Chana Pulao (Spiced Chickpeas & Rice Pilaf) With Pomegranate Raita



Sinfully Spicy - Chana Pulao (Ric & Chickpea Pilaf) With Pomegranate Raita(Yogurt)

All I think of at the first sight of pomegranates in the grocery stores is to fold the plump ruby jewels with sweetish velvety yogurt and pair the raita with some kind of a spicy pilaf. To me, pulao/pilaf is a very ‘to taste’ thing in indian cuisine. It is like an assortment of things with any sort of grain, mostly rice in our case – quick, one pot but hearty. On days when mom was not in much of mood to cook, she would make some kind of a pulao – with vegetables, beans, dried lentil nuggets or chicken. There would be pickles, salad and raita to serve along.

Come November and the knock of winter winds brought with itself a sudden rush of green and fresh produce in the vegetable bazaars of Delhi.After long, humid and harsh summers,the next few months presented a respite and a chance to indulge in cooking and eating.On few Saturdays I would accompany mom to the sabzi bazaar. Wrapped in my favorite pashmina shawl, we walked out of the house for an early evening stroll and later to purchase vegetables for the week.Those few hours were spent inhaling the crisp autumn air and watching how the nip in the air got people out of their homes, the pleasing sights of street food carts beaming with everybody, eating, chatting and sharing a quick snack with families.We stopped here and there to get buy and bargain fresh eggs, bread and dairy before reaching the sabzi bazaar.Most of the faces at the bazaar were known, for it has been a place of trade between the same set of people for decades.

Mom would patiently listen to household stories of few sabzi wallas(vendors), of their children not studying at school or the gas prices going up. Few complained about government not doing much for the poor and few praising their farms for such fine produce. In India, such is a way of life, so may day-to-day people slowly connect to your life and you do not even realize, it is how the society operates.I always loved to tag along with her for grocery trips just to observe how she would choose vegetables – touching them, sniffing a few, closely inspecting each piece below the flickering bulbs on the stalls of thela-wallas (street vendors with wooden wheeled carts),she took her time to select. If few of the vendors were in a mood, they would slice off a couple of apples or pluck few greens and let her taste before buying.Thick,dark-skinned capsicum to yellowish cauliflower heads to fragrant methi (fenugreek) and soa (dill) bunches to ruby kashmiri anar (pomegranates) and apples, each sample of produce brought with itself an opportunity for deliciousness.

The onset of winters also meant there would be lots of wholesome,hearty meals in the house full of warm spices and herbs. There would be exotic,rich curries and layered biryanis and indulgent desserts. Mom would make a lot of quick rice dishes to keep our stomachs nourished & satisfied. The house would be enveloped in the pungent aroma of mustard oil and earthy fragrance of basmati rice bubbling on the stove. This is one of her favorite recipes which I have changed to our liking over the years, she did not add bell peppers or potatoes, but I love the combination of both of these with chickpeas and rice so I do it more my way now. A weekly regular in our house with all kinds of variations each time.

Ingredients (Serves 3)

You could use canned chickpeas and cut down the cooking time to half but I recommend starting with dried chickpeas and cooking them in water because the resultant delicious stock will flavor the rice immensely.

For the Chickpeas (Skip this step if using canned chickpeas)

  • 1 cup dried raw chickpeas
  • 2 + 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp oil

For the Pulao(Pilaf)

  • 3/4 cup basmati rice
  • 1.5 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt (skip for vegan)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika, this gives the color not the heat)
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or use canola/vegetable/olive oil)
  • 1/2 ” cinnamon stick (indian cinnamon is very sharp so I use less, adjust if using sweet cinammon)
  • 1 small twig of mace
  • 1 indian bay leaf (or regular bay leaf)
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom, cracked open
  • 1/2 cup heaped chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder(adjust to taste)
  • 1-2 medium potatoes, cut in quarters
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cubed
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, crushed)
  • 1-2 tbsp ghee to finish(optional, skip for vegan)
  • Chopped cilantro to garnish
  • Optional – golden raisins, silvered almonds, cashews.

Method 

Soak the chickpeas in enough water overnight or atleasrt 8-10 hours.Drain & discard the water and add the chickpeas to the pressure cooker along with baking soda, salt, water and oil. Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles on medium heat or till chickpeas are fork tender. The cooking time and number of whistles will depend on quality and size of the chickpeas and alson on pressure cooker. I use small variety chickpeas which pressure cook in about 20 minutes. If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid or your dutch over to cook the chickpeas for roughly 45-50 minutes or till fork tender. Once the chickpeas are cooked,drain and reserve the liquid (stock). Set aside.

Skip the above steps if using canned chickpeas. Open up the can and run the chickpeas under a stream of water, drain and set aside.

Wash the basmati rice under 2-3 times under a running stream of water till the water runs clear. Soak in 1.5 cups of water for 15 minutes. (You can do this while the chickpeas are cooking). Also, mix the yogurt with garam masala and kashmiri red chill powder. Set aside. If making for vegans, skip the yogurt and add these spices when you add the tomatoes.

