Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lets celebrate the 1st ever #SubziTarkariDin on 31 March 2018!

From a simple onion smashed with salt to eat with a paratha, to cool crunchy cachumber, tangy raitas, quickly stir fried greens, elaborate gravies and more, vegetables find their place at every meal everyday in India. 

Subzi/Subji/Shaak/Tarkari/Xaak whatever name we might know them by, all over India vegetables hold pride of place on the Thali alongside dal, rice and roti. Vegetables bring vital variety, flavour, texture and colour to our meals. they also nutritionally enhance our diets with essential fibre, micro nutrients, essential minerals and more.

Vegetables play an intrinsic role in our food, but seldom get their due. And more so in recent years. Many factors, including the growth of supermarkets and convenience stores, have led to a monumental decrease in the variety of vegetables and dishes made with them that we consume. We also tend to eat what is packaged up for us - cauliflowers without the green parts, Mooli without the leaves and more.

Indian dietetics set down eons ago, said how we ate, what we ate, when we ate it, all had a purpose. Eating local and seasonal was a large factor of the overall belief, because it was beneficial to the individual and the ecosystem. Regional Indian diets traditionally showcased a wide variety of vegetables that were consumed round the year in various ways. And we also made the most of what we had access to. Most community cuisines have recipes that use up vegetable stems, leaves, peels and other bits, dry, pickle and preserve surplus produce because traditionally cuisines used up as much as they could, making the most of the flavour and nutrition in all parts of the plant. That is why terms like 'food waste' and root to tip did not exist. With Subzi Tarkari Day, let us rediscover together the traditional wisdom we have in Indian Cuisine.  

On #SubziTarkariDin I would like to invite you to to celebrate the diversity of fresh produce we have, in all its varied glory by shopping locally, cooking and eating seasonally and talking about everything vegetables. Here are some ideas to celebrate.

Support the local food producer - #SelfieWithSubziwalle
Ditch the supermarket and visit your local vegetable market (take your kids along!), farmers market or subziwala. Buying directly from the farmer or subziwali/a ensures they get the maximum earnings from the labour they put into growing and bringing you your vegetables rather the more circuitous less beneficial route of middlemen and supermarkets. 

In fact most of us have a favourite subziwali/a. The ones we swear by, who bring us the best produce at the best prices. And the one we have a bit of a gossip with as we haggle over vegetables. On your next visit, why not take a selfie with your favourite Subziwali/a and share their story with #SelfieWithSubziwalle (so men and women can be showcased). I know I would love to hear it, wouldn't you? 

Eat Local, Seasonal and Boring and Ugly! 
The beauty of shopping at local markets is you find a lot more variety than you would at supermarkets. Many local vegetables deteriorate quickly so supermarkets do not stock them. Markets do. They also allow you to explore the sheer variety of local and seasonal vegetables we cook and eat in India. Discover lesser known vegetables we don’t eat any more, cook them and share information on them. And please buy the boring and the ugly vegetables. Many people detest certain vegetables. doodhi, turai, tinda are boring, kaddu is unappetizing, ugly karela is bitter and root vegetables like yam are not to be considered...  But all of these and more have fantastic potential that is missed purely because we might be cooking them wrong, so buy them, try them, discover them!

Document and Share varieties and Recipes
I remember I used to hate the Gujarati Doodhi (lauki) Chana nu shaak - a bland, texture-less perpetration in my home until I tried a Tamilian Brahmin version redolent with chilli, pepper and coconut as a friends house. The great thing about local vegetables is that most of them are cooked across community cuisines in different ways. So whether it is the simple potato cooked in a thousand ways, vegetable and meat combinations like a Saag Gosht (Sadia Dehli's book has a variety of dishes in which meat is cooked with vegetables), or vegetable and dal combinations like palak /lauki wali dal or elaborate vegetable preparations like Sarson Saag, Undhiyu or Sai Bhajji, chances are there is a fab recipe that will please your palate with every vegetable, just look around!

Discover how different vegetables are cooked by;
Discussing vegetables on your Facebook and Whassap food groups.
Pull out and share family recipes, document and share them.
Love a vegetable? Or hate? Learn to make vegetables in new ways by learning recipes from other cuisines of India through cookbooks and the internet.
Can’t or don’t want to cook? Share pictures, videos, stories and favourite memories of subzi/vegetables seen/eaten at homes or local food outlets.

Avoid Food Waste, Eat Root to Tip
Buy whole vegetables, leaves roots and all. (Supermarkets often denude vegetables of leaves and stalk. Bur often stalks and leaves have a lot more nutrition and flavour.) Use the whole vegetable in different ways. Stalks of the cauliflower, leaves of the radish, dig up family recipes and old cookbooks to see how our elders traditionally used all parts of vegetables.
Reduce and recycle food waste, fruit and vegetable peels, seeds, roots, stems of leafy vegetables often have more nutrients and flavour than the fruit of veg itself. And they can all be used in innovative ways. Find out how from traditional family cooks. 

If you are in the food industry here are some ideas for ways to celebrate #SubziTarkariDin
Instagramers- markets and vegetables make great subjects, go wild with beautiful vegetable pictures! Go foraging with your phone camera and share pictures with #SubziTarkariDin on Instagram and Instastories,
Video Bloggers - Local market trips, traditional recipes, ways to cook new dishes with local ingredients, recipes that use up all parts f a plant, make best of veggie waste will all make great video content.
Food Bloggers - this is a fantastic way to find new ideas to write about; you could do Listicles of local vegetables or vegetables cooked in your community cuisine. or blog unusual family recipes, regional recipes for cooking root to tip, or even just focus on one vegetable you love (or hate!). All these offer ideas for blogposts/articles with unique content. Go blog and write! And share links with us using hashtag #SubziTarkariDin
Chefs, restaurants and/or food outlets - Consider a #SubziTarkariDin special by making and serving unusual vegetables, ugly vegetables, create root to tip menus, tell interesting stories for patrons to share on their social media platforms.

