Thursday, January 28, 2010

Butter Chicken

There I've done what I never thought I would - cooked Butter Chicken! Butter Chicken is something that I didn't bother eating even in the Eighties when North Indian cuisine (more specifically modified Punjabi or "Mughlai" cuisine as it was called) dominated the restaurant scene.

Remember those days, when eating out was a treat reserved for birthdays and anniversaries? When one dressed up to go to Copper Chimney or Kwality or Great Punjab? (all in Mumbai where I grew up). They all seemed to serve the same Paalak Paneer, Naan/Roti, Yellow Dal combination and if you were a non vegetarian then there was Butter Chicken or Kadai Chicken.
As an alternative there were the dimly lit, red themed, Chinese restaurants which served Sweet Corn Soup, Hakka noodles and Gobi Manchurian - Farmer Bros in Dadar T.T was a family favourite.

Then I moved to Chennai and we scrupulously avoided the "multi cousin" restaurants preferring to try out the new "Continental" ones which were opening - even Mexican and Thai after a while. I preferred cooking North Indian food at home since the rajma and dal makhani tasted so much better when cooked home style with a minimum of spices - even the paalak paneer at home was better than the creamy mush served outside. No wonder then that butter chicken was not even on our horizon. Till we moved to Delhi two years back.

We quite enjoy the food at Moti Mahal - it isn't greasy like we expected it to be but even though they claim to have invented Butter Chicken, we haven't felt like trying, what we imagined would be, a dish cooked in butter, cream and ghee! We stuck to their spicy Chicken Lababdar. The few times that we did taste this dish in other places (think wedding buffet or office lunch) I was aghast to find tomato sauce being used.

Now my friend A upstairs cooks a mean Butter Chicken which her darling son polishes off like a seasoned Punjabi and one Sunday while rooting around the kitchen and trying to figure out what to cook, I actually thought of having a go at making it myself! I adapted a Sanjeev Kapoor recipe (its called Chicken Makhani for those who have his first book) and it turned out to be a very flavourful, light dish - perfect with some hot rotis - preferably the tandoori rotis or even naans. Try it, you won't be disappointed!

Butter Chicken

Boneless Chicken -500gms (can also use leg and other pieces with bone)

Yoghurt - 1/2 cup, hung for 15 minutes
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder (you can subsititute with curry powder) - 1/2 tsp
salt - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

To grill:
Butter / ghee - 1 -2 tbsp to baste

Cinnamon - 1 " stick
Moti elaichi (brown cardamom) - 1
Cloves - 3-4
Peppercorns - 4-5

Butter - 1 tbsp
Green chillies - 2 chopped
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Tomatoes - 4 medium, blanched in boiling water, peeled and pureed (or simply use 200gm tomato puree)
salt to taste
Dry fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) - roasted for a few seconds on a hot griddle and crushed by hand.
Cream - 1/2 cup

1. Clean and cut the chicken (if using boneless pieces than cut into 2" pieces, make cuts on the surface. Mix the marinade ingredients and soak the chicken pieces in the marinade for atleast 2 hours.
2. Pre heat the oven to 200C and grill the marinated chicken pieces on skewers for 10-15 minutes till cooked and a little brown on top. Brush with butter half way through and if you don't have a rotating option for the skewers, turn the skewers over at this stage.
3. Heat butter for the curry in a heavy bottomed pan and add the whole spices - cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper - in two minutes, add the chopped green chillies and saute 1 more minute
4. Pour in the tomato puree, add red chilli powder and salt and simmer on low for 8-10 minutes till the oil leaves the sides of the pan (bhunao is the term used here!) stirring from time to time making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.
5. Once it is well roasted and almost like a paste (but not to the point of being burnt), add one and half cups of water and bring to boil. Adjust salt and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
6. Add the chicken pieces and fenugreek powder and simmer for another 5 minutes adding some more water if needed.
7. Add the cream and remove from flame. Serve hot with tandoori rotis or plain rotis.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bitter Gourd Stir Fry with Peanuts

Bittergourd - did the word make you flinch? or did it make you wonder whether there was one more recipe you could add to your repertoire?

