Tuesday, February 26, 2013

chane ka saag : steamed dumplings with chickpea greens in a mustard based curry ...

I cooked chane ka saag quite a lot this year. Somehow my demand for this particular leafy green met with supply too. I would keep asking the vendor at the corner of our weekly market for chane ka saag and he would say there are no takers here. May be he got a few more requests or just got fed up of me asking him every time I saw his other leafy greens, he brought it one day and then brings it more often. That's why I say we should create a demand for uncommon greens and vegetables too, the ones we used to get a decade ago are being forgotten with the flood of coloured peppers and imported vegetables. The desi produce is being forgotten sadly, I wonder if a large quantity of such produce rots while we eat the snow peas and coloured bell peppers, imported mushrooms and what not.

Taste this wonderful leafy green that is a growing soft shoot of chickpea plant, the shoots are nipped to accelerate lateral growth of plant so it becomes more bushy and bears more fruit. I am sure chane ka saag will be bought often once you taste how good it is. I have already posted a few recipes. This one can be another way to have it. I love it as it is like a dumpling soup, it is great with plain boiled rice as well if you have some side dishes like alu ki bhujia or begun bhaja, the way it would be eaten traditionally.


for the dumplings..
cleaned and chopped chane ka saag 2 cups
chickpeas flour or besan 1 cup or as required*
minced garlic 1 tsp
minced ginger 2 tsp
minced green chilies 1 tsp
ajwain seeds 1/2 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
water to sprinkle while binding the dough
salt to taste

for the gravy..
yellow mustard powder 2 tbsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp or to taste
turmeric powder 1 tsp
cumin powder 1 tsp
garam masala powder 1/2 tsp (optional, I have not used for this)
fresh tomato paste 1.5 cup
mustard oil 2 tbsp
fenugreek seeds 1/2 tsp
salt to taste


Mix everything from the list of dumpling ingredients and knead a dough. Make lime sized balls ans steam them. I microwave them in a greased bowl, covered with a loose lid and they get ready in 3-4 minutes. Check by pricking a cocktail stick if done.

The detailed procedure of making these dumplings is mentioned here.You can follow the same steps and play with the flavors used in the dumplings too. Keeping the steamed dumpling in the fridge till cold will be good to get a better shape when cooked in gravy. Steaming them a day ahead makes sense.

To make the gravy, heat the oil in a pan and tip in the fenugreek seeds. Let them become brownish  taking care not to burn them. Tip in all the steamed dumplings into the hot oil and toss them gently so they get seared from all sides.

Add the powders and toss the pan to coat everything and get a little roasted. Add the tomato paste and salt and about 2 cups of water and let the curry simmer for about 20 minutes. The dumpling balls will get doubled in size and the gravy will be lesser and thicker by the end of cooking.

Garnish with fresh coriander greens and serve hot with hot boiled rice or just as it is.

The version with a little garam masala looks darker in color and has more complex flavors. You can add some amchoor powder to balance the pungency of mustard if the tomatoes are not enough tart.

You can also add a few shallow fried Okra to this curry, or small aubergines shallow fried. Even lightly fried potatoes work well into this curry. A mustard based masala curry is very versatile, We make besan katli ki subzi and sarson waali machhli in this gravy as well. A few variations can be done in the spice blend but it is essentially a pungent tart curry that goes well with besan based dumplings, most river fish and several vegetables.

I am sure you would love this curry. Spinach or dill greens can also be used if you don't get chane ka saag.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

our favorite places to eat in Gangtok...

We had a serene holiday recently in the hills of Sikkim. Gangtok to be precise. It was our first visit  to the Himalayan state and we had planned to stay there for 4 days and be on the streets, eat local foods, watch birds and wild Orchids growing all around. Gangtok is a beautiful city, pretty flowers growing wild on the hills and wild orchids flowering on all the tall Pines and Birches. All tall trees are covered with green moss all year round supporting growth of Orchids, local people call these Orchids as Sonaphool or Akashphool as they see them growing very high on the trees. We were there in the first week of November and that was the time the town was dotted with pink Cherry blossom.

