Recipe – Instant Indian Gooseberry | Amla and Green Chili Pickle


Amla/Amlaki or Indian Gooseberry marks the advent of winter season. It is a super food and a great immunity booster due to it’s high vitamin C content. Amla is good for skin, heart, hair so I eat it raw (grated) with lunch on a daily basis apart from making variety of chutneys, pickles, jam, preserve etc. Even dry it to use later as a souring agent or as amla supari (a digestive aid and mouth freshener. All the recipes are on my blog. This is a favorite instant pickle with green chilies. Minimal oil and just the right amount of salt and spices. No preservatives or chemicals. You can eat it more than the store bought pickle. It stays well for a month in the refrigerator. I make small fresh batches till the season lasts and then a larger batch to mark the end of the season.

The fruit laden branch you see is from Safdarjung Tomb Gardens. When you visit the garden tombs please look around in the gardens too. There is a wealth of beauty waiting to be discovered. Please don’t vandalize. Be gentle.

The scientific name of Amla is Phyllanthus emblica and it belongs to Phyllanthaceae family. We all know the tremendous medicinal and culinary usage of Amla. The tree has spiritual significance too. It is said that Amalaka fruit was the final gift to the Buddhist Sangha from the great Emperor Ashoka. The Amalaka stupa is in Patna. It’s one of the Bodhi trees and also sacred in Hindu religion. It’s believed to have grown from the heavenly nectar (Amrit) hence the name Amalaki. The greenish yellow Amla berries are harvested by hand and are smooth&hard in texture. They have a sour, astringent taste. Most medicinal trees are considered sacred in Hindu religion and it’s true with Amla too.

Here’s the recipe for the instant pickle :

Ingredients :

Amla -8-10

Green Chilies -6-7

Mustard (sarson) seeds- 1 teaspoon

Fenugreek (methi) seeds – 1 teaspoon

Asafoetida (Hing) – 2 pinches

Turmeric – 1/4 tespoon

Red chili powder – 1/2 teaspoon

Salt – to taste

Mustard Oil – 2 Tablespoon

Method :

Steam the washed and pat dried Amlas and cut them into small pieces once they cool.

Heat mustard oil in a cast iron or non stick pan (I use cast iron) till it smokes.

Remove from heat.Cool it just a little and add both the seeds and hing ( asafoetida).

When the seeds begin to splutter add red chili powder and turmeric powder.

Stir in the pieces of steamed amla and raw chopped green chilies. Also add salt.

Once all the ingredients are mixed properly let it cool completely in a bowl or in the pan itself.

Take a clean glass bottle to store the pickle and keep it airtight.

The spicy tangy amla pickle is ready to eat in a an hour or kept in the refrigerator for a fortnight.

You can adjust the salt and chilies according to taste but try to keep the natural flavors. Over spiced pickle can lose its flavor and nutrients.

Always choose unblemished fruit that is firm and nice. Make sure there is no moisture while making or serving pickle for a long shelf life.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Winter Special – Sarson Da Saag Te Makki Di Roti


Earthy, flavorful, full of nutrition and delicious in taste sarson ka saag or mustard greens is a perfect winter meal. A staple in rural Punjab it is enjoyed by both Punjabis and non-Punjabis alike. The meal is often accompanied with buttermilk, homemade white butter, curd, radish/onion/green chili, jaggery. Made with seasonal mustard leaves along with other leafy veggies like bathua (Chenopodium or pigweed) and spinach the main dish has its variation in every household. Some people add turnip or radish to it while cooking. Others may use a little jaggery to balance the slight pungent taste of mustard greens.  A mix of spices is stirred in to build up the flavor.

I learned this recipe from my MIL. Their village home surrounded by fields of mustard and maize. Fresh mustard leaves are tender dark green colored broad leaves with flat surface and may have either toothed, frilled or lacy edges depending on the cultivar type. Its light-green stem branches out extensively into many laterals and have a sweet peppery flavor.

