Sunday, August 24, 2014

mung ka dhokla recipe | dhokla made with mung daal

I can't decide whether I like mung ka dhokla more or the regular instant dhokla made with besan. These are the two variants I make more but a corn dhokla is also a winter favourite. Dhokla is a steamed 'bread' made using lentils and tempered with a mix of ingredients that make it nice tart, sweet and hot. Dhokla can be served as a gluten free snack, an appetizer or even in a thali meal. I wouldn't mind some dhokla with a salad though. 

Mung or moong ki daal is skinned mung beans considered very easy to digest and fairly rich in protein. Mung ka dhokla is a steamed bread that is served cold with a tangy hot and sweet tempering that makes the dhokla quite moist and soft. Actually I would say all types of dhokla are basically steamed lentil breads way more superior than the white commercial breads. Very similar to corn breads of Mexico but served differently. The Indian punch is unmistakable in a dhokla which is specifically a Gujrati riot of flavors.

mung daal dhokla

 Besan ka dhokla is more common in our homes and most sweet shops all over north India. Everyone likes the dhokla with varying combinations of sweet, sour and hot flavours melding together with some coconut, sesame and mustard seeds in the tadka. I skip sesame most of the times although I love sesame otherwise. May be because I grew up loving the dhokla without sesame.

Mung ka dhokla is not very common but I started making it quite by an accidental lie I had to speak. Yes I do lie sometimes but I always have valid reasons for it. The valid reason for this lie came in the form of an unexpected query about the usual besan ka dhokla I had made one day. This was at my in law's place and I was a new bride on a spree to impress everyone with the things I could do. So the dhokla that day was appreciated a lot and after eating a few fat pieces of dhokla my father in law asked if those were 'mung ka dhokla'. I was startled at this question as I had got to know he can't digest besan that well and he had already eaten a lot of dhokla for my comfort. I said yes it is moong ka dhokla just to not panic him. He did not have any indigestion issues that day thankfully but then he started demanding for mung ka dhokla quite often. Later on I made the real mung ka dhokla but I wonder how could he not know the taste the first time.

This time when I visited my in laws for an extended weekend I was reminded of how he wanted mung ka dhokla last time I had gone and I could not make it then. I had time on hand this time around and made this one dish for everyone to enjoy.

mung daal dhokla

There are special utensils for steaming dhokla but not to worry if you don;t have them. Keep a large vessel ready to boil water over which a metallic strainer will be placed. The dhokla will be steamed in a flat based thali (or large baking dish) kept inside the strainer and covered. You can steam dhokla in idli steamer as well.

(makes enough dhokla for 6 people as a hearty snack)

mung daal (skinned mung beans) 2 cups
salt to taste
soda bi carb 1 tsp
peanut oil 1 tbsp
mustard seeds 2 tsp
slit green chillies 3-4
curry patta 3-4 strings, leaves separated
grated coconut 1/2 cup packed
lime juice 2 tbsp
sugar 1 tbsp
hing or asafotida 1 pinch


Soak mung daal overnight and grind without added water the next morning. Soaking the mung daal for at least 4 hours is required so keep it ready if you need it in the evening. The paste should look like idli batter or loose cake batter in consistency.

Add salt and soda bicarb and mix really well. Pour the batter in one or 2 greased thalis depending on how large your steaming vessel is and how thick (tall) dhokla you want.

Place on the steamer contraption and steam for about 15 minutes or till a knife comes out clean.

Cool and make cuts into the steamed dhokla. Prepare a tempering to pour over it.

To make the tempering, Heat the oil and add hing to it. Now tip in the mustard seeds, green chillies and curry patta and let them cook a bit. Now pour 1 cup of water and add sugar to the mix. Let the mixture come to a boil before taking it off the flame. Add the lime juice and pour over the steamed dhokla. Let it rest till the dhokla soaked up all the water and tempering. Serve as desired, garnished with grated coconut.

mung daal dhokla

This dhokla stays well for 8-10 hours on room temperature. I like mung ka dhokla better than the besan ka dhokla that I make at home. I think mung ka dhokla has it's own taste that grows on you. But Arvind likes the besan ka dhokla better. We rarely have common food choices you know.

