Easy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken/ Chicken Makhani

IMG_2620

Butter chicken with naan – perfect comfort food anytime.

With the cool Fall weather comes cravings for warm hearty comfort food, and this creamy luscious butter chicken does not disappoint. Serve this dish atop fluffy basmati rice, or use as a vessel to dip your pillowy naan, and eat curled up by the crackling fireplace for maximum indulgence.

As it is made completely in the slow cooker, this dish is easy to prepare and makes your house smell divine as the aroma infuses the air. I have made this dish for potlucks, dinner parties, or just an easy weeknight meal and it is always a hit. Enjoy and comment below how you liked it!

Pantry Diva Logo1

Easy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken /

Chicken Makhani Recipe

Ingredients:
cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 medium red onion, finely chopped

For sauce:
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, finely grated
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup plain yogurt (greek ok too but I prefer this one)
1 can coconut milk (I like this one)
2 tablespoon red curry paste (I like this one)
1/4 cup milk (lowfat ok too)
1 scant tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

Garnish:
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (to taste)
2 tablespoon salted butter

Method:

1. Spray liner of slow cooker with cooking spray and add chopped onion
2. Chop chicken thighs into bite size pieces and put on top of chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt if desired.
3. Mix all the remaining sauce ingredients in separate bowl. Whisk together and pour over the chicken. Mix all together in slow cooker.
4. Add 2 tablespoons of cold butter on top. Cover and cook on high for 3.5 – 4 hours.
5. When done, mix together slowly with spoon. (It is ok if it looks a bit curdled, it will become thick and creamy). Add in chopped coriander and stir. Serve immediately.

Advertisements

Vegetable Khichidi Recipe

I have a confession to make. I call myself the Pantry Diva but there are times when even my pantry is bare. We were on vacation this past week and were eating out often, and I did not do my usual grocery shopping. Of course my lack of meal planning had no impact on my family’s incessant daily hunger pangs. One evening, we just returned from the beach and everyone was starving. I needed to make something fast and with literally no ingredients on hand. I decided to make khichidi, which is a one pot meal of rice and daal and vegetables and spices.

Image

I use basmati rice and masoor daal for my khichidi

You can throw any veggies or spices you have on hand, but usually less is more as it is a simple dish and you don’t want to have too many flavors competing with each other. So, while everyone showered I soaked the daal and rice (as I am too paranoid to buy a pressure cooker) and then quickly cooked the khichidi. I usually rate any dish’s success not by its taste or ease of cooking but instead by if my kids eat it or not…and they devoured it! (OK they were starving but hey I take any cooking successes I can get!)

As everyone was scarfing down my khichidi, I was putting all the spices back in my cupboard and I noticed one in particular: Hing.

Image

Hing (Asafoetida) can be bought in Indian grocery stores.

Hing? Although I have been using it for years, I realized I didn’t know much about it. I wondered what exactly is this strange spice and why does it make the khichidi taste so good? After some googling I found out Hing (Asafoetida in English) is a dried and ground resin extracted from a plant. Based on its unpleasant smell in its natural form, hing has been called such names as “Devil’s Dung” or “stinking gum”. This initial information was not encouraging me to find out more about hing. But I kept reading, and it got better: We usually buy hing from the supermarket in its commercial form not fresh form, so the flavor and smell is much more mild. It adds a savory flavor to the food similar to sautéed onion and garlic. In addition to being a flavor enhancer, it also has some health benefits such as aiding digestion and reducing gas. You can find more information about Hing here and here.

Image

Because the khichidi recipe is so versatile, you can add any combination of veggies and spices. I have made it both with and without hing and trust me, you need it. Although it has a subtle flavor, hing is the one spice that is essential in a tasty khichidi. You don’t notice it when it’s there, but you definitely miss it when it’s gone. And remember, a little hing goes a long way…you don’t need to use much. You can find it in any Indian grocery store if your local supermarket doesn’t have it. Apparently it is used in many other Indian dishes too so feel free to experiment. Add Hing (Asafoetida) into your pantry today!