My MIL always discarded the big, damaged or yellowing leaves. Only tender small/medium leaves were used for the saag. She used the tender stems called Gandal too. Gandal is also used to make delicious pickle but that we will talk about some other day. The stems are peeled and the upper thick fibrous layer discarded. Then they are cut into small cubes and added to the chopped leaves. She said it provided the sweetness to the saag and she is so right. The addition of gandal is a game changer in the making of this dish.

Preparing sarson ka saag is a labor of love, a time consuming process so many people make it in large quantity and freeze it. Whenever the craving strikes the saag is thawed and seasoned freshly to be enjoyed again.  If you have a time crunch do clean and wash the leafy greens in advance and cook them with essential ingredients to save time.

Here is the recipe :

Sarson ka Saag :

500 gm – cleaned, washed, finely chopped mustard or sarson leaves and tender stems

250 gm – washed cleaned and chopped bathua or chenopodium leaves

250 gm – cleaned, washed and chopped palak or spinach leaves

Ginger –  1/2 inch piece+ julienne 1 tbsp

Garlic – 8-9 cloves

Green chili -4-5

Onion – 1 medium . chopped fine

Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

Red chili whole/ powder – 1/ to taste

Salt – to taste

Ghee/Clarified butter – 2 tbs

Turmeric Powder -1/2 tsp

Hing / asafoitida – 2 -3 pinch

Coriander seeds – 1 tsp

Maize flour / makki ka aata – 3-4 tbsp

Method :

Once you have all the greens cleaned, washed and chopped add them to the pressure cooker with a little water, salt, turmeric powder.

Pound the ginger, garlic and green chilies together in a mortar and pestle and add to the greens. This adds a delicious flavor to the saag.

Pressure cook till 3-4 whistles and lower the flame to cook for another few minutes or till the leaves are completely cooked. Let the cooker cook down then open and coarsely mash the saag with a potato masher or a buttermilk churner (Mathani) till it is a nice even mix. Add the maize flour and mix well so that there are no lumps.

Let it cook on slow heat to get the desired consistency then turn off the gas.

Now it is time  season it. You can cool and keep the saag in the fridge at this stage for future use.

For the Tadka or seasoning, heat ghee in a pan and once it warms add asafoetida and cumin seeds and coriander seeds. When they crackle add whole red chili and chopped garlic. Fry it  little till it browns a bit then add chopped onions and fry till they becomes translucent and pinkish in color, add some chopped ginger. red chili powder, stir and add the cooked saag to it. Cook on low flame for sometime and then urn off the stove. Keep it covered for sometime for the flavors to seep in. Serve hot with makki ki roti topped with a dollop of fresh butter r warm ghee.

Note – If you do not find bathua you can add a small tender turnip or  chopped fresh tender radish with ts greens. It gives a very nice flavor.

Never ever blend the greens in a mixer, it not just changes the flavor a bit but makes texture sticky and goey.  Saag should always be preferred “Ghota hua” or ” coarsely mashed” for the authentic taste.

If you wish add tomatoes then grate 1 large tomato and add to the seasoning after the onions have changed color. Fry the mixture properly till it is well cooked then add the saag. I avoid tomatoes at all cost.

You can change the proportion of  the tadka / seasoning as per your taste but do not let the spices overwhelm the dish. The flavor of leafy greens must play a major role in taste.

Makki Ki Roti : 

The makki ki roti is traditionally made by flattening the ball of dough between the palms of hands. I learned it this way and even cooked it on chulha but here is an easy way.

Makki atta / Maize Flour – 1 cup  (2-3 rotis)

Warm water – as required

Method – 

Take the flour in a plate and add warm water slowly. Keep rubbing the flour with your fingers as you bind it. Warm water ensures that the rotis come out soft and nice. Bind the flour and press it with the base of your palm till it becomes a cohesive mass and comes together in a nice dough. Cut the dough in two parts and make a ball.

