Gajar Ka Meetha

Come winter, and my taste buds keep craving for a meetha/Indian dessert. Though not a big meetha loving person, I tend to enjoy subtly sweetened home made Indian desserts. The last fall, I had tried my hands on pumpkin meetha which had turned out fabulous, this year the classic gajar ka meetha was foreordained. I happened to spot some beautiful carrots at the regular food mart at a very reasobale rate, and who could resist this nutrient laden root vegetable.

Farm Fresh Carrots

This winter dessert of reduced carrots and milk never ceases to appeal both me and my hubby. He even enjoys this meetha warmed along with hot parathas in the breakfasts. I restrict to eating it a little only after dinner.

Gajar ka Meetha can be enjoyed hot or cold, and can even be reheated. This meetha is generally prepared from the red carrots that are available in India throughout winters. For this preparation, use a food processor thats effortlessly grates the carrots in a jiffy.

I do not like my meetha saturated with either sugar or ghee, and I also hate a mushy disintegrated gajar ka halwa. So feel free to alter the amounts of sugar and cook the meetha mushy if you desire.

Gajar Ka Meetha – Carrot Sweetmeat

Ingredients:

Red Carrots (preferably) or any Sweet Carrots/Gajar – 1 kg, washed, scraped and finely grated (grate them as fine as possible, as long), cores discarded (I often use baby carrots which are quite sweet)
Ghee – 2 or 3 tbsp
Khoa – 1/2 cup, finely grated (or) Milk powder – 1/2 cup
Milk – 1/2 cup
Sugar – around 1 cup or less (according to taste)
Mixed Dry Fruits and Nuts – chopped walnuts, chironji, pinenuts, cashewnuts, raisins, slivered almonds and pistachios, etc – 1/4 cup, lightly toasted or shallow fried in oil or ghee
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp (optional)

Gajar Ka Meetha – Carrot Sweetmeat

Method:

1. In a large non-stick heavy bottomed saucepan (or a large iron kadai is best) at medium high heat add the grated carrots and dry roast them while stirring every 2-3 minutes for the first 8-10 minutes, then every minute for the next 15-20 minutes. Add ghee and continue roasting it for a few more minutes. This is the most important step to develop a deep roasted flavor in the carrots. Do not burn them and stir very gently, do not mash up the carrots while stirring. During this time a wonderful fragrance of roasting carrots will fill your kitchen.
2. Once the carrots are nicely roasted, lower the heat to medium and pour in the milk and khoa and let cook until the milk is absorbed by the carrots. Add the dry fruits and nuts and cardamom powder. Add the sugar little by little and keep tasting until you get the desired sweetness and the meetha thickens a bit. Mix well. And cook for a little longer while stirring very gently every once in a while until the meetha is almost dry. Remove from heat. Serve it warm or chilled or along with vanilla ice cream. Store the meetha once completely cooled in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

Suggested Serving: To impress your guests, serve the chilled meetha in mini pastry cases that are easily available in stores. You can name it as ‘Gajar Ka Meetha Tarts’.

Luv,
Mona

Lagan Ka Murgh

During my recent trip to Hyderabad, I got to do a lot of things that I had been wanting to do since long. I attended many weddings and enjoyed the traditional food serving there, brought along Lamsa tea mix which is something solely available in Hyderabad city, spices, and a few of the Indian utensils that were missing in my kitchen here depending on the weight limitations. I wish there was a little more allowance so that I could have got more.

Lagan – Indian utensil

Lagan is an Indian utensil that is wide, thick walled with a slightly curved thick bottom. I do not know if this is available and used in other parts of India as well. I brought along a medium sized lagan to use in my daily cooking. Mostly, this utensil is used to prepare dough in it, but it is also used to cook other dishes as well.

Since I had landed here in Toronto, I wanted to treat hubby dear with some special dishes, so I thought to prepare this simple yet exotic chicken curry. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this recipe, but it turned out superb. My hubby was a happy man, he enjoyed several servings of this curry along with rice and licked the plate clean.

Marinating the chicken and then slow cooking it in the masala does the trick. If you do not have a lagan to cook this dish in, you can simply use any heavy bottomed pan instead.

