Chicken Nihari

Nihari is hot, spicy, and very earthy. usually made with Mutton and even Beef, but tastes equally amazing with Chicken too. Nihari is one amazing and luxury dish served for breakfast. I still remember traveling to Delhi since I was a kid and I would always look forward to having Nihari. My father always preferred Chicken Nihari since we don’t consume Beef, he found it hard to believe small restaurants selling Beef Nihari as Mutton Nihari. Back in those days, almost 25-30 years ago, it was hard since the restaurants in “Purani Dilli” or the “Jama Masjid” area, restaurants weren’t as hip as what they are now and definitely not too comfortable for people to go with families. My father would always send in a servant who would travel with us to get some Mughlai Breakfast. Paaya, Kheema, Bheja and Nihari.

Nihari is always topped with some Barista, julienne ginger, green chilies, coriander leaves, and Lemon. When I was a teenager, my mom started making Nihari at home. She would make it with Mutton as well as Chicken. Even though I had the dish so many times, I never had the urge to try making it myself. Initially, my mom depended on the masala powder that used to be sold in Delhi. But as she kept cooking, she figured out how to make it by herself. The packet had the list of ingredients and my mother with a few experiments, got the knack of how much of each ingredient should be to make the perfect Nihari masala.

I had this dish so many times and honestly, it’s one of my most favorite ones too but I never felt the urge to attempt it. And then after trying different recipes for Chicken curries, I thought of giving Chicken Nihari a try. I asked my mother for the proportion of the spices and the recipe and gave it a try.

My mother always cooked the Nihari using Ghee, but during a trip to Jama Masjid, New Delhi with Mr. Parveez and I went to a restaurant and while talking to the chefs and people working there we found out that the traditional Delhi Nihari was cooked using Mustard Oil. I know that sounds weird but it’s true. Though I made my Nihari using Mustard Oil, I couldn’t just use all Mustard Oil since it’s pretty strong and I prefer mixing it with little Olive Oil. I also used Ghee for tempering.

Nihari is basically a traditional Muslim dish that was introduced by the Mughal kitchen. Nihari has a slightly different version in every region it’s made because with time every region develops and blends its flavors with the original recipe. Nihari comes from the Persian word “Nahar” which means “ early morning”. Nihari is basically a morning dish and is eaten for breakfast. I believe the way the spices blend in and the way it’s cooked, eating it for any other meal would be too heavy. Nihari always comes out more flavorful if it’s slow-cooked. Back in the day, the chefs would cook it overnight. Of course, that ain’t possible but, I still feel that cooking it on low flame slowly, makes it more flavorful. Using a heavy bottom pan is always better too.

The spice mix makes Nihari earthy and aromatic. It’s spicy but not too hot that would make you cry. The barista and thin slices of Ginger with chopped onions and green chilies are what make it more delicious. Therefore, don’t skip it if you want to get complete satisfaction. fried onion and julienned ginger at the end can be skipped but I would recommend you to definitely use it. The mild sweetness of the Barista balances the spice. Nihari has a lot of history and though the dish is simple, it does require a lot of time and a little effort, but in the end, it’s all worth the effort.

Bengali Fish Curry

I do not have an idea about what connects me to Bengal, but I am one big fan of their cuisine. It all started from the Kolkata Chicken Roll, went on to Biryanis, from their to their mind blowing Bengali sweets and now to the awesome fish curries that they make.

Honestly, I am a no fish curry person. I have no idea why, but I could just never bring myself down to liking fish curries. God bless my Late Father, he was a big fan and always looked forward to the fish curries my mom made. Jodhpur, the city I belong to does not get fresh fishes very often. The chicken market also sold fish when the season would be on and my father happened to be one of their regular customers. My father would always get enough to be made into curry and to be fried as well. I would never try the fish curry and would love the fried fish and that’s how it continued.

When I got married, Mr. Parveez loved the fish fried on the side with Daal-Chawal, but he also loves his Fish curry, so he would make his favorite fish curry just few times a year. I tried my level best to like it but its just something that puts me off. Then, one fine day comes in the phase of me finding my new love in Bengali cuisine and you know how Bengali food and fish go hand in hand. So, I came across this wonderful recipe of Bengali fish curry. now, honestly my search was for an authentic “Machhar Jhol” recipe and my search is still on. But this fish curry is the closest I could get to an authentic Machhar jhol.

This fish curry is also made in Bengali style and the taste is amazingly delicious. The flavor is mild and different from the regular fish curries. The recipe is pretty simple and easy to make, and the the recipe does not require any fancy ingredients either. I made this curry using Tilapia fillet, but you can use Halibut, Sea Bass or any other fish of your choice. The fish should be slightly mild for this recipe, so whichever fish you pick, it should not be extremely fishy in taste. Enjoy!!!

