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.

Recipe – No Cook Chana Sattu Barfi


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I had posted a few versions of chana sattu (roasted bengal gram flour) laddus earlier but didn’t post the barfi as the process is the same. Some friends wanted me to share it separately so here it is – the no cook high protein chana sattu barfi. The good thing with sattu is you don’t need to cook it again as its already roasted. You just use it as it is and that is why  these barfi can be made by even those who don’t usually cook or make Indian sweets.

Note – To make sattu simply fine grind the plain roasted Bengal Gram, either with or without skin. You can mix them too. That’s it. It is that simple. I have the method and the nutrition aspect of sattu discussed in an old post. Do look it up. 

You can also buy sattu from the market. Sometimes I buy organic sattu from Aadya or Just Organik, both sattus are fragrant and made from organically grown chana.

To make the Barfi take 1 cup of chana Sattu, 1 tablespoon of warm ghee (clarified butter), 1/4 tsp green cardamom and two tablespoons of fine shakkar or jaggery powder. Make sure to use jaggery or shakkar that’s not chemically treated. I’ve used Organic India’ powdered jaggery which is very good. 

Rub the ingredients together and mix well. There should be no lumps.

Grease a thali or tin lightly with ghee and spread rhe mixture evenly. Let it set for sometime. I keep for 15 minutes or so. Once set you can cut it in rectangular shape.

You can add powered almonds and chopped raisins too but I don’t always like add-on in the melt in the mouth barfi so keep it simple.

You can garnish with finely chopped dryfruit too. Like I did with almonds in some. 

Enjoy the high protein, nutritious, quick and easy Barfi at any time of the day. You can individually wrap them in butter paper as a lunchbox sweet or on the move energy sweet too. Best for small hungers when you are on the move. Ghee is good fat if used correctly and here we use minimal amount just to bind the mixture. 

Check out the other Sattu recipes on the blog too.

Recipe – Cooked Sweet And Sour Raw Mango & Onion Chutney


 

Though there are hundred of recipes for mango relish and chutneys made with raw mangoes this one is unique because it uses red onions unlike the other cooked sweet and sour chutneys with raw mango and jaggery.

I learned it at my in-laws’ house where every summer my MIL would make this lip smacking chutney and we devoured it with parathas, missi roti, cheelas, poori or curd rice or just licked it off the spoon. I was surprised how the onion gave a unique flavor to the chutney. I had not eaten or seen this earlier but  found that it was regular summer special in her village in Una district of Himachal Pradesh. Many other areas in Punjab too had a slightly different version of it.

This chutney can stay in the fridge for at least a month. Always choose unblemished raw mangoes for this, a bigger variety is better but you can use any local variety. I use pure organic jaggery for it. Unfortunately you can’t replace it sugar. The texture and taste will completely change. It is advisable to make it in an iron wok or kadai to get the maximum benefit and taste.

It is a simple recipe to follow.

Ingredients:

Raw Mangoes -1 kg

Pure Jaggery  – As required. It depends on how sweet you want the chutney to be. The taste should be a perfect balance. 100 gm is usually good.

Red Onions – 4 large

Black pepper corns – 8-10

Red chili powder -1 teaspoon

Asafoetida –  1-2 pinch

Cumin Seeds -1 teaspoon

Vegetable Oil – 3 tablespoon

Broken Dry whole red chili – 1-2 (remove the seeds)

Salt – to taste

Method:

Wash, peel and slice the mangoes in long pieces.

Peel and cut the onions in thin slices.

Grate the jaggery and keep aside.

In an iron wok / kadai  or heavy bottom pan heat the oil,  once the oil is hot lower the flame and add cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to crackle, add black peppercorns, whole red chili and onion slices. Add asafoetida or hing and stir.

Cook on low medium flame till the onions become a nice golden brown then add sliced raw mango. Mix all the ingredients properly and add salt, chili powder. Mix the spices well so that all the mango pieces get properly coated.

Cover with a lid and cook on low flame till the mango slices become soft. Keep stirring in between.  Once the pieces are soft yet firm add the grated jaggery.

