Sunday, February 22, 2015

Indian Edamame


Edamame, the steamed green soybeans coated with salt, are my standard order at a Japanese restaurant. Even more than the flavour, I like the lingering, casual atmosphere this dish creates as you and your friends dig into the pile of green beans.

Then yesterday, I spotted the green chana at the vegetable market. As childhood memories of stalks of green chana roasting over open fire came rushing back, it stuck me that India has always had its own version of the edmame - the roasted green chana. You only spot these beans for a few weeks, so I promptly bought these back home with me to make the most of the short lived season.

Open fire seemed unlikely as an option so for my Sunday afternoon snack, I present the oven roasted green chana. First off, wash the green chana pods. Drain and wipe with paper towels. Spread in a single layer on a baking tray and pop in the oven heated to 230C. Ten minutes later, bring out the tray and give the pods a stir so they cook evenly. Bake for another ten minutes until they start to brown, then remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt. You can also add chilli powder or any other seasoning you like. Wait a few minutes, then spent a leisurely afternoon cracking open the pods.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Strawberries and Cream Redux



Over the years, I have created several desserts that play on the combination of strawberries and cream. Because these berries show up in India towards the end of the winter rather than summer, these desserts also have a tendency to crop up on the blog around Valentine's Day. Totally appropriate you will say, and this year, with the addition of some other of my favourite ingredients, the best version as well.

The base of the dessert is basil white chocolate cream. Pour 200 ml of heavy cream in a small saucepan. Now that Amul is finally selling whipping cream in India, that's the one I have used. Heat gently until the cream is warm, then add 4-5 basil leaves. Cover and leave to infuse for half an hour. Remove the basil leaves and put the cream back on heat. Add 200 grams of chopped white chocolate - use the best you can find - and stir until the cream and chocolate combine into a smooth ganache. Remove from the heat and pour into small bowls or ramekins. Let cool a little, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Topping the cream are balsamic roasted strawberries that you can make at the same time and serve chilled. Or make them just before you eat this dessert so you have the warm berries contrasting the cold basil cream. Either way, wash and hull 400 grams of strawberries. Quarter the large berries and cut any smaller berries into half. In a bowl, mix berries with 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Leave the bowl aside for 10-15 minutes, then spread the berries on a baking tray in a single layer. Also add any juice left in the bowl and cook in an oven heated to 200C for 30-35 minutes until the berries are soft. Serve immediately over chilled cream or let both the cream and berries chill separately and assemble just before eating.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Berry Pulao



If you draw up a list of Bombay's most iconic dishes, you will surely have Britannia's Berry Pulao on it. Coming in various versions - mutton, chicken, vegetarian - the distinctive feature of this pulao is the Iranian burberries strewn on top. I've tried the original version a couple of times and loved it, but it's not easy eating at this Parsi joint. For one, they are a long way from home. But more importantly, they show their Parsi eccentrity by opening the restaurant only for lunch and shutting down entirely on Sundays. In fact, it's far easier to make berry pulao at home than go to Britannia and that's exactly what I did once I got my hands on some barberries recently.

This is also a great make ahead recipe that comes together in minutes when you want to eat the pulao. So here's all you need:

1. One cup cooked basmati rice. Take 1/2 cup uncooked rice, soak it and cook it as per package directions.
2. One small potato, boiled, peeled and cubed
3. 6-8 green beans, chopped finely. Boil some water in a pan, drop in the beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water, then keep aside for the moment.
4. One small red onion, or 2 spring onions, finely diced
5. Deep fried onions - you can now buy them in a packet over here and I leave some in the freezer for biryanis and pulaos. But you can thinly slice and deep fry your own if you like.
6. Barberries - about 2 tbsp
7. Spices: 1/2 tsp each of turmeric and red chilli powder, 1 tsp garam masala and salt to taste.

Heat a tsp of ghee in the pan. Add the diced onions and stir fry until they start to brown. Add the beans and potato as well as all the spices. Add 1/4 cup water to deglaze the pan and let everything cook until the water evaporates. Add half the rice and mix in well so you get yellow colored rice mixed in with the vegetables. Take the pan off the heat and mix in the remaining white rice gently so you still have two different colors of rice in the mix. Transfer to a serving plate and top with fried onions and barberries. Serve with plain yogurt or a raita.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

7 Years, 500 Stories



Well, 489 stories to be exact. Seven long years bring loads of memories with them. And to celebrate those memories and to wish this dear blog a happy birthday, here are seven more stories about Bombay Foodie.

1. This isn't my first blog. I first started blogging way back in 2005. The blog was called Bombay Musings. I'd just moved to the city then and Bombay Musings was my diary, a chronicle of my discovery of the city.

