Friday, September 26, 2014

Chaat Specialities

Straight from the streets of India here are some immensely popular savory snack dishes. Mainly sold at roadside stalls and carts, chaat corners have become very popular all over South east Asia. Most of these street foods have their origin in Uttar pradesh , Maharashtra, Rajasthan.
Putting all these dishes together reminds me of my University days when we used to go to Nathu's sweets in Bengali Market, Delhi to indulge in gol gappas and other such delights. This one is for my buddies Tanya, Bhawana, Jyoti and Anjali. Those were the days.

Papri chaat
Papri chaat combines flavors and textures which give a unique taste in the mouth. The softness of the bhalla, crispy saltiness of the papri, silky texture of boiled potato and bite in the chickpeas are all put together with flavored yogurt and sweet and sour chutneys. Heaven on a plate.
Find the recipe here.

Paani poori
A crisp poori which is filled with potato, chickpeas, green chutney, imli chutney and paani. The catch is that the whole thing has to go inside the mouth all at once for an explosion of varied flavors and textures, or it explodes on you when you bite. Find the recipe here.
Katori chaat
Crispy katori or basket filled with sweet, tangy spicy goodness. This is the most fun way to have chaat, a great way to serve chaat to your guests and kids just adore these. Make your own crispy katoris by using wonton wrappers for bite sized baskets or larger spring roll wrappers for a serious chaat katori. Find the recipe here.
The evergreen Indian street food, Aloo tikki is loved by all, big and small. This versatile dish can be served in several ways and is a real comfort food for those cold and wet evenings. I am serving it today with choley and two varieties of chutneys. Find the recipe here.
Savory lentil dumplings served topped with spiced cool yogurt and tamarind chutney. It makes a great accompaniment to any formal dinner or can be served as a cold starter.
Find the recipe here.
Diced potatoes are fried in generous helpings of oil on large griddles or tava and drizzled with tamarind, mint chutneys and an array of ground fragrant spices. Whats not to like. Find the recipe here.

Ram Laddoo
Every Delhite has seen and/or eaten these savory, tangy, spicy little fried dumplings. Moong dal pakoda or ram laddoo, a popular street food in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, are fried nuggets made of moong dal, served with a generous helping of grated radish, sweet tamarind chutney and spicy mint coriander chutney. A great starter to serve at your next party. For recipe click here.

Bengal gram chaat
This dish here is sooo delicious and basically just a mix of flavors and textures. Just like a salad, throw in any fruit and vegetable you fancy and flavor as per your taste. I have mixed this one like a chaat with sweet, sour, salty and tangy flavors and soft and crunchy textures all in one. Try it. Guaranteed delicious. Find the recipe here.

This tempting platter here is an assortment of fried pakodas (chick pea fritters). Small pieces of veggies are encased in a thick coating of chick pea flour batter, then deep fried till crisp. Known by many names pakoda, pakora, pakode this street food is served all across India. The vendors keep them half cooked ready to be crisped in hot oil and serve them in minutes with generous lashings of chutney. Find the recipe here.

Bonda/Batata vada
Bonda or Batata Vada are battered, deep fried potato fritters typically served as a tea time snack. This vegetarian appetizer is a popular Maharashtra street food and is served with a bunch of condiments such as green mint coriander chutney and the red chili garlic chutney. Flavored mashed potatoes are shaped into round balls and dipped in a thick chickpea flour batter, then deep fried to get a crispy exterior with a soft interior. Find the recipe here.

Khasta Kachori
Khasta kachori is the essential hearty and heavy breakfast food of northern India, specially the streets of Uttar Pradesh. It is available at all halwai shops and street vendors in the mornings, enticing everyone with its rich and spicy aroma of deep frying and hing tadka. Find the recipe here.

