Chestnut flour Halwa (Singhare ka Halwa) – Grain free, Dairy Free

  Chestnut flour is something that I recently got acquainted with. Thanks to my friend Monika. A few weeks ago when we were at their home for dinner, she told me about this flour which is called as ‘singhare ka atta’ in India and how this flour is used during religious fasting periods called as Vrat. She said that this flour came from water chestnuts and hence it is grain free. Wow, I was so happy to hear this and the next time I was at our local indian grocery store, I picked up a bag of this flour. I couldn’t wait to try this for making parathas as Monika had suggested!

I did make the parathas with aloo(potatoes) in them since that was the only way to make the dough. The parathas were good and now I started browsing more recipes using singhare ka atta. There are all sorts of things that showed up – dosas, samosas, etc and I started to drool looking at all these foods that are forbidden for me on my current grain free diet. I was feeling so excited already  and then I saw the recipe for ‘singhare ka halwa’! Omg! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Halwa has always been my favorite Indian dessert and for the past two years I have not had halwa being dairy free , gluten free and sugar free!  So looking at this recipe, I imagined the possibility of  a halwa in the near future for me. That was incredible! If it came out good, Monika, my friend deserved a treat from me!

And today happened to be the perfect day to try this recipe since it was Janmashtami which is Lord Krishna’s birthday. I started seeing all kinds of Indian traditional sweets recipes posted on instagram and in the afternoon, it was time for me to try making the singhara atta ka halwa.!

Turned out great – satisfied my halwa cravings totally. Even though I used coconut oil instead of ghee and maple syrup instead of sugar. The chestnut flour itself has a nutty taste and aroma so the halwa tastes rich even without any ghee or milk in it.

Chestnut flour Halwa (Singhare ka Halwa) - Grain free, Dairy Free
Recipe type: Dessert, sweets
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
A delicious fudge made with chest nut flour and maple syrup flavored with cardamom
  • ½ cup chest nut flour (sing hare ka atta)
  • pinch sea salt
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder
  • cashew nut pieces-5-6
  • shredded coconut- 1 tsp
  1. In a kauai (wok style pan), add the chest nut flour and roast it on medium heat stirring continuously. Keep roasting for around 3-4 mins on medium heat until it turns to light brown color.
  2. Now add the coconut oil and again stir to blend it in with the flour.
  3. Once it forms into a sticky mass (about 2-3 mins later) add the water, salt, maple syrup and cardamom powder. Stir continuously till you get a smooth halwa consistency.
  4. Turn heat off and top with cashew nut pieces and shredded coconut.

Methi Aloo Paratha with south indian flavors (Potato and Fenugreek leaves stuffed flatbread)

Paratha is typical North indian food right? So why am I trying to ‘southernize’ it? He he…just happened like that one day by accident and a new ‘paratha’ was created in our household 🙂 So here is what happened. Once in a week I make Methi theplas for my kiddos’ lunch box.  And usually I make more theplas for them once they come home from school for a healthy snack. One time I had a boiled potato left over too and so I thought of stuffing the thepla with the potato. I just wanted to keep it simple and decided to just add some ‘chaat masala’ to the potato stuffing. I quickly grabbed the ‘chaat masala’ pack from the fridge and sprinkled on the mashed potato. But after I had added it, I realized that I had actually added ‘sambhaar masala’ 🙂 So that was the birth of this Methi Aloo paratha with sambhaar spices!

 The kids just loved the hot, spicy parathas and gobbled them all up in a few minutes. Then I made them again on a weekend when my husband enjoyed them too and that’s how these parathas came to become so popular in our house now. My youngest always wants me to make the ‘stuffed Aloo’ ones instead of just the plain methi theplas 🙂

Isn’t it fun when mistakes lead to sweet (or in this case, spicy) innovations ? 🙂

Methi Aloo Paratha with south indian flavors (Potato and Fenugreek leaves stuffed flatbread)
Recipe type: Main course, Breads
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
A whole wheat flatbread stuffed with fenugreek leaves and potatoes with a hint of south indian spices
For the dough (outer covering):
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen methi(fenugreek) leaves
  • 1 tsp ajwain seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper powder (use kashmiri chill powder for mildly spiced)
  • about ¾ cup water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
For potato stuffing:
  • 2 large Boiled potatoes, peeled and mashed
  • 1 tbsp sambhaar powder (I use Aachi brand)
  • 1 tsp salt (check if your sambhaar masala has salt already before adding)
  1. Add all the dough ingredients except water and oil in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the water little bit at a time and form a dough. (You can use a stand mixer also to form the dough). Add the oil and mix again so that the dough is soft and smooth. Divide dough into small balls about a golf ball size.keep aside covered.
  2. Mix all the stuffing ingredients in a small bowl and use a potato masher to make the mixture really smooth - there should not be any lumps. Keep this aside.
  3. Heat a chapati pan (or any non stick pan).
  4. Roll each dough ball into a small circle and place 1 tbsp of the potato stuffing in the center. Bring the outer edges of the circle into the center to pinch at the center (like a dumpling) and then again roll carefully to form a paratha. (use lots of extra wheat flour for dusting to prevent sticking)
  5. Place the paratha on the hot pan and cook for about 2 minutes on one side before flipping. Apply oil or ghee on the flipped side and again flip to the other side and apply ghee again. Flip once more to cook on the second side and when you see golden brown spots on both sides, transfer to a dish. Keep warm covered with foil until serving.
  6. Repeat process for the rest of the dough and stuffing.

