Chaitanya by The Walke’s

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Sometime back my friend KD mentioned about an eatery at Dadar, which serves the most amazing Malvani cuisine. A foodie that I am, I decided to visit this place called Chaitanya, which was highly recommended.

And so a drive from Andheri to Dadar was planned to enjoy dinner at this simple quaint eatery along with my friend Sheetal. At first it was a bit difficult to spot this place but after a few turns and returns and reverses I found it. Honestly it was not very difficult but I think “I” could not find it.

We walked into Chaitanya not expecting anything more than good food and service. It was a small place, done up very simply, where 7-8 simple tables with chairs were place in a row. The owner Surekha Walke sitting right at the entrance managing the counter. She seemed busy and as I walked in she just looked up through her spectacles and looked towards a boy wearing a white shirt and khakhi shorts with a napkin on his shoulder, suggesting him to seat us. We were seated on a table of 6 while we were just 2 of us while the eatery was almost empty. Sheetal and I took our seats and said hope KD is right about this place. Sometimes looks can be deceptive. The boy again came upto our table with a wet cloth and wiped it clean and in a hurry placed 2 steel galsses of water. From the way he was operating I realized this place must be usually busy.

So, after scrolling down through the menu, we decided to order our thalis without wasting any time. Sheetal ordered a fish thali while I the vegetarian option. We also ordered some extra dishes like fried crabs and Kaap (rava coated fried potatoes). The wait was not too long and what came on our table was simply outstanding.

So the fish thali had a fried pomfret, a surmai curry, sol kadi (kokum kadi) and rice bhakri (roti)

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My vegetarian thali was like a feast fit for the king. There was a kalya vatanyachi usal (black peas curry with the traditional malvani garam masala) bharli vangi (stuffed brinjal) methichi bhaji (fenugreek subzi), gavar (cluster beans), dal, chapatti and a very unusual dessert called the fruit khand (fruits mixed with homemade shrikhand).

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The food was truly wonderful. After such an amazing dinner the chef had to be complimented and so we walked to the counter and gave our compliments to Surekha tai (sister). She also had showcased a few masalas which she had kept on a rack to sell. I bought the fish fry masala which when I tried at home was indeed loved by all.

At the end of the day Sheetal and I both left like two happy souls. A) because the food was really delicious and B) it suited the pocket.

 

Is simplicity so difficult? …

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This maximum city has got us a lot of opportunities to grow and become successful. Even an uneducated person who comes from a village can make a living for himself here, which is amazing! But in the quest of growth some how I realized the simplicity of life has been lost.

I very vividly remember as a child every weekend my dad would make it a point to spend time with us, either go out for a weekend or Friday night would be a movie and Saturday night would be dinner at some restaurants close by, be it Chinese at Nanking or Flora, the Great Punjab for my simple dinner of alu matter and roti.

Our weekend trips would be so much fun…. Dad would pick me up after school on a Friday evening with mum and my brother already in the car with our suitcases packed and then we would decided where to head… no hotel reservations, no itenary planned and yet those weekends would be adventurous… Mhateran, Pune, Nasik, Bellary, Kolhapur, Alibaug were a few places we visited… and the list continues. So my childhood has been memorable.

As I grew up and went to college I still remember I would be given Rs 25/- everyday as pocket money, which was sufficient and a railway pass to reach college. I would take a bus from my home to the train station and then a train from Bandra to reach college.

Now with the 25 rupees that I had, I had to figure out how to save some from it, for a snack with friends, just an outing or maybe a movie and trust me it was a fun challenge  to managing to save quit a bit of it and then go gadding about with my friends. For that, sometimes I would walk from the station instead of taking a bus or an auto rickshaw ride  back home and use that money to treat myself to a nice mango dolly after the long tiring sweaty walk.

So you can imagine how simple life was for me. A simple dinner of alu matter and a crisp roti, movies, long drives, a mango dolly …. Life was beautiful

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Today things have changed…. I live in an amazing house, own luxurious cars and eat in the most fancy restaurants, have loads of friends and yet life seemed empty. According to everyone round me I seemed to have “the perfect” life and felt what the hell am I cribbing about! And yes I did believe them and felt everything is good then why this hollow feeling of emptiness

After much thought I understood that “for me” life is about togetherness, simplicity and doing things that I love and feel happy doing, like I love to walk on Worli sea face while the sun is setting, or at night I love to sit at the far end of Marine drive over looking the city blinging with lights and tall buildings making the place look glamorous, while the sea in front of me talks of its vastness and consistency. As much as I enjoy eating in a fancy restaurant I also love to go to a small khanaval (eatery) and relish a simple meal. I prefer spending my time in buzzed up markets with cramped shops selling masalas, vegetables, utencils and not to forget flowers, I love going for long drives and stopping for an ice cream abruptly some place. Cooking, listening to music and painting are very therapeutic for me. It’s not the number of friends that I have but who are the ones who will stand by me was important.

