Picnic-friendly Pizza Muffins

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When you love pizza you are wont to find more than one way to savour those salty, savory flavours, that cheese oozing smoothly into puddles, stretched lazily in cream and toasty brown tones over tart tomatoes, the oregano asserting its grassy intensity on your tongue. For us, pizza for dinner can be an engaging afternoon-long affair, the kneading and rising of dough along with the slow simmer of the sauce on the stove, and the sizzle of vegetables, on the grill or roasting companionably in the oven. But, as we just said, there’s more than one way to get a pizza fix, and these Tomato and Cheese Pizza Muffins do very nicely when we’re in a rush. Bursting with plump shreds of two kinds of cheese, tomatoes and the signature pizza herbs, they work for breakfasts, parties, snack boxes and picnics as well. Top them with some torn fresh basil leaves off that pot on your windowsill or a a shake of the herb dispenser..as you please.

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Tomato and Cheese Pizza Muffins

(Makes 15 muffins)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 100g Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 100g Mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 60g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes cut into slices
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
  2. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tray or grease the cups well with oil.
  3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices.
  4. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and half the Mozzarella.
  5. In another smaller bowl beat the egg. Pour in the melted butter, milk and tomato paste, and stir well.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl containing the dry mixture. Whisk gently until just blended.
  7. Use an ice cream scoop or a ladle to transfer the batter to the prepared muffin tin.
  8. Top each muffin with a slice of tomato and some of the remaining grated mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a pinch of chilli flakes and oregano to finish, if desired.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into one of the muffins comes out clean.
  10. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool slightly and serve warm. Or cool completely before packing away for that picnic or lunchbox.
  11. Freeze the muffins in a ziplock bag or airtight box. Defrost on the counter or in the microwave.

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Posted in Appetizer Alley, Bakes And Cakes, Bread Binder, Breakfast Basket, Funnibles, Globe Food-Trottin', Out of the Lunchbox, Party Planner, Picnic Basket, Snack Attack | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Warm & Delightful Tropical Bread

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The sun has been particularly ruthless lately here in Bangalore. While we get through our days with tall pitchers of iced tea and melt into a sweet puddle of delight at the very mention of ice cream, there’s also the cooking and baking routine that curiously alleviates some of the strain caused by soaring temperatures. Is that even a thing, you ask?

Well, we make sure we are guzzling down lots of water, and listening to the new-age music that blares from the kids’ rooms (without wincing). We throw open the windows and doors to let the breeze in as we work in the kitchen, and we love to attune our recipes to the notes of seasonal produce. Tons of fresh cucumbers and gourds glide into our salads and side dishes, with the lots of greens turning flaccid and droopy, rendering them unfit for crisp meals. Sweet and juicy fruits like melons and mangoes, papaya and pineapple, waltz through our dessert bowls and bake pans with a poise reserved for those blessed with immaculate footwork.

With April taking the cake as the busiest month of the year on our calendars, as we ring in our girls’ birthdays, there’s never a dearth for recipes that employ the aforesaid. Here’s one such – a bread brimming with the essence of the tropics, hearty from the inside out, built as it is with a host of healthy ingredients. Whether you’re hosting a Luau party, swinging the hula hoop, or just unwinding after a long day..this bread that smacks of sunny island flavors, is great to enjoy with your afternoon tea, under the whirring of a trusty ceiling fan (if air-conditioning isn’t your thing).

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Pineapple, Dates & Coconut Bread
(Makes one 9″x5″ loaf)

  • 2 cups organic whole wheat flour*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup jaggery powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped or coarsely ground dates
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon desiccated coconut (for topping)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds, for topping
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 9 x 5 inches loaf pan and line base with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder and set aside.
  3. Mix the jaggery into the warm, melted butter and whisk until it turns slightly creamy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well.
  5. Mix in the dates, pineapple & 1/2 cup coconut, and fold everything together gently.
  6. Add the flour in two measures, mixing gently with each addition.
  7. Pour into prepared loaf pan, top with pumpkin seeds and scatter the reserved 1 tablespoon coconut all over the top.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for a while, then transfer to a cooling rack. Slice when completely cool.
     

