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.

 

 

Usal – Misal Pav Recipe


Misal pav is one of the most popular Mumbai street food. Wholesome, delicious and full of flavors this dish is made from whole bean sprouts especially sprouted moth beans or Turkish beans. You can use mixed sprouts too. The curry is a fiery melange of fresh spices, sprouts, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and farsan. Misal is usually served at breakfast but you can eat it any time of the day. Pav can be bought or made at home with whole wheat.

Every place in Maharashtra has its own variation of Misal. I have had Puneri misal on many occasions and once had a taste of kolhapuri misal in mumbai that set my insides on fire. Too spicy, too oily, too rich for me but those who have a penchant for fiery food this dish is a must.  The original recipe requires a lot of oil but you may cut the oil and spices according to your taste. Then there is the Nasik Maratha style misal that uses the aromatic kala masala and lot more red chilli spiced oil that floats atop the misal. There is a debate on whether the goda masala and kala masala are the same. I think they taste very different. I have used goda masala in this recipe.

You can keep the gravy (Kat) and the usal separately or mix them. The advantage of keeping Kat separate is that one can adjust the amount of spiced curry.

Usal is made from sprouted moth beans and has its own place in maharashtriyan households. When topped with Kat, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes and farsan it is becomes Misal.

The process is a bit lengthy but worth all the effort if you get it right. I have made it only thrice but I love to  dunk the pav in this spicy dish anytime.

Making misal pav is a two part process.  We make the Kat ( the gravy) and the usal (the sprout dish).

Here is the list of ingredients you will require:

Pav buns ( traditionally ladi pav buns are used) – 6

Butter to toast the pav

Sprouts (mixed or moth bean srouts) – 2 cups

Tomatoes – 2 large

Potatoes  – 2 medium size cubed

Onions –  2 large finely chopped

Fresh corriender greens – 1/4 cup

Farsan ( spicy snack mixture)

Grated dry coconut – 2 tablespoon

Goda masala or achar (pickle) masala – 2 tablespoon

Green chili – 2

Ginger – 1/2 inch

Garlic – 6-7 pods

Cumin seed powder – 1 teaspoon

Corriender powder – 2 tablespoon

Red chili powder –  1 tablespoon

Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon

Turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon

Garam Masala – 1/4 teaspoon

Salt – to taste

Curry leaves – 8-10

Oil – 2 tablespoon

 

To make the paste for the gravy (Kat in Marathi)

Make a paste of ginger ,garlic and green chilies.

In a pan heat some oil. Once the oil heats up add asafedita powder and this paste. Stir properly.

Add chopped onion and when the onions become translucent add grated coconut. Stir and add chopped tomatoes. Sauté them till the tomatoes become soft and the mixture blends into a smooth paste. Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, goda masala, cumin powder, red chili powder and salt. Once the masala starts to leave oil take it out to cool.

When the masala cools completely, put it in a grinder jar and grind to a fine paste.

In a pan heat some oil and add mustard seeds. Once they begin to sputter, add curry leaves and the masala paste you had prepared.  fry it well and add two – three cups of water. Kat is a watery gravy so don’t hesitate to add adequate water. Let it boil for ten minutes or till the reddish oil floats to the top.

To make Usal

In a pressure cooker add some oil. Once the oil heats, add mustard seeds, asafetida powder,  curry leaves, paste of ginger garlic, some chopped onion and stir.

When the onion become translucent, add washed matki sprouts  and cubed potatoes.  Stir well.

Add a little turmeric powder, a little garam masala and pinch of salt. Add some water to cover the sprouts completely.

Pressure cook  till three whistles. Usal should not be watery but still have some gravy.

Turn off the heat and let the cooker cool.

Spoon the usal in a serving dish.

To toast the Pav –

Slice the pav buns  and toast them slightly in butter in a pan or just warm them. They should be soft and nice so don’t toast for long. I recommend roasting in butter.

To assemble the Misal –

In a deep dish first add two ladels of matki usal and one ladle of kat( the fiery gravy). The nadd a layer of chopped onions and chopped coriander greens. The third layer must be of farsan/ sev or whichever spicy gathia mixture you have. Squeeze generous amount of lemon juice.

Serve it hot with toasted pav.

You can serve kat, usal and farsan, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes and lemon pieces in separate bowls too. People can mix them as per their taste.

Alternately if you know that everyone in the family has a liking for hot and spicy curries, you can mix the usal in the kat and boil for some time. Serve with chopped onions, tomatoes, farsan and lemon wedges.