After a bit of a struggle and a lot of thought put in, I did manage to get some simplicity in my life finally ….feeling blissful

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And the party is over …..

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Today was a very close friends birthday….  Age should not be discussed …. She is yet young at heart…. So an impromptu lunch was decided to celebrate Rakhee’s birthday. At 7:00 am my mobile was beeping with messages on the Crazy girls chat which has Sheetal, Rakhee and me on it and lunch at a fancy café was fixed.

After my walk a little late in the morning, dragging my feet to satisfy my soul feeling good that I didn’t ditch my walk, I went straight to the nursery to pick a plant for Rakhee as her birthday gift, with a profound thought that flowers will wilt away soon but if she nurtures the plant it will live forever……and so I chose a nice ceramic white pot and planted the jade in it and went straight to her home all sweaty and exhausted.

Rakhee relaxing in her PJ’s was shocked to see me …. She anyways says I have a shocking personality! I wished her, gave her, her gift and ran home promising to meet her at 12:30 pm at the decided venue.

As usual a sucker for time that I am I was the fist to reach and managed to get a table and trying to get comfortable in an uncomfortable corner. Well just as I was going through the menu in walked Rakhee and in a few moments came Sheetal.

When the three of us are together our mind and the tongue seem to loose their connection and then we are a rage. So it was no exception for today. Sheetal who has been the quiet types rather observant for a long time has started giving unbelievable funny one lines and then trying to compose herself as the behaved one has now started becoming a regular feature.

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The girl who was waiting on us was not really trained well and the three of us were wondering a five star hotel should at least train their staff well. Even after repeatedly telling her the table needs to be cleaned she just came and kept the cutlery on the not so clean table. We were dumb struck and then I did sweetly give her a piece of my mind, which was invain…. We ordered our salads and sandwiches and got back to our much fun conversation.

Food arrived which we relished and then it was time to cut the cake. A simple tiramisu pastry was ordered with the message Happy birthday Mataji (Rakhee). One needs to meet Rakhee to know why so. After cutting the pastry and the three of us relishing it….. ummmmm imagine one pastry and three of us sweet tooth people, so now one can imagine how we must have relished it paid for the lunch and left

I went on further to finish my chores, while Sheetal went to office and Rakhee home. She had dinner plans with her son and husband…so she was going to rest and look fresh for the evening

At 6:00 pm again the phone beeps and this time Rakhee’s message says “Girls I have fallen sick after lunch. Hope you both are ok?” I was feeling queezy after lunch and I was blaming the tanker water coming these days in our area where the BMC water supply has been cut down drastically as some pipe line is undergoing repairs.

Sheetal was going strong and finally after a brief conversation I just announced I think the girl waiting on us probably took her revenge!!

Well what went wrong we don’t know but poor Rakhee had to cancel her dinner at Papaya and have simple curd rice at home…. What a shame !!

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CLITTER CLATTER OF PETER’S PANS AND POTS

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You are hungry and are sitting at the dinning table and a very hot earthern pot appears. The lid is removed and the steam rushes out. The room is filled with a mouth watering aroma.

The serving spoon showcase the tender meat and vegetables sitting in the still bubbling sauce

Isn’t that satisfying……

When I was a child Aai (my mother) would very often cook in one clay pot of hers that she had inherited from her mother.

Her favorite was the stew. She would simply dunk all the ingredients in her pot and cook them on a simmering flame for a few hours and then would serve us a delicious meal of stew and appams.

Just after I got married and I was in that phase to impress my new family with my culinary skills, I thought Aai’s recipe of stew would be just the perfect thing.

I quickly got down to making the stew. Followed the recipe to the “t”.

Once it was done and I took a spoonful of it to taste the aroma was just not the same. There was something missing after I tasted it.

Well the stew was very well appreciated and I gave a huge sigh of relief. But I was not satisfied.

Discussion time with mom was a must the next morning. Where she convinced me that cooking in the clay pot would make all the difference.

Till then I had never felt the need to ask her the reason for doing so but the person that she is explanation is a must. She informed me that a clay pot is porous so cooking in it on a slow flame allows the heat and moisture to circulate evenly and the meats and veggies to cook in their own juices and so the flavors and aroma gets trapped too.

