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Cover: Some like it hot

Less than 1 hour

01Oct 12

Kaju Burfi

Kaju BarfiKaju Burfi is a traditional Indian sweet made with cashew nuts. Perhaps because it is a bit expensive to produce, it is considered an exquisite gift. I love to give my friends and family home-made Kaju Burfi on Indian festivals. I have also been known to give it to my non-Indian friends for their birthdays.

One of the reasons Kaju Burfi is so dear is that it contains saffron. Each saffron flower has only three delicate red stigmas which have to be collected by hand, making this one of the most expensive spices in the world. But despite the high price, saffron is definitely worth springing for. It has a unique flavour that really has no substitute. As you know, I am always happy to suggest substitutions for the more exotic ingredients in some of my recipes. However, I just cannot think of any other spice that matches the flavour.

Saffron is what gives so many Indian sweets and desserts their exotic hint. The funny thing about this spice is that despite the fact that its delicate strands are red, it actually colours food yellow.

If you like this idea, have a whirl at my coconut burfi as well.

 

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Kaju Burfi
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
 
Kaju Burfi is a traditional Indian sweet made with cashew nuts.
Ingredients
  • 300g ground Cashew nuts
  • 200g Sugar
  • 600ml Milk
  • 200g Ghee
  • 1tsp Cardamom power
  • Pinch of Nutmeg
  • 3 strands of Saffron
  • 50g grated Coconut
  • 10g chopped Pistachios
Instructions
  1. Soak the cashew nuts in water for 15 minutes.
  2. Blend the cashew nuts finely in a blender on high together with the sugar and the milk.
  3. Heat up the ghee in a large pan.
  4. Add the cardamom power, nutmeg, saffron and grated coconut. Let cook on a low flame for 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Add in the cashew mix from the blender.
  6. Lower the flame and stir. It should become quite thick.
  7. Keep stirring until it thickens to the point that it is all in the centre of the pan.
  8. Remove from heat and put in a greased dish.
  9. Spread it out flat with a spatula.
  10. Let it set for 20 minutes.
  11. Cut into squares or rectangles, garnish with chopped pistachios and serve.

 

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18Sep 12

Shahi Paneer

Shahi PaneerShahi Paneer is a traditional dish that consists of cubes of paneer cheese in a thick, spicy gravy. There are many varieties, but my mother makes it with almonds, which I also have begun to do recently. Of course, I must warn you that this is not a dish that is low in calories. Creamy gravies are never light, and much less so with nuts added in! (Also try my palak paneer recipe.)

Cardamom is an essential spice that contributes to the exotic flavour of this tasty dish. This intense spice comes from the black or green veins of a plant in the ginger family. Because of its intense flavour and aroma, cardamom is one of the most frequently used spices in Indian cuisine

This recipe also calls for garam masala. There are many varieties of garam masala, which is a mix of spices that can contain up to 15 different ingredients. It is sold in speciality Indian food shops.

As I have mentioned before, if you are unable to find paneer cheese, you can substitute it with cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. Likewise, you may substitute ghee with regular butter.

Serve hot over basmati rice or with Naan bread.

Shahi Paneer
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Shahi Paneer is a traditional dish that consists of cubes of paneer cheese in a thick, spicy gravy.
Ingredients
  • 2tbsp Ghee
  • 1 Onion
  • 1cm piece Ginger
  • 2 Green Chilli Peppers
  • 2 Cardamoms
  • 5 Tomatoes
  • 100ml beaten Curd
  • 3tbsp Almond Paste
  • 100ml Water
  • ½tsp Garam Masala
  • 2tbsp plain Tomato Sauce
  • Pinch of Salt to taste
  • 100ml Milk
  • 250g Paneer cheese
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee in a large pot.
  2. Chop the onion, ginger and green chilli peppers and add to the pot. On medium heat, fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add in the cardamoms and fry for 2 more minutes.
  4. Chop the tomatoes and add in. Fry for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Slowly stir in the curd and almond paste and let cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Turn off the stove and stir in the water.
  7. Let cool.
  8. Blend with a hand blender and return the mix back into the pot.
  9. Add the garam masala, tomato sauce and salt and bring to the boil. When boiling, it should form a thick gravy.
  10. Chop the paneer cheese into 3cm by 3 cm cubes.
  11. Stir in the milk and cubes of paneer and boil for another 5 minutes.
  12. Serve.

