Ayurveda – Cooking with Five Elements.

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Thousands of years before even contemporary medicine provided scientific corroboration for the mind-body inter-connection, the profoundly wise scholars of India gave birth to Ayurveda, which persists to be one of the world’s most advanced and ardent mind-body health technique. More than a mere system of treating disease and ailment, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers the body of wisdom of traditional medicines designed to help people stay vibrant, energetic and healthy while realizing their full human potential and capabilities.

The main fundamental rules of Ayurveda are that the mind and the body are connected in a way that are impossible to seperate, and nothing has more strength to cure and transform the body than the mind. Immunity from illness depends upon augmenting our own understanding, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body. This process isn’t as intricate as it may sound. For example, when you meditate you effortlessly enter a state of expanded awareness and inner peace that reinvigorates the mind and reinstates stability. Since the mind and body are inseparable, the body is naturally balanced through the implementation of meditation. In the state of relaxed consciousness created through meditation, your heart rate and breath slow, your body decreases the production of “stress” hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and you increase the production of neurotransmitters that enhance wellbeing, including serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.
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The age old practice of Ayurveda believes we’re made up of three different ‘body types’ that equates to our physical and personality attributes, known as doshas. These are: vata, pitta and kapha, each of which represents two of the five universal elements (a combination of either, air, fire, water, earth). Ayurvedic principles believe that each individual contains diverse proportions of each dosha, generally one or two in dominance. Our naturally predominant dosha does not denote imbalance, but rather how – or who – we are in our most healthy, balanced state. Mind-body health and harmony may be challenged when any of the doshas become aggravated or unstable. Understanding Identifying your predominant dosha and potential imbalances, which an Ayurvedic practitioner can assist with, is the secret to keeping your mind-body balance in check.

Ayurveda in its journey to transform dishes that create the perfect balance in the body has also invented cooking methods that are termed healthy today, like pan frying, roasting, steaming and blanching. The answer to why dishes in Indian cuisine are fried while others are steamed or roasted can be found in Ayurveda. This ancient science actually discovered how cooking and the time taken to cook can change the composition of a particular food and its effect on the body. Like the lycopene in tomatoes, which intensifies while cooking can be easily extracted. The same goes for onion. Tempering it with hing (asafoetida) balances the diuretic properties in onion that makes it good for cough and cold and helps in digestion. In fact, ayurvedic cooking prohibits from using fried brown onions that have lost all their nutrients and can cause acidity in a few cases. Blanching carrots robs them off their betacarotene, and so best eaten raw. In fact the all-popular steam cooking done by wrapping vegetable in a leaf is also quintessentially Ayurvedic practise.

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Kheer (Rice Pudding) , a dish that was first mentioned in the Ramayana was in fact an Ayurvedic invention. It combines the fat in milk with the starch in rice to boost energy.

The art of lactic fermentation and its use was yet another invention of Ayurveda to the culinary world. The proof of this is the high use of ghee and yogurt in Ayurveda to treat a huge array of diseases, from constipation to ulcers and even hangovers. An old scripture traced to the Gupta period states that Ghee was consumed by Khastriya soldiers before the war. It is said that after the Kalinga war, Emperor Ashoka gave up meat in favour of vegetarian food, five times a week, because it kept him agile and alert. Soups, yet another innovation from Ayurveda, too were hugely consumed back in time. In Chola dynasty back in the 3rd century BCE, it was used both as a morning beverage and for enhancing appetite. Soup was often the food given to new lactating mothers to regain strength.

Salads, mostly prepared raw with ginger julienne and lemon juice, were first consumed during the 200BCE was also credited to Ayurveda. The ‘raw food diet’ was adopted by the Buddhist from Kalinga (present day Odisha and West Bengal) who took it to other countries and continents while they travelled. Many food historians attribute the tradition of eating raw food or par boiled food in Chinese cuisine to Ayurveda and to the Chinese pilgrim Fa Hsien (c. 337–422 AD), who visited India to document the culinary and health system, notes that Indian cuisine then, especially the vegetarian side, used minimum spices and cooking time so as to impart that right flavour to the dish without compromising on the nutrients.

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According to Ayurveda, the best way to cook vegetables is to sauté them in ghee with spices. By first sautéing the spices in ghee, the volatile oils of the spices are drawn out into the ghee. These spices have therapeutic value. Turmeric, for example, has been found to be an antioxidant, and other spices such as cumin and coriander help with digestion and assimilation. The spices cook into the vegetables act as carriers, transporting nutrient from the vegetables into the bloodstream as we consume them. They also make the food taste aromatic and delicious.

