Friday, August 31, 2012

Chakh le India: the cookbook and the author

I posted a recipe of Amritsari Paneer bhurji from the book Chak le India written by Aditya bal some time back. And I promised to share my experience of meeting the author in person. But first a few things about the book.

Even after being apprehensive about a book by a TV show host initially, I liked the book by it's old times feel. I have a few old cookbooks printed on cheap paper, no photographs and still with very good recipes written very accurately. I don't mind a casual language in a book as long as the content is great. I started reading the list of recipes and was almost impressed by the names on it. The list of recipes boasts a wide range from almost all states of India and I liked that. Since I wanted to try a recipe for the book before I met Aditya, I chose the simplest recipe in the book, also because it was a little different from the way I make my Paneer bhurji. The experience is shared well before. This is not a book to follow recipes to the T.

No good looks, not written or edited well, no recipes worth following. Not even an index to help a poor reader.That's all I have to say about the book.

The paneer bhurji was salvaged by an experienced Indian cook who knew her paneer and the bhurji well. A new cook would be put off cooking for life trying such recipes.

Then we all at Chef at Large bloggers table met at Veda to have a chat with the author himself. He came across as a nice, grounded person who talks honestly. Actually he won a difficult admirer that day. I would admire him for being so forthright about how he came into being a food show host and then a cookbook author. He shared his stories of failures with us nonchalantly and admitted that the book was written in an haste and the publishers were not in constructive communication with him while deciding on the layout and other content. I could see how celebrities are made and then taken for a ride by the market forces, the actual person behind it fades in the oblivion more often than not.

You can see Aditya explaining about the book to me. Initially he said the recipes are open to be experimented upon and you can all make changes according to your taste. I said I would like to try your rendition of a dish first and then may be would do a change the second time if I have to. Like he is doing a show called Kachha Rasta currently and a book is on the way for that show as well. I told him I would like to have a taste of that particular part of India as you had it when I try your recipe. He got my point apparently. So a recipe should be able to translate the same taste to me when I try. I am looking forward to the Kachha Rasta cookbook to see whether there is an improvement on that front.

This event was held at Veda, a place designed and owned by Aditya's uncle and the famous designer Rohit Bal. The interiors theme is Goth Vampire, something we were so looking forward to, but goth is done to death here. Thankfully, I liked the black and white inlay work tables and could keep my eyes either on the table or my friends around. Without such friends, I wouldn't survive such a place for more than 5 minutes.

And yes, I have to say a few things about the food as well. Although the event was to enable us to interact with Aditya Bal, the author of this cookbook, the place was a famous (?) fine dining place owned by a famous designer, we were all expecting good food. I remember only two things I ate that day. The very first thing that was served was a palak patta papdi chaat and that was really good, raised our expectation. Whatever came after that was plonked into our plates hastily one after the other and was very much forgettable. The second thing I remember is the Mutton Rara passed on as Veda special mutton (pronounced by the server as Vedaespessal mutton), that was nice, not special in any way.

Parul described it very well as Shadi ka khana where you eat animatedly greeting relatives and friends and the food is just something you have to have. Some dhabas serve the same kind of food tasting much much better, no point wasting your time in a hideously done up place with horrid lighting camouflaged as fine dining.

There were a few more irritants at Veda. This representative of the publisher, who greeted us there, was being quite intrusive in asking for doing a review of the place, the decor, the food and even the wines served saying it was all sponsored (by whom?). Isn't that like taking the bloggers for granted? Calling them for one event and pushing a few more products at them and asking for more? Horrible. You must know bloggers work hard to make their niche and wouldn't want to look like commercial billboards.

Aah..after a long rant I am so glad to tell you the evening ended on a very happy note. Especially for me. The next day being my birthday, Deeba and Sid planned a cake for me and we all celebrated there. I love such people around me, even for a millisecond. See how gorgeous was the cake.

Go take a look at Deeba's post where she shared this cake in all it's glory. Thank you Deeba for this and much more.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Baingan ki kalonji or Bharwa Baingan: masala stuffed Brinjals UP style..

baingan ki kalonji

Baingan ki kalonji or bharwa baingan was a regular at home when we were growing up. It must have been a convenient recipe for my mother and grandmother both because they would make an assortment of kalojis one day and that would last a week or so in the fridge to provide variety on the table every day. They used to make Bhindi, Parval, Aloo and Mirchi ki kalonjee regularly. This Baingan ki kalonjee was integral to each such kalonjee cooking spree for them. Interestingly, although I used to like it at that time, I never made it myself after the first few trials after marriage. Arvind didn't like them much and we remained contented with the Bhartas, Caponata, Japanese style grilled aubergines, Baba ganoush, Grilled eggplant salad and Sarson waala baingan fry...

