Mushroom and Paneer, with a dash of Jeera

I love cooking. If I didn’t have to do the dishes, I would end up cooking every other night. But, my tiredness from when I return from work, and said dislike for doing the dishes lends an air of purpose to my cooking sessions. These are the times when I don’t limit myself to something as simple as pasta or rice. Some of my favorite ingredients to use are mushrooms, tofu, and paneer (Indian cottage cheese). This is about one such time when I ended up with a surprise rendition of paneer.

When I used to share an apartment with the roommate, our joint grocery sessions would always involve generous stocking of the refrigerator with these. A particularly tiring day and a fully stocked refrigerator made me want to try out a spicy paneer and mushroom dish to accompany boiled brown rice. While the rice itself was very plain and easy to make, I went all ahead with the paneer. I took out spices from the racks that I hadn’t used in a while, cut up mushrooms into really thin slices, and used the stems to make stock instead of just throwing them away. The fact that fresh paneer was brought from the dairy instead of the frozen cubes made me warm. It’s not that I don’t like the frozen paneer we so easily get in the supermarkets, they just don’t stand on the same level as soft, fresh paneer straight from the dairy.

Slightly less than hour later, I was at the dining table staring at the dinner spread. A plate of cut vegetables with lemon juice sprinkled upon it, a small pot of starchy steaming hot brown rice, and a pan of the best damn paneer and mushroom gravy that I could have made. I picked the lid off the pan and just stared at it. I confess that it looked beautiful. A thick, brown, liquid broth in which swam tiny pieces of onions and tomatoes, as chunks of soft paneer gently floated to the top, joined by thin slices of button mushrooms. Thin wafts of steam were coming off the surface as a handful of cumin seeds (jeera) stood in abandon.

The cumin seeds were a nice touch. Their presence added more substance to a picture that would have otherwise felt incomplete. I remember to not have planned on using them, but it felt a very happy accident to have them. Something felt different about them though. Not just that I wouldn’t normally use them, they didn’t seem to look like normal cumin seeds. They were missing the multiple ridges that run across their length.

I then realized that I actually did not have cumin in the house, having finished my stock in the previous week. A brought a spoon full of it up to examine, only to realize that they were little beetles. The pests had infested a particular old batch of spice that I hadn’t used for quite some time. My feeling of joy at having made such a wonderful dish, was soon turned to disgust. I had almost ended up having bug broth for dinner. With Gusto.

With a feeling of relief that I had observed it before eating, I threw away the star item of my dinner. I made do with mixing a large spoonful of Chinese sauce with the rice, and a lesson to pay more attention to how I store and handle my spices.

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Dear Bindu kun & Pixie

Dear Bindu kun,

I wrote a letter to you some time ago, because I had a brand new fountain pen and ink flowed from it so smoothly that I couldn’t help but write. Now that I am doing this blog challenge, I cannot help but write this as well.

We met as fellow members of a book group which I was inducted in to by my lovely sister after I had sent her a book. There are so many ways it could have not happened. It could have been a different book, or sent a different time, or perhaps she could have graduated to a Kindle sooner, or might have missed out her morning tea that day, but certain set of events took place in the right order, with the right people for me to have found you.

I have said this before, and I will say it again that I am in awe of you. How you are able to manage work, a family, consuming books with that voracious appetite of yours, and cook is beyond me at times. Particularly when I struggle with something like making Maggi on certain work days. While we are on the topic of food, the pictures of your weekend kitchen are just not fair. Nuh uh. How do you expect us to sit on this side of the screen, and look at all the delicious cakes you bake, and stews you simmer? The only silver lining is that we don’t have it as tough as your immediate neighbors who even have to manage with sounds and aroma of the food being prepared. Well boo-hooo for them.

Do you know that you’re the person who’ sent me the most number of books? I liked the irony of you having sent American Gods and Religion for Atheists together 😛 . Oh and the cake and cookies you sent around new year’s were absolutely yum. One of the few rare moments that my friends or colleagues were explicitly forbidden (and I saw to it) from having even a single bite of the load. I had it all for myself. My precious.