I suggest making thinner dhokla when making it with mung daal as the rising is better this way. Or else you can add a tsp of fruit salt to the batter to make it rise more.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

the perfect recipe of kheer | 10 ways to make your own favourite perfect chawal ki kheer

Indian kheer recipe

Kheer is the Indian rice pudding, the most common dessert we used to enjoy in our times. Now a days the most common dessert seems to be a slice of cake or a brownie but kheer ruled my childhood. Chawal ki kheer or this rice pudding was almost an everyday affair in many families I know but in our home we did not eat much meetha (desserts) everyday so kheer was made about twice a week or so. The special occasion kheer used to be a little rich with more nuts, slow reduced milk till it turns pinkish and saffron etc used to be added to the special occasion kheer. The everyday kheer would be cooked and reduced for lesser time for convenience and a few nuts would be added because everyone loved the occasional bite of cashew and almonds. Oh and we loved the plump raisins so much in our kheer.

The everyday kheer would sometimes include some chopped dates or grated coconut or some grated carrots for colour but it was certainly lighter than the occasional festive kheer. The question is, which one was the best kheer out of these?

The best kheer recipe differs from person to person. Some people like the rice just cooked while some people (like me) like the rice almost completely dissolved into the milk making it more creamy and smooth. I remember one of my bong friend used to reduce the milk to almost rabdi consistency and then add the rice so the rice just cooked in the remaining water left in the much reduced milk. The resultant kheer used to look like halwa with whole rice grains sticking out and she loved it that way. I could never associate that dessert with kheer though. The rice in my kheer has to be dissolved to creaminess. That makes my kheer perfect. Always with short grain rice.

Indian kheer recipe

Some people would like more nuts and some aromatic spices like cardamom, nutmeg or cinnamon in the kheer while some like it with rose water or kewda water (screw pine extract). British picked up our kheer and flavoured it with vanilla and what not but even that rice pudding is the best when the rice disintegrates after slow cooking. The baked versions are not just the same.

I am listing a few ways to achieve what you want in a kheer. To get your kind of perfect kheer to enjoy.

  1. If you like the kheer really thick and the milk caramelized to pinkish brown, reduce the milk with patience for hours. The rice will be added in the very beginning if you like the kheer creamy and the rice grains disintegrated into it and add the rice half way though it if you like your rice grains intact into the kheer.
  2. If you like the nuts crunchy or with a bite add them as a garnish. You might like to fry them in ghee for added flavours. But if you like the nuts to soak up and become a part of the creaminess, add them along with the rice and milk together. Same way, if you like the raisins plump and juicy add them while the kheer is reducing, else add chopped raisins as garnish only.
  3. Use whole milk for perfect results. Skimmed milk would give you half hearted results.
  4. Always add sugar in the last when you see the kheer has reached the consistency you want and the rice has achieved your kind of texture in the kheer. If sugar is added early it doesn't allow the rice to disintegrate, the way I like it. The sugar makes the kheer a little thinner just after adding and the kheer needs to be reduced a little more after adding the sugar.
  5. You can add powdered cardamom or nutmeg along with the sugar to allow the flavours to stay in the kheer. The aromas escape if you add these spices in the initial stage of cooking kheer. Avoid adding whole cardamoms in the kheer unless you like to chew on them in between spoonfuls of kheer.
  6. Do not add too much rice to the quantity of milk you are using. The bulk or number of servings of the kheer depends on how much milk you are starting with and not the amount of rice. No more than 2 tbsp rice per kilo of whole milk is the rule to follow.
  7. Always use good quality aromatic rice. Some people like basmati rice for kheer but I like the small grain gobindbhog or kala namak variety of aromatic rice for my kheer. Keep the sugar minimal so the flavours of the rice take center stage. Don't add too much cardamom or nutmeg to kill the fragrance of rice too.
  8. Never make the kheer too sweet. It kills natural sweetness that comes by caramelisation of reducing milk and the fragrance of rice. Add sugar little by little, taste and add more if required.
  9. Always cook the kheer on very low heat once the milk had reduced to half. The milk and rice mixture tends to stick to the bottom while cooking and get burnt. This makes the kheer really awful if it happens. Cooking the kheer in thick base vessel helps. Stirring frequently helps too.
  10. If you like the kheer warm make sure you serve it with minimal cardamom or nutmeg as these spices can be overpowering at warm temperature. Cold or chilled kheer arrests the fragrance of these spices so you might need to add a bit more of them.
Indian kheer recipe

Here is the recipe of my favourite way of making kheer. The everyday kind of kheer that is not too heavy.

