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Moghul Cooking: India's Courtly Cuisine

Cumin-Flavoured Pastries

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Cumin-Flavoured Pastries

2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp black cumin seeds
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp
garam masala
3 tbsp melted
½ cup water (approximately)
Extra flour for dusting
Ghee or vegetable oil for deep-frying

Diamond-shaped wedges of golden fried dough are transformed into delectable nibbles with a nutty flavouring of black cumin seeds. They can be served warm or cold and will store well in an airtight container.

Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the salt, cumin seeds, chilli powder and garam masala. Rub in the melted ghee. Gradually add the water and mix to a firm dough. Knead for 10-15 minutes to form a smooth pliable dough. Return to the bowl and cover with a moistened cloth. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Dust the rolling surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out thinly and cut into small diamond shapes.

Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until it begins to sizzle. When hot, fry a few of the shapes at a time, turning them to get an even golden colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.

Copyright © Joyce Westrip, 2007

Lightly Spiced Spinach

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Lightly Spiced Spinach
Saag Moghlai

2 tbsp ghee
2 light-coloured cardamom pods, bruised
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 finely chopped onion
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 finely chopped large fresh red chilli, seeds discarded
1 kg / 2 lb fresh spinach leaves — rinse well and chop roughly
1 tsp salt
½ tsp Kashmiri
garam masala
½ tbsp blanched and slivered almonds
2 tbsp cream

Spinach is a favourite combination with meat, eggs, vegetables or dal in many Moghul recipes. Here is spinach without a partner, lightly spiced and cooked in the Moghul style. This dish is cooked easily and quickly and is best prepared just before serving.

Heat the ghee in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the cardamom pods, fennel, cumin and mustard seeds; fry for a few seconds to release the aromas. Add the onion, grated ginger and chilli and stir-fry until the onion starts to change colour.

Put the spinach leaves in the saucepan and pack them down. Cover the pan and simmer on a low heat for a couple of minutes. As soon as the spinach starts to wilt, add the salt, garam masala and the slivered almonds and mix well into the spinach.

Gently fold and stir in the cream. Heat through and serve immediately.

Copyright © Joyce Westrip, 2007

Chicken in Batter

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Chicken in Batter
Shahi Murghi Pakoras

For the pakoras
500 g / 1 lb skinned chicken breasts cut into fairly large bite-sized pieces
¼ tsp saffron threads, steeped for 15 minutes in 1 tbsp hot milk
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp lime or lemon juice, mixed with ½ tsp crushed garlic

For the batter
6 tbsp chickpea flour
1 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp cumin seeds
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp
garam masala
½ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ cup water
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and sprinkle them with the steeped saffron threads, chilli powder, cumin powder and salt. Turn the mixture from time to time to allow the flavours to penetrate into the chicken pieces for 30 minutes. Trickle the garlic-flavoured lime or lemon juice over the chicken pieces and mix well. Allow to marinate for a further hour.

Sift the chickpea and rice flour into a bowl. Then mix in the cumin seeds, salt, garam masala, turmeric powder and bicarbonate of soda. Gradually add the water to make a fairly thick batter and allow it to stand for about 20 minutes. Whisk just before dipping the ingredients for frying.

After the marination period, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until it is sizzling hot. Dip the chicken pieces in the batter, lower the heat and deep-fry as many as the pan will take in a single layer without over-crowding. Cook for 4 minutes or a little longer if the pieces are thick, turn them over and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on kitchen paper. Serve with coriander chutney or a raita of your choice.

Copyright © Joyce Westrip, 2007

Pomegranate Soup

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Pomegranate Soup
Anarkarli Shorba

1½ tbsp butter
1 finely chopped large onion
½ cup yellow split peas; rinse, cover with water, soak for 1 hour and drain
¼ cup rinsed
masoor dal (lentils)
½ cup well rinsed rice
6 ½ cups water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and stalk
1 finely chopped small leek
120 g/ ¼ lb fresh spinach, rinsed and finely chopped
2 tbsp syrup of pomegranate or 1 cup juice extracted from fresh pomegranate

Pomegranates were relished at Moghul courts and it was believed by some that they were the fruit in the Garden of Eden. When Jahangir beheld the beauty of a flower-seller he called her his beautiful Anarkarli (Pomegranate Blossom), but the ill-fated young woman was entombed alive by Akbar for daring to acknowledge Jahangir's attentions. This delectable soup dedicated to the flower-seller is thickened with a puree of split peas, lentils, rice, spinach and leek and flavoured with the syrup of pomegranate. I sometimes add a sprinkling of chopped mint leaves as a garnish.

Allow 1 hour for soaking the split peas.

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and sauté the chopped onion until it turns a light golden brown. Drain and add the split peas, lentils and rice and stir to coat. Add the water, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, coriander, leek and spinach; simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a sieve and return the stock to the pan. Puree the solids and return to the stock. Add the pomegranate juice and continue to simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Copyright © Joyce Westrip, 2007

Sweet Yoghurt Drink

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Sweet Yoghurt Drink
Lassi Meethi

2 cups yoghurt
3 cups iced water
3 tbsp sugar dissolved in a little hot water
5 drops rose essence
Ice cubes or crushed ice

This rose-flavoured yoghurt drink is cooling, sweet and refreshing. Lassi is a popular welcoming drink and is also served with meals.

Put the yoghurt, iced water, dissolved sugar and rose essence into a bowl and whisk briskly until frothy. Fill tall glasses with ice and pour over.

Copyright © Joyce Westrip, 2007

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