Monday, January 31, 2011

Veg. Pulao/Biryani

I have never been a big rice fan; hence no wonder so far I haven’t had a single recipe in this category. I learnt easy recipe of pulao from a roommate of mine and then started making Pulao with Dal/Raita/Soup quite often. When I am bored of making Roti/Paratha I go for rice as an only main course dish, though I could rarely make it perfect. Sometimes it would be sticky or sometimes it would be too dry. I have tried almost all possible options to make it perfect, like cooking rice in pressure cooker, cooking rice uncovered, cooking rice and veggies together. No luck! Then I asked a friend (Who is Telugu and Biryani is their specialty) and she told me the most important step of making rice/biryani - how to cook the rice. I did not remember all the steps and followed whatever I remembered. Though I was prepared for not so good dish, but in the end I was so happy looking at the perfect pulao. I can say this is the best pulao I ever had, whether made by me or someone else. Also, I am not sure whether to call this as Pulao or Biryani, since some of my steps were closer to Biryani. (Until now, I did not know the exact difference between Pulao and Biryani). Anyway, what matters in the end is the tasty dish :)

Serves 2-4
Preparation Time: 20 Minute + soaking time
Cooking Time: 1 Hour

1.5 cup rice
2 tsp oil
A whole cardamom
2 pc cloves
2 sticks of cinnamon
8-10 whole black pepper
A bay leaf
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chili powder
1.5 to 2 tsp biryani masala
2-3 tbsp milk

Veggies cut into small cubes, except onions
1 cup bean (20-22pc)
½ cup carrot (2 small pc)
½ cup potato (1 small pc)
½ cup peas
1 cup onion, thinly sliced (2 medium pc)

Make sure if you are using 1.5 cup of rice, use at least 2 to 2.5 cup of veggies excluding onion

1. Soak rice for 1 to 2 hours and cook it covered with 1.5 cup of water and salt on low flame (Do not soak it for more than couple of hours, water quantity should be exact as rice quantity and not double)
2. Heat oil in skillet. Add bay leaf, cardamom, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, cashew nuts and raisins
3. Stir it for a minute or so and add onion, chili and ginger paste
4. When onions turn translucent, add remaining veggies, salt, turmeric powder, chili powder and Pulao/Biiryani Masala
5. Cover the skillet and stir in between
6. When veggies are almost cooked (and not completely cooked), add milk
7. Remove the lead and stir continuously until milk is evaporated
8. Now, in a big oven safe bowl or a foil tray, mix cooked rice and veggies
9. Cover it with aluminum foil and put it in oven at 350 F for about 30 minute or until veggies are perfectly cooked

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Chhole with Paratha is our favorite menu for the weekend. I learnt this AUTHENTIC recipe from my Punjabi roommate (back in Mumbai) . Then I made a change or two to make it suitable for my taste. Chhole tastes equally well with roti/rice/naan/paratha and leftover tastes even better!

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 30 Minute
Cooking Time: 20 Minute

1.5 cup chickpeas or kabuli chana
3 medium onions
2 medium tomatoes **
2 tsp oil
A bay leaf
½ tsp cumin seeds
Pinch of asafetida
1 tsp green chili paste
½ tsp ginger paste
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ tsp kitchen king masala
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp dhaniya powder
1 tsp readymade chana masala powder
1/4 tsp Punjabi masala
1 tbsp tomato paste **
1 tbsp tamarind

For garnishing,
Coriander leaves
Thinly sliced onions (optional)
Thinly sliced green pepper (optional)

** Instead of fresh tomatoes and tomato paste, canned tomato sauce can also be used

1. Soak chhole for about 6-8 hours and pressure cook them
2. Boil the water in a pan and add cut onions and garlic. Once cool down, grind into a paste (Sometimes it is required to boil the onion to cut down the bitterness. Can be omitted if onions are fresh and tender)
3. Grind tomatoes into a puree
4. Boil tamarind and take out the extract, keep it aside
5. Heat oil in a skillet. Add bay leaf, cumin seeds, asafetida and onion paste
6. When onion paste starts leaving oil on the edge, add tomato puree
7. Add all dry spices and mix chhole
8. Mix well, add tamarind extract and tomato paste. Add water if required and bring it to boil
9. Turn off the heat and garnish with coriander leaves, sliced onions and green pepper

Punjabi Curry Masala - Simple version

I make this masala and use it for all North Indian curries.