(for 5 small servings)
small grain aromatic rice 2 tbsp
whole milk 1 Liter
sugar 2 tbsp (or more if you like)
green cardamom powder 2 pinches
mixed chopped nuts as required


Mix the rice and milk together and cook on low flame, stirring frequently till the kheer reduces to your preference. The rice should get cooked so much that it almost disintegrates in the reduced milk.

Add the sugar and cardamom powder and reduce a little more. You can add more milk at this time if you want and reduce some more to make the kheer a bit rich. You can add saffron or raisins at this point too. Follow the instructions listed above if you have any of those preferences.

Garnish with nuts, chill or have the kheer warm as I like it sometimes.

Indian kheer recipe

You might like this sheer brunj or biranji if you like your kheer really rich. This parippu pradhaman will be a delight if you like this Kerala delicacy. This sevaiyyan kheer used to alternate with chawal ki kheer in out home. And the sama ke chawal ki kheer was made for navratri fasting.

There were sooji ki kheer for quick dessert and phirni for a quick but richer dessert sometimes. I intend to share those recipe too sometimes. Let me know if you find these tips on making the perfect chawal ki kheer useful for you. This is all I learned cooking kheer for the family for over 3 decades now.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

experiencing Dehlvi cuisine at threesixtyone at The Oberoi Gurgaon : a journey steeped in tradition

Tracing the roots of traditional cuisine of Delhi is not an easy task. Cumulative culture of Delhi was made by a succession of rulers coming in from diverse places and their influences on the local inhabitants. There have been Moghals, Punjabis from the north west frontier, Kayasthas, Marwaris and Jains influencing each others cuisine peppered by the vast variety of spices and fresh produce coming to this market place that Delhi is. The accumulated diversity in the food culture over the century makes Dehlvi cuisine. But you just can't fathom it so easily.

Purani dilli (old Delhi) is still preserved in the past because most old families of Delhi still have some residents there and the food and spice markets have survived, though we see some signs of the blind race to 'development' there as well. You would get Khas ki jad (Vetiver root) and Paan ki jad (Betel root) a bit after searching, good old traditional taste of bedmi alu and nagori halwa more easily and all seasonal fruit very very easily being carted freely on the streets just like old times. But you have to have that eye to look for tradition and history if you are walking through lanes of old Delhi, else it just looks like a maze of rickshaws, hanging wires and pushy cartwheels.

How would Dehlvi cuisine be when brought to a posh five star hotel? I was wondering about the same question when I heard Chef Dirham Haque's long research on this subject and his rendition of this centuries old cumulative cuisine at The Oberoi Gurgaon. It was an absolute delight when we went to taste the Dehlvi spread laid out at a huge round table at threesixtyone and had a detailed talk with Chef Dirham Haque and Chef Ravtej Nath who has curated the Dehlvi menu.

They brought the spices on the able first, all sourced from spice vendors and haqeems (Unani and Ayurvedic practitioners) of Khari Baoli area in old Delhi, I have never used mica and nagkeshar in my home cooking and it was great to have a feel of the aromatic spices before we started the elaborate lunch. I am definitely going back to khari baoli really soon and get my spices.

While we were discussing spices a welcome drink came that looked excuisite and smelled heavenly. This is called Mufarra which is made using extracts of vetiver, flowers and some ittar (a blend of aromatic oils). This was so sweet I could not have more than a couple of sips, but kept bringing it to my nose to have a whiff of the past centuries.

The appetiser was a known dish, the dahi bada which is called dahi ki gujhia but not like banaras wali dahi ki gujhia. This dahi ki gujhia has no stuffing but shaped like half moon that is traditional for gujhia. It was well made and nicely presented but it made me miss the banaras wali dahi ki gujhia. I might make it soon sometime.

The platter of kababs was a sight. Five assorted kababs would make a full meal and more. And here I tasted all of them.

Clockwise from top is a succulent and mildly spiced chicken tangdi kabab from punjabi origin, a green peas kabab (stuffed with hung curd) from marwari community, a silbatte ka kabab stuffed with hung curd, methi ka dhoka in the middle is a delectable mutton kabab covered with fenugreek leaves to give an illusion of vegetarian kabab. The melt in the mouth gilawat ka kabab was the best gem on the platter that was polished off completely. I liked the onion ring salad with cucumber tomato and slices of sweet mangoes quite well.

Jamun sorbet was the palate cleanser and wowed everyone. Smooth chilled jamun puree half frozen half melting and really delightful.