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    *We like to use Navadarshanam organic whole wheat flour, especially in our breads, as it lends a nice grainy texture. Besides, we think it’s cool to support local farms that practice organic farming.

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Toasty Roasted Baby Potatoes

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It doesn’t take too long for us to munch our way through a kilogram or more of potatoes as a family. Somehow this pantry staple manages to sneak into our meals, bulking up vegetable curries, binding cutlets and paratha fillings, or handily slipped into toasted sandwiches. In many Indian households, it is de rigueur for large chunks of potatoes to be added to the everyday subzi, be it aloo-methi, aloo-palak, aloo-paneer or the pretty much inescapable, aloo-gobhi. We’ve tried consciously to shift out of this cooking paradigm, and occasionally we do like to cook potatoes on their own, to savour and celebrate their many irresistible qualities.

These Basil Roasted Baby Potatoes were made for a party recently, and they disappeared so quickly that another batch had to be tossed and slipped into the oven. Roasting the potatoes in their skins is a great way to add texture and crispiness, and these tiny taters are much too hard to peel anyway. Any herbs can be used in place of the basil, fresh thyme and rosemary are particularly good, but basil is what was in the fridge that day, so that’s what went in. The dried and fresh herbs provide double the flavour hit, you get the deeper, savoury flavour of the dried basil and the anise tones of the green leaves too.

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A shower of salty Parmesan or Emmental cheese right when you bring the tray out of the oven would not be out of place. Or you could stir in a dollop of fresh pesto to add even more flavor. We served these with Pasta Primavera, mixed greens and homemade focaccia, but if you stick in a few toothpicks and put them on the coffee table as an appetizer, you’d surely be making a lot of folks very happy.

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Basil Roasted Baby Potatoes

(Serves 8)

  • 1 kg baby potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • Salt to taste
  • A handful of fresh basil
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC / 400ºF.
  2. Soak the potatoes in warm water for a few minutes and then scrub well to remove any dirt. Dry them in a clean kitchen towel and set aside.
  3. Line a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. Pour the oil in a large mixing bowl and add the red pepper, salt ad dried basil.
  5. Tip in the potatoes and toss well.
  6. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking sheet and arrange them in a single layer, cut side down.
  7. Roast for about 25-30 minutes, tossing once, or until the potatoes are tender.
  8. Tear up and toss in the fresh basil, and serve hot.

 

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Masaledar Millets – Vangi Bath

 

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Rice and wheat make up our world. Or at least, they make their appearance at almost every meal we eat. To change this up  bit, we decided to try putting millets on the table a few times a week. Steamed millets are a great wholegrain starch option, and the family is pretty happy eating these with rajma or dal in lieu of rice. Millet upma with vegetables cooks quick enough to be on the breakfast menu even on harried weekdays, and for dessert there is the wholesome and creamy Millet Kheer.

Vangi Bath is a classic Kannadiga fried rice, loaded with eggplants and other vegetables, and spiced up with a unique masala powder redolent of coriander, cinnamon and cloves. Eggplants are a must here, and if you’ve struggled with getting your kids to eat this oft hated veggie, then you may want to try this recipe. We fry up the veggies in a pan while the millets cook in a pressure cooker, and the masala powder is usually something we have on hand, from the store or shared by a generous relative. Served with a thick raita and some crisps, Millet Vangi Bath makes for a delicious dinner or lunchbox filler.

