Monday, May 23, 2011

chana masala UP wala : chane ki ghugni UP style ...




Chana masala generates instant interest for the both of us . And we don't like any tempering with the original recipe . Original recipe here means the recipe which has been a family favorite for years and has traveled down generations to reach us. The sookha chana masala or sookhi ghugni made on the 8th day of navaratri is the more common in my kitchen when in a hurry . This one is called lipte masale ki ghugni , the spicy gravy almost enveloping each of the chickpea in there . This is an eastern UP recipe I guess as I have seen it being made almost the same way in many families belonging to that part of the country , minor variations being in the thickness of the gravy or hotness of the spice blend .

Both the chana ghugnis are very different in taste and you can feel the difference as soon as you open the lid of the pressure cooker and the aroma hits you.... the presence of onion and garlic and the ginger julienne takes this recipe to another level . I like both the recipes and it actually depends on what i am serving it with when i decide which one to cook...sookhi ghugni goes well with pooris while this one can accommodate chapatis, parathas or plain boiled rice.

This recipe takes a bit more time as peeling and chopping onion, garlic and ginger takes some 8-10 minutes more than the no chopping ,15 minutes cooking time recipe of the sookhi ghugni . The extra time and work is well worth if you are feeling like a spicy chana masala with paratha , chapati or even with plain boiled rice . A cooling bowl of raita may make you feel royal at such times ...

Make this lipte masale ki ghugni if you have 10 minutes for hand processing and about 15-20 minutes of cooking time .

ingredients....
black chickpeas soaked overnight 3 cups (soaked volume)
dry red chillies 2 nos.
one green chilly slit lengthwise (or more if you like it hot)
sliced onions 1.5 cups
garlic cloves sliced lengthwise 3-4 (small Indian variety) 
fresh ginger root chopped in fine julienne 1+1 tbsp
every day curry masala 1 tbsp
(a powder made with coriander,cumin,black pepper and bay leaves
turmeric powder 2 tsp
mustard oil 1 tbsp
whole cumin seeds 1 tsp
amchoor powder 1-2 tsp*

procedure...

This is cooked in pressure cooker for convenience and time saving. Pan cooking takes long time and only thick base round bottom pans with tight lid are suitable for this kind of recipes. Add about 3 times water than the chickpeas if cooking in a pan and cook covered for about an hour after the initial stir frying.

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker pan and throw in the cumin seeds and whole dry red chillies. Wait till they crackle and add in the chopped garlic, 1 tbsp of ginger julienne and onions in that order .

Toss the pan a few times to coat the onions and let them get pink on margins . No browning is required as the onions are meant to get mushy slushy and coat the chickpeas when cooked . Add salt to the cooking onions to quicken the process.

Add the powdered spices and toss a few times  till the roasted aroma of the powdered spices hits your nostrils . Add the slit green chilly .

Add the soaked and drained chickpeas , pour a cup of water , cover the lid and cook over high heat till the whistle blows. Lower the heat and cook for 12-15 minutes more.

Let the pressure release while the cooker cools down . Add amchoor powder and mix well. The amount of amchoor powder will depend upon how much chilies you are using. I used my homemade amchoor powder , you may need some more or less if using the store bought ones .The sourness balance the heat of the red and green chilies being used.


Add the remaining ginger julienne in the last . This is the way I like it. The taste of some of the ginger slivers is so good in the spicy slush which coats the chana . You might like to add some more of ginger in winter months as it feels almost warming in those days.

The whole red chilies should be discarded before serving . Some people even like those red chilies wrapped into a large piece of paratha ... do not worry about the heat hitting your tongue if you try this as most of the heat of these chilies has gone to the chana masala .... It is definitely a hot dish .


Ideal for a weekend brunch , served with plain whole wheat paratha oe rice ans some salad on the side. This is a respite from the usual light meals we have during most of the summer days. The much needed shock for the palate during the days of sherbets , thandais and mangoes....


