IFR daily

Daily Indian food, as it's cooked in my kitchen. Sometimes, not-so-Indian. No frills. No props. Just good food. A phone blog.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 lbs pre-cut butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 dried red chiles, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
  •  1 large clove of garlic, chopped fine
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 1/8 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  1. Heat your oven to 350F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet or baking tray with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Spread butternut squash in a single layer. Sprinkle crushed red chile and cumin seeds over the squash. Drizzle olive oil. Mix well.
  3. Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes until cooked and edges of squash are lightly caramelized.
  4. While the squash is in the oven, sauté the sliced onion and chopped garlic on medium-high until the onion is browned or lightly caramelized. The onion will not evenly caramelize and that’s ok.
  5. Add roasted squash to pot, followed by cloves and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  6. Once it boils, lower heat to low. Using your hand blender, blend to a smooth consistency. 
  7. Either add heavy cream to the pot and mix well or garnish each bowl with about 1 tsp of heavy cream. If you have roasted pepitas, these add both color and texture to the soup.
  8. Enjoy hot!


Egg Curry

6-8 eggs
2-3 tbsp oil
1/2 heaped tsp black peppercorns
2 green cardamoms
1 inch piece of cinnamon
5-6 cloves
1 ‘petal’ star anise (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, diced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated garlic
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala (sambar masala also works well)
1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)
1 tsp salt or to taste

Place eggs in a saucepan, fill with water until eggs are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off heat, cover, and set the timer for 10 minutes. When timer goes off, drain water, add some cold water to saucepan and add ice until eggs are covered.
In a medium pot, heat oil and add peppercorns, cardamoms, cinnamon, and cloves. Add a small ‘petal’ of star anise, if using.
Add chopped onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and sauté on medium-high stirring frequently until soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Add diced tomatoes and cook down until you see some oil oozing out from the mixture.
Add ginger, garlic, garam masala, red chile powder and turmeric powder and cook on medium for 3-5 minutes. This is your masala.

Add coconut milk, if using, and mix well together. (I didn’t have any so I skipped this step but I really like it with coconut milk.) Reduce heat to low.

Drain water from pan with eggs. Bring the curry to a simmer. Shell the eggs, poke with a toothpick in several spots and add to the masala. Add 1/2 tsp of salt or more if needed.
It’s not the end of the world if you lose some egg white while peeling the eggs and they aren’t smooth all over.
If you aren’t using coconut milk, add water to the masala to make a curry of the thickness that you like. I usually add about 1/2 – 1 cup of water. There are times when I don’t add water or coconut milk but leave it like a thick coating over the eggs.
Bring the curry to a simmer. Adjust seasonings and serve hot with rotis or over steamed rice. 2015/05/img_2119.jpg

Spicy Baby Dutch Potatoes

1.5 lbs baby Dutch potatoes
2 tbsp ghee (or oil)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
6-7 fresh curry leaves, washed and wiped dry
2-3 hot green chiles, sliced fine
1 tbsp chana dal
1/4 cup sliced white onion
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
Lots of chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Boil baby Dutch potatoes in their jackets, preferably using a pressure cooker. (I let my pressure cooker go for a tad bit longer and some skins split. It isn’t a problem as these are waxy potatoes).
2015/04/img_1839.jpgWhile the potatoes are cooking, heat ghee in a medium pot. Once hot enough, add mustard seeds. (Test ghee by dropping one or two mustard seeds into it, if they pop then it’s ready). When they pop, lower heat and add cumin seeds, followed by curry leaves, finely sliced green chiles and Chana dal. Toss to combine.

Add sliced onion, turmeric powder, about 1/2 tsp of salt and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are soft.

Peel the potatoes, if you like. The skin is thin and peels off easily.
Halve some of the larger potatoes. Add all potatoes to the pot. Toss to coat potatoes with onions and spices.
Drizzle 1 tbsp of ghee along the side of the pot. Add another 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix well taking care not to break down any of the potatoes. Spread in as much of a single layer as your pot will allow. Cook on medium for about 7-8 minutes, allowing the potatoes to crispen a tad, but making sure that they do not burn. If necessary, mix and spread out in a single layer again.
Add chopped cilantro. Add fresh lemon juice. Mix well.

