Category Archives: Indian

Chicken Khichda / Haleem

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It is Eid today… the day that marks the end of Ramzan or Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. For the past 29 – 30 days, devout Muslims the world over do not eat anything from dawn to sunset. However when the sun goes down everyday, at Iftar, the fast is broken.

If you walk through streets around the Bombay Central Station, Mohammed Ali Road, Dongri, Mahim – There’s such an atmosphere of festivity! The streets are lit up with fairy lights, groups of people milling about, all dressed up & the roads lined with stalls selling everything from bright clothes to jewellery & shoes to… of course… Food! Oh! It’s such a treat! It’s been a while, but I remember for a couple years, going down to Mohammed Ali Road with my friends at least once during Ramzan during Iftar, to, well put it politely, stuff ourselves silly!

You wouldn’t know where to start! Of course, if you were fasting, you would with dates & some fruit from the dried fruit & juice stalls & then move on to the real stuff. But that never applied to us! We went straight for the meat & chicken Kebabs, Tikkas (marinated chunks of Chicken or Lamb grilled to melt-in-the-mouth perfection over charcoal), Naans (flat bread), Baida Rotis (thin, soft flatbread stuffed with meat, coated with eggs & deep fried), Biryaani (saffron & spice laced rice layered with a flavourful meat or chicken gravy), my favourite Khichda / Haleem! You can’t end the feast without anything sweet… so there are Malpuas (crisp little pancakes deep fried in clarified butter) served with Rabdi (sweet, creamy, thickened milk) or Phirni (a delicate rice pudding flavoured with cardamom) in little clay pots… The feast is surely not for the faint hearted!

For the past 8 – 9 years (maybe more!), we’ve been invited to be part of the Iftar & Eid celebrations at the Khan residence… & that is another experience altogether! Pure gastronomical heaven! The everyday food out there is out of this world… so you can imagine what these special dinners would be like! Nalli, Biryaani, Kebabs, Mutton cooked the Moghlai way, Khichda.. & of course Auntie’s special Sheer Khurma (a special vermicelli pudding)! How our dear friend turned vegetarian & more importantly, remained one, growing up in this household, is something that always baffles me!

Gosh I’m salivating as I write this, & feeling rather sorry for myself as I’m going to miss the festivities, being with my friends (who are more like family) & of course the food at the Eid dinner at the Khans’, for the second year in a row! I’m in my home away from home, Jaipur, working (for a change!) for 2 weeks 😦

I knew I was going to be missing out so, a few days before I left Bombay, I made my favourite Khichda / Haleem for my family! Khichda is a one-dish meal, comfort in a bowl… I love it! And this is my first attempt at making it!

I used these websites as a reference for the recipe – Khana Pakana & Kulsum Mehmood, & followed the tips & suggestions given to me by the lovely elderly Bohri Kaka (uncle) who sold me the ingredients at Crawford Market  (the one stop wholesale bazaar in Bombay for everything!) 🙂

So here it is the recipe for a meal that satisfies the soul, with a special Eid Mubarak to everyone!

Ingredients

Polished Whole Wheat

Mixed Lentils

  • 250 gm Polished Whole Wheat Grains
  • 150 gm Mixed Daals (red, white & yellow lentil & Bengal gram)
  • 450 gm Boneless Chicken Pieces
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • Red Chilli Powder (to taste)
  • Turmeric Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Dhania – Jeera / Cumin & Coriander Seed Powder
  • Special Haleem Spice (recommended by the sweet Kaka at the shop)

Spices

  • 2 stick Cinnamon
  • 3 – 4 Cardamom
  • 2 Star Anise
  • Mace
  • a pinch Nutmeg Powder
  • 1 large Onion (finely sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter – Lots of it!

To Serve:

  • 3 large Onions (finely sliced & deep fried)
  • Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Special Haleem Spice
  • Lemon Wedges
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter

Method

  • Soak the wheat overnight (at least 8 – 10 hours) in a large vessel filled with water. Pour in 1-2 teaspoons oil & some salt. (Kaka’s tip: Do not wash the wheat or disturb it while soaking. It affects the cooking process)
  • Soak the lentils for about 2 hours.