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Millet Vangi Bath

(Serves 4)

  • 1/2 cup barnyard millet
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons urad dal
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
  • 1-2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 6 baby eggplants, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1/2 red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into sticks and steamed *
  • 10-12 French beans, cut into 1.5″ lengths and steamed *
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 2 tablespoons vangi bath powder 
  • 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
  1. Heat a pressure cooker and add the millets. Roast well for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously. Once roasted, cool and then transfer to a sieve and wash the millets.
  2. Put the roasted millets and 1 cup of water in the same cooker. Pressure cook for 2 minutes once the first whistle blows and then set aside for the pressure to release on its own.
  3. Meanwhile in a large pan or kadhai heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, asafoetida and urad dal and let the seeds sputter. Then add the curry leaves, onions, eggplant and capsicum. Cook on medium heat, stirring often until the eggplants are well roasted and soft.
  4. Add the carrot and beans and fry for a minute.
  5. Now add the salt, chilli powder and vangi bath powder. Stir well.
  6. After a minute add the millets and gently stir so that everything gets mixed.
  7. Serve topped with the roasted peanuts.

*You can also steam the carrots and French beans along with the millets in the pressure cooker to save time though they do tend to get a little overcooked this way.

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We love a fresh vegetable raita with the vangi bath and this one is made with grated carrot, chopped cucumber and tomato. The seasoning is light – rock salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Posted in Breakfast Basket, Dinner Den, Homestyle Indian, Out of the Lunchbox, Picnic Basket, Rice 'n Spice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Starter: Grated Mango Pickle

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We’ve been to strawberry, pumpkin and apple patches quite a few times while we were in the US, an outing that everyone in the family enjoyed. What’s not to love about those convenient pick-your-own farms? A hard-working farmer does all the work and the most arduous thing we have to do is to explain to the kids, a few million times, the difference between raw and ripe produce. Hauling the loot home, and then dealing with the bounty until every last bit is enjoyed and gone, is such a satisfying extension of these jaunts.

Back home in India there are opportunities for picking vegetables and fruit from backyards, terrace gardens and sometimes clandestinely, during stops on road trips. But when the mango season rolls around every summer, we get out there and pluck piles of the fruit, ripe or raw, to sink our teeth into or cook all those piquant dishes that can only be made with mangoes.

This Tamil-style pickle is usually something that we make with the season’s first harvest primarily because it is so quick and delicious! No complicated spice mixes, no tedious sunning and hardly any waiting. This is fuss-free, and instant gratification at its easiest. Raw mangoes are grated and then cooked down with salt and basic spices. The fragrant tang of the raw fruit gets tempered by a fair amount of salt, and the dark earthiness of fenugreek powder. Try it with the first mangoes of the season, and you’ll find yourself eating it with everything, from curd rice to khakhras.

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Grated Mango Pickle – Mango Thokku

(Makes 1 heaped cup)

  • 3 small-medium raw mangoes
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame or peanut oil
  • 3 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon powdered asafoetida
  • 2 tablespoons red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons salt
  1. Grate the raw mangoes. We don’t bother peeling them but you can do so if you are not working with organic produce.
  2. Roast the fenugreek seeds briefly in a pan and then cool and powder them. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in the same pan.
  4. Add the mustard seeds and wait until they stop sputtering.
  5. Add the asafoetida, chili powder and turmeric. Stir.
  6. Immediately add the grated raw mango.
  7. Stir in the salt and fenugreek seeds powder.
  8. Cook, stirring occasionally until the oil starts to separate.
  9. Switch off the heat, let the pickle cool.
  10. Store in a glass bottle in the refrigerator. The pickle stays well for 2-3 weeks.

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Look up our chutney-style Tomato Thokku for similar flavours, with a tomato-ey tang.

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Green, Mean Peas ‘n Potato Patties

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Between the torment of summer’s early onset and the intangible promise of rain, there lies, rather unperturbed, a desire to eat bite-sized portions of little somethings, rather than full-fledged meals. Evenings bring out a craving for chaat and related snacks, and if the rain Gods decide to oblige, there’s a consensus, hands down, on pakoras and chai.

For as long as we can remember, our Moms and Grandmoms seldom refused a request for deep-fried munchies, come rain or shine. There were scores of varieties to choose from, ranging from onion pakoras to masala vadas, aloo bondas to chili bajjis. While all that’s delicious and dandy once in a while, we are on a constant quest to make healthier choices for snack time for our families. We’ve done the shallow-fried bread rolls and steamed lentil dumplings quickly crisped on a tava for effect. We’ve also tried roasted vegetable chaat and masala chickpeas. And yet another eternal favorite is and shall remain – patties.