Adjust for seasonings and serve hot with rotis or with rice and dal.

Use any waxy potatoes. If they are larger than baby potatoes, dice them into smaller pieces once boiled and peeled.
Do not peel, chop and then boil.
Use more hot green chiles to up the heat. More lemon juice if you are like me.

Easy Broiled Lamb Chops

~1.5 lbs lamb chops
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp IFR Chana Masala
1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix together salt, IFR Chana Masala, lemon juice. Rub lamb chops with this mixture.
Cover and marinate for at least half an hour, preferably in the refrigerator.
Line a pan with aluminum foil (for quick clean-up), place a rack over it and put marinated lamb chops on the rack.

Broil on high, about 4-5 inches from heat, for about 5 minutes each side for medium cooked. More per side if you like it done more.

I forgot to turn the timer on for the first side and they went about 2 minutes longer than I wanted but were still pink on the inside. Phew!

Allow the chops to rest for about 5 minutes so that you don’t lose all those precious juices when you cut into them. Serve with your favorite salad. 2015/04/img_1792.jpg

You could add red chile powder and turmeric powder for additional heat and flavor. I didn’t think it was necessary.
You could also add the ubiquitous ginger, garlic and green chile trio for a variation. I was aiming for something very simple, quick and flavorful, with minor clean-up, that I can make on a weeknight. And this is it!

All it needs are these three ingredients besides the lamb chops themselves.
I have a few bottles of IFR Chana Masala spice blend left. If you’re interested, get in touch through this form.

Everyday Baingan Bharta

2 medium globe eggplants
2-3 tbsp oil (I use avocado oil)
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
2-3 beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
2-3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2in knob of ginger, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp (or more) red chile powder
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 green chile, minced
Cilantro for garnish

Set broiler on high. Make sure you have a shelf in the middle of your oven.
Wash and dry eggplants.

Using a knife, make a few slits in the eggplant. If you forget, the eggplant could explode in your oven. Ask me how I know or check out the picture below. *hides head in shame*
Line a tray or ovenproof dish with aluminum foil, place eggplants on foil, and broil on high in the middle shelf of your oven for about 15-20 minutes or as long as it takes for the outer skin to char slightly. Be aware that you will not get the classic smoky flavor when eggplants are broiled instead of roasted directly on an open flame.

Set your times for anywhere between 6-8 minutes and turn the eggplant over when the timer goes off, and then set the timer for another 6-8 minutes. Repeat until done. Or until you’re done prepping and cooking the masala.

As the eggplants are being broiled, slice the onions.
Heat oil in a large saucepan or kadhai. Add sliced onions and about 1 tsp of salt. Sauté until softened.
Mince ginger and garlic.
Add to onions in saucepan. Stir-fry for a couple minutes.

Chop tomatoes and add to saucepan. Cook down until tomatoes have softened. I use my own whole canned tomatoes, and break them down with a wooden spoon.

Add turmeric powder and red chile powder.
Mix well and turn heat down.

Remove eggplants from oven and carefully slice open. That is, if they have not exploded on you! Using a spoon, scoop out the steaming hot innards.
You do not want the charred or dried-up outer skin. Add the eggplant meat directly to the saucepan. If there is any seemingly “tough” meat left near the stalk-end of the eggplant, scoop that out, place it on your cutting board and chop into smaller pieces. Add this to the saucepan.
Mix well and then increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes. Adjust seasonings, especially salt.

Squeeze about 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice into the bharta. Add minced green chile and chopped cilantro.
Mix well, turn off heat and serve hot with rotis or take to a potluck as a dip with pita chips or tortilla chips.

