Cilantro (Coriander leaves), also called as Kothmir or Hara Dhaniya in Urdu language, is my favorite, most quintessential culinary herb with a wonderful aroma, which I love to add in most of my vegetable and meat preperations while I cook. The leaves are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, the B vitamin riboflavin and dietary fiber.

Cilantro or Kothmir

To plant and harvest:
Growing this fragrant herb is easy. Every Indian kitchen is stocked up with coriander seeds. Just sow a few of them into soil, water a little daily to keep the soil moist. They sprout in about 10 days time. I sowed a handful seeds in railing planters, as well as in a few used yogurt boxes (which I washed throughly, and made two holes in the bottom, before adding soil and sowing) and they grew beautifully.

Cilantro growing in planter

Cilantro blooms are the most fragrant. If you pluck a few, the strong fragrance lasts in your fingers for a long time for everybody to notice.

Cilantro Blooms

Cilantro Blooms developing into Coriander seeds

I sow a few coriander seeds, once every two months (optional: and fertilize them with manure), so that I have cilantro at hand whenever I need it. Place the pots outdoors in summers, and sow them indoors in pots in front of bright windows in winters. Make sure to harvest the Cilantro before it goes into the blooming stage.

To store Cilantro – I usually follow the subsequent ways to store fresh cilantro:

1. Discard the tough stem ends and spread out the tender (unwashed) cilantro over a paper towel as shown in the picture below.

Gently roll the tender cilantro snugly in paper towel.

Transfer this roll to a zip-lock plastic bag, squeeze out air and store refrigerated. Before using, wash required amount thoroughly in water, pat dry and use as required. Use the roll within 2-3 weeks. Keep checking, if the paper towel has become damp or needs a change, replace it with a fresh paper towel for the cilantro to last longer.

2. Discard the tough stem ends and store the tender (unwashed) cilantro in a plastic box. Place two raw eggs in shell in the box and cover with a tight fitting lid.

The egg absorbs the excess moisture and keeps the cilantro fresh for almost 2 or 3 weeks. Discard the egg after 3 weeks of use, and replace with new if required. Before using cilantro, wash required amount thoroughly in water, pat dry and use as needed.

3. An another way to store fresh cilantro is to freeze it, just like I do with fresh mint leaves. This way you can store fresh cilantro indefinitely.

Discard the tough ends of cilantro. Wash the bunch in a sink of fresh cool water. Swish it vigorously. Plunge it in and out. Remove from water and shake off excess water. Spread on a kitchen towel and let dry for 30 minutes. Now chop them all up roughly. In an ice-cube tray, tightly pack roughly chopped cilantro along with its tender stems into each of the molds of the tray. Cover with water and freeze overnight. The next day, working quickly, unmold the frozen cilantro cubes from the ice-cube tray and transfer them to a zip-lock bag. Squeeze out air and freeze immediately. To use, add the frozen cubes to the curries during the last stages of cooking.


Second Blog Anniversary

I am very happy to share with my readers that today my blog- Zaiqa, has completed two years of sharing with you all, the love for food that I, a Hyderabadi homesick have, with all that has been cooking in my house, my kitchen. It has been a wonderful experience.

Inshallah hopefully I will continue to blog and romance food in the future, showcase as many recipes and my family style of home cooking here on my web log. Thank you all for being a part of my journey.

Changes: I have updated a new theme for my blog and also installed the post views count today.


Kaddu ka Dalcha

I am so in love with the bottle gourds that I get here in the Asian stores in Toronto. Young and tender with bright spring-bud green color is how I describe the bottle gourds that I get here.

Kaddu, Split Chana Dal, Tomato

Kaddu, aka ‘Bottle gourd’ or ‘Opo squash’ in English

Dalcha refers to soupy dal preparation from Hyderabad. It can be prepared with only a vegetable, which I am writing about today, or along with meat with bone combination, also called as Daalcha Gosht. The dal with either of the combination is then simmered gently in a tomato with tempering/baghaar spices sauce that impart a beautiful aroma and flavor. Once the vegetable and meat is tender it is allowed to cook with the mashed dal. Today I prepared Dalcha with bottle gourd for my lunch along with Qimah Methi and Matar Chawal. Traditionally Dalcha is served along with Baghara Chawal and Phalli Gosht, or even along with Biryani on the side.

