Monday, 28 May 2012

Recipe: Mango Barfi

India's favourite fruit - Indian mangoes - are ripe and in season! This will bring a burst of sunshiney joy to most people I know of South Asian descent, who eagerly await this time of year for these scarce few weeks when we are able to purchase the fruit here in England. There is no flavour like it, yes you can get the tinned pulp of the 'Kesar Keri/Mango' all year round in Indian supermarkets but it's just not the same. Neither are the greenish-red skinned mangoes of the West Indies, nothing compares to the sweet, fruity, delicious flavour from the saffron orange mangoes from India and Pakistan when they are at their peak season.

For years we have tried to recreate this flavour in the Devnaa kitchen, how wonderful it would be if we could offer this amazing aroma to our customers all year round but alas, absolutely nothing compares to the real deal. So, with the fruit in season and us having purchased boxes full to enjoy while we can, I snuck two mangoes out of the box when nobody was looking to create this mango barfi recipe that's easy to make and everybody can enjoy at home. Keep it chilled in the fridge once made and consume within 2 days, if it lasts that long!

I should mention that there are many recipes for mango barfi available on the Internet and this one is a little different from the rest, this one is just a bit easier with the use of milk powder and we prefer the smooth, indulgent texture and light flavour gained from this method. Perfect for summer :)

Mango Barfi (makes about 20 pieces)


2 ripe kesar mangoes
100g sweetened condensed milk
100ml double cream
1/4 tsp vanilla seeds (or extract if you don't have seeds)
brown sugar to taste (if required)
250g milk powder
3 cardamom pods
some good quality dark chocolate, optional.

  • First the messy bit - slice the mangoes, remove the skin and place all of the flesh in a food processor. (I got about 250g worth of flesh but the quantity will depend on the mangoes, bear in mind that the other ingredients in this recipe were calculated using 250g of mango pulp).
  • Pulse the fruit to make a puree and then strain this puree through a fine metal sieve and into a measuring jug. You should end up with smooth, thick mango pulp.
  • Add the condensed milk to the mango pulp, mix well and then pour the mixture into a non stick wok.
  • Place over a gentle heat and cook, stirring continuously, until reduced by half.
  • Add the cream and the vanilla seeds and continue to cook until the mixture becomes really thick.
  • Taste the mixture at this stage, taking care whilst doing so as it will be extremely hot. If you feel you need to, add some brown sugar to taste and then continue to cook down.
  • The mixture is ready for the next step if when you draw a line through it with your spatula, it holds for 2 seconds before coming together again.
  • Add about three quarters of the milk powder and mix well to create a smooth dough that comes clean away from the wok. Add more milk powder if required.
  • Turn off the heat, crush the cardamom (fresh cardamom really makes a difference in this recipe however if you don't have it to hand you can use ready ground), and mix it into the dough.
  • Set in silicone moulds or a tray. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating.
  • Set in the fridge for at least 1 hour before demoulding or cutting into pieces.
  • If using dark chocolate, gently melt the chocolate and dip or drizzle the pieces as required. Set on greaseproof paper and then refrigerate the barfi until ready to serve.
  • Best served chilled.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Recipe: Spinach and Corn Kofta Biryani

Weekends are always difficult in the Devnaa household - with such a large family, all of us in and out of the house constantly, busy with work or meeting friends, and of course the family and friends that pop over to say hello - Mum's constant dilemma is what to cook! Something we can all enjoy together on the rare occasion that we all happen to be at home at the same time; something we can individually heat up and eat on the go when we're busy running around; something special to serve to guests who will inevitably stop by; something to cater to all of the above which once it's done it's done - no having to make hot chapatis to serve with it every time someone wants eat, and no heating up large saucepans of curry or daal every 5 minutes!
The perfect solution is of course the Biryani. To some the thought of this layered rice dish is terrifying as the process of making it is fairly long, but boy is it worth it! When you break the sections down, the work itself isn't difficult at all, just lengthy. However, the time and effort put in before hand saves a day of continuing to slave over a hot stove and the all-in-one style of the biryani means that you don't have to worry about making anything else to go alongside, it's a meal in itself.

