This is what Punjabi dreams are made of – Choley Bhature

All of us grow up eating certain foods that remind us of our culture and region that we grow in. For a Punjabi it is a steady diet of Ghee or White Butter laden Paranthas of every kind, Rajma, Butter Chicken, Dal Makhani and Choley Bhature with some Lassi.
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I am ashamed to say that I am a Punjabi who cannot make Paranthas so I resort to bullying the other Punjabi friends I know here in Perth to invite me to their house so I can have some amazing Paranthas in huge amounts.
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Thankfully everything else I can make. This week I decided I will make Choley Bhature which is a dish I absolutely love as it brings back some fond memories. During school holidays when we went to Delhi my aunty who lived in Pahad ganj  would treat us to these amazing Choley Bhature from Sitaram. I still dream about those days when getting fat was not scary at all.
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Bhature is puffed flour puris and Choley is a tangy Chickpea gravy. The combination of the hot fluffy Bhatures and the chickpea gravy works really well. I reserve making this for special occasions or for weekends only. Not because it is hard to make but because it is heavy dish and you cannot do much after eating it.
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This dish requires prep work atleast a day in advance. Also there are so many different ways to make it that it can scare a novice who wants to give it a try. As usual I have tried  the basic concept of easy and simple cooking. And because I did most of my preparation a day in advance the entire meal was ready under an hour.
Preparation

For the chickpea gravy:

Soak 3 cups white chickpeas for 6-8 hours in water with 1 big Elaichi (Black Cardamom pod)

You can soak them overnight if you wish and boil them the next morning. I soaked them in the morning before I left for work so I could finish most of the stuff on the same day.

Some people also like to add 1 black tea bag or 1 dried Amla (Indian gooseberry) to give the Chickpeas a dark colour. I skipped this because I did not have them in my pantry.

For the Bhature ( made 14 Bhature )

 

2 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tbsp fine Semolina ( sooji/ rawa)

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Sugar

1 tsp Soda bicarbonate

2 tbsp Curd mixed with water to knead the dough

Mix all the ingredients together and leave them overnight  or 6 – 8 hours in a bowl covered with cling wrap to let the dough rise and ferment. The beauty of the Bhatura is the sourness that the Curd gives it.

 

Ingredients for the Gravy:
2 medium sized Onions finely sliced
2 – 3 medium sized Tomatoes
2 -3 Green Chillies
freshly Chopped Green Coriander
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Red Chilli powder
1 1/2 Anardana powder ( dried Pomegranate) OR Chat masala OR Amchur powder (dried Mango powder)
2 Bay Leaves
6 Cloves
7 – 8 Cardamoms
2 tsp Coriander seeds
1 stick of Cinnamon
8 black Peppers
2 tsp Caraway seeds
2 tsp Ginger Garlic paste
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil to saute the Onions
Boil the Chickpeas in some water till half cooked. If you are using a Pressure cooker give it around 10 – 12  whistles. Throw that water away (I used to use the water then read an article about that water can be harmful so have started to throw the water in which I  boil any types of beans/pulses)
In another pan add the Coriander seeds, Cloves, Cardamoms, Cinnamon Stick, Bay leaves, Peppers and Carraway seeds seeds and dry roast them. Transfer them in a mixer and grind them into fine powder. The aroma of the dry roast is intoxicating.
Add oil in a Pan and add the Cumin seeds, Ginger garlic paste and chopped Onions and saute till translucent and the raw smell has gone.
Blanche the Tomatoes in hot water and puree them with the green chillies.
Add the dry spice mix in the Onions, red chilli powder and a little Salt. Once the oil starts to seperate, add the Tomato puree and cook till the oil starts to leave the pan.