Makes 2 tbsp
Preparation Time: Nil
Cooking Time: 5 Minute

3-4 of cinnamon sticks (1”)
10 pc clove
15 pc whole black pepper
2 pc dried red chili
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp whole coriander seeds

1. Mix all ingredients and dry roast them for 5-7 minute
2. Once cool down, grind into a powder
3. This can be preserved at room temperature for 6 months or so

Let's Party!!

It always happens (at least with me) that when I have invited guests, I run out of ideas. I want simple yet elegant food, easy to serve and generally liked by people. I literally go through brainstorming session to decide the menu. If the same people have been invited earlier, I try to make sure that the menu does not get repeated. I happen to invite people 4-5 times in last few weeks, so here are the menus I served recently. I’ll keep on updating this post as and when new menu gets created.

No. of Guests: 8
Casual/Formal: Casual
Lunch/Dinner: Friday Dinner
Menu: Chhole, સૂકી ભાજી, Corn Pasta Salad, kadhi, Pulao (Peas, carrot), naan

No. of Guests: 4
Casual/Formal: Formal
Lunch/Dinner: Weekday Lunch
Menu: Gajar ka Halwa, Alu Mutter, Puri, Kadhi, Pulao, Corn Pasta Salad

No. of Guests: 12
Casual/Formal: Casual
Lunch/Dinner: Saturday Dinner
Menu: Dal Bati, Salad, Pulao

No. of Guests: 2
Casual/Formal: Formal
Lunch/Dinner: Saturday Dinner
Menu: Alu-capsicum, Beans with carrot and Peas, Rajma, Dal Fry, Raita, Roti, Jeera Rice, Papad, Ras Malai
(Ras Malai was store bought)

No. of Guests: 2
Casual/Formal: Formal
Lunch/Dinner: Sunday Lunch
Menu: Mix Veg, Dal Fry, Pulao (Only Carrot and Peas), Naan *

*This time instead of naan, I used rectangle wheat wraps (from Costco). I put them on griddle with butter applied on both sides nand served hot

No. of Guests: 3
Casual/Formal: Casual
Lunch/Dinner: Friday Dinner
Menu: Pav-Bhaji, Pulao (Only Carrot and Peas), Ice Cream *

French Vanila ice cream sprinkled with cocoa powder and served with stuffed chocolate-marshmallow (store bought) and chcolate waffle stick

Menu: Kathiyawadi
Baigan Bhartha, Baby potato w/ garlic, Khichdi, Kadhi, Sukhdi (Can be made in advance), Garlic chutney, Ghee-Gol, Bhakhri (From caterer)

Menu: Sandwiches
Grilled Palak Paneer, Alu-mutter w/ Amul Cheese and Sev, Sub style (Get ready Veggie Pattie, lettuce, tomato, onion, pepper, olive, thousand island, jalapeno sauce, sour cream sauce)

Menu: Mexican
Mexican Chaat (With Tortilla Scoops), Mexican Rice (so that can be used in both Burrito Bowl and Burrito), Mexican Burger (Prepare black bean veggie pattie, lettuce, tomato, onion, sour cream sauce)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Tasty Twists

Under this section, I am going to write some simple and easy ways to make your dish tastier and more elegant. It happens (At least with me) lots of times that I am craving for something different but do not have much time to cook. Even if I come up with some idea, I do not have required ingredient(s) at home. So I will try to create a difference with what I have in less amount of time.

• Add handful leaves of Kasoori Methi while kneading chapatti dough. They taste very yummy with North Indian Curries.

• While making Pasta Salad (With beans and veggies) without using readymade vinaigrette, add little taco sauce. Along with cheese, it will offer creamy texture and hot flavor.

• Use half yogurt and half sour cream in Kadhi, Handvo and Dhokla

• Use a little green bean in Pav bhaji (Just 8-10 pc). Boil them with other veggies

• While making whole wheat paratha, add little plain flour and use yogurt to knead dough. (1 cup whole wheat flour = 1 tsp plain flour = 1 tbsp yogurt)

• While making Pulao/Biryani, add sprouts along with veggies. This will make Pulao more filling, more nutritious and even tastier

દાળ બાટી

This is originally Rajasthani Dish, but we make it quite often, especially in winter. My mom learnt how to make Dal Bati and became pro. Then she introduced it to our family friends and after that we used have one get together of about 30 people at least once a year just for this dish. There are different ways to make Bati, you can boil them, fry them or bake them. Ideal way is to cook them in Tandoor. Dal is also combination of several dals. In India, we get a readymade pack of mixed dal. If I do not have ready pack, I use equal quantities of તુવેર દાળ, ચણા દાળ, સાદી મગ દાળ and મગની ફોતરાવાળી દાળ and half quantity of મસૂર દાળ and અડદ દાળ.

