Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dal Makhni V3

I made this version of Dal Makhni for a potluck - hence the 4 cups of dal measurement. I am typing this from work for a friend and have to yet modify the measurements for a family of 4, but halving all the measurements will reduce the portion for a family of 6 adults (This dal is pretty heavy to consume, so it can easily serve 6).

The dal was quite a hit at the potluck and got rave reviews...I felt very humbled. The dal has a wonderful creamy texture from the milk and the butter. The masalas are minimal since dal makhni is traditionally a very simple dal. There's really no special tricks except the BUTTER! The bay leaf adds a warm note of spice that is balanced well by the garam masala to round up the flavors and bring everything together. The potluck I cooked for was Diwali so it was fitting that the dal was this rich and flavorful.

Whole black gram (sabut urad)  - 2 cups
Red kidney beans (rajma) – 1.5 cups
Chana Dal – ½ cup
Milk – 4 tbsp
Green Chillies – 6 nos
Garlic – 4 cloves
Ginger – 2 inch piece
Butter – 6 tbsp
Oil - 2 tbsp tablespoon
Cumin – 4 tsp
Bay leaf – 1 large
Onions – 1 large or 2 medium
Red chilli powder 4 tsp  
Garam masala – 2 tsp
Tomatoes – 4 medium

1. Mix all the dals together and wash in water until the water runs clear. Soak the dals overnight (at least 10 to 12 hrs).
2. Pressure cook the dals with twice the amount of water (8 cups) and 1 tsp of oil for upto 2 whistles. Then set the pressure cooker on LOW for 20 mins. Switch off and wait until the pressure releases and it’s safe to open the cooker.
3. Once the pressure is released, open the cooker and check the consistency of the dal. The kidney beans and channa dal should be ‘mashable’ between your thumb and index finger. If yes, move to the next step. If not, put the lid back on and cook for one more whistle and LOW on 15 mins.
4. Add the milk to the cooked dal and mash with the back of a spoon or ladle. You can also use a potato masher, but be careful NOT to mash it to a complete pulp.
5. Take the stems off of the green chillies, peel the garlic cloves and remove the skin of the ginger. Throw them into a blender (like a magic bullet) and pulse to a coarse consistency. Do NOT blend into a paste.
6. Chop the onions finely and puree the tomatoes to a pulp.
7. Take a thick bottomed vessel and set the heat to HIGH. Add 4 tbsp of butter and oil and wait until it’s heated.
8. Splutter the cumin and add the bay leaf, wait for 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn the bay leaf. Then add the chopped onions. Fry for a minute, then add the chilli-garlic-ginder paste and sauté until the onions are nice and transparent or until the raw smell of the ginger and garlic is gone. Add a pinch of salt to keep the onions from burning.
9. Now add the red chilli powder and the garam masala and fry for 2 mins. Be careful not to burn the masalas. Add 1 tsp of oil and ¼ tsp salt if you feel that the masala is burning.
10. Now add the tomato puree and cook on MEDIUM until the oil separates. Cover loosely with a lid to prevent the puree from spluttering out of the vessel. The tomatoes would take at least 15 mins to fully cook and release the fat.
11. Once the tomato is cooked, add the dal+milk mixture and mix well. Taste for salt and add as needed. Add water as needed at this stage until you get to your desired consistency. Dal Makhni should be semi-solid and not completely watery.
12. Set the dal to high and add 1 tbsp of butter. After the dal comes to a boil, set on MEDIUM/LOW and cook covered with a lid for 15 mins.
13. Switch off and remove from the flame. Add the final 1 tbsp of butter and chopped coriander (optional).

Although other versions call for adding CREAM, traditional dal makhni only needs butter. Cream is a nice way to make it richer, but not necessary.
Using good quality butter really helps to bring out the taste. I have not tried this recipe with margarine or other butter substitutes.
This dal is pretty heavy on the constitution, be sure to portion control during your meal J


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Black & White

OK...wanna play a game?

