Sunday, December 21, 2014

gogji mutton | a simple stew with turnips and mutton cooked the Kashmiri way

I don't know if a true blue Kashmiri would approve of this stew but for me this Gogji Mutton curry speaks of winters. This simple stew is so good for a winter dinner, so warming that you would feel blessed if you get good turnips in your part of the world just for this mutton stew if not the vegetarian version called Gogji Nadir. I have adapted this gogji nadir according to my taste but I am sure the soul of the stew is not compromised with.

I have been cooking this gogji mutton for a couple of years and have learnt a trick to make the thin soupy gravy look almost milky in appearance and pack a punch of flavours that feels impossible with just three ingredients. Yes, apart from the mutton, there are only three ingredients that make the flavours so comforting. Mustard oil, green chillies of the thick skin variety (bajji chillies of Bangalore or Rajasthani pakoda chillies) and turnips. These three ingredients create magic in this stew trust me.

It so happens that I always cook this stew for dinners and once it is ready we both can't wait too much to be able to click decent pictures to be shared on the blog. But this time I sneaked a couple of pictures while cooking and one picture of the plate that I served for myself. The pictures are still bad but I wanted you all to create this simple Kashmiri stew this winter if you have not tasted it already.

Note how this recipe helps make an almost milky soupy gravy in this stew. The instructions typed in bold letters are the pointers. But don't worry even if the gravy looks watery, as the taste will not be affected much even in that case.

(2-3 servings, depending on what is served with it)

mutton on bone (curry cut) 200-250 gm
fresh turnips 250 gm
fat variety green chillies (Anahiem or any mild hot chillies) 3-5
mustard oil 1 tbsp
salt to taste
water 1.5 L


Add the mutton and a little salt to the water in a deep stock pot (or handi) and cook on medium flame for an hour or till the mutton is almost done. Or pressure cook the mutton with a litle salt with 1 L of water.

Remove the stalks, clean and chop the turnips in irregular shaped thick slices. Try and not peel the turnips as some of the flavour will be lost if you do so. Chop the chillies in 1 inch long pieces and keep aside.

When the mutton is almost done, heat mustrad oil in a deep pan till smoking point. Now add the chopped chillies and turnips all at once and toss and stir fry till a few blisters appear on the chillies and the turnips look glazed and blemished.

This is the time the cooked mutton along with the hot stock will be poured right into the hot cooking turnips. By adding the hot mutton stock into the already sizzling turnips and chillies will make the stock look milky within seconds. Now check and adjust seasoning and simmer till the turnips are fully don, soft and disintegrate when pressed.

Serve hot with plain boiled rice. Some plain home made yogurt or raita works with it but we don't care about it when we need a hot stew in our hands, preferably served in bowls.

Less rice and more of this stew is my idea of a great home cooked meal on winter nights. Meals that we cook while watching TV and the home smells of a good stew being slow cooked in the kitchen. This stew is so aromatic that the neighbors can often get to know what is cooking, that too with such humble ingredients and not a single spice used. Simplicity brings the best from some foods. Gogji mutton is one of best example of such foods.

Hope you would try this recipe if it is not a family favourite already. There are more recipes of turnips cooked with mutton in the Mughlai way and that has it's own charm, suited for a different kind of meal but gogji mutton will always be my all time favourite light mutton stews.

Shiv Sagar comes to Delhi : our experience of the street food served in a chic ambiance

Shiv Sagar from Bombay is here in Delhi and that too just a 15 minutes drive from home. When we decided to go there for a dinner early this week Arvind was not too keen saying it is a vegetarian place but I was sure that he would like the food there. Being born and brought up in Banaras he is the one who would walk an extra mile for a good kachori or golgappa I know.

The first thing we tried at Shiv Sagar was a Sev Puri that he loved. The juice tasters that come in test tubes was a great idea, fresh juices of mosambi (Sweet Lime), Orange, Pineapple and Watermelon can be ordered from the 'live juice bar' and they also have a few juice based mocktails called Ganga Jamuna and Maramari. One can decide after tasting and according to the mood of the day.

Our mood for good food was set already.

We had great expectations when the Vada Pao came to our table with all it's accompaniments of red lasun chutney and fried green chilly etc but the real test is in the pao (the bun) and the potato bonda inside. I found the Vada pao good on both counts but I have had better Vada Pao on the streets of Bombay so may be some friends from Bombay wouldn't find it good enough.

I loved the Pao Bhaji a lot more, the Pao not too soaked in butter and the Bhaji buttery in texture but not floating in butter, the spicing perfect for me. I found the quality of he Bombay Pao perfect and asked Varun Puri whose team has brought Shiv Sagar to Delhi, he informed that the Pao is in fact brought in from Bombay twice a day for the sake of authenticity. I find this kind of commitment towards delivering authenticity really commendable.

I talked to the Executive Chef Harish Joshi as well and was charmed by his smile that spreads across his face when he talks. Such a happy Chef can never go wrong in bringing great food for the guests.

The Bhel mixture was also good, something that Arvind likes for his evening snack many a times but this one had a Bombay feel to it.

The Bombay Sandwiches were made perfectly too. Sprinkled generously with the thin sev that stay crunchy even inside the sandwich and perfectly grilled bread. Mind that this is coming from someone who is not too find of sandwiches. I took a few bites as we wanted to taste more of the stuff on the menu, the sandwich kept calling me back that I had to ignore with all my will. Good stuff.

I was surprised to see a Delhi special Bedmi Alu on the menu, it looked like a crisp ball with 3 small bowls of brown subzi but I was not prepared for the taste it brought. This is a must try at Shiv Sagar because they have created a very very good Methi ki chutney to go along with the alu subzi that transforms this Bedmi poori from an average to extraordinary. Pour some methi chutney over the alu subzi and dunk a bite of Bedmi into it, this bite would make you feel so good about methi being on your plate. Very crisp bedmi poori is a very good scooping tool for the goodness in those bowls.

