Friday, April 20, 2018

8 healthy khichdi recipes


Feeling under the weather? There is nothing better than khichri to nourish your body and warm your heart. This Indian comfort food is a preparation of rice and lentils. For me, this one-pot dish is a wholesome and healthy complete meal. I always make it with a plethora of vegetables depending on my mood. Many variations exist and each household has its own beloved concoction and blend of flavors. Some are rich with a texture like biryani/pulao, while some are soupy textured and smooth kind of like risotto. The concept of the British dish kedgeree came from this. Besides being a one-pot, easy to make, wholesome dish, khichri is a cost-effective way to feed a number of mouths while cleaning up your pantry of all the left-overs. There are no rules and you can add anything you have at hand. Using a pressure cooker I can literally have a meal on the table from start to finish in 20 minutes.

I love all the different combinations of flavors and textures that khichri has to offer. The pulao style panchdal khichri, the softer bisi bele bhaat and Pongal, or the textured sabutdana and bajra khichri - they are all delish and wholesome. But my fave has always been the split urad dal khichri with leafy greens (especially spinach and methi). There is something super gratifying about this combo and with a dollop of ghee and red chili pickle, I am literally in heaven.
In Kumaon, split urad dal khichri is the (must make) dish for Makar Sankranti. This festival is celebrated to mark the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn (according to the sidereal calendar) marking the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days. Can you imagine anything better than a bowl full of hot delicious khichri loaded with ghee in the middle of winter?

Khichri taste great on its own and even better with accompaniments like - plain yogurt, ghee, pickles (mango, chili, ginger, lemon), mint chutney and papad. Here are some of the combinations I like to make and enjoy. Most of them are pressure cooker recipes.
  1. Urad (black gram split) and mixed leafy greens
  2. Chana dal (Bengal gram split) and spinach
  3. Cauliflower, potato, mung (green gram split) dal khichri
  4. Bisi bele bhaat
  5. Panchdal (5 lentils) khichri 
  6. Millet (bajra) khichri
  7. Pongal
  8. Sabutdana (sago) khichri
Urad (black gram split) and leafy greens Khichri
By far my favorite khichri. Drizzled with a teaspoon or two of melted ghee and red/green chili pickle on the side. Both spinach and methi (fenugreek) greens together add a rustic earthy touch besides making it super healthy. I always add chopped green chilies and ginger to up the flavor quotient.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: (serves 5-6)
1 ½ cups rice
1 cup urad chilka (black gram split)
2-3 tbsp oil
Pinch hing (asafoetida)
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 cups packed spinach (chopped)
3 cups packed methi(chopped)
2-3 green chilies, chopped
1-inch ginger, julienne
Salt to taste
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp coriander powder
Red chili powder to taste
  1. Wash and drain rice and dal.
  2. In a pressure cooker heat some oil. Sizzle hing and cumin seeds for a few seconds. Add all the chopped greens and stir well. 
  3. Now add rice, dal, green chilies, ginger and all the spices. Add 3 ½ to 4 cups of water. I prefer my khichri to have a texture like pulao so I add less. If you like it little softer and runny then add 4 or more cups of water.
  4. Give the contents a good stir and close the lid.
  5. Cook on high till the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape. Simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and let the steam escape by itself before opening the lid.  
  7. Gently stir as all the greens tend to settle on top. Serve hot with ghee and red chili pickle.  
Spinach chana dal khichri
This is a very simple lunch idea but is a complete meal on its own. Serve with plain yogurt for a refreshing and wholesome combo.

