Thursday, April 28, 2011

Have You Ever Been in Love?

That mysterious, unknown virgin culture of Africa, her natural beauty, her fascinating wildlife and everything about Africa is unexplained. If I were an explorer, my first quest would be Africa. The land has this magnetic quality and I can’t help but be attracted. Have you ever been in love? Then you know what t feels like, to see, to hear, to know, to love and yet you cannot touch it. I am eagerly waiting for the day when I will be able to visit this land of the first people and get to learn about their unique culture. Thanks to social networking websites, Africa and its culture does not seem so far anymore. My school friend Dhanashree introduced me Christiane Amani through a social networking website, Christiane has agreed to teach me her traditional recipes from West Africa. Just to reiterate, I love Africa and I love social networking websites.

I will be trying my first African recipe in a couple of days, as soon as I find those cooking bananas and let you know, how my first attempt to explore African cuisine and culture went.

Aloko au poulet

For 2 persons
Ingredients :
       8 Plantains (Cooking Bananas)
       Vegetable  oil
       4 pieces of chicken
       1 bottle of tomato sauce (you can use the tomato can if you want)
       3 onions
       4 small pieces of garlic
       black pepper 
       chicken maggi seasoning cubes (stock cubes)
       Fresh pepper (Fresh Red Chillies)
       1 root of ginger
       Salt, bell pepper

How to cook the “Aloko?”
       Cut the bananas lengthwise, then into thin slices.  
       Pour out oil into a saucepan and heat until boiling.
       Fry onion pieces until they become brown, sprinkle a bit of salt on the plantain pieces and start frying the plantain.
       Fry both sides until reddish-brown, then very carefully remove.

How to cook the roasted chicken?

       Seasoning for the chicken :
          Grind onions, ginger, garlic, fresh pepper. Add black pepper, salt, chicken maggi.
       Marinade the chicken pieces the day before and keep it in the refrigerator.
       The next day cook them in the oven (bake 450 F) for 1hour/ or grill on a barbecue.

Tomato Soup
       Grind onion, garlic, fresh pepper, bell pepper
       Put in saucepan  the paste+ tomato sauce.
       Add salt, chicken maggi. Cook it for 25 mtes. Then, put some oil to fry it.  Cook it for another 25 minutes.

There was a bunch of stuff in this recipe that I did not find and there are a few changes in the cooking time. 

Please have a look at Time for Disaster Management for the African Chicken in the Tips section for my version of the recipe.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Eating with the Expert; Four Things You Must Remember During a Meal at Arthur’s Theme

  • Arthur's Theme
  • 2 Vrindavan Apartments, Lane No. 6, Koregaon Park , Pune
  • Phone: 66032710, 26152710

  • Timings
    11:00 AM to 11:30 PM
  • Food Type: 

What would you cook, if a celebrity chef arrived at your doorstep? Confused? I was confused too. If I knew, I would be writing a book of my own titled; Recipes Mr. Big Shot Chef has never tasted. Not only is it tough to find unique recipes but also making them really delicious is colossal task. So, I decided to take Chef Rakesh Sethi of Mirch Masala fame, that telecasted on STAR Plus to a restaurant that I could trust. Lately, Chef Rakesh has been working on a show called Tea Time for Foodfood, where I met him while working for the channel. His knowledge and experience about food encouraged me to ask a lot of questions and once I was back in Pune, I invited him over to visit us with his family.

The reason I chose Arthur’s Theme (Pune) in Lane 6, Koregaon Park to take him for lunch on a Sunday afternoon was that everyone I know loves that place. Although, for a high profile Chef the menu of Arthur’s Theme wasn’t really unique, they do have some unique names and the food is fresh and tastes good. I am so glad that I wasn’t in the kitchen making that Brown Sauce or the Hot Chocolate Fudge. It is tough to impress a man who knows that the Fudge has been cooked for 10 minutes instead of 7 minutes which is the precise duration for which it should be cooked.  
Chef Rakesh Sethi and Me

