Sunday, December 9, 2007

Herbal Tea for Cough and Cold


The cold and cough season has affected our house severely. Mostly on account of the cretins on my commute that use the subway as their own personal Petri dish. The cough has been especially rough on Scanlynn. I on the other hand have been bred on the fine air in Pune city with an S.P.M. count of over 150. As we entered the 4th day of our seasonal suffering, I remembered a concoction my ayurvedic doctor would prescribe. I would take most of what my vaidya prescribed with a pinch of salt. Not to mention the fact that some of his prescriptions actually required a pinch of salt. But I remembered that he had given me a recipe for a cough tea that could be taken if you were looking for a non-chemical alternative to calming the tickles in your throat. It was a good change from regular tea, and it did the job. And as a bonus it is herbal and all natural.

Ingredients
4 cups water
3 tsp grated ginger
1 stick cinnamon
10 cloves of cardamom
3 cloves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns (crushed)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Honey as per taste.

Method
Place the water in a pot and heat it
Add all ingredients except honey
Bring to boil and allow it to boil for 4-5 min
Strain brew into a cup
Add honey
Drink while hot

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Palak Soup (Spinach Soup)



Growing up I had always been attracted to red foods. I could never really understand this fascination, but a red curry always seemed more appetizing than a green curry. Beets seemed more attractive than cucumbers. I never gave it much thought till I came across a research paper done by our friends at the TWBA / Chiat Day agency for their client, Heinz ketchup. Apparently, this is a very common phenomenon and not as I thought, one more of my many irritating habits. A plate of food where the central item is red always looks appetizing. This is because the eye associates the colour red with many appealing things. Freshly killed meat and blood. An abundance of blood in one’s body also signifies good health. And thus the eye looks for this colour on a plate. I just wish that I could’ve known these facts when I was young. It would’ve made refusing some rather unappealing dishes that mom tried to shove down our throats easier. It also explains my disdain for all things green. Like this Palak soup. My aunty used to make it whenever someone in the family was sick. But I could never fathom it. I have mastered making this soup. My girlfriend really likes it and asks me to make it often. I prepared it yesterday for her since she's the latest victim of flu season. Like an Alzheimer’s patient, I sat down to eat it and as I took the first spoonful in, I remembered just how much I hated spinach soup.

Ingredients
2 large Onions grated
2 bunches of Palak (Spinach) chopped
3 tsp Tomato Paste
1/2 cup milk
1” piece of grated Ginger
6 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Chilies finely chopped
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock (or water)
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a pot and add ginger, garlic and chilies while the oil is still cold
Once it starts to sizzle, add grated onions and stir
Allow it to cook till onion turns light brown
Stir in tomato paste and allow it to cook some more
Add milk and mix till mixture becomes a loose paste
Add palak in batches and putting the next batch after the previous one has reduced
Add stock and allow it to simmer for 15 min
Remove from heat and allow the soup to cool
Blend the soup in a mixture. (If blending while hot, remove the small cap of the blender or steam will explode)
Reheat the blended soup
Garnish with croutons and butter or cream

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Matar Khichadi (Spicy Rice with Green Peas)


I have been meaning to pay a visit to the motherland for over a year now. Unfortunately, due to work constraints, it’s just not happening. And when it does happen, it will be an extremely short visit and I won’t be able to do all the things I have planned. Of course, the one thing I am dreading about going back is the breakfast, lunch and dinner engagements. As any sojourner making a return visit to India knows, you can’t leave unless you have consumed food with all your obscure relatives. And the funniest part is that they expect you to eat platefuls of stuff for breakfast knowing fully well that you have to be somewhere for lunch in a couple of hours. And this almost always means that I will be eating less of mom’s cooking. The simple, homemade comfort food I so desperately need. Like matar khichadi with lots of ghee and papad.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup Green Peas
1 cup Rice
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 Onion grated
2 tsp Goda Masala
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp Dhania
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Sugar
3 tsp Oil
1/4 cup Coriander
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a pan
Add mustard seeds and stir till they pop
Stir in grated onion and let it cook it golden brown on the edges
Add masala, cumin, coriander seed powder, turmeric, and chili till it froths
Add green peas, rice and salt and stir for a while so that the peas and rice are coated with the mixture of spices
Add water and cook as you would cook rice.
Add more water if you desire the khichadi soft
Serve with papad and add some ghee for some extra taste

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bhindi Fry (Okra Frites)



Scanlynn and I
recently paid a visit to a local South Indian eatery here on Curry Hill by the name of Tiffinwallah. It's a charming little place with a homey feel and decorated with 3-tier tiffins. It immediately brought back memories of school and my dabba wallah. As I tried explaining the concept of the Tiffinwallah to Scanlynn, I realized that the Indian tiffin delivery system that I didn’t think twice about was such an elaborate and complicated ordeal. The New York Times recently had a big article about the Tiffinwallahs of Mumbai and their FedEx like precision delivery systems. This article does more justice to it than anything I can ever say about it. And all this fuss just so that people like myself that too lazy to go down during lunch hour can get hot, home cooked lunches at their desks at work (or school). Although my dabba wallah at school operated at a much smaller scale, he did cater to about 100 students. One of my pet peeves about my dabba was getting watery curries in my lunch, which would inevitably spill out of the tiffin making a soggy mess. And my favourite tiffin food was Bhindi Fry. Just like my mother made it. Thin cut, deep fried, devoid of any nutritional content and spiced to perfection with warm thin chapattis. They were more like Bhindi Frites really. Although the Tiffinwalah remains a distant memory for this gourmand, the Bhindi Fry will always be a big hit in my kitchen

Ingredients
1 lb Okra (Lady Fingers) quartered longitudinally
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/4 tsp Cumin powder
1/4 tsp Coriander powder
Salt to taste
Oil for deep-frying

Method
Deep-fry the okra till it is crisp and then drain it
Heat a deep pot and put okra in it
Add drizzle all spices and salt over okra and stir it so that the spices are evenly distributed over the okra.
Squirt a little lemon and garnish with coriander
Serve with warm fluffy chapattis or pooris.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spicy Red Lentil Soup


Since my move to Sunnyside, Queens I have been spoilt by a neighbourhood blessed with some really good restaurants. One of my favourite restaurants is a Turkish restaurant out on Queens Blvd. My girlfriend, who has spent considerable amount of time in Turkey, loves visiting our local Turkish Grill. Her favourite dish there is the red lentil soup, which I admit is really, really good. However, the only thing it misses is the burning sensation that can only come from excess spice. And that as we all know is the one thing a ‘pucca’ Puneri needs. I recently attempted to ‘Indianize’ this soup and the results turned out pretty good. Not to mention the cheap brownie points, since this can be done in a healthy 'organic' fashion.

Ingredients
1 cup Red Lentils
1 Onion shredded
2 cups Vegetable Stock
2 tsp Butter
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Cumin
Salt to taste

Method
In a pot heat the butter and add onions
Heat the onions till they are light brown
Add chili powder and cumin and stir
Add red lentils and stir
Pour in vegetable stock, salt and raise heat to high
Cover with lid and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ragda Pattice


For students in Pune, especially those that have passed their SSC, the ones that are in the final year of their degree courses and everyone in between, hanging around spending entire evenings doing nothing is a big part of life. My immediate circle of 40 odd vagabonds such as myself had chosen a particular corner of town when we were 16 where we would waste a major part of the next 12 years of our lives. It was a small “paanwala”. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a paanwala, it is a shack, which sells beetle leaves and loose cigarettes. , a staple for said age group. Our Paan Tapri stood proudly next to a run down hotel, Village Corner. Village Corner had changed hands faster than coalition governments in Delhi till it finally shut down one day. The little cigarette shop however stands proudly to this day as the hotel that would’ve given it business stands in a state of utter disrepair. We would park our respective two wheelers next to the Paan shop and blowing hot air that amounted to very little, leering at young women making them extremely uncomfortable — every evening without fail. Down the road from us where Lakaki Road met Ganeshkhind Road, there was a Pani Puri cart. Complete with a kerosene lantern, wheels sunk six inches into the ground and an unsupervised, bottomless baby just hanging out in the mud for good measure. For some reason this dude had really, really good Ragda Pattice. Warm yellow ragdas that had been dehydrated from sitting on the tava for hours, slightly off colour yoghurt and unsolicited advice from the vendor. Somehow, it all came together quite well. I have been to the best hotels and chaat houses in and around Pune city, but for some reason, the chaat never tastes as good as it does on the street. Is it the flies, the questionable water supply or the chipped plates that at one point used to be white? As long as you don’t think too much about it and train yourself to have a cast iron stomach, you’ll enjoy the best chat you’ll ever eat… on the streets. All for next to nothing.

