Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dipping into Awesomeness

Work takes me to Kolkata these days. A city whose love for food is second to none. Imagine my delight when I find kindred souls in colleagues here when the day starts with first figuring out the lunch venue and menu before we start discussing work details.

The last time I visited the city I had no time and yet they magically figured out enough time for me to have a Arsalan lunch while also managing all meetings and commitments.

This visit was even better with me landing and straightaway heading to Mocambo in central Calcutta for an evening meet with the team. Once Ritesh da is around one doesn't think about what to order...he orders beautifully and each dish is a delight.

So a Prawn cocktail followed by a Devilled crab came in and were devoured with gusto. The devilled crab was devilishly good. The cocktail wasn't bad but paled in front of the crab.

Next on was a Prawn Thermidor which left me speechless and I had a few bites of the Bhetki belle helen from a colleague's plate it was an interesting combination of continental and chinese. All in all a very satisfying evening with great food and good company. 

The next day was home food day for me which meant a chingari malai curry (prawn in coconut milk gravy) mochar ghanto (banana flower cooked with bits of coconut) wait there was more: hilsa in mustard sauce and raw banana koftas in a yummy gravy. My mami goes all out whenever I hit town and this time was no less.

Third day in the city started early with meetings lined up one after the other...what kept up going was the fact that Vivek was going to take us for a beef biryani. He explained we are going to a small non fancy place and my reply was as long as the food is awesome I can stand and eat.

We landed up at Zamzam which is at the back of Frank Anthony School at Entally.

I reached about ten minutes before everybody else, stopped outside the eatery and then had to shift away for the food smells were driving me crazy. I went back to stand at the entry to the street. eventually the team turned up and we headed in.

Small, clean place with quick service. The food came almost instantly...we dug in with hands like good bangalis. my plate was moving a bit and the waiter recognized my discomfort and quickly inserted a small piece of newspaper...the sort of eye for detail he had I think he deserves to work for a much bigger place but then again he might not want to stay away from Zamzam food. 

So let me tell you about the food. 

We ate the world's best beef biryani with a salad on the all Kolkata biryani it had a beautiful piece of potato in it. The flavours were so subtle and aromatic, each rice grain standing out and demanding attention, the piece of meat which was amazingly tender was actually not even needed. It seemed an intruder in the perfect jugalbandi of the rice and potato. 

We had some gravy items on the side but pardon me for not talking about them cause I really wasn't able to pay any attention to them so enthralled was I with the biryani.

We rounded off the meal with kesar phirni which had it been somewhere else I would have asked for seconds and I don't have a sweet tooth but I was too full with biryani .

Check the paper peeping out

The Kesar phirni

 Zamzam was indeed a holy experience in the realm of food.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bombaiyya ….Anando Mela

Vada Pao the quintessential Bombay street food like all true street foods is essentially a very simple dish which uses flavors which 99% people would love. What’s not to love about fried potatoes and warm bread, anyway?
Since our anando mela sees a fair amount of non Bengali navratra celebrating guests I made it a point to have two chutneys to go with my vada pao. The first a green coriander, mint chutney with no onion or garlic and the other the ‘must’ dry chutney that goes with vada pao made with red chillies and garlic.
To my surprise I ran out of Vada paos even before I finished my Sali boti and that says something. Here is the recipe for all of it.
Warning: the recipes may not be totally authentic for I do let my tongue and mind overrule most cook books.

1 kg potato – boiled peeled and mashed
Pao – I got store bought ones
Vegetable oil
Asafoetida – a tsp, I like the flavor so usually use more, you can use a pinch if not too happy with it
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Green chilli & ginger paste 1 tbsp – I omitted the use of garlic since I had navratras in mind
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves  a bunch chopped fine
For the batter:
Coarse gram flour (besan) 1.5 cup
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder ½ tsp
Turmeric powder ¼ tsp
Baking soda – ¼ tsp
Mix all the ingredients for the batter together with adequate amount of water to make a smooth paste, shouldn’t be too thin. Set it aside.
Then in a kadhai heat one tablespoon oil add asafetida, turmeric powder, green chilli and ginger paste and give it a good mix. Add the the mashed potatoes and salt and mix well. Set aside to cool. Add the coriander and mash it all up again well.
Divide the potato mix into small balls of equal proportions. Heat enough oil in a kadhai for deep frying, dip the potato balls in the prepared batter and carefully drop in the hot oil. Lower flame and let fry to a golden brown exterior. Take out with a slotted spoon onto a colander or tissue lined plate.
Ideally these should be immediately put inside a split pav and had with a sprinkling of dry garlic chutney…however since I was taking them to the anando mela I chose to keep them while and did the final assembling at the venue.