 

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31Jul 12

Peas Pulao

Peas PulaoThis tasty vegetarian Peas Pulao can be served for lunch or dinner, as the main meal, or even as a side dish. The rice and peas make it quite substantial, so I usually serve it as the main course. (Also try this chicken risotto with green peas.)

According to my mother, who taught me how to cook this dish, the secret to preparing an unforgettable Peas Pulao is getting the right balance of spices. Not everyone puts garlic in their Peas Pulao, but my mother insists on it. She says it balances out the rice nicely. My personal favourite spice to go with basmati rice is ginger. To me there is just nothing like the aroma that ginger can add to an Indian rice dish.

If you have time to let it sit for about 30 minutes, covered, before serving, the flavours will blend together even better and it will taste even stronger. It is one of those dishes that in fact tastes better the next day.

You can prepare this lovely recipe with regular butter, but I use ghee because it provides a unique flavour.

Peas Pulao
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This tasty vegetarian Peas Pulao can be served for lunch or dinner, as the main meal, or even as a side dish.
Ingredients
  • 2tbsp Ghee
  • 3cm of Ginger, crushed finely
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, crushed finely
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 1tsp Cumin Powder
  • 3 Cardamoms
  • 3cm Cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 200g Green Peas
  • 2tbsp Cashew Nuts, chopped
  • 1,000g White Basmati Rice
  • 1,500ml Water
  • Pinch of Salt to taste
  • 2tsp Coriander leaves, chopped finely, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee in a large pan and stir in the crushed ginger and garlic.
  2. Slice onion finely.
  3. Stir in the onion, cumin, cardamoms, and cinnamon.
  4. Stir and fry all ingredients until the onions turn transparent. You do not need to brown the onions for this recipe.
  5. Stir in the peas and cashew nuts.
  6. Lower the heat and let simmer until peas are cooked.
  7. Add in uncooked rice and stir a bit.
  8. Add in the water.
  9. Cover and cook on a high flame for 5 minutes.
  10. Lower heat to the lowest setting and let simmer for 20-25 minutes more.
  11. Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves.

 

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24Jul 12

Punjab Chicken

Punjab ChickenPunjab Chicken is a dish that will go over well with your kids. I’m giving you a mild version of this dish, so if you’re trying to introduce your kids to Indian cooking, they will take to it better. If you start out with anything too hot, your children may be turned off to Indian cuisine altogether, so it is best to start them out with milder dishes. However, if you want to prepare a spicier Punjab Chicken, feel free to increase the quantity of spices. But I do not recommend you increase the turmeric too much, as it is quite bitter, so it will overpower the dish.

This dish calls for drumsticks, which is a much moister part of the chicken than the breast. Some people use the whole chicken leg—that is, the drumstick and the thigh. That is fine, but I prefer meat just from the drumstick for this recipe.

In this recipe, you may substitute ghee with cooking oils such as vegetable oil or sunflower oil. Some might say that punjab chicken is similar to chicken fricassee because it uses chicken drumsticks in a thickened sauce. Of course, I prefer my dish because of the wonderful mix of Indian spices!

You may add in more than 700ml of water if you want. This will give you more sauce at the end, but the thickness is really up to you.

Punjab Chicken
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This is a main dish with chicken
Ingredients
  • 2kg Chicken Drumsticks, skinned and chopped
  • 3 Onions
  • 1cm fresh Ginger
  • 4 Tomatoes
  • 1tbs Ground Cumin Powder
  • 1 pinch of Turmeric
  • 2tsp Ground Coriander Powder
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 100g of Ghee
  • 700ml Water
  • Pinch of Salt to Taste
  • Bunch of fresh Coriander
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee in a large pot on a low heat. Be careful not to burn it.
  2. Peel and chop the onions and ginger finely and add to the pot.
  3. Cook them for 10 minutes over low heat until they turn a light golden brown colour.
  4. Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan with a little water.
  5. Add the cumin, turmeric, ground coriander and bay leaves, and let cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Chop the chicken drumsticks into thin slices.
  7. Add the chicken to the pot.
  8. Add in the rest of the water. Make sure there is enough sauce to cover all the chicken pieces well. If not, add a bit more water.
  9. Cook chicken until tender, stirring occasionally.
  10. Stir in the cayenne pepper.
  11. Add salt to taste.
  12. Serve hot, garnished with fresh coriander.

