Friday, September 08, 2017

A call to action! Pledge a recipe for #ChutneyDay on Sept 24, 2017 - Lets make it awesome!

Its time for me to start bugging everyone for another Indian Food observance day! 

Thank you for all the support got all the Indian food observance days so far, from #AamAchaarDay to #PapadBadiDay #MasalaDay, #PulaoBiryaniDay to #ChaiPakodaDay (more on that on my post on Indian Food Observance Days ). With each food observance day, more and more people have joined the call to action, and together we have grown, learned and shared more and more. And now I am sending out a message so all of us can get together to celebrate #ChutneyDay on 24th September 2017. And this time I have a goal. I want us to collectively target to document 250 chutneys. 

250 should not be difficult at all for us. After all we live in a country where we probably have thousands of chutneys. In fact, more accurate to say, perhaps would be that we have a chutney (or three!) for every Indian cook or chef! Because every cuisine, home and dialect has favourite, special chutneys. So, my dear Indian Food community, lets get to work! Please talk to mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, all those expert cooks in our homes, pull out those family recipe books, community cookbooks, scribbled notes, rack your brains for recipes and let us work together to document at least 250 chutneys of India by 24th September, 2017.

Ways to celebrate #ChutneyDay on 24 Sept 2017

Pledge a Recipe -  On Sunday, September 24, we plan to share 250 links to videos and blogposts on Chutney - collating memories, stories, pledged recipes and other interesting information on chutneys contributed by the food fraternity at large ( on blogposts or via videos on their channels). For this we are asking Chefs, food lovers, food bloggers, home chefs to create recipes posts, videos and blogposts and share the links to these with us by 21 September, so we can compile it all and share it on our larger #ChutneyDay plan. You could pledge a recipe (or more) too!  

Make Chutney! Food lovers, make your family’s signature recipe for Chutney, with your family, especially children! Make it, eat it, celebrate it, and if you can tell the world about, please do, with hashtag #ChutneyDay.

Host a #ChutneyDay Festival - If you are a chef, food outlet owner or a restaurateur, feature a special chutney encourage your customers to try it. Tell us about it on social media.

Host a #ChutneyDay Exchange - Get together with friends and family and do a #ChutneyDay exchange - get together with foodie friends, each of you make large batches of your signature chutney, meet up for chai and exchange signature chutneys with friends. Take home a bunch of new chutneys to brighten up your meals!

Whatever you choose to do, remember to use the hashtag #ChutneyDay on Sunday, 24th September 2017 and share what chutneys you are cooking, eating, your memories, recipes your family makes and stories about Chutneys.

Looking forward to a delicious #ChutneyDay with you. This one should be as easy as saying Chutney!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fasting-Feasting. Understanding the concept of Shravan, Faraal and food eaten at this time

Fasting Feasting (The Concept of Shravan or the Fasting month as it is observed in India)

August, along with being the peak of the monsoon season will also bring with it the month of Shravana, the fifth month of the Hindu calendar that begins from Chaitra. Shravana is also the most auspicious month of the Hindu calender. On the Purnima or full moon day of this month and during the course of the month the star 'Shravan' rules the sky which is why the month is called Shravana. This month is full of innumerable religious festivals and ceremonies and almost all the days in this month are auspicious. The entire month of shravan is observed as one fasting, in which all tamasic or “heaty” foods are shunned, including non-vegetarian foods. This is mostly because digestion is considered sluggish during this season.

While fasting in some form or the other manifests itself in all religions the Hindu religion has various days of fasting throughout the year. For Hindus, fasting is also prompted by the seasons, time of day, and solar and lunar cycles. In this regard, fasting takes on an aspect of health as well by maintaining the body's equilibrium with that of the larger forces of life. Most festivals involve some form of fasting as well, which again goes some way in nullifying the excesses of celebratory feasting.
I remember as a child looking forward to my Grandmother’s fasting days. On those days she would sit apart from the rest of the family for her one meal of the day. We were not aware of the religious connotations of these days then. We just waited for her to be done so we would get to finish the leftovers. There were a host of “treats” we grew to love and look forward to at those times.

There was the deliciously textured Sabudana khichdi - soft globules of sago, steam-cooked to perfection so each particle was separate, with surprising chunks of savoury potato and bits of peanut that caught between your teeth to surprise you. As delicious and my personal favourite was the Morio. This is a dish made from a granular flour called Morio by the Gujaratis it is called Veru Arisi in Tamil. It was cooked like a khichdi in sour yogurt with potatoes and peanuts and seasoned with green chillies. It retained it’s grainy texture on cooking an the chunks of potatoes that were cooked with it absorbed the sourness of the yoghurt and he spiciness of the chillies most deliciously!

What we did not know then was that these things we looked forward to as treats actually had a religious connotation, that they were meant as a form of prayer and self-sacrifice in an attempt to get closer to God. The very word for fasting “Upvas” means to get closer to God. Fasing for eons now has been a penance, a process of purification, physical, emotional and mental, and is accompanied by pursuing good thoughts, good words and good deeds.