Now for the chutneys:
Green chutney sans garlic:
Grind together coriander, mint, green chillies and ginger to a fine paste add salt and lemon juice to taste and you are done.
Coconut & garlic chutney:
Scrapped coconut 1 cup, dried red chillies 3-4, garlic cloves 8-10, roasted peanuts 2 tablespoon, tamarind paste 2 tbsp, salt to taste
Dry roast the coconut in a non stick pan, transfer to a plate and cool to room temperature. Dry roast the red chillies and cool. Grind together all ingredients to a coarse powder.

And you are ready to serve your vada pao both the sattvik and non sattvik way. Enjoy!

The Vada Pav picture is from google and only for representation purpose.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Bombay Parsi Connect On the First Day of Pujo 2016

This Anando Mela (home cooked food stalls at Durga Puja Pandals on usually the first day of the festivities, for those who don’t know about it) I planned to do a thematic stall basis a certain kind of cuisine instead of random stuff.

I chose Parsi food as the theme and planned to do three items from the same – veg, non veg and dessert and instantly hit a roadblock. While for both non veg and desserts I had many recipes to pick from I just couldn’t find a veg recipe which would strike a chord. I googled, asked knowledgeable friends and read up recipe books but couldn’t find anything which I could be sure would be appreciated at an Anando Mela Stall…after all it’s the first day of pujas and people would be looking forward to interesting lip smacking dishes a stew or dal wouldn't pass muster.

So after much looking around I did what had to be done and tweaked the initial concept to being Bombay based rather than Parsi and added the absolute hot favorite among Bombay’s street foods i.e Vada Pao to my list of dishes.

Having made up my mind I then started hunting for the recipes from friends, blogs and also some websites. The delicious Sali Boti and Laganu Custard were actually surprisingly easy to make and turned out yummy as well.

The vada pao the simple veg dish took more effort and time …since the vadas needed to be freshly fried and the chutneys that go to make the combination the addiction it is, have to be just right. 

Since I was going to make all dishes in bulk I made smaller quantities a couple of days in advance to check out how it works. I tweaked the recipes to suit my tastebuds and of course available ingredients and was satisfied with the results.

The day of the Anando Mela came around and I got down to cooking in a frenzy while the landlord chose the very same day to get repair work done at home making our house resemble a war zone of sorts. Frantic activity happening everywhere and baby and doggie raising hell for having been confined.

The recipe for Sali Boti recommended boneless mutton sadly due to Navratra my usual mutton shop was closed and I had to order in from another one…they said they couldn’t deliver boneless mutton so I had to do with mince instead…however they agreed to send me coarse mince and not the machine made sludge that passes for mince these days.

The mutton got delivered in time and I set to work. One of the things I have learnt with time is to gather every ingredient needed including water in a jug at hand before starting to cook and that’s what I did.

In case you want to try making Sali Boti …here is how you can go about making it.

Ingredients list for Sali Boti:
I have reduced quantities here to make it more in tune with what one would cook for the family, I was of course cooking a large quantity

500 gm boneless mutton cut into small pieces/ coarse mutton keema
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tbsp jeera and green chilli paste
1/2 cup yogurt

2 tbsp oil
4 onions chopped very finely
3 spoons of garlic flavored soup herbs
3 bay leaves
1 tsp of chilli and turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
salt to taste
1 tbsp chopped coriander for garnishing
Lemon wedges
150 gms sali / fine potato sticks 

