Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pressure Cookers: A desi secret

I own and use an Indian stainless steel Hawkins brand pressure cooker (pictured above...though that isn't the one in my kitchen). The gori wife life comes with a learning curve. Since learning to cook desi, there are so many amazing foods, ingredients, and cooking tools that I have come to use quite regularly but had no clue about before. Pressure cookers aren't completely unheard of in the average American kitchen, but they are definately uncommon. However, the pressure cooker is an extremely common cooking vessel in the desi kitchen. Not all desis use them, for various reasons; "all the taste goes," "not traditional way to make X," or "pressure cookers are so lower middle class" are some reasons I have heard for the anti-pressure cooker crowd. However, I love mine and find that is it ever a useful thing to own. I'd like to talk a little bit about using pressure cookers.

First of all, they are very convenient. You can cook daals and meat in a matter of a few whistles (seeTiyan, plural of seeTi in Urdu/Hindi). Whistles? Why do Indian English language cookbooks and recipes refer to whistles? "Cook for 3 whistles." What the heck is a whistle? Well, to know you would have to watch a traditional pressure cooker in action. You add the food and water, you seal the lid, and turn on the flame. The pressure builds, then releases. To release the pressure, steam comes out of the pressure cooker's whistle (regulator). Two to three whistles for most daals, 5 whistles for goat or beef. Like so. I have an Indian pressure cooker. It is traditional. But I have heard that in Amreeka you can get modren pressure cookers that have no seetis. When I relocate to Amreeka, I will have to get one. For now, I am stuck on my seetis. So, you know how you have to simmer beef for 6-8 hours to get it nicely tender? You can pressure cook it for 5 whistles and in about 20 minutes your beef is done. Cooking fuel is expensive in the des for average families, so people save money on cooking gas by using pressure cookers to reduce simmering time. Pressure cookers are economically sound, and good for the environment since they lessen fuel consumption.

There are some downsides to pressure cookers. I love the way large legumes like chickpeas, rajma, and black chickpeas come out in the pressure cooker. They get such a tender texture that allows these legumes to grab on to flavors so well. However, I don't like the end result of how small sized daal comes out. I mean the types of daal that are cooked to a liquidy consistency and are not meant to remain whole. Somehow the pressure cooker makes the liquidy daal fluffy. I don't like the texture. So in my kitchen, I only pressure cook large sized daals which are supposed to remain whole. Secondly, though it is a great meat tenderizer, for me it ruins the taste and texture of beef and goat. The meat also comes out puffy and fluffy. It isn't horrible or anything, but I can always detect pressure cooked meat, and prefer slow simmered meat. I do occasionally resort to pressure cooking red meats as a time saver only. Chicken and fish are a no-no for the pressure cooker, as they would just be obliterated, unless the chicken where you live is quite tough. I do use the pressure cooker to tenderize chicken in specific dishes, though.

After the pressure cooker has done its job, you still have to wait for the pressure created vacuum seal of the lid to release or "fall in." This adds to your cooking time. Some people advise running the pressure cooker under cold water to release the lid. But actually, waiting for the lid to fall in is part of the cooking time of many lentils, so if you release the lid early, the lentils may not be fully cooked in the center. So it is best to wait for the lid to fall in on its own.

The pressure cooker is a necessity in "mehnati" or arduous dishes, like daal makhani. Without the pressure cooker, one would have to babysit this slow simmering daal for 4-5 hours, stirring and mashing away, and adding more and more water as needed. But the pressure cooker reduces your cooking time to 15 minutes of allowing the pot to boil, then waiting for the whistles, and another 10 minutes or so of waiting for the lid. You can't beat that.

I also make stocks in the pressure cooker. For chicken stock that would normally take over an hour, I allow the magic of the pressure cooker to pressurize all of the great flavor out of my stock cuts in around 15 minutes.

You can also use the pressure cooker for some special dishes. For a Lahori style chargha (marinated, cooked, then deep fried Lahore style crispy chicken---recipe coming soon), you can tenderize the chicken so beautifully by giving it one whistle in the pressure cooker, allowing it to cool, and then deep frying. This yields absolutely amazing results.

I know some people who use the pressure cooker for everything. Everything! A friend once told me that people are so stuck on pressure cookers in her part of India, that even their pudding (payasam---South Indian kheer) is pink because apparently milk turns pink in the pressure cooker. Many desi cooks would be lost without it.

Everyone whose family uses pressure cookers had stories of a forgetful auntie who left the pressure cooker unattended and the dang thing exploded, leaving tamaatar saalan stains on the ceiling. So, one should learn from these stories to never leave the pressure cooker unattended and to pay attention to the whistles.

Another note on the small daals: sometimes as they liquify, a tiny piece gets stuck where the steam is supposed to come out, blocking it. This will cause your steam release to spew an ugly yellow daal mess out of the whistle. I have only ever had this happen with daals, but theoretically, any small piece of something could cause the blockage.

I can't wait to use the new modern pressure cookers with their safety features and double seals. But for now, I stick to my old Hawkins quite happily. I advise all people who regularly cook desi foods to invest in one! Luckily mine was cheap over here in Dubai (and it came with a free idli tray!) but I have heard that they can be costly further away from the des.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bengali Cooking

I mentioned in this post the importance of understanding the regionality of South Asian food. What if you, a non-desi, or perhaps a desi from a totally different background from your man, marry a guy from a certain place and you have no clue where to begin learning to cook homefoods from his region....which you obviously want to learn becuzzz you lurve your man and want to impress him with your cooking? Girls, you know what I am talking about. Authentic regional South Asian English language cookbooks can be hard to find. There are loads of websites nowadays, but they are not often written for the neophyte desi cook, and contain lines like: Here is a totka, add a chutki of such and such thing, bhunofy, onions turn pink (this is a really weird one for people who have never seen a desi onion)...then put on dam for 30 minutes. Huh? I have learned a lot from cooking websites. I often search through them to compare and prepare recipes to try out for myself. But I really love a good cookbook right there in my hands. I wanted to take some time to highlight books which I have come across which I really liked, and which really helped me learn about the food of a region. I am very interested in regional South Asian cooking, and I have over the years managed to peruse and acquire some English language regional desi cookbooks. I have Kashmiri pandit and waaza books. I have a great Maharashtrian book. I have an Indian Hyderabadi Muslim book, and so forth. Let me start with Bengali cuisine:

There are two books from which I gained a lot of information about Bengali cooking, as well as good recipes.

