Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Awadhi mutton biryani made simple ....

Biryani can be simple but not quick to tell you the truth. The meat needs it's own cooking time and then you have to cook the biryani on dum (in a sealed pot) so the flavors become one. All the spices and meat and the fragrant basmati rice get a new identity in a biryani as they all meld into each other. Yes, you should be able to taste the meat in the rice and the rice aroma should seep into the meat. It sounds difficult but the cooking technique ensures it is done nicely and effectively. This post would introduce you with the cooking procedure required to cook a brilliant biryani. The spices can always be optimised to your own taste.

You can always choose your spice blends if you don't like some strong robust flavors in your biryani or add some fragrant flavors like mint or an overdoes of green cardamom if you wish, but take care to treat the spices and herbs in a way that the aromatics are not destroyed in the cooking process. You want them all to get imbibed into the rice and meat if you are looking for a biryani.

Awadhi biryani starts with making a 'yakhni' of the meat. Yakhni is a stock that includes some spices along with mutton pieces to be boiled with water for about 1.5 hours or more. This slow boiling allows the stock to be rich in flavors. I prefer adding a piece of fat to this simmering stock so the flavors get intensified. Using bony pieces of mutton is advised for making biryani, you would like to add a few bones to the broth/stock/yakhni if you planning to cook a biryani with boneless mutton pieces for convenience in eating.

So there are three steps in making a biryani, the first involves making of the yakhni, practically the first in the procedure as it takes the longest time and you can do other prep work while this is being cooked. 

Then comes the cooking of rice with a few aromatic spices and the cooked yakhni. It is actually cooked into the meat stock and only till 3/4th done.

The next step is to flash fry the cooked mutton pieces along with another fresh batch of spices and ginger etc and then layering the cooked meat with 3/4 cooked rice with a sprinkling of saffron and herbs if you wish. This layered arrangement is cooked on dum, that is in a sealed pot on very low heat for about half an hour or more. Depending on the quantity.

I cook biryanis in large amounts most of the times when I have to entertain guests and that is the reason why I have never been able to click decent pictures. This time I cooked it for just the two of us, actually for 2 servings as small quantity of biryani is not worth doing. I clicked pictures as soon as I opened the dum pot, the wafting aromas making me weak in the knee, I actually tasted the biryani right then. Later I proceeded to make the raita and salad to serve with it and forgot again to click pictures of the serving plates. The mint raita and a tomato-onion kachumber salad is missing in these pictures. A well made biryani does that to you.

Nicely separated, well cooked, well soaked rice and succulent pieces of meat, aromas to make you hungrier than ever, you would know when you cook this.

(2-4 servings | 2 hours cooking time)

mutton pieces on bone 500 gm
basmati rice 1 cup

spices for the yakhni...
black cardamom 1
green cardamoms 2
cloves 5-6
tejpatta 5-6
black pepper corns 20

spices for the boiling rice..
cloves 2
green cardamom 2
cinnamon stick one inch long
tejpatta 2

spices and other ingredients for the stir frying of boiled mutton pieces..
cumin seeds 2 tsp
pepper corns 20
black cardamom 1
shahi jeera 1 tsp
cinnamon 2 one inch sticks
dry red chillies 5-6 (broken)
fresh ginger root chopped into thin julienne 3 tbsp
ghee or mutton fat scummed from the broth 2 tbsp
some people add turmeric powder at this stage to get a golden yellow color on the biryani, I skip this, use 1/2 tsp turmeric powder if you wish

spices and other ingredients required during layering of biryani..
nutmeg freshly grated a pinch
saffron strands 2 pinches
mint leaves (optional, I didn't use, a mint raita served with it is a better option I say)
fried onion slices (optional, I didn't use this time)


Add the mutton pieces to about half a liter of water and give it a quick boil. Drain the water immediately, fill the pot with 3-4 cups of water again and add the spices mentioned in the list for yakhni. Let the broth simmer for 90 minutes.

Fish out the meat pieces from the yakhni once it is cooked. Strain the yakhni and discard all the whole spices. Add 2 cups of this yakhni to the washed and drained rice with the required spices and cook on low flame till 3/4 done. It takes about 25 minutes if done on absolutely low flame for this quantity.

Meanwhile, heat ghee in a pan which you would use for dum cooking also. I use my heavy cast iron kadhai when the quantity is less, basically any pot that has a heavy base and a tight fitting lid would do.
Add all the ingredients together into the hot ghee and fry till the spices get aromatic. Add the boiled mutton pieces and flash fry just for 3-4 minutes. You might like to add 2-3 pinches of a strong garam masala if you wish at this point. Do not fry the mutton pieces more than 3-4 minutes else they become dehydrated. Wait till the rice is cooked (only 3/4th done stage).

Now layer the meat pieces with the cooked rice in the same pot. For a small quantity you can just fold them all together, do not mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the freshly grated nutmeg, mint and fried onion if using and the saffron too. Place the lid to seal and cook on very low flame for another 30 minutes.