Lagan Ka Murgh ~ Slow-cooked Creamy Chicken curry in Aromatic Spices

White Poppy Seeds/Khus Khus – 1 tbsp
Cashew nuts – 1/8 cup
Warm milk – 3/4 cup
Chicken – 8 chicken leg pieces (or 650 gms with bone or boneless chicken cut into bite size pieces)
Thick Yogurt – 1/2 cup
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Salt – 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Canola oil – 4 tbsp
Onions – 3, medium sized, finely sliced
Cloves – 4
Green cardamoms – 4
Dried Bay leaf/Tej patta – 1
Tomato – 1, large, pureed
Garam masala powder – 3/4 tsp
Cilantro/Kothmir – 2 tbsp, finely chopped

Lagan Ka Murgh ~ Slow-cooked Creamy Chicken curry in Aromatic Spices

Method:

1. In a small cup, add khus khus and cashewnuts. Pour in warm milk and let soak for 20-25 minutes. Later puree it into a smooth paste.
2. Marinate the chicken with yogurt, ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, salt and red chilli powder. Mix well and keep aside for 30-40 minutes.
3. In a lagan or any thick bottomed vessel at medium high heat, pour oil and as soon as it is hot, add the sliced onions, two pinches of salt and fry while stirring constantly until they are golden brown in color. Add cloves, cardamoms and bay leaf. Add the marinated chicken along with the marinade and mix well. Add the prepared cashewnuts+khus khus+milk puree, and the tomato puree and mix well. Simmer, cover and let it cook slowly for 30-40 minutes. Keep stirring it every once in a while. You will see the oil will start to leave and the gravy will get thicker. Once done, sprinkle garam masala powder and chopped cilantro. Mix well and serve immediately.

Serve this creamy chicken curry warm along with hot Tandoori Naan, or Parathas or Khushka.

Luv,
Mona

Chawal Ka Meetha

Time flew away very fast and here I am, back in Toronto. Its good to be back home. My trip to India was filled with laughter, fun and frolic. I got to spend some very memorable moments along with my loved ones alhamdulillah whom I have been missing and yearning to meet since long. It took me a little while to get back to my routine, unpack and settle down, hence the reason for my disappearance from the blogosphere.

Crisp cool air and vibrant fall colors welcomed me as I landed here in Toronto. Since then, I had been craving something warm, comforting and that which will make me feel close to my Ammi yet again. Just a few days before I was leaving Hyderabad, Ammi had served a delicious Chawal ka Meetha. Ghee, saffron strands, reduced milk and dry fruits and nuts are the key ingredients that impart a unique flavor to this rice dessert. Oh, I had thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hope you all will also like this dainty rice dessert.

Chawal Ka Meetha – Sweet Rice

Ingredients:

Fragrant long grain Basmati rice – 1 1/2 cups
Ghee – 1 or 2 tbsp
Milk – 3 cups
Sugar – 1 cup
Saffron strands – 1 tsp
Mixed Dry fruits and Nuts: Coconut – cut into small pieces, or desiccated coconut; Almonds – slivered or roughly chopped; Cashew nuts; Raisins; Pine nuts; Chironji nuts; Pistachios- slivered or roughly chopped : 1/4 cup

Method:

1. Wash the rice in 2-3 changes of water. Drain thoroughly. In a saucepan, add surplus water and cook rice until it is 3/4th done. Drain and spread on a tray to cool.
2. Boil milk in a saucepan for 15 minutes until it has reduced slightly. Remove from heat and keep aside.
3. In an another saucepan, add sugar and saffron and pour in 1/2 cup water. Let it cook until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from heat and keep aside.
4. In a wide saucepan, add ghee and fry the dry fruits and nuts until they are golden brown. Pour in the sugar syrup and reduced milk. Add the partially cooked rice and mix gently. Let it cook on high heat for a few minutes. Once the water has been reduced, simmer, cover with a lid and let it cook until the rice is done.

Enjoy the meetha warm or chilled, depends on your fancy. I love it when served at room temperature or just slightly warm.

Luv,
Mona

Dry Fruits and Nuts Biscuits

Just like Sharmila, and I believe many other Indians, I tend to get confused between cookies and biscuits. Back home in India, only those that are studded with chocolate chips were called as cookies, whereas all others are referred to as biscuits. So you are free to call them whatever you wish, fruit biscuits, or fruit cookies, these melt in mouth morsels studded with dry fruits and nuts are a treat.

dry fruits and nuts biscuits

The famous Karachi Bakery in Hyderabad city is popular for fruit biscuits, among many other baked food products that they are known for. I had always loved these when I was a little kid. These were perhaps one my most early loves. So you can imagine my joy when I discovered a recipe for fruit biscuits at one of my favorite TV chefs website, Ina Garten. I have tried and took delight in many of her recipes, her homely style of cooking is something that I can identify with.

Simple to prepare and delightful to taste, these biscuits have become a regular in my house. Ofcourse I miss those that were available at Karachi Bakery, but these have been successful enough to win my heart and rock my tastebuds. I have made a few changes to the original recipe so that it suites me. For an eggless version, try Priya’s version.