The original concept of fasting entailed a deviation from one’s normal lifestyle and devoting one’s day to introspection. The fasting person was supposed to distance himself from the trivia of day-to-day life and think only about God. As any worldly pleasure would distract him from this purpose, he was supposed to follow a simple routine. Hence, rich food was avoided and a simple diet was taken to sustain the body. The intention was neither to starve the body nor to indulge it.

Not only are there many days and reasons to fast in the Hindu Calender, there are also various fasts. At it’s simplest a fast merely entail avoidance of certain foods for a period of time. Meat eating Hindu factions might avoid meat or vegetarians might give up tamasic (heaty) foods. A more moderate fast might involve imbibing of only liquids. Fasting at it’s strictest would involve taking only water for a number of days and requires a cessation of most external activities. The essence of fasting is to eat simply and only enough to sustain oneself for the period of fasting.

The most prevalent method of fasting in the Hindu religion has been that of phal aahar. Charaka and Sushruta two of the major authors of the Ayurvedas classified edible plants into seperate groups and the Phala varga is that of fruit. The word Phala when combined with ahaar which means food or diet comes to mean a diet of fruit but over time it has grown to encompass in a larger sense all foods not raised with a plow or cultivated in contrast to “anna” or cultivated foods. This was the traditional diet ascribed to ascetics hermits and householders who were fasting.

What is 'allowed' during a fast and what is not is mostly a question of perspective but Foods such as grains, lentils, radish, onion, garlic, all salt other than rock salt, hing, red chilli, fenugreek, (methi seeds), jaggery, turmeric, mustard seeds, sesame, betel leaves, maize, rice in all forms, vegetable oil, any thing spoiled, or remaining from a prior meal are proscribed. They are believed to be either tamasic (heaty) and not to be consumed on the day of a fast.

Allowed foods include milk, and certain milk products like yogurt, butter milk, butter and ghee. Vegetables include some gourds like the Dudhi and Parval, Root vegetables like Potato, Suran, Ratalu Kand), Sweet Potato, Arbi and spices like the Green chilli, Coriander, ginger, Dried ginger, (sonth), Lemon, Fruit, Cumin, dried fruit and nuts, sago, (tapica, sabudana), rock salt, (sendha namak), sugar, rock sugar (misri), black pepper, clove, cardomom, rajgeera, coconut, peanut, Shingara, Buckwheat, Arrowroot. Whatever their origins, all of the items of it is harvested from existing sources rather than cultivated. In fact I recalled my grandmother used to source one kind of grain for fasting days. This intrigued me, as all grains cereals and pulses are prohibited on fasting days. On doing a little research I found out that a foodgrain called Shyamaka also known as Apasthamba WAS in fact allowed to ascetics. Just goes to show how innovative one can get in the search for flavor!

The Upvas meal that I recall, was a full Thali. , There was a Kadhi made of made up of Yoghurt thickened with Shingare ka atta or flour made from Water Chestnusts, The vegetable would usually be a spicy potato subzi, Pooris would be made from Rajgeera flour and in the place of rice there would be Samwat ke chaawal or Parsai ke chaawal. There would also be a Khandvi made from Shingare ka atta or a potato pattice stuffed with coconut and coriander or crushed peanut. Dessert would be a kheer made from Sweet potato, Shingare ka atta or Sabudana!

Glossary of Ingredients

Singhare ka Atta is flour made from Waterchestnuts. Water chestnuts have been a part of the culinary annals of India for eons. This flour qualifies as a fast ingredient because the Shigara occurs naturally and is harvested when in season. About 2/3 of the plant floats just beneath the water surface, with only its upper leaves floating on the surface, it has white flowers that submerge after pollination to facilitate fruit formation. The plant bears edible nuts in hard-shelled fruits which resemble the head of a water buffalo with two large curved horns hence the name Shingara and it is these nuts that are made into flour that is used as a staple during fasts, to make chapattis, paranthas, sweets vadas and also as a binder or thickening agent.

Morio, Veru Arisi, Vari che Tandul Sama or Khodri is a wild grain which is ground into flour. The seeds are sun-dried, then threshed to remove the husks. When roughly ground it is cooked like rice, in salted water. The fact that is found wild and harvested and also considered a 'cool' food makes it a viable choice ion fasting days.

Samwat ke chaawal or Parsai ke chaawal are tiny, white, round grains almost like a mini Saboodana. They do not separate on cooking but stay a bit soggy and can replace rice in any recipe.

Kootoo ka Atta is dark in color, but quite tasty and known rich in fibre. It is used in much the same way as the Singhare ka atta, though slightly rougher in texture.

Sendha Namak / Lahori Namak or Rock Salt is considered light and calming in nature as compared to sea salt which is considered slightly heaty. It has no distinct flavor of it’s own so one does not miss ordinary salt and it can be used in the same quantities as ordinary salt. This along with the fact that is harvested from open mines makes it a viable substitute for salt in Fasting food.

This is the unedited version of the article 'Fasting Feasting' that appeared in Savvy Cookbook Issue of August 2005. One of the first articles I wrote on food.

Shravan food in MumbaiMy grandmothers Shravan recipes.
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shravan recipes from my Granmothers and where you can find Shravan Foods in Mumbai!

