Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Season's Greetings

Here's wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May 2014 bring a lot of joy, laughter, love, hope and great food to all of you!

I am going on a two week break for the holiday season and will be back in 2014 with bigger and better ideas!

Looking forward to seeing you all again soon!

Monday, 23 December 2013

One Food Experience: Royce' Chocolates

Royce' is a Japanese brand of chocolates with international presence in the US, India, Russia, and South East Asian countries such as . Their only store in India is at the High Street Phoenix Mall in Mumbai.

I recently came across their Nama Ghana Bitter Chocolate (Nama means fresh in Japanese) and was simply stumped! The experience of buying (as heard from the friend's stories) and eating (as felt from my own experience) are one-of-a-kind and are totally worth having.

Royce' Nama Ghana Bitter Chocolate

When you go to buy this chocolate, they give it to you with a frozen cooling gel pack in the bag and seal it up so that it maintains the temperature required by the chocolate till you get home and can store it in the refrigerator. And apparently, the gel didn't completely melt off till the next day despite Mumbai temperatures and being out for about 2 hours at least during the afternoon. This in itself shows how seriously they take their chocolate!

Now, let me come to the experience of having this chocolate. The chocolate is cut up into 20 bite-sized pieces on which there is a sprinkling of cocoa powder. The chocolate has a rich cocoa smell, laced with hints of cool - frozen, fresh cool and not minty cool. You pick up a cool piece of the chocolate (yes, it is best eaten straight out of the refrigerator, you do not need to bring it to room temperature unlike other chocolates) and you immediately notice that it still has a soft texture with silkiness from the cocoa powder.

Royce' Nama Ghana Bitter Chocolate Up Close

Then we come to the actual eating part. I ate a couple of pieces of it and I enjoyed it better when I popped the whole  piece into my mouth. The texture despite being cold was not frozen. It had a lovely creamy yet solid softness that melts slowly on your tongue. As it melts, it releases a dense, not-to-sweet cocoa flavour, which unlike the name of the chocolate is not bitter. The only thing that was marred the experience a bit was the feel of the cocoa powder in the mouth. It was kind of dry that took away from the moistness and freshness of the rest of the experience of the chocolate.

With the coolness of the temperature and the fresh, softness of the rich cocoa flavour, it is quite an experience! I can keep describing it and using more adjectives, but it is an experience best had rather than heard of.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Mixed Vegetable Kofta Curry

Not all first attempts are always successful - but they do make for  good learning and great stories. My first attempt at this kofta curry has such a story behind it. I followed the instructions I had gotten for this recipe to the 't'. And when I was about to turn off the gas I tasted a bit of it as usual, and it tasted, well, not so good!

Mixed Vegetable Kofta Curry

So I was wondering what was it that I had missed? The first thing I adjusted was my usual - the salt - which I always end up putting too less of in a dish. And in adjusting it I got overexcited and put a bit too much of it. But thanks to plain parathas and rice, it was okay at the end. The second thing I learnt about this dish which is very important to this dish was not frying the koftas till they become crispy. This is because by the time you put them in the curry to cook they will go too dry and harden.

For those who are not aware of this dish, kofta curry is a delicious main course dish from North India, specifically Punjab. It is made of fried balls of vegetables such as bottle gourd, cabbage, carrots etc with gram flour, or minced meat balls served in a rich onion-tomato gravy cooked with spices.With these in mind, here is the recipe for this beautiful, rich dish.

Mixed Vegetable Kofta Curry

Mixed Vegetables Kofta Curry

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 4


For the Koftas

1/2 cup grated cabbage (patta gobhi)
1/2 cup grated bottle gourd (lauki/ ghia)
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
2 tsps garam masala
1 cup gram flour (besan)
2 tbps water for binding
Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

For the Gravy

2 tsps oil
2 tsps ginger-garlic paste
3 medium sized onions pureed in a mixer
3 medium sized tomatoes pureed in a mixer
1 tsp turmeric
3 tsps red chilly powder
4 tsps garam masala powder
1 cup water
Salt to taste

For Garnishing

Fresh corriander leaves/ stalks




Put the oil in a deep pan for heating to ready it for deep frying.

Mix together the grated vegetables. Sprinkle all the dried powder spices - turmeric, red chilly powder, garam masala and a little salt on these and mix it evenly with the vegetables with your fingers.

In a couple of minutes, the vegetables will start releasing their water. Now add the gram flour (besan) and using the water released bind the flour together. Add a little water if necessary. The flour should be moist enough to be able to be binded together into balls.

Make about 12 balls of 1-11/2 inch diameter from this mixture.

