Sunday, July 14, 2019

Seasonal Eating – Monsoon’s foraged vegetables of Maharashtra

Thanks to the charmed food geek life I lead, I’m surrounded by friends and colleagues who are happy to fuel my curiosities. Recently I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some indigenous pre-monsoon wild vegetables from the Sahyadris, thanks to the folks at Triple OOO farms. It led to a wonderful day of documenting the ingredients and cooking with them.

According to traditional Indian dietetics, we eat what is in season. The cereal-pulse aspect of the Indian diet stays fairly uniform around the country. Year-round, we eat a diet in which lentils and cereals provide the bulk of meals, their repetitive monotony is made exciting by with vegetables that provide taste, texture and flavour variants to daily meals, varying according to season. With the advent of the Monsoons our diet changes.

Circumvent the carrot, cauliflower, beans offerings of the supermarket and forage through your local subzi markets. You will discover an amazing variety of seasonal vegetables. Methi is one green that is available year-round. Gourds, cucumbers, squashes also abound. As do (thanks to their hardiness) tubers like yam or suran, tapioca and bulbs like onions and garlic. And then there are the greens that come into season during the monsoons. Some for just a few days, others for the entire season. These are eaten to keep digestion sound and health optimal. As I write, the last of the Phodsi, Takla, Shevlya, are being consumed and the first of the Moras Bhaji, spiky Teasel Gourd and Colocassia are coming in.

But for some of us who can go beyond the city, there is an even larger monsoon bounty waiting to be discovered. Right here in Maharashtra, just a little over 2 hours from Mumbai, lie the Sahyadris, where the local tribals subsist on a diet rich in foraged wild foods that come into season in the monsoons. Some of these such as the Takla, Phodshi and Shevlya even make it to Mumbai Markets from Arey and surrounding forest areas. In fact if you follow some of our local food experts like Saee and Soumitra, and chefs like Zach you might have seen a lot of conversations around these lately.   

Foraging is a hot trend these days, thanks to Chefs like Rene Redzepi at Noma. Closer home, Chef Prateek Sadhu is doing some very interesting work in this space at Masque. But foraged foods have always been an integral part of global traditional food systems. I first clued into the huge repertoire of foraged foods in Maharashtra when Dr. Kurush Dalal wrote about Raanachya Bhajya (Forrest Greens or vegetables) them on his blog. And then I explored some more, realising that in India many regional cuisines supplement their diets with foraged foods. I know Garhwali cuisine uses many foraged foods such as wild figs, a fruit called Kaphal, stinging nettle, and fiddle head ferns. Similarly I know that the Assamese food Gitika Saikia cooks uses a lot of foraged foods like fiddlehead ferns, wild cardamom, ant eggs and silkworm larvae. Things not seen in the mainstream. And then, thanks to the passionate folks at Triple OOO I got a chance to actually learn about the wild foods of the Sahyadris.
Wild versions of  familiar veggies, 
Green Pumkin, Drumsticks, White gourd (Doodhi),
Cucumber, Onion,  Sweet Potato, Eggplants, Okra, Bitter Gourd
An organisation set up by Karan and Pranav Khandelwal, Shailesh Awate and Abhay Bhatia Triple OOO Farms work with the Adivasis of the Sahyadris to conserve the ecosystem of their area by encouraging local farmers to cultivate indigenous seeds and propagate holistic traditional farming practices. Working here over the last few years, they discovered the Adivasis have a traditional diet that is extremely high in nutrition from eating a lot of foraged wild foods. Unfortunately as a result of commerce, unscrupulous traders and aspirations they were losing this traditional food knowledge.

Pranav Khandelwal, Shailesh Awate and Abhay Bhatia
 of Triple OOO farms
In a move to bring pride in their own foods back to them the folks at Triple OOO have been educating and propagating use of these wild foods in their home region as well as making food aficionados in Mumbai more aware of them. They first brought them to Mumbai at a Wild Foods festival last year, which is when I met them. We stayed in touch ever since and they have continued to fuel my explorations in local ingredients, bringing me all sorts of indigenous grains, fruit, herbs, vegetables and all manner of things to discover.

Here are some of the plants I got a chance to play with:

Phodshi and Takla (Dont have a picture) – are available in Mumbai markets June - end September. Both are powerhouses of minerals, vitamins and natural anti-oxidants. They are valued for their medicinal qualities and the ability to keep monsoon-related illnesses at bay. In fact according to Shailesh of Triple OOO, “The Adivasis believe that these greens must be consumed when they appear after the first rains. They are considered cleansers, that acclimatize the body to the coming monsoon diet, and must be eaten as a precursor to all the other monsoon produce that will come as the season intensifies. Phodshi (safed musli, mulshi, or Karli), in particular has moist vegetal undertones, and a slight bitterness that lightens on cooking. I first discovered it when Saee used it to make Pakodas for #ChaiPakodaDay a couple of years ago. To prep the white bottom and central vein needs to be removed prior to cooking. The Aadivasis sauté it with wild garlic and onions into a subzi. It can also be eaten raw in salads or fried into pakodas. It’s also cooked with Karandi, (tiny fresh shrimp) and Sukhat (dried shrimp) or chana dal. 

Shevlya and Kakad, grow together
 and are cooked together.
(Pic courtesy the Velkars)
Shevlya/Shevul/ Dragon stalk yam - is a wild uncultivated vegetable that shoots out of the soil in the hills and forests of Maharashtra after the first rains and is available for a very short time. Many Maharashtrian communities really value it. It’s a delicacy that one looks forward to. According the Soumitra and Manju Velkar, who first introduced me to this vegetable, "in Pathare Prabhu Cuisine it is cooked with tamarind, pureed and made into a prawn curry, in Saraswat cuisine it is cooked with Kadve Vaal and in CKP cuisine it is cooked with fresh or dried prawns (called Soday) or kheema. It is eaten with rice or bhakri or just by itself.” Shevlya are valued for their functional properties, namely restoring gut bacteria that pollution destroys and boosting immunity and micro-nutrient B12, D and more.

Fatangdi / Phangota/ Phatangdi/ Ambat tingra is a shrub and eaten as a vegetable. Fatangdi also known as Ambat tingra is a leafy green, slightly sourish green eaten as a vegetable. The leaves and tender stems of the plant are used (Larger, less tender stems can cause itching in the mouth and throat).