When we do meet, I am looking forward to your cooking the most. I want to take in the sights and sounds of you getting about to making food. I have always believed that cooking for someone, is converting your thoughts and feelings for them into something physical, and then sharing it with them. I am sure I would end up licking something shamelessly 😀

Thank you for the food, the books, and the friendship.
Love,

Count Santulan

 

 

Dear Pixie,

For someone who got so involved in naming a rat snake that liked to say hi to the sister of mine, you don’t like the crawlies so much. But they’re so cute, no? Scuttling towards you just to say hi or hug you 😛 . Ok, I will digress from this topic lest you get tempted to want to punch me. Not that you don’t have reasons already 😀

Someday, when I have saved enough money to, I would like to make a trip to your place. I would like to sleep in at your place at least once, so that I can wake up early and kick you awake, or just yank off the covers if I am feeling kind. On second thoughts, I might prod you with a stick instead so that you didn’t kick me when I do wake you up. Or we can let you sleep in peace if you’re willing to bribe me by making Akki roti and hot rasam. Yeah, that should work out real well 😀

You’re another person who’s like family but we haven’t met in the flesh yet. Had we been in the same city, I would be eating a number of meals at your place. Or call in with ice cream at impromptu times, because ice cream.  Then you would tell me off on how so much ice cream is not good for me, and would end up eating half of it so that I don’t have to eat all of it. Such a generous soul you are 😛

But seriously, you’re the person who genuinely cares about people in your life in a manner that is not over bearing, and makes one feel warm from the inside. When you do get here, I can dump a bunch of books at your place for you to read. Personal recommendations from my personal collection, that I think you’d like to read.

Thank you for sending me pictures of the creepy crawlies that you meet on your walks (and in turn creeping out your husband in the process). I promise to treat you to puffs and patisseries when we meet.

Love,

Hrishi

 

 

Written for the 30 Days 30 Letters prompt: A letter to someone you wish you could meet. Other bloggers can add their links to the linky below:


 

Dear D

Dear D,

I am not writing your name here and using a letter instead so that people won’t be able to make a connection as to who you are, for obvious reasons. Sometimes I believe it is downright uncanny as to the manner in which you get an insight into what I write. I am of course referring to some micro poems that I had written, and you called them on spot on in our chats. Our chats, how I love our chats.

What I love the best about them is that the honesty we share in it. We don’t seem to run out of things to share with each other. That we can at times not talk for days with only as much as a good morning, and then pick up after for a long conversation is an aspect that I cherish. I remember the time we met for coffee, and spoke so much and go so carried away that the lady on the table next to us had to ask us to tone it down. To be so lost in conversation with another person, it is not a surprise that it left a cherished memory.

But all of this, makes me happy and worried at the same time. We’re two different souls, so very different. I am an atheist, and you’re religious. I would go to all ends if it meant getting what I want, and you’d give up all things if it meant doing so for the family. And yet I find myself gravitating towards you, Gravity, yes that is what I think of. A force that I cannot see, yet it definitely pulls me towards you.

One of the earliest conversations that I remember with you is of your time in Bombay when you had gone for a friend’s marriage. It was followed by some time on the beach with friends, where you chatted away to glory. The idea of it stuck to me. A time spent with you in a place where our conversations wouldn’t be interrupted. I would want to cook for you. I haven’t done that yet. Happiness has mostly involved food for me. And cooking for someone, I believe is putting what you think in to some thing physical.

I would definitely like that, a time together, conversations and some cooking. But let us see where and what end up with.

With love 🙂

 

Written for Day 2 of the 30 days 30 Letters prompt: A letter to your crush

Other bloggers can add their posts to this linky:

Recipe: Rice Koki

A Koki is a part of the Sindhi cuisine, and is a type of flatbread. Based on the same idea as a paratha, it is twist on it. While a paratha has stuffing in it, the koki has the same ingredients incorporated in the flour mixture before it is kneaded.

This recipe adds yet another element of twist in it, by adding leftover rice. Mom has been making ever since I can remember, and she was taught by her mom. For best results you need leftover rice, which is at least 6 hours old since preparation. You can use freshly cooked rice, but it doesn’t give the same texture.

