Indroduction to Handi Cooking with Kale Moti Biryani

 Handi or Haandi (pot), Kadhai (Indian wok) and Tawa (griddle) are three most commonly used utensils in Indian cooking and most of the Indian delicacies can be cooked in one of these vessels. Many recipes just got their name from these utensils like Kadhai Paneer etc. We thought that doing a series of recipes in each of the utensils will be fun and innovative for our blog.        

 So readers, welcome to our Haandi cooking series where we will try to cook and post one to two haandi recipes every week for next few weeks.        

Haandi

 A Haandi is a deep heavy bottomed and narrow mouthed pot traditionally made with brass or copper. After lots of searching online stores and numerous trips to various Indian stores in New Jersey and New York, we could not find a proper Haandi to our liking for cooking.

Dutch Oven

 So eventually, we decided to buy a deep 6 quart (approx 6 litre) dutch oven because it gave us the feel of a haandi when we picked it up in the store. The dutch oven is so much similar to the Indian haandi. It has thick walls, heavy bottom, it is deep and has a lid that is perfectly safe to put in oven.         

 Two important aspects of haandi cooking are Bhunao and Dum. Bhunao is a combination of stir frying and sauteeing on medium to high heat with slowly adding small quantity of water or yogurt to avoid the ingredients and spices from sticking to the pan till the oil or fat separates indicating that the spices and ingredients (onion, ginger, garlic etc) are cooked and its time to proceed to the next phase of cooking (which is mostly adding the main ingredient). Dum which literally means steam is a method of slow cooking where the haandi is sealed with dough to prevent any steam to escape. In olden days, the whole sealed haandi will be put in smouldering coal covering it from top to bottom for even heating. Today, the electric oven is used for providing the function of even heating. In Dum cooking, the main ingredient is cooked partially and then at the time of sealing the lid with dough some additional accompaniments are added for flavor and aroma and then slow cooked in oven. The food continues to cook in its own steam which condenses back into the food retaining the aroma and flavors of all ingredients in the delicacy.

 Our first Haandi recipe is “Kale Moti Biryani” for which the direct translation that comes to mind would be “Black Pearl Rice Pilaf“. In this recipe black chickpeas (kala chana or bengal gram) simmered in gravy and basmati rice, layer upon layer, make for a royal treat.         

This was the best tasting biryani we cooked till now. This vegetarian biryani beat all the mutton (goat meat) and chicken biryani we have cooked in our lifetime. The aroma of saffron and the spices were intrinsically blended with the biryani and the chickpeas were soft. We did not even realize that we finished our biryani as is without even touching the raita on the side.        

 On the other hand, preparing this delicacy was a little time-consuming though. The list of ingredients is long but then that’s the secret of getting all the exotic flavors and aroma. We were so busy keeping track of things in order that we forgot to switch on the main powerful light in the kitchen that we installed for the purpose of video recording. As a result, the video has poor lighting. If it would have been any other recipe, we would have done it again for the sake of video quality but doing this recipe once again was too overwhelming. So please watch the video for the recipe and pardon the dark video quality.        

Ingredients Summary         

Serves 4; Preparation time: 45 minutes; Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes        

For the rice: Basmati Rice – 2 and 1/4 cup (250 gm); Milk – 3 and 1/3 cup (800 ml); Whole Garam Masala [Green Cardamom – 5; Black Cardamom – 1; Cloves – 5; Cinnamon – 1 inch; Bay Leaf – 1; Mace; 1 Pinch]; Salt – 1 tsp;        

For the chickpeas (black pearls): Black Chickpeas (Kala Chana) – 1 and 1/4 cup (250 gm); Salt – 1 tsp; Ghee (clarified butter) – 1/2 cup (100 gm); Ginger – 1 tbsp (15 gm); Garlic – 5 cloves; Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp; Turmeric Powder – 1/2 tsp; Yogurt – 3/4 cup (200 gm); Tomato – 1 and 1/2; Potato – 3; Green Chili – 3;        

For the garnish: Cilantro or Coriander leaves – 1/2 cup; Fresh Mint Leaves – 1/4 cup; Ginger – 2 thin slices; Green Chili – 7; Tomato – 1 big; Onion – 3 (small); Yogurt – 1/2 cup; Garam Masala – 1 tsp; Green Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp; Saffron – 2 tsp (1 gm); Milk – 1/4 cup (60 ml)        

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Murgh Malai Kebab

The best thing we like about murgh (chicken) malai kebab is that it’s the easiest of kebab to make and tastes the best. The fusion of cheese and cream sauce with chicken grilled in oven produces a kebab that literally melts in the mouth. The secret behind murgh malai kebab to be so tender and succulent is simply the use of a meat tenderizer. If you cannot find off the shelf meat tenderizer then just use minced raw papaya skin instead. The use of meat tenderizer breaks the bonds in meat protein thus making it soft, easier to cook and digest.

