Monday, September 22, 2014

everyday subzi : lobiya wala keema with shrimp paste

Some curries are experimental but become a favourite from the first time they are cooked. This lobiya wala keema is one of those recipes that I cooked on a whim one day and have repeated a few times already. I do cook keema curry with added vegetables quite a lot and many keema recipes on this blog would not disappoint you in this regard but this time I wanted to get some extra flavours and I did a trick.

I added some shrimp paste (home made) to this curry and it took this keema and lobiya curry to another level altogether. I am waiting when to repeat more curries with keema and some or the other vegetables. Of course with added shrimp paste :-)

I make my own shrimp paste and have cooked it earlier with long beans. A freshly made shrimp paste recipe (sambal belacan) is there on the healthfood blog. This time I just made a paste with ginger and garlic and used the whole paste in this curry. I know I will be repeating this way of using dry shrimps for sure.

(4 servings with rotis and raita)

chopped lobiya (in 1 cm bits) 250 gm
finely chopped onions 100 gm
mutton keema (mince) 200 gm
fresh tomato paste 100 gm (3/4 cup)
chopped ginger 2 tsp
chopped garlic 2 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp or to taste
everyday curry powder 1 tbsp
special garam masala powder 1/2 tsp
(or a powder of cinnamon, green and black cardamoms and cloves)
dry shrimps 1 tbsp
salt to taste
mustard oil 1-2 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
tejpatta 2

procedure (takes about 40 minutes total)

Make a paste of garlic, ginger and shrimp and keep aside.

Heat oil in a deep thick base kadhai and tip in the cumin seeds and tejpatta. Add the chopped onions and fry till pinkish brown.

Now add the shrimp paste and the chopped lobiya both. Add salt and powdered spices as well and keep stirring to mix well as the mixture cooks and gets aromatic. It takes about 5-7 minutes.

Now add the keema and keep stirring to break the keema and cook till it starts releasing fat.

Add the fresh tomato paste and cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring all the while.

Now add a cup of water and cover the kadhai. Let the curry simmer on low flame for about 25 minutes. Serve hot.

There is no need to garnish this curry with any herbs as the aroma of shrimp paste cooked with the spicy gravy id really something you wouldn't want to mask. But add a few springs of coriander greens if you like. Some chopped green chillies and minced or julienne ginger will be good if you want the curry to be hot, especially if you are having it with khameeri roti.

The flavours are very meaty, very rich umami hints and the lobiya somehow seems to add to the flavours too. I think I would like this keema curry with cauliflower and may be with cabbage as well. I have more dry shrimps as I had ordered loads of ti from Anjali Koli of Annaparabramha. And I intend to use it well.

Let me try and let you know. Or you try and tell me what way you liked it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

tasting temple cuisine at Masala Art, Taj Palace and a recipe of jaggery-ginger-tulsi lemonade, the gur ki shikanji

I had the best ganne ka ras recently and it was redolent with flavours of tulsi (holy Basil) and a bit of ginger. Thick pure sugarcane juice is a rare thing to come by and I took another helping at Masala Art, Taj Palace Hotel when I was there to taste their menu around Temple cuisines of India. Nothing can be better than ganne ka ras I though, I could skip having any temple food for this.

But then this tulsi infused water was more fun and I needed it. I had a throat infection and was anyway having a lot of ginger and tulsi infusion at home. Cold water with tulsi felt nice and comforting.

I loved the way they made us wash our hands in a brass urli. Purity while eating is after all a temple ritual.

And then my thali arrived that was a Bengali pujo thali, having all items of bhog in it. I dogged into the khichdi first, just couldn't resist as I have been missing the puja khichdi since my days in Dhanbad. And the khichdi took me back to the pujo days. Exactly the same taste with lightly fired cauliflower florets added in the cooked khichdi.

I liked everything else in this Bengali thali, the shukto, the chorchori, the potoler dalna and chholar daal. The slice of gondhoraj lebu not to be missed. Kheer was good if not excellent. I have had better bong kheer.

They have introduced Temple bhog thalis from all 4 corners of India and I tasted bits form the south Indian thali, the Western thali (Gujrati) and the Punjabi thali. I loved the Gujrati khichdi too and not just for my love of all things khichdi but it was really well done. I wouldn't care for the meethi kadhi or khatte mithe alu but the sukhdi in Guju thali was superb.

I tasted a few things from the south Indian thali too. Loved the rasam but sundal and pulihora was dull, a bit too dry for my taste.

Here is the Punjabi thali which had the chhole, daal makhni, tari wale alu etc and everything was done right. Chhole a bit too tart but it is a personal choice. What I loved the most was atte ka halwa that was made just like home.

 I have never tasted such good atte ka halwa apart from my own home. Kudos to the team to attempt this atte ka halwa for a menu, it is not easy to pull off.