Take a cling wrap and spread it on the kitchen counter. Apply a little oil and place one ball of the dough. Flatten it a bit  with fingers and cover with one side of the cling wrap. Roll with a rolling pin till it s round and flat. It should be a little thicker than the wheat roti. Gently lift it and place it on the hot tawa. I usually apply a little oil to the tawa and wipe it before putting the roti. Let it cook on one side on slow flame. Once slight brown spots appear flip itand let it cook. Once both sides are nicely cooked toast it on open flame by moving the so that the entire area is nicely toasted.

Remove on a kitchen cloth and crush a little by holding it on you palm. Apply ghee or serve with white butter on top.

There is no sight more comforting than seeing the butter teasingly melt on the hot roti. Love hot makki ki roti with ghee and gud /shakkar too.

We make churma with stale or behi roti by crushing it with ghee and shakkar. It tastes divine. One can add a little hot milk in it too.  🙂

Serve the hot sarson da saag and makki di roti with mirchiwale pyaz, mooli, green chili, dahi and gur.

As you see this is not just food this is a love.

Spicy Phool Makhana ( Puffed Lotus Seeds) Namkeen


 

The two recipes for Makhana snacks that I posted earlier were appreciated by many so I am posting another version for Diwali. This has dry fruits and peanuts apart from a few other healthy ingredients. You can either roast the ingredients or lightly toast them in a little ghee. Ghee, as you know, is good for health if eaten in moderation.

This crispy, low fat, low calorie snack is high on nutrition and pairs beautifully with a steaming mug of Chai. You can eat it during fasting days too.  It has a low Glycimic index and is protein rich, high in carbohydrates, gluten free and naturally vegan.

Ingredients :

Makhana or Lotus Seeds  – 2 cups

Ghee – 2 tbsp

Peanuts – 1/4 cup

Raisins – 1/2 cup

Almonds – 1/2 cup

Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves – 10-12

Chopped green chili – 2 tsp

Dry coconut  slices – 1 few

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp (optional)

Salt ( Either sendha or normal table salt) – As per taste

Chaat masala – As per taste

Black pepper powder – 1/2 tsp

Dried fresh mint and methi (fenugreek) leaves – 1/4 tsp

Roasted chana daal – 4 tbsp

Roasted cornflakes – 3-4 tbsp

Rice puffs –  1/4 cup

 

Method –

Heat a pan and add a little ghee. Add makhanas and roast them on low heat till they turn light golden and become crunchy. To test, take one fox nut and press between your fingers, it should crumble. Take them out in a plate.

Add almonds and toast them till they change color. Remove and toast the peanut till slight brown. You can add a little ghee and lightly fry them them too. Remove in a plate.

Lightly roast coconut slices and remove.

Now, add the remaining ghee to the pan. Add mustard seeds and when they crackle, add chopped green chili and curry leaves. Fry them till the moisture evaporates and they become crisp. Turn off the gas.

Add the peanuts, almonds, raisins and stir. Add makhana and stir.  Add salt, chaat masala, black pepper powder to it and mix well.

Take it out in a  bowl and let it cool. Store in an airtight container.

I made one version like this and to the other added roasted cornflakes, rice puffs, roasted chana daal too. ( you need to wash and soak the dal for at least an hour before roasting)

I skipped turmeric in the first variation and only used it for certain ingredients but you should use for the entire mixture.

You can also add roasted cashew nuts and different seeds to it.

Enjoy this healthy gluten free high protein snack with hot tea.

Meethe Makhane | Jaggery Coated Fox Nuts & A Parfait


Phool makhana are one of my favorites. They are also known as lotus seeds or fox nuts. A versatile  sweet treat that is gluten free, low calorie, vegan and full of healthy nutrients. I have the savory version HERE  and a Kheer HERE.  These are very addictive but you can eat them free from all guilt. Add to vegetable curries, make desserts or munch on the savory snacks and if you have a sweet tooth like I do then make these gur ke makhane or jaggery coated makhana. These popped seeds are good to eat in fasting days too and provide instant energy. You can even give it to toddlers.