Ingredients

For Ragdas:
2 boiled potatoes
¼ tsp Salt

For Chana
1 cup Chana soaked overnight
1 Onion chopped fine
1 Tomato finely chopped
½ tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Turmeric powder
½ tsp Cumin powder
½ tsp Coriander Seed powder
¼ cup chopped Coriander
½ cup Oil
½ tsp salt.

For Tamarind Date chutney
¼ cup Tamarind paste
¼ cup Date paste
1 tsp Jaggery or Sugar
Pinch of Salt

For topping
1 Tomato chopped
1 Onion finely chopped
½ cup Coriander finely chopped
1 cup whipped Yoghurt
1 cup Sev

Method

Ragdas:
Mash the potatoes and mix the salt.
Pat into small patties and bake on an oiled skillet till both sides are brown.

Chana
Heat oil and add onion till edges are slightly brown.
Add tomatoes and mash till it becomes a homogenous sauce.
Add chili, tumeric, cumin and coriander and allow to cook.
Add Chana and salt.
Add a cup of water and cook till water is reduced completely leaving a thick sauce.

Tamarind Date Chutney:
In a small pot heat 1/4 cup water
Add tamarind paste, date paste and jaggery
Let it cook for five minutes. And then allow to cool.

Place 4 patties in a plate
Top each patty with a spoonful of chana
Add small amounts of chopped onion and tomato on top
Drizzle tamarind date chutney and then yoghurt over it
Sprinkle with sev and garnish with coriander

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tomato Raita Hors D'oeuvres


I was always intrigued by the old ads for Monaco biscuits with their nicely decorated toppings. I, on the other hand, dipped my Monacos in my tea till my cup became a soggy, salty, inedible mess. I wasn't aware that Monaco was a salty cracker and didn't always have to be consumed with one's tea. (Of course, when you drink your tea on a two-wheeler parked under a tree, you dunk whatever is available in your tea.) In the ads the Monacos were usually decorated with strange, colourful toppings, although I had never really seen one pass by on a tray of hors d'oeuvres at a party. Not so long ago, I happened to be on the Parle Monaco website where they featured Monaco wallpapers for your computer. Why? I had to take a peek and I must share this ad / wallpaper with everyone. And as a professional in advertising I couldn't help but laugh at it. Considering the fact that no one outside of India would've even heard of Monaco, this ad must be for Indian audiences. It features a couple that have an Asian girl and a Caucasian boy in a house that has wood flooring, dry wall and a cast-iron heater in the background. All so very Indian. Of course, if you're from India you'll immediately know what the 'international' flavour of this ad means. I think it is a step back from the days of "Quick Gun Murugan" and "We're like this only".

Anyway, I recently had someone over for dinner and I realized that I hadn't made enough appetizers. Thankfully, I remembered the Monaco ads from the old days that would appear on the back of Filmfare. So I decided to repurpose the tomato raita at hand with some wheat crackers my girlfriend keeps around. The results were pretty good. I think pretty much any raita would've worked.

Ingredients
20 Wheat Crackers
2 ripe Tomatoes chopped
1 tsp finely chopped Coriander
1 cup Yogurt
4 tsp ground Peanuts
1/2 tsp Sugar
Salt to taste

Method
Beat yogurt in a bowl till it is a thick liquid
Mix coriander, peanuts, sugar and salt into the yogurt
Gently add the chopped tomatoes into the bowl
Lay out the crackers and place a little dollop of the raita on the cracker

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shikran (Banana Dessert)


Keli chya baaga maama chya.
Pivlya ghaada ni vakaychya.


If you were in an English medium school and Marathi was a second language, you'd remember this poem from your Bal Bharati text book in Std II. It was a poem about the poet's uncle who apparently had some large banana plantations. The poem goes on to describe the how each member of the family tended to the banana plants and it all climaxed in a domestic orgy of Shikran. One may conclude that the uncle's family really, really loved their bananas. Had this poem come in at a slightly later year I am sure one of the pupils would have surely questioned such a banana centric lifestyle. Actually, it was a very sweet poem and whenever I think of Shikran, I cannot help but think of the nicely illustrated yet slightly exaggerated banana plants weighed down by large clusters of ripe yellow bananas. A well prepared bowl of Shikran never fails to transport me back to my mom's kitchen where she'd serve me Shikran and chapattis straight from the skillet brushed with ample amounts of ghee and love.

Ingredients
1 Banana cut into thin round slices
1 cup cooked Whole Milk
2 tsp sugar
4 seeds of Cardamom (Elaichi) crushed
1/4" Vanilla Bean
Pinch of Saffron

Method
In a bowl mix the milk, vanilla bean, cardamom and sugar
Stir till the sugar dissolves
Stir in the bananas
Top with a little saffron if desired
Enjoy with hot chapatis brushed with ample ghee


Visit JFI Banana for more Banana recipes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Veg Pattice (Spicy Vegetable Turnover)


At the far end of Apte Road lies a tin shed that looks like the aftermath of an eager pyromaniac's unsuccessful experiments. This is the legendary Santosh bakery and the last time I saw it, the walls inside were black from being baked all day, everyday for the last couple of decades. I have fond memories of Santosh Bakery growing up. I remember my dad on his way back from work would make a stop at Santosh Bakery to bring home some hot vegetable pattice. The evening batch would come out at exactly 5:00 p.m. and there would be a huge line to get your hands on a dozen of these bad boys. The veg pattice (not to be confused with meat patties) is a spicy vegetable mixture in a puff pastry. The one thing I absolutely loved about Santosh Bakery was that it appealed to all classes. It was really nice to see a bullock cart parked behind a Mercedes. And their respective drivers standing close to the furnace in the hot Indian sun, in a line where they are all the same. Santosh Bakery serves some really great products. Straight from the oven sourdough bread, cream rolls, cakes, nan-katai, rusk toast, brun butter (hard bread rolls) all wrapped in day old newspaper. I have been dying for a pattice for a while, but the thought of making the dough seemed like too much effort. Until I read on Spice and Rice that Pepperidge Farms makes puff pastry sheets. So here they are. And a quick shout out to my friend Gayatri for whom I made these.

Ingredients
1 Sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry
2 boiled Potatoes
1/2 cup shredded Carrots
1/2 cup Peas
1/2 cup Cauliflower
1 Onion finely chopped
1 tsp Tomato paste
1 tsp crushed Garlic
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 Tsp Salt

Method
Heat oil in a pot
Add garlic and onion and stir till golden brown on edges
Add tomato paste and stir
Add carrots, peas cauliflower and stir
Add Salt, Turmeric, Chili and Garam Masala
Cook the ingredients adding little water at a time
When it's cooked, add potato and mash together into a coarse paste
Allow to cool
Cut pastry sheet into 3" squares and lay them on an ungreased cookie tray
Place a small ball of the filling in the centre of each square and fold over
Seal edges by pressing lightly
Pre-heat oven at 400º F
Place in oven and bake at 400º F for 15 min
Remove when the pastries turn golden
Serve with Chai and tamarind sauce

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Prawn Curry


If there's one thing the great city of Pune lacks, it's a beach and an abundance of fresh seafood. Sure there are a few fish markets and some scattered fish mongers, but the seafood is always expensive and unless you're really tight with the fish monger, not really that great. This would also explain the lack of good seafood restaurants in Pune. Growing up, I couldn't recall a single restaurant that was known for great fish. But in the last two years that I still lived in Pune, a restaurant by the name of Kalinga had just opened it's doors on the small road whose only claim to fame was a quick access to the Mhatre Bridge. A restaurant that tried too hard with a seating capacity of 500 and was decorated with baroquean excess. Hopefully they've toned down the decorations a bit. The only saving grace to this eyesore was the great food. And great seafood. During my limited number of visits to Kalinga I had the only acceptable prawn curry served to me in any restaurant in Pune. In Pune, the seafood is expensive and let's face it — the people are cheap. And I give Kalinga an A for effort for even trying to serve good seafood to picky, cheap bastards like myself who would cause a stink if it wasn't absolutely great. Of course, the best prawn curry I have ever had came out of my mother's kitchen and hopefully this recipe comes close.

