April 15, 2021

Recipe – ROAST CHICKEN WITH ROSEMARY-GARLIC POTATOES

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Ingredients

For the roast chicken

  • 700g Whole chicken
  • 50g Butter
  • 1 small onion, with a clove stuck in it
  • A wedge of lime

For Marinade

  • 3 tblsp lemon juice
  • 2 tblsp minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tsp honey

For Gravy

  • Lemon juice
  • A little wine sugar or honey

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 C . Rub the chicken with the marinade inside out and place in a roasting tin. Allow to rest for an hour. Put the onion and lemon wedge inside the abdomen cavity of the chicken. Tie the legs with a cotton kitchen twine. Brush some melted butter on the chicken and place it in the hot oven and bake for 45 mins, basting it every 10 mins with butter turning it round halfway through to attain a golden colour. Remove from the oven and let the roasted chicken rest. Transfer the chicken in another plate and in the same roasting pan pour some wine, and chicken stock or water and heat it to remove all the scrapings. Strain the gravy and return to the flame add salt and pepper to taste, lemon juice and a little honey or sugar and allow it to boil.

Before serving the chicken place it in a plate along with lemon slices and serve with hot gray to be poured over it.


ROSEMARY-GARLIC POTATOES

Ingredients

  • 500g small sized potatoes
  • 6-7 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs of Rosemary
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 25g butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Peel the potatoes and boil in a pan along with a little salt till they are cooked but firm.

In a pan add oil and butter and add the garlic till pale golden add the rosemary and stir for a minute. Add the potatoes and coat them with the herbed oil mixture, allow to cook till soft stirring every now and then till a crust is attained on the surface of the potatoes.

Claus Meyer – about a chef

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Claus Meyer often described as ‘Heliotrope’ due to his way of seeing the world.  Chef, restaurateur, entrepreneur and culinary activist always wishes to look in the direction of light and have faith in it to transmute every dark.

He is the co-founder for Noma, awarded four times for being the best restaurant in the world by Michelin Stars Copenhagen. Ever since it opened in the year 2003 along with René Redzepi, Meyer has been an influence to the world of culinary especially in the region of Northern Europe.

At the Tasting India Symposium in Delhi, where Meyer was the special guest spoke about how Noma represented the food from Northern Europe in the highest degree, also taking in account the limitations of produces from the region. He told that how he along with Redzepi who at that time was a sous-chef of 25 years of age the duo entered into partnership and that’s how Noma came into existence. After its inauguration with a period of 2 years it earned its first Michelin star, after that it earned much other recognition for its various innovations and the use of limited local produces procured from forests and from the coasts.

The want to bring about a change was in Meyer’s mind ever since he was 20 years of age. He worked for a French chef cum baker, Guy Sverzut in France that is when he admits that he for the very first time that he experienced eating some great varieties of French cheese and some freshly baked baguette.

Meyer furthermore admits that it was food that made him cry with pleasure as all these food discoveries were new and the food from Denmark mostly consisted of processed, frozen, canned to be just microwave at times to be on the plate, he mentions it a time of culinary darkness in Denmark’s food history. Jokingly Meyer also puts in that maybe it is Protestant inclinations that Denmark considers sensuality, pleasure and deliciousness as great sins. But that he realises that anyone can fall in love food that is delicious, after all its biological.

Truly a self taught Meyer first learnt cooking and entered in restaurants later bringing French food to Copenhagen and then later realizing that the path he was following was not his sole dream. He even brought in food enterprises to manufacture good quality vinegars and breads. He hosted many popular food shows and later he thought of bringing higher consciousness and a different approach- that would be that good food can make our world a better place.

He always likes to put in that food cooked with inferior quality ingredients and without any sentiments will never taste good leaving a bad impact on the community in general. As Meyer’s in his childhood never had food that was so care giving. To come at this conclusion it took him 15 years, but realizes that in the world children will no longer be deprived of meals prepared with love and affection.  That’s how Meyer’s chase towards improving north Europe food started creativity towards food of North Europe. With this mission he started a movement thereby making efforts to make people realize that how they could create some of the best cheese, chocolates, breads.

In Denmark’s society it was not easy to bring about the change and to improve the culture associated with food. The heliotropic attitude of Meyer led him to take steps and ask a leading dairy manufacturer to produce maybe one real good quality of Danish cheese without making any alterations to his business model as the ones put on the counter were not at all appreciable. The concerned person was thus persuaded and produces fantastic Danish cheese.

In the end Meyer mentions that it is his duty to guide food manufacturers and artisans in the right direction but following the guidelines is their choice.

For this culinary philosopher and entrepreneur this was not the end, in the year 2010 he launched Melting Point Foundation, which operates with unprivileged prisoners from Denmark, the poor gentry of Bolivia by providing them culinary expertise and skills for the betterment of their lives and helps in eliminating poverty.

Claus Meyer is truly self inspired and wherever he goes his activism accompanies him. On his first trip to India he strolled the narrow streets of Old Delhi, he was quite happy to see the spirit of entrepreneurship spirit in the people by way of having maybe very small food joints and some of which are a century old!

An Indian inspired dish which he ate prepared by Indian friends in Singapore was roti prata, which was made by a mix of spinach and goat cheese, a dash of chilli and wraped in a flaky roti. One of his favourite is canelé, a pastry from the Bordeaux region of France.

Meyer’s culinary expansion has even taken him to New York where he inaugurated Agern at the Grand Central Station.

Meyer loves to play soccer and tennis, but in his growing years he watched a lot of boxing and especially ones featuring Muhammad Ali as he felt that he was romantic and brave. His father too liked Muhammad Ali. But not sharing a very good relation with his father Meyer he too like Muhammad Ali is trying to be brave and courageous to win his father’s approval.

Undoubtedly Meyer is brave and courageous but also has a romantic side to him by perusing a dream and a desire to bring a change in the world through food.

April 5, 2021

Marks & Spencer slaps Biryani

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The biryani has always been a much talked about and is also a subject of great debate amongst food enthusiasts. There is also a debate on its origin, whether it comes from Central Asia or is it Indian, whether it is vegetarian or with some meat? Whether it should be dry or a little moist?

Biryani today is a generic term and has different variations all throughout India and every region has its own recipe. A south Indian Biryani will taste absolutely different from the biryani in Lucknow. The combination of spices is different, the rice is different as in south India the vogue for Basmati rice is not prevalent and so is the method of cooking. But maybe a few guidelines can be checked into: the spices in biryani need to be more intense compared to the pulao, the biryani should be a bit wet than pulao. Whilst we in India are still unsure on parametres exactly to describe a biryani UK on the other hand is coming up with varied versions of biryani.

We are familiar with Marks & Spencer as a brand for clothing and apparels but rarely know that the brand holds a significant role in the food industry. But due to constraints in India they only sell clothes. That’s also the reason for a decline in their growth chart. In the UK food with consistent quality is always sought after.

Indians might be surprised to know that large super markets in Britain are loaded with packets of ready-to-eat chicken tikka. The tikka, with a bright coloured sheen lamely looks like the tikkas made in India but the taste is a bit familiar but had this kind of tikka served in any restaurant in India surely the person who prepared it would be sent to the pantry to wash utensils or at best fired out.

It is fine as it is a made in Britain and not in India. Similarly the Chinese would feel the same if they are served chicken Manchurian in India as it is not their kind it is an amalgam of Indian and Chinese cooking.

The foods that come to our table have a cross-cultural influence, taking the example of scotch eggs which in the days of the British Raj adapted from Nargisi kofta. The popularity of the scotch eggs has made it sell outside petrol stations in the UK. One should not have any objections what the original dish is transformed to so far as they do not call it Nargisi kofta.

The entire biryani controversy teaches us that food is much beyond the fancy names by which it is called for sake of marketing.

Though amazing to see how the British have done to Indian dishes, let’s say kedgeree, which according to Larousse Gastronomique is a mixture of rice, lentils and some spices along with some onions and ginger called khichiri dating back to 14th century and eaten throughout India. After which the British took a liking towards it and thus kedgeree was coined.

This is a natural phenomenon and it ought to happen and should be allowed to.

Marks & Spencer recently started selling a version of Biryani with sweet potatoes. Barely can one call it a biryani or anything close to a biryani. It is made like a wrap where the flat bread is filled with buckwheat, red peppers, sweet potato, small amount of rice and curry powder.  One feels clueless of the fact that which brainy person decided to venerate the biryani as a wrap with a few grains of rice and spices, but for Marks & Spencer which pays a good salary to its team of food experts and researchers should know better. It would rather be wise to change the name of such a dish from biryani to something else or take it off their shelves.

After varied debates on various social media networks on this subject and soon flared up in big arguments. The argument then took a turn claiming whether a Biryani could ever be vegan? Is it necessary to have meat or fish?

A  London based Indian chef rather commented that Marks & Spencer is just borrowing an idea, even though it is executed in a weird way of having a triple carb, but at the same time it is giving India a great compliment.

But in reality we need no such honours to be placed on Marks & Spencer shelves.

Cultural aptness creeps in when there is an adaptation from poor countries steep in rich countries, similar to how Cold play; a British rock band was accused of cultural appropriation when they shot videos in India. M&S is now been accused of cultural appropriation for serving a Biryani Wrap. Well it is difficult to understand what one would call cultural appropriation- when George Harrison played sitar or when Beatles spread Indian music to a larger audience? The spread of chicken tikka sandwich is it not cultural appropriation?

It is difficult to understand cultural appropriation and especially in the context of food when an awkward thing like biryani wrap comes on food counters and astonishes the food lovers, but to some it may sound as a compliment to India.

M&S maybe tried to make a wrap that was vegan but maybe could not sell as it did not have a fancy tag to it, that might be the reason why the word ‘biryani’ was added to make it more interesting and ear-appealing and also a way to indicate that it contained curry powder.

It is simply marketing gimmicks and nor any compliment as these thing do not appropriate our culture. The food of the world is so enormous and one is free to borrow thing from each other but there should be a kind of respect for dishes from whom one is borrowing, in simple terms one will not call a korma – a roast chicken, or cauliflower Manchurian as Peking cauliflower. In all name matters, so is its identity.

Shahjanabad – Delhi’s eating district

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Memory is funny, it is something to be cherished as it gives joy but also that it cages one in its extremities, especially when people are going through these difficult times of the current pandemic. Fond memories of childhood days in the Old Delhi erstwhile known as Shahjahanabad engulf with a sense of nostalgia and especially the streets where food smell swamps the entire atmosphere.

The walls and the magnificent minarets of the Jama Masjid are always been a nectar to the eyes and looks imposing every time, but even more is the flavours of food which through small shops.  Life in the walled city of Shahjahanabad was a delight for people from all walks of life and for all age groups. The food here is blend from different cultures making it more composite but yet flavourful.  Everyday seemed to be like a feast, there was also a sense of caring for others and that’s how food was shared with others.

Halwa or semolina sweet sold in narrow lanes of Shahjahanabad and eaten with crisp savoury crackers called mathi is in itself a weird combination especially for people who have not experienced the life in Old Delhi

Matri Kulcha along with a spicy mix of peas and potatoes sold out of small boxes secured safely on the back of a bicycle especially it’s a fun to have this type of a meal during summers and there is a desire to eat which is not hot. It’s a simple meal, tasty, tangy and yet affordable by the masses.

Tangy Chhat

To everyone’s delight there is always and the timeless Dilli ki Chaat to suit different tastes. Large varieties of chaat includes the irresistible  Pani-puri, papri chaat, chole mathri and also some unique innovations like palak ki chaat made from spinach which today one even finds in fancy eating joints.

The Satpura samosa which gets its name from the seven times twisted border which turned up in the evenings and the aloo tikkis or potato patty sometimes to make it a bit extravagant stuffed with sliced nuts for a bit of a crunchy touch and then fried till crisp.in those days all seemed to be clean and hygienic to be had at the street side.

Now a famous brand Giani’s ice cream, but initially it was just a small shop selling kulfi and kids would line up the shop to enjoy the cold delight in the sultry afternoons. The meat delights often came from Karim’s now that too has become a big name. Karim’s was a name for the meat loving people know for its fine kebabs and other meat dishes.

Distant, but taste calls back

As the affluent migrated from the Old Delhi towards Southern part the culture of the old Delhi started to dwindle. Today when we have big malls and fancy restaurants but still they can never produce the same aroma and taste which is lost in the childhood days spent in Shahjahanabad.

In this pandemic, which also makes us look inwards, about our own selves, of the childhood days as compared to the present generation and many such thoughts which baffle our memories, many must have tried their hands upon various dishes which once they favoured the most and fed their children who are often in the opinion of ordering food online, but alas none can replicate those beautiful smells and the taste buds that tickle for those flavours which are lost in thin lanes of Shahjahanabad. Cooking and feeding family and to the unprivileged is truly relaxing as a lot many sleep without a morsel, so food we eat should be with gratitude

Today’s generation have no clue of what the life was at Shahjahanabad, the foods and flavours and as the saying goes that there is always something to feed upon and that no one goes hungry in Shahjahanabad.

Indian Soup – Dal

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While still a student of law in London, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi around the year 1889 met a Gujarati writer and critic Narayan Hermchandra. Like other students Gandhi also was quite influenced by the British life style, adopted many British customs but remained vegetarian. Once Gandhi made carrot soup for Hemchandra, but did not satisfy the very patriotic Hemchandra whose longing for Dal could not be comforted. Hemchandra looked for some Moong Dal and cooked it and Gandhi admits that he himself ate with so much satisfaction. Hemchandra was patriotic to the core and his love for India could not be eclipsed by Western fancies. Hemchandra always wore Indian attire wherever he travelled and was once officially charged for dressed indecently in the US, this had a lasting impression on Gandhi. This even stands for culinary opposition: Dal versus soup and that the Indian food is incomplete without dal, it further affirms the fact that Indian cuisine does not have soups.

In The Raj at Table: A culinary history of the British in India, David Burton illustrates that how thin sauces were always poured over plain rice rather than be drunk separately. The thali concept of dining where all the food dishes placed in small bowls in a large plate also endorses that course dining was never a part of Indian food culture. Soups in British food occupies a stage of course meal rather than to be poured over other foods, rather other foods are put into the soup like fried bread croutons.

Colonel Kenney- Herbert who retired from British army in Madras Cavalry and later started writing on food explains the reasons for not having soups in Indian cuisine. He narrates that in colder countries where a fire is perpetually kept to keep warmth the stock pots with meat bones and kitchen scrapings endlessly simmered and replenished with liquids which provided as a base for all soups and such a thing was not practical in India where the climate is hot and without the refrigeration the stock would get spoilt unless consumed immediately.

The entire idea of what a soup is or in case of Hemchandra what Indian food is all about, but in all this debate a thing that is clear that we all are looking for a liquid which has been a source for sustenance since very old times. Either one calls it a soup or a dal, either it is made with meat or vegetable stock, make it spicy or subtle, keep it thin or thick, drench croutons or wheat bhakri, serve it hot or cold, ultimately it is from the same food chain.

Getting out from the argument whether India has soup or not a thing which makes us think is the large variety of innovative liquids which the Indian kitchen has created.

Most apparent is Mulligatawny or the Indian soup derived from milagu-tanni, in Tamil it stands for pepper water which is kind of quite similar to Rasam.

To meet the British demands of having a course of soups perhaps that the cooks from Madras started serving rasam from the water left from boiling dal.

The cooks might have thickened it to suit the British palate but kept it on a little spicier side.

The same rasam when travelled with the indentured labourers from south India to Mauritius came to be known as rasson that at times was laced with a generous pour of rum. This custom of adding alcohol to soups has a long stranded history wherein vodka is added to beef bouillon to make it a soup cocktail called as Bullshot. Similar in French food of adding some wine to the last bits of soup.

To give a bit of a fruity punch bits of pineapple were simmered into the rasam and became quite a popular dish in weddings in Chennai. Even addition of fruits in soups is quite traditional in many food cultures like the Hungarian sour cherry soup made from dried apricots. Even plum and tomato soup is a good innovation which gives a boring tomato soup a strikingly fruity punch.

Well with so many contrasts between Indian dals and Western soups there could be a bit of borrowing and a source of inspiration and inventing something new. Like instead of making a roux with refined flour and butter besan or chickpea flour can be a healthier option, similar to Indian Kadhi. Even to rajam or chhola meat stock could be added for a more subtle flavor. Maybe tempering or tadka  by frying  some spices in hot oil at the last moment and adding it to the  brown soup can make it taste much more interesting.

Apricots may find their way in dals to give a Middle Eastern touch, the red Amarnath tree leaves could be added instead of beetroot in the famed Russian soup Borscht to give a nice strikingly red colour. Even carrot soup cooked in coconut milk tastes so good and maybe Hemchandra might have liked it if Gandhi had made it that way.

Meatless meat ?

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Though difficult to belief but a mix of wheat, rice, gram and quinoa flour, coupled with some beetroot powder for a striking colour packed with some pea protein, some pungentness of onions and garlic along with some salt coriander and cumin powder tossed together in a pan is a simple recipe for a meatless curry.

Though it may sound a bit astonishing but there are versions of vegan mutton curry to promote the idea of eating compassionately by finding alternatives to meat and at the same time satiate the taste buds craving for meat dishes like a mutton curry or a chicken tikka.

A desire to fix issues of human health, longevity, climatic changes and animal welfare persuaded many food joint owners to give food free of any dairy, poultry, meat or sea food but rather go for plant imitations.

This drive for compassionate eating has made chefs run to laboratories to experiment on ingredients and more about finding various alternatives and their various reactions when mixed with different ingredients. An anda bhurji without egg where a batter of refined flour and chickpea flour filled in a bottle and shaken well and sizzled in a hot kadai along with some onions, tomatoes and some very aromatic spice mixture. With one fifth of the fat of a poultry egg and zero cholesterol is like cheating on one’s beliefs.

The IIT Delhi and Centre for Rural Development of Technology launched its first non-poultry egg with a mixture of split moong Daal and seaweed. The protein of the daal is very similar to the protein in the albumin of the egg whites and the seaweed gives acts as a gelling agent which helps in coagulating like a poultry egg.

Also there has been an ongoing project to develop alternatives to chicken, mutton, beef, pork, fish and sea food by using plant based foods like breadfruit, mushrooms, elephant yam for fish; jackfruit for mutton and also some other  textured vegetables protein for chicken and beef.

These meat imitations are not targeted towards the vegans which India are somewhere between around 2% to 3% but the flexitarians or people who are semi meat eaters wishing to have less meat and the meat eaters who are a bit hesitant from meat abstaining and also the new vegans who are dealing with meat cravings.

A passionate meat and fish lover Parsi from Mumbai, Kaizad Marolia was surprised to have ‘veg meat’ in his bowl of dhansak served by his vegan sister. He agrees that he could not differentiate except for the fact that the mock meat was a little chewy but the flavour was there.

Like all proteins, whether animal or plant based all have amino acids, which in turn to be denatured to produce meaty textured chunks.

This revolution for green and clean meat and designing dishes to Indian liking and taste has been a bit challenging but also at the same time rewarding as many improvements on the soy and jackfruit meat imitations of the past which were a compensation on the flavour and texture have been overcome by the intervention of food technologists, protein biochemists and the culinary experts trying to figure how meat behaves like meat at molecular and also know about substances which can stimulate the taste, flavour, bite and the nutritional content of animal free from cholesterol without any guilt nor with artificially induced antibiotics, and hormones giving an alternative to meat without compensating on its look, feel and texture after being cooked.

The ingredients that turn non-veg to veg

– Anda Bhurji: Green moong dal, chickpeas, seaweed extract, black salt, refined sunflower oil, corn starch

– Chicken Achari Tikka: Soya, gram and oat flour, pea protein, corn starch, salt, cardamom, star anise, baking powder, titanium dioxide (whitening agent)

– Tuna Fish Chunks: Soya, seaweed, pea protein, wheat gluten

– Chicken Nuggets: Breadcrumbs, soya, garlic, onion, salt, wheat gluten and wheat starch, vegetable and pea fibre, and dextrose (sugar from corn)

– Lamb Seekh Kebab: Wheat, jackfruit, mushrooms, pea proteins, yeast extract, interesterified fat, soya, garam masala

A population of people due to the pandemic has been motivated towards vegetarianism and some turned vegan due to the threats of zoonotic diseases which are transmitted from animal to humans making them more conscious than before and persuading to shift from animal products to plant-based products and substitutes. But a big question arises that in India where it is estimated that around 70% of population is of meat-eaters, will such people move in for meatless meat? Meat replacements and ‘meatless meats need to be within the reach of common people at reasonable prices so that it deems to be a shift and not a sacrifice.

Though in the mid of February 2019 in a study conducted by Good Food Institute there was a sizable population of people who were inclined towards meatless meat. Also a sizable population was ready to give a try to the meatless meat. The entire effort for the meatless meat is more focused on the meat eaters and the flexitarians.

 

Kolkata – the cradle of food

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After arguments over the Kolkata’s famous and much famed Rosogolla simmered down soon there are arguments over the delicate and fragrant Biryani, and it would not be wrong to say that what Kolkata relishes today it might soon be recognized nationwide.

Agreed that Mumbai is the financial capital of India but truly Kolkata is its stomach. The street food of Kolkata is truly innovative so much so that in the crises of Covid-19 they made sandesh in a spiky shape like the Covid virus and so much so when the film Titanic won the Oscar awards markets were flooded with boat shaped sandesh.

Many experts argue upon whether or not to call a sweetened fig-ball Biryani a rosogolla Biryani or not? But today with the restrictions and lockdowns require more of visual appeasement through the social media. Morels or guchhi a very rare truffles which grow in Himachal Pradesh was seen been included in menu of celebrities so much so that its demand was accelerated and as a result artificially enhanced varieties of morels were imported from Europe

Chinese Kolkata

The Biryani from Bengal may have taken clues from the Biryani made in the kitchens of Oudh and may have travelled and brought to the region of Bengal with the exiled last nawab of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah, or it may have been an economic concession to add potatoes and less of meat and also with the nawab and his entourage introduced the custom of offering paan along with exotic herbs and crushed pearls?

The most significant introduction to Kolkata’s culinary exchange is the overwhelming influence of Chinese food. Nearly after two centuries of first Chinese traders who came to Kolkata the legacy of Chinese food is still in continuation. Noodles or Chow can be seen rightly from street food vendors to fancy hotels but of cource with a more Indianised taste.

Though authentic Chinese dinner menu has lots of variety of soups alternately served with some wonton wraps and other stir- fried or steamed delicacies and lastly ending with a bowl of rice. In Chinese food nothing is wasted, if they are cooking duck then all parts of the bird will be utilized. In Kolkata the Chinese version of Chinese food is mostly vegetarian mostly consisting of mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, baby corn deep fried and laced with hot, sour and sweet sauces often enhanced flavours by addition of ajinomoto.

It is an inspiration from David Attenborough’s documentary A Life on Our Planet wherein a life-long search for nature in its pristine state at places hard to reach, it is even a bit satirical that the first foreigners to came and settled on the banks of the Hooghly river were his forefathers.

Satiate your taste buds

An 18th Century British diary writer and analyst, William Hickey relates to what is meant by king of table in Calcutta’s bygone era. The accounts of hearty meals along with trifle puddings have still managed to survive in the planter’s club in the hill stations.

Also some of the finest oil paintings depict the era which was an amalgam of feudal land lordship and the colonial endeavour clubbed with luxurious life style which made one believe that consumption of food by the elite gave more pleasure to the person who produced it.

In the year 1943 when Bengal was struck by a great famine leading to demise of over three million people because the British had given orders to feed their army leading to a manmade disaster. Freda Bedi who is a Gandhian revolutionary very rightly puts in that it was not a problem of rice and its availability it was a problem of fragments in the society.

The conclusion which Attenborough comes to at the end of his documentary that mostly people are living in fragments and it will take a surmountable time for the earth to heal and will not be reversed until it is a combined effort. But in the midst of the pandemic there are actions of ourselves healing ourselves and make best of what is available to us, it will be better to go in for the rosogolla and Biryani than hunt for truffles which are not readily available to satiate our taste buds.

January 6, 2021

Sweet North Indian Breakfast – Jalebi

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Biting into the street side vendor’s jalebi, selling every day, with his hands moving rapidly swirling the batter over the hot oil, pulling them out and dipping them into thick sugar syrup, ready to be gulped into one’s mouth before the sugar crystallizes on the jalebi. But soon realising that the batter thus made for the jalebi has a bit of sourness from the yogurt added to ferment the batter.

Childhood jabeli treats accelerated fond memories of the sweet. For a family that would not eat outside food so often but getting a bag full of these perfectly deep-fried, crisps with a shine from the sugar syrup in which it is immersed to just the right decree, before being ready to be sold and consumed was truly an enchanting experience.

These little deep-fried pretzels piping out of a cloth bag over hot oil, could even be paired with saffron-flavoured rabdi or with a rather an odd combination of plain curd, which is quite a common breakfast in the state of Uttar Pradesh. One might with a bit of hesitation and resistance tastes the combination of jalebi with curd, and soon realizes that the sweetness of the jalebi was so balanced with the plain curd, making it even more delectable than alone.

One might think why a mighty debate on a very ordinary and common sweet, that too for one which is simply deep-fried and dipped in syrup and there is nothing complex about it, like a bottle of wine or a perfectly matured cheese? But it is not so, a person who has had a perfectly made jalebi, will vouch for its simplicity, yet difficulty in replicating it. To make a perfect batch of jalebi, the flavour of the batter matters a lot, so does the consistency of sugar syrup and also its perfect golden colour which comes after it’s fried in hot oil. If the jalebi is flat, chewy, soggy, it has got no right to be branded as a jalebi. A very important aspect also is the circumference of each spiral which determines the ratio of crunch to juiciness and sweetness.

The humble jalebi will not rather sweeten the mouth of the person. The only thing which really matters is the perfect fermentation of the flour and the yogurt batter and then the art of swirling the batter out of a piping bag into hot oil, frying them and later dipping them in thick sugar syrup and interestingly removing them just in time too.

Each city in the state of Uttar Pradesh has a few renowned sweet shops that open early exclusively to dish out this morning breakfast. Many also do it in the evenings as an evening essential. During winter months and especially on Sundays, when families are together at home, they do often plan to indulge in jalebi breakfast. Then there are aged people in cities of Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Pryagraj, Ayodhya and many other small and big cities of Uttar Pradesh for whom the day has to start with jalebi’s as an essential breakfast dish.

Jalebi is one dish that no one can ever say no to and then a good jalebi never induces a feeling of guilt.

November 30, 2020

Origin of Idli and Sambhar?

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Idli, a steamed rice and lentils cake is a well known dish from South India and quite famed in India as well as overseas. But it is interesting to know from where the idli and sambhar or the tangy gravy which accompaniments the idli comes from? Is it from the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh or is it from Tamil Nadu or from Kerala or from Karnataka? Or may be from somewhere else?

For the idli it can be argued that there is no mention in any of the ancient texts and it can be safely concluded that its references surfaced around the 11th century.

The erudite food historian, K.T. Achaya opines that idli might have a foreign ancestry. Though Achaya most of the time manages to suggest that most modern Indian foods trace their roots in South Indian dishes backed up by references from various ancient Tamil literature. In the world of food Achaya’s claim came as a big shock! Later claiming that idli is a later descendant of an Indonesian dish

The reason for the claim being owing to the fact that during medieval period there were trade links between Indonesia and South India and maybe the Indian cooks learnt making idli and brought it to India.

For this theory to have any weightage Achaya did not have, either a very firm textual reference nor did he name any dish from Indonesia bearing resemblance to idli which the Indian cooks learnt and brought to India. Just a dish he named called kedli, which in his opinion the Indonesians created.   There is a bit of controversy over Achaya’s claim that the kedli is a predecessor of idli and is not very well formed.

Yet another theory suggests, South India and Arabia having long trade relations much before the advent of Prophet, Arab traders settled in South India and made some rice cakes which later was recognized as idlis.

Many might endorse that the idli might have come from Indonesia but one more consideration is in the method of preparing the batter. There is no Tamil tradition of fermenting the batter and maybe it was borrowed from Indonesia as this method was quite prevalent in Indonesian food. So it’s not finding an Indonesian dish resembling the idli but the method and technique, and may be the Indian cooks learnt the concept of fermenting the batter on the Indonesian ships.

The sambhar which every south Indian boast, is often argued being a Maharashtrian dish and a gift by the very innovative Maratha rulers to the Tamils. One fact being that the Marathas ruled Thanjavur.

There are several opinions to this legend – a king called Shahuji who paid his obedience to Sambhaji the son of the great Maratha warrior Shivaji Maharaj, once gave a day off to his cook and later entered the kitchen to make a famous Maharashtrian dish with lentils called ‘Amti’, but soon realised that the souring agent called ‘Kokum’ a tropical fruit used mostly in Western India had finished so he got his hands on tamarind and thus a new version of the lentils was made and in honour of Shambhaji it was called Sambhar.

Another version believes that once Shambhaji visited Thanjavur and the royal cooks made a lentil preparation and in his honour called it Shambhar.

Though there are many arguments but it appears in Tamil literature of a dish called Kottu which is said to be the primitive version of sambhar and that the idea of cooking lentils with vegetables has been prevalent in old Tamil recipes.

Interestingly, the back bone of the Sambhar is a lentil called ‘Tuvar Dal’ (also called ‘Toor’) and ‘Arhar’ which are popular dal in Western India. Also, in Tamil Nadu the Tuvar Dal mostly unknown, so it appears quite a bizarre that the popular Tamilian dish is made with a Maharashtrian Dal.

Also to bear in mind that a dish is not invented in one go, it takes a while for a proper recipe to be formulated and a final dish to be prepared.

It is quite possible that the Marathas that ruled Thanjavur introduced Tuvar dal and over a period of time, moong dal was replaced in some recipes. And if the Sambhar was a great Maharashtrian dish, then why it was not taken back to Maharashtra?

The popularity of idli-sambhar sprang up in early 20th Century and it was in Bombay that South Indian restaurants started selling dosas, idlis, vadas and sambhar with most of the restaurateurs from Karnataka and especially from the Udupi district hence the name ‘Udupi Restaurant’.

Mangalore and Karnataka have their own versions of sambhar, very different from the Tamil variation, which in people’s opinion is more balanced. For the very same reason, when South Indian eating joints erupted, their business thrived primarily on Idli, dosa and sambhar and they choose to have the Tamil oriented sambhar as opposed to other variants of sambhar.

In the opinion of many, and also for chef Natarajan of Taj hotels who travelled across South India, for home recipes for sambhar when Taj opened Southern Spice in Chennai, there are significant variations of sambhar from each state but agrees to the fact that due to popularity of the Tamil version of Sambhar in Mumbai and in North India it has become more authoritative and has qualified to be the ultimate version of sambhar. Also many do not know the difference between the tiffin-sambhar which is a breakfast version, made with just addition of drumsticks and is thin in consistency as opposed to the sambhar served for lunch or dinner which is more thicker due to additions of other vegetables.

The irony is that the idli and sambhar are so popular all over India, not only in the South Indian states but also in Northern and Western India, still nobody can decipher its origin and how these dishes were created.

November 11, 2020

David Chang’s Ugly Delicious talks Indian Food

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 6:44 am

The US chef David Chang and his friend Aziz Ansari dropped in McDonald’s in Nariman Point after a daylong shoot for Netflix show, ‘Ugly Delicious’. The eagerness for fast food and to see how McDonald’s Indianised its menu and to know what locals feel about it. It is fun to find how local tastes differ from place to place, like in Japan there are shrimp burgers and Italy serves Nutella buns

The young manager at the McDonald’s recognised Chang from the previous season of Ugly Delicious and rushed to Chang in appreciation of a notable chef in the outlet. They were not given the permission to shoot inside the outlet but to show the menu and even suggested Piri-Piri potato fries. He overwhelmingly inquired from Chang, if there were any plans of opening his chain of Momofuku restaurants in India.

There are always high expectations from international shows like Ugly Delicious and Chang started asking as to why Indian food despite being so diverse and integral part of culture is not so well known globally? But many people seemed just interested in knowing the answer.

Sooner this news of coming to India was out and a swarm of suggestions erupted on social media about the places he must cover, after the episode was released, as always there were appreciations and criticisms regarding the places chosen.

It is expectable, as people are fervent about food and like to see their suggestions are accepted. Chang confessed that Indians being so passionate for their food, they do not need anyone’s acceptance or approvals. Chang puts forth that how and what he eats in India will not make a difference to people around the globe and that too through a single Netflix episode.

The reaction of the young manager at McDonald’s in Mumbai does add value to the efforts put in these types of shows, if such an audience inspires new viewers towards affairs related with food, asking questions, appreciating their views and encouraging friendly debates. Netflix as an intercontinental platform, which reaches not only audiences from the English speaking countries but also to other countries that one does not consider the prospect for Indian food.

Ugly Delicious is mainly focused at the American market, but the questions asked by Chang could easily be put forth to other European countries as well as to the Asian countries including the Indian subcontinent or even South America and Africa. The countries who really know about the Indian food are those countries, which were part of the erstwhile British Empire or the countries where Indians were taken away by the British to their various colonies or the later day migrations.