Check if the oil is hot enough for frying by putting in a little bit of the gram flour-vegetable mixture. If it rises immediately, the oil is hot enough.

Lower the heat and fry the balls in the oil on low heat till they turn a little reddish brown. Do not increase the heat or make them too golden and crispy as they will harden.

Kofta Curry with the Gravy

Mixed Vegetable Koftas in the Gravy

In a deep frying pan, heat the 2 tbsps oil. Add in the ginger-garlic paste and fry for about 30-40 seconds.

Add in the pureed onions, lower the heat to a medium high and fry them for about 8-10 minutes till the onions lose their raw smell and turn pinkish-red. They will also start releasing their oil when they start to cook. Don't keep the heat too high, it will not speeden the process, just lead to uneven cooking of the onion puree, with parts staying raw and parts almost burning.

To the cooked onions add the pureed tomatoes. Fry them on the medium high flame for about 4-5 minutes. The tomatoes need to cook through well otherwise they will leave a raw sour flavour in the dish that will just taste weird. So cook it for a couple of minutes longer if you have any doubts- you can't overcook them but you can definitely undercook them!

Add the dried spices - turmeric powder, red chilly powder, garam masala powder and cook on a medium high flame till the mixture starts releasing the oil. I have often heard this being called 'masale khilna' (blooming of the spices) or 'masale khulna' (opening up of the spices) in Hindi. This will take about 5 minutes on the medium high flame.

Add  the water to adjust the consistency of the gravy.

Lower the flame to a simmer, add in the koftas and mix well till the koftas are covered with the gravy. cover the pan and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add salt to taste (and not too much like me!).

Garnish with fresh corriander and serve with your favourite parathas, naans, steamed rice or jeera rice.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés

And I have reached my 100th post!

It has been quite a journey writing about food the last one-and-a-half years. I have indulged in creating as well as learning new recipes, food memories from the different home kitchens that I love, one food experiences at my favourite restaurants and some learning and fun in food thoughts and food creativity. This blog was always meant to combine my two loves: food and writing... and it has helped me bring them together with a lot of fun and learning adventures!

For my 100th blog post I was planning to create a new recipe. I was wondering what the theme should be when I realised that the holiday season that the entire world celebrates - Christmas and New Years' Eve - are just around the corner. It brings with it some really great parties and holiday food. I am part of a lot of food-related groups on Facebook and I follow a lot of food blogs (not surprising, really) and I see the Christmas trends of bakes and cakes in full swing. I am not a baker, so the best way I can contribute to this party season is through some savoury party food.

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés

These Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés are a quick preparation making them a perfect party food. They are cruchy yet cheesy, non-spicy, cheesy, creamy and dotted with sweet corn and have been liked by fussy kids and adults alike.

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés 

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapé

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés

Preparation Time: 15 mins (to steam the corn)
Cooking Time: 10 mins

Makes 25 canapés


5 tbsps butter
5 tbsps refined flour (maida)
2 cups milk
1 tbsp grated cheese
1 cup sweet corn steamed
½ tsp black pepper powder
Salt to taste

For serving:

25 basket puris/ tart shells


In a pan heat the butter till it melts. Lower the flame, add in the refined flour (maida) and keep stirring and roast till the flour releases a roasted aroma. This takes about 4-5 minutes.

Keep the flame low and while stirring the roasted refined flour and add in the milk, ensuring that there are no lumps.

When the sauce starts to thicken to a thick soup-like consistency, add in the grated cheese, the salt, the black pepper powder. Mix well so that the cheese melts into the entire sauce and flavours it.

Finally, add in the steamed corn and mix it in well in the white sauce.

Fill about a tablespoon of the prepared mixture into the basket puri/ tart shells and serve immediately.


Using a whisk while stirring can ensure that there are no lumps in the sauce.

Make sure the white sauce doesn’t get too thick on the flame, as even after the heat is turned off, the sauce will thicken in the residual heat. This will make the filling mixture very dense.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Pav Bhaji

Pav bhaji is probably the most famous street food of Mumbai. At every nook and corner you will see numerous stalls, carts and restaurants serving this dish. Typically these places have a huge cast iron tawa (girdle) with a mashed vegetable mixture ready around its edges and a place in the middle to prepare the dish on order.

This dish is made up of two components served together. The bhaji is a mixture of mashed vegetables cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes and specific spices for a long, long time in a kadhai or the thick iron tawa The best flavour of Pav bhaji is achieved by letting the pav bhaji simmer for a very long time so that the spices blend well with the vegetables and their aromas bloom. So though it is a street food, it is by no means a fast food. Pav, which is a special bread, is roasted on a girdle to golden brown perfection with a big dollop of butter just before serving, so that when you pick it up the butter just drips from it.

