The cooler weather is a great excuse to enjoy some good warming food and seasonal greens.
I don’t mind the cold weather really, but it is the lack of sun most days which makes it harder. Whilst it is available year-round now, spinach (paalak in Hindi) used to primarily only be available in winter when we were growing up in India. Now, we try and stick to eating it more often in winter so I have decided to share two of my family’s favourite recipes with spinach. There’s no hiding the veggies here, just delicious, tasty greens to pack some nutrients into those little tummies! Finish it off with a sweet treat, a quick and easy gur waali kheer (rice pudding) and these winter recipes will have you feeling all the warm and fuzzies in no time.
Read more: Midweek Meals: Warming Winter Recipes
This recipe is bursting with flavours, it’s also a fairly simple one-pot meal and most importantly, is extremely forgiving. It can be easily tweaked as per the spice and richness levels desired. You could use pureed, blanched or chopped spinach; feel free to omit the tomatoes or increase the quantity based on the level of tang desired. Remember that spinach and tomatoes complement each other well and this is what helps this dish really come together!
700g chicken, cleaned and cut into pieces of desired size (I use thighs and drumettes)
For the Marinade:
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
For the Curry:
1 tsp whole cumin
2 bay leaves
1-inch cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 dried red chillies (optional)
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
1½ tsp chicken curry masala or garam masala
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2½ cups spinach, chopped finely or blanched and pureed
2 cups of onion, vertically sliced
¾ cup tomato puree
1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp oil
- Mix the cleaned chicken with all the marinade ingredients and keep aside for at least 30 to 45 minutes (or overnight).
- Heat oil in a deep, thick-bottomed wok and add whole spices (cumin, red chillies, bay leaves, cinnamon and star anise). Stir on a medium-high heat until the spices are fragrant.
- Add the onions and stir over a medium-high heat until they are light brown, then add the ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, coriander and cumin powder and mix well for 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken curry masala or garam masala and sauté for another 3 minutes.
- Add the marinated chicken and cook uncovered for 3 to 4 minutes, then add the chopped or puréed blanched spinach, mix well and cover on a medium flame.
- Cook covered with intermittent stirring until the chicken is 60% done, then add the tomato puree and salt, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through.
- Turn off the heat and drizzle with some heavy cream and serve hot with a side of chapatis or rice.
When one thinks of winter veggies, a myriad of colours and flavours pop into mind. Carrots, peas, methi (fenugreek leaves) and spinach are some of my personal favourites. Another family favourite, though not as colourful, is the cauliflower. It usually features a few times during the week in winters, in the form of curries, stir-fries and grills. Achaar is Hindi word for pickle and this recipe is for you if you enjoy a pickle-flavoured sour curry.
2 cups cauliflower (florets separated and cut to the desired size)
1 medium potato (cubed)
½ cup carrots (chopped into small cubes)
½ cup green peas
1½ cups blanched spinach (cooled to room temperature)
2 green chillies (optional)
1 cup tomatoes (coarsely chopped)
1 cup onion, diced
1 tbsp mango pickle pulp
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilli powder (optional)
½ tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp whipping cream (optional)
1½ tbsp oil
- Heat water in a deep bowl and add cut cauliflower florets with salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a blender, make a coarse paste of blanched spinach, tomatoes, mango pickle pulp and one green chilli. Set aside.
- In a thick bottomed deep wok, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds, bay leaf, star anise and green chilli. Lower the flame to medium once the seeds start to crackle and spices start to release their aroma.
- Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add all the powdered masalas (turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and garam masala) and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes with constant stirring. The spices should be roasted and fragrant.
- Add the potatoes and steamed cauliflower florets, cover and cook on a medium heat with intermittent stirring until 70% cooked.
- Add the carrot and peas and give the mixture a nice stir. Cover and cook further for another 5 minutes. If you feel the wok is getting dry and the veggies are sticking to the base, you could add a few tablespoons of water and cover. Keep the heat medium-low at all times.
- After 5 minutes or so the veggies should be almost done. Add the pureed spinach-tomato-pickle mixture and stir all the ingredients well.
- Add salt, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, drizzle over some cream (if desired) and serve hot with steamed rice or roti.
Most North Indians will tell you that nothing compares to a slow-cooked chawal ki kheer — rice pudding flavoured with cardamom. While I knew about the versions of kheer made across the Middle East, West Asia and Africa, I very recently learnt about the British version which is baked with milk, cream and nutmeg. Clearly, it’s a universally-accepted dessert!
Traditionally, kheer is a slow-cooked delicacy, however, on busy days, I use a little hack to make it as yummy and creamy as the authentic version. The secret ingredient is leftover Japanese sushi rice. Yes, you heard me right! It works wonders for two reasons — firstly, the starch content is higher than regular rice and it adds to the creaminess of kheer and secondly, leftover rice hardens up just enough when refrigerated overnight. It’s almost like adding raw rice to milk and yet because it is not really raw (and quite starchy), it cooks really quickly with milk. The result is that perfect kheer – ready in 20 minutes flat!
You can either enjoy your kheer right away or refrigerate and eat it chilled. It tastes great either way. Eating jaggery during winters not only has great health benefits, but eating a small piece of jaggery goes a long way in managing sugar cravings. On another note, have you tried dunking hot ghee smeared chapati into your kheer? Try that next time, it tastes heavenly!
1 cup pre-cooked and refrigerated sushi rice
500ml UHT Milk
½ cup jaggery, finely chopped (or to taste for sweetness). If you’re using sugar instead, you could use a lesser quantity. I use Nolen Gur (date palm jaggery) but any variety is fine.
3 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
A pinch of saffron
Dried fruit and nuts of choice for garnish
- Bring the milk to boil in a deep thick-bottomed pan.
- Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes with constant stirring.
- Add pre-cooked rice and mix.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook with intermittent stirring until you see the milk and rice come together nicely. The rice grains should be almost translucent and the kheer will start to look creamy. This should take around 7 to 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let it sit for 2 minutes. Then add finely chopped or crushed jaggery. Chopping or crushing the jaggery helps for quick and even mixing.
- Add the garnish and serve right away or after refrigeration.
Cooking tip: When using jaggery, DO NOT add it when the heat is on! That will lead to curdling of the milk and spoilt kheer. So, once the rice is cooked and you see that the milk and rice have come together well, you can turn off the heat, let it sit for 5 to 7 minutes and then add the crushed jaggery. Easy as that!
All images courtesy of One Wholesome Meal.