Four Clan Kitchen

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Archive for the ‘Indian Food’ Category

Quick Indian Chili Pepper Pickles (Mirchi ka Achar)

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 26, 2016


My mom made the best Indian pickles in the world.  Before she died,  I transcribed some of her recipes (minimal as they were) onto my iPhone Notes.  Unfortunately, when I bought a new phone,  these files did not survive and now these recipes are nothing but a memory on my tongue.  So I was delighted to come across a recipe on the website called Indian Simmer.  I adapted and the simplest one and used the last of my garden’s serranos to make a pickle you can prepare in just a few minutes and eat within a few hours.


  • 250 gm chili peppers, any combination.  I used a mix of red fresno and serrano peppers, but Thai bird peppers are traditional and much, much hotter.
  • 1 tbs.  brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (omit if you cannot find these)
  • Generous pinch of Asafoetida (Hing).  Skip if you cannot find it,  but this is like fish sauce and adds a lot of umami, although it would taste awful if you placed a pinch on your tongue.
  • 5-6 tablespoons oil, preferably mustard oil  (this oil really lends the distinct Indian pickle flavor, but swap with other unflavored oils if you have to). There should be enough oil to fully coat the peppers.  This is the second preservative.
  • Salt to taste  (1 used 3 tsp- this acts as a preservative, so don’t skimp.
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 tbs. Lemon juice (use vinegar if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp. Turmeric powder



  • Heat the mustard oil until it is smoking, then turn off the stove and allow it to cool completely to room temperature.  This reduces the pungency of the mustard oil.
  • Stem the chillies and pulse them in a food processor to get smallish pieces (this will only take a few pulses) .  You can also cut these by hand which is traditional.
  • Place the chillies in a medium sized bowl and add salt.  Dry brine the chillies for 1/2 hour (or longer).
  • You can drain the water from the chilies if you want to reduce the heat after the brining.
  • In a coffee grinder,  coarsely grind the mustard, fennel, fenugreek seeds and transfer to a small bowl.  Mix in the asafetida, oil, salt, sugar, lemon juice and turmeric powder.
  • Toss the spice mix with the chillies.
  • Taste and adjust the salt and lemon to taste.
  • Transfer the pickles to a glass jar.   You should probably sterilize the jar or run it through the dishwasher.
  • Let the pickles sit on the counter for a day and then store in the fridge.  These should keep for a long time.




  • The pickles will taste better after a few days, although they can be used right away if you cannot wait.
  • The pickles will also lose some of their heat over time.
  • These pickles can be used as an accompaniment to any Indian meal, but are also great on buttered toast, on eggs, you name it!


Posted in Asian, condiments, Indian Food, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Whole Wheat Naan (Indian Leavened Flat Bread)

Posted by fourclankitchen on November 28, 2015


Naan as anyone who has made a trip to an Indian restaurant knows is an Indian leavened flat bread (most Indian breads are unleavened).  Given their high cost at the grocery store, I decided that I would try my hand at making these at home.  I found a recipe that uses Indian whole wheat (atta) flour at a website called Monsoon Spice.  While atta  is  technically a whole wheat flour, this variety of wheat has been bred over millennia to have very little bran and thus a relatively high glycemic index.   Regular whole wheat is not a great option for naans either since it is  tough-tasting and not at all delicate like a naan, typically made with all-purpose flour, is supposed to be.  I had read some place that whole wheat pastry flour, which is whole wheat flour ground superfine,  was a very good whole-wheat flour to use in breads, pizzas and even pastries (!) so I decided to give it a shot.  I was very pleased with the naans this produced, very supple and delicate.  So here is the recipe with a small number of adaptations from the original.


2½ cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour (I am guessing that this can also be substituted by whole what pastry flour)
¼ cup warm milk
¾ – 1 cup Yogurt (I used 1 cup)
1 packet Yeast
½ tbsp Sugar
¼ tsp Baking Powder
1-1½ tsp Salt
2 tbsp Oil
Warm water for kneading

Flour for dusting and rolling the naan.

