Simplicity at ease…

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 31st, 2006 | 7 Comments


Sigh! Another weekend flew by unnoticed and regretfully unfullfilling… all due to the damn rains! We had showers pouring in non-stop yesterday. All that drowsy weather left us blue and craving for some soul food. That’s where I stepped in as comfort queen, all set to reclaim my title!

One look into my fridge and I just knew the chicken was going to see his day. Another quick peek into the crisper and the ball was set to roll. Hubby dearie was all too happy to hear what was on the menu. A quick few minutes later, we had a hearty lunch waiting to be devoured!! On a day like this when all I want to do is lounge around and relish good ‘ol home-cooking, I want something quick and simple. With a quick thought, one can easily put on a pot of Dal and a deliciously quick meal in minutes!

Kadhai Chicken

But what if one wants something, not so simple in taste, but just as easy to prepare? Well, then I just take out some chicken and get cooking! But wait, what is that you say? Chicken? Quick? Simple? Well, yea baby! And I’m not talking throwing in a batch of carelessly chopped onions and can of diced tomamtoes and waiting for it to brew into a delicious curry. Oh no! When I say easy chicken in minutes, I mean the big bucks! Take out that kadhai (Indian wok) and lets get working on that age-old oh-so-famous deliciously-mouth-watering-finger-lickin’-good Kadhai Chicken!! Yup, you heard me! It IS that easy!!

Kadhai chicken/paneer is probably one of the simplest dishes I can add to my credit. I have made these dishes so many times that I can easily find my way blind-folded! Loaded with crisp veggies and a blend of spices, this dish is definitely a mouthful and an easy contender to the ever-growing list of comfort foods.

Kadhai Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 boneless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced into big chunks
  • 2 cups mixed bell peppers (green, read and yellow), diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large tomato, diced into cubes
  • 2-3 green chillies, sliced
  •  
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped for garnish
  • Method:

    1. Heat oil in a kadhai (Indian wok), and add cumin seeds. Once they begin to sizzle, add in diced onions and saute till transparent and tender.
    2. Add chicken pieces, green chillies and giner-garlic paste and fry for a few minutes till chcken begins to firm.

    3. Add salt, chili powder, coriander powder and turmeric and stir fry till spices blend well.

    4. Add in chopped tomatoes, and cover cook for 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat, till chicken is cooked through.

    5. Add mixed peppers and cover cook for another 3-5 minutes. You don’t want to overcook the peppers and want to still have a slight crunch.

    6. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with warm fluffy rotis!

    Notes:To make yummy Kadhai Paneer, simply substitute chicken pieces with cubes of paneer.



    Bittersweet memories…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 23rd, 2006 | 3 Comments


    I wouldn’t say I was a picky eater growing up. Hard to please maybe, but certainly not picky! I would eat anything provided, (a) it looked good, (b) it had an ingredient I liked, and (c) it was not gooey!

    It must’ve been hard for Mom to try and get us to eat all the veggies she cooked. Out of the many I refused to eat as a child, is something called the “bitter-gourd” or more so, karela in Hindi. I don’t blame myself for this since I truly believe that it is an acquired taste for aduts. I have yet to find a child who relishes this hostile vegetable with delight. But over the years, I began to start enjoying it, until one day, I declared it to be one of my favourites!

    Karela Masala

    The bitter-gourd is believed to have many medicinal qualities, one of the main being a good blood purifier. This was icing on the cake! I could now eat it as much as I wanted, and it would only do good for me.

    I don’t know of many ways of cooking the bitter gourd. But of the very few that I do, this recipe tops my list. The tangy and spicy combination is totally in sync with the hint of bitterness that comes from the vegetable’s natural juices. So try not to get too imtimidated by its intensity and give a shot at this recipe. I guarantee you will be never see the bitter gourd in the same light ever again!

