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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Carrots- The Orange Friend

During my growing up days, whenever I visited my friend, her family would offer me a carrot juice. I was not too fond of this juice but they would inform me that it was good for my eyes.

But is there a truth in it? Or is it just a myth. Most of my friends need reading glasses, irrespective of gallons of carrot juice they might have had.

There is nothing magical about carrots alone. It’s the vitamin A within the carrot that is so important for maintenance of eye health. If the person is deprived of vitamin A for too long, the outer segment of the eye’s photoreceptors begin to deteriote and normal chemical process involved in  vision can no longer occur.

But wait, that does not mean that you will take an over dose of the carrots. No, don’t do that. Eating too many carrots can cause the skin to appear yellow-orange due to  a built-up of blood coroten levels.

Many centuries ago, there were purple carrots that grew wild in the bushes with mutated versions occasionally popping up including the yellow and white carrots. They were thin, spindly and didn’t taste great. They were mostly used for medicinal purpose.  Purple and white carrots still grow wild in Aghanistan where they are used to produce a strong alcoholic beverage.

The orange carrots which we are familiar with, wasn’t cultivated until Dutch growers in the late 16th century took mutant strains of the purple carrot, including yellow and white carrots and gradually developed them into sweet, plump, orange variety that we have today.

Having just one recipe for every vegetable becomes very boring. It is interesting to combine with different vegetables to recreate a complete new dish and one such combination that I like having is carrots with lotus stem.


 Carrot and lotus stem

1 teaspoon crushed garlic
100 grams lotus stem, sliced diagonally
100 grams carrots, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1teaspoon ginger, grated
1 Green chilies, finely chopped
1teaspoon turmeric powder
2teaspoon coriander powder
1 cup fenugreek leaves, chopped
½ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped 
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Oil

  1. In a pan, heat oil and add crushed garlic.
  2. Add chopped lotus stem, chopped carrots, tomatoes, ginger, green chilies, turmeric powder, coriander powder, salt, fenugreek leaves and coriander leaves.

  1. Cover and cook till vegetables are tender. Do not add water.
  2. Serve with freshly roasted chappatis

Friday, December 14, 2012

Saturday Challenge with Marathon Bloggers

Just for fun post.

A paragraph is given by participants of Marathon Bloggers  and here I am imagining the impossible, please bear with me cause I am in dreamy mood.... a fiction indeed...or pure imagination...

I ran. Fast. Out of breath. Lungs bursting. Legs hitting the earth. I thudded up the path, around the corner, right up the stairs and reached the door. I flung it open, rush to my room and grabbed the TV remote.

I was just in time for my favorite TV program ‘Junior Master Chef- Grand Finale’

The children were to make Indian Kababs and I was interested to see if they made it well.

Smart kids, just 10-yrs-olds, were making most difficult and exotic dishes so efficiently. But I was sure that Kababs would be difficult for them to make.

Why is Kababs so difficult to make? You may ask.

Well, making kababs is an art. The consistency has to be proper, masalas have to be just right and molding into a proper shape is an art, it depends on the dexterity of the finger. These kids have tiny palms, not enough space to roll the dough.

Their tiny hands minced the mixture of meat and soaked channa dhal in the food processor, added garam masalas, lime, salt and chilies, then started to roll the kababs in proper shape.

“Take enough quantity kid, you have taken too small a portion” said I, hoping they could hear me.

They took just a small handful and made into marble size balls.

“That’s not Kababs, silly” I screamed

The kids continued to shape into small marble size, unaware of my frustrations.

In a non-stick pan, they fried those tiny ten kababs, flattening it a bit with the ladle.

“Okay, since you have made such tiny blotches of meat, I wonder how you plan to plate it?” I grumbled

But kids are smart.

They arranged ten kababs in a fan shaped design, surrounded it with thinly sliced tomato alternating with onion rings and slit green chilies, they placed a small bowl containing green chutney at other end of the plate making a nice geometrical design.

Hmmns..I am impressed.

Though both the contestants had followed the same recipe, the winner would be the one who made the tastiest kababs.

I wished I were the judge.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hospital Food Needs Improvement

Menu of the day: 4 bread slices, mixed vegetables, lentils, ridge gourd curry.

There are many food related programs on TV nowadays and of course we all love the reality food show called ‘MasterChef.’ of Australia and India. Maybe they could have one episode where the contestants are asked to cook nutritious food for hospitals.

We have many talented cooks in our country but still the food served in hospitals is not up to its mark. The vegetables look limp, the dhals un-appetizing and the rotis  dried and hard. They tell me that the hospital food has to be nutritious but shouldn’t it be tasty too? One glance at the food and my hunger disappears I would rather starve than eat such food which is cooked so carelessly. A good nutritious hospital food could have salad of boiled vegetables, cheese, curd, fresh juice, brown bread, etc.

I am not sure if any hospital employs chefs. There are dieticians who do their rounds asking patients for their feedback but I am not sure that any changes are made to improve the taste.

