Mumbai Diaries – Dhokla

I came back to Dubai earlier this week after a 20 day long vacation in Mumbai. It was good fun meeting family and enjoying delicious meals from my mum’s kitchen. How I miss it!

I will start chronicling now on my travel diaries in the blog as well and this is the first of the many to come, let me know your thoughts on the same. The series will have my experiences while travelling to a destination and not necessarily a recipe to go with it. Again I am no expert at writing about travel but being a professional travel writer’s wife, I have come to love travelling even more over the years now.

Going back to my trip to Mumbai, it was such a fulfilling experience when I cooked for my family one evening. I made some pasta, oats spinach tikkis and dhokla.

Dhokla is popular Gujrati snack and quite nutritious at it too. Weight watchers can rejoice since this recipe goes easy on the calories too.

The dhokla turned out much better than usual, must have been my grandma watching over me and giving her expert tips when she saw me mixing the batter or tempering the dhoklas later.

I could see a glint of pride and her smiling ear to ear when I made the tempering and not get deterred by the crackling and popping of mustard seeds. This stuff used to always scare me and I had burnt my wrists a few times panicking over the popping mustard seeds in hot oil.

How things change! We just looked at each other and that moment melted my heart, it was simply beautiful.

Dhokla

Ingredients
Dhokla batter

2 cups gram flour
3 tsp canola oil
2 tsp green chilli paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1 sachet eno (fruit salt)
3/4 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 1/2 cup water
Handful of freshly chopped coriander powder
Pinch of red chilly powder (optional)
Freshly grated coconut (optional)

Tempering
3 tsp canola oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
10-12 curry leaves (optional)

In a mixing bowl, sieve the gramflour and add salt, eno, chilli, ginger paste and mix well.

Add water, little at a time and blend all the ingredients together. The consistency of the batter needs to slightly thick and hence add water as per requirement. Do not pour all of the water instantly.

Add oil and mix well, this helps give the batter a good sheen. Do not let the batter sit on the side for long after it has been made.

In a steamer, boil water and add the batter to greased plates in the dhokla stands. Fill the plates with the batter only to half the capacity since once steamed, the batter will rise.

Steam for almost 10-15 minutes with the lid on. Always set the steamer on medium heat, high flame will dry out the dhoklas and the end result won’t be soft and spongy.

Just like we check cakes, use a toothpick to check if the dhoklas have been cooked throughout after 10-12 minutes. If the toothpick comes out dry, remove the dhoklas off the heat.

Let it cool for a while and then un-mould them from the plates and cut them in diamond / square shape.

To make the tempering, heat oil and add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once they crackle, remove from the heat and with a spoon spread it over the dhokla pieces. I wish I had curry leaves that day so I could have added them to the tempering but we were too lazy to venture out and get some. Aren’t holidays all about lazing around and not stressing over the little things ?

Garnish the dhoklas with a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped coriander leaves, a pinch of red chilly powder and serve with green chutney and tomato ketchup.

I also like garnishing with freshly grated coconut but again it was not available and we gave it a pass.

This is one special post, for me this is not much about the recipe here but about my experience that one rainy evening in Mumbai spending some quality time with my loved ones.

Here’s to my family who taught me cook with love! Happy cooking! 😀

Coffee Speculoos Ice cream

A dinner party is a great time to dish up something new and keep the options exciting for the guests.

I usually bake cakes on such occasions. Like Julia Child quotes – “A party without a cake is just a meeting”. However this time around friends called to say they would be bringing in some cake.

I have been waiting to experiment with frozen delights for quite a while now. This summer I want to perfect the art of making granitas, ice creams and sorbets. So this is the very first recipe amongst the more to follow.

I came across this fantastic coffee ice cream recipe on Food52. I just made slight changes to the recipe and here I present my version. I lowered the cinnamon and increased the coffee content plus did add some speculoos!

My guests loved the icecream very much and honestly I did not manage to click any good pictures. We were already halfway through the icecream container when I hurriedly clicked one.

Coffee & Speculoos Icecream

Serves : 8

Ingredients
750ml heavy cream
4 tsp + 2 tsp speculoos chocolate powder to make the swirl pattern
125 ml brewed coffee
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cans of condensed milk
1 tsp coffee powder

Pour heavy cream and condensed milk in a bowl and use electric whisk until the mixture is has started to thicken.

Coffee & Speculoos Icecream2

I wanted a really strong flavor of coffee in the icecream hence I used 3 teaspoon of Dark Roast Davidoff coffee and brewed the same. To further intensify the flavors, I added another teaspoon of the coffee powder and it sure did pack a punch!