I have been harvesting some long green Brinjals from the garden for quite some time and kept planning to make those Kalonji of my growing up years, but somehow it never happened. Then one day a reader Surekha comes to my blog and says she wants this recipe. I found her request very sweet and wanted to post it ASAP. More because she had whined about her MIL who hails from Banaras, cooks great food but never shares recipes with Surekha. That is mean. I am glad this blog helps people like this eager DIL a lot. I hope this recipe is closer to the one your MIL makes Surekha, knowing every family has their own ways to make the same recipe, you might need to do some changes after giving it a trial.

These green long brinjals are from my garden, you can use the purple ones as well. The white egg shapes brinjals are the best suited for this Baingan ki Kalonji. Go with whatever is available to you. Just those round variety cannot be stuffed with masala this way.

A mix of five spices, called Panchphoran is used liberally in this masala stuffing. Dry roasted and then mixed with a bhuna masala...

baingan ki kalonji

(for 6 long Brinjals and two halves of a large potato)
2 tsp whole fennel seeds (moti saunf)
1 tsp of Ajwain seeds
1 tsp of  fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 tsp of Nigella seeds
2 tsp of powdered yellow mustard
2 tablespoonfuls of Bhuna masala


Dry roast the first four whole spices, these are a part of panchphoran. The mustard powder is used raw.

Powder the roasted panchphoran (minus the powdered mustard) in a mortar and pestle. Coarse powder is not a problem. If making a bigger batch you can use your food processor to make a powder.

baingan ki kalonji

Add the yellow mustard powder and the freshly pounded spice powder to the bhuna masala. Mix with 2 tbsp of Bhuna masala like this.

Now is the time to slit each one of the brinjals ans stuff about 1.5 tsp of masala paste into them.

Heat 1 tbsp pf mustard oil in a flat base frying pan and arrange all the long stuffed brinjals into it. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes one side. Turn and cook five minutes on the other side as well.

Check with a pointed knife if cooked through, take off the pan and serve hot or at room temperature. Or refrigerate for later use.

baingan ki kalonji

Tastes great as a side dish with daal chawal meals or even with rotis.There is a good mix of spiciness and a sweetish buttery texture of grilled Brinjal in this Kalonjee. The making of this kalonjee transported me back to my childhood as the aromas were all familiar from those times. More of my grandmother's cooking.

As it happens always, or it is intended most of the times, some of the masala mix is leftover. So we peel a potato, cut it into two flat halves, make multiple slits in it so it looks like fingers of a palm, and stuff the masala paste between the fingers.

The Baingan ki Kalonjee doesn't soak the oil and it gets drained into the pan when you fish out all the Kalonjee carefully after cooking. Arrange the potato halves in the same pan and cook covered on low flame for about 10 minutes both sides. Lower the flame, more the cooking time, better the taste. Saundha swad as we call it, a nice grilled burnt kinda taste of potatoes and these spices is what Arvind likes.

alu ki kalonji

The same spice mix can be used to stuff Okra (bhindi) or even Parval or Tinda. I liked the Baingan ki Kalonji after a long time. Enjoyed making them for you Surekha. Hope you like them.

And hoping some of my other readers would find this useful too.

Homemade bhuna masala : ready to use bhuna masala for UP style curries and more...

Bhuna masala is a convenience you would love having when pressed for time. I make a container full of it quite often for quick curries like alu matar, alu parval and the likes. One heaped tablespoonful of this bhuna masala is enough for 2-3 large servings of a curry.

bhuna masala recipe

Recently when I made a large amount of this bhuna masala for a friend who is recuperating from a surgery, so that her family can cook the daily subzi conveniently and quickly, I was taken in for a surprise. Her family has roots in eastern UP, but they had forgotten the taste of the subzi of their parents home. Incidentally, this bhuna masala was used extensively at her place for daily subzi and as it happens, her home was visited by all her siblings and other guests who belong to UP. This bhuna masala got famous in all her khanadaan to my surprise. But the bigger surprise was, they all thought it is some kind of a secret recipe of mine, as I haven't posted it on my blog. So when my friend told me how they were assuming it to be a secret recipe, I told her to wait for a few days till I post it.

And here is the recipe for the now famous bhuna masala. Simple procedure, takes about half an hour for this quantity but saves time for you daily cooking. The trusted mixie will be required and a few different pastes made in quick succession, one after the other and bhunoed well in a thick base kadhai.

You certainly need a thick base kadhai, a sturdy spatula, a chutney jar of your mixer grinder machine or whatever machine you are using and about 30-40 minutes to do all the peeling, chopping and grinding and then some bhunoeing patiently.

