Kibti ~ Lost Recipe from the Royal Kitchens of Patiala

Kibti ~ Tender chicken thighs marinated in yogurt & aromatic spices and slow cooked in ghee, caramelised onions and saffron. Topped off with slivered almonds 🤍

The sheer diversity of Indian cuisine is overwhelming. Each region has its own history and culture which reflects heavily on its food. But sadly over time many such brilliant recipes that highlighted the ingenuity of the cooks/ khansamas have faded into oblivion or remain undocumented.

Whether it’s our ancestral kitchens or the secret recipes of the royal chefs, these glorious recipes must be preserved and handed down through generations. In this era of convenience and instant gratification, it’s crucial that we celebrate such lost recipes and hidden gems that gives us an insight into the incredibly rich food heritage of India.

A decadent treat from the royal kitchens of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, Kibti (or kibiti) is an appetiser with layered flavours. It’s the perfect example of how simple spices and minimal techniques can result in a dish with a complex flavour profile. Our ancestral kitchens were sheer genius when it came to creating unique gems. I was delighted to be a part of a beautiful collaboration #forgottenfoodofindia on Instagram that gave me an excuse to deep dive into our rich Indian culinary heritage😀

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh was a well known connoisseur of food with some of the most enterprising and skilled royal chefs who always looked to indulge his tastebuds. Kibti was one such delicacy which he loved and also served in the lavish parties he hosted.

A small trivia~ Apparently he had once ordered for a 1400 piece George V gold and silver dinner service cutlery from London (weighing 500kg!) just to honour the visit of Prince of Wales.

Ingredients:

For marination:

8 boneless chicken thighs

4 tbsp hung yogurt

8-10 black peppercorns

5 green cardamoms

4 cloves

1 large mace

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

1 green chili minced (optional)

Salt to taste

For the cooking:

1 large onion, sliced

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp red chili powder (I used kashmiri red chili powder)

Few saffron strands

Ghee (clarified butter) for shallow frying

Almond slivers for garnishing

Method:

Dry roast the green cardamoms, peppercorns, mace and cloves. Grind them into a powder. Also soak 10-12 almonds in hot water and then peel the skin and chop them in slivers.

Now marinate the chicken with the yogurt, spice mix, ginger-garlic paste, minced green chilli and salt for at least 30-45 minutes. Heat 1 tsp ghee in a pan and roast the almonds until slightly brownish. Remove from the pan and keep aside,

Heat some more ghee and add the chicken thighs and spread them evenly to ensure they get enough space for browning. Cook on each side until they are nicely browned on medium heat. Now add the remaining marinade and the onion slices and continue to cook until the onions get caramelised on med-low heat.

Once the onions become soft and blends into the chicken, add the red chilli powder and coriander powder and give it a good mix until everything is well combined.

When the chicken is perfectly browned on the outside and juicy from the inside, add 1 tsp of ghee and sprinkle some saffron strands over the chicken.

Remove after 5 minutes and garnish with almond slivers before serving.

The Ultimate Chicken Phở (Phở Gà) ~ Lost in the lanes of Vietnam

Xin chào các bạn 🙂

Juicy succulent chicken pieces simmered in an aromatic broth served over rice noodles with an assortment of fresh herbs and condiments- the mighty phở (pronounced Fuh) is probably the most famous food export of Vietnam.

I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t enjoy a fragrant bowl of warm phở on a cold winter night like today in Toronto. Although beef phở is more widely known, the chicken version is equally delicious and packed with complex yet delicate flavours.

I have always been fascinated by Vietnam and its culture, history, people and food. Ever since I read about the Vietnam War in my younger days, visiting the country was on my bucket list. This desire got stoked further on hearing stories from my dear Vietnamese friend Minh (my classmate from university days in Kuala Lumpur).

While visiting Hanoi, one of my favourite activities was to explore the local eateries and enjoy a bowl of phở. Other delicacies like bánh mì (savoury sandwich) or bún chả  (meatballs) were also sumptuous, but it was the humble phở which resonated with me the most.

Vietnamese food is all about simplicity and minimal use of spices. The fresh herbs really stand out in making each dish flavourful- whether it’s bún thịt nướng (cold rice-vermicelli noodles with grilled meat) , fresh spring rolls or bún bò xào (noodle salad).

The street-side stalls are often packed in the mornings with people sitting on plastic stools enjoying a comforting bowl of phở before work.

