Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Diwali

Here's wishing you and yours a very happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fire Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Halloween Soup

When I was still a youngster back in India, we learned everything there was to know about American culture from those American Culture for Dummies books a.k.a Archie Comics. I first learnt of Halloween in Archie Comics as a holiday, which involved costumes, and hitting the neighbours for cheap candy like it was a right. Archie Comics in all their PG-ness never really mentioned two really important aspects of Halloween (or what Archie and Veronica really did at Lover’s Lane). They never really covered the part where it is the one day where girls can dress in their skimpiest, something the male junta does not seem to mind. I for one encourage freedom of expression. The other aspect of this dentist’s dream holiday that remained unexplained was the pumpkin connection wherein pumpkin based recipes are dumped on the general public during this period, never to be heard of for the rest of the year. Recently my wife cooked me a delicious soup with a recipe inspired by Souvlaki for the Soul. Here it is with a Halloween twist.

6 large Tomatoes cut in half
1-2 red Red Peppers, quartered
1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Potato, peeled, roughly chopped
1 red Chili finely sliced
2 cups Vegetable Stock
1 tsp Tomato paste
1/2 cup Basil leaves
6 bowl sized Pumpkins

Set your oven to broil
Place the tomatoes and capsicum in a baking dish
Sprinkle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and salt and pepper
Roast for about 45 min or until tender till tomatoes and peppers are soft
Add some olive oil to a pan and fry the chili
Add the stock, the potatoes and the tomato paste
Bring to the boil and then lower the heat
Cook for about 10 min or until the potatoes are tender
Once cooked, remove the pot off the heat and set aside.
Your tomatoes and capsicums should be ready about now
Remove from the oven and add them to the potato mixture.
Add the basil
Blend the soup to desired texture
Serve in a hollowed out pumpkin

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kala Chana Saag

On my visit back to Pune, I noticed that Main Street in Camp looks nothing like the one I used to remember. Of course, when I still lived there, it bore no resemblance to the Main Street of when I was a little kid. There were a couple of stores I remember vividly. Toy Center, one would think, as the name suggests would be a Toy Shop. However pestonji logic dictated that the store be half pharmacy, a quarter electrical appliance store with some toys behind the counter. Thus the name. There were the usual Marzorin, Budhani, Wonderland and other Camp staples. One place, however, where they still don’t seem to get with the fact that it is 2008, is Monafood. The weirdly designed restaurant was divided into 3 levels from the street. The outermost served Softee ice cream. The next level in was the juice bar. And the third level in from the street was the actual restaurant. Complete with discoloured Formica tables and waiters who bring you your water in steel glasses with their fingers in it. I never knew what the complete Monafood menu except that they had one, because the only reason you’d go to there was the Chana Bhataura. The most delicious bowl of spicy chana with long a green chili sticking out of it, surrounded be a juicy wedge of lemon and a couple of slices of onion. All placed next to the fluffiest, puffiest bhataura you’ve ever seen. It has been almost 30 years since I have been to Monafood, but I every time I eat chana bhataura, I can help but compare it to the Monafood one and thankfully, none has even come close.

2 cups Black Chana soaked overnight.
1 large Tomato chopped
2 Onions chopped
1 bunch Spinach finely chopped
1 tbsp Oil
2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Chili
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
4 tsp chopped Cilantro
1 tsp grated fresh Ginger
1 tsp fresh Garlic paste

Heat oil in a wok and add ginger and garlic
Add onions and stir till brown on the edges
Add tomato and allow it to cook for a few minutes
Add Garam Masala, turmeric, salt and chilli and mix thoroughly
Add Spinach and allow it to cook
Add Chana and stir till it is mixed in properly
Add 2 cups water and allow it to cook
Keep adding water till Chana is completely soft and cooked

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kayani Bakery and the Mawa Cake.

Whenever we had guests visiting us from out of town they had things they needed to do, places they had to visit and certain things they absolutely had to take back. One of these that came under all three categories was a visit to the Kayani Bakery on East Street in Camp. If you are a visitor to Pune and you return home without a bag containing a Kayani cake, a box of Shrewsbury biscuits and a bag of wine biscuits, it is safe to say you’d be in the doghouse for at least a week. The Kayani bakery has been a Pune landmark since it was established by brothers Hormuz and Khodayar Irani in 1955. The Shrewsbury biscuit, which is Kayani’s flagship product, is quite possibly the most delicious biscuit you will ever eat. Just opening the pink box to reveal the line of biscuits embossed with the KB logo is a near orgasmic experience. But dipping it in tea and eating is like an orgy in your mouth that will definitely take you there. A Kayani product will never fail to put you in a great mood. After all, most of their products are essentially tons of butter and sugar with barely enough flour to hold it all together. But no one does it better than Kayani. The other notable Kayani product is the Mawa cake. A ten inch button of goodness wrapped in a line of butter paper, it melts in your mouth and requires extreme amounts of will power to not polish it off in one sitting. There’s not a household in Pune that doesn’t have a Kayani product in their pantry at any given time. And with the outside chance one does come across such a household, the goodies are probably in their bellies, which mean that it’s time to go to East Street and stand in line for some more.

1 cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
1 1/4 cups granulated Sugar
4 Eggs
1 tbsp Vanilla
2 cups all purpose Flour (maida)
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/3 cup Milk

Pre-heat oven to 350ยบ F
Beat butter in a large bowl till soft and fluffy
Add sugar and beat till fluffy (about 4 min)
Add eggs 1 at a time and keep beating making the batter as fluffy as you can
Stir in vanilla and milk
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the batter and continue to beat until blended completely
Grease a baking pan with butter and spread the batter evenly
Bake for exactly 1 hr and 5 min (Or until it passes the toothpick test)
Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 min
Invert pan to release cake on to serving dish