Easy Moong-Masoor Dal

This hearty recipe is all you need to warm up during these cold, grey and drizzly evenings bringing a fuzzy feeling of warmth from the inside out.

Dal (lentil curry) forms an integral part of the staple Bengali diet and is present at most mealtimes in a every traditional household. Surprisingly simple, yet nutritiously satisfying, dal can also be enjoyed, guilt-free, as a protein-rich soup if you prefer a lower carb meal.

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 55 mins

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • ½ cup split moong dal
  • 1 cup masoor dal
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ ground cumin
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 green chillies, split lengthwise (optional)
  • 1 tbsp oil

For the tempering

  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp panch phoron (Bengali five spice mix*)
  • 1 tsp crushed red chilli (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Method

  1. Dry roast the moong dal over a gentle flame until the aromas are released, stirring constantly. This will take about 3-4 mins and the lentils will change colour very slightly. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the cooled moong dal with the masoor dal and rinse until the water runs clear.
  3. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add 3 cups water with the salt. Bring to boil, removing any foam which is formed.
  4. Add the onions, garlic and ginger paste, the dry spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin) and the oil. Stir well, cover and simmer on low until the lentils are cooked. This will take no more than 30 mins.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and run a whisk or hand blender through the cooked lentils to create a smooth, rich consistency.
  6. Return the pan to the heat and add the last cup of water. Add the green chilli (if using) and turn up the heat and bring back to boil. Lower the heat and cook on a medium flame for approximately 10 minutes, to achieve a less watery consistency. The dal should still be runny. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.
  7. For the tempering, place a small wok or frying pan over a medium flame. Heat the oil, then add the bay leaf and garlic. Cook off for 1-2 mins until the garlic begins to brown.
  8. Turn off the heat and stir in the five spices and red chilli flakes, if using.
  9. Remove the lid from thevsaucepan of cooked dal and pour in the tempered spices. Scoop a spoonful of the dal into the tempering vessel and then gently scrape the dal back into the saucepan again to capture all the flavours from the tempered spices.
  10. Place the lid back on the dal and allow the flavours to infuse through.

Your dal is now ready!

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Shahi Chicken Korma

I usually whip up recipes blogs in minutes, but this, I must say has taken a bit of doing…Just knowing when to throw things into a pan doesn’t make it any easier to write some not-so-simple recipes. But I promise you, the effort for this one is worth every precious minute of your time.

You will find many variants of this recipe, some of which use ingredients such as cashews, khoya (reduced milk) and/or cream. Cashews are a complete ‘no-no’ in my cooking due to my daughter’s allergy (she is miraculously tolerant to almonds); khoya simply wasn’t in my cupboard so I used desiccated coconut with milk to create a creamy richness. And of course, I substituted cream with condensed milk.

So without further adieu, I bring to you Shahi (meaning ‘prestige’) Chicken Korma, aptly named as a dish fit for a royal 🙂

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cooking Time: 50 mins

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 500g boneless chicken, cut into small pieces ( I used thigh meat)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • I large onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic (OR 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced)
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste (OR 1” piece root ginger, finely grated)
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 4 tbsp desiccated coconut soaked in ½ cup milk for 20-30 mins
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • ½ cup condensed milk
  • 1 tbsp rose or kewra water
  • 2-3 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil gently in a medium heavy based pan or wok.
  2. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle and change colour – approx. 20 secs.
  3. Add the onions and chilli flakes. Turn up the heat to a medium flame and fry until softened and lightly golden.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and cook off for 2 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer this onion mixture into a blender, add the soaked coconut with milk and the ground almonds. Blend to a smooth mixture.
  7. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over a medium flame until any excess liquid has reduced.
  8. Add the chicken pieces and turn up the heat. Cook until the chicken is sealed – approx. 5-8 minutes, depending on the heat.
  9. Add the turmeric, coriander, chilli, garam masala and salt and sauté for 1-2 minutes
  10. Stir in the mace and remove from the heat.
  11. Gently stir in the condensed milk and mix in well.
  12. Return the pan to a medium heat and 1½ cups of hot water. Bring to boil.
  13. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until chicken is tender (approx. 30 mins).
  14. Stir in the rose or kewra water and garnish with flaked almonds, if using.

Sabut Masoor Dal (Whole Red Lentils)

One of my favourite lentil curries often made at my in-laws, I have just reduced the use of oil to the bare minimum 😊 Enjoy with naan, boiled rice or fragrant zeera (cumin) rice for a wholesome, healthy and heart-warming dish on a cold winter’s day.

Prep time: 5 mins

Cooking time: 45 mins

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole red lentils
  • 3 cups water + plus a more during cooking
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 green chilliest ( optional)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste, or 2 cloves finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • Fresh ginger slivers and lemons wedges (optional garnish)

How to prepare

  1. Rinse the lentils and pressure cook until tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. Heat the oil gently in a saucepan and add the cumin. Wait till they change colour.
  3. Add the onions and green chilli; cook until the onions have softened.
  4. Add the garlic and cook off for 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the tomato with the salt, cover and cook until softened completely.
  6. Add the dry spices and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add a little water and continue cooking to create a semi-dry mixture – ‘bhuna’.
  8. Add the cooked lentils to the pan and mix well.
  9. Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup hot water, stir again and bring to boil.
  10. Simmer the dal until the desired consistently is achieved – add more water if you preferred a runnier curry.
  11. Stir in the coriander leaves and remove from the heat.
  12. Top with the ginger slivers and lemon wedges, if using.

Gobi Bhuna

A delicious yet simple semi-dry dish, best enjoyed with traditional roti or in a wrap for a satisfyingly healthy meal!

Prep time: 5 mins

Cooking time: 25 mins

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp level curry powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped

How to prepare

  1. Rinse the cauliflower and leave aside to drain.
  2. Heat the oil gently and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Wait till they change colour; stir in the dried chilli and curry leaves.

3. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook gently for 1 min.

4. Add the tomatoes, cauliflower and salt; turn up the heat and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

5. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes.

6. Add a splash of water, lower the heat, cover and cook until then cauliflower is tender.

7. Stir in the coriander leaves and serve.

Spicy Aubergine Stew

Last night I was ‘Desperately Seeking Spice’ and discovered a plump aubergine hiding out in my refrigerator 😊 I had 45 minutes to present something palatable and suitably spicy before it was time to break my fast. So I decided to cut out the elaborate prep and just throw it all into one of my dinky little woks and hey presto!

Prep time: 3 mins

Cooking time: 25 mins

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large aubergine, cubed
  • 1/2 bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • Salt to taste

How to prepare

  1. Place all the ingredients, except the oil, into the wok and mix well.
  2. Drizzle the oil and stir in.
  3. Cover and allow to cook until the aubergine is tender.

Word of caution: Those normally adverse to aubergine may just be tempted to delve in so keep the dish by your side and only offer to share at the risk of missing out 😜

Gluten-free Besan (Gram Flour) Rotis


Prep time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves 4

Posting on demamd, this is a healthy,  gluten-free easy alternative to regular chapatis which I have adapted from the mum-in-law – the inspiration behind much of my creative cookery 😊

A runny batter ensures the rotis are spread thinly and cook inside out without burning.

Enjoy with your tea as breakfast or some yogurt and any side dish of your choice as a complete meal.

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups gram flour
  • Handful fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1tsp cumin seeds or carom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp garlic granules
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp crushed red chilli
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Salt as needed
  • 2.5 – 3 cups water (enough to make a runny batter)

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients to make a runny batter.
  2. Gently heat a tava or wide shallow frying pan. Spray with oil – to ensure the roti does not stick.
  3. Pour enough mixture to fill the base of the tava or pan in a thin layer.
  4. Cook over a low heat until the mixture has set – about 6-7 mins.
  5. Flip the roti with a slotted spoon and cook the other side until completely cooked – another 5-6 mins.
  6. Repeat steps 2-6 until all the mixture has been used.

Note: The number of rotis this recipe yields will depend on the size of your pan. I used a pan with a 21cm wide base and made 4 rotis.

Achari Chicken

Good to be back here! It’s a long shift in my kitchen tonight as I prep for a private catering event later today. Christmas parties everywhere! The biriyani masala mix is well under way, wafting its aromas at this rather ungodly hour 😳

While I wait, having of course done all my chopping, I thought a bit of blogging wouldn’t go amiss given it has been a while…

Last week I cooked this flavoursome traditional dish which, as the name suggests, does not use archar (pickle) in the recipe at all! No, no no. The achari tanginess is created with my favourite good old Bengali ‘five spice’ mix. I still remember the flavour created by this incredible concoction of five seeds when my grandma made her delectable chicken curry during our rare visits to see her in Bangladesh.

