Almond & Semolina Halwa

With the way the world is going lately, I have been looking a  lot for my inner Shakti (strength) because god knows we need every ounce of it. And it has got me thinking about how it is sometimes essential to step back and preserve your energy for the significant battles whose outcomes that could have a deeper impact on your life.

 

 

There is courage in understanding that not every battle needs to be fought, and sometimes just staying quiet to ride out the storm is also what strong people do. I find that there is a lot of strength in putting your head down and doing what you need to do without always making a big deal about it. There is also a lot of grace in understanding in accepting that many people around us are perhaps struggling harder than we are and as we acknowledge our struggles, it is essential to remember that others could be suffering too.

 

 

And since it is the festival of Navratri, the nine days when we celebrate the mother goddess and everything she embodies, it is essential to look inside our hearts and also appreciate the brave and not so brave people around us. As I was thinking and pondering, I felt it would be easy to mull over a delicious  ‘Almond & Semolina Halwa’ with jaggery and a lot of ghee in it. Because there is also courage in eating tasty treats floating in ghee without feeling any amount of guilt, don’t you agree?

 

 

Recipe  – Cooking time 30 minutes, serves 6- 8

 

1 ½ cup Almond meal

½ cup semolina

½ cup Ghee (Do not use oil)

1 cup powdered jaggery (you can use more, but I like the fact that the halwa was not sweet)

3 green cardamoms crushed

Slivered Almonds

Some crushed pistachio to garnish

½ cup Milk

2 1/2 cups water

Add the jaggery and water in a pan with the Cardamoms till the jaggery has dissolved. Heat the milk separately as adding it to the jaggery water may cause it to split. You can also use sugar if you wish to.

In another pan, add the semolina and dry roast it on a gentle flame, ensuring that it doesn’t burn. Do this for 5 minutes.

Add the almond meal and roast with the semolina for 5 more minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn.

Add ghee to this mix and keep stirring, and you will notice that the color of the mixture will change slightly to brown.

We need to add the Milk now and cook for 5 minutes and then add the water and jaggery mixture in batches. The halwa is slightly runny but will thicken as it sets.

Once done, sprinkle the almonds & pistachios.

Serve warm, but it also tastes delicious cold.

Jaggery and Lemon cake

I think on some days no wait on most days; a cake is an answer to all questions, and you know what, I am not even a cake person.

 

But I am always happy to bake and eat a good Teacake – plain, simple, no fancy frosting, just a cake with nothing else buy fatty, buttery goodness that you can enjoy with a cup of tea. Maybe it is also because I am virtually incapable of making any pretty desserts that I stick to what I can do without falling apart.

 

This simple Jaggery and lemon cake that I made for tea today is just that cake. It all comes together in one bowl; you stick it in the oven and eat it warm. The caramel flavour of the jaggery the light hint of lemon, because jaggery overpowers everything else, but is still really delicious. It also works well that it lasts for a while, which means you can always have a slice during emergencies when only a cake can help.

 

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You know what I mean, right?

Recipe – Cooking time 40 minutes

One and half cups Jaggery

Three eggs at room temperature

One cup of milk

One cup extra-virgin olive oil

Two cups plain flour

One tbsp baking powder

Juice and finely grated rind of 2 lemons

Dehydrated lemons for decoration (optional)

Preheat an oven to 180C

Whisk the jaggery with the eggs one at a time, add a pinch to salt, till you reach a creamy consistency.

Add the olive oil and gently stir the mix, do not over whip. Stir in the Milk, lemon juice, and whisk until combined. Now gently fold through the flour and baking powder.

Place the dehydrated lemons either at the bottom of the pan or the top of the cake before baking. Pour the batter in the greased baking pan of your choice, and bake for 45 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.

Fancy Baked Beans

Baked Beans & I have a special relationship. I discovered them when I moved to the UK in 2004. Maybe it was the fact that they looked so much like ‘Rajma’ (Red kidney beans), which is such a staple in most North Indian homes, or maybe it was the fact that I was all alone and working non stop which made me look for some sort of relief & Baked Beans from the can somehow just fit that bill.

Every Sunday morning, after a grueling night shift at the local call center, I would walk to the local Tesco store & order the ‘Big Breakfast.’ In those days, when life was slow, there was no reason to hurry, no Facebook, no Instagram, it was just me and my books.