2. It isn't just a quote. A lot of people ask me about the quote on the blog header. The reason I picked this one is because it pretty much describes my approach to food. I am a carb junkie and I can eat a baguette with cheese pretty much every day. As for tea, it isn't a good day if I don't get 2-3 cups of strong, sweet, milky brew. Tea makes me happy.

3. I don't cook a lot. I can obviously cook a lot of things and I have cooked 400+ of them for this blog but I don't cook everyday. I have a fabulous cook who does that. Me, I mostly experiment and rarely cook a dish twice.

4. I love junk food. I sneak into McDonalds to eat fries and I order in a lot of pizzas from Pizza Hut - all of them paneer makhni pizzas.

5. Even though this is a clear contradiction to my previous point, I am one of those weird people who actually enjoy eating fresh fruits and salads. I even had my very own nicknames for an apple and a tomato when I was a kid.

6. I own a lot of cookbooks, all of them with pretty pictures. Because I rarely cook from a book, I buy them purely based on how they look and never mind how the recipes are.

7. I still can't believe people actually read the blog and get super excited when someone tells me they cooked one of my recipes. A big shout out here to Anchal who once made my day, made my whole month in fact, by recognising me from my pictures she had seen on the blog profile.

Happy Birthday once again, Bombay Foodie! And if you are reading this, thank you for being a part of my food journey.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Pickle Everything



I have a huge penchant for sour flavours. Which means that I naturally like pickles. Except the ones of the store bought kinds. Supermarket pickles have two fatal flaws. One, they aren't fresh which makes whatever vegetable you are buying a little tired and droopy. Two, you are almost certain to get sweet and sour pickles which is kind of disappointing when you are looking for a sharp, salty kick.

So when I made pickled jalapenos a couple of months back, with no sugar whatsoever, I seem to have lucked upon a universal quick pickle recipes. These are not your long lasting canned pickles. But if you are looking for something you can eat the next day, and for pickles that can stay in the fridge for 1-2 weeks, this is how you can pickle everything from ginger to gherkins to beetroot.

First off, prep your vegetables, Peel them if you need to and cut into sizes that you can eat later on. I thinly sliced both onion and ginger, peel beetroot and cut thin round slices and just made little sticks out of swiss chard stems. Then, it's just a question of guessing how much liquid you will need for your chosen vegetables. But here's the ratio:

1 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cloves of garlic

I'd suggest you start with this quantity and then double or go higher if you need to. Mix all of the above and stir until the salt dissolves. Pack your vegetables in non reactive jars. Glass and ceramic are both ideal; stay away from any metal. Pour enough of your pickling liquid to cover the vegetables fully. Pop in the fridge and leave 24 hours before eating.

I am not sure how long it's safe to eat these, but I've had the pickles for a couple of weeks and they've been fine. It's so easy to make that you can just make a new, small batch each week.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The 2015 Agenda

Wake up, Bombay! I am making a list of top 10 places I want to eat at in the New Year, and the first 3 entries are from Delhi. So how I am making this list, you ask? There are some old favourites I haven't visited for years and would like to experience again. For the new restaurants, the list is based on how much buzz I am hearing, and how exciting I find their menu to be. So, ranked by how excited I am to visit these places, this is my 2015 agenda:

1. India Accent, Delhi: In a small botique hotel in the completely unfashionable corner of Delhi, chef Manish Mehrotra has created a restaurant that's now universally accepted as India's best. The food is part grassroot Indian, part European fancy plating and I really can't wait to try out their tasting menu.

2. Soda Bottle Openerwala, Delhi: A few years ago, Dishoom opened in London as a quintessential Bombay style Irani cafe. It's quirky, it's charming and it's far better than anything Bombay has to offer in this department. Soda Bottle Openerwala is doing to Delhi what Dishoom did to London with a modern Parsi cafe.

3. Farzi Cafe, Delhi: This is another one of the Dishoom ripoffs but Farzi Cafe takes the concept up by another notch with its modern, molecular gastronomy inspired dishes. There has been talk of playful dishes that take you back to your childhood and general deliciousness all round that I can't wait to try.

4. The Table, Colaba: I ate at Table the week they opened and loved everything from their crispy polenta squares to unique mocktails. The restaurant has seen several menu changes since then, and even Chef Alex went off to intern in a Michelin star restaurant for a while. He is now back with a lot more experience, so the meal could only be better than my last time there.

5. The White Owl, Lower Parel: I haven't been to the White Owl, which is technically a micro brewery and not of interest to me but I am hearing such great things about the food that comes with the beer, courtesy chef Kshama. Need to find out if the food is truly great or is it that there are so few women in fine dining that even ones slightly above average get noticed.

