The Offbeat One

I am always up for chicken cooked in any marination, chicken tikka being my favourite. Thinking about marination and grilled chicken got me into trying something offbeat.

The culinary practice of fowl eating was introduced by the East India Company when they were ruling India. Indians were never into eating chicken before the Britishers taught us. The royal families went on hunting and ate other birds, but chicken was consumed much later.

Green peas, what can I say about peas, they are my absolute favourites! I call them green pearls. Originated in Mediterrian region, peas are part of cuisines around the world. In India peas are used in chaats, one unique chaat being from Banaras where peas are fried and served.

Taking inspiration from the chaat, I have created a tangy, and spicy green peas marination for the chicken. And to add the bite of veggies, there is a beet, carrot, ginger, onion salad pickled and sautéed in mustard oil.

The Deceived One

Egg, Rice, Peanuts coming together for a dessert. Sounds weird, right?
But thats what is here on the plate today. I have been doing this 3 ingredients challenge for few weeks now and this is what was asked by my love, a dessert using these 3 ingredients.

Simple ingredients but using them in a savoury/sweet dish is tricky, it works or it just doesn’t, there is no in between. Eggs have been a part of pastry and savoury dishes preparations since forever. And what can I say for rice, its been with us since 3000-2500 BC, during Indus civilisation. Lastly, peanuts are widely used in Indian cuisine in dishes or as a snack.

The idea behind preparing the dish was to make it look opposite of what they are and taste sweet. Egg yolks have been cooked in sugar syrup and made look like rice, whereas rice balls are stuffed with peanut sauce and shaped somewhat like an egg. And of-course, my favourite thing to do with a dish, adding an element of crunch. No guesses here, it’s salted peanuts.

Its not a regular dish or something that everyone will enjoy, maybe more refined version of it would be a crowd pleaser. Wait for it…..

The Ancient One

Renowned food historian, KT Achaya, in his book, ‘The Historical Dictionary of Indian Food’ mentions that Shrikhand has been a part of Gujarati cuisine since 500 BCE.  It is the modern version of shikharini, or shikhrini, which has pleased the palettes of whole of Gujarat and Maharashtra since the ancient times. The recipe of modern shrikhand and shikharini remains more or less the same.

Usually made with saffron, and other dry nuts this delicacy is popular in Maharashtra and Gujarat. However, being born and raised in Maharashtra and being from a Gujarati family I haven’t been fond of Shrikhands. But as they say being away from home isn’t easy, so is the case here. In quest of trying to feel at home I created Shrikhand dessert in my very twist.

This here is Shrikhand in two flavours, one is black sesame and another is coconut. Both of them give a nutty flavour with their own unique sweetness. And balancing shrikhand with fruits is a common culinary practice. Hence, the use of banana caramel, to break from the nutty flavour but still being in the sweet zone. And for the crunch is vermicelli roasted in ghee.

Curd was a versatile base material, which has sort of been like a play dough for Indians. Some of these experiments got lost in history, while some stood the test of times and yielded many sweet and savoury preparations, from raitas, pachadiskadhis, Doi Maach to kozhambu

The Multicultural One

Pasta, with its long, multicultural history, is a culinary connection to our past.

One of the most easiest dish to cook if cooked with correct technique. And Italian food is something that can get one started in cooking. For me it has been a cuisine that not only helped my interest grow but also made me technically sound as well. Pasta is one of the worlds most accessible foods. Nearly every country has its own unique version of this popular, inexpensive staple.

Here is my take on the popular Aglio e Olio, an authentic pasta recipe in which Spaghetti is sautéed in olive oil with garlic. As I believe pasta is multicultural, so I have tried to infuse the dish with Indian flavours of curry leaves and coconut. Replacing olive oil with coconut oil giving the dish an earthy and sweet taste with curry leaves giving a character to the pasta with its pungent and strong aroma. And the use of peanuts for the crunch. This south Indian touch to the dish surely elevates it to level.

While we do think of pasta as a culturally Italian food, it is likely the descendent of ancient Asian noodles. A common belief about pasta is that it was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century. In his book, “The Travels of Marco Polo, there is a passage that briefly mentions his introduction to a plant that produced flour (possibly breadfruit tree). The Chinese used this plant to create a meal similar to barley flour. The barley-like meal Polo mentioned was used to make several pasta-like dishes, including one described as Lagana (lasagna).