Although phở might look really simple, it’s a work of art in a bowl. Phở teaches you balance. The zing from lime, the piquant fish sauce, freshness of herbs, spicy kick from the red chilies and sriracha, everything is adjusted in the right proportion to create the perfectly balanced umami rich dish 🙂

Before I share the ultimate recipe of mouthwatering chicken phở, here are some precious snippets from my Hanoi and Halong Bay trip two years ago.

Dreamy lanes
Ho Van Văn Miếu ~ Confucian history and culture intrigues me, so I had to visit this ancient university built in 1070 which is dedicated to Confucius. So serene and picturesque!
Local artisanal craftwork
The stunning Hoàn Kiếm lake at night
It’s a busy day at work!
The famous book street
Sunset at the majestic Halong Bay
The gorgeous sunset view
Ethereal beauty
Maison Centrale ~ the prison for the Vietnamese revolutionaries and American POW during the Vietnam War
The sacrifices will never be forgotten
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre ~ an evening to remember!
Sung Sot Cave ~ the biggest and most beautiful cave in Halong Bay
Such an enormous limestone structure!
Random roadside cafes ~ so Insta-worthy
Towering limestone pillars and gorgeous emerald waters- Halong Bay is breathtaking!
Room with a view at Alisa Premier Cruise
Fairy lights on winter nights at Ho Van-Văn Miếu
Vietnamese Women’s Museum ~ dedicated to heroic women for their contribution to Vietnamese history, politics and culture. The stories about women who made a mark in Vietnam War were particularly impressive.

Time for some food 😀

Fresh oysters and shrimp with onion sauce
Bánh Mì and phở
Fresh Grilled Fish
A local café
Spring Rolls and Fresh Salad
Best breakfast in Hanoi Meracus Hotel 2. Hundreds of great reviews made us choose this little gem 🙂
Traditional coffee
Some more phở

We all need a holiday after this Covid nightmare is over and hopefully we will all travel again soon. Till then keep planning and keep dreaming 🙂

Chicken Phở (Phở Gà) Recipe:

Ingredients (for 2 people):

Boiled rice noodles (for 2)

For the broth:

1 large onion, halved (unpeeled)

1 two-inch piece ginger (unpeeled)

1 large cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

6 cloves

Few fresh coriander/ cilantro sprigs

3 tbsp fish sauce (you can add more if you like)

350-400g bone-in chicken

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste

For the topping/ garnish (the quantities are according to my preference, you can adjust as per your taste):

3 tbsp crispy fried shallots (or onions)

1 sliced Thai red chilli

Few sprigs of fresh coriander/ cilantro

8-10 fresh Thai basil leaves (or normal basil leaves if you don’t have Thai basil)

2 tbsp lime juice (or lemon like I used)

2-3 tbsp chopped spring onions

2 tbsp bean sprouts

Sriracha sauce according to taste

Few important tips:

Always use bone-in chicken for maximum flavour.

Char the veggies welly well.

Remove scum from time to time gently.

Adjust the quantities of herbs and condiments according to your taste. There is no fixed rule.

Let the broth simmer for at least 1.5 hours or more. Don’t cover the lid completely. Initially partially covered, later on simmer uncovered.

Method:

Heat a deep bottomed pot and roast the onion and ginger face down on medium heat. Make sure you don’t peel them. Continue to turn them with a tong for even charring.

When they get slightly charred, add the cinnamon, star anise, fennel and coriander seeds. Dry roast them for some more time until the spices become fragrant and the onion and ginger pieces are nicely charred.

Take out the ginger and onion. Peel the outer skin of the onion and roughly chop in 3-4 pieces to release more flavour into the broth. Also chop the ginger into smaller size as shown below. Add them back in the pot.

Throw in the chicken pieces and add enough water in the pot to make a good broth for two. Add salt, sugar, fish sauce and coriander sprigs and let the broth simmer on low heat (partially covered) for at least 1.5 hours. The longer the better!

Scoop out the scum that rises to the surface with a ladle gently without disturbing the simmering broth, from time to time.

Make sure that every time you scoop out some scum, you dip the ladle into a bowl of clear water before scooping out again. This will ensure your broth doesn’t become cloudy.

Meanwhile prepare your rice noodles according to package instructions, but don’t cook it too far ahead in time as they tend to get sticky if left out for a long time.

