Indian

Chapati चपाती

Chapati is perhaps one of India’s most popular flatbreads, made with just three ingredients: whole wheat flour, warm water and salt. Chapati is particularly popular in the North of India, where wheat is the staple (unlike in the South of India where rice is the main food).

Chapati’s primary ingredient is Indian whole wheat flour known as “gehoon ke atta” गेहूँ का आटा or just shortened to “atta” आटा (“gehoon” गेहूँ means “wheat” and “atta” आटा means “flour” in Hindi) and commonly known in the English-speaking world as “atta flour” or “chapati flour”.

Whole wheat kernels are comprised of three main parts: the germ, the endosperm and the bran.

Chapati flour is produced by finely grinding the entire wheat berry (germ, endosperm, bran and all). Traditionally this was done using a stone mill called an “atta chakki” आटा चक्की in Hindi or simply “chakki” चक्की which literally means “flour mill” (“atta” आटा means “flour” and “chakki” चक्की means “mill”). In the olden days, Indian households would feature a chakki which would be used daily to grind whole wheat kernels into freshly ground chapati flour.

Indians roll out the chapatis using a circular wooden board known as a “chakla” चकला in Hindi, which is paired with a wooden rolling pin known as a “belan” बेलन.

Traditionally, chapatis are cooked in a slightly concave cooking vessel known as a “tavaa” तवा which means “pan” in Hindi. The “tavaa” is often made of clay or cast iron. The clay tavaa is known as a “mitti tavaa” मिट्टी तवा  or “mitti ka tavaa” मिट्टी का तवा  which literally means “clay pan” (“mitti” means मिट्टी “clay” and “tavaa” तवा  means “pan”).

Cooking over this clay “tavaa”, especially over a traditional firewood fire, lends a distinct smoky flavor, aroma and texture to the chapatis which modern day cooking vessels and heating fuels cannot replicate.

It is generally accepted among Indians that apart from producing superior-tasting traditional Indian fare, these unglazed, organic earthen cooking vessels are healthier options for cooking food.

Like its clay counterpart, the cast iron tavaa also produces a superior chapati owing to its uniform heating and heat retention characteristics. Additionally, it is believed to increase the iron content in food and is hence favored over modern day cooking utensils such as aluminum and non-stick pans.

Yield: 7-8 chapatis

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups stone ground atta flour
  • Warm spring water as required
  • Salt as desired

Method:

 In a roomy bowl, combine atta flour and salt.

Add warm water bit by bit until a dough begins to form.

Using hands, push forward and press down the dough with your knuckles, until it is smooth, pliable and longer sticky. Don’t overwork it as it would lead to tough, leathery chapatis.

Form a cylinder with about a 2 inch diameter.

Lightly flour a a chakla or a wooden surface if a chakla is unavailable.

Heat up a clay or cast iron tavaa over medium high heat over firewood if available for a more authentic chapati.

While the tavaa heats up, pull out a lemon-sized piece of dough and using hands, roll it into a ball, then flatten it into a neat disc about 1/2 an inch thick and 3-4 inches in diameter.

Use the belan or a wooden rolling pin to roll out this disc into a chapati approximately 6-8 inches in diameter and about 1/8 – 1/9 of an inch thick.

Place the chapati onto the heated tavaa. Cook until dark brown spots appear on the bottom surface of the chapati.

Flip and cook the other side, until brown spots appear. The chapati may puff up in which case just press it down.

Serve hot with ghee and curries.

Thandai ठंडाई

Thandai ठंडाई as it is known in Hindi, is a festive drink, creamy thanks to full fat milk, rich thanks to an assortment of nuts, aromatic thanks to rose petals (or yellow marigold which is used in some regions such as Braj), cooling thanks to ingredients such as melon seeds, refreshing as it’s usually served chilled and intensely flavorful thanks to sweeteners as well as an orchestra of spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and fennel. A wholesome beverage rich in flavor and culture, it is often served on the Hindu festivals of Maha Shivarathri and Holi.

Maha Shivarathri मह शिवरात्रि is a Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Shiva (“maha” मह = “great”, “Shiva” शिव = “(Lord) Shiva” and “rathri” रात्रि = “night”) who, according to Hindu legend, on this special day saved the world from a pot of highly toxic poison that emerged from the ocean.
Devotees would observe fast (known as “vrat” व्रत in Hindi) on this auspicious day when after sunset of Maha Shivarathri day, no meals would be consumed until sunrise the next day after performing a special religious prayer known as a “pooja” पूजा.
While some opt for a full fasting, abstaining from consuming even a drop of water, for some this avenue is not an option for reasons such as illness or old age. In such situations, non-cereal, nutritious dishes of milk, fruits and water are prepared. This rich, creamy “thandai” is one such example. It is believed that Lord Shiva liked this milky drink, and on this auspicious occasion, the creamy beverage is sometimes spiked with “bhang” भांग which is an edible form of cannabis.
Although treated as a narcotic drug and is punishable by law to hoard and consume, this law is temporarily lifted in countries which celebrate this festival such as India and Nepal where holy men would be allowed to smoke it to imitate Lord Shiva.

According to legend, Lord Shiva had saved the world from the pot of poison by holding the toxic substance in his throat. This made him turn blue and generated substantial heat inside. Efforts to cool Lord Shiva were numerous, and one of them was calming him down with “bhang”.

Thandai (sometimes laced with “bhang” in some areas of India, particularly Varanasi, formerly known as Banaras, which is India’s thandai hub) is also a traditional beverage consumed during the Hindu festival of Holi. Also known as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love”, Holi is a spring festival which celebrates the passing of winter and the arrival of spring and is celebrated amidst a highly charged atmosphere of vibrant colors, showering petals of fragrant rose and marigold, wild laughter and joyful play.

With temperatures rising in India with the arrival of spring, thandai, which is believed to have cooling properties, helps the body combat heat and so it is a tradition for festive merrymakers to drink refreshing, chilled Holi thandai to cool themselves down.
The name of this cooling beverage “thandai” ठंडाई literally means “coolant” in Hindi, and that word in turn is a derivative of the Hindi word “cool” which is “thanda” ठंडा.

Certain ingredients in thandai such as fennel (“saunf” सौंफ), saffron (“kesar” केसर), poppy seeds (“khus khus” खसखस), melon seeds (“karabhooje ke beej” खरबूजे के बीज, “karabhooje” खरबूजे = “melon”, “beej” बीज = “seeds”) and rose petals (“gulab ki phankudiyan” गुलाब की पंखुड़ियाँ, “gulab” गुलाब = “rose” “phankudiyan” पंखुड़ियाँ = “petals”) are believed to be “cooling” while black pepper is believed to help ward off cold-related infections.

Bhang thandai (or “bhang ki thandai” भांग की ठंडाई in Hindi) however must be consumed with caution, as an overdose could have negative consequences.

Although thandai is particularly popular in northern India (where the country’s thandai hub, Varanasi is located) the drink is relished in other states as well.

Like most dishes throughout India, thandai recipes vary region to region and from family to family with perhaps the only commonality among all recipes being fresh whole milk (known as “doodh” दूध in Hindi), a combination of nuts (usually almonds, cashews, pistachios) and a combination of spices traditionally ground in a traditional Indian stone grinder known as a “sil batta” सिल बट्टा.
Some recipes add cashews, some add pistachios, some add both. Some add fennel, some others add freshly ground black peppercorns (“kailee mirch” काली मिर्च), some have cinnamon (“dalachini” दालचीनी), some have green cardamom (“elaichi” इलायची) and some have saffron.
Some like their thandai thick while some prefer a more runny consistency.

Unlike in the West where there is a growing preference for skimmed milk / 2% fat etc, in India, milk is generally consumed whole, i.e. full fat and all. And it has been that way for generations in India which is the largest milk producing nation in the world. Most of India’s milk production is from buffaloes with cow’s milk coming in second.
Unlike in the United States where milk is produced in organized, large-scale dairy farms and the animals are milked through mechanical means, in India over half of the country’s milk is produced from free-roaming buffaloes and cows who are patiently hand-milked by small farmers in rural Indian villages.

While most modern recipes use refined sugar to prepare thandai, the following recipe uses honey (“shehad” शहद), which is significantly healthier and more flavorful than refined sugar. It is possible to add jaggery (an unrefined form of sugar known as “gur” in Hindi) however it may result in a untraditionally dark brown colored drink (when it’s traditionally a pale yellow or pale green if “bhang” is added).

