Showing posts with label authentic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label authentic. Show all posts

Apr 30, 2018

Mexican-Style Green Beans with Eggs (Ejotes con Huevos)

This authentic recipe for ejotes con huevos or Mexican-style green beans with eggs is an old favorite. A simple to make, nutritious, and delicious way to enjoy green beans! Serve as a traditional Mexican meal with tortillas and beans or with rice and rotis for a South Asian twist.



Summer produce is already coming in by the kilo in my garden! This year I bought five green bean plants from the feed and seed shop down the street. They're a local variety is called "Simi" and if left to develop to maturity they'll become the speckled bean called "Simi"  which is much like pinto beans in my native California. What to do with all those green beans? Nepalis do a simple stir-fry with green beans as do most Indians. But I remembered another green bean dish that I ate at my friend Luz's house as a child. It was always a treat to eat at Luz's house because her grandma made fresh flour tortillas every day. So I emailed Luz and asked her what was that egg and green bean dish called that we used to eat for lunch at her house?


It was ejotes con huevos! A simple, classic Mexican home-style dish combining eggs with two of summer's most bountiful items- green beans and tomatoes. So I googled ejotes con huevos and came up with a lot of recipes that required blanching the green beans first. I do not recall anyone ever blanching green beans as a child in my native California. I have never blanched green beans in my life. I have seen green beans parboiled for 5 minutes before canning. Okies and Arkies boiled them with a ham hock and onion. Posh folks ate them heated out of a can or freezer with perhaps with a pat of butter. Then I found this recipe on the wonderful blog, Mexican Made Meatless that is exactly like what Luz's grandma used to make! The green beans are stir-fried with a little tomato, onion, and spices to desired tenderness - no blanching, boiling, or any other fuss. Then beaten eggs are poured over and allowed to set. It's a one pot wonder! My Kashmiri clan loves it. Sometimes I Indianize it a little by adding a tablespoonful of ginger paste in with the garlic or stirring a little cilantro/dhania in with the eggs. We like to eat it with rice but rotis would pair well with it too. This dish also makes a great filling for a burrito or kati roll when topped with a dollop of red salsa. Any way you choose to try I bet you'll like it!


Ingredients:
1/2 kg or 1 lb fresh green beans, tops and tails removed and cut into even lengths
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-3 green chiles/hari mirch, finely chopped (omit for less heat)
1 TBS garlic paste or 3 garlic cloves minced finely
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper/kali mirch, freshly ground
3 TBS cooking oil of choice, or scant amount to cover bottom of pan
4 eggs, lightly beaten
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Heat cooking oil in a large skillet or kadhai with 1 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes. Saute the onions until just softened. Add the chopped chiles and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the garlic has lost its raw smell.


2) Add the green beans, tomatoes, and ground black pepper. Stir well and cover. Cook until green beans are to desired texture. (This usually takes about 10 to 12 minutes.)


3) Once green beans are to desired texture pour the lightly beaten eggs into the pan. Stir and cook until eggs have cooked through. I usually stir enough to get all the green beans coated with egg then cover the pan and let it cook for three minutes like a frittata. For a more scrambled texture keep stirring for about 2 minutes.


4) Salt to taste and serve. Pair with refried beans, tortillas, and salsa of choice for a Mexican meal OR rice and rotis too enjoy it Indian style.


Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Dec 24, 2017

Vegan Peppernuts (Päpanät)

Peppernuts (also called Pfeffernüsse or päpanät) are a tiny cookie baked in Mennonite homes during the Christmas season. This recipe for peppernuts is egg-free and vegan. They're deliciously crunchy, delightfully spicy, and highly addictive little cookies that are perfect for gift giving during the holidays! 


