Tried & Tested – Biryani

I have been trying since last year to learn one delicacy at a time and attempting to make them in the most authentic form possible. I started by making Puran Polis for Holi (another version of which will be made this year) then Modaks – I couldn’t source all ingredients I needed so did best with what was available. But apart from sweet-dishes the one food item I really wanted to learn and make was the Biryani. Biryani, a beautiful dish prepared in many parts of Asia with each region having their own special recipe for it. It has a blend meat, semi spicy gravy, sweetness of raisins, some nuts and rice. Hence this is one of the very few delicacies which pleases my heart and my taste buds. So when I checked online for some recipes of Biryani, my screen was filled with all kinds and variations for it …Hyderabadi, Kashmiri, Lahore, Quick cooking, slow cooking, etc etc!! Overwhelmed by the number of recipes online, I turned to the one person who I remember makes an amazing biryani every single time …my Mum 🙂 Last year when I visited India to meet my folks, I looked over my Mum as she carefully went through the whole process of making this brilliant blend of rice, meat and spices!

Making a biryani is not something you can make in under 30 minutes and you require a really long list of ingredients for this. So when my Mum was teaching me how to make it, she broke down the process into a number of steps, some of which can be done a day prior to the actual preparation.

Biryani basically involves cooking a meat curry, cooking fragrant rice and then layering the two together with fried onions, potatoes and aromatics and cooking it together so the flavors blend with each other.

PS : This is not a “traditional” or “authentic” biryani recipe, it is just a recipe which has been made in my family since a number of years and I personally love its taste.

So to begin with the preparation, we started with frying the onions till dark golden brown and crisp. They are traditionally deep fried but you can pan fry them or roast them in the oven. I found a ready made air fried version of these in my local grocery store so I purchased them. I would suggest frying these before hand because they are required for the marination and the cooking too. Once fried you can let them cool and store in an air-tight container till required. Then comes the part of marinating the meat of your choice with a number of spices and aromatics. Make sure you take a darker cut of meat so it won’t dry out during the intense cooking process. So if you are using chicken, use the drumsticks and thigh portion and if you are using lamb use the lamb shoulder.

If you are using vegetables instead of meat, replace the meat with veggies like bell peppers, white mushrooms, baby corn and paneer (Indian cottage cheese).

I used lamb this time and I used 2 pieces of lamb shoulder cut into inch sized chunks. I marinated the lamb shoulder with yogurt, ground Serrano peppers, mint, coriander, fried onions, ginger garlic paste and spices like garam masala and red chili powder. This marination needs to sit for at least one hour and preferably overnight. I let the meat marinate overnight. Both these steps can be done the day before so you don’t have a lot of do on the day of.

On the day of making the biryani I gave myself at least 2 hours to go through the whole process, this is because I was making it for the first time so I needed to ensure every step was followed well. I started by making the curry in ghee. Before adding the spices, I fried some cubed potatoes and pieces of dried fruits in the ghee before proceeding to the tempering or the tadka. For this, I used whole spices like bay leaf, cumin, cardamon both green and larger one called “badi elaichi” ,peppercorns and cloves. These same whole spices are also used to cook the rice in so make sure you keep some extra handy. Once the spices were fragrant I added in finely sliced onions and tomatoes till they are mushy and then adding in the entire mixture of marinated meat. Once the sauce was simmering a bit, I added in a cup of milk and let it simmer and cook for almost 40 minutes on a medium flame.

While the meat was cooking, I moved to preparing the rice. I filled a pot with water and started to bring it to a boil. While it was heating up I added enough salt, the whole spices mentioned above and a teaspoon of ghee. Once the water boiled I added in the soaked rice and let it cook till it was 75% done. Then I drained out the water and let the rice sit till the curry was ready

Pro tip The trick to a perfect biryani is rice to meat ratio – rice should be double the meat you plan to use, and cooking the rice. Here, once you add the rice in boiling water, wait till the water starts boiling again then reduce the heat to medium and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and strain out the water.

Layering the Biryani – Once the meat is cooked, take out half the meat and gravy and start layering your biryani. Divide rice and gravy into two equal portions. Start with a base of gravy in the pot, layer it with rice (do not press the rice in). On the rice sprinkle half of the cooked potatoes and dried fruit, half a cup of chopped mint and cilantro, half a cup of warm milk. Repeat this again with the gravy and rice and cover with a tight lid.