When we arrived with Chef Rakesh’s teenage, twin boys and his friendly wife we were warmly welcomed by a gentleman who was dressed in casual clothes. We gathered that he might be the owner or a friend or relative of the owner since he was not formally dressed like the rest of the staff he also seemed the more concerned about guest satisfaction than the rest of the staff. We were seated by the glass, the preference for water was inquired and the embarrassing faded menus were handed over to us.  When I take a formal guest to a good restaurant, I do not expect the menu card to look used and faded, might as well not give me the menu and just read out the options like on a roadside dhaba. The menu had a wide selection of what is often referred to as continental dishes primarily French and Italian, a few oriental and some options that could pass as an Indian dish given their similarity to Indian descriptions. The wine list was concise but an interesting combination of whites and reds, rose and sparkling, Indian and Imported.

 First : If you are accompanied by a guest on one of your trips to Arthur’s Theme, please be sure to either, all order the same soup or tell the waiter to bring them to your table at the same time. On this instance, the Minestrone was served ten minutes before the other soups being the Guy of Warwick, the seafood soup and the Ationette, the mushroom soup. Our guests had to wait for ten minutes before they could start eating their soup and by the time our soups were served, theirs were cold and the taste did not matter anymore. All Chef Rakesh said was, ‘It is Garlicky’. The seafood soup was mellow and subtly flavoured with herbs, while the Mushroom soup had was delicious also dominated by the flavour of garlic. But the taste of the soup did not matter to me after being embarrassed in front of my guests.

Guy of Warwick

Second : Make sure you have the waiter repeat the order. We had ordered two fresh lime sodas for Chef’s twin sons. Only one was served at the table and the waiter forgot about the other one. I offered to remind and bring another soda but by then the twins were already sharing the one that was served.

The Expert trying Napolean

Third : Do not order Napolean and Henry VIII, both chicken dishes at the same table if you are intend to share both dishes or try something new, like we did. Both these dishes have the same sauce, the only difference being Henry VIII had a slight wine flavour. Other dishes included Humbert which was Paneer Shaslik with tomato sauce on a bed of rice, the twins said it tasted good, Chef liked it as well. Ferdinand, this was mushrooms and paneer in a creamy tomato sauce, full of flavour, rich and wonderful. Amanda was chicken with a barbeque sauce, I did not get to try this, by the time I got to it, it was over, so I am guessing that it must have been good. Napolean and Henry VIII are both chicken dishes with brown sauce and pepper flavour. Henry VIII with the ‘chef’s special wine flavoured sauce’ was nice but the chicken was slightly overcooked making it dry and stringy on the inside.


Henry VIII

Fourth : This is a strict MUST NOT DO if you don’t want to spoil the flavour of your wonderful meal, DO NOT eat that mint they serve at the end of the meal. It tastes stale and has a chalk-like quality. It totally tortures your tongue and makes you want to buy another mint from the close-by vendor.

Hot Chocolate Fudge

To mention the dessert, I thought it was delicious but ‘the expert’ said it was three minutes over the time of cooking! That means even though the Hot Chocolate Fudge was yummy, it could still be yummier, there was room for improvement. Well, that is the benefit of dining with the expert. The experience was Arthur’s Theme was good. Fine company and good food made for a lovely, satisfying Sunday afternoon. I would like to thank Chef Rakesh Sethi for his pearls of wisdom while dining with me.

Rating 7.5 on 10.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dal Bati.. OverBaked!

The Dal I cooked turned out oh! so delicious, I have to admit, it was a little spicy for my taste. I did not use the gas tandoor nor did I fry the batis in desi ghee. I decided to bake them, and once they were done, the colour did not seem right. So, to get that lovely brown tinge, I grilled them for five minutes after the baking was done. I should not have acted over-smart and pulled that trick. My batis were over-baked making the crust was dry and harder than the ones I have eaten earlier but the core of the bati was well cooked and tasty. Oh well, this was just my first try, I will get there in due course of time, won’t I, Mr. Mumbai boy “originally” from Rajasthan? Even if I don’t, I know someone who can make them right.