Popped Makhana is chewy but once nicely roasted it becomes crisp and nice.

 

One of the quickest snacks you can assemble. I won’t go into details of the benefits the two ingredients provide. Do Google it.

Here is how even a kid can make it in a jiffy.

Ingredients :

Fox Nuts | Makhana – 1 Cup

Organic or Chemical free Jaggery powder or grated Jaggery  – 1/4 Cup

Pure Ghee – 1 tbsp

Water – 1 tbsp

Cardamom | Til | Desiccated coconut – As per your choice ( I have not added anything here)

Steps – 

Heat ghee in a heavy bottom pan and add the popped Fox Nuts seeds. Roast them on low flame till they become crisp. Make sure to keep the flame low and do a finger test by breaking the makhana between two fingers. If done it will crumble nicely. If it doesn’t then roast a little more. Once roasted, take them out in a plate.

Toast the Til or desiccated coconut in the same pan if using and remove in a plate.

Add the jaggery powder with a tablespoon of water to the same pan and let it melt on low flame. Once the jaggery fully melts turn off the flame and add the roasted makhanas and the other ingredients if using. Stir to mix everything and let it cool in a large plate. Once the coated makhanas are cool enough to touch ( 5 minutes) separate them gently.

Store them in an airtight glass container and munch on these power snacks anytime.

You can caramelize the fox nuts with brown sugar or white sugar too but I prefer jaggery. Here I have used Organic jaggery from Monsoon Harvest Farms that was bought from Farmer Uncle . I mostly buy all my fruits and many of the other staples from them. Do take a look at their website.

The Parfait Story 

Now, I had never used caramelized makhana in a parfait.  Usually I just munch on them but this idea of substituting roasted beaten rice or Poha with fox nuts is by Sangeeta Khanna. I treasure her recipes and often look up for interesting combinations or tricks to make things better.

I make parfaits of all sorts with chilled home cultured curd. Adding, fruits, nuts, ramdana or popped amaranth seeds, roasted Poha or beaten rice flakes but this is by far the most delicious thing. The makhanas are a chewy swollen dumplings inside the smooth chilled home cultured curd. You can check the other Parfaits from the search bar but here is One of the recipes.

This is the first mango of the season. A little sour so it has given a unique flavor  the whole composition. The sweeter the fruit is the better. Eliminates the use of white sugar or any other sweetener. Just perfect for a quick breakfast.

Here’s how I made the Caramelized Fox Nuts and Mango Parfait.

Cube the best ripe mangoes (1-2) and chill. Whip and chill a cup full of homemade curd with a little honey or mango puree. I sometimes use hung curd too.

If you have the caramelized makhanas then you are ready to assemble but if you don’t then quickly caramelize them fist.

Now, take a glass and layer the curd, mango cubes and makhana till you reach the top.

Serve immediately.

I can’t tell you how delightful this tastes. Do try and let us know how it worked for you. You can caramelize a few makhanas in five minutes for this parfait so go for it.

Bengali Kachcha Aamer Mishti Chutney


The one is the down right corner is without sweet for my mother. If you use sugar instead of jaggery the color will be golden yellow.

It is amazing how certain dishes are prepared and relished all across India with slight variations in the spices. This version of launji is slightly different from the one I make North Indian style.  Here is the recipe for Meethi Khathai as called it since childhood.

In this version of kachcha Aamer mishti chutney I have used panch phoron. I keep the mango stones ( guthli) in the dish as I love to suck on the spicy tangy sweet guthli. I also keep a lot of liquid in this. A mandatory side dish in summer when the markets are flooded with raw and ripe mangoes.