This is one vegetable which you either love or hate - there is no middle way. I love bittergourd - my parents (especially Mom) do too and I guess they passed it on to me and my brother. I got lucky in that hubby also loves bitter gourd - my brother wasn't as lucky - SIL hates it!

So we eat pitlai, pavakai kozhambu, porial, stuffed bittergourd - the usual suspects in a South Indian home. Other than that, I have this recipe for a mezhukkupuratti (Kerala style stir fry) from Sig which I have added - both of us love the crispy, coconutty flavours of this dish.

Indosungod of Daily Musings (love her posts which sit up and make you think!) posted this recipe from Sukham Ayu - the second cookbook by the wonderful duo who gave us Cooking with Pedatha. I knew I had to try it out the moment I saw it, and I wasn't wrong.

Made this the same day and stuck to the dry version. The combination of garlic, onions, peanuts and amchur make for a lovely flavour and I think the best part of this is how the bitter gourd retains its flavour and shape (I cooked it for about 12 minutes initially and then another 5 minutes after adding the spices and it still had a little bit of crunch to it) with the spices just complementing its taste. I left out the jaggery since both of us don't mind the bitterness and in fact don't like the sweet taste of jaggery to "mar" the bittergourd.

We had this with a dal - moong dal(split green gram lentils) cooked with turnips and tempered with finely chopped onions and tomatoes - and rice. I had used five bitter gourds thinking we would have it for lunch the next day - there was hardly any left! This is actually good enough to snack on - maybe making it a bit crisper if needed.

Recipe for Bitter Gourd Stir Fry with Peanuts - HERE

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A little effort goes a long way..

You have fifteen days to 26th Jan.

In these fifteen days, you’ll have conversations that run like this,

“ you know I always wanted to join the Air Force.”

“ Remember, the 26th Jan parade on TV, and how we used to watch it. Now it’s just a holiday ya.”

“I changed my profile picture to the flag.”

“Those Army guys, at Siachin, they’re doing a programme on them.”

Get my drift? In turns you’ll feel warm and fuzzy. In turns you’ll feel all cynical and grown up.

Because somewhere that’s what it’s become. Just another holiday.

So here’s what we’re asking you.

Stuff that cynical grown up into the laundry basket for a minute.

And think.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be part of a meaningful movement this 26th of Jan. Not one where you write placards, or light candles. But one where you can actually change the future of this country.

We feed 6,00,000 underprivileged children one hot meal every day. This meal is served at the municipal school they study in, and is very often the only way to convince their parents to send their kids to school.

One hot meal. For which the parent sacrifices sending the child to wash your car or sell flowers at the signal. One hot meal. Which is probably the only nutritious meal the child has in a day.

One hot meal. That brings a child to school every day.

And all it takes is Rs 700 for a whole school year.

So here’s what we’re hoping for. If we can get thousand people to donate Rs. 700 in the next fifteen days, then thousand more kids can go to school this year.

And 26th Jan will never be just be another holiday for them. Or for you.

To donate, you could :

- use the internet payment gateway at or call 022 40366866.

- Or send a cheque addressed to Nanha Munna Rahi Hoon, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation, 19 Jaywant Industrial Premises, 63 Tardeo Road, Mumbai 400 034.

- You could even call Seema at 9820842453 and have a cheque picked up, if you are in Mumbai.

JUST IN: you can also drop a cheque at the rickshaw office in bandra. the address is flat 102, dheeraj grand, 15th road, bandra west, (the lane between mini punjab and bombay blues. look out for shaibaan restaurant at the start of the lane). we're up and about from 10 am to about 7pm. in case we're out, slip the cheque under the door. and we'll have it sent to School equals Lunch.

This is a message from a charity called School Equals Lunch. And this is how they introduce themselves.

We’re passionate about feeding children. You are more than welcome to visit our kitchens or call Seema at 9820842453 to know more, or even visit our website ( We’d love to show you how much thought and effort goes into cooking that one meal. Whether it’s a different Khichdi for every weekday or the steam cooking kitchen we‘ve introduced, we’d love to share our passion with you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Pongal 2010!

