Dhokar Dalna (spiced lentil cakes curry)

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Dhokar dalna is one of those dishes I have loved, but carefully stayed away from cooking given the number of steps involved (you have to soak and grind the lentils, pre-cook them lightly with spices, fry them and then add them to a gravy) with chances of things going wrong at each step. But given how much I love the dish, and in the spirit of taking culinary plunges I thought I’d give it a go.

The result wasn’t half-bad and while I need to work on getting the dhoka (the lentil cakes) firmer and crunchier, the flavours worked and the cumin, green chilies and hing (asafoetida) in the lentil cakes all came together nicely. The next step was to make the dalna or gravy and I went for the Bengali version of the niramish (or vegetarian) gravy that’s made without onions and garlic. The latter are considered non-vegetarian in some strict sense and hence for certain folks and on certain religious occasions, the food is cooked without onions and garlic. (I am not sure what term would be used for my dietary range in a world where that is the definition of vegetarian food!) Anyway, I actually like our vegetarian dalnas without onion and garlic as the flavours are lighter and you can taste the stars of the dish – the dhoka – in this case.

So, the final step was to make the tomato, ginger and garam masala based gravy and lightly simmer the dhoka in the gravy so it soaks up the flavours, becomes soft, but still retains its texture and shape. All in all, a great twist on lentils and the final product makes every step along the way worth while!

Aniruddha

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The chutney I grew up with…

We all have fond recollections of our mom’s cooking. Of coming home from school to be greeted with something comforting and hot. Of waking up on sunday morning and looking forward to a delicious breakfast. The unexpected home-made cake as a treat.

My recollections are no different. But the one thing I remember most fondly is my mom’s hirvi (green) chutney. A simple chutney made by grinding fresh coconut, coriander leaves, garlic, lemon juice, green chilli, salt and sugar.

This chutney went into sandwiches on school picnics or when friends came home to celebrate my birthday. It went into mom’s stuffed Pomfret preparation accompanied by a red chutney on the other side of the Pomfret. It appeared on the thali during Diwali lunch. Sometimes I ate it with homemade idli and sambhar. And if I got hungry and didn’t know what to eat, I would spread it on some bread with some cheese and toast it.

The years went by…but the green chutney is still in the fridge. It has moved from its white bowl with red flowers to my chini mati (clay) bottle. And from mom’s fridge to mine.

Priya
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Gulpoli – sweet flat bread

Gulpoli is a sweet flat bread that can be eaten as an indulgent snack or as dessert. The chapati is made with a combination of whole wheat and plain flour with the addition of some gram flour. While the filling inside is made from jaggery, roasted sesame seeds and roasted gram flour with a little nutmeg and cardamom.

Making these requires a little practice as you need to ensure the chapati does not break and expose the filling while it is being rolled out. If that does happen, the filling will stick to the pan when cooking the chapati. After cooking the jaggery will harden as it cools down, making the chapati a bit crispy/crunchy.

The jaggery and gram flour filling makes these very tasty, but also a bit heavy. So gulpoli is best enjoyed in small installments if you are strong enough to control your temptation!

Priya

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(One of) The best chicken curries ever!

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There is no dearth of chicken curries in Indian cuisine and while they may all look and taste the same for those not familiar with the cuisine, I can guarantee that this is not the case. I could go into the variations in spice mixtures, the marination, cooking techniques, etc. But let me focus on what I consider to be one of the better, if not best, of that vast pool of chicken curries. Kombdi Cha Rassa or Chicken curry is a Marathi preparation that is characterized by it’s fragrant smell and taste. It brings together a wonderful combination of dried red chillies, fresh coconut, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seeds, green chillies and curry leaves in a thick tomato, onion and yoghurt gravy. You can have this with rice or chapatis but make sure to have a glass of mattha on hand to cool you down, as the gravy is also a bit spicy.

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The best version I have tasted was at a restaurant in Mumbai called Sol Kadi, which shut down many years ago. They would serve the curry with vade (deep fried wheat and semolina bread) and koshimbir (vegetable and yoghurt salad). The version that I make at home is a result of trying out a couple of recipes and spice combinations to create what is now my favourite chicken curry. Priya

Nothing like comfort food!

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A perfect example of home cooked comfort food. This meal was cooked at my parents place in Mumbai. Starting from the top – cumin rice, tamarind fish curry, tomato saar (tomato soup with coconut milk), coriander and coconut chutney, cucumber and peanut salad, potatoes with mustard seeds, bottle gourd with cashews, Bengali prawn cutlets and chappatis

Priya