Monday, February 6, 2017

Red Chowli / Cowpeas Sukka in Instantpot

Today when I opened the fridge to see what I could cook for lunch, I was pleasantly surprised. There was nothing out there except a bunch of tomatoes. How did I forget about getting groceries? Not to worry when you have pulses in the pantry, right?
Now to think of what pulses to cook. Man, cooking is fun, but thinking of what to cook is stressful. I would love for a genie to decide a menu (simple for everyday cooking and elaborate when we have guests) and I wouldn't mind cooking all the stuff.
I saw these cute cowpeas staring at me through their container. It had been a while since I cooked these beauties. So, today finally it was their turn. I am sure they were ecstatic to be out of the container to fulfill their duty of feeding the humans - okay, I am just imagining things now. Well, I do possess a great imagination power and it is known to my family and close friends. 
Generally these pulses need to be soaked for atleast 8 hours before cooking. But, since I decided at 10 Am to cook lunch with these, I had a little over 2 hours to soak and get them ready. So, in came my handy electric kettle. I just boiled water in it and soaked the cowpeas in that boiling water for 2 hours. I got nicely soaked cowpeas in that time. I have done this for a lot of other pulses too. It sure helps.


2 cups cowpeas
1 cup chopped onion (I used 1 big onion)
1 cup chopped tomato (I used 1 big tomato)
10 garlic cloves (crushed using mortar and pester)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
10 to 12 curry leaves
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I used fresh shredded coconut - you can use frozen ones too)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons red chilli powder (you can add more if you like it hot)
2 teaspoons coriander cumin powder (Dhania Jeera Powder)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek powder
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon sugar/jaggery
salt to taste
chopped cilantro and shredded coconut for garnish


Wash the cowpeas and put about 5 cups of water and soak them for 7 to 8 hours. Once soaked, they will plump up. Drain the water and keep aside.
With the Isntantpot (IP ) in saute mode, add the coconut oil. When it gets hot add the mustard seeds and let them crackle. Then add the cumin seeds and sesame seeds along with the curry leaves. After about 15 to 20 seconds add the crushed garlic and stir the mixture lightly. Add the chopped onions and half teaspoon salt. Let the onions turn a nice golden. You will need to keep stirring during this process. Then add the chopped tomatoes along with turmeric, chilli powder, coriander cumin powder, pepper powder, fenugreek powder, asafoetida and mix well. Add the cowpeas to the mixture along with the shredded coconut and mix well. Add 1 to 1and 1/2 cup water (I added enough water to cover the cowpeas). Cancel saute mode. Cover the lid with the vent sealed and manual for 30 minutes. After its done quick release. This will be a dry curry with very little to no liquid/gravy. Open and see if the beans are cooked. If they are then add salt to taste and about 1/2 teaspoon sugar or jaggery. Mix well with a light hand. Garnish with cilantro and shredded coconut and serve wit chappatis, appam or dal and rice.

Note - this can be cooked on the stovetop too. You would want to cook the cowpeas in the pressure cooker for about 4 whistles. Drain any water it may have after cooking. In a karahi, add the oil and follow everything to get the onion and tomato and spice mixture. To this add the cooked cowpeas, salt and sugar and about 1/4 cup water and mix well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes before garnishing with cilantro and shredded coconut.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Shrimp Biryani in Instantpot

We are a biryani loving family. Give us biryani with kachumbar or raita and we are a very happy family. Even Lil Miss A loves this spicy aromatic rice preparation. 
I have been using the instant pot for over a year now. Love this gadget.
Its not like I use it everyday. Well, there are a few things that I love cooked in pots over the stovetop or in an oven. But, I must say, this is used atleast 3 times a week in 'merakitchen'.
This shrimp biryani was made in the instant pt (IP) when a friend came over to visit. It was something that I could do with what I had on hand....... yes, busy week had made me skip grocery shopping. One of those times the IP came in very very handy. It was a nice treat as she loved it and the tiffin box I packed for her was relished by her family too. 


1 pound medium uncooked shrimp - devined (its approximately 40 to 45 shrimp)
1/2 cup fried onions - I get these fried onions from the Indian store. But, you can make it at home too
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup yougurt
2 teaspoons biryani masala (the link is to masala powder made at 'merakitchen')
2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
1 tomato - chopped
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 green cardamoms
2 cloves
2 tablespoons coconut oil OR Ghee (Clarified Butter)
2 cups Long Grain Basmati Rice - you can use any rice you prefer
2 cups water
salt to taste
Chopped Cilantro for garnish