Marinated Chicken

  • Dry roast the cinnamon, cloves, star anise, mace & cardamom & grind to a fine powder.
  • Marinate the chicken pieces with ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric, the spice powder from Step 3, nutmeg powder, 2 teaspoon Haleem spice, cumin & coriander powder & mint leaves. Leave to rest for about an hour.
  • In a large heavy bottomed vessel, heat 2 – 3 tablespoons of ghee, add the onions & sauté till the onions turn golden.
  • Add the marinated chicken & stir fry for about 10 minutes. Add more ghee if you need to, don’t be shy!
  • Drain the soaked wheat & lentils & add to the chicken.

Soaked Wheat Grains, Lentils & Marinated Chcken

  • Add enough water to cover the chicken & grains, plus some more & simmer on a low flame.
  • Now this is where patience kicks in! Allow the chicken & grains to cook for 6 – 7 hours, stirring regularly. (I kid you not! That’s how long it took! You could pressure cook the whole thing. But Kaka said the true taste emerges when the Khichda is slowly cooked over a long time. I believe him! It’s totally worth it.)
  • Add more water if it gets too thick or starts to stick to the bottom of the vessel.
  • Once the wheat has softened (around 6 hours later), take the vessel off the flame, remove the chicken pieces & keep aside. Using a hand blender make the wheat & lentil mixture as smooth as possible. Add the chicken back to this thick, porridge-like mixture & place the vessel on a very low flame.

The Khichda Cooking Slowly

  • Add another 2 teaspoons of the Haleem spice & check the seasoning. (I find it easier to taste my way through a dish like this, so at this point if you feel you need to add more salt, chilli or spices, go right ahead!)
  • If possible, leave the vessel on the flame till you are ready to serve.

To Serve

The Condiments – Melted Ghee, Haleem Spice Powder, Mint Leaves, Deep Fried Onions, Lemon Wedges

Ladle the Khichda into a bowl. Pour a generous amount of ghee over it, sprinkle a bit of the Haleem spice, some mint leaves & serve with a wedge of lemon. Then sit back & watch the expressions of your family as they dig into it!

This recipe serves 6

Moong Dal Pudlas (Split Green Gram Pancakes)

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I’m back home!

After a month of TLC at my parents’ following a brief illness & ban from the kitchen, I’m up & about & ready to take on the world! I did start making up for the 3 weeks away from my favourite space by making this, & this & of course this over at my parents’!

And now…I’m back in my Odd Hour Kitchen, planning menus, packing lunches for the husband… fun stuff!

Here’s my first dish back 🙂

Pudlas (Gujarati), Uttapams, Appams & Dosas (South Indian), or Chillas (North India) are various Indian Pancakes or Crepes. The South Indian ones are made with a fermented Rice Flour batter or with Semolina (Rawa). The Gujarati & North Indian ones are made with various Lentils (Dal) or non-fermented Rice Flour batter & even Semolina.

This recipe that I’m going to share with you, is my maternal grandmother’s. She would use Whole Green Gram Beans or Moong, which she soaked overnight. But I didn’t have any  yesterday & I wanted to keep the batter ready in the fridge for this morning’s breakfast, so I want ahead & used the Split Green Gram or Moong Dal.

