Thursday, March 27, 2014

hare chane ki gujhia, chukandar wali gujhia and more colours in my food this holi...

Hare chane ki gujhia is not a new recipe invented by me, I have tasted it in Banaras around holi festivities many a times. Hara chana (tender green garbanzo beans) is a seasonal delight around this time of the year and many enterprising home cooks use it in many different ways. I have had burfis, halwas, gujhia and stuffed parathas made with hara chana apart from the nimona, ghugni and alu chane ki subzi. I have known some really creative home cooks and more importantly, I have remembered all that I have had as good food in the past. I remember how people would be scared to eat any green gujhia on the occasion of holi fearing it might be laced with bhang. Some of those really were. You never knew. You can disguise bhang in hare chane ki gujhia well and no one would get to know.

Incidentally, hara chana is also called 'hora' or 'horha' in the Hindi heartland and the name is linked to 'hori' which is the vernacular name of the festival holi. The whole mature shrubs of chickpeas are fired along with the 'holika dahan' on the eve of holi and the char grilled chickpeas are distributed as prasad. So 'hora' is the much loved produce related closely with 'hori', a gujhia made using this produce is not much of a surprise.

This time when I was feeling lazy about making gujhia and kept procrastinating till the last day, the thought of colourful gujhia made me get going with the ingredients. I made instant khoya from milk powder in microwave, mixed a bit of grated beetroots to the regular nuts, raisins and khoya mixture to make a red gujhia stuffing. And then I made use of the hara chana to make a green stuffing as well. It was fun to make people keep guessing about the stuffing as we had all gathered at my brother's place for holi. My nieces had a good time gobbling up more gujhias that had holi colours in them. Or so they thought.

For the red gujhia, 1/2 cup of grated beetroot was sauteed in a tsp of ghee and then added to 300 gm khoya and more chopped nuts and raisins, grated dry coconut etc to make the regular gujhia stuffing. Rest of the procedure was the same as these gujhia. The only change I did in the beetroot stuffing is, I changed the cardamom flavouring in usual gujhia to a combination of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon flavours. These spices complemented the beets flavours really well.

For the green gujhia I made a coarse paste of 250 gm of hara chana, sauteed it with 1 tbsp ghee till it becomes a little dry and darker green. Doing it on low flame in a thick base kadhai helps in getting the right consistency in about 10 minutes. Then I added 1 cup of fine grated dry coconut (kopra), 3/4 cup of sugar and mixed everything well. Cardamom powder and finely chopped pistachios were added for flavours. The remaining procedure of the pastry dough, rolling and stuffing the gujhia was the same as this recipe.

And I also baked some gujhia this time too, I actually made gujhia 3 times this season, but all of them got over really quickly. My dad loved the baked ones I made without any added sugar. The pastry dough was kneaded using fresh malai and the total fat content was minimal and yet a nice rich taste in the final baked gujhia. Even I liked those as I never enjoy having too much sugar, the natural sweetness of khoya is enough for my taste buds. Try doing that next time you make gujhias and see how you like them.

Friday, March 14, 2014

bring the colours to your food this holi : kanji vada, dahi vada, thandai and gujhia for the spring festival holi

Holi is the spring festival in the North India, the festival of colours as it was meant to be. Spring colours were brought into homes, flowers of Palash or Tesu (Butea monosperma), Marigold, Rose petals and Red Sandal wood were used for spraying on each other, I wish I lived in the older times. The chemical colors and the rowdy hooligan nature of this festival puts me off since childhood. I would most preferably stay at home and indulge in some festive foods. Gujhia was always a favourite and now I make a fried version of gujhia and a baked version of gujhia too. This year I have prepared for a fruity stuffing for my gujhia, will share that soon.

Thandai is synonymous with holi and Banaras, the Cannabis leaves are used in this drink for this occasion as this is the season for Bhang (cannabis) drinks.. Falgun that is :-)
And I already had a really nice thandai at Oxford book store, it was bhang free for obvious reasons, will make my own thandai tomorrow may be.

Want to tell you how may garden is full of spring colors as well. Here are a few pictures..