    Karela Masala (Tangy Bitter-gourd)

    Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium-sized bittergourds, seeded and cut into thin slices
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  •  
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp amchur (dried mango powder, available at the local Indian grocery store)
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Method:

    1. Saute cumin seeds in hot oil in a deep pan. once it begins to sizzle, add in onions and green chillies. Fry till onions tenderize and brown.
    2. Add red chili powder, turmeric, coriander powder and salt and saute to blend in spices.
    3. Add in chopped tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste and amchoor, and fry till tomato juices dry up.
    4. Add salt and sliced bitter-gourd and cover cook for 7-8 minutes till done. Sprinkle garam masala on top.

    Enjoy with warm rotis and side of piping hot Dal.



    Peas make me go hmmmnnn…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 20th, 2006 | 9 Comments


    I love peas! No, I mean I LOVVVEEE peas – always have, and hopefully, always will. I go through a 2 lb bag of frozen peas every 2-3 weeks.

    With the cold weather creeping up so steadily, I find that my cravings for rice has increased tremendously. Maybe its the comfort that comes from a big bowl of warm rice, I really don’t know. So its no surprize that I find myself cooking more varieties of rice-based dishes in winters as compared to warmer months.

    Matar Pulao

    Often, I make a big batch of plain rice over the weekend, and spruce it up during the week. Of the many variations of rice dishes I make from (purposely) left-over rice, some of my all-time easy-breezy favourites can be seen here, here and here.

    When I decided to make dinner last night, I knew I would once again be cooking what else, but rice. So I settled for a recipe that was simple and so delicious – Pulao or as some call it, Pilaf. Pulao is very common in the North Indian cuisine. It is often served as a side to exotic curries and salads.

    So that was it then, I was craving for Pulao. But not just any Pulao, I wanted Peas Pulao!

    Matar Pulao (Peas Pilaf)

    Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  •  
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt, to taste
  • a pinch of saffron, mixed in 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • Method:

    1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and saute cumin seeds and sliced onions, till tender and slightly browned.
    2. Add rice, water, salt, peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaves, and cover cook on medium-low heat till rice is tender.
    3. Add in peas and saffron water and cover cook for another 5-6 minutes till peas heat through.

    Best eaten warm with any curry or on its own!



    A meaty fare…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 17th, 2006 | 12 Comments


    When we were growing up, I remember eating mutton/lamb as a special lunch on Sundays and Holidays. Mom would make a different meat dsh every week and it was always seen as a delicacy! Her mutton Biryani often won her many praises from friends, family and anyone who happened to eat it, and made her the talk of the town. But apart from her Biryani, I was a die-hard fan of her simple mutton curry that I would happily gorge on with a good helping of rice.

    Mutton Masala

    A few weeks back, on our weekly trip to the local grocery supermarket, I happened to chance upon a pack of fresh cut lamb. Now this was a joyous ocassion for me since, I’ve never really noticed lamb at the store before; and my refusal to enter a butcher shop limits me to eating lamb outside of home.

    With the pack sitting happily in my cart, I treaded home with many ideas on how I could relish this delight. So finally when the time to cook the meat, I questioned myself a number of times to figure out the right way I wanted to dish it out. Bitten with the bitter cold of the lazy Sunday morning, I decided to go for something that would be spicy and good enough to enjoy with fresh warm rotis.

    So while I cut the lamb into tiny bite-size chunks, I could already taste my leisurely Sunday meal!

    Mutton Masala

    Ingredients:

  • 2 lb boneless mutton/lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (I just take equal amounts of ginger and garlic and make a
  • paste of it)
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  •  
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6-7 whole peppercorns
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped for garnish
  • Method:

    1. Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds. Once it starts to sizzle, add in sliced onions and fry till slightly brown.

    2. Add in meat pieces, chopped green chillies and ginger-garlic paste, and fry for 3-4 minutes.

    3. Add salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder and coriander powder and let all spices blend in well.