Ghee/butter for frying and for brushing on top.

Toppings: anything you like. I used: Nigella seeds (kalonji), garlic & chopped cilantro.



1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk (110˚F).
2. Mix flours, baking powder and salt.  Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, slowly add  yogurt, oil and yeast. Add little warm water as needed. Continue to knead till you get a soft pliable dough, about 7-10 min.   You can also make your dough in a high-end blender or food processor or you can knead by hand.
3. Make a smooth round dough ball and coat with a thin film of oil.  Cover the dough with a cheese cloth or plastic wrap and keep it in a warm place for 1½ to 2 hours till the dough doubles  in size.  I turn my oven on at the lowest setting for 5 min and then turn it off and let the dough rise in the oven.
4. Punch down the dough to release air and divide it into 8-12 equal  sized balls.


Cooking the Naan: 

There are several ways to cook the naan: in the oven, on a grill and on a griddle on a stove top.   The recipes for all of these are available on various websites.   I used a Lodge cast-iron griddle on the stove as follows:
1. Heat the tawa/griddle till quite hot.

2.  While the griddle is heating, roll or stretch the dough into a round or tear-drop shaped flat bread about 1/4 inch thick.   Sprinkle your toppings and gently press them into the dough using a  rolling pin.  I pressed a few Nigella seeds on both sides.
3. Flip the naan and sprinkle a little water and  place the water side down on the heated griddle. Cook for a minute or so  until you see a few bubbles form and  then flip. The naan should have brown blisters/spots on the side that was down.

4.  Cook the second side for a minute or so as well.  If desired,  smear some ghee/butter to the top of the naan before serving.

Serve with curries, pickles or any Indian meal.  Naans also make a great pizza base.


Flavoring/Tempering the ghee (tadka): Optional

As an alternative to smearing ghee alone on your cooked naan, you can temper the ghee with nigella seeds, minced garlic and cilantro and smear this concoction on the naan right before serving.  Simply heat 2 tbs of ghee in a small sauce pan, add the nigella seeds, minced garlic and chopped cilantro till the ghee turns aromatic, a matter of few seconds.  Take the ghee off the fire and your schmear is ready.

Posted in Asian, Breads, Breakfast, Brunch, Indian Food, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Onion-Tomato Chutney

Posted by fourclankitchen on January 24, 2015


This is a versatile and delicious condiment that is at home with an Indian flatbread, a rice pilaf,  tortilla chips or grilled chicken or vegetables.  Really,  you could eat it by the teaspoonful with no accompaniment  and feel that life is good.  It is served in Indian restaurants as an accompaniment to Dosas (rice crepes) and is apparently a staple in many homes in the southern half of India.

This version is based on an adaptation of a recipe I found at  although I made some minor changes to fit what I had on hand and what is easily available.  These changes follow the recipe.



2 tbs oil

1 really large onion or 2 or 3 small ones, coarsely chopped.

4 large dried red peppers, torn into large pieces  (these can be as hot or mild as you please, see note below)

2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 tsp minced  ginger (optional, not in the original)

1 tsp minced garlic (not in the original recipe)

Large pinch Asafoetida (hing), omit if you don’t have access to it

A few bits of the seedless tamarind or 1/2 tsp of tamarind concentrate (see note below)

1 tsp almond or peanut butter (the original recipe calls for 50 g of cashew nuts or sesame seeds, peanuts or roasted yellow split peas, see notes  below)

3/4 tsp  brown sugar (original recipe calls for jaggery, see notes)

salt to taste



1.  Heat oil in a large cast iron or other skillet.

2.  Add the red chile pieces, hing, ginger and garlic to the oil, stir for a few seconds, then add the onions and salt.  Continue to saute till the onions pick up a light brown color.  The browner the onions, the more complex the chutney will be, but you do not want to crisp the onions.