Or forget everything I have said and find a new way to do something all on your own! 
However, you choose to celebrate, please use #SubziTarkariDin when sharing updates on social media. Have a delicious #SubziTarkariDay.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lets celebrate the 1st ever #DalDivas on 25th Jan 2018

Thank you for your support of all the Indian food observance days in 2017!  

It is now time to celebrate the first Indian Food Observance day for 2018. Will you please join me in celebrating the first ever #DalDivas on 25th Jan 2018? 

Dal the dish, finds its place at every table in every Indian household every day. This is the go-to food for most of us whether it is as dal-rice or dal-roti, Sambhar or Rassam or the thousands of variations in between. Dal is such an integral part of Indian cuisine and yet it is taken for granted. On #DalDivas let us celebrate and honour this essential dish and document the different kind of dals that are made across the country, everyday, everywhere! Here are some ideas of how you could explore, discuss, and cook traditional and regional dal recipes of India by doing one or more of the following:

  1. Does your home, community or cuisine, grow and cook specific local lentils and pulses made into dals? Explore the sheer variety of lentils and pulses we make Dal from in India from the Mung, to the Urad, From the Channa to the Lobia. Explore the lesser known dals from regional cuisines like the Bhatt of Kumaon, Tor and Navrangi dals of Garhwal, the Vaal of Gujarat and Maharashtra and more. Cook them and share information on them. 
  2. Make your family’s signature dal, document the recipe, and share it.
  3. Dig up old cookbooks and cook-up an heirloom or long forgotten recipes.
  4. Learn to make a new dal from another community of India.
  5. Gather friends and host a #DalDivas potluck party.
  6. Tired of kids complaining about roz wahi Dal? Have a dal exchange with neighbors, relatives, or friends so that dal bhaat becomes different for dinner that night.  
  7. Can’t or don’t want to cook? Please share pictures, videos or stories and favourite memories of dals they have seen/eaten at homes or the local Dhaba, or a favourite restaurant. Tag those who make the best Dals!
  8. Chefs, restaurants and/or food outlets, why not do a #DalDivas special by making and serving unusual dal which can then become interesting stories for patrons to share on their social media platforms.
However, you choose to celebrate, please use #DalDivas and #LoveMyDal when sharing Dal updates on social media. Lets Make #DalDay special!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Let us celebrate #KhichdiDay on 4th November

Let us all celebrate #KhichdiDay on 4th Nov. 

Honestly I had not planned a #KhichdiDay when I listed my suggestions for Indian Food Observance Days. I was hoping somebody else would pick it up. But Khichdi is a HOT topic just now. And it seems appropriate to make 4th Nov #KhichdiDay. So this is unscheduled but I'm hoping we can pull it off. After all if there is anything one can do impromptu in India it's Khichdi! 

Khichdi is HOT just now because it is being promoted as the 'Brand India Food' through a 3 day-long 'World Food India' event organized by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries from 3-5 Nov. On the occaission Chef Sanjeev Kapoor will be attempting to create a World Record by cooking 800 kgs of Khichdi on 4th November, 2017 at the India Gate Lawns. Additionally yesterday the food world, on and offline exploded with conversations and debates because there was a rumour that Khichdi would also be named the national dish of India on the day. Union Minister of Food Processing Industries, Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted later clarifying that khichadi is just a record entry at the World Food India event but by then Khichdi was the topic everywhere!

And here's is my Tadka to the Khichdi topic... Let us strike while the Khichdi is hot! 

The objective of all the Indian Food Observance days has been to create conversations around Indian food. But getting the different food days organised is difficult (I am not complainig, simply stating a fact). It requires time and energy getting people, and entities to buy into the ideas, to get the buzz going, and get enough people to participate. This time, Khichdi is already buzing. And to be honest I want us to come together and capitalize on it. We've been celebrating food observance days all together until now but here's an opportunity to align these food observance days with this government initiative as one unified voice. Controversies and debates aside, the fact is that Khichdi IS in focus. And I would like it to be for the right reasons. 

So let us celebrate this wonderful dish that has so much to offer! From every perspective - historically it is one of our oldest dishes, nutritionally it is a complete  meal, cheap, easy to source the ingredients, easy to make. No other cuisine cooks this combination of cereal and pulse because no other cuisine uses pulses to this degree. It cuts across all barriers of income, religion, caste and creed. Poor or rich you will idetify with it. Put a bowl of dal and rice cooked together in front of any Indian and he/she will have a name for it - Khitdi, khituri, khitchda. Every regional cisien will have a version or two or three. It can be simple, or made fancy. There are vegetarian and non vegetarian versions and in cuisines that use other protien sources there are khichdi varitions that use those. I cant think of any other dish with the same degree of prevalance and variation. Its quintessentially Indian! Let us  celebrate it by documenting the recipes, cooking and eating it on 4th November!

Every community has its own Khichdis. On 4 Nov #KhichdiDay celebrate by: 
- Cooking and eating Khichdi. 
- Use the hashtag #KhichdiDay on 4th Nov and share what you are cooking, the memories and recipes of Khichdi your family makes. Lets make #KhichdiDay trend!
- Get together with family and friends for a Khichdi potluck

So  this is unscheduled but I'm hoping we can pull it off.  After all if there is anything one can do impromptu it's Khichdi! Lets celebrate #KhichdiDay on 4th November by exploring it in all its simplicity and diversity! 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Jakhiya - An essential spice in Garhwali Cuisine. #IncredibleIngredients

Jakhiya - essential Garhwali spice.
I am not really sure when my affair with Jakhiya first began... 

