Samosa Chaat

Samosa Chaat3

Just the mention of the word “Chaat” makes my mouth water. Chaat is a word used for many of India’s favorite street foods like bhel puri and paani puri. The last time I was in India I saw a street cart with the sign, “paani puri made with mineral water.” It was nice to see that local vendors are making efforts to make chaat safe for foreigners, or locals-living-abroad, such as myself.

When I was a young girl, during my summer holidays, several schoolmates and I used to go to the Pune Cantonment swimming pool. Right after our swimming session we would stop by the street carts for our fix of samosa chaat, bhel puri, and paani puri. What fun we had! I wonder if anyone of them remembers those days.

On one of our vacations to India my children and I stopped in Mumbai. We went to a restaurant called Status. We heard they were famous for their samosa chaat. We were hungry after a whole morning of shopping. The three of us were ravenous and we ordered a whole bunch of dishes. My son ordered two plates of samosa chaat and the waiter told him that would be too much for the three of us. That one plate along with all the rest of the food that we had ordered would definitely be enough. But my son insisted on two plates. When our food came, we could hardly finish the first plate of samosa chaat. The samosas were humongous! That was a meal in itself. In the background we could hear the waiters whispering to each other with smiles on their faces.

Making samosa chaat at home is a time consuming job, but totally worth it. My friends and family have great fun assembling their own plates of samosa chaat. I made my own samosas but you can buy yours from an Indian store or restaurant. However, it is well worth making the chole, cilantro and mint chutney, and the date and tamarind chutney from scratch as homemade tastes best. So, here is my take on the famous samosa chaat.

If you plan to use dry chickpeas/garbanzo/Kabuli channa follow the Chole recipe from my previous recipe.

Chole – using canned garbanzo beans
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves: 6

For the spice mix

3 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 black cardamoms, peel and use seeds
5 cloves
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
1 bay leaf, (tejpatta)
4 whole dry red chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, (anardana)

In a small pan, over low heat, roast the above mentioned ingredients until they smell fragrant and turn a very dark brown. Cool completely and then grind to a powder in a coffee grinder. Set aside.

For the Chole
3 tablespoons oil
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped green chillies, (optional)
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
2 15.5 oz cans of garbanzo beans
3 cups water

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium-high heat, add oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions. When they turn translucent add the ginger and fry for a minute. Add the green chillies and tomatoes. Keep stirring until the tomatoes are well cooked you see the oil separating from the tomato-onion mixture. Add the spice mix, Kashmiri chilli powder, and salt. Fry for 30 seconds.

Add the garbanzo beans along with the liquid in the cans and three cups of water. If you like the chole gravy to be a little thick, use a potato masher to mash a small portion of the garbanzo beans. Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 30 minutes over medium-low heat, so the flavors can meld. Stir occasionally to make sure that the gravy does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat. Serve on top of samosa chaat.

Date and Tamarind Chutney
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup tamarind extract
3 teaspoons red chilli powder
2 teaspoons ginger powder
3 cups water
2 teaspoons chaat masala
1½ teaspoons black salt

Add cumin and fennel seeds to a small non-stick pan. Roast over low heat until fragrant. Cool and grind to a powder.

Add cumin and fennel powder, chopped dates, brown sugar, tamarind pulp, chilli powder, ginger powder, chaat masala, salt and two cups of water to a small saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for ten minutes. Cool completely. Add to a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Serve with samosa chaat.

Cilantro and Mint Chutney
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Serves: 6

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
3-4 green chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
2 tablespoons water
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Roughly chop the cilantro, mint, and green chillies. Add to a blender and process until smooth. Use a tablespoon or two of water if necessary. Add black salt and sugar. Blend again and transfer to a bowl. Stir in lemon juice. Serve with samosa chaat

Plating and Garnishing

12 Samosas, (can be warmed up in an oven at 400 degrees F for 6-8 minutes)
2 cups plain yoghurt, whipped
2 cups fine sev, (can be bought from Indian grocery store)
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced tomato
2 tablespoons finely chopped green chillies, (optional)
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons roasted and powdered cumin seeds
2 teaspoons chaat masala
2 teaspoons chilli powder

Samosa Chaat4

Break two samosas into four or five large chunks and put them on a plate. Pour a large spoonful of chole over them. Scatter a heaped teaspoon of chopped onion and tomato. Add a few bits of green chillies, if you like your chaat to be spicy. Sprinkle with a pinch of cumin, chilli and chaat masala powders. Drizzle a tablespoon of yoghurt, tamarind and date chutney, and cilantro and mint chutney over them. Finally top them off with sev and bits of chopped cilantro. There you have it – one of Indian’s favorite street foods!