(for 15-20 servings of daily subzi)

For paste A
roughly chopped onion (2 large) or 250 gm
I prefer a mix of large onions and the baby onions for good effect

For paste B
roughly chopped ginger 2 inch piece
20 garlic cloves peeled ( I use them unpeeled sometimes )
15-20 whole dry red chillies

For paste C
3 tbsp whole coriander seeds
2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1.5 tbsp whole black peppercorns
4 black cardamoms, broken to open up
4 green cardamoms
8 cloves
2 inch piece of cinnamon, broken into small pieces
12 Tejpatta scissor cut to small bits
1 tsp of syah jeera
one thin sliver of Javitri (mace)
1 tbsp of turmeric powder

For paste D
3 large red ripe tomatoes 250 gm, chopped roughly (optional)

a cup of Mustard oil to fry the masala
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
salt to taste (just to season the masala paste)


Make a coarse paste of the onions, that is the paste A in the ingredients list. Mean while heat the oil in the kadhai and tip in the cumin seeds and wait till they splutter.

Pour in the onion paste into the hot oil and fry till the onion paste starts turning pinkish. Adding the salt at this time hastens the process.

While the onion paste gets browned, make the paste B and keep it a separate bowl. This has to be added when the onion paste turns pinkish brown.

Since browning the onion takes some time, proceed with making the paste C. All the dry whole spices have to be ground dry first and then a little water will be added so it becomes a nice smooth paste. Stop, check, add some water if required and whizz the mixie again to make a smooth paste. You might need to repeat checking and blending a couple of times.

By the time this paste C is ready, the onion and ginger-garlic-red chilly paste would be cooked and pinkish brown. Add this spices paste to the cooking mixture and start mixing and bhunoeing over medium flame. While doing this, you would need to scrape the cooking masala from the sides of the kadhai and keep doing it till the browned parts are scraped and the uncooked parts get browned in turn. Some water can be sprinkled if you feel the cooking masala is sticking to the base. It is called deglazing technically, but scraping and quenching the dryness with a sprinkle of water is enough to understand for new cooks.

Slowly, you would notice the browning of the masala paste and an aromatic whiff coming from the kadhai, the unmistakable aroma of bhuna masala indicates it is about to be ready. The visual indication of the masala getting ready is, it develops a glaze, a shining surface if not the separation of oil from the masala. The oils separates and starts bubbling on the sides if there is some more oil being used.

This whole process takes about 22 minutes on medium flame, you can make the tomato paste in the meanwhile.

Now is the time to add the tomato paste (if using). Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes or till the tomato paste cooks and gets homogenised with the bhuna masala. I normally add fresh tomato paste at the time of making the curry.

Take off heat, cool down and immediately pack into airtight container and refrigerate. Keeps well for about 2 weeks if refrigerated well.

bhuna masala recipe

I would suggest you to refrigerate while it is still warm. And do not keep outside for long, just take out required amount every time and place back into the fridge.

The bhuna masala should be seasoned just for it's own quantity, so add salt accordingly. Whenever you have to make a subzi, add salt according to the quantity of the veggies used , the bhuna masala paste will have it's own.

I am sure this recipe will be useful for many of you. Minor changes can be done when you want to cook different types of curries with the same bhuna masala. There is no chance of getting the taste or flavors  repeated even if you use the same bhuna masala everyday.
  • Like a methi matar malai can be cooked by adding some Kasoori methi and fresh cream to the bhuna masala paste and required amount of paneer and peas.
  • Quick matar paneer with just a tablespoon of fresh cream added to finish.
  • Or a quick chhole, boiled with required amount of this bhuna masala and finished with amchoor powder and chopped coriander greens.
  • Rajma can be cooked too with this same bhuna masala, some butter and some more tomatoes added while boiling the soaked kidney beans would result into a nice rajma.
  • The fresh vegetables impart their own taste to the curry being cooked and you can always use a few extra ingredients to make the curry different every day.
  • I like sliced lotus stem just boiled with this bhuna masala a lot. May be with some green peas or soaked black chickpeas.
  • All soy chunks curries taste really good with this bhuna masala, in addition to some cauliflowers and potatoes it is a classic daily grub for many of us.
This bhuna masala can be frozen in an ice tray and then kept sealed in a ziplock bag, one or two cubes to be used as required. Feezers make our lives so easy sometimes.

No more a secret. Make your daily subzi easy peasy.

Some preparation on the weekends, some freezer friendly containers full of chopped vegetables and this bhuna masala and you life is well organised.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Amritsari Paneer bhurjee ...

