Monday, December 29, 2014

Walking through the streets of India: Foodwise

The past saturday found us excitedly heading towards Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium to attend the Street food festival being organised there by NASVI. Last year I had heard a lot of good things about this festival and also read up a two page write up in Brunch by Vir Sanghvi which left me salivating for these treats from the streets.

So off we went, the hubby, kid and me to check out the fare at the JLN Stadium grounds. Post working out the parking format (essentially about getting your car to climb the pavement and sitting there) we walked up to the gate, paid the entry fee of Rs. 50/- per head and were all set to explore.

We decided to take a quick round of the place before choosing the stuff we would like to eat. Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam we looked at before settling for a Chicken 65 at the Karnataka stall. 

A big chicken leg wrapped in a spicy batter and deep fried till the outer layer is crisp, the inner layer is cooked and yet the juices have been left intact is what we got on our plate. It tasted lovely and even the kid kept asking for more. Though we were tempted to have repeats we desisted and went instead to the next stall which happened to be from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. 

Their kachodi intrigued me as it was the size of a bhature and was served with chutney. 

Biting into one revealed that it was filled with a mix of spices and urad dal and was indeed made with fermented dough thus giving the bhature look and feel.

Moving on we came upon a few stalls from Madhya Pradesh and one even specifically from Indore. A friend who is from Indore keeps telling us about the great food in her city so we thought we ought to give the stuff a try. 

We started with khoya jalebis and rabri. The giant sized jalebis were really hot and crisp and the rabri added the right touch of cool. I am not a big one for sweets but happily gorged on it while the hubby went looking at a dal vada with a difference.  The vendor said he usually sells his stuff near the Raj Mahal dwar in Indore, now whether such a place exists I will have to check with people who are familiar with the city. But the guys food was good there is no doubt.

Sabudana khichdi

Nicely spicy Dal vada

Moving on we saw a stall selling jalebis and samosas and the guy mentioned that his regular haunt is the Govindpuri metro station in Delhi. He was also selling something which looked like ghewar but wasnt. We inquired about it and were told that its a Bihari delicacy called madhuchatta (Honey comb)which he was selling for the festival but usually didnt since it would be too expensive (and I suspect time consuming for regular selling) Again I really dont know if something called Madhuchatta exists but it was nice, sweet and hot and the daughter loved it, eating almost the whole of it on her own so no complaints at all.

I had been on the lookout for some North Eastern fare but thus far not spotted any except for the Assam stall which was selling all kinds of pitha (rice cakes). Then we spotted MOMOs written in big letters and were just getting happy when we saw written next to it Chandigarh and our grins faded. We werent willing to try momos from Chandigarh after all the Delhi ones are quite good anyway.

So while I stopped to help the lil one dig into her Madhuchatta the husband went on a solo recce and after a longish wait came back with the famed dal batti churma and pyaaz kachori from Rajasthan. Both served with the super hot and awesome garlic chilli chutney. The Rajasthan stall saw huge crowds and the brave man had to put up quite a fight to get back with the food. 

while it looked perfect have had better pyaaz kachoris - this one had way too much potato mash

Next up we spotted a Hyderabadi stall where the biryani was still cooking and on inquiry were told that it would be ready in 2.5 hours. We moved on with heavy hearts.

We passed the Kerela stall however the crowds kept us away and I couldnt really make out what all they had to offer. The Lucknawi stall was doing brisk business and so were the Punjab and Uttrakhand stalls. 

The one thing I had been told to 'must try' was the litti chokha and taash kebab from the Bihar stalls. However the mere name of litti made the hubby so crestfallen that I chose to go with the taash kebab instead which being pieces of chicken and two parathas I thought would be better received. He however barely had any and I polished off the same.

The sattu filled littis

a lovely looking mutton curry - the sight of which immediately made me cave a plate of hot rice and a wedge of lemon on the side. The Bengali girl speaks :)

Taash kebab - curious to know why the name. however the guys were too busy serving to bother to give answers

We were filled by then but were still left with some coupons which needed to be used up. I looked around for options and thought of visiting the mother state stall i.e Bengal for some chops to carry back home.

While my chops were being made, a conversation got struck with this gentleman who was briskly making jhal muri at the next stall. Turned out he is a doc and is associated with the street vendors association in Kolkata. Since he was in Delhi for a conference he thought of coming over and giving them a hand.

I came away from the stall my chops tucked away neatly in tin foil containers and my mind on how people who want to make a difference can do so, in so many ways.

Over all it was a Saturday well spent with nice food and lovely sun for company. NASVI can of course better the format and infrastructure for the festival but then there is scope for improvement in almost every thing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Plum Cake

Christmas for me is incomplete without some serious plum cake eating. Since for the past year or so I have been baking with a vengeance I thought this year the Plum cake too should be home baked. 

Research on the hows, do's and dont's took me through various books, blog posts and videos and I finally figured out a recipe that I was reasonably sure would work for me and was close to the taste and texture I had in mind.

To me a good plum cake is a dark, well baked almost over baked, moist, filled with dry fruits kind of cake which is rich in spices and has a distinct aroma.

Sharing herewith the recipe. Do give it a try and let me know how it goes:


To Soak the Fruits ( do this atleast 4 weeks before you expect to bake. Remember to stir it atleast twice every week)
2 cups - chopped dry fruits - include all that you like. and then some. Add lemon and orange peels if you can, they add a lovely fragrance
1 1/2 - cups liquor - I used dark Rum, you can choose to use red wine or brandy 

Caramel Syrup 
1 cup - Sugar
3/4 cup - hot water

Fruit Cake 
1 cup or 2 sticks -  butter at room temperature
2 cups and 2 tbsp- powdered sugar 
4 - eggs separate the yolk and whites 
2 ½ cups - refined flour (maida) 
3 tsp - baking powder 
2 tsp - baking soda 
1/2 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - Cinnamon powder 
1/4 tsp - Clove powder 
1/2 tsp - Cardamom powder
1/4 tsp - Nutmeg powder
1 tsp - Vanilla Extract 

5 medium tin foil tubs ( using this helps in non messy distribution of the cakes incase you plan to gift. Also you may choose to not add the liquor at the end to some so that you can feed children without guilt.)


Caramel Syrup
Take a heavy bottom pan and melt 1 cup granulated sugar on low flame, stir at frequent intervals.  When it starts to get light brown in color add 1/2 cup warm water. Be careful, as the melted sugar is very hot and starts to splutter. Increase the flame to medium heat and let the syrup boil.  This will help the crystallized sugar to melt again. Keep stirring. Once its become a same strength syrup turn off the flame and let it cool.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices twice and keep aside.
Beat the butter with  2 cups powdered sugar till smooth and creamy.  
Add the egg yolks one at a time until the mix is creamy and fluffy. 
Add the Vanilla essence and Caramel syrup and smoothly combine everything together.
 Add 1/4 cup of hot water to the pan where the caramel syrup was made and bring to boil to dissolve any left over caramel.  
Let this liquid cool for 5 - 6 minutes.  
Add this light liquid to egg butter mix and beat for 30 seconds.
Now add the dry ingredients slowly and beat to mix well.
Strain the liquor soaked fruits and reserve the liquid.  Toss the fruits in 2 tbsp flour and fold into the batter.

Beat the Egg Whites and 2 tbsp. of powdered sugar in a separate clean mixing bowl until soft peaks form. This will need rigorous whipping so using a electric whip is recommended 
Gently fold in the whipped egg whites into the cake batter. Dont mix much
Preheat the oven at 185 degree centigrade for 5 minutes
Pour the cake batter into the greased cake pan(s)  and bake for 45 minutes or until a tooth pick/ wooden skewer comes out clean when tested on the center of the cake.
Let the cake rest in the oven for 10-15 minutes and then take it out and drizzle 2-3 tbsp. of the reserved liquor over the cake. Allow the cake to cool.
Use the lid of the tin tubs to close the pack and then wrap the thing in clean wrap and set aside. 