Ingredients
1/2 cup oil
1 lb. Jumbo Prawns peeled and de-veined
1 large Onion chopped very fine
6 cloves of Garlic crushed
1 tsp Tomato Paste
3/4 tsp Turmeric
3/4 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 cup Coconut milk
1/2 tsp Tamarind paste
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a pot
Add garlic and onions and stir till onions are translucent and brown on the edges
Add tomato paste and stir
Add turmeric, garam masala and chili powder and stir
Add prawns and make sure they're mixed well with the onion tomato mixture
Add the water to make the mixture lose
Add tamarind paste and stir
Allow to cook for a minute or two
Add coconut milk and stir
Simmer on low heat for 5 min
Do not over cook Prawns
Serve with chapatti or rice.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Pavta Usal (Stir Fried Lima Bean)


In Maharashtra the word Pavta is slang for a village simpleton. Or more precisely a term used by city folk to describe a simple person from a village who has moved to the city. Someone who sticks out like a sore thumb. Much like the wonderful people in Times Square who are not locals. Moving at their own pace, always looking up in awe at the tall buildings. It is also the Marathi word for Lima Bean. The Lima Bean we get at home is much smaller than the one found here in the US. Each bean is no bigger than the nail on your little finger. It also packs more flavour. Probably because most of the vegetables available in our markets in India are locally grown. Pavta was a staple in my mother's kitchen and she'd always a maintain a bag of fresh beans in her fridge. Pavta usal (stir-fried Lima Bean) was something she cooked very often. It was a quick, easy and delicious meal and I found it in my tiffin almost every week. For some reason none of the restaurants I know served Lima Beans which is strange. This dish is very quick and easy and cheap, too. And goes well with chapati, bread or rice.

Ingredients
2 cups Lima Bean (Pavta)
3 tsp Oil
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Maharashtrian Goda Masala
6-8 Curry Leaves
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a wok and add mustard seeds and curry leaves
When they start to splatter, reduce heat and add Chili, Tumeric and Goda Masala
Stir the masala into the oil and allow it to cook for a minute
Add Lima Beans and Salt
Stir so that all the beans are coated with spices
Add 1/2 cup water, stir and cover with a lid
Stir occasionaly till beans are cooked
Serve with a hot chapati

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Moong Dal Khichidi


I followed the one day international between India and England all day today and once again in true Indian fashion the 'Men in Blue' snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. If I had a dime for every time the Indian team let me down this way, I wouldn't be here writing this blog. Back home, news like is taken seriously and involves hours of pointless analysis over tea, rum or some comfort food. This analysis is usually done by people whose latest cricketing experience has been stumps drawn on a wall by means of a broken brick. A bat with a bare handle because the rubber went missing within the first week. And an MRI faux tennis ball that used to be some some what white when it was bought. And yes—the grand rule of 'one tuppa out'. Ah, I miss being a drawing room cricketeer. The absence of someone who even knows what cricket is, leave alone understands it, is really hard on a depressed fan such as myself. So today, I decided to make some comfort food for myself that I thought I'd sink my sorrows into something nice and hot. And perhaps try explaining to my American girlfriend that even if a 5 day match has no outcome, it is still important in the grand scheme of things. Namely statistics! So I made some moong khichidi. Some of you may say that's not really comfort food. It is after the huge dollop of ghee I put on it.

Ingredients
1 cup Moong
1 cup Rice
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
2 tsp Goda Masala
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp Dhania
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Sugar
3 tsp Oil
1/4 cup Coriander
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a pan
Add mustard seeds and stir till they pop
Add masala, cumin, coriander seed powder, turmeric, and chili till it froths
Add moong dal, rice and salt and stir for a while so that the dal and rice is coated with the mixture of spices
Add water and cook as you would cook rice.
Make sure you add enough water so that the rice and dal become soft
Serve with papad and add some ghee for some extra taste

Friday, August 24, 2007

Alu Paratha


It was the early nineties and the ladies had just started noticing the dating potential of yours truly. It was also a time when 'pubs' had just started turning up in the 411001 pin code. Black Cadillac (which is now closed) and Ten Downing Street with their 200 Rupee cover charge were the first to arrive. I have always been a non-drinker, but for some reason ladies would always insist on visiting the pubs. Even the ones that couldn't hold down their gimlets to save their lives. For a reasonably broke person such as myself, the 200 Rupee cover charge was a bit steep and left little to spend in the way of dinner. Thankfully, there was one great option, just down the street. Hip enough and cheap, too. Steaming hot, authentic Punjabi parathas at Nandu's. Crisp, flaky, cheap and downright delicious. Seating was optional and the waiter would bring your order right up to you. Whether you were parked in a car or just standing by on the footpath. One of the 15 varieties of parathas, a little yogurt on the side and it was heaven on the bonnet of your Fiat. The Alu paratha was by far the best among all the parathas they had. Nandu's has become somewhat of an institution in the Boat Club Rd. / Dhole Patil Rd. area. I still remember it as a humble little spot that fed young broke kids on a budget trying to entertain their respective ladies. And depending on the company you kept, it promised to be the one (and in some cases only) bright spot in your evening.

Ingredients
For Atta (dough)
2 cups Chappati atta (finely ground wheat flour)

1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp oil 

1/2 cup Milk 

Warm Water

For Filling
3 Boiled Potatoes
1 tsp crushed Garlic
1 tsp crushed Ginger
1/4 cup chopped Cliantro
4 Green Chilies chopped
Juice form 1/2 Lemon
Salt to taste

Method
Using all the ingredients for dough, knead the dough
Mash the potatoes and add garlic, ginger, lemon juice, cilantro, chilies and salt
Take a golf ball sized portion of the dough
Flatten it with your hands and place 2 tsp filling in the centre
Enclose the filling in the dough and roll it into a thin roti using a rolling pin
Cook on a hot tawa (flat pan)
Serve with plain yogurt or tamrind chutney

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Egg Bhurji


Before I left Pune, one of my favourite spots to hang out on a lazy evening was the Pune University fountain. This spot was especially fun during the brief Pune winters as it served great, hot food. What started as three small carts when I was in Std X had become a mini Chowpatty in just a couple of years. (Not to be confused with the mini Chowpatty near Farazkhana). You could find all kinds of food here to match your mood and budget. Chinese, Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, Dosas and last but not least, awesome Egg Bhurji. The fact that there was a steady traffic of pretty, young girls coming to enjoy the lively atmosphere didn't hurt business either. I loved hot bhurji at Univ. fountain on a crisp winter evening. One egg, onions, tomatoes, questionable oil, spiced to perfection and served with 'pavs'. Heaven for 3.00 Rupees (approximately 7 cents). I remember spending many an evening with my friends at the University Fountain watching the St Joseph's girls returning from Hockey practice. Univ Fountain was a place for all seasons. In the summer the gentle mist from the 3 story fountain kept the area cool and in the winter, the hot food took care of business. Today, due to the haphazard growth of Pune city and ambitious local politicians, Pune has lost one of its greatest landmarks to 'road widening'. The great University fountain had been razed and the food stalls are all gone. Every time I pass Pashan road, I can't help but look out and reminisce about my teenage years, close friends, my red, rusty BSA SLR and a hot plate of anda bhurji at the edge of the fountain.

