Saturday, July 30, 2011

saunfia karele ...bitter guards infused with fennel...

 Bitter guards are not everybody's idea of tasty food . I love these bitters and even a boiled mash is one of my favorite vegetable side dishes and i can have it daily . But i like variety and a few of the concoctions are liked by the husband too who gets an immediate feeling of nausea at the sight of karela on the table. This one is usually greeted to karela lag rahai hai ...( looks like bitter guard isn't it? ) ... a few spoonfuls into the plate and he says why don't you make this kind of karela if you want me to eat it...he takes second helpings. As for me, I like my karela mash everyday all through the summers , great detox need i say that?

This bitter guard stir fry is made with a lot of fennel seeds and some chickpea flour to make the bitterness balanced . I never salt and wash the bitter guards before cooking as there will be a lot of nutrient loss that way. Adding some souring agent will make the bitter more flavorful in a balanced way. Tomatoes , amchoor and tamarind are good for balancing the bitters in this guard. Onion plays a good role for the same purpose too.

bitter guards 500 gm
onions 3-4 nos (250 gm)
fennel seeds 1 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
whole dry red chillies 3-4 nos.
turmeric powder 2 tsp
black pepper powder 1 tsp
chickpea flour(besan) 1.5 tbsp or some more
amchoor powder 1-2 tsp as required
salt to taste
mustard oil 2-3 tbsp


Chop the onion finely and butter guards in small bits. Slitting the bitter guards in four and then chopping in small bits will be convenient.

Heat the mustard oil in a kadai and throw in the broken red chillies , and then fennel and cumin seeds. Wait till they splutter and add the chopped onion .

Mix well and stir fry the onions adding salt to taste so that they cook faster. Keep stirring till onions are just translucent and not browned.

Now add the chopped bitter guards , mix well and add the black pepper powder and turmeric powder too. keep stir frying till everything is well coated and the onions get lightly browned and bitter guards are soft and browned at the edges.
Add besan or chick pea flour and amchoor powder and mix well , keep turning and stirring till the flour is cooked and blended well. it makes the bitterness more balanced along with amchoor powder . The aroma of the finished subzi is pleasant with fennel and roasted besan dominating the top notes.

I would insist not to remove any seeds of the bitter guard as they are very nutrition packed just like the pumpkin seeds and provide a nice texture to the finished subzi.

The slowly caramelized onion in the dish also works for balancing the bitterness in the guards....those whole fennel seeds look great and taste great too...

Many people coat the bitter guard pieces in salt and then squeeze to remove the sap and thus bitterness from bitter guards . Removing the green puckered skin is also a norm in Indian kitchens ...both the things are wrong as all parts of bitter guards are edible and nutrition packed. If you feel like peeling off the precious green pericarp (outer fruit wall) and squeezing the sap out of it , you should think of cooking some other vegetable bitter guards with all it's bitterness is the right way to have this vegetable .

Think of enhancing the bitterness with some complementing ingredients...what do you think ?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

multigrain magic,a khichdi to fall in love with | multigrain khichdi...

The name of a multigrain khichdi may sound like a 'healthy tasting' dish which we all want to cook and eat but never do probably. So many people do not like khichdi very much and many more people cringe at the suggestion of having it with vegetables. It sounds like baby food isn't it.... just take a look at all these grains ...

Assuming you are here because of your interest in healthy food I know you are going to jump at the thought of having around 9 whole grains in one dish and many more vegetable included ... red rice , brown rice , broken basmati (tukda), pearl barley, chana daal (split chickpea), split black gram with skin, whole mung bean, horse gram and red lentils ...

I have tried this khichdi along with pearl millet and some broken wheat too but the above combination works better ... and the addition of fresh green peas makes it even more textured...I made it for some guests too and the khichdi was adopted for life ...yes the feedback i got was that all these grains have been mixed already at their place and they are having the khichdi twice a week.