Dry Fruits & Nuts Biscuits/ Cookies
Adapted from this original recipe

Ingredients:

Dried fruits – 1 cup [I used a mixture of tutti frutti and raisins. You can use whatever dry fruits you fancy, like dried berries, candied cherries (or any fruits) etc]
Dried nuts – 3/4 cup [I used a mixture of cashewnuts and walnuts]
Honey – 1 tbsp
Fresh orange juice – 2 tbsp
Fresh lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup (at room temperature)
Canola oil – 1/2 cup
Powdered cloves – 1/4 tsp
Light brown sugar – 1/3 cup
Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup
Eggs – 2, large
All purpose flour – 2 2/3 cups
Salt

Method:

1. Chop the dried nuts and fruits roughly. Place them in a mixing bowl, add orange juice, lemon juice, honey and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Cover with a plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight.
2. In a mixing bowl add butter and oil, powdered cloves, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Using a whisk or an electric hand mixer, beat for 3-4 minutes. Add eggs and beat for a minute or two until mixed. Add the the dried fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl. Now add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don’t over-mix! Divide the dough in half. Place the half on a wax paper and using the long edge of the paper as a guide, shape them into logs. Cover the logs with plastic wrap entirely if you plan to freeze them now to use later. Or else, refrigerate the logs wrapped in wax paper for 1-2 hours or until firm (you can even freeze them for just 15-20 minutes) so that you can easily cut them into slices.

biscuit dough logs

biscuits, cut and ready to be baked

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on aluminium foil lined cookie sheets and bake for 14 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden on the edges. Mine were done in just 14 minutes. Once done, transfer the biscuits immediately on a rack and let cool. Once cool, store in air tight food storage containers.

Luv,
Mona

Chicken 65

A quick, yummy and irresistible chicken stir fry~Chicken 65 is a famous Hyderabadi appetizer served at parties and easily available at most of the restaurants and food stalls in Hyderabad city. Please do not ask me why is it called Chicken 65, I have no idea about it.

There exist many versions of this dish, and today I am posting my version. I also make a dry version with no sauce, and just the baghaar/tempering. Inshallah I will post it in the future sometime. For now, you can prepare this simple dish and impress your loved ones.

Chicken 65

Serve Chicken 65 along with Rumali rotis. If you cannot buy or prepare Rumali roti, just heat a thin tortilla on a flat griddle until nicely toasted on both sides and enjoy.

Note: Normally, the chicken 65 that is served back home in Hyderabad is fiery red in color, that is because red color is added to it. I do not add color to food and hence the different color.

Chicken 65

Boneless Chicken – 500 gms, cut into bite size cubes, washed and drained (you can also use chicken with bone if you want)
For Batter:
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 1/2 tbsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Black pepper powder – 1/4 tsp
Egg white – 1, large
Cornflour – 1 tbsp
Canola oil – to deep fry
For Baghaar:
Canola oil – 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Black Mustard seeds – 1/2 tbsp
Green chillies – 10, small, each slit into two
Curry leaves – 20-25 fresh
Yogurt – 1/3 cup, lightly stirred until smooth
Tomato Ketchup – 3 tbsp
Soya sauce – 2 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
For Garnish:
Fried cashew nuts – roughly chopped
Cilantro – roughly chopped
Onion rings
Baby carrots
Sliced cucumbers
Shredded lettuce leaves
Lemon wedges

Method:

1. In a medium sized mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for the batter except egg and cornflour and and mix well. Add the chicken cubes and gently combine. Cover and let the chicken marinate for 1 or 2 hours. Later, bring the chicken back to room temperature and add cornflour and egg. Mix well. Deep fry the chicken pieces in hot oil for not more than 3 minutes in batches. Drain the fried chicken in a wire mesh strainer for the extra oil to drain off  and keep aside until all are done.
2. In a mixing bowl, add yogurt, tomato ketchup, soya sauce and red chilli powder and mix well. Keep aside.
3. For baghaar/tempering, in a frying pan at medium high heat, add oil and as soon as it is warm add the cumin seeds and the mustard seeds. As the seeds begin to pop, remove the pan from heat and add the green chillies and curry leaves. Stir fry and let the pan cool down. Once the pan is slightly cool, add the stirred yogurt mixture and mix well. (if you add curd in hot pan the curd will curdle). Transfer the pan to the stove and keep stirring continuously at medium heat. Once boiling, add the fried chicken and mix well. Cover with a lid and let cook for 5-10 minutes. Keep stirring ever once in a while. Serve Chicken 65 on a platter garnished with fresh cilantro, fried cashew nuts, lemon wedges, lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, baby carrots and onion rings.

Luv,
Mona