Friday, March 25, 2011

a red hot yakhni ... with mutton or lotus stem...




I have been on  non vegetarian spree on Banaras ka khana ... and here is a recipe to appease both the meat lovers and the veggie lovers ...replace just one ingredient and adjust the cooking time according to the meat or vegetable you are cooking. This is a foolproof recipe of a yummy curry in a hurry... pun intended !!!

This is nadur yakhni as the kashmiris call it but they will shrink their noses for the liberties i have taken with this beautiful curry . Aromatic too . The curry is as aromatic as the authentic one , my version is hot while the authentic one is quite mild ... you can always adjust the heat in a curry and you have an advantage here to use either green chillies or red chilly powder as i do... Preference is all yours...color it as you wish . Minus the red chilly powder this curry will be a nice white aromatic thin gravy hitting your nostrils before you palate...a foodies delight . Truly.

So what do i call this curry ... Yakhni bhen , yakhni with lotus stems , quick yakhni or yakhni my way ...call it by any other name , it remains a convenient take on a nice authentic recipe . Whenever you like it .

ingredients...
lotus stems cleaned and sliced 250 gm ( or mutton ,curry cut 250-300 gm)
beaten fresh curds 250 gm
fine fennel powder 1 tbsp or a bit more
ginger powder 2 tsp
red chilly powder 2 tsp or as much as you like ( or 2-3 green chillies broken)
powdered green cardamom 5 nos.
whole peppercorns 2 tsp
bay leaves 2 nos.
cinnamon powder 1 tsp
mustard oil 1.5 tbsp
salt to taste

procedure ...
This must be the quickest curry you might have tried , that it is cooked in pressure cooker helps a lot in being convenient.

Mix all the ingredients except the lotus stem ( or meat if using ) , whole black peppers and bay leaves , into the pressure cooker pan itself . Whisk with the balloon whisker or a stand mixer as i did . This paste is going to be the base of the gravy .

Add the bay leaves , black pepper corns and the sliced lotus stem or meat . Place the lid and cook under pressure . The timing will be 5-6 minutes for lotus stem and 25-30 minutes for meat ( mutton) . Keep the flame low after the first whistle and adjust timing according to your ingredient . Cool after the required time to cook and serve hot with chapatis or rice . We like it with chapatis...


The oil will float on the surface after the pressure cooking and the curry will be very aromatic...Lotus stem is no less than meat for it's texture and even it's nutrient content . It is high in calories too compared to other vegetables...overall a healthy recipe ....

Tell me how did you like it . I have promised more meat recipes and i will post them too...this one is no less...

Monday, March 21, 2011

keema matar ... minced meat with green peas...


Who doesn't like keema matar , minced meat and peas curry ... and who doesn't like meat without fuss ...so here you are with an authentic keema matar . The way it is made in UP kitchens ...

This is a recipe of keema matar by some masterchef I once saw on TV many years ago . I was a vegetarian then and learnt this recipe for the husband .... now i like my nonveg food and this recipe has become the one authentic keema matar in my repertoire ... I have cooked this keema matar for a 40 something get together once and it was the most sought after dish that day....and it is so whenever i cook it even now....
 ( make sure you include some of the mutton fat when cooking this keema matar for a large crowd , big quantities turn out more yummy this way and the curry will be rich too )

I nice fragrant bowl of keema matar , is something like a comfort food for many. I like it with a hot and fluffy naan , fresh out of the oven ... or as i make it on my stove top.

I prefer coarse mince for my keema matar so i have to instruct the butcher specially to make it like this. The coarsely minced keema is better for a dry curry and a fine mince will be better for a gravy like curry , the peas almost floating in a dense gravy....so choose the mince the way you want it. The procedure for the curry will be the same.

I use my home made curry powders for this keema matar , and that makes this curry even more flavorful . If you don't use this spice powder , you can use your own spice mixes if they are close to these powders in flavor...

So here is the step wise procedure ....



Heat oil in a thick base kadai , throw in the cumin seeds . Add the chopped onions after the cumin seeds start spluttering ...After the onions become pinkish , add the ginger garlic paste and fry till everything gets cooked but not browned....