Wishing a very Happy Pongal to everyone! or Makar Sankranthi / Lori depending on which part of the country you come from.

This was our meal this morning - Sakkarai pongal (Gur sweetened rice), Vadai (lentil fritters), Kadambam Sambar (Sambar with 5 vegetables), Ven Pongal (Lentil and rice lightly seasoned with ginger, pepper and cumin seeds) and coconut chutney. It was probably the coldest Pongal I have celebrated and we did full justice to the hearty meal. Managed to get sugarcane as well as fresh turmeric and banana leaves to have our meal on and that made it all so much nicer.

My four year old seems to have caught on to the fact that festivals in India involve food and dressing up - so she promptly asked for her pavadai chattai (traditional Tamil dress). I brought out a Navvari instead - a traditional Maharashtrian sari which a dear friend recently gifted - and she wore that bright green sari over all her layers of sweaters and tights - a sight indeed!!

The boiling over of the new rice while making pongal signifies prosperity and happiness in our lives. Both are simple dishes and use green gram split lentils along with rice cooked together and then finished with a lovely tempering. The ven pongal tempering has cumin seeds, crushed black pepper and cashews.

The sambar is a special one because the flavours of all the vegetables give it a unique taste - quite different from the one we make on a daily basis. I used radish, pumpkin, broad beans, drumstick and okra. Went perfectly with the ven pongal and the vadais.

The sakkarai pongal has gur/vellam (jaggery) added to the cooked rice and lentils and then cooked down till it comes to a nice thick consistency to which cashews and raisins are toasted in ghee and then added. Some people add a pinch of cooking camphor (karpooram) but we both don't like it, so I just omit that.

Do email me if you would like any of the recipes - I would be glad to share them.

Wishing all my readers a lovely year ahead - may your cup of happiness brim over!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lemon Coriander Vegetable Soup

Delhi has just been so cold since the beginning of 2010 (well not as cold as for some of you in the UK and US!) and even though Lori/Makar Sankranti is barely two days away, there is no sign of the cold, fog filled days relenting.

It becomes even worse when you return from an amazing holiday in a forest reserve - where the temps are pleasant, the days are filled with the most picturesque sights and nature enthralls you. Then these 5C nights and mist filled, bone chilling days are just not welcome - sigh, I wished I had extended our vacation by 3 days instead of one!!

Our train was delayed by 3 hours (it's a tribute to how much I have honed my hitherto non- existent patience levels, that I am able to mention such a fact without pulling my hair out) which seemed infinitely better than the 11 hours delay on the way up! (see?! this is what having a 4 year old can do to you - mention a 11 hour delay without batting an eyelid because you are operating on the principle that if you don't get stressed, she won't too - which I won't mention whether it worked or not on the grounds of jinxing it!)

The afternoon meal was a quick one, meant for sustenance with whatever was languishing in the refrigerator; but by evening I was chilled to the bone and needed some soul warming fare. Enter a variant of my favourite kind of soup - spicy, lemony and full of punch!

The vegetables I used were babycorn, mushrooms and bell peppers as well as a carrot - they lend a lot of flavour to soup. The one thing different from my usual method was that I used a tbsp of Better than Bouillon Onion Gravy concentrate in addition to the sauces and it gave a nice, brown colour to the soup as well as thickening it a little. A stock cube or just home made stock will work great as well. I couldn't avoid my favourite "gondhoraj" lemon leaf either - the flavour it imparts is simply fabulous. I dunked a bunch of coriander into the soup when it was cooking and it was just perfect.