The first is the excellent tome, Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals by Chitrita Banerji. This is written for any reader, not just a Bengali Indian or Bangladeshi who is already familiar with Bengali cooking terms and ingredients. Banerji writes a narrative about her childhood in West Bengal and then her adult life in Bangladesh. She is originally a West Bengali, but she married a Bangladeshi, so she knows the cuisines of both sides of the border well. Her narratives focus on, as discernable from the title, seasons and festivals, and are interwoven with very good recipes for special foods of those times. Loaded with information, anyone who reads this book will gain very in depth knowledge about the cuisine of the Bengalis, as well as on Bengali culture. The book is well written, informative, gives a beautiful and romantic picture of Bengali culture and foods, and has great recipes.

The second book is Rannaghor by Roopa Sharma. This book, like many Indian cookbooks written for Indians, is not as easily navigable for people who are not very familiar with Indian food terms. So if you are a non-Bengali, especially non-Indian bahu of a Bengali family, you'll have to get a Bengali friend to help you with any unfamiliar terminology or show you some of the special South Asian ingredients until you have learned them all. The author says she wrote the book for the busy, working woman and offers cooking tips and simple recipes to a cook with little time to spare. I don't know about all of that, but I can simply assure you that the recipes are excellent samples of West Bengali homecooked fare. I have made many of the recipes in this book, and I liked all of them. The book can help you set your table with delicious West Bengali fare.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chicken Nihari

I love nihari. Nihari is tradionally a breakfast food. "Nahaar" means day in Arabic, the language of origin of the word nihari. Nihari is a food to start the day with, a morning food to give energy throughout the day. It is eaten with naan in most places, but in Indian Hyderabad it is eaten with the deliciously light and flakey Hyderabadi style paratha. (Nihari recipes vary by region, and niharis of Hyderabad are a bit different than North Indian-Pakistani niharis as well.) Nihari is tradionally made with beef in North India. These days, there are mutton and chicken niharis as well. Nihari is said to be originally from the city of Old Dehli, but outside of its birthplace of India, in neighboring Pakistan, nihari has taken on a life of its own as one of the signature dishes of Pakistani cuisine. In India it is hard to find a dish of nihari at a restaurant, usually a specialty nihari restaurant, after late morning. It is still considered a breakfast food. Nihari is expensive to make at home for common folk, so it is very often bought by the plate at specialty nihari houses. In Pakistan, some people do keep the breakfast tradition. But nihari is more often consumed at any time of day. It is a festive and rich dish associated with Ramadan and Eid.
I will say it again. I love nihari. But, I have been interested in cooking on the lighter side of Pakistani and Indian cuisine, so I had been trying to create a perfect, full bodied chicken nihari since chicken is much lower in fat and calories than beef. I have experimented a bit with online recipes. I have finally settled with a delicious self-created recipe which I am very proud of, and which I hope you will like.
1 whole skinless chicken, bone in, cut into 12 pieces
1/2 lb of chicken stock cuts, such as necks, backs, and wings
1 onion finely sliced (one American yellow onion or 2-3 small desi pink onions)
2-3 Indian bay leaves (tez patta)
3 pieces of whole black cardamom
1 inch piece of whole cinnamon
6 whole cloves
1 heaping tsp garlic paste
1 heaping tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp Kashmiri chile powder (or more to taste)
2 tsp ground coriander powder
1 cup whipped yoghurt
4 cups of water
1 tsp white flour (maida)
2 tsp ground chickpea flour (besan)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp freshly ground anise seed powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground green cardamom powder
salt to taste (about 1.5 tsps)
1/4 cup oil
2 tbs oil for thickening flours
Garnish: lemon wedges, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped green chiles, ginger cut into match stick sized slivers
Heat oil and brown the chicken pieces (but not the chicken stock pieces) and remove from oil. Set aside. Heat oil again and in bay leaves, cinnamon piece, black cardamom, and cloves. Once the bay leaves begin to change color, brown the onion by first frying on high heat, then lowering the heat until the slices become crisp and golden brown. Alternatively you can use pre-browned onions. Towards the end of the browning process, stir in the garlic and ginger paste and let this turn golden. Turn up the heat and add in the previously browned chicken pieces, and then the turmeric, chile powder, and coriander powder. Stir for a few moments. Now lower the heat and add in the yoghurt. (you lower the heat to prevent curdling of the yoghurt) Mix well, add in the salt, and stir fry for about 7 minutes on medium heat until the oil rises to the top of the yoghurt. Now add in the chicken stock pieces. Stir to coat with the masala mixture, then turn up the heat and add in the water. Allow the pot to boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
Once the chicken is done, turn off the heat. Remove the meaty non-stock pieces from the pot and set them aside. Now, without removing the stock pieces, return the pot to a boil and boil on high heat for 10-15 minutes to remove extra water, thicken the gravy, and make the stock rich. When this step is done, you will have about 2.5 cups of gravy. Strain this gravy. You can pick the meat off of the stock pieces and use them for sandwiches laster. Aside from that, all of the spices have done their job, and any undissolved shredds of onion have given off enough of their flavor, and the chicken bones have lent their taste to the gravy. So throw it all away. Keep the gravy ready to use on the side. You can also pour off some of the oil that rises to the top of this gravy. Add water if you have boiled off too much water and have less than 2.5 cups of gravy. Now, heat a clean pan and add in 2 tbs oil. Stir in the white flour and chickpea flour and use a whisk to move this around and smooth out lumps, allowing it to sizzle in the oil and cook through for a minute. Do not allow this to burn. Slowly, 2 tbs at a time, pour in the gravy, continously whisking to avoid lumps. When you have poured in about 1 cup of gravy, go ahead and fully pour in the rest all at once. Allow this to come to a boil to thicken it. Add in the garam masala, anise seed powder, and cardamom powder. Stir this in well. Now re-add the chicken pieces you set aside earlier. Lower heat and keep covered on a very low flame for about 5 minutes. You can also allow this dish to rest a bit and re-heat gently later to allow the flavors to gel for longer.
Decorate with a little of the green garnishes and the match stick ginger, but also serve the garnishes, as well as lemon wedges, on the table with the nihari. Each diner should squeeze in her/his own lemon juice, just a few drops per serving, and add on more of whichever garnishes they like. Eat with whole grain naan to be extra healthy!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Potato with Okra: Aloo bhindi masala

Many goras don't like okra because it comes out slimy. The desi methods of cooking okra can circumvent slimyness. The key is allowing the okra to fully dry after washing. Moisture will bring out the okra slime. Another key is to avoid tossing the okra around too much. Try to avoid moving it too much with the spatula, and the slime will not seep out. Below I mention four methods for cooking okra for a bhindi masala, from deep frying (ideal but unhealthy, to sautee-ing, to cooking in the gravy (some mushiness will occur), to a low fat microwave steam to saute method. The main recipe is something I picked up/adapted from my dear friend Gehana, who does cooking classes in Dubai...see side bar link for more info.