 

Add the Chickpeas and cook on a low flame for 30 minutes. Because we are eating them with Bhature don’t add a lot of water. The gravy has to be a little dry. If you are serving it with rice you can increase the quantity of water.
Garnish with freshly chopped Coriander once done.
For the Bhature.
Using the dough – roll out small disc shaped or elongated shaped Puris .
You can use some dry flour while rolling the dough to ensure it doesn’t stick to the surface. Now fry these discs in really hot oil.
Leave them on a tissue paper so the excess oil drains out. Serve them with the Choley and some thinly sliced Onions, Lemon wedges and maybe some mixed pickle. The way the Bhature soak up the tangy gravy is amazing. The only way you can know the taste is by actually making this dish.

Your stomach might not thank you for such a heavy meal but your taste buds would be happy. My taste buds almost did a bhangra ..Balle Balle !!!!!

 

The vegetarian that went to a fancy dress party dressed up as meat – Soyabean Nuggets Curry

My mom is a hardcore vegetarian and has never even eaten Eggs in her life. When we were growing up she regularly made Non vegetarian food for us but she never ate it herself. So when we used to pester her to make a meat dish for dinner and there was no meat available she would make Soya nuggets for us and tell us that it was Goat meat. If you have seen Soya Nuggets they do look like a odd shaped pieces of meat when they are cooked and gullible that we were we obviously believed her and ate huge quantities of these power packed goodness thinking that it was Goat meat or as she called it the “Vegetarian dish that is dressed up as meat in a fancy dress party”.
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I grew up loving Soya nuggets and every time I make them they somehow bring back some fond memories of childhood.
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The versatile Soya bean is a great source of fiber, vitamins, calcium, amino and omega-3 fatty acids and can be cooked in various ways. Soya Nuggets have a very mild woody taste and hence can be used in a lot of different gravies and rice preparations. My favorite way to make this amazing health food is in a Tomato Gravy which my mom used to make, it somehow still gives me the illusion that I am eating meat. 
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You can either make this in wet gravy to serve with Rice or a dry one to have with Chapattis. I usually like to make it when I have guests coming over who eat Non Veg food but there is that one special guest who only eats Vegetarian food. The best thing about this dish is that it tastes even better if you leave it overnight and it looks like an elaborately prepared dish without you slogging in the kitchen for hours.
If you live abroad you can get the nuggets in an Indian shop very easily. This is how they look.
Soya nuggets have to be blanched in hot water first before you cook them as they are quiet hard.
So I boil some water in the microwave  or on the gas  and add the Tomatoes in that water. Once the water is boiled and the Tomato skin starts to break, I turn the gas off, let the water rest for 5 minutes and just dump the nuggets on top of them in the same water.
Remember you don’t have to boil the nuggets as they will get over cooked.   Keep them aside for 10 minutes till you prepare the gravy or they become soft.  Once they have become soft squeeze them with both your palms and drain out all the water and keep them aside.
If you notice both the pictures the nuggets are almost the same size before and after removing them from the hot water.  I have done the crime of over boiling them in the past and completely destroying the taste and texture making them taste like boiled rubber.
Recipe (cooking time 40 minutes, serves 6)
2 cups Soya Nuggets (I have used the big ones)
2 medium sized Onions
3 – 4 medium sized Tomatoes (because this is a Tomato based Gravy I have increased the quantity of Tomatoes. You can go for 2 Tomatoes and 1 Tbsp Tomato Puree as well)
1 ½ tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 ½ tsp Red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Coriander powder
2 -3 small Cinnamon sticks
1 tsp Garam masala powder
Oil to sauté the gravy
2 -3 Potatoes chopped (Optional)
Freshly chopped Coriander
Recipe:

1) Heat the Oil in a Pan and add the Cumin seeds, Bay leaves and Cinnamon sticks.

2) Once the seeds start to sputter add the roughly chopped Onions, Ginger and Garlic paste.

3) Once the onions have become translucent add the blanched Tomatoes (or Tomato puree)

4) Switch the gas of and let the mixture cool down for a few minutes before you puree it in a grinder.

5) Heat the same pan and transfer the puree and let it cook till the oil starts to separate.

6) Now add the Soya nuggets and Potatoes to the masala and sauté for a good 8 – 10 minutes till the masala has is coated really well on the nuggets.

