The new Superman Flick and dinner at Ekachai? Ultimate combo!

Man of Steel in 3D for a late evening sounds like super fun!If your going to the mall at Wandsworth like we do, why don’t you tuck in at Ekachai before the show? It’s a great Asian food place. My hubby and me love eating there, our favourite dish on the menu is this street style pork and rice dish. Believe me when I say this, one bite into the pork and you are hooked forever!

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This dish is described on their menu as ”Khao Moo Dang – Thai hawker stall favourite of rice topped with Chinese BBQ pork and BBQ sauce served with a boiled egg, cucumber,topped with spring onions and coriander” – what an absolutely heavenly combination. The pork is extremely well cooked and portion size is generous so we go early, get our movie tickets done first and then sit and enjoy this meal, savour each bite you take of the succulent pork smothered in BBQ sauce as it engulfs your tongue in an exotic wrap of flavour ummm,just the right balance of flavours married together.

Wash it down with a Tiger Beer if you will or go for the Red or Green detox juices without sugar, they are so,so good !

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We really loved the new Superman Flick Man of Steel, it’s so well made and Henry Cavill is HOT! A ”Superman coming of age” film me thinks, none of the old carry over from previous films of him trying to fit in, hard hitting action scenes, lots of BISH-BASH-BOOM, loads of mixed emotions, as I’d say in Hindi it was total ”paisa- vasool, DHISHOOM DHISHOOM dhamaal wala picture” (Totally value for money ,action packed movie!) I am a total sucker for comics and superheros, I even have my own little collection of the superhero toys,yep!Of course Superwoman is my fav!

Ekachai on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Baked Courgette Chips – Guilt Free Snack ready in 20 minutes!

I often crave to munch on something like most of us do and just munching on something so different and bursting with flavour is satiating.

Plus there’s a lot less guilt munching on something that’s baked rather than deep fried right?? Well, ahem ! This recipe was adapted from here.

What I love most about this is that it’s done quickly, give it  prep time 5 min, cook time 15 mins and ready in 20 minutes! What more can one ask for, just get that oven fired up people!

So here’s what you will need :

  1. 2 medium sized courgettes
  2. 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  3. 100gm golden breadcrumbs
  4. 2 egg whites
  5. Smoked Sea Salt
  6. Ground black pepper
  7. Half tbsp mixed Italian herbs
  8. A drop of olive oil to grease the foil

Method:

  • Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, smoked sea salt – mine is Oak smoked Anglesey sea salt, it really packs a punch, the ground black pepper,italian herb mix, in a bowl and mix well. Get the egg white in another small bowl. Slice the courgettes real fine and dip them first in the egg white and then into the  bread crumb mix.
  • Place on a baking tray lined with foil and bake each side for 5 minutes in a pre heated oven at 240 degree Celcius / Gas Mark 9.

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I gobbled them with a cup of hot sweet and spiced up Indian Chai, perfect for a summer afternoon when all you want to do is read that ”unputdownable” book, it’s Dan Brown’s Inferno, whats on your reading list?

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I am guest hosting In My Veg Box again this year in March 2015 on my blog, an event run by Vegetarian food blogger Nayna Kanabar of Citrus Spice UK and the theme this month is Courgettes. Just added in my favourite Baked  Courgette ‘chips’  recipe to the linky.

Would love to see all your lovely creations with Courgettes, do link up, all details on how to link up are available on my post here.

In my veg box  courgettes event logo

Sun Dried Tomato and Chilli Spiced Bread

It’s amazingly sunny this week and my spirits are up so I decided to make some  spiced bread with sun dried tomatoes and chilli, it turned out so yum I want to gobble it all up! This bread is a very filling,wholesome bread and is great for mopping up a thick gravy or having perfectly scrambled eggs with asparagus sprigs a dollop of butter – ah – sounds heavenly, my breakfast tomorrow for sure!

The oil from the sun dried tomatoes and the oil that goes in dough and really adds to the taste. It takes some kneading as I don’t own a bread maker (yet !) and didn’t really want to get into the hassle of trying the dough function on my food processor, still if you do possess one the bread bread dough tools, good for you!Recipe adaptation from here

Considering it was my first ever homemade bread, it turned out really nice, bursting with aroma and rich flavours and am now prepared to move on to well more bread making!

