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 350ยบ 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)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Vegetarian Hummus Sandwich



I attended the opening of Hotel Darshan on Prabhat Road back in 1976. A huge tumbler of Mosambi Juice (sweet-lime) was only 80 Paise (2 cents) back then. It was one of the first hotels to grace Prabhat road. It had a long orange door that has to be taken apart and reassembled to open and close the restaurant. Clearly no one's considered the option of replacing it with a collapsible gate. Darshan has some really great dishes on their menu. And they have Maharashtrianized pretty much everything they have taken a stab at. Their pizzas with generous helpings of Amul® Cheese and cashews, as tasty as they are, can scrape the roof of your mouth. It's enough to make any Italian shrivel. Then there is the Good Night Milkshake. A decadent orgy of milk, cream, Chikoo, Figs and pretty much every dry fruit available locally, it will put you into a deep slumber within minutes. And if you choose to go for the special, they'd put a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream . My girlfriend insists I make her one every night now. The other great thing about the Darshan menu is the long list of sandwiches on sliced bread. From your basic bread and butter to the complicated ribbon sandwich, it was pretty much a list of everything vegetarian that could fit between two slices of bread. And somehow they were all absolutely delicious. I recently came up with my own concoction that would make a great addition to the Darshan sandwich list.

Ingredients:

For Hummus:
1 can of Chick Peas drained
2 Cloves of Garlic crushed and peeled
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 1/2 cup Orange Juice
Salt and Pepper per taste

For Sandwich:
Sliced Multi-grain bread
1 cup Cauliflower finely chopped and sauteed in olive oil
1 Avocado thinly sliced
1 Carrot thinly sliced with a peeler
1 Tomato sliced
1 cup Baby greens
5-6 Black Olives chopped
1 cup Alfa-Alfa Sprouts

To prepare hummus cook garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes
In a blender add all the ingredients for the hummus along with the garlic and olive oil.
Blend the till it purees.
Place aside.
In a bowl take the sauteed cauliflower and add 1/2 cup of hummus and fold it till it is completely mixed.
Place a slice of bread on a plate
Line the bread with a single layer of the sliced carrot
Spread a generous amount of the hummus-cauliflower mixture over
Throw a few pieces of chopped olives over the spread
Add layers of tomato, avocado, and alfa alfa sprouts
Top it off with some baby greens
Sandwich it with another slice of bread
Cut diagonally and serve with potato chips

Monday, May 14, 2007

Kolambi Khichadi (Prawn Rice)



Residents of Colaba are familiar with the fishy smell of Sassoon Docks near by. Or Eau de Colaba as I prefer to call it. The fishing boats are already docked by early morning and the auction of the day's catch takes place early in the morning around 5:30 a.m. By 11:30 a.m. it arrives at homes in Pune. There are fish mongers that bring the catch straight to your homes on specially fashioned bicycles. The fish is held in large cane baskets filled with ice attached directly to the bicycles. After a decent amount of haggling the over priced fish makes it to the kitchen by noon in time for lunch by 1:00 p.m. Prawns are a favourite among fish mongers as they're expensive and they can carry a good amount in their baskets effortlessly. They are the best way to cheat poor housewives on the weight if they aren't paying attention. There are few recipes for fish in Pune, almost all of which come from the Konkan strip. Fish Koliwada (Fish Fry), Kalvan Bhat (Fish Curry and white rice) and Kolambi Khichadi (Prawn Rice). All Konkani fish curries use a lot of coconut due to the abundance of coconut palms on the coast. It also gives fish curries that sweet creamy texture. Especially in the Khichadi. It's one of my favourite Indian foods and no one makes it like mom does.

Ingredients
1 1/2 lb Jumbo Prawn. Peeled and deveined.
3 Cups Basmati Rice
I Cup Cream of Coconut or Coconut Milk
2 Large White Onions finely chopped
2 Large Tomato finely chopped
3-4 Green Chilies slit longitudinally
1/2 cup Coriander finely chopped
2 Tsp Garlic Powder
2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder
2 Tsp Turmeric
2 Tsp Garam Masala
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Peanut or Olive Oil

Method
Place oil in a deep pot and add garlic and green chilies while oil is still cold.
Turn heat to medium.
When garlic starts to splatter add onion and stir.
Keep stirring till onion turns brown and translucent. (10 min on medium heat).
Add tomato and turn heat to high.
Stir and allow to cook till the tomato dissolves into the onion. (5 min).
Add Chili, Turmeric, Garam Masala and salt.
Allow to cook for 2 min until it turns into a paste.
Add Prawns and stir till Prawns curl and change colour.
Add Rice, Coconut milk and Coriander and 2 cups of water.
Stir and mix well.
Turn heat to medium and place a lid on the pot.
Keep stirring occasionally so that all the Prawns don't rise to the top.
Keep adding water as needed till all the Rice is cooked.
Garnish with Coriander and serve hot with Papad.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Vegetable Biryani


The down side to having a really great cook for a mother is that eating out is almost always a big let down. Even worse is going out to a restaurant with her. Mine would always talk about how anything we ordered could be improved. And the great thing was that her suggestions were right on the money. There were a few places she would never complain about. Vaishali (till the cook who made the really good sambhar died.) The Oriental Room on Karve Rd. And the Durga Biryani. Mutton or Chicken Biryani is not an easy thing to make. But Vegetable Biryani is even harder to make. But the way mom made it, you wouldn't even miss the meat. My recipe comes nothing close to my my mother's recipe, but it is still pretty decent.