(5-6 servings)

all the above stated grains and lentils mixed in equal quantities ...2 cups
broccoli and cauliflower cut in florets 4 cups each (cauliflowers are from my garden , see the picture )
green peas 2 cups
freshly made coarse paste of tomatoes 2 cups
carrots medium sized 2 nos.
medium sized celery sticks 3-4 nos.
spring onions lower halves 3-4 nos.
garlic cloves 5-6 nos.
cumin seeds 2+1 tsp
freshly crushed black pepper corns 1 tbsp
red chilly powder 2 tsp
turmeric powder 2 tsp
whole black cardamom 2 nos.
bay leaves 2-3 nos.
ghee or any oil of choice 2+1 tbsp
salt to taste


First of all chop the celery , carrot , spring onions and garlic finely , i  prefer chopping them together in my as is convenient to you...

I make this khichri in the pressure cooker as it is more convenient. So heat the ghee in the pressure cooker pan and throw in the cumin seeds and wait till they crackle.Add the above chopped celery-carrots-spring onions-garlic mixture...stir fry for a while ...needs not be browned. Add the black cardamom and bay leaves and cook till they all become wilted and aromatic....

Now add the washed and drained grains and pulses mix ... soaking them for an hour or so will be a good idea . Mix everything and let the grains soak in...

Mix everything together and then add the tomato paste , salt and turmeric powder ... add the crushed black pepper corns and the red chilly powder too..

 Add water . 6 cups of water as the khichdi will be soaking a lot of water . See how the grains get submerged and how the coarsely chopped vegetables look in the final cooking mixture... Cover the lid and pressure cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile , place a kadhai on the other side of the stove for the broccoli , cauliflowers and the peas to be stir fried ... while the khichdi is cooking in the pressure cooker.

The cooked grains and pulses should look plump and soft when cooked ..not very mushed up but cooked thoroughly . Check the grains and cook once more if they are not mushy when pressed , add more water if required.

Does it sound like a lot of work? I think whenever we cook with a lots of vegetables , it takes some time as chopping the vegetables takes some time if you are not using your machines . This recipe includes many vegetables , the ones chopped in a machine have already been included in the cooking khichdi while the ones who need to remain firm and crunchy in the finished khichdi are cooked separately . So heat just a tbsp of ghee in a kadhai , add a tsp of whole cumin seeds and dunk in all the cut florets into it to fry ... add the green peas too , you may like to microwave the peas if they are not tender ... i did exactly that before adding them to the stir frying mixture... I also added some more chopped garlic and red chilly powder to this mixture as it makes the khichdi very flavorful....

Add the stir fried vegetables to the cooked khichdi and mix well . I like the texture of the broccoli and cauliflower florets crunchy in this khichdi . More so because overcooked broccoli and cauliflowers smell awful to me...and they will make the khichdi unappetizing... the fresh flavors added this way is the right way to bring up the flavors...
Just mix well and serve immediately ... a nice raita and some roasted papad is all that is needed . But i liked it by itself , with plain curds .

You have everything in this bowl of khichdi . What i liked most , that the leftovers are as yummy as the fresh khichdi . Some people like pickles with their khichdi but this khichdi has some aromatic celery and spring onions to make it different from the regular khichdi , so try it with just a bowl of fresh yogurt to start with.

I know this khichdi can be a comfort food for a diabetic too , the taste can be imagined with the ingredients going in it.... try it once and let the goodness of vegetables greet you in the season. Any cucumber family vegetable can be added to this khichri in summers , and that will be a one step dish as those vegetables need not to be stir fried separately... cook them in one go and enjoy a flavorful khichdi...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

kahva or qahva : a nice warming Kashmiri tea infused with cinnamon, green cardamom and almonds

Someone was teasing me with a picture of kahva and I wanted my 2 mugs of this warming concoction. Yes 2 mugs as I always make some extra and have another mugful after a while. I love my kahva so much.

