Hummus, an ancient Arabic appetizer, took the western world by storm a few decades ago and is also available in stores across India. Traditional hummus is nothing but the creamy blend of chickpeas & sesame seeds. Now there are different flavors of hummus available in the market to satisfy the ever growing demands of consumers across the world. Nevertheless, it is hard to find the hummus with local flavors, and I have tried spicy hummus with the burst of flavors that suit our palates.
Spinach curry is one of the most popular Indian curries not only for Indians but also for the people across the globe. It is a traditional winter curry prepared using leafy greens & cottage cheese (paneer). Spinach curry with paneer is commonly prepared using palak (Indian spinach), whereas saag paneer is prepared using mustard leaves. Here I have prepared spinach curry with the South Indian spinach namely Amaranth leaves (mulai keerai). Actually it is as delicious as palak paneer and creamier than palak paneer.
Naan is a traditional flatbread made using the dough enriched with ghee (clarified butter) & curd (yogurt) and cooked at a high temperature inside a clay oven called tandoor. Lately, naan dough is prepared just like any other bread dough using leavening agents such as yeast, baking soda, or baking powder and baked like pizza over a hot stone kept inside the oven. Here I have added turmeric powder to make my naan bread bright & beautiful.
It is a common tendency of people here that they pamper their guests whom they respect the most with sumptuous feasts to express their special affinity towards them. So the way food offered to guests is obviously regarded as a scale to measure their closeness. During my childhood days, I often found people getting offended during family functions, particularly weddings, as they felt humiliated at the banquet hall (pandhi) which incidentally became the starting point (place) of most of the family feuds. Nowadays to avoid such unpleasant situations, people hire hosts/ hostesses who give an artificial smile at every guest, treat them all with due respect, and eventually ensure the equality.
Raisina hills is the prominent landmark in India where our President’s housing estate (Rashtrapathi Bhavan), Parliament house, Prime Minister’s office and other government offices are situated. Dal Raisina is the signature dish prepared by the elite chefs in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan kitchen specially for VIPs & foreign dignitaries. Dal Raisina is a sumptuous lentil curry prepared by brewing assorted lentils & aromatic spices in lavish amounts of butter & heavy cream in slow fire for long hours. Recently it was cooked for unprecedented 48 long hours specially for the guests present during the swearing-in ceremony of our Prime Minster and his cabinet of ministers held at Rashtrapathi Bhavan.
Although Thai cuisine boasts a wide range of meatless preparations, we could find every vegetable salad, soup, or curry tinged with fish sauce/ oyster sauce/ dried shrimps/ shrimp paste. People declaring themselves as vegetarians in Thailand are actually pescatarians, they don’t take any meat, but they don’t mind taking seafood. So vegetarians/ vegans may order food from live counters (or roadside vendors) rather than dining at buffets, as they can make sure to avoid using seafood as flavor enhancers while preparing vegetarian dishes. I am a fiend for Thai curries especially, green curry for the pleasant green color, creamy sauce, and the delightful aroma of Thai herbs & spices.
Sweet saffron rice (zarda pulao) is a Persian rice dish, and it was the most sought-after pulao among the royals during the Mughal era dated back to the 16th century. Noor Jahan, the multi-talented Mughal empress, devised new techniques to stain rice grains with edible dyes. Zarda pulao was made using such rice grains of various colors and it became so popular that it was served to the guests at royal weddings & banquets. The empress brought revolutionary changes in every art form. She designed dresses with silver or gold-threaded brocades, cutlery & crockery engraved with rubies & emeralds. She also commissioned magnificent buildings including a tomb for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg which was actually a draft of Taj Mahal.
If I feel exuberant and joyful I would like to please my palate with a delectable meal, and on the other hand when I feel anxious and stressed I would like to cook an elaborate meal as it succors to shift my focus of attention in a positive manner. In either case, my family gets benefited by enjoying a palatable meal meticulously prepared by me. 🙂 Here I have prepared cauliflower peas masala, rajma curry, mushroom pulao, chapathi, and gulab jamun for dinner.
The stuffed capsicum (bell peppers) laid into spicy creamy gravy (curry sauce) has always been a crowd-pleaser at every family gatherings or children’s birthday parties. So we can impress our guests or kids by serving delicious curry with stuffed capsicum garnished with grated cottage cheese (or Mozzarella cheese) along with pulao (mildly spiced rice dish) and Indian breads like roti, naan, etc.
One of the most indelibly joyful moments of any mother would be watching her children enjoying the healthy food prepared by her. Serving home-made whole wheat pav bread with mixed vegetables curry (bhaji) to my family is one such moment that I wish to cherish forever. If we serve oven-fresh flavorful pav breads with delectable bhaji to our children, then there is no need for them to visit an eatery for a plateful of high caloric pav bhaji which is a major cause of juvenile obesity nowadays.
It was quite captivating to see an array of flavorful creamy curries in green, red, orange & yellow colors when we dined at a restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. Hence I brought back Thai herbs & spices used for making those curries and prepared vegetable curries. I was extremely delighted that I could manage to bring out the similar flavor, texture and also the perfect color. But now I have prepared an yellow curry with Indian flavor using the locally available ingredients.
Kofta is a soft potato dumpling, and we serve these golden koftas soaked in delectable curry greatly enjoyed by the children and also others who are not accustomed to the heat of red chilli. In this recipe I have used ginger to make the gravy spicy and used red chilli powder mainly for the color & flavor. However you can add more red chilli powder to suit your palate.
Aloo paratha, an Indian bread stuffed with spicy potato, is a hearty meal that can be packed for children’s lunch box. We can serve hot aloo paratha for breakfast or dinner along with spicy garlic-tomato dip (instead of pickle) & refreshing onion raita.
Green peas masala is a creamy Indian curry particularly enjoyed by children as it does not have sharp pungent flavors. Nevertheless, this scrumptious curry meets the dietary requirements of children; the protein in green peas ensures their growth, shallots give them the immunity from disease causing germs and fresh coriander leaves loaded with iron make them active.
It is hard to find an Indian who does not enjoy the soft chewy cottage cheese (paneer), so we like to add paneer into many dishes that we prepare often like curries or pulao (rice). Paneer matar masala is one of the most popular curries prepared in almost every Indian household, and it is usually served with chapathi, roti or pulao.
I prefer to make my dinner light, so I try to reduce oil as much as possible while cooking as it helps to reduce the load on liver. I also prefer to make foods that are rich in protein using beans or lentils for dinner. Hence I find my chickpeas gravy (chana masala) ideal as it is prepared with boiled chickpeas, that are easily digestible and also rich in protein, using little or no oil.
Methi Roti or vendhaya keerai chappathi is a food with low-glycemic index as both wheat & methi are of low GI. If you check your blood sugar after taking them (postprandial levels) using a home kit, you will be surprised to see your glucose at its low. Besides fenugreek leaves have the properties of reducing the body temperature and hence they are beneficial to the people living in tropical country like India.
Since rava upma is the easiest meal prepared with commonly available ingredients, it is being served often for breakfast or dinner in most of the south Indian families. Hence people especially children get bored of taking upma, but we can make this simple meal appetizing just by adding a handful of fresh green peas. Rava upma with fresh peas can be enjoyed the most when served warm in the evening particularly during monsoon.