I had also discovered a lot of women authors like Val McDermid, Marian Keyes, Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, and P D James and had fallen in love with their stories. So armed with a few books, and an appetite, the sleep-deprived me would indulge. The breakfast consisted of Bacon, Hash brown, Baked beans from a can, Sausages, and toasted bread with butter with a cup of tea. But what I looked forward was the Beans. I would always go on and order an extra helping because there is something sinfully delicious about a toasted piece of buttered bread slathered with baked beans, with a crispy hash brown and bacon on the side.

 

I would then go on to buy my weekly supply of ready to eat meals & a few cans of beans to microwave and eat at will. Of course, now, I wonder how I used to be so skinny after having that much sugar and salt in a single serving. But, it in those lonely days and cold winter nights, it became an integral part of my life and one that got me through, and I went through numerous cans utterly free of any guilt.

Nowadays, I make my version of Baked beans at home with some Mushrooms or Cheese for a fancy twist. While what I make is delicious and nourishing, I somehow can’t help but remember that sinful blue can of Beans that gave me comfort when I needed it the most.

Fancy Baked Beans

Recipe  – Cooking time 30 minutes, serves 3 – 4 portions

1 can of organic butter or cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)

1 cup sliced button mushrooms

1 small onion finely chopped

3 juicy ripe tomatoes chopped

A few cubes of Feta/Mozzarella or Bocconcini cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp paprika powder

Chilli flakes

Olive oil to cook and for garnishing

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

Freshly chopped parsley or basil

1 tbsp of Baba Ganoush or Labneh for that extra oomph

Method :

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add garlic and saute on a low flame for 10 seconds. Add the chopped onion and saute till translucent. Add the Mushrooms & cook till done.

Add the tomatoes and cook till mushy. Now add the Baked beans, salt, pepper, paprika powder, and mix well. Transfer the beans to an ovenproof dish and top it up with the baba ganoush or labneh, the cheese you would like to add, and drizzle some olive oil on top.

Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes, sprinkle the parsley or basil on top and serve with crusty sourdough bread.

Tips:

You can crack an egg on top before baking the beans for a twist.

Always read the label of the can before you buy it, I always look for one that has low sodium

The beans can be made in advance and refrigerated. Top them up with the cheese and whatever else you want to add and bake just before eating.

If you don’t have mushrooms, you can also use chopped zucchini/Capsicum or skip the veggies all together.

 

Palak Paneer – Spinach with cottage cheese

I usually have some frozen Paneer (Cottage Cheese) in my freezer, yup as an Indian I am a little ashamed to admit that. But then it is not so readily available here in Sydney, so I always manage to get a bag of frozen paneer during my ‘Indian Grocery trips,’ which happen once a month or even less frequently. And then having that reassurance of paneer means one had endless possibilities of dishes to make.

 

 

One of the most dependable dishes to make with paneer is ‘Palak Paneer’ (Spinach with Cottage Cheese). It is delicious, nutritious and can be indulgent if you add some cream to it. And no, before you completely write me off, I don’t use frozen spinach because thankfully, it is readily available in vegetable markets here.

 

On days when I do bulk cooking, I make the Spinach puree in advance and freeze it. So, on days when I can’t be bothered, I just thaw the gravy, heat it, and add the paneer, and there is a delectable dish ready in minutes without breaking into a sweat. It is ridiculously reassuring and simple to make and can really add a lot of colour and obviously nutrition to your dinner table.

 

 

Recipe (Cooking time 30 minutes)

For the puree:

500 gms washed and chopped Spinach

2 red onions, roughly chopped

1 tbsp ginger garlic paste

2 green chilies

1 bay leaf

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil

½ cup Cashewnuts, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes

1 tbsp fresh cream (optional)

1 tsp red chili or paprika powder

1 tsp cumin powder

2 green cardamoms

Salt to taste

For the paneer:

250 gms paneer

1 tbsp oil

Method :

Heat a tbsp of oil in a non-stick and toast the cubed paneer on all sides till slightly golden. Drain on a tissue paper and keep aside.

Steam the spinach in a large pan with water and a steamer placed on top.

In a grinder, add the spinach, ginger-garlic paste, cashew nuts, green chili, and the roughly chopped onions and blend till smooth.

In the same pan in which we toasted the paneer, add the Ghee or oil, cumin seeds, bay leaves, cardamoms, and saute for 10 seconds. Now add the spinach puree and gently cook on a low flame for 10 minutes till the raw smell of the spinach is gone.

