Monday, July 17, 2017

kundru alu tamatar ki subzi

I like kundru (Ivy gourd or tendli) a lot although my mom used to cook it only like this kundru ki lehsuni bhujia. I remember my research guide Dr. Maya Goyle used to bring a really nice kundru ki subzi and as she would always pack a lunch box for me as well, I have enjoyed a lot of her cooking too. A senior in my lab also used to bring some Tamil style food and that also had some kundru sometimes, the reason was that everyone cooked whatever was in season back then. I have been blessed indeed in matters of food. 

Later when I made some other versions of kundru in my own kitchen, the flavours were the reminiscences of those lunch boxes we enjoyed together, exchanging recipe notes most of the times. 

Recently when I tried adding kundru to the potatoes my husband loves in his lunch box, I thought of adding some tomatoes to make it a saucy subzi that can be eaten on its own with boiled eggs. He has stopped taking rotis or rice in his lunch box to keep it light, he thinks a full meal makes him feel sleepy in the office. I agree to that.

The saucy kundru ki subzi turned out to be so flavourful that I have been repeating it whenever I see some fresh kundru in the market. 

(2 large servings) 

250 gm kundru sliced thickly 
One large potato (100 gm or so) boiled, peeled and diced
2 large tomatoes (150 gm approx) diced 
2 tsp minced garlic 
1/2 tsp red chili powder or to taste or paprika powder
Salt to taste 
1/4 tsp turmeric powder 
Pinch of pepper powder 
1 tbsp mustard oil 
1/2 tsp seeds of fenugreek 


Heat the mustard oil in a deep pan and tip in the fenugreek seeds. Add the minced garlic as soon as the fenugreek turns deep brown and aromatic, tip in the sliced kundru over it and toss to mix. 

Now add the cubed potatoes, toss to mix well. Add the salt, turmeric, pepper and chili powders and mix. Keep tossing for 3-4 minutes till the vegetables look glazed. Now add the tomatoes, mix and cover to cook for 5 minutes on low flame. 

The tomatoes should get pulpy by the end of 5 minutes. Mix well and sprinkle some water if you need to make it more saucy. 

Serve as desired. It makes a nice subzi to be served with roti or dal chawal meals, we usually eat it with boiled eggs as a salad for our lunch. The instagram picture will give you an idea how we prefer eating many of subzis.

Kundru ki subzi with potatoes and tomatoes is the simplest of recipes I have made till date. Sometimes I just add everything together and cover for 8-10 minutes and give it a good stir in the last step. The subzi tastes great every time. The garlic, chili or paprika and tomatoes make a flavourful base for kundru, which is a slightly tart vegetable and has a great texture too. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

how to make arbi ki kadhi

Arbi (Colocasia) corms are not a frequent ingredient in my kitchen though we love Arbi leaves pakodas known as rikwachh. I get some arbi whenever I see fresh and plump corms as this arbi ki sookhi subzi and ajwaini arbi helps break a routine of an overload of greens everyday.

arbi (colocasia)

Arbi (colocasia) ki kadhi can also be called as dahi wali arbi but since the consistency and taste of the final dish is similar to a regular kadhi, it is known as arbi ki kadhi. I guess this dish has a Marwari origin but I am not sure, it could be a Kayastha traditional as well. I don't know where did I pick up this recipe as I have been making it for almost two decades. It is quite possible that the recipe was different when I started cooking it and it changed with my own preference. 
arbi ki kadhi

I know at least one family in Banaras who makes alu ki kadhi in a similar way and we make a version of dahi wale alu too but that recipe is quite different in taste and feel.

I had stopped making this arbi ki kadhi as well for some reason. The preference is always some green seasonal vegetables so the root vegetables get ignored in my kitchen. Recently I realised the cook who works part time for me is always happy making kadhis and makes nice Sindhi kadhi, tamatar ki kadhi, punjabi kadhi and my version of Banarasi kadhi as well. 
I was reminded of this arbi ki kadhi because of her and then I decided to teach her this version too. I have been teaching her the simplest of recipes so she can cook my kind of food, else the cooks make some punjabi mishmash most people like and have become dependent on ready made masala and sauces. 
Coming back to the arbi ki kadhi, it is made without any besan (chickpea flour) in it mostly. But you can add a teaspoon of besan or wheat flour dissolved in water to prevent the yogurt from curdling if you feel so, this process was called as Aalan lagana in older times. 

