A website dedicated to bringing the Indian food lovers together, around one community table. Indian Simmer has since been featured in a multitude of publications and received numerous recognitions, most notably as a winner of Saveur Best Food Blog awards in 2014. In 2015, expanding on the idea of creating a space for Indian food lovers around the world, it had a rebirth for Indian recipes.
Born and brought up in North India and it was not until I was 7 or 8 years of age and I was visiting Delhi (capital of India) that I had eaten Chole Bhature. Almost feels unbelievable to me specially considering how popular the dish is around the world as a North Indian street food. But as diverse as India is with its regional cuisine and in the day and age with no internet, it wasn’t as easy as today to learn, let alone taste the cuisine of places as close as a few hundred miles away. This suddenly makes me realize how far we have come with making the distances closer with internet, technology and globalization.
Anyway, what I was trying to tell you about was my first encounter with Chole Bhature. A dish that originated in Punjab, northern state of India with one of the most fertile agricultural land in the country. But I got to taste my first chole bhature on the streets of New Delhi, outside Qutab Minar, by a roadside stall. Even as a restless 7 year old who also happened to be a picky eater, that experience was something that is still etched in my brain.
All the hustle and commotion around me, the sounds of street hawkers and that of honking auto rickshaws, aroma of all that mad varieties of food being served around me and me propped on a worn wooden bench with green paint chipping off it. Unirked by the all that going around myself, just going at the puffed steaming bhatura filled with spicy chole served in green leaf dona (bowls made with green leaf). My 7 year old self so impressed by the taste that she is still looking for a retake. So much so that every time I give Chole Bhature recipe a try in my kitchen I rank it against the one I tasted on the streets of Delhi. This one was close!
This Chole Bhature recipe hails from the state of Punjab but has gained popularity across the world. Crispy yet soft bhatura bread is typically paired with spicy chole and served as breakfast and sometimes also for dinner.
2 cups all purpose flour+ extra for dusting
½ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon kasuri methi (optional)
1/2 cup milk (lukewarm)
½ cup 125 mL plain yogurt
1 tsp olive oil + extra cooking oil for deep frying
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Now mix milk and yogurt together and pour half of it into the well and slowly combine it together. Slowly mixing the ingredients together, add rest of the liquid into the bowl and kneed into a loose (somewhat sticky) dough.
Oil another bowl (or the same bowl but take the dough out before oiling the bowl) with 1 teaspoon oil. Transfer the dough back in the bowl. Cover with a tight lid and set in a dark, warm place for dough to rise. Wait for it to rise to almost double its original size with air pockets inside.
After a few hours, dust your working board, take out the dough and knead it for about 2-3 minutes. Divide the dough into smaller balls (in this case you should get about 8 balls).
Dust the board again and flatten the balls using rolling pin to make oval shapes, approx. 4″long.
Heat oil in a fryer or wok. Carefully drop the flattened dough into the oil and fry. Gently press the bread with a slotted spoon ad it will begin to puff in 5-8 seconds. Flip the bread and fry until the bread is puffed and golden in color.
Serve Hot puffed bhature with Chole Masala.
Rising time for the dough greatly depends on the temperature of the environment. At around 70-75°F (158-167°C) dough takes approx. 6-8 hours. Wait for it to rise to almost double its original size with air pockets inside.
When you have little ones at home and even more so if you have a picky eater, you must be familiar with all kinds of strategies you have to use in order to sneak some “healthy” into their meals. Now, even though I have two young ones at home, one of them being pickier than the other, I am still lucky that they eat their greens pretty decently. Dishes like okra fry and green beans and tofu stir fry are always welcomed in my household.
Having said that, some vegetables are a hard sell than others. Spinach, kale and pretty much any green leafy ones are a no no for the older one. It is sometimes funny to see the 3 year old gobbling bowl after bowl of quinoa kale salad, while the 9 year old is fishing cilantro out of her salsa. So you find ways to sneak them into their diet and serve them in a way they might like or many times in ways they can be deceived!
So dishes like Palak Kale Paneer , Beetroot Paratha, Leftover Dal Paratha OR vegetable poori are what come to my rescue. I have sneaked in practically every vegetable into her paratha or poori from pumpkin to kale to carrots. But her favorite and even mine, since childhood, still remains Palak Ki Puri or spinach flatbread.
Palak Ki Puri is a traditional recipe where spinach puree is added to whole wheat flour along with salt and some whole spices. I used nigella seeds in this recipe but you can add caraway seeds, cumin or even garam masala to give it a different flavor. Feel free to stay away from the spices if you prefer that instead. Oil is added to the flour to make the poori nice and flaky. You can also add a small amount of milk to make them soft and this tip also works great if you are planning to make poori a few hours or up to a couple days in advance. I send these as lunchbox food with my kids, serve as part of a luxurious meal on special days (like the Diwali celebration that you might be preparing for- hint hint!) and serve as a whole meal when out on a trip.