You can make a biryani out of almost anything, the basic concept is rice layered with curry and baked in the oven. Some prefer a simple jeera rice, others will want a colourful pilau style. The curry in between the rice layers can be anything from vegetables to lamb, chicken, or eggs. The best thing about the biryani is it's versatility, from what is included in the layers to the fact that it serves as a delicious hearty family meal, if it's already made you can eat it as a quick but filling meal on the go, or it makes a beautiful addition to a dinner party menu.

This biryani is admittedly quite long winded to make but so worth the effort. I came up with the combination as it is something that everyone in my family can enjoy - quite a difficult thing to achieve when cooking for 10 people! Most of the parts can be made in advance though and none of the processes are at all difficult. It will serve 8 - 10 as a main meal and 15-18 if served alongside anything else. Serve alongside a variety of chutney for extra yummyness!

Spinach and Corn Kofta Biryani

for the palak (spinach) paneer kofta balls:
2 medium potatoes (about 200 g worth)
150 g paneer, crumbled or finely grated
2 tsp sunflower oil
150 g spinach leaves
1 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1 1/2 tsp finely grated ginger
2 tsp of finely chopped green chillies
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
50 g fine cornmeal (maize)

  • Boil or steam the potatoes until completely tender, mash them and leave aside to cool completely.
  • Roughly chop the spinach.
  • Heat up the oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the spinach, garlic, ginger and chillies.
  • Toss all of the ingredients in the pan together and cook for about 3 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and the flavours are well combined.
  • Leave aside to cool completely. (The reason for allowing the potatoes and spinach to cool is so that the kofta balls form better - if they are too warm when added to the paneer I personally find that it affects the texture and makes the paneer clump together).
  • Pre heat oven to gas mark 9/240C/475F (this sound really hot but remember that everything is already cooked) and keep aside a greased baking sheet.
  • Combine the potatoes, paneer and spinach together with all of the remaining ingredients apart from the maize.
  • Mash everything together, taste and add extra seasoning if required.
  • Add the maize as required to form a soft dough that doesn't stick to the bowl.
  • I like to make small koftas by taking one teaspoon of the mixture at a time and rolling into a smooth ball. This way will make about 40 balls but feel free to make them bigger or smaller if you wish.
  • Dust each ball in a little more maize, place on greased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally until they are browned.
  • Note: the koftas can be steamed or fried as well as baked, baking is just my personal preference and as the oven will be needed again anyway it just makes sense.

for the sweetcorn gravy:
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 large onions (about 250 g), pureed
1 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
2 tsp finely grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped hot green chilli
500g pureed tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp coriander and cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
150 g sweetcorn
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp sugar

  • Heat up the oil in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat.
  • When the oil is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, allow them to fizz in the hot oil.
  • Add the pureed onion and cook over a medium heat until the onions are light brown (some people prefer to roughly chop the onions first, fry them and then puree them before using them but I don't feel that's a necessary step).
  • Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and allow to fry slightly alongside the onions, taking care not to burn the garlic.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and add the salt, coriander cumin powder, chilli powder and turmeric.
  • Cook for a few minutes until you see the oil start to separate from the tomatoes.
  • Add the sweetcorn, cover and cook over a low heat until the sweetcorn is tender.
  • Stir in the lemon and sugar before turning off the heat.
for the rice:
400 g (about 2 cups) of long grain basmati rice
1 L water
1 1/2 tsp sunflower oil
1 1/2 tsp ghee
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch of cinnamon, crushed
3 cloves
2 medium onions (150 g), finely chopped
200 g diced mixed peppers
2 tsp salt

  • Rinse the rice until the water runs clear and soak in clean water for one hour.
  • Heat up the oil and ghee in a large heavy based pan (I like to mix the ghee and oil as the ghee gives great flavour but the oil is healthier).
  • Add the cumin, cinnamon and cloves to the hot oil and allow to fizz.
  • Add the onions and cook gently until they become translucent.
  • Stir in the peppers.
  • Drain the water from the rice and add to the pan. Stir to make sure that all the grains of rice are lightly coated in oil.
  • Pour in the 1 L water (the measurement is normally twice the amount of water to rice, so as I used 2 cups of rice, I added 4 of water).
  • Stir in the salt, cover the pan and allow to cook for 10 minutes without lifting the lid.
  • After 10 minutes give the rice a bit of stir. Cover and continue to cook until the rice is cooked but firm and the water has evaporated.