Drumstick Leaves Ka Chaar

“Har Khana kuchh kehta hai…Kuchh meethi yaadein…kuchh kisse…har bachpan ke unchuhe hisse…”

Every dish has a story…some beautiful memories…some childhood stories that you remember with every flavor….This dish belongs to my better half’s, Mr. Parveez’s hometown, Bengaluru. The name has been derived from Tamilian word “Chaaru” that stands for curry.

Living in USA, we Indians learn how to substitute few ingredients with what we have back home to what’s available in our grocery store. So, one day I found a new addition to our local grocer’s Veggie section. Like a little happy child in candy land, I called up my husband informing him about the drumstick leaves, asking him if they can be used.

You might find it extremely funny to read, but I normally text and call him when I am at grocery store. I actually became pretty popular among workers at the store since they always see me clicking pictures and texting someone [my husband] and then come back to the section to pick what I clicked. I really don’t know what kind of husbands take their wives calls in one time because it never happens with me. I usually get a call back after 5 minutes, with a patent dialogue “phone was on silent” or “Dekha nahi” [I didn’t pay attention] or a text back saying “meeting”. And as much as I feel that he should attend me before the rest of the world, I let it go…LOLzzz… Not really, the poor guy works very hard and I know if it isn’t work, he would make sure he talks to me first.

Ohh sorry, the story took a sweet romantic turn, lets get back to the main story. So, I call him all happy that I found drumstick leaves and he got super excited and asked me to buy them.

Once home, he asks me to make this dish which we normally make with spinach [equally flavorful, though]. This dish is healthy and its great for diets or low carb diets. The good thing about this dish is that this two dishes in one. This dish gives out a dry dish and a liquid daal type dish that makes it easy to eat with Rice and parantha/phulkas.

With each bite, he remembered his childhood of how his mother prepared this from the fresh leaves plucked from the neighbor’s tree….childhood flavors stay for life.

Makki Palak Sabzi

After my successful experiments with chhole palak and Palak daal, I started working on more recipes and ways to feed greens to my little monsters. After all, no one can have too much of greens and none of us moms ever get tired of feeding healthy to our kids, in fact we never get tired of feeding/ over feeding our children. But, between all those over fed meals are times when we realize that they need to eat healthier and better and we work more towards nourishing their body.

My boys are pretty picky and not great fans of veggies. Basically, if they see no chicken/meat on the dining table, they feel their mom has enjoyed a free day or wasn’t really in a mood to cook…LOLzzz . I learnt one art pretty quick as a mother and that was that if you want your kids to eat veggies, you should not keep a substitute on the table and definitely, any kind of bribe doesn’t give a very good example. Like, I never promise them ice cream after dinner. What I do is, make a promise to cook anything they want for school lunch the next day. Our dinners mostly has these veggies, one reason being that dinners should be light and secondly, that’s the only meal we eat together as family. So, feeding vegetables that time cuts down my stress as Mr. Parveez handles the situation better.

Now, for kids who find it hard to gulp down veggies, its even more important to make dishes that look and taste great. Hence, the experiments and varieties. Your health is your most prize possession and so is the health of your family. Studies suggest that 80% of your health is from the food that you consume so, let that food be freshly cooked without preservatives from the “freezer aisle” of your grocery store or your favorite restaurant. These recipes are simple, quick and nutritious and so delicious that they will be a favorite in your family as much as they are in mine.

Aaloo Palak Methi Ki Sabzi

My Hometown had dishes like Aaloo palak and aaloo methi, but my mom never cooked all three together. I have never been much of a fan of “green leafy veggies”…A truth that I never share with my boys, though…LOLzzz.  Like most kids, it was a hard job for my mom to feed the greens to me. I believe as a kid it was the fear that made me eat and as a teenager and young adult, it was just to not make her feel bad.

Honestly, sometimes when I think of it, I feel that we as parents don’t like experimenting much. I don’t mean everyone, but most of us. We follow the standard recipes passed on from generations and fail to understand that if we didn’t like it and expected changes, its the same with our kids. Its less of empathizing with the situation and dealing with it differently.

So, after I was married, one fine morning my hubby, who happens to be an excellent cook himself decided to surprise me with this “lovely sabzi” ….At first i was a little apprehensive, but then I didn’t want to fuss and make a big deal, so, with the same mindset to what I had for my mom’s greens, I tried it out.

