Recipe – Turkish Börülce Pilaki | Black Eyed Pea Pilaki


Turkish Food is such a joy; light, healthy, colorful it is something I relish a lot. I love to make a few of the dishes which are very similar to ours but with a distinct flavor that is synonymous with the place it comes from. 

Many years ago I had eaten Börülce Pilaki at a food fest, a wholesome and flavorful Turkish dish made with black eyed beans \ cowpea \ lobia cooked in Olive oil with tomato sauce and many other vegetables and spices like onion, garlic, potatoes, carrots, red bell pepper, freshly ground black pepper, sugar, salt, cumin, bay leaf, fresh parsley leaves and spices lots of lemon juice. I had asked the lady how to make it and made once but it wasn’t appreciated in the masala loving Punjabi household. A few months ago I decided to make it again and to refresh the process correctly I referred to Almost Turkish blog by Burcu. I adapted the recipe to make it the way I saw the lady do it.  It’s one preparation everyone must try at least once.

Lobia or Black Eyed Peas is loaded with nutrition and is a good source of folate, vitamin B1, or thiamine, vitamin A, soluble fibre, potassium to name a few. It is extremely versatile too. I love its buttery texture more than other beans.

Pilaki is a fresh and light bean stew eaten as part of the Turkish Meze. It is one of the popular dishes grouped as zeytinyağlı yemekler (olive oil dishes). They can be served hot or cold as a side dish with grilled fish or chicken. I absolutely love this particular one made with black eyed beans or Lobia as know it in India. It is healthy and light to digest so do give it a try.

Ingredients :

Lobia or Black Eyed Peas – 400 gm ( soaked overnight or for a few hours till they swell up)
Onion, roughly chopped – 1 Large
Garlic, chopped- 4-5 cloves
Green chilies, finely chopped – 2
Carrot, thinly sliced or cut in discs – 2
Potatoes, peeled and cubed chopped – 2 medium
Tomatoes, finely chopped – 3-4 large + 4 tbsp tomato paste or 1/2 can of tomatoes
Olive oil – 3-4 tbsp
juice of 1/2 lemon
Bay leaves -2
Cumin Powder – 1/2 tsp
Chopped parsley – 1/2 cup ( I used a mix or Parsley & coriander greens)
Salt – to taste
Sugar – 1/2 tsp
Ground peppercorns – to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes – to taste

Note – Keep in mind to chop all veggies in approximately equal sizes so that they cook evenly.

Method : 

Drain the soaking water of the beans, rinse and put in a pressure cooker with enough water and cook till they are tender but not soft or mushy. They Must retain the bite. Once done, strain them and keep the water aside. Usually it is thrown but I use it later in the dish as it has all the nutrients.

In a heavy bottom pan warm the Olive oil then turn the heat to medium low.

Add onion and let them sizzle as they cook. Add the chopped garlic, stir and sprinkle the sugar. Add salt and pepper and let it all cook for 2-3 minutes.  Make sure the onions don’t brown too much. Just a translucent brown is good.

Add the green chilies and all the vegetables and then give it a good stir. Cover and cook till they are soft but make sure they retain their shape.

Stir in the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes and cook till you get a nicely incorporated saucy texture.

Add the drained cooked beans and stir so everything is incorporated properly. Add the reserved water from beans and boil it nicely. As it boils add in bay leaves, chili flakes, cumin powder and juice of half lemon.

Cook this on a low medium heat for 30-35 minutes or till the beans are soft.

Once the Pilaki is ready turn off the heat and add chopped parsley and / or coriander. Traditionally Dill is an essential part of the Pilaki but I didn’t have it so its not in the recipe. You must add 1 tablespoon full of chopped Dill if available. It gives Pilaki a very nice flavor. Cover the pot and let the steam cook the greens and fill the Pilaki with their aroma. 

Garnish the Pikali and take it out in a serving dish with a wooden spoon and enjoy the melange of beautiful flavours and textures. 

