Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Savory Lentil Squares/ Dhokar Dalna

Lentils are a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Indian cuisine has a well  evolved understanding of vegetarian food habits and balances the diet with a large variety of lentils and vegetables. Lentils also known as dals is a regular staple in every Indian meal. Each lentil is cooked in numerous ways across India such that you could make a different recipe of dal every day of the week.

Lentils/ Dals are also made into snacks or desserts. These Lentil Squares/ Cakes can be had as a healthy protein packed snack or you could smother them in your favorite sauce as a main course meal.

There are many variations of this recipe all across India. My mom would make daliche vade or pan fried dal fritters by soaking the chana dal for a few hours and then coarsely grinding them with green chilies, ginger, cilantro and salt. She would then drop a couple of tablespoons of this mixture on a greased heated pan and spread them into small 2 inch discs. The fritters would be flipped and cooked on both sides till nicely browned. This was an easy, crunch snack or side to a simple vegetarian meal paired with rice and dal.

Today's recipe is of Bengali origins given by my mother in law. Its called Dhokar Dalna. This recipe is little more elaborate.
  • 1 1 /2 cup Chana Dal
  • 1/4 cup yellow Moong Dal
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger
  • 1-2 green chilies
  • 1/4 tsp hing/asafoetida
  • salt to taste
  • oil

  1. Wash the dals and soak them submerged in water overnight.
  2. Next day drain the water, add ginger, chilies, salt and asafoetida to the dals and grind it all to a coarse paste. Do it in batches with minimal water added to only help you grind.
  3. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of  oil to medium in a large saucepan, preferably nonstick.
  4. Add the ground paste and keep stirring till all the excess moisture evaporates and the mixture comes together leaving the sides of the pan. Take care that the mixture doesn't burn at the bottom of the pan.
  5. Grease a plate lightly and keep it ready.
  6. Pour the cooked mixture onto the greased plate and flatten it with a spatula.
  7. Using a knife cut it into squares or diamond shapes.
  8. These savory lentil cakes are ready to eat at this point.
  9. To crisp them further heat oil in a wok /kadhai.
  10. Deep fry these squares a few at a time till they are golden brown.
  11. You can also pan fry them for a healthier alternative.
  12. These savory lentil cakes can be served as a high protein, healthy and delicious snack. It tastes great accompanied with ketchup or cilantro chutney.

They can also be added to your favorite sauce or curry to make it a main course.
Bengali cuisine has a recipe called Dhokar Dalna where in these lentil squares are dunked in a Niramish gravy (spicy broth made without onions and garlic).

Dhokar Dalna Gravy

  • 1 large boiled potato, chopped into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt/curds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt to taste
  • oil

  1. In a bowl, take the yogurt and add all the spice powders and mix well.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat some oil.
  3. Temper with cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds.
  4. Add the grated ginger, peas and potatoes and stir fry. 
  5. Pour in the yogurt mix and a cup or two of water (depending on the gravy needed) and mix well.
  6. Let the mixture boil for 5-7 minutes till the spices are cooked.
  7. Add salt and sugar and taste to balance the flavors.
  8. Add the Dhoka/lentil squares and simmer for a minute or two. 
  9. They will absorb the flavors of the curry and should retain their shape.
  10. Serve hot with steamed rice and dal.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gluten Free Buckwheat Crepes!

I just returned from a trip to Quebec and all I could do was to ogle and drool over the amazing crepes been dished out at every corner there. This is one of the times when I feel deprived cause of my gluten free diet. Coming back home I just had to make crepes but these would be better and much more healthier. My daughter is home on her summer break so these buckwheat crepes turned out to be a delicious, healthy breakfast that we put together.

Buckwheat, quite contrary to its name is naturally wheat and gluten free. Its a rich source of protein, dietary fibers, B vitamins and minerals. Buckwheat is 72% carbohydrates, including 10% dietary fiber, 3% fat and 13% protein.

Buckwheat noodles are very popular in Soba noodles of Japan and the rest of Asia.  In India, its usually consumed as a grain during Hindu religious fasting days. Locally called as Kuttu, it is used to prepare kuttu ki puri (fried bread).

In addition to being gluten free, this recipe is also egg free and can be made vegan or dairy free by replacing the milk with either almond or soy milk. The crepes have a neutral taste and can be paired with sweet or savory accompaniments. My daughter has a sweet tooth and preferred hers drizzled with maple syrup, layered some chopped bananas and rolled them into a neat roll . Her squeals of delight and Aahs! and Oohs! were so much that I followed suit and enjoyed the crepes her way.

