Aloo Ki Sabzi – Spicy Potato Curry

Potatoes are such a versatile ingredient to work with. From making Fries, patties, hash browns to making Pav Bhaji, you can adapt this crop to whatever catches your fancy.

For a simple weekend lunch, I made this spicy and tangy potato curry and served it with some chapatis. A quick assorted salad and raita on the side make it a complete meal.

Serves : 4
Prep Time : 10 minutes
Cooking Time : 20 minutes

Ingredients
2 large potatoes boiled and cubes
1 large onion finely chopped
1 large tomato finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red chillies broken in half
8-9 curry leaves
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chaat masala
1/4 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 cup water
4 tsp tomato paste
Salt to taste
4 tsp canola oil
Handful of fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Boil the potatoes in salted water. Let them cool and peel the outer skin, chop the boiled potatoes in cubes.

Heat oil in a wok, add cumin and mustard seeds. Once they start to crackle, add red chillies and curry leaves.

Let them sizzle for a while, add ginger garlic paste and cook for a minute until the raw flavor diminishes.

Add onions and cook them until they are translucent.

Add tomatoes and cook them for a few minutes.

Add tomato paste to this mixture and cook until it leaves out a ring of oil on the sides of the wok.

Masala1

Add all the dry masalas to this mixture and cook for a minute.

Add boiled potatoes and let it stand in the mixture so that it absorbs the masalas well.

Masala

Slowly add water to the potato mixture, you can choose to use less or more water as per the consistency desired for the gravy.

Cover the wok and let the curry cook for 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Keep stirring the mixture.

Take it off the heat and garnish with finely chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Spicy Potato Curry

Serve this with rotis or rice as per your preference.

Chatori Galli – Barsha 1

I love eating street food and the mere mention makes me go weak in my knees! Such is my fascination with chaat vendors that I should be given the most loyal customer award for visiting Elco, Bandra Mumbai traveling to the other side of the city just to eat the pani puri and papdi chaat.

I find very limited good chaat houses in Dubai unlike India wherein there is one in every corner of the street. I came to know about Chatori Gali in Al Barsha via Twitter. Some one strongly suggested that I visit them for their jalebis.

Chatori Galli

This is a relatively small dining place just behind Mall of Emirates and a stone’s throw away from Bikanervala which is more popular in the area. Just a disclaimer, I have tried these dishes reviewed over 5 visits and found them to be consistent.

I started by trying the Gol Gappe (Delhi) or Phuchkas (Bengal) or Pani Puri (Mumbai). It is hollow fried crisps filled with a sprouts / potato mixture and downed with flavored water. I wasn’t impressed. It lacked serious amounts of masalas and that “ahhaa” factor.

We next moved on to try Raj Kachori, deep fried round flattened ball filled with a stuffing of lentils, cubed potatoes, sprouts, well beaten yoghurt and chutneys and garnished with sev.

Raj Kachori

The Kachori in itself was quite dried out and hence not crisp and was overloaded with yoghurt. There was very minuscule amounts of stuffing and hence it was another ‘No’ for me.

Pyaaz Kachori

On a side note, the Pyaaz Kachori (Onion stuffed) was great in comparison.

We also tried Ram Ladoo, a popular snacking dish in North India. These are deep fried moong dal (split green gram skinless) and urad dal (split green gram skinless) balls served with spicy tangy green chutneys garnished with grated raddish. It was average and needed to be soaked in the chutney before serving them. That’s how it’s traditionally served, maybe I had high expectations!

Ram Ladoo

The best memories I have had of Ram Ladoo are in my teens when I visited Amritsar and ate them at a small time vendor. He soaked them in Kanji, a popular Punjabi fermented drink made with red carrots, turnips, beets spiced up with rock salt, red chilly powder and mustard powder. He later topped them with spicy hot green chutney and radish! Drool worthy!

Moving on to the review, we proceeded to order Bread Pakoda, now this won me over completely. Bread slices sandwiched with a spicy mashed potato mixture coated in chickpea flour batter and deep fried.

Bread Pakoda

It had a generous sprinkling of chaat masala. It was served to us piping hot and with a side of coriander and tamarind chutneys.

Samosa Chaat

We tried Samosa Chaat, it was delicious. They served the samosa piping hot and were quite generous with the chutneys (thank goodness!), as a result, me and my guests were vying to get the last bite. Gluttony!

On another visit we tried “Parathe wali Galli ke Parathe” this immediately took me back to the bylines of Old Delhi in Chandni Chowk where Sahil first took me for a date many years back shortly after we visited the magnificent Jama Masjid.