You can use dough to seal your pot if are not sure of sealing it properly. Remove the dum pot from heat after 30 minutes and serve immediately. This biryani can be served after 2-3 hours after reheating in the same pot or into the microwave. The flavors get better after a while but the aromatic experience of opening the sealed pot at the dining table comes when you have it right away.

 A cooling raita and a tomato and onion salsa/kachumber  type salad is what we like with our biryani.

You can have it as part of a lavish spread but a raita and a roughly chopped and mixed, preferably dressed salad is a must in my opinion. I know some people who can have biryani on it's own and even for breakfast.

Very soon I am going to bake a nice biryani in an Earthen pot I bought from Trade fair, seasoning the pot is falling prey to my habit of procrastination. Enjoy this biryani till then.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hyderabad special meal at The Park and a recipe of Safaid Korma and Akhrot ke kulchey...

Hyderabad food brings a smile on my face as I love spicy food in general. Biryani and Haleem comes to my mind immediately and then there is a complete blank. Ah yes, Double ka meetha and Khubani ka meetha I love to indulge into occasionally. We decided to go for a Hyderabadi dinner one evening last week and were expecting a spicy affair. I was surprised to know there is so much more to Hyderabad cuisine when Chef Tarun Verma introduced the menu at Aish at the Fire restaurant in The Park.

Our meal started with amuse bouche, a masala papad followed by a dahi ka golgappa served rather dramatically in a miniature tagine. Loved this along with the appalams.

Among the starters I liked Magaz ka pakoda /lamb brain fritters (575), pattey ki machhi, a steamed fish similar to Patrani machhi (825) and a shikampuri kabab, lamb kabab with a hung curd center (695) though I could not find any yogurt filling.. Pathar ka gosht (695)was nicely smoky and soft. I liked it as it was different from grilled kababs and still smoky.

Among the vegetarian starters you might like to taste the khajoor paneer ke dhol (425), a rolled up slice of paneer with a stuffing of dates and spices, I found it a bit too sweet. Some more spice and herbs would have balanced the flavors well as it was nicely soft and well rolled. Other vegetarian starters were not at all good.

Few mains were liked too. I found akhrot ke kulchey (145) really good. Walnuts are my favorite nuts and this naan was just too good for my palate. A thin white gravy of safaid korma (725) was quite a surprising element. Very delicate flavors and not at all spicy, contrary to what I think of hyderabad food, this korma was really nice though the gravy could have been thicker. I loved the akhrot ke kulchey with safed korma. Tried these at home, recipe in the end of this post..

Haleem (745)was good, a nice pasty Haleem that is made with large pieces of meat and cooked for hours so the fibers break. Nice flavors the way I like in Haleem. Apart from that Palakura pappu (425) was a nice yellow daal with few bits of greens but nothing great. Vegetarian dishes were an absolute disappointment.

Desserts were out rightly disappointing. Badam ka halwa (425) was very mediocre.  Chocolate double ka meetha (425) was a disaster as a real thick slice of bread with chocolate was not even soaked in syrup properly. Khubani ka meetha was a joke as dried apricots topped with whipped cream do not make khubani ka meetha. I was not expecting this from a five star hotel. The presentation was good though.

I would suggest you to go if you like Safaid korma and akhrot ka naan, haleem and some non vegetarian starters but avoid any desserts from the hyderabadi menu. The gulkand rasmalai (425) they served was a lot better and refreshing with slivers of dehydrated paan and gulkand.

The good thing is that I am bringing the recipe of Safaid korma by Chef Tarun Verma. Here it is for you to try and let me know if you like it...

mutton curry cut 1 kilo
cinnamon stick 5 gm
almonds boiled, peeled and blended 200 gm
ginger garlic paste 40 gm
full cream milk 2 liter
cinnamon powder 5 gm
green cardamom powder 5 gm
salt to taste
ghee 50 gm

I quartered the recipe as it was being cooked for just the two of us..


Wash mutton pieces and put to boil with ginger garlic paste and cinnamon sticks. Keep skimming the surface or change the boiling water twice. This helps in keeping the color of the gravy white and flavor really delicate.

Simmer the mutton pieces till done. Took an hour for me.

Reduce the milk to half and add the mutton pieces with the stock to it.

Add the cardamom and cinnamon powders. Boil till you get the right consistency of the gravy.

Finish with cinnamon powder and ghee and serve hot with any kulcha or naan you fancy.

I made whole wheat Akhrot ke kulchey with this. Knead whole flour wheat flour with a pinch of soda bi carb, pinch of salt (for every half cup of flour) and a tbsp of chopped Walnuts and knead using warm milk. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then roll out and bake Kulche on a griddle or in an oven.

See how to bake Delhi street style kulche here..

