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Thandai Indian Rice Kheermy version of serving up Thandai in an Indian rice pudding, or kheer as locally called. Flavoured delicately, this indulgent rice pudding hits all the right notes. Sweetened gently with jaggery, the flavours of almond, cardamom and saffron just shine. The texture of broken simmered rice is what adds body to this delectable kheer or pudding.The underlying inspiration comes from Dolphia who inspired, coerced and pushed me to shoot saffron. That’s one of the reasons this kheer came to be. The other reason of course was that the better half has bitterly complained over the last few days that I haven’t made a kheer in years!  As much as I love stirring a good kheer, for some reason it hadn’t happened yet…

Then yet another trip into Old Delhi, some Kashmir saffron bought to please Dolphia and the hub {in no particular order of course} meant that the kheer was simmering away gently quite soon. The recipe of course inspired by the season, all the Thandai kind of stuff I make at this time of the year. Thandai is a spice and nut blend, with ingredients that include almonds, melon seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, green cardamom, saffron, rose petals, sometimes whole pepper too. It is popularly served up as a milk cooler, often with a local bhaang or intoxicant, on Holi. There are a million versions, every household laying claim to their recipe. Mine changes all the time!

Sometimes, a theme helps me find direction, and this time around the prettiness of the colours got to me. Spring is like that, and so is every visit into the heart of Old Delhi!

First I did a Saffron Almond Chia Thandai for  Olive Tree Trading and that really set the mood. So much colourful prettiness and so much inspiration. That’s just how this time of the year is. I’ve dried loads of organic rose petals, so you’ll see me using those a lot.And so to cut a loooong story short, I finally made the Thandai Indian Rice Kheer. And it came out finger licking good. It’s a quick one, one I figured out as I went along. It’s the first time I’ve ground almonds with rice {an earlier version had the Thandai nut mix}. 
For some reason, I loved this simpler version. Here it is, the Thandai Indian Rice Kheer.

Thandai Indian Rice Kheer
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Print Recipe
Flavoured gently, this indulgent Thandai Indian Rice Kheer hits all the right notes. Sweetened gently with jaggery, the flavours of almond, cardamom and saffron just shine. The texture of broken simmered rice is what adds body to this delectable kheer or pudding.
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 5-8 hours
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 5-8 hours
Thandai Indian Rice Kheer
Yum
Print Recipe
Flavoured gently, this indulgent Thandai Indian Rice Kheer hits all the right notes. Sweetened gently with jaggery, the flavours of almond, cardamom and saffron just shine. The texture of broken simmered rice is what adds body to this delectable kheer or pudding.
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 5-8 hours
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 5-8 hours
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Dry grind rice and almonds to a coarse breadcrumb like texture in a coffee grinder.​ You can add the cardamom seeds here if you like.​Stir the above into cold milk with the jaggery, cardamom seeds and cream if using.
  2. Put over low heat and cook for about 25-30 minutes, STIRRING OFTEN, until the rice is cooked and the kheer thick.
  3. Taste and adjust sweetness if required. Take off heat and add a generous pinch of saffron. Stir well.
  4. The kheer will continue to thicken as it cools. You might need to add a little milk as the absorption quality of rice differs. Once it gets to room temperature, ladle into earthenware bowls, individual serving bowls etc to set. Garnish with saffron strands, almond slivers, pistachio bits, rose petals etc.
  5. Serve chilled.
  6. Note: Rinse, drain and d​ry the rice overnight, else dry in microwave for 1 minute.
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“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey.”
Eli Brown

