Friday, December 23, 2016

Banaras food festival at ITC Maurya, New Delhi | Banaras ka khana goes places

As I mentioned in the last blogpost about Dal ki dulhan, Banaras ka khana was showcased once again and this time at ITC Maurya in Delhi. It is a matter of pride that the food from an ancient city is being celebrated in modern times and there are more and more people who connect with the food through the culture and heritage of the region.

Regional foods are generally being appreciated more in today's times but it gives me immense pleasure when Banaras comes to the food map of India as a 'micro' region owing to its rich cultural heritage that has shaped shaped the culinary journey too.

Here is a glimpse of the food served and the decor of the restaurant Pavillion, where the Banarasi food was served as a dinner buffet everyday for close to 2 weeks.

This time the Banaras food was presented with all the cultural inputs from its Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb and I requested Ms Rana Safvi, who writes on Ganga Jamuni culture of north India to bring in the Muslim food traditions into our Banaras ka khana showcase. Rana ji's maternal grandparents served the Kashi Naresh as the state's Diwans for 4 generations so the recipes from her maternal grandmother's home were brought to the table and make the food experience truly Ganga Jamuni..

The Ganga Jamuni flavour of the food was appreciated by everyone. We were told the restaurant at the ITC Maurya was so full for the first time after demonetization and that came as a sweet complement. Most of the food we served has been shared in the form of Banaras special recipes here on the blog and you would recognize some of them from these pictures.

I wouldn't talk about the food much as it is for the guests to appreciate or critique, but we were happy to see the serving bowls getting empty really fast. We got to interact with some of the guests and realised that the forgotten homely flavours are always appreciated and real food wins hearts no matter what.

We had taken care to serve seasonal foods from Banaras and enjoyed cooking all these winter delicacies for the festival.The warmth of dal ki dulhan, the rich yet subtle flavours of khoya matar makhana, the Banarasi kadhi, different types of nimona, the Qaliyas and the Kormas, the Salans came together to celebrate Banaras in it's full glory.

I am tankful to the readers of this blog who have inspired me enough to keep writing here and keep sharing the food from my city. Some food writers shared the enthusiasm and wrote nice thing about our food.

Banaras ka khana blog got a mention in the list of 10 food blogs that will survive in style, owing to the knowledge and information shared..

Some of the articles about our Banaras ka khana festival are here. I will keep adding to this list as and when I see more articles written about the festival.

Sourish Bhattacharya wrote here and appreciated our effort.

Marryam Reshii included Banaras ka khana in her list of best meals of the last year, read about it here.. 

Shibani Bawa wrote here about how she found the Ganga Jamuni aspect appealing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

recipe of dal ki dulhan | a light lentil soup with whole wheat dumplings

Dal ki dulhan or dal pithi was our favourite one pot meal during growing up years. The fun shapes of the whole wheat dumplings probably made it more enjoyable I guess.

recipe of dal ki dulhan

Dal ki dulhan is a name that comes from the specific shape of the dumplings that looks like the veil of a bride. The shaping of the dumplings can be different and the name of the dish also changes accordingly. It is called dal pithi when the dumplings are shaped like small discs or Orecchiette pasta. If the dumplings are stuffed it is called dal ka dulha.

Similar recipes of lentil soups with dumplings made of whole wheat or chickpea flour are called as Varan phal or dal dhokli in Maharashtra and Gujrat respectively. I have heard from my friends from Maharashtra and Gujrat how favourite this dish is in their homes too. I think the beauty of this one pot meal lies in its simplicity.

But all simple dishes can be a little tricky to master if you trust my experience. There are very few ingredients and very few steps involved in this recipe of dal ki dulhan but you miss a single ingredient or a single step and the result may be not so favourable.

The dal ki dulhan should be cooked slowly to achieve a nice glutinous bite that the dumplings acquire, the dal should be thin and soupy so it gives a perfect base to the plain dumplings. The tadka you can choose the way you like but don't meddle with the cooking time or consistency of the dal.

recipe of dal ki dulhan

Without further ado, let me share the recipe so you can make it at home for your next meal.

(2 servings)

for the dal
2 tbsp mung dal
2 tbsp masoor dal
salt to taste
1/2 ts turmeric powder
1 tbsp green chili and garlic paste or to taste  

for the dumplings 
1/2 cup whole wheat flour made into a dough suitable for making roti
(I used a mix of barley, chickpea and wheat flours)

for the tadka 
1 tbsp ghee
pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp red chili powder or to taste


Mix all the ingredients for dal with 1.5 cups of water and pressure cook till done. If you are cooking dal for the first time, note that it takes about 10 minutes after the first whistle. Let the pressure cooker cool down before opening the lid. If cooking in a pan the dal takes about 35 minutes to cook.

Meanwhile divide the dough into 20 small balls and roll each ball just like thin pooris. Keep them dusted with flour so they don't stick together. 

Open the pressure cooker lid and mix the dal. It should be smooth and thin just like soup. Add a cup of water and simmer on low heat. Shape the dumplings one by one and slip into the simmering dal.

To shape the dumplings into dal ki dulhan, lift from four corners and join them in the center so 4 loops are formed taking a butterfly shape. Don't worry if you can't shape the dumplings perfectly as it wont affect the taste.

Once all the dumplings are in the dal soup let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, the time depends on how thin the dumplings are. If you have rolled them too thin they will be read in 5-7 minutes. I used mixed grain flour to make the dumplings hence they took longer to cook.

Adjust consistency and seasoning while the dal soup simmers, it thickens after the dumplings are added.

Prepare a tadka by heating the ghee in a ladle (or tadke pan).
Add hing and cumin seeds to hot ghee and let it splutter. Take the ladle off the flame.
Add the chilli powder, mix and pour this tadka immediately into the simmering dal ki dulhan.

Serve in soup mugs as a meal. No need to garnish but a spring on coriander leaves wont hurt.

recipe of dal ki dulhan

The simplicity of such a one pot meal remains in the no fuss no garnish approach. This is one dish you would find yourself slurping gleefully, may be with an extra dollop of ghee on top if you are like me.

