Want a breakfast that will get you and your family through Monday? : Berry Banana Oats

I love eating a variety of foods in my meals. And more than that, I like to feed my children a variety of foods too. So, even though I make oats twice a week, I try to make variations of it.

With the standardized tests going on last week, I was pleasantly surprised to know that the schools educated kids about the importance of eating healthy and hearty breakfasts. It reinforced the value of eating well because this is something I always talk about at home with my kids. When this information comes from the teachers as well, it just works much better!

Let’s get to the recipe, if I should even call it that. It’s super easy and takes about 10 mins to put together.

Serves: 2
Preparation time: 5 mins
Cook time: 5-7 mins

Ingredients:
Old fashioned Oats (or Rolled Oats): 1 cup (If using quick oats, the cooking time will be shorter.
Water: 2 cups (or more, as desired)
Ground cinnamon: 1/8 tsp
a pinch of salt
Chia seeds: 2 tsp (optional)
Maple Syrup (Gur or Jaggery or Honey as sweetener: 1 tbsp or more as per taste
Strawberries: 6-7, small diced
Bananas:1 or 1 1/2, small diced
Walnuts + Pistachios (or any other nuts of your choice): roughly chopped in a chopper, 2 tbsp per bowl – I usually make a small batch of it which I use for a week or two.

Method:
1. Add the oats, water, chia seeds, cinnamon and salt in a heavy bottom stainless steel pot. mix well and turn on the heat. To save time, you can let the oats soak in water for 10 mins to an hour or two, and then add the remaining ingredients and start cooking. If you are soaking the oats, you may need to add extra water.
2. With the heat on medium, let the oats come to a boil. Keep a close eye as they burn or stick to the bottom very quickly if not given proper care!
3. Now, lower the flame and stir often not letting the oats stick at the bottom. Cook to the consistency you like and feel free to adjust the water accordingly. When it’s almost done, add the maple syrup. I try not to add too much sweetener but let the fruit add it’s natural sweetness. So, if this is not sweet enough for you, you could add more maple syrup/honey OR, more bananas!
4. Take two serving bowls. Top them with the finely diced strawberries and bananas and the nuts mixture above.

Notes:
1. The nuts can be added whole. I coarsely grind it because my little one doesn’t like it otherwise.
2. If you have babies or toddlers eating, you can dry roast the oats for a couple of mins. Let it cool and then coarsely grind it and store in a bottle. Makes the cooking even more quicker.
3. For babies under 1, skip the honey. Consult your doctor before giving any food to babies/toddlers. I am not a doctor by any means, so please consult your doctor before feeding introducing new food to your babies.
4. This is what works for my children. And if it works for you, i’ll be happy to help!

Street Food Cravings: Kaala Chana Chaat

Kaala Chana Chaat (A warm, mildly sweet, tangy, spicy, herby street food of black chickpeas and potatoes)

Today, I shall take you on a nostalgic trip to my country of birth, India.

Where birds sing on roof tops, children joyfully play a game of hop scotch, a street vendor calls out from a distant corner, there is life all around and conversations abundant.

As I prepare myself for my trip to Asia in summer, I cannot help but imagine how things are back in my country of birth. I am also super excited about all the food that I am going to savour.

On this chilly spring evening, this warm chaat and a cup of tea is all I need in my life! The mild tang and sweetness of the dried pomegranates, some heat from the chili powder and fresh green chili peppers, freshly chopped onions, cilantro and the mildly pungent asafetida, the crunch from the sev, instantly takes me back to wander in the streets of India. My sweet neighbourhood. My childhood.

We love our street food and sometimes we try to recreate it at home!

Here’s one that R made one of the weekend afternoons when I was on my downtime! I came drawn to the kitchen with the aroma of all the warm spices he was using.

This is his creation but the only contribution I made was to suggest adding the Anardana powder because I really liked how my friend Dee had used Anardana in one of her Mom’s recipes of Dried Chhole and I’d loved it! So, thank you Dee!:)

For the longest time, R & I just couldn’t be together in the kitchen at the same time. I’ve had fights over how the onions were cut or which variety of okra R picked up from the grocery store! After moving here, he cooks over the weekend and I get fed!

Now, we give each other ideas when we try to create or recreate something. I must add that he has a very well developed and a sensitive palate, and that is a huge help in terms of feedback when trying out new recipes or food! He gives me critical and honest feedback so every recipe that comes to the blog has passed his test, for sure!

This is a great starter for a party, an afternoon snack or a street food themed party, as one can do most of the prep earlier. It’s perfect to serve in the slightly cooler months. However, you can cook this ahead and keep it in the fridge to serve it as a cold for summer.

Recipe for this warm Kaala Chana Chaat (A warm, mildly sweet & tangy, and spicy, herby salad with black chickpeas and potatoes)

Makes: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

Mustard Oil: 2 tsp
Asafetida (Hing): ¼ tsp
Ground Dried Pomegranate Powder (Anardana Powder): 2 tsp
Cumin Powder: 2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder: ½ tsp
Salt: To Taste
Ground Pepper: ½ tsp (or to taste)
Boiled Black chickpeas (Boiled Kaala Chana): 2 cups
Diced Boiled Potatoes: 1 cup
Chaat Masala: 1 tsp
Mustard Oil: 2 tsp to add on top

Garnish (Totally customized):

Onions: Chopped, fine (a tbsp per serving or as per your liking)
Green chilli peppers, finely chopped (as you prefer)
Cilantro – a handful, roughly chopped
Lime – a squeeze, or more if you like
Crispy Sev (Chickpea flour) – a tsp or as much as you like

Method:

  1. Heat 2 tsp of mustard oil.
  2. While the oil is still getting warm, add Asafetida powder, Ground Anardana, Cumin powder, chilli powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Stir well, in the oil but ensure they don’t burn (adjust the heat as necessary).
  4. Add 2 cups of boiled Kala Chana making sure to add very little of the boiling liquid.
  5. Mix well.
  6. Continue cooking on medium heat until the spices are uniformly coated and stick to the Black Chickpeas & there’s no liquid left.
  7. Add the diced, boiled potatoes (1 cup)
  8. Mix well until it is well coated in all the spices.
  9. Now add 1 tsp of chaat masala.
  10. Stir for another min, add 1/2 tbsp of mustard oil and turn off heat.

Serve warm, loading it with garnish as you like!

To Serve:

Scoop a portion of the cooked Chickpeas and Potatoes in a bowl.

Add a tbsp or two of the chopped onions, green chillies (as per taste) and some freshly chopped cilantro. Squeeze a bit of lime. Enjoy!

Our favourite Chicken Curry made easy in the Instant Pot!