Dahi vada and malpua was another must do on holi, I still try and make these as these are the only ways we feel the festivity. We make fresh hot malpuas for breakfast on the day of holi and I am yet to post the recipe here. I promise to get that done this time around. I have posted a syrupy version of malpua but the deep fried version of malpua is more like doughnuts without the holes. The recipe is definitely coming here very soon.

I made the kanji vada, deep fried urad daal (skinned black lentil) fritters soaked in a fermented drink called kanji. These are so yummy people are known to crave for them when kanji is not available, though one can make kanji easily at home. Just dip the small vadas in the kanji and refrigerate for a day, it stays well for a week if refrigerated.

To make the vadas you have to follow the recipe for plain dahi vadas. Soak skinned urad daal (black lentils) overnight, drain the water and blend it into a smooth paste. Whip the paste into a smooth and light batter. Now drop small spoonfuls in hot oil and deep fry on medium heat. Drain and dunk all vadas in the prepared kanji. Refrigerate and serve as required.

For dahi vadas I used the same batter, just the vadas are made with a hole. These vadas have to be soaked in hot water for 2 hours, drain and then dip them all in whipped yogurt mixed with seasoning.

Serve chilled topped with whatever you like.

Dahi vada recipe has been posted long back. I make different version many a times, going back to my grandmother's recipe of ginger and black cardamom spiced dahi vadas sometimes. This dahi vada is a plain vada made without any seasoning in the batter, the same batter as the kanji vada as mentioned.

The dahi (yogurt) is lightly spiced with salt, pepper, roasted cumin powder and mint powder. A generous sprinkling of coriander greens, some pomegranate seeds and sonth ki chutney is all it requires. One can add a few more ingredients like crushed papdi, chopped onions, green chutney etc and convert it into a dahi vada chaat.

The soaked dahi vadas in yogurt mix can be refrigerated for 2 days. If you keep them dry it can be refrigerated well for a week. Just soak them in hot water till soft, drain and soak them in whipped yogurt mix.

This season I was lucky to witness holi celebration at the Oxford Book Store at Connaught place where a team from The Park was doing a live demonstration of a few holi recipes. They made pistachio and almond thandai, gujhia, namkeen pare and a really nice gulab ki kheer.

It was wonderful to witness colours of holi in a bookshop. I loved the gulab ki kheer the most. Thandai was really good too with rich green colour of pistachios.

Bringing more holi recipes really soon. I am focusing on the malpua as that is one of my childhood favourites and I make it just once a year. Wishing you all the happy colours of spring, more happiness more peace. Stay away from chemical colours and chemically flavoured foods.

Stay tuned for more recipes here..

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Soda Bottle Opener Wala, the Irani cafe in NCR and my tryst with Parsi food

We have such diverse culture of cuisines, some foods we eat have had a history deeply rooted in our own land and some others came travelling across the mountains or sailing across oceans. All our regional foods have had influences from the travelers and traders coming to India and many new ingredients have been added to our repertoire of vegetables and fruits. So the cuisine of the land kept getting richer and richer as as we welcomed the potatoes and tomatoes of the world with open arms. The chillies of various hues and shapes became as Indian as the black peppers. I love the way we have so many shades of foods and cuisines spread lavishly all over our country. We make new discoveries now and then, the beauty of living in abundance.

Parsi food was a new discovery of sorts amidst the quirky decor and witty one liners strewn all over a quaint little place called Soda bottle opener wala. Yes even the name of a restaurant is quirky, just like the Parsis are.

I have not known Parsi food much, I wish I had known the nuances better. I have tried a few recipes from the magazines I have been rummaging since ages. Even before internet there were these magazines and I learnt the lagan nu custard, popatji (a Parsi version of small fried pancakes of Dutch origin called Poffertjes), patrani machhi and salli boti. My Parsi repertoire was limited to these and I never questioned myself on how authentic Parsi my dishes tasted as I have never had them in a Parsi household.