(2-3 servings) 
200 gm arbi (colocasia) boiled and peeled
1 cup yogurt, preferably sour 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder 
1 tsp coriander powder 
Salt to taste 

For tempering 
1 tbsp mustard oil 
Pinch of asafoetida 
1/4 tsp fennel seeds 
1/4 tsp small mustard seeds (Rai)
10-12 seeds of fenugreek 
2 dry red chilies broken in 3 pieces each 
3 cloves 
1/2 inch piece of cinnamon 
1 lightly crushed black cardamom 
1 tbsp of crushed Kasuri or Nagori methi (optional)
slit green chilies (optional)


Chop the boiled and peeled arbi in thick slices and keep aside. 

Whisk the yogurt with turmeric powder, cumin and coriander powder, salt and keep aside. 

Heat the oil, add asafoetida and other tempering ingredients one by one in that order, keeping the flame low. Once the tempering is aromatic add the sliced arbi and stir to mix. 
Cook while stirring and mashing some of the arbi so it becomes a little pasty. Note that you want only some of the arbi to get mashed and keep most of the arbi slices intact. The mashed part of the arbi will help thicken the kadhi. 
Add the crushed Nagori methi and mix well.

Now add 1/2 cup of water and let it come to a soft boil. Keep the flame low and pour the yogurt mix slowly. Simmer for 10 minutes, adding some water if required. 

arbi ki kadhi

Serve hot with a little ghee on top and a few slit green chilies if you wish.. You can finish the kadhi with a final tadka or red chili powder heated with ghee. 

This arbi ki kadhi tastes great with plain roti or boiled rice and makes a great side dish for elaborate Indian thalis. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

royal cuisines of India : an introduction to the cuisine of Bhainsrorgarh (Rajasthan)

That's a pulao and not biryani, Hemendra Singh Ji corrected me when I called it biryani, almost in a slip of the tongue. I knew instantly that the food is considered kosher in this household. A pulao is much more delicate than a biryani and needs more precision in the cooking process. And this pulao was a real treasure, infused with fresh rose petals and mild hint of aromatic spices, the meat not spicy and the rice that imbibes the flavours of the meat, and yet the rose petals shine through.

cuisine of Bhainsrorgarh

The kind of food one eats with all the senses and remembers for ever, that's the food you will get when you are dining with Bhainsrorgargh royals. Bhainsrorgarh is a principality located along the river Chambal, another river Bamani flowing along the other side of the Bhainsrorgarh fort, which has an interesting history dating back to 2nd century BC. The present day fort is now a heritage luxury hotel, built in 1740s and run successfully by the erstwhile royal family to which Hemendra Singh Ji belongs. 

We had attended a grand dinner at ITC Maurya last month, called as the royal high table, celebrating some of the royal cuisines of the country where the royal families of Kangra, Sailana (Madhya Pradesh), Akheraj (Rajasthan), Bhainsrorgarh (Rajasthan), Rampur (western UP), Salarjung Hyderabad), Kashmir (Dogra cuisine) had showcased their cuisines and it was such a sensory delight. Chef Manisha Bhasin and her team had curated this high table and the royal family members had cooked all the food themselves, the guests were seen licking their fingers and talking about the food endlessly. 

One of the most intriguing cuisines that we came across at the ITC Maurya royal high table was the Bhainsrorgarh cuisine which has taken influences from Mewar and Marwar regions of Rajasthan and is essentially a Rajputana cuisine depending heavily on game meats and local vegetables and grains. The makai ka soweta (main course) and makai ke kan (dessert), the safed Maas with green chilies and pulao had me smitten and luckily I got an opportunity to be hosted by Hemendra Singh Ji and his better half Vrinda Kumari Sigh last month.

cuisine of Bhainsrorgarh

It turned out to be such a treat that we will remember for a long time to come. The food and the family stories interwoven together, the flavours and how they came into the cuisine, the family rituals around food were shared generously by the royal couple, leaving us mesmerized.

cuisine of Bhainsrorgarh

The dining table was laden with so much food I wondered if we will be able to taste everything and do justice to the taste, but among the family stories, food fables and recipe discussions the time just flew past and it was midnight before we realised. Hemendra Singh has a legacy of great cooks in his parents and grandparents but the most interesting fact is that he has done some improvement to the traditional recipes in terms of balancing the flavours and presentation etc., and the result is spectacular. He still takes pride in cooking all by himself and all the food was made by the couple themselves with little help from their staff. 