Masala art will be doing this Temple cuisine thali every Navratra and one can enjoy these traditional meals without onion and garlic twice a year. They serve bengali kosha mangsho, bhetki paturi, chingri malai curry etc as well in their seafod thali and nonveg thali during Navratras. Bengalis eat all kinds of foods outside the puja pandal so it makes sense.

And then I was back home after a generous dose of temple cuisine into my system. I had eaten so much I skipped the dinner that day and breakfast the next day. But when I got hungry, I wanted ganne ka ras.

The closest I could do is gur ki shikanji and that is what I did.

Here is how to do it.

Boil 1 tbsp of grated fresh ginger root and a handful of tulsi leaves in a liter of water. Turn off the gas as soon as the water boils. Cover and let it cool. Strain the infusion when cold.

Add 3 tbsp of fresh lime juice and 2 tbsp of natural unbleached sugar or grated jaggery to the infusion and dissolve well.

Serve with or without ice cubes. I still had a mild throat infection so enjoyed the gur ki shikanji at room temperature.

You can even have this infusion warm if you want to have it in winters. Gur ki shikanji would be a nice adrak tulsi ki chai in that case.

Friday, September 19, 2014

everyday subzi: making lauki ki muthia and using it in many ways

Muthia is a steamed dumpling made with grated vegetables and chickpea flour which is made into a dough and then rolled into sausage shaped 'muthia' before placing them on the steamer. The traditional muthia is made by pressing a portion of dough inside the fist (muthhi) hence the name muthia. It is a Gujrati tradition but popular all over India in some or the other form. Muthias get steamed quickly and can be cut into small pieces and served along with some green chutney.

Or the cut pieces of muthia can be shallow fried along with some tempering to be served as a tea time snack.

Lauki ki muthia is an easy way to make the meals filling and nourishing. Since we use besan (chickpea flour) to bind the muthias it makes a gluten free meal too. Please note that the recipe is easy and takes just about 20 minutes if you are making muthias for 3-4 people. And these steamed muthias can be refrigerated and used later to make tea time snacks or even kofta curries.

If you get the lauki (bottle gourd) grated in a food processor or get it done by the maid (we are spoiled in India :-)), the procedure will be even more quick.


grated lauki 2 cups (about 400 gm)
besan or chickpea flour 3/4-1 cup or a bit more
ginger paste 1 tsp
garlic paste 1/2 tsp
cumin powder 1 tsp
ajwain seeds 1 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
green chillies minced 1 tsp or more
salt and pepper to taste
oil or ghee to smear the plate and hands while working with the dough


Mix all the dry ingredients with the grated lauki and massage them together so the water from lauki helps make it a dough. You might need to add a little more besan or little more lauki depending on how fresh and tender the lauki is. I recommend the freshest lauki you can find. See how to choose the right tender bottle gourd.

Now grease a ceramic or pyrex dish and your hands too. Pinch portions of the dough and shape them like 2 cm thick sausages or press portion in your fist to shape them like traditional muthias. Arrange all such sausages (or muthias) on the greased dish.

 Now cover the dish with cling wrap loosely. Leaving some space for the steam to escape. Make cuts in the cling wrap otherwise.

You can cover the plate with a dome shaped plastic lid meant for microwave and steam it for 5 minutes too. With the cling wrap too it takes the same time.

The muthias get cooked as steam condenses on the cling wrap. Peel off the cling wrap and use the muthias as required. These can be enjoyed right away with green chutney or with any sauce or salsa you like.

These can be steamed over the gas stove too. See this post about another steamed dumplings to get an idea how a simple contraption can be used to steam these.

Once cooled, the muthias get firm and can be shallow fried along with mustard seeds, hing and some sesame seeds for crunch. Sprinkle some amchoor powder or lime juice and have these with some warm salad for a meal. Here I served it with a beans and carrot poriyal and pickled cucumbers.

We sometimes use these muthias to make kofta style curries too. Just deep fry or shallow fry these muthias and curry them with a north Indian style bhuna masala.

I normally shallow fry these muthias cut into one inch long pieces, and pressure cook them along with some bhuna masala and water. Add enough water to the muthia as they soak up a lot of water and double in size when cooked into a curry.

Refrigerated (2-3 day old) muthias behave well in pressure cooker as they get firm and do not break. You can cook this curry in an open pan if using freshly made muthias.

This lauki muthia kofta curry tastes great with roti, paratha or plain boiled rice but you can always make the curry light and thin and have it as a one pot meal as I do sometimes.

We love this kind of kofta curries better than the fried round koftas (like this kele ka kofta). This muthia kind of kofta works better for lauki and is healthier as well. I don't remember if I have cooked a traditional lauki ka kofta ever in my life. But I love besan dumpling curries so this lauki muthia kofta style curry is one of the favourites. The taste and texture is quite different and so is the health quotient of this curry.