7) The nuggets must soak up all the masala and become very dry. I like my nuggets dry so I add around 2 cups water and let the Potatoes cook and turn the heat off before  adding a handful of chopped Coriander.

 

If you like it to be a little watery then add a little more water. One thing to remember is that one must not over cook the nuggets or they nuggets will swell up and the dish would loose it’s flavor.

 

Serve with hot rotis or plain boiled rice.

 

Saving punjabi souls for generation – The no soak Rajma (red kindey beans curry)

Have you ever had one of those days when you try very hard to please someone, but nothing that you do makes them happy. All you hear is grumbling and moaning, and by the end of the day, you want to slap them hard and tell them to shut up. Well, I had one of those days today.

 

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Anyways by the time I came home, I was craving for some comfort food. Now usually comfort food for me is Bengali food, but today the Punjabi genes in me were going on an overdrive. All I could think of was Rajma, Rajma and more Rajma. Rajma or Red Kidney Beans are a Punjabi’s wet dreams come true 😉 Literally. We find this deliciously soulful curry comforting and satisfying our inner core. I hardly know any Punjabi’s who have not grown up eating these or do not love them. Infact I have force-fed these to my husband several times, and he knows when I am depressed or homesick, we will have Rajma that day.

 

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When I had first moved to Perth after a few weeks of eating Non-Indian food, my friend K invited me to her house and made Rajma for me. I remember I had hugged her and cried after seeing the diet because it reminded me so much of home. Every Punjabi kid grows up eating them, and I have yet to meet a Punju who does not like Rajma or has not eaten an unhealthy quantity of it. Strangely, Rajma is not even of Indian origin, just like the Tomatoes, we add in them. Rajma came to India during the Columbian exchange, and Tomatoes were introduced to India by the Portuguese, and now they are such an intrinsic part of our lives.

 

Every household has their way of making it, but one of the first things with Rajma is that they need to be soaked overnight, which I had not done because I had not counted my Punjabiness to take over me.  By the time I was kicking myself mentally for not soaking them, my desire to eat them was growing even more. It was like an addiction that I was unable to shake.

So I decided to try making them anyways. And while I was on this Punjabi trip, I decided to make some Raita go with it for good measure.

 

I have listed two ways to make them here and both yield a delicious curry.

 

Here is my recipe for the Rajma (Cooking time 1 hour 30 minutes, serves 4 – 5)

 

2  Coffee Cups Rajma (Red Kidney Beans)

Two medium-sized Onions

3 Large Tomatoes

1 ½ Tsp Ginger Garlic paste

2 Green Chillies

1 Tsp Cumin seeds

1 Tsp Cumin powder

1 Tsp Red Chilli powder

1 Tsp Coriander powder

1Tsp Garam masala powder

Salt to taste

Freshly chopped Coriander

1 tbsp vegetable oil or Ghee to sauté the masala

 

Optional:

1/2 tsp Ajwain/Bishops weed (for digestion as are not soaking the Rajma overnight)

2 tsp MDH Rajma masala  (optional. A from Spice roots suggested I use it and I loved the results. If you use this masala you don’t need cumin powder & coriander powder)

 

Method 1

 

1) Wash and Soak the rajma in some water for at least an hour or till you prepare the masala. I don’t add Baking soda while boiling the rajma but give them a few extra whistles, so they cook well however if you do have the time to go ahead and soak them overnight.

 

2) Heat oil in a pan add the Cumin seeds, Ajwain, chopped Onions and Green Chillies and sauté. I have not cut the Onions finely as will make a puree later. Once the onion starts to sweat and turn brown add the Tomatoes and Ginger Garlic paste and cook till it all becomes mushy.

 

3) Let this mixture cool a little before you puree it else your grinder would burst because of the heat.

 

4) In the same pan, add this Puree and let it cook for 7 – 10 minutes or till the oil separates.