Ghee is considered beneficial oil in Ayurveda. According to traditional ayurvedic texts, it is a rasayana – a Sanskrit word, with the literal meaning: Path (āyana) of essence (rasa). It is a term that in early ayurvedic medicine means the science of lengthening lifespan, good for overall well-being and longevity. Modern research shows that it is an antioxidant and contains beta- carotene. Since the milk solids have been removed, ghee does not spoil easily like vegetable oils do. If you are on a weight loss program, limit your intake of ghee or oil to judicious amounts. It is this philosophy of cooking that is still followed by those practicing Ayurveda, and makes it a healing and restorative cuisine. What also lends ayurvedic cooking its unique identity aside the cooking method used for each food and the good use of local ingredients, is the use of certain herbs and practices. Most recipes in Ayurveda call for kasturi (curcuma aromatic), a fragrant variety of turmeric root instead of ordinary turmeric (curcuma longa) because of its aroma and nutrients. It also uses a lot of flowers and berries in its dishes instead of spices like chillies to extract the required flavor without too much cooking. So assuming that Ayurvedic dishes are all bland is truly a misconception. A spice and meat jaded palate will find it high on subtlety, but that is because each dish is made to suit a person’s character, which is a mix of Vatta Pitta and Kapha.

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10 common herbs and spices used in Ayurveda.

HARIDRA:

Commonly known as turmeric, haridra has a bright yellow color and it tastes bitter and astringent. It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Turmeric is used in the treatment of health problems like constipation, hemorrhoids, eye disorders, dysentery, parasites, hemorrhoids, high cholesterol, coughs, lupus, conjunctivitis, diabetes and many types of cancer like breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer.

Curcumin (Active Ingredient In Turmeric Spice) Very Effective At ...

Picture Credit: Fanatic Cook 

AMALAKI:

Also known as amla or Indian gooseberry, Amalaki is a small fruit, pale green or yellowish green in color. The taste of this fruit is very sour. It has antioxidant, diuretic, antiviral, antimicrobial, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anemia properties. For centuries, people have amla to treat a wide range of illnesses like hyperacidity, constipation, ulcers, hepatitis, colitis, high cholesterol, diabetes and anemia. It can prevent cancer and protect the liver, heart, kidney and nerves.

Gooseberries

BRAHMI:

Also known by the name of Bacopa or Indian Gotu kola, Brahmi is a small, creeping herb with numerous branches. It is bitter in taste. Research has shown that Brahmi has Antioxidant, Cardio tonic and anticancer properties. Brahmi helps restore memory, higher cognitive and neurological functions. It is highly effective against diseases like bronchitis, asthma, epilepsy, insomnia, hoarseness, arthritis, rheumatism, backache, constipation, fever, digestive problems, depression, autism and all sorts of skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, abscess and ulcerations.

File:Bacopa monnieri W IMG 1612.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

MANJISTHA:

Popularly known as Red Madder Root, Manjistha is a climber, usually growing over other bushes or trees. The roots as well as the stems are used for medicinal used. It has astringent, anti-bacterial and diuretic properties. This plant is used to treat dropsy, paralysis, jaundice, amenorrhea, menopause, visceral and hepatic obstructions, skin diseases, chronic diarrhea, intestinal debility, rheumatism, tuberculosis, intestinal ulcer gallstones and stones of the urinary tract, bleeding disorders, and much more. It also works as a blood purifier for skin diseases and to improve the complexion.

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 Picture credit: Felicity Ford 

NEEM:

Also popular by the names of Indian Lilac or margosa, Neem has been used for centuries by millions of people for its medicinal properties. It has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-ulcer, blood purifier, and antipyretic, anti parasitic, antiseptic, and antiemetic properties. Various parts of the tree are used in Ayurveda for treating a plethora of health problems. This herb is used to treat diabetes, leprosy, itching, blood disorders, intestinal worms, piles, dysentery, jaundice, vomiting, wounds, eye disease, paraplegia, female genital diseases and all kinds of fevers.

JEERA:

Jeera also known as cumin seed has been used in Indian cooking for centuries. The nutty peppery flavor of cumin seeds can make any food yummy. In Ayurveda this common spice is used to treat different health problems due to its antiseptic, carminative, diuretic, antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-flatulent properties. It is used in the treatment of various health problems like indigestion, amnesia, diarrhea, morning sickness, nausea, acidity, flatulence, stomach pain, common cold, cough, and insomnia.

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 Picture Credit: Kris A

DHANYA:

Also known by the name of coriander, dhanya has been used as a flavoring agent and medicinal plant since ancient times. In Ayurveda both the seeds and the leaves of this plant are used for treating many health problems. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-septic, antipyretic, anti-fungal, cooling and diuretic properties. It is used to treat health problems like arthritis, stomach gas, urinary tract infections, and nausea, mood swings associated with menstruation, menstrual cramping, bloating, anemia, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, diabetes, bladder infection, intense itching, conjunctivitis, and eczema.

Whole Coriander Seed
 Picture Credit: Emily Barney

DHRUT KUMARI:

Also known as Aloe vera, this herbal plant is often described as a “wonder plant”. It is a succulent and mucilaginous plant that can grow up to 40 inches in height. The thick and heavy green leaves contain the precious healing gel that provides many health benefits. Aloe vera gel has disinfectant, anti-biotic, anti-microbial, germicidal, anti-bacterial, anti-septic, anti-fungal and anti- viral properties. The gel is used in the treatment of cuts, minor burns, constipation, enlarged liver, hepatitis, bronchitis, asthma, tumors, Candida infections, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis and various types of skin infections. 

