Saturday, January 24, 2009

matar ka nimona | a soupy spicy curry with liquidized green peas

Matar ka nimona is a favorite recipe of all the matar (green peas) lovers and the best taste comes in winters when farm fresh tender peas are available. Frozen peas are somehow not as good, though they can be used as a substitute.

What is so great when we make nimona is winter season? In fact the flavor of tender peas is extremely rich, sweetish and minimum seasoning is needed, the taste is beyond comparison if you ask me.

matar ka nimona recipe

Whenever I use the frozen peas, I make it using onion-garlic and a bit more garam masala, so this one turns out a spicy recipe and goes well with rice or chapati. I am giving both the recipes here as both of them are different in taste and preparation.

I would tell you what a matar ka nimona is, as the name is quite unusual and it doesn't sound like a curry that it really is. I eastern UP, any curry that is cooked with a lentil paste (preferably fresh seasonal green lentils I repeat) to make a thick daal like gravy is called Nimona. So we make Harey chane (green garbanzo beans) ka nimona, kale chane ka nimona, mung ka nimona and so on. Some people even make a palak ka nimona that is simply a paste of steamed spinach leaves that makes the curry thick and creamy, some fried lentil dumplings, green peas and seasonal vegetables like cauliflowers or beans  are added to this palak ka nimona.

Now over to the Nimona cooked with fresh green peas...

matar ka nimona recipe

ingredients (using fresh peas)
fresh peas 1 cup
desi ghee 2 tbsp
black pepper powder 1 tsp
jeera powder 1tsp
ginger chopped 1 tbsp or more
green chillies chopped 1 tbsp
whole jeera 1 tsp
tejpatta or bay leaf 1
salt to taste


First of all put the peas, ginger and green chillies in a grinder without water and make a coarse paste so that some of the peas are left whole, keep aside.

Heat ghee in a non stick pan or a cast iron one, put in whole jeera n tejpatta, then add the ground peas paste when the jeera splutters, fry this on low heat for 5-6 mins, then add the powders. I don't use haldi so that a rich green color comes, it is optional and you can add haldi (turmeric powder) for it's medicinal values, it wont affect the taste of nimona.

Add salt and keep frying on low heat until a nice aroma mixed with the smell of ghee starts coming, add 2 cups of water. Less water if thick consistency is needed. Cover the pan and give it a boil, it is ready after 2 minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

The aroma and taste is so amazing that nobody can guess matar ka nimona is so simple to make, moreover, a minimum amount of masala allows the flavour of the peas to take over. The freshest green peas make the best matar ka nimona.

Since there is no onion garlic in this recipe it can be eaten on fasting days when evening meals are allowed.

Now towards the other recipe of matar ka nimona using frozen green peas. Frozen green peas don't normally have the subtle sweetness of the fresh peas and the mature peas mostly are a little more starchy than fresh ones. It needs a little more potent spicing than the fresh green pea version of matar ka nimona.

ingredients ( for the frozen peas)

frozen peas 1 cup
onions chopped 2 tbsp
ginger, garlic n green chilly (equal amounts) paste 2 tbsp
tomato paste 2 tbsp
whole jeera 1 tsp
coriander, jeera, black pepper and garan masala powder 1 tsp each
haldi powder 1 tsp
salt to taste
coriander leaves 2 tbsp
bay leaf 1
desi ghee 2-3 tbsp
boiled potatoes cubed 1/2 cup or soya nuggets soaked and squeezed 1/2 cup or paneer 1/2 cup or dry mung daal wadi fried 1/2 cup


Grind the peas coarsely as the above recipe and keep aside.

Heat ghee in a pan and put in the jeera n tejpatta and let it splutter, now put in the onions and fry till translucent. Add the ginger garlic chilly paste and fry till ghee separates, now add the powder masalas and fry till aromatic and finally add the tomato paste and salt, add the potato pieces at this time if using.

Other ingredients will be added later. Fry a bit and add the peas paste, keep frying for 3-4 minutes, add 2 cups water and soya nuggets or paneer or fried mung wadi, cover and cook till done or when ghee comes on top, garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.