6. Joss, Santacruz: I was pretty neutral on the old Joss in Kala Ghoda. But the new one seems to have a jazzed up menu and a chocolate dessert that is built right on your table. Something of an Alinea touch there, and definitely the one to try.

7. Neel, Mahalaxmi: I know, I know, Neel has been around forever and there is no excuse for one not having eaten the brilliant awadhi food there. So I'm gonna get course correcting on this one rightaway.

8. Spiceklub, Lower Parel: Pao Bhaji Fondue, naan pizzas and pani puri shots served with syringes - this is the kind of food that gets my attention.

9. The Birdsong, Bandra: Healthy eating options seem to be on the rise in Mumbai. Of all the ones I haven't been too, this one seems to be the prettiest and the one with the nicest menu.

10. Amadeus, Nariman Point: For some reason, tapas have never taken off in India. The only restaurant holding the Spanish flag for the last several years is Amadeus inside NCPA. I've had a brief visit once, a couple of years back, but it's definitely due for a revisit.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Top Flavours of 2014

Now that the Christmas cooking madness is behind us, I've had a bit of time to sit down and think about all the lovely experiences I had when eating out last year. I have a lot of old favourites that I can go on and on about, but instead, let's talk about some new discoveries. I thought back to all the 'aha' moments from last year, when a new dish and an amazing flavour surprised, and then became an instant favourite. If only I could take all of those favourite dishes and put them together in one place, here's what my ideal meal of 2014 would look like.

Soup
Mushroom Tea at Masala Library: I went to Masala Library expected to be blown away and possibly because of that, the actual experience came out as just above average. But some dishes stood out; the most quirky of them being this mushroom soup. First you get served an empty tea cup to which the servers add dried mushrooms (looks like tea leaves) and white truffle oil powder (looks like creamer). The mushroom consommé is then poured over to complete a soup with a rich, intense flavour.

Moving on to appetizers
Dosa at MTR, Bangalore: In one of my trips to Bangalore last year, I discovered the original MTR in Lalbaug. It's nothing fancy, there aren't even any menus and the place still gets a queue several miles long every meal time. I had a bit of a language barrier but once I explained that I wanted a plain dosa (and not the standard masala dosa stuffed with potatoes), there came a crepe rich with ghee and a chutney that was a perfect match. No sambar gets served with dosa here so you might have to also order an idli sambar.

Rosemary Truffle Fries at Woodside Inn: This place is an old Bombay institution but I only discovered their paper cone full of these fabulous fries this year.

And to drink
Butterscotch Macadamia Shake at Jamjar Diner: This cute little diner in Versova has so many good food options and an ambience that will make you smile. They also serve all drinks in jam jars, and this milkshake filled with caramel notes is the best jar of all.

I couldn't decide between the top picks for the main course so you get two choices.

Khowsuey at Busago: I first tasted khowsuey a few years back but I only became truly aware of this Burmese curry this year. I actually had two fanstastic khowsuey experiences in 2014 but I am going to put Busago ahead of Burma Burma, just because the latter is so hard to get into. Busago also delivers their khowsuey, complete with all the crispy toppings, so that's just an added bonus.

Dal Khichdi at Spare Kitchen: Both times I've been there, I look at all the options in Spare Kitchen - the curries, pastas, baked dishes, pizzas - and then order dal khichdi. Soupy, buttery and full of vegetables, this has to be one of the best comfort foods in this world. And although it's not a restaurant, I am going to recommend that you pair the khichdi with Dahivada from Annapurna. If you have lived in Bombay for any length of time, you must be already aware of Gujarati snack shops that sell khakhras and other random snacks. Annapurna on Bandra's 16th Road has the added advantage of an in-house kitchen where they make these 'healthy for you' steamed dahivadas. I am bit of a dahivada nazi and Annapurna's version hits all the right spots - the dumplings aren't too soft or too hard or too watery, the curd is just the right amount of sweet and spicy and they even get the yogurt to dumpling ratio right.

Time now for Dessert and there were two clear winners:

Millefeuille at La Folie: Crunchy layers of pastry interspersed with flavourful cream, it's the classic French dessert at its best.

Paan Kulfi at Pali Bhavan: It's been months and none of my dining partners can stop talking about this dessert. Pali Bhavan's paan flavoured kulfi comes wrapped in betel leaves, so you can hold up the tiny triangles like a real paan. It's unique, refreshing and the perfect end to a meal.