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TULSI:

Also known as Holy Basil this plant is actually considered sacred by many religious groups. It is a small plant with small leaves, and has hairy stems and very soothing fragrance. It has demulcent, expectorant, anti catarrhal, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, digestive stimulant, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti parasitic and antibacterial properties. Ayurvedic practitioners use holy basil to treat a myriad of ailments like arthritis pain, back pain, headache, influenza, common cold, asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, fever, viral hepatitis, diabetes, malaria, tuberculosis and ringworm.

Tulsi (Holy Basil)
 Picture Credit: Thangaraj Kumaravel

YASHTI MADHU:

Yasthi Madhu or licorice root has been used as a powerful medicine in both Ayurveda and various forms of modern medicine. Licorice root works as an expectorant, anti-spasmodic, anti- inflammatory, laxative, hypertensive, anti-ulcer, estrogenic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and immune stimulant. The sweet and cooling taste of licorice root is used to treat peptic ulcers, canker sores, acid reflux, cough, asthma, eczema, osteoarthritis, liver disorders, malaria, tuberculosis, food poisoning, sore throat, common cold, ulcers, nervous exhaustion, cystitis and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

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 Picture Credit: denAsuncioner

Apart from the above mentioned spices and herbs, there are many more natural ingredients that are used in Ayurveda. When choosing an herb or spice to consume for whatever health problem that you have, make sure to do thorough research and always consult your doctor if it’s okay to take any of these natural ingredients.

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A Culinary Ode to Kashmir

“Agar firdous baroye zameen ast, hami asto hami asto hami ast” – If there is paradise on earth, its here, its here, its here.

A Persian couplet that describes the beauty of Kashmir valley. Its also been referred to as paradise on earth. But today through my blog I shall take you through an extraordinary culinary journey of this beautiful valley. Often underrated, Kashmir has some of the most delectable delicacies on offer. The most simplest of all cuisines, Kashmiri cuisine involves minimum use of spices and most of them are common in all dishes. The emphasis lies mainly on how every cut of meat is used and the techniques of cooking, the same would apply for the vegetarian fare.

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Let me start with a brief history of Kashmiri cuisine and the external influences that led to the evolvement of the cuisine as we see it today. Kashmir was originally known as Kashyap Mar or the holy land of the Great Rishi (Saint) Kashyap. Thats how Kashmir got its name. The valley was inhibited by Kashmiri Pundits also referred to as Saraswat Brahmins and were know to be the descendants of the saints. So the actual cuisine had been in existence over hundred years. However the change happened when the Uzbeks invaded Kashmir in the 15th century and bought the Muslim influence on the cuisine, giving it a more finesse touch by introducing meat and other ingredients. However there is a slight contradiction here as according to my research and speaking to a few culinary historians I learnt that the Kashmiri Pundits were heavy meat eaters themselves but its still not clear whether this change happened pre Uzbek invasion or post. Although the Kashmiri pundits avoid the use of onion and garlic in their food preparations even for the meat dishes. Saying that neither the Kashmiri Pundits nor the Muslims consume beef. Apart from the Uzbeks, Kashmiri Cuisine also had a notable influence from the Persians and the Afghans.

Kashmiri food until a few years ago was mainly confined to homes. One would rarely see a restaurant or an eatery of any other kind serving this cuisine in India or abroad. However there were a few places to savour these delicacies in Kashmir itself. But now there are quite a few good restaurants serving authentic Kashmiri cuisine in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. I wouldn’t be able to say the same for eateries outside of India.

Kashmiri cuisine can be divided into two categories broadly. The cuisine of the Kashmiri pundits and the cuisine of the Kashmiri Muslims. Though not much of a difference in names although there is a difference in the ingredients used. The Kashmiri Pundits typically avoid using onion, garlic and even tomatoes in their cooking. I believe that its quite subtle and light preparation with more emphasis on the actual flavours from the meat and vegetable and of course being complemented with freshly ground spices. The main spices used are Kashmiri chilli powder, ginger powder, saffron, hing (asafoetida), saunf (aniseed) and a unique garam masala called Var or Veri. This is a blend of spices and is compressed in a cake form. Its mixed with oil and then sun dried. Its supposed to be a great flavour enhancer. The medium of cooking is usually Desi ghee (clarified butter) or mustard oil and a lot of thick yoghurt is used to give body to the dishes.

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A few famous dishes are

Dum Oluv or Dum Aloo – these are potatoes that are simmered in spicy gravy flavoured with Hing.  The spice factor is due to addition of Kashmiri chillies and this dish is bright red in colour again due the chilli factor.

Gugji Rajma – This a red kidney bean stew cooked with turnips.

Monji Haak – Kohlrabi cooked in mustard oil and flavoured with veri (kashmiri spice cake) and hing.

Tschaman Kaliya – Its a paneer curry which is flavoured with saunf (aniseed), green cardamom, veri (spice cake) and surprisingly cooked with milk. a very subtle and light dish yet very delicious.

