegetables,segregating them into what will be for which mealtime, kneading the dough , picking the lentils or just involved in some kitchen chore.A half filled teacup always on her side on top of a newspaper folded in quarters which she read in between of being busy.I inched to sit close to her and see what her keep busy.I would flip a few pages of the newspaper and often she told me ” hamare babuji 25 paise har mahene english padne ke leye jayda dete they”(my father spent extra money each month to let me learn english at school). In the 1930s, many old women of her age in India would not be reading english newspapers or speaking the language at that time.

Sinfully Spicy - Laal Mirch Ka Achaar, Pickled Red Chili Peppers #indian

Sinfully Spicy - Laal Mirch Ka Achaar, Pickled Red Chili Peppers #indianWhen it was the pickling season, the attention shifted from regular tasks to raw mangoes, baby limes and chilies.To tell you the truth the pungent smell of strong pickling spices along with the piquant aroma of virgin mustard oil would be the last thing you would want to sniff at 6 in the morning but her dedication and involvement towards this business was contagious. Attention to detail boiled down to sterilizing the knifes and kitchen towels that would or could touch those chilies and mangoes,leave alone the large glass containers and spoons or bowls. In that time of no fancy appliances,magic bullets and all, hand crushing the tough seeds of fenugreek and tiny rai (brown mustard) did not come easy if you lacked sincerity. She often covered her nostrils with the end of her cotton saree, which was especially worn in any other color but white that day to guard against stains and those fragile, slightly wrinkly hands worked energetically in unison with the heavy terra-cotta mortar & pestle. In between, she paused to wipe off the spice dust off her steel framed glasses but continued with double vigor in the next few minutes.I often wondered if there could be anything, anything in this whole wide world right now which could deter her attention.

Sinfully Spicy - Laal Mirch Ka Achaar, Pickled Red Chili Peppers #indianFor the next few hours, the coarse ground fenugreek, nigella, fennel and mustard seeds were mixed with copious amounts of turmeric powder and salt and then doused in liters of raw, virgin mustard oil, the pungent oil, which my kitchen still feels lifeless without for I have consumed it right from childhood days. Half of the mixture was separated for the mango pickle to which she would add more chili powder later and the rest was stuffed inside plum,red peppers with slightly shriveled skin from a day or two of sun drying prior to pickling. The jars would be situated in sun to ferment for week or ten days and she found something else to keep her busy like no other.

Sinfully Spicy - Laal Mirch Ka Achaar, Pickled Red Chili Peppers #indianHaving lived on homemade pickles all those years of growing up, I could never acquire a taste for the store-bought ones.My tastebuds can make out the slightest hints of those citric acid and preservatives. It is my aim every season to make at least one pickle. Last year it was raw mangoes and prior to that I pickled no oil limes. It was the turn of red chili peppers as soon as I spotted them at Whole foods this time. Over the years, I have slightly changed the recipe to be more like my mom’s. Instead of stuffing the whole red chili peppers, I slit them in half and then stuff the halves. Thats the only change I have made to my badi mummy‘s recipe.

Ingredients (Makes 40 halves of pickled chilies and extra spice (masala) & oil )

  • 18-20 whole red chili peppers (I used Fresno)
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoon rai (brown mustard seeds)
  • 2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon Nigella seeds
  • 1.5 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tablespoon amchoor (dry mango powder, buy online here )
  • 2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 300-350 ml virgin mustard oil, divided (or use olive oil, see notes)

Notes

  1. You could use the same recipe to make whole stuffed red chili peppers.Instead of halving them, simply, remove the seeds and stuff with the spices.
  2. Never under salt the pickle, it will go bad within few weeks.
  3. If you do not like the strong taste of mustard oil, you can heat it up to do away the raw smell, cool down and then add. Or you can use olive oil in this recipe if you do not get mustard oil. The flavor of the pickle is slightly different from traditional but it works.
  4. This is not an instant pickle recipe, the pickle is sun fermented and takes 7-10 days (or more depending on strength of sun where you live to mature and get ready to consume.

Method

Wash and pat dry the chilies. Cut and discard the top stem and the entire green portion, then cut them into half. I discarded the seeds & veins of half the chillies,thats where the heat in the pickle comes from. You can remove seeds for all of them if you want. Layer the chilies on a wide, non reactive shallow dish, sprinkle a scant pinch of salt.

Using your coffee grinder, coarsely pulse the mustard, fennel, nigella & fenugreek seeds separately (this is important).You do not need to make a fine powder, if few specks of whole spices remain, its okay. In a small bowl mix the powdered spices together with turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt and amchoor.Taste the spice mix for salt, it should be slightly more salty than you thinkAdd 2-3 tablespoon mustard oil just so that the spice powder is moistened. This will be make it easy to stuff the chilies.

With dry hands, stuff whole or each half of the chilies with this spice mixture. Place the stuffed chili pepper in a wide glass dish (I use my pyrex). Add 200 ml of mustard oil, any spice mixture remaining and gently mix so that the chilies are coated in oil. At this point, the achaar will have a very strong smell and a bitter taste but that’s okay. Allow it to stand in full sun for two days. Try to stir the achaar once or twice a day with a clean, dry spoon.

On the third day transfer the achaar into a glass or porcelain jar (do not use a metal container) , check and adjust the salt and top with remaining oil and mix well. Cover the mouth of the jar with a muslin cloth, tie with a string and let mature for seven to ten days in sun. (this time will depend on the strength of sun in the area you live).Stir the contents once or twice a day.

