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 – 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.

Winter Favorite – Punjabi Kadhi With Methi Pakoda


Chickpea Flour Fritters in Spicy Yogurt Gravy 

(Gluten free) 

This what is known as comfort food.

Kadhi is one of my favorite winter dishes though we make it in sumers too. Be it mungodi ki kadhi or the ever popular besan ke pakode wali kadhi, it is eaten with gusto by everyone. You can have a huge variety of pakodas for the kadhi depending on what’s the mood of the day. 🙂 I come from the a family where I was fortunate to savour cuisines from both Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. We make the zirya miryachi kadhi as well as the simple pakodiwali kadhi UP style. Kadhi can be spicy, muted, thick, soupy, depending on who is making it.

I can eat the dish with plain boiled rice, chapati or just simply without any accompaniment. It is filling and healthy. Usually I make enough kadhi to last a few days. It is believed that kadhi tastes even better the next day.

This one is a panjabi variation  which I learned at my inlaws’ place then added my twist t oit later on. It tastes awesome with makki (corn flour) ki roti. The combination is out of the world.  I love to add fresh methi leaves (fenugreek leaves), palak ( spinach leaves, finely chopped potatoes to the pakodas. Sometimes I just use onions. As I said it all depends on what’s available and the mood that day. Methi/ spinach enhance the taste of the dish. You can remove methi from the pakoda recipe and add it to makki / wheat flour roti too. My mother makes UP style Kadhi with plain pakodas ( just mildly spiced chickpea flour. No added veggies).

Best Kadhi is made with sour curd and is eaten usually at lunch as sour curd is not eaten at night. The trick is in following the recipe properly or the kadhi won’t come out well.

In North India, kadhi is seasoned at the end just before serving. sometimes individually. A whole red chilli and tempering in ghee for each bowl. It is milder in taste and texture in comparison with panjabi kadhi. You can either season it before adding the liquid curd mixture or at the end once the dish is ready to serve. Both have their distinct flavours and aromas.

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Ingredients for the pakodas (Dumplings) –

Besan ( gram flour/ chickpeas flour) – 1 cup

Ajwain ( carom seeds) – 1/4 teaspoon

Onion – roughly chopped 2 medium

Potato – finely chopped 1 medium ( optional)

Methi leaves ( fenugreek leaves) – fresh, finely chopped, a handful

salt, red chilli – to taste

assafoetida – a pinch

garam masala ( homemade) – 2 pinch

Green chilli – finely chopped 1 small

Oil – to fry

Tempering :

Onion – 1 large , finely chopped

Whole red chillies – 2-3

Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon

Coriander seeds – 1 teaspoon

Fenugreek seeds –  1 teaspoon

Curry leaves – a few

Mustard oil or any other oil – 2 table-spoon

Garlic – finely chopped 4-5 pods

Ginger – finely chopped  1/2 inch

Asafoetida – a pinch

Preparing buttermilk for Kadhi :

Take 2 cups of sour curd. beat it properly and dilute it with water to make a homogenous buttermilk. Usually 2 cups of water is enough but you can adjust it as per need. If you like the kadhi thinner then use another cup full of water. Add salt ( a little, remember the pakodas have salt in them too), turmeric power, garam masala, coriander powder , red chilli powder and about 4 tablespoons of chickpeas flour to the buttermilk and stir properly. I put 1 teaspoon each except coriander powder which is 2-3 teaspoons. I dip two stems of curry leaves in the butter milk at this time.

Keep aside.

To make the Pakodas:

Take besan in a wide-mouthed bowl. Add all the ingredients to it and mix well. Slowly add water and whisk it allowing the air to pass through the batter.  It will make the pakodas lighter. I don’t recommend eating soda etc.

The batter should be light and fluffy like cake batter. Test – drop a drop of batter in a bowlful of water. if the batter floats it is ready to fry.

Now heat a wok ( Kadhai, preferably iron one) and add oil ( I use mustard oil but you can use any vegetable oil or even bake the pakodas) . Let the oil come to smoking point . For mustard oil, it is essential. For others, just make sure the oil is hot enough to fry.

Keep the heat medium and gently drop the pakodas into the oil. I use my fingers to lift the battter for pakodas. Once the pakodas have swelled to become doble their size and are fluffy and nicely browned from all sides, drain them on an absorbent paper. The inside should be airy and gooey and outside they should be crisp.

You can always make some extra ones and keep them for future use. I avoid too many pakodas in kadhi as they absorb the liquid. Less pakodas mean less oil too 😉

Now to make the Kadhi 

Keep a large pan add a little mustard oil for tempering. ( You can do this step later also. If not tempering now then just add the buttermilk mixture into the pan and keep stirring till it boils. Heat should be high in the beginning and medium to low later.

If tempering at this stage then 

Add asafoetida, and all the spices into the hot oil. once they start to crackle add onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves ( take out the ones you had dipped in buttermilk earlier) and let the mixture sizzle. Stir it to let it roast properly . The raw smell of ginger , garlic should go and onions should be nicely browned.

Add the buttermilk slowly to the tempering , stirring continuously till the mixture begins to boil. Always stir in clockwise direction. Make sure you take a large deep pan as the buttermilk will froth while boiling.

I let it simmer on low heat for 10-20 min sometimes even more. It depends on how thick or thin I want the kadhi to be. You can add pakodas to it at this time or , like me, add them half an hour before serving so they keep their shape and don’t become soggy. If your pakodas are slightly hard then it is better to add them while the mixture is boiling and leave them in.

Pakodas soak up the kadhi so make sure there is enough liquid. The pakoda – buttermilk proportion should be right.

Taste the kadhi at this point for salt and spices. Whatever you feel is less simply add according to your taste.

Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves. Serve with rice, roti or eat it plain without any side dish.

Enjoy the Hot spicy Panjabi Kadhi with a little poem by Priyanka Dey, our very own indiblogger  😀

 

“Take a dip
or a sip, if you like
please you senses
get intoxicated,
by simply looking at the sight..
winter’s on a roll
as the warm bed is a matter of delight
see how everything turns to yellow
green silver and bright.”