It's time to Feast errr Fast again! The month of Shravan is here and words like Faral and Upvaas are being bandied about amongst Mumbai's gastronomically inclined. Eateries big and small around the city have also introduced fasting foods to their menu. If you are gastronomically inclined do take the trouble to find out what all the fuss is about.
With all the things that have been happening, more than ever this year I am filled with nostalgia for the past. As a child I remember waiting with anticipation for days when my Grandmother fasted. i was blissfully ignorant of the religious connotations of those days then, we just looked forward to the leftovers. She would sit apart from the rest of the family for her one meal of the day that comprised of a variety of “treats” we grew to love and look forward to at those times. Fluffy deliciously textured Sabudana khichdi - soft globules of sago, steam-cooked so each particle was separate, generously studded with chunks of savory potato and fragments of peanut.

You will find an article I did on Shravan for Savvy cookbook years ago here, and modern fasting recipes that can be served as a five course meal using allowed ingredients such as Shravan Almond and Coconut milk soup, Shravan Minted Sago salad, Shravan Baked Potato with Coriander salsa, Shravan Saffron Sama “Risotto” and Shravan Pomegranate squares here.
And here is a rather nice article in Midday for some interesting Faraal picks from around Mumbai. 
Here are traditional recipes from both my grandmothers.

Moriyo /Morio / Sama ni Khichadi /Sama Ni khatti Ghensh from my Dadi (Paternal grandmother) (Serves – 1-2, Time 30 mins)
My personal favorite was the Morio. A a dish made from a granular flour called Morio by the Gujaratis and Veru Arisi in Tamil. Cooked like a khichdi in sour yogurt with potatoes and peanuts and seasoned with green chillies, it retained it’s grainy texture on cooking and the chunks of potatoes in it absorbed the sourness of the yoghurt and the spicyness of the chilies most deliciously! 
200 gms Samo/Morio
150 gms potatoes (Boiled, peeled and diced)
1 cup /200 ml sour buttermilk/sour yoghurt
2 sprigs of curry leaves
400 ml water
½ tsp rock salt or to taste
1 inch piece ginger, grated
2-3 green chilles, chopped
1 tsp roasted jeera powder (roasted cumin seed powder)
For the tempering
2 tbsp oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 dry red chilli

Wash and clean Sama thoroughly. Strain of water and set damp Sama aside for 30 minutes in the same wet condition. In a large wide mouthed Kadhai add the rock salt chillies, ginger and cumin. Add all three of them to water in a wide mouth kadhai. Add salt and heat it to boil. To temper heat the oil in a small pan, add the Cumin seeds, allow to crackle and add the Curry leaves and Red chilles. Add tempering to the seasoned and spiced water. Add the damp Samo to the flavoured liquid and llow it to cook properly on a medium flame for 10 - 12 minutes. Add the buttermilk/sour yoghurt at this stage along with boiled potatoes. Mix thoroughly. At this point the consistency should be that of a loose runny porridge. If the water has dried out, add a little more and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. Take of flame, cover and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Stuffed Pattice from my Nani (maternal grandmother) (Serves 2 Cooking time 1 hour)
½ kg potatoes, boiled
100 gm fresh coconut grated,
½ bunch coriander, finely chopped
½ lemon juice
rock salt to taste
½ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp ginger and green chilli paste
2 tbsp arrowroot flour
peanut oil for frying

In a bowl, mash the potatoes well. Add in the salt and 1 tbsp of the arrowroot flour. Mix well and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the coconut, cumin powder, coriander, salt, lemon and ginger and green chilli paste. Dust hands with a bit of arrowroot flour. Make a thin disk of the potato mash on your hand. Place ½ a tsp of the coconut filling in it. Bring the potato disk together around the filling to make a small ball. Roll in a little arrowroot flour and fry in peanut oil till golden. Do not stir it too much as it might burst.

Maharashtrian fasting food
To get a taste of Maharashtrian fasting food, try places like Panchshikar Ahaar at Girgaum, Aaswad Upahar and Mithai Griha in Dadar and Kutir Udyog in Thane, look for Upvaas Thalipeeth (shallow fried pancakes made of Bhajani or fasting flour; a special mix of Vari, Sabudana and Rajgira flours), Sabudana Thalipeeth (shallow fried Sago, potato pancakes), Peanut Curry or Danyachi Aamati (curry made of ground peanuts and flavoured with chillies and cumin),  Batatyacha Kees (A Spicy Maharashtrian take on hash browns) and its Sweet Potato Avatar tossed with crushed peanuts; Ratalyacha kees), Ratalyache kaap (Sweet Potato Slices and Sago chips coated in Sugar and the creamy Sago Sabudana Kheer.

Dadar offers a range of popular eateries such as Aaswad, Prakash and Gypsy Corner for Maharashtrian Shravan Food. But my favourite is Vinay Health Home in Girgaon. Their Faraali Missal, Thalipeeth, Sabudana Vada are to die for. ALso try thier regular menu.

