Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crispy Mint Lamb Chops

This is the story of how yours truly was involved in an incident that almost closed down Residency Club. In the summer of 93 I started what was my first job, an internship at an industrial design firm in our building. One of the assignments I was working on was to build a permanent Mandap for Residency Club. Back then; Residency club was a newer, cheaper alternative to Poona Club and the Royal Connaught Boat Club. Mr. Tanna, the owner of Residency Club had solicited the help of Blueprint Design to build a permanent Mandap over a courtyard that was surrounded by rooms for club guests, so that he could rent the courtyard for functions even during monsoons. Blueprint design had delivered a highly futuristic concept for a Mandap using a tensile structure. Tensile structures are made of strong sheets of synthetic fibers stretched and held together with tension wires. Blueprint design had come up with a design that worked really well in theory. If all went well, this would cover an area of over 20,000 sq ft with columns only on the periphery. It was sometime in May and the summer had almost come to an end. The mangoes were already in their second harvest. We employed a large crane to hoist the heavy fabric in place and all the wires were put in place. By this time it was 6:00 p.m. and the only thing left to do was to apply tension to the wires and make the fabric taut. It was a couple of hours of work, so the team decided to call it a day and complete it all next morning. Mr. Tanna looked happy with the result and invited us have some drinks poolside. It was a lavish affair with some nice finger foods. The best dish in the spread was crispy lamb chops. I couldn’t recall any other restaurant that had lamb chops on the menu, so it was quite a thrill. On our way back home we saw some rather ominous looking clouds gather, but didn’t think much of it. Looked like your average pre-monsoon shower. It rained rather heavily that night. It was the kind of storm where you are almost OK with the powers that be turning the electricity off for an extended period of time. The rains had made the air cooler so I didn’t mind sleeping without air conditioning as I was already in a lamb-induced coma. Meanwhile back at the Residency club, the rains that had fallen on the loose fabric had started to create ponds in the air and continued till it became one 8 ft deep gigantic body of water floating in the air 25 feet above ground. Finally, it grew to a size where the fabric and the trusses could no longer hold it and it gave way flooding all the rooms around it and partially drowning some. Thankfully, there were some minor injuries and no lives were lost. Early next as we went to check the damage it looked like a post-Katrina scene. I was just surprised that no one got arrested for neglect. Blueprint design had to rebuild the entire thing out-of-pocket and suffered heavy losses. As eventful as the night was, being a true foodie, the most memorable part for me was still the lamb chops.


12 Lamb Chops
3 tsp chopped Cilantro
1 tsp chopped Mint
2 Green Chilies, chopped
2 tbsp Ginger Garlic paste
½ cup Buttermilk
Salt to taste

To cook
½ cup Oil
½ tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Garam Masala

Blend together all the ingredients for the marinade and apply to the lamb chops.
Allow it to marinate for at least 3 hours. Preferably overnight.
In a flat pan heat oil
Once oil is hot, turn heat to medium
Add Chili powder turmeric, and garam masala to oil and mix completely with the oil
Lay 4 lamb chops flat turning them every couple of minutes
Cook till the surface is crisp and golden brown
Serve with Yoghurt Mint Chutney

Friday, July 25, 2008

Medu Wada with Green Chutney

In 1996 the owner of Hotel Vaishali, Jagannath B.Shetty, decided it was time to renovate. This was mostly to tackle the problem of vagabonds that occupied tables for long periods of time by ordering just coffee or tea and spent that time ogling at the honeys from nearby colleges. The brilliant solution to this problem was creating a small smoking section where the lallygagging, leering, permanent fixture like customers would be reassigned. Actual paying customers could then use the rest of the busy hotel. As a result, Mr. Shetty closed Vaishali for 3 months. People like myself and the rest of the collegiate crowd found themselves completely lost and had to find a place to park themselves for those meaningful hours between breakfast and lunch. Or what is known in college as the first four classes. Anyone who has gone to college in India knows that while it is essential to be enrolled in a top-notch college, attending classes is for losers. In desperation we turned to the few acceptable eateries around the area and thanks to Jagannath Shetty’s decision, they also did a fair amount of business during these three months. Some people including yours truly gravitated towards Hotel Savera. Savera is situated right opposite Fergusson College’s main gate, but its real selling point was the proximity to the Fergusson Women’s hostel. Savera’s South Indian food was not really that bad, but it will never compare to Vaishali. They did serve a few things that Vaishali didn’t. Like puri-bhaji and a few parathas. The one thing that I always ordered was the wada sambhar—it wasn’t bad. By the end of the third month I was actually getting quite fond of Savera. But then Jagannath Shetty opened the doors to the new and improved Vaishali. All the surrounding restaurants that had enjoyed good business during this time were almost empty. The Vaishali parking was full that day and I parked my Kinetic Honda close to Savera, but walked to Vaishali. Because although Savera was nice, it’s no Vaishali. But then again, what is? Ask any Puneite and you’ll get the same answer. There’s no substitute.