On a savory note you can stuff these crepes with your favorite veggies or cheese. Try mushrooms and cheese for a truly earthy taste. Also makes great instant chapatis/flat breads.

Makes: 10-12 (6inch crepes)


  • 1 cup buckwheat flour/kuttu ka atta
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon of ground up flax seeds/ alsi stirred into 3 tablespoons of water and keep aside for 5 minutes)
  • salt to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon)
  • oil or butter for frying

  1. In a bowl, mix together the buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, cinnamon powder and salt.
  2. Prepare the flax egg. Add to the dry mixture.
  3. Pour in the milk, a little at a time to make a smooth batter without lumps.
  4. Heat a small pan on medium heat.
  5. Grease with a butter or oil.
  6. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter and swirl the pan to spread it around. You can also gently try to spread it with a spatula.
  7. Let its cook for about 20-30 secs till you see bubbles.
  8. Flip over and cook the other side in a similar way.
  9. Repeat the process to make more buckwheat crepes.
  10. Serve them sweet or savory style with your favorite sides.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Apricot Chicken Curry Indian Style!

Summer is finally here and with that came farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Apricots have began to flood the market. After chomping down on some fresh apricots. I have been torn between deciding to make a sweet or savory preparation with it. Finally the curiosity of a fruity chicken overcame me and that became our dinner last night.

Apricot Chicken is a mild Moroccan tagine which I have adapted to an Indian Curry style. The tagine recipe has ingredients like onions, garlic, cumin and coriander which are common elements in an Indian curry too. I also happened to read that Kashmiris, who inhabit the north of India, have also been cooking apricots in a curry style. I didn't have access to their authentic recipes so just worked around my usual chicken curry recipe.

Apricot Chicken Curry turned out fruity, creamy and delicious. It even tasted much better after a few hours of resting time. This is an easy recipe which incorporates apricots in your usual chicken curry. You can also try it with dried apricots when fresh ones are not in season.

  • 6-7 apricots
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken pieces
  • 1 large red onion, sliced (about1.5 cups)
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon
  • 2-3 green cardamons
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder 
  • 1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder  
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt to taste
  • fresh cilantro for garnish
  • oil

  1. Remove the seed from within and puree 3 apricots to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil to medium.
  3. Add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt.
  4. Saute the onions till they have turned browned and caramelized nicely. Will take 10-15 minutes.Take half the portion and keep aside.
  5. Add the chopped ginger and garlic to the pan and saute further.
  6. Add the sauteed onion, garlic and ginger to a blender and make a puree of it.
  7. In the same saucepan, add another tablespoon of oil
  8. Add the whole spices-cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom and peppercorns and let them sizzle for 30 secs.
  9. Add the chicken pieces and saute them on high heat till opaque.
  10. Lower heat to medium and add the ground onion paste.
  11. Add the spice powders now- turmeric, red chili, coriander and cumin powder.
  12. Add salt the remaining browned onions (reserve some for garnish if needed) and mix well.
  13. Pour in the apricot puree about 1/2 a cup of water and cover with lid and simmer till chicken is almost done.
  14. Lastly add in the remaining sliced apricots, garam masala, sugar and lime juice and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  15. Taste to balance the flavors.
  16. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot over a bed of steamed basmati rice.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Tomato Dried Cranberry Chutney!

Bengali Chaatni or Chutney is a sweet and tangy condiment/side with a mild kick of spice. Traditionally it is served towards the end of the meal and eaten by itself. But I prefer to eat it as a side with my main course-usually rice, dal and some vegetable curry. This lip smacking chutney can oomph up even the most boring or bland foods.

Bengali food culture is the only one of its kind in India which has multi course dining cuisine. The first course usually served is rice with a vegetable curry with predominant bitter flavors- recipes like shukto or saag. The second course is rice with dal and a vegetable curry like cauliflower, paneer, cabbage etc. Most vegetable curries/stir fries in Bengali cuisine are made without any onion and garlic. The third course is rice with any non vegetarian preparation like fish curry, mutton or chicken curry. Then its time for the sweet and tangy Chaatni. Followed by dahi/yogurt and lastly a dessert/sweets/mishti. After which you will likely go into a food induced coma and need a long afternoon siesta nap to recover.