Marinate the meat in salt, ginger garlic paste, green chilli paste and yoghurt. Cover the bowl and let the meat marinate ideally overnight and a minimum of 4 hours. Marinating is what really infuses the flavors so try and plan a little in advance so that you don’t have to skimp on this important aspect.
In a thick bottomed/ nonstick pan heat the oil and then add the chopped onions. Fry the onions till they are golden pink in colour. Now, add in the tomato puree as well as the garlic herb.
Once it forms a thick gravy add in the marinated meat, all the masalas, vinegar, sugar and bay leaves. Give everything a good stir and cover your pot so that the meat can start slow cooking on a low-medium flame.
The slow cooking will have to be patiently supervised with a once in a while stir, once the mutton starts to look cooked slightly removed the cover lid so that the steam can escape and the dish doesn’t look watery. When the meat becomes tender and the tomato gravy has reduced by almost half its contents then your Sali Boti is ready. Garnish with finely chopped coriander and give it a final stir.
Serve hot with some sali on top and lemon on the side for those who would prefer their’s a little sourer. This dish is good as a snack and also as a lunch dish with chapatti or paratha.
P.S: The Vada pao and Laganu Custard recipes will follow in separate posts.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Eggless Carrot Muffins Healthy bhi, tasty bhi

Having an infant in the house means you get used to waking up at odd hours and acting as if nothing is amiss. Today the infant was actually kind and gave me about six hours straight night sleep (a huge rarity these days when the normal is to get up every two hours) so when he wailed at 5:30 and wanted a feed I got up in an instant.

Having fed the baby and put him back to sleep I noticed the time was almost six and sleeping now meant being late for work so I decided to bake instead.

I had just baked a winter fruit cake (Orange) and now I wanted to try my hands on a winter vegetable; the red juicy carrots. There was only one hitch I had run out of eggs. That is when I remembered the flax seeds which have been lying unused for a while now.

Here are the ingredients I gathered:

1 cup white flour (maida)
1.5 cup grated carrots (the red juicy ones)
Half cup powdered sugar (take a lil less if the carrots are really sweet)
Half cup olive oil
2 tbsp flax seed powder
2 tbsp curd
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla essence

What to do:

whisk together sugar and olive oil till creamy and then add the flax seed and curd. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon powder into the wet mix and whisk well ensuring no lumps. Add the grated carrots and mix everything well. Add the nutmeg.

Pre-heat the oven at 185 degrees and in the meantime prepare 12-15 muffin molds by lightly brushing them with olive oil. Scoop the batter into the molds (remember to fill only till half way up)  and bake at 185 degrees for about 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.

Let the muffins sit in the oven for sometime and then take them out to cool.

Have with a cup of coffee or pack for tiffin at school and work.

So by the time the hubby and kid got up I had a tray full of muffins and house full of aroma waiting for them :)

                                                     GOOD MORNING!

C for Citrus, C for Cake, C for Celebration

My toddler is hyper active and over intelligent so time and again we are told to keep her occupied with multiple tasks that engage her both mentally and physically. Finding time from all the household chores to spend time with the kid becomes a challenge and the best solution I have found is to get her involved in what I am doing.

Baking is one of my much loved activities during winters and so from an early age the girl has helped me bake (she is all of 4.5 years right now). Whisking is her special task and she hates handing over the whisk to anyone. Once when her dad baked me a cake on my birthday, she tasted it and commented that, 'its good, but would have been better if I had done it'.

So coming back to the point, winters have set in and the past weekend we got out our baking stuff and got ready to get happy.

Oranges are the girl's special love and she has been looking forward to the fruit hitting the market so we chose that as the flavor we wanted to experiment with. We adapted the recipe from with much glee we collected together the following:

3 Oranges and 1 lemon
200 gms sugar coarsely powdered
1 cup olive oil (you can take a lil less if you want, I like my cakes moist so opted for a full cup)
2 eggs
1/2 cup curd
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (using the oranges mentioned above)
2.5 cup white flour (maida)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Orange essence
A pinch of salt

We cut the oranges in half and using a strainer squeezed out the juice and put it aside. Then proceeded to finely cut up the peel of one orange we added the peel of the lemon to it. We added this to the sugar and rubbed it in well to release the oil from the peels on to the sugar. We left the sugar covered while we went ahead with sifting the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt twice. This is to ensure that the flour is well aerated and will not have any lumps.