Serves 6-7
Ingredients:

1 1/2 litres or about 6 cups fresh whole milk
4-5 tablespoons almonds – soaked overnight
2 tablespoons cashew nuts
1 tablespoon poppy seeds – soaked overnight
2 tablespoons melon seeds – soaked overnight
3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
4-6 green cardamom pods – husks discarded, seeds retained
1/2 cup or as desired honey
3/4 cup spring water
1 teaspoon rose water or 3/4 teaspoon dried rose petals or 1/2 teaspoon fresh rose petals plus a few more garnishing
A few strands saffron
1/2 – 2/3 cup pistachios – crushed

Method:

Drain off water from all three soaked ingredients. Peel almonds.

Into a heavy-bottom sauce pan, pour milk and add honey. Stir well.

Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Stop heat and set aside to cool.

Crush peeled almonds, poppy seeds, melon seeds, cashew nuts, fennel seeds, peppercorns, green cardamom seeds and rose petals (if using) into a rich paste. For grinding needs such as this, ancient Indian kitchens feature a traditional grinding tool known as a “sil batta” सिल बट्टा.

Add 1/4 cup of water and rose water (if using) and grind further to a smooth paste.

Add the ground paste to the milk-honey mixture and mix well.

Cover and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth.

Set the strained milk aside.

Add 1/2 cup water to the residue and grind again.

Strain this mixture through a cheesecloth.

Add the strained liquid to the previously strained milk.

Add saffron strands and give a quick stir.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Pour into glasses.

Garnish with crushed pistachios, slivered almonds, a few saffron strands and rose petals. Serve chilled.

Indian Mango Chutney आम की चटनी (“Aam Ki Chatni”)

Indian mango chutney आम की चटनी is a fine accompaniment to rice and pappodums.

Indian mango chutney आम की चटनी is a fine accompaniment to rice and pappodums

Chutney is a general term for spicy relishes and condiments in Indian cuisine. The word “chutney” is derived from the Hindi word “chatni” चटनी which in turn was derived from the Sanskrit word “chatni” which literally means “to lick”. Chutneys originated in India and was used as a method to preserve fruits and vegetables that were in season.

Mango chutney (known as “aam ki chatni” आम की चटनी in Hindi) is a popular type of Indian chutney featuring a harmonious medley of sweet, sour, hot and spicy flavors to tempt the palate. The chutney is served as an accompaniment to rice, roti, chapati, paratha etc.

Traditionally, Indian chutneys are made with jaggery which is an unrefined form of sugar known as “gur” गुड़ in Hindi. Jaggery imparts a distinct flavor that refined sugars cannot match and because of its unrefined nature, jaggery contains micro-nutrients and minerals which refined sugars lack as they have been stripped off during the refining process.
Furthermore, jaggery’s deep brown color lends a richer hue than refined sugar. Consequently, the addition of jaggery yields a better finished product in terms of nutrition, appearance and flavor. Some modern recipes replace jaggery with refined sugar. However, for a more authentic and wholesome mango chutney, use jaggery.

Adjust the quantity of jaggery as required; a good mango chutney should have a good balance of sweet and sour. If it is too sweet it would feel too heavy on the palate (akin to a “sickly sweet” jam) and if it is too sour it would be too unappetizing and neither extremes of tastes are desirable; the sweet and sour tastes balance each other. The more raw and sour the mangoes, the more jaggery may be necessary to balance the sourness. The spices should complement rather than overpower the mangoes.

The mangoes themselves can be cut to wedges, chunks or grated. Wedges and chunks give the chutney body and bite whereas grated mangoes result in a more pulpy and soft chutney. Whether the mangoes should be cut to wedges, chunks or grated is a personal preference. Prepare the mangoes as desired.

Panch phoron পাঁচ ফোরন (also known as panch phoran) literally means “five spices” in Bengali a language spoken in West Bengal (a state in eastern India) as well as in Bangladesh. “Panch” পাঁচ means “five” and “phoron” ফোরন means “condiment” or “spice” in Bengali.
This exotic whole spice mixture which is often featured in Bengali and Bangladeshi cuisines
is comprised of equal portions of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds (also called black cumin or kalonji) and wild celery seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium-sized sour unripe mangoes – washed, peeled and sliced to 1 cm wedges or cut to 1 cm cubes or grated
  • Grated jaggery as required (adjust quantity depending on how sour the mangoes are – it could range from a 1/2 cup to more than 1 cup)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon panch phoron – a mix of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, nigella, and wild celery seeds in equal ratios
  • 1/2 – 3/4 inch piece of fresh ginger – very finely crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 –  1 1/2 tablespoons red chili powder
  • Pinch of garam masala powder
  • Pinch of black salt
  • Salt as required
  • Half a lime – juiced – adjust quantity depending on sourness of mangoes

Method:

Over low flame, heat oil in a non-reactive pot such as an unglazed clay pot.