Bhune Murgh ki Biryani  … fragrant, rich, flavoursome yet very homey. This one pot layered biryani was indeed a surprise, a biryani that cooked up quiet well for once. I have a love/hate relationship with making biryanis, often ending up in a puddle of tears. They never come out the way I’d like them to look and taste, and I had all but given up. This one recipe has given me immense confidence!It’s thanks to this cookbook from Notion Press, A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani, that I tasted success. Yet I want to talk about Notion Press first as they offer the novel concept of self publishing in India. It is startups like these that are changing the way books are created. Notion Press is a publishing platform for authors from India that helps create, publish, and distribute print and eBooks. In an attempt to make publishing as easy as possible, they offer a variety of customized publishing solutions. I’m already tempted to say the least, but now, back to the cookbook on hand.I love the feel of a good cookbook and the cover image and design had me immediately interested. Don’t judge a book by the cover they might say, but that’s exactly what I did. It’s a warm , yet beautifully styled cover which tells the story to perfection, spices and all. I couldn’t find credits for the image {maybe I missed it}, but I sorely missed more images within. A single image is not enough to whet my visual appetite…The paper feels good. Quality is important and it’s been taken care of well. The biryani cookbook offers over 100 ‘tantalizing’ recipes, and I have to agree since what I cooked was very promising indeed. Co-authored by Tanuj Singh and Varuna Mathur, it has a good narrative. The foreword is a great read, followed by notes to the readers; light-hearted warm, very homely, very interactive. It leads you to the kitchen and gets you playing with pots and pans almost immediately!
I bookmarked a few recipes, and have to say that the book is not error free. I  think perhaps with self publishing, the onus lies on the content writer, not the publisher. The book would improve with better editing and grammar checks. A couple of recipes skipped the meat altogether. The ingredients are not uniform across the book; sometimes in weight, sometimes a measures, other times a number. Also some capitals, some not is a bit of a distraction. Most importantly, the number of servings are missing across the book. The new cook will certainly be at sea as he/she attempts to guess how many mouths the recipe caters to. And of course, more pictures please. That said, the book is still a keeper!
Finally zeroed down to the Bhune Murgh ki Biryani, trying to play it safe, well aware of my past biryani disasters. The introduction had me smiling. “If ingredients could make a dish, this is one of the top variants in the list. With rice being cooked in cardamom, and chicken in whole spices, cashew and khus khus paste provide that richness and a crunchy edge to the dish thereby rendering it as a pretty common home-style“.For me it turned out to be pretty uncommon and quite a lot of fun. As they say in the notes, the book is “about perceiving cooking as an emerging process with no guidelines, no limitations but loads of creativity and fun.” That was so me, and just what I did. I took shortcuts to the steps, for eg, added whole cardamom to the water to cook rice in. I ground the onion and cashew together with the poppy seeds. I browned the onions first and then cooked the chicken in the same wok and remaining fat to simplify things. I finally baked the biryani layered in a ‘lagan‘ or Indian copper pot in a low oven for about 45 minutes. It still worked well.I am proud to say I have salvaged my reputation quite a bit with this Bhune Murgh ki Biryani from the book. Needless to say, I am already itching to try another one. I find biryanis most comforting, a one pot meal that hold eternal charm, hold nostalgic memories, and are ever so satisfying. The book also includes a few biryani recipes from around the globe which are interestingly unique in their own ways – Durban Biryani, Irani Biryani, Nasi Biryani, Swahili Biryani to name  few. It’s a good book to have on hand. Cuts out the work for weekend lunches! Oh and it offers a variety of pilafs, vegetarian biryanis  and accompaniments too.
My next biryani might be the Kashmiri Biryani or the Matka Murgh Biryani. Perhaps the Sri Lankan Muttom Biryani or Kolkata Biryani. Gosh, the book actually spoils you for choice! You can find it here – A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani

Bhune Murgh ki Biryani {roasted chicken biryani}
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The Bhune Murgh ki Biryani is a one pot comfort meal, rich, flavourful and homely. The flavours tease the palette and the chicken is beautifully spiced. It turned out to be deliciously good, and quite a keeper from the biryani cookbook. Be light on the spices if you are cooking for the first time, or like mild food. {Minimally adapted from 'A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani'}
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Bhune Murgh ki Biryani {roasted chicken biryani}
Yum
Print Recipe
The Bhune Murgh ki Biryani is a one pot comfort meal, rich, flavourful and homely. The flavours tease the palette and the chicken is beautifully spiced. It turned out to be deliciously good, and quite a keeper from the biryani cookbook. Be light on the spices if you are cooking for the first time, or like mild food. {Minimally adapted from 'A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani'}
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Ingredients
Rice
Bhuna Chicken
For frying onions
For layering dum
Servings: people
Instructions
Rice
  1. Wash and soak rice for an hour. Meanwhile, boil some water in a vessel and add salt and green cardamom to it. {I used whole cardamoms}. Once the rice is 3/4th cooked, drain it and keep aside.
Fried onions
  1. Heat ghee in a deep wok and fry the sliced onions until golden brown. Drain and reserve. Use remaining ghee for cooking chicken, adding more if required. {This is what I did. The instructions are missing from the recipe}
Bhuna Chicken
  1. Heat ghee in a deep kadhai/wok and add grated ginger, garlic, whole red peppers and carom seeds. As the garlic gets brown, add the onion paste and fry. Mix in the cashews and khus khus paste and continue to fry. Sprinkle garam masala powder and Kashmiri red pepper powder and mix it well. Cook until the fat starts showing at the surface, adding water occasionally as required.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and let them cook over high flame till the chicken is cooked. Stir as needed. {I cooked over high heat for 5 minutes, then covered and simmered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until done}.
Layer the dum {slow cooking}
  1. Once the chicken is cooked, add the rice to cover the chicken masala. Sprinkle the saffron and milk mixture on it along with some ghee and fried onions. Cover the lid and cook on 'dum' for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Notes
  1. I layered the chicken masala and rice for final 'dum' {slow cooking} in a heavy bottom metal 'lagan' / pot, dotted it with ghee, sprinkled over the soaked saffron and milk, topped it with fried onions, and sealed the mouth with heavy duty aluminium foil. Baked it at 150C for an hour.
  2. I reserved some fried onions for garnishing, and served the biryani with a garlic raita/spiced garlic yogurt.
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 Chicken Jalfrezi“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”
Dorothy Day