Yes, there are a few people who are not too fond of dal ki dulhan or dal ki pithi as much as I am. But recently when I made this dish in the kitchen of ITC Maurya where I am curating a food festival of Banaras cuisine, this dal ki dulhan found eager fans and it was loved by all.

The food festival about the Ganga Jmuni tehzeeb of Banaras is being hosted at The Pavilion at ITC Maurya, from 9th of December to 18th of December and my partner in crime this time is a noted historian Ms. Rana Safvi who brings in some delectable food from the kitchens of her maternal grandmother. Rana's paternal grandparents were from Ramnagar, the satellite town of Banaras and we are looking forward to a great jugalbandi of our sister cuisines. 

The dal ka dulha is cooked the same way but the dumplings are stuffed with a urad dal peethi (spiced mix) before simmering in the dal soup. We will be serving the dal ki dulhan and dal ka dulha both at ITC Maurya.

I will share more details really soon. Watch out this space.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

recipe of kachri ka achar | traditions of foraging and preserving the best of season

Kachri is a small cucumber that grows wild by the fields in the end of summer season. Some smaller kachris keep growing till early winter and that is how I found them when I went to Tijara farm couple of weeks ago. I love kachri ki chutney made with dhaniya patta and garlic etc and another kachri ki chutney with sesame seeds and keep making it frequently.


I had heard about the kachri ka achar from my house help and the farm workers at Tijara so I gave it a try this season. I was not very hopeful because I always preferred the chutney more.

But as soon as the pickle got 3 day old and I tasted it I had to change my opinion. This was the most unusual pickle I had ever tasted. The slightly tart and very mild bitter flavour of kachri responded really well to the north Indian pickling process, though I had tweaked the pickling spices to suit the kachri.

Note that kachri grows at ground level and sometimes it get buried after rain or slush caused by irrigation water. Some of the kachri may be covered with a thin layer of dirt so soak it in water and rinse well before chopping it. 


first mix 
400 gm kachri cleaned and quartered lengthwise 
45 gm salt or 1 tbsp and a little more
1.5 tbsp turmeric powder
1.5 tbsp red chili powder
2 tbsp mustard powder

second mix 
200 ml mustard oil
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp nigella (kalonji) seeds
1 tsp Bishop's or ajwain seeds 
2 tsp coarse fennel powder

recipe of kachri ka achar


Toss the first mix together in a glass bowl and mix well. Keep it in sun for a day or two till it dehydrates a little.

Heat mustard oil to do the second mix once the first mix start looking a little dry and tip in the spices together. Take the pan off heat immediately and pour into the first mix. Stir and mix well.

Fill in sterilized jars.

recipe of kachri ka achar

The pickle gets ready to eat in 2 days though it can be eaten at any point during the mixing process. After 2-3 days the kachri becomes soft and the taste is very unique and pleasant.

Since I made this pickle for the first time I will wait to see how it behaves and how well it preserves. Now after about 2 weeks the pickle has not changed at all so I conclude that the texture will remain the same for a long time.

I will definitely update here about the shelf life as and when I see changes in the pickle jar I kept for myself. The other jar was sent to Tijara as a gratitude gesture.

Some of the kachri I brought is being dehydrated. Since winter sun is not enough for sun drying I am keeping it in refrigerator for cold drying that may take some time.

Kachri is a nutritious wild food and should be used frequently in everyday food. If the pickle doesn't suit your taste you can always depend on the chutney. Some people say the taste of millet rotis gets enhanced when eaten with kachri chutney and white butter. I have tried that combination and can vouch for that.

Let the kachri ka achar be for bajre ki khichdi or any khichdi we make during winters. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

recipe of sem ka chokha | mashed broad beans with chilli-garlic and mustard oil

Sem ka chokha is not very common in the thalis people serve to guests now a days even in Banaras or surrounding parts of the state. The koftas and the palak paneer and matar paneer is preferred over chokha in vegetarian thalis for several reasons.

One, the hosts want to serve good looking food to their guests and two, they are never sure whether the guests would like a simple dish that is devoid of spices, cream and even oil, that too made with a green vegetable.

recipe of sem ka chokha

But I have a special knack of serving such food to people and making them say they liked it. Recently when I made this sem ka chokha at a gathering of people from 3 different Indian states I was a little doubtful about the raw mustard oil used liberally in this chokha.

After I got to hear how good the chokha was, I asked whether they could taste mustard oil in it or not. I was not surprised when the answer was negative for this sem ka chokha as well as another salad that I had made. It is not about the pungency of mustard or any other oil but the overall balance of flavours in the dish that speaks for itself. Such a balance of flavours is a treat to achieve in such a simple recipe.

Sem ka chokha is made using the fleshy broad beans usually but it tastes great with any beans you have with you. Just make sure you adjust the seasoning and add a little potato to the chokha if the sem is not of the fleshy variety.

Here I used the thin skinned variety that is known for being a little fibrous.

sem or lablab beans

Nothing that a few pieces of potatoes can't tackle. The potatoes actually bring a desired creaminess to the sem ka chokha and helps balance the flavours too. 

(serves 6-8)

500 gm sem, strings removed and chopped finely
100 gm potatoes, peeled and cubed
1.5 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced hot green chilies
salt to taste
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 tsp lime juice (if required)
2 tbsp mustard oil
1/4 cup water


Add the chopped sem, cubed potatoes, salt and water in a pressure cooker and cook under pressure for 6-8 minutes (after the first whistle). Let the pressure release on its own.

Once the pressure drops, open the lid and mash the vegetables roughly with the help of a wooden spatula. Add the minced garlic and green chilies, the coriander leaves and mustard oil and mix well.
Add lime juice if required.

recipe of sem ka chokha

Empty the mash in a serving bowl and garnish with a few coriander springs.

Serve warm or cold.

The sem ka chokha pairs well with dal chawal meals as well as roti dal meals. You might like to roll up a roti with this and make it a quick meal.

Use any beans that you like but make sure you add potatoes if the beans are not too smooth after boiling. I like a generous drizzle of mustard oil in chokha so I might keep a bottle of mustard oil on the table but feel free to balance it according to your own taste.