Palak Ki Poori
Palak poori are soft deep fried circular flatbread made with a spinach and whole wheat flour dough. These palak pooris are a testament that healthy can taste delicious too!
2 cups Whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups Spinach (washed, soft stalks are fine too)
1/2 teaspoon Nigella seeds
1 1/2 tsp Cooking Oil- 1 1/2 teaspoon (extra for deep frying)
Salt (to taste)
Water (as required for kneading)
In a food processor, blend spinach into a puree. Can add a couple tablespoons of water if you need to, for turning the blades.
Transfer whole wheat flour (or durum atta) in a large mixing bowl. Add nigella, salt, 1 1/2 teaspoon oil and mix it together. Now add spinach puree to the flour and knead for 5 minutes to form smooth dough. Add a few tablespoons of water if required. Divide into 12-15 parts. Roll into balls and set aside.
Heat oil in a large wok for deep frying, to 350°F (175°C).
Lightly grease rolling board with oil, just enough to prevent the dough from sticking, approx. a couple drops. Use a lightly greased rolling pin to roll dough into a flat circle about 2” (5 cm) wide. Repeat the same for all the dough balls.
Drop one poori into hot oil for deep frying. Gently press the poori, with slotted spoon. Poori should puff in 8-10 seconds. Flip and cook other side for 8-10 seconds or until both sides turn golden brown.
Serve hot with choice of raita and pickle.
Poori dough should be firmer than a regular roti or paratha dough. It takes a little muscle to roll a poori as the dough is not as free moving as a roti dough while rolling.
Use oil or ghee to grease the poori dough for an easy rolling. Try not to dust it with flour as dry flour will leave the poori in the oil when frying and can just leave the oil dirty and not fir for further use.
When rolling, cover the remaining dough (other than the ball you are rolling) with a damp cloth to keep it from drying.
I would always smirk when people would say that you transform into a different person once you have a baby. The way you feel, the way you react to things, the way you talk. It all felt like an exaggeration to me. Well, until I had a baby!
Now I am not sure how much I have changed, for better or worse, after being a mother but I can assure you my taste buds have definitely taken a turn. So many flavors that I mostly stayed away from before I was pregnant with my first child, were suddenly all I’d crave for. As if a switch was flicked in my head and suddenly all the gulab jamuns, jalebis and biryanis in the world were not enough to satiate me.
That was the time when really Biryani and I became friends. Biryani, a Mughlai Indian rice dish, with its roots deep in the Persian cuisine, is prepared with rice, spices, herbs and meat or vegetables, layered and packed into a clay pot. Then sealed from all the sides the pot is placed on heat and cooked following a cooking method very traditional in India called “dum” which if translated literally, means pressure. Biryani is slow cooked for a prolonged period of time until the meat and the spices and the dry fruits get acquainted with the rice and with each other. This dish is a powerhouse of flavors and in Hyderabad, the Indian epicenter of Biryani, it is cooked more than a hundred ways.
When I thought of cooking something in Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker, Mutton curry and Biryani were the two things that popped first in my head. These two recipes are two of my favorites but because they take so long to cook in a traditional way, I end up staying away from them. But because the Express Crock cooks 70% faster than the traditional ways of cooking, I am warming up to these dishes again!
I made a Pressure Cooker Veg Biryani which is loaded with healthy and hearty vegetables. I wanted to add some protein to the dish to make it a wholesome one pot meal, so added edamame seeds. You can also use soy chunks which are another great source of protein and go well with a biryani. I have simplified a traditional biryani recipe to make it easier, quicker (thanks to this multi-cooker’s brown/sauté and pressure cook settings!) and definitely delicious. To make it more appealing to a larger group of people, including my kids who are not huge fans of spicy food, I kept the spice a minimum and so you can also enjoy the inherent flavors of sweet veggies like carrots and cauliflower. I cooked this recipe in the 6-Quart Express Crock model, but depending on your family size, the Express Crock is now available in a 4-Quart and 8-Quart sizes
Pressure Cooker Veg Biryani:
Biryani is traditionally cooked for a prolonged period of under “dum” pressure in a sealed clay pot. With this Pressure Cooker Veg Biryani I have tried to give the traditional recipe a simple, quick and delicious twist. Something you can whip up in less than 30 minutes on a weekday too.