The main course started with murgh musallam. It came with a rich gravy of nuts and aromatic spices. Murgh musallam is tough to do if you ask me, I have never attempted a full chicken in my oven as I know some parts of the chicken get tough when roasted whole and it is not one of my favourite dishes honestly. This one was done well and we were told this used to be a part of the 'Farmaishi khwan' in older times. Farmaishi was 'on demand', cooked occasionally hence rich.

'Saadgi khwan' was the everyday food. Nalli nihari is the best example of Mughlai saadgi khwan, slow cooked meat on bone is served with khameeri roti for breakfast for the common man who has to work hard during the day. Nalli nihari is nourishing food and oh so yum.

I love ginger, green chilly and coriander greens over it. I had to taste just one spoon from all these as it was difficult to eat anything more. So many things to taste to get through the journey of Dehlvi cuisine.

I liked the tinde ka bharva stuffed with keema. Soft tinda (apple gourd) stuffed with mildly spiced mutton mince and covered with rich and creamy gravy.

All this was polished off using bits of this flaky layered naan crusted with almond slivers and called naan e bakumach. Farmaishi khwan had to have some special naan as well. Khameeri roti was to accompany the everyday (saadgi khwan) nihari.

I tasted matar ka paratha and it was done really really well. This was like we have tasted in our marwari friend's homes, associations with food never fade.

I loved the mutton biryani and a vegetarian mirch nimona ki biryani which had green peas stuffed whole green chillies in it. Very interesting flavours but I just had a small spoonful as there was no scope for more food.

We tried kunni daal which is cooked in earthen pots for long hours. The paneer dish everyone loved was a layered paneer lavanglatika with a rich gravy. Amrood ki subzi and bharva karela  were clear winners among the vegetarian spread. There is no comparison of vegetables when cooked well and these dishes proved it rightly. We just took bites from the meat dishes and polished off all the bharva karela and amrood ki subzi.

Desserts were from another world it felt. This creamy dessert somewhere between a mousse and souffle topped with mango cubes and pomegranate seeds, pistachio dust and gold leaf is called royal fruit cup and has some custard, whipped cream, smooth rabdi and small bits of rasgulla in it and was really good.

No one could finish this delectable dessert as the serving was just too big.

This kulfi khaas madhubala dehlvi was a favourite of actress Madubala who belonged to Dehlvi clan. Nicely done kulfi but not my favourite.

The most exciting dessert was this dabba ice cream. Dabba is a contraption for hand churning the ice cream that was used in olden times. A metallic container with fruit pulp and reduced milk etc is kept inside a wooden case lined with ice cubes and salt (to make the ice last longer) and the ice cream is churned using a lever.

The finished ice cream looks like this. Still inside the dabba.

And on the table. Taste of dussehri mangoes made richer by reduced milk and churned by hand. What pleasure. This ice cream was called as kulfa in Banaras I got to know recently while talking to a septuagenarian.

Quite an experience it was. We left with our fingers smelling of vetiver thanks to handling all the spices that were displayed. Aromas of the mufarra kept coming back even though I am allergic to strong smells. Real aromatic oils of spices and flowers have some magic in it.

Blogger friend Ruchira had brought us all together for this wonderful journey. I met Deeba, Parul and the tea lady Anamika too. Mallika Dasgupta ( Manager-Communications at The Oberoi Gurgaon) played a great host as we chatted with Chef Ravitej Nath and Chef Dirham Haque. What a memorable day it turned out to be.

Friday, August 8, 2014

everyday subzi : a lotus stem dopyaza and how spices are included in summer meals...

Lotus stem is one vegetable vegetarians like a lot. Called as bhien, nadru or kamal kakdi in local parlance, it is the under water stem of the lotus plant. Very nutritious and very tasty, although sometimes it is difficult to clean it from inside but those who love it just get it done anyhow. This dopyaza will remind you of the chicken or mutton dopyaza that is cooked in many UP homes.

The nutritional value of lotus stem is well known and it is a good thing that most people like the taste of this healthy vegetable.

Using lot of onions and some whole spices is a popular way of using spices in hot summer months. This way the curries remain light, the quantity of onion balanced the spice heat and the curry doesn't feel too hot in summer heat. The plains of UP get quite hot in summer months and it lasts till the monsoons make the whether a bit pleasant.