 

Recipe – Classic Kesar Shrikhand


 

Shrikhand is a traditional dessert made from full fat hung yogurt known in Maharashtra as Malai Chakka. These days chakka is easily available at halwais and dairies so people don’t spend hours straining the water from the yogurt. In many cities I have seen the use of Greek Yogurt too which is okay in case you’re in a rush or don’t  have access to Chakka. I, on the other hand, prefer to make it the traditional way.

It is one of the sweets offered in Prasadam to the Gods and a must preparation for all auspicious and festive occasions. These days we find a lot of variations to the classic Shrikhand with addition of fruits etc but while I was growing up only Aamrakhand or mango flavored Shrikhand was the other variation. Alphonso mangoes were used to make this flavorful sweet. I like Aamrakhand but I absolutely love the classic Kesar Shrikhand.

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For me Shrikhand brings memories of a lost love, a city that’s become meaningless for me now and yet there is that pull which I can’t let go of. It also reminds me of someone very special I’ve lost. Kalindi maushi did my elder son’s Annaparashan with the delicious Shrikhand she used to make among other things. It was specially made for Adi and the  boy literally put his whole face in the pot after that first lick. He still loves it to the heart. I cherish the time we all spent with her. Sometimes we need to keep both the love and the loss alive for the strength it gives.

I have grown up eating Shrikhand and made it several times. Never liked the store bought ones. They are too sweet for my taste. We don’t get chakka (Hung curd) in Delhi so it is always a labor of love to prepare the sweet. The best full fat yogurt ( usually home cultured), hours of hanging it in a muslin cloth till the last drop of water leaves it or if in a hurry then layers n layers of newspapers topped by layers of muslin cloth (changed in between) with yogurt on top so that all the water gets absorbed quickly. I use this method v rarely though. Don’t like shortcuts. The thick creamy hung curd is rubbed through the sieve ( a puran yantra was used in aaji’s home), whipped and then into the silky smoothness, boora cheeni and saffron (warmed, crushed and diluted in milk) is mixed into it. The sugar is just right so the slight tartness of yogurt remains. That’s essential for a good shrikhand. Usually I don’t prefer to add nuts ( pista, charoli etc) but I indulged today and added some. Had this sinful creamy shrikhand with crisp pooris and dubkiwale aloo. The best way to eat it is by licking it off with a finger. That’s the only way I know and love.  I will post the potato curry recipe soon.

Hot crisp Poori and smooth chilled Shrikhand are a perfect match just like Poori and Aamras. Another of my favorites.

To make the Srikhand you’ll need :

Ingredients : 

Malai Chakka – 1 kg ( homemade hung curd proportion – 1 kg full fat yogurt gives approximately 250 gram hung curd)

Boora cheeni or Powdered Sugar – 700 -750 grams

Salt – 1 pinch

Finely grated Nutneg – 1/4th tsp ( optional as I did’t use it)

Milk – 1/4 cup

Saffron strands ( warmed, bruised and soaked in milk ) – a few ( 8-10)

Pistachio and Charoli ( chironji)  ( soaked and finely chopped) – 1 tsp

Green cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp ( if using nutmeg then avoid this)

Method : 

If using store bought chakka or Greek yogurt just it in a muslin cloth for an hour or so to remove all traces of water.

If making Hung Curd at home then put the curd in a muslin or cheese cloth, gather its edges and tie into a knot. ( I use old cotton dupatta or saree cloth too) Hang from the knot end over a large container so that the water drips into it. Let it remain for at least 6-7 hours. I sometimes put the cloth on a sieve and place the container in fridge overnight so that the curd doesn’t get sour. Another way is to place layers of old newspapers topped with double layered muslin cloth and placing the yogurt on the cloth. In a few hours the newpapers will absorb all the liquid. You may change them ones in between.

Once you have hung curd with zero traces of water take it out in a large bowl and gently fold and stir Boora chini into it along with saffron milk, nutmeg or cardamom powder. Once everything is incorporated well cover and keep it for half an hour. Remember not to whisk or stir it briskly or it will tend to become watery and runny. You need to be patient and kind. The sugar will release some water in this time.