For old time sake, we ordered the Parathas, you can choose two from the various varieties of parathas available. We ordered aloo pyaaz (Flat bread stuffed with spicy boiled potato and onions mix) and Gobhi (Cauliflower stuffing). Usually parathas are cooked on a tawa (flat griddle) but this particular type of parathas are deep fried in a wok.

Paranthe Wali Galli ke Paranthe

The parathas are served with Chole (spicy and tangy chickpea curry), Kaddu Ki Launji (Pumpkin cooked downed with spices and mildly sweet), Aloo Sabzi (Potato cubes in onion tomato gravy), Mixed cauliflower and carrot pickle smeared with mustard powder, a few pieces of tomato and cucumber and sweet chutney. Unfortunately since we have ordered this twice, I can’t seem to find the picture with Kaddu ki Launji.

I loved the Aloo Sabzi, it was quite spicy but I savoured every morsel of the paratha dipped in the sabzi. Yumm!

As for the parathas, I could not have beyond one piece. The parathas were crisp on the outside but all that deep frying made them too heavy.

Bedami Aloo

We moved on to Bedami Aloo. Bedmi is an another popular breakfast option served in Chandni Chowk and Old Delhi. It is a puri (deep fried puffed bread) made with wheat flour and ground lentils, either skinned black gram dal or green gram dal.

The accompaniments which come along with the Bedami Puri are same as the parathas. We were keen on having it only with the Aloo sabzi and asked to be served the same instead of the Chole and Kaddu Ki Launji. Again great dish and a must try once you visit this place.

Sarso Ka Saag - Makai Roti

We also ordered Sarson Ka Saag with Makke Ki Roti. Sarson ka Saag is mustard leaves and spinach leaves cooked with spices in and usually mustard oil. Makke ki Roti is flatbread made with maize flour, easily available in Indian grocery stores here. It was delicious and was served with a side of jaggery and raddish.

Tawa Paratha & Raita

If you are looking for a lighter option than the parathas then you can also opt for the various menu options like Methi Roti, Gobhi Roti or Missi Roti. I chose Tawa Paratha (Wholewheat flatbread cooked on a disc shaped griddle) with Boondi Raita. Simple home style dinner option.

Kadhi

I tried the parathas with Raita and once with Kadhi Pakoda, it was simply delish. The Kadhi was punjabi style, buttermilk cooked with gram flour, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and red chilly powder.

Vegetable Poha

We also tried Poha, it was a nice light snack. Poha is flattened wife flakes cooked with onions, peas, mustard seeds and garnished with peanuts, coriander leaves and Sev (Savoury Gramflour Vermicelli).

It was just good to be had with a side of masala chai. The tea served at Chatori Gali is prepared fresh and they use Lipton tea bags for the same however I did skip this on my subsequent visits. I don’t blame them, I’m quite picky about the masala chai I have.

Thandai

Sahil tried Thandai, it is a chilled drink made from milk, ground dry fruits flavored with kewda, rosewater, saffron, sugar and fennel seeds. This one was made with store bought syrup and sparingly topped with almond flakes. He found it quite refreshing. Their drinks menu also has fresh juices, Kanji, Fresh Lemonade, Lassi and Milkshakes.

Motichoor Ladoo

In desserts, we tried the Motichoor Ladoo, it was quite dry and not good enough.

Let’s move on to the sole reason you should visit Chatori Galli, which is their Jalebi. It’s deep fried flour shaped in spirals and soaked in sugary syrup flavored with cardamom or saffron at times. It’s difficult to explain what a “jalebi” is and hence the pictures below:

Jalebi In Making

It was crispy, crunchy and supremely heavenly. It tasted divine and was just the thing you need to taste on a day when you feel under weather. When dipped in the Rabdi, it is a killer combination!

Jalebi & Kulfi

We however had the piping hot jalebis with their stick kulfi. The kulfi was quite creamy and not too sweet and good way to end a hearty meal.

Matka Kulfi

The Matka Kulfi was pretty looking in the earthen pot but did not taste as great as the Stick Kulfi.

Visit Chatori Galli with a big appetite, the service is quite off sometimes mainly due to how busy the place is in evenings. However we have found a friend in Sandeep, a great guy who takes pleasure in serving you well.

Until next time, Happy cooking 🙂

Other Locations: Oud Metha / Meena Bazzar, Bur Dubai

Disclaimer : All featured dishes and meals were paid for my me and this post is not a sponsored one.