Ingredients: (serves 2-3)
1 cup rice washed and drained
½ cup chana dal soaked for 2 hours, drained
1 bunch fresh spinach washed and roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1-inch ginger
1 tbsp oil
¼ tsp cumin seeds
Salt and red chili powder to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
2 carrots grated
1 tsp mixed whole spices coarsely pounded (cloves, cinnamon, green and black cardamom, black peppercorns)
  1. Put spinach in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 3-4 minutes to soften it.
  2. Grind together cooked spinach, ginger, and garlic with a little water to form a smooth paste.
  3. In a large pan heat oil and add cumin seeds and mixed whole spices. Cook for 3-5 seconds. Add rice and chana dal and mix to incorporate the spices.
  4. To the spinach, paste add water to make 3 cups. Add this to the rice, add the rest of the spices and stir well. 
  5. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 7-10 minutes till rice is cooked through.
  6. Serve topped with grated carrots.
Cauliflower and mung dal Khichri
Split green gram and large chunks of cauliflower cooked together with rice and spices, makes for a wonderful dish. Cauliflower is a great substitute for potato and tastes awesome with split mung dal. Don't skip the ghee and for this one and I would recommend sweet and sour lime pickle.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: (serves 5-6)
1 ½ cups rice
1 cup moong chilka (Split green gram)
2-3 tbsp oil
Pinch hing (asafoetida)
½ tsp cumin seeds
3-4 whole cloves
1 small cauliflower head
2-3 green chilies, chopped (optional)
1-inch ginger, julienne
Salt to taste
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp coriander powder
Red chili powder to taste
  1. Wash and drain rice and dal.
  2. Wash the cauliflower head and cut into small florets. 
  3. In a pressure cooker heat some oil. Sizzle hing and cumin seeds for a few seconds. Add the whole cloves and cauliflower florets. Stir well. 
  4. Now add rice, dal, green chilies, ginger and all the spices. Add 4 cups of water. 
  5. Give the contents a good stir and close the lid.
  6. Cook on high till the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape. Simmer and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook. 
  7. Remove from heat immediately and put the cooker under cold running water to let the steam escape. This is necessary to avoid the cauliflower getting too mushy.   
  8. Fluff gently and serve hot.  
Panchdal Khichri
Panchdal khichri is rice is cooked with 5 pulses. To make it more special you can add 5 veggies to it too. Preferably select the pulses that have similar cooking times - I use chana dal (skinned split Bengal gram), moong chilka (split green gram), toor (pigeon peas), moong dhuli (skinned dehusked mung), malka (pink lentils). Makes for a healthy and nutritious treat for the whole family. Serve with cold plain yogurt, papad, and mint chutney.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: (serves 5-6)
1 ½ cup rice
1 cup of assorted dals, a fifth cup each of all dals mentioned above
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 small green pepper, chopped
Handful green beans, chopped
1 medium carrot, cubed
Handful frozen peas
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ghee
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
2-3 cloves
2 dry red chili
1 bay leaf
Pinch of hing (asafetida)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 green chilies, chopped
Few curry leaves
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp turmeric powder
Red chili powder to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
4 cups water
  1. Wash all the dals and rice. Soak chana dal in hot boiling water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes drain the water and keep it aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat ghee and oil in a pressure cooker. Add hing, cumin and mustard seeds, bay leaf, cloves and dry red chilies. Let roast for a few seconds.
  3. Now add chopped green chilies, garlic, and curry leaves. saute for a few seconds and then add chopped onions. Fry till light brown before adding the tomatoes. Saute until soft and mushy. 
  4. Add all the spices, rice and dals. Saute for few seconds. 
  5. Add 4 cups of water and mix well. Pressure cook until the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape, simmer and cook for 7-10 minutes. 
  6. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to release on its own. Open the lid and mix gently.
  7. Serve hot with all the accompaniments. 

Bisi bele bhaat
Bisi bele bhaat is dal and rice cooked with tamarind and spices. This traditional Karnataka recipe tastes best served hot drizzled with ghee. I usually cook the rice and dal together till they become slightly mushy and soft. If you prefer to have the rice grainy and dal mushy, then you can cook them separately. The flavor comes from a combination of spices - you can make your own or use a store bought masala(bisi bele bhaat powder). Tempering of peanuts, cashews and whole red chilies taste awesome.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: 
1 cup Rice
½ cup toor dal
½ cup peas
½ cup chopped green beans
½ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped green pepper
1 tbsp oil
Pinch asafoetida
¼ tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves
Salt to taste
¼ tsp turmeric
2-3 tbsp bisi bele bhaat masala
Small lemon sized tamarind ball
1 tsp jaggery (optional)
Tempering
1 tbsp ghee
2 large dry red chili
1 tbsp peanuts/cashews
  1. Soak the tamarind in ¼ cup hot water for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the pulp and keep aside. 
  2. Wash and drain dal and rice. 
  3. In a pressure cooker, heat oil and add mustard seeds and hing. Let them roast for a few seconds. Add curry leaves followed by rice, dal and all the veggies. Add salt to taste, turmeric powder and 4-5 cups of water. Mix well.
  4.  Pressure cook until the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape, simmer and cook for 7-10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to release on its own. Open the lid and mix gently.
  6. Adjust the consistency. Add the tamarind pulp, bisi bele vhaat masala and jaggery (if using). Bring to boil and simmer. The right consistency of bisibelebath is when the rice reaches a thick consistency. Do not overcook or it will become too lumpy.
  7. Tempering - Heat ghee in a pan. Add cashews/peanuts and red chili. Let them roast for a few seconds. Pour this over the cooked khichri. 

