Open Sesame!

For me, Makar Sankranti has always been about eating halwa (sugar granules coated in sugar syrup) and homemade tilachi vadi and buying kites that I would then attempt to fly on our terrace with my father & grandfather! My grandmother and mother would sometimes join a haldi-kunku celebration (haldi = turmeric, kunku = vermillion worn on foreheads) and the tradition was to wear black sarees with kasuti work on them. I luckily possess one such saree in my ever growing saree collection.

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But as with all festivals in India, Makar Sankranti is about food and for me in particular it was my paternal grandmother’s tilachi vadi (sesame cakes). Indu aaji was an exceptional cook and she was also extremely fond of cooking – two things that bode well for all my holidays to Nagpur. Her melt-in-your-mouth tilachi vadi, which my mother faithfully makes every year, contain only 3 ingredients. Equal weights of sugar & roasted, ground sesame seeds and some roasted dry coconut (dry not fresh coconut) for topping. Our home recipe does not use peanut powder, cardamom powder or any other ingredient.

First slowly roast white sesame (unpolished if available) till it acquires a golden hue. Once it is cool grind it slowly in a food processor. Place the sugar in a pan and cover with just enough water. Gradually melt the sugar for about 3 mins. To test if it is done, place a dot of the sugar syrup on a plate and tilt the plate. If the syrup stays in place it is ready. Our grandmothers didn’t have the luxury of candy thermometers as we do today, so they relied on kitchen logic to determine when the sugar was cooked enough for the preparation they needed 🙂

Once the syrup is ready, add the roasted and ground sesame and mix to incorporate well. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly but not completely. The mixture will develop a slightly creamy layer on top. Once it is cool enough to handle (i.e. you don’t yelp as you try to handle it), take a tablespoon of the mixture and shape it with your hands or use a mould. My grandmother had these beautiful wooden moulds that she would use to shape the vadis. Once the mould is fully stuffed,  the wooden handle is used to push the vadi through and release it on a plate. Once the mixture has been used up, decorate each vadi with a little roasted dry coconut. ta-da! meltingly soft tilachi vadi for you to enjoy.

I enjoy these a lot more than the jawbreakingly hard tilache ladoo that you normally find in stores.

As we got to the end of 2016, we began to think of new dishes to incorporate into the BHDC menu. One of the things I enjoy the most is to take the unusual flavours of many Marathi dishes and innovate with them. My most successful experiment to date has been the Puran Poli Inside Out and with Sankranti approaching, I began to wonder what I could do with the tilachi vadi as a starting point.

I started exploring sesame based desserts in Asia, as black sesame is very popular and Japanese kurogoma (roasted black sesame) ice-cream and Chinese tang yuan (glutinous rice balls with black sesame paste) are two of my favourite sesame based desserts. So I figured it was worth featuring a little bit of black sesame in whatever I managed to create. I came across a lot of matcha and black sesame cakes, puddings and all manner of black sesame cream-filled things. But all of them strayed too far from the taste of the tilachi vadi.

I turned my research back to India and then to the Middle-East where I finally struck gold. I had forgotten about my other favourite sesame product – tahini! I was delighted at the prospect of using it, because the creaminess of tahini could be used to great advantage to retain the melt-in-your-mouth quality of the tilachi vadi.

Finally after a lot of elimination, I decided on a tahini cheesecake with a black sesame & biscuit base! Not wanting to forget the lovely roasted coconut on each vadi, I paired the cheesecake with coconut ice-cream and topped it off with some kakvi – jaggery syrup. It may sound like an unusual take on the original dish, but that tahini cheesecake and coconut ice-cream combination does taste a lot like my grandmother’s tilachi vadi. Now I wonder what she would have to say about it 🙂

Priya

 

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Starting early with bhatukali

As a guest at our supper club, one of the first things you will notice as you sit down at the table is a miniature copper or brass vessel sitting on top of the BHDC menu. These miniature vessels are called ‘bhatukali‘ and represent typical cooking utensils used in many Maharashtrian kitchens, especially more traditional kitchens, likeYoung photo those of our grandmothers.

When I was very young, I used to play with a set of aluminium and copper vessels that had been pulled together from old sets that my mother & grandmother had. My big joy, as it seems from this photo, was to try and balance the pots one on top of the other 🙂

When I got older, my mother gifted me a new bhatukali set for my birthday. The set was made of stainless steel and came with a kitchen shelf (the kind that would be nailed to the wall typically above the sink) in which all the utensils could fit. I remember many afternoons spent playing with it, imagining meals my mother would never have allowed me to actually cook in her kitchen!