Add the cumin powder, salt to taste, and red chili powder and cook for a further 2 – 5 minutes on a low flame. Discard the cardamons at this stage.

I like the gravy not too thick, so I add ½ cup hot water and bring it to a gentle rolling boil. If you are using cream, add the cream at this stage before you add the cubed paneer.

Turn off the heat and cover the pan, letting it sit for a few minutes before you serve hot with rice or naan.

Tips :

– You don’t have to toast the paneer; I do it because I  like the crunchy texture.

– If you are using frozen paneer, I would recommend you add it in a bowl of hot water for atleast 10 minutes before you drain it on a paper towel and then toast it. This allows the paneer to thaw, and it is easier to toast.

– You can use tofu instead of paneer and skip the cream for a vegan version.

– You don’t have to steam the spinach, and you can also boil it in hot water for 5 minutes and then quickly run it under cold water to stop the cooking. However, I feel that steaming helps retain the green color.

Moving over to the dark side with Homemade Granola

Now that I have moved over to the dark side of having cold breAdd Newakfast (aaj ki taaza smoothie anyone), I think it is my moral duty to keep progressing on that path. Well, to tell you the truth, I am a little bored of having smoothies every day for breakfast and also it is cold. So, ladies and gentlemen presenting Homemade Granola, another option for breakfast on days when I don’t want to have Smoothies or don’t have time to make my favorite hot breakfast.

 

What is a Granola, you will ask? Think about a slightly sweeter version of our very Indian ‘Chiwda.’ Oats, dried fruits, nuts, the sweetener of your choice, blended and mixed with Coconut oil and baked to perfection.

 

Believe it or not, it is very filling and hearty. I have been making a basic version of it every other week from the past few months, and while the husband refuses to have it for breakfast, he is more than happy to munch on its own with some Beer or on top of a big bowl of Ice cream for that extra crunch. For myself, I like to serve it with a big bowl of Yogurt, Berries of any kind, a hint, or a sweetener poured over the top, and it becomes a breakfast that I can deal with.

Recipe:

3 cups rolled oats

½ cup  melted Coconut oil

½ cup Maple syrup or Honey

1 ½ cups chopped mixed nuts (I used Almonds, Walnuts, Sunflower seeds, Raisins)

A handful of toasted Coconut

½ tsp Cinnamon

Pinch of sea salt

Stir the Oil and Maple syrup in a bowl and add the Cinnamon and Salt.

Add the Oats, Mixed nuts in the bowl, and mix well.

Sprinkle the toasted Coconut and add the salt. Please taste the mixture to ensure you are happy with the flavors. You can omit the salt entirely, but I like the morish flavor it gives to the Granola.

Line a baking pan with baking paper, pour the granola mixture in it and spread evenly. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 25 minutes and stir it halfway through till it is golden brown and toasted.

Cool it down completely before you store the Granola in an airtight container and refrigerate. It stays good in the fridge for up to a month. Always ensure that you use a clean spoon when scoping it out.

Bourghul Upma

One of the best things about a holiday for me is the fact that I don’t have to drink cold Smoothies for breakfast. I mean I like Smoothies but if I have to choose between a chilled glass of fruits mushed up with Oats with some Almonds & water pretending to be Milk or a plate of a hot breakfast made fresh in the morning with a cup or two of Chai, guess what I will go for? Yes, you got it a hot breakfast it will be.

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I have also found that I feel less grumpy or moody when I have started the day with a hot meal. Sadly corporate life doesn’t allow for the provision of a hot meal to start your working day, so weekends or holidays become the beacon of my desi breakfast blues. Maybe it is a childhood thing, waking up to the sounds & smells of Maa cooking something hot for you while shouting at you to get ready for school at the same time. We never started a day with a cold breakfast, never.

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Infact I remember the first time my uncle got us a box of Cornflakes from Doha; it sat above the fridge for almost three months before we figured out what to do with it. One day I decided to self initiate myself into this world of western breakfast, so I put some chilled milk in a bowl, dropped a lot of Cornflakes in it with a few large teaspoons of Sugar because Cornflakes don’t have sugar do they, & did not like it. So I transferred all the contents of the bowl in a pan & heated the mixture till it became a slushy mass of goop that was so inedible that I was put entirely off Cornflakes.