Basmati Rice- 1 cups
Edamame Seeds- 1/2 cup
Carrots- 1/2 cup (cut in 1-2 inch chunks)
Cauliflower florets- 1 cup
Red onion- 1/2 cup (chopped + 1/4 cup (thinly sliced))
Ghee- 1 tablespoon
Canola (or any cooking oil- 2 tablespoon)
Cinnamon Stick- 1 inch
Green Cardamom- 2-3 count
Cloves whole- 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin seeds- 1/4 teaspoon (optional)
Garam Masala- 1 teaspoon
Golden Raisin- 2 tablespoon (optional)
Cashews- 8-10 count (optional)
Cilantro- 1/4 cup (chopped)
Water- 3 cups
Salt to taste
Wash rice 2-3 times in tap water. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime add ghee and canola oil to the Crock-Pot Express Multi-Cooker. Turn the multi-cooker on and set it to brown/sauté setting. As the ghee heats up (2-3 minutes), add golden raisin and cashews. Sauté for approx. 30sec.- 1 min. or until the raisins puff up. Fish the puffed raisins and golden cashews out and set aside for later.
In the same pot add sliced onion. Cook until brown and cryspy, 3-4 minutes. Fish brown onions out leaving the remaining ghee in the pot. Spread them on the paper towel.
Add cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin seeds and green cardamom to the same poy.. As they sputter, add chopped onion. Cook until golden, 8-10 minutes. Add salt and garam masala. Give it a quick stir.
Add veggies, rice and water. Close the lid and place the steam vent on lock position. Turn the pressure cooker to rice setting. The multi-cooker will tell you when the cooking process is over, approx. 12 minutes.
Once the food is cooked, multi-cooker automatically switches to “warm”. At this point, turn the steam vent to open position. Wait till the steam has escaped from the pressure cooker.
Garnish with golden raisins, cashews, brown sliced onion and cilantro. Serve hot with raita.
Disclaimer: This Pressure Cooker Veg Biryani post was a developed in partnership with the Crock-Pot® brand. All opinions in this post are, as always, my own.
This was in the summer of 2013 or 2014, I think it was in Las Vegas for Saveur Best Food Blog Awards when I first met Naz. This beautiful woman, dressed elegantly with her hair let loose, quiet but present. We were both nominated in the same category and that commonality broke the ice between us and then we hung out for the next two days, we were there, at the event and became good friends in the years that followed. Her love and curiosity for food, words and everything around her is so infectious. And I have to tell you, to know Naz is to love her.
Fast forward four years and nothing has changed in her. The same warm and curious person, standing quietly in the corner of a very loud room stuffed with people, 4 years back. Only that person has written a book now. That too a stunning one, just like her.
All the warm tones in the photographs with popping colors here and there, just like Naz’s personality. All the heartfelt stories in the book about her heritage, her history and her present are so gripping, you can very well curl up on a couch with this “cookbook” for a quiet afternoon read. But my two favorites were, her dedication to her lovely daughters in the beginning and the truth she has put in all her recipes. Apart from being proud of the work she has put forward with her book, I was blown away by the quality of it. A job very well done, Naz! You will go places with this one.
It was tough for me to pick one recipe from the book as all of them look stunning and sound so tempting. But since I had to pick one, I went with this Orange Masghati. It sounded (and proved to be delightful) and at the same time, simple enough for someone like me who is not a proficient Persian cook. So beyond this, I will let the author do the talking herself. But you have got to check out Naz’s cookbook, Bottom of the Pot which also happens to be the name of her food blog. This one’s a keeper for sure!
We are giving away a copy of Bottom of the Pot. All you have to do is, drop a comment below and let us know what is your favorite Persian recipe.
Entries open till Oct. 21st. 11:59pm. On Oct. 22nd, a winner will be chosen randomly, who will receive a copy of Naz’s gorgeous memoir style cookbook.
Author’s Notes: Think of Masghati as a cross between Jell-O and panna cotta. It’s infinitely more refined that Jell-O, and it’s not as wobbly as panna cotta. This Orange Masghati is a riff on the more traditional rose- scented one. Play around and use any fruit juice you like (pomegranate juice is also very popular). Masghati is traditionally prepared with wheat starch, commonly used in Persian kitchens as thickener. Here, I’ve used cornstarch which is easier to find than wheat starch, and it works just as well. The amount of sugar you use depends on your taste buds and how sweet the orange juice is. Make Orange Masghati a few hours in advance, and serve chilled out of the fridge with a drizzle of raspberry sauce.
Orange Masghati is a riff on the more traditional rose- scented one. Play around and use any fruit juice you like (pomegranate juice is also very popular). Masghati is traditionally prepared with wheat starch, commonly used in Persian kitchens as thickener.