This recipe is supposed to be from the book Chakh Le India by Aditya Bal who hosts the TV show by the same name. The book was sent to us so we can read and try something from it before we meet the author and the host of the TV show. I tried this Amritsari Paneer bhurji the first thing form the book and was planning on Malabar prawns.

Paneer bhurji is a recipe which cannot go wrong and any one staying in a hostel can make it for a quick meal. Toss anything that you like with Paneer and a nice bhurji that you love would be ready in a few minutes.

Still we look out for more variations so there is a recipe for every mood and requirement. That's how we enjoy the same food a renewed interest every time. You don't expect to go wrong with a simple recipe right?

I realised when I started assembling things for the bhurji, having made my paneer freshly., the ingredient list looked just sufficient for my 200 gms of paneer while it was listed for 400 gm. Was proven right later.

The recipe...

200 gm fresh paneer
1 tbsp butter ( Aditya's recipe uses 1 tsp refined oil too, I omitted)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4" cassia bark (daalchini)
1/2 cup of finely chopped onion( his recipe says1 medium sized onion)
1/2: ginger chopped fine
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp everyday curry powder (his recipe says coriander powder)
salt to taste
1 large ripe tomato chopped fine
1/4 tsp sugar
2 green chillies chopped
1/2 tsp dried mango powder or Amchoor
(I omitted)

To finish the dish...juice of 1/2 lime, 3 tsp chopped coriander greens ( I didn't have) and 1 tbsp butter.


Crumble the paneer and set aside.

Heat butter in a pan and add cumin seeds,dalchini and chopped onions all at once. Fry till onions gets golden brown. Add the chopped ginger too. Cook for a minute with the powdered spices added at this step.

Add salt and sprinkle water and bhuno the masala while scraping the pan from sides. Add chopped tomatoes and cook them till they turn mushy. Add sugar to balance the sourness  and keep cooking till a glaze appears.

Add the green chillies, crumbled paneer and the amchoor powder (if using). Mix well to combine. Mash the paneer with the back of the ladle if you wish.

Finish with some more butter, lime juice if required and chopped coriander greens if using.

Served with plain chapatis or parathas this paneer bhurji is great as all of us know :-)

The recipe was tweaked at some places like using my own spice blend and using only butter instead of a little refined oil in the original recipe too. The amount of paneer reduced to half and the dish was actually yummy.

The recipe as written in the book would have left the freshly made paneer (a valuable commodity as I had worked on it) bland and under seasoned.

Did I forget about telling you all about Malabar Prawn curry that I was about to try from this book? When I saw the recipe and the ingredient list, I got worried about the future of the frozen Prawns I had bought thinking of making a yummy dinner for ourselves.  I made this Cashew and Prawns stir fry instead. Couldn't afford to risk a packet of precious Prawns and even pricier Coconut milk.

And then we all at Cal blogger's table went to Veda at CP. To chat with the TV show host and the author of this book. What happened there will be posted just next. Stay tuned in...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review of the summer menu at Italia, DLF Promanade, Vasant Kunj..

If you want to find a quaint little place in a buzzing mall it's not always easy. Unless the place is well known and you have already heard about it. Italia at DLF Promanade Vasant Kunj is one such place you would find excuses to go to.

The bloggers' table at CAL was invited for a review of the summer menu at Italia last Friday.Such review invitations are always a  great opportunity for us Delhi bloggers to chat, to click pictures and enjoy some good food over discussions of our newly tried recipes or cookbooks. A recent pastime is to tease Sushmita mercilessly for her collection of  handbags. Her husband can be seen seen smiling gleefully when we are at it.

So a bunch a happy blogger friends gets together and settles down to have a nicely laid out meal. We were greeted well by the FnB manager Mr.Vikas Sehrawat. Chef Somopriyo Basu introduced us to the summer menu and all the varieties of Olives they were using and showcasing as a prelude to their upcoming Olive festival. Mr. Abhijeet Bose (GM The Park group of Hotels)  and Priya (PR Manager, Park Hotels) joined us on our table too.

The sojourn with food starts with a platter of very thin crisp Focaccia with three different dips. A roasted garlic and Olive oil mash, some grated Parmesan and a Basil pesto. Chef Somopriyo told us they used to serve a multi grain Focaccia earlier but this thin crust crisp Focaccia was received better by the patrons these days. We loved it too.

This would keep coming in constant supply. I polished off the bowl of roasted Garlic and Olive oil mash completely. My favorite flavors. Done well.

