Sunday, December 21, 2014

gogji mutton | a simple stew with turnips and mutton cooked the Kashmiri way

I don't know if a true blue Kashmiri would approve of this stew but for me this Gogji Mutton curry speaks of winters. This simple stew is so good for a winter dinner, so warming that you would feel blessed if you get good turnips in your part of the world just for this mutton stew if not the vegetarian version called Gogji Nadir. I have adapted this gogji nadir according to my taste but I am sure the soul of the stew is not compromised with.

I have been cooking this gogji mutton for a couple of years and have learnt a trick to make the thin soupy gravy look almost milky in appearance and pack a punch of flavours that feels impossible with just three ingredients. Yes, apart from the mutton, there are only three ingredients that make the flavours so comforting. Mustard oil, green chillies of the thick skin variety (bajji chillies of Bangalore or Rajasthani pakoda chillies) and turnips. These three ingredients create magic in this stew trust me.

It so happens that I always cook this stew for dinners and once it is ready we both can't wait too much to be able to click decent pictures to be shared on the blog. But this time I sneaked a couple of pictures while cooking and one picture of the plate that I served for myself. The pictures are still bad but I wanted you all to create this simple Kashmiri stew this winter if you have not tasted it already.

Note how this recipe helps make an almost milky soupy gravy in this stew. The instructions typed in bold letters are the pointers. But don't worry even if the gravy looks watery, as the taste will not be affected much even in that case.

(2-3 servings, depending on what is served with it)

mutton on bone (curry cut) 200-250 gm
fresh turnips 250 gm
fat variety green chillies (Anahiem or any mild hot chillies) 3-5
mustard oil 1 tbsp
salt to taste
water 1.5 L


Add the mutton and a little salt to the water in a deep stock pot (or handi) and cook on medium flame for an hour or till the mutton is almost done. Or pressure cook the mutton with a litle salt with 1 L of water.

Remove the stalks, clean and chop the turnips in irregular shaped thick slices. Try and not peel the turnips as some of the flavour will be lost if you do so. Chop the chillies in 1 inch long pieces and keep aside.

When the mutton is almost done, heat mustrad oil in a deep pan till smoking point. Now add the chopped chillies and turnips all at once and toss and stir fry till a few blisters appear on the chillies and the turnips look glazed and blemished.

This is the time the cooked mutton along with the hot stock will be poured right into the hot cooking turnips. By adding the hot mutton stock into the already sizzling turnips and chillies will make the stock look milky within seconds. Now check and adjust seasoning and simmer till the turnips are fully don, soft and disintegrate when pressed.

Serve hot with plain boiled rice. Some plain home made yogurt or raita works with it but we don't care about it when we need a hot stew in our hands, preferably served in bowls.

Less rice and more of this stew is my idea of a great home cooked meal on winter nights. Meals that we cook while watching TV and the home smells of a good stew being slow cooked in the kitchen. This stew is so aromatic that the neighbors can often get to know what is cooking, that too with such humble ingredients and not a single spice used. Simplicity brings the best from some foods. Gogji mutton is one of best example of such foods.

Hope you would try this recipe if it is not a family favourite already. There are more recipes of turnips cooked with mutton in the Mughlai way and that has it's own charm, suited for a different kind of meal but gogji mutton will always be my all time favourite light mutton stews.

Shiv Sagar comes to Delhi : our experience of the street food served in a chic ambiance

Shiv Sagar from Bombay is here in Delhi and that too just a 15 minutes drive from home. When we decided to go there for a dinner early this week Arvind was not too keen saying it is a vegetarian place but I was sure that he would like the food there. Being born and brought up in Banaras he is the one who would walk an extra mile for a good kachori or golgappa I know.

The first thing we tried at Shiv Sagar was a Sev Puri that he loved. The juice tasters that come in test tubes was a great idea, fresh juices of mosambi (Sweet Lime), Orange, Pineapple and Watermelon can be ordered from the 'live juice bar' and they also have a few juice based mocktails called Ganga Jamuna and Maramari. One can decide after tasting and according to the mood of the day.

Our mood for good food was set already.

We had great expectations when the Vada Pao came to our table with all it's accompaniments of red lasun chutney and fried green chilly etc but the real test is in the pao (the bun) and the potato bonda inside. I found the Vada pao good on both counts but I have had better Vada Pao on the streets of Bombay so may be some friends from Bombay wouldn't find it good enough.