While the Pao Bhaji, Vada Pao and Bhel took us to the streets of Bombay, this Bedmi alu brought us back right into the streets of old Delhi.

They have a spread of Indo-Chinese street food as well. The Chilly Idli and Triple Sichuan fried rice we tasted were quite addictive. I better not talk about foodie addictions, I mean this Sichuan fried rice has a base of Manchurian balls, a layer of fried crisp noodles and then fried rice over that creating a medley if taste and textures that is hard to resist.

There was one more thing that felt like old Delhi and that was this Paan kulfi. With a whole paan inside, I finished this kulfi all by myself though I am known for disliking desserts. This kulfi feels like a paan and yet gives all the pleasures of a kulfi.

 I found it better than the famed Kuremal kulfi to be honest. Talking about it, I am craving for this Paan Kulfi on a December midnight. Imagine.

I would be going back to Shiv Sagar for the Bedmi, for the Kulfi, for the Pao Bhaji and for the Chilly idli too may be. Arvind has his choices too, he loved the Triple Sichuan fried rice, the Bhel and pretty much everything we tasted that day. I know he would be frequenting Shiv Sagar quite often now. My gut feeling was right, he wouldn't ever be disappointed with good street food and will forge his love for nonveg for a while whenever it happens.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shahjahanabad ki sair ; a food festival of old Delhi's cuisine at Ssense, The Surya Hotel

It is always a privilege to be talking to someone who has raised foodie kids. That means you are talking to someone who has been foodie as a kid and has imbibed a lot of flavours since childhood, has adapted old cooking techniques with new ingredients and also has infused flavours of the past into the present day food. Albeit with a little complaint about the quality of meat and fish and everything else that we get in today's world, they whip up magic in their food day after day. Keeping a bit of history alive through food and flavours.

We met Mrs. Nazish Jalali the day before and was completely floored by the way she told stories of her childhood spent in the royal state of Rampur where she got to taste and replicate food cooked in the erstwhile royal kitchens. Brought those recipes to her marital home and learnt Old Delhi food here in the tutelage of her mother-in-law. She loves sharing these stories with whoever is interested in them.

Her son Osama Jalali, is a well known food critique and is compiling recipes of Rampur into a book these days, trying to revive the dying art of cooking slowly with love and real spices, treating the spices the way they are intended for the season. He talks elaborately about the meat cuts to be used in a particular kabab or curry and what would be the test of a wrong cut being used in kachhe gosht ka kabab etc and his mother chips in the with the little story about how he was enamored by a live tandoor in a family wedding and has been photographed peeping inside the tandoor, all at a ripe age of four. Yes, barely walking and smitten by food and it's making, that is Osama for you.

This 'Shahjahanabad ki sair' is a food festival on the lines of a pop up event where Osama and Nazish, the mother-son duo have curated the menu and have been cooking everyday along with the hotel staff to bring the accurate flavours of home cooked food from Old Delhi. Delhi in older times was known as Shahjahanabad and we did take a walk through the lanes hearing stories of a 24 hr clinic of Osama's father and how all the khansamas of old Delhi were his patients and often the gratitude used to come in the form of Korma or Nihari.

The first question I asked the Jalalis was about the difference between the street food of old Delhi served famously at Karim's and Al Jawahar and the home cooked food in the same lanes of the city. Pat came the reply clearing all my doubts. The street food was meant for the worker class that slogged hard during the day and needed a robust rich meal to nourish themselves. The worker class had little time and resources to cook for themselves and had almost no finesse to appreciate delicate flavours and light cooking. They relished the hot spicy and robust curries slow cooked by these khandani khansamas and found good nourishment too. That doesn't mean that the old Delhi street food is any less in it's popularity, we have been going there to relish the robust richness quite often ourselves.

On the other hand home cooked food has always been lighter and a delicate blend of spices differentiates it from the food we find on the streets. Many of these meat curries are cooked with vegetables and those Bhidi Gosht, Arbi Gosht, Lauki Gosht, Shalgam Gosht etc we wouldn't find anywhere in the old Delhi shops.

The vegetables cooked in old Delhi homes would never be served on the street shops. This Parval ki subzi was so good I ate it like a salad. Tomato infused masala with mild spices and the parval cooked just right.

We got to taste this Alu Gosht that was so good it felt like potatoes were born to fall for this slow cooked meat curry. We had very small portions to taste because we had to taste a lot of food, else I would have loved this curry on it's own as a full meal.

But before that we had a taste of the Kabab platter that had chicken and mutton seekh along with a Kachhe Gosht ka Kabab that was a class apart. Made using 'raan ka gosht' (meat from the thighs) this kabab was all meat infused with cardamoms and light garam masala. The seekhs also had prominent notes of Badi elaichi but very balanced spicing.

Then came the Nihari that was enriched with the bone marrow from goat shank and we could taste the richness imparted by the marrow. Nazish starts cooking Nihari first thing in the morning and slow cooks this meat for 6-7 hours so that you get the gelatinous gravy and melt in the mouth meat.

We loved the Mutton Korma and the Hari mirch ka Keema which is richly infused with the chilly flavours of the thick skinned fat chillies from Rajasthan but you wouldn't find any chilly heat in it. It was quite different from the Lasun Mirch wala keema that I cook.

Biryani was well done with meat cooked to perfection and the grains of rice infused with the flavours of meat and spices, just as it should be. The Biryani in old Delhi is served with a red chilly chutney that I liked a lot, even after being partial to Awadhi Biryanis cooked with basmati rice.

Desserts were Zarda and Sewaiyyan. Both done well though I don't eat desserts much.

