Baingan Bharta (with green onions)

How many of you all like Eggplant/ Aubergine or Brinjal – as it is popularly known in India? I am sure there are many of you who have a love-hate relationship with this vegetable (errrr…I think its a fruit technically…..but that is an another topic for discussion). Same is the case with my husband. On days when I make some simple sabji using baby eggplants and potato, he will compensate it by having lots of pickle or papad or salad on the side with roti……hahahaha. But fortunately Baingan Bharta (oh by the way…baingan means eggplant in Hindi) or roasted eggplant stir fry is an exception. In fact he even enjoys Baba ghanoush a lot (its a Mediterranean dip made with broiled/roasted eggplant and tahini) which is some what similar to Baingan Bharta. I think its the smoky flavor of the roasted eggplant that gives both these dishes a unique flavor. So even in baingan bharta the eggplant is roasted until its tender and charred to perfection. The smoky flavor is what makes Baingan Bharta so irresistibly yummy. I love eggplants especially Baingan Bharta, its my absolute favorite.

 
Baingan bharta originated in the state of Punjab, India. However it is very popular all across India and there are many different versions of it. In this post I will be sharing my version which happens to be my mothers version and that involves the use of green onions or spring onions. I am sure this version is also very common but this is how we make it at home most of the time. If you don’t have green onions or simply want to make it without green onions, skip it and simply follow the rest of the recipe.    

After living in US for over 4 years now, I have noticed that the type of eggplant that you buy makes a lot of difference. I have tried the large American eggplants previously for this recipe but trust me it doesn’t work. The large eggplants in my opinion are less flavorful, thick skinned and take a lot of time to cook. Moreover it cooks very unevenly and the skin doesn’t come of easily after roasting. I usually look for smaller eggplants, here they are labeled as Italian eggplants and these are the best kinds for preparing Baingan Bharta. They are far more tastier than the larger eggplants, thin skinned and takes a lot less time to cook. So next time whenever you are planning to make this dish lookout for eggplants that are smaller in size, has smooth shiny skin and the stem is nice green in color and not brown. On that note, lets checkout the recipe.

Ingredients:

Serves 2 people

2 medium sized eggplants
1 medium sized onion – chopped
1 small to medium sized tomato -chopped
2 – 3 stalks of spring onion or green onions – chopped (greens and whites separated)
1 tsp of garlic grated/paste
1 tsp of ginger grated/paste
1/4 tsp of turmeric powder
1/2 tsp of red chili powder/kashmiri chili powder
1 tsp of coriander powder
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1/4 tsp of garam masala (optional)
1 – 2 tbsp of oil
Salt to taste
Cilantro/Coriander leaves for garnishing
Feel free to adjust the spice level as per your liking. 

Method:

1) Wash and wipe the eggplants. Apply little oil all over the eggplant and place it on the gas stove for roasting. You can do this by directly placing it on the open flame or placing it on a wire rack like the one I have in the pic. Keep turning the eggplant after every 1 to 2 mins. It will not take more than 15 mins to roast the eggplants completely. Check if they are cooked completely by inserting a knife. If the knife goes in very easily then they are done. Remove from the wire rack and place them in a bowl and close it with a lid. I feel that this additional step helps in retaining the smoky flavor.
Note: You can also bake or broil the eggplants in the oven. I have tried baking, it doesn’t give the same smoky flavor. But you can give broiling a try. 
2) Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, start peeling of the skin and cut of the stem. All that you will be left with will be the soft inner flesh. Roughly chop with a knife or simply use a fork to mash them (see pic) and keep it aside.
3) Heat oil in a non stick pan, once hot add cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add chopped onions and white part of green onions. Cook the onions on a medium flame till they are translucent and cooked through. Then add the grated ginger and garlic and sauté for few seconds till the raw smell goes away. Add the chopped tomatoes sauté for few mins followed by adding all the spices which is turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder and salt to taste. Cook this masala until the masalas are fragrant and tomatoes are mashed.
4) Now add the mashed eggplant to the masala and mix nicely. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on a low – medium flame for around 5- 8 mins. Open the lid and add the final ingredient that is the chopped greens of the green onions. Mix and let it cook for another 2 – 3 mins. Check and adjust salt and finish of with very little garam masala powder (optional) and switch off the flame. And finally garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander leaves.

Serve hot with phulkas or rotis/chapatis.

So until next time…..Happy Cooking 😊

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Ever since I tried the roasted bell pepper soup from Trader Joe’s (a grocery store here is US) few years back, I had instantly fallen in love with the flavor and the simplicity of the soup. Believe it or not my first experience of this soup was right out of a tetra pak carton 😛. Its quite amazing how just the roasting procedure gives such a boost of flavor to the the peppers and the soup.
So today I will be sharing my version of roasted red bell pepper soup. The first time I made this soup I had included tomatoes as well but somehow I didn’t like the addition of tomatoes or I think I may have added a little too much tomatoes as compared to red bell peppers.  So this time around I made the soup only with red bell peppers and skipped the tomatoes and kept it very simple using very few ingredients. I also have not added any kind of cream in this soup. The end product in itself is so creamy that you will not need cream at all. This soup is perfect for this weather with the warm smoky taste of the red bell peppers and its beautiful creamy texture. Top it off with any of your favorite soup toppings or with some garlic croutons.