I loved the Pao Bhaji a lot more, the Pao not too soaked in butter and the Bhaji buttery in texture but not floating in butter, the spicing perfect for me. I found the quality of he Bombay Pao perfect and asked Varun Puri whose team has brought Shiv Sagar to Delhi, he informed that the Pao is in fact brought in from Bombay twice a day for the sake of authenticity. I find this kind of commitment towards delivering authenticity really commendable.

I talked to the Executive Chef Harish Joshi as well and was charmed by his smile that spreads across his face when he talks. Such a happy Chef can never go wrong in bringing great food for the guests.

The Bhel mixture was also good, something that Arvind likes for his evening snack many a times but this one had a Bombay feel to it.

The Bombay Sandwiches were made perfectly too. Sprinkled generously with the thin sev that stay crunchy even inside the sandwich and perfectly grilled bread. Mind that this is coming from someone who is not too find of sandwiches. I took a few bites as we wanted to taste more of the stuff on the menu, the sandwich kept calling me back that I had to ignore with all my will. Good stuff.

I was surprised to see a Delhi special Bedmi Alu on the menu, it looked like a crisp ball with 3 small bowls of brown subzi but I was not prepared for the taste it brought. This is a must try at Shiv Sagar because they have created a very very good Methi ki chutney to go along with the alu subzi that transforms this Bedmi poori from an average to extraordinary. Pour some methi chutney over the alu subzi and dunk a bite of Bedmi into it, this bite would make you feel so good about methi being on your plate. Very crisp bedmi poori is a very good scooping tool for the goodness in those bowls.

While the Pao Bhaji, Vada Pao and Bhel took us to the streets of Bombay, this Bedmi alu brought us back right into the streets of old Delhi.

They have a spread of Indo-Chinese street food as well. The Chilly Idli and Triple Sichuan fried rice we tasted were quite addictive. I better not talk about foodie addictions, I mean this Sichuan fried rice has a base of Manchurian balls, a layer of fried crisp noodles and then fried rice over that creating a medley if taste and textures that is hard to resist.

There was one more thing that felt like old Delhi and that was this Paan kulfi. With a whole paan inside, I finished this kulfi all by myself though I am known for disliking desserts. This kulfi feels like a paan and yet gives all the pleasures of a kulfi.

 I found it better than the famed Kuremal kulfi to be honest. Talking about it, I am craving for this Paan Kulfi on a December midnight. Imagine.

I would be going back to Shiv Sagar for the Bedmi, for the Kulfi, for the Pao Bhaji and for the Chilly idli too may be. Arvind has his choices too, he loved the Triple Sichuan fried rice, the Bhel and pretty much everything we tasted that day. I know he would be frequenting Shiv Sagar quite often now. My gut feeling was right, he wouldn't ever be disappointed with good street food and will forge his love for nonveg for a while whenever it happens.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shahjahanabad ki sair ; a food festival of old Delhi's cuisine at Ssense, The Surya Hotel

It is always a privilege to be talking to someone who has raised foodie kids. That means you are talking to someone who has been foodie as a kid and has imbibed a lot of flavours since childhood, has adapted old cooking techniques with new ingredients and also has infused flavours of the past into the present day food. Albeit with a little complaint about the quality of meat and fish and everything else that we get in today's world, they whip up magic in their food day after day. Keeping a bit of history alive through food and flavours.

We met Mrs. Nazish Jalali the day before and was completely floored by the way she told stories of her childhood spent in the royal state of Rampur where she got to taste and replicate food cooked in the erstwhile royal kitchens. Brought those recipes to her marital home and learnt Old Delhi food here in the tutelage of her mother-in-law. She loves sharing these stories with whoever is interested in them.

Her son Osama Jalali, is a well known food critique and is compiling recipes of Rampur into a book these days, trying to revive the dying art of cooking slowly with love and real spices, treating the spices the way they are intended for the season. He talks elaborately about the meat cuts to be used in a particular kabab or curry and what would be the test of a wrong cut being used in kachhe gosht ka kabab etc and his mother chips in the with the little story about how he was enamored by a live tandoor in a family wedding and has been photographed peeping inside the tandoor, all at a ripe age of four. Yes, barely walking and smitten by food and it's making, that is Osama for you.