Vegetarian Puffs

Vegetarian Puffs1

Some time ago I shared my recipe for Minced Chicken Puffs and many of you told me how much you enjoyed serving these puffs to your friends and family. Some of you asked if I could share a vegetarian version. This recipe is for you.

I was at Whole Foods and they were giving out samples of this soy-free, gluten-free, beef-free, cholesterol free, 100% vegan crumble called Beyond Meat. It tasted good so I decided to try it as a filling for my puffs. Beyond Meat is a new soy free, fake meat company. The crumble is made from pea proteins. You could also make the filling with two cups of boiled vegetables like carrots, peas, potatoes and cauliflower instead of the feisty beef-free crumble and the potato that is listed in this recipe. The Shakti meat masala gives the filling a nice flavor.

No, Whole Foods or the company, Beyond Meat, is not paying me to promote these products. I just think the Beyond Meat Beef or Chicken Crumble is a great option for my vegetarian friends. I’ve included a picture of the packet so you can identify it in the freezer section of your Whole Foods grocery store. Try it and let me know how it turns out.

Vegetarian Puffs
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves: 6

1 pkg. (17.3-ounces) Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
¼ cup finely chopped tomato
3 teaspoons Shakti meat masala powder, (or any other meat masala powder)
1 medium sized potato
1 11-oz package Feisty Beef-Free Crumble, (available in the frozen section)
2 tablespoons soy milk

Thaw the pastry sheets at room temperature for 40 minutes or use the directions on the package. Heat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

To make the filling for the puffs, boil the potato until it is fork tender. Remove the skin and dice into small pieces. Heat oil in a small non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and when they sputter add onion, and salt. Cook onions until they turn translucent. Then add the ginger, garlic, green chillies, and cilantro. Cook for three minutes or until the raw smell of the garlic disappears. Add tomato and the meat masala powder. Let the tomato cook until you see the oil separate from the mixture. Turn the heat to low and add the potato and beef-free crumble. Break up the pieces with your spoon, so there are no large lumps. Cover with a lid and cook for five minutes. Stir to dry out any water that may remain. Remove from heat and cool the filling completely.

To assemble the puffs:
Unfold one pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.
Cut the pastry sheet into three strips along the fold marks. Gently roll each strip to make it slightly wider.
Cut each strip in half crosswise, making six pastry rectangles.
Place the pastry rectangles onto the baking sheet.
Put one heaped teaspoon of the filling onto each pastry rectangle.
Brush the edges of the pastry rectangles with a little water.
Fold the pastries in half over the filling to form small rectangles.
Brush the tops of the filled puffs lightly with soy milk.
Put the tray in the freezer.
Repeat this process with the second puff pastry sheet.
Bake the puffs for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown. Let the puffs cool on the baking sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes. Serve with ketchup or Cilantro and Mint Chutney.

Please note:
There are two pastry sheets in one package. If you do not want to use the second pastry sheet, you can wrap it in parchment paper, put it in a ziplock bag, and freeze it. Or, you can fill the puffs and freeze them individually wrapped in parchment paper. Bake them at 400°F for 30-35 minutes straight from the freezer. No thawing required.

Vegan Puffs Crumble

Kolhapuri Chicken Curry

Kolhapuri Chicken3

By now, all of you know that I love Maharashtrian food. Kolhapur is a city situated in the south west corner of Maharashtra and it can boast that it has one of the areas best cuisines. I featured their famous misal pav in one of my blog posts and I hope you had an opportunity to try it. The city is also known for their traditional leather sandals, called Kolhapuri chappal, and their antique jewelry.