Moong Dal

These Pancakes are very easy to make & perfect for a heavy breakfast or a light-ish dinner. They use a little oil, but are Carb & Gluten Free… so they aren’t bad for you either! In fact they are high in Vitamins A, B, C & E & Minerals like Calcium, Potassium & Iron. The Dal is rich in Protein & Fibre & a perfect food to help you in your weight-loss regime 🙂

Ingredients

Soaked Moong Dal

  • 3/4 cup Moong Dal / Split Green Gram (soaked for 4-5 hours)
  • 2 small Onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 inch piece Ginger (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 Green Chillies (finely chopped)
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • Coriander (finely chopped)
  • Cumin Seeds / Jeera
  • Salt
  • Oil

Method

The Batter

  1. Grind the Dal in a food procession with the ginger, garlic, green chillies & 1/4 of the onions. Do not add any extra water.
  2. Pour the mixture into a bowl, add the remaining onions, cumin & salt.
  3. The batter is supposed to be a bit thick, like porridge. But, if you feel it is too thick, add a little water.
  4. Heat a flat non-sitck pan or skillet & grease it with a little oil. Drop a ladle-full of the batter as you would normally for pancakes. Sprinkle some tomatoes & coriander. Once you see the edges come away from the pan, drizzle a little oil around the pancake.Carefully flip the pancake to cook the other side.
  5. Serve hot with a Sweet Chilli Sauce or Mint Chutney or Yogurt.

This Recipe makes about 16 Pancakes.

The batter can be stored in the fridge & used over the next 2 days.

Kaanda Bhajjias & the Pouring Rain

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The Monsoon has hit the City & the view from my parents’ bedroom is this…

Or a variation of this… Sometimes Darker, Stormier, Rainier & Prettier!

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It’s my favourite time of the year! The incessant rain, thunder, the cool breeze or insane winds, the strange sepia-grey light in the morning, … flooded streets, cancelled meetings, rain holidays, stalled trains, traffic jams not withstanding!

These are the days you want to ditch your umbrella (it wouldn’t stand a chance anyway with the crazy wind!), get into your flipflops, splash into puddles on the promenade by Marine Drive, bite into hot, spicy corn-on-the-cob, roasting slowly & deliciously on charcoal while you get drenched to the bones! Sigh… been a while since I’ve done that!

Right now though,  I’m glad I’m under house arrest & enjoying the rains from the indoors. It has a bit of romance of it’s own… hot cups of coffee or chocolate, music to go with the mood, a good book, a blanket to cuddle into & a Bombay rain staple… Bhajjias! 

Bhajjias or Pakoras as they are called up North, are little deep fried crispy pieces of goodness that are perfect with a hot cup of tea in the gorgeous rainy weather! You have Batata / Aloo (Potato), Mirchi (large green chillies), Daal (Lentil), Paneer (Cottage Cheese) & even Bread Pakoras!

But our family favourite… actually the Bombay street favourite… are Kaanda Bhajjias… light, crisp batter-fried Onion Fritters!

With everyone at home on a rainy, rainy Saturday evening, & a rained out India vs Pakistan Cricket Match on TV the weather & mood were perfect for these. And guess what… I could make these as my ban from the kitchen has been lifted!

Ingredients

  • 8 large Onions (finely sliced)
  • 4 Green Chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 inch piece of Ginger (grated)
  • 2 teaspoons Jeera / Cumin Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Haldi / Turmeric Powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons Red Chilli Powder
  • Coriander Leaves (finely chopped)
  • 5-6 tablespoons Besan / Chickpea Flour
  • Salt

Note: You could increase / decrease the quantity of Green & Red Chillies depending on how spicy you’d like the Bhajjias to be. These were moderately hot.

Method

                                              

  1. Mix together the onion slices, green chillies, ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander leaves & red chilli powder in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle enough Besan / Chickpea Flour to coat the onion slices. Make sure that there is enough to coat & hold the onions together without making it thick & batter-y.
  3. Season with salt & mix well.
  4. Take handful of the onion mixture, squeeze together to make sure it holds its shape & drop into a deep wok of hot oil.
  5. Fry till a deep gold brown & serve hot with Mint Chutney or Spicy Tomato Sauce.

Note: It is very important to season with salt at the very end, just before frying, that way the onions do not lose water into the batter. It’s necessary to keep any moisture away from the batter so that the Bhajjias get all crispy & crunchy 🙂

This recipe serves 4

Lemon Rice

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It’s too hot to cook! It’s too hot to think! It’s too hot to want to do anything… period!