At the end of sun fermentation, the skin of chilies would have shrivelled and the strong, bitter taste will go away. Store at room temperature for up to 2-3 months. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickle.

Thank you for stopping by!

Stay Spicy!

Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew

Matar Paneer

Sinfully Spicy : Matar PaneerI always feel that I end up cooking many dishes just to re-create a special memory, securely nestled in my heart from the years 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 week 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 luscious matar paneer – fresh shelled peas and soft unaged cheese in a spicy sauce redolent of sweet-smelling cardamom and sharp hints of cinnamon and cloves in contrast to the sweetness of the vegetable.

Sinfully Spicy : Fresh Pods Matar Paneer

Sinfully Spicy : Paneer (fresh indian cheese)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 women of the family, after serving lunch, geared up for dinner,pulling chairs around the takht (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 shell three or four 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 use pouch inside the freezer.

Sinfully Spicy : Shelling fresh Pods

Sinfully Spicy : Shelling fresh Pods Matar Paneer

Sinfully Spicy : Fresh PeasWhen I am engrossed in such strong weaved memories, at times, it 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, 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 of matar dana. All laughs, so much fun.

Then suddenly, I feel the warmth of 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.

Sinfully Spicy : Matar PaneerMatar 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.

Sinfully Spicy : Matar Paneer

Sinfully Spicy : Matar Paneer

Printable Recipe

Matar Paneer – 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 oz paneer (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 clove
  • 1/4 inch piece of dalchini (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 teaspoon kashmiri 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 teaspoon kasuri methi, crushed between palms
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (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

Method

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 the paneer 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, dalchini & cumin seeds.Saute for 5-6 minutes till the onion start to turn light brown.

Add the coriander, turmeric, red chili, kashmiri chilli powder next and sauté for less than a minute. Add the blended tomatoes and reduce heat to low.Let cook slowly till you see little bubbles of oil separating on sides of the pot and the spice paste glistening. At this point, add the peas along with chopped ginger,add salt, stir to combine together with spice paste and on low heat, saute for 3-4 minutes. Add about 3/4 cup water, mix well and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for about 15-20 minutes till the peas are soft (but not mushy).Uncover and add the kasuri methi and garam masala along with paneer cubes. Stir, and again cover and on low heat, let simmer for another 10-12 minutes.

Add the heavy cream (if using) next and simmer (not boil) on very low heat for another 2-3 minutes.Once the sauce has simmered, let sit for at least 45mins -1hour or till ready to serve.

Once ready to serve, warm up the sauce and serve immediately. You can garnish with cilantro, extra cream and ginger juliennes.

Serve with rice or flatbreads.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stay Spicy!

Appetizers/Snacks · Desserts/Baking

Orange Flavored Cashew- Almond Fudge (Peda)

Sinfully Spicy : Orange flavored Cashew Almond Sweet Balls (peda) #glutenfree #veganIt was one of the most important day of my life as we drove through wide but still crowded roads due to evening traffic, long after sun down to Kashmiri Gate, to the university campus in Old Delhi to figure out if I made it to that year’s list of DCE or Delhi College of Engineering. I remember me and mom sat and waited in the car while dad walked out to check the notice board. Those fifteen minutes,that day, might have been the longest of my life, as I sat and observed the varied expressions of cheer and dismay on the faces of others coming out of the red-painted door and then walking towards the crowded parking lot. As many parents passed our car, clear among the noisy chaos of honks and shouting kin, I could hear the conversations of celebrations, as also the consoling whispers of ‘there are few more results left’. Every time those sounds touched my ears, my heart rejoiced for half a second and next moment, the random thoughts weaved an abyss against hope. I might have blinked my eyes lesser than usual, my throat felt dry and itchy but my glances just waited for dad to emerge out of that red-painted door. I could hear mom’s cell phone ringing constantly, every other relative & rest of the family calling in to check if I ‘got through’. She pretended to be normal, but I could segregate the egdy tones of anxiety when she uttered ‘pata nahi‘ (don’t know).

Sinfully Spicy : Orange flavored Cashew Almond Sweet Balls (peda) #glutenfree #veganThe engineering entrance exam system in India gets more tough each year than the actual exam itself mainly due to the exponential increase in number of takers. Colleges in big metropolitan cities are more sought after and it definitely boils down to minute differences in performance to rank you higher or not. I had been preparing for this exam for almost a year and as expected I was nervous on the result day. Badly.

Sinfully Spicy : Orange flavored Cashew Almond Sweet Balls (peda) #glutenfree #vegan

Sinfully Spicy : Orange flavored Cashew Almond Sweet Balls (peda) #glutenfree #veganIt was 7:43 pm. Dad emerged out of the door with a flat face.My heart skipped a beat and I started sweating like a pig. I could feel my ear lobes turning red and my throat choking. We could not keep inside the car anymore and I forced myself and ran to him. Mom rushed after. I looked at him with deer eyes.He still kept a straight face. I don’t remember but for the first time in last fifteen minutes I would have opened my palms to clutch his sleeve. He looked at us and with the most lovely smile spreading across his face that I might have witnessed ever, he said ‘ho gaya, mithai khilao‘ (You got in, get the sweets!). Tears rolled down my eyes. Music to my ears. The world at my feet. I was through!