This is a small recipe and serves 2 -3 people.

Ingredients:

3 large red bell peppers
1 medium onion chopped
1/3 cup of chopped carrots
3 – 4 cloves of garlic minced
3 cups of low sodium chicken stock/vegetable stock
1/4 tsp of smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp of chili powder
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 – 3 tsp of oil
Croutons and cilantro leaves for garnishing

For variation in flavor you can also use fresh thyme, bay leaf and or basil.

1) First step is roasting the bell peppers. This is the only time consuming part of this recipe. There are 3 ways in which you can roast the bell peppers.
Stove top: You can roast the bell peppers on the stove top by placing it directly on the gas burner (just like the way we roast eggplants for baingan bharta). Roast and the keep on rotating till the all the sides of the bell pepper has blisters all over and is charred.
In the oven: Pre heat the oven to 500F (260C). Simply wash the bell peppers cut them in half deseed and remove the core. Toss and coat them in little oil and place them cut side down on to a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 25 to 30 mins until they form blisters. Another way is you can place the whole bell pepper on to the baking sheet and put it the oven for 30 – 35 mins.
You can also roast the peppers on a grill if you have one.
So far I have tried the first two methods, stove top and in the oven. Personally I think it is much more easy and less time consuming when they are roasted in the oven.

1) Pre heat the oven to 500F (260C). Wash and wipe the bell peppers. Coat them with little oil and put them on a baking sheet (I did not cut them) and place the baking sheet on second from the top rack of the oven. Set the timer to 30-35 mins and remember to keep turning the bell peppers every 10mins with the help of tongs so that they are roasted evenly.

2) Once they are nicely roasted remove them from the baking sheet and place them in bowl and cover the bowl with a cling wrap or lid and let it rest for 10 – 15mins or until they are warm enough to handle. This process will help to peel of the skin of the peppers very easily.
3) After 15mins or so remove the peppers from the bowl. Cut them in half deseed and remove the core. And then start to peel off the skin. Repeat this procedure with the remaining two peppers.
4) Once all the peppers are cut, deseeded, cored and peeled, roughly chop them and keep them aside. Also do not throw away the liquid that oozes out during this process.
5) In a stock pot or a heavy bottomed pot heat up oil. I used my everyday cooking oil but you can also use olive oil or even butter. Once hot add the minced garlic and cook it on a low to medium flame for few seconds. Now add the onions and saute them for a min. Now add the chopped carrots. Cook until the onions are translucent.
6) Add the smoked paprika and chili powder and saute for few mins. Now add the chopped cilantro and saute. Finally add the roasted red bell peppers with its juice and saute for a min or two. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7) Finally add the chicken stock or vegetable stock. Let it simmer on a low to medium flame for about 15 mins. Check for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if required. Switch off the flame and remove the pot from the stove.
8) Now if you have an immersion blender or hand blender you can blend the soup right inside the pot. If you don’t have an immersion blender then blend the soup in batches in your normal countertop blender. Before you start blending the soup keep it aside for a while to cool down a bit. Do not try to blend the mixture when its too hot.

You have to be very careful while blending. DO NOT fill the blender more than half else your soup will be over the kitchen. Use a kitchen towel to hold the blender and the lid to save your hands from the steam. Also here is a tip, initially give it a few pulses then open the lid and let the steam out. This way there will be less vacuum created because of the steam. Do this a couple of times and then go ahead  and blend the soup until it looks smooth and creamy. Remember to blend the soup in small batches.

9) Transfer the soup again to the pot and reheat as required. Check again for seasoning.
Serve hot with you favorite soup toppings or simply with some croutons. I quickly made some homemade croutons with some left over multigrain bread by using some butter, minced garlic and grated parmesan.