Besan Ka Chilla – Savoury Gram Flour Pancakes / Crepe

This is a recipe for Besan ka Chilla, simply put Indian savory pancakes made with chickpea / garbanzo bean / gram flour. This is a very easy to make recipe and is perfect for winter mornings or evenings. Goes perfectly with a cup of hot masala chai.

Assembling the ingredients is also very easy. This is my go-to weekend breakfast recipe and is quite filling as well. Chickpeas are an excellent source of proteins and this is an easy gluten free option as well. You can add any vegetables to this versatile crepe / pancake recipe. Sometimes I like to add capsicum or shredded carrots to the mix.

Serves : 3
Prep Time : 5 minutes
Cooking time : 15 minutes

Ingredients
1 cup besan / gram four
3 tsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1 finely chopped green chilly
1 medium sized finely chopped onion
1 medium sized finely chopped tomato
1/2 cup coarsely chopped spinach leaves
1/2 tsp zataar powder
1 tsp carrom seeds
1/4 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chaat masala
A pinch of turmeric powder
Oil for frying
Salt to taste
Water to the consistency desired

In a mixing bowl, sieve the besan and add all the dry spices and salt. Mix well with a spoon.

Add chopped onions, tomatoes, spinach, coriander and chillies to this mixture.

Add little water and mix. Keep adding until it reaches desired consistency.

Some people like the batter to be thick while some like it runny. I prefer reaching a mid point. Here’s how my batter looks like.

Batter

Now on a greased hot pan over low heat, drop a ladle full of the batter and let it take shape. Let the mixture cook.

Besan Ka Chilla

Add any regular oil to the sides and gently flip it over. Here’s where practice comes to the rescue.

Besan Ka Chilla1

Let both the sides get evenly cooked. You are looking for a lovely brown look. I wish I had better pictures for this post.

Besan Ka Chilla2

Serve with tomato chutney or any dip that takes your fancy. I prefer it with toasted bread and butter.

Side Notes:
Adding carom seeds aids digestion.
Zataar powder can be skipped if you do not like it.

The India Pavilion – Mall Of Emirates

I love Mall of Emirates, that was the first place Sahil took me to. It was my first outing when I came to Dubai some more than two and half years back. In the first week of being in Dubai, I visited the mall thrice. There are many firsts associated with this place, the first movie, the first grocery shopping, the first big splurge, the first coffee date (with the husband of course!) and so on.

That’s my go-to place for movies or shopping. On one such tiring shopping spree, we ended up at the first level food court of Mall of Emirates and visited The Indian Pavilion next to Vox Cinemas.

Papad Chatni

It offers good Indian good and the prices and service is pretty decent too. The restaurant provides complimentary fried papas with green chutney and pickle. How nice! Who doesn’t like a good crunchy one!

The restaurant has an interesting concept of ordering mains which is a complete meal or a platter in itself. It comes with an accompaniment of roti (flat bread) or pilaf rice, 2 falafels / aloo tikkis (potato patties), cucumber raita, home style split yellow lentils and mixed salad.

Baigan Bharta Platter

I ordered the Baigan Bharta, it simply means roasted and mashed aubergines cooked with spices. I loved the roasted smokey flavor of aubergine with green peas in onion and diced tomato gravy. The green peas required to be blanched a bit more, they were quite firm.

Baigan Bharta

The Bharta cooked at my place by my grandmother used to have more of tomatoes giving it a rich red color but in the restaurant it was with less tomatoes. I liked how they finished the whole dish with red chill infused oil. This was a hit!

Achari Paneer Platter

We also ordered Achari Paneer Mutter, that’s cottage cheese and green peas cooked in a spicy brown gravy of onions and spices. The cottage cheese was slightly tossed on a pan since it had browned on the edges. It was spicy and I loved the heat in the gravy, it was finished with a garnish of coriander and chili oil.

Paneer Tikka Masala Platter

We also ordered Paneer Tikka Masala on one visit, the paneer was soft and the gravy was tangy but not overtly spicy. The red onions, capsicum and tomato wedges were char grilled and we could see the sides browned evenly.

Paneer Tikka Masala
I am a gravy person and would have loved if it came with little more gravy. Nevertheless it was a good dish with a side of butter naan.

The accompanying pilaf was fragrant and mildly spiced, the dal was the best part of the platter. I can keep going back to this restaurant just for their yummy dal. It is perfect home cooked version of split yellow lentils tempered with green chillies, finely chopped onions and tomato.

The aloo tikkis (potato patties) served had a nice crust on the outside and were piping hot inside, the mashed potatoes had a strong flavor of roasted cumin. It also had soaked chana dal and grated onions.

