Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Harissa Rubbed Chicken Kababs

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I'm sitting in Minneapolis as I write this post and the temperature outside is -13 degrees celsius. Probably not a good temperature to grill outside, but I just cannot stop thinking of the nice grill party I had at my place in New Delhi a few weeks back.
I first discovered Harissa a few years back at a friends place and over time have tried both making Harissa at home (it is really easy to make) and also try out other things with Harissa, the Harissa rubbed chicken kababs being my favorite ( Harissa mashed potatoes the other favorite). Of late, I have sourced out a vendor who stocks up harissa and I usually take the easy route of buying harissa tubes from him.
So what is Harissa? Harissa is a North African ( mostly Moroccan, Algerian & Tunisian cuisine) hot sauce made with chillies and paprika, flavored with caraway & cumin seeds. Different versions of making this sauce exist. Types of chillies can be played around with to arrive at the hotness of the Harissa sauce. I personally use red ancho chillies and paprika to make my Harissa.


Dried Red Chillies - 10-12
Paprika - 2 Tsp
Garlic, minced - 4
Corriander seeds,ground - 1 Tsp
Cumin seeds, ground - 1 Tsp
Caraway seeds, ground - 1 Tsp
Olive Oil - 2 Tblsp
Sea Salt - 1/2 Tsp
Tomato Paste - 1 Tsp

1. Soak the dried chillies in warm water for half an hour. Drain them and remove stem & seeds.
2. Blend all the ingredients in a blender to form a smooth paste.
3. Store in a air tight container. NOTE: Harissa stays well in the refrigerator. Drizzling a few drops of olive oil on top of it while storing will keep it fresh.

Harissa Rubbed Chicken Kababs
Chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes - 200 gm
Lemon Juice - 3 Tblsp
Ginger -garlic paste - 3 Tblsp
Onion paste - 2 Tblsp
Harissa - 3 Tblsp
Mixed Herbs - 3 Tsp
Olive Oil - 1 Tsp
Sea Salt - To Taste
Olive Oil - For Basting

1. Wash & clean the chicken cubes. Rub with ginger garlic paste and marinate in lemon juice for 30 minutes.
2. Prepare a second marinade by combining olive oil, harissa, onion paste, mix herbs and sea salt. Add the chicken cubes to this marinade. Rest for another 30 minutes.
3. Heat grill to moderately high temperature.
4. Thread the chicken cubes on skewers and grill till done. Turn around regularly and baste them with olive oil to prevent drying.
5. Serve hot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jewels from Avadh (Part I) - Guncha-O-Bahar

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The very mention of Avadh, brings memories of nawabs, tehzeeb and some delicately spiced, aromatic and tasty cuisine, dum pukht being the most famous. Although these days Avadh is synonymous with Lucknow, the Avadh region comprised of Balrampur (near Nepal border), Barabanki, Gonda, Allahabad, Sitapur, Rae Bareli, Faizabad, Lucknow(the capital) and extended till Unnao. Under the patronage of the nawabs, the cuisine was taken to an entirely new level. Some of the famous culinary delights from the region include the melting galouti kababs, the kakori kababs, Sheermal, Taftan, Tunde mian's famous kababs and ulte tawe ke paranthe. The lucknowi biryani and the Hyderabadi Biryani have long fought a battle for the best there is to offer, with each camp boasting of several million die hard fans.
The vast variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in the Avadh cuisine are complemented by the rich variety of ingredients used. It is fairly common to be find Kewra (Screwpine essence), Khus and Gulabjal being used in the cooking as it is find abundant use of nuts and other dried fruits like apricots and raisins being used.
The Dum Pukht cuisine, which entails cooking the food in its own steam over a slow fire, is said to have evolved in Avadh and perfected in the kitchens of the nawabs.