Mumbai Pav Bhaji

For those who are not aware of the origins of it, we owe the invention of pav bhaji to the American Civil War! During the American Civil War, America and Europe had a shortage of cotton, a commodity traded by Gujarati merchants on Dalal Street. Seeing an opportunity, Gujarati merchants started trading late into the night by taking orders at European and American hours. When they were hungry this late at night, street stalls flourished that would serve mashed vegetables (that day's leftovers) in a tomato gravy with buttery loaves: and thus was born pav bhaji.

Here is my recipe of this buttery, tomato-ey, spicy goodness.

Pav Bhaji


3 tbsps oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 medium sized onions finely chopped
1 green capsicum finely chopped
3 medium sized tomatoes pureed
4 medium sized potatoes boiled and mashed
50 gms cauliflower boiled and mashed
30 gms green peas boiled
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp chilly powder
2 tbsps pav bhaji masala
1 tbsp ghee
8-10 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 green chilly cut into 5-6 pieces
15-20 fresh corriander leaves finely chopped
Salt to taste

6 pavs
3 tbsps salted butter

Corriander leaves, butter, wedge of lemon for serving



In a kadhai, heat 2 tbsps oil and add in cumin seeds. When they splutter, lower the flame to medium high and add in the onions and fry till they start releasing the oil. Add the chopped green capsicum and fry till they also release the oil.

To this mixture, add the pureed tomatoes and keep stirring. Add in the turmeric powder, the chilly powder and the pav bhaji masala. Keep stirring and let it cook on a medium high flame till the tomatoes release the oil. Lower the flame to a simmer and let it keep cooking for another 8-10 minutes.

Keep the flame to a medium high and add the boiled and mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Use a pav bhaji masher to blend the tomato mixture and the vegetables together.

Once the mixture blends together, lower the flame and cover and cook on simmer for 10 mins. You can add water to adjust consistency of the mixture as you simmer it. When this is done, ad in the boiled peas and salt to taste.

In another small non-stick pan or tadka vessel, heat 1 tbsp oil and the ghee together. Add in the chopped garlic, the green chilly and the corriander leaves and fry for 30 seconds till the garlic releases its aroma. Pour this over the cooked vegetable mixture and stir it in.

Lower the flame and let the pav bhaji simmer for another 5 mins till the aromas of the second tadka seeps through the mixture.

The bhaji with butter melting on top of it

Serve with pavs roasted in the butter, a wedge of lemon and butter.

This dish is best enjoyed with your fingers - use both your hands to tear a bite-sized piece of the pav, scoop up some bhaji with it, gobble it up and then lick the rest of the bhaji and butter from the pav off your fingers. Every bite is this fun to eat!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Shopping at Crawford Market Mumbai

I am a non-traditional shopper. When it comes to shopping for clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery etc, my standard operating rule is "Like, Fit, Price, Pay, Leave." But when it comes to food and books, I savour the experience. At food markets I linger over every shelf, enjoy the display, discover new ingredients, pick them up, smell them, touch them and read about them in detail, I jump with joy when I find the right thing at the right price or sigh softly when I can't find what I need.

My most favourite experiences for shopping for food has always been that of shopping at Crawford Market in Mumbai. Crawford Market, or Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai as it officially goes, is a 144 year old building located close to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station in Mumbai. You can find ANYTHING food-related here, including the most unheard of ingredients, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and chocolates at prices that will make you not only jump, but dance with joy.

Everything at one place: Crawford Market Mumbai

For me and my friend who loves cooking too, shopping at Crawford is like our version of 'making a day of it'. Going to Crawford market to shop is like a picnic for us. We mark an entire day for going to Crawford, not only because of the travel time (as we live in the suburbs), but also because of the time we'll take to browse, linger, and shop. We'll carry at least 3 to 4 huge (and by huge I mean HUGE) bags to carry back whatever we 'plan' to shop for. Of course, every time the number of bags end up being more than what we have carried as you simply cannot stick to lists here if you love food.

My first experience of shopping at Crawford felt like an interesting irony of all the ingredients I need in ways I didn't think it could be available. It is like shopping for high-end, rare ingredients at an everyday bazaar. Where else will you find Thai Bird Chilly, Galangal, Kaffir Lime, Italian Basil, and curled Parsley next to your everyday curry leaves and dhania patti at a traditional sabziwaala stall? Where  else can you find Parmesan, Gouda and Edam sharing shelf space with Amul and Britannia? And in which bazaar will you find Earl Grey and Lady Grey nestled next to your Girnar and Society Tea?

