Chapli Kabab

Chapli Kabab4Chicken Chapli Kababs are a great alternative to the all time favorite American burger. I first tasted Chapli Kabab in a Pakistani restaurant in Washington, D.C. You can use minced beef, lamb or chicken to make these spicy and delicious kababs.

This recipe makes about 40 chapli kababs but you can easily halve the recipe. I was cooking for a large crowd and hence the larger amount. I bought two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat and two pounds of chicken breast meat and put it in the freezer for about an hour before I minced it in a food processor. Using dark and white meat kept the kababs moist. You can also buy minced chicken at the grocery store. I used gram flour in this recipe which is called “besan” in Hindi. Besan is made from ground, dried chickpeas, a legume known as chana dal in India. The gram flour can be purchased from an Indian grocery store.

I was lucky to have my daughter in the kitchen helping me fry the chapli kababs, while I formed the balls, flattened them, and put them in the pan. Since I had help, we put three pans on the stove and that made the job of frying the kababs much faster. You might also want to enlist some help when you make them. The chapli kababs freeze well and all you need to do is microwave them for a few minutes before serving. Try them on buns or sandwich thins with a little mayo. That’s how my kids like to eat them.

Chapli Kababs
4 pounds minced chicken
2 cups roughly chopped spring onion (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons grated garlic
2 tablespoons roughly chopped ginger
2 tablespoons roughly chopped green chillies (optional)
2 roughly chopped roma tomatoes
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chilli flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons roasted and crushed coriander seeds
3 teaspoons gram flour (besan)
Kosher salt to taste
Oil for shallow frying

In a small pan, over low heat, roast the coriander seeds. Crush them in a motar and pestle and set aside.

Put the spring onions, garlic, ginger, chillies, tomatoes, cilantro, and chilli flakes into a food processor and blend until they are finely chopped.

In a large bowl, put minced chicken, the chopped ingredients, the gram flour, the roasted and crushed coriander seeds, and salt. Using your hands mix until just combined. Make 40 balls and place them on two parchment lined trays. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. (I found that using a bowl of water and dipping my hands in them made it easier to make the balls and also in flattening them. You might want to try that.)

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot add two tablespoons of oil and gently swirl the oil in the pan so that it coats the whole surface of the pan. Flatten each ball into a large, thin cutlet or chapli kabab – as thin as you can make them. Fry in batches. Put only two or three kababs at a time in the pan. Fry each side for about three minutes or until they get nicely browned and then turn them over and fry the other side as well. Remove them on to paper towel lined trays. Make the rest of the chapli kababs in the same manner. Garnish the chapli kababs with coriander and mint leaves, spring onions and lemon wedges. Serve them with wheat thins, mayo or cilantro and mint chutney. The recipe for the cilantro and mint chutney can be found at the bottom of the Bangalore Vadais post.

Puri and Bhaji

Growing up in Pune, Maharashtra, my family often traveled by train to Mumbai. Traveling by train was always exciting. Whenever we stopped at a station, I would scan the platform, looking for the puri-bhaji and aloo bonda walas (vendors). Puri-bhaji is a quick and satisfying fix for hungry travelers! I remember relishing every bite – an integral part of our trip’s adventure. And as the train pulled away, we eagerly awaited the next station for dessert – the famous Lonavala chikki. Simple pleasures are what some of my memories are made of.

Today, I am sharing a recipe for puris and bhaji. Puris are whole-wheat deep-fried bread, and bhaji is a potato side dish that often accompanies puris. Puris and bhaji can be served as a meal by itself or individually as side dishes. The main ingredients for bhaji are potatoes and onions. I’ve spiced my bhaji recipe with a twist on the train platform offering. Hope you like my version!

For the Puris
2 cups wheat flour (Indian wheat flour or Pillsbury Chakki atta)
2 teaspoons oil
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon of warm water (approximately)

Put the wheat flour in a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the center of it. Add two teaspoons of oil. Mix the flour, and oil well. Add salt to the warm water, and add it to the flour. Knead to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into 20 equal sized balls. Cover with a damp paper towel, and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.

