Friday, February 22, 2013

Stuffed green chillies (Kashmiri style)

Stuffed green chillies

This recipe comes from the state of Kashmir in India. The sweet, sour and nutty filling is a result of combining walnuts and pomegranate seeds, giving a unique flavour explosion in the mouth.  This is a wonderful side dish with lamb korma or Biryani. Serve it hot or at room temperature.     

10 Green chillies (I used Jalapeños)
1/4 cup vinegar
2/3 cup shelled walnuts
1 tbsp ginger
2 tbsp anardana powder (pomegranate seeds powdered)
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp fennel powder (saunf)
salt to taste
1-2 tbsp oil for frying
  1. Wash the peppers and make a small slit in each. You can deseed if you want (I keep the seeds in, retains the heat) and soak them in vinegar for one hour. Turn once in between.
  2. Meanwhile grind the rest of the ingredients to get a smooth paste, using a few spoons of water if required.
  3. Remove the peppers from vinegar and fill them with the ground paste. Do not over stuff or it will be a problem while frying. Just fill enough to allow the slits to remain closed. Discard the vinegar.
  4. Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry the stuffed peppers till they change colour. Rotate and cook from all sides.
  5. You can even spray with oil and roast in the oven till the edges acquire a slight roasted colour.
  6. Serve as a side dish with lamb and naan.

Recipe adapted from the book 'Kashmiri Kitchen'

Friday, February 15, 2013

Besan Laddoo


Besan Laddoo
The colour Yellow represents happiness and cheerfulness. Shades of golden yellow advance from surrounding colours and offer optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughts. Yellow is also the colour of Manipura chakra located in the Solar plexus (stomach area). This chakra represents vitality and empowers a person to find their personal strength. It is also the colour Hindus wear to celebrate the festival of Spring 'Basant Panchami'.

Every year I make saffron rice on this day just to welcome spring and keep the tradition alive for my girls. This year I decided to try my hand at making these laddoos. This is my brothers's favourite mithai since childhood. I remember always buying these as offering to Hanumanji. Any Delhi-ite who has been to Hanuman mandir in Cannaught Place knows what I am talking about.
I have never been good at making mithai, but this recipe seemed simple enough to try my hand out. Came out pretty well and everyone at home loved it. So if you have some free time and an inclination to make these, please try it, you will be thrilled with the results. Just make sure you don't change any proportions. So here goes.....

Roasted besan mixture

Ingredients: (makes 25 small laddoos)
1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter)
1 1/2 cup laddoo besan (coarse besan available in Indian stores, don't use regular besan)
1 cup powdered sugar
10 green cardamoms, powdered
sliced almonds or crushed pistachios for garnish
  1. Keep all the things ready before you start cooking. 
  2. In a heavy bottomed pan heat ghee till it melts. Keep the heat at medium. 
  3. Add besan and mix well. Continue to roast the besan till it imparts a roasted aroma. Will take about 10-12 minutes of continuous movement to ensure even roasting and no burning. 
  4. Add powdered sugar and mix till evenly incorporated in the roasted besan. 
  5. Remove from heat and add cardamom powder. Mix well. Mixture will resemble coarse breadcrumbs, see picture above. 
  6. Let the roasted mix cool down a bit as it will be too hot to touch just yet. 
  7. When mixture is cooler yet still warm start moulding it into round balls. If they are not binding together, add a teaspoon or so of ghee and mix. 
  8. Roll into laddoos and stick almonds or pistachios on the top end. 
  9. Let them cool completely (2 hours) before digging in to get the full flavour and texture of laddoos. Enjoy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kashmiri biryani (A royal culinary masterpiece)

Tonight's Menu
Kashmiri style chicken biryani
Cucumber raita
Garden salad
Wine Pairing: Any full bodied red wine
Chicken Biryani

Developed in the royal kitchens of Nawabs and Rajas, Kashmiri biryani is a royal culinary masterpiece. Biryani is always a crowd pleaser and this version is surely made for special occasions with its rich and silky texture, bold flavours and and eye pleasing colour. Engulfed in flavourful chicken, delicate vegetables and a plethora of nuts the rice acquires a heavenly taste. A must try for all.

