Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Roasted Bhutta

On the weekend, A and I went out for an errand combined with a long drive. On the way back, we saw one of Delhi's pop-up retail for the monsoon - a long line of people with bhuttas ready for roasting. It's magical how the wares they sell change with each season. Towards the end of summer, they come out with kala jamun, in the winter they have guavas with masala mix, through the summer they sell roast vegetables with masala including the incredibly sour star fruit. In the rains, bhutta wallahs appear by magic on the streets of Delhi. They usually sit by the side of main roads, with a stack of unpeeled bhutta and a pan of fiery coals. You can unpeel the top of the bhuttas to select the best one - if you like them soft and juicy, pick the ones which have the lightest 'hair' inside the sheaf: blond/ greenish, and the pods squishing out a milky sap when you press them.
The bhutta wallah then unpeels and roasts these on his pan of coal, fanning the embers and turning the bhutta over to ensure even roasting. The process can take 5-10 minutes. The bhutta is done when the pods are blackened evenly up and down the cob. You can eat them as is or ask for the masala - a mix of lime juice, chilli powder and plain or rock salt.
There's nothing to beat the taste of the hot bhutta, with the mingled sour-salt-spicy overlay on the sweet corn, in the rains. Somehow the process of coal-roasting also adds its own taste which you just can't achieve at home on the gas stove. Street food just isn't the same when sanitized!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Restaurant Reviews

It has been a while since I had time to blog. However, in the last ten days, I've been out to lunch at 3 restaurants and thought I'd review all three of them in one post.

Kwality is one of Delhi's landmarks. The restaurant has been around sicne the 1950's and serves north indian cuisine, including, I am sure, butter chicken and tandoori chicken and various kinds of paneer. My best friend and I used to regularly have lunch at Kwality when both of us worked in Connaught Place, but since shifting to gurgaon, I hadn't been there in years. I and a colleague were in CP for a meeting a couple of weeks ago around lunchtime so I decided to take my out-of-town colleague there.

The restaurant looked the same as ever, mirrored walls, somewhat over-the-top Punjabi Baroque decor with its serving staff in maroon uniforms. As always, it was somewhat dimly lit inside. I decided to let desire score over discipline and ordered the chole bhature - the restaurant specialty and my colleague's favourite dish - along with a serving of Stuffed potatoes ina tomato gravy - Bharwan Aloo. I asked for 2 plates of Chole bhature, but the waiter convinced me to order one bhatura each and re-order if we wanted. We also wanted Jaljeera to combat the heat and humidity outside.

The order arrived in about 10 minutes, and looked delicious. The bhature were huge - each a perfect circle, about the size of a steel thali, crunchy on top, soft on the bottom. I was thankful the waiter had advised caution. We dug into the chole - pindi style, i.e. without gravy but with a mix of spices including black rock salt etc ( I have a pet recipe that I will blog about some other time) - and the aloo. the chole was amongst the best I've ever had, soft but not mushy and bursting with flavour. The Bharwan aloo was a little hard to cut through, despite being fully cooked, but tasted great - stuffed with spiced paneer and soaked in a light, non-spicy tomato-onion gravy. By the time each of us had finished our bhaturas we were stuffed, much like the aloo! The service was perfect - unobtrusive but highly attentive and tuned into what we wanted rather than what they could sell. All in all a terrific experience, and we rued having to work the rest of the afternoon as we rolled on out of the restaurant. Kwality restaurant, Sansad Marg, CP.

Later, I took my colleague to Wenger's - another Delhi landmark. This bakery has been around since 1926 and is amongst the best bakeries anywhere in the world. They refuse to franchise or have more branches for fear of reducing the quality they are famous for. You get an unbeatable selection of pastries, breads and more here, some varieties which one never sees anywhere else. They still import their flour from Austria, and use potato flour for various tarts and cakes to ensure the recipes followed are authentic. I love their French hearts, Chocolate Japs and mousses. At one time, my husband and I couldn't go to Wenger's and not have their chocolate eclairs, filled with whipped cream instead of custard - delicious. Their Shammi kebab and paneer rolls are excellent too, and amongst the most popular items ordered by regulars. My favourite from their menu is their fresh fruit cakes - mango or strawberry, in season. These are heavenly - absolutely heavenly! Wenger's, Block A, CP Inner Circle.

In Bangalore a week later, my boss took us all out to Sunny's, an italian restaurant walking distance from office. There is a story behind this restaurant - apparently the owner is gay and outed himself many years ago when India was much more conservative. He was working at a restaurant at the time and suffered a huge backlash and couldn't find a job anywhere for a while. he later opened his own restaurant which eventually turned into Sunny's and hires mostly gay men. A good place to hang out and watch some of the most handsome hunks - especially if you don't want any trouble to go with that! We sat outside to enjoy the grey, rain-filled clouds, and were even hit by a drizzle but it added to the charm.

Sunny's used to import many of the ingredients in its search for authenticity, until recently. We ordered the black pepper wild mushroom fettucine with sundried tomatoes and cream, spaghetti with saffroned onions, a lasagna with spinach and a chicken fettucine. They served restaurant-baked bread and sage butter for starters. Their bread was amazing - crusty on top and soft inside, and went really well with the fresh sage butter. The wild mushroom fettucine was one of the best I've ever had, full of the delicate flavour of the mushrooms, punctured by the piquant chunks of sundried tomatoes. The saffroned-onion spaghetti didn't work so well, as the flavours didn't meld together, and the dish tasted mostly of spaghetti itself. The lasagna was excellent though, with its spicy sauce of tomatoes perking up the bland creaminess of cheese and spinach. Their lemonade with mint and ginger was also pronounced excellent.

Service was a bit patchy - the waiter got the drinks mixed up all around and served everybody the wrong thing. It also took a while for them to serve the starters, though the food came pretty quickly. All in all, an experience well-worth repeating, if only to ensure that I have space for their Philadelphia cheesecake next time, which my colleagues assured me was worth breaking all diets for. Sunny's, Vittal Mallya road, Bangalore.

Lastly, as you may know, Delhi has taken to Italian like maa ki daal and Italian restaurants abound. One of the newer entrants to the scene is Baci, in Sundar Nagar market. We had heard a mix of reviews and finally decided to drop in on Saturday after errands in CP. Baci is in the main market of Sundar Nagar, a market dominated by antique stores. The shops carry an amazing array of products ranging from authentic brass urlis to inlaid vases and plates to lifesize brass stags, furniture, art and silver and brass figurines.

Baci has a narrow and non-descript exterior - we would have missed it if we hadn't been looking. There is seating on 2 levels, and the style is modern-minimalistic. The ceiling was chocolate brown, while the tables were dark wood, as was the floor. The walls were white with a collage of colourful kisses on beige fabric, and the lighting was rather dim. We had opted for the ground floor, and later my husband told me the first floor was better lit and brighter. It is the kind of place that makes you very sleepy - as proved by our skippng the art exhibit we had planned to visit post lunch, in favour of a snooze. They have a nice selection of magazines and books, including Jamie Oliver's Italy, and newspapers if you are interested.

We ordered one amaretto, a rocket salad with mango and feta cheese in raspberry vinaigrette, white onion soup, gnocchi in a tomato basil sauce and mushroom fettucine.

The onion soup was ok - a bit bland for my tastes. I have a great recipe for onion soup which I make in winter and will blog about some day - this was no match. The gnocchi was excellent, very light and encased in a lovely sauce. I found the mushroom fettucine a bit dry, especially in comparison to the one at Sunny's but it was tasty. We actually decided to splurge more calories on dessert as well. A and I shared a hazelnut gelato while our son opted for a coffee semifreddo. The Gelato was a bit too sweet for our taste but the Semifreddo was awesome. Tasted like a Tiramisu minus the liquor.

The meal came to about Rs. 2000 which isn't very expensive given that we had a 4 course meal. On the other hand, there are much better restaurants for Italian food in Delhi - including Flavours - which come a lot cheaper. So all in all, worth one visit, not more. Baci, Sundar Nagar Market, New Delhi.

PS. I do have photos which I will upload one of these days!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chilled Soup

I'm a big soup fan and winter meals at our place typically center around soup and salad. But up until a few years ago, I had never heard of chilled soup or had one, apart from Gazpacho. Soups usually bring to mind a brothy, steamy cup - something to warm both the body and the soul on a cold winter's night. Cold soups were an interesting discovery for me, because it meant I could have one of my favourite food forms - soup - even during India's hot and humid summers. I have experimented with quite a few chilled soup recipes over the years, including a Hungarian one for sour cherry soup, which tastes quite luscious on a hot May afternoon in Delhi.

Recently I was watching Planet food on Discovert T&L and I saw an episode on Spain hosted by Padma Lakshmi. Complete aside here - but why would anyone get her to host something about food? First of all, she doesn't look like she can taste any food without bringing it back up soon thereafter. Second of all, she doesn't sound either knowledgeable or enthusiastic enough. thirdly, she doesn't seem to build up any empathy with the various people she is meeting/ helping with their cooking. Fourthly, the channel makes her help out various people while they are cooking, and these interludes are pure comedy - she's so awkward in the kitchen. Fifthly - and i will stop ranting after this and get back to cold soups - she always has the same pat expression when she tastes anything - first she'll put a tiny bit in her mouth, then she'll make those 'wine-tasting' type of movements with the lower half of her face while the forehead screws itself up in an attempt to make it seem as if she a. knows something about food and b. is thoughtfully assessing its taste, whereas she is more likely to be thinking - where can I quickly spit this out before the calories get me; and then she always, always says, "Mmmm..." - it's very annoying to watch a fake foodie!

Anyhow, to get back to Spain, PL met up with an American journalist who is settled there and writes about Spanish food who made her a batch of Gazbacho and a cold almond soup. It had been a while since I had made that at home so I whipped up a batch this weekend, to satisfy my need to cook and my son's love of soup. It's a nice, velvety soup and very light despite the almonds.


1 cup blanched almonds

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1.5 tbsp sherry vinegar

3-4 cloves garlic

1-2 slices of day old bread

3 cups cold water

salt and pepper to taste

Garnish - bunch of muscat grapes

1. Put the bread to soak in 2/3rds cup water

2. While it is soaking, puree the almonds and garlic in a blender until finely blended

3. Squeeze the bread to release most of the water.

4. Add the soaked bread to the almond-garlic mix and blend

5. Add the olive oil little by little, blending after each addition, until you have a fine, smooth emulsion.

6. Then add the sherry vinegar and blend once more.

7. If you have a large blender, add the water and blend everything until nicely mixed and smooth. otherwise you can scrape out the mix in the blender into a tureen, add the water and whisk/ beat together for a couple of minutes until everything is finely mixed.

8. Add the salt and pepper to your taste.

9. Chill for 2-3 hours, or if you're not a pre-planning person, just make the soup with cold water and a few cubes of ice.

Serve garnished with halved grapes - you can go to the trouble of peeling them as well, if you wish but I like to save myself the bother. You can also add toasted almond flakes to make it richer.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer vegetables

My north Indian friends typically tend to hate gourds. Summer in Delhi heralds the onset of poor vegetables, though the fruit variety is amazing. By and large, the menu gets restricted to ghia, tori, tinda from the gourd family - far from the most glamourous vegetables. In keeping with my strangely pleb tastes in veggies, I actually like these vegetables, especially the way my mother cooks them. She typically makes them south-Indian style, with a spicy curry-powder, which makes even bland tinda perk up a bit.

Unfortunately, I don't have a good memory for south Indian spice mix recipes and it becomes a pain to keep calling my mom each time I have to make it. I was casting about for a different way to cook either ghia or tinda, and came up with this recipe a few years back which is quite popular around our house. I wanted something that (unusually for me) does not use tomatoes or garlic - my holy grails of veg cooking - maybe it was like one of those Who dares Wins targets I set for myself. Here goes:

1 kilo tindas or 1 ghia - diced into approx. 1 cm pieces
1-2 red onions, minced or grated
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup natural yoghurt, whisked to smoothness
kasoori methi - dried fenugreek leaves
1 tsp cumin
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tbsp oil
pinch turmeric
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste

  1. Heat the oil in a wok

  2. Put in a pinch of turmeric and wait for the 'raw' smell to disappear - about 1 second.

  3. Add the cumin when the oil is hot, and cook until toasty

  4. Add the kasoori methi and stir for a couple of seconds

  5. Add the onions and the chillies and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are turning brown

  6. Add the ghia/ tinda and stir to mix. Cook for 7-8 minutes until the ghia is cooked through (should be soft all the way through)

  7. Turn the heat down to medium and pour in the milk and yoghurt. Add the salt and sugar too. Keep stirring until the liquid is almost absorbed. Some of the milk-yoghurt mix will curdle into small, paneer-like bits, which is fine.

Serve hot with rotis or dal and rice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Spinach Rice

I love green leafy vegetables, and am known to be unable to resist them. Every time I go to a sabzi mandi, my maid sighs because she knows I'll come back laden with all manner of greens, many of which neither she nor I recognise and which she has to find space for in our already overcrowded refrigerator. And, on top of that, she'll have to come up with ways to cook all of these before they perish, to critical acclaim.

Winter is when green leafies really come into their own in Delhi. There is one seller at the mandi I frequent who specialises in them, laying out plain old spinach, sarson ka saag, methi leaves, bathua and a host of others in glistening, inviting bundles. I really miss this category of veggies in the monsoon, at which time it's not really wise to eat them due to the poor quality and the risk of them being worm-infested.

I had always looked for a good way to combine spinach with rice and invented this recipe when I was in France. It's a one dish meal, needing very little to go with it, apart from natural yoghurt and maybe some papad.
1 bundle spinach, washed, dried and cut fine
2 red onions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
5-6 cloves
2 inch piece of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander powder
1 cup uncooked basmati rice, washed and drained
1/2 cup milk
1.25 cups water (approx)
Salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
Put the oil into the pressure cooker and let it heat.
When hot, add the cumin seeds and let them brown a bit.
Add the cinnamon, cloves and dhania powder and stir till the spices give off a warm smell (about 30 seconds).
Add the onions, garlic and chillies and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.
Add the rice and stir to mix. Let the rice get slightly roasted, for 2-3 minutes. then add the spinach and the milk.
Add the water and stir to mix everything.
Add the salt at this stage.
Put the lid on and cook for 2 whistles.

Serve hot with the aforementioned accompaniments. If you like, you can also add parboiled potatoes during the cooking process, or alternately, roast them well and top the dish with them before serving.
If you don't own a pressure cooker, you can easily cook this over an open pan as well, it will just take a bit longer for the rice to be well-cooked, and bear more watching during the process.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pommes de terre

Apples of the earth. That's what potatoes are called in French. Well, that isn't a definition that works for me, seeing as I hate apples. Maybe I should start calling apples papates des arbres and that way they will suddenly become more interesting?

I'm a potatoes gal. I can have them almost any which way, except raw. I remember when my mother had set me to the task of copying out recipes from a book years ago - I came across stuffed tomatoes, stuffed peppers and stuffed eggplants but nary a mention of stuffed potatoes. I was so hurt on behalf of my beloved tuber that I made up a recipe on the spot and put it into the notebook. My mother has never tried it and so I still don't know whether they would taste poisonous or yummy, but my bet would lean towards deliciousity.

Similar to eggplants, potatoes too are incredibly malleable and lend themselves to all kinds of cuisine, all cooking methods, spices and recipes with equal gusto. This summer when we were on holiday, we lugged along a packet of instant vegit aloo mash, since we were planning on self-catering some of the time. I came up with my own take on the common tikki, and it was a total hit.

Garlicky tikki


1 cup aloo vegit mash

enough water ( as per instructions on the pack)

4-5 large pods of garlic, finely minced


chilli powder

jeera powder

stale bread, crumbled

Reconstitute the dehydrated potato flakes into aloo mash. Avoid excess water - put it in sparingly - so the mash isn't soggy.

Add the garlic, salt, chilli and jeera powder and mix well.

Slowly add the bread crumbs, mixing constantly until you get a mixture that hold together well.

Make the mix into 1.5 inc by 1.5 inch in diameter cutlets, about 1 cm in thickness

Pour some oil onto a frying pan, making sure the frying pan is dry first, and stir the oil about so the inside pan is well coated with the oil.

Wait until the oil is hot and slowly drop in the cutlets.

Cook them on a medium high flame, resisting the temptation to turn them over frequently, until the outsides are brown and crisp looking. make sure both sides are done, and to use less oil, pour a shallow layer into the frying pan and flick it at the tikkis while they are cooking, using the flat side of the spatula, so the sides are crisp as well.

Serve with ketchup or mint or dhania chutney.

This makes a great starter or heavy snack with cocktails. It also tastes good with a simple meal like moong dal and rice.

Another yummy potato dish which I usually serve up for breakfast on lazy Sunday mornings in winter is potato pancakes. These are filling, simple to make and taste superb.

3-4 medium potatoes, grated fine
1 onion, minced fine
chilli powder or pepper
Salt to taste

Mix the ingredients together.
Put oil, or better yet, a dollop of butter, on to heat in a frying pan.
When it's nice and hot, turn the flame to medium.
Spread a thin layer of the potato-onion mix quickly onto the whole surface of the frying pan (about 2 mm thick)
Cook while pressing down with the wooden spatula's flat side, helping the potato's natually gooey liquids to ooze out and bind the pancake together.
Once the bottom of the pancake is nicely browned, flip it over and cook the other side till well done.
Serve hot with onion jam, ketchup, chutney or aachar, whatever you fancy.

Usually potato pancakes are quite thick but I like to make them thin and crisp - they are lighter and taste better to me. I couldn't find a photo of thin potato pancakes and it isn't winter so you'll just have to try them yourself and see how they look.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Monsoon magic

It's rainy weather in Delhi. Not every day rain, but often enough to make one realise it's monsoon time. There's a season I love, despite the moltingly humid days in between which can make one look and feel like a total dishrag. I love watching the rain through the screen door of my bedroom or sitting in the sheltered portion of our roof garden. Hearing the water dripping off the plants in a steady stream. Jumping into puddles and splashing myself. Squelching through the streets, the streetlamps blurry through the slanting lines of rain.

And of course, the monsoon never fails to make one long for all kinds of forbidden, high fat, fried foods of Indian persuasion. I'm sorry but french fries really doesn't cut it in the rain, I need pakoras and lots of them. There are several varieties of pakoras that we have grown up with, each crisper and yummier and more empty-calorier than the other. Too bad, it's pouring and I intend to enjoy it the way God intended, with a good book, a mug of steaming tea and a plateful of crunchy pakoras. Ciao!

Maida Pakoras


1 cup maida (plain flour)

1/2 cup natural yoghurt, ideally somewhat sour

handful curry leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds

chilli powder and salt to taste

1 cup oil

Mix the maida, yoghurt, curry leaves, cumin, salt and chilli powder to form a batter, approximately the consistency of pancake batter

Heat the oil in a wok till hot

Pour the batter in tablespoonsful, ensuring that you spread them out so that they are wide and thin pakoras

Fry till medium orangey-brown

Place on tissue to absorb the oil while you fry up the next batch

Enjoy with ketchup. These pakoras are even nice put into a coriander-yoghurt-coconut base, as a mock dahi vada

Onion pakoras


2 onions, chopped really fine

Chick pea flour/ besan - measure as needed

handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped

1 green chilli, fnely chopped

salt and chilli powder to taste

1 cup oil for frying

Put all the ingredients but the besan (and the oil) into a pan

Add the besan little by little, kneading together until you are able to form a dumpling that holds together

Heat the oil till hot enough for frying

Put in the dumplings one by one and fry till brown and crisp. Remember to fry on medium to low flame so the insides are cooked through.

Enjoy with mint chutney or ketchup

Cheese pakoras


Plain flour - 1 cup

Processed or cheddar cheese - 100 grams - grated

1/2 cup hot water

chilli powder

1 cup oil

Heat the water until hot

Put in the grated cheese and stir till it melts.

Take off heat and slowly add the flour until the mix forms the consistency of pancake batter

Add the chilli powder and curry leaves if wanted

Heat the oil until hot enough for frying

Ladle tablespoonsful of the pakora batter and fry till crisp and brown

Enjoy with ketchup

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mavinakaayi Chitra Anna - Mango Rice

I hate the Indian summers for the most part, especially living in Delhi as I do. My plants dry up, my family wilts, one has no energy to do anything, especially when the temperature goes over 40 degrees C. But there are, thankfully, a few compensations which make the summer bearable. One of the things I most look forward to in the summer is mango season, in common with millions of Indians. The mango is called the King of fruit and I truly believe there is nothing to beat the tastes, as varied as there are regions and topographies in India. From Andhra comes the Banganpalli, sweet and juicy and small. Malgoas come from the west as do the overrated-in-my-opinion Alphonsos or Hapoos. In the north we get Safeda, Dussehri and the one we like best of all - the Chausa. The Chausa is a large, custardy yellow mango, little fragrance but smooth fruit with very little fibre. It comes towards July, the end of the season, and is a truly fitting end to the glorious mango season.

There are many dishes we make with the ripe mango, though I like eating it just as it is. A britisher apparently once said that the best way to eat mangoes was to climb naked into the bathtub and then bite into it. I guess we've learnt to be less messy but I love eating it without cutting it up or using forks and spoons which frankly detract from the luscious taste. Just bite into it and feel the juice dripping down your chin and running down your fist. Keep a large plate handy, that's all.

But what I set out to blog about today was a dish we make with raw mangoes. It's a rice dish, since it is from Karnataka in the south. It has an amazing mixture of flavours, textures and tastes - sour, salty, spicy, crunchy - like a good dish should and is a wonderful summer meal. It doesn't require any accompaniment though I sometimes have a bowl of yoghurt or curds on the side. It's easy to make, though as I was writing out the recipe I realised it sounds fiddly. But it actually is a breeze and makes any meal taste festive.

1 green mango, grated fine
1 tablespoon dessicated coconut, grated
4 tsp oil
Handful curry leaves
Half cup peanuts, shelled but with skins on
1 tsp mustard seeds (black)
1 pinch asafoetida (heeng)
1-2 dry red chillies
1 tsp chilli powder to taste
salt to taste
1 cup basmati rice, cooked so it looks grainy but cooked through

Make sure the mango is really unripe, i.e. hard, so it is sour. Though you can make up by adding either amchur or lime juice, it changes the taste.

1. Put 1 tsp of the oil on to heat

2. When it is hot, put in the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop.

3. When they have finished popping, add the dry red chillies and curry leaves

4. Stir till the chillies turn crisp and shiny, then add the asafoetida and wait for 2-3 seconds. Take off the stove and set aside.

5. Put 2 tsp oil on to heat. Once hot, put in the mango and stir to mix.

6. Cook for three to four minutes till the mango becomes soft and cooked through. Be careful not to cook for too long so it becomes mushy.

7. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, put the last tsp of oil into a wok and roast the peanuts till they are crisp, and the skins slightly browned. Set aside.

8. Put the mango and the dessicated coconut into the blender and grind to mix well.

9. Put the rice in a flat, wide dish. Pour the mango mix on top and add the mustard seed-curry leaves tempering. Add the peanuts as well and then the salt. Mix it well, then taste to check for salt and spiciness. If not spicy enough, add some chilli powder.

10. Serve hot or cool but not cold, i.e. out of the refrigerator.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Hyderabadi dahi vadas

I have always hated the traditional dahi vadas - made from urad dal, soaked in water and then dunked in yoghurt with tamarind and green chutney on top. I hate the bland taste of the actual vada itself and much prefer eating just the yoghurt with the two sauces.

But some years ago, I discovered an amazing recipe for dahi vadas - these are crisp and flavourful, and the yoghurt bursts with flavour too. They are really easy to make too, and have been a hit whenever I or any of my family or friends have served them. When I was studying in France, I was in the process of making these when the house agent came in with a couple to whom she was showing the apartment. The gentleman with her kept sniffing the aroma of these dahi vadas and finally couldn't resist asking me what I was cooking. I offered them to him and his wife, and they were absolutely bowled over - which I found really encouraging since I had just recently started cooking.

These taste great by themselves as a snack or party starter, or with any spiced rice dish. they go particularly well with Bisi bele Bhaath which i shall blog about some other day. One tip - always make more than you planned, because they always go faster than you anticipated!

As always, measurements are indicative, and you have to adjust it to your taste. This should make enough for 6 people. PS. I will put up pictures of the various stages and the finished dish when ever I next make it.


1/2 pound Besan ( Chick pea flour)

2 onions, chopped really fine, minced, rather

1 tsp cumin seeds

1-2 tsp chilli powder

salt to taste

Bunch of coriander leaves, chopped very fine

1 1/2 cups yoghurt, beaten

6-7 pods garlic

1 bunch coriander leaves and stem chopped fine

salt to taste

Handful of curry leaves

1-2 garlic pods, cut into long, thin pieces

1-2 Dried red chillies

1 cup oil

  1. Mix the first six ingredients together with water to make a liquidy paste - about the consistency of chocolate syrup (thinner than pancake but thicker than juice).
  2. Whip the next four together and refrigerate.
  3. Put the oil on to heat in a frying pan. Use a tablespoon or rounded spoon to ladle the batter, spoon by spoon onto the frying pan. Make these mini-pancakes roughly 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches in size, and about 1/4 centimeter thick - they are like mini-blinis.
  4. Cook thoroughly on both sides, turning over. They should be crisp at the edges and somewhat crisp in the center too when done.
  5. Lay each pancake on absorbest tissue to cool.
  6. When they are fully cooled, take out a large, flat pan and set the pancakes on it, side by side, so they form a layer. After each such layer, pour some of the yoghurt you had set to refrigerate onto the layer, making sure the pancakes are covered in the yoghurt.
  7. Once you have layered all the pancakes with yoghurt, put the dish into the fridge for 2-3 hours.
  8. Make sure you keep some of the yoghurt mix aside to top the dish before serving.
  9. Make a tempering of 2 tsp oil, in which you add the thin garlic pieces, the dried red chillies and the curry leaves, in that order. Sometimes I add mustard seeds at the beginning of the tempering, but they are not necessary.
  10. Before serving, add the reserved yoghurt mix and garnish with the tempering.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


In North India, one only gets raw jackfruit. It's an interesting addition to one's repertoire of veggies and you can make a really delicious dry vegetable with it. I've also had a truly amazing biryani made from raw jackfruit - something my husband tells me tasted just like a meat biryani but was veg so I could relish it too. Also, jackfruit produces a range of amazing food items, from jackfruit chips - both plain slated and chilli variants - to jackfruit jam and jelly. All yum! However, ripe jackfruit is something you never get here, and it is such a loss.

We used to travel down to Bangalore and Mysore every summer when we were kids, to stay with my grandparents and my uncle's family, and one of the many highlights of the trip was that we got to enjoy jackfruit. Jackfruit grows on trees and is a big, green, irregularly shaped fruit with spikes on the outside. You would never imagine that such an exterior could yield something as soft and scrumptious as the fruit inside. It's sold in a pre-cut form on carts through out Bangalore and Mysore, and you can buy it by the segment (called tole in kannada). When you cut open jackfruit (an admittedly difficult and messy process), you will find lots of jackfruit segments inside. These are bright yellow (kind of like mango skin), rounded trapezoid 'boxes', about 2 inches ling and 1.5 inches wide. Each segment has a kidney-shaped seed inside it, about the size of a Brazil nut, and these taste great when boiled in a sambar (huli) or a kootu. The easiest, albeit messy, way to cut jackfruit is to coat the knife and your hands with oil, because jackfruit oozes a stickum when cut that can stain clothing and glue itself to your hands and knife, making it very difficult to cut further.

Every day we'd make sure we bought 25-30 segments of the jackfruit. It has a lovely aroma which is quite penetrating and the smell would fill the house as soon as we brought it in. There's a saying in Kannada 'hasta halasinahannu, undo maavu', which means one should eat jackfruit on an empty stomach and mango on a full one. So evening tiffin used to be jackfruit. They taste sweet and succulent and rich, and we could never get enough of them.

These days, if either of my parents happen to go south in the summer, they make sure to carry some jackfruit back for me. In fact, when I was expecting my son, I and my husband went down to Madras for a wedding and actually lugged back a 5 kilo jackfruit as hand baggage. My mother just got back from the south with a box of jackfruit segments, and the memories of all those golden summers came flooding back as I bit into the first, yielding, luscious mouthful...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Cabbage Salad

I love salads of all kinds and am always on the lookout for new types of salads to try. Over the years, I've come to realise that what makes for a good salad is the way one puts it together. by that, I mean that a good salad has to have a judicious juxtaposition of contrasts and complements - something soft and mushy against something hard and crunchy, something bland against a touch of spice, something sweet against something tangy...

I was getting creative in the kitchen some time ago, and I came up with a really nice cabbage salad which tastes great and also looks good. Give it a try!


1 green or purple cabbage - very!! finely chopped into 2 inch shreds

1/2 pineapple, diced - or you can drain canned pineapple and use that

100 gms cheddar or processed cheese - diced

1 each of red, yellow and green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch long, thin shreds

Thai hot and sweet sauce

1 garlic clove

  1. Mash the garlic clove and put it at the bottom of the salad bowl

  2. Add the other ingredients, except the sauce

  3. Add the sauce last and then stir to mix. Adjust the level of sauce to your taste - more or less spicy

This salad goes well with a variety of food and tastes great on its own too! You can add roasted nuts to it to add crunch - pecan or pine nuts go well.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Padawalkai raita

I've always hated some summer vegetables - the kind that are kind of watery and sweet-tasting when cooked. The gourds, for example - among my pet hates when cooked South Indian style, with coconut and a mustard seed tempering. Actually, I did some googling about gourds and was hard put to it not to laugh when i saw this listed under 'exotic vegetables', but I guess one man's meat is another man's exotica...
The vegetable I'm talking about today is called chichinda in Hindi, which is a funny name(gotta use it next time we play sabzi mandi...a card game I'll blog about on my other blog sometime). I have included a picture of it in case anyone doesn't recognise it by 'Snake gourd'. It's usually thin, long and dark green with light green stripes. I recently discovered a recipe for snake gourd that manages to make it taste amazing.

The recipe:


1 snake gourd, cut into 1/2 cm slices and then halved into crescents

1 tsp mustard seeds

2-3 green chillies, chopped

12-15 curry leaves

Salt to taste

1 cup yoghurt

1 tsp oil

  1. Put the oil on to heat in a wok

  2. When it's nice and hot, add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop

  3. Then add the green chillies and the curry leaves and stor till the curry leaves are crisp - a few seconds

  4. Add the snake gourd and stir to mix

  5. Turn the flame to low and cook, stirring occasionally, till the snake gourd is nice and soft but not mushy.

  6. Take the wok off the flame and keep aside till the vegetable cools down.

  7. Put it into a bowl and add the yoghurt and salt and stir to mix well.

  8. Keep refrigerated.

This tastes great with rotis, rice and dal or even bread. It tastes better if you let it sit for a couple of hours after it's ready.