You will find this recipe in the recipes section of this blog, under the heading; The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

The way to a Man’s heart is through his Stomach

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and no one knows this better than I. My secret to win his heart was Butter Chicken. But once you take that road to their heart, that greedy stomach keeps growling for more. I should have thought this over, perhaps taken a different road to his heart or learnt how to make Dal Bati before I decided to date a Mumbai boy “originally” from Rajasthan. Well, obviously not knowing the recipe does not excuse you from cooking it. ‘So what if you don’t know the recipe, I will tell you and you can make it for me’ says the Mumbai boy “originally” from Rajasthan. Now, what do you say to that? Well, I would love to say, ‘or instead you could make dal bati for me and I will watch and learn how’. But since it is a weekend, all I could say was, okay! Because there is no way Mr. Couch Potato “originally” from Rajasthan was going to move his, you know what.

So here goes, the Recipe to make that perfect Rajasthani delicacy; “the Dal Bati”

For the panchmel dal
·  1/3 cup chana dal (split Bengal gram)
·  1/3 cup toovar (arhar) dal
·  1/3 cup moong dal (split green gram)
·  1 tbsp urad dal (split black lentils)
·  1 tbsp whole moong (whole green gram)
·  3 tsp chilli powder
·  1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
·  1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
·  1/2 tsp garam masala
·  3 cloves (laung / lavang)
·  2 bayleaves (tejpatta)
·  1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
·  2 green chillies, slit
·  a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
·  2 tsp dried mango powder (amchur)
·  2 tsp tamarind (imli) pulp
·  3 tbsp ghee
·  salt to taste

For the baatis (for 10 baatis) 
·  1 cup whole wheat flour (gehun ka atta)
·  1/2 cup semolina (rava)
·  2 tbsp besan (Bengal gram flour)
·  8 tbsp milk
·  4 tbsp melted ghee
·  salt to taste

For serving
melted ghee


For the dal 
·  Clean and wash the dals and add 4 cups of water. Pressure cook for 2 to 3 whistles or till the dals are cooked.
·  In a bowl, combine the chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala with 3 tablespoons of water and mix well. Keep aside.
·  Heat the ghee in a pan and add the cloves, bay leaves, cumin seeds, green chillies and asafoetida. When the cumin seeds crackle, add the prepared masala paste and saut for 1 to 2 minutes.
·  Add the cooked dals, amchur, tamarind pulp and salt and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust the consistency of the dal before serving and if required, add some water.

For the baatis 
·  Mix all the ingredients and knead into a firm dough. Knead well for 5 to 7 minutes.
·  Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and shape each portion into an even sized round. Flatten the rounds lightly using your thumb to make an indentation in the centre of the baati.
·  Boil water in a broad vessel and drop the baatis in the boiling water. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes over a high flame.
·  When the baatis are done, drain and keep aside.
·  Heat a gas tandoor and put the baatis on the grill of the tandoor. Cook them on a medium flame for 20 to 25 minutes. Cooking the baatis over a medium flame will ensure that the baatis are cooked on the insides also.
·  Arrange the baatis on a serving plate, break each baati into two pieces and pour melted ghee on the baatis.

How to proceed
·  Pour hot panchmel dal over the baatis.
·  Serve hot with churma.
·  Tips
·  You can cook the baatis in a gas tandoor (without boiling them).
·  Alternatively bake the boiled baatis in a pre-heated oven at 200°C (400°F) for 10 to 15 minutes turning them over occasionally.
·  Or even deep fry them in hot ghee instead of cooking them in a tandoor.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thank You Jane!

I did not get Feta cheese anywhere, so I substituted Feta cheese with Cottage Cheese/ Paneer cut into 1 cm cubes.

The muffins turned out really well, probably not the same as Jane's Spinach and Feta muffins because the I used Cottage Cheese in the recipe. But even with that little change, the muffins were delicious.

You will find this recipe in the recipes section of this blog, under the heading;
 I Promise, this is the Last Time I am Eating So Much Butter

Is It Done Yet? Not Just For Kids

Do you remember all the delicious treats your mom made for you when you were a little child? Birthday cakes shaped like dolls and your favourite cartoon characters, Pizzas with faces made with tomato sauce. Don’t you still wish sometimes that you were a little child and eat those fun delicious cakes and cookies? Try these cookies, simple and delicious Very Happy Puppy Cookies. I made them at home last week and they made everyone happy. They turned my father and sister into a greedy child. They were both fighting for the last piece and guess who got it? Someone named foodie and a someone named tryingstein.