Notes –

You can eat usal with bhakri or roti too.

Some people like to have curd or butttermilk with misal pav to balance the heat from the curry.

Adjust the oil and chili according to your preferences. This is my version of misal pav, you can make your own.

The authentic misal pav uses a typical masala called goda masala. You get it in the market. You can also use Maharashtriyan achar ka masala which gives the misal a unique tastes. If you don’t have any of these, you can use the usual garam masala though the misal will taste different.

I don’t get all the ingredients for goda masala but I make this mix which you can try too. I will post the recipe for it in the next post.

 

To make the bean sprouts –  Wash moth or matki beans properly and soak them in water overnight in a covered container. Once the beans swell, take them out in a sieve and wash a few times under filtered water. Put the sieve on a small container and cover loosely with muslin cloth. Keep in dark place till the sprouts appear. Wash the sprouted beans properly under running filtered water before using.

 

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Shevgyachya Shenganchi Amti |Drumsticks Amti Dal


This recipe post has a little story. A childhood story before plastic took over our lives. We always ate in thalis which were either made of steel or brass even copper. Mainly steel.

We had a low table or chowki and patras with it to sit.  Sometimes we used a chatayi or woven mat too. Food was served in thali and karoti and these small tumblers had tak/ mattha/buttermilk or water. They were always kept on the left side of the thali. Most of the utensils and furniture etc was given away when I was growing up because my parents kept moving from one place to another and carrying too many things was a headache. Mom still managed to save some heirlooms like a betel nut cutter ( sarota), karanji maker and spoon, a few lotas of different shapes and sizes, katoris and thalis, a few brass and copper cooking utensils, milk pots and some other stuff like bolti or morali/vili, a grinding stone, pestle and mortar etc.

This small thali seen here is about 59 years old. It was given to mom when my brother was born, mine is slightly bigger but I loved to eat in this one. Little thali, a small katori and a tiny tumbler. It fitted perfectly in the imaginary tales I spun all day as a kid. As I grew up things changed and reluctantly we shifted to melamine / china/ glass plates but now i’m going back to thalis.

Today I was reminiscent of my aaji ( maternal grandmother) and of many other things that were part of my childhood and growing up years and I wondered how does one feel eating in old utensils that have been a part of so many kitchen stories. I can tell you there is a certain joy and fulfillment that only these utensils can provide. It is the same with food. There are some soul foods that stay with you from your childhood to old age and as you grow older you crave for them more. Varan Bhat and Amti bhat are two such dishes. You can call them pillars of daily Maharashtriyan cuisine.

Simple, soulful and full of good nutrition, I love amti in all forms poured over hot steamed rice with a generous helping of hot ghee over it. Not many dishes can give me the kind of satisfaction like this does. I make it with or without coconut and with different lentils. All have their unique tastes but this particular one I like the most. A comfort food for all times made with toor dal / arhar dal / split pigeon pea, goda masala, tamarind and jaggery or kokum and jaggery for that tangy sweet taste. The flavor from kokum is distinctly different from the tamarind one. I have used soaked dry kokum here.

A typical meal for me would be steamed rice / bajra bhakri, garlic chutney or lime pickle, stuffed brinjals with in peanut gravy, aamti , fresh buttermilk and salt on side. Maybe a bowl of shrikhand or a peda to go with it. No other meals can beat it.

This amti has the goodness of tender drumsticks or sehjan ki phali or moringa pods which I love to suck on taking in the sweet flavorful flesh from inside.

Ingredients : 

Toor dal / arhar dal / split pigeon peas – 1/2 Cup

Tender drumsticks – 4 medium

Onion – 1 large

Curry leaves – 6-8

Kokum – 3 -4  or tamarind pulp as desired ( approx – 2 tbsp

Asafoetida – 2 pinch

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Red chilli powder –  to taste

Whole red chlli – 1=-2

Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp

Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp

Goda masala ( I used homemade) – 2 tbsp

Jaggery – 1-2 tbsp

Ghee / clarified butter –  3-4 tbsp

Chopped coriander leaves – 2-3 tbsp

Grated coconut – 1/4 Cup ( optional ) ( I didn’t use)

Grated ginger – 1 tsp

Steps : 