Heat oil for deep frying in a heavy bottomed wok.

With the help of very little dry flour roll each ball into 4” diameter diskettes. Cover them with damp paper towels until all the puris are made. Deep fry on medium-high heat until light brown on both sides.

For the Bhaji
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon yellow split peas (Channa dal)
1 teaspoon split black gram (Urad dal)
1 stalk curry leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
3-4 finely chopped green chillies (adjust to your taste)
3 cups sliced red onions
3 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 diced tomato
4 cups diced boiled potatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a large pan. Add mustard seeds, and when they splutter add cumin seeds. Lower the heat to medium, and add the yellow split peas, and wait for a minute until they they turn light brown. Add the spit black gram, stir until they also turn light brown. Then add the curry leaves, ginger, green chillies, onion, salt, and turmeric. Saute until the onion turns transparent. Add the tomato, and saute for another two minutes then add the diced potatoes. Mix gently, cover the dish, and let it cook over low heat for five minutes. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

Medu Vada

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Medu vadais are one of my favorite tea-time snacks, but I cannot say that I am an expert at making them. However, I don’t give up easily and I think I’ve finally found the secret of making crisp on the outside, and light, and fluffy on the inside, medu vadais. As I’ve mentioned in the recipe, you have to beat the batter until it is the right consistency. You can test if the batter is ready by dropping a small dollop into a bowl of water.  If it floats, then the batter is ready.  If not, beat the batter a little more and test again.

In the picture the medu vadais I’ve made are smaller in size because I wanted to use them as a tea-time snack. If you would like to use them for breakfast or as a side dish then you may wish to make them larger in size. This recipe is not for the faint of heart. But try it out, and I am sure you will succeed. The end result are crisp, light, flavorful medu vadais so don’t give up.

Medu Vada

1 cup whole black lentils (urad dal)
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons finely chopped curry leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped green chillies
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
A pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

Roast and powder
1 tablespoon black lentils (urad dal)
1 teaspoon uncooked rice

Soak the 1 cup black lentils in water, overnight. Roast one tablespoon of black lentils and one teaspoon of uncooked rice until fragrant and lightly colored. Cool completely and powder in a coffee grinder.

Drain the lentils that were soaked in water, and grind in a bender adding about two tablespoons of water. Do this in two batches scrapping down to make sure all the lentils become a smooth thick batter. Put the batter into a large bowl and fold in the roasted lentil and rice power. Beat the batter well with a spatula until light. To test if the batter us ready, drop a tiny amount into a small bowl of water if it floats the batter is ready. However, if the batter sinks you will need to beat the batter a little more.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat and add oil for deep frying. Dip your fingers in a small bowl of water. Take a heaping tablespoon of the batter and roll it into a ball. Make a hole in the center with your thumb. It should look like a small doughnut. Gently slide it into the oil.

Turn the medu vadais when the edges turn golden. Fry both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve vadais with your favorite chutney.

Vegetable Biriyani

This is a simple, flavorful rice dish that I learned to make when I lived with my family in Manipal, India. I tasted it for the first time in Dr. Meera Baliga’s home. She shared her recipe with me, and I started making it for my family for weekend lunches. It pairs well with raita – a salad made with yogurt, tomato, cucumber, and onion.

Many times when I cooked this dish in Manipal, students from the nearby university would drop by and linger way past lunch time, until we were all so hungry, that I would have to invite them to join us for lunch! I soon learned that I would need to make a huge batch, because every time I cooked it, the heavenly smell wafted all the way down the street and into the dorms! So, this recipe is for those young, talented students that made me feel like I was the best cook on earth! See, what you turned me into – a blogger and foodie for life! I love each one of you and think of you often.

For the masala mix

2 teaspoons coconut oil
5 cardamoms
5 cloves
2 1-inch piece of cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup grated coconut
½ cup chopped cilantro

Heat coconut oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Fry for a minute, remove from heat, and cool. Add the fried ingredients, onion, coconut and cilantro to a blender, and purée.

