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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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