  1. Wash and soak toor dal for 15 minutes then pressure cook it with grated ginger, salt, turmeric powder, asafoetida for 3-4 whistles or until soft.
  2. Soak kokum / tamarind ( if not using the seedless pulp) in warm water for 20 min and then mash the tamarind into a clear paste ( remove threads / seeds etc) .No need to mash kokum, just throw t in the dal later while seasoning.
  3. Chop onions in big chucks. 6-8 pieces of a large onion.
  4. Wash cut and steam the drumsticks. Check to rule out the bitterness.
  5. Once the dal is done, take a masher and totally mash the dal till it is one smooth mix. Add a cup of water and boil on low flame.
  6. add the kokum or tamarind paste at this time to dal.
  7. Add the goda masala to dal and stir. Also add the jaggery and give it a nice stir so that it melts nicely.
  8.  on the other side, heat a pan, add ghee ( Ghee brings out the best taste in amti). Once ghee warms up add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and let them splutter.
  9. Add pinch of asafoetida again, whole red chilli, curry leaves and onion pieces. fry them till onions are translucent. Add grated coconut if using and stir. Add the steamed / boiled drumsticks. Stir and add a little chilli powder. Let it cook for a minute or two.
  10. gently pour the dal over this seasoning and give a nice stir. Check for sweet, salt and spice and make changes as per your taste. It must have a nice tangy sweet flavor spiced by goda masala.
  11. Let it boil for a while. Add water if the amti seems thick. It is supposed to be a little runny and usually thickens after cooling so keep a little more watery than usual dal. Discard the kokum pieces.
  12. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and serve with hot steamed rice or bhakri.

It is essential to pour some hot ghee over amti bhat. It enhances the flavors and gives a lovely taste to the dish.

Note :

I used onion but traditionally no onion is used in this amti.

You can buy goda masala or amti masala from the stores or make them at home too.

Do let me know if you make this.

Thalipeeth – Multigrain Maharashtrian Flat Bread


Maharashtra cuisine is simple and healthy. Winter is a great time to go ahead and indulge. The markets come alive with fresh leafy greens and colourful vegetables. It is a joy to spend time in the kitchen surrounded by the crackle of spice and the aromas that rise from the simmering pots. To watch a dish unravel itself with time. I change my daily breakfast of eggs and toasts to delicious poha, sabudana khichadi, thalipeeth, thepla etc during winter.

Thalipeeth is simple, savoury and full of nutrition. Made from multi-grain flour it is the staple dish of Maharashtra. The perfect blend of multi-grain flour, spices and vegetables make it a rich source of iron, fiber and folic acid.  Sumptuous and filling Thalipeeth is high in dietary fibers and a good source of energy and protein. I love its unique flavor and crisp, crumbly biscuit like texture.

Yesterday I made two variations of thalipeeth. I used shredded cabbage and spring onions but you can make with a number of other seasonal veggies like bottle gourd, carrot, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, spinach etc. You can use sweet potato as filling too. For the days you are fasting you can make sabudana thalipeeth too. The choices are endless.

Usually Thalipeeth is served with curd, home-made white butter, roasted dry garlic chutney or coriander chutney. I eat it with methkoot (roasted fenugreek seed powder mix) and ghee too. I even tried making Thalipeeth with jaggery & dates and it tastes fantastic. (recipe on blog)

 

To make Thalipeeth 

Ingredients:

Bhajani or thalipeeth flour – 2 cups

Red onion – 2 big finely chopped

Green chilli – 2-3 finely chopped (depends on your taste)

Spring onion – (green part – 1/4 cup

Red chili powder –  ( if desired) 1/2 teaspoon ( I avoid it)

Salt – to taste

Cumin powder – 1/4 teaspoon

Coriander leaves / cilantro – few springs, finely chopped

Oil – Just enough for roasting

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Method –

Take the flour in a big plate or mixing bowl, add salt, cumin powder, red chili powder ( if using), green chilies, coriander leaves along with the desired shredded vegetable ( I made two sets of flour each with spring onion and red onion) .

Now slowly add warm water and knead the flour so that it binds well. Crush the onions with fingers to enhance the flavor. Once the dough is ready cover it with thin wet cloth so it doesn’t become dry.

Make sure the dough is smooth and soft enough to spread. It would be a little sticky due to various grains and pulses in it.

To make thalipeeth. Keep a non stick skillet or frying pan on high flame and once the pan is hot lower the flame. Add a few drops of oil to it.

Meanwhile take a ball of dough and slap it between hands to make a flat  bread. You can use a cling foil to make the thalipeeth. Take a ball ( size of an orange) and pat it with fingers on the greased sheet to make a flat bread.  Dip your fingers in water so the dough doesn’t stick to them. Evenly make a round pancake. make some cuts or small holes so that it cooks uniformly.