Gharbhandi – is a creeper that is found in the forests at this time of the year. It grows in symbiotic conditions with the karvanda. It is cooked into a vegetable. 

Pendhra - Another fruit that comes into season from Jun to September is Pendhra. It is almost extinct in the world today, and one of the last bastions of this plant are in India. The fruit is eaten in all its stages from unripe to ripe. Small tender fruit are cooked whole, Large ones are boiled, sliced, de-seeded and cooked into subzis. They may also be stuffed and cooked.

Fiddle head ferns - are a rainy season staple in many hill areas of India. It was pleasantly surprising to learn that they are also found in the Sahyadris. The Adivasis there cook them into simple subzis.

Mahua Flowers - Fresh and dried
Unripe Mahua Fruit
Mahua - The Mahua tree (called the Butter Tree) is an important food source across the tribal cultures of India. The Adivasis of the Sahyadris value the Mahua tree greatly. Legend has it that they survived famines on Mahua alone and call it the Kalpa Vriksh. Mahua flowers and fruit are consumed through the different stages of their cycle. Mahua flowers are made into the famous fermented "Mahua" or Mhaudi a local alcohol that was drunk for its medicinal functions. The flowers are also dried. Currently the unripe fruit is in season. Consumed as a vegetable in the months of May to June only the fruit that fall to the ground are foraged and cooked. Fruit left on the tree ripens with the advent of the monsoons and will be foraged as it falls and pressed for Mahua oil.

Phodshi or Kauli Bhaji / Fatangadi Bhaji
Serves 2 | Time: 15 minutes

Phodshi bhaji, 2 bunches, white base and central vein removed and finely chopped OR Fatangadi bhaji 2 bunches
Onions, 2, sliced thin lengthwise
Garlic, 4 cloves, sliced
Oil, 2 tsp
Niger seeds, ¼ tsp (Or use Cumin)
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pan and add the niger/cumin seeds. Once it splutters add the garlic. When it begins to get golden around the edges, add the onions. Saute till they begin to turn golden around the edges. Add the chopped Phodshi/Fatangdi and sauté till wilted and bright green. Serve hot with dal and rice or bhakris.

Gyaan and LINKS
Dr. Kurush Dalal's post on Raanachya Bhajya on his blog Eats, Feeds and Digs. 

My story on Monsoons Bounty for Mumbai Mirror (featuring Jackfruit Seeds And Papaya Curry By Gitika Saikia, CKP Style Shevlya Kheema Bhaaji By Manju Velkar 

Also find the recipe for Shevlya Che Sambhare by Soumitra Velkar in this Curries for Comfort article in Mumbai mirror.

Dried Mahua is available from Triple OOO for purchase along with a bunch of indigenous dry ingredients  (no vegetables though). Call/connect on whassap at 9116666066 to get on their updates list)  Website | Instagram  | Facebook

Get a Taste of The Wild in Mumbai!
PP Prawn Curry made with Shevlya from Mumbai Curry 
This weekend (13th & 14th June) Mumbai Curry, a new urban Maharashtrian food delivery and catering service, based out of Mahim is celebrating a Maharashtrian Monsoon Special with a menu showcasing 'Shevlya.' The menu features a CKP style Mutton Kheema and a Pathare Prabhu style Prawn Curry paired with the exotic Shevlya blossoms to tickle the taste buds. Prices range from Rs. 300 to Rs. 450 plus GST & Del as applicable. To pre-order contact: 9920093266

Also ‘A Taste of the Wild’, is an exciting new menu celebrating seasonal wild vegetables from Maharashtra ongoing till 31st August at The Bombay Canteen to help create greater awareness of the rich and diverse culinary heritage of our forests (seasonal availability of produce means changes to the menu every 2-3 weeks but look forward to tasting sweet Mahua Flower, salty Moras Bhaji, meaty Shevlya and more along with cocktails like Karvanda Bramble and Wild Mahua Sour)

I will leave you all with this recipe. Would you like to experience a tribal foods meal ? I am planning  a pop-up this monsoon. Leave a comment if you are interested.

Monday, January 14, 2019

{Longread} Celebrating Sesame!

In Maharashtra, sesame is best known for its use in Til laddus  proffered as ambassadors of goodwill at Sankrant with the words ‘til gud ghya, god god bola” (eat sweet and speak sweet) and in the west sesame is best recognised as a garnish on buns. But go past Sesame’s most obvious uses and the culinary versatility of these seeds will inspire an “open sesame” moment bursting with possibility for you! Clichéd as that may sound, this phrase synonymous with Sesame, (deriving from the sound - like a lock spring opening – that ripe sesame seeds make when they burst out of their pods) seems appropriate to open a post on Sesame with! 

Sesame Indicum, originated in India and has been used in the Indian kitchen for millennia. Domesticated more than 3000 years ago it is one of the oldest oil-seeds known to humans and continues to be an ingredient of significance today. It is recommended and eaten in the winter because it is considered warming. No wonder then that our grandmothers fed us oodles of Til laddus, chikkis, gajak and revdi in the winters! But that is not the only reason we should be eating a lot more of this super food, not just saving it for festive occasions. Yes, you read right! Sesame is a Super food. It carries a mega punch in its little seeds! It has thrice the calcium, of milk (1 tbsp of Sesame contains 52 calories, 88 mg Calcium, 1.3 mg Iron, 32 mg Magnesium). It is also rich in vitamin A, some B vitamins, is a source of healthy fat, Methionine and Tryptophan and a significant source of other amino acids that make it an exceptional stabilizer of amino acids in vegetarian diets when combined with grains and legumes. 