Thankfully, today is not the day to put off breakfast, especially when it is a hot savory breakfast; it is the day to make a delicious Bourghul Upma. Wikipedia states that Bourghul is a cereal food made from the cracked parboiled groats of several different wheat species, most often from durum wheat. I am not sure if this is the same as Daliya, but it looks like it. It is a naturally high-fiber, low-fat, low-calorie food that is also very easy to make. It also makes a great leftover which you can eat with some pickles & yogurt.

Here is the recipe (Serves 4, cooking time 30 minutes)

  • 1 cup Bourghul soaked in water for atleast 1 hour
  • 1 cup of chopped vegetables (I used Carrots & Capsicum)
  • One finely chopped onion
  • ¼ cup Green Peas
  • 7 – 8 Curry Leaves
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 2 tsp Urad Dal (White lentils)
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped Ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Red Chilli powder
  • 1 tsp Coriander powder
  • 2 green chilies finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • Freshly chopped coriander for garnishing
  • 3 cups of water to cook
  1. Wash the Bourghul properly a few times in water & then drain the water from the Bourghul & keep it aside
  2. Heat oil in a pan & the Mustard seeds & Urad dal & cook on a low flame till the dal is slightly brown
  3. Now add the Ginger, Green chilies & Curry leaves
  4. Add the chopped onion & cook till it is translucent
  5. Then add the Carrots & Capsicum & saute for 5 – 7 minutes
  6. Now add the Bourghul, all the spices, & mix well. The Bourghul needs to be coated really well with the masala. Keep stirring, or it will stick to the pan.
  7. Add 3 cups of water & the green peas & let it come to a boil.
  8. Cover & cook till the Bourghul is done. You will notice the texture becomes really soft when done.
  9. Serve hot garnished with fresh coriander & drizzle it with some Lemon Juice.

Turmeric Tonic & a check in

Hi There,

It has been a while since I last posted something, so I just wanted to send you a note to check in how you are doing?

In times of constant damaging news, we need an antidote to keep our spirits high and have an optimistic attitude and productive approach towards life and times ahead. We have to try and be deliberate in activities that bring less stress and more joy in our lives. On a more positive note, the internet also allows us to connect with friends and family during these trying times, and I hope you are reaching out not just to offer comfort but also to get the same in return.

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It doesn’t matter what you are feeling, anxious, exhausted, happy, calm, remember we are all in this together, and a lot of people are feeling the same.  I know these are stressful times, and we must take all precautions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and I know we are all trying to do our best. I wanted to take this opportunity to share a ‘Immunity Boosting’ recipe with you, which you can make for yourself and your family just to keep the sniffles at bay.

 

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Turmeric, as you already know, is a superfood and can help fight inflammation and keep blood sugar levels low. Used in a variety of ways, including cooking, beauty masks, and energy drinks, this is one spice that we all have in our pantries.  This Turmeric Tonic is super easy to make and should be had first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

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I think we are all in uncharted territories, and none of us know the way ahead. But I am sure that together, we’ll get through this.

Recipe

Two cups of water

Four cloves

A small piece of fresh Ginger

4 Peppercorns

½ tsp Turmeric powder

A little piece of Cinnamon (optional)

Honey for sweetener (if you are Vegan, skip it hold your nose and down it)

Boil everything together (except the honey). Once it comes to a rolling boil, turn off the heat and let it come to room temperature. Add honey and drink warm in small quantities.

This quantity is enough for a family of 4.

Try and have it on an empty stomach every single day.

Sending you love & light.

 

Eggless Banana Bread – A win from a non baker

Even though I keep claiming that baking is not my thing, it is still a thing that I love to do. Like everyone else who enjoys it, I find it therapeutic as well . The smell of a warm cake or bread coming  out fresh from the oven is intoxicating, and no matter how many disasters in my kitchen, I am hooked. I guess like everything else, if you keep practicing and don’t give up, you do eventually get better at it, right?

 

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Like this Eggless Banana, Maple syrup & Oats Bread, which I now make religiously almost two-three times a month depending on how many ripe Bananas I can find in the pantry and it never ever fails to disappoint me. Of course, it helps that the recipe is from the very trusted blog of Dassana, where she has a mind-blowing collection of Vegetarian Indian recipes for all kinds of occasions and tastes.

