One of the great things about living in NYC is the wealth of cuisines around you in any given neighborhood. Last night, as my friend and I wandered about the East Village searching for a bite to eat, we stumbled upon a little Afghani restaurant called Khyber Pass on St. Marks. The fruit-filled hookah smoke and cozy interior drew us in to the restaurant, where we munched on some lamb kebabs and sambosas (the Afghani samosa). The true treat, though, was the Shir Chai tea they served with the meal — a warm and fragrant tea made with cardamom and rose water. I’ve of course had Indian chai tea, but I had never before tried this Afghani version. It was the perfect way to cap the night.
While rose water doesn’t have much of a taste, it makes the chai fragrant and relaxing. I thought I’d try to merge the Afghani version with traditional Indian chai to make an Indian Chai with Rose Water. Enjoy!
- ½ tsp cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)
- ½ tsp ginger powder (or a couple slices fresh ginger)
- 4 cloves
- 2-3 cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp loose black tea
- ½ cup water
- ¾ cup milk
- 2 tsps sugar (or to taste)
- 2 tsp rose water
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over heat.
- Watch closely so the milk mixture doesn’t boil over.
- Heat until milk starts to bubble.
- Add in the rose water.
- Strain into cup.
Recipe makes 1 serving.
It’s been a while since my last post, so to those that have been eagerly awaiting my next recipe (anyone?) I apologize. Life took over for a bit (new job, events, social life) and I just haven’t had time to cook, or even shop for groceries, to make a meal. It makes you wonder how moms (and dads) always seem to have fresh-cooked dinner on the table every night after a long day of work. I can barely assemble a sandwich when I return home in the evening.
Anyhow, I’ve finally found time to do some cooking for the week ahead, and it’s one of my favorites. People often ask me what my favorite Indian food is, usually expecting me to say “chicken tikka masala” or one of the other popular dishes served in restaurants. Don’t get me wrong – I love me some CTM. But, my all-time favorite dish is Rajma. I call it the Indian rice n’ beans. I always request it at home and get excited when I find a restaurant that serves it. It’s almost never on the menu.
Rajma is made with red or dark red kidney beans in a tomato and onion gravy. I’ve made the recipe below using canned kidney beans, but you can also soak dry beans overnight and cook them in a pressure cooker to soften. You can use either red or dark red beans. You can also add in a green chili, if desired, to kick up the heat. I didn’t use one in this recipe.
Although I love to cook, I’ll admit I have my prolonged periods of laziness about it. In New York, it’s just so easy to sign onto Seamless and order delivery from the myriad of restaurants around you. And while you’d think I’d get inventive with my ordering, I tend to frequent the same restaurants and dishes. If anyone did a review of my Seamless ordering history, Paneer Makhanwala with a side of garlic naan would appear an embarrassing amount of times on that list. Rich and indulgent, it always seems to hit the spot on a lazy weekend night.
I don’t remember my mom making Paneer Makhanwala very often when we were growing up. It was always a treat we had at restaurants or family gatherings, and not a regular weeknight meal. However, it seems its prevalance and popularity at Indian restaurants has maybe infiltrated households, and my mom has started making it in recent years. Since it’s one of my take-out favorites, and because this blog is largely guided by my cravings, I thought I’d give this dish a whirl.
A little over a week ago, we survived “the polar vortex” here in New York. Although it sounds like the name of a hipster frozen yogurt joint, the polar vortex actually brought single digit temps and cold, blustery air, making it painful to even walk outside. Shortly thereafter, it was in the 50s and I was sweating as I walked around in my full puffy coat. And now, as I write this, we’re back to temps in the 30s and expecting another chilly blast. All of these weather fluctuations are the perfect recipe for a cold and feeling a bit ‘under the weather’.
Whenever we’d get sick as kids, my mom would whip up khichdi (also spelled kicharee or kitchari). Whether we had a cold, the flu or an upset stomach, khichdi was always our go-to comfort food. A blend of lentils/beans, rice and spices, khichdi has the consistency of porridge and is considered an essential ayurvedic food. I’m not sure why it works to make one feel better, but I imagine the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, the warmth from the spices and the stomach-soothing ginger have something to do with it. Not to mention that mung beans are easy to digest and don’t irritate the stomach. So, if like me, you feel a little run down, try making some warm khichdi with a steaming cup of ginger tea.
In the Southern U.S., they say it’s good luck to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day and brings prosperity throughout the year. I need all the luck I can get, so I thought I’d bring you my mom’s Southern Asian (get it?!) recipe for black-eyed pea curry, also called lobia.