I'm gonna throw some words at you and you're gonna guess what it means...ready?
- nutella - chocolate - vanilla - peanut butter - cake - cups -

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, what do you get?


Not just any kind of cupcake...vanilla cupcakes with nutella and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter. I got the inspiration from this recipe on my latest addiction (Pinterest). I tried out the standard recipe and then got inspired to try out the chocolate and peanut butter version. They are super easy and came out awesome. The best part was that I made them around evening'ish which meant that the light was perfect to click some beautiful pics. I cannot believe how gorgeous they look!

Self rising four - 1 and 3/4 cups
Cocoa powder (dark) - 3 tbsp
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Oil - 1/4 cup
Butter - 1/4 cup
Applesauce (egg substitute) - 3/4 cup [ or 3 eggs ]
Peanut butter - 5 to 6 tsp

1. Preheat the oven at 325F and set paper liners on a 12 count muffin pan.
2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and set aside.
3. Beat the sugar, oil and butter until light and fluffy. Add the applesauce and mix until well blended.
4. Then add the flour mixture 1/3 of it at a time and combine together. It will be a litter thicker than normal cupcake batter.
5. Spoon out the batter equally among the 12 muffin liners.
6. Whisk the peanut butter until a little softer. You can add a few drops of milk if needed.
7. Add 1/2 tsp of peanut butter on top of each cupcake and using a knife swirl it around the top.
8. Bake in the over for 25 - 30 mins or until a skewer comes clean. Cool completely before eating.

Self rising four - 1 and 3/4 cups
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Oil - 1/4 cup
Butter - 1/4 cup
Applesauce (egg substitute) - 3/4 cup [ or 3 eggs ]
Nutella - 5 to 6 tsp

1. Preheat the oven at 325F and set paper liners on a 12 count muffin pan.
2. Beat the sugar, oil and butter until light and fluffy. Add the applesauce and mix until well blended.
3. Then add the flour 1/3 of it at a time and combine together. It will be a litter thicker than normal cupcake batter.
4. Spoon out the batter equally among the 12 muffin liners.
5. Whisk the nutella until a little softer. You can add a few drops of milk if needed.
6. Add 1/2 tsp of nutella on top of each cupcake and using a knife swirl it around the top.
7. Bake in the over for 25 - 30 mins or until a skewer comes clean. Cool completely before eating.

1. I used self rising flour and hence did not add any more leaveners in the batter.
2. I also skipped the vanilla and chocolate essence since I personally do not like flavoring unless it's natural like say a real vanilla bean or whatever.

Adapted from here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Butter Gobhi - cauliflower curry in a buttery gravy

Found this recipe of Kulsum on Pintrest and was drooling over it ever since. I found some gobi on sale that day and stocked up with a single minded mission to try it out. My sister and I love gobhi and are always up for trying different versions of it. I was particularly drawn to this one because of how both the gobhi and the masala are cooked separately in masalas and then combined together for a slow cooked end.

But the biggest surprise out of this curry was the fact that VJ ate gobhi. Yes, VJ. The guy who swore off gobhi as a stinky, smelly vegetable that tastes like mulch. And now, he asked me to make the same curry again and wants to eat the whole batch with my mutter pulao.

I tell you, this curry has the miraculous power to cure. I witnessed it myself. It cured VJ.

Anyways, without boring you further I'll get down to the recipe itself. I followed her recipe truthfully with a few exceptions:
1) I skipped the black cardamom and tomato paste since I had none.
2) I also substituted the kala jeera with normal jeera. 
3) I had no cream at home and used a extra 1 tbsp of butter in 2 tbsp of 2% milk, microwaved together for about 30 seconds (3 turns of 10 seconds each)
4) The chilli powder I use is kashmiri and hence it didn't pack the punch. So I chopped one green chilli and added it to the curry at the last stage.
5) I also made the gravy first and set it cool while frying the gobhi. 