Add cooled coffee, cinnamon, coffee and speculoos powder to the mix and whisk again until the mixture has blended well together and is super thick in consistency.

Coffee & Speculoos Icecream3

Pour in airtight container and sprinkle some speculoos powder on top. Now with help of three toothpicks held together, get swirling.

Coffee & Speculoos Icecream1

Freeze overnight and don’t be too tempted to eat spoonsful of the ice cream mixture right then!

The swirls looked lovely after the ice cream had freezed. This is a no-churn ice-cream hence does not take much time as well.

Coffee & Speculoos Icecream

Serve with a smile and see your party come alive. It was a very rewarding feeling seeing my friends smile while taking every spoonful! 🙂

Mediterranean Frittata

I hosted a brunch earlier last month for Sahil’s colleagues. Now the usual dilemma I face is that amongst my friend circle is that I am the sole vegetarian. While they enjoy the vegetarian fare I lay out, I don’t want my guests to miss their non vegetarian dishes.

So in instances like these I choose eggs, they come in handy. I am comfortable baking with eggs and hence decided to make a savoury dish for my lovely guests.

Frittata happens to be Sahil’s favorite after Spanish omelette or Shashouka hence I made these. I have these phases wherein I get obsessed with certain ingredients and simply can’t get enough out of them. Currently sundried tomatoes top this list hence I decided to give the Frittata a Mediterranean twist and added them to the mix.

It was World Baking Day yesterday and it is only right to post about something which I baked recently.

Fritatta

Yields : 12 portions

Ingredients
6 organic eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped Kalamata Olives
1/2 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp white pepper powder
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese + 2tsp for garnish
Handful of feta cheese crumbled
Sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs lightly and add all the remaining ingredients.Season well.

Now to a greased muffin tray, add a spoonful of the mixture and top it with some mozzarella cheese as a garnish.

Bake for 10-15 minutes and remove them from the muffin tin. Serve immediately.

However these re-heat well also so are a good option for breakfast the day after.

Until next time, happy cooking!

Aloo Pyaaz Paratha

This post is me paying homage to my Punjabi genes. What’s more Punjabi than a butter laden Aloo Paratha ?

They also happen to be part of my favourite childhood memories. Mum used to give us different types of parathas for school lunches. This was a way my mum used to incorporate vegetables in our diet. The most common fillings were curried potatoes, carrot mint, gram flour pickle, paneer (cottage cheese), mix vegetable. I have even had lauki (bottle gourd) bhurjee paratha. Yep! that’s how creative she got once.

Quick note to self – Should share my grandma’s recipe for Lauki Bhurjee!

It’s amazing that how after all these years as a kid fussing over these and looking at these menu options as annoying. Life takes a full circle and here I am, reminiscing and longing for those same old things. How I crave these in my office lunch.

My mum has a grin on her face when I Skype her and say that I miss those methi theplas (Thin Fenugreek Flatbreads) and Gobi (Cauliflower) parathas she makes. I insist she feed me these when I go back home.

So when mum was the gobi parathas and methi thepla making queen, I found the best aloo parathas made by Bahadur Bhaiya. He is a star when it comes to making these flaky pockets of joy.

Doused with butter and relished with mango pickle and cold yoghurt, this meal is what epicurean dreams are made of. See here:

Paratha

Think I got carried away, ask any one hailing from Punjab and they would tell you how critical it is to find an eatery or a person who dishes out delicious parathas.

No trip of ours to Delhi is complete without a visit to the epic “Parathane Wali Galli” in Old Dilli. It’s a ritual me and Sahil follow religiously, we have to go to Old Dilli for a paratha breakfast.

There gorge on aloo pyaaz parathas, papad parathas (yes! there is such a thing), bedmi aloo, Daulat ki Chaat, Jalebi with Rabdi, Malai Kulfi Falooda and the works!

Ahh! Just the mere mention of these delicacies make me salivate. Let’s move on to the recipe.

Ingredients
Makes : 6 Parathas

For Stuffing:
3 potatoes boiled and mashed
1 large onion finely chopped
1 brunch spring onion stems finely chopped
Handful of finely chopped fresh coriander / mint
1 tsp carrom seeds
1 1/2 tsp anardana powder
2 green chillies finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chilly powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp freshly grated ginger (optional)
1 tsp chaat masala
Salt to taste

For Parathas:
Whole wheat dough
Canola oil for frying

For the stuffing, boil potatoes in salted water. Peel them and proceed to mash the potatoes with help of a fork once they have cooled down.

Mashed Potatoes

Add all the dry spices, onion, green chilly, coriander, mint to the mashed potatoes and mix them well.