Sesame has been used in kitchens worldwide for millennia and continues to be an ingredient of significance today. The little oval seeds of Sesame come in three main colours; an un-husked version in shades varying from off white to beige dark brown and black and a husked uniformly creamy white sesame. A wonderful ingredient in itself, it is extremely versatile, and lends itself to sweet and savoury dishes. Tap into their goodness to fortify the flavour and health of everyday meals. Add them raw to smoothies, toast and sprinkle whole into salads, swap butter for sesame butter or Tahina, powder and knead into dough or use to thicken soups, gravies and curries. Here are some ways I use sesame in my kitchen…

Being an oilseed, Sesame is prone to turning rancid quickly, so I recommend you roast them and store in air tight containers as soon as you can. (You can use sesame raw but a little heat therapy enhances its inherent nutty flavours a thousand fold and increases its shelf life). Plus, having ready roasted seeds on hand has interesting benefits. The toasted seeds can go into ANYTHING - porridge, atta, salad, chaat... you name it, to add tasty, healthy crunch. Plus they make an attractive garnish for anything from appetizers to desserts. Sprinkle them onto anything to add health and flavour to everyday meals. 

Nutty Sesame typically goes beautifully with many ingredients, it will work well with most spices, but works well with cumin and chilli in particular. It pairs well with most herbs, particularly Parsley, Oregano and Tarragon. It is also fabulous with many sour flavours like lemons, tomatoes, yogurt. It also works beautifully with lentils of all kinds, rice and almost all the other grains, it works well with almost all vegetables, raw and cooked, although I am partial to it with leafy greens like spinach and kale. In fact I would say there is little you cannot do with Sesame!

In Idian cuisine, especially in Gujarati food, Sesame is often added whole to tadkas along with cumin and curry leaves for farsans and snacks, adding healthy crunch to many dishes like Dhoklas, Khandvi, Patra and more. (I suspect to assist the body in assimilating the nutrition of these dishes). 

Whole Sesame is also great addition to spice and herb mixes. Some favourites include Japanese Gomasio, Middle Eastern cuisine, the many versions of Maharashtrian Tilkut...  Gomasio, is a condiment ubiquitous at the Japanese table. Consisting of toasted sesame ground coarsely with salt it is great with anything from a simple bowl of brown rice to salads, noodles, steamed vegetables, even khichdi. I make mine using granular sea salt and toasted white and black sesame. (Just fill in pepper mill and keep handy). Zahtar, is an everyday spice mix popularly mixed with olive oil and used as a dip or spread for pita bread. It's also used to flavour meat and vegetables dishes, sprinkled on Labneh (a thick hung yogurt dip) or on fried eggs as a garnish. But, it is fab on naan and kulcha, in raitas and even sprinkled on chunks of grilled paneer or chicken. But why stop there, you could also get creative by combining sesame with other ingredients to make interesting spice mixes and seasonings that enhance the nutrition of any dish they are added to. 

Something I discovered a few years ago was sprouted Sesame. An interesting way to eat whole sesame is as sprouts. Not being as robust as other sprouting friendly seeds, sesame need a little careful handling but yields delicious results. To sprout, soak a cup of un-husked sesame in water until swollen (a few hours). Drain, dry thoroughly, by rubbing gently with kitchen paper and spread thinly in a casserole or airtight flat container with a sheet of kitchen paper underneath. Leave at room temperature for a few hours and refrigerate overnight. You will see tiny little sprouts sticking out of the pointy end of the sesame seeds in the morning.  I typically add to salads, clear soups or stirred into hot rice with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and salt.

Grinding toasted sesame opens up a whole new range of flavours. Although South India is best known for its use of sesame, I have discovered that the cuisine of Uttarakhand uses a lot of ground sesame in its winter dishes. Crushed Sesame adds a nutty accent when stirred into Lobia and Udad Khichdi (Udad Khichdi is eaten on Sankrant). It also adds its nuttiness tothe piquant Khatte Aloo a dish in which boiled potatoes are cooked in a mixture of yogurt, toasted sesame powder, lime and chillies. But two of my absolute favourite sesame dishes of this region are Garhwali Til ki Chutney and Pinni ka Saag. In the chutney toasted ground sesame is ground with toasted cumin, ginger, green chillies, and ground into a beautifully textured chutney with the juice of the Bada Nimbu (large wild lemons that come into season in the winter), and Pinni ka saag is a “Saag” or gravy my grandmother - in - law legendarily made from Pinni or compressed seed cakes left over from the oil extraction process of Sesame. With the oil removed, these become extremely high in protein and dietary fibre and were cooked into a delicious gravy preparation eaten with rice. I don't have access to Pinni, so I crush Sesame in a mortar and leave it in the sun in a strainer for the oil to drain out. Then I use the dry leftover meal to make the Pinni ka Saag.

When you grind Sesame until it gives forth its oil you also get Tahini or Sesame butter, a staple condiment in the Middle East and very versatile to have on hand. Sesame makes a great butter because it is extremely high in its oil content. It also offers a omega 3, protein and fiber rich alternative to regular butter. Stir it into hummus the traditional way or swirl into yogurt for an instant dip, add honey to that combination and you have a quick dessert dip for fruit. Substitute it for peanut butter to make sesame satay or use it to add body to fortify soups and even Indian gravies.  

Sesame is typically pressed for its oil. In fact it is one of the oldest oil-seeds in the world. Cold pressed ‘Gingelly’ oil is the oldest recorded oil used in Indian cuisine but considering how long we have been pressing sesame for oil, it is confounding that nobody thought to toast the seed prior to extracting its oil... Something that the rest of Asia has been using for millennia to produce the most magical ingredient, Toasted Sesame oil! This fabulous ingredient is available at fine food stores in small 250 ml bottles and it is vastly different from its local cold pressed cousin. The roasting process intensifies the nutty sesame flavour so Toasted Sesame oil is used more as a condiment or flavouring oil and a little goes a long way. Drizzle over poached or fried eggs, replace it for other oils in dressings and dips, swirl a few drops into soups, marinate tofu or chicken in it with a little garlic, honey and lemon juice and panfry for a quick and interesting dish. In fact it even goes well drizzled over ice creams! You will be amazed at how important it becomes in your kitchen!

Sesame’s nutty flavours work beautifully in both savoury and sweet dishes, the plethora of laddus and chikkis in Indian cuisine are testament to this fact. That said, Sesame is also used in sweet preparations around the world. All over the Middle East you will find Sesame Halva. Nothing like our Indian halvas this is made of sesame paste and sugar, and is available in large blocks, from which it is sliced off and sold by weight. It is just delicious, almost toffee like it just melts in the mouth and glides down the throat! Like all things Sesame it is hard to stop eating it! Many Asian cuisines do versions of Black Sesame Soup a subtly sweet, nutty custard like dessert soup often served with ice cream. Of course we in India also have some lovely Sesame desserts like the Assamese Til Pitha, Sindhi Sesame fudge and more. In fact in India Sesame is often also part of many after meal palatte cleansing mixtures as well. 