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I especially love this Bread because I am allergic to eggs so I can eat it without worrying about any sort of reaction. Infact this bread tastes even better when the Bananas are overripe; they add a certain sweetness to the Bread, which means you can actually get away with cutting down whatever sweetener you like to just half. I always find that over time the flavor of the Bread develops, even more, giving it a subtle depth and making it just taste so delicious.

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Also, you can keep this in the fridge wrapped in a foil for up to a week, and it stays fresh. It freezes beautifully too. Eat it on its own or slightly warm with some butter, and it will make you very happy. Please check out her blog for the authentic recipe or check my modified somewhat version here, where I have used Maple syrup and oats.

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Recipe – Baking time 1 hour

3 ripe bananas (overripe bananas impart a sweeter flavor to the bread)

1.5 cups plain Flour

½ cup Olive Oil

½ cup Maple Syrup or Honey or Brown Sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder

1.5 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tbsp Rolled Oats

A handful of chopped Nuts

2 tbsp Sunflower Seeds

1 extra Banana, this can be slightly less ripe

1 tbsp of Maple Syrup to coat the Banana that we will place on the top of the bread before baking

Note : For a more Indian flavor, you can add powdered Jaggery instead of Maple Syrup and 1 tsp Cardamom powder. Melt the Jaggery to coat the Banana on top of the Bread.

Steps:

Preheat oven at 180 Degrees C

In a large bowl, mash the three overripe bananas really well, using the back of a fork. Ensure that they are reduced to a Pulp, so they spread evenly in the batter.

Add the maple syrup and olive oil and mix well.

Now add the Flour, Oats, Cinnamon powder, baking powder & soda and gently mix till it has all come together.

Add the Vanilla, chopped nuts and a little bit of the Sunflower seeds and give a final mix

Pour in a baking tin and top with the extra Banana, which is sliced into two pieces and press it gently in the bread.

Coat the Banans with the remaining Maple Syrup and sprinkle the remaining sunflower seeds.

Bake for 1 hour, remove it and insert a toothpick to check that it comes out clean. It is essential to keep an eye on the bread, mainly because every oven works differently.

Cool the bread completely before you cut it and serve.

PS: This bread also travels really well, so if you are going for a picnic, you know what to take.

Cardamom & Jaggery Cookies – Nankhatai


Nankhatai or Indian cookies are a version of shortbread that most Indian kids of my generation ate when growing up. Soft, buttery,egg less, and cheap, they were usually made in a small hole in the wall bakeries and were a rare treat that we looked forward to. The exact origins of this biscuit are unknown, but some records suggest that Nankhatai is derived from Persian word ‘Nan,’ which means bread and “Khatai,” which means ‘Biscuit.’

Sadly like most things, these cookies are now almost forgotten, and they are not very fashionable to eat and have just become a memory of a distant past. So, when I started thinking about making biscuits to serve with Tea for The Modern Desi dinner I thought of ‘Nankhatai’ because you cannot get more Indian than this. After 10 failed attempts I finally feel that I have a recipe that works pretty well, so I have listed some tips that have works well.

Tips:

– My version of Nankhatai is made with ‘Jaggery’ instead of ‘Sugar,’ somehow, I find that it gives a delicious caramel flavor to the cookies.
– Traditionally the cookies are made with Ghee, but I use unsalted butter as I feel it works well
– Try using fresh Cardamom powder if you can; this gives the cookie a wonderful flavor
– Since they are egg less, I find that shaping them can be a little bit of a task, so refrigeration of the dough is essential. It helps to bind the Butter or Ghee once again make it easier to shape them. The mixture makes around 20 cookies, so I bake in batches and keep the dough in the fridge as the first batch bakes
– Another important thing is the baking time because they bake under 15-20 minutes and can burn in a blink of an eye, so another technique that I have followed after a few disasters is that I remove them from the oven after around 15 minutes and let them sit on the baking tray to cool down. The heat from the baking tray gently cooks them for a few more seconds, and they harden up without burning
– However, if you remove the cookies from the oven and they are still soft, just put them back for 2 -3 minutes. Once again I cannot stress how quickly the cookies burn, so it is crucial you don’t do anything when they are baking
– Always keep some distance between the cookies because they expand when they bake so keeping some distance gives them space
– Cool the cookies completely before you store them in an airtight container