For these kulchey I just rolled up small balls of this dough to make oblong breads and slapped it on to a hot griddle. Let it cook one side and then grilled the kulcha on open flame on the other side. It becomes perfectly soft inside and a bit crisp and firm on the surface. With the nutty crunch of Walnuts, these Kulchey are yummy with just anything you wish.

Who would have thought I would share a delicately flavored (and not hot and spicy) recipe from Hyderabad? Having said that, I am not sure if this recipe is authentic as a few such curries are cooked in Banaras as well. So have good food no matter where it belongs to.


Khajoor tamatar ki chutney | dates and tomatoes chutney...

This is actually an Indian style tomato and dates spiced jam. Actually a tomato-ginger and dates spiced jam. Now you know what I mean. Except that the tomatoes are not skinned and de-seeded and the jam is not blended smooth. A chunky spicy jam for your sandwiches or to be served as condiments with Indian meals. This chutney is loved with spicy samosas, aloo parathas and any kind of Methi or Bathua parathas. Or on it's own if you are a wicked person :-)

 You just need some red ripe heirloom (desi) tomatoes, some dry dates we call Chhuharey (see the picture), some fresh ginger root and a blend of garam masala, preferably home made. And yes, you can add a little tamarind too if you wish but this is made without any tamarind pulp.


ripe desi tomatoes 500 gm (5-6 medium large tomatoes)
dry dates (chhuharey) 20 ..soaked overnight
finely chopped ginger 2-3 tbsp or to taste
red chilly powder 1 tsp or to taste
special garam masala 1/2 tsp
sugar or natural brown sugar (boora/shakkar or jaggery) 300 gm
salt to taste, just 2 pinches is the requirement


Dice the tomatoes and put them all into a wide base pan.

Chop the soaked dates too in desired size pieces and dunk them all into the same pan. Add salt, sugar (I used natural brown sugar) and chopped ginger to it too and start cooking on medium-low flame. Keep stirring in between as it takes quite a long time to cook (around 40 minutes) and might get stuck to the base of the pan.

Just as the jam/chutney starts getting thick and shiny it is time to add the red chilly powder and garam masala. Cook for 5 more minutes or till you get a jam like consistency and bottle it in a sterilised jar.

This can be blended smooth if you wish and can be a good substitute for tomato ketchup for your kids. I like the depth ginger provides into this chutney and the garam masala makes it very aromatic. A sweet, spicy and hot chutney to make the meals pack a punch.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Chane ka saag | chickpea greens and a steamed savory snack called patoda or girmachh...

Yes, my grandmother used to call it chane ke saag ka girmachh as it is similar in the cooking technique to the arbi ke patte ka girmachh or patra, long cylindrical dumplings steamed and then cut into slices to shallow fry as a snack. Technically it is more similar to a gujrati muthia or any greens and lentil dumpling that we steam for snacking. I always wonder how versatile and yummy these dumplings are. I have posted another version of steamed dumplings that are tempered with sesame seeds etc for tea time snacking. These can be made with any green leafy vegetables but since I have had these in my childhood, made by my grandmother who was so find of spicy food, I love recreating this in my kitchen whenever there is a chance. The chance comes only when I get Chane ka saag in the market, that is a rare happening here in Delhi vegetables markets. In high end mega malls we don't get to see such desi seasonal greens while Celery and Parsley is abundantly available. I feel sad.

We should all keep writing in the suggestion books of those high end stores to stock Indian greens as well, till they realise there is market for the abundantly growing greens in out rural fields. Anyways, we get these at out local vegetable vendors or the farmers markets around the city. Cleaning this greens is a little time consuming but it's all worth it. Just discard the tough stems and keep the leaves and growing buds. Rinse them in several changes of water, drain and then chop finely. It's difficult to chop these finely as the leaves and twigs are quite small, just make a tight bundle, place on the chopping board and keep slicing away. It's a breeze after this.


chopped chane ka saag (chickpea greens) 250 gm or 3 cups chopped
besan(chickpeas flour) 1 cup
ginger-garlic-green chilly paste to taste (use a little more than you think is enough as besan needs a lot of seasoning)
cumin powder 1 tsp
black pepper powder 1-2 tsp or to taste
turmeric powder 1 tsp
red chilly powder to taste
salt to taste (you can taste the dough after mixing everything)
water about 1/4 cup or as required
mustard oil (or any other) fro greasing the plate and more mustard oil for shallow frying (about 1 tbsp is enough to fry about a dozen sliced discs)


Mix everything together and make a dough adding minimal water.

Divide the dough into tennis ball size portions and shape cylindrical dumplings.

Grease a plate (microwave safe) and arrange all the dumplings over it. See this post to get a pictorial elaboration of the process, only the shape of the dumplings is different in this case.

Cover the plate with a dome cover or an inverted bowl (suitably sized) and steam the dumplings till firm. You can use the idli steamer meant of microwave or for stove top for steaming these dumplings. They cook quickly.

These dumplings taste really good while still hot and soft. You can have them as it is, but you need to cool them down before slicing and shallow frying.