Also prepare the crispy shallots by frying 3 finely chopped shallots on low-medium heat in a wok. Drain and keep aside on a paper towel.

After 1.5 hours, you will notice that the broth is mostly clear.

Now remove the chicken and let the broth continue to simmer. Once slightly cool, tear the chicken pieces with your hand roughly instead of chopping, for that rustic street-side feel.

Strain the broth and adjust the seasoning. Remember to keep the broth slightly on the saltier side because it will eventually get diluted when noodles are added.

Time to assemble the phở !

In a bowl, take some of the boiled rice noodles, top it up with chicken and some chopped spring onions. Add enough broth so that it covers almost the entire bowl.

Throw in basil leaves, coriander leaves, chopped Thai red chilies, fried shallots, bean sprouts, a generous squeeze of lime and a squirt of sriracha*.

*Adding sriracha in the phở is often debated because it was never really used traditionally. But eateries now serve dollops of sriracha and hoisin sauce on a small flat dish to be used to flavour the meat and herbs for the phở. I personally don’t mind a small squirt of the hot sauce in my pho as it brings out all the flavours beautifully and elevates the taste but you may skip using it. Just keep some with you on a small plate and use as you please.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Authentic Kolkata Biryani- Tracing Roots & Bridging Cultures


The classic Kolkata chicken biryani with its juicy tender meat, mild & fragrant spices & succulent potatoes, is inspired heavily by the Awadhi style.

As I write this, fond memories of Arsalan, Shiraz & Aminia just keep coming back🤍 The city’s love for this stellar dish can be experienced through the countless biryani eateries strewn across its length and breadth.

Source: YouTube

The seeds were planted in the mid 1800s when the 10th Nawab of Awadh (or Oudh) was exiled from Lucknow and his properties were seized by the British. He moved with his entourage to Metiabruz in Calcutta, which soon became a cultural mecca thriving with musicians, courtesans, royal kitchen khansamas (cooks), skilled darzis (tailors), et al.

The Nawab was a man of taste and a well known connoisseur of food. He had his royal kitchen khansamas with him who were some of the best of those times- highly skilled, enterprising and always innovating to indulge and delight the Nawab’s tastebuds.

That’s how Awadhi biryani which is cooked in the dum-pukht style reached Calcutta. In dum-pukht style of cooking, the rice and the meat korma is cooked separately and then layered in the pot on which the lid is sealed tightly with dough so that the steam doesn’t dissipate and flavours remain intact.

This ingenious method results in the exotic aromatic juices from the meat to ooze into the rice and potatoes, creating a subtle yet exquisite flavour in the biryani.

All great so far!

But how did the humble (or not so humble) potato and egg come into the picture?

If you ask me, I would say the potato is my favourite thing about biryani. Only those who have tasted Kolkata biryani would truly understand what I’m saying! Undoubtedly, it is the humble soft potato that connects true blue Calcuttans across the globe and sparks debate (at the drop of a hat) about the best biryani joints in Kolkata.

There’s a lot of literature out there discussing the origin/ history of adding potatoes. On researching, most sources lean towards the theory that with the Nawab’s wealth depleting, the purse strings were tightened but being a gourmet, he always enjoyed having his royal meals. So his khansamas began innovating in the kitchen to find ways to satiate him, hence the inclusion of potatoes (and later on eggs) to stay within budget. Click here to read more.

But there’s another side to this claim which states that potato was actually considered an exotic vegetable. According to the great-great-grandson of the Nawab Shahanshah Mirza, as mentioned in an article published by Hindustan Times, potato cultivation was sparse in those days and hence not readily available, making it a luxury produce.

The khansamas simply experimented one day with potatoes in the biryani which the Nawab seemed to relish and approve of, and that’s how potatoes got introduced in Kolkata biryani 🙂 You can read the complete article here

For the chicken biryani, I blindly followed Manzilat Fatima’s brilliant recipe (she draws her lineage from Awadh’s royal family), noting down every single ingredient and technique that went into making this phenomenal dish, which she shared in a YouTube video by Delhi Food Walks🤍 Only exception being the eggs which I added, as I love eggs 😀

Manzilat Fatima’s famous Kolkata biryani recipe


I have tried her recipe for at least 7-8 times now and every single time the flavours simply knock your socks off! There’s no going back now. Watch the video to get her mind blowing recipe or you can continue to read below where I have broken down her recipe in 4 simple steps (for 3 servings):

Step 1

Peel 4 potatoes and fry them in mustard oil. Sprinkle salt, 1/3 tsp turmeric and a little red chilli powder while frying. Add little water, cover and continue to fry them. Keep aside when almost done.