I shall cover the Non-Vegetarian fare in the Wazwan section of the blog but i need to mention a few unique chutneys that are made in Kashmir and often savoured during the Wazwan. “Muji Chatin” or Radish chutney with is made with radish and yoghurt and there is another version where its just grated and sauteed with mustard oil flavoured with red chilli powder, green chillies and walnuts. “Doon Chetin” or Walnut chutney is made with walnuts, yogurt, dried mint, green chillies, red chilli powder and fresh coriander. “Gand chetin” or Onion chutney is made with sliced onions which are soaked in vinegar and flavoured with dried mint leaves and red chilli powder.

Moving on to the epitome of the Kashmiri cuisine – Wazwan which is a spectacular banquet served and i can’t find any other cuisine I could compare it to. Lavish and ultimate is all could say . Wazwan was influenced mainly by the Kashmiri Muslims. As i said before the difference between the Pundits and Muslims cuisine was that the Pundits never used onions and garlic while the Muslims used garlic and only wild onions also known as “Pranth” in their cooking.

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Wazwan is a banquet that serves 36 courses. The dishes are cooked by “Vasta Waza” or the head chef and “wazas” or the assistant chefs. Wazwan has a very high significance culturally among the Kashmiri Muslims and is treated with a lot of respect. A typical Wazwan has people sitting in groups of 4 and the meals are served on a “Trami” which is a large engraved copper plate and the meals are shared. The meal traditionally starts with washing hands. This is done by passing jugs (tash-t-nari)  filled with water among the guests. The trami is then filled with a heap of rice and the rest of the courses follow. I wont be able to list all the 36 dishes but will try to cover most of them.

The meal usually start with kabab which is made from lamb or goat mince and and skewered over charcoal. I believe this the only form of starter that served through the entire meal apart from kaanti kebab.

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Kaanti Kabab – made with the fillet of goat or sheep marinated with yogurt, spices and garlic and is fried rather than being grilled.

Lahabi Kabab – these flattened kababs which are made from a blended mince of the kabab that are served as the first course and the mince of the rista and goshtaba- cooked in a yoghurt gravy.

Rista – these are meatballs cooked in a red gravy. The red colour in kashmiri cuisine is usually derived from either the Kashmiri chillies or “cockscomb flower” also known as “ratanjot”. The meat is derived from either sheep or goat and then pounded very carefully on a wooden block. The perfect meatballs are achieved through maintaining the right temperature throughout the pounding process and laced with kidney fat.

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Palak Rista or Waza Palak – This dish is same as the above with the addition of Spinach.

Goshtaba – the same meatballs as rista are used in this recipe however the gravy has a yoghurt base and its very mildly spiced as compared to rista. Even the dumplings are slightly flattened while making the rista as compared to goshtaba.

Goshtaba_wazwan

Yahni – this dish is made with sheep or goat shanks and cooked in a yogurt based gravy.

Methi Maaz – this dish is cooked with the off cuts and trimmings of the animal and flavoured with methi or fenugreek leaves.

Tabak Maaz – this dish is prepared using sheep or goat ribs which is cooked in milk along with spices and aromatics and then covered in a yogurt based batter and cooked again on dum by sealing the pot with dough and placed on charcoal for about an hour. Another similar dish is called “Kabargah” wherein the entire process is the same but instead of cooking it on dum its flash fried before serving.

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Dhaniwal Korma – Goat or sheep curry thats cooked with loads of fresh coriander and yoghurt.

Marchwangan Korma – Goat or sheep korma cooked with fiery hot Kashmiri chillies and spices.

Aab Gosht – Sheep or Goat ribs cooked in a milk based gravy. This dish clearly brings out the Persian influence onthe cuisine.

Doudha ras – this is meat cooked in a sweet milk gravy.

Rogan Josh – A so called signature dish of the Kashmiri Cuisine, this dish has introduced people to Kashmir. Persian in influence this dish was introduced by the Mughals. Prepared in clarified butter, without the addition of onions, garlic or tomatoes by the Kashmiri Pundits while the Kashmiri Muslims add wild onions. One of the most popular dishes on every Indian restaurant menu all over the world. How authentic? is the question to ask .

Waza Kokur – Twice cooked whole chicken marinated and deep fried then cooked again in a spicy gravy that evenly coats the chicken.

Nadir Yahni – The vegetarian fare of the Wazwan. Lotus stem roots cooked in yoghurt gravy with spices. Another version of this is served in the Wazwan with the addition of spinach called Nadir palak.

Haak – Kashmiri greens simply cooked in mustard oil and kashmiri chillies.

I have not mentioned individual spices in the above dishes as Kashmiri cuisine uses very few spices and they are used across the board for all the above dishes with the addition and subtraction of a few.

Not to mention Kashmiris do consume seafood in their diet as well. Trout I believe is the only form of seafood consumed. Trout is farmed in Pahalgam and interestingly was introduced by Frank J Mitchel from Scotland in the early 1900.

Phirni – Kashmiris don’t boast of desserts in their cuisine however this humble dessert forms a part of the Wazwan, ground rice cooked in milk until thick custard consistency and garnished with edible silver leaf and assorted chopped nuts.