The amount can vary according to the taste but keep in mind that there should be a perfect balance of sweet and sour. I prefer it less sweet and more spiced.

Cook the mixture on low heat and keep stirring so it  doesn’t stick to the pan bottom. Check for the spice, salt sweetness and adjust if required. While cooking make sure that the mango slices retain their texture. They shouldn’t become a mush.

Once the jaggery melts properly and everything gets mixed nicely turn off the gas and let the chutney cool. Spoon in the chutney in a clean and dry jar and put the lid on.

Always use clean, dry spoon to take out the chutney.

 

Indian Cottage Cheese (Paneer) In Spicy Arrabiata Sauce


Arrabiata Sauce is one of my favorite sauces and I use it for pasta especially Penne  and for many other dishes. It is healthy, full of texture and color and easy to prepare.  The one thing that makes it distinctly different from other tomato based red sauces is the chili factor.  The crushed red chili flakes or the fresh ones that are added whole or chopped give life to the classic marinara sauce that is the base sauce for Arrabiata.

Also a good amount of olive oil works best for the sauce. Cooked or heat processed tomatoes contain more lycopene, because cooking helps to release lycopene from the tomato cells. Lycopene is fat soluble, so it helps to cook it in oil, such as olive oil. Presence of peperoncino (chili flakes) gives it a defining characteristic (and a lively kick). I add basil and coriander to enhance the taste.

The main ingredients for Arrabiata are tomatoes and garlic. Those  who love garlic like I do can use it as a main flavor in this recipe.  I use fresh ripe plum tomatoes to make the Concasse for this sauce. Canned tomatoes aren’t something I use at home.

Arrabiata sauce goes very well with Indian cottage cheese or Paneer and we all love it. I am not a big fan of paneer but I do love a few dishes made with it. This is one of them. I also make the same dish in classic marinara or just the concasse with lots of fresh green chilies added with an Indian twist to the seasoning.

The basic ingredients for the Arrabiata sauce  I make for this particular dish are :

Tomato Concasse – 400 gm approx

Garlic-  medium size 8-10 pods ( peeled and finely chopped)

Red Onions – 2 medium, finely chopped

Fresh coriander greens (with tender stems) –  5 table-spoon ( finely chopped)

Crushed red pepper flakes – 1 teaspoon or fresh red pepper -2-3

Olive oil –  2-3 table-spoon

Black Pepper – freshly crushed 1 tea-spoon

Cumin Seeds – 1 teaspoon

Salt – to taste

Tomato sauce – 6 tablespoons

Dried Bay Leaves – 2

Fresh Basil Leaves – 3-4

Salt – to taste

Indian Cottage Cheese/ Farmer cheese / (Paneer) –  400 gm ( preferably home made but you can use market  bought too.) Chopped in cubes and placed in warm saline water

Method :

Warm the olive oil or any other vegetable oil / butter in a thick bottom pan.

Add the cumin seeds and bay leaves. Once the cumin begins to crackle, add garlic and roast a little till it changes color slightly. Add whole / chopped red pepper or chili flakes to perfume the oil. Keep the flame low so as not to burn anything.

Add the chopped onion and stir. Cook until onion softens.

Add the tomato concasse ( canned tomatoes/ store bought concasse) and give it a nice stir. Let it simmer on low medium heat as you stir occasionally with a wooden spatula or spoon. Let it cook on  low heat for 30 minutes or till it reaches your desired consistency.  I keep it thick gravy like. Add basil leaves and fresh chopped coriander. Give it a stir.

Add salt, tomato sauce and freshly crushed black pepper. ( Be careful of the heat threshold )

Taste the sauce and add anything you feel is lacking.

Once the Arrabiata sauce is ready add the cubes of paneer ( Indian Cottage Cheese) in it and stir gently to cover the cubes uniformly in sauce. Let it cook for ten more minutes. Add warm water if the sauce is too thick. If it looks thin simmer a bit more.

Serve hot with sourdough breads, garlic breads, phulka or paratha. I sometimes just eat a bowlful of it on its own.