Now gently rub this mixture through the sieve so that all the ingredients mix into a homogenized smooth mixture. Spoon the Shrikhand into a serving bowl and garnish with a little saffron milk and chopped nuts if using.

 

The sign of a good Shrikhand is that it should hold a place on a plate when served and not need a bowl.

You can freeze this Shrikhand in airtight containers for a few days but usually it is licked off sooner that you can imagine.

If you make it from my recipe do tag me and share your experience.

 

 

How to Dry And Preserve Neem/ Indian Lilac Flowers For Culinary Use


A major part of my lockdown period was spent at my son’s previous home. Surrounded by old trees, some more than hundred years old. Among them were the Neem or Indian Lilac trees. Delhi has a fair share of ancient aging Neem trees so full of life even now.

Azadirachta indica L is not just a scared and medicinal tree but a shelter for birds, bees, squirrels, butterflies and insects of various kinds. It is a very effective air purifier too and its root bark, stem bark, gum, flower, leaves, seeds and seed oil are used for various medicinal purposes but today we will focus on how to dry and preserve the Neem Flowers or Vepampoo as it is known in Southern India for the unique culinary uses.

While I was recovering in the Hauz Khas home of my elder son the Neem trees lining the streets were flowering gregariously. The flower laden branches from the closest tree leaned on the terrace bringing in a star shower with even a gentle breeze. I was fortunate to see the transformation of little buds to flowers and then to fruits that were devoured by hungry parakeets which descend in such large numbers that sometimes the tree becomes them. In the midst of chaos I fond the solace in quietly sitting and witnessing the life nestled between the labyrinth of dark rough ancient branches and a “sea of foliage” as Lutyens wanted Delhi to be.

Throughout Southern India these flowers are used in various food preparations. I’ve savored some but not made all of them. I’ve prepared roasted flowers crumbled on hot plain steamed rice, tossed in ghee with hing and added to rice, eaten with jaggery, Ugadi Pachadi (Bevu Bella in kannada), dry podi, raita, raw mango Neem flower pachdi, rasam, tea and neer moru /  Masale majjige / Buttermilk infused with the blossoms whose recipe I will share. Then there is kozambu and yummy sadam with Mor Milagai / Dried Green chilies and dried Neem Blossoms that’s out of the world.

If you aren’t adverse to light bitterness then you’ll find Neem blossoms very delicious. The blossoms are known to cleanse the system among other medicinal benefits.

Here is a step by step method of drying and preserving Neem blossoms. The process is pretty simple. In the flowering season which is Jan – May you may gather these fresh flowers to sun dry and if there is a scarcity of sunny secure place they can be dried under a fan too.

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  1. Collect the fresh tenderly fragrant blossoms in a clean bowl or sheet of cloth.
  2. Separate the Neem flowers from the leaf axil by holding the stem in the left hand and pulling the flowers by dragging your fingers from bottom upwards to separate the blossoms.
  3. Once you have all the tiny blossoms separated take a large clean utensil and fill it with drinking water. Dip these flowers gently in it so that all the dust and dirt gets washed. Leave them there for 1-2 minutes and then slowly scoop them into a plate.
  4. Spread kitchen towels or a clean cloth on a flat surface and spread the flowers on it. You may use a large tray if the quantity of blossoms is less.
  5. Let them dry under the sun from morning till evening and bring them in at night. Keep then under sun till they’re completely dry and there is no trace of moisture. Drying under the fan takes more time. I did that as the house cat and her new kittens were all over the terrace. It will take tat least 2-3 days minimum for them to dry completely.
  6. The sign that they are ready for storage and use is to lightly crush them. If they are crisp and crush easily then it’s ready.
  7. Bring in the dried browned flowers to the kitchen counter and let them rest for a while so that they come to the room temperature. Store them in clean and dry airtight jars and use as and when required.
  8. You can use fresh flowers too after washing them as some recipes require the use of fresh ones.