Why only savour Sesame on festive occaissions, lets tap into its goodness in our everyday meals!

Recipe - 
Sesame and Yogurt Gratinated Potatoes 
Garhwali urad Dal Khichdi with Sesame (Link goes to Mumbai Mirror Article on some fab Khichdis)

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Lets Celebrate the 1st ever #IndianBreadsDay on Sun, 9 Dec!

In the Indian context, the word bread is used to loosely classify a food category whose diversity is virtually impossible to encompass. From the ubiquitous eaten as phulka, rotli, poli and more all around the country to the many Indian breads, the parathas, kulchas and sheermals, of the North, to the dosas, obattus, and appams of the South; from theplas, sannas and puran polis of the West, to luchis, kachuris and pithas of the East, our breads are intrinsic to our existence and nearly every region and community in India has evolved a repertoire of traditional breads. On #IndianBreadsDay let us come together to celebrate the rich diversity of our Indian breads. Make, eat and celebrate traditional and regional bread recipes.

You can make Indian bread - Explore the sheer variety of breads we have in India, make family and community favourites or try your hand at more uncommon ones. Explore breads of other communities and regions. Share your memories of bread, with pictures, recipes, and even videos!

You can buy Indian bread
– While many Indian breads are made at home, many are only available at local bakeries. Visit vendors that make and sell typical regional Indian breads, visit the legendary bakers of Srinagar selling piles of Sheermal and Bakarkhani, or stop by Mumbai’s legendary Irani bakeries for a hot Brun Maska, or pop into one of Bangalore’s Iyengar bakeries for their Masala buns or Sweet Milk Bread in Bangalore. And share the photographs and videos of breads and the stories behind breads and their bakers using #IndianBreadsDay.

You can break bread with friends – get together and have a #IndianBreadsDay potluck

Schedule of Live recipe Demos
For those of you who are interested in learning how to make bread, we have some fantastic bread-makers coming together to do live videos of a variety of Indian Breads from APB Cook Studio handle on Instagram and Facebook Live. (This schedule might change a little )

11:00 - Chat on Indian Breads  
Saee Koranne Khandekar author of Crumbs with Rushina
11:45 - Bengali Koraishuti'r Kochuri by Rhea Mitra Dalal 
(luchis stuffed winter peas)
12:30 - Goan Poee by Saee 
1:15 - Maharashtrian Chonge by Chef Varun Inamdar 
2:00 - Sheermal by Shekhar Ghildiyal
2:45 - Pani Pitha and Tekeli (Kettle) Pitha by Gitika Saikia 
3:30 - Idli in Jackfruit leaf by Shivani Unakar 
5:30 – Live from the #IndianBreadsDay potluck at APB Cook Studio

#IndianBreadsDay Potluck at APB Cook Studio

Join the #IndianBreadsDay potluck at APB Cook Studio on Sunday, 09th December from 4:00-6:00. 

Dig deep into your family or community’s repertoire, find some interesting, lesser known Indian bread recipes, make a batch and bring it over along with any special accompaniment typically eaten with it. 

Call 42152799 or email to find out how you can join in!

About Indian Food Observance Days 
I love the idea of coming together around food. I got the food community at large to come together and celebrate a calendar of Indian food Days a couple of years ago. Around the globe, there are special observance days celebrated, dedicated to food. These ‘food days’ pay tribute to foods and dishes and ingredients. And yet, India, despite being home to a rich culinary tradition, has not made its mark on this front. Indian traditional culinary practices evolved and transformed over time as our cuisine evolved. Ingredients, their uses, cooking methods, food combinations, a seasonal food calendar, Indian dietetics, and dining etiquette have all been built into a system of traditional practices with a sound reason behind them. But we are losing touch with them. Indian Food Observance Days follow the Indian seasonal food calendar. Pickles would have been put down in April, masalas would be ground in May, mutton would be eaten in the winter. A day dedicated to any of these means, we stop and make that pickle or grind that masala like our predecessors would have and follow a cycle that’s existed for centuries! IFOD are an attempt to promote & support traditional Indian ingredients, dishes, food-ways, and recipes with the goal of these foods gaining international recognition in years to come. The idea of these days is to make us stop to think about something we love to eat or someone that cooks for us, something we can savour...and something that makes us smile. And to celebrate them online as well as encourage offline, ground events for people to come together and celebrate.

To connect with fellow IFOD enthusiasts, join the Indian Food Observance Days group on Facebook
Or just keep track and learn about Indian Food Days and Festivals by following the Annual Indian Food Calendar Page onFacebook  

Friday, September 07, 2018

#UnDiscoverAustralia – Food off the beaten track, Down Under!

Australia for me has always been one of the world’s finest culinary destinations. And thanks to Masterchef Australia the world has also discovered this fact. But I often feel, that while the mainstream dining, wine and cheese experiences all over this beautiful country are world renowned, but go beyond them, and you will find there is so much waiting to be discovered! Here are some of my favourite things to do...

Getting up close and personal with the spectacular variety of local produce and fine ingredients in Australia

Here are my recommendations for four absolute must-do food experiences that food lovers travelling to Australia must add to their itineraries.

Native Australian Cuisine and Indigenous Ingredients

Native Australian or Indigenous ingredients are plants, meats and seafood found only in Australia, that the original inhabitants of Australia, the Aboriginal people grew, foraged, hunted, fished and ate.  They became a worldwide phenomenon with René Redzepi’s Noma popup in Australia, that I was fortunate enough to experience, a couple of years back . And I can tell you that pigface, gubinge, salt bush, lemon myrtle, bush tomato, finger limes, wattle seed and many other fantastical sounding ingredients native to Australia look and taste just as unusual as they sound!

