Aloo Kumro Tarkari – Potatoes & Pumpkin stir fry

As a little girl, I spent a lot of time standing outside my neighbor’s kitchen window. Not because I was trying to peek in or something but because the heady aromas of Bengali food that came out of their kitchen would make me stop in my tracks and just stand still for a few minutes inhaling all the wonderful smells. And my love and obsession for Bengali food began right there outside their kitchen window.

 

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I loved everything she made, and one of my favorite vegetables that Aunty prepared was “Pumpkin & Potatoes fry” or “Aloo Kumro Tarkari” as the Bengali’s call it. A classic example of simple can be delicious, this stir fry of bright yellow Pumpkin and Potatoes in Nigella seeds made it a dish that became etched in my memory forever.

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I often end up making it when I miss home and love to serve it with plain roti drizzled with a little Ghee, and it becomes a meal that I love and enjoy a lot. And of course, the best thing about making this dish is how easy and how little it takes to make it. All it has is Pumpkin, Potatoes, some green chillies and a few spices and done; you have a happy meal right there.

 

Recipe (Serves 4, cooking time 20 minutes)

450 gms Red Pumpkin chopped into small pieces

Two Potatoes cut in the same size as the Pumpkin

Three Green chilies slit

One tsp Fenugreek seeds

½ tsp Asafoetida

Salt to taste

One tsp Turmeric powder

½ tsp Sugar

½ tbsp Mustard or Vegetable Oil

One tsp Nigella seeds

 

Heat oil in the pan, If using Mustard oil let it come to smoking point before adding the Fenugreek seeds, Nigella seeds and Asafoetida.

Add the Potatoes and cook on a medium flame till they are almost done.

Add the Pumpkin & Green chillies, cover and cook till the Pumpkin is done.

Add the Salt, Turmeric powder and Sugar and cook for 5 minutes before turning off the heat.

Serve hot with rotis.

 

Just another Paneer dish – Paneer masala (Cottage cheese cooked in a Tomato & Onion gravy)

The only cheese in a Punjabi dictionary is  Cottage Cheese or Paneer as we call it. There is an unending supply of Paneer in Punjabi homes and we do a million different things with it.  I don’t remember a time in my childhood when the fridge in my parents home did not have a block of home made Paneer. It becomes a filling for Parathas and Koftas. It is a superstar in rich gravies. It also makes appearances in insipid, watery sauces. And if we don’t have enough of it already we grill it to make Paneer Tikkas or use it to make some dessert.

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When invited to a Punjabi home for a meal, you can be assured that you will probably find a dish which features Paneer.  The fact that this simple block of firm white cheese can be put to so many incredibly good uses means it has become an integral part of our homes and hearth.  And I love cooking with it.
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One of the easiest, simplest and lip smacking Paneer Dish I make with a very basic Onion & Tomato gravy which I always stock in the freezer. It means that I can have this fantastic paneer dish ready under 20 minutes flat. Served hot with Rotis, Parathas or even rice this fragrant Paneer Masala becomes a fabulous dish to have in your kitchen diaries.

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Recipe (serves 4, cooking time 20 minutes if you have the gravy at hand or around 45
minutes if making the sauce from scratch)

For the Paneer

250 gms paneer cubed
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
2 tsp ghee or butter
1 tsp caraway seeds (Shahi Jeera)
One tsp Turmeric powder
One tsp Red chilli powder
One tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste

For the Gravy

One large Onion roughly chopped
Two medium Tomatoes roughly chopped
Two Green Chilies
Two cloves of Garlic
One tsp fresh Ginger paste
Two green Cardamoms, 1 inch Cinnamon stick, Two Cloves
One Bay leaf
Two tsp Vegetable Oil

Make the Gravy

Heat oil in a pan and add the Ginger, Garlic, Green Chilies, Cardamoms, Cinnamon, Cloves and saute for a few seconds.

Add the Onions and cook till almost caramelized.

Now add the Tomatoes, cover and cook till mushy.

Remove from the heat, cool and grind to a smooth paste.
Bringing it all together

 

Heat Butter/Ghee in a pan and add the caraway seeds.

Add the Sauce we prepared earlier and let it simmer on a low flame till the butter/ghee starts to separate from the sides of the pan.

Now add all the spices except and cook for a minute before adding the Paneer and gently mixing it in the gravy.

Cook for 5 minutes before adding ½ cup of hot water. Sprinkle the Fenugreek leaves on top and cook till some of the water has evaporated. We are looking for a thick consistency for the gravy. Also keep in mind, Paneer doesn’t need cooking, so try and not overcook the dish.

Serve hot with anything you desire.

Zucchini & Carrot Koftas – A jugad for a family favorite

When you move away from home to another city, you find yourself mentally prepared to the fact that you will miss a few comforts that you have grown up with. The magnitude of your situation although acute doesn’t trouble you so much because there is always a possibility for a short return trip. But when you move to a different country altogether, seven seas away, the separation pangs take a new meaning altogether.