Roast panch phoron spices until fragrant. Do not burn.

Add crushed ginger and fry till aromatic.

Add chopped mango.

Add red chili powder, garam masala and black salt.

Stir with a wooden spoon to coat the mixture around the mangoes.

Add jaggery, salt and a bit of water if needed. Stir and cook for a short while.

Add lime juice.

Cover with a lid and allow to simmer until the mangoes soften. As the mangoes cook, juices will be released. If the mangoes release very little juices and are too dry, add some water. As it cooks, taste the sauce and make any adjustments as needed. Adjustments should not be made after the chutney is done as that could affect the taste and shelf life of the chutney.

Cook until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors have melded together.

Take off heat and allow to cool. As it cools, the sauce will thicken further.

Serve at room temperature. Keep refrigerated.

Cumin Rice (Jeera Chawal जीरा चावल / Zeera Walay Chawal زیرے والے چاول )

Cumin rice is a flavorful and aromatic rice dish popular in India (northern India in particular) and Pakistan. In its simplest form, it consists of rice and roasted whole cumin seeds while more elaborate versions could also include spices such as cinnamon and cardamoms, nuts such as cashew nuts, dried fruits such as raisins, herbs such as curry leaves and coriander leaves (also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley) and other ingredients such as lemon juice and slices of onion. There are no fixed recipes for cumin rice as the possibilities are endless. The key ingredients are rice and cumin and other optional ingredients can be added as desired.
In India, cumin rice is known as “jeera chawal” जीरा चावल in Hindi (“jeera” means “cumin” and “chawal” means “rice”) while in Pakistan the dish is called “zeera walay chawal” زیرے والے چاول in Urdu (“zeera” means “cumin” and “chawal” means “rice”).

Cumin has been used for hundreds of years in Indian cuisine and since ancient times the spice has been valued in this region for its medicinal properties. Cumin is a good source of iron and it is believed to aid digestion according to ayurveda. Cumin is known as “jeeraka” in Sanskrit, one of the world’s most ancient languages once spoken in India thousands of years ago. The word “jeeraka” is derived from the word “jeerana” which means “digest” in Sanskrit.

Similar to cumin, turmeric is very widely used in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. For this particular dish however, the addition of turmeric for cumin rice tends to be more popular in Pakistan than in India.

While the dish could be made with all types of rice, long-grained basmati rice is the favored variety.
Modern recipes for cumin rice sometimes feature vegetable oil, however as with most Indian and Pakistani dishes, ghee, rather than vegetable oil was traditionally used to make this dish. Ghee imparts a distinct flavor to the dish and hence cumin rice made with ghee is generally superior in taste compared to cumin rice made with vegetable oil.

Version 1 (Basic cumin rice)
Serves: 3
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups long-grained basmati rice – washed and soaked for at least 1 hour
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions
  • Water to cook the rice
  • Salt as desired

Method:

Drain water from the rice.

In a heavy bottom pan over low heat, sauté cumin seeds and onion slices until brown and aromatic.

Add soaked rice and water as needed to cook rice.

Cook rice as usual.

Once rice is cooked, serve immediately.

Version 2 (Punjabi style)
Serves: 3
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups long-grained basmati rice – washed and soaked for at least 1 hour
  • Few drops lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 cloves
  • Water as needed to cook the rice
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • Salt as desired

Method:

Drain the water from the rice.

Pour water as needed to cook the rice, salt and lemon juice.

Cook rice as usual.

In a separate heavy bottom pan, heat ghee over low heat.

Add cloves, bay leaves and cumin and sauté until spices are aromatic and browned. The spices burn very easily so keep a watchful eye.

Add the cooked rice and stir gently.

Serve immediately.

Version 3
Serves: 3
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups long-grained basmati rice – washed and soaked for at least 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup onions – sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 6-8 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • Salt as desired
  • Water to cook the rice

Method:

Drain the water from the soaked rice.

