Wednesday, May 28, 2014

broccoli paneer bhurji | a broccoli recipe with Indian curry spices

Somehow I never liked broccoli cooked like alu gobhi. Whenever I would cook broccoli like Indian curries using my everyday curry powder it would be a mundane kind of subzi not comparable to alu gobhi at all. But that was when we were experimenting with the new vegetable in the market a decade ago. Now I like broccoli in the raw or blanched for mostly. But when the brccoli is not too fresh I need ideas to cook it too.

This broccoli paneer bhurji is one of those ways to use up not so fresh broccoli that was left in the fridge.

broccoli paneer bhurji

I had stopped cooking broccoli the Indian way and loved it in all Chinese recipes I cook and have been using it in many many salads and as a steamed vegetables on the side of a meat or fish meal. I love raw broccoli and lightly steamed broccoli in anything and everything.

But then some vegetables are such that you tend to experiment with those a lot. I made a pesto with broccoli that was just okay nothing great and was never repeated. The broccoli soups were loved by all and became a way to consume all the excess broccoli I would end up buying every week in winters. 

On one of those weeks in winters when I had bought a lot of broccoli and was not able to finish them, I juts blanched a few of them and froze a huge bagful. Frozen broccoli can only be used in soups as we like it, and soups we don't normally have in summers here in India. 


What to do with that huge bag of frozen broccoli then?

I decided to make a broccoli and paneer bhurji on the lines of palak paneer bhurji one fine day and it was such a good taste I finished all the stock frozen broccoli cooking this broccoli paneer bhurji. 

But honestly speaking I did not have any ideas to use frozen broccoli for extremely hot summers as soups were not an option and we like only fresh broccoli otherwise, frozen florets loose their texture.

This broccoli paneer bhurji is the perfect answer for frozen or even stale and limp broccoli. Thankfully so.

(2-3 servings)
paneer 150 gm 
roughly minced broccoli (fresh, stale or frozen) 2 cups
fenugreek leaves (fresh or frozen, I used frozen) 1 cup
sliced red onions 1 cup
chopped garlic 1 tbsp
everyday curry powder 2 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1/2 tsp
amchoor powder (dry raw mango powder)  1/2 tsp
salt to taste
mustard oil 1 tbsp


Heat the oil in a kadhai or pan and tip in the garlic first. Let it sizzle for a while and then add the sliced onions. Keep frying till the onions start getting caramelized. 

Add the powdered spices except amchoor powder, mix well and let them cook for a minute. Add the minced broccoli and mix well, cook covered on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Now add the chopped fenugreek leaves and the cubed paneer as well. Keep stirring and scrambling the paneer and greens in the pan as you cook. Within the next 2-3 minutes the bhurji will be ready. 

Add amchoor powder and mix well. Serve as desired.

broccoli paneer bhurji

Broccoli and paneer bhurji is nowhere close to palak paneer bhurji, it is different but equally tasty. The caramelized onions impart a sweetness that balances the slight bitterness of fenugreek leaves and the broccoli adds body to these flavours. This was the first time I liked broccoli in an Indian spiced curry and I don't mind that the broccoli lost it's texture. We have to use frozen or stale broccoli sometimes and this is a good way to get a nutritious meal with that.

We loved it both with ragi roti and with plain boiled rice.

Are you trying this broccoli paneer bhurji? Let me know when you do.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

monji haak from Kashmir and mutton monji haak to make it non vegetarian : ganth gobhi ki kashmiri subzi

Monji haak or monji haakh is a simple stew from Kashmir that makes beautiful use of the bulb and greens of knol khol (kohl rabi or ganth gobhi). The simplest of recipes can be the tastiest and this monji haak is one of those examples. I followed Anita's recipe a few years ago once and never cooked knol khol any other way. Even when we had loads of ganth gobhi growing in the garden, I would always cook this monji haak either plain or with boiled or poached eggs or with mutton. We love this simple and flavourful stew any which way. Another version of monji haak cooked with a little rice and a stew with knol khol and lotus stem, called monji nadru are slight variations of this recipe.

