Back to the roots

We all have fond memories of food cooked by our mum, grandmas or aunts. My grandma (Amma) was a fabulous cook. My grandma also had the most beautiful rustic kitchen in our ancestral home in Aversa, Karnataka. It was a longish kitchen with a mud stove, where food would be cooked on wood fire. Just above the stove there was a small window that worked like a chimney.

The beautiful sparkling brass, copper and steel utensils would be standing proudly on the wooden shelves near the stove. Small brass containers filled with ingredients required for daily use like coffee, tea, sugar closer to the stove. Masalas and batters would be ground on a ragda (stone grinder) and spices would be pound on a khal batta (motar and pestle). Her food would always taste divine.

The smell of the wood fire would bring a beautiful smoky aroma to the dish. Today when I travel to quaint villages in India and I smell food cooked on wood fire, its nostalgic. I always wondered, why the smoke from the wood fire remind me of Amma’s food? The answer to this I found which I must share with you was that, the burning of wood breaks its cellulose, which releases two chemical compounds that excite our sensation to smell to detect unique taste and smell. The experience of something being flavorful is a combination of taste and smell.

When Amma would visit us in the city she would bring a lot of goodies along with her, some raw ingredients as well. Mum a great cook herself would cook them just they way Amma would make it but there was always a difference in the flavors and Amma would always attribute it to the latest gadgets that would make cooking fast and easy, or the newer variety of utensils one was using. Though mum always stuck to cast iron, brass and clay utensils. I guess the water in the city would also alter the change in the taste, but Amma always had her fixed thoughts and it was difficult to convince her otherwise. She would always insist on using the age old methods of cooking, giving her reasons, which I totally agree with today.

A few years back, I shifted to new home with modern interiors with a beautiful modular kitchen. The utensils I bought were also the kind that would suit the kitchen, mostly the pretty looking, colorful, non – stick cookware. The food would get cooked easily with less oil and also initially I thought it was easy to maintain. I changed my mind quiet soon about that, as sometimes by mistake the cook would use a metal spoon to stir and then oops a scratch would be seen and then it has to be simply thrown away.

We at home love hot, crisp dosas and can have them for any meal. On the weekend the menu is usually a spicy masala dosa with sambar and chutney. I got out my non stick dosa pan very happily and excited to spread the dosa batter and looked forward to some crips, golden dosas. But the outcome  was not exactly what I had expected. The dosa was white as if white washed even after keeping on the tava for a little longer than usual smearing it with oil and crinkled on the edges and it looked so unappealing. The excitement was over in no time.

Disheartened I called my mum and she tried talking to me about switching over to the old traditional utensils. Honestly I was not very receptive to that initially as seasoning, brass, copper and cast iron utensils seemed like a task and then the thought of maintaining by regularly seasoning them just scared me as most of us don’t have the time and energy for all this with all that we do to survive in the city.

Exactly a week later, mum came over home to see how settled we were and she bought a cast iron tava along with her as a small gift from her end. That was the best gift I could have received. She had called for it from the village and had seasoned it by washing it with a mild soap, wiped it dry and simply coated it with a thin layer of oil and left it in the sun for 24 hours. Repeated the process for three days and voila! The pan was ready to be used. The next time dosas turned out just like the way I love, crisp, golden and thin as paper.

This experience made me think of changing my non stick cookware to the age old traditional ones. I didn’t do it over night by slowly and steadily over six months I managed to replace most of the non stick utensils.

So, at first I bought a cast iron kadhai, seasoned it the same as mum had and the first recipe I cooked in that was a chicken sauted in a masala with onions and spices. The outcome was amazing to look at and tasted delicio.

Cooking in the cast iron kadai was great, the masala would get bhunoed (sauted) evenly as cast iron heats evenly and the masala would get the perfect brown color and the food would cook evenly and quiet quickly. By now I was throughly enjoying cooking with this new introduced piece of equipment and soon I realized it was time to move on further.

I went one day to matunga market and bought a clay utensil to cook our traditional stew and curries. After googling on the internet and getting confused with all the different ways, as usual, mum came to the rescue.She told me to collect all the starch water from the cooked rice which I would usually drain off and soak the clay pots in that for three days. On the third day she told me to wash it with mild detergent, dry it in the sun for a few hours and then coat it with oil and place it on the stove and heat it on a low flame for an hour and then fill it with oil and fry bhajiyas and lo! The clay pot was good to be used. The prawn curry that I cooked in that got me many compliments from my foodie family. After the successful attempt cooking in a cast iron kadhai and a clay pot, there was no looking back. The adventures in the kitchen were getting very interesting and exciting.