Was it with my first taste? At my first breakfast after I got married, on a cold Dun morning, when it crunchily asserted itself in the Hari Bhujji we ate, with ghee walli moti rotis... Or was it later, when it crackled noisily at me from hot mustard oil in the kadhai as Mom Chachi taught me how to use it). "The oil must be smoking, the Jakhiya must crackle as soon as it goes in... if the oil is not hot enough the jakhiya does not cook properly... and the last ... don't put too much, your papa does not like it because it gets caught in his teeth! Thanks to which I still remember him when this microscopic spice gets caught in my teeth! Except, in my case I love finding a stray grain of Jakhiya after a meal is done, because its pleasing nutty crunch is a shout-out from Garhwali khaana, nippy weather, food made with love, meals with family... and home. 

Article by Prachi
I was reminded of this on my last trip to Dehra Dun, thanks to Manju Chachi's Jakhiya aloo. We arrived home at teatime, rather hungry from the connecting flight from Mumbai. It was between meals, too early for dinner and too late for snack but I needed something to keep me going. So it was fortuitous that Manju Chachi, my husband's aunt had sent across a big box of Jakhiya aloo, made with pahadi aloo from her garden. Jakhiya Aloo is basically a dry dish of potatoes tempered with Jakhiya garlic and local small dry potent red chillies. A simple dish as most Garhwali dishes are, low on effort but high on flavour. And a bowlful, warmed up in the microwave and tossed with lemon juice hit the spot!  And Prachi Raturi's call for inputs on a story she was doing on Jakhiya is what finally got me to put this blogpost down! 

Tempering for Subzi
Recently for a #MasalaDay spice exchange I had to share spices for my home cuisine, and I put in a bag of Jakhiya and Jambu. If I had to profile Garhwali flavours, Jakhiya, Jambu, dry red chillies and garlic would form the foundation of spice profile (though not always together). The tiny seeds may look unpromising but pack a fair punch. Devoid of aroma when dry, they crackle furiously to life when added to hot oil, emitting a hauntingly beautiful earthy aroma and eventually imparting a unique nutty crunch to dishes that they are added to. And having eaten and cooked with it I totally understand why most Garhwalis prefer Jakhiya over cumin and mustard seeds in ther tadka or tempering. 

Jakhiya Aloo, Malai Lauki & Chaulai, all tempered with Jakhiya
Which is why, I ALWAYS have a stash of Jakhiya to hand in my kitchen. When it comes to cooking vegetables, I prefer to cook many of them the Garhwali way, with Jakhiya. In Garhwali Cuisine Jakhiya is usually used to temper dry dishes like potatoes, greens, and other vegetables. Hari Bhujji, meaning green subzi made of greens such as pahadi palak, rye (mustard), mooli ke patte, chaulai (amaranth) with a tempering of Jakhiya seeds with hot thick ghee glazed rotis are a classic everyday combination around the year and more so in the winter. And trust me, once you eat Chaulai or any green leafy veg, or Aloo ke Gutke tempered with Jakhiya... every other version will dull in comparison. Although the Chefs at JW Mussouri use it for Dals and even make a Jakhiya Pulao (a Jakhiya version of the Jeera Pulao) that I did not fancy, personally, but I am told is well loved by many visitors to the property.

Interestingly, the Jakhiya plant is a little known wild edible plant found in around the world and in many pats of India. Variously named as Asian spider flower, Cleome, Dog Mustard, Tickweed, Viscid Cleome, Wild Caia, Wild Mustard. Almost all of the plant is used in traditional medicines and treating diseases. I have yet to find out more on this, however it is my experience, that Jakhiya, has come to be a primary spice that is used more prolifically in Garhwali Cuisine than anywhere else in the world. 

"Ter khet mein jakhiya ugol" goes a Garhwali folk saying, meaning 'your fields will be full of Jakhiya.' It essentially translates to 'your fields will run wild with Jakhiya if you are lazy.' Jakhiya grows prolifically and quickly in wild and/or fallow areas and is available easily, traditionally foraged. My theory is that this is why it probably came into use as a preferred tempering in Garhwali cuisine. It was easily accessible and cheap in comparison to other tempering spices such as cumin. And over the years its charms did the rest! That said, as much as it is used, you will be hard put to find it in the local supermarkets, its only available at specific local shops that cater to Garhwali communities. Until recently it was foraged and collected for use. However, with interest in Garhwali food growing off late, it has been garnering a lot more interest, with local farmers cultivating more and more of it. 

At the conclusion of the Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal I curated with for the JW Marriot Mussourie, last summer there was one thing everyone wanted to take home with them. The tiny, dark brown seeds of Jakhiya. (And JW Marriott was kind enough to spoil us by generously gifting us all some.) This rather unassuming spice that grows wild all over Garhwal had pretty much dominated meals and food conversations in the preceding days. Partly because the Chefs at JW are rather enamoured of it. So much so that they tend to put it in everything! But moslty because it is that deserving and very easy to fall in love with. 