 

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11Jul 12

Sarkarai Pongal

Sarkarai Pongal
Sarkarai Pongal
is a traditional sweet dish from South India. It is made during the Pongal festival, and symbolically offered to the sun god before being eaten. But you don’t have to go all the way to South India during the Pongal festival to enjoy this tasty treat. I’m going to teach you how to prepare it from the comfort of your own home.

This recipe calls for mung daal, which are mung beans that have been stripped of their hulls. These healthy legumes can be found in speciality vegetarian shops or speciality Indian shops.

You will also need to buy jaggery, a healthy natural sugar, to prepare this dessert properly. The refined white sugar you buy at the supermarket has been heavily processed with many chemicals. Jaggery, however, is naturally processed from sap, without any added stuff. This means it retains all its natural properties and minerals. And apart from being much healthier, it has a richer taste. Jaggery is a bit like buttery molasses.

Preparing Sarkarai Pongal with this sweet substitute will add authenticity to the dish, so it is well worth buying. And, as always, the ghee in this dessert can be substituted for regular butter.

To scoop up all the gooey sweetness in my recipe, I recommend this raisin bread.

Sarkarai Pongal
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Sarkarai Pongal is a traditional sweet dish from South India. It is made during the Pongal festival, and symbolically offered to the sun god before being eaten.
Ingredients
  • 2L Milk
  • 225g Rice
  • 50g Mung Daal
  • 250g Jaggery
  • 2tbsp Ghee
  • 15 Almonds
  • 15 Cashews
  • 50g Raisins
  • 1tsp Cardamom powder
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • 10 strands of Saffron, crushed
Instructions
  1. Bring the milk to the boil.
  2. Wash the rice and mung daal and stir them into the milk once it is boiling.
  3. Cook the rice and mung daal for 15 minutes on high heat.
  4. Grate the jaggery with a regular cheese grater. Use the larger holes on your grater.
  5. Slowly stir in the jaggery and the ghee. They should melt fairly quickly.
  6. Lower the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  7. Chop up the almonds and cashews very finely.
  8. Slowly mix in the almonds and cashews.
  9. Add in the raisins, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron.
  10. Bring to the boil again and let cook for another 5 minutes. Stir constantly.
  11. Sarkarai Pongal can be served hot or cold. In the summer, I prefer to eat it cold.

 

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23Jun 12

Mango Pachadi

Mango PachadiMango Pachadi is a delicious Indian side dish which is actually quite fun to make. It is best served with rice and curry like this yellow thai chicken curry.

One of the key spices that gives this dish its distinctive flavour is asafoetida. This Indian spice is said to be very good for digestion. This is helpful, since many of my friends here in England say they find Indian food quite heavy. However, if you add a nice digestive ingredient like asafoetida, it makes for much better digestion and can be found at your local Indian market.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large mango
  • ½tsp turmeric powder
  • 10 red chilli peppers, minced
  • 1tsp mustard seeds
  • 2tbsp jaggery
  • 1/2tsp chilli powder
  • Pinch of Asafoetida
  • 1.5tsp rice flour
  • Salt to taste
  • 600ml water
  • 5tsp oil

 Preparation Method:

  1. Peel the large mango. You can use a normal potato peeler to do this because mango peels are quite thin. In fact, I have always found mangos very easy to work with.
  2. Next chop the large mango into small pieces. These can be roughly 2 centimetre pieces. But again, I mean very roughly.
  3. Add the mango to a pot, along with the turmeric powder and the water. Bring the water to the boil, then lower to medium heat. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the mango is cooked. You will know the mango is cooked when it is soft.
  4. When the mango is cooked, remove it from the water
  5. Mince the red chillies and set them aside.
  6. In a separate pot, heat up oil on a very high flame. Add the mustard seeds. They will start to pop and crackle. But be careful they do not the splatter on you, or you will get burned.
  7. Lower to medium flame. Now add the minced red chillies, jaggery, chilli powder and asafoetida to the pan. Fry for 3 minutes.
  8. Now add the mango to the pan. Add another 150ml of water and stir slowly on a low heat for a few minutes.
  9. Add salt to taste.
  10. In a separate bowl, combine 300ml of water with the rice flour to make a paste.
  11. Add this paste to the pot and stir slowly until thick.