Ingredients:

  • 500 gm strong bread flour
  • 25 gm butter
  • Sun dried tomatoes and chillies about a large spoonfull
  • A sachet yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 280 ml water at room temperature
  • Plain white flour for kneading
  • Oil from the chillies and tomato
  • Oil to grease loaf tin
  • Cling Film

Method:

  • Sift the flour and add the yeast salt and sugar with a wooden spoon.
  • Ensure butter is soft and rub in the butter with your hands till the mix looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Add the finely chopped sun dried tomatoes and chillies and some of the oil and mix well.
  • Now add the water slowly, folding it using a wooden or plastic spatula and then knead to make the dough.Keep kneading till a soft dough forms, fold in some oil and plain flour as and when needed.It will take about 15 minutes, yes I know but its worth it!
  • While kneading use the same process as you would while kneading chapati/roti aata , kneading out from center and then folding sides back into the center.
  • Cover in cling film and coat with some more oil. Leave to rise for about 2 hours in  a warm and dry place.
  • Now remove the cling film and knead the risen dough again at least for 8-10 minutes, you will notice that the dough will loose air and will almost go back to its original size.Its like mini air pockets getting tiny punches with your hands.
  • Repeat the cling film process and leave to rise for 30 minutes in a loaf tin in a warm place.
  • Preheat oven to 210 degrees , I have a fan oven,bake for 25 minutes,to ensure it’s well risen.
  • Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then on the wire rack.
  • Serve sliced and enjoy with curries as a great alternative to regular wholemeal bread or as I plan to tomorrow with soft, perfectly done runny scrambled eggs, thinly sliced ham and asparagus sauteed in butter!

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Dum-a-Dum Biryani & Kebabs – An interview with an entrepreneur and a passionate foodie.

It was a hot summer evening in Pune, I set out to look for a take away to treat aai- baba to something yum to celebrate a new milestone for mum who was recovering post surgery. Not willing to walk too much I was pleasantly surprised to see this brightly lit signage and a small crowd of youngsters on their bikes outside this place called Dum-a-Dum Biryani

I walked across to this cheery and brightly lit take away, the fiery and tempting aroma of kebabs   wafted around the place.

The place was clean and tidy and the tiny kitchen was buzzing with activity. I ordered a Lasooni Murg kebab and Tangdi Kebab and waited outside, watching the busy main road and the steadily building traffic. Just a few turns away is the Mumbai Pune expressway via Chandani Chowk. A primarily residential area in Pune, it has several educational institutes and IT companies Hence the large student and IT crowd hover around this tiny take away. This young set night disappears by night and mingles with the resident locals and it’s only in the evening when one sees large groups of youngsters with their modern bikes zipping around that one can actually estimate how much of Pune is a composed of this transient population.

This flurry of activity outside Dum-a-Dum keeps engaged in observation and it’s only when I hear my name being bellowed from the counter inside that I snap out of my reverie.

On an impulse I decide to talk to the very busy manager and ask him if the owner would be willing to give me a few minutes as I was curious to know about how Dum – a – Dum came into being.

He readily parts with a name and mobile number and I am suddenly very excited, well after all this would be my very first interview, IF the owner agrees.

Luckily for me, one phone call and a few messages later, I am all set to meet Mr.Rakesh Rajendran, the Founder and C.E.O of this professionally run start-up hospitality qsr firm.

Armed with my new Cannon SLR and a brand new cute blank diary from Either Or at Pune (made by the Doodle Factory), I stroll down to meet the person who will give me my first ever interview.

I get an extremely warm greeting and before we start chatting there is glass of cool and delicious salted buttermilk offered to me. I have written down a few questions I tell him which I will ask him but we get chatting about food and kebabs and well, retail and lo and behold ! He tells me that he too was a part of modern retail in Pune before he decided to turn into an entrepreneur!

Any inhibitions I have of how to conduct this interview are gone with the wind and we exchange notes about the retail industry and the changing scene in Pune. After all only retailers can truly understand and appreciate what it is like to work in the fast paced retail environment in Pune. Food Retail  is a changing dynamic industry which is probably the most challenging form of organised retail .

Rakesh tells me that was the head of IT for one of the leading food retailers in the country and has also lived and worked in Chicago for 7 years prior to that.

Well read, widely travelled, he is a self proclaimed foodie and also rather camera shy as I was about to find out.

RR ( shall call him that for ease of expression and shall refer to myself as well simply MJ), tells me that this outlet is one of 6 outlets in Pune and has been operational since Dasheera of 2010.RR tells me that he believes in soft launches hence most of his outlets open on auspicious days and have always received excellent response from the locals . His retail experience has held him in good stead in terms of zeroing in on locations , setting up a system for home deliveries and hiring and retaining staff.

