Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chicken Sheekh Kabab

Back in the 1970s in Pune, Borawke’s KuKu Ch Koo was the god of all things tandoori. It is still by far the tastiest tandoori chicken I have tasted in Pune. The first KuKu Ch Koo, and the only one I have ever been to, is situated on the Deccan end of JM Road. Nestled cozily between two sugarcane juice bars and directly opposite the P.M.T. bus depot it is at a prime location for the Deccan junta. The restaurant is very basic in design. It consists of two structures. A solitary concrete room is the management office. A shed opposite to it, open on all sides, houses the tandoor ovens. The rest of the restaurant is open to sky with seating consisting of cracked granite squares placed on cinder blocks for tables and plastic chairs around it. Hey, why waste on décor if they keep returning? The only way to tell the waiters from the general customer was the indifferent attitude, as they didn’t really have any uniform. Actually, KuKu Ch Koo was always self-service but there were always a number of waiters hanging out not really doing anything. There is a strong aroma or tandoori spices in the air. Almost enough to over power omnipresent the scent of low-grade diesel smoke from the poorly maintained P.M.T. buses. However, a meal sandwiched between the tandoori smoke on one side and diesel smoke on the other was quite delightful. Yours truly was a bit late jumping on the tandoori wagon and till the ripe old age of 10 abhorred anything tandoori. During my family’s many visits to KuKu Ch Koo, of which there were quite a few, it was slim pickings for those who didn’t eat tandoori. However, a little roll of meat known as the Sheekh Kabab came to the rescue till I was ready to take a leap into the world of tandoori.

1lb Boneless Chicken Breast (Lean lamb can also be used)
1 tsp Garlic Paste
1 tsp Ginger Paste
3 tsp Coriander finely chopped
3/4 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Hungarian Paprika
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Coarse grind the chicken in a food processor. Do not grind it too fine.
Mix all the above ingredients till it is a homogenous mixture and allow it to marinate for few hours
Make kababs by taking a handful of the paste and patting it on flat kabab skewers. (Flat skewers are easier and the meat stays on without much drama)
Grill the kababs on a conventional grill or broil in an oven brushing with oil and turning over to make both sides evenly cooked.
Serve over a bed of onion, tomatoes with a slice of lemon

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mutton cha Rassa (Maharashtrian Lamb Curry)

Mutton Rassa (Maharashtrian lamb curry) was probably the first food I knew I couldn't live without. Especially the way my mother makes it. My grandmother, my mother and all my aunts would make their own garam masala. Although my grandma has passed away, her memory still lives on every time I cook something as my garam masala still comes from home. I have had Mutton Rassa all over Pune, but only the Parsi restaurants do real justice to the Rassa part of it.

Although it has been 10 long years since I've been to Cafe Good Luck on Fergusson College Rd, I still remember the L shaped restaurant where time seems to have stood still. It has withstood many a communal riot that required reconstruction for other Parsi establishments. The entrance of Good Luck, the apex of the L, is at the corner of Bhandarkar Rd and Fergusson College Rd. One wing of the L extends into the dining area, the other is only for tea & pastry consumption. I remember the slightly bent old man who used to sit at the counter. He was a grumpy old man with a blue fly swatter who watched your every move. He didn’t quite know what year it was, but kept a watchful eye on the waiters making sure then don’t ‘favour’ their favourite customers of which there were many. An old, rickety Cinni fan from the 1950's, with most of the black paint chipped used to keep him cool. I don’t think it had been oiled since the 70’s either. My father would tell me that he was quite the dashing man when my father was a regular at Good Luck in his Fergusson days. Quasim his grandson, was my classmate at Fergusson College and from what I hear, is running Good Luck — and quite successfully, too. I have fond memories of dining at Good Luck with my father as he would order my mutton just the way I liked it. It was a dish only known as Mutton Double Fry. Your basic mutton curry, sautéed with onions, tomato and chili till the curry was reduced to a dry coarse paste, to be consumed with larger than life chapatis.

Most of the restaurants around the neighbourhood I grew up with have disappeared due to new construction and the so-called malls. Good Luck is still standing strong. Maybe someday I'll able to take my children to Good Luck and introduce them to the food three generations of their family have grown up on. Hopefully, it will happen before Cafe Good Luck is just a blip in the rear view mirror like Lucky, Cafe Sunrise, Poona Coffee House and Hotel Deepa.

I lb lamb cubed
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

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 water reduces by 1/2
Keep cooking till meat is tender
Serve with Chapati or rice.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tup Sakhar Chapati

If you grew up in Pune you’d remember of a mildly annoying siren that would go off at 10:00 a.m. every day and last for a good 10 minutes. I never figured out what it was for, where it came from or if anyone was supposed to do anything about it. We just knew that it was there and we ignored it, much like the coloured ‘Terror Alert System" compliments of the Department of Homeland Security.

The one thing I can always remember about it though was that when the ‘bhonga’ (as it was called) would go off aayi would be making her dabba of chapatis for the day. And during the holidays my brother and I would sit cross-legged on the cold floor of our humble dining-table-less kitchen and wait for aayi to give us a hot chapati slathered with some ghee and sugar and rolled up on dented steel plates. After a generous helping of chapati rolls, all young members of the galli would then emerge from their respective homes. for a good day of galli cricket.

I have tried recreate that taste at home many, many times for myself, but somehow it just doesn’t taste that good in my quiet kitchen, on Pfaltzgraff china and a Heywood-Wakefield dining table.

