Thursday, October 30, 2014

everyday subzi : achari mushroom alu | mushrooms, baby potatoes and baby onions stir fry in pickling spices

Mushrooms make quick and tasty curries and stir fries, they are easy to clean and chop without any special skills and are available almost throughout the year. These qualities make them a frequent appearance in my kitchen and I feel adding some chopped mushrooms to my omelets, egg scrambles, soupsstir fries and even mushroom sauce to coat a meat dish. The most common use of mushrooms is done in the morning rush hours naturally. Mushrooms with spring onions is another favourite in winter season.

Since I cook a lunch box for Arvind in the morning I often end up cooking a variant of pickled mushroom stir fry that he likes well with his roti or paratha. This achari mushroom with paneer I cook when there is no other protein for the lunch box and the one I am sharing now is cooked when there is some rajma or chhole or chicken mince to go inside the lunch box. He avoids non veg with bones for lunch box for obvious reasons.

This achari mushroom uses slightly different spices and the end result is quite different too. There are actually many versions of achari mushrooms and a few of them use tomatoes and tomato puree in it but I like achari mushrooms a bit dry.

(2-3 servings)
boiled and peeled baby potatoes, halved  6-8
button mushrooms halved or quartered depending on size 200 gm
baby onions peeled, halved or quartered about 12-14

spice powders 
turmeric powder 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1/4 tsp
Kashmiri chilly powder 1 tsp
ginger powder 1/2 tsp
fennel powder 1/2 tsp
asafotida (hing) powder 1 pinch

lime juice 1 tsp mixed with 4 tbsp water
nigella (kalonji) seeds 1/2 tsp
fenugreek (methi) seeds 1/4 tsp
mustard oil 1.5 tbsp
salt to taste


Mix the spice powders in lime juice solution along with salt and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a pan and tip in the fenugreek and nigella seeds and let them get aromatic. Take care not to bur them. Now pour the spice mix into it and stir well. Cook till the oil floats on top, it takes about a minute or so.

Now add the quartered mushrooms and stir fry till they start wilting. Add the halved potatoes and keep tossing till they get coated for 2 minutes. Add the baby onion quarters in the last and cook for 2 minutes more.

Take off heat and garnish with fresh chopped green chillies. This achari mushroom alu tastes good either hot or at room temperature. A good test of any achari dish. It keeps well in the fridge for 2 days if it lasts that long.

I make the use of the 2 most ubiquitous ingredients potatoes and onions in this recipe but mushrooms are also almost always there in my fridge. I have to buy mushrooms whenever I see them fresh and I wait for the season when they will be cheap.

Oh and if you have bought too many packs of mushrooms they don't spoil in the fridge. Mushrooms keep well for a week normally but if I buy them in bulk I simply keep a few packs of them cleaned and spread over a bamboo plate inside the fridge. The mushrooms dehydrate this way and last for about a month or more, these fridge dehydrated mushrooms can be re-hydrated quickly and used for any recipe easily.

I am sure you also love mushrooms and if you are looking for recipes other than matar mushroom or kadhai mushroom, I gave you many options in this post. Do try them and let me know if you like. Mushrooms are good for health.

And if you want to be indulgent with mushrooms you can make mushroom manchurian, the indo-chinese fusion we make with button mushrooms occasionally.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

easy diwali mithai : kaddu ka kalakand or pumpkin kalakand recipe

My Diwali greetings to you all with this easy recipe of pumpkin kalakand. May you find more light, fight darkness successfully and lead others towards light too. Diwali brings that kind of vibes if we are open to it. And there is some mithai, some diyas and candles after a mandatory spring cleaning exercise. The woollies will be out soon and we will soon eat some chooda matar with the fresh tender green peas. Every banarasi starts dreaming of chooda matar breakfasts as soon as there is the first sign of winter.

I have been away for quite a long time, was traveling for the good part of it and then got caught up with pending work that had to be finished on priority. Thank you for writing back to me and let me know you all were missing my posts here. I shall try and write more regularly and bring the food we love. Will come back with storied from Mysore too.

