Category Archives: Indian

Paneer Bhurji

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I have a bone to pick with my parents.  They never introduced me to enough Indian “street food” or chaat.

A year ago, I stopped off at a local Indian grocery store for a quick samosa and was instantly drawn to the long line at the chaat portion of the store.  I, like usual, watched what everyone was ordering and just went for it.

Who knew an order of aloo paratha with paneer bhurji would be so life changing?  After that, I went on to try aloo tikki, pani puri, golgappa, pav bhaji, etc.

I felt more cheated than ever.  When I asked my mom why she held out, my mom’s only non-responsive response is, “We should try to make it ourselves.”  And, just like that I’m on a new mission to make all my favorites – starting with this favorite.

Paneer Bhurji

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup paneer, grated (you could also try firm tofu)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 1/2 serrano, finely chopped (remove seeds if you want less heat)
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 pinch garam masala
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped, divided

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Once oil is hot, add onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic/ginger paste and serrano pepper and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add turmeric, cayenne, cumin, coriander and garam masala, and cook until the raw smell of the spices is gone, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the grated paneer and stir to incorporate with the onion/garlic/ginger mix.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the paneer is soft.
  4. Add half of the cilantro and allow it to wilt in the heat and mix to incorporate.
  5. Remove from heat and garnish with additional cilantro.
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Filed under Breakfast, Indian, Vegetarian

Jalebi

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Indian desserts, to me, are hit and miss.  Jalebis are one of them.  Made wrong, the whole thing is a huge miss.  With that said, you wonder how a form of funnel cake soaked in sugar syrup could go wrong.

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I actually hated these as a child while living in India.  Once I left for the states, I missed them instantly.  A quintessential celebratory dessert, these are perfect for the holiday season or to make for a loved one for the new year.  Whatever the reason, get your stretchy pants ready.

My mother in law makes these every Christmas and this year, I decided to take a try.  I’m glad I did.  Once you get the form right, the whole process is fairly simple.  It helps to know that the batter should be a thinner pancake batter.  Also, make sure the oil is hot when frying and to soak in the sugar syrup as soon as the jalebi comes out.  If the oil isn’t hot or you wait too long to soak, you could have an oily soggy jalebi – a no no.  Also, a squeeze bottle dispenser is somewhat integral to make sure you get the right consistency in the spirals – similar to an empty mustard container or this.

 

Jalebi

adapted from my mother in law

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp chickpea (besan/gram) flour
  • 1 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 quart vegetable or canola oil for frying

Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch of ground cardamom
  • a few drops of orange food coloring
  • 1/2 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of rose water, optional

Directions:

  1. Proof the yeast and lukewarm water in a large bowl (mix the two and set aside for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy).
  2. To the proofed yeast mix, add the flours and mix until all lumps are gone.
  3. Mix in yogurt, sugar and 1/2 tsp oil until you get a thin pancake batter like consistency.  You want it to flow like fast ribbons.
  4. Put the batter aside for 1 hour to set in a warm place.
  5. After setting, mix the batter again.  You will notice little air pockets like pancake batter.
  6. Heat oil in a large frying pan.
  7. While the oil is heating make the sugar syrup because you want the syrup to be warm.  Boil the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the cardamom, food coloring, lemon juice and rose water (if using) and whisk to incorporate.  Remove from heat immediately.
  8. You can test the oil to see if it is hot enough by dropping a bit of dough in the oil.  If ready, the dough should instantly float back up without burning or getting too brown.
  9. Fill the dough into the squeeze bottle.
  10. Squeeze the batter into the oil in a spiral shape about 3-4 inches in diameter.  Work fast so that the dough doesn’t unevenly cook.
  11. Fry until golden brown and flip the jalebi if necessary to cook evenly on the other side.
  12. Once fried properly, soak in the syrup until fully soaked (about 10 seconds) and then remove.
  13. Serve hot.  Store in an airtight container, which should last you about 4 days.  But, remember, the fresher the better.