Cooking the Biryani – There are two ways to this, if you are cooking on a stove top place the pot at the lowest heat for 15 minutes. If you are cooking in an oven then heat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place your pot on the top most tray for 10 minutes. Once done, let it stand for another 10 minutes before serving it up!

I know all this sounds like a long and tedious task and many of us would prefer to head out to the nearest Indian restaurant and order one up instead. But, if you decide to go ahead and experience the fun in making this wonderful delicacy here’s a free printable recipe. So print it out, stick it in your kitchen and get cooking!!

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook & Instagram for some quick recipes and regular updates 🙂

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Crisp Winter Snack – The Savory Shankarpalle

Winters are my favorite time of the year even though Chicago winters can be a bit harsh. They are the perfect time to curl up at home, indulge in your favorite meals and spend some quality time with your loved ones.

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Usually in India, evening time meaning time for Chai with some crispy snacks and cookies. You will find this routine in almost every Indian household. Snacks are made especially for chai time (as it is fondly called in India) and today’s recipe is something you will love to snack on during your chai-time or anytime during the day.

This is the recipe for  Shankarpali or Shankarpalle or shakkarpara which is a sweet Indian snack, rich in carbs. It is usually sweet, but many people make them both sweet and spicy. It is basically a sweet/savory dough which is flattened and cut into tiny squares which are then deep fried in oil or ghee till golden and crispy. 

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In my version of the recipe, I made two changes – I swapped the all purpose flour or maida for whole wheat flour and I baked them instead of deep frying. The baking part took some time compared to the time it usually takes to deep fry them. Also I’ve made the savory version here instead of the sweet one.

The spices I used for the savory version were whole cumin and sesame seeds, Serrano peppers and garlic. I ground these spices before adding them to the flour mix and kneaded the dough to  a soft pasta dough like consistency. 

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I let the dough rest for a while after which I flattened it out till it was a quarter inch thick, cut it into small squares and lined the squares on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking oil. 

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I baked these in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees celsius for 12 minutes on one side before turning them over and baking again for 10 minutes. 

Once out of the oven, I let it rest till it was completely cooled down (you can transfer them on a wire rack too at this stage) and packed them up in an airtight container. 

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Heres a free printable recipe for this for your collection!!

savoury crisp shankarpalle (1)

 

 

 

Indian Festive Food Ideas – Chole

Festive season in India is just starting which means a lot of get-togethers, small parties, large celebrations etc are on cards and if you love planning a get-together like I do, the first thing which crosses my mind is, what should we eat? 😀 It has to be something indulgent and delicious, something which everyone loves and if the food is to be made on an auspicious day then it has to be vegetarian. The food prepared on an auspicious day is usually served in a Puja thali, thal, puja naivedya which describes the festive platter – an entire vegetarian spread made usually on festive occasions offered with prayers to the deities and also served to friends and families.

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On any given day an Indian household will prepare meals consisting of roti i.e. the flatbread, rice, dal i.e. the lentil soup and one vegetarian dish called subji – it is either in gravy form or in a drier form.  Sometimes, this vegetarian subji is accompanied by or substituted by a meat or fish variant. This is the daily meal in any Indian household. However, this changes during festive occasion. The number of dishes made are increased, there are fritters included in the platter and then there are the traditional sweet dishes.

All the elements of the platter are such that they include all 6 tastes – sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter as recommended by Ayurveda. The balance of these 6 tastes is essential to maintain the Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – the elements of movement, fire and water in the body.

Till  recent times, I would merely participate in helping the preparations of such festive platters and had never really made the whole spread from scratch myself. I however got a chance to cook this spread after my wedding when I moved to Chicago and wanted to celebrate Indian festivals here with as much as authenticity as possible. Also a lot of friends asked for these recipes, so i’m going to share with you all a few recipes for vegetarian and festive food, which you can make with ease at home and heres the bonus – they work well in winters i.e. they help provide your body the added nourishment which the cold weather calls for!! Here’s the first one up –

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CHOLE – chickpeas cooked in onion and tomato based gravy

This one is my favorite vegetarian gravy. I use the ready spice mix provided by Everest for cooking this and you can easily get that on Amazon. You can prep the chickpeas by soaking them in water overnight and boiling them / pressure cooking them till done.Alternatively, you can also use the canned chickpeas available in supermarkets (make sure you drain them well and give them a wash before using, that will remove the excess sodium). This is a well favored dish in Indian get-togethers and I remember my mum making them for all the guests during our diwali celebrations. It can be paired with deep fried puris or bhature, but I wanted to avoid deep frying (I fear the oil splatter 😛 ) so I decided to go with simple and easy to make rotis. I’ve made these with Ghee in order to add some goodness and additional taste to the dish. You can read more about the benefits of ghee in my previous post here. So this is how I went about with it –