 Add the everyday curry masala , turmeric powder and the red chilly powder ... mix well keeping the flame very low at this point as the powders may get burnt otherwise. Sprinkling a little water while frying the masala will be better if it is getting smoky...Let it fry nicely till aromatic .Add salt to taste.



Add the minced meat , mix well and keep stirring and frying on low heat..The meat starts getting brownish first , the small pieces shrink a bit and then everything gets homogeneous while frying . This step takes about 20 minutes of dry frying ( bhuno) on low flame...




 Add the green peas to the cooking mixture and mix .... adjust salt and add some additional black pepper at this step . Add the special garam masala too . addition of black pepper powder and garam masala at later stage of cooking is done because the aroma is preserved better this way .



Add the curds , mix well and bhuno some more till the mixture turns almost dry again. i normally do not need any cover or lid on the kadai as this is cooked on low flame and is stirred almost all the time . Many things can be done while this curry is cooking a s it takes quite a long time to cook , using finely minced keema minimizes time though...do multitasking as you go...



Now is the time to add the green aromatics... the mint...
Mint is crucial to this recipe as it provides a nice earthy flavor to the curry...chopped green chillies also go with the mint ...It will take just a couple of minutes more on the heat.
Cover lastly and let it rest off heat for a few more minutes..


Serve hot with naans or chapatis....buttered or plain...I like it with plain whole wheat naan...home cooked glory...at it's best...



Let me list the ingredients ...for 3- 4 portions....

keema (minced meat) 300 gm
green peas 200 gm
diced onions 1.5 cup
ginger garlic coarsely pounded 2 tbsp
everyday curry powder 1 tbsp
turmeric powder 2 tsp
red chilly powder 2 tsp or to taste
special garam masala powder 1 tsp
black pepper powder 1/2 tsp
fresh curds 1 cup
chopped mint leaves 1/2 cup
chopped green chillies 1 tbsp ( optional)
ghee 2 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp

The keema matar will see you smiling after all the cooking and stirring you did over the stove top....The aroma of mint leaves is great ... i like mint leaves in my biryani too...just do not cook too much after adding the mint if you like it aromatic , otherwise too the flavor is good...


I make the keema matar kaleji too by this same recipe . I just boil the liver pieces in a separate pan with salt and turmeric . When the liver pieces are soft and done and almost dry in the cooking liquid , add them to the cooked keema matar .... i do it with the leftover keema matar sometimes . Cooking the liver pieces with the curry is not advised as the taste changes a lot.....boiling the liver separately allows the flavors of the keema matar stay well and the liver is having it's own burst of taste when you bite into the pieces....



I do not like mutton liver normally , but with keema matar it can be a good treat . Those nuggets of liver in the keema matar are really delectable...

There is one more variation to this keema matar recipe , a vegetarian version of keema matar . Just use boiled and drained soya granules ( nutrela types) instead of keema and you have a nice quick yummy curry...and this one cooks fast.

enjoy....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

paturi maachh .... mustard flavored fish wrapped in banana leaf


I promised more non vegetarian recipes and here i am with a healthy fish recipe . We love fish in mustard seasoning and whenever i have a few fresh and clean banana leaves i make this paaturi . A bengali specialty i learnt from my bong friends . I like the hilsa fish made this way too , hilsa has a very different flavor but rohu is the most easily available here around my place so i used rohu this time .

This recipe is a quick one but if you count the time taken in priming the banana leaf and making the paste it may sound a bit intimidating . Believe me , it is fun to wrap the fish in parcels and steam them or microwave them , as i did .

Make a paste of mustard seeds , turmeric powder , green chillies and a few cloves of garlic , add salt and some mustard oil to the paste and pour it over the fish pieces...

For 4 large pieces of fish ( 400 gm) 2 tbsp of yellow mustard seeds , 3 green chillies , 3 cloves of garlic , 2 tsp of turmeric powder , salt to taste and 2 tsp of raw mustard oil. A table spoon of lemon juice makes the seasoning well balanced.

I prefer large fillet or the portions with less bones for this recipe , any parts of any fish will be suitable though...larger fish are better suited.

Some freshly grated coconut is a nice addition if you are wary of the piquancy the mustard provides to this dish... 