Lobia aren’t actually peas at all, but are a subspecies of the cowpea and are a legume or bean. They originated in West Africa but are now a popular dish across Asia and the Americas.
I’ve made this recipe with canned peas to save on cooking time, but you can also use uncooked peas. If you do, soak them overnight or use a pressure cooker to soften the peas quickly. Happy New Year!
When you think of Indian food, samosas immediately come to mind. They’re basically the Indian dumpling, usually filled with peas and potatoes, but also made with ground meats and other veggies. You’ve probably seen restaurant-style samosas, which are always the size of a baby’s head. They’re crispy and delicious, but, because they’re usually made with a thicker dough, they absorb more oil when fried.
Being home for a few days over the holidays gave me the perfect opportunity to learn my mother’s samosa recipe. She’s been making samosas for years and usually serves them up for breakfast when I’m home. Hers are just as delicious, but are a bit lighter. They’re crispy on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside. The toughest part to master is the dough and folding technique, but it just takes some practice! Although samosas are triangular in shape, if you find you’re having trouble with the folding, just revert to a classic dumpling fold. It’ll taste just as good!
I just returned from a beautiful Indian wedding in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and although I thought I had my fill of margaritas there, I found myself craving one last night. So in honor of the Indian/Mexican fusion over the weekend, I thought I’d make a Green Chili Margarita. Green chilies (or hari mirch) are often added to Indian dishes to kick up the heat. Or, if you’re like my mom, you just bite into them whole! Use them with caution though — they’re pretty powerful, so you only need a couple to add a lot of spice.
My aunt Nutan is probably the most creative cook I know. Not only does her food taste amazing, but she is a master of presentation. From Super Bowl parties to Thanksgiving, everything is meticulously planned and executed. Each Thanksgiving, we all look forward to her “Paneerky” – a vegetarian, spiced paneer turkey (curd cheese). It’s always the pièce de résistance at our Thanksgiving table.
My aunt has never let anyone help her with the paneer turkey or shared the recipe – until now! As her sous-chef this Thanksgiving, I was the “chosen one” to learn this recipe AND as an added bonus, she’s letting me share it with all of you! Of course, it’s a great option for a vegetarian turkey at Thanksgiving, but try it for your next family gathering or perhaps an upcoming Christmas dinner.
This recipe is made from pre-made paneer cheese that can be purchased at any Asian grocery store. It’s the easy option for large gatherings. However, you can also make your own paneer by boiling and curdling milk (similar to the Barfi recipe).
When we were growing up, my mother often made us lassis for a mid-afternoon snack or as a cool-off on hot summer days. Lassis fall somewhere between a smoothie and a milkshake. Yogurt and milk form the base, and then any number of ingredients can be added to customize. Traditionally, lassis are salty, but sweet lassis have become very popular and mango lassis are often on the menu at Indian restaurants.
I’ve made this basic lassi with rose water (made from distilled rose petals), which adds a nice essence to the drink. However, you can leave it out if you don’t have any or can’t find it easily. Try substituting with grenadine (but use less sugar if you do).
- ½ cup yogurt (I use lowfat)
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp rose water
- A pinch of cardamom powder
- 1 cup ice
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend for 2 minutes until ice is slightly crushed. Serve in tall glass and top with a bit of cardamom.
Recipe makes 1 serving
Chana masala (also called chole) is a favorite at Indian restaurants, but often difficult to recreate and master at home. The key to this thick chickpea stew is a perfect blend of spice, salt and sour. I’ve tried my hand at it a couple times in the past, and couldn’t quite get it right. Well folks, I now have my mom’s perfect chana masala recipe made with a blend of spices and *drumroll* – TEA! The tea gives the chick peas a nice brown color and adds some depth to the taste.
I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed by recipes that require too many ingredients, especially when I have no other use for them. You want me to spend $10 on an obscure spice? No thanks. Yes, sometimes those ingredients are absolutely necessary, but, I find that you can usually make do without, or substitute, and still have a perfectly lovely dish.
That’s how I feel about the spices for chana masala. Traditional chana masala spice powder is made with amchoor powder (mango powder) and anardana powder (pomegranate powder). They add a unique, sour flavor to the dish. Living in NYC, I’m fortunate to be walking distance from five Indian grocery stores, but I know that’s not the case for many. My objective in starting this blog was to make Indian food accessible and easy for beginners and tiny apartment dwellers (like myself). If you want to use amchoor powder and anardana, go for it! Otherwise, here are your options:
- You can buy ready-made chana masala powder at an Indian grocery store or online
- You can make your own masala with easier-to-find spices (recipe below)