Sinfully Spicy : Orange flavored Cashew Almond Sweet Balls (peda) #glutenfree #veganMithai or sweets form an integral part of indian culture.Each occasion of life is celebrated with them.The streets and neighborhood of the country are dotted with sweet shops and if you find ever yourself stuck in a desert, you would be less than a mile away from one. ‘Peda‘ is one of the popular sweets from the ‘Uttar Pradesh’, the part of India my mother hails from and these are essentially fudgy, thick, semi soft, sweet chunks made with mava (milk solids)sugar and ghee. However, these fudgy cashew almond peda, I made are dairy free as well as need very few ingredients for preparation.My daughter loves any mithai made with cashews, so these were mainly made for her though we enjoyed them as well. The slight hints from the orange paired very well with the nuts even though the aroma of sweet green cardamom is more prominent. These could get addictive. These gluten-free, vegan balls can be an excellent after school snack. Make some and enjoy!

Printable Recipe

Glutenfree, Dairy Free & Vegan sweet fudge made with cashew and almond meal.

Ingredients (Makes 25 )

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1.5 cup cashew nut meal (or powdered raw cashews)
  • 1 cup almond meal (or powdered raw almonds)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 6 green cardamom pods, seeds crushed
  • 1 tbsp ghee (optional, required during kneading, use any vegan substitute)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar to roll

Method

In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 12″ skillet) or a kadhai, mix up the sugar and water. Set the pan on low flame and let the sugar dissolve. Stir (I use my rubber spatula) the solution once or twice while the sugar dissolves so that the sugar does not stick to bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, grease the surface that you will be using to knead with 1/2 tablespoon ghee.

Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add the cashew and almond meal to the pan. Mix everything and brace yourself for some hard work. Keep on stirring and stirring as the mix cooks on low flame. The process will be slow in the beginning and you will feel that it will take forever but do not worry. Keep on stirring, scraping the mixture on low flame, do not let the mixture stick to the sides of the skillet.

After about 20-22 minutes, you will see that the mixture starts thickening and coming together.We will shortly be getting there, once the mixture is thick, do not bother much about scraping the sides as they will be really dry. Around 24 minutes, the mixture will start resembling a soft, sticky dough and will clump up around the spatula. If you try to bring the mixture together in one place on the skillet, it will try to slowly spread (similar to how a glug of cold honey spreads on a surface). Mix in the orange zest and crushed cardamom. Put off the stove.

Immediately transfer to the greased surface and leave to cool a bit until its safe to handle.Once the dough has cooled slightly, rub a teaspoon of ghee on your hands and very gently knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Remember that the dough needs to be warm when you knead so just wait till its safe to touch, do not let it cool down completely, else it will not knead and remain grainy.Do not press very hard as you knead else the nuts  will start oozing their oil. You can grease you hands or the dough with ghee in between if it starts feeling sticky.

While the kneaded dough is still warm, pinch small portions of it and roll into a smooth ball. Roll the balls in powdered sugar.

Once cooled, store the peda in air tight container for up to a week.

Thank you for stopping by!

Notes 

  1. The time of cooking noted in this recipe will vary if you are using any other kind of sugar than granulated, since the water content of different varieties of sugar is different.
  2. You can use any kind of flavorings – saffron or kewra (screw pine water) instead of orange zest & cardamom.

Stay Spicy!

Brunch · Indian Streetfood/Indo Chines · Rice Dishes

Indo Chinese Salmon Bowl for One

Sinfully Spicy - Indo Chinese Salmon Bowl for OneI adore seafood, as you might already be noticing on the blog and on my Instagram feed. Quite a few seafood dishes popping every other day! I seem to have inherited this love from both my parents. Growing up, unlike may north indian homes, fish and prawns formed an integral part of our meals.Right from purchasing the freshest catch to patiently cooking the bought, mom and dad made sure that through growing years, our taste buds acquired an afffinty for food from the sea . Even though fresh water fish is still more popular with my family members and going by the rules, it is not food from the “sea” but you know what I mean.

Continuing my desire to develop new ways of consuming fish,I am always on a look out for ideas.Talking about ideas, I have been eating this quick salmon bowl for lunch quite a lot these days. It is quick, healthy and does not leave you with that “heavy” feeling kind of meal. I could go for a jog after this, no kidding!

I have talked about Indo chinese flavors at length in so many of my previous post. Here,here and here. These two strong asian cuisines marry again and again inside my wok, always leaving me amazed at the robust flavor of the resulting dishes. We simply adore the flavors in our home, though strict foodies(without being at fault) will dismiss it away categorizing it as unauthentic.

Sinfully Spicy - Indo Chinese Salmon Bowl for One

When you are a foodie, you draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. When I visited my local asian store a couple of weeks back, I was drawn towards the teriyaki salmon bowls on display at their asian section. Tad overpriced at first look but then I notched forward and spotted big chunks of orange salmon glazed in a beautiful dark amber colored sauce, spliced with chilies and colorful , glossy vegetables on the side.The meal was indeed mouth watering and made complete sense. Immediately, the idea of playing with indo chinese crossed my mind. Grabbing my grocery bags in both hands, I yearned to get into my kitchen and stir up something. Sinfully Spicy - Indo Chinese Salmon Bowl for One This recipe came up on a whim.I did not even intend to post it but the colors looked so gorgeous once I plated that I took out the camera. It could be a great dinner option too. Just double the recipe for two people and if you have the time and inclination, stir up some vegetable fried rice. The aromatic indian spices, dashes of salty soy sauce & vinegar complement the rich fatty salmon in an excellent way along with the quick sweet tangy pickled vegetables which add that much-needed freshness in contrast to strong savory seasonings.