Cool and place them all in a dabba or container to refrigerate. These keep well for a week and you can slice and shallow fry a small batch for evening tea every day.

To shallow fry, heat a tawa or flat griddle or frying pan with a tbsp of oil and arrange all the sliced discs on it. Let them brown on low flame on one side, then flip and brown it on the other side too. They become crisp on the surface and crumbly inside.

And yes, you don't even need a chutney with these. Spicy and perfectly crisp with a pleasant taste of chane ka saag. Tastes great with methi ka saag (fenugreek greens) as well.

These can also be curried like kofta curry or to make kadhi, but it has been a long time I curried these dumplings. These are so tasty as tea time snack either steamed or shallow fried that we never get enough leftover to make a curry with it.

I always say our traditional recipes are healthy and make use of whole foods. Don't you agree?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Glenary's at Mall, Darjeeling...

The hill station of Darjeeling has a languid air, you see everyone walking on the streets and yet there is a calming sense of laze all around. No one seems to be in a hurry even when a parent is walking the child to school or a young girl is walking in the fanciest of clothing. There is so much to soak in not only for a tourist but for a local resident as well it seems. The roads and lanes are dirty either with road construction or with overflowing sewage or something similar all the time and yet when you manage to look up you see a burst of colors in the flowers all around. All the walls, the hilly slopes are covered with wild or potted flowers. The ledges of homes and shops are lined with potted flowers, sometimes no proper pots to plant them. We saw recycled planters and even black polythene bags for planting flowers. Abundant colors of the season even when the potting material is not sufficient. I liked that a lot. This picture is a fine example of how the ledge of a two level restaurant and bakery is lined with flowers of the season. The place is Glenary's. We passed through this road a few times before deciding to enter inside for a breakfast one day.

Tea is what all the places around would serve in pretty old fashioned metal tea pots. I have never seen such beautiful tea post except my mother collection back home.

I ended up clicking pictures of tea pots in all the places we visited, the tea was exceptionally refreshing, best suited for the place and the marathon walking we were up to.

This picture even won a poetry post by Suranga Date.

For the breakfast we decided to try a few things from their bakery counter and ordered a cheese omelet with 2 pots of tea for ourselves. Yes we can keep sipping on Darjeeling tea for hours and our tea pots need refilling. The tea was definitely great at this place as well, but we didn't find the sweet bakes too good. We tried Apple pie, Lemon tart and Rum ball, all of these I feel con not be done wrong but I was disappointed with the taste. Very mediocre taste and a cold hard texture that results from trans fats used. We had taken just one piece of each and couldn't go beyond the first bite.

There are many sweet and savory bakes on display and a pleasant aroma of the bakery makes you happy as you enter. It's another matter I can't stand such rich bakery aroma for more than 10 minutes myself. But that's my problem, most people I have met find this aroma very inviting. Added with such a rich display, one would be tempted to hog endlessly. Fruity scones, cheesy breads, fruit cakes, Cinnamon rolls and what not.

I found the savory bakes better there. A Chilly chicken puff was good and Arvind liked the Cream puffs (rolls) too.

More than the baked goods, I liked this place for the ambiance. You can sit here and laze for hours with a lovely view of clouds outside thanks to the wall to wall french windows on the other side.

You would see people reading newspapers, writing journals or punching the laptop keyboard around you. The place is WiFi enabled and you are free to connect with the world for while if you wish to do so on a holiday.

The old world charm of Glenary's is accentuated by a red telephone booth inside the hall and a scalloped border to divide the ceiling into different areas..

Glenary's is a two level bakery cum restaurant cum bar with a lovely ambiance. Prices are very reasonable, quality of the baked goodies is mediocre but the Tea and omelets etc are really good. You would enjoy the place if you choose from the menu carefully. I give this place a thumbs up.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Aloo aur harey pyaz ki subzi...

Aloo aur harey pyaz ki subzi

Aloo aur hare pyaz ki subzi has been frequent winter subzi in my kitchen and the recipe has not changed ever since I started cooking it. It is actually the exact same recipe as my mother used to cook and we both love it immensely. Hara pyaz is the same spring onions we get fresh in the markets as soon as the winters start in North India. This is one green leafy vegetable that is always there in my fridge. More so in recent times when the husband has started carrying a lunch box to office. He loves aloo aur hare pyaz ki subzi and it gets ready within 10 minutes, doesn't make the lunch box messy with a gravy and tastes great even when cold. What more I would wish for? Oh and it makes a standalone breakfast dish for me sometimes, may be with a boiled egg on the side. Yes, potatoes and eggs, both are life savers.


boiled potatoes 2 large (it should be 1.5 cup when cubed)
roughly diced tomatoes 1 cup
chopped green parts of spring onion 3 cups
finely chopped ginger 1 tbsp or more
finely chopped green chilies 1 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
cumin seeds 2 tsp
black pepper powder 1 tsp
salt to taste
mustard oil 1 tbsp or a bit more

Aloo aur harey pyaz ki subzi

It is great if you have boiled potatoes in the fridge, otherwise just boil them in the microwave or whatever way you prefer. Cold boiled potatoes are suited for this recipe best, but you can go ahead with freshly boiled potatoes as well.