Though one does find association with Indian food in countries like the UK and Australia with the disregarding the very idea of ‘curry powder’ which is also featured in Ugly Delicious. In France le curry forms a part of some classic dishes like mouclade, which is curry flavoured  mussels.

The French cooking book and encyclopedia, Larousse Gastronomique has a fixed composition of curry powder beyond any Indian’s imagination. At the Universal Paris Exhibition in 1884,  the composition of curry powder was set by decree: 34 gms tamarind; 44 gms onions; 20 gms coriander; 5 gms chilli pepper; 3 gms turmeric; 2 gms cumin; 3 gms fenugreek; 2 gms pepper; 2 gms mustard.

Of course shows like Ugly Delicious has crushed the very myth of a comprehensive curry powder to be used in all dishes, but also created another myth that Indian food is complex having a lot many spices and ingredients thus creating a notion that Indian food is quite spicy but one does not seem to see the amounts in which the spices are put into the dish, they rather just see through the long list of ingredients.

It is a fact that Indians do use a blend of spices called as ‘masalas’ in specific dishes for the ease of putting each spice individually. One thing noteworthy is the texture attained through these blended spice mixes as they use certain spices which improve the texture of the dish, like the coriander powder which apart from giving a flavor, also acts as an excellent thickening agent giving curries a consistency to go well with rice or chapatti. Similarly the famous East Indian bottle masala from Mumbai containing substantial amount of roasted and ground wheat which gives the thin curries, a body to go with rice.

Such issues can be dealt with when such interactions with Indian food is on the move and all other restrictions of putting up issues in a single episode is not easy, but shows like Ugly Delicious put up well. People like the young manager at McDonald’s, also bridge up the gap for all kinds of food interests.

Indian Cooking by virtue confirms to COVID protocols

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 5:49 am

Not many may realize the importance of a ‘Pakkad’ or a ‘Sansi’ which is very common and useful thing seen in the Indian kitchens. The Pakkad comes useful when putting off hot pots and pans off the stove, grip vegetables to grill over an open fire or sometimes lift a bowl of glowing embers with smouldering incense over it to get rid of the damp smell from rooms during monsoons and of course in the present situation of COVID it can be used for contact less cooking.

One does find tongs, a bit sophistically designed than our ‘Chimta’, but the scissor styled pakkads or another variation looking like a claw is nowhere to be seen. It’s a bit of a surprise not to find the pakkad in other countries except for the scissor like barbeque tongs, flimsy kind not to grip the utensils like the pakkad. It is understandable that cooking pots in other countries come with a handle and Indian cooking pots do not have handles, but when it comes to the fact that hands spread infection that’s when the usefulness of the humble pakkad is recognized.

When it comes to Indian cooking, tasting and eating habits, then contactless and contamination-less food makes sense. For centuries, banana leaf or other non toxic leaf plates and unglazed terracotta drinking cups called ‘Kulhad’ were used. They were truly disposable, posing no threat to the environment as they were bio-degradable. Similarly, sharing of food from each other’s plates was not accepted as it posed threat of contamination, and may be today after reopening of restaurants after a long lockdown; restaurants must have restrictions of sharing food from each other’s plates as also the servers replenishing the thalis, be well equipped with masks and serve from a distance.

Indians quite pre-occupied with what is called ‘jootha’, that is to say contamination from one’s saliva and for the same reason a used water cup or sharing meals from each other’s plates is strictly forbidden. For the very same reason many family ladies do not taste the food while cooking, if they have to taste, they will do so with a spoon and wash their hands all over again and then only resume cooking. Some very strict households will and especially Tamil Brahmins eat their food by making small balls of the food and throwing it into their mouths without letting their fingers touch their own mouths.

The kitchens of yesteryears were also floor level and encouraged contactless cooking as the person cooking would be seated on the ground and hands working horizontal. Earthenware pots or metallic pots when placed on a wood or cow-dung fire stove would heat the handles, hence making handles futile. Diseases like cholera being quite common in India but nonetheless there has been emphasis quite naturally for systems of hygiene to survive.

But in India there is the caste distinction and caste aloofness making things a bit more complicated. The caste contamination which comes from touching, the non-contact practice helps to eliminate and daily interactions are eased.  By way of using the pakkad one can prevent touching the handle touched by many and pour maybe tea directly from the vessel into separate cups maintained for family members and separate drinking cups generally kept to reserve guests and visitors. A further separation of crockery is for domestic-help and servants engaged in daily chores.

One can simplify and counter such cultural barriers either by ignoring the caste defilement and focus more on practical aspects. Today on social media too one finds various accounts of Indian culture and its sanity, the practicality of justifications prove that Indians know best and any other suggestions are taken contrary to branding it as anti-national, making it easier to slide in justifications for practices such as caste aloofness the original ‘Social distancing’.

The caste classification has its own ill effects and is a subject of ridicule, but without taking into account its practical aspects. It happened so; many years back when some politicians just to superficially show that they were free from cast barriers dined with Dalits or people belonging to the lower caste in Indian caste system in their homes were seen using hand sanitizers, perhaps cleansing themselves from caste contamination. Sanitizers were seen with utmost suspicion as until the COVID which give hand sanitizers a new recognition making our hands move forward automatically for a spurt of hand sanitizers.

Also in the situation of this pandemic there has been a big debate whether non vegetarian food is responsible for the virus in China’s meat market. One such eruption of this situation is appraisal of India’s vegetarian food culture and denounce the meat eaters. One approach was to claim that the upper caste in India is vegetarians and eating non vegetarian is a lower caste trait. But India whose vegetarian cuisine is quite developed and recognised, needs no caste endorsements from a virus.

The worth consideration is India’s non-contact cooking habits, the disposable eating plates and cups over the plastic disposable plates, cups and delivery containers. We must pay heed and agree to pay a price for such kinds of disposals which are environmentally friendly as well as create rural employment opportunities. Also restaurants must follow the thali-type food service wherein food sharing from each other’s plates is forbidden. Lastly try to promote more use of pakkads and especially in countries outside India to promote contactless cooking to tackle the threats of COVID.

October 28, 2020

Alternative flour that is much more useful and powerful

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 7:01 am

The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar had a Sufi bent of mind. He was a poet and also a great food connoisseur. Even though having a weak constitution and a wrecking treasury, his fondness for good food did not end, so much so that he even fell quite sick after consuming quite a few delicious mangoes all at once!

Even his rotis (Indian breads) were not the simple wheat or other coarse-grain rotis, he was fond of Besan rotis , which were flat, unleavened bread, kneaded with chickpea flour and milk and cooked on a flat skillet. Besan or chickpea is quite multipurpose as it provides food in many forms to both the rich and the poor alike.

Even during the period of recent COVID lockdown, besan was a choice for everyone, be it people with dietary restrictions of gluten-free meals, or a look out for vegetarian sourced proteins, or for food with low glycemic index or for people craving for vegetable pakoras or some desserts.

It’s quite surprising, in spite of being served to Emperors and being so versatile and prevalent, very little is talked about it. It is believed that the chickpea originated in South-Eastern Turkey and adjoining regions near Syria. The desi-channa very closely resembles the one found in archaeological sites as well as wildly grown ones, perhaps the ancestor of the cultivated chickpeas. According to food historian K.T Achaya, in a 400 BC Buddhist text ‘Chanaka’ finds a mention. Though it is still not known when exactly the flour of channa , called ‘besan’ came into existence and became a saleable commodity. But in medieval period in Western India ‘Kadhi’ is commonly prepared by mixing Besan with curd and tempered with asafetida, cumin seeds and mustard seeds.

The dish ‘kadhi’ unifies India and in fact many regions of India have their own variations of the kadhi, very well know versions are Sindhi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Uttar Pradesh. Not very common are ‘mor kuzhambu’ from Tamil Nadu, the ‘Hazara Kadhi’, cooked with chicken and pumpkin, the Haryanvi version is made with ‘Kachri’, a tangy tasting wild melon or in winters with ‘bathua saag’, a green leafy vegetable.

The use of Besan may have been to thicken gravies and curries and maybe that’s how the Kadhi came into existence as opposed to Mughal meat based dishes, where almond paste was used to thicken the gravies, besan may have been introduced much later as an economical substitute. K.T. Achaya notes that an ancient dish called ‘Kadha’ finds mention in Charakha Samita, Sanskrit text on Ayurveda or Indian traditional medicine says that Kadha were sour, soup-like dish using wood apples, sorrel leaves mixed with curd.

A very famous Burmese breakfast soup-like dish called ‘Mohinga’, made with rice noodles and fish sauce uses Besan as a thickening agent. Mohinga became more famed among the working class as it was economical and nutritious too and easily sold as a street food.

During the World War – II, there were several refugees who moved out of Burma and settled in Eastern India bringing ‘Khao suey’, a soup with coconut and clove flavoured noodles and also the besan based Mohinga. Chickpea flour or besan mixed with stock or water along with turmeric, cooked to a thick paste like consistency and set in trays and cut into desired shapes is the Burmese version of tofu called ‘Shan’.

Similarly in the state of Gujarat a lot of snacks like khandvi, dhokla, fafda, Ganthiya use of chickpea flour as the main ingredient.

Long before, when easily available ready to eat foods were not readily available, besan was an important commodity in the pantry. It made life easier when some guests dropped in unexpectedly potato and onion pakoda were always came to rescue. Similarly ladies of the house often made some easy to store snacks like besan sev, and other fried snacks and besan ladoo and barfi which too have a long shelf life.

In the kitchen of the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar, a chef prepared what is today called Mysore-Pak, a richer version of the besan barfi hurriedly for some unexpected guests, today Mysore-Pak is the most famous delicacy from Mysore.

In the 18th Century chickpeas came to India from Kabul, Afghanistan. ‘Garbanzo beans’ or ‘Kabuli Channa’ is cultivated in the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, North Africa, South America and of course in the Indian Sub-continent. A variety which is hulled and split to make Channa Daal, it is even cultivated in Ethiopia, Mexico and Iran. Though besan is very popular in India but many crepe-like baked dishes are prepared in European countries like France and Italy.

In Liguria, Italy the farinata resembles much like the Indian version of crepes called chilla, which instead of being fried is baked. The farinata is often seasoned with rosemary or simply salt, or if one wants to be a bit extravagant, it can be even eaten with basil pesto. It is said that the farinata was a necessity food and that roman soldiers roasted chickpeas on their swords to make flour.

The besan chilla often made in north India and served with mint and coriander chutney, is a very healthy breakfast dish, much better than the refined flour loafs of bread.

October 19, 2020

Amritsar – a paradise for food lovers

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 6:48 am

Amritsar is best known for the Golden Temple, a spiritual site for the Sikh community as well as for love of food. This makes it one of India’s best known cities for great food and food lovers. So for one, who is a foodie Amritsar is the place to go.

Kulcha

Amritsar is definitely the place for the best ‘kulcha’, even better than kulchas made in other parts of Punjab. One such famous Kulcha place in Amritsar is Kulwant situated near the Golden Temple and Kulacha Land both of which are a part of a chain.

Tastier are the Kulchas of Kulwant, very small, but very famous, crowded with people eager to have a bite from this strange looking food joint. Having less space in hand, they have a small floor above for preparing the kulcha and placing the freshly made kulchas in a bucket and lowering it down for the eagerly waiting customers. The success of a good kulcha lies in its layers. The dough needs to be rolled in thin layers and laden with ghee and put in shape to form a proper kulcha. Stuffing of potatoes and cauliflower are very common but it is the desire of the maker to stuff it with the stuffing of his choice.

Baking the kulcha in a tandoor is yet another technique in which the temperature of the tandoor needs to be moderate, lest the layers will not fluff up, the laden ghee will melt down and leaving the kulcha in a sad state. Also it is essential that a wood fired tandoor be used as it is much better than the modern gas ovens.

The person operating the tandoor too needs to be experienced enough to judge the temperature of the tandoor and to judge when the kulcha is ready to be pulled out from the walls of the tandoor. There may be several kulchas stuck to the wall of the tandoor and put at different times, so the person making it also needs to keep a track of sequence of kulchas placed inside the tandoor.

As per the opinion of Chef Manjit Gill most Indian restaurants have one tandoor for cooking everything. But the temperatures required for preparing each dish is different. Like one cannot bake a kulcha in a tandoor used for making kebabs and similarly even a tandoor used for making tandoori roti and naan cannot be used, as the heat is too harsh for a perfectly made kulcha. A good kulcha is to layer with ghee and allow the ghee to slowly melt down to give a flaky texture to the kulcha and this can only be achieved, when the temperature of the tandoor is neither too high nor too low. So a good kulcha can be made at places where a separate tandoor, just for the kulcha is assigned. But unfortunately not many places in Punjab have a separate tandoor just for making the kulcha.

Bheega Kulcha

Hansraj Choleyanwalla’s bheega kulcha is truly outstanding. A big utensil full of channa or chick-pea made with their own secret spice-mix. Thin yeast leavened kulchas are drenched in the chickpea preparation to absorb all the subtle flavours and served along with a ladleful of channa on the top of the soaked kulcha.

Daal

The fact about the black Daal which is available all throughout Punjab is not very authentically Punjabi but a replication of Daal made by the famous restaurant Moti Mahal in Delhi in the 1950’s. The same restaurant made the much famed butter chicken which is a thick tomato based sauce, made in oodles of butter and cream. Following the same principle, Maa ki Daal or the black Daal was prepared by addition of tomatoes, butter and cream to the Daal and simmering it on a very slow heat till the Daal is soft and tender. After the famous restaurant, Bukhara in Delhi made its signature dish – ‘Daal Bukhara’ others started replicating the same in their kitchens and the the famous Maa ki Daal became a generic name given to the Daal preparation.

Maa ki Daal gets its name from maanah, the Punjabi name for the Urad Daal or the whole black lentils quintessential in preparing the Maa ki Daal. The original Maanh ki Daal never had any addition of any other lentil in it, except for the Urad Daal and was devoid of tomatoes and cream.

The all vegetarian Kesar Da Dhabha, started in Lahore in early 1900’s and then migrated to Amritsar after partition in 1947. The Daal prepared by them is most authentic as it contains neither tomatoes nor dollops of cream. The Daal is slow cooked in a large pot for some 7-8 hours, mildly spiced, but has lots of ghee. Before serving the Daal each individual bowl gets another ‘tadka’ of onions fried in ghee, making the Daal’s flavour quite unique and very intense.

Pooris

Kanha in Amritasar is a great name for Sabzi and Poori. The potato and chick-pea preparation is truly a delight. The pooris are kneaded with whole wheat, refined flour and semolina and stuffed with a little urad Daal and finally the pooris, are immersed in hot oil to be fried till perfectly puffed, crispy but yet soft and a perfect match with the subzi that accompanies it.

Non-Vegetarian Delights

Apart from the vegetarian food, Amritsar is also famous for the non-vegetarian food too. Of all the most classics, is the Amritsari fried fish. A variety of fresh water fish, Singhada, marinated and lightly battered, and deep fried. To attain the crispiness after lightly frying once it is fried for a second time. Though there are several others selling Amritsari fish fry but one of the best is at Makhan Fish & Chicken Corner. Apart from the fried fish they also serve, boti kebab, tandoori chicken and chicken malai tikka. Of course the ingredients are common to all dishes but the entire taste of the preparation depends upon the blend of spices used and the adequate quantity.

Though many swear by the butter chicken and tandoori prepared in Delhi restaurants but one has to taste the butter chicken at Charming Chicken and Beera Chicken House for tandoori chicken. Delhi though transformed the Daal but Amritsar could be the right place to remake tandoori chicken and butter chicken.

August 13, 2020

Reasonably good cooks for self-sustenance

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 9:46 am

My hands are often bruised and blistered, resisting grabbing rotis straight off the flame, lemons escaping from under the knife leaving fingers in its place to be scored. Scars achieved from small stupidities. Disgracefully, cooking was never my cup of tea.

I spent part of my early life making fun of non-carrier oriented women whom I found always with abundant time in hand to cook and do all the household chores. While rest of career women were running in block heels to attend meetings, changing shift dresses, sweeping cigarette smoke, out to the bars for drink and late night parties. Cooking for myself was a big no, rather I outsourced the services to several food delivery apps or to my household help who made a breakfast to be packed in a dabba for office and found solace in microwaving food from the fridge for a meal.

I had agreed upon the fact that I had no time to cook for myself and laid with a misconception of being independent by way of earning money for a decent living but lacking the ability to cook a basic meal.

Being locked down with my parents in home, it’s like crash course in cooking with daily cooking supper. But I learnt to make a nice chicken curry, an average thakkali sadam, nice dal variations, aloo parathas. But all I can say is that it feels delightful.

It was also the worthy and successful attempt from a friend, who gave a recipe for mango curry which she had just learnt, Another friend learnt how to flash freeze chopped vegetables, yet another sent me a recipe for Andhra chicken which is still pending to be tried

I distinctly remember when I was young my mom speaking over the phone with her own mother, sisters or friends jotting some recipe, its ingredients along with tips and precautions and some tales associated with them. At that time I found their conversations very boring but now I find myself in the same boots.

Mom tells me to write down the recipes which came out good, but I do not have any intentions to do so as they are all online and not scarce to be afraid of to be lost. I can easily follow ‘cook- alongs’ by chefs on social-media or thousands of top-rated recipe videos on social-media.

Mom was introduced to cooking as always in most homes by her mother at the age of about 9 or 10. Helping my grandmother in straining something or the other or stirring food placed on a wooden stove, peeling fruits and vegetables or kneading some dough for some preparations. Grandma in turn picked cooking from her in-laws by way of trial and error or working with and watching others at work. Mom also joined a cookery course and jotted her favourite recipes in a small note book and then when she was pregnant with me, she took on to another notebook. The memories of that book is of pages turned yellow with age and with hanging magazine cut-outs, its original cover lost and held together with binding to prevent the pages from falling off.

Both Grandma and mom got to learn the hard way but this was the reason why they never faced embarrassment in their in-laws kitchens, with no internet and video calls at their beck and call to clear a doubt or to set right when something went wrong.

Their only chain of information was the groups of ladies they knew and in turn those ladies who knew other ladies and this way the recipes were exchanged and altered. Not to mention the ladies like my mom, who wrote down recipes in a notebook which was a great task and an effort of magnanimity. Often these recipes were written with the name of the person whom the recipe originally belonged to like Shashi’s tomato chutney, Neeta Didi’s roghan josh, Roma’s mustard fish and so on. This style of exchange of information through gossips is the oldest way of exchange of information loaded with creativity and strategies borrowed from family and friends.

I would video call my grandma if I had a doubt preparing a recipe. On one occasion she revealed a secret of putting a little sugar in a curry while tempering it to make it more rich and intense in flavours and another was to let the full flavour of bay leaf  to be released before adding other ingredients.

Today we may not be great cooks, but surely the lockdown made most of us a reasonably good cooks for self-sustenance.

Pulses that kept pulse ticking during lockdown

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 9:19 am

During the lockdowns associated due to Covid-19 pandemic in mid April when food shortages hitting the small coastal state of Goa. A message was floated urging people to support local farmers rather than emptying racks in grocery stores and depend on locally produced foods and help farmers who were stuck with their produces due to wholesale markets being closed.

Goa being small and still rural so it was a better opportunity to buy produces directly from the farmers. One such example was cowpea, a small white bean with a distinct black ‘eye’ also called black- eyed beans. In parts of India they are also called lobia, chawli, karamani and alasande in the Konkan belt.

The origin of these beans is said to be in West Africa but spread globally due to perhaps the slave trade in colonial empires. It is an ideal crop for hot climates and sandy soils making it easier to be cultivated in many parts of India. In the state of Kerala a traditional dish called olan is prepared by these beans by cooking it along ash gourd and coconut milk. But it was surprising to hear that not many Goans wanted to buy nor many knew how to prepare them.

In most parts of India today the more in demand pluses include mung, urad, tur, masoor, kabuli channa, rajama so much so that they had to be imported by the government in April. Along with these the cheap yellow peas too were imported which nowadays is substituted for tur dal and ground to flour and used as a substitute for chickpea flour.

It is a pity to see that for our requirements we have ti import these pulses when India is self sufficient in producing these pulses for the consumption. The thing what is happening is that people highly depend on pulses for their proteins and especially in situations where meats were scarce or not available.

Also in places with scarcity of fresh green veggies the only rescuer is dal. The versatility of dal is immense and has made it so popular not only as a compliment to go with rice or chapatti but to be consumed in myriad other forms like gatte ki subzi, wherein dumplings of   dal flour are cooked in a gravy or like pancakes called chilla, as a snack either fried or dry roasted and even in sweets too like besan ke laddo, mysore paak, or simply it could be a one pot sumptuous meal called kitchri  in which the dal and rice are cooked together and requires very little spices and yet tastes awesome.

Even ration card holders were announced to be give a kilo of pulses along with wheat and rice for a period of three months. But a thing that was disliked was that there was a great delay in dispatching to states.

But this import of pulses has posed a real threat to farmers as with this import the interest of farmers will deviate from growing to pulses which requires skills, patience and a lot of labour to other crops which require less labour. Rather the farmers should be encouraged to grow more pulses and rely less on importing.

 

The problem can be tracked from the fact that the Green Revolution, focused mainly on grains like rice and wheat. Pulses which are also an integral part of Indian meals were simply ignored. As consumers it seems to have a set mind set for pulses as seen in the case of black-eyed beans in Goa.

Somewhere there is a resistance to change as we just tend to buy what we are use to or familiar with. All this makes quite a puzzled situation because different parts of India prefer different pulses. Like in Southern India urad and tur, in the West mung and tur, in East mung and channa, in Punjab rajma and urad, in North urad,channa, masoor and toor. But amidst all this is great to know that there are 30 different pulses and some 15 lesser known pulses but they are all grown in India.

Some ignored pulses include kulith or horse gram and is extremely nutritious, matki or moth beans are highly drought resistant and suited for semi arid regions, black chickpeas, and other varieties of broad beans commonly categorised under a general term ‘vaal’.

Apart from these dried pulses there is even a large variety of their green forms which can be plated as a vegetable, like the shelled peas or as pods like French beans, lobia beans, guwar and many more. These too are very nutritious and easily available in local green grocery stalls.

The benefits of these pulses are lost when imported in dried forms and even a bigger loss is there to the agriculture system as pulses and legumes provide a natural fertilizer to the soil by increasing its nitrogen content and therefore restoring the fertility of the soil. The fertility is restored at no added costs and provides food in the form of beans, pods, leaves and even the dried pulses.

Disregarding our locally grown pulses equals to not harvesting its benefits as a food and even for the agriculturalist. The lockdown is a reminder and also given us an opportunity to reconnect with our local harvests.

August 6, 2020

Future of restaurants post COVID

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 6:48 am

One is for sure horrified at the question, “Is there any positive hope from the COVID pandemic”? the obvious answer will be a big “No”, the virus which has killed so many people all over the world, brought in poverty and suffering beyond imagination cannot be a positive.

But if we wonder what considerable changes the food and beverage is awaiting once the situation is calmed, one can just forecast that there will be many people who will throng to restaurants and bars to enjoy the happiness that they were deprived off for so many months. Though still there will be a few who will remain overly cautious and still not visit at all. The big question is will people continue to go to bars and restaurants even after their initial desire to go to a restaurant is gratified? Or has there been a remarkable change in the attitude towards food not cooked at home?

When the situation got a bit relaxed, the vogue for home delivery is striving its way through as a cloud kitchen can make food of the same quality at a much lower cost.

The restaurateurs aren’t bothering to improvise the quality of their food. If we take into consideration two most popular dishes offered by almost all restaurants in India, one being Butter Chicken and the other one Chicken Manchurian, there maybe a few places where butter chicken is made good and there may be other places that make good Chicken Manchurian. But on an average the food is almost the same wherever one goes.

The bulk of business comes from mid-market sector and the cooks are quite good without tantrums. That way the expats hired by some upmarket restaurants may not be so good and risk a restaurateur too. It’s not like by virtue of being an Indian, all Indian cooks can make a good Rogan Josh, similarly nor does every Thai know how to make a good red curry.

Indians were fast realising that most restaurants do not pay heed to food, giving in an opportunity for fast food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC to successfully sell Indian flavoured fast food at a relatively low price.

Most of the households during the lock down days cooked their own food turning it into a great fun and did new experimentation too. Of course due to ample of time in hand then, but also ate their meals with the family and at much lower cost. Also there may be many families who tried to replicate many dishes after experimenting, which they otherwise may have had at a particular restaurant. Some may have even tried their hands on making some Western dishes too with successful results. One other reason is that nowadays we get better and wide variety of ingredients for cooking.

There will be still many whose thirst for eating out may not have been satiated and who ordered their meals from restaurants. People found that the food delivered were of good quality and much fresher. In midst of this even many housewives trying their traditional as well as western dishes and making it available to their neighbours and acquaintance at a price, helping them publicise their home cooked specialties.

It is for sure that the restaurant business will have to suffer a lot and will have to strive to hold their position. Restaurateurs will have to pull up their socks and look out for better business strategies to attract people customers before it gets too late.

Another important part of food and beverage sector is the alcoholic drinks and cocktails. Many boozie friends must have had a hearty home cooked food along with Indian wines and spirits without paying high prices at restaurants. It was seen that people have more adherence towards liquor, people stood in long queue to procure a bottle once the announcement was made for its sale. So one can gauge that once everything becomes normal, people will visit restaurants for cocktails and hard drinks, may also order for finger food but probably not a proper meal. Maybe the bartenders will be new celebrities, scoring much more than the chefs.

A note of it was taken by Diageo well in time. Diageo organises world class competitions, it announced that it would pay for insurance cover up for it’s over 300 bartenders. The bartenders who otherwise are not given their due respect were gratified at this gesture. From the view point of Diageo too, it makes sense the bar sector will thrive even as restaurants will try to survive the hard knock down of Covid and the post lock down scenario due to the pandemic.

One cannot make an innovative cocktail at home, nor can one find the atmosphere of a bar and neither can a cocktail be delivered at your door step. Though there is a phenomenon that most bars lose their aura within a year and the crowds hunts for a newer place to quench their thirst.

This seems to be a positive of COVID impact on food and beverage industry.

August 3, 2020

If it tastes good, feels good and looks good, just eat it!

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 5:34 am

In India controversies over food are few but still one finds people debating voraciously over a dish, more so when the dish happens to be a well known dish like Rajma Masala, a famous dish for the people from Punjab and other North Indian states.

Rajma ought to be made with kidney beans but if hard to procure, one may crab their hands on other varieties of beans like pinto, cannellini or even chickpeas. The usual recipe calls for fresh tomatoes and finished off with a dollop of cream, but one may even substitute with tinned tomatoes and instead of cooking on a stove top one may even put in oven to be baked till perfect. As a variation one may before placing it in the oven sprinkle a little grated cheese and a little cream and instead of serving with the usual rice and chapatti one may be innovative enough to serve with buttered toast or with flour tortillas. This is a modern take on rajma, which plays around the dish while preserving its essential flavour and character.

Well, food critics may find it awkward that the rajma be made with other varieties of beans, as well as scattering cheese on them and baking it. But then it’s a different style of redoing the dish without sacrificing its character.

It does not matter with cannellini beans, and there is nothing wrong to bake in the oven rather the sauce will mellow down and the sides caramelise giving it a more intense flavour. Similarly, instead of cream a little cheese is not a bad option too. But one is reminded that how Indians are defensive about their recipes and do not wish to have any alterations to it. Maybe this overprotective attitude has to an extent held Indian cooking in its original avatar.

For that matter, French cooking is a combination of old and contemporary techniques, but the chefs are encouraged to be creative and at the same time adventurous. A classic roast chicken is simple with a brown sauce but there is no wrong in trying to make the same with an addition of cheese. In India if one dares to alter the ingredients for tandoori chicken the chef will surely look at you with wrathful eyes.

Since Indian cooking is a collection of recipes, no diversions are appreciated and innovative chefs are treated with skepticism. The food thus prepared is often dubbed as ‘fusion’ or even ridiculed as ‘confusion’.

During a chefs’ conference, a chef who had gained name and fame in Australia, lectured his Indian colleagues, that the Indian food which he made was light. He demonstrated on ‘Rogan Josh’ by skimming all the fat from the gravy before serving the dish to health conscious Australians.

Manjit Gill, one of India’s top chefs stood up from the audience and said that probably the dish was surely delicious but cannot be called Rogan Josh? The Rogan or the fat that rises up from the gravy gives it the real flavour, and that if the Rogan is removed then simply it becomes a kind of a meat curry.

The chef felt a little humiliated and replied to Majit Gill that though he had grey hair did not mean that he knows everything. But actually Manjit was not wrong, one just cannot alter the major ingredients from a classic dish completely, like one cannot remove wine from Coq au Vin and call it Coq au Vin. But then chefs need to be encouraged to experiment on recipes taught to them at the Catering College.

Many of our famous dishes in Indian restaurant do not come from traditional recipes; they were created within the last 100 years or so. The tandoori chicken for example was invented in Peshawar in 1930 where a chef thought he could use the tandoor more than making just the breads. Similarly, butter chicken was invented in Delhi 1947 by Kundan Lal Gujral of the famous Moti Mahal restaurant to utilise the leftovers of tandoori chicken.

The butter chicken one gets in Delhi is very much different from the one created by Moti Mahal. Likewise, there was no recipe for Dal Makhani, no Punjabi ever put tomatoes in their dal it was as recent as 1950 when Moti Mahal started doing it and the same dal was altered and presented by a restaurant, Bukhara of the hotel ITC Maurya in Delhi in 1978

So when Indian chefs make fun calling ‘fusion’ as ‘confusion’ and talk about, going astray from traditional recipes, they are chasing a chimera. There is no traditional recipe for most great Indian cooking – well bacon kulchas were invented of Floyd Cardoz in New York in 1999. Lamb shank rogan josh, created by Vineet Bhatia in London in the 1990s.

If one goes back in time, there will hardly be any recipe that one could call authentically Indian. Every Punjabi regards Rajma masala as his birthright but does any old text mention about it?

The food historian K.T. Achaya notes that Rajma and likewise other beans like Pinto, Kidney beans came from South America. He is of the opinion that the French brought these beans to India and started using it in Cassoulet but pretended it to be a very old French ingredient and later the British plated these early varities of rajma beans in Punjab. As also the corn which is from South America, started to be cultivated in Punjab by the British and from there the famous Makki ki roti or flat bread made with corn meal came into being. How ancient and traditional can recipes for these dishes be? when the ingredients themselves were only introduced to India by colonialists?

A Punjabi grandmother may have a mouth watering recipe for rajma masala but maybe her own grandmother had never even seen a rajma bean. So which is the authentic rajma  masala recipe?  the one made at home or the one which is found in the dhabbas on Punjab highway with oodles of butter and ghee??

We should be inspired by the recipes, irrespective of who has made it and when. There is no one particular way of making rajma. There is no authoritative style for a South American bean brought by French, cultivated by British and cooked by Indian mothers in their home kitchens or the chefs in restaurants or the cooks at the humble roadside dhabas. If it tastes good, feels good and looks good, just eat it…

July 16, 2020

Food lessons from pandemic

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 9:26 am

Recently there was a news report about how farmers in Rajkot in Gujarat have been successful in growing an American variety of mango from Florida named Tommy Atkins. The mango variety has much less sugar than most of the mangoes and is in good demand among diabetics.

Mangoes are native to India and available during the summers. People long await the season as it brings the sweet and delicious mangoes just once a year. The Tommy Atkins variety is not much liked by the Indians settled abroad as they find it less sweet and poor in taste. The very idea that such a variety of mango being cultivated in India which is nowhere at par with the native Indian varieties of mangoes known for their delectable sweet tastes, did not go down well.

A low sugar mango may fit the lifestyle of people who may be following a low sugar diet due to various health issues or may be following a restricted dietary plan. These days it has become very common in parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra where people make a sustainable business with low sugar cakes and cookies for diabetics, low fat wafers and baked samosas as an alternative to deep fried goodies for heart patients, multi-grain breads and no gluten breads and pizzas made with tapioca flour for a gluten restricted meal.

This might be good business opportunity but in a faulty way as foods are compensated by removing some ingredients and increasing others – low sugar food may have a higher fat content and also the ingredients used for such foods maybe highly processed thus extracting the natural food value from the end product.

It is always better to have small quantities of quality food than going in for low fat and low sugar type foods. If we can manage our blood sugar levels then why should we go in for tasteless sour mangoes? The Tommy Atkins is of no good, but it counts to our distorted and disillusioned mindset that anything foreign is good. Craving for food often ends in eating junk food and the so called low sugar, sugar free and other fancy sounding foods than the humble home cooked meal.

Epidemics do bring in miseries for humans but at times their effect on food can be quite astonishing. In the bubonic plague at least one-third of Britain’s population was swept away, but in turn led to surplus of milk which the survivours utilised to make cheese and that slowly led to creating a bigger market for dairy products. Similarly quinine used for curing malaria was mixed in water along with sugar and thus tonic water came into being and accidently became a delicious sundowner.