I guess it was her cunning plan to get me interested in cooking from a young age! But it turns out that the thought behind bhatukali was to actually get girls interested in traditional rituals through play. Well, it took its time but seems to have eventually worked its magic on me!

As I got older however, I forgot about the bhatukali set and moved on to other interests. My stainless steel set is still there, but tucked away on the loft in my mother’s house. And then a couple of months back, out of the blue, my mother and sister gifted me another set – a beautiful one made of copper and consisting of the more traditional utensils used by my grandmother.  And just like that I rediscovered my love for bhatukali! So it only felt right to use them as place settings for our dinners.

Many people have asked where they can buy these beautiful miniatures. The only place I know is Pune – they are available at Tulsi Bagh in the old part of the city. Some families have started reproducing them and they are available at many of the vendors around the temple. You will find brass and copper ones, and some stores will also carry steel miniatures but the quality does differ.

You can also try and get them at Either Or, a wonderful store at Sassoon Road near Camp. On my recent trip to Pune I discovered miniature stone vessels at the store, which I have not seen anywhere else! Promptly added to my collection 🙂

If you are keen on reading more about bhatukali, here are a couple of interesting links:

  • Heritage India: http://heritage-india.com/blog/a-toy-tradition-bhatukali/
  • Vilas Karandikar is a collector and holds exhibitions of his vast and beautiful collection of pieces – many which are no longer produced. My mother and sister were lucky to go for one of his exhibitions in Pune earlier this year. His website features the collection, but is in Marathi: http://www.bhatukali.com/
  • There are also these wonderful installations featuring bhatukali created by Falguni Gokhale: http://www.falgunigokhale.com  
  • And if you’re in Pune, you should try and visit the Kelkar museum. They have a small collection of bhatukali but a very impressive collection of actual, traditional cooking vessels which are beautiful!

Priya

Pune: rediscovering old haunts

Last week I made a trip to Pune, the second largest city in Maharashtra after Mumbai and often considered the cultural capital of the state. I was going back to Pune after 8 years, which is quite remarkable for me because through school and college Pune was pretty much a second home. A large part of my mother’s family lived there and since it was convenient to get to, both by rail and road and enjoyed a pleasant weather for most parts of the year, a trip to Pune was usually a no brainer. But trips back home to Mumbai from Singapore are always too short to afford even a one day visit. So finally, this time I took a little extra time off to visit Pune.

Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, food was always a big part of our holidays to Pune. Many of our meals would be had at home prepared by the cook, an irascible old lady we called ‘vaaghin’ (which means tigress, and boy was she short-tempered!).

My favourite Maharashtrian restaurant was Hotel Shreyas on Apte Road. To this day, in my opinion, they serve the best home-style Marathi food. A wonderful unlimited thali with dishes I have grown up eating at home – batata rassa (spicy potato curry), amti or varan and bhat (lentils with rice), usal (legumes), a dry preparation like sukha batata (potato) or vatana (peas), koshimbir (vegetable salad), farsan or fried snacks, chapatis or puri, yoghurt or buttermilk and dessert. If we were in Pune for a wedding, a heavier version of this thali would get served at the innumerable ‘karyalays’ or wedding halls.

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Thali at Hotel Shreyas

When my father started working on a project in Pune he would stay at Hotel Swaroop on Prabhat Road. The hotel had a well known restaurant called Anand Dining Hall, that originally served only Marathi food – they have now expanded their menu. I decided to stay at Swaroop last week and dined at the Anand Dining Hall after many years. Simple tasty food like valachi usal (bitter beans), onion and potato rassa (curry), khamang kakdi (cucumber salad) and pithla (yoghurt & gram flour curry), eaten with fresh bhakri (millet or sorghum chapatis). The owners of Hotel Swaroop also own mango orchards and serve homemade fresh mango ice-cream, which was absolutely delicious!

No trip to Pune would be complete without visiting Chitale Bandhu, famous for their amba barfi (mango fudge) and bhakarwadi – an absolutely amazing spicy, fried, savoury snack. Mom also visits Desai Bandhu (owned by the same family that owns Hotel Swaroop), a grocery store that is a great place to buy Marathi spice mixes, sauces, pickles & sweets.

But our food jaunts were not restricted to the older part of the city only. We would also go to ‘Camp’ or the cantonment area. The first trip used to be early morning to secure Shrewsbury biscuits from Kayani bakery on East Street. Back then, the biscuits would run out quite quickly and therefore Kayani Bakery used to ration the amount of biscuits each person could buy – usually 1/4 kg. This required some clever planning within the family, with one member being sent in at a time to secure a box, because if everyone went in together, they would only allow you one box!

