What is Kashmiri Chilli Powder?

Kashmiri Chilli Powder3
Many of my recipes call for Kashmiri chilli powder.  One of my friends told me that she went looking of Kashmiri chilli powder and could not find it at the India grocery store where she lived. I realized then that it was important for me to talk about some of the ingredients, spices, and equipment that I frequently use in my cooking. So, today I am going to start with the famous Kashmiri chilli powder which (shhh) doesn’t even come from Kashmir!

Kashmiri chilli powder is the name given to a powdered chilli pepper. It is mildly hot, has a distinct flavor, and it adds a bright red color to food. True Kashmiri chillies are in high demand and since there is a short supply in India, substitutes are used to make Kashmiri chilli powder. You can identify dry Kashmiri chillies by their medium size, cone shape, wrinkles, and dark red color. One of the substitutes used is Byadagi chillies. They are grown in the state of Karnataka in India. Byadgi chillies are long, deep red, mildly pungent, and wrinkled. They have more color content than any other chilli in India. It is also nice to know that the least amount of pesticides are used in growing these chillies.

Kashmiri chilli powder is produced by hundreds of Indian spice companies – MDH, Everest, Eastern, Sakthi, Aachi, Swad, Badsha, just to name a few. The Indian grocery store, where I live, sells Kashmiri chilli powder under these names: Kashmiri chilli powder, Kashmiri Mirch. If you cannot find Kashmiri chilli powder, you can use deggi mirch. It is made from a blend of red bell peppers and Kashmiri chillies. It adds color but has a slightly higher heat level than Kashmiri chilli powder. You will find it at Indian grocery stores where it may be sold as deggi mirch, degi mirch, or deghi mirch. Different brands of chilli powder taste different and have different strengths regardless of being labelled hot, extra hot, very hot etc. I tend to use chilli powder by their difference in heat, rather than the name on the box. Yes, I taste the chilli powder before I use it.

I love the brilliant red color, flavor, and mild zing of Kashmiri chilli powder so I use it in most of my recipes. I also have a bottle of hot chilli powder that I use, if I want to bump up the heat level in my dish.  When I list the ingredients in my recipes, right next to chilli you will see in parenthesis, “depending on heat and your preference.” I say this because the type of chilli – fresh green/red chillies, canned chillies, dry red chillies, red chilli powder, or chill flakes – could change the heat from mild to very hot. So, depending on the heat level of the chilli you are using and the amount of chilli you personally prefer, add less or more. Many of you want to know if there is a substitute for Kashmiri chilli powder. In a pinch, use three parts paprika and one part cayenne. But, if you want flavor and color, it’s worth your time and effort to hunt down a box of Kashmiri chilli powder.

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani1
I was cleaning my kitchen cupboards and noticed that I had over ten different dry lentils and beans on the shelves. Some of them I used often and others only for specific recipes. I was reminded of the classic Punjabi dish, dal makhani, when I saw the black lentils and kidney beans sitting next to each other. Makhani, in Punjabi, means buttery. You will find this dish on the menu of almost every Indian restaurant.

Dhabas, small restaurants found along the highways in North India, serve the best dal makhani.  Black lentils and kidney beans are soaked for eight hours. Then, before the cooks go home for the night, it is place in a large pot over the residual heat of a tandoor (clay oven) and cooked until they return in the morning. It is seasoned lightly and finished with lots of fresh butter and cream. The subtle taste and smooth, velvety texture of dal makhani is absolutely glorious!

A slow cooker would have been the ideal appliance to cook this dish. But since I didn’t have one, I experimented with cooking the dal makhani in a pressure cooking for a long period of time over very low heat.

Dal makhani is not a dish you would eat every day! It is high in calories and loaded with butter and cream. However, you can add as much or as little butter and cream as your conscience will allow. As much as I love dal makhani, it is definitely an occasional indulgence!

Dal Makhani
Prep time: 15 minutes, (does not include time for soaking)
Cook time: 60 minutes
Serve: 4

1 cup whole black lentils, (urad dal)
2 tablespoon red kidney beans, (rajma)
6 cups water, (3 cups to soak and an additional 3 cups to pressure cook)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt, (plus more depending on your preference)
1 cup roughly chopped onion
1 tablespoon roughly chopped ginger
2 cups roughly chopped tomato
2 green chillies, optional
3 tablespoons ghee
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
2 black cardamoms
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 teaspoons kasoori methi
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons julienned ginger

Wash the who black lentils and red kidney beans four times, changing the water each time. Cover with three cups of water and soak overnight. Put the lentils and kidney beans, along with the water that it was soaked in, into a pressure cooker. Add the baking soda, salt, and three more cups of water. Stir, cover with pressure cooker lid, and add the weight. Bring to full cooking pressure on maximum heat. Then reduce heat to lowest point on your stove. Cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool gradually before opening.