Clay is alkaline so it will interact with the acidity in the food and neutralize the pH balance. Something that is naturally very acidic like a tomato sauce will take on some natural sweetness when cooked in a clay pot

She also suggested that the clay pots could be used as serving bowls, which would be absolutely authentic and stunning.

The following weekend she planned an outing to Kumbhar Wada and she gifted me a clay pot. Greedy that I am when it comes to, food, crockery and cutlery I demanded more from her.

After a few days I surprised my family cooking the same recipe of stew again and the difference was tasted by all.

Mission accomplished!!!!

But I never stopped at the stew, tried many more recipes in my very own clay pot of which the recipes I must share with you. I’m sure you will enjoy cooking them and relish them too

IMPORTANT NOTE:

This needs to be done one time before 1stuse

Rinse the pot / pan thoroughly in water and let it sit in water for 10 minutes

Take 3 tbsp of rice or wheat flour and add I cup of water and make a paste. Add 1 tbsp cooking oil and a pinch of turmeric. Fill the pot with water and add this paste and cook for 7 minutes on a low flame. Then cook with the lid on till it thickens to a broth. Remove from fire and keep it over night. Next morning throw away the broth rinse the pot and VOILA!! Its ready to be used.

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Masali ambat (fish curry)

INGREDIENTS:

7-8 pieces of Rawas or surmai or pomfret

1 medium onion finely chopped

1” ginger finely chopped

½ fresh coconut grated

1 tbsp dry coriander seeds

10-12 dry bedgi red chillies

¾ tsp haldi powder

5-6 kokums

1 tbsp coconut oil

Salt to taste

METHOD:

  1. Wash and clean the fish
  2. Grind the coconut, coriander seeds, haldi powder and the chillies to a fine paste adding 1 cup of water.
  • Heat a deep bottom mud pot and add coconut oil. When the aroma of the coconut oil fills the air add the onion and the ginger and sauté till the onion is light pink and soft.
  1. Then add the ground coconut masala, 2 cups of water to make the gravy, add the salt and kokum and bring to a boil.
  2. After you boil the gravy check the salt, spice and the sour taste, once you adjust these flavors to your liking, add the fish and let it cook on slow flame for 10 min or till the fish is done.
  3. Always adjust the flavor of the curry before you add the fish as it becomes difficult to correct the flavor after the fish is added as the fish meat is delicate and the pieces might break.
  • This delicious reddish orange curry can be served to 4 people.

VERY IMPORTANT TIP: Please do not stir the curry once the fish has been added. The pieces of fish will break.

 

FROM GODS OWN COUNTRY

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We had been to Thekkady Kerala for a holiday in 2004. The drive from Cochin to Thekkady was spectacular. The winding roads through the tea plantations, the cold breeze, I couldn’t believe I was in Gods country itself.

Curling around a misty ridge 2000 feet high in the Periyar vastness, we found “Spice Village” the hotel we were booked in. The hotel was amidst spice plantations with large thatched roof cottages made of elephant grass giving it a total village feel.

The cottage had bare stone floors with coir mats placed at each door. Natural material was used to make the cottage, local woodcraft was placed at different corners of the room. Our room has a huge garden attached to it with benches at a corner.

After we had reached in the afternoon and a lovely simple meal of Kerala parotha and stew we retired to our room for a snooze, tired after the long journey.

In the evening as soon as we woke up a steward knocked at our door. He had come with our tea and biscuits and he had placed the tray carefully on the table in the garden. T

The sun was about to set and the air was cold. Yug was running around the garden having a good time breathing the fresh air to his hearts content.

The hot tea gave us a lot of warmth. There were beautiful flowers blooming all around the periphery of the garden giving out their fragrances. The corner covered densely with tiny white flowers looked like thousands of stars in our garden.  I stood next to them for a very long time in a trance.

After the tea we geared up for the cold and set out for a walk in the old quaint town. The town was woven with tiny streets and small local shops selling spices locally grown. I bought loads of spices, tea and coffee as gifts for everyone back home.

We didn’t realize till how late we were wandering on the streets till Yug complained he was hungry. We were a bit far away from the Hotel and so we decided to eat at a local eatery close by that was recommended by one of the spice vendors.