Antipasti started with Smoked Salmon and Mascarpone Involtino with Kalamata Olives. It was a roulade of smoked salmon fillet around a blob of Mascarpone. A sharp cheese would have better for my palate, may be that would have spoilt the smoked Salmon for the others.. The Pesto in the base was good and the spring of garlic chives fresh as I like. I would eat every bit of green garnish if you are wondering :-)

That grassy thing seen on top is Alfaalfa sprouts which is quite fresh but didn't blend well with the flavors. Even when I love all my greens and salad servings.

Four varieties of Olives were served on the table while we were poured white wine. It was Albizzia Chardonnay Toscana 2011 white. The thin Focaccia kept us company.

Look at the Olives and how they were served beautifully in stemmed glasses. We kept nibbling on them and talking non stop as we always do. BTW, the service was slow for every course and when we asked , Mr. Vikas Sehrawat told us very sweetly that they were giving us time to enjoy our banter and hence the delay.
I am not sure how quick or intentionally delayed the service will be for you if you try this place :-)

These are Black Olives..

Kalamata Olives...

Pimento stuffed green olives ...

 Colossal Olives ...

And a variety called Taggiasche Olives, a first time tasting for me, is very small and with pits. This one and the giant Colossal Olives were my favorite amongst them all.

The vegetarian option in the antipasti serving was a nice baked Artichoke hearts with parmesan and Pine nuts. I tasted this too and liked it more than the non vegetarian platter..

This is Sushmita's plate of baked Artichoke hearts with Parmesan and nicely roasted Pine nuts....

On our plate was this Milan style Chicken with Colossal Olives. Nicely fried chicken with a crisp coating and some melted Parmesan over it. I liked it. The greens and the mixed mushrooms skewers were nicely done, flavorful. I would have it again when I go.

This Four cheese and four Olives Pizza is thin crust, baked in a wood fired oven and delicious. You wouldn't want to miss it if you like your pizza. Nice flavors melding beautifully. No cheese overkill.

Spaghetti with Trapanese pesto was a downer. Under seasoned as I could perceive, but Chef Somopriyo told us it was the different kind of pesto (Trapanese) which is not too common. May be I am too beotted by my own fresh Basil and pesto. The Parmesan crisp over it was actually a soft chewy crisp (?). Nice flavors if it was a crisp.

Chef asked all of us for the main course preference. There was fish, tenderloin beef and Polenta on offer. I chose fish for myself but decided to have a bite from Ruchira's Polenta and Sid's beef tenderloin.

My plate of John dory with Israeli couscous and Salsa verde...

Nicely done fish, well seasoned and this Israeli couscous on the side was awesome. Nice little glutinous pearls with herbs and bits of veggies. Loved it. Polished it off.

The Tenderloin medallions, garden vegetables and Rosemary foam was so good that Sid wasn't at all pleased when I asked for just a bite as he was relishing it like a hungry Bear. He parted with a scarce spoonful and I started almost regretting my Fish preference after tasting it. On a bed of fresh vegetables it was huge portion to finish.

It was well done, juicy tender and flavorful meat. Would like to go there again for this.

All three main course dishes were great. Polenta I love anyways and this one from Ruchira's plate was yummy.

Fresh crunchy Asparagus and creamy flavorful polenta make a nice meal. It was a huge portion and could be a standalone meal for me.

This is the plate of Pan seared polenta with Asparagus spears and mixed mushroom sauce. Every element enjoyable and as flavorful as the other.

Dessert was a scoop of Olive oil (extra virgin) Gelato sprinkled with Olive dust and a huge wedge of Chocolate truffle cake. Olive oil gelato had a nice strong whiff of EVOO. Nice, creamy as a Gelato should be. The portions were so big we all shared our desserts. I dug into Deeba's plate. Still the both of us couldn't finish the Truffle cake. Couldn't click a picture of the desserts. We get distracted a lot when we talk nonstop.

Many of my long time friends would be shocked to hear me talking this much. Yes, this foodie group is something where we all share great vibes. Touch wood.

Rekha is the one ever smiling face, with a camera bag in her hand. Sushmita, the one who gets teased about her handbags and The passionate baker Deeba. Another prolific and wonderful baker is Ruchira. Tanya Kohli joined our table at Italia but she had to leave early due to something. She brought nice chocolate chip cookies for all of us.
Sid Khullar , the tall man in the blue-green kurta is the one who brings us all together.

Don't we all look good together?

Parul, Charis, Nachiketa, Rituparna and Prerna were missed sorely. Thank God there is always a next time.

Tanya brought cookies for all of us and this is my pack, nicely packed and yummy choco chip cookies.