Let me know whenever you try making muthias this way in the microwave. It will be the easiest healthy snack to munch on and some spicy curry can be whipped up in a jiffy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

everyday subzi: mungodi wali lauki or bottle gourd curry with mung fritters

Mungodi wali lauki is another simple curry that can be cooked for everyday meals. I have been posting a lot of everyday curry recipes lately, and that is because I have been getting loads of requests for simple home style curries that one eats everyday. And to tell you the truth, I have been getting reminded of so many favourites I have tasted in my life so far. Some of them I learnt from my mother, some from my grandmother, some from friends but this one I learnt from my MIL. She used to cook mungodi wali lauki quite often but she would always use dry store bought mungodis for convenience.
mungodi wali lauki

Later I tasted a mungodi subzi (without lauki) cooked by a friend and tried adding those freshly made mungodis to the plain lauki subzi and the result made me so happy. I keep going back to this subzi because I eat lauki a lot and I need variation every day. There will be more and more lauki recipes on this blog very soon, now that I have been posting every day curries with a new zest.This mungodi wali lauki is a jain recipe because no onion or garlic is used. You can fry the mung daal fritters in a large batch and keep them frozen to be used again to make a quick mungodi wali lauki or a mungodi wal kadhi too.    

Recipe of mungodi...

Soak a cup of mung daal in enough water for 4 hours. Drain and make a paste along with 1 tsp cumin seeds. Do not add water while making a paste. 

Heat oil for deep frying. Drop small spoonfuls of mung paste into hot oil and fry on medium heat so the mungodis cook thoroughly. Drain on kitchen tissue and keep aside.

Recipe of mungodi wali lauki..


lauki peeled and cut into large cubes 300-400 gm
about 2 dozen small mungodis or as many you want
cumin seeds 1 tsp
chopped green chillies 1 tsp
minced ginger 1 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
ghee or mustard oil 1 tsp
salt to taste


Heat oil or ghee in a pan or pressure cooker. Note that the freshly fired mungodis behave well in an open pan but the frozen ones would need to be pressure cooked or cooked for a bit longer if cooking in a pan.

Tip in cumin seeds and ginger and green chillies and quickly add the turmeric powder and cubed lauki. Toss and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes tossing all the while.

Now add the salt, the mungodis and a cup of water for each dozen of mungodis. They soak up a lot of water and get doubled in size. Cover and pressure cook till the first whistle blows. Let the cooker cool down on it's own and serve hot with or without a garnish of green coriander leaves.

mungodi wali lauki

I can polish off this curry as it is. The mungodis make this subzi a filling meal.

Note : These mungodis do not soak up oil while frying but you need to be careful to keep the mung paste thick and make the fritters uniformly smooth all over. Loose paste (batter) or uneven surface of the fritters allow them to soak up oil and make them heavy.

the new Al Karam at Satya Niketan : whipping up old Delhi food with a new fervor

Food from the streets of Old Delhi is not just food in the physical sense. It is a tradition that has lived on and evolved over generations. It is the root stock for the modern fusion cuisine, infusing flavours into new techniques of cooking and new ingredients may be. But the old school cooks of old Delhi still cook their food the traditional way, the spices are milled and ground and the meat is cut and pounded exactly the way it was done a century ago, or even before.

You would feel the honesty in the food once you take a bite. And that happens when you eat at Al Karam. The original Al Karam is located in the Matia Mahal street but somehow it couldn't catch up with the magnanimous popularity of it's neighbors Karim's and Al-Jawahar. Al Karam got a new lease of life when a young restaurateur gave them a chance to showcase their food at Gurgaon (DLF phase 4 market) and now at Satya Niketan market too. The food and portions at the Satya Niketan market is made to suit young students and families both. They have two separate menus for students and others. I found the newly opened Al Karam at Satya Niketan quite basic yet peppy in it's energy.

They have introduced a few exotic dishes like roast Quail and Emu but the cooking methods are traditional.

While the food is heavy and rich, you don't feel too stuffed if you keep your portions under control. The gilafi kabab was as good as we had tasted last time. These foods keep calling you back to them.

We loved this Quail roast so much not just for the taste but for how it looks. That tiny little bird swimming in a butter rich sauce. This is the first time I 'liked' quail by the way.

This Butter cream chicken was good. I was reminded of how we have seen people almost drowning in huge bowls of this butter cream laden chicken in Matia Mahal, all polished off with roomali roti. This one was a close imitation of the original, I think the curd used was a little bit too sour. I am sure they would have taken care of it by now.

This Hakeemi chicken was something I was tasting for the first time and it was good. With hints of fenugreek and ginger, the creamy gravy is laden with nut paste as well. Quite a balanced bouquet of flavours.