For the rice

½ cup coconut oil
½ cup cubed potatoes
½ cup cubed carrots
6 French beans, cut into diagonal pieces
½ cup fresh green peas
½ cup chopped tomatoes
3 finely chopped green chillies
½ cup grated coconut
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups Basmathi rice, washed and drained
4 cups water
Salt to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Add the masala mix and fry for five minutes. Add the vegetables, tomatoes, chillies, grated coconut, turmeric, rice, and salt, and fry for another five minutes. Add water, and bring to boil. Once it boils, turn heat as low as possible. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff up rice, and vegetables gently with a fork, and serve piping hot.

Coconut Rice

Coconut rice is a dish that’s very easy to make these days. This is a recipe I’ve shared with a number of my friends who wanted an easy but exotic rice recipe from Indian. My colleague and friend, Elizabeth Oloo, likes this recipe and makes better coconut rice than I do!

Many years ago, when I made coconut rice in India, just extracting the coconut milk was a cumbersome task. I had to first get a fresh coconut, grate it, extract the milk, strain it, and then start the process of making coconut rice. I only made it on special occasions – when I had plenty of time to spend in the kitchen. Now-a-days you can get coconut milk in a can. Oh, the joy of modern cooking!

Coconut Rice

2 cups Basmati rice
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 1-inch piece of cinnamon
2 green cardamoms, bruised
¼ cup diced onions
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1 can coconut milk
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons fried cashew nuts

In a heavy bottomed pan add ghee. When it shimmers add the cinnamon, cardamoms, and diced onions. Sauté for a minute and when onions are transparent add the washed and drained basmati rice, turmeric and salt. Fry for two minutes. Add the coconut milk and two cups of water.

Bring the rice to a boil then turn heat to low, cover the dish and let it cook for 15 minutes. Do not open the dish or stir during the 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the rice covered until you are ready to serve. Fluff rice gently with a fork. Garnish with fried cashew nuts and serve.

Palak Paneer (Spinach with Indian Cheese)

Palak paneer is a popular North Indian vegetarian dish. When my friends and I go to an Indian restaurant, one of them always orders palak paneer. This recipe, my dear friend, is for you!

I have made palak paneer several times in many different ways, but this recipe is my favorite. Paneer can be bought at an Indian grocery store. I will share a recipe on how you can make paneer at home sometime soon.

A word of caution, make sure that you adjust the number of green chillies depending on the amount of heat you can tolerate. Also, gently crush the dry fenugreek leaves with your fingers, before adding them. This makes a big difference in bringing out the essence of these leaves. Using ghee, dry fenugreek leaves (which is called kasoori methi in Hindi), yoghurt, nutmeg, and lemon juice elevated this dish and gave it a unique flavor.

Palak Paneer

1 pound spinach leaves
3 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 cup finely chopped onion
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons dry fenugreek leaves, (kasoori methi)
2 teaspoons fined chopped green chillies
1 tablespoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup plain yoghurt
12 ounces (340 grams) paneer cut into cubes, and lightly shallow fried
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Wash the fresh spinach leaves, and put them in a large pot with three tablespoons of water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for five minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander and then place it in a large bowl with ice water. This stops the spinach from cooking and helps retain its color. When completely cool, drain the water, and purée the spinach in a blender.

Melt three tablespoons ghee in a medium sauce-pan over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and when they sputter add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add onions and salt; cook stirring frequently, until softened. Lower the heat to medium. Gently crush the fenugreek leaves, before adding them to the onion mixture. Add green chillies, coriander powder, turmeric powder and grated nutmeg. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about one minute. Add the yoghurt, and spinach purée. Stir, and bring to simmer, allowing the flavors to blend, about five minutes. Gently fold in the paneer cubes. Turn off the heat and stir in lemon juice. Your delicious palak paneer is ready to be served!