 Coat the pieces well and wrap them individually into the banana leaf pieces . Place a slit green chilly inside each parcel and place all the parcels in a microwave safe bowl with lid.


You need to prime the banana leaves to wrap them conveniently. They get torn otherwise. Heating them over gas flame is one of the things traditionally done. I just cut them in convenient sized pieces and microwave them for 30 seconds . The edges shrink a bit and the leaves are warmed , this way they can be wrapped around the fish without getting torn.

For a single parcel , a ceramic bowl will be alright with a plastic lid to cover it...I make individual servings in the bowls and serve them as it is.....



The parcel opens to release a nice piquant aroma of mustard . This paste of mustard and other seasonings does some kind of magic to the fish....


Many people believe in the magic of mustard to the fish . I am not the lone admirer of the marriage of mustard with fish.. Although i like the coconut milk magic to the fish too and many more seasonings ....this is not the only one i like as a fish seasoning.... oh .... but i am not undermining my own preparation . The recipe is a bengali classic ....

Just wanted to say that this is one of the many favorites i have in my repertoire ...a true blue foodies dilemma you know :)


Every bit of that mustard seasoning is worthy of finger licking... The banana leaves impart a subtle flavor to it and it has to be eaten to believe .

Addition of some coconut paste along with the mustard paste will mellow down the piquancy of mustard if you are one of those whose face turns red and forehead sweats with exposure to this much quantity of mustard... I was one of those some years ago....now i am a convert to mustard.....

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

lime and chilly pickle ...


The aam ka achaar recipe invites a lot of hits on this blog and a lot of queries too . It is tough to believe that this recipe of achaar is so forgiving ............
no fungal contamination ( spoiling the pickle) even when the achaar is made without sun exposure . The spice mix is hot and tangy and can be used for achaari vegetable and fish recipes too . I make the lime pickle with the same method too , the same blend of spices works well for the lime and green chillies pickle.... 

Nimboo ka achaar , nimboo mirchi ka achaar or mixed pickle , the recipe will be the same if you want this spice blend . Only you need to steam the vegetables if you are using fresh vegetables like cauliflowers , carrots , green peas or lotus stem etc.For mimboo and mirchi , there is no need to parboil them.

So the first step is to chop the lime in 8 pieces each , discard the pips and chop the green chillies* in convenient size pieces ... i make this achaar in large quantity so a large bucket size plastic container is used to keep the mix . Tossing the pickle ingredients will be convenient is a larger container is used.


 *The chillies i use is the variety called 'Bangalore torpedo' , it is a long ( about 4-6 inches) tapering chilly , labeled as 'bajji chilly' on the shelves , and is mild hot , lighter in color that the regular hot green chilly. A single regular hot green chilly can be seen in the picture for comparison. A mild hot green chilly is recommended for this pickle as a lot of red chilly powder is used in the pickle spice mix* .


The green chillies and limes are to be washed properly and drained before chopping them.

Now add the turmeric powder and salt....mix well to coat everything . This mixture can kept till you have prepared the spice mix , for days or even for weeks ...i do it as time permits . Chopping the lime and chillies is the most troublesome part of this pickle , all else can be done in steps , as time permits.


This step results in some water release from the limes although it is much less that the water released from mango pieces . The reason is , the lime , due to it's pectin content probably , has a tendency to make a gel along with salt ( as well as with sugar if making sweet pickle) , so most of the water stays inside the pieces for gelling...

This is the stage of pickle preparation , as is said earlier , that can be extended , kept in the airtight container for a couple of weeks , or even more . This mixture , otherwise needs to be rested for at least two days , allowing time for maximum water release.

Now is the time for the spice blending . Can be dome one spice at a time.

The basic achaari spices are the ones used in panchphoron , nigella seeds or kalonji , bishop's weed or ajwain seeds , fenugreek or the methi seeds , fennel seeds or saunf , and mustard seeds or sarson.

For 3 kilo of the lime and chillies mixture ( i used 2 kilo of lime and 1 kilo of chillies) you need

100gm of yellow mustard powdered
100 gm of fennel seeds coarsely powdered
75 gm of fenugreek seeds coarsely powdered
50 gm ajwain seeds coarsely powdered 
50 gm of kalonji or mangrail seeds coarsely powdered


apart from this...

