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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Assamese Food Festival. Part Two

During my growing up days, going to a restaurant was a treat, most days we ate at home, a traditional Sindhi meal- Curry Chawal, Sai Bhajji or simple vegetables (fried or stewed). Snacks and salads were made on special occasions. A simple curd and Papad was always served at the meals. When we visited our friends, we ate their speciality,Gujarati cuisine at Guju friend’s house, idli-dosa at south indian friend’s house, heavy ghee laden paratha in our Punjabi friend’s house. We never shared recipes, we hardly talked about food..eating food was sheer enjoyment and we came back satiated.

We have come a long way now. We hardly find sindhi food made regularly at Sindhi homes, it is more frequently made in my non-Sindhi friend’s home. We have become international. Pastas and sandwiches are more common now and eating out on week-ends is so very fashionable.

So now we have food festivals to bring back the culture of a certain place. Many restaurants have adopted this food festival  trends to boost their business. People have begun to enjoy different regional cuisine. 

Its fun more topic to discuss besides the juicy topics of who is dating whom and who is the better sinner. You go to a friend’s house for lunch and you dissect the food, inquiring about the recipe and how it is different from your traditional one. You click pictures instead of saying prayers, with oily hands you jot down notes on ingredients and cooking method (if you don’t trust your memory) and have to discover new words to describe a dish..a boring words like “tasty” or “delicious” is so very childish.

So while you are chewing, you are learning…same vegetables but cooked differently in different parts of the world. A humble potato, when boiled and mashed becomes a side dish.

Recently, I attended Assamese Food Festival at Special School at Belapur. I stood side-by-side with children to learn about this cuisine. I have never before tasted meal from that part of India, so naturally I was curious. Assamese Chef Mamoni Gogoi and her daughter were invited to cook in our school kitchen and a great variety of food was cooked.

Mamoni had brought few raw vegetables that are available in her part of the world. We discussed in great details about the use of Elephant Apple, lime and those red hot chilis

Be careful, don’t touch the red chili, your hand will burn” 

she warned me when I tried to inspect Bhut Jolokia chili. You can imagine its effects on your tummy lining then… (I am used to hot and spicy food..but for delicate people, it is compulsory NO)

The smallest morsels can flavour a sauce so intensely it's barely edible. Eating a raw sliver causes watering eyes and a runny nose. An entire chilli is an all-out assault on the senses, akin to swigging a cocktail of battery acid and glass shards.

I asked her to cut the Elephant Apple because I wanted to taste it. But she said that it cannot be eaten raw. It is boiled or cooked to make sauces or jams. It can be used to aromatimize curry.

Preparing elephant apple isn’t an intuitive process: if eating the fruit raw and out of hand, the edible portion is the gelatinous flesh surrounding the pistons, as well as the crunchy “petals.” These may be cut lengthwise into strips, pressure cooked with a pinch of turmeric to soften, and then sautéed and stewed as a curry fry.

Not sure if she used these ingredients in her cooking, but the fragrance from school kitchen was heady.

There were soft hunger pangs that were beginning to knot my tummy but I am not allowed to be greedy, (children should be fed first, no?) so I diverted my attention to clicking pictures.

Masoor Bor

Mati Dhal


Aloo Pitika

Labra (Assamese style mix vegetables)

Tomato Tok

Papaya Khar

I have blogged in great detail about this event on my other blog for school. … read HERE

Many of our students were aware of the food that they were served on that day, because they were shown flash cards of the dishes many days in advance and some of the dishes were discussed in great details,

Every child had grasped the subject according to his ability but all enjoyed the real food.

Do read ‘Assamese Food Festival – Part One on my other blog.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dal Divas Potluck

There was rice, bread, papad, achaar and then there were dhals..a great variety of dhal from different parts of India. All dhals were carefully cooked with great interest and all tasted good! Rushina Ghildiyal, the main flame behind this event of celebrating Dal Divas, invited us all to her APB Cook studio to showcase our speciality.

How could I miss?…since I was in Mumbai this time, I was keen to attend this one.

Rushina has been promoting Indian cuisine since some time now and there have been series of events organised by her, observing different days like Biryani day, pickle day, bhajiya day, masala day, vadi day, but I have always missed it for some reason or other….

Although I have blogged on it..whenever I could... you could read it

Chutneys my family enjoys around the globe

Dhal Divas too, I would have missed because there was another commitment that got cancelled and luckily I was able to attend.

It was a potluck with all the women showcasing their speciality. Rushina made a list so that there were no repeatition.

I was asked to make green split dhal. Now dhal is a comfort food, not that I eat everyday (no, not when I make Chinese, Italian or continental, not even when I make non-veg) when I eat dhal..its only dhal. A complete meal by itself.

I was asked to share my recipe… it is…I cook with instinct, no measurements, no fixed methods..

I boiled 2cups of green split dhal, adding 1tsp of turmeric powder in a pressure cooker. After 3 whistles, I put off the gas and went for a bath.