Edited to add : another matar ka nimona with mungodi (fried mung dumplings) can be seen here.
                       and another delicately spiced version here 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

gajar ka halwa

Gajar ka halwa or Gajrela was made several times at home and I think this was one of the most frequent dessert during winters. Though my mother was very fond of khuskhus ka halwa and mewe ka halwa so those were also made but gajrela was always made in large batches and we used to eat it at room temperature mostly. Probably because that was not the age of microwave ovens to reheat food within seconds.

gajar ka halwa

 Hot gajar ka halwa was served in parties or at sweet shops. 

There are so many sweets available in Banaras that one gets disillusioned after entering a sweet shop. Honestly speaking I had never seen so many varieties of sweets when we were in Chandigarh, the only time we used to see and eat sweets used to be the family weddings.

In the earlier days sweets were made in huge quantities during weddings and since the celebrations and rituals used to last 4-5 days there was a constant making of sweets in one portion of our grandparents' house. Everyday there would be a new set of sweets for guests, it was an integral part of khatirdari (welcome).

During these family weddings pani pilana or offering water to someone always accompanied a plate of 4-5 different sweets served on a terracotta platter or a leaf dona. Such was the tradition of sweets or mithai that you never offered water to someone without some mithai. I remember sitting by the halwais as a little girl and watching how they made those sweets. Even in those days I couldn't eat mithais but watching them make trays and trays full of mithais used to entertain me or may be I used to entertain those mithai makers too.

Every season has it's own special sweet, winters bring the gond and dry fruit laddus, kaju katli, badam katli, patisa etc, while the summer sweets are lighter chhena sweets like cold rasmalai, rasgulla and sandesh etc. Of course there were loads of all season mithais too.

In winters gajar ka halwa is a common sight on the display of sweet shops in Banaras, and in many other old cities, usually laden with dry fruits, khoya and a layer of ghee making it look glazed. Gajar ka halwa is mostly served hot so some of the chaat bhandars of Banaras do a brisk sale of gajar ka halwa during winters.

I make it lighter at home, with a little little lesser khoya so that the taste and color of red carrots is more prominent. I don't want to drown the flavour of carrots in khoya.

gajar ka halwa


carrots- peeled and grated 1 kg
sugar 200 gm or according to taste
full cream milk 2 kg (or 1 kg milk and 100 gm khoya)
chopped nuts as required


In a large thick bottomed pan boil the milk and keep stirring till it reduces to half, add the grated carrots and keep cooking on low flame, stirring in between till it becomes dry and collects in the middle of pan.

Add sugar, green cardamom powder can be added too, I don't add it because I like carrot's own flavor more. It will become a bit watery after adding sugar but keep cooking till carrot shreds appear shining and glazed. It is cooked now. Add a tbsp ghee and bhuno for a few minutes to make the halwa sondha.

If using khoya, add the khoya along with sugar and bhuno till the halwa looks glazed and danedaar (granular) khoya looks interspersed with carrot shreds.

Garnish with chopped nuts and serve hot or at room temperature. It can be stored in the fridge for a fortnight.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

some more street food | chooda matar of Banaras...

Chooda matar or chiwda matar is basically a Banaras version of pohe. A winter treat with fresh green peas and the new crop of paddy made into flattened rice that is called Chiwda or chooda in the region is concocted into a spicy warm breakfast that I believe is the best cereal breakfast ever. Warm, savory and refreshing flavors of winters. Chooda matar is very much a homely dish, taken up well by some street food joints (chaat bhandars)in the city as well. I remember Kashi chaat bhandar for it's chooda matar that is literally soaked in ghee, but very warming flavors of garam masala coming through. I liked this combination of sweet green peas, hot garam masala and aromatic ghee in this dish.

Though I was not a street food lover as a youngster, somehow in my research days got hooked to the various snacks available in the famous joints there, the Kashi chat bhandar at godolia, the Monga's, the Ayyar's cafe, and not to forget the chatwala at sankat mochan mor, or the kulfi faluda and lassi of the Bansfatak area where I used to go with madam, Dr Maya Goyle (my research guide) many things to be nostalgic about..........

