Monday, December 8, 2014

Chingri Mocha'r Chop - Prawn and Banana Flower Croquettes

There are many ingredients common in a Bengali kitchen that have never entered mine. Mocha or banana flower is one of them. My cook is now changing things drastically because with her help I am exploring and learning a whole lot of Bengali food that's new to me. Today we made chingri mocha'r chop, a very popular snack that is often served at a high tea, or as a starter at a fancy dinner. Another simple recipe and a really tasty dish that was a super hit with the hubby and me.

Chingri Mocha'r Chop

8 -10 largeish prawns, shelled, deveined and chopped into small pieces
1 Mocha/Banana flower, cleaned and chopped
1 large potato
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
dhania/coriander powder
jeera/cumin powder
chilli powder or chopped fresh green chilli

1 egg
1 tbsp maida or plain flour

Pressure cook the cleaned mocha along with the peeled potato, with a little turmeric in the water. Drain out the excess water and keep the potato aside. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the mocha. Mash the potato.

In a wok heat a little oil and saute the chopped prawns. After a couple of minutes add the mocha and the mashed potato. Add the spice powders and stir to mix really well. Add salt. Saute the mixture for a few minutes stirring and mixing constantly so it is evenly blended with the spices and there are no clumps of potato.

Cool the mixture and form flat round patties or chops.

Heat enough oil in a kadai to deep fry the chops.

In a wide bowl crack the egg, add the plain flour and beat lightly to mix. Spread some breadcrumbs in a plate. Now dip the chops one by one into the egg and then roll in the crumbs to coat completely. Deep fry till golden brown and serve hot with kashundi or ketchup.

If you're vegetarian you can leave out the prawns. And use a flour+water solution instead of the egg. In fact, this recipe then is suitable for vegans too!

If, like me, you're clueless about cleaning the banana flower just look it up on YouTube. There are plenty of videos explaining just what to do. I am lucky - the cook knows exactly what to do!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chorizo Oats

Marriages might be made in heaven but some blessed pairs are made in my kitchen. Like chorizo oats. I am in love with oats and have been making a savoury oats porridge with various vegetables and spices several times a week, and I'm always looking for new inspired combinations. Adding spicy flavourful chorizo to the mix has been one of the best ideas I've had in a long, long time!

Chorizo Oats

Quaker Oats 3/4 cup
100gm chorizo, peeled from the casing and crumbled
1 small potato cubed or cut into sticks
1 small onion, thickly sliced
1 small carrot cut into discs
1 handful frozen green peas
half a green capsicum sliced into 2inch pieces or 1 bhavnagari chilli chopped
3 tbsp tomato puree or ketchup
jeera/cumin powder
dry chilli powder or paprika powder

Heat a little oil in a wok or kadai and put in the carrots and potatoes. Fry on a medium flame so that they cook through. Add the chorizo and mix well breaking up the meat as you go. Cover the wok and let it cook for a few minutes. Now add the remaining vegetables, stir it all well and leave it alone for another five minutes or so. Add salt and the spices too.

Once the carrots and potatoes look nearly done sprinkle the oats on the vegetables and mix well. Let it roast a bit for a couple of minutes and then pour in enough water to cover everything under a centimetre or so of water. Stir and add the tomato puree or ketchup, whichever you are using. Let it come to a boil and then simmer till the water is absorbed and the oats are cooked through.

I reserved a few pieces of the chorizo once they were fried, to garnish the dish. The chorizo tends to disintegrate and blend into the dish so the reserved pieces are nice to bite into as you enjoy the oats.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Of Khadkhadle, Bhujne, Bombil and Kolambi - The Pathare Prabhu Table

A few weeks ago Manisha, who writes The Chronicles of the Sassy Fork invited K and me to lunch. She said it would be at a Pathare Prabhu residence and the meal was going to be cooked by Soumitra Velkar and his family. A chance to go feast at a Pathare Prabhu table?! I was going whether or not K could make it! The date was fixed and I had to wait. We'd had a grand dinner at Bimba Nayak's house some months earlier so I had a pretty good idea what I could look forward to.

Finally it was time to drive across the city to the Velkars' residence and luckily K had the day off too. I think I drooled all the way there...

The PPs (as they are called) are among the oldest settlers of Mumbai and have contributed greatly to making Mumbai the city it is, much like the Parsis. They laid the foundations on which this city grew into the Megapolis it is today. Common landmarks like the Bhau cha Dhakka and the Mahalakshmi Temple were built by them.

