Subzi Cheese Biryani (Vegetable Cheese Biryani)

“Can vegetarian food be made interesting as well?” wrote a reader recently. “Yes, of course”, was my enthusiastic answer. With a little bit of creativity and innovation, even a vegetarian meal can be an absolute delight. Though, I am a hardcore non vegetarian, I always opt for a vegetarian meal whenever I require a change from the regular stuff. Ever since the “Aloo Saunfiyana” recipe was well received on the blog, I have decided to start posting all vegetarian recipes that have been lying in my folder for eons now.

One such interesting recipe is the Subzi Cheese Biryani, which was the outcome of my sisters creative thought process. This dish was the outcome of a very healthy debate between my sister and me as what’s the best thing to make when you have almost every vegetable at your disposal. Since the two of us are the greatest biryani fans on the planet, we decided that biryani it would be, but hero of the dish would not be the veggies but a very special ingredient “cheese”. That decided, my sister, pen and paper in tow, sat conceptualizing the biryani while her brother went on and got into executing the dish.

When we decided to make this biryani, it was planned like the way a usual biryani was to be made, and we weren’t too sure of how the final product would turn up but wanted to go ahead with it nevertheless. I tried and kept the oil and fats to a minimum considering that there is a generous amount of cheese, enough to cause the mild hearted a few jitters. I must say it is time consuming but worth every bit of the effort

We had it with Butter-Garlic Prawns. The verdict?  Awesome. The joy of cooking a meal together is priceless. Try doing it sometimes, I promise it will leave a smile on your face and memories in your heart.

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Subzi Cheese Biryani
Ingredients:
       2 cups long grained basmati rice
·     100 grams mixed vegetables (I used French beans, cauliflowers, green capsicum & green peas)
·         2 medium onions- finely chopped
·         2 medium tomatoes- finely chopped
·         200 grams thick curd- beaten well
·         3 tablespoons cashew paste
·         100 grams processed cheese – for grating
·         3 cheese cubes- sliced for garnishing
·     Assortment of whole spices (2 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon stick, 1 small bay leaf)
·         1 ½ tablespoon ginger—garlic paste
·         1 teaspoon coriander powder
·         1 teaspoon red chili powder
·         1 teaspoon turmeric  powder
·         1 teaspoon garam masala powder (all spice powder)
·         4 large tablespoons oil or ghee (clarified butter)
·         Salt to taste
·         Juice of half a lime
·         Some milk
·         Few leaves of coriander and mint for garnishing.

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Procedure:
For the rice:
·  Soak the rice for atleast 20-25 minutes in water before you begin working with it.
·  In a large pan heat water equivalent to double the quantity of rice. When the water starts boiling, add in the rice.
·   Add some ghee to the rice. This will ensure that the grains don’t stick to each other. Also, add some salt.
·          When the rice is about ¾th  done, take out from heat drain it on a colander and let it cool for a while.
·         Take out a large spoonful of the rice and keep aside.
·          Add ½ teaspoon of the turmeric powder to the milk and stir well. Pour this milk on the rice that has been kept aside and mix well. This will give the rice a nice yellow colour.
For the gravy:
·         In a deep pan add the oil or ghee and let it heat. Once the oil is hot add in the whole masalas and let them crackle.
·         Once the masalas are done, add the onions and cook till the onions are nicely browned. Add in the ginger garlic paste and cook well.
·         Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes are pulpy. This is important since if the tomatoes are not well cooked; the gravy will separate.
·         When the tomatoes are pulpy, add in all the spice powders (coriander, red chili, turmeric& the garam masala  powder) and cook well. Add a little water if required.
·         Now add the cashew paste and cook till the oil leaves the sides and the mixture has thickened a bit. Add in the curd and let it simmer for about 7 minutes
·         Add in the vegetables, salt and cook for 5 more minutes.
·         Finally, add in the juice of lime and mix.
·
For the assembling:
·         Line a heavy deep bottom vessel with ghee and pour in half of the gravy.
·         Now , on top of this add a layer of half the rice; grate half the cheese on top the rice. Also, add some of the coloured rice to this
·         Repeat the layering process with the other half of the gravy, rice and cheese
·         Slice the cubes into fine squares and layer on the top.
      Seal the vessel tightly and cook for about 30* minutes on medium flame and for another 10 minutes on a low flame.
     Once done take out from the heat and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.
      Serve with refreshing raita.