But as a bonus, let's talk about a brunch dish that's been on my mind a lot this year. Ellipsis makes its french toast by dipping brioche bread in pancake batter. This pancake-French Toast hybrid comes with enough maple syrup to drown the bread in. But I hesitate to put it on my top list because of how expensive it is. No matter how good, you will end up being amazed, instead, at how much you paid for what was essentially one slice of bread. So I am going to try and recreate this one at home. The rest of the meal - go out and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

30 Days of Christmas: Beetroot Salad



So here we are, on the last day of this 30 day blogging marathon. Wasn't it a fun ride - with so much butter and sugar and raisins. I've taken on several challenges since I started this blog but this one - with a full month of daily blogging - was the most challenging so far, And to wrap up a whole month of treats, I bring you a salad that's worthy to be called a treat itself, a seamless way to transition to healthier eating now that the holidays are over.

I first ate this salad at the London restaurant called Bob Bob Ricard. While beets, goat cheese and greens are always a classic combination, it was the presentation that attracted me to this salad and have kept it on the 'top dishes I've eaten' list that I maintain in my head. I've wanted to recreate this salad ever since and today seemed to be a great day for it.

The salad comes in four parts. Goat cheese, that gets sandwiched between thin slices of pickled beetroot. Arugula or your choice of greens (Bob Bob Ricard uses pea shoots) dressed in salt and balsamic vinegar. And although you can't see it, a layer of minty broadbeans hidden under the leaves.

Start with the pickled beetroot the day before you want to make this salad. Peel a beetroot and cut it into thin slices with a mandolin, your food processor or a sharp knife. Mix 1 cup water with 1 tbsp lime juice. Add 1/2 tsp salt and stir until the salt dissolves completely. Add the beetroot slices to the liquid, cover and leave in the fridge at least overnight. If you have fresh shelling beans, you are done for the day but if you plan to use dried beans, soak them overnight as well.

The next day, cook shelled broadbeans in plenty of salted water until very soft. Drain and mix with chopped mint leaves, salt, pepper and lime juice. Put about 2 tbsp of cooked beans in the centre of your plate. Drain the beetroot slices and arrange 3-4 of them around the broadbeans. Add a dollop of goat cheese on eat beetroot slice and top with another slice of beetroot. Separately, wash the arugula leave and roughly tear any large leaves. Add salt and balsamic vinegar to the leaves, then arrange them over the beans and the beetroot. Drizzle some more balsamic on the plate. Your salad is now good to go.

And that's it for our Christmas series, ladies and gentlemen. It's a wrap!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

30 Days of Christmas: Superfood Breakfast



I had originally planned to bake some cookies today but it's hard to dish out copious amounts of butter and sugar when it's the 4th of January and everyone around you is talking of new year resolutions. But if you are still finding it hard to get over the habit of eating sweet treats, here's a happy medium. It's an oatmeal breakfast, but one you can make the night before and it's full of all kinds of superfoods.

The night before, measure out 1/4 cup of oats. Put them in a pan over medium heat and stir until they get toasted and lightly browned. Let cool, then mix the oats in a bowl with 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 cup yogurt and 1 tsp honey. Leave the mix in the fridge overnight. The next morning, take a pretty glass. Start with a layer of oats-chia mix and add a layer of pomegranate seeds. Repeat the layers and top with slivered almonds.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

30 Days of Christmas: Bread and Butter Pudding


Many, many years ago, I set to make bread and butter pudding for New Year's Eve dessert. I was pretty new to baking, had never tasted a bread and butter pudding, never made a custard before and was working off a dubious recipe. Needless to say, that new year rang in solely on the strength of the savouries and no pudding came to pass. Since then, I've eaten this comforting pudding a few times. I've liked a couple of versions, found most too eggy and never tried making it myself ever again.

But I tried it again today and am proud to say it's perfect. Soft and creamy, yet crunchy in parts and not even eggy. This time, I did a thorough research and picked a recipe by the British queen of baking - Mary Berry. In fact, the recipe comes from Mary's mother so it's as traditional a recipe as you can find.

I made a few changes though, but I think the pudding is better for it. So follow along. Take an 8 inch glass or ceramic dish. Melt 100 grams butter and brush some of it along the base and sides of the baking dish.

Take 8 slices of white bread, cut off the crusts and then cut each slice into three pieces. Dip one side of each slice in melted butter. Arrange 8 pieces of bread in a single layer on the baking sheet, buttered side down. Mix 150 grams raisins or sultanas with 75 grams caster sugar and spread half of it on the bread. I still have some leftover mincemeat so I used some of that instead. Add another layer of bread, buttered side up. Add the rest of the dried fruit (or more mincemeat) and top with the third and final layer of bread, buttered side up.

Now make your custard. In a bowl, whisk together 200 ml cream, 250 ml milk, 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla essence. Strain and pour over the bread. Sprinkle 2 tbsp brown sugar on the top and let rest for an hour. Heat the oven to 180C and bake the pudding for 40-50 minutes until it's set, browned and risen a bit.