 

5) Add the Rajma masala (Or Coriander & Cumin powder) Red Chilli, Salt and cook for a further 5 minutes. Once you start getting a faint aroma of the masalas, add the Rajma (without the water) and sauté for another 7 – 8 minutes till the masala becomes dry.

 

5) Now you need to use your judgment to add water to this mixture to ensure the Rajma is cooked and also at the same time making sure that they do not drown in too much water. As they were not soaked overnight, they would take easily around 30 minutes to cook in the pressure cooker, so there has to be enough water, so they don’t burn. We are looking for a thick consistency.

 

6) I cooked the Rajma for on a medium flame till they were soft and entirely in tune with the masala that they were coated in. It took me around 15 – 18 whistles. Sprinkle the fresh coriander & Garam masala on top.

 

7) While the Rajma was cooking, I made preparations for the Raita, which is a must-have as both these dishes blend beautifully together.

 

Method 2:

 

1) Wash and Soak the rajma in some water for at least an hour or till you prepare the masala. I don’t add Baking soda while boiling the rajma but give them a few extra whistles, so they cook well; however, if you do have the time to go ahead and soak them overnight.

 

2) Boil the Rajma in water for 12 whistles with salt. Please use your judgement about the amount of water you want to use to boil them. Once cooked, let the pressure release. You can store the boiled Rajma in the fridge after cooling them down. Don’t throw the water.

 

3) While the Rajma is boiling, heat oil in a pan add the Cumin seeds, Ajwain, chopped Onions and Green Chillies and sauté. I have not cut the Onions finely as I will make a puree later. Once the onion starts to sweat and turn brown, add the Tomatoes and Ginger Garlic paste and cook till it all becomes mushy.

 

3) Let this mixture cool a little before you puree it else your grinder would burst because of the heat.

 

4) In the same pan, add this Puree and let it cook for 7 – 10 minutes or till the oil separates.

 

5) Add the Rajma masala (Or Coriander & Cumin powder) Red Chilli, Salt, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Once you start getting a faint aroma of the masalas, add the Rajma (without the water) and sauté for another 7 – 8 minutes till the masala becomes dry. Note you have boiled the Rajma with salt as well, so don’t go overboard with it.

 

5) Add the water in which the Rajma was boiled and use your judgment to add more water to this mixture if you need to. At the same time, make sure that they do not drown in too much water. We are looking for a thick consistency.

 

6) I cooked the Rajma for on a medium flame till they were soft and entirely in tune with the masala that they were coated in. It took me around 15  – 18 whistles. Sprinkle the fresh coriander & Garam masala on top.

 

Serve the Rajma on a bed of hot plain boiled Rice with the Raita on the side and please for god sake eat it with your fingers, not a spoon. There was something so amazing in the first bite itself that it took all my tiredness away, making me almost sing with joy in every bit.

The dhansu Aloo ki Subzi – Kickass Potato Curry

I had a very busy week which involved a lot of exhausting travel to the beautiful town of “Port Hedland” in the Pilbara region of Western Australia for work.

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Port Hedland is the hub of mining in WA with all the major resources giants having their operations there. It is a very different experience as everyone and everything seems different here. As my plane hovered over the town all I saw was “red dirt” everywhere which I was told was due to the high content of “Iron Ore” in the soil. I got an opportunity to stay at a mining camp and see some stunning and very different countryside almost in the middle of nowhere.

IMG_5856[1]We did eat food at the camp but it wasn’t great food that made me happy. Mind you there was a lot of choice to choose Lamb, Beef, Chicken etc and usually I would have had a ball eating myself to death but for some reason I did not crave for anything. Maybe it was all the traveling or the humidity or the lack of sleep that got to me and I did not enjoy the food I ate at all.

IMG_5967Now I am a foodie and when you take a foodie in the middle of nowhere we get grumpy and frustrated. I came back home with a bad back and a sore head wanting to sleep the reminder of the day over. As the next day was Saturday I thought I would sleep in but again my body clock just never listens to my body and I was awake at 6 am sharp not sure about what to do.