‘Probiotics 101’ and a recipe for a homemade probiotic drink: Beet Kanji

What does the word ‘probiotics’ mean? It seems to be the new buzzword? Everyone seems to be talking about probiotics and gut health. For the last 18 months or so I have been reading up a lot on the relationship between the gut and the immune system and thereby the implications for autoimmune diseases. I have been following a strict paleo diet(autoimmune protocol version) . Many of my friends and family have asked me about the relationship between diet and disease. Some of them seemed confused that our gut would have so much of an impact on our health and wanted to know why ‘probiotics’ were important.

So I thought of writing up this post explaining the basics for my readers.

  1. Significance of gut health on our overall health:  As I was reading up about the impact of diets on disease, one of the facts that really helped me understand this relationship was that “80% of our immune system resides in our digestive tract”!  Now, once you begin to appreciate this, it all begins to make sense doesn’t it? yeah, so if immune system is located in the gut, then what you eat has an impact on the immune system! Ta Da! Many health issues, such as thyroid imbalances, chronic fatigue, joint pain, psoriasis, autism and many other conditions originate in the gut.
  2. Good bacteria vs bad bacteria: The secret to restoring your digestive health is all about balancing out the good and bad bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. There are actually 10 times more probiotics in your gut then cells in your body! If you don’t have enough probiotics, the side effects can include digestive disorders, skin issues, candida, autoimmune disease, and frequent colds and flus.
  3. Probiotic ‘Killers’ or Eroders: In the olden days, our ancestors used plenty of probiotics in their diets from eating fresh foods from good soil and by fermenting our foods to keep them from spoiling. However, because of refrigeration and dangerous agricultural practices like soaking our foods with chlorine, our food contains little to no probiotics today, and most foods actually contain dangerous antibiotics that kill off the good bacteria in our bodies. Following are some ‘probiotic killers’ in our environment today: prescription antibiotics, Non Steroidal Anti inflammatory medications (NSAIDs/Pain killers), sugar, tap water , GMO foods, Grains, emotional stress etc.

Thus adding probiotics to our diet can help  to provide us with a

  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved digestion
  • Increased energy from production of vitamin B12
  • Healthier skin, since probiotics naturally treat eczema and psoriasis
  • Reduced cold and flu
  • Healing from leaky gut syndrome and thereby all autoimmune disorders

What are some natural probiotics?

Sour foods and fermented foods like apple cider vinegar, yoghurt (dairy free coconut yoghurt is best), kefir, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), Kimchi (fermented vegetables), beet kvass (fermented beets) are all great sources of probiotics.

What are some other sources of probiotics?

Nowadays you can buy probiotic capsules from the pharmacy and GNC stores that contain the good bacteria inside a capsule. Make sure you use a probiotic supplement that has a mix of strains from the two main genus lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Pick a brand that has at least five billion CFU (colony forming units) of bacteria. Otherwise it is not good enough. And always store them in a cool place always.


I recently came across this lovely recipe for an Indian probiotic drink called as Beet kanji from Myheartbeets.  This drink has been traditionally made in Northern India and I am so glad that I got to know about this drink.  I have been making it regularly now.  The first time I made it , it came out too strong and so after a couple variations, I have the process nailed down – adding just the right amount of mustard and keeping it for fermenting for the right amount of time. I love having this drink chilled! At our dinner gatherings at home, I sport a glass of bright red kanji while others have their alcoholic drinks 🙂  Oh, and you can use the fermented vegetables to add to your salads!

Probiotic 101 and a recipe for a homemade probiotic drink: Beet Kanji
Recipe type: Healthy drink
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
A healthy traditional indian probiotic drink made from fermenting beets and carrots.
  • 1 large organic beet, peeled and cut into thin, long slices
  • 1 large organic carrot, scraped and cut into thin, long slices
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 2 tsp powdered mustard seeds (coarsely powdered is fine)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  1. Take a large glass jar and add the vegetables and the mustard and salt. Pour the filtered water to cover all the vegetables completely plus leave about 1-2 inches of water above. Cover the jar with a lid and keep it aside on the kitchen counter for 4-5 days or until you see bubbles on top. Taste the liquid to see if you get a strong fermented taste and that's when it is done.