Then we poured out the sugar into a large bowl and added the olive oil (leaving just a bit for greasing the baking dishes) to the same and whisked it till it turned creamy.

Eggs, curd and juice were all added into it with generous whisking in between.

Slowly incorporated the flour mix into the batter whisking to ensure a lump free smooth batter.

Pre heated oven to 185 degrees for 5 minutes ( I use the convection mode on my IFB microwave). In the meantime we greased the baking dishes with the olive oil and lightly dusted it with flour. I used a Bundt dish, a loaf tin and 6 muffin holders for the same.

We baked the cake for 40 minutes at 185 degrees, checked with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean. And by the time dadda came home from work we were ready with the season's first cake to welcome him.

                    The muffins took about 15 minutes and were happily taken to school today.

We had planned to do a chocolate ganache topping on the cake but it tasted so good as is that we let it be and just dusted a bit of powdered sugar on top.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Porky Dreams

Two years ago we were invited to a 2 year olds birthday party at home.

We went with our own totally excited toddler to whom the high point of a birthday was the cake and balloons expecting to share a few words with adults over the head of shouting kids and  generally being happy watching the kids interact.
 To our delight the gathering was a small one which meant the din was reasonable and some conversation possible. 

Post the cake cutting and settling down of the kids the host said let me treat you to something special and brought out a hunk of roasted pork. It glistened with fat the way only pork can and the aroma was amazing.

I had a forkful and I was entrapped in its magic. The dish got over in no time and I didn't get the oppurtunity to linger over it longer.

Though the intention was to return to the dish at the earliest possible two years and more passed before I could again taste it.

The wait was well worth it cause this time it was cooked in my own home and apart from having to my heart's content I also have some left over to relish later.

The recipe like all good ones is a simple one taught to a friend's mom by her Mizo neighbour and faithfully reproduced by the son.


A slab of pork - from the rib onwards about a kg
Half a kg onion peeled and halved
200 gms garlic peeled whole
200 gms ginger julienned 
100 gms dry red chillies whole
100 gms of whole cardamom, cinnamon and clove 
3-4 tablespoon honey
Salt to taste
A tablespoon of any white oil

Wash the pork well and pat dry
In a pressure cooker add the white and then add the whole spices, lower the pork slab into it.
Add the onions, garlic and ginger
Keep the whole thing on high flame and keep an eye on the same
Turn when needed. The idea is to let the pork singe in places but not get burnt. The pork will keep releasing fat so don't worry too much.
After about twenty minutes of the same use a knife to cut into the pork and make incisions 
Drizzle the honey on top and let it cool for a few more minutes
Add salt and then close the cooker an cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Open, take out, carve, eat. Arrive at pork heaven.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Aarini's Activity - whole wheat cookies

The four year old fancies herself as Suzuka the intelligent girl friend of the ever whining Nobita from the Doraemon series.

Amongst the many abilities of Suzuka who is a brave, compassionate and intelligent girl is her ability to bake cookies. So when Aarini decides she wants to do an activity she has to but of course choose cookie making as the ideal activity to indulge in. 

I picked a simple recipe I have been meaning to try out for a while now and provided her the ingredients and stayed with her as my lil baker went about with full zeal.

Waiting for the cookies to bake
18 minutes is a long time for a 4 year old.


1 cup whole wheat (atta)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup ghee and olive oil ( I mixed both as I was short on ghee)
Some chopped almonds for garnishing 

Sieve the atta and cardamom powder together and keep aside. 

In a separate vessel mix the oil-ghee combo with the powdered sugar and whisk till a creamy consistency is achieved. 

Now add a tablespoon of atta mix at a time and keep mixing. Do not knead. We used the back of a spoon to mix it up. Once the entire atta is mixed set it aside for about 10-15 minutes.

Roll out small balls and press them lightly with your thumb to make a depression. Add chopped almonds. 

Preheat oven at 185 degrees and then bake the cookies for about 16-18 minutes at the same temperature. 

Your cookies will be ready enjoy with a nice cuppa :) 

Sweet results