I had heard catering stories from the hubby about PP clients and how, for one party held at Shree Pant Bhavan at Chowpatty (a huge building owned and occupied by the community) they set up the kitchen in the lift of the building! Now this building housed a car showroom in the old days and the lift was massive enough to carry the cars up to the terrace where they could be parked - probably the only building in Mumbai in those days with a lift of that size! As it turned out, the son of that client was present at lunch with us today :)

Getting back to the lunch - we started with a rose sharbat with sabja seeds, and then a string of starters, one more delicious than the next. There was Bhanole, Kolambi Pie, Bombil Bhajji, and absolutely delectable Khimyachya Shingdya.

Rose and sabja sharbat.

Bhanole is an interesting dish that comprises cabbage and prawns, and is baked. Baking is a commonly used cooking technique in PP cuisine and this is a superb example of how well they have adopted and adapted a western technique to suit their palate and cuisine.

Kolambi Pie - another example of how baking is a favoured cooking technique. This is a sort of shepherd's pie but with prawns and a nice robustly spiced version.

Bombil Bhajji or bhajiyas - I love bombil or bombay ducks and my favourite way to have them is in the classic rawa or besan coated fry. This bhajji was a revelation! I could have curled up with a hot mug of coffee, a good book and a steady stream of these babies hot off the kadai and been very content indeed!

Khimyachya Shingdya - mince stuffed pastry crescents. Many communities in western India make crescent shaped stuffed pastry snacks and they're usually filled with either a sweet coconut filling or a savoury green pea or tender tuvar or pigeon pea fillings. Called karanji, ghungroo, ghugra, newri, these are quite ubiquitous in the region. When I discovered that the ones on the table today were stuffed with minced mutton my day was made :)

Eventually we moved on to the main courses. Phew! I was already stuffed but I wan't going to miss out on anything today.

We started with Mutton Gode served with pav, and a fantastic koshimbir (finely cut salad) of red onions, white radish, green chillies, fresh coriander and lime juice topped with crisply fried dried bombay ducks. I haven't eaten much dried fish and this koshimbir was a superb place to start.

The Mutton Gode - I love mutton and if it has been cooked with big chunks of potatoes my Bengali heart simply sings. This mutton preparation reminded me a lot of the sublime flavours of the Sunday mutton cooked in numerous Bengali households where the gravy is light and subtly flavoured. Though more robust than a Bengali mangshor jhol, I could easily have made a meal of the Mutton Gode with a mound of rice and a raw onion on the side. Like most of the coastal Maharashtrian communities the PPs also have their signature spice blends and the Mutton Gode had Parbhi Sambhaar masala in it. This masala has spices like naag kesar and hing in it. It also contains ground wheat and chana daal which work as thickening agents.

A rather unusual dish on the menu was the Ananas Sambhare. Made with coconut milk, cashew nuts and pineapple, this sambhar is quite unique with the sweetness of the fruit paired with the spice of their sambhar masala. I am not at all into fruits but I did taste it before gamely passing it on to the hubby who quite liked it.

Bombil Methkutache, Bombay ducks in a light but spicy gravy, this preparation has Parbhi Methkut, another spice blend that's typical to the PPs.

Only a true fish loving community would come up with a recipe that uses the bones of a fish as the star ingredient and just like the Bengalis use the head and the bones of some fish to make specific delicacies, the PPs have the incredibly delicious Katyache Bhujne. This dish had the spinal bone of the huge Ghol stewed in onions, chillies, coriander and garlic. The flavours of this preparation were very close to a version of the Bengali machher jhol that my mother and grand mother used to make. The only additional ingredient in their version was chopped tomato. I took two helpings of the bhujne and relished it with rice.

The PPs are very fond of prawns, and you will have noticed there were many prawn preparations on the menu today. This is the Kolambi Khadkhadle and it was finger licking good. By the time I got to it I was stuffed beyond belief, but I wasn't going to miss it.. so I soldiered on after a five minute break ;) Once again there was a good dose of garlic with red chilli, turmeric, some hing and the Parbhi Sambhaar masala creating a well spiced and delicious dish.

Cheek or kharvas - This is a dessert that is a favourite among Maharashtrians and is one of the hubby's top favourites too. Made from the 'first' milk of the cow, or the colustrum, and lightly flavoured with cardamom and nutmeg. Paired with it was a rose flavoured mawa (reduced milk). The hubby had two, or was it three helpings of dessert before I stood at his side and ensured he didn't have any more!

That we were stuffed goes without saying. That we were sated is an understatement. That I am in love with PP food is a fundamental truth. Quite in contrast to the spice and coconut heavy cuisines of coastal Maharashtra, the Pathare Prabhus have a lighter hand in the kitchen and I think that is what allows them to eat such a lavish spread without batting an eyelid!