Tea is a very important beverage in the Kashmiri culture. Served during all important occasions and festivals.  Kawah is served during marriages, its a green tea made with saffron, spices and almonds. Noon chai is also another quite popular salted kashmiri tea. You can read more about Kashmiri teas on my previous blog on “Nashta” the great Indian Breakfast.

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I have always felt that Kashmiri cuisine is quite unique in its approach as compared to it counterpart cuisines. Subtle yet leaves a punch on your tongue. With the minimum use of ingredients I feel the emphasis is more on how every part of the animal is used to give different textures to the Wazwan.

I leave you with this “authentic” recipe of Rogan Josh. Do give it a try and you could compare it to restaurant version for yourselves.

Recipe Rogan Josh

1 kg Lamb or Goat (Use the leg meat, ask your butcher to cut it in dices with the bone.)

200 gms thick yoghurt.

150 ml Ghee or clarified butter

12-15 whole kashmiri red chillies

5 green cardamom

4 cloves

3 black cardamom

1 tsp fennel powder

1/2 tsp ginger powder

couple of pinch of hing (asafoetida)

salt to taste

Method

1. Boil the red chillies for 10-15 mins. Drain and make a smooth paste. Add a little water if required.

2. Wash the meat and drain the excess water.

3. Heat ghee in a pot, add the hing, and the whole spices. Stir for a few minutes and add the meat. Stir on a high heat till the meat pieces are brown. Add the powdered spices, along with salt, yoghurt and the chilli paste. Stir fry for another 15 mins and add 2 cups of hot water. cover with lid and cook on low heat for 45 mins -1hr or until the meat is completely tender.

4 . Serve hot with parathas or rice.

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Photo credits – maverickbird http://wp.me/p3hiyv-19G

 

Dahi aur Khade Masale ka Murgh (Chicken cooked with yoghurt and whole spices)

The Mughals and Persians from western Asia brought their rich artistic and gastronomic culture of eating meat to India. This influence lasted for more than 400 years and is now part of the fabric of Indian culinary culture.The splendor of the Mughal rule is reflected in the Mughlai Cuisine of India which is the richest and the most lavish in the country.

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Punjab has bequeathed the institution of Dhaba to the world. The Dhaba moves wherever a Punjabi goes would be the correct thing to state about its origin. Dhabas were food stalls which were often run by single families and mushroomed all along the trunk road serving fresh regional cuisine. The dhabas mainly gained popularity in the Northwestern part of the country from Peshawar to Punjab. The dhabas were characterised by open kitchens, clay ovens also know as tandoor and used brass and copper utensils. Dhabas today have become very popular all over the country and many modern versions have evolved.

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I have selected one of the most popular dishes from their menu a simple chicken curry cooked with yoghurt and whole spices.

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Serves 6-8 people

Cooking time 40 mins

 

Ingredients

2 Baby chicken whole (approx 900 gms each)

Whole Spices 

3 bay leaves

1 stick cinnamon 5 cm

6 green cardamom

4 cloves

1/2 tbsp Cumin seeds

7-8 whole kashmiri red chillies

 

4 tbsp vegetable oil

4 tbsp desi ghee

4 medium onions

250 gms ginger and garlic paste (100 gms ginger & 150 gms garlic)

500 gms yoghurt

125 ml double cream

25gms or around 1 heaped tbsp kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp cumin powder

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

Salt to taste

3 tbsp chopped coriander

 

Method

1.Clean chicken and trim any excess fat. Cut each chicken into approximately 18 pieces or you can ask your local butcher to do that for you.

2. In a pan heat oil and ghee. Once heated add all the whole spices. The idea here is to make sure that the spices release their flavour into the oil. Make sure not to burn the spices.

3. Add 4 finely chopped onion and saute until slightly brown, we don’t want the onions to be golden brown. Just a slight colour on them will do.

4. Now add the ginger and garlic paste and saute for 7-10 mins until the ginger and garlic paste is cooked.

5. At this stage add all the dry spices except the garam masala powder. Before you add the spices I would recommend to add 2 tbsp of hot water to the cooking pan, give a quick stir and then add the spices. This will prevent the dry spices from burning and help impart the best flavour possible,.

6. Saute for further 2 mins and add the chicken pieces, at this stage add the salt. Saute the chicken for 7-10 mins until evenly coated with the masala.

7. Lower the heat to minimum and add the yoghurt . Mix well and increase the heat. Saute for further 5 mins. Lower the heat back to minimum and cover the pan with a lid and cook for further 15 mins.

8. Remove lid and increase the heat. Saute on high heat for further 5-7 mins or until the gravy has slightly thickened. At this stage add the cream, chopped coriander and garam masala powder. Cook for further 5 mins.

9. The Chicken curry is now ready. Serve hot with chapatis or rice and finely sliced onions with a dash of  lemon on the side.

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I can say this with full assurance and confidence that is will be the best form of Chicken curry you have ever tasted. Simple yet gratifying and scrumptious.

Looking forward for your feedback once you have made it.