On a cast-iron skillet over low heat, roast the cumin seeds until brown and aromatic.

Ensure they do not burn.

Stop heat and set aside.

In a heavy bottom pan, heat ghee over medium heat.

Add sliced onions, ginger-garlic paste, salt, turmeric powder and curry leaves.

Sauté till aromatic.

Add water, soaked rice and bring to a simmer.

Add roasted cumin seeds and salt and let rice cook as usual.

Once cooked, serve rice immediately.

Version 4
Serves: 3
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups long-grained basmati rice – washed and soaked for at least 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup onions – sliced
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 fresh green chilies – slit down the middle
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/3 cup raisins – soaked in warm water for 10-15 minutes
  • 1/3 cup cashew nuts
  • Water to cook the rice
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • Salt as desired

Method:

Drain the water from the rice.

Heat ghee over low heat in a heavy bottom pan.

Add the cumin seeds, raisins (discard water), cashew nuts and fry till the cashew nuts turn brown and aromatic.

Next, add the green chilies, ginger-garlic paste and sliced onion.

Fry till onions soften.

Add salt.

Add the soaked rice and give a gentle stir to combine.

Pour water as needed to cook the rice and let rice cook as usual.

Once rice is cooked, serve immediately.

Version 5
Serves: 3
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice – washed and soaked for at least 1 hour
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1-3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Water to cook rice
  • Salt as desired

For tempering:

  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp cashew nuts
  • 2 green chilies – finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp coriander leaves – finely chopped

Method:

Drain the water from the rice.

Pour rice, cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaf, cardamom pods, salt and water as needed to cook the rice.

Cook rice as usual.

Once rice is cooked, stop heat and set aside.

In a separate heavy bottom pan, heat ghee over low heat.

Add cumin seeds and sauté till cumin seeds turn brown and aromatic.

Add cashew nuts and green chilies and cook for a short while.

Add cooked rice and chopped coriander leaves.

Stir gently till ingredients are combined.

Stop heat and serve rice immediately.

Jaggery Tea (Gur Ki Chai गुड़ की चाय )

Jaggery tea, , a popular beverage in India known as “gur ki chai” गुड़ की चाय or “gur chai” गुड़ चाय in Hindi, is simply a drink of black tea sweetened with jaggery (an unrefined form of sugar). Jaggery tea is particularly popular among folks in northern India during winter time as jaggery is believed to provide more nutrition and warmth compared to sugar and thereby helps to ward off winter-related illnesses. Because of the unrefined nature of jaggery, it is considered to be significantly healthier than refined sugar.

The process of making jaggery was pioneered in ancient India and this ingredient has been used in Indian cuisine for centuries. In India, jaggery, which is known as “gur” गुड़ in Hindi, is made with sugarcane juice or sap extracted from palm trees such as the palmyra palm tree and date palm tree. In addition to contributing a distinct flavor, palm tree jaggeries are considered to be more nutritious than sugarcane jaggery.

Moving south to Sri Lanka the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, plain black tea, a beverage very widely drunk throughout this tropical island is usually sweetened with sugar. However, the traditional practice generations ago, was to sweeten the tea with jaggery, known as “hakuru” හකුරු in Singhalese. There was a slight difference in the sweetening method compared to Indians; jaggery tea in India is made by dissolving the jaggery in black tea whereas in Sri Lanka, a little cube of jaggery would be bitten into followed by a sip of unsweetened plain black tea. This way, the Sri Lankans believed less jaggery is consumed per cup of tea.

In Sri Lanka, the most popular types of jaggery are made with sap extracted from three types of palm trees: coconut palm, kitul palm and palmyrah palm. The sap (known as “mee-raa” මී-රා in Singhalese) is boiled down and then left to harden to form jaggery. Arguably, the kitul palm jaggery is the more popular variety of the three among Sri Lankans. Jaggery from coconut palm is known as “pol hakuru” පොල් හකුරු in Singhalese (“pol” පොල් means “coconut”), jaggery from kitul palm is known as “kitul hakuru” කිතුල් හකුරු, palmyrah jaggery is known as “thal hakuru” තල් හකුරු and sugarcane jaggery is known as “ukk hakuru” උක් හකුරු.

 

Version 1 (Indian style)

Serves: 1

Serving size: 1 cup (about 250 ml)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp black tea
  • 1 cup spring water
  • 1-2 cubes (about 1-2 tbsp) jaggery (or as desired)
  • 1-2 cardamom pods

Method:

In a pestle and mortar, crush the cardamom pods.

In a saucepan, combine water and jaggery.

Over medium-low heat, bring to a rolling boil.

Continue boiling till jaggery is completely dissolved.

Add black tea and crushed cardamom pods.

Bring to a boil then stop heat.

Strain to a tea cup and serve hot.

Version 2 (Indian style)

Serving size: 1 cup (about 250 ml)

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp black tea
  • 1 cup spring water
  • 1 cube (about 1 tbsp) jaggery
  • 1 cm piece ginger – crushed in pestle and mortar
  • 1-2 cardamom pods
  • ¼ cup fresh full fat milk

Method:

Crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring spring water to a rolling boil.

Add crushed ginger, crushed cardamom pods and jaggery.

Continue boiling until jaggery dissolves.

Once jaggery dissolves, add black tea.

Bring mixture to a boil.

Add milk.

Bring to a boil.

Stop heat.

Strain tea into a tea cup.

Serve hot.

Version 3 (Sri Lankan style)

Serves: 1

Serving size: 1 cup (about 250 ml)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Ceylon black tea
  • 1 cup spring water
  • 1 cube jaggery

Method:

In a pot over medium-low heat, bring spring water to a rolling boil.

Stop heat.

Add black tea.

Allow tea to brew for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to brew any longer as the tea could end up with a bitter taste.

Strain tea into a tea cup and serve with a cube of jaggery.

Madhupayasa (Milk-rice pudding with honey)

Madhupayasa is a sweetened, creamy rice pudding with a place in ancient history as the offering made by a girl named Sujata to Prince Siddhartha before he attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya (present day Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar). “Madhu” means “honey” and “payasa” means “milk” in Pali, an ancient language spoken over 2500 years ago in the Indian subcontinent. Pali is no longer spoken but it remains as the main liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism.

Nowadays, myriad variations of sweetened, milky puddings are widely consumed and are generally known throughout India as “kheer” खीर which means “rice pudding” in Hindi.

While recorded recipes of the original madhupayasa are difficult to encounter, it is general knowledge that the dish contained rice boiled in rich, thickened milk (most likely cow’s milk) and sweetened with honey. It is not clear whether spices such as cardamoms, dried fruit such as currants and nuts such as pistachios were added to madhupayasa in the early days as is common practice today when making kheer. The 2000-year-old bhath payasa recipe used by the kitchen at the Jagannatha Temple in Puri, India does feature these flavor enhancers suggesting it may have been used in early madhupayasa dishes as well. Traditionally Indians cooked their meals with earthen pots over charcoal fires, the combination of which added a subtle aroma and flavor to dishes such as madhupayasa. This recipe aims to offer a glimpse into the ancient madhupayasa that was consumed over 2000 years ago such as the one offered to Prince Siddhartha by Sujata.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Basmati rice
  • 4 cups fresh cow’s milk (full fat)
  • Honey as desired
  • Currants as desired (optional)
  • 2-3 green cardamom pods (optional) – pound in a pestle and mortar, discard husk retain crushed seeds.
  • Toasted nuts as desired (optional)

 

Method:

Wash and soak the rice for about 15-20 minutes.

Drain and set aside.

Pour the milk into an earthen pot.

Bring the milk to a boil over low flame on hot charcoals (or ordinary stove if charcoals are unavailable).

Continue boiling the milk until the quantity reduces by half.

Add rice and stir well.

Reduce the flame and let the mixture simmer.

Continue simmering until rice is cooked then add honey and crushed cardamom seeds.

Cook till rice is very soft and the dish takes on a thick consistency. Use the spoon to mash the rice.

Stop flame and allow the madhupayasa to cool.

Once cooled give the madhupayasa a stir, transfer to serving bowls.

Garnish with currants and toasted nuts (if using).

Serve at room temperature or even warm (during cold, wintery days), or chilled (during hot, summer days).

Masala Chai मसालेदार चाय

A glass of masala chai with a spoon and jaggery cubes on a serving dish, placed on a table with a deep red tablecloth and greenery in the background.

Masala chai मसालेदार चाय served with jaggery cubes.