And then I heard of this new restaurant in Cyberhub named as Sodabottleopenerwala, an enterprise of the famous restaurateur A.D. Singh and the menu conceptualized by Chef Sabyasachi Gorai. A Parsi restaurant that resonates with the Irani cafes of old Bombay, it was a much needed space to be filled in the Punjabi heartland. The reviews kept pouring in, I saw the pictures that friends shared and the place kept calling me. I was meaning to go there since the very beginning but something or the other kept me from it. It was Ruchira who suggested we meet there and the plan was made within minutes, Deeba reached early, I had to ask for directions and Cyberhub took our breath away by it's vibrant young crowd, an art exhibition going on and fancy eateries all around.

The menu cards are so quirky you would hold them for a while and smile wide.
Iranis don't feast with their eyes, but their nose. One of the 'statements' on the menu card says.

Did I tell you how we loved the food and stuffed ourselves to the gills. Literally. I felt as if I had known Parsi food for ever, easy on the palate, homely and served with so much warmth.

Raspberry soda was phenomenal, lightly sweet and tart drink with soda that includes the pulp and crunchy seeds of raspberry. They say 'Nothing comes between an Irani and his egg, except Raspberry'. No wonder :-)

The Masala Soda was good, the sweetest of the lot as expected, but good. The muddled Shikanjbin with crushed plums was wonderful. Good drinks to wash down the ample amount of food we had.

We tried the Goan Sausage Pao, the Kheema Pao, Tameta Papeta per Eeda, Aloo Aunty's Vegetable Cutlet, Bhendi Bazar Sheek Paratha and the Vada Pav. Each one was better than the other and even the chutneys and onion rings were perfect.

Aloo Aunty's Vegetable Cutlet was panko crusted mixed vegetable cutlet, one of the best vegetables cutlet that I have tasted, very good texture. The tamarind chutney served with it was perfect too.

The Vada Pao was just like we had at a Linking Road shop at Bombay, yummy to the core. The Keema Pao was lipsmackingly  good. The keema subtly spiced and the Pao soft and spongy, FRESH. The portions are so suitable for my kind of eating, you can have 2 nibbles of bread with all the keema, the way I like it.

Tameta Pateta per Eeda is totally my kind of food, those who follow me on my facebook page, would know why. It felt like comfort food :-)

The Bhendi Bazar Sheek Paratha is yet another classic, though I don't like any roti of this kind now, but the taste and textures in this were something I would have loved 2 decades back. It reminded me of a few favourites from the past. This one thing I wont order when I go back to SBOW again but I know many who would be content with only this kind of sheek paratha.

The Parsi special Patra-ni Machhi was done using Basa fillets, small parcel of coconut soaked fish with flavours of coriander greens. Done perfectly I must say, though I like it with Pomfret or Bhetki fillets better. But Basa is becoming popular with Delhi folks as most of them don't like a fishy fish.

Nicely done, good flavours.

By now, I was eyeing the Berry pulao. Yes I was. It looked so good and the server told us to mix it well so the flavors seep into the rice, Ruchira mixed it well and we took several helpings of this delectable Berry pulao with boneless chicken.

One of the best pulaos that I have had. I want to recreate it at home definitely.

 Oh I want to cook it next week. Can't wait for this berry pulao, or I might go to SBOW again. This is addictive stuff.

This Kolmi vada is a Prawns fritter that is nested within rings of onion, battered lightly and deep fried. The sinful indulgence that makes you feel guilty. I stopped myself at one, but it was done perfectly.

Salli Boti was a known flavour. This is the only dish that is made using mutton on bone as Arunava (Manager at SBOW) informed us and it does full justice.

 I loved the way almost everything is served in baking pans and tins. It adds the feel of home cooked food, served in a homely manner. The only place I know that serves food in baking pans is The pizzeria at Banaras, that is in its own league.

The desserts were good too. The Five Star Brownie kept Ruchira amused. It was good indulgence of dark chocolate and bits of five star chocolate in it, oozing the salted caramel.

The Toblerone Mousse was good too.  I am not too find of chocolate so took a bite from each. Both were well made.

 I found the Mawa Cake really good. Might bake it myself sometime soon. A rich, slightly dense cake that is tastes great by itself. Would be a good accompaniment to tea or coffee. Loved the presentation, slightly quirky, totally classy I must add.