Recipe

Cooking time 15 minutes
Makes 20 cookies

250 gms Flour (Maida)
80 gms Chickpea Flour/Besan
40 gms Semolina
2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
1 ½ tsp Cardamom powder
1 tbsp Yogurt (I used Greek Yogurt)
1 cup Jaggery Or powdered Sugar
1 cup soft (not melted) unsalted Butter or Ghee in a semi-solid state
A few Pistachios or slivered Almonds for decoration

In a bowl mix the Butter and Jaggery and using a hand blender whisk them together. You are looking for a smooth creamy mixture. Keep whisking till you get that consistency. Remember this will only happen if the Butter or Ghee is in a semi-solid state
Sieve the flours and add them in the bowl with the Butter mixture along with the Baking powder, soda, Cardamom powder
Now gently fold everything together without using the whisk till you have a soft dough. Don’t worry about how it looks or if it doesn’t come together well, refrigerate the mixture for atleast 30 minutes before shaping it into small balls
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C
Shape the dough into round balls, not too big as they will expand when baking. Press pistachio or few Almond slivers with your thumb in the middle and refrigerate the remaining dough till you are ready to bake
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes and remove them from the oven. If they are thoroughly cooked, quickly remove them from the tray, so they cool down. If they are not baked and still soft let them bake for 2 -3 minutes more. The cookies burn very quickly, so it is vital that you watch them like a hawk.
Store in an airtight container and enjoy. Remember, they have no preservatives, so they are only good for around 5 – 7 days.

Jackfruit Biryani

Jackfruit is one vegetable that I really missed when I moved to Australia because we could never find fresh Jackfruit in Perth where I first lived for many years. I have a very nostalgic relationship with this strange-looking, large and prickly fruit found everywhere in India.

When I was young, I had a very tumultuous relationship with my mother. I was of the firm belief that she loved my brother more than she loved me. It probably did not help that I was a very naughty child continually getting into trouble, while my brother, on the other hand, was a model of good behaviour. He never did anything wrong and was such a well behaved kid that everyone loved him. Like most kids, we would fight, and usually, I was the instigator, so upon being told off by my mother, I would get angry and go to my room crying and yelling  ‘you don’t love me.’

Of course, in my adolescent rage, I never saw my own faults.

Coming back to  Jackfruit, it is a hard fruit to peel. You have to apply oil on your hands in order to hold it and cut it because the hard skin that covers this deliciously tender and meaty fruit is a pain to work with. I remembered back at home, my mother’s skin would react to the skin of the Jackfruit, making it red and covered with a rash. After a terrible fight with my brother and a lousy tantrum from me, my mother would go to the local market and source some Jackfruit for me because she knew I loved the way she cooked it. I would find her in the kitchen, her hands all red making this dish that her petulant child loved so much.

Obviously, I never appreciated this gesture until my better sense prevailed and I was old enough to understand that I needed to correct my behaviour and that this woman I fought so much with actually loved me unconditionally. After I got married and moved out of home, every single time I visited my parents’ home, my only request  would be this Jackfruit curry she made, and almost every time I would come back with a box full of the leftovers which were made especially for me.

So, I was definitely gutted when I moved to Perth, and Jackfruit was almost unheard of. Thankfully it is available in Sydney, and I for one am happy to cook with it a lot. The texture of cooked Jackfruit is like pulled pork or beef; it’s chewy and pretty easy to digest. The tender raw Jackfruit is used to make curries as it resembles meat in flavour. . However, this ripe fruit which has a powerful odour can also be eaten on its own and to make desserts.

If you’re looking for fresh raw Jackfruit, you can always visit Sydney markets and hopefully persuade the vendor to cut it for you. I take the shortcut and buy my stash from the Uptons Brand, which can be found in most organic shops. This version is  soaked in brine so it doesn’t need to be fried for curries. So, I love using this type of Jackfruit as the main ingredient in a Biryani, the famed Rice dish from India the recipe of which is listed below for you. 

An important word of advice if I may:

Don’t let the number of ingredients in this recipe stop you from trying it because once you have eaten this Biryani, I can guarantee that there will be no going back. Also, one thing I would recommend is it to eat this Jackfruit Biryani the next day because somehow leaving the cooked Jackfruit and the Rice together overnight enhances the flavour immensely. 

Enjoy!