(I had posted an earlier version of this dish in 2010 that I have removed)

Spicy Tangy Kathirikai Gothsu | Brinjal Gothsu


There are some dishes which remain a favorite no matter what. They are soul food you can eat anytime, any day. Amti bhat, Varan bhat, Poori allu, ammras poori, Avial and Brinjal Gothsu to name a few.

I’ve never eaten kathirikai ghotsu with venn pongal sadly but I love it with idli, dosai and plain steamed rice with a dollop of warm ghee on top. A burst of spicy tangy flavor that is out of this world. It is a perfect side dish. I am anyway not so fond of sambar so this is my go to dish. Kathirikai gothsu/gotsu is a typical TamBram dish but other communities across South India also perhaps make it.

I love eggplants and I find that here the flavors are perfectly balanced. The jaggery and tamarind combination I use in khatte meethe baigan sabzi too. The recipe is quick and easy to make.

Usually I use sambar onions ( shallots) for this but here I have used the local red onions and instead of moong aal I have used te ink lentil or malka daal.  It is fun to experiment with food and I am a bit easy going in the kitchen so whatever is handy is used. So you can say it is my version of brinjal gothsu.

 

Ingredients :

Brinjal/Eggplant/Baigan/Kathirikai – 1 large diced into cubes (approx 1 cup)

Sambar onions ( shallots) 8-10 quartered or Red onion – 1 -2 chopped (approx 1 cup)

Tomato – 1/2 cup chopped into cubes

Ginger – 1 inch grated or chopped fine

Curry leaves – 2 sprigs or 8-10 leaves

Green chili – 2 slit lengthwise

Jaggery – 1 tablespoon

Tamarind water – 1/2 cup

Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp

Oil – 1 tbsp (traditionally Sesame oil is used)

Coriander leaves and tender stems – 2 tbsp chopped fine

Moong dhuli or malka daal (Soaked for half an hour) – 2 tbsp

Sambar Powder – 1 tsp ( you can make your own Gothsu Podi too but I don’t know how to so use sambar powder instead)

Turmeric Powder -1/2 tsp

Hing / Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp

Salt and Water – as needed

 

Method –

Cut the vegetables and soak the brinjals in water to which a little salt is added. Soak a lemon size ball of tamarind pulp in warm water to loosed it up. Keep aside.

Collect all the required ingredients and put pressure cooker on medium heat. Once the cooker is hot add some oil ( I used Saffola gold). Add mustard seeds to the hot oil and when they crackle, add curry leaves, hing, onions, ginger and green chili, stir rill the onions are translucent and light golden in color.

Now add the chopped tomatoes. Give them a stir and let them cook for a minute. Add chopped brinjal or Kathirikai and stir on medium high flame till the color of the brinjal skin changes a little,

Add the soaked moong or malka daal. I added it to provide a base to Gothsu. It tastes good too.

Squeeze the tamarind ball to extract all the pulp into the water and the tamarind water, turmeric powder, sambar powder, salt, jaggery to the vegetable. Mix properly.

Close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook the gothsu for 2-3 whistles.. Turn off the gas and let the pressure release naturally.

Open the lid carefully and give gothsu a gentle stir. Add chopped coriander greens and spoon it in a serving dish.

Serve hot with rice, idli, pongal, dosai or even phulka. Don’t forget to add a dollop of hot ghee on top of gothsu when serving.

Note –

You can char roast the brinjal on direct flame and mash it a bit or fry the chopped brinjal pieces and use for Gothsu too. You can also make the Gothsu in a pan instead of cooker.

You can make your own podi or Gothsu powder instead of using Sambar powder. I usually make the sambar powder at home but here I have used MTR one.

I sometime add chopped carrots, peas or french beans to it just coz I like the taste but mostly I keep it simple.

Do let me know if you make it.

Dahi Gujiya | Lentil Dumplings In Sweet Spiced Yogurt – A Festive Recipe


I have not been keeping too well and that is affecting  my writing and other projects badly. Made these traditional UP style dahi gujias for Holi but never got a chance to post the recipe. My apologies for this late post.

