Friday, April 25, 2014

Koli masala : a robust blend of spices and a few curries with it...

It was a completely new bouquet of aromas that hit my senses as soon as I opened a packet of Koli masala given to me by Anita. The creator of this Koli masala blend is Anjali Koli and she had sent packets of this masala for Anita and me. That was long time ago and I used the masala first for a shrimp curry and then a liver curry that I mostly cook for dinner. I was pleased by the results and experimented with the spice blend a bit more, asked Anjali more about the recipes she uses it for and got to know she is a vegetarian. She sent me another large pack of Koli masala that would last me another 6 months or so even after sharing some with a friend.

After talking to Anjali, I started using this Koli masala for vegetables more and was never disappointed. It is a good change for our palate so used to everyday curry powder and the more aromatic garam masala. There is a distinct whiff of patharphool or dagad phool or Chhadeela (the lichen Parmelia perlata) and star anise in this spice blend and chilly peppers are also included so I don't add any chilly powder in the curries when I use it.

One of the most surprisingly good results I got from Moongrey (Rat tailed radish) ki subzi. So much so that I would always want moongrey cooked with Koli masala now, though I like the rat tailed radish salads and moongrey stir fry that I always do. Here is the simple recipe with moongrey and potatoes.

moongrey ki subzi with koli masala...

cleaned and chopped moongrey (rat tailed radish or radish fruits) 2 cups
boiled, cooled, peeled and cubed potatoes 1 cup
chopped tomatoes 3/4 cup
ginger and garlic 1 tsp each
Koli masala 1 tbsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
cumin powder 1 tsp
mustard oil 1 tbsp
salt to taste


Heat mustard oil and tip in the ginger and garlic. Fry till fragrant. Dissolve the powdered spices in 2 tbsp water and pour into the pan, fry till aromatic, for a minute approximately.

Add the potato cubes, fry for about 2 minutes stirring all the while on medium heat.

Add the tomatoes and salt and cook till mushy.

Add the moongrey and keep stirring the mix on low flame till the delicate radish fruits get cooked and soft. Serve hot or warm with roti or daal chawal meals.

This mutton liver fry was the most frequent during winter days, mostly cooked for dinner along with millet rotis. It used to be a comforting warming meal, but now as it has gotten so hot here in Delhi, I just fry the mutton liver with salt and pepper in a little ghee and serve with some parwal ka chokha or lauki ki subzi.

To make this mutton liver with Koli masala, Just cook the ginger garlic in mustard oil first, dissolve powdered spices in a little water and add. Cook briefly, add tomatoes, loads of dhaniya patta with stems and salt to taste and cook till mushy. Add liver and cook for about 20 minutes covered, stirring once in a while.

Another quick curry I do with Koli masala is the chickpeas and spinach curry. The Koli masala and tomatoes and cooked just like the liver curry, then I add the spinach and pressure cooked chickpeas. Cook this mix till the flavours blend. A very unusual chhole palak that goes well with either plain boiled rice or plain roti.

Interestingly, a few vegetables which the husband normally dislikes, were made using this Koli masala and he loved them. Bakla (fava beans) ki subzi is one acid test when trying a new spice blend. He loved this Bakla ki subzi with Koli masala. I normally cook bakla with potatoes and tomatoes and the everyday curry powder, have posted a really easy recipe of bakla here, this one with Koli masala was a nice twist.

fava beans (bakla) 250 gm
potatoes cut into batons about 100 gm
sliced onions 50 gm (half a large onion)
chopped garlic 1 tbsp
sliced tomatoes 120 gm (one large ripe tomato)
koli masala 2 tsp
salt to taste
mustard oil 1 tbsp


Remove stems and string the fava beans. Cut into halves if they are too large.

Heat mustard oil in a kadhai and tip in the chopped garlic and slice onions followed by batons of potato. Stir fry for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the fava beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the koli masala and mix well. Keep stirring for about a minute on low flame.

Add the sliced tomatoes and salt and keep stirring and cooking till the tomatoes get a bit mushy. Add half a cup of water, cover the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes or till the vegetables are cooked through.

Serve hot with roti and daal or even with plain boiled rice.

I cook bakla with slivers of potato sometimes, just with a tempering of green chillies and sliced garlic cloves. Essentially in mustard oil. I dunk everything at once in hot mustard oil along with salt to taste and cook them all on medium heat till garlic slices are browned well, potato slivers are nice and golden and bakla is cooked through. This time I sprinkled a little Koli masala and it tasted good. Just take care to cook the vegetables after adding spice blend well for a few seconds in this one.

Another try was with chopped green beans (French beans) and peas with tomatoes, with added paneer cubes. This one was a dry subzi made for Arvind's lunch box.

chopped green beans 1 cup
green peas 1 cup
chopped tomatoes 1/2 cup
chopped garlic and ginger 1 tsp each
cubed paneer 100 gm (3/4 cup)
mustard oil 1 tbsp
Koli masala 1 tsp
black pepper powder 1/4 tsp
turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
salt to taste


Heat mustard oil and tip in the ginger and garlic. Let them fry till fragrant. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook till mushy. Add the Koli masala, turmeric powder and pepper powder and cook for a few seconds.

Add the peas and chopped beans, cover and cook till done. Stir in between to coat them well with the spices.

Add paneer cubes, mix well and cook covered for a couple of minutes. Serve hot with roti or daal chawal or as desired.

Just take care to add the Koli masala at a stage when it needs a bit of frying or cooking at medium flame so the spice blend gets cooked well. It is a robustly flavoured spice blend and stays well in the curry, does not evaporate like aromatic gram masala. I found that most of the vegetables take on the flavours well, especially in the presence of tomatoes or tamarind.