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Prawns in Butter Garlic Sauce!

Nariman Point is a prime business area in Mumbai.  It houses some of India’s and the world’s premier business headquarters.  Apart from business, ‘Point’ as it is affectionately called by office goers and locals has something for everyone. The soothing sea breeze, sprawling corporate head offices that are nothing short of architectural marvels, imposing 20th century buildings and bridges built by our colonial masters, and yes of course, an endless array of culinary options to satisfy every little taste bud on the tongue.

I too, had the opportunity of working at Nariman Point and today’s recipe is the outcome of one such culinary adventure. The place where I used to work was blessed with plenty of options for food right from fine dining restaurants to road side food stalls that served almost anything from Chinese to French or pasta. Though I used to carry my lunch from home (I still do), occasionally, I would skip carrying it allowing my mum some rest. A colleague, who was a foodie like me, mentioned of this recently opened restaurant that claimed to serve some of the best seafood in the area. Now, a new restaurant offering seafood meant it wasn’t long before we both decided to try it out. Of course, the menu had everything that the sea could offer and my colleague suggested we should try the “Butter Garlic Squid”. Being the conventional type (in my choice of food), I wasn’t too convinced that the dish would offer much; but my colleague almost pleaded me to try and try we did. I almost fell in love with the combination and together over the next couple of visits to the place we almost tried everything from squid, prawns, tofu, mushroom, and anything that the tag of ‘butter garlic’ attached to it. My personal favorite though, was the “Butter Garlic Prawns”.

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My first attempt at making something with butter garlic sauce was with shredded chicken and honestly, the result was nothing but a disaster. I decided to make the same with prawns. This dish is so simple and uses ingredients that we almost tend to neglect in day to day cooking butter and garlic. Paulo Coelho was spot on when he wrote in the Alchemist: ‘The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.’ I had run a poll on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TummyTales) and no wonder then the dish was the winner by a long way. The rich butter sauce cooked to perfection with the garlic that covers the succulent prawns along with the complementing tastes of Italian herbs and the chilly flakes providing adequate support; and finally, the lemon juice provide the final swoosh just as you finish.

Go ahead and try it to experience gastronomic nirvana.

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Prawns in Butter Garlic Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams medium sized prawns
  • 2 large pods of garlic roughly chopped
  • 80 grams butter (preferably unsalted)
  • 1 small teaspoon olive oil
  • 1  table spoon dried Italian herbs (I used thyme, basil, rosemary and oregano)
  • 1 table spoon red chilly flakes (or 1 green chilly finely chopped)
  • Juice of ½ a medium sized lime
  • ½ table spoon crushed pepper
  • Salt to taste (please be careful if your using salted butter)

Procedure:

  • In a non-stick pan, add the olive oil and the butter and let them heat. Once the butter has melted add in some of the garlic and let it cook till the garlic turns reddish brown in colour. Take it out and keep it aside.
  • Now, add in the rest of the garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Once the garlic has cooked, add in the prawns and stir till the prawns change colour. Add in the salt and let it cook stirring continuously.
  • Next add in the herbs and red chilly flakes allowing the flavors to seep into the prawns.
  • Add the crushed black pepper and the lime juice giving it one last stir.
  • Serve hot.

 

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Chicken Tikka Masala!

If I ask you to describe your favorite gravy, what would you say? Creamy, rich, flavoured with just the right amount of spices and yes, succulent meat or vegetable chunks. Today’s  dish is just that. The British claim that they’ve invented it, while we Indians claim to have invented it way back in the Mughal era; and in this “us” versus “them” debate, the fact remains tha tchicken tikka masala is to Indian cuisine just what fish & chips are to British cuisine.
Historically, legend has it that Butter Chicken and the Chicken Tikka Masala was prepared from the unwanted remains of the chicken like the neck, wings etc left over by the Nawabs. The cooks would then gather the pieces and cook then in a tomato gravy flavored with spices. Needless to say, the dish has been through many modifications and variations down the ages and the version we have today is made popular by a restaurant called “Delhi Darbar”. The actual flavor of the dish comes from the grilled chicken pieces. The other secret is the rich sauce made from tomatoes. One look at the texture and presentation may make you feel that it’s complicated to make but believe me, get everything ready and making this will be just a breeze. The original recipe doesn’t call for capsicums; however, I added a small one just to add some crunch to otherwise smooth gravy.
To be honest, doesn’t matter where or how the dish was invented; simply enjoy the sumptuous Chicken Tikka Masala.
Chicken TIkka