Today we are getting personal. Like, sharing our treasured family staple chicken curry recipe, personal! I mean, if this is not personal, I don’t know what is? 😉

All you need to do is use your imagination and visualize that I have invited you to my home and you’ve come for a meal and you relished the most nurturing, delicious loving chicken curry that you will ever have (apart from the one your mom cooks, ofcourse!) Except, you are the one doing all the hard work you know – the cooking and cleaning up afterwards! haha

Oops! you just got a tiny glimpse of my evil side 🙂

Whether you intend to pack this for travel (think, summer vacations and Indian railways, if you have grown up in India) or you plan serve it to guests, this chicken curry is such a crowd pleaser! Now I cannot mention Indian railways and not get a little nostalgic here.

Carefully packed Masala Chicken (the dry-ish version of this recipe) with some lacchha parathas, sliced onions and fresh green chilli peppers on the side. Let’s just pause at this thought and cling to it for a few moments, shall we?

As a child, I would look longingly at other passengers having their meals in stainless steel trays served on-board the Indian Railways and wonder why life was so unfair and why I couldn’t eat that stuff!

Years later, I tried one of those meals. (I had to try it at least once!) and all I can say is that I am glad my parents didn’t let me eat it 😉

As a side note, I have added this to the list of good parenting skills you realize about your own parents only after you become a parent yourself:).

Our Family’s Favourite Chicken Curry recipe

This chicken curry can be made two ways. The recipe stays exactly the same, the only difference being, how much curry you want. If you want curry, like how I did this time, follow my recipe. If you want to have a dry version, you’ll have to cook everything in a heavy bottom pan and add water sparingly. Just enough to not let it stick to the bottom. You’ll let the chicken cook completely this way.

A fair warning: Now I know some of us do not like the idea of bones in chicken but, I would level set your expectations. The bones add to the flavour and you will just not get the same taste without bones. If you do, however, decide to make it boneless, I would recommend using chicken stock in place of water. Also, you will need to reduce the cooking time substantially (like 3-4 minutes).

Also, if you skimp on the chilli powder or not use it at all, please note that the colour will be yellow (from the turmeric) and not red at all (like in my picture). It is pretty obvious because there are no tomatoes or anything that can add a red colour to this dish other than the chilli powder.

Making this simple by dividing into 3 steps:

Step 1. Marination
Step 2: Prepare Masala & Cook the Chicken Curry
Step 3: Resting

Step 1: Marination

Ingredients for Marination:

Chicken drumstick and thigh with bones, skin removed – 1 kg; medium sized pieces, washed and patted dry. If using frozen pieces, you should thaw the chicken overnight in the fridge or in the microwave
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Ground Coriander: 1 tsp
Ground Cumin: 2 tsp
Kashmiri Chili powder (Or Cayenne Pepper: 1 tsp or as per your spice tolerance
Thick Yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt) : 1/4 cup
Salt : to taste
Mustard oil 1 tbsp

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl., Marinate overnight in the refrigerator or for 3-4 hours at the minimum. 

Step 2: Preparing the curry:

Ingredients for the curry:

Mustard Oil: 1 ½ Tbsp
Black Cardamom: 1
Cloves: 5
Bay leaves: 2
Cinnamon stick: 1 inch stick
Green Cardamom: 3 pcs, lightly pounded
Onion: thinly sliced, 2 cups, loosely packed (About 2 medium sized)
Salt: to taste
Sugar
Onion: thinly sliced, 2 cups, loosely packed (About 2 medium sized)
Salt: to taste
Sugar: 1 tsp (optional)
Medium sized potatoes – 3, cut into halves
Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Deghi Chilli Powder: ½ tsp (add kashmiri chilli powder if you do not like the heat but still want the colour)
Indian or Thai Green chilli peppers : 3-4
Cilantro (Coriander leaves): a handful, to garnish

Method:

  1. Turn on the Instant pot [IP] to sauté mode. Once “Hot”, add 1 1/2 tbsp mustard oil
  2. Next, add the black cardamom, cloves, Bay leaves, cinnnamon stick, lightly pounded green cardamoms. Stir for a few seconds.
  3. Add the thinly sliced onions, a tsp of salt and a tsp of sugar. Fry until it turns golden brown. If it starts sticking to the base, use water to splash and ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot, scraping with the spatula (Takes about 8-10 mins)
  4. In the IP, Add 1 tbsp garlic paste + 1 tbsp ginger paste. Mix until raw smell goes away (about 2 mins)
  5. Add 1/2 tsp Deghi Chili powder (to bring a little heat and colour. You could skip this if you do not want the heat)
  6. Add the marinated chicken and continue cooking for another 8-10 mins on high heat sauté setting, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Make sure nothing sticks at the bottom and always. I always have a glass of water to the rescue. Sprinkle just a little bit of water to prevent it from burning. If the heat seems too high, adjust the heat to medium.
  7. Add the potatoes. Continue to cook for another 2 mins
  8. Next add 1 ½ cups of water (more or less as you prefer)
  9. Cancel saute mode. Turn on manual mode for 8 mins and NPR (Natural Pressure Release).

Step 3: Resting

  1. When the curry is done, Add a few whole green chillies and simply let it sit for an hour before serving.
  2. Just before serving, garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
  3. Enjoy with rice or Nan as you please.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!:)

Sweet Potatoes w/ Pancetta, Rosemary and Mandarins.. Let’s get the party started!

Sweet Potatoes with Pancetta and Rosemary

A few weeks ago, I had a couple of these sweet beauties (sweet potatoes) lazing around. It was a Friday and the kids were in school, which meant, I could give my full attention to creating something with all of my senses fully present. There was no yelling, no interruptions and I had time to myself. If you have little kids at home, you know exactly what I am talking about! And if you don’t, then just take my word for it!

Going back to my story about the beautiful sweet potatoes… I opened my fridge for inspiration. I often do that before I start cooking. I stare at the produce and most days that is how I get inspired!

It’s like a party with a special guest list .. you know, the ones which say ‘By invitation only’ ! I opened the chiller and stared some more. Pancetta! There was a light bulb moment! And.. the idea of inviting Pancetta to this party got me super excited!

Now I also needed something earthy to match the meatiness of the pancetta while serving as a bridge between the sweet potatoes and the meat. I began a quiet search for this next guest. And there it was. The fresh rosemary stalks beautifully intertwined together with the confidence one has when they are the party starter!

I started prepping the ingredients, super excited but I got a certain uneasiness that I was missing out an important guest on the list. I needed something a little refreshing and zesty to lift it all up and make it fun! Just then, the mandarins said ‘hello, is it me you are looking for?’! (Sorry, I just couldn’t help it!)

The preparation was done and now we needed some music because what’s a good party without great music and dancing?!

This is an excellent party starter .. perfect for an appetizer or just by itself as a snack when you are in the mood for something delicious! Also, you can always make it vegetarian by removing the Pancetta, using ghee (or Oil for a vegan version) and topping it with some fried cashew nuts!

So, without further ado, let’s get the PARTY started!

Sweet Potato with Pancetta & Rosemary with hints of mandarin!