Till then dhal had cooled off and it was safe to expose it. Mixed it well, added 2 cups of water and kept it back on the burner. Boiled dhal also tastes good, if I would just add salt and black pepper and eat as salad,it would be nice but I  decided to cook it.

Added 3 chopped tomatoes, 2 inch grated ginger, 5 green chilies and a small bunch of chopped coriander leaves. The phone began to ring.

“What are doing? Are you free today?”
“No, I am making dhal for Dal Divas day”
“I want too”
“Ok ..will send you.”

Went back to the kitchen to mix the dhal. Chopped spring onions and garlic.

Another phone call for another small chat. This one wanted to taste too. I must remember to make bigger quantity next time. (Or not answer the calls when cooking small quantity)

Also must remember to keep my phone away from kitchen.

Kept a tiny deep pan on another burner. Deep fried spring onions in 2tbsp of ghee. Added the burnt spring onions to the dhal.

Added more ghee to the pan and deep fried chopped garlic till it was dark brown. Added this to the dhal mixture.

I must taste to check if it is proper. Added salt to adjust the taste, added mango powder to add sourness, added peri peri sauce for pungent taste and added cardamom powder for flavour.

If I like it, its good enough.

Got dressed and left for the potluckparty. Reached the venue after one hour, a bit delayed because of too much traffic.

I was in for a surprise. Chef Ashish Bagul of BKC Trident was to demonstrate four different dhals from East, West, North and South of India.

There were cholar dhar

Mohini moong dhal fit for royalties

Vala chi amti

Khade maash ki dhal

I am reminded of my NRI friend who had visited India and was amused when she heard series of pressure cooker whistles from different kitchens at lunch time. Dhal is best cooked in pressure cooker and then there is tempering done that is not only for flavours but also for improving the nutrient value of the dish and helping to absorb many hidden nutrients in the vegetables.. Pure ghee is the perfect choice for tempering dhals and different regions of India use different combo of tempering depending upon the climate and the culture of that place.

I am not sure if any other place in the world has such a big variety of dhal preparation like in India. But it’s the tempering that makes Indian dhal so interesting and so aromatic.

The kitchen was filled with strong aroma of food..such lovely fragrance of ghee and spices, that I couldn’t wait to taste.

I wanted to taste all the dhals…24 different dhals. I tasted them all and relished it. All these ladies are great cooks. (You might wonder if I have large appetite to try them all..but I did not eat accompaniments, no rice, rice, no bread, no roti)

Made new friends, learnt new techniques, a great day to celebrate.

DalDivas was fun……. What did you cook on 25th Jan? share the link of your dhal if you did…..

Friday, December 1, 2017

Mushrooms and Veg Mock Duck

Mock duck can was sitting on my shelf for quite sometime but I needed an occasion to cook. It arrived finally this week when a group of vegetarian women friends decided to have pot luck in my house. One thing good about inviting women for lunch is that none will come empty handed. They have to bring something.

It was a flash invite and unplanned one. but within two hours, all arrived with dish in their hand, all cooked their own speciality. those who didn't cook went to buy cake or ice cream. There were Dahi wadas, paneer in greens, doklas with coconut chutney, cauliflower with potatoes, veg briyani, and then there was also veg black chocolate cake and Gokul ice cream. A big variety..totally Vegetarian.

I only made veg mock duck, mushroom potatoes stew.

I normally don’t eat canned food but this is something that I relish. My friend asked me what is this Mock duck?  Well, it’s a gluten based vegetarian food made of wheat gluten, oil, sugar, soya sauce and salt. It has its flavor from stewing gluten products in soya sauce and MSG.

There were some fresh mushrooms and potatoes  too in my fridge, so cooking this combo was a perfect choice.

Mock duck and Mushroom, both have the tendency to pick up the flavors of the ingredients in which they are cooked. So it will taste good if it is kept for marination for one-two hours.

Early morning, I marinated mock duck and mushroom in
1 cup curds,
1inch grated ginger,
 I tbsp garlic paste,
 2 green chilies,
1 tsp garam masala,
1 tsp turmeric powder,
2 tsp coriander powder,
1 tsp red chili powder and salt.

Ready to cook? Put on your apron and begin

In a pan
heat 2 tbsp oil.
Add 3-4 cloves,
1 large bay leaves,
 4 green cardamons,
1 star anis,
2 dried red chilies,
1 inch cinnamon stick,
1 tsp cumin seeds.
Add 1 chopped onion.

Mix till light brown. 
Add marinated mock duck and mushrooms. 
Add one chopped potatoes. 
add 6-7 green chilies(makes it spicy, so beware)
Mix it well.
Add 2 finely chopped tomatoes.
Mix and keep stirring till oil separates.
Add half cup water.
Cover and keep it on low fire for twenty minutes.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Serve with freshly baked rotis

 Tell me the truth...Are you drooling? Believe was very tasty!!!

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