We were looking forward to having some local food but unfortunately most places where tourism is the main trade, the food available in restaurants and hotels is common north Indian butter chicken/makhni paneer/daal fry/naan variety. The burger and pizza outlets are there like any other place in India but we were not there to eat this stuff. Local food was on our mind and we tried every trick we knew to look out for places where we could get Sikkimese cuisine. It is highly influenced by Tibetan cuisine that suits the cold mountain climate very well. The local food was overwhelmingly good when we tasted in our hotel and then in a small eatery run by a family of four. Read on.

The first Sikkimese meal we had was in our own hotel room. This was Mintokling, a nice cozy hotel perched on the hills when you walk slightly down Bhanu road in Gangtok. A green serene place.

We spotted a few Sikkim special dishes on the menu and decided to have them one by one for our dinners everyday. The first day we ordered a chicken and vegetables Thukpa, A Phing with chicken (the beef version is called Phingsya or Fingsya) and a platter of chicken momos.

The momos were good as expected, with a nice warming clear soup that came with a garnish of fresh coriander greens. Very refreshing. The red chutney that looked fiery like we get in Delhi was not as hot as I expected. But good taste.

Thukpa was also very tasty, rich with Chicken broth and cooked vegetables, I would have liked a little lesser noodles in the soup. More vegetables and lesser noodles make my kinda soups. But in mountains you walk so much up and downhill and it's almost always cold so such carb heavy soups are good comfort food.

The most interesting dish was Phing which is a rice noodle dish that is cooked with meat. In this case the meat was coarse chicken mince. We later had this dish in Darjeeling as well and I sweet talked the cook there to part with the recipe. Cooked in my own kitchen and fell in love with it all over again. Here is Fingsya for you if you want to try the recipe.

We tasted everything Sikkimese that was on menu at Mintokling during our stay, we trusted on the taste and authenticity as the owners are Sikkimese themselves and live in the same premises. Ordered the Soucha, the stinging Nettle that grows wild in these areas. Here is the herb.

The soup made with this stinging nestle is called Soucha. Made using some local fresh paneer. It has a unique taste which can't be described easily as it doesn't match with anything I have eaten.

This is eaten with any bread or rice probably, but we liked to dip the Buckwheat pancake into it. This plain unsalted buckwheat pancake is called Khuri.

We also had this Fiddle head ferns stir fried in simple seasoning. I liked it because I love all greens. It was chopped roughly so the fiddles were not very noticeable, I finishes this whole plate all by myself as Arvind doesn't like greens much in his meals.

This local paneer which is probably a yak milk product as it tastes very different for buffalo or cow milk paneer. A simple onion, green chilly, ginger turmeric scramble with this local paneer was just beyond awesome. I am salivating as I type these words. Although I realise many of my friends and family here in my part of the world wouldn't like it as they would inadvertently compare it with our own paneer. To me this was real good stuff.

 I didn't need anything with this meal of scrambled local paneer and the stir fried fiddle head fern.

 This would be one of the most delightful meals I have had in my life.

I would tell you where we had the best momos in town while in Gangtok. I found this small tin roofed shop run by a lady where we noticed some monks eating. No tourists were attracted to this shop but it was just the kind of place we were looking for. A place where only locals are seen, is our way of finding out a true local flavor.

We asked what we can get, the lady said only momos and tea. We ordered a plate of momos first to see how it is. Polished off in a second and ordered the next plate. The green chutney was different from whatever we had had earlier and I asked this lady. she told it's just the Dallae Khorsani chilies and salt and the local cheese called Chhurpi.

Yummy it was. Look out for this lady if you visit Namgyal institute of Tibetology. This shop is just towards the right when you are coming from inside the institute, towards the parking lot. You turn right and see this shop on the left hand side.

We saw a local bakery which had many outlets on the M.G. Road only. Called 'Oven in the Mountains', this bakery had all the usual stuff that we get in our cities too, but it had all the local bakes as well. We tasted a local savory Calzone called Phalay, stuffed with chicken mince and fried (not baked). I am sure they bake or fry this Phalay with pork and beef mince as well for the locals. They wont serve that to tourists unless you ask for it. Here is a picture of the bakery, we bought the Phalay, and sat down on a bench in front of this, eating the fried chicken Phalay slowly.

It was basically like a stuffed poori.