There is a growing awareness of local cuisines in Mumbai and Soumitra Velkar along with his wife and mother, is doing a splendid job of showcasing his community's food to an eager audience. I cannot thank the Sassy Manisha enough for this fabulous treat :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sheermal - My First Indian Bread

Things have been a bit hectic for me and one of the things that got seriously neglected was the monthly bread baking with the We Knead to Bake group. I have missed five or six months of baking for one reason or another and I had to get back into it or the year would be gone and I would have hardly baked this year. I joined the WKTB group to learn different kinds of bread and to practice and learn new techniques. I was doing nothing, much to my disappointment. Well, there's no way to get back on to wagon apart from doing just that - getting back on. And so this month I'm back on the WKTB wagon, barely by the skin of my teeth.

The chosen bread for November is Sheermal. A mildly sweet, soft flat bread, sheermal has saffron and milk in it and can be quite rich because of the addition of ghee/butter and egg. This beautiful bread is commonly eaten in the regions spanning Persia, across the Indian sub-continent, as far as Bangladesh.

Incredibly easy to make, sheermal takes approximately three hours in all, including proving time. This is the recipe Aparna gave the WKTB group and I followed it mostly to the T. The only change I made was instead of rose water or kewra essence I used Orange Blossom water which comes from the Middle East. I didn't have rose water or kewra essence and I was looking for a chance to use the Orange blossom water anyway and the sheermal gave me the perfect opportunity.


2 1/4 cups sifted flour or maida
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup ghee
1 egg
1 -2 tsp Orange Blossom water
1/2 cup milk
a generous pinch of saffron strands

In a cup add the yeast to the warm water along with the sugar, if you're using active dry yeast or fresh yeast. This has become such an automatic step for me that I do it even with instant yeast though it's not necessary.

In your mixing bowl pour in the flour and sprinkle the salt and mix lightly. Now add the yeast mix and stir to combine. Beat the egg lightly and then add it to the flour mix. Give it a stir and now start adding the ghee a little at a time. Continue mixing till the ingredients come together to look like large crumbs. You can do this in a food processor if you have one. I didn't add all the ghee as I didn't require it.

Now add the milk a little at a time and bring the dough together. Once the dough formed a rough ball I took it out onto my work surface and kneaded it for a good 10 minutes adding milk, a little at a time, to ultimately get a beautiful and soft dough. I didn't use up all the milk either. I brushed my mixing bowl with a little ghee and put in the dough to prove. Cover the bowl with a damp napkin and leave it in a warm place, undisturbed.

Soak the saffron strands in a little warmed milk.

Once the dough has doubled (this can take anything from an hour to two hours) punch it down gently and knead for a couple of minutes. Put it back in the mixing bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Set the oven to preheat to 180C.

Remove the rested dough onto your work surface and divide into four portions. Shape each into a ball. Gently flatten each ball to form a disc approximately 6 inches across. Brush the top with the saffron and milk generously and then prick the entire surface neatly with a fork. Place the prepared discs on your baking tray and bake at 180C for 12 to 15 minutes till the sheermal turns a beautiful golden colour.

Brush with butter as soon as you take them out of the oven. Serve with your evening chai or with a spicy gravy main course for dinner. I'm going to make some chicken to go with my sheermal :)

We Knead to Bake #22

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Dreams and Making Some of Them Come True

We all have dreams. Some are big enough to remain fantasies and some are doable but remain dreams. We often class both together and let them remain dreams. We think about them wistfully from time to time but don't really do anything about making them happen. While many seem impossible, many of the dreams are not. They are doable and all one needs is the ability to decide how important it is and then the conviction to simply go after it.

K always wanted to own a Bullet. An iconic bike for most Indians, he dreamed of owning one for many years. It was one of those dreams I heard him mention off and on through the years. We nearly bought one several years ago but he chickened out at the last moment saying it was an unnecessary indulgence. And he continued to dream in a corner of his mind.

A few months ago I asked him what it was that was stopping him from taking the plunge. We had the money and could easily fulfill this dream. It wasn't an unreasonable one after all. He had no answer - just a hesitation to spend a largish amount of money on himself. At least that's what it seemed to me.

Remember my Yolo epiphany? Well, it was Yolo time for him and I was making sure we bought the bike. Sometimes you just need to grab a dream and make it happen. What's wrong with a dream coming true? Why do we instinctively deny ourselves the little and not so little pleasures?

Well, we went to the showroom and booked the bike a few months ago. And now we are the proud owners of a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 (though I was hoping to buy the 500, but I know when not to push my luck!).