Kaddu, peeled and cut into Diamonds

Peel and cut bottle gourd kaddu diagonally into large diamond shapes. The kaddu that I have used today was very green and callow, so it didnt have any tough and aged seeds. If there is any fibrous central pith with mature hard seeds, I suggest you slice the central pith and discard it and use only the clean white flesh. But it not mandatory.

Kaddu Ka Dalcha

Kaddu Ka Dalcha – Bottle Gourd in Legume Soup


Chana dal/Bengal gram (or) Yellow lentils/Tuvar ki dal – 1 1/2 cups
Canola oil/Ghee – 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Garlic pods – 2-3, peeled and crushed
Dried red chillies – 2, each broken into two and stalks removed
Curry leaves – 10 fresh leaves
Tomato – 2, large, ripe and red, finely chopped
Chopped Cilantro – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Bottle gourd/Opo Squash/Kaddu – 1, medium sized, around 750 gms
Raw tamarind juice/Kacchi Imli ka juice – 4 tbsp or to taste


1. Peel the bottle gourd. Slice off and discard the top and bottom of the gourd. Cut the bottle gourd into two halves lengthwise. If the central pith of the bottle gourd contains mature seeds, discard the central pith, or if the bottle gourd is young and tender, there is no need to discard the central pith. Now cut each half into 1 inch thick strips lengthwise. Cut each strip diagonally into 2-3 inch pieces.
2. Wash the dal in two or three water changes. Drain and keep aside. In a pressure cooker, add the drained dal and 4 cups water. Add 2 tsp salt and pressure cook the dal until it is soft and well cooked. You can puree the dal in a blender and pour it back back into the saucepan and keep aside. I just mash it using a dal ghotni or use an immersion blender sometimes.
3. In a large frying pan at medium heat, pour canola oil, and as soon as it warms up, add the cumin seeds and the crushed garlic pods. After 30 seconds, add the dried red chillies and curry leaves. Immediately add the chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, red chilli powder, salt, turmeric and mix well. Cover the lid for about a minute. Add the chopped bottle gourd and mix well. Pour in water to cover the bottle guard pieces and cover the lid. Let cook for about 10 minutes or until the bottle gourd is tender. To check, pierce a piece of bottle gourd with the tip of a sharp knife.
4. Once the bottle gourd is tender, add this to the saucepan with the pureed dal and pour in water to dilute and achieve a thin soupy consistency. Add the tamarind juice and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Let it boil once, then simmer and let it cook for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This delicious dal is my entry to the event ‘Delicious Dals from India’ being hosted by Suma at her blog Veggie Platter.


Weekend Breakfast

Our weekend breakfast: Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam along with Afghani Bread. Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam is an Indian brand jam. It is different, delicious, and I have always enjoyed it since my childhood. Always love to pick a jar of this particular brand from the Indian stores during weekend grocery shopping visits.

Any more fans out there who love Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam like me?



Shakkar-paare are deep fried sweet confectionary bites made out of refined flour, ghee/oil, and a simple sugar syrup. A similar kind, which are savory are called as Namak-paare, in which salt and cumin seeds are added for taste instead of sugar.


Your truly loves Shakkappaare, he has a big sweet tooth. So, I occasionally prepare a small batch upon his request. Kids will also enjoy this sweet treat.

Shakkarpaare – Sweet Bites

Makes: 1 cup approx

All purpose flour/Maida – 1/2 cup
Sugar – 3 tbsp
Water – 1/4 cup
Canola oil/Ghee – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 pinch


1. In a saucepan, add water and sugar. Boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm.
2. Sift flour into a bowl along with salt. Pour oil/ghee and add lukewarm sugar syrup, a little at a time, and mix well to form a soft dough. Knead the dough for a minute, and cut the dough into two equal halves. Cover the dough halves with a damp kitchen towel.


3. Meanwhile heat oil in a kadai or a non-stick deep saucepan or a wok to deep fry.

Rolled out dough cut into squares

4. Take one half of the dough and using a rolling pin roll it into a disc, about half cm in thickness. Sprinkle a little bit of flour only if needed. Cut the rolled out dough into squares using a knife or a pizza cutter.
5. Deep fry the cut squares until golden brown in color. Remove using a slotted spoon into a wire mesh strainer for the oil to drain away. Enjoy as a snack.

Interesting Read: Losing Food Identity by Cynthia.