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.
8 boneless chicken thighs
4 tbsp hung yogurt
8-10 black peppercorns
5 green cardamoms
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
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.
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.
Time for some food 😀
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
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.
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.
Nasi = Rice, Goreng = Fried, the dish literally translates to fried rice. Let’s explore the streets of South East Asia and its glorious cuisine this week 🙂
Day old rice tossed with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), belacan (shrimp paste) and leftover veggies/ meat creates this beautiful umami rich fried rice topped with a fried egg.
One of the most talked about dishes of south east Asia (with several dubious recipes floating online!), the authentic nasi goreng is rather simple- with only stir-fried left over rice and a fried egg, as served in most local eateries across the length & breadth of Indonesia and Malaysia.
But if you want to make it into a complete wholesome meal like I did, just throw in any left over veggie, some protein and you are sorted! But what’s not optional is the kecap manis and fried egg on top😋
Don’t fret if you don’t have kecap manis. Simply reduce dark soy sauce (preferably low sodium) and brown sugar in a pan on low heat until it becomes darker & sticky. Ta-da! You can add this sweet soy sauce to a host of Asian stir fries😉 Meanwhile you could also check out the Asian aisles of your supermarket or any Asian grocer and get a bottle of this dark and luscious velvety goodness.
Shrimp paste (belacan) gives the dish its umami flavour and elevates its taste to the next level! You can skip it if you don’t have, but do give it a try once. It does smell funky but believe me it really makes a difference in the taste and is actually much subtler in flavour once cooked.
Ingredients (for 2 servings):
200 g boneless chicken cubes
2 portions of cooked rice, a day old (if you don’t have overnight leftover rice, simply cook fresh rice and allow it to cool in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, don’t skip this!)
2-3 tbsp kecap manis
2 tsp chopped Thai red chilies
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 finely chopped medium sized onion or 2-3 shallots
1 large cup veggies of your choice (I used chopped red bell pepper, beans and carrots)
1/2 tsp belacan/ shrimp paste (you can add slightly more or reduce based on your preference)
Salt to taste
White oil for frying
Marinate the boneless chicken cubes with 1/2 tbsp kecap manis. Keep aside.
Heat a wok; once smoking hot, add oil and throw in the chopped shallots (or onion), garlic and Thai red chilies. Sauté for a while.
Now add the chicken and spread it in the wok to ensure that it sears nicely. Stir fry for a while until the chicken is nicely browned. Next add your veggies and continue to stir fry on high heat. Adjust the salt according to your taste (remember soy sauce has salt, so go easy).
Add a bit of shrimp paste if you have and mix everything together so that the paste is evenly combined with the chicken and veggies.
Now add leftover rice (preferably short-grained) and the remaining kecap manis and stir fry for some more time. the rice and veggies should look glazed and nicely coated with the sauce.
Meanwhile prepare two fried eggs in a wok (no salt needed).
Serve hot with fried egg, cucumber slices and prawn crackers🤍 Makan time now!
Crispy and tender boneless chicken thighs smothered in Malaysian style spicy sambal. So sedap (tasty) 🤍
Local Malay and Indonesian fares are so deliciously appetising and dangerously addictive that there’s no going back ever once you taste them at the countless mamak shops (street side restaurants)😋
I was craving sambal ayam goreng today, so quickly tossed up some fried chicken pieces in homemade sambal. Hello weekend bingeing !
Try this recipe and get transported to the enigmatic winding streets of Kuala Lumpur.
For the fried chicken
300 g boneless chicken thigh
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp kecap manis (dark sweet soy sauce)
1 tsp vinegar
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp cornflour
White oil for deep frying
For the spicy sambal
5-6 fat cloves of garlic crushed
1 lemongrass stalk finely sliced
1 inch piece of fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp turmeric powder)
2 inch piece of galangal (or fresh ginger)
2-3 dried red chilies soaked in hot water (you can add more or reduce depending on your heat tolerance)
1-2 fresh chilies (again add or reduce to your liking)
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp tamarind paste (without seeds)
2 tbsp brown sugar (or palm sugar)
Any white (neutral) oil
Marinate the chicken thigh pieces with some salt, ginger-garlic paste, kecap manis, vinegar, 1 beaten egg and cornflour. Keep refrigerated for 30 mins.