If you have boiled potatoes on hand, these are a cinch to make and you can beef them up with other vegetables, too. We’ve used green peas in this recipe, but the world is the limit, really. You could use boiled carrots, finely chopped greens, steamed broccoli, or whatever pops your corn.

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Peas ‘n Potato Patties
(Makes 8-10 Patties)

  • 1/2 cup peas, boiled
  • 3 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 2 green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon jeera powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • Breadcrumbs to roll the patties in
  • Oil for shallow frying
  1. Allow the peas and potatoes to cool down a little.
  2. Meanwhile, grind the mint leaves and green chilies to a paste (don’t use water) – or if you prefer texture, mince them finely.
  3. Mix everything except the breadcrumbs together.
  4. Heat a skillet or shallow fry pan.
  5. Make round balls with the peas-potato mix, and flatten them with a pat of your hand. Dip them in the breadcrumbs on both sides, pressing down gently.
  6. Once the skillet/ fry pan is nice and hot, slide in the patties, maybe 4 at a time, and fry with a little bit of oil at a time, until the outer crust turns crisp brown on each side.
  7. Serve hot with ketchup.

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Dehlvi Cuisine Showcase

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Old Delhi is renowned for its culinary heritage, and though I’ve eaten my way through many meals that have their origins there, a weekend wholly dedicated to Dehlvi cuisine sounded wonderful and quite irresistible. This entire experience was hosted by JW Marriot New Delhi Aerocity, a beautiful property located very close to the New Delhi airport.

The team at JWM had done a terrific job of organising and curating this weekend affair, with food trails to the Jama Masjid bylanes and Chandni Chowk interspersed with themed events at the hotel.

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As one would expect, the bustling JW Marriot New Delhi Aerocity hotel has lovely guest rooms perfect for a comfortable stay, and the service is fabulous. A special word for the modern and exquisite flower arrangements that brightened up many spaces. There’s lots of seating near the lobby and the outdoor cabanas are perfect nooks for relaxing over a drink in the evenings. I also peeked in to a hall that was being decorated for a wedding and the floral decor was quite stunning!

 

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The buffet at the K3 restaurant was what we tried on Day 1. Here the spread is hosted by three separate kitchens serving Indian, Cantonese and Tuscan cuisine. Though I usually avoid multi-cuisine spreads, this was more like eating at three separate restaurants, since the food at each was really well done and true to the theme.

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The Indian section in K3 mostly serves dishes from Delhi, including seasonal specialties. We enjoyed a tikki made with winter turnips, as well as a tava fry with vegetables including bitter-gourd. Another highlight of the meal was the decadent Chicken korma made with pistachios, and the meaty Mutton Rara which had succulent chunks of mutton in a rich burgundy-coloured masala with minced meat.

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A breakfast hosted at the Delhi Baking Company had all kinds of tempting baked delights on offer along with some healthier options like granola parfaits. This is a lovely place to relax over a coffee and pastry, or even a scoop of gelato.

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The team at JWM also put together a wonderful dinner for us one evening, with a very interesting theme. This was a jugalbandi between two of their chefs, Asif who is an expert in Delhi cuisine and Arif specialising in Lucknowi delights. So we had some delicious kababs served up from both contestants, the highlight of which was the truly superb Kakori Kabab with perfect flavours and incredible smoothness in the meat.

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And so it went on..there was a korma round with hot, flaky Tandoori parathas to dunk into the thick gravies, and then a biriyani round. The deep, dark mutton korma was delicious, as was the lighter chicken dish with the gravy flavoured with plenty of fresh coriander. The biriyani would probably go well with one of the kormas, since this style of biriyani is not made with much of masala, it is just the meat and the spiced rice with some caramelised onions.

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The showstopper dessert was a joint effort by both chefs, with a beautifully constructed Shahi Tukda, sweet rice cooked with saffron – Zarda, and a smooth, creamy saffron mousse that I could have easily eaten a whole pot of!