Sinfully Spicy - Indo Chinese Salmon Bowl for One

Printable Recipe

An easy recipe of salmon chunks stir fried with asian flavors. Use it as an outline and play around with the sauces/condiments used to suit your taste.

Ingredients

For the Salmon

  • 1 no 6oz to 8 oz salmon fillet
  • 1.5 teaspoon dark soy
  • 1 fat garlic, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoon white vinegar (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil (this is a strong-tasting oil, substitute with untoasted sesame oil or any neutral oil)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 fat garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small Thai green chili, minced (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
  • Red chilli flakes to taste
  • 1.5 tablespoon Maggi chilli tomato sauce (or use 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup mixed with cayenne)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey (or to taste)
  • salt to taste
  • fresh cilantro

Notes

  1. Add any kind of vegetables, scallions, bok choy etc to this recipe while cooking.
  2. You could add dashes of Sriracha or hot sauce for additional heat.

For the Pickled Vegetables

  • 3 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Thai green chilli, minced
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3 radish, julienned
  • 1 small persian cucumber, julienned

For Serving

1/3 cup leftover steamed jasmine or plain rice (optional)

Method

Using a sharp knife, cut the salmon fillet in small cubes. In a bowl, transfer the cubes and mix the soy, minced garlic, vinegar and sesame oil with it. Let sit for 10 minutes.

While the salmon is marinating, proceed to make the pickled vegetables. In another bowl, mix up the vinegar, sugar, salt and minced green chili. Mix. Add the julienned vegetables and refrigerate.

In a pan or wok, heat up the canola oil to smoky. Immediately add the chopped shallot, garlic and ginger. Saute for 1-2 minutes till you smell a nice aroma. Add the coriander powder. Saute for 1 minutes. Then add the marinated salmon text along with . Stir fry the salmon on high for 3-4 minutes. They cook up fast so keep a close eye. Towards the last minute of cooking add the chill-tomato sauce,red chill flakes,garam masala, honey and adjust the salt. Also, check the tang from vinegar at the end of cooking. You can some more if you like. Sprinkle fresh cilantro.

Serve immediately alongside some leftover rice and pickled vegetables from the refrigerator.

Thanks for stopping by.

Stay Spicy!

 

Appetizers/Snacks · Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew · Indian Streetfood/Indo Chines · Rice Dishes

Roasted Flattened Rice & Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda-Matar)

Sinfully Spicy : Roasted Flattened Rice With Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda Matar) #indianMany times, it really takes a beating to make favorite foods from childhood healthier. I don’t know. I always feel that childhood could absorb all that gluttony of sweets, fat and carbohydrates. Not that now my metabolism won’t permit, but my mind seriously watches goes into my system. When I was changing this recipe of fried chivda(flattened rice), a favorite snack from my years of growing up and an immensely popular street food in the northern parts of india,usually served in soiled newspaper cones, I wanted the flattened rice to make the same crackling cripsy sound between my teeth as it should  but did not want to sink it down in a pool of hot oil. I wanted that rich salty grease from it to drown my tastebuds and coat the roof of my palette but did not want to witness the flakes swimming and popping inside oil. Not really.

Sinfully Spicy : Roasted Flattened Rice With Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda Matar) #indian

Sinfully Spicy : Roasted Flattened Rice With Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda Matar) #indianYou know sometimes, you might feel that the close-to- perfect meals that you see on this blog are easy and I work wonders like michelin chefs in my home kitchen,but truth be told, on few days, there are bundles of failures and wastage (eeeks) associated with experimenting while cooking .It happens al the time with me, I dream of something and the reality of the finished dish is not so awesome. Anyhow,while I turned to my try-new-things idea, out came the cookie sheet and on the lines of making granola, I set out. I tossed the flattened rice in tablespoons of oil and actually used all the patience I could muster at that ungodly hour of the night to lay it in a single layer. I might have gone  a bit too far by actually trying to separate each and every rice flake from the other with help from chopsticks under the dim night kitchen lights. Hmm. Into a low oven for under half an hour and out came the baking sheet. My fears came to life when the rice did not look or smell up to the mark, not like I dreamt it to be. I would not categorize it as inedible but the long story short, the granola procedure failed me.The count of  beating went another notch up. Some other  time,I told myself and retired to bed.

Sinfully Spicy : Roasted Flattened Rice With Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda Matar) #indianThen another day, in the bright of the noon, I took out the trusted cast iron skillet, heated oil to smoky and sizzled rice flakes in it and then with a lot more patience on my side, watchfully, slow roasted the chivda, stirring it continually with fork to a crispy goodness, sniffing it, observing how the toasted brown to a bowlful, one which crinkled in the mouth and coated the tastebuds with salty fat. I got it.

Sinfully Spicy : Roasted Flattened Rice With Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda Matar) #indianWhen we were kids, 5 pm foods were the best.No jokes. From piping hot samosas and jalebi from the neighbourhood halwai (sweets vendor) or instant noodles from neon yellow pouches, curry puffs and puddings, fruit shakes to potato balls, it was real fun everyday to see mom, badi mummy(my grandma) and aunts cook up new things for us.This chivda (flattened rice) is one from those days. During the spring and early summer season, fresh peas were tossed in cumin and green chillies and served along side. The rustic, mish mash snack plate of sorts is a burst of textures – sweet, salty, smoky and hot. The chaat masala and bits of ginger combine with the sweetness of those peas to make up a pleasing bite. I could never get the same taste with frozen peas, you need to make this before the fresh pea season lasts. Whats more? Its gluten free, vegan and tad healthy. Go make some. Now.