Cauliflower, cut into large florets and washed - 1 Kg
Onions, finely chopped - 1/2 Cup
Turmeric - 1.5 Tsp
Lemon Juice - 2 Tblsp
Malt Vinegar - 6 Tblsp
Ginger Garlic Paste - 7 Tblsp
Red Chili Powder - 1.5 Tsp
Almond Paste - 5 Tsp
Tomato Puree - 1 Cup
Yogurt - 1 Cup
Khoya - 120 Gm
Coriander Powder - 1 Tsp
Fennel Powder - 2 Tsp
Cumin Powder - 1 Tsp
Gramflour - 1/3 Cup
Garam Masala - 1/2 Tsp
Saffron - 1 Tsp
Milk - 1 Tblsp
Ghee - 6 Tblsp
Oil - For deep frying
Salt - To Taste

1. Blanch the cauliflower florets in water with Lemon juice, 1 Tsp turmeric and salt. Drain and refresh under cold running water.
2. Mix 1 tsp red chili powder with ginger garlic paste, salt and malt vinegar. Marinate the blanched cauliflower florets in this mixture for 30 minutes.
3. Mix cumin with the gramflour. Dust the marinated florets with this.
4. Deep fry the dusted cauliflower florets till they turn golden brown. Keep aside.
5. Whisk the yogurt and add in khoya paste, remaining turmeric (1/2 tsp), fennel, coriander powder, red chili powder (1/2 tsp) and salt.
6. Heat ghee in a kadhai. Add in the onions and saute till light brown.
7. Add tomato puree and the almond paste. Fry till the fat leaves the masala.
8. Add in the yogurt mixture. Cook till the gravy achieves a sauce like consistency.
9. Add the garam masala and stir. Take off flame.
10. In a shallow baking dish, arrange the fried florets. Pour the gravy on top.
11. Sprinkle saffron soaked in milk and cover with a silver foil.
12. Cook on Dum in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.
13. Tear the foil on the dining table and serve hot from the baking dish.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nihari Gosht

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The word Nihari is derived from the urdu word Nihar meaning morning, and true to its name, Nihari was a breakfast food eaten in the early morning traditionally before sunrise. It is a delicious meat stew (almost always beef) that is nowadays a popular dish (made with lamb, beef or mutton) eaten just about anytime, more so in the evenings for dinner. The origins of this dish are hazy and though some say it is a part of the avadh cuisine, Delhi seems to be the birthplace for Nihari Gosht. From Delhi it travelled to Pakistan and other parts of India with the settlers and was taken to a new level. There are streets serving Nihari in Lahore and Karachi and though I have never been there, the taste of the Nihari seems heavenly going by word of mouth of some who have tasted it. I have feasted on Nihari in Hyderabad and also in Delhi near Jama Masjid and they did not seem to disappoint me either.
Traditionally Nihari is cooked overnight to make the meat tender and just fall off the bone. Also, there can be various garnishes or assortments that can be served alongwith Nihari ranging from fried onions, sliced radishes, green chillies and lemon slices to bheja fry (no pun intended).
I made Nihari the other day for breakfast. I took it easy on the ghee and other ingredients but the taste was still good.

Nihari Gosht


Lamb/Mutton - 500 Gm
Desi Ghee - 100 Gm
Onions, Sliced - 1
Onions, finely chopped - 2
Cloves - 4
Green Cardamom - 4
Bay Leaf - 1
Cinnamon Stick - 1
Coriander Powder - 1.5 Tsp
Red Chili Powder - 1 Tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Ginger Garlic Paste - 3 Tblsp
Yogurt - 1/2 Cup
Gramflour - 1/2 Tsp
Flour - 1/2 Tsp
Garam Masala Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Green Cardamom Powder - 1/4 Tsp
Mace Powder - 1/4 Tsp