You can have a bowlful on its own or pair it with steamed rice, paratha, roti etc. Some people peel the mangoes in this dish but I keep the peel.

One more thing that I do is marinate the raw mango slices with red chili and salt for 10 minutes so that the fruit releases water and softens a little.

It quickens the cooking process too.

Here’s a simple way to make this wonder dish.

Ingredients –

Raw mangoes – 1/2 kg (4 medium size)

Organic Jaggery (grated/powder) – 1/2 cup / as desired ( I prefer the chutney a little sour) Fresh grated ginger – 1/2 tbsp

Water -3-4 cups 9 depends on how much liquid you need)

Whole dry red chilies – 2-3

Black mustard seeds – 2-3 tsp

Panch Phoran – 1 tsp (roasted and pounded cumin, fenugreek, mustard, nigella and fennel seeds)

Salt – to taste

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Red chilli powder – 1 tsp

Mustard oil – 2 tbsp

Steps – 

Wash and cut mangoes with skin lengthwise. Keep the stone.

In a wide plate keep the mango slices and stones, sprinkle salt and red chilli powder and rub it in till every piece is coated. Let it rest.

After 10 minutes heat mustard oil in a thick bottom pan.

Add the mustard seeds and dry red chilli as a tempering. Once the seeds crackle, add the marinated mango pieces and the mango stones. Give a good stir.

Saute it for 5-10 minutes n low medium heat and then stir in grated ginger and turmeric.

Add water to your liking, increase heat and bring it to boil. This preparation is a bit thin so I keep one and half cup extra jhol over the amount needed to cover the mango pieces.

Once the liquid starts boiling lower the heat and let the mango cook till soft yet firm. Don’t let it disintegrate.

At this point add the jaggery. You can use Sugar too. Mix well. Test for sweetness, salt and spice threshold. Add if required more. If you add the jaggery/sugar before the mangoes won’t soften so make sure the mango pieces have softened to your satisfaction.

Sprinkle the panch phoran and stir. Turn off the gas and let it cool to room temperature.

Spoon the aam er chutney in a glass bowl or Jar. Always use glass containers for sour dishes.

You can keep this in an airtight container for 5-7 days in the fridge.

Use dry, clean spoons to take out the chutney.

Relish this side dish as a post meal dessert or with steamed rice or luchi.

Note – If you do not have panch phoran you can use bhaja masala or roasted cumin and roasted fennel powder too.

Healthy Snacks – Pan Roasted Spiced Fox Nuts


Fox nuts are highly nutritious and make a wonderful low calorie snack. They are also known as Lotus seeds and Phool Makhana and come from an aquatic plant called Euryale Fox which grows in stagnant waters or ponds in Eastern Asia. In India, makhana is used in many religeous rituals including fasting meals. A variety of dishes are prepared with this versatile puffed seed.

Roasted makhana makes a healthy snack because it’s high in magnesium, iron, zinc and low in sodium content. It has a low glycimic index and is protein rich, high in carbohydrates, gluten free and naturally vegan.

Makhana kheer, gur makhana, masala makhana or spiced makhana are some of my favorite dishes made with fox Nuts. It is also used in curries, soups, raitas and vegetables. You can add them to homemade Granola and nuts & seeds trail mixes.

This pan roasted spiced makhana recipe is easy and doesn’t take much time. You’ll love it’s crunchy texture. The puffed seed has a neutral taste so it takes on the flavors of any combinations of spices.

You can roast a large batch of makhanas and add your favorite spices to a portion whenever you feel like munching on a light snack. You can also add it to your dahi poha like I do. They pair very well in breakfast cereals. So caramelize them and toss a few in your oats, parfaits etc.

Ingredients –

Phool Makhana or puffed Fox Nuts – 100 gm

Red Chilli Powder – to taste

Black pepper powder – to taste

Pink Salt / sendha namak – to taste

Chaat masala – to taste (optional)

Turmeric- if desired a pinch

Ghee – 1 tsp

Dried mint – to taste (optional)

I have mentioned all the spice powders to taste because it all depends on your spice threshold. I prefer them mildly salted and spiced.