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We went back to K3 for a Dilli-style breakfast spread the next day and found that this busy restaurant serves up a huge spread in the morning too, with a special themed Sunday brunch to follow.

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Our Dehlvi themed breakfast began in true theatrical style with the appearance of four gorgeous, gleaming copper tiffin boxes. These were ceremoniously unpacked to reveal their contents – Kachoris, Chole (though aloo ka saag would have been more appropriate), Raita and Kheer. Tiered tiffins are something that most of us have grown up with and these brought some precious memories right back, along with a delicious sense of anticipation that the very act of opening a tiffin box incites.

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The second course was Chole Bhature, Delhi’s own signature breakfast, and this was followed by some very delicious and crusty stuffed parathas. A bite of kheer for a sweet note, and a mug of ginger chai, and we were set for the day!

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The entire trip featuring Dehlvi cuisine was truly lovely and enjoyable, made perfect by the care and attention that the JW Marriot Aerocity team had lavished on creating and executing each part of it. If you’re looking to experience luxury and comfort at a premier hotel in Delhi, we do strongly recommend this amazing property and their very friendly and competent staff.

 

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Dehlvi Cuisine: A Jama Masjid Jamboree

Jama Masjid

The beautiful Jama Masjid in Purani Dilli is a sacred monument that is like a beacon of devotion and spirituality  for Muslims in India. Built in the time of Shah Jahaan, it stands serene, like a grand old lady, weathered gracefully through turbulent times but with its life force unscathed and still charismatic.

We were ten food bloggers and writers, invited by the JW Marriot Aerocity Hotel in New Delhi on a three-day showcase of Dehlvi Cuisine, which is basically the cuisine of Old Delhi. The vibrant cuisine of our national capital we were told, has evolved through the centuries, peppered with umpteen influences, from the rich traditions of the Persians and Mughals, from the Hindus who stuck strong to their vegetarian roots, from the Punjabis who poured into Delhi in droves, bringing their love for parathas and desi ghee, and from so many other cultures.

One of the main hotbeds of food that Delhi is known for is the predominantly Muslim area around the Jama Masjid. This is not really a tourist-friendly market that the faint hearted should venture into without adequate preparation. And since it was my first visit to this locality it was good to have the competent guidance of the JWM chefs and staff, who took the group around the crowded streets and maniacal traffic that is pretty much typical of these bylanes at most times of the day and night.

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Our first stop was the Masjid itself. With the evening prayers having just gotten over at sunset, it was a beautiful time to visit, the gathering dusk adding to the hush of reverence and devoutness in the atmosphere. Having a guide to take you around the monument is highly recommended, as is true with most historical places, but especially here since it is a place of worship. We were guided around the Masjid gates, courtyards and corridors by a knowledgeable and articulate lady from India City Walks. She briefed us on the history of the area and related some interesting anecdotes, beautifully setting the scene for the evening ahead.

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A platter of Shahi Tukda, Rose Sherbet, Jama Masjid after sunset, a Paan maker

The streets and lanes around the Masjid are brimming and pulsating with life. There are stalls selling everything from flashy jewelry and clothes in psychedelic colours, to utensils and utilities. Rows of carts hawking food of all descriptions, scores of pedestrians intent on going their way with single-minded purpose, and through all this, the crazy traffic and stray animals rounding off the pandemonium.

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A cart selling dates, Petha (candied white pumpkin), a balloon vendor, specialised Kulfi cart

Since there are umpteen food hawkers and restaurants in this area, it is quite difficult to know where and what to eat. Some prior research or an experienced companion will be of great help, or else you might just have to let your nose guide you from stall to stall. It also helps to pace yourself, perhaps share the plates of goodies with some pals, so that you can taste a whole lot more variety. The instinct is to eat simply everything but sadly, practical tummy-related constraints make that quite impossible.

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Romali rotis being made, assorted kababs at a stall, piles of Sheermal and Bakkarkhani, Pheni/vermicelli that you can buy to dunk in sweetened milk.