We kept looking for places where we would see locals eating so we can get an idea of what is real Sikkimese food. We stopped  a few locals walking on M.G. Road and asked them where we would get local food, they pointed us to the bakeries and Domino's pizza. It seems everyone these days loves eating fast food.

Later, we were surprised to find a very small eatery run by a woman and her family who feeds almost 100 people for lunch and inner both. This was what our cab driver directed us to. He was hesitant in telling us, asked us first if we eat all kinds of meat and then reluctantly told us where all the cab drivers and policemen eat. He told us how much it will cost and also told us we might not like the ambiance. He walked us to this small eatery as no one would be able to reach here without knowing the place. I was really cringed while entering this small room where the lady has laid out several low tables and benches, but the hesitant yet sparkling smile of the lady instantly made me comfortable.

She served food, first chicken curry and rice as they don't serve pork and beef unless you ask them. We had it quietly and then I asked if she had pork and beef as well. Her smile broadened and she asked us how we came to know about her place. We told her our cab driver directed us here and then she was comfortable. Clearly, she didn't get many tourists coming to her place.

The pork belly was cooked with Raiyyo saag (broad mustard greens) and was the most amazing curry I have had. The rice was plump round variety, we had very little rice and polished off all the meat. Real good food, served humbly and priced a princely about INR 200 for two with three types of meats served. There was some curry with the same Raiyyo saag and that was polished off by me.

This picture might lead you to this place if you wish.

There are these narrow uphill lanes/stairs on the M.G.Road and this is the place you have to find these stairs. Walking on the left side when you start from the tourist office on M.G. Road, you would cross the Bata showroom and then this hotel Golden Heights would be the landmark to this staircase lane.

Climb up and as you reach the end, a T point, turn left you will see a place which looks like an eatery seeing the utensils etc. There is a small narrow door toward right to this dining room.

Truly said, food takes you places you would never imagine. We would love to go back to Gangtok again, a friend recently visited all the same places we recommended and came back happy and contented  He stayed at Mintokling too. The best thing at Mintokling was our room that had a window opening towards Kanchenjunga. A treat in the mornings. Will write more about that in another post soon. Stay tuned till then.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Kingdom of Dreams | an extravaganza of all things Indian...

As much as I am a travel junkie in the recent times, I mostly keep indoors for my work and for my peace of mind. City traffic maddens me and the commuting time kills my appetite for entertainment. Those who know me would say my entertainment comes from the birds and the garden I keep talking about, and food and photography as well, but I really would like some easy access to places I want to visit within the city. My recent regret in life is, why Kindom of Dreams is so far from my home. Yes, I visited this place for the first time last week and am completely smitten.

I would definitely have gone there often if it was a little closer to my home, there is so much to see and experience that you need to go there a few times before you really can tell your absolute favorites. In the first glace, every single thing looks like a potential favorite material. By everything means they have bits of India in all the possible corners, huge magnificent structures, beautiful architecture and splash of colour and light, Earth and water, sky and fire. All the elements put together beautifully.

The grand entryway gives you a glimpse of what is to be witnessed inside. There is a Nautanki Mahal (the live theater), a spiritual gully with a huge wall with a mural of Buddha resting. A very calmness inducing wall that could be a meditation wall in some serene park.

A new theater is being constructed as Ayesha Dahra (Associate Director, PR and Corporate Communications| Kingdom of Dreams)  told us. The name is Showshaa. Everything is larger than life here.

Beautiful statues and fountains make this place serene yet opulent.

Charis came a little late. We had had a round of the theater complex till then. These huge elephants were seen being admired by kids and adults alike.

Then there is a culture gully where arts and crafts of all the states are on display. In the culture gully you can buy from the curio shops and eat at restaurants of each state. The Culture gully has a sky roof that looks real. Look at this.

 The sky and the clouds actually lighten up the space. How wonderful.
There are many artifacts and curio displayed from different states in this culture gully. I loved this Truck from Punjab (now Pakistan). 

Amazing design elements all over the place. I loved the treatments given to walls with so many different elements.

The chandeliers in different pavilions are so beautiful..

The serene Buddha touch that somehow makes this place sane even when there is a lot of footfall all the time...

Such opulence in every little nook. But honestly there is no little nook over here. Everything is larger than life.