For the Masghati:
Butter for greasing the dish
3 cups no-pulp orange juice (divided)
6 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons sugar (or to taste; optional)
Chopped raw pistachios (optional)
For the Raspberry Sauce:
6 ounces raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup hot water
Lightly butter a rimmed 1-2 inch deep dish (a regular pie plate works well). Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the orange juice with the cornstarch. Stir until completely smooth, without any lumps, and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the rest of the orange juice (2 cups) and the sugar (if using) over medium- high heat, and bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar.
Give the cornstarch slurry a final stir to combine, and add it to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and start stirring immediately. Continue stirring until it starts to thicken and set, 5 minutes. Don’t go anywhere during this process (the cornstarch sets quickly and can burn(. You’ll know the mixture is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. You don;t want it to get too thick as it will keep setting as it cools. Remove from the heat and immediately pour into the prepared dish and smooth over. Set aside to cool at room temperature, and place in the fridge, uncovered, for 6 to 8 hours to fully set and chill.
Meanwhile, to make the sauce, set a few raspberries aside as garnish and place the rest along with the sugar and hot water in a blender. Blitz the raspberries until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, and store in the fridge until ready to use.
To serve, you can either run a butter knife around the rim of the dish and invert the masghati onto a serving platter or serve directly from the dish. Serve cold, topped with pistachios, the reserved raspberries, and a light drizzle of the raspberry sauce.
MAKE AHEAD: Masghati is best prepared up to 1 day in advance. It will keep, covered, in the fridge up to 3 days.
In India where a large group of people are vegetarian, which means not just meat or fish but also no poultry or even eggs, eggless baked goods are very common. So over generations chefs and home cooks have developed a whole range of cookies, tarts, pies and cakes using no eggs at all. One such cake from the childhood that is still etched in my mind is Malai Cake.
Traditionally a Malai cake uses just Malai a hindi name for heavy cream and mixed with sugar and nuts. Whipped until light and baked into a cake. And the flavors are just out of the world! Light, airy, smooth and ever so delicate. But then slowly cooks started building on that recipe which honestly asks for years of practice and finesse. As a result, this cake of my childhood was born!
And then I took THAT childhood cake of mine and played with it a little more. This time using one of my favorite new appliances, the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker. This is a multi-use cooker that doesn’t just slow cook but can also be used as a pressure cooker (behold all my chicken curry recipes!), steams, browns and sautés food. But what caught my eye was the “dessert” button and so I had to put it to test. And what better recipe than my tried and tested Malai Cake recipe?
The texture was definitely different from a typical oven baked cake and understandably so because of the use of steam in the pressure cooker. But the cake was moist and light (lighter than when I bake it in the oven). I tried several methods to cook the cake in the multi-cooker. With the cake pan covered and uncovered. With the steam vent open and shut. Several different settings. But figured the best to make the cake light and airy, was to cook it uncovered, with the steam release vent open until all the water escapes the multi-cooker and making the cake rise properly in the process. Turning the heat off and letting the cake finish off cooking in pressure towards the end, helps the cake through.
I served the cake with a side of Orange Whipped Cream or you can just try a simple vanilla ice cream. I used the 6-Quart version for this recipe, but the Crock-Pot Express Crock-Multi Cookers are now also available in a 4-Quart and 8-Quart model. My favorite part is pressure cooking can cook meals up to 70% faster!
Eggless Pressure Cooker Cake
A play on a traditional Indian recipe called Malai Cake, this eggless pressure cooker cake is vegetarian version of a sponge cake. Other than being completely vegetarian this recipe also uses a pressure cooker to make the cake instead of the traditional use of an oven.
All purpose flour- 1 cup
Granulated Sugar- 1/2 cup
Vanilla Custard Powder- 2 tablespoon
Baking Soda- 1/2 teaspoon
Baking Powder- 1 teaspoon
Salt- 1 pinch
Malai (Heavy Whipping Cream- 1/2 cup)
Milk- 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder- 1/2 teaspoon
Chopped nuts- 1/4 cup (almonds or walnuts go best)
Raisins- 1/4 cup
Oil spray or butter or canola oil to grease the cake pan
Water- 2 1/2 cups
Bring all the wet ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add sugar. Using a whisk or an electric mixer beat liquid until the sugar dissolves.
Sift remaining dry ingredients and add to the bowl with wet ingredients. Whisk it all together well, to combine. Make sure there are not lumps in the batter.
Grease a 9 inch springform pan with either oil spray or butter or canola oil. Transfer cake batter into the springform pan.