At times like these, you need a quick fix, light meal that isn’t any trouble at all!

Tangy, flavourful & super comforting, Lemon Rice, is it! This is a South Indian dish that is lightly spiced, with the lentils & peanuts adding a lovely crunch to it. You could have it by itself, with a bowl of yogurt on the side or serve it like a salad for brunch.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups steamed Basmati Rice
  • 2 Lemons (juice)
  • 5-6 Curry Leaves
  • 1 tablespoon white Urad Daal / White Lentil
  • 1 teaspoon Jeera / Cumin Seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Rai / Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Haldi / Turmeric Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dhania-Jeera Powder Ground Coriander & Cumin Seeds
  • Chilli Powder
  • Salt
  • Fresh Coriander Leaves
  • Roasted Peanuts (coarsely ground)
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee / Clarified Butter

Note:

Fresh Green Chillies & Grated Ginger would work wonders too! Didn’t have them at hand, so used Red Chilli Powder. If you use these, add them at Step 2.

Fresh Coconut (grated) would also make a great garnish to this dish, highlighting its “South Indian-ness”

Method

  1. Heat the ghee in a wok & add the curry leaves urad daal, jeera, & rai.
  2. When the spices start to sizzle & the lentils turn a light gold, add the haldi, dhania-jeera & chilli powders & stir fry for 2-3 minutes till you get a beautiful aroma & the flavours all merge together.
  3. Add the cooked rice, lemon juice & salt & mix well so that each grain is coated with the spices.
  4. Garnish with coriander leaves, coconut & peanuts.
  5. Serve hot.

This recipe serves 4

Mango in a Raita

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It’s that Time of the Year! The Mango Season…or like my friend Chittoo’s nephew Nemo calls it “Mango Holidays”! 🙂

Come April & the King of Fruits makes his presence felt all over the city. Neat piles of the orange-yellow fruit dot street corners, fruit & vegetable markets, traffic signals… everywhere you look crates, baskets, hay & the bright mango colour.

Mangoes are my favourite fruit. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was born right in the middle of the season. Growing up, our home, from April to June, smelled like a Mango Orchard!

A household of 11 people ensured that there were crates of the fruit at home any given point in time. The space outside the kitchen had the dozens of ripe, fragrant fruit stored in piles of hay ready to eat. The extra, not-so-ripe ones used to be stored just as you entered through the front door. So whether you stepped out of your room first thing in the morning or came home after a long day at school, the beautiful, sweet & heady scent would hit you smack in the face! And with that the promise of a treat in store… slices or cubes of mangoes for breakfast, bowls of freshly squeezed & strained mango juice or Aam Ras with Poli (thin, layered whole wheat Roti or flat-bread) or Safed Rotli (cottony soft white flat bread made with rice flour) for lunch, tall chilled glasses of mango milkshake or mango Lassi (yogurt based smoothie) for tea & mango Shrikhand, sweet, thick yogurt flavoured with chunks of the fruit with Pooris (small, round, deep fried whole wheat flatbread). If Mango is the King of fruits, my Ma is the Queen of Mango Shrikhand makers! The Shrikhand she makes is light, not too sweet with just the perfect balance of fruit & yogurt. I absolutely LOVE it! She was sure to make this dessert every year on my birthday. Even now she makes it around my birthday & freezes it for me if I’m not around 🙂

There are loads of different types of mangoes. There’s the Alphonso or Hapoos, saffron-red skin , plump, firm, & sweet. That’s the one we eat sliced or cubed, in Shrikhand, Lassi, Milkshake. Ma & my Grandma would fill large earthen jars with firm, ripe Hapoos mangoes freshly crushed mustard seeds to make Bafana, pickled ripe mangoes to be eaten with split brown rice khichri a few months later during Shraavan, the Hindu month of fasting. Then there is the Pairee, slightly green, just a wee bit tart, perfect for Aam Ras or juice. Then there are the large Rajapuris & yellow Dussheris that crop up later in the season when the best Hapoos & Pairees are on their way out. After that you have the Langras,& others… honestly we are a bunch of Mango snobs who don’t look beyond Hapoos & Pairees! And no matter what anyone says…. you get the BEST mangoes in Maharashtra! Most of the mangoes in Bombay come from Ratnagiri on the west coast of the state. The rest of the country, just doesn’t measure up!

