Friday, December 23, 2016

Banaras food festival at ITC Maurya, New Delhi | Banaras ka khana goes places

As I mentioned in the last blogpost about Dal ki dulhan, Banaras ka khana was showcased once again and this time at ITC Maurya in Delhi. It is a matter of pride that the food from an ancient city is being celebrated in modern times and there are more and more people who connect with the food through the culture and heritage of the region.

Regional foods are generally being appreciated more in today's times but it gives me immense pleasure when Banaras comes to the food map of India as a 'micro' region owing to its rich cultural heritage that has shaped shaped the culinary journey too.

Here is a glimpse of the food served and the decor of the restaurant Pavillion, where the Banarasi food was served as a dinner buffet everyday for close to 2 weeks.

This time the Banaras food was presented with all the cultural inputs from its Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb and I requested Ms Rana Safvi, who writes on Ganga Jamuni culture of north India to bring in the Muslim food traditions into our Banaras ka khana showcase. Rana ji's maternal grandparents served the Kashi Naresh as the state's Diwans for 4 generations so the recipes from her maternal grandmother's home were brought to the table and make the food experience truly Ganga Jamuni..

The Ganga Jamuni flavour of the food was appreciated by everyone. We were told the restaurant at the ITC Maurya was so full for the first time after demonetization and that came as a sweet complement. Most of the food we served has been shared in the form of Banaras special recipes here on the blog and you would recognize some of them from these pictures.

I wouldn't talk about the food much as it is for the guests to appreciate or critique, but we were happy to see the serving bowls getting empty really fast. We got to interact with some of the guests and realised that the forgotten homely flavours are always appreciated and real food wins hearts no matter what.

We had taken care to serve seasonal foods from Banaras and enjoyed cooking all these winter delicacies for the festival.The warmth of dal ki dulhan, the rich yet subtle flavours of khoya matar makhana, the Banarasi kadhi, different types of nimona, the Qaliyas and the Kormas, the Salans came together to celebrate Banaras in it's full glory.

I am tankful to the readers of this blog who have inspired me enough to keep writing here and keep sharing the food from my city. Some food writers shared the enthusiasm and wrote nice thing about our food.

Banaras ka khana blog got a mention in the list of 10 food blogs that will survive in style, owing to the knowledge and information shared..

Some of the articles about our Banaras ka khana festival are here. I will keep adding to this list as and when I see more articles written about the festival.

Sourish Bhattacharya wrote here and appreciated our effort.

Marryam Reshii included Banaras ka khana in her list of best meals of the last year, read about it here.. 

Shibani Bawa wrote here about how she found the Ganga Jamuni aspect appealing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

recipe of dal ki dulhan | a light lentil soup with whole wheat dumplings

Dal ki dulhan or dal pithi was our favourite one pot meal during growing up years. The fun shapes of the whole wheat dumplings probably made it more enjoyable I guess.

recipe of dal ki dulhan

Dal ki dulhan is a name that comes from the specific shape of the dumplings that looks like the veil of a bride. The shaping of the dumplings can be different and the name of the dish also changes accordingly. It is called dal pithi when the dumplings are shaped like small discs or Orecchiette pasta. If the dumplings are stuffed it is called dal ka dulha.

Similar recipes of lentil soups with dumplings made of whole wheat or chickpea flour are called as Varan phal or dal dhokli in Maharashtra and Gujrat respectively. I have heard from my friends from Maharashtra and Gujrat how favourite this dish is in their homes too. I think the beauty of this one pot meal lies in its simplicity.

But all simple dishes can be a little tricky to master if you trust my experience. There are very few ingredients and very few steps involved in this recipe of dal ki dulhan but you miss a single ingredient or a single step and the result may be not so favourable.

The dal ki dulhan should be cooked slowly to achieve a nice glutinous bite that the dumplings acquire, the dal should be thin and soupy so it gives a perfect base to the plain dumplings. The tadka you can choose the way you like but don't meddle with the cooking time or consistency of the dal.

recipe of dal ki dulhan

Without further ado, let me share the recipe so you can make it at home for your next meal.

(2 servings)

for the dal
2 tbsp mung dal
2 tbsp masoor dal
salt to taste
1/2 ts turmeric powder
1 tbsp green chili and garlic paste or to taste  

for the dumplings 
1/2 cup whole wheat flour made into a dough suitable for making roti
(I used a mix of barley, chickpea and wheat flours)

for the tadka 
1 tbsp ghee
pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp red chili powder or to taste


Mix all the ingredients for dal with 1.5 cups of water and pressure cook till done. If you are cooking dal for the first time, note that it takes about 10 minutes after the first whistle. Let the pressure cooker cool down before opening the lid. If cooking in a pan the dal takes about 35 minutes to cook.

Meanwhile divide the dough into 20 small balls and roll each ball just like thin pooris. Keep them dusted with flour so they don't stick together. 