This Tomato Dried Cranberry chutney can be served at room temperature or chilled. Usually we make enough to last us 3-4 days as it stays good when refrigerated. 

Tomato Chutney/Chaatni can be made with only tomatoes or pair it with dates, raisins or dried cranberries. The same recipe can be used to make Pineapple Chutney or Kaccha Kairi
Chutney (raw green mangoes), Tamarind Chutney.

Servings: 10-12
Serving size: 2 tablespoons

  • 3-4 tomatoes (vine ripen), chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon Panch phoran/mustard seeds (see notes)
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup sugar (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 whole green chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • water


  1. Heat oil to medium in a saucepan.
  2. Temper with panch phoran and let the spices sizzle for about 30 secs till they release a nice aroma. Take care not to burn or blacken them.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, about 1/2-3/4 cup of water and little salt and let it cook till tomatoes have pulped.
  4. Now add the required sugar, green chili and dried cranberries and let it simmer for another 5 minutes till the sugar has melted and cranberries plump up a little.
  5. Cool down and serve at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.

Tips / Notes:

  1. The amount of sugar depends on the tartness of the tomatoes and your sweet tooth.
  2. If using dates, you can substantially reduce the amount of sugar used.
  3. Panch Phoran is a traditional Bengali spice mix made up of equal parts of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and Kalonji (black onion seeds). If you can't find all these spices you can just use mustard seeds.
  4. I have tried this recipe with a dried red chili in place of a fresh green one which is added along with the tempering spices. Its give a nice smoking flavor and a mild spice kick to the chutney.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Beet Greens Stir Fry!

I have always loved Beets more of their deep reddish magenta hue than for its taste. But that's because I have had it only raw in salads. Recently I learned how to roast them and a whole new world of beet recipes emerged. I have made them into beet dips, beet hummus, beet chaats (Indian tangy snacks), beet dalna (stir fry). I even roasted some neat beet chips.

This time around I pushed my curiosity further and bought some beets with their greens too. I am working on adding more greens to my diet and kind of tired of spinach, methi(fenugreek) and kale. These turned out to be a breeze to cook and tasted awesome.

Serves: 2-3 as a side

  • 1 bunch of beet greens
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • salt and pepper

  1. Wash the beet greens well. Pull out the leaves from the stalks.
  2. Chop the stalks into one inch pieces. Roll up the leaves into a log and chop into ribbons.
  3. Heat a saucepan to medium and melt butter in it.
  4. Temper with cumin seeds and let them sizzle.
  5. Add in the chopped onions and garlic and saute for a minute.
  6. Now add in the stems only and a dash of salt and let them cook for a minute or two.
  7. Lastly add in the greens and salt and pepper and cook till the greens are done.
  8. Serve them as a delicious side to your meal.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bottle gourd with Shrimps/ Lau Chingri

Bottle gourd/ Dudhi/Lauki/Lau is one of those mild tasting vegetables which doesn't feature in our favorite vegetables list. But we love it as a dessert, Dudhi ka halwa which is a thick fudge made by simmering grated bottle gourd in milk and sweetening it with sugar and dry fruits. I have been consciously working towards introducing it as a savory vegetable to my family. The other day I made Lauki dal wherein I boiled bottle gourd with yellow moong dal and tempered it with an onions tomato and spices. This was devoured with white rice.

Bottle gourd is made up of 96% water content making it a preferred choice during summer. It is considered to be beneficial for health especially for diabetic patients. Its a low calorie, high fiber vegetable rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. 

Bottle gourd has a mild flavor of its own but has a tendency to absorb whatever flavors you add into it. Bengali cuisine has many unusual recipes created with this beautiful vegetable. Lau Ghonto is one such recipe wherein the mild sweetness is further enhanced by adding milk and little sugar and flavoring it with just kalonji(black onion seeds). Recipe coming soon!

Today my mother in law introduced me to this amazing recipe called Lau Chingri which has bottle gourd cooked along with shrimps/prawns. This is one of their specialties and is usually made while entertaining guest or just when cravings hit. Its an easy, semi dry preparation served along with rice and dal. The flavors were awesome. For people who don't enjoy bottle gourd, they should definitely give this recipe a try. I promise you wont be disappointed.