So try them and see how they make everyone happy.

You will need
All Purpose Flour(Maida)   200g
Powdered Sugar                    50g
Butter (Softened)                125g
Cold Water                           a sprinkle
Dark Chocolate                       60g
Butter Paper                         1 sheet

To make the Very Happy Puppy
Crescent Shaped Chocolate Cereal / Choco Flakes          60g
Chocolate Buttons (Dark or Milk will do)                           30g

This recipe will make 12 Very Happy Puppies.
Preheat the Oven at 160 degree Celsius.

First measure all the ingredients. Cut the dark chocolate in small pieces. Sieve together the all purpose flour and powdered sugar and keep it aside. Then take softened butter in a bowl, add in the all purpose flour(maida) and powdered sugar mixture to the softened butter. Rub the butter into the flour and make cookie dough. If required, add a sprinkle to cold water to bring the dough together. Do not knead this dough. Now divide it into twelve equal portions. Make the rounds with dough and press in pieces of dark chocolate in the centre of the round and seal it up while rounding. Grease a baking tray or line it with butter paper. Set the chocolate stuffed cookie rounds on a greased tray. Use the Choco Flakes as ears on both the sides of the cookie rounds. Make a nose with chocolate button placed right in the middle of the round puppy face. Now, break little pieces of Choco flakes to make the little eyes of the Very Happy Puppy.

Tip: If you don’t have chocolate buttons you can also use the chocolate cereal to form a triangular nose for the very happy puppy.

Now place the greased cookie tray in the pre-heated oven and bake the cookies for 20 minutes at 160 degree Celsius. Do check them once after fifteen minutes, just to see if they are already done. They will lose the ‘wet’ look if they are done. They look a slight golden shade of off-white.

I hope you enjoy it!

Dal Makhani.. Something was Missing!

I tasted the Dal Makhani but the smoky flavour was missing.

To add in the smoky flavour instantly, you can take a small piece of coal, heat it over the flame till it gets red hot.
Then keep this coal in a steel bowl and place it over the dal on top of an empty steel bowl inverted so that the dal does not enter the bowl with the coal. Now, add a dollop of butter or homemade ghee on the red hot piece of coal and cover the dal with a lid for five minutes before serving.

You will find this Recipes, it the Recipes Section of this Blog under the heading; Dhaba- Style Makhani Dal.. Now Anyone can make It..

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Promise, this is the Last Time I am Eating So Much Butter

This is my last dollop of butter. I promise I will never eat so much butter again. But it is Friday and I have been working really hard this week, so I must reward myself with something nice and what better than butter, if it is going to be some thing nice! Monday onwards I promise I will not eat butter again. I don’t know how many Mondays will I tell myself that before one Monday I break my work chair, but can you blame me? The moment you see that butter melt and mix into a dish, it transforms into this magical, mouth watering treat from wonderland. Well, I will just fix the chair when I come to it.

My friend Jane and I met in Nottingham, UK while doing our Master’s degree in TV Journalism over a year ago. We got talking one evening over some blueberry liqueur and that was the beginning of a new food friendship. The conversation began with me ranting about how good that blueberry liqueur that Jane was having was and we went on and on about breads and French butter and cheeses. But Jane never told me then, that she made the world’s best Spinach and Feta muffins. I heard about the muffins, a lot, from our faculty, the students, nearly everyone I knew in Nottingham. But each time she made them, everyone would just attack on them and I never got to taste them. By the time it was my turn to try them I was back here in India. So, now I am going to try out a recipe to make the world’s best Spinach and feta muffins from Jane Lee. Jane has mentioned a healthy version of the recipe as well but I am going to try the one with loads of butter. I will be trying this recipe over the weekend and let you and Jane know how it turned out in the tips section.