The eatery was a large room with a cement slurry flooring, white washed walls and a thatched roof. There were benches with tables placed in a line with the owner sitting at the entrance counting his kitty

A huge dark man escorted us to our table. There was a steel jar full of water placed in front of us and as soon as we sat banana leaves were laid for us. He then muttered a list of dishes that were there on the menu like an express train and then left us alone to decide

The food we ordered was ……..uuuum wait ! let me share the recipes itself with you

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CHEMEEN BIRYANI

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE RICE

5 cups of long grain or basmati rice

5 cups of water

10 cloves

4 pods of green cardamom

1” cinnamon

4 bay leaves

2 large onions finely sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

1 tbsp ghee

FOR THE MARINATION

1 kg prawns, shelled, deveined and washed

2 tbsp chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp coriander seed powder

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

1 tbsp ghee

Oil for frying

FOR THE GRAVY

5 medium onions sliced

10 spicy green chillies

2” ginger

10 pods of garlic

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp coriander seed powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

¼ cup mint leaves chopped

½ cup coriander leaves chopped

4 tbsp ghee

BIRYANI MASALA GROUND TO A FINE POWDER

1” cinnamon

8 pods of green cardamom

2 pods of black cardamom

10 cloves

2 tsp caraway seeds

2 tsp fennel seed

2 bay leaves

2 star anise

½ tsp nutmeg

2 mace

FOR GARNISHING

1 cup fried onions

Handful of coriander leaves finely chopped

Handful of mint leaves finely chopped

10 strands of saffron

¼ cup warm milk

METHOD:

  1. Soak the rice for 30 minutes and drain
  2. Heat the ghee and add the sliced onions and all the spices, sauté for a few minutes and then add the drained rice and sauté till the rice combines well with the spices
  • Heat 10 cups of water and add it to the rice. Add salt lemon juice and cover and cook till the rice is cooked and separate
  1. Remove the excess water
  2. For the prawns combine the ingredients for the marinade and marinate the prawns for 30 minutes in the refrigerator
  3. Make a paste of the ginger, garlic and the green chillies
  • Heat the oil and shallow fry the prawns drain off the excess oil and keep it aside
  • In the same oil fry the onions till they turn slightly golden, then add the ginger garlic and green chilli paste and sauté
  1. Add the chopped coriander and mint leaves and combine well
  2. Add the biryani masala, turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt and sauté till the raw smell goes off
  3. Add the fried prawns and mix well
  • If the gravy is too dry add some water to it
  • Cover and cook on a low flame for 5 minutes till the oil separates
  • Mix the saffron in the warm milk and keep aside
  1. To assemble the biryani put a layer of the prawns, then a layer of rice, sprinkle some biryani masala, mint and coriander leaves and fried onions.
  • Make another layer similarly and then pour the ghee, milk and cover and cook it on a dum on a low flame for 15-20 minutes and serve with a cold salad

BARBEQUE TIME

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We are 9 couples in our building who are family to one another.Once in a few months my friends and I from the building plan a barbeque by the poolside. We all  await this day. The planning begins a week earlier. Each one of us has to get a dish to grill. Most of them are meat eaters but we also have a few vegetarians. Some of us get the meats and loads of vegetarian food is also planned which even the non – vegetarians love to relish.

It’s a fun day for all of us. We meet up around 12 noon and Allan our friend the barbeque specialist organizes the gazebo for us to sit, fans and the iceboxes to cool the drinks. The barbeque is placed in the corner and all set up to grill the food. We ladies dress up in our casual Sunday linens and hats while the men our in their shorts and tee shirts all geared up to grill.

Sophie is known for her potato salad. Some of us carry dips and chips. Gauri’s salads are amazing, fresh, light and crunchy. Trisha’s hummus is out of the world with the pita bread. By the way all this food is just to munch while the food is getting grilled. So you can imagine the amount and the variety of food that is there.

Usually the barbeques land up with loads of food, wine, gossip and fun. Some of us exchange recipes that have turned out really well. Some of us take a dip in the pool to cool ourselves. The children have fun in the water too and they come out of the pool for a bite and jump back in the pool again.

Allan, Abhinay both are superb at grilling. The way they come with the meat and the veggies grilled is awesome.

On one such afternoon Prakash our friend got drunk and went to the children’s pool and tried to get on the slide but unfortunately he got stuck on it and Abhinay had to push him really hard to get him off the slide. It was a sight. We were initially worried but then we all had a good laugh over it.

Loads of hulla gulla, food, chatting, laughing just wouldn’t realize how the day would end. But his blog cannot end without sharing some vegetarian recipes with you.