Examine your dreams and if you find you have one that isn't so impossible or unreasonable, go on and make it happen.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Spiced Chicken Legs - A Quick and Easy Dinner

The hubby dislikes chicken, even more so if it's in the mundane basic curry avatar. But chicken is conveniently available and cooks fast so I like it. As a compromise, though I cook it often, I try to make it as interesting and appealing as possible and what comes to my rescue are the variations of the simple pan grilled chicken. All I do is marinate in select spices or condiments for about half an hour and then slowly pan fry till it's done. On the side I make mashed potatoes or fries, grilled vegetables or even a salad, depending on what I have at hand. I do make elaborate curries which take time and effort to make and those are always a hit but they're time consuming and need some planning and gathering of ingredients. The pan grilled chicken is my friend when I'm in a hurry or just not in the mood for a lengthy session in the kitchen.

Spiced Chicken Legs

4 to 6 chicken legs
Cajun spice mix or any other spice mix that you like, or mixed dried herbs
bacon fat (optional)
olive oil

Make deep cuts in the flesh of the chicken legs. You can also use thighs for this recipe. Rub salt, pepper and a generous teaspoon of your preferred spice mix into the chicken pieces. If you're using dried mixed herbs add some minced garlic to the marinade.  Leave the chicken to marinate for at least half an hour.

Heat the bacon fat in a non stick pan. Add a splash of olive oil to it and let it warm up properly. Place the marinated chicken pieces in the hot oil and sear properly on all sides. Lower the heat and let it cook covered for around 10 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook evenly on all sides till the chicken is cooked right through. You can add a very small amount of water (a couple of tablespoons at the most) to the pan if required but be sure to dry off the water completely as the chicken cooks.

Serve the chicken hot with fries, potato mash, grilled vegetables, garlic bread, whatever you have at hand :)

If you like, fry a few slices of bread in the pan juices after you have taken out the chicken. The bread tastes divine!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dohneiiong - Pork with Black Sesame, from Meghalaya

A few days ago I went for an incredible lunch that featured the cuisines of the north eastern states of India. From aperitif to dessert, it was a wonderful gastronomic tour of seven states and I learned a lot about the cuisines of this region. I think the biggest lesson I took home with me is the fact that momos are not from the North East. They're from Tibet and Nepal, although they have penetrated into many regions of India, not just the NE.

Given my love for pork, I was quite thrilled to see a dish featuring my favourite meat on the menu. That wasn't all - we also saw a demonstration of how this dish was made. The recipe was shared with us and I am going to share it here on my blog for one very simple reason - you will find the ingredients anywhere and quite easily. There's no exotic ingredient that you have to beg your friends to bring back from their home in the NE.

Dohneiiong - Pork with Black Sesame by Gitika Saikia

Half kilo pork belly
100 gms black sesame seeds. Roasted and powdered
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp fresh ginger garlic paste
3 - 4 green chillies, chopped
1 tbsp red chilli paste
1 tbsp turmeric powder
mustard oil

Boil the pork belly and cut into largeish cubes.

In a thick bottomed pot or casserole dish heat a few tablespoons of mustard oil till it smokes. Reduce the heat and chuck in the sliced onions. Let it fry stirring it once in a while. Add the ginger garlic paste and fry for another couple of minutes. Once the onions have changed colour add the pork cubes, chillies and the chilli paste. Stir well and mix properly. Add the salt and the turmeric too. Saute on a medium flame and let the pork cook for a good 10 - 15 minutes.

Mix a little water into the sesame powder to make a thin slurry. Pour this into the pork. Water is added to the sesame powder to make it easier to mix it into the pork, so don't use too much water. Now cover the pot and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so. Give it a stir once in a while and it will be ready to serve as soon as the water is gone and the oil is released.

This tastes best served with sticky rice but you can enjoy it with whatever rice you make at home.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Tour of NE India Through Food at the APB Cook Studio

Mumbai is seeing a growing interest in the regional cuisines of our vast country and I have been fortunate enough to sample many of these not so easily accessible cuisines at various events and, sometimes, in private homes. We've been seeing food festivals emerge as a trend in the last few years with the Koli festivals, the Pathare Prabhu food fest and, very recently, the CKP food festival. There are also big dos like the annual Upper Crust Show and the Good Food magazine event where food professionals and businesses from across the city showcase their products. And there is the band of home cooks who are now having pop ups, custom designed private meals at their own residences, and sometimes they do a special event at unique venues like the APB Cook Studio.