3. Now add the tomatoes, almond butter and brown sugar and sauté until the tomatoes turn soft.

4.  Cool and then blend in a blender or a food process until smooth.  You may have to add a few tsp of water to get the consistency you desire.  Taste and adjust the salt and sugar.

5.  Serve as a condiment or side with rice, flat breads, roasted vegetables or chicken  or as a schmear for any sandwich.


Notes on the Special Ingredients and their substitutions:

1.  Dried red peppers:  The main point here is the color and the flavor and not the heat.  The recipe calls for the large and rather mild Kashmiri chillies.  Here in the US, it is easy to find dried red peppers used in Mexican cooking.  I picked up a bunch at the local grocery store (they are also available at Whole Foods)- these were simply called Mexican Peppers and were pretty hot.  If you want a milder pepper, go for the dried Anaheims and discard the seeds.  Do not use the Indian, Thai or Chinese small red peppers, they will most likely kill you.

2. Dried tamarind cakes  (nearly seedless) are sold in Indian and oriental grocery stores (see image).  You have to break off a chunk of the desired size.  In this recipe you can dump the chunk directly into the skillet, but for most recipes, you soak in warm water for 15 minutes and rub the tamarind with your hands and strain it to get the pulp.  If you are feeling lazy,  you can go the tamarind concentrate route (see image of the container).  I also see cans of tamarind juice sold in the Mexican section of grocery stores, this work just as well and are probably the best option if available.

3.  Jaggery is unrefined sugar sold in lumps at the Indian grocery store.  Brown sugar is a fine substitute.

4.  I used almond butter instead of the 4 options the original recipe provided.  I think the point here is a mellow richness and smoothness to a chutney that can have a very dramatic flavor profile.  So I figured that almond butter is a fine substitute for whole cashews or peanuts since they do become butter-ish once they are blended anyway.


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Pongal (a savory rice and lentil dish from Southern India)

Posted by fourclankitchen on December 30, 2014

IMG_0808There was a South Indian temple opposite my childhood home.  All winter,  folks gathered here in the morning after their Prabhat Pheri, a form of exercise, music and prayer combined.  After singing for some more time, they distributed a prasad, sacred food eaten after being offered to the Gods.  This temple offered Pongal, a savory lentil and rice dish,  on small strips of banana leaves.  It tasted divine and my mother claimed that only prasad could taste this good because in fact it was blessed by the gods.  I can still taste this on my tongue and smell the banana leaf steaming under the hot Pongal.

I later learned that Pongal was a standard breakfast dish in many Southern Indian homes and that as with its north Indian counterpart (khichdi),  there are as many versions of it as there are homes.

Here is a version that is pretty close to what my tongue remembers from my childhood.

A note about some of the harder to find ingredients in the tempering.  The core ingredients are the ghee (or other oil), mustard seeds and pepper corns.  The other ingredients can be omitted,  but the flavor will not be the same.




1. 1 cup rice  (any long grain rice will do,  I used a combination of jasmine and basmati)

2. 1/4-1/2 cup hulled moong dal (skinned yellow mung bean lentils, the  kind available in Indian and Chinese grocery stores).

3. 3 1/4 cup water (more or less depending on your desired consistency and whether you use a pressure cooker or not).  You want approximately twice the amount of water as your rice and dal combined.

4. Salt to taste.


Tempering (tadka)

1.  2 tbsp ghee

2. 1 tsp brown mustard seeds

3.  1 tsp cumin seeds

3. 1 tsp. pepper corn

4. 1 tsp ginger  (I did not have this, but do not omit)

5. large pinch asafoetida (hing)

6.  1-2 tbsp. cashew nuts  ( I did not have this, but do not omit or substitute)

7.  1-3 dried red chillies

8.  10-15 fresh curry leaves  (do not omit)



1.  Dry roast the unwashed mung beans in a skillet until they turn color slightly and become fragrant.  You can omit this step, but it imparts a nutty flavor to the beans and ensures that the rice and beans cook evenly.