In a wide bottomed heavy pot with lid (I use my 3 qt dutch oven), heat up the mustard oil on medium till you see little ripples on the surface and the raw smell goes away. Add cinnamon,mace bay leaf and cloves and cardamom. Wait till they crackle and you smell a nice aroma. 10-15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic next. Cook till they are light brown. About 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes next along with red chili and turmeric powder. Cook for 2-3 minutes just till the tomatoes begin to soften. Reduce heat to low and add the yogurt mixed with spices. Do not stir immediately else yogurt will curdle. Wait for 30 seconds and gently on low heat(very important) incorporate the yogurt in the masala. Cook for another 1-2 minutes on low heat till the masala starts getting shiny and turning deep reddish- brown in color. Add the potatoes & ginger next and cook along with the masala for another 1-2 minutes.

Next, drain & discard all the water from the soaking rice and add soaked rice and chickpeas to the pot. Do not stir. Measure and add the required quantity of stock (reserved from boiling chickpeas) to the pot. The quantity of stock added should be added as required by your variety of rice(My rice variety cooks in 2:1 ratio of rice to water, I add 2 tbsp extra stock ). (In case you are using canned chickpeas, add chicken/vegetable stock or plain water).

Once you have added the water, check and adjust the salt of the liquid (normally it should be little extra salty at the beginning since the rice will soak up the stock). Also add crushed kasuri methi to. Gently stir now (else the soaked rice will break) and let the rice soak in stock for another 15 minutes.

Once the rice has soaked, cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let cook covered for another 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, open the lid and add the bell peppers to the pot and very lightly mix them in with the help of a fork. Cover and let cook on low for another 2 minutes. After this, put off the stove and let sit for atleast 15 minutes.

Open the lid and add the ghee (if using) along with cilantro, nuts (if using), raisins(is using) on top and gently fluff the rice with fork.

Serve warm with raita(recipe below), salad and pickle.

Pomegranate Raita (Spiced Yogurt)

Ingredients (Serves 3)

  • 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt,cold
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp heaped roasted cumin powder
  • a light pinch of dried mint leaves, crush to dust between hands (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala (a tangy spice mix available in indian/pakistani stores or online)
  • 1/2 tsp black salt (this salt is tangy, substitute with regular)
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (or cayanne, adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (or more/less you like)
  • salt to taste
  • Few fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Method

Beat the yogurt with everything except the pomegranate seeds & salt to smooth. I like the raita thick but if you can thin it with little water if you like. Refrigerate the yogurt for 20 minutes.Just before serving mix in the pomegranate seeds and salt. Sprinkle cilantro. Serve.

Methi Aloo – Fenugreek Leaves With Potatoes

Aloo Methi is a classic loved dish in the northern regions of india during the winter months. As soon as the winter knocks in, a lot of leafy greens could be spotted on the cart of our sabziwala, the vegetable vendor who used to bring us fresh produce everyday. A regular for more than a decade at my grandma’s house, he would bring in a mix of fresh coriander, petite  cauliflowers, slender radishes and baby  potatoes also making sure to stop by the mandi (wholesale market) to stock up his cart with a few pounds of tomatoes, onions and other seasonal produce.Then all day long, he went knocking door to door selling his stash to old and new customers. We did not go to grocery stores then, in those days and even now, such vegetable, fish and poultry vendors bring groceries for fresh meals served on our tables.

Every now and then if not daily, my grandma and him would have funny altercations, her complaining of the vegetables not being ‘that’ fresh and costly, him arguing that his wife cooked a delicious sabzi last night with the same thing. A lot of time my grandma would haggle for that extra bunch of cilantro or few limes for it was deemed totally legit to get free herbs after a hefty purchase. On most days, he gave in to the sweet old lady, packing in a few ounces of green chillies and fragrant mint.As the winters ripened, the leafy produce- spinach, methi, beet & turnip greens, radish, mustard became cheaper and cheaper. Needless to say, it would be a green meals fiesta on our dinner table on most of the days, a garlicky methi aloo to spinach dal to palak paneer or sarson ka saag (mustard curry).

Methi (fenugreek leaves) are used a lot in north indian cooking.Here in the States, you can easily find them fresh in the indian/pakistani stores once the autumn starts to knocks. Avoid using frozen. Broadly, there are two varieties of methi– the small one, with round, dark green and extremely fragrant & delicate leaves called the kasuri methi that you would have noticed me using a lot in my recipes. It has a short season and even during winters it is available only for a couple of weeks. The other variety, the larger one is less fragrant in comparison but has a longer season and can be homegrown easily from methi dana (fenugreek seeds). In indian cooking, seeds as well as leaves, both are used their piquant, bitter flavor. Methi has a unique, tangy bitter flavor which is definitely an acquired taste but trust me it is so addictive.My grandma always used to mix fresh dill (sooaa) leaves whenever cooking methi aloo. Even though I never liked the addition of dill then but now in all these years, I like to add a few tablespoons so that mine comes out tasting like hers. However, do not use a lot of dill as it is a strong herb and can overpower the methi taste. Potatoes lend the dish a nice, comforting earthy flavor as well as balance the bitterness of the greens. Do not be tempted to reduce potato quantity coz then the stir fry will come out quite bitter. The dish is generously flavored with garlic and dried chillies and is a perfect accompaniment to steamed basmati rice dal and a side of mango pickle. The dish keeps very well for hours so you could also wrap up the stir fry in triangle paratha (flatbread) for a hearty lunch at work or school. The dish gets better the next day so plan a few leftovers if you like.