Here is a recipe for  Vepampoo Neer Moru / Spiced Buttermilk tempered with fresh Neem blossoms 

 

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Ingredients : 

Fresh Neem or Vepampoo Blossoms – 2-3 tsp full

Ghee or Clarified butter – 1 tbsp

Dry Whole Red Chili – 1 small

Green chili – 1 broken in 2-3 pieces

Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp

Grated ginger – 1 tbsp

Fresh Yogurt  (Preferably Home cultured) – 1 cup

Water – 2 cups

Salt to taste

Asafoetida – 1 pinch

( You can use fresh buttermilk too instead of making one)

Method : 

Heat an iron seasoning ladle or a small seasoning wok and add ghee to it. Once the ghee warms add cumin seeds. When they crackle add whole broken red chili, green chili pieces, asafoetida (Hing) and fresh Neem blossoms. The moment you get an aromatic fragrance remove from heat and keep on counter to cool. Remove the red chili if your heat threshold is less. You may use just one variety of chili too. Make sure

Add it to the fresh buttermilk and stir. Add salt and grated ginger and stir well.

Or

Blend the curd with water, salt, grated ginger properly and then add the prepared Vepampoo tempering.  Mix everything well and serve. You can have this Vepampoo infused neer moru at room temperature or chilled. It is extremely cooling in the heat of summer and the addition of Neem blossoms give it a beautiful aroma and taste.

 

 

 

 

Recipe – Punjabi Dum Aloo


 

Since the time I came back from my son’s home I had been craving for the scrumptious food he was feeding me. I am also constant thinking of all the dishes learned from various people during my travel or visit to friends’ homes. It’s been tough lately and cooking has been therapeutic just as painting and writing has been. I am trying to keep myself gainfully occupied and eat healthy too. Many times nostalgia makes me prepare dishes I haven’t made in years. I miss my boys and our time together. I miss normal life and the time I lost struggling to find myself while making peace with others at the same time.  Often this is how I feel :

So many roads.
So many detours.
So many choices.
So many mistakes.
So many crossroads.
So many endings.
So many beginnings.
I have truly “lived”
But Now
I have a feeling my soul is spent
and I have nothing more to give to the world.

Then, when the moment passes I think of the food I love, the people who so generously fed it to me and taught me the process and I count my privilege and my blessings.

Dum Aloo is love in whichever way it is cooked from Kashmiri, Bengali to Banarasi but there is something about this Punjabi Aloo Dum that I find hard to resist. It is a favorite. Again, I would never eat this in a restaurant. I find it very heavy to digest and avoid bI have had extremely delicious aloo dum while visiting a few Punjabi friends. Here is a recipe learned from someone long ago. The texture is beautiful, it has a medley of flavors and my favorite kasoori methi. Like garlic this is one of my go to ingredients for many dishes. Baby potatoes deep or shallow fried and added to a rich creamy gravy is love at first sight. Kasoori methi gives takes its taste to another level. Pair it with hot naans, tandoori roti or just plain phulka and you’ve got a winner. 

Here’s how I make it

Ingredients : 

10-15 – Baby potatoes or big potatoes cut evenly in equal size cubes

1- Large Onion Pureed

1-2 – Large Tomatoes Pureed

4 tablespoon- Whisked Thick Yogurt

1 Pinch – Asafoetida

1 tbsp – Ginger Garlic Paste

1 tsp – Coriander Powder

1 tsp – Red Chili Powder

1 tsp – Cumin Seeds

1 tsp – coriander Seeds

1 Black Cardamom Pod

3-4 – cloves

1/4 tsp – Turmeric Powder

1 tsp – Kashmiri Chili Powder

1/2 tsp – Kasuri Methi or dry fenugreek leaves ( toasted and crushed)

1/2 tsp – Garam Masala

Salt to taste

Sugar – 1/2 tsp

Mustard Oil for shallow frying

6-8 – Cashew Nuts ( Optional. I seldom use them)

Chopped fresh coriander green greens for garnish

Method : 

Wash, pat dry and par boil the baby potatoes in water in which a little salt is added.

Peel, prick them with a fork and shallow fry them in hot mustard oil that’s been already smoked. Set these aside.

Grind the whole spices into a dry mix and set aside.