2 cups Chapati Ata (Durum Wheat flour)
1 tsp Oil
¼ cup Milk
Tepid Water to knead the dough
3 tsp Ghee
1/2 cup Granulate Pure Cane Sugar

Knead into dough all the ingredients except Ghee and Sugar
Cover it with a wet cloth and place aside for an hour
Take a golf ball sized portion of the dough and roll it into a thin flat chapati
Dip a finger in oil and rub it over the top surface
Fold the chapati into half and then a quarter again.
Roll this quarter into a round chapati
Cook on a hot skillet

Place the hot, cooked chapati on a place
Rub ½ tsp of ghee and drizzle some sugar on it
Roll the chapati and serve hot.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Like any big art school my alma mater gave India many successful artists, sculptors, architects and creative directors. Of course, it wasn’t enough to be at par with everyone else, so Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya gave us something no other art school has produced—the deadliest gang of serial killers in the history of Pune city. Jakkal, Sutar, Shah and Jagtap were students of the commercial arts stream, the same major that produced the lack luster career of yours truly. The four went on a killing spree for 14 months between Jan 1976 and March 1977. Being evil is one this, but being stupid and evil just isn’t a good trait to have. The four were finally apprehended as suspicions arose when the foursome went and inquired about the progress of the investigation at police stations one time too many. The first victim of the infamous foursome was Prakash Hegde, the son of the owner of a small hotel, Vishwa. Situated behind the college. Prakash’s murder was the only claim to fame for this otherwise mediocre hotel serving the usual Puneri fare mixed with some Udpi favourites and milkshakes. In my many lunchtime visits to Vishwa, I did happen to order the Thalipeeth, which wasn’t so popular, but actually quite good. Not many restaurants have Thalipeeth on their menu in spite of it being a hardcore Marathi food. Unfortunately, like Prakash, the Thalipeeth at Vishwa, too, met a premature end and was taken off the menu. It has been over 30 years since Prakash was murdered and nothing can make really this story have a positive end (besides the knowledge that his killers are sleeping in their graves). In memory of Prakash, my fellow alumni, whose restaurant gave me a few good college lunches, I dedicate this recipe.

3 cups dry Thalipeeth Bhajani (flour) Click here for recipe
1 Onion finely chopped
2 Chillis finely chopped
1/2 cup Coriander
1/2 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Turmeric
3 tsp Butter
Water for kneading
Salt to taste
Oil for cooking

Knead all ingredients into dough
Cover with a wet cloth and place aside for an hour
Take a golf ball sized piece of dough and roll it into a pancake on a clean wet cloth or butter paper
Poke a few holes with your fingers
Heat a skillet and put rolled out pancake on the skillet
Drizzle oil on the pancake and through the holes
Cook both sides till golden brown and crisp.
Garnish with a little butter and serve with yoghurt and lasun chutney

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Egg Curry

Hostelites, especially males, living in the Deccan area were really lucky to have the Lucky restaurant. Situated in the prime location of Deccan Gymnkhana, between Hong Kong lane and the Champion sports shop, it proudly served most of the Fergusson, B.M.C.C and M.E.S Garware college students. Of course, it was a popular dining spot for families, too. The structure of the restaurant was very similar to Café Good Luck, the other Irani restaurant on the block. It was divided into two sections. One served tea and snacks. And the other was for dining and families. Dining at Lucky (or Good Luck for that matter) took you back into the sixties. Mostly because it hadn’t been redecorated since the sixties. The design of the Formica on the tables was a mere suggestion of what it may have looked like 3 decades ago. The surface of most tables was so worn out that there were huge black spots caused by wear and tear. There were areas of the walls with extensive water damage and the ones that didn’t were covered in calendars inevitably showing the wrong month, if not the year. Creaking fans that hadn’t been oiled for years would rotate so slowly that you could see the individual blades. The washbasins were a treat. The metal taps were inevitably chipped. (How does a metal tap get chipped?) The soap dish had, I kid you not, dish washing detergent powder and usually a squeezed out slice of lemon. Perhaps it’s because you needed something with real grease-cutting power with all the food they served. The service, however, was always good. Although I wasn’t a hostelite, I would frequent Lucky a lot. Sometimes I would get some tea and bread before college. The elderly gentleman who managed the counter and all the bakery products under it would put an extra dollop of butter on my thick, unevenly cut slices of sourdough bread. Maybe he felt sad for kids who stayed away from home and extra butter was his way of showing love. Lucky restaurant was a family dining room for many a student living away from their families. And for all its shortcomings, the food was really good; it was cheap; and it felt like home. I was really sad when I heard that Lucky was torn down a while back to make room for a shopping mall. The thought of future generations of Puneites going through life without the Lucky Restaurant is really sad. The place where I consumed countless cups of tea and mhaska-pav, biryanis and egg curries is now just a memory. I try to recreate the Lucky taste in my kitchen, but it just isn’t the same.

7 hard-boiled Eggs
2 large Onions shredded
1 cup Tomato Puree
1/2 cup coconut flakes
4 tsp chopped Coriander
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
3/4 Garam Masala
2 bay leaves
1 tsp crushed Garlic
1/2 tsp Ginger paste
4 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Roast coconut flakes till slightly brown on the edges and place aside
Peel eggs, halve longitudinally and place aside
In a pot heat oil and add ginger, garlic and bay leaves
As they start to splatter, add onion and heat till it turns brown
Add roasted coconut and stir
Add the tomato paste and mix
Allow it to cook for a couple of minutes
Add coriander, chili, turmeric, salt and garam masala and allow it to cook for a few minutes
Take the yolk from one egg and mix with the sauce
Add one cup of water and allow it to simmer
Carefully fold in the egg halves into the sauce and allow to cook for a minute or two
Serve with bread or rice