Mixed salad and cucumber raita provided a refreshing feel to the otherwise spicy platter.

Lamb Madras Platter

Sahil enjoyed his Lamb Madras style, as per him, it was cooked nicely with hot red chilled and curry leaves. But it was quite basic, it was good but that great.

Add On

Being an ad guy, Sahil loved the packaging of their wet tissues and even clicked it as a reference. He finds them quite fragrant.

On a side note, I have also tried their Masala Dosa which was pretty soggy and not up to the mark. The restaurant has consistently disappointed us on it’s desserts. We once ordered Phirni which was served to us hot traditionally it is always served cold and the gulab jamuns they do were quite average hence we keep skipping the dessert order.

However when in MOE and in mood for good Indian food priced decently, I would visit them for more!

Locations : Level 1, Food Court – Next to Vox Cinemas, Mall of Emirates / Spinney’s Umm Suqeim

Pricing : Average AED 120-150 for meal for two

Besan Halwa

Besan Halwa1

It’s the first day of Diwali today and every Indian household is preparing to kickstart the festivities in a gala way. This year it’s our first Diwali outside India, every year we fly down to home to celebrate it with friends and family. However this year around Mum-in-law decided to come and visit us.

It’s really special having her around. She is working with me on spring cleaning the house, having the lights decorated in the small balcony, making sweets and savories, shopping for new clothes and jewellery. It’s like we have a Santa in the house way before Christmas.

Today is a very auspicious day for Hindus, it’s called Dhan Teras. We offer our prayers to Goddess of wealth – Laxmi for success, prosperity and peace. It’s a traditional custom to buy jewellery or utensils for good luck.

Rangoli

Rangoli is made at the entrance of the house welcoming the Goddess. Rangoli is hand made designs using colored powders and flowers. Deeyas (oil lamps) are used to enhance the decoration and also lighted as a traditional way to welcome the festival. Deepawali or Diwali is also known as a festival of lights.

Besan Halwa

I’d be featuring some of the family favaorites in the coming days, starting with Besan Halwa. You can also read about Sooji (Semolina) Halwa and Rava Nariyal Laddoos (Semolina & Coconut Balls) I posted last year.

Prep Time : 5 minutes
Cooking Time : 25 mins
Serves : 6 persons

Ingredients

1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1 cup sugar
3 cups water
1 tsp eliachi powder
3/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 cup mix chopped nuts

In a saucepan, heat water on medium heat and add sugar and crushed cardamoms. Adding the elaichi to the sugar syrup makes it fragrant and allows the sugar to blend in the cardamom flavors.
In a thick bottom kadai (wok), heat ghee and add besan. Please ensure that you keep stirring the besan so that the mixture does not have any lumps.
The color you are looking for is a pale golden and do not let the besan brown or stick to the bottom. While roasting the besan in the ghee, it gives out a very nice aroma. It is usually is good after 5-7 minutes.

Add the coarsely chopped nuts,  I used cashews, almonds and pistachios.

In a different pan, heat some ghee and add the raisins and let them bloom a bit. Add the raisins to the mixture.

Now add the sugar syrup to the mixture. Be careful with this step and ensure that the burner is on low heat since the syrup will start to bubble and will sprinkle all over.

Blend in all of the mixture with the sugar syrup evenly and keep folding the mixture so that it does not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.

After a few minutes, you will see the mixture thicken and almost start leaving the sides. Take it off the heat and transfer it in a bowl and garnish with some more chopped nuts.

Besan Halwa4

On this sweet note, here’s wishing you and your family a Happy Diwali! I hope the festival of lights illuminate your lives with happiness and contentment 🙂

Bombay Bites Restaurant Review

It’s been a long gap after which I have started posting my old blog posts pending in my ever increasing drafts folder. Work has been crazy off late, leaving me with no time. However I have been cooking to my heart’s content in the last few weeks given the dinner parties I have been hosting for friends and family. Here’s a post I wrote when I was craving Mumbai street food. Read on to know how I found some yummy street food.

I miss Bombay, also known as Mumbai, my home city and there are days when all I want is, to pack my bags and sit at Worli Seaface especially this time around the year. Anyone who is from Bombay will tell you this that Bombay rains are to die for. The scenic lush green cover that the city adorns itself in, the waves splashing against the shores, the odd teen selling cutting chai and chocolates to the lovey-dovey couples holding hands at the sea side, kids jumping in puddles of water on busy roads while returning back from school, the mums reprimanding them. The city has a character and the rains lend it one.