We all had a paan and enjoyed it to the last bit. This was one shahi dawat that felt like being served in a cozy private dining room in heirloom 'tin plated' copper ware, even water being poured out of antique jugs. See how I am chewing pan even in the picture we got clicked to call it a day.

More than the momentary pleasure of the sensory faculties, this dawat was an education that will be with us forever. Thanks to Osama and Nazish Jalali for hosting us and treating us with the stories to remember.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

orange rasgulla recipe | traditional rasgulla soaked in fresh orange juice, served with orange slices

I don't eat much desserts but rasgulla and rasmalai is one of my favourites among Indian sweets. And like other desserts of my choice I like them really mildly sweet. That is the reason I prefer making them at home because no known source of rasgulla or any other mithai for that matter, makes them mildly sweet. Homemade rasgulla can be made as much sweet as you want and mine are always floating in a very watery syrup. But this Orange rasgulla is something more than just being mildly sweet and to be without any added sugar in the recipe. The only sugar this orange rasgulla has comes from the oranges and the orange juice used instead of sugar syrup in this recipe.

I know a particular rasgulla shop around the lanes of assi ghat in Banaras who used to make 'orange flavoured  rasgullas' fresh everyday. The quality of the rasgulla was very good owing to the freshness and of course the skill level of the halwai, but those rasgullas were too sweet for me and they had orange essence and orange colour in it. I tasted them only twice and decided I would make better real orange rasgullas at home. This was about 15 years ago and what I did at that time was to just make the regular homemade rasgulla, squeezed all syrup from each one of them and soaked them in fresh orange juice. The idea was good but it could be improved and I did improve when I experimented later, and the orange rasgulla made it's way to our table a few times after that. Always when we had someone visiting or for a formal get together. Otherwise we rarely eat any mithais.

One of these get togethers we did last year and cooked Awadhi food including shami kababs, awadhi biryani, safaid korma and a few more things for main course, I made these orange rasgullas for dessert. Luckily I clicked a few pictures too but then got busy with something and forgot to share it here on the blog.

And then I had a food trail of Delhi with Chef Johnny Iuzzini some time ago and he tasted rasgulla and addressed it as 'the sponge whose syrup is squeezed out'. That was a familiar but funny description of a rasgulla to hear as I know many people who squeeze out even the last drop of syrup form the rasgulla and eat the dry sponge. Oh even I do that but soak them again in plain whole milk with some cream and then eat it. Yes I am picky like that :-)

This incident reminded me of the best rasgulla I like and I decided to share it with you all. Although you may make the rasgulla the normal way and then squeeze and dip them in orange juice, but cooking them in plain water and some orange zest results in better flavours of orange seeped into the rasgullas. See how to do it.

(for 30 medium sized rasgullas)

2 Liters milk ( I used 3% milk from Amul) the best is to use raw cows milk for the best rasgullas
2 Liters orange juice ( I used cartons of Real)
3-4 fresh oranges to garnish
zest of orange or thin strips cut from the peel 1 tsp or as desired


First of all heat up raw (or pasteurized) milk to just below boiling temperature (around 92C) and curdle the milk by adding diluted white vinegar or lime juice adding half tsp at a time. Wait till the milk splits into the curdled chhenna  and whey and then strain the whey through a strainer. Collect the chhenna and rinse it well under running water.  Squeeze and knead the chhenna well to make a very smooth mass that doesn't crack when rolled into small balls. If the chhenna at this stage is not smooth, do not proceed to make rasgulla, use the chhenna to make paneer bhurji or paneer paratha instead. The trick to make suitable smooth chhenna for rasgulla lies in splitting the milk slowly at a temperature just before boiling.

Detailed procedure of splitting milk for making chhenna suitable for making rasgulla is described in my homemade rasgulla post. Please refer to that if in doubt.

Now take enough water in a wide pan or pressure cooker to accommodate 6-8 rasgullas and bring the water to boil. Take care that the rasgullas expand about 4-5 times of their starting volume so keep room for that too. Add the orange zest and the chhenna balls, cover the lid and cook till the pressure builds up, one whistle.

See I had overcrowded the rasgullas and they have lost thier round shape, but not to worry if this happens. The rasgullas will be fine albeit the shape.

Let it cool by itself and open the lid, take out the expanded rasgullas out, squeeze them one by one and dip in fresh orange juice (or from a carton) kept in a wide bowl.

Note that there was no sugar in the cooking medium and the sponge for these rasgullas were cooked in plain water infused with orange zest. This causes a few cracks on the surface of the rasgulla but it doesn't affect the taste and texture. A fairly saturated sugar syrup doesn't let these cracks appear while cooking but we don't mind a few cracks on rasgullas.

Slice some fresh oranges and dip them along with the orange rasgullas and chill before serving. If you want more concentrated flavours of orange you can reduce the orange juice by cooking it for some time but I don't feel any such compulsion to make the orange juice sweeter or thicker.

This fruity citrus laced rasgulla is something I can have a lot. Arvind can have them for a meal and he loves some shrikhand over them sometimes. I love the was the orange slices look and feel with the rasgullas and eating them both together is the real treat.

I one had rasgullas paired with mishti doi in a Bengali wedding and love that version too. Try some of these variations with rasgulla and let me know which one you like better. I know if you have lived around Odisha or Bengal you must have experienced these delights already. Orange rasgulla is for you to try in any case.

PS : A very dear friend Suranga Date wrote a poetry when she saw these pictures on my fb page. Depicting the pain that the milk went through to make the chhenna and then the rasgulla that meets orange juice to make a delicious smile :-) I feel blessed to share this with you all.

Traumatic sour times,

and parental separations

steeped in

a meeting

of those that remained

curdled but unbowed. 