I could live on mangoes! I think back in the day, we hardly ate any vegetables during summer! Of course the grown-ups tried to ration out the amount of mangoes we ate… but it rarely worked! My favourite way to eat a mango was to suck on it… with skin & all & become a complete mess, with mango juice down to the elbows & all over my face!

Or as a mango sandwich… thick slices of the fruit on a thick slice of white bread,  buttered…well…thickly!

The recipe I am going to post today is a Mango Raita. raita is a yogurt based condiment usually with onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, pineapples, or potatoes & is used as a sauce, dip or a refreshing complement to a spicy dish. As far as possible, I hate tampering with the natural flavour of the fruit. But this savoury-sweet-mustardy version is a delicious accompaniment to any meal. At home, if there was a vegetable dish cooked, that we didn’t much care for, this mango raita was made to lure us into eating… “If you have 2 spoons of peas, I will give you some more kairi (mango) raita!” or if we had unexpected guests, this added a special touch to an ordinary meal.

The raita made at home was a traditional one, more yogurt & less fruit, with the former being more liquid. I chose to deconstruct it a bit so that that the yogurt adds to the flavour without over-powering the taste of mango. While I have used the same seasoning my mother did, I added the sesame & almonds for an extra crunch (I always need that!) & a lovely warm toasty flavour  & mint for colour & freshness.

So here it is… My version of the Vakil Family Mango Raita!

Ingredients

  • 2-3 ripe Alphonso Mangoes (cubed)
  • 1 cup thick Yogurt (hung & beaten)… gosh that sounds violent!
  • 1-2 teaspoon Mustard Seeds (crushed)
  • 1-2 teaspoon Cumin Seeds (roasted & ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
  • Salt
  • Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Roasted Almonds (roughly chopped)
  • Toasted Seasame Seeds

Method

  1. Toss the mango with some mint leaves & sesame seeds & arrange on a serving plate.
  2. Whisk the yogurt with the mustard seeds, cumin powder, salt & sugar.
  3. Pour the yogurt over the mango.
  4. Garnish with the rest of the mint, sesame & almonds

 

PS: All the pictures in today’s post are courtesy

My Dearest Husband 🙂

Murg Methi – Chicken with Fenugreek Leaves

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This is a delicious, low fat Indian Chicken dish with a yogurt based sauce. The yogurt gives it a bit of tang which is balanced out by the slight bitterness of fenugreek leaves.
Fenugreek leaves have Protein, Vitamin C, Potassium & helps reduce blood glucose & cholesterol.
I had this with a Roti & a Diced Zucchini Pesto Salad

Kadhai Paneer… Cottage Cheese in a Wok (literally)!

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Ever since I was little, I remember, our house had constant visitors… family, friends, distant relatives, dad’s work colleagues. They’d come over for lunch, dinner or drop by for tea. My grandfather’s oldest friends would come by every Sunday for breakfast. We had Diwali (the Hindu New Year) & Raksha Bandhan (a festival celebrating the bond of brothers & sisters) dinners for the entire family… aunts, uncles, cousins. My grandmother & mother would cook traditional Gujarati delicacies… Ghugras (whole wheat crescents stuffed with green peas or green beans & deep fried)Undhiyu (a mixed winter vegetable dish with green beans, raw banana, purple yam, with a special baby garlic & turmeric chutney) in winter, Puran Polis (flatbread stuffed with a mixture of jaggery & lentil) during the rains, Ras (fresh Alphonso mango juice)  & Dhokla (soft & fluffy steamed triangles made with fermented rice batter) during the mango season, my mother’s famous, fresh & deceptively light Shrikhand (thick sweetened yogurt with saffron & cardamom) all year round… a special Mango version for my birthday in May every year!