The rainy season is almost over now but it was pouring cats and dogs in Bombay for the last week for so and talking to my folks back home, hearing them taking it easy and enjoying afternoon siestas followed by masala chai with onion bhajjis, I started missing home and the rainy season even more.

I was craving Pav Bhaji and thus began my quest to look for the same. I turned to Twitter to ask for suggestions. Many options were floating like Sukh Sagar, Kailash Parbhat, Aamchi Mumbai, Mumbai Express.  I have had Pav Bhaji at Sukh Sagar and Aamchi Mumbai and it was kinda average.

I eventually went to Bombay Bites, it is based in Bank Street in Bur Dubai. The owner is from Mumbai and prides himself in his Maharashtrian roots. It started as a cafe where only snacks were served, I first had a Misal Pav and Vada Pav over there last year and never went back since it is a long drive from my place in JLT.

This time around we realized that they have taken over a bigger place and opened a full fledged restaurant next door.

Bombay Bites

We tried their Pav Bhaji and it was yummy. It sure left me satisfied, if you after a fancy presentation and a fine dining experience this is definitely not the place to be. But it has got good flavorsome food.

When I first paid them a visit, it was the mango season. The owners had specially bought Alphonso Mangoes which are the speciality of Ratnagiri region in Maharashtra. The texture and flavor of this variety of mango is best for milkshakes, ice creams, preserves and smoothies. They had displayed the bounty just at the entrance to the restaurant, it was enough to make me salivate at the thought of ‘Aamras’.

Aamrkhand : Aamras

Aamras is mango pulp flavored with a very faint hint of elaichi (cardamom) powder. I also followed it up with Aamrkhand, it is mango flavored Shrikhand. It is a traditional dessert made from strained yoghurt mixed with sugar and then flavors are added. It is best served chilled with hot pooris (deep fried Indian bread)

The Pav Bhaji came complete with tava (flat pan) roasted pao (Indian dinner rolls). The best thing about the bhaji is it is doused with spices and not subtle at all. It is really spicy and has the “Aaahaa” factor in every morsel. The complimentary finely chopped onions and lemon wedges play havoc on the palette.

Pav Bhaji

We went there again last week, this time around again we had the pao bhaji and followed it up with Kesar (Saffron) Dryfruit Milkshake, it was loaded with the goodness of nuts and a hint of saffron on top. It was quite a heavy option and Sahil did not touch my dessert later and this doesn’t happen ever!

Dryfruit Kesar Milk

I was reminiscing about Juhu Beach hence ordered Kesar Falooda. It is a chilled dessert. Again I was ecstatic with the result, a tall glass made a grand entry with even layers of fine vermicelli, basil seeds, pistachios, almonds, three scoops of vanilla ice cream, jelly, chilled sweetened milk, almonds and topped with rose syrup.

Kesar Falooda

Everything about this was wonderful. It was just perfect to be had after the spicy meal I had just devoured.

I think in a city where you have many eateries promising you Mumbai style street food, this is one of best of the crop. It is priced very affordably. Finding a parking spot can be tricky on weekends, I usually end up here during weekdays.

Chat up with the owners, they are a friendly couple. I spoke to them in Marathi and the conversations which followed had me walk out smiling!

Disclaimer : All featured dishes and meals were paid for my me and this post is not a sponsored one.

Oats Masala Idli

My love for traditional Indian fare is well known and I have discussed this in my previous posts. I do not like to tamper with the classics but sometimes you like to give it your own twist. One such craft master whose expertise is well known Michelin star awarded Chef Vineet Bhatia who owns Rasoi in London, Geneva and Indego by Vineet in Dubai.

I have been following his culinary journey to Indian cities looking for unique flavors and incorporating his own take on them in his popular series showcased on “Twist of Taste” on Fox Traveller with his beautiful wife Rashima in Season 1 who used to uncover the tourist attractions or shopping secrets the city had to offer.

In the first season of the show, Chef Vineet made Tomato Sev Rice with Ghatta Sabzi(Gramflour dumplings in tangy sauce)and Shikari Murg. Being a vegetarian I substituted the chicken with paneer and the result came out well. My husband loves this recipe so much that now even when I do not have the Paneer(Cottage Cheese) handy, I just make the ghatta sabzi with sev rice. This looks pretty too, recipe to follow soon 🙂

Tomato Sev Rice

I even tried the Besan Chilla stuffed with Dal served with a side of crispy okra. Unfortunately I’m not able to find a picture for that as yet.