A gentle hand

recouping them,

and putting them together again,

and a smoothening of life

with a cleansing 

in orange steam,

as they, 


feel relaxed once again.

The signs of struggle

remain visible,

on the face of it,

but the mind 


at the welcome

by the juicy youn

g oranges

inviting them 

into the juice.

Some time later,

quietly enjoying

the seeping in

of a new life,

the orange rasagullas smile.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

chane ki daal paneer wali | split chickpeas cooked with tomatoes and paneer

This chane ki daal with paneer cubes is one of those favourite recipes that make my life easier, meals tastier and keep my eating resolutions in place. All at once trust me. This chane ki daal is made a little thick like chana masala or chhole and suits a lunch box meal really well. Also, this chane ki daal can be served with a variety of Indian breads and rice preparations, can also be had like a one pot meal. Try that if you trust me.

Another chane ki daal masale wali is a UP specialty but this one with paneer is my own take on this healthy lentil.

There are some daal recipes in my repertoire that make my cooking really quick and convenient. These daal recipes are tasty as well as really quick to cook, wholesome flavours that can make a quick meal in itself, can be taken into lunch boxes and can be cooked in a hurry when you have unannounced guests. I depend on these recipes a lot and keep playing with the flavorings a bit according to seasons and available herbs and required spice level. These daal recipes basically do not need a tadka or just a quick 'heeng jeere ka tadka' instead of bhunoeing a whole lot of onion, garlic and ginger paste, masala powders and all that jazz.

Apart from this chane ki daal paneer wali, there is a Bengali recipe of coconut laced chane ki daal, a few versions of sabut mung ki daal and another sabut masoor ki daal that I make quite often. It is a shame the recipe is still not on the blog but let me tell you that these recipes are mostly cooked in such a hurry that there is no time to click pictures and share them with you all. Hoping to make those daals again this winter and click pictures too. Yes I like these daals as a one pot meal in winter season. Especially for dinner.

So this chane ki daal paneer wali is a one step recipe. You just mix the ingredients and pressure cook. The time taken to cook this recipe is just about the time that chane ki daal takes to be pressure cooked and that is about 20 minutes total (for 2-4 servings). Not much chopping, no preparation for tadka and absolutely healthy.

(2 large servings)

to be pressure cooked together...
chane ki daal (rinsed and strained) 1/2 cup
chopped tomatoes 1/2 cup
tejpatta or bay leaves 2
whole black pepper corns 10-12
black cardamom 1
green cardamom 3
cinnamon stick 1 inch piece
cloves 3
red chilly powder 1/2 tsp
1.5 cup water
salt to taste
turmeric powder 1 tsp

to be added after the pressure cooking..
chopped coriander greens 1/4 cup
cubed paneer 1/3 cup or about 60 gm
ghee 1 tsp


Bring everything together in the first list and pressure cook for 10 minutes after the first whistle. This is the time taken for the lentils to get cooked but not too mushy. The time depends on the quantity you are cooking and the size of the pressure cooker as well, so adjust that according to your requirement.

Add the ingredients from the second list to the cooked daal and simmer for 2 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving or serve as required. This daal doesn't reheat too well but you can dilute the daal a little if you have to serve leftovers and it becomes better. It is always better to fish out the whole spices before serving.

This chane ki daal paneer wali is a great way to ensure a protein rich meal but please don't assume that it doesn't contain any carbs. All lentils have enough carbohydrates for us to keep us going. We like this daal with millet rotis, whole wheat parathas and sometimes with plain boiled rice. You can serve this daal with an elaborate meal along with pooris too as I have seen people enjoying this daal with poori a lot. Isn't this chane ki daal a really versatile recipe?

Try adding some chhole masala to it and see how great it tastes with that too. You can add fresh methi (fenugreek) greens to the daal if that is in season or some dill greens if you like the flavours. This chane ki daal tastes good even without any of these herbs but somehow I never make it without a generous handful of aromatic herbs.

Do let me know what would you like it with?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

bhatt ka dubka | a curry made with local black soybeans from Uttarakhand

I have been traveling a lot and that has caused a serious lack of recipe updates on Banaras ka Khana. I regret not posting all the recipes I keep cooking in my kitchen and many more recipes that I intend to post on the blog with an intention to revive them from the crevices of the past. Not just the cuisine of Banaras and eastern UP, I keep indulging myself with desi traditions from all over India and always wonder how similar ingredients and similar techniques make so many different flavours belonging to different states. I will tell you how I found Bhatt ka dubka from Uttarakhand to be similar to our matar ka nimona.

Bhatt is black soybeans that grow locally all over Uttarakhand and probably in Himachal as well. Bhatt ka dubka and bhatt ki chudkani is everyday food for all locals and it really is so rustic and tasty you would find yourself craving for it once you taste these.

I was in Dhanachuli and Sattal (Nainital district, Uttarakhand) last week, the first 5 days were spent with the chefs at Te Aroha, training them to bake some continental dishes but I keep talking to them about their own cuisine on the side. There is so much to learn from every individual we meet. Later we went to Sattal for a birding trip for the weekend and roamed around the hills eating some local food (mostly alu ka gutka with pahadi raita) and shooting (with a camera) whatever birds we found.

This is where I spotted a cart owner who had written 'Kumaoni dubka, bhatt ki chudkani and Jholi bhaat available here'. I promptly went to him and asked if these were available, you see I can go to any extent to taste any new kind of food belonging to the land I am visiting, I can taste something even if I have had my meal. This cart owner told me he cooks these only when there are local tourists and during summer vacations when there is more possibility to sell. But seeing my eagerness he offered to cook one of these the next day and we decided on a bhatt ka dubka.