Pantry Diva Tip: This khichidi recipe required grated fresh ginger, and I had no time to go shopping. Store your fresh ginger in the freezer, it keeps for a really long time. When a recipe calls for fresh ginger, just take it out of the freezer, grate what you need, and put it back in. No need to run to the store each time you need ginger!

Vegetable Khichidi Recipe

Image

INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Basmati Rice

½ Cup Masoor Daal

2-3 cups water 

NOTE: I tend to add more water (about 3 cups water) as I like the khichdi texture kind of “goopy”and stuck together, not like separate grains of rice. Feel free to reduce amount of water. But, if you have NOT presoaked the rice and daal, you can add more water and increase cooking time.

2 teaspoons cooking oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

1 bunch coriander, chopped (optional for garnish)

1 teaspoon Hing (Asafoetida)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)

½ teaspoon turmeric

Red chili powder,to taste

Salt, to taste

¾ cup peas (frozen ok)

Yoghurt (optional – to serve with khichidi)

NOTE: My recipe above is just a guide. You can add any vegetables you have on hand such as grated carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, etc. You can also add different spices, such as coriander powder, cumin powder, garam masala, black pepper, ginger, garlic. Just remember that this is a simple dish and you don’t want too many flavors competing with each other. Less is more!

PREPARATION:

1. Wash rice and daal and soak for 20 minutes. Note: You do not need to soak beforehand but then you must increase water and cooking time.

2.  Heat oil in a pot, and when hot add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and hing and stir for a minute.

3. Add chopped onion and stir until very light brown.

4. Add ginger, chili powder, turmeric, and salt and sauté for a few minutes.

5. Add drained rice and daal and mix.

6. Add water and peas and any additional vegetables. Heat until boils.

7. Cover pot and and cook on low heat until rice is done. It is usually done when there are little holes on top of the rice and the water has evaporated.

8. If desired, garnish with chopped coriander and serve with yoghurt or raita.

Vegetable Pakoras with Coriander and Mint Chutney

I remember the day my foodie 3 year old became a food enemy.  Before that day, I smugly grinned while other mothers talked about resorting to feeding their kids plain boiled pasta for days.  I scoffed at Annabel Karmel’s cookbooks that talked about the need for special recipes to feed fussy toddlers. As my kids ate their edamame and chicken satay, I thought I missed out on the picky food phase and even had the nerve to think it was because my superior cooking skills.

But then it happened. I had made a huge meal of vegetable pakoras, chicken curry, and masoor daal. These were things my son had previously eaten and liked. But instead of eating my food, he chose to have raisins and string cheese for dinner. I thought maybe he wasn’t feeling well. The next day I made some chicken nuggets and french fries (both baked but still very yummy) and he didn’t even try them!! Eating habits like that can drive any cook to insanity.

I then thought about how I always ate everything I was given when I was a child. But then slowly, little details began popping up in my mind suggesting otherwise. One example was during a vacation in India with my family. We were on an extensive tour of Jaipur, Agra and Rajasthan and between sightseeing, had dined at many amazing restaurants which offered numerous varieties of delicious food. But no matter what the dish was, for some reason all I wanted to eat were pakoras and Pepsi. Day after day, I turned away many beautiful dishes to the wrath of all servers and family members and was branded an ungrateful wretch.

So much good food to experience but all I could eat were pakoras and Pepsi for 2 weeks! My parents must have been as annoyed with me as I am now when my kids don’t eat what they are supposed to. It’s interesting how life comes full circle.

Vegetable Pakoras with Coriander and Mint Chutney



Ingredients:
3 cups Chickpea Flour (Besan)* Usually found in the Indian section of grocery store
1-2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon red chili powder
1 large potato, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 bunch green onions, chopped
5 red Indian onions, peeled and cut in long slices
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 bunch spinach, chopped
Vegetable Oil for frying

Preparation:
1. Add first 4 ingredients to create pakora batter. Add additional water as necessary. Mix well in large bowl so batter becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you are not sure with the consistency, thicker is better than runny. Let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Add all vegetables to batter until well mixed. (The vegetables should be LIGHTLY coated. The vegetables are the stars, not the batter. It may look like the batter is not enough, but as long as there is enough batter to coat all the veggies you will be fine. This light coating ensures crisp pakoras and not heavy soggy oily ones. )
3. Heat oil until hot. Fry pakoras by sprinkling by hand into hot oil. Do not drop a big blob of batter into the pan but instead sprinkle and spread evenly as a thin layer in the oil. Fry until golden brown.
4. Drain on paper towel. Serve warm with coriander and mint chutney.   