 

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Filed under Desserts, Indian

Panjiri

Traditionally in India, after a woman gives birth, the nursing mother is given panjiri.  While seemingly healthy as it is chock full of dried fruit and nuts, more notable is the fact that panjiri is laden with ghee/butter and sugar.  Yet, new grandmothers will tout that this is the greatest snack for new and nursing moms.  I’m somewhat at a loss of how all the butter/ghee and sugar could be healthy.  Moreover, it’s supposed to increase the milk supply.  Again, don’t ask me how.

This dish will take quite some time to make.  It is absolutely a labor of love.  Similar to dulce de leche or caramelizing onions, roasting the nuts, fruits and semolina/suji will take some time.  But, I promise you that the end result is absolutely worth the wait.

I cannot attest to whether my milk supply was increased or aided, I can promise you it is delicious.  You can pretty much customize the ingredients to what you have on hand.  Clockwise from top: (1) golden raisins, (2) unsweetened grated coconut, (3) pistachios, (4) walnut, (5) dried apricot, (6) almonds, (7) cashew, and (8) flax-seed meal (center).

And, traditionally, you will see that panjiri contains many different spices and edible gum crystals.  I don’t prefer to have this dish overly spiced and have made it using ingredients that I’m likely to have on hand.

When you make this dish, ignore the health conscious part of your brain that wants to reduce the butter/ghee.  Just add it.  Throw it in and never look back.  You will not regret it.  And you may notice, I keep saying butter/ghee.  I highly recommend ghee, but I also like to cut the full-flavor of the ghee with some butter.  If you end up using all butter, you’ll miss the depth of flavor that ghee offers, but still have a product reminiscent of a sugar cookie – no joke.

If you are interested, as a nursing mother, to increase milk supply, I highly recommend keeping the fennel.  If you don’t have fennel or don’t like it, leave it out altogether.  

Panjiri

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ghee, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided (if you want to just use ghee – just replace it all with ghee)
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup mixed nuts
  • 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit
  • 1/4 cup flax-seed meal (optional)
  • 2 cups semolina (suji – coarse)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup white sugar

Directions:

  1. In a large pan, heat 1/4 cup ghee and 1/4 cup butter over medium heat until melted, but not burned.  Add in fennel seeds and cook for a minute just to heat up.  Add in mixed nuts, dried fruit, and flax-seed meal and roast until toasted and the smell of the nuts come through, approximately 10 minutes.  Just make sure to stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn.  Once roasted, remove the mixture from the pan.
  2. In the same emptied pan (be careful not to leave left over pieces), heat the remaining ghee and butter until melted over medium-low heat.  Add the semolina and roast until roasted into a light brown and resembles wet sand.  This is going to take a while – approximately 30-40 minutes.  Do not be tempted to raise the temperature.
  3. Add salt, cardamom, and ginger, and stir to combine and blend.  Cook for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add sugar and mix until fully incorporated and blended.
  4. Let cool and then serve.  Store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

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Filed under Breakfast, Indian, Snacks, Vegetarian

Indian Food Basics: Mint Chutney and Raita

We will be having friends over for dinner every Saturday (starting with this past Saturday) through June.  Binks said it’s great because 1. it forces us to keep our house clean and 2. we eat well.  Obviously – refer to above picture.  I also can’t wait to share some menus with you all.

When a good friend of mine came up from Oklahoma City to visit me, with her new boyfriend, I knew what I wanted to make them.  She and I frequently discussed and ate Indian food while I lived in OKC.  And, while you would think otherwise, one of my favorite Indian restaurants is in OKC proper.  Now, I didn’t know about the boyfriend so I decided to take my chances.  I’m glad I did.  And according to him and his plate, he was glad, as well.  I was especially pleased as he considered himself a sole meat and potatoes kinda guy.

I have made two of the above-referenced dishes (dal and saag), and will give you the remaining recipes soon (especially the butter paneer – heavenly).  

If you should find yourself wanting to prepare a full Indian meal, I’m going to impart some wisdom your way to help you complete your menu, specifically the condiments.  It’s no secret that Indian food can be spicy.  More importantly, with Indian food, you’re going to get a variety of flavor.  Below, you will find your usual accompaniments  to an Indian meal.  If you have been to an Indian buffet, you will have seen these for sure.

First, you have your pickle/achar.  What this is a preserved item with spices.  Popularly, the preserved item is a lemon, mango, or a mixture of both.  There are so many options to pickles/achars that it’s a magnificent condiment.

Second, the chutney.  Usually, from my experience, it’s mint.  And, traditionally, the mint chutney is served with North Indian (as opposed to South Indian) cuisine.  This provides a fresh and crisp side/condiment to a meal.  Comprised of only fresh ingredients, the chutney offers you a clean flavor to be used on appetizers such as samosas and/or pakoras.  I always enjoy using a bit on my rice, as well.

Last, but definitely not least, my favorite – raita.  As I said, Indian food is quite flavorful and in some cases, spicy.  Whether you use pickle/achar or chutney, you want to offer raita whenever you serve most Indian food.  The raita is the cooling factor in a meal and offers relief from spicy dishes without having to resort to water (which doesn’t actually make it better).

Mint Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 serrano chili peppers (use jalapeno for less heat, and also feel free to reduce the amount of pepper)
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 cup mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp salt
Directions:

  1. Add the garlic, ginger, peppers, tomato, and onion in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Add the cilantro, mint, and lemon juice and puree until smooth.
  3. Season with salt.  Add more salt if required.

Raita

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or whole milk yogurt)
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp finely minced cilantro leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste (Don’t use too much pepper.  I’d limit it to about a big pinch.)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together.   Serve cold.

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Filed under Indian, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian

Masala Chai

Almost every Sunday, the parents come over to visit the baby during the early evening.  While we are still in the beginning stages of this tradition (if it has reached tradition status), I relish tea time with the family. While, tea is a regularly scheduled program for most Indian families, it’s a rarity in mine.  Binks does not like milk tea, and the inconvenience of making two separate teas is obviously enough to preclude me from making tea everyday.

Everyone makes masala chai differently, using varying levels of spices based on your preference.  Cardamom and ginger are a must.  A must.

Serve alongside some biscotticookies, or cake, and savor this most special time of day.

Masala Chai

Yields about 2-3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cardamom pods, cracked and seeds separated (keep it all though)
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 1-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 1/4 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 cups milk (preferably whole)
  • 2 tbsp black tea

Directions:

  1. Bring water, cardamom pods (all of it), cloves, fennel, cinnamon, peppercorns, and ginger to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Once boiling, add the tea and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Once it’s boiling again, add milk, reduce heat to medium and bring to a simmer and finally until it’s boiling again.
  4. Remove from heat, and pour the tea through a seive.
  5. Serve hot.

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Filed under Indian, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Slow Cooker Urad Dal Curry

My mom and MIL swear by their pressure cooker.  I think a lot Indian women do.  I, on the other hand, am scared of it.  What I’m about to say is not logical at all.  My fear is that the top of the pressure cooker will fly off once it starts whistling and the steam will burn my face off.  Again, completely devoid of logic.

Give me a slow cooker any day.  Slow and steady wins the race for me.

Combining the rich black lentils (urad dal) and rajma (red kidney beans) with several spices in a slow simmer for 8+ hours pretty much guarantees comfort in a bowl.

I had every intention of eating this as a side with my rice or roti.  However, what started as a taste turned into me just pouring a bowl for dinner.  And for many dinners after that.  I served with a side of onions and tomatoes splashed with lemon juice.  Delicious, nutritious and easy-peasy.  And, if you didn’t want to use the slow cooker, or don’t have one, you can just as easily cook this over the stove using the same heat settings.