2. Mix mung beans with the rice and wash in several changes of water until the water runs clear.

3.  Place the rice and lentil mix in a pressure cooker and add water.

4.  Season with salt (the water should taste like sea water) and pressure cook till the cooker whistles once.  Adjust for your own cooker.  If you don’t have one,  cook in a large pot, until the rice and mung beans become completely soft, but still hold shape.  The water should have all been absorbed.

5. Temper the Pongal as follows:

Heat the ghee in  a small skillet.  When hot add all listed ingredients, saving the hing and cashews for last.  When the seeds sputter and release their fragrance, remove from heat and add to the Pongal.

Mix gently,  adjust the salt and eat plain, with yogurt, an Indian chutney or sambar.

Posted in Asian, Breakfast, Brunch, Indian Food, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chicken Patiala

Posted by fourclankitchen on March 2, 2013

photoThis chicken dish is a classic of Mughlai cuisine,  the cuisine of the region surrounding New Delhi and its hinterland.  This was the cuisine of the Mughal royals, the muslim rulers who ruled from Delhi and  were of Persian (Uzhbeki) descent.  The cuisine of their courts was rich and a fusion on Indian and Persian themes.  It is the main cuisine seen in Indian restaurants around the world and is butchered by the addition of unsavory amounts of cream and nuts.  These dishes are meant to be rich and eaten at special occasions, but they are exquisitely delicate and balanced.  This particular version of chicken patiala is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s awesome book “Flavors of India”.  I have adapted it to my taste,  mostly by reducing the amounts of poppy seed used. I have made it with the amount the original recipe calls for in the past and found it too gummy.   The dish also calls was melon seeds (pepitas).  I used almonds instead, simply because I did not have pepitas (I think pepitas would be better).  Finally,  I switched the raisins for cranberries, because I taught their sweet-tart taste would better offset the richness of the dish.  Enjoy, but only once in a while.

photo 1


4 tbs ghee/clarified butter  (can use any cooking oil or butter,  but ghee is better)

2 lb bone skinless chicken thighs cut to bite size pieces

1 potato,  cubed into 1″ pieces (optional,  use if you want to stretch your dish a bit farther)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped  (the original recipe does not call for this)

1 medium onion, finely chopped in the food processor

4 plum tomatoes,  finely chopped  (the original recipe asks for 2 large tomatoes)

2 tbs. poppy seeds + 2 tbs. almonds (optional), ground finely in a coffee grinder (the original recipe calls for 6 tbs of poppy seeds and 7 tbs of melon seeds).

2/3 cup full fat yoghurt

1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (use Hungarian sweet paprika as a substitute)

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp garam masala

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup half and half (can use milk)

2 tbs blanched slivered almonds

2 tbs. raisins or  sweetened cranberries

cilantro for garnish if desired

photo 2


1.  Make a paste of the crushed poppy seed and almonds with a small amount of water and set aside.

2.  Heat 4 tbs.  of ghee in a large heavy bottom pan (Dutch oven is perfect for this)

3.  Add onions and garlic and saute until onions are lightly browned.

4.  Add the tomatoes, lower the heat and cook until tomatoes are broken down and release the fat.  This caramelizes the onion and tomato paste and is absolutely key to that Indian food flavor that one might crave if one craved Indian food.

5.  Now add the almond and poppy seed paste and saute for a few minutes

6. Add the yoghurt a tbs at a time, until fully incorporated.

7.  Add all the spices and salt,  except garam masala.

8.  Now add the chicken and potato (if using) pieces and mix to combine thoroughly.  Stir and saute for a few minutes.

9.  Add the water, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 min.

10.  Add the garam masala, half and half (single cream), raisins and almonds and simmer on low heat.

11.  Garnish with cilantro if using.   Eat.

photo 3-2

Posted in Asian, Indian Food, Poultry | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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