Nan Khatai / Indian Eggless Cookies

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Last time it snowed this heavily (at the beginning of this year) I remember taking out my baking gear, kneading a dough and whipping up a bunch of cookies. What is it with winter that we crave for warmth in silly things like a cup of hot chocolate or a plate of cookies or croissant, warm and fresh out from the oven. And no … the store bought ones cannot give that balmy feel. What is winter if your home does not fill up with the aroma of freshly baked goods. While there is nothing like curling up on the couch, snuggling happily under the comforts of a soft plush throw flicking through the pages of a gripping thriller, it is equally rewarding to bake up something sweet or savory for the cold weather. And well who can say no to a little respite from the chill outside as you open the oven door to check on the progress.

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Now the  year has almost come to an end and the first heavy snowfall of this winter inspired a baking spree yet once again. This time I thought of making NanKhatai from Arundhati’s blog. I had already tried this recipe before and it was such a super success that I did not bother looking for an alternate recipe.

For those who are hearing this name for the first time and wondering what on earth it could be – well its another name for Indian egg less cookies, primarily made with clarified butter called ghee (or butter). But they have an Iranian/Persian origin as I concluded from some research on the web. To know more read this article.

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As a child we would get these cookies/biscuits from the bakery man who would come to our doorstep with bread and baked goods. They were always special and less accessible than the usual Marie or ParleG biscuits. As the article rightly says – The soft crumbly nankhatai brings back many a fond memory! To be able to make it at the drop of a hat gives a lot of joy to me and brings it all back home. Sharing this wonderful and super easy recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • All Purpose Flour/Maida – 1 cup
  • Gram Flour Besan – 1/2 cup
  • Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1/4 tsp
  • Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Butter/Ghee – 100 gms or 7 tbsp
  • Powdered Sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Milk – 1-2 tbsp. as required
  • Chopped nuts for garnishing, I used chopped cashews and pistachios

Note – The recipe suggests butter or ghee but strongly recommends using ghee. However  I made these using butter.

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Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with a parchment paper or grease it with some butter/ghee.
  • Seive All Purpose Flour, Gram flour, Baking powder, Baking soda into a mixing bowl.
  • Add cardamom powder to it.
  • In a separate bowl beat the softened butter or ghee and sugar together.
  • Next add the flour mixture and knead it into a dough. At this stage, if you need, add little milk at a time to help in the kneading process. I added 1-2 tbsp but you can adjust the amount as required.
  • Once the dough is done make small balls and flatten them a little with your palms.Top them with chopped nuts for garnishing and press them a little.
  • Place the cookies onto the lined baking sheet, a little apart from each other.
  • Bake them at 350F for 12-15 minutes or till done. Oven timings may vary. The recipe suggests 18-20 minutes, but mine were done in 12 minutes. Test the ‘doneness’ by inserting a toothpick till it comes out clean.
  • Once done remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Always remember that cookies continue to cook for a while even when out of oven, so prevent over-baking.
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Aloo Posto – Potatoes in poppy paste curry

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Bengali’s love for food is conspicuous and even more renowned is his love for ‘Aloo Posto’. Posto / Poppy seeds / Khus Khus is a must have in our kitchens and every Bengali household will have a frequent serving of aloo posto – potatoes in poppy paste curry with musur dal – red lentil soup (for the recipe click here) and rice for lunch before moving on to the other courses of the meal.

So it is no surprise that ours is a family of posto lovers. And my husband – well back at home, he always keeps aside a small portion from his serving to have it at the end of his meal after he has had chicken / fish / eggs (Can you believe it???). When it is just the two of us, we avoid the traditional four course meal (or maybe more). Its usually just one dish along with rice/roti and maybe dal.

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I guess it was high time I posted this recipe in my blog so today when lunch called for preparing it I got some shots of it quickly. The best part is it needs minimum preparation, the only that I can think of is the grinding of the seeds and the chopping of potatoes. Here is the recipe for the well known ‘Aloo Posto’.