Kothimbir Vadi (Cilantro/Coriander Fritters)

Hello all!!!!! Today I will be sharing the recipe of an Indian snack which brings back fond memories of Mumbai.  😃
Being born and raised in Mumbai and surrounded by Maharashtrian friends had its perks cause I got to eat some delicious food. I love love Maharashtrian food, be it vada pav, misal pav, komdi vade, puran poli, sabudana vada, kande pohe or just the plain old amti bhaat. And Kothimbir Vadi is one such favorite Maharashtrian snack item of mine. Kothimbir Vadi or Cilantro/Coriander Fritters is a popular Maharashtrian snack and I absolutely love munching this with a cup of hot ginger chai. There is an old bakery near my home in India which makes delicious Kothimbir vadis and this used to be one of the regular evening snack at my house and I made sure I grabbed some hot hot vadis on my way back home from college.
Kothimbir Vadis are made using lots of cilantro/coriander leaves, gram flour and spices which is then steam cooked, cut and then shallow fried or deep fried. Kothimbir is the Marathi word for cilantro or coriander leaves. These crispy crunchy fritters are gluten free and can be a healthy snack if it is just pan fried rather than deep fried. My mother in law taught me how to prepare these yummy vadis. This recipe has the perfect amount of cilantro and gram flour. There are other ways of making these vadis which calls for more gram flour in comparison to the cilantro leaves and a batter is made rather than a dough which is then steamed. But I like it this way since the flavor of cilantro/coriander stands out and also has the perfect balance of gram flour (besan). Did you know that cilantro is an amazing herb with a number of health benefits? If you want to know more about this wonderful herb do checkout this very informative article by Oiling Point.

So now lets check out the recipe. 💁

Ingredients:

3 – 4 bunch of cilantro leaves/coriander leaves washed (roughly 4 cups)
2 cups of gram flour (besan)
1 tsp of green chili crushed
1 – 2 tsp of grated ginger
1-1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp of coriander powder
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
2 tbsp of roasted peanut powder (optional)
2 tsp of sesame seeds
Salt to taste
2 – 3 tbsp of water or as required
Oil for pan frying or shallow frying

Method:

1) Separate the cilantro leaves from its stem. Wash thoroughly and squeeze out all the excess water. Spread them onto and paper towel. Pat dry and let it air dry for sometime.
2) Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and add it to a big bowl. To the chopped cilantro leaves add crushed green chili, grated ginger, cumin seeds, chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, roasted peanut powder (if you are allergic or do not like peanut this is optional) and salt to taste. Mix everything nicely and keep it side for 5 mins.
3) Now start adding the gram flour to the chopped cilantro mixture little at a time (approx half a cup at a time) and start kneading with your hands. If you feel the mixture is dry and needs water add very little at a time around 1 tsp or so and keep kneading until you use up 2 cups of gram flour (besan) and the mixture forms a soft dough. (As shown in the pic below)
4) Apply oil to your hands and carefully divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal balls. Make logs out of the balls (As shown in the picture below). I made 3 logs since my steamer is small in size and can only fit 2 at time. Also keep in mind that the logs will expand a little when steaming.
5) Get you steamer ready with water. I used Idli steamer for this. Once the water is boiling place the cilantro logs into the steamer plate and stem cook them for 15 – 20 minutes or till they are completely cooked.
6) Remove the cilantro logs from the steamer and let them cool completely.
7) Once cooled cut them into small discs.
8) And then pan fry, shallow fry or deep fry these discs as desired. I pan fried them with 2 – 3 tbsp of oil.
Serve hot with ketchup or green chutney and enjoy these crispy yummy fritters with your evening cup of hot chai or coffee.

Chapli Kebab (Spicy and Succulent Flat Chicken Kebabs)

Kebabs!!!! Delicious, succulent and juicy meat so tender that it melts in your mouth with every bite 😌. It is every non- vegetarians favorite at any given time. Same goes with me. There are so many varieties and recipes out there when it comes to kebabs and I realized this only after coming to US. Yup!!!!That’s right…Its only after moving to US that I have gotten the opportunity to explore so many cuisines from different parts of the world. It was on one such outing with hubs when I came across “Chapli Kebab” at a Bangladeshi restaurant in Queens. 

Chapli kebab is a pashtun styled flat, patty like kebab traditionally made from ground beef but you can also find variations which uses minced mutton, lamb or chicken. The one I had at the restaurant was made of chicken. The word “chapli” is derived from the pashto word “chaprdikh” or “chaprdit” which means flat hence the name. You can eat it as is with some chutney or pair with hot naan. I think this kebab will make an excellent patty for burgers.
So after trying out the delicious chapli kebab made of chicken at this restaurant, I knew that I had to give this one a try at home. Usually these kebabs are made of ground beef but instead I used minced chicken. After some online research and trial recipes at home, I think I finally have the recipe that tastes very much close to what I had in the restaurant 😊. These are fairly easy to make at home and can be served as a very delicious appetizer for parties and get togethers.

Makes around 16 – 18 medium sized kebabs

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound ground chicken (I used chicken thigh as it makes very tender and juicy kebabs)
1 medium sized onion chopped finely (place it on a paper towel to remove any excess liquid)
1 medium sized tomatoes chopped
1 small green chili chopped
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1- 1/2 tsp of garlic grated/paste
1- 1/2 tsp of ginger grated/paste
1 – 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Oil for shallow frying

For the masala:
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tbsp of coriander seeds
1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
2 small black cardamoms
6 – 7 cloves
5 – 6 black peppercorns
1 tsp of crushed pomegranate seeds (anardana)
1/2 tsp of red chili powder
1 tsp of dry red chili flakes

Adjust the chili powder and chili flakes as per you liking. This recipe will make medium spicy kebabs.