Manju Chahchi's Jakhiya walle Aloo
Here is Manju Chahchi's recipe. Jakhiya aloo are great with hot parathas, dal rice and ghee, even as snacks with drinks (I can picture all my mother in laws giving me a look here), they also make a fabulous snack by themselves. I usually serve them as appetisers prior to my Garhwali meals. If Pahadi aloo are unavailable, substitue with baby potatoes or large potatoes cut into big chunks, with the skin on, do not cut them too small or they might overcook. Mustard oil is preferable for distinct flavour but ghee will do in a pinch. Heeng is a very important flavour in Garwali cuisine and we get really good heeng in Ddun of which a little granule goes a very long way so if you are using commercial heeng a generous pinch will need to go in. The chillies we use are small potent ones that grow in our garden, 4-5 are quite spicy, depending on the heat of your chillies adjust the quantities. Unfortunately there is no substitute for the Jakhiya however. Cumin can be used of course but then you will have jeera aloo, not jakhiya aloo. What you are aiming for is in-your-face spicy, tangy, salty crunchy result so adjust flavours accordingly.  The coriander is optional, I like it when I serve these as an appetiser but it does not always work with rotis or dal rice. 
1 kg Pahadi Aaloo, halved, skin on 
3 tbsp Mustard oil 
1 tiny granule DDun walla Heeng OR 1/ tsp of cmmercial heeng
1-2 tbsp Jakhiya
4-5 small dry red chillies 
10-12 cloves garlic 
Salt: to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped (optional)

Heat the oil in a nice heavy kadhai, when hot but not smoking, add the hing, if using the stron Dehra dun one thats granular, let the granule fry and break it up. With commercial hing it will cook in seconds so dont let it burn. Add the jakhiya and let it crackle. THe oil should be hot and the jakhiya should crackle for best flavours. Do not add jakhiya to cool oil. Once it crackles add the chillies and garlic, lower flame and saute till garlic is golden.  Add the potatoes, and mix well. Add the salt, and toss well again. Cook on a low flame, tossing occaisionally for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and the skins are wrinkly and crispy. When done take of heat, add lemon juice and coriander and mix well. Transfer to a serving bowl,  Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves, and serve hot. 

Monday, October 09, 2017

Mithai Kandie - A Diwali Special Gift Idea from Nordic Kandie and me!

In keeping with all the Mithai conversations, this blogpost is to share the news of a sweet little collaboration between Thea of Nordic Kandie and me. A limited edition box of Indian Mithai inspired Scandinavian confections. But before I tell you about #MithaiKandie, let me tell you about Thea and her company Nordic Kandie. 

Every culture celebrates festivities with sweets. India being possibly the most prolific in this aspect with mithai being an integral part of our cultural fabric… But I digress. As I was saying, every culinary tradition has special sweets. In Estonia, it is marzipan, a confection of almonds and sugar that is one of the oldest sweets made in Estonia. In fact it has been taken to an art form by Estonian confectioners over the centuries. 
Thea Tammeleht is the 6th generation of the Tammeleht family of Scandinavia who have inherited a historical marzipan recipe, passed down through generations. The family had never thought to do anything with the recipe until she married her Indian husband Thomas who came up with the idea of a confectionary business. And it was a no brainer, really. Historically marzipan was an indulgence for European royalty using the finest almonds. But fine confections of nuts and sugar have been a favourite of discerning Indians throughout the ages as well. Our love of Kaju Katli, Badam Barfi and Pista Rolls are testament to this. So marzipan were bound to be loved! They launched Nordic Kandia Magic in India in February 2014 with a line of gourmet luxury marzipan. Their marzipans, made with specially imported raw materials like mamra almonds from Iran, Belgian chocolate and certified edible gold and silver from Italy did very well and they quickly added Belgian Brews chocolates. (these are Belgian chocolate covered croquant).

I had first noticed them back in 2014 when they showcased their products at the UpperCrust show. And even then I remember mentally making the connect with Kaju Katli and Pista Rolls. So it won’t come as a surprise that I was extremely excited to collaborate on a box of Indian inspired marzipans and chocolates when I was approached with the idea. I met Thea and spent time with her till I understood the process of making the marzipans and belgian brews. I was mindful that I was bringing two culinary traditions together and I had to do it with respect for both. But that said it was fun! I did made a few rounds of mithai stores, had to do a lot of research… Oh my GOD it was so tough to eat all that sweet stuff… NOT!!! 

And it did not help that Thea was on a diet and refused to taste (the lady has some fab control!) Much trial, error and more tasting later, we finally put together a selection of 8 flavours inspired by much loved mithais with a twist of spice here and there. When you have a great product to start with, it is bound to work out fabulously, all we now needed was a little sparkle and bling and we were set! So without further ado, let me take you through our collection of lovely handmade confections that bring together the best of two fine culinary traditions and the talent and skills of Thea and myself. Watch a video of the unboxing of the #MithaiKandie box

And here are the flavours!

Rose Pistachio Belgian Brew: ​An indulgent combination of decadent pistachio ​croquant ​and aromatic gulkand dipped in ​green ​tinted white chocolate and​ finished with pistachios slivers.
Kali Mirch Berry Belgian Brew: Berry croquant sandwiched with pepper infused, slightly salted, white chocolate ganache then dipped in ​red tinted ​white chocolate​ and sprinkled with edible glitter​.
Chai Spiced Caramel Belgian Brew: Caramel croquant sandwiched with chai ​infused ganache. Dipped in ​dark chocolate and finished with edible gold.
Cassata Belgian Brew: inspired by the legendary much loved ice cream, this has 3 layers of croquant - berry, pistachio and caramel and the whole is dipped in white chocolate and kissed with the bling of silver dust. 
Saffron Cardamom Marzipan: Because no festive occasion is complete without the scent of saffron... this marzipan ​is enriched with cashew and raisins​ aromatic of saffron and cardamom​, dipped in golden chocolate and finished with gold dust and pure saffron​.
Kaju Kismis Marzipan: ​Cinnamon scented ​marzipan enriched ​with cashews and raisins and​ finished in in swirls of dark and white chocolate. 
Mango Motichoor Marzipan: ​Inspired by the quintessential motichoor laddus in form, ​this marzipan ​pops with the flavour of aam papad and a hint of salt. 
Pista Roll Marzipan: A departure from our usual marzipans, this one is inspired by the much loved pista roll, with a green pistachio croquant, wrapped in white marzipan. Coated in white chocolate, ​dusted with pistachio ​and ​gilded with ​edible ​silver​.​

I have really had a lot of fun putting these together. And I must admit i do love them myself! Not because I have made them, but because they are a little less sweet than mithai itself, without losing on the aromas and flavours. 