North Eastern cuisine, like the term Indian cuisine, is a complete misnomer. There is such diversity in ingredients, cooking styles, influences, and food preferences that one simply cannot class the cuisines of the seven north eastern states of India under one banner. The Cuisines of the Seven States of the NE Demo and Dine event at the APB Studio today gave me a glimpse of this incredible diversity. With Gitika Saikia as our guide, we were taken on a culinary tour of the entire north eastern region The sheer variety of meats, herbs, local vegetables, cooking and preserving processes, and styles left me amazed and hungry - hungry for a deeper knowledge of what seems to me a wonderful world of food.

The menu for the event was -

An apertif made of amlakhi (amla) and hilikha (haritaki).

Pasa - A soup from Arunachal Pradesh. A flavourful broth of herbs and lightly cooked fish, this soup was one of the highlights of the meal for me.

Dohneiiong - Pork in Black Sesame paste. A Pork preparation from Meghalaya.

Eromba - A vegetable and fermented dry fish preparation from Manipur

Bai - A wonderfully light clear soup of assorted vegetables, bamboo shoot, lime leaves and rice, this delightful one pot meal is a staple from Mizoram

Akhuni or Axone - A chutney made from fermented soy beans. This is from Nagaland. Naga cuisine has loads of different chutneys that are pounded fresh just before the meal and I was fortunate enough to eat many varieties in the hostel in Pune, thanks to my Naga friends.

Mosdeng Serma - A chutney of fish, tomatoes and local herbs, this one was from Tripura.

Dau Jwng Sobai - Chicken cooked in urad or kaali daal. This is an Assamese preparation that had minimal ingredients, was slowly cooked, and ultimately tasted really good. This dish had 'khaar' or alkali extracted from the banana plant as one of its ingredients and the taste of the khaar was distinct, yet not overwhelming.

This was served with sticky rice, and an assortment of pickles for extra zing. The rice was served bundled neatly in banana leaf packets.

This is what my plate looked like piled up with food! The mash you see in the foreground is Eromba, of which I don't have an individual photo.

Dessert is not a traditional concept in the region and it is only in recent years that the trend of serving dessert at the end of a meal is slowly picking up.

Gitika served a simple flavourful dessert that was basically khoi, a variety of puffed rice, cream, and sugarcane jaggery layered in a bowl.

The session began with Gitika demonstrating two recipes, the Dohneiiong, and the Dau Jwng Sobai. Gitika is a naturally ebullient person and as she took us through the recipes she also told us about her experiences visiting various tribes in their villages, invading kitchens and shamelessly begging to taste whatever was being cooked, and even wheedling goodies to take back home!

As we ate our way through the cuisines of the Seven Sisters we were aware that this was just a mere glimpse of all that lay in that magical world in that mysterious corner of our country.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lau Bori - Another Example of the Simplicity of Bengali Vegatarian Food

I have a cook who comes over twice a week to ensure my fridge has a good amount of Bengali dishes in it. I make sure she cooks something typically Bengali, that you would find served in any random Bengali household - those ubiquitous preparations that are mundane and simple everyday fare that would make most Bengali housewives laugh at my interest in them. For me these are not mundane as I didn't grow up eating them. For me most of these are absolute revelations.

Take this Lau Bori for example. Once she had finished cooking I asked the cook to give me two minutes of her time so I could write down how she made the lau bori. She rattled off the recipe in four sentences and I looked at her, amazed. That's it? Didn't you add any more spices to it? Or anything else? No, she said. That's it. Now taste it and tell me if you like it.

Lau Bori

1 small Lau or bottle gourd, peeled and cut into thickish matchsticks
1 potato, peeled and cut like the lau
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tej patta or Indian bay leaf
1/4 tsp kalonji or nigella seeds
1 minced green chilli
mustard oil
1 tbsp posto bori, or any other bori

Heat mustard oil in a wok or kadai and fry the bori. Drain excess oil and keep aside. In the same oil throw in the kalonji, green chillies, tej patta and grated ginger and fry for a minute. Add the cut lau and potatoes and fry well on high heat stirring nicely. After a minute or two reduce the heat and cover the kadai. Let the vegetables cook. Once they're around half done add turmeric and salt and mix well. Once again cover it and let it cook further. Don't add any water. Keep the flame low and let the vegetables cook in their own steam for another few minutes. Then add the fried boris and cook covered for a further few minutes till the lau and the potatoes are cooked though.
Garnish with finely chopped fresh coriander.

I enjoyed this with fresh hot rotis.