Well it’s time now to ask some questions

 MJ: Silly first question, why the name Dum- a – Dum?

RR: (smiles) Haven’t u heard the song ‘’Dum -a-Dum’’ mast kalandar? Well on a serious note, we started out with the name ‘’Village Kitchen’’ which was quickly vetoed by friends and family. The whole idea of a Kebab and Biryani take away should be a fun concept and has to have a catchy name , hence the name Dum-a-Dum , of course it has to with the fact we offer Dum Biryani on the menu.

MJ: Why a kebab and biryani joint and not any other kind of cuisine?

RR: I conceptualised this format and got a core group of friends who had worked with me in the past and who understood my passion for the hospitality industry to back my efforts by funding this venture.  I managed to convince my friend Tushar Bhole also to actually quit and help start-up this hospitality business.

It was a very well researched decision and was something I was keen on, it also thanks to the fact that I have travelled across many places and always wanted to set up a place where great tasting food and convenience go hand in hand.

MJ: What is your involvement in recipe development?

RR: We have done a lot of research on the best selling kebabs and popular flavours and have worked with my chefs to develop our own unique Biryani flavour. The most popular kebabs that people normally expect on a menu are tweaked. As such we are always looking at experimenting with say a new ingredient or a new rage and are very open to feedback from our patrons as well. I am not a trained chef but have travelled extensively across the north of India and have then with great though come up with the current menu

(Phew! it’s hard work this kebab business I think ,  while I gobble up the lasooni kebab comes from the kitchen for me to devour , what a treat ! Little does one think about what goes on behind the scenes)

Lasooni Kebab Image 1

Lasooni Kebab Image 2

 

RR goes to tell me a little bit about biryani’s and how we develop our liking towards a certain type of biryani which for us is ‘’THE’’ absolutely best biryani ever. Ofcourse it’s to do with where one grows up and has tasted local flavours packed into the meat and rice . The most popular biryani currently on our menu is the ‘’Lucknowi’’ Biryani . To get to a place where we develop a known type of biryani and get the taste upto our liking and then have our customers come back to us and tell us that they ‘’loved’’ our biryani is very satisfying.

We give a lot of thought before we add anything to our menu and since we are a take away only chain, it’s very important that we get the taste right as the only interaction a customer has with anyone representing us our delivery boys and the voice over the phone!

I come from Kerala where I can say that there are at least 7 types of Biryani which are popular and known, there would be as many variations of taste and recipes as there would be regions and local culture.

(So true, I think to myself, food is so much about the place and its people)

My idea is that we should become known as a place that serves ‘’FOOD with a SOUL’’, not just another ‘’regular’’ food take away joint.

By now there is a plate of soft Aloo kebabs called Tandoori Aloo ke Gutkeand Makrana tangdi kebab – a juicy succulent version of Tangdi Kebab (aloo meaning potatoes in Hindi, the ones used here are the baby new potatoes , tangdi meaning chicken legs in Hindi ) , I get busy clicking and try to get the best angels , I request RR to pose with the team but he politely refuses saying ‘’ in this interview the heroes are my team and of course the food’’ Well said isn’t it ?

The Aloo ke Gutke are so tasty, it’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted ummmm

Tandoori Aloo ke Gutke

 

Tangdi Makrana Kebab

 

kebabs with chaas

 

MJ: What are the biggest challenges you face?

RR: Finding and retaining good staff, the home delivery ones, who are the ‘’FACE’’ of the brand and are not just delivery boys. We try and ensure that each outlet is like a tiny unit in itself that  runs on a deeply ingrained feeling of ownership in itself .It’s important for me that each employee understand my passion and treats the place as their own. It’s all the more important for me as I have in turn to convey that confidence and spirit to all those who believed in me and have also invested their monies in this venture.

Also managing operational overheads is very challenging.

MJ: Who is your closest competitor?

RR: Well, we like to think that since we are primarily looking to become the best take away chain in the city and country, I would like to benchmark with Domino’s.

MJ: Any new branches opening up?

RR (Face lights up with apparent joy) Yes! One in a big mall in Pune and one in New Bombay .Am really looking forward to the one in New Bombay as compared to Pune, the attitudes and expectations differ.

MJ: Do you serve goat or lamb meat in the mutton Biryani?

RR: we offer both and also offer halal meat, for bulk orders we need a day or two’s notice ahead for large orders. As such we have 6 different Biryanis on our menu and also offer family packs and party packs. The Chicken Mutka Duma Dum Biryani cooked in a clay pot is heavenly and also very popular.