So I made the kahva and took pictures. I had some old pictures too but this time I decided to include all the ingredients into the pictures so the picture would tell the recipe too as it is not much of a recipe beyond that.

Half a tsp of green kashmiri tea leaves (or Chinese green tea) are boiled along with an inch piece of cinnamon, one crushed green cardamom and 2 crushed almonds. Sugar to taste. Some people like walnuts in this tea but I like almonds more. Add a few saffron strands if you wish, I make Kahva with or without saffron depending on how fancy I am feeling when I make it.

The recipe was told to me by a dry fruits shop owner in Katra (the base station to vaishno devi trek), from where we always get this green Kashmiri tea and some dry fruits for the season. He had told the recipe with such good expressions on his face that I still remember how he had prompted me to buy so many small packets of this green tea. I have gifted this green tea to many of my friends, and needless to say have made many fans of this special tea.

Everything on the ingredient list is boiled for about 5 minutes ( this tea is not brewed like other green teas), strained and then some freshly chopped or crushed almonds are added to the mug...

Inhale and you fall in love.

Otherwise too, I am a tea enthusiast and have many varieties of tea at any given point of time. Darjeeling is our daily morning cuppa ( the same mug actually and we are addicted to this mug for our clear teas) and then there are many flavored and unflavored green teas.

We use the CTC tea granules for our milky masala chai, I like a robust one for my masala chai and a lighter flavorful one for a light brew sometimes, a different tea for a different mood, season, time of the day etc. etc.

Kahva is a favored tea when I have my headaches (I am a migraine personality didn't you know?) The cinnamon helps with it most of the times. It is a soothing tea for any time you need it. You feel rejuvenated while boiling it, when you inhale are wafting aromas involuntarily.

Kahva or Qahva as it is pronounced, the tea is very comforting in winter months, especially in the northern India where the sun often hides through the day. Kahva has a  more appealing taste on such days I must add. I always wonder how we adapt our foods and drinks in different geographical regions.

This is the best Kashmir could do with green tea, infuse it with spices and almonds. Culinary evolution always depended on local produce and climate. Kahva explains it quite well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

an egg roll gone green ...

Here comes one quick breakfast . I suggest many people to make extra chapatis so that they can be used for a quick filling breakfast or a quick meal when you come back home famished. I like a filling breakfast as it prevents unnecessary binging through the day. Especially when the breakfast is tasteful and richly textured , the experience of eating something like this (and not a boring limp bowl of cereal) makes the eating experience more satisfactory i believe. Eating is a tactile sensory experience and the contentment is not only due to calorie quenching...

So this breakfast (or meal) can be really quick , but you certainly need to chop the celery and a cucumber if you are like me. Nothing will be easier than this after that.

I have sliced the boiled eggs and spread the chopped celery soaked with a yummy dressing over the egg slices. Then the chapati is wrapped and secured with a cocktail stick.

The chapati is made using multigrain flour and some added wheat bran , and the filling is quite hearty so the wrapping may be a bit loose . The taste will make up for everything .

The dressing is simple again... 1 tsp of olive oil , a tsp or more of lemon juice , 1/4 tsp yellow mustard powder or mustard sauce , salt n pepper to taste...mix the chopped celery leaves in it and pour over the sliced eggs . It can be a great stuffing for grilled or plain sandwiches too.

Slices of cucumber make the egg roll ore exciting to me , try this idea if you want a hearty meal at the start of the day or any time of the day for that matter.

Use a mix of coriander greens and mint with some fresh baby spinach if celery is not available. You would love any fresh greens with it.

Another breakfast made with refrigerated chapati is to have it with some broccoli quesadilla style  .

Are you eating unprocessed , real, healthy food?

Make your home cooking options easier and come out of the ready made cartons and ready to cook concoctions.

Enjoy real food.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

tabbouleh ..... to suit an average indian palate...