Did I tell you that I don't need any paratha to enjoy this ghugni and that I can have it any time of the day? It is a meal in itself...

Friday, May 20, 2011

mung ke cheeley or mung ka cheela, the way they make in UP ....


Food can be nostalgia inducing . Very much so. Sometimes people stop eating their favorite foods when an unpleasant experience gets attached with it. Even when the most pleasant memories are attached with a particular food , you can feel like not having it again as the memories it brings can be pain inducing . This mung ka cheela has been one such recipe ...a cheela is a savory crepe to make you acquainted with this term.

A couple of weeks back i was at a wedding party ( In Lucknow) and mung ka cheela was being served as a part of a huge range of appetizers . I told an Oriya friend of mine to take her kids to that counter as kids like it very much . They had tasted this mung ka cheela for the first time and this friend was intrigued enough to ask me how did i know that her kids would love it more than the other fancier and exotic looking things around ....

The reason why i knew it was ... Mithi loved it too . I remembered the time when other kids used to play with Mithi and this mung ka cheela used to be a hot favorite with all of them. Probably it is the mildly favored , slightly chewy nature of this cheela that kids find great to munch on. Not that we adults find it like baby food. It is a great breakfast dish , but more popular as an appetizer in wedding parties i guess . The rolled up cheela sliced in 2 - 3 small portions seems to be very popular as i have witnessed . I am talking about the wedding parties in UP .


So i didn't make this particular cheela for a long time . Some 8 years to be precise . The time since Mithi stopped taking solid food . And i never felt like cooking her favorite foods. When i saw these small kids enjoying this cheela , I realy felt good and when we came back home i soaked mung daal and made cheelas with freshly made paneer . Nostalgic i was , but in a good way . Now that her proud momma has learned to remember her good healthy days with a smile , the nostalgia is good. This cheela is exactly like Mithi liked it....minus the green chilies...Pictures are night time clicks as we had it for a dinner that day...


The cheela feels complex by it's looks but actually gets ready within 30 minutes at leisurely pace...when you start from soaked mung daal and cold skimmed milk from the fridge ...enjoying the process while making it.

ingredients...

skimmed milk 500 ml
2-3 tsp of white synthetic vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the milk
soaked mung daal withou skin 2 cups
turmeric powder (optional) 1 tsp
chopped onions 3/4 cup
chopped green chillies as per taste
salt to taste
black pepper powder 1 tsp for the stuffing
ghee to make the cheelas 1 tsp per cheela


preparation....

Heat the milk in a saucepan and grind the soaked mung daal while the milk comes to boiling temperature.

Mung daal paste is quick to make as the daal is quite soft , add salt to taste and turmeric if using...adjust consistency to make thin pancakes or crepes.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice as soon as the milk reaches boiling temperature . Slowly adding the curdling agent helps in getting softer paneer or chhenna as it is called in some parts of UP . Strain the curdled milk as soon as you see the clear whey separating from the curdled milk .The solid part is panner , also called cottage cheese. The whey can be used to knead chapati dough .

Add chopped onions, green chillies , salt and pepper to the paneer and mash to make a soft crumbly mixture .
Make thin crepes on hot griddle using very little ghee , it is usually cooked on one side as mung daal cooks quickly . Other side can be cooked if you feel like .
Spread the mixture over the crepe like this..


Then fold the sides overlapping each other , pressing to flatten the rolled up cheela so the paneer stuffing sticks well to the moist inner layer of cheela....

Serve hot with any chutney of your choice , it was a garlic and tomatoes cooked chutney for us this time . A green coriander chutney goes well with it too . The cheela can be roasted deep brown or light brown as in the picture...


The browning has little difference on the final taste , browned ones are crispier though . But both get soft when cool and taste equally good at room temperature too and that makes it a good tiffin box option too.Those who are avoiding or minimizing carbohydrates in their diet , will find this recipe great.