Dad’s Chicken Curry

Several  of my friends have recently had little girls. I especially love to watch the otherwise super macho fathers coo and babble at their little bundles of joy.  My dad has always been a guy’s guy. He loves to watch football and doesn’t like the idea of men wearing wedding rings since “jewelry is for women.” 

He ended up having two daughters and ironically the same man who thought pink was a “girly color” would pick out our cute frilly dresses for our birthday parties or paint our nails with nail polish if mom was too busy.
More recently, my dad  discovered his talent for cooking and made me a great chicken curry on my last trip home.  I asked him for the recipe, but my version turned out nothing like his. (I mean not at all like his. Dad if you are reading this…are you sure you gave me the right recipe?? 😉   Anyway, I did make a chicken curry inspired by his, and it turned out great. Even the picky hubby enjoyed it, especially with parathas.
Dad’s Chicken Curry
Ingredients:
8 skinless chicken thighs, approx 500g
3-4 red onions finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 tbsp garlic, shredded
1 tbsp ginger, shredded
1 tbsp salted butter
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 14oz can of peeled chopped tomatoes
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder  (to taste)
½ cup plain yogurt
 ½ teaspoon salt (to taste).
Preparation:
1. In a large pot add butter and oil on medium high heat. In the melted butter add the finely chopped onion and the garlic and ginger pastes. Stir continuously for a few minutes until onions are soft and the contents become a paste.
2. Add the chicken pieces and cover them with the mixture in the pot. Cook for few minutes until chicken just about cooked.
3.  Add the chopped and peeled tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder and yogurt. Mix well.  
4. Cover the pot and let cook for additional 10 min, or until chicken is fully cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. 
5. Remove from heat, add chopped cilantro and stir.
6. Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and serve with paratha. Makes about 2-3 generous servings.

Mixed Vegetable Sabzi

I am always looking for cooking shortcuts. My hungry boys eat 6 times a day so if I don’t cut some corners I will never leave the kitchen. My latest creation is the “Arabic Pizza” for those days when I am really in a time crunch. I get some Arabic bread, and quickly warm it on the skillet.  I then add some ketchup and oregano and grate some cheddar or feta on top and blitz it for a few seconds in the microwave. The finishing touch is to cut it into pizza slices using the pizza cutter so it looks more “real”.  But I knew I had gone too far when we went out for pizza and my kids actually preferred mine! I was shattered that I had ruined their developing taste buds. At this rate we will never enjoy a true NYC slice together and I absolutely cannot have that.

So, I decided to make something more  interesting, more spicy, and to incorporate vegetables. I came up with this mixed vegetable sabzi that uses ingredients I always have on hand and I can make in a flash. (Although not as fast as the Arabic Pizza!).
MIXED VEGETABLE SABZI




INGREDIENTS:

1 large chopped onion (Indian red onion)
1 peeled chopped potato (can microwave for couple minutes before if you prefer for faster cooking time in sabzi)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 chopped green chili
1-2 tomatoes
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
¾ tsp turmeric
½ tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
1-2 teaspon coriander powder (you can roast whole coriander seeds and finely crush for a bolder flavor if you prefer)
2-3 tsp cooking oil
1 tbsp garlic, grated
1 teaspon ginger, grated

PREPARATION:

1. Heat oil in pot. Add onion and cook until softened. Keep on medium high heat.

2. Add in ginger and garlic and sauté for a couple minutes. 

3.  Add potato and sauté for a few minutes. Add the vegetables and the tomatoes and green chili and sauté. Add salt and all spices and mix.