Ingredients:
• Leftover Rice – 1 cup
• Flour – 3 cups
• Chillies – 2, finely chopped
• Tomatoes -2 finely chopped.
• Onion (Optional) – 1, finely chopped
• Red Chilli Powder – 2 tsp
• Salt – to taste
• Oil – 1 tbsp for mixing in dough, more to pan fry
• Water – to knead dough

Process:
• Take a large plate or vessel in which you can knead the dough. Add the rice to it.

kokirice

• Add all vegetables save the tomatoes

kokispices
• Add the flour
• Add the spices and oil

kokidough
• Add the tomatoes. Mix well

kokitomat

• Add water as you’re mixing and knead the dough into a pliable consistency.
• Once you’ve kneaded the dough, make small balls that you can hold in your fist.
• Roll out each ball flat using a rolling pin

kokirol
• Heat a tawa/pan
• Add two tsp of oil to grease the pan
• Place the rolled out dough on the pan and let it heat evenly

kokitawa

• Flip it once it has changed color and appears cooked
• Cook the other side just as well

kokichut

And voila, your koki is ready. Traditionally it is had with some mint chutney.
You can drop a dollop of cheese spread if you’re partial to cheese like me.

kokidone

Written for day 11 of the A to Z Blog Challenge

 

Jalaram Nasta House’s Sev Usal

Sev Usal is a spicy Maharashtrian dish. Sev is actually fried noodle like strands made of chickpea flour and fried, while Usal is a gravy made with white peas and chutneys along with spices and condiments like ginger, garlic, tamarind and so on. The dish is an incorporation of the two elements. While it can be had by itself, it is more enjoyable to be had with a bread bun locally called as Paav in India.

While Sev Usal is not a dish that is native to Baroda, people of this city have brought it as close to perfection as possible. In turn, the residents of Baroda have showered love by making it a staple part of their diet. A Sev Usal stall is common sight. In fact, in terms of food dishes it is considered by many to be the pride of Baroda.

Locally, Mahakali (named after the Hindu Goddess) is one of the most popular places to have this at. Such is the popularity that many more small time stalls bearing the same name or a variation of it have come up. However, my personal favourite place to have it is the Jalaram Nasta house which is also called Lalabhai’s Sev Usal centre.

Located inside a lane that opens to a road, it is not very easy to locate unless you’re specifically looking for it. I remember getting lost, the first time I went there alone without my friends who would normally take me there. It is marked by a banner in red with the name written in white in Gujurati.

lalaoutside

You will first be given a premixed dish to get you started with. If you ask for extra (and I always do), you’re first served the sev and onions, while the gravy comes few moments later.

lalsevdry

You can mix and match the sev with the Usal to get the combination you feel right. This is how I start.

lalatable

An important aspect over here is what is locally called the ‘Tari’. It is basically a chilly preparation made from oil, green and red chillies. It is very spicy, and is added on top at the last before mixing the whole thing.

lalatari

To be honest, this is one of the reasons that gives Sev Usal its signature feel and adds an extra dose of yum. And there, you finally have your Sev Usal ready..

lalasevusal

Feel free to dig in.. Part of their team was happy to be part of a picture that I took before leaving.

lalateam

The dish and the place are so wonderful that I take my guests and friends over to have a taste of this iconic dish. This is a picture of Shail di and me, when she had come to visit quite some time ago. Repeated comments as to how much younger she looks, may result in bricks flying in your direction 😛

lalashailandme

I am attaching its location on Google Maps for you to locate it.

 

Written for day 10 of the A to Z challenge.

 

Hola for some yummy Mexican food

This is another place that I stumbled upon by accident. I was looking for a place that accepted online orders and payment for home delivery orders, when I came across HOLA Mexicana. I enjoyed their food so much, that I ended up ordering at least once every week for some time. Soon it dawned upon me that while I have had their yummy food many times, I haven’t actually been there even once. I made up my mind to go there over the weekend.

HOLA Mexicana is quaint little place nestled in a building complex Fatehganj, Baroda. Their banner is well lit, so that you don’t miss it. The only catch is that you can easily park a two wheeler, but a car will need some efforts.

holaent

They have a warm looking interior, which can easily manage 20 or so patrons. One of the plus points is that they have A/C and wifi, so it makes spending the hot noons or evenings easy.

holaint2holaint1

One of my regular orders over here is their mexican rice. While they offer both veg and non veg options, I like to go with the chicken version. It is a fabulous combination of rice, sauces, spices, tanginess, vegetables, beans, shredded chicken (since I go for the non veg version) and cheese. I have had it almost everytime I have ordered from them, and I still enjoy it each and every time.