Now heat some more mustard oil and fry 1 large red onion to make barista. Drain and keep aside on a paper towel.

Step 2

Heat mustard oil in a handi (or a deep bottomed pan). Add 4-5 cloves, 6 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom and 2 cinnamon sticks. Fry for a while and add the fried barista again. Throw in 2 fat cloves of crushed garlic and fry for a few seconds.

Now add 2 tbsp hung yogurt and mix well. Add little red chilli powder, 2 tbsp biryani masala (I used Shan Pilau Biryani masala, it’s fantastic!) and mix well. Now add 2 inch grated ginger and fry everything for a while. Add 6 chicken thighs (bone-in) and cook on medium heat for 5-7 mins. Lower the flame, cover and keep cooking.

Step 3

Wash and soak 11/2 cup rice for 1 hour. Drain and keep in a colander. Now boil a pot of water and add 4 cloves, 4 cardamoms and 2 bay leaves while boiling.

Once it comes to a rolling boil, add 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt to taste and the drained rice.

Cook until the rice is about 90% done.

Step 4

In the korma handi/ pan, gently place the potatoes and sprinkle a tsp of kewra water. Next, assemble the rice and pour half a cup of milk mixed with 1 tsp biryani masala on top.

Mix 2 tsp kewra water with saffron strands and drizzle over rice. Drizzle some ghee (clarified butter) and place 2 boiled eggs. I had some extra onion barista which I sprinkled on top. Now place an aluminum foil on top of the handi and seal it properly.

Cover with a lid on top and cook on low heat for 30 mins. Keep a standing time of at least 5 mins.

Kari Ayam (Authentic Malaysian Chicken Curry)

Having lived in Malaysia for many years, I’ve grown to love the spices & herbs from this region. Laksa curry, Char kway teow, Kuih, Roti jala & the mighty Nasi lemak. Yummm🤍

One of my favourite comfort foods is rice with kari ayam- slightly spicy & a creamy chicken curry which I always keep going back to. The authentic ones are found in the ‘mamak’ shops, which are the street side eateries selling unpretentious authentic local delicacies.

Now there are few keys to a good chicken curry Malaysian style. For instance,

1. The meat curry powder– Malaysian meat curry powder is a spice blend which includes ground coriander, chili, fennel, cumin, star anise, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf, turmeric, white pepper and black pepper. I always used Baba’s meat curry powder back in Kuala Lumpur & thankfully got few boxes packed with me in Toronto which would last me for a long time. You could make your own blend at home which is super easy, by just following the many videos available on YouTube.
2. Candlenut– this is added to thicken the curry & lend a beautiful texture. You can substitute it with macadamia nuts like I did.


Something about this dish is highly addictive, I can’t really explain what exactly! So for now I’ll leave you with this lovely recipe given to me by my next door makcik (aunty in Malay language)😀

Ingredients:

  • 500 g Boneless chicken thigh, cut into curry style pieces
  • 4 heaped tablespoon Malaysian meat curry powder (recipe easily available on internet)
  • 1 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 5 Shallots
  • 2½ Inch of fresh ginger
  • 5 Fat cloves of garlic
  • 4 Candlenuts (or 6-7 macadamia nuts)
  • 3 Dried red chilli
  • 1 Large cinnamon piece
  • 4 Cloves
  • 4 Cardamom (green)
  • 1 Star anise
  • 4 Sprigs of curry leaves
  • 3 Medium sized potatoes, halved
  • 1 Lemongrass stalk
  • 300 ml Coconut milk
  • 3 tbsps Olive oil (or any white oil)

Method:

Marinate chicken with 1 tbsp meat curry powder & 1 tbsp light soy sauce. Leave it aside for at least 15-20 mins.

Now for the aromatics, make a paste with the shallots, ginger, garlic, candlenuts, dried red chilies, remaining meat curry powder & little water. Heat 3 tbsps oil in a pot & sauté the whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise & few curry leaves.

Once fragrant, add the spice blend & fry until red & the oil separates. Throw in the marinated chicken & cook well on high heat for at least 5-10 mins.

Now add hot water according to the gravy consistency you want, & let it come to a boil.