 The Madras cafe has walls adorned with sarees, old fashioned benches and artsy Mamallapuram style wall treatments. Loved the colour scheme. Bright, sunny and aromatic with freshly brewed coffee.

 The Assam tea lounge took my breath away with this cups and saucers wall. Himanshu and Charis went on a clicking spree here.

Many types of tea being brewed, the clink of teacups and the feel of Assam in a retro styles tea lounge. I have always been wanting a nice quaint tea lounge in Delhi which is not crowded like the coffee houses. I wish it was a bit closer to my home.

Bedazzling bollywood lounge has a IIFA trophy theme. All glitzy filmy ambiance.

In between there are bazaars to give you some retail therapy..

This place keeps buzzing with people all the time. But not too crowded to make you feel claustrophobic.

 We had an early dinner at Rajasthan lounge, a complete Chokhi dhani experience with added opulence.

A memorable vegetarian meal when even the hardcore meat eaters did not miss the meats. The Raj kachori was so good I almost finished it, that too when I had never liked Raj kachori earlier. And I have had an impression this huge thing cannot be finished by one person. I told you, this Raj kachori was almost finished all by myself.

The thali meal is one of it's kind. With the Maharaj coming to you talking about the world and the passion for food. He has been with royalties of Rajasthan for generations and knows the cuisine in and out. Parul had already told us stories about Maharaj. It was nice meeting him in person.

The servers are very efficient, they even tell you how to mix the daal, baati choorma. Something I had never done right as I never thought of mixing the daal, crushed baati, sweet choorma, some raw sugar, garlic chutney and lot of ghee together and have it like a mish mash. It was good experience eating the way they do it. Maharaj explained Kair sangri, gatte ki subzi, saangri ka kofta, mungodi ki subzi and the besan ka paratha. Yummy food. We loved dahi ka smaosa, bajre ki khichdi and badam ka halwa too. The non stop stories from Maharaj was an added taste. 
This enormous thali costs just INR 508 plus taxes.

After the meal it was time to watch the show. It was the day for Jhangoora, the Gypsy prince. Couple of TV actors have played role in it and it is an absolute bollywood style entertainment. Sushmita was smitten by the six packs of Hussain, the lead actor. Large screens, huge stage, magic tricks, dance and music, everything that keeps you stuck to a chair for 3 hours. The tickets can be booked online and you can choose your seats if you book n advance. I suggest you go there and have a good time yourself. I would definitely go for the food from the other states. Of course for the visual treat as well, there is much more to see, much more to explore in this place.

Goa, Lucknow, North Eastern states, and the Assam tea lounge are all calling me back. Thanking CAL table to introduce me to this wonderful place. Also to introduce me to such wonderful foodie friends, who blog about what they love the most. Food and life.

PS : Edited to add the location of KoD. It is situated in sector 29 Gurgaon, Haryana.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

aloo palak : potatoes and spinach stir fry subzi...the way the potatoes turn black...

This is not a recipe I grew up eating. Although Alu-palak was a regular, my mom used to cook it differently. She would put aubergines (baingan) to this many times, or would puree the spinach to make a gravy curry with paneer, potatoes and sometimes green peas as well. Other times she would chop the potatoes in thin fingers and make a quick alu-palak in an aluminium kadhai or brass kadhai. The potatoes in that case would remain lighter coloured and would retain their own entity. We all loved that one too but when the husband once told me about the alu palak his mom used to cook, being black in color and how he loved that version, I tried to recreate that. It was a simple thing, just slow cooking in an Iron pan. I just asked him a few things about how the potatoes were cut and if there was any fenugreek or cumin in it. This time his memory was accurate and he told me it was just the alu and palak.

I figured the rest as I know my MIL does the simplest of recipes and there is no garlic onion used most of the times. It is the procedure and the cut of the potatoes that made this recipe taste different form my home. After a few trials I came to this 3 ingredients (well, 5 if you include salt and oil too) recipe that was recognised as the original, and thanks to my love for spinach, I loved this version the most. Almost.
2 large potatoes nicely scrubbed to clean all the dirt (about 200 gm)
cleaned and washed spinach leaves with soft stems 400 gm
green chilies 2 or to taste
salt to taste
mustard oil 2 tbsp

this recipe uses an Iron pan so make sure you have it, otherwise it just wont taste the same.