Onion - 1 large
Tomatoes - 2 large
Ginger garlic paste - 2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Cashew nuts (crushed) - 1 tbsp
Butter - 3 tbsp
Bay leaf - 1
Green cardomom - 1 (crushed)
Cumin - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon - 2 inch piece
Cloves - 2
Salt - to taste
Water - 1 cup

Cauliflower - 1 head
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - 1/2 cup
Butter - 1tbsp

To finish:
Green chilli - 1, chopped
Half and half - 2 tbsp
Kasoori methi - 1 tsp

1. Chop the onions and tomatoes finely and set aside.
2. Heat the butter in a thick bottomed pan and add the bay leaf, cardamom, cloves, cumin and cinnamon. Fry for about 10 secs until you can smell the aroma of the spices.
3. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and fry until golden. Then add the ginger garlic paste and fry until well blended and the raw smell fades.
4. Now add all the masalas (turmeric, red chilli, coriander, garam masala and crushed cashews) and mix well. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook until it forms a well blended, mushy paste. 
5. Now add 1/2 a cup water and let it boil for about 10 mins. Transfer to a wide bowl and set it to cool completely.

In the meantime, we will fry the gobhi.

1. Peel off the leaves and break/cut the cauliflower in big pieces. Wash in a colander under hot running water for about 2 mins.
2. Drain and transfer to a big bowl and add the ginger garlic paste. Mix into the florets uniformly. Now add the red chilli, garam masala and salt and mix well until well blended.
3. Using the same pan, heat the butter and add the florets to it. Fry until lightly browned. 
4. Add the half cup water to it and cook with the lid on for about 7 mins. Take care not to overcook and make the florets mushy. It has to just cook through.

To finish:
1. Remove the bay leaf from the cooled gravy and blend into a fine paste.
2. Add this to the cauliflower along with 1/2 cup water and the chopped chillies. Check for salt and cook for about 10 mins or so with the lid.
3. Finally add in the cream and kasoori methi. Serve with rice and/or roti, nan etc.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Pav Bhaaji - Indian Street Food

Before VJ came to the US, he attended a bunch of cooking classes with a lady whom he fondly calls as "Usha Aunty". And he came armed with a notebook full of quick recipes from her that, for all obvious reasons, had one for pav bhaaji. It's one of VJ's favorite foods right next to a good ol' grilled veggie sandwich - from South Bombay :)

VJ has made this recipe many times over and it has come out in absolute perfection each time. It's one of the recipes for which we actually went out of our student-budget-ways to stock up a secret ingredient. This secret ingredient makes this recipe what it is. I haven't personally met Usha Aunty, but she is the rightful owner of this recipe and I owe countless happy meals to her. We always buy the squarish dinner rolls from the supermarket and just toast them with butter on a pan for the pav.

To start off with a little background on Pav Bhaaji, it's a typical Indian street food and has 2 main components: the bhaaji, which is the potato based almost-liquidy curry and the pav, which is baked bread similar to dinner rolls. But what makes the pav bhaaji a real treat is the garnishing; it's always served with freshly chopped red onions, generous sprinkling of lemon juice and loads of butter. This dish is one of those rare occasions where I turn a blind eye to the amount of butter used and just give in to the pleasure of devouring it like a child with no health concerns. And let me tell you this, it is sooooo worth it!

To read more on pav bhaaji, see here.