Steps – 

Heat a thick bottom pan on medium heat and  add makhanas and roast them on low heat so that they brown evenly and not burn. Be patient with this.

Keep stirring constantly till they become crisp. To test, take one fox nut and press between your fingers, it should crumble.

Now take them out in a plate.

In a bowl mix all the spices.

Heat ghee in the same pan and add the spices and curry leaves if using.  Stir well  and add the roasted fox nuts. Mix well so that all the fox nuts get coated properly. Roast for another minute or two and then take them out in a bowl.

You can serve them warm or let them cool before serving.

Store them in an airtight container for later use.

I used some of it in my breakfast bowl of savory Dahi Chiwada or Dahi Poha ( Beaten rice flakes in home cultured curd)

You can add, remove the spices and make your own variations. Smbhar masala, curry powder, roasted cumin powder,  peri peri powder, dried herbs, Italian seasoning all go well with it.

I used curry leaves and turmeric in one mix and black pepper, rack salt in another.  Different spices give nice aromas and flavors to the fox nuts.

Fox nuts have a good shelf life so they can be stored in air tight containers for future use. I plain roast them and keep it ready to use as desired for both sweet and savory dishes.

You can make puffed rice snack in the same way and add coconut slivers, peanuts, roasted chiwda, cashews, roasted chana, roasted chana daal etc to make an even more healthier snack. Those wanting to lose weight must include makhana in their diet.

 

 

Hope you enjoy munching on these delicious spiced Fox Nuts. I will post the jaggery coated ones in a few days along with the parfait I make.

You can perhaps roast them in air fryer too or in the oven.

Till then eat smart and stay healthy.

Lotus Stem / Kamal Kakdi / Nadru Shami kebab


One of my favorite vegetables is lotus stem / kamal kakdi / bhee or nadru as it is called in Kashmir. Versatile and deliciously crisp and with a lovely pattern inside this rhizome can be used in curries, stir fry, kebabs, koftas, pickles, chips, honey glazed crisps, stews and much more. I have a recipe of Kashmiri Nadru Yakhini that you can try. Lotus stem is also very high in iron, calcium and dietary fibers.

The vegetable loses color very fast when peeled and cut so it is better to keep it in water. It also has a short shelf life so needs to be refrigerated. The tender fresh lotus stem oozes out a milky substance that’s the sign if freshness. Choose the creamy white, unblemished ones.

Nadru kebab or lotus stem kebabs are an exotic starter for the vegetarians. Many people think that vegetarian kebabs are an oxymoron but the vegetarian kebabs are as delicious as their cousins and are light on palate too.   So what if they do not come from the lamb shoulder (Gosht). If made correctly you can not tell the difference between a mutton shammi and a bhee shammi. That’s how delicious they are. It is amazing what all you can do with it.

So, let us get straight to the recipe:

Ingredients – 

Tender fresh Lotus stem – 3-4 small

Boiled Potato – 1 medium size

Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely chopped

Green chilies – 2-3, finely chopped

Fresh coriander leaves – 2 tbsp – finely cjhopped

Ghee – for shallow frying

Cloves – 4-5

Black cardamom – 2

Green cardamom – 3-4

Cinnamon stick – 1 inch

Bay leaves – 2

Black peppercorns –  6-8

Freshly ground pepper – 1/4 tsp

Kashmiri red chili powder – to taste

Garam masala powder – 1/4 tsp

Chaat masala – 1/4 tsp

Roasted cumin powder – 1/4 tsp

Salt – to taste

Clove, nutmeg and mace powder 2-3 pinches

Fennel powder – 1/4 tsp

Onion -1 medium

Bread crumbs or Popped amaranth seeds – for coating (optional)

Sattu / roasted chana dal power – 2-3 tbsp or as required.