IMG_5934-001With all the travel and not so great food I decided to lift my mood by making some “Dhansu Aloo ki Sabzi” with some hot deep fried Pooris (Indian fried Bread). The word “Dhansu” literally means “Kickass”. And believe me this curry is a complete Kickass version of any “Aloo Ki Sabzi” you have eaten in your life.

Food2-001It is a family favorite introduced to us by my aunt who lived in “Patna” in India for several years and used to have it there. This very simple and easy curry becomes kickass because of the “Curd/Yogurt” that is added to it. The Tomatoes and the curd work their magic to make it tangy and sour at the same time with the hot fluffy Pooris soaking up all the juices with every bite you take.

IMG_5972My friends and family are crazy about this recipe and everyone who has tried it has sworn by its deliciousness. I also love the fiery colour of this curry but trust me it is anything but spicy. Make it once and if you cannot make Pooris just have it with plain Bread and see how you will never eat “Aloo ki Sabzi” in any other but the kickass way.

Recipe: (Preparation time 30 minutes, serves 4-6)

4 – 5 medium sized Potatoes Boiled till cooked, peeled and cut into small pieces

2 Green chillies

3 medium Tomatoes blanched in hot water

1 tsp fresh Garlic paste

2 tbsp Curd/Yogurt (at room temperature)

1 tsp Cumin seeds

1 tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tsp Red Chilli powder

1 tsp Cumin powder

½ tsp Asafoetida

5 – 6 curry Leaves

Salt to taste

1 tbsp Vegetable oil

Freshly chopped Coriander

1) In a blender add the Garlic, Green Chillies, Yogurt and blanched Tomatoes and blitz to a smooth puree. The puree would be runny due to the Yogurt and Tomatoes, don’t be tempted to add any more water to this.

2) In a deep bottomed pan add the Oil, once hot add the Curry leaves, Cumin seeds and Asafoetida. Gently add the puree being careful as it will splutter really badly staining everything.

3) Cover and let it cook on a medium flame till the oil starts to separate. This will take around 10 minutes or so.

4) Add the Salt, Red Chilli powder, Turmeric powder and Cumin powder and then add the chopped Potatoes and let them cook on a medium heat for another 10 minutes.

5) We love the curry a little watery so I add a cup of hot water and let the curry boil away for another 7 minutes or so before turning off the heat. Serve with hot Pooris garnished with freshly chopped Green Coriander.

Food for the day when nothing goes right

Once in a while you have one of those days when nothing goes right and by the time the day is over you just want to crawl in your bed and die. I have had one of those days today. It started with a restless and sleepless night and then waking up with a headache. The day was wet with the rain drenching the streets as I walked making my way to a meeting with a heavy umbrella, juggling two bags. And then horror of horrors one of my bag gives way spilling the contents on the wet slippery road. Thankfully a kind stranger held the Umbrella for me while I gathered my bearings.

I somehow reached for my meeting on time only to be confronted with a hostile trainee who just made me day even worst. And the day had just started.

So anyways the day is finally nearing its end and I am so tired that my bones hurt. Since I could not control how the day shaped, I can try to atleast control how it ends by treating myself to a nice meal. So to cheer myself up for dinner I have made some Palak Paneer with fresh Cream served with some cold Boondi Raita and Wraps.

Here is my very simple recipe (again cooked under 30 minutes) to make Palak Paneer (Spinach with Cottage cheese)

3 cups of chopped Spinach
1 Big Tomato
1 Big Onion finely chopped
1 Tsp Ginger Paste
1 Tsp Garlic Paste
4 Green chillies
Salt to taste
1 Tsp Garam Masala
Freshly cubed Paneer
Oil

Blanche the Spinach in hot Water for 5 – 7 minutes and then put it cold Water (this is done to retain the Green color of the Spinach).

Drain the Water and put the Spinach in a mixer grinder to be pureed. Add the Tomatoes, Ginger Garlic paste, Green Chillies and grind to a fine paste.