He kept his promise and cooked such a tasty dubka that I ate the dubka curry slowly to absorb the taste and asked the recipe from him. He happily shared the recipe and I decided to cook bhatta ka dubka on my return, I had some bhatt already in my kitchen bought from Navdanya or trade fair probably. And what a treat it was. He had served it with a side of pink radish batons, green chillies and few onion rings. All for INR 70.

Here is the result of what I cooked. I am so glad I could recreate the dish, more because the taste was fresh in my mind, the recipe simple. I felt dubka is quite similar to our nimona where a lentil is made into a coarse paste and then cooked with spices and seasoning to make a curry. Similar to nimona, dubka can also be made using different types of lentils like gehat ki daal (horse gram), kala chana (black chickpeas) or even green mung or black beans (urad). But this black soybeans or bhatt is something that lends a unique taste to this dubka.

Everyone I asked, told me that bhatt ka dubka or chudkani both should always be cooked in lohe ki kadhai (iron or cast iron utensil) and that it should be cooked for every long.

(4-5 servings)

bhatt (black soybeans) soaked overnight 1 cup (soak 1/2 cup dry lentils)
red onions roughly chopped 1/2 cup
garlic cloves 6-8
fresh ginger chopped 1 tbsp
dry red chillies 3-4
whole coriander seeds 1 tbsp
whole cumin seeds 1 tsp
whole peppercorns 1 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
chopped tomatoes 1/2 cup (optional, I did not use here)
coriander greens for garnish
salt to taste
mustard oil 2 tbsp


I observed the locals in Uttarakhand make their recipes really simple with only a few steps. They would preferably stone grind all the onion, garlic etc as well as the spices and then bhuno them all together in mustard oil. Even the bhatt (the lentil) will be stone ground on silbatta (mortar and pestle). The preferred cooking utensil for this bhatt ka dubka is lohe ki kadhai (iron pan) and I followed this detail. But I ground the spices in my electric blender.

First make a really coarse paste of the soaked daal, using very little water and keep aside.

Grind the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies and all other spices together in blender till smooth, adding little water as required.

Make a paste of tomatoes if using and keep aside.

Now heat oil in a cast iron kadhai and tip in the spice paste. Bhuno the paste till it starts leaving oil or gets aromatic. Small quantity of oil being used doesn't result in separation of oil while bhunoing but the masala mixtures starts looking glazed. Add tomatoes if using and salt as well, bhuno a little more.

Now add a cup of water to this mix, add 4 cups of water to the bhatt paste and pour to the cooking mixture. Let it come to boil once and keep stirring till then. Now lower the flame to minimum and simmer the bhatt ka dubka for an hour or more. I cooked it for an hour and half and the taste was really rich, the curry dark brown due tot he iron kadhai used and flavours really deep and warm.

The real companion to the bhatt ka dubka is plain boiled rice (preferably short grain) and some batons of radish, cucumbers and few onion rings. Nothing else is required and you would find yourself eating loads of those radish (mooli) and cumber batons. Some green chillies can also be served along especially if they are not too hot to bite into. What is a countryside meal without some pyaz-hari mirsc-mooli on the side.

For my meal it has to be more bhatt ka dubka, less rice and loads of mooli and kheera on the side. Totally a satiating meal that is light on the stomach and very nourishing too. Very rustic and warm in flavours and spirit.

Are you trying this bhatta ka dubka? Some people make masoor or toor daal ka dubka with a few deep fried pakode in it, just like kadhi is cooked but I wont bother with any other dubka once I have tasted bhatt ka dubka now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

sooran (zamikand) ki chutney | a raw chutney with Elephant foot yam

Chutneys are a great way to bring some tangy flavours in a meal, a condiment much needed when the meal is otherwise plain. Some people take pride in serving several types of chutneys in one meal but it is possible for me only when I have made a few chutneys over the week and have cleverly stocked them all in the fridge.

sooran (zamikand) ki chutney

I can't make fresh chutneys for all meals although I try and have our raw salad like batons of cucumber, carrots, radishes, tomato slices or onion slices on the side to make up for the vegetable intake in every meal. This is how everyday meals are served in the traditional way too, some subzi, some sauteed greens (saag), some daal, roti and rice, few chutneys (both sweet and savoury type) and some raw slices of salad vegetables. The combination will be the same even if there are non veg dishes on the menu but nuclear families don't bother to cook the whole hog. Chutneys come handy when the meals are simpler, they don't make you miss a spread on the dining table. Pickles also do the same.

sooran (zamikand) or Elephant foot Yam

I had never known about this sooran ki chutney, neither had I known about raw sooran being edible. Sooran or zamikand is one of those vegetables with so high Oxalic acid content that it itches the skin wherever it comes in contact with it. Even after cooking it itches the throat and the whole palate if the Oxalic acid crystals are not neutralized by some acidic addition like lime juice, tamarind etc. to the curry. Eating it raw would be scary I thought when I first saw my sister in law making this chutney with sooran. But then we kept taking small helpings of sooran ki chutney over the next few days it was so tasty. But more than being tasty, this chutney has a lot of medicinal value, good for digestive tract, great for inflamed (rheumatic) joints as well as for blood purifying.

The other ingredients used in this sooran ki chutney help in the overall benefits of this corm vegetable. Chilies, ginger, garlic and tamarind are all known as anti inflammatory and this chutney would be good for everyday meals. Tamarind also works for neutralizing the Oxalic acid in sooran and you don't feel any itching in the chutney. Even if the chutney is freshly made, this was a surprise even for me.

sooran (zamikand) or Elephant foot Yam


a cup of cubed sooran (cleaned and washed nicely)
2 tbsp thick tamarind paste or pulp made using about 30 gm tamarind or more if you wish
1 tbsp lime juice
4-5 whole dry red chillies
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger root
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp yellow mustard powder
salt to taste
drizzle of mustard oil (cold pressed)


Pulse everything together in a food processor to make a fine paste.