 

I have put together a short video below which demonstrates the various stages of cooking the above recipe.

Raan e Sikandari (Slow roasted leg of lamb served with a masaledaar gravy)

 

With Easter weekend round the corner I was keen to share this recipe. I would be wrong in saying that this a quick in and out recipe, however the end result is worth the effort. A succulent melt in the mouth Indian lamb roast that bursts with flavours accompanied by a creamy masaledar gravy.

 

1 whole leg of  lamb approx 2.5 kg serves 4-5 people

200 ml mustard oil

50 gms kashmiri chilli powder

Juice of 1 lemon

200 gms garlic paste

100 gms ginger paste

1 tbsp chopped green chilli

*1 raw papaya peeled and deseeded

*250 gms cashew nut and almond paste

8 onions sliced and fried until golden brown.

250 gms yoghurt

1 tbsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp cumin powder

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tbsp kasoori methi powder (dried fenugreek)

2 tbsp garam masala

1 tsp elaichi powder (green cardamom)

1 tsp white pepper powder

1 tsp saunf powder (fennel seeds)

1 tsp nutmeg powder

1 gm saffron

1 tbsp rosewater

1 tbsp kewra (screwpine) water

 

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100ml double cream (for gravy)

2 tbsp flaked almond (garnish)

Few sprigs of coriander leaves (for garnish)

4 boiled eggs (for garnish)

 

Marinade 1

Make deep incisions on the leg. Add mustard oil, lemon juice, 1 tbsp salt, kashmiri chilli powder and ginger garlic paste. Rub into the leg and leave in the fridge covered for 4 hrs.

Marinade 2

Mix all the remaining ingredients in a bowl, add 1/2 tbsp of salt and rub the mix on the lamb.

Leave to marinate overnight.

Reserve some fried onions for garnish.

 

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The Process

Preheat the oven to 250 C. Add the lamb with the marinate in a roasting pan, add three cups of water to the pan, do not pour water over the lamb. This would assist in making the gravy and prevent the spices from burning.

Once the lamb is out of the fridge let it come to room temperature before roasting.

Seal the roasting pan with double aluminium foil and cook in the oven at 175 C for 4 hrs.

Keep checking after every one hour, if the water evaporates in the roasting pan add another cup of warm water as this is important for the gravy.

Transfer the lamb on a serving platter, spoon the gravy evenly and garnish with flaked almonds, fried onions, chopped coriander leaves and boiled eggs.

The roast lamb is best eaten with naan or paratha.

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Gravy

Transfer the lamb from the roasting pan. Remove excess fat or oil from the roasting pan. Add the remaining juices from the roasting pan to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and add the double cream, stir until the gravy coats the back of your spoon. Once ready spoon the gravy evenly over the roast.

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*To make papaya paste peel the skin and deseed papaya, cut into dices and blend in a food processor along with oil and water.

*To make almond and cashew nut paste, boil both of them separately for 15 mins, de skin the almonds and blend both of them together in a food processor with water to make a smooth paste. The consistency of the paste should be more or less like a thick milkshake.

 I have added a brief video demonstrating the marination process with shoulders instead of legs. It does not cover the entire recipe but works as a guide.

If you have any questions on the recipe please free to leave a comment I will respond to you as soon I can.

Hope you enjoy the recipe.

 

 

 

The Great Indian Breakfast – “Nashta is served”

“Nashta” simply translates to Breakfast in India. However quite surprisingly the concept of breakfast has never been existing in India since ancient times. Simply considered as the first meal of the day, the dishes have varied from region to region from super lavish spreads to simple and light meals. In recent times the nashta has been commercialised, losing its authenticity, simply because people are now more health conscious  and Indian breakfast at large was considered to be  notoriously a very heavy meal. Saying that, the real Indian breakfast still has hasn’t lost it identity thanks to the corner shops at the “chowks” still serving lip smacking dishes all over the Indian subcontinent  and surprisingly the meals are served throughout the day and not just in the mornings. For the love of good hearty desi nashta I have put together some famous dishes from different states of the subcontinent which I am sure will make your mouth water.

 

Kashmir

This beautiful valley is known for its “Chai” , the Kashmiris are considered to be heavy tea drinker and the most famous breakfast tea is the noon chai or sheer chai which is a salted pink tea made with green tea leaves, milk and  flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, pistachios. This tea derives its pink colour due to the addition of  bicarbonate of soda. The noon chai is usually consumed with traditional Kashmiri bread known as the “Kulcha” and ” baqerkhani” without them the Kashmiri breakfast is incomplete. The baqerkhani is more like a puff pastry, which is round, crispy and layered made with flour, semolina, butter, milk, sugar, ghee and cardamom. Once baked its topped with sesame seeds. Some other varieties of breads are tsot and tsochvoru which are small and round breads, topped with poppy and sesame seeds.

 

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Another most famous Kashmiri breakfast which very few have heard of is the Kashmiri Hareesa also known as the mutton halwa. It’s a century old winter dish made early in the morning. This dish is prepared with boneless meat of goat or lamb which is mixed with wheat and spices and is stirred for hours on slow heat. Once cooked the texture resembles haleem and is topped with fried onions ideally served with traditional baqerkhani.