Ideally this cake should be allowed to 'sit' for some days before being consumed. Since I live in Delhi and its very cold here I let the cakes sit in a dark cabinet and am now waiting for it to be Christmas. :)

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Going Bananas Over a Pie

Banoffee Pie seems to be quite the favorite of my office team mates going by the main dessert order at any office get together.

Since I do bake a colleague asked if I could make one and bring it to office. Now I never eat bananas and therefore have never ever tasted the pie and had no inclination to make one either especially since even the partner didnt seem to think much of this particular dish though his sweet tooth is legendary.

But since the colleague asked I thought why not give it a try.

I checked on a few sites for the recipe and figured that its a pretty simple one actually.

A few ingredients, no baking and almost child's play in terms of putting together. Though I didn't eat it, it got polished off in office and people have demanded repeats so am feeling emboldened enough to post it here.


400 gms digestive biscuits - I used Britannia Nutrichoice, crushed. If using a mixer remember not to make it too fine
200 gms butter - I used unsalted butter
2 tins condensed milk - I use Amul
2 small packs of Amul cream - usually double cream is used but since thats not easily available I make do with Amul cream.
2 large bananas - you can add some more if you like
1 chocolate for grating/decor

Melt butter (20 secs in the microwave) add the crushed biscuit and spread on the bottom of a baking tin. Let it chill.
To make the toffee put the Amul condensed milk tin in a pressure cooker, fill up with water and let it cook for about thirty minutes on low flame). Wait for it too cool down completely before attempting to open the tin can.
When cool spread the toffee over the biscuit base. slice up a couple of ripe bananas on top of toffee whip up the cream and spread over the banana.

Whipping regular Amul cream is a task since its not double cream. Here's what you can do. Chill the cream packets for sometime in the freezer. Take them out cut the top and scoop out the cream on the top making sure to leave the watery bit out. In a large bowl pour lots of ice and a bit of chilled water place the bowl of cream on top and then use a electric beater to whip the cream. In about fifteen odd minutes you will have whipped cream of medium consistency.

Grate some chocolate or even chocolate curls, or drizzle melted chocolate over the top chill (or serve straight away) and serve to very happy people!

    The pics above are all from Google since I forgot to click my own. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

For the Love of Something Nice

We shifted from one flat to another the past weekend. While we are just a stones throw away from the previous flat yet shifting meant digging out things from all nooks and crannies and turning all parts of the home upside down quite literally.

It is an exhausting task in most households and in ours more so with the husband’s ability at hoarding all sorts of paper memorabilia, our combined love of books, music and films and the fact that we both do not have a parental home where some of our childhood stuff could be kept. Instead lots of things from both homes are kept with us as they have too many sentiments attached and I find it very difficult to throw them away.

So after four days of sorting through piles and piles of stuff, continuously sneezing thanks to the dust and body ache I wanted to eat something different and feel a little sane. Since it was also a work day and time was of the essence I decided fried rice with lots of veggies and thick chicken gravy would have to suffice.

A little effort in the kitchen and dinner time turned nice and happy. Sharing the recipe here for those mad times when you want to make a feel good meal in less time.

Kali Mirch Cream Chicken
Chicken – 1 kg – cut into medium size pieces
Amul cream – 1 small carton
Onions – 4 large ones cut into julienne
Ginger paste – 2 tablespoon
A pod of Garlic – peeled and roughly chopped
Tomato puree – 1 tablespoon
Turmeric – 1 teaspoon
Black pepper – freshly crushed – 1 tablespoon
Vegetable oil – 2 tablespoons
Salt to taste

In a kadhai heat the oil and add the chopped garlic, stir for a few seconds and then add the onions, lower heat and let it cook for 3-4 minutes, add the chicken pieces and give it all a good mix to ensure the onion and garlic coat the chicken well. Cover and cook on low flame for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
By now the chicken would start releasing water add turmeric, black pepper, salt, tomato puree and ginger paste give it all a good mix and cover again. Keep flame at low and let the chicken cook for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. Once the chicken looks well cooked and all the liquid evaporates add the cream give it all a good stir and switch off the flame. Cover and let it sit for 10 minutes. Plate and serve garnished with a green chilli.

Vegetable Fried Rice with a desi twist

Mushrooms – 1 packet cleaned and chopped
Baby corns – 1 packet chopped
Carrots – 2, cut into small cubes
French beans – a handful, stringed and chopped
Onions – 2 large chopped fine
Garlic – 10-12 chopped fine
Rice – 150 gms – rinsed and soaked for fifteen minutes
Vegetable Oil – 1 tablespoon
A spoonful of ghee (optional)
A few pods of cardamom, an inch of cinnamon stick and a few cloves
Salt to taste

The good thing about this rice dish is that all the veggies get eaten without protest so I add as many as I can. Make the rice in an open pan with some salt added to the water, ensure it doesn’t over cook. Strain the excess water and keep the rice aside.
In a large wok add the oil and then add the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves once the splutter add the garlic and stir it around till it’s slightly burnt, add the onions and once they turn translucent add the chopped vegetables. Stir the vegetables around for two minutes, add a bit of salt and then start adding the rice. Add it in bits and stir it around. This helps to mix the vegetables and rice well without breaking up the rice too much. Lower flame and let it cook covered for a few minutes, keep stirring at intervals. Dot with a bit of ghee if you like the fragrance.

Make a fresh salad and plate the rice and chicken and enjoy a weekend meal on a weekday J

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Camouflage Cake

I love reading Rhea's blog. Its a simple food lovers blog and her recipes are no fuss, delicious, DIY even for kitchen novices kind of recipes.

Its been a while since I read her post on sponge cakes and remembered the cakes my mom used to bake for us kids. Those days a home baked cake was a HUGE treat and especially so for me since I never did like the cream soaked versions that bakeries sold. The whole delight of waking up in a house smelling of baked goodies was just too good. Mom mostly baked when we kids were sleeping as we used to otherwise bother her too much. :) Now my daughter is the same - though guess I am smarter as I put her to work whisking which keeps her involved.

So since reading her posts I had been meaning to bake a sponge cake but since its considered too basic a cake I didnt dare to bake it for the Cook-off at the Anandomela so it had to wait.

Then some dearly loved friends announced that they are in town and the perfect opportunity for the Sponge cakes presented itself.

I baked two sponge cakes - one Orange flavored and the other coffee flavored. I put one on top of another and topped the whole thing with Dulce De Leche or put simply milk candy. Sounds like a lot? Its actually very simple.

Ingredients for the cake

6 eggs
250 gms Butter
2 heaped cup flour (maida)
2 tsp baking powder
2 cup powdered sugar
1.5 tsp Orange essence

2 tsp instant coffee powder

Sift flour and baking powder together. Set aside.

In a clean bowl beat the butter and sugar. They should be well combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat again. Pour in the sifted flour and baking powder and combine well.

Once done divide half the batter into another clean bowl - now add orange essence to one bowl and coffee powder to the other. Beat both with separate spoons to mix well.

Apply a little butter to the baking tins and then dust them with flour. Pour in the batter.  
Preheat the oven at 185 degree C for 5 minutes.
Bake the cakes one by one at 185 degree C for about 35 minutes. Insert a tooth pick into centre of cake to test if done. It should come out absolutely clean.

Once done let the cake sit in the oven for ten minutes so that it can absorb the ambient heat. Take it out and let it cool on a wire rack. 

The cakes are very good as is or with a bit of melted jam /marmalade on top. You can always top it with the DDL. 

For Dulce De Leche (milk candy)

1 tin of condensed milk - place the tin in a pressure cooker, fill it with enough water to submerge the tin. Close the lid and heat on high flame till the first whistle. After that lower the flame and let it cook for 25 minutes. Shut the gas and wait for the pressure cooker to come down to room temperature.

Open the lid, take out the can and you have your milk candy ready. Spread it as you like on the cakes either just on top as I did or cut the cakes horizontally and spread the milk candy in between and layer the cake. 

Go enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chicken Biryani and some Epic Bakes :)

Growing up in Faridabad an industrial township adjacent to Delhi what kept us rooted to our traditions and our culture while living far away from Bengal was the occassion of Dugga Pujo. Studying in a convent saying Hail Mary and knowing Our Father all faded in the background when those special five days of the year came by.

Suddenly we were as bengali as our cousins in Kolkata (all Probashis have family in Kolkata). Pujo those days started on Sashti evening with Anandomela - where all the bengali aunties came with basket loads of delicious, home cooked delicacies and we children drove ourselves into a frenzy running from one stall to another and pestering our parents for more money to buy yet another plate of the fast disappearing goodies.

All of these memories came flashing back yesterday as a colleague from work and I alongwith hubby set up our stall at our local Deepanwita Durga Pujo in Dwarka. 

Rushing from work where a last minute meeting cancelled our plans of sneaking out early we arrived at the pandal in the nick of time and set up stall at breakneck speed and were quite breathless by the end of it but couldn't stop grinning. 

Trying to set it all up before the judge arrives
The number of people coming to ask what we had to offer, little children drooling at the sight of the brownies, chocolate sauce and ice cream and the stream of well wishers coming to see how we were doing all added to the amazing feeling.

The crowds do a quick check on what all is on offer before diving in
 My friend who participated in an Anandomela for the first time was amazed at the enthusiasm and spirit of both participants and public alike, who decked in pujo finery were all at the pandal braving traffic and office calls to enjoy and enliven the environment.

Thanks to the fact that I needed to man my own stall I couldnt check out for myself all that was available though I did hear patishapta, pithe, apple jelebi, mangshor ghugni, luchi alur dom, vada sambhar amongst others. All the pics you see here were clicked by the hubby who apart from helping us out was also the photographer for the blog and us. What I did sample was the labongo latika being sold in the neighbouring stall. It had an interesting paneer stuffing instead of the usual khoya one and was very nicely made.
A glance at our offerings

My friend had made healthy whole wheat, eggless brownies which sold like hot cakes and her own take on cinnamon rolls which she called cinnamon munchkins. Healthy nutritious and tasty too. 

I was selling a home style chicken biryani (which got sold out so fast that we ourselves couldn't sample it). This biryani was made by a dear aunt of mine whom I call Pishi (father's sister) and the recipe for the same is given below with her name. I also had the ever popular Bailey's Irish Cream Cake that I baked.
Explaining the recipes to the chef, who incidentally thought my cake was good enough for me to attempt commercial baking

Pinky explains her recipes to the Chef

Judging is a hard task...Chef Rohit with a volunteer from Deepanwita's youth wing

The event was judged by Chef Rohit Narang of Crusty Gourmet Pizzas. Chef Rohit trained in Australia and also worked there with various chains before coming back to India to start his own endeavor. Which from whatever reviews I have read so far seem to be a success with a different menu and the Chef being available to take suggestions and feedback pretty quick. 