Dahi gujia can be called sibling of dahi vadey/dahi bhalle. Melt in the mouth, delicate lentil dumplings especially made in the shape of gujia during festive or auspicious occasions like weddings etc. It is also a Holi specialty in parts of Uttar Pradesh. A bit tricky to make,  it takes a bit of patience and practice to make these. The gujias have a little stuffing inside them unlike the usual dahi badey. Served with sweet tamarind sauce or sonth and ground spices this remains one of my favorite dishes in any season.

I remember my mother making them and arranging them gently in a large ceramic pan then pouring the chilled beaten curd over it and let them rest a while to soak up the curd. She would then decorate them with ground spices and sauces. The gujiyas were so tender hat they would break at the slightest touch. The trick to this softness lies n the making of Peethi or ground lentil paste.

One must keep in mind to soak the daal  for minimum 4-5 hours preferably overnight. Grind the daal with minimal water to make a whipped cream like paste. It should be airy and light. Check the lightness of the paste by dropping a little batter in the glass of water. If it floats then it is ready to use. Soaking the fried gujias in hot water for a minimum of 30 minutes is essential too. This will help them to fluff up to double the size and remove excess oil too. They can them be gently squeezed and used. One can refrigerate the fried gujias for at least and use them later too.

Ingredients :

For Gujia :

Urad daal (Dhuli) | Split skinned black lentil – 250 gm

Oil for Frying

For stuffing :

Ginger grated and julienne – 1 inch piece

Chironji – 1 tsp

Raisins – 10-15

Freshly Crushed black pepper – 2 tsp

You can add crushed cashews too. I do not.

Other ingredients :

Home cultured Yogurt /Curd /Dahi – 500 gm

Sugar – 1 tbsp

Salt – to taste

Sweet Tamarind Chutney  Sonth – as required

Green Coriander \ Mint Chutney – as required

Roasted cumin seed powder – as required

Salt – as per taste

red chili powder – as per taste

Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp

 

I just realized I forgot to add the process pic of frying the gujia. Sorry about that. 

Note to self and Tip – when planning to post on blog save pictures separately from Instagram. lol .. here is the pic from the story I rescued. You know where it should have gone in the collage.

Process : 

Wash and soak the skinned and split black gram daal overnight.  In the morning remove excess water and grind the daal into a fine paste ( it should look like whipped cream.) Add a little water to the daal while grinding if it is too thick but the batter should not become runny.

Take it out in a large bowl and whip it with fingers too to incorporate air into he batter. This will help the gujia to stay light and fluffy.

Now, add oil for frying in a kadhayi / wok and put it on medium high flame. Meanwhile in a shallow large bowl take water(not boiling) and add hing/asafoetida and salt to it. Mix well and keep aside.

Spread it into a round shape of 4-5 inch diameter with your fingers. Add a little of stuffing and gently fold the batter with the help of the sheet to make the crescent shape gujia. Join the edges by gently pressing with fingers.

Lift the gujia with the sheet n your left hand and flip the gujia gently in to your right hand. Gently slide it into the hot oil. Be careful while you do this step.

You can make these gujias on your palms too but that requires skill and practice.

Fry it till its color slight golden brown. Remove excess oil and drop it gently into the bowl of hot water.

Repeat the steps for frying all gujias and place them in salted hing water for 15-20 minutes to absorb the flavor. In another bowl beat the chilled yogurt . I prefer to use home cultured one but you can use the market bought one also.

Once it it nicely whisked, add sugar and mix well. The consistency should be flowing but not really thin and runny.

Take out one gujia at a time and gently press it between palms to squeeze out water. Place the gujias in a shallow dish and pour the beaten yogurt on top soaking them well.

Decorate with tamarind sauce and green chutney. Sprinkle roasted cumin seed powder, red chili powder and black salt over it and chill.

Serve when desired. You can also keep the curd separately and make individual servings by putting a little curd as base in a plate then adding 1-2 gujias and spooning some more curd on top. Garnish with ground spices and chutneys before serving.

I make the usual dahi bada with the same mixture many times in summer. It is a complete lunch for me at times and one of my favorites too.

Do give this a try and let me know your experience.