Use a blender to puree the onion and ginger. Remove into a small bowl and set aside. Put the tomato and chilli into the blender next and puree. Remove into another bowl and set aside.

 Use a potato mashed to gently mash a small portion of the lentils that are in the pressure cooker.

Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add ghee. When it sizzles add bay leaf, cloves, cardamoms, cumin seeds, and onion-ginger puree. Cook, stirring intermittently, for 7-10 minutes or until the raw smell of the ginger disappears. Turn heat to low and add asafoetida, turmeric, chilli, coriander, and garam masala. Immediately add the tomato puree and crushed kasoori methi. Stir well, cover and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or until the oil separates.

 Add the cooked lentils. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Add salt to taste, half of the julienned ginger, and butter. Cook for five minutes. Garnish with cilantro, the remaining julienned ginger, and cream. Serve immediately. This dal thickens if you keep it in the refrigerator. So add some water while re-heating. Tastes great with rice, roti, paratha, and naan.

Reposting – French Green Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup4Lentil Soup
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves: 10

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
4 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons grated garlic
1 tablespoons minced thyme leaves, (or 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves)
1 cup chopped leeks, (white parts only)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon chilli flakes, (depending on heat and your preference)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 cups medium-diced celery
3 cups medium-diced carrots
¼ cup tomato paste
2½ cups green lentils, (you can also use brown or red lentils)
12 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Rinse and soak the green lentils in boiling water for 15 minutes.

Add oil to a large pot, over medium-high heat. When it shimmers add bay leaf, onion, ginger, garlic, thyme, leeks and salt. Sauté until onion turns translucent. Add coriander powder, cumin powder, chili flakes, ground pepper, celery, carrots, and tomato paste. Stir and cook until the oil separates.

Drain the lentils and add to the soup. Then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Once the soup starts boiling, turn the heat to medium-low, remove the lid and let the soup simmer and cook for one hour. Add lemon juice and red wine vinegar, stir and check to see if the salt is sufficient. Turn off the heat. Cover the soup and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Reheat the soup when you are ready to serve. Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Creamy Mixed Vegetables

Vegetables in a Cream Sauce1
Have you ever wished you had asked your mom how she made your favorite dish? Have you stood beside her in the kitchen and watched her cook? I’ve heard many people say, “I wish I had asked my mom how to make. . .” Your mom, dad, sister, brother, in-laws, aunts, whoever it is that cooks in your family, love to be asked. Now is the time!

I still have recipes that my mom sent me by snail mail. I treasure the recipes my family has shared with me. One of the reasons why I blog is because I want my family and you to have the recipes that I’ve collected for many years. Don’t be afraid to share. Someone dear to me once said, “Maggie, the more you share, the more you will learn.” Those words couldn’t be more true and they have stood the test of time.

You can use any combination of mixed vegetables in this recipe. Dry fenugreek leaves can be purchased at your local Indian grocery store. They taste similar to a combination of celery and fennel with a slightly bitter bite. Crumble the leaves with your fingers before you add them. Don’t skip this ingredient as it definitely adds another dimension to this dish.

Creamy Mixed Vegetables
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serve: 4

3 tablespoons oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tomatoes, blanched and chopped
1 potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 (15.5-ounce) can pink beans, drained
½ cup corn, fresh or frozen
3 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder, (depending on heat and your preference)
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon garam masala powder
½ cup tomato puree
½ cup water
1 bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup cream
2 teaspoons dry fenugreek leaves, (kasoori methi)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until it turns light brown. Add tomato and cook for two minutes or until soft. Then add the potato, carrot, cauliflower, pink beans, corn, chilli, cumin, and garam masala. Stir and cook for another two minute. Add the tomato puree, salt and water. Stir, cover with a lid, and cook for ten minutes. Add bell pepper, cream, and fenugreek. Mix to combine the vegetables with the creamy sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for five minutes.