Ingredients –

  • 2 cups Chickpeas – soaked and cooked
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 tomato finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomato paste (if you want a lot of gravy)
  • Everest Chole Masala
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • ½ tsp each of cumin and caraway seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp Ghee

Instructions –

  • In a deep pan or kadhai/ wok heat ghee and add the bay leaf
  • Temper with cumin and caraway seeds and add ginger garlic paste Saute till the raw smell disappears.
  • Add the finely chopped onions and saute till the onions are soft
  • Add 2 tbsp Everest Chole masala and cook this on medium flame till the oil separates
  • Add in the tomato cubes, tomato paste and salt to taste and cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium flame till a rich gravy is formed
  • Finally stir in the cooked chick-peas and simmer this for another 10 minutes till the chickpeas soak up all the gravy.

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Fall Winter Recipes – Gajar ka Halwa (Carrot Pudding)

Its that time of the year again when the temperatures are dipping, there is a slight nip in the air and if you are based in a windy location like Chicago the wind gods are having a blast 😛 Just a few days ago it was warm enough to step out of the house without a jacket and suddenly today I find myself cranking up the heater and fishing out my woolies. I have no idea how cold can the Chicago Fall be since its my first time here, but I am bracing myself for the worse since last winter wasn’t too forgiving either.  So while I prepare my woolies and my home for the colder days, I have also planned out some healthy meals which will help us beat the cold and stay warm. The cold winds and drier climate makes me susceptible to colds, flu and dry skin and hair. While there are medicines and lotions which help you with this, it is also essential to give yourself proper nutrition to aid your body. Indian cuisine has a lot of recipes which include foods that will increase your immunity, provide warmth and overall help you in the cold and dry weather. Most of these recipes include use of fruits and vegetables grown in this season, along with generous use of dry fruits, nuts, milk and Ghee. Generally considered to be high fat and avoided by many, these ingredients if used in the right proportion will do more good than harm for your body. 

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So keeping this in mind, I have decided to share with you few such recipes which do include the so called “fat rich” ingredients, but are good for your health and are a good inclusion in your winter diets. There are a lot of such recipes, but I will be sharing only those which I have tried to cook personally in USA since all the ingredients cannot be easily sourced here. Also, I have trimmed off some excess fat content in these and tried to retain the health quotient. The first recipe I would love to share is of a warm and sweet delicacy made especially in winters and is  my all time favorite  – Gajar ka halwa or Carrot Pudding.

Carrot pudding or Gajar ka Halwa is a sweet North Indian delicacy primarily made in India in winters a time when the sweet juicy orange carrots are grown. It requires very less sugar, it is traditionally made with heavy cream – (which I have replaced with skimmed milk in my recipe but feel free to sub it in), Ghee and a lot of dried fruits. It can be eaten warm or chilled, just by itself or served as a dessert with your meals.

Why is this dish good for winters?

Ghee and dry fruits used in the Halwa are natural agents which help your body stay warm. Ghee is full of fat soluble vitamins and healthy fatty acids which makes it a good alternative to butter. Offcourse you cannot have excess of it, but if taken in proportion (1-3 teaspoons per day) ghee contributes to healthy bones and joints, healthy skin and hair and keeps your gut healthy. Plus it is lactose free!

The carrots in this recipe are high in antioxidants, minerals, fiber and vitamin A.

Coming back to the recipe – it does not need a lot of preparations here and you can whip it up in minutes. The only tedious part of the preparations would be shredding the carrots which I did manually using my little Ikea veggie shredder (not sponsored) but you can whizz them once through a food processor to get good results.

Once the Halwa is ready, it stays well in the fridge for a week though I haven’t really frozen it so I can’t comment on that. Also, when it comes to using the dry-fruits in this recipe, you can use them directly in the end to garnish but I prefer to cook them a bit in Ghee and then mixing them in a later stage in the Halwa.