The Cart One

Apart from salivating, what do you do when you think of Chaat ? You make it! And that’s what I did this weekend. Of course, with my own take on it.

Being away from home, from India its inevitable to not miss chaat, the tangy, saucy, zesty, an instant burst of flavours in your mouth. The roadside vendors with their chaat carts, ‘Thela’ as we call it, is to be missed when you are in a country like Canada.

What makes a good Chaat ? Sure there are masalas that does the job but what we generally overlook is the chutneys. Yes the brown tamarind/dates, & green coriander and chillies chutney which is usually served in chaat. But, here is my version of the simple Papdi chaat that shows the vibrancy of my motherland India.

Talking about Papdi, these small domes are the papdis that I baked. Whats so special? It is stuffed with Blueberries. Also, replacing the brown tamarind chutney with blueberries chutney, it’s as tangy, spicy, zesty as a tamarind one, in-fact more flavourful. Use of dahi (yogurt) is essential in a Papdi chaat and here I have used hung yogurt with masalas, again with a twist, its frozen.

‘Papdi chaat’, a combination of colours and textures that is so tempting that one can hardly stop themselves from indulging. I tried my hand at making it this weekend and it turned out pretty amazing.

The Unusual One

Have been on a break from posting and busy thinking a creating new dishes. Asking three favourite ingredients from people I know, and trying to create a dish where those ingredients are highlighted when one eats it.

Well, this is something that I have come up with to create few interesting dishes, using ingredients that compliment each other or pairing flavours. I hope to continue and come up with some flavourful dishes.

The dish here is Olive Khichdi, Yes you read that right. A friend of mine asked me to prepare something using Olives. When you think of it, Olives are mostly used in Mediterranean cuisine. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world – being grown before the written language was invented.We Indians aren’t much used to using Olives other than in salads and pizzas. So, after much thinking, I zeroed down on Khichdi, a dish that can take any flavour and still doesn’t lose its identity.

After figuring out the dish, it was about the flavours, which was sort of difficult because of Olives. Green Olives are bitter and little sour in taste and its challenging to balance its taste. Enters Pachadi, a dish thats popular in South India, and can be found in almost every household. Here its a Beetroot pachadi, sweet and a bit nutty to balance the bitterness from Olives.

I know many of you might think what weird combination is this, but trust me once you try it, you won’t regret. Olives that have been for around 6,000 years now, aren’t included in Indian cooking, maybe because we were introduced to it much later, and in 2007, we started cultivating it in Rajasthan.

The Isolated One

So, off late I have been hooked upto trying “Ragi”. To those who don’t know what ragi or nachani is, it’s an Indian grain. The english name for ragi is Finger Millet.

With so much fast food, street food, and the instant cooking trend, we have forgotten our very own “Ragi”. We have been so used to eating wheat and refined flour, that doesn’t make us look beyond it. But, there are recipes and tastes beyond what we eat in day to day life.

Ragi is mostly cultivated in the hilly regions of India, where it is a staple diet for many. People use ragi in various form, the mountain people use it to make rotis. I have tried making the roti, the madua roti as they call it and it is the most amazing roti I have tasted.

We now often look for gluten free or healthy ingredients to cook and eat. Ragi is gluten free! So, after trying the roti, I wanted to use it as something else, a dessert to be specific. Upon thinking and looking up for it, I stumbled on this dish called, Tizann.

Tizann is a Goan dish made of Ragi. It’s a traditional Goan recipe that’s made with Goan jaggery, coconut milk. The texture of it is like a mousse or pudding but with the healthy ingredient of Ragi. It’s healthy, it’s nutritious, and it has medicinal benefits as well. The best part, can be savoured hot or cold. Here, I have added a bit of black pepper & cardamon powder to lift the nutty flavour of Ragi.

The Valley One

From the land of dreamers, poets, artists, emperors and saints comes a cuisine that inspires all your senses. If you have travelled through Kashmir or have been lucky enough to eat at a Kashmiri wedding, then you would have definitely come across Rista.