For the bhaaji:
Potatoes - 6 large
Green peas - 1 cup
Green pepper - 1, finely chopped
Tomatoes - 6 medium (roma) or 4 medium (hot house/vine)
Onion - 1 large (preferably red)
Garlic - 6 cloves
Ginger - 2 inch piece
Green chilli - 2
Butter - 3 tbsp + 2 tbsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Coriander powder + Jeera powder - 1 tsp
Pav bhaaji masala - 1 TBSP
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp (a generous pinch)
Black salt - 1 tsp
Cilantro - 2 tbsp, chopped
Salt - optional, to taste 
Secret ingredient - 1/2 tsp (optional, adjust according to taste)

For the pav:
Dinner rolls - pack of 12
Butter - 2 tbsp

1. Boil the potatoes (peeled), peas and capsicum (chopped) in enough water until well cooked. It's ok to be a little overcooked. Cool and mash well using a potato masher. Set aside.
2. Make a paste of the onion, ginger, garlic and green chilli. Set aside.
3. Puree the tomatoes. Set aside.
4. Heat the oil and butter in a thick bottomed pan and fry the onion paste until the oil separates. 
5. Add the tomato puree and cover with lid and cook once again until the oil separates. This is an important step as it brings out all the tanginess in the tomatoes. But it has to cook well. Also, it's a little messy. So it's good to cover it with a lid and let it cook.
6. Now add all the masalas, black salt, the secret inredient and the coriander leaves (you can save some as garnish). Cook for 5 - 10 mins.
7. To this, add the mashed veggies and mix well. You can add water at this stage to get a almost liquidy consistency. But if you do add water, adjust the masalas and salt accordingly.
8. Garnish with a few drizzles of lemon juice and a side of freshly chopped onions.

For the pav, slice the dinner rolls like a biscuit and butter both sides. Toast on an open pan until the sides are slightly browned. Make them on the spot for guests. The bhaaji can be refrigerated for upto 2 days.

Usha Aunty :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Baked Rotini with Roasted Tomato-Garlic Sauce

Remember how I told you about the fact that I like to work out to de-stress? The next top choice of course is cooking. And not just making my usual safe dishes, but trying out weird variations of (my) standard recipes. And the best part is that I am super-motivated while trying out variations, thus taking real cool pictures and then discussing the pros and cons of the recipe with VJ and my sis.

So tonight, after a particularly stressful week that was unfortunately further marred by snowstorms and closed airports, I decided to re-visit my arrabbiata sauce. I roasted the tomatoes and garlic in the oven and fried the onions to a burnt brown in the pan. And then I used my standard trick of tomato soup to finish it off. Finally, layered it all and baked it to a perfect finish :)

Garden Rotini pasta - 2 cups (uncooked)
Roma tomatoes - 2
Garlic - 4 cloves
Onion - 1 medium
Tomato soup (plain) - 1 can
Oil - 1 tsp
Butter - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder/flakes - 1 tsp (reduce to 1/2 for a milder sauce)
Italian seasoning - 1.5 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Italian cheese mix - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste
Water - to boil the pasta
Baking dish - 9" x 9"

1. Bring the water to full boil in a wide vessel and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Slice the tomatoes in half, lengthwise and set on the baking dish. Drizzle with the oil and add the garlic pods (with skin) and set in the pre-heated oven at 450 F for 20 mins. After it's done, set aside to cool.
3. In the meantime, slice the onion into thin strips and fry with the butter and a little sprinkling of salt until well browned and just before almost burnt. Set aside to cool.
4. Pulse the cooled tomatoes and the garlic (after peeling) to a chunky paste and set aside.
5. Similarly, pulse the cooled onions to a chunky paste and set aside.
6. Using the same pan as the fried onions, fry the tomato paste for 30 secs. Add the red chilli powder, italian seasoning and the pepper powder and fry for another 30 secs.
7. Then add the pulsed onions and fry for 1 minute. Finally add the can of tomato soup and salt. Check the seasoning and let it cook for about 5 to 8 mins.

To assemble:
1. Layer the pasta on the dish.
2. Pour the sauce over the pasta.
3. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
4. Cover with foil and bake at 375 F for 15 mins.

None to cite. Just followed a basic arrabbiata recipe with minor variations. Although, the idea for roasting the tomatoes came from here :)

Chocolate Chip Muffins - my first baking post

So…after all this while, I finally have a ‘baking’ post. It’s kinda weird given that I started baking really young while helping out mom when she made our birthday cakes and loads of other versions of basic sponge cake. The most famous one that gets made most is the coffee cake which my dad absolutely loves.