I was at my mum’s place last month and was catching up on Season 2 wherein this recipe for Oats Masala Idli was showcased. I immediately tried this recipe since I knew it would be great as a evening snack. Healthy, nutritious and a quick savoury dish which can be served to a hungry army in a jiffy.

Oats Masala Idli

Ingredients
1 cup oats
1/2 cup semolina
1 cup yoghurt
2 tsp fresh coriander roughly chopped

Tempering
2 tsp oil
1 tsp urad dal
Few fenugreek seeds
7-8 curry leaves finely chopped
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 green chillies finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
1/4 cup grated carrots
Salt to taste

Dry roast cooking oats and semolina in separate pans on medium heat and keep it aside.

Whisk yoghurt and add the oats and semolina to it. Blend well and let the mixture rest for a while.

Now prepare the tempering, heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, once it splutters add curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, urad dal, green chillies and let the flavors get infused.

Add onions and cook them until they are translucent. Now add grated carrots to the mixture. Add salt to taste, you may also add coriander powder I skipped this.

Saute them for a minute and take it off the heat. Allow it to cool for sometime and then add this to the oats mixture.

Add fresh coriander to the mixture and blend well.

In a idli steamer, pour little water and grease the idli moulds with little oil. Add a spoonful of batter to the idli moulds and put them in the steamer.

Cover the steamer with a lid and let it cook for 7-8 mins. This mixture yields 18 Idlis in total.

Uncover the goodness after a while and serve with Garlic Rasam, Tomato Thokku, Coriander Chutney or Tiffin Sambhar.

Paneer Sabz Bahaar- Stir Fried Cottage Cheese With Mix Vegetables

Mix Veg Paneer

Being a Punjabi and a vegeterian to that, Paneer (Cottage Cheese) is a staple in our meals at homes, be it Paneer Kulcha, Paneer Pakoda or Paneer bhurji made in a jiffy. I have adapted this recipe from Chef Vikas Khanna’s “Flavours First”. This book has got simple wholesome recipes using everyday ingredients.

Now I doubt that someone would have not heard about Vikas Khanna, however to just brief you. He is the poster boy of Indian cooking abroad. He is a Michelin starred chef who heads Junoon Hospitality based in New York. He has cooked for the US President umpteen times on invitation and also hailed as the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine. He is a judge on Master Chef India and I must say his boyish charm and down to earth nature, make him a delight to watch.

I especially loved his series “Holy Kitchens” wherein he explored the food sharing traditions of various religions. Here’s more on him from Wikipedia if you would like to know about Chef Vikas Khanna and his journey.

IMG_1499

I like cook books wherein you read a recipe and don’t have to resist the urge to cook right away just because the recipe demands a gourmet or exotic indegrient. Flavours First is one such book, Chef Vikas has enlisted his family recipes handed over to him by his Biji “grandmother”. The reason I was able to connect with his food philosophy so much was because like him, even my inspiration happens to me my grandmother. She taught me how the simple home cooked food can be soul nourishing and if made with love can be tasty.

I adapted this Cottage Cheese Cooked with Vegetables recipes from his book when my in-laws visited me in March. It was an instant hit with everyone. One Friday we all packed our picnic basket full of home made goodies and went to Al Safa park, the al fresco weather in Dubai was perfect and the slight nip in the air made our family get together just perfect.

IMG_1641

As you can see, we just ate them with Rajma Chawal (red kidney beans stew with steamed rice) and also Vanilla Sponge Cake Coated with Chocolate Ganache and garnished with Pistachios.

Vanilla Sponge Cake

You see when you got to please a big crowd, you need to incorporate elements to make everyone feel special.

A closer lookServes : 6

Ingredients

4 tsp canola oil
1 tsp minced ginger
2 large garlic cloves minced
2 small red onions thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes chopped
1 large capsicum thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper diced
1 small yellow bell pepper diced
200 grams paneer diced
4-5 scallions green part thinly trimmed
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 red chilly flakes
1 tsp fennel powder
2 pinch cardamom powder
2 slit green chillies(optional)
1 tsp tomato puree / ketchup (optional)
Black pepper powder to taste
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a large wok (kadai) on medium heat, add cumin and let it splutter. Add slit green chillies if you can handle spice.

Add ginger and garlic and sauté it well for a minute.

Add onions and cook them until they are golden and start to brown.

Add tomatoes and cook them well with all the dry spices. Cook them for 2-3 minutes until they are saucy, make sure you don’t dry out the mixture.

Add bell peppers and cook until they are soft but not mushy. Keep stirring the mixture, you may add little water if need be.

At this point, I added little tomato puree. This is purely optional since I like the red color the puree lends to the veggies.