Ingredients
3 Eggs
1 Onion finely chopped
1 Tomato finely chopped
2 tsp Coriander finely chopped
1 Green Chili chopped
1/2 tsp Chili powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
2 tsp Oil
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a wok and add chili and onions
Stir occasionally till onions become brown on the edges
Ass tomato and let it cook for a minute of two
Add chili, turmeric, salt and garam masala and mix thorougly
Break the eggs on the hot mixture and start scrambling
Add coriander
Scramble till eggs are completely cooked

Serve with Sourdough bread rolls.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Veg Hakka Noodles


Some of the best restaurants in Pune are successful because they satisfy the three following conditions—great food, low prices and proximity to a ladies hostel or college. As someone most of whose friends included hostelites, eating out was huge. And Fergusson College road with it's many cheap eats was a hot destination. In the early 90s a Chinese restaurant, China Garden, popped up on F.C. road that satisfied all of the above conditions and then some. Situated on the corner of that nameless street between Roopali and Vaishali that meets F.C. road at an angle it was a heaven sent for gourmands. The greatest part of this restaurant was that it's front part was a restaurant and the back half, a car garage. So you could feast on some spicy chicken lollipops as you waited for your car tune up. This tiny restaurant had a seating capacity of 8 tables, provided it wasn't raining. Then it was down to only 5. If you came in a car, the food would come to your car. My favourite dish at this restaurant was pan-fried hakka noodles. A heart attack special which included vegetable hakka noodles topped with chicken manchurian. I loved this dish a lot, but as I have become more health conscious I have started eating my own, healthier version, stir-fried vegetable-hakka noodles.

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat noodles / pasta (cooked and drained)
1 cup mixture of chopped vegetables (Capsicum, Carrots, Green Peas, Mushrooms, Scallion, Cabbage)
2 tsp Chili Oil
2 Green Chilis spliced
1 tsp fresh Garlic Paste
1/2 tsp Soy Sauce
Salt to taste

Method
Heat the chili oil in a wok on medium heat
Add chilis and garlic paste and stir
Add vegetables, salt and soy sauce, stir and cover with a lid till vegetables are partially cooked
Add noodles and mix well
Cover with a lid and allow to cook in it's own steam for 3-4 min
Serve hot

Friday, August 10, 2007

Kashmiri Roti


My girlfriend and I visited the Sapphire Indian restaurant on Broadway at Lincoln Center in New York. After the meal, as the waiter asked us for our dessert selections, my girlfriend ordered a Kashmiri Naan with Masala Chai. The waiter turned to me to convey a "What the fuck?" look. And I responded promptly with a "Dude, don't even get me started" look. Anyway, my girlfriend really, really likes the Kashmiri naan which is traditionally made from enriched white flour, which is nasty. I thought I'd try making a healthier version for her using whole wheat chapatti flour. I'm not so sure that the FDNY is comfortable with me having a Tandoor oven, so I had to use a tawa. Turns out, it tastes even better. Especially, if you top it with a generous amount of ghee.

Ingredients
For Atta (dough)

2 cups Chappati atta (finely ground wheat flour)

1/2 tsp Salt,

1 tsp oil

1/2 cup Milk

Warm Water

For Filling
1/2 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Pistachio
1/4 cup Almond
1/2 cup Coconut Flakes
1 tsp Sugar

Method
Using all the ingredients for dough, knead the dough
Blend all the ingredients for the filling in a blender
Take a golf ball sized portion of the dough
Flatten it with your hands and place 2 tsp filling in the centre
Enclose the filling in the dough and roll it into a roti using a rolling pin
Cook on a hot skillet
Serve with fruit

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Chutney Sandwich


After securing a less than adequate percentage in my foundation examination during my first year of art school, I was faced with a dilemma. Bribe someone with a lot of money at the school or bribe someone with a little money at the state level and have them direct the school to accept me in the program of my choice for very little money. The second option although the natural choice was easier said than done. It involved traveling to Bombay and dealing with the red tape at the Directorate of Art in the J.J School of Art compound. Of course, after a little research, I did find someone who was willing to push some paper for a little grease on the palms. And since said transaction couldn't be done in broad day light, he suggested I meet him in front of V.T. station at lunch time. There are a number of small food stalls that sell delicious food on the footpath opposite V.T. station, so that was a good option. We met at a man selling vegetable sandwiches out of a cart. 'Indian Club Sandwich - Rs 3.00' it said in bold type. He grilled it in a hand held contraption on a bed of coals. The piping hot sandwich was served on cut up pieces of old newspaper. I along with my 'associate' ate a hearty meal of fresh lemonade and a club sandwich and got out for under 10.00 rupees. After lunch I gave him a suspicious brown package and took the Deccan Queen to Pune. Next week I was called into my college to let me know that I had been admitted to the applied art program. I still remember that sandwich fondly and I wish to someday visit VT station. I hope my sandwich guy is still there.

Ingredients
Sliced Wheat Bread
Chutney (click here for recipe)
Sliced Tomato
Thinly sliced Cucumber
Butter

Method
Apply chutney on one slice of bread
Apply butter on another slice of bread
On the chutney side place a layer of sliced cucumber
Add a layer of tomatoes
Close the sandwich with the buttered slice
Cut off crusts and cut the sandwich diagonally
Serve with hot chai

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sada Dosa


If you are a Puneite and not on a first name basis with the waiters at Vaishali, it is safe to say that you're not a cool as you think you are. Hotel Vaishali is the crowning jewel of Fergusson College Rd (and for many years the Sun around which my life revolved). Sure there are many important landmarks on that road, like Fergie itself, or maybe the Ranade institute, but nothing says FC Road like Vaishali. The restaurant where our fathers, and grandfathers grew old, no doubt leering at young unsuspecting girls just as their sons and grandsons would. Where many a relationship started and ended. Deals worth lacs of Rupees are initiated and finalized. Vaishali is not just a restaurant. For generations, it has been a way of life. Vaishali is nothing without it's permanent fixtures. The people who are always there no matter what time of day or night. If you've been a Vaishali regular in the past 20 years and are not close friends with one Mr.Uday Sanas, you really haven't embraced the spirit of Vaishali. Of course, besides its religious followers Vaishali boasts the best tasting South Indian menu in the city. There's not a single item on the menu that's not simply amazing. Whether it is the Idli, the SPDP or just something as simple as the lemonade. And nobody makes dosa in Pune like Vaishali and their Sheetal Special sada remains by far one of my most favourite meals. I often wondered what made a meal at Vaishali so special. Was it the just the food? Or that it felt so much like home? Or the fact that you knew almost everyone on every other table? Or that when you were at Vaishali, you were never without friends (even if you were eating alone)? My trip to the motherland is coming up and Vaishali is one of the thing I am looking forward to most. Besides mommy dearest, of course.

Ingredients
3 cups rice
1 cup Urad Dal
1/2 tsp Meethi seeds
1/2 tsp Salt to taste

Method
Soak the rice and meethi seeds and urad dal in water overnight
Coarse grind rice and meethi seeds and urad dal separately
Mix in a container and add salt
Keep aside for a couple of hours so that it begins to ferment

To make the dosa, take a non stick pan and spread the batter thin as you would a crepe
Drizzle a couple of drops of oil or one squirt of oil spray
Dosa is done when the edges loosen by themselves and the dosa is a crisp golden colour.
Serve with green chutney

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sugarcane Juice (Ganne ka Ras)


In my unequal struggle with Hindi during Std X I had an earth shattering 15 1/2 marks combined in my first unit test, terminals and prelimins. My father concerned at my progress or lack thereof did the only thing a responsible Indian parent can do — looked for Hindi coaching classes. After much begging the Hindi teacher at St. Loyola's agreed to let me and two of my friends join his class of Hindi challenged pupils. We were thrown out of class on the very first day on account of laughing at a logo on the teacher's polo shirt. It was laughing buddha styled monkey, so it was a no brainer. Getting thrown out of class was a very common thing for vagabond students such as myself and one desperately needed a place to park in such an event. In Model Colony at the edge of Shirke's Sugarcane Farm, they had cleared 10000 sq. ft. of land and put some tables and bamboo chairs. And at one end there was a shed with a sugarcane juice machine. One Rupee for a tall, cold one. In this case a tall glass of sugarcane juice were the cane was cut after the juice was ordered. A few hot samosas on the side, and you were golden. Cane House was to the Model Colony teenager what a local pub is to an Irishman. I passed by Cane House the last time I was in Pune and there was a rusty tin door with a lock on it. The shed and the chairs and tables were still all there—in a state of complete disrepair. The rusty cane juice machine looked like it hadn't moved for many a monsoon. And the rich, black soil floor was covered with 'congress grass'. Juice from Whole Foods' organic sugarcane can never compare to the experience of a roadside gannawala or ghural. But in case you wish to recreate the feeling while watching Seinfeld reruns, here goes...