Toss in the potato cubes, remaining fresh curry leaves & lemongrass & then lower the heat, simmering for at least 30 mins.

Finally add the coconut milk, salt & sugar (optional) & let it cook for another 5 mins before serving.

Boozy Holiday Fruit Cake (Eggless) & a Christmas Nostalgia

Boozy holiday rich fruit cake (eggless) with dried cranberries, dates and raisins soaked in red wine for a month!

Christmas in Calcutta is an emotion. While it may ruffle some feathers, I have to admit that Calcutta is probably the most secular city in India which celebrates festivals like Christmas not out of any religious compulsion but because it’s a delightful celebration of life, something that lifts your spirits.

For those of us who grew up in Calcutta, the festival is synonymous with Nahoum’s rich fruit cake. Surprisingly in December the whole city gets busy in Christmas preps, and the Jewish bakeries and neighbourhood confectionaries start selling homemade plum cakes that are made with rum soaked raisins, dates and candied peels. All of a sudden, Ruma kakima’s sleepy bakery in the dusty bylanes of Free School Street is abuzz with activities.

Nahoum’s will remain my most favourite always- their dense and rich fruit cakes are so moist and loaded with dry fruits. This is my ode to their legendary cakes as i reminisce about the bygone Christmas days of my adolescence when I would patiently wait in a long queue outside the store with my mum just to get my share of treats. That was my Santa moment.

The authentic Christmas plum cake/ fruit cake in Calcutta is prepared with dried fruits soaked in rum for a prolonged period and most recipes are handed down through generations. I have used red wine instead and have also used greek yogurt instead of eggs which is honestly unthinkable in the original recipe. But then sometimes it’s okay to deviate from the original and tweak things here and there just for fun, doesn’t take away anything from the classic 🙂

Ingredients:

Chopped dried cranberries, black raisins, sultanas, pitted dates, candied ginger soaked in red wine (or dark rum) for at least 2-3 weeks (the longer the better)

11/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp each of ground cinnamon, clove and nutmeg

1 tbsp orange zest

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup olive oil (or any vegetable oil)

1 cup brown sugar (preferably) or raw cane sugar (no white sugar)

1 cup greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup of chopped mixed nuts like almonds, pistachios and cashews

Method:

In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 cup brown sugar. Whisk it well for a couple of minutes until well combined.

Now add the yogurt and vanilla extract and whisk again. It will take a couple of minutes to whisk everything to a smooth consistency.

In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Start with 11/2 cup of all purpose flour. Toss in the ground spices, orange zest (make sure to avoid grating the bitter white pith), baking soda, baking powder and mix everything well with the whisk.

Now throw in the flour mixture into the wet bowl and fold with a spatula. No whisking from this point anymore and also ensure that you don’t overmix the batter. The batter is supposed to be dense and heavy.

The last step is to add the chopped nuts and soaked dried fruits into the cake batter and fold again with the spatula. Reserve some of the soaked fruits for spooning on top of the cake.

Line a square baking pan with a parchment paper and pour in the batter. Sprinkle the remaining soaked dried fruits on top and bake in a pre heated oven at 160 degree C for around 60 minutes. Let it cool down completely before serving.

*Some tips*

Always pack the cake tightly in an aluminum foil to store it. This preserves its shape and moisture.

The cake tastes better with time. The longer it soaks all the goodness from the rum/ wine, the better it tastes.

‘Feed’ the cake with wine/ rum by poking holes all over it with a toothpick and then keep it tightly packed.

Could it get any boozier??

Down Memory Lane: Classic Shepherd’s Pie

Truth be told, there’s a lot of debate on the origins of the humble shepherd’s pie- whether it’s Irish or British! There are bits and pieces of history/ folklore surrounding this classic delicacy and there’s no one person or an event that gifted this hearty dish to the world.

Probably somewhere around the early 1800s, peasant housewives in Ireland and northern parts of England came up with the ingenious idea of putting the leftover meat from Sunday roasts to good use by making pies out of them. This clever practice avoided wastages, while families could enjoy something which is not only delicious and new but also filling and inexpensive.

Traditionally, shepherd’s pie uses minced lamb while cottage pie uses minced beef. The ground meat combined with veggies simmered in a rich gravy and topped with creamy mashed potato and grated parmesan results in a dish that is so comforting that it warms your soul.

Feel free to use ground turkey or chicken or even soy meat in case you want alternatives.