The hospital where I am spending few days does not allow home cooked food. My family sometimes smuggles home-cooked food for me. I eat that food like a thief, hiding the egg sandwich after every bite. But those are rare times, most of the time I just choke on tasteless food

Hospitals should have chefs who care about the patient’s needs. Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables can be purchased directly from farmers. There should be more local, organic and sustainable food.

The patients in the hospital are in pain and grumpy, a tasty food would surely pep them up. Isn’t it?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Food trail in the narrow lanes of Bohri Mohallah

Every city has their own food specialty to show off, a signature dish that is a must-have-when-you-visit and one must know what to taste and where to find it. Therefore it is wise to follow the food trail with an expert who knows the local people and is able to tell some history behind the food.
I experienced one such food trail this week, my first ever of this kind.

Invitation to foodtrail was hard to resist, it promised and delivered:

Live demos of how tava fries are made come up next – bheja (brains), gurda (kidneys) – ideas on how to cook these at home. Then chicken rolls…Karachi not Kolkata style. And then ‘Burma’ roti. What we call Moghlai Paratha in Kolkata. Martabak in Singapore and Malaysia. From the kitchen we would move down to benches for a ‘sit down’ meal. Plates and pieces of bread will be shared…that’s what community eating is all about The vegetarian option here is fried potatoes… the tava is common though
We then head to the kebab corner and stand by the coals and photograph as our kebabs are barbequed. My favourite, and that of all the folks I connect with, is the khiri (udder) kebabs. We could also try some beef koftas. If you really must then you could ask me to order a fried chicken. Chances are those that love the khiri won’t ask for it. I think they serve some paneer tikkas too. 
Appetisers and anitpastis done we head for the mains. Baara Handis. Slow cooked meat. Cuts of beef and goat.  Alchemised here over a century of cooking perfection. Served with a mix of daal broths cooked over six hours in the simmering handis. Topped with ‘josh’ or the fat that the meat gave out when cooked. They plate it with nihari…the soft marrow…and bits of coriander to give the textural and visual contrast. Many of us feel that this is one of the best meat experiences that we have had in absolute terms with no qualifiers. For cutlery you get huge, freshly tandoored rotis, which once fed armies…today it feeds what Soumik call’ food commandos’. 
To cool down we head for ice creams. Ice creams that are made in the manner it has been for 120 years. A formula which ensures that the cream is omnipresent in this ice cream at least unlike the modern pretenders. If you are a health nut, and if fruits are your thing, then you will be happy to find that not a single bite is not packed with fresh fruits here.
Kalyan Kamarkar has started a food trail and he hopes to do many more, exploring different zones of Mumbai.
His maiden food trail was started through the narrow lanes of Bohri Mohallah and I was only too happy to join his group of eleven persons. He walked so comfortably down the street, as if it were his second home, knowing exactly what to eat and which stall specialized in what kind of food. Over three hours, we walked on cobbled streets, chatting with the owner, stopping at some places for cooking demonstration, and tasting street food at every station, not realizing that we were eating beyond our capacity, so much so that it left us with very little space to squeeze in the last dish of the day…..a delicious ice-cream.

Kababs on fire

the kiri kababs just melted in the mouth, gone in flash

sweet rice

channa wallah made non-veg chana chaat, mixing chana with potatoes, liver, kidney, tamarind and dry masala, a dish to die for if u are hard core non-vegetarian.

The naan cooking in the clay oven (Tandoor), The best way retain its freshness is to fold it twice, this was so crispy that when dung in the gravy, it just melts in the mouth.


 Feroz-Farshan guy educated us on the interesting things that he sells in his store. Whoever heard about a biryani without rice? well, he makes Biryani from patra.

Patra bhajiya, I bought some home

so this is the Patrani Biryani

Shabbir chacha who graciously let folks taste all his achars dropping spoonful of achar on our palm. 

chicken rolls fried on Tava

Tava Kidney

Tasted yum with bread

This bakery had egg coated toasts

The food price in this street is low but the taste is very exceptional

The chef coats the skewer with kababs

The kabad roasted on an open flame

Fresh garlic, that I brought it home, stir fried with chillies, added salt and lime and the family enjoyed it.

Mutton biryani, its grain separated, full of flavor of mixed spices and meat and with less oil 

Liver masala

Meat is doused in a mix of daal harisas, which were bubbling for more than 6 hours. He plated with sensuous marrow and meat and served it with the fresh roti taken out from tandoor, folded twice to maintain its crispness.

Chacha says he is the last of his clan who will do this food business like this, the younger generation will not continue, since they are educated and have different goals in life.

Finally at ice-cream hub where we went behind the shop to get little gyan on ice-cream making and then had a lovely chat with other companions over the cups of different flavors of natural ice-creams while Kalyan updated us on all the info behind the walks. It was nice meeting all the interesting people and specially kainaz (Kalyan's spouse) who made sure that everybody was comfortable and was having a good time.
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