There is something to gawk at at every turn, this is a veritable Mecca of food, with the choicest of grilled and fried meats, refreshing sherbets to counter the heat, syrupy, slow-cooked desserts and exotic savouries. You could feast on the robust, savoury meat porridge that is Nihari, sample kewra-scented biriyanis cooked in signature styles, taste rich, lush curries flavoured with mace, cardamom and saffron, and then, as a seasoned traveler suggested, buy thick slabs of breads to bring a taste of the cuisine back home to your table.

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Kababs at Qureshi’s are a must-have, we were told, and these were truly sensational. Moist, juicy with the ends deliciously crisped up from the hot flames, a perfect marriage of spices and minced meat, these seekh kababs may not look fancy but they were definitely finger-licking good. So good that the chutney and onions were pretty much ignored for the most part. You can watch the swift and nimble hands of the kababchi make up the seekhs and grill your meat, and then carefully cross the road to a tiny eating area or just munch on them by the side of the street like we did.

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Fried chicken kababs are another popular dish in this area, and the Haji Mohd. Hussain stall, with great vats brimming with smoky hot oil outside is the go-to place for these. Probably created with an eye towards the Hindu population that descends in hordes to feast here, the fried chicken is spicy and crunchy on the outside, but perfectly succulent and juicy within. As with most of the food served here, the preparation is quite a process, including marination of the chicken with spices, frying at a lower temperature and then a final couple of minutes in super hot oil to crisp and finish the dish before serving with chutney, lemon wedges and sliced onions.

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Dinner was at Al Jawahar, a comfortably air conditioned multi-storied restaurant which seemed like an oasis of peace after the tumult of the streets. Al Jawahar serves Kababs,  Biriyani, Nihari and Curry dishes with piles of fresh-baked Tandoori breads. Since the chefs from JWM had already curated the menu for us, all we had to do was sit back, down some ice cold Thums Up and await the feast.

The gravy dishes that were served to us in quick succession included  Chicken Ishtoo (Stew), Mutton Qorma, Pasanda and Kaleji. These were mopped up with some excellent Khameeri Rotis, these are made with fermented dough, so the look, taste and texture is quite different from the usual tandoori rotis served at most restaurants.

Though the meat in all these curries was really tender and expertly cooked, the curries themselves seemed to be over-generously doused in oil, making it hard to do more than taste each one. Another specialty – the golden-brown Kashmeeri Sheermal made an appearance, this was pleasantly yeasty and slightly sweet.

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The favoured dessert in these parts is the shahi tukda and there were huge platters of it everywhere at the sweet shacks. Slices of bread are deep-fried and then simmered in thickened milk until the consistency is almost jammy, and the whole concoction just glistens with fat. This is then topped with thick layers of khoya and cream, and garnished with bright red cherries or tutti frutti. This dessert looked rich, gooey, decadent and heavy, and each bite tasted exactly like that, but thankfully the serving wasn’t too large and the sweetness was fairly moderate.

A fitting end to the meal was mouthfuls of sweet pan, filled with various digestives and sweeteners and served well-wrapped in multi-coloured foil cones.

The evening at Jama Masjid was truly memorable, an assault on the senses that I am unlikely to forget anytime soon. Some of the pictures you’re seeing may be a bit blurry and most of them are taken with the phone camera, but I hope that they capture the chaos, vitality and colours of the market, and the vibrancy of the food.

This is the first of three posts in the Dehlvi Cuisine series. Don’t miss the next post that’s a trip down the legendary Chandni Chowk area, and the last one tying the whole incredible Delhi experience together, at JW Marriot Aerocity.

Note: This trip was sponsored and curated by JW Marriot New Delhi Aerocity but the thoughts expressed here are our own.

 

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Dehlvi Cuisine: Chandni Chowk

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Stuffed Bread Pakoras, Kachoris, Biscuits and Rusks, Kancha Soda

I’ve been to Delhi umpteen times, sometimes passing through to catch a train for Calcutta or Amritsar, visiting aunts and cousins on other occasions, attending weddings and workshops, and there have been some some serious shopping trips too. But one area that I’ve really not explored in all these years, including a year of living in Delhi, is Purani Dilli.