Total time: 30 mins
Preparation time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

Pancetta : 1 store bought packet or 4 oz or 113 gms (I used 1 4 oz packet of Boar’s Head brand diced uncured Pancetta)
Garlic: 2 cloves of garlic – sliced or if you prefer, you can chop it finely
Onion: ½ cup of finely chopped onions (I used yellow onions)
Ghee or any oil of your choice: 1 tsp
Salt
Pepper: to taste
Rosemary: 2 stalks, washed, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
Dry Chilli flakes or freshly chopped Thai red chilli peppers – 1. Just a hint of spice is needed
Sweet Potatoes: 2 cups of medium diced sweet potatoes (As a ballpark, I used around 2)
Mandarin: Juice of ½ a mandarin + Zest of 1 mandarin
Fresh parsley: a small handful, Finely chopped, as garnish

Preparation:

  1. Finely slice the garlic, if you are lazy like me and you love garlic. Otherwise, mince it finely.
  2. Finely chop the onions to yield ½ cup of onions. I used yellow onions. You could try with red onions, shallots. They would all go well.
  3. Wash the rosemary stalks. Pat them dry. Now remove the leaves from the stem and finely chop them.
  4. Peel the sweet potatoes. And cut them into medium dice.
  5. Take the zest of a mandarin. Cut it into half and juice ½ the mandarin. I challenge you to not juice the other half directly in your mouth and get some of that zesty orange juice stuff all over your face.

Method:

  1. Heat a flat, heavy-bottom pan. I would recommend using something which has a broad surface area that can be used for cooking.
  2. Add the pancetta and mix it around until it renders fat and turns nice, brown and crispy.
  3. Now remove it from the pan. If the oil left behind is enough, you don’t need to add any more oil. If not, you could add a tsp of oil or ghee. I used ghee because I love ghee.
  4. Add the garlic and stir it around until it releases aroma. Do not brown it.
  5. Next add the onions/shallots or whatever you are using. If you are using fresh Thai chilli peppers, finely chop them and add them together with the onions. Season with salt & pepper and sweat it. Go for a translucent colour without browning.
  6. Next, add the rosemary leaves and the diced Sweet potatoes. Season again with salt and pepper. Cook this covered for the next few mins on medium-low heat to get them cooked through but remember stirring them every few.
  7. Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, add the zest and keep heat to medium and just let the edges turn a little brown. Now deglaze the pan by adding the juice of ½ a mandarin. It will sizzle and who doesn’t love a good sizzling sound! Combine the flavours and remove them into your serving dish. Now top it with the Pancetta and a little bit of fresh parsley and you are good to go!

Notes:

  • If you choose to make a vegan version of this, do not include the pancetta. Use coconut oil or any oil of your choice and instead you could add some dry roasted, crushed peanuts as a topping to replace the Pancetta.

Spicy Pointed Gourd and Potatoes Curry adapted from the big fat Indian feasts (Bhoj waala Aaloo Parval)

The inspiration for this recipe comes from the big fat Indian feasts that happen in the Eastern state of India, Bihar.

For most special occasions in our family home in Bihar, we outsource the cooking to a local caterer who has an army of cooks working for him. They come prepared, set up their temporary cooking stations in our big open backyard, slowly the gigantic pots and pans start coming out followed by jute sacks filled with fresh produce like onions, potatoes, pointed gourd (Parval) and other ingredients for the big feast.

If you are as crazy about food as I am, you’ll quickly realize that it is such a treat to watch! These seasoned cooks operate with ease, often engaging in a friendly banter, the topics covered range anything from the current price of locally sourced onions to the fate of the country post elections and sometimes world peace!

Their efficiency and skill is beyond doubt, exceptional! The one thing that I am always in awe of is how they estimate spices & salt when handling such large quantities of ingredients. There is no madness like you would normally witness in a commercial kitchen, even though the menu is usually quite extensive. The preparation and cooking is flawless and the food just seems to magically come together, on time! Of course, what we don’t see are the years of practice, planning and time management skills that have gone in to what seems like an effortless pursuit.

I took inspiration from the pointed gourd curry which I have had on many such occasions. The use of Kashmiri and Deghi chilli powder (easily available on amazon or your Indian stores) imparts a nice red colour as well as heat to the curry. I like to add a little yogurt in this curry which helps balance the heat from the chilli. The addition of yogurt to this dish may not be traditionally done, but I like the hint of tang and creaminess that it lends to the curry. Also please note that, traditionally, the potatoes and pointed gourds are deep fried. I am always on the look out for adapting traditional recipes to a more balanced form so that I can maintain their nutritional value, taste and ease of cooking. That totally does not mean that I never deep fry stuff or you shouldn’t either. Everything in Moderation – that’s my food mantra!

Recipe for Pointed Gourd and Potatoes Curry (Aaloo Parval sabzi)

  • Serves: 6-8
  • Time taken: 1 hour and 5 mins
  • Preparation time: 20 mins
  • Cooking time: 45 mins

Ingredients and Preparation:

Potatoes – 2 medium sized Golden potatoes (Bought from Asian store). Boiled firm, Cooled, Peeled and cut in large cubes (Keep cubes are similar in size to the pointed gourd).

Pointed Gourd (Parval / Potol) – 16-20 small pcs of tender, fresh pointed gourd. I do not discard the seeds if the pointed gourd is tender. Trim the ends, scrape it unevenly with a pairing knife and cut into halves.If the pointed gourd you get is bigger in size, cut them into 4. This will also reduce your cooking time in the final step.

Mustard Oil – 2 Tbsp (You can always use your regular cooking oil if you don’t have mustard oil)

Bay leaf – 1-2

Onions – 1 medium sized (I used Red onions from the Asian store, you can use yellow onions as well). Makes ¾ cup of this onion paste.

Salt – to taste

Sugar – 1 tsp

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Garlic – 5 cloves

Ginger – 1” thick pc

Thai or Indian green chilli – 1

Make a paste of ginger, garlic and Chilli (reduce the garlic if you do not like too much garlic in your food)

Coriander powder – 2 tsp

Cumin powder – 1 tsp

Kashmiri chilli powder – 1/2 tsp

Deghi Chilli powder – 1/2 tsp (skip the Deghi Chilli powder if you want to reduce the heat)

Tomato –  1 ½ roma tomatoes. I didn’t have those so I used 3 relatively big size cherry tomatoes (as in photo). Make it into a puree without adding water. It should yield around ½ cup of paste.

