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!!!