Here are few of my tips and tricks for the best tasting methi aloo that you will make:-

  • When you are cleaning methi, just pick up the leaves and discard the stems. Stems are fibrous and don’t taste that good.
  • Always taste your methi bunch before cooking. Depending on the bitterness, decide whether to use red chili powder or not
  • This sabzi tastes so awesome with baby potatoes or new potatoes. Always semi cook the potatoes first because the methi leaves cook really fast. I usually use par boiled potatoes which finish cooking with the greens.
  • I prefer cooking methi aloo in an iron kadai /cast iron pan, it tastes very good.
  • Don’t skip the amchoor (dry mango powder), its super important and reduces the bitterness of methi. You can also use few teaspoons of lemon juice instead.

Methi Aloo – Fenugreek With Potatoes

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Methi Aloo – Fenugreek With Potatoes

An indian homestyle sabzi of methi (fenugreek greens) and poatoes flavored with hing, cumin, fenugreek seeds and amchoor. Serve with dal rice or flatbreads.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cup methi leaves (from about 4 bunches)
  • 2 large par boiled potatoes, cold, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tbsp pure mustard oil (mustard oil adds a authentic flavor but grapeseed/avocado oil can be used)
  • 1/3 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/3 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 3 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 dried whole chilies
  • scant pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder (skip if the methi is very sharp)
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill leaves, chopped optional
  • 1/3 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Pick up the tender shoots and leaves from the long, fibrous methi stems. This step takes time. Then, soak and wash the leaves under running water 2-3 times to remove all the dirt. On a clean kitchen towel, spread the washed methi to completely air dry for atleast 30 to 45 minutes. If you are in a hurry, use paper towel to press down and absorb all the moisture. Ensure that the leaves are totally dry once you are ready to cook else the sabzi will come out watery.Once the methi leaves are dry, chop them.
  • In an iron karahi or heavy pan, heat up the mustard oil on medium until the raw smell goes away. Once hot, temper the oil with methi dana and cumin seeds. Wait till they crackle. Turn the heat to low and immediately add the chopped garlic hing and dried chillies. Wait till the garlicchanges color to light brown and the dried chillies swell, about 10-12 seconds in hot oil. Take utmost care that the garlic does not burn. You can even put off the stove for few minutes.
  • Reduce the stove to low and next add the potato cubes and sprinkle the turmeric and chili powder. Stir around and get the potatoes started in oil. Cook the potatoes for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the chopped methi leaves. Stir to combine. The methi leaves will wilt down in 1-2 minutes and you will see the water of the methi  separating. Let cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes on medium low heat and then add the dill. Add the salt next. Stir so that everything is combined. Cover for a 3-4 minutes and cook until the potatoes are done.
  • Once done, methi will be a darker shade of green and will stick to potatoes. Put off the heat, sprinkle amchoor, mix gently (so that potatoes dont break) and let sit for at least 1-2 hours before serving (this is important).
  • Warm up and serve.

Murgh Saagwala – Spinach Chicken

Whenever I pick up a bundle of palak(spinach) at the grocery store -all organic & prewashed & ready to serve and what not, always, without a miss, I think about the vegetable patch(es) in my grandmother’s house,a house where I lived in some 18 years back, having a backyard planted with tomatoes and okra during summers and cauliflowers & potatoes during winters.One where the air would strongly smell of agarbatti (incense sticks) in the evenings which were often lighted to wade away the bugs from the eggplant bush, one which had rows dotted with yellow and orange marigolds & english roses.One where each morning,I strolled along the narrow, wet sidewalks brushing my teeth,bending down to sniff the strong fragrance of tulsi (holy basil) plants.One where I spent a lot of childhood days,counting the ready-to-pluck green beans and tearing leaves apart to spot the cabbage buns. A backyard where you could find us after coming back from school, dressed in printed cotton frocks,bare feet, digging mud and playing hide and seek within the squash creepers.

I visited India last year and everything is the same, the yard still planted with seasonal crop but now more taken care of by maali (gardener) than the family. Mom made dal and she sprinkled a bunch of chopped coriander leaves on top,picked from there. I plucked a few narangi (indian kumquat) from the bush which has now turned into a small tree in all theses years and popped it into my mouth with a pinch of salt, the burst of citrus tang running goose pimples all over my body, bringing memories with itself of the days when squirts of that sweet acid graced our daliya (breakfast porridge) every now and then. I tore up a few spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves and chewed on them, a wish which I had nestled for so many years to experience that unforgettable earthly, delicate taste all over again.

I wanted our daughter to play  and get her hands dirty in the mud but she could barely crawl at that time, so that fun has to wait till our next visit. But, embraced in all these memories, I made this murgh (chicken) saag (any leafy green) last week and she really loved it. This recipe is a perfect balance of greens and protein to nourish kids and adults alike.You would have seen this dish on indian restaurant’s menus a lot. But it is not something I grew up with. I started making it regularly a couple of years back, mostly around my pregnancy years when I craved spinach all the time. This recipe has evolved a lot from the first time I cooked it.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

For the Spice Rub on Chicken

  • 4-5 whole dry kashmiri red chilies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 5 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
  • 2 small black cardamom pods, cracked open
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 tsp canola or sunflower oil

Rest of the Ingredients

  • 6-8 oz fresh spinach leaves (~ a little more than 1 cup spinach puree)
  • 5 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf, preferable indian
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 -1 tbsp thinly Julienne fresh ginger (adjust quantity to taste)
  • salt
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala 
  • 1 tsp heaped kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup water (depending on desired consistency of sauce)
  • 3-4 tbsp heavy cream

Method

Wash thoroughly and pat the chicken pieces completely dry. Set aside. In a small pan, dry roast the kashmiri chilies, coriander seeds, cloves, fennel,methi, cumin and black peppercorns. Transfer to a coffee grinder and coarsely grind. Mix the ground spices with turmeric, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, add the chicken, drizzle the oil and sprinkle half of the ground spices and rub so that all the pieces are covered in the spices. Reserve the rest of the spice rub. Cover the bowl and set in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours or preferably overnight to marinate.

Once ready to cook,take the chicken out from the refrigerator and let sit on kitchen counter.Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Put off the heat.Add the spinach leaves to the water and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Drain out the spinach leaves and puree in the food processor using little water if required. You can reserve the boiled water to thin out the sauce later if you want. 

Meanwhile,heat up the mustard oil in another wide, heavy bottomed pot. Add the cinnamon, bay leaf and let crackle. Add the onions and garlic next. Let cook for 5-8 minutes on medium low heat until the onion starts to turn brown. At this point, carefully add the chicken pieces to the pot in a single layer (if possible), and on medium high heat, let the chicken pieces sear on one side. Flip and let sear on all sides. Next, add the tomatoes, ginger and remaining ground spice powder to the pot. Stir around and let cook on medium heat till you see, tomatoes turn soft and oil just starting to separate on the side of the pan.It might take 8-10 minutes since the chicken will also release its juices but keep on cooking.

Once you see that the chicken is about 80% cooked, add the pureed spinach along with the garam masala. Combine and cover till the spinach blends in the sauce, the raw smell is gone, it turns down in color to dark green and the chicken is completely cooked, about 10-12 minutes on medium heat. You will see little glistening spinach bubbles on the top.Open the lid, add the kasuri methi and water (depending on the consistency you want). Let simmer for another 1-2 minutes.Add the heavy cream, check and adjust the salt, let simmer for 2-3 minutes more (but do not boil).

Let sit for 2-3 hours before serving.Warm up and serve.

Notes :-

  1. You can use bone in chicken for this recipe. Use dark meat portions and make incisions in the flesh with a sharp knife before you marinate it.
  2. When you puree the spinach, do not make a smooth paste out of it (that’s why I do not use a blender). Use as less water as possible when grinding spinach.
  3.  If you like a bit of smoky flavor then you can grill the chicken but I prefer searing it in the cooking pot itself.
  4. You could use a mix of greens – kale and spinach work beautifully, so does spinach and methi(fresh fenugreek).
  5. The addition of heavy cream makes the dish a lot tastier and rich but you can skip the cream if you want.

Enjoy & Thanks for Stopping by!

Baingan Aloo (Eggplant & Potato Stirfry)

Eggplant season is here and I am all over it. Biting into that sweet flesh dotted with soft seeds, I always admire how this delicious vegetable absorbs any kind of goodness thrown to it in good measure.Be it the flavored oils or the profusely strong-tasting spices,squirts of citrus or a mellow yogurt dressing, it takes all. Robust yet so simple and earthly to relish, I have been regularly making eggplant  pakoras and bharta, roasting it, open fire grilling it and what not.

I totally disliked it as a kid and the same was true for most members of our family. Except for pakoras, I rarely touched it. In the real way, I embraced it as an edible item during those couple of years when I turned a pure vegetarian.

I always like September for the overlap it brings – the summer bounty is still in the markets but the autumn produce can be spotted on the stands. I am still getting to slice fresh strawberries for my daughter’s breakfast and at the same time I hand over crunchy apples to her as a snack. It is so fascinating how seasons change and that change is first thing evident in the farmer’s markets. I went for grocery shopping the labor day weekend and was surprised how pears and apples have popped overnight on the stands.Can you believe I spotted a few pumpkins and parsnips already! Gosh, where did summer go.

For us, especially on the days when like to keep it meat free, a simple meal comprises of lentils, a dry vegetable curry and rice. We sit down to eat together, mostly eat with our fingers, squeezing out that juicy flesh off the peel, smashing the potatoes and mixing it in with ghee smothered dal-rice. Yum! If not with rice, you could roll this up inside whole wheat flatbreads if you like. Go make some before the season goes away.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or olive/canola oil)
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled & cut (I use yellow potatoes)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, divided
  • 1 medium globe eggplant or 4-5 japanese eggplants
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes (I use fresh roma)
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder, skip or use fresh lime juice to taste)
  • scant pinch of garam masala (optional but lends a nice smoky hint)
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped Cilantro to garnish

Method

In a kadhai/wok, heat up the oil. If you are using mustard oil you will need to heat it up for up to 1-2 minutes to do away the raw smell. Just take care that is not smoking. Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to low and add the fenugreek and cumin seeds.Let crackle. Immediately add the garlic and hing. Let cook for 5-7seconds taking care they do not burn.  (You do not want the garlic to turn bitter as it changes the taste of the recipe, take the kadhai off the heat if you feel that its too hot)

Add the potatoes next and let their outer surface crisp up for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle a little salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder as they brown. Next, add 1 tbsp water, cover and let cook on medium low heat till the potatoes are 50% tender.

Meanwhile, wash the eggplant and cut it up roughly the same size as the potatoes.

Add the eggplant along with tomatoes, rest of the turmeric, red chili and dry mango powder. Also add the salt. Mix well so that everything is covered in spices. Cover and let cook till both eggplant and potatoes are tender. On medium low heat this should take 7-10 minutes.(This time will depend on the variety and size of the vegetables)

Take off the lid and sprinkle the garam masala and kasuri methi. On high heat, gently toss everything for another 1-2 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro & serve.

Dal Tadka – Tempered Yellow Lentils


If you ever chance upon a dinner or lunch in India, dal or lentils is a must thing on the meal table. In north indian states it could be a choice between kaali dal (black lentils) or dal tadka (the yellow ones) but in other parts, quintessentially, it has to be the yellow one. Generously tempered with a fat (ghee, coconut,mustard or sesame oil) &  the crackling spices – cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves or mustard seeds, it is further flavored with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, onions, chilies (both green & red),turmeric and even jaggery (sugar).Essentially dal is quite an aromatic and soul nourishing food.

I like to compare dal preparation in Indian homes to the roasted chicken in the west. It is such a simple thing to make but the taste of dal can vary easily between two cooks.Comforting and satisfying food compounded with warm, smooth texture and laced with hints of spices. Every home has its own way of making it and that recipe is no doubt the best, certainly better than how it is done in your home (in case we get into an altercation ever!). We eat dal on days when we are sick as well as on days when we want to feast.Mostly severed with a spicy pickle (green mango in our house) and dollops of ghee on top, steamed basmati rice is the best vehicle for dal. In India, dal sums up the daily protein chunk for majority of indians who are pure vegetarians especially the ones who refrain from eggs also.

Between me and the husband we are poles apart when it comes to a favorite dal. For me its the black lentils which, at some point, I could eat every day with rotis (flatbread) but he is more of a chawal (rice) – dal kind. Since I mostly lost a knack for lentils after my pregnancy (its both amazing & weird what giving birth does to you!), he is having it his way in the house now.I usually mix a couple of lentils whenever cooking and the toor/arhar (split pigeon pea lentils) are an important ingredient here. Sadly I haven’t spotted it in regular or bulk grocery stores here so you might want to visit an indian/pakistani store to get it.

 

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

  • 1/3 cup arhar/toor dal (pigeon pea lentils,husked & split )
  • 1/3 cup masoor dal (red lentils,husked & split )
  • 2 tbsp moong dal (golden lentils,husked &split )
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped onion (I use red onion)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes (I use Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 fat garlic clove,finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp ghee, melted
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water +more
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder, substitute with fresh lime juice to taste)
  • Chopped Cilantro

For Tadka (tempering)

  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 whole dried kashmiri red chilies
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 2-3 whole red chilies

Notes –

  • The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time could be more. Also keep in mind that you use either all split or all whole when choosing lentils for this recipe
  • Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form. It aids digestion & is used more often than not in indian cooking, also a little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to dal but can be skipped if you do not have it.
  • If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but you can use any neutral oil.

Method

Thoroughly wash all the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Add chopped onion, tomatoes,garlic, ginger(if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 1 whistle (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30- 40 minutes or till completely tender.

Once you open the lid, add amchoor to the dal. With the help of a whisk or a spoon, thoroughly mash the lentils so that they are creamy. If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, return to the stove and let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds and let crackle. Also add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the garlic and let it cook for 30 seconds or so taking care that it does not burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and close the lid so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Top with chopped cilantro and serve.

Vegetable Fried Rice

With the summer in full swing, this easy fried rice is suddenly a favorite in the house for quick meals.Combining deeply flavored,saltiness of dark soy sauce with nuttiness from sesame oil, the sweet crunch of fresh vegetables and hints of aroma from indian spices, this rice comes together in no time if you have a big rice portion leftover from last meal. The recipe can be twisted and turned to suit the occasion and the crowd you are serving to – add any assortment of vegetables (or fruits - pineapple, apricots, raisins)and any protein you like. Though a warm bowl is good on its own but I like to make hot chicken or manchurian along side sometimes for a hearty meal.Someone like me who prefers flatbreads to accompany our meals is enjoying it a lot.

 I had conveniently forgotten but when WordPress wished me a lot many years to fly with them, I realized!! Four summers. It has been four years of sharing little anecdotes of my life and recipes with all of you.Sometimes I wonder how much memories from life back in India and childhood or teens could my mind still retain even though I always thought otherwise. It has been a gratifying journey so far. Thank you for the love and support.This blog has been a wonderful nook to share and connect with all you who are hungry for indian food. Thank you so much for your interest and loving my country’s cuisine.

Coming back to the recipe, I quite marvel at the brilliant concept of fried rice in asian cuisine. From Thai to Indonesian to Filipino, each fried rice is different yet wonderfully flavored. I have talked about indo chinese cuisine in my past posts and this recipe is another addition to that collection. This indian style fried rice  stems from the chinese variant but the use of spices lend it notes of warmth and aromatic smokiness. I have been making fried rice for many years and have learnt a few things through trial and error. I guess this is the right post to share my little tips with you.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 .5 tbsp pure sesame oil
  • 3-4 fat garlic pods, finely chopped
  • 1 Thai green chili, slit
  • 1/3 cup red onion, finely sliced
  • 6 scallion stalks, green & white parts chopped separately
  • 3/4 tsp ginger, minced (adjust to taste)
  • 2 cups shredded/julienned vegetables (I used cabbage, green&red bell pepper, blanched green beans, carrots)
  • 3 cups cooked rice, cold
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • scant pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp red chili flakes (adjust to tolerance)
  • 3/4 tsp Chilli tomato Sauce (I use this, you could use ketchup or 1/2 tsp tomato paste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp white vinegar (adjust to taste)
  • 1.5 tbsp butter, melted (optional, see notes)
  • chopped cilantro

Notes

  • Adding butter at the end may seem a bit unusual, but this is a small secret I learned from the husband who makes some mean fried rice. Try it.
  • The rice from the this recipe has pronounced hints of ginger, you can omit or cut down the quantity if you do not like it.
  • You can vary the ratio of neutral oil to sesame oil based on your liking. You could even cook using either of the oils, I am just sharing the ratio that we prefer.
  • Add tofu, fried egg, pre cooked shrimp,chicken or any kind of protein in the recipe just at the end and warm it through with the rice.

Method

Heat up the sunflower & sesame oils in a wide skillet or pan ( I use 12″) on medium high. Add the garlic and green chili to the oil and sauté for 20-30 seconds or so till you see tiny blisters on the chili skin. Take care that the garlic doesnt burn. Add the red onion next along with white scallion parts. Saute for 2-3 minutes on medium high till the onions soften and begin to turn light brown.At this point add the ginger along with the chopped vegetables.Sprinkle a pinch of salt and let the vegetables cook for 2-3 minutes till they are tender but not mushy and still have a bite. (This time will depend on how thick/thin you have cut the vegetables).

Next turn the heat to lowest possible on your stove and add the cold rice to the pan.Also add the soy sauce,turmeric, garam masala, red chili powder & chili tomato sauce. Toss around so that the rice is covered in all therse . Check and adjust the salt (remember that if you are adding butter at the end, it has salt too). Turn the heat to medium for a minute or so till the rice is warmed through.Do not stir too much

Put off the heat and while the rice is still warm, add the green scallion parts, vinegar, butter(if using) and chopped cilantro. Using fork or chopsticks toss around and serve immediately.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Tandoori Chicken

On evenings coming back from work, when the bus was running terribly behind schedule, I volunteerd to get down way before my stop and walk down home.The side walk still wet from the rain spells an hour or two before smelled of decaying earth and lush green foliage all along looked as fresh as just bathed.The moist breeze of monsoon evenings was a much sought break after spending the whole day in air conditioning.

The fastest way to home get to home was through of busy market surrounded by the yellow government quarters (apartments) which looked like tiny match boxes stuffed on top of each other. In India, such streets are dotted with places to eat and these little food joints have been around for so many years that they turn into local favorites.

There was is a take out restaurant which was one of our favorites for non vegetarian food in the area. All you notice as a passerby were two or three young men wearing colored vests standing in front of the clay oven (tandoor)on one side,their hands stained in spices skewing marinated birds and tikka on to the slender iron bars, and some making rumali roti (paper thin flatbreads) on the other side. The aroma of smoke & cooked dough clinged to the blanket of air surrounding the entrance and the eternal long queue at the coupon station was a common sight.

When we went to Delhi last year, I made sure that the husband tastes the food from there. I remember we ordered garlicy naan, butter chicken and tandoori chicken for home delivery. Its been quite a while and we still talk about the meal from that night so you know what I mean. There must be thousands of places in Delhi serving bestest tandoori chicken but this little restaurant thriving in a tiny pocket of big city is where most of my family memories are woven around – of celebration, of laughter of cheerful Sunday meals around the table.

This recipe  took me quite a few attempts to get together. In India,the tandoori is more charred and blackish in appearance  than the orange hued you see here at restaurants. Infact, if you use good quality turmeric and kashmiri chilli powder, ideally the reddish-orange color should come along on its own during high heat roasting. In India, we do not eat chicken skin, so whenever making tandoori, use skinless chicken, the meat should be succulent and moist on the inside & chewy on the outside (not crispy).

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken drumsticks  (my package weighed total 2 lb, you could use any dark meat cut)
  • oil for basting
  • For serving - Chaat masala, onion slices, lemon wedges, fresh chopped cilantro.

First Marinade

  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne (adjust to tolerance)

Second Marinade

  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 black cardamom, seeds only
  • 1 green cardamom, seeds only
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 raw cashews, broken (or use 2 tbsp cashew meal)
  • 1 small twig of cinnamon (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup thick plain yogurt
  • 1″ fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1.25 tbsp chaat masala
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (this lends the color,not the heat)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • scant pinch of ajwain seeds
  • 1 tbsp ghee, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp good quality saffron threads (optional)

Notes:

  1. Indian cinnamon is quite sharp as compared to the sweet cinnamon used in the west, that’s why I have noted a small quantity, adjust as per taste but do not go overboard.
  2. Black Cardamom has no substitute in this recipe. It has a woody, strong flavor and aroma much different that the sweet smelling cardamom. If you do not have it simply skip it.
  3. Chaat Masala is a tangy blend of spices which is used in indian cuisine.In this recipe it makes the marinade thick as well as lends it distinct hints of sharpness & smokiness,if you do not have it, use some lemon juice and a bit of roasted cumin powder in its place. If you want you can order online  or buy at indian/pakistani store. It keeps well for almost a year and can be used in salads, roasted vegetables or meats etc.
  4. You can make the tandoori marinade and immediately freeze it up to a month. When using, thaw it in the refrigerator and mix in the proteins or vegetables you are using.
  5. I recommend not using lean or boneless cuts like chicken breast for making tandoori because the high heat of cooking will immediately make the poultry chewy. You could use whole boneless thighs though.

Method

Skin the chicken and wash it under a running steam of water. Using paper towels, completely pat the chicken dry.Using a sharp knife, make incisions in the chicken and place in a bowl. Thoroughly rub the chicken with lemon juice, salt and chili powder. Set in the refrigerator.

Lightly crush the the black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon in mortar & pestle.Place them into the blender. Add the cashews, yogurt,ginger, garlic, garam masala, chaat masala, kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, nutmeg, ajwain, ghee, saffron and salt to the blender.Blend everything very very well till a smooth paste is formed. Refrigerate this paste for 30 minutes for flavors to mix.(If its not very hot, you can leave it on the kitchen counter top else in the fridge so that yogurt does not turn sour)

Mix in the chicken and the marinade and let sit refrigerated for 18-24 hours (at least). This time of marination is really important. You could marinate up to 2 days in advance.

Once ready to cook, leave the chicken pieces out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil (this makes cleaning easy) and set a rack over it. Also, preheat your oven to its highest temperature  (600 F in my case). Place the chicken pieces over the rack and roast for 20 -25 minutes or until done, basting liberally with oil. Use a lot of oil for basting, this is very important for a moist chicken. You will need to open up the oven door and brush the chicken 3-5 times, keep on turning it to cook on all sides. Alternatively you could grill the chicken outdoors,basting it at intervals

Serve hot immediately with chaat masala, onion slices, lemon wedges, fresh chopped cilantro.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Rajma Masala

Spice laden tomato(ey) sauce, gooey beans, hints of cinnamon and cardamom, steamed rice on the side and lots of fresh cilantro on top.This pretty much sums up rajma (kidney beans)-chawal(rice). Quite similar to the warming pot roast, we pretty much savor this dish every other Sunday afternoon in the house followed by a long nap which by all means is the necessary element of the brunch ritual. This north indian kidney beans curry is spicy and comforting, all of you who love beans and a side of carbohydrate (potatoes/rice) would know how addictive it can get, just few minutes into eating.

When I think something comforting – an event, a memory, food, travel or in general, any milestone of life, I want to be in that moment and think more and even more about it.These days, I seem to remember my home in India a lot. The routine of daily life back there keeps on flashing in my mind now and then.Our domestic help sitting on the floor peeling and chopping squash, talking about the other homes she works in, mum next to her and grinding fresh chilies and garlic in our decade old mortar & pestle. They discussed nuances of long power cuts- the preparations that precede it, casually chatting about unusually above normal temperatures and yet how late monsoons have been this year. In between, my mum would pour her elaichi chai with few crumbly rusks, both having a good ladies time.

While I brew my green tea on summer afternoons, my lil daughter napping, I also prepare dinner side by side, it is such a pleasant time to dig pockets of such spontaneous memories when I am all by myself in the house. It’s a warm feeling – nostalgic & bitter – sweet at the same time.

When I severely miss home, it’s just left to the meals to comfort us. Talk about comforting and rajma masala is my soul food. Not only because of how hearty it is but also because how uncomplicated the flavors are.Its bright and nourishing, its simple and doesnt need you to baby sit the pot. You could start with a simple masala, add the beans, let simmer and done. As a variation add vegetables (I am thinking whole baby potatoes or even few chopped greens here), why not? I personally like to serve it alongside paneer bhurji, rounding off our punjabi meal.

If you happen to taste this dish at restaurants, it comes rich and heavy, the base recipe remains similar but the final dish is finished with butter and cream. Most Indian restaurants in the west do not cook like how indians cook at home. I donâ€t know how this piling on of the fat started.The way rajma masala is made in rural, punjabi homes is a far cry from the overbearing use of butter and cream, it is homely and essentially what true Indian food is like. That said, stay clear of butter pool and make this kidney bean curry -  delicious, healthy & comforting!

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1 cup red kidney beans, raw (make sure the beans are not more than 6 months old, I buy my stock from Whole Foods)
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 1/4 heaping cumin seeds
  • small twig of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 fresh Thai green chillies, whole or slit (adjust to tolerance)

For the Sauce

  • 5 tbsp mustard or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes (slightly sour)
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder/cayenne (adjust quantity to tolerance)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • Salt
  • Chopped cilantro

Method

Cooking the beans

Note – Skip this step if using canned beans, add the whole spices listed under cooking the raw beans at the time when you make the sauce.

Soak the kidney beans in enough water overnight or for at least 8 hours. This is an important step if you are using raw beans, if not soaked enough, the recipe will not turn out well. Once the beans have swelled, drain and discard the water. Transfer the kidney beans to a pressure cooker. Add 3.5 cups water, cloves, cardamom, tejpatta, cumin, cinnamon, oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Close the lid of the cooker and pressure cook on medium heat for 2-3 whistles or till the beans are 95% cook. An easy indicator to know if the beans have cooked is that the skin starts peeling off from few of them but the shape is intact. You could cook the beans open in on stove top till tender for approximately 45-50 minutes.

Once the beans have cooked, pick up the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, tejpatta and discard. Transfer the cooked beans and stock to a bowl and mix in the ginger and whole chillies. Let sit while you make the sauce.

Making the Sauce

In the same cooking pot/pressure cooker that you boiled the beans,add the oil and heat on medium till you see ripples on the surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat tills it’s about to smoke so that the raw smell goes away.

Reduce heat to slightly and add the finely chopped onions and garlic and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with chili, coriander,turmeric and amchoor powder. Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pan. About 10-12 minutes. If you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some stock. Cook thoroughly.This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, please do not rush.Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color.

Add the boiled beans to the pot next along with all the stock.Check and adjust the salt. Add the garam masala & kasuri methi. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes.

Once the beans have simmered, removed from heat and let sit undisturbed for 2-3 hours.

Serve warm garnished with cilantro.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Aam ka Achaar – Green Mango Pickle

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

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

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

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

Printable Recipe 

Ingredients (Makes about 16 oz)

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

Notes –

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

Method

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

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

Place the mango pieces in a wide glass dish (I use my pyrex) and add the spices mixed before. Sprinkle the salt. With a clean and dry spoon or fingers, mix well such that spices and salt loosely stick to mango pieces. Add 150 ml of mustard oil and mix it well. At this point, the achaar will have a very strong smell and a bitter taste but that’s okay.  Allow it to stand in full sun for two days. Try to stir the achaar once or twice a day with a clean, dry spoon.

On the third day transfer the achaar into a glass or porcelain jar, check and adjust the salt and top with remaining oil and mix well. Cover the mouth of the jar with a muslin cloth, tie with a string and let mature for seven to ten days in sun. ( this time will depend on the strength of sun in the area you live).Stir the contents once or twice a day.

At the end of sun fermentation, the skin of the mango would be brownish and the strong, bitter taste will go away. Store at room temperature for up to 10-12 months. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickle. 

Enjoy & Thanks for Stopping by!

Chicken in Hot Garlic Sauce (IndoChinese)

I start craving that chicken in hot garlic sauce severely,one with bits of garlic and crispy morsels coated in a deep flavored, sticky and hot reddish sauce. With no recipe to follow, it is just left to receding memories to build one.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)1 lb boneless chicken thighs,skinless1 tbsp all-purpose flour1 garlic pod, minced1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce ((I use Chingâ€s brand)pinch of  turmeric powder1/2 tsp salt1/2 tsp black pepperOil for skillet frying (I used sunflower)Use tofu, paneer and assorted vegetables for a vegetarian version of this recipeFor the Sauce8 garlic pods5-6 whole red Kashmiri chillies (adjust to tolerance, de seed if you like )1 tsp roasted white sesame seeds1-2 Thai bird chili, whole2 tsp dark soya sauce (I use Chingâ€s brand)3 tbsp chilli tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)2.5 tsp honey (or brown sugar)1 tsp coriander powder1/4 turmeric powder3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to tolerance)1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced1 tsp pure sesame oil (optional but recommended)2 tsp corn starch2/3 cup chicken/vegetable stock or water3-4 tbsp oil (I used sunflower, use any neutral oil)4 scallion stalks, white & green cut separately1/2 cup thin sliced red onionSalt to taste1.5 tbsp white vinegar (adjust to taste)1/4 tsp garam masalaFor Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts)MethodPreparationSoak the whole red chillies in warm water for 20 minutes.Cut the cleaned chicken into bite size pieces. Rub it with flour, garlic, chili, soya sauce, turmeric, salt & pepper and let sit for about 25-30 minutes.While the chicken is marinating, using your mortar and pestle or mini processor, crush the garlic, sesame seeds and soaked red chillies to tiny bits.You could use some soaking water if required for blending.In a small bowl, mix up the soya sauce, chili tomato sauce, honey and sesame oil(if using). In another bowl, mix the cornstarch with the stock and set aside.CookingIn a wide skillet (I used my 12″), heat up 2-3 tbsp of oil on high. Layer the marinated chicken pieces on the skillet and let sear on both sides, flipping in between. Make sure that the chicken pieces cook all the way through. This may take about 7-8 minutes or more depending on size of pieces.Once done, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and reserve the dripping in the skillet itself.Add the 3 tbsp oil into the same skillet and heat it up on medium. Add the crushed garlic- chili paste as well as the whole green chili to it and fry up these for 20-30 second or so till you smell the aroma. Be careful that the garlic does not burn. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & onions and cook on medium high for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander, turmeric,ginger and soya sauce mix made earlier, let cook for 3-4 minutes till everything starts looking glossy or till you see bubbles on the sides.Next, add the cornstarch mix to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-3 minutes till the sauce thickens slightly.Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Sprinkle the garam masala & vinegar to the skillet and stir everything well. Add the chicken & toss so that the pieces are evenly coated.Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.