Shopping at Crawford can be best described an assault on your senses. Though it is an indoor market that is poorly lit, you cannot miss the bright colours of the products at display.There are a variety of smells:  fishy, spicy, cheesy and chocolaty sweet that mingle and permeate through the market. And the symphony of sounds of calling out to customers, persuading, questioning, bargaining and haggling are a tribute to Indian bazaars.

The range of products available at Crawford does not end at rare ingredients and people also go there to shop for cheap and good quality clothes, footwear, beauty products from around the world, crockery and serveware, bakeware, party items, jewellery-making stuff and even alcohol. The range is wide indeed.

Till date, I have never been disappointed by a trip to Crawford. I've always found whatever I have needed at very reasonable prices. It is a must-go for all Mumbai food lovers. A word of caution though for first time shoppers, go with someone experienced with the maze of Crawford Market and its bylanes or you'll be spending hours there with not much fruitful outcomes. Whatever it is, I can assure you you'll still enjoy the experience. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Dhaniya Kadhi

Every once in a while I watch food shows on T.V. (especially the travel and food kind) and find some or the other recipe giving me great ideas. This is especially true when the recipe is simple and yet I can imagine how well the flavours will go with each other. However, I am one of those who cannot stick to the recipe to the 't' and I will always bring my own take to the recipe.

Dhaniya Kadhi

I saw this recipe on a T.V. show where the chef added simple corriander paste to Gujarati kadhi. I've taken this idea and made my own version of Corriander Kadhi. I got great feedback for the recipe from my family and neighbours, so I am sharing it.

Dhaniya Kadhi

Dhaniya Kadhi


2 cups yoghurt
4 tbsps gram flour
3 cups water
2 tbsps oil
1 1/2 tsps mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds
2 tsps ginger garlic paste
20-30 fresh corriander stalks
1 green chilly
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
2 tsps garam masala powder
1 tsp amchur powder
Salt to taste


Whisk the yoghurt and gram flour together ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture. Add the water and mix well.

 In a grinder grind together the corriander stalks, the cumin powder and the green chilly with about 2 tsps of water till they form a smooth puree.

Heat oil in a kadhai and temper with mustard and cumin seeds. Fry in the ginger garlic paste for about 20 seconds. Pour in the yoghurt mixture and stir.

Add in the corriander paste, the garam masala and the amchur powder. Keep stirring till the kadhi comes to a boil. Lower the flame and let the kadhi cook for another 3 minutes.

Serve with paratha, steamed rice or a rice preparation of your choice.

P.S. You can also add pakoras to this kadhi like in Punjabi pakodewaali kadhi.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Veg Hakka Noodles

We Indians have our own version of Chinese cuisine. You'll find this spicy version of Chinese on roadsides as well as in fancy restaurants. Hot spicy Manchow soup with fried noodles, crispy Manchurian balls, salty and tangy Hakka Noodles, punjent Schezwan Rice, sweet and sour American Chopsuey are names that will make any Indian salivate. We love this version of Chinese and are pulled to it again and again. I know of many people living abroad who have access to great Chinese food but miss the Indian version of Chinese food.

Veg Hakka Noodles

One of my personal favourites are Veg Hakka Noodles. The best part about these noodles is that they do not have much seasoning and just a couple of sauces. So a lot of the flavour of the dish comes from the vegetables. For a vegetable lover like me that's just perfect! Today, after a long time I made these Veg Hakka Noodles and they turned out as good as I remember them to ever be. So here's the recipe for them.

VEg Hakka Noodles - Indian Style

Veg Hakka Noodles


1 packet hakka noodles
2 tbsps peanut/ sesame oil
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 medium onion thinly sliced
30 gms carrot julienned
30 gms cabbage julienned
30 gms green bell pepper julienned
2 tsps dark soy sauce
2 tsps white vinegar
2 tsps red chilly sauce
Salt to taste


Cook the noodles as per the packet instructions.

Heat a pan on a high flame till it gets very hot. Put in the oil and heat it till it smokes.

Add the ginger garlic paste to the heated oil. Now, add the onions and fry them till they turn translucent.

Next come all the vegetables. Put them in the pan and fry them for about 40-50 seconds till they start to sweat.

Add in the noodles, the soy sauce, the vinegar, the chilly sauce and the salt. Toss well till they mix in with the noodles.

Serve hot with your favourite Chinese gravy dish or as is.