Heat some oil in a wok for deep frying. Fry the chicken until nice and crunchy golden brown. Drain and keep aside on a plate.
Meanwhile prepare the sambal by grinding the garlic cloves, fresh turmeric, ginger (or galangal), soaked dried red chilies, fresh chilies, shallots and lemongrass stalk into a paste in a blender or a mortar-pestle if you have patience.
Now heat a wok with oil. Sauté the paste on low heat until the aromatics turn fragrant which may take 12-15 minutes. Now add little fish sauce, palm sugar (or brown sugar) and the tamarind paste (you can make it to your liking by adjusting the sugar and tamarind).
Once the oil releases from the spices, it’s time to add the fried chicken and toss them for a while. Serve hot with your favourite drinks or simple nasi putih (white rice) 🙂
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 & Aminiajust 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.
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 😀
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recipe no: 3 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series
One of the most mystifying dishes from eastern India, chicken dak bungalow is a colonial recipe developed during the British era in India.
I first tasted this legendary chicken curry at a famous Bengali restaurant Bhojohori Manna back in my teens. Since then I have been quite fascinated by this unpretentious yet wholesome dish made with meat (mutton/ chicken), eggs, potatoes and freshly ground spices!
Dak = Post
Dakbangla or Dak Bungalows were government owned rest houses for the sahibs (British administrative officials) who were traveling for work and needed a place to spend the night. These bungalows were situated mostly along the postal routes in very remote areas and hence the name ‘Dak‘ bungalow.
Often the officers would arrive late at night or without any notice and the guest house caretakers/ khansamas (cook) had to prepare dinner within their modest means and with what was available locally or could be procured quickly.
There was nothing fancy about the curry but it was delicious and comforting, just what the tired and weary souls of the traveling British officials would be craving.
The dish was mostly prepared with fowl because it was cheap and readily available or maybe mutton sometimes if the budget permitted (or when a goat was hunted on a hunting trip by the guest). Basic spices from the pantry were used which were freshly grounded, some green chilies and potatoes (eggs were added much later) resulted in a mildly spiced curry that was simple and mouthwatering.
There are many resources online with different variations of the recipe, but unfortunately there is no one single authentic recipe of this glorious dish because each dak bungalow prepared this curry based on the availability of resources, time, guest requests and most importantly the skills and whims of the cooks who would sometimes skip an ingredient or add a new spice!
Sadly, due to lack of documentation, most of the dak bungalow recipes are now lost. Whatever little we have today are retrieved from the families of the skilled khansamas and caretakers.
An absolute must have with some hot steaming white rice, if you want to time travel and relish the flavours of yesteryears 🙂
300 g chicken (bone-in)
4 medium potatoes, halved
2 hard boiled eggs
For the chicken marinade:
3 tbsp yogurt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (I used Kashmiri red chilli powder because it has no heat and gives a brilliant colour)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp mustard oil
For the gravy:
3-4 tbsp mustard oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 large bay leaf
2 cinnamon sticks
3-4 green cardamom
1 dried red chilli
1 medium onion roughly chopped
1 heaped tbsp grated ginger and garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
2 whole green chilies
1 large cup warm water
Marinate the chicken with the ingredients listed under marinade in a bowl. Sprinkle some salt and turmeric powder on the potatoes and the boiled eggs. Poke some holes in the eggs so that they don’t splutter in hot oil while frying.
Heat a wok/ kadhai with mustard oil and fry the potatoes followed by the boiled eggs for 4-5 minutes each. In the same wok, add the whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, dried red chilli and some sugar. Sugar helps in caramelising the gravy and lends a beautiful colour.
Now add the chopped onion and fry until golden brown on medium heat. Throw in the grated ginger and garlic and mix well for a couple of minutes until the raw smell disappears.
In a bowl, add the dry spice powders like turmeric, cumin, coriander, red chilli and salt. Mix with little water to form a paste and add it in the wok. Stir fry well for 5 minutes on medium heat.
This is the time to add the chicken to the gravy. Mix everything well and cook on medium heat for 7-8 minutes or until the oil separates. Cover the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes on low heat. Now throw in the potato and add a cup of warm water and let it come to a boil.
Cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes on low heat. Now add the eggs, whole green chilies and adjust the salt/ sugar. Cover and cook for the last 5 minutes or until the chicken is absolutely tender and the gravy looks perfectly done.