In the marination we have used sour cream. As an alternative to sour cream, regular cream mixed with hung yogurt can also be used. Though traditionally grilled in a tandoor, at home this can be grilled on a charcoal grill or in a conventional electric oven. The easiest thing about using oven in this recipe is to use the highest temperature the oven offers. If the oven has broil feature then use broil feature or pre-heat the oven to 500 F. Just put the skewers in oven in broil mode or at 500 F and turn the skewers after 8 to 10 minutes and grill them for another 8 to 10 minutes and that’s it.  Enjoy them as an appetizer with sliced onions and coriander chutney or wrap them up in  chapati to make a roll.

Watch our video for the recipe and if you follow our video exactly you will be really amazed by the results. We ourselves were amazed when we first made it by following the recipe from chef Sanjay Thumma.

Ingredients Summary

Boneless Chicken Breast – 1.5 lbs (~750 gms); Ground Black Pepper – 1 tsp; Meat Tenderizer – 1 tsp; Cardamom Powder – 1 tsp; Ginger Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp; Shredded Cheddar Cheese – 1/2 cup; Sour Cream – 3 tbsp; Green Chili – 5; Coriander Leaves – 1/2 cup; Salt – 1 tsp; Oil – 1 tbsp;

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Mushroom in Cashew Curry

This is our favorite recipe that we cook whenever we are hosting vegetarian or vegan guests. We love it because the gravy is rich, silky, creamy & smooth and easily replaces the routine paneer (fresh cheese) as the main vegan entrée in northern India cuisine. Another reason to love this recipe is  that it was our favorite vegetarian entrée while eating out in India. We love it so much that we tried to cook it at home without knowing the recipe. Just by guessing the ingredients from our memory of the tasteful gravy we tried to cook it a few times at home and now we have perfected it over time. We are proud that it’s almost the same as what we used to have at restaurants in India.

Another variation to this recipe is using the additional ingredient of poppy seed paste. In north Indian cuisine, use of poppy seeds in curries and gravies is not very popular but we have experienced that adding poppy seed paste in cashew based gravy greatly enhances the taste of the curry. Our video here however shows it just using cashew based gravy. Please watch to see us cook this wonderful vegetarian curry that goes so well with any kind of Indian bread.

Ingredients Summary

Button Mushroom – 2 lbs; Cashews – 15; Onion – 2 (chopped); Green Chilli – 5 (chopped); Cumin Seed – 1 tsp; Ginger Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp; Coriander Powder – 2 tsp; Cumin Powder – 2 tsp; Ground Black Pepper – 1 tsp; Garam Masala – 2 tsp; Kasoori Methi – 1 tbsp; Salt – 1 tsp; Heavy Cream – 1/2 cup; Butter – 2 tbsp;

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Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 10:39 pm  Comments (8)  
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Lyulya Kebab

Another blog that we became a fan of recently is “Global Table” . The blogger, Sasha Martin, is on a culinary trip of 195 countries in the world making a complete meal of one country every week. Sasha is alphabetically picking one country each week, deciding the menu, sharing interesting culinary facts and trivia about the country and finally cooking the meal on weekend along with sharing the recipes and the entire experience of it with the world through her blog. Luckily for us, We bumped into her blog while she is still on “B” and it will be an interesting journey for all her fans, including us, who are following her on this adventure.

“Lyulya Kebabs” was part of Sasha’s meal from Azerbaijan and immediately caught our fancy as soon as we saw the tempting photographs of the delicacy on her blog (please click here for Sasha’s recipe of Lyulya Kebab). These kebab are very similar to the Indian and Pakistani “sheekh kebab” in style and cooking method but tastes so different because of use of parsley. Parsley has a strong aroma very similar to that of  “Ajwain” . Traditionally these kebab are made with ground lamb meat but we  made them with ground goat meat. It is better to keep the meat marinated overnight but we kept it for an hour or so as we could not wait for the next day.

We served these kebab with chapatis, sliced onions and cilantro chutney. In Azerbaijan, Lyulya Kebabs are served with accompaniment of lavash bread and yogurt dip etc. One thing we are going to do differently next time is to use a little less parsley as the flavor is quite strong. Checkout the video to watch us make these wonderful kebab from Azerbaijan. They are also quite popular in Iran.