IMG_3635You miss every single thing in its minutest details, things that you never paid attention to, things that never mattered when you were there or things that held a special place in your heart. You miss your favorite spot in your house. You miss your father’s booming voice; you miss your mother’s reprimand, the way she smelled of love and warmth. You miss fighting with your sibling and the pleasure of sharing things.

IMG_3654But most importantly you miss the food, food that you shared as a family, food that used to bring you together. And for me, that is something that constantly reminds me of time that has stayed etched in my memory. I miss so many things I grew up eating, many of those are now just a memory as either I don’t have a recipe for them or the fact that I cannot find the right ingredients to make them. I hate how when the urge to recreate a dish that my mother made takes over me I can never get hold of the things I need. And then I have to resort to shortcuts and the final dish never tastes the same.

IMG_3618Like when I make these “Zucchini & Carrot Koftas”, which are a Jugad (alternative) for the “Lauki ki Kofte”  (Bottle Gourd Fritters) that my mother would so skillfully make for us. Grated Bottle Groud would be maneuvered with deft fingers to be shaped into balls which would be deep fried till crispy and then at the last minute just before serving would be dunked into a spicy tomato sauce. The Koftas would soak up the Sauce without being too mushy and taste delicious. Let me admit that the Carrot and Zucchini do not make a poor substitute for bottle gourd, and the resulting dish is something that we enjoy.

IMG_3624The best thing is that you can make the Koftas in advance and freeze them and reheat before use. They can also be stuffed in bread with some chutney as a good breakfast option. One of my favorite childhood dishes recreated right here in Australia. The Koftas are light and crispy and the gravy flavorful just as I remember.

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Recipe (Makes 8 – 10 Koftas. Cooking time 40 minutes)

For the Koftas

Two medium sized Zucchinis

One large Carrot

One tsp freshly grated Ginger (Do not use bottled Ginger)

One tsp Bishop’s Weed (Ajwain)

2 tbsp Gram Flour (Besan), you may need a bit more if you feel the Koftas are not binding well together

One tsp red Chilli powder

1/2 tsp Cumin powder

1/2 Tbsp freshly chopped Coriander

Salt to taste

Vegetable Oil to fry the Koftas

 

Grate the Zucchini and Carrot together and squeeze all the water from the vegetables as much as you can. This is crucial as the Koftas will fall apart when frying if the water is not squeezed well.

Mix all the ingredients together into a smooth wet dough. Do not add any extra water; the vegetables will release water as you press everything and will help bind them. (Add 1/2 tbsp of Gram-flour if needed)

Make 10 small portions of the dough and quickly shape them into medium sized balls.

Deep fry in hot oil till evenly brown on all sides.

Drain on a kitchen towel and keep them aside.

 

For the Gravy

3 Tomatoes

2 Bay leaves

2 Green Cardamoms

2 Cloves

1 tsp Cumin seeds

1 Star Anise

1 green chili

1 tsp Ginger paste

1 tsp Garlic paste

1 tsp Turmeric powder

1 tsp Red chili powder

1 tsp Coriander powder

Salt to taste

1 tsp Vegetable Oil

Freshly chopped Coriander

 

Blanche the Tomatoes in hot water for 10 minutes and cool before making a Puree with the Green chili.

Heat oil in a pan.

Add the Bay leaves, Cumin Seeds, Ginger Garlic paste, Star anise Cardamons and Cloves.

Lower the flame and gently add the Tomato Puree and let it cook till the oil separates.

Add the Red chili powder, Salt, Turmeric powder and Coriander powder and cook for five more minutes.

Add 1 cup of hot water and bring to a boil letting it simmer gently for a few minutes.

When ready to serve take the gravy off the heat and add the Koftas in it with some fresh Coriander sprinkled on top.

Serve hot with Peas Pulao or Naan.

A lesson in cultural identity – Vatanycha Usal (Dried green peas curry)

I believe It is important to have a cultural identity, important to know where you come from, how strong are the roots of your birth, what is it that makes your culture unique and makes it thrive. And when we think of a cultural identity food plays a huge part. We eat the food of our fathers and forefathers, what they grew up eating becomes a norm of life for us. But cultural influences don’t just have to be internal they can be external too. Even though both my parents are Punjabi since we lived in Ulhasnagar the cuisine of “Sindh” had an enormous influence on our palates. We grew up eating Sindhi food till it ran in our blood along with our cuisine. Along the way, other cultural influences also made their mark.

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However, nothing else has had a greater impact then Maharashtrian food because that is what the husband grew up on and having being married for more than a decade it is but obvious that the Maharashtrian cuisine has also made its mark in not just my kitchen but my life. Since I am the cook in the house my Punjabiness dominates the kitchen on most days. But I try to also be fair and make the food that the husband has etched in his memories. Since we live abroad, away from family, away from local influences it becomes imperative that I cook food that he associates with. Food that runs in his blood so he remembers the flavours, the taste, the smell of his mother’s cooking. And this “Vatanycha Usal” (Dried Green Peas Curry) is the dish of his childhood.