Empty into a clean glass or ceramic jar.

Drizzle a tbsp mustard oil and serve as required.

This chutney keeps well in the fridge for 2 weeks. I like to have a tbsp of this chutney with my meals 3-4 times a week.

sooran (zamikand) ki chutney

The chutney doesn't change much with time regarding taste but the colour becomes a little dull after 2 weeks or so. If you use a little more mustard powder in this recipe you can use it like mustard sauce for your sandwiches and dressings.

You can also use fresh green tender tamarind if you get those. I have tried this sooran ki chutney with green and brown tamarind both and it tastes great both ways.

Adding some fresh coconut to this sooran ki chutney makes it a chutney suitable for idli and dosa as well. I was actually surprised to see how well sooran blends for a chutney. Please feel free to do your own experiments but take care to add enough sour agent like tamarind or lime or both.

ry it once and see if you would like to make it frequently during sooran season. I remember my grandmother used to make a very nice sooran ka achar with grated sooran, lot of ginger and chillies, All of us used to love that pickle. Now that I am posting sooran recipes on the blog, I must ask my mom about the recipe of sooran ka achar that used to last the whole year.

Tell me if you have heard about sooran ka chokha. The recipe will be shared soon as I am now buying sooran whenever I spot a nice and fresh corm in the market.

amle ka achar : Indian gooseberry pickle recipe and significance of Amlaki Ekadashi

amle ka achar (Indian gooseberry pickle)

Amla, Amlaki or Indian Gooseberry come in the season when winter is just about to start and we keep getting amla throughout the winter season. My grandmother used to call Amla as sacred fruit and as a blessing for winters. If one eats one amla everyday one wouldn't get sick ever she used to say and it is so true. Amla is a great immunity booster thanks to very high levels of Vitamin C in it. Read about more health benefits of Amla along with my grandmother's recipe of amle ki chutney.

It was because my Dadi (grandmother) that we got to know that there is a tradition of worshiping amla tree on the day of Amlaki Ekadashi as Lord Vishnu is considered to reside in it. I find it a beautiful philosophy to equate a tree to a God and worship it.

Most medicinal plants are worshiped in some form or the other in India, the traditions are prehistoric and might have tribal origins, but I find these traditions and rituals really beautiful. Just like ritualistic worship of Gods has preserved temples as the only surviving historical monuments, I believe the useful plants have also survived due to some or the other sacred ritual linked with them.

So there used to be a pooja and picnic under the amla tree in Banaras and the practice still survives as I am told by friends there. I remember there is a dedicated orchard of amla trees in Sampoornanand Sanskrit University where a community picnic happens every Amalaki Ekadashi. I have been to it once and it was really good. This day of Amlaki Ekadashi is also known as Aonra tar (below the amla tree) in Banaras and Eastern UP. Aonra is the name of amla in local dialect. ISCON devotees also worship amla this way.

amla (Indian gooseberry)

Imagine how well our grandmothers were connected to nature and treated food as sacred. I remember about 10 kilos or more amle ka murabba being made in our home every year and it was a preferred way of eating amla during summer months as it is considered cooling. A great way to enjoy amla in the off season. Till a couple of years back I used to cook my grandmother's recipe of Chyawanprash too. May be I'll do that again with home grown ginger and long pepper, other herbs will be store bought of course.

Make this simple amle ka achar till then. This amle ka achar is a quick pickle that stays for a month in refrigerator, there is lesser salt than the regular pickles where more amount of salt preserves the pickles. Lesser amount of salt in this pickle helps eat more of it in one meal and have more benefits of amla in one dose.


20 large amlas
20 large (Bhavnagri or Anaheim or Jalapeno chillies)

to make a paste with 3 tbsp water ...
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1.5 tbsp Kashmiri red chilly powder (this is very mild hot)
1 tsp fenugreek powder
1 tsp fennel powder
pinch of hing (asafotida)
1 tbsp salt

to temper the pickle...
2 tbsp mustard oil
1 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)


Boil (pressure cook) the amlas with a cup of water till their segments get separated like this.

amle ka achar (Indian gooseberry pickle)

Chop the chillies in bite sized pieces or whatever size you like.

Make a slurry of the ingredients listed for a paste, adding a little more water if required.

Heat the mustard oil and add the nigella seeds and wait till they get aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Bring the gas flame to minimum.

Pour the spice paste slowly and stir. Let it cook till the oil separates.

Add the chillies and the separated segments of amla (discard the seeds), take the pan off the stove and mix well to coat.

Fill in a sterilised jar. This pickle is ready to eat in a couple of hours and can be refrigerated for a month or so.

amle ka achar (Indian gooseberry pickle)

One can always make amla pickle just like aam ka achar but do not boil the amla for that. Just chop it with a sharp knife, discard the seeds and follow the aam ka achar recipe. That amla pickle will last the whole year without refrigeration.

amla or Indian gooseberry

Any of these pickles will the right choice for your family if you eat Indian food mostly. The same procedure can be followed to make green chilly pickle as well if you like hari mirch ka achar. This amla aur hari mirch ka achar is really good with roti, paratha or daal chawal meals. Let me know if you find this recipe useful and easy to follow.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

light meals : muradabadi mung ki daal aur parval ka chokha

Mung ki daal is the most frequent daal in my kitchen. Not only it cooks faster, I like the taste too and the simplicity with which I can dress up this daal into anything I want. I make it into a sookhi mung ki daal sometimes and add some methi sprouts to mung daal some other times. Mung ka dhokla is a recipe I repeat frequently for our evening snacks or weekend breakfasts. But the most simple thing I do with dhuli mung (skinned yellow mung beans) is just to pressure cook it and add some chopped tomato onions and have as it is. I love it as a soup, snack or a meal whatever way I need it.

