Savory Biscuits Studded with Cumin Seeds (A Kind of
My grandmother always had an enormous tin of mutthris,
savory cookies, tucked away in the storeroom next to
our kitchen. We ate them with the sweet, hot-and-sour
ginger-mango chutney that she also stored close by. It
was one of our favorite snack foods to have at
Over the years I have come up with my own variation of
the traditional recipe. Instead of using ajowan seeds,
which taste rather like thyme, I use cumin seeds, and
I make my mutthris much thinner. My grandchildren just
love them this way.
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter), plus a little
more for rubbing
Olive or peanut oil for deep-frying
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the
cumin seeds and mix them in. Rub in the ghee. Slowly
add about 5 tablespoons water, gather the flour
together, and make a ball. You are aiming for a stiff
dough. Knead very briefly, form into a ball again, and
rub it with a little ghee. Put the ball in a plastic
bag and set it aside for 30 minutes.
Knead the dough again until it is smooth, and divide
into 3 parts. Keep two covered while you work with the
third. Roll it out as thin as possible, about 1/16
inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out 3-inch
rounds. Prod the cookies with a fork and spread out on
a tray. Make all the cookies this way.
Pour about 1 inch oil into a frying pan and set over
medium-low heat. Give th oil 7-10 minutes to heat up.
When it is hot, put in as many as the pan can hold
easily and fry them, turningnow and then, until they
are golden on both sides. Lift them out with a slotted
spoon and let then drain on paper towels. Make all the
mutthris this way. When they have drained and cooled
thoroughly, store them in a cookie tin or a ziplock
plastic bag. They will last at least a week.
Fresh Limeade (Neebu ka Sharbat)
Makes 1 tall glass
Indian limes are juicy and small. Use whatever limes
you can find.
5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
4 tablespoons superfine sugar
3/4 cup water, plain or fizzy
Mix the lime juice and sugar in a small bowl. Let the
sugar dissolve completely. Pour into a tall glass.
Pour in the water, either plain or fizzy, and add a
few ice cubes. Stir.
Everyday Cauliflower (Roz ki Gobi)
This is one of the ways our cauliflower was often
cooked at home. I use a 2-pound head of cauliflower
that yields about 7 cups of florets. When cutting the
florets, make sure that each piece has a head about
1/2 inches wide, has a stem, and is about the same in
length, or longer, as the width at the top.
6 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
7 cups delicate cauliflower florets
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground amchoor (green mango powder) or 1
tablespoon lemon juice
Generous pinch of ground asafetida
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into
very fine julienne strips (cut into very thin slices
first, then stack the slices and cut into fine strips)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh green chilies
Pour the oil into a large frying pan and set over
medium heat. When it is hot, put in all the
cauliflower florets. Stir and fry them until they turn
reddish in spots. Remove them with a slotted spoon and
spread them out on a platter lined with paper towels.
Turn off the heat under the frying pan and remove all
but i tablespoon of the oil.
Put the drained florets in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt,
turmeric, cayenne, coriander, and amchoor over the
top. Toss gently to mix. Taste for balance of flavors,
making adjustments if needed.
Set the frying pan with its 1 tablespoon of oil over
medium heat. When it is hot, put in the asafetida, and
a second later the cumin seeds. Let the seeds sizzle
for 10 seconds. Now put in all the ginger shreds and
stir for 30 seconds. Put in all the cauliflower and
stir gently to mix. Add a generous sprinkling of
water, cover, and turn the heat down very, very low.
Cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until the cauliflower
is just done and all the flavors have blended.
Sprinkle the cilantro and green chilies, if desired,
over the top. Toss and serve.
Puffed Spiced Breads with Fenugreek (Methi wali
In our family, we ate these bedvis with potato curries
and pickles for breakfast on Sundays. Usually, one
person rolled the breads while another fried them,
keeping up a steady rhythm until all the dough had
been used up. The breads cook fast, taking less than a
minute each, so it is a good idea to have everything
ready and then cook them just before you sit down to
eat. My daughters used to help me, but now even my
grandchildren join in the rolling, almost fighting
each other to wield the rolling pin. I still do not
allow them to come near the hot oil. They are allowed
to watch from a safe distance.
Bedvis are best when they are just fried. If you wish
to eat them somewhat later, stack them one on top of
the other (they will deflate, but no matter) and keep
them well covered. Do not refrigerate them. Serve them
at room temperature or wrap them in a bundle of foil
and heat in a medium oven for 10 minutes.
2 cups chapati flour (ata), or a mixture of 1 cup
sifted whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose,
unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons corn, peanut, or olive oil for the
dough, plus more for deep-frying and rubbing on the
3 tablespoons very finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi ),
well crumbled, dried stalks removed
Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Dust with the
coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Mix well. Dribble in
the 2 tablespoons oil and rub into the flour. Add the
cilantro and rub it well into the flour, letting it
release its moisture during this process. Now add the
fenugreek and mix thoroughly. Slowly add enough water,
a little at a time, so you can gather all the dough
together into a ball. You are aiming for a stiff
dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
Form the dough into a ball. Rub the ball with a little
oil, then slip it into a ziplock or other plastic bag
and leave for 30 minutes.
Bimla's Chicken Curry (DahiMurgh)
This recipe comes from Bimla, who married my cousin
Shashi, Saran Bhua's son. The recipe is very like my
mother's, only Bimla keeps the sauce thick and
clinging to the chicken pieces. It is utterly
I buy a 3 1/4 pound organic chicken and get the
butcher to skin it and cut it into small serving
pieces. Legs should be separated into drumsticks and
thighs, and each breast should be cut into two pieces.
Serve with rice or phulkas.
3 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
20 medium cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
one 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 tablespoons olive or other vegetable oil
8 green cardamom pods
Two 2-inch sticks cinnamon
8 whole cloves
14 whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon Kashmiri red-chili powder (or 1/2 teaspoon
cayenne plus 1/2 teaspoon of a nice sweet red paprika)
1 medium chicken, preferably organic, skinned, cut,
and chopped into small serving pieces, net weight
about 2 pounds 10 ounces
1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Put the onions into a blender. Add the garlic and
ginger, and blend until you have a smooth paste.
Pour the oil into a large, heavy sauce or frying pan
set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the
cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns. Ten
seconds later, add the onion paste and the red-chili
powder. Now stir-fry for about 10 minutes, turning the
heat down to medium if necessary, until the paste has
turned a rich golden brown. Whenever it seems to
stick, sprinkle in a little water and stir it in.
Now add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, and stir
them in. Again, sprinkle in some water if the sauce
sticks to the bottom. When all the chicken has been
added, begin to put in the yogurt, a tablespoon at a
time, and stir it in just as you did the water. When
the sauce sticks, add yogurt and stir it in. Do this
this for about 10-12 minutes. When only 1/2 cup of
yogurt is left, put it all in and stir it around, Add
the salt as well, and stir to mix. Now cover, turn the
heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring now and
Uncover and stir, making sure the sauce is clinging to