The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and people locked down in their own houses, restaurants closed and limitations to international imports of food, resembles closely what the United Kingdom faced during the World War-II. At that time too there was limited accessibility to imported foods due to the besiegement by German ships; soon the domestic and military supplies diminished giving new and innovative ways of feeding masses.

The credit for which largely goes to Frederick James Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton, Lord Woolton who was the newly appointed food minister. Since he had emergency powers, he therefore thrusted rationing of food which led to a limited accessibility to food like meat, butter and sugar. He further promoted and propagated people to eat less but to eat healthier and locally procurable fruits and vegetables and encouraged them to grow more seasonal vegetables for consumption. Interestingly, a pie made with root vegetables like parsnips, potatoes, carrots in oatmeal with a pastry or potato crust served with brown gravy came to be called as ‘Woolton Pie’.

Woolton exercised the use of local substitutes like rosehips as they have high contents of vitamin C over citrus fruits imported from other countries. Frying was discouraged over steaming and baking so was sugar over seasonal fruits and honey.

As a result Britain at the end of the war was not only in a good physical shape but was never as healthier. Despite the doctors and medical staff stationed at battlefront and limited access to doctors and medical facilities, UK had never achieved such results pertaining to public health.

Today when we are in the similar situation, with restaurants closed or with limited accessibility, we realise the value of home cooked meal and are even getting an opportunity to try something new and discover the chef within ourselves. Without access to imported products which flood our markets such as the olive oil, found these days quite easily in even small grocery stores, we can fall back on what we have since ages liked to eat, sesame oil for example which has many more nutrients and benefits and whose history can be traced to the Indus Valley Civilization.

Our tables have diversity of imported foods, the daily cooking and the menu setting is further eased by restaurants. But when this crisis is over and life resumes to normalcy, let us take a lesson from it and value what we have and try and live in moderation. And with our own great varieties of mangoes like Alphonsos, Kesars, Dusheris, Banganapalles, Chausa, Langda  there can never be a need to go in for Tommy Atkins.

July 10, 2020

Quick Recipe of Bread

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 9:24 am

INGREDIENTS

3 cups whole wheat flour, preferably ground with its husk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp yeast (fresh or active)

2 cups water + a few tbsp more

METHOD

  1. Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre and add the fresh yeast or if using active or dry yeast then proof it in a separate bowl by adding luke warm water to the yeast, in a few minutes it should start to bubble up a little, then add it to the flour and use sufficient water to knead a dough. Whenever it starts becoming sticky again, wet your palm with a tablespoon of water and knead it. When it comes together into a ball and your fingers are clean of all stickiness, your dough is ready. Keep it in a large bowl greased with a little oil and cover with a plate and allow to proof for at least one and a half hours or until double in size.
  2. After it has doubled in size. Make a fist and knock it gently back into the bowl. Now shape it gently into a ball or an oblong depending on the shape of your bread pan. Grease the pan with butter and drop the dough in the pan. Put the bread pan in the cold oven for another round of rising and come back after 50 minutes.
  3. Take out the bread pan. Preheat to 250ºC for 10 minutes. Now lower the temperature to 220ºC, 30 minutes and bake.
  4. After 15 minutes, open the oven door and turn the bread around. After 15 more minutes, remove bread from pan and knock on its bottom. It should make a hollow sound; that means the bread is done. Let it cool for 4-5 hours before serving.

June 17, 2020

Cheesecakes & Its Indian Versions

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 7:56 am

It is difficult to believe how popular cheesecakes have become these days in India which can be seen even in small cake shops and cafes. But still one can see the fascination for pastries, icing laden cup cakes which are neatly kept in glass counters for display among other savories like potato puffs, sandwiches and many more, but still it’s hard to find a good cheesecake.

The very idea of making cake with cheese might raise the eyebrows of many, who might find it awkward that the cheese is put in cake!!  Since Indians have a preconceived idea that cheese is always salty, processed cheese accompanying a sandwich etc? Or the stretchy white mozzarella cheese on the pizzas, or in the vaguest of imagination some might also assume that a cheesecake is made with smelly Gorgonzola cheese. But rarely do we consider other varieties such as cream cheese, cottage cheese or our very own paneer as cheese.

In the opinion of a British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, who has worked immensely on origin and history associated with dishes, and researched on Britain’s oldest cook book called ‘The Forme of Cury’, which is a collection of medieval English recipes from 14th century authored by the chief master cooks of King Richard II, a dish called ‘Sambocade’ was the earliest of cheesecakes ever made. Sambocade, was made from drained goat cheese, sweetened with sugar, flavoured with elderflower baked in a pie shell.

Heston Blumenthal states, there are primarily two types of cheesecakes, baked and unbaked. A baked cheesecake is which consists majorly cream cheese, sugar, flavourings, cream and often eggs too and is baked till it’s still jiggly in the middle and often topped up with some frosting. While the second version, the unbaked cheesecake, is a bit more delicate but has a fresher taste. It is lighter and fluffier to hold on to and generally gelatin is the main contributor.

Today there are chefs who can make a decent baked cheesecake but the custard needs to be baked at the right temperature and for the right time, if over baked the texture and smoothness is lost and it becomes a dry lumpy mass. Many home chefs  too make wonderful refrigerated cheesecakes, without adding gelatin, but at times such cakes when done by pastry shops are quite disappointing as they tend to add too much of gelatin so that the cheesecake stays on for longer and does not melt.

Types of cheesecake and their character:

New York Cheesecake: a baked cheesecake, a bit heavy and dense as it consists of cream cheese whipped together with heavy or sour cream, eggs.

Chicago Cheesecake: could either be baked or unbaked with cream cheese, though more common are the unbaked version, it’s a bit firm on the outside but softer on the inside.

Italian Cheesecake: Made from ricotta, mascarpone and other real cheese (not cream cheese). The can be a bit dryer.

Japanese Cheesecake: Called soufflé cheesecake in Japan. Japanese like their desserts light and fluffier, even their pancakes are also very light and airy.

And India has its own Cheese Cakes

One thing about cheesecake which is quite interesting, that India too has its own version of cheesecake. Odisha, a state in Eastern coast of India; whose cuisine is quite underestimated or say under-popularised  as compared to other Indian states. The ‘mithaiwallas’ or shopkeepers who make various sweets and snacks, have from times immemorial used cheese in India. The ‘chena poda’ of Odisha was an experimental dish by a sweet shop owner in 12th century by the name of Sudarshana Sahoo in a town called Nayagarh. Sudarshana Sahoo added some ‘gur’ or jaggery to the leftover chena or cottage cheese very similar to ricotta, along with powdered cardamom and placed it on the drowsing embers of fire of his working place and left for home for the day. The next morning to his surprise he saw a very nicely baked chena, aromatic and flavourful, thus a new sweet called ‘chena ponda’ was born. Locally in Odisha, chena ponda has acquired a very important place in the holy offering made to the Jagarnath Puri Temple. Though there have been many claims that the ancient Greeks were the ones to introduce the cheesecake, but the chena ponda of Odisha is truly Indias own version of cheesecake.

India has had a long association with ‘chena’ (curd), with the nomads who domesticated cattle for milk and the need to preserve milk later developed into an art of making curd through the process of fermentation by adding curd culture. Over a period of time, skills developed further and there was introduction of whey separated curd like ‘chena’ and ‘paneer’ (cottage cheese), which were made by purposely adding food acids like fermented curd whey or lemon juice to hot milk, further straining the curds from the whey. This strained out curds from the whey was further used in preparation of several dishes as it was a rich source of protein and over a number of years this chena thus produced from this process came to be used for making several dishes.

The region of Eastern India, especially Odisha and West Bengal can aptly be called the chena capital of India due to the varieties of dishes made from it. In these regions chena is not only used as a vegetarian option for food but also is a very important ingredient for a number of desserts. A few examples are:-

Chena Gaja: the chhena gaja remains largely popular within the state of Odisha. It’s a fried nugget made with chena and dipped in syrup.

Khira Sagara: an Odisha sweet which literally translates to ocean of milk, wherein small, marble-sized balls of chena are boiled in thickened sweet and flavoured milk. In Bengal similar sweet is known as Rasmalai

Rasabali: famed in Odisha it’s a chena doughnut, fried and dipped in milk and sugar syrup.

Chena Kheeri: thickened sweet milk and crumbled chena with a dash of cardamom.

Sondesh:  a very widely popular sweet of Bengal where the chena is introduced in sweetened milk and further reduces to be dry, shaped like a flattened patty.

Chom-chom: is yet another Bengali sweet wherein chena balls are flattened put in sugar syrup till the syrup is well absorbed and then it is layered with milk cream, or rolled in dry coconut powder.

Rasagullla: chena dumplings cooked in sugar syrup and often flavoured with rosewater. Similar to the rasagulla is Rajbhog too, a kind of variation of rasagulla eaten by the royalty. It’s a bigger in size chena dumpling stuffed with chopped nuts, cardamom and cooked in saffron infused sugar syrup.

Mishti Doi: is a thickened Greek-style yogurt, sweetened with palm jaggery, filled in terracotta dishes and steamed. The palm jaggery imparts a very beautiful caramel colour as well as a very distinct flavor to it.

June 12, 2020

Food on trees rescuing in Pandemic

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 5:46 am

With the ongoing current pandemic of Covid-19 and the subsequent lock downs throughout India, one of the smallest states of India, Goa situated in Western India along the Arabian Sea cost seemed to be adversely affected by the lockdown. Goa which primarily is a hot tourist destination for both Indians as well as tourists from overseas largely depends on its food supplies of staples from its neighbouring states. With all state and international borders sealed, supply of fresh green vegetables dwindled and so was there a scarcity of food grains, fish and meat. But to the rescue came the jackfruit, which was like food sent from heaven.

Goa anyhow has a long association with the Jackfruit which in the local language they call, ‘Ponos’. Indigenous and underappreciated jackfruit tree is celebrated in Goa during the Ponsachem fest, or Jackfruit festival, with people paying tribute to it by wearing costumes inspired by the tree, and eating and drinking the fruit in myriad forms. Several groups in Goa currently market jackfruit preserves like standardised juice, pulp, squash, pickles, jam, chips, and fruit leather or ‘saath’ under the brand name of ‘Kathal de Goa’ – in the North India, the jackfruit is known as ‘kathal’. Jackfruits in India are consumed both raw as well as when it is ripened and acquires honey like sweetness and a banana like flavour.

‘Xacuti’ (pronounced as Sha-kuti) is a Goan curry, with complex spicing, including white poppy seeds, sliced or grated coconut and large dried red chilies and is a relished vegetarian curry from Goa.

But other regions in India also make good use of this much neglected fruit. From the region of Bengal ‘Enchorer Dalna’- raw jackfruit curry cooked with potatoes in mustard oil is famed, ‘Chakka Erissery’ from the southern state of Kerala wherein the jackfruit is cooked like a curry along with roasted coconut and spices.

‘Kathal Biryani’ (Jackfruit Biryani) holds a very special place in the minds of the people of Lucknow. Lucknow whose culinary art is boasted about and specialty chefs engaged by the connoisseur Nawabs of Awadh. Though Biryani in parlance is meat cooked with aromatic spices and rice. But in Lucknow an innovative version of the Biryani was introduced for the vegetarian masses. As the jackfruit is quite a fibrous fruit, when in raw stage it is selected, cut into appropriate chunks, marinated and cooked in with rice like a Biryani. Yet another famous dish is Kathal ki Macchli to satiate the vegetarian palate raw jackfruit is sliced and after application of spices it is fried in oil and truly feels like biting into a fish fillet!

Tracing Jackfruit’s history in India’s culinary history, a collection of at least fifteen jackfruit recipes have been documented in book called ‘Soopa Shastraa’ during the Jain rule in the southern state of Karnataka in the late 15th century. Yet another later day collection,’ Nimatnama’ (cook book) of the Sultans of Mandu also has jackfruit recipes, using more of ripe form rather than raw jackfruit. Today green jackfruit has even become popular abroad as a vegan meat substitute but the practice actually started in India. Probably the fiber-rich texture, non-interfering taste and cuts could be one of the reasons why often jackfruit is considered a non-vegetarian delight for the vegetarians.

One might get confuse jackfruit with breadfruit, which grows along the Western coast of India. Breadfruit appears quite like a jackfruit but is much smaller in size though has a similar bumpy green skin. The breadfruit is believed to be introduced in India during the colonial era. When baked the fruit appears like bread and has a soft cream like texture.

‘Saijan’ is another tree that produces edible flowers which are cooked as a sour tasting vegetable mostly relished in the state of Punjab and these flowers are also mixed raw with yogurt with a bit of seasoning to make delectable ‘raita’. The most sought after from this tree are the drumstick pods which grow quite easily without much effort and are a great source of vitamins and minerals and keep the bones strong. Drumstick curries from different regions of India are amazing so are the soups made from these, which help in eliminating weakness, fatigue and boost immunity. The drumsticks are the essential part of the South Indian Sambhar curry and are chewed to extract all its good immunity boosting qualities.

In general, when one thinks of trees in terms of food, it is fruits or nuts, but jackfruit, breadfruit and drumsticks are a reminder that they have vegetable value too. Most vegetables are grown annually and have to be planted again and again in every season and then nurtured to get the vegetables, but these tress only need to be planted and tended in their initial stages when growing, and after they have grown, they are good to go for several years without any special care. Apart from having food value they prevent soil erosion, give shade to other beings like birds and insects and also provide timber.

Likewise there are several trees in India which need to be given attention to; one such is called ‘Gunda’ or ‘Lasoda’, the name comes probably because it has a sticky texture like gum or glue. The English name for it is ‘Gum-Berries’ which are useful for making pickles and curries.

Another tree is Mahuwa – Mahuwa tree is mostly found in Central and Eastern parts of India and produces very aromatic flowers, the flowers are collected by many local tribes to ferment and further distilled to make county liquor. Fresh flowers which fall off the tree are collected and squeezed and the nectar thus collected is used in making sweet dishes as a natural sweetener. The flowers after drying and crushing are used as flour for making breads and after the flowering season it produces fruits which are collected and a dry vegetable preparation is made out of these. The oil from the seeds is edible too and is like a butter often used by local tribes, who dwell in forests and mainly depend on Mahuwa trees for many of their food needs.

Goolar or cluster figs are another example of food tree. These days nobody eats goolar except for birds. But these nutrition filled sweet fruits are unmindfully trodden down. When in its unripe state they could be used for several vegetable preparations, pickles even a patty like preparation along with lentils called ‘Goolar ke Kebab’ were relished at one time. After they ripen they too get sweet but the only drawback is that the fruit is infested with tiny insects which need to be gotten rid off before consumption.

‘Chaya’ or tree-spinach is a fat growing shrub, said to have its origin in Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. The leaves have stinging hair which are not edible raw as it releases cyanides. These are thus consumed after they are cooked well. The vegetable humming bird tree called ‘Agastaya’ has edible leaves too which are edible and have even been used for therapeutic purposes.

Well the good thing is that there are many zealous individuals, now growing and promoting traditional sustainable foods. One needs to bear in mind that the leaves that grow on trees may not always be edible; they may at times have high cellulose content which is unfit for human digestion system or contain poisonous substances or may have insects or larva clinging to them.

Planting trees is always a good idea; the returns are far more than the efforts put in planting them especially with the Covid-19 lock down, many people are now encouraged to have kitchen gardens, terrace gardens and vertical gardens, not just for now but in a world where such pandemics can extend for months or any such eventuality that may require us to be self-reliant and not at all a bad idea. The fruits from one’s own gardens are the sweetest, even if they aren’t.  Let not this enthusiasm of planting food producing plants and trees decline even when food supplies are in abundance.

June 7, 2020

Gujiya – a sweet beyond Holi festival

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 11:30 am

‘Gujiya’ is a crescent shaped sweet with a thin pastry outside and soft ‘khoya’ (milk-fudge) mixture often lavishly sprinkled with nuts stuffed inside. The pastry is folded and edges crimped to seal the mixture inside and finally deep fried in hot ghee till golden.

Here in Orcha the Gujiya holds pride among delicacies like ‘Kalakand’, ‘Malai Laddoo’ and Chironjee sprinkled ‘Rabdi’.  The gujiya could either be dipped in sugar syrup or just served crusty as they come out of large ‘kadhai’ (deep fry pan) after fried in ghee. Other could be a gluten free Khoya Gujiya, where in the soft luscious textured khoya or reduced milk solid is just shaped like a crescent to resemble the traditional gujiya which otherwise has a refined flour pastry over the Khoya mixture.

Other variations are where the khoya is braised along with sugar, nuts and spices till it has acquired a nice brown colour and filled in the wheat pastry ready to be fried and served.

Well these sites of smell, taste and variety are not concise to one place but in a diverse land like India it can be experienced in every nook and corner.

Though many half baked chefs do experiment with traditional gujiya by way of chocolate gujiya, fruit filled and for the health conscious –  baked gujiya, but nothing can ever taste better than our irresistible khoya filled gujiyas deep fried in ghee!

The same dumpling takes on different names, forms and flavours as it travels from one region to another. For the festival of Holi, apart from khoya, sugar and the nuts, the gujiya mix may have some “Bhaang” (hemp – crushed marijuana leaves). In the region of the Indian state of Bihar ‘Pedakiya’ is made which consists of semolina and coconut filling, similarly in Maharashtra it gets a much of a flaky version and filled with ‘Khus-khus’ (Poppy seeds), coconut and nuts, which is similar to Goa’s ‘Nevri’.

Rajasthan makes ‘Chandrakala’, meaning moon light, here the shape from a crescent changes to a full moon shape with similar gujiya filling of khoya, nuts and the enchanting flavours of crushed cardamom seeds and the knotted edges.

In Vrindavan, both the regular Gujiyas and Chandrakala are an essential part of the Chappan Bhog. Chappan Bhog literally means fifty six ritual food offering to Lord Krishna including milk and dairy like yogurt, ghee, butter, cereals, lentils, vegetable preparations, papadums, chutneys and preserves, honey, fruits, sweets and mouth fresheners like paan and cardamom. This tradition of Chappan Bhog has its long existence especially at the Radha Raman Temple dating back to mid sixteenth Century where every single day an offering to Lord Krishna is made by his devotees and has virtually remained unchanged for almost five centuries now.

‘Ghotab’, crescent shaped, rose-scented, almond and walnut filled pastry, dusted with powdered sugar similar to Gujiya is a must for the Navroze festivity. Well did this influence our Gujiya??

Interestingly, ‘Kipferl’, Viennese specialty- dough filled with nuts supposed to be the predecessor of croissant was created to mark the victory of Europeans during the Ottoman crusade.

Similar to Gujiya is its savoury cousin ‘Samosa’, finding its place in India with the coming of Central Asian traders. The ‘Sambosa’ of Central Asia is filled with mince meat and with its name change from Sambosa to Samosa so did the filling changed from mincemeat to spicy potato.

In the early 16th century, a hand held meat and vegetable pie was introduced for the tin miners in the region of Cornwall, called the Cornish Pastry. Circular cut pastry filled with potatoes, turnips, onions and meat folded like a crescent with rope like edges had an additional virtue, miners’ hands were often covered with arsenic-laden dust, so the crust functioned like a disposable handle.

Whether the gujiya originated in Bundelkhand the regions of Uttar Pradesh & Madhya Pradesh or the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh it is for sure that the khoya has been the choice for gujiya. A good gujiya can just not be judged by its filling but by the pastry shell, the crispiness is as important as its finished look with its edges neatly crimped.

August 31, 2019

Tadka – key to delicious Indian cooking

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 10:06 am

What’s one thing which can turn even a simple dish into a drool-worthy treat? It is certainly the mix of spices you infuse into it. It is the balance of spices in any dish which make it delectable or displeasing.

So, whether you prefer things hot and spicy, bold and flavourful, or just mild, cooking just wouldn’t be the same without spice. Thus, what makes a pantry well-maintained – it the variety of spices, spice blends, and aromatics like garlic, ginger, and onion it can store.

However, to even unlock the full flavor potential of these spices, Indians have devised a key known as “tadka” – an Indian cooking technique existing for hundreds of years now and is used to enhance the taste of any Indian dish.

Tadka makes Indian dishes all the more rich and aromatic.  This technique guarantees a never like before taste,  that not only will you taste spices in a way that you’ve never tasted them before, you will want to apply this technique to every dish you make.

What is Tadka?

In English, tadka is known as “tempering.” Tadka is used to improve the zing of the spices in the dish. In this technique, the whole or ground spices are first briefly roasted in cooking oil or ghee (clarified butter) – this helps release the essential oils, hence adding more aroma to the flavors. The technique is quite popular across India and is also called as ‘Chaunk’, ‘Tarka’, or ‘Baghar’.  After roasting the whole spices, they are infused into the dish along with the oil in which they were roasted and this is called Tadka.

Most commonly, it is added to the dishes like dal (Indian lentil soup) and sambhar (lentil stew with tamarind), though the Tadka technique may also be used to make curry. The Tadka is added to the dish either at the beginning of making the dish or to give a finishing touch.

After roasting the ingredients, the tadka is added to the dish. It is a common addition to dal (Indian lentil soup) and sambar (lentil stew with tamarind broth), though the tadka technique may also be used to make curry. Adding tadka to a dish is done either at the beginning of a dish or as a finishing touch.

How to make a tadka?

Traditionally, the ingredients that go in a tadka are fried in ghee or clarified butter, but instead of it, oil can be used. When preparing tadka, the type of oil you choose plays an important role. The spices you use need to be cooked at a high temperature so that their essential oils are released properly.  So, for this one needs to use oil that can stand high temperatures. Hence, olive oil is not recommended for tadka, as it burns at high temperatures, instead, one can use expeller-pressed coconut oil when preparing tadka.

Tadka can be prepared in more than one way or utensils – in a skillet, in the pot, or in pressure cookers

Tadka can be prepared in any container that one uses to prepare a dish, including pressure cookers and slow cookers (but only if the tadka is the first thing to add to the dish), or in a special pan used to make tadka. It is a small, deep, ladle- like pan, in order to avoid whole spices from jumping out of the pan as they are cooked.

The base of tadka is more or less the same however its contents may vary from region to region.

At first, one needs to add a few tablespoons of oil to the vessel one is using and let it heat a bit then adding to the oil  a little of mustard seeds and cumin. These seeds are allowed to sizzle for a few minutes taking care not to burn the spices. This makes a basic tadka.

Now one can also add a few more ingredients like curry leaves, fresh chilies, garlic, onion, or powdered spices, which makes the basic tadka even more aromatic.

Tadka can be used before or after depending upon the dish you are cooking. Usually, Tadka is used for giving a finishing touch in dals (Indian lentils), and this Tadka composes cumin, onions, garlic, and few other powdered spices.

When one adds tadka to a dish depends on what is being made. Tadka is commonly used as the finishing touch in dals, such as this Onion Tomato Dal, which has a tadka made from cumin and curry leaves, onion, garlic, tomato, and powdered spices.

Tadka may also be added to any vegetable curry. For instance, in the Mixed Veg Curry – garlic, onion, asafetida, and cumin seeds go into Tadka to add a zing.

‘Tadka’ recipes:

A 20-minute nutritious and flavorful recipe to spice up your dinner table – Onion Tomato Dal. This dal is prepared from softened pigeon peas, sautéed onion and tomato, mixed with a warm mixture of spices.

This dal can be served as a soup, or as a side with rice, or with any flatbread, such as roti, chapati, or naan.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pigeon peas

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

4 curry leaves

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1-inch piece ginger finely chopped

3 green chilies, slit

1 big tomato, chopped

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

A pinch of asafoetida (hing) or can use onion powder

1 teaspoon lemon juice

5 strands of coriander leaves chopped

Salt, to taste

Steps:

In a pressure cooker, take washed pigeon peas and add some water to give it a nice boil. Close the lid to pressure cook it for about 8 minutes, or for 2 whistles. Make sure that the water is at least 1/2-inch above level of the dal.

Once the cooker is cooled down, remove the lid and whisk the cooked pigeon peas until it is blended into a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, heat oil in the pan. Add cumin seeds and when they start to splutter, add the curry leaves and sauté for few seconds.

Add the onion, garlic, green chilis, and ginger and sauté until onion becomes translucent.

Add the chopped tomato, salt, turmeric powder, and asafoetida to the cooked pigeon peas and bring it to a nice. boil, or until the tomatoes become soft. Adjust the water for desired consistency.

Add the sauted ingredients and coriander leaves and mix well.

The onion-tomato dal is now ready. Serve hot.

Why traditional Indian mud chulha is as good as it is forgotten

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 6:49 am

In today’s fast paced lives, not just a gas stove, a microwave and oven have become a necessity for living. However, if we look back just two-threecdecades ago, it was a homemade stove or clay chulha (stove) or mud Chulha that was used for cooking almost everything and is still a tradition in many regions of rural India. Although a clay chulha was not technically enabled and required you to flame it by blowing air continuously through a pipe but the food cooked on it was much tastier and healthier.

With the change in time, the humble chulha got replaced with the fancy and one-touch cooking range that is supported with chimney and keeps the home smoke free. If you think that the change is a move because of the harmful effects of chulha, you need to read this piece of information which talks about the bright side of the ‘Indian Chulha’.

 

Enhances the flavour

The traditional way of cooking on mud chulha which involves the use of earthen pots works wonders when comes to naturally enhancing the flavours of the dish. As per the food experts, the food cooked in earthen pot on mud chulha is rich in nutrients as it helps retain the moisture and the aroma of the cooked food.

 

Keeps the nutrients intact

The flame on gas stoves is harsh and may rob of certain nutrients in the food while cooking on it, however the flame on a clay chulha is not too harsh and so the cooked food doesn’t lose its natural moisture and nutritional value. The clay stove uses slow cooking process so it keeps the minerals in the food intact.

 

Smokey touch!

What makes the food cooked in this traditional chulha lip-smacking? If you have ever had the chance to eat food made in the mud chulha, it has a smoky flavour due to the use of cow dung cakes, which ultimately enhances the overall food experience, if experts are to be believed, there are villages in India, where people still prefer food made on mud chulha as it is more flavorsome.

 

Cleanses the space

While the new-age people find it a polluting agent, it is believed that the use of mud chulha in the open courtyard for cooking along with cow dung cake helps purify the house and air. It also keeps the house free from mosquitoes and insects.

 

Spiritual connect

During the 4-day holy festival of Chhat Puja, in the Indian state of Bihar,  the first day begins with cooking rice and bottle gourd on clay chulha. It is believed that when food is cooked on a chulha, a Sattva-predominant environment is created in the area. It takes away the negative energies of the house and welcomes the deities with all positivity. Therefore, any individual who enters there gets the benefit of that environment.

July 2, 2019

Mughlai cuisine: as elusive as it’s sumptuous

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 11:30 am

Despite being so widespread, Mughlai food suffers from an image problem. The mere mention of it conjures up images of robust gravies, heavy meats and over-spiced dishes. Much of this bad press is due to the inexpert preparations sold in restaurants in India and abroad where a mishmash of Punjabi dishes, generic curries dubbed as qorma, potatoes and paneer overwhelmed with cashew or almond paste, Anglo-Indian dishes such as jalfrezi and dodgy biryanis are bunged into this large and unwieldy category.

When you go to Muslim homes in northern India or other parts of the country influenced by this medieval courtly culture, you realise how corrupted most commercial cuisine is. However, a full understanding of the sophistication of Mughalai cuisine is still elusive.

That may change an iconic manuscript with handwritten recipes from the time of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, kept in the British Library in London, has been translated from the original Persian into English by scholar Salma Husain and published Roli Books. This translation is significant because Nuskha-e-Shahjahani (literally, Shah Jahan’s recipes) is one of the few sources of detailed recipes from the time of the Mughals.

“While working in the National Archives, I came across Persian manuscripts on many subjects but not on food. I was inquisitive whether there were any records of the recipes, which could be shared with future generations. So I began to search in various libraries and museums all over the world,” says Husain. Finally, she found two manuscripts with recipes. The Alwan-e-Nemat was in the National Museum in New Delhi while the Nuskha-e-Shahjahani was in the British Library. Roli’s publisher, Pramod Kapoor, was able to access it and enable the translation. The Mughal Feast, as the English version is called, is pitched as a “transcreation” of Nuskha-e-Shahjahani. This is because while the recipes are direct translations, medieval measures have been replaced with modern equivalents.

The Mughal Feast contains detailed sections each on naan (the generic word for breads), aash (soups with meats, pulses, bulgur, noodles and yoghurt — a class of dishes that have mostly disappeared from our tables), qaliya (meat in refined and sophisticated gravy), do piyazah (meat, chicken, fish or vegetables stewed with onions and spices), bharta (mashed dishes, including ancestors of baigan ka bharta), pulao (rice cooked with spices and meat), zeer biryan (a prototype of the biryani, where cooked meat is layered with parboiled rice, and then steamed on indirect heat in what is essentially an oven), kabab, harisa (the origin of haleem), shisranga (which seems to have been a class of minced or mashed dishes topped with egg and slow-cooked), samosa  and shirini (sweet dishes).

Even reading these categories makes you realize the importance of the recipe collection. First, it documents categories of foods that have vanished. Flavour combinations of sweet and salt — the use of fruits while cooking meats (like the unique recipe for amba pulao — tangy mango and lamb pulao) are no longer “in” even though they are so unique and interesting gastronomically. More importantly, these recipes give a perspective on how “evolution”, though inevitable, is not necessarily progress in a positive sense. The sophistication of many dishes from Shah Jahan’s time is far more than anything you come across in modern Indian kitchens.     Qaliya ghoora, described as a tempered lamb curry flavoured with spices. Qaliya/qorma are sophisticated Mughal stews and many traditional Muslim or Kayastha homes still cook these. Many Indian homes, and certainly most restaurants, however, make generic mutton curry, which take the idea from the Mughal dishes but seem to have been passed down into common use via the British Raj, when curry gained currency and the long cooking processes of the qaliya/qorma seemed to have been abridged.

The Nuskha-e-Shahjahani’s recipe is a revelation. Onions, ginger, coriander seeds and cinnamon are used as a base flavour while stewing meat. A yakhni or stock is made and strained. This is then discreetly flavoured with a clove. The scented, clear stock and meat are added back together and then almond paste, rice paste (as a thickener) and cream are added to the gravy, with a final layer of seasoning by way of black pepper (chillies had come in by Shah Jahan’s time but may not have been popular as yet) and green cardamom (as an aromatic). The way in which spicing is done at three different intervals and cooking broken up into three distinct stages is a far cry from the bung it all in recipes of today for curry calling itself qorma. Sometimes, one needs to look at history to see things clearly.

June 30, 2019

Bengali cuisine: a diverse culinary art

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 11:04 am

Bengali food came from both West Bengal and East Bengal, widely known as Bangladesh after India’s partition during the British reigns. Bengali cuisine is renowned for its varied flavour, from snacks, primary course and sweets to foodies.

The beauty of Bengali cuisine resists in its tangy taste of various spices that are used in the making, consisting of mustard, coconut, poppy seed, cumin, coriander, chillies, turmeric, fenugreek, fennel, ginger, garlic, curd, tamarind, onion and many such spices that blend the respected recipes into a mouth-watering Bengali cuisine. Fish plays the leading role in the list.

Fish cuisines have developed from Bangladesh especially the Ganga river fish, hilsa fish being the king of all the fishes adding their flavor in the Bengali household’s kitchen. Besides fish, mutton is another unique cuisine renowned among Bengali cuisine that individuals prefer mostly. Mostly fish are prepared using mustard paste, poppy seed paste and coconut paste that develops meals such as chingri macher malaikari (dressed with mustard paste), elish bhapa (hilsa with mustard paste), doi chingri (dressed with curd) and many more

Kosha mangso is one of the ravishing non-veg dishes. It is made of mutton by adding several spices is one of the most favourite Bengali dish. ‘Machhe Bhatey Bangal’ is the term used for Bengalis owing to their incessant fondness of fish and rice.  

During any special occasion in Bengal such as Durga Puja, Poila boisakh, Kali Puja, Saraswati Pujo and others, it is the rice dishes like khichdi and basanti pulao that are served as special delicacies . The preparation of rice is made to give as a Prasad to the god and the goddesses during a festival as an offering called bhog in Bengali. In the bhog, basanti pulao or khichdi is served with various types of vegetable fries such as alu bhaja (potato fry), begun bhaja (brinjal fry), kumro bhaja (pumpkin fry) and bhendi bhaja (ladiesfinger fry). The vegetable fries are fried in mustard oil which adds a distinct flavour and taste along with salt and turmeric to it.

To give the food its real taste and enhance the flavour most of the Bengali food is prepared in mustard oil. Fulko Luchi (poori) and Alu Dum is a popular cuisine prepared by the Bengalis in their family during the Sunday breakfast and even in the presence of guests. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes that are popular in Bengal cuisine like potol er dorma, alu posto, fulkopir kalia, sukto, sag bhaja, dhokar dalna, channar kopta and so on. Fillings of mustard paste, coconut, paneer are popular items that are used to fill in vegetables to create several kitchens out of it to serve the Bengalis as a starter.