I will talk about the most uncommon foods that we tasted at their home first. The Chakki ke sule were actually pure wheat gluten marinated really well, skewered and grilled to perfection, retaining its meaty and moist texture intact.

chakki ke sule

The Bakre ke chaap I remembered from the ITC Maurya buffet, very well marinated and wonderfully grilled, establishing the fact that skillful grilling enhances the flavour of meats.

bakre ki chaamp

The Sabut Bakre ki Raan was a delight to dig in, marinated with an aromatic blend of spices along with figs paste that gave it a wonderful texture and earthy sweet flavour too.

bakre ki raan

Makai ke kan (a dish like makai ka kees, almost like upma, made with fresh corn) is a breakfast dish, served as a snack sometimes, made a wonderfully light main course dish too. The same fresh corn was used to make makai ke meethe kan, a dessert that is a rustic dessert distinctly different from other Indian kheer recipes. 

The guwar phali ki subzi, made with tender guwar and lots of garlic and coriander etc. was a delight to taste. Guwar grows a lot in Rajasthan and it is cooked like a staple vegetable, I was glad to see guwar being included in the menu as a representative of local flavours.

Jackfruit was cooked in a milky stew without spices and tasted nothing like I have had with jackfruit before. Served in a heirloom brass handi this Doodhiya Kathal was something to remember.

doodhiya kathal

The safed Maas with Hari mirch was another dish that I can't stop raving about. Subtle flavour of green chilies, mildly hot and so flavourful, this safed maas was my favourite at the ITC Maurya showcase as well. This is absolutely my kind of meat curry.

safed maas

A chicken curry that was made in the ghutwa (pulled meat) style was another gem, we were told it was named after the Nawab whose recipe it was, called as Nawab Narendra Baksh chicken.

Nawab chicken

The simple looking yellow dal called as Dal Bidwal was such an unsuspecting gem on the table. Perfectly cooked, ghutwa (slow cooked and completely disintegrated) dal redolent with garlic and ghee made for a lovely pairing with the Batiya roti, made perfectly by their kitchen help. 

Jholdar desi Maas is an everyday meat curry and we were told it is eaten in a specific way for homely meals. The Batiya roti (a rustic flaky roti) is kept at the base of a shallow bowl called as Tasla and the meat curry is poured over the roti directly. One starts breaking the roti from the sides while it keeps soaking in the centre and gets even more delicious by the time one eats the last morsel. Such simpler traditions are rarely talked about at royal tables and I admire Hemendra and Vrinda Singh for keeping alive such homely traditions.

jholdar maas

Last but not the least, the Gulabi Pulao where every grain of rice soaked with the flavours of meat and roses, both blending in perfectly along with mild spicing.

gulabi pulao

The dessert, along with the meethe makai ke kan, was an intriguing dish called as Amrit Ghutka. It was a chana dal halwa, made in porridge consistency and the name was given by Hemendra Singh's father who was a poet and very fond of naming dishes poetically. Amrit ghutka is something heavenly that slides down the throats quickly. 

Hemendra Singh has definitely taken his Rajpootana cuisine a few notches higher with his own inputs, the good news is that they are into the business of catering too and deliver their Rajpootana Kitchen food all over Delhi and NCR, on prior booking. 

I was told they serve the same food at the Bhainsrorgarh fort Hotel as well, tempting me to plan a visit to the idyllic destination it looks like. I will tell you more when I visit Bhainsrorgarh which is quite close to Kota. The pictures of the majestic fort by the deep gorge of Chambal tempts me more. 

Stay tuned for more stories about Bhainsrorgarh.