Method:
1) Dry roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds for few minutes until it gives out a nice aroma. Once done set this aside to cool.
2) In a spice grinder add the roasted cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and grind it to a coarse powder. Try to grind the coriander seeds separately to keep it a bit more coarser in texture than rest of the masala. And then mix it with the rest of the masala.
3) In a bowl add the minced chicken. To this add the chopped onion, green chili, ginger and garlic paste, the prepared masala, crushed pomegranate seeds, red chili powder, red chili flakes, the beaten egg, chopped cilantro and salt. Add the tomatoes later on. Mix everything together until nicely combined.
4) Let the minced chicken marinate in the masala for 1/2 hour to an hour. Add the tomatoes towards the end and mix right before you are about to make the kebabs. We are doing this so that the liquid from the tomatoes do not make the kebab mixture too mushy.
5) Heat enough oil in a wide frying pan for shallow frying the kebabs. Make sure it has a lid as these kebabs do splutter while cooking. I used a non-stick frying pan and so didn’t use too much oil for frying. You know trying to be healthy and all. 😜
6) Once the oil is hot start making the kebabs. Wet your hands with very little water and take a handful of the kebab mixture place it in your palm. Press gently to make a patty and make it as flat as possible and then carefully place in the oil for shallow frying. (I usually do not make it too big and keep it medium sized. But do remember the size of the kebab will shrink after cooking. So make it as big as you want to). Also I always make one small kebab at the start and then give it taste test for seasoning. 
7) Cook the kebab on a medium flame. Let the kebab cook on one side till it turns golden brown. Flip  and turn the kebab to cook the other side and cook until its nicely browned and completely cooked. Use the lid to cover the pan to avoid all the splutter. Make kebabs in the same way with the rest of the mixture and once done place it on a paper towel to remove any excess oil before serving.
Serve hot with yogurt and cilantro chutney or with hot naan or buns and salad of your choice.
Do give this a try and let me know in comments below.

 Till then Happy Cooking 😀.

Hot Cocoa Recipe

Winter is here and the temperature outside is quickly dropping with each passing day😩. Gosh I can’t believe this year is over already!!!!. With cloudy skies and a gloomy weather these days, all I want to do is make a cup of hot cocoa and curl up on my sofa with a blanket and good book or binge watch Netflix 😝 . Yes!!!! It is that time of the year when you see jars of ready cocoa mix in every grocery store and almost every coffee shop selling hot cocoa. And you know what you don’t have to buy ready cocoa mix always. Why?? Because it is very simple and easy to make your own hot cocoa at home. 

Hot cocoa is one delicious hot beverage that is loved by children and adults equally. It is an instant remedy for the harsh winters. I have noticed that at many places hot cocoa is sold as hot chocolate and both the names are used interchangeably quite often. On the contrary, both of them are different. Hot cocoa is mixture of cocoa powder, sugar and milk flavored with vanilla and some other spices like cinnamon. While hot chocolate is literally chocolate that is melted with the help of little hot water, milk or cream. So hot chocolate is much more rich, thick in consistency and decadent that hot cocoa :P. It will be impossible for me to finish off a cup full of hot chocolate…that will be a little too much for me hahaha….but hot cocoa, ohhh that definitely I can..on second thoughts I can even finish off 2 cups if I want to 😏. 
Hot cocoa is very very easy to make at home. And I am quite sure you might already have all of the ingredients available in your kitchen right now.  So in this post I will be sharing the two methods (stove top and microwave) that I use to make a quick cup of hot cocoa at home.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup of half-and-half or 1 tbsp of heavy cream (optional)
1 tbsp of dark chocolate chips or semi sweet chocolate chips – add more if you like 😜
1/4 tsp of vanilla extract

Stove top Method:
1) In a saucepan add the cocoa powder and sugar. Gradually mix in the milk and half-and-half using a wire whisk. Cook and keep on stirring the mixture on low to medium heat. Initially the cocoa powder will be floating on top. Cook till the mixture is nicely combined and thoroughly heated but do not boil it. 
Some recipe calls for adding hot water to cocoa and sugar and then adding milk. I avoid this step. It doesn’t taste rich enough and tastes a bit watery which I don’t like. 🙁
2) Switch of the flame and add the chocolate chips and stir it with the wire whisk until all the chocolate chips are completely melted and the mixture looks smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir. 
Hot cocoa is ready to be served. Top it of with fluffy marshmallows or whipped cream, shaved chocolate or chocolate syrup and enjoy while its hot. 😋 😋 

Microwave method:

Simply divide the cocoa powder, sugar and chocolate chips into two microwaveable safe mugs. Add very little water or milk about 1 to 2 tsp or so. Microwave for 10 secs. Remove and stir the mixture until smooth (if the chocolate chips are not melted microwave for another 5 secs). Now add the milk and microwave for 1 min to 1 and 1/2 mins or until the mixture is nice and hot. Stir in the vanilla extract and serve hot. 
Thats it. Your delicious hot cocoa is ready to be served. This recipe serves two. Double the recipe as required. This recipe works good even without half- and- half. If you want it to be a bit on the lighter side you can use only whole milk. If you are calorie conscious use fat free milk and fat free half-and-half instead.  