Heat the oil in a pan and tip in the cumin seeds, wait till they crackle. Then add the chopped ginger and green chilies  wait till they are fried but not dehydrated, add the cubed potatoes, turmeric powder and salt at once. Mix well and stir fry till the potatoes are coated well and slightly pinkish at the edges.

Add the diced tomatoes, mix and cook till they get mushy, it takes about 2-3 minutes.

Add the pepper powder and chopped greens of spring onions and just stir and cook till the greens get wilted and mixed well with the potatoes. Looking like the picture.

Do not cook after adding the greens for more than a couple of minutes.

Aloo aur harey pyaz ki subzi

You might like to add a pinch of amchoor powder in this stir fry or sookhi subzi. Or may be some red chilly powder too sometimes. Adjust seasoning when the subzi is still in the stove and mix well.

Serve hot or cold, the subzi tastes great with just anything. As sandwich stuffing, as a paratha stuffing or just as it is like I do. Make it spicier and it suits a plain daal chawal or khichdi meals well, just with a side of a raita or nothing I say.

Simple home cooked meals are very much doable on a daily basis. Stop eating your lunch in the office canteen and ordering your diner every day. Would you?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Malwani fish curry...

If you have been reading my blogs for some time you would know how much I like coconut. Both for desserts and for curries. Most north Indian curries and UP style curries never use coconut and the gravies are darn brown to, light brown to creamy white or red in color, owing to various degrees of bhunoeing the masala, caremalising the onions and quantity of tomatoes. And then I see those curries of many of our southern states where you just stew the vegetables or meats with a coconut based spice paste. Believe me, I did not grow up eating them but those coconut based curries ahve become my comfort food since I started cooking them at home. This Malwani fish curry is one of those stewed curries where you don't have to bhuno the masala and deglaze it till it releases oil. And there are no exotic ingredients involved.

But yes, since I had some Tirphal that Rekha had gifted me some time ago when she brought it from Goa. This peppery spics has a nice depth to it's flavor and adds a unique touch to this Malwani fish curry. My recipe is based on this description of Goan fish curry where there is no use of Tirphal.


4 large steaks of any seafish or alarge Pomfret cut in convenient sized pieces (about 500-600 gm)

to make a paste..
half a fresh coconut chopped into bits or scraped
an inch piece of garlic chopped roughly
5 cloves of garlic
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 Tirphal peppers
10 black pepper corns
4-5 fenugreek seeds
3-4 whole kashmiri red chilies
salt to taste

one large green chilly ( Jalapeno or any sweeter variety)
curry patta and coriander greens for garnish

1/2 cup of finely chopped onion and 1 tbsp of coconut oil to saute the onions if required
1/2 cup coconut milk is you want a richer flavor 


Make a paste of the above ingredients just like the picture collage and pout the paste in a pan. Add the chopped green chilly to this paste and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. If you want the gravy thick and smooth you can sautee the above mentioned chopped onions and then add this past and simmer. Some coconut milk can also be added to enrich the flavors.

Add the fish steaks in the simmering mixture and coat them all well. Simmer again for 8-10 minutes with cover , add the curry patta and coriander greens and take the curry off the stove.

Do not add the fish steaks before cooking the coconut and spice mix as this can cause splitting of the gravy. Though it does not alter the taste but he curry might look a bit curdled.

Serve hot with plain boiled rice.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bombil curry in a tomato gravy | Bombay duck in curried tomatoes

Bombil or Bombay duck is a delicate fleshed fish with just one central bone. The bones are very delicate too and can be chewed on when the fish is fried crisp.Not to mention that the fish turns to a melt in the mouth texture when fried crisp with a coating of seasoned rice powder. It would be the best fish fry for you if you love a crisp exterior and melt in the mouth inner parts. The reason why the fish is liked in the fried form mostly. But I love a simply seasoned tomato based curry with this fish too. The fish is poached in a chunky tomato gravy and turns buttery after cooking. You can poach a few Bombils in a ready to use tomato garlic sauce too, especially if the sauce is not too spicy.


Bombil fish 500 gm cut to about 3 inch pieces if the fish is big
tomatoes diced 500 gm
chopped garlic 1 tbsp or more
chopped (diced) red onion 1 cup or about 100-120 gm
chopped green chilly (jalapeno) 2 tbsp
pinch of red chilly powder or paprika if you like
salt to taste
mustard oil 2 tbsp


Heat the oil in a wide bottomed pan and tip in the garlic and fry just for 30 seconds or so. Do not brown the garlic. Add the onions and green chilies, mix well and keep cooking after adding salt.