The reason I like all our traditional foods is, the food is real. Not factory produced uniform shapes of this and that assembled in a front kitchen that tastes boring even though the food is addictive sometimes, thanks to additives and taste enhancers. Not the case with real food served by passionate Chefs working in real kitchens. This was the thought when I dug into the Tameta Papeta per Eeda and found it as good as home cooked. And the story unfolded into even better flavours, you witnessed it with me right now.

It really felt like sitting with a Parsi family and the icing on the cake was when Anahita Dhondy suggested a lemongrass ginger brewed tea to wash down the crumbs of Mawa Cake. It was just perfect.

The only thing I would never order is that stupid Falooda. I hate falooda even though it has one of my favourite things in it. The subza seeds. Subza seeds (Basil seeds) are wasted in Falooda I feel.

Okay I wont crib about falooda now. I didn't take a sip from the glass and I loved loved every single thing we tried at SBOW. That is incredible by any means

I never knew Lemongrass and ginger brewed tea was a staple in Parsi Households. It has been my favourite for ages. I told you I felt at home, I felt like eating in a Parsi household.

Wanted to tell you one more thing, I always get the idea about an eatery by the kind of people it attracts, that is when we travel and look for places to eat. Here at Soda Bottle Openerwala you would see many Parsis frequenting the place, many of them senior citizens and that makes you trust the place even more.

I was talking about history that is deeply rooted in the food culture. Sodabottleopenerwala keeps the promise.

Monday, March 3, 2014

achari mirch wala keema | minced meat curry with pickled (stuffed) red chillies

Pickled red chillies is a favourite with many UP wallahs and we like it with daal chawal, with parathas and with just anything we are eating. Recently a dear friend loved it with her curd rice and then I also tried it that way, only to be charmed all over again by this humble traditional pickle that this laal mirch ka bharva achar is.

This recent tryst with one of my favourite pickles reminded me of a paneer curry I had at Shangri-La Hotel recently, the curry was cooked with a hint of the same red chilly pickle. I had planned to cook the curry with minced meat and now it was impossible to resist the recipe. We both loved this hot keema curry that had chillies of three types making the chilly flavours deep and potent. With a light raita and fluffy khameeri rotis this curry was just out of this world.

I make another keema curry with green chillies and loads of garlic and that one is totally a different thing. That lasun mirch wala keema is a creamy and mild curry with prominent aromas of garlic and chillies but this achari mirch wala keema is hot and robust. Using ghee for cooking makes it tastier as flavours are well rounded up with a bit of fat. I used just a tbsp of ghee but even that makes a good difference.

(serves 2-3)
mutton mince (keema) 300 gm
finely diced onions 1/2 cup
chopped garlic 2 tbsp
broken dry red chillies (choose hot or mild, or skip if you can;t handle too hot) 2-3
minced ginger 1 tbsp
everyday curry powder 2 tsp
turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
ghee 1 tbsp
salt to taste (3/4 tsp)
fresh red chillies (pickling variety) 2
hung curd 2 tbsp
bharva mirch ka achar 1 inch piece


Heat the ghee in a pan (kadhai) and tip in the chopped ginger and garlic. Fry these till they get aromatic and then add the chopped onion, fry them too till they are pinkish brown.

Add the spice powders and mix them well. Add the mutton mince (the keema), salt and stir fry till the keema gets almost cooked. It takes about 10-12 minutes.

Half length wise, deseed and slice the fresh red chillies and add to the cooking mixture. Add the hung curd and mix well. Bhuno (stir fry) till the mixture gets almost dry, it takes about 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of water, cover and simmer the curry for 5 minutes. Adjust consistency by adding a little more water of required, check seasoning and serve hot.

It doesn't need any garnish but you can use slivered bell peppers if you wish. Even chopped coriander greens are not required but you can add them for another dimension in flavours.

You can add a little magaz paste (melon seeds paste) to this curry if you want it a bit creamy and the heat milder. Magaz paste also increases the volume of the curry so much so that an added 2-3 tbsp of magaz paste will result in an extra cup of the curry with same ingredients.

You might like to have a squirt of lime juice if you are not having any raita with this curry. Otherwise this curry just needs a good fluffy khameeri roti or a soft roomali roti and a light cucumber raita or may be a raw tomato salsa type salad.