Filling fish like mustard prawn and coconut in vegetables becomes a mouth watering Bengali cuisine when cooked in the mustard oil and served. Several cuisines are produced of common Bengali cuisine, such as mugger dal, aror dal, cholar dal and musur dal, which is cooked by the Bengalis. The eggs of the fish are also used in the preparation of the Bengali dishes which taste marvelous when several spices such as ginger, garlic, green chilies, mustard paste and coconut are added and made in the mustard oil.

Fillings of fish like prawn with mustard and coconut in vegetables cooked in the mustard oil and served makes a mouth watering Bengali dish. Several cuisines are produced of common Bengali cuisine, such as mugger dal, aror dal, cholar dal and musur dal, which is cooked by the Bengals. Fish eggs are also used in the preparing of Bengali dishes that taste wonderful when added and made in the mustard oil are several spices such as ginger, garlic, green chilies, mustard paste and coconut.

A Bengali dinner follows a multi-course tradition in which food is generally served in a particular format, marking it as the subcontinent’s only meal to have developed such a convention. It is quite similar to French cuisine’s current service à la russe style. Besides vegetables, fish and meat sweet is a popular favorite among Bengalis which adds after every dinner as a cherry to the cake for the Bengalis.

Following their main course, traditional sweets such as sandesh and rosogolla are usually consumed by the Bengalis. Besides that, the Bengalis are also preparing misti doi, chatni, and payesh in their family, which are consumed as dessert. Sweets are mostly produced of sugar and milk, but unique sweets made of jaggery or gur are accessible during the winter.

Sweets such as nolen gurer sondesh and rosogolla are only accessible in winter owing to sugar cane cultivation and the sugar cane mixture is jagerry or gur with which the sweets are made. Other sweets like rabri, rosmalai, kacha golla, khir kodom and langcha are discovered as renowned Bengal sweets along with the traditional sweets. Bengali food tradition continues with its lovely, world-famous aroma and taste.

May 31, 2019

Indian Thalis: discover heaven on platter!

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 8:55 am

As soul is to body, the food is to India. The food platter of India is so vast and diverse, that you will never get enough of it. Infused with varied spices – all ready to caress your senses and surprise you with its distinct aromas. And the most amazing way to discover the essence of Indian food is to explore the myriad Indian thalis.

Thalis are actually a creative setting which brings together a variety of food items belonging to a particular region, in one platter. As you wander here from state to state, you will be drawn by the aroma of their special delicacies. For instance, if you travel to Lucknow, you won’t be able to resist the sumptuous Awadhi Biryani or kebabs, similarly travelling to the south will make you drool over the requisite idli & dosa.

So let’s explore the Indian Thalis, each of them being unique in its composition & tastes.

Punjabi Thali

Just like the Punjabis’ aura, their food is equally vibrant and zesty. The Punjabi Thali contains the true essence of Punjab – happiness and energy. Zooming into a Punjabi Thali, you will come across the real taste of this land with lots of ghee (clarified butter) and freshly homemade butter infused in most of its contents. Most of the dishes have a good amount of dairy content. The Thali comprises Aloo Paratha,(wheat flour bread stuffed with spiced mashed potato, roasted on a skillet and basted with ghee), Aloo Kulcha(a potato stuffed naan) Punjabi chhole(tangy chick-pea curry), Dal Makhani(a creamy, rich and flavourful black lentils laden with butter), Rajma,(kidney-beans in a tomato based sauce) Butter Chicken (traditionally made with left over barbecued chicken in a rich tomato based sauce cooked and laced with lots of butter) and of course Makke Di Roti & Sarso Da Sagh (a seasonal dish made after harvest of mustard. Where mustard leaves are cooked with spices in butter and served with roti made with a coarsely ground corn) and a glass of sweet lassi to enhance the overall experience of Punjabi food and Moong Dal Halwa(a halwa made with split green gram by roasting in ghee and sweetened with sugar).

Gujrati Thali

This Thali is prominently vegetarian, with a unique kind of sweetness in all food items. The Thali consists of rice, rotli (whole whear bread), and different varieties of vegetable either dry or in a curry called ‘Shaak’. There are also  variety of snack to jazz up the thali like, thepla,(a flavourful roti made by adding fenugreek leaves, very thinly rolled and roasted on a skillet with oil basted on it), puri (deep fried bread), bhakhri (a coarse grained flat bread), khakhra (a stiff and crispy cracker), dal-dhokli (tangy lentils with strips of wheat dough), chevdoh (spicy and tangy snack mixture of fried lentils nuts), dhokla (steamed, spongy chickpea snack), undhiyu (seasonal mix vegetables, stuffed in terracotta water pot and cooked on a very slow fire),  bhusu (a snack mixture), fafda (chickpea ribbons.A Gujarati thali shall treat a palate to many a flavours in an instant. Shrikhand (Greek styled yogurt sweetened and flavoured with a couple of fragrants like saffron, cardamom ), basundi (a sweet condensed milk with pistachio nuts, almond flakes and saffron) are few sweet dishes which often are a part of Gujarati thali.

Already your taste buds tingling with craving? There’s more in store.

Rajasthani Thali

This one royal thali gives you taste of the food of Indian Maharajas (kings). Rajasthani thalis embody a true Indian dining experience, from daal-baati churma (wood fire baked dough served with lentils, churma is a sweet made by crumbling the baati and sweetened with sugar) to safed maas (goat meat cooked in a white gravy) to bajre ka rotla(millet bread) to lehsun ki chutney (garlic sauce),gatte ki sabzi(lentil dumplings in a gravy), laal maas (goat meat cooked in a red chillli gravy). One may also find stellar dishes such as Jodhpur’s mawa kachori, (pastry filled with milk fudge and dipped in sugar syrup) malpuas (pancakes dipped in syrup). Rajasthan’s delicious treats from every nook and cranny come together on the plate for a lifetime food experience.

The most popular and widely served are Moong and panchmela dal. Panchmela dal has a unique five-lentil blend. Beans come together to create the fantastic panchmela sabzi with cucumber and bell peppers. One will not fail to spot bundles in a typical Rajasthani platter.

Assamese Thali

A traditional Assamese Thali is a burst of fresh herbal flavors. In an Assamese Thali, the rice is served along with the popular tenga masor (fish in a sour gravy) and khar, a vegetable preparation made from dried banana skin and a meat dish, usually either ash-gourd chicken curry or duck curry. As a side taste enhancer, Kharoli is offered, which is a paste of mustard seeds rolled into small balls and chutney. Typical Assamese aloo pitika is made of boiled egg and mustard oil. The sumptuous meal finish with Assamese payokh (rice pudding).

Maharashtrian Thali

Maharashtrians are known for their spicy food – so watch what you’re asking for. Chicken and fish are the common non-veg food items that you will spot here. In Pickles, they have a great variety. The thali will have some rice at one corner with daal in a bowl, and chappati at the other corner. There are a number of green leafy vegetables, called bhaji such as batatyachi bhaji (potatoes cooked with spices), vaangyache bharit (eggplant mash), matkichi bhaji (vegetables slow cooked in a clay pot), sabudaana vada (deep fried sago doughnuts), a refreshing mattha (buttermilk) glass, kanda poha (cooked flattened rice),  and the irresistible pav bhaji (a mix vegetable mash served with buns) and many more Not to forget the varan bhaath (lentils and rice) that is the thali’s king.

Haryanvi Thali

Loaded with simple delicacies and heaps of homemade desi ghee or white butter, this thali offers an earthy, rustic experience. The Haryanvi thali comprises of local staples such as Khichdi (rice and lentils coked together), Kachri ki Sabji (pumpkin preparation), Hara Dhania Cholia (green chickpea), Besan Masala Roti(chickpea flour bread ) or Bajra Aloo ki Roti (bread made with millets and potato)along with desserts like Meethe Chawal (sweet rice), Alsi ki Pinni (a sweet fudge made with flaxseeds), or Bhura Ghee Roti.(wheat chapatti smeared with ghee and sprinkled with jaggery powder) It is often accompanied with a tall glass of homemade lassi (whisked thick yogurt) to wash down the grand meal.

Goan Thali

Goans are known for their kodi nustea (fish curry rice) sheet that will blow your mind with its mix of spices and rice. Boiled rice, kismur (freshly grated coconut salad and pan-fried dry prawns), kodi (fish curry), prawn caldin (mild curry), tisreo sukhem (small clam stir fry), mackerel rawa fry, cabbage foogath (steamed cabbage vegetable), poi (goan bread in the shape of a butterfly) and refreshing sol kadi (kokum-coconut milk drink) are the favorite thali for seafood lovers.

Bengali Thali

Signature delicacies in this thali such as bhaja (pan–fried brinjal), patol bhaja (pointed- gourd fry), shukto (bittersweet vegetable medley), shaak (green leafy vegetables), alu bhate (mashed potatoes), cholar dal (lentil curry), bhaat (rice), maach bhaja (fish fry), maachher kalia (fish curry), kosha mangsho (mutton in thick gravy) are a true food festival for fish lovers. The overall experience of a Bengali Thali is a perfect treat for every bit of your taste buds.

Kashmiri Thali

The rich, redolent traditional dishes adorn the thali of Kashmir. Wazwan, Kashmir’s ultimate ceremonial feast and its preparation is an art in itself. The thali includes kebab nadir shahi (lotus stems kebabs), rajma rismise (slow cooked kidney beans), methi chaman (fenugreek cottage cheese), Kashmiri dum alu (nutty gravy potatoes), haak (green leafy vegetables), khatte baingan (spicy and sour brinjal), mutton rogan josh (signature Kashmiri lamb curry), Gushtaba (mince meat balls in a thick curry) Kashmiri pulao (spicy rice with nuts), al raita (bottle gourd in yogurt) and what not! The feast ends with phirni (ground rice pudding), custard of rice flavoured with rose and saffron.

Kerala Thali

Served on a banana leaf with approximately 26 delicious dishes, Kerala Thali is full of some exotic flavours. Some of them are Beans Thoran (beans cooked with onions and spieces), Aviyal (a thick coconut based mix of thirteen vegetables), Pulissery, Vegetable Stew, Erissery, Rasam, Buttermilk Sambhar, Coconut Banana Fritters, Thenga Choru (coconut rice), Pachadis (varieties of fresh pickles) and many more. This elaborate meal usually ends with a creamy Rice Payasam (rice pudding).

Every Indian Thali is unique in its own way. However, one thing which makes them all one is that – their taste remains etched on your heart & mind long after you have gorged on the Thali.

May 28, 2019

Does the cuisine of Rajasthan has a history as fascinating as its forts?

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 5:42 am

Rajasthan is the land of vivid colors, magnificent palaces, captivating architecture and mouth-watering food. Rajasthani cuisine is a form of art that in its own way is exquisite. It is interesting to note that Rajasthan cuisine is influenced by many factors – from ecological to social, geographical, cultural and historical.

The warring lifestyle of the state influenced the cuisine as well as the ingredient availability. Therefore, dishes that could be stored without heating for several days were preferred.

Geographically, due to its hot and arid climate, the state experiences water scarcity and fresh green vegetables, and this in turn influenced this land’s cuisine.

Bikaner, Barmer, and Jaisalmer’s desert belt cooks prefer to use clarified butter (ghee), milk, and buttermilk with as little water as possible. Rajasthani Cuisine also has Rajput rulers ‘Royal Age elements. This region’s natives prefer a wide range of chutneys made from local spices such as mint, coriander, turmeric, and garlic. The various forms of sweets are an integral part of Rajasthan’s cuisine.

The passion for hunting in Rajasthan’s Royal Maharajas also shaped Rajasthan’s culinary. Cooking the hunted animals or game cooking was considered respected as it required cleaning, cutting and cooking skills that were not so easily acquired. For some of the selected Royal guests, some of the Maharajas savored their passion for cooking the game themselves. It was males who used to prepare non-vegetarian in many of the Rajput households.

Mughal cuisine made one of the notable influences on the cuisine. The ingredients needed for Mughal’s lavish cuisine, however, were not so easily available. A little effect was also seen in British cuisine. It was, however, more about eating methods on the table than making Rajasthani dishes blander.

After the invasions of Pathani, the barbecue was introduced. The barbecue art of conventional skewered boneless lamb or Sula-smoked kebab that can be prepared by 11 distinguished ways has now been perfectly refined.

Besides all these, there is Jodhpur’s Maheshwaris vegetarian cooking. One such creation is Salwar’s Maharaja’s unique Jungle Maas. Among the Maharajas, it was quite favourite. Due to the scarcity of exotic ingredients, the hunted game was simply cooked in clear butter, salt and plenty of hot red chilies. Rajasthan’s Marwaris were also vegetarian, but in their preparation method their cuisine was richer, similar to that of Rajputs. It is forbidden to use garlic and onion in their cooking as they believe these excite the blood.

Then there were the Jains, who would not eat after sunset apart from being vegetarian. Their food had to be devoid of the important ingredients of cooking, garlic, and onion from Rajasthani.

The Bishnois, known for preserving animal and plant life, were vegetarians, as were the Vaishnavas, Lord Krishna’s followers. There were even few royal kitchens of Rajput where only vegetarian meals were cooked.

So, here are few of our favourite picks from the food bowl of Rajasthan which are sure to make your drool over!

Daal Baati choorma

It’s Rajasthan’s signature dish and it’s hard if one is a foodie and not  have heard of it. The specialty of this dish is that for its preparation it hardly requires any water. The Baati consists of ground wheat flour dough balls baked in wood fire by burying the baati under a thick layer of ash with a fire kindling on the top. After a couple of minutes the cooked baati is dipped in ghee ready to be served with lentils.

It is said that the leaders of Rajput used to leave the chunked dough buried in the sand before leaving for the war during the time of battles. The scorching heat of the sun used to turn them into baked chunks by the time they returned. The fact is that the idea behind the dish came up from the Kingdom of Mewar. With time, several variations have been made in the dish in order to add to the delicacy their own flavor.

Panchmel Daal

It was during Mewar’s Gupta Dynasty settlement that Panchmel Dal and Baati’s combination gained popularity. Panchmeel Dal was a royal delicacy made with 5 nutritional lentils for the Guptas, namely Moong Dal, Chana Dal, Toor Dal, Masoor Dal, and Urad Dal. Cooked with a tadka of cumin, cloves, and other spices, these lentils were then served with Baatis.

Ker Sangri

                                               

During the famines, the Marwar region’s natives were left to survive only with these berries and beans as nothing else would grow with little or no water in the shallow soil. They would dry and store them all year round in large containers. Before cooking for a few hours, just soak in water, and these beans and berries plump back to their original size and taste, ready to be mixed with oil and spices – this is how Rajasthan’s unique dish Ker Sangri was invented. They make Indian breads an excellent and delicious accompaniment.

Ghevar

No Indian meal is complete without a luscious sweet in the end. A honeycomb resembling sweet prepared with ghee, flour, paneer and sugar syrup, this disc shaped sweet comes in various varieties like Malai Ghevar (Ghevar with a layer of fresh cream), Mava Ghevar (milk fudge ghevar)  and Plain Ghevar.  This delectable dish makes to almost every Rajasthani ceremony and is a special delicacy during the time of Teej festival.

Mawa Kachori

A unique version of kachori, Mawa Kachori is filled with dry fruits and khoya or mava (milk fudge), deep fried and then dipped in sugar syrup. One must indulge in this dessert after lunch/dinner. If you say you don’t have a sweet tooth, we say you haven’t tried this one yet.

By the variety of food it offers, the Rajashtani cuisine mesmerizes the taste buds. To taste it yourself is the best way to experience the culinary delight – and is definitely going to be an incredible experience.

April 22, 2019

Ambur biryani: from kitchen of Arcot Nawabs to people’s hearts.

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 5:20 am

Once, there was a man who ate only biryani for lunch every day and for 15 years daily. Even after he grew old and shed his teeth, he still had it through then without any meat chunks. Then there was a biryani fanatic who braved the rain to eat biryani while gorging on it under a leaky roof of an eatery. One will find such stories of biryani common in the town of Ambur, located around 180 KM from Chennai.

Although it’s often the region of Awadh and specially the city of Lucknow or Hyderabad which tops the list of biryanis in India, however, the Ambur Biryani is also one special dish which has both a unique taste and history.

Ambur is a town in Tamil Nadu which is well-acclaimed for manufacturing high-quality leather products. But there’s one more reason to fame, its Ambur biryani.

Located nearly halfway between Chennai and Bengaluru, Ambur used to be a significant place in the erstwhile region of Arcot, the place that was once dominated over by the Nawabs of Arcot. It was just a matter of time that this ultimate comfort food reached in this region of the country.

Ambur Biryani was introduced by the Nawabs of Arcot and was known as Arcot Biryani. It was then spread by the royal cooks in the town of Ambur and Vaniyambadi in the North-eastern region of Tamil Nadu.

The most famous and oldest establishment that serves this legendary cuisine is – Star Biryani. Back in the time when Arcot Nawabs introduced this biryani, it was one of their royal cooks – Hasin Baig who had set up this eatery.

It is believed that Hasin Baig was a royal cook in the kitchens of the Nawabs. He intended to bring this royal cuisine to the common man’s reach and for that, he opened the outlet, Star Biryani in his home town, Ambur. Later, his son Khursheed took over the business and now it is Hasin’s great-grandsons – Anees and Muneer Ahmed who are running the business successfully. The family is nurturing a 100-year-old heritage recipe.

 

Ambur mutton biryani

It was first opened as a small eatery, which has now grown into a biryani chain in the Ambur, Bangalore, and Chennai.

It is usually served with a sour brinjal curry and pachadi (a type of raita) which enhances its taste all the more.

As Anees recalls, his predecessors used ‘surdas’ variety of rice – a short & thin one and the country chicken to prepare it. However, the brothers have replaced the surdas rice with its closest contemporary – Seeraga samba, which is being supplied from West Bengal.

The biryani is prepared in the kitchens of Star Biryani which is situated on the Chennai-Bangalore highway. The biryani experts – Irfan and Krishnan prepared it by cooking it in gigantic containers kept over wood-fired stoves. The crucial step in delivering this surreal dish is the ‘dum’ process – a procedure which involves removing the biryani container from fire and covering the lid with hot coals kept over it. This produces the steam which mixes the aroma of all the spices and gives the rice a perfect consistency.

Although it is the usual ingredients that go into making the Ambur Biryani, it might be a tad spicier than its Awadhi counterpart.

Now, if you are wondering what makes the Ambur Biryani so special? It is not majorly the ingredients or the method, but the passion – passion of the people of Ambur for this one dish that is fancied from breakfast to dinner, from homes to weddings, to roadside eateries and from a kid to aged – this biryani has become their truly beloved cuisine. Where in the other places, biryani is usually lunch or a dinner thing; here people eat it even for breakfast.

So, here’s the recipe of the delectable Ambur biryani:

Ingredients:

1 kg rice (Basmati or Seeraga Samba)

1 kg mutton, chopped

200 ml vegetable oil

2 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

50 gm curd

300 gm tomato, finely chopped

400 gm onion, finely chopped

2 cinnamon sticks

4 cardamom pods

4 cloves

A small bunch of coriander leaves

A small bunch of mint leaves

½ lemon juice

2 green chilies

1 tsp chili powder

100 gm garlic, peeled and pounded into a paste

80 gm ginger, pounded

10 ml / 2tsp Milk

Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a cooking vessel, normally a kadai (a bowl-shaped frying pan used in Indian cooking) Add the whole spices – cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms. Wait till the spices crackle in the oil and then add half amount of onions. Stir fry it for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the ginger paste, garlic paste, the red chili powder, turmeric powder and tomatoes; mix them well and sauté stirring continuously.
  3. Now, add the pieces of mutton, and remaining amount of onions, and mix them well. Also, add salt as per the taste and sauté on high heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Add curd with lemon juice and some green chillies and cook the mutton until tender, adding more water as required. The consistency for the gravy should be thick.
  5. While the mutton is being prepared, take a separate vessel to boil the rice. After the rice is three-fourth cooked, drain the excess water.
  6. Sprinkle the green coriander and mint leaves on the mutton just before you spread the strained rice over the gravy. In a small bowl, mix a pinch of red food colour with 2 tsp milk and sprinkle on the top of the rice.
  7. In a big cooking vessel, bring together the mutton stock and the rice together and carefully arrange them in layers. As you layer them together, sprinkle the ghee over it.
  8. Close the lid of the vessel and seal the sides of the lid with flour dough to cover every inch. Place a heavy weight to prevent lid from moving or opening.
  9. Cook the biryani on medium flame for about 15-20 minutes and turn off the heat when its aroma comes through.

Voila! Your homemade Ambur Biryani is ready. Serve it hot with raita (curd).

March 25, 2019

Warm up your dinner table with the mouth-watering curry delight: Rogan Josh

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , , , — admin @ 11:16 am

The word curry as used in India is often simply perceived as gravy. In western nations, gravy is actually a sauce made out of the juice from meat, thickened with seasonings and flour. However, curry in India is much more than a sauce – it is a mélange of a lot of thickening agents, spices and one main ingredient.

Although there are host of curries available in India, each one of them is distinct and more mind-blowing than the other. And one curry which is quite a favourite pick of the foodies from the culinary trail of India is – Rogan Josh.

Rogan josh is an aromatic meat dish of Kashmiri or Persian origin and is also written as roghan ghosht or roghan josh It is a staple part of the traditional Kashmiri cuisine. It is is one of the main dishes of Wazwan, the indigenous Kashmiri multi-course meal. Though Rogan josh is acclaimed to be a Kashmiri dish, it actually traveled to this land. The scorching summer heat of the Indian plains made Mughals frequently travel to Kashmir, because of its cooler climate. So, it was the Mughals who brought the dish to Kashmir.

Rogan josh is an intense, tangy traditional Indian curry, made with red meat. The meat along with the bone is slow cooked in its own fat. And while it is cooking, some extra intense flavour is added to it. As the name suggests – ‘Rogan’ means meat fat, either from animal source or vegetable derived & ‘Josh’ means heat – the meat justifies the rogan part and the heat-inducing spices which go into its making create the ‘josh’ (heat).

This curry originally belongs to Kashmir, but is widely made in other regions of the country too like Lucknow. It makes generous use of Kashmiri red pepper, which gives the dish a bright red hue. The ingredient which distinguishes the Rogan josh made in Kashmir from the one made in other parts of India is fennel powder.

Straight from a Kashmiri kitchen, here is the recipe of this sumptuous and mouth-melting curry that has meat stirred along with a host of herbs and spices. With this recipe in hand, you don’t have to wait to move out & eat it, rather make it yourself.

This recipe serves 4…

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lb stewing lamb or chops
  • 9 oz lamb bones to add flavour
  • 4 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 2 ½ teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup of yogurt (plain)
  • 9 oz shallots chopped
  • ¼ cup of ghee or oil
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 4 black cardamoms
  • 2 cinnamon
  • bay leaves
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon fennel powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric

Method

Step 1: take 6 cups of water in a large pot and add ½ teaspoon salt and pieces of garlic. Boil the lamb and bones in the same water for over 20 minutes. After completing the boiling process, set the pot with meat aside. Skim off the scum and save the stock for cooking.

Step 2: take chilli powder and paprika and mix some water in it to make a paste. Also, whisk the yogurt to give it a creamy texture and keep it aside.

Step 3: heat ghee or oil in a pot and fry shallots in it. Keep frying until it turns light brown.

Step 4: add cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves and fry for 1 minute. Now, add coriander, ginger, fennel, turmeric powder and 2 tablespoons of mutton stock and stir continuously.

Step 5:  add the meat and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes. Now, lower the heat and add the whisked yogurt. Stir it well and sauté for a few minutes.

Step 6: add 4 cups of stock and salt to taste. Cook until the meat becomes tender. Remove the bay leaves, cinnamon or large cardamoms if intact, before serving the dish.

Voila! Enjoy the lips smacking Rogan josh right in the comfort of your home. Rogan josh makes a perfect fit for dinner parties and is best served with the boiled rice or Indian breads – chapati or naan.

March 19, 2019

8 appetizing Holi special delicacies Indians love to binge on.

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 8:17 am

Festivals in India are not only about the pomp and show – it’s more of getting together with loved ones, enjoying the traditions and relishing the most amazing food. Indeed, every Indian festival brings along a peculiar trail of special delights and Holi – The festival of colours is no different!

Spring is the time in India when winter is fleeting and summers are slowly setting in – making everything in the atmosphere give fresh and sublime feels. Apart from the nature’s renewal, spring is also the time which marks the most colourful festival of India – Holi.

Holi is one of the most-awaited festivals in India. It is the occasion when people love to smear each other in frisky colours. Kids play with water guns filled with excitement and mischief. And older ladies exchange plates mounted with festive goodies. Holi is indeed a festival which brings out the playful child in each one of us.

The word “Holi” was acquired from the word “Holika”. In Hindu mythology, Holika was an evil sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. On the eve of Holi, a bonfire is lit wherein an effigy of Holika is placed on a heap of woods and burnt. This signifies the ‘Holika Dahan’ which sets out the Holi celebrations.

Along with all the celebrations, the one thing which makes this festival all the more special is the vibrant, lip-smacking delicacies. It is not only the bevy of colours that Indians look forward during Holi, but all the sumptuous snacks and sweets which are prepared especially for the occasion.

 

Gujiyas

Gujiya is the star delicacy of Holi. These sweet dumplings are made using refined flour, condensed milk, and stuffing of khoya with dry fruits or nuts. Gujias are native to Rajasthan, but is widely made all around the country with much fervour. Though the making of Gujia requires time and effort, the taste of this delicious sweet makes it all worth it! The crust of Gujia looks similar to samosa, the shape however is distinct. Gujia is filled with a mixture of roasted and grated dry fruits, coconut, khoya and small amount of suji (semolina) to give it a fulfilling and mind-blowing savour. The prepared gujiyas are deep fried in ghee and may even at times dipped in sugar syrup

 

Dahi Bhalle

Dahi bhalla is one such Holi special foods which can make anyone drool over it. This lip-smacking Indian dish comprises of soaked fitters, made from chickpea flour, lentil or potato doused in dahi (yogurt). Topped with chilli powered, cumin powder, black pepper and cilantro make it more mouth watering.

 

Onion Bhajia

Made with vegetables, particularly – onion, this is a type of fritter especially made during Holi celebrations. It is also known as Vengaya Bhaji and is consumed with green chutney making it taste all the more delicious.

 

Bhang ki Pakori

Cannabis or marijuana is locally known as bhang in India. Bhaang is being consumed during Holi in India since centuries for recreational purposes. It is a popular intoxicating drink and is revered to be an auspicious drink which Lord Shiva used to consume. There is also ‘bhang ki chutney’ made to kick start the Holi festivities.

Cannabis or marijuana leaves are chopped and batter fried in spiced chick pea batter.

 

Thandai

Holi in India and thandai go hand in hand. If you talk about Holi in India, Thandai itself makes its way. Thandai is a concoction of fennel seeds, almonds, nuts and saffron with milk as a base ingredient. Often, bhang is added to give it a boozy kick. At the time of Holi, guests are welcomed with this aromatic drink.

 

Dal Kachori

This variety of Kachori is North Indians’ one of the most loved snacks.  And you will know it once you take a bite of this crispy and stuffed delight. Dal Kachori is stuffed with arhar dal (yellow lentils), spices and fried crisp.

 

Papri chaat

This gorgeous looking chaat is equally delectable. Papri chaat is a fusion of curd, boiled potatoes, tamarind chutney and topped with crispy papris (fried wafers). The papris used are either ready-made or made at home using refined white flour fried in ghee or oil. The dish leaves a sweet and sour savor in the mouth.

 

Namak Para

Indians’ favorite tea-time snacks – Namak Para is also a Holi special savoury. The dough of Namak Para is usually made of flour mixed with semolina. Then small strips out of this dough are rolled and deep fried. Namak paras are a perfect snack to gobble on when you feel like munching something salty and savoury.

This is the day when guests are welcomed with all these above-mentioned delicacies. So, if you happen to be lucky enough – these Holi special food will surely leave you confused with which one to gobble on first!

Happy Holi !!!

March 12, 2019

Explore the appetizing bread basket of India

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 8:51 am

India is a land of myriad delicacies – from curries to kebabs to kulfis (a type of Indian ice cream). The cuisine of India is as diverse as its people and unfolds as a bouquet of everything palatable. In India, you find one dish with plenty of variants.  And amidst the host of dishes, one food item that stands out is Bread – due its vibrant varieties and sumptuous flavours.

Bread is the staff of life and has a basic necessity in almost every food culture. And in a nation like India with so many contrasts in culture & traditions, isn’t it interesting to assort the kinds of breads made here?

The bread is an essential part of India’s food bowl and has garnered such a prominence that for Indians no meal is said to consummate without bread on the platter.

Almost every gravy or curry found here is consumed with a specific type of bread and then only it completes the dish. Whether in small get together or grand functions, Bread even plays a decisive role while listing down the menu. The bread here also renders a sense of contentment to the diner and it is at the sometime certainly gratifying.

In India, breads cannot be confined to a certain definition because they come in a wide variety, such as – flat, unleavened, yeasted, fermented, stuffed, crepes prepared in different creative textures & sizes.

Some of them are cooked on an iron griddle (tawa), or in a cylindrical clay oven, known as Tandoor in India, or are deep-fried in a kadhai (a deep cooking pot).

Bread in India even finds place in Hindu Epics. The roti, a round flatbread native to the Indian subcontinent made from whole wheat flour, traditionally known as ‘atta’, and water that is made into dough is one of the most common household bread. It has been mentioned in Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas (1600 AD) when roti resembled a katori (small bowl) and was probably known as rotika.

Similarly, Naan is said to have travelled to India from central Asia. Furthermore, even the Paratha has a mention in the 12th century Sanskrit encyclopedia, Manasollasa, compiled by Someshawar III, the then ruler of Karnataka.

So, the breads in India are an exploration in itself. And here we have tried to cover some of the amazing breads you can discover on this land:

 

Akki Roti:

This bread from Karnataka is made up of rice flour, from where it derives its name as akki means rice in Karnataka. Its dough is prepared by mixing sliced carrots, onions, chopped coriander, sesame seeds, and cumin seeds with salt and kneaded with water to make it soft. After warming up the oil over a tawa (griddle), a small amount of the dough is evenly spread over it such that it resembles a thin pancake. Another layer of oil is spread over the roti and is cooked till it turns golden brown. It is best served with chutney or a dash of ghee or butter.

 

Anda Paratha:

egg in Hindi is called as Anda and this is the prime ingredient of this delicious paratha. This paratha comes in many versions. Its most basic version has a crisp coating of whipped egg, while the fancier one requires a filling of half-fried bread and a mixture of beaten egg, finely chopped onion, green chillies, coriander and ginger. This filling makes its way into the paratha via a cut though its belly.

 

Baati:

Baati traces its connection with the Rajput warriors and Marwari traders in Rajasthan as it was a part of their staple food. Baati are tomato shaped balls made out of whole wheat, stuffed with a mixture of certain Indian dal (pulses), and roasted over hot coals. It is then dipped in ghee which gives it a fulfilling savour. Baati Chokha is the complete name of the dish where chokha is a vegetable preparation of mashed potato, brinjal, tomato and chopped green chillies & onions. Although it hails from Rajasthan, baati chokha is a popular savoury in Uttar Pradesh.

 

Baida Paratha:

A delicacy brought to India by the Bohra Muslim community during the 11th It is a paratha stuffed with a filling of egg or mince meat mixture. It is especially eaten in breakfast and is a popular street food in Mumbai.

 

Bajre ki Roti:

It is a traditional bread of Indian Subcontinent, made from the millet flour. It is cooked without gluten (a binding component to shape it) in its flour, which makes it a bit difficult to bake. It is best served with a garlic chutney and sliced onion. The roti is popular in the state of Rajasthan.

 

Bakharkhani:

Also known as Bakharkhani Roti – it is a thick, spiced & sweet flatbread and a part of Mughlai cuisine of Indian subcontinent. It was brought down to the Indian subcontinent all the way from Central Asia during the Mughal era. The dough for bakarkhani is infused with milk, ghee, melon seed, sugar and saffron which make it wholesome bread. The yeast or baking powder is used for leavening the dough. The bread is garnished with crushed fennel and slivered almonds. It is eaten with nehari (a non-veg Indian curry). This bread has a biscuit-like texture and a hard crust.

 

Bhatura:

It is a staple part of the famous Indian dish – Chole Bhature, which originates from the Punjab region in India. Where chole is a spicy & tangy chickpeas curry, Bhatura is the leavened bread made by fermenting the dough by adding sour curd and allowing it to ferment for couple of hours. Bhatura is deep fried till it turns fluffy & golden in colour. Chhole Bhatore is also one of the most loved breakfasts by Indians.