Gujarati Fasting dishes
Gujarati Fasting dishes use almost the same ingredients but interpret them into Gujarati style dishes like Kutti na dhokla (dhoklas made of Buckwheat flour), Farali handvo (Potato and Buchwheat flour savory cake) Farali Pattice, Rajgira Puris, Dahi Bateka Kela Nu Raitu (Banana, Potato Raita),  Rajgira Thepla (a special version of Thepla made with Amaranths flour), Kand na bhajia (Yam Fritters), Suran Bateka nu shak (Yam and Potato Subzi). For between meal snacks they have a lot to pick from Bateka no Chevdo (Patato Chivda) Bateka ni katri (Potato wafers), Masallawalla Makhana (spiced, fried Lotus seeds) Guvar ni Sukavni (Fried Guvar that has been dried first.   For dessert there are Doodhi Halwa, Shrikhand and Kopra Pak (coconut halwa).

Soam, the 12 year old establishment at Babulnath has been celebrating Shravan every year since its opening. This year the menu  is bigger then ever! Featuring dishes starting from snacks, like Faraali Pakodi Chaat, Sabudana patties, Faraali Dahi Bhalla, to main course including Faraali Kofta curry with Rajgira Paratha, Faraali Sama Pulav, stuffed puri and Singdana Usal. desserts include faraali malpua, kesar kopra paak and Sweet potato Gulab Jamun. Check out the Faraali Gold Coin Faraali Daal Dhokli and Faraali Idli and sweet potato Sambhar.

Soam Faraal Utsav for the season of Shravan till August end.
Sadguru Sadan, Chowpatty, Mumbai, Soam
Meal for two: Rs 700

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Chai Pakoda Trail through Mumbai on 30th July for #ChaiPakodaDay

So if you know me, you have to have heard that I have been calling out for all of us to celebrate Indian Food Observance Days recently.  Each of the days has seen more and more excitement! And so I am super excited to share that this month we are celebrating #ChaiPakodaDay on 30th July.
More people than ever before, Food bloggers, food lovers, restaurants and more are coming to gether to celebrate Chai Pakoda Day. And it is not surprising! After all who wouln’t want to celebrate the special relationship between chai, pakodas and baarish we have in India ?

I have been super excited at everyone that’s jumping in to celebrate #ChaiPakodaDay so this time, to celebrate and to do my bit, I’ve curated a little #ChaiPakodaDay food trail of Mumbai on Sunday 30th July (tomorrow). Joining me will be Vernika Awal of Delectable Reveries and Tiyash Sen of The Pressured Cooker. The idea is to explore Mumbai from a pakoda shaped lens!
Our day will begin with a tasting of Anaida’s Sour sweet cherry pakodas at the Soda Bottle Opener Walla, Powai. This is a Irani cusiine inspired pakoda created by Anaida in which sour cherry jam and pistachios are stuffed into sweetened rice ball, crumbed and fried. Its so delicious!

Next on our Pakoda Map is the JW Lounge at JW Marriott, Sahar. They have a new Monsoon Menu that’s fablulous and we are going to dip into a few western fries or firangi pakodas, like beer battered onion rings and fried calamari. (FYI there are also many non pakoda options to try for the rest of you, The lounge is a lovely place to savour the Mumbai monsoon from a dry, luxurious vantage!

Leaving the restaurants behind, we head Santacruz next where a bunch of food bloggers willare gathering for a pakoda potluck. The WhatsApp group for this party has been buzzing with pakoda and bhajiya ideas ranging from the traditional to the quirky so this is going to be quite fun, tasting a mélange of pakodas from communities across India.

Our next stop will be Ladu Samrat at Parel; an eatery that is part of the the varied Mumbai culinary legacy, offering simple but delicious classics like laddus, farsan and fried yumminess.  Looking at grazing through batata vada, kanda bhaji and sabudana vada before we head to our next stop.

Our pakoda map then goes on to Soam, opposite Babulnath Mandir.  It is a habit for many people (me included) to pop into Soam around 4pm for a quick snack of chai and their farsan platter that includes a makai wada, ghugra, dhokla and spinach samosa. On Sunday though, we will sampl the Farali fries from their Shravan menu. And maybe a nibble or two of their sizable bhajiya section with a cup or three of their amazing chai!

And though it is not on the map, after eating all this, I have ambitious plans to end our pakoda trail at Ling’s Pavilion, Colaba with a platter or two of corn curd, wontons and fried deliciousness like only they can do!

If you are in one of the areas, drop in and say hello?

In case you want to step out to celebrate #Chai Pakoda Day, heres whats happening…
Soda Bottle Opener Wala outlets in Mumbai have an ongoing #ChaiPakoda Day festival featuring 5 regional Indian cuisine experts showcasing Pakoda’s from their cuisines. Other outlets in India are offering a free pakoda on every chai ordered on Sunday, 30th July 2017.

Soam at Girgaon has an ongoing Shravan menu currently which features Farali Fries alongside their regular menu. They will also offer a special pakoda with every chai ordered to celebrate #ChaiPakodaDay on Sunday, 30th July.

The O22 at the Trident, BKC has a special menu on for the monsoon, as does the Lounge Lobby at the Grand Hyatt featuring fried treats with steaming cups of tea.

I hope this food trail encourages you to go exploring for pakodas in your own neighborhood. But if you have engagements that day or just can’t head out, Do please fry up a batch of your favourite pakodas,  enjoy it with a mug of chai and if so inclined, take pictures and share with all of us through social media.
Wishing everyone a spicy, crispy and tasty #ChaiPakodaDay!
And do remember to use the hashtag #ChaiPakodaDay.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jumaelay Halo! Kutchi Bhatia Cuisine Excerpts from an article I wrote in 2005.

A journey into the history of an unknown community and their food-ways …

Food is essential for human life. However, humans view food as much more than basic sustenance. With sustenance we also apply great significance to the foodways we grew up with. India plays home to myriad religions, cultures and communities, each of them with their own foodways, One such unknown community is the Kutchi Bhatia Community. Descended from a warrior race, Kutchi Bhatias are today largely engaged in trade and commerce, a field in which they have done immensely well. The food they eat is unique in its simplicity and fresh flavor. It is often also hidden under the classification of Gujarati food.

The Kutchi Bhatia Community has a very interesting history. While legend tells of their having descended from Lord Krishna himself, closer in history tangible evidence pinpoints a period some time in the 6th century, when a Raja Bhoopat ruled Lahore. Famous for his valour, courage and administrative shrewdness, the dynasty he founded came to be known as the Bhatti or Bhati dynasty from which the word Bhatia is derived. The Bhatias successively founded Tannot, Deraval and Jaisalmer in A.D. 1156 and ruled successfully until the reign of Raja Mulraj (1316) when the Bhatia race was threatened with extinction.

The Jaisalmer fort had been under siege for a year and with his resources dwindling, Raja Mulraj was forced to take a decision that changed the future course of the Bhatia community. The aged and the young were secreted out of the fort while the king and his army launched a bloody do-or-die offensive! They lost, however, their women choosing death over the dishonor of capture. The remnants of the Bhatias that had escaped the fort, eventually made their way to Punjab. They changed their occupations from that of Kshatriyas or soldiers to Vaisyas and took to trade or agriculture.

Over time they spread out into areas of Rajasthan, MP, Halar and Kutch. Time and Geographical distance factored in and the community fragmented. The root culture was the same but marked albeit subtle differences in the lifestyle, language and larger changes in food habits - due to diet being adapted to locally available ingredients - made themselves apparent. Eventually it was the Bhatias that settled in Kutch that earned the name “Kutchi Bhatia”.

While Kutchi Bhatia food is classified under Gujarati food, there is a marked difference in the cuisines. It does not manifest itself in the names of the dishes; in fact there are a lot of dishes common to both Gujerati and Kutchi Bhatia food. The difference is noticeable in the style of preparation of dishes. Where Gujarati food tends to be oily and leans towards sweet heavily spiced fried foods, Kutchi Bhatia food happens to be one of the healthiest Indian communal cuisines today.

Food is cooked with fresh seasonal ingredients and comes to the table, steaming hot, and straight of the flame. The use of oil is minimal and flavorings lean toward the Surti style with a predominance of leelo masallo (or fresh green masalla), usually a combination of Ginger and Green chilies. The use of garam masalla is minimal and spicing is used to compliment the dish being cooked, at no point overwhelming the natural flavor of the food. Unlike Gujarati food, the sweetness quotient of gur or sugar is selectively used. Gur or Sugar are only added in dishes where a balance of flavors needs to be achieved like in the yoghurt based Kadhi or Khatta Mug (whole mung cooked in yoghurt) or tomato based dishes where there is a need to alleviate the acidity of the tomatoes.

The other difference lies in the inherent ability to innovate of the Kutchi housewife. She will try and vary the menu at each meal, ensuring that along with a new vegetable the Daal is also alternated, either with different Daals or with other preparations like Gol Kokum ji kadhi or Osaman. Rotis might also be alternated with Jowar or Bajra rotis, in which the dough for each roti is mixed individually and flattened by hand.

Some of the most traditional meals of the Kutchi Bhatias aside from the classic Jowar and bajra rotis served with lehsun Chutney are Chutti Khichdi and Osaman – Unlike normal khichdi, Chutti Khichdi made by cooking the daal and rice separately. The daal is cooked in extra water till it splits, the water is then drained and reserved, and meanwhile rice is added to the daal and cooked to a khichdi consistency. The reserved water is then spiced, and made into a Rassam-like Osaman, light, delicate, fragrant with Coriander and Curry leaves and tender coconut. Osaaman may also be made of Dal alone, in which case it is served alongside Lachko Dal in which the  solid dal left after straining out the cooking liquid is temopered with ghee and asafeotida.  

Another classic meal is Khara and Mitha Chavda. Khara Chavda are spicy besan panckaes and Mitha chavda are fermented wheat pancakes that are are sweetened with gur. The spic and sweet pancakes are usually served together.

A proper Kutchi Bhatia meal will consist of a Daal, one or two vegetables, thin ghee dabbed rotlis or Phulkas and some form of salad, all washed down with copious amounts of Chilled Kutchi “beer” or Chaas. There might be a dessert and a farsan preparation to augment the meal if there are guests. It is also the endeavor of the Kutchi Bhatia cook to achieve a balance in flavors. Salty, sweet, spicy and sour, all make their presence felt on your palette at every meal, either through a combination of ingredients or through a combination of dishes i.e. if a dish is characteristically sour it will always be accompanied with a sweet one. A classic example of this is the delicious combination of Kadhi with Puran Polis. (The Kuchi Bhatia Puran Poli is different from its Maharashtrian counterpart in that it is made with tur daal instead of Channa Daal.)

Vegetables served are seasonal, cooked by themselves or in combination with other vegetables or ingredients to best reveal the characteristic flavor of the vegetable. There will be some amount of water added to the vegetable, and it will be cooked to a tender but firm to the touch consistency. Vegetables served are always moist and in light gravy either of the juices released by the vegetable itself or made with onions and tomatoes. Some classic combinations include, Fansi (French beans) cooked with fresh grated coconut, Sambhariyu – assorted vegetables stuffed with spices besan and coconut and cooked in its own juices, Guvar, turiya and Kola – a combination of Guvar, Ridge Gourd and Pumpkin, Doodhi Tameta jo rasavalo shak – white Pumpkin and tomato and Kela Methi jo shak Plantain and Methi subzi. Vegetables are always garnished, some like with fresh green coriander.

Vegetables will also be on the plate in the form of a Salad like the Khaman Kakdi - a refreshing blend of cucumber, crushed peanuts and tender coconut, Kanda Tameta jo Salad – wilted onions and tomato salad, Gajar tameta jo salad – wilted Carrot and tomato salad. There will usually be Chutney and a variety of pickles to pick from as well. The Chutney is usually a fresh one made of Coriander or more seasonal ones like the Raw mango Chutney in which raw mango is ground with cumin and Jaggery.
The pickles made by this community deserve a special mention, in that they are very unusual and delicious. They are also simply made. Some classic pickles are the Methambo – more of a cross between a chutney and a pickle, made of Mango, the Methambo is a combination of sweet jaggery and sour green mangoes that are just beginning to ripen, Davara – a green berry that is made simply by marinating in salt and turmeric and the delicious green pepper pickle in which green pepper is preserved in salt and lemon juice.

The sweet preparations of the Kutchi Bhattias are varied, and a lot of them are common across Gujarati and Rajasthani food but they do have some typical favorites, like the Dudh pak a spiced milk preparation with rice, like a thin Kheer. They also make Srikhand, Mevavati and a host of other sweet dishes. One of the most unusual sweetdishes, that is rare even among the Kutchi Bhatias themselves, is the Tapkhir jo halvo or Arrowroot Halwa. Rarely made today this unique dish is quite delicious and very pretty with the golden translucency of Arrowroot and Saffron.

Today the enterprising Kutchi Bhatia community continues to be an adventurous and enterprising community that comes to the forefront in all their endeavors. Traces of their royal genes are still evident in their tall statures, fair skin and aristocratic appearance. Today the community has spread all over the world and they continue to do well in whatever field the pick and with each step they take, their cuisine travels with them, a link to their illustrious past.

Lachko or Kathan Daal

Time 30 minutes, Serves 4-6

1.5 cup Tur Dal
¼ tsp Turmeric powder
¼ tsp Asafeotida
1” piece Ginger, sliced
1 tbsp Ghee
Salt to taste

Combine the Tur Dal with 9 cups of water, in a cooking pot. 
Add the sliced ginger, and turmeric. Bring it to a boil. Lower flame and leave to simmer.  
When cool strain out the liquid for Osaman and keep aside. 
Heat ghee in a small pan, add asafeotida and let is splutter (30 seconds). Pour this over cooked split gram. Churn the cooked gram to smooth consistency. Return to heat, add salt and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. When it is thickened to a porridge consistency, take it off the gas and serve hot with rice, Kadhi or Osaman.

Osaman (Spiced split gram Water)
½ cup Yellow split gram
1 tsp Ginger–chili paste
4-6 pieces Kokum
3-4 tbsp Jaggery
½ tsp Turmeric powder
For Tempering
1 tbsp Ghee
2” piece White radish, thinly sliced
1 Green chili, slit
¼ tsp Fenugreek seeds
¼ tsp Mustard seeds
¼ tsp Cumin seeds
¼ tsp Asafetida
A few curry leaves
To Garnish
Grated coconut and coriander leaves

Pressure-cook the split gram with 8-9 cups of water. When cool, churn well and add ginger-chili paste, kokum, and jaggery and turmeric powder. Boil this for 10-15 minutes. Heat ghee in a small pan; add fenugreek, mustard and cumin seeds. When they splutter, add asafetida, curry leaves, chili and radish. Pour this tempering over Osaman. Simmer it for 10 minutes. Garnish with grated coconut and green coriander leaves. Serve hot with Kathan daal and rice.
Serves 6

Kobi ja Muthia (Cabbage Dumplings)

Time 1 hour 
Serves 4-6

1 cup Wheat flour
½ cup Gram flour
200 gms Shredded cabbage
1 tbsp Ginger and Green chilli paste
1 tbsp Oil
¼ tsp Soda
½ tsp Sugar
¼ cup Yogurt
Asafeotida, a pinch
Salt to taste

For Tempering2 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
2 tsp Sesame seeds
3-4 pieces (Boria Marcha) Round red chilies
Curry Leaves 2-3 sprigs 
Asafeotida, a pinch

To Garnish
Finely chopped coriander leaves and grated coconut

Mix both the flours and add, oil, salt, sugar, soda and asafetida. Sprinkle a little salt over cabbage and set aside for 10 minutes. Then mix the cabbage and yogurt to the flour mixture. Take a little oil on your palm and bind the dough. Divide it into two. Shape each one in a cylindrical shape and place it on oiled sieve. Steam the Muthias for 15-20 minutes. Remove from sieve and let it cool. Now place them on chopping board and slice them into 2cm. Thick slices. Heat oil in a frying pan, add mustard seeds, when they splutter, add sesame seeds and asafetida. Finally add chilies and curry leaves. Add steamed Muthias to this tempering and mix very gently to coat the tempering to all the pieces properly. Fry them until slightly crisp. Garnish with coriander and coconut and serve with green chutney.

Green Coriander Chutney
Makes 1 cup
1 bunch Coriander leaves, chopped
½ cup Coconut, Freshly grated
1 tbsp Peanuts
1” piece Ginger, chopped
3-4 pieces Green chillies, chopped
1 tsp (each) sugar, salt and cumin seeds
Juice of 1 lemon

Chop coriander leaves coarsely. Put all the ingredients together in a grinder and make a thick paste. Use a little water if necessary. Serve with any savory dish.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Here is your legit excuse to eat Pakodas! Celebrate #ChaiPakodaDay with us on 30 July!

I am back! 

This time I am asking you to celebrate #ChaiPakodaDay on 30 July 2017. 

THIS TIME I am giving you a legit excuse to indulge in Chai Pakodas!

So far we have celebrated #AamAchaarDay, #PapadBadiDay, MasalaDay and #PulaoBiryaniDay. With each of these millions of people have cooked, eaten and shared recipes, stories, memories and celebrated these foods around the country and abroad. And with each day we have hade more and more people organising events around them. In fact for #PulaoBiryaniDay which just went by on Sunday, 25th June  we had Food lovers across India celebrating. In Chennai we had home Chef Sribala cooking a Jackfruit Biryani, organizing a Potluck and taking us on a tour of South Indian Biryanis. In Indore Chef Amit Pamnani organized a pot luck. In Mumbai Chef Ashish Bhasin and I came together to curate a ‘Biryani Trail through India’ for a group of food aficionados at Maya, the Indian restaurant at Trident, BKC.

Why? What will you get?
This is not an agenda driven celebration. Its simply a celebration of monsoons and our collective belief that “Baarish mien Chai pakode to bante hai”, so you do not need anyone’s permission to participate or any agenda. You just need to love chai+pakodas and Indian monsoons…. 

The chai can be any chai, or even coffee (With Kerala style Banana Fritters... YUM) if that is your tipple, and pakoda can be any fried morsel of goodness to match your favourtie tipple. 

What? Oh you are watching your weight? Well consider this, you don’t want to get too light, you might float away on a rainy day! Ok seriously one cheat day, is ok…. And if that is not convincing enough then air-fryer zindabad! 

So come on, and join a whole lot of us in celebrating #ChaiPakodaDay on 30th July. You can do this in a variety of ways. 
No time or don’t cook? 
Order your favourite chai and pakoda pairing, and share on               social medie, using the hashtag #ChaiPakodaDay. Also feel free to share memories,       recipes your family makes, stories about chai and pakoda moments, links to recipes. Just use the hashtag.

Fry up!
If you have time (it’s a Sunday) fry up a chai pakoda combo that is personal/ family favourite or popular in your cuisine. Tweet about it using #ChaiPakodaDay.

Chai Pakoda Meetup 
Get together with family and friends for Chai and pakodas, at home, your favourite tapri, monsoon adda or corner restaurant.

For Food Businesses 
Chef's, food outlet owner and restaurateur, do consider a Chai Pakoda Festival. A special menu or a small offer maybe eg. (Soda Bottle Opener wala did a great promotion for #PulaoBiryaniDay by giving away free drinks for every Berry Pulao ordered and selfie tweeted on #PulaoBiryaniDay.) And Food people / businesses, if you are doing any sort of public meetup, please share it with me so I can make a list and pass it on! 

Use the Hashtag!
Or you are an aloo! Ok seriously just remember to share whatever you do using the hashtag #ChaiPakodaDay. (And even if you don’t want to, just have the Chai Pakodas in solidarity!) 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Lingde, Khutde, Dhekia xaak, Neuro or Fiddlehead ferns, whatever you call them, they are delicious!

An Assamese dish of fiddle head ferns cooked with Kala chana that Gitika Saikia made at the Haan Miholi pop up she did recently reminded me of this post I had been meaning to do.

I love Fiddlehead ferns known variously as Lingde or Khutde and it would be remiss of me not to give them their due devotion here. If you've tasted them, you will understand why. And just how excited I was to get my hands on Fiddlehead Ferns this season (thanks to Gitika again). Wondering what all the fuss is about? That is pretty hard to communicate without making you taste them. But the season is ongoing and there is a good chance you will find them if you go looking in hilly / mountain regions of India. So here is everything you need to know on Fiddleheads, just in case! (Thank me later!)