Garnish with some chopped fresh coriander and serve hot.
While cleaning my bookshelf a couple of days back, I stumbled upon this slightly mildewed Bengali cookbook ‘Randhan Shikkha‘ which translates to ‘cooking lesson’. The book is from the 1950s and belonged to my late mother-in-law who had given it to me knowing my love for cooking and vintage recipes 🙂
A treasure trove of earthy Bengali dishes long forgotten…..
That’s when I decided to dedicate this whole month to recreating uncelebrated heritage recipes from the regional kitchens of India that no longer enjoy the privilege of being talked about, written about or included in the menus of a typical Indian restaurant.
These culinary classics from our grandmothers’ times are slowly getting lost in the age of convenience and fusion food.
So what better way to start the new year than to share some of the most authentic regional recipes starting with what else but Bengali cuisine. After all, Indian food has so much more to offer than just butter chicken, chole bhature, masala dosa or mishti doi!
Recipe no: 1 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series.
Soft pillowy fried cottage cheese (chhana) balls simmered in a freshly made ginger-cumin-green chili based gravy, finished with a big dollop of ghee (clarified butter).
Chhana is not to be confused with paneer. Technically they are made in the same way but chhana is much softer and moister and is kneaded like a dough to make soft balls for kofta curries or the iconic rasgullas.
Looking back I recall my thakuma (grandma) cooking her signature cottage cheese and potato curry on special occasions when niramish (vegetarian) meals meant strictly no-onion and no-garlic. My maa still makes it every year during nabobarsho (Bengali new year) if she’s in town.
The dish probably has its origin back in the times when Bengali Hindu widows were prohibited from eating anything non-vegetarian including onion and garlic, so women prepared a lot of recipes with milk in order to get required protein in their food and since then the recipes have passed down several generations.
The quintessential ‘aada-jeere baata‘ (ginger-cumin paste) is the heart of his curry. The gorgeous aroma of this paste made in the mortar-pestle evokes a sense of comfort and transports me straight to my thakuma’s hneshel (grandma’s kitchen).
Try out this simple recipe the next time you want some protein-rich vegetarian dish. It is guaranteed to make your tastebuds dance!
Ingredients (9-10 medium sized koftas):
The original recipe calls for homemade chhana/ chhena (cottage cheese), but I used Nanak’s fresh paneer which tastes fantastic and is extremely soft, making it the perfect substitute. For those of you unsure of your chhana making skills or are pressed for time, I would highly advise to get very good quality fresh paneer made from full fat milk.
For the chhana/ cottage cheese koftas:
220 g fresh paneer, crumbled
1 tbsp all purpose flour/ maida
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
White oil to shallow fry
For the gravy:
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large bay leaf
1 large cinnamon stick
4-5 green cardamom
A paste made of 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 green chili and 2 inch ginger chunk (preferably in a mortar-pestle)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder
2 medium potatoes diced in cubes
1/2 chopped tomato
2 whole green chilies
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
11/2 tbsp white oil
1 tsp ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 tsp garam masala (preferably Bengali gorom moshla)
1 small cup warm water
In a bowl add the crumbled paneer, all purpose flour, salt, sugar and knead well like a dough for at least 6-7 minutes. Now divide the dough into slightly flattened balls/ koftas of equal size.
Heat oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the koftas on medium heat until golden brown on both sides. It takes about 2-21/2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
In the same frying pan (remove the excess oil, only keep about 2 tbsp), temper the oil with cumin seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms and cloves. Once the spices are fragrant, turn the heat into medium-low and add the ginger-cumin-green chili paste into the pan carefully as the oil may start spluttering a lot. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
This is the time to add the potatoes, red chili powder and turmeric. Keep frying for few more minutes until the potatoes are softer. Now throw in the chopped tomatoes and whole green chilies and continue to fry until the oil separates and the spices are well cooked.
Add some warm water (depending on how you want the gravy consistency to be), salt and sugar and let it come to a boil. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
Now add the koftas/ channa balls into the gravy, a dollop of ghee and a sprinkling of garam masala. Cover and let it simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes.
Switch off the flame and keep it covered (standing time) for 5 more minutes. Serve hot with steaming white rice or ghee bhaat 🙂
For as long as I can remember, the last week of the year always meant holidays- waking up late without the alarm bell ringing, lazing around, reflecting on the year gone by and gorging on good food. Over the years the circumstances may have changed but what remained constant is food being part of all the year end celebrations.
