Nimbu ka Achaar

Pickles are Indian specialities, enjoyed at breakfasts, at meals, or as an accompaniment to a snack . Each household has their own twist on the pickles that they prepare yearly using freshly available seasonal fruits and vegetables. Among those pickles, mango pickle and lemon or green lime pickle are the two classic indian pickles prepared most commonly in every household, and also easily available at the stores in various varieties.

Fresh Lemons

In todays express lifestyle, the art of making pickles at home is slowly sinking into the mists of time. It only takes a little time, effort and love to prepare these indulgences at home, with your own control on the amount of spices as well as the quality of the product. The following is my mothers recipe for Lemon or Lime pickle.

Note: Pickling is a bacteriostatic method of food preservation, in which the micro-organisms are unable to grow in food. Salt is the main ingredient used as the preservative. Throughout the preperation, take precautions and use only dry spoons for mixing and transfering purpose. Make sure the utensils you are using for making the pickle are absolutely moisture free. Otherwise the pickle will spoil and there are chances of fungus/mould formation. Pickles should never be sored in glazed jars.

Enjoy about a teaspoon of this pickle along with your meals, as an accompaniment to your breakfast or a snack.

Nimbu ka Achaar – Lemon/Lime Pickle
Makes: about 2.5 lb

The procedure includes the following steps which are later described in detail below:

1. Wash and wipe lemons or limes. Chop the 10 lemons or limes, add juice of 2 lemons or limes, mix salt and turmeric and keep aside for 3 days covered in a glass jar with tight lid at room temperature. Shake the bottle gently twice everday so that all the pieces are soaked in the juices.
2. After 3 days, add the powdered pickle spices and the tempering/baghaar to the pickle. Mix well.  Transfer to air tight pickle jars and store in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 weeks for the lemon or lime pieces to ferment. The pickle is ready to be used once the skin of the lemons or limes is soft.

Detailed Procedure:

Lemon or Lime – 10, blemish free, ripe and juicy
Juice of fresh lemons or limes
Iodine free Salt – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/3 tsp

Cut lemons mixed with turmeric powder, lemon juice and salt in a large glass dish

Choose blemish free, good quality, preferably organic lemons or limes. I am never able to find thin-skinned lemons where I live, so I prepare pickle using thick skinned lemons or green limes, and have kind of got used to them. Infact the thick pickled lemon skin tastes delicious! Wash them and pat them completely dry using a dry cloth. You can also spread them out on a tray and place it under the sun to complately air dry for 1 or 2 hours. If the skin of the lemons you are using is thick (like mine, see the pictures), discard the thick top stalk part and bottom of the lemons and chop up 10 lemons into small quarters and put into a sterilized glass jar with a tight non-metallic lid. This need not be done for limes as they have a thinner skin. Cutting off the top and bottom is also not required if the skin of the lemons you are using is thin. The skin of Indian lemons is usually thin, whereas the lemons that are available elsewhere are quite thick. Discard the seeds. Add salt, turmeric powder and lemon/lime juice to the jar so that all the pieces are covered in the juice and mix well. Keep the jar in a dark place at room temperature for 3 days. Gently shake the jar twice every day.

Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp
Dry Roasted Cumin seed powder – 2 tbsp
Dry Roasted Coriander seed powder -1 tbsp
Dry Roasted Black Mustard seed powder – 1 tsp
Dried Chickpeas/Kabuli Chana – washed and pat dried completely (optional)
Garlic pods – 3
Small green chillies – 4, washed, and completely pat dried, roughly chopped

After 3 days, the lemon/lime pieces will have released a lot of juices. Add and mix all the above ingredients into the chopped lemon/lime quarters with its juices in the glass jar using a dry spoon and keep aside. Now prepare the baghaar or the tempering. (the dried chickpeas and garlic pods turn soft, suitable for eating, upon fermentation and acquire a tangy taste in the pickle).

Freshly prepared Lemon pickle ready to be set aside in the refrigerator to mature

Baghaar or the Tempering:

Canola oil – 1/2 cup
Nigella seeds/Kalonji – 1 tsp
Black mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Dried red chilli – 2

In a pan, heat oil at medium high heat and as soon as it warms up add the remaining ingredients and mix well. In a few seconds they start to splutter. Remove from heat and keep aside. Take care not to burn the spices. Let it cool down and come to room temperature. This is the baghaar or tempering. Once the baghaar is cooled, carefully pour it into the lemon/lime pickle jar.