Ingredients
1 large Sugarcane (the part closest to the root yields the tastiest juice)
2" piece of Ginger
1 tsp fresh Lemon Juice
Pinch of Salt and Pepper

Method
Cut the Sugarcane and put through a strong juicer
Add ginger to the juicer, too
Collect in a jug / glass and add lemon, salt and pepper
Add ice cubes and enjoy cold

Click here for the Liquid Dreams page.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tawa Prawns


Most of my friends through my twenties were big rum & coke drinkers. And great thing about having a solid 'pettad' as a friend is that whenever you go out, there are always great appetizers on the table. One of the more popular watering holes in Pune back in the early 90's was Pinnacle in Chandani Chowk. If one can remember that far back, Chandani Chowk was a place people went to get out of the city, stand at the pinnacle, enjoy some fresh air and a great view of the city from the top of the hill. At that point, Pinnacle was still trying to attract customers with low prices and a sit-as-long-as-you-want policy for drinkers. As a result, the average young drinker on a shoestring budget could manage to go beyond the masala peanuts for drinking snacks. Some drinking snacks like Chicken Manchurian Dry, Fish Koliwada and Masala Papad continue to be the favourites. My favourite was the Tawa Prawns. Fresh jumbo prawns spiced and stir-fried to perfection. Today, the city of Pune has grown in all directions, Chandani Chowk is pretty much in the middle of the city, the humble Pinnacle is called Banjara Hills and has gone from a humble restaurant to a resort with a restaurant that boasts a multi-cuisine menu. And although my coke still remains rumless I never fail to order the tawa prawns with my Thumbs Up when I visit the new Banjara Hills on my infrequent trips home.

Ingredients
1 lb Jumbo Prawns peeled and de-veined
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1 Tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Lemon Juice
6 cloves of Garlic crushed
3 tbsp oil
Salt to taste

Method
In a wok, heat the oil on medium heat
Add garlic, chili, turmeric and garam masala
Stil till oil and spice mixture starts to foam
Add prawns and stir till all prawns are coated with the spice mixture
Add lemon juice, salt and stir
Cover with a lid and allow prawns to cook in the steam
This should not take more than 3-4 minutes.
Garnish with Corainder (Cilantro)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chicken Finger Sandwiches


No trip to Pune is complete without a visit to Marzorin. It is situated on Main Street in Camp in a tiny little shop three steps above everyone else. Back in the 80s when I used to frequent Marzorin, they had a very short menu. 4 types of sandwiches. 5 types of drinks and a few pastries here and there. Today, Marzorin is a huge 2 story restaurant with a fairly complex menu. My favourite food at Marzorin is still by far the little triangular chicken sandwich. I have tried every possible combination of chicken, spreads and bread to make it taste like the Marzorin. I have come up with many recipes in the process, but the Marzorin combination still eludes me. Here's one of my favourites.

Ingredients
1 cup Grilled Chicken, very finely chopped
8 slices Whole Wheat Bread
1/2 cup Butter
1/4 cup Cream Cheese
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
Salt to taste

Method
Saute grilled chicken with pepper and salt with little oil
Whisk cream cheese and butter till they are completely mixed
Apply mixture generously to two slices
Place some of the chicken mixture on one slice being careful not to put too much. Single layer is much better
Place second slice to make the sandwich.
Press slightly so that chicken is held in place by the butter and cheese
Trim edges and serve with hot chai

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Masala Chips (Masala French Fries)



By the time I was in the 7th standard, I along with a few neighbourhood kids had perfected the art of making a good potato chip. Known in this country as the French Fry or in the fly over states as Freedom Fries (sad, isn't it?). In India young boys are always discouraged from carrying experiments in the kitchen. As a children of parents who were busy and away from home most of the day, my friends and I found the kitchens at our disposal during the afternoons. We would have potato chip parties between games of 'galli' cricket. It involved everyone stealing 2 potatoes from home and maybe some oil. Stealing oil from the oil dispenser on the kitchen counter was a rookie mistake that would get caught. Only the seasoned potato chipper knew to steal directly from the 15 litre Postman dabba as a few missing cups wouldn't be detected. The loot would then be gathered at one of the kitchens where peeling and cutting began. As a measure to increase the number of chips per potato, we would cut the potato longitudinally as opposed to making them longer. Also, thinner strips meant more chips. This tended to make the chips crispier. A few experiments with seasonings and it was a delightful mid-afternoon snack. Afterwards everything was cleaned and the evidence destroyed. Every time I sit with a paper cup full of fries beneath the golden arches, I can't help but think of my memories of cricket and masala chips.

Ingredients
2 Large Idaho Russet Potatoes
3 cups Oil
1 tsp Chili
1/4 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Garam Masala

Method
Julienne the potatoes and divide it into 3 portions.
Heat oil in a wok.
When the oil is hot put one portion in the oil
Stir occasionally
When the potatoes start browning on the edges remove from wok and place in a pot
Drizzle chilli, sugar, salt and garam masala
Mix thoroughly making sure all chips are coated with some seasoning
Serve with ketchup

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Varan Bhat (Dal and Rice)



Varan Bhat is to a Maharashtrian what rice and beans are to our Mexican friends. This is the one dish that for some reason never tastes as good in a restaurant as it does at home. More so for lunch than diner. And if you nail the combination of the dal, salt, lemon and ghee at the first helping, just stop. The second helping will never taste as good. A good batch of dal is probably the second yardstick for judgement that the mother-in-law uses against the new bride after the roundness of a chapati. Here's to a start to a good finger licking lunch.

Ingredients
1 cup Toor Dal (pigeon peas)
2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
1/2 tsp Asafoetida
2 cups water
Salt to taste
Lemon, sliced
1 tsp Ghee

Method
In a pressure cooker cook the pigeon peas till they are completely soft and almost dissolved. (If you don't have a pressure cooker, boil in a pot till cooked.)
Set aside.
In a pot, heat the oil.
Add cumin and asafoetida and allow to cook in the oil.
Add turmeric and then the dal.
Whisk the dal and add water to achieve desired consistency
Add salt according to taste

Cook rice with a little extra water so that it is softer than usual.
Serve dal over rice generously and top it with salt, a few drops of lemon juice and ghee.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Spicy Stir-fried Corn



I have always associated corn with the monsoon season. Before the weather patterns on the Deccan plateau shifted the first showers would show up by mid-May. It was just around the time when we would be busy putting brown paper covers on new text books for school and enjoying that new book smell. It also meant that summer vacation was in its last three weeks. As the rains started drenching the parched earth, children in my neighbourhood would run out to collect mangoes that would've fallen as a result of the rains. As the victorious returned with shirts full of muddy bounty, aayi would have hot cups of chai waiting for us. Along with Glucose biscuits and roasted corn or stir-fried corn. The 4'o clock chai on a rainy afternoon is something I miss dearly.

Ingredients
2 cups of Corn kernels
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Chili powder
1 tbsp Butter
Salt to taste

Method
Heat butter in a pot and add mustard seeds
Add corn and saute
Add sugar, turmeric, chili and salt
Stir
Cover with a lid and allow to cook
Keep stirring as the corn tends to stick to the wok
Serve with hot chai

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mutton Roast



Back in the early 90's, when my friends were at the peak of their drinking form, Green Park on Baner Road was a popular watering hole. Although it was designed and advertised as a family restaurant, most of it's patrons were young and middle-aged men who were used to drinking Old Monk by the quarter. Even though the food at Green Park was extremely delicious, it was always secondary as most of their customers weren't sober enough to appreciate the food or for that matter remember it the next day. Having been a non-drinker all my life, I had the pleasure of sampling almost everything on the Green Park menu and remembering it long enough to write about it. One of their lesser known dishes (and one of my favourites) was mutton roast. A succulent piece of lamb shank breaded and grilled to perfection in a tandoor oven and served with 3 wedges of roasted potatoes and a mint dipping sauce. From what I hear, Green Park has been completely renovated with a swimming pool, a kids playing area and everything that makes it a really family oriented restaurant. And although most of my friends have now sobered up, have kids and hold respectable positions in society, I am saddened to think that they may have missed out on a really fabulous mutton dish. The one other place that still serves it is Café Good Luck.