Steps :

Choose the lotus stem that is sealed from both end to avoid dirt inside. Prefer the tender ones as they will be less fibrous and easy to cook.

Wash, peel and cut the lotus stem in 2 inch cubes. In a pressure cooker add the cubes with all the whole spices and just enough water to cook. ( The bhee should be submerged). Give it 2-3 whistles. It should break easily but still be firm.

Meanwhile thinly slice the onions and fry them in a little ghee till they are crisp. It should be done on low flame to ensure even browning. Take them out and make a paste of these crisp onions on a silbatta or roughly grind. This is optional and you can add finely chopped raw onion to the mix or avoid it too. Browning of onion gives the kababs a nice taste.  1-2 tbsp of this paste is enough.

Drain the water and whole spices, cool and grate the lotus stem. Also grate/ mash the boiled potato.  Grating the lotus stem helps it retain the meat like texture.

In a large bowl, add the grated lotus stem, potato, green chili, chopped ginger, coriander greens,  onion ( chopped or browned paste) all the powdered spices, salt, sattu and mix properly. Adjust the spice threshold and the salt at this point.

Make walnut size balls and flatten them to make shammi kababs. Roll them on bread crumbs or crushed cornflakes or popped ramdana as I did. You can omit this step too. The coating makes the kebabs crisp.

Heat a non stick taw or  frying pan and add some ghee to it for shallow frying the kababs. Keep the flame to medium so that the kebabs get cooked properly from inside too.

Place one kabab to test that it retains the shape, if it does add a few more but DO NOT crowd the tawa as the ghee temperature will lower and the kebabs won’t fry properly.

If the kabab breaks, add a little more binding to the mixture.

Once the kababs turn nice  brown from one side, flip and let it brown from the other side as well.

Take them out on absorbent paper to remove excess ghee.

Serve these delicious nadru shami kababs with mint coriander green chutney, onion rings and lemon quarters.

Note :

Use ghee, it is the game changer. No compromise on this.

I usually add soaked chana dal to the  lotus stem while boiling and grind it on sil batta instead of using gram flour ( besan) or sattu. If you wish to make it with chana dal, soak 1/2 cup chana dal for 2-3 hours and then add to the lotus stem and whole spices while you pressure cook.  Once cooked, take it out and grind. You can also roast the dry dal and grind to a coarse powder and add. I like the taste of sattu but omit if using chana daal.

Onion is optional too. The kababs taste awesome without it too.

Some people blend the lotus stem mixture to a fine paste for kababs but I prefer them to be a little meaty. Grating is a better option in my opinion.

I don’t add too much potato, just enough to help in binding.

If you make these do let me know your experience.

bon appetit


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Durga Ashtami : All about kale chane and halwa poori prasad


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Durga Ashtami prasad is one of my favorite meals. We never celebrated sharad navratri festival at home so I was basically unaware of the rituals till we shifted to Delhi in 1972.  As a little girl the festival brought cheer and good food. I would wait for the navratra to end so I could gorge on the  lip smacking halwa and chana ghugni with hot crisp puffed up poories and collect my kanjak gifts too. It seemed like an achievement to visit a good number of houses and come loaded with money, gifts and food in that order.

The food would be deposited on the dinning table. I would stash away the money and open the gifts. In between I would take spoonfuls of chana or halwa and wonder how the same chana ghughni which is staple of our daily food suddenly tasted unbelievably different and delicious. Perhaps it was the joy and fervor with which it was prepared and consumed that made the difference.

I felt all important after the kanya pujan etc though with time my thoughts about kanjak or kanya pujan ( worshiping the little girls) changed. We also discussed who made the best halwa poori in the neighborhood and who gave the best gift or was generous with money. It was heartbreaking to grow up as it meant no more kanjak invites to me.