Lemon pickle ready to be eaten with its skin all nicely softened after 2 months

Store this freshly prepared lemon/lime pickle in the refrigerator to slowly ferment for about a week or two. Fermentation process renders fruits soft and and the fruits take on an additional aroma and flavor of spices. Mould growth is prevented by the use of a tight lid, by which air is prevented from coming in contact. Make sure that you use a completely dry spoon to use the pickle when you feel like eating it, and cover it and store in the refrigerator as soon as possible for a long life. Keep rotating and turning the jar frequently in the refrigerator. Check if the skin of the lemon/lime is soft enough. If you have used thick lemons, you might have to wait a little longer. I kept the pickle jar unopened for 3 months in the refrigerator, before I used it.

Luv,
Mona

Chatpate Kale Chane

Snacks at the evening time after a small afternoon siesta were always so looked forward to by us all kids during my childhood in Hyderabad. Mirchi ke bhajiye, Palak ki pakodi, Aloo ke bhajiye, Pyaz ki pakodiBhelpuri, Aloo cutlets with chutneys, Samosa, or a variety of Fruit-chaat etc are the usual typical Indian tea time snacks.

Black Chickpeas-Kala Chana     ~     White Chickpeas-Kabuli Chana
Top-Pressure cooked Chana; Middle-Soaked Chana; Bottom-Dried Chana

There are two types of Chickpeas found in the market, black chickpeas called as Kala Chana in Urdu, and white chickpeas called as Kabuli Chana in Urdu. The black chickpeas are also sprouted and consumed in salads or lightly stir fried for a nutritious snack.

Note: Fresh chickpeas are green in color, in fuzzy pods, and are called as Hara Chana or Hari Boot. Have a look at them here. Fresh green chickpeas are sweetish in taste and taste awesome when dry roasted in pods in pans on stovetop until lightly charred, then shelled and eaten warm. When these green fresh chickpeas are dried in sun, they get dark in color with brown skin and rock like, called as the Kala Chana or Black Chickpeas. When these black chickpeas are skinned and split, we get Chana Dal or Bengal Gram. Instead when the black chickpeas are roasted and then skinned, we get Phula Chana, also referred to as Dalia or Bhuna Chana or Roasted Chana.

Spicy Black Chickpeas – Chatpate Kale Chane

During a recent visit to one of the grocery stores here, I spotted a bag of Kala chana which I quickly bought home and decided to enjoy them the way one of my aunt used to prepare during my childhood which I had always loved.

Spicy Black Chickpeas – Chatpate Kale Chane

Ingredients:

Dried Black Chickpeas/Kala Chana – 200 grams
Salt – 2 tsp
Canola oil – 1 tsp
Kalonji – 1 tsp
Dried red chilli – 1, whole
Cumin seeds/Zeera – 1 tsp
Red Ripe Tomato – 2, medium sized
Amchur powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Onion – finely chopped, for garnish
Cilantro – finely chopped, for garnish
Green chillies – finely chopped, for garnish

Method:

1. Wash and soak the dried kala chana covered overnight in cool fresh water.
2. The next day, drain the water and wash the kala chana in cool water. Drain and put them in a pressure cooker. Pour 1 glass of cool water and add salt into the cooker and pressure cook the chana until tender, around 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a pan at medium heat, pour oil and add the kalonji and zeera. As they splutter, add the tomatoes, stir and cover the pan for 2-3 minutes. Add the red chilli powder and amchur powder and stir them again. Add the pressure cooked kala chana with the water and stir gently to mix well, half cover the pan and let cook until it is mostly dry. Add a few more splashes of water if needed. Once done, the chana should be fairly dry.
4. Serve them into individual plates. Garnish with chopped onion, green chilli and cilantro. Enjoy with a cup of warm evening tea as a snack.

Luv,
Mona

Bhune Aloo

Pan-roasted spicy Potatoes

I enjoy these simple and easy to prepare spicy pan-roasted potatoes along with scrambled eggs, a toasted bread and home made butter for a scrumptious breakfast. You can also enjoy these versatile pan roasted potatoes along with roti and a vegetable curry for a light meal, some grilled sheekh kababs and a fruit salad on the side for a yummy brunch. Kids will especially love them.

Bhune Aloo – Spicy Pan-Roasted Breakfast  Potatoes

Ingredients:

White Potatoes – 5, medium sized, peeled and quartered, (or cut thinly as shown in the picture below)
Red Chilli powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Canola Oil – 1 tbsp
Nigella seeds/Kalonji – 1 tsp (optional)

breakfast potatoes along with omlette

Method:

1. In a bowl, add the quartered potatoes, red chilli powder and salt. Mix it all with your hands so that the potatoes get evenly covered with the spices.
2. Pour oil into a large heavy bottomed non-stick frying pan at medium heat. As it heats up, add the kalonji. Immediately add the seasoned potatoes from the bowl and stir well. Cover the lid for about a minute.
3. Stir them scraping the pan with a wooden spoon, sprinkle a few drops of water and immediately cover with the lid. Repeat the process of scraping and sprinkling with water while covering the pan with lid in between every one or two minutes until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 mins. Pierce a knife into the quartered potato to check for doneness. Serve warm.