We don’t use any artificial food colours and we use raw paya to tenderise our meat, that gives the meat it soft, succulent and juicy nature, we are quite proud of our creation.

Meanwhile, some regular customers stroll in and RR gets up, excuses himself and goes to have a chat with them.

I find a rare quite moment at the counter and get the smiling team members to stand still for a few seconds, click away, polish off the last of the mouth watering kebabs and wash it down with yet another glass of the chilled heavenly chaas.

I thank my mild mannered host and trudge back home, happy to have wrapped up my first ever interview for my blog!

Now for the details: For heavenly kebabs and Biryani head to Paud Road, next to Reliance Fresh, Bhusari Colony, Paud Road, Kothrud, Pune. The menu can be downloaded from Zomato.com – use the following search string – Home / Pune / Kothrud Area / Kothrud / Dum-A-Dum – Biryani and Kebabs.

Busy Counter

Customer Waiting in the evening

 

Happy Team members

 

Pic of poster in store

 

Kebabs all set to be grilled!

Clear Veg soup- my way, Easy Cooking,Healthy Food.

Happy New Year everyone! It’s a great way to start a new year on a healthy note hence some soup for new years day lunch light and easy !

Nothing warms us up in winter like a steaming hot soup, if it is filling , easy to make and wholesome it makes life even better! Agree? I love ordering clear vegetable soup when I go eating out and though this is not the typical chinese take away and is a very home cooking and simplistic approach it’s still what a soup should essentially be – wholesome…

You can add as many veggies as you like that would marry well with the basic list I think is essential, I basically use whatever is available in my vegetable tray on the said day !

The following roughly make for 2 large bowls of soup and a small leftover portion for Lunch next day, perfect I say !

  1. Cauliflower 1/4th finely chopped
  2. Small hand full green peas
  3. 2 – 3 large sprigs of spring onion finally chopped
  4. Bottle Gourd – 1/4th finely chopped
  5. 2 large cloves of garlic
  6. A pinch of cummin seeds
  7. Half a tea-spoon ghee or low-fat butter example :Lurpack
  8. 2 small carrots finely chopped
  9. Hand full french beans very finely chopped
  10. 1/4th tomato very finely chopped for flavour
  11. Large bit of fresh ginger smashed with skin to add flavour

Optional : Brocoli, sweet corn,potatoes,cabbage

Method:

  1. Boil all the veggies in water with salt to taste and the large piece of ginger with skin after its washed thoroughly , if it has too much mud on it please remove the skin , no knife skills needed just let yourself go, as Jamie Oliver would say !
  2. While these are almost boiled ,take the ghee/butter in a tadka pan(image pasted below ) add the garlic cloves with skin smash them using a mortar pestle before adding and then add the cumin seeds when the gee/butter is hot and sputtering.Add this ”tadka” or seasoning to the boiled veggie water mix and serve hot.
  3. The toasted garlic and ghee combination give off a sweet flavour and an appetising aroma.
  4. An ideal accompaniment is a boiled sweet corn stub slathered in low-fat butter and a slice of your favourite baguette !

Cheers to good health , easy cooking , healthy and wholesome meals and of course winter warmers !

Clear Veg Soup with an Indian Tadkawholesome goodness of vegetables in a broth!

Christmas Pudding

Last year we had a supermarket pudding , the intense flavours, the dry fruits steeped in alcohol the soft delicious feeling of putting a spoon through a perfectly set pudding on christmas night ummmm… I decided that the next time I MUST make one at home !After sifting through a few recipes I knew it had to be Nigella’s Ultimate Christmas pudding.

I have now promised myself that I shall plan months ahead and soak the sultanas much in advance but well this year I soaked the sultanas and a nut mix for 2 nights in sherry. The variations in ingredients recommended by Nigella are my use of a regular apple, supermarket sherry and a currant and dry fruit mix off a shelf. But the resultant mixture and the process of slow steaming gave me a deep rich colour, a lovely texture and 2 yes two puddings instead of one and that is what was the MOST satisfying part of this process! Landing up with 2 awesome well set perfect puddings , one to eat at home and one to share with a special close pal made christmas special 🙂

Oh yes and a big thank you to Lakeland for making such an awesome product, my pudding steamer with a lid that fits so well and is really easy to clean. The pudding just slipped out after a gentle tap and sigh…. I couldn’t stop admiring the perfect shape, the dark colour …I almost burst into song !

