Archive of ‘Indian Food and Recipes’ category

Bhel Puri

Hands down, bhel puri is my favourite savoury thing to eat. Closely followed by pani puri and then from a completely different culture – macaroni and cheese.

Bhel Puri is a type of Chaat – which is simply savoury snacks sold at the roadside all over India, but many associate them with cities like Mumbai and Delhi. I love the origin of the word chaat.

From Wikipedia “The word derives from Hindi cāṭ चाट (tasting, a delicacy), from cāṭnā चाटना (to lick), from Prakrit caṭṭei चट्टेइ (to devour with relish, eat noisily).”

You can also buy (or make yourself) chaat masala which is made up of amchoor (dried mango) powder, black salt, coriander, ginger, salt, pepper, asafoedita and chilli powder. This is used in all kinds of chaat to easily season, plus it tastes great! Add it to your next chickpea curry.

Bhel puri offers everything – it is a Gujarati snack made popular in Mumbai by migrants to the city-  it’s crispy, crunchy, soft, sweet, savoury, spicy and sharp. The base is a mixture of puffed rice (mamra) and fried chickpea noodles (sev) which is then topped with chopped onion, sometimes tomato, boiled spicy potato (often with chaat masala), mint chilli coriander chutney and tamarind chutney. You mix it all together and eat it up immediately whilst it is still crunchy. Fancier versions I’ve had, at Dishoom for example, also contain pomegranate or diced mango.

As I’ve said, it is traditionally a snack, but if you love it like I do, it’s more than ok to eat three portions and call it dinner. You’ll find sev, mamra and tamarind in most Indian grocers and also very large branches of the main supermarkets. If not The Asian Cookshop has everything you’ll need, and their delivery charges aren’t too dear.

Tamarind can be bought in a large scary looking block, which needs to be soaked and then passed through a sieve, it is a bit of work but you can freeze the resulting paste and take out as needed. You can also buy jars of tamarind paste in most supermarkets, but it often has added ingredients.

Bhel Puri Serves 2 generously for dinner, 4 for a snack 

 200g sev
200g mamra puffed rice
 ½ onion, diced finely then soaked in water
 2 medium sized potatoes diced and boiled
¼ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp chaat masala salt (boil til soft, drain, cool and then add seasoning and spices) 
2 tomatoes, diced

 Green Chutney 
15 mint leaves
large bunch of coriander
¼ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp cumin ½ cm ginger salt
¼ green chilli (or more to your taste!)
4 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
scant 1 tsp sugar 

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor – you want a thin sauce, a bit like salsa.

Tamarind Chutney 
1 tablespoon of tamarind paste
1 ¼ tsp caster sugar
pinch of garam masala
5 tablespoons of water
pinch of salt

Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and simmer over a medium high heat til boiling. Turn down and then simmer gently for 5-10 minutes til it thickens to just a little thinner than ketchup.

To Serve
When serving put all your separate ingredients in to bowls and then let diners make their own bhel puri by piling up ingredients and chutneys to taste in a bowl.

I’ll be serving bhel puri plus plenty of other yummy things at my upcoming Gujarati Supperclub in Cambridge in August, dates to be announced soon – sign up to the mailing list here

Gujarati Kadhi – Yoghurt ‘Sauce’

It is very hard to describe what kadhi exactly it, it is basically a yoghurt and gram flour based sauce/soup/gravy for rice. You can also add it to dry curry dishes, like potato. I blogged Kitchri a little while ago, a soothing lentil rice dish gently spiced with turmeric and garlic – kadhi is the best companion for kitchri. You can also have kadhi with plain boiled basmati rice.

Kitri and Kadhi is wonderful when you are sick, it is simple, soothing and comforting – I think it has medicinal qualities similar to chicken soup! I got it together to make this on a weekend when we were both ill with a horrible cold virus thing that caught as at the end of a long winter, it is very easy to make and gentle on a tummy that has been punished by too many Hall’s Soothers and Paracetmol pills.

Gujarati Kadhi
makes 4 portions, keeps well in the fridge for a few days

250ml natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons of gram flour / chickpea flour
about 1cm of grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp sugar
750ml cold water

for tempering:
1-2 dried red chillies – depending on how hot you want it
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
vegetable or sunflower oil

1. Whisk together the yoghurt, chickpeas, ginger, water in a bowl.
2. Heat the oil and add all the tempering ingredients once the oil is hot.  When the mustard seeds begin to pop add in the yoghurt mixture and then water and salt.
3. Bring to the boil, be careful it doesn’t bubble over the top. Then let simmer gently for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally to stop any lumps.
4. Taste and season again if you need to, and then add the fresh coriander.