What’s even weird is that I bake ALL.THE.TIME. Yet, I never took pics and hence the post never materialized. This time around, I was adamant and made VJ click pics even as he started munching on the muffins.

So why chocolate chip muffins? I remember seeing this episode of Nigella Lawson on TLC oh-so-long-ago and was dying to try it out. The problem with baking for VJ is that since he doesn’t eat eggs, I have to use substitutes. And although I have a couple of good tricks up my sleeve, I always hesitate wondering if it would turn out right? Or just collapse on me? Or not rise at all? Or harden completely? I decided to put all of those thoughts to hell and went ahead and just baked a batch. Now VJ wants then literally every week. I baked this batch before I flew out of town for some work and VJ finished them in 2 days straight. It was originally intended to last him 4 days.
But I will tell you this, it’s a fool-proof recipe and anyone can bake them with their eyes closed. Literally.

Self rising flour – 1 and ¾ cups
Sugar – ¾ cup ( I use brown)
Chocolate chips – ¾ cup
Oil – 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons ( don’t ask me why)
Unsweetened apple sauce (egg substitute) – ¼ cup (thumb rule: 1 egg = ¼ cup sauce)
Milk - ½ cup

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners or grease them using non-stick cake grease.
2. Measure out all the dry ingredients and set aside in separate bowls.
3. Measure out the wet ingredients and add them to a big mixing bowl. Mix together by hand until well blended and lightly frothy.
4. Now add the sugar and mix again until well blended.
5. Add the flour to this mixture in 3 batches, mixing it well after each time.
6. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
7. Spoon out into muffin cases (2/3 full) and bake for 20 mins or until a skewer comes clean.

1. I did not use any baking powder or baking soda as I use self-rising flour and have never had to add extra leaveners.
2. The original recipe calls for 1 cup milk, but in the video I remember seeing the batter being too runny. I did NOT want that and used just ½ cup milk. The muffins turned out fine.
3. I skipped the cocoa powder as VJ likes plain vanilla muffins with chocolate chips. For some reason, he hates double chocolate chip muffins.
4. Oh, I also skipped the vanilla essence as I’m kinda picky about artificial flavoring and the store bought essences are way too strong for my taste. Once I get done being a penny pinching student, I’ll buy vanilla bean pods and add them to my sugar container for natural flavoring. Ha!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guacamole & Baked Crackers

Guac is my favorite to-go snack on Saturdays. No idea why. When the clock creeps towards 5 pm and I start craving my coffee or tea; I need to munch on guac and crackers. Totally love it. IMHO, its better with tea than coffee :)

I usually buy any kind of multi-grain chips at the store. But I wanted to try the baked cracker chips from Pepperidge for a long time and picked up a pack at Target the other day. Loved it! Now I am busy hunting coupons for those crackers whenever I can find them.

So here goes!

Avocado (ripe & soft) - 3 nos.
Red onion - 1/2 of a small one
Tomato - 1/4 to 1/2 depending on the size
Green chillies - 1
Coriander leaves - a few
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Cumin - a pinch
Salt - to taste

1. Cut, pit and scoop out the avocado in a good size mixing bowl. Mash using a fork or large spoon. You can also use a pototo masher. I like to keep my guac a little chunky, so I just use a fork.
2. Dribble the lemon juice over the avocado to keep it from getting dark.
3. Quickly chop the onion and tomato into small, fine pieces. Slit and then chop the green chilly into tiny pieces (use with seeds). Also cut the coriander leaves.
4. Add salt and cumin to the avocado and give it a quick mix. Finally add in the onion, tomato, chilly and coriander.
5. Adjust for salt and other seasoning (cayenne, pepper etc.)

Some good soul in Mexico eons ago :)