Chicken Jalfrezi is a fiery as you like it, and a very popular stir fry curry in the UK, a recipe thought to have originated during the British Raj to use up left over meats. As time went by, there was a shift from mild curries to spicy hot ones on the continent, and the jalfrezi gained popularity. We visited the UK often in the late 1990’s. Next to the chicken tikka masala, this Indo Chinese dish was possibly the most popular.

Chicken Jalfrezi SpicesYou can basically ‘build it as you like’, throwing in left over meats to stir fry or do it from scratch. Either which ways, it’s a really quick stir fry to get going, one that comes together in under 30 minutes. Having the meat/chicken marinated ahead  is great if you have time. Marinate with a little ginger-garlic paste, maybe a dash of lime juice and salt. As with any good dish, use good quality ingredients and you know you have a winner.

Chicken Jalfrezi Wet Masala Spices

coconut & graterMy version of Chicken Jalfrezi has a slight southern or rather coastal touch with some coconut milk added to offset the fiery hot chilies. Like any good curry, this one too is entirely customisable to taste. I used star anise in the first tempering, a spice I have increasingly grown to love while shooting spices for the Masala Dabba. Post the trip it into the heart of South India to Karaikudi, the love for simple spices like these just became stronger.

Karaikudi, Chettinad, South IndiaI love a curry where tomato meets coconut milk, and with the ease of Dabur Hommade Tomato Puree, Dabur Hommade Ginger Garlic Paste and Dabur Hommade Coconut Milk in my pantry, this recipe was a breeze. Most Indian curries see the use of onions, tomato {puree or fresh chopped}, ginger garlic paste and a smattering of spices, both ground and whole. As you travel along the coastal areas of the Indian peninsula, an increased use of coconut milk in curries teases the palette, a taste that has grown on me. Dabur Hommade is one of the first brands in India to introduce expediency in cooking in Indian kitchens. What makes Dabur even more special is that it is a science based  Ayurveda company. Chicken JalfreziPlay with spices as you like, give the vegetables just  a quick stir fry so they don’t lose their crunch. This Chicken Jalfrezi made essentially with peppers, green chilies, onions and tomatoes gets a twist of taste with coconut milk. And yes I sneaked in some Greek yogurt to add to the creaminess. If you like a thick hearty curry which is a quick and easy stir fry, gives you a dose of vegetables, then look no further. This just might be what you were looking for!

Some favourite recipes where I use coconut milk
Kokum Coconut Milk Panna Cotta 
Tropical Coconut Milk Rice Pudding
Quick Tomato Coconut Soup

Chicken Jalfrezi
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Print Recipe
This Chicken Jalfrezi made essentially with peppers, green chilies, onions and tomatoes gets a delicious twist of taste with coconut milk. If you like a thick hearty curry which is a quick and easy stir fry, gives you a dose of vegetables, then look no further. This just might be what you were looking for!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Chicken Jalfrezi
Yum
Print Recipe
This Chicken Jalfrezi made essentially with peppers, green chilies, onions and tomatoes gets a delicious twist of taste with coconut milk. If you like a thick hearty curry which is a quick and easy stir fry, gives you a dose of vegetables, then look no further. This just might be what you were looking for!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Heat clarified butter/ghee in a heavy bottom large pan/wok.
  2. Add the red chilies and star anise and sauté briefly until fragrant.
  3. Add chicken pieces in one flat lot, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown over high heat, turn and repeat.
  4. Remove chicken pieces from pan, and keep warm in a covered bowl.
  5. Add a teaspoon of clarified butter if required. Add the diced onions and ginger garlic paste. Sauté until fragrant.
  6. Add turmeric powder/haldi, coriander powder/dhania and red chili powder if desired. Sauté for 30 seconds.
  7. Now add the bell peppers and capsicum. Sauté again for 3-4 minutes, then add the reserved chicken. Mix briefly, then add the tomato puree and coconut milk.
  8. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the green chilies and fresh coriander, then simmer further for 5 minutes Serve hot with rice or naan.
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