Add 2 1/2cups of water to the New Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker. Place steaming rack into the pan. Transfer springform pan into the multi-cooker and place it on top of the steaming rack. Put the multicooker lid in place and make sure its locked. Turn the steam vent to OPEN. Select “Dessert” setting and increase the time to 25 minutes. Press START.
Now this stage is crucial because it can also get confusing. Display on the multi-cooker will show HEAT but will not show how much time has passed as the cake is cooking because the steam vent is open. But cook the cake as long as the steam is coming off, which is about 25 minutes +- 1 minute.
Once the steam stops escaping from the vent, press STOP. Replace the vent to sealed position. Leave it that way for 5-8 minutes. This step is equally important because its necessary to finish off the cooking process.
Release pressure from the pressure cooker. Open the lid. Carefully pull the springform pan out of the multi-cooker. Let the cake cool down completely before taking it out of the springform pan. Run a butter knife around the edges and take the cake out of the pan.
This recipe was long overdue! For weeks, months and even years, to be honest. Because this particular dish holds a special place in our household. You know how there are some things that a particular person does so well that sometimes you don’t even try your hands on it just to keep its purity and sanctity intact. Gulab Jamun hold that place in our house hold. More so in the butterfly’s life.
In her eyes (to be honest in my eyes too), nothing can come close to the gulab jamuns that her grandma makes. And trust me, she is right. Maybe it has something to do with the use of homemade mawa (milk solids) which she makes laboring through hours in order to get the right consistency. Or the trick of kneading the mixture for a certain amount of time to make it smooth or the years of experience making them or just the right dose of plain love. I’m not sure what that is but they sure taste better than any other gulab jamun I’ve ever eaten and I have eaten a LOT of them!
So when it came to sharing a recipe for Gulab Jamun here on the blog, you can imagine the pressure of reciprocating those flavors that mumma bring with hers. The pressure what so huge that I told myself, “never mind… you can’t do it all!”. So I left it to a good opportunity whenever it arises, when I’ll be able to have mumma cook some for me and for Indian Simmer.
The opportunity came when I was in India a couple months back. Like every time she visits, this time as well when the butterfly was visiting her, her grandma decided to make gulab jamuns for her. This time I was ready with my notepad and camera. Jotted down all the minor details and shot everything, step by step. And as a result, there’s a Gulab Jamun recipe on this blog now! I might not be confident enough to say this for many other recipes on my blog but these are the best you’ll ever try!
For Gulab Jamun Balls:
Mawa (milk solids)- 250 gm. (room temperature. preferably fresh otherwise store bought is good enough.)
All Purpose Flour- 25 gm.
Cardamom powder- 1/2 teaspoon
Semolina- 1 tablespoon
Milk- 1-2 tablespoons
Sugar crystals- 12- 15 (optional)
Ghee- 1 1/2 cups (for deep frying)
For Chashni (simple syrup):
Sugar- 1 cup
Water- 1 cup
Cardamom powder- 1 teaspoon
For Gulab Jamun Balls:
In a large mixing bowl bring all the ingredients together. Hold on to the milk for now and use as required.
Using hand mash the mawa and mix the dry ingredients. Now a few teaspoons at a time add milk, just enough to make the kneading smooth. Knead the mix into a smooth dough making sure there are no lumps formed but at the same time the dough is not too loose either. Should be firm just enough to dig your finger in easily but smooth at the same time.
Divide the dough into equal portions, approximately 1 1/2 teaspoon each. Cover with a damp cloth to keep the dough from drying.
Now one portion at a time roll the dough into smooth balls. Flatten between your palms into a disc. Place one sugar crystal in the middle. Bring the corners together to roll into a smooth ball. Repeat the same for the whole dough. Cover with a damp cloth and get the chashni ready.
Bring sugar and water together in a saucepan. Bring it to a rolling boil. Turn down the heat. and let it thicken.
To check if the chashni is ready for gulab jamun, dip a spoon in the chashni. Let it cool to make it easy to touch. Now take couple drops of chashni between your thumb and index finger. Touch the finger and thumb, open and close to see if they a strand. If it makes just one strand then its right for gulab jamuns. If makes two strands then its probably too thick for the gulab jamuns. Note the step in the video above.Once the chashni is thick enough to make one strand then its ready. This is called “ek taar ki chashni” which just means single strand syrup in hindi.
Sprinkle cardamom. Set aside and drop the fried balls while the chashni is still hot to warm.
Bringing it all together:
Heat ghee in a wok. 5-7 balls at a time deep fry the gulab jamun balls until golden brown.
Once golden brown take them out of the wok and straight into the hot/warm chashni. Give them a quick swirl to coat all the gulab jamuns in chashni. Let them sit for at least 15-20 minute before serving warm.