My mother is descended from the Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites who left the steppes of Russia in 1874 and chose the Kansas prairie for their new home. The modest home my great-grandfather Jacob Krause built in 1874 is part of the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum near Goessel, Kansas. Peppernuts are found in various forms across Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In Plautdiestch they are called päpanät (pronounced pay-pa-nate). The name peppernut does not mean it contains nuts, though some varieties do. The crunchy cookies are roughly the size of nuts and can be eaten by the handful, which may account for the name.

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Traditional Mennonite recipes for peppernuts usually contain beaten egg. Eggs are not considered suitable for vegetarians in South Asia so through a little trial and error I came up with this egg-free adaptation of my aunt's original recipe. My vegan version of her recipe is just as flavorful, crunchy, long-lasting, delicious and sturdy as the Mennonite original. Mine may be a tad spicier in keeping with the South Asian influences though. Although these little cookies are not the prettiest of holiday treats- they are truly addictive. It's really hard to stop eating them, once you start. You are warned! Nary a Christmas goes by that I don't bake a huge batch of these for friends, neighbors, and even the Imam!


Every Mennonite family has a slightly different recipe for peppernuts. The variations are multitude. Some use butter or vegetable shortening. Some use corn syrup, molasses, or golden syrup. Some use brown sugar and some use white sugar. Spice mixtures may or may not include black pepper, white pepper, or even no pepper at all! One thing that is constant in Mennonite recipes is star anise- not ground anise, not anise oil, not anise extract - it has to be STAR ANISE. I have to say that star anise does have a tad extra sweetness as well as a slightly root beer-ish note in addition to the licorice flavor of plain anise. I also like the warmth of black pepper and the citrusy zing of green cardamom in my peppernuts. Anyway you spice them, I really hope you give this unique little cookie a try! No doubt they'll become a favorite made year after year in your home too!

Ingredients:
1&1/2 C vegetable shortening or margarine*
1&1/2 C sugar
3/4 C golden syrup or corn syrup**
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground star anise
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg or allspice
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground green cardamom
1&1/2 tsp baking powder
5 C flour
extra flour to roll out dough

Here's what to do:
1) Melt shortening or margarine in a large saucepan. Add sugar, syrup, and salt to melted oil and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and allow mixture cool to room temperature.
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 2) Combine ground spices, baking powder, and flour in large mixing bowl. Stir until well mixed. I use my stand mixer to do this.

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3) Add cooled syrup mixture to the flour and spices. Stir until well blended. The dough should be a little sticky yet stiff. Cover dough with cling film and refrigerate overnight or for several days.

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4) When ready to bake preheat oven to 350F/180C . Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking matts. Sprinkle a little flour or your counter and roll dough into long ropes about as thick as your ring finger. It's usually best to take about a half cup of dough at a time. This dough is really easy to work with despite being a little sticky. I put the ropes of dough onto a baking tray while I'm rolling them.

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5)  Cut the ropes into 1/2 inch pieces and place on prepared pans at least an inch apart. Cookies will puff up and spread a little bit. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated 350F/180C oven or until cookies just begin to brown.

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6) Remove from pan and allow to cool. Cookies will be soft when warm but will gradually crisp up when completely cooled.

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7) Makes about 4 liters or 16 cups of little cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. (Yes, I said 3 months - these are typically sturdy Mennonites cookies!)

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Helpful Hints:
*I have made this recipe with vegetable shortening, margarine, and butter (and various combinations of whatever I could find here in Nepal). All work fine in this recipe but I prefer the extra crunchiness you get with vegetable shortening (Crisco to be precise) .

**I have made this recipe variously with dark corn syrup, light corn syrup, golden syrup, honey, and molasses. Light corn syrup would be what Mennonites from Kansas would use but our Canadian brethren prefer golden syrup. I have to agree with the Canucks on their preference for golden syrup in this recipe. I like the slight caramel flavor that golden syrup gives this recipe best.