With René Redzepi and the fabulous team at Noma, Australia

Native Australian ingredients have come into their own in what could be described as the first truly contemporary native Australian cuisine. In fact, this is the best time to experience them with Chefs all over Australia incorporating the wonders of Australia’s native ingredients into traditional and contemporary menus. I’m really looking forward to eating at Shaun Quade’s Lume on my next trip. I had a chance to meet him on his recent visit to Mumbai over a fantastic session of cooking and talking. But what really endeared him to me was his confession that he carried the seaweed for his signature Lume dish, ‘Pearl On The Ocean Floor.’ all the way from Melbourne, having foraged for it just before he flew out to India! The passion for his craft was obvious.

Lume is the latest of this kind of restaurants, unique to Australia, that take you on a journey of discovery. In Adelaide, I had the good fortune to dine at Chef Jock Zonfrillo's Orana a restaurant that has been a pioneer in showcasing ingredients such as Lemon Myrtle, Bush Tomato and Quandongs in its small, unpretentious fine-dine space. At Melbourne’s Charcoal Lane, a social enterprise restaurant that provides guidance and opportunities to indigenous young people, I sampled an eclectic menu showcasing native Australian food is on offer! There are more, Sydney has some of Australia’s finest chefs; Ben Shewry at Attica, Peter Gilmore at Quay, Kylie Kwong at Billy Kwong, all incorporating indigenous ingredients into their food.

A Farm Visit 

It is not just native ingredients that are worth a try in Australia. There is a world of glorious food opportunities for you to savour. Farms all over Australia grow and sell fantastic produce for everyday cooking as well. And a trip to a beautiful orchard, vineyard or field run by a knowledgeable food producer offers a delightful experience. I found this out during my visit to the Beerenberg Strawberry Farm. Wandering around the neatly ordered rows, it was impossible to resist the child in me! I gorged on bright, smiling strawberries fresh off the plants and carried home just as many in my basket. No matter how old or young a person is, there is an elemental joy in running loose on a farm with abundantly rich produce. Whether it's strawberries in Adelaide, cherries in the Yarra Valley or the Mornington Peninsula, boysenberries or Lavender along the Great Ocean Road, you will find fruity, fresh and fun adventures awaiting you at local farms across the country.

Having a friend to pick strawberries with means double the fun!

I loved visiting Green Olive at Red Hill that has established itself as one of the premier ‘agri-tourism’ properties in Australia. It's a true food lover’s paradise! Featuring a unique concept that merges tourism with agriculture, all the food and wine served is based around what is grown on the property, and you can sign up for a variety of classes, tours and meal experience. I loved making sausages from scratch with the resident chef, which were added to our lunch menu. We also learnt about the biological approach to farming olives, grapes, sheep, chooks (chickens), herbs and vegetables before sitting down to lunch, admiring the view of the beautiful vineyard. As I talked with the owner Greg O’Donoghue and learned about his zero carbon miles philosophy in running the award-winning property, it dawned on me that there is a reason why Australian cuisine can never be cooked anywhere else in the world. Everything that makes it so amazing, is centered around its fantastic produce. And the best place to experience this unique produce is at its home in Australia.

Food Markets

Ah! The smell of fresh Aussie produce
And because Australia’s fantastic produce is only available on its shores, add some of the many food markets, central to Australia’s cities and towns, and bursting with fabulous produce and handmade, artisanal foods, to your itinerary. Visiting such markets is one of my favourite ways to get to know the cities I visit. The produce is fresh; the sellers are proud of their offerings, they love to have a chat, offer tastings and samples and one always discovers something new! I loved discovering African ingredients and yellow watermelons in Melbourne’s Queen Vic market, amazing seafood varieties in Sydney fish market, and tasting some of the finest cheeses with Mark Gleeson at the Central Market in Adelaide.

The largest and busiest markets are usually open daily, or five days a week, but in smaller towns, markets are held weekly or monthly. Most bigger markets offer tours one can sign up for, to discover the unique offerings they have, so look out for those! In sparsely populated, rural areas, the farmer’s markets might tour a region.  So, if you’re travelling around the country, do check ahead with tourist offices in the destinations to find out what’s on, and when. In Adelaide, the Adelaide Central Market is home to everything from Russian and Latvian to Italian and Greek foods. And I highly recommend you do a market tour and cooking experience with Mark Gleeson of Food Tours Australia, he is one of the most knowledgeable people on local produce and producers! I have spent hours and hours, wandering around Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market and Prahran Markets, buying crazy things like Budhas Hand Limes, Yellow Cucumbers, Purple Potatoes, black garlic and carrying it all home to my sisters houses to cook up a storm. I also had a fab time at Sydney's Carriage Works market on my last trip! Sydney also has a Grower’s Market, The Rocks Farmers Markets, Paddy’s Market that offer great food shopping, but my favourite is Sydney Fish Market.

Cook with Local Produce 

I can't think of a better kitchen to cook in!
I love shopping and cooking in Australia. I am lucky that both my sisters, Himanshi and Neha live there and are happy to open their kitchens up to me (they get to eat all my cooking so its a win-win). Because once you are on a produce high in his counry, post discovering native ingredients, touring farms, shopping at farmer’s markets, wanting to cook with all that fantastic stuff is ty is a no-brainer! If you are anything like me, you'll wish for a kitchen to start cooking all that superb fresh seafood from the Sydney Fish Market, or tossing up a lovely pasta with handmade pastas picked from Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market, or a stir-fry of fabulous fragrant Asian greens from Chinatown Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets. Yep! You know how it feels.

For your next visit to Australia, I highly recommend you plan at least one accommodation with access to a kitchen during the trip for a complete culinary experience of Australia. You'll have access to the gorgeous produce in specialty shops, Markets, along with excellent wine, cheese, artisan breads and cured meats at cellar doors, gourmet stores like Victor Churchill, Hudson Meats, Fratelli Fresh, fantastic ingredients from around australia and he world at stores like the Essential Ingredient, and Simon Johnson, I highly reccomend you go shopping at Melbourne's Gewurzhaus Herb and Spice Merchants in Melbourne or Herbies Spices in Sydney, to cook up an ‘Australian’ storm in the kitchen of your service apartment, or holiday house!

Alternatively, look out for cooking schools and classes all over the country. In Adelaide, you can sign-up for a session at the Central Market Kitchen, while in Sydney, there is the stunning Sydney Seafood School at the Seafood Market. Melbourne offers cooking classes at the Neff Market Cooking school in South Melbourne market. Also, look out for a great line up of classes at the Essential Ingredient stores all over Australia.