Serve with kitchri or plain basmati rice.
The traditional way to serve it is in a small cup and let each person add the kadhi to their rice as they eat. I sometimes like to drown my rice in it, but at other times add a little to make it drier, it all depends!

Chai Masala Biscuits

Whilst making a cup of masala chai the other week I was thinking what a good idea it would be to put some of the masala into a batch of biscuit/cookie dough. I’ve made spiced cookies before, with a bit of ginger or cinnamon, and the punchy chai masala would probably work just as well. And I am pleased to say it did!

The masala mix is made up of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, ground ginger and nutmeg, I bought some back from India, you can either buy some from your nearest Indian supermarket, grind your own or use the individual spices in the cookie mix. Some larger Tesco stores might even stock it now too.

I used a basic cookie dough from BBC Good Food, which if you read my blog regularly you’ll know is a site I use a lot, there are tons of recipes on there and their baking section contains lots of classic recipes – basic sponges, shortcrust pastry, fruit cakes, mince pies. Good stuff.

The biscuits are quite like shortbread, and the masala gives a nice little warmth. If you are a hardcore dunker (well done) I would suggest making them 1.5cm thick instead of 1cm as below.

Chai Masala Biscuits
adapted from BBC Good Food

Makes about 30 cookies, maybe more.I froze half the dough (wrapped in cling film and then put in a sandwich bag), my standard behaviour when making biscuits or cookies – so that I have a stash for when I really crave them.

250g softened unsalted butter
140g sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp of vanilla extract
295g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
5g chai masala or mixed spices

50g chocolate melted with 5g butter (to keep it shiny) for dipping
Extra sugar and chai masala for sprinkling on before baking / onto the chocolate

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 5 / Fan 180 / Electric 190 
Cream together your butter and sugar til combined well and nice and fluffy.
Add in the egg yolk and the vanilla extract and mix in well.
Sift in your flour and masala, mix in – you’ll need to get in with your hands here and knead to a dough. 
Add a tiny bit of water at a time if it seems a little dry.
Knead very briefly to a soft dough, wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

Roll out to about 1cm thick and cut into whatever shape you fancy, with a knife or cutters.
Lay on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. You can put them reasonably close together as they don’t spread too much during baking.
Sprinkling the biscuits with a little chai masala mixed with sugar before baking gives a nice crunch when they are baked.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes in the centre of the oven.
They can go from not cooked to brown in 30 seconds so keep an eye during the first batch, your oven may behave differently. 

Cool on a wire rack, you can either now eat them or dip them in melted chocolate and leave to set. 
I couldn’t stop fiddling around with them and sprinkled the unset chocolate with a little chai sugar for extra spiciness.

Chilli Paneer

‘This is the best thing you’ve ever made,’ was the comment from the Mr about this chilli paneer, so despite the really quite terrible photograph I took hastily (because I wanted to hurry up and eat), I have decided that I really ought to blog this recipe. I haven’t received a review like that in a long time.

Chilli Paneer is one of those things I’ve eaten quite a bit of but never really known what goes into it or how it is made – only recently did I realise it was Indo-Chinese-ish as it has soy sauce in it. The Indian part is made up of the paneer cheese and the rest are ingredients used in both countries (garlic, ginger, chilli, onion).

It differs from the Indian style muttar paneer which has more tomato in it along with the traditional spices – garam masala, turmeric, cumin, coriander. This version is a lot simpler and the soy sauce gives it a rich flavour without too much faffing about with lots of ingredients. In India we had ‘Manchurian Paneer’ which is another Indo-Chinese dish, it was deep fried crispy paneer in a rich dark sauce – I think with five spice and soy – with lots of spring onion and ginger, something I want to recreate, although I think without the deep frying.

This is very easy to put together and you’ll probably have most of the ingredients already. Serve with basmati rice or naan, pitta, roti or other flat bread. Most of the recipes I came across also contained bell pepper, I’m not a huge fan of these and I didn’t have any, so I didn’t put any in. If you like them add one diced pepper in with the onion.