In the same pan add heat a few teaspoons of oil and add a pinch of asafoetida and cumin seeds. When they crackle add onion puree and saute it till light brown then add ginger, garlic paste and stir again. Once the rawness goes away add the powdered masalas ( except garam masala ) and roast for a minute keeping the flame low so that they don’t burn.

Add tomato puree and saute till the water evaporates ans the masala cooks properly. Add salt and beaten yogurt stirring continuously so that the yogurt doesn’t curdle.

Cook this wet masala on low heat till oil begins to separate then add the fried baby potatoes and mix well so that the potatoes get evenly covered with the masala.

Some people add cashew nut paste to this one I don’t.

Let the potatoes simmer in the masala for two minutes or so. Sprinkle kasoori methi and garam amsala evenly and mix. Keep a little to drizzle over the dish later if you wish.

Add chopped coriander greens. I prefer to add them while the dish is cooking as it imparts a flavor to the dish. Adding at the last stage or as a garnish doesn’t achieve its purpose. I also use the tender stems with leaves.

Add 3/4 cups of warm water to the dish and stir nicely to bring it to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for another few minutes till you achieve the desired consistency of the gravy. I prefer it thick enough to be scooped up with a piece of naan or kulcha. You can serve it with good steamed basmati rice too.

Let the Dum Aloo stay in the covered pan for ten minutes and then spoon it in the serving dish. Sprinkle a pinch or two of kasuri methi as garnish if you wish. Have it hot with the Indian breads of your choice.

Recipe – Simple Paneer Makhani With Kasoori Methi


I love Paneer or Indian cottage cheese but somehow don’t like the creamy paneer butter masala sold in the restaurants and the paneer makhani is always too sweet for my taste. This dish however has the perfect Dhaba style taste of Paneer Makhni. I learned it from an elderly sardarji who owned a Dhaba in Rudrapur on way to Ranikhet. The dhaba is closed now and ‘darji is no more but the taste of his food and the memories of his tenderheartedness and love still linger in my thoughts.

So if you are looking for a lighter version of Paneer makhani try this recipe. This may not be the authentic or traditional way to cook it but it certainly is delicious. Always use soft fresh Paneer as that’s the star ingredient here. I use either almonds or cashew nuts or a mix of both in this recipe. Usually canned tomato puree is preferred as it has an intense taste but for everyday consumption I use the described method. I absolutely love how the gravy coats the tender paneer cubes turning it into a spectacular lip smacking dish. Did I say Paneer is the star ingredient? No, it is the fresh kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves that spin the magic in this dish. I like the earthy flavor of Kasoori methi and have been using Just Organik’ Kasoori Methi in almost everything. Trust me it is as good as homemade.

Ingredients :

Fresh Paneer or Indian Cottage Cheese – 250 gm

Medium size Onion ( chopped)- 1

Minced Ginger+Garlic+green chili – 1 tbsp

Red ripe tomatoes ( chopped)- 3

Bay leaf- 1

Black cardamom – 2

Dry red chili -1 small

Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

Kasoori Methi – 1 tsp ( lightly roasted, crushed)

Butter + Oil – 1 tbsp each

Garam Masala – 1 tsp

Coriander Powder – 1 tsp

Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp

Turmeric Powder  – 1 tsp

Salt – to taste

sugar – 1/4th tsp

Soaked almonds or cashew nut or a mix – 5-6

Fresh cream (Malai) – 2 tbsp (beaten) (optional)

 

Method :

In a heavy bottom pan add the oil and butter together. Doing this will ensure that the butter doesn’t burn.

Once the oil warms up, add bay leaf,  cardamom ( lightly pounded) and cumin seeds.

Once the cumin seeds start to crackle, add the ginger, garlic, green chili mix and stir. I added little extra pods of garlic ( 3-4) as I love the garlicky taste in this dish.

Add the chopped onion and saute it till translucent then add the almonds and or cashew. Stir and add the chopped tomato. Stir nicely and cook till they soften then turn off the heat.

Let this cool and once at room temperature take this mixture in a blender and pulse it till it is a smooth paste.