In the evening we would go to Dorabjee’s supermarket, where the big draw for me were their homemade centre-filled chocolates, wrapped in different coloured foil paper, to indicate the flavours. Then we would walk to Main Street or M. G. Road and head to Marz-O-Rin – purveyors of fine food items like pattice, rolls, cutlets, sandwiches and cakes, much like the bakeries in Bandra, Mumbai. Next to Marz-O-Rin was Pasteur bakery where we would buy delicious almond or coconut macaroons.

On the trip last week, I went back to another old favourite – Shabri, located on Ghole Road, just off Ferguson Road. Originally we would go for their delicious bhakri with jhunka (thick gram flour & yoghurt gravy), thecha (ground chillies) and fresh onion. A simple farmer’s meal, but so tasty and so filling! But now they serve a thali, which was quite a heavy meal!

Near Shabri, I discovered a new restaurant called Jevan (which means meal). Elegant interiors and a menu dedicated to Marathi food made this a wonderful find. I tried the spicy and dry Dongri Mutton (dry mutton cooked with garlic, dark masala and fresh coconut), Pandhra Rassa (white mutton stock soup) and Vade (fried lentil bread) followed by kharvas, an unusual cardamom flavoured custard made with colostrum-rich milk.

I also managed to try Pune’s version of misal pav at Shree Krishna Bhuvan near Tulsi Bagh. It is served as a spicy watery gravy that is poured on a plate of mashed potato, flattened rice flakes (poha), chopped onion and sev (deep fried gram flour) and then eaten with bread. This is very different to the Mumbai misal and makes for an interesting change.

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Pune Misal at Shree Krishna Bhuvan

My final dish in Pune was a concoction I have read about, but never eaten – ‘Mastani’. So my mother, sister and I trooped to the Sujata Mastani outlet at Nimbalkar Talim Chowk and each ordered a different variety – mom going for rose, and my sister and I deciding to first try the Sujata Special Mastani followed by the Orange flavour. Mastani as explained to me by the staff is a thick milkshake with ice-cream and topped with fruits and nuts. Apparently people used to say ‘Mast‘ (Super) after eating it, which overtime expanded to Mastani, in a nod to the famous historical figure. Even though milk shake with ice-cream may not live up to the fancy name, the mango & kesar Mastani was delicious and super indulgent.

Someone asked me if I ate my way through Pune. The answer of course is a resounding yes! Let’s hope the next time is not another 8 years away 🙂

 

 

 

Raw mango…soup

Yes, you read that correctly. Raw Mango Soup otherwise called Kairiche Saar. 

Most people are probably used to having raw mango as a pickle or in chutneys and relishes like the Marathi muramba or Gujarati methambo. Some may be used to seeing it added to dal to give it a sour note. Perhaps finely chopped in chaat or street food. At some point you may have even tried the refreshing Kairiche Panha, a drink made from cooked raw mango and jaggery, spiced with a little saffron. And if you’re fond of Thai food you would have definitely tasted their raw mango salad – tart, spicy and refreshing, all in one go.

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But very few people would have heard or tasted a soup made from raw mango. I call it soup because it’s easier for someone to visualize the dish.

After the resounding success we’ve had at our supper club with the Tomato Saar (tomato and coconut milk soup), especially in its new avatar as a sorbet, I was keen to see what other traditional recipe I could play around with. So my mother suggested I try making kairiche saar. Surprisingly even I had not had it before, but since I liked kairiche panha, I could imagine how this would taste.

The first attempt was not so good, because my mom suggested I blend the raw mango and cook it in the same way I do the tomato saar. The result was a jade green pulp that didn’t seem to want to go anywhere. It just sat there, looking glum.

So I did some research and realized that cooking the raw mango, in much the same way that we make panha, would yield a better result. And it did – the soup I finally produced was really tasty. The key in this dish is the combination of sufficient jaggery to balance the tartness of the raw mango and the heat from the green chillies and other spices like cumin and curry leaves.

