Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Shundal for MLLA Nov 2010

I love, love, love legumes, beans and so on. Am forever shopping for exotic varieties of the same when I travel and a recent thing that made me so happy ( it's always the little things, isn't it?) is finding cans of butter beans, aduki beans, haricots and so on at a nearby supermarket, which didn't cost the earth either!

But for Dussehra, I made a traditional savoury dish which is served in the evening to friends who come for arshna-kunkuma and to see the display of dolls - shundal. It's a lovely, simple dish and yet so flavourful and addictive. My entry for MLLA November 2010 hosted by Lisa of Lisa's kitchen and started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.

Ingredients:( serves 4)
1 cup black chickpeas/ kala chana, soaked overnight in water
1-2 green chillies, cut into small pieces
Handful curry leaves
1/2 tsp asafoetida - heeng
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 fistful of freshly grated coconut
salt to taste
Lime juice - 1 tsp or to taste

Pressure cook or otherwise boil the chana until soft and cooked through. If you want it very soft, add a tsp of baking soda while cooking. Heat the oil in a wok. Add the mustard seeds. Wait until they splutter, then add the green chillies, heeng and curry leaves. Add the chana and stir for a minute or two. Remove from heat and add salt and lime juice to taste. Top with grated coconut and serve hot or at room temperature as a healthy snack or with a meal.

I have no pictures of the shundal but can provide one of the doll display!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A series of homely feasts

I have hardly been food-blogging but that doesn't mean I haven't been eating. In fact, for the past three or four days, I have been relishing the most amazing food - all home-cooked, healthy and simple, but so soul-satisfying. I have literally been pigging out on the fruit of my own labour, which is rare. Usually when I cook something, I can't really tell how it tastes and have to depend on the palates of others! All I can do is to taste during the cooking process and ensure the flavours are as I like 'em.

So it started with an experimental saaru on the weekend. I have always loved the flavour of garlic. And years ago, one of my aunts served us the most delicious tomato-infused saaru that I have ever tasted. Going through the cookbook dakshin, I came across a recipe for tomato saaru and since we had bought a large quantity of lovely, ripe red tomatoes, I thought the time was right. Of course, I didn't follow the recipe at all!

I diced 4 tomatoes and sliced two green chillies lengthwise. Then I decided to add garlic to the mix - 8-9 cloves of skinny Indian garlic. I sauteed the tomatoes, the garlic and green chillies in a tsp of home made ghee. I added this to the regular mix of tamarind extract and dal ( whizzed in a blender along with 1 cooked tomato) and saarina pudi( rasam powder), skipped the Mysore touch of jaggery and topped it all with a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves in ghee. Divine!

One day we had Zuni stew made with pumpkin of just the right stage of ripeness and sweetness. So simple and so deeply satisfying.

A couple of days ago, I had a great craving for Moollangi huli ( Radish/ Daikon/ Mooli Sambar), a traditional favourite during winters. We had bought the first moolis of the winter a few days ago so they had been calling to me! Mom suggested adding methi( fenugreek) leaves to the sambar to add even more flavour. green-leafies junkie, I was only too pleased, thugh having no methi on hand I made do with kasoori methi( dried methi). That adds the bitter flavour but is much less flavourful than fresh methi, so I guess this dish will have to be made all over again as soon as methi hits the market. The sambar turned out every bit as delicious as my fantasies, so I ended up gorging on it. ( Made the same way as any sambar - cut the mooli into 1/2 cm slices, boil in water until just tender, add cooked arhar dal, tamarind extract and sambar powder and top wth a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves).

We had also brought home a copious harvest of brinjals (eggplant/ aubergine) of various kinds - the long, slim purple ones, the small purple ones, the big purple ones and so on. I read a delicious sounding recipe for Rasavangi ( eggplants in gravy) in Dakshin and decided to give my favourite veggie a new twirl. Fab, fab, fab. Reminiscent of Gojju - the tamarind-jaggery-spice mix which we have with khichdi, yet with much more body ( green chillies, fresh coconut + coriander seeds, ground together; + a bit of arhar dal). Yum, yum, yum!

