‘Haldi Kunku’ Pudding

IMG_0784I’m sure the title caught your attention and for those who are familiar with Haldi Kunku, I can imagine the title intrigued you 🙂

In my never-ending quest to take traditional recipes and find new ways to serve them on the Bombay Howrah Dining Car menu, the latest Marathi dish I have decided to play with is an unusual coffee preparation that gets served at a ‘Haldi Kunku’, a fun, social gathering typically amongst married women who exchange haldi (turmeric) and kunku  or kumkum (vermillon), give each other small gifts and eat typical Marathi snacks which usually include a sweet & a savoury item.

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Haldi (turmeric) and Kunku (vermillon) with attar dani (cotton soaked with traditional perfume)

Haldi Kunku coffee is a hot beverage served at these gatherings and is made with instant coffee powder, milk, sugar and flavoured with cardamom powder. At some houses, the host would make it quite milky and sweet, which I didn’t enjoy. But if you added more coffee and cardamom to the recipe, the stronger flavour ended up being surprisingly delicious!

I have been toying with this dish for a long time, not knowing exactly how to bring it on the menu. And then for a recent dinner, as I was flicking through my recipe collection to figure out something for a strict vegetarian diner, I rediscovered a chocolate pudding recipe from one of my favourite food blogs – Smitten Kitchen. Inspiration struck! I decided to combine the chocolate pudding and haldi kunku coffee recipe to produce….ta da! my Haldi Kunku Pudding.

A dense chocolate pudding with instant coffee-chicory powder, a good dash of freshly ground cardamom, served with a lovely slice of my homemade orange crisp and homemade nankhatai crumble. However I went a step ahead, well far ahead of what any traditional haldi kunku ceremony would ever have done….I decided to serve the pudding with a digestif! A shot of Dom Benedictine mixed with my homemade cardamom bitters, thereby trying to elevate the cardamom notes in the overall dessert experience! As to how best to enjoy this combination – I leave that to the guests. Eat the pudding first, followed by the digestif, reverse eat it or enjoy them sequentially 🙂

Priya

 

An ode to the Mughals – Chicken Rezala Tarts

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The word ‘Moghlai’ that features prominently on so many restaurant boards back home conjures up images of a rich, heavy meal followed closely by Antacids, in many of us. While it’s understandable, that is a shame. While there is a tendency towards richness in that cuisine, it often gets short shrift for the oily, over-spiced onion and tomato concoctions so many restaurants serve up as an excuse for Moghlai food.

But a well-executed Moghlai dish is a thing of joy. From its Central Asian roots, it grew into a deep and complex cuisine with its kebabs, koftas, pulaos, a range of curries, and some unfairly delicious things done to breads. Don’t plan on eating a Moghlai meal before a run, but be prepared to taste some very subtle spices, a range of sauces and flavours in meats and vegetables.

The Chicken Rezala is an offspring of this cuisine and very popular in Calcutta with its rich tradition of Moghlai food that travelled there with the Nawabs from Avadh. It is a white gravy cooked in yoghurt and cashew paste (sans poppy seeds in Singapore, which is a part of the recipe back home), and we love it because it looks and tastes different to the many of the more onion and tomato centric dishes. It is a white creamy sauce and has sweet and floral notes with the saffron, kewra (screw pine) essence that plays against the garam masala spices. It is normally had with roomali rotis or as an accompaniment to a biryani, but we decided to give it a modern twist by serving it as a filling in an open tart.

The recipe for the Rezala and the tarts:

Chicken Rezala

Ingredients

  • 400 gms Chicken – ideally thigh and leg pieces cut into 2 inch pieces (for the tart, else use bone-in pieces and keep it intact if using just for a rezala curry)

Marinade

  • ½ cup boiled onion paste (boiling the onion before making a paste makes it sweeter)
  • ¾ cup Yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • ½ cup whole unroasted cashews
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds (if you can use poppy seeds where you live!)
  • Whole garam masala
  • 1 inch cassia bark / cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 small strip of mace
  • 6-8 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 teaspoons coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon kewra water
  • 4-5 strands of saffron soaked in a table spoon of warm milk, and ground to release the colour
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt and sugar to taste

Steps:

  • Soak the cashews and poppy seeds in 2 tablespoons of water and after about half an hour, grind them in a smooth paste in the food processor
  • Combine the boiled onion paste, ginger garlic paste, and yoghurt with salt and the white pepper powder and marinate the chicken pieces for 3-4 hours in the refrigerator
  • Heat the ghee and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan add the whole garam masala pieces and fry them gently till aromatic
  • Add the marinated chicken pieces to the pan, fry to seal the chicken – about 10 minutes
  • Add the coriander powder, cashew (and poppy seed) paste, salt and sugar to the pan, coat the chicken pieces evenly, and cook on medium heat for another 15-20 minutes with a closed lid, stirring occasionally
  • ï‚· Open the lid, add the kewra water and saffron, and reduce the sauce to a creamy consistency for the tart filling (if you’re making just a rezala curry with rotis, you may want to keep it a little runny)

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The tart shells

Ingredients:

  • 200gms plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 120gm salted butter, chilled and diced
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ tbsp ice water

Steps:

  • Put flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and process till the mixture reaches a crumbly texture. Add the egg yolk and add a little ice water at a time to bring the dough together (you may not need the full tablespoon of ice water). Make a disc with the dough, wrap in cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes
  • Cut out the dough in portions and roll it out to about 2mm thick between 2 sheets of parchment paper
  • Carefully ease the dough into 3 inch diameter tart pans, ease it into the flutes and the base evenly with some overhang
  • Prick the base of the tarts with a fork. Run the roller over the tart edge to remove the extra dough. Pre-heat the oven at 180 degrees C, Gas Mark 3
  • Put the tarts in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, and then check for a golden crust. If it’s not quite done, give it another 2 minutes at a time till they are done
  • You can save the tarts in an airtight container for up to a day – we assemble them pretty much fresh, with the chicken rezala pieces and gravy, and top it with some chopped spring onions.

Aniruddha

An old favourite – reimagined….

I had earlier posted about a Kosha Mangsho pie – a dish we had served at one of our supper club evenings that had gone down very well. There were Aussies at that meal of course, and apparently if an Aussie doesn’t like a meat pie, he or she may have their passport revoked! Jokes aside though, some of our other guests were looking for a lower-carb option, and hence we decided to take the chops route, like we do with our Kolhapuri mutton, for a modern, Western style of the plating.

The Kosha Mangsho (roughly translated, mutton with a thick gravy), done well is a thing of beauty, and while we didn’t grow up having this much at home – my grandmother and mother preferring to cook the healthier, paatla jhol (or the more ‘soupy’ mutton curry). This was clearly a treat when we would eat out. It is dark, almost black, and the proof of its richness for me is that when I overdo it – especially in my recent advancing years – is that I need a Gelusil soon after.

I find the key to a good Kosha Mangsho is to rely on the main stars of the dish – the mutton, the browned onions that form the base (called beresta), the basic masalas, and patient, step-by-step cooking. That’s it. No messing around with too many other spices, tomatoes or any other additions. And when it comes out right, it is a lovely, thick brown-black gravy with all the flavours of the mutton, the heat from the spices and the sweetness from the caramelised onions locked in. It normally gets served with a nice dose of luchis (deep fried bread)/ rice / chapattis to deal with the richness, but we decided to combine it with a fresh beetroot raita (mixed with yoghurt) panna cotta to cut the richness, along with a coriander and mint sauce and a beetroot puree. The flavors and the colors seemed to come together nicely for me and from the reactions from our guests.

Aniruddha

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The recipe :

Kosha mangsho chops

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg mutton (kid) chops – typically 2 racks of ribs with 16 ribs in total for 8 double rib portions in all, cleaned and frenched.