I hope you would like this pumpkin kalakand. Kalakand is a soft cheesecake like dessert with granular solids of lightly curdled milk if I have to describe it, but the good thing is that kalakand can be made with many shortcut methods with very minute difference in the resulting taste and texture. Since the milk is reduced first and curdled lightly in the traditional method of making kalakand the texture is richer with the traditional method. But then we make the recipes suitable for a modern lifestyle, to be able to cook them in lesser time, make them healthier etc etc. and try and replicate the original.

This short cut kalakand recipe that also includes some good fiber and carotenes is very close to the texture of original kalakand with added taste of ripe pumpkin and a hint of nutmeg. I had made an apple kalakand (in microwave) last year and many of my friends and readers had made that at home within a couple of days. And I remember how I kept getting requests regarding how the recipe can be adjusted to stove top method and if one could replace the milk powder with something else.

In the last year I have made that apple kalakand several times both in microwave and a heavy bottomed pan and recently I taught that recipe to the volunteer Chefs at ISKON Mysore as well. Even they wanted an alternate recipe of such an easy and tasty mithai so I decided to work on another kalakand recipe that is fairly easy and takes a little more time than the apple kalakand.

Using grated pumpkin was on my mind for some time and I had to do it. I did two trials and found that precooking the grated pumpkin works better. I microwaved a cup of grated pumpkin for 2 minutes before using it for kalakand and used freshly made paneer for it. Minimal sugar to sweeten it as always.

Total time that this recipe takes would be around 30 minutes of grating pumpkin, making paneer (chhena) and cooking again and about an hour of refrigeration to set the kalakand properly.

(for 16 regular sized kalakand)

grated pumpkin (use the orange fleshed ripe pumpkin) 1 cup packed
whole milk (6%) 1 kilo
fresh cream 3 tbsp
lime juice 2 tbsp diluted with 2 tbsp water
nutmeg powder 1 pinch
sugar to taste. I used 4 tbsp
chopped pistachios to garnish (or any other nuts)


Microwave the grated pumpkin for 2 minutes or cook them till they get limp and soft but not mushy. Keep side.

Heat the milk in a large pot till a thin film of fat starts forming on top. Wait till the point where the milk is just about to boil. Add the lime juice 1 tsp at a time at this point and keep stirring the milk. Stop adding the lime juice as soon as you see curdled milk and clear whey.

Line a strainer with muslin and keep it over another pot to collect whey. Pour the milk into the strainer and let the whey separate (the whey can be used to knead bread dough). Collect the milk solids and crumble it using a potato masher nicely.

Now place this crumbled paneer (or chhena) into a pan along with the half cooked grated pumpkin and sugar and cook for about 5 minutes on medium flame. It would release some water and start drying up. Add the fresh cream and nutmeg powder together and cook till it is all dry but moist.

Empty the contents on a greased tray or plate and flatten the mixture using a flat knife. Make the edges smooth and shape it so you can cut uniform pieces. Or just use a suitable square dish to spread the mix. Sprinkle chopped nuts and press them so they stick well.

Refrigerate this plate for an hour or so. Cut pieces and serve as required. This kalakand stays well in the fridge for 4 days easily. Keep it in an airtight container lined with butter paper.

The texture of this kalakand is crumbly as it should be but it binds well and doesn't break into your hands. If it breaks while lifting it means it needs some more cooking so cook it again and let it dry a bit more and let it set again.

You can add any spices of your choice to this kalakand as pumpkin takes spices really well in desserts. You would be surprised at how well it works with this kalakand. A mild hint of nutmeg and a deep rich taste of pumpkin with taste and texture of a regular kalakand. That's how this pumpkin kalakand tastes.

Make this diwali healthier with home made mithai I must add. We never buy any mithai during festivals as there is a lot of spurious stuff added to them during season of high demand.

Ever wonder how much milk production do we do in the country not to disrupt regular milk supply and still convert the world into a big mithai shop during festivals?