Recipe (Cooking time 1 hour, Serves 6)

For the Jackfruit:

300 Gms Raw Jackfruit

2 large Red Onions

2 large Tomatoes

2 tsp Ginger Garlic paste

4 Potatoes cut into chunks

3/4 cup yogurt

Coriander leaves 2 tbsps, finely chopped

Mint leaves 2 tbsps, finely chopped

 

For the Rice

1 ½ cup Long grain rice (I use Basmati which can be found in every grocery store)

Salt to taste

2 Bay Leaves

1 tsp Caraway seeds

Juice of ½ a Lemon

3 Green Cardamoms

3 Cloves

2 cups water to cook the Rice


For the Garnishing

Saffron few strands soaked in ½ cup lukewarm Milk   

Crispy fried shallots (Found in Asian sections of all grocery stores)

1 tbsp freshly chopped Green Coriander

Juice of 1 Lemon

The Spices:

2 tsp Red chili powder or Cayenne pepper

1 tsp  Turmeric powder

1 tsp Coriander powder

Salt to taste

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil or Ghee

 

Biryani Spices

4 Cloves

1 Cinnamon Stick

7 Green Cardamoms

1 Black Cardamom

2 Bay leaves

1-star anise

 

Method

If you were using Raw Jackfruit, you should fry it first.

Then you will ground the spices listed in the Biryani Masala to a fine powder and marinate the , cook it and then marinate the Fried and cooled Jackfruit with this masala in yoghurt along with the Potatoes for an hour before cooking.

However, since I am using Jackfruit that is already soaked in brine and is slightly cooked, I will not marinate it or grind the Biryani spice mix.


Step 1:

Wash the rice and cook it with 2 cups water with all the ingredients listed in the section. Since we are only using a little more than half cup Rice, it will not be cooked thoroughly. We will later cook the Rice with the Biryani

Step 2:

In a deep pan heat the oil or Ghee and then add caraway seeds, the ginger garlic paste and  spices from the Biryani spice mix listed above.

After a few seconds, add the sliced onions and cook till they are translucent.

Add the tomatoes and cook till mushy. Now lower the flame and add all the spices in the Spice mix except Salt and cook till the raw smell is gone. Gently add the yoghurt which is at room temperature, mixing it with a tbsp of water. This is important as the yoghurt has a tendency to split when cooked.

Add the potatoes and mix well and cook for 5 minutes.

Now add the Jackfruit that is removed from the brine and washed gently in clean water. Since the Jackfruit is cooked, it may break so be gentle when handling it. Add salt, fresh coriander and mint leaves and gently mix everything together.

Step 3:

Layer the half-cooked rice on top of the mixture in the pan. I don’t remove the bay leaves, cardamom, etc. from the Rice. Ensure you cover the entire pan well.

Now drizzle the saffron laced milk on the Rice, then the lemon juice, sprinkle the coriander and fried onions. Cover with a heavy lid and cook on a medium flame for 10 minutes. Then lower the heat and cook for another 40 minutes.

Once cooked let it cool a little before scooping the rice from the sides ensuring you also pick up the Jackfruit and potatoes from the bottom. As I said I usually serve this Biryani the next day with a yoghurt dip and it is delicious.

A Mother’s Hug with Yellow Moong Dal Stew

Gluten-Free & Can be made Vegan if you skip the Ghee

Yellow Moong beans are split lentils that are yellow in color and one of the easiest dal to make. This dal is also known as the Indian version of ‘Chicken Soup.’ As a kid when I got sick, my mother would often just boil the Moong beans which have all the essential vitamins and minerals and serve it to me with Rice with a generous quantity of Ghee.

Her dish didn’t have too many spices, nor does it look great, but we all know that looks do not matter when one needs comfort. And having a bowl of this dal is genuinely nourishing for your body and soul. The beauty of this dal is its simplicity and subtle flavours, and it smells utterly divine.

I am not sure whether it was my mother’s love or the dal really did have nutritious properties, but it always managed to perk me up. Even now as an adult, when I get sick, I find myself craving for a bowl of Moong Dal. The only thing that is missing is the warm, loving hug that would accompany the dal after every spoonful from my mother’s hands. As they say, a mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.

Recipe:

For the Dal:

  • 1 cup Yellow Moong Dal
  • Salt to taste
  • Turmeric powder 1 ½ tsp
  • 5 cups water (if cooking in a pot. If you are cooking in a pressure cooker, 3 cups of water should suffice)
  • 1 large Tomato finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Vegetable oil or Ghee

For the tempering

  • 2 tsp Ghee or Oil
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves of Garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Red chili powder/Paprika powder

For the Garnish

  • Lemon Wedges
  • Freshly chopped Coriander
  • Rinse the dal thoroughly under cold running water and soak it for 10 minutes. This is an
  • essential step in preparing a Dal and one that should never be missed.