Pearl millet (Bajra) khichri
This recipe is popular both in Rajasthan and Haryana. Very rustic and earthy, this protein-rich khichri tastes awesome with ghee and kadhi. A must try for all.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: 
1 cup bajra (pearl millet)
¾ cup split moong dal
6 cups water
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ghee
Pinch hing (asafoetida)
½ tsp cumin seeds
1-inch ginger, grated
2 green chilies, chopped
Salt to taste
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Red chili powder to taste
  1. Wash the millet and dal several times till the water runs clear. 
  2. In the pressure cooker heat oil and ghee. Add cumin seeds and hing, let them roast for a few seconds. Now add green chilies, ginger, and all the dry spices. Fry for a few seconds.
  3. Add water, dal, and millet. Stir to combine. Close the lid. Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles and remove from heat. Let rest and open the lid only when steam is released itself.
  4. If you want to cook it in a pan instead of the pressure cooker, add water to the tempering and bring to boil. Add millet and dal, cover and simmer. Cook till everything is soft and mushy. It takes around 30 minutes to reach that consistency. Keep stirring occasionally. 
  5. Serve with curd or kadhi. 
Pongal
Ven Pongal is a delicious rice and moong dal khichri often served for breakfast in Sri Lanka and parts of southern India. Cooked till soft with a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and a side of plain yogurt this is comfort food personified.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 cup rice
1 cup moong dal
6-7 cups water
2-3 tbsp oil
¼ tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves
A few pieces of cashews
Salt to taste
  1. Wash rice and dal well till the water runs clear. 
  2. Place them in the pressure cooker along with 6-7 cups of water and salt to taste. 
  3. Give the contents a good stir and close the lid.
  4. Cook on high till the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape. Simmer and continue to cook for 7-10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat and let the steam escape by itself before opening the lid.  
  6. Adjust the consistency of the khichri now. If you need it runnier, then add some boiling water.
  7. In another pan heat oil and add mustard seeds curry leaves, let them roast for a few seconds. 
  8. Add the cashews and roast until golden.
  9. Add this tempering to the cooked pongal.
  10. Serve hot garnished with fresh coriander and plain yogurt on the side.
Sago (sabutdana) khichri
This one has no rice and no dal. Sago khichri is popularly made during the fasting season. Soaked sago pearls are cooked with potatoes and peanuts and flavored with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Every variety of sago pearls need different soaking times. Just experiment and make sure they don't become soggy.

Ingredients: 
1 cup sabutdana (sago)
1 small potato, boiled
2-3 tbsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 tbsp peanuts
1-inch ginger, julienne
2-3 green chilies, chopped
Salt to taste
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Red chili powder to taste
  1. Wash the sago 2-3 times and soak in enough cold water to immerse fully. Soak for 2-3 hours. The grains should not mush up but should be moist and separate. Drain out all the water, fluff with a fork and keep aside.
  2. Peel and chop the potato into small pieces. Keep aside. 
  3. In another pan heat oil and add mustard seeds, let them roast for a few seconds. 
  4. Add the curry leaves, potatoes, peanuts, green chilies and ginger and roast till peanuts are golden. 
  5. Add the sabutdana, salt, and chili powder. Stir well to combine till all the flavors get incorporated into them. Remove from heat and sprinkle lime juice and zest. Mix.
  6. Serve hot garnished with fresh coriander.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Tandoori fish tacos



As a child, I grew up in India eating mostly Indian food at home. Everywhere around me, my neighborhood, at school and later at university, it was Indian food. Yes, there were the occasional Chinese dine outs or those burgers or pizza lunch dates with the gals. But on the whole, it was roti and dal, curried veggies and rice, tandoori chicken and paneer. 