The three-day Dehlvi Cuisine food trail hosted by JW Marriot Aerocity, New Delhi was the perfect opportunity to correct this most unacceptable oversight:) The first post in this series here covers the predominantly non-vegetarian cuisine of the Jama Masjid by-lanes. This post is all about the Chandni Chowk area in Old Delhi, which is renowned for all kinds of delicious, mostly vegetarian fare.

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Our Chandni Chowk adventure started with a trip on the very efficient Delhi Metro, which got us to the nearest station – Chawri Bazaar – in no time. Cold towels and a cooler of chilled water bottles awaited us as weren’t up the steps from the station, courtesy the ever-smiling JWM staff! Honestly, these were not really needed since the Metro journey was very comfortable and quick, but you won’t catch us saying no to such solicitous hospitality!

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A cavalcade of rickshaws bearing signboards saying – ‘Dilli ke Dehlvi Rang JW Marriot ke sang’ had been organised to take us on a tour of the main bazaar before we hit the food stalls.

Riding in a rickshaw is something that I hadn’t realised I’ve missed..it was so much fun to just sit back and look around the bazaars. Another advantage of a rickshaw is that one can actually take some passable pictures, unlike if you are in an auto or car:) The rickshaw-walla kept up a steady commentary on the areas that we were passing through and it made for a very interesting trip.

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This part of Delhi isn’t a touristy trap but a busy, working, wholesale market, mostly with shops stocking similar items grouped together. The main roads are wide, like everywhere in Delhi but they are cluttered and congested with all manner of hawkers, vehicles and carts.

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Kanji Vadas, Potatoes being fried for Dilli-style Aloo Chaat, Gol Gappas

Before we get on with all the things we ate, here are some pictures of goodies that we gawked at and took pictures of, but unfortunately couldn’t try:)

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Jilebis, Hakka Noodles, Pudina Shikanji (Lemonade) and a stall selling spices.

Apart from the shops and stalls there are rows and rows of food carts, as well as vendors on the pavement with all kinds of goods, and one can spend hours just looking at their wares.

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Papdi chaat and Bhalla stall, a beautiful vintage building, display at a stall selling extruders to make chaklis, Chillas (besan pancakes) stuffed with paneer and veggies

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Faluda glasses, Kulfi shop, Kulfi cart, Rabdi

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Our first pit-stop was the Natraj Dahi Bhalle Wala, a shop tucked into a corner, with a counter and outdoor cooking area downstairs, and seating plus a small kitchen on the first floor. The dahi bhallas here are popular, and rightly so. They were super soft and had soaked in some of the seasoned fresh yogurt they were dunked in. Topped with the tangy-sweet sonth and their signature roasted masala, they were just delicious!

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The Aloo Tikkis that came next were simple and scrumptious. The tikkis had a filling of spiced dal inside and were served with the usual green chutney and sonth. This is one place that does the basics really well, and pretty much lives up to all the hype.

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The Ram Laddus that we had next were as frill-free as the aloo tikkis, and just as delicious. These are savoury fritters made with soaked, ground and fermented moong dal. The batter is fried up into crisp laddus and then served sprinkled with a special masala, chutney and shreds of radish. It is fairly hard to stop at one laddu since they are hot, crusty, flavourful and just so good.

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One of the most famous landmarks in Chandni Chowk is the Parathe Wali Gali. These are stuffed and deep-fried breads that taste more like stuffed pooris then parathas. This lane is very narrow and the original Parawthe Wala is really crowded, so this experience may well be avoided in favour of more chaats and sweets.

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While the parathas were a trifle disappointing, the accompaniments were stellar. A spicy aloo ka saag was balanced by the sweet sonth with slices of banana. There was also a spicy green chutney, kaddu ki subzi and aloo-mutter, all very good. A bowl at the table offered a tangy mixed vegetable pickle.