Bengalis have a rich tradition of making boris and there is quite a variety of these daal based dumplings that are fried and crumbled or scattered whole over many vegetarian dishes. I found posto bori in one little shop in Lake Market in Kolkata on my last visit. They're much smaller than other boris and in fact, look like white chocolate chips.  I hadn't a clue what I would do with them but fortunately the cook does!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kolmi no Tatrelo Patio - A Lesser Known Parsi Classic

The Parsis have a rich and varied cuisine with a predominance of eggs, meats, fish and sea food. One of my favourite dishes is Kolmi no tatrelo patio. A simple preparation that can be put together in half an hour, the best way to eat it is with ladi pav that is abundantly available in Mumbai. You can also have it with rotis or regular sliced bread.

Kolmi no Tatrelo Patio

20 medium sized prawns
6 spring onions, finely chopped
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 cup fresh coriander, washed and finely chopped
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
20 curry leaves
8 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
chilli powder
mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp fresh Parsi garam masala* powder made with pepper, cloves, cassia bark, cardamom, black cardamom, star anise, shah jeera, nutmeg and mace.

Clean the prawns - shell and devein. Wash well, drain and then marinate in salt and turmeric.

Take a flat thick bottomed tava and heat oil on it. Crackle the mustard seeds once the oil is hot, reduce the heat and add the curry leaves, garlic, onions and spring onions. Cook slowly, stirring as you go.

Once the onions turn pink add the green chillies and cook for another couple of minutes. Now add the dry powdered spices and the sugar. Stir well and mix properly. Cook this for another four to five minutes stirring the mix continuously. Now add half the fresh coriander leaves and blend well. After a minute or so add the vinegar. Lower the heat and let it cook for another minute or so, stirring all the time. Add a little salt keeping in mind that the prawns have been salted already.

Now add the marinated prawns and mix them into the onion and spice mixture. Once the prawns are cooked sprinkle the remaining coriander on the top and serve it hot with pav or with dhan daar - plain yellow daal and steaming hot rice.

The word patio evokes a dish that has a thick red gravy that is sweet, sour and spicy, made from a masala paste, and served with dhan daar. That's one version. The tatrelo patio is a dry dish with similar flavours but from different ingredients. In this version the heat comes from green chillies and there is no ground masala paste used. The word patio actually denotes the vessel it is cooked in - a flat, squat, thick bottomed vessel, which looks like a flattened pot. A thick iron tava also serves the purpose for this dish.

*Parsi Garam Masala can be used in a variety of preparations like you would use any other garam masala blend. Make a batch and give a new flavour to your daily curries and side dishes.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Visit to Udvada

Udvada is to the Parsis what Mecca is for Muslims, Kashi for Hindus and the Vatican for Christians. This quiet little village in Gujarat houses the holiest of holy fires, the Iranshah.

When the Parsis first landed in India, at Sanjan on the western coast, they established the first fire temple on Indian soil in memory of Iran and in thanksgiving of their safe journey to India. The holy fire was eventually housed in its current location at Udvada.  It has been tended since then and has never been allowed to go out and has been burning continuously for more than 1,100 years.

Devout Parsis visit Udvada as often as they can, offer worship at the Atashbehram, and then  amble off for some local shopping, and a good meal either at Ashishvang or at The Globe Hotel. You can also book rooms here and stay over. The rooms at The Globe have beautiful four poster beds, and a glimpse of those were enough to make me want to stay!

Lunch at The Globe - Mutton Dhansakh, Papeta Marghi, rotli, tareli boi (mullet), kachuber, brown rice.

I had an impromptu chance to go to Udvada because K was going there for some work. Of course, I tagged along and I took my camera too. This was another opportunity to go around taking pictures, a chance to practice, learn and improve. And a good way to stay out of K's hair too. I got the chance to check out the Irani bakery, to get in and poke around a traditional Parsi kitchen, to have a sumptuous meal at The Globe, and to wander the streets where I also bought some local products.

The Irani bakery is run by a gentleman called Rohinton Irani. He keeps traditional Irani baking techniques and recipes alive and has a limited but classic range of products for sale. Cookies, macrooms, khari, sweet khari, batasa, nankhati, mawa cakes, buns, brun, sliced bread and of course, ladi pav, are available at his shop.

Batasas waiting to be baked.

The Chulavati or hearth is rarely seen in kitchens these days, even in the villages. My mother in law had distinct memories of her great-grandmom Soonamai cooking at such a chulavati. She has written about them in her first book Jamva Chaloji, and I was thrilled to finally see one myself. In the old days the chulavati would be set into the floor but in later times many households had them built at table level to make it easier to use. Since fire is held to be supremely sacred, the chulavati is also revered. It is often decorated with rangoli and pictures of the prophet might also be kept nearby.