This recipe is time consuming but the results are well worth it. Traditionally this cookie is often made in huge batches as a community at the local church to reduce the tedium. (My aunt's original recipe called for a whopping 15 cups of flour!) I usually make the dough one day and freeze it. Then I roll out the ropes of dough and place them on a tray in the freezer until the next day. Then on the last day I fire up my tiny toaster oven, chop the ropes of dough into half inch pieces, and bake them. (This takes all day with our random power outages.) A more efficient plan would be to get a few pals together and delegate the tasks of rolling, chopping, and baking.

Happy Holidays!
Wishing you all the best in this festive season - Peace, Love, Hope & Joy!
Bibi

May 15, 2017

Mexican Style Beans (Frijoles)

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Beans are a staple of Mexican cuisine and a favorite element in so many Mexican dishes. This classic recipe for frijoles is easy to make, versatile, vegan, and healthy. Enjoy these beans with warm tortillas, as a filling for burritos, or with rice and rotis as my Indian family does!


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Pinto beans are the most popular bean in the United States and northwestern Mexico. Pinto means speckled or spotted referring to the bean's mottled skin which becomes uniform when cooked. When properly prepared pinto beans have a deliciously creamy texture, mild flavor, and an ability to absorb flavors well. I'm using simi beans which are a local favorite here in Nepal. As you can see in the above photo simi beans are a bit rosier in hue than pinto beans, but their flavor and texture is quite similar.

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A Latina friend in my native California taught me to make these Mexican-style beans or frijoles. Each family has their own unique way of preparing beans with differences in bean variety, the type of pot used, specific seasonings, and method of cooking. Traditionally, an earthenware pot called an olla was used to cook beans. As you can see in the above photo an olla is shaped a lot like the handi used in Indian cooking and serves much the same purpose. I have never seen an olla in use to cook beans in any kitchen Mexican or otherwise. The most common vessel I've seen used to cook beans in both Spanish-speaking and Okie communities is a large heavy-duty aluminum stockpot begotten at the Kmart or the local ACE hardware store. I use my Indian-style pressure cooker to save time.

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I have often read that lard or manteca is the most authentic fat to use in Mexican cooking. In the town where I was raised the cooking fat of choice for Mexican-American families and most other ethnic groups was Crisco. The famed digestible vegetable shortening or manteca vegetal was used for tortillas and tamales as well as pie crusts and fried chicken. I'm not from Butcher Holler but as Loretta Lynn said in the commercial,
"Crisco will do you proud every time." 

Lard was probably the preferred fat before World War II. Possibly the only place to find lard in the 70's and 80's was at a carnicería or Mexican butcher. I've heard lard is making a comeback though. Choose your favorite cooking oil for this recipe. The preferred chilis for Mexican cooking in California are Serranos and their milder cousins, Jalapeños. Spanish-style yellow onions are used exclusively in Mexican cuisine. To soak the beans or not is another choice. Soaking the beans overnight will save you cooking time. I never saw beans soaked in my little community though so I don't soak either. I do use a pressure cooker which does cut down cooking time to about half. My Indian family loves these with rice but you could certainly enjoy them in a more traditional manner atop a tostada, alongside warm tortillas, or as a filling for burritos. Or try them topped with a little queso fresco, chopped tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cilantro as a hearty soup! Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
2 C dry pinto beans (or dry simi beans)
1-2 TBS cooking oil (scant amount to cover bottom of pot)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 TBS garlic paste or 3 minced garlic cloves
1-3 Jalapeño or Serrano chilis or any green chili you prefer (omit for less heat)
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Sort through dried beans and remove pebbles. Rinse the beans in water in a colander and set aside. Heat oil in a large stock pot or pressure cooker and fry the onion until it softens.

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 2) When onion begins to turn translucent add garlic, chilis, and black pepper to frying onion. Fry for about 2 minutes or until chilis begin to blister and garlic loses it's raw smell. Do not brown the onions!

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3) Add the rinsed beans, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough water to cover the beans by about 3 inches to the pot or pressure cooker. If using stock pot: bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours. Check on the pot every 15 minutes to make sure there's enough water, add more water from time to time as necessary. Make sure to keep adding water so the pot does not dry out. If using pressure cooker: seal lid on pressure cooker and allow to steam until beans are tender. This takes about 40 to 50 minutes in my Indian-style pressure cooker.

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4) The beans are ready when cooked so soft you can press them through your fingers and skins slip off easily. (Cooking time depends on the age and quality of beans, drier ones will require a longer simmering time.) Traditionally the beans are left a bit soupy so you can dip your tortilla in them or mash them to make frijoles refritos. Salt to taste and retrieve chilis before serving. Serve with warm tortillas or rice and rotis like we eat them. Once cooled the beans will keep for up to one week refrigerator in an airtight container.

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Helpful Hints:
You could certainly use other sorts of beans in this recipe such as black beans, kidney beans, Peruano, Mayocoba, Santa Maria, or Flor de Mayo.

May 5, 2017

Fresh Mex Fire Roasted Salsa

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Deliciously fresh and so simple to make, this fire roasted salsa is my favorite! Vibrant with summertime vegetables and bold smoky flavor this recipe is healthy and vegan too. This is the typical salsa you'll find served in Mexican-style restaurants across the US. It's not just a tasty dipping sauce for tortilla chips though, try it atop steaks, scrambled eggs, or even with rice and rotis!

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This recipe does resemble the salsa served at a famous Mexican-style American restaurant chain whose claim to fame is fresh ingredients. In fact, you could even call this recipe "Fresh Mex" as their slogan states. I had a friend who worked at the original location of that restaurant chain in Alameda, California the mid-80's. She learned how to make their famous salsa and taught me how too. She told me she used to make 10 gallons of this famed dipping sauce daily at the restaurant So we had to scale the recipe down a bit and here it is! Now if I could only find decent tortilla chips here I'd be deliriously happy! But seriously, I miss Mexican food and the Californicated version of it a lot. They have the American chain Chili's in Delhi but it is horrid. As in soggy tortilla chips out of a bag, jarred salsa, and mashed kidney beans for frijoles awful.

A certain restaurant that shall remain nameless.....

So when tomatoes get ridiculously cheap or all turn ripe in my garden at once I whip up some of this yummy salsa! I can eat this stuff straight up I love it so much. Charring the vegetables really adds complexity and depth of flavor to the salsa. I char the vegetables on the gas burners of my stove but you can use a cast iron skillet also. Choose tomatoes that are really ripe and a little bigger than a ping pong ball so they'll cook just about through. Jalapeno and serrano peppers are the commonest chilis used in the American southwest and northwestern Mexico. Serranos are the hotter chili and jalapenos are milder and fleshier. Serranos are also closest in flavor to the green chilis used in most Indian cuisines too. Of course this salsa tastes great atop traditional Mexican foods like tacos, tostadas, and burritos. But give this a try with your scrambled eggs at breakfast, with a grilled chicken breast or steak, or even as a zippy chutney alongside any rice or roti based meal! Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
8-10 medium sized tomatoes
5-6 green chilis (for less heat use half of a small bell pepper)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, peeled and sliced in half
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS oil (I use olive oil)
1 TBS white vinegar or the juice of 2 limes
2 TBS cilantro, chopped roughly
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Using tongs char the chilis, tomatoes, garlic cloves, and onions thoroughly over a gas flame. Make sure vegetables are blistered and slightly softened. If you don't have a gas burner: heat a cast iron skillet until smoking hot. Drizzle tomatoes, chilis, garlic cloves, and onion with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Char all vegetables in hot skillet.

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 2) Set aside all charred vegetables and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Remove stems from chilis and butts from tomatoes.

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3) Place cooled tomatoes, chilis, garlic, onion, ground black pepper, oil, vinegar or lime juice, cilantro, and 2 teaspoons salt in a blender, mixie, or food processor. Do not peel the charred bits off. Pulse until smooth.