Sooran ka chokha,  Baingan ka chokha and Gooler ka chokha are similar dishes with minor variations. Each one of them has it's own identity and represents the seasonal variation of the traditional everyday meals in eastern part of India. In other eastern states the chokha is known as sheddho or pitika and the taste may vary a bit but the dish remains as simple and elemental in it's nature.

Try this sem ka chokha and let me know if you like it. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

recipe of sooran ke laddu | a sweetmeat made of elephant foot yam, Diwali special mithai

Sooran ka laddu is an unusual recipe of mithai. Even I heard of sooran ka laddu quite late but being in Banaras I wouldn't have stayed ignorant for long. One or two tiny sooran ke laddu used to be served as part of the elaborate prasad in one of the temples in Banaras that my mother used to go and later I got to know that Sri Ram Bhandar would make sooran ke laddu every Diwali for their elite patrons.

Note that Sri Ram Bhandar is the oldest known sweet shop in Banaras and it has been patronised by aristocrats for more than a century. Read more about it here.

Sooran or zamikand is an underground corm that is used as a vegetable almost all over India. It is considered very good for gut health and several recipes like sooran ka chokha, sooran ki subzi, sooran ki chutney, sooran ke kabab and sooran ka achar are relished in eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and even Bengal. Sooran ke kofte and sooran ka bhuna bharta is also made by several families.

I had not seen this vegetable elsewhere till I tasted a dish called sooranache kaap in Maharshtra several years ago and then I understood how popular this vegetable is in other parts of the country too. More recently I tasted a recipe called senai kizangu poriyal in Tamilnadu too. Everyone seems to be liking sooran going by the way it is served with a little extra pomp.

A native variety with several small bulbils on it's surface is quite tasty when cooked right. But the native sooran variety is very itchy while chopping it and even after cooking if it has not been cooked with proper method. It needs a lot of sour elements in the curry to neutralise the itchiness caused by oxalate crystals.

The smooth skin variety of sooran is called as Bambaiyya sooran in UP and is mildly itchy sometimes and that one is used to make this sooran ka laddu.

I have used milk powder to make khoya for this recipe as getting pure khoya is not possible anymore. You can reduce milk to make khoya if you wish.

(makes about 2 dozen laddus)

200 gm sooran peeled cleaned and grated into shreds
200 gm milk powder
1/4 cup milk 
100 gm desiccated coconut
60 gm sugar or powder jaggery or more as per taste (I used organic powdered jaggery)
a generous pinch of green cardamom powder (optional, I did not use)
80-100 ml ghee


Heat the ghee in a kadhai and add the grated sooran in it. Fry it in low flame till the grated suran turns brown and crisp. Strain the sooran with the help of a perforated spatula and crush it. you can blend it in the mixer if needed.

In the same kadhai, in the remaining ghee, add the milk and milk powder together keeping the flame low, and cook till the mixture becomes khoya. Brown it lightly.

Now add the crushed sooran and sugar or jaggery and bhuno a little more to combine. Add the desiccated coconut slowly to bring the mixture to a consistency that can be easily made into laddu.

Cool a little and make laddus. Roll them in desiccated coconut and arrange in the container you are planning to store the laddus.

These sooran ke laddu keep well at room temperature for 2 weeks.

You don't really get to taste much of sooran in these laddus but it was a way of mithai loving Banarasis to eat sooran as a ritual on the day of Diwali.

I hope you try this recipe this Diwali.

I like the traditions not just because they make our festivals bright and happy, some of these involving food produce also have helped conserve a particular plant species too. Think about it, the way we are getting produce from all over the world, everything available round the year and the way food is dictated by fashions and trends, the rituals could revive the native flora in a fantastic way.

Buy some sooran this Diwali and make sooran ka laddu. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

spiced amla jam or my grandmother's Chyawanprash recipe

Remembering my grandmother again as I talk about the 'Chyawanprash' she used to make every winter. While we used to hate the commercial Chyawanprash manufactured and marketed by a reputed Ayurvedic pharmacy, we would lap up the jam like light coloured Chyawanprash made by dadi.

spiced amla jam or chyawanprash

One heaped spoonful of this Chyawanprash with milk or even without milk used to be a winter guard against all worldly trouble. Well, being sick was the only worldly trouble we knew at that time.

I started making this Chyawanprash when I discovered that Arvind was very prone to catching cold and flu during winters and a jar or two was always shared with friends who needed it for their kids' winter ailments. I always got good reviews of this Chyawanprash even from kids but somehow we both lost interest in this and stared enjoying the savoury Amla chutney, another recipe of my grandmother with almost similar health benefits.

This amla pickle also gets consumed every winter.

I feel blessed to have inherited this legacy of my grandmother.

Now when I make this Chyawanprash I call it spiced Amla jam as I don't add ghee to it. The original recipe used ghee and a lot more spices and herbs. So it is better calling it a spiced Amla jam, it makes a great spread on toast or crisp paratha. We just eat a spoonful of this jam with our breakfast these days.

Recently I made 50 jars of this spiced amla jam for Eat with India, an initiative that encourages people to cook and eat regional Indian food. They included this jam and my kanji in their Diwali gift hamper. This was the first time I made such a large quantity of jam and kanji, 50 jars each, consuming about 15 kilos of amla and 8 kilos of beetroots.

(makes about 1.6 kilos of jam)

1 kilo amla
200 gm fresh ginger  cleaned and sliced
700 gm jaggery (use pure dark jaggery without impurities)
2 black cardamoms (badi elaichi)
8 green cardamoms (chhoti elaichi)
2 inch piece of cinnamon (dalchini)
8 pieces of long pepper (pippali)
1/2 tsp all spice berries (kababchini)
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp of nagkesar 
20 cloves 
1 tsp banslochan (I could not get it here)
1 gm saffron (optional, I did not use)
a generous pinch of nutmeg powder 

500 ml water
sterilized jars to fill the jam

spices for chyawanprash


Cook amla in pressure cooker with 500 ml water till it becomes very soft and disintegrates. If cooking in an open pan you may need more water and more time. In pressure cooker it takes 20 minutes after the first whistle.

Mash the amla while still hot and remove all seeds. Make a paste in mixie if you want a really smooth jam. I just mashed it nicely. Note that it doesn't mash well when cold.

Make a paste of the ginger and mix with the amla mash.

Make a fine powder of all the spices together.

Mix everything in a thick base stock pot or use the pressure cooker pan (without the lid) to cook the jam. Keep stirring and cook till the jam reduces to a thick consistency. It starts getting a light shine when cooked well. 

Fill in the jars while hot and screw the lid tightly.

spiced amla jam or chyawanprash

You can sterilise the closed jars by immersing them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. This ensures the shelf life to be a year. Otherwise just refrigerate the jam.

This spiced amla jam or Chyawanprash helps improve immunity and many minor health issues like respiratory tract infections and joint pains. But the taste is so good that you can make it just for the taste too.

Do not worry about the sugar content as this chyawanprash is so rich in anti oxidants and minerals that it is worth having the sugar with it. Also, since it is consumed in small amount (about 10-15 gm in one serving) the sugar consumption is not much.

You can use good quality molasses instead of jaggery but do not replace jaggery with sugar in this chyawanprash recipe. There is no need to use honey as some recipe suggest.

Please make it this winter and see how everyone starts loving this spiced amla jam, don't call it Chyawanprash if your family has been hating the commercial Chyawanprash already.

Spiced amla jam works better on the dining table. But make sure you don't take generous helpings of this spiced jam as it can be too 'drying' for the system. Having a spoonful of this with full fat milk everyday is the traditional way and I follow that.

Friday, October 21, 2016

How to make kanji vada | fool proof kanji vada recipe

Kanji vada is a lentil dumpling soaked in fermented kanji. Ah and kanji is something you must know if you haven't come across yet. It is the most delicious probiotic drink generally made with black carrots during winters but can be made with summer carrots or even beetroots.

kanji vada recipe

For kanji vada the kanji was made even without carrots in older days and the kanji used to be pale but it packed extra punch because it had the kala namak and the hing in it, making it an absolutely lip curling drink and eat. In fact a few chaat walas used to make kanji wada on special request. The kanji vada was always kept in a ceramic barni because clear glass utensils were not so common in older days.

Kanji vada is typically a Marwari tradition and since Banaras was initially populated by Marwaris and Gujratis we have had a flourishing tradition of papad, badiyan, achar and kanji vada apart from many more Marwari treats. I have had kanji vada in a Marwari friend's home and Arvind's mother used to make it too but I have heard more stories about how much kanji vada was loved and that it was part of the elaborate wedding rituals in punjabi khatri homes.

Kanji vada or plain kanji was made during Holi too.

I wonder how such simple foods made such fond memories for so many people. A few ingredients were used in so many different ways that food was never boring, every season brought new flavours even though the recipes were basic.

There were a few fermented foods that were considered good for health and were intertwined with either religious or wedding rituals or festivals and that is how some of the recipes have survived. Kanji vada was always considered good for digestion and all the heavy eating during wedding was taken care of by this, at least that was what people said. Few people knew it was probiotic food too.

Similar belief was bestowed upon kanji vada during Holi festivities.

kanji vada recipe

(serves 8-10, takes 3-4 days to prepare)

for kanji 
2 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp red chilli powder
2 tsp rock salt (adjust later)
1/2 tsp kala namak (black salt)
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
3 liters filtered water

for the vadas
250 gm urad dal (soaked) I used urad dal with skin
oil for deep frying (mustard oil preferably)


Mix all the ingredients for the kanji and keep it in a glass jar or ceramic barni, covered. This fermenting pot will be kept in a warm place so it starts getting sour after 2 days. Keep in sun if it is winter time.

The day it starts getting sour, prepare for the vada. Soak the dal overnight, drain the soaking water and make a smooth paste, adding a little salt and water if needed. A mixie grinder works best for this but you can use any gadget to make urad dal paste that looks fluffy and smooth.

Heat the oil and deep fry small fritters scooping the urad paste with a spoon and dropping it in hot oil. Fry till the vadas are cooked and dunk them straight into the souring (fermenting) kanji. Leave the kanji vadas for one more day so it gets nice and sour and soaks up liquid too. It keeps well for a couple of days at room temperature.

Serve as required, chilled or at room temperature but remember to adjust seasoning before serving.

The black carrot kanji or beetroot kanji also works great for soaking vadas.

kanji vada recipe

It makes a nice aperitif served before meals but can also be served as a snack.

Make some kanji vada now and see how you like it. I have seen people taking second and third helping but for some people it can be an acquired taste.

Fermented foods don't always make great first impressions but will stay with forever if you make friends with them. Kanji vada is one of those fermented foods to be friends with. Try that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

how to make gulkand or rose petal jam and a recipe of gulkand phirni, a light and aromatic Indian dessert

I know you might not be drawn to the thought of rose petal jam or gulkand phirni, unless you have experienced otherwise.

Rose is a tricky aroma when used in foods I always used to think. I never liked it whenever I tried it in my childhood and was put off Rose scented foods, drinks and desserts. It was when I started growing the heirloom variety of roses that I was tempted to use them again in my food and I understood what was the reason of my hatred towards all things rosy, at least in food.

The reason is, that most (read almost all) rose scented drinks and desserts are made from synthetic essence of rose and hence makes one averse to this aroma. If you have ever had experienced a real rose water like we get from IHBT Palampur, you would know what the real thing is and different varieties of roses yield different bouquet of aromatics.

gulkand phirni

Once you grow the real aromatic roses you would know even better. These flowers are small in size, get even smaller when the garden is mostly shaded, but the aroma is unmistakable. This Rose petal jam (Gulkand) phirni is a testimony to the real flavour. 

I made this gulkand phirni when a few friends came visiting recently and I wanted something that cooks fast and takes lesser effort as my hands and fingers have really stiff joints right now due to a recent Chikunguniya infection. This gulkand phirni came to rescue.

Recipe of Gulkand Phirni

(6-8 portions)
1 liter whole milk
2 tbsp sugar (as per taste, I keep it very lightly sweetened, gulkand is sweet too) 
200 ml light cream
2.5 tbsp rice powder (or make a paste of 2 tbsp fragrant rice with 3-4 tbsp milk or water)
3-4 tbsp gulkand or rose petal jam (homemade or the best you can get)
1 tbsp real rose water 
few rose petals for garnish


Reserve 100 ml milk and mix the cream and rest of the milk in a thick base pan and simmer. Add sugar and let it dissolve.Keep simmering till the volume reduces by about 20%. keep the flame low at all times.

Make a slurry with the reserved milk and rice powder, whisking it nicely.

Take a whisk in the right hand and pour the rice slurry into the simmering milk using your left hand. Keep whisking the mix all this while. The simmering milk and cream mix starts getting thicker like a custard and a few fat bubbles burst at the surface. The whisk starts getting coated too at the same time and this is a sign the phirni is cooked. It takes about 3-5 minutes depending on the heat. 

Take the phirni off the stove, add rose water and gulkand. Whisk again to mix.

Pour into serving bowls or glasses. It is best served in earthen pots but any bowls are okay as long as the phirni gets chilled and set. .

gulkand phirni

Chill before serving as I mentioned, garnished with rose petals and a little gulkand. The phirni should set like a soft grainy custard. The creaminess comes from the rice starch and the light cream used in the recipe and glukand provides the flavour base. 

How to make Gulkand? 

There are only 2 ingredients needed to make Gulkand. 

Rose petals and sugar. 

The quantity of rose petals and sugar is equal by weight so sugar helps preserve the rose petals along with their essential oils.

gulkand recipe

We need the heirloom (desi) variety of rose known as Damask rose. This variety has very soft delicate petals and a lingering fragrance. The flowers can be multi-whorled or single whorled depending on where they are growing, pruning pattern, sun exposure and climate.

In the states of Uttarakhand and lower Himalayas the Damask rose grows wild by the roadsides and comes in huge bunches. The rosehips from those roses are the best.

Deep pink variety of Damask rose is preferred over the light pink rose to make Gulkand or rose petal jam.

Once you have the roses, better get them from a chemical free source, I collected them over a week when my garden was benevolent a couple of years ago, just separate the petals and rinse them lightly under running water. Spread the petals over a muslin cloth in shade so the water evaporates.

The older method warrants crushing of rose petals in mortar and pestle slowly but I use a mixie blender whenever I have a good quantity of rose petals to preserve. It takes just a couple of seconds for a batch and the mixture doesn't get heated. Heating the mix would result in the loss of the aroma.

To make fresh gulkand from a couple of roses within a day I just crush them along with sugar, keep in a glass jar and expose to sun for a day. 

Here is how it looks when rose petals and sugar are crushed lightly in a mixie blender. You can use a food processor and even a chopper.

gulkand recipe
After crushing them together coarsely, just transfer to a sterile (clean and dry) glass jar with a tight fitting lid and keep indoors at room temperature, away from sun to preserve the colour.

The gulkand stays well for years but the colour gets darker as you can see from the pictures of freshly made gulkand above and the 2 year old batch in the picture with Gulkand phirni.

gulkand recipe

And don't worry about the high sugar content of gulkand. It is never used as a jam spread but always as a rose flavour to be added to desserts so the sugar gets balanced.

Damask roses

Damask roses traveled from Persia to Europe, the name of the rose comes from Damascus Syria. I am not sure how these roses came to India but now they are called as Indian desi gulab. It might have come to India via older trade routes as there has been a considerable exchange of such commodities between the middle east and India.

I will update this post if I get any information about how Damask roses came to India. Please share if you know anything about that.

Damask roses

Till then, make some Gulkand whenever you get a few Damask roses or desi gulab. You will be hooked to make this rose petal jam that doesn't need any cooking.

And the gulkand phirni will be a preferred dessert at home I must tell you. The real ingredients have the taste, the chemical essences just fool our senses and sometime kill them too. Please don't let that happen. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

chane wala aam ka achar | raw mangoes pickled with whole chickepeas

Kachhe aam ka achar or raw mango pickle is a necessity in Indian homes.

If the stock of aam ka achar has finished, people start feeling seriously deprived.

Last month when I was talking to my sister about her fetish for aam ka achar, she was the one who would even steal pickles and eat it like a candy while reading a book or playing, we were reminded of how the chane wala aam ka achar (raw mango pickle with chickpeas) used to get over sooner.

chane wala aam ka achar

Chane wala aam ka achar was a favourite of all of us and the pickle jar was never out of sight on the dining table. Everyone wanted to keep this chane wala achar closer to themselves so second and third helpings can be taken quickly without anyone else noticing it. How we used to blame each other about who finished the achar.

Those days of chatorapan.

My mother used to make this chane wala achar with both black gram (kale chane) and the garbanzo beans (kabuli chane) but her method was a little different. She used to soak the chickpeas in the water left after marinating the raw mango pieces in salt and turmeric. So the quantity of the chickpeas was always limited. That explains the scarcity of the chane wala achar.

Since my recipe of aam ka achar uses up all the liquids oozed out during marination time, I had to device new ways to add chana to the achar. 

Recipe and procedure of chane wala aam ka achar

During the making of the aam ka achar, the day I mix the the pickling spices (check the recipe and steps), I soak some chickpeas in advance.

The soaked chickpeas are mixed with salt and turmeric powder again and kept overnight. For each 100 gm soaked chickpeas I use 15 gm salt and 5 gm turmeric powder.

Then the overnight marinated chickpeas are added to equal amount of freshly mixed aam ka achar.

aam ka achar

Note the amount of mixed aam ka achar left in the pan here. The chickpeas were added to that.

The chane wala aam ka achar gets ready to eat in a couple days and stays good for at least 6 months. I haven't seen this pickle lasting more than this, if the present batch lasts the whole year I will update this post.

Some people make this achar with grated mangoes too, Anjana's recipe can be referred if you want that type. I sometimes chop the raw pickling mangoes in smaller bits but never have made it with grated mangoes. 

The chane can even be added to sooran ka achar as well and I remember my grandmother used to like that one more.

chane wala aam ka achar

The pickle can be served just as any other Indian pickle and the chickpeas taste really good while retaining their texture.