Needless to say, I understand Indian cuisine and its basics. I can cook in my sleep and get the flavors and textures correct. 

When I cook dishes from other cuisines I love to make every dish in its authenticity. I try to keep true to the flavors and textures to get the max experience out of that meal. But every now and then I get the urge to add a cross-cultural twist and I always seek inspiration from my cooking roots. 

So sometimes tacos aren't exclusively a Mexican affair in our house, they get an Indian twist. Tandoori fish tacos with radish, tomatoes, green chilies and vinegar onions drizzled with cucumber raita. The flavors all blend in beautifully leaving everyone happy. This fusion recipe is sure to spice up your next taco night. It’s a few easy steps to make the fish and raita, then it’s just chopping a few things and heating up everything else.  Easy Peasy with very little cleanup. 


Ingredients: (serves 4)
8 small pieces of Tandoori fish (recipe here)
8 small tortillas, 6-inch diameter
1 large red onion
2 tbsp rice vinegar
Lettuce
2 medium tomatoes
A few green chilies
1 lemon
Red radish
Fresh coriander, a handful
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cucumber
Salt to taste
¼ tsp roasted cumin powder
  1. Prepare the tandoori fish as per the recipe. While it is cooking, prep the other things.
  2. Vinegar Onions - Slice the onions into thin rings. Add vinegar and a pinch of salt. Mix well, cover and keep aside to marinate for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Cucumber raita - Gently whisk the yogurt. Grate the cucumber and add to the yogurt along with salt to taste and cumin powder. Mix well and keep aside.
  4. Veggies - Slice radish into thin slices, chop tomato, green chilies, coriander, and lettuce fine.
  5. Assemble - Warm the tortillas gently on a skillet. Place the fish in the center. Top with other fixins and just before serving, add lashings of raita (or serve on the side as a dipping sauce). 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Italian fish meatballs


Polpette di pesce, are crispy and aromatic fishballs, the size of a plump walnut, prepared with cod and flecked with thyme and parsley.  Whether fried, baked or stewed with tomato, these tiny beauties are easy and fun to make and super delish. A dish that everyone likes.

Bite-sized polpette di pesce is super versatile. Here are some ways to serve them.
  • Serve with lime wedges as a starter.
  • Serve with a crisp green salad for lunch, drizzled with some pesto sauce.
  • Make a fish meatball sub. Place a few of the fishballs stewed in tomato sauce inside a kaiser bun topped with some cheese. Grill till cheese just melts.
  • Serve over spaghetti drenched with tomato sauce and grated parmesan. Polpette di pesce is not traditionally served with pasta but hey, how does that matter. Tastes awesome. 
If you want a lighter version, you can bake the meatballs. Once prepped, place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, sprinkle with a little oil and bake in a preheated oven at 425 ° F for 12-15 minutes.

Polpette di pesce al sugo or fishballs stewed with tomatoes make for an even tastier meatball. Fry the prepared fishballs in hot oil for a couple minutes per side. Then immerse them in the pan of tomato sauce and cook for 15 minutes till plump.

Italian fish meatballs 
Ingredients: (Makes 24)
2 lbs skinless fish fillets (I used cod)
2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed well
1 small red onion, chopped fine
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp lime zest
4 tbsp parmesan, grated
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine
2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1 tbs Italian seasoning
1 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
  1. Steam the fish until it flakes easily,, about 10 minutes. Allow it to cool slightly, then flake with a fork.
  2. In a bowl combine the fish, mashed potato, chopped onion, egg, cilantro, Italian seasoning, parmesan, lime zest, garlic, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Combine the mixture well. 
  3. Take handfuls of the mixture and shape into small balls. Roll over bread crumbs and set aside.
  4. Place the prepared fish balls in the fridge, covered for about half an hour. (see note below)
  5. Heat the oil in a  deep pan to medium high heat (till breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden when dropped). Deep fry the fish cakes in batches, turning around until golden and crispy on all sides.
  6. Drain on paper towel and serve hot with lime wedges.

Note: Chilling the meatballs helps to set the shape and makes it easier to fry. It is a great make ahead tip for when you are serving fish balls for a party. Prep the fish balls till this stage and refrigerate the day before. Just fry before serving.