I’ve had Makhana or popped lotus seeds often in India — during festivals, in sweet dishes, in my favorite shahi paneer, in Papa’s roasted cornflakes and peanut trail mixes (Chanachoor or Dalmoth), and often elsewhere or in other occasions. Ma ended up feed me several pounds of these, when I was expecting my babies..my 1st and my 2nd. And when I say several pounds, you must think of at least a truck-load of these, because Makhane are extremely light, fluffy as popcorns (and btw, these are popped seeds too!). She’d fry them in clarified butter or ghee and sprinkle a little salt and have me sit through the entire bowl and eat it all up.
These snowy spotted white-balls are light as air and very crisp when dry roasted with a little butter in a pan. They taste great and are very easy on our tummies. Not that I loved them specifically, but yes, I did find them thrown in many of the dishes I loved. And they never bothered me in those curries or in those sweet. They’re soft and puffed as marshmallows, but aren’t sweet, and almost melt away in mouth when cooked. In fact these are extremely nutritious and are mighty rich in alkaloids, free radicals and anti-oxidants, which proving immunity, cure and healing. They have exceptionally low glycemic content, meaning they are very low in carbohydrate, sugars and calorie quantities than most other foods, and thus, these are very diabetes-friendly. They’ve cultivated and have been exclusively part of the East Asian cuisine since thousands of years now. Chinese and Japanese traditional medicine systems consider foxnuts or lotus seeds beneficial and very valuable in treating a number of ailments.
I had half a packet full of Makhana sitting unnoticed on my pantry shelf since a long long time. These popped seeds probably didn’t expect a good future, until I accidentally discovered the pack yesterday. It was hid behind a few of my containers that stored cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, and other nuts. And out came with it a small plastic packet, with an old green rubber band that had probably withstood an entire season’s wear and tear on the rack. I hadn’t paid much attention to it of late. Not after I had used up half of it for my paneer curry. So the packet was a little less than half filled with char magaz or melon seeds.
The Makhanas cook easily and quickly. So, I chose green peas to partner with them in my curry, which are also reputed to be one of the easiest and friendliest veggies. The recipe was thus born in the fly! The dish is came out perfect. Very aromatic, and as delicious. It was divine to watch the green peas simmer and get cooked in the sinfully spicy and nutty sauce, with soft white makhanas thrown in all around in them. The flavor was outstanding and I say this because the two of us licked every bit of the curry meant to serve a gang of four!
It certainly turned out to be one of my best signature vegetarian dishes, no doubt. I generally can not relish what I cook. The constant smell of a food being cooked and the exhaustion the whole elaborate process would sometimes take end-to-end, would leave me feeling not too hungry and not too keen. But I did like this. And I loved it. I made it with my most beloved spice mix and flavors.
I very much hope you’d love this too…as much or more than we did……and have a spicy good day! 🙂
- 100 gms (3.5 oz) Phool Makhana or popped Lotus seeds
- 3 cups (about 680 gms or 22 oz) fresh or frozen green peas
- 3.5 heaped tbsp (about 43 gms or 1.5 oz) Char Magaz or Melon seeds
- 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
- 5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 5 Indian hot green chillies (or less per the heat preference)
- 1/2 tsp Shahjeera
- 1/2 Jeera or cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (kali mirch)
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (jayphal powder)**
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (dalchini powder)**
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves (lavang powder)**
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (choti elaichi powder)**
- 1/4 tsp ground fennel (saunf powder)**
- 1 handful of fresh and rinsed Cilantro (coriander leaves or dhania patti)
- 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
- 2 tbsp clarified butter or ghee or butter (for roasting the Makahana)
- Salt to taste
- 4 tbsp light cooking oil
**Alternatively, use 1/2 of a Nutmeg or Jayphal, 1/2 inch cinnamon bark or dalchini, 2 green cardamoms or choti elaichi, 1/2 tsp of cloves or lavang and 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds or saunf. Dry roast them on a clean and dry fry-pan on medium-high heat till aromatic and done. Take off from stove, and let the roasted mix cool for a minute. Then transfer them into a grinder to grind with the rest of the ingredients listed under “methods” below.
- Because the Makhana take up more volume, I had to fry them in 2 batches. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a frying pan overmedium-high heat and fry half of the Makhana till coated, crisp and done. Remove on a container. Heat remaining ghee in the pan and fry the rest of the Makhana similarly and set aside.
- In a blender, add 2 tbsp of water, chopped onions, ginger, garlic, melon seeds, hot green chillies and cilantro (dhania patti). If you are using the whole spices, add the dry roasted mix in the blender. Blend them all together into a smooth paste.
- Heat light cooking in a cooking pot and add shahjeera, cumin seeds and allow them to crackle.
- Transfer the spice mixture in the pan and fry the mixture on medium heat and stir occasionally to prevent the spices from charring/sticking. If you are using ground or powdered spices(cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and fennel), add them here and mix together. Cook them, till the spice mixture is dry, changes to a slightly dark color andlooks done.
- Lower the stove heat to low-medium and pour in the milk, fresh ground pepper and slowly stir to mix in the spice mixture, so there aren’t any lumps. If you are using fresh green peas, add them into the milk first, and adjust salt. Let them boil for 2-3 minutes, before adding inthe makhana. If you are using frozen peas, add them with the makhana together and adjust salt.
- After the makhana has been added, simmer and cook over medium-low heat for about 5-
10 minutes till everything is nicely cooked and done. The peas should be tender and the makhana shrinked and softened, but not overly cooked. Moreover, this one’s a dish with rich, creamy and lavishly thick gravy. To keep the intensity of flavors intact and not dilute them, this should not be curried too watery and thin. However, if on cooking the contents seems to dry up, add a little milk or water to provide the moisture and base.
- When done, take off from stove and transfer the Mughlai matar makhana into a serving bowl. Have a feast with them and steamed rice or your favorite Indian bread.