This is best enjoyed with rice. Or if you’re like me, you’ll just end up drinking spoonfuls of the saar on its own. Now like the tomato saar I have to try and convert this into a sorbet. Or perhaps as Aniruddha suggested, into an ice lolly!! 🙂

Priya

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Kairiche Saar

Kairiche Saar

  • 1 raw mango, cubed (1 cm)
  • Grated or chopped jaggery (slightly less in quantity to the chopped raw mango)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 7-8 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oil

Method:

  • Boil the raw mango cubes covered with water, till they are soft. Do not overcook and make them too pulpy. Drain and reserve the water. In your cooking vessel, heat 1 tsp of oil. Add the cumin seeds. When they begin to pop, add the asafoetida, followed by the chopped green chilli and curry leaves. Add the raw mango cubes and mix well. Add a cup of the reserved water, salt and the jaggery. Stir well and allow the jaggery to melt. Let it cook for a couple of minutes and then turn off the heat.
  • You can adjust the amount of jaggery to your personal taste – if you like it sweeter add more, If you enjoy the tartness of raw mango, add less.

 

 

A coastal delight!

Malvani fish with amboliWhen I published my earlier post about being unwell and needing to change to a largely vegetarian diet, the last reaction I had expected was this…‘Vegetarian! Gaddar!!! (traitor)’. An extremely brief and to the point sms that Aniruddha received from a close friend. Can’t help but love it! 🙂

So, to placate him and others who may be harbouring similar sentiments, here’s a coastal fish preparation I cooked for a potluck with my fellow food enthusiasts and cooks on the weekend – Malvani Fish with Amboli (rice and lentil pancakes) and Hirvi (green) chutney.

The recipe I normally use for the Malvani fish is one that I’ve adapted after a couple of trials from The Essential Marathi Cookbook by Kaumudi Marathe. This book incidentally is a great read about the food from my community and contains a treasure trove of recipes. The amboli recipe is the same as a regular idli or dosa recipe, just cooked a little differently. And the hirvi chutney, made from coriander and coconut, is my mother’s recipe. I have talked fondly about this chutney earlier on the blog: The chutney I grew up with…

This dish is a winning combination of flavours and textures. Soft, slightly sour rice pancakes dipped into a fiery yet light gravy and balanced with the refreshing taste of the coriander and coconut chutney! Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy it myself but everyone at the potluck seemed to have liked it a lot.  And given most of them were non-Indians, I was pleasantly surprised that they could all handle the heat level, in spite of my slightly generous hand with the chillies.

I’ve started getting requests to share my recipes, so here are the recipes I use for the Malvani fish and Amboli! The only recipe I cannot share is the green chutney, since that is a family secret 😉

Priya

Malvani Fish (adapted from the Essential Marathi Cookbook by Kaumudi Marathe)

  • 500g fish – I used Bocourti fillets, but ideal would be Pomfret
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 5-6 pieces of kokum
  • Spice paste (everything to be finely ground)
    • 6 small garlic cloves or 3 large ones
    • 1/4 inch piece of ginger
    • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
    • 8-9 black peppercorns
    • 3/4 cup freshly grated coconut
    • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
    • 9-10 red chillies (preferably Bedgi)

Malvani fish masala

Method:

Marinate the fish with salt and turmeric and keep aside for around 10-15 mins. Grind all the spice paste ingredients and keep aside. Heat oil and fry the onions for 3-4 mins. Add the spice paste and cook for another 3-4 mins. Add around 2 cups of water, curry leaves and the kokum and let the gravy cook for a good 10-12 mins on low heat. Add the coconut milk and sugar and stir well. Then add the marinated fish pieces and let them cook. Be careful not to overcook the fish. Adjust for salt and sugar as needed. Before serving garnish with chopped coriander.

Amboli (Rice and lentil pancakes)

  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 3/4 cup urad dal (black gram with the skin removed)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)

Method:

Wash the rice and urad dal well. In one bowl, soak the rice and fenugreek seeds, while in a separate bowl, soak the urad dal. Both need to be soaked for 7-8 hours.

After 7-8 hours, drain the water and wash the rice and urad dal gently. Then grind them separately with a little water. Make sure that both are finely ground and that there is no graininess in the batter. After grinding, mix the rice and urad dal in a bowl and add the salt. The batter should be thick and not runny. Stir well and leave to ferment for 12-13 hours or overnight. Once the batter is ready, heat a frying pan, brush a little oil on the base and then pour a ladleful of the batter. Spread it around gently to coat the pan, but don’t spread it too thin, as ambolis should be a little thick. Cover the pan and let one side of the amboli cook for 1/1.5 min. Then flip it over and let the other side cook for the same time. The above quantity will give you around 20 small pancakes (4 inch) or alternately you can make bigger ones.

 

Rediscovering simple vegetarian food

Many people must be wondering why the Bombay Howrah Dining Car has gone so silent suddenly. That’s because one half of BHDC was diagnosed with a stomach infection two weeks ago and has been recuperating, while the other half has been extremely busy at work! I have no idea what I ate and where, but I got a fairly bad attack and as a result have been put on a very strict diet. Which also explains why our cooking experiments have ceased for a while.