I frequently travel to Pune a city 150 km away from Mumbai and I love visiting Tulshi baugh, a market place which has quaint small stores that sells a variety of unique as well as traditional cooking equipment’s and many other things. My cook at home would always tell me amazing stories of food which always had the mention of grinding the masala on the stone.I went there with an intension to buy a pata varvanta (stone grinder) and grind masala’s on that. The old gentleman who I bought it from was quiet a unique character suiting the place. He was quiet surprised to see me enquiring about the various sized stone grinders that he was exhibiting, as my appearance didn’t make him believe that I would use one, let alone use it but he also seemed to have a doubt if I even knew how to use one. He assumed  I was going to keep it as a prop and so was trying to sell me a not so good one till I sternly explained to him I needed to use it.

He figured I was serious and slowly started telling me how to cure it before I used it. He told me to wash it, soak it in water for 5 days. Wash clothes on it after that! I was like who the hell washes clothes on a pata varvanta!! He calmly told me one needs to do that to get rid of the impurities and the tiny grains of stone that are loose on the flat platform and after grinding some soaked rice he said I could use it freely. Well I did exactly what he told me and when the pata varvanta was good to be used I ground a coconut based masala for a okra curry. It was not just fun grinding on it but the flavor of the curry was different and way better. This was because when you grind in an electric grinder the heat that is produced alters the flavor of the ingredients. I remembered my grandma telling mum that garlic ground to a paste in an electric grinder is probably making the garlic taste a bit bitter vs pounding it to a paste on the stone or motar and pestle. Well she was right.

Recently I made a dhaba chicken curry using techniques like pounding the spices and the aroma of the curry was all over the home, which was mouth watering. Basically the pounding of the spices had broken each cell of the spice releasing its aroma and the oil secreted enhanced its flavor and so the curry was truly a great hit at my home.

I never had thought a slight change in the methods and equipment for cooking would bring out such fabulous results. Cooking has always made me happy and feeding my loved ones satisfying, but the use of traditional cookware has enhanced my cooking even further and that pleasure cannot be described! So when are you all planning on taking the plunge

Here is a recipe of a crab curry cooked in a brass utensil (you can use chicken or mutton as an option)

INGREDIENTS

10 crabs cleaned / 1 kg mutton or chicken

3 onions sliced

1 large onion finely chopped

1 1/2  cups of grated fresh coconut

1 1/2 cup of grated dry coconut

2 tbsp of malvani garam masala powder (available in any grocery store, if not a regular garam masala is an option)

4 tbsp oil

1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste each

Salt to taste

METHOD:

1- Heat a cast iron pan and sauté the sliced onions till golden and then add the fresh coconut and fry till slightly brown and finally add the dry coconut and roast till the mixture turns a nice brown. Cool and grind to a fine paste.

2- Heat the oil in a brass vessel and add the oil. Once the oil is hot add the chopped onions and sauté till the onions are soft yet pink and then add the ginger, garlic paste and sauté till the raw smell has gone.

3- Add the malvani masala and the crabs / mutton / chicken and sear it on a high flame for 3-4 minutes

4- Add the ground onion coconut paste and mix well. add 2 liters of water and salt and cover and cook (crabs for 15 minutes and the meats till done).

5- Serve hot with chapatti or bhakri or any bread of your choice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS… MEMORIES

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As a child, till I was a young adult, dad would take me to Sasson docks at Colaba every Sunday morning and mind you for me it was a very unearthly hour then 5:30 am: I would literally drag my feet and with a frown sit in the car and leave. Somehow I have never managed to sleep in a car, have never figured out the reason till today.

Well, with the windows down, the cool early morning breeze would be refreshing. All the way from Bandra to Colaba early in the morning, the drive would be peaceful. Back then the traffic was not that bad as its today. As we would be close to the dock the stench of the fish would just get into my head. We had a Fiat car and in the back seat of the car there would be two huge ice boxes kept.

The smell of the fish came in stronger as we went closer and I would gear myself for the mehem. Dad had a usual spot to park his car and then we would walk into the docks by 6:45 am and it would a crazy scene there. Loads and unimaginable loads of fish with the fishermen yelling on top of their voices while the auction was going on at every 10 feet was a crazy sight.

Dad would make me stand in one corner and then he would set out to buy the fish. After every ten to fifteen minutes he would be back with 10 huge pomfrets, 10 kgs of prawns, 6-7 surmai, mackerel and on the days he got lucky crabs, clams.

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So I was taken for these adventure trips every Sunday just to guard all the fish he would buy and then help him to arrange them in the ice box and in the boot which was well covered with plastic incase the water leaked!

After all this we would head back home and mum would be all ready with the breakfast of idli, sambar and chutney laid on the table. Every Sunday breakfast was the same. Those days microwave was a luxury so since we didn’t want to trouble her reheating the food again and again we all made it a point to eat our Sunday breakfast together and hear dad bragging about how cheap he got the fish and by the all these talks would on the phone with his younger brother who would lived in Goa and the next few minutes would go in who bought how much and for how much!! They still have the same conversation even today.