 

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The Usal is a mixture of Coconut, Sesame seeds and Onion and can be made in advance for days that you want to indulge in this very rustic and delicious dish. It is heartening to see his Green eyes light up every time I make this and the man of few words nods his head when I ask “Does this taste like your mum’s cooking?”

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Recipe: (Preparation time 60 minutes, serves 8) 

 

1 ½ Cup dried Green Peas

1/2 cup grated Coconut (I used freshly frozen Coconut)

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds

Two medium sized onions (1 onion finely chopped and the other roughly chopped)

2 Tomatoes (Pureed)

5 – 6 Curry leaves

One tsp fresh Garlic paste

One tsp fresh Ginger paste

Handful of Fresh Coriander

One tsp Red Chilli powder

One tsp Turmeric powder

One tsp Coriander powder

One tsp Cumin powder

One tsp Dry Mango Powder

1/2 tsp Mustard seeds

1/2 tsp Cumin seeds

One tsp Garam masala powder or Goda Masala

Salt to taste

Two Tsp Vegetable Oil
Soak the peas in a bowl of water overnight or at least for a few hours.

Add one tsp of Oil in the pan and add the roughly chopped Onion, Coconut and Sesame seeds and roast till slightly brown on a medium flame. Keep stirring so the Coconut doesn’t burn.

Transfer the Coconut mixture into a grinder. Add ½ cup of water and grind it to a fine paste. You can make this mixture days in advance and freeze it. Using it whenever you want to make Usal.

In a pressure cooker add some Oil, Cumin, Mustard seeds and Curry leaves and let them splutter. Add the finely chopped Onion and cook till translucent.

Add the Tomato Puree and let it cook till the Oil starts to separate. Add all the dry masalas – Chilli, Turmeric, Coriander, Cumin, Garam Masala, Salt and Dry mango powder and let the masalas cook for a few minutes.

Now add the Coconut paste to the Tomato mixture. Mix everything well together till the oil starts to separate.

Drain the water from the Peas and mix well. Add 2 ½ cups of water and pressure cook for 8 – 9 whistles.

Serve hot with Rotis.

Grilled Capsicum stuffed with Potatoes

As someone who writes about food as much as I do, there seems to be a constant pressure to cook better and more innovative things. Since Food Blogging is not my full-time job, it does get hard to churn out dishes that not only look appealing to the eyes but are also easy to cook. Some days I outdo myself and make something that surprises me. But most days my food is ordinary and homely.

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Even the pictures I take are last minute shots before it gets too dark in the evening to take a decent shot with my phone. And that is how it is. A lot of the recipes I follow are so simple that I feel a little ashamed to share the recipe on my blog because they are that easy. But then for me, that is the kind of food I make every day after coming from work, and it is only fair that I share the food I eat, with people whose eating principals are similar to mine.

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And this recipe of “Stuffed Capsicum” that I am sharing today is the epitome of what I eat and believe in, complete effortless cooking. The only major ingredients in this recipe are Capsicum and Potatoes; that’s it. And if you have eaten grilled Capsicum before, you will know that the deliciously sweet hues that the Capsicum takes on after it is charred in the oven for a while.

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It almost seems that the Capsicum loves being grilled and as the flesh darkness and burns in the harsh heat of the oven the vegetable itself becomes lusciously sweet. While one can stuff mince meat and a lot of other variations on it to make the dish a little more sophisticated, I just stick to Potatoes. I love serving the Stuffed Capsicums with hot roti and some plain dal, and somehow the meal tastes almost exotic even though it isn’t.

Recipe (Cooking time 45 minutes, serves 4)

4 – 6 round Capsicums (choose Capsicums that have a good shape, so they can be filled with the Potatoes and baked, odd shaped Capsicums will be hard to manage)

Four large Potatoes

Four tsp Vegetable Oil

One tsp Turmeric powder

One tsp Cumin powder

One tsp Mustard seeds

Freshly chopped Coriander

Salt to taste

Boil and mash the potatoes.

Heat oil in a pan and add two tsp of the oil and Mustard seeds. Once they start to splutter add the mashed Potatoes, Salt, Cumin powder and Turmeric and mix well. Cook on a medium flame around 10 minutes and turn off the heat.

Divided each Capsicum into two equal parts and scoop out the seeds etc., wash them under running water and pat dry. We need a clean empty shell of Capsicum to use for the filling.

Stuff each capsicum equally with the Potato mixture and drizzle the remaining oil on top. Place it, Potato side facing up in a baking tray and grill/roast in a preheated oven at 180C for 30 – 40 minutes till the Capsicums have become soft.

You can also cook them in a flat bottomed pan on a medium flame. However, you will have to ensure that you turn them around, or the Capsicums will burn.

Sprinkle some coriander on top and erve hot.

A Food Obsession – Sai Bhaji (Sindhi specialty of cooking Greens with Vegetables & Dal)

I think I am an ‘Obsessive Foodie’ because I don’t know what else to call myself. I obsess about food a lot. And the obsession grows even stronger when I stumble upon a dish that I love or that has many memories associated with it. Which effectively means that I am in a constant state of obsession as far as food is concerned.

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As I flick the pages of a good cookbook or watch a chef enthrall me with his or her words and the food they cook, or I just check out a recipe online, there is a constant desire to try that dish. And if the dish is something special, I obsess, and I obsess and oh my god I still obsess till the cows come home. And I will only rest when I end up making the object of my fixation and devour it happily.

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Lately, I have been watching this show online called “The Foodie” hosted by the very affable ‘Kunal Vijayakar,’ who by the way looks like a brother from another mother because the man loves his food more than anything else. I don’t know whether it is his easy going way of hosting the show or the fact that he uses the slang that we associate with as a Mumbaikar (someone who is from Mumbai). Maybe it is the way his eyes light up when he eats his food, or maybe it is the way he talks about food as if it is his only love in life. Whatever it is, I am hooked on the show.

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So when he covered an episode on “Sindhi Food”, you can totally imagine my obsession levels reaching dangerous peaks. The whole week after watching the show I missed my childhood home and missed the delicious Sindhi food that my very Punjabi mother made. I dreamt of Sindhi Kadhi, Tuk Patata, Dal Pakwan, Seyal Mani, Bugha Chawal. So that whole week the only cuisine cooked in my kitchen was, yes you guessed it “Sindhi Cuisine.” It is such a shame that the beautiful food of the people of Sindh is not very popular, and it made me happy that there was someone who was showcasing the richness and deliciousness that this community offers with their delectable food.

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A favourite dish from my childhood was “Sai Bhaji” which was a complete wholesome dish which had Sai (greens) and Bhaji (means vegetables) with some Dal cooked together to make a lip smacking dish that was much loved by all at home. There is a certain freshness to this dish due to the addition of all the Green leafy vegetables and it is very nutritious. Eaten with Rice and Tuk Patata as accompaniment this is one meal that I can never have say not to.

Recipe (Cooking time 60 minutes, serves 6)

The Dal

3/4 cup Channa Dal (soaked in water for at least 10 minutes)

One large Onion finely chopped

2 Tomatoes finely chopped

One tsp Ginger paste

Two tsp Ghee or Vegetable oil

One tsp Cumin seeds

2 – 3 Green chillies finely chopped

A pinch of Asafetida (Hing)

One tsp Turmeric powder

One tsp Coriander powder

One tsp Red chilli powder

Salt to taste

The Greens

One bunch of Spinach leaves

½ cup Dill leaves (you can reduce the quantity of Dill if you don’t like the flavour but it is Dill that gives the Sai Bhaji its distinctive smell and taste)

½ cup Fenugreek leaves ( you can sprinkle one large tsp of Kasuri Methi in the end if you don’t have fresh Fenugreek, which is what I did)

Chop all the greens and wash them under running water and drain in a colander. Keep aside till we are ready to cook.

If you are using dried Fenugreek (Kasuri Methi) do not wash it. We will just sprinkle in the end when the Sai Bhaji is ready.

The Bhaji

2 cups of equally chopped Vegetables (you can use any of these or just one of the vegetables, Dhoodhi/Bottlegourd, Eggplants, Carrots, Zucchini)

For the Final tempering

One tsp Ghee

Two Garlic cloves finely chopped

Method

Heat the Ghee in a big pan or a pressure cooker. Add the Cumin seeds, Asafetida and Green Chillies, Garlic paste.

Now add the chopped Onions and cook till translucent on a medium flame.

Add the Tomatoes, Turmeric powder, Red chilli powder, Coriander powder and Salt to taste and cook till the Tomatoes are mushy.

Drain all the water from the Dal and put it in the pan with the Tomatoes mixture and mix well.

Add all the Greens and the Vegetables and just stir this mixture once. Add 1 ½ cup of warm water and cook till the vegetables are done. If you are using a pressure cooker, cook for six whistles.

Once the dish is cooked, put it back on the gas and using a masher, mash all the vegetables that have not mixed well. All the dal, greens and vegetables have to mix well and become the green mush that we recognise as Sai Bhaji. If the dish is too watery, keep it on the gas and let some of the water evaporate. The consistency is usually thick for Sai Bhaji.

When you are ready to serve heat ghee in a small pan and add the chopped Garlic, once the Garlic has browned a bit pour it on the Sai Bhaji and mix well. You can add the dried Fenugreek if you are using it at this stage.

Serve hot with Jira Rice, Boondi Raita and Aloo Tuk.

Bharli Vangi – A Maharashtrian delicacy (Stuffed baby Eggplants)

I was watching a cooking show the other day where the chef talked about how people don’t like Eggplants. Really, who are these people? I mean how can you not like Eggplants? What is it about this deliciously fleshy, meaty, melt in your mouth vegetable that you don’t like? If you have not already understood, let me put it out there, I LOVE BAINGAN (Eggplant/Aubergine). As a Punjabi kid who grew up on a steady diet of “Baingan ka Bharta” (Roasted mashed Eggplants), I can never have enough of this vegetable.

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As I grew older and experienced different regional Indian cuisines, I realized to my delight the many possibilities that the humble Baingan had to offer for those who were willing to take the plunge. And clearly I did not need much coaxing. It doesn’t matter what way is it cooked in; I can eat it. I love it roasted, cooked with Potatoes, fried as the delectable Bengali version of Baingan Baja, bake it as the Italian version of Eggplant Parmigiana or add it in Sambhars and Kadhis. But one of my most favorite way of making Baingan is the Maharashtrian way of making “Bharli Vangi” (Stuffed Eggplants). The Eggplants get stuffed with a Dry mixture of Coconut, Peanuts, and Sesame seeds and then cooked in a pan till they become this delicious mushy delicacy served in a lot of Marathi homes.

 

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Sadly you need to have small baby Eggplants to make this delicious treat and in my six years of living in Australia not once did I stumble upon them. But then the food gods took pity on me, and I found them hidden away in a corner in a local vegetable store here on a recent shopping trip. I cannot even describe the amount of happiness I felt after seeing these beautiful babies. I did a happy dance right outside the store to the shock of most onlookers who did not know whether to laugh at me or take a video and post it on Youtube to poke fun at my dancing skills.

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So I came home happy and excited that I would finally get to eat “Bharli Vangi.” The dish takes a little bit of preparation but lets me assure you; you will not be disappointed when you take the first bite, scooping the soft Eggplant covered in the delicious sweet and sour gravy. Trust me 2016 could not have begun on a more tasty note.
Recipe (Cooking time 60 minutes, serves 3 – 4)
For the Masala
1 cup desiccated Coconut (I used frozen coconut that I thawed)
1 tbsp Sesame seeds
1 tbsp Peanuts without their skins
One small Onion roughly chopped
Three green chilies
Two cloves of Garlic
1 tbsp freshly chopped Coriander
Salt to taste
In a pan dry roast the Coconut, Sesame seeds, and Peanuts till lightly brown. Once cooled add them in a grinder with the Onion, Green Chillies, Garlic, and Coriander. Add the Salt and a tsp or a little more water to make a smooth dry paste.
Try and avoid adding too much water.
This masala can be made a few days in advance and freezes well too. If cooking with the frozen masala ensure you thaw it completely before you stuff the Eggplants with it.
For the Eggplants
7 – 8 round Baby Eggplants
Remove the stems of the Eggplant and slit them on four sides without breaking them and soak them in salted water while you get the tempering ready.
Carefully stuff the masala that we made earlier in each Eggplant. There will be some masala left that will be added to the tempering later.
For the Tempering
One large onion finely chopped
One tsp Turmeric powder
One tsp Red chilli powder
One tsp Cumin powder
One tsp Coriander powder
Two tsp Goda Masala Or Garam masala powder (I used Goda masala for its distinctive flavor)
One tsp Cumin seeds
One tsp Mustard seeds
A pinch of Asafoetida
1 tbsp Peanut Oil or Vegetable Oil

a small ball of Jaggery (around 1 tsp)
Salt to taste
For the cooking use a thick bottomed flat pan so you can easily lay the eggplants in it without breaking them.
Heat oil in the pan and add the Cumin, Mustard seeds, Asafoetida and the Onions and fry till they become translucent.
On a medium flame add the Turmeric Powder, Red Chilli powder, Cumin powder, Coriander powder, Goda masala/Garam Masala, Salt and cook for 2 -3 minutes till the raw smell of the Onion has disappeared.
Now place the Eggplant one by one in the pan over the Onion mixture. Do not be tempted to turn them around as they will break easily.
Add 2 cups of warm water in the leftover wet masala and pour it on top of the Eggplant mixture. Add the Jaggery and cover the pan and cook the Eggplants on a slow flame.
After around 15 minutes very carefully turn the eggplants on the other side so they can cook evenly. The water will evaporate, and the masala will become thick which is the consistency we need. If you feel the masala has dried out, too much add a little hot water.
Turn off the heat once the Eggplants have thoroughly cooked and serve with fresh hot chapatis/rotis (Flatbreads).

For the Love of aloo – Crispy Baked Potatoes on Indian Food Network

It was time to write for Indian food network again and I decided to write about my favorite vegetable in the world “Aloo” (Potatoes).

1-IMG_9251We love our Aloo (Potatoes) to death! You may not take my word for it, but if you see how we Punjabi’s eat our aloo ke parathe (flatbread stuffed with potatoes), slathered with white butter, you will realize it is true. Also, our hips don’t lie if you know what I mean. And if our bellies were not satisfied after a stackful of these parathes, we will cook other things with it. Aloo mutter (peas), Aloo Gobi (cauliflower), Aloo tikki (cutlets), Dum aloo and what not. Our lives revolve around Aloo and we don’t mind.