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4) Salt to taste and keep in an airtight container until ready to serve. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

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Helpful Hint:
This recipe make a great salsa even if you don't char the vegetables! Just pop them in the blender and blitz and you're good to go!


HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!!!
The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. I am a native Californian and so I'm going to be celebrating Mexican-American culture on this blog by posting Mexican-style recipes I've learned over the years throughout May. Plus, I really love Mexican food ;)

Hasta la vista, baby!

Bibi

Feb 20, 2017

Parsi Garam Masala

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Parsis are an ethnic and religious group that emigrated from ancient Persia to India in the 10th century. Parsi cuisine has evolved into a delicious fusion of Persian and Indian influences. This recipe for Parsi style garam masala perfectly reflects this unique blend of cultures. The earthy warmth of green cardamom, cumin, and black pepper are perfectly balanced by the sweet heat of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise in this flavorsome mix.



"Parsis of Bombay" engraving, ca. 1878

Parsis practice a unique religion called Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism encourages wealth creation as well as charity.
 For centuries, prominent Parsis have shared their success through philanthropy. The names of top Parsi traders and industrialists are a common sight on hospitals, schools, and libraries in India.

Parsis celebrating Navroze Mubarak

No Parsi function is complete without good food that has been laboriously and lovingly prepared. The Zoroastrian community gathers for six annual feasts called gahambars and a new year's celebration called Navroze. Weddings too require a lavish multi-course feast called a lagan no bhonu. Parsi dishes reveal traces of their Persian past in a fondness for nuts, dry fruits, and sweetness. The Indian influence on Parsi cuisine is the addition of garlic, ginger, and subcontinental spices.


I've adapted this recipe from Neela Batra's cookbook, 1,000 Indian Recipes. Unfortunately Ms Batra's book has rather incongruent instructions for those 1,000 recipes. The recipes also often result in unsuitably large quantities for the home cook. So I reduced the amounts by half to yield a half cup. The quantities in the original recipe were for ground spices so I've left them that way. I used whole spices and ground them in the same amounts with excellent results. It's the ratio that's most important in spice mixes. Ms Batra's recipe calls for dry roasting the ground spices too. DO NOT DRY ROAST GROUND SPICES OR YOU'LL END UP WITH A SCORCHED MESS.  I don't dry roast my spices for reasons listed here. I'll include instructions for roasting whole spices if you are one of those sorts who simply must dry roast though.

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Ingredients:
2&1/2 TBS ground green cardamom/elaichi
2 TBS ground cinnamon or cassia/dalchini (or four 2 inch pieces of cassia bark/cinnamon sticks)
2 TBS ground black peppercorns/kali mirch
2 TBS ground cumin/jeera
1&1/2 TBS star anise/chakra phool
1 TBS ground cloves/laung

Here's what to do:

For raw/unroasted garam masala- 
Coarsely grind all spices until roughly the texture of coffee grounds. Traditionally a mortar and pestle or "sil batta" was used to get this texture. Garam masala is not supposed to be like that finely ground powdery stuff you see sold at stores. To get the traditional texture we're looking for use the pulse button on your mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder until you get the desired results. If you are using a coffee grinder or small mixie jar you might want to grind each spice separately in batches to get a consistent texture. Breaking the cassia bark (or cinnamon sticks) into smaller pieces before grinding helps also. Store in an airtight container out of sunlight or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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Two methods to dry roast garam masala-

Traditional- 
1) Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or tawa for 7-10 minutes.
2) Dry roast spices one at a time in batches, or toss all spices in and stir frequently until spices give off a fragrant aroma.
3) Allow to cool completely. Grind coarsely using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight or in freezer for up to 3 months.
(The problem with this traditional method is that the temperature isn't really even over a tawa on a gas flame &and some spices may scorch while others remain unroasted. Cumin usually roasts faster than the other spices and when burned has an unpleasant bitter flavor.  Roasting spices separately reduces the risk of scorching but is tedious. Why do South Asians still do use traditional tawa method? Because most South Asians do not have any sort of oven in their homes.)