Aloo Paratha 1

Make small balls from the rested wheat dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.

Aloo Paratha 2

Add the potato stuffing in the centre, seal the dough ball and flatten it out.

Aloo Paratha 3

Aloo Paratha 5

You could also use your finger tips to flatten the dough ball.

Aloo Paratha 4 5

Heat a tawa, lightly brush some oil on the surface and place the rolled out paratha on the tawa.

Cook it well on one side and flip over, brush some oil on both the sides and edges as you allow the paratha to get a even brown color.

Aloo Paratha

Serve straight from the tawa to the plate with a generous dollop of butter, mango pickle, mint chutney, pickled onions and raita.

Aloo Paratha 4

That’s how butter soaked the paratha is for husband extraordinaire Sahil.

Until next time happy cooking!

Pesto Spinach Pasta

We are a family of pasta-fanatics! I have my pantry full of different shapes and types of pasta. I would really love to make fresh pasta for my meals soon. I attended a fun pasta making class at Galeries Lafayette two years back, more on this here. Need to put the knowledge to some use!

This makes an interesting lunch option on weekends. The pasta comes together in literally a couple of minutes. This is a go-to recipe even on week nights when after work, all I want is an indulgent bowl of warm pasta and griddled bread.

I usually do my groceries from the Fruit & Vegetable market on Saturday afternoons. So making a fresh batch of pesto early on to use the fresh basil seems a good idea. I readily use up the pesto within the first half of the week for this recipe.

The pasta sauce is fragrant and oozes with flavours of basil, garlic, olive oil, sea salt, a handful of parmesan and pine nuts. I am not sharing the pesto recipe since I do not follow any standard measurements when making one.

This is my husband’s favourite recipe as well. Some days I just toss the pasta in the sauce and top to with kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes and then there are times when I add some spinach to the mix.

Pesto Spinach Pasta

Here’s the recipe with spinach:

Cooking Time : 15 minutes
Serves : 3

1 cup pesto
3 tsp roasted pine nuts
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic mayo (Add more if you’re feeling naughty!)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 red onion thinly sliced
250 grams of Tagliatelle pasta
250 grams baby spinach
Flaky sea salt to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In a pan, heat some olive oil and add sliced onions. Cook with minced garlic until it is lightly browned.

Add pesto and make a sauce with little water in which the pasta is getting cooked. Season as required, add garlic mayo to provide some more creaminess to the sauce. Go easy on the salt since the pesto already has salt from the parmesan cheese added to it. Add some spinach at this point and just sauté it gently.

Pesto Sauce

Cook the pasta, drain and add it to the sauce. Coat well and serve with a side of toasted baguette.

Until next time, happy cooking! 🙂

Green Beans & Carrot Sabzi

Green Beans is a very versatile ingredient and can be cooked in various ways. Steam, blanch, braise, roast, sautee – they really adapt well to different cooking techniques.

They are good source of antioxidants and cartenoids apart from being a powerhouse of Vitamin K. I picked up some lovely organic green beans from Waitrose after work, it was trimmed already and made them on one weeknight. I love the ease of using pre-cut vegetables at times.

Here’s a simple recipe of making them Indian style, I have just substituted the usual potato with carrots and given it a tangy twist.

The dish came out quite saucy and I served them with a side of Surati Dal and steamed rice.

Green Beans

Cooking Time : 20 minutes
Serves : 4

Ingredients

2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 green chilly finely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 red onion finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
300 grams french beans trimmed
2 carrots cut at an angle
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp chaat masala/ amchur powder
1 tsp tomato paste
Salt to taste

Blanch the trimmed beans in boiling and salted water for a couple of minutes.

Drain them while they still have a bite to them.

In a wok / wide pan, heat the oil and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds.

Once they splutter, add green chillies and follow it up with onions and garlic.

Once onions have browned a bit, add the chopped tomatoes and cook them for a few minutes.

Add the carrots and sauté them until they have slightly softened. Add beans followed by all dry spices, salt, tomato and tamarind paste.

Cook until the mixture is well coated and just about to leave a ring of oil on the sides.

Green Beans & Carrot Sabzi

Remove off heat and serve with fluffy rotis or dal-rice. Until next time, happy cooking!

Aloo Jeera – Potatoes with Cumin

Some days you crave the same old good old classic home cooked recipe! Aloo Jeera or potatoes tempered with cumin seeds and spices are a staple side dish in most Punjabi households.

I guess potatoes find their place place in every pantry. I even go through some of my own “can’t-do-without-my-aloo” days. My Punjabi genes dominating, I set one such evening post work to settle for a simple dinner of Dal Tadka tempered with rai and jeera, Jeera Rice and Aloo Jeera.