Sinfully Spicy : Roasted Flattened Rice With Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda Matar) #indian

 Printable Recipe

Both the components of this recipe can be done ahead. Roast the chivda (flattened rice) and store it in air tight jar for up to a week. I usually make the peas 3-4 hours ahead (they have better flavor if they sit for a while) and warm up later but you can totally make them when ready to serve.

Ingredients (Serves 4-5)

For the Roasted Chivda (Flattened Rice)

  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 2.5 cups thick poha (flattened rice, available in any indian/pakistani stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional  – add any nuts or seeds of choice, peanuts, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds etc

For the Spiced Peas

  • 10oz (about 280 grams) shelled fresh peas, blanched
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (from 1 small onion)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (about 2.5″ piece of ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • 2-3 Thai green chillies (or adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala 
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon chaat masala (skip if you do not have, and add fresh lemon juice to taste)
  • 1.5 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (from 4-5 stalks, optional)

Method

Roast the Chivda

In a wide, cast iron skillet (I use my 10″) , heat up the oil to the point that it about to smoky. Put off the stove. Take a fork in one hand and start adding the flattened rice with the other, continuously stirring else it will burn. Add all of the rice, and stir so that all the flakes are coated in oil. Add the salt and stir to combine. Return the skillet to stove and on low heat, let the rice toast up. Keep on stirring it a lot of times, else it will burn and you will see that the flakes start to change color. You will smell a nutty aroma too. It takes about 8-10 minutes on low heat for the rice to completely roast and turn pale brown. This time will depend on the variety and thickness of flattened rice you are using. Adjust.

Once the flattened rice has roasted, let it cool down completely. Transfer to an air tight jar. Use a clean, dry spoon to serve it. Store up to a week.

Make Spiced Peas

In a wide pan, heat up the oil on medium heat. Once heated, temper the oil with cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle.Add the chopped onions to the pan and let the onions cook till transculent.Don’t brown them.Next, add the chopped ginger & green chili to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the blanched peas next along with garam masala and salt to taste. Stir to combine and let cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chaat masala and chopped cilantro next and stir fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes, continuously stirring.Take care that the peas do not turn mushy.

Put off the heat, add fresh lemon juice.

To serve, plate up the roasted chivda and spicy peas. Add 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar on top along with a sprinkle of red chili flakes. Enjoy with a cup of chai.

Thank you for stopping by!

Stay Spicy.

 

How To · Indian Streetfood/Indo Chines · Pickles/Condiments/Spice Powders · Salads/Soup

Homemade Chaat Masala (Hot & Tangy Spice Blend)

Sinfully Spicy - Homemade Chaat Masala (Hot & Tangy Indian Spice Blend) RecipeAlong with garam masala or the hot indian spice blend which got more popular in the west, I find chaat masala equally versatile and quite frequently used in my kitchen. ‘Chaat‘ translates to any snack or food item served on the streets in the northern parts of India and ‘Masala‘ in Hindi refers to any sort of (dry or wet) spice blend. If you happen to hit streets in India for food, mostly everything that you will order will come to your table speckled with generous pinches of chaat masala, of course making it lip smacking good and adding a myriad array of tart, salty and hot flavors all at once.It is essentially the spice blend which you will spot on top of pakoras(fritters), tandoori chicken, kebab platters, murgh tikkachaat items (of course), mixed in with raita (yogurt dip) and sometimes sprinkled over side salads and onions in indian restaurants here.The one which punches all the senses in the first bite and with a tempting flavor profile of tang and heat.

Sinfully Spicy - Homemade Chaat Masala (Hot & Tangy Indian Spice Blend) RecipeI would essentially compare chaat masala to the movie theatre popcorn seasoning (oh I love those) which come in all sorts of flavors and add the much-needed zip to your treat.The only difference that can be pointed here is that even though the spice blends differ from brand to brand and home to home and cook to cook but all are referred to as just ‘chaat masala‘. If you are buying from the stores, pick up a couple of brands, try, choose your favorite and stick to it. I am using the same brand for more than a decade and its worth all your money. While you will sniff and taste warm and (slightly) bitter notes in garam masala, chaat masala is sour and peppery with a pronounced heat level. It is a strong blend, one with a kick, in aroma as well to taste.

After I  came to the States, like many immigrants starting their life, building bit by bit, accepting the smoothness of life here (trust me it didn’t come easy),I recollect how in those days, we did not own a car and trip to indian grocers was a hardly a once or twice a month activity.Even after making ten lists, I would forget a lot of pantry staples. It was during that time that I delved into making my own spice blends.I found this recipe last month scribbled at the back of an old notebook while I was spring cleaning the garage of old boxes from moving  and with an afternoon to kill ahead of me, I blended up some chaat masala. For those of you who happen to live in a place where indian grocer are quite far away to drive to or simply just to try your hand at homemade blends,this recipe could be a starting point. Play with it. Measure, grind, sniff and taste. Add or take items as per your liking. Let the flavor and aroma of spice that you like shine.

Sinfully Spicy - Homemade Chaat Masala (Hot & Tangy Indian Spice Blend) RecipeFor all practical reasons, almost always,I go and pick up a pouch from the grocer shelf for the heck of convenience but it is less in comparison to homemade.Trust me on that. Make some and sprinkle on anything and everything you want. It goes very well on top of cut up raw vegetables like cucumbers, celery, radishes or baby carrots. Add it to marinades (just be cautious of heat) and salad dressings. Use it on grilled meats or seafood. My favorite way is to dredge a lime wedge in it and slowly savor it, try it, its addictive!