Ingredients (serves 2)

For the lamb gravy:

250g ground lamb

1 cup of mixed veggies like chopped celery, carrots and onions

2/3 cup frozen peas

3 fat garlic cloves minced

1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves

1 tbsp dried thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup chicken/ meat stock

2 tbsp Olive oil (or any white oil)

For the mashed potato:

450 gram boiled and mashed potatoes (preferably russet potatoes)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp sour cream

1 tsp dried parsley flakes

1/2 tsp garlic powder

4 tbsp grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat olive oil in a pot and sauté the chopped carrot, celery, onions along with minced garlic. Once fragrant, add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Mix everything well.

Now add the ground lamb and throw in some green peas. Stir and let the meat cook until it’s no longer pink.

This is the time to add the worcestershire sauce (key!), tomato puree and the meat/ chicken stock. Cook for a while on medium heat and then cover and let it simmer nicely on low heat until the sauce thickens. Take off the heat once done.

Meanwhile, chop and boil the large potatoes and mash them with a fork. Mix in butter, sour cream, dried parsley, salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, layer the cooked meat in a baking dish and top it with the mashed potato. Sprinkle the grated parmesan on top and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 mins at 200 degree C. Broil for another 3-4 mins for that beautiful golden colour on top 🙂

Wishing you all a merry Christmas & happy holidays!

Gajar Halwa Tarts

Gajar Halwa Tarts

As a kid I remember eagerly waiting for winters. Marigold blooms, afternoon picnics, cozy blankets & of course bowls of warm & comforting gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding) made by maa.

I would help her peel & grate the carrots in the hope of getting a bigger share than my sis 😀 Those indeed were the days. During winters, we would rush home from school, throw our bags & run to the kitchen to see what’s in store, just in case we were in for any surprises! Truth be told, my sis was least interested, it was more my thing. Nothing gave me more joy than watching maa or our cook whip up something fancy in the kitchen while I eagerly waited for my turn to relish them 🙂

With the winters approaching, I have been craving gajar ka halwa for a while now & thought of following maa’s recipe with a few tweaks here & there & also turn it into tarts. Not only they taste heavenly but look pretty too! Go ahead & try it out.

Here’s the recipe (for 12 tarts):

Ingredients

450 g peeled & grated carrot

2 tbsp each of almonds, pistachios & cashew

60-70 ml ghee (clarified butter)

200 ml milk (I used oat milk)

130 ml condensed milk

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

12 tart shells (I used store bought)

Pistachios for garnishing

Method

Roughly chop 2 tbsp each of almonds, pistachios & cashew & roast them in 2 tsp ghee. Keep aside. Heat 50 ml ghee in a heavy bottomed pan & add about 450g peeled & grated carrot.

Mix well & cook until the colour changes & the carrot looks well combined.

Halfway add 2-3 tbsp ghee again & stir everything well.

After 10 mins add 200ml milk (I used oat milk).

Keep stirring & simmering on medium heat until the mixture reaches boiling point. This is where you add 130 ml of condensed milk & 1 tbsp sugar. Lower the heat & let everything combine well & come together.

Keep stirring for 10 more mins until the carrot no longer sticks to the pan. Stir in half a tsp of cardamom powder & the fried nuts back into the pan & continue to cook until the halwa turns dark orange/ reddish. 

You can have it as it is or make tarts like I did I used store bought tart shells. Fill each shell with the halwa (pudding) after poking holes in the tarts with a fork. Now line them up on a baking tray.

Before going in the oven

Preheat oven to 180-190 degree celsius & bake the tarts for 12-13 mins. Garnish with chopped pistachios & drizzle some condensed milk before serving.

Little cups of heaven 🙂

NOLEN GURER PAYESH (Rice Pudding with Date Palm Jaggery)

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For me, this very name brings back a lot of memories. No festival/ wedding/ function in winters is complete without a dessert made with nolen gur. The sheer variety of desserts that can be made using this lip smacking gur/ jaggery is endless. From payesh to pitheys, ice cream, sandesh, and so much more! Every household has their own version of this dish and today I am going to share with you how my mum cooks it. She is now here with me in KL, and she got some nolen gur packed for me from India. Yay!! S loves anything sweet and I am always looking for ways to satiate his sweet tooth, so what better than homemade payesh. Its gluten free and the best thing? It was cooked by mum and it tasted heavenly! Someone rightly said, Desserts is stressed spelled backwards 😀