100 gm of red chilly powder
100 gm of turmeric powder 
1 tsp of powdered hing 
( asafoetida)
600 gm salt
500 ml of mustard oil

All the spices are processed separately ,and are to be kept ready at the time of mixing.
heat the mustard oil till almost smoking , switch off the flame. Now add the asafoetida , it floats on the surface immediately . Then add the methi powder , fennel powder and ajwain and kalonji ....in that order , stirring after every addition. This allows the flavors to infuse into the oil and evaporation of any leftover moisture. ( the spices need to be completely dry by the way) .


Now this mixture is poured over the lime and chilly mix . The chilly powder and mustard powder are also added to the mix and given a good stir. The achar is ready to eat immediately , although it may be a bit bitter if the lime n chilly has rested just for a couple of days , but it improves with time. This achaar keeps well for a couple of years , becoming more jell like as it ages .


Here is a jar which was gifted to someone... I usually do not eat much pickles but invariably i make them a lot. Many of my friends and family keep demanding them , and most of the time i eat these pickles when someone calls to tell how yummy they are , reminding me to reach for them in my next meal...


Making pickles is considered a forte of grandmothers , and i am one grandmother material . I like almost everything homemade as i prefer to do everything my way . So making the amchoor at home is not old fashioned any more , especially if using the microwave... nor is making marmalade in the microwave , be it lemon , orange or any other citrus fruit.

 I don't mind being a granny material , modernity is into my head , the heart prefers everything old fashioned.

Monday, March 7, 2011

khade masale ka chicken dopyaza ...


Banaras ka khana is deprived of non-vegetarian food and the one person responsible is yours truly . I am so biased about the vegetarian dishes that i keep ignoring the non-vegetarian drafts till they start tickling my bones :) There are a lot of such recipes waiting to see the day light and i have decided to make them free , free from the cellar called drafts file. Today , it is a chicken recipe called chicken dopyaza or murgh dopyaza . A mildly spiced stew like chicken recipe which can be a good finger food too if the juices are dried a bit during cooking , this stew version is great with chapatis , naans or parathas.

Dopyaza is a name given to a meat curry cooked with lots of veggies as some people say but i am not sure of it really . I call a recipe dopyaza just because there is lots of pyaaz ( onions ) in it . Onions in a 1:1 ratio to meat or a veggie make the curry dopyaza , as it has been called in my family.

Nothing more special about dopyaza , just a stewed kind of curry cooked with minimum effort....paired well with chapatis or plain parathas .
ingredients...
( for 3-4 servings depending on the side dishes)
chicken with bone 800 gm
sliced onions 500 gm ( more onions if you want more gravy)
ginger chopped in julienne 50+25 gm
garlic cloves slit lengthwise
dry red chillies broken and seeds removed as many as you wish
(no green chillies are used in this stew)
cumin seeds 2 tsp
crushed black pepper corns 2 tsp
small and black cardamoms 2 each 
cinnamon stick 2 inches piece broken
bay leaves 2 nos.
cloves 4-5
salt to taste
turmeric powder 1-2 tsp  
mustard oil or ghee 2 tbsp

preparation....
Heat oil in a thick base kadai and throw in all the whole spices along with dry red chillies .
Add the 50 gm part of ginger julienne and slit garlic cloves , stir fry till fragrant and then add the sliced onions. Let the onions coat with oil and get hot , there is no need to cook them actually , they get cooked and caramelized along with the meat. 
Add the chiken pieces , turmeric powder and salt to taste . This takes about 5 minutes and you are free to do other chores in the kitchen as the dish needs minimal attention after this.

After this step the chicken is cooked with a tight lid on , no powder masala is used in this curry and the aroma of the spices need to be conserved during cooking. Hence the lid , which also helps in cooking the chicken without any additional water .... the cooking is done on minimum possible heat.

Check after 7-8 minutes of cooking and give it a good stir , the aroma will be very pleasant by now and the onions start caramelizing, giving a darker colour to the dish. Add a splash of water if you feel it is getting dry and can stick to the base before getting cooked. Place the lid again and check again after 5-7 minutes . It should be cooked by this time , otherwise cook till done.