Sharing this cute little gift with all my readers, if you want this cookie just click to get the recipe here and enjoy the muh meetha moment :-)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ajwaini Arbi ki bhujia...Colocassia stir fry..

arbi ki bhujia

I can't believe I haven't posted a proper recipe with Arbi (Colocassia roots). Just one wee recipe of green coriander paste Arbi way back. I don't have much bonding with this boring looking vegetable as it has no green shades. The Arbi leaves are loved at home very much and the Patra or Girmach made with the leaves is a perennial favorite.

My problem with this vegetable in the root form is just that it is not green in any way. Although Lotus stem is same in that regard but I love that more than anything. I like Arbi too but only in dry stir fry kind of bhujia. One is this Ajwaini bhujia which is made using raw Arbi. Another is a fried garlic infused bhujia that is made using boiled Arbi. The Garlic one will be posted later sometime whenever I am tempted to buy some Arbi again. This one with lots of Ajwain seeds is nice with a daal chaawal meal. Some usual raita and salad on the side is good enough.


Arbi (Colocassia) tubers 250 gm
Ajwain seeds 1-2 tsp depending on how much you like this spice
finely chopped Garlic 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp or to taste
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Amchoor powder 1-2 tsp
Lime juice if required
salt to taste
Mustard oil 1-2 tbsp depending on what kind of pan you are using

arbi ki bhujia


Scrape the skin off the Arbis and wash them. Scrub them clean. You might like to wear kitchen gloves if you have sensitive skin like mine.

Slice them thinly in batons. Try to make as thin sticks as possible as it helps in absorbing the flavors better when it is fried this way.

Heat mustard oil in a pan and tip in the sliced Arbi as the oil gets hot. Fry for a couple of minutes and add the Ajwain seeds and salt. keep stir frying or tossing on medium low flame till the slices are lightly browned and lightly shriveled. This can take about 10-15 minutes.

Add the dry spice powders and toss well. Cook for a couple of minutes and take off the flame.

You might like a squirt of lime juice over this bhujia as the itchiness caused by Arbi is nullified by lime juice. The generous quantity of Amchoor powder also helps but you can have more souring agents than one for this. I used my homemade amchoor powder only.

Let the bhujia rest for at least an hour before serving. This is not the usual aloo bhujia which you eat crisp and fresh. This one can scratch your throat like anything if you don't allow the sour acids neutralise  the Oxalic acid crystals in the Arbi tubers.

Consumed the next day, it is the best. Tastes almost like pickled.

I am not painting a scary picture for you but trying to explain how you can enjoy the Arbi without getting hurt :-)

This is a tasty bhujia for UPites. All the daal chaawal lovers I know.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stuffed Kakode with poppy seed paste...

Kakode or Kakrol as it is called in North India is a gourd family vegetable that grows wild in whatever urban jungles are left around our cities. Many tribesmen living in the outskirts of the cities collect these little gourds (called Teal Gourd in English) and bring them to the urban markets. I have not seen these gourds in the fancier super markets yet. They can only be sourced from the roadside markets or the weekly vegetables market around my locality. I m not complaining as long as this beautiful vegetable is available to me.

A gentleman fro Bombay wrote a comment on my last Kakode post that he buys this vegetables from the tribal people in some suburban area and that was so heartening to know. We should always buy goods from these small road side vendors and tribals so they keep earning some money through local products and such vegetables never go extinct.

This is called Kheksa in Banaras.

This Poppy seeds stuffed Kakode recipe was reminded by a bong friend of mine and then I asked my mother casually over phone about this. She told me how she used to make it as I had very little memory of it. This vegetable was rarely seen even in those days and we all liked the bhujia ( stirfried kakode) more so that was the preferred preparation with Kakode.

You need to halve the little gourds first and then empty the innards well. Just making a sharp incision along the white periphery and then scooping out the pith works well.Do not discard the pith as it will be used for the stuffing masala.

Then the masala is stuffed inside each of these halves and shallow fried on both sides.

Looks easy? It actually is easy as you just have to make a Poppy seeds paste quickly in your trusted mixie (using the chutney jar) or the coffee grinder to make a fine powder of it.

Recipe of the poppy seeds stuffing...

{For 4-6 large Kakode (teal gourds)}
poppy seeds 3 tbsp
finely chopped Onions 1 tbsp
finely chopped Green chillies 1 tbsp or more if you like
finely chopped ginger 2 tsp
Black pepper powder 1 tsp
all the inner pith of the vegetable chopped up in small bits
salt to taste
Mustard oil 1 tsp
Nigella (kalonji) seeds 1/2 tsp
More mustard oil to shallow fry the stuffed vegetable, in my case about 1 tbsp was used


Rub salt over the Kakode halves and let it rest till you prepare the masala paste.