A savory appetizer from Gujarat India, khandvi is made from gram flour and yogurt. The procedure to prepare looks easy enough, but it does require some practice to roll the perfect khandvi. Find the recipe here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rice dishes

Rice is the most widely consumed cereal grain, and a staple food for a large percentage of the world's Human population. Many varieties of rice are available in the market but culinary preferences vary by region. Rice is a very versatile grain and is cooked in a variety of ways, each one more interesting and more delicious than the other. Following is a compilation of 18 different rice dishes from the blog till date. Enjoy these flavors and textures.

Kashmiri 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 flavorful chicken, delicate vegetables and a plethora of nuts the rice acquires a heavenly taste. A must try for all.
Find the recipe here

Chicken Biryani
The name Biryani is derived from the Persian word birian which means “fried or roasted” and has its roots in the Persian cuisine. There are many legends regarding its movement to the Indian subcontinent. Some believe it was brought to India by the Muslim merchants and travelers and made popular during the Mughal rule in cities like Lucknow, Hyderabad and Kashmir. Some believe it traveled across the Arabian Sea with the Arab travelers. Some believe it was devised as a dish to feed a large army and was cooked in a large earthen pot sealed with dough.
Find the recipe here.

Kathal (Jackfruit) biryani
Jack fruit belongs to the mulberry family and is widely grown in parts of Southeast Asia. It has a thick spiky green skin, a starchy and fibrous flesh, and is a source of dietary fiber. An interesting take on biryani for a vegetarian option. 
Find the recipe here.

Dum pukht chicken biryani
The essence of dum pukth lies in its aroma, where meat rice and vegetables are allowed to infuse in rich spices by cooking them on a very slow flame in a copper or earthen pot covered with dough. This purdah (veil) style of cooking seals the pot with the dough allowing the food to cook slowly in its own juices and infusing the flavour all over. These dishes use a generous amount of ghee and are elaborate to make.
You can use either lamb or chicken, preferably with bones. Find the recipe here

Savoury Saffron rice
Delicately flavored and elegant. It kind of evolves from the pilaf recipes of the Mughlai cuisine, and goes very well with shrimp. This rice can be served with any BBQ meats such as Cedar wrapped salmon , Malai chicken tikka , Tandoori chicken , Grilled red snapper , Stuffed chicken breast and grilled Tilapia.
Find the recipe here.

Sweet saffron rice
Delicately flavored with saffron, cloves, cardamom and almonds, lightly sweetened and infused with clarified butter. Delicious and pretty.
Find the recipe here.

Microwave Veggie rice 
Super quick, super easy and packed with veggies. While you cook the main dish throw this together and let the microwave take over. Excellent dish to involve kids in the kitchen.
Find the recipe here.

Lemon rice
Chittra anna is lemon fried rice. Also called Nimbekai Chitranna in Kannada it is the most commonly prepared rice dish in Karnataka. The rice is yellow from turmeric and flavored with lemon, fried peanuts and spices. Since it is so colorful it is often made for special occasions or festivals. Serve with raita, green beans palya or lentil stews like sambar or rasam.
Find the recipe here.

Chana pulao
A wonderful dish for Sunday lunch. This one pot meal is sure to be a hit around the table as it combines the earthiness of chickpeas with the rich vibrancy of achari (pickle) flavors. Addition of fennel and nigella seeds adds the pickle like taste while the bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon add the pulao flavors. Serve with a refreshing mixed salad raita and a crunchy papad.
Find the recipe here.

Vangi bhaat
Vangi bhaat or brinjal rice is one of the many famous rice dishes of southern India. There are two main variations of this dish - Maharashtrian and Karnatak. The main difference is in the spices. This recipe is the Karnataka variation which uses coconut and curry leaves. Typically long purple or green eggplants are used here. You can use the Chinese long eggplant (be sure to not overcook it), or use the small Indian ones as I have done (they taste great). Prepare the vangi bhaat masala (recipe in the image below) in advance and then making this dish is super quick.
Find the recipe here.

Haryala pulao
A comforting one pot dish for those days when you want quick hot meal in minutes. Loaded with the goodness of greens this is a great dish for lunch. You can add any combination of vegetables frozen of fresh, just make sure they are green ones (for this recipe). Mint adds the unique taste to the pulao. To get a green color, avoid adding any fried onions as they will color the pulao brown.
Find the recipe here.

