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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sheekh Kebabs

Kebabs were not my specialty and I kept trying different recipes each time I made them but was never ever happy with the outcome.

 The kind of flavour and taste that came to my mind did not in any way match the recipes I found.   The rich taste of the ground meat should be in perfect harmony with the spice bland, the subtle flavour of the whole spices playing in the background with nothing overpowering anything.  All the recipes I came across used raw eggs for binding. Of all the things I hate the smell of raw eggs in cooking. Kebabs actually don't need any binding as long as the meat and fat ratio percentage is right. Then comes the technique of cooking which plays an important role in the taste, texture and flavour. I tried my best to incorporate everything. And at last they turned out exactly as I had imagined them.  Thanks to the Almighty, these kebabs were so flavourful that I couldn't believe that these were the best kebabs I ever made!

Here's the recipe:

Lean ground beef - 1 kg (80% beef + 20% fat)
Onions - 1 large sliced, 1 medium chopped.
Green chilies- 4-6 (deseeded)
Ginger garlic paste -  1 tbs
Cloves -  6
Green Cardamoms - 6
Black Cardamom -1
Roasted cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon bark - 2 x 2 inch sticks
Veg oil - 3  - 4 tbs
Red chilly powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder -  1/2 tsp
Fresh mint leaves - 1/4 cup chopped
Fresh cilantro - 1/4 cup chopped

1. Rinse the ground beef under the tap in a strainer quickly and let the water drain. 
2. Slice the large onion and deep fry till golden and crispy. Do not let them darken as they would taste like coal. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
3. When the onions cool down add the whole spices and grind them. 
4. Chop the medium sized onion, green chilies, mint and cilantro separately. 
5. Heat one tsp oil and add the ginger garlic paste, red chilly powder and turmeric. Stir a bit till the raw smell goes and remove. and finely chopped green chilies, chopped mint and cilantro to the hot pan. Keep aside.  
6. Sprinkle 1 tsp salt on the ground beef, mix well. Add the ground brown onion mixture, fried masala, chopped onion, green chilies, mint and cilantro and mix everything well.  Allow to marinate for at least a couple of hrs.
 7. Oil the metal skewers. Take a small ball of the ground beef mixture and with clean wet hands shape it into a kebab on the flat metal skewers till it holds together. Repeat with the rest of the meat. 
8. Grill them on a hot barbeque until just done. They should be soft tender and juicy. Do not over cook. Enjoy with yogurt mint chutney.

Bitter gourd masala


Bitter gourds - 3 - 4 or 2 cups sliced
Onions sliced - 1 cup or 1 large
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Dried red chilies - 2 small
Green chilies - 2 small
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/4 tsp
Red Chilly powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Brown sugar - 1/2 tsp
Vegetable oil - 2 tbs
Cilantro - 2 tbs


1. Scrape the bitter gourds lightly, wash and soak them in salt water for at least 1/2 an hour. 

2. Rinse them again, scoop out the seeds and cut them into thin rings. Put them in a sauce pan with a little water and steam them till they change color and soften a bit. Remove and allow to cool.

3. In another sauce pan, heat the vegetable oil. When it fumes add the mustard seeds, dried whole red chilies, slit green chilies and curry leaves followed by the sliced onions.

4. Fry till the onions turn soft and lightly golden. Add the ginger garlic paste, turmeric and cumin. Add red chilly powder only if you want it spicy. I don't like to add more heat to the dish as I feel the heat from the red and green chilies is good enough to enjoy it.

5.  Add the steamed bitter gourd to the onion masala, turn over and mix gently. Sprinkle some salt and lemon juice and stir well to coat the bitter gourd with the masala. 

6. Lastly add the brown sugar, sprinkle a little water, mix well again, garnish with some chopped cilantro and serve hot with chappatis or rice.


1. The bitter gourd is soaked in salty water to remove the bitterness. But it has to be rinsed well before slicing into pieces. 
2. Do not throw away the juices left after steaming the bitter gourd. Add it to the masala with the gourd and it will dry up soon. 

Butter Chicken, My Style!

The origins of Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken can be traced back to a man named Kundan Lal Gujral who opened a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Daryaganj, Old Delhi after fleeing from Peshawar in Pakistan during the partition in 1947. This is the man who first created the famous Tandoori chicken by trying to cook chicken in the tandoor (locally used for baking naans) and placed India on the culinary map of the world. Then came his next creation – the mouth watering butter chicken. It so happened that the cooks in his restaurant recycled the left over chicken juices in the marinade trays by adding tomatoes and butter and cooking it to make a creamy sauce and then tossing the left over tandoori chicken pieces in this sauce. Lo and behold,the butter chicken was born! Legend has it that the butter chicken was accidentally created by a punjabi house wife who had lot of left over tandoori chicken, so she prepared a tomato based gravy with fresh cream and added the tandoori chicken pieces to it and simmered for a while. The result was the great butter chicken which we enjoy to this day. Now if we connect this legend with history, who knows this punjabi woman could have been Gujral’s wife too. Kundan Lal Gujral is still remembered as one who would personally serve his guests, while his wife would begin each day by grinding the masalas, a closely guarded secret that went into the signature dishes. Visiting dignitaries such as John F. Kennedy, Soviet Premier Kruschev, Shah of Iran have enjoyed eating at the Moti Mahal restaurant in New Delhi.