Ingredients Summary

Ground Lamb or Goat meat – 3 lbs; Onions – 3 (chopped); Garlic – 8 cloves (grated); Parsley – 1/2 cup (chopped); Dried Mint – 1 to 2 tsp; Paprika – 2 tsp; Cayenne Pepper – 1 tsp; Cumin Powder – 2 tsp; Ground Pepper – 1 tsp; Salt – 1 tsp;

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Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 9:47 am  Comments (3)  
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Cooking Fish in Banana Leaf

Reading a food blog from a “Bong” without fish recipes is like drinking decaffeinated coffee. Till now our only fish recipe was “Salmon in Mustard Sauce”. Here is another classic style of cooking fish the Bengali way (marinated in spices and mustard oil) in steam by wrapping in banana leaf. Cooking in banana leaf leaves a faint musky, smoky and pungent aroma in the fish. Luckily for us, we found frozen banana leaves in an Asian grocery store near our home. Mostly fresh water fish found in river and lakes that are flaky in nature tastes best in this style of cooking. Our choice of fish was Boal Fish (Wallago attu). In the US, an easy alternative choice could be catfish as well.

The marination for this recipe can vary greatly. We kept it really simple with just a few ingredients in the marination that was made with onion, garlic, turmeric, chili powder and mustard oil. Some people like to use mustard paste, poppy seed paste etc as well.

The only difficult part of this preparation was wrapping the fish in banana leaf. You can see in the video that we were really struggling to wrap the fish in banana leaf without letting the marination squeeze out of the bundle. Once the fish is all bundled up in the banana leaf then there’s not too much left to do. Just cook it in a pan or grill for an hour or so with occasional turning. And in case you can’t get a banana leaf, just wrap the whole thing in aluminium foil and grill it  for 30 minutes.

We received a few encouraging feedback on our posts. Many thanks to our friends for giving us valuable suggestions to improve. It looks like there are people out there who really want to try out the recipes by watching our videos but it’s a pain to go back and forth in the video to note down the ingredients. So from this post onwards we are going to summarize the ingredients in the post as well.

Ingredients Summary

Boal Fish – 1 lb (500 gms); Onion (red) – 2 (thinly sliced); Garlic – 6 cloves (grated); Whole Green Chili – 3; Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp; Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp; Salt – 1 tsp; Mustard Oil – 2 tbsp; Banana Leaf

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Dum Aloo ( Quick Potato Curry)

This is a quick recipe that we did with the unused marination mix made for the “Tandoori Chicken“. All we did was, cooked the left over marination in some oil to make the curry and then added potatoes in the gravy. We were really surprised by the outcome as it turned out to be a perfect curry to have with chapati or naan.


We did not make a video of it as we had no intentions of posting this recipe on the blog.  It was a quick fix thing with left over stuff but it turned out so well that we had to post it.

Recipe

Boil 10 to 12 small potatoes. Peel the boiled potatoes and then shallow fry till golden and keep aside. If you have big potatoes just cut them into halves or quarters after boiling them.

Ingredients for the curry (same as our tandoori chicken marination ingredients)
Yogurt – 1 cup
Onion (chopped) – 1 cup
Ginger Garlic paste – 2 tsp
Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric Powder – 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
Ground Black Pepper – 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Kasoori Methi (Fenugreek Leaves) – 1 tsp
Lemon Juice of 1/2 lemon
Whole Cumin Seed – 1/2 tsp
Bay Leaf – 1

Mix well all the above ingredients (except Whole Cumin Seeds and Bay Leaf) together ( refer the  video of “Tandoori Chicken Roast” ) . In a skillet heat 2 tbps oil. Add 1 tsp whole cumin. Let it splutter and then add 1 bay leaf. Add in the curry mix in the pan and cook on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes with occasional stirs till oil starts to ooze out from the spices and it is well cooked. Add water as per desired consistency to curry it. Simmer for 5 minutes and then add the fried potatoes. Simmer further with occasional stirs for another 5 to 7 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve hot with chapati or naan.

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Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tandoori Chicken Roast

This is a true fusion of western cooking style with Indian exotic spices. We made the Indian “Tandoori Chicken” without the tandoor (vertical clay oven) by using a conventional electric oven. The thing with “Tandoori Chicken” is that it cannot be cooked at home (because no one keeps a “Tandoor” at home) and since a regular roast chicken (made the american/european way) would have been too bland for our palate we decided doing a roast chicken the desi way – spice it up with tandoori masala (spice). The result was awesome. Personally we felt we never tasted a better tandoori chicken or roast chicken.

Keeping the bird marinated in a blend of yogurt and spices resulted in a fantastic roast with flavors penetrating deep to the bones. One spice that deserves a special mention is the use of “Shan Garam Masala”. Any regular Indian garam masala can be used but we always prefer using the Pakistani “Shan Garam Masala” for our roasts, grills, kebab, and Kormas. The roast also had an additional nice aroma of lemon and garlic which was the result of throwing in onions, lemon juice and garlic in the roasting pan.