Yesterday, for Bojjandi's 2nd birthday lunch, I decided to make pooris with vegetable korma. My grandma has a recipe for korma eschewing onions and using cashews, but since we love onions, I decide to go for the hotel version. Easy to make, and wonderful!

1 cup diced carrots
1 cup beans, cut into inch long pieces
2 potatoes
Half cup green peas
2 tomaoes, diced
1/2 fresh grated coconut
2-3 green chillies( depending on degree of hotness)
Handful of coriander
1 inch fresh ginger
1 small onion
1 tbsp poppy seeds
2 inch piece of cinnamon
6 cloves
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp oil
2-3 bay leaves

Cook the rest of the vegetables in salted water until cooked through but still firm. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, grind together the coconut, chillies, ginger, coriander and onion with a little water to make a smooth paste. Dry roast the poppy seeds, cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds and blitz together into a fine powder. Add the paste and the powder to the cooked vegetables and let simmer for a few minutes. Heat the oil in a small wok. Add the bay leaves and saute for half a minute. add to the vegetables.

The Korma tastes fabulous with pooris, dosais, idlis and especially set dosais.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Eggs Ahoy

Whoever has been reading this blog is probably well aware of my love-hate relationship with eggs. But I've been asked by a dietician to have a 1 egg, 1 toast dinner 3 nights a week in my nth attempt to lose weight. So obviously that's a great excuse for me to experiment with more egg-delights.

The way I make omlettes, learned from my brother-in-law, makes them a sumptuous meal - even with just 1 egg. But this week I wanted to add a little more body to them without making them fattening. Luckily, this type of omlette works well with whatever you have lying around in the kitchen/ refrigerator. So what Chubbocks and I had for dinner two days ago was a luxurious omlette stuffed with makai-palak, with grilled tomatoes on the side. Heartily filling and satisfying to the tastebuds as well!

Makai palak is a typical vegetable served in restaurants and this time at home, instead of opting for a plain old palak paneer, I asked my cook to add the corn into it. It turned out delicious, with the sweetness of the corn adding a dulcet note to that of the spicy/ astringent palak.

Makai Palak recipe
1 cup corn nuggets, boiled until soft
1 bunch palak, washed but not dried and roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 inch ginger, chopped
1 tomato
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 green chillies, chopped
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a wok. Toss the cumin seeds in and wait till they brown. Add the green chillies and onion and cook over medium flame, stirring from time to time until the onion turns translucent. Add the tomato and cook until soft. Add the palak and cover the wok and cook over medium flame for 7-10 minutes until the palak is well wilted. Wait to cool, then blitz in the mixie until you get a fine puree.

Add back to the wok, then add in the corn and salt and cook until hot. Serve immediately, with rotis, bread or rice.

I prefer not to add turmeric to palak as the colour stays a fresher green that way.

Omlette with makai-palak

Break an egg into a pan. Add 1 tbsp milk and beat for 30 seconds until well mixed. Add a small blob of butter into the frying pan, with the heat on high. Add the egg mixture and turn heat to low. Cover the pan tightly and cook on low for 7-8 minutes. Remove the cover and top omlette with whatever you like - onions, green chillies, cheese, coriander. Let cook until well done, i.e. no liquid-ey bits of egg on the top layer.

This time I topped mine with sauteed onions, green chillies and a tablespoon of the makai-palak and then folded the omlette over.

A note on tomatoes - if using desi ones, just cut into 1 cm thick slices and grill/ griddle on a separate pan with a bit of salted butter. Serve on the side, topped with freshly crushed pepper - if you add them to the omlette raw, they are likely to make the omlette runny.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Great Beginnings...

Some time ago, when I was shopping at a nearby Mother Dairy, a lady who spotted me with a bunch of drumsticks asked what I do with them. She said she had only ever seen South Indians or Bengalis buying them. I told her they make a great sambar, or aviyal, so she asked me, Do you cook South Indian very often and how and so on. Naturally it tumbled out that I was a South Indian, so the next thing you know, she's asking me, "Do you know how to make dosas? I can never get them right." I said I always botch mine too while spreading them on the tawa. Then she asks, "So what proportion of urad do you use to rice?" "I haven't the faintest. I only make them from the MTR mix", I confessed to which she shook her head in disbelief. "I've never heard of a South Indian who uses the ready mix", before disappointedly going off.