 For 12 regular muffins,


3/4 cups plain flour
1 cup of wholemeal flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
3-4 cups chopped spinach leaves (or baby spinach)
160 grams feta cheese cut into 1cm cubes
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk (or soy milk)
1/4 cup of sunflower oil (or melted butter for the unhealthy version)
1tbsp castor sugar (optional - I don't normally use it)

Heat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour,

baking powder, salt, nutmeg and sugar (if using) into a mixing bowl.

Add the spinach and feta and coat properly. Combine egg, oil, milk and fold into flour mixture (DON'T overmix or it'll be bad). Spoon into muffin trays (fill each hole to 3/4) and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dhaba-style Makhani Dal… Now Anyone Can Make It!

Do you really have the luxury, time or money to drive down to that Dhaba on the outskirts of your city whenever you like? Just to eat that awesome, Dhaba-style Dal Makhani will you spend all your weekends hanging out at the same place, week after week? Why not bring that Dal home? I am about to tell you how you are going to do that.

I tried this awesome dal makhani one Saturday afternoon at the Dara’s Dhhaba with Ankit, with who I happen to share a lot of my meals, at home and outside. I was ranting about that dal for days, I loved it and every time we went out to grab a bite, I insisted that we go to Dara’s Dhaba which was far, far away nearly on the outskirts of Mumbai city. Finally, Ankit had no choice but to share with me, the recipe of Dara’s Dal Makhani which he had guessed, on one of his culinary adventures and succeeded. So, yes this is Ankit’s Dal Makhani recipe but no I did not stick with it. I had that flavour of Dara’s Dal makhani so clearly etched in my memory, that flavour of ginger, coriander and, Butter, lots of butter, that I took down his recipe and added my own twist to it, to make it taste more like the Dara’s Dal Makhani that I remember.

So if you have your pen and paper ready, here goes,

The well kept delicious secret of Dhaba-Style Dal makhani, finally revealed,

You will need:

Black Urad Dal(Black Lentils) - 200g

Kidney Beans(Rajma) - 50g
Ginger - 50g (you need a lot of ginger for this)
Garlic - 4 big cloves, cut lengthwise
Cumin Seeds(Jeera) - 15g
Spring Onion - 2 Small (Don’t Skip This)
Onion - 1 Large
Tomatoes - 4 large
Red Chilli Powder - 10g (or more if you like spicy food)
Coriander Powder (Dhaniya powder) - 30g  (Yes, you need that much)
Green Coriander - 60g (about half of a small bunch)
Butter - 100g (Indulge and Enjoy)
Cream - 50 ml
Salt - to taste
Garam Masala Powder - 15g (you might need upto 20g if you don’t use homemade garam masala)

TIP: It is always better to grind your own garam masala for that lovely aroma in your food.Garam Masala is generally a combinations of cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, cumin, cardamom and coriander. You can refer to this link

The quick home way to make Dal makhani:

  • Soak the Rajma and Black Urad Dal overnight. If you cannot soak it overnight then atleast soak the Rajma for 3-4 hours.
  • In a pressure cooker, add the soaked Rajma and Black Urad Dal  along with 10g or a half inch piece of ginger, crushed , salt and 400 ml of water.  
  • Boil the Dals, reduce the heat after the first whistle of the pressure cooker and turn off the heat after the second whistle. Allow it to cool down, till then prepare the tadka.

For the Tadka:

  • Heat 30g of butter in a pan, add cumin(jeera), garlic, grated ginger and allow in to lightly brown, then add crushed spring onions, chopped onions and allow them to brown.
  • Once the onions are deep brown, add in the chopped tomatoes and allow them to cook till they soften and the mixture leaves the sides on the pan.
  • Add Dhaniya Powder, Red Chilli powder and mix well.
  • Add in the boiled dals from the pressure cooker into the pan with the cooked onion tomato mixture. Add salt if required.
  • Mix well. Allow the mixture to cook until the mixture is well cooked and slightly thick.
  • Turn off the heat on the pan. Add the chopped coriander greens and cream. Stir Well.
  • And then, add in the magic, the remaining butter into the Makhani Dal.

And let me know how it turned out.