The other interesting part of this recipe was making the chutney or dip for the side. This was a nice experiment we tried and what a tasteful result we got. In Americas and Europe, the roast drippings are used to make a gravy for the side or used to make dressing for salad.  Now knowing that these drippings and juices have got the most flavorful elements of the recipe, we had to use it. Generally in India, the chutney for tandoori chicken is made with cilantro and mint leaves blended together with yogurt and some spices. Here, we added all the juices that collected from the roast along with the roasted caramelized onions and garlic into the blender with yogurt, cilantro, green chilies and some sugar. Really, we never tasted a chutney so yummy blasted with all the roast flavors.

Watch our video for the recipe and to see us make this wonderful roast with a super spicy marination. 

Finally, thanks to all the YouTubers and Food Bloggers for posting so many variations of roast chicken that guided us to decide upon the oven temperature and cooking time as we saved ourselves from buying a meat thermometer.

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Published in: on May 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm  Comments (14)  
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Anyone can Cook Eggs

Yes, anyone can cook eggs. Still, cooking eggs takes lots of practice to achieve perfection. Be it boiled eggs, poached eggs or omelette. It takes time and practice to get that perfect softness in your egg. In India, eggs are cooked in a little rough manner. If you are making an omelette the Indian way, then you got to beat it and beat it and continue beating it till you top up your bowl with egg froth. However, the recipe we are posting here does not require too much beating. Just a little whisk to break the yolks is enough. We call it our version of Russian omelette but it has nothing Russian about it (except the butter, we guess).

It's not a Pizza; It's an Omelette


This is an original recipe of cooking eggs that we learned from my Dad and if other people, by any remote chance, have cooked eggs exactly this same way then its purely co-incidental. This is a sinful recipe with lots of butter and full eggs (inclusive of the yolks). If you want to get more adventurous, try adding some sausages or cheese. The thing we like about this omelette is that the egg is fully cooked and yet its is soft, moist and full of buttery flavor with sweetness of caramelized onions and cabbage.

We cooked this twice in past week to get it perfect. The first time around we overcooked it but this time it was just perfect. Watch our video for the recipe and to see us cook this unique omelette.

Please leave us comments and help us improve.

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How to Make Ghoogni – Yellow Peas Curry

Ghoogni is a traditional delicacy popular in the eastern states of India in West Bengal, Orissa, Assam etc. Original ghoogni is made with whole yellow peas ( peela matar in hindi ) . Ghoogni can be eaten just by itself as a snack or they can be relished with luchis (deep-fried flatbread made of all-purpose flour). They go really well for a brunch or an evening snack.

Sometimes people use chickpeas instead of yellow peas but then that’s not ghoogni. Authentic ghoogni is only made with yellow peas. In West Bengal, ghoogni is also made with minced goat meat and gets extremely popular as street food during the Durga Poojas (a festival in India).

One interesting part of this recipe is the use of panch phoron spice in a different way. The panch phoron is dry roasted and then ground into a coarse powder which then gives a very distinct aroma to the delicacy. Please note that you may need to soak the yellow peas overnight in water although in our video we showed four hours only. Also, Lemon juice can be used instead of tamarind. Please watch us make this traditional Indian snack for the recipe. It really tasted very good.

Please leave comments and feedback and let us know if you need help making it.

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Published in: on May 5, 2010 at 8:34 am  Comments (1)  
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Indian Chicken Curry / Stew with Potatoes

This is the simplest way to make Indian Chicken Curry. Not too much oil and spices are used moderately. We did not use the regular Garam Masala; instead of the regular Garam Masala we used home-made cinnamon-cardamom powder. Cinnamon-cardamom powder is our traditional  Garam Masala powder recipe that we use in most of our Indian cooking. Do not waste time in making this powder, instead just use any regular  Garam Masala that is easily available off the shelf.

The spices (Cumin powder, Coriander powder, Turmeric Powder and Red Chilli Powder) used in this recipe are the most commonly used spices in Indian cooking. Since we do not like too much sourness in our curries we avoided the tomatoes, though most people use tomato in curries. The variation we did was by using yogurt instead of tomatoes.  Feel free to use tomatoes if you like it a little sour.

Adding the potatoes is optional but they really taste good. Think of it as big potato pieces cooked in chicken favored curry. Mostly we cook this recipe on weekend for lunch and tastes the best with hot steamed rice. Can be served with parathas and chapatis as well.

Please watch our video for the recipe and to see us cook this delightful curry.

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Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm  Comments (10)  
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