I learned about Fiddlehead ferns in the first year of being married. I was in Dehra Dun for a holiday. Nanu Chachaji, Shekhar's uncle, had decided to teach me to drive. Truth be told, I never did learn to drive but I DID fall in love with Lingure aka Fiddlehead Ferns! Chahachaji loves them, and every second day he'd make me drive around to a handful of subziwallas he had identified that sold them in season. It had been years since I'd been to Doon in season, so I hadn't eaten them in forever. Until Gitika got me some from a recent visit home to Assam (Along with a few other goodies like teasel gourds and pumkin from her garden!) But I'll stick to the Ferns for now. 

Fiddlehead ferns are the young shoots of edible ferns. Literally nano ferns before they become ferns. Tightly rolled up teeny baby ferns that spring up out of stubs of older plants by riversides and swampy areas, a few weeks after the first monsoon rains. Their compressed spirals (resembling the spiral end of a fiddle, hence the name) emerge, uncurling, stretching for the sun and grabbing for fresh air with all their tiny leafy frondy and tendrilly might. (Almost as though they want to make the most of the moment!) Left on the plant, each Fiddlehead would unfurl into a new frond. 

But they don't thanks to us Fiddlehead crazy foodies! Because boy, are they are popular! Known variously as Lingra, lingri, ningro, Lingure, Khutde, Fiddlehead Ferns are found all over the Indian Himalayas, Nepal, Bhutan and many other parts of the world. Availalble from Kashmir in the North to Assam in the North East. In Kashmir, they are called Kasrod and are popular in Dogra cuisine, pickled into a much loved Kasrod ka achaar. They are also eaten as a leafy vegetable with rotis or parathas. Himachali cuisine calls them Lingri and makes a lingri achaar. In Sikkim, they are called Niyuro and sometimes sauteed with chhurpi, the local cheese and also pickled. In the Kangra Valley they are called Lungdu. In Assam, they are called  
Dhekia xaak and cooked simply as a vegetable side dish or cooked with Pork and as I recently found out with Kala Chana.

And Fiddleheads are popular all over the world! Further out in Nepal, they are called Neuro (meaning 'bent,' 'curled' - neehureko, jhukeko). They have been eaten in Northern France since the start of the Middle Ages, are also savoured across Asia, among Native Americans, in the Hawain Islands and in the Russian Far East. Typically, Fiddleheads are steamed, sauteed, boiled and served with butter and or lemon, in egg dishes, with Hollandaise, or in combination with morel mushrooms. They are also pickled.

As green as they look, they are not like other greens, so I would not advise you eat Fiddleheads raw! Their habitat, makes them prone to carrying food-borne illnesses. So when you get them, wash them really well, rinsing of any grit stuck inside the heads. Be careful. And use as soon as you can once harvested. They are delicate, with a short shelf life and lose flavour and texture within days. I would not bother storing, freezing etc, it compromises the flavour. Though I have to admit I have never had enough to try pickling them so I cannot comment on that method of  storing them, currently.

Historically, Garhwali cuisine, has had a strong relaince on foraged foods and wild plants play a large part in fortifying the simple Garhwali diet. Fiddleheads, typically foraged from riversides would often supplement meals. Rich in omega-3, omega-6 essential fatty acids as well as iron, potassium and other minerals and vitamins its understandable why they came to be valued as food, but their earthy flavours is what makes them loved by those who have discovered them! During the Monsoon, women often harvest the tightly coiled fronds, for personal consumption, or to sell. Usually  harvested early in the season before the frond has opened and reached its full height, the ferns are cut fairly close to the ground and the entire stem and head is eaten. Fiddleheads have an addictive green, earthy flavour, with a nutty mushroom-y undertone and a tang of iron and pair beautifully with potatoes, into a subzi, which is how we eat them.

In Garhwali cuisine we stir-fry Ligure in Mustard oil, tempered with Jakhiya garlic and dry red chillies. Potatoes are often added and taste amazing cooked with the Lingure. (Come to think of it, potatoes, pork, mushrooms, eggs, fiddleheads marry with the best foods!) Here is the recipe and here is a link to a video of the Lingure ki Subzi recipe.

Lingure ki Sabzi 
2 tbsp Mustard Oil 
1 tsp jakhiya
4-5 dry red chillies
8-10 cloves garlic, sliced 
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced 
500 gms Lingure /Fiddlehead fern, cleaned and chopped

Heat the oil in an iron kadhai. 
When hot, add the jakhiya and let it splutter. 
Add the chillies and garlic and saute until garlic is golden. 
Add the potatoes and stirfry till 9o% cooked. (When pressed they should break easily) 
Add the Lingure and stirfry, first the vegetable will let of its water. Then the water will simmer away and the vegetable will be reduced and get a oily sheen. 
Transfer to a Serving bowl. 
Eat warm with rotis or Arhar Dal, and rice 

Interesting links! 
The Fiddlehead Gitika gets from Assam are different from the ones I have eaten in Dehra Dun. The Assamese ones look more like these ( The ones we eat in Dehra Dun look more like these 

Here is a lovely post by Rekha Kakkar on Dogri Kasrod Achaar.

A great post on foraging for Fiddleheads with some instructive infographics.