This garam masala, milk and ghee laden chooda matar is miles away from the aalu poha or kanda poha of Maharashtra, it is available in the winters in all the chaat bhandars of the city and is loaded with desi ghee. I make it lighter at home and according to my taste buds, as a favorite winter breakfast on weekends or an evening tea accompaniment on weekdays, but we have to skip dinner after that. It is a full meal when you have a large portion. Just like a tehri or pulav.

Good quality pohe or chiwra is essential for making chooda matar, Basmati or Govidbhog chiwra makes the best. I remember when we were in Dhanbad, the fragrant Govindbhog chiwra was available there, a short grained rice made flatten rice in the season, that was the ultimate for chiwda matar. Here in Delhi I make it with Basmati chiwda and it turns out good.

                                              chiwra matar


thick variety of chiwra/pohe/flattened rice flakes 1.5 cup
peas 2 cup
cumin seds/sabut jeera 2 tsp
ginger 2 inch piece, finely chopped
green chillies 4 finely chopped
green coriander 1 cup, finely chopped, stems and leaves separated
lemon juice 3 tbsp/lime juice 1 tbsp or to taste
sugar 1-2 tsp depending on how fresh are the peas
black pepper powder 1 tsp
garam masala powder 1.5 tsp[without coriander powder]
salt to taste
milk 1/2 cup
cream 1/2 cup[optional]
ghee 2 tbsp


Rinse the chiwra through a strainer, drain well and soak in milk and cream for 10 minutes [less if it is finer].

Heat ghee in a pan and add cumin/jeera into it, add in the ginger and green chilies when the jeera crackles,after a few seconds add in the powder masalas. Stir and immediately add in the peas with sugar and salt, stir, add the coriander stems and add 1/2 cup of water and cook covered on medium heat until the peas are done. Open the pan, there should be still some water left, add in the soaked chiwda and mix well, fluffing it up.

I sometimes add the finely chopped stems of coriander leaves at this stage n after mixing cook it covered on low flame for 3-4 minutes. This collage shows all the steps in the making of chooda matar.

Add the coriander leaves and lime juice..mix well and serve garnished with fried dry fruits, which I seldom do. You would see loads of raisins and fried cashews in the chaat bhandar versions, at home we like the green peas shining more in our chooda matar.

It is loaded with a strong aroma of green coriander and garam masala, There is heat owing to a lot of ginger, black pepper powder and green chilies too, balanced by lime juice if you use. I avoid lime juice mostly as I like the stems of coriander greens to impart their earthy citrusy flavor more.

Truly a winter food. Have it with a hot mug of masala chai and your day is bliss.

Just dig in...

Monday, January 5, 2009

banarasi kachori n subzi

There are many versions of banarasi kachori as well as the subzi, I am writing some of them here, the ones I like and keep making often. The one thing I keep in mind while making any such fried dish is that it should absorb less amount of oil and if a kachori is high on oil, the subzi should be very light but spicy to minimise the oil/ghee content of the whole meal. Even the kachoriwalas of banaras seem to follow this at least about the subzi, they make it so light and always put some black gram, paneer or palak (spinach) etc to make it as healthy as it can be.

kachori recipe 1
whole wheat flour [atta] 1 cup
cumin seeds and ajwain 1 tsp each
salt a pinch
sunflower oil or ghee for frying
some oil or ghee for shortening (optional)

Boil the jeera and ajwain in 1 cup of water and the salt to make strong infusion of the masala.

Rub in 1 tbsp of ghee into the atta as shortening, this makes the kachoris more crisp and soft, but I like it without the shortening, it is a bit hard and crisp kachori then.

Now add the infusion into the atta and knead a hard but pliable dough, make small balls out of it, roll like puris and fry in hot oil or ghee. Serve hot with the subzi.

ras wale aloo ki subzi

boiled and peeled potatoes 3
coriander, cumin , black pepper powder and turmeric powder 1 tsp each
amchoor 2 tsp
hing [asafoetida] 1 pinch
small rai seeds 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp or more
ginger paste 1 tsp
salt to taste
1 tsp mustard oil


Heat the oil in a pan and put in the hing and rai and let it splutter. Meanwhile add 2 tbsp water to the powder masalas and make a paste, adding in the ginger paste too. Add this paste in the pan n stir for a while, till oil comes on top, now break the potatoes with hands and put in the pan, smash them with the back of the ladle and mix thoroughly while stirring everything.

Add salt and around 1 cup of water or more if thin gravy is required, give it a boil and the subzi is ready to serve. The subzi may be garnished with chopped coriander leaves.

banarasi kachori dal wali

Generally kachori is a stuffed puri and the stuffing may be a spicy masala mix of mung dal or urad dal, but in banaras the morning breakfast available in street stalls consists of this flavoured masala puri, which they call kachori. The masala, flavours and even the dal is often mixed with the dough itself to make puris, so here even the dal wali kachori is not a stuffed puri.

But the good news is that it is easier to make at home and can be less oily.......


whole wheat flour [atta] 2 cups
urad dal soaked overnight and ground to a paste 1 cup
suji 1 cup
ajwain seeds 2 tsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp or more
salt to taste
desi ghee 3 tbsp
refined oil or desi ghee for deep frying


Rub in the ghee into atta n suji mixture, add all the other ingredients and knead a soft dough, adding more water if necessary.

Divide into marble sized balls, roll out puris and deep fry in hot oil.

Serve with the choice of subzi. These kachoris are soft and flavorful and go well with a light subzi like that of sitaphal[kaddu] and aalu......which I am posting next.........

kaddu aur aalu ki subzi [aalu kumra]

This is a very light but flavorful subzi and can be made in various ways depending on whether the kaddu is raw or mature, which may be light yellow to deep orange in color, if the kaddu is deep orange in color it gives a sweet taste to the subzi and can be made sweet n sour by adding a little more amchoor powder.

Here the subzi is made using the light yellow coloured baby pumpkin.


kaddu (pumpkin) cubed with skin 2 cups
potatoes peeled and cubed 1 cup or less
ginger paste 1 tbsp
hing a pinch
jeera 1 tsp
banarasi rai 1 tsp
methi seeds 15-20
saunf or fennel seeds 15-20
amchoor powder 2 tsp or as desired
turmeric powder 1 tsp
salt to taste
red chilly powder
mustard oil 1 tsp
water 1/2 cup
coriander or mint leaves, a handful


Heat oil in a pan and put in all the masalas and let them splutter. Then quickly add in the vegetables and stir for a while. Add salt, red chilly powder and water and cook covered on a medium heat till done.

In the last add the amchoor and mash the subzi a little. Optionally 2 tbsp of finely chopped mint leaves can be added to make it more aromatic, or a bit of chopped coriander leaves.

Here I have used mint leave during cooking and for garnish too, it makes the sabzi more aromatic and prevents flatulence also, considering it will be consumed with puris. The subzi can be enjoyed without these herbs too.

This alu kumde ki subzi makes a very light combination with crispy fried kachoris..

street food ala banaras

our family had shifted to banaras from chandigarh and it was a big cultural shock at that time n age.......we certainly did not like the city then...but that was what children of our age could see ....i was in my preteen years and my younger siblings were even younger, the youngest brother was not even that time if we did not like the neighborhood, the whole city was years passed by we became truly immersed into the culture of banaras.........understanding the rich cultural heritage, which was in a complete contrast with a newly constructed city of chandigarh.......i am telling this because until then we were averse to street food which was considered as unhygienic, fat and dirt laden much so that the sight of road side golgappas n kachoris used to make me nauseate.........imagine today i am writing recipes of street food....................somewhere in my mind i still believe home cooked food is healthier .....we can recreate the street magic in our own kitchen.

to start with, what would be better than the kachori subzi of banaras which is available in almost every street in the morning hours and each kachoriwala has his own version of the famous kachori..............i have tried many of them n shall upload all of them as n when possible.

the second thing after kachori is the delicious.....mouth watering jalebi......the golden spirals of juicy have to eat it to believe it......i am giving the recipe............easy to make .............can't resist a husband wants to have it for dinner sometimes.............we do have it then................