“Chai” चाय means “tea” in Hindi and “masala chai” मसालेदार चाय means “spiced tea”.

The type of tea used is a critical determinant of the chai’s end result. Typically, when making chai with black tea, a specific type of Assam black tea called “mamri” is used. Mamri tea (known in the industry as CTC i.e., “crush, tear, curl”) is granular (as opposed to “leaf tea”) and is a strong bodied variety of tea that has the strength and depth to hold its flavor against the spices and sweeteners.

Traditionally, fresh buffalo milk (milk taken from the buffalo the same day the chai is made) and jaggery (an unrefined cane sugar known as “gur” गुड़ in Hindi) was used to make chai. Buffalo milk offers an unparalleled richness (buffalo milk is richer than cow’s milk) and the jaggery contributes a distinct flavor which results in a chai that tastes considerably different from the modern day chais made with half-and-half/reconstituted milk/UHT milk/skimmed milk and refined sugar/artificial sweeteners. It is also noteworthy that the buffalo milk traditionally used was whole buffalo milk – that is milk, cream and all.

There are no fixed recipes for masala chai and the combination of spices traditionally used varies by region and climactic conditions. For instance, ginger is considered to generate “warmth” and so it is sometimes left out on hot days but is favored on cold and wintery days or when the chai drinker is down with a common cold. Chais made in northern India are likely to contain fennel (known as “saunf” सौंफ़ in Hindi) and no peppercorns while chais from the south often have peppercorns and no fennel.

Use only the freshest spices as spices lose their flavor and aroma with age. Ideally, crush or grind the spices just before making the chai.

Adjust the quantity of jaggery to your taste. Some Indians use no sweeteners at all for their chais while chaiwallahs usually add a generous amount. The milk may curdle when boiled together with jaggery. If curdled milk is not your cup of tea, then crush the jaggery into a powder and add to the chai just before serving. Alternatively, serve the masala chai with jaggery cubes.

This recipe tries to stay true to the authentic and traditional method of making masala chai, from using jaggery as a sweetener (instead of sugar) and fresh whole spices which are ground in a pestle and mortar.

 

Version 1:

Serving size: 1 cup (about 250 ml)

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup full fat buffalo milk
  • ½ cup spring water
  • Jaggery as desired
  • 1 tsp black tea leaves
  • 1/5 – ¼ tsp peppercorns
  • 1/5 – ¼ tsp fresh ginger – grated
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 tiny clove
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

 

Method:

Place the spices (peppercorns, cardamoms, cinnamon and clove) in a pestle and mortar and crush to a coarse mixture.

Combine all ingredients except jaggery in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan.

Over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring every once in a while.

Optional: as you make the chai, using a ladle, scoop some chai and pour it back down holding the ladle as high up as you can to generate some froth on the surface of the chai. This helps to combine the ingredients and is common practice among some chaiwallahs in India.

As the mixture comes to a boil and bubbles appear on the sides of the pan, stir more frequently, scraping the bottom and the sides of the pan to prevent the milk from scalding.

As the mixture boils, it will change to a rich and deeper hue and foam will begin to rise. Be careful it could spill over. Take off the heat and give a good, thorough stir.

Put back on the heat and bring the mixture to a boil again.

Stop the heat and stir well.

Allow to steep for a few minutes.

Strain and add crushed jaggery as desired or serve accompanied with cubes of jaggery.

 

Version 2:

Serving size: 1 cup (about 250 ml)

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup spring water
  • ½ cup full fat buffalo milk
  • 1 clove
  • 1-2 green cardamom pods
  • ½ inch stick cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp grated ginger (optional)
  • Pinch fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp black tea leaves
  • Jaggery as desired

 

Method:

Place the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar and crush to a coarse mixture.

Pour the water to a cast iron or stainless steel saucepan along with the crushed spices and grated ginger.

Over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to a low boil. The longer the mixture boils the more robust the spice flavor.

Once boiled to your liking, add tea leaves.

Bring to a boil. The longer the mixture boils the stronger the flavors of tea and spices don’t over boil as doing so could make the tea taste bitter.

Add the milk and bring a boil. Stir every now and then. Using a ladle, scoop some chai and then pour it back down holding the ladle as high up as you can to generate some froth on the surface of the chai.

Stop flame.

Allow the chai to steep a few minutes.

Strain to a cup.

Stir in crushed jaggery as desired and serve.