Finally, I must share, besides the things I have already shared, I also discovered the world in Australia! I urge you to also look out for the amazing variety of international cuisines available here.  All of Australia's big cities have little precincts populated by communities from other countries that  that have made Australia their home. In these precincts you will find restaurants that serve authentic fare of their home countries and also shops with amazingly value for money offerings of ingredients from these cuisiens. Explore Indian, Sri Lankan, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican cuisines and more! In case you need local guidance look out for companies like Foodie Trails in Melbourne, run by my amazing sister Himanshi or Taste Tours in Sydney!

Having traveled to the country dozens of times, first as a tourist, than as part local thanks to my sisters, Australia to me, is a destination that offers fantastically varied and vibrant culinary offerings; from fresh local produce at beautiful markets to fine ingredients at gourmet stores, from talented chefs to fantastic food producers, from authentic ethnic eateries to innovative world class restaurants, and so, so much more! Go #UnDiscoverAustralia and thank me later!

Monday, July 30, 2018

20 Pakoda ideas for #ChaiPakodaDay 2017 - a Listicle

Monsoon is Chai & Pakoda time

The monsoons are in full force and its the season for Chai and Pakodas. So I am rounding up all the information we collected on last #ChaiPakodaDay!

Once you are done reading through it all, I guarantee you will:
  1. Fry up some Pakodas 
  2. See potential in a Pakoda business (I'm happy to consult, or even partner with you in it!). If there is any food with potential is hot fried pakodas! Happy to talk more on this over some Pakodas
  3. ...
Ok ok, I'll quit the pathetic Pakoda business proposals and get down to well... business! *hides*

We celebrated #ChaiPakodaDay for the first time last year on 30 July 2017 as part of IFOD. It was a celebration of monsoons and the collective Indian philosophy that “Baarish mein Chai pakode to bante hai...” But like so many of the foods we have celebrated through these food days, Pakodas are a single concept with a thousand interpretations. And that was just what we discovered at the time!

Have a look at this video of the Pakoda Potluck we had at the home of food blogger Shital Kakkad on #ChaiPakodaDay last year. We tasted 13 types of pakodas from community and regional cuisines of India - all different but all crispy deep fried deliciousness. On the day Delectable Reveries and I also embarked on a mighty pakoda trail across Mumbai (one has to take on great tasks for the greater good)!

If you just want to drool over pakoda goodness then just click on #ChaiPakodaDay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! And if you want to cook then here are some fab recipe links!

It's raining Pakodas


1. Kashmiri Nadir Monji (Lotus stem pakoda)

2. Bhutte Ke Pakode or Corn Pakodas from Mudra, The Super Chatori are a Monsoon favourite!

3. Rajasthani Mirchi Vada Recipe from Kabitas Kitchen

4. And I liked this interesting twist on the Mirchi pakoda using gathiya as a stuffing in this Gathia Chilli Pakoda


5. A healthy version of Chennai Ka Aloo Bonda Ranveer Brar style from his show THANK GOD IT'S FRYDAY Season 3!

6. Karnataka-style Goli Baje aka Mangalore Bhajji or Mysore Bonda with Coconut Chutney by Anushruti of Divine Taste. A crisp exterior, soft interior, the zing of green chili and slight tanginess from yogurt make goli bhajji irresistible which is probably why they are Deepika Padukone's soul food according to her Insta update a few months ago. Click the link above to see for yourself...


7. Bengali Paat Patar Bora from Purabi Naha of Cosmopolitan Currymania in which tender jute leaves available in monsoons and considered very nutritious are spiced with ajwain (carom seeds) and deep fried.

Kaavilche Pole from The Bombay Glutton!


8. Super Bhajia Recipe from Chef Varun Inamdar and also this fab Stuffed Bread Pakora Recipe

9. Ambodi, a mix dal pakoda by Petupetkar's Amma

10. Recommended to pair perfectly with a glass of cutting Chai are Mumbai street food style Palak Kanda Bhajiya from Jai of Camera Cuisine

11. Kaavilche Polae washed down with jaggery sweetened black tea or Kori Cha from the Kokani Muslim community by Saher Khanzada of Bombay Glutton. These unusual pakodas aka polae or bhajji are made of Tur dal and derive their name from the cast iron pan called kaavil in which they are slowly shallow fried to a crisp.

12. Popatjees - Sweet Puffy Nostalgia from Rhea on EuphoRhea are a simple snack - lightly flavoured, fermented, dough balls deep fried to dark brown and dunked in a sugar syrup.

13. A special Portugese Goan treat from Vanessa of Goan Food Trail are Rissois - prawn patties or deep-fried version of Pierogies with a creamy prawn filling.

14. My recipes for Gujarati Dakor Na Gota and Masala Chai

Something old now try something new...

15. Purabi Naha of Cosmopolitan Currymania fries up come Surmai-Gongura Pakodas with crunch from peanuts and a tangy twist from gongura or sorell greens.

16. Mohit Chotrani of The Hungry Bawarchi makes Kale Pakoda and Kadhi Chaat inspired by Rajasthani Pakoda Kadhi Chaat made with Kale instead of the traditional Spinach

17. My Mirchi Masaledar Chicken Pakoda recipe (also makes a great Vada pao).This one is a keeper!

18. An addictive Manchurian Pakoda recipe created by me, and made at APB Cook Studio

19. My Maggi Pakoda recipe video.

Gujarati Dakor Na Gota and Masala Chai for #ChaiPakodaDay

Dakor na Gota is on the menu
Gujarati Dakor Na Gota and Masala Chai is a combination I had contributed to the Chai Pakoda Day special menu I curated for Soda Bottle Openerwalla last year. It is a combination I recall fondly from my childhood, mostly because they were my father's favourite, and over the years, became part of our family favourites too.

Dakor na Gota are a popular pakoda that are said to have originated in the city of Dakor in Gujarat. Dakor Gota are chickpea flour and semolina pakodas, spiced with chilly, ginger, sesame, cumin, coriander and more - a perfect bite that's hot, sour, salty, and subtly sweet! Usually served with spicy green chutney, they are ideal with a spicy hot masala chai to wash them down!