Wash the rice and soak it in water for atleast 30 minutes. Marinate the shrimps in fried onions, chopped mint, chopped cilantro, ginger garlic paste, biryani masala, turmeric powder, chili powder, yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let it sit for 30 minutes too.
Heat the IP in saute mode. Add the ghee/oil. Once it melts, add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cardamom, cloves and black peppercorns. Saute for about 15 seconds and then add the shrimps into the oil. Cancel the saute mode. Mix everything well. Now add the rice and and add 2 cups of water. The water will just about cover the shrimp and rice mixture. Add some salt to taste. Cover the IP. Set manual for 7 minutes.
Once done, you can Quick release and open the lid once the floating valve goes down. Biryani is ready. Remove it onto a serving dish and garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with kachumbar.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Biryani Masala Powder

We are a biryani loving family. Chicken biryani, mutton biryani, shrimp biryani, fish biryani, paneer biryani, veg biryani.............. well, you name it and we eat it. We also cook it at home. 
We have been making our own masalas at home for as long as I can remember. My mother and grandmothers made their own masalas and I guess that legacy is continued at 'merakitchen'.

I generally make these masalas in small batches which last about 4 to 6 months. I keep them in the freezer to retain their aromas.

Follow the link 'some-spices-used-in-indian-desi-kitchens' to get a picture of the spices used here. This is not an exhaustive list. 


Cloves / Lavang - 30 pieces
Black cardamom / Badi elaichi - 5 pieces
Green cardamom / Choti elaichi - 25 pieces
Cinnamon / Dalchini -5 (big)
Nutmeg / Jaiphal- 1/4 piece
Cumin seeds / Jeera - 5 tablespoons
Black cumin / Shahi jeera - 4 teaspoons
Mace / Javitri - 7 pieces
Stone flower / Dagad phool - 10 pieces
Star anise / Chara phool - 8 pieces
Fennel Seeds / Saunf - 4 tablespoons
Coriander seeds / Akkha Dhania - 1/2 Cup
Black pepper / Kali mirch - 3 tablespoons
Bay leaf / Tej patta - 7
Fenugreek seeds / Methi dana - 1/8 teaspoon


Dry Roast all the ingredients one at a time and let them cool in a plate. Once they are at room temperature, grind the entire batch into a powder. I do not sieve the ground spices, but you may do so if you please.
Let it sit on a plate to let go of any heat it may have generated in the grinding process. Store it in a glass jar with a tight cap and keep it in the freezer. This way you keep the aromas intact.
Makes about 2 cups of masala powder. And it has a life of 1 year in the freezer. But, if you are a biryani lover like us................ this will be over in no time.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Some Spices Used in Indian (Desi) Kitchens

I have posted a few masala powder recipes on my blog. I have yet to write about a few other spice powders that I usually have in my freezer.
I just thought - why not write a post showing the different spices used in these masalas. This is not an extensive list. These are a few key ingredients that are used in making spice/masala powders that we use to enhance the taste of curries or biryanis or dry vegetable or meat preparations.
The pictures are pretty self explanatory.

Now I will go ahead and write about the spice/masala powders that are made and used in 'merakitchen'

Monday, January 16, 2017

Apple Pie Cake (with a crunchy cinnamon sugar topping)

Apple pie is one of those American Desserts that makes you go 'yes please!'. I have always loved apple pie with the flaky crust and the gooey apple cinnamon filling. Well, I had no patience to make the pie crust and I wanted to have an apple pie. What is the next best thing to do? Yes, you try and make a cake that tastes like the apple pie.
While I was looking for pie crust recipes - I had stumbled upon this cake recipe. Something that had been on my mind but never got to the oven. I took inspiration from this recipe at 'Pinch of Yum'
I tweaked the recipe a bit in terms of the sugar I used (used a little less than mentioned) and the amount of apples I used too (used a bit more - just because I did not want to munch on raw apples). I also had an orange sitting on my table, so used the zest and the juice. Was not my intention to change the recipe......... lets just happened.
We loved the cake. It tasted good warm and cold. And we had it with a side of vanilla ice-cream on one occasion too.


1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 cups chopped apples
1 teaspoon allspice powder
1 teaspoon orange zest
4 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 325 F and grease a 9X13 pan. 
Cut the apples into small pieces and add the orange juice to it (this will prevent it from browning). Sieve the flour, allspice powder, baking powder and baking soda together and keep aside. In a bowl, mix the brown sugar, oil, buttermilk and egg. No need to beat the mixture. To this add the vanilla extract and the orange zest and mix well. To this add the dry flour mixture and incorporate the mixture well. Add the chopped apples and incorporate everything well. I used a spatula to do this. Pour the batter into the 9X13 pan and spread it evenly using the spatula. 
Mix together the butter, cinnamon powder and sugar. Using your fingers spread this mixture on top of the batter very evenly. Pop it into the oven.
The recipe said bake for 45 minutes. Insert a toothpick and check for doneness. If it comes out clean, your cake is baked, if not, you need to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. 
At 45 minutes my cake was still very raw. So, I had to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. 
Remove from oven and cool a bit. Slice and serve warm with vanilla ice-cream or just like that. 
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