Add the 25 gm portion of ginger julienne in the last and mix them well . This step is optional as i like the crunchy ginger pieces in this dish...the cooked ginger is also enjoyable with a milder taste .

Serve hot with chapatis or anything you like. The dish has a sweetish taste due to caramelized onions and the whiff of the spices is wonderful . You may like to remove the whole spices before plating as some people do not like them in the dish . I like to press the black cardamom and soak in the juices with a piece of chapati...

The hollow red chillies also trap the most awesome flavor in it , this is crazy but i like to squeeze them and mix the juices in the caramelized onion gravy ... As i mentioned earlier , the ginger pieces , added in two steps , are to be enjoyed with the masala too , they taste so good when cooked this way...

Enjoy and there is more non-vegetarian food coming...stay tuned...



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

apple cake/bread with whole wheat....



 The cake is heavy on the apple flavor as apples are used in three forms. Apple juice , apple pieces and apple sauce, making it a moist cake made with lesser fat and some whole wheat.This should be a good reason to keep this cake in the fridge when kids are visiting, or you have growing kids of your own.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine had come with her daughter and the daughter had liked this cake . Knowing that this kid was fed on bakery bought pastries with heavy icing , i was not surprised when she did not recognize a cake without icing . It's not a cake...she had announced. Surprisingly , she liked the cake when i served it saying it is a nice bread . Later, I had packed some of this cake for the kid and when after some time this friend asked for the recipe i did not actually remember which apple cake i had made that time . In all probability , my memory indicates as the child was in love with the apples , also she thought it was a bread and not a cake ( the most unattractive cake it is , if you believe it's a cake ) it must have been this cake and now after more than 2 years i am posting this recipe. With all my apologies to this friend of mine ....

So do not go by how it looks ..... better call it an apple bread if you please...

The cake/bread is the most easy cake you might have prepared . It is all the more convenient when you have some apple butter in your fridge , homemade or otherwise. Even if you do not have some apple butter , it's so easy to peel a few apples core them , dice them and microwave them with a little sugar and a stick of cinnamon or any other spice you like ..... blend to make a puree and viola !!! I keep a jar of apple butter in my fridge almost all the time.

Now armed with apple butter you just need a few ordinary things to start with.

apples 2 nos peeled and chopped in cubes
apple butter 1.5 cup( mine was quite thick like jam)
apple juice 1/2 cup approximately ( i used from a carton)
whole wheat flour (atta) 2 cups
sugar 3/4 cup or more if the apple butter has no sugar
eggs 4 nos.
oil 1/2 cup
baking powder 2 tsp
soda bicarb 1/2 tsp
cinnamon powder 1/4 tsp ( indian cinnamon)
nutmeg powder a pinch
apple or vanilla essence

preparation...

Mix oil , sugar and eggs and whisk till fluffy . Add the apple butter and whisk to mix .

Mix the atta with baking powder, soda bi carb and the spice powders , mixing them dry before adding them to the wet mixture.

Add the essence and the apple pieces to the batter . The batter should be barely dropping consistency so add the apple juice at this stage to adjust consistency. If your apple butter is thin , you may not need to add the apple juice at all , and this will not interfere with the flavor of the cake . Thicker apple butter results in a richer flavor of the cake , just that.

The consistency of the batter should be thick...  A thick batter which resists when dropped from a ladle...

Line a baking tray with greased butter paper , or whatever way you grease or line your cake tin , and bake for 45-50 minutes on 180 degree. Check with a skewer after 35 minutes and decide how much more time it needs in the oven...for me it's always a matter of how the cake is behaving this time ....as i keep changing the proportions of the ingredients :)


This is the kind of cake which fills your kitchen with a nice toasted apple or apple pie aroma in your kitchen ..... you would be impatient with the cooling of this cake i tell you...

No problems even if you cut this cake while still warm , but cooling will be a good idea if you want nice clean slices .

Enjoy the cake for a week or two , if it lasts that long . Or simply make a large one . This cake or bread whatever you like to call it , keeps well in the fridge for about 2 weeks , actually gets better with time , ages well as they say ...