This 'Shahjahanabad ki sair' is a food festival on the lines of a pop up event where Osama and Nazish, the mother-son duo have curated the menu and have been cooking everyday along with the hotel staff to bring the accurate flavours of home cooked food from Old Delhi. Delhi in older times was known as Shahjahanabad and we did take a walk through the lanes hearing stories of a 24 hr clinic of Osama's father and how all the khansamas of old Delhi were his patients and often the gratitude used to come in the form of Korma or Nihari.

The first question I asked the Jalalis was about the difference between the street food of old Delhi served famously at Karim's and Al Jawahar and the home cooked food in the same lanes of the city. Pat came the reply clearing all my doubts. The street food was meant for the worker class that slogged hard during the day and needed a robust rich meal to nourish themselves. The worker class had little time and resources to cook for themselves and had almost no finesse to appreciate delicate flavours and light cooking. They relished the hot spicy and robust curries slow cooked by these khandani khansamas and found good nourishment too. That doesn't mean that the old Delhi street food is any less in it's popularity, we have been going there to relish the robust richness quite often ourselves.

On the other hand home cooked food has always been lighter and a delicate blend of spices differentiates it from the food we find on the streets. Many of these meat curries are cooked with vegetables and those Bhidi Gosht, Arbi Gosht, Lauki Gosht, Shalgam Gosht etc we wouldn't find anywhere in the old Delhi shops.

The vegetables cooked in old Delhi homes would never be served on the street shops. This Parval ki subzi was so good I ate it like a salad. Tomato infused masala with mild spices and the parval cooked just right.

We got to taste this Alu Gosht that was so good it felt like potatoes were born to fall for this slow cooked meat curry. We had very small portions to taste because we had to taste a lot of food, else I would have loved this curry on it's own as a full meal.

But before that we had a taste of the Kabab platter that had chicken and mutton seekh along with a Kachhe Gosht ka Kabab that was a class apart. Made using 'raan ka gosht' (meat from the thighs) this kabab was all meat infused with cardamoms and light garam masala. The seekhs also had prominent notes of Badi elaichi but very balanced spicing.

Then came the Nihari that was enriched with the bone marrow from goat shank and we could taste the richness imparted by the marrow. Nazish starts cooking Nihari first thing in the morning and slow cooks this meat for 6-7 hours so that you get the gelatinous gravy and melt in the mouth meat.

We loved the Mutton Korma and the Hari mirch ka Keema which is richly infused with the chilly flavours of the thick skinned fat chillies from Rajasthan but you wouldn't find any chilly heat in it. It was quite different from the Lasun Mirch wala keema that I cook.

Biryani was well done with meat cooked to perfection and the grains of rice infused with the flavours of meat and spices, just as it should be. The Biryani in old Delhi is served with a red chilly chutney that I liked a lot, even after being partial to Awadhi Biryanis cooked with basmati rice.

Desserts were Zarda and Sewaiyyan. Both done well though I don't eat desserts much.

We all had a paan and enjoyed it to the last bit. This was one shahi dawat that felt like being served in a cozy private dining room in heirloom 'tin plated' copper ware, even water being poured out of antique jugs. See how I am chewing pan even in the picture we got clicked to call it a day.

More than the momentary pleasure of the sensory faculties, this dawat was an education that will be with us forever. Thanks to Osama and Nazish Jalali for hosting us and treating us with the stories to remember.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

orange rasgulla recipe | traditional rasgulla soaked in fresh orange juice, served with orange slices

I don't eat much desserts but rasgulla and rasmalai is one of my favourites among Indian sweets. And like other desserts of my choice I like them really mildly sweet. That is the reason I prefer making them at home because no known source of rasgulla or any other mithai for that matter, makes them mildly sweet. Homemade rasgulla can be made as much sweet as you want and mine are always floating in a very watery syrup. But this Orange rasgulla is something more than just being mildly sweet and to be without any added sugar in the recipe. The only sugar this orange rasgulla has comes from the oranges and the orange juice used instead of sugar syrup in this recipe.