My mom sent mixed dal packet in the parcel, which I received just last week. I was just waiting for the weekend to make Dal Bati.

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 45 Minute + soaking time
Cooking Time: 45 Minute

For Dal,
1 cup mixed dal
1 tsp oil
A whole red chili
1 medium onion (optional)
1 tsp ginger paste
½ tsp green chili paste
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Pinch of asafetida
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chili powder
½ tsp dhaniya powder
½ tsp garam masala
1 tbsp jaggery
2 pc આમ્બોળિયા
Coriander leaves for garnishing

For Bati,
2 cup whole wheat chapatti flour
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ajwain
¼ tsp baking powder

Ghee to serve

Procedure for Bati
1. Put the flour in a cloth and tie it from all sides
2. Put this bundle in pressure cooker such a way that it does not touch water at the bottom (Use stand) and pressure cook it (4 whistles)
4. Take out the flour and sieve it while hot (That makes job easier) so there are no lumps
5. Add all spices and knead a soft dough (Softer than puri but harder than chapatti)
6. Make smooth balls and bake them at 350 F for 30 minute or until knife comes out clean

Procedure for dal
1. Soak dal for at least 2-3 hours
2. Add salt, turmeric powder and આમ્બોળિયા and pressure cook it
3. Heat oil in skillet, add dried red chili, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafetida
4. Add chopped onion, chopped garlic and chili-ginger paste
5. Pour dal and add remaining spices and bring it to boil
6. Garnish with coriander leaves

How to serve
1. Break bati into small piece and pour warm ghee
2. Mix well, pour Dal and serve hot

Friday, January 14, 2011

Baigan Bharta/ રીન્ગણનો ઓળો

In Gujarati ઓળો or more popularly known as Baigan ka Bharta, I am back another winter specialty. ગરમ ઓળો, ઉપર કૂણુ લીલુ લસણ,સાથે અડદની દાળ, બાજરીના રોટલા અને ઘી-ગોળ, oh boy, this is heaven. Though I replaced બાજરીના રોટલા with roti and અડદની દાળ with લીલવાની કઢી, it worked great. The most important factor about making ઓળો is to cook eggplant. It should be perfectly cooked with smoky flavor. In India, I used to do directly on gas flame, but here having electric stove I had look for an alternate. I tried to cook it using combination of microwave and conventional oven, and it was just the thing. I also added green peas to add some color to it. Now I am very comfortable and confident and cannot wait to make it again! :)

Serves 3-4
Preparation Time: 15 Minute
Cooking Time: 45 + 20 Minute

1 big eggplant
2 tsp oil
1.5 cup chopped onions (3 medium pc)
1 cup chopped tomatoes (2 large pc)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp chili paste
½ tsp ginger paste
¼ cup green peas (optional)
½ tsp mustard seeds
Pinch of asafetida
1 tsp kitchen king masala
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp dhaniya powder
½ tsp garam masala
1 tbsp tomato paste

For garnishing,
1 tbsp chopped green garlic
Coriander leaves

1. Wash eggplant and prick it with fork
2. Microwave it for 8-10 minutes, flip the side every couple of minute
3. Now bake the eggplant in a baking tray at 400 F for 25-30 minute. Again, flip the side every 10 minute. (I used toaster oven). Eggplant is considered perfectly cooked when skin starts coming off
4. Let eggplant cool down. Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet
5. Add mustard seeds, asafetida, garlic, onion, chili and ginger paste
6. When onions turn translucent, add tomatoes and peas
7. Stir it for a while and then add remaining dry spices
8. Peel off the skin of eggplant and mash it thoroughly
9. When mixture starts leaving oil on the edge, add mashed eggplant
10. Add little water if required, tomato paste, mix well and cook mixture for 5-7 minutes
11. Turn off the heat, garnish with green garlic and coriander leaves

Sweet Corn Soup

We try to have soup once a week, especially during winter. When I am in a mood of having lot of veggies in a soup I go for this one. Usually it goes well with Chinese menu, but I like it all time. Earlier I was making it only using corn flour and veggies. This is simpler version, but I get prominent taste of corn flour even though it is properly cooked. Hence now I have reduced flour quantity and added corn paste to it. It tastes even better!