Now carefully transfer it on the hot frying pan or tawa and let it cook.  Cover with lid. You can brush a little water on the thalipeeth to keep it moist.

Turn it over once one side is crisp and brown. Check the edges to make sure it’s cooked properly. Add a few more drops of oil if needed.

Once the thalipeeth is brown from both sides and evenly cooked remove it on a plate for serving.

Serve it hot with chutney, butter and curd. I beat the curd and add roasted cumin powder, a few leaves of coriander and season it with curry leaves and mustard seeds but it all depends on your taste.

You can also make a simple thalipeeth with no added veggies. Just use finely chopped onions, green chillies and coriander leaves.

 

 

Varan Bhat : The taste of Maharashtra


Maharashtra’s delectable cuisine is rich in flavor and known for its distinguished presentation. Lentil and rice or “daal chawal” as it called in India, is a staple food all across India. Varan (sweet dal) is a simple comfort food eaten on daily basis in all Maharashtra homes. It is a cooked with yellow split peas, mashed, and spiced with a bit of turmeric and asafetida with a tiny amount of Jaggary.

A traditional varan is called “gor varan” or “sweet varan”

There can be many variations to this basic lentil like moong dal varan, fenugreek seed varan, cumin flavored varan, etc. Traditionally varan is served on a mound of hot steaming rice (Ambemohar or Basmati variety) with a spoon full of ghee (clarified butter) along with lemon and salt on the left side of the thali (plate).

During important functions and weddings it is an important starter for the main course and the rice is pressed into a flower shaped mould and inverted on the plate before varan and ghee is poured on top of it.

Here I present two scrumptious recipes comes from my mother’s kitchen. She is a great cook and we have always loved the two variations of healthy varan that she makes so lovingly.

1. Gor (sweet) Varan

Ingredients:

1-cup pigeon peas lentil

1 tsp. Turmeric

1/2 tsp. Asafoetida

2 cups water

Salt to taste

Lime, sliced

Jaggary size of a small walnut (grated)

1 tsp. Ghee (Clarified butter)

Method:

Clean and wash the lentil several times.

Add 2 cup of water, asafoetida and the turmeric powder and pressure cook until soft. Transfer the cooked lentil into a pot. Blend the cooked lentil until it mixes thoroughly.

Take a pan and pour the lentil in it to boil, add salt and Jaggary. Boil until the ingredients mix and remove from heat.

Serve hot on top of rice with a spoonful of ghee and a slice of lime.

Variation: add a tempering to the lentil. Heat oil; add mustard seeds, when it pops add cumin seeds, chopped onions. Cook until onions become transparent, add spices – cumin powder, coriander powder, as needed, then add chopped tomatoes, and cook for 5-7 minutes.

Add all this to the cooked lentil.

2. Ambat Varan (Sweet and Sour Varan)

“Ambat” means sour. This sweet and sour lentil recipe is a specialty of my mother.

Ingredients:

1-cup Pigeon peas lentil

1 tsp. Turmeric powder

1/3 tsp. Asafoetida

1/4 cup tamarind pulp (thin)

3-4 tbsp sugar or Jaggary

1/2 cup fresh Cilantro leaves chopped

For Tempering:

2 Tbsp Oil

Four cloves of fresh Garlic

1/4 tsp. Asafoetida

1 tsp Mustard seeds

1 tsp. Cumin Seeds

1 tsp. Red Chili powder

1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder

1 green chili – seeds removed and cut lengthwise into two parts

5-6 Curry leaves

Method:

Add 1 cup of water, asafoetida and the turmeric powder to nicely washed lentil. Pressure cook until soft and transfer the cooked lentil into a pot. Add 2 cups of water. Blend the cooked lentil until it mixes thoroughly.

Add the tamarind and Jaggary and cilantro leaves and bring it to a rapid boil. Add salt and let it cook for 8-10 minutes. Bring down the heat to medium and keep it boiling.

In another small pan, heat the oil until hot.

Add the garlic cloves and cook until golden brown. Now add the asafoetida, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds.

Once the seeds start sputtering, add the red chili powder, turmeric powder, curry leaves and green chili.

Cook for a few seconds and then temper the boiling lentil with this mixture. Bring it to another rapid boil.

Note: The sourness and sweetness needs to be adjusted, as the tamarind you use will vary in its tanginess.

Garnish with more chopped cilantro leaves. Serve with plain rice with a spoonful of ghee (clarified butter) and a squeeze of lime.

I am sure all of you will love the aroma and the flavor of these two very simple yet delicious lentil preparations.