‘Momos’ as they are popularly known in India/ Nepal, are these juicy succulent meat fillings wrapped in a thin moist crescent-shaped wrap resembling a dumpling.
I still remember the first time I had momos/ dumplings, I was probably 11 or 12 and quite intrigued but also repulsed by the idea of chomping down a weird looking dough ball that was steamed and not fried. But one bite and god was I hooked! What the neighbourhood street shack sold was more of an onion momo than chicken, which I later realised as I grew up 😀 Nevertheless, I was totally in love.
Since then I have come a long way and have had my share of lip-smacking dumplings from amazing joints in Calcutta, the hills of Darjeeling, Nepal and Bhutan. Nothing is as comforting as freshly steamed momos dipped in spicy chili oil with a bowl of steaming hot clear soup. Nomnomnom….
The Nepalese ones remain my favourite because of their simplicity and use of fresh ingredients. On monsoon afternoons or on cold winter nights like now in Toronto, when my heart cries out for something piping hot, I can only think of momos.
These are so delicate and bursting with flavour, that you would find it difficult to stop as the juices ooze out with every bite 🙂
[The stunning chili oil recipe is by one of my favourite food bloggers Nambie. You can find this and more of her delicious recipes on YouTube under Eat Your Kappa]
3 tsp Chili flakes
3 tsp chilli powder/ paprika
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 cup olive oil (or any unflavoured oil)
3 large roughly chopped ginger pieces (about 1 inch each)
1 roughly chopped onion
Few sprigs of coriander leaves
2 roughly chopped spring onions
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp sichuan pepper
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp aniseed or fennel
1 large cinnamon
Salt & sugar to taste
For prawn broth:
2 tbsp oil
1/2 roughly chopped onion
2-3 large ginger chunks
1 fat garlic clove minced
1 roughly chopped carrot
1 tsp whole peppercorn
1 bay leaf
Prawn shells (of the 15 prawns)
1 chicken bullion
3 cups water
Salt & pepper to taste
Start with the broth. Heat a deep bottomed pot with oil and add the bay leaf and peppercorns. Throw in the onion, ginger, minced garlic and carrots. Sauté for a while until fragrant. Now add the prawn shells and stir fry again until they release all the juices. Add 3 cups of water and a chicken bullion and let it simmer on low heat, uncovered and come to a boil. Keep removing the scum from time to time to keep the broth clear. Add salt and pepper and continue to simmer. In about 1-1.5 hours, the broth will be ready. Strain and serve in soup bowls, garnished with chopped green onions.
Mix the chopped prawn with all the ingredients listed under ‘stuffing’ in a bowl and keep it marinated for at least 30 minutes.
Mix the flour with salt and start kneading the dough by pouring water little at a time to ensure a soft dough. Keep it wrapped in a plastic for 15 mins.
While we wait for the prawns and the dough ready to be used, let’s make the chili oil. In a bowl, add the chili flakes, chili powder, sesame seeds, salt and sugar and mix well.
Now heat a cup of oil in a wok until smoking hot and throw in roughly chopped veggies, bay leaves, sichuan pepper, fennel seeds, cinnamon and star anise. Let them fry well on medium heat. Once the veggies have browned and the spices cooked, strain the oil. Add the hot oil in the dry ingredients bowl and mix everything well with a spoon. Finally add some vinegar and viola! Your chili oil is ready.
This is such a life changing recipe by Nambie and you can store this oil for a couple of months.
Time to make the momos/ dumplings!
Divide the dough into equal 15-16 portions and roll out very thinly. The wraps should be more thicker on the center but thinner on the outside. Take one wrap and place some prawn mix in the center with a spoon. To seal the momos securely, tap the edges of the wrap with some water on your finger. Start folding and pleating the wrap into your desired dumpling shape.
Line the momos in a bamboo steamer basket or on a steel stand in a deep bottom pan and steam for 15 minutes. You can even make them in your instant pot like I did. I placed a steel steamer basket inside the instant pot and used the steam function for 8 minutes to get the perfect dumplings.
Serve them hot with the chili oil and a side of prawn clear broth.
Eat and get lost in the winding roads of the misty hills :))
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 🙂
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
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.
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.
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
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!