To Order 
The #MithaiKandie special edition box from the Nordic Kandie is priced at Rs. 1000 + taxes. 
You can pick it up from their Mumbai store (Shop #1, Vasant Villa, 3 Peddar Road, Kemps Corner, Mumbai 400036. They are open all days from 10:00 am until  9.00 pm) OR phone/WhatsApp: +91 76661 22211. In Delhi call +91 – 9999709700 for appointments. Website, e-mail: and head office phone/WhatsApp: +91 96996 41112

Mark #LadduDay and World Food Day by distributing Laad Ke Laddu to address hunger and Malnutrition

I am a little late on this one! Between all the stuff that we had happening for Chutney day and preparing for the upcoming festive season, its been a bit crazy. BUT we have all been so enthusiastic about celebrating the food observance days until now, i am hoping the subject of the next one will charm you into joining me in spite of the delay in announcing it. 

Because the next day we are celebrating is one that is close to each of our hearts. #LadduDay! 

‘Laddu Batna’ (distributing laddus) is a given at any happy occasion. But Laddus are not just a mithai. They are special. I like to think of them as the Indian equivalent of the cookies that moms and grandmoms make for their kids in the west. In fact, when you think about it, the very name, Laddu derives from the word ‘laad,’ meaning love. Made by grandmothers and mothers for those they care about, these traditional treats have been in existence from time immemorial. And always embodied caring. Which is why this time I have a different request. Lets make Laddu Day count event more.

At a round table on malnutrition organised by Idoboro that I was part of recently, I gained many insights on the serious issue of malnutrition and the inadequacy of the food packets that are distributed in areas affected by it. I came away trying to figure out what we could do to address this? And then it struck me. Laddus! What makes Laddus REALLY special is the deeper purpose behind them that we have forgotten or are not cognizant of. Laddus were not just treats, traditionally they had a larger purpose as well. They were little power packed parcels of nutrition, full of the goodness of healthy ingredients like jaggery, ghee, flours, nuts and dry fruit. From warming calcium rich til and energy dense atta laddus, to protein packed Maghaz or Besan Laddu and bone strengthening Dink or Gond Laddus given to lactating mothers, laddus have always fortified diets, imparted medicine and supplemented meals. 

So this Laddu Day I have a request. Let us do all the things we did for past food observance days, make, learn and document traditional recipes. But let us make the purpose of this Laddu day bigger by doing one more thing. Many of you will give away food to the less fortunate around Diwali. Instead of outsourcing food parcels, could you consider giving away Laddus? Make them, outsource them to NGOs that make traditional foods and give them away. They are a cost effective, extremely simple and logical solution to addressing malnutrition. Which is also important in the context of World Food Day being observed globally on 16th October 2017. One of the themes this year is to invest in food security and solve the issue of world hunger. The classic, wholesome, long lasting (if made to) laddu addresses so many fundamental issues; hunger, particularly among malnourished children and women, sustainability by using local ingredients which will in turn support our farmers and aligns perfectly with the theme. 

Distributing Laad ke Laddu. 
This #LadduDay my team at APB Cook Studio and I have pledged to make and distribute packets of Laad ke Laddu in underprivileged areas of Mumbai. Towards this goal, I have brought together my students from the certified ‘Food and Nutrition’ course’ at Sophia Centre for Women’s Studies and Development where I lecture to create laddus that address the specific nutritional requirements in children. Using these and with the help of the food community, chef friends, food bloggers and Good Samaritans who will come together at the studio on the 13th and 14th, we aim to make 200 packets of laddus. The aim is to distribute these  nutritionally fortified laddus in underprivileged areas of Mumbai on 15 Oct which is #LadduDay with the help of Robin Hood Army. We could do with all the help we can get, so if you would like to volunteer and join us, please call us on 022-42152799 or email us at 

Also if you are not in Mumbai, or cannot get to the studio, do the same thing in your area or your city. Friends in food communities all over India are coming together to do this in other cities too. Why don't you?.

And since it is Diwali and we are all making sweets, lets also document recipes if we can. There are of course, thousands of laddu varieties in India but every home has a favourite, special laddu. With Diwali around the corner, celebrate the culinary diversity of India. You could also do any of the following to celebrate #LadduDay.  I am listing all the other things you can do for ​#LadduDay below, but if you do nothing else, please do make and distribute as many or as little Laad ke Laddu on the 15th! 

1. Document your family’s signature laddu by making it and sharing it. 
2. Learn to make a new laddu from another community of India.
3. Organise a laddu exchange!
4. Can't make laddus? Do the next best thing; eat them. How hard is that?
5. Share pictures, videos or stories and memories of your favourite laddu on Facebook, Twitter,
Instagram or WhatsApp.
6. Chefs, restaurants and food outlets can run #LadduDay specials by serving or making unusual
7. Eat, make, gift or write about laddus but whatever you do, remember to share the same using
the hashtag #LadduDay.