Chicken Dum Biryani with brown rice || Dairy Free ||

If you have ever had ‘Biryani’ before, then just the mention of the word is likely to tingle your tastebuds and evoke the memory of the wonderful aromas that is so characteristic of a good biryani. And if you are not served it shortly after, you will surely start experiencing cravings:) I have posted a detailed recipe for Chicken Biryani before. Biryani is indeed a labor of love. But over the years I have created several short cut versions too including the Handi Biryani.

Healthy Chicken BiryaniThis one that I have today for you is a ‘Dum’ version, which I have been recently trying out a lot. The ‘Dum’ version, which was unique to the ‘Awadh’ region of India and was introduced to India by the Nawabs (Persian influence) utilizes a ‘slow cooking’ technique where both the meat and the rice (half-cooked before) are cooked together in the same pot. “Dum” literally means “taking in air” in Hindi. This cooking method allows for the meat, coated with fresh spices and herbs, to slow cook in its own juices, retaining moisture resulting in a succulent, juicy meat.Dum cooking uses a round, heavy-bottomed pot, a handi, in which food is tightly sealed and cooked over a slow fire. It is also an easier recipe since it uses fewer spices and ingredients than other biryani recipes.

Easy Dum BiryaniDum Biryani is indeed very tasty and traditionally long grain fragrant basmati rice is used. Today I tried to make a healthier version using brown rice. I also eliminated any butter or ghee since I am on a  dairy free diet. Traditionally onions are fried for this biryani but I baked them instead using less oil. To make up for the lack of ghee or butter, I added ground almonds to give it richness of flavor. The biryani came through pretty good and the aromas were enticing as usual. To add to the aromatic flavors, I also used floral extracts of rose and kewra  and so even without the fragrant basmati, the biryani was nothing short of ‘extraordinaire’! And oh, I almost forgot, the rose petals in the pictures are from my gorgeous roses in our garden 🙂

Bringing this fragrant and healthy, wholesome biryani to Throwback Thursday and Fiesta Friday this week. Your co-hosts this week at Fiesta Friday are Quinn @ dadwhats4dinner and Elaine @ Foodbod.

Chicken Dum Biryani with brown rice, Dairy Free

  • Servings: makes about 4-5 servings
  • Time: about 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print


  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • About 1 1/2 pounds of Chicken pieces (preferably thigh and leg portion) cleaned
  • About 2 tbsp freshly ground biryani masala (see recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder (depending upon heat level desired)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 med onions thinly sliced
  • 10-12 almonds soaked in hot water
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint , chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 small potato, cut into cubes (optional)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 drops of rose extract and 2 drops of kewra extract mixed with 1 tbsp of water
    Sliced almonds, cashews for garnish
  • extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top

For the ground biryani masala:

  • 4 cloves
  • 4-6 whole black pepper corns
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds (shahi jeera)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 4 whole green cardamom pods
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 1 two inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 mace
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 kalpaasi / dagad phool flowers (stone flower)


  1. Place the sliced onions in a tray at 450 deg F (or 220 deg C) for about 10-12 minutes till golden brown. (You can also deep fry the onions) Keep aside.
  2. In a spice grinder, add all the ‘biryani masala’ ingredients and blend till you get a fine powder. Keep aside.
  3. In a medium size cooking pot, place the brown rice and add the water and salt and place on heat. As the water starts boiling, turn heat to low and cover and cook the rice for about 20 minutes or until all water has evaporated. It would be half-cooked. Keep the rice aside uncovered.
  4. Take a large heavy bottomed cooking pot with a tight fitting lid and place the chicken pieces in it. Add the ground biryani masala and the rest of the spices – chill powder, turmeric,coriander and the salt. Add the chopped cilantro and mint.
  5. In a food processor, add 3/4 of the baked onions (or fried onions) reserving the rest for while serving. Add the soaked almonds along with about 1/4 th cup of the water to grind into a smooth paste.
  6. Add this also to the chicken and mix everything well using your hands coating the chicken pieces well with the spices and the fresh herbs and the onion almond mixture.  Add the potatoes (if adding) and 1 cup of water to this and mix well.
  7. Place this pot with the chicken on the stove.  Add all the previously half-cooked brown rice on the top of the chicken.  Add the reserved onions on top.  Sprinkle the rose and kewra extract mixed water on the top of the rice. Cover the pot with a lid and put the heat on low.  (You can seal the sides of the lid with Al foil to prevent any steam from escaping). Cook on low heat for about 25-30 minutes or until the chicken pieces in the bottom are all cooked. Remove from heat.
  8. To serve, dig in with a large serving spoon to get the rice and the chicken pieces below together. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and cashew nuts and fresh cilantro.