For the marinade:

  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 inch ginger
  • 2 green chillies
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp mustard oil

Whole spices for garam masala:

  • 4-5 green cardamoms
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon (1 inch each)
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 peppercorns

Beresta:

  • 6-7 medium sized onions – sliced and caramelised with a little sugar to a deep brown colour (onions should deep brown – almost black, but soft and not burnt)

Other Spices

  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 green chilies – sliced lengthwise
  • 3 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp of cumin powder
  • Salt and sugar to taste
  • Mustard oil as per requirement

Procedure:

Marinade:

Make a smooth paste of the onions, turmeric, garlic, ginger and green chillies, salt and a little sugar. Marinate the mutton chops with yoghurt, the spice paste, salt and the 2 teaspoons of mustard oil for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator

The cook:

Heat mustard oil in a pressure cooker or thick cast iron vessel, add the bay leaves and the whole garam masala spies till they sputter and release their aroma. Add the 2 additional sliced green chillies. Add the marinated mutton (just the chops, not the marinade) and seal the chops quickly on a high heat (in batches if it crowds the vessel). Add the fried onions, turmeric, cumin and coriander powder, and mix well. Season some more with salt and sugar and taste.

Add about a cup of water to the bowl with the remaining marinade in the bowl, mix it and pour it over the mutton and onions. In a pressure cooker, make sure they cover the mutton (if required, place them flesh side down in the liquid – or they’ll dry up). Pressure cook for 20 minutes / slow cook in a covered heavy vessel for 3-4 hours, adding little liquid from time to time to make sure it doesn’t dry up.

Get ready for plating:

Leave the chops refrigerated in the curry overnight (like a post-cook brine!) and the flavours develop nicely. On the day of the dinner, heat it gently in the microwave to loosen the gravy, take out the chops and then remove the bay leaves and the larger pieces of garam masala. Whizz the gravy in the blender to create a smooth sauce. I have tried to strain it, but I find I loose too much of that wonderful onion and prefer the thicker sauce.

Heat the chops (gently, else they will fall off the rib bones) and plate it with a spoonful of the sauce.

Beetroot raita panna cotta:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large beetroots / 3 medium beetroots
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 3 gelatin sheets
  • Salt and sugar to taste

Method:

Peel and cook through the beetroots (in the microwave or I prefer to pressure-cook them), whizz in the blender to create a thick pulp. Season with salt and sugar and save some of this in a squeeze tube for plating as a puree (about 2-3 tablespoons)

In a saucepan, add the remaining seasoned beetroot pulp, the yogurt and cumin powder – taste and adjust the seasoning (go easy on the sugar as the beetroot will bring a fair bit of sweetness). Measure out the mix – should be about 500 ml (add a little more yoghurt to bring it up to the measure if required). Start heating up the beetroot-yogurt mix at a low heat. The ratio is 250 ml of liquid to 1.5 gelatin sheets if you want to divide or multiply.

Cut up the 3 gelatin sheets into strips and add to the cold water to soften them. Once they are soft, squeeze them out and add it to the heated beetroot-yogurt mix. Stir till the gelatin dissolves.

Brush the cups of a silicon mould sheet / aluminum cups (use relatively small moulds – about 2-3 tablespoons of liquid) very lightly with vegetable oil. Pour the mix in the moulds, and refrigerate for about 8 hours for the panna cotta to set.

Mint sauce:

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup mint leaves (just the leaves – no stalks)
  • ¼ cup coriander leaves (just the leaves – no stalks)
  • 1-2 green chilies
  • ½ inch piece of ginger
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and Sugar to taste

Method:

Combine all the ingredients in the small blender vessel and blend into a smooth sauce. Decant into a squeeze tube for plating later.

Combine all the three ingredients – the chops, the beetroot raita panna cotta and plate  – with the beetroot and mint sauces – dots / splashes, go crazy!

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My new favourite dessert

Bhapa doi with apricot side

I have done a post earlier about trying to combine all the yoghurt/milk based desserts between Marathi and Bengali cuisines and in that post I spoke briefly about a very easy to prepare Bengali dessert called Bhapa doi or steamed yoghurt pudding.

Keen to do more with it, I kept doing some research on yoghurt based desserts till I stumbled upon ricotta cheese. In my quest for yoghurt, I had overlooked the fact that Bhapa doi, once cooked, was also close to cheese, either as a cheese cake or ricotta.

And so inspired by many ricotta based desserts I came across, I did my own trials and came up with what I think is a beautiful dessert – Bhapa doi, served with poached apricots (poached in a simple sugar syrup with cardamoms, cinnamon and rose water), toasted almonds and pistachios and a generous drizzle of orange and lemon zest. And it is beautiful, both to look at and to eat!

This particular serving was for a friend’s dinner party and it was a hit!

Bhapa doi with apricots