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. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Missing the Mark

There are food joints I get told about as wonderful places which I will especially like being a foodie and all that.  These range from street food vendors to five stars. If these recommendations are made by more than one person I tend to believe and look for an opportunity to try out the fare.

At times these recommendations turn out to really be the finger licking experience they were foretold to be but sometimes try as I might I am unable to discover the 'amazing food' I was recommended. I guess the reasons can be many - different tastes, a bad day at the restaurant, my expectations being set too high and maybe just a bad day for me.

A name that tops the list for me in this regard is Sagar Ratna - try as I might I am unable to like their fare. I have been to various outlets at various points in time but somehow they all leave me unsatisfied. Their dosas always need a little more crispness and their sambar a little more flavour. Yet many, many friends call it their favorite south Indian food joint, one they visit on a regular basis.

A second one is the coffee shop chain Costa Coffee - a place often sought by fellow colleagues as a quick place for a bite and a meeting. While I am good with a Barista and even a Cafe Coffee Day somehow Costa never does it for me. I am yet to fathom what it is that bothers since honestly apart from the coffee mix which each place has as distinctive - the kind of 'bites' are very very similar and yet given a chance I prefer a local eatery to a Costa anyday.

A recent disappointment has been Cafe Delhi Heights - a chain that boasts an unusual decor and a pretty regular spread at high prices. It is the favorite 'party' place for office colleagues and I have ended up going there quite a few times but somehow neither their cocktails nor food seem to impress. A place that serves a platter of Pita bread and hummus at a price of 475/- is expected to atleast keep the flies away. Sadly that's not the case and one ends up shooing away flies with one hand while nursing a drink in a discarded jam jar with the other. 

Being always a part of a largish group 20+ people at the minimum, we always end up ordering quite a few veg and non veg dishes. Sadly am yet to find one that I really relish and can recommend. I notice the vegetarians ordering jalapeno poppers and pita & hummus every time - seems there is a dearth of choices in that section. As for the non vegetarian section ordering and reordering factory made sausages can only mean that nothing else is really repeat worthy.

The place however seems to get a fair amount of good word on Trip Advisor and while no one says its really awesome and the high prices & flies feature there too - no one seems to be disappointed with the place, except me. I did notice that there are no blog posts about the Cafe though. 

Or perhaps I am breaking some Food blogger/ reviewer protocol which says that dont say negative things about a place - only post happy reviews. 

Any which way I am known for stating bitter truths as is...so here is my list of pet food place peeves.

Do you have any?