Ginger rice
Rich in caramelized onion and ginger flavor. A great choice for serving alongside shrimp or fish curry. Find the recipe here.

Spinach chana dal pulao
A very simple lunch idea but is a complete meal on its own. Serve with plain yogurt for a refreshing and wholesome combo. Find the recipe here.

Masala capsicum rice
This recipe is one of its kind for rice. Extremely flavorful and aromatic owing to the ground dry roasted spices that impart a unique taste and texture to the rice. Colorful peppers can be cut in thin strips or chopped, either way they make the dish colorful.
Find the recipe here.

Chicken burrito bowl
This is a deconstructed burrito, largely inspired by Chipotle's burrito bowl. Rice is aromatic with a wonderful lime flavor, black beans are simmered in garlic and cumin, peppers have a charred grilled taste, corn adds the sweetness. I have listed several toppings and you can choose all or a few to make this your own. Omit chicken to make it vegetarian.
Find the recipe here.

Mushroom Risotto
This Italian rice dish cooked slowly in broth to a creamy consistency is a perfect complement to any grilled meat and chicken. Its no secret that a good risotto requires your undivided attention for about 20 minutes but its completely worth it.
Find the recipe here.

Wild rice Salad
Wild rice is gluten free and has more protein, fiber, iron and copper than brown rice. It is high in the B-vitamins niacin, riboflavin and thiamine, as well as potassium and phosphorus. It is a complete protein containing all of the essential amino-acids. This is a great dish to make as a side for BBQ, or as a lunch salad.
Find the recipe here.

Wild rice blend Salad with pecans and cranberries
Wild rice blend is a combination of good quality brown rice (bran intact crunchy and coarse textured kernels with a nutty flavor) and wild rice (long narrow dark brown-black kernels with a nutty flavor). This takes longer to cook than regular white rice but is worth the effort. Find the recipe here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Quinoa Recipes

This post is inspired by a request from my friend to make quinoa in several different ways so that it can be easily incorporated in our daily diet. So here are five recipes using quinoa as the main ingredient but each with completely different flavors. This one is for you Virender.

According to the whole grains council, Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal. This potent little seed gets an A+ for protein quality and so holds an important position in Vegetarian cooking. The protein profile of quinoa is impressive because it is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids (The best source though is soy). This fact is specially important for vegetarians and vegans since most other complete protein foods are meat or dairy-based. Being a whole-grain seed, it is also naturally a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E and potassium. You can find quinoa at any grocery stores or specialty food stores.

1. Quinoa pulao
Ingredients: serves 2-3
1 cup quinoa (I used red and white quinoa blend here)
1 cup chopped veggies (beans, carrots, peas, lima beans)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp Ginger julienne
1/2 medium Onion julienne
2 Bay leaves
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
3-4 Cloves
1/2 inch cinnamon
2 Green cardamoms crushed
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp garam masala powder
2 cups water

  1. Rinse quinoa in running cold water and let it drain. 
  2. Heat oil in a large pan. Add bay leaves, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Saute for 10 seconds. Add onion. 
  3. Cook on medium high till onions turn golden brown. Add the chopped veggies. Saute for a minute and add the rinsed quinoa. Stir fry for a minute to incorporate the flavor of the spices into the veggies and quinoa. Add salt, red chili powder and garam masala and ginger. 
  4. While veggies are frying heat 2 cups of water in a separate pan till it starts boiling. Add the boiling water to the veggies and give it a quick stir. When it starts to boil again, simmer and cover for 20 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat and fluff up with fork before digging in.

2. Quinoa upma
Upma is a hot breakfast food originally from southern India made with semolina. This recipe is inspired by upma and uses quinoa instead. Upma can be eaten for breakfast or lunch(as we do) and is a wholesome dish full of tonnes of veggies.