Taking the prize alongwith a little sweetheart who just had to go up on stage

Aarini loves the limelight more than anything else ;)

Group shot of all the winners in the various categories

The icing on our very happy cake happened when the prizes were announced and my friend and I took the top two positions in the dessert category. We were two 30 somethings behaving like kindergarten kids and the last pic will show you what I mean :) 

Now for the recipe of the Chicken Biryani that I promised:

Shyamali’s Chicken Biryani

Chicken boneless – 1kg
Basmati rice – 1 kg
Whole Garam masala – 1 tsp
Garam masala powder – 2 tsp
Cumin,coriander,chilli powder – 1 tsp each
Bay leaf – 3-4
Tomato – 200 gm, sliced
Onion – ½ kg, sliced fine
Fresh coriander and mint – a handful
Green chilies – 5-6
Curd – 1.5 cup
Veg oil – ½ cup
Salt – to taste
Saffron – a few strands

1.      Soak the rice in water for two hours
2.      Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry
3.      Heat oil in a pan and put bay leaf, whole garam masala wait for the masala to splutter  and then add the chicken pieces. Sautee for two minutes on high flame to lock in the juices.
4.      Add the curd and all the powdered masalas along with salt to taste. Fry it properly till it releases oil. This should take about 4-5 minutes on medium flame
5.      Then add fresh mint and coriander
6.      Add sliced tomatoes and fresh green chilies
7.      Mix well and cook for 5 more minutes.
8.      Then boil the rice till done with some pods of green cardamom
9.      Divide the rice into two parts. In one part add saffron and the other part put the garam masala and mix well.
10.  Take a big based handi.
11.  First put a layer of the garam masala rice, then put a layer of chicken then a layer of saffron rice and keep repeating.

12.  Serve hot along with raita and salad.

I think our grins say it all!

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Parisian Market - that doesn't sell designer labels and yet had us drooling

We fulfilled a long held dream of travelling to Paris last week. One of the high points of the trip for me apart from staring down at the city from the heights of the Eiffel Tower was visiting a local market. 

The market which caters to the ordinary Parisian and keeps them well stocked with fresh produce, cheese and wine among other things was a serendipitous discovery as we were roaming the streets of Paris in search of the 'real Paris' and we found it and how.

What drew our attention to this market was the sight of two full sized cows lazing on top of a shop. A closer look and we figured we had hit a fresh bazaar something I had been hoping to visit. 
Do check out the cows on the top - for the record these Holstein cows famous as Swiss Cows
The sight of the fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese and God knows how many kinds of fresh sea produce was unbelievable. What I totally loved was the attention given to presentation at what was essentially a haat. 

Take a look yourself. 

Small berries called Rouge berries which sparkled like gems and looked too good to eat - sour to taste I think they would work best with some cream :)

Mushrooms anyone?

The vendors who were more used to locals gave us a patient hearing and actually helped us pick a few things to taste and experience. 

The day's catch set up on an ice filled boat 

clams, oysters, crabs and what nots

So so ready to be grilled .....

Ready to eat stuff for those in a rush

Spanish paella - looked totally yummy - the picture doesnt do justice at all

A bakery in the same market actually had a line waiting patiently to pick the day's bread and a few savories and sweet stuff. We picked an Enid Blyton inspired meringue and Aarini's favorite assorted macaroons as well. The women at the counter who knew no English helped me pick things by sign language and smiles. 

Spot the many berries

Aarini's favorites

Enid Blyton's treat shops come live

The wine shop was a delight with really expensive stuff to ones as cheap as a Pepsi/coke kept right up till the pavement. Apparently in the middle ages water in Europe was so polluted that it would be undrinkable for many months. This caused the locals to rely heavily on wine and beer to quench thirst. While Germany went the beer way, the sophisticated French chose wine. And have made wine pairing an essential part of their culinary skills.

From every day fresh stuff, groceries, wine, to a quick visit to the Pharmacy and local Nursery - the market arranged for everything. 

We walked out of the market at the other end - Happy to have experienced a slice of quintessential Parisian life and wanting to go back for more. 

Our short trip has only ensured that our dream of spending at least a week or two in the city, possibly in an apartment of our own grows stronger.