Ganth gobhi stands tall in the garden. We had about 40 of them this season.

Ganth gobhi (knol khol) leaves are so fragrant and delicious that it can't be wasted. Sadly, many people throw away the leaves and use the bulb part only. Even my gardener often discards the leaves but he has now understood that I like the leaves more than the bulb. I hardly throw any part of this vegetable if it is freshly plucked. only the hard woody base is peeled off if the knol khol is mature.

The curry is a simple recipe but I must let you know that following a simple recipe to the T is very important. As each ingredient and each little step in the recipe adds something to make it special, you can't afford to miss anything. Once you follow the recipe once and know how it turns out, you can make necessary changes to suit it to your taste.

ingredients for the monji haak
(serves 2-3, large portions)

Ganth gobhi (knol khol) 2-3 with leaves (about 600 gm)
green chillies broken 2-3 or to taste
hing 1 pinch
mustard oil 1 tbsp
salt to taste
water 2 cups


Peel the hard woody parts of the knol khol if it is mature or use it whole. Slice the bulb in half moons, the stems in one inch pieces and the leaves in large shreds. Keep aside.

Heat mustard oil in a pressure cooker pan (or a deep stockpot or kadhai), tip in the hing and add the slices of the vegetable. Toss and fry till you see few brownish patches on the margins. Add the stems and leaves at once, the green chillies and salt and toss and cook for a few minutes more.

Add the water and pressure cook for 5 minutes after the first whistle blows. Let it cool on it's own, open the lid and serve hot with plain boiled rice or as a side dish to any Indian meal.

You can adjust the consistency by adding more water or by reducing the water as per choice.

If cooking it in a stock pot or kadhai, cook covered till the leaves and slices are all thoroughly coked. It takes about 25-30 minutes or more if the ganth gobhi is mature.

To make mutton monji haak, boil 300 gm of mutton (with bone) in 500 ml water and salt to taste for a couple of hours in a stock pot, adding a little more water of required. Or pressure cook for 30 minutes. Keep aside.

Now follow the steps of cooking the ganth gobhi as above recipe of monji haak and instead of adding water, add the cooked mutton with the stock and cook again till the vegetable is cooked well. Serve as required.

We eat our meats in watery stews like this in summers and love the way it tastes so rich and yet so light on the tummy. I recently tried a lauki ka shorba with mutton after reading good reviews of a recipe from Rampur and that also became our favourite. The recipe will be shared soon.

Monji haak remains a favourite not just for being a simple stew or a patle rasse ki subzi as we call it, it is because I love the taste of ganth gobhi so much. It is a vegetable I look forward to. I still have a few left from our winter vegetables crop and they will also be cooked into this flavourful monji haak.

Did I tell you we both love this mutton monji haak as a stand alone dinner? Yes we do.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Kathal ki biryani | Jack fruit mock meat biryani

Kathal ki biryani is the ultimate vegetarian biryani that even I like. Normally the vegetarian biryanis are never impressive in any way, apart from being a mixed vegetables, nuts and rice cooked together. I prefer my khichdi over vegetarian Biryani. But Kathal or Jack fruit biryani is different.

kathal ki biryani

Raw jack fruit is a meat substitute for vegetarians all over India. Kathal (jack fruit) was never a favourite vegetable when I was growing up. Just the kathal ka dopyaza was something I loved, sometimes the spicy versions of kathal ke kofte or a curry masquerading as mutton curry would be liked too. But I never really craved for kathal. So much so that I had cooked kathal only about 4 times in the last 6-7 years although it is available throughout the year. But then I saw a few kathal ki biryani recipes doing the rounds on fb groups and someone actually asked me to post my version of it.

Now truth be told, I had never had any kathal ki biryani in my life. And this girl from Bangalore would keep requesting me to post more kathal recipes as she loved them and wanted to cook. I brought a whole kathal once and turned lazy in the coming week, made kathal ka dopyaza first as that is my first choice, the remaining kathal got wasted. Yes. Sad.