Torans hanging at the lintel of every door are a hallmark of Parsi houses and I saw  very pretty torans in Udvada. Traditionally made with glass beads, these days plastic beads are also used. A special frame is used to 'weave' the torans and this is an art that is slowly dying out. How sad.

Leela lasan na papad or papads flavoured with green tender garlic is one of the things every Parsi brings back from Udvada. These are delicious eaten with curry chawal, ras chawal, khichri kheemo, or even as a snack with beer.

Parsi tea must have mint and lemon grass to flavour it and if you're lucky, you might get your hands on fresh peppermint while you're in Udvada. I did!

I also bought embroidered head scarves as little gifts for my sisters in law. Though machine embroidered, the motifs are the same as were hand embroidered on the gorgeous satins and Chinese silk Garas. Parsis cover their heads with caps or scarves when they are in a fire temple and these were being sold at a shop just outside the Iranshah Atashbehram. The shop sells all manner of Parsi knick knacks, pickles, prayer books, kors or saree borders, and torans too. The torans were priced between 1,500 and 4,000 Rupees.

Udvada is not a bustling busy town. It's not a sleepy village either. There's a beach, there's great food, and there's Parsi heritage in every corner. There's plenty for non Parsis to appreciate here so if you do get a chance, go check it out. The Gujarat highway is excellent and it will take you roughly three hours to get there if you're based in Mumbai.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chocolate Ganache - Easy Primping for Cakes

Chocolate ganache - it's one of those things that every home baker and cake lover knows about and loves. We've all seen so many pictures of luscious ganache topped cakes and cup cakes all over Facebook and Instagram  and drooled at each one of them. I've been drooling too but have never made ganache myself.

The thought of heating cream seemed suspect to me. I know. There's no logical reason for my suspicion but I was suspicious anyway. I am like that. I am wary of trying new things and new techniques and find excuses not to try things instead of just leaping in and just doing it. Yes, silly of me but there you are!

For the last few weeks I haven't been in the mood to cook or bake or paint or do any of the things I really enjoy. Blogging has suffered too. Then this morning the hubby was moaning about sticky cakes and puddings and God knows what else and I thought, let's make something new today. Ganache came to mind and I also had all the ingredients - yes, both of them! So I made the usual pound cake, slashed it in half and then slathered the whole thing inside and out with the ganache.

I was chatting with my friend Garima who bakes and cooks a lot and she assured me that ganache was ridiculously easyto make and of course I could make it, and of course it would turn out very nicely too. She explained every nitty gritty detail and I must have asked her every possible question about ganache making. She answered. Patiently. Aren't I lucky to always have a helpful friend at hand, just when I need them?!

Chocolate Ganache

250 gms cooking chocolate. I used Morde's Dark Chocolate
125 ml cream. I used Amul cream

Grate the chocolate and put it in a clean bowl. In a saucepan heat the cream stirring slowly till it begins to bubble. Take the cream off the heat and pour it on to the grated chocolate. Let it sit for a minute and then stir gently to blend the cream and the melting chocolate into a smooth silky ganache.

That's it.

The next time I make ganache I'm going to add a hefty spoonful of coffee. I think it will be magical.

Make any cake that you like and frost it with this delicious chocolate spread. Add sprinkles to jazz it up if you like. You will have a beautiful cake to perk up your tea time.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Slow Cooked Mutton Chops with Caramelised Onions

Mutton chops are of two kinds - the potato covered croquette like ones like these, and the delicious cut of meat that I cooked for dinner.

These babies were lying in my freezer forever. I had marinated them and bunged them in hoping to cook them soon but somehow the opportunity just never came. Today we had nothing on the agenda and dinner was going to be at home. I had these out and thawing and they were ready to be cooked in a few hours. The initial plan had been a sort of gravy and I had planned to fool around with poppy seed paste and other bits and pieces but somehow I wasn't in the mood for something fussy. So the chops ended up being slowly pan fried with a generous handful of sliced onions.

Grilled Chops with Caramelised Onions

Marinate a few chops with curd, ginger garlic paste, salt, turmeric, cumin powder, a good dash of coriander powder, and your favourite garam masala blend. Let it marinate for a good six hours or overnight in your fridge.

Slice a couple of onions finely. In a flat non stick pan heat a couple of tablespoons of any neutral oil. Once the oil is hot add the onions and fry gently till they begin to turn pink. Add the chops and fry on high heat for a couple of minutes turning the chops to sear all sides.