So until next time….Happy Holidays!!!! 😀

Avocado Basil Pesto Pasta

When it comes to eating pasta, basil pesto is by far my favorite as compared to tomato sauce. There is something about the fragrant basil leaves that makes me want to it more and more :P. Moreover this sauce is super easy to put together. You can easily make this sauce while your pasta is being cooked which saves a lot of cooking time, so bonus points for that. 

The use of basil pesto sauce is not limited only to pasta but can also be used as a sandwich spread and also as a pizza base. The traditional basil pesto recipe calls for lots of basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese and I absolutely love love the flavor. But what makes me even more happy is the fact that it can be given a healthier twist without compromising the taste. So when I came across avocado basil pesto recipe I knew I had to try it. Avocado works beautifully as a healthy substitute for parmesan cheese. It not only adds a wonderful creamy texture to the pasta but also tastes awesome. So on days when I lean more towards eating healthy, avocado basil pesto is always my go to sauce for pasta. 
 Serves – 2 
Ingredients:
For the pesto:
1 ripe avocado 
1 bunch of basil leaves (1.5 oz)
1/4th cup of walnuts 
2 cloves of garlic 
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp of lemon juice (or adjust as per taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
This recipe will yield somewhere around 3/4 cup of sauce
For the Pasta:
Roughly 3 – 4 cups of organic whole wheat fusilli (approximately 9- 10 oz)
1 small onion chopped
3/4 cup of chopped button mushrooms 
1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper 
1 cup of spinach leaves
1 clove of garlic chopped (optional)
1 – 2 tsp of olive oil for sautéing the veggies 
Salt and pepper to taste 

You can add any veggies of your liking or simply skip the veggies and make the pasta only using the sauce. I didn’t have any chicken breasts but if you do have it then I would highly recommend adding it. 
Note: This sauce will stay good for a week in the refrigerator if stored properly. Place a cling wrap/plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce (to avoid browning of the sauce due to avocado) and store it in an air tight container in the refrigerator. 
Method:
1) In a stock pot or sauce pan boil water, add salt and cook the pasta till al dente as per package instructions. Strain the pasta and reserve around 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. 
2) In a food processor add walnuts, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Give it a few pulse until it looks coarse in texture but is combined. Scrape of the sides of the bowl while doing this. 
3) Scoop out the flesh of the avocado with help of a spoon and add it to the food processor. Also add the extra virgin olive oil and again give a few pulse until everything is nicely combined. Set this aside. 
4)  In a sauté pan add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add garlic and onions and cook till the onions are translucent. Now add the rest of the veggies, salt and pepper. Sauté until the veggies are cooked. 
5) Now add around 3 – 4 tbsp of the avocado pesto sauce (or add as much as you like :P). Stir it with the veggies. And then add half a cup of the pasta water. Finally add the cooked pasta and toss everything together and cook for a min so that all the flavors come together. 
Thats it. Yummy pasta is ready to be served. I also added a bit of chili flakes for a little spice :P. 

Karanji (Diwali Special Recipe)

Diwali, the festival of lights, is right around the corner and it is certainly incomplete without this sweet snack item called Karanji. Karanji, as known in Maharashtra, is made along with other Diwali snack items like chiwda, besan ladoo, rava ladoo and chakli all across India. But I personally feel that it is the star item amongst all. Karanji is a deep fried pastry which has a slightly crispy flaky outer covering and a sweet stuffing that is made with dry coconut, sugar and dry fruits. Its super delicious and totally addictive. Karanji is also known as Gujiya in North India, Kajjikayalu, Karchikai in South India and is made with different stuffings. Apart from Diwali this sweet snack is also made during the festival of Holi and Ganesh Chaturthi.
Oh how I miss celebrating this beautiful and colorful festival In India. You will see each house decorated with lights, flowers, lamps (kandils), the sweet smell of clarified butter/ghee emanating from every household, beautiful rangolis welcoming everyone at the doorstep and of course the constant noise of fire crackers in every neighborhood :P. As per tradition neighbors exchange sweets and snacks with each other in a beautifully decorated plate and that is how we always ended up with loads and loads of Diwali sweets including lots of Karanjis at our home :D. Don’t ask me how many I would gobble down at a given time…hahahaha….
The recipe I am sharing today is the Maharashtrian Karanji recipe. Traditionally in Maharashtrian Karnaji the outer pastry cover is made in layers which needs a little practice but I will be sharing the other method which is easier and most commonly used.