Honestly, I confess, I do regularly and freely use the MTR idli and dosa mix. They spare me the pain and the time of soaking, grinding, then fermenting and then waiting to see if things turned out right or not. MTR's ready to eat food sucks, the North Indian dishes in their repertoire, rather, but their khaara bhaath is another winner. When we lived in France, on Sundays after our grocery shopping and walking home lugging heavy bags that cut grooves into our fingers and an extended session of house cleaning, we'd have khaara bhaath for a sumptuous and satisfying lunch.

MTR's rava idli mix is another winner, the catch being that you have to put in the right amount of sour curds ( yoghurt). The recipe printed on the pack specifies about 750 ml per 500 gm pack but I like to put in about 900 ml - basically, enough so the idli batter has the consistency of honey or pancake batter. That way the idlis turn out super-moist and light. Another trick is to ensure one doesn't overfill the idli moulds - put in enough to barely cover the cup, it definitely should heap up on top.

Today, with something as simple and yet perfect as rava idli, we've had such a great start to the day that it seems like the rest of the day will be awesome. I mixed up a batch of MTR's rava idlis, duly liquid-ey. We made a simple coconut chutney sans coriander leaves today. And I had made the classes huli ( sambar) with sambar onions yesterday in preparation. Add to it litchis, cold from the fridge, rich with juice and sweet as honey, fresh watermelon juice, the kids eating in blessed and rare silence, and a brisk breeze wafting in from the garden...And such a sense of wellbeing flooded us that it seemed like, at that moment, we could ask for nothing more in life.


Rava Idli
I packet MTR mix ( will yield up to 30 idlis)
900 ml sour yoghurt
Pinch salt

Mix half the yoghurt into the idli mix, along with the salt. Wait for 2 minutes, then mix in the rest of the yoghurt slowly and blend well. Make sure the batter has the texture of pancake batter.

Grease the idli moulds lightly. Add about 250 ml of water into the pressure cooker. Pour the batter into the greased idli moulds ( don't heap the batter in), and steam in the pressure cooker, with the whistle off, for 12-14 minutes. Take the moulds out and let cool slightly before using a knife to prise the idlis out. Serve hot, topped with homemade tuppa (ghee).

Coconut chutney
I fresh coconut, grated
3-4 green chillies
1 lemon-sized ball of tamarind, soaked in 1 cup warm water
Handful of roasted chana
1 inch piece of ginger
Pinch hing ( asafoetida)
1 tsp urad seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 handful curry leaves
Salt to taste

Squeeze the tamarind so it releases all its pulp into the water, then strain the water. Grind together all the ingredients with half cup water until finely ground.

Prepare seasoning: heat the oil. Then add the mustard seeds and wait until they splutter. throw in the urad seeds. When they are pale brown, add in the heeng and the curry leaves and switch off the stove. Quickly pour on top of the chutney, add salt and mix well.

Huli/ Sambar
1 cup arhar dal, cooked until soft and then whisked
2 cups sambar onions, peeled and then parboiled in salt water, strained
2 tbsp sambar powder
1 limesized tamarind, soaked in half cup warm water, squeezed and the water then strained
1 limesized jaggery lump
Salt to taste
Pinch turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1 handful curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Put a large saucepan on to the heat. Add in the arhar dal, sambar onions ( store the water for thinning out the sambar later, if required), tamarind water, sambar powder ( instructions for making it are on my blog someplace), jaggery, turmeric, salt and chili powder and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

Make the seasoning by heating the oil, tossing in the mustard seeds and waiting for them to splutter and then throwing in the curry leaves. Add the seasoning to the huli and serve hot.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Healthy Chaat - MLLA 23, Weekend Herb Blogging

I love chaat. I can have it any time of day/ year...but the only thing that is a hindrance is that most forms of chaat are made of fried goodies - aloo tikki, papdi, fried potatoes...Given my constant attempts at losing weight and at eating healthy, that does pose a problem.

But recently while having some failed dahi wadas at a friend's house, I had a brilliant inspiration. The things that are really fabulous about chaat and that make it so tongue-ticklingly fab are the contrast of flavours - sweet, sour, spicy and salty - and textures - crisp, soft, mushy all at once. How about recreating that in a calorie-friendly form?

So here's what I came up with, and it was a huge success at a lunch party - so cuccessful that it's become standard lunch fare for me in this hot Delhi summer.

Green chutney
Date-tamarind chutney ( sonth)
1 chopped onion
1 cup sprouted moong beans
Chaat masala ( optional) - 1 tsp

Mix the sprouts with the onions. Add the chutneys and yogurt and mix well ( check if salt level is right, you might need to add some). Top with chaat masala, if desired and garnish with a few green grapes cut in half, or pomegranate bits. You can also add a sprinkling of sev if you like.

Green Chutney
Given my love for green leafies, I love chutneys that are green. This one is simple and a winner - I always have some on hand in the fridge and the freezer, and it goes with everything - toast, sandwiches, rotis, pakoras, chips...

1 handful coriander( just chop off the root end of the stalk, but you can use the rest of the stalks)
1 tbsp raw peanuts (I prefer using the ones with skin on)
3-4 garlic pods, peeled
Juice of 1 lime
2-3 green chillies, depending on how hot you like it

Just blitz until it becomes a smooth mix and add salt to taste

Date-Tamarind Chutney
Chaat cannot be made without this tongue-tantalizing chutney, which blends the sweet thickness of dates with the tartness of tamarind to form the perfect Indian melange of sweet, sour, salty. I got this recipe from Tarla Dalal's chaat cookbook. This can be stored in the fridge for upto 1 month.

2 cups dates deseeded
1/4 cup tamarind deseeded
1 cup jaggery, grated ( or use brown sugar)
1 teaspoon chilli powder
a pinch asafoetida (heeng)

Wash the dates and tamarind and place them in a saucepan. Add the jaggery, chilli powder, asafoetida, salt and 4 cups of water and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and strain the mixture through a sieve. Use as required. Store refrigerated.

The measurements given here should work - remember that the taste has to be aggressively sweet-sour.

This is my entry for
MLLA23, hosted by the original creator of this wonderful event, Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook , and for Weekend Herb Blogging # 232, hosted by Lynnylu.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Restaurant Reviews

Visited lots of new food outlets in the past few days so need to post my reviews.

We saw a mention of a new dessert place called Whipped, right near the place we were gong to for Fondue, so decide dessert would be tried out there. Whipped is a cute and tiny little place, with lollipop stripes on the walls and just a few chairs if anyone wants to sit and have dessert. They have a tiny little balcony which would be useful in winter but I guess won't be populated in summer. They have a wide selection of dessert for such a small place, from homemade icecream in flavours like strawberry cheesecake and berries to actual cheesecake in many flavours, cakes and truffle cones - which are truffle chocolate swirled into icecream cones and topped with hundreds and thousands.

A chose the Bailey's cheecake and I, with my fondness for berried, picked the strawberry cheesecake. Puddi swithered between cakes topped with chocolate or fruit and finally picked a truffle cone. We found the desserts...very ok...not an overwhelmingly delicious experience, unlike Whipped's neighbour Gourmet Affaire which does a Tiramisu to die for. The cheesecake was as good or as bad as ones we had had elsewhere, and not a stand-out experience. Puddi's truffle cone was a nice, new thing, but she found it too much for her and it's still standing around in the fridge. The prices were middling...we paid about Rs. 350 for 3 desserts. But all in all, it's not a place I'd head to specially for dessert.

E 552, Main Road, GK II, Delhi

On Sunday we had dinner at Spaghetti Kitchen, which has opened its first Delhi outlet in Select City Walk Mall. The restaurant is very spacious and done up in a sort of nondescript modern style. It doesn't look particularly Italian or anything else, but is a soothing ambience.

Chubbocks and Puddi wanted Pizza so they ordered a thin-crust pizza with chicken and red and yellow capsicum. I and A ordered a Penne Vodka to share, and we ordered parmesan-rosemary creamed roasted potatoes.

The food came really fast, starting with the bread which came about five minutes after we settled in and followed by the potatoes in another five minutes. They had roasted tiny baby potatoes with rosemary until they were butter-soft and then coated them in a creamy, Parmesan sauce. It was a delicious starter, highly addictive in its soothing flavours, and even Bojjandi duly mopped up his share of it and more.

A and the kids relished the pizza while I dug into the Penne Vodka, which was a standout. I have a lot of pasta in tomato sauce since I prefer tomato/ pesto to cream sauces so I wasn't expecting too much, but this was a new taste experience. The Vodka sauce had a slight bitter base to the flavouring, which nicely offset the tang of the tomatoes, and they served ample amounts of sauce so I didn't have to ration it out to serve all of the penne, and even had enough to mop up with some crusty bread. Again, the flavours were lush and highly addictive.

The service was also great, as they quickly understood our need for a high chair and brought one out. The food was served fast and the waiter was assiduous in replenishing our water and our dishes, and extremely friendly and polite.

Overall, the Spaghetti Kitchen surprised us by giving us a fabulous experience in terms of food, service and speed. What's more, at about Rs. 1400 for the meal ( no drinks/ desserts), it's pocket friendly too. I thought, given how much Italian food we end up eating, that only places like Diva or Olive would be capable of delighting us, but this restaurant proved us wrong, and it's a place I'd definitely head back to.

Spaghetti Kitchen, 2nd Floor, Select City Walk Mall, Saket, Delhi

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Zuni Stew

I am re-posting this as an entry for No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa this month. Zuni stew is a stew prepared by Zuni Indians who lived in New Mexico - this is my version.

Hi Kiddos,

I just wanted to tell you about the Zuni Stew we had for dinner over the weekend. I first tasted this on a visit to the US, at a new little restaurant called Spoon River Cafe. I loved the taste of it, and the amazing colours, so I decided I had to make it for you guys at home.

I felt it was particularly appropriate for dinner this Saturday since we would have gorged on cheese Fondue at Diva. At least, I knew dad and I would need the burst of wholesomeness that this dish would provide, and unlike many 'healthy' foods, it doesn't taste or look bland and boiled. In fact, it looks fabulous and is something I plan on feeding dinner guests in the future, since I have shifted to a 'no-fuss-entertaining' way of life.

I have to say, I loved shopping for it, buying the tiny orange pumpkins which the shop told me are referred to as 'disco' pumpkins. The orange and red capsicum, as you know, are my favourite, and I also love buying white onions - they look like giant pearls. The green capsicum and coriander add that dash of deep, rich colour, and the sweet corn kernels add their sweetness to that of the pumpkins. It was almost like therapy to cut each vegetable...to decide whether the dice should be large or small, depending on how fast that particular vegetable gets cooked, to add them one by one, knowing which one needs more cooking time and which less...inhaling the smell of the spices as they warm up in the oil and start smelling aromatic instead of harsh...

And the stew lived up to my expectations from the meal - colourful, flavourful, zingy and yet totally, sumptuously healthy! And guess what? I've taken some of my best food pictures ever with this dish. I know that's not saying much, but for me it's a huge improvement! And what's more, you fusspots had no trouble spooning this down with rice - Yaayy!!

1 cup garbanzo beans
1 small Pumpkin, skinned and cut into chunks ( about 600 grams)
1-2 onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced small
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Half cup of sweet corn niblets
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
1 green chili, diced
1 cup garbanzo beans (chholey)
1.5 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
Dash sugar if pumpkin isn't sweet
1/2 liter water
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Soak the garbanzo beans overnight, if you're not lazy like me. (Umm, I don't know if I should admit it to you kids...but then you should know this by living with me, right?)

Heat the oil in a deep casserole dish. When hot, add the cumin and coriander powders and fry on medium until you get a warm aroma. Add the minced garlic and saute until the garlic is soft but not brown. Add the onions and the green chili and cook until soft. Pour in the water and add the garbanzo beans and salt. Let it simmer until the garbanzo beans are almost cooked and then add the pumpkin. Adjust the water if you need - it shouldn't be too liquid. Once the pumpkin is almost done, throw in first the green pepper, then after 5-6 minutes the red and finally the yellow pepper and the corn. Let it simmer until the yellow pepper is cooked but not pulpy. Throw in the fresh coriander and simmer for one more minute.

Serve hot with, if you want to be authentic, corn bread but if counting calories, any multigrain country-style crusty bread.

Of course, that's the way you are supposed to make it. I like shortcuts, so here's what I did:
Cooked the garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker( 1 whistle). Sauteed the onions, garlic and green chile with the spice powders and then threw in the pumpkin. once that was almost cooked, added in the garbanzos and the peppers one by one and topped with the coriander.

You can also serve it on a bed of rice, or eat it just by itself, with some fruit for dessert if you want to feel particularly healthy.

Tip: You can adjust the level of heat depending on how hot the chili is, by adding chili powder ( or not).



This is my entry for My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Rachel of The Crispy Cook. I love this event, started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook, because, as you kids know, I''m nuts about beans and always running around buying unknown varieties wherever we visit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pistou - Grow your Own January 2010

No, that's not a typo for Pesto. Pistou is apparently a Provencal dip-type thing that's made of similar ingredients to pesto and added to bean soup. I made a Provencal style bean soup last week and since I have a glut of basil leaves in my garden, decided to make some Pistou to go along with it. The soup was all right but the Pistou was so good that I've used the leftover drizzled on all kinds of things – crudités, a baguette slice at breakfast, with potato chips…just about anything. And it's definitely something I'm going to be making time and again. Here's how:


Basil leaves – 1-2 handsful (depends on how much you want to make)

Parmesan cheese, grated – 1-2 tbsp

Olive oil – 1 tbsp (I'm one of those low-fat people so always looking to substitute oil)

Water – as needed

Just wash the basil leaves and then whizz everything together in the blender and store in the fridge for dipping into.

This is my entry for Grow your Own January 2010, hosted by House of Annie

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sweet potatoes

I am a huge fan of potatoes but have never much liked sweet potatoes, especially in a curry form. The only way I have enjoyed them until recently is as chaat, served up with spicy chaat masala and nimbu and cut-up pieces of tart starfruit. However, in my quest to broaden my food horizons, I began experimenting with different was to cook this vegetable. It all started with baking the sweet potatoes wrapped in foil and then taking the foil off partway through the process to allow the natural sugars to ooze out and form a crisp, shiny, sweet crust. Then I started serving up baked sweet potatoes topped with a dip – either hummus, or Greek Tzatziki…

However, over the weekend, when I was left with a glut of baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, I decided to re-roast them in wedge form. I drizzled rosemary-flavoured olive oil onto a pan of wedge-cut sweet and plain potatoes and filled up the spaces in between with fat pieces of garlic, with the skin on. I sprinkled some salt and freshly ground black pepper on top and popped them into the oven at 100 degrees C for about 20 minutes – until they looked crisp and reddish.

What was amazing to me was that the sweet potatoes tasted better than the plain ones, what with the skin having turned crisply sweet yet juicy. We didn’t need any other accompaniments to this, and even the kids gobbled it up sans demands for ketchup. Definitely a do-it-again dish.


Yesterday I had lunch at a wonderful restaurant in Hauz Khas village. Hauz Khas village has been a much-loved haunt of mine for many years. My BFF and I and later A and I used to love going there on weekends, browsing through countless tiny little stores crammed with interesting jewellery, art, knick-knacks and designer clothes. Experimental restaurants would spring up there, from Ritu Dalmia's first venture, Mezza luna, to one whose name I can't remember that used to feature live jazz and Italian food. The Bistro always housed restaurants serving North Indian food, and then there was Naivedyam…

But I haven't been back there in a really long time, so it was fun to land up there for lunch with friends yesterday. Mansi took us to Gunpowder, which serves South Indian food – and not the standard idli-dosa-sambar, though you will find dosa and sambar on the menu. The menu here is more eclectic, from aapams (without the mandatory stew) to Malabar parottas, kadala curry kerala style and Andhra style gunpowder. The selection of non-vegetarian is quite extensive too.