Fast & easy oven method-
1) Preheat oven to 220F/100C.
2) Spread all spices over 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake spices for 10 minutes.
3) Allow to cool completely and grind coarsely using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight  or in freezer for up to 3 months.

Feb 15, 2017

Kohinoor Chicken Curry

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From the royal courts of the ancient Mughals comes this recipe for a rich chicken curry. First, the chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices which will render it moist and flavorsome. The marinated chicken pieces are then slowly simmered until tender in a creamy gravy lavishly laced with traditional spices. Truly a regal dish that requires far less effort than you might think to prepare!

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This is one of those creamy, rich, ultra-posh Mughal dish with all the "bells and whistles" so popular around Delhi. The long list of ingredients does look quite daunting, but I've broken it down and simplified the steps so it's really not that difficult! It is also a great recipe for any special occasion as most of the preparation can be done a day in advance. A word of warning though, this chicken curry is VERY spicy. This isn't one of those bland, timid Mughlai recipes relying mostly on butterfat and cream for it's flavor. There's definitely a lot of spice and heat going on here, but it is masterfully blended to perfection. So if you're looking for a chicken curry recipe with bold, vibrant, IN YOUR FACE flavor - this is it!

Ingredients:
1kg/2lbs chicken, skinless and cut into 8 pieces, bone in preferred
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
1 C onions, thinly sliced into half moons
3 tomatoes, diced finely or pureed
2 C water or stock/shorba
1 TBS dried mint (optional for garnish)
Grind to smooth paste for masala:
1 TBS coriander/dhania
2 tsp cumin/jeera
9 cloves/laung
12 black peppercorns/kali mirch
7 green cardamoms/elaichi
1 inch piece cassia bark/dalchini, broken into small pieces
1 TBS water
Grind until smooth for marinade:
1 C full fat yogurt
1/2 tsp flour/maida (this will keep the yogurt from splitting)
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
3-4 green chilis/hari mirch
1/4 C almonds/badaami, ground finely (or coconut cream)*
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
2 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind almonds to fine powder in mixie, food processor, or blender. Grind powdered almonds and all ingredients listed for marinade to smooth paste in a mixie, foods or blender. Coat each piece of chicken in marinade. Place chicken and marinade in airtight, sealable container and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

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2) When ready to cook, heat oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai for 5 minutes. While oil is heating grind spices with water as listed for masala in mixie, food processor, or blender and set aside. Add thinly sliced onions to hot oil and fry for 5 to 7 minutes or until just beginning to brown. 

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3) Add diced or pureed tomatoes and ground spices for masala to the fried onions, stir well, and fry for 5 minutes or until oil separates from the mixture.


4) Add marinated chicken pieces to fried onion mixture in pan. Reserve marinade. Cook chicken pieces for 2 minutes on each side. Add reserved marinade and 2C water or stock/shorba. Stir well.

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5) Bring the dish to a simmer covered over medium heat. Stir well every 5 minutes turning the chicken pieces to be sure they cook evenly. The dish is ready when the chicken is cooked through, about half the liquid has evaporated, and the oil separates from the gravy. This usually takes 20 to 25 minutes.  Salt to taste, garnish with dried mint if desired and serve!

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Helpful hints:
For persons suffering peanut or nut allergies a good substitute for ground almonds is canned coconut cream. (Persons suffering peanut and tree nut sensitivity can usually safely eat coconut.)

Lithograph dated 1844 from the online gallery of the British Library depicting the Maharaja Ranjit Singh's jewels including the famed Kohinoor diamond (top center). Maharaja Ranjit Singh extorted the Kohinoor diamond from the Emir of Afghanistan in 1813. The lithograph also portrays one of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's favorite horses shown with the head officer of his stables.
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