 An average Indian would hesitate to eat soaked (read uncooked) dalia in a salad . So this salad , a middle eastern healthy recipe of tabbouleh, has been adapted to suit an Indian kitchen .

The daliya is soaked for 15 minutes or so and then steamed lightly (i microwave for a minute per serving) , cooled down , fluffed up with a fork and a dash of olive oil and mixed up with the other things . And that makes the daliya palatable for the average nosy Indain foodie.

And friends please do not mind the overload of pictures here. The celery i am growing makes me so happy that i end up clicking pictures while cleaning it , chopping it and then chomping it...

Freshly plucked ribs of celery , they have such a nice crunch . The flavor is unbeatable . I would advice you all to grow celery in containers or pots , from seeds it grows very easily and you can pluck the ribs whenever required and more stalks grow from inside...

I never throw the leaves away , use all of it . I substituted parsley with celery as i have lots of celery right now ... Nothing can beat fresh herbs...
Imagine the crunch and the flavor it brings to the salad....

Is it an overdose of chopping. I love chopping the vegetables i like to cook with. healthy cooking requires a lot of chopping and you better learn to love this part ...

I added some mung sprouts too . I want a richly textured salad always . So the glutinous chewy texture of the steamed daliya is complemented by varied crunchy textures of other things....chopped onions , chopped celery , mung sprouts and chopped green chilly.

I normally add some chopped nuts too but i was making this salad and talking over phone so just forgot to add the chopped almonds kept for it.

Add any chopped nuts , roasted or raw . Just as you like it.

The dressing is a simple thing to rustle up....lemon juice , olive oil, garlic , green or red chilly , mustard powder , salt n pepper ...

let's see the proportions...

for one serving i like it..

2 tbsp of dry daliya soaked for 15 minutes
3/4 cup of mung sprouts
1 cup of chopped celery (tightly packed)
1/3 cup of finely chopped onions
1/4 tsp of garlic chopped
green or red chilly to taste chopped or paste
( i used a red chilly n garlic paste here)
1-2 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tsp of olive oil
1/2 tsp of yellow mustard powder
1/2 tsp of pepper powder
salt to taste

Mix the dressing ingredients together and then mix with all the pther ingredients at the time of serving . The daliya soaks the seasoning like magic . You would know when you have it...

I hope it becomes your favorite way of eating some raw food.....well try the soaked daliya sometime later...and use your favorite greens here , the freshest possible...

Have it for any meal ...breakfast , lunch or dinner .... you would be happy to have found it.


Monday, July 11, 2011

mutton dalcha .... goat meat and vegetables cooked with lentils..

Mutton dalcha is a meat and lentil soup with vegetables originating from the states of Andhra and Orissa. A healthy recipe that cooks easily. Daals or lentil soups can be prepared in a countless ways and there are so many traditional recipes of Indian origin that even if you make a different one daily you would have enough recipes for the life time.

And then you have your favorites . Dalcha is one of my favorites and I have been making it for the unique taste it has and for the convenience involved in making it too . Interestingly , a vegetarian dalcha posted long time back on this blog has been an all time favorite of readers as far as the daily google hits suggest . That one gets a decent number of hits daily in spite of the fact that the pictures are awful . Reason enough to post the recipe of mutton dalcha with some better pictures .
You decide whether they are decent as my pictures are never styled , just the way it is served immediately after cooking most of the times .

I made this dalcha using some leftover mirchi gosht . Easy for me , but raw meat can be used with equal ease as the daal is going to be pressure cooked anyways . Most of us Indians cook the daals and the meats too in the pressure cooker for convenience . We love our spicy food and love cooking conveniently.

the vegetables: guar beans or cluster beans chopped 1 cup , small brinjals 3-4 nos. or cubed 1 cup , tomatoes chopped in cubes 3/4 cup , cubed potatoes 3/4 cup // other vegetables are as good but i use these vegetables most of the times as i like them with this spicing.

the masala paste: star anise 1 no. , 1.5 tsp of cumin seeds , 1.5 tsp of black peppercorns , 2 whole red chillies , 5 cloves or garlic and an inch piece of ginger .

for the daal: mutton 100 gm or 4 small pieces or more if required , red lentils 3 tbsp , turmeric powder 2 tsp , fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp , asafoetida powder a pinch, salt to taste.
Mustard oil for tempering.