A full recovery is expected to take time and till then I have been asked to restrict my diet to vegetables, fruits, rice, wheat, tofu, egg white, chicken and white fish with little to no oil and minimum spice.

Initially my helper, Katherine, took this very seriously and started cooking almost bland food. I dealt with this for all of 2 days, after which I decided to take matters in my own hand. As I reflected on the diet I was given, I realized there was a lot I could do with it and decided to go back to many of the dishes I grew up eating. Since my father and both my grandmothers were vegetarian, most of the meals at home were vegetarian. My mother would cook chicken/fish on the weekends only or I would eat non-vegetarian food when I went out for a meal.

So between my trusted recipe book and calls back home to my mother, I started to pull together a menu that catered to the prescribed diet to keep my stomach and more importantly my heart happy! It was wonderful to rediscover many of these dishes, as I don’t cook them as often any longer. And it got me thinking of how wholesome home cooked Marathi food can be.

I have 2-3 more weeks of the diet to follow, so will continue to dig through my recipes and update this post 🙂

Priya

 

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Peeth Peroon Bhaji – vegetables , in this case red and green bell peppers, cooked with mustard seeds, hing (asafoetida), turmeric, curry leaves, chilli, salt, sugar and besan (gram flour). The gram flour coats the vegetables as it cooks, giving the dish a rich, intense taste

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As promised, this is the other dish I make with bottle gourd – Dudhi with dahi. Cubed bottle gourd with mustard seeds, cumin and methi (fenugreek seeds), hing (asafoetida), pinch turmeric, dry kashmiri chilli, curry leaves, salt. Once the bottle gourd is cooked and cooled down, I add 1-2 tbsp of yoghurt. An absolutely delicious way to enjoy bottle gourd!

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Amti –  a traditional Marathi dal made with cooked masoor (split red lentils), mustard seeds, turmeric, curry leaves, goda masala (an almost black coloured spice mix unique to the Marathi cuisine), tamarind juice and jaggery. This was my paternal grandmother’s specialty and the combination of tamarind and the intense goda masala makes this a very unique preparation. I eat this with rice, a little ghee and some koshimbir (fresh salad)

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Corn ani Capsicum chi bhaji – corn and cubed capsicum cooked with cumin, hing (asafoetida), green chilli, curry leaves, Madras curry powder, salt, sugar and coconut milk. My mom’s recipe!

chawli usal

Chawli chi usal or Black eyed peas pressure cooked and tossed with mustard seeds and a little turmeric, goda masala (dark masala), salt and sugar

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Not a Marathi but one from Andhra Pradesh – Pesarattu or dosas made from mung bean/green gram. I first discovered these at a restaurant in Mumbai called Dosa Diner and absolutely loved them. Plus they’re super simple to make. Soak mung overnight and grind the next day to a slightly coarse batter with green chilli, cumin, salt and water. Cook like a regular dosa. Healthy, easy to make and super tasty

Beetroot Koshimbir

Beetroot chi koshimbir – cooked and diced beetroot, fresh cucumber and tomato mixed with salt, sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. This is a great way to enjoy beetroots!

batatyachya kachrya

Batatyachya Kachrya – thinly sliced potato and onion tempered with mustard seeds, hing (asafoetida), turmeric, little chilli, curry leaves, salt and sugar. A very simple preparation but very tasty.

Dudhi chi bhaji

Dudhi chi bhaji – bottle gourd cubes cooked with onions and spiced with a dash of chilli powder, coriander, cumin, garam masala, salt and sugar. It’s actually very tasty and bottle gourd is extremely good for you too. There’s another preparation we make with yoghurt, which I will post next week.

Kadhi

One of my favourite dishes – Kadhi. Gram flour, yoghurt and water tempered with cumin, hing (asafoetida), turmeric, salt, sugar, green chilli and curry leaves. This is a warm and comforting dish.

Jowari chi bhakri

Jowari chi Bhakri – a rustic flat bread made with sorghum flour. Sorghum flour is gluten free, healthy and makes for a nice change from wheat chapatis.

Palakachi koshimbir

If spinach is not your favourite vegetable, this preparation may change your mind. Palakachi Koshimbir – steamed and chopped spinach mixed with yoghurt, salt and sugar.

Batatyacha rassa

Batatyacha Rassa or as Aniruddha jokingly calls it, Marathi Ratatouille! This is a slightly soupy vegetable made with onion, tomato, potato, sweet potato (my addition), peas and bell peppers. It is spiced with mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger, garlic, curry powder, chilli, salt and sugar. My maternal grandmother used to make this very often and we would eat it with rice. It may sound simple but it tastes divine!