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After relishing the soft idlis and the robust sambar I would head for a shower and then off to play. While mum along with her house help Meera would clean all the fish and store it in a big deep freezer we had.

And the afternoon lunch would be a feast. Can you imagine the fish would last only for the week as my parents had a large social circle and their friends would come over very often and my mum was a superb host.

Today I went to the Malad wholesale market and saw the same craziness and chaos that I would experience as a child and missed my parents.Well I bought some clams, surmai and prawns and came home happy and proud of myself with the money I paid and called my dad and told him all what all I bought and for how much? On the other end of the phone I could sense my dad feeling happy

 

And so on this happy note, here is a recipe of the fish that I have fried for my son today.

5-6 slices surmai (you could use pomfret, ravas even prawns)

2 cups of fresh coriander chopped

5 kokums

6 cloves of garlic

1 ½ tbsp chilli powder

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp turmeric powder

Grind all the above to a fine paste using very little water.

Coat both sides with a thin layer of this above masala and marinate the fish for 15-20 minutes

Coat the fish with rava or semolina

Heat a pan with oil for shallow frying and once the oil is hot place the coated fish and fry till evenly crisp on both sides for 3 minutes each on a medium to a high flame and serve it hot.

Yug loves to have fried fish with sol kadi and steamed rice

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What is cooking today?

Amti

In Marathi amti means a curry and there are a variety of amti’s that we cook. Mashyachi amti (fish curry), channyachi amti (chick pea curry), dalichi amti (flavored and tempered toor dal), and sometimes amti’s are made using vegetables as well.

Usually the amti made with the toor dals is sweet, sour and spicy to taste. While amti’s made with lentil, fish or vegetables, is mildly spiced with a base of coconut gravy and is flavorful.

It is said that the sambar was invented in the quest to make an amti.

So in the year 1673 a fierce battle was imminent in Tanjore as the ruler od Madhurai had decided to capture Tanjore.The courtiers of Tanjore decided to seek help from the Marathas and sent a secret message to Shivaji’s brother Venkoji who decided to be a part of the war himself and marched to Tanjore with his army.

The Maratha army bought their food and taste along with them and after the war Venkoji was so much in love with Tanjore that he decided to settle there.

There are a few stories as to how the Sambar originated. So the sambar that’s an integral part of the South Indian cuisine was created by the Maratha’s.

Sambhaji the son of Shivaji came to Tanjore to visit his uncle and since Sambhaji loved amti, a dish similar to it was prepared and was named Sambar in his honour.

According to another story, Sambhaji was a food lover and he loved to cook as well. he once wanted to make the amti and while preparing it he realized there was no kokum which is a very typical Maharashtrian ingredient used in making amtis and on an advice of a cook he used tamarind which enhanced the flavor of the amti and hence it was called sambar.

Today for dinner I have made 2 varied amti’s one with toor dal and the other with bhindi.

Both the recipes are rather simple and yet very unique and delicious.

Dalichi amti

1 cup toor dal washed and kept aside

1 medium onion finely chopped

½  a raw mango chopped into 1” pieces

1” ginger finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic crushed

4 green chillies slit

2 tsp sugar

¼ cup fresh coconut grated

3 tbsp of finely chopped coriander

½ tsp turmeric

A pinch of asafetida

½ tsp mustard seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

Few curry leaves

1 tbsp ghee

1 tbsp oil

Salt to taste

Method:

Pressure cook the dal along with the onion for 3-4 whistles or till done

Once the dal is cooked add the chillies, sugar, ginger, raw mango, turmeric and salt and boil for 5 minutes on a medium flame.

Add the coconut and coriander and boil for 2 minutes and shut the flame.

Heat the ghee and oil and splutter the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Then add the curry leaves and the crushed garlic and let the garlic turn golden and then add this to the dal and your amti is ready.

Steamed rice goes amazingly well with this.

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Bhendichi amti

½ kg okra chopped 1” in length

2 cups of fresh coconut grated

6 dry red chillies

6 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp coriander seeds

½ tsp turmeric

Tamarind to the size of ½ a lemon

3 tbsp oil coconut oil

Salt to taste

Method:

Grind the coconut, tamarind, red chillies, 4 cloves of garlic, coriander seeds and turmeric to a fine paste.

Heat 2 tbsp of the coconut oil and sauté this paste till the color darkens slightly and the moisture is reduced.

Then add the chopped okra and sauté further for 2 minutes and then add 3 cups of water and make a nice gravy. Add salt and boil till the okra is done.