Thali

Err! Isn’t this too much of cumin for one evening ? I know I must be high on cumin!

I vividly remember this fine evening as I roasted cumin, the entire house smelled divine. I had some lovely Indian classical instrumental music playing in the background, sipping chai along the way, I ground the freshly roasted cumin and couldn’t help but add that on to every thing I set to cook eventually.

Aloo Sabzi

Cooking Time : 20 minutes

Ingredients
2 tsp canola oil
2 green chillies finely chopped
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 large potatoes diced & parboiled
1/2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp amchur powder
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp red chilly powder
Salt to taste
Handful of parsley finely chopped

In a wok, heat some oil. Add green chillies, mustard seeds and cumin seeds to the same and let it sizzle.

Now add the ginger followed by potatoes and the dry spices.

Cook until the potatoes have softened and have a roasted texture.

Add lemon juice and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Voila! My dinner table looked lovely. Until next time happy cooking.

Aloo Mutter – Potatoes & Pea Stew

Simple meals are sometime the trickiest to create. Many a days all you are left with is limited pantry staples. That for me would be canned chickpeas, herbs, dried pasta, potatoes, ginger, garlic, onion and tomatoes.

Either one of these said ingredients needs to be replenished, in order for me to make the run to the supermarket. These days my run to the supermarket is slightly different, I mostly visit the Fruits and Vegetable Market.

It gives me immense pleasure to get the fresh produce straight from the market, not your fancy farmer’s market setup but very economical. I have made some friends with a few stall owners who provide me with their freshest produce of the day. One stall owner Mehran whom we visit for buying greens and herbs, keeps stock of basil and spinach handy for me. He knows I visit Saturdays.

I have successfully been able to slash my grocery budget substantially. Moving on to the recipe of home style Aloo Mutter served with Jeera Rice and yogurt.

Aloo Mutter

Cooking Time : 25 minutes
Ingredients

3 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp carrom seeds
2 green chillies finely chopped
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 onions finely chopped
300 ml tomato puree / 2 tomatoes finely chopped
3/4 cup frozen peas thawed
2 cups diced potatoes
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chaat masala
3 cups water
Salt to taste
Handful of fresh coriander roughly chopped to garnish

In a pressure cooker, heat some oil, add cumin seeds.

Let it splutter, add carom seeds followed by onions. Once cooked, add minced ginger and garlic and tomatoes, cook them well.

Add dry spices, salt and then the potatoes to the mix. Blend well, add water as required.

Close the lid and pressure cook until there are 2-3 whistles. Uncover after a while and garnish with some freshly chopped coriander.

Aloo Mutter1

Serve with fluffy rotis or Jeera Rice. Until next time happy cooking!

Meeting Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

The Dubai Food Carnival happened earlier this month and brought back memories of the lovely time I had there.

This was almost 10 months back but today when I glanced through the pictures, the memories of that wonderful afternoon spent seeing my culinary idol came rushing back!

I hesitated posting about my experience for the longest time but then reminded myself that this blog is my journal for the highs I have had when it came to my blogging journey. So here I share this great moment with you all before we see another edition of the Dubai Food Carnival.

So how did this all begin, read on. Facebook contests have been lucky for me (touchwood!). I got to travel on an all expense paid trip to Paris and Amsterdam late 2013 and I thought nothing gets as awesome as this.

And then cut to late March 2014, I saw this contest by Melia Hotel about a Meet & Greet Opportunity with Sanjeev Kapoor, a complimentary meal at his much acclaimed restaurant Signature at Dubai Food Carnival.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

I participated with bated breath and to my utter amazement I won the chance. I had anyways bought tickets for Dubai Food Carnival to see his cooking demonstration.

I rushed to collect the winner’s pass and was a bundle of giddy nerves until next afternoon. The cooking demonstration started and Chef Sanjeev mesmerized everyone with his humble anecdotes and stories. The one thing which stuck me was how grounded and unassuming he is about his success.

Maybe this quality is what has helped him reach where he is now. The best thing is how he likes to keep things and food simple. He discussed how his wife makes the best biryani and fondly remembers the tasty Gujrati food his mother-in-law makes.

The funny re-collection of his encounter with dealing with the myth that Indian food is spicy and just loaded with chillies, when he was working in New Zealand. The dish turning out to be a bestseller on the restaurant menu after a customer requesting to make it spicier over there was quite amusing.

Midway through the demo, he showcased how simple tweaks to the way simple ingredients are handled can help home cooks create restaurant style plating and garnishes.

Tikkis

He asked someone from the audience with good knife skills to volunteer. I jumped at the opportunity.