Add paneer at this point. You may shallow fry the paneer before adding it to the mixture. I omitted this since me and familia do not like deep fried paneer.

Cook the paneer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. This will enable the paneer to absorb the flavors from the mixture.

Add the scallions just before you remove the vegetable off heat or mix it towards the end, like I did. Sprinkle with black pepper and it’s good to be relished with hot chapattis or garlic naans.

Fusion JLT


The last of Dubai winters have given way to the sunny morning and humid afternoons. I love Dubai the most starting November until April. You can feel a nip in the air and the blue skies are so mesmerizing as well.

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During one such outing to a local book cafe a few months back we discovered Fusion restaurant quite accidentally. We must be near the car park and could smell the fragrant aromas from the kitchen of this brightly lit eatery.

Both me and my husband Sahil exchanged the look which said “Let’s skip Brunch & have a early lunch instead”. But since we had vouchers for Nataly Cafe, which were soon to expire, we went against our senses. You can read the complete review for the book cafe here at Sahil’s blog http://goo.gl/KQOjx

I did not like the breakfast menu much hence no review. Moving on to this restaurant review.

Sometimes you expect a lot more once you visit a restaurant and feel disappointed. However, Fusion surprised us both  with it’s yummy food and awesome service.

I have clubbed together three of our visits to the restaurant. The restaurant is brightly lit with low ceiling lamps hanging around, oil paintings depicting the folk men and nature and the red walls along with the black trimmings on red chairs complimenting each other quite well. There are also two big screen LCDs facing each other to keep company to the lonely souls around.

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First time around we ordered the safe options in Chinese. We opted for Vegetarian Sweet Corn Soup, Manchurian with Gravy and Hakka Noodles.

Sweet Corn Soup

The soup was freshly made and not re-heated like some restaurants serve them. My biggest concern while having Chinese soups is the use of corn starch, usually I find them to be too starchy. But the soup at Fushion had the perfect balance of shredded cabbage, an occasional french bean cut diagonally, carrots and corn.

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The Hakka Noodles were a tad too oily for my liking but it’s me being guilty for not eliminating junk from my diet. They were seasoned nicely and the veggies included shredded carrots, thinly sliced onions, an occasional cabbage, capsicum with a garnish of spring onion.

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I absolutely loved the manchurian they did. The manchurian balls just like the soup did not have the raw flavor of corn starch. We asked for more gravy and were happy with the generous portions. The dish was garnished with coriander for a change instead of the usual spring onion like most of other chinese joints. The manchurian gravy was neither too runny nor too thick, just cooked perfectly. We came back from Fusion as pleased as a Punch.

We visited them again next week, their close approximate to our home worked to our advantage. When we are late from work, we make a quick dash and came back satiated.

This time around we tried their Indian delicacies. We ordered mains of Dal Tadka, Handi Paneer (Creamy Cottage Cheese Gravy and Bhindi Do Pyaza. Now these are my favorite things to order when I eat out, you would see that I always order a Paneer Makhni or it’s clones. Blame it to my Punjabi genes.

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I always try ordering a simple dish as well since I believe that it’s the simple things in life which are difficult to create. These are flavors one grows up with and hence has a sentimental connect to. The Dal was perfectly tempered with cumin seeds, , coriander powder, green chillies and red chilly powder. I loved how the dal came in a copper bucket. Brownies points for this 🙂

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The basmati rice was tempered with cumin seeds and garnished with fresh coriander leaves.

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Bhindi do Pyaaza was a hit with my palette. Frozen okra came in a brown onion gravy seasoned with cumin seeds, coriander powder, green chillies and was garnished with ginger juliennes and coriander leaves.

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Handi Paneer was creamy, the onion tomato gravy not overpowering the softness of paneer. I would have liked the cream to be thinned before the garnish though. It felt too heavy for the otherwise balanced flavors. I just scrapped the cream off the top and had the gravy underneath. It also had diced capscicum.

I like the copper pots and spoons used by Fusion to serve the food, they add to the ambience and give a nice rustic feel to the otherwise loud color scheme of the restaurant.

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They also served us sides of vinegar marinated shallots and store bought mix vegetable pickle.

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We did try a desert this time by staff recommendation, Gajar Halwa (Carrot Dessert). We enquired if the carrots used were red like how you get in Indian subcontinent but were informed that they use Australian carrots. So that explains the orange carrot halwa. It was nice but not great. It was very runny and required more time to get cooked on medium heat.