Ingredients:

  • Potato, cut into small cubes – 3 medium sized
  • Posto/poppy seeds – 4 tbsp
  • Oil – 1 tbsp or adjust according to your preference.
  • Kalonji/Nigella seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Green chillies – 4 to 5 slit lengthwise (or according to your taste)
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Sugar, optional – a pinch or to taste
  • Water – as required

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Method:

  • Grind the poppy seeds to make a fine paste. I usually dry grind them first in my grinder, then add a few drops of water (just enough to make a fine paste) and continue grinding. Do not add too much of water. If you want you could grind some green chillies along with this for extra hotness.
  • Heat oil in the pan on a medium flame.
  • Once hot add the nigella seeds; as they splutter add the slit green chillies and the cubed potatoes.
  • Sprinkle some salt and turmeric mix well. Keep sautéing for a while.
  • Once the potatoes start getting a light golden color add the ground paste.
  • Mix well till the paste coats all the potatoes.
  • Add some water (as required) and cover and let it cook. I usually add 1 cup of water since I like the potatoes to be well cooked (almost mushy). You  may like to have the final dish a little dry or a little moist, so add water according to your preference. If the water is drying up and the potatoes are not yet done, you can add some more water to it.
  • Once the potatoes are well cooked, check for spices. Adjust salt / add more green chillies if required.
  • Add sugar if you want; usually many bengalis would add a pinch of sugar to it but I generally do not.
  • Serve it with plain musur dal and rice.

Gobi (Cauliflower) Manchurian

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What do you say of a nice romantic date? I say maybe we go out to a fine place for a cozy candle light dinner… or I make you sandwiches and you carry a picnic hamper as we head out to the beach… lets go back to our teens and catch a nice movie in a theatre with a huge bag of popcorn and coke… if not then lets shut down all the gadgets and let me cook you a nice dinner that we will then have on bed, we can tuck our feet into the comforter, maybe share a glass of wine and chat aimlessly like those initial days. Will it bring a smile on your lips? Will that make you happy? I know it will…

To the good times then, now and forever…

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Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower – 1/2 medium, cut into small florets
  • Oil – for deep frying

For the batter:

  • All purpose flour – 5 tbsp
  • Cornstarch – 3 tbsp (flour:cornstarch will always be in 5:3 ratio)
  • Ginger Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste (If you are adding Soy sauce which already is salty, add accordingly)
  • Black Pepper powder – to taste
  • Red chilli powder – to taste
  • Soy Sauce – 1 tbsp (optional but adding it gives a nice deep color)
  • Paprika – optional, to be used for extra red color
  • Water – to make a thick batter

For the sauce:

  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Onion – 1/2 medium, finely chopped
  • Garlic, finely chopped – 3-4 colves
  • Green chillies, finely chopped – to taste (since you are adding chilli sauce adjust accordingly)
  • Soy Sauce – 1 tbsp
  • Chilli Sauce – 2 tsp (adjust to taste)
  • Tomato Sauce – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste (soy sauce has some salt in it so add accordingly)
  • Sugar (optional) use only if required – sometimes if the sauce becomes too tangy you might need to add little sugar, check the taste first and then decide if you need to add it.

Note: The quantities for the sauces mentioned are approximates since I never measure them while pouring. Just eye ball it, add little at first,  taste it and add more if required.

For Garnishing: (use any of these)

  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Chilli vinegar – optional but adds a great flavor. Follow instructions mentioned below on how to prepare this.
  • Chopped green chillies – for extra spice
  • Spring onions, roughly chopped – I did not use it this time

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Method:

Marinate and deep fry:

  • Soak the florets in hot (not boiling) water for 2-3 minutes. Drain completely and pat dry.
  • In a bowl add all the ingredients for the batter except water and mix well. Add little water at time and keep mixing with a whisk to get a thick batter of pouring consistency. Do a taste test and adjust the spices accordingly.
  • Add the florets and mix them so that they are well coated with the batter. You can add some extra flour if the batter is too thin or add extra water if it is too thick.