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There is a lot to be said about the charm of a deep fried potato. I feel it can brighten any dish and can make your dinner look more exotic if used in different ways. It is a must-have vegetable in my kitchen too. And one of my favorite ways to make them is by baking them till crispy and Golden.
Head over the ‘Indian Food Network” to check out my recipe for “Crispy Baked Potatoes”

The fake Makhani Gravy – Paneer Not Makhani (Cottage cheese cooked in a tomato sauce)

You don’t have to live in India to taste Butter Chicken or Butter Paneer. I think the fame of the “Makhani (Butter) Gravy” is legendary and has reached far and wide. Every Indian restaurant worth its salt has it on its menu and of course they all claim to make the best Makhani gravy in town which is done to death.

1-IMG_8267 (2)If you are a Makhani Gravy purist and make it the proper way, then you will know the amount of Butter & Cream added in the recipe is stuff that a “Cardiologists” dreams are made off. Now mind you, I am a true Blue Punjabi and artery clogging things don’t scare me at all. In fact, I am an advocate of Ghee, Butter, Cream and everything else that can cause us discomfort but is a heaven for our taste buds.

1-IMG_8262 (2)However, I do have days when I try and exercise  caution in what I eat because let’s face it I am never going on a diet. So for dinner tonight I wanted to make something that is a little healthy, cooks quickly and doesn’t make me chubby. I racked my brains and decided to substitute the Cream with Yoghurt and just add a small amount of Butter.  And so this Fake Butter Paneer or Cottage cheese in a tomato gravy happened. I  was pleasantly surprised at the final dish as it was so easy to make and looked and even tasted well.

1-IMG_8288I would request you to try this recipe before writing it off. Because trust me I had people licking their fingers and asking for second helpings.

 

Here is the recipe (Cooking time 30 minutes, serves 4 – Recipe inspiration “Prashad – Jiggs Kalra”)

500 gms fresh Paneer (Cottage Cheese) or Ricotta Cheese cut into cubes.  If you are using Ricotta Cheese, buy it from a supermarket Deli and not off the shelf.

3 medium sized ripeTomatoes

1 small Onion finely chopped

3 Green chillies (I used 5 because we love it hot)

3 Cardamoms

3 Cloves

2 Bay Leaves

2 Tbsp Yoghurt (at room temperature)

1 Tbsp Butter

1 tsp Red Chilli Powder

½ tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tsp Cumin powder

1 tsp Cumin

2 tsp Kasuri Methi (dried Fenugreek leaves )

1 tsp fresh Ginger paste

Salt to taste

For the Gravy:

Blanch the Tomatoes in hot water till the skin tears. Keep them in cold water for a few minutes and then put the Tomatoes, Ginger paste and Yoghurt together and grind them to a smooth paste. You have to ensure your Tomatoes are cold and the Yogurt is at room temperature else it will split and your gravy will look really bad.

Heat Butter in a pan and add the Cumin seeds, Cardamom, Bay leaves & Cloves. Once they start to splutter add the finely chopped Onions and Green Chillies and sauté till the Onions are almost Golden brown. Add the Turmeric, Red Chilli powder, Salt and Cumin powder and sauté for 2 minutes on a low flame ensuring that the masalas don’t burn.

Add the Tomato and Yoghurt paste to this mixture and let it cook on a low flame till the Butter start to separate and the gravy becomes thick in texture. Sprinkle the Kasuri Methi at this stage and mix well.

Add the cubes Paneer and coat  the gravy evenly. Let it cook for 7 – 10 minutes before taking it off the heat.

Serve hot with some Rotis or Naans.

One more Aloo Gobi – Cauliflower & Potatoes fry

Although we Punjabi’s are known for our meat eating and alcohol drinking capacities, trust me we eat a lot of vegetables especially the seasonal ones.  And when we are taking about vegetarian food for Punjabi’s “Aloo Gobi” (Cauliflower cooked with Potatoes) has to be on the top of the list.

1-IMG_0014Aloo Gobi is to a vegetarian what Tandoori Chicken is to a meat lover. Although such a simple and straightforward vegetable to make, it can quickly go wrong when not cooked well. I have had some major disasters with Cauliflower that put me off making it for a very long time.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetHowever after moving to Perth I must admit I have become better at cooking things I usually sucked at.  Since we don’t have the option of my mother or a decent restaurant that would make the dish just like she did. Served with hot fluffy Phulka’s (whole wheat unleavened flat bread) dabbed with a little Ghee; Aloo Gobi sprinkled with Garam masala and freshly chopped Coriander is what dreams are made off.

1-IMG_4566I have a few different Aloo Gobi recipes on my blog, and this is another very simple variation of the delicious dish that I love so much. The best thing about it is that you can also use it the next day as stuffing for sandwiches. Try and see how you go.

Recipe (Cooking time 30 minutes, serves 4 -6 )

1 Large Cauliflower washed and cut into medium sized florets

3 medium Potatoes cut into medium chunks

3 Tomatoes finely chopped

2 cloves of Garlic finely chopped

1 tsp freshly grated Garlic

2 Green Chillies finely chopped

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil

Salt to taste

1 tsp Turmeric powder

1 tsp Garam masala powder

1 tsp Cumin powder

1 tsp red Chilli powder

½ tsp Asafoetida

1 tsp Cumin seeds

Lots of freshly chopped Coriander (because coriander makes life better)

Add the Potatoes and Cauliflower in a bowl of water and cook for 10 minutes till half done. Drain the water away and keep the vegetables aside. This makes the Cauliflower cook quickly. If you boiling on the gas, make sure the water is hot before you add the vegetables and then let them pre-cook on a medium flame.

Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan and the Cumin Seeds, Garlic, Ginger and Asafoetida. Add the chopped Tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes have turned mushy.

Add Salt, Chilli Powder, Turmeric Powder and Cumin powder and mix well.

Add the Potatoes and Cauliflower and mix. Cover the pan and cook till done but not mushy. It is important that you do not overcook else the Cauliflower will fall apart and that is not the Aloo Gobi you want to eat.

Sprinkle the Garam masala  and fresh coriander before you serve with hot Phulkas and enjoy.

Celebrating Holi with Khastha Kachoris and Khate Aloo (Stuffed Flaky pastry with Tangy Potato curry)

We love our festivals don’t we? Whether it is the Festival of Lights ‘Diwali’ or the festival of colors ‘Holi’ we celebrate them with the equal fervor. Indian movies have songs centering around the Holi festivities and one could not help but being caught up in the madness.

1-IMG_4845Like everyone else my brother and I loved playing Holi when we were young.  The lure of the colors, hiding in corners waiting for some unsuspecting soul to walk by before you scared the daylights out of them with water Balloons and colors was just too exciting.  We would roam the streets of our neighborhood chanting “Holi hai bhai Holi hai, bura na mano holi hai”, which effectively meant “Don’t get offended because it is Holi”.

1-IMG_4753Our grandfather would  spoil us by giving us an allowance to buy some water pistols, colors (Gulal) and balloons, and we would spend the night filling the Balloons with colored water to go and play with our friends.  No one was spared from the wrath of our water pistols and we would come home drenched in the weirdest of colors to our mothers dismay.

1-IMG_4862-001And, after all, the madness we as a family would sit together and eat “Khastha kachoris with that Khate Aloo” (Indian styled stuffed flaky pasties with tangy potato curry) and then just watch an excellent movie and sleep. The Kachoris was a family favorite, especially my Grandpa’s and my mother would frequently make them for him.

1-Food 28

Khastha actually means flaky and they are India’s answer too the western flaky pasties. Stuffed with a very delicious ‘Moong Dal’ filling the Kachoris melt in your mouth and are a treat that were the highlight of Holi.

1-Food 27And what should I saw about the Khate Aloo? if I had to marry a curry it will be this aloo curry. I cannot tell you how it tastes because you have to eat this mind blowing Tomato and Potato goodness to understand why I speak so highly of it. Below are the recipes for both the dishes for you, trust me you will love them.

1-IMG_4953Recipe for the Kachori (Makes 12)

For the Dough

2 cups Plain flour

¼ cup melted Ghee

½ tsp Salt

Vegetable Oil to deep fry the Kachoris when ready to cook.

Mix all the ingredients together to make a very soft dough. Add a little extra flour if you need but be very sparse with it.

For the filling

½ cup yellow moong dal (soaked for atleast 4 hours in cold water or for 1 hour in warm water)

1 tsp Cumin seeds

1 green chilli finely chopped

1 tsp freshly grated Ginger

½ tsp Asafoetida (Hing)

1 tsp Garam masala

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp Amchur powder/chat masala

Salt to taste

1 tsp Salt

Drain all the water from the dal.

Heat oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, Ginger, Green chilli and Asafoetida.

Add the Dal and all the masalas and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes on a low flame till the dal is nicely coated in all the masalas. Turn off the heat and let the dal cool completely.

Once the dal is cooled, grind it coarsely in a grinder to make the filling.

When ready to cook divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll out each portion of the dough into a circle of 50 mm. (2″) diameter.

Place one portion of the filling mixture in the center of the rolled dough circle.

Surround the filling mixture with the dough by slowly stretching it over the filling mixture.

Seal the ends tightly and remove any excess dough if necessary. Roll each filled portion into a circle of 62 mm. (2½”) diameter taking care to ensure that the filling does not spill out. Gently press the center of the Kachori with your thumb. You have to ensure that the dough doesn’t tear as the Kachoris can split while frying and completely fill your fry pan with the dal.

Deep fry on low heat in hot oil till golden brown on both sides. The Kachoris should puff up slowly like puris. These take a long time to cook as the crust is thick and need to be cooked on the inside also.

Drain on a kitchen towel and keep aside. The Kachoris can be stored into air tight containers for 3 – 4 days. They go really well Tea as well.

For the Khatte Aloo

4 – 5 Large Potatoes, boiled until done and cut into chunks (you can leave the skin on if your wish)

1 Green chilli

4 medium Tomatoes blanched in hot water and then pureed

2 cloves Garlic chopped thinly

1 ½ tsp Turmeric powder

1 tsp Cumin powder

1 tsp Red Chilli powder (I added 1 ½ tsp)

1 tsp Cumin seeds

Salt to taste

2 tsp Vegetable oil

A pinch of Asafoetida

Freshly chopped Coriander

Heat ol in a pan and add the cumin seeds, Garlic and Asafoetida.