Yoghurt (thick): 1 Tbsp (skip for vegan version)

Garam Masala Powder – ½ tsp

Method:

STEP 1: The base of the curry: the Masala

  1. Heat a heavy bottom pan (wok/kadhai). Once hot, add 1 tbsp of mustard oil. Let the oil reach smoking point, then reduce heat and begin cooking.
  2. Add the bay leaf. Stir for a few seconds
  3. Next goes the onion paste, a pinch of salt, sugar and turmeric. Cook this mixture on medium-low heat.
  4. Once the onions start to lose its moisture it will become brownish. Continue to fry until it looks dry and comes together.
  5. Next, add the ginger+garlic+chilli paste. Fry on medium-low heat until all the raw smell of the masalas are gone and the masala looks dry-ish. Add more oil, if you need to. Or sprinkle a little water to prevent burning.
  6. Once the masala is ready, add the cumin powder, coriander powder and the Kashmiri as well as Deghi chilli powders (if using). Mix for another 2 mins
  7. Now add the tomato paste. Stir to combine and fry until oil separates and the raw smell of the tomatoes is gone!
  8. Reduce heat to the lowest setting. Add a Tbsp of water. Mix to cool off the pan, then add the yogurt. Give this a good mix until it is well combined. Cooling off the masala and the pan is important and will make sure your yogurt doesn’t curdle. Once the yogurt is well combined, you can turn the heat to medium and keep stirring until the oil separates from the masala

STEP 2: Preparing the vegetables, can be done along with STEP 1

  1. Meanwhile, since our masala (above) will take a good 15+ mins to come together, I make use of that time by preparing my vegetables.
  2. Heat another heavy bottom pan to lightly sear the vegetables.
  3. On medium heat, add 1/2 tbsp of oil, a pinch each of turmeric and salt. Stir it around occasionally until you start seeing a nice browning effect on parts of the skin. This should take a 4-5 mins. In a traditional feast, this is deep fried
  4. Once the pointed gourd is done, take them off the pan and keep aside. Repeat the process above with the cubed boiled potatoes but since our potatoes are already boiled, it should be done very quickly. Keep aside.

STEP 3: Combining it all

  1. On medium heat, add the prepared Pointed Gourd (from Step 1) to the prepared Masala in Step 1. Let this cook for a good 7-8 mins.
  2. Now add the Potatoes (from Step 2) and stir for another minute.
  3. Add 2 cups of hot water. Let it come to boil, then cover on low-medium heat for about 15-20 mins. Stir every 5 mins and cook this curry until the pointed gourd is cooked through. It should be soft and not crunchy. The curry can be of medium thickness but also note that if you keep it in the fridge, the curry thicken as it rests.
  4. When the curry has reached it’s desired consistency, finish it with a generous pinch of Garam Masala Powder and Ghee. Stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Notes:

  • An optional finishing touch is to add a final tadka of dry red chillies and some more chilli powder in ghee. I do that sometimes to finish the dish and for some added colour and heat.Relish this spicy curry as a main course for a weekend meal or a weeknight meal with Roti / Rice along with your favourite Dal (lentils).
  • For best results, prepare this curry ahead and let it sit for a couple of hours before serving.
  • This keeps well in the fridge and in fact it tastes even better the next day!
  • In Bihar, we relish the left over curry the next day, as a side with Chooda (Flattened rice flakes), Dahi (Yogurt), a tiny pinch of salt and green chilli on the side. This is a very popular breakfast in Bihar!

Aaloo Gobhi, Just like Mom’s!

When I was in my late teens, I used to hangout a lot with a good friend. Late afternoons were spent at her home, just chatting and giggling about great nothings. And when her Mom (Aunty) would come back home from work, she would often head straight to the kitchen to prepare a meal for us. I would stand by the door of the kitchen, making sure not to come in her way, yet be close enough to have my eyes following her as she operated in that sacred space.

I have always been very fascinated by the art of cooking and as a natural extension of it, watching people cook. I can stand for hours mesmerized by how people cook their food, no matter which part of the world I am in. Every cook (whether at home or a professional chef) has a unique way in which they function. It is a childlike fascination I have to watch them do what they lovingly put together. This goes way beyond the recipe. . . It is meditative. . . It is like a glimpse into another’s soul.

Aunty was like the composer and conductor of her orchestra, knowing every nuance and operating with effortless precision. Like a Master, putting the various little bits together harmoniously to produce a symphony each and every time she was in that space. She moved around with confidence as she collected the ingredients, washed, chopped, stirred, cleaned and chatted, while I watched, blissfully, as we shared a bit of our lives, little knowing that we were making memories of a lifetime.

The memory of how Aunty used to cook in her kitchen is so vivid and has stayed with me all these years. Amongst the many glorious things she cooked for me, aaloo gobhi was one of the highlights. I do not remember her recipe exactly, and I could ask her for it, but I would rather watch her cook before my eyes and relive that memory when I meet her.

Is there a higher form of praise than cooking something and being told that it reminds them of their Mom’s food? In my world, NOT. That is the best compliment. And one that truly melts my heart. . So, the decision to spread the good food becomes instantaneous! I cooked this aaloo gobhi recently for a dear friend. She immediately said that it tasted (& looked) like her Mom’s food!  I just knew I had to share the recipe here!

Aaloo Gobhi [Cauliflower and Potatoes in a onion and tomato masala]:

Serves: 4-6

I divide the preparation of this dish in two steps. Step one is to Roast and prepare the cauliflower. Step 2 is to Prepare the masala and get the flavours mixed together.

Roasting the Cauliflower:

Many people do not roast the cauliflower and that’s completely fine. However, I find that every time I have roasted the cauliflower this way, it has helped to preserve the texture of the cauliflower and while I absolutely love a slightly mushy cauliflower curry, the one with the texture preserved has its own deserving place.

Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower : 1 big head of a cauliflower
  • Turmeric Powder 1/2 tsp
  • Kashmiri Chilli Powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Salt: to taste
  • Mustard Oil 1 Tbsp (Or equal amount of any other oil)

Method:

  1. Remove the green leaves/stem of the cauliflower. Take out the florets and cut them if needed into half. The idea is to make sure the florets are even sized (as far as possible), not too small, or they’ll end up being a mash and not too big or the cauliflower will not absorb any flavors of the masala.
  2. Wash the florets. Pat them to remove any extra moisture using a paper towel or a clean kitchen cloth.
  3. In a big dry mixing bowl, add the cauliflower and the rest of the ingredients. Mix it uniformly.
  4. Line a Flat Baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place the cauliflower on it making sure they are in a single layer. Discard any liquid / water that is left at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
  5. Set the oven to Broil setting or the highest setting available on your oven. Put the cauliflower to bake for about 18-20 mins. After around 10-12 mins, move the florets around. But monitor closely to make sure they do not burn. The timing may vary depending on what kind of oven you have and the size of the cauliflower as well as the moisture it has.
  6. The idea is to make it dry-ish and slightly browned.

    Alternatively, you can fry the cauliflower in a heavy bottom pan in batches. However, I try to avoid that method as it takes more oil and more time. I put this to Broil and work on my Masala.

While the cauliflower is roasting in the oven, let us get started with the Masala.