No Longer Shepherd’s Pie

1.25 lbs ground bison (or lamb)
2-3 tbsp oil
2 medium to small onions, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Thai green chile, finely chopped
3/4 cup sliced carrots
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sambal oelek
Juice of half lemon
1 tsp sugar
(Or use Worcestershire sauce instead of last 4 ingredients but I think my combination works better)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup broth or water
3 large red potatoes
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tbsp milk
Freshly ground pepper
2-3 tbsp of Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp breadcrumbs

Boil potatoes in their jackets.
Heat oil in a saucepan. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft on medium-high stirring frequently, no need to brown. About 7-8 minutes.
Add green chiles, soy sauce, sambal oelek, lemon juice and sugar. Stir.
Add ground bison, stir fry while breaking it up to ensure that it doesn’t clump together as it cooks.
Add carrots.
Mix in flour and then slowly add broth.
Turn the heat down to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes.
Add salt, about 3/4 tsp, depending on the sodium content of your broth, soy sauce and sambal oelek.
While this is cooking, peel and mash potatoes.
Add butter, several grinds of black pepper, cheddar cheese and milk. Add about 1/2 tsp salt. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as well as butter as desired. This mashed potato mixture should not be dry.
Transfer ground bison mixture into oven-proof casserole.
Heat oven to 375F. Use convection bake, if your oven has it.
Spoon mashed potatoes over bison mixture and spread out evenly over the top.
Seal the edges well with the mashed potatoes or else the sauce will bubble through in the oven. I forgot to do this and some sauce bubbled through. It doesn’t look great and softens the mashed potatoes a tad but otherwise, not much harm done if you forget.
Mix Parmesan cheese with breadcrumbs (and a few grinds of black pepper) and sprinkle evenly over the top.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Allow the casserole to sit for 5-10 minutes once out of the oven, before serving.

*based on this recipe.
I don’t remember cheese in the shepherd’s pie recipe that my mother baked but it tastes good!

Achaari Murgh Stir-Fry

1 lb (approx) boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2-3 tbsp avocado oil
1/2 large white onion, sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1″ piece of ginger, minced
2-3 hot green Thai chiles, chopped fine (optional)
1 large beefsteak tomato, sliced
2-3 cups of sliced / chopped veggies (I used asparagus, with thick stems sliced vertically into two; sugar snap peas, and green peppers)
2-3 tbsp of Mother’s Amla Pickle (only the masala

Heat oil in a medium kadhai or wok.
Add onions and stir fry on high heat until soft.
Add ginger, garlic and green chiles and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
Add tomato slices and continue to stir fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the veggies and stir fry for a couple more minutes.
Add the chicken pieces.
Add the pickle masala. Mix well.
Stir fry on high for a couple of minutes and then spread it out as much as possible over the surface of your kadhai, cook on medium until chicken is done. Do not over-cook.

Since the pickle masala is high in sodium, there is usually no need to add salt. However, taste it and adjust seasonings according to your tastes.

Skip the green chiles if you want to keep this mild. But, why?!

Use any veggies that hold their own when cooked on high heat. Any veggies that do well when roasted will work in this recipe. I don’t normally roast sugar snap peas but they worked really well.

Garnish with cilantro, if you like, before serving over rice or with any plain Indian rotis or parathas.

Toasted sandwich with fresh coconut

1 cup fresh shredded coconut
1 cup finely chopped white or red onions
2-3 Thai green chiles, chopped fine
3/4 tsp salt or to taste
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice or to taste
10 slices of white bread
Butter, enough for 10 slices of bread

Pull out that neglected sandwich maker and pre-heat it.
Mix all ingredients together, except bread and butter. Set aside.
Butter one side of 10 slices of your favorite sliced bread. Whole wheat bread is more nutritious but white bread tastes best for these sandwiches.

Place about 1/3 cup of coconut-onion mixture onto the unbuttered side of a slice of bread. Place carefully in sandwich toaster, buttered side down.
Spread the mixture evenly over the slice, leaving some margin on the edge. (If my butter looks unusually yellow, it’s because — gasp! — I ran out of butter and used ghee instead, albeit a little more sparingly than I would butter.
Cover with another slice of bread, buttered side on the outside. Cover and toast for about 5 minutes or as long as it takes in your sandwich maker to make crispy golden sandwiches.
The mixture will be very hot so allow some steam to escape before you chomp down into it. Serve hot!