Well now for the list of Ingredients:

  1. 150 grams prunes – mine were soaked in syrup and came from a cam but they served the purpose just the same, I squeezed the syrup out before adding them to the sultanas.If yours are out of a packet they need to be snipped into smaller bits.
  2. 150 grams sultanas
  3. 150 grams currants or a currants and nut mix for puddings available in all leading supermarkets.
  4. 175 ml sherry of your choice
  5. 100 grams plain flour
  6. 125 grams white breadcrumbs
  7. 150 grams suet – I used beef suet, if you are considering a vegetarian option I haven’t used vegetable suet , if anyone has tried it please share your experience.
  8. 1/4 ground cloves
  9. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon – I used a ready-made powder
  10. 3 medium eggs
  11. 150 grams dark muscovado sugar
  12. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  13. 1 lemon large zest and juice
  14. 1 cooking apple (ideally) peeled and grated , I used 2 small red apples.
  15. 2 tablespoons honey
  16. 125 ml Vodka

Method:

  • This mixture gives 2 full-sized puddings , I have a 1 litre pudding steamer with lid from Lakeland and I had enough to make two full-sized puddings.
  • I must say our pudding is still sitting on a plate as I type this on the last day of 2012 , it’s asking to be microwaved and gobbled with some Remy Martin laced cream lying in fridge left over from Christmas, we had it Champagne cream on Christmas day and I assure you we had a feast and some very sleepy house guests after that …yes made me chuckle with satisfaction too.
  • Mix the sultanas,prunes and currants into a large bowl and let them steep in sherry overnight or upto a week. I let them soak for 2 nights.
  • When you are to start making the pudding mix take another large bowl and add all the ingredients in any order and then stir in the soaked sultana mix, scooping all of it off from the bowl.
  • Fill a large saucepan with enough water such that your pudding basin is soaked in it and use butter to grease the pudding bin and the lid as well.
  • Add the mixture into the basin and steam for 5 hours, checking ever so often and add some water to the saucepan. I must add that my pudding basin lid fits real well and after 5 hours were done it was quite easy to remove the basin from the saucepan and leave it aside to cool . No tying of strings , no foil and no danger of burning, besides like I mentioned cleaning is a breeze.
  • Keep aside your wonderful pudding which is done now, I peaked inside and it looked so good I had to really take a deep breath and stop myself from turning it onto a plate and start digging right it, but NO it’s meant for the Big Day!
  • Ok so now on D-day, steam the pud in its basin for 3 more hours, yes I trust Nigella’s recipes and hence the success for me a first time pudding maker 🙂
  • Well after it has had its steam and had cooled to an extent when you can open it and turn it on to a serving dish , it needs a gentle tap this basin and Viola! a rich dark well set pudding is there for you to admire and show off.
  • I did not add any charm before I started to steam it and I did not flambe’ it either but by all means use vodka and flambe’ to impress your guests !

Do leave your comments !

The sultana currant and prune mix in sherry Ground some CinnamonThe SuetThe mix is almost ready to go into the basinTa - Dah ! Here it is !Sigh, Pudding Perfection , I loveeed making this !Thanks Nigella!

 

 

MASALA ZONE ,SOHO,London

The word ”authethtic” has never felt so apt as when I use it to describe the offerings from Masala Zone. I am a frequent visitor to this place and it all started with my very first visit 2 years ago.New to London, needless to say terribly homesick , my husband decided to treat me to some delicious Indian cuisine. He couldn’t have chosen a better place.

The instant I walked it , I was greeted by a beautiful idol of the elephant headed Lord Ganesha and a massive urn decorated with floating flowers.The walls an earthy brown with delicate warli paintings all over.A welcome sight and instantly made me feel at home:)

I love Indian street foods,so gorging on CHAATS was in order.A masala Coke is lovely with the chaats and I can rarely stop at one masala coke. We went A’ la carte and got some spicy dal (lentil curry) and plain rice to go with it,closest in comparison to, my favourite comfort food which is varan bhaath- meaning simple yellow moong dal with ghee and steaming boiled rice!

Image below is of Sev Puri- thats small fired crunchy puris topped with mashed potato mix spiced with finely chopped tomatoes,sev which is the fine yellow crisp gram vermicelli,green mango bits and a tangy tamrind chutney with some finely chopped coriander sprinkled all over.

Image above is fried onion fritterr called Bhajiya in Hindi – thin slices of onion coated with gram flour mixed with spices and deep fried served with green chutney and tangy tamrind chutney.