Preparing the Masala:

Ingredients:

  • Cumin Powder: 1/2 Tbsp
  • Coriander Powder: 1 Tbsp
  • Turmeric Powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Kashmiri Chilli Powder: 1 tsp
  • Deghi Chilli Powder: 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Water: 3-4 Tbsp
  • Mustard Oil: 1 Tbsp (Or any other oil)
  • Dried Bay leaf: 1
  • Cumin Seeds: 1 tsp
  • Garlic: 1/2 Tbsp, minced
  • Onions: 1 Cup, finely chopped (I used a chopper to chop it fine. Can be done by a knife too, it just saves me time).
  • Ginger: 1 Tbsp, Finely chopped
  • Salt: to taste
  • Small-Medium sized Potatoes: 6 pcs (reduce it if you don’t like potatoes too much!). Boiled firm, Peeled, and Halved. (Quartered, if the potatoes are big. The idea is to have it similar in size to the Cauliflower florets)
  • Tomatoes – Use well ripe, Roma tomatoes or the bigger, round cherry tomatoes which are slightly sweetish. Chopped into big dice – 1 Cup
  • Fresh Cilantro (or fresh coriander leaves), roughly chopped: 1/2 cup
  • Garam Masala Powder: 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Kasoori Methi leaves (Dried Fenugreek leaves, Roasted for a couple of mins until the aroma comes, then crushed in your palm by hand) (optional)
  • Fresh cream: 1 tbsp (optional)
  • Kasoori Methi leaves (Dried Fenugreek leaves: 1 tsp, Roasted for a 1-2 of mins until the aroma comes, then crushed in your palm by hand) (optional)
  • Green chillies, a couple, chopped, as a garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, add the cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and Kashmiri + Deghi chilli powders. Add enough water to cover the ground spices and stir it well to make a thick paste of it. Set aside.
  2. In a Heavy bottomed pan or Kadhai (Wok), Heat Mustard Oil. Let it reach smoking point, then lower the flame. I like the traditional flavor mustard oil adds to this dish. You can easily substitute any non flavored oil like avocado oil or grapeseed oil. If using any other oil, you do not need to heat it to smoking point.
  3. Once the oil is hot, add the Dried Bay leaf and cumin seeds and reduce heat. Cumin starts burning very quickly so, I reduce the heat to prevent that. Stir quickly for around 20-30 seconds making sure the cumin doesn’t burn.
  4. Next add the minced garlic. And increase the heat to medium-low. Stir it around continuously making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Once the garlic starts turning brown, add the finely chopped onions, ginger and 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix it until the onion turns translucent and slightly brown at the edges.
  5. At this point, add the dry masala paste which we prepared in step 1. Continue to stir and mix for another 2-3 mins until the rawness of the spices is gone.
  6. Add the boiled, peeled & halved Potatoes. Mix it well coating the spices. Once the spices are coated, add the tomatoes as well as the roasted cauliflower. Cook this uncovered for  a couple of mins on medium heat.
  7. Cover the pan, put the heat now on medium and let it cook for around 10 mins, stirring every 3-4 mins. Once the tomatoes have integrated fully in the masala and cauliflower has absorbed the flavors, turn off the heat.
  8. Add Chopped fresh cilantro leaves (coriander leaves) immediately after turning the heat off. Mix well and serve with Naan, Roti, Rice or any other way you fancy! Prepare this dish an hour or two before serving time as it allows enough time for the flavors to marry.
  9. Garnish with chopped green chillies (optional)
  10. Optional step: When the vegetables are done, Add a spoon of fresh cream and mix it well to take this dish to another level. Turn off the heat within 1-2 mins after mixing. Add 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder and the crushed, roasted kasoori methi as well as the cilantro from step 8 above.

Comfort in a plate : Poha

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Five years ago, I published my last post. A lot has changed in these years. I have grown older [and hopefully wiser]. I have moved countries. Had another baby who is now four years old! However, the one thing that has remained constant through these big life changes, has been my love for Food and Photography.

When I decided to start blogging again, I found myself looking through some of my old posts and repeatedly asking myself this question, “What took you so long?”

I don’t have an answer to that . . .

Let’s just say, a lot has happened during this time and it hasn’t been easy to cope with. I turned 40 and started looking at my life in a very different light. Four years ago, I became a mother all over again. I moved from my comfortable home in Singapore to the suburbs of New Jersey. With feelings of deep sadness and a desire to embrace change, I made the big move across continents together with my family. Friends who were a part of me through my 20s and 30s, were gone overnight.

I had always heard change was hard, but this hard . . .?

From being a social animal who thrived on meeting people to someone who spends weeks at a stretch without any face to face contact with another adult (other than my husband), let’s just say that the transition has been far from easy. I am grateful to the friends I have made during these two years as well as my long distance friends and family, without whom I couldn’t have survived.

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One Friday morning after finishing my morning chores, I was at home browsing through the glorious public lives of everyone (other than myself) on social media and I heard a knock on my door! I do not recall exactly but it could have easily been the first time my door knocked all week. It was my sweet neighbour, with a bowl of food in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. I was hungry! How could she have known? Perhaps the rumbling of my tummy was loud enough for her to hear or could it be that my need for some comfort food automatically wired out a telepathic message across our common walls? “Comfort food needed. A cup of Tea would be nice!”

She had made a bowl of Poha and a cup of Chai!

I was overwhelmed and full of gratitude. The first lesson I learnt almost immediately after moving here was that Food was God. And anyone who got you Food was an Angel!

As soon as she left, I made a dash in to the kitchen for a spoon. As I sat down with the warm bowl in my hand, I removed the foil that preserved the warmth and the aroma of that poha just made me ever so grateful for the food and love I had received. It is important that I mention that until this point in my life, I had never had any liking for poha. 

Something inside me changed permanently as I had my first spoonful.

Never before had I eaten Poha so moist and flavourful. I enjoyed the complexity of flavors that were gently balanced between the sweet, savory, spicy and tangy! It had a soft texture and yet it wasn’t dry.

I was converted!

I had to try and replicate the texture and flavour that I had just witnessed! Over the weeks that followed, I tried to replicate what I had experienced and I think I may have finally nailed it.

So, here’s the recipe!

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Recipe of Poha

For a Printable version of the recipe, click here.