1. Heat 80 gm ghee in a thick botommed vessel. Add in the sliced onions are fry till they turn golden brown.
2. Add in the lamb/mutton pieces, chopped onions, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon. Saute for 5 minutes or till it becomes dry.
3. Add in the red chili powder, coriander, turmeric and salt. Mix well.
4. Add in the ginger garlic paste and stir. Fry till oil leaves the masala.
5. Add in yogurt and bring to a boil.
6. Add in 2 cups of water and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
7. Take the vessel of the heat. Separate the lamb/mutton pieces from the gravy.
8. In a separate pan add in the remaining ghee and heat.
9. Add in the gramflour and flour. Keep stirring till the flours turn golden brown.
10. Add in the gravy and stir well to ensure no lumps remain. Wash the original handi (in which the gravy was).
11. Pass this gravy through a strainer into the original handi.
12. Add in the meat pieces and return to the flame.
13. Add in the mace powder and green cardamom powder. Cook for 10 minutes.
14. Add in the garam masala and cook for another 10 minutes.
15. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Afghani Murg Tikka

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The mercury seems to be dipping every day in Delhi and the fog has ensured that venturing out late evenings or early morning is a big mistake. It makes a good excuse to stay at home and cook on the grill.
Having tried many kinds of chicken kababs and tikkas to experiment with, this recipe came as a big relief, more so to my family members who were in no mood to become guinea pigs and try out something out of my head.
Other chicken tikkas/kababs on this blog:

Afghani Murg Tikka Ingredients:

Chicken, cut into 1 inch dices - 500 gm
Ginger Garlic paste - 3 Tsp
Vinegar - 1 Tblsp
Cashewnut, blended with 2 Tblsp of milk and made into a paste - 3 Tblsp
Cheese, grated - 2 Tblsp
Cardamom powder - 1 Tsp
White Pepper Powder - 2 Tsp
Eggs - 2
Cream - 2 Tblsp
Salt - To Taste
Oil - To Baste

1. Rub the chicken pieces with ginger garlic paste, vinegar and salt. Keep aside for 30 minutes.
2. Mix cashew paste, cardamom powder, white pepper powder, cheese, eggs and salt to make a smooth paste.
3. Add the chicken pieces to this second marinade and keep aside for 3o minutes.
4. Put the chicken pieces on skewers and grill on a hot tandoor/oven/charcoal grill.
5. Baste regularly and turn the skewers to ensure even cooking.
6. Grill till done.
7. Serve hot with mint chutney.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Murgh Malaaiwala (Chicken in Creamy Indian Gravy)

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Punjab (A region in India and Pakistan), the name means the land of five (Punj ) and Ab (River). Needless to say a region of five rivers is immensely fertile and abundant in crop and dairy. It's therefore no coincidence that all Punjabis love their food and a majority of Indian restaurants serve the punjabi cuisine. Being on the famed silk route meant that Punjab became a melting pot of diverse culture and gastronomical treasures which were quickly adopted and amalgamated into the rich Punjabi cuisine. Alexander came in with Rajma (kidney beans) and now Rajma and chawal (rice) are the essential punjabi favorite. Partition bought along with it millions of refugees to different parts of the country with nothing other than the clothers they were wearing, the cuisine that they loved and an enterprising nature. The entire nation has since been swept under a culinary explosion of Punjabi food. Thousands of Dhabas (Roadside eateries) have exploded at every nook and corner of the country, giving the common folk a taste of punjabi food. It is not uncommon to have tandoori chicken fan following down south of the country.
Being a Punjabi myself, breakfast, lunch and dinner are not a mere break from the usual daily grind but a festival in itself. Though jokingly it is termed daal-roti, chicken, meat and other vegetarian food dishes are common thing on the table, sometimes all at once. When we were young (read small kids), my dad used to make this creamy chicken dish that was not too spicy and a great hit with us. The other day, deciding on a dish to make that my kids could eat without complaning of the spices, this one came to my mind and I immediately set about making this. It is not the last time, I think, that this has been made at my house (going by the reactions). Some culinary traditions never die.