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Also, this can be made in huge batches and is perfect for parties (a definite crowd pleaser) , so here’s my quick and healthy version of Gajar ka Halwa

Ingredients –

  • Carrots shredded 4 cups
  • Fine sugar ½ cup
  • Dry fruits (mixed assorted – cashews, almonds, pistachios, raisins) 1 cup – (you can add more if you so prefer)
  • Milk – 2 cups skimmed milk / if you want to try the full-fat version  use heavy cream instead of milk
  • Ghee – 1 tablespoon
  • Cardamom and nutmeg powder – ½ teaspoon each
  • Saffron – a pinch for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat Ghee in a wok and stir fry the dry fruits in it for approximately 2 minutes.
  • Remove the dry fruits and set them aside, preserve the ghee and add carrots to it.
  • The carrots will start breaking down and releasing water so keep on sauteeing them till the water evaporates.
  • Add in the milk/ heavy cream and saute till it is completely absorbed by the carrots.
  • Finally add in the dry fruits and sugar and stir till the sugar dissolves
  • Cover and cook for another minute on medium flame and then turn off the heat

Serve warm immediately or let it cool down before serving it. Enjoy!

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Ukdiche Modak – Steamed sweet dumpling

Its been a long time since I’ve shared a recipe with you all!! Here is one for a  sweet dish which I have been fond of since childhood. It is also associated with some of the Indian festivals, especially those celebrated in Maharashtra. But most prominently, Modak are made during Ganesh Chaturthi – a festival for Indian deity Ganpati. These Modak are said to be the favorite food of the deity and are made to appease him. Every year my mother would patiently make them for us on this day and serve them with a platter of beautiful Indian vegetarian food.

 

This year, being miles away from home, it was but natural that I was missing these festivities and wanted to celebrate in my own small way in Chicago. So after hours of Skype instructions from my mom, reading the recipes online and in the books I had I mustered to courage to make them 😀 . Yes it is a courageous task for me because the process of making these dumplings in the most traditional way is lengthy and delicate, you mess one step and you can mess it all up 😦 . So here I am sharing with you my experience of making these delicious Modaks. This won’t be in a typical recipe form, and I will include links to the video tutorials so it would help you out.

You need just three main ingredients for this, Rice Flour, Jaggery and fresh grated coconut. If you do not have freshly grated coconut use desiccated coconut (which is what I did) and I will be sharing the ratio below too. The rice flour can be purchased online or in any Asian grocery store. I used the one made by Swad brand (this is not an advertisement, I am not posting any affiliate links too 😀 ) . I would suggest you make the filling before-hand so it gets enough time to cool down while you prep the rice flour for the cover.

Heres a fun fact about Modaks – they are made all over India, but their form varies, it is made in form of a pedha i.e. in a marzipan form with cashew nut paste, milk and cream and then formed into their shapes using a mold. The Modaks I am writing here about are made mainly in the state of Maharashtra and further down south in India. These are steamed hence called “ukdiche” i.e. steamed in Marathi and they have the soft rice flour cover filled with coconut filling in it. These are usually made and consumed on the same day partly to maintain the freshness and partly because they are too good to resist. Although made mainly during the festival of  Ganesh Chaturthi, these are also made on any other festive occasion.

So to start with the stuffing for your modaks, use 1:2 ratio when making the stuffing with fresh coconut. This would be 1 portion of fresh grated coconut and 2 portions of jaggery. In a pan, heat some Ghee and stir in the coconut till its warm, gradually add the jaggery and softly mix it all till the jaggery melts and the coconut mixes with it well. Turn of the heat and top the stuffing with a pinch of cardamon powder to enhance the flavors and let it cool down.

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If you are using dessicated coconut, reduce the amount of coconut more and keep some milk handy. Usually once you turn off the heat, the mixture will stiffen up like a granola bar which you dont want. The stuffing has to be soft, so we can soften it by adding a splash of milk and letting it rest. I used this technique when the stuffing I made turned out to be a bit too sticky.

Till the mixture cools, its time to prepare the rice flour to make the modak. Once again we use 1:1 ratio here i.e. one cup of rice flour to one cup of water. One cup of rice flour yeilded around 15 small modaks for me. In a deep pan, heat one cup of water with a teaspoon of Ghee and pinch of salt till the water boils. Reduce heat to medium and gradually stir in the rice flour till the water is absorbed. Cover and let it steam up for couple of minutes before shutting off the heat. Keep the cover on for another 5 minutes and then take the mixture on a flat plate or a bowl to knead it while its still warm. The kneading process is easy, similar to kneading dough for bread but here you have to dip your hand alternatively in water and some cooking oil while kneading. I can’t explain enough so here’s a video link where they show how perfectly it is done 😀 I referred to this video while cooking it.