Serves 2-3
Preparation Time: 20 Minute
Cooking Time: 15 Minute

1 cup sweet corn kernels
2 tbsp corn flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
¼ cup capsicum, finely chopped
12-15 green beans, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp green onions, finely chopped
½ tsp butter
½ tsp olive oil
1 tsp green chili sauce
½ tsp vinegar
Salt and pepper
Soya sauce (optional)

1. Leave 2 tbsp corn kernels aside. Make a puree of rest of the corn and corn flour using little water
2. Finely chop all veggies, keep them aside
3. Heat butter and olive oil in sauce pan. Add garlic and onion
4. When onions are translucent, add rest of the veggies and corn
5. Add salt, vinegar and soya sauce
6. When veggies are half cooked, add corn puree and water
7. Add water and bring it to boil. Stir in between
8. When flour is cooked turn off the heat
9. Add pepper and soya sauce and serve hot

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

મકાઈના વડા

I have never seen or known someone making better ‘vada’ than my mom. She makes vada wth બાજરી, જુવાર અને મકાઈ. These vadas are quite filling, they stay good for 3-4 days and work equally fine for lunch or dinner or breakfast. I usually make them for dinner (and leftover for breakfast) with soup. Mom makes vada with hands, but I have neither patience nor expertise to do so. I use rolling pin instead.

Makes about 40 vadas
Preparation Time: 15 Minute
Cooking Time: 45 Minute

1.5 cup coarse corn flour
¾ cup chapatti flour
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chili powder
½ tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp ginger-chili paste
2 tbsp yogurt
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp shredded jaggery
1 tbsp oil
Oil for frying

1. Mix yogurt, sour cream and shredded jaggery, keep it aside for a while
2. Mix corn flour and wheat flour in a bowl, add oil and sieve the flour
3. Add remaining spices and make the dough using yogurt mixture
4. Add water if required, it should be soft dough like chapati
5. Cover the dough in tight container and keep it aside for at least couple of hours
6. Heat oil in a pan at medium-high flame
7. Divide dough into small balls, gently roll each ball between two layers of damp cloth
8. Make sure oil is hot enough and right away deep fry them until golden brown

Pani for Pani Puri

‘Pani’ is main ingredient for Pani-Puri. To make this dish tasty and delicious, ‘Pani’ has to be perfect. As I love pani puri like anything, I have also learnt to make good Pani. I could always make this great, but then I had to go for few trial and errors making the process both tedious and time consuming. This time, I started with proper measurements and to my surprise, it came out almost perfect (Pinch of salt was required) in the very first attempt. I always prefer making it in advance and then refrigerate for few hours before serving the same.

Yields about 4 cups (Good for 2-3)
Preparation Time: 15 Minute + soaking time + refrigeration time
Cooking Time: Nil

½ cup tightly packed mint leaves
1 tsp chopped coriander leaves
2 pc green chilies
1 and ¼ tsp salt
2 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp readymade pani puri masala (Everest or Badshah)
½ tsp black salt
Pinch of sugar (This is my secret ingredient)

1. Wash and soak mint leaves, coriander leaves and green chilies for 4-6 hours (Soaking brings freshness as well as perfect green color)
2. Grind this soaked mixture to a fine paste and then add about water to bring desired consistency (About 3-4 cup)
3. Add remaining spices and chill it for at least couple of hours before serving

Monday, January 10, 2011

Veg. Fried Rice

HE is a Chinese-Food Lover and I am not so good at making it. I also hate going to Chinese Restaurants because most of them stink horribly. So I had to learn to make it reasonably well and I am glad now I can make almost restaurant style fried rice. It makes a complete meal with soup and/or stir fried veggies. You can try same recipe with white rice, but I always preferred brown rice.