For the okra:

Wash bhindi and allow to air dry. It should be very dry, then make a small slit in each piece and cut the bhindi in two pieces.

If you want the bhindi perfect, no mushyness, cook the bhindi by deep frying till crispy looking (starting to look a bit golden on the sides) and set aside.

You can also gently pan fry in nonstick, covering and sprinkling water until done, without moving them in the pan too much so the sticky slime doesn't come out. They should be about 3/4 cooked if you do the pan method. Set aside.

There is also a way to steam okra in the microwave and then gently saute. You wash and allow to completely dry, clean, and cut the okra. Then you put it in a microwave safe dish with the top of the dish covered in slightly ajar saran wrap. Microwave on high for 4-5 mins. Then you have to allow the okra to completly cool. Then you heat a pan and add 1 tsp or so oil. I have tried with fat free cooking spray but didn't get the best results. Anyhow, you then sautee just to give the okra some crispyness and color. Then you would add it to the cooked masala for 5 mins on low heat.
I have done this with masala stuffed okra and also just plain sprinkled with some pan roasted spices. It works well and I can't say that the taste is as fabulous as deep fried, but it is definately good for something low fat.

The potatoes

For the potatoes: cut about the same size as the bhindi slices, which you can also fry separately and add in at the end, or pan saute, or also cook in the masala.

For the masala:

In a food processor add:
1 onion
4 pieces garlic
1 inch chunk ginger
3 fresh green chiles
2 medium tomatoes
1 tbs coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder,
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/2 tsp dried mango powder

Grind all of these ingredients together for your masala.

Heat 2-3 tbs oil in pan, fry the masala paste until the moisture evaporates, adding salt to taste shortly after you add the masala to the pan. When the oil has risen to the top of the masala and it is a thick paste but not fully dry, add the bhindi and lower heat and cook for about five minutes more.

All in one pan method:

You can also cook the potatoes and bhindi in the pan with the masala, but they will get a bit mushy. Some people like it that way though, so it is up to you. For this, cook the masala for a few minutes to dry it up a bit. Then add in the raw potatoes, sautee, and cover for 5 minutes, sprinking a little water. After 5 minutes of cooking the potatoes, add in the okra, stir once well to mix it into the masala, sprinking a little water. Lower heat and cover, steaming on low heat for about 20 minutes. Every five minutes or so, you should open the lid, sprinkle some water around the pan, and shake the pan gently to move the potatoes and okra. Cook until potatoes are tender and by then okra will be done, too.
What ever method you use, garnish with a pinch of freshly ground whole green cardamom.
This generic masala paste can be used with many other vegetable combinations: peas and potato, peas and paneer, cauliflour, pea and carrot, and so forth. The options are endless.

Sprouted Mung Bean with Tarka

I just loooove me some sprouted mung beans. See here to watch a video on how to sprout your own mung beans at home. The link leads to the wonderful website Show Me the Curry, which I highly recommend perusing.
Now, once you have sprouted your mung beans, you must know what to do with them. Here is a lovely South Indian-ish recipe.
3 cups sprouted mung beans
Boil water (about 5 cups) on the stove. Add the raw sprouted mung beans. Allow the water to return to a boil, and boil for about 10 minutes. The skins will separate from the mung beans and float to the top of the boil. Skim them off, taking care not to discard any lentils. Get as many as you can, but if there are some left, no worries. More healthy fiber for you. Strain and set aside.

3 tbs oil
1 tsp crushed minced ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asofetida
1 fresh green chile finely chopped
4 fresh green chiles slit open
4 whole dried red chiles emptied of seeds and cut into wedges
6 fresh curry leaves
pinch of haldi
1 tsp cumin powder
1tsp red chile powder
1/4 cup water on hand
boiled strained mung beans (see above)
+/- 1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp or so lemon juice
2 tbs chopped cilantro

Heat oil. Fry slit green chiles in oil till they color a little and their outer membranes peel away from their skin a bit. Remove from oil and set aside on a kitchen paper towel. Returning to the hot oil, add in cumin seeds and allow to color. Add in mustard seeds and red chile wedges and when the mustard seeds pop, toss in asofetida. Quickly add in the curry leaves and ginger. Stir till ginger colors.  Pour in  1/4 cup water if you need to prevent any burning. Add in the red chile powder, haldi, and cumin powder. Stir for a moment, then add in the boiled sprouted mung beans. Toss well in oil, then add in the salt. Stir for a few minutes on high heat to infuse the mung beans with the seasoned oil. Lower heat and allow it to cook covered for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, then chopped cilantro.

Serve with chapattis and fried slit green chiles on the side.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Desi style Suraid (shredded bread with broth and meat)

Salmaan (R) said that the Messenger of Allah (S) said: Blessings are found in three things, the Group (Al-Jama'ah), Ath-thareed (a type of food) and As-Sahoor (the Pre-dawn meal)." [At-Tabaraanee, Abu Na'eem]

Al Thareed, meaning literally "small pieces (of bread or food) which have been cut" is a traditional Gulf Arab dish which is even mentioned in the above hadeeth, has its variations in South Asia, too. The Pakhtoons have versions, known as painda, randa chargha, or soobutt. This should ideally be made with very thin Pakhtoon bread. Further south, it is made with shredded wholewheat flat bread or roti, hence it is called "roti ke tukray." It is also known in Urdu as sareed or suraid, the -s- being the Urdu articulation of Arabic -tha-. It is basically a liquidy meat or chicken stew poured on top of shredded bread. Here is a Gulf Arab version, and here is a Pakhtoon recipe. Both recipes are highly worth checking out. There are many versions of this around the world, from fatta or similar dishes in other parts of the Arab world, to Mexican caserola with leftover tortillas, to Italian or French recipes using day old bread. It is basically a way to use up leftover bread and avoid waste. Perhaps that is why it is a blessed dish. The Arabian Gulf versions of thareed or margooga are sometimes eaten as an Eid dish, so it is simultaneously a humble and fancy dish.

I am forever fascinated foods which have distinct yet similar versions all over the world, like barbecued meats, stuffed dumplings, types of pasta soups, pickled vegetables, rice puddings, and of course this dish, suraid.

Below is my home recipe:

12-15 chappatis shredded into large pieces


6 giant extra thin Afghan flat breads (pasti), these are available where I live, but you can sub any very thin naan for this if you like. The pasti where I live is roughly the length and width of 2 sheets of A-4 paper put together, and less than a cm thick. But really, any thin flatbread should do.

I enjoy both the chapatti version and the thin naan version, and can't recommend one over the other.