optional ingredients for tarka (fried seasoning):
100 ml sunflower oil
2 tbsp curry leaves
3 tbsp cashew nuts
3 tbsp peanuts
2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • Lower the heat of the oven to gas mark 5/190C/375F.
  • Lightly grease a large baking dish (my Mum's vast collection of Tupperware includes a beautiful 10"/25.5cm round, 4"/10cm deep glass baking dish which I find fits this recipe perfectly).
  • Press half of the rice (you don't have to wait for it to cool, yay!) into the bottom of the dish.
  • Pour on the gravy and spread to make an even layer.
  • Arrange the kofta balls in the gravy, pressing them in slightly.
  • Press the remaining rice on top.
  • If you wish to decorate the top of the biryani with the tarka, use the above ingredients for the following:
    • Heat up the oil in a small frying pan.
    • Add the curry leaves, cashew nuts and peanuts.
    • Fry for 5 seconds before turning off the heat and adding the sesame seeds.
    • Allow to cook in the hot oil until the nuts have browned.
    • Pour on top of the biryani.
  • Cover the biryani in foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Mozarella Melt Pakoras

Pakoras are one of the most famous Indian snack foods. They are usually made from vegetables, paneer, chicken or bread that have been finely chopped or sliced, dipped into a batter made from gram flour, and then deep fried. As they are so easy to make and come in so many delicious varieties they are quite popular as starters or snacks at parties, or even as weekend dinner treats for the family.

Growing up as part of an (extremely) large extended family, and with pakoras being one of my Grandmother's favourite foods, I have been lucky enough to enjoy all sorts of pakoras in different flavours, shapes and sizes, on more than my fair share of occasions!

With these wonderful morsels being such a go-to item, in our house at least, we have settled on just a few of our favourite varieties - potato, onion, chilli and fenugreek - that we hardly ever deviate from which is a shame as they are so versatile. Bearing this in mind, last weekend I went on a bit of a mission to create a couple of new varieties, just to break up the norm. Admittedly, the two that I came up with take a bit more time and effort than the usual chop-dip-fry method but on a special occasion, or when you'd just like to try something different, they are definitely worth giving a go.
Here's the first recipe - mashed potato pakoras (known to us at home as 'bateta wada'), with a mozzarella melt middle, enjoy! :)

Mozzarella Melt Pakoras (makes about 20)

500g Potatoes
2 teaspoons Salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon Chilli Flakes
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
Juice of half a Lemon
1 tablespoon Sugar
50g Mozzarella
200ml Sunflower Oil
For the batter:
150g Gram Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1 tablespoon Yoghurt
100ml Water
2 tablespoons Chopped Coriander
  • There are a few different ways of making the filling for potato pakoras, some people like to make a dry curry using all of the ingredients plus a little oil and then mash the result, personally I find it easier to boil the potatoes first until completely tender and proceed as follows.
  • Allow the potatoes to cool enough so that you can handle them, after which you can peel and mash them.
  • Add the salt to taste, bear in mind that you will need to add enough to flavour the mozzarella which will be contained within the potato, so a little extra in this case is usually better.
  • Add the chilli flakes, chilli powder, lemon and sugar and mash all of the ingredients together until they are well combined
  • At this stage taste the potato - this is where most of the flavour lies for these pakoras so you want it to be perfect, if you feel you need to add more of anything add it now, and then mash to combine again.
  • Chop the mozzarella into approximately half teaspoon sized pieces.
  • Place a tablespoon of the potato filling in the palm of your hand and flatten into a circle about 1cm thick.
  • Place a piece of mozzarella in the middle of the potato circle.
  • Add a second tablespoon of the potato filling on top of the mozzarella.
  • Carefully wrap the cheese in the potato and roll into a smooth ball.
  • Repeat until all of the potato mixture is used up, you should get approximately 20 pakoras in total.
  • Set the oil to heat up in a deep frying pan placed over a medium heat.
  • Whilst the oil heats, prepare the batter for the pakoras.
  • Sift the gram flour into a mixing bowl along with the salt and paprika.
  • Whisk in the yoghurt and water to create a smooth batter. The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter so add about three quarters of the water first and then the rest (plus more if required) until you have the right consistency (the amount of water you need depends on the gram flour, sometimes it needs more, sometimes less).
  • Fold in the chopped coriander.
  • When the oil is hot (test by frying a drop of batter, it should sink, then rise after about 3 seconds), you can start frying the pakoras.
  • Dip the pakoras in the batter to coat them (2 - 5 at a time depending on how big your frying pan is and how comfortable you are with this process), transfer to the oil and fry until golden (about 2 minutes max).
  • Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
  • Serve these hot with a spicy tomato chutney - if they get cold you won't get the oozy cheese in the middle which is the best bit!