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:

  • Thick Brown rice Poha (Flattened brown rice, found in Asian stores) : 1 Cup. Wash with 2-3 changes of water and Soak  in water for 5 mins. Transfer to a soup strainer to strain the poha and let it rest in the soup strainer.
  • Potatoes: 1 Cup, small diced. I used 1 medium sized red potato
  • Carrot: 1/2 Cup of finely chopped carrots (I used 1 carrot and chopped it fine using a chopper)
  • Frozen peas: 1/2 Cup. Cover the peas with enough water. Add a pinch of salt and microwave for 2 mins. Strain & keep aside.
  • Onion: 1 Cup, finely chopped
  • Ginger: 1 Tbsp, finely chopped
  • Oil: 1 Tbsp (I used avocado oil. You can use grapeseed oil or your regular cooking oil).
  • Mustard seeds: 2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves: 10-15
  • Asafetida: Generous pinch or two (if you like more)
  • Indian or Thai green chillies: 3, chopped roughly
  • Sugar: 1 tsp
  • Turmeric Powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Ghee: 1 tsp (optional)
  • Salt: to taste
  • Pepper: 1/2 tsp
  • Lime: a couple of wedges
  • Cilantro (Coriander leaves): 1/4 cup, roughly chopped
  • Roasted peanuts (I prefer the asian variety which is smaller in size): Dry roasted, skin removed and lightly crushed.

Method:

  1. Heat a medium sized wok or heavy bottom pan. Add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and wait for them to crackle. Once they start crackling, reduce heat and the add cumin seeds making sure they do not burn and let it cook for about 30 seconds.
  2. Next add the onion, ginger, asafetida, green chillies and sugar. Continue to cook this on medium-low heat until the onions have turned soft and translucent (about 3-4 mins).img_2066
  3. At this point, add the small diced potatoes along with some salt. Cover and cook them for 4-5 mins on medium-low heat. Add the peas and cook for another 3-4 mins until the peas and potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Add the finely chopped carrots, turmeric and freshly ground black pepper powder and cook for a few more mins until the carrots are not raw any longer. The carrots are so finely chopped that this should not take more than 2-3 mins on medium heat.img_2067
  5. Add the poha, some more salt (taste and adjust according to your preference) and add about 2-3 tbsp of water sprinkled all over. This is an important step to keep the poha moist without making it mushy. Mix well, cover and simmer for a few mins until the flavors have married together. Once the poha, vegetables and spices seem to have come together, turn off the heat. Do not overcook as the poha will become dry.img_2068
  6. With the heat turned off, add the ghee and freshly chopped cilantro. Mix well.
  7. To plate the poha, serve it with a squeeze of lime topped with some crushed peanuts and some more cilantro if you like!

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A timeless ritual: Ghugni

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During my childhood years, there were many practices that were religiously followed at home. As we grew up, moved places, these rituals kept evolving and eventually there were a few such rituals which stood the test of time. One such ritual was that of an evening snack called Ghugni. It is a ritual which is still in place and practiced at least once a week in my parents home.

You may find it strange that I call this Ghugni and the picture shows dried black chickpeas. This is Ghugni as it is known in Bihar. It is different from the Ghugni I have posted previously. The previous one is made using dried peas with tamarind as the souring agent. This one is  made using dried Black Chickpeas or Sookha Kaala Chana, simply known as kaala chana. Besides using different key ingredients, the two ghugnis are meant for the same purpose: snack / street food. However, they differ in their taste, texture as well as method of preparation.

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Ma prepares for this Ghugni the night before. She soaks a generous amount of the Kaala Chana in water. The next morning she pressure cooks these soaked dried chickpeas with some salt. These cooked chickpeas are then ready to be cooked in some spices to make it into what is known in Bihar as “Ghugni”. This version of ghugni is usually had with some “chooda ka bhuja” or roasted/fried and spiced flattened rice (poha / chooda / chidva).

The good news is that Kala Chana has a number of health benefits. They are high in dietary fibre. They serve as a good source of proteins for vegetarians. Therefore, this is one of those snacks where you can eat as much, almost guilt free.

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I find the Ghugni self sufficient as a snack. It definitely tastes much better the following day as the spices get sufficient time to infuse their flavours with the cooked chickpeas. It becomes a little dry with time so before serving, you will need to add some warm water and adjust the seasoning in order to suit your taste.

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Bihari Ghugni Recipe: To print the recipe, click here.

Serves: 3-4
Preparation time: 8 hours soaking + 15 mins preparation [Mis en Place]
Cooking time: Up to 1.5 hours including boiling the chickpeas.
A healthy vegetarian snack though it does require a little bit of advance planning.

Ingredients:

Black dried Chickpeas [Sookha Kaala Chana]: 1 cup
Ginger: 1 medium slice for boiling and 1 tbsp finely chopped for the masala
Garlic: 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Onion: 1 cup finely chopped
Oil: 1 ½ tbsp. [I used Mustard oil as that is used traditionally and I like it’s pungent smell and taste. You can use your regular cooking oil if you prefer]
Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon stick: 1 inch,
Bay leaf (dried): 1, medium sized
Dried red chilli: 1-2 (as per your tolerance).
Red onion: 1 cup, finely chopped
Dry Mango powder (Aamchoor): 2 ½ tsp

Ingredients for the spice paste:

Turmeric powder: 1/8 tsp or a generous pinch
Chilli powder: ½ tsp
Coriander powder: 1 tbsp
Cumin powder: 1 ½ tsp
Water: 2 tbsp

Ingredients for garnishing:

Onions: 1, finely chopped
Green chillies: 4-5, finely chopped
Lime: 1-2, cut anyway to squeeze the juice on the cooked ghugni.

How I did it:

  1. Wash and soak the Sookha Kaala Chana overnight or for about 8 hours in water.
  2. Wash it again. In a pressure cooker, add the Kaala chana, sufficient water making to cover the chickpeas as well as extra to make sure there is enough room for the chickpeas to expand in volume, a pinch of salt & a slice of ginger. Start the pressure cooker on high heat. After the steam builds up [first whistle], lower the heat to cook for another 15 mins. If using an open pot, make sure the chickpeas are cooked through – You should be able to crush them if you press them between two fingers. They should retain their shape and not be mushy at all. Allow the steam to release on it’s own. Discard the slice of ginger. Strain the mix, reserving the liquid for cooking.
  3. In a deep bottomed pot or a wok / Kadhai, heat 1 tbsp mustard oil. Bring it to a smoking point, and then let it cool down. If using regular oil, simply heat the oil and move on to the next additions. Add cumin seeds, dry red chilli, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Let the aroma release in the oil. Reduce heat if necessary, making sure the spices do not burn.
  4. Next, add the finely chopped ginger and garlic. Fry for about 2 mins on low heat.
  5. Add the finely chopped onions and a pinch of salt to season the masala. Fry on low-medium heat stirring continuously for about 7-8 mins until almost done. This is also called bhuno, a term used in Indian cooking which means to cook the spices slowly to ensure the maximum flavours are released and the raw smell from the spices and ingredients no longer exists. Doing this step right is essential to maximise the flavour of any dish.
  6. While the onions are frying, mix together all the ingredients listed under ‘Spice Mix’ and add next.
  7. Continue to cook the masala for another 2-3 mins until there is no raw smell of any masala.
  8. Next add dry mango powder (aamchoor) & the drained and boiled Kaala Chana
  9. Increase heat to high and continue to stir making sure the masala sticks to the kaala chana.
  10. Keep adding 2-3 ladles of the reserved boiling liquid and continue cooking on low-medium heat until the liquid is absorbed by the Chana. The liquid additions should be enough to make sure the Chana has some extra liquid. The idea is to slowly infuse all the flavour from the liquid into the Chana while cooking the spices.
  11. Repeat this process until all or most of the liquid is used up. Remember that the cooking liquid already contains salt. Taste often to adjust the salt if needed.
  12. If serving later, heat up the chana, adding a little water to make it moist. We don’t want this to be too dry. If adding water, adjust the level of salt.
  13. Serve in bowls or a plate, garnished with chopped onions, green chillies and lime. Traditionally, this is served with chooda ka bhooja or lightly spiced and roasted beaten rice. I find this tastes great on it’s own too.