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Punjab

Punjabis are well-known all over the world for their great cuisine. The “Parantha” which is considered the king of all Indian breakfast and is still consumed all over the world with delight was born in Punjab. Parantha is derived from the words “parat” which means a large tray and “atta” which means dough. Parantha is unleavened flat bread which is stuffed with different vegetables, spices or meat and fried in desi ghee or oil, served with dollops of homemade white butter, yoghurt or home-made pickles. The paratha is usually washed down with a glass of lassi which is made of yoghurt and water either sweet or salty. The paranthe waali galli in old delhi is an institution in itself, serving over 100 varieties of paranpthas. A few examples of the famous paranthas are aloo(potato) parantha, gobi(cauliflower)  parantha, mooli(radish)  parantha , methi(fenugreek)  parantha, paneer(cottage cheese)  parantha, ajjwain (carom seeds)  parantha and the Keema (mince lamb)  parantha.

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Another famous  Punjabi breakfast fare is the Chole Bhature. Consumed again all over the globe this epic dish cannot be left out of the breakfast selection. Bhaturas are crispy fried puffed bread served with spiced chickpeas which are soaked overnight, cooked with spices on a slow heat and served with onion salad and green chillies.

Bihar and West Bengal

The “Sattu” or the powdered gram is consumed heavily in this state in various forms. Sattu is prepared by roasting bengal gram and grinding it into a fine powder like texture. Sattu is considered to be high in fibres and is a great source of energy. Usually consumed for breakfast – the sattu parantha which is a regular parantha made wheat flour  stuffed with sattu flour, onions, chillies, ginger,garlic, nigella seeds, lemon juice, mustard oil and coriander leaves, this is usually pan-fried in Ghee and served with yoghurt and pickle.

The famous radha ballavi from West Bengal is another breakfast classic. Its my personal favourite. Deep fried Bengali flat bread stuffed with urad daal is served with “niramish aloor dum ” aka simple potato curry or “aloo torkari” which is a spicy potato curry and bengali cholaar daal .  My suggestion – if you haven’t tried this dish you haven’t lived.

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Gujrat

The most famous Gujarati breakfast is the match made in culinary heaven also known as the Gathia and Jalebi, typically consumed every Sunday. the salty gathia and sweet jalebi form a perfect combination. The gathia often called Pata Gathia or fafda ganthia is made of a gram flour dough, flavored with salt, pepper and carom seeds and is deep-fried in thin strips until crispy. The Jalebi is made by frying all-purpose flour batter in circular shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup usually flavored with saffron.

Theplas are another classic Gujarati dish consumed widely for breakfast. The theplas are spiced parathas with the addition of yoghurt, fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves and spices. Theplas are usually served with “chunda” which is a sweet and sour mango chutney.

Andhra Pradesh

One of the most popular non vegetarian breakfast fare is the Nihari. Legend has it that this meat stew originated in Old Delhi some 100 years ago by a local doctor to cure cold and fever somewhere next to Jama Masjid where after offering morning prayers people use to consume this stew for breakfast. The stew is cooked overnight to release maximum flavours from the bone marrow and creating really tender meat. This dish was mastered on a different level by the Hyderabadi Chefs. The Chefs added goat tongue to enhance the flavour along with goat shanks, spices and vegetables, slow cooked for 4-6 hrs. Its best eaten during winters accompanied with naan or layered kulcha.

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Another popular Andhra breakfast is the Pesara Attu Upma – a crepe made with moong daal (green gram lentil) flavoured with chillies and ginger, stuffed with upma (savory semolina porridge) served with karam podi (a spicy powder made with lentils and whole spices) and coconut chutney

Maharashtra

Now this next dish is  arguably one of the most popular breakfast dishes eaten all over India with different variations and recipes. Yes I am talking about “kandha batata poha” made with flattened rice flakes, potatoes and onions. This dish originated in Maharashtra and is a staple dish of the state. It’s a very healthy breakfast. Rice flakes are passed through running cold water to moisten them. The rice flakes are  then tempered with oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions, green chillies, turmeric, sugar, salt and mixed together. Potatoes are diced and cooked separately and added to the poha. Poha is garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander, freshly dessicated coconut and a dash of fresh lime juice.

Goa

This famous tourist spot is well known for its fresh seafood and an amazing selection of meaty dishes with a rich portuguese influence. However it also offers a hearty breakfast dish on the menu. Known as the “Pao Tonak”  which is technically a stew made with dried assorted peas or legumes, potatoes, onions, tamarind, grated coconut and a special masala consisting of  coriander seeds, red chillies, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. The stew is served traditionally with local crusty bread also known as “pao”.