Once the onion is softened and lightly pink, add the tomatoes and the red chilly and turmeric powder too. Stir and cook till the tomatoes are mushy. Add about 3/4 cup of water and let it boil once.

Add the cut fish as soon as the tomato mixture starts boiling. Cover and simmer the mixture for about five to seven minutes. Check if the fish is done and the sauce has thickened well. It will be a chun ky sauce with melt in the mouth texture of fish.

If you want a smooth gravy, just blend the sauce after it gets a boil, pour back into the pan, add water and simmer with added fish till done.

No herb is required in this curry but curry patta, coriander greens or a hint of thyme can be a good thing to add when you feel like.

The buttery melt in your moth texture of fish with this mildly flavored soupy sauce can be a meal in itself. Or just have a little plain boiled rice with it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Places to eat in Darjeeling | Keventers at Mall..

We were in Darjeeling for 4 days in the second leg of our recent holiday. First four days were spent in Gangtok and both the places were much loved. We wanted to taste local food and it was not much difficult to find our way through it. The stories of local food will be shared but today I wanted to introduce you all to this lovely old fashioned cafe called Keventers. It is a triangular old building situated at a Y shaped road turn where one road goes to upper road and the other going towards lower. This is how Keventers looked from our Hotel's dining hall glass panes one morning. The green board just behind the clock tower.

And here is how the capitol clock tower looks from the Keventers' roof top seating area.You would remember the roof top restaurant and the clock tower if you have seen the Hindi movie 'Burfi'. The hero climbs atop this clock tower and turns the clock back by 15 minutes so the girl can reconsider his proposal

This city is like a preserved specimen of old times, and I liked it as the old buildings and places are so charming. Just wish that the roads were taken care of.

Look how the stairs that go up the Keventers seating area look like. Much worn out wooden stairs tell a story. I liked that some of the planters were recycled plastic containers.

And here is how the roof top restaurant looks like. Always a few laid back tourists and locals would be seen chatting lazily, enjoying the sun if it is cold and safe in the shade of those beach style umbrellas if the sun is too harsh. The clouds are always company no matter if it is sunny or cloudy. The sky is clear blue unlike the cities we live in. This is the USP of this old world cafe in Darjeeling.

Good tea in old fashioned tea pots and some fried bacon, ham, chorizos and eggs or sandwiches for company..The menu is not very extensive but you would like a few things to order for quick snack or even a meal. And yes you get coffee as well. Cold or hot.

This platter is a treat. These are local spicy ham, sausages and bacon, fried till crisp on the edges and soft and succulent int eh middle. The eggs fry is very liquid and great to dip the hot bacon or ham. I liked them with a mustard sauce dip too.

To the one side of this al fresco cafe is a huge restaurant called Opium seen here across the wall, probably a hotel too, didn't inquire..

The other side is a restaurant that is boat shaped, called boathouse. Makes a nice picture of a boat floating in clouds...

We had a hot chocolate at Keventers the next day as we wanted to taste some of their milk shakes too. They said they were not making milkshakes and hot chocolate is available. It came in an old fashioned mug but quite insipid Cadbury's hot chocolate type drink. You love a hot drink anyways when in foggy hill stations, nothing extraordinary.

On the ground floor they have the sales counter, quite unpretentious and basic but they stock all these cured meats if you want to take them home. Some fish and prawn pickles and meat pickles too I spotted.  There is always a commotion of college students and young crowd here as they sell sandwiches and quick eats on the counter. There is a softy counter too. Arvind is one ice cream lover you see...

Keventers is a nice place to sit and laze in the mall road of Darjeeling, having sandwiches and tea in sun or inside the small hall on the first floor, just adjacent to the kitchen counter if you like. The sandwiches and cured meats are all tasty and enjoyable but don't expect good standards of hygiene there. We Indians have strong immune system so it's not a problem but if you think you have a tendency to pick up stomach infections, better have a look at this before deciding to dine at Keventers.

 Handling the food with naked hands is no big deal for most Indians, but if you live a sterilized life, be careful. Good taste of Indian food on the streets or old cafes can be had only if you have a acclimatized immune system.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

alu dum with chicken keema | keema alu dum..

Winter potatoes are something we relish for the texture and taste they have. The best time to make potato salads and alu paratha is her now. Arvind loves potatoes in all it's forms, it's me who keeps stuffing our plates with all possible kinds of greens. Not that potatoes are bad for us but hey do not let us eat other seasonal bounties of nature. Potatoes should be enjoyed only in winters in my opinion, no I am not forcing you to follow it :-)

The fact is, the new potatoes of winters are the best suited in Alu methi that I normally make like Kela methi, Alu saag and so many other winter subzis like alu sem and alu gobi. A bengali style Alur dom (aloo dum) is a favorite too and goes well with the motorshuttir kachuri (green peas kachori).