Make a paste of poppy seeds. You would like to powder it dry initially and then adding some water and blend again to make a smooth paste. Adding 2 whole Cashew nuts right before the powdering step helps in making a smooth paste. The paste should be thick like good yogurt

Heat oil in a Kadhai (round bottom pan) and sprinkle the Nigella seeds in it. Wait till they sizzle.

Add in the chopped green chillies, onions and ginger. Fry till everything is softened. Add the chopped up kakode pith, sprinkle salt to taste and stir fry till softened.

Add pepper powder, mix well and then add the poppy paste and mix quickly so it gets homogenised with everything else and a bit thickened.

Take off heat and take out spoonfuls to fill in the Kakode halves. There is no need to cool the masala paste down but there is no problem even if it is cold. Actually this can be made a day in advance and proceeded as and when required. The leftover masala paste can be used to make other dry stir fries interesting too.

Heat a tbsp of mustard oil in  a flat pan. Non stick surface will good so use you Cast iron or whatever pan you use for such purpose.

Lay out the stuffed Kakode masala side up and let it fry till the base gets browned lightly. Keep the lid on for 5 minutes, flame medium.

Turn all the Kakode by flipping them, so the stuffing side gets browned too.

Serve hot as a side dish or a starter.

You would love to pop them in your mouth. The flavors are subtle as there is minimal spicing. The amount of green chillies might look more than you want but poppy seeds paste tastes great with green chillies. So keep them a bit on higher side than you normally do. Black pepper may be avoided if you want a richer Poppy taste. The poppy flavor is preserved well just because of minimal spicing.

Kakode greets Poppy seeds well , as much as it complements the Ridge gourd.

Have you tasted Jhingey Posto?

The leftover Poppy seeds masala paste was added to a simple Okra stir fry.

Just plain stir fried Okra in Ghee and some salt n pepper and then this paste is added to finish and mixed well. Tastes great with chapatis and daal or Rice and daal.

You would like all these kakode, Ridge gourd or even Okra with poppy seeds if you love this miniature nut. It is a tiny seed but is nutty is taste. Fragrant too.

Many other recipes with poppy seeds are waiting in my drafts as I have been quite lazy with posting on this blog of mine. You would get to see some Prawns in poppy seeds gravy very soon. And how a raw paste of Poppy can be had with just plain boiled rice.

Stay tuned.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A food event hosted by Olive at the Qutub and Leonardo Olive oil ....

Imagine a place nestled somewhere at the threshold of history and modernity and that is where Olive Bar and Kitchen is located. Old world grandeur of a Moghul mansion, a few gnarled, matted and tangled burly Banyans and some birds chirping away to glory, a place truly blessed by nature.

The Al fresco seating looks the most romantic here, as if Delhi is making up for the sea side views of those prized locations on the beaches.

Enter inside and you find the most beautifully laid out tables, keeping the same old world charm alive.

The use of patina and textures is just beautiful...

This was the place that hosted our bloggers table jointly with Leonardo Olive oil. Himani Dalmia, Chandana paul and Chef Saby, the Director of kitchens at Olive were there to greet us and to make our afternoon a memorable affair.Memorable it was, in many many ways.

Like meeting Chef Saby (Sabyasachi Gorai), winner of the National tourism award 2012 for the best standalone Chef in India. The most friendly Chef I bet.

And the decor I just gave a hint of. A lot of patina and some fresh Carnations. Thing to stay in my mind for ever.

Antipasti, cold cut platters, cheese platters were laid out beautifully and we all started clicking pictures insanely, much to the amusement of Himani.

 Himani's team had laid out the products of Leonardo on one side of the hall. Pasta, Olive oils of different grades, pickles, Olives of different types and an alcohol free bear.

 She explained to us the philosophy of Leonardo and about the product range. She is seen here flanked by Chef Saby and Chandana Paul.

No one was interested in the alcohol free beer that she kept insisting was an award winning formulation. It would be a cool drink for some who pretend. I see a market for it.On a serious note, when I read the literature provided, I was pleased to know that it is actually a yeast fermented drink and includes the Vitamin B complex at par with the normal bear. Not bad.

Clausthaler is the name of the beer.

There were some Sangrias and Mojitos enjoyed with the pickled Gherkins, assorted olives, cold cuts and different cheeses and candied fruits.

The candied beets and apples were good but the candied strips of bell peppers were awesome. Something to recreate at home.

And this Mushrooms pate. Such a nice thing to look at. Nothing much that I like but others loved it.

Not to forget a contant supply of different types of thin crust pizzas made right in the courtyard wood fired oven.

On the live counter there was some more fun happening. A Nitrogen vial was opened, mixed into a white batter and then it was used to deep fry some Asparagus spears and some Sole fish fingers. An Olive specialty and a must try if you love deep fried stuff.