Ingredients
6 5" pieces of Lamb Shank
10 Garlic cloves crushed
1 tsp Ginger paste
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Chili powder
1/2 cup Oil
1 cup Bread Crumbs
Salt to taste

For the Marinade
Add ginger, garlic, chili, turmeric and garam masala to the cup of oil
Heat mixture in microwave for 30 sec or till oil starts boiling
Set aside

Method
Remove the fat off the shanks and place in a bowl
Apply marinade generously to the shanks
Place in fridge for 4-6 hours
Pre-heat oven to 40 degrees
Dredge the shanks in bread crumbs
Place on a baking sheet and cook for 40 min or till shanks are fully cooked
Serve with tamarind or mint chutney and potato chips

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mutter Kheema



Our convent school was never really equipped for taking large number or students on trips and whenever an attempt was made it was an utter disaster that made for some really great memories. One of the great features of these overnight trips was that the food would be prepared by the students themselves. A great idea in theory. But not when the cooks in question have barely mastered long division. Never a great selling point, but looking back the trips were fun. The destination was always a small sea side village or one of Shivaji's many forts. Or in some cases both. When I was in high school, we went on one such trip to Sindhudurg. Sindhudurg was Shivaji's invincible fort in the Arabian Sea a couple of miles from land. We set camp on the beach right opposite the fort. We attempted to cook on kerosene stoves, but it was a disaster. The chapatis were rock hard, the fish was burnt and everything has a strong aroma of kerosene. Eating this food was mandatory or you'd face the wrath of a strict bearded teacher and his ruler. Sneaking out to eat was a good option. I found a small restaurant which a woman ran out of her home. She served the food on two cots outside her house. Although the food was so-so and the meat was extremely questionable, it was completely edible in comparison to what lay in store back at the camp. Here I had mutter-kheema for the first time and fell in love with the combination.

Ingredients.
I lb lamb or chicken kheema (minced)
1 1/2 cup green peas
2 large onions finely chopped
2 large tomatoes finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic crushed or 1 tsp paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt (or according to taste)
3 cups water
1/2 cup oil

Method
In a large pot heat oil on high and add ginger and garlic.
When the garlic starts to splatter add chopped onion
Once the onion browns on the edges, add tomato and stir
Allow to cook for 5 min
Then add chili, turmeric and garam masala
Allow to cook for a few minutes and add kheema and green peas
Stir and allow to cook for a minute or two
Add water and mix well
Turn heat to medium and allow to boil till water reduces by 1/2
Keep cooking till meat is tender
Serve with Chapati, Sourdough Bread or Basmati Rice.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Vanga Batata Bhaji



There's no story to this dish. This is just a delicious dish my mom used to make. I just happened to make it the other day and thought I'd share.

Ingredients

2 medium Potatoes cubed
2 large Brinjals (Eggplants) cubed
1 large Onion finely chopped
1 large Tomato finely chopped
1/2 cup Peanuts crushed
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp crushed Garlic
1/2 tsp Ginger paste
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a pot and add garlic, ginger and onion.
Sauté till onions are translucent and brown on the edges
Add tomato and stir till it becomes a homogenous paste
Add garam masala, turmeric, chili and stir
Add potatoes and 1cup water
Allow to boil till potatoes are cooked
Add eggplant and boil till most of the water evapourates leaving a pasty sauce
Add ground peanuts and keep stirring for 5 min
Garnish with chopped cilantro
Serve with Rice Bhakari or Naan

This recipe is for Nupur's RCI June: Maharashtrian Cuisine!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tawa Pizza


Before pizza became a mainstream food in Pune, there were only a handful of places that made pizza. The place that was most famous for it's pizza in the pre-chain restaurant era was Supreme Pizza opposite Sambhaji Park on J.M. Road. Supreme's pizza was pretty much a slightly thicker version of Masala Papad that could scrape the roof of your mouth raw. The sauce was slightly modified Kissan ketchup and the cheese was Amul. For those of you who might not know, Amul is to cheese what Tofurkey is to Thanksgiving. The pizza was baked by arranging it in a small tawa like utensil and then shoved into this contraption that was pretty much like a Weber Grill, but not quite. But for whatever reason the Supreme pizza was delicious and one couldn't find parking for blocks around the small shack. I think Supreme is still around, but since the arrival of Pizza Hut, Domino's and some other Indian Pizza chains, the small family owned Supreme has lost the 'Supremacy'. Now, they just cater to the Pav Bhaji and Milkshake crowd. And perhaps bake the odd pizza for someone who wants it just for old time's sake.

Ingredients:

(Chappati Dough)
2 cups Wheat Flour (Chapati flour)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Oil
1/4 cup Milk
Warm Water

(Pizza Sauce)
1 can Crushed tomato
1 tsp Garlic
1 tsp Fresh Oregano
1 tsp Fresh Basil
2 tsp chopped Parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Pepper (optional)
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Toppings
Mozzarella / Cheddar Cheese, Chopped Onion, Mushrooms, Peppers, Italian Sausage, Grilled Chicken (or whatever you like)

Method
Mix all the ingredients for the dough and knead adding warm water till you have dough with a nice consistency
Place aside and allow to rise for an hour
In a pot heat Olive Oil and add Garlic, Basil, Oregano and Parsley.
Saute and then add crushed tomato
Allow to simmer.
Roll the dough slightly thicker than a Paratha
On a Tawa, slightly cook the base
Shut off heat and turn the base so that the uncooked side is to the bottom
On the cooked side spread the sauce so that the whole base gets a little sauce
Make sure not to make the base soggy
Add cheese and toppings
On a very low flame heat the pizza in the Tawa with a lid on.
Serve when the cheese is melted and the toppings are cooked

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Good Night



If there's any milkshake that's capable of bringing all your boys to the yard, it's probably the Good Night. Unfortunately, it will also put them to sleep as soon as they arrive at said yard. One of my favourite restaurants in Pune that I must've mentioned a million times here is Darshan. The juice and milkshake menu at Darshan went filled an entire section of the menu. The king of the shakes however was the Good Night. A dieters nightmare, this milkshake was so heavy that it would put you in a food coma within the hour. Hence the name. It was a mixture of whole milk, cream, chickoo, figs, dried fruit and nuts. Served in a tall beer mug and topped with homemade ice-cream and some shopped nuts for good measure. My other favourite part about the Darshan menu was a disclaimer on the first page which I am sure annoyed the waiters a lot. It simple stated "The person serving you is a needy student. Do not lower his morale by offering him a tip. Calling him brother or 'bandhu' is the best tip you can give him." I have heard that they recently removed that little note.

Ingredients
4 Chickoos peeled with seeds removed (Or one pack of frozen chickoo)
2 Figs quartered
3/4 cup mixture of Almond, Pistachio, Cashew
1/2 Cup Raisins
2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Whipping Cream
1/2 tsp Saffron

Method
Put the ingredients in the blender in the following order.
Raisns at the bottom, then nuts, chickoo, figs, cream, milk and saffron
Run the blender on the smoothie setting.
Keep blending till the raisins have been broken down completely

Serve in a tall glass with chopped nuts and a dollop of vanilla ice-cream

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Goan Vegetable Curry


In the last 20 years, my family has had more weddings at Hotel Shreeyas than I care to remember. Coz' when one thinks of a nice romantic wedding, clearly the first thing that comes to mind is Shreeyas. My first memories of Shreeyas were going to have Thali there. 6 Rupees for a plateful of 12 odd items, 9 of which you'd would never touch. The unenthusiastic waiters would occasionally visit you to replenish your plates with food that could be described as tolerable at best. Still, Shreeyas never kept running out of loyal customers. My father was one of them. He took us there every so often and I would keep praying that they'd have the two things I could push down my gullet. Actually, the two things I did like at Shreeyas were the yellow potato bhaji and one delicious vegetable dish in a coconut sauce. I think it was Goan vegetable curry with a 'brahmini' twist. And I loved it. It made the trip to Shreeyas bearable.