 

Dosa:

Although Dosa is the native of South India, this one dish finds its lovers all across the nation and even abroad. It is counted as one of the most scrumptious foods in India owing to its uniqueness in taste & visual appeal. It also makes up as a healthy traditional food option. It is made with rice flour and legumes and cooked in the shape of a pancake. A concoction of rice and black gram is soaked in water and then ground finely to create a batter. The batter is set to ferment overnight. The next day, water is mixed into the batter to give it a desired consistency. The batter is then spread onto a hot tava (griddle) with oil or ghee greased on it. After the crepe turns golden brown, it is half folded or rolled like a wrap and is served with coconut chutney and sambhar, a traditional south Indian lentil and vegetable based stew.

 

Laccha Paratha:

It is a variation of traditional paratha. It is flaky and soft and is prepared in a tandoor. Laccha Paratha is quite popular in Lucknow where it is also known as tandoori paratha.

 

Khameeri Roti:

Khameer, meaning fermentation is the essence of this roti. The flour of this roti is composed of whole wheat, salt and kneaded with curd and is left to ferment in a warm place. This natural fermentation suffuses a pleasing aroma. The roti after being cooked comes out puffy and a bit sour in taste. It is best served with Kebabs or any Indian curry.

 

Kulcha:

If you are a true foodie, you must have heard about the dish ‘Kulcha Nihari’. Kulcha here is another kind of delicious leavened flatbread that originates in Indian subcontinent. It comes in many versions like – plain kulcha, stuffed kulcha with stuffing of potato or paneer (cottage cheese) or Amritsari Kulcha which is stuffed with boiled & spiced potato.

 

Missi Roti:

It is popular North Indian bread. The dough of this roti is a mixture of – gram flour, wheat flour, cumin seeds, chopped onions, green chilies, coriander, turmeric and salt. It can be cooked on a tava (griddle) or baked on tandoor. It is rough in texture and best complements any Indian curry.

 

Naan:

This is an oval-shaped fermented flatbread made with refined flour. Flour, eggs, milk, sugar, salt, curd and oil, all goes into making the dough for naan. It is kneaded till it turns elastic and smooth and is left to ferment for about 2-3 hours. The dough is sprinkled with sesame seeds before being cooked. Conventionally, the naans are baked by lining them on the walls of a tandoor. And are brushed with a thin coating of ghee or oil. It comes in many variations like – Butter Naan, Garlic Naan, or Khurmi Naan.

 

Puran Poli:

It is an indigenous bread of Maharashtra which also serves as a sweet preparation. It is made from yellow gram dal (chana dal), jaggery, plain wheat flour, cardamom powder and ghee. It is stuffed with a boiled & sweetened dal mixture in the dough then cooked by shallow frying. It is usually made in homes during a happy occasion or festivals.

 

Roomali Roti:

As the name suggests, this roti resembles a handkerchief in appearance. And it is given this shape not by rolling on the board but by tossing it with hands. It is then cooked on a convex iron griddle. It is light and thin and requires great expertise & skill to make. The best Roomali Rotis are found in the city of nawabs, Lucknow.

 

Sheermal:

An unparalleled invention by Muhammadan, a top-notch bread maker and a sough after delicacy of the Awadh region. It is made with refined flour which is kneaded into a dough using milk, ghee, kewra (aromatic water) and sugar. The ‘sheer’ is sheermal means milk and which is the main ingredient of this bread. The milk added to sheermal gives it a fulfilling taste. It is royal bread best served with kebabs.

March 1, 2019

Are Idli & Sambhar creations of the South India?

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 11:25 am

Idli and Sambhar are one of the most renowned dishes in India and perhaps, in the world. However, do you ever wonder about where this sumptuous dish has come from? Is it Tamil Nadu? Or Kerala? Or Karnataka? Or may be from somewhere else? In ancient literature, Idli finds no traces. The first references to Idli came to light around 1250 or so, which made the notable food historian, KT Achaya, suggest that Idli may have had its birth in some foreign place. Achaya normally considered that all modern Indian cuisine found its roots in South Indian dishes, and which finds references in ancient Tamil literature. So, Achaya’s dismissal of the claim that Idli was invented in South India created a stir in the food world.

Although Achaya’s point that Idli had a foreign origin was backed by the point that Idli has no mention in Tamil ancient chronicles. However, Achaya’s view also had some drawbacks:

Firstly, Achaya made only a theory, for which he had no proof. According to Achaya, Idli is a progeny of an Indonesian dish of the medieval era. You might ponder why Indonesia?

Well, it is because of the fact that trade links that existed between South India and Indonesia in that period. Therefore, perhaps, the cooks on Indian ships had learned to make Idlis and they brought the dish to India. But, this is only a probability which can only be considered a guess.

In order to give this theory some authenticity, Achaya would require a written reference and he did not have any. Else, he could have named any Indonesian cuisine that the Tamil cooks learned and brought to India. For this he proposed kedli, a dish which according to Achaya was created by Indoensians.

However, it created a stir as Achaya’s strive to track down the origin of kedli was not completely successful. And despite of the fact there were several culinary barters between Indonesia and India, Idli was not necessarily one of them.

A dig into the history…                                                                                                                               

It is to be noted that there is a long tradition of trade between Arabia and South India, dating back to the times before the birth of Prophet. This gave birth to another theory – the Arab traders who inhabited South India decided to make cakes out of rice and that these later became Idlis. Although some notable food historians quote this theory, there may not be any real evidence to testify it.

When Shri Bala, a new generation historian was asked what she feels about how Idli came about, Shri expresses her inclination towards the theory – Idli hails from Indonesia. Shir Bala puts the method of cooking the dish before the dish itself.

She further says that until the Idli came into prominence, there was no tradition of fermenting batter in the Tamil cuisine. And the significance of making the Idli lies in fermentation. Rather, this method was popular in Indonesia during that time.

So, instead of searching for an Idli counterpart Shri iterates, to look at the cooking technique. It could be that cooks aboard Indian ships imbibed the method of fermenting the batter in Indonesia. And upon coming back to India, they used the technique to create new dishes – and Idli could be one of them. Although this makes a reasonable theory – it is still just a theory!

Is it the Marathas’ grant?

In the case of Sambhar, Shir bala holds a stronger ground. Usually, when anyone points to the legend that goes as – Sambhar is a Maharashtrian dish and was gifted to Tamil people by the inventive Maratha rulers, South Indian exasperate a bit. And there are many versions of this legend. It is also true that there existed a King called Shahuji and he owed allegiance to son of the great Shivaji – Sambhaji. Post that, the story loses the track.

As per one of the stories which revolve around this legend – one day, Shahuji gave his cook a day off and decided to try some cooking himself. So, he chose amti, a famous Marathi dal to cook. But, in the process he found out that kokum (a souring agent much used in western parts of India) was not available. Therefore, Shahuji used tamarind instead. That’s how he invented a new dish – Sambhar – to honour Sambhaji.

Another version which sounds more plausible narrates as – that when Sambhaji was visiting Thanjavur, the royal cooks devised this dal to honour him and also named it after him. While South Indians deny knowing any such story, most of the sources of this legend come from Marathi texts. They assert that Sambhar is theirs and has no relations with Sambhaji.

Shri also says that – the method of dal cooked with vegetables springs up frequently in old Tamil recipes. And Shir regards a dish named Kottu as the real ancestor of Sambhar, the references to which appear in Tamil literature.

Shir bala also says that no dish is invented in one pitch. All great cuisines evolve gradually with time, absorbing new ingredients as they come. For instance, amti, a Maharashtrian dish now uses chillies which were not available at the time of Sambhaji.

A never ending debate…

It is quite interesting to ponder that if Sambhar was a creation of the Marathas then why didn’t they take it back to their place, Maharashtra! In fact, Sambhar is called as a South Indian dish in all over Maharashtra.

This debate will never end however; the fascinating thing about Sambhar is that – despite of being such a complex dish and having regional variations, is reduced to a pan-South Indian dish worldwide.

The rise of idli-sambhar is actually a phenomenon of the 20th century. This was the time when South Indian restaurants offering idli, sambhar and dosas boomed, initially in Bombay and then in other parts of India.

November 13, 2018

The Journey from Nargisi Kofta to Scotch Eggs

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 7:32 am

In the modern times, creativity still serves as the soul of an art. Upgrades can be an embodiment of the same. Thus, the order of the day is that chefs from across the world endeavour to turn almost every modest dish into something special. However, only a few versions manage to thrive for long. Interestingly, the quest to unearth the cultural roots of all such dishes draws attention of many food enthusiasts.

The fascinating fact is Scotch egg is not a Scottish dish. The English claim to have invented the dish. Fortnum and Mason, a store in London asserts to have invented the same. According to a theory, Sir Walter Scott, the author of Ivanhoe, did pen down the recipe first. Yet another speculation suggests that the dish was invented by William J. Scott and Sons, an enterprise located in Yorkshire, as a fish-mince food. Then, its origin, at times, is guessed to be in Algeria.

Finally, the ultimate roots of Scotch eggs were traced by a well known food historian of the twentieth century, Alan Davidson. According to him, in the British colony of India, the English soldiers came across a curry known as ‘Nargisi kofta.’ Thoroughly liked, they tried cooking the same back in Britain. However, they found preparing the associated tomato gravy quite a task and thus, as a substitute, used a hot sauce. With time that changed with the kofta being served with any suitable tasteful sauce. Then, there came along a dry version of the Indian curry labelled as the scotch eggs.

In the early nineteenth century, the British assertion of scotch eggs to be eaten with sauce clearly points to its Indian roots. The word ‘kofta’, which is so common in the Indian cuisine, was coined in medieval India. As Indian cuisine is known for innovations and improvisations, it is said that there was once an adventurous Indian khansama, i.e., a cook who wanted to reinvent the traditional kofta curry. Thus, he coated a hard-boiled egg with lamb mince, deep fried it and did cut the same into two halves, where each half resembled Nargis, i.e., the eye of a beautiful girl. So, it was named as Nargisi kofta.

Gulam Qureshi, considered to be the best and the most authentic Awadhi chef from India, specialises in both the original and his own fantastic version of the Nargisi kofta. This is otherwise a household dish in Lucknow, often prepared by cooks in Lucknow and its cousin city Hyderabad that share, quite a bit, culinary traditions and knowledge of each other. Manish Mehrotra, another famous chef from India, came up with a quite innovative and modern version of the kofta cooked with chicken mince which enables the egg yolk stay soft and sticky until the end of the preparation process. In fact, Manish keeps experimenting with modernised varieties of modest Indian dishes in order to take them to the next level of new cuisine or the even better ‘fusion’. Truly, depending upon one’s taste buds, the definitive dish from India can be enjoyed in both traditional and upgraded ways. Scotch eggs, a great filling snack, can be served as dinner with an evening drink. While its parent version in Lucknow and Hyderabad is a rich sit down dish that belongs to the dastarkhwan, i.e., a traditional dining place of the royals and eaten with distinctive varieties of dry breads or aromatic saffron flavoured rice.

October 26, 2018

Food for life that becomes a cause of death

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 12:53 pm

Many pieces of great fine art wrap the country of Italy. Interestingly, Milan, considered as an uncommon place by the Romans themselves, is home to the original work of painter Peter Paul Rubens, ‘The Last Supper’.  The painting symbolises how a deceit leading to death gracefully exists with a life giving element. On one hand it depicts Jesus and food as foundations of human existence and on the other it portrays the traitor Judas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, who became the cause of His mortal end.

Food, an essential element of human life, has been used since ages as a lethal weapon against humans. The same filled the great Mughal dynasty of medieval India with anxiety and resulted in frequent casualties of the royals through their period of rule. In the early sixteenth century,   Babur, a Turk and the first Mughal emperor of India, defeated the king of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodi, in the famous battle of Panipat. Thereafter, he promised protection to the deceased ruler’s kinsmen, including his mother. However, as an act of vengeance, the mother arranged to kill Babur by poisoning his food. She was unsuccessful in her attempt. Nevertheless, going forward, the incident marked the dawn of illegal food practice in the Mughal age.

During his temporary exile in Persia, the next Mughal ruler, Humayun resided with Shah Tahmasp. Humayun was Sunni by faith and Persia was essentially a Shia kingdom. So, instead of using force, the Persian king thought of converting him through frequent offerings of exotic and expensive meals. Initially, Humayun tactfully resisted Shah’s intention. However, later, for his safety, he decided to falsely submit to the king’s wishes. To this end, he went on a pilgrimage to Sheikh Safi’s tomb, which otherwise is considered rather uncharacteristic of a Sunni. This event further strengthened the Mughal fear with regard to the havoc food can play on them. Nonetheless, Mughalai cuisine evolved with the passage of time with many important inputs from the Persian cuisine and otherwise. Today, the cuisine and its fairer cousin, the Awadhi Cuisine, have become extremely popular worldwide.

The delightful Mughlai food such as Naan, Dum Pukht dishes, Harissa and others, further brought significant recognition, on a macro level, to Humayun’s successor, Akbar. Dum Pukht is a hundreds of years old Indian style of food preparation in which an endeavour is made to increase the taste of the food significantly while making economical use of flavouring substances. It involves slow cooking of food on low flame over an extended time period using minimum liquid. As much as possible, care is taken to cook the food in a closed vessel in order to trap steam and thus, conserve the flavours of the food. This method not only makes the food more tasteful, but also renders it healthy.

Naan is one of the age old breads from the central Asian region, typically baked in a clay oven, popularly referred to as tandoor. Its dough is made from flour, yeast, water and yogurt. Today, however, many delicious versions of it are available to be enjoyed. Historically, it was compulsorily included in the meals of many Muslim rulers of medieval India. Next, Harissa is a special kind of hot and pleasant smelling flavouring paste. As even a little quantity of it tastes really sharp thus, adding the same to food can result in producing a thriving effect.

As the Mughals became extremely affluent by the termination of Akbar’s rule, the political threat posed by food assumed an awfully serious form. In addition, as strong drinks had been very popular with the Mughals since long, excessive consumption or deadly chemical alteration of the same, later, became one of the major reasons of the downfall of the Mughal dynasty. Post Akbar era, many Mughal nobles became victim of the abuse and its associated unlawful modifications. As the sedative is addictive thus, it became a convenient weapon to cause harm. There are many instances in history, where alcohol or its unfortunate poisoned form claimed not only an individual’s life, but also became the cause of casualty on a greater level.

In the Mughal era, ladies, in particular, were given charge of the valued aspects of nobles, including a ruler’s food and drinks. During the reign of the Mughal sovereign, Shah Jahan, his daughter and a courtly lady were responsible for overseeing and protecting his food from venomous substances. Although he survived the prevalent corrupt food practice, he was ruined by the aspiration of his own son, Aurangzeb. Next, despite taking extensive measures, the Nawab of Oudh, Nasir-ud-din Haider Shah was murdered by being offered poisoned sorbet.

In the present day world, the crime of poisoning someone through food and drink is quite common as well. Hence, for safety reasons, nowadays increasing number of dignitaries and VIPs use the service of food testers whose job is to detect any dangerous element in their food, ahead of serving. Truly, food and drinks that keep us happy and going, can, at times, haunt us if offered otherwise for wrong reasons. Yet, we celebrate food….

October 22, 2017

Experiential Indian Cooking That Made Bitter Gourd Taste Simply Amazing!

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 3:45 am

One of the most underrated vegetables in the Indian Kitchens or probably all across the world because of its bitter taste is bitter gourd. This vegetable is looked down on to the extent that in India people say: “karela yeh bhi koi khane ki cheez hai?” (Is bitter gourd worth eating?). Well! At the turn of the millennium, it has found in new avatars that are simply amazing. Let us explore the different flavours of bitter gourd that taste like heaven.

How it is cooked conventionally in Indian Kitchens?

Karela (bitter gourd) is cooked with onion and a number of condiments that can cut down its bitter taste. It is cut into round pieces after peeling and then the cut pieces are dipped in water for a few minutes to do away with the bitter taste, water is drained and it is then shallow fried and cooked. The other way of cooking it in India comprises of stuffing it with condiments and then shallow frying it. It is called bharwa karela (stuffed bitter gourd).

The Bitter Profile That Turned Amazingly Tastier:


Farzi Café in Gurgaon (a well known Indian city) in the state of Haryana serves an innovative dish of Karela which is a crispy mock-squid. What you will think as illusory with the bitter gourd will come true here. The onus of changing texture, taste and shape goes solely to this restaurant. Just think of batter-fried crispy rings of this veggie tossed in sweet-sour sauce.

Bharwaan Karele: What is this all about?

The other amazing Indian form of bitter gourd that you would come across is this popular avatar. In this recipe, small, oval and green bitter gourd are taken and then stuffed with spices of brown onions and other condiments. It is shallow fried till it turns crisp. The onion stuffing filled in it seasoned with dry mango powder (souring agent). The carmalised onions match the slight bitterness and provide a mild sweetness and dry mango powder cut down its bitterness.

How about it being stuffed with minced meat…Ever Tried?

Minced-meat stuffed bitter gourd is a famous dish in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. This is the Mughal-based tradition of cooking where all the vegetables including bitter gourd is combined with meat and cooked on dum (Awadhi style of cooking), they are cooked in spicy mince and tied up with strings.

Pavakka: Another innovation with Bitter Gourd:

Kerala another Indian state cook it as a part of their festival called “Onam Sadya.” It is called “pavakka” Strips of bitter gourd are fried in oil and in the same oil, curry leaves, mustard seeds, sliced onions and green chilies are also fried. These all are added to the coconut paste and then in the beaten yogurt. The yogurt is being tempered with red chillies, mustard and curry leaves. This is how it looks:

September 11, 2017

6 Weird Indian Food Combos That Taste Like Heaven

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Some of the best and tempting foods come to the fore while experimenting and the foodies that remain on their foot for trying such foods have a reason to visit India. The land of diversified culture called India has diversified food available as well that are worth trying. These weird Indian food combos were invented either out of sheer necessity or just for the passion of making something different.

Some of the Indian States are ruled by Nizams and Nawabs who were fond of eating and their khansamas(cooks) kept on experimenting. Rice underwent a dramatic change in the Mughal Kitchen. New cuisines came into being and the existent ones were given a newer touch to make them taste better. Much after that, Indian food lovers made a fusion of East and West and came up with these awesome foods that are surprisingly delicious.

Maggi Samosa:

The most commonly eaten snack in India called ‘Samosa’ is a food item that people from abroad love. It is a small pastry turnover made up of refined flour and filled with spicy meat or veggies mixture like potatoes and peas. Now, just think of it being stuffed with Maggi noodles and you would have a watered mouth. Actually it tastes far better! Here we go with a picture..

Green Chillies Ice-cream:

No Indian meal is complete without chillies either in the form of pickles, in the food itself when cooked or in a raw form. Indians are fond of consuming green chillies. But, how about chillies infused in ice-creams? The delicacy that came out is just fantastic while retaining its coldness and richness of cream, the ice-cream retains the succulent flavour of roasted green chillies. When you begin to feel the sting of raw chillies in every bite you would want to have more of it.

Gulab Jamun Cheesecake:

Gulab Jamun (deep-fried paneer and milk fudge balls dipped in sugary syrup) is a familiar sweet dish in India. Sugar syrup is not squeezed out of it and it can be made with a hung yogurt instead of cream cheese that can balance the sweetness of Gulab Jamun. It is full of Indian flavours. Gelatin and eggs are not used in these cheesecakes and need no baking.

Chicken Cooked in Coca-cola:

This may sound a strange combination but try it for once and you will explore a wonderful taste. Chicken fillets cooked in boiling Coca-cola with ketchup, honey and barbecue sauce is an interesting amalgamation and the curry that churned out of taste awesome. Here we go with a picture.

Vodka Panipuri:

One of the most relished street food items called Panipuri (deep fried crisp roundels of Semolina filled with chick pea and tangy water has an Indian avatar in the form of Vodka Panipuri. Panipuri gets a makeover for better and tastes absolutely great in its new avatar.

Chocolate Dosa:

The most commonly eaten South Indian dishes known as Dosa (Rice pancakes) can have an entirely different form. Experimentation with Dosa proved to be successful when it is given a chocolate flavour. It turned to a chocolaty, crispy and sweet dessert that is just irresistible. Here we go with a picture.

There are other weird Indian food as well that have win the hearts of gastronomes like chai (tea) ice cream, rajma (kidney beans) fritters, Nutella Sandesh and many more…..Actually, there can be many rare combinations which are worth trying for their different flavours and taste.

 

September 6, 2017

All That You Want to Know About Mughlai Cuisine

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 7:11 am

During the sixteenth and seventeenth century the splendor and opulence of the Mughal courts were at the zenith-the like of which had not been seen in over a thousand years. Between 1626 and 1712 the Mughal emperors, Turks by origin but with Mongol, Persian and Hindu blood in their veins, ruled the greater parts of the Indian subcontinent. The Mughals came from Central Asia, which was the cultural cauldron of three classical civilizations of the world, India, China and Greece. Cities like Bukhara, Samarqand were great centers of wealth and sophistication.

The Mughals, who had an overwhelming impact on literature, music, painting and architecture, also revolutionized the culinary arts. It is a well- established fact that the Mughal emperors influenced both style and substance of Indian food. They turned simple Indian cooking into an art and patronized the art with passion. Their hospitality remains legendary. Among the Mughal emperors after Babur his grandson, Akbar, took a personal interest in the royal kitchen. He devised rules for the conduct of the kitchen staff and appointed high-ranking officers to administer the territory.

Cooking opens doors to many cultures and creeds. Geography also plays an important role. Central Asia, from where the Mughals came and from where the famous silk route started, has a rich tradition and an instinct culture with a history of many centuries. Their respectful relations with their neighbors like Tajiks, Kirghis, and Tatars, Turkemans, Ukrainians, Russians, Armenians and Azerbaijans have greatly influenced the Uzbek region. The Mughals brought all these influences with them and gave Hindustan a rich and varied cuisine.

The advent of the Muslim rule between the tenth and eleventh centuries resulted in a great fusion of culinary traditions. With Indian, Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine, culinary art reached the peak of sophistication. Mughals have left behind a legacy of food, which alive even now after centuries.

As mentioned earlier, the Mughals were gourmets and food was important to them, so when the Emperor moved, the first to move was their kitchen. ‘It is the custom of the court’, says Manuucci, an Italian traveler, ‘to move the royal kitchen a night prior to emperor’s departure to ensure that royal breakfast is prepared by the time the emperor arrives next morning.  It consists of 50 camels, who carried the supplies, 50 well-fed cows to provide milk, 200 coolies to carry China and other serving dishes, a number of mules to carry cookware, also there are dainties in charge of cooks ( from each only one dish is expected) sealed in Malacca velvet. A military contingent escorted the royal kitchen with water-bearers, sweepers, leather workers, and torchbearers.’

The Ain-i-Akbari, a gazetteer of the Mughal Empire, detailing every aspect of Akbar’s government written by his courtier Abul Fazl has a vivid and fascinating chapter devoted to the imperial kitchen. Abul Fazl provides a list of recipes of some of the dishes which reflect that Mughal diet heavily relied on rice, wheat, gram, barley, and some other lentils. Bernier describes how the shops were stacked with pots of ghee, rice, wheat and endless variety of other grains.

 The Central Asian and Persian influence is evident in the recipes listed in the Ain-i-Akbari. Abul Fazl writes that the kitchen department was headed by Mir Baqawal (master of the kitchen), an officer of the rank of 600 horses (in Akbar’s reign). Hakim Humam held the post under the direct control of the vizier (prime minister). Mir Baqawal had under him an army of cooks, tasters, attendants, bearers, and a special officer for betel.

 The cooks came from Persia, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and from different regions of India. Hakim (physician) of repute assisted in the preparation of the daily menu keeping in mind the temperament of the emperor and the nutritive value of the food served to him. Many recipes were given by the royal hakim as a remedy for indigestion, stomachache, to produce lustful feelings and increase vitality of the emperor. These recipes made with medicinal properties sharpened the intellect, made the eyes shine, gave a glow to the skin, and improved hearing.

The royal kitchen had its own budget and a separate account department. In the beginning of the year, the sub-treasurer made out an annual estimate and received the amount. Every month a statement of the expenditure was drawn and submitted to the vizier. Every day 1000 rupees was disbursed for the expense of the king’s table.

Provisions for the royal kitchen were collected from various parts of the empire without regards to cost. Fruits from Kabul, ducks, water fowls and certain vegetables were obtained from Kashmir, and water from River Ganges. Sheep, goats and fowls were maintained by the kitchen and were given special diet mixed with aromatic herbs, silver, gold, pearls, saffron marbles mixed with sugar, perfumed grass to get pleasant-smelling flesh from the animals to suit the royal palate.

 Cows were fed with cotton seeds, sugarcane, nutmeg, coconut, cinnamon, pulses, partridge eggs and bamboo leaves besides perfumed green grass. They were never kept for less than a month. Rice came from Bharaij, Gwalior, Rajori and Nimlah, and ghee from Hissar. Food was flavored by using aromatic herbs. Perfumes were made and developed by hakim by mixing fragrant flowers and leaves, like of sweet orange, bitter orange, mango, lime, sweet basil, and many more.

The Mughal emperors were by nature meat& grain-eaters; perhaps, the climate of Central Asia and the hunting habit needed them to be strong. Lamb was the most flavored meat, besides games and birds, under the guidance of shahi hakim (the royal physician), the expert cooks of the imperial kitchen prepared meat dishes which were light and digestible. The use of gold and silver as well as pearls and other precious stones were used in cooking, as per their medicinal values. An area was demarked close to the royal kitchen where vegetables, enjoyed by the emperor, were grown with special care. The vegetable beds were watered with rose water and musk to get a special aroma.

The Ain-i-Akbari describes three classes of cooked dishes.

1) Sufiyana: consumed on Akbar’s days of abstinence, no meat was used and the dishes were those made of rice (sheer biranj, zard biranj, khushka, and khichda), wheat (chichi, essentially the gluten of wheat isolated by washing and then seasoned), dals, spinach and a few other leafy vegetables, as well as halwas, sherbats etc.

2) The second class comprised those in which both rice and meat or wheat and meat were combined;

3) The third class was that in which meat was cooked in ghee, spices, yoghurt, and eggs to create dishes like yakhni, kebabs, dum pukht, and malghuba.

This system of food continued throughout the Mughal domain but with the passage of time, many more classes were added to them.

The Mughals did not pay much attention to the adornment of dining place; their food itself was always rich, colourful and decorated with gold and silver leaves. Some items of food were made to look like gems and jewels, fruits were cut in the shape of flowers and leaves, dried fruits was glazed with Babool gum and added to pulaos, and ghee for cooking was colored and flavored. Yoghurt was set in seven colors but in one bowl, and cottage cheese was set in bamboo baskets.

Rice ground to flour then boiled and sweetened with candy sugar and rose water was eaten cold-perhaps, this is where the present-day kheer has come from. The flour of rice mingled with almonds made as small as they could and with some fleshy parts of chicken stewed with it, and then beaten into pieces, mixed with sugar and rose water, scented with amber was a popular dessert of the royal table.Various kinds of pickles, chutneys, fresh ginger, lemons and various greens in bags bearing a seal of Mir Baqawal, saucers of yogurt piled up were also included in the royal menu. Pickles had medicinal value; it is learnt that the pickles made with fruit sharpened the appetite and hunger, ward off illness, and also helped in digestion.

Except in banquets, which were regular features of the court, the emperors ate alone in the privacy of their harem. No outsider has ever seen any emperor while dining, expect once when Friar Sebastien Manriquea, a Portuguese priest, was smuggled by a eunuch inside the harem to watch Shah Jahan eating his food with Asaf Khan, Nur Jahan’s brother. Food was eaten on the floor. Sheets made of leather and covered with white calico protected the expensive Persian carpets. This was called dastarkhwan. It was customary for the king to set aside a portion of food for the poor before eating. The emperor began and ended his meals with prayers.

Chewing of betel (paan) finds numerous references in the Mughal culture. It was important ingredient to end the meal. The emperor was given the bira of betel after he had washed his hands. The betel leaves were rubbed with camphor and rose water. Eleven leaves made one bira. The betel nut (supari) was boiled in sandalwood juice. Lime was mixed with saffron and rose water. Chewing of betel leaf (tambul) had many qualities. It made the tongue soft, the mouth sweet-smelling and was good for the stomach.

Tobacco and huqqa, the ubiquitous symbols of princely India in later times, was known in the Mughal courts in the seventeenth century.

One of Babur’s main disappointments with India was that there were no good fruits. He made efforts to cultivate sweet grapes, melons, and pineapples in Hindustan. Akbar set up a royal orchard and employed horticulturists from Central Asia and Persia. Their fondness for fruits made them take steps to grow fruits in the soil of Hindustan. To encourage farmers, horticulture was exempted from tax. They enjoyed mangoes.

Babur was not particularly fond of them but Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb found the fruit best in flavor and taste. The shops in Delhi were well stocked with nuts and dried fruits such as almonds, pistachios, walnut, raisins, prunes and apricots from Persia, Balkh, Bukhara and Samarqand. In winter, fresh grapes, black and white, brought from the same countries wrapped in cotton, pears and apples of three to four kinds, and melons were eaten, stewed or raw, and preserved in sugar and nuts. They were called murrabas and their use was advised by the shahi hakim. In summer, mangoes were plentiful and cheap. Best mangoes came from Golconda, Bengal, and Goa. Bernier also saw many mithai (sweetmeat) shops, but was not impressed with them, firstly they were not well made, and secondly they were exposed to dust and files.

Drinking water was a major item of expense in the royal household, for the Mughal emperors were fastidious about water and normally drank only from River Ganges, which had to be brought from considerable distance. Akbar called it water of immortality. The water was brought in sealed jars. A special department called Aabdar-Khana was in charge of water supply to the royal household, experienced water tasters were a regular unit of royal entourage and also accompanied emperors on hunting. For cooking, water from River Yamuna and Chenab was mixed with little water from the River Ganges or even rain water was collected and stored in the kitchen. In early part of Akbar’s reign, water was cooled with saltpeter.

 In the later part of the Mughal era, with the arrival of Portuguese, potatoes and chillies were added to the food list. Excellently well-dressed potatoes, or potatoes cooked in several ways were added to the royal meals in the post-Jahangir period. Shah Jahan’s table had rich spicy food besides different kinds of qormas, qaliyas, breads, kebabs, and pulaos, a lot of Indian and some European delights also made their appearance on the royal dastarkhwan. With the passage of time, dishes like poori, Parantha, khandvi, kachori and many more savouries and sweets became part of the emperor’s khasa.

The most lavish table was that of Bahadur Shah Zafar. His table had every cuisine – Turkish, Persian, Afghani, and Indian – Kebabs of venison, partridge and fish, booranis, samosas, khandvi, dals, salans, and a variety of pulaos and sweetmeats. He enjoyed eating besan ki roti with rahat jani chutney, lamb qorma and dal padshah pasand.

All these details show how far the Mughal emperors had developed the art of cooking clearly to satisfy refined and gastronomical concerns. They have left behind not only the accounts of their rule in India, but also the exotic dishes and their style of cooking like dum pukht (which is now being popularized by ITC Hotels, who are also pioneer in their efforts to revive the old dishes).

The style set the standard for others to follow, so that even with the decline of the empire after 1707, rich cuisine continued to evolve at the courts of the Nizams of Hyderabad, the Nawabs of Lucknow, Murshidabad, Rampur, and among the rulers of Rajasthan and Kashmir. Today in Pakistan and India, the legacy of Mughals is reflected in the grand and luxurious food served at formal banquets.

The names of the emperors and their queens linked with dishes make an interesting part of the menu in many five-star hotels and even wayside restaurants. Poor Mughals little did they not know that they would be remembered with qormas and pulaos besides the Red Fort and Taj Mahal.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CUISINE

  • Saffron is used in generous quantities in this cuisine.
  • Rice is more commonly used staple.
  • Slow cooking process was used to ensure proper infusion of the flavours.
  • Tandoori products are a prominent feature of the cuisine.
  • The handwritten account of the royal kitchens of the Mughal emperors reveal that very few spices like cumin, coriander, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel were used in cooking. So, continuing the tradition, these are the very common ingredients used in the Mughlai cuisine even today.
  • Almonds, pistachios, walnut, dried apricots and plums, and raisins are used in plenty in the stuffing, gravies, desserts etc. These make the dishes more exotic as compared to other cuisines.
  • Herbs like mint, coriander and dill etc also find common use in this cuisine.
  • The use of sugar and saffron with lemon juice was common almost for every dish, perhaps, to create the sweet and sour effect. These also reduce the heat of the saffron which was used in large quantity. Curd is also widely used.
  • Food is traditionally cooked in almond oil, lard obtained from the melted down fatty tail of sheep, apricot oil, and oil from the seeds of grapes. It is common to colour ghee differently with saffron, spinach, and turmeric and is flavoured with rose water musk and other perfumes.
  • Water for use in the cuisine was traditionally perfumed with camphor, rose petals, sour orange leaves, sweet orange leaves and fennel leaves. Now such practices are rarely found.
  • Fish is widely used and is made odour-free by applying the paste of fresh lime leaves, cardamom, cloves, lemon juice, and salt, and was kept overnight and then cooked with great skill so as not to leave any bone behind. Similarly, games were slaughtered and treated for cooking. Traditionally, sandalwood paste was applied on them to remove unpleasant odour. The games are commonly smoked and grilled and barbecued meat adorns the table. Birds and animal of prey are commonly stuffed with rice, dried fruit and eggs to make a wholesome food. This style of cooking is given a more sophisticated touch now.