So this is how it goes:

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • img_27091 medium chicken or 2 chicken breasts cut into curry pieces
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon panch phoron (five spice mix)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp ginger purée
  • 1 tbsp garlic purée
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 200g chopped tinned tomato
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 hot cup water
  • 2 green chillies (optional)
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped (optional)

How to cook

  1. Wash and drain the chicken well (although it’s best not to wash the chicken to prevent campylobacter cells from spreading – the most common cause of food poisoning; cooking the chicken thoroughly will remove this as well as other bacteria – read NHS article here).
  2. Heat the oil gently and add the five spice mix. Wait until the seeds sizzle.
  3. Add the onions and cook over a medium flame until golden brown (up to 10 minutes).
  4. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes, cover and cook until soft and pulpy.
  6. Mash down the tomato mixture with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, cumin, chilli powder, salt and garam masala. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes dry. Stir well and allow to ‘bhuna’ (i.e. the oil should separate from the spices and float to the top).
  7. Stir in the the chicken pieces ensuring they are well coated with the spice mixture. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium-high flame, ensuring the spices do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add the water and bring to boil. Simmer for 2 mins, then drop in the green chillies, if using.
  9. Cover and  cook on a low flame until the chicken is thoroughly done.
  10. Garnish with coriander leaves, if using, just before serving.

Enjoy 😊

 

Mattar Pulao (Peas Pilau)

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 35 mins
Serves: 4


IngredientsMattar Pulao

  • 2 cups Basmati Rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1″ root ginger, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1″ stick cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cups hot water
  • salt to taste

How to cook

  1. Rinse the rise and drain thoroughly. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil over a medium flame and the cook the onions until softened and only slightly browned.
  3. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon and cumin seeds; allow the seeds to change colour.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for 2 mins or until slightly browned.
  5. Stir in the peas and cook for 3-4 mins.
  6. Add the rice and stir fry for 20-30 secs.
  7. Add the water with the salt and bring to boil.
  8. Seal the pan with foil and cover with the lid and cook on low heat for 25 mins (use a heat diffuser beneath the pan if it is not a non-stick pan).
  9. Remove from the heat and allow to settle for 5 mins before serving.

Mackerel with Spinach (Macher Chorchori)

mackerel_with_spinach.jpg-pwrt3Based on the traditional Bengali dish known as ‘chorchori’ (medley) this is variation which I learnt to cook from my father, a master of culinary creativity. An easy to cook recipe bursting with flavour and goodness.

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves: 2

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tin mackerel fillets in brine, drained
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • ½ tbsp garlic paste, or 1 fresh clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste or 1” piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6-7 blocks of frozen spinach
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 green chilli, chopped (optional)
  • handful of fried fenugreek leaves (optional)

Method:

1. Heat the oil and add the bay leaf.

2. Add the onions and cook on medium heat until transparent.

3. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 1-2 mins.

4. Add the dry spices and sauté for 2 mins with 2 tbsp water.

5. Add the mackerel and stir well to cover with spices, using a wooden spoon to break up the fillets.

6. Add the spinach and green chilli (if using), stir a little and cover; leave to cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes.

7. Stir the spinach well to blend in with the fish mixture. Cover and cook again, if necessary, until the spinach is cooked through.

8. Remove the lid and turn up heat to evaporate any excess liquid.

9. Continue stirring and remove from heat when the dish is completely dry and begins to come away from the sides of the pan as you stir.

10. Stir in the dried fenugreek leaves, if using, and remove from heat.

As published in the Wimbledon Guardian, 12 December 2013

Aloo Bharta

Aloo (ka) Bharta (spicy mashed potato) is a timeless comfort food which can be enjoyed equally with rice or rotis. As a Bengali, my staple meal growing up consisted of boiled rice and my mum often prepared this bharta in traditional Bengali style, either using mustard oil as a base or ghee; the latter treating one’s sensory palette to the ultimate taste experience which I dare not replicate for obvious health reasons!

Aloo Bharta, a dish of Bihari origin, has many variations. My recipe is based on a Pakistani version which I have adapted from my mother-in-law and is very different to the Bengali method of preparation and personally, best enjoyed with handmade rotis 😀

Feel free to replace the tomato purée with fresh tomatoes. I only used the purée as I was out of tomatoes 😱

Ingredients

  • 750 g potatoes, boiled and mashed with a tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 11/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • Green and red chillies, chopped
  • Coriander leaves

How to cook

1. Heat the oil gently and add the cumin seeds. Allow seeds to sizzle.

2. Add the onions and chillies. Cover and cook until softened.

3. Stir in the spices and cook for 1 minute over a medium flame.

4. Add the tomato purée and mix well. Cook until the oil separates from spices. Stir in the salt.

5. Turn down the heat and add the mashed potato. Mix well until the spices is evenly distributed throughout the potato.

6. Stir in the chopped coriander and transfer to a serving dish.