Murgh Malaaiwala

Chicken, cut into pieces - 500 gm
Onion paste - 1 Cup
Ginger Paste - 2 Tsp
Green Chillies, slit and deseeded - 2
Milk - 3 Cups
Cream - 1 Cup
Kasoori Methi - 2 Tsp
Black Pepper, freshly ground - 1 Tsp
Green Cardamom Powder - 2 Tsp
Clove Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Garam Masala Powder - 1 Tsp
Salt - To Taste

For Garnish
Almond Flakes - 2 Tsp
Coriander, finely chopped - 1 Tsp


1. Add the chicken pieces, onion paste, ginger paste, 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup cream,green chillies and a pinch of kasoori methi in a handi and bring to a boil on a medium flame, while stirring continously.
2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring at regular intervals until the milk and cream have been absorbed and the chicken has been almost cooked.
3. Add in the remaining ingredients (1 cup Milk, 1/2 cup cream, clove powder, black pepper powder, cardamom powder, garam masala powder, remaining kasoori methi) and cook for 10 more minutes or till another boil.
4. Adjust seasonings.
5. Serve hot garnished with Almond flakes & chopped coriander.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


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Roganjosh has always been my favorite meat dish for a very long time. Over the years my family and friends have suffered over my insistence of having this dish featured on food menus whenever we have gone dining and even having it on a buffet for parties organized by me. The intense aromas and a taste to die for have made this dish a piece de resistance of the kashmiri cuisine. What is even more interesting than this dish maybe the fact that its origins are Persian and it was bought to Kashmir by the Moghuls who made Kashmir their winter capital.
There are two main theories to the origin of the name Roganjosh. The first one credits the name to its Persian origins wherein Rogan means clarified butter or oil and Josh means Intense. It is simply put a meat based stew cooked in clarified butter over intense heat. The second theory states the name to be a Kashmiri version meaning red meat (Rogan means red in Kashmiri and Josh is the anglicized version of Gosht meaning Meat).
Different versions of this dish exist throughout the country and even in Kashmir where it has been perfected there are two distinct versions on how it is made. The Kashmiri brahmins(hindu caste) eat meat (as opposed to other hindus in the country barring the Saraswat Brahmins of Goa) and make this dish without garlic and onions which they do not use in their cooking. They flavor the dish using fennel (very distinct to Kashmiri Hindu cooking) and asafoetida. The Kashmiri muslims use lots of onion, garlic and also the dried flower of the cockscomb plant commonly known as Maval in Kashmir. Maval provides the dish its distinct bright red color. Maval surprisingly is in itself a substitute for Ratan Jot (Alkanet Root) which was the preferred ingredient to impart color not only to Roganjosh but also Tandoori chicken during the Moghul period. This is now becoming rare and substituted by Maval petals in Kashmir as this flower is indigenous to the state and in other parts of the country artificial food colors are used.
I chanced upon Ratan Jot sometime back in Hyderabad and immediately bought it. This was the perfect time to use it. My version tries to mix both the kashmiri muslim and hindu coking styles by adopting the use of onion, garlic, fennel & asafoetida. It surely tastes good and is great for a nice winter evening served with some pulao.
Other Indian chicken/meat gravy items on my blog that one can read are as under:


Lamb /Mutton, leg or shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes - 1 Kg
Garlic Paste - 3 Tblsp
Ginger Powder (Sonth) - 2 Tsp
Brown Onion Paste - 1/2 Cup
Yogurt - 1 Cup
Cumin powder - 2 Tsp
Red Chili Powder - 2 Tsp
Coriander Powder - 2 Tsp
Green Cardamom - 2 pods
Black Cardamom - 2 Pods
Cinnamon - 1-inch stick
Cloves- 4
Bay Leaf - 1
Kashmiri Degi Mirch - 1 Tsp
Ratan Jot,crushed - 1/2 Tsp
Asafoetida (hing) - a Pinch
Fennel Powder - 1 Tsp
Ghee - 5 Tblsp
Salt - To Taste

1. Mix together sonth (dry ginger powder), garlic paste, chili powder, degi mirch, coriander & cumin in a large bowl.
2. Add the Meat pieces and mix well to coat all pieces evenly. Allow to rest for atleast 6 hours or preferably overnight in a refrigerator.
3. Heat ghee ina large saucepan. Add Asafoetida and cook for a minute.
4. Add in the cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon to the pan. Fry for a minute.
5. Add the meat pieces and sear well for 3 minutes. Add in the onion paste and fennel powder and cook for another 5 minutes.
6. Add half a cup of water and cook for 5-7 minutes on high flame, reduce the flame, cover and simmer till all water has evaporated (30-45 minutes).
7. Stir in whisked yogurt slowly and mix well. Keep stirring from time to time to ensure meat does not stick to the base of the pan.
8. Add in the Ratan jot and salt. Stir well and cook till meat is tender.
9. Serve hot with rice.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sheesh Tavouk