The good thing is, you can buy the Koli masala at Anjali's website. The spices are milled under her supervision and I found the quality really good. I never buy or use any packaged spice blends but this one would be an exception. This is home made. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

food from diverse Indian states, all in one place and recipe of Rajasthani mirchi wala paneer

Sometimes I can't decide which part of India I would like to settle down to. Apart from climatic conditions and greenery, local cuisine the other thing that makes the deal for me. Sometimes I feel like Himachal and sometimes Coorg. Tamilnadu and Kerala lure me to no ends, Rajasthan keep inviting in a musical way. Padharo mhare des :-)

Only if wishes had wings. Ohh I might end up being a nomad visiting all the places for ever and enjoying everything to my contentment. That would be bliss.

What if you get great regional foods from all over India under one roof? That too in a bustling mall where you have gone for shopping. There is one place you might like to make plans just for the food. If you are a regional food junkie. From Laal Maas and Lachha Paratha to Lucknow ki Nihari to Mangalorean Mutton Sukka and Akki Rotti. I loved most of the food from all over the country at Veda Cafe, DLF Promenade, Vasant Kunj sometime ago. The cafe opened it's doors to patrons in mid February and I could see bustling crowd on a weekend night. The manager Mr. Sarat introduced the menu to us and helped us choose from the vast array of cuisines and dishes on the menu. The cafe has a liquor licence and serves alcohol, our adjacent table was occupied by a young couple enjoying their beer bucket with carefully chosen food, they were already regulars it felt like.

I liked a virgin Sangria in two variations, was nice. I liked the Kokum Senorita that I ordered later, there are many more virgin cocktails for everyone. Palak Patta Chaat is a Veda specialty and we had liked it at Veda at CP as well. The same chaat has been recreated here at Veda Cafe too.

I loved the menu which is crafted like a table calender, the opposite page bearing beautiful pictures of vegetables, spices and random street objects. The same kind of ethnic themed picture frames are there all over the walls of the cafe. Beautiful things from far ends of the country have been displayed well.

The soups we ordered were a Pineapple soup and a Chicken Shorba. Pineapple soup was completely mind blowing for me, Arvind liked the Chicken shorba better. Food and flavours are received differently by different people. Here is the proof.

The tikkas were good, the sigdi (small barbecue stove or charcoal grill) Chicken Tikka was nice, the charcoal grill Mutton Burra was a bit over spiced for us. Amritsari Fish n Chips platter was good, more suited for Delhi folks as they like Basa fillets better than any other local fish. I like the way just a thin layer of besan coating was there on the fish, just the way I like Amritsari Macchi. I would have liked some real river fish for this though.

Avoid the Mixed Fruit Seekh Kabab, it didn't work for me.

What I loved and would recommend to be tasted at least once, is the Rajasthani Mirchi Paneer served with a herb laced tandoori paratha. Very interesting flavours with notes of whole coriander, mild green chilly and coarsely pounded garam masala. The Laal Maas was nice too, served with lachha paratha, well made. I was tasting a Mangalorean Mutton Sukka and Akki Rotti for the first time and loved it. Try that for sure if you happen to go there. Pesarettu was well made and the chutneys were good too. I might go there just for having a pesarettu sometime.

We were stuffed trying out all these and skipped desserts. Might try something next time I go there. I kept thinking what all I would like to recreate at home from the Veda Cafe menu. Pineapple soup and Rajasthani mirchi paneer were two such dishes that stood out. Sharing the paneer recipe here.

Since I keep cooking paneer curries a lot, more for an easy dinner or lunch box curry or salad for the husband, I planned making this Rajasthani mirchi paneer for a change. Rajasthani chillies are known to be flavourful but mild. The fat green chillies are used to make mirchi pakodas and are used for green chilly pickles, for bharva mirchi (stuffed green chillies with various stuffings) and for curries as well.

Rajasthan curries are mostly jain recipes, cooked without onion and garlic, the thickening agent is mostly yogurt and spicing is robust, with prominent hints of coriander seeds. I made a light version of this mirchi paneer and the recipe takes just 15 minutes to prepare.

3-4 servings, depending on what side dishes are served with it)

paneer cubed 200 gm
large ripe tomatoes cubed 1 cup
minced ginger root 1 tbsp
dry whole red chillies 6
fresh red chillies (mild variety) sliced 2 tbsp
freshly crushed coriander seeds 1 tbsp
everyday curry powder 2tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
yogurt 1/4 cup
fresh cream 1 tbsp (optional)
salt to taste
ghee 2 tsp
chopped green coriander leaves and stems 1/4 cup


Heat ghee in a pan (kadhai preferably) and tip in the whole dry red chillies, minced ginger and crushed coriander seeds in that order. Let them sizzle for a few seconds before adding the tomatoes. Add salt and fry till the tomatoes turn pulpy.

Add the powdered spices, fry well till the mixture looks glossy. Add the yogurt and fry again till it is incorporated well.

Add the paneer cubes and sliced fresh red chillies, mix the fresh cream as well if using and just fold in everything till the paneer gets coated well. Sprinkle chopped coriander greens and serve hot with roti or naan.

You can use any mild hot chilly available in your part of the world or a good mix of all of them. Adding just the regular hot dry red chillies and a mix of bell peppers would work well too. I love the way chillies lend their aromatic flavours to the curry when they are not too hot. The flavours are received better by the palate in the absence of heat actually. There was a time I used to love really hot curries, now I like milder chilly heat. Though I can tolerate quite hot curries.

This one can be made as hot as you wish. Let me know whenever you try this Rajasthani mirchi paneer curry. It is definitely a nice variation of everyday paneer for vegetarians.