Lemon Flavoured Vegetable Soup

Onion - 1 sliced
Ginger - 2" knob either whole or grated
Garlic - 4 cloves chopped fine
Green chillies - 3-4 sliced
Mixed vegetables sliced - 1.5 cups (babycorn, peppers, mushrooms,carrot)
Stock cube dissolved in 4 cups of water or 4 cups of stock (I used a tbsp of Better than Bouillon dissolved in warm water)
salt and pepper powder to taste
Soy sauce - 1 tsp
Green chilli sauce - 1 tsp
1 tsp oil
1 lemon leaf
a small bunch of coriander (soaked and washed thoroughly), roots removed and tied in a small bundle.
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Pour oil in a heavy bottomed pan or pot and heat; add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and saute on high for 1 minute, then on low for 3-4 minutes till the onion softens.
2. Add the mixed vegetables, soy sauce, chilli sauce and saute for a minute.
3. Then add the stock water along with one more cup of water and bring to boil; put in the coriander bunch and season with salt and simmer covered for 10-12 minutes till the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy.
4. Add the lemon leaf and lemon juice, the pepper powder and cover and let sit for 5 more minutes.
5. Remove the ginger knob and the coriander bunch from the soup and serve the soup steaming hot in bowls.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chicken Goulash with Mashed potatoes

Goulash or "gulyás" is a Hungarian dish which is somewhere between soup and a stew. Authentic gulyás is usually a beef dish cooked with onions, paprika powder and peppers. Potato or noodles are sometimes added to this to make it a hearty main course. The dish is very different from other European dishes in that it uses caraway seeds (shahi jeera) as well as a relatively high heat quotient. This dish fits in perfectly with my near obsession with one pot meals and our love of spice.

I made this on New Year's Eve - we were confined to the house since hubby was diagnosed H1N1 positive a day before that. I know - shock and awe have followed us whenever someone has heard this news - but frankly I myself know of so many people who have been diagnosed that its turned into a normal flu and probably even lost some of its severity. I was just happy that the symptoms were not severe and that we had been careful to keep him away from us even before he was diagnosed. Fingers crossed that we don't get it - this time atleast!

Anyway, since I knew we would be having a quiet one this year and hubby was otherwise quite normal and did not have any diet restrictions, I started looking for an interesting dinner - something like the one we had last New Year's Eve, which would practically cook itself. Turned to Jamie Oliver - a nice springboard for ideas which I then adapt to our requirements with usually great results. There I found his Pork Goulash recipe which I adapted heavily - chicken instead of pork, no sour cream garnish but creamy mashed potatoes on the side instead, pao instead of rice to accompany the stew and green chillies instead of red, chicken pieces dredged in flour before sauteeing to thicken the stew a bit.

It was a wonderful meal - the red peppers lending a touch of sweetness to the spicy stew, the chicken amazingly tender and the pao a perfect accompaniment to mop up all that liquid goodness. Happy New Year!

Chicken Goulash

Chicken - 400 gms (I had boneless chicken marinated with lemon juice, chilli powder and salt. Whole cut chicken pieces do very well in this dish since it cooks for almost an hour)

Onions - 2 sliced
Green chillies - 2 finely chopped (the original recipe has fresh red chillies)
1 tbsp chilli powder (substitute with mild paprika powder to lower the heat quotient)
1 tsp caraway seeds (shahi jeera)
8-10 fresh basil leaves, torn
2 red peppers, sliced
5 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 stock cube dissolved in 2 cups warm water
fresh coriander leaves - 1 cup chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Flour - 2 tbsp seasoned with salt and pepper

1. Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour till well coated and keep aside. Reserve the remaining flour, if any.
2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the chicken pieces for about 5 -8 minutes making sure both sides are browned. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
3. Scrape the pan of any browned bits and add to the reserved flour. Mix the stock water into this and keep aside.
4. In the same pan, heat the remaining oil and saute the sliced onions and green chillies till the onions are soft (about 10 minutes).
5. Add the caraway seeds, basil leaves, salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes. Pre heat the oven to 180C
6. Add the sliced red peppers and chopped tomatoes as well as the fried chicken - mix and then add the stock to the pot and bring to boil.
7. If the pot is oven proof and can fit into the oven, you can use the same. Else transfer the stew to an oven proof dish and cook for 45 minutes.
8. Sprinkle fresh coriander and serve with coarse bread and mashed potatoes.

For the mashed potatoes - I boiled 4 big potatoes, peeled and put them through a potato ricer (absolutely amazing for lump-free mash) and then mixed in half a cup of warm milk, a pat of butter, some salt and pepper finished with a dash of lemon juice.