Servings:  4-5
  • 1 bottle gourd/dudhi/lau, chopped finely
  • 20-25 small shrimps
  • 1 teaspoon methi/fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 2 green chilies
  • 1-2 tablespoons rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon mustard oil
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil

  1. Clean and remove the shells of the shrimps.
  2. Marinate with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder and some salt and keep aside for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Heat some oil in a saucepan to medium.
  4. Add the shrimps and saute till the shrimps are almost done. Remove with slotted spoon and reserve.
  5. In the same saucepan, add some mustard oil and heat it further.
  6. Temper with fenugreek seeds and saute till get slightly brown and a lovely aroma emanates. Don't let them blacken.
  7. Add the chopped bottle gourd and little salt and mix well.
  8. Cover and cook till the bottle gourd is almost done.
  9. Add the spice powders- remaining turmeric, red chili, cumin and coriander powder.
  10. Add the sauteed shrimps and mix well.
  11. Now add the green chilies and cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
  12. Add some rice flour to thicken the sauce and cook for additional few minutes.
  13. Lastly add the sugar and taste to balance the flavors
  14. Serve hot with white rice and dal for a delicious meal.

Try to get your hand on the smallest shrimps you can find. It just tastes better with that. I have used medium size as I couldn't find them.

Other Shrimp/Prawn recipes:
Hyderabadi Shrimp Biryani
Shrimp in Mustard Sauce
Sungtache Hooman/ Goan Shrimp Curry
Shrimp Pulao/Pilaf in Coconut milk! 
Shrimps in spiced Coconut Milk/ Bengali Chingri Malai 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Plantain Kofta Curry Bengali Style

Koftas are usually spiced meatballs but the vegetarian versions taste great too. In fact its my preferred method to feed my daughter vegetables that she's not very fond of. I just slightly boil or steam veggies, mash it well, add spices, roll into balls and deep or pan fry them. These kid friendly finger foods are a delight.She gobbles many down dunking them in her favorite ketchup. Today we tried the same trick with plantains. She hungrily ate them as an after school snack.

Koftas by themselves can be had as snack or appertizer. A curry/sauce base is added when you need to make it into a main meal.

This recipe is in Bengali Niramish Style. Niramish means without any onions and garlic. Bengali vegetarian recipes are usually made this way. They only use onions, garlic and tomatoes for seafood or meat preparations. Their curries are very light with spice powders mixed in water and cooked till their flavors develop. Bengali preparations also use a lot of potatoes. Its like a must in every recipe.

Panch Phoran is a traditional Bengali spice mix made up of equal parts of cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and Kalonji (black onion seeds). This is regularly used as whole spices or powdered spice mix to flavor meat, seafood or vegetable curries.

Alternately for a more richer and thicker sauce, you can puree onions and tomatoes and saute them with the same spices.


For Koftas:
  • 4 plantains
  • 1/2 a potato
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch of hing /asafoetida
  • salt to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons rice flour

For Gravy:
  • 11/2 potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon panch phoran
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon grated coconut
  • salt to taste

  1. Boil the potatoes and plantains till done. Chop the boiled potatoes into large chunks.
  2. Peel the skin of the plantains and mash in a bowl.
  3. Add 1/2 of a potato to it and mash it too.
  4. Add all the spice powder and other ingredients and mix well.
  5. Take a lemon sized amount of the mixture and shape into a ball. Flatten it with your palms.
  6. Add more rice flour if the mixture doesn't hold its shape.
  7. Heat a wok/ kadhai and add enough oil for frying.
  8. Deep fry these kofta balls till brown. Remove on an absorbent paper and keep aside.
  9. You can also pan fry for a healthy version.
  10. In a bowl beat the yogurt till smooth.
  11. Add the spice powder  and mix well. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water to make a nice masala paste. Keep aside.
  12. Heat a tablespoon of oil in another saucepan.
  13. Temper with panch phoran.
  14. Add the boiled potatoes and stir fry for a minute.
  15. Add the masala paste prepared earlier and stir for 2 more minutes.
  16. Add about a cup or two of water to make desired amount of gravy.
  17. Now add the peas, coconut and salt and simmer the gravy for about 5-7 minutes.
  18. Add the koftas into the gravy just at the time of serving or else they may disintegrate in the curry.
  19. Serve Plantain Kofta curry with white rice and dal or flavored pilaf for a satisfying vegetarian meal.