Pea & Paneer Pakoras (Mutter Paneer Pakoras)

Continuing the pakora recipes, here's the second one I tried this weekend to give the humble classic a twist. With most of us at home being vegetarian, paneer is a popular ingredient in our kitchen and alongside pakoras, mutter paneer - a curry made with peas and bite sized cubes of paneer - is another very familiar dish.
Here, I thought why not combine the two? We hardly ever make paneer pakoras at home which is strange considering how much we all love paneer and pakoras(!) so this was my second effort at introducing something new to my family's collection of favourite party recipes.

Mutter Paneer Pakoras (makes around 20)

400g Potatoes
250g Paneer (home made or store bought)
Salt, to taste
2 teaspoons Chaat Masala
200ml Sunflower Oil
For the filling:
2 tablespoons Sunflower Oil
1 large Onion, finely chopped
200g Peas
3cm stick of Cinnamon
2 Cloves
1 teaspoon Ginger, grated
1 clove Garlic, crushed
1 small Green Chilli, finely chopped
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons Coriander Cumin Powder
1/4 teaspoon Tamarind Paste
For the batter:
150g Gram Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 tablespoon Yoghurt
100ml Water
2 tablespoons chopped Coriander
  • Start by boiling the potatoes, whilst they boil and get cool enough to handle, prepare the pea filling.
  • Heat up the 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet pan over a medium heat.
  • Add the cinnamon and cloves, followed by the onion.
  • Gently cook until the onions begin to look translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli.
  • Cook for about another minute, allowing all of the flavours to infuse into the oil.
  • At this stage, if you wish to do so you can carefully remove the whole spices (cinnamon and cloves) from the pan - I make sure to do this as my family hate to be surprised by biting down on hidden whole spices when eating pakoras.
  • Add the peas, cover the pan and gently cook until the peas are tender.
  • Stir in the tamarind paste and cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and allow this filling to cool while you prepare the potatoes and paneer.
  • Peel and mash the potatoes and make sure they are completely cold so as not to melt the paneer when you add it.
  • Finely grate the paneer and combine with the mashed potatoes.
  • Mix the salt and chaat masala into the potato and paneer.
  • Take a tablespoon of the potato and paneer mixture and flatten into a circle about 5mm thick.
  • Create about 5 of these circles and lay on a flat surface.
  • Place about three quarters of a teaspoon of the pea mixture in the middle of each circle.
  • Top with a second circle of the potato and paneer mixture.
  • Working on one patty at a time, gently press down the outer layer so that the pea mixture is completely concealed within the potato and paneer mixture.
  • Shape into plump, round but slightly flattened patties.
  • Repeat until all the of pea filling is used up.
  • Place the 200ml oil to heat up in a deep frying pan over a medium heat.
  • Make the batter by sifting the gram flour, salt and paprika into a mixing bowl.
  • Whisk in the yoghurt and water until you have a smooth batter the consistency of pancake batter. Add more or less water if required.
  • Fold in the chopped coriander.
  • Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping some batter into the frying pan, if it sinks and rises after 2 seconds it is ready.
  • Carefully dip the patties into the batter to coat them and then fry until golden.
  • Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm alongside some tomato and chilli chutney.