Veg Hakka Noodles - Another angle

Monday, 2 December 2013

Fresh Toor Kachori

Toor dal or yellow pigeon peas is our staple dal. The dal we make everyday at home as a part of our thaali is made from toor dal. Fresh toor,  however, is available only in the winter months from November to January. Gujarati food during winter months is a celebration of the availability of fresh toor. These green pearls are the basis of many a dish, especially undhiyu, the most famous winter dish that comes from Gujarati kitchens.

Fresh toor (Fresh pigeon peas)

One of the kitchen favourites at my place is the very Gujju sweet, sour, savoury and crispy kachori made from fresh toor. This recipe is straight from my maasi's kitchen who makes the best toor kachoris ever! Oh, and if you can't find toor you can always make them with green peas.

Fresh Toor Kachoris

Fresh Toor Kachori


For the filling

250 gms fresh toor green pigeon peas
1/2 inch ginger 
2 green chillies
2 tbsps oil
2 tsps white sesame seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp corriander-cumin powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps sugar
Salt to taste

For the cover

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbps oil
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying


Grind the deskinned fresh toor in a mixer-grinder with the ginger and chillies till they form a fine mince.

Knead a firm dough of the whole wheat flour with the oil, salt and water. Cover it and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Temper with the sesame seeds and asafoetida powder. 

Lower the flame to medium high and add in the toor minced mixture. Cook it with the tempering for 2 minutes and keep stirring so it doesn't stick.  Cover the pan with a lid and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes on a low simmer flame. The toor will cook fast as it is ground finely. 

Open the lid and add in the turmeric powder, the corriander-cumin powder, the lemon juice, the sugar and the salt. Keep stirring till the sugar melts and is blended well. Turn off the flame and let the mixture cool.

To make the kachoris, make a ball of the dough about 1/2 inch in diameter and roll out a poori of 3 inches in diameter.  Take a tablespoon of the stuffing and place it in the center.

The poori with the stuffing for the kachori

Bring together all the sides of the poori to cover the stuffing and press gently with your fingers to make a potli.

The potli stage

Take the potli in the center of your palms and press gently till it flattens out on the top.

The final kachori
Heat oil in a deep pan. Deep fry the prepared kachoris till they're golden brown on both sides. Enjoy hot with some chutney or ketchup.

Kerala Style Vegetable Stew

And I am back after a long 'break' for my exams! I have quite some free time on my hands now till classes start again, so here comes some cooking fun! 

The first time I came across Kerala style vegetable stew was in a food autobiography called Monsoon Diary: A Memoir by Shoba Narayan. I found this recipe very interesting and bookmarked it to make some day. That some day has actually come today, around 3 years later because I had some coconut milk in my refrigerator and did not have the ingredients for the Thai red chilli paste. When I went back to the book, I realised that I did not have all the ingredients for it either. I went to 'Google' for some adjustment ideas and added a bit of my own touch. It turned out quite nice so here I am sharing this recipe.

Kerala Style Vegetable Stew with Steamed Rice

Kerala Style Vegetable Stew


1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ginger paste
15 curry leaves
2 inch cinnamon stick
5 whole black peppercorns
2 green chillies slit lengthwise
2 medium onions finely chopped
50 gms carrot diced into 1/4 inch cubes
50 gms cauliflower, florets separated
50 gms potato diced into 1/4 inch cubes
50 gms red pumpkin diced into 1/4 inch cubes
250 ml coconut milk
Salt to taste
250 ml water


In a deep pan bring the water to a boil for parboiling the vegetables. Lower the flame and add the potatoes and carrots first. After a couple of minutes add the cauliflower and the red pumpkin. Cook with the flame on for about 3 minutes. Turn off the flame and let the vegetables be in the hot water for another 3 minutes. Drain and pour cold water on them. 

In a pan, heat oil. Add the ginger paste, the green chillies, and the curry leaves. When the leaves start to splutter, lower the flame to simmer. Add in the cinnamon stick and the peppercorns and fry in the oil on the low flame for about a 45 seconds to a minute. Keep stirring so that the tempering doesn't burn.

Put the flame back on high and add the chopped onions. Fry till the onions sweat and start turning pinkish. Add in the vegetables and fry them in the pan for about 2 minutes. Cover the pan and cook the vegetables on a low flame for about 2 minutes.

Lastly, lower the flame and pour in the coconut milk and add salt to taste. Cook for about 3 minutes on the low flame till the spices blend in with the coconut milk.

This rich coconut-y piquant stew is best enjoyed with appams, idiyappams, neer dosa or steamed rice.