Cube the potatoes in thick pieces. You can cut them into thick wedges too. Just take care they are thick enough for prolonged cooking. Thinner slices would get mashed.

Chop the spinach into strips (chiffonade). No need to cut them very finely.

Heat the oil in the Iron kadhai and quickly mince the green chilies while the oil gets heated. You can also just slit the chilies if you wish. Add them to the hot oil and then quickly add the potatoes as well.

Add salt and mix well, keep stirring for about 2-3 minutes. Salt should be a little less than you would normally add because spinach is slightly salty sometimes and slow cooking in an Iron pan makes it taste alkaline sometimes.

Add the spinach just after 2-3 minutes of the potatoes being seared. Mix well and cover to cook. On very low flame. Keep stirring after every 5 minutes or so, it leaves a lot of water first and then starts absorbing it. Needs to be cooked for about 30-40 minutes, stirring once in a while, till all the water gets absorbed.

The potatoes will turn green first and then a very dark green, almost black colour. Bhuno the subzi till it starts sticking to the pan a little, take care not to break the potatoes.

Serve hot or cold. You would always see this subzi disappearing quickly from the table. The picture here is from the leftovers I had some time ago when I cooked it for dinner. It makes a nice lunch box subzi as well.

You would love it if you are a spinach lover. The potatoes absorb the taste of the spinach and get really changed. For spinach haters I am not very sure.

Chane ka saag (chickpea greens) in mustard based curry | chane ke saag ki sarson waali subzi..

Chane ka saag is not something many of us would come across very often. I know many of you wont even know this green leafy vegetable. This is the tender shoots of the chickpea plant, it is plucked before the plant bears pods, plucking or pruning the plant helps it grow thicker, bear more branches and  more fruit while it grows. See how the greens look in the dumplings recipe here. My grandmother used to say so fondly about chana (chickpeas), it is eaten in so many forms, so many ways. Being a staple crop all across central India, we see many different recipes originating from all over the places.

This one is a thin gravy curry that has a base of mustard paste. The chickpea greens (chane ka saag) is not chopped and is left as it is after trimming the hard base. See the picture here, how the trimmed ready to use saag looks. This curry used to be a winter regular at my parent's place, especially when my grandmother would be with us. She was brought up in Bengal and all kinds of mustard based curries were her favorites. We used to love them too but she was the one who would plan and get the mustard finely ground on the stone Silbatta (flat type mortar and pestle), clean the greens and then sometimes cook it too. Simple rustic looking curries with great flavors. She used to cook a similar one with small oblong Aubergines too, something I haven't cooked for a very very long time.

I used mustard powder this time, this was after one of the readers suggested that the powder also gives good results. It was very convenient and the taste was exactly the same when a wet paste of mustard is used. The consistency was a little thinner than the wet paste but that is not such a big concern if you like the taste. The mustard powder doesn't emulsify nicely into the cooking gravy, as seen in the picture but he taste remains the same. You could add a tablespoon of almond meal to the gravy to make it creamy like it comes with a wet mustard paste, or just smash some of the potato cubes after cooking.


potatoes with skin one large or 2 medium (about 150 gm)
chane ka saag (chickpea greens) 200 gm
tomatoes halved and sliced into half moons 1 cup
mustard powder 2 heaped tbsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1/2 tsp or to taste
salt to taste
mustard oil 1 tbsp
fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp


Clean the potatoes by scrubbing all the dirt as we are using potatoes with skin. New potatoes are used for this, quite obviously in India as both chane ka saag and naya alu comes in the same season. Cut the potatoes in thick wedges or cubes.

Heat the oil in a pan or pressure cooker pan (I used pressure cooker) and tip in the fenugreek seeds. Let them get just fragrant and pinkish brown, they turn bitter if they get burnt so take care of that. Add the potatoes immediately. Toss and stir fry for a minute on high flame.

Add the powdered spices , toss to coat well for about 30 seconds and then add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Toss and cook for another minute or so.

Add all the chane ka saag , add a cup of water and cover the lid. If cooking in a pan, you have to add some more water and let the curry simmer for about 20 minutes. In pressure cooker, just till the pressure whistle blows. Take off the burner and let it cool to open the lid.