Ingredients
4 cups assorted vegetables chopped. (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Zucchini, Capsicum, Baby Corn, Snap Peas, Carrots, Tofu).
5 cloves Garlic crushed
1" Ginger thinly sliced
2 cups low-fat Coconut Milk
1/4 cup Oil
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a large pot
Add garlic and ginger till garlic turns brown
Add vegetables and sauté them in the oil
Add turmeric, chili and garam masala.
Add coconut milk and Salt and allow to simmer till vegetables are cooked.
Serve with basmati rice.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Idli


After I passed out of Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya in 96 and my visits to Bajirao Rd were limited to the telephone exchange. There are a number of things I miss about my old college neighbourhood. Places like Saras Baug, Hindustan Bakery and most of all Wadeshwar. On Bajirao Road right opposite the telephone exchange there is a small place called that sells the most delicious idlis you'll ever eat. You wouldn't come across it unless you knew of it as the actual place is on the first floor, almost 10 metres above the footpath. 90% of Wadeshwar's business comes from Idli-Sambar. Two hot idlis in a bowl with a generous helping of Sambar that came out of a tap. And back then it was all at a very reasonable price or 2 Rupees making it a highly sought after destination for cheap bastards like yours truly. It was also a great place to sketch as some really interesting, senior gentry from the ‘old city’ frequented the place. Really the sketching wasn't as interesting as watching feeble, slightly bent, old city folk who would struggle to get to the top of the stairs, settle down with a bowl of boiling hot idli-sambar and just inhale it. The sale of idli sambar at Wadeshwar is so high that the sambar was kept in a horizontal, high capacity tank and poured on the idli by means of taps placed at one-foot intervals. I always opted for the idli-chutney, as I was afraid of spilling any sambar on my clothes. Looking back, it was kind of pointless, as I didn't own any clothes that weren't already paint-stained.

Ingredients
1 cup Rice
1 cup Urad Dal

1/2 tsp Salt.
Oil

Method
Soak Rice and Urad Dal overnight in separate containers.
Coarsely grind Rice and Udad Dal separately using sufficient water till you have a the consistency of medium thick batter
Mix Rice and Urad in a container
Leave overnight and allow it to ferment
Add salt and stir to flatten the batter
Grease the idli pans and fill them to about 3/4th capacity
Steam the idlis for 10 min
Serve with sambar and chutney

Monday, June 4, 2007

Bhel



I grew up on Prabhat Road and our park was Kamla Nehru Park or KNP, as the college kids that order their chai "one by two" called it. My fondest memories bhel are outside the large iron gate of KNP. Bhola bhel was our "bhelwala". No real reason, that's just the guy my mother would take us to. A balding man on the wrong side of fifty with a pushcart and a permanent burnt umber complexion from making bhel under the scorching Indian sun. His pushcart had a hand painted board that advertised Bhola Bhel next to an anatomically questionable picture of Shankar. The glass containers that contained the papri and rice puffs were adorned with fading pictures of Bollywood stars whose star had faded decades ago. He cut onion really fine with a speed that would put the finest Waring chopper to shame. With a thick handle bar mustache and a cheery disposition he never failed to make serious small talk, even with his youngest customers. And for 70 Paise (in 1978) he would serve you Bhel on a single page of a glossy magazine and a little square from a slightly thicker cover would serve as the spoon. I would run back to the park with my friends and we'd sit under the biggest mango tree and enjoy Mr. Bhola's Bhel to the fullest with a spiced side of green chili. Sadly, Mr.Bhola is now making Bhel in heaven and the spot where his cart used to be is occupied by a chaiwalla. It was very relaxing to watch him make Bhel and I had watched him make it enough times to know the recipe by heart. So I dedicate this recipe to Mr. Bhola. Long after he has gone may his recipe live on in many corners of the world.

Ingredients
1 Cup Puffed Rice (Mumra)
1 Cup Farsan (Or a mixture of Sev, Papdi and Gaathi)
1/2 Onion chopped
1/2 Tomato finely chopped
1/4 Raw Mango chopped (optional)
2 tsp Coriander finely chopped
1/2 tsp Green Chlli Paste

For Tamarind Chutney or buy it here
1 Cup water
1/4 cup Tamarind Pulp
1 tsp Jaggrey or Brown Sugar
1/4 tsp Cumin Paste
1/4 tsp shendelon-pandelon (Black Rock Salt.)

Method
In a small pot boil all the ingredients for the tamarind chutney.
In a big bowl mix puffed rice, farsan, onion, tomato, mango, cilantro and 4 tbsp tamrind chutney.
Add little chili paste according to your spice tolerance.
Serve in a small bowl garnished with Sev and Corainder.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Baked Beans on Toast



My girlfriend once asked me what we were having for dinner that night. "Baked Beans on Toast" I replied. I swear she threw up a little in her mouth. Naturally, she thought I was referring to the British version which, unless you're from there, doesn't sound that tempting. I, however, was referring to the Indian version. Like any other food, we just took it, spiced it up and voila — Baked Beans on toast, Indian style. I had my first Baked Beans on Toast at Darshan on Prabhat Rd which is pretty much a pizza on sliced bread with spicy bean paste instead of marinara sauce and finely chopped toppings. It's delicious!

Ingredients
4 slices Sourdough Bread
1 can Black Beans drained
1 cup Green Gorbanzo beans (optional)
1 Capsicum (Green Bell Pepper) finely chopped
1 Onion finely chopped
1 Tomato finely chopped
1 cup Cheddar Cheese shredded
1/2 cup Cilantro
4 tsp Green Chutney
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Adobo All Purpose Seasoning

Method
Heat olive oil in a wok and saute gorbanzo and black beans with Adobo spice till dry.
Place the slices of bread on a pizza stone or baking pan.
Apply green chutney generously to all slices
Apply a layer of the bean mixture
Add cilantro, onion, capsicum and tomato as toppings
Finish the topping with Cheddar cheese.
Heat oven to 350º F
Place the pizza stone on the centre rack
Allow to bake till the cheese is melted and has brown patches on it.

Serve Hot!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Avocado Paratha



In Pune, XI Std is pretty much a year of rest after the grueling SSC exams. As a fresh college student who could borrow my brother's M80 (if anyone remembers those) when he didn't need it I would always visit the Pune University fountain. It was a great hangout for guys my age as we could park our vehicles and to watch the St. Joseph's girls. Apparently, that was an extremely popular pastime. The University fountain (for those old enough to remember it) was the place to hangout for some cheap eats and fresh air. It was also a great place for love birds returning from their rendezvous behind the tall grass patches at Pashan Lake to stop for a quick bite. The mist from the 3 story tall fountain kept the area cool and fresh and the many stalls provided the good, cheap eats to good, cheap kids. Sweet corn soup one by two, Dosa, Bhurjee Pao, the mysterious blue van that provided hot vadas and parathas. Sadly, the University fountain was demolished by an over-zealous and most probably corrupt corporator. Thus destroying some of the best memories I have of being a teenager in Pune. The paratha dude was a favourite as there weren't many stalls that made a good paratha. This recipe inspired by Garam Masala is a fitting tribute to my favourite parathawala.

