Easy Food Smith

Posts Tagged / summer drink

NEER MOR / CHHAS / छाछ (Spiced Yogurt Drink)


This post comes to you from Dubai! We have relocated from India to Dubai and after a few hiccups, we have finally settled in and now enjoying the summer break. It has been quite a while, since I experienced temperatures exceeding 46 degrees C. While July and August in Mumbai are absolutely heavenly with monsoon in its full glory, I have been told, here these two months are the hottest with temperatures touching and going beyond 50 degrees C and high humidity adding to discomfort to the heat. Keeping one self hydrated is one of the key things to do in this brutal heat and this chhas is one of the many delicious ways to do that. Besides, it was time to upload a post for Hopscotch.

In a previous post of mine, I had pretty much in detail shared with you, all about how robust the Punjabi cuisine is and how milk and milk products hold a special place in this vibrant cuisine. Our home was no different when it came to use of milk and milk products. Homemade yogurt was made in copious amounts during summers as was home churned cultured butter. Any excess butter or the one which was about to turn rancid was turned into ghee. However, I was the black sheep of the family. While others would love to indulge themselves with a glass full of sweet lassi, that was at times flavoured with rose syrup aka most north Indian’s all-time favorite ‘Rooh Afza’ (that I still loathe), I used to (and still do) go for the savoury one spiced with ginger and mint with a generous sprinkle of roasted cumin powder and chaat masala thrown in. At my mother’s house Chhaachh or Mat’tha was something we had almost everyday may it be winters or summers. It used to be an integral part of our meal. So the chhaas made with buttermilk was always savory, with spices in it, while the sweet ones were made using yogurt.

In my marital home, we prefer savoury lassi over sweet ones (which is a huge relief). Making mat’tha is really simple. Usually mat’tha is made using buttermilk which is diluted with water and as I mentioned above, is savory. But it can be easily swapped/ substituted with yogurt or dahi. One just needs to have an idea about what all one would like to add to one’s glass of yogurty goodness. I do not mind the ones with fruits such as the mango lassi, peach lassi, so on and so forth. Yet my heart always settles for the savoury one each time someone says lassi. There used to be this wonderful south Indian restaurant on the corner street of Barakhamba Road in Delhi and I used to love their their tempered Chhas or what they used to call as Neer Mor. Hence, I have taken the liberty to tweak the Punjabi chhas by adding a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves. You can omit it if you wish to but I love the flavors of curry leaves. Besides, they are great for a tummy struggling with the oppressive summer heat. Also, I have not added chopped ginger as I don’t like its shreds and bits in my mouth. Instead, I have extracted its juice and added it to the chhaas. Just play with the ingredients and see what works best for your taste buds. This is how we like ours.


1C Plain/ Unflavoured Yogurt  (Dahi)

2½ C Water

½ tsp Ginger Juice (from nearly half an inch piece)

1/3 C Mint leaves (adjust to taste)

1 Green Chili, finely chopped

1 tsp Oil

½ tsp Mustard Seeds

8 – 10 Curry Leaves

1 tbsp chopped fresh Coriander (optional)

Salt to taste

1½ tsp Chaat Masala

2 tsp Roasted Cumin Powder


In a pot, whisk the yogurt to have a smooth consistency. Add water and whisk again. Chop the mint and slightly bruise it in a mortar and pestle. Add ginger juice, mint leaves, and green chilli to the yogurt mix and keep the pot in the fridge for one and a half to two hours to allow all the flavors to mix together. At this stage, feel free to strain the chhaas to get rid of mint bits and chilies.

Take a small pan and add oil to it. When it is hot, add mustard seeds. Once they begin to crackle, switch off the heat and add curry leaves. (I always cover the pan when I am doing this job since mustard seeds splutter around and so do the curry leaves)

Add the tempering to the mat’tha along with salt, chaat masala and roasted cumin and serve chilled.

Note: The amount of water will depend on the thickness of yogurt. I had used home made yogurt which was thick and creamy.

Note: The amount of spices & herbs is also a matter of personal taste. Feel free to increase or reduce their amount.

Note: To serve, you may sieve the mat’tha or serve it just as it is.

Note: If you chosen not to sieve the contents, don’t forget to stir them before serving.

Note: If you feel that the yogurt is sour, add a few table spoons of milk instead of sugar to cut through the sourness.

Serves – 3


Here are some more natural beverages / coolers that are great for summers:

Pom Limeade

Aam Panna (Raw Green Mango Cooler)

Lemonade Concentrate 

Masala Spiced Roasted Beetroot Lassi

Pineapple Jal Jeera (Pineapple flavored Cumin Water)

Jamun Kala Khatta (Sweet Sour & Spicy Java Plum Cooler)

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MASALA SPICED ROASTED BEET LASSI / मसालेदार चुकंदर लस्सी