Black Chana Ghugni

Notes:

  • Chop the ingredients for garnishing just before serving. The freshness of the onions, green chilli and lime will elevate your snack to another level.
  • I spend a lot of time cooking this ghugni slowly. It helps to infuse flavours to these chickpeas and I find it totally worth the time and effort.

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A Bengali Brunch: Koraishootir kochuri [Pooris stuffed with a spicy peas masala]

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R and I had been dating for many years before we got married. Our conversations used to revolve around our families, our lives together, our cultural differences, amongst many other things which young dating couples from different cultural backgrounds talk about.

R’s family is from West Bengal, a state in the Eastern part of India that is often known for its politics, literary history, culture, a daily diet that MUST include fish, and people who are extremely fond of sweets! My family, on the other hand, comes from the neighbouring state of Bihar, a state that is often the subject of conversation for its politics, lawlessness and poverty. The harsh reality is that we live in a world of stereotypes. The only silver lining is that we also live in a world where travel has become a lot easier and internet ensures there is enough information for people who seek out for it. This is definitely helping people to see beyond these stereotypes.

Before I got married, I was only worried about how I was going to deal with the sweet palate of the Bengali family and relatives because I definitely didn’t have one. It would be rude to refuse a sweet offered so lovingly and generously. Fortunately, it wasn’t really as difficult as I had made it out to be. Word spread about my love for fish and my lack of appetite for sweets.  The rest is history. I have been fortunate to have some of the best food in many Bengali homes. No restaurant can match up to that taste, variety and depth of flavour that is created in these home kitchens.

My Mother-in-Law is one of the best cooks I know. I owe a lot of my understanding of Bengali food to her. There are also a couple of other relatives and friends who have wholeheartedly welcomed me in their kitchen and given me the opportunity to watch, ask questions and learn. That learning over the years has given me the confidence to cook a lot of traditional Bengali food at home.

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Today, I am sharing my recipe of a traditional Bengali Brunch – ‘Koraishootir Kochuri’ or Pooris stuffed with a spicy peas masala. Do not confuse them with “Kachori” from North India. The two are quite different in texture, appearance and taste.

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Koraishootir kochuri is a popular homemade breakfast especially in the winter months when peas are in season. I didn’t have to wait for winters as I used frozen peas which are fortunately available year round! 😉 Koraishootir Kochuri is almost always served with some Indian pickles (aachhaar / achaar) and a spicy semi-dry dish made with potatoes called aaloo dom in Bengali or aaloo dum in Hindi. I promise to share a recipe of aaloo dom / aaloo dum very soon!

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The filling used here is a spicy mixture of peas dominantly flavoured by asafetida. Asafetida or hing, is a very strong and pungent spice. It is used quite extensively in a lot of Indian vegetarian dishes, especially for cooking where no onions or garlic are used. Most commonly available in a powder form, when fried for a few seconds in oil, it releases a very pleasant aroma and enhances the flavour of a dish immediately. A little goes a long way is apt for this spice. It is also an essential ingredient for flavoring many Indian pickles / achaar / aachaar.

Traditionally, Maida or refined flour is used to make this dish. I prefer to use wholewheat flour instead.

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To print this recipe, click here.

Koraishootir Kochuri or Pooris with a spicy Peas Masala filling:

Yield: About 18-20 pcs
These are quite heavy as they are thicker than the usual pooris and they have filling inside.

Things I needed:

A Paraath or a huge plate which is common in most Indian homes. It is used to knead dough.
A deep bottomed kadhai or Indian style wok or a deep pot for deep frying.
A Chakla
A rolling pin

For more information on the essential utensils for an Indian kitchen, you should check out the blog written by my friend, Nisha. She blogs at Spusht and has done a brilliant job of making an inventory for any one new to Indian cooking. Check this and many other interesting recipes and ideas on her blog, Spusht.

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Ingredients for the Dough:

Wholewheat flour: 2 cups [I used Aashirvaad Wholewheat aata]
Ghee: 1 tbsp
Carom seeds or Ajwain: ½ tsp
Warm water: ¾ cup
Salt: a pinch or to taste
Oil for deep frying

In a paraath or a big flat deep plate used in most Indian homes for kneading dough, add the flour, carom seeds (ajwain) and salt. Using your hands mix all the dry ingredients so that they are uniformly spread. Now add ghee (at room temperature) to the flour and rub it in between your palms. Repeatedly rub the flour and ghee mixture in this manner for 3-4 minutes to have the smell and flavour of ghee spread across the flour.

Next, make a well and add 1/3 cup water in the middle. Knead the dough mixing the flour with the water, adding water a little at a time. You may not need to use all the water but Add another 1/3 cup warm water and continue kneading. If the dough is sticky, just add a little flour and knead it again until smooth. We are looking for a dough which is not too firm but not very soft either – somewhere in between!

Ingredients for the Peas filling:

Frozen peas: 2 cups
Regular vegetable oil: 2 tsp
Cumin seeds: ½ tsp
Grated ginger: 1 tsp
Asafetida powder (hing): approx. 1/8 tsp
Roasted cumin powder: ½ tsp
Garam Masala: ½ tsp
Aamchoor (Dry Mango) powder: ½ tsp
Salt to taste

Boil the peas in just enough water to wet the peas with a pinch of salt until they are soft. (About 5 mins).

Using a food processor, make a coarse paste of the peas.

Heat 2 tsp of oil in a small kadhai / wok / skillet. Add cumin seeds, reduce heat and let it change colour without burning or turning black. Add grated ginger. You have to be careful to not let the cumin seeds burn otherwise it can add a bitter taste. Reduce heat or remove the pan from heat if needed. Add the asafetida and stir for a couple of seconds. Add the coarse peas paste, chilli powder and salt to taste.

Increase heat to medium, and continue to stir in order to reduce the moisture content of this mixture. When the mixture is almost dry (about 5 mins), add the roasted cumin powder, garam masala powder and aamchoor powder. Taste and adjust the taste to your liking. Continue frying for another 2 minutes and remove from heat.
Spread mixture on a plate to allow it to cool completely. This step is important to help you roll the pooris and make sure the filling doesn’t come out when rolling.