Do let me know if you try making this chane wala aam ka achar. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

mungodi made from scratch | how to make mungodi at home and guar mungodi ki subzi

Mungodi is made of mung dal (skinned mung beans) after a paste of mung dal is dropped into small pellets and then sun dried to make little nuggets of lentil, it can be spiced or plain. Badi is the generic Indian name for these lentil nuggets and the specific name changes with the kind of lentil used. If it is made of mung, it is Mungodi.

how to make mungodi

There are several names for these Mungodis or generic badis (or wadis) all over the country but in Bihar and eastern UP it is always prefixed with the type of lentil used. So there is Mungodi made of mung, Urdouri or Adouri made of urad dal, Masurouri made of masur dal, others are called as badi simply.

The other significant variety is called Kumhrouri which is made of urad dal and white pumpkin (Ash gourd) which is also called as kumhra, so the nomenclature has a clue to the origin of the badi. I love talking about these with the older women who never tire of sharing their wisdom with anyone. Sepu badi of Himachal is a different type of badi

When I posted about alu mungodi ki subzi many of you asked for the recipe of mungodi as no one makes these at home now and these are not even available in many places. Moreover, the quality of the ready made mungodi is not always good. I have been my grandmother's apprentice for long enough to recreate thing on my own, so here is the recipe of mungodi that can be made at home without much fuss, if you make a small quantity.

Note that making mungodis at home 'used to be' a humongous task but it was so because such things were always made for friends and family too. Huge dabbas were sent to kith and kin, badi, papad and achar were always exchanged between families and friends. Social bonding was real and tangible.

The good old days.

Let me tell you there is one encouraging fact, that we can make the mungodis fairly easily at home. For mungodis it is only one ingredient mostly as these are always made without any spices. But cumin seeds are sometimes added to bring a hint of spice in them.

1 cup of mung dal
1 tsp cumin seeds


Soak the mung dal for one hour.  

Note that soaking the mung dal for longer will result in more water content and flat mungodis that do not soak up the curry flavour when cooked.

Drain the water. Make a coarse paste with the cumin seeds, without adding any water. The paste should look like this.

how to make mungodi

Now make a cone using a plastic bag, reused or fresh. Or use a piping bag with a small hole depending on the size of mungodis you need.

Fill the mung paste in the piping bag, secure the top and start piping mungodis on a smooth surface.

I used a silpat sheet because it is much easier to take the mungodis off the surface. They may stick on plates even if you grease them.

My piping skill needs some brushing up. I have decided on more mungodis now, no cake icing please. 

how to make mungodi

My grandmother used to make mungodis on old muslin saris so it was easier to sun dry them and once the mungodis are dry they peel off easily from the thin cloth. And she used to shape each single mungodi with her fingers, piping them perfectly, using three fingers and thumb.

Time your soaking, grinding and piping in such a way that you lay out the mungodis in good sun at the start of the day. It took me 2 minutes of grinding and 5 minutes of piping the mungodis for this quantity. 

And of course the whole day of fun watching the mungodis dry, updating a few instagram pictures in between.

Once dry enough the mungodis can be flipped. It took an hour this time. Flipping the mungodis ensures faster drying and I was concerned because it is the tail end of monsoon season here and I did not want the mungodis to stay damp.

how to make mungodi

You see I made the mungodis on a whim and the monsoon showers couldn't deter me. It took 2 days to sun dry them while keeping an eye on the sudden showers that are characteristic of this season. I had to bring the mungodis indoors a few times but thankfully there was strong sun in between the showers.

Once dry, the mungodis are lighter and make a rattling sound when tossed around. Damp mungodis wont rattle.

how to make mungodi

Make sure the mungodis are not damp, as it catches fungus really soon.

Note that the mungodis made during the rainy season wouldn't last the whole year, in all probability, it has the tendency to get damp even if dried completely.

If for some reason, for example rains, your mungodis are not sun dried well, try and deep fry them to dehydrate well and keep in air tight containers. The mungodis can be used directly in that case. Else we need to fry them before currying them like in this alu mungodi ki subzi or Guwar mungodi ki subzi which has a hint of fennel.

ingredients for guar mungodi ki subzi 
(2 servings)

1/3 cup mungodis
250 gm guar cleaned, stringed and chopped in small bits
1 medium sized potato peeled and quartered 
1/4 cup whipped yogurt
1 tbsp everyday curry powder 
1/2 tsp fennel powder 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1-2 broken chopped green chillies
1 tbsp minced or grated ginger
salt o taste
1 tbsp mustard oil

guar mungodi ki subzi


To make the guar mungodi ki subzi, heat the mustard oil in a pressure cooker, shallow fry the mungodis in the oil and once the mungodis are light pink and fragrant, remove the pan from the burner for a minute and add the everyday curry powder (or any light subzi masala of your choice), turmeric powder, red chilli powder and fennel powder in that order. Toss and mix while the spices get aromatic.

Return the pressure cooker pan to the burner, add ginger, whipped yogurt and stir to mix.

Now add the chopped guar, potatoes and green chillies, mix well an top up with 1/2 cup water.

Cover the lid and pressure cook till the whistle blows, lower down the heat an cook for a couple of minutes. Let the cooker cool down, open the lid and crush the potatoes with a ladle to make the curry a little mushed up.

Serve hot with drizzle of ghee with our Indian rice or roti meals..

Sunday, August 7, 2016

everyday curries : alu mungodi ki subzi | sattvic khana

Alu mungodi ki subzi is stuff made of nostalgia. Such simpler curries have become so rare these days thanks to the deluge of 'butter masalas' and 'navratan kormas' of the vegetarian world, and of course because no one makes Badiyan or Mungodi at home any more.

No restaurants serve it either. 

alu mungodi ki subzi

Thankfully we do get mungodi and badiyan in the markets, made by small scale industries and home based units and some of them are really good.

Badiyan making is an age old tradition all over the country. Badiyan or dried lentil cakes, if I try to translate this unique wonder, are made of lentil paste with is fermented, then mixed with some grated gourd type vegetable according to the regional choice, some spices and then the paste is shaped like small pellets to sun dry. The pellets puff up to become planoconvex shaped while they dry and then are stored for the whole year. 