My foodle of Moti Mummy's Chai Masala
Masala Chai is the preferred tea in most Gujarati homes - a bracing beverage brewed with fresh herbs like lemongrass and mint and some "warming" spices. In our homes, this spice mix is usually made in large quantities and stored alongside the tea leaves and sugar in boxes in the Pantry. Most families have their own favourite blend, but the masala will include some or all of the following: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, peppercorn cloves nutmeg and Mace.

For those who want to know more about it, here is a link to my blog post on my Dadi's Chai Masala.

Meanwhile, here are the recipes for the Dakor Na Gota and the Masala Chai you can try on this Chai Pakoda Day.

Dakor Na Gota (Spicy Gram Flour Fritters)

Time: 45 minutes; Serves: 4
Dakor Na Gota


  • 1 cup Gram flour (Besan)
  • ½ cup Semolina (Rava/Sooji)
  • 1 tsp Green chilli-ginger paste
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp Turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp Garam masala powder
  • ½ tsp Red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp Fennel seeds (Saunf)
  • 1 tsp Coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp Sesame seeds (Til)
  • 1 tbsp Whole black peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp Sodium bicarbonate
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • ½ tsp Limbu na phool (citric acid crystals) or 1 tsp lime juice
  • ½ cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Coriander leaves, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp Oil + extra for deep-frying


  1. Combine all the ingredients except the oil for deep-frying in a mixing bowl with ½ cup of water and make a batter. Allow the batter to stand for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Put the oil for deep-frying in a kadhai or wok on medium heat. When hot, reduce the heat to low and stir the batter vigorously.
  3. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and fry small pakodas on gentle heat so that the insides are cooked well.
  4. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with chutney.


Time: 10 minutes; Serves: 4


  • 2 cups Milk
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1-2 Lemongrass leaves, cut into segments
  • 10-12 Mint leaves
  • 4 tsp Sugar or to taste (optional)
  • ¼ tsp Chai masala powder or to taste
  • 4 Green cardamom pods, pounded
  • ½" piece Fresh ginger, coarsely crushed
  • 4 tsp Tea leaves


  1. Combine the milk with 2 cups of water in a pan deep enough to prevent boiling over.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, except the lea leaves and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat and add the tea leaves. Be careful, because when the tea leaves go in, the concoction tends to rise and can overflow.
  4. Raise the heat and allow to boil. When it boils and rises, lower the heat, till it settles. Raise the heat and allow to rise again, then reduce the heat and leave on simmer.
  5. When the tea rises again, take the pan off the heat.
  6. Once it settles, return to heat.
  7. When it rises again, switch off the heat, strain into cups and serve.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Culinary Chroniclers Conclave 2018: Part 2 - The Culinary Chroniclers Hall of Fame

There's an incredible amount of food-related content being generated and consumed today - more than ever before in our history! And yet, our appetite for quality content, that links our past to our present, and paves the way for our future eating habits, continues to be voracious. This demand, and the obvious advances in tools and technologies for creating and sharing content, has led a whole new wave of food enthusiasts to explore new forms, formats and channels to chronicle food. For this new generation of content creators and chroniclers to evolve, improve and push the boundaries, it is important to have yardsticks to measure against and ideals to aspire to meet and surpass!

The way we create, share and consume this content today, has its foundations in the pioneering work done by many eminent people and organisations. I thought the Culinary Chroniclers Conclave provided an ideal perfect platform to recognise their contribution, and present their work to our audience as benchmarks of quality and commitment to the art and craft of culinary chronicling.

The culmination of this thinking resulted in the felicitation ceremony that we organised at the end of the Conclave, in which we recognised notable contributions in six categories of culinary chronicling accross two bands:

Contemporary: Exemplary Initiative, Exemplary Institution/Organisation, and Master Chronicler
Legendary: Legendary Initiative, Legendary Institution/Organisation, and Living Legend

To select our first set of recipients to felicitate, we began by creating a list of nominees for each category. All names were evaluated against a series of category-specific criteria that we had defined earlier in the process. A panel of eminent impartial leaders from the food industry and various fields of chronicling; many who are themselves eminent chroniclers, with a strong sense of the qualities that should be admired and revered in those we consider benchmarks of chronicling. Our panel members included Chef Ajay Chopra, Antoine Lewis, Kalyan Karmakar, Kunal Vijaykar, Marryam H. Reshii, Chef Michael Swamy, Nikhil Merchant, Chef Ranveer Brar, Ruchi Shrivastava, Saba Gaziyani, Saee Koranne-Khandekar, Sourish Bhattacharya, Chef Varun Inamdar, Vikram Doctor and myself. We were all asked to vote for a list of nominations collected from various sources. Once all the votes came in, my team collated the results, and presented the findings.

I am extremely happy to report that all recipients of this year's felicitations were unanimous, confirming that their work and contributions were universally accepted as benchmarks in the field of chronicling!

And the first inductees to the Culinary Chroniclers Hall of Fame are… (drum roll please)

Exemplary Initiative: Archaeobroma!

Rhea Mitra-Dalal collecting the felicitation on behalf of the Archaebroma team from Sujit Patil and Saee Koranne-Khandekar
For the Exemplary Initiative, we considered contemporary initiatives that provide the necessary incentives, channels and/or platforms to promote culinary chronicles. The panel selected Archaeobroma, the first all-India conference on food as culture, as our first inductee in this category. The conference examined and disseminated chronicling of food through historical, cultural, social and academic lens. The conference spanned two days, with 16 Speakers covering 18 topics and showcased cuisines of 11 communities of India, presented by active culinary chroniclers. An incredible amount of knowledge was shared in those two days, and academic chronicling of food as a culture was brought to the forum for the first time in the country. The award for this felicitation was collected by Rhea Mitra-Dalal on behalf of the organisers of Archaeobroma - Dr. Kurush Dalal, Dr. Mugdha Karnik, Raamesh Gowri Raghavan and InStuCen. Later in the evening, an unsuspecting Kurush, who had no clue about the felicitations and had come to the venue only to pick up Rhea, was thrown on stage to be re-presented with the felicitation for this exemplary initiative! (Which we were all really happy about!)