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

  • 450 grams  Chicken tikka (Refer note 1 below)
  • 5-6 tablespoons Oil or ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 table spoon cumin seeds
  • Assortment of whole spices (2 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon stick, 1 small bay leaf)
  • 2 medium onions—finely chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes—finely chopped
  • 500 grams good quality curd—beaten well
  • 1 small capsicum cubed
  • 1 ½ tablespoon ginger—garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric  powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder (all spice powder)
  • 5 tablespoons  Cashew Paste (refer note 2 below)
  • Juice of half lime (small)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped coriander—for garnishing

Procedure

  • In a heavy bottomed pan heat oil, and add in the whole spices and the cumin seeds.  Sauté spices till you have a fragrant aroma from them. Once the spices are done, add the chopped onions and cook till the onions are entirely caramelized (brown).
  • Now add the ginger garlic paste and cook well.
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes are pulpy. This is a very crucial step since if the tomatoes are not well cooked; the gravy will separate and ruin the dish.
  • Once the tomatoes cook, add in all the spice powders (coriander, red chili, turmeric & the garam masala powder) and mix well.
  • Once the spices have integrated well with the rest of the mixture, add in the cashew nut paste and sauté till the oil leaves the sides and the mixture has thickened a bit.
  • Add the pieces of chicken tikka and mix well so that the pieces are covered well with the gravy and the flavours permeate into the pieces. Add a little water to the gravy to adjust to your consistency. Add salt, curd and cover and cook for about 7–10 minutes.
  • Add the chopped capsicum, coriander and the lime juice and mix well.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice or parathas.

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Important notes:

 Note 1

  • To make the chicken tikka
  1. Pre heat oven to 100 C for about 15 mins
  2. Clean and wash the cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces and marinate them with curd, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and garam masala powder for half an hour.
  3. Keep the chicken pieces on a grill and bake them in the oven at 175 C for 10 minutes.

Note 2

  • To make the cashew paste
  1. Soak about 20 cashews in warm water for 30 minutes
  2. Grind to a fine paste in a mixer.

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Gajar Halwa (Indian Carrot Pudding)

My dear readers, this is a very special post for me. This post is to celebrate 50 fans on my face book page ( https://www.facebook.com/TummyTales)  When I started the blog and created the face book page to share recipes, I was just doing something I always wanted to even as a kid, that is cooking and sharing recipes. However, the support and encouragement you have shown only drives me to keep raising the bar. It is said that behind the success of a man there is a woman; in my case there are two. My dear mom and my sister who have been encouraging and supportive in the blog, my mum has also willing opened her treasure of recipes some of which you have already seen on the blog. Each and every recipe passes through their stern exacting standards and only the perfected product makes it to the blog. Thanks dear mum and little sister.  To be honest, I  don’t cook because I have to blog or vice versa, I cook because it’s a passion for me and the reward is when someone tries a recipe from the blog and it turns out well. Thank you very much dear readers do keep writing with your thoughts, suggestions and comments. It would be nice to hear from you on what you feel on the face book page or the blog.

And so, to celebrate the 50th fan, we will make something that is synonymous with celebrations in India. Did I hear a loud and collective “Gajar Halwa”? Yes, absolutely right! We shall celebrate with the gajar halwa, a desert so rooted in Indian culture that Indian women can almost make it blindfolded. Its cousin the Doodhi (bottle gourd) halva also has an equally good reputation but it’s the gajar halwa that calls the shots nevertheless. The test for a good gajar halwa is simple.  It should melt the minute you put it in your mouth.

This is also the right time to try out this recipe since carrots are best in this season. I tried my best to retain the original recipe and keep it as low as possible on the calorie meter as possible. I don’t like sweets too much; fortunately, it passed the quality test and here you have moist, succulent and melt in the mouth gajar halwa.

Make it. I’m sure the accolades and compliments will follow.

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Gajar Halwa

Ingredients:

  • 1 Kg Carrots
  • 5-6 tablespoons ghee
  • 60 grams roughly chopped mixed dry fruits (I used cashews, raisins, pistachios and almonds)
  • 250ml condensed milk
  • 600 ml good quality milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (you could use whole sugar if you like)
  • ½ spoon green cardamom powder

Procedure:

  • Wash, peel and grate the carrots and keep aside. Roughly chop the dry fruits as well.
  • In a deep pan, add ghee. When the ghee is heated, add the dry fruits and lightly roast them. Once done, take out and drain on an absorbent paper. In the same pan, add chopped carrots and sauté those for about 7 minutes till the carrots are limp.
  • Add in the milk and the green cardamom powder and cook till the milk has dried up.
  • Now add the condensed milk, sugar and mix well till sugar has dissolved and the mixture forms a single mass. Please keep stirring continuously at this point or your carrots may burn near the bottom.
  • Add the dry fruits and give it a nice mix so the fruits are spread evenly throughout the halva.
  • This can be served cold or at room temperature. But it tasted best when it’s hot.
  • Want to indulge a bit more, add a small blob of ghee on your portion.

 

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Fish Cutlets!

For working professionals like me, a weekend comes as a gift from heaven.  More than just a break from the routine of work it gives you time to spend with family, friends and more importantly the ‘me time’ we all need. It is important to cut away from the clutter and introspect at times; this gives us a good perspective on things we that we tend to miss in the humdrum of daily life.  For me, the weekend is a time when I complete pending chores and yes of course, research new recipes and blog.

While contemplating this week’s recipe, I noticed that the blog missed an entrée or accompaniment recipe; losing no time I decided to make good the deficit by posting one of my favorite recipes “Fish Cutlets”. I loved cutlets even as a kid, my mum would make the mixture and fry it as a quick meal for me (since I was an ever hungry kid and would keep pestering mum for something to eat every half an hour). I am yet to come across someone who doesn’t like cutlets.  Although cutlets are usually made from minced meat, fish ranks higher on my preference scale due to its nutritional value. These cutlets are made within no time and can up the glamour quotient of even a simple meal. The test of a cutlet is its texture, dark and crisp on the outside and succulent on the inside. These turned out just the way I wanted them to, the crisp exterior that leads to moist fish meat that is seasoned with hot chillies and when you thought it was over, the tang of the lemon. Perfect bliss!!! Fish and potatoes make up a combination that is almost a meal in itself.

My suggestion, make extra mixture; your family would sure demand them time and again. Mine did!!!

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Fish Cutlets

(Yields about 12-15 medium sized cutlets)

Ingredients:-

  • 500 grams boneless fish
  • 2 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 small onions (finely minced)
  • 8-10 garlic pods (finely minced)
  • 1 inch piece ginger (finely minced)
  • 2 green chillies (finely minced)
  • 2 egg whites – beaten well
  • Bread Crumbs or semolina – for coating the cutlets
  • 1 tablespoon Red chilly powder
  • 1 tablespoon Turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Coriander- finely chopped
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 large blob of butter
  • Salt to your taste

Procedure:-

  • Clean, wash the fish. Once this is done keep enough water in a deep vessel and boil the fish in it. Once this is done, de-bone the fish carefully; you wouldn’t want a bone in your cutlet right? Then, mince the fish evenly.
  • In a bowl, add the minced fish, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin seed, coriander, salt and keep aside.
  • Now, boil the potatoes in a pressure cooker. Once done, grate into the fish mixture and mix well.
  • In a pan, add a teaspoon of oil and fry the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies till they are cooked well ,the onions will loose colour and garlic  will turn slightly brown.
  • Add the onion mixture to the fish mixture and mix  so that all the ingredients integrate well.
  • Wet your palm, take some mixture and form a medium sized patty.
  • Coat well with the beaten egg white and the bread crumbs and fry till golden brown. This should take about 3-4 minutes a side. Just before you turn the cutlet once, add in the blob of butter. Adding butter will make the crust crispy and give it nice glaze.
  • Enjoy with any sauce or ketchup of your choice.

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