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There are certain ‘musts’ in this recipe to make the authentic payesh. The first is Date Palm Jaggery or Nolen Gur/ Notun Gur. In India, this particular jaggery is available only in winters and it is an inherent part of the culinary tradition of Bengal in winters. It has a rich nutty flavour and simply melts in your mouth when you take a bite. The second one is the type of rice to be used, which is Gobindobhog (an aromatic rice). You can substitute it with basmati rice but it won’t be the real deal 🙂

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Ingredients (to serve 4-5 people):

  • 1 Litre full cream milk (full fat or full cream milk is essential for that creamy consistency)
  • 60-65gm gobindobhog/ basmati rice (this ratio is important! For every 1 l milk, approx. 60gm of rice to be used)
  • Nolen gur/ Date Palm Jaggery (no strict measurement for this, as per your taste)

*Note: If you don’t have date palm jaggery, you may substitute it with date syrup available in most groceries or brown sugar*

  • 2 tsp Raisins
  • Few crushed green cardamoms
  • 2-3 bay leaf
  • Almonds for garnishing

Method:

In a deep bottomed pan, heat the milk. Let it come to a boil while stirring continuously, so that no cream is formed. While the milk is boiling, add the crushed cardomoms and the bay leaves and keep stirring with the ladle until the milk thickens. Now add the rice into the pan (the rice should be washed and dried on a flat surface before adding into the milk). Again keep stirring and when the rice is completely cooked, throw in the jaggery or sugar and mix well till completely dissolved in milk. Once the pudding thickens to your desired consistency, add the raisins and switch off the flame after 2-3 minutes. Garnish with dry fruits of your choice. You may serve it hot or chilled, tastes great both ways 🙂

3 important tips to remember for the perfect payesh:

  1. Always use full cream milk for best results.
  2. While cooking, keep stirring the milk continuously so that no cream/ layer forms on top.
  3. Most importantly, keep in mind that the jaggery/ sugar should always be added after the rice is cooked perfectly. Once the sweet goes in, the rice stops getting cooked further.

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Welcoming the Chinese New Year at Absolute Thai Hot Pot, Mid Valley, KL

Gong Xi Fa Cai 🙂 

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Chinese New Year is undoubtedly the most important festival for the Chinese community. KL simply comes alive during these few days, with every nook and corner of the city being lit up, sales and discounts at shops, food stalls everywhere, beautiful decorations at malls, lion dances and fireworks!

Yesterday was the beginning of a long holiday for S and we decided to spend the next couple of days with friends- watching movies, going for drives, potlucks etc., basically chilling without a care 😀 We were at the Mid Valley mall and I suggested S & a friend that we go to Absolute Thai Hot Pot for dinner and they readily agreed. It’s rare that the husband would say no to Thai food 😛

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Our visit to this branch was a first, though we’ve been to a couple of their other outlets. Located at level 2, Center Court, its décor was all black which surprisingly had a very calming effect. We took a table near the corner from where we had a clear view of the outside. Although the restaurant was inside a mall, it felt as if we were sitting at a roadside open café.

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The menu was fairly exhaustive. We didn’t opt for their hotpot menu which was quite tempting, but settled for their usual fare instead.

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The menu

I have a thing for Chicken wrapped in Pandan leaves. It can be quite tricky though. You have to cook it just right to get the perfect texture- crunchy from the outside and soft, juicy inside. A little overcooked and what you have is an inedible hard piece of chicken. However, Absolute Thai nailed it. It was so delicious that it made us even hungrier.

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Pandan Leaves Chicken

The service was quite fast. As the waiter was bringing the other dishes to our table, I noticed S was glued to his phone looking at the highlights of a soccer match. Boys and their toys! After my stern look, he quickly put down his phone and beamed with delight looking at the food on the table.

Unfortunately the Tom Yam Soup with Seafood and Meehoon was the first thing I tasted. Why unfortunate? Because it was one of the worst tom yam soups I’ve ever had. It was so sour that all other flavours were overpowered and I felt as if I was biting on a piece of raw tamarind. I would never recommend it to anyone.

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Tom Yam Soup with Seafood and Meehoon (red base)

That made me somewhat skeptical about the other dishes we ordered. But my presumption was wrong thankfully. The Red Curry Roasted Duck was lip-smacking. The flavours were balanced perfectly. The sweet and spice quotient was just right and it tasted fabulous with plain white rice. The duck was quite soft, unlike a few other places I have had before, where it was hard and chewy.