Rista is a famous meatball preparation that holds a special place in the Kashmiri wazwan. For those who don’t know what a wazwan is, it is a traditional spread of Kashmiri cuisine. A multi course, non-vegetarian meal that has become symbolic of the culture of this magnificent region.

For making Rista, the mince is traditionally beaten with a wooden pallet to attain the soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture but that might not really work out in our modern kitchens where a food processor would ‘almost’ do the job.

The aroma of mustard oil with asafoetida, and the freshness of fennel powder with ginger and the sharpness of clove with spiciness of chillis makes the dish heavenly. I have always been fascinated with cuisines around India, specially the places that I haven’t been but read and heard about. Kashmir is one such place, and I am surely trying more Kashmiri wazwan. The recipes are a bit extensive and time consuming, but trust me, its all worth in the end.

The Nawabi One

Lucknow, the city of Nawabs, their culture and food. The city dates back to 14th century and the Nawabs were the governors appointed by the Mughal Emperor. The Nawabs of Lucknow, in reality, the Nawabs of Awadh, acquired the name after the reign of the third Nawab when Lucknow became their capital. The city became North India’s cultural capital, and its nawabs, best remembered for their refined and extravagant lifestyles, were patrons of the arts.

The Nawabs elegance and mannerism can still be experienced today, in the sophisticated dishes that the city has to offer. The fact about Lucknowi or Awadhi cuisine is that its full of flavours & there isn’t much use of whole spices in the final dish. The city’s gastronomy is amalgamation of cuisines from Middle East, central Asia, Northern India. The Nawab and their royalty was such that they never wanted the food to be robust, the taste and appeal of the food was always taken into consideration. As they say in Lucknow, khana nafasaat se banta hai.

The city is famous for its love for meats and the kebabs that it has to offer on streets. But, when we talk about Lucknow, it is incomplete without Biryani. So, there are two theories about how the word Biryani came up. One is that it’s from Farsi word Birian, which means frying, and here it’s true because frying of rice with other ingredient. The other word is, Birinj, meaning rice in farsi. Considering the main ingredient is rice, this is more believable.

Here is Awadhi Biryani that I cooked to satisfy my craving for Biryani. I am someone who likes biryani cooked in masalas and has robust taste. But this one is a royal feast of flavours with meat. The beauty if dish is that, the rice and meat are cooked separately & then layered on each other & later cooked on slow heat, till all the flavours are mixed.

We are well aware with the cuisine in North India, but this Lucknowi and Awadhi food traditions are completely different. With more than 50 varieties of the dish in country today, with everyone claiming their version is the best, do try this one, it surely makes you feel like a Nawab.

The Saviour One

Tu ban ja gali Banaras ki,
Main shaam tak bhatku tujh mein.

Chaat, just hearing about this word salivates our mouth and later there is no stopping to craving. One can find chaat almost anywhere & everywhere in India. Every state, every city, every area has a different variety and taste to offer. Some are these chaats are so unique that you wouldn’t find them anywhere else except their place of its origin where they have been perfected over generations.

How about some History behind the invention of chaat? So, this one tale is famous about chaat and it dates back to era of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. When the emperor decided to move his capital, he chose Delhi as its location. After moving to Delhi, it was discovered by a hakim that the water of river Yamuna isn’t safe for consumption. In such dilemma the emperor was advised to increase the use of spices & oils in his diet; soon, the whole city was informed about it. The meat eaters increased spices in their meat preparations, while the vegetarians were left clueless. And thats how we were introduced to Chaat.

This chaat here is my take on very famous & unique to one of the oldest city in the world, Banaras. It’s called “tamatar chaat” and can be found in the lanes of Kashi. It was year 2015 when I first visited Kashi, and I was mesmerised by the calmness the city had.

The ghats, the people, the food, all of it has a charm like no other city. Pace of life so slow and at ease that it makes you wonder, what is the purpose of life? And just when you are in your deep thoughts you hear the bustling of the lanes where people come around in evenings to eat the chaat. Made with lots of tomatoes and perfect blend of spices, this tamatar chaat is true representation of Banaras & its old world charm.

So, apart from Taj Mahal we can thank Shahjahan for chaat as well!