    4. Once meat starts to brown, add tomato paste, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and cloves, and saute for 2-3 minutes.

    5. Add water and cover cook for 30-35 minutes or till meat tenderizes. You can add more water, bit by bit, to prevent it from drying up.

    6. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot!



    A change of heart…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 11th, 2006 | 11 Comments


    It was time. I quietly walked into my beloved kitchen and looked around for a bit. “Hmmn… now what should I cook?”, I thought. When a glance at the pantry didn’t give me any inspiration, I decided to try the fridge. Rummaging around the crisper, I noticed him sitting queitly in the corner, neatly tucked away. “Okay, I guess your time has come, my friend.”, said I, and he seemed to agree. Strange! But I still had no idea what do with him.

    I’m not too fond of eating cabbage cooked the Indian way. Never have been. The only reason I seem to buy this big round fellow, is when I begin to crave for a stir-fry. But today was definitely different. Yes siree! I was in no mood for a quick saute of assorted veggies. Nopes! Infact, what was that again, oh yes, the spicy bug bit me again. This time, I must so add, quite hard, since I willing to give Mr. Cabbage a try!

    I’ve always loved green peas (I buy the 2lb bag of frozen peas almost every 3 weeks!!), and seriously believe that have the ability to enhance the taste of anything!! I had this big green ball of leaves, my ever-growing-never-satisfied spice rack, and a cup of delicious frozen peas! The stage was all set and so was I! So take your seat folks, buckle up and enjoy the ride. The show is going to begin.

    Cabbage with Peas

    Cabbage with Peas

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups sliced cabbage
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 tomato, chopped
    • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
    • 1/4 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
    • salt, to taste
    • 1 tbsp cooking oil

    Method:

    • Heat oil in a non-stick pan and saute cumin seeds till it starts to sizzle.
    • Add onions and fry for a few minutes till it turns transparent. Add cabbage and fry for a few minutes till it tenderizes and gives out water.
    • Add salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder and garam masala and fry for a few minutes till spices all blend in.
    • Add chopped tomatoes and cover cook for 5-6 minutes. Stir in peas and let cook for another couple of minutes.

    Serve hot with warm rotis, or over a bed of rice with some Dal.



    Stuffed with Goodness

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 9th, 2006 | 9 Comments


    Other than one-pot meals, that make dinner time a simple casual affair, I also love having stuffed parathas. Parathas are Indian flat breads mainly made of whole wheat which can be stuffed with almost anything under the sun! Not only is it deliciously ful-filling, but it can also be served without much consideration of side dishes. Eaten with yoghurt or a simple helping of tangy spicy pickle, they are treat for anytime of the day.

    Parathas were always seen as a special treat at my home. From special Sunday brunches to our never-ending midweek demands, mom would often indulge us. Among other stuffings, paneer is always the most loved at my home. With hubby dear and me, both religious paneer lovers, this comes as no surprise. Its also no wonder that I consider it as a comfort food. In fact, come to think of it, many Indians would swear that stuffed parathas definitely qualify as comfort food. And I believe that the ones stuffed with paneer just tops that list!

    Paneer (Cottage Cheese) Parathas

    Paneer Parathas

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
    • 1 cup shredded paneer (cottage cheese)
    • 1 tsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
    • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp garam masala
    • salt, to taste
    • 3 tbsp ghee
    • water as needed

    Method:

    • Saute shredded paneer in a bit of oil with salt, coriander leaves, red chili powder, and garam masala, and set aside.

    • Mix flour (atta) with salt and one tbsp of ghee and form into a smooth dough with water.

    • Separate dough into golf-sized balls and set aside.

    • For each dough ball, roll out the dough into a small circle and put around one tbsp of paneer mixture in the centre. Bring the ends of the circle together and form into a ball.

    • Seal the edges completely so that the stuffing does not come out. Roll out these dough balls and into a 6 inch circle.

    • Fry on a heated pan adding a bit of ghee around the edges to crisp it up.