Ingredients and preparation:

For the chicken
1 lb boneless chicken thighs cubed into 1 inch pieces (substitute paneer for the veggie version)
1 cup plain yogurt beaten well
Kashmiri red chilli powder (for colour and desired heat level)
salt to taste
1 large red onion chopped fine
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
More kashmiri red chilli powder if desired
Marinade spices:
1/4 teaspoon each of whole dry cumin and coriander,
3 whole cloves
1 long stick cinnamon
4 green cardamoms
1 black cardamoms
Few black peppercorns
¾ teaspoon anardana powder (dry pomegranate powder)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
Cooking the chicken:
  1. Take all the marinade spices and lightly toast them in a dry skillet. Let cool and coarsely grind them together in a dry grinder or mortar and pestle. Do not powder them fine, keep them grainy. 
  2. Combine these spices with the yogurt and salt and kashmiri chilli powder to form a marinade. Marinate chicken pieces in this for a minimum of 4 hours. 
  3. To cook the chicken, heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add chopped onion and fry at medium high, stirring constantly till they turn pink. 
  4. At this point add the ginger garlic paste and continue stirring for 2 minutes. 
  5. Add the marinated chicken mixture along with tomato paste, and coat them well with the onion mixture. Fry for 2-4 more minutes. 
  6. Add all the other spices and 1 tablespoon of water and stir well. Reduce the heat a bit. At this point the aim is to infuse the chicken with all the wonderful spices while slowly cooking it. 
  7. When the chicken is about half done increase the heat. Continue cooking while stirring making sure nothing burns. 
  8. After about 5-7 minutes the chicken will be almost done. The best way to tell is when you see the entire concoction leaving oil from all sides. At this point remove from heat. There should not be too much liquid in the pan and chicken should be surrounded by a little bit of gravy.

2 carrots peeled and grated
1 cup of grated yellow squash
handful green beans cut at a diagonal
Cooking the veggies:
In 1 tsp oil sauté the veggies for 5-6 minutes till tender crisp. No need to add any spices or salt. Keep aside.

For the rice
2 cups long grain basmati rice
6 cups water
1 teaspoon ghee
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking the rice:
  1. Wash the rice well with cold water. 
  2. Soak rice for 30 minutes. Drain. 
  3. Bring the 6 cups of water with salt and ghee to boil. As it comes to a rolling boil add the soaked rice. Stir. Wait till it comes back to boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Check the rice grain at this point. It should be only three quarters cooked. 
  5. Remove from heat and drain out all the water. Rice is now ready to layer.

Other ingredients
Few strands of saffron soaked in 1 teaspoon of hot water (for 2-3 mins)
2 tbsp dry mint (or 1 cup fresh mint chopped fine)
1 cup fresh coriander chopped fine
2 large red onions sliced, fried till golden brown
½ cup mixed nuts (cashew nuts and almonds) lightly toasted in 1/2 tsp oil

Assembling the Biryani:
  1. Preheat the oven at 375 F. 
  2. In a large greased casserole, start layering.Layer half the rice at the bottom. Top with half the toasted nuts, followed by half the fried onions and half of the prepared veggies, mint and coriander. 
  3. Sprinkle saffron water randomly over the rice. Top with half the chicken. Now repeat the layers again.Do not try to mix the rice and chicken together. 
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes till rice cooks completely. 
  5. Give a random light stir to the entire concoction and see the beautiful colours and aromas blending together. 
  6. Serve steaming hot with Raita.
Paneer Biryani

Friday, February 1, 2013

Rajasthani mirchi pakoda

Famous Rajasthani street food 'mirchi pakoda' is a fave among locals and tourists alike. The dry hot climate of the desert contrasts sharply to the hot, spicy and rich snack. We all love it and is a must try for all mirchi lovers. You can use hot banana peppers or jalapeño peppers for this recipe. The potato stuffing can be stuffed inside the pepper and can be packed on the outside of the pepper before dipping in the besan batter. I usually stuff my peppers with potato and omit the outside part. For small peppers where stuffing inside will pose a problem you can coat the outside and proceed from there.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
8 banana peppers
3 large potatoes boiled
1 tsp grated ginger
Amchoor (mango powder) to taste
Salt to taste
For the batter
1 cup Gram flour (besan)
1 tbsp Ginger paste
1 tsp Garlic paste
Red chilli powder as needed
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1/4 tsp ajwain seeds
Pinch baking soda (for crispness, optional)
Salt to taste
  1. Peel and mash the boiled potatoes to make a smooth dough. Season lightly with salt, amchoor and grated ginger. Remember that the besan batter will also have salt, so use accordingly. 
  2. Wash and pat the peppers dry. Give each pepper a long slit keeping the stem intact. Divide the potato dough into 8 equal portions and stuff the insides of the peppers with it. 
  3. To prepare batter mix all ingredients together. Add sufficient water and whisk well to make a batter of a coating consistency. Rest the batter for about fifteen minutes. 
  4. Heat oil in a pan till hot. Dip each potato stuffed pepper in the batter and deep fry on medium heat till crisp and golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. 
  5. Serve with lime wedges and green mint chutney.