This way of dressing boiled mung ki daal with just a few chopped raw onion and tomatoes is a very common way of cooking the daal in western UP, specifically Muradabad. My sister's mother in law makes this daal and everyone loves the clean flavours of this simple daal. The most wonderful thing is that there is hardly any recipe to note down. But let me warn you that the simpler recipes need to be accurate to make sense.

Recipe of  Muradabadi mung ki daal

(2-3 servings)

To pressure cook..
split mung daal 1/2 cup (rinsed)
water 1 and 1/4 cup
turmeric powder 1 tsp
hing or asafotida 1 pinch
ghee 1/2 tsp
salt to taste

to serve..
roasted cumin powder (bhuna jeera) 2 tsp
chopped tomatoes 1/4 cup
chopped red onions or bulbs of spring onions 1/4 cup
chopped coriander greens 2-3 tbsp
chopped green chillies to taste
ghee to serve 1/2 tsp or more per serving


Mix everything listed under 'to pressure cook' and pressure cook till the whistle blows up. Switch off the flame and let the pressure cooker rest till ready to be opened. Depending on the size of the pressure cooker, the daal will be thick and done or it may be a little al dante. Let the daal simmer without the lid if needs more cooking but only till it gets thick and done, not mushy or pasty.

Add the bhuna jeera (roasted cumin) powder and half of the chopped onion and mix.

Pour the daal in individual bowls and garnish with the remaining chopped onion, tomatoes and dhaniya patta. Drizzle with ghee and serve hot.

I usually make some bharta or chokha with such simple light meals, mostly when we are home after a long travel or have eaten out a bit. Light home cooked meals serve well on such occasions but I can live on such meals even in my everyday life.

This time I had made this Parval ka chokha that I love to bits and keep repeating it till the parval season lasts. Again the recipe is very simple but needs to be accurate to give the same results.

Recipe of Parval ka chokha 


to pressure cook together..
parval (pointed gourd) 10 large ones (scraped and halved)
baby potatoes 2 peeled and halved
salt to taste
1/4 cup water

to finish..
chopped onion 2 tbsp
minced garlic 1 tsp
minced green chillies 1/2 tsp or to taste
chopped coriander greens 1 tbsp
mustard oil 2 tbsp


Mix the ingredients for pressure cooking and cook till the first whistle. Let the pressure cooker rest till ready to open. Mash the boiled vegetables with the help of a potato masher or the back of a serving spoon.

Add all the ingredients to finish and serve right away. This parval ka chokha keeps well for a couple of hours at room temperature and tastes great with daal and multigrain rotis or with daal and rice meals.

Try and cook this mung ki daal and parval ka chokha together whenever you need a light meal to cleanse your body of overeating, festive eating or eating out. Or just to have a pleasure of simpler warm meals cooked at home. I assure you wont be disappointed.

Both these Muradabadi mung ki daal and parval ka chokha are one of those foods that I eat in large amounts. Often without any roti or rice to go with it. I am sure you know it already if you have been reading my blogs for some time.


Monday, November 3, 2014

travel and food : the best places to eat in Mysore, the way we like it

I discovered Mysore masala dosa all over again. Yes I mean it when I say this. All of us siblings use to love the dosas my mom made at home with a creamy potato curry to fill the delicate dosas. And a plain coconut chutney and sambar that only she could make, other aunts we knew would make it differently. We were kids and never realised that dosas, sambars and chutneys can be of different types belonging to different states of the south India. We loved all the other dosa variants but the one mom made was always the best. We grew up on that dosa loving it absolutely.

And then somehow I spoiled it when I started cooking it myself. In my zeal of experimentation I added what I liked and although the resulting dosa was always good, it was not the same. We siblings would often talk about the subtly flavoured dosa mom used to make long long ago. By the way my mom was never fond of cooking and she wriggled out of making dosas or anything for that matter, as soon as we grew up and carried on with our own lives, all of us siblings I mean. We would never find any home made dosa when we went back and that 'mummy ke haath ka dosa' memory became dormant.

We always knew that mom had learned her dosa from some neighbor in Nainital when papa was posted there, which is my birth place too by the way. But there was never a question of where this neighbor belonged to. I discovered rather awkwardly in Mysore. The first dosa at the CFTRI students mess we had reminded me of 'mummy ke haath ka dosa'. The identity of the Mysore masala dosa downed upon me in a moment of epiphany, dormant memories awakened. I grew up eating this sort of masala dosa and never knew this was the one. The one called Mysore masala dosa. To us it was just masala dosa, sans an identity attributed to a place.

Later we discovered a few more stalwarts in the world of Mysore masala dosas. In Mysore of course. This used to a frequent breakfast masala dosa at the CFTRI students mess where we chose to have our daily breakfast.

For other meals we used to explore the city. Well mostly it was just myself as Arvind used to be busy in his official work he was there for. I saw all the museums, lakes, markets and a few temples in the 2 weeks we were there.

The best way to explore food in a city is to go around on foot or on public transport and see the street food if you can afford to. And I don't see any reason that can stop you from doing that, apart from a stomach infection if your immune system gets it as a shock. But I have never ever had a stomach problem with street food rather some five start food sometimes has caused a problem. Street vendors buy ingredients, cook and sell every single day and there is no recycling of ingredients, the food is served piping hot and things move quite fast. There is very little chance of contamination after the food being cooked as it is served immediately in most cases. And you should look for all such places where more people are eating to ensure good taste and the food is moving fast to ensure hygiene. You just have to take care of the water you drink and avoid all raw salads that's all.