Utensils : The cooking utensils were same as that used in traditional North Indian cuisine i.e., deg, handi, pateela etc.

Some Documented Mughal Preparations

Manty Steamed Lamb Stuffed Pastry
Karam Dulma Lamb Mince Stuffed in cabbage and stewed
Mastava Lamb & Vegetable Stew
Palov (Various) Rice Preparations with meat, vegetables or nuts quite like a pulao.
Kulcha Leavened Bread (flavored /unflavored)
Riza Kufta Mince koftas cooked in a nut based gravy
Khoresh Fesenjan Braised Duck with Pomegranate Glaze
Halvaye Zardak Carrot Pudding very similar to Gajjar Halwa
Haleem Khasa Lamb & Grain stew/porridge
Khasa Tilaai (Paheet) Lentil Cooked with Yoghurt
Yakhni Kebab Lamb Kebab
Maleedah Crushed and Sweetened Griddle baked bread ,very similar to Rajasthani or Gujarati Churma
Murg-e-taaus Chicken cooked in a yoghurt gravy with nuts
Lauzeena Bread Pudding (similar to shahi tukra)
Boorani Badanjaan Stuffed Aubergin In Yoghurt Gravy

 

August 14, 2017

Uttar Pradesh Food That Must Be The Part of Fun-filled Delicious Walk

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 11:19 am

A wide range of variety, taste and flavour is what Indian State Uttar Pradesh is known for. Walking through different cities of the state will leave you amazed about the exotic gravies. The base of most commonly eaten dishes is prepared by a mixture of tomatoes, ginger, onion, garlic and a number of spices are also used. No wonder if you find the best foods that can tantalize your senses here. Come, explore, cook, learn and have a mesmerizing experience. Here are some quick picks of Uttar Pradesh food and cuisine that have been pleasing the travellers from far and wide.

Let us start with the non meaty ones:

Puri-Aloo and Kachori:

The most widely eaten food in Uttar Pradesh is also a favourite breakfast item here. Puri is deep fried flat bread which is served with boiled spicy potatoes. This UP style aloo ki sabzi is served along with the khasta kachori (crispy, stuffed and deep fried flat bread). This is a commonly eaten street food in UP as well.

A Unique Version of it: 

Most popularly it is known as ‘Mathura ki dubki wala aloo sabzi’ which means potatoes dunked in spicy curry. This version of aloo ki sabzi does not have tomatoes, onions or garlic. It has a loose liquid consistency. This version is tangy and has aromatic notes. Cayenne pepper, cloves, pepper corns are added to it. Potatoes are hand-crushed and cooked slowly with a lot of liquid for a long time. This is served with a lentil stuffed, deep fried crispy flat bread.

Here’s how it looks like….

Nimona (Green pea mash):

This widely eaten green pea mash in North Uttar Pradesh is available during the winters. Being a large state Uttar Pradesh shares several dishes with the adjacent states of Delhi, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. These were ruled by the same Mughal emperors who were fond of eating and hence the cuisines invented in one state bore resemblance with the other.  Here’s how Nimona is prepared…

Take some oil in the frying pan and asafoetida and cumin. Once it is roasted, add coriander powder, grated ginger and tomato chilli paste. When the spices are fried, add peas paste and stir it for a couple of minutes. Add a bit of water. Add chilies , salt and cook for about 7-8 minutes. Simmer and turn off the gas. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot with chappatis

Curry of  Mungori and Bari (Sun dried lentil chunks):

In this delicacy the sun dried lentil chunks are shallow fried and taken out. After that, they are cooked in the gravy of ginger, tomato, garlic paste. This dish is taken either with rice or with the flat bread and pickles or chutney. It tastes awesome in either case.

Veg Kofta Curry With Rice:

These are deep fried mixed veggie balls that are served with the pumpkin or bottle gourd curry. A mixed veggie Kofta is easy to cook and tastes like heaven. It melts in mouth. The silky spicy gravy of this UP dish tastes fabulous. You can take it either with rice or with flat bread. It tastes the best either ways.

Now the Turn of Meat Dishes!!

There are interesting types of cooking method which is exclusive to Uttar Pradesh. An interesting type of cooking in Awadh is ‘Dum Pukht.’ In this method the food is sealed and cooked in earthen mud pot known as ‘handi’ It takes about 3-4 to cook meal in this traditional manner. The influence of Mughal emperors is clearly reflected in the Mughali and Awadhi cuisine which comprises of non-vegetarian food. So, the non-meaty food of Uttar Pradesh have strong aroma, strong spices and strong seasonings.

Kormas:

The dish consisting of meat braised either with cream or yogurt, stock, water and spices to produce thick glaze. It was a popular Moghul dish flavoured with a perfect mixture of several spices that include cumin and coriander. The flavour of this particular dish comes up when yogurt is kept under the curdling temperature and it is incorporated slowly with the juices of meat.

Back in the time of Mughals it was cooked in a pot on low fire for a long time. Charcoal was kept on the lid to provide heat uniformly. It can be mild or overtly spicy. Lamb, beef or chicken can be used in the kormas. This is a royal dish and not a part of daily meal hence it is called Shahi (royal) Korma.

Pasanda:

This popular meal served at the Mughal courts is basically meaty but nowadays non-meaty twists are also given to it. In the original version of it, leg of lamb was used, flattened into strips, marinated and then finally fried in a dish with a lot of seasoning. Variations were made to it and sometimes king prawns and chicken are also used.

The meat is cut into flattened pieces; it is marinated with yogurt, a number of spices, seasonings, chillip powder and yogurt. After marinating, this meat is placed in sauce pan with onions, coriander, chillies, black pepper and cinnamon. It is fried and cooked for half an hour. The dish is finally garnished with almonds and tomatoes. It is served hot with rice or naan (unleavened bread).

Biryani:

Awadhi or Lucknowi Biryani’ is the widely consumed meaty dish in Uttar Pradesh

Kebabs:

Both in the Middle East and in many parts of Asia kebabs include all the grilled meat dishes. In the capital of Uttar Pradesh, it is different. The lip smacking version of it known as Galwati Kebabs is soft minced meat which is patty shallow fried on a special pan over charcoal fire. It is served with unleavened Avadhi bread called Paratha.

This Lucknawi version of Kebab is so soft that it melts into your mouth as soon as you take the morsel.

August 11, 2017

Different Interesting Stories About Indian Biryani

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 10:44 am
It would sound surprising to you but yes, Biryani which is one of the most commonly eaten foods is not Indian. This lip-smacking and ‘tagged as Indian food’ was originated in Persia and took multiple routes before arriving to India finally. The word Biryani had come from the Farsi word ‘Birian’ It is cooked over (Dum) and this was perhaps the other reason why it is Persian.

Different people are of the different opinion about Biryani. Some people are of the belief that it could have come from Persia through Afghanistan and then to North India finally. Arab traders could have also brought it via Arabian Sea to Calicut. At the time of Mughal era, Lucknow was known as Awadh and hence it is called ‘Awadhi Biryani’ here. It is said that in the year 1856, when the British deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in Kolkata, Kolkata Biryani was not born. 

Hyderabadi Biryani and Arcot Biryani have a different story. It is said that Aurangzeb deputed Asfa Jahi ruler of Hyderabad and the Nawab of Arcot to overlook Aaru Kaadu region or Six forests which were situated South of Hyderabad. These moves resulted in the origin of Hyderabad and Arcot Biryani. Tipu Sultan was responsible for the spread of Mysore Biryani. But it was the time when vegetarian Hindus were hired as bookkeepers and hence Tahiri Biryani came into being.

There are several legends out of which one says that Timor who was lame brought Biryani from Kazakhstan via Afghanistan to Northern India. Another legend says, the Taj beauty, ‘Mumtaz Mahal’ invented a dish for feeding her army that was Biryani as it was considered to be wholesome and energy giving. As per another belief, nomads used to burry an earthen pot full of meat, rice and spices in a pit and when they it was dug a delicacy called Biryani came out. 

How Biryani Used To Be?

The word Biryani is derived from the Persian ‘word’ ‘Birian’ which means ‘fried before cooking.’ In the olden times, rice was fried without washing in the Clarified butter. Doing so, used to give rice a nutty flavour, it used to burn the outside starch layer and gelatinized it. Once the rice is stir-fried, it was boiled in water along with the spices till they were half-cooked.

Meat chunks, was not cooked but marinated in the paste of Papaya, spices and whole-milk.

It was the time when Biryani used to be cooked in Handi, the rice and meats were layered and the top layer used to rice always. An inter layer of condiments was introduced between the rice and meat. To give a flowery and herbal aroma. Mace, essence of screw pine, cardamom and rose water was added that used to give an herbal aroma to Biryani. The Handi is then sealed tightly and put on the coal embers for slow cooking.

So, the favourite dish of Nizams and Nawabs had a long history had different stories and different flavours. Explore the different variations of Indian Biryanis here.

 

 

July 27, 2017

7 Non Indian Dishes That Became More Indian

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 6:15 am

You will be surprised out of wits to know that food as common as wheat and potatoes in India did not originate here and were completely unknown at a point of time. But, now these are inseparable part of Indian food. Gastroutes has enlisted such foods which were never Indian but became an integral part of India.

Kulfi:

This frozen Indian dessert was brought by the Mughals from Kabul and Samarkand. The name Kulfi is derived from the conical metal vessel in which it is frozen. Indeed Ain-i-Akbari described it as a mass of khoa (condensed milk) that contains chopped pistachio, essence of kesar (saffron) in a metal cone that is sealed with wheat dough.

Jalebi:

These crisp fried coiled strands immersed in sugar syrup.  It is said that jalebi is an altered form of Arabic zalabiya or the Persian zalibiya. But later on it became an integral part of the Indian sweet. That is had along with yogurt to balance its extreme sweetness. It is a common breakfast dish in many states of North India. In South India too, it is served as a penultimate sweet dish, before the curd rice.

Gulab Jamun:

Stop drawing the picture of Gulab Jamun as an Indian food, it is not. These sweet dumplings that are filled up with saffron, cardamom and sugar syrup, is Persian. The name Gulab Jamun has a Persian origin. Gul means flower and ab means water. In Persian it was known as “Luqmat al Qadi.” And it was prepared by soaking the Khoya(milk fudge) balls in honey syrup and drizzled with sugar. Of course there was an improvisation to it when it travelled to India, but sure you can trace it roots elsewhere.

Rajma:

Another most widely eaten food all over India is Rajma (red kidney beans) is not Indian. Kidney beans were introduced to India by the Portuguese and the Mexicans started soaking and boiling them. It is true that the sauce of rajma was an Indian invention to something that was foreign. It tastes the best when eaten with rice.

Samosas:

One of your favorites during the rainy or cold season is samosa which again is not Indian. But, only a few of us may know that they originated before the 10th century in the Middle East prior to the 10th century, it was originally known as ‘sambosa’. They were introduced to Indians by the traders of the Central Asia who brought it with them to India.

Tea:

The comfort drink of every Indian ‘Chai’ (tea) is not the native of India. It originated in China. Nobody could think that the most widely drunk chai in India is not Indian. Chinese used this beverage as a medicinal drink. The British soon discovered it and fancied it the most as the adorable beverage to India. It came to India and with so many variations became so Indian only to gain popularity very recently after 1940s.

Chicken Tikka Masala:

Again a big NO ! You are mistaken this is not a Punjabi (Indian) dish as you have always thought it to be. Much to your surprise the dish was prepared in Glasgow (UK). Of course the chef Ali Ahmed Aslam who prepared it was Pakistani by origin, as it is a custom to term Pakistanis and Bangladeshis as Indians or at least their cuisine and why not, all of this was once a bigger undivided India. It was in the year 1971 this chef tried making some innovation to dried chicken marinating it in a sauce and then started this novel dish that turned out to be super-delicious. Every British with the slightest knowledge of Indian cuisine will know this dish as Indian and has eaten it too.

Biryani:

This would also be no less than an ultimate blow to our food thoughts. Biryani too is not Indian. It has its roots in Persian. The Persian word Birian means ‘fried before cooking’. This delectable and one of the most lovable Indian food is a gift to India from Persia. Biryani is a specialty of Indian state called Hyderabad. Find out food specialty of different Indian states.

Whatever the origins of these dishes may be, they are so well blended with the Indian culture that it is impossible to think that they were not Indian.

A spice which you may have thought of Indian till now is not Indian actually!

 

Also Read : http://wingyboxing.com/nothing-indian-indian-chillies/

June 13, 2017

Interesting Facts and Story behind Indian ‘Sattu’

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , — admin @ 10:39 am

It would be no exaggeration to term ‘Sattu’ (roasted black gram) as a nutritional power powder. Popular in the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab, was once a rural delicacy but now urban India is also inclining towards it. Owing to the rising popularity of sattu, people have started giving wings to their imagination to add taste and more nutrition to it. Mixing barley and wheat to the gram flour has raised the nutritional value further and taking it in the various forms like ‘paranthas’ (unleavened bread stuffed with sattu),’ laddoos’ (roundels), ‘littis’ (hollow dough stuffed with sattu and baked in cow-dung fire ). Prior to knowing the advantages of this Indian super cereal and the various stages through which it has evolved, let us have a quick look at its nutritive value.

Nutritional Value of Sattu:

The nutritional value of sattu remains intact because it is just dry roasted. Moreover, it has a longer shelf life, very high in the fiber content and low in sodium. All the important minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese are found in abundance in this.

Per 100 gram contains:

  • Proteins: 20.6%
  • Carbohydrates: 65.2%
  • Fat – 7.2%
  • Crude fiber – 1.35%
  • Moisture: 2.95%
  • Calories: 406 Kilo joules

How Sattu Evolved To Become a Part of Contemporary Dining?

This wholesome meal was considered as the pious food in Quran (Holy book of Muslims) and was known by the name ‘saweeq’. A legend goes, that on his way to Khyber (at Sadd-al-Rohaa), Prophet Mohmmad took rest at a village and ordered his followers to bring him whatever they had. ‘Hajis’ came to his table with a dish which tasted great, was satiating and thoroughly nourishing, the concoction was made up of saweeq and dates. The dish became so popular that it has begun to be served as a blessed sweet in the wedding ceremonies and also as a part of ration by Arab traders. In the interior parts of the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Odisha and Bihar, barley based sattu is a traditional breakfastIn Punjab, barley-based variety is being used whereas in Odisha and Bihar, roasted gram is used.

Considered as a poor-man’s diet in India and a staple diet of North Indian farmers, this cereal is known to our ancestors. This was a staple diet till the end of the Kushan Empire and at the time of Kalinga war, soldiers and sailors used to carry its sacks so that they could sustain during the long maritime journey. During the Mauryan times, it was served to the in-war battalions as part of their compensation. Sattu became Shivaji’s favorite choice at the time of guerrilla war against the Mughals.

 It is believed that the invention of Sattu was made to cater the needs of travelers rather than a morning meal. It gained popularity when Brahmins began to like itThere was a time when Sarais (resting place) were not common and hence it became a must-carry food as it kept the travelers satiated for a long time.  The longer-shelf life, ease of transporting, good taste and a high nutritive value has made sattu immensely popular.

Health Benefits of Sattu:

Keeps Your Body Cool:

It is amazingly hydrating and capable of preventing strokes. It keeps your stomach cool and prevents indigestion. The drink of sattu keeps your body free from the internal heat.

Post-Work Out Protein Kick:

After work outs or at the time of pregnancy when the body craves for more protein, it can be a boon in disguise. As it is packed with proteins and important minerals, sattu replenishes the lost nutrients in the body.

Good for Digestion:

If you have stomach ailments, sattu is all for you! It fights the sluggish digestion, flatulence and is rich source of fiber as well. It reduces fat, fights constipation and combats acidity.

Regulates Blood Pressure:

Being a natural energizer, it helps regulate blood pressure. To control the elevating blood pressure, doctors advise patients to have sattu with water. Also, it has a low Glycemic Index making it good for the diabetics. Drinking sattu drinks, control the blood sugar levels.

Enhances Your Stamina:

Being immensely rich in protein and replenishing minerals which our body can easily absorb, it is equivalent to an energy drink, with no preservatives and no harmful impact on the body.

Important to Note:

  • Since it is high in protein, it should not be consumed before the bed time or at night.
  • To get the optimal health benefits of sattu it should be taken empty stomach and jaggery or curd should be mixed with it.
  • It should not be taken with milk (high protein).
  • It is better to have sattu in the form of a drink. Sattu sherbet is a refreshing drink which is made by adding chilled water and jaggery to it.

 

June 10, 2017

Reviving Forgotten Traditional Foods of India

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 8:09 am

Have you ever heard about ‘Ravaiyan Baingan’ ? This tongue-tickling delicacy made up of small egg plants stuffed with prawns and peanuts being introduced in the restaurant menu were the brainchild of SodaBottleOpenerWala, a Bombay-Irani restaurant. This exclusive dish was a result of amalgamation of Gujarati and Iranian cuisine. The choice of veggies and ample use of peanuts and sesame is common to both.

The same restaurant has whipped up yet another innovative dish known as ‘Aleti-Paleti’. Guess what it could be? It is a chicken giblets fried in the spices. Other little known dishes introduced by the restaurant were ‘Chicken Maiwalla’, a custard like chicken preparation that tastes awesome. The credit for these recipes goes to the chef manager of SodaBottleOpenerWala, Anahita Dhondy, who had unearthed these dishes during his trips to Gujarat.

The innovations of Dhondy are just a small example. Not only food lovers but historians and writers have also been contributing to a great extent in reviving the culinary traditions in India. Given the hectic schedule and busy life, the culinary tradition of India is fading fast and it is the revival of these dishes that is applauded at large.

There is a tale behind “Tehsiladri Qorma.” After the mutiny, a Mughal Prince was appointed as a tehisldar in Shamsabad by the British. Over the time he became friendly with the Safavi family and the quorma was his innovation. To give a unique flavour to this qorma he used curd, khoya (milk fudge) and rabdi (thickened milk).  The family of Safvi who served the royals of Banaras popularizes the old forgotten exotic recipes on her blog like dahi phulki, kimam ki sevaiyyan (kimam is a mix of spices and tobacco which is preferred by paan connoisseurs).

Safavi whose forefathers used to serve the royals of Banaras had flooded his blog with the exotic recipes which are otherwise difficult to find. ‘Dum ki machhli’, ‘kimam ki sevaiyyan’ and a few others have grown immensely popular. There is yet another well known writer who has made Banaras food trendy with the help of his blog has revived yet another forgotten Indian food called “dal ki dulhan” and “dal ka dulha” This is folded whole-wheat dumplings steamed and cooked then dipped in cooked arhar ki daal (yellow lentils).

There is yet another landmark in the world of cooking that was brought about by an archaeologist and a caterer, Kurush Dalal by way of ‘Kakdi ma gosht’. He was researching the evolution of the Parsi  cuisine ever since the first members of the Parsi community landed in the state of Gujarat coast from Iran somewhere between 8th and the 10th century. This is the dish in which marrow of the cucumber is stuffed with meat after scooping out its seeds. This stuffed dish is then cooked on a slow flame.

The combinations which were researched by the Dalal took him by surprise. ‘Tituri or Kadu val’ was the sprouted bitter beans cooked in spicy gravy and eaten with a rice ‘chapatti’ and pickle. This is also made with chicken or prawns. Another Parsi dish is ‘masoorma jeebh’ or goat’s tongue that was cooked in black lentils. There are fascinating social practices as well. For instance, a nomadic Bawariya tribe cooks a special chicken delicacy known as ‘gadhia laharu’. This is cooked to celebrate the birth of girls and is made exclusively by men and served to women folks first. There are many such stories that bring out quite interesting facts related to food.

Not only those who are in the profession of food and catering but also the ardent food lovers in whatever profession they may be, have been putting their best foot forward to revive the traditional culinary delights for the sake of reintroducing the almost extinct dishes.

June 7, 2017

How Sandesh originated in Bengal? – A fascinating story

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 9:35 am

The state of Bengal is known for its sweets (Misti) all over the India. But what the world does not know is the fact that this important part of the Bengali life owes is origin to a Portuguese who brought the concept of cottage cheese or “chenna”. Moreover, contrary to the popular belief, Rasogolla was not the first sweet dish of Bengal. Sandesh made its debut much before the famous Bengali Rasogolla. However, Rasogolla stole the show and became much more famous. There are many such interesting facts about Bengali sweets which are worth exploring.

How Chenna (An important ingredient of Sandesh) was originated in Bengal?

As mentioned, Portuguese were already on the scene with the concept of “chenna” or cottage cheese. However it took 100 long years for the sweet-makers in Bengal to understand its full potential and start making sweets out of it. It is said that the unsold milk of the milkmen used to be get converted either into milk products or butter cream. But when the unsold milk used to turn sour and started forming “Chenna” it was absolutely of no use.

What was the first form of Sandesh?

The extreme heat of Calcutta summer began to rot “Chenna.” To counter this daily wastage of tasteless but useful by product of milk it was mixed with the molasses or sugar and a fine paste was made out of it.  A great mind started mixing sugar, “khoya” (milk fudge) and cardamom powder with it and it finally resulted in beautiful and awesome tasting paste known as “makha sandesh”. That was the first form of the sandesh, known to Bengalis.

Much later than that the sweet lump was moulded and turned into Sandesh by a great Bengali sweet-maker called Bhim Chandra Nag.

A Few First Interesting Stories about Sandesh:

  • It is said that Rani Rashmoni of Jaan Bazaar who set up the Dakshineswar Kali Temple ordered 18 maunds of sweets including Sandeshon the day temple was opened.
  • According to one of the members of the Bhim Nag family, Rani Rashmoni of Janbajar Zamindari of Kolkata used to buy a sizeable amount of Sandeshfrom the shop of Bhim Nag. She used to carry to packets one for the Goddess Kali and another for the priest Sri Ramkrishna Paramahansa who was very fond of them.
  • One of the most popular varieties of “Sandesh” called “Ashu Bhog” was named after Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee who was also very fond of Sandesh. One of the tales says that it was his daily routine to halt his horse-driven carriage in front of the Bowbajar Street Bhim Nag’s shop when he was on his way to Calcutta University from his work place. Bhim Nag used to keep a pack of sweet ready for him.
  • A famous Bengali sweet called “Ledikeni” was a brainchild of Bhim Nag. It was basically a golden-brown looking sweet which is dipped in the sugary syrup and used to resemble “gulab jamun” closely. It is said that at the eve of Lord Canning’s (the then Governor General of Bengal) wife the dish was presented to her and was named “Ledikeni” in her honor.  It was very close to “Rasogolla” except the only difference that it was deep fried in ghee for the sake of color.
  • After “Sandesh”, confectioners of Calcutta turned to the invention of syrupy sweets. The year 1868 brought a revolution in the domain of sweets. In the Northern Fringes of Kolkata there was a petty sweet shop owned by a poor Bengali called Nabin Chandra Das. It is said that “Rasogolla” was his invention. There is a story behind it which reads that Nabin Chandra Das was lagging far behind in the business because in those days the business of sweets was depended on credit sales and Das was too poor to afford that. His shop was in a huge loss until a strategy that really worked. At the end of the day, Nabin used to distribute the unsold sweets. People began to flock around the shop more and more because of this attraction. Those who used to eat the same Sandeshtime and again began to feel that it is monotonous and Nabin should make an innovation. Nabin Das put on a hard work which finally resulted in “Rasogolla.”

May 10, 2017

Go Back To Heritage Food of India For Taste and Health!

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 2:01 pm

There are chances that we have not even heard of dishes that our ancestors ate or maybe we just do not know the recipes that were followed of a particular dish by our great grandmothers. There used to be a large joint family system in India and each meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner was cooked fresh as there was no storage in fridges and of course ample availability of all ingredients. The best part was that we ate food that was actually native and changed our food strictly in accordance to the season. Partially eating from the season was due to non-availability and partially it was due to budgetary constraints. One had to keep food budgets under control to be able to provide for a huge family. The other highlight was near zero wastage, from root, to stem, to leaves and of course fruits were all a part of diet.

Toady modern science and some fashionable concepts of ‘farm to table’ or farm to fork seem to us so very attractive. India was always like that and it will be no exaggeration to say most of the households still follow this in their food habits connecting naturally to elements of nature and that unconsciously contributes to the nutritional requirements of human body. Our body has a great instinct to adjust itself to climate and even to day-to-day weather.  While Indian or let us see it as traditional Indian food (not modern food habits or any of food in today’s times) has played an important role to help this instinct of our bodies intact.

New age cooking has played havoc with our bodies and the primary reason is the use of technology, cold-chains and opening up our tastes to global cuisine which was never ours. Now this could be a similar nuance of any western country as well, where their food was developed according to their conditions not our and respecting their native food, they too have diverted from their traditions exactly the same was as we have.

Food advertisements too are to be blamed for misleading fact, for example some silly refined oil advertises being cholesterol buster, while another prompts us to be diabetic fighter. Silly isn’t it? We in India are now being asked to deep fry our pakoras (vegetable fritters) in olive oil leaving our own mustard oil aside or for that matter makes our sweets in refined oil as our own deshi ghee will give us a heart-attack. We need to understand that olive oil may be good for Mediterranean and not for us, not only our pakoras or vegetables will taste bizarre, but also it may not be good for our health, when living in India. Simple rule is to eat what is yours at least on a regular basis as a staple diet. India being a huge country changes its ingredients and cooking methods from region to region. There is use of coconut oil in almost everything that’s cooked in coastal regions or down south, while lot of mustard oil is used up in the north. Our food today, especially in the urban India is far from what it used to be, to the extent that many food items on our table are just lost if not forgotten. Grains, vegetables and even the meat have changed to cater to our taste and not to our bodies actually.

They say life comes a full circle and it is indeed true on our dinner tables, where it is once again becoming fashionable to go back to roots, enjoy bajra (pearl millets) and ragi (finger millet) if not in place of, at least along side with imported quinoa. Suddenly you will notice super-markets and stores to be stocking, makhana (Puffed lotus seeds) and jakhiya (wild mustard or dog mustard) just because of the fact that they are in demand and it is being considered happening to eat what our ancestors ate.

Why not term it as Heritage Food of India, where we connect to our roots, eat what we ate and cook the traditional way or at least as close to the tradition if not fully. Our chefs who are TV Chefs need to educate us about the subject and bring it all back in fashion. Televisions are big influencers and these could be quite a medium to bring us all back to ‘Root Food’ or call it ‘Heritage Food’.

Embracing the Heritage Food in our daily lives will not only aid health issues, but will also keep this system alive for our generations to benefit and feel proud of.  The way we preserve our monuments as a part of our heritage, I am sure food too can invoke the same passion and can narrate the entire period by way of food. How awesome it would be to understand what our ancestors from Mahabharata ate, or what did the Emperor Ashoka eat?

July 25, 2016

6 Top Myths About Indian Foods Debunked!

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 7:35 am

The age-old thoughts that you carry about the Indian food can be a myth hampering your vision. Unleashed here are certain truths behind the myths about Indian food that we always thought to be attached with it or call it the misconception connected to Indian cuisine.

 

#Myth 1: Indian Food Is Excessively Spicy:

 Truth:

Yes, this is a myth indeed! Although Indian cooking is spicier when compared to the European cooking, but there are some Indian states like Gujarat that have not too food too. So, if you are looking for less-hot Indian food then go for the Gujarati dishes. In the state of Bengal too you would find a taste of sweetness in all their dishes. Other than that most of South Indian dishes are less spicy than other regions of India (Andhra Pradesh is an exception). Food from Punjab region is dairy based hence not very spicy. Food from Lucknow holds high culinary expertise the food is aromatic and beautifully flavoursome.

Indian food is as diversified as the community and culture here.

 Kerala cuisine: The Indian state of quiet backwaters and breezy coconut has most of the dishes cooked in coconut oil and with coconut based gravies with very light spices. 

Assam Cuisine: In the state of Assam, spices are used but the Assamese dishes have a host of flavors and the overall taste is of course not that spicy.

Odihsa Cuisine: In this Indian state a lot of sweets are served along with the main course and all the dishes here have a dash of sugar quite similar to its neighbour state, Bengal. 

Rajasthan Cuisine: In this royal Indian state, dishes are suited for the arid and dry climate; hence Rajasthani food consists of grains, dry fruits and milk.

Tamil Brahmin Cuisine: Tamil Brahmins consume simple food but very tasty.

So, is it not that Indian food being spicy always is just a myth that you may be fostering till now.

 

# Myth 2: Desi ghee (clarified butter) has an adverse impact on health.

 Truth:

There is a myth behind one of the most commonly used ingredients in the Indian kitchens, desi ghee. There is an exaggerated fear of cholesterol and saturated fat but as a matter of fact it is only 60-65% saturated and the rest is MUFA (Monounsaturated fatty acids) that is immensely beneficial for health. It helps in reducing the cholesterol levels too. It is a kind of fat that is found in the olive oil. This is more desirable than PUFA or Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids due to the fact that it does not bring down the good cholesterol. Being immensely rich in Vitamin A, D, E, K and Linoleic acid that are immensely rich in antioxidants, Indian desi ghee is a better cooking medium than olive, coconut or sunflower oil in many ways than one.

 

# Myth 3: Indian Food Is Mainly Vegetarian:

 Truth:

As per a recent survey conducted, 70% of Indians are non-vegetarians. In the Indian State of Telangana, about 98% eat fish, fowl and meat. West Bengal has 98.55%, Andhra Pradesh 98.35%, Kerala 97% and Odisha has 97%.

Just because the majority community in India is Hindu does not mean that the food you would find here is only vegetarian. There are different sub-sects within Hindu religion and many of them have different food choices. In fact, chicken dishes are the most popular ones in India. Sea food is immensely popular in the coastal areas of West Bengal, Kerala, Goa and Mangalore.

The extremely popular Chicken Tikka in England was brought to India by the Mughals. This was later adopted by the state of Punjab and refined to their taste. A majority of Punjabis who migrated and settled in Britain created a different version of the dish to suite the British palate, but it is now not as popular in India as it is in Britain.

 

#Myth 4: Indian Food Means Curries Basically:

 Truth:

Curry was brought to India and made popular by the British-South Asian ethnic troupe. It is only that curry has a different meaning in India. While in a foreign land, curry is referred to spicy thick gravy. In South India, curry is a vegetable side dish which is served along with the rice or dosa (pancake made up of fermented rice batter) which is a staple diet there. Normally curry that is served here have fried veggies without thick gravy. In the state of Tamil Nadu, it means, meat in gravy. The British called it a curry but the term has actually come from the Tamil word, ‘Kari’ which means sauce or gravy.

 

#Myth 5: Truth:Indians Eat Their Food with Hands which is Unhygienic:

 Truth:

Guests visiting India are sometimes shocked to see Indians eating with their hands. Though eating with hands is a ritual in India and also most of the Indian dishes cannot be eaten with cutlery.  Apart from India, eating with hands is common in certain parts of Middle East and Africa. Eating with hands has its roots in Ayurveda. According to Veda, hands are valuable organs of action and each finger of the hand is an extension of 5 vital elements which the body is made up of, fire, air, space, earth and water. Eating with hand stimulates all the five elements and helps release the digestive juices. Also, when you touch and feel the food your brain gets a signal of what you are about to eat.

 

#Myth 6: Indians Eat not from Plates but from Leafs, so bad it is:

 Truth:

Apart from this traditional Indian food belief, there are other beliefs as well. Like in the Southern part of India, meal is served mostly on the Banana leaves. In Kerala too, you would find people eating on banana leaves rather than a plate. When hot food is placed on these leaves they emanate several nutrients that enhance the overall nutritive value of food. Banana leaves have high level of Polyphones which is a natural antioxidant.

Food is also had on ‘Pattals’ (plates made of dry leaves, while bowls are called ‘Dona’). This is so eco-friendly, yet disposable method of eating. The dead leaves that fall from the tree on their own are collected and molded into a plate or a bowl and this is used as plates. Even in Hindu and Sikh temples this is the way to serve food during community meals and is considered so pious and sanitized without any issues of being dirty or used earlier. A part that comes from nature after use goes back to nature.

June 20, 2016

Recipe of Instant Gulkand

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 9:04 am

About Gulkand:

There are reasons good enough to use sweet preserve of rose petals from the Indian subcontinent. It is easy to prepare, hardly has any preparation time and can be stored up to a year. This powerful antioxidant is a rejuvenator and prevents sunstroke. Whether you want to remove toxins from your body, improve digestion, appetite or want to get rid of mouth ulcers, gulkand will be of great help!