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes approximately 3/4 cup)

  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup cumin seeds
  • 7-8 whole dried red kashmiri chillies (remove stems, adjust to taste)
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon ajwain (carrom) seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 small green cardamom, whole
  • 1 small clove
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 3 tablespoons amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
  • 1 tsp extra hot red chilli powder
  • 1teaspoon kala namak(black salt, available in indian stores)
  • 3-4 dried mint leaves 
  • 2 tablespoon salt (or to taste)

Method

In a dry skillet, lightly dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole chillies, ajwain, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick, each spice one at a time, separately, on low heat. Do not let the spices turn brown. Let cool completely.

Put the roasted spices along with other items into dry coffee grinder or spice grinder and blitz to a fine powder.

Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Indian Curry/Stew

Stir fried Arbi (Taro Root)

Sinfully Spicy: Stir Fried Arbi (Taro root)I could go on and on about my love for vegetarian dishes and fresh produce, but there are certain things from my growing years that I stopped cooking after coming to the States for I was unable to find the ingredients. Add to that list a few varieties of squashes, jackfruit and some tropical fruits.No, I am not complaining but there are few dishes from the childhood years that were deep down in the memory, their taste lingering in my mind every now and then as the seasons came and went. Arbi or colocasia or taro root belongs to that category.

Sinfully Spicy: Stir Fried Arbi (Taro root)A starchy vegetable that is reminiscent of the afternoons spent with badi mummy (my grandmother) in the house verandah, below the small window with green frame that opened into the kitchen. While the loo(loo is a strong, hot and dry summer afternoon wind which blows over the plains of north India) gushed outside, seated on the takhat (a wide wooden bench) she constantly greased her palms with strong-smelling mustard oil,the knife too while that small pile of the arbi infront of her was prepped for dinner. Once the plump tubers were diced, who ever, amongst the women in the family was taking dinner making forward was instructed to use copius amounts of amchoor(dry mango powder) while cooking it. A side of warm dal tadka(tempered lentils) with rice, a hot pickle and one of the most satisfying, light vegetarian meal was put together in under an hour.

Sinfully Spicy: Stir Fried Arbi (Taro root)

Sinfully Spicy: Stir Fried Arbi (Taro root)

There are more than one way I have eaten this root growing up, but necessarily in savory preparations. Never saw a sweet prepared with it, quite unlike the way it is used in the rest of south asia – in making puddings and ice creams or even candy.I thronged our asian grocers almost every weekend until last week I spotted these hairy skinned, mud covered arbi tucked inside a grumpy cardboard box in the corner. Oh my! I notched a little closer, one touch between my palms and in a blink I knew they were perfectly ripe and ready to come home with me.

Sinfully Spicy: Stir Fried Arbi (Taro root)This recipe today is very simple, very less ingredients and really you can taste the sweet gummy tuber in this preparation. You would need to get ajwain (or carrot seeds) though, they lend an amazing flavor which enhance the unique taste as well as aids in digestion of this vegetable. A sprinkle of chaat masala and squirt of fresh lemon juice at the end is one of my favorite ways to dress it up.

Sinfully Spicy: Stir Fried Arbi (Taro root)Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 1 lb arbi (taro root)
  • 3 tablespoon mustard oil
  • 1/4 heaped teaspoon ajwain (carrom seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 1-2 green chillies (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh lemon juice at end)
  • salt to taste
  • Chopped cilantro – for garnish
  • Sprinkle of chaat masala (optional, to taste)

Notes

  1. Grease your palms liberally with oil or wear gloves when handling raw taro root. It could be quite itchy without.
  2. Finish the dish with some sour element, dry mango powder (amchoor) as in the recipe, vinegary or fresh lime/lemon juice. Sometimes, the cooked vegetable can itch the throat. But not to worry. The sour element only adds to the taste.

Method

Using the peeler, peel off the skins of the arbi. Wash under running water. Completely dry with a kitchen towel. Slice length wise into half. Cut batons from each half.

Heat up the oil in a saute pan on medium. Temper the oil with ajwain, cumin,green chillies and hing powder.Immediately add the arbi and stir around to coat the batons in oil. Sprinkle the red chili powder and amchoor. Also add the salt. Stir again to combine.

Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let cook for 12-15 minutes till the arbi is soft but not mushy.

On high heat, saute for 1-2 seconds.

Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve.