Adjust seasoning and consistency and serve hot. I like it as a soup too. This curry tastes great with plain boiled rice and since I am not much a rice eater and still want a large quantity of this curry, this is my way of enjoying it. In a soup mug with loads of the chcikpea greens , few potato cubes and just 2 tbsp of boiled rice.

It can be served as a side dish with another sookhi subzi , raita, chutneys etc for company.

The greens in this curry have a wonderful flavor when combined with mustard. When eaten raw, the chane ka saag tastes quite savory and can be added to salads too, cooked in a curry like this, you will find yourself fishing for more chane ka saag in the curry. Tomatoes make it a little tart or you are supposed to use amchoor if the tomatoes are not tart. So this tartness and presence of mustard makes the greens taste slightly like a pickle. I just love it.

This curry is definitely a Bihari or Eastern UP specialty  but the influence is clearly from Bengal. The Bengalis make mustard based curries differently though. More pungent ans some sugar used to balance. This curry has the pungency balanced with tartness of tomatoes.

You can use raw Plantains, slit aubergines or flat beans instead of chane ka saag in this recipe. Or just make it with the potatoes. I am sure it will be liked by all, especially if you love mustard oil and mustard seeds seasoning.

I would love to hear your feedback on this.

Monday, February 18, 2013

some Cypriot desserts are similar to ours | Cyprus food festival at Eros Hotel managed by Hilton...

 I am intrigued when I see similar recipes being cooked in different parts of the world. It makes me wonder how recipes travel or how they evolve similarly in different parts of the world with their own different climates and different produce. Long time ago when I started reading recipes online, I saw a puff pastry made like our Gujhia with a peanut stuffing, the similarity made me wonder how similar shapes of puff pastry might be just a basic way of folding a circular piece of rolled out pastry sheet. Geometry has a definite way of behaving and we witness it in such things. White flour was definitely made popular after the industrial revolution in Europe so the pastry sheets took a natural course of evolution.

I was flummoxed with surprise once again when I was at a Cyprus food festival going on at Eros Hotel, Nehru place. I shall tell you about the main course dishes later, the desserts made me glad by sending me back into the lanes of Banaras where Lavanglata rubs shoulders with samosa.

Look at this rolled and shaped like a cylinder, stuffed with nuts dessert. A Cypriot counterpart of Lavanglata. Called Daktyla in Cypriot.

And here is the Gujhia. Milder flavors on the stuffing, but unmistakably the same feeling while biting into it. Called Pourekia in Cypriot. Now some Bihari readers would say even the name is similar with Pedakia (Gujhia is called pedakia in Bihar).

A multi layered puff pastry stuffed with sweetened semolina and evaporated milk also belongs to the same family. Called Galaktobourekko.

And this bread pudding is so our own Shahi tukda...

There was a Rizogalo, similar to rice kheer we make here and there was a Halouva too. The same sooji ka halva so popular all over North India.

The desserts made me glad by this connection they had with my homeland. The starters and main course was a lot different from what we here in India. I liked the fresh salads with Rocket greens and tomatoes etc as I always do, but the Haloumi was chewy and dry. I had high hopes from Haloumi, Cyprus being the country of origin I was dreaming of soft melt in the mouth haloumi once I decided to go to this festival.

I would tell you what I liked among too many (to choose from) seemingly mediocre dishes on offer. There were two types of cured meats, Hiromeri (smoked pork leg matured in red wine) and Lountza (smoked pork belly) that were great with a salad called Horiatiki (Greek country style salad).

There was some pickled Octopus, chewy and intense seafood taste which might be a problem for some. It was okay for me. A potato salad a Beets salad and a yogurt and cucumber dip called Talatouri was interestingly similar to Indian salads we make.

On the live counters there were Keftedes, meat balls made of Lamb and chicken. They were quite good. On the Live grill there was really succulent Prawns and chicken skewers.

In the main course I liked a stew with green beans and chicken, it was quite a light stew, like the ones I make at home so I liked it, But the dish was not good to look at, do not skip it if you like stews.

Pork Affelia is braise din red wine and seasoned generously with coriander seeds, very interesting.