Ingredients

For the filling:
2 Hass Avocados chopped
1 Onion finely chopped
1/2 cup Cilantro finely chopped
1 Lemon (juiced)
4 Green Chilis finely chopped
1/s tsp Ginger paste
Salt to taste

For Atta (dough)
2 cups Chappati atta (finely ground wheat flour)
1/2 tsp Salt,
1 tsp oil
1/2 cup Milk
Warm Water

Mash a the ingredients for the filling into a homogeneous mixture. Place aside in a bowl.
Mix the ingredients for the dough till it is smooth adding water as needed.
Cover and place aside for 45 min
Take a golf ball sized lump of dough and flatten it in your palm.
Place one tsp of the filling in the center of the flattened dough.
Close the dough so that the filling is completely concealed in the dough
With a rolling pin flatten the dough slowly making sure that the filling doesn't come out.
On a heated skillet add very little oil and roast the paratha.
Serve with green chutney

Monday, May 28, 2007

Green Chutney


Main St and East St in the Pune Cantonment area, besides being a great shopping neighbourhood, are a hot destination for foodies. Anyone going to camp will ritually stop at 3 places. Marz-O-rin for sandwiches. Budhani for wafers (Potato Chips) and Kayani Bakery for some bitchin' Shrewsbury biscuits. It's the perfect food trifecta that will put you into food coma. The Marz-O-rin chutney sandwiches are one of my favourite foods in the world. I have eaten chutney sandwiches at many restaurants, but none quite like Marz-O-rin. Marz-O-rin started as a small shop selling sandwiches and has become a Pune landmark. I remember ordering a platter or 8 sandwiches for Rs. 3.00. It was money well spent. 8 finger sandwiches with a glass of mango juice and you were in heaven. If you were smart, you would already have paid a visit to Budhani to purchase 100 gm. hot potato wafers straight out of the wok to go with your sandwiches. The great taste of the chutney sandwiches is due to a secret family recipe. In spite of many attempts, permutations and combinations, I have failed to come up with chutney that tastes like Marz-O-rin.

Ingredients
2 Fresh Coconut shredded
1 cup Cilantro
1 Chilis
2 cloves Garlic
1"piece of Ginger
1/2 Lemon juiced
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup Water

Method
Add all ingredients to blender and blend till it becomes a smooth mixture. Use as a spread on sandwiches, or as a dipping sauce.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mutton Biryani


I studied Applied Art at Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya in Pune. If you've ever driven past it, you know it takes real courage to admit that one studied there. During my fourth year, our class was situated in the basement of the college. This was great for two reasons. If it rained, the water in class came up at least waist level and all the tables would be floating. And if there was no electricity, it would be pitch dark. In any event, classes would be cancelled for the day. When this happened, there were two options. Either place yourself among some permanent fixtures at Vaishali. Or pig out on some of the most decadent Mutton Biryani at Durga Biryani House. Durga, which is situated on Tilak Road, right outside Tilak Smarak Mandir, is in a tiny 12' X 12' shop. It has a mezzanine floor which houses three and a half tables. I can bet good money that the mezzanine is an illegal construction. However, this is a minor detail when you consider that this little restaurant churns out the best artery clogging mutton biryani in Pune. If you are to visit this fine establishment remember to have a generous supply of Gelusil® with you.

Ingredients:
4 cups basmati rice
I lb lamb cubed
2 large onions finely chopped
3 large onion thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic crushed or 1 tsp paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt (or according to taste)
3 cups water
1/2 cup oil

Method
In a large pot heat oil on high and add ginger and garlic.
When the garlic starts to splatter add chopped onion
Once the onion browns on the edges, add tomato and stir
Allow to cook for 5 min
Then add chili, turmeric and garam masala
Allow to cook for a few minutes and add Lamb
Stir and allow to cook for a minute or two
Add water and mix well
Turn heat to medium and allow to boil till almost all the water is gone and the curry part looks like a lumpy paste.
In a wok deep fry the sliced onions till golden brown and crisp
In another pot cook rice till it is almost cooked. i.e. there is a tiny grain at the center of the rice
Take a thick bottomed pot and place some of the fried onions
Then add a 1 inch layer of Rice
Cover it with a layer of Mutton
Repeat layers till you have 3 sets of layers.
Place lid on the pot and seal with dough or a damp towel
Place on medium heat till all the rice appears cooked.
Serve with Raita or Dahi-Kanda

Batata Vada



No matter how many super-highways are built, I still maintain that the best way to travel Bombay-Pune is by Deccan Queen. Whenever I have traveled by the Deccan Queen, I made sure I got the window seat. I am always impressed by the beauty of the Sayadhri Ghats as the trains passes through the mountains, especially in the monsoons. And of course the monkeys. Who doesn't love monkeys. When you're traveling back to Pune from Bombay, the trains stop at Karjat station for 15 min where a second engine is added to the train. This is to help the heavy train climb the ghats. As soon as the train pulls into Karjat Station, one is greeted by some Men in Blue. No, not the ones (the Indian Cricket team) that have been disappointing us year after year with their dismal performances. I am speaking of Divadhkar Vadawala and his men in blue uniforms that bring the hot dumplings of deliciousness into the trains. This is probably the most delicious part of the Bombay-Pune train journey and are extremely famous. There was an incident a few years ago when an American NRI from returning to his native Pune wanted to get really fresh vadas. He got out of the train and went straight to the stall. Unfortunately the train started to move and there was an accident. He never made it home. It gives new meaning to the term "food to die for". A really tragic story, but what a way to go.

Ingredients

For stuffing
4 Potatoes boiled and peeled
1 Onion finely chopped (optional)
6 Chillis finely chopped
6 Garlic cloves crushed
2 tbsp Ginger grated or paste
1 Lemon juiced
1/2 cup Cilantro / Coriander finely chopped
1 tsp salt

For batter
2 cups Besan (Chickpea flour)
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
1/4 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Salt

Method
In a pan mash potatoes, onion, chilis, garlic, ginger, lemon, coriander and salt into a solid mixture making sure that the potatoes don't have any large lumps.
Make small balls the size of a golf ball
Place aside

Mix besan, chilli powder, turmeric, cumin, baking soda and salt in a bowl
Add water and mix till it turns into a thick batter

Heat oil in a wok
Dip the potato balls in the batter and deep fry till golden
Serve with mint or tamrind-date chutney

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pav Bhaji



A long, long time ago, before the construction of the architectural eyesore that is the Z bridge that links Junglee Maharaj Road to Narayan Peth, there used to be a cute little cause way. It may have been 12 feet in width, open only to two-wheelers and if you were lucky, not underwater. At the J M Road side of the cause way was the rear end of another extinct Pune landmark, Natraj Talkies (Cinema Theatre). Just outside the gate were two nameless sheds that made the most awesome Pav Bhaji I have ever eaten. It was as close as it gets to a drive-in in Pune. It was all pretty simple. You ride your vehicle as close to the stall as possible. The man behind the 'Tawa' would look at you. You would make eye contact and with a show of fingers suggest the quantity of your order. There were also some unmentionable ways to indicate how spicy you wanted your food to be— and it involved fingers. But let's not get into that. Soon the order would arrive via a waiter, usually an over-confident barefoot genius who served you your pav bhaji, water from a questionable source and side of home grown wisdom disguised as wit. Drinking the water at stalls in Pune is always a gamble and the tension of how it will react with your body always looms till next morning. As a child I have fond memories of staining the bonnet of my mother's Fiat with some really hot Pav Bhaji. With the modernization of Pune city, the foods of my childhood are fast disappearing. The taste however, still lingers in my mouth like it were yesterday.

Ingredients:
3 Large Potatoes (boiled and finely chopped)
2 Tomatoes (finely chopped)
2 Large Onions ( finely chopped)
1 Capsicum (Green Bell Pepper) finely chopped
3/4 cup Green Peas
1/2 cup chopped Cauliflower
2 tbsp Chili
1 tbsp crushed Garlic
1 Tbsp Crushed Ginger
1 tbsp Turmeric
3 tbsp Badshah® Pav Bhaji Masala
1 cup Butter
1 1/2 tsp Salt

Method
Heat a large pot and add the butter, ginger and garlic
When the ginger and garlic start to sizzle add chopped onion
Stir till onion turns translucent and brown on the edges
Add tomato and stir for 5 min
Add green peas and capsicum and potato and mix well
Add chili, turmeric and pav bhaji masala and mix well
A 2 cups water and allow to cook for 10 min
With a masher start mashing the contents till it becomes a coarse paste
Continue cooking for another 10 min
Serve with Pav Bhaji Buns (or buttered dinner rolls)