Thursday, September 4, 2014

Easy Jalfrezi

Jalfrezi is likely a Raj era invention from Bengal side that has morphed into a dish that appears in many interpretations.

For some, it is Indo-Chinese and requires stock powder, corn starch, and soy sauce. For others, it is a protein like paneer or chicken plus a medley of vegetables. Some like it fairly dry, and others like it in a wet tomatoey gravy. Some people use ketchup in their recipe, and in some restaurant style recipes it is creamy.

However it is made, the common factor in chicken jalfrezi seems to be that it must have bell peppers (aka capsicum) in it. Some people also like onions cut into petals in it. I am not a huge fan of lightly cooked onions, so I don't add those. Here is my very simple and easy version. For this you will need a curry powder type mix like Shan Curry Powder or a Kitchen King Masala. I use MDH Kitchen King Masala.

This recipe is as simple as a daily dish in method, but yields a bell pepper-chicken curry that is unique enough to serve at a party. The soy sauce adds an extra layer of flavor.

1 small organic chicken skinless and cut into karhai pieces (bone in)
1/4 cup oil
4 fresh green chiles, slit but intact
1 small onion diced
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 heaped tsp ground coriander powder
2 medium tomatoes roughly pureed
1 tsp MDH Kitchen King Masala
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp soy sauce
one and a half cups bell pepper cut into petals (1/2 inch square pieces)...the number of peppers depends on how large they are. About 3 small or 1.5 of those giant ones.
1/4 cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Method: Heat oil in pan. Add in slit green chiles and allow them to fry for a few moments until they start to slightly soften. Remove with tongs or a slotted ladle. Keep aside to use as garnish at the end of cooking. Add the chopped onion to the oil. Cook this until it is turning golden, then add in the ginger and garlic. Cook this until the ginger and garlic also turn golden. Now add in the turmeric, red chile, cumin, and coriander powder. Allow this to sizzle for a moment, then stir in the tomato. Stir the tomato-masala a bit until most of the water has evaporated from it and the oil has risen to the top of it. Now add in the salt, soy sauce, and MDH Kitchen King Masala. Mix in the chicken and stir well until the chicken has completely changed color and is no longer raw looking. Now cover the pot, turn the flame to the lowest setting, and cook about 10-20 minutes until the chicken is just completely done. You shouldn't need to add water because they chicken will release water as it cooks. If needed, add very little water. When the chicken has just reached the point of being done, add in your bell pepper petals and turn up the heat. Stir for a moment, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes. You want the bell peppers to cook through but retain a gentle amount of crunch and good color. Now stir in 3/4 of your fresh cilantro. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with remaining cilantro and with the four fried slit green chiles.

Serve with white basmati rice or even Chinese style stir fried rice.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vegetarian Haleem

Haleem replete with garnishes

*Can be made vegan by omitting the yoghurt

Haleem can be made with beef, chicken, or goat. But what about a vegetarian version? Here I have created one. This is not a low fat dish. It is rich and heavy due to all of the nuts, seeds, and oil. Vegetarians will enjoy this veg version of this classic dish which is eaten in many Muslim communities, but those who are used to rich, meaty versions of haleem will also enjoy this recipe.

For this you need a box of Shan Shahi Haleem. This box will contain a packet of lentils/grains and a packet of ground spices. For those of you who have not used Shahi haleem mix, this makes a HUGE amount of haleem. Since this is a labor intensive recipe with a lot of steps, I usually freeze half of the batch of haleem, or even divide it into thirds and freeze it. That way you can enjoy haleem without having to do the work every time. Alternatively, you can half the recipe.

Open packet of Shan Shahi Haleem lentil/grain mixture. Optionally, and 1/2 cup extra pearl barley. I do this because I like the chewy texture of the barley in the haleem. Wash the lentils/grains well and soak overnight.

So you need:
1 box Shahi Haleem Mix (take care not to accidentally buy the Shan Easy Cook Haleem)
1/2 cup pearl barley

Making the Masala Yakhni

To cook them make a vegetarian masala yakhni. You will need 10 cups of water. (I make this in two sessions in a glass bowl in the microwave, rather than all at once.) To the water you will add:

2-3 tbs medley of whole garam masalas. I buy a bag of mixed whole garam masalas, but if you need to assemble your own medley----a few bay leaves, pieces of cinnamon bark, a few cardamom pods, 1-2 black cardamom pods, whole coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, black pepper, a tiny bit of nutmeg and mace, 5 dried red chiles.

Optionally, you can add Hyderabadi potli masalas. Don't worry about this if you don't have it. It just adds an extra level of flavor, but this is already a flavorful dish with lots of masala. I ordered my potli masalas online, but if you live in an area with a lot of Hyderabadi Muslims, the Indian/Pakistani store will have some of these masalay, and some ingredients will be in the ayurvedic section of an Indian grocery.

1 tbs stone flowers (pathar ka phool)
1/2 cup dried rose petals (sukhe gulab ke sej)
a 3 inch chunk of dried root of betel plant  (paan ki jar)
1 tbs all spice (kabab chini)
1 tbs naag kesar (I have no idea what word exists for this in English) 
1 tbs kapoor kachri """"
1tbs dried Vetevier roots (khas ki jar)
3 pieces pipli (long black pepper corn, piper longum)

In a large microwave safe bowl, add these masalas in 5 cups of water. Microwave for 6 minutes. Strain the water twice (use a fine sieve) and keep aside. Repeat with the same wet spices. Once you've microwaved and strained the spices in water twice, you can toss them out. They have done their job. You will end up with brown colored masala water. 

Optionally, you can boil the water and spices together on the stove top for 10 minutes. The result is called a yakhni, or broth.