Make a coarse paste of the masala ingredients.

Heat mustard oil in the pressure cooker pan and tip in the asafoetida powder , fenugreek seeds and wait till the fenugreek seeds get browned a bit .

If using raw meat , add the meat and the spice paste first and stir fry for 10-12 minutes on medium heat and let the meat get half done. Keeping the lid on ( but not fixed to get a whistle) will be convenient . I used leftover mirchi gosht so started with potatoes and spice paste.

Otherwise just add the potatoes and the spice paste , toss well and let cook till the spices get fragrant . No need to brown the spices , add the beans and brinjal , toss well to coat.

Now add the chopped tomatoes , cooked leftover meat was added too as there is no need to cook the meat further.

Turmeric powder , salt to taste and the washed up red lentils were also added along with enough water (i used 1.5 cup) to cook the dal n veggies together..

Meat is already cooked in my version so the daal cooks in about 8-10 minutes after the first whistle blows up. Otherwise cook it for 15 minutes on pressure and 10 minutes in the stir fry stage.

This is how it looks after pressure cooking.

Mash the vegetables a bit and serve hot with plain boiled rice.

This does not make the daal a pretty picture , all mushed up vegetables and a few pieces of meat here and there . The real thing with this recipe is it's mild fragrance of the unique blend of spices used . I end up using the same vegetables for my dalcha most of the times as i like this particular blend really good. Try it my way if you are making a dalcha for the first time. Using some cubed yellow pumpkin also suits well and may be you like some cauliflower florets in it.

A conveniently cooked healthy meal . I have served it to some guests too occasionally and it has been liked by all. Although i make it a point to cook a nice side dish with it to enhance the look of the table at such times,  the taste department is taken care of well by this dalcha.

Enjoy ...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

nimbu paani (limeade) with stevea and mint ...

With the picture of Stevea i had promised to bring a recipe using the sweetening leaves. We eat our sugars in moderation and never use any artificial sweeteners as a rule . Natural sweeteners having some nutritive value along with calories is my way of having my sweet treats . So dates , raisins and fruits rule as natural sweeteners in many of my desserts . Stevea is an occasional addition to my green tea or lemonade or limeade with other flavorings like ginger or mint or whatever is the mood.

I have never cooked with fresh Stevea leaves so i do not know how it behaves when cooked or baked . I like it being used fresh and feel like enjoying my garden more at such times . To make you some more jealous let me tell you , all the ingredients in this nimboo paani have come from the garden , freshly plucked ...

 Mint, Stevea and lime (nimboo) . 2-3 leaves of Stevea are enough to lightly sweeten a glass of limeade . Mint can be as much as you like. I add some salt to my limeade too as i like the way it really quenches the body after excessive sweating ..... I am living on such limeades and thin buttermilk these days.

So the lime is zested  and leaves are crushed using a pestle . I had planned to take a picture of the crushed up leaves and lemon zest but i was in a hurry to drink the nimboo paani after working in the garden for an hour . Taking pictures can spoil the fun sometimes.

 All the crushed leaves and lime zest is added to a pitcher , chilled water filled up and salt is added according to taste . Very light hint of salt is required the way i make it. You can see the crushed leaves floating on top of the limeade .

 Pour in glasses through a sieve . A few small bits of crushed leaves can be enjoyable , so add some if you like .

 Isn't it a lovely color . The refreshing taste is something i am loving these days . It's a seasonal delight for me , as long as the summers are sweltering and as long as i get fresh mint in the garden .