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 40 minutes

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19Jun 12

Carrot Kanji

Carrot Kanji
Carrot Kanji
is a refreshing drink made from fermented vegetables. You basically chop up various vegetables and mix them into water in a transparent pitcher and leave them in the sun for a few days to ferment. It does not take long to prepare, and once made, it can stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. This drink is served chilled, and it has quite a strong, unique carroty flavour. In fact, some people find it a bit too strong the first few times they try it.

Traditionally, kanji is made with black carrots, which are found in northern India in the winter. However, since black carrots are hard to find in the West, you can use regular orange carrots for this Carrot Kanji drink, and it will still have its distinctive flavour. (For a warm treat, I recommend this comforting carrot, coriander and cumin soup.)

Carrot Kanji not only is low in calories but also may help you lose weight. Some studies have shown that eating red chilli peppers helps people slim down. Apparently, they curb your appetite. They may also raise your metabolism. Since my Carrot Kanji recipe calls for red chilli peppers, this is good news for those of you on a diet. I must point out that you may add in more red or green chilli peppers if you want to. Play around a bit with the quantities to see what spiciness level you like best.

Carrot Kanji
Author: 
Recipe type: Drink
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Carrot Kanji is a refreshing drink made from fermented vegetables.
Ingredients
  • 1kg Carrots
  • 2tbsp. Mustard Seeds
  • 2tbsp. Red Chilli Powder
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • 1tbsp. Salt
  • 4 litres hot Water
  • Mint Leaves to garnish
Instructions
  1. Wash and peel the carrots.
  2. Slice each carrot lengthwise into 3 or 4 long strips.
  3. Grind the mustard seeds with a mortar and pestle.
  4. Chop the green chilli peppers well.
  5. Mix the carrots, salt, mustard seeds, red chilli and green chilli together in a transparent pitcher.
  6. Add in the hot water and stir well with a wooden spoon.
  7. Put the top on the pitcher and leave it in the sun for 3-5 days, so it can ferment.
  8. After the pitcher of kanji has fermented, store it in the refrigerator.
  9. Before eating, you can put it in the blender to create a smooth texture. This isn't necessary, but some people prefer smooth as opposed to chunky.
  10. Crush some mint leaves and sprinkle them on top of the kanji just before serving.
  11. Serve chilled.

 

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15Jun 12

Fragrant Ghee

Fragrant GheeGhee is Indian butter. My mother used to make it, especially in the winter to put on our toast or in Bengali spiced vegetable cakes. My grandmother used to make it from curd, but that takes a lot longer. It is much easier to make it from unsalted butter bought at the supermarket.

The leaves are added in to give it an herby aroma. It really has a lovely fragrance. Although it is usually a solid, it can easily be melted so you can drizzle it on top of your favourite Indian desserts such as Puran Poli. It can last up to 6 months in the fridge, but it’s so delicious, I doubt it will!

Ingredients:

  • 2kg unsalted white butter
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 10 drumstick leaves
  • 4 bay leaves

Preparation Method:

  1. Put the unsalted white butter in a deep-bottomed pan. On a medium flame, slowly stir the butter.
  2. Once the butter is melted, lower the flame. Leave it to simmer on the low flame for a few minutes longer.
  3. Slowly add in the fresh curry leaves. They should not be chopped as you are only adding them for the aroma. Stir slowly.
  4. Next, slowly add in the whole, fresh drumstick leaves. Stir gently.
  5. Finally, mix in the bay leaves.
  6. After some time, the milk will divide into two parts: one solid and one liquid. The clear, liquid butter should rise to the top and the solid portions will sink to the bottom. The solid portions will form little clumps. Leave this on the flame long enough for these solid clumps to turn a slightly brownish colour, but be careful not to burn them!
  7. With a wooden spoon, remove the curry, drumstick and bay leaves. When you do this, you need to be careful not to remove the solid clumps yet. You can just throw the leaves away.
  8. Continue simmering with the solid clumps for a few minutes longer.
  9. Remove the ghee from the flame. Put a sieve over a heat-resistant bowl and pour the ghee through it. This will separate the solid clumps out from the liquid ghee. Be very careful not to let it splatter, as it is very hot.