Serves 2-4
Preparation Time: 20 Minute + soaking time
Cooking Time: 30 Minute

1.5 cup brown rice
1 tbsp olive oil

Thinly sliced veggies,
1 green chili
1 cup onion
¼ cup carrot (1 medium carrot)
¼ cup green pepper
½ cup green beans (15-16 pc)
2-3 tender leaves of cabbage
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp green onion

3 tsp soya sauce
3 tsp green chili sauce
1 tsp chili vinegar

Salt and Pepper

1. Wash and soak rice for 1.5 to 2 hour and pressure cook it with 1.5 cup of water
2. Thinly sliced all veggies and microwave beans, carrots and green pepper in a steam bag for about 5 minutes or until they are half cooked
3. Heat oil in skillet, add garlic and onions
4. Stir until onions become translucent and then add remaining veggies
5. Add salt, soya sauce, chili sauce and vinegar
6. Do not cover the skillet and stir in between until veggies reach desired tenderness (I like them little crunchy)
7. Add rice and stir well
8. Add black pepper and green onions
9. Put rice in microwave safe bowl, cover it with aluminum foil and cook it at 300 degree F for about 15 minute

Moong Dal Sandwich

We both love different experiments with sandwich. The other day I wanted to have sandwich provided stuff is not based on potatoes and I also did not have spinach or cheese to try palak-paneer sandwich. So I asked mom on the phone and she suggested me this recipe. I found it worth trying and here I am!

Makes 8 Sandwiches
Preparation Time: 30 Minute + soaking and cooling time
Cooking Time: 30 Minute

1 cup moong dal
1 medium onion
1 tbsp ginger chili paste
¼ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp clove-cinnamon powder
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp sesame seeds
¼ tsp aamchur
½ tsp oil
Salt per taste
16 slices of bread
Butter, Green Chutney and ketchup to grill/serve

1. Soak moong dal in warm water for about 2-4 hours
2. Wash dal and cook it with little water (Do not cook in completely, grains should remain separated and little hard). Let it cool down for some time
3. Heat oil in skillet, add mustard seeds and sesame seeds
4. Add chopped onions and cook until golden brown
5. Add onions to moong dal, add remaining spices
6. Grill the sandwich using butter and green chutney
7. Serve hot

I am happy that now I know one more variety in sandwiches :)

Friday, January 7, 2011


I guess this must be the most commonly made ફરસાણ among Gujaratis. It is quite easy to make, ingredients are almost handy, does not require any pre-preparation and most of all, it tastes delicious. I had to make an appetizer for our New Year Eve get-together. I was out of town for few days and was due home same day afternoon. I just had couple of hours to make something quickly and what could be better option? We were the only Gujaratis in the group and hence these aloo-vadas turned out to be a big variety hit. I have been making them consistently good, but this time I tried to make with measurement, hence wanted to note down the recipe.

Yields 60-65 Vada
Preparation Time: 45 Minute
Cooking Time: 45 Minute

For Vada,
6 pc medium-large potatoes (about 2 Lb)
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp aamchur
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp clove-cinnamon powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves
2 tbsp freshly chopped mint leaves
1 tbsp chili paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp oil
Salt per taste

For Batter,
1.5 cup besan
1 tsp ajwain
Pinch of Soda
Salt per taste

Oil for frying

1. Pressure cook/boil potatoes. Once cool down, mash them thoroughly
2. Heat oil in skillet, add cumin seeds, sesame seeds and fennel seeds, pour this mixture to mashed potatoes
3. Add remaining spices and mix well
4. In a separate bowl, mix besan with 1 cup water, add salt and ajwain. Stir well to make sure there are no lumps. When ready to fry, add soda
5. Divide potato mixture into small balls, dip each of them in besan batter and deep fry until golden brown
6. Serve hot with tamarind and/or green chutney

Cheese Patties

I am back after a temporary ‘Zombie’ state. Days were quite hectic and I did not get a chance to cook and/or post something new. I had to finish ricotta cheese and I had already used them in couple of Italian dishes. I was craving for something spicy and thought to mix cheese with potato and flour and then deep fry them. These patties turned out very delicious and filling. Now I have one more option for appetizers.

Makes about 18-20 small patties
Preparation Time: 20 Minute
Cooking Time: 30 Minute

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 medium potato, boiled and mashed
4 tbsp gram flour **
2 tbsp corn flour **
1 tbsp chili-ginger paste
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp aamchur
1 tsp oil
Oil for frying

** Adjust quantity to make crispy patties

1. In a bowl mix ricotta cheese and mashed potato
2. Dry roast besan until it turns light golden brown
3. Add besan and corn flour to cheese mixture
4. Heat in skillet, add cumin, sesame and fennel seeds and pour them over cheese mixture
5. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix well
6. Divide mixture into small balls and pat them gently to give patty like shape
7. Deep fry patties on low flame until golden brown
8. Serve hot with tamarind and green chutney