Tamil Nadu

The “Idli” is the most famous breakfast consumed not only in India but has made its presence felt around the globe and by far enjoys a cult status in the Indian culinary stage.  Tamil Nadu is said to be the birth place of “Idli”. Considered to be the  most humble breakfast dish – rice and fermented black lentils that are husked are formed into cakes by steaming. These cakes are then served with fresh coconut chutney and sambhar (spicy lentil soup) or milagai podi (coarse powder mixture of ground dry spices) adding sesame or coconut oil to it to form a paste. The recipe of Idli is supposed to be 1100 years old and in the 21st century this humble breakfast dish has had many variations to its name.

Kerala 

This beautiful state situated off the Malabar coast is also referred to as Gods own country, is not only rich in heritage and culture but also commands a great culinary history. Since I talk about Kerala I need to mention the ever glorious Idiyappam. A simple dish originating in Kerala and is a staple breakfast of the locals. Idiyappam also know as nool puttu is made with roasted rice flour which is formed into a dough by mixing warm water and then this dough is pressed through a Idiyappam press which releases this dough into noodle shape onto banana leaves  placed in a steamer. The recipes vary and some call for the addition of fresh grated coconut. The Iddiyappams are served with a number of side dishes. A few examples are – egg curry, vegetable stew, peas and egg kurma,  chicken mappas and chicken stew.

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Its been really difficult to choose a few selected dishes out of hundreds of dishes eaten every morning across the lengths and breadths of the Indian sub continent. However I shall continue this journey of spreading the love for Indian food in my upcoming blogs.

Happy Reading

Culinary Chronicles of the Great Mughals

“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.”

“If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here.”

Mughal Emperor Jehangir said this when he visited Kashmir in the 17th century.

It was during the Mughal rule in India that a culinary revolution started. Mughals are credited with introducing spices, exotic fruits and nuts to the Indians. At this point of time various new techniques were introduced and meat became a feature in this new culinary era. The Persian cuisine was introduced in India during the early 1200 AD when the Mughals invaded the Indian soil. The royal kitchens had become a centre of development  where a unique fusion of Persian and Indian cuisine came into being. It was during this time that the Tandoor was invented and was called “Tanur”and the bread was called “Naan e Tanuri” . The famous Kebabs were also invented during this time, the royals chefs introduced the techniques of marinating meat with yoghurt, ghee(clarified butter) and spices. This was believed to be the golden period in the history of Indian cuisine.

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It was in the mid 1500 AD that “Game” was introduced to Indian Cuisine. When Humayun ascended the throne he abolished the consumption of beef as he wanted to respect the religious sentiments and as Muslims didn’t consume pork hence Goat, fowl, venison, rabbit and birds like quail and partridge  became a staple source of meat.

It was during the rule of Akbar the great that the Mughlai Cuisine reached its epitome. Akbar had 400 cooks in his royal kitchen, most of them being Hindus. Akbar married a Rajput princess and this is when the Hindu cooks started experimenting with Persian ingredients, giving birth to a cuisine that is relished even till today.Prime example of this fusion were dishes like Murgh Mussulam (whole chicken marinated and stuffed with mince meat and cooked on Dum), the dopiaza a spicy preparation was named in honour of a great philosopher in Akbar’s Court and the Navratan Korma was invented keeping in mind the nine jewels of Akbars court and not to forget the most famous “biryani” was evolved during this great culinary era.

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The wings of the Mughlai cuisine were spreading fast and they were reaching the royal kitchens of Lucknow, Rajasthan and Hyderabad. However the Rajputs took a different approach towards the cuisine as they were primarily a vegetarian population. Meat didn’t feature on their dinner table but Rajput royalty were keen hunters and this is where the Mughal techniques were used. Their chefs always carried sets of herbs and spices and after the Shikaar (hunting) the meat would be either marinated and roasted or cooked as a stew in  a pot with vegetables and spices. They introduced a technique of roasting meat wherein the ground was dug and burning embers were thrown in it, meat was usually marinated, sealed with banana leaves and rugs or river clay. This was then buried in the ground and covered with sand and cooked for hours. This technique is also know as spit roasting. The other method was roasting the meat over an open grill fired up by wood or charcoal. This method was used to roast birds like guinea fowl, partridge, quail, sand grouse and pheasant, these had a common term called “sooley” which means smoked kebab and apparently had 11 different methods of cooking. As the wild meat was quiet tough and took a lot of time to cook, another method of cooking called stewing was introduced. Meats like venison, rabbit and wild boar were cut up in dices and than cooked in a pot along with onions, ginger, garlic, spices and stewed for hours over wood fire to produce succulent and flavoursome curries. A few examples were the Junglee Maas (the meat bought from the hunt was simply cooked in pure ghee with only salt and red chillies), Laal Maas, Safed Maas, Maas ki kadhi, Handi Bootha and Murgh ka Shweta.

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Another interesting method of using game for consumption was pickling them, strangely this was quiet common during that time as there was no other way of preserving the meats. So meats like wild boar, venison and even game birds were being pickled. The meat was cooked a bit before being pickled which would either be frying or steaming and was then pickled along with mustard oil, vinegar and spices.

Indian culinary history is quiet vast in itself and a single piece of blog is not enough to cover the history of such a vast and varied country. However i promise to cover the whole subject and keep writing about the gastronomically wonderful country. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as i enjoy writing it.

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