Sanza

Sanza also known as Upma. This is a savoury preparation made from semolina, onions, peas and spiced with cumin, hing, methi (fenugreek) seeds, chilli, curry leaves, salt and sugar. Our homemade preparation is light and fluffy unlike the sometimes gloopy upma you get in restaurants. I have no idea why they need to drench it in so much ghee, when the lighter one is just as tasty and probably more healthy.

 

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Kairiche Saar – raw mango soup.

 

Mango Shrikhand Tarts

IMG_5336Mango Shrikhand tarts are not new on this blog…in fact this little dessert was one of the first things I wrote about when we started the blog! But what makes this post special is a little upgrade on the moulds that I used to make the tarts.

When we were in Mumbai earlier this year, I chanced upon a little hole in the wall bakery shop at Santacruz market, where a couple of guys were sitting and moulding aluminum sheets and strips into cake and tart rings of all shapes and sizes. Intrigued, I started looking around at the different moulds on display and asked if they had any baking tins shaped like a mango. I had been on the lookout for a mango or paisley shaped tin for a while and where better to look for one than in Mumbai! One of the guys rummaged in a drawer and held up a tiny cookie cutter in a mango shape!! Delighted I asked if they would be able to create a larger size for me and after some drawings to finalize the size and much haggling over the price, I managed to acquire these beautiful mango-shaped tart moulds 🙂

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I knew it would be tricky to fold the pastry into this shape, but after a couple of attempts I managed to successfully produce the tarts. For the filling, the base of the tart has white chocolate ganache flavoured lightly with saffron, cardamom and a pinch of sea salt (yes, you read that right….helps balance the sweetness!). I used to earlier put dark chocolate ganache at the bottom but felt it competed too much with the yoghurt, so this time I replaced it with white chocolate ganache. The shrikhand is made with hung yoghurt mixed with Alphonso mango pulp and flavoured with saffron, cardamom, a pinch of nutmeg and some sugar. And finally decorated with pistachio powder and some pomelo (inspired by the mango pomelo sago dessert from Hong Kong)

The Marathi and Bengali yoghurt-based desserts, like shrikhand and bhapa doi go down well with our guests, especially our non-Indian guests, because no one expects yoghurt-based desserts to taste so good and they’re much lighter to eat as compared to many other Indian desserts! Especially after the full-on meal we serve 😉

At the request of a reader, I am adding the recipe to the post. I’ve tried to be precise with my measurements, but invariably I do play around with the flavours when cooking. So feel free to adapt the sweetness or amount of mango or spices depending on your personal taste. Hope you have fun making these! 🙂

MANGO SHRIKHAND TARTS  

  • Mango Shrikhand
    • 250ml greek yoghurt, chilled
    • 3 Alphonso mangoes, cut and pureed
    • 1 ½ tsp nutmeg powder
    • 1 ½ tsp cardamom powder
    • 8-10 strands of saffron
    • 2 tbsp milk (to soak saffron)
    • 1/3rd cup chopped pistachios (for garnish)
  • Pastry
    • 100g plain flour
    • 60g butter
    • 20g icing sugar
    • 1 egg yolk
    • Pinch salt
    • 2 tsp cold water
    • ½ tsp cardamom powder
    • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • White chocolate ganache
    • 50 g white chocolate
    • 25g cream
    • pinch of salt, pinch of nutmeg/mace, pinch of cardamom

For the shrikhand:

Place the yoghurt in a muslin cloth. Tie the cloth to create a knot over the yoghurt and place in a colander over a bowl to allow the whey to strain. Warm the milk and put the saffron strands into it to release the colour and flavour. Peel the mangoes. Cut the flesh in large chunks and put it in a blender to make a smooth puree. Untie the muslin and scrape the yoghurt cream into a bowl. Gradually add the mango puree into the yoghurt. Add the cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and milk with saffron. Whisk the mixture till creamy. Adjust mango and spices for taste & add a little sugar if needed. Pour the shrikhand into a piping bag and keep in the fridge (or freezer to chill faster)

For the pastry:

In a bowl, add the flour. Make a well and add the butter, icing sugar, salt and spices. Mix to incorporate the butter till the mixture becomes crumbly. Add the egg and water to form a dough. Turn the dough onto the counter and using a little extra flour, knead 3-4 times to bring the pastry dough together. Place the dough in cling wrap, flatten it and chill it for an hour. After it has chilled, take the dough out and let it stand for 5 mins. Depending on the tart tins you are using, divide the dough into appropriately sized balls and roll out the pasty to a size larger than the pastry tin. Place the pastry into the tin and using your fingers press it gently into the tin all around and on the base. Using the rolling pin, roll over the top of the tin to cut out the extra pastry. Once done, press the pastry on the sides to raise the dough slightly over the surface. This is to account for some shrinkage as the pastry cooks. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and place the lined pastry tins back in the fridge for 20 -30 mins. Pre-heat the oven at 180°C (Gas 3). Remove the pastry tins from the fridge, line them with baking paper/aluminium foil and place baking beans/rice/beans. Blind bake for 10 mins. Then remove the baking paper/foil and bake them for 5 minutes to let the pastry get some colour. Remove from the oven and let the pastry cool down. Once cool, remove it from the tin.

For the ganache

Chop the white chocolate into small pieces. Gently heat the cream in a pan. When it starts to simmer, remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir well to allow the chocolate to melt. Add salt and spices and mix. Once the chocolate is completely melted and the ganache is smooth, keep it aside to cool down.

To serve

Once the tarts have cooled down, pour a little ganache to line the base of the tart and keep it in the fridge for 30 mins to chill. Then remove and pipe the shrikhand into each pastry tart. Decorate the top with chopped pistachios.

Priya

 

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A fresh look at Aamras Puri

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My heart leapt with joy last week when I had my first sighting of the Alphonso mango at Mustafa’s. Not the best quality yet, but there was no mistaking that distinctive fragrance that only the Alphonso carries. And so with a steady supply of my favourite mango now just around the corner, it was time to start working on our summer menu for the supper club, currently cheesily named ‘The Indian summer’. I know, I know – needs improvement. This is just a placeholder…

For the last few days Aniruddha and I have been discussing what dishes to cook. Of course my mango shrikhand tart will make an appearance with some very special tart tins I managed to get designed in Mumbai recently – more on that soon. I am experimenting with a kairiche saar (raw mango soup) and kairi panna (raw mango and jaggery drink) to replace the tomato saar (tomato and coconut milk soup)! I successfully paired a tamarind prawn dish that I usually make with fresh mango – really surprising pairing but it really works. And Aniruddha has been going through his Bengali recipes, many of which will be new for me!

But of course, no summer menu is complete without offering the most popular mango dish in Mumbai – aamras puri. Fresh Alphonso mango pulp or juice flavoured with cardamom, saffron and a little sugar and served with deep fried bread. Utterly calorie dense but sooooo good!

Although it is a simple dish to make at home, for some reason most of my memories of aamras puri are at a restaurant. My grandmother was particularly fond of the dish and during mango season she would always make it a point to go for an aamras puri treat. I remember having it at Samrat in Churchgate, as part of their thali. And sometimes Thackers who used to cater the vegetarian food at the Cricket Club, where my grandparents were members, would also serve it.

As I began to think of bringing it on the menu, the first question that struck me is how do I serve it? Just serving aamras with puri on the side would be fine, since there are few places that serve it in Singapore and many non-Indians have never had this dish. But I wanted to add some surprise by recreating it, as we’ve managed successfully with some of our other dishes. I knew that whatever I came up with, had to have a fried dough element to it, because that taste was integral to the joy of eating aamras puri.

The answer came quite fast – doughnuts! Not the ones with a hole, like Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme, but the jam-filled variety. The idea was to replace the traditional filling with an aamras-inspired one. May not be the most elegant idea for a dish but who can argue with the taste of a good doughnut? Having never made one before, I started searching for recipes and almost immediately came across something called malasadas. These are Portuguese doughnuts and the word ‘mal – assadas’ means under-cooked. The search also kept pointing to a bakery in Hawaii called Leonard’s which is famous for their malasadas. Why argue with Google search?

The dough for malasadas is created with bread flour, yeast, butter, sugar, eggs, milk and half & half. I found a recipe for the ones created by Leonard’s but reduced the quantity by 1/3rd and adjusted the half and half with a combination of milk and cream. The dough is proofed first for 1.5 hours, then cut into small golf-sized balls and proofed again for another hour and then fried. The malasadas were an absolute joy to cook. I wasn’t sure if the dough was proofed enough, although it had doubled. But the moment I popped my first doughnut into the oil and it puffed up, I knew I was on the right track. After the first one cooled down I rolled it in sugar and then cut it open. It was a lovely brown on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.