Once your dough is ready, cover it with a damp cheesecloth. Keep the dough covered in a damp cheesecloth or muslin cloth all the times, this keeps it soft and pliable. To make the modak, first start with moistening your palms with water and oil – its a weird mix which works 😛 then take a small golf ball size of dough ball in your hands, and press it to make a cup. Stuff a tablespoon of the filling in it and fold the cup so as to close it. While folding the cup close, give the cup some petals by slightly pinching its sides with damp fingers and close it up. Dip the tip of your modak in water (this ensures they dont break while steaming) and once again place it on an oiled surface and cover it with a damp cheesecloth/muslin cloth.

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Check the video out for the details!

Once all the modaks are ready, prep your steamer. If you have a dumpling steamer then great! If not, fill up a deep pan with 1/4th levels of water and bring it to boil. Place some utensil which will rise above the water level in this pan and cover it to let the steam accumulate.  Layer a plate with a damp cloth and place the modaks on it with some distance between them. Place this plate over your utensil in the pan and then cover and let it steam for 12 minutes.

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Once done, carefully get the plate out (because its super hot by this time) and let the modaks cool down a bit before you can transfer them to another plate. Once they are completely cooled you can store them in an airtight container and refrigerate them for upto a week. When consuming refrigerated modaks, simply pop them in a microwave for 30 seconds and enjoy!

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This is the link for the entire process. If you need any help, I am just a comment/message away 😀

Some other links – Ukdiche Modak in a Maharashtrian way with more explanation

The Recipe

Ingredients –

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 cups water – one cup for cooking the rice flour and one cup for the other process
  •  1 cup jaggery
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut / 1/4 cup desicated coconut
  • 1/4 cup milk (only if using desiccated coconut)
  • 1/2 cup of dried fruits of choice
  • pinch of  cardamon powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ghee
  • 1/4 cup oil (to help dampen palms)

Instructions

For the filling

  1. Heat 1/2 teaspoon ghee in a pan, and add the coconut and jaggery to it. Use low heat.
  2. Mix well till everything combines and top the mixture with dried fruits and cardamon powder, turn off the heat and let it cool.

For the modak cover

  1. Boil 1 cup water in a pan, add salt and 1/2 teaspoon ghee to it.
  2. Lower the heat and add the rice flour and mix well with a wooden spoon/ spatula
  3. Cover and let it steam for 2 minutes before turning off the heat and letting it sit for another 5 minutes.
  4.  Take out the flour and knead thoroughly using water and oil to grease your palms in the process .
  5. Cover the prepared dough with damp cloth.
  6. Take a small golf ball sized piece of dough and flatten it to make a cup, stuff the filling in it and make some pleats/ petals before closing the cup.
  7. Dip the tip in water before storing under a damp cloth.
  8. Prepare the steamer and place modaks to steam them for 12 minutes on medium heat.

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The Indo-Mediterranean spice story & Kebabs

I was recently looking up some recipes for authentic Mediterranean food and I was surprised to learn that most of the Mediterranean food and Indian food is connected. The spice mixes used are similar, the ingredients used are similar, just the cooking techniques vary a bit to adapt geographically. For example, there is use of olive oil in Mediterranean food (since it amply available in those regions) and the use of ground-nut oil, coconut oil and Ghee is common in Indian food since those ingredients are available in India. 

Mediterranean region includes a variety of cultures each with its distinct cuisines. These include, the Maghrebi, the Egyptian, the Levantine, the Ottoman (Turkish), the Italian, the Provencial, and Spanish culture. Also the geographical impact of Mediterranean Sea and the regions climate makes an impact on the food habits in these region. Similarly Indian cuisine is as diversified as the country itself. Based on the geography of the country, the foods change. India also has a vast coastal stretch which has aided in development of a varied coastal food cuisine in India. Just like in the Mediterranean regions, in India too, it is common to consume salt cured dried fish. These are some of the common dishes between Mediterranean and Indian culture which I have come across –   

  1. The Baigan Bharta in India is similar to the Baba Ghanoush, the Indian version is slightly spicy and nutty with inclusion of green chillies and peanuts. Similarly the Daal in India is very similar to the Mediterranean lentil soup.
  2. The Indian Kebabs and Mediterranean Kebabs are related too. The spices used in marination of these kebabs are similar.
  3. The Lentil soup having its roots in the bible and a common delicacy in the French and Middle Eastern regions is commonly known as Dal in India. (You will find a wide range of Dals too in India) 
  4. The Halva (flour and nut based confectionery sweet) is common both in India and Egypt, Iran and Middle East. 