This recipe makes around 10 – 12 Karanjis
Recipe adapted from Ruchkar Mejwani and Madhuras Recipe.
Ingredients:
For the outer cover/pastry:
1 cup of all purpose flour
2 tbsp of semolina/rava
1 tbsp of clarified butter/ ghee
1/2 cup of warm milk (or as required)
Salt to taste
For the filling:
1 cup of grated and roasted dry coconut
1/2 cup of semolina/rava (fine quality)
1/2 cup of confectioners sugar/powdered sugar
1 tsp of poppy seeds/khus khus
Chopped dry fruits of your choice. I used almonds and pistachios
1 tsp of cardamom powder/ elaichi powder
A pinch of nutmeg powder/ jaifal powder
1 1/2 tbsp of ghee
Oil for deep frying
Method:
For the outer cover/pastry for karanji:
1) Start with making the dough for the outer cover or pastry. In a bowl add the all purpose flour, semolina and salt to taste. Mix nicely.
2) Heat up the clarified butter and add this to the batter. It should sizzle when added. Mix the ghee thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients.
3) Now start adding the milk in parts and begin to knead the dough. I ended up using a little less that half a cup of milk. Do not add a lot of milk at a time. The dough needs to be somewhat stiff and not too soft.
4) Knead the dough till it looks smooth. Cover it with a moist cloth and keep it aside for 15 – 20 mins.
For the filling:
1) Heat up ghee in a pan. Now add the semolina/rava and roast it on a low to medium flame till it turns light brown in color. This will take around 7 – 8mins.
2) Now add the poppy seeds and roast it for a minute followed by pre roasted grated dry coconut. Roast it for a few minutes. I didn’t pre roast the dry coconut so roasted it for a little longer than required.
3) Now add the chopped dry fruits, cardamom powder and nutmeg powder and saute for a minute. Switch off the gas and remove the mixture into a bowl. To this now add the powdered sugar and mix well. I found half a cup of sugar sufficient. Give it a taste test and add more as per your requirement.
Assembling and frying the karanjis:
1) Take the dough and knead it once again for a min. Now make a big log or 2 small logs of the dough and cut it in 10 – 12 equal portions. Make small balls of it and keep it covered with a moist cloth at all times.
2) Now take one ball and press it between your palm and flatten it and start to roll the ball in 5 – 6 inches in diameter. Dust the board with dry flour if required.
3) Now add around a tbsp of the stuffing only in the centre of the rolled dough. Do not add too much stuffing or else you will not be able to shape and close the karanji properly.
4) Apply water or milk on the entire edge of the circle and then carefully fold one side and bring it to meet the other side of the circle.
5) Now gently press the edges to seal it completely. Cut off any excess if needed with a pizza cutter. In India we get a specific cutter for karanjis. If you have that then cut the edges with it and you are done.
6) Otherwise you can also shape the edges with pinch and fold method or simply design it by pressing a fork on the edges. (As shown in the below pictures).  I am still learning the pinch and fold method so its not perfect. 😛

6) Repeat this procedure with rest of the dough. Meanwhile in a saucepan or kadai heat up enough oil to deep fry the karanjis. Many people also fry the karanjis in clarified butter. So if you want to then by all means go for it :D.
7) Fry the karanjis on low heat. The karanjis puff up while frying so avoid adding too many karanjis at a time. Add only 2 to 3 at a time. Also do not rush with the frying procedure. The slower the frying time the crispier the karanji. Make sure that the oil is not too hot else the karnajis will brown quickly and the outer cover will remain raw. Fry the karanjis till it is lightly golden brown.
8) Place the fried karanjis into a plate with a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.
9) Let the karanjis cool completely and then transfer them into an airtight container. They will stay good for a few weeks if stored properly.

 

I hope you liked this recipe.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy and safe Diwali. 🙂 

Banana Sheera made with Jaggery

Food is an integral part of our life. I am sure that for many of us it is not just something that satiates our hunger, but also the feeling of nostalgia that comes along with it. Sometimes it just amazes me how the taste and smell of a certain food/dish instantly connects you to an old memory and everything just comes rushing back to you. 
Banana sheera also popularly known as “prasadacha sheera” from the state of Maharashtra is one such dish that brings back fond memories of my childhood. As the name suggests, this special and sweet delicacy is made as a holy offering to God during Satyanarayan puja and on various other auspicious occasions. And that is how I ate this sweet delicacy for the very first time as a child at a temple situated near our building in Mumbai, Maharashtra. I don’t remember what age I was exactly at that time, but I vividly remember me, my sister and my friends going to the temple every Thursday for special prayers. For me it was like part of my childhood routine. School in the afternoon, playing in the evening and then going to the temple with friends every Thursdays for prayers. The people at the temple used to make different kinds of prasad on Thursdays and one of it was prasadacha sheera. And it was one of the things that I used to eagerly look forward to after the prayers :P. 