Now, in the same pan add a little more butter and add this paste. Give it a good stir and when it starts to bubble add garam masala, chili powder, coriander powder, little sugar and salt to taste. Keep the flame on medium and cook it till the rawness of the masala goes and oil separates. If the masala seems too dry add a little warm warm. it should be a thick gravy. Cook it for 10 minutes stirring continuously. once the gravy is smooth and nice add the toasted crushed Kasoori methi and stir it in. Let the gravy cook for another five minutes.

Now add the paneer cubes and gently stir so that every cube is covered in the masala. Let it simmer for another five minutes then turn off the heat.  Add the freshly beaten malai and it is ready to serve. You may garnish it with fresh coriander leaves and a little more smooth beaten malai.

Serve with kulchas, naans or steamed rice or any other breads of your choice.

If you try this recipe please let me know.

Check out another equally delicious Paneer dish Here 

 

Recipe – Himachali Chana Madra


A few friends have been asking me for the recipes of the dishes I had been cooking during the lockdown. I am wondering if a separate food blog is needed to catalog all the recipes but till I decided that I will use this space to share them. Excuse me for the photos. I hadn’t thought of blog post while clicking. Will add more later. 

I have been thinking of the hills and our road trips, my trekking years and the local food eaten in homes or local eateries of Himachal and Uttarakhand.

Light and aromatic yogurt based gravies are summer’s soul food. Desi khana or traditional meal made with locally sourced ingredients is something I root for even though I love to explore other cuisines. Summer is also season for nostalgic eating.

I first had madra at the home of a local in kangra during a road trip. A family from the village had a small tea stall and provided meals if possible. Though not as part of the menu. It all depended on what’s available and we were lucky to get madra, kale chane ka khatta and rice.

The slow cooked scrumptious Chana Madra is not just quintessential part of authentic Himachali Dham but also of the wedding menu. The whole and ground spices, creamy tangy curd and the buttery chickpeas fill the dish with melange of flavours. Madra is made with Rajma too. The Chamba rajmah tastes delicious in madra but I love the Kangra version with chickpeas.

Today’s thali had one dish each from a few parts of india to which I belong in some way. Aamras from Maharashtra (Mother’s side), old vintage nimbu pickle from Uttarpradesh ( father’s side), madra from Himachal ( In-law’s side) and kelya upkari from Konkan ( nani’s maternal side). Comfort and love in every bite. I’m thinking of making a few more dishes that are close to my heart in the coming days.

Ingredients :

Kabuli Chana / Chickpeas ( Soaked overnight and boiled) – 2 Cup ( can use canned chickpeas too)

Asafoetida – 2 pinch

Cloves – 3-4

Cinnamon – 1/2 inch stick

Black Cardamom – 2-3

Green Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp

Sugar – 1/4 tsp

Black Peppercorn – 3-4

Cumin Seeds – 1/2 tsp

Coriander Powder – 2 tsp

Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp

Salt – as required

Raisins – 3 tsp ( soaked and drained)

Thick whipped curd – 2 cups

Ghee/ clarified butter or Mustard Oil – 2 tbs

For the Rice Paste –

¼ cup raw white rice

1 cup water

1-2 pods of green cardamom

Soak  ¼ cup rice in 1 cup of water and cardamom. Grind this mixture and set aside.

Method –

In a heavy bottom pan heat mustard oil to the smoking point and then reduce the heat. ( For ghee you just need to warm it)

Add asafoetida, black cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick

Stir and add cumin seeds. When they crackle add coriander and turmeric powder and stir. Make sure the masala doesn’t burn.

Add boiled chickpeas and stir properly.

Add the whisked yogurt and keep stirring continuously. Keep the lame low or the yogurt will curdle. Add salt and green cardamom powder.

Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minute. Stir occasionally.

Once the mixture comes to a boil add he rice paste water and mix well.

Continue to stir and cook for another 20-25 minutes.

I usually add a tablespoon or two of hot homemade ghee on top, stir and let it simmer for another ten minutes thicken the gravy.

Turn off the heat, add chopped fresh coriander greens and mix.

Serve with plain boiled / steamed rice or roti.