Here they come your way

 

STUFFED ZUCCHINI

INGREDIENTS

1 large zucchini cut into 2” thick rounds

1 packet button mushrooms cleaned and sliced finely

1 tsp garlic paste

½ tsp pepper powder

1 tbsp flour made into a paste

1 cup milk

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups of cheese

1 tbsp chilli flakes

Salt to taste

METHOD:

  1. Scoop the center of the zucchini leaving a thin layer at the bottom and blanch them
  2. Heat a pan and add the olive oil and add the garlic, and the mushrooms and sauté them till they are cook. Add the salt and mix well and keep aside
  • Heat the milk and add the butter, pepper powder, salt and the flour paste and boil to a sauce consistency and add the mushrooms to the sauce
  1. Stuff the sauce in the zucchini and sprinkle the cheese and the chilli flakes
  2. Grill in an oven or barbeque till the cheese has melted and serve hot

 

 

POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS

5 medium potatoes boiled peeled and diced

2 cups of hung curd

1 medium onion finely chopped

¼ cup cream

¼ tsp garlic paste

½ tsp pepper powder

1 medium stem of celery finely chopped

Salt to taste

METHOD:

  1. Besides the potatoes mix all the ingredients well and then add the potatoes and serve chillies on a warm day

The kadai in my kitchen

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Peep into any kitchen in India, and you will see an array of utensils used to prepare various dishes. Whether to roll a simple roti or cook an elaborate cuisine.

Kitchens of India brings to light on how Indian utensils have evolved over the years not forgetting their essential purpose.

We in India use our kadai’s a lot for cooking our traditional food. The clitter clatter sound of the kadchi on the kadai is common in our kitchens.

I was 10 years old when I was introduced to the kitchen. I was extremely fascinated by it. The cooking spoons hanging perfectly on the utensil stand. The glossy iron kadai’s and the shinny brass patilas placed in a height order on the shelves caught my amazement. I would see my mom and my grandmother cook wonders  and get complimented by all. My moms food was always talked about.

We had this beautiful heavy thick based iron kadai and whenever mom put it on the stove I would run with a stool and stand next to her to see the vegetables being tossed. It was my moms favorite kadai and the upkaris and the talasan ( dry vegetable preparations) she would rustle up was a visual treat for me.

Soon enough all the iron kadai’s were replaced by non stick ones as they was the latest fad which were bought from some convincing sales person who gave mom a fabulous deal where she had to exchange her old utensil for a set of new 4 kadai’s and voila !!!!! a non stick dosa tava free.

I was very upset to see the kadai missing when I returned home from school as I had got emotionally attached to it since I had cooked my fist ever dish my favorite potato upkari.

For many years after that the non stick kadai’s was our hero in the kitchen. But somehow mom was not happy as the non stick coating would wear off in a few months making it unhealthy to cook in. She started missing her old iron kadai.

Whenever she would go to the market she would definitely try and look for a good iron kadai. But her search would always go unfruitful till some years back the cast iron kadai’s were reintroduced giving us the old traditional saying that cooking in iron utensils fortifies the food with iron that is so essential to our body.

This feels like the circle of life where it started with the iron kadai and has come back to it again.

On this note I would like to share 2 recipes made in a kadai

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CHICKEN KADAI

Ingredients

1 kg chicken cut into medium pieces

4 medium onions finely chopped

3 medium tomatoes blanched and puréed

1 tsp cumin seeds

5 cloves

7 peppercorns

1″ cinnamon

4 green cardamoms

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp red chili powder

1 tbsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste

4 tbsp oil

1/4 cup cream

Salt to taste

Method:

1) Heat the oil in a kadai and add the cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, and the cardamoms

2) Add the onions to it and add 1 tsp of salt and sauté the onions turn slightly golden.

3) Add the ginger, garlic paste and sauté for a few seconds

4) Add the turmeric and chilli powder and the tomato purée and fry till the oil oozes.

5) Add the chicken and mix it well with the gravy and sauté for 3-4 minutes

6) Add 2 cups of water. Cover and cook till the chicken is done

7) Sprinkle the garam masala powder and mix well

8) Lace it with the fresh cream and serve it hot with parathas

 

BATATYA UPKARI

Ingredients

1/2 kg potatoes peeled and cut into julienes like French fries

1 asp mustard seeds

7-8 dry red chillies broken into two

few curry leaves

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp coconut oil

Salt to taste

Method:

1) heat the oil and add the mustard seeds and once they splutter add the red chillies, turmeric and the curry leaves

2) Add the potatoes and the salt and sauté it well in the oil

3) Cover and cook till the potatoes are done remember to occasionally toss the potatoes to prevent it from burning.

4) Serve it hot with rice and a spicy dal of your choice.