The original dish of prasadacha sheera is very simple and has very few ingredients yet is very very rich and delicious. This melt in your mouth dish is made with semolina, clarified butter/ghee, bananas, milk and sugar. The secret for its yumminess lies in the fact that you add equal amount of semolina, sugar and clarified butter/ghee. Hmmmmmmmm……sighhhhhh.
However unlike my childhood days, I now avert from anything that is too sweet. I guess for most of the people this will be the perfect amount of sweetness but for me its a bit too much and same goes for my husband. It goes without saying that nothing compares to the deliciousness of the original recipe.

Having said that I still crave for this sweet delicacy every now and then. And yesterday I decided to give in to my cravings and that is when I remembered my mother in law telling me about how we can make sheera using jaggery. My mother in law visited us few months back and I remember how we were discussing about making sheera using jaggery but never ended up making it. 

So I decided to make it a little healthier by substituting sugar with jaggery and reducing the amount of clarified butter/ghee. So my version is a little less sweet, a little less rich and dairy free. :P.
I know…. I knoww…….its not the original version… I wanted to eat a good bowlful of it without feeling guilty so thought why not give this healthy twist a try. Since I ran out of milk I used water instead. And it turned out to be yummmyyyy.  Do try this dish when you want to opt for a healthier option. 😛 😛
Serves 3 – 4
Ingredients:
1 cup of semolina/rava (fine quality)
3/4 cup of jaggery/gur (shaved or grated)
2 -3 tbsp of clarified butter/ghee 
1 large banana or 2 medium sized bananas (I used two small- medium sized bananas)
2 cups of water 
1 tsp of cardamom powder/elaichi powder
Few raisins and halved cashew nuts as per your liking
Method:

1) Heat a non stick tawa or pan. Add the clarified butter/ghee. Once the ghee is hot roast the cashew nuts and raisins. Roast till the cashews turn brown and the raisins are plump. Remove them and keep them aside.

2) Roughly chop or mash the bananas and keep them aside.

3) In the same ghee add the semolina/rava and roast it on a slow flame for around 10 minutes till it gives out a nice aroma and turns light brown. This way the rava will be evenly cooked. Do not roast the rava on a medium or high flame else it will burn quickly and will remain raw. I have roasted the rava till it was light brown but you can roast it further till it turns a little deep brown color.

4) Meanwhile heat two cups of water in a saucepan. Once hot add the jaggery and let it melt on a low to medium flame.

5) Once the semolina/rava is nicely roasted and turns light brown in color add the mashed bananas and cardamom/elaichi powder and mix everything nicely.

6) Finally add the water with diluted jaggery through a seive (to remove any impurities from the jaggery) and the cashews and raisins. Mix thoroughly so that there are no lumps.

7) Mix and cook until the semolina absorbs all the water and starts leaving the sides of the pan.

Delicious banana sheera is ready. Serve warm. 🙂

Khatte Teekhe Aloo (Tangy and Spicy Potatoes)

Potatoes/Batate/Aloo whatever you like to call it, is that one ingredient which is always available in my pantry and I am quite sure that is the case with most of us. Potato is such a delicious, versatile and easy to use ingredient and you can make so many varieties of dishes with it mashed potatoes, hash browns, stew, indian sabzis, stuffing for parathas, french fries, chips, baked potatoes, hasselback potatoes…the list is endless. “Batate ki sabzi” is my savior when I run out of all other vegetables 😛 :P.
Today I will be sharing a very simple recipe for baby potatoes which is jazzed up with chili some other spices and tamarind. There is no specific name for this dish so I am going to call it “khatte theeke aloo” which literally means “tangy and spicy potatoes”. This is a very common and popular ramadan snack dish at my in-laws place. And no prizes for guessing on how I got the recipe :P. However this potato dish can be enjoyed any time of the year and can be devoured as a side as well. The recipe is so easy that you simply cannot go wrong with it.
Serves 3 – 4
Ingredients:
Baby potatoes – around 600 – 700gms (If you cannot find baby potatoes just use the regular white or gold potatoes)
1 to 2 tbsp tbsp of oil
1 – 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
2 – 1/2 tsp of chili/mirchi powder
1/2 tsp of cumin/jeera powder
1/2 tsp of coriander/dhania powder
1/3 cup of tamarind pulp (made my soaking the tamarind in warm water)
Salt to taste
You may increase or decrease the amount of tamarind and chili powder as per your liking.
Method:
1) Start off by washing the potatoes thoroughly. Add the potatoes in a stock pot and add enough water so that the potatoes are completely submerged. Add some salt and then cook the potatoes on a medium flame until they are nice and tender.
2) Once the potatoes are cooked transfer them into a colander and hold it under cold running water for few minutes. This will help stop further cooking of the potatoes. Once the potatoes are warm enough to handle, peel off the skins of all the potatoes. Cut them in half and keep them aside. You can keep them as whole also but make sure that you poke a few holes in them with the help of a fork or toothpick to ensure that all the goodness of the tempering is absorbed by the potatoes.
3) Now lets prepare the tempering. Heat oil in a saute pan. Once hot add the cumin seeds and let them splutter. Now to this add the tamarind pulp, chili powder, cumin powder and coriander powder. Saute this for a min and cook the spices until the oil starts to separate.
4) To this tempering add the halved potatoes and salt to taste. Mix everything together nicely so that all the potatoes are nicely coated with the spices. Close the pan with a lid and let the potatoes cook in the spicy tangy masala for around 4 – 5 mins.
5) Finish off by garnishing with chopped coriander/cilantro leaves.
Serve hot 🙂