In the image above there’s 2 plates of Ragda Pattice and a plate of Dahi Puri in between- Absolute CHAATilicious !Ragda Pattice is fried potato patty served with a gravy made from dried white peas cooked in a thick garvy and spiced with many different flavours topped off with various chutneys and sev. Dahi Puri is made by stuffing the puffed puris with a mix of mashed potatoes,sprouts,chutneys,sev and adding dollops of flavoured curd over it.Great for those who want to try a chaat dish and still avoid anything too spicy as the curd soothes your palate.

Last month we had a lot of friends and family visit us from India and U.S.A, all craving to have ”authentic” Indian food. All the edible looking snaps I have taken with my new Samsung Galaxy sIII are taken over several dinners.

Highly  recommended are the tasty and varied  ”Regular thalis” (mixed platter with a lentils,vegetable preparation of the day,another mix vegetable,some fried papad, rotis or rice as you choose,a sweet mango chutney, a green chutney and the main curry dish that you choose from the veg or non veg menu)which are quite filling and satisfy any cravings one has of either sea food,lamb,chicken or just good old plain veggie fare. Down it with some Mango Lassi and you are well on your way  to food heaven. One has to choose the gravy dish from their menu to go with a thali or their choice, I love Roghan Josh – a spicy lamb curry and both chicken gravys one with a coconut gravy and the other spicier and packs a real punch.The staff are quite helpfull, friendly and will explain each item in your thali once it arrives which is great considering the many tourists who come here.

If your planning an early dinner , a beer or wine with some chaat dish or fried  pakodas is apt.

If you want to go the whole hog, the dessert not to be missed is a serving of GulabJamun with Ice cream topped with pistachios.A perfectly sweet end to a meal fit for a king.

As their website says,it’s the place to go to for ”seductive Indian desserts”,”Sophistcated Indian Grills” and really wholesome Thali’s.

Masala Zone has 8 outlets in London, the one at SOHO,also the only one I have visited several times.

The service at this branch is prompt and most times it’s crowded especially on weekend evenings,if you are going in a big group to this particular branch, it makes sense to book yourselves a table.It’s a short walk from Oxford Circus tube station off the lively Carnaby Street area.

To check out Masala Zone‘s website click on the hyperlink.

Cheers!

 

 

Masala Zone Soho on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Goda Sheera (Sooji Halwa in Hindi, Prasadacha Sheera for Satyanarayan Pooja)

I have been planning for ages to make some goda sheera (goda =sweet in Marathi , my mother tongue and sheera stands for a sweet preparation made using Semolina as the primary ingredient ). I wanted to prepare this for Holi but was too lazy to do it but on Gudi Padwa , which is the Maharashtrian New year , I decided to be a good girl and preapre this sweet dish and offer it to my favourite god Ganpati Bappa:)

I love using milk and mashed bananas as it reminds me of the way my elder Sister prepares it and also of the many Satyanarayan Pooja Prasad (Prasad = offering made to god in the form of food etc) that I have greedily gobbled up all my life back home in India. My mother though prefers to prepare this dish using a mixture of sugar dissolved in water to add the sweet taste. Any way you choose to prepare it, I assure you it is a hugely satisfying experience preparing it  and gobbling it afterwards 🙂

It would be unfair to throw Indian terms at my non Indian readers so , Gudi Padwa is a festival wherein we Maharashtrians celebrate the end of the harvest season and welcome a brand new year with the Hindu Calender. Satanarayan Pooja is a Hindu ritual of worship performed to celebrate new beginnings like a wedding, a house-warming or during the annual Ganesh Festival . It requires the Man and the Lady of the house to perform an elaborate offering to god and the beautiful part of the pooja or the ritual is the Katha (Katha simply means story in Marathi) as it takes the listener on a journey through tales that define our religion. The ultimate offering of love for god at the end of this ritual is called a Prasad and is almost always Sheera .Please click on the hyperlinks to enjoy reading in detail about the terms used. I thank all contributors  of Wikipedia for providing such useful and beautifully written information. Oh yes and the most fun part of Gudi Padwa is the Gudi , it is basically a long stick covered in shiny wrapping paper and a decorative piece of cloth is placed on the top and an inverted ”gadoo” or a stainless glass of a particular shape is placed over it or a brass container which is used for poojas and is again a very auspicious piece of the ritual. The swastika symbol is made on it using bright red  kumkum, then this is wrapped with a garland of fresh marigold and bright green leaves of the mango tree and also a garland made from ” Batashe” which is a white leaf like thing made from concentrated sugar syrup and strung onto a string and made into a garland .This is then perched in the balcony and worshipped and kept on display for all to see , it is quite a sight to see colourful ”gudi’s” swaying outside everyone’s windows and balconies .