Exemplary Institution/Organisation: The Goya Journal!

Antoine Lewis and Saba Gaziyani announcing the felicitation for Goya Journal
Exemplary Institutions that we nominated were contemporary institutions creating, collating, and promoting culinary chronicles. In this category, Goya Journal was recognised by the panel for its exemplary work. Launched in May 2016, this online publication is just over two years old and has established itself as a benchmark for quality media and content on food. The Goya Journal has a strong focus on storytelling and personal narratives, publishing stories by a range of collaborators and contributors, thus bringing forth varying voices. It chronicles food stories through an array of media: writing, photos, illustrations, videos, podcasts. The publication engages the community in chronicling, by calling for entries on stories, recipes and other collaborative projects and publishes content weekly. It has already published over 100 high quality stories in just two years!

Master Chronicler: Vikram Doctor!

Master Chronicler Vikram Doctor receiving the felicitation from Marryam Reshii and Chef Varun Inamdar
We defined a Master Chronicler as a contemporary chronicler who is constantly demonstrating thought leadership and/or setting quality benchmarks in the field of culinary chronicling. Vikram Doctor was unanimously recognised by the panel as our first candidate for the title of Master Chronicler. Coming from a long line of award winning writers, writing is in his blood. His career as a chronicler spans over two decades and his chronicling of food has always been from a perspective of great pride for Indian food culture. Through his work he tells the stories of unnoticed or underrepresented foods, and the deep cultural wisdom that exists on our culinary heritage. Once called the “finest food writer around” by Vir Sanghvi, Vikram Doctor has written numerous columns on food across various publications over the years. He has been pushing the boundaries and using new media to tell food stories, like his podcast, The Real Food Podcast on Audiomatic. An ocean of information and a treasure trove of stories, Vikram accepted his felicitation with a hilarious anecdote about his last felicitation in this field some years back!

Legendary Initiative: Rasachandrika!

Saraswat Mahila Samaj being felicitated by Dr. Mohsina Mukadam and Sourish Bhattacharyya

For the category of Legendary Initiatives, we nominated some of the most interesting and exciting initiatives undertaken in the last 30 years around chronicling of Indian culinary culture and history. The community cookbook Rasachandrika, compiled and produced by the Saraswat Mahila Samaj, was unanimously voted as our first legendary initiative by the panel. Saraswat Mahila Samaj was founded in 1917, the 1st edition of Rasachandrika, authored in Marathi by Smt. Ambabai Samsi, was published posthumously in 1943 and new editions are still being reprinted even today. It is a legendary initiative because it has been written, designed, edited, translated into Hindi and English, produced and published through the collective efforts of a community, for the members of the community and others, has today become an iconic representation of the (Saraswat) community’s culture and cuisine. It was so heartwarming to see a member of the Saraswat Mahila Samaj come on stage, beaming to receive the felicitation on behalf of the whole community! We were as thrilled to be presenting it as they were to receive it!

Legendary Institution/Organisation: UpperCrust

Rozina Gaziyani collecting the felicitation from Chef Ranveer Brar and Nikhil Merchant.
For the Legendary Institutions category, we made a list of institutions/organisations which have defined what we know of Indian cuisine, and shaped our perceptions around it through one or more products. Upper Crust was selected by the panel as the Exemplary Institution/Organisation. UpperCrust which launched in January 2000 began with Busybee’s vision to showcase India’s true culinary diversity on a global playing field. This vision was manifested in the 200-page high gloss quarterly, containing well researched articles, mouth-watering pictures, striving to meet world standards. UpperCrust established itself at the ripe time when worthwhile stand-alone restaurants were just beginning to make an appearance, and the masses were discovering the joy of fine dining outside of five star restaurants. And UpperCrust was there to equip them with the most relevant information. Today, in addition to a large circulation they also have a huge subscriber base. The magazine is sold in every corner of India, and in capital cities of the world. It is read on-board national and international flights and has to its credit an envious client and advertiser list.

Living Legend: Jiggs Kalra

Kersi Marker collecting the Living Legend felicitation on behalf of Jiggs Kalra from Ruchi Shrivastava and Chef Ajay Chopra
Our list of Living Legends consisted of those early adventurers who set the stage for the chroniclers of today - the pioneers! And the title of Living Legend of Culinary Chronicling was given to none other than the Czar of Indian Cuisine, Jiggs Kalra. He has pioneered culinary chronicling as we know it in India today. India’s first food columnist, he paved the way for journalistic writing on food, in newspapers and periodicals, with his first column being What to Eat and Where in the Evening News of India, Mumbai in 1971. It was no secret that favourable reviews from him were highly coveted, as they could pave the way for a restaurant’s success. His prolific work as a food writer spans beyond columns, into several books too. He has authored 11 titles on Indian cuisine including Prashad: Cooking with Indian Masters, a culinary bible for Indian chefs today. As a chronicler, he worked across various mediums, including of course, television - he produced the first-ever food show on Indian television, Daawat, on Doordarshan. The series showcased regional food and its nuances, to make the audience aware of India’s vast culinary heritage. Due to its success overseas, many foreign companies also bought the telecasting rights. In hindsight, I really could not think of anyone more appropriate as our first Living Legend in the Culinary Chroniclers Hall of Fame.

Mr. Jiggs Kalra, our first Culinary Chroniclers Living Legend, sharing a few thoughts on a video message
While Mr. Kalra could not attend the Conclave in person, he very kindly recorded and sent us a video message earlier that day, sharing a few thoughts and stories from his journey as a chronicler over the years. For someone so accomplished to share such a humble message was really heartening!

It was an extremely proud moment for me to recognise and felicitate these eminent chroniclers. They are decidedly cornerstones of great work and success, and we recognised them because we look up to their work and hope for chroniclers to learn from their journey!  It was something that IMHO was too long in coming!

I also want to extend a special thank you to the Godrej and the Vikhroli Cucina teams, our panelists, my team at A Perfect Bite, and everyone else who helped give shape to this idea of the felicitations. And I must say here that this is just the beginning, I am sure there will be many other people and organisations that should be recognised and we hope that all of you will help us identify and add to this list in the future!

In the next few posts I will continue to spill more details about happenings on the day of the Conclave, so stay with me!