Takes: 50 minutes.
Makes: 1600ml of ghee.

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01Jun 12

Tasty Rava Ladoo

Rava LadooI absolutely love this Rava Ladoo recipe. Rava Ladoo is a tasty dessert that is easy to make. Ladoos are small ball-shaped treats made with plenty of sugar and other spices such as cardamom, a typical spice that we Indians love to add to dessert (try these Pistachio and Cardamom Bicuits).  Ladoos are excellent for parties because they are a nice, small snackable size. This is why in India they are served during holidays and festivals. Once made, ladoos can be stored and last up to a week, so you can prepare this dessert well ahead of any party you’re planning on throwing. That way you don’t have to leave them until the last minute.

Ingredients:

  • 150ml unsalted butter
  • 80g raisins
  • 400g semolina
  • 400g sugar
  • ½  teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 25g cashews and pistachios, crushed
  • 400ml whole milk

Preparation Method:

  1. Crush the cashews and pistachios and set them aside. The mixture should have the same amount of cashews as pistachios.
  2. In a large frying pan, sauté the raisins in the butter. Stir them slowly so they are all evenly cooked. This should make the raisins nice and plump.
  3. Take the raisins out of the butter. Drain them well so that they are not greasy. Set them aside.
  4. Using the same butter, add the semolina. Stir it constantly for 3-4 minutes so that it is evenly cooked.
  5. Add the sugar and continue stirring slowly.
  6. Add in the cashew and pistachio mixture, cardamom powder and the raisins and keep stirring.
  7. Slowly stir in the whole milk.  Stir until the milk is fully absorbed.
  8. Once the milk has been fully absorbed, take the frying pan off the stove and let everything cool down for 5 minutes.
  9. Now you are ready to make it into little lime-sized balls. Don’t wait until it gets too cold, because then it will not hold the shape. But since it is still very hot, I recommend using an ice cream scooper to form the balls.
  10. Leave them on a slightly greased platter. They should be separate so that they don’t stick together.
  11. Let them cool down for at least an hour before serving.

Makes: 35-40 ladoos

Takes: 30 minutes

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29May 12

Palak Paneer

 

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer is a delightful spinach and cheese dish. In my opinion, there is just nothing that can compare to the combination of spinach and cheese. These two ingredients perfectly complement each other and bring out each other’s best qualities. Paneer cheese is the cheese used in this particular traditional Indian recipe. It can be found at your local Indian speciality foods shop.

I find this Palak Paneer recipe quite rich and creamy. However, the good news is that this dish is very easy to digest. Many people are under the mistaken impression that Indian food is always very rough on the intestines. While it may be true that if you eat spices you are not used to eating, you could possibly have difficulties digesting your meal, you must also keep in mind that many people find vegetables easier on the stomach than meats and fish. And this Palak Paneer recipe, which I learned from my mum, is entirely vegetarian.

Also, it is not very hot or spicy, which makes for light digestion. Palak Paneer is best served with naan bread or with basmati rice, making it a complete and filling meal. I often make this for dinner on chilly days as it is so filling. It will leave you full but not stuffed.

Vegetable Samosas make a tasty accompaniment to this spinach and cheese dish. (And for more spinach options, try this spinach and lentil soup.)

Palak Paneer
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Course
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Palak Paneer is a delightful spinach and cheese dish.
Ingredients
  • 1000g Spinach
  • 4 Onions, medium sized
  • 4 cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Green Chilli Peppers
  • 80ml Water
  • 7tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 400g Paneer cheese
  • Pinch of Salt to Taste
Instructions
  1. Bring water to the boil in a pot and add spinach. Cook until soft.
  2. Drain the spinach and put it in the blender. Blend well until it is puréed.
  3. Chop and sauté the onions.
  4. Finely chop the garlic and add it to the pan with the onions and stir.
  5. Chop the chilli peppers and add them to the pan.
  6. Add in the puréed spinach and the water and bring it to the boil.
  7. Lower the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Chop the paneer cheese into small cubes.
  9. Fry the cubes of paneer cheese until they are slightly browned.
  10. Slowly stir the paneer into the purée.

 

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