Appetizers/Snacks · Brunch · Desserts/Baking

Semolina-Almond Cake

Sinfully Spicy: Semolina Almond Cake With CardamomI remember that many mornings at my badi mummy’s (grand mother’s ) house opened with a warm bowl of sooji halua, a ghee laden dessert made with toasted semolina and milk, speckled with grains of woody black cardamom. In fact,it would not be exaggerating to say that the strong,nutty aroma of toasting sooji filling the air of the house sometimes managed to pull me out of the bed early,especially on the lazy weekend mornings. With half closed eyes, I headed straight to the verandah where we usually ate breakfast . Sometimes, there were cups of chai and warm bowls of halua already waiting to be eaten, many times, the eating had to wait a bit longer, for it took a extra while to roll and deep fry pooris to go along. Yes halua – poori is exactly what I am talking about here, an immensely carbohydrate loaded meal but at the same time so comforting. Those the days when you could eat as much as you wished to.The variety of foods at our mealtimes were many.An amazingly beautiful thing in the house that I grew up in, a tradition that instilled in us the virtue of sharing and caring.In those times, childhood could absorb so much sugar, oil and calories. Much unlike now when a bowl of halua will push me a step closer to long naps during mid day, I remember playing around the aangan (back yard) for hours. Sinfully Spicy: Semolina Almond Cake With CardamomSemolina is quite a popular flour of choice when baking cakes in indian homes.There were a couple of sweet as well as savory cakes that my mother baked for us using it.Most of the cakes were steamed inside the pressure cooker(for she did not own an oven then) and they came out pretty awesome.In contrast to the sugar syrup drizzle that I used in my recipe, inspired by arabic desserts, the pressure cooker cakes from my childhood were really moist and soft.They didn’t need any glaze, drizzle or makeup, as mum says. Sinfully Spicy: Semolina Almond Cake With Cardamom Sinfully Spicy: Semolina Almond Cake With CardamomThis cake is full of flavors from those days of sooji halua eating mornings.The ingredients are very few and the condensed milk and nutty almond meal makes it a lot, lot better than the actual dessert. It is quite a dense cake and a small portions will instantly make you feel full. I would really recommend not skipping that sugar syrup to cut down the sweet else it may taste dry.I do not soak the cake in entire quantity of the syrup and save some to drizzle just when serving. It keeps the cake moist just when you are about to enjoy it. Sinfully Spicy: Semolina Almond Cake With Cardamom You can substitute any nut powder of choice here and make it. Also, I found that this cake travels and packs really well,once it cools down completely and you cut the slices, they can be packaged for lunch boxes, care packages and on the go snacks.Serve with black or green tea. Sinfully Spicy: Semolina Almond Cake With Cardamom Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes a 9″ round)

  • 1 no 14oz sweetened condensed milk can
  • 10 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted + more for the cake pan
  • 1/2 cup +1 tablespoon whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 + 1/3 cup coarse semolina (not the instant,quick cooking kind)
  • 1+1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon green cardamom powder (from 5-6 pods)
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds for top (optional)

For the Sugar Syrup

  • 10 tablespoon crystal sugar (I use raw)
  • 6 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon green cardamom powder (from 2-3 pods)

Notes

  1. I use ready made almond meal, if you plan to make your own, do not crush the blanched almonds to a point that they release their oils.Let there be a coarse sandy texture.
  2. This cake does not rise much. So if you want a high rise cake, use a smaller dish to bake it.

Method

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9 “X 2” round cake pan. I use parchment paper lining for easy handling.

In a large bowl, mix whisk together condenser milk, melted butter, milk and baking powder to smooth slurry. Add semolina and almond meal to it along with cardamom powder. Mix together to combine to a smooth batter. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Scatter the raw almonds on top. Bake for 35 minutes or so or until a skewer comes out clean and the edges are nice and golden brown.

Once the cake is baked, take it out and drizzle liberally with the sugar syrup (recipe below) while still warm.

I sometimes, reserve 1/4 cup or so of the syrup to be used for instant moistening when serving the cake (optional)

Let cool completely. Slice and serve.

For the Sugar Syrup 

While the cake is baking, in a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Cook for 10-12 minutes on low medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup has thickened a bit. Put the stove off and add cardamom powder to the syrup.Keep the syrup warm. Drizzle the warm syrup on the cake as soon it comes out of the oven.

Desserts/Baking · Indian Streetfood/Indo Chines

Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Vermicelli Dessert)


Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)This recipe is my take on the popular indian dessert called ‘rabdi falooda‘, which is basically vermicelli (falooda) soaking in sweet thickened milk(rabdi) and consisting of a burst of texture in every bite, studded with chopped nuts & soaked basil seeds and is usually topped with a big scoop of ice-cream.

To me this dessert brings with itself the memory of my college days. When we set out in the wee hours of the morning for a tour of the city. Shopping in our minds and skipping breakfast so that we could start as early as possible, hopping on to three or four buses (the Delhi metro was not operational back then) and changing routes as per bus schedules that day, we measured length and breath of the city to reach our favorite area in the south of Delhi. If you reached the place by 11 in the morning, the day presented myriad way to shop, eat and relax.Not only you could choose and bargain with the vendors for chunks of bohemian jewelry but reaching early would also mean that the time spent in queue at the eating joints would be less. What I would have on my mind since morning were the silky smooth milk shakes and dense rabri falooda in the tallest tumblers available. After a tiring day, I inhaled the chilled rabri falooda like a portion of ambrosia – full of textural bites and smelling of rose and cardamom.

Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)

Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)

Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)

Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)

Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)

Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)The weather in my part of the world has already touched 80 F and we could not have asked for a better dessert for Holi (indian color festival) last week. This dessert, or if you want, call it a thick sweet cold beverage is served with a straw as well as a spoon.It is an immensely popular as a street food in Delhi but maybe not so much in the rest of India(I could be wrong!) since it was the husband’s first time sampling it.

There are many flavors and combinations that can be done- strawberry, orange, vanilla or butterscotch but my favorite has always been the rose. Prepare the ingredients before you start layering. Add as much or as little of whatever you want. You can use any flavor of jelly or icecream. The loaded the better!So exotic and extremely cooling on a warm day. It is something you are bound to like. I made it last week and served along with homemade rose jelly thrown in. It was well received and all I could say is that I wish I could have made a little more.

Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)

Sinfully Spicy- Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Sweet Vermicelli dessert)

Prepare the ingredients before you start layering. Add as much or as little of whatever you want. The loaded the better!