The spices used in cooking are common too. Indian cooking involves use of Chili powder, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, bay leaf and all spice, so does Mediterranean food. When you read the recipes for Mediterranean and Indian food you realize that although the spices and the ingredients are the same, the cooking method and the quantity in which the spices are used varies. I am still reading up on how this similarity came into existence and am experimenting between a fusion of Mediterranean and Indian tastes and I started with my favorite..Kebabs. 

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Mediterranean kebabs are made using spices such as bay leaf, allspice, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and Indian kebabs are made using the same spices along with garam masala and they are usually marinated in yogurt. Yogurt or Lime works well for tenderizing the meat so I wanted to use one of these. Since I was planning on making a yogurt dip to go with the kebabs, I decided to marinate them with lime. 

I decided to make a mild spice mix of smoked paprika, red chili powder, cinnamon, cardamon (for the Indian blend) along with all spice, salt and pepper. Also Mediterranean spice mixes are blended with olive oil before being applied on the meat and set for marination for around 8-10 hours or even overnight. I also added a bit of lime juice to tenderize the meat and aid the marination and let it rest overnight. 

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The Indo-Mediterranean spice mix

The next day, I grilled the meat at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for around 15 minutes before broiling it for another 5-7 minutes till slightly charred. I served it with home-made whole-wheat flat bread, yogurt sauce, chopped bell peppers and onions. 

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My choice of serving style with flatbread, veggies and a dollop of the yogurt dip

The best part about these kebabs is that they are extremely versatile, require very little oil and you can make them beforehand and grill them in time for your meals. Here are a few variations for these kebabs – 

Kebabs & Rice –  

Serve these with some rice spiced with turmeric & nuts to make a delicious scrumptious meal for the family 

Wraps 

This is my favorite variant. I love to make wraps with these kebabs and stir fried veggies. You can add a bit of home made hummus or yogurt sauce for making it more delicious.

Appetizers – 

Just the grilled kebabs by themselves are delicious enough. Garnish them with onions and serve them with the yogurt dip 

Salad- 

Toss the kebabs with freshly chopped lettuce, spinach and any other greens of your choice, add some onions for the crunch and tomatoes for the tang, top it with lime juice salt and pepper for a great summer time salad!


Ingredients

  • 500 grams boneless chicken thighs (cut into small bite sized pieces) 
  • 1 tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp all spice mix
  • 1/2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
  • pinch of cardamon powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of one lime
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 

Instructions 

  • Mix together the spices in a bowl. (You can increase or decrease the quantities for chili powder as per your choice) 
  • Pour in the olive oil and lime juice and whisk till its well blended
  • Pour this marinade over the chicken  and mix to coat it well. Let this rest at least for an hour and preferably for more than 12 hours
  • Heat oven till 450 degree Fahrenheit / 220 degrees Celsius and cook for 15 minutes or cooked through. 
  • Make sure you stir the kebabs at least once while cooking. 
  • You can also fry them on a pan or skewer them and grill them over coals (grilling would make them taste much more better)
  • Serve them in any way you prefer with a dip, in a wrap or with rice 🙂

THE YOGURT DIP

This is a garlic based yogurt dip. Mince around 3 medium cloves of garlic and whisk them with a cup of Greek Yogurt. Add salt to taste and once well blended you can top it off with freshly chopped mint and cilantro

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Drizzle the yogurt dip over some grilled veggies and kebabs 

 

Food from Home – Chicken Malvani Curry

I am writing this post after a really long time and the reason for this is I am back in India for a few days. 😀  My first few weeks in India were spent visiting families, meeting relatives and enjoying the rains and now I’m visiting my parents and making an attempt to learn those traditional Maharashtrian food from my Mum. I hail from the coastal regions of Maharashtra where coconut is used in abundance while cooking. Ironically the one thing I found difficult while cooking was the use of coconut. I did not know how much of it is to be used, do we use the dried coconut (known as kopra / khobra here) or the fresh coconut etc etc. So today I decided to spend sometime learning the much famous coconut based masala which forms a base for most of the coastal Maharashtrian cooking and is extremely delicious. Although the ingredients seem a lot, they are not hard to source. Moreover, this masala can be prepped in advance and used as a base for a number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes. My favorite recipe with this masala blend is the Malvani Chicken curry.