For the shorba:
1/4 cup oil
1 chicken skinned and cut into 12 pieces
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 large onion chopped finely
1 tbs garlic paste
1tsp ginger paste
2 fresh green chiles finely chopped
2 fresh tomatoes pureed
1/2 tsp haldi
1 tsp red chile powder
1 tbs garam masala
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp dried fenugreek (qasoori methi)
2 tbs whipped yoghurt
3.5 cups water
a big dose of salt
1 tbs lemon juice
1 pinch garam masala for final ingredient

garnish: chopped fresh green chiles, chopped cilantro, small chunks of butter or a few tsps ghee, and lemon wedges

Heat oil in pan. Add cumin seeds and allow to sizzle. Add in chopped onions. Fry on high heat, stirring frequently until they become golden and have lost a lot of moisture. Stir in ginger garlic chile paste. When the ginger garlic are golden, add in the turmeric and chile powder. Quickly add in the tomato puree. Cook for a while until the tomatos have lost their moisture and the oil has risen to the top. Add in the chicken and stir, still on high heat, until the chicken has all changed color. Add in yoghurt and stir for a moment. Pour in water. Add in garam masala and coriander powder. Now you can salt the dish. You should add in double the amount of salt that you normally would for a waterless curry. The amount of salt should be enough so that the shorba flavor doesn't become bland when mixed with the flatbread. I'd estimate 2 heaping teaspoons or more. When the water boils, cover and lower heat. Cook until chicken is done, maybe 25-30 minutes. When the shorba (liquidy meat soup) is done, add in the fenugreek, a pinch of garam masala, and lemon juice.

Set the shredded flatbread in a wide flat dish like a casserole dish. Using tongs, place the pieces of chicken on top of the bread. Then pour the shorba on top of the bread. The bread should absorb the shorba but it shouldn't be too liquidy or soupy. Now add the garnish and serve.

You could also do this dish with bone in goat or lamb, adjusting cooking time of the shorba as appropriate. Another variation would be to leave out the tomatos and yoghurt.

A delicious dish full of history and blessings.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dastarkhwaan e Hyderabad: Tamatar ki chutney or Tomato Chutney

This chutney is a good accompanyment to any daal or veg dish eaten with rice. It also goes well with idli and dosa. If you are into desi sandwiches, you could even use it as a sandwich spread chutney. It is complicated to make because there are a few different steps. For this reason, I make large amounts of it and freeze it in small batches. That way I only have to make it a few times a year. It will keep well for a few weeks in the fridge, too.
One good thing about this recipe is that you don't have to chop all of the ingredients because you will blitz them in the blender later.
First you need:
3 tbs oil
15 red ripe tomatoes, puree in your chopper to save time
1 tbs cumin seeds
2 onions chopped roughly,
7 pieces of garlic
5 fresh green chiles
1 heaping tbs tamarind paste (I use Priya brand)
Heat oil and add in the cumin seeds and fresh green chiles. When thecumin seeds sizzle, add in the garlic and onions and cook until the onions have lost most of their moisture and are golden but not browned. Add in the tomato puree and tamarind paste and cook on medium to high heat, stirring constantly, until the oil separates from the tomatos and the tomatos have lost all of their moisture. Set aside and allow to cool.
Next you need:
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Dry roast these together in an un-oiled heated pan. They should darken a bit and that is how you will know they are done, but be sure not to burn them.
Allow these to cool a bit, then toss them in the blender with your tomato paste mixture, add ing a little water (about 1/2 cup) to aid the blending. Add in the salt while blending, about 1 heaping sure to taste because the tamarind paste is often salty.
Return these to your pot. Add a little water to the blender to get out all of the extra paste. Now cook the paste a bit for a couple of minutes to remove the excess water.
Add in 1 tsp of Korean or Chinese roasted sesame oil for extra depth in taste.
Last step, the baghaar:
1-2 tbs oil
5 dried red chiles
8 curry leaves
1 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)
Heat oil and add in red chiles. When these color, add in the mustard seeds. When these pop, add in the curry leaves. Pour this tempering into you pot of chutney. Fold it in.
Allow the chutney to cool, then transfer to a jar or tupperware for storage.

Sprouted Mung Bean Salad

For this salad you have to know how to sprout mung beans. I found this video at the wonderful site Show Me the Curry (I love this site...they have loads of great recipes!!!) which will explain to you how to do this. It is so very easy and simple, and once you know, you will become and addict of sprouted legume salads and curries. Here is one such simple salad.

You need:

3 cups sprouted mung beans

Boil water, submerge the sprouted mung beans, and branch briefly by allowing the water to return to a boil, bubble for a minute or so, and then straining the mung beans. It is okay if the skin and mung beans separate. The mung beans should still be crunchy and raw, not mushy. You've just tenderized them a bit so that they will be easier on the ole digestive system.

You will mix the sprouted mung beans with any medley of colorful vegetables and/or fruit. In the pic above I used blanched baby corn chopped into small rounds, cherry tomatoes halves, chopped carrots, and fresh pomegranite seeds. This is what I had in the fridge that day, so that is what went it. Use about 1/4 cup or so of each ingredient.

I have also used: chopped jalapenos, dried soaked pomegranite seeds, chopped apples, chopped bell peppers, chopped cucumbers, peanuts, chopped blanched water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, walnuts, the list could go on and on. Whatever you throw in should create a crunchy combo of color and flavor. I usually add in some basic salad type veggies, plus something tangy and sour like the green apple or pomegranite.

For the dressing:

1 very small tooth of garlic crushed
1 pinch coursely ground black pepper
1 pinch of salt (taste for salt when you have finished combining your salad ingredients
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbs pomegranite molasses
1 tsp of sugar

Mix well and pour on top of your salad. Taste and adjust for salt, sugar or what have you (some lemons are more sour than others so you always have to check).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Basic mixed vegetable: Mixed sabzi

The trick here is that in this dish, the veggies steam on a bed of onion, garlic, and ginger. There is no stirring involved. Let me explain.
3 tbs oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 onion chopped finely
1 tbs ginger paste
1 tbs garlic paste
1 tsp green chile paste or finely chopped green chiles
2-3 small potatoes cut into wedges. I don't peel but desis tend to prefer peeled.
1 carrot peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup green beans cleaned and chopped into one inch pieces, such as french beans, gawaar beans, sem, phalian, a mix, or as you like
1 medium head of cauliflower, florets prepared for cooking
1/2 cup fresh tomato roughly pureed (1 large or two small tomatoes roughly blitzed in chopper)
1 heaping tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp mango powder (amchoor)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp or more red chile powder
1 tbs cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 heaping tsp of any good curry powder or Kitchen King Masala that you like
1 tbs dried fenugreek leaves
1/4 cup frozen peas
garnish: roughly chopped fresh green chile and chopped cilantro
optional garnish: toasted sesame seeds