Mithi used to like this cheela any time of the day and it was a great distraction for her too. I could keep her occupied by giving her this cheela broken into small bits ( sometimes little paneer with just salt as a stuffing and sometimes plain cheela) as she used to pick up every bit with care using her thumb and index finger ...putting the bits in her mouth immaculately...neatly . Those are happy memories ...


Make this cheela if you haven't had it already and let me know if it becomes your favorite....I made another version with tofu and i am sure you would like that too...

Note : some readers have indicated that this mung ka cheela could be similar to Andhra pesarettu . I have posted pesarttu earlier. The only similarity between this cheela (crepe) and pesarettu is the ingredient mung daal , but the similarity ends there . This is an interesting example of how an ingredient behaves differently in it's different forms . In pesarettu , the mung daal used is with skin and the texture and taste of the dosa is very different . Here the husked mung results into a mild flavor and an almost glutinous texture . I have indicated that the roll sticks by itself and stays in shape , that is because if the slightly sticky nature of the mung crepe here. The flavor of the yellow mung is so delicate that another version of mung ka cheela , which includes some seasoning in the batter, tastes very different from this one.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

haridwar wali kachori aur aloo ki subzi ....



Any kind of kachori aloo ki subzi makes me weak in the knees and you all know it well how we waited to have a divine taste of this luxury in Haridwar . I was so smitten by the taste that I had to repeat that experience in my own style, low fat style that is.

Don't tell me a fried recipe can't be low fat. I say lowest possible fat ...okay ?

So when I do such things at home I do it in the lowest possible amount of fat and since frying cannot be substituted with anything for a kachori, the only fatty indulgence of this kachori is a quick swim in hot oil. It would be better if you know that a firm dough of whole wheat flour, the kachori stuffed with care so that it doesn't get punctured and a quick microwaving of the kachori before the hot oil swim makes it quite low on fat content, believe me friends !!

making the kachoris...

Make a stiff dough with whole wheat flour with salt to taste and some ajwain seeds thrown in. Slightly coarse wheat flour is used for these kachoris. 

A bowl of soaked mung or urad daal with skin (usually it is husked urad daal)is ground with ginger, green chilies and a bit of garam masala. I microwaved this mung daal paste, stirring it 4-5 times after every minute and the paste becomes the consistency of the dough. In the authentic recipe this paste is fried (bhuno) in oil till it gets brown and dehydrated. dry frying this paste results in a smoky flavor but I preferred a low fat spicy version and gave a miss to the smokiness.

A quick tip : do not add any water while making the daal paste and add the seasonings according to your tolerance to heat. Here is how the dough and the stuffing look like.


The stiff dough and the paste to show you how they should look to 'complement each other', both should be the same consistency so that the stuffed kachoris do not split or get punctured while frying.

Now pinch off small portions of dough , make a bowl of it and place a little daal mixture into it . Now seal the dough , flatten the resulting ball and roll into a thick disk . 



The rolled kachori is first microwaved for a minute before going into hot oil directly, so keep the kadai with oil ready and hot when you start stuffing, rolling and microwaving the kachoris one by one . 

Do the stuffing and rolling beforehand if you can't handle all the four activities at a time . Microwaving and frying will be easy to handle in the second step.

Now the ingredients of the aloo subzi ...


2-3 large boiled potatoes
2 dry red chilies
2 green cardamoms
15 cloves
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black pepper corns
an inch stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
 2-3 green chilies broken
2 black cardamoms
2 tsp of everyday curry masala
1 tsp turmeric powder 
2 tsp mustard oil
a pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste

procedure...

Peel and cube the potatoes, keep aside.

Heat oil in a kadai and throw in the asafoetida, followed quickly by all the spices except those typed in bold. You must have noticed that the quantity of the cloves is much more than a normal curry but that was the highlight of the aloo subzi we had there in Haridwar , and that was the reason why i liked this aloo curry so much . feel free to reduce the amount of cloves if it is too much for you , it is a hot spicy curry with very strong notes of cloves.