Do remember that the Spinach will have some water content and so will the Tomatoes. So you do not want to add more water and make the paste runny.

Heat oil in a pan, add chopped onions and fry till light Golden in color, just on the verge of getting Brown.

Add the Spinach paste to the Onions now and let it cook for around 10 minutes.

Just look at the brilliant Green color in the pan. After around 10 minutes the puree will turn slightly brown but still retain the greenish tinge.

Add salt and Garam Masala to this gravy now and then add the fresh Paneer cubes to this and let it cook for 5 more minutes.

Again over here I follow my philosophy of not over cooking the Paneer. The Paneer has to still taste fresh and melt in your mouth.

Turn off the heat and add some fresh Cream on top or white Butter (White Butter actually tastes better).

I was so tired that I did not want to make Rotis. So I served the Paneer with some Wheat wraps and fresh Boondi Raita. This dish is so simple and so tasty that it just uplifted my mood.

I must explain that there are different ways of making this dish. But I wanted a quick fix to enlighten my mood  and the recipe I followed gave me great results, so I can lay down today with a smile on my face. Have a good night 🙂

A tale of a Dinner and a Breakfast

I have tried frozen meals and they don’t work for me. And there is no pleasure in standing in front of a hot stove and killing yourself especially when you also have to prepare lunch for the next day and clean up afterwards. So keeping with the tone of the blog for Dinner tonight I am making Paneer ki Sabzi and making provisions for Breakfast tomorrow. (Ever the eternal foodie, thinking of breakfast before I have even eaten dinner )

Paneer or Cottage Cheese is a very common Cheese made in North India. Almost every Punjabi household will have Paneer on their menu once a day. It is a soft crumbly texture and is very tasty. Paneer is also a good source of Protein and Calcium and can be easily make at home with just Milk and Lemon juice or Vinegar. However it is can be difficult to digest in the evening (so like a good girl I only serve myself a small portion).

A lot of people have a tendency to overcook Paneer which kills its natural goodness and then it is just a piece of cheese in your food which has no health benefits. So in my recipe I add Paneer right in the end after the curry is cooked to retain its flavour and goodness. I like to buy Paneer in bulk so I can use it in different recipes. In Mumbai buying Paneer was easy as it was reading available in any Milk Diary just around the corner. However in Perth it can be a challenge. There are Indian shops which sell frozen Paneer which does not taste very good. After a lot of searching I have finally found an Indian shop that stocks Fresh Paneer which tastes as good as what I had in India.

For dinner I have diced the Paneer into cubes and for breakfast I have immersed the remaining Paneer in a bowl of cold water and covered it to keep it Fresh upto 3 days. I will use this Paneer to make a sandwich filling for breakfast (recipe to follow in the next post)

Here is the recipe for Mutter Paneer with Potatoes (Peas and Cottage cheese with Potatoes)

The recipe below can be altered in a few ways to get different kind of gravies. But today’s dinner is a simple Tomato and Onion based gravy.

Recipe:

1 Big Onion finely chopped
2 Tomatoes blanched in hot water and then pureed/grated to a pulp
2 Green Chillies
1 ½ Tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
Chopped Green Coriander
1 tsp Chilli powder
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 Big potato diced (Optional)
Salt to taste

Add oil in a Pan or Pressure cooker to sauté the Cumin seeds, chopped Green Chillies and Onion.

Once the Onion is Golden brown in colour add the Ginger/Garlic paste and sauté for a few minutes and add the pureed tomatoes to this mixture.

Once the oil starts to leave the pan add frozen Peas and potatoes (optional). Add the chilli powder, turmeric powder, Cumin powder, salt and sauté the gravy till the Masala has coated well with the Peas and Potatoes.

Add some water and let the Potatoes cook. I give 4 whistles in a pressure cooker. Once the steam is released add the diced Paneer pieces and let the gravy boil for 5 minutes. Sprinkle some freshly chopped green Coriander.

 Serve it with Rice or Rotis.