The Lentils/Grains

Cook the soaked lentils/grains in the masala yakhni that you have made. This can be done by boiling and then covering on simmer for about 1 hour, pressure cooking (in 2 split batches), or even left overnight in a crockpot. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric to lentils/grains as they cook. You can add 3-5 green chiles to the lentils when you boil them to make it extra spicy. But don't add salt unless you are cooking in a pressure cooker.  Otherwise add salt after the lentils/grains are completely cooked. You need about 2 tbs salt. (This is going to end up being a huge pot of haleem, but you can split the recipe in half if you use half the Shan lentils.)

Keep the cooked lentils aside in the vessel in which you want to finish the dish (large pot, crockpot, etc). You will have a bunch of cooked lentils in starchy water. Take care that the pot you use have room to add more ingredients because you will be adding your vegetables and spice paste and you don't want overflow or difficulty in pureeing later.

The Vegetables

For the vegetables which will be cauliflower and eggplant. You can really use any vegetable but avoid veg that will give the haleem a strange color. Haleem varies in color from khaki tan to yellowish to golden no large quantities of green or orange veg.

Chop one medium head of cauliflower in florets and deep fry them until tender. The cauliflower does not have to be completely cooked from frying because it will cook further when you add it to the haleem.

Roast 2 large eggplants in the oven. Do this by stabbing them a few times with a knife, coating lightly in oil, and wrapping in foil, then baking on a foil covered tray at 400 degrees for 1 hour and 20 mins. When the eggplant cools, skin it and remove the seeds and keep aside.

The Spice Paste

For the masala:

1 whole packet Shan shahi haleem masala spice.
1 heaping tbs garam masala
1/4 heaping cup almonds
1/4 heaping cup cashews
2 tsp roasted ground white poppy seed (khashkhaash or khas khas)
3 tbs roasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut, browned (I use frozen Indian coconut from the desi store and toast it in the oven)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
5 fresh green chiles
3 tbs Greek yoghurt, whipped
pinch of salt
3/4 loosely packed cup of red fried onions/birishta (linked instructions for making birishta)
1 cup oil (best if you have oil from frying the birishta)
2 tbs ginger/garlic paste

Soak the cashews and almonds in warm water for 1+ hours. In a blender add the nuts and soaking water. Add the fried onion, sesame seeds, coconut, and green chiles, and pinch of salt. Grind, adding a little more water as necessary.

Heat  the cup of oil in pan. Fry the ginger garlic paste. When this looks golden, stir in the masala paste. Fry this for 5 minutes. Add in the mint leaves. Turn off the heat and add in the yoghurt. Keep stirring until the oil starts to rise to the top of the mixture again. (Turning off the heat and stirring like this prevents the yoghurt from splitting.) VEGANS: just omit the yoghurt. Turn the heat back on and keep stirring, frying for 5 more minutes. Add in the roasted poppy seed and the full packet of Shan Masala (use less for less spicy) and stir for 1 more minute. Turn off flame and stir in garam masala. You should have an oily, spicy mixture.


Take out 1.5 cups of cooked haleem lentils grains + liquid and keep aside. This will be added back to the pot after you have pureed the rest of the haleem to give some chewy, grainy texture to the dish because of the pearl barley. Some people like a pure paste with no texture, so you can skip this if you want. I like the texture of some pearl barley in the haleem.

Add the vegetables and spice paste into the grains/lentils. Puree well with a stick blender. (This can be done well in a blender, too. That's just more work.) Add back in the un-pureed lentils/grains. Allow this to cook on low for a while so the flavors blend well. You can add water to get the consistency you like. Some people prefer haleem like a thick daal, others like a thicker paste. It shouldn't be too liquidy or too thick, though. If you add water, be sure to taste for salt. You've added a lot of salt but this is a huge degchi/pot of haleem, so check the salt. I think based on the recipe I have given that I usually add 1 cup to 1.5 cups water towards the end to achieve the consistency that I like.

Cook on low for 20 mins or so to let the flavors blend well.

Finishing with a baghaar

2-3 tbs oil
3 tbs birishta/brown fried onions

Lastly, give a baghaar/tarka of oil and birishta/fried onions. Use about 2-3 tbs oil and 3 tbs brown fried onions. Take care not to burn the already fried onions in the oil. Rather than just tossing the pre-fried onions into the haleem, awakens their caramelized sweetness and flavor. Pour this hot oil-onion tempering on the haleem. You may stir in the baghaar or leave it showing on the top, as per your preference.

Oila. You have vegetarian haleem!

Optional: Traditionally, haleem was made over a wood fire. Haleem cooked this way has a special smoky flavor. To replicate this and make your haleem extra fancy, add a "dhungar" (smokey flavor) by heating a small piece of coal on the stove, then placing the hot coal in oil inside of a little metal katori/dish to the haleem, and covering the pot so it can get smoked for 20 minutes. Then pour in some of the oil from the dhungar and mix well. Be sure to use pure charcoal and not a chemical filled briquette. This blog has instructions with pics on giving dhungar...there are also some youtube vids on it if you search.

Don't forget the garnishes! 

fried cashews, matchstick ginger shards, finely chopped green chiles, fried onions (birishta), fresh chopped cilantro, a tiny squeeze of lemon juice, and optionally, some chaat masala. This haleem is rich and spicy, so you may not want the chaat masala, though.

You'll have to prepare a small amount of these garnishes and set them on a platter next to your haleem as your serve it for each diner to add to their own dish.

Serve with naan.

*This dish is rich and fattening. You've used more than a cup of oil plus all kinds of fatty nuts and seeds. But this is a large batch of haleem, so don't worry too much. You can likely get 20 or more cup sized servings out of this recipe.