Monday, October 19, 2015

fresh water chestnuts curry for fasting | 2 ways with fresh water chestnuts (singhada or paniphal) | vrat ka khana

water chestnuts or singhade

Fresh raw water chestnuts or Caltrops are in season and thankfully we get them here in the capital too. Apparently Delhi has a lot of 'rainwater' bodies around the city too and the singhada comes from those and from far flung areas as well. We do get a deluge of singhade during this season and we end up buying a couple of kilos every week. The reason for another singhada post just after the Singhade ka achar.

And no, we are not fasting during Navratri though we used to look forward to this fasting season eagerly every year. Times change, no regrets.

We eat a lot of singhade every season. The most common way to eat is this simple stir fry with cumin seeds and lot of freshly milled pepper. This recipe is common in singhada growing areas of Eastern UP and Bihar, as my family learnt it from a family friend who had their own ponds of singhada around Chandouli  in Banaras.

This jeerey wala singhada was more of a tea time snack or an evening snack for everyday and a meal for fasting days. People don't wait for fasting days when singhada is in season. By the way, the same recipe is made with baby potatoes of the new season too, to be served as a snack and that is very different from jeera alu.

jeerey wala singhada

Jeerey wala kachha singhada recipe 

(2 large breakfast servings or 4 snack servings)
650 gm raw tender peeled water chestnuts (1 kilo singhade after peels removed)
1 tbsp ghee
2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tsp or to taste freshly milled pepper (or crush in mortar and pestle)
pink salt (sendha namak) to taste
lime juice if required (we never use it but you may like it)


Halve the water chestnuts so they make bite sized pieces and cook quickly too. Cutting them into halves ensures absorption of the salt better. Note that medium mature singhadas taste great in this stir fry. Very hard and mature ones are suitable for boiled snacks and curries.

Heat the ghee in a deep pan (kadhai) and tip in the cumin seeds. Let them crackle before you dunk in all the peeled and halved singhade. Add salt and stir fry in medium heat for a couple of minutes. Cover and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add the freshly crushed peppercorns, stir and cook some more till the singhada pieces start looking glazed. It is ready once you see the singhada pieces getting glazed with a slight change in colour.

You can add some lime juice or a hint of amchoor powder if you wish.

Serve right away.

Sometimes I add a little chopped coriander greens to it and skip adding pepper.

water chestnuts stir fry

Both the variations are very different from each other because minimal seasoning results in a very fresh flavour that changes even if you change one ingredient.

You can add garlic chives or thyme too if you wish, I generally don't deviate from our traditional seasonings for this one. Though I use singhada from Chinese type stir fries too.

Now coming to a singhade ki subzi which is cooked in a true Banarasi way. During fasting or otherwise too, Banarasis love to cook the curries with milk and khoya when there is a special occasion. This is one of those milky curries that taste so good with kuttu or singhade ki puri that you may want to observe fasting forever. We have it with singhade ki roti mostly.

singhade aur makhane ki subzi

Kachhe singhade aur Makhane ki subzi 
(serves 2-3)

500 gm peeled and halved raw water chestnuts
100 gm or 2 cups of makhane (fox nuts)
2 tbsp khoya (preferably home made khoya)
1 cup milk
1 tbsp everyday curry powder (mix of coriander seeds, cumin, pepper and tejpatta)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (optional, some people don't add this)
pink salt to taste
handful of chopped coriander greens
2 +1 tsp ghee (total 1 tbsp)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds


Heat 2 tsp ghee in a deep pan (medium heat) and tip in all the makhana in it. Keep stirring to roast them evenly. They get roasted in about a couple of minutes and get crisp. Remove from pan and let them cool on a plate.

Heat 1 tsp ghee in the same pan and add the cumin seeds. Add the everyday curry powder , bhuno for a few seconds till it gets aromatic and add the crushed khoya. Bhuno till everything gets mixed well and aroma emanates.

Add the chopped singhade, milk, salt and let all these simmer together for 5 minutes. Add the fried/roasted makhane and simmer again till the makhane shrink in size and get soggy with the gravy. You may want to add a little more milk or water to get a desired consistency. I added some water to get a thinner curry that I like.

Once a thin layer of fat comes on top the curry is ready. Some people deep fry the makhana in ghee and this curry looks totally submerged in ghee and that is tasty too, but we can't afford to have those curries any more at this age and with this almost sedentary lifestyle.

singhade aur makhane ki subzi

This light yet so delicious singhade aur makhane ki subzi is just my type. I often have it as a meal in itself. Try doing that and let me know.

Many people have been pointing at severely polluted water bodies in the periphery of the city where all the sewage goes and more waste is dumped, where they say singhada is grown. But when you think of it, this plant cannot grow in polluted water bodies with so much of rotting organic and chemical waste. Singhada or water chestnuts (Indian) grows in shallow ponds and marshes where water collects after the rainy season.