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Sheesh Tavouk or Chicken Skewer as it is it's literal translation (Sheesh meaning Skewer and Tavouk meaning Chicken in Turkish) is a traditional Turkish dish but known more as a Lebanese dish thanks to the many Lebanese Kabab houses around the world. It is simple dish of skewering cubes of marinated Chicken and grilling them. Though many different variations of this dish exist, I usually make it the simplest way. It is much preferred since it is subtly spiced and therefore is a big draw with kids.

Sheesh Tavouk

Chicken, boneless (preferrably breast) - 500 Gm
Lemon Juice - 3 Tblsp
Garlic Cloves, finely chopped - 1 Tblsp
Olive Oil - 1 Tblsp
Cumin Powder - 1/4 Tsp
White Pepper Powder - 1 Tsp
Cayenne Pepper - A pinch
Salt - To Taste

For garnish:
Pita Bread - 1
Rice - 1 small bowl

1. Wash & cut chicken breats into 2.5 inch cubes.
2. Blend the chopped garlic, lemon juice, salt, white pepper powder, cumin powder and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl.
3. Slowly add Olive oil and whisk to form an emulsion.
4. Marinate the chicken pieces in this mixture.Keep aside for 2 hours.
5. Thread the chicken pieces on the skewers. Note: You can also use Bell Peppers cut into 2 inch cubes and alternate between bell peppr cubes and chicken pieces while threading.
6. Grill the skewered chicken for 15-20 minutes or till they are done.
7. Keep rotating while they grill and baste with olive oil to prevent drying up.
8. Serve hot on a bed of rice or pita bread. ( I use mint chutney)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Seekh Kabab (Skewered Lamb Mince Kababs)

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No Tandoori platter is complete without the Seekh Kabab. Not only is a nicely made Seekh Kabab juicy & delicious but also a nice test of the chef's skill. The balance between the ingredients is of utmost importance which I have learned over the intial years through hit and miss. A lot of people prefer either the use of gramflour as a binding agent or using egg. The catch with using gramflour is that it tends to make the kabab bitter if used excessively. Egg, also if used excessively, can make the mixture too wet to hold onto the seekh (Skewer) and fall into the tandoor or grill. I prefer to use both egg and gramflour in little quantities to arrive at the right mix to bind the mixture and hold onto the seekh. Another key is regular basting to ensure the kabab is juicy and not a dried up item.

The origins to this can be traced to Babur's time, when royal cooks used to wrap ground beef around iron rods and grill them on open flames.

Seekh Kabab


Lamb/Mutton Mince - 500 gm

Egg, lightly beaten - 1

Gramflour (Besan) - 2 Tblsp

Onion, finely chopped - 1

Green Chillies, finely chopped - 1

Red Chili Powder - 1 Tspsp

Ginger, finely chopped - 1 Tsp

Garam Masala - 3 Tsp

Garlic, Minced - 1 Tsp

Lemon Juice - 1 Tsp

Salt - To Taste

For Garnish

Lemon Wedges

Chaat Masala - 1 Tsp


1. Combine all ingredients (Except for garnish) in a bowl. Mix and knead well.

2. Rest for 2hours.

3. Divide the mixture equally into balls.

4. Wet hands and Skewer each ball and make a 2 inch long kabab shaped like a cigar.

5. Put the skewers either in the tandoor or the grill and cook for 6-7 minutes.

6. Take the skewers out and baste them with some oil. Put it back into the tandoor or on the grill. Cook for 6-7 more minutes. Repeat till Kababs are cooked.

7. When done, remove the kababs from the skewers gently.

8. Serve hot on a platter sprinkled with some chaat masala and lemon wedges on the side.

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