The first great dosa I had in Mysore was at a roadside eat street that my friend Shubha Shashikant had told me about. This street is behind the Marimallapa college and the autowalas (the tuktuk drivers) know it as 'chaat street behind Marimallapa college'. These street food vendors come by the road only by evening and you would see many bikes and scooters of students parked there and some portly middle aged men probably on the return from offices lined up up to have a bite and loads of gossip. We also spotted a few families too who used the seat of their motorbikes as a table and were having a good time. There were few cars that stopped by and people had food inside the car but this eat street looks like more popular with students and office goers as we found herds of them enjoying plates after plates of good food.

 Our find of the day here was a Mysore masala dosa, very predictably you would say. I like the crisp but yet spongy dosa and the creamy mushy potatoes that they fill the dosa with. Simple clean honest flavours served in a humble way, each dosa costs 40 Rs. I remember everything on this street was either 40 or 30 Rs and the vendors had their own stalls of bottled water too. This dosa is smeared with a red chutney and then a dollop of creamy potato filling is slathered over it and the dosa is folded neatly. Served over a paper plate placed over a quarter piece of a newspaper.

And then we tasted and liked the idli and sambar vada as well, the benefits of 2 people sharing plates of food, we could taste more but not all. We tasted puliogare too but did not like it much. But many people were lining up for puliogare and gobi manchurian. Now gobi manchurian was one thing I could not muster the courage to try. There are stalls of golgappa too but not worth, we ordered one plate and tasted one golgappa each, couldn't eat the next.

Our driver had recommended another place called Guru Residency for a meal and we marched towards the place from CFTRI campus one day. This is a tall building of a hotel with the restaurant on the first floor. Quite crowded during Dassehra but this place is popular among the locals it seems. We ordered a masala dosa and an onion uttapam as these were the things we would like in a vegetarian restaurant in Mysore. While the dosa looked impressive with it's size, accompanied with 2 bowls of sambar and 2 bowls of coconut chutney, it was a good dosa but nothing great to write home about. We clciked only cell phone pictures as a big camera makes people really conscious and extremely curious at times in such places.

But we loved the Onion uttapam we ordered. I wish we had more appetite and try a few more things on the menu. In fact we could not finish the huge dosa between the 2 of us. Onion uttapam we finished, it was well made and really tasty with finelu chopped onions spread as a uniform layer on the uttapam. But the lentil curry that came with the uttapam was not our taste. Coconut chutney was average. We had coffee that was good if not the best.

The good thing is, that we tasted another great dosa at Hotel Vinayaka Mylari at Nazarbad. I hear this small restaurant is 70 year old and has been serving just dosa and idli since then. Dosa has a nice filling of masala and coconut coated beans (or other vegetables) and a blob of white butter is served over it. A plain white coconut chutney is served on the other side of the plate lined with banana leaf. We waited for our table for 30 minutes it was so crowded.

The most soft and spongy dosa I have ever had and the best flavour of fermentation that one can get in a dosa. The idli was very soft, I had idli with butter for the first time. This is a must visit place in Mysore. They serve coffee too and the wait staff is both men and women, they keep bringing more food to your table just like old fashioned wedding feasts and a small slip is produced as you finish. For 4 dosas, 2 plates of idli and 2 coffees our total bill was 90 Rs.

Only one picture was clicked before we dug into the dosa and then there was no looking back. We ate with our soul spread over the banana leaf and fingers smeared into a rustic pleasure. No time to think of clicking a picture.

Another day we met Shubha and her family in market and she suggested we taste this authentic Mysorean mithai called Halbai. Halbai is apparently available only at Hotel Dasaprakash so we walked to the Hotel to taste this. This mithai called Halbai is actually a pudding that is cut into squares. The taste is mild sweet with hints of coconut. Soaked rice and coconut is ground and strained and then cooked till thick along with ghee and sugar. The cooked mixture sets into a jelly like layer which is cut into squared and served per piece as most Indian mithais. We liked the subtle taste in this lesser known mithai from Mysore.

Later we tried the Mysore thali from Hotel Dasaprakash but it was not impressive. Although I liked the Ole (sooran) stir fry with curry leaves and coconut etc and another curry with coconut milk. Other elements in the thali were average.

Apart from these we were lucky to witness a food festival for a week called Ahar Mela that was very close to CFTRI campus where we were staying. We found a Coorgi stall and had our fill of Pandi curry, chilly pork, black chilly chicken, Coorgi chicken curry and fish curry with Nooputtu, Kadambuttu and Sanas.This food was so good we found ourselves at this stall every other day at dinner time.

And we got the food packed for our lunch most of the times. We made the best use of this opportunity you see.

Now a thing about the Mysore paak. The sweet (mithai) that Mysore is so famous for. We tried the regular Mysore paak and Kaju Mysore paak from Mahalaxmi Sweets on KR Circle road and found it good. I actually loved the kaju Mysore paak despite being cloyingly sweet.

The plain Mysore paak from Mahalaxmi is also good, slightly brown in the middle and nicely caramelized flavours.

We had heard great things about the The Guru's Mysore paak as these were the people who are supposedly the inventors of this famous mithai but the Mysore paak was so unbelievably sweet and ghee laden that there was no flavour of caramelized besan that it should have. You get a sandy texture of sugar in this one that spoils it for me. And about 2 weeks later when I tasted both these Mysore paak from different shops, I could taste bad quality ghee used in the Mysore pak from Guru Sweet Mart.

The brown one from Mahalaxmi sweets was the same in taste, taste of good quality ghee cannot be mistaken.

Mysore is a pace to be discovered slowly I feel. One cannot feel the pulse of the city in a hurry. One can go see all the museums the city boasts of and lakes and nature parks maintained really well but to eat I would always suggest to find some or the other street vendor or one of those small eateries we see along the roadsides. You never get the real taste of a place in five star hotels, it is the street food that brings you closer to the place.