 Umm...and the haleem is so yummy too. We are planning to get haleem packed from there sometime soon. We have had better haleem than this but Al Karam haleem is quite good on it's own too, robust and yet light.

Robustness you have to see in the buff nihari they serve. I think they serve mutton nihari mostly and the buff nihari is served on request. We loved every bit of it although we have had better nihari with marrow thrown into it in the streets of Nizamuddin.

The best thing we tasted was the roasted duck. This is something I would call the signature dish of Al Karam Satya Niketan. Very well cooked moist pieces of duck, charred well and the spice coating is so well balanced too.

This is one of those dishes I would be reminded of whenever I would dig into some duck. Did I tell you I don't normally like duck much :-)

Doused in old traditions the dusk gets a new makeover. Although the makeover could not do much to Emu meat. I wouldn't eat emu meat again, too tough and doesn't take the flavours well. Useless meat. Do you think I will change my opinion on Emu meat?

I still have a lot of favourites at Al Karam. Will keep getting take-aways from there. Honestly good food at affordable prices I must add.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

pyaz ka raita aur arbi ki sookhi subzi | onion yogurt raita and colocasia curry with coriander greens

Pyaz ka raita used to be a favourite in our childhood days. I am not joking. I know many people whose most favourite raita would be boondi ka raita and most Banaras families made the best boondi ka raita I have ever tasted anywhere else. That boondi ka raita used to be a little sweet and sour and a very little hot. Raita is considered the digestive condiment served with the first course of meals and more serving are had till the end of the meal. For some people using any vegetables in a raita is blasphemy but I somehow always loved the ones with vegetables in some form or the other.

This pyaz ka raita used to be different from all the other raitas that were made at home. This was the one where the dahi (home made yogurt) will be thinned down a little bit and the raita would be a little runny. All the other raitas will be thick and creamy but not pyaz ka raita. And this was the only raita where the vegetable (onion in this case) would be fried till pinkish brown and then mixed with thinned yogurt. Other vegetables were just grated and added raw to the raita (like cucumber, carrots, radish etc) or were cooked or steamed (spinach, bathua, grated lauki etc) and then added to the raita.

Now you know this raita used to be a little different in all aspects. The roughly chopped onions will be shallow fried in mustard oil with a few tempering ingredients and the extra oil would always float on the raita. Now I make it low oil but my mom's version still has a layer of oil floating on the surface.

(2-3 servings)
roughly chopped red onions 3/4 cup
scissor cut dry red chillies 2 or to taste
hing (asafotida) 1 pinch
cumin seeds 1 tsp
chopped curry leaves 1 tbsp or more
mustard oil or any oil you want 2 tsp
salt to taste
black pepper powder to taste
yogurt 1 cup
water 3/4 cup


Heat mustard oil in a pan and tip in the hing and cumin seeds and let them splutter. Now add the cut red chillies, chopped curry leaves and then the onions. Add slat and fry the onions on low flame till they get pinkish brown.

Let the mixture cool down. Then whisk the yogurt and water together and add the fried onion mix to it. Add pepper powder and mix well. Serve at room temperature.

This pyaz ka raita used to be always accompanied with some sookhi subzi. We used to eat a lot of parwal ki bhujia, kachhe kele ki subzi, arbi ki sookhi subzi or beans cabbage or cauliflowers cooked with minimal spices.

This arbi ki sookhi subzi is cooked with loads of green coriander leaves and some dhaniya-jeera powder or all blended into a paste together. I like the later version for its convenience and better aromas.

ingredients of arbi ki sooki subzi
(3 servings)

boiled and peeled arbi (colocasia or taro roots) 250 gm
chopped coriander greens with stems 1.5 cups
coriander seeds 2 tsp
cumin seeds 2 tsp
green chillies 2-3
chopped ginger 1 tsp
chopped garlic 1 tsp
turmeric powder
mustard oil 1 tbsp
salt to taste
lime juice 2 tsp


Chop the arbi in roundels. Keep aside.

Blend together all the whole spices and chopped ginger garlic and green coriander leaves. Make a coarse paste. Keep aside.

Heat the oil in a thick base kadhai and tip in the hing and wait for a couple seconds to infuse the hing in oil. Add the green paste and fry till it gets aromatic.

Add the arbi roundels and fry well, occasionally turning them. The arbi should absorb the flavours of the green spice paste.

Add lime juice and mix well. Serve hot or on room temperature. This sookhi subzi is a good option for lunch boxes too.

We enjoyed this meal with multi grain kasoori methi parathas. This was a lavish (read heavy) Sunday brunch one day. We normally have only this kind of meals on Sundays and a very light early dinner.

The arbi ki sookhi subzi makes the whole meal for me sometimes. I love it sometimes if not always.