Add the Tomato puree gently as it will splutter. Cover and cook for 10 minutes till the oil starts leaving the sides.

Add the Potatoes and all the masalas and green chillies and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes till the Potatoes are completely coated in the bright masalas.

Add 2 cups of hot water and gently simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes. I love this curry a little watery. If you find it is too watery for you, crush some of the Potatoes with a  spatula in the curry, this will make it thick.

Sprinkle lots of freshly chopped Coriander and serve with the Kachoris.

PS: Kachori recipe courtesy : http://www.tarladalal.com/Khasta-Kachori-2815r

 

 

Memories of the great Indian Railways – Railway Potato Sabzi

Being surrounded by some seriously intelligent and creative people can be very inspiring for people like me to get our creative juices flowing enough to write. And when you see such friends doing something fabulous you want to compliment them by creating something that has been inspired by their work. One such creative friend in my life is the photographer and author of the very famous photography blog “Mumbai Paused.

karHe recently clicked some fantastic pictures of the Indian railways on his blog and I felt the desperate need to cook and write about the great Indian railways. Indian Railways is the backbone of our very vast country, a gift from the Raj and the reason for a million people traveling from one part of the country to another; it is a necessity. If you ever go to India, I would highly recommend going on a long distance rail Journey. It is an experience that can’t be described in words because one has to be in the train, hear the sounds, the smells, see the people to know what I mean.

578313_10151763432405632_432873895_nEvery year during the summer holidays, we would religiously visit our ‘Naani ghar’ (Maternal Grandmother’s house) in Delhi and the only train we ever took was “Punjab Mail”.  Yes, every train in India has a name usually associated with its destination.  It was a ritual that we repeated every year and even now evokes a lot of memories for me.  It was not the fact that we were visiting relatives that made us happy; it was the fact that we were going on a train that did.

536776_10151763439835632_367341048_nSince my parents could only afford Second-class tickets, without an AC, the window seat became the most important part of the journey. Walking and pushing our way through the very crowded train station the coolie would get our bags to our designated seats. My brother and I would grab the window seats and beg our parents to buy us some Chacha Chowdhary Comics Or Tinkle and Frooti (a famous Mango drink in India) for the journey. Thankfully to avoid 2 irritating kids, my mother indulged us with whatever we wanted. Comics tucked under our arms, sipping Frooti and looking excitedly around us for kids our age we could make friends with; the voyage filled with anticipation would thrill us to bits.

Railway 1Of course, no journey is ever complete without food and India is perhaps the only country where people primarily make food that survives on long distance train journeys. Since the Indian middle class did not travel in air-conditioned compartments, the food had to last during the voyage in the hot summer months.  As we never ordered food prepared on the train my mother would go all out to make some special treats for us

1-IMG_3727Everyone shared their food on the train, and your dinner would consist of food that you would not normally get at home. Whether it hot steaming idlis from a south Indian home to an Egg Omelette from a East Indian home. My mother’s specialty that my brother and I loved was the “Railway Potato Sabzi” that she made only for this trip. We always had it with the softest Rotis, kneaded in Milk and a lot of Mango pickle to go with it. Crispy fried Potatoes wrapped in the rotis with pickle were a treat that we thrived on for 2 whole days besides stuffing our faces with the delicacies that one got at different train stations as well.

If I could ever go back to my childhood, I would want to be sitting in Punjab Mail, eating this sabzi and reading comics. Sigh, wish life could be that simple again.

Recipe (Cooking time 30 minutes, serves 4)

5 – 6 medium sized Potatoes cut into small chunks

2 -3 Green chillies

1 tbsp Vegetable oil, if you are not cooking these in the oven, use a  little more oil to fry them.

1 ½ tsp red Chilli powder

1 tsp Turmeric powder

1 ½ tsp Coriander powder

1 ½ tsp Cumin seeds

½ tsp Ajwain (Bishops weed/Carom seeds)

Salt to taste

1 tsp Amchur powder/Chat masala

Lots of freshly chopped Coriander

Boil the Potatoes in Salted water till almost done and throw away the water. I pressure cook whole Poatoes till done and then just chop them.

If cooking in the oven:

Preheat oven at 180 degrees.

In a bowl mix all the masalas, green chillies, Cumin seeds and the vegetables.

Add the Potatoes in the pan in which you will cook them and add the Oil mixture, mixing everything througholy.

Cook in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes till the Potatoes are golden and crispy. Sprinkle freshly chopped Coriander and serve.

If cooking on the gas:

Heat oil in a pan.

Add the Cumin seeds, Ajwain and Green chillies.

Add the Potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add all the masalas and cook for another 10 minutes till golden and crispy. Sprinkle freshly chopped Coriander and serve.

Picture courtesy : Eye for India with permission from Mumbai Paused.