Heat oil in deep pot (must have a lid) and add cumin seeds. When they sizzle, add in onions. Stir fry these until they become translucent. Add in ginger garlic paste and chopped green chiles. Stir to mix well and allow to sizzle. Now add potatoes. Do not stir, add in carrots, beans, and then cauliflower, each one in a layer roughly on top of each other in the pot. Pour in the tomato puree all around the sides of the pot. Now add the salt, mango powder, red chile powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder. Be sure to distribute these spices and the salt pretty evenly over the top layer of veggies. The heat should still be high at this point. Cover the pot, turn down the heat to medium, and keep covered for 25 minutes or so. Test a potato by sticking a fork in it and when it is done, all the veg will be done. Notice that you haven't stirred the veggies at all yet. The onion ginger garlic paste mixture had acted as a beg to the rest of the vegetables, and it slowely caramelizes below them on the medium flame. The tomato puree acts as a flavor agent but also provides moisture so the edges of the bottom of the pot doesn't burn. The moisture within the vegetables themselves also aids the steaming process. It is so simple and easy, no stirring and "bhunofying" until your arm falls off. Turn off the heat. Now add the green peas, curry powder, and dried fenugreek leaves. Keep the lid on for 5 more minutes to allow the peas to steam. Now keep the lid a jar on top of the pot for about 5 more minutes to let everything settle. It is now time to mix everything. Mix and stir well. Add the garnishes. Serve with hot rice and chapattis. Above pic is without garnishes added.

I learned a version of this dish from my excellent cooking teacher, Gehana (see her blog linked in the side bar). She also adds whipped yoghurt and has a few other options. This is a Sindhi style "seyel bhaji" and the no-stir technique is special to that region. Her version is the best, I have just simplified it a bit to be a no-brainer, extra simple home style vegetable dish.

Black Peppercorn Karhai Chicken

This dish has very few spices in it. It is a good dish to serve at a mixed desi and non-desi party because it is not red chile-heat hot, though it is loaded with rich flavor and some heat from the deep fried crushed black peppercorns that lace it. It also contains fresh slit green chiles added in the last few minutes of cooking for a bit more heat and flavor. I have no idea if what I present here is authentic or not, but the original black peppercorn karhai chicken is an Afghan/Northern Areas dish. However, I can assure you that this dish is tasty, authentic or otherwise.
1 heaping tsp black peppercorns
1/4 cup or so oil
1 chicken skinned, bone-in, cut into 8 pieces
1 tbs garlic paste
1tbs ginger paste
3/4 cup whipped yoghurt
salt to taste
5 large sized fresh green chiles (like jalapeno or very small pakora mirch), slit open
Heat oil in a vessel and add black peppercorns. Allow them to sizzle for a few moments. Strain oil and keep aside. Lay black peppercorns on a paper towel to cook and to remove excess oil. When these are cool, crush them coursely. I do this in a coffee grinder. Keep aside a few whole pieces, too. Set your coursely ground black peppercorns aside. In the same oil that you used to fry the peppercorns, brown the chicken. When the chicken looks nicely colored, add in the ginger and garlic and toss with the chicken until the ginger garlic paste is golden. Lower heat a bit and add in the whipped yoghurt and salt (lower the heat to prevent yoghurt from curdling). Allow the yoghurt to come to a gentle boil, then cover your pan and cook on low heat until chicken is done. When the chicken is cooked, turn up the heat for a moment and toss in the slit green chiles and black peppercorns. Gently stir fry to blend the chiles and pepper, and also to remove excess moisture from the yoghurt and chicken. You should end up with a semi-dry gravy, just barely clinging to the chicken pieces. Serve with roti or naan. This dish goes well with a rich, spicy red meat dish or a tomato based vegetable curry, since it's flavors are mild in contrast.

Krazy for karhai?
For 'original' Landi Kotal Shinwari karhai, see here.
For an adaptation of my mother in law's karhai recipe, see here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trying to keep it light? Try chicken chappli kababs

Authentic chappli kababs are made with beef or mutton, are full of extra fat mixed into the ground meat, and are shallow fried in large flat "chappal" sized pieces. I do these ground chicken chappli kababs in a patty shape and freeze them to take out for when I don't feel like cooking, or to serve guests.
1 lbs ground chicken
3 tbs chickpea flour (aka besan)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chile flakes
1 tsp whole coriander pods (roast in dry pan to toast for one moment)
1 tbs dried pomegranite seeds ground to a powder
2 finely chopped spring onions
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1 chopped tomato (try to keep out the wet pulp of the tomato, if the mince meat mixture gets too wet, just add a tad more ground chickpea flour)
1-2 chopped green chiles
1 cup cilantro finely chopped
1 tsp ghee or butter (as an alternative to the hunk of dumbey ki charbi !fat of the long earred lamb's tail! that would be in your real Peshawari kabab mixture!!!)
salt to taste
Mix all of these ingredients together. Allow the mixture to sit for about 30 minutes to bind. Shape into patties and shallow fry in a tiny drop of oil. You can literally pour in a teaspoon of oil and use a paper towel to spread it all over your pan if you use a non-stick frying pan. Traditionally these are shallow fried in quite a bit of oil, though. For a party you could press a slice of tomato into each patty and give it a flatter, more irregular shape like an authentic chappli kabab.

Qabili Pullao

I have adapted this recipe from my in-law's family recipe served every eid. The recipe looks complicated, sorry if it is difficult to read...I promise you that it is extremely easy to cook, though.

This dish is simple but has several steps. The first couple of steps can be done a day ahead of serving. You can actually make the whole gravy a day ahead and add it to the rice the next day, as well.

1 chicken skinned, bone-in, and cut into small-medium pieces
1/2 cup dried channa daal (one cup cooked)
Ingredients assembled for the gravy
3-4 onions
2.5 heaping table spoons garam masala
1 heaping tsp red chile powder
3-4 whole dried red chiles
15 aloo bukharay (dried plums from Indo-Pak market)
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
3 tbs oil
3 cups basmati rice
1 tbs ghee or butter
some whole garam masale: 3 bay leaves, 10 black pepper corns, 5 cloves, 5 green cardamom, 2 big black cardamom, 1-2 shards of cinnamon bark, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds

The daal: soak 1/2 cup channa daal for one hour. Boil water with daal a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then keep on a low flame for 20 minutes. Strain from water. You should have just tender whole channa daal. Keep aside.

The tali hui pyaaz: Thinly slice 3 onions and fry until light reddish brown. Strain from oil and grind (crush or put in a grinder). Mix 1/2 of the ground fried onion with 1 tsp garam masala and keep aside.

