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.

Month: February, 2014

Moogachi Dal (Moong dal)

2 cups moog dal (split and husked)
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
A pinch asafetida
2-3 green chiles, sliced along their length
5-6 curry leaves, washed and dried on a towel
1/3 cup chopped white or yellow onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tbsp salt
Juice of half a lemon
1/8 cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed

Pick over and clean moog dal of any debris. Rinse several times in a colander. If you have time, soak for a couple of hours in several cups of water.
Heat oil in pan of pressure cooker. When it shimmers, add mustard seeds. When they pop, add asafetida. Add green chiles and curry leaves. Make sure these last two ingredients are not wet as that minimizes the splatter and post-cooking clean-up. If necessary, tip the pan to one side so that everything gets a nice sizzle in the oil. Cover the pan if you’re afraid of getting it into your eyes. Just don’t add all the ingredients at the same time. I can’t emphasize this enough.
Add the onions and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
Add minced garlic and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add turmeric powder and mix.

Add rinsed dal. If your dal was soaked, drain the water before adding the dal.

Add 6-7 cups of water, making sure you are below the 2/3rd capacity of the pressure cooker.

Add salt and mix.

Cook under pressure until the dal is fully cooked to the “fall-apart” stage. You do not want it al-dente. My moog dal never cooks quickly. I let it go to 4 pressure releases or “whistles,” about 25-30 minutes.
Add lemon juice and cilantro and mix. Adjust seasoning.

I add about 2-3 cups of water to thin it out as we like our dals to be a little runny, instead of super thick. Also, the dal thickens on standing so it’s better to thin it out at the outset.

Serve hot over steamed rice, with yogurt and lemon pickle on the side.

Moogachi dal is not one of my favorite dals. I prefer whole moog to split husked dal but it makes for a good change every now and then.

Our dals are usually very simple. We don’t add goda or garam masala to our dals. Nor onions or garlic, unless it is a patal bhaji of sorts, with greens in it. Ginger, yes. The souring agent of choice is usually tamarind or kokum. This dal is a departure from the traditional dal made by my family. And, we like it.

We got two dinners and 3 lunch boxes out of this 2 cup dal. Lunch boxes are filled and tucked away into the freezer right after dinner, for easy retrieval in the mornings and supplemented with yogurt, fruit, bars, crackers or cookies.


Phodnicha Dahi Bhaat

3 cups cooked Sona Masoori rice
3-4 cups yogurt, whisked
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
Pinch asafetida
2-3 dried Kashmiri red chiles, broken into pieces
1/2 tsp urad dal

Allow rice to cool to room temperature. Stir in whisked yogurt and salt.

Heat oil and when it shimmers, add mustard seeds. When they pop, add asafetida, followed by urad dal, followed by red chiles to make a wonderful phodni. Allow the urad dal to turn dark gold, making sure you don’t burn it. Don’t throw everything into the hot oil at the same time, ok?
Pour this heavenly phodni over the yogurt and rice mixture.
Mix well and serve at room temperature or chilled.
I like to crush the crisp red chiles into the rice to get a shot of additional heat. This is particularly wonderful in summer.

Simple Chicken Curry (bone-in)

1 whole chicken
1 tsp red chile powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 two-inch small pieces of desi cinnamon,
3-4 whole green cardamom
5-6 cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 ‘petal’ of star anise
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 whole dried Kashmiri red chiles
3 tbsp oil
1/2 large yellow onion (about 2 cups), thinly sliced
1 tsp salt + 1 tsp salt
1 jar or 14oz can of tomatoes
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated garlic
3 tsp grated ginger

Remove the giblet packet inside the chicken, if any. Rinse and pat dry. Cut the whole chicken into 8 large pieces using this excellent method. Dice into smaller pieces leaving as many bones in as possible. I take the skin off but you can leave that on, if you prefer. Add any parts from the giblet packet that you like. Rub with red chile powder and turmeric powder and set aside. If you have the luxury of doing this several hours in advance, please do. Refrigerate it, if you do.
Toast the whole masala (from cinnamon to dried red chiles) on a cast iron skillet on medium-low until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Allow to cool and grind to a powder. The yield is about 2 tbsp of freshly-made garam masala.
Heat oil in large kadhai or saucepan. When it shimmers, add sliced onion and 1 tsp salt and sweat on medium-high until golden-brown and lightly caramelized. This takes at least 15 minutes. Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.
Add tomatoes and cook down until all moisture has evaporated and you can see oil separating out from the thick mixture. I use my home-canned pint jars that have lemon juice added to them before canning.

Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add grated ginger and garlic, mix well and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add freshly-ground garam masala, mix and cook for 4-5 minutes at the very least. This way the flavors meld better into the mixture. If you add the garam masala before cooking down the tomatoes, you will boil the masala in the moisture and lose the depth of flavor that goes with adding it at this stage. Small details but they matter.
Add the chicken pieces, 1 tsp salt, lemon juice and mix well. I don’t add lemon juice at this point as my tomatoes have added lemon juice for acidity.
Add upto 2 cups of water, mix well, cover and cook on low for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Garnish with cilantro, if you wish. I didn’t have any cilantro so I didn’t. Serve over hot steamed rice or with tortas.

I had 4 boiled red potatoes, which I diced and added to the curry in the last 10 minutes of cooking.

This was dinner last night. I also got several lunch boxes worth of chicken curry. And, I made chicken stock in my pressure cooker as the curry was cooking.

Broiled Brussel Sprouts with Panch Phoran

1 lb brussel sprouts
2 tbsp avocado oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp panch phoran
generous squeeze of lemon juice

Wash brussel sprouts and trim off yellow leaves. Slice in half along the longer median. Lay in a flat layer in a baking tray or ovenproof pan. When I’m looking for quick clean-up, I line my baking tray with foil beforehand.
Drizzle with avocado oil. If you have mustard oil, that’s an even better option. Some folks use olive oil. Use whatever floats your boat or appeals to you at the moment.

Sprinkle with salt and panch phoran. Toss.
Broil on high for about 4-5 minutes, keeping an eye on the loose leaves. They caramelize beautifully but you don’t want them to completely char. Toss and broil for another 4-5 minutes until you have tender brussel sprouts at the center and crispy outer leaves.

Squeeze a generous dash of fresh lemon juice and toss. Serve immediately.

This is one of my favorite ways to have brussel sprouts. Broiling is quicker than roasting, as the latter takes about 45-50 minutes. We like them crunchy rather than soft and mushy. Sometimes, I throw in a few whole garlic pods. Other times, I sprinkle some red chile powder.

I think I first learned of this recipe through a friend of Bong Mom and have been forever grateful!

Pan-fried fish

3 tilapia filets
2 medium cloves of garlic
1 tsp red chile powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Juice of at least half lemon
1 tsp salt, divided
1/2 cup farina or rava or cream of wheat
Oil to shallow fry

Grate garlic and mix with red chile powder, turmeric powder, 3/4 tsp salt and juice of half a lemon to make a wet marinade.

Add 1/4 tsp salt to farina and place in large plate.

Wash and pat dry tilapia filets. Cut them in half or into bite size pieces. Today, I cut the filets in half; halved the thinner side and cut the thicker side into thirds. Other times, I cut them in half and that’s good.
Rub the marinade onto the fish pieces and set aside for 15 minutes. Lay the table or empty the dishwasher or enjoy your last cup of chai for the evening.

Heat about 1/3 cup of oil in a medium saucepan or a cast iron pan.
Dredge fish in the farina pressing down so that the farina sticks to the fish.
Place gently into the oil and fry for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat.
Add a few more pieces, taking care not to crowd the pan as you want to be able to flip them over.
Flip over and cook other side for 3-4 minutes, adding oil to the pan as needed.
When both sides are crisp, drain on a cooling rack and serve hot.


Cheater’s Pav Bhaji

2-3 tbsp oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 pint jar or 1 small can of tomatoes
1 tbsp grated garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
4-5 cups of frozen mixed veggies, chopped cauliflower and peppers
5-6 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pint water or more as needed
1 tbsp pav bhaji masala
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp butter for the bhaji
3-4 tortas, quartered
Butter for the cast-iron griddle
1/4 red onion or green onions, chopped fine, for garnish
1/3 cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Pour 2-3 tablespoons of any neutral cooking oil into the pan of your pressure cooker (at least 5liters in size). I prefer avocado oil.

Dice a medium white or yellow onion, just short of two cups. When half the onion is diced, turn on the heat under the pressure cooker pan and set it to medium-high. Once the onion is diced, add it to the pan and sauté for a minute or so.

Grab a pint jar of tomatoes you canned late summer or if you didn’t, a BPA-fee can of tomatoes and empty it into the pressure cooker.

Break down the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, if they are not diced. Stir.

Peel and grate 4-5 medium cloves of garlic, or as many required to make about 1 tbsp of grated garlic.

Peel and grate a knob of ginger, to yield at least as much as the garlic. A little more is just fine.

Add ginger and garlic to the pan.

Next up are the veggies. I like to use frozen mixed veggies, cauliflower and peppers. But I make do with whatever I have. Add a total of 4-5 cups of veggies. Last night, I only had frozen mixed veggies so I went with that. Ensure that the total food level is not more than 2/3rds of the pressure pan, for safety reasons.

Wash, peel, dice 5-6 medium red potatoes and add to the pan. Also use the tomato jar to add a pint of water to the pan.
Pull out your masalas. I like Badshah’s pav bhaji masala. Dabeli masala also works in a pinch. I like to increase the tang by adding chaat masala. Add 1 tbsp of pav bhaji masala, 1 tsp of chaat masala and 1 tsp of salt. Always check if your spice blends have salt in them. Add those first, taste some of the liquid and only then estimate the amount of salt you need. It is better to err on the lower side.

Shut the pressure cooker, put the weight on and cook on medium high until one pressure release, about 7-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure subside on its own.

While this is cooking and cooling, clear up as much as you can and start prepping the garnishes. You will need some onion (any will do, just not sweet Vidalia), some cilantro, some green chile (I skipped it). You will also need some butter and some lemon juice.
I had a quarter red onion in my fridge so I used that up. I salvaged some cilantro from my crisper. I also had a sliced lemon in my fridge that I pulled out.
Put your cast-iron griddle on the stove and heat it on medium.

Once the pressure cooker can be opened safely, blend the contents with a hand blender until smooth. Add 1 tbsp of butter and squeeze in juice of at least half a lemon. Mix and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

I like to use tortas as pav. There have been times when I have made my own laadi-pav but a rushed weeknight does not have enough time for that. Quarter the tortas so that they can be lightly toasted in butter on the griddle.
Serve the pav bhaji either on top of toasted torta or alongside the torta. Garnish with onions and cilantro.

This is not how pav bhaji is made on the streets of Bombay. This is a cheat’s method of getting similar flavors in about half hour of cooking and prepping. Use this as a guideline rather than gospel. If you need it spicier, add some red chile powder or add green chiles with the ginger-garlic. Add more butter if you want to make it richer.

This makes a lot of bhaji. We got one dinner out of it and four lunch boxes, two in the refrigerator and two in the freezer. Potatoes don’t thaw very well once frozen but when mashed, their texture doesn’t become unappetizing once thawed. Pav bhaji, therefore, is a great candidate for my frozen lunch boxes.