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  • Keep aside the marinated florets for almost an hour to a couple of hours, the longer the better.
  • Heat oil in a deep fryer / pan. Once hot add the florets in batches and fry them till they are cooked and turn golden. Do not over fry or they will turn mushy.

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Note: The first time I was making this, I got the proportions messed up so that batter was falling off when frying. Once the entire batch was done, I added the fried florets in the leftover batter again and re-fried them.

  • Drain the fried florets onto a paper towel.

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Prepare the sauce:

  • Heat up a pan and add 1 tbsp of oil. If using the same pan as used for deep frying the florets remove the oil leaving almost a tbsp of oil.
  • Add the chopped onions, garlic, green chillies and fry for a couple of minutes until the onions turn translucent.
  • Add all the other ingredients – sauces, salt and sugar (if needed) and mix well.
  • Sprinkle some water and cook for a couple of minutes so that it comes to a light boil. Check taste and adjust salt and the sauces accordingly.

Note: If you want you can prepare the sauce before hand. Fry the florets just before serving as they will loose the crispiness if kept for a while. You can assemble the dish just before eating.

Assemble the dish:

  • Reheat the sauce if made previously.
  • Add the florets to the sauce. Mix gently.
  • Garnish with any of these – chopped cilantro, green chillies, chilli vinegar or chopped spring onions.

How to make chilli vinegar:

You can use this for any Chinese / Indo-Chinese cooking. So if you need it very frequently make in large quantity or else if you are going to use it once in a while like it do make a smaller portion.

  • Take 3-4 tbsp of white vinegar.
  • Roughly or finely chop 2-3 green chillies and add them (along with the seeds) to the vinegar. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Use it for garnishing.

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Serve it as a side or a starter.

Roasted Veggies

After what seems like almost a year, I am trying to get back to my blog with some simple recipes that I have been thinking of putting down from very long. Starting with a simple and quick dish of oven-roasted vegetables which can be served as a side with simple bread and soup, or rice/chapati and dal or also used as starters. You can use any vegetable of your choice, but for this post am using cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, onions, capsicum and a handful of peas. Thankfully all these take up almost the same time to roast so I toss all of them together into the oven, however if you have a large number of veggies or of varying cooking times you can roast them in separate dishes for separate timings. Seasonings vary from using only salt and pepper to any spice of your choice.

Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower cut into small florets – 1 cup
  • Broccoli cut into small florets – 1/2 head
  • Potatoes – 1 medium-sized, peeled and cubed
  • Carrots – 1, cut into thick circular pieces
  • Onions – 1 small, cut into long thin strips or into small cubes (whichever is preferred)
  • Capsicum – 1 small or less, cut into long thin strips or into small cubes (whichever is preferred)
  • Peas – handful
  • Salt – to taste
  • Black pepper – to taste
  • Red Chilli powder or slit green chillies –  to taste (optional)
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Cumin powder – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Garam Masala powder (optional)
  • Chaat Masala (optional)
  • Olive oil or cooking oil or cooking spray or molten butter
  • Lime juice – for garnishing

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line the baking tray with aluminium foil and grease it lightly with some oil/butter
  • Drizzle oil / butter on the vegetables and season them mainly with salt, pepper and any or all of the other spices. Mix well and keep aside for 5-10 minutes preferably. I usually do not roast the onions and capsicum with the vegetables, Instead I lightly toss them later with little oil / butter.
  • Spread the spiced vegetables evenly on the baking tray, try to use a big baking tray so as to avoid overlapping.
  • Roast for approx. 20 mins. (time may vary from oven to oven). Once done
  • Heat a pan and drizzle a few drops of oil/butter. Toss the onions and capsicum with little salt and pepper (if not roasting them).
  • Mix the roasted vegetables, toss well and sprinkle some chaat masala.
  • Garnish with freshly squeezed lime juice and serve hot.

It is best to serve this dish fresh so that you can enjoy the crunchiness of the roasted veggies.