The aloo bukharay: soak in water for about 10 minutes before adding them into the gravy. Strain before you add them into the gravy.

Now to make the gravy:

Alu bukhara soaking in water for a few minutes
Heat oil and brown the chicken pieces to seal in the juices. When the chicken looks browned, add in the remaining ground fried onion, the red chile powder, whole red chiles, the remaining garam masala, and salt to taste---be slightly heavy handed with the salting because you will later add the channa daal to this gravy. Stir for a moment and then add the aloo bukharay. Stir again, add 1/4 cup water, allow this to come to a boil, cover and cook until the chicken is done. When it is done and still hot, mix in the whole cooked channa daal. Close the lid and let it sit for at least 5 minutes to allow the channa daal to soak up the gravy flavors. The aloo bukharay should have disintegrated only very slightly, but should for the most part remain whole so that those who consume your dish get one or two in the mouth as they eat. If you serve this to people who have never eaten an aloo bukhara (pity the souls), remember to tell them to not eat the hard seed, lest they crack their teeth! Okay, your gravy is done. You could keep this in the fridge overnight or add it to the rice right away, as suits your needs.
Finished gravy ready to be layered with rice

Dum dad dum dum dum: The rice (this works for any biryani rice and is called the "dum" method):

Soak the rice for 1/2 hour. In the mean while boil a pot of water with the whole garam masalas. Allow to boil for 10 minutes to extract the garam masala flavor. I cheat sometimes and nuke the water with the whole garam masalas in the microwave on high for 4-5 minutes to get out all that garam masala flavor. Strain the water, keep the garam masalay to the side, return the water to a pot, and allow it to return to the boil. You may add in a few of the strained garam masalay such as the bay leaves, cinnamon, and cardamom into the water for looks. Or keep it out if you want and just throw the strained garam masalay away. You should salt the water double the amount you normally would for 3 cups of boiled rice because you will par-boil the rice al dente like pasta, and throw away the water, so the rice will be bland if it doesn't absorb enough salt.

Okay, now that your garam masala seasoned water is boiling, strain the soaking rice and add it to the boiling water. Keep the colander ready in the sink. Allow the water to return to a boil and let it boil away for 3.5 minutes. Watch the beautiful basmati. kernels lengthen. Now strain the rice. Quickly add 1 tbs ghee or butter to the bottom of a deep pot. Keep the ground onion and garam masala mixture on hand. Add in the strained rice, sprinkling it with the fried onion and garam masala mixture, then a layer of rice, then more onion garam masala mixture. Turn up the flame to high and cover the pot. After two minutes of high flame, put the flame to the lowest possible point and cook the pot of rice for 20 minutes. Turn off the flame. Allow the rice to rest for about 10 minutes before you mess with it further to avoid the kernels breaking.

For a party you can put the rice in a large platter and spread the chicken gravy on top of it. Alternatively you can layer the rice and chicken gravy like a biriani (as shown in the pic). It is up to you.

I hope you enjoy!

Qabili pullao

I love karela: Bittergourd stuffed with its own peelings

Karela, our bitter gourd, is an acquired taste. I suppose I have acquired the taste. Here is a recipe for bitter gourd which is shaved and stuffed with its own peelings. It is a good recipe for any time, but it is also a good party dish because it looks interesting and impressive.

Select smallish dark green bitter gourds for your cooking. This recipe is for 5 bitter gourds.

First, you need to prepare the bitter gourds. With a potato peeler, peel off all of the outer layer of dark green bumps. Shred any large peelings with your fingers. Add salt to water and submerge the bumbs in the salted water for a few minutes. Strain and set aside.

Make a length wise slit in your bitter gourds. If you have long ones, it is okay to cut them in half as well. Stick in your thumb or the a vegetable coring instrument and gouge out the innards and yellow seeds. Karela can take a licking and keep on kicking, so you don't have to be gentle while removing the innards.

Add 1tbs turmeric and 1 tbs salt to a deep bowl and fill the bowl with water. Submerge the peeled, gouged karelas in this water and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. In the meanwhile, you will prepare the peel stuffing.

About 1 cup of bitter gourd shavings
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 small onion chopped very finely
combination of garlic, ginger, and green chile pastes, adding up to about 1 heaping tea spoon all together
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chile powder or less to taste
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 heaping tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
salt to taste
one squeeze of lime
1 tbs oil or less
**Since bitter gourds vary in size, you will invariably need to adjust the seasonings based on the length and circumference of the karelas that you have at hand.

Heat oil in a wok or frying pan. Add in cumin seeds and allow to sizzle. Add finely chopped onions to pan and allow them to cook on high heat until the are almost fully caramelized brown. Add in the ginger garlic chile paste. Allow to color. Add in bitter gourd peelings. Stir around for a moment, and add in the masalas. Stir and cooking for about 10 minutes on medium heat until all of the moisture has evaporated and bitter gourd peelings are fully cooked. Now salt: add a sprinkle of salt based on the amount of bitter gourd you have now after it has reduced in size and lost moisture. Don't over salt. Turn of the heat and add in the squeeze of lime juice. You have a hot, sour, bitter stuffing that should be browned in a way that it resembles beef/mutton ground meat (qeema). Set this aside and allow to cool.

Strain the skinless bitter gourds. Try to squeeze extra water out of them, washing them a few more times. Don't be afraid to squeeze. Remember that this is a tough little vegetable. Allow to air dry well before stuffing.

Now stuff each bitter gourd with fillings. You may also wrap a thread around each bitter gourd, winding it around the cylidrical body. This will prevent the stuffing from falling out as you Pan fry them later. However, I have done it both ways, wrapped and unwrapped, and even with bitter gourd that I cut in half because they were very long. I stir fried gently and no stuffing fell out. If you choose to wrap with thread, of course remember to remove the thread before serving :-)

Heat oil in a flat frying pan that has a lid. It should just be a light glazing of oil in the pan. When the pan is hot, add the stuffed karelas. Fry them as you would a sausage or hot dog, allowing them to spend time on each side for a few minutes in order to caramelize and color with nice golden brown blisters. While the karelas sit in the pan coloring, you should cover the pan with the lid in between turnings so that they steam a bit and cook through. When all sides have colored, keep them in the pan for a few moments more to make sure that all of the moisture has evaporated and that they are very slightly crispy. You can actually freeze them and heat them up gently for a party some other time, or prepare in the morning and re-heat at night. You would let them come to room temperature and then gently pan fry them again to heat through and revive the crispyness.