Add the spices typed in bold and quickly add the potatoes mashing them while adding to the pan . Thrash with a spatula and mix well.


I added finely chopped green coriander at this point as I was not pouring any green coriander chutney over the kachori aloo like Haridwar . Make chutney if you feel like, I served hemp seeds and coriander greens chutney on the side it this time.


Add enough water to cover the mix and some more to make the curry almost watery... or as thin or thick you like it. Add salt to taste and let the curry cook on low flame till a nice cloves aroma wafts through the kitchen.


The curry is watery, the way I like it. With a gentle aroma of green coriander. The first notes hitting the tongue will be cloves, and the curry will be hot. Very hot but you wont be able to resist second helping I warn you.


You could choose to break the kachoris and dunk them into this bowl of aloo curry. We had it served on the side and dunked small pieces of kachori in the aloo curry as we sipped some curry like soup too. This is one addictive aloo subzi to be served with pooris and kachoris, especially for those who love spicy food.

Yummy hot way to start a weekend, healthy at the same time.

A kachori can't be healthier than this. I hope Pawan kashyap, the kachori wala at gau ghaat, Haridwar is not reading this and I hope he reads my post going all ga ga about his kachoris....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The best places to eat in Haridwar.....the places we like...



We wanted a change from the routine . A quick satisfying , exhausting outing . Walking long hours and soaking our feet in the cold waters of the Ganges seemed just right and we decided to go to Haridwar . With nothing religious on mind , we just wanted to get lost in the melee that can engulf just anything...leaving behind a wondering mind...A wondering mind that can find and formulate solutions...

As soon as we decided to go to Haridwar there was one thing on our mind absolutely clearly... FOOD . Haridwar is so refreshingly different from any other place when it comes to street food. Although you must know how to look out for the street vendors who serve good food and are hygiene conscious at the same time. Freshly prepared food must be the condition to even to have a look at it...don't ask me how to judge if the food is fresh .

Another way to look out for a good street vendor is the beeline surrounding the stall...or thela or rehri as we call it here...we found one such thela selling kachori at the turn to Gau ghat (Gau is cow in hindi and sanskrit) around 8 AM . Two other kachori walas were standing like fools waiting for the customers to turn up and this Kashyap kachori bhandar was doing brisk business . We knew we had to wait patiently , so we walked around a bit and came back to see the fast dwindling heap of kachoris .


Pawan Kashyap , the owner is a smart businessman . You can see him talking to a customer and doing his work at the same time... he judged that we were waiting and asked how many we need . I guess we are a bit shy people and just looked on seeing others being pushy around the thela ...We just wait patiently for our turn . Everywhere. Our faces must be telling this guy that we are dying to taste those yummy looking kachoris and yet can't yell our order .

I ordered just one dona of kachori as i am always cautious about street food and don't want to waste food even when i am dying to taste something looking so promising .... one spoonful in my mouth and i ordered another for the husband , otherwise we would have shared the dona ...

The kachoris were crisp and thick , stuffed with a spicy lentil masala mix, broken into 4-5 pieces and dunked into a light but spicy gravy of potatoes . He topped it with some fried red chillies and a dollop of thin green chutney . For Arvind he added a dollop of sweet tamarind chutney after inquiring...


I can still feel the aroma of this dona full of hot tang , something which transported me to another world...This stall is there just for an hour or so in the morning , look out for this mobile cart with a banner like the picture ( bad picture quality is regretted)...you can't miss the smiling Pawan Kashyap behind the cart...


The best part is , the plates are made of fresh leaves and the cart is quite clean , you can see a dirty duster behind the donas but this is after everything has been finished... and the duster has worked hard .They collect the used donas in a bucket tucked under the cart . I liked the approach , keeping the surroundings clean and using environment friendly plates..