I know a particular rasgulla shop around the lanes of assi ghat in Banaras who used to make 'orange flavoured  rasgullas' fresh everyday. The quality of the rasgulla was very good owing to the freshness and of course the skill level of the halwai, but those rasgullas were too sweet for me and they had orange essence and orange colour in it. I tasted them only twice and decided I would make better real orange rasgullas at home. This was about 15 years ago and what I did at that time was to just make the regular homemade rasgulla, squeezed all syrup from each one of them and soaked them in fresh orange juice. The idea was good but it could be improved and I did improve when I experimented later, and the orange rasgulla made it's way to our table a few times after that. Always when we had someone visiting or for a formal get together. Otherwise we rarely eat any mithais.

One of these get togethers we did last year and cooked Awadhi food including shami kababs, awadhi biryani, safaid korma and a few more things for main course, I made these orange rasgullas for dessert. Luckily I clicked a few pictures too but then got busy with something and forgot to share it here on the blog.

And then I had a food trail of Delhi with Chef Johnny Iuzzini some time ago and he tasted rasgulla and addressed it as 'the sponge whose syrup is squeezed out'. That was a familiar but funny description of a rasgulla to hear as I know many people who squeeze out even the last drop of syrup form the rasgulla and eat the dry sponge. Oh even I do that but soak them again in plain whole milk with some cream and then eat it. Yes I am picky like that :-)

This incident reminded me of the best rasgulla I like and I decided to share it with you all. Although you may make the rasgulla the normal way and then squeeze and dip them in orange juice, but cooking them in plain water and some orange zest results in better flavours of orange seeped into the rasgullas. See how to do it.

(for 30 medium sized rasgullas)

2 Liters milk ( I used 3% milk from Amul) the best is to use raw cows milk for the best rasgullas
2 Liters orange juice ( I used cartons of Real)
3-4 fresh oranges to garnish
zest of orange or thin strips cut from the peel 1 tsp or as desired


First of all heat up raw (or pasteurized) milk to just below boiling temperature (around 92C) and curdle the milk by adding diluted white vinegar or lime juice adding half tsp at a time. Wait till the milk splits into the curdled chhenna  and whey and then strain the whey through a strainer. Collect the chhenna and rinse it well under running water.  Squeeze and knead the chhenna well to make a very smooth mass that doesn't crack when rolled into small balls. If the chhenna at this stage is not smooth, do not proceed to make rasgulla, use the chhenna to make paneer bhurji or paneer paratha instead. The trick to make suitable smooth chhenna for rasgulla lies in splitting the milk slowly at a temperature just before boiling.

Detailed procedure of splitting milk for making chhenna suitable for making rasgulla is described in my homemade rasgulla post. Please refer to that if in doubt.

Now take enough water in a wide pan or pressure cooker to accommodate 6-8 rasgullas and bring the water to boil. Take care that the rasgullas expand about 4-5 times of their starting volume so keep room for that too. Add the orange zest and the chhenna balls, cover the lid and cook till the pressure builds up, one whistle.

See I had overcrowded the rasgullas and they have lost thier round shape, but not to worry if this happens. The rasgullas will be fine albeit the shape.

Let it cool by itself and open the lid, take out the expanded rasgullas out, squeeze them one by one and dip in fresh orange juice (or from a carton) kept in a wide bowl.

Note that there was no sugar in the cooking medium and the sponge for these rasgullas were cooked in plain water infused with orange zest. This causes a few cracks on the surface of the rasgulla but it doesn't affect the taste and texture. A fairly saturated sugar syrup doesn't let these cracks appear while cooking but we don't mind a few cracks on rasgullas.

Slice some fresh oranges and dip them along with the orange rasgullas and chill before serving. If you want more concentrated flavours of orange you can reduce the orange juice by cooking it for some time but I don't feel any such compulsion to make the orange juice sweeter or thicker.

This fruity citrus laced rasgulla is something I can have a lot. Arvind can have them for a meal and he loves some shrikhand over them sometimes. I love the was the orange slices look and feel with the rasgullas and eating them both together is the real treat.

I one had rasgullas paired with mishti doi in a Bengali wedding and love that version too. Try some of these variations with rasgulla and let me know which one you like better. I know if you have lived around Odisha or Bengal you must have experienced these delights already. Orange rasgulla is for you to try in any case.