Read more about world food day

Kuch Meetha ho Jaaye...? On Mithai (Indian sweets) and their Importance in our Culinary DNA

From the Halwai breakfast spread at Suryagarh. 


First of all, abject apologies for any narcissim  he above picture exhibits (hopefully my happy face makes up for it!) This is a picture from the Halwai breakfast spread at Suryagarh. The property has an in house halwai whose creations use local ingredients and culinary know-how. And they sweeten one's whole stay, from in-room amenities, at breakfast, for post meal desserts and as nightly pillow gifts,. It was one of my favourite discoveries from my visit and it made me fall in love with the property even more.  As easy as it sounds, it takes a lot for a hospitality brand to invest in local food and promote it. And I really respect their commitment to this aspect. This picture also sums up everything about Mithai, the variety, and the Indian love for it (as embodied by my expression!) 

Now for some serious sweet talk! Stay with me through October and November as I explore the sweetest aspects of Indian Cuisine…. sharing history, recipes and more! And please do join in the conversations! Leave a comment on your favourite mithais or even what you would like to see in this time about mithais? 

Kuch Meetha ho Jaaye...? On Mithai (Indian sweets) and their Importance in our Culinary DNA

Diwali is here! And for anyone with a sweet tooth, it’s the perfect time to be in India. Diwali (also known as Divali or Deepavali and the Indian festival of lights) is a Hindu festival but is celebrated by everyone. And it is extravagant, as all festivals are, full of colour, light, celebration and mithai!  

‘Mithai’ meaning sweet confection, itself derives from the word ‘meetha’ which means sweet; the taste on the tongue, classified as one of the six tastes (or rasas) by Ayurveda. The word meetha is also commonly used to classify Indian sweets and puddings. But nomenclature aside, meetha or mithai has huge significance in India and encompasses a wide spectrum of sweet offerings, from homemade kheers, laddus, halwas to more exotic offerings sourced from sweet makers called halwais or mithaiwalle.

“…Kuch meetha ho jaye?" asked Amitabh Bachchan in an advertisement, promoting chocolate a few years ago. I found the use of this oft-used phase so clever! Because it so tidily summed up the collective Indian attitude to sweets and put chocolate squarely in the running with traditional mithai. Loosely translated the phrase means “the occasion calls for sweets” but encompasses so much more! In India … kuch meetha ho jaaye is a part of our collective psyche! We do not need too much of a reason to “mooh meetha karo” (sweeten the mouth) but Diwali perhaps the biggest celebration in the country, gives us the biggest reason. So get ready for a mithai extravaganza!

Mithai have a standing at every moment. Perhaps because the sweet taste is the first taste we perceive, sweetening the mouth, our thoughts and the environment is considered important at the start of any endeavor. In the form of the simple dahi – cheeni (sugar stirred into natural yoghurt) proffered to those leaving for an important task like an exam or an interview, or as best wishes for a journey. As laddus, they embody the care of mothers or grandmothers. As halwas or other home-made sweets, they are a means of celebrating and sharing joy that overcomes all barriers of caste, creed or religion. Distributed whenever an occasion presents itself, whatever it may be… from guests at dinner, to milestones of life; success in exams, a new car or home. Weddings are arranged with “ab toh mu meetha kijiye” (celebrate with a bite of something sweet), the birth of a child will have laddus being distributed. A salary raise or promotion will have an individual bring home a box of sweets. And a box of mithai is deemed the most appropriate gift to present when calling on friends and family because even routine social calls are never made empty handed in India. And if you are on the other side, the housewife caught out by a surprise guest, misri (larger bits of plain sugar or gud (jaggery) will do in a pinch, but there will always be some form of mithai to offer guests in the home – usually secreted away from little hands…

And there is no compromise on the quality of the mithai. A philosophy that probably stems from the fact that underlying the celebratory properties of Indian sweets is their use as prasad, or offerings to the Gods in religious ritual. Mithais make perfect offerings to place before god, and each of the gods in our pantheon have their own favourites. In fact that is probably why mithaiwallas build legendary reputations on the basis of asli ghee and the purity of ingredients! The most famous of these divine addictions is that of the genial Elephant god, Lord Ganesha to the modak; pyramids of rice flour stuffed with coconut and sugar. Not only do gods have their favorites but most religious occasions will call for a special preparation or the other. Sankrant, the festival celebrating the advent of spring for example; on this day sweets made with sesame, laddus, chikkis (brittle) or halwas make their presence felt in various parts of the Country. Similarly, gujiya for Holi, patashs and khilone (sugar toys) at Diwali, marse ke laddu on Shivratri, phirni for Ramzaan, sevaiyaan for Eid, we even have special laddus and mithais for fasting days like makhana kheer, kaddu ka halwa and more!

To classify things with a very broad brush, Laddus, Halwas, and Kheers are the mainstay of home kitchens, typically put together with ingredients that are easily sourced and needing very little skill. More elaborate mithais are the premise of Mithaiwallas. halwas laddus and kheers all go back to the origins of Indian cuisine.

Halwa garnished with slivers of Almonds
It is speculated, that halwas may have Arabic origins. These dense, sticky confections that would be equivalent to puddings, are typically made from one prominent ingredient like a flour, lentil, fruit, nut or vegetable, cooked with ghee (clarified butter) and a sweetener like jaggery or sugar. Usually served hot, they are much loved comfort foods. Which is why come winter and one looks forward to sweet desi carrots and gajjar (carrot) halwa made from them. And heavy monsoon rains will often have my husband remembering atte ka halwa (halwa made from unbleached flour) that his mother makes. Halwas can range from simple flour, semolina or variations made with vegetables like carrot and doodhi (white gourd). Different variations of these are made through the year, based on seasons and availability of ingredients. More exotic offerings include beetroot, akhrot (walnut) badam (almond), pyaaz (onion). I have also had the good fortune of tasting a very interesting (name not withstanding) ghosht halwa made by Osama Jalali. It was subtle, not at all meaty and quite delicious!