With shaking hands, he handed me a potato and asked me to make cuts similar to a hassle back potato but in a nice square shape.

Call it stage fright or me being star stuck with him around, I managed the cut well but forgot the square shape. He being the gentleman simply complimented me for the knife skills and getting the cut right. He jokingly said that here I will gift you the knife, if the organizers allow me!

Also take this opportunity to thank Joselin from Melia Hotel and the great team at Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor. As a part of the contest, I was also treated to a meal at their stand at Dubai Food Carnival.

I loved the Makai (Corn Flour) ki Roti, Sarson Ka Saag (Cooked Mustard Greens) and the Paneer Tikka Masala they did.

Sarson Ka Saag

Paneer Tikka

The revelation was the Lemongrass flavoured Buttermilk topped with roasted cumin seeds, very refreshing!

Lemongrass Buttermilk

Sahil had some meat dish and Galouti Kebabs and my man was grinning!

Chicken

Galouti Kebab

Why I revisited these pictures after all these months? I missed the Food Carnival this year as I was on a vacation and I realized it’s been close to a year already. Phew! Time does fly. Better late than never! 🙂

Apart from that I was also craving Sarso Ka Saag and thought of the one I ate at Chef Sanjeev’s restaurant stand. Utterly delicious with the Makke Ki Roti topped with white butter!

Apart from this I also got all my cookbooks signed by the chef extraordinaire. It makes me happy every time I flip open one for some inspiration.

Next time around August last year, I got a chance to see Chef Sanjeev Kapoor at his restaurant “Options” while they were hosting the Independence Day Dinner. While we spoke, he gave some honest life lessons in embracing positivity in life and taking the burnt toast with a smile.

More food stories to follow as I do a round up of events I attended in 2014 and how it was one eventful year!

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup
My first post for 2015! Happy new year everyone! I hope 2015 brings everyone loads of success, happiness and good health.
Last 2 months or so has being difficult for the family with us constantly battling ill health and bouts of recurring flu. This left us making many much required lifestyle changes, less socializing, taking it easy at work for a bit, eating out occasionally and staying put at home reading or watching favorite movies.
I was eating light most days and also did not bake much over the festive season. Soups and toasted bread with garlic butter was dinner most days.
 
My experiments with new recipes for smoothies and soups continued. One recipe which was well received was Minestrone Soup. 

My earliest memories of having this soup are at my home when mum doused leftover cooked macroni in the mixed vegetable soup she made for us. A successful attempt by her to feed my younger brother some veggies, the macroni got him excited and he found himself busy trying to find the pasta in bowl of vegetables.

 

There is no one fixed recipe when making minestrone soup. I usually make this with the ingredients readily available in my kitchen. Sometimes I add spinach or kale to bring some color to the soup but mostly it is from the vegetables listed in the recipe below:

 
Serves : 4 
Prep Time : 15 Minutes
Cooking Time : 30-35 Minutes
 
Ingredients
1 large white onion finely chopped
2 stalks celery finely chopped
2 carrots diced
4 tomatoes finely chopped
50 ml tomato paste (optional)
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil roughly chopped
1/2 cup green beans finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic butter
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup cooked pasta
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
3 tsp olive oil
Fine sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
 
In a big pot, heat some oil and add garlic. Cook for a minute or so.
Vegies
 
Add onions, celery, carrots and french beans and cook them until they are soft.
Minestrone Soup 6
 
Add tomatoes to the mix and cook the mixture well.
Minestrone Soup 5
Follow this with cooked chickpeas, pasta and tomato paste.
 Minestrone Soup 4
Minestrone Soup 3
Add salt, black pepper and dried herbs and blend well. Add vegetable stock and allow the soup to simmer on low heat.
Minestrone Soup 7
I usually make vegetable stock at home else use some cubes of organic stock cubes from Waitrose. Meanwhile add fresh basil and garlic butter to the mix.
Minestrone Soup 8
Cook until the soup reaches the consistency your are after. This is usually after 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and relish the goodness.
Minestrone Soup2
Serve this with Foccaccia or toasted bread with garlic or herb butter.  The soup is quite comforting and the chunky vegetables and pasta in there make it interesting with the crunchy texture of the bread.
Minestrone Soup1
In the month of January I intend to do a recap of the beautiful 2014 I had. Some events where I got to see my celeb chefs, cooked some new recipes which friends and family loved and also two of my articles got published in an e-magazine by Food Blogger’s Association of India.
I promise to share my food stories with you all shortly, until next time, happy cooking!
I definitely have a lot to do since I’d be hosting an Italian themed dinner party for my very close friend and his pretty wife tonight, wish me luck!