My style of butter chicken evolved after trying and testing with different proportions and variations of ingredients. I prefer using whole spices as they give a subtle dimension of flavor to the dish compared to ground spices which lose their flavour quickly. It is better to use chopped tomatoes and soften them in the butter instead of using tomato puree for the richness in taste. Also it is true, as one great chef puts it, that”tomatoes lose their colour and tartness when pureed”. The method and ingredients described in the recipe below if followed exactly brings out the taste and flavor very close to the original dish as made in some of the famous restaurants in New Delhi where I have dined.

Butter chicken can be made with whole chicken or chicken breasts that is with or without bones though the original butter chicken when first created by Chef Gujral was made with whole tandoori chicken pieces.

Here's the recipe:


For the marinade:
1.5 kg Whole chicken (cut into 12 pieces at the joints)
1/2 Cup Hung Yogurt
 4 Tbs Desi tandoori masala
1 Tbs Vegetable oil
1 Tsp Red chilly powder (Kashmiri mirch or resham patti)
Salt to taste
2 Tbs Lemon juice

For the butter sauce:
1 cup  Whipping cream
1 Tsp Fresh garlic chopped
1/2 cup Ginger juliennes
1 Tbs Kasoori Methi
1/2 Cup Diced onion
2 - 4 Slit green chilies deseeded
2 Black cardamom
2 Bay leaves
4 Cloves
1Tsp Fennel seeds
1/2 Tsp Cumin seeds
1/4 Tsp Mace (crushed)
1/2 Tsp Black pepper corns (whole)
1 large fresh ripe deseeded plum tomato (chopped) + 2 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbs Butter(substitute with 2 tbs olive oil if you are health conscious)


1. Clean, wash and drain the chicken pieces. Rub with salt and lemon juice and keep aside for 15 minutes.

2. Mix together  hung yoghurt, tandoori masala, chilly powder, salt and 1 tbs vegetable oil. Rub the chicken pieces well with this marinade and leave for 3 - 4 hrs in the fridge.

3. Bake the chicken in a preheated oven set at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 mins. Remove and allow it to cool. 

4. Meanwhile prepare the butter sauce. Take a sauce pan, set it on medium heat. Add 2 tbs butter and before it melts completely add all the whole spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fennel seeds, mace and lastly bay leaf) stir for 2 to 3 seconds and when you get a whiff of the aroma add the slit green chilies and chopped garlic followed immediately by diced onions. Stir for sometime, then add the chopped tomato plus 2 tsp tomato paste.

5. Cook on medium while stirring continuously till it blends in. Pour in 1/2 a cup of the whipping cream, give a quick stir and then add the chicken with all its juices to the sauce. Mix well, cover with a lid and let it simmer for 5 - 10 mins till it is nicely cooked and thickens a bit. (If you are health conscious then cook the chicken in 1/2 a cup of skimmed milk instead of the cream). 

6. Now drizzle the remaining cream on top of the chicken. Give the sauce pan a gentle shake and let it simmer for just 2 to 3 mins. Garnish with the ginger juliennes and serve hot with Naan or Basumati rice. 


1. If you do not find Desi tandoori masala, you can try Minar or Kissan brands. Any other store bought tandoori masala would not be a good substitute. The best thing would be to use this home made tandoori masala paste for the marinade : 1/2 a cup of hung sour yogurt, 2 tsp of ginger garlic paste, 1 tsp of coriander powder, 1/2 tsp of cumin powder, 1tsp garam masala powder and food colouring for marinating one whole chicken.

2. To give the tandoori chicken a barbecue flavor, smoke the chicken soon after baking. Take a piece of charcoal, light it and put it in a small tin foil cup (shape the tinfoil into a cup to hold the charcoal). Switch off the oven. Place the tin foil cup with the burning charcoal in between the chicken pieces, then add a blob of butter or ghee to it. When it starts smoking, cover the baking pan with its lid or foil and leave it to smoke for 5 mins in the oven. This gives a smoky barbecue flavor to the chicken.

3. If you want to cut down on the cream and butter, use skimmed milk and olive oil instead. But you will have to compromise on the taste. Butter chicken is not butter chicken without butter and cream.

4. As an alternative to brown sugar you could add a bit of tomato ketchup as a finishing touch in order to enhance the taste.