Link to the original recipe: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Hawaii-Malasadas

For the aamras filling, I took mango pulp and mixed it with cardamom powder, saffron and a little cream to give it more structure when I piped it into the doughnuts. So I piped the aamras into it, took a giant bite and aloha!! My little experiment with aamras puri seemed to have worked quite well. Improvements for the next time – oil to be a little less hot, so I achieve a more golden brown colour. A thicker aamras filling and more filling per donut. My sister also suggested churros with aamras…something I will try very soon!

Priya

Puran Poli

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Puran poli

Puran poli is a sweet chapatti or flatbread filled with cooked chana dal (Bengal gram), jaggery and spices, essentially cardamom and was one of my favourite things to eat as a child. My grandfather knew how much I loved it and would get a box as a treat for me from Girgaon (South Mumbai) at least once a week.

I would start my eating ritual by pouring warm toop (ghee) over the puran poli and then tear off small pieces, dip it into the ghee and polish it off quickly. But it didn’t end there! I would then take the filling that would crumble and settle onto the plate, pour it into a bowl, add a little milk, mix it into a soggy paste and then eat it with a spoon. May sound crazy but I simply couldn’t waste the delicious combination of chana dal and jaggery!

As I got older, I ate it less frequently and eventually when I moved abroad, it became a distant memory. Sometimes when I came home for a holiday, my mother would get puran poli for me to eat. But a slower metabolism (I could no longer manage to eat a whole puran poli!) and the long list of other delicacies to try, meant I didn’t always end up eating it.

After we started Bombay Howrah Dining Car, I decided I had to try my hand at puran poli and find a way to bring it on the menu. Something that was so special for me, deserved to be discovered and enjoyed by other people.

 

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Spice mixture

I first wanted to make it the traditional way, to get the basics right. After scouring many recipes and videos, I wrote up a recipe that appealed to me. For the poli (bread) I used a combination of refined and whole wheat flour. For the filling I cooked the Bengal gram, mixed it with the mashed jaggery and spices and cooked it a little further. Instead of just cardamom I also added fennel, cinnamon and pepper to make it more fragrant. Once it was cool I blended it into a smooth paste and then placed a ball of the filling into a slightly bigger ball of dough, wrapped it over the filling and rolled it out as thin as I could. And finally I cooked it on a tawa (pan) till pinkish golden spots began to appear.

Making puran poli is quite straightforward. The trick, which is true with any filled flatbread, is getting the right consistency of the filling and making sure you roll it out evenly without letting the dough tear and expose any of the filling inside. There is another more traditional way of making the poli and here’s a video that shows how it’s done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv8ryg9MraA

Someday I will become this proficient! But for a first attempt, I thought my puran poli was quite good. Unfortunately I knew I couldn’t serve puran poli in its traditional form to our guests, because it would come as dessert after a fairly big meal and it could become a tipping point to something I had no desire to witness 😉

 

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Puran Poli inside out

A small sized poli could help…but wasn’t interesting enough. So I started taking the elements apart and came up with the following version. I converted the filling into kulfi and made it with reduced milk, a little condensed milk, cooked Bengal gram, jaggery & spices and then set it with the ice-cream machine. For the poli, I decided to use filo pastry as it would give a similar flavour after baking and the crisp texture would complement the ice-cream well. To serve, I placed the filo pastry on the plate, topped it with the puran ice-cream, some honey, a little ghee, some of the extra filling from the traditional poli and pistachios.

It doesn’t look like puran poli at all, but it sure tastes like it. A couple of more trials before it debuts on to the menu! 🙂

Priya

Kolhapuri Lamb chops for a vegetarian?!

A dish that has done quite well on our menu has been the Kolhapuri Lamb chops inspired by the Kolhapuri tambda rassa masala. I have written about the preparation in an earlier post but the dish has been tweaked quite a bit since then.

In the latest avatar I serve the lamb chops with a sweet potato and green pea puree, with brown butter solids and a good spoonful of the gravy from cooking the lamb chops, which is blended and then reduced till it is creamy and thick.

But for a dinner we hosted yesterday I had to find a way to cater for a strict vegetarian. This was a puzzle at first because I was so invested in this dish that it became difficult to think of anything to substitute the lamb with. Then remembering the cauliflower steak I had once attempted, I replaced the lamb with a nice thick steak of cauliflower, seared and then finished in the oven with the same Kolhapuri masala. Phew! now I have a delicious vegetarian alternative to the dish also.

Priya

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Servings for the Kolhapuri Lamb and Cauliflower steak main dish

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Cauliflower steak with Kolhapuri masala, sweet potato and pea puree, brown butter solids