My grandmother used to say that a sign of halwa well cooked is when the carrot almost feels crumbly borderline roasted but still moist, retaining the richness of the milk it is cooked in. Sadly the gajar halwa did not fare quite well as expected but I was ok with what I ate. It was garnished with slivers of pistachio and almonds. Maybe the texture was not good because no khoya (dried whole milk) was added.

We visited Fushion almost after a month or so again last weekend, we noticed they have started serving roast papad with green chutney.  The papad was not roasted properly. I captured the images as well.

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The chutney was ok, tad too runny and the taste of yoghurt overpowering the coriander.

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We ordered Tomato Soup which was too watery and the ginger flavour was tad too strong for my palette. Again it was garnished with a dollop of cream resting on the soggy bread croutons. The bread croutons were stale and seemed like oily.

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For mains I ordered Paneer Bhurji, it  was an absolute disaster, I knew I would not like the dish just by the way it looked.

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The only flavor I could taste was turmeric, the entire dish felt very bland and raw. It was cooked with finely chopped chillies, onions and tomatoes but the gravy base was not enough. It seemed like paneer was added last minute and it was not blend well with the onion-tomato mixture. There were parts of the dish wherein the paneer was not coated with the spices.

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Sahil ordered Prawn Biryani and found it too dry. Upon complaining the waiter acknowledged that the Prawn gravy may have been a last minute addition to the pre-cooked plain biryani. The gravy like Vegetarian / Mutton/ Chicken / Prawn get added as per the customer’s order. Odd!

Nevertheless Fusion stared off on a promising note but lost us on the flavor aspect in the subsequent visits. I will still visit them since the service is good, here’s hoping to better food on the next visit.

A quick link for their website http://www.fusion.ae/

Disclaimer : All featured dishes and meals were paid for my me and this post is not a sponsored one.

Rava Nariyal Ladoos

I’d like to begin this post by wishing everyone a Belated Happy Diwali. I hope it is a good year filled with fun times ahead.

With Diwali nearing, every Indian household kitchen buzzes with energy. Homes are cleaned, utensils are scrubbed and cleaned, dryfruits are stocked up and savories and sweets are made days before the festivities begin.

My childhood memories include having Mathri, Shakkarpaare, Namakpaare, Pooris, Chakli, Gujiya, Besan Badam Barfi, Kaju Katli and Sooji Ladoos being made painstakingly by my grandma and Mom. I was assigned the task of crushing dry fruits, cutting the shapes for these goodies.

I loved how after sweating for hours on end while making these sweets and savories, it was relished with gusto by the ladies over a cup of masala chai. Ahh Bliss!!

I usually try and make these while going back home for Diwali. Last year I managed to make Mathri, Besan Badam Barfi and Ladoos. Being jobless helps at times. This year though I was just able to make some ladoos. Here’s sharing the recipe for them. Excuse the images taken by my humble iPhone4S camera 4.30 in the morning before my flight.

                                                                                        Rava Nariyal Ladoo

Ingredients

2 cups semolina
1 and half cup powdered sugar
1 cup dried coconut powder
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup cashew kernels
50 ml condensed milk
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 cup raisins
200 ml clarified butter

Dry Roast semolina on medium heat until it acquires a pale golden color.Ensure that it does not stick to the pan or get burnt.

Allow it cool down and powder the semolina slightly. In a saucepan, add around 3/4th of the clarified butter on low heat and add the powdered semolina and cook for 15-20 minutes until it is a beautiful golden color.

Add cardamom powder and powdered sugar and mix well for another 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring the mixture continuously, if you feel that you need to add more clarified butter add another 2tsp. Up next add the dried coconut powder and crushed dry fruits.

In a different pan, heat 1tsp of clarified butter and add raisins to it. Cook it for 1 minute and it will bloom and this step enhances the flavor of raisins in the ladoos. Add the raisins to the mixture. Blend all the indregeints well and take it off heat. Allow it to cool for a couple of mins.

This recipe should give you close to 36 ladoos.

Now grease your palms with little clarified butter and start making ladoos. You will be required to apply pressure and lightly roll the mixture. Heap dessicated coconut powder in a plate and roll the ladoos lightly. You can place the ladoos at room temperature in cute looking paper cups. Garnish them with nuts. I have garnished them with pistachios since the green looks lovely against the pale white/ off white of the ladoos.

If the mixture does not stick well, heat around half a cup of full fat milk and add the same to the mixture and blend well. You can avoid adding milk as it decreases the shelf life of the ladoos. The ladoos stay well for a week’s time if kept in an airtight container.

If milk is not added then usually the ladoos last for around 15 days unless they get polished off the plates earlier!!