I liked a Lamb Giouvetsi which is a pulao like dish with Risini or Orzo pasta(pictured in bottom left in the above collage). I also tried a broken wheat pilaf which was a good way to eat some whole grains and tasty too, if eaten with the stews of meat on offer.

The good thing with such festivals is, if you don't like to taste all of the dishes on offer, you just pick up what you like and then choose your pick from the regular buffet of the other side.

Here are some more desserts, the top right is an interesting fruit leather rolled with almonds in the center, called Soutzoukos. There were a lot of regular desserts on display as well to choose from.

This Cyprus festival is a must try if you want to taste a new cuisine, they have flown in Chef Soteris Lordanou and Chef George Katastrofas to put it together.

And tell me if you wont be surprised to see a gujhia, lavanglata, kheer and halwa on the dessert platter.

We were a bunch of bloggers from CAL bloggers table at this Cyprus festival. Aishwarya Lahiri, Mukta Varma, Tanya Kohli, Charis and Sid Khullar were there with myself and Arvind for this huge spread of food. As usual we ended up sharing jokes and food discussions all the while we were there. Foodies of the world unite definitely ... 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

masoor daal ka nimona | a winter stew with lentils and cauliflowers..

Masoor daal ka nimona is one of those winter stews made in eastern UP that uses seasonal vegetables and lentils in it's full glory. Daals cooked with vegetables and mild spicing would be a good idea to pack in everything in just one dish and have some hot chapatis or rice going with it. Of course there always is some raw salad and some winter pickles on the side for a busy homemaker. Green garlic shoots pickle is one of them enjoyed with such meals.

These stews are simple homely flavors, cooked with ease, especially useful for someone who has to cook for a large family or in a limited time, or both. I have tasted many versions of this stew, some had the cauliflowers all muddled up with the daal, some had a few bits floating here and there and some had loads of green peas in it too. Some people added fried lentil vadis to this stew to make them more flavorful. All of them are tasty owing to the taste of seasonal vegetables and liberal use of coriander greens.

Actually it was my sister who reminded me of this nimona. She was cooking this one day and called me for something. And then she asked me what was cooking. She was not impressed by whatever I was cooking that day and announced with a gleaming voice that she had made masoor daal ka gobhi matar wala nimona. That too with added vadis. The dinner was decided then and there. Such things make you crave for the long forgotten flavors.


red lentils 1 cup
cauliflower florets 2 cups
peeled and cubed potato 1/2 cup
roughly chopped tomatoes 1 cup
finely chopped garlic 2 tsp
finely chopped ginger 1 tbsp
cumin powder 1 tsp
coriander powder 1 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
mustard oil 1 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
chopped coriander greens 1/2 cup


Wash the red lentils and cook in pressure cooker with 2 cups of water, the chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and salt to taste. Cook for 4 minutes after the first whistle blows, lowering the flame after the whistle.

Heat mustard oil in a separate pan while the daal cooks, and tip in the cumin. Wait till they crackle and then add the potato cubes and salt to taste. Stir fry and cook for 3-4 minutes on low flame and then add the cauliflower florets and the garlic and ginger chopped. Crank up the flame and stir fry for just 2 minutes more.

Add the powder spices, mix well and stir fry for a minute more. Take off heat.

Add this cooked vegetables mixture to the cooked daal and let them all simmer for 10 minutes on low flame. The cauliflower florets should be firm but you can cook them mushy if you like.

Finish cooking by adding the coriander greens. Serve hot as a meal or as an accompaniment to a roti or rice kinda meal. You can always serve it with some butter or ghee on top.

You can add some green peas too to this stew or some fried lentil vadis (called badiyan in Hindi)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

baked bakharwadi | a baked Indian snack that beats a cookie any day..

Bakharwadi is a traditional Maharashtrian snack that is like a sweet, sour and savory fried cookie. That too a pinwheel type. I used to love the fried version long back and would request anyone visiting Mumbai or Pune or even Goa to bring me one. There is a packed Bakharwadi by Chitale Bandhu and then there is one by Haldiram's that is really good. But those are fried and one feels bad when reaching out for such fried packaged snacks. We have been off any packets namkeens for a long time but on a recent travel when the flight got late by an hour, we found ourselves straying into a Haldiram's kiosk and getting a pack of Bakarwadi. The packet was savored slowly between the two of us, but got over before we boarded the flight. It was alarming.