I took my drawing board outside in the garden and used it as a table to click a few quick pictures . Luckily the mild sunlight appeared for a few minutes and made my day . It has been a rainy day otherwise. Pleasant greens look all refreshed . The limeade refreshed my soul too...without any sugars going into my bloodstream.

I make the aam panna using Stevea leaves too . It is a better way to have the refreshing drinks of summer as we are in real danger of ingesting large amounts of sugars if all the ice creams , granitas , and sherbets are consumed indiscriminately .

Using healthier options for sweet treats makes more sense . Are you growing your own Stevea?
Try doing so as now you have seen the beautiful flowers it bears too...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

can you recognize this plant?

I am not giving any hints . Look at the beautiful miniature flowers .

And those leaves , so useful . now you got one clue.

Don't blame me i didn't tell you about the leaves.

I am uploading so many pictures so you would feel free to scroll down and see them again and again.

Or make a good guess , or search Google about all the useful leaves :)

Let me now how informed and health conscious are my readers.

Good luck !

I will back very soon to announce the name and how i use this plat ...err... leaves.

Friday, July 1, 2011

chicken rezala ... a low fat stew ...

 A chicken recipe that suits all...

I get many requests for low fat chicken recipes . And there are others (mostly friends) who want tasty chicken recipes irrespective of fat content . Do you see a connection between the strangers (my readers who do not know me personally) mailing me for low fat recipes and friends asking for tasty recipes no matter how much ghee or oil it uses...

Okay , so this recipe does not use any additional oil or ghee . There is some fresh cream used but the amount is very negligible per serving . Taste wise this is something you would like to serve a get together and get complements without working in the kitchen sweating for perfection .. I mean how much time do you take in liquidizing?

(for 6 servings)
chicken 1 kg
onion made into a fine paste without water 2 cups
fresh curds 2 cups
ginger 2 inch piece
garlic 15 cloves ( small Indian variety)
green chillies 10-12 nos..or to taste
cloves 8 nos.
green cardamon 4 nos.
black cardamom 2 small ones
cinnamon 2 one inch sticks
black peppercorns 20 nos.
cumin seeds 2 tsp
salt to taste
light fresh cream 1 cup


Grind the ginger garlic and green chillies into a fine paste . Add the whole spices into the paste and pulse the mixie once again briefly to crush the whole spices ...they should not be ground into the paste . Add 2 tbsp of curds to this paste , salt to taste and marinade the chicken into it... just till the onion paste is ready to be mixed up , or about 15 minutes.

Make the paste of the onion in the meantime , liquidizing the onion finely . Add the remaining curds to it and liquidize once again . add this paste to the chicken marinade and leave it for another 15 minutes or so. If you don't have time you can start cooking just after this.

pour this mixture to the cooking pan , or you can do all this mixing up in the cooking pan itself and place it on the burner directly. Cook covered , stirring in between to ensure even cooking of all the pieces.

There is no need to add water to the cooking mixture as onion and curds have enough water to cook the chicken well . Wait till the chicken cooks , it takes about 25-30 minutes normally and add the fresh cream to the cooking mixture .

Stir well and cook to a soft boil again. Take off the flame and serve hot with chapatis or rice. The pictures here are all of the leftovers we had the next day with rice . The gravy looks more homogenous and creamy when freshly made.

One thing to take care is the amount of gravy that you need . Some people like more gravy in the curries so it will be better to use double the amount of gravy ingredients for the same amount of chicken if you are one of those who love the gravy with your rice .... or mopping off the gravy with naan or chapati ...this is one such flavorful gravy which might finish before you realize ....

My niece enjoyed the chicken dish and wanted some raw onion rings with it . Actually all mildly hot gravies require some onions in the salad or a hot side dish .

Enjoy as you like it ... you can make a mutton rizala with the same gravy ingredients..