Occasionally, some kitchen fiascoes turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Just like this Beet Lassi. I was terribly upset with myself when I forgot to keep my home made yogurt in the refrigerator once it was set. Freshly made yogurt takes no more than two and half to three hours to set (in the Mumbai climate) and here I wasIt took me over six hours to realize the blunder and by that time the whole batch of curd had turned sour.
I thought of ways where I could use my huge batch of sour yogurt. I thought of making Pakoda Kadhi but I realized the curd was too sour and after putting in huge effort I was most likely not going to get desired results. To put the sour curd to good use, I used 3/4th of the batch and let the water from the curd drain over a cheese cloth and made my favourite chocolate cake from part of it. And from the left over drained curd I made a sour curd dressing to go with potato salad. Yet I still had some left from the batch of sour yogurt. I also learnt one very valuable lesson. Make small batches of yogurt coz it is not easy to spend a huge batch of sour yogurt!
I remembered having seen many food bloggers making beet raita although I have not tried it even once. Why not beet lassi I thought. Beets are sweet, curd is super sour and the pairing should work since there would be a balance of flavors and if I thrown in some masala it should probably work well. For my beet salad, earlier, I had boiled the beets but having seen a trend in roasting veggies and fruits for using in salads, soups, cakes, cookies and smoothies and even ice-creams, I thought of roasting the beet for the lassi. The result was beets with superior and a sweet enhanced flavor than when boiled. You know what? From now on, I will use more of roasted veggies in my cooking and baking J I am loving it! 
Oh! I didn’t say what lassi is! For those who are new to this lingo, lassi is a blend of yogurt and water. It may be in a sweet or savory avatar. These days you will find a lot of variations. Some people, instead of water, like to add fruit pulp or puréed veggies to have flavoured lassi and it also helps take the health quotient of lassi a few notches up. But the basic one will have beaten curd plus water to which salt, black pepper powder, dry powdered mint and roasted cumin is added. The sweet one uses sugar or palm sugar/ fruits. 

This recipe is a savory one. The color gorgeous and the texture lusciousI can’t seem to get enough of ityes me! who used to hate beets!! Here is how I made it
2 medium sized beetroots
1¼ C Sour Yogurt (or more if required)
1½ C Water (or more if required)
1 inch piece Ginger (grated)
¼ C Mint
1½ tsp Cumin (roasted and coarsely ground)
¼ tsp Black Pepper (powder)
½ tsp dried mint powder
½ tsp garam masala (mine is mild)
¾ – 1 tsp Sumac
Lots of ice
Mix together and place in a shallow dish
1½ tsp Sumac
1 tsp Sugar
1 pinch Black Salt
Wash and scrub the beets well, Place the beets on individual foils and close the top of the foil by pinching it. Place the foil encased beets in a 200 degree C oven and roast for approx 40-45 minutes or till done. 
When cool, peel the beets (Beets bleed color and you need to be careful as it leaves stains on clothes)
Chop the beets and blitz them. Add mint, ginger and yogurt and blitz again.
Add water and blitz one last time. Adjust the amount of water and yogurt 
Sieve the beet mint yogurt mix (optional). Adjust the amount of water.
Add salt, black pepper, garam masala, sumac and cumin. Adjust the amount of spices.
For serving, moisten the rim of the glasses in which you intend to serve the lassi with water. Over turn the glass in the sumac, sugar and black salt mix ensuring that the rim takes on as much mix as possible. 
Pour the lassi into glasses and serve topped with ice.
Garnish with mint leaves. 
Note: The amount of yogurt and water will be determined by the size of the beet and of course personal taste.
Note: I strongly recommend using the sumac, sugar, black salt (on the rim of the glasses) as it gives a nice tangy flavor and a beautiful rounded taste. 
Note: I had used sour yogurt so it helped balance the sweetness of beets. For regular yogurt and beet lassi use lemon juice to balance the sweet sour flavor. 
Serves 3-4
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As I start to write this post, I feel being transported to my childhood when consumers were yet to be bombarded and lured by the soft drink companies. They were a long way from becoming a fad. People still indulged in a glass of Lemonade, Aam Panna, Jal Jeera, Bel Sherbet or Buttermilk to beat the heat. My mother was no different and believed in the goodness of these natural coolers to counter the blistering summer heat. Nimbu pani or lemonade was a favourite and regular in our house. Rasna, which was a craze then, was the only other drink that she would allow us to indulge in once in a while.

The bottle of lemon squash steadfastly accompanied me even after I left home to study for my MBA. It was one thing that was always at hand throughout the scorching summer in my hostel room. Mum would make it in large quantities and send it over through a friend or acquaintance travelling to the town of my univ. It was a healthy and a very convenient optionno squeezing of lemons and stirring of sugar in a pot. Just had to pour a little amount of squash in the glass, fill it with chilled watersatiatedtotally. Ah! The good old days when mum was around for everythingThe never ending stock of lemon squash ensured that I would survive the 48 degrees parching heat of north India, with a bit of ease  well hydrated. This and our ‘hired on monthly basis’ noisy dessert cooler were the life line for me and my room-mate.

Come summer and the price of lemons soars to absurdly high amount. No amount of haggling or reasoning with the vendor works. He coolly rationalises by saying that summer is the time to make the kill!! Fair enough; he understands the economics- the demand supply stuff. I give the devil his dueas if I have a choice. 

However, this year around I turned smart and made squash during the ‘off-season’. I bought the lemons in bulk and my regular vendor surely got suspicious of my motives. “Madam achaar banaoge kya?” (Madam, are you going to make pickle) He perhaps was not imagining that I could be making squash. I didn’t answer him, till I had paid him for lemons and just as I was leaving, I told him that it was for nimbu sherbet (lemon squash/lemonade). I can’t forget the stumped look on the poor guy’s face. I can only imagine his thoughts“here goes my kill”.
You will need,

1 litre water
1 kg 250 grams Lemons (to yield approx.1 litre juice)
2.5 kg sugar
½ tsp potassium meta bi-sulphite (preservative)
A few drops of yellow colour
In a deep pan, boil the sugar and water together until sugar has dissolved. 
Give it one boil and switch off the heat. 
Cool and strain the syrup.
Mix in the lemon juice, potassium meta bi-sulphite and lemon colour. 
Fill the squash in clean sterilised bottles leaving a little head space. 
Keep refrigerated.

To serve: 
Add a little amount (2-3 tbsp) of squash in a glass. Fill with water and top with ice. Serve chilled!

Thanks for visiting and see you again!