Of course all water bodies and even soil is polluted but we need not to worry about the water chestnuts coming to us from sewage dumps. This crop needs immaculate and accurate methods of seed saving after the crop is harvested and then the germinated seeds are broadcasted (a method of sowing) in newly filled up shallow water bodies around farming areas after monsoons and in private ponds and lakes too.

Water chestnuts are safe to eat. We should worry more about the synthetic colours in cake frostings and even in some health drinks and fruit juices these days.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

singhade ka achar | pickled water chestnuts in Indian spices

singhade ka achar

Singhade ka achar (pickled water chestnuts) is one of those seasonal pickles that very few people make. In fact pickling was mostly associated with aam ka achar, bhari mirch ka achar or nimbu ka achar more and these pickles were a must have in any Indian kitchen (read north Indian kitchen). But few families (read chatori families) kept pickling seasonal vegetables on the sly and serving such seasonal pickles as a fresh condiment to bring variety and taste to the everyday meals.

All of those gobi matar ka achar, gobhi, shalgam, gajar ka achar, sem ka achar and even alu ka achar made with new potatoes come into this category of seasonal pickles. Many of these pickles are called pani ka achar as no oil is used in making these or very little oil just to bring the spices to life. It will be useful to mention that pani ka achar is more of a mustard based pickle that gets fermented a little in a day or two and tastes very good, apart from being a good probiotic supplement. I will share a few recipe of pani ka achar, this mooli ka achar comes into that category.

This singhade ka achar has the pickling spices used for aam ka achar, the most common and popular pickling spice mix in north India. I made sooran ka achar recently with the same spices and it has been the must have condiment on the table right now. You can pickle any vegetable and even some fruits using these spices, the treatment of the vegetable will differ according to the water content they have.

Indian pickling spices

And singhadas have loads of water in them. The tough skin contains the nut (kernel) inside which is in fact a very soft and watery nut. They start coming to markets in early winter, the season lasts about 6-7 weeks. The water chestnut kernel gets harder and more starchy by November, the hard kernel is preferred more for boiled water chestnuts and curries.

Some people like this achar made with softer (tender) water chestnuts while some like it with the hard ones. I prefer the soft singhada for achar.

water chestnuts

Singhade ka achar is a fresh pickle that is meant to be consumed in maximum 2 weeks. It can be preserved for longer duration but the fresh taste will be lost after a month or so and the specialty of this pickle will be lost.

Each water chestnut is peeled in a specific way so as to keep the soft parts of the skin on and to remove the hard horns, also to remove the tip from both ends to allow the pickling spices to seep in.

The picture below would give you an idea about how to peel the water chestnuts to make the achar.

singhade ka achar recipe

(to fill up a 500 ml jar)

500 gm water chestnuts (singhada)
15-20 gm salt (keep it lesser if you want to eat more singhade ka achar for every meal)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp yellow mustard powder
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds (sounf)
2 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
1 tsp omum (ajwain)
1 tsp nigela (mangrail or kalonji or kalo jeere)
pinch of good quality asafoetida (hing)
2 tsp red chilli powder or to taste
2 tbsp mustard oil


Rinse and clean the water chestnuts nicely. Drain. No need to sun dry.

Peel the water chestnuts, they look like this after partial peeling. Alternately, you can just remove the thorns and cut the water chestnuts in 2 halves lengthwise.

singhade ka achar recipe

Boil enough water in a deep pan to submerge all the water chestnuts. Add a little salt (1 tsp per liter) and tip in the water chestnuts in boiling water at once. Wait for 2 minutes and drain the hot water, retain the water chestnuts in a colander.

Add the salt and turmeric powder to the water chestnuts and toss to mix. Now add the mustard powder too, toss and keep aside. Start preparing for the other spices.

Heat mustard oil in a pan, add the asafoetida, fenugreek seeds and nigela seeds one by one, waiting a few seconds before one spices starts sizzling. Then add the fennel and omum (ajwain) together and remove the pan from stove.

Mix well, add the red chilli powder and pour the spice mix over the water chestnuts seeped into salt, turmeric and mustard powder. Mix well to coat them all and fill in a sterile glass jar. The pickle will be ready to eat in 2-3 hours.

Refrigerate after about 4 hours. This pickle keeps well refrigerated for 2-3 weeks. At room temperature it lasts for a couple of days, adding more salt and mustard oil can make it stable at room temperature.

singhade ka achar recipe

The water chestnuts release a lot of water by the next day, shake well before serving. You can add boiled and cooled baby potatoes to this pickle to make a nice variation after 3-4 days when there is enough watery liquid in it to soak up the potatoes.

The kernel of the water chestnuts remain whitish but take up the flavours of the spices very well.

singhade ka achar recipe

You would love singhade ka achar I am sure and will keep making it once you get the taste. It is as easy as making a subzi and can be served as a side dish during singhada season. Tastes great with parathas and daal chawal, tahiris and khichdi etc.

There a loads of singhada recipes on this blog. Check out the singhade ke atte ki roti if you haven't seen already. Singhade ke atte ki roti is a fasting bead recipe you might like to try this Navratri.