Lower the heat and cover the pan with a lid that fits. Let the chops cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. Turn them over and cover and cook again for another 10 to 15 minutes. Add any marinade that's left in the bowl. Don't add any water.  Let the chops cook on low heat as slowly as possible. Mine took around an hour to cook. Just check occasionally to ensure that nothing's getting burned.

The chops will have no gravy, just the darkly caramelised onions that have absorbed the marinade and the flavours of the meat.

Serve these as a starter on their own. Be sure to add some of the onions to each serving. Eat with your fingers and I promise you, you will lick them clean. A simple no fuss dish, slowly cooked. Poetry on a plate.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mangshe'r Chop - Goat Mince and Potato Chops

Durga pujo for most Probashi Bangalis (migrant Bengalis) means visits to the pujo pandals, not just to admire the goddess and participate in the usual rituals but frequent visits to the multitude of snack shops and caterers that serve all those Bengali favourites - rolls, fish fry, fish chop, mangshe'r chop, varieties of porota, aloo'r dom... the list is endless!

Unlike most other communities, the Bengali doesn't believe in abstinence during the pujas. We do have ritual fasting but it's for just a few hours of the day. Some observe the fast strictly and don't even have a sip of water, but as this lasts from the time you wake up till noon at the most, it's not too hard to do. Even youngsters do it with enthusiasm - after all it's for just a few days every year. A bit of fasting to kick off each day followed by serious feasting to make up for the morning's penance!

Whether you're feasting at home or are pigging out at the pandals, good food and lots of it is always on the menu. One thing I always look forward to are fish fry - a microfilm thin slice of fish that's crumb fried to perfection, served with a tangy and potent kasundi and sliced onions.

Another favourite is the mangshe'r chop. My grandmother would make this at least once whenever we visited her in Kolkata when we were little. I have strong memories of her scolding my aunt or the maid (whoever happened to be helping her) to mash the potatoes properly, not to be stingy while pouring oil into the kadai,  or to leave the chops alone as they fried.

There she would be perched on her tall wooden stool hunching over the low table on which the gas burner was kept, supervising to ensure that each chop was perfectly shaped, was uniformly covered with the potato, that they didn't break while frying, that the burned crumbs were not left behind in the oil or the next chop would invariably have ugly black flecks on it. She would fry one or at the most two at a time, nudging them gently, giving them the time to fry properly till that perfect even golden colour was achieved. Of course we would be waiting impatiently so we could gobble those beauties in a matter of minutes!

Someone asked me for a recipe for mutton chops and I thought it would be nice to have it on the blog. It's a fairly simple recipe though it can be fiddly because you have to form the chops properly and fry them carefuly so they don't break. Here's my recipe for mangshe'r chop as I remember it from my Didin's kitchen.

Mangshe'r Chop

200gms mutton kheema
1 onion finely sliced
1 green chilli, minced
Half tsp each turmeric, chilli powder, jeera powder and garam masala powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
Half tsp sugar
20 raisins, stems removed
Salt to taste
2 tbsp mustard oil

3 potatoes, boiled and mashed

2 eggs, beaten

Bread crumbs

Oil for frying


Marinate the kheema for some time with salt, the dry spices and the ginger garlic paste. 

Heat a little mustard oil in a pan or wok and fry the onions. Add the sugar and let the onions only turn pale brown. Don’t caramelise too much. Chuck in the minced green chillies, fry for a minute and then add the marinated kheema. Stir well and cook for 10 to 15 minutes breaking up the lumps till the kheema is cooked through. Add the raisins and cook covered for a couple of minutes. Dry out whatever water has been released to make a dry kheema stuffing for the chops. Taste and check that the salt is enough.

In a bowl mash the kheema as much as you can with your fingers to break up any lumps. Add half a boiled potato and mix in well. This helps bind the kheema and keep it together while shaping the chops.

Mash the potatoes with a little salt. Make sure you have a smooth lump free mash. 

Now set up your production line with the mashed potatoes, the kheema filling, eggs, and bread crumbs. 

Beat the eggs and put them in a bowl. I should have set up this shot after doing that! 

Form a ball of potato in your hand and flatten it out. Put a little log shaped bit of kheema on the potato and cover it from all sides to form a squat drum shaped ‘chop’. Make all the chops in this shape and set out on a plate. 

Put your kadai on to heat and pour in a generous quantity of any neutral oil – sunflower, peanut, whatever you use to fry stuff.

Dip a chop in the egg and coat it well. Then roll in the breadcrumbs pressing the crumbs lightly so they stick. Remember to coat the two ends of the chop too. 

Fry in hot oil till it’s a beautiful golden colour.

Serve hot with kasundi (mustard sauce), chopped onions and a fresh green chilli.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52