    Serve hot.



    A cry for simplicity…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 5th, 2006 | 8 Comments


    After all the holiday cooking and eating with rich indulgence, we craved for something simple. A humble meal of the traditional dal, rotis and a sabzi (vegetable) has been long awaited. While I am done eating exotic fancy dishes for a while, it’s still a tad bit hard for me to completely stop my escapades in the kitchen.

    The past one month saw me make a variety of party and holiday dishes full of elegance and flair. As life gets back to the normal non-holiday routine, I am slowly catching up with my simple cooking methods. But somedays, I crave to go a step further!

    When I first ate this dish at a dear friend’s place, I instantly knew it was going to be a regular on my menu. From the looks and taste of it, it seemed to come out from some great kitchen, cooked up with the utmost care and style. But one try at making it, and you’ll believe that simple meals can sometimes be the most gourmet!

    Alu Tamatarwale

    Alu Tamatarwale

    Ingredients:

    • 2-3 potatoes, boiled and cut into 1-inch cubes
    • 1 tsp mustard seeds
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
    • 1 tbsp chopped green chillies
    • 1/4 tsp asafoetida powder (hing)
    • 2 tbsp tomato paste
    • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • salt, to taste
    • 1 tbsp cooking oil

    Method:

    • Heat oil in a non-stick pan and add asafoetida powder, cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Once they begin to sizzle, add in chopped ginger and green chillies.

    • Add chili powder, turmeric powder and tomato paste, and cook for a few minutes till the paste soften and oil starts to form on top.

    • Throw in the potatoes and sprinkle salt, and mix thoroughly to evenly coat the potatoes with the sauce.



    Cooking up Comfort

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 4th, 2006 | 5 Comments


    Looks like the foggy, rainy weather is here to stay – atleast for tonight. And what else can you do on a louzy night like this than sit back with a good movie and of course some spicy comfort food!

    Not one to run out of ideas, I had just the perfect recipe in mind to celebrate with, and one I just knew hubby dear would absolutely flip for!

    A large part of Indian comfort food consists of spicy tantalizing street food. Wherever you look, at every street corner, there stands a hawker frying up these little tasty treats in large quantities. And its no surprise that his tray gets empty as soon as it is filled!

    The monsoons in India certainly boasts of many comforting specialities. One of my personal favourites of this weather is the Vada-Pav – a yummy potato fritter sandwiched between soft buns (called Pav) spread with a tangy Tamarind Chutney. One bite and sip of warm chai is enough to give you all the comfort you are looking for!

    Vada Pav

    Vada Pav served with Chai

    Ingredients:

    • 2 large potatoes, boiled and mashed
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 2-3 green chillies, chopped
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp coriander seeds
    • 1 tsp ginger, chopped
    • 1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
    • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • salt, to taste
    • 1 cup gram/chickpea flour
    • water, as needed
    • a pinch of baking soda
    • oil for deep frying
    • slices of bread/buns of your choice
    • 3-4 tbsp of Tamarind Chutney

    Method:

    • In a non-stick pan, heat a little oil and saute cumin seeds, coriander seeds, green chillies and ginger till fragrant. Add in onions and fry till they get transparent.
    • Add salt, red chili powder and turmeric powder and fry for a minute. Throw in mashed potatoes and mix well to incorporate with the spices.
    • Add coriander leaves and mix well. Set aside to cool.
    • In a large bowl, mis flour with salt, baking soda and water, and make a batter just thick enough to coat.
    • Heat oil for deep frying in a skillet.
    • Make potato mixture into golf-sized balls and dip into the batter.
    • Fry till golden on all sides. These fritters are called Bondas/Vadas.
    • To assemble, heat bread/bun slices on a warm pan and spread chutney evenly on one side on a slice.
    • Put 1-2 bondas (depending on the size of the bread slice) and top with a second slice.

    Serve warm and enjoy with delicious Masala Chai!