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This chicken curry has been a staple in my house since my childhood. Often even requested by guests when we have them over for lunch or dinner. Since it can be prepped in advance, this recipe does not require a lot of efforts. The cooking technique is the key here, although it is not complex, we have to be careful while cooking the masala blend else we may risk burning it 😛 . Also the spice levels here can be easily controlled, so if you are not a fan of chilly or hot spices, you can give that a miss and still make a delicious gravy.

The base flavor for this recipe is roasted coconut and roasted onions. In earlier days, when food would be prepared on traditional hearths, onions and dried coconuts would be roasted whole in the fire before being ground on mortar into a fine paste. The smokiness of the hearth would add on to the flavor of this masala but we can try our best to replicate those flavors but roasting these ingredients. You can still roast the onions and coconuts whole on a barbecue grill to get similar results but I would suggest you start with roasting them in a pan to get the flavor right before experimenting with barbecue.

Here I finely chopped dried coconut and onions before roasting them individually in a pan till they developed a fine golden hue.

The other spices I used here were fennel seeds, coriander seeds, whole cardamon, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, a bit of cinnamon & cumin seeds. Which were roasted too on mild heat till they turned fragrant. A pro-tip here would be to add a touch of ghee to the pan before roasting these spices as this will add an additional kick to the flavor of these spices. If you love some heat in your food you can also roast a couple of whole dried red chilies with the spices.

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The Chicken used here does not require any special preparations. It can be marinated in yogurt, salt, ginger garlic paste and lime for just 30 minutes prior to cooking or even a day before for more juicier gravy.

I started off with marinating the chicken and roasting the spices, onions and dried coconut for the Malvani Masala. Once roasted, I ground the spices, onions and dried coconut together into a fine paste adding just a bit of water for better texture.

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I then tempered some hot oil with one bay leaf, one finely chopped onion and a teaspoon of ginger-garlic paste. Once the onions had softened, I added one chopped tomato, covered the mixture and let it cook till it was all tender. Once the onions and tomatoes were softened and cooked, I added in the marinated chicken, a tablespoon of chili powder, a teaspoon of turmeric powder and cooked till the spices coated the chicken well. I then covered and cooked the chicken for another 5 minutes before adding in the Malvani Masala Paste made earlier. At this stage I also added in around 100 ml of warm water to add some texture to my gravy. I then covered the gravy and let it cook for another 15 minutes before the chicken was cooked through and ready to serve.

Pro-tip – if you have some ground Garam Masala powder at home, sprinkle a teaspoon of it over the gravy once you switch off the heat on the gravy before topping it off with fresh coriander.

Serve warm with fresh rotis and steamed rice.

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RECIPE

INGREDIENTS 

Malvani Masala Blend 

For Gravy

    • 500 grams chicken
    • 2 tablespoons yogurt
    • 2 teaspoons Ginger Garlic Paste
    • 1 teaspoon lime juice
    • salt to taste
    • 1 finely chopped onion
    • 1 finely chopped tomato
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder

 

  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander for garnishing

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Marinate chicken with the yogurt, 1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste, lime juice and salt and keep aside for at least 30 minutes (this can be done a day in advance too).
  • Roast the onions and dried coconut  from the Malvani Masala list, separately till  it turns golden
  • Add half a teaspoon of ghee to the pan and once heated add in the spices (coriander, fennel, cumin, star anise, cardamon, cloves, peppercorns and chilies) and saute till they are roasted and fragrant.
  • Grind the onions, coconut and spices together to form a paste.
  • In a pan, heat oil and add one bay leaf to it. Add in the chopped onion and 1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste and saute till the onions have softened.
  • Add in the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes have softened.
  • Add in the marinated chicken, chili powder and turmeric powder and mix well till the spices have coated the chicken well. Cover and cook for around 5 minutes on medium heat.
  • Add in the ground Malvani Masala blend, cover the chicken well with it and add 100 ml of warm water to blend the spices well.
  • Cover and cook for another 15-20 mins on medium heat till the chicken is well cooked through.
  • Sprinkle the gravy with a teaspoon of garam masala powder, freshly chopped coriander and serve warm with fresh rotis and steamed rice.

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