Notes: You can also cook this biryani in the oven. Place the chicken and rice in an oven proof pot or Al pan and bake covered at 350 deg F (180 deg C) for about 40-45 minutes.

brown rice biryani




Chicken in an almond yoghurt sauce (Moghlai Chicken)


IMG_1947Imagine the goodness of almonds in your curry. Now add the most flavorful blend of spices to it.  And then imagine ‘marinated in yoghurt’, tender, juicy, falling off the bone chicken pieces in this gravy.  That my dear would be your Moghlai Chicken – A curry that originated in the Moghul era and was cooked for the ‘royalty’. Now don’t you think we deserve this ‘royal’ treatment once in a while too?

DSC_0004At least I did but alas, I didn’t have any servants to cook this for me. But I was nevertheless determined to treat myself and my family royally.  In fact I came home from work last Friday with this exact thought in mind and in less than two hours, Moghlai Chicken was on the dinner table along with fresh home made rotis.  Pure Bliss!We devoured it, cleaned the plates and the pot and licked our fingers! Need I say more? Believe me it is so delicious that it is totally worth the extra effort!

collageBtw in case you are curious where I got the recipe from? You would never guess ..ha ha – An old ‘Hawkins’ Pressure cooker recipe manual! 🙂 I had actually made this ‘Murgh Musallum’ curry some 15 years ago as a newly wed trying to impress her husband with her cooking! Blush Blush:).  It had been a very successful attempt however in the chaotic and maddening years that followed this recipe manual was lost somewhere.  I recently happened to retrieve it in one of my cleaning expeditions and had been dreaming of making that same ‘Moghlai chicken’ ever since!!!

Presenting Moghlai Chicken for you folks. I followed the Hawkins recipe mostly making slight changes here and there like reducing the spice level slightly and the oil content and increasing the quantity of almonds from the original recipe. I am also delighted to bring this recipe, that is fit for the ‘kings’, to Angie, the host of Fiesta Friday and my virtual partying blogger friends who deserve nothing less! 🙂

Chicken in an almond yoghurt sauce (Moghlai Chicken)

  • Time: About 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print
 This recipe makes a 9 inch round cake


  • 2 lbs (or about 1kg) chicken pieces  (preferably chicken with bones), cleaned and cut into medium size pieces

For the marinade

  • 4 green cayenne chillies (optional)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch by 1 inch piece of fresh ginger (or about 2 tbsp grated)
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt (curd)
  • 2 tsp red chilli (cayenne pepper) powder (use less if you want less hot or milder sauce)

Dry roast ingredients

  • 8 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 inch piece stick cinnamon
  • 4 cardamoms (shelled/peeled to get seeds)
  • about 20 almonds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • about 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 3 large onions thinly sliced
  • 3 large tomatoes, pureed (or about 2 cups tomato puree)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala (optional)
  • about 1/4 cup water
  • fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


Blend together all marinade ingredients in a blender and marinate the chicken pieces in it for about 15-30 minutes (I did only 15!).

In a frying pan dry roast all ingredients listed under ‘dry roast ingredients’ on medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes stirring frequently until you get the aroma. Keep aside.

Take a large wok or a large frying pan and heat the olive oil in it. When hot fry the onions in batches until they turn golden brown. Reserve the rest of the oil in the pan.

Next grind the dry roast ingredients with the fried onions adding a little water to from a paste.  Make sure the almonds are ground fine into a paste.

Now heat the reserved oil (from the fried onions) into a large wide bottom cooking pot (or a large pressure cooker) and lightly fry the chicken pieces in batches in it to lightly brown them.  Reserve the marinade from the chicken marinade. Keep the fried chicken pieces aside.

Now to the same pot (add more oil if scant oil), add the above ground paste (almond and spices) and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Now add the reserved marinade, the tomato puree and salt and stir. Add the chicken pieces and mix well and add about 1/4 cup water.  Cover and cook on low to moderate heat for about 20 minutes stirring halfway through to ensure no pieces are sticking to the pot. (Add more water too if desired).

Check for seasoning and add the additional garam masala if desired.  Turn heat off and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Serve warm with fresh home made rotis or paranthas! 🙂

STEP WISE pictures:


Making marinade for chicken


Mixing chicken pieces in the marinade



Dry roasting spices and almonds


Frying onions till golden brown


Grinding fried onions and almonds and spices together to form a paste


Lightly frying the marinated chicken pieces.


Adding ground almond paste into the oil to lightly brown.


Add reserved marinade and tomato puree and seasoning and the chicken pieces.