These are my favorite toasted sandwiches. My mother would make these for breakfast on Sunday mornings. I can eat them for any meal.

Sundal for a potluck

2.5-3 cups uncooked garbanzo beans
8-9 cups of cooked garbanzo beans
3 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp chana dal
2-3 dried red Kashmiri chiles
3 tbsp avocado oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Pinch asafetida (optional)
1 tsp cumin seeds
8-10 curry leaves
2-3 Thai chiles, red or green, finely sliced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed
1/3 cup freshly grated coconut (or thawed frozen shredded coconut)
2 tsp salt

If your garbanzo beans are uncooked, soak them overnight in three times the amount of water. Once soaked, drain water and rinse. Cook in 2-3 times as much water as beans, preferably in a pressure cooker, until they are soft but still hold their shape. OR, use 5 cans (14oz) of cooked unsalted organic garbanzo beans.

Heat your cast iron griddle and toast coriander seeds, chana dal and dried red chiles on medium heat, retorting frequently, until fragrant. About 3-4 minutes.


Turn off heat; move griddle off the stove and allow the spices to cool.

Heat oil in a large saucepan or wok. When it shimmers, add mustard seeds. When they turn gray and pop, quickly add asafetida, if using, followed by cumin seeds. Turn the heat down or off if the oil is too hot and the seeds start to darken (burn) rapidly. Add curry leaves, followed by red or green chiles. Use a splatter guard to avoid getting oil all over your stove. Add turmeric powder.

Add drained cooked garbanzo beans and mix using a folding action, keeping the beans intact. Keep heat on medium-low until all ingredients have been added.

Grind toasted spices in your spice grinder to a fine powder.

Add this to the beans, followed by salt and mix well. Again, use a folding action to keep the beans intact.

Add lemon juice.

Add chopped cilantro.

Add shredded coconut and mix well. Turn off heat.

Taste and adjust seasoning, as desired. Take to potluck and blow everyone’s socks off!

Use fewer dried red chiles in the spice blend and/or Thai chiles to make it less spicy.
This recipe is based on my friend Meena’s sundal recipe. My spice blend was rather reddish probably because of my Kashmiri chiles. You can use any dried chiles, even arbol will do. I did change up her recipe a bit to adapt it to my taste: fresh green chiles to add a bright note to the dish; cilantro, for the same reason; shredded coconut to balance the flavors and add a note of sweetness.
Buy frozen shredded coconut at the Indian store and thaw it on your counter, or in the microwave. Don’t waste your time rehydrating dehydrated shredded coconut. It isn’t the same. You are better off not using it at all.
This tastes fabulous chilled, too.

Quinoa-Turkey Sliders

20 oz ground turkey
1/2 cup cooked red quinoa
1/2 medium red onion, diced small
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp of minced ginger
1-2 Thai green chiles, minced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed
Dash of fish sauce (optional)
1 tsp of sambal oelek (optional)
3/4 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients, except turkey, in a medium mixing bowl.
Add ground turkey and mix well.
To check for salt and seasonings, put 1/4 cup water in a glass bowl and drop a small ball of turkey mixture in it and microwave for 20-30 seconds. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Normally I would add more green chiles as well as sambal oelek but Medha is a tad bit sensitive to heat right now.

Take about a lime size amount of turkey mixture, and shape into a small patty. This makes about 20 small sliders.

Place baking rack on a large baking tray. Arrange sliders on the rack and broil on high on top rack for 4-5 minutes each side.

Put a small slice of cheese on each slider, wrap in romaine lettuce and eat right away.

A few things to note: since there is no oil or a binder like egg in this recipe, these sliders tend to become dry once stored in the refrigerator and reheated. To reheat, wrap in damp paper towel and only them reheat in your microwave. If you plan to freeze these, consider adding some olive oil so that they aren’t dry and chewy when reheated.

You could grill these instead of broiling them, too.