It was a different story when my parents’ “gang”, their oldest, dearest friends or people from my dad’s work-place came over. Mum would then make Pizza from scratch (my paternal grandmother taught her to bake bread & pizza base at home… She was quite ahead of her times), Mexican, Chinese, cuisine from other parts of India. It was at these dinners that my sister & I, as a couple of 10-12 year olds were allowed to contribute to the menu.

At first Ma entrusted us with simple stuff, like a yogurt dip or salad or toppings for crackers. Then gradually as her confidence in us grew, we made dessert or a main course once in a while. If there was one thing she was very particular about back then (actually even now!) is, “Please don’t experiment on the guests!” So we had to make something we had made before AND/OR follow the recipe to the T… which worked for me, at times, when I would make a particularly boozy Chocolate Mousse & get very stern looks from Dad! “It’s in the recipe Dad! See there it says TABLE not TEAspoons!

But they would always, very proudly tell their friends, “Nandini (my sister) made the dip!” or “Shivani made the pasta salad!

Of course now that Nandini & I have our own homes, own kitchens, own parties, we experiment away on our guests! This also means that we don’t really cook at too many Vakil dinners anymore.

Last week, though, I had a chance, after a long time, to cook once again in my mother’s kitchen. I happened to be around the day my mum was organizing a dinner party for a friend from France & her Italian friend & a bunch of my dad’s old colleagues. She planned an Indian menu of course, with a mix of our native Gujarati dishes & some North Indian ones, with her signature aubergine dish.

My contribution to the menu was Kadhai Paneer, a Punjabi cottage cheese dish, from Nita Mehta’s recipe book. And yes, I did follow the recipe to the T… almost!

Ingredients

  • 250 gm Paneer (Cottage Cheese, cut lengthwise)
  • 2 Capsicums (cut in strips)
  • 2-3 Tomatoes (chopped)
  • 10-12 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1 inch piece Ginger (chopped finely)
  • 1 ½ inch piece Ginger (grated)
  • 2 Green Chillies (finely chopped)
  • 1 ½  tablespoon Dhania Seeds (coriander seeds)
  • 2 dried Red Chillies
  • 1 tablespoon Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • A pinch Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds)
  • 4 tablespoons Oil, plus more for Deep Frying the Paneer
  • Salt

Note:

Since I was cooking for a European palate, I cut down the quantity of the chillies (both green & red) & deseeded them to cut down the heat.

I am not too fond of biting into ginger, so I used 2 inches, grated.

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Method

  1. Dry roast the red chillies till brown & crisp. Coarsely grind the roasted red chillies & dhania seeds together.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of oil & sauté the capsicum for about 5-7 minutes till done. Keep aside.
  3. In another wok, heat the oil & deep fry the Paneer pieces till golden brown. Keep aside.
  4. Heat the rest of the oil & cook the minced garlic till brown.
  5. Add the red chillies-coriander seed powder & stir fry for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes, followed by methi seeds, salt, green chillies & grated ginger. Cook till the oil separates & tomatoes soften.
  7. Add the capsicum, paneer & dried methi leaves. Give it a good mix.
  8. Serve hot with parathas / tortillas

Note:

If you want to go a little healthier, you could skip Step 3. The cottage cheese could be added directly to the tomatoes. Just be careful while stirring it in & don’t over stir as the paneer might crumble.

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This recipe serves 6 people

Jazz Up The Leftovers

The Kadhai Casserole

Grease a small but deep microwave/oven proof bowl generously. Arrange some tomato slices in a neat layer. Season with salt, pepper & any other herbs/spices you might want to use. Cover the tomatoes with buttered rice & top it with some paneer. Continue making the tomato, rice & paneer layers till you run out. Grate some cheese over it & pop in the microwave / oven till the cheese melts or browns.