I make a keema wala gobi musallam too. It is a much loved recipe in my home.This keema aloo dum is another way to enjoy the wonderful taste and texture of winter potatoes with a spicy meat mince gravy. Very much a winter dinner when accompanied with hot chapatis.

boiled, cooled and peeled baby potatoes 12 (halved)
chicken mince 250 gm
chopped coriander greens 1/2 cup
mustard oil 2 tbsp + 2 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
salt to taste

to make a rough paste..
roughly chopped onion 1/4 cup
5 cloves of garlic
2 inch piece of ginger chopped

to make a smooth paste..
coriander seeds 1 tbsp
cumin seeds 2 tsp
black pepper corns 1 tsp
black cardamom 1
green cardamom 1
cinnamon stick broken 1 inch piece
cloves 3-4
scissor cut tejpatta 2
dry red chilies 3-4 or to taste
turmeric powder 1tsp

to make another rough paste ...
2 large tomatoes chopped roughly


Heat the oil and tip in the cumin seeds and wait till they crackle. Slide in the halved potatoes, sprinkle a little salt, just for the potatoes, and stir fry them on medium heat. The potatoes being used should be boiled and cooled down as mentioned in the ingredients list, as these will be cooked for a long time, along with the mince meat too, and you don't want them to disintegrate. If you use them hot or warm, they would start breaking in this step itself. So be careful about this.

Low flame, added salt and frequent turning will ensure slow frying of the potato halves in a less quantity of oil.

While you stir fry the potatoes, making them golden brown from almost all sides, make the first paste.

Drain the fried potatoes from the oil and keep aside. Add the remaining oil into the same pan and pour the first paste into the hot oil. Add salt to taste and keep stirring till the paste starts getting pinkish. Make the second paste meanwhile and add at this stage. Now is the time to bhuno the mixture on medium flame by scraping the pan and mixing the masala various times. The masala paste gets brown in color, aromatic and shining in appearance when it is ready.

Now is the time to add the chicken mince (or mutton mince if using) and bhuno again. The mince starts getting white and cooked. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, stirring all this while  make the tomato paste alongside and add in the last. Bhuno again for about 45 minutes and add 2 cups of water and the fried potatoes.

Simmer on low flame, covered for about 20 minutes or till the desired consistency is reached.

Add the chopped coriander to finish and serve hot with hot chapatis or naan.

A deep spicy flavor with warmth of mustard oil, perfect winter baby potatoes and some mince is all one needs after a day's work. Coriander greens make it really refreshing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sankatmochan wale besan ke laddoo and some festivity.......

Wishing you all a very happy Diwali, the festival of lights that brings with it a couple of more festivals,  Dhanteras that preludes Diwali and then Bhai dooj and Govardhan pooja to follow. Several sweetmeats are made in Indian homes and there is a round of worshiping several Gods in this season. I am not a religious person but like to soak in the festive mood by cooking something that has been a family tradition. Lighting the diyas and candles, spring cleaning the house and spending time with loved ones as it is a national holiday too. Some memories of childhood are revived and some new are formed. We generally stay away from crackers and pompous gifting traditions associated with this festival, enjoying the home made sweetmeats and homegrown happiness is much more worth.

Sankatmochan wale besan ke laddu

Besan ka laddoo and Shakkarparey are the two things my MIL used to make on the day of Dhanteras, for the bhog of the evening's pooja. Surprisingly, I normally forget to make these on that day as there is no internal clock in my system to remember festivals and associated pooja rituals. Yes, I remember the foods but then I need to get a clue when to start. So this year too when I was leaving for a friend's place the husband gently reminded to make Besan ke laddoo for the pooja that he would do in the night. Did I tell you he is the one who performs festive rituals quite well, I am the one who just watches the pooja being performed, enjoying the scents and chants.

Talking of the scents and the chants, the Sankatmochan temple at Varanasi is one place if you love the scent of a temple. That ghee laden sweetmeats, a heavy waft of Tulsi leaves and some Ghee lamps burning, you are transported into a different world when you visit this place. The holy water that (Gangajal kept in a pot with Tulsi leaves in it,called Charanamrit) the Pandit offers has a distinct Tulsi taste and aroma that I can feel right now typing these lines. That was the reason I wanted some Tulsi leaves to be kept with these besan ke laddoo so the aroma gets infused in them. You are right, I am talking about he Sankatmochan waale besan ke laddoo. Those ghee laden laddoos with a crackling of crystalline sugar is kept in a palm leaf box along with Tulsi leaves and you get that taste of Tulsi when you have them reaching home.

I learned the trick of making that crackling sugar from my MIL. My mother used to make the besan ke laddoo with simple powdered sugar and that was good but nothing extraordinary. That crystalline sugar that is called Boora in North India can be made at home within 15 minutes or so, depending on the quantity you want. The process is pictured step wise later.