I made this kachori the next weekend at home , my low oil version , and it was lacking that crisp and crumbling texture but we liked the taste as my guess towards the spice mix was quite good.

Another place we find really good in Haridwar is the Hoshiarpuri dhaba at upper road . We have been there years ago and found the food equally great this time too . While the makhni and shahi sounding things are not our thing , and they taste almost the same everywhere , what we like in this place is the vast variety of parathas . The parathas are made in the tandoor and the parathe wali gali of old Delhi looks like a gloomy slum paratha gali when compared to these...really.. I never liked the parathas in the parathe wali gali FYI...


Paratahs at Hoshiarpuri are a refreshing change and we did a second round of breakfast that day just for the sake of it...One aloo paratha and one aloo pyaz ka paratha with a bowl of plain curds we shared .... heaven on my plate...The butter visible on the paratha is just smeared after tandoor baking...so it is light enough.


The signboard says Hoshiarpuri hotel but it is actually a dhaba/restaurant . The service is good and tables clean . Good food makes up for everything else. Interestingly , this place gets a lot of guests in the dinner time and you are given waiting list number . The number is displayed on a digital screen just below this red signboard and people keep waiting till their turn comes. We waited for our turn this time too . Last time we had parathas there about 12 years ago and there was no apparent change we could notice .... how some places are timeless .

We find many small towns not changing with time and Haridwar is one great example even though there is a lot of tourist footfall in these foothills ....

Another great ting to try in the lanes of Haridwar is the thickened milk they sell in kulhars (earthen glasses) . We went to one such doodhwala/chaiwala many times during our stay . The chai used to be very sugary , almost like a syrup but we liked it there ...may be because we were walking all the time...The milk was something we both love to have . Hot , thickened ( reduced) to a pink hue , served with malai ... we had it unsweetened...


This small shop was tucked in the narrow lane called  lower road i guess . There was no name and no landmark i remember right now . There are many doodhwalas with a huge kadai in the front of the shop and you can judge by yourself which one is good...most of them are decently good as milk and milk products seem to be great in this place...there are many ashrams and many goshalas (cow shelters) in the city...

There are so many things to eat and if you like fried food there are a lot of things you would want to explore . We found a nice chaat stall at the crossing of subzi mandi , didn't try the chaat as we were already full but the chaat vendor was being mobbed like a celebrity and we guessed it should have been great .... we have had chaats in Haridwar in our previous visits and it is always good .

The things i would advise to ignore is the thandai the vendors on the upper road sell . Mishrambu is a much better choice if you haven't had thandai at Banaras. The chotiwala restaurant is just like any other place serving the usual suspects named makhni and shahi... Local flavors are not that tough to find when there is so much variety...go by your own instinct..  

A few khomcha walas ( vendors carrying a round tray on their head and a makeshift tripod to rest the tray over it when they choose to sit ) were selling mullberries and i could not resist ...i so wish they would come to Delhi so that i can make my preserves and sauces to go with our plain vanilla ice cream... Try and make a quick preserve with mulberries by cooking them with sugar . I do it quickly in the MW till it gets saucy and a nice colorful sweet n tart flavorful sauce is ready in a jiffy....

Make do with this picture of the mulberry khomcha here ...


Nicely arranged with green leaves as a base , the smoke is from the dhoop stick the vendors use for reasons unknown to me ... Take a closer look at the luscious mulberries...


I am reminded of the phalsas we used to get in Simla about 30 years ago . Do they still sit in a corner of the mall having a tokri full of phalse ? I was a kid then and it feels like a century has passed since then ... I wonder why these berries are not transported and marketed well in our country ... I know these berries ferment quickly but modern packaging and early picking could be helpful and what about making nice preserves with them....Or it is simply more convenient for everybody to use synthetic squashes and drinks with synthetic colors ....

Feeling like making a phalse ka sharbat right now...