Cooktop method:

  1. Put the soaked dal in a saucepan with 5 cups of water, salt, and Turmeric. Give it a stir and let it cook for 20 minutes until it is almost done. You need to ensure that the dal is not mushy or overcooked.
  2. In another pan heat 1 tsp of Vegetable Oil or Ghee and cook the chopped Tomatoes till soft. Add them to the Dal and let it come to a rolling boil. Once you are happy with the consistency of the dal turn off the heat.
  3. When ready to serve heat 2 tsp of Oil or Ghee in a small pan. Add the Garlic and cook for a few seconds till slightly brown. Add the cumin seeds and red chili powder and add this tempering to the dal. Let the dal boil for a few minutes on a low flame till the flavors of the tempering are soaked in.
  4. Garnish the dal with lots of freshly chopped coriander and serve it with a bowl of plain White rice or Indian bread. Squeeze the lemon on the dal just before you eat it to give it the extra tang.

Pressure Cooker Method:

Put the soaked dal in a pressure cooker with 2.5 cups of water, chopped Tomatoes, Turmeric, and salt. Cook for 10 minutes.

Once the pressure releases check the consistency of the Dal. If it is too watery or not thoroughly cooked, you can cook it in the cooker without the lid for a few minutes.

Follow step 3 and 4 above when ready to serve

Tip: To make this Dal even more special, you can garnish it with fried dried shallots.
You can also add some vegetables like carrot, zucchini and pumpkin while boiling this dal to make it hearty and wholesome.

Ghee

Ghee to an Indian is what Butter is to the French, and Olive Oil is to the Italians or Spaniards. The Indian kitchen is incomplete without this very primary ingredient that is not just used for cooking but also used for religious purposes. In Ayurveda – the traditional Indian branch of medicine – ghee is also used to cure many ailments as it not only fights inflammation but also enhances digestion and improves your immunity.

Also known as Clarified Butter, ghee is basically an oil without the Milk Solids. This means that if you are lactose intolerant, you can also enjoy food cooked in Ghee without being sick.

While the traditional process of making ghee takes a considerable time, the availability of readymade unsalted Butter has now made it really straightforward to make your own Ghee at home.

Should you decide to make this healthy fat, I cannot stress the importance of using the best quality unsalted and even organic butter that you can get. The resulting product will be far superior if you have ensured that you have used a better quality butter!

There are so many ways in which Ghee can be used.
You can add a tablespoon of Ghee on plain Dal or Soup to make it sing gloriously or you can slather it on toast instead of using butter.

Potatoes will turn even more crispy when roasted with Ghee because it has a high smoking point, and don’t get me started on rubbing Ghee on a chicken to give it the most beautiful roasted Skin and nutty flavour.

You can also use Ghee for baking Cakes resulting in really moist and indulgent bakes that you can ever imagine.

Outside of the kitchen, Ghee also works beautifully as a lip balm to heal chapped lips and even dried elbows. On special days back at home in India, my family uses Ghee to light lamps in the house to purify the energy in our home and get rid of negativity.

So, as you can see, Ghee has many uses, and for me, Ghee is really the essence of life! I cannot imagine living a life without a jar of Ghee ready to cook with and one hidden away for emergencies (and yes I do have two big jars of Ghee at my home at all times) because really one cannot have too much Ghee.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 500 gms Unsalted Butter (Always use the best quality unsalted Butter)
  • Clean sterilized jar to store the Ghee
  • Saucepan
  • Pinch of Salt (Optional)

Method

Add the Butter in the Saucepan and let it cook on a low heat for 20 – 25 minutes

As the butter melts, it will start to bubble and separate. You will notice that whey from the butter will begin floating to the surface. Skim the Whey from the Butter, and you can add it to roast potatoes or meat.

The Ghee is done once the Milk solids have sunk to the bottom of the pan and you have a clear golden liquid. I like to add a pinch of Salt to the Ghee at this time as it gives it a grainy texture to the Ghee.

The Ghee needs to cool down completely before you strain through cheesecloth, muslin cloth or paper towel, a coffee filter, or a clean tea towel in a sterilised airtight jar. The ghee will stay good at room temperature for 2 -3 months.