Monday, October 5, 2015

doli ki roti | a deep fried flat bread from Multan that uses spiced sourdough | some traditions should live on ...

A dear reader of this blog had requested the recipe of Doli ki roti long back and I had been planning to post the recipe since then. I made doli ki roti a few times since then but could not click pictures as it was either made for dinner or for a gathering where serving the roti hot out of the pan is priority and clicking pictures doesn't come in the way.

doli ki roti

And then I heard Babso Kanwar and Pushpesh Pant talking about Doli ki roti at Oberoi Gurgaon when Lost recipes of India were being showcased. I got to know that doli ki roti is available somewhere in Multani Dhanda in Delhi, I am yet to visit Multani Dhanda to taste the doli ki roti but there is so much more to doli ki roti than just the taste and texture.

doli ki roti recipe

This doli ki roti is actually a deep fried flat bread made using 'sourdough leavened dough' but it is very different from kulcha or bhatoora. The taste is complex and aromatic because of the use of spices in the sourdough starter.

It will be good to recount that all breads in the Multan and Punjab region were made using leavened dough in the past and that too in a community tandoor called sanjha chulha. Women in rural Punjab would gather at this community tandoor to make their everyday rotis. The fried variations of the bread will be cooked at home of course.

The use of sourdough in everyday roti was a norm in Punjab, Multan of undivided India and Himachal which was part of Punjab in older days. The sourdough was called 'khatta' and a small piece of dough was reserved from the previous day, to be added to the fresh dough which was rested for a couple of hours before making fresh rotis.

This sourdough fermentation ensured lower the amount of phytic acid (study) in all these breads and added many more micro nutrients to it, though the people might have been unaware of this fact. But it is a fact that dietary habits and procedures evolve in a specific way, in the direction of well-being. Positive effects on health will be noticed sooner or later and the foods that cause well-being will be continued and those causing harm will be discarded.

sourdough for doli ki roti

To make doli ki roti the sourdough was prepared in a special way, using spices and poppy seeds along with jaggery for added flavours. This sourdough starter was shared with extended family and friends too. The use of spice definitely discourages rotting of the prepared bread for longer duration because spices are naturally antimicrobial. Imagine how much antioxidants were added to the bread through the spices.

I noticed that this spiced sourdough is quite stable at room temperature. This jar of the sourdough is a month old and has not been fed since it was fermented for the first time using the spices. Half of it was used for making doli ki roti and the other half was fed a month later. It revived beautifully. Read about a regular sourdough here.

Doli ki roti was named so because the roti keeps well for 3-4 days and used to be great as a traveling food. It was probably packed with the just married daughter along with her doli, a palanquin in which the married couple used to be carried to the groom's home. A blogger friend Alka Keswani says it was named as doli ki roti because the fermented sour dough was prepared in a vessel called Dol.

Evidently, making sourdough was an art perfected quite well by people eating wheat in this country.

My recipe is based on the doli ki roti that my friend used to share with us whenever this roti was made at her home. Her family was from Multan, settled down in Banaras, they have a carpet export business based in Bhadohi.

recipe of doli ki roti...

ingredients and procedure for the sourdough 

Usually whole spices are boiled in water for sometime and I used to do that earlier, now I just add powdered spices to hot water to make it wasy. There is no change of taste.

a cup of hot water
pinch of clove powder
pinch of nutmeg powder
1/8 tsp of black cardamom powder
1/4 tsp of cinnamon powder
2 tbsp of chopped jaggery
1 tbsp of poppy seeds
pinch of salt

Everything is mixed together and kept in a glass jar with loosely fitted lid. I needed to keep it for 2 days before I could see bubbles. Then I added 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour and whisked once. Again the jar was closed and kept for 2 days. It smelled divine by this time, the yeast and the spices make some magic in this spiced sourdough. Note that this sourdough keeps well on room temperature for about a month. You can make a large batch of this sourdough to keep making doli ki roti frequently.

ingredients and procedure to make the doli ki roti..

For about 10 small doli ki roti I used half of this starter and 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour. Knead a plaible dough using some more warm water and let the dough rest for 2 hours at least or till it doubles in volume.

Now heat up ghee or oil in a kadhai and fry thick pooris using this dough. Usually the thick pooris are patted on the palms but you can roll them out on a rolling board.

Deep fry till golden brown on both sides and serve with any curry you like. We enjoyed the doli ki roti with lauki chane ki daal and lobiya wala sarson ka saag this time and this meal was quite heavy I must add.

doli ki roti recipe

This is plain doli ki roti but another richer version has a chana daal stuffing in it. My friend's mother used to knead the dough with some soaked chana daal so the doli ki roti had some chana daal studded in it. That made the bread almost like a full meal in itself.

Try making doli ki roti if you like deep fried food or you want to relive a tradition that is rarely seen now. It might not be a lost recipe but I don't see people around me making it often, though bhatoora is very commonly made and enjoyed and has even become the most popular Delhi street food. I need to go to Multani Dhanda now.