2 cups Urad Dal (Black Lentils)
½ cup Rice
1/s tsp cracked Pepper
1 tsp Ginger
3 tbsp grated or chopped Coconut
Salt as per taste
Oil for deep-frying

Soak dal and rice over night in separate containers
Grind the dal and rice separately
Mix the two pastes
Add pepper, ginger, coconut and salt
Heat 2 1/2 cups of oil in a wok
With a Medu Wada maker drop doughnut like wadas directly into the hot oil
(If you don’t have a wada maker you can also drop 1 tbsp batter at a time using a tablespoon”
Deep fry till golden brown
Serve with coconut chutney or raw mango chutney.

Click here for Green Chutney Recipe
Click here for Green Mango Chutney Recipe

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Vegetable Korma

Once upon a time Pune was a small town with cute little houses. The traffic was manageable. The air was breathable air. And roads had no dividers. Fergusson college road was a beautiful street lined with Banyan trees and pretty much everything else was hunky dory. Much unlike the awful shit storm that FC Road has become today. A few things however have remained unchanged there. One of them, much to my delight, is a restaurant called Amrapli. As far back as I can remember, Amrapali was the place to go to for vegetarian fare. It is located off Fergusson College Road at the end of an access road right behind Hotel Roopali. It is very easy to miss as the only indication is a beaten up cantilevered neon sign, which must’ve worked at some point in time. A bicycle repair shop on one side and a scooter garage on the other guard the entrance to the access road. The entrance also featured a Lambretta, which I guess no one had claimed for decades, rusted and sunk half way into the ground. The left side of the access road was lined with custard apple trees and a moss covered wall, which seemed like it could collapse if someone broke wind and the right moment. The road itself, partially lined with Shahabad tiles, is an abandoned, half-hearted attempt at making it into a permanent road. While all these add charm to Amrapali, the restaurant itself is pretty lavish. The staff is courteous and the food delicious. They serve mostly vegetarian Punjabi food and the odd attempt at a vegetarian Chinese dish (which is usually quite tasty, just not Chinese). My favourite food there was the veg-korma, an artery clogging vegetarian feast. Amrapali has lost its attraction in recent years with the expansion of Pune city and the mushrooming of hundreds of other ‘me too’ restaurants. But most will remember it as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Pune.

3 tbsp Olive Oil
1 large Onion chopped
2 Tomatoes chopped
1/2 tsp Ginger (ground to a paste)
1/2 tsp Garlic crushed
1/2 cup Cashew Paste
1/4 cup heavy Cream
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 Tsp Chili powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 Carrot chopped
1/2 cup Green Peas
1 cup Capsicum
1/2 cup Cauliflower florets
1/2 cup fried Paneer Cubes
1/2 cup chopped Mushrooms
Salt to taste

Heat a pot and add oil to it.
Sauté the garlic and ginger and add onion.
Stir the onion and heat till translucent and brown on the edges
Add tomato and allow to cook for a few minutes
Add Turmeric, Garam Masala and Chili Powder and stir
Add Cashew Paste and mix thoroughly
Allow it to cool and then blend the mixture into a fine paste
Transfer contents back to the pot and turn heat to medium
Add vegetables and Paneer cubes and allow to simmer for 15 min
Garnish with grated fresh Paneer and serve with Nan or Basmati rice.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What is the difference between a Sauté and a Stir-fry?

Recently, I visited one of my favourite Thai restaurants, Pongsri, in New York. One of our mutual friends found two items on the menu that looked exactly the same with similar ingredients. The only difference was that one was sautéed and the other one was stir-fried. She asked me what the difference was and it was something I had never thought about. Does anyone know?