I had to make mine this year using an un-used shower curtain rod, golden wrapping paper recycled from Christmas, a steel bowl instead of the traditional glass and a bright red stole instead of the usual auspicious colours of green or gold !Anyway , this is what it looked like 🙂 , am quite proud of it really !

Below I have chosen 2 images from google which I feel are really good and stunningly clear images and really capture the spirit of the festival , the first of a couple dressed all traditionally and with the beautiful goodi being worshipped using a well decorated thali (plate containing several items for performing the ritual) and the second image is of the sexy Ms.Isha Koppikar looking like a million bucks and the gudi looks lovely as well !

(Image courtesy pic 1 :

http://idiva.com/news-relationships/creative-ways-to-celebrate-gudi-padwa/4090)

Pic 1:

Pic 2:

Image Courtesy Click here

Ok !so now, let me try to put down here the recipe in a simple and easy peasy manner.

Preparation time : Approx 45 minutes Serves :4

Ingredients :

  1. Semolina /Rava/Suji – I use fine rava as it is what I find is best for this recipe. approximately 2 small watis or ramekins.
  2. Ghee – plenty !
  3. Raisins – a handful
  4. Badam/Almonds – again a handful
  5. Saffron/Kesar/Zafran – a small pinch just to add colour and pomp !
  6. Cashewneuts/Kaju/Kajoo – if you like them ,not necessary) – a generous handful without the peel and unsalted .
  7. Milk about 200 ml
  8. One ripe Banana
  9. Elaichi/ Green Cardamom – about 6-8 – open them and crush the brown seeds to make a powder using a mortar pestle and we will also use the green outer cover to add a distinctive aroma to the recipe :),sounds so romantic doesn’t it ( err well …)
  10. Sugar – I use granulated white sugar ,take 2 – 2.5 measures of a small bowl ,actually the proportion is always 2:1 for the Semolina : Sugar for this dish so choose the quantity accordingly.

Method :

  • Boil some water and add into a small bowl, add the almonds , this will make it easy to peel off the skin. Soak some raisins in luke warm water so that they absorb water and can be dunked into the semolina at a later stage.

  • Add the Saffron strands ever so carefully to a small bowl of water so as to  allow the beautiful golden orange colour to disperse into the water .

  • Take 2 bowl fulls of Semolina and add to a pan and constantly stir it until it turns a light brown colour , if you do not keep stirring or put the pan on a very high flame it might burn and we don’t want that do we? Also, I use a rather heavy bottom pan  to ensure that the heat spreads evenly and that the Semolina browns well .

  • This is how it looks before we brown it :

  • This is how it will look after stirring for a while :

  • This is how it will look when it is done and ready for the next stage ,i.e to be added to the ghee :

  • Remove the pan from the flame and keep the Semolina aside .Now take 2-4 large tablespoons of ghee (Clarified Butter) in a vessel and warm it on a low flame, be very carefull when frying with ghee as GHEE heats up very fast and anything unattended inside the hot ghee can char easily. When the ghee is warming up add the cashew nuts first and wait for them to start browning, then add the remaining raisins – not the ones which are kept soaking in water ! The strong aroma of the warm Semolina , the beautiful smell of desi ghee and the in-your-face tasty aroma of the fried cashews will assault your senses in the most pleasant way and fill up your kitchen with an almost auspicious atmosphere, it’s when this happens that one truly feels festive from within and it is also at such moments I have massive nostalgia attacks and realise how deeply coded our childhood memories are and  how much a part of our memories are made up of familiar sights and sounds. I oftentimes find life in the western world paler, less colourful and too quite compared to the pomp , blast of colours and festivity that make up India …sighhhh !

