Saturday, May 27, 2017

Made in Punjab

The Kalras are the first family of the food industry. Where people find even one success story hard to achieve, Zorawar Kalra has managed win after win with Masala Library, Farzi Cafe, Papaya and most recently, MasalaBar. But much before they hit the stride with molecular gastronomy, there was Jiggs Kalra and solid Punjabi cooking. Made In Punjab, set inside Mumbai's Inorbit Mall, continues that legacy.



We settled in with a watermelon shikanji, a delightful combination of watermelon and lime. If that's not your style, there are drinks aplenty to pick from, including a thick Amritsari lassi, complete with malai or cream pedas. To go with the drinks, Made in Punjab brought out a selection of starters for us to review. Now I'm gonna point out that I only tried the vegetarian food but their chicken is apparently legendary.

The starters you see above are the usual combination of mushrooms, paneer and tandoori potatoes. But there was also a yam kebab. These four were spicy and each came with their own set of dips. Yet, given my penchant for subtle flavours, it should be no surprise that my favourite appetiser was the creamy almond broccoli.



On to the mains then, with the trademark Jiggs Kalra dal. That and the paneer lababdar make an appearance on most north Indian menus. But I want you to pay special attention to the bottom right quadrant where sits lasooni palak with chenna. If you grew up thinking greens are boring, this garlicky, creamy spinach combined with fresh curd cheese will change your opinion forever. Little touches apply to most everything at the restaurant and I refer not just to the edible flower garnishes but the added layer of texture in lasooni palak with some crisp, fried spinach.

Made in Punjab also makes an excellent morel biryani, with authentic Kashmiri morels and a burrani raita (yogurt with fried garlic) to die for.



We were really full up by then but the restaurant suggested we try their not-too-sweet rasmalai and it did make a great end to the meal. I've tried their warm desserts on previous visits and both the rabdi-jalebi and the chocolate stuffed gulab jamun should be on your lists of foods to try.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spaghetti. Mushrooms. Oregano.



Often times, when brands approach me for a review, it's a process of discovery. But not when Borges asked if I will like to create some recipes with their pasta. Olive oil may seem like a very Indian thing now with hundreds of brands dotting supermarket shelves but there was a time, only a few years ago, when using olive instead of refined oil was a rarity. I recall I started buying this Spanish olive oil back then and pretty much stuck to the brand. And since I had Borges olives and olive oil already in my pantry, this seemed like a good time to give their pasta a try as well.

Borges' pastas are made in Italy with durum wheat, the traditional hard wheat for pastas. I'm starting you off with a cheesy spaghetti but expect a summery penne coming your way soon. Now pastas have become super common on restaurant menus. But often times, they come fully smothered in a heavy white or red or god forbid, pink sauce. They are stodgy and spicy and you may as well be eating curry.

Not this one. For my spaghetti, I made a light yet cheesy bechamel sauce. The creamy pasta is complemented with sauteed mushrooms. And to add another layer of texture, I added some crisp fried oregano leaves at the end. It's all very simple really, just like good pasta should be. The recipe that follows is for one person because I was cooking for myself, so multiply by the number of people you are cooking this for.

Ingredients
50 grams dry Borges spaghetti
4 tbsp Borges olive oil
1 tbsp cornflour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
100 grams mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp white wine vinegar
salt
black pepper
handful of fresh oregano leaves

We will start with the mushrooms that you should thoroughly wash and slice thinly. Also peel and finely mince the garlic. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a nonstick pan. Add the garlic and let it brown, then add the mushrooms, spreading them out in a single layer if possible. Add vinegar, salt and black pepper. Keep stirring constantly - at some point, the mushrooms will give out a lot of water but it will all evaporate eventually and you will be left with sauteed mushrooms.

While the mushrooms are cooking, fill the largest pot you own halfway with water and set to boil. Once the water comes to a roaring boil, add about a tsp of salt and drop in the spaghetti. Cook for the time indicated on your package, until it's what Italians call al dente i.e. cooked but with a bite. Drain and set aside for a moment.

For the cheese sauce, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add the cornflour and stir until the raw flour smell goes away but don't let the flour get brown. Reduce the heat to minimum possible and slowly add the milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let thicken a bit to the consistency of cream. Add cheese and stir until it all melts into the sauce. Add plenty of black pepper. The cheese will probably give the sauce enough salt but taste and add more if you like.

Finally, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a small pan. Add the oregano leaves. They will splutter and in about 5 seconds, will be crunchy. Turn off the heat and remove the fried leaves with a slotted spoon. Leave on a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.

To serve, add spaghetti to your simmering cheese sauce and let it heat through for about a minute. Pop onto a plate - you can try twirling with a fork but as you can see, I didn't do too neat a job of that. Top with mushrooms and fried oregano.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Upgrading Aloo Posto



There was a time when north Indian food formed bulk of my food experiences and barring an occasional dosa, I had very little understanding of how other regions of India eat. I gradually picked up dishes and ideas but this expansion of palette happened in no particular order and was often influenced by people I met and stories I heard. Sometime I would hear the name of a dish and find it fascinating. Aloo posto was one such dish. We don't use poppyseeds in our curries and using a new spice as the base for a potato curry sounded exciting.

Hence, the first time I found myself in a restaurant that had aloo posto on the menu, I eagerly ordered it. I was never more disappointed. What I expected was some form of spicy, crunchy potatoes. What I got instead was a bland, blah dish. I never got to like aloo posto but I continued to believe that poppyseeds and potatoes will make for a good flavour combination.

In my mind, there are two basic flaws with aloo posto. By soaking poppyseeds and making them into a paste, you take away the essential benefit of using them - the crunch they add to a dish. And then the color - except for a rare black nigella seed, the dish is a boring beige all over. Both these flaws are fixed in this new and updated version of aloo posto, using blue poppyseeds both for crunch and color. Here's the recipe for a comforting dinner dish.

Ingredients
3 medium sized potatoes
1 tbsp mustard oil
2 tbsp blue poppy seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
10-12 curry leaves
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp dry mango (amchur) powder
salt, to taste
coriander leaves, to garnish

Wash the potatoes, wipe them dry and cut into medium thick rounds. Heat oil in a nonstick pan. Add asafoetida and curry leaves. After 10-15 seconds, add poppy seeds and nigella seeds. Wait until the seeds start to splutter, then add the potatoes and salt. Add just enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Keep checking every few minutes. By the time the water evaporates, the potatoes should be cooked through. Increase the heat and let the potatoes cook for another 1-2 minutes until they get a bit of a color. It's essential you use a nonstick pan to prevent potatoes sticking and getting difficult to remove.

Move the potatoes to a serving platter. Sprinkle red chilli powder and amchur and garnish with coriander.