4. Cover and put on medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes or until all veggies cooked and flavours incorporated.  Season to taste. Garnish with fresh coriander if preferred.

Dal Tadka

It’s all relative. When it comes to things like camping, I am not very adventurous. If we aren’t staying in a 5 star hotel, I am not pleased. But when it comes to food, you might as well call me Indiana Jones. I am happy to try any cuisine, be it from Ethiopia, Yemen, Korea, Sri Lanka, or anywhere really. I have eaten  from the (probably Hepatitis infected) Pani Puri stands on Chowpatty beach in Mumbai, to Gordon Ramsay’s elegant cuisine at Verre, and even tried garlic fried mealworms in my college Entomology class.
I feel that food tastes even better when you are enjoying it with someone who shares your passion for it. So imagine my agony when I found out my true love did not share my same palate. He thought foie gras was foie-gross and unagi was u-nasty. And needless to say, he was horrified at the fried insect “snacks” from the food carts we saw in Bangkok.  
After we got married, I tried to tempt him with my savory salmon cake draped with caviar and dill, or attempted to entice him with my Moroccan pumpkin tagine. But alas, he was not impressed. No matter what I did, it did not remind him of the taste of “home.”  Then I realized I was going about it all wrong. It wasn’t about being grandiose or fancy, it was more about simplicity and comfort and familiarity. And what would bring him that gustatory satisfaction? A mere dal chawal. Dal and rice. The most humble dish.
At first I turned up my nose. Dal? That’s it?? But then I realized how perfect this simple dish was. All at once it was healthy, tasty, budget friendly, and finally with some training, easy to make. Because dal is so versatile, and there are so many varieties, nearly everyone makes it differently. So the last time I was in Lahore, my hubby’s talented sister showed me how they made it in their home. I stood by with a notebook in hand trying to jot down approximate measurements, and after a lot of practice, have made this dal so that even my picky Lahori munda asks for seconds.
It’s funny how food really connects two people. Now after ten years of knowing each other, I can easily tuck into a hearty biryani at Daily Restaurant and he can have black cod with me at Nobu.  In fact, just the other day, we went to Laduree and he ordered the Madagascar chocolate macaron. After taking a bite, he looked at me, and said, “These are good. But yours are much better.”
And he meant it. If that isn’t true love, then I don’t know what is. 


Dal Tadka




INGREDIENTS:

1 cup Moong dal (rinsed – on left, see picture below)
1 cup Masoor dal (rinsed – on right, see picture below)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chili powder (to taste)
1 tbsp grated garlic (to taste)
1 tsp grated ginger
2 small Indian red onions (finely sliced)
2 small tomatoes (chopped finely)
1-2 green chillis (optional)
1 bunch fresh coriander (chopped finely)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
water
PREPARATION:

1.  Add in large pot:  Both Dals, Garlic, turmeric, chili powder and 6 cups water. Bring to boil. Lower heat to medium to medium high and partially cover. Check water level periodically and add additional water as it cooks. Cook for approximately 25 minutes.  (Dal is cooked after tasting,  it should be very soft and liquid is not clear.)
2.  While dal cooks, chop vegetables. In separate hot skillet add 3 tbsp  oil. Add onion and cook until golden brown. Add ginger, then tomato, then green chilis (if using). Add coriander and fry until becomes a paste. You may have to add a little water so it doesn’t stick to pan. When all a paste, add into hot (already cooked )dal and mix.
Serve with steamed basmati rice. Garnish with lemon if desired. Generously serves 4 people.

NOTES:
If you let this sit around for a bit before serving it, it tastes even better as the flavors come together. Dal tastes really good the next day, and is suitable for freezing.
I also serve this to my babies. It is a bit spicy, so I usually add in a couple scoops of yogurt  to the dal and rice and blend it all together. You can also make a separate batch with no chili powder if your kids are very sensitive.
This version is done on a stovetop instead of a pressure cooker since both my husband and I are afraid of pressure cookers exploding. Even with this stovetop method, from start to finish the whole process takes me about 45 minutes max.