My Nani always advised giving my kids a couple of these Maghaz laddus
with a glass of milk when they were fussy about eating. Laddus were a way
to supplement diets. 
Had a kid, passed an exam, bought a car? Well ‘laddu batna’ (distributing laddus) is a given. If halwas are the Indian equivalent of puddings then laddus are that of cookies. But laddus not just any mithai. They are special. With their very name stemming from the word ‘laad’ meaning love, Laddus are the physical manifestation of maternal love, made by grandmothers and mothers for those they care about. These traditional foods have been in existence from ancient times, first documented mentions appear in the Mahabharat and Sushruta Samhita. And here is what makes them REALLY special. Laddus had a deeper purpose. They have traditionally been little power packed parcels of nutrition, full of the goodness of healthy ingredients like jaggery, ghee, flours, nuts and dry fruit. From the warming tils and atta laddus made in winter to the protein packed maghaz or besan laddu our grandmothers fed us to the bone strengthening dink or gond laddus that are given to lactating mothers, laddus fortify diets, impart medicine and supplement meals. And carefully shaped and packed, embossed with impressions of fingers and hands, they tell a very special story of love… home made with ghar ka ghee, lots of patience and love.

Garhwali Jhangore ki Kheer
Dairy based sweets are the third category of homemade desserts. Milk and dairy products like cream, paneer, chenna, khoya and yogurt all play a huge part in the Indian diet and as a result, we have a vast variety of dairy based sweets in our repertoire. The simplest would perhaps be milk kheer, the Indian version of rice pudding. This basic concept of rice, milk and sugar cooked to a pudding consistency makes its appearance all over the country, Kheer as it is known in the morth, is doodhpak in Gujarat, payesh in Bengal and payasam in South India. When it is made with soaked, coarsely ground rice it becomes the delicate phirni redolent of rosewater. Kheer also has many variations with the rice being substituted with other cereals like sago, millets and grains, seeds like lotus and even vermicelli, pulses and more.

Bal Mithai from Uttarakhand is made of Khoya. 
Dairy based sweets also include variations made with other forms of milk, such as reduced milk rabri, eaten as it is or topping other sweets, rabri and imartee are a marriage made in heaven, for example. Rabri is also the base for Kulfi Indian ice cream. Milk cooked down till it is solid results in khoya, an ingredient used to enrich many dishes including sweets. Simple khoya sweetened and flavored is used to make a host of mithais like laddus, burfi and peda. Sweetened khoya enriched with nuts could be used to stuff other things like the little fried half – circle shaped puff pastry sweets variously called gujiya in the North, ghughra in Gujarat and karanjee in Maharashtra. Split milk results in another fabulous ingredient, paneer and its Bengali avatar chenna that is made into sandesh. Yoghurt is also used to make a repertoire of light, addictive sweets like srikhand (cardamom infused sweet yoghurt) which is much loved in Gujarat and Maharashtra and the addictive misti doi (milk sweetened with jaggery and set in earthenware) made in Bengal. 

Homemade sweets hold a special space for Indians, but mithawalla’s dabbas are not too far behind! Over generations Indian sweets have crossed community and state boundaries to be embraced throughout India and our mithai shops are testament to this. Enter one and you will find options from dry to syrupy, that will boggle your mind in all their technicolor glory! Available for your selection are legions of dry mithai variations. From khoya based pedas and barfis to marzipan like nut based pista rolls, kaju katli, and a variety of their brethren. From dry fruit based anjeer rolls, date bites to pastry based balushahi, gujiya and so many more, all in a mind boggling array of sweetness! And at the syrupy end of the spectrum you will find syrup soaked options like gulab jamuns (reduced milk balls soaked in thick sugar syrup), rosso gullas (chenna balls in light sugar syrup). A happy marriage of rasgullas and rabri is the ras malai in which flattened rasgullas are soaked in rabri. Another positively delicious variation is cham cham, an oval shaped denser version of rasgulla soaked in syrup that becomes a malai sandwich when a generous slather of sweetened cream is sandwiched between two cham chams. Other syrup soaked sweets include the squiggly jalebi and imartee.

A true mithai connoisseur can map India by sweets alone! As Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s character shows us in the movie Hum Saath Saath Hai with his penchant of arriving in every scene with legendary mithai from all over the country. (Watch it again and take notes, you will have a checklist for a sweet-sweet journey across India!) Uttarakhand ki Bal Mithai, Amritsari Pinni, Agre ka Petha, Mathura ka Peda, Lonavala fudge, Laksar ki Jalebi, Mysore Pak from Karnataka. Travel from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip, from Gujarat in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east and you will find local sweets in every part of India. Of course most of the popular sweets are ones that are found at stations along the main train lines. There is lots more to explore when you go into cities, bazaars and actual homes. And like the confectioners and chocolatiers, patisseries and bakers of the west, Indian mithaiwallas also hold cult status!

Indian mithai makers, be it in homes or bazaars, create a vast range of magical offerings from a surprisingly small handful of easily found core ingredients: sugar, clarified butter (ghee), milk, flour from grains, nuts cereals or pulses, seasonal vegetables and fruit, rice or wheat. To these may be added nuts to enrich and sweet spices like rose, fennel, cardamom and saffron. Other locally available ingredients too could come in creating even more nuances but one thing is for sure, only the finest ingredients go into Mithai, as it is the belief that a generous use of the best ingredients will result in superlative offering to share on happy occasions. And that is where the brilliance of Indian mithai is!

This is a joyous time in India. All over the country Indian sweet makers, or halwais, have been busy gearing up for their peak season. A period of feasting, socializing and sweets, sweets and only sweets! Toh chalo…. Kuch meetha ho jaaye?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

About Green Garlic and a mouth watering Green Garlic Chutney for #ChutneyDay 2017

Green Garlic and a mouth watering Green Garlic Chutney 

The first sign winter is coming at my table is the appearance of green garlic, leela lehsun, leelu lasun or lilva (depending on which community you belong to). And that time is almost here , to the absolute joy of all who know me, because come Green Garlic season and I make this simple Chutney by the kilo for Team apb and a whole bunch of frends and family. 

Green garlic is a culinary treat that does not receive its due recognition. Mince it raw and add as a garnish to salads, soups and stir-fries, pound into a paste with pine nuts to make a green garlic pesto or stir the paste into Mayonnaise to make green-garlic aioli. Steam or poach the green stem in chicken stock and puree to add to soups, savoury custards or soufflés. Chop fine, sauté and add to eggs in all forms. 

Garlic is believed to have originated in either India or larger Asia and has been a part of Asian cuisines for millennia. Green garlic or Garlic chives are very young, tender versions of the garlic we all know and love. They are picked really early, long, long before they grow into bulbs, divide into separate cloves, are harvested and dried. Green Garlic looks a lot like a tiny green onion. A tender single clove with a bunch of hairy threadlike roots at one end and a couple of long grass like green leaves at the other. When using in cooking, typically the roots are trimmed off and discarded and both the white and green utilized, with any yellowing tips discarded. Green garlic has a softer flavour profile than the mature garlic bulb. While it can be used anywhere you'd use regular garlic, its flavour profile really comes into its own in recipes that highlight its less intense, far more verdant flavour that is a result of its green shoots. Really Green Garlic is best when minimally cooked. 

Interestingly Green garlic features in the winter cuisines of both sides of my family. In the Gujarati cuisine I grew up with it is celebrated it in a variety of ways including as the main flavour in the legendary Undhiyu. In the Garhwali cuisine of my marital home it features as a condiment to spice up winter chaats and an earthy millet porridge called Jhangora or Paleu. 

Green garlic has been part of the Indian culinary scape for eons but it can add fantastic new twists to some traditional dishes. Stir it finely chopped into Rasams and shorbas. Add to flour when making dough for rotis or parathas. Pound into paste and stir into raitas and Idli batters. Chop fine and sauté large batches, then crack eggs over to make a Parsi cuisine inspired ‘Lilva per eedu’. 

There are so many ways to love green garlic! Here are my two favourites. Pahaadi Namak is a gloriously fragrant condiment from Garhwal in which green garlic is pounded with salt and green chillies to a coarse paste. Left to itself it slowly dries out into a powder that is fantastic sprinkled on anything! The other is my signature Green Garlic Chutney; coarsely chop up 2-3 bunches of garlic and a handful of chillies, heat 2 tbsp of fat of choice; oil, ghee, which is better or bacon fat (which works event better). Add the chillies and stir fry till white blisters appear on them. Add the garlic and stirfry till wilted, shiny and bright green. Add salt generously and mix well. Put in a bottle and use to liven up anything from kichdi to dal rice and even pasta! 

Green Garlic Chutney
This is a simple chutney made in my Gujarati ancestral home kitchen. Beautiful Green Garlic is punchy and the green chilli and salt zing it up. I have modified it slightly to intensify flavours. Its perfect with Dal Rice
2-3 Bunches Green Garlic
Handfull of cillies
2 tbsp of ghee/oil
1 tbsp salt (or to taste)

Heat the ghee or oil, add the chillies and stir fry till white blisters appear on them. Add the garlic and stir-fry till wilted, shiny and bright green. Add salt generously and mix well. Put in a bottle and use to liven up anything from kichdi to dal rice and even pasta!

My Green Garlic Chutney in all its glory!

This is Recipe 2 pf my #PledgeARecipe for #ChutneyDay 
 Check out Recipe 1 - A video of Bhune Tamatar ki Chutney on my Facebook Page.

Garhwali Til Ki Chutney for #ChutneyDay 2017



This chutney is mainly prepared during winters and is great with toor dal and steamed rice or with Gahat Ke Paranthe. It can also be used as a dip for various snacks. This chutney is usually made with “bade nimbu” large lemons that people normally have growing in their kitchen garden. They are quite huge, so one is generally enough, but can be substituted by the other normal ones. Til chutney is more common in Garhwal but Bhang chutney is made in Kumaon. It can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.


200 gm sesame seeds a handful of coriander leaves
2-3 garlic cloves (optional)
1-inch piece of ginger
2-3 green chilies
juice of 1 bada nimbu or big lemon or ¾ cup juice of small lemons
½ tsp sugar (optional)
a handful of mint leaves
1 tsp roasted cumin (optional)
salt to taste

Dry roast sesame seeds in a pan on a moderate flame for 4-5 minutes. Take care not to overdo it. Once done place in a grinder with coriander leaves, garlic cloves and green chilies. Add lemon juice and grind to a fine paste. Adjust salt and sugar. 

Note - A variation of this recipe is the Mooli and Til Chutney. Cut a couple of moolis into finger - length sticks and leave them under a fan to dry for a couple of hours. Then add them to the chutney with chillies cut in half-lengthwise.

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!