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Assembling it all together:

Now divide the dough into about equal size pieces. You should be able to make around 18 – 20 pcs. These are rolled thicker than the usual pooris so each portion must be a little bigger than your usual Poori dough. To give you an idea, each pc weighed in between 20-25 gms.

Make a smooth ball with each pc of dough. Using your fingers and in a sort of pinching motion, press from the centre turning it around, creating a well to stuff the filling. Make sure you don’t spread it too thin as this needs to be rolled flat and the stuffing should not come out.

Stuff around 1 tbsp of the prepared filling as shown in the picture. Seal it well. Take out a tbsp of the oil in a small bowl. Put a few drops of oil on the surface of the rolling surface (Chakla) to ensure it doesn’t stick when rolling. We do not use flour to roll these as dry flour will burn very quickly [A tip I learned from my Mother-in-law].

Roll these into small but thick pooris about 10-12 cm in diameter, taking care not to let the filling come out. If the filling comes out, these will not fluff up as we want it to. This takes a little practice so don’t be disappointed if you miss a few. Keep trying:)

Test the oil by adding a tiny pinch of dough, it should sizzle immediately and float up in the oil. Remove the test piece or you’ll have a burnt piece of dough floating about.

Gently slide down the rolled koraishootir kochuri in to hot oil to deep fry them. With the back of the spatula, gently press these kochuris to help them fluff up. Once fluffed up, immediately turn them over so that both sides get cooked. Fry one piece at a time. You could roll a few and keep on standby while the oil is heating, but make sure you do not stack them. Instead, spread them on a plate separate from one another.

Keep adjusting the heat. If the oil becomes too hot, there are 2 things you can do:
– reduce the heat or remove from heat to gradually cool down the oil to bring to desired temperature.
– Add more oil. This will help to reduce the temperature of the oil.

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Spicy Sweet-Potato bites!


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One of my earliest memories of sweet potatoes (Shakarkand, Mishti Aaloo or Aluaa) is from my occasional winter visits to my grandmother’s home in Bihar. Sweet potatoes were found in abundance in the winter months. Bonfires made with wood were common in almost every corner / street. Given the lack of heating equipments then, these bonfires were the perfect social setting for some tea, conversations and food along with the much needed warmth for those extremely chilly winter evenings.

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Sweet potatoes are common food at these casual, unpretentious gatherings. Someone will usually carve out some of the burning amber coloured wood and cover the sweet potatoes in them to let it slow roast. This can take up to an hour to cook. When cooked, the skin becomes very crisp. It is then peeled and dunked in milk with or without sugar and is absolutely delightful for sweet potato lovers. At other times, sweet potatoes are also cooked in the wood fired mud ovens (choolha) that is common in rural India. The other simpler way to cook them is by boiling them in water, peeling them and then seasoning it with some salt and Teesi as part of a regular meal.

If you haven’t grown up with this, you might find the idea strange. R, who spent a number of years in Delhi, finds his peace in roasting and spicing up these tuberous roots. It makes me realize how important it is to try different kinds of food in the early years of life. The food that we eat, especially as children creates memories, forms and shapes how we remember and associate life events and people as we grow up.

I must admit though that I never had a strong liking for sweet potatoes (primarily because of its sweetness) until I became a mother. I strongly believe children should be exposed to different kinds of food from an early age. It helps them to have an open mind about food as they grow up. In practice, I take it as an opportunity to nurture my own creativity in the kitchen and make some interesting meals for the family.

These bite sized cutlets make for a great appetiser to kick start any evening.

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For this recipe, I boiled the sweet potatoes until cooked yet firm. I wanted to create a flavour combination that would tone down the sweetness of the sweet potatoes while incorporating savoury, tangy and heat in the right intensity. The first time I created these was when I was trying to make something new for little V’s snack box. I also wanted to make something that was bite size, just the right size so that he can use his fingers without making it too messy.

To print this recipe, click here.

Yield: About 40 mini / bite size sweet potato cutlets

Ingredients:

Sweet Potatoes: around 500 gms
Onion: 1 cup, finely chopped
Teesi: 3 Tbsp (See recipe of Teesi here)
Lime juice: 2 Tbsp (start with 1.5 tbsp and adjust to suit your taste)
Coarse Rice powder: 3 Tbsp (you can replace this with fine semolina instead)
Finely chopped coriander leaves: ½ cup
Finely grated ginger: 1 ½ Tbsp
Roasted cumin powder: 1 ½ Tbsp
Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Black pepper powder: 1tsp
Finely chopped green chillies: 4-5 (I used Thai green chillies)
Rock salt: ¼ tsp
Salt: to taste
Ghee to pan fry the mini cutlets (replace with your regular cooking oil if you prefer): You will need to spread a tsp (or less) of ghee in the skillet. As you cook the mini cutlets, you can use an oil brush or the back of a spoon to touch the surface of the cutlets with ghee/oil. When pan frying the next batch, use a little less ghee, just enough to have some oil lining the skillet.

How I did it:

  1. Wash sweet potatoes thoroughly. Slice each sweet potato (skin on) into 2 or 3 big chunks. I used a pressure cooker to boil until steam forms (one whistle). Remove from heat and let it cool down until all the steam is released.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Shock the boiled sweet potatoes in ice cold water. Peel the skin. Grate these into a large enough bowl.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients listed above.
  5. Using your fingers, mix all the ingredients together making sure the spices (masalas) are uniformly mixed. It doesn’t matter if the sweet potato loses the grated texture. Sweet potatoes have been cooked but are still firm and will retain their texture when we shape them into mini-cutlets. The important thing is to mix this well to ensure every cutlet has the flavours uniformly spread across. Taste and adjust the salt, spice and tangy taste according to your liking. The best way to do this is to pan fry one mini-cutlet first and taste it. I believe the taste alters with the cooking process therefore this step is highly recommended.
  6. Shape the mixture into bite size cutlets – about an inch to 1.5 inches in diameter.
  7. In a skillet, heat about a tsp of ghee (Just enough ghee to wet the skillet) Place the mini-cutlets in the skillet, and cook on low heat until crispy on the outside. As I do not use much ghee in the skillet initially, I like to brush the cutlets with a little ghee on the outside during the cooking process. This helps to give a nice golden color.
  8. Serve with coriander chutney or a coriander-mint chutney (click here for recipe) or chilli sauce.

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Notes:

  • The green chillies are an absolute must in this, if serving for adults. Adjust to your tolerance. I skipped it when I made it for V.
  • I added Teesi which made it healthier obviously. If you do not want to make Teesi, you can replace it with a tsp of roasted coriander powder and 1/8 tsp of chilli powder instead. The flavour will be different but good, nevertheless.
  • I used Vietnamese sweet potatoes to make this, as it is readily available here. The Vietnamese sweet potatoes have less moisture than many other varieties. I found it easy to shape and pan fry.

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