Badiyan are generally made of urad dal paste and are made into several curries like this pyaz badiyon ki subzi and even a badiyon ki chutney. I have always believed the badiyan brought the umami factor in Indian curries, the process of making badiyan ensured the lentil paste gets a flavour boost when fermented and sun dried.

Apart from the Badiyan, there is a type called Mungodi which is made of plain mung dal paste and is not spiced. The mungodi has a flavour of its own, something like when mung gets a mild hint of umami and yet retains its mungness. You know what I mean. 


Mungodi can be sun dried or even can be made fresh for some curries. This mungodi wali lauki is made with freshly made mungodis. But freshly made mungodi lacks the umami kick, please note.

The alu mungodi ki subzi is preferred by those who like eating no onion garlic curries or is made often for meals after a puja at home.

One of the kachori walas in Banaras makes such a delicious mungodi ki subzi that I often crave for it. I know I have to recreate it soon.

I shared that the hawan at Kiradu temple complex commenced with a sattvic meal and how much I loved that meal. Alu mungodi ki subzi was on the menu apart from the mirchi ka kutta and I couldn't help but make it again at home. My mother in law used to make alu mungodi and lauki mungodi a lot and I actually started loving it a lot after having tasted her version.

After having a slightly different but equally delicious version of alu mungodi by Suryagarh chefs, I decided to make my MIL's version as that is what makes it more homely for me. 

(2-3 servings)

2 large boiled and cooled potatoes (about 250 gm)
1/2 cup dried mungodis
1 tbsp everyday curry powder 
(or a mix of coriander, cumin, peppercorns and Indian bay leaf powder)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 green chillies broken
1 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds (optional, I don't use)
1 tsp crushed or minced ginger (optional, I use it always) 
1/4 tsp amchoor powder 
1.5 tbsp mustard oil
salt to taste 


Crush the boiled potatoes with fingers. It should break into uneven pieces, and some completely crushed coarse mash.

Heat the mustard oil in a deep pan and shallow fry the mungodis in it till lightly browned. Remove from the fried mungodis from oil and keep aside.

Tip in the hing and cumin seeds if using, in the remaining oil. Once the oil is well infused add the crushed ginger. Stir to cook for a couple of seconds.

Now take the pan off heat for a moment and add all the powdered spices at once, stir to mix well so the spices infuse but do not get burnt. Within seconds dump all the crushed potatoes in the pan and stir well to mix. Return to heat and stir for a couple of minutes.  

Add salt to taste, 2 cups of water and all the fried mungodis. Let the curry come to a rolling boil. Now lower the heat and let the alu mungodi subzi simmer for about 20 minutes, covered with a lid, or till the mungodis get soft and almost double up in size.

Finish with amchoor powder, adjust seasoning and consistency, serve hot with rotis, pooris or plain parathas along with other side dishes if required.

alu mungodi ki subzi

Some people add tomatoes to the alu mungodi ki subzi but I like this version with amchoor. You may want to garnish it with green coriander leaves but please refrain as it interferes with the delicately flavoured mungodis. But if you love your dhaniya patta go ahead and top it with some greens.

This kind of badi or mungodi subzis were a staple during rainy season when other green vegetables were not easily available in older times. That is the reason there is no tomato or dhaniya patta used traditionally for alu mungodi ki subzi but there are versions made in winter season when mungodi is paired with spinach and cabbage too.

One can always adjust this alu mungodi ki subzi to taste. The Suryagarh version is cooked with raw potatoes and it had a different consistency and slightly different taste too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

Mirchi ka kutta is not a recipe I grew up eating but I had tasted it once in a while cooked by a friend's mother. Back then I was not so enamored by chilies, anything made with just chillies had to be in small servings and it was used just like a spot of heat on the platter. The kind of relish that was put to use only when the food was bland otherwise.

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

And then I tasted this mirchi ka kutta that blew my mind away. I loved that it was made from the less hot Rajasthani chillies and that it had loads of methi (fenugreek) seeds. I know the picture that comes to mind is a bitter and hot relish but this mirchi ka kutta is far from that.

As I mentioned in the last post about Kiradu temple complex, the sattvic meal we enjoyed there had this mirchi ka kutta as a side dish and I loved it so much that I took 3 helpings and the last time I asked for a bigger serving so I can enjoy it without worrying for refills. It was really that good.

I called Chef Megh Singh Rathore immediately and asked for the recipe. He rattled a simple recipe and I memorized while polishing the last bits of mirchi ka kutta with soft pooris.

Apart from loads of methi, this mirchi ka kutta has some sounf (fennel seeds) and some rai (small mustard seeds), some crushed garlic and a little lashing of hing (asafoetida). All this is balanced off with a sprinkling of amchoor powder.

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

The only similar recipe that I am reminded from my home is a mirch ki kalonji that my grandmother used to make in bulk and refrigerate for the whole week. One mirch ki kalonji used to land up on everyone's plate at meal time. I need to recreate that too very soon. Let it be mirchi ka kutta till then.

ingredients for mirchi ka kutta (मिर्ची का कुट्टा )
(makes enough to fill a 350 ml jar)

15 large Rajasthani chillies or any large green chillies that are not too hot
4 smaller hot green chillies 
6-8 fat cloves of garlic peeled
2 tbsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
1 tsp sounf (fennel) seeds
1 tsp rai (small mustard seeds)
a generous pinch of hing (asafoetida)
2 tbsp mustard oil
2 tsp amchoor powder
1 tsp salt or to taste 
1/2 cup water


Pound the garlic and chillies separately. It helps if you chop the chillies before pounding them in a mortar and pestle. Be careful of any seeds that may decide to fly and land in your eyes while pounding.

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

Heat the oil and tip in the hing first. Let it sizzle and then add the methi seeds followed by sounf and rai. Add the garlic when the seeds start getting aromatic. Mix and cook for a couple of seconds.

Add the chillies, salt and mix well. Cook for a minute and add the water. Cook covered on low for 10 minutes. Add the amchoor powder and cook again for a couple of minutes, adding a little more water if required.