Urad Dal Curry

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup urad dal (dry black lentils), washed
  • 1/2 cup rajma (dry red kidney beans), washed
  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper (Adjust to taste.  If you don’t prefer that spicy, start with 1 tsp.)
  • 1/4 cup ghee (or butter)
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro to garnish (some people prefer to mix it in but if you don’t, omit altogether)

Directions:

  1. Soak the urad dal and rajma in a bowl of water overnight (at least 8 hours).
  2. The next morning, place everything except the salt and cilantro in the slow cooker.  Fill with enough water where you have at least two inches above the beans.
  3. Cook on high for 4 hours.  After 4 hours, add salt, starting with 1 tsp and increasing to your liking.*
  4. Turn the heat to low and cook for another 4 hours.
  5. Serve with chopped cilantro.

*At this point, I add a little less salt than I think the dish calls for.  As the dish continues to simmer, the salt gets concentrated so I hold back until after the full 8 hours to add more.

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Filed under Indian, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian

Dosa & Coconut Chutney

Have you heard of dosa?  Certain Indian restaurants, offering Kerala or South Indian food typically offer masala dosa as a part of the menu.  Masala dosa is just a dosa (cooked thinner) and then filled with potatoes.  Yum!

Dosa (and idly – both made from the same batter, just cooked differently) is a staple in the Kerala cuisine.  It is served as breakfast food, usually served with sambar and/or chutney.  I, on the other hand, love to eat it whenever.  During the beginning of my pregnancy when nausea was at its peak, dosa was all I craved.  Now, while nursing, I still love the stuff as it’s comforting and packed full of nutrients.

Now, if a dough mixed with lentils wasn’t healthy enough, my mom upped the ante as always.  She found chia and hemp seeds in my fridge and went to town.

If you have never had or heard of dosa before, the only thing I can compare it to is injera.  Light, airy and spongy.  All three of those are good things with regard to dosa.  I promise.

Oh and the coconut chutney, I could drink the stuff.  And I do.  I have issues.

Dosa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup parboiled rice
  • 1/2 cup skinned black lentils (urad dal)
  • 1/4 tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 Directions:

  1. In one bowl, after washing the rice, soak the rice with water.  Add enough water to the bowl of rice to where you have water at least an inch above the rice.
  2. In another bowl, soak the lentils and fenugreek with water.  Add enough water to the bowl of lentils and fenugreek to where you have water at least an inch above the rice.
  3. Let both bowls soak overnight.  (At least 6 hours.)
  4. In a blender, grind the lentil mixture until smooth.  Once smooth (like a smoothie), move to a large bowl.
  5. In the blender, grind the rice mixture until smooth.  Add the rice mixture to the lentil mixture.
  6. Stir the mixtures in the bowl until combined.
  7. Cover and let sit overnight on your counter so that it ferments.  When it’s cold in Dallas, I place the covered bowl in the oven with the light on.  It keeps it just warm enough to ferment.
  8. The next day, add salt to the mixture and mix again so incorporated.  The batter should be runny (slightly runnier than pancake batter).  If it’s too thick, just add water, a tablespoon at a time until it’s a runny consistency.
  9. Heat a flat pan over medium heat.
  10. Take a paper towel, soak with oil and rub on pan.
  11. Take about 1/4 cup worth of the batter (I use my ladle) and spoon onto the middle of the pan and swirl the batter out making it thinner.  It should be thickness of a thicker crepe.
  12. Once the bottom of the dosa becomes golden brown, flip over to cook the other side.  You will notice air bubbles on the top of the dosa before the flip.
  13. Cook the other side until golden brown and serve hot.

Coconut Chutney

Ingredients:

  • fresh grated coconut, 1/2 cup
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • cayenne powder, 1/2 tsp
  • 1 red dry chili (optional), broken up into pieces
  • few (2-3) curry leaves (if you can’t find it, don’t worry about it – best with it but go on without it)
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water, added in increments

Directions:

  1. Blend the coconut, shallots, and cayenne pepper with water until reaches a smooth pancake batter consistency.  You may not use the whole 1/4 cup.
  2. Over a small frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat.
  3. Sputter the  mustard seeds (be careful, it pops).
  4. Add red dry chili and curry leaves.  Cook for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the coconut/onion mix and salt.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
  6. Serve with dosa.

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Filed under Indian, Uncategorized, Vegetarian