I am sending these pan roasted potatoes over to Ammalu’s Kitchen for the Think Spice, Think Kalonji event.

Luv,
Mona

Masalewali Bhunihuwi Arvi

A few days back I was chatting with one of my very close friends. When she said she had sautéed taro root for lunch, that was enough for me to search for Arvi/Arbi/Taro Toot/Colocasia, in the market the coming weekend to buy some of those fresh tubers.

Colocasia/Taro root – Arvi

Taro root is a startchy vegetable just like potato but has a delicious nutty flavor. Roasted taro root is one of my favorite side dishes. I could eat it as a snack, as a side-dish. I also find this method of preparing this root vegetable easier as the skin peels out quite effortlessly after boiling and a quick roasting lessens its sliminess considerably. Simply boil them until tender then stir fry them to perfection. Lovely! Enjoy the stir-fried wholesome starchy tuber.

Masalewali Bhunihuwi Arvi – Spice Crusted Roasted Taro root

Ingredients:

Taro root/Caolocasia/Arvi – 8, medium sized
Canola oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds/Rai – 1 tbsp
Turmeric – a pinch
Nigella seeds/Kalonji – 1/2 tsp (optional)
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Roasted Coriander/Dhaniya powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Dry Raw Mango powder/Amchur powder – 1 tsp (optional)

Masaledaar Bhunihuwi Arvi – Spice Crusted Sautéed Taro root

Method:

1. Wash the taro root and add them to a pressure cooker. Pour in water to cover them. Close the lid and pressure cook until they are soft but not over cooked. You can also steam them until they are fork tender. Once soft, peel and cut into small pieces.
2. Pour oil into a large flat heavy bottomed frying pan at medium high heat and as soon as it warms up, throw in the mustard seeds, nigella seeds, turmeric powder, salt, coriander powder and red chilli powder. Add a splash of water and let it cook for 30 seconds.
3. Working quickly, spread the taro root pieces in a single layer in the pan above the masala, and let them sear. After a minute, when they are nicely browned, lower the heat and gently flip them all so that they sear well on all sides and the masala gets coated evenly on all the taro root pieces. Sprinkle Amchur powder all over stir fried taro root.
4. During the last 2-3 minutes, cover the lid of the pan. Remove from heat and enjoy the sautéed Taro root.

Luv,
Mona

Kalonji Wali Bhindi-Tamatar Subzi

Bhindi or Okra is one of my most favorite vegetables. I love it a lot, and i am glad my loved ones love it equally.

I usually keep prepararing three kinds of preparations with Bhindi/Okra whenever they are available fresh which are so adored by my family. I either fry them or make a Curry/Patla Salan or sometimes make a sautéed dish with tomato and onion which is what I’m writing about today. We have it along with Parathas for Brunch on the weekends or at Breakfasts.

Kalonji Wali Bhindi-Tamatar Subzi – Sautéed Okra with Tomatoes and Nigella seeds

Adding Nigella seeds/Kalonji to the dish here gives it its own unique peppery taste. The seeds are also known for their medicinal value. These little things are considered as a herbal medicine for many ailments and is beneficial for good health. Lots about this spice is also written in the Quran, The Prophet Mohammad (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) has said “Hold on to the use of Black Seed for it has a remedy for every illness except death”. Evidence of the therapeutic use of Nigella seed has been found in all over the world. So I tend to add it to almost all the dishes I can in small amounts.

Kalonji Wali Bhindi-Tamatar Subzi – Sauteed Okra with Tomatoes and Nigella seeds

Ingredients:

  • Canola/Sunflower Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Okra Pods/Bhindi – 550 gms, washed, dried with paper towels, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Tomato (fresh)/Tamatar – 1, ripe red, large, finely chopped
  • Yellow Onion/Pyaz – 1, large, finely sliced
  • Nigella Seeds/Kalonji – 1 tbsp
  • Red Chilli Powder/Lal mirch powder – 1 1/3 tsp
  • Salt/Namak – 1 1/3 tsp

Method:

  • In a sauce pan at medium high heat, pour in the oil, and as soon as it warms up, add the kalonji, and the sliced onions. Let them cook till they are all nicely lightly browned.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and let it cook till they are sofy and mushy. Also throw in the red chilli powder and salt and mix well.
  • Lower the heat and add the chopped Bhindi and fry it for 3 minutes. Pour in a cup of water and close the lid. Let it cook till the Bhindi is soft and done. Keep opening the lid, and checking it, if it’s getting stuck to the bottom. Also, you can add a little more water if needed. Serve hot.

Serve it hot along with warm Parathas for a Brunch or Breakfast. You will also enjoy this as a dry side-dish along with Basmati Chawal/Rice.

Luv,
Mona