Homemade Gulkand Recipe (Rose Petal Jam)

Ingredients Used:

  • 1 cupful of fresh rose petals (petals of light pink roses)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1tbsp of elaichi powder (cardamom powder)
  • 1 tbsp ofsaunf (Aniseed)
  • 2 tbsp of honey or glycerin

Method of Preparation:

  • Collect the fresh petals of pink or red rose (taste will remain the same in both, only the colour will be slightly different)
  • Wash the petals gently and let them get dried on a piece of paper or cloth.
  • Mix sugar and rose petals and mash thoroughly.
  • Put the mixture over flame and mix cardamom powder, honey and aniseed.
  • Stir well for sometime till the sugar gets absorbed and mixed well.
  • Mix well and once cooled, store it in an airtight container
  • This can be refrigerated and used for a year.

 

June 22, 2015

6 Amazing Fusion Food That Every Food Lover Must Try!

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , — admin @ 10:35 am

The temptation of certain fusion food is hard to resist. When the two best cuisines are brought together to create an innovative dish that can prove to be a real pleasure to your senses, it is fusion food! – The best part of this fusion cooking is that there are no rules to be followed. An experiential cooking that is utterly delightful!

Here are 6 casual picks of fusion food that are becoming so very common in India.

Gulab Jamun Cheescake:

Have you heard about Indian ‘gulab jamun’ or sweet dumplings? (An Indian sweet that consists of deep-fried cottage cheese balls dipped in sugar syrup.) If you have a sweet tooth you need to try it out. When cheesecake is topped with half cut sweet dumplings and sugar syrup, it creates a unique fusion.

Noodle Samosa:

A conventional samosa is monotonous (refined wheat flour triangle pouches filled with spicy potatoes and peas)? It is a must all day snack in India. Imagine the filling being replaced by noodles. When deep fried crust filled with the smacking noodles, the taste of this fusion can take you to a new high and often confuse you between India and China.

Masala Coke:

Indians love to put some chatka (spicy splash) in whatever they eat and this has given birth to Masala coke. Some drops of black salt, black pepper and a few drops of lemon makes a world of difference to the aerated drink making it taste ten times better than what it originally is.

Green Tea Golgappe:

What do you think would happen when you take the India’s most favourite round-canapés that are usually filled with tangy water and fill it up with green tea?

(Semolina round-canapés filled with spicy water. called Golgappe, Paanipuri, Puchka or Batasha, same thing referred with different names and fill it with)

Chinese Bhel:

Your love towards Chinese cuisine too can be experimented with! Yes, noodles when combined with Indian flavours taste quite different. Try Chinese Bhel by adding the tangy ‘chaat masala’, red pepper and spring onion greens. The crispy fried noodles will taste amazingly different from what you have been eating till now.

Naanza (Naan + Pizza):

Here is an Indian version of everyone’s favourite, Pizza! Create a fusion by placing chicken tandoori tikka over naan (flat bread baked in Indian clay oven called tandoor) top it up with some mozzarella cheese and eat it like a pizza.

Ever thought, how the best of the world cuisine can create a fusion so easily.

June 24, 2014

10 Small and Useful Tips That Help You Cook Better!

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , — admin @ 7:27 am
  1. While frying onions and tomatoes put some salt, cooking will take a lesser time.

  2. In lemonade, mix 2-3 mint leaves and vanilla essence it will taste 10 times better.

  3. While cooking rice, put 2-3 drops of lemon juice, the cooked rice will be whiter and tastier.

  4. Being low in Glycemic index, gram flour regulates blood sugar and it is an excellent diet for diabetics and gluten-allergic people. Also, it is high in protein and keeps you satiated for a long time.

  5. To make softer chapattis (flat bread), add warm water and some warm milk while kneading the dough. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes and then roll them.

  6. While cooking rice pudding in a heavy bottomed vessel, add a little water before adding milk. This will prevent milk from sticking to the bottom and getting burnt.

  7. While boiling potatoes or eggs, add a pinch of salt. This will enable you to peel them off easily.

  8. Always store spices in cool and dark places and not above your stove. Spices lose their flavour when come in contact with light, humidity and heat.

  9. If you are troubled with your hand smelling awful after working with garlic, rub your hands on stainless steel sink for 30 seconds. The odour will be removed.

  10. Lemon brings the taste out. If you are fond of crispy fritters. Add a few drops of lemon juice while preparing the batter of gram flour. Fritters will be crispier and taste better!

 

June 26, 2010

How To Prepare Aam Ki Launji and Mango Mint Pudding?

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , — admin @ 10:39 am

Come summer and the first thing to be on the must-eat list for every Indian is mango. All the mango lovers out there can give wings to their imagination and prepare a number of dishes from them. Discussed here are two picks!

Aam Ki Launji (Sweet and Sour Mango Chutney)

The best part of sweet and sour mango chutney is that you can make it in bulk and store it for several months. This is easy to cook and used normally in summer as it helps combat heat.

What you need?

  • Raw mangoes-5-6 cups of raw mangoes cut into wedges.
  • One cup water
  • 3 tbsp of oil
  • Hing or Asafoetida-1/2 tbsp
  • Saunf or Fennel seeds-2 tbsp
  • Mustard seeds-2 tbsp
  • Gur or Jaggery (crumbled)- about 2 cups
  • 2 tbsps of red chili powder
  • 2 tbsp of salt
  • cup water

How to Prepare?

  • Put asafoetida, fennel seeds and mustard seeds in a heated oil.
  • Fry for a few seconds and then add raw mangoes, salt and chili powder. Mix well.
  • Add water and cover the lid.
  • Cook till the mangoes are softened.
  • Add jaggery and stir.
  • Cover the lid and cook it for a minute.

Mango and Mint Kheer (pudding)

 

Just imagine the taste of rice cooked in saffron, milk and nuts and flavouring the entire pudding with the mango puree plus mint leaves! It tastes awesome. Giving a fruity taste to the lovable Indian pudding works well! Here is the recipe…

 What Do You Need?

  • Two and half cups of milk
  • 1 cup of basmati rice
  • 3 tbsp of powdered sugar
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup of mango puree
  • 7-8 chopped almonds
  • 15 raisins
  • A bunch of mint leaves
  • Almonds for garnishing

 How To Make It?

  • Put basmati rice, milk and sugar together.
  • Add saffron and stir gently.
  • When the mixture comes to a boil, add the puree of mango.
  • Put chopped almonds, fresh mint leaves and raisins.
  • Stir gently and cover it, keep it on a low flame till it turns thick and creamy.
  • Add green cardamom and chopped almonds. Stir well.
  • Keep it in fridge and serve when it gets chilled.

 

 

 

 

July 10, 2008

8 Little Known Indian Dishes, You Must Try!

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 12:22 pm

India is beyond Curries and Chicken Tikka Masala. Regular visitors to India have already tried and are fascinated with the regular meals like rajma-chawal, roti subji, chola chawal or kadi chawal etc. This time when visiting, go in for some very different food exploration. Take a break from the traditional Indian food and get familiar with the little known ones that are truly awesome Indian dishes from the various parts of India.

Basi Pakhala:

An amazing mix of rice and Indian spices, this Odisha cuisine is not as famous as it should be. Basi pakhala is rice soaked in water and fermented for a night. It is mixed with badi chuda (dried lentil chunks), red chilies and garlic. The entire mixture is fried in mustard oil.

Bhatt Ki Churdkani:

This Kumauni cuisine is as nutritive as it is tasty. (Bhatt is black soya bean that is grown locally in the Indian state of Uttarakhand). Bhatt is fried with gram or wheat flour along with green chilies, garlic and turmeric paste. Water is added to the mixture and the dish is then cooked on a low flame till it thickens. It tastes best when eaten with rice.

Akki Roti:

In India you may have eaten roti (chapattis) made up of wheat flour. The Akki-Rotti which is exclusive to the state of Karnataka, is prepared from the batter of rice flour in which variety of veggies like ginger, carrots, onions and coriander leaves are added. Cooked-smashed veggies can also be added to make it tastier. It is had with the carrot pickle or chutney and commonly had at breakfast.

Mandige:

If you have a sweet tooth, this Indian dish from Konkan/North Karnataka would be a ‘must try’ for you. Also known as Mande, this wheat-based preparation is a ritual sweet served during celebrations. It is made of wheat flour, poppy seeds, ghee (clarified butter), and cardamom. The dough is laced with sesame, ghee and powdered sugar. Finally it is transferred to the spherical pots where it gets cooked and carefully bundled.

Appi Payasam:

This dessert is made by deep frying flat bread in ghee or clarified butter and then boiling it in condensed milk, cashew nuts, cardamom and almonds. This sweet delight tastes heavenly whether taken cold or hot.

Taler Bora:

This traditional Bengali delight is cooked on the eve of Lord Krishna’s Birthday. Taler Bora or Ripe Sugar Palm is made by adding wheat flour, jaggery and grated coconut with the juice of ripe juicy palm fruit. They are given the round shape and deep fried like fritters.

Panjiri:

It is also a nutritional supplement from the Indian state of Punjab and tastes awesome. It is made up of whole wheat flour which is shallow fried in clarified butter and sugar. It is laced with a number of dried fruits and herbal gums. This sweet preparation of Bengal is used as prasadam (offering to God) and owing to its high nutritive value, it is recommended for nursing or pregnant women.

Chaman Kaliya:

Chaman Kaliya is cooked in the Indian state of Kashmir. It is Paneer (cottage cheese) that is deep fried and then cooked in cardamom flavoured milk.

So, the next time you make a visit to India, you know which traditional Indian dishes you should give a try!

 

July 20, 2007

Which Wine Pairs Best With Which Indian Food?

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , — admin @ 11:27 am

To assist all the food lovers travelling to India, Gastroutes has enlisted the right wines that are great to be paired with the top sumptuous Indian food. Good pairing does not enhance the taste of food only but it also brings out the right flavours of the food and would give you a unique culinary experience. Given here are certain tips which would be of great help to you.

Indian Seafood and Rajasthani Hot curries

When you are in the Indian state of Kerala or Goa, you are sure to savour seafood. In Goa you would get Goan shrimp curry, Rava Pork Fry, Pork Vindaloo etc and in Kerala you will get mouth-watering Fish curry, Shrimp Coconut Curry, Malabar Biryani and more. Being in the land of spices you will find Indian seafood preparations with spices whether they grill, bake, and smoke or cook curries – so white wine pairs the best with it. Minerality refers to a chalky texture of the white wine that goes very well with the sea food.  Riesling is a white vine variety that blends well with yogurt based hot Rajasthani curries.

Biryani:

One of the most loved Indian food is Biryani spiced and with different flavours and aromas unique to its region. The royal taste of this delicacy goes well with Chenin Blanc. Having this wine would maintain a balance of taste and the enticing flavours of Biryani does not lose its characteristics. This wine has a tangy taste. You can consider skipping Raita (yogurt preparation) which is often consumed with Biryani.

Tandoori Tikkas or Kebabs:

When in Lucknow, the first thing you will get hold is kebab obviously. If you savour tandoori tikkas and kebabs, you would get the best taste and flavour of it with dark blue grape wine, Merlot. The spicy taste of these tongue tickling foods gets elevated with a coat of Merlot wine and hence it is a perfect blend with Kebabs.

North Indian Curries and Butter Chicken:

If there is food like butter chicken or any other Indian curry dish that does not have tangy taste on your palette, you need to choose a red wine. Red is a perfect pair as it enhances the taste of your favourite food in India.

Steaks:

If you are eating barbequed meat in India which is coated with a layer of spices and has a juicy interior. Your favourite steaks would blend well with Sette or Vitae Sangiovese to make them taste better.

Rice and Curry:

In South India you are going to get this food in all probability. White wines like Sauvignon or Chenin are recommended over red wine. Both of these have great taste and elevate the flavours of rice and curries.

With Dosas (Rice and Lentil Pancakes)

If there are batter bites such as Dosas or Idlis in south of India, have them with a refreshing rose wine. Rose wine is made up of variety of grapes mainly black skinned grapes. It is perfect for all those foods that do not have any overpowering taste.

Chardonnay  and Viognier can also go very well with Indian creamy curries. The food choice in India is as diversified as its culture and wine too has become a great produce in India, wineries like Sula, Grover have created a great mark for themselves in some reasonably good wines, but anyway wine is a personal choice so in our opinion pairing it your way is the best.

Also read: http://wingyboxing.com/9-food-specialties-different-indian-states-hard-resist/

 

 

 

July 19, 2007

5 Street Foods of Mumbai Which Every Gastronome Adores!

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 11:19 am

Known for its cultural diversity, Mumbai is one such Indian city that every gastronome should keep on the priority list. A wide variety of tempting street food of this city would give you a unique culinary experience. Here is a quick look at the street foods of Mumbai that would tantalize your senses for sure.

Vada Pav:

Vada Pav is one of the commonest things found in every nook and corner of the city. Pav is bread-bun and Vada is a fritter stuffed with the spicy mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes are spiced with garlic, coriander leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric and asafetida. This is then coated with the batter of gram flour and deep fried. It is served with green chutney and onions. Originated as a cheap street food in Mumbai, Vada Pav is now served in the renowned hotels of Mumbai as well, thanks to its popularity among masses.

Another popular dish of Mumbai is Kheema Pav. It is minced meat basically which is cooked in spices. The dish is served with onion rings, pickles, lemons etc.

Pav Bhaji:

Another most common food of Mumbai called Pav Bhaji has a lot of regional variations but despite that, this conventional Maharashtrian food is basically a type of bread that is heated over pan with a light application of clarified butter. “Bhaji” is a Marathi word which is used for veggies. This is a blend of several vegetables and spices.

The seasonings and spices of this special Mumbai dish are just irresistible.

It is presented on a tray along with Pav which is shallow fried with butter, slices of onion rings, tomatoes and lemon, a dollop of butter is given on the top of bhaji.

Bhel Puri:

This is flavoured chaat of sorts. Assortment of puffed rice with raw veggies like onions, tomatoes, peas and green chilies is seasoned in tamarind sauce. There are many variations of this snack all over India but Mumbai beaches are most famous for it. It is garnished with coriander leaves and crispy papadi. It is known as Juhu, Girguam or simply Bhel in Mumbai.

Pani Puri:

This is one of the most commonly savoured foods that are known by different names in different parts of India. In North India it is called Gol Gappe, In the West puchke and in some parts gup chup. In Mumbai this blissful food is known as Pani Puri. It is round, hollowed and deep fried crisp roundels made up of suji (Semolina) and stuffed with spicy water (Pani) along with mashed potatoes and chick peas. It is no lesser than a burst of flavour in your mouth. These are small and can be eaten in one bite.

Falooda:

This delicious sweet dish is presented in glass. It consisted of vermicelli, rose flavoured milk, soaked sabja seeds (sweet basil seeds), when sabja seeds are soaked in water they form a gelatinous substance on the outer side of seeds. It has many variations and traditionally it is made with rose flavoured milk. Some of the variations also include a scoop of ice-cream in the glass.

Eating in Mumbai is truly blissful. The city is known for a number of mouth watering street foods which anybody can afford easily. Have a gastronomy walk to Mumbai with us to relish these top street foods and find more!

July 13, 2007

9 Food Specialties of Different Indian States That Are Hard to Resist!

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , — admin @ 10:58 am

India, a nation which is famous world-wide for its culture and rich heritage has been fast picking up the popularity of being a land with exotic food that can leave one craving for more. No wonder why most of the international recipe shows are turning towards Indian food. The unique Indian tadka (tempering) is all about making dishes changing their taste altogether. If you love Indian food and want to explore more of it, here are some food specialties from the different Indian states that have become more of a trade-mark dish.

Punjab – Makke di Roti-Sarson Ka Saag

This specialty of Punjab called Makki di Roti is a coarsely ground corn flour flat bread served with a dish made of mustard leaves called Sarson Ka Saag. Other green leaves are also mixed with it. When served hot it tastes awesome. This is an essential delicacy during winter. An Indian tadka with chillies, chopped onions, garlic and red pepper powder is then poured over it. Saag is then cooked till it gets thick. The dough of corn flour is rolled into chapattis (flat bread), cooked and served with a dollop of clarified butter over it. Jaggery is also served with it. The other specialties of Punjab are rajma-chawal , chhola bhatura, amritsari macchhli etc.

Rajasthan – Ker-Sangri

This special Rajasthani dish is made of beans and dried berries cooked with Indian spices, yogurt and oil. If a little extra oil is added to the Sangri, it remains fresh for a longer time, else this dish is made with very little amount of spices and oil and can go with without refrigeration for a few days.

Andhra Pradesh – Gutthi Vankaya Kura

Eggplant is quite bland and does not taste good normally, but the beauty of this recipe lies in making a bland lifeless vegetable taste great. Small eggplant is sliced, filled with stuffing that is a mixture of powdered spices, coconut, garlic, sautéed onions and more. They are then cooked in a curry that makes them taste totally different and much better. The dish is popular in Andhra Pradesh.

Bihar – Litti-Chokha

Litti is made of whole-wheat flour stuffed with sattu (roasted and ground gram flour). It is had with a traditional mash made of potato and eggplant, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilies and a few spices known as chokha. The dough of wheat flour is flavoured with carom seeds and then stuffed with the spices, sattu and baked in dried cow dung fire heat.  The chokha is made up of tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and cooked with chilies, spices and onions. Mustard oil is mixed in chokha at the end to give it a tangy taste.

Karnataka – Bisi Bele Bhaat

This conventional spicy rice dish from Karnataka is addictive due to its taste. It tastes the best when served hot with a lot of ghee (clarified butter). Rice is cooked with toor dal (a type of lentil), vegetables and a lot of spices. There are some versions of this dishes that are prepared with up to thirty different types of ingredients. It is served with potato chips, salads, chutney and papad.

Himachal Pradesh – Sidu

The well-known Sidu of Himachal Pradesh is made of wheat flour. It is kneaded with the yeast and the dough is raised for a couple of hours (4-5 hours). The dish is eaten with ghee or clarified butter or the broth of lentils and chutney.

Madhya Pradesh – Bhutte ki Kheer

Hailing from the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, bhutte ki kheer or corn pudding. It is high in nutritional value and has a great taste. In this recipe corn kernels are ground and cooked in the milk over a low flame till the milk reduces to creamy consistency. It can be served hot or chilled. It tastes equally good either way.

Uttarakhand – Kaapa

This green spinach and curd curry belongs to the beautiful Indian state of Uttrakhand. People take this curry with boiled rice or flat Indian bread.

Uttar Pradesh – Galawat Kebab

This specialty of Lucknow city in Uttar Pradesh known as Galawat Kebab was invented for a toothless Nawab of Lucknow. This melt-in-mouth kebab is so delicate and fine that one does not require teeth to enjoy it.

July 25, 2005

There was Nothing Indian about Indian Chillies

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 8:24 am

As incredible as it may sound but it is true that there were no chillies in India till Europeans came here. This is an irony of sorts but now there are no chilies in the Europeans cuisines and there is hardly any Indian cuisine without chillies. Yes! One of the most disbelieving food related fact is that chilies are a colonial contribution and now hot green and red Indian chillies in different forms is a distinctive feature of cuisines here.

Did You Know?

Taste for the spices evolved over the centuries in the hot climate as they contained powerful antibiotic properties that kills and suppresses fungi or bacteria which could spoil the food faster. When chillies, cumin, garlic and onion are combined together, the antibiotic effect of the chilli gets elevated than it is individually.

All the other spices except chillies are Indian.

There was a time probably many centuries ago when we were proud of pepper. No chillies were known to India back then. Only pepper was used to provide heat in the Indian dishes. It became so popular in Europe that we used to export it to Venice, Rome and other European trading centers and this was no less than black gold for them.

America Was Discovered By Chance, Columbus Was Looking For Spices Basically.

When Columbus landed in South America he was utterly confused and thought that the people he encountered were all Indians. He thought the chilies that they were making use of was pepper, he thought to it to be an Indian spice. In fact there was no mention of chilli in the Indian literature prior to 16th century.

Vasco-da-Gama, a Portuguese explorer who discovered a route from South America via Cape of Good Hope to Africa and India in the year 1498 was actually responsible for making this spice leave the colony of Brazil and become popular all around the world. He brought the seeds for chilli to Goa with him.

This is the place where chillies were first planted and then they spread further to Bombay where they began to be called, Gova Mirch. Chilli had become so famous in India that on its arrival and in spite of being foreign, our own medicine system Ayurveda accepted it as an important ingredient of the Vedic system. Indian chillies became so famous that the traders started taking Indian chillies to the west along with nutmeg, spices and pepper. It is perhaps one of the reasons why India became so rich in the pre-colonial era.

It is believed that the export of chilli was controlled by the Turks who bought chilies from the Indian West Coast and took them to the Black Sea ports. It was due to this that Europeans began to think that it is just an Indian spice. When the Turks had their rein in Hungary they introduced chilies there. So, the paprika which you may have heard about in Hungary has its roots is an Indian chilli. It is what we call Kashmiri Mirch or Bedgi chilli of South India. Hence, it is true that the colonists have introduced this South American flavour to our cuisine; the Indian genius made it our own and introduced it in a new way to the world.

How Did Chilies Reach Nagaland and the Hills of North East?

There is absolutely no evidence of colonists taking to hills of North East and Nagaland because these areas were cut off from the rest. This one remains a mystery as a breed of wild chillies grew long-long way from Goa or even South America, puzzling…?

Also read similar interesting story about Indian food myths.

August 1, 2003

Some Tangy and Unknown Facts About Indian Chutney!

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 6:07 am

An Indian meal without chutney in some form or the other is incomplete. This accompaniment crossed over and become so popular in England, that many people take it as an English invention. It originated in North India and the word ‘chutney’ is taken from ‘chatni’ that in turn is derived from the word ‘chatna’ which means a lip-smacking sound made when you eat something tangy and tasty.

What does Indian Chatni looks like and how does it taste?

Indian Chatni is made from fresh green herbs, chillies and spices, an acid base, tamarind juice and in some versions sugar or jiggery is also used to give it a typical salty-sugary taste. Sometimes, fruits like raw mangoes are also used to prepare them. Learn how to cook Aaam ki Launji (a typical Indian chatni).

In South India it is made up of freshly ground coconut and has an Indian tadka of cumin and red pepper. Basically chutney means something which is so delectable that you would not be able to resist the temptation of licking it after every morsel.

Here goes the History of Indian Chutneys…

In India preparation of chutneys is similar to pickles and the history of this simple spiced delicacy dates back to 500 BC. The idea behind chutney was originally the method of preserving food that was first adopted by the Indians to preserve the surplus food and vegetables. This method first reached Rome and subsequently to Britain where the veggies and fruits are preserved when they are cooked in vinegar and sugar.

This preserve took a tasty turn when the British began to flavour this preserve with spices and began to store it in bottles to be taken along with food in a small quantity. Chutney began to lose its charm when people started using glasshouse produces and refrigerated vegetables. It was this time when the chutney was relegated to the military use. It was in 1780s that the chutney began to reappear and began to be used as a popular appetizer. India began to export these to the European countries like France and England.

You would be surprised to know…

Chutney is an inseparable part of an Indian meal but it is equally famous in Britain. The British love this Indian preserve and one of most famous Britain chutney called ‘Major Grey’ is sold in India as well. A British officer named Major Grey is said to have developed this chutney. This formula was then given to a British food manufacturer called Crosse and Blackwell. It was in the 19th century when India began to develop Major Grey as per the taste of the westerners and began to ship it to Europe.

Difference between Indian Chatni and British Chutney…

The British chutney makes use of a lot of fruits and hence it is more of a jam or preserve. All the chutneys contain either fruits or vegetables. In one of the British Chutney called ‘Elendil Mentions’ you will find pickled vegetables. An annual herb like dill and cucumbers are also used in some of the variants.

Chutneys served in India are thinner and much more savoury as the basic purpose of serving chutneys here is to elevate the overall taste of the meal. These chutneys normally make use of herbs like fresh mint or fresh coriander and sometimes nuts or lentils too. The two types differ primarily in their texture. Indian chutneys are normally pureed or blended and they are water based not viscous or jam like. A typical Indian chutney is made on stone grinder rather than a mixer grinder, so much so that even in today’s modern times when every Indian household has a mixer-grinder they still prefer to make their chutneys on batan (in vernacular sil-batta)  or in some places or some chutneys in a mortar & pestle.

Also read: Indian heritage food

 

 

August 9, 2000

Different Sumptuous Flavours of Indian Biryanis That You Must Try!

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , — admin @ 11:02 am

You begin to salivate just by the name of it! Don’t you? Not only Indians but the world goes gaga over this rice dish that tastes like heaven. But do you know that Indian Biryani has many flavours? The diversified variations of Biryani would leave you amazed. Here are the lip smacking versions of Indian Biryanis.

Lucknowi Biryani:

Kebabs rule the dishes from Lucknow and Biryani is the next to occupy the top position. In this flavour of Biryani, whole spices, herbs and saffron is used. The garden fresh spices give it an alluring smell. All the Awadhi cuisines are influenced by the Nawabs of Awadh who were Persian in origin and biryani is not an exception. Hence you will find whole spices and a peculiar aroma of saffron plus rose water. It differs from Hyderabadi Biryani in taste and flavour. In Hyderabadi biryani ground spices and mint are used while in Lucknowi Biryani, you would find whole spices and no mint.

The invasion of Persian kings brought an innovation called Mughlai Biryani. This Indian cuisine owes its origin to the Mughal Empire. The Persian kings were fond of unique cooking meat and rice in a variety of spices and hence Mughal biryani is a spicier version that you will find in Delhi and the adjoining areas.

Kolkata Biryani:

It is believed that when Nawabs of Lucknow were exiled in Kolkata after the Mutiny in 1857, they had to cope up with the scarcity of meat and hence they started added potatoes to the Biryani and even today this version of Biryani contains potatoes along with meat. It retains the same taste, flavour and aroma.

Hyderabadi Biryani:

This type of Biryani is layered rice with the ingredients like mint leaves, chillies and fiery chicken. Apart from these ingredients, saffron, rose water, kewada etc. are also used. Hyderabadi Biryani is a blend of Iranian and Mughlai cuisine in the kitchens of Nizam. It has two forms gosht ki Biryani (Goat’s meat) and dum ki biryani (biryani cooked with lid over low fire for a long time.

Kalyani Biryani is another form of Hyderabadi biryani which is meant for the poor. Small chunks of buffalo meat are used in this. It does not have the same taste and richness as the Hyderabadi Biryani.

Malabar Biryani:

It is one of the most enticing Indian Biryanis that you must try. It is cooked with turmeric, steamed rice, mild spices and chicken wings. This biryani is garnished with sautéed nuts and other dry fruits. The other South Indian Biryani is Thalassery Biryani that makes use of Jeerakasala rice in place of the usual basmati rice. The rice is light fried and the meat is cooked separately and then assembled. It is cooked in a dum style (cooked for a long time over low flame.)

Bhatlkali Biryani:

This is another savoury Indian Biryanis of the coastal regions of Karnataka. In this variation of Biryani, both the chicken and rice are infused with the spices. This is one of the hottest types of Biryanis. If you ever get to taste it, you would get the sweet taste of sautéed onions, red chillies and the juicy chicken that is sure to delight you.

This is the dish which is cooked with the onion based sauce and meat in a heavy bottom cooking pot.

Dindigul Biryani:

In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Dindigul Biryani is served. This has a totally different flavour as curd and lemons are added to it. Unlike most of the other South Indian dishes, this South Indian variant of Biryani does not use coconut or tomato. The rice of this variant is smaller in size, has all the spices but it is a wetter version. Another Biryani widely eaten in Tamil Nadu is Ambur Biryani that has a dominant taste and flavour of meat.

Bombay Biryani:

In the Indian state of Maharashtra, Biryani has a different flavour. It is loaded with lots of flavour of spices, mint leaves and even sliced potatoes apart from chopped fried onions.

Mughlai Biryani

It is believed that this type is an innovation of Mughal kitchen. It is said that the Persian kings brought this unique recipe to India which is all about cooking meat in rich spices and hence this type of Biryani has a rich aroma, texture and flavour. This type of Biryani is eaten mostly in the Indian capital state Delhi and neighbouring areas.

Apart from all these Biryanis, there is a vegetarian variety that tastes and appears pretty similar – It is Tahiri. It is said that this variety is an innovation of UP Brahmins who did not eat meat but had an inclination towards eating Biryani. Tahiri is eaten widely in Uttar Pradesh.

If Biryani is one of your weaknesses and you find this sumptuous rice dish irresistible, put India on priority list of places to travel and explore the different flavours of it in the different states.

 

 

August 3, 2000

Unknown Facts About Spiced Tea

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 12:16 pm

Indian beverage called ‘chai’ has countless variations and a huge fan base spanning all around the world. But, do you know that it was British who set up black tea plantations in Assam in 1835? Later, Indians have created their own versions of it, giving it a totally different form by adding milk, sweetener and spices and an Indian spiced tea was born. This experiment proved to be so fruitful that even foreigners became ardent fans of ‘chai ki chuski’.

Tales behind Tea of India:

History of spiced tea began several thousand years ago in the royal courts. There are different views about its origin, some people are of the belief that it originated some 9000 years ago and some say that it has Thai origin. At one point it was so expensive that only kings and royals could afford to have it once or twice a day.

It is said that in the beginning Ayurveda had its therapeutic value more in mind. Mixing of herbs and spices in tea had the same purpose. It was taken as a cure for cold and cough. It was the time when the beverage did not contain any tea-leaves and it was totally caffeine-free.

If literary records are to be believed, history of tea dates back to 750 BC. The time when tea was grown only in the Nilgiri Hills. Another interesting legend says that tea drinking in India began with a Buddhist monk who lived some 2000 years ago. It is believed that this monk spent as many as 7 years without sleeping and contemplating about life and teachings of Buddha. He became the founder of Zen Buddhism. When he was in the 5th year of introspection, he was about to sleep. It was then, when he took some leaves from a nearby bush and chewed just to keep himself awake and focused. Those leaves were the leaves of wild tea plant. For a long time, tea used to be a dark fluid only sans milk, sugar, any herbs or spices.

It was in the 16th century that the people of India prepared a vegetable dish that made use of oil, garlic and tea leaves. The boiled tea leaves were taken out to prepare a drink that later came to be called as ‘Tea’. For several years together, tea in India had just medicinal value but nowadays it is a morning ritual in every Indian home and tradition of serving his guests.

How a Spicy Flavour of the Tea Came Into Being?

Tea plants may have grown wild in the Indian state of Assam since the ancient time but historically Indians have viewed it as an herbal medicine which has nothing to do with recreation. Even the ‘masala chai’ or spiced tea came into being for the purpose of its medicinal value for treating cough & cold. It was Karha in the beginning which used to be a dark fluid containing herbs like basil leaves, ginger etc. and several spices like cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper etc. It would be apt to term spiced tea as grandmother’s tea. Granny is a traditional caretaker of any Indian household. It is believed that when any member used to fall sick at home whether from cough and cold or from stomach ailments or digestive problems, granny’s used to brew a blend of seeds, herbs and barks as a tonic to boost immunity.

How Did British Come Into Picture?

The British developed an expensive habit of drinking the Chinese tea. It became an addiction for them with passage of time. However, they wanted freedom from the ultra expensive Chinese tea and it was this reason that they established tea plantations in Northeast part of India. Their marketing plan worked well as India became the largest producer and consumer of tea. Then the Granny’s spice decoctions in India gave birth to the spiced tea. Milk and sugar began to be a part of this tea and a tastier version of it evolved eventually.

What is Spiced Tea? What all it contains?

It is flavoured tea beverage that is a mixture of aromatic Indian herbs and spices. Needless to say why it smells great! So it is brewed black tea mixed with aromatic, spices, herbs, milk and sweetener. Pods of green cardamom, ground ginger, black pepper, ground cloves; cinnamon and basil leaves are used in spiced tea.

In most of the Eurasian languages, tea is called chai. It is said that the word ‘cha’ originated from Persian and is known as chay and that word in turn has come from a Chinese word cha. On the other hand English word tea has come from Chinese teeh.

When Did Masala Chai Become Popular in India?

In 1960s Masala Chai became popular in India. It was the time when an automated form of tea production known as ‘CTC’ (Crush, Tea, Curl) made ultra-expensive black tea affordable to Indian masses. The tea has a bold and tannic flavour and hence it gave a creamy flavour to the spiced tea. It is due to this taste enhancing quality of CTC that has made it a staple diet in most India places.

Interesting Variations of Spiced Tea:

  • Most of the Indian versions use ‘gur’ or jaggery. In the United States, honey and cane sugar are most popular sweeteners.
  • Most of the world uses black tea but in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, green tea is used in place of black tea. Some Americans use loose leaf black tea and not CTC. In some parts of America roobios is used in place of black tea.
  • There are certain places in the world where instead of whole milk, soy-milk or other non-dairy products to make it suitable for vegans. Sometime vanilla ice-cream is also added to give it a form of a dessert.
  • In India spiced tea is made of herbs like basil and spices like pepper, ginger etc but in U.S it is available in the form of syrup concentrate which is a perfect blend of mixed spices.