  • The cashew nuts and raisins turn a golden hue as seen in the picture above and the raisins puff up quite a bit due to the heat of the ghee,be careful not to overdo the raisins as they are akin to tiny missiles filled with boiling hot oil and if they burst , you can get serious burns …booooo! The kitchen is quite a dangerous place for the uninitiated isn’t it ?!
  • Ok, while the cashew nuts are being processed , take a small vessel and add the 200 to 250 ml milk on a low flame, add the sugar and dissolve, stirring till it completely dissolves, do not allow the milk to boil but reduce it on a low flame, add the crushed green cardamom powder and the outer green cover. Add some of the saffron and the water in which it was soaked as well, keep some for adding into the mixture later. When this mixture is on the flame , it gives out an unmistakable aroma of sweet sugary milk and I can almost feel my teeth sink into the soft sheera and mentally I am biting into the fried cashews and the yummee soft Banana bits that play hide and seek with my tongue as I devour the sheera – AAHHH , anyway , don’t allow that to happen as it is considered wrong to savor the ”Prasad” before the Almighty is offered some for ”bhog” or in simple words god has been offered the sweet dish and it is assumed that he has symbolically consumed our offering and blessed us with all that we wish and desire for 🙂

  • When the cashew nuts and the raisins have been fried, add the semolina slowly in the hot ghee mixture , stirring continuously to prevent any lumps from forming and also to ensure that the semolina soaks up the ghee properly .

  • Once all  the Semolina is mixed well into the ghee and fried dry fruit mix it will look like the picture above , then add the remaining  saffron and water in which it was soaked to the mixture.

  • Then add the roughly mashed banana pieces into the semolina mixture.

  • When the sugar has completely dissolved and the milk has reduced a little , it is ready to be added to the semolina mixture. Add it stirring slowly , it will look like the picture below immediately after adding the milk and sugar into it.

  • Stir a bit more and here is what it will look like now :

  • For the smallest possible time , cover the mixture above on the lowest possible flame , it is then ready to be served, now add the almonds to season over the top , peel off the skin , thanks to the warm water they will come off very easily and then just halve the almonds or if you want to be very artistic and have some time cut the almonds into longish thin strips ,anyway which they add a definite crunch to the sweet dish and I love that ,you dish will now look like this :

  • Take some of this beautiful dish and serve into a small bowl to offer to the Ganpati Bappa – who has been made to shine and sparkle for the day and place it in front of him , hands folded ask for his blessings and wait for sometime till you are convinced he’s had some of the offering or ”Prasad”.

Aaah , now just look at the cute Bappa 🙂

HAPPY EATING ALL YE READERS who attempt to make it , do let me know any feedback 🙂 all good of course 😉

When the DAY takes control …..

I had a lovely day today, a close pal came over with her cute four year old and I cooked us a simple meal , we then went do some much needed shopping for groceries for us and after the boy had a good run around in his favourite play zone, I was dropped home to spend the evening relaxing.

I honestly hadn’t planned any of this and expected today to be like any typical day at home when I am not working part time and spend my time doing an unpaid job – LOOKING for a job – applying online to as many suitable vacancies as I can.

But that’s exactly what I love about today. Sometimes such unplanned surprises what turn a ho hum drum day into a simply delightful one .Cheers to more such relaxed simple days.

Oh , spring when will come so we can spend more time outside than freeze every time we step out of the door??

Chocolates n memories ummmm

Toblerone ….It’s not JUST another chocolate

To date this awesome pyramid shaped yummie remains the single most popular chocolate that all uncles’ aunts and doting parents get for the kids on the family from a holiday abroad.

I have very very fond memories of my dad returning from work abroad with a BEEEEEGGG bag crammed with chocolates amongst other goodies.

I am a chocolate lover and have always caved in, in the ace of temptation. Before I left Mumbai to come to London early last year , the Cadbury’s new introduction SILK was my all time fav guilty treat. I kept one stashed away in the fridge even when I stayed with my in laws for a while and my father in law and me gobbled it up turn by turn of course we had to ensure the wrapper stayed crumpled in the fridge lest the watch full eye of my sweet mil was to see how fast we were downing calories into our systems!

I found new chocolate heaven in LINDT chocolates over Christmas last year though, I must say for that few minutes when you pop a LINDT into your mouth it’s like sitting under a chocolate waterfall as the tongue is enveloped in a beautifully smooth taste and every taste bud is awake and singing out aloud in pure joy, the melting chocolate transports me into food nirvana EVERY single time J

Anyway back to the TOBLERONE, I was in the supermarket  a few days back, tired after a day’s work wanted to get a nibble to satiate the rumbling in my tummy till I got home, I wandered into the chocolate aisle and there it was sitting quietly amongst the others, I for a minute thought “why something  that’s gifted to me so often” .It’s then I realised that it’s actually been a really long time since any uncles or even my dad has got me one of these .

Seems a long time away in time that I was a kid or a youngster even…

So until some doting relative or parent gets me one of these I have decided to stock up on this goody for my sweet cravings and allow each bite to take me back to some happy growing up memory.