The Nitrogen vial attached to a 'gun' being pumped into the batter. Whipping in some air.

Batter coated not so thick on the Asparagus spear..

And it fluffs up magically in hot oil. These were served in pretty brown paper cones with a bowl of Tartar sauce.

What I liked most among the antipasti spread, was this Feta stuffed miniature bell peppers. I am not too sure whether these were bell peppers or chilly peppers, but pickled to perfection and pleasantly bursting into the mouth with creamy savory Feta. Truly a Golgappa moment.

The cooking table was laid out with pretty stuff. Prawn Gambas were in the making. Leonardo products lined up to be used to perfection. The affable sous chefs Vaibhav Bhargava and Astha Mittal were around to make the experience even more enjoyable. Ever smiling faces tossing up delights.

Some of these were tossed up to make the Prawn Gambas Olive signature style. Served in small glasses. Small pick me ups indeed. I liked every element in this assortment. The perfectly roasted garlic, baby onions and stir fried Cherie tomatoes and olives with the Tiger prawns. Rosemary shining.

Main course was a Lasagna Bolognaise , a creamy rich dish indeed. Then came a black Truffle Porcini Risotto with truffle oil straight out of a pretty pan. This was the most gorgeous Risotto I have ever had. I asked Chef Saby about the black wild rice into it and he told this is Olive signature Risotto with mixed rice. This is something you would love to try at Olive.

Penne with marinara sauce was gorgeous with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan. I was full and took a few bites. Didn't regret not having any more.

Here is Chef Saby with his affable team serving Pasta in Marinara sauce himself. The gentleman in the picture is Mr Donato Pantaleo who along with Mr V.N. Dalmia, Chairman. Dalmia Continental private ltd. joined us for lunch

Assorted breads , some Prawn and meat Satay with dips like Tahini, Hummus and Baba ghanoush and a mortar and pestle for each table so the guest can make their own pesto for the bread. I loved the way they have given a special touch to every single thing at Olive.

Everyone was saving some space for the desserts and were pleased tremendously by the Tiraminu. Made from their in house Mascarpone and the creamiest of textures, rich flavors and stunning presentation. Full marks. Never miss it when at Olive.

There was mud cake there was some other dessert that I didn't get distracted with and there was this stunner lined up like snow capped pine trees. This was the Apple crumble that I had the heart to try. Great texture and great presentation, great flavors too, but a bit too sweet for my palate. Most people would like it.

Sous Chef Astha Mittal played our quiz master and we were entertained like a bunch of school kids out for a picnic. We were asked questions and our right answers got us goodies like in house dark chocolate and an Olive oil cake in a bottle. I am so going to copy this concept of a cake in a bottle.

Chef Saby was generous enough to give us a guided tour to his Kitchen and answered all our queries with utmost interest. A well stocked smoothly functioning kitchen, a few high tech machinery to cook food on low temperature in batches so the quality is consistent and efficient staff, Olive is a blessed place.

Sid, Charis, Parul and Ruchira are relaxing in the outdoor area while Rekha, Deeba, Sushmita, Nachiketa and myself took a tour of the terrace seating area overlooking the Qutub. Sid was curious where the photographer was perched to click this. He gets his answer :-)

You can see a few huge hampers on the table which were graciously handed over to us by Leonardo. Himani and Chandana Paul were quite thoughtful in choosing the contents of this hamper as these would be the products we will be using in our kitchens. I liked the whole wheat spaghetti as I cooked it right for the next meal we had at home. The extra virgin Olive oil is good, the Olive oil for western cooking and body massage (as the label says) is good too. There was a bottle of pickle made using Olive oil (a mix of Pomace and olive oil) which tastes fairly good, could be better though. I liked the pimiento stuffed Olives but the black sliced olives are not much flavorful. Good for tossing up with salads as it is just brine preserved anyways.I liked all the products of Leonardo and I am quite surprised to see such a wide range of Products from them. But I would never use Pomace which is one of their flag bearer product. It's not the taste of the oil but the way it is produced that makes me averse to using it. Pomace and other Olive oils including extra virgin were used for cooking up this storm at Olive for us. Loved every bit of it. For my kitchen, it will always be Extra virgin if it is Olive oil, and for deep frying we have our own Ghee and Peanut oil. For deep frying I tried the Olive oil (which is labeled as for western cooking and body massage) is good and I see this one being used in my kitchen when I don't want the flavor of the oil coloring my dish.

Thanks to Leonardo and Olive for hosting us, for giving us an opportunity to know a brand that finds it's way into our kitchens and into our health. Thanking Chef Saby and Vabhav and Astha for making it such a memorable day for all of us.