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Red Curry Roasted Duck

The Green Curry Chicken was nice, so no complaints there but it wasn’t remarkable. I have had much better ones at other Thai restaurants in KL. S was busy removing chunky pieces of eggplant from the curry 😀  Otherwise he seemed to have enjoyed it.

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Green Curry Chicken

The best was saved for last. The Garlic and Black Pepper Fried rice with Fresh Crab was in one word heavenly! The crab was really fresh which elevated the dish to another level. It was mildly spiced and very juicy. The rice was perfectly seasoned with crushed black pepper and overall it was the best dish of the day.

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Garlic and Black Pepper Fried rice with Fresh Crab

Address: Mid Valley Megamall, 1, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, 58000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Phone: +60 3-2201 5308

Open: 10am – 10pm

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Patishapta (Rice flour crepes with coconut filling): Celebrating Makar Sankranti

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In India, the harvesting season is considered extremely auspicious and households all over the country celebrate during the month of January by making sweets of all kinds. Each region has its own take on the festival but the underlying essence remains the same, i.e. to celebrate the prosperity and bring in more luck for the coming seasons. In Bengal, it is known as Makar Sankranti or Poush Sankranti, while in Northern India its Lohri, Bihu in Assam, Uttarayan in Gujarat and Pongal in South India. Different names but similar in spirit 🙂

I have grown up relishing pithey– a sweet made with rice flour, semolina, jaggery, coconut, etc. The sheer variety of pithey can be overwhelming, but one particular which is an absolute favourite and has a lot of fond memories attached to it, is ‘Patishapta’. I am filled with nostalgia as I type on my keyboard because dida (my maternal grandmother) used make the most scrumptious patishaptas I have ever had. Ever since I can recall, I eagerly waited for her to make them and the delightful whiff of her freshly made crepes still lingers in my mind. In fact she couldn’t even take the first batch out from the kitchen as me and my sisters would pounce on the plate to claim our share 😀 She is no longer with us today but the sweet memories still remain fresh as ever.

Last Friday, Makar Sankranti was celebrated in India, and so I decided that I would make Patishapta. I called up mum and noted down the recipe like an obedient student and then checked my pantry. Thankfully I had all the ingredients in stock! Though the magic of my dida couldn’t be recreated but it was tasty nevertheless because S couldn’t stop at just one 😉

So here’s the recipe- (Traditionally, Nolen Gur or Date Palm Jaggery is used but since I didn’t have that so I used brown sugar instead)

* I am not very particular about measurements, unless it is for baking. I just go by my estimation, so you can adjust accordingly.

Ingredients (for about 8 Patishapta):

For the stuffing:

  • 4 cups grated coconut
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or as per your taste)
  • Green cardamom powder (preferably crushed in a mortar pestle)
  • 2 cups milk

For the batter:

  • 1 cup semolina
  • 2 cups maida or all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • Sugar to taste
  • Water for semi runny batter

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Method:

In a kadhai/ wok on low-medium heat, dry roast grated coconut for a few minutes. Now mix sugar with the coconut and keep stirring continuously. Carry on with it for at least 15-20 minutes. Now add freshly crushed green cardamom powder in the kadhai and mix well.

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The sugar and coconut should combine really well to give a slightly mushy texture. In my case it was taking a lot of time and so I used milk (not used in the original recipe). Maybe my coconut wasn’t that fresh as I used store bought grated coconut. It is very important to use fresh coconut, although after adding milk (you can also use condensed milk for a gooey filling) I got the right texture and it also enhanced the flavour. Once the filling is ready, remove from the kadhai and let it cool.

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Now for the batter, in a large bowl, mix semolina with some water and let it rest for about 30 minutes. After that, add maida and rice flour. Mix well with water to make a batter which is slightly runny. Add some sugar according to your taste.

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Heat a tawa/ round flat griddle. Drizzle few drops of oil and smear it all over using an eggplant stem. Pour a ladle full of the batter into the center of the tawa. Spread it evenly using the back of the ladle.

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When you see bubbles forming on top, put the filling in the center of the crepe and gently fold from both sides. Once folded, press for about 30-40 seconds on each side and remove immediately.

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You can serve them hot just like that or if you have patience, then drizzle some condensed milk/ melted nolen gur (jaggery) on top for a blissful experience 🙂

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