Rava Besan Ladoo

Rava besan ladoo is a yummy melt in your mouth ladoo/dessert that doesn’t need any special introduction. This ladoo is very simple yet super delicious and is equally liked by kids as well as adults. Rava besan ladoo is a popular item on the menu in almost all Indian households during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali. I am sure everybody has their own methods and techniques of making this dessert and so today I will be sharing with you all my version that is passed on to me by my mother in law. 

This is a very easy recipe that requires very basic ingredients that are readily available in our pantry. 

Makes around 20 medium sized ladoos
Recipe Courtesy: Mother in law 🙂

Ingredients:

2 cups of Semolina/Rava (fine quality)
3/4 cup of Gram Flour/Chickpea Flour/Besan
1 cup of ghee/clarified butter (1/2 cup of ghee for roasting the semolina  and 1/2 cup of ghee for roasting the gram flour)
1 – 1/2 cups of sugar (I used the regular cane sugar – adjust sugar as per your preference)
1/2 tsp of cardomom/elaichi powder
1/2 tsp of jaifal/nutmeg powder
1 cup of water (for making sugar syrup)

Few raisins and cashewnuts cut into small pieces

Method:

1) In a not stick skillet or tava add 1/2 cup of ghee and once the ghee is hot add the semolina and roast it on a low flame. Keep on stirring it frequently so that the semolina is roasted evenly and doesn’t burn from the bottom. Roast semolina till it becomes nice golden in color. This will take anywhere around 20 – 25mins. Transfer the roasted semolina into a plate and keep this aside.
Remember that the semolina will brown quickly when roasted on a medium flame but it will not be cooked thoroughly and will be raw . So be a little patient and cook it on a low flame until you see it change color. 
2) In the same pan add the remaining half cup of ghee and once the ghee is hot add the gram flour /besan. Stir it nicely and roast it on a low flame till gives out a nice aroma and changes color to light brown. This will take around 10-15mins. Switch of the flame and keep this aside.
3) Now in a sauce pan add 1 cup of water and 2 – 1/2 cups of sugar. Keep this on a medium flame. Stir the sugar nicely. Let the sugar dissolve completely in the water. Once the sugar is completely dissolved let the sugar syrup come to a boil. Once it starts boiling let it boil for 1 minute. And then immediately switch off the flame.
Such kind of ladoo recipes requires something called as a one string consistency sugar syrup. However some people find it rather difficult to get this correctly. The above mentioned method is what my MIL follows and this method has never failed. This ladoo was prepared the same way. 
4) Now add the roasted semolina, roasted gram flour/besan, cardomom powder and nutmeg powder to the sugar syrup. Mix everything thoroughly. Keep this mixture aside for half an hour.
5) After half an hour the mixture will harden a bit. Break the lumps with a spatula or with hands evenly. At this point the mixture will be warm to touch.
Make sure that that the mixture is a little warm to touch while shaping the ladoos. Else they wont bind tightly and will crumble.  
6) Start shaping the ladoo by taking a handful of the mixture. Add a small piece of cashew in between the mixture and then start pressing it tightly between your palms and fingers. Keep doing it till you get a nice round shape ladoo. Use both hands if you find it difficult to make them using one hand. Do not fret if they are not perfectly round. :P.
7) Finally place a raisin on top of the ladoo and press it lightly. This step is optional. You can also mix the cashews and raisins in to the mixture and make ladoos.
8) Keep making the ladoos until the entire mixture is used up. This recipe will yield around 20 medium sized ladoos.
9) Transfer the ladoos in an air tight container. The ladoos will stay good for 8 – 10 days. Keep them in the refrigerator to increase the shelf life.

Wishing all my dear friends and blog readers a very Happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

Stay blessed everyone. 🙂