PS : A very dear friend Suranga Date wrote a poetry when she saw these pictures on my fb page. Depicting the pain that the milk went through to make the chhenna and then the rasgulla that meets orange juice to make a delicious smile :-) I feel blessed to share this with you all.

Traumatic sour times,

and parental separations

steeped in

a meeting

of those that remained

curdled but unbowed. 

A gentle hand

recouping them,

and putting them together again,

and a smoothening of life

with a cleansing 

in orange steam,

as they, 


feel relaxed once again.

The signs of struggle

remain visible,

on the face of it,

but the mind 


at the welcome

by the juicy youn

g oranges

inviting them 

into the juice.

Some time later,

quietly enjoying

the seeping in

of a new life,

the orange rasagullas smile.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

chane ki daal paneer wali | split chickpeas cooked with tomatoes and paneer

This chane ki daal with paneer cubes is one of those favourite recipes that make my life easier, meals tastier and keep my eating resolutions in place. All at once trust me. This chane ki daal is made a little thick like chana masala or chhole and suits a lunch box meal really well. Also, this chane ki daal can be served with a variety of Indian breads and rice preparations, can also be had like a one pot meal. Try that if you trust me.

Another chane ki daal masale wali is a UP specialty but this one with paneer is my own take on this healthy lentil.

There are some daal recipes in my repertoire that make my cooking really quick and convenient. These daal recipes are tasty as well as really quick to cook, wholesome flavours that can make a quick meal in itself, can be taken into lunch boxes and can be cooked in a hurry when you have unannounced guests. I depend on these recipes a lot and keep playing with the flavorings a bit according to seasons and available herbs and required spice level. These daal recipes basically do not need a tadka or just a quick 'heeng jeere ka tadka' instead of bhunoeing a whole lot of onion, garlic and ginger paste, masala powders and all that jazz.

Apart from this chane ki daal paneer wali, there is a Bengali recipe of coconut laced chane ki daal, a few versions of sabut mung ki daal and another sabut masoor ki daal that I make quite often. It is a shame the recipe is still not on the blog but let me tell you that these recipes are mostly cooked in such a hurry that there is no time to click pictures and share them with you all. Hoping to make those daals again this winter and click pictures too. Yes I like these daals as a one pot meal in winter season. Especially for dinner.

So this chane ki daal paneer wali is a one step recipe. You just mix the ingredients and pressure cook. The time taken to cook this recipe is just about the time that chane ki daal takes to be pressure cooked and that is about 20 minutes total (for 2-4 servings). Not much chopping, no preparation for tadka and absolutely healthy.

(2 large servings)

to be pressure cooked together...
chane ki daal (rinsed and strained) 1/2 cup
chopped tomatoes 1/2 cup
tejpatta or bay leaves 2
whole black pepper corns 10-12
black cardamom 1
green cardamom 3
cinnamon stick 1 inch piece
cloves 3
red chilly powder 1/2 tsp
1.5 cup water
salt to taste
turmeric powder 1 tsp

to be added after the pressure cooking..
chopped coriander greens 1/4 cup
cubed paneer 1/3 cup or about 60 gm
ghee 1 tsp


Bring everything together in the first list and pressure cook for 10 minutes after the first whistle. This is the time taken for the lentils to get cooked but not too mushy. The time depends on the quantity you are cooking and the size of the pressure cooker as well, so adjust that according to your requirement.

Add the ingredients from the second list to the cooked daal and simmer for 2 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving or serve as required. This daal doesn't reheat too well but you can dilute the daal a little if you have to serve leftovers and it becomes better. It is always better to fish out the whole spices before serving.

This chane ki daal paneer wali is a great way to ensure a protein rich meal but please don't assume that it doesn't contain any carbs. All lentils have enough carbohydrates for us to keep us going. We like this daal with millet rotis, whole wheat parathas and sometimes with plain boiled rice. You can serve this daal with an elaborate meal along with pooris too as I have seen people enjoying this daal with poori a lot. Isn't this chane ki daal a really versatile recipe?

Try adding some chhole masala to it and see how great it tastes with that too. You can add fresh methi (fenugreek) greens to the daal if that is in season or some dill greens if you like the flavours. This chane ki daal tastes good even without any of these herbs but somehow I never make it without a generous handful of aromatic herbs.

Do let me know what would you like it with?