Heat the remaining oil and crush the remaining garlic and add to the oil and fry till its nice and golden and add it to the curry.

The Bhendichi amti is ready and can be had with chapatti or steamed rice

Bon Apetite!

 

What’s cooking today?

Varan.jpgThe weather has been really hot these days and with the temperature rising by the hour all I can think is of simple food and lots of cold water to drink.

As usual Sarita my cook came and asked me in the morning what would I like to eat for lunch and I thought what could be better than the humble Varan Bhaat (dal and rice) for lunch today.

So basically Varan is a dal made by simply boiling Toor dal (pigeon peas) along with some turmeric powder and asafetida, the cooked dal is mashed, some cumin seed powder, jaggery and salt is added and then the dal is further boiled till it’s nice and thick. This humble varan tastes best when eaten along with hot steamed ambe mohar rice (a variety of rice that grows in Maharashtra which literally means mango blossom as it has a strong aroma reminiscent of mango blossoms) and a dollop of home made tup (ghee)

So the varan is a vegan preparation which is a typically from the Maharashtrian or Goan cuisine which is served on all occasions.

In most Maharashtrian homes varan, bhaat is served as the first course followed by chapatti and vegetables.

A varan, bhaat, tup and limbu (lemon) is a complete meal by itself. Proteins from the dal, the carbs from the rice, fat from ghee and vitamin C from the lemon makes it a complete meal.

Most Maharashtrians even today have this at breakfast. I would always find it very unusual till I realized we also have Idli, sambar and chutney for breakfast using the same ingredients.

Long ago I had heard a story of a women who on her death bed told her sister in law that after she dies her son should be fed nothing more than varan, bhaat twice in a day as she was aware of the sister in law ill treating the son after her death. The mean aunt was more than happy to fed the mother less soul remains of varan, bhaat along with some ghee and lemon wedge. The boy in turn grew up to be healthy and strong, as his aunt was not aware of the goodness of this simple meal, unlike the mother.

So today its Varan, bhaat, tup and limbu for me!

 

 

Grief, sorrow, misery, pain………

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What is grief?

The definition of grief that I found in the dictionary was

“Intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death”

We all go through grief in our lives at some point or the other and many of us on different occasions as well.

I was talking to a very dear friend who is going through grief for sometime caused due to the loss of someone who was very dear to her. While we were chatting about what she was going through a question just came into my mind.

Why is grief only caused by someone’s death?

What do you say about the feelings and the pain you go through when a close friendship or relationship dies? The pain and the suffering one goes through, can that also be called grief? Cause ultimately it is death of something that has been dear to you.

These days most of us seem to have got really busy with building our career or endlessly providing a comfortable life for our loved ones.

I remember, as a child life was so simple not just for me but also for my parents.

Dad worked on a very good post in a reputed company. His timings were 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Even though he had to travel really far he was always home by 7:00pm. Fun weekends were planned either short trips to nearby places, a movie or a simple dinner at a restaurant. We would go to the beach for a swim or just simply make sand castles and feel super proud with the bigness created.

If any of the meals would be boring at home or I didn’t like, I would simple walk into my neighbors home and see what exciting was cooked and ate to my hearts content and come home all satisfied.

Our way of communicating with the rest of the friends would not be on what’s app or on the phone but one would simply stand in the window and make a typical sound from the mouth and in a few seconds all the friends would be peeping out of the window and making plans to meet up in the evening using sign language.

Today technology has become very advanced and we have a mobile phone which we all our using to communicate. If I need to talk to a friend I don’t have to visit her and spend time with her, I simply dial some buttons on my phone and I can hear her. That’s amazing! but somewhere the whole thing of just simply going to your friend’s home and spending fun moments has reduced. Missing a person and taking that effort to meet up has reduced a lot.

Our world, which is so large and amazing has suddenly become very small. It now, just fits into our computers and mobile phones. Most of us are so lost in it that we have forgotten to see things going on around us. For example, while we are traveling we miss seeing so many things that create an impact on our minds and the memory of that is etched forever in our hearts.

A few days back I was driving to the gym and just on the corner of the street that I live I saw a tree that was blossomed with tiny pink flowers and can you imagine I had never seen that before coz probably I was busy messaging on the mobile phone. This thought really made me feel sad as how many of us realize how technology has taken over our lives. Isn’t it some kind of a death with reality of life.

I had many friends who I would make it a point to meet up and have a good time. But today the convenience of just picking up a phone and talking has killed wonderful friendships as we don’t meet up often. This is making most of us lonely in spite of living in a city that is buzzing all the time. Shouldn’t we grief over the death of simpler times.

I am not here to advocate against the usage of technology. But I was simply trying to compare that what kind of a life we are leading of grief without even realizing it

 

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.