We ordered pepper rasam which comes with two papaddams apiece – it was spicy, sour and laced with garlic, heaven on a cold winter's day. Quixotically though, they refused to serve us just the papad without rasam, even though we offered to pay extra, and said we could only get it with another order of rasam! We over-ordered out of sheer greed and hunger – aapams with kadala curry and spinach-toovar-garlic dal for veggie me, chicken ghassala and mutton korma with Malabar parottas for the carnivores, and gunpowder on the side, as well as plain rice.

The food came really fast, which was a blessing. The aapams with kadala curry were divine – didn't even notice the absence of stew – though the spinach toovar dal was a bit ordinary. The carnivores loved the non-veg and went at it with gusto. The gunpowder was served with oil though not til oil, whose fragrance I missed, and it was an excellent, highly spiced version. The kadala curry is already making me anticipate another visit to the restaurant – it was spicy and coconutty all at once. The downer was the filter coffee – had no fragrance and tasted foul, no matter how much milk and sugar we added to it. Another thing that didn't sit well was the service – the waiters were poorly informed and unable to even pronounce the names of the dishes, let alone make intelligent recommendations.

However, after trekking up four narrow flights of stairs, we were well-compensated by the incredible view over the Hauz Khas ravine. The restaurant looks out over the baoli or lake, which is beautiful right now, with some trees sunken into the water, and a vista of far-away trees painted in misty blue-green hues by the winter haze in Delhi. Just being there in that environment would have been enough for a great meal, and the delicious food was an absolute bonus.

A meal for four cost us Rs. 1500 approx, excluding dessert.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking back at 2009, foodwise

I had some awesome food experiences last year, both dining out and cooking at home. I had amazing Chili in Seattle, which I then recreated at home. I also bought lovely cherries covered in chocolate - truly sensual. Later this year, in Minneapolis, I had Zuni stew at the Spoon River Cafe, which I will blog about at some point, and also the most flavourful beans dish at one of Minneapolis' heritage restaurants, Szechuan green beans, which I plan to try and recreate tomorrow.

The Olive restaurant in Delhi moved back to its original, wonderful location in Hauz Khas,and A and I had a romantic dinner there on his birthday. One of the best things about that meal was when they brought a mortar and pestle filled with roasted garlic, extra virgin olive oil and herbs and we got to make our own dip to go with freshly baked bread hot from the oven.

Cibo was a lovely experience on our anniversary in terms of ambience and service, though I thought the food was nothing extraordinary. I wish I had known it was open-air so I would have dressed more warmly, but otherwise it was a great evening.

I discovered three tastes last year which I found delectable and hope to keep enjoying. The first was raspberries. In India, people often confuse ras-bhari ( physalis) for raspberry, which are very different fruit. I had tried rasps on occasion but probably never knew how to select them so hadn't quite cottoned onto their taste. But frozen raspberries gifted by a family friend made their way into A's birthday dessert and I was hooked on to everything about them. Their tart yet sweet taste. The aroma, reminiscent of the best summer roses. The texture, with the grainy seeds and the smooth puree...I even had the raspberry puree by itself as dessert for days after, and it was heavenly.

Peanut butter was something else I discovered after years and relished for the first time. With chocolate, with gongura pickle, on toast or by itself.

One more taste explosion that I have been gluttonously relishing is that of kino or Malta as it is commonly known here. This was a fruit we never enjoyed growing up, because peeling it like an orange just takes too much time and effort. But while at an otherwise dull Romanian food special, I came across Maltas cut into sections, and found their taste almost intoxicating - the sweet-sour juiciness, the fresh, clean feel of the little niblets of fruit...So ever since then they have become staples in our fruit basket, and the kids, A and I can happily tuck into some Maltas anytime.

I hope 2010 brings more such culinary adventures my way. I'm waiting with a clean and eager palate...!