The Kolhapuri chicken curry that I am featuring today is one of my favorites. Adjust the spice level to your taste. I added two types of chillies for this recipe. One to add heat and the other to give the curry its brilliant red gravy. I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as I do.

Kolhapuri Chicken Curry
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8

½ cup grated dry coconut, (copra)
4 dry red chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
5 Kashmiri dry chillies, (for color)
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
4 green cardamoms
2 black cardamom
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 petals of star anise
5 cloves
1 blade mace
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
8 black peppercorns
2 pounds chicken, cut into medium sized pieces
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ cup oil
3 cups finely diced onion
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 cups water

For the Kolhapuri Masala:
In a small frying pan, over medium-high heat, roast the grated dry coconut until it turns light brown. Remove and put it into a small bowl. The the same pan, roast the dry red chillies for two minutes. Put them into the bowl. Next, to the same pan, add the cinnamon, green cardamom, black cardamom, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, star anise petals, cloves, mace, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and peppercorn. Roast until fragrant. Add the spices into the small bowl and cool all the ingredients for 10-15 minutes. Then grind to a coarse powder.

For the Kolhapuri Chicken Curry:
Marinate the chicken in one tablespoon of the Kolhapuri masala, lemon juice, turmeric powder and salt for fifteen minutes.

Place a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and the chopped onion. Fry until the onion turns light brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste. Fry for two minutes or until the raw smell of ginger-garlic disappears. Add the marinated chicken and roast until you see brown spots on the pieces of chicken. Add the rest of the Kolhapuri masala, grated nutmeg and coriander leaves. Roast for one minute and then add water. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the pieces of chicken are well cooked and the gravy thickens. Taste and adjust the salt, if needed, and turn off the heat. Serve Kolhapuri chicken curry with steaming hot rice. This is a spicy dish but you can adjust the heat level to suit your taste.

Blueberry Cheesecake and Happy Mother’s Day

Blueberry Cheesecake3

Celebrate Mother’s Day with this luxurious, rich, white chocolate cheesecake with home made blueberry topping. It is definitely worth the time and effort to make this special dessert for your mom.

Blueberry cheesecake has been one of our family favorites for many years. I remember making it for the first time in a 9 by 13 inch pan after tasting it at a restaurant. It was more like a blueberry bar than a cheesecake, but as far as the taste – I couldn’t have been happier. My recipe has evolved since then and it has become decadent with extra calories to go along with it. But Mother’s Day is a good time to have a piece of cheesecake without feeling terribly guilty.

I can’t help but think of my mom while I write this post around Mother’s Day. I have beautiful memories of of her. I remember she used to play catch with me while I ran around a flower bed in my garden. When I think back now, I wonder how she ever found the time to do that while holding a full-time job, cooking every meal, and doing a myriad other tasks that moms have to do. While she made chapatis in the kitchen, she taught me my multiplication tables and spelling. She was strong in her faith and prayed for all her children and grandchildren. We felt protected and loved when we went through difficult times in our lives. Oh, I love her so very much, and wish I could tell her one more time.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the selfless mothers out there. God bless you.

Blueberry Cheesecake
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45-50 minutes
Serves: 6-8

For the crust:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup butter, melted

For the topping:
2 cups fresh blueberries
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup water plus 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup white chocolate chips, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of an eight-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

To make the crust: In a bowl mix graham cracker crumbs, almond flour, sugar and butter. Press onto bottom of the springform pan. Bake for six minutes. Cool completely.

To make the topping: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries, sugar and one-third cup of water. Stir frequently, and bring to a boil.

In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with two tablespoons of cold water. Slowly stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries. Simmer until the blueberry topping is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, about five minutes. Remove from heat and gently stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Cool and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the cheesecake.

To make the filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with mixer until creamy.  Add eggs and yolk, one at a time, mixing on low after each just until blended. Add melted white chocolate and vanilla and beat until mixture is smooth. Pour over the crust and bake for 45-50 minutes. Cool completely, run a butter knife gently around the edge of the pan, and refrigerate for four hours or over-night.

Serve slices of cheesecake with whipped cream and blueberry topping.