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Another legend in these parts is the Daulat Ki Chaat, an airy, gossamer concoction of frothed milk and cream that is usually available with cycle vendors in winters. The fluffy souffle is scraped into a plate, and castor sugar and powdered khoya is added on top before serving. This was super light and a truly melt-in-your-mouth kinda dessert.

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A visit to the Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib beautifully rounded off this exciting excursion. The atmosphere inside the Gurudwara was peaceful and reverential, and the floral decorations were lovely.

With the strains of the Gurbani ringing melodiously in our ears and the rich earthy sweetness of the Kadha Prashad in our mouths, we bid adieu to this fascinating place that has so much more to offer than what we experienced. Chandni Chowk surely calls for another visit, but on an empty stomach, on another day! That’s something to look forward to.

Note: This trip was sponsored and curated by JW Marriot New Delhi Aerocity but the thoughts expressed here are our own.

 

Posted in Restaurant Reviews, Tadka Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Protein Power: Sprouts Theplas

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There was a time when Thepla, Dhokla, Khakhra were a bunch of strange-sounding foods that belonged to a distant cuisine. Of course there were times when we were drawn close to them, thanks to the friendly Patel’s store in the suburbs where we lived, back in Chicago. There would be a plateful of spongy, turmeric-yellow Dhoklas topped with a most inviting seasoning of mustard, asafetida and slit green chilies, by the billing counter, screaming to be had. A dozen home-made Methi Theplas slid into a ziploc and arranged in a leaning tower right by the Dhoklas, would be bought impulsively on many an occasion, and eaten hurriedly with bowls of too-thick yogurt and a liberal sprinkling of sugar. And the lesser said of the Khakhras, the better – considering how our eyebrows would break into a happy dance upon sighting a new flavor on the shelves. And how, once procured, they’d be used as a base for virtually everything, ranging from masala corn chaat to super nachos!

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Thus and so, once we had had a taste of these delicacies, we realized just how high their deliciousness quotient was, not to mention nutrition and shelf-life quotients. We made them our own, trying out various permutations and combinations of ingredients, given how well the recipes lent themselves to versatility. Our Tiranga Dhokla has stood the test of time, needless to say. Our Black-eyed Peas Salad has long been doing the rounds on broken crisps of Khakhras, too. And now we present a fortified version of Tadka-style Theplas. This recipe is a keeper, and the sooner you try it the better!

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Sprouts Theplas

(Makes 8)

  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour / atta
  • 1/4 cup curd
  • 2 spring onion greens
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 green chilli, de-seeded and minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (or more if you like your theplas yellow)
  • 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • About 1/4 cup oil for shallow frying 
  1. Put all the ingredients except the oil in the bowl of a food processor*. Run the machine for about a minute, or until the sprouts break down and are ground up into the flour.
  2. Add water by the tablespoon and process until the dough comes together and forms in a ball. Let the machine knead the dough for a few seconds.
  3. Remove the dough from the processor and roll it into a ball. Keep it in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes. This step can be done ahead of time and the dough can be refrigerated, after the resting period, for a few hours.
  4. When you are ready to make the theplas, divide the dough into 8 parts. Shape each part into a ball and keep covered.
  5. Meanwhile preheat an iron tava or griddle.
  6. Take one piece of dough and roll it out thinly to about 6″ diameter, using a little dry flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Place the thepla on the tava.
  7. Cook the thepla on medium heat, turning to cook both sides. Once it starts getting browned, smear a little oil on each side.
  8. Remove the cooked thepla to a paper towel kept on a thick kitchen towel. Cover and keep warm. Make the other theplas the same way.
  9. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, with curd, pickle or chutney and a bowl of salad.

*To make the dough without a food processor, first grind up the sprouts finely in a grinder. Then put all the ingredients in a large bowl or plate and knead, adding enough water, as needed to make a dough.

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You can use any bean sprouts for making these theplas. Here we’ve used heirloom black horsegram, but moong dal sprouts work equally well.

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Posted in Bread Binder, Breakfast Basket, Homestyle Indian, Out of the Lunchbox, Snack Attack | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment