Discoveries, Of The Food Type

Gujarati and Rajasthani delicacies at Shree Bhavani Sweets, Vidyaranyapura

This is a little hole-in-the-wall kind of sweet shop located in a side street in Vidyaranyapura, which you’ll miss if you blink. I am not a big fan of their sweets, but I do love the Gujarati and Rajasthani delicacies that they serve. For instance, their mirchi bajji, which is huge and a filling snack, all by itself – it is no ordinary mirchi bajji, it comes stuffed with a potato filling that is spicy, sweet and sour, making for a delicious bite.

Mirchi bajji at Shree Bhavani Sweets, Vidyaranyapura

This place also serves the best khaman I have ever had in Bangalore – fat and dripping with juice, just the perfect blend of sour and sweet and spicy, again. They call it dhokla, though. Khaman or dhokla, these yellow beauties have the power to kick out the ones at Rajdhani, I think.

The vada pav here is great too, better than the fancy ones you get at chain joints like Goli or Jumbo King. They are simple and packed with flavour, just the way authentic vada pav is.

Everything here is priced very reasonably, including the delicacies I have mentioned here.

Fruit of Forest Cake from Sweet Chariot

The husband and I are big fans of the pastries and cakes from Sweet Chariot. I have often written about these sweet goodies on my blog.

I love most of the pastries and cakes here, but the Fruit of Forest cake tops all of them. We got one recently for the husband’s birthday, and more than loved it. It comes filled with nuts and tropical fruits, with Sweet Chariot’s characteristic freshness and moistness. Super delish!

Fruit of Forest cake at Sweet Chariot

I haven’t seen this flavour available in pastries in Sweet Chariot outlets – as far as I know, it is available only in birthday cakes. Worth a try, for sure, though.

Dessert in a mason jar at Green Theory, Richmond Town

For the OH’s birthday, we went to Green Theory, Richmond Town, for lunch. A small but green space, it is pet- and children-friendly, and boasts of food made from organic ingredients. We did have a lovely, relaxed lunch there!

The green outdoor seating at Green Theory

I especially loved the Rice With Three Bean Curry and Tomato-Basil Pasta that we had. The Farmhouse Pizza that we ordered did not live up to our expectations, sadly.

I loved the way they served their desserts in little mason jars – cute and charming presentation. We ordered a Chocolate Indulgence for dessert; we were not too happy with the taste, but we loved the presentation!

Chocolate Indulgence at Green Theory

The food prices were slightly on the higher side, but not much. The ambience of the restaurant is definitely worth experiencing, especially the outdoor seating.

Recipe kits from Chef’s Basket

As you guys already know, I am not one for processed foods and ready-to-cook kits. I made an exception recently, though, and picked up a Chef’s Basket Recipe Kit at Namdhari’s, for Thai Green Curry and Jasmine Rice. The kits claimed no use of artificial ingredients or preservatives, and I decided to give one a try. I made it yesterday and, I must say, I am happy with it.

The kit, with its sleek and pretty packaging

Chef’s Basket recipe kits are not your typical supermarket dunk-in-boiling-water-and-eat food-kits. According to the Chef’s Basket website, the kits help you prepare those exotic foods that you shell out huge money to buy in eateries, and which you never thought you could make at home – like burritos or pasta in creamy white sauce. These kits provide you with most of the ingredients that you would need to make these dishes, including spices, rice, oil, and measuring cup, excluding fresh vegetables.

The ingredients for the Thai food, neatly packed inside the kit

The instructions on the kit are simple and easy to follow, and usage of vessels commonly available in the Indian kitchen are recommended. It was a breeze preparing the food! I only had to buy a few vegetables to add to the curry – capsicum, baby corn, carrots and zucchini – and tofu. The rest was all there, in the kit.

The final product that I came up with

Priced at Rs. 300, this recipe kit was a nice and economical way to enjoy a meal that we would never have managed to cook at home otherwise, I think. The food tasted good, too, and not artificial and chemical and tasteless, the way food from many ready-to-eat food kits I have used were. The quantity was good enough for two.

Now, I want to try out their other food kits, too.

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What have your foodie discoveries been, lately?

Chinese-style Idli

What do we do when we have loads of idlis left over, and are bored of the usual idli upma? We look up some food blogs and make a variation of this chilli idli fry. And then, we decide to call it Chinese-style Idli. :)

Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients (makes enough for one person, as a stand-alone breakfast, lunch or dinner item):

4 leftover idlis, cut up into cubes

4 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons of oil

2 small onions, chopped finely

1 medium-sized capsicum, chopped into large pieces

Salt, to taste

Chilli powder, to taste

A small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped finely

2 tablespoons green chilli sauce

4 tablespoons tomato sauce

2 tablespoons soya sauce

A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled

Method:

1. Heat the 4 tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Drop the idli pieces into the hot oil and saute for a while on a low flame, till they turn crispy on the outside. Keep aside.

2. Grind the ginger and garlic into a paste, in a mixer. Keep aside.

3. Now, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan. Add the ginger-garlic paste and onions and fry for a minute or two.

4. Add the capsicum and saute for about 5 minutes, on a low flame. Do not let them get overly cooked; let them retain their shape and crunch.

5. Now, add the soya sauce, tomato sauce, green chilli sauce, and salt and red chilli powder to taste. Mix well.

6. Now, add the sauteed idli pieces. Mix well, ensuring that all the idli pieces are evenly coated with the sauce.

7. Switch off the gas. Garnish with the chopped fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot.

Notes:

1. Be careful while adding the salt. The idli has some salt in it already, and soya sauce is salty too.

2. If you want the dish to be slightly more sweet, you could add a spoonful of sugar while adding the sauces and salt.

3. Be careful with the red chilli powder, as well. Since you are already adding 2 tablespoons of green chilli sauce, adding an overdose of red chilli powder will make the dish too spicy to eat.

4. The original recipe calls for the use of red chilli sauce, but I didn’t have it. I used green chilli sauce, instead.

5. The original recipe also calls for deep frying of the chopped idli. I didn’t want to do that, so I used the above method. Not too healthy, but healthier than deep frying, at least. A middle way to appease the taste buds and not gain a whole load of weight in the process. :)

6. I am sure adding spring onions would have taken the taste of the dish to another level altogether. I didn’t use them, since I didn’t have any.

7. Use leftover idlis to make this dish – they’re easier to cut into pieces and saute. If you want to use fresh idlis, refrigerate them for a couple of hours before you cut them up.

Now, I am curious. What do YOU do with the leftover idlis, in your kitchen?

Is There…

….. a proven connection between a baby’s mundan and his/her naughtiness? There certainly seems to be some connection of that sort, in Bubboo’s case.

There has been a marked increase in Madame’s naughtiness after the mundan. I am sure it is not just me; the entire family has noticed and commented on it. She is constantly on the lookout for mischief, keeping me on my toes more than ever before.

See for yourself.

This is the scene that met my eyes when I returned to the living room from the kitchen, this afternoon, after grabbing a glass of water. I had left Bubboo in the living room, alone, for a sum total of, maybe, a minute. In those 60 seconds, she had managed to crawl to the bag in which we usually keep her few toys, pull it nearer her, get her hands entangled in the straps of the bag, peep into the bag, and pull out a few of her favourites.

And this is just one, very small, instance.

My hair, nose, eyes, cheeks and chin are under constant attack by little hands. And one little mouth. Bubboo seems to think that these assorted parts of my body can be screwed out or bitten out of my face. Considering the force with which she claws and bites away, the said parts might just decide to give away and fall off!

There is now someone in the house we need to be very, very, very careful around.

Any comments, One Honest Writer?

Lotus Stem Puli Kuzhambu/Vattalkuzhambu

Whenever the husband visits home from Delhi, he ensures that he gets some lotus stem. All of us at home love lotus stem, and I am in the process of learning to prepare different dishes using it. Yesterday, I decided to make puli kuzhambu aka vattalkuzhambu using lotus stem, and it turned out super delish!

This is a very South Indian preparation, which goes well with white rice and dosas. It is spicy and tangy, and the way the cooked lotus stem tastes with the tamarind gravy is lovely.

I followed this recipe for the kuzhambu, making very few, minor changes.

Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients (makes enough for 3 people, to be had mixed with white rice):

4 medium-sized lotus stems, thoroughly washed, peeled and chopped into rounds

2 medium-sized onions, chopped length-wise

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 green chillies, slit length-wise

2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped finely

2 tablespoons sambar powder

1 tablespoon coriander powder

A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind, soaked in warm water for 15-20 minutes

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon fenugreek (methi) seeds

A few fresh curry leaves

A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

Salt, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

Powdered jaggery, to taste

Method:

1. Extract all the juice from the soaked tamarind. Keep aside.

2. In a small pressure cooker, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to splutter. Add the fenugreek seeds and the asafoetida.

3. Add the chopped onions and garlic. Saute for a few minutes till the raw smell goes away.

4. Now, add the chopped tomatoes and slit green chillies. Add a bit of water and salt to taste. Cook for a few minutes or till the tomatoes turn mushy.

5. Add the chopped lotus stem, tamarind water, curry leaves, salt and red chilli powder to taste, turmeric powder, sambar powder, coriander powder, and jaggery. Mix well. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes on a high flame.

6. Add a little more water if required, and close the cooker. Give it about 4 whistles.

7. When all the steam has escaped, open the cooker. Add the finely chopped coriander leaves. Mix well.

8. If you feel the kuzhambu needs a little thickening, you can let it simmer on a medium flame for a few more minutes, at this stage.

Done!

Just Read

Following Fish – Samanth Subramanian

Genre: Non-fiction, travel, Indian author, food

There have been a lot of great reviews of Following Fish, the first book by Samanth Subramanian, this up and coming Indian writer, in the blogosphere. I don’t read many Indian authors, but this one I was tempted to pick up. And I am absolutely glad I did.

Following Fish, as the name suggests, is all about the author’s various trysts with fish, in different parts of India, not all of a culinary nature. It is a sort-of travel memoir, detailing the experiences the author has had with different varieties of fish, from the Hyderabadi fish cure for asthma and being witness to the preparation of fishing boats in Gujarat, to eating the famed Hilsa in Bengal and being faced with the grim realities of fishing as it is today in Goa.

The book is a delightful read, beautifully written, rich in narration, bubbling over with wit. The writing style is simple and crisp, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I loved how the book took me places in my mind – bringing back memories from our holidays to Veraval, Goa, and the backwaters of Kerala.

Irrespective of whether you love fish or not, this book comes highly recommended. Especially if you are a lover of travel.

The Reading Promise – Alice Ozma

Genre: Memoir, books, non-fiction

When Alice Ozma was just a little girl, her father and she made a promise to each other – to read books aloud, together, every single day, even if only for a brief while. Father and daughter started, and didn’t stop reading to each other for 3,218 days! Throughout school and various stages of life, Alice Ozma and her father read books together, often finding solace – and solutions – in their reading sessions. The Reading Promise is all about these 3,218 days.

I enjoyed the book, though I did not love it the way I thought I would. Alice and her father are quirky, and make for interesting characters. It was fun to read their exploits, but the book did feel rather amateur in places, the chapters seemed, sort of, unconnected sometimes. The author was in her 20s when she wrote the book, and so, the amateurish feeling of it can be excused. In parts, though, the author has a mature voice, and I could almost see her evolving from girl to woman.

There is talk of books in The Reading Promise – but, of course – not as much as I would have liked, though. Some chapters just seemed to ramble on, without any in-depth discussions about books, which is not what I had expected.

The end of the book is beautiful, I must say. I thoroughly loved it.

All in all, I would say it was an enjoyable read for me. I didn’t get what I had expected, but the book wasn’t entirely disappointing either.

A Dog’s Life – Peter Mayle

Genre: Dogs, light read

I have read quite a bit of Peter Mayle (A Year In Provence, Toujours Provence, Encore Provence, French Lessons and Confessions Of A French Baker), and have thoroughly enjoyed all his books. So, when I saw a marked-down copy of his A Dog’s Life in Blossoms recently, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. I enjoyed this one, too – it was an entirely delightful read.

The author and his wife found a dog of suspect pedigree while in Provence, in a not-so-great condition. They promptly adopted him and, on a whim, named him Boy. A Dog’s Life is a memoir of Boy’s life, in Boy’s voice. It is full of Mayle’s trademark witty prose and charming descriptions, and the cartoon illustrations in the book only add to the delight factor of it all.

This book is not great literature, of course, but a nice, light read when you want something refreshing and intelligent to perk you up. Do give it a shot!

What are you reading at the moment?

Khatta Chana

If not for this girl, I might not have known about Khatta Chana at all! She read about the dish in a cookbook, made it, loved it, wrote about it on her Facebook page, and it has become a staple at their house ever since. I found the recipe very interesting, bookmarked it, tried it out, and fell in love with it.

Kala chana khatta or khatta chana is, as the name suggests, a slightly sour-tasting dish made with black chickpeas. Super easy to prepare, it contains no onion or garlic. It is a ‘pahaadi’ (belonging to the hilly regions) recipe, quite commonly made in homes in Himachal Pradesh. It is a dish that is tasty and packed with nutrition. I specially liked the fact that you don’t need to throw away the water that you boil the chickpeas in; you use that too in the recipe. As far as I know, that water is very rich in nutrients.

The book from which this recipe was originally taken is called The Sood Family Cookbook, by Aparna Jain. Here are more details about the book and the recipe, in case you are interested.

Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients (for 2 people):

3 cups of black chana (chickpeas) – I used whole green chana, instead of black

3 tablespoons of besan (gram flour)

Salt, to taste

A bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped

Red chilli powder, to taste

Amchoor powder, to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

Powdered jaggery, to taste

2 teaspoons coriander powder

2 teaspoons cumin (jeera) powder

1 tablespoon oil

A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin (jeera)

Method:

1. Wash the chickpeas thoroughly, and soak them overnight. Drain out the excess water in the morning. Add enough fresh water to cover the chickpeas and boil them in the pressure cooker. Give it about 4 whistles in the pressure cooker. Drain out the excess water – do not throw away the water, but reserve it for use later.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow to splutter. Add the cumin and the asafoetida.

3. Add the boiled and drained chickpeas, gram flour, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, salt and amchoor powder.

4. Turn the flame on low. Saute for a minute or two.

5. Add the water you boiled the chickpeas in, which you reserved earlier. Add more water, if required. Add the powdered jaggery, to taste. Mix well. Let it cook for 7-10 minutes on a medium flame. Stir occasionally. This curry thickens as it cools down, so make sure you make it a little more watery than usual when you first cook it.

6. Switch off the gas. Add the finely chopped coriander leaves. Mix well.

Serve hot with rotis.

Murukku Chaat

I have heard about the ‘murukku sandwiches’ that are available in Chennai, but have never had a chance to taste them. I have always been intrigued by them, though.

I had a packet of small murkkus lying at home since long, and wanted to use them up. So, murukku chaat it was for a tea-time snack yesterday. I took the cue from this recipe, and made my own modifications to it. It was delicious!

Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients (for 10 murukkus):

10 small ready-made murukkus

1 cube Amul cheese, grated

A few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves, chopped finely

1 small-sized onion, chopped finely

1 small-sized tomato, chopped finely

Chaat masala

1 small-sized potato (boiled, peeled, and mashed)

Green, spicy chutney (see note below)

Sweet and sour chutney (see note below)

Method:

1. Place the murukkus on a plate.

2. Smear a little of the mashed potato on each murukku.

3. Add a few chopped onions and tomatoes over each murukku.

4. Add the sweet and sour chutney and the green chutney over each murukku.

5. Add the grated cheese and chopped coriander over each murukku.

6. Sprinkle a pinch of chaat masala over each murukku.

Hog!

Note:

Refer to this recipe to know how I make the spicy green chutney and the sweet and sour chutney.

Sabut Masoor Ki Daal

Sabut masoor daal – or whole, unbroken masoor daal – was one of the things the OH got home from Delhi when he visited the last time. I am not sure if it is available in Bangalore; at least, I haven’t seen it anywhere here. I was pretty curious and excited to cook it yesterday, and I must say it turned out really well.

Whole masoor daal is brown in colour, unlike the broken daal that is orange. The whole daal has loads of protein and other nutrients as compared to the broken one. Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients (makes enough for 2 people):

2 small cupfuls of whole masoor daal

2 small-sized onions, finely chopped

2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped

A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

2 green chillies, slit lengthwise

2 teaspoons oil

A pinch of asafoetida

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin (jeera)

Juice of 1 lemon

Red chilli powder, to taste

1-1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1-1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

5 pods of garlic, peeled

A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled

2-3 tablespoons thick curd

Method:

1. Wash the whole masoor thoroughly and soak it for 15-20 minutes. Then, add enough water to cover the daal and pressure cook it. Give it about 4 whistles in the pressure cooker. Keep aside.

2. Grind the garlic and ginger in the mixer, to a paste. Keep aside.

3. Heat the oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to splutter.

3. Add the hing, cumin and the onions. Saute till they turn light brown in colour.

4. Add the ginger garlic paste. Saute till the raw smell goes away.

5. Add the tomatoes, salt to taste and green chillies. Add a little water. Let it cook for a few more minutes, till the tomatoes turn mushy.

6. Add the cooked masoor daal, turmeric powder, red chilli powder to taste, garam masala and coriander powder. Mix well. Let everything cook together on a medium flame for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water to bring the daal to the desired consistency.

7. Add curd and mix well. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes on a low flame.

8. Switch off the gas. Add the chopped coriander leaves and lemon juice. Mix well.

Serve hot with white rice or rotis. This daal is quite filling by itself, and doesn’t really need a sabzi to go with it.

On trying to find a balance

Even if you have been living under a rock, you cannot have missed all the bad news for foodies (and terrifying news for new parents) that has been circulating in the media lately.

First Maggi, then Nan Pro 3, then Complan, then Haldiram’s, then Mother Dairy milk and Cerelac – everything seems to be contaminated. And then, there are the messages floating in on Facebook and WhatsApp which say that these are not the only brands that one needs to be careful of. Apparently, Proteinex, Horlicks, Bournvita and several other brands of supposedly healthy foods and drinks contain harmful elements. They, apparently, aren’t fit for human consumption. Then, we hear of maida being mixed in asafoetida and in wheat flour, and papaya juice being added to aam ras, and what not.

I am not going to get into the technical details of these news items. Neither am I going to get into a discussion of which of the Facebook and WhatsApp messages are hoaxes and which ones aren’t. I am not talking only about the items that are currently under the scanner and being hotly discussed. This post is about the dangers of contamination, of adulteration, we live with every day.

I have always been wary of consuming things that are packaged, which haven’t been made in front of me. Yes, I am a big-time foodie and I eat out occasionally, something that I have consciously been trying to cut down on. Yes, I eat processed foods like cheese and ketchup and jam, things that, again, I have been seriously trying to reduce and learning to make at home. I gave up on instant meals and carbonated drinks a long, long time ago, but I do have certain indulgences – like chocolate, for instance, or Nutella. The thing is, there is stuff that you just cannot replicate at home, however hard you try. Yes, you can live without these foods, but for a hard-core foodie like me, that would be a bland, dull life.

You cannot make every single thing you use at home, I think. I have heard of people resorting to using soap nuts for washing, instead of using the harsh chemical-ridden soaps that are available in the market today. Some people grind their masalas at home. How far can this go on, though?

You can build a farm house with a little garden and grow your own fruits and vegetables; even hire a gardener to help out, maybe. You can have a cow – or two – and get your own milk. You can make your own bread and preserves and cheese and butter. You can make all the street food that you crave for at home. To an extent, then, you will be free of harmful ingredients and bacteria. I must say, I have been tempted to do that myself. Sorely. But then, isn’t that a terribly isolating way of living a life? You, your home, your family, your garden become your own cocoon. Will such a lifestyle leave you time for a social life? Does it leave you enough time for your children? Does it leave you enough time to pursue your other passions? As far as I know, it has got to be a terribly consuming life, taking up every waking – sometimes even non-waking minute – of yours.

What, then, is the solution? Where does one draw the line between self-sufficiency and trusting someone else to make a really good product for oneself? How does one find a balance?