But then as I kept thinking of kathal ki biryani, I picked up a fat slice of kathal on day from the subziwala and cleaned and chopped it almost immediately. Kathal ki biryani was planned for the next day, cooking was to be done early in the morning as I had planned to pack this 'biryani' to Arvind's lunch box as well. I thought it would taste like tahiri if not biryani and he anyway loves tahiri so it wont be a problem. I succeeded in making this kathal ki biryani in about 30 minutes, packed half of it for his lunch and half for myself. It was at my lunch time that I realised it actually was a good 'biryani'. Kathal is quite meaty and works well for biryani if treated well. Finally a biryani for vegetarians.

kathal or jackfruit

 I will tell you what do I mean by treating the kathal well. As I repeated the kathal ki biryani lunch box a few times and found out what way kathal tastes best in the biryani.

Just take care to chop the kathal in shreds, separating the seeds (saving it for a curry if the seeds are mature) if the kathal has any. The one I used had very soft seeds so I let them be. Remove the parchment like seed coat from each seed and reserve the fleshy and fibrous parts of the fruit. You would need to smear oil to your hands, the chopping board and the knife when you chop and peel kathal.
chopped jackfruit

Since I cooked this kathal ki biryani in the morning hurry hours, I worked out the shortest possible method for me. I am sure it would work for you too.

kathal chopped like above 2 cups packed
basmati rice 1/2 cup
water 1 cup
tejpatta 2 leaves
whole black pepper corns 12
shahi jeera (caraway seeds) 1/2 tsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
pathhar phool or chhadila (lichen spice)
garam masala (green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and a little mace powdered together) 1 tsp
black pepper powder 1/2 tsp (optional)
whole red chillies 2
sliced onions 1 cup
ginger julienne 2 tbsp (or half as much, I like this biryani a bit hot)

As I mentioned I worked around a shortest possible method to cook this biryani, the fact that the kathal was chopped and refrigerated in advance helped. To make it quicker, I cooked the rice in microwave till the kathal was prepared in a pan of gas stove. Later both were mixed with light hand and microwaved again with a lid. This helped the rice look really separated and kathal stay meaty and not get mushy.



Wash the rice, add water to it along with the tejpatta and patthar phool. These two spices bring the biryani flavours really well, making kathal ki biryani taste a bit like mutton biryani, although there is a wee hint only, but pleasing to the senses. Cook the rice in microwave as you would normally cook rice, but take it out as soon as the rice is 3/4th done. Cover and reserve. By the time rice cooks to this stage, you will be half done with the kathal on the pan.

To prepare the kathal for biryani, heat ghee in a pan or kadhai and tip in the sliced onions, separated well so they fry nicely. Let the onions fry till they get golden brown. Take out half the onions and reserve, add whole spices, ginger julienne and chopped kathal to the remaining onions in the pan, one after the other, stirring in between. Add salt and cook covered for about 10 minutes, on low flame.

Add the powdered spices, stir and mix well and cook covered till the kathal is done. Take about another 10 minutes. You might need to sprinkle some water during cooking as kathal may get dry and can get charred.

Mix the cooked kathal and the 3/4th cooked rice. Cover and microwave for 5 minutes or till the rice looks fresh and done.

kathal ki biryani

Serve hot with raita and some salad. I had it with one boiled egg and and fruits and vegetable mix raita. These pictures are of my lunch that I had after 4 hours of cooking the biryani. Reheated kathal ki biryani tastes great too.

I cooked this biryani in pressure cooker too one day, as usual in the morning hurry hours, thinking it might be good that way too. The taste was the same, the rice grains looked a bit thicker and the kathal pieces were a bit too soft for my taste. I wont make it in pressure cooker ever. The above method worked best every time I cooked it. Four times to be precise :-)

kathal ki biryani

You already know I loved this kathal ki biryani although I have been vehemently opposing any vegetable pulav being called as biryani all this while. The pathhar ke phool (black stone flower) imparts a hint of meaty flavours to this biryani and this pulav/tahiri steps up a rung towards biryani :-)