To my surprise, I actually liked it. It has palak, methi and potatoes and I loved the flavors of this dish. Years later when I compared it to my mom’s I realized that it was the absence of whole masalas and powdered masalas that my taste buds enjoyed. Something we all fail to understand. Each one of us are born with different taste buds and its your taste buds that like certain flavors. For example, in Rajasthan we love parantha with aamras during Mango season. Where as, down south they enjoy bananas with parantha. So, for my taste buds, I prefer my green cooked with lighter spices and give out more flavors of the green.

Though even I make this dish now, it still tastes better when Mr. Parveez makes it. And now it’s a family favorite. Even my boys never  fuss over  this. A must try for all.

Kolkata Biryani

Biryani ranks at the top of my favorite food list. Whenever there is a special occasion in my house, the very first dish comes to my mind is Biryani. Honestly, Friday dinners are kind of a big deal in my house and Biryani is the main part of the dinner.

Biryani in Kolkata was introduced by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah from Lucknow. With Biryani every region and state added there own flavors, according to the produce they had in their region/ state. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was dethroned by Britishers and deported him to Kolkata. Luckily, he was accompanied by people who worked for him including his kitchen staff. Once in Kolkata, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah tried to make a little place provided for him to live. You could take a Nawab off the throne but you cannot take the elegance and Royal heart he has. he would ask his Kitchen staff to make Biryani, and would feel low about not having enough grocery specially meat/ chicken. To make th Nawab feel better and to be able to have him feel good about feeding everyone around him with the same love and respect he had in Lucknow, the chef added Potatoes and Eggs to the Biryani. This is how the famous Lucknow Biryani added its flavors and gave birth to Kolkata Biryani.

That’s why Biryanis from different places taste so different. The basic similarity is that every Biryani is cooked with meat and rice in dumm. It’s a dish adored not just all over the sub-continent, but all around the world. Its one of the most popular Indian/ Pakistani dish. However, Vegetable/ Paneer biryani is also well accepted among vegetarians.

Biryani should ideally be prepared in dumm, where the meat and rice are cooked together in an air tight container over low flame. I have posted the recipe of dum biryani and so many different varieties of Biryani from different regions and states of India. Most recipes also have some history/ story of how the recipes were originated, which is always a delight to read, know and share.

So this time I am sharing with you an easier version of dum biryani which is followed in most of the biryani houses in Kolkata. This Biryani is not too spicy. The Biryani has potatoes  and the use of Khoya and milk makes the Biryani rich.

Murgh Saunfiya Tikka

This dish is from the region of Kashmir. Its fascinating to see how produce from a region makes fabulous dishes that are heard to imagine. We all, as Indians use fennel in food in some way or the other. But, before I came across these kebabs, I never knew that fennel seeds can be used as the main ingredient and make kebabs that taste so delicious.

The taste of fennel bulbs or aniseed adds a lot of freshness to the flavor and the flavor stands out, no matter what other spices you add to the dish. This dish is mild, flavorful and easy to make.

Parveez Chicken Special

This dish is a gift of my husband, Mr. Parveez.  On days when I am confused and find it hard to decide on what should be cooked, he would come up with his innovative ideas and suggest on something new he would like me to try, unless he makes his way to the kitchen and treat me something super fatabulous.

Anyways, one day I was all confused and he suggested making this chicken dish. The dish uses 4 kinds of chilies so spice factor is a little high and if you aren’t daring enough, I would ask you to cut down on the spice level. This dish makes a great side dish with dal chawal.

Methi Murgh Boti Kebab

I love serving dry kebabs as side dishes with our dinner and its hard to not experiment and not come up with new recipes. After all, I am mother to boys who have energy that drives me crazy and the fact that they love looking forward to new dishes on the table and not forgetting, the born carnivores, and with genes of Mughals. All these traits makes it mandatory for a mom to come up with new recipes of non vegetarian food.

Spices mixed up differently with chicken/ meat gives out super fab and completely distinct flavor. This recipe is quick, flavorful and is sure to impress those with a great taste buds.

Roti Boti

Roti Boti is a recipe that is very close to my heart. My mother, once when she went for a vacation to Mumbai, then Bombay tried something from an Iranian cafe. Now Iranian cafes in Mumbai have food to die for, specially the non vegetarians. Iranian kheema paav are one of my most favorite dishes.

So, getting back to my mom’s trip. She tried a chicken roll from the cafe and though she never got the recipe but, with what she tasted, she started making this dish and this was one dish I always loved having. With years, I always felt there were more things that could make the dish taste better and therefore, I made some modifications.

This dish is great for school / office lunches, an easy road trip lunch/dinner.