Chilli Paneer
Adapted from various recipes including Simply Tadka and BBC Good Food.
Serves 2-3

200g block of paneer, diced into about 1 inch pieces
sunflower or mild olive oil
2 red onions, finely sliced
1 bell pepper, diced (optional)
2 cloves of garlic
about 1tsp of grated ginger
1/2 tsp – 1 tsp chilli flakes – depending on your chilli tolerance
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
boiling water

1. Dice up your paneer and then toss it in some seasoned cornflour. In a large saucepan shallow fry the pieces in a small amount of oil til golden brown on all sides, do this in batches if you don’t have room. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

2. Add the onions and pepper if using and fry in the oil til quite soft, add a pinch of salt to stop them burning and to realise the juices, it should take about 5 minutes for them to soften. Whilst they are frying mix the tomato puree and dark soy sauce, then add boiling water til it is the consistency of single cream.

3. Add in the ginger, garlic and chilli flakes to the saucepan and fry for a minute. Lower the heat and add the tomato soy sauce mix and then the paneer. Stir to combine everything and keep on a medium heat to simmer gently.

4. The sauce will start to thicken now, because of the cornflour in the paneer, add more water if the sauce starts to reduce too much. Simmer for about 10 minutes on a medium heat, stirring and checking the sauce. Season to taste, add more chilli flakes or soy if necessary and serve.

Kashmiri Dum Aloo

One of the tastiest but also the most disappointing dishes we ate in Mumbai was Dum Aloo. That might sound a little strange, but let me explain, some of the potatoes were cooked and others were raw, which ruined what was otherwise a tasty meal – the sauce was still delicious.

Dum Aloo is a potato in a creamy tomato spiced sauce, cooked for a long time til the potatoes are tender. I believe ‘Dum’ refers to cooking in a pot sealed with dough, so the moisture remains inside during cooking. Aloo means potato.

The potatoes are first deep fried, although I shallow fried mine in a couple of tablespoons of oil which worked out just fine and removed some of the faff from the recipe. Then you fry onion, garlic, tomato paste and ground spices before adding tomatoes and a little water, and then the potatoes.
You can then either make a dough or make a cartouche, which is a lot easier, to ‘seal’ the dish and keep the moisture in. I used a large heavy casserole dish which has a tight fitting lid, along with my cartouche – made of a round of greaseproof paper placed directly on top of the simmering potato and sauce. The cartouche is then removed, and the sauce thickened by simmering without the lid, before cream and fresh coriander is added to finish.

We ate it with freshly made rotli (or chapatis which is what you may know them as) – more on that soon! In Mumbai we had them with soft naan and juicy limes. I made the entire recipe, that serves 4, and there were lots of leftovers which tasted even better the next day.

It is important to use really good quality potatoes here, they are the centre of the dish and I think any old spuds might not tastes as good as a Jersey royal or a similarly good new potato. I adapted the recipe from the brilliant Ko Rasoi blog, missing out some of the spices and using a little less sugar, salt and cream to my taste.

Kashmiri Dum Aloo
recipe adapted from Ko Rasoi
serves 4

450g Jersey royals or good quality new potatoes
2 tbsp of groundnut or sunflower oil
2 tbsp of tomato puree
1 tin of plum tomatoes
250ml water
1 tbsp of grated ginger
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp of sugar
2 tsp of salt
150ml of double cream

Spices – grind these in a pestle and mortar together
2 tsp of fennel seeds
2 tsp of chilli flakes
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of coriander seeds
1/2 tsp of ground ginger

Chopped coriander to garnish

1. Keep your potatoes whole for this recipe, if you have any large ones cut them up to around 2-3 inches long, and keep the skins on. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and fry the potatoes til they are golden brown on all sides. Remove the potatoes and set aside.

2. Fry your ginger then garlic, and then add in the tomato puree and fry for 1 minute. Then add the spices and fry for a few minutes, add a little water if it starts to stick. Add the tin of tomatoes, sugar, salt and water. Bring to the boil and then down to a gentle simmer.

3. Make your cartouche by cutting greaseproof paper to the same size as the pot and place over the bubbling dish. Put the lid onto the pot and turn down to the lowest heat. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely cooked.

4. The sauce might need thickening at this point, if so just simmer til it is the right consistency. Then add in the cream and simmer for a few minutes more, being careful not to over boil. Season if needed and then add in some fresh coriander before serving.

This is a lovely comforting dish for a very cold day, and it isn’t too spicy – if you aren’t keen on chilli you can dial it back a little and it will taste just as aromatic but without the kick.

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