(to make about 20 large laddoo)

Chickpea flour or besan (the coarse variety preferably) 250 gm
sugar 250 gm (the whole quantity will not be used)
ghee 200 gm


Heat ghee in a thick base kadhai and pour in the besan. Mix well and start roasting on low flame. The mixture looks crumbly in the beginning and goes on to become flowy. I took many pictures during the roasting process that took about 40 minutes, as the consistency and color of the besan went on changing. The aroma also changes and you would know when the besan is well roasted. See the pictures for more details, starting from the first to last..

Sankatmochan wale besan ke laddu

After roasting the besan, start with making the syrup for making crystalline sugar. Since the sugar syrup needs to be whisked vigorously in the last lap, you would want your hands be free from roasting the besan at that time. I can handle both the things simultaneously as I have some practice, and I do switch off the besan side of the gas if required, you can do that too.

So for making the crystalline sugar you start with sugar and just enough water to submerge the sugar. The first picture in this collage is taken after a couple of minutes of adding the water so you see more water than it was, the sugar already had started melting. It will be good to know that there is no strict quantity of water added, as it just take a couple of minutes more to get the right consistency if you add a little more water.

Sankatmochan wale besan ke laddu

The syrup first starts boiling, then frothing and when the frothing increases, and you see some sugar being crystallized on the sides of the pan, just take the pan off the flame and whisk vigorously with the help of a sturdy spatula (a wire whisk doesn't work as the sugar syrup starts resisting movements).

You would notice after the fourth picture the sugar looks crystalline and white, a few steps in between are missing as whisking and clicking pictures is not possible simultaneously. In the missing steps, the sugar syrup looks like honey first and then starts getting opaque, that is the time it will start crystallizing too. Just keep stirring to make smaller crystals otherwise it would result in a huge chunk of white sugar.  There will be some large crystals too, you might like to thrash them using a Pestle or just sieve the sugar so you get uniform sized sugar crystals. The large chunks can be used to sweeten anything you wish (I use them to make the syrup for shakkarparey, recipe next).

The sugar is then mixed with the roasted besan mixture. The two are mixed well to combine well. You can add some chopped nuts or cardamom etc, but they are not added in the Sankatmochan wale laddoo and you wont like to spoil the original taste if you are looking for that. The quantity of sugar can be tasted and adjusted at this step.

Sankatmochan wale besan ke laddu

Allow the mixture to cool down so you can handle them to shape balls. The laddoo gets solidified after some time in winters, owing to the presence of ghee.

If you notice the mixture is too cold and does not bind well to form laddoo, you can heat the mixture on gas or in microwave so the ghee melts again to allow binding of laddoo well.

Sankatmochan wale besan ke laddu

The large sugar crystals are visible in this picture. They provide a nice texture and the taste of the laddoo is transformed owing to this.

Did I tell you I made this laddoo and Shakkarparey at 8 Pm that day? That was after I returned from my friends  place. I kneaded the dough for shakkarparey when the laddoo mixture was cooling down and used the same leftover sugar in the pan to make the syrup for shakkarparey too.

ingredients for the shakkarparey...

whole wheat flour (you can use maida too) 2 cups
fennel seeds 2 tsp
ghee 1/3 cup for shortening
more ghee for deep frying


Rub the shortening part of ghee into the dry flour till it resembled bread crumbs and then add the fennel seeds and water to knead a firm and strong dough.

Roll out the dough into a half centimeter thick circular roti and cut squares using a sharp knife. The squares can be like cookies or biscuits, any size you prefer.

Deep fry all of them in batches till they are pinkish brown and crisp. Low flame is helpful in making them crisp and cooked through.

Now add water to the sugar just like we made the sugar syrup in the laddoo recipe. I just added some more sugar and water to the same pan with leftover large chunks of sugar and proceeded to cook the syrup.

The same kind of frothing happens again and you can keep a bowl of cold water to check if the syrup is ready to crystallize  Just drop a tsp of syrup in the bowl of water, if the syrup immediately looks like a glass coin it is ready for coating the shakkarparey (Or crystallizing as required for the laddoo).

So as soon as you get the indication that the syrup is ready, tip in all the fried shakkarparey squares into the syrup and start stirring and mixing them quickly. The syrup will coat the squares and then become white in color. A uniform coating of sugar will be there on each of the fried square.

Sankatmochan wale besan ke laddu

These are like glazed cookies.

Let them cool and store in an airtight container. Discard the remaining sugar or use it for sweetening anything else if you have a large quantity left.

I cooked a few more sweetmeats for diwali. There was some Gujhia made at my friends place. It was an opportunity to bond with her kids and see the contented happy smile when they eat a freshly fried Gujhia. I also made a raisin, almond and date syrup Sondesh on the day of Diwali. Will post the recipe very soon.

Wishing you all a great time, good food and family bonding this festive season.

Sankatmochan wale besan ke laddu

There was silence on my blogs as I was away for a vacation in the mountains. We visited Gangtok and Darjeeling before Diwali and brought back great food memories. Those will be shared soon here on the blog. Loads of pictures and food storied to be shared with you all. Stay tuned.