And then Arvind brought home a packet once more, this one was finished in 3-4 days but was enough addictive to rethink and act accordingly.
And act accordingly I did. I baked some.

This was after a long long time. I had experimented a lot on Bakharwadi when I bought my new microwave oven more than a decade ago. The best shape I could get around that time was through microwaving the rolled and cut Bakarwadis briefly and then frying them. This seals the edges and the filling, and allows the Bakharwadis to fry quickly so they absorb less oil. But they didn't turn really crisp. I was not confident enough to bake on combination mode of the microwave oven. Later when I bought the conventional oven for my breads, the same recipe was adjusted a little bit and gave me good results just by baking. So here it is.

(makes about 150 small wadis or pinwheel cookies)

for the pastry dough
whole wheat flour (atta) 1 cup
Chickpea flour (besan) 1 cup
All purpose flour (maida) 3/4 cup
oil 3/4 cup (I used cold pressed sunflower oil)
soda bi carb 2 pinches
salt to taste

for the stuffing
grated fresh coconut 3/4 cup
coconut powder (or dessicated coconut) 1/2 cup
sesame seeds 1/3 cup
poppy seeds 1/4 cup
chickpea flour (besan) 1/2 cup
finely chopped green chilies 1 tbsp
finely chopped or grated ginger 2 tbsp
ginger powder 1 tsp
fennel powder 1 tsp
natural brown sugar 2 tbsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp
salt to taste
freshly made tamarind extract 3/4 cup


Mix all the ingredients for the pastry dough and knead a stiff dough adding water slowly as you mix. Rest the dough till you prepare the stuffing.

Soak a lime sized ball of dry tamarind in a cup of water and microwave it to make the tamarind extract. Sieve and save for later use.

Dry roast the sesame seeds in a kadhai or any suitable pan. Low flame will ensure even roasting, add the poppy seeds as soon as the sesame starts crackling. Within a minute, add the grated fresh coconut and roast again for about 3-4 minutes or till it starts getting fragrant. Lastly add the besan and the dry coconut powder and roast for a couple of minutes, just to mix everything together. Cooking the filling completely is not the idea, just to cook the besan briefly, the rest will be cooked during baking.

Add the green chilies, ginger and the other powders, the brown sugar and salt, mix well.

Now sprinkle the tamarind extract over this mixture and mix with the help of a spatula.

This stuffing mixture will come in the consistency of a paste that is not too wet. Add tamarind extract keeping the consistency in mind. Too thin extract will make it wet and less sour than required.

The pastry dough is already waiting, the filling is ready. Now is the time to do some rolling.

Divide the dough in 4 -5 portions and roll out on a board to make a rectangular sheet. Thickness of the pastry will be about 3 mm. Divide the stuffing too into equal portions and spread out one portion over the rolled out pastry sheet. Just slap it over and spread with the help of a knife blade.

Start rolling from the longer side so it makes a longer cylinder when rolled. And then roll the cylinder some more to make it tightly packed. Now slice the Bakharwadi cookies carefully holding the cylinder with the help of your left hand fingers.

The sliced cookies may be half moon shaped due to pressure exerted during slicing, just press them all from sides so they become round. Lay them on a baking sheet or greased baking tray.

Bake in preheated oven, 200 C for 20 minutes and then on 180 C for 25-30 minutes. A golden hue will be a sign of readiness.

Cool them on a wire rack or a perforated basket as I did. The cookies will be a little damp when freshly baked. They taste good but the texture enhances the next day as complete dehydration is achieved by that time.

You can always adjust sweet, sour and hot flavors in the stuffing to suit your palate, the nuttiness of the various ingredients is complex and very very addictive. The sesame, coconut and poppy seeds provide a complex texture too apart from the distinct nuttiness that blends with the sweet-sour-hot-savory taste of bakharwadi.

It is a time consuming process but makes enough quantity to last about a week or even a fortnight for a small family. Depends how how you ration them on the go. They are minimal gluten cookies, protein packed and fiber packed so it's not a problem if you binge on them for a while. Tasteful snacks sometimes fix a deep rooted emotional problem and help you get back to track in life.

What do you think?