You may garnish with pan grilled onion rights, or deep fried garlic slices. In the pic above, I added some orange food coloring (biriani rangi powder) to garlic slivers, deep fried them till crisp, and then drained them on a paper towel. I added them as a garnish before serving the karela at the table.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dastarkhwaan e Hyderabaad: Mirchi ka saalan

Delicious with basmati rice.
Saalan simply means a wet gravy, a "curry," if you will. The word saalan is mainly used in Muslim Indo-Pak cooking, despite it being a Sanskrit origin word. Non-Muslim Hindi speakers are more apt to use the word tari or rassa. However, mirchi ka saalan has gained fame across India and in Pakistan as well, though it is a specialty of the South Indian city of Hyderabad.

I find this dish a very cumbersome to cook because you have to "bhunofy" the gravy for a long time to get the best taste. You also have to lightly fry the peppers separately. And you have to prepare the tamarind water. Tamarind water is made simply by soaking a 3 inch chunk of tamarind pulp in about a cup of warm water for an hour, then straining out the seeds and fibers and reserving the remaining water. You should also have bhuni hui pyaaz (reddish-brown fried onions) done and set aside. Plus you have to roast the sesame seeds and peanuts by stirring them around for a few minutes in a hot pan until they get a little color, then allow them to cool before grinding. Oh, and you should have fresh shredded coconut on hand (I buy it at the desi grocer and keep it in the freezer). So you see, this is not a dish to cook on a whim. But if you prepare for it, it is a delicious, rich, and luxurious dish.

You can make yours with a dryer gravy, as is sometimes found in pan-Indian restaurants, but you can also make it more liquid if you like. A liquid gravy is more traditional. Depending on what kind of food processor, blender, or mixie you have, you may end up with a grainy coconut-peanut-sesame mixture. Go ahead and fry as usual, but you can blend it or use the stick blender once you have added the yoghurt and then water, but before you add the tamarind. It should be slightly grainy but not unevenly grainy or chunky.

I have had this dish in Hyderabadi homes containing whole or chopped mirch, and even the addition of a few other vegetables in the saalan. Pictured is a mirchi ka saalan gravy I made with chile peppers, long green eggplant, and cauliflower. You can use any kind of larger, "sweet" chile pepper, (try the Hatch Chile in late summer in the USA) but in desparation, you may substitute bell pepper. Although this deviates from the traditional mirchi ka saalan, I have also seen this dish served with the chiles stuffed with seasoned paneer as sort of a modern and fancy touch. So there is some leeway for variation with this dish.

You can see the cut chiles, long green eggplant, and cauliflower.

You need:
8-10 large green chile peppers, other veg like eggplant, cauliflower, optional.
1 brown fried onion, crushed
1/4 cup white sesame seeds pan toasted
1/4 cup peanuts pan toasted
3 tbs fresh shredded coconut
1 tsp roasted white poppy seeds (khashkhaash - Toast whole seeds in hot pan till lightly browned, allow to cool, then grind. Do 2 cups at a time and freeze it to use as needed. Don't store in cupboard because it goes rancid.)
1 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbs garlic ginger paste
1/2 cup yoghurt
2 cups water (or more for desired thickness)
1/2 cup tamarind water
1 tsp salt or to taste
3 tbs oil

Baghaar (tempering) of 2-3 tbs oil plus 1 tsp mustard seeds, 6 curry leaves, 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tsp nigella seeds

Make a length wise slit in each chile. Lightly shallow fry in a pan just to partially cook, and set aside. Lightly fry your cauliflower florets or eggplant cut into 2-3 inch thick chunks, should you be using them. Keep aside.

Finely grind coconut, toasted sesame seeds, and toasted peanuts in a food processor. Don't over grind or you will end up with a nut butter.

Heat oil, add in the ginger garlic paste, caramelized onions, then dry spices, and allow to sizzle for a moment until the ginger garlic is cooked. Add in the coconut-sesame-peanut mixture, plus the khashkhaash, and fry well, stirring constantly for a few minutes. You may need to add a little bit of water to this to aid the frying process. As always in desi cooking, you are looking for the oil to rise to the top of your paste to indicate that the ingredients have properly cooked. Now, turn off the flame and add in the yoghurt. Stir and stir letting the oil once again rise to the top of the mixture. Turn on the heat and flame and keep stirring. Now add the 1 cup water, and salt. Stir and fry and fry and stir and stir and fry until the mixture is dry and well "bhunofied." The oil will separate from the gravy and float to the top when the gravy is done. Add more water as needed.

When the gravy is done, add in the tamarind water and fry for just a few more moments. At this point, add some water. You can add more or less water for a thicker or runnier gravy. Allow it to boil again and stir until the oil rises on top of the liquid. Taste for salt because the ingredients soak up a lot of salt and you may need to add more. After adding salt as desired, you're getting close to the end. Add in the fried chile peppers (and other veg if you are using it), stir around gently, and cover for about 5 minutes on low heat to finish their cooking. Cook until they are done. But take care not to let them fall apart and turn into mush. Before serving, add the baghaar (see below). To serve, put in a platter or serving dish where the mirchi/veg shows.

For the final baghaar: Heat 1 tbs oil then add all of the seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add in the curry leaves and fry briefly. Immediately pour this over the saalan.

Phew, that was a heck of a lot of trouble and now my arm is tired from the stirring and bhunofying and trying to achieve the correct texture. But dang that is good stuff. How can you go wrong with peanuts, sesame, and coconut? Serve with rice or hot naan! Or Hyderabadi biryani, of course.

*Option: you can make this dish as baghaare baingan by cutting small round eggplants, or slitting them in four pieces which are intact at the stem, briefly frying, set aside, and add to the gravy as you would the chiles.

Chicken dopiaaza: Chicken cooked in onion gravy

This dish is also called istew and istew dopyaaza. Dopiaaza is a reference to the fact that the dish incorporates bothe sauteed onions and caramelized (bhuna) onions into the gravy. My recipe was passed along to me by my mother in-law. As she is from U.P. originally, this recipe is yoghurt based and doesn't contain tomatoes. It requires whole garam masala (khara masala), as well as powdered garam masala. I keep fried onions ready in my freezer. You can also buy them ready fried at any desi grocer. The sauteed onions are easy to do, but these days you can also get packets of ready sauteed onions at the desi grocer. I also keep pre-ground ginger/garlic paste on hand in the fridge. These ready done items make this dish easy to make, but it is quite easy even if you start from scratch.