Ingredients:
3 cups Basmati Rice (or Brown Rice for a healthier version)
2 large Onions finely chopped
2 large Tomatoes finely chopped
1 large Onion cut lengthwise and deep fried till crispy
1/2 cup Green Peas
1/2 cup Capsicum (Green Pepper) chopped
1/2 cup Carrots chopped
1/2 cup Cauliflower chopped
3-4 Green Chilies slit lengthwise
1 tsp Fresh Garlic Paste
1 tsp Fresh Ginger Paste
3-4 Bay Leaves
5 Cloves
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Chili Powder
3/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 cup Oil
7-8 Pistils of Saffron
Salt to taste

Method
In a large pot pour the oil and place the pot on minimum heat.
Add Ginger, Garlic, Green Chilies, Bay Leaves and Cloves while oil is still cold
Raise heat to medium till ingredients start to sizzle
Add chopped Onion and cook till it turns translucent and brown on the edges
Add Tomato and raise heat to high and stir till most of the Tomato dissolves and it becomes a sauce
Add Salt, Turmeric, Chili Powder and Garam Masala and allow to cook for a minute
Add Cauliflower, Carrots, Capsicum and Green Peas
Add 1 cup water and allow it to boil.
Reduce the mixture till the sauce turns to a paste.
Remove the pot from heat.

Preparing Rice
In another pot, heat 1 tsp oil
Add Basmati Rice and saute it till it turns brown and releases the Basmati aroma.
Add water to cook the rice.
Do not allow to cook Rice completely.
Remove rice from heat while it still has a tiny uncooked part at the centre of each grain
Open the rice so that it releases the steam and does not continue to cook in it's own steam

Layering
The layering is very important for Biryani.
Line the bottom of the pot with some of the Fried Onion
Add a layer of rice
Then add a layer of the vegetables
Keep adding the layers till you have 2-3 sets of layers.
Always make sure that the top layer is Rice.
Then pat some fried onion on top of it.
Remember not to allow vegetables and fried onions to mix. The vegetables greatly reduce the aroma of the Fried Onion if allowed to mix. You can use a thin layer of rice to separate these.
Finish to top layer with the Saffron.
Seal the lid with a wet towel
Place on medium-low heat for 20 min.

Serve with Raita and Pappadum.

*Biryani always tastes better on the second day after all the spices have seeped into the rice.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Fish Fry


The best fish fry I've had (besides my mom's kitchen) was at a small beach resort in Alibaug called Parnakuti. Well, it was more of a coconut farm on the sea with a few huts and some hammocks to sleep in. A bonfire to keep you warm at night and a complimentary tube of Odomos. Of course when you're 20 and with a group of people whose main aim in life is polishing off a bottle of Old Monk, purchased off city limits to avoid paying excise duty, the accommodations are just a minor detail. As dismal as the accommodations are, the home cooked food is spectacular. Mrs Padwal at Parnakuti cottages on Versoli Beach, serves usals and misals along with Konkan-style Bangda, Bombil (Bombay Duck), Fried Pomfret, Surmai and Prawn Curries. It is well worth the 3 hour drive from Pune to Alibaug for some really good seafood.

Ingredients
1 lb Mahi Mahi Fillets cut into 1" thick strips. (Pomfret or Surmai is much better).
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Garlic Paste
1/2 tsp Tamarind Pulp
1 cup Rawa (Sooji or Selmolina)
1/2 - 3/4 tsp Salt
Oil for Frying

Method
Mix chilli, salt, turmeric, garlic, and tamarind in the buttermilk to make it into a watery paste.
Use this as marinade.
Allow to marinate for 2-4 hours.
Take the rava in a small bowl and dip each piece of the fish in the rawa till is completely coated.
Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry fish on medium heat flipping it over occasionally.
Remove fish from oil when it has a nice reddish colour.
Serve with chappati or dal & rice.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Sheera


A big part of one’s childhood in Pune includes going to every useless function your mother drags you to. ‘Satyanarayana chi Puja’ is on of those events. Having attended my share of Satyanarayans, I still couldn’t tell you what it is for. What I do know is that the ‘Prasad’ is the most awesome Sheera you’ll ever have. Actually, it is worth hauling your behind to a Satyanarayan just for the Sheera. I happend to talk to my mother about why that particular version of Sheera tastes good as opposed to the low-budget version we sometime have with out afternoon tea. Apparently all ingredients come in a 1:1 ratio. i.e. 1 cup sugar : I cup ghee : I cup of milk : I cup dried fruit. I think it should also come with a defibrillator.

So in the interest of coronary health, here’s a recipe for everyday Sheera.

You’ll need:
I cup Rawa Sooji or Semolina)
½ Sugar (3/4 cup if you like it sweeter)
1 tbsp Ghee
½ cup Dried Fruit (almonds, cashews, raisins)
½ cup
 Milk
½ cup
Water
½ tsp Cardamom powder or seeds crushed
Few Pistils of Saffron

Method:
Heat the ghee in a wok and add dry fruit and cardamom till almonds become very slightly brown.
Add Rawa and keep stirring so that it gets toasted.
Add milk, sugar and saffron and keep stirring.
If Rawa appears too dry, add little milk and water in 1:1 ratio till the Rava is nice and moist.
Turn the flame to small heat and let it steam for a minute or two.
Press one serving into a mould and remove it directly on to the serving dish.
Serve hot.