Ingredients (Makes 2-3 servings)

  • 1 package falooda sev ( 2 oz, or use colored or plain vermicelli)
  • Rabdi, as much as you like (recipe below)
  • Whipped Cream, as much as you like (recipe below)
  • Ice cream, as many scoops you like
  • Rose Jelly, as much as you like (recipe below)
  • Rose Syrup, as much as you like
  • Chopped pistachios or almonds, as much as you like
  • Chopped fruits, any kind, as much as you like
  • Tutti fruitt
  • Soaked holy basil/tukamaria/sabja seeds, as much as you like

For the Rabdi

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2-4 tablespoon sugar (adjust quantity depending on how sweet you desire)
  • 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder

For the Rose Jelly

  •  3 tablespoon water, room temperature
  • 1.5 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 4 tablespoon rose syrup (easily available in indian/pakistani/middle eastern stores, I use this )
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

For the Whipped Cream  

  • 1/2 cup cold whipping cream
  • 1.5 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • pinch green cardamom powder (optional)

Notes

  • Use a dollop your favorite ice cream on top.
  • You can add chia, sunflower seeds for extra crunch.
  • If you do not get rose syrup, use strawberry syrup at the bottom layer and for making jelly.

Method

Making Rabdi (This can be done 1-2 days in advance)

Pour whole milk into a heavy, deep bottom pot (preferably non stick) and put on stove on medium low heat. Let the milk cook till it is reduced to half the quantity.You will need to stir every few minutes or so, make sure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. You can scrape the sides as you stir(this kurchan or lacey thick milk is important to the the texture of rabdi). The milk will thicken and change color to pale. After about 30-40 minutes, you will see that the milk liquid has evaporated and thick solids remain. is thickened. Take off the stove.

Let cool down slightly (about 5-8 minutes). Th milk will be almost custard like. Add sugar & cardamom powder and mix well. Let sit to cool down completely.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or till ready to use.

Making the Rose Jelly (This can be done 1-2 days in advance)

In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoon water and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let bloom.

Meanwhile, in a small jug/tumbler, mix together hot water, rose syrup, sugar and lime juice. Stir so that sugar has dissolved. Add the bloomed gelatin to it.

Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to cool down.

Pour into a small square glass dish and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. Once chilled and set, unmold (by running a sharp knife along the edges and tapping the bottom of inverted dish) and using a sharp knife cut into squares.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Making the Whipped Cream (This can be done 1 day in advance)

In a cold bowl, using a whisk or hand mixer, whip up the cream to soft peaks. Add powdered sugar 1/2 tablespoon at a time and whip to incorporate.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Making Rabdi Falooda

Cook the falooda sev or vermicelli as per package instruction.Let cool completely. Toss the noodles with rose water.Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Keep all the components ready to go.

Layer however you like. I never make tow falooda same! Start with 1 tablespoon rose syrup at the bottom of a tall glass. Add the chilled faloooda(or vermicelli). Add 2-3 tablespoon of cold rabdi. Top with 1 tablespoon chopped nuts, add ice cream scoops and 1-2 cubes of rose jelly.

Repeat 2-3 times to make a layered dessert. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Scatted nuts or tutti frutti.

Serve chilled.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Indian Curry/Stew · Lentils

Dal Makhani – Creamy Lentils



Sinfully Spicy - Dal Makhani (Creamy Lentils)You know I have made these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcased it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it. Put that pressure cooker to work (or the slow cooker if you want) because I have included both methods in the recipe.

Untitled-2Dal Makhani literally translates to “buttery lentils”. It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter, it was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings. And I can very well understand why.These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It’s not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and doze off kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet – acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it. Now, after so many years of making it, I can just tell by the look of them if they are perfectly cooked or not.

Sinfully Spicy - Dal Makhani (Creamy Lentils)

In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by serving something away from the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signature recipe.It’s one of the recipes which she has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the method to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredients come naturally to her, she didn’t pick a measuring spoon if I tell you the truth.

Sinfully Spicy - Dal Makhani (Creamy Lentils)It is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden and full of concentrated fats. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes is different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger & kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a baby food consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite. It works better with my texture -in- food kind of  crazy family.

Sinfully Spicy - Dal Makhani (Creamy Lentils)A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roast the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.

Sinfully Spicy - Dal Makhani (Creamy Lentils)

Ingredients  (Makes 3-4 servings)

Cooking the Lentils

  • 1/2 cup whole black urad dal (lentils)
  • 2 tbsp red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
  • tejpatta (bay leaf)
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Baghaar (Tempering)

  •  1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 large tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
  • 4 tablespoon oil(any neutral)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoon butter 
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
  • Cilantro to garnish

Method

Cooking the lentils  (This can be done a day ahead)

Stove Top Method 

Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Soaking the lentils reduces the cooking times and gets rid of inedible enzymes in them so it’s a important step. Drain the lentil and beans, add the kidney beans to a small pot of water and let boil for 20 minutes separately.Then add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3 whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. Open the pressure  cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.

Slow Cooker Method 

Add the cooked beans along with lentils to slowcooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Set to cook for 8-10 hours.Once cooked, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom.With the help of a spoon, mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them.Let sit.

For the Tempering 

While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a small perforated pan but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and  peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too.Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).

In a pot or kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced  garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the fat starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red. At this point, add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about 3/4 cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.

Once the lentils have simmered, add the kasuri methi, garam masala, nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using) and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.

Let sit for atleast 2-3 hours before serving. They get better as they sit.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm with rotis (flatbreads).

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!