You will need:

1 chicken skinned and chopped into botees (bone in)
1 onion chopped finely for sauteeing
1 onion sliced from brown frying (or just use pre-fried bhuni hui pyaaz)
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
1 heaping tsp kashmiri chile powder
1 heaping tsp garam masala powder
1/2 cups yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
2-3 tbs sunflower oil

Khara Masala:
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 bay leaves
5 peppercorns
5 cloves
5 green cardamon pods
1-2 large black cardamon pods
1 tsp cumin seeds

Mix all powdered masalas plus 1 tsp of ginger and 1 tsp of garlic paste into the yoghurt and set aside. Pre-fry sliced onions and set aside. Heat oil in pan. Add in khara masala and fry for a few moments. Add in chopped onions and sautee until the are clear. Add in the rest of the ginger and garlic paste and fry for a few minutes. Stir in the caramelized onions and chicken. Stir around until chicken is browned. Add in yoghurt-masala mixture and salt, plus 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Cook for about 25 minutes or so until chicken is done (chicken available where I live cooks very might take yours longer). The dish is ready to enjoy. Serve with basmati rice and/ or naan.

*Tips: I buy a bad of whole mixed garam masala and pick out the ones I need as pictured above, rather than buying individual quantities of each masala. Life is just easier that way.
An alternative style is to add finely chopped tomatoes and allow the water to evaporate from them when the finely chopped onions have melted down a bit and before you add the chicken to bhunofy. I have tried both ways, and both are equally delicious.

Kashmiri Style Ribs: Tabak Maaz

I have adapted the recipe from an old magazine clipping. The hing, ginger powder, fennel, and of course Kashmiri chile powder give the gravy a Kashmiri touch. This is a great party dish. It is tasty as well as easy. You can make it in a dry velvety clinging sauce (pic 1) by drying up the moisture in the gravy, or serve it in a more liquidy sauce (pic 2), as per your preference. You could also serve the wetter gravy as a dipping sauce on the side.

1 lbs lamb or goat chops (mutton chops or champein!)
1 cup yoghurt
1 heaping tsp ginger powder
1 tsp freshly ground fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1/8 tsp (pinch of) hing/asofetida
1 heaping tsp kashmiri chile powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp or so salt (to taste)
1 cup water
3 tbs sunflower oil for braising
1/4 cup sunflower oil for pan frying

Blend all of the spices and into the yoghurt. Marinate ribs in yoghurt for a few hours or overnight. Heat 3 tbs oil in a pot and then add ribs. Add in salt now. Braise for a few minutes on medium heat until the oil separates from the gravy. Take care not to allow the yoghurt to curdle by keeping the heat controlled. Add in one cup water or so to cover the ribs, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on very low heat for about 1 to 1 and a half hours until ribs are nice and tender. Remove ribs and set on plate to cool completely. Keep the gravy aside. At this stage you can boil off excess water from the gravy to thicken it. The ribs should be completely room temperature for the next step, in the meanwhile. Now heat the rest of the oil in a flat frying pan. Brown room temperature ribs in the frying pan by frying on each side. Serve on a flat plate and pour the remaining gravy on top of the ribs, or if youv'e done a ticker gravy, paint it on. If you do this for a party, you can wrap the end of the bones in foil.

This is a great go-to party dish and believe me people will suck the goat ribs dry!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dal Makhani

To prepare the daal:

Prepare black urad daal (1 cup) and rajma/lal chawli beans by soaking them each separately overnight.

No pressure cooker method: Throw away the soaking liquid of the beans, then add to a pot in about 10 cups of water and boil, reduce heat, and simmer on a low flame for about 4 hours until nicely tender. Check occasionally to see if you need to add more water. When the lentils are tender, continue to simmer on low for another hour or so, this time mashing and breaking up the beans as the water slowly evaporates, leaving a creamed bean texture.

Salt the daal to taste after it is cooked if you do it in a pot, but add salt to the water before cooking if you do the pressure cooker.

With pressure cooker: I prefer this way because it reduces the simmering time to only about 20-25 minutes. You will still have to spend some time boiling away the excess water and mashing to achieve the best texture, though. For the pressure cooker, you should have about 8 whistles---use about 10 cups water, or just put the maximum amount your pressure cooker can accommodate, you will still have to boil off water at the end to get it creamy anyway. When 8 whistles occur, lower the heat for about 20 minutes. Turn off the flame, release the pressure cooker's clasp, and allow the lid to fall in. Then you will still have some mashing to do to reduce the liquid and allow the creamy texture to develop. Mash the daal with the back of a spoon till it is thick and creamy and the color has darkened a lot. The daal should not be watery, but thick with mashed beans.

Optional: For a party you can boil the rajma/lal chawli separately so they show whole in your finished dish. Just put the beans covered in a few inches of water in a pot, boil, reduce flame, and simmer for 45 mins or so till the rajma is soft. (Cooking time varies on dehydrated bean age, sorry I cannot be more specific.

Now you need to make a wet masala melt:

2-3 tbs any veg. oil
2 onions chopped finely
2 tsp garlic ginger paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chile powder (or more to taste)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 heaping tsp garam masala
3 tomatoes chopped finely, or pureed if you prefer
1/2 tsp salt

To finish off the dish I give two low fat dairy alternatives to cream:

pinch of garam masala powder
pinch of dried fenugreek/qasoori methi rubbed between the palms
1 heaping tbs or more of butter
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup very fresh (not at all sour) yoghurt (whipped)
3/4 cup of cream if you want it really rich and don't care about the fat and calories.

chopped cilantro
chopped green chiles, deseed if you want
a tsp of cream to garnish (completely optional)

First heat oil. Add in onions, stir on high heat for a few minutes, then lower the heat and cook until they look translucent but golden (well sauteed) and have lost a lot of moisture, now add in garlic/ginger paste, still on medium heat, and stir until this is all golden brown and cooked, turn up the heat, add in the turmeric, red chile, cumin, and coriander powder---allow this to sizzle for a moment---all of the steps from the time you turn up the heat should happen in a quick sequence so as not to burn any of the spices or garlic/ginger. Now quickly add in the tomatoes and salt, and cook until all the moisture has evaporated from the tomatoes (this could take 8-10 minutes, less if you use pureed tomatoes) and the oil floats above the masala. You may pour off the oil that rises to the top of this masala to reduce calories, since you will be adding butter later. Now pour this tomato based masala into the pot of pre-made daal (or vice versa, depending on your pots), stir in the pinch of garam masala and taste for any extra salt needed, bring to a boil, then cook on low heat, covered for 7 minutes just to let the flavors blend together nicely. Simmer longer to thicken if desired.

Now it is done. To finish it off and make it "makhani" or buttered, add in the pinch of garam masala, fenugreek leaves, the milk/yoghurt/cream, and the butter at the last minute for the buttery perfume taste. Now garnish with your "green masala" or cilantro and chilies, serve with hot chappatis or white rice.

Yum! A trip to Panjab right in your kitchen!