August 28, 1995

Two Tempting Dishes on the Delhi Street Food Walk

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For the food lovers, the very cold weeks of Delhi has some compensation which gives them a reason good enough to take a stroll. You will find the market full of vibrant fruits, spinach, mustard leaves, peas, and carrots. Indeed, this is the best time to see the Indian food culture. A specialty of winter season is that you will find new season’s jaggery called gur all over India. The pushcarts groaned under tons of freshly made rocky lumps of crystallized sugar-cane are commonly seen.

Chikkis

In the narrow lanes of Chandi Chowk, there is a meat Dhaba known as Ashok and Ashok that serves jaggery with mutton korma. It is believed that jaggery helps the ghee (clarified butter in which korma is prepared) go down. The arrival of jaggery into the Indian market during the winter months will see the tiny lanes of Gali Batashan flooded with chikis (They are sticky discs that are studded with cashews, peanuts and even rose petals).

Daulat Ki Chaat

One of the great highlights of the winter season that makes it foray into the streets of Delhi is ‘Daulat ki Chaat.’ From October onward till March-April you would see a milky dessert which melts as soon as it is placed in the mouth. All through this bazaar, a common sight would be snowy platters of this chat sold by the vendors. Do not expect this chaat to have punchy spicy flavour as it is a dessert. It closely resembles the uncooked meringue and taste is shockingly subtle. It is raunchy light foam which disappears as soon as it kept in the mouth.

You can expect daulat ki chaat in the coldest winter months because with the first ray of sunlight it begins to melt. The legend behind this God’s own street food is difficult to trace but the dish has all the hallmarks of a Mughal culinary splendour. Here we go with a legend about Daulat ki Chaat narrated by Madhur Jaffrey:

Early in the morning an old lady in an immaculate ankle-length skirt and a well-starched white muslin bodice and head cover appeared at our gate. On her head she carried an enormous brass tray and on the tray were mutkainas which were partially baked red clay cups containing the frothy ambrosia. The recipe was and always has been a complete mystery. When the woman was asked about the recipe she just used to say this……

“Oh Child! I am the only woman to make this dish in the entire Delhi. Your grandmother and I have known to each other for so many years. How do I make it? It needs all the right conditions. I take milk at first and then add dried sea foam to it. Then I pour the mixture into clay cups. I have up to the roof and leave the cups there overnight in the chill air as the most important ingredient in this is dew. If there is no dew the froth of this recipe does not form and if there will be too much dew it will be bad. So, I have to leave it to the mercy of Mother Nature overnight. If froth is good, I sprinkle some khurchan (milk which has been boiled till all liquid gets evaporated and the sweetened solids are then peeled off in thin layers. Finally I sprinkle pistachio nuts over it.”

Though it may just be story but the taste of “daulat ki chaat” in the narrow lanes of lingers on the taste of those who have ever tasted it! On your gastronomic tour to India, you will find the same preparation sold in Lucknow by the name of Makhan Malai or Nimish in Lucknow and Malaiyo in Banaras.

Explore the best Mumbai street food that you can take during your gastronomy trip to Mumbai.

August 16, 1995

Rice Underwent a Dramatic Change in the Mughal Kitchen

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Rice is known to be a staple diet in India.  The commonly eaten rice with lentils and veggies in India underwent a dramatic change in the Mughal Kitchen. Not only this, the well-known Islamic Turko-Persian biryanis  were innovated differently by the addition of pepper, saffron, ginger and a wide range of other ingredients for the improvisation of flavour, aroma and taste.

It is believed that Mumtaz Mahal went to the army barracks and found undernourished soldiers. She requested the soldiers to prepare a dish combining rice and meat so that a well-balanced diet could be provided to the soldiers and the result was biryani. That was the time when green chillies, turmeric and cumin were little known. The rice was just fried in ghee (clarified butter) without washing so that it could have a nutty flavour and did not clump. A range of aromatic spices, meat and saffron were added to the rice prior to cooking the mix over wood charcoal fire.

Read the other interesting stories about Indian Biryanis

The innovation of ‘Navaratan rice’ Nine-jewel rice (named after the nine jewels or the eminent personalities that Akbar had at his court.) was a true delicacy that had a range of spices, eggs, yogurt and veggies. This lip smacking rice innovation is still found and sold in India. The rose-scented ‘Shah Jahan biryani’ was another innovation that worked well. This delicacy is marinated chickens cooked with pistachios and almonds. It goes well with salads.

The rice dishes became even more elaborate with the establishment of independent kingdoms and there was more demand of the variety. Realizing the need of the hour, cooks at the court created ‘moti pilau jahanara’ that had meatballs coated in edible silver sheets. It was the innovation of the time when The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb wrested the throne from his father Shah Jahan and imprisoned him at Agra. His sister Jahanara shared the captivity with his father and was her companion till he died. Aurangzeb had the highest regards for her and this delectable version of rice was named after her. It is believed that ‘Jahanara’ used to love this dish very much.

Today’s version of this dish found all across the India is sold by the name of ‘Moti Pilau’. The Mughal Emperors were extremely fond of lavish dinning style and rice used to be one of their favourites. So, most of the biryani versions innovated during this period were the succulent chunks of spiced meat enveloped with rose scented rice and has an irresistible aroma that will make you crave for it instantly.

This flavoursome rice dish taste even better when it is cooked in yakhni, which is an aromatic meat stock made from the bones of lamb or chicken and flavoured with garlic, onion and aromatic spices (whole).

This enriching sauce for meat, chicken dishes and biryanis called yakhni can be cooked easily.

 

Ingredients you need:

  • 750 gram of lamb shanks
  • One large chopped onion
  • One tsp of finely chopped garlic
  • Two tsp of grated fresh ginger
  • 4 bruised cardamoms
  • 20 peppercorns
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 10 cups of water

How to cook it:

Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan and bring it to boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the meat starts falling off the bones. Allow it to cool and then skin the fatty solids from the surface. Strain the resultant liquid through sieve and discard all the un-strained part.

January 18, 1995

How to Prepare Shahi Santrey Ki Kulfi?

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , — admin @ 11:52 am

A true epicurean delight, a unique twist to the India frozen dessert called Kulfi and a perfect fit on the platter of those who look for satisfying their sweet tooth in a healthy way, here is a special something from Gastroutes….

Shahi Santrey Ki Kulfi (Fresh oranges filled with condensed milk flavoured with orange juice and frozen)

Make yourself fall in love with oranges..Here’s how!

Servings (4-5)

Ingredients used:

  • 4 oranges
  • 1 tbsp of orange rind
  • A pinch of salt’
  • 2 liter milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Few mint leaves

How to prepare it?

  • Cut a slice from the top of the oranges, reserving the cut portion, to make a ¾ cup.
  • Scoop out the insides of the oranges into a bowl, squeeze and remove the juice of the pulp, from the insides, strain and preserve the juice in refrigerator.
  • Take juice in a pan; reduce the juice on the low heat along with the orange rind. Add the saffron strands.
  • Place milk n a pan, bring it boil, keep the flame low and wait till the milk gets reduced to half. Stir continuously. Remove from heat.
  • Add sugar and mix well
  • Now add the reduced orange juice to the reduced milk.
  • Fill the mixture into orange shells and freeze.
  • To serve cut the orange into 4 quarters, garnish each section with mint leaves.

Also read: http://wingyboxing.com/how-to-prepare-aam-ki-launji-and-mango-mint-pudding/

 

August 23, 1994

These Sumptuous Rajasthani Food is a True Delight!

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A popular misconception about food from the Indian State of Rajasthan is that it is primarily non meaty.   However, a sizeable proportion of the State is non-meat consumers hence the majority of food served in Rajasthani restaurants are vegetarian.  Here is a complete overlook of this Indian food which is fast becoming an epicurean delight.

Laal Maas

You need not have your crestfallen over the fact of food being non meaty in Rajasthan as one of the most sumptuous meaty food called “Laal Maas” is easily available in the restaurants. Laal refers to the red colour of the dish which contains goat meat cooked slowly in the Red Mathania chillies. ‘Laal Maas’ served in the more arid parts of this Indian state is spicier than it is in the Jaipur (capital city). Also, the restaurants serve a toned-down version of the dish.

 

Safed Maas                                                                                                 

Apart from laal maasjunglee maas is another wonderful meaty dish consisting of succulent pieces of goat which is cooked slowly in ghee (clarified butter) and then finished in a pan over an open flame with dry red chillies, salt and more clarified butter. It elevates the overall taste of the dish. The junglee maas is a dry dish which is like Bengali Manghso bhaaja (fried mutton). However, it is available with saalan (gravy) too. Safed Maas is another popularly consumed Rajasthani food item which is tender meat cooked in cream, milk or yogurt.

                                                                                                             

Rajasthani cooking has its own unique flavour and the most basic ingredients are used in the preparation of these cuisines. The cuisine of this state was influenced by the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and availability of ingredients in the desert region of this Indian State. With the invasion of Pathans, the art of barbecuing found its way to Rajasthan. You will be amazed to know that this art is honed up to the extent that sula smoked kebabs or skewered boneless lamb can be prepared in 11 different ways.

What Does a Rajasthan Platter Comprise of?

On the platter you will see a meticulous preparation of curries, pickles, and lentil stuffed breads and much more…Every regional cuisine in India is laced with the ingredients which are available in abundance. So, owing to the scarcity of water, people in Rajasthan started cooking in buttermilk, curd, milk. In this food you will find these ingredients in excess. Also, you will find a heavy use of grains, pulses and millets. Apart from the conventional flat bread made up of wheat flour you will find breads made up of these grains also.

Daal Baati Churma

One of the most devoured food items in Rajasthan is “dal baati churma” This is a classical combination of three dishes eaten together. Dal is also known as panchmel dal, as it is a combination of five types of lentils cooked with garlic and desi ghee. The Baatis are dumplings of whole-wheat flour, baked on dry cow dung cakes called kandasChurma is a sweetened cereal powder made by frying whole-wheat flour and desi ghee.

                                                                                                 

Curries made up of gram flour are common. Split green pea lentil is pretty popular. A popular variety of lentil called ‘Panchmela dal’ is immensely popular. It is a blend of five different varieties of lentils. Gatte ki sabzi which is gram flour nuggets cooked in the flavoured gravy is a common item on platter. some desert specialties like Ker Shangri, Amras ki kadhi (mango pulp cooked in a curry), papad ki sabzi (a spicy curry with pieces of papadam) are other additions. Deep fried onion filled flat bread (pyaz ki kachori) and a yogurt based drink called lassi is a common Rajasthani item.

Some of The Other Exclusive Rajasthani which are a must include on a food trail to the Rajasthan

 

Khud Khargosh (This is a rabbit meat cooked in a pit)

Khus Khargos is a Rajput specialty during the summer season when hare is lean, it is stuffed with the spices, wrapped in dough and finally in layers of mud-soaked cloth. The ambrosial result is meat perfectly blended with the spices and dough. ‘

Sooley

In the Rajput cuisine, sooley refers to the tender morsels of meat which is marinated with a mixture of dry yogurt, brown onions, garlic, ginger, red chillies and coriander. This dish is made up of chicken, mutton or fish.

Mangodi Ki Subji

Mongodis are made by soaking lentils in water until they are soft. They are then ground without addition of water and combined with red chilli    powder, turmeric and coriander powder. These are then pinched into cherry size nuggets and dried in the sun for a couple of days. These mongodis can be stored up to a few months. It is often deep fried and combined with vegetables to make dry preparation and curries.

Makki ka Soweta

The Soweta is a spicy combination of lamb and corn. The meat is marinated with yoghurt, a paste of garlic, deseeded green chillies, onions along with coriander powder, red chilli powder, turmeric and salt. The corn is roughly chopped. These are made to bhunao till brown, little moisture added and cooked till the meat is tender.

Amrud ki Subzi

This is an exquisite delicacy of guava simmered in a tangy tomato and yoghurt masala.

Khad

A multi – tiered cake of lamb mince and chapati  which is a magnificent meal in itself. Khad means a hole in the ground. Originally, the ‘cake’ was baked in a hole in the ground with charcoals and hot sand providing the heat.

Mongodi Chawal

It is prepared with rice and fried lentil dumplings known as mongodis. It is preparing by putting whole hot spices in the ghee followed by some sliced onions, ginger juliennes, and other spices. The soaked rice is added and cooked along with fried mongodis.

Gatte ki Tehri

This is a contemporary Rajasthani preparation of besan gatethat are layered with basmati rice along with flavoured spices and saffron cooked on dum.

Missi Roti

This is a very famous bread prepared by kneading gram flour, whole-wheat flour, chopped onions, and green chillies into a dough. The chapattis are rolled out from this dough and cooked on a skillet.

Chilla

Besan ka chilla is a very common street food from Rajasthan. It can be made from besan or moong dal. This moong dal is soaked and then made into a coarse paste. It is then mixed with salt, chopped onions, green chillies, and chopped green coriander and left to ferment for an hour. It is then spread like a dosa on a hot plate and stuffed with grated paneer and folded over to a half moon. It is served hot with garlic chutney.

Kanji Vada

To wrap up the food items you eat, you will be served with ‘Kanji vada’. This is made up of ground moon dal (green split peas) nuggets which are soaked in water infused with mustard, green chillies. This tangy preparation aids in digestion and will no lesser than a boon to your stomach when you are through with devouring the Indian food in Rajasthan.

September 22, 1990

What Makes Kashmiri Wazwan Simply Spectacular?

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The traditional Wazwan takes the Kashmiri cuisine to a very different level of hospitality and it is an inseparable part of the Kashmiri Cuisine. The culture evolved in the valley centuries ago and till date it has maintained a distinct characteristic of an entity of its own. Presented here are some rare facts for the food lovers from all across the world who want to give this signature dish of Kashmir a try.

What is Wazwan?

It is a majestic multi-course meal in the Kashmiri tradition. This splendid banquet in Kashmir is treated with a great esteem and reverence. The preparation of this meal is considered to be an art and it is regarded as a dignified aspect of the Kashmiri cuisine. Incredible though it may sound but this ostentatious display of Kashmiri cuisine contains 36 traditional courses in its huge display. You can imagine the efforts and amount of time put on for the preparation of this grand banquet but the end result is worth the effort.

How it is Prepared?

Waz means chef and wan means shop selling the delicacies. Preparation of this dish is traditionally done by a head chef known as Vasta Waza. In assistance with the other chefs called wazas he prepares the banquet meal in an open air known as vurabal. The history of Kashmir’s traditional cuisine is not new. It has refined over a period of time and Wazwan dates back to the 14th century onwards, when the Mongol ruler Timur invaded India in 1348 during the historic period of Nasiruddin Muhammad, a ruler belonging to the Tughlaq dynasty.

As Wazwan is a banquet meal, it is prepared mostly on the important occasions especially in the marriages. But, since the meal is so elaborate that its wastage was a huge concern. However, the dominance of this huge meal in the Kashmiri culture has overshadowed this aspect. The animals are slaughtered as per the Muslim custom and then butchered expertly to the spot. According to waz, the animals which to be slaughtered has 72 parts and most of these are cooked all the organs like liver, kidney and heart are cooked and served in lunch.

The Culture Attached to This Meal

Basically, two tents are set up during the banquet meal preparation, one as the kitchen and other is used as the dinning pavilion. Earnest young men used to cut meat into cubes, mince it and pound it repeatedly into a smooth paste. All of these are done with the mallets and cleavers over several hours. Once the cooking is done, long white silk sheets called dastarkhans are spread out on the carpeted floor of the dining area. Guests used to come in and take their respective places. Males and females sit in separate rows and jugs of water are given so that they can wash their hands.

A large serving dish known as tarmi is piled high with gobs of rice and it is decorated & adorned with ‘seekh kebabas, four pieces of ‘methi korma’ and 2 pieces of tabak maaz, barbecued ribs, one safed murg, one zafrani murg along with other dishes. When one trami is finished, it is replaced with a new one brought in, until the dinner goes on. Along with this, yogurt is served in large clay bowls and sweet pumpkin chutney in saucers.

Important Components of the Meal

Rista (lamb mutton prepared in spices), Roghan Josh (lamb chunks cooked in gravy of yogurt and onions), Tabak Maaz (Mutton koftas), Dhaniwal Korma (lamb mutton korma), Aab Gosht (mutton curry) , Marchwangan Korma (Kashmiri mutton chilli korma) and Gushtaba. The meal ends with Gushtaba (minced mutton balls). After the main course of the meal, main desserts are served in turpiyali  (copper utensils).

In this special Kashmiri meal, vegetarian dishes are not preferred and only one or two dishes find a place in the lavish banquet. This special Kashmiri meal is a must try for every gastronome not only for its taste but also for the culture attached to it.

September 1, 1990

8 Mouth-watering Food of Lucknow That Attract People from Far and Wide

Filed under: Blogs — admin @ 9:13 am

When you wander around the world in search of the best food and your travelling belly gets a satisfactory junction, a smile on your face is apparent. Gastroutes takes you to such a journey that will help you explore the lip-smacking street food the taste of which will be hard to forget. Here we go with the 8 alluring street food of Lucknow.

Tunday’s Galawati Kebabs That Melt In Mouth:

Kebabs of Lucknow top the list. In fact Lucknow is often associated with Kebabs and it is known all around the world for it. They are exclusively delicious, prepared with the right assortment of spices and a legacy carried by Tunday Kebabi (the most famous food joint of Lucknow). Tunday used to cook for Nawabs of Lucknow and his generation carried his legacy. The famous Kebab shop by Haji Murad Ali came into being around the end of the 17th century. It is said that the kebabs made here continue to follow a closely guarded secret family recipe. Supposedly the women of the family make a special masala for the kebabas that use a whopping 160 different spices!

 

It is said that toothless Nawab of Lucknow once ordered his cook to prepare something that could be eaten without chewing and an innovative dish called Galawati Kebabs came into being. Here is the delicious minced meat preparation with green papaya paste, chillies, ginger-garlic paste, saffron, rose water and shallow fried in clarified butter (desi ghee). They are served with green chutney, onion rings and parathas (unleavened bread).

Netram ki Kachori and Subzi:

Being in the business for more than 200 years, the shop is being run by the 5th generation of the family. You will get a whole ‘thali’ or platter that would satisfy your soul and leave you thoroughly satiated because it contains almost everything that goes on making it a complete meal. Apart from Kachori (stuffed with lentils), you will find pickles, sweet chutney, one dried aloo subzi, raita (spicy yogurt recipe) and one with gravy are served on the platter. In the morning time you will get crisp and hot jalebis here. The tempting fact about food here is that it is cooked in pure ghee (clarified butter) which becomes evident by its enticing aroma…here the platter looks like..

Kulfi at Prakash Kulfi:

If you are in Lucknow and you miss eating this street food, consider your trip incomplete. Many age rolled by and many centers of Parkash Kulfi have come up at different places in Lucknow. But the oldest one is still at Aminabad. Several decades have passed and the Kulfi is still known for its same mesmerizing taste, its different flavours and its tasty falooda (flavored vermicelli served over the Kulfi). Here it goes with the picture.

Mattar Ki Tikki at Shree Kalika Chaat:

Located in Aminabad, the city has a famous chaat house of many decades and specially famous for its papdi chaat which is made of sweet peas, sweet tangy chutney, spicy water, mashed potatoes. Mattar ki tikki at Kalika Chaat house is another attraction where white pea is fried and garnished with the lemon juice, coriander and ginger. While taking a stroll to Aminabad do not miss having this street food here.

Biryani at Idris Briyani:

Imagine having a biryani which is so enriched with flavours, colours and aroma that it attracts the strollers of the entire street. The Dum Biryani cooked at Idris on slow steamed is just the right combination of herbs, spices, colours, milk, cream and rose water. The mere smell of this Biryani is so tempting that the passer bys tend to stop here. The cooking is done on coal and slow cooking retains all the taste and flavour.

Chole Bhature At Sardar Ji Ke Mashoor Choole Bhature:

One of the best places to have mouth-watering Chole Bhature is at Lalbagh, Lucknow. The shop is famous and frequented by people far and wide because the taste is truly awesome. Apart from Chole Bhature, Chole Kulche are also served here along with the pickles and onions. Here we go with this much in demand street food of Lucknow.

Aloo Chaat and Golgappe at Shukla Chaat House:

If you are an ardent fan of paani ke batashe, (flavourful and tangy water filled in crispy semolina shells) visit to this shop for once to have the best experience because the spicy water is just the best and puffs made up of semolina are perfect and crunchy. Equally good here will be aloo tikki (potato cutlets, fried and mish-mashed and served with different tanghy sauce nad spices)which is crunchy from outside, soft from inside and every bite of it will fill you up with happiness.

Lucknow Paan at Azhar Bhai ki Dukaan:

Let us wrap the gastronomy trail to Lucknow with ‘Azhar Bhai Ka Paan.’ Well! You will find various paan shops on every nook and corner of the city but the varieties of paan that you will get at this shop is simply overwhelming. The paan served here are known for its different flavours as well as for their medicinal value for small ailments like acidity, mouth ulcers, back-ache and many more. Think of any variety or flavour you will get it readily here. Explore the shop for otherwise a modest paan that can have so many different flavours and taste.

Here are the reasons to take gastronomy walk in Delhi.

September 16, 1985

How Chicken Used to be Cooked for Emperor Akbar?

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Do you know the favourite food of Emperor Akbar? It may be same as yours! Yes he used to love chicken. Domestic chicken was the year-round flavoured fowl in Moghul dishes, while peacock, goose, quail, parrot and partridge were all considered only a part of the seasonal hunt. So, love towards chicken in India or elsewhere is not new, it dates back to the Moghul time.

Here’s how chickens were pampered in the Imperial Kitchen

Those times kitchens were responsible for rearing the breeds of chicken especially for the banquets and for making any special dish for the Emperor Akbar. Palace chickens were hand fed with the pellets that were fragrant with rose essence and saffron. They were massaged daily with oils of musk and sandalwood. Only when they were considered plump and exuding fragrant they were deemed to be ready for the table of Emperors.

Emperor Akbar was very particular about what he used to eat

A very high standard was maintained in the court and the Emperor was very particular about how the food was prepared and presented. So, he used to direct the cooks to prepare the chicken dish 200 times before it was finally satisfied with what was dished out for him.

How the chicken used to be?

A very careful attention was paid to the skinning of chicken prior to the preparation and its presentation. Either whole or cut into pieces, it was often combined with other ingredients such as minced or ground lamb, apricots, sultans and nuts, particularly almonds, to appear as exotic dishes of whole chicken stuffed with minced lamb, chicken pieces in an apricot puree or in an almond sauce. The wonderful fragrance of saffron, rose, musk and sandalwood rising from the steam of the chicken pilaus or biryanis that were presented for the emperor’s approval. The skin of chicken is always removed to allow the spices and marinades to penetrate the flesh.

The Present Scenario in Tandoor Style of Cooking

There has been a phenomenal rise in the popularity of tandoori-style dishes since 1960s. The name comes from an earthenware oven called tandoor, which is heated red hot with coals. Marinated chicken, meat or fish is fed onto long skewers and grilled by heat both from the hot ash of the coals and the reflected heat of the oven walls. The meat is cooked quickly and emerges dry on the outside but succulent and moist on the inside, with a particular flavour from having being cooked in the clay oven. Tandoor ovens are also commonly used for baking flat breads.

October 3, 1984

Eating Out in Varanasi: What and Where?

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Famous for its ghats (river banks), gallis (narrow lanes) and yogis (sages), Varanasi is one such Indian city that is frequented by the tourists from far and wide not just for its temples and heritage but for its food also. People flocking to the ghats, indulging in Ganga aarti (prayers) at the banks of River Ganga is a common site. If you are a gastronome you can have a stroll around to taste the foods that are really great. Here is an overview of what you get to eat and where in Varanasi.

There are certain ghats like ‘Assi Ghat’ which is pretty clean then rest of the city and you can consider sitting on the steps of it to have a calming experience. You can catch hold of the sites like boats setting out for tours, children playing and splashing in water, yogis chanting mantras and barbers at work. There are certain eateries which should be the part of your trip if you want to enjoy the city optimally.

A typical breakfast in Varanasi is Puri Subzi (deep fried flat bread with cooked spicy veggies.) and kachoris which is puri stuffed with lentils. Both puris and kachoris are fried before your eyes and they are served with crisp and hot along with aloo rassa( potatoes cooked in gravy.)  Though it is available at several places but there are certain small and little known food joints which are particularly famous like Madhur Milan near ‘Dashwamedha ghat’ and ‘Ram Bhandar’ in Chowk.

A famous breakfast item available at several food joints is crispy jalebis which are served hot. These are served either with curd or rabri (condensed milk dessert) and taste simply great.

Another food item to add in your food trail when you are in Varanasi is chaat. You will get diversified varieties. Right from the modest aloo-tikki to a wide range of potato patties with chickpea curry and topped with chutneys to pani puri and papdi chaat, you will get a wide range of varieties here. Kashi Chaat Bhandar is a popular destination near Dashwamedha ghat and a must try is Tomato Chaat here.

There is another unique item that is a must try for all those who visit Varanasi to eat something great is Butter toast also known as ‘safed makkhan toast.’ This is a thick, local bread slice toasted over live coal and then slathered with white butter or regular butter. You will find it in “Laxmi Chai Waale.’ Though this food item is available at several places but this tea-stall is known for good toasts. You will also get deeply boiled tea cooked over coal stove and served in earthen glasses.

Do not miss another top selling and a known food of Varanasi which is lassi  (yogurt based drink). It is thick, cardamom flavoured and topped with a lot of cream, rose water and dry fruits. You can have it at Ram Bhandar but Lassiwala near the Assi Ghat or Thandai (Milk flavoured with a wide range of spices). On your way back do not forget to try the sweets of Varanasi from a sweet shop. Launglata,  laal peda and Banarsi paan are some of the must-haves in Varanasi.

 

October 5, 1983

Sambhar: A Sumptuous South Indian Food With Over 50 Varieties!

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Imagine having a steaming bowl of sambhar (lentil based vegetable stew) along with its accompaniments like idlis (steamed rice pancakes), dosas (pancake made of fermented rice batter) and vadas (deep-fried salted doughnuts of lentils). The mere thought of it would make you salivate if you have ever tried this South Indian food before that taste like heaven. Here goes the story and the various sumptuous versions of this South Indian food which has become one of the most loved delicacies of the nation.

Sambhar and an interesting story behind it

Sambhar is a dish of Tamil Nadu which is so intrinsic to the Indian state that no dish is complete without it. There is a legend behind the original recipe for this dish. It is said that Son of Shivaji (A great Maratha ruler) who was known as Sambhaji tried to make dal (lentil) in the absence of his head chef. Either to make it more savory or just for the sake of experimentation he added tamarind to it. This concoction turned out to be a success and it was named after him.

Different versions of sambhar

This may be just a fable but today the popularity of sambhar in Tamil Nadu can be gauged by the fact that over 50 varieties of this dish are available today. While onus of bringing sambhar to the fore goes to Sambhaji, today it is not merely a tamarind soup. Thanjavur Brahmin sambhar which is widely consumed here has no onions and garlic and this dish is not heavy on spices. Also, sambhar of Tamil Nadu differs from that of Karnataka. In the former dry powders are used whereas in the later wet pastes are used.

Not only this, in Tamil Nadu only local vegetables like radish, brinjal and drumstick are used and in preparing sambhar and in the other Indian states like Kerala only the English vegetables which became popular during the rule of British in India like carrots and potatoes are used.

Over the time people keep on experimenting with the dish and besides the whooping 30 varieties, people also started trying the idea of making a concoction using seafood and chicken. This tastes like heaven though it could not turn out to be a hit because a majority of people in Tamil Nadu is not open to the concept of meat or fish in the sambhar.

One of the most unusual dishes that you must have not heard of is “milk sambhar.” It was way back in 1930s that this weird amalgamation of Jain and Maratha traditions tried and brought to the fore. A little known version of Sambhar is ‘Tambda Rassa’ which is made of lamb stock. This was a success because of its rich flavour and appetizing aroma. To suit it for the Jain palate, milk was mixed instead of the lamb stock and the milk sambhar came into being.

Buttermilk Sambhar:

This is a sambhar curry with a twist. Brinjal and lady fingers are cooked along with buttermilk and begin to taste 10 times better.

Arachu Vitta Sambhar:

This is an intrinsic part of the Onam festival. This is a concoction of lentils, coconut, tamarind, drumsticks.

Corn Sambhar:

Nutritional benefits of corn and the cooling effects of madras onions make this dish worth trying.

Check our next article to find the top 10 mouth watering versions of this South Indian food.

January 9, 1982

Chole Bhature and a Taste of Delhi’s Punjabi Side!

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If you ever get a chance to take a stroll on the streets of Delhi, do not miss two iconic dishes “chole  (chick peas cooked in spicy gravy) Bhature (fermented leavened deep fried bread) and butter chicken. Of course, there are many things other than that and an entire lane is dedicated to shallow fried unleavened bread called “parathe waali gali” in Chandni Chowk. Here you can find overwhelming varieties of parathas. There are other Punjabi foods as well in Delhi but butter chicken and chole bhature are the ones that most of the travelers would like to get their hands on when they come to Delhi.

Morning time is the time when you can see people strolling around the streets of Delhi in the sweet shops. One of the most frequented sweet shops is Nathu’s located in the close vicinity to the Barakhamba Road. This shop is a recommended one while you will find others tagging this shop as “too commercial.”  ‘Sitaram Diwan Chand Chana Bhatura’ is yet another good option

At the start of the breakfast you have whipped yogurt called ‘lassi’ instead of double-shot cappuccinos. The former is a healthier alternative. You will be surprised to know that instead of earthen cups known as ‘kulhads’ in India or the usual big lassi glasses you will get lassi in colourful earthen cups. Still the taste is not at all compromised. The lassi served in the morning is sweet, full-cream and flavoured with a touch of saffron. There are other shops which remain brimming up with the South Indian food in the morning as a breakfast.

Nathu’s shop at Barakhamba road is a sweet shop where you would be surprised to get “chole Bhature” with a difference. Here black gram channa is used in chole instead of the regular chickpea based chole and the bhature that you would get here was not oily and you will get a feeling of near home-cooked feel to it. The bhaturas served here are crunchy from outside and slightly soft and doughy inside.

Though there are several other things to eat in Delhi. Almost all the streets remain filled with the stalls vending Golgappa. Bishan Swaroop is a hidden treasure for gastronomes. You can find an amazingly tasting fruit chaat & aloo Kulla (scooped out boiled potatoes filled with chickpeas and garnished with lemon and spices.) This is very tempting and mouth watering. Located in the Chandni Chowk, just opposite to the McDonalds this chaat stall is a must visit. If you love munching pakodas fritters while sipping a cup of Chai then there is one stop junction for you in Sarojini Nagar Ring Road Market. This outlet dishes out 10 types of pakados at any given time and the chutneys served along with them are equally wonderful.

October 14, 1979

Top 7 Indian Chefs Who Received Michelin Stars

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They are often looked down on and hardly any parent would like their children to adopt this profession Phrases like “Yeh Bawarchi Banega?” (He will become a cook?) are hurled on them by the society every now and then. But changed is the view of Indian public now after the Michelin star received by these chefs and every parent would want to be blessed by sons like them.

Michelin Stars: A Quick Look

Michelin stars is a rating system used by the red Michelin Guide to grade restaurants on the basis of their quality. This French honour is a hallmark of fine dining quality.

Here are the top 7 Michelin honoured Indian chefs.

Vineet Bhatia:

He professes to be the first Indian chef restaurateur to receive the honour since the guide started. Cuisines made by the celebrated chef can be categorized as Awadhi and he was awarded for the London-located restaurant Zaika in 2001.

Alfred Prasad:

Another executive chef at Tamarind of Mayfair, Prasad is said to be the youngest Indian to have received this honour. He serves traditional regional cuisines. He was widely recognized and awarded for Tamarind of Mayfair in 2002.

Atul Kocchar:

He has the honour of being the first Indian chef to be bestowed one of the prestigious accolade and describes his cuisines as contemporary Indian. He was awarded for Tamarind, London in 2001 and for his own venture Benaras in 2007.

Karunesh Khanna:

He is the head chef at Amaya, London, since 2004, Karunesh serves contemporary Indian cuisine, ‘with a hint of the orient.’ He was awarded for Amaya in 2006.

Sriram Aylur:

Sriram Aylur is the executive chef at London’s Quilon. He is known for coastal cuisine of Southwestern India was awarded for Quilon in 2008.

Vikas Khanna:

The New-York based celebrity chef is known for the who’s who of the world. He is awarded for the Junoon restaurant for three consecutive years since 2012.

Manjunath Mural:

Holds the honour of being an executive chef of the song of India restaurant in Singapore, Manjunath has won several awards as a chef for The Song of India. He has received the Michelin star for his Indian restaurant in Southeast Asia. He makes use of traditional Indian preparation methods and blends them with the flavours from the country he gets inspired by. He also keeps on sharing the stories and techniques behind the rich diversity of the regional cuisines in India.