Open the pressure cooker lid and mix the dal. It should be smooth and thin just like soup. Add a cup of water and simmer on low heat. Shape the dumplings one by one and slip into the simmering dal.

To shape the dumplings into dal ki dulhan, lift from four corners and join them in the center so 4 loops are formed taking a butterfly shape. Don't worry if you can't shape the dumplings perfectly as it wont affect the taste.

Once all the dumplings are in the dal soup let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, the time depends on how thin the dumplings are. If you have rolled them too thin they will be read in 5-7 minutes. I used mixed grain flour to make the dumplings hence they took longer to cook.

Adjust consistency and seasoning while the dal soup simmers, it thickens after the dumplings are added.

Prepare a tadka by heating the ghee in a ladle (or tadke pan).
Add hing and cumin seeds to hot ghee and let it splutter. Take the ladle off the flame.
Add the chilli powder, mix and pour this tadka immediately into the simmering dal ki dulhan.

Serve in soup mugs as a meal. No need to garnish but a spring on coriander leaves wont hurt.

recipe of dal ki dulhan

The simplicity of such a one pot meal remains in the no fuss no garnish approach. This is one dish you would find yourself slurping gleefully, may be with an extra dollop of ghee on top if you are like me.

Yes, there are a few people who are not too fond of dal ki dulhan or dal ki pithi as much as I am. But recently when I made this dish in the kitchen of ITC Maurya where I am curating a food festival of Banaras cuisine, this dal ki dulhan found eager fans and it was loved by all.

The food festival about the Ganga Jmuni tehzeeb of Banaras is being hosted at The Pavilion at ITC Maurya, from 9th of December to 18th of December and my partner in crime this time is a noted historian Ms. Rana Safvi who brings in some delectable food from the kitchens of her maternal grandmother. Rana's paternal grandparents were from Ramnagar, the satellite town of Banaras and we are looking forward to a great jugalbandi of our sister cuisines. 

The dal ka dulha is cooked the same way but the dumplings are stuffed with a urad dal peethi (spiced mix) before simmering in the dal soup. We will be serving the dal ki dulhan and dal ka dulha both at ITC Maurya.

I will share more details really soon. Watch out this space.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

recipe of kachri ka achar | traditions of foraging and preserving the best of season

Kachri is a small cucumber that grows wild by the fields in the end of summer season. Some smaller kachris keep growing till early winter and that is how I found them when I went to Tijara farm couple of weeks ago. I love kachri ki chutney made with dhaniya patta and garlic etc and another kachri ki chutney with sesame seeds and keep making it frequently.


I had heard about the kachri ka achar from my house help and the farm workers at Tijara so I gave it a try this season. I was not very hopeful because I always preferred the chutney more.

But as soon as the pickle got 3 day old and I tasted it I had to change my opinion. This was the most unusual pickle I had ever tasted. The slightly tart and very mild bitter flavour of kachri responded really well to the north Indian pickling process, though I had tweaked the pickling spices to suit the kachri.

Note that kachri grows at ground level and sometimes it get buried after rain or slush caused by irrigation water. Some of the kachri may be covered with a thin layer of dirt so soak it in water and rinse well before chopping it. 


first mix 
400 gm kachri cleaned and quartered lengthwise 
45 gm salt or 1 tbsp and a little more
1.5 tbsp turmeric powder
1.5 tbsp red chili powder
2 tbsp mustard powder

second mix 
200 ml mustard oil
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp nigella (kalonji) seeds
1 tsp Bishop's or ajwain seeds 
2 tsp coarse fennel powder

recipe of kachri ka achar


Toss the first mix together in a glass bowl and mix well. Keep it in sun for a day or two till it dehydrates a little.

Heat mustard oil to do the second mix once the first mix start looking a little dry and tip in the spices together. Take the pan off heat immediately and pour into the first mix. Stir and mix well.

Fill in sterilized jars.

recipe of kachri ka achar

The pickle gets ready to eat in 2 days though it can be eaten at any point during the mixing process. After 2-3 days the kachri becomes soft and the taste is very unique and pleasant.

Since I made this pickle for the first time I will wait to see how it behaves and how well it preserves. Now after about 2 weeks the pickle has not changed at all so I conclude that the texture will remain the same for a long time.

I will definitely update here about the shelf life as and when I see changes in the pickle jar I kept for myself. The other jar was sent to Tijara as a gratitude gesture.

Some of the kachri I brought is being dehydrated. Since winter sun is not enough for sun drying I am keeping it in refrigerator for cold drying that may take some time.

Kachri is a nutritious wild food and should be used frequently in everyday food. If the pickle doesn't suit your taste you can always depend on the chutney. Some people say the taste of millet rotis gets enhanced when eaten with kachri chutney and white butter. I have tried that combination and can vouch for that.

Let the kachri ka achar be for bajre ki khichdi or any khichdi we make during winters.