Ingredients: serves 2-3
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup each peas and beans
1 cup shredded carrot
2 tbsp oil
Pinch asafoetida
1/4 tsp Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
2-3 Red whole chilli
1 tsp Ginger julienne
2-3 green chilies chopped
1 tsp each chana dal and dhuli urad dal
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves to garnish
  1. Rinse quinoa in running cold water and let it drain. 
  2. Heat 2 tsp oil in a thick bottomed pan and add the mustard seeds. 
  3. Once they crackle, stir in the asafoetida, red chili, chana dal, urad dal and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. 
  4. Add the vegetables and rinsed quinoa and fry on high for 2-3 minutes. Add ginger, green chili and salt and continue frying for 3 to 4 minutes. 
  5. Add about 2 cups of water to the mixture, bring to a rolling boil and allow the mixture to simmer for 20 minutes. 
  6. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. 

3. Lemon quinoa
Inspired by the chitra anna (or lemon rice) recipe, the quinoa is tinted yellow with turmeric and flavored with lemon, fried peanuts and spices.
Ingredients: serves 2
1 cup quinoa (I used white quinoa here)
2 cups water
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
Pinch asafoetida(hing)
1 tsp urad dal
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp peanuts
2-3 whole red chilies
2 green chilies finely chopped
1 tsp ginger grated (traditionally not used, i use it, gives a great flavor)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Red chili powder to taste
Lemon juice as per taste

  1. Wash quinoa in cold running water, drain. 
  2. Place it in a pan with 2 cups water and salt. 
  3. Bring to boil and simmer covered for 18-20 minutes till translucent and all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and keep aside to cool. 
  4. For good results always advisable to cook quinoa a few hours in advance. 
  5. In a large pan heat oil and add mustard seeds. Let them roast for 5-7 seconds, then add hing, urad dal, peanuts and whole red chilies. Roast till dal turns golden. 
  6. Add the cooked quinoa, green chilies and ginger and stir to combine. Keeping the heat at medium, add turmeric and chili powder. Saute well to combine everything for about 3-4 minutes. 
  7. Finally add the lemon juice as per taste and adjust any seasoning. Serve hot.
Red quinoa salad (Find the recipe here.)

4. Red Quinoa salad
Quinoa can be mixed with any combination of veggies, beans, nuts and cheese to give a unique dish every time. Makes for an excellent lunch or side dish for BBQ.
Moroccan quinoa salad(Find the recipe here)
5. Moroccan Quinoa salad
This recipe here has a great blend of flavors with mint and lime juice. The sweet and tart cranberries add the perfect punch and color.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Spinach artichoke pasta bake

Pasta baked with juicy tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, and mozzarella becomes a cheesy indulgence, an ultimate Italian comfort food. Make a casserole for Sunday brunch or serve as a side dish with any grilled meat, this is sure to please everyone at the table. A great dish to make for potlucks and a great option for a vegetarian main dish. Artichokes give a meaty texture and spinach and tomatoes add a wonderful flavor.

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)
4 cup dry pasta (macaroni, pastina or any small pasta)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cooked cubed chicken or ham (optional)
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1 can artichoke hearts (drained and diced)
crushed red chili pepper flakes, as per your spice quotient
½ onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp flour
1 cup sour cream or plain hung yogurt
1 cup whole milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh/dry thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a large casserole dish. 
  2. Cook pasta in salted, boiling water according to package directions to a firm with a bite state (little less than al dente). Drain and set aside. 
  3. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and add in the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 2-3 minutes to slightly soften them. Do not brown. Add the flour and cook for a further minute to take the raw flavor out. 
  4. Add in warm milk whisking slowly to avoid any lumps. Reduce heat to low. Stir in sour cream, Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, salt, black pepper, thyme, and nutmeg. Stir until everything is well-combined and melted. Turn off heat. 
  5. Combine the cooked pasta, cooked chicken/ham (if using), spinach, artichoke and tomatoes in a large bowl. Add in the sauce and gently stir to coat. 
  6. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining mozzarella. 
  7. Bake uncovered for about 20 -25 minutes ... or until casserole is bubbly and beginning to brown. 
  8. Serve hot with crusty garlic bread.