Lotus stem can be cooked almost like meats and if you use the same spices the resulting curry is actually comparable to meat dishes. Obviously if you want to get the taste of meat you will be disappointed but vegetarians wont miss anything. In UP vegetarian homes whenever people want something special, that is apart from he usual green vegetables, they turn to jack fruit, lotus stem or some of the koftas that are made with much fanfare. Many types of besan ki subzi is also made for those who detest vegetables. A special dry gatte ki subzi is peculiar to Banaras and I am yet to post that one. Paneer is almost an everyday affair in most homes since I remember but elders say that paneer was not so common in older days.

Even lotus stem makes good koftas but somehow I never make koftas as I don't find them worth the time and effort. This blog only has one kofta recipe that was posted because that kele ka kofta had become the talk of our extended family when I had made a brave effort to cook them at a special occasion. I remember my mother used to love bhien ka kofta quite a lot.

This dopyaza is one of the curries that remind me of my childhood. Actually there are very few that I cook as most of them use a lot of oil and frying so I avoid them. Not just for being heavy, they require more cooking time as well. Dopyaza fits the bill. Kathal ka dopyaza is one of the most popular recipes on this blog.

So how do you cook bhein ka dopyaza? Not complicated at all.

(2-4 servings depending on other side dishes served)

peeled and diced lotus stem 2 cups (about 200 gm)
sliced red onions 1.5 cup
whole dry red chillies 3-4 (broken if you want the curry hot)
black cadamoms 2
green cardamoms 4
cloves 4-6
cinnamon stick one inch piece
whole peppercorns 1 tsp
salt to taste
turmeric powder 1/2 tsp (many people omit turmeric powder)
mustard oil 2 tbsp (or a bit less if you can manage cooking the curry on really low flame)


Heat the mustard oil in a pressure cooker pan or a thick base kadhai.
Tip in all the whole spices and let them sizzle for a few seconds but don't let them splutter.
Add the sliced onions, salt turmeric powder if using and the diced lotus stem all at once. Toss a few times to mix everything well.
Cover the lid and let the curry cook really slow at very low flame for about 30 minutes in a kadhai or just put the pressure cooker lid if using the gadget and pressure cook till the first whistle blows.

Let the pressure release on its own, serve hot as desired. We used to love this with paranthas in our childhood but now it is more of multigrain roti or sometimes a plain flaky crisp parantha with it.

It is another matter if I cook besan wali bhien ki subzi. That I can eat all by itself.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

everyday subzi: turai aur paneer ki subzi

Turai is sponge gourd, a staple summer squash that I end up cooking a lot. This is one of those vegetables that even Arvind loves so I can do many versions of it. This paneer turai ki subzi was made to suit his lunch box meals, to make the curry protein rich and filling with multigrain rotis that he liked for his everyday lunch box. But the greatest convenience is the ease of cooking in the morning rush hours. You get the drift.

Many a times I add a paneer salad or egg bhurji or just sliced boiled eggs smeared with pesto, mustard or mint chutney along with some green vegetables but if he is having eggs for breakfast and I have no time for making a salad I add paneer or shredded chicken to his subzi. Works well because the same subzi or salad serves me for my brunch later in the day. This is the story on most weekdays with just a change of the vegetables used.

Now a days as work load is getting more, the vegetables are cut by the maid most of the times though I do all the cooking myself, the vegetables come out of ziplock bags when I cook.

(2-3 servings)
peeled and sliced turai (ridge gourd) 4 cups or 700 gm approximately
sliced onions 1/2 cup or one medium sized onion
slit green chillies as per taste
cumin seeds 1 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
cubed paneer 100 gm (3/4 cup)
mustard oil or any oil you like 1 tbsp


Heat the oil and tip in the cumin seeds. Add the slit green chillies once the cumin seeds crackle. Immediately add the sliced onions as well and stir fry till they get slightly pinkish.

Add the turmeric powder and mix well, add all the sliced turai and mix well again while the veggies wilt a little bit.

Add the salt and cook covered till the turai wilts completely and leaves it's juices. Add the cubed paneer and mix well. Let the curry cook on high flame without the lid for a while till the extra liquid evaporates.

Serve as required. This curry has a sweetness to it due to the onions and the natural taste of the sponge gourd. You can add a little more green chillies than you normally have and even a little chopped ginger if you wish. Some tomatoes also make sense if you want the flavours a bit hot and sour type. This recipe makes the curry a little on the sweeter side with just a mild hit of chilly heat which we have grown up eating in the Eastern UP homes.