The mirchi ka kutta will be moist enough so that the methi seeds swell up after soaking the juices.

Empty the contents into a clean jar or container and refrigerate immediately. It keeps well for a week easily.

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

This mirchi ka kutta goes really well with poori and paratha but I love it with khichdi and dal chawal meals too. You can serve it with practically everything, all kind of Indian meals.

It is an interesting amalgamation of flavours ranging from bitterness from methi, aromatic sweetness from fennel, sharp punch of garlic and the flavourful heat of green chillies, everything wrapped up by the tartness of amchoor powder. All strong flavours meld so well you crave for more.

a sattvic meal experience at Kiradu temple complex

Some meals are so special you remember them for a long time to come.

If you try and remember all your memorable meals, I am sure you would recall one or the other happy meal you enjoyed with great friends or family members, may be with strangers too but none of those meals would be had alone. Am I right?

And if you have ever had a meal at an exotic location out of nowhere, it is bound to stay with you forever. I will tell you about one such meal I enjoyed at the temple complex of Kiradu in Rajasthan which is now in ruins. And if I tell you that this meal experience was organized by the good folks at Suryagarh (Jaisalmer) you would instantly know it would definitely be good.

Suryagarh table

Of course Suryagarh food is memorable for everyone. But this sattvic meal exceeded my expectation by several notches. And to think that this sattvic meal was a part of the elaborate hawan and puja they organized at the neglected temple complex to unveil their new trail of the season, the Kiradu Experience.

All food that is prepared for the Gods is made with devotion and it comes through every bite you take. I know you would agree.

Kiradu temple complex

hawan at Kiradu

Kiradu temple complex is about three hours drive from Suryagarh and you drive on a singular road that goes straight till the horizon. There is vast expanse of desert both sides, sand often piled up on the road making small dunes and the driver has to be careful. The topography kept changing along the road and we passed the Desert National Park, spotting peacocks, Green Bee Eaters, Eagles, Falcons and some Chinkaras. There were herds of Camels too of course.

The only noticeable shrubs were the Calotropis that grew really huge. There were other desert shrubs including some tall grasses and the Kair, Sangri too.

The Suryagarh team had arranged for a high tea break at one of the villages called as Kesar Singh ki Dhani. It was such a wonderful surprise to take a detour into a village surrounded with sand dunes, find a few thatched huts, women and kids peeking from their homes and then you are directed towards one of those huts with a small door.

Suryagarh trails

There was a low table set impeccably Suryagarh style, kudos to the team for such ideas and concepts. Now that I am working with them on a small project I know their trails and meal experiences are spectacular, this one was way beyond wonderful.

After having the chai with some of the villagers who joined us, we drove again to find the topography changing and some hills appearing gradually. Kiradu is a place surrounded by hills and is quite green compared to the Thar desert. The ancient name of Kiradu is KiratKup. Kirat dynasty finds a mention in Hindu scriptures and ancient history, I wouldn't go into finer details here but this nook of history is worth digging up.

Located in Barmer district this was an old civilization as we were told by Rajendar Singh Man, an official from INTACH, Barmer chapter. He claims the hills envelope an ancient city that is now buried under the bushes, trees and some sedimentation. Mr Man informed that the occurrence of rounded pebbles of a river bed suggest that this place got flooded by a river once and got destroyed or buried probably due to the forces of water. Forceful damage to the wall sculptures suggests some army had tried to destroy it revengefully. Several Mughal armies are responsible for the damage we were told.

Kiradu temple complex

The temples are beautiful, the history enchanting and the wall carving on them feels alive when you take a closer look. It is believed to have been under the reign of Parmar in 12th century but there is no trace of evidence how the whole temple complex got destroyed and the city got buried slowly. The temple complex was build some 400 years before that.

Kiradu temple complex

We found the stories from ancient Hindu scriptures carved in stone. Presence of some erotic sculptures makes these temples comparable to the Khajuraho temples but the INTACH officials kept lamenting about the sheer apathy of ASI.

Kiradu temple complex

I would want to dig deeper into the history and the art, Kiradu temple complex has ignited an interest for sure. The Iconography of these temples tells stories that need detailed interpretation. I was reminded of the fine work at Dilwara Jain temples that we had visited some 26 years ago.

The Kiradu temple complex had a group of more than120 temples and 5 of them can be seen in partly restored form. There is no facility for tourists apart from the road but that may be a blessing in disguise as this place is free of plastic and empty packets of chips and what not. I wish it remains the same and people who respect the ancient monuments have better access to these.

hawan at Kiradu

Suryagarh did a wonderful job by cleaning the premises and arranging a Hawan. This is an ancient Hindu way to invite the forces of the universe to bless a place or a cause, hoping this Hawan will be a beginning and ASI will take interest in unearthing more of these temples while preserving them too. Note that this temple complex was not accessible to civilians since a couple of months ago as Indian Army had a base here.

This little priest was part of the entourage of Hindu priests (Pandits) who had been invited from Barmer and was a lot more enthusiastic than the elder priests.

hawan at Kiradu

The collective chants of all these priests was good to hear after a very long time. Arvind's family organizes such large scale pujas back in Banaras and I have been part of a few of them. I kept thinking Arvind would have joined the chanting involuntarily as he has been doing since his childhood. My own family was not so much into pujas.

And just like Arvind's side of my family, this puja also commenced into a sattvic meal that was cooked on the spot. Chef Megh Singh Rathore and his team had arrived at the temple complex since noon and had cooked a lavish sattvic meal for all of us, the Pandits and all the workers deployed there. What a meal it was that we enjoyed in open air.

The tables were set old fashioned 'chowki' style and we were served alu mungodi ki subzi, mirchi ka kutta, poori, dal bati churma and pulao along with buttermilk.Desserts were mung ka halwa, some signature suryagarh mithais and some more kheer etc but I got my tripti eating the sattvic meal, desserts became unnecessary.

I will be sharing recipes of the mirchi ka kutta and alu mungodi ki subzi next. I need to keep this memory in the form of food too, after all the memories become tangible when the taste is recreated on our dining tables.

Stay tuned.