It was only after my marriage that I learned to make the actual prasad the way devotees make it as a bhog  to Goddess Durga, It was made with utmost piety and devotion. No one would eat before the kanjak was fed. One would enter the kitchen only after taking a bath and changing into new clothes. Especial care was taken about hygiene, puja thali was prepared before beginning to make the bhog, etc etc. The boys felt left out and declined to help call the girls (kanjaks). I wonder if they hated that more, or being famished or delivering prasads to immediate neighbors’ whose daughters couldn’t come. The aroma from the kitchen didn’t help much.

It was tough to catch hold of the little ones as they fluttered from one place to another while we waited to hog the food. My MIL grumbled at our lack of ‘sanskars’ but eventually we managed to gather eight girls ( all below nine years of age) and one little boy considered to be Hanumanji’s avtar. MIL had a name for the boy which I can’t recall.

I remembered my granny telling how putting good thoughts in food while cooking makes it good for our bodies and mind. Maybe this is what she meant and did on a daily basis. The art of cooking and eating with mindfulness and gratitude.

Let’s get back to Kala chana ghugni which is made without onion and garlic for the prasad but on other days it has a few variants. I used to make it for lunchboxes, travel meals, afternoon snacks and as a main dish for breakfast and lunch too.

These days this ritual of making Ashtami prasad is a part of nostalgia. I have used ghee to make the sookhe chane or chana ghugni.

You can find the Suji Halwa recipe here.

 

Recipe for chana ghugni or kanjakwale sookhe chane 

Ingredients : 

Black Chickpea | Kala Chana – 250 gm

Green chili – 3-4

Cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Fresh grated ginger – 1 inch piece

Ghee | Clarified butter – 2 tbsp

Coriander Powder – 3 tbsp

Ajwain – 1/4 tsp

Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp

Chana masala or amchur – 1/2 tsp

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped – 2 tsp ( optional)

Steps : 

Wash and soak kala chana overnight in a container.

In the morning drain the water and wash the chana again. Pressure cook it with ajwain, salt and two cups of water till the chana becomes soft but doesn’t get mashed up.

Strain the chana water in a bowl for later use.

In a cast iron pan heat ghee and add cumin seeds. When they crackle add green chili and boiled chana minus the water.  Slightly mash some of them.

Add the spice powders and stir on medium flame. Slowly add the chana water and turn the flame on high so that the water gets absorbed in the chana and the spices get coated properly. Turn off the gas and cover the pan till you are ready to serve.

While the chana water is getting evaporated prepare a tight dough for the poori / puri and keep a kadhayi to heat the oil for frying.

 

Poori Ingredients : 

Wholewheat flour | Atta – 2 Cup

Oil – 2 tbsp

Salt – 1 tsp

Water – as needed to knead the dough

Oil for deep frying – about 2-3 Cups

Method:

Mix atta, oil and salt in a large bowl then slowly add water to knead a firm, smooth dough. It should not be too soft or sticky. Cover it with a damp cloth.

Make small balls and roll them out to make the poories. Use a little oil instead of dry flour if needed.

Heat the oil for frying in a large kadhai. Drop a small pinch of dough to test if the oil is hot enough for frying.  The little ball should fry and rise quickly. Discard it.

Put in the poories one by one. Turn the poori within a few seconds of sliding it in oil and press it lightly with a slotted spoon. It will start puffing up uniformly.  Keep adjusting the flame so the oil doesn’t get too cold or too hot.

Turn the poori again and cook till light reddish brown in color. I prefer them this way.

Drain the oil by holding it in the slotted spoon against the inner side of kadhayi. Remove and put on a paper towel. or clean white sheet of paper. Make all the remaining puris similarly.

Serve the hot poories with suji halwa and delicious chana ghugni. You can serve home cultured curd or raita with it. If not making for prasad or bhog you can serve a pickle on the side too.

 

May you discover the Dugra that lies within you. You are She and She is You.

Happy Ashtami and festive season to all.