This is what the bowl of mexican rice looks like when you receive it.

holarice1

I like to give it a nice mix, before diving in.

holarice2

Not one to get satisfied with just one bowl of rice, I order something else to go with it. This time I ended up with one of their omelettes.

holaome1They make a nice fluffy omelette that has stuffing inside the fold. Mine had chicken, vegges, spices and cheese. Needless to say it was absolutely delicious.

holaome2

What is even better about the place is that in spite of serving such delicious food, and giving you a warm and comfortable ambience, they are easy on the wallet. Here’s a snapshot of their menu

holamenu

This is hands down, one of my favorite places in Baroda to have mexican food. I will leave you with a picture of the HOLA Mexicana team who were happy to pose for a pic for me.

holateam

 

 

Written for day 8 of the A to Z challenge

Gokul Ras thad, a delicious discovery

I love those happy accidents when I find a place I have never been to before, and end up having brilliant food at it. One night, my old room mate and a friend came over and asked me to join them for a drive. Since none of us had dinner, the idea was to have something on the way. We had taken the old NH8 highway out of Baroda towards Ahmedabad. Around 9 kilometers on the highway, we stopped outside this place which we hadn’t seen before. Since the place had opened only two months ago, few people knew of it then.

Gokul board

I absolutely loved this idea of having small tents over each table. This way you can enjoy the cool breeze that is blowing, and yet maintain your small personal space. There are lights and pedestal fans inside the tent, for when the wind is not enough.

gokul tents Gokul tentThese are how the tents looks up close. There is enough space inside for a group of 6 to sit and eat comfortably.

Three of us were in the mood for Kathiawadi (belonging to Saurashtra region of Gujarat) food, so this is what we ended up ordering:

Wagharela Rotla (Broken flat bread that has been stir fried with spices and sauce)

Gokul rotla

There was Lasanya Bateka (Potatoes made in a gravy with loads of garlic)
Gokul bateka

The friends love Brinjal so we ordered Ringan/Baingan Bhartha (Squashed Brinjal)

Gokul bhartha

And some Ringad ane papdi nu saak (Brinjal Sabjee with beans)

Gokul brinjal

Of course we had piping hot rotis with fresh white makhan (butter) on them

Gokul rotibutterSince I felt adventurous, we had fried sated chillies (which I didn’t eat , and my friends had to finish)
Gokul chillies

And this is how my plate looked when we were eating.

Gokul plate

 

So, if you ever end up with a craving for Kathiawadi food, with some lovely ambience, I will accompany you here.

 

Written for day 7 of the A to Z challenge, 2014

 

Canara Coffee House

One of the first things that I wanted to know of, once I had taken up a job in Baroda was where all the good food is available. I have friends from college who call Baroda home, and they were more than happy to take me to the right places. One such place is Canara Coffee house.

1-Canaralogo

 

Canara Coffee house is a place where people have been going to with their family for years now. The place is popular strictly on account of word of mouth at how good their food, or because someone from the family has been going there for at least a generation now. The thing that Canara Coffee house is most famous for is Poona Misal.

3-canaramisal

Misal is a Marathi word and means mixture. Typically sprouted moong (green gram) is mixed well with spices and pastes, and topped with chopped onions and tomatoes along with some namkeen chewda. Namkeen Chewda is in itself a spicy mixture of dried and fried lentils, chickpea noodles (called sev), peanuts (called sing), roasted rice puffs (called mamre), and more.

A generous helping of curd is given along or dabbed on top so that it serves to cool this hot and spicy mixture. You can choose to have it as it is, but that is not fun. You can take a spoon, and mix it all up. This gives you a lovely mixture of things hot and cold, sweet and spicy, crunchy and wet.

4-canaramisal2

Another thing that this place is famous for is their South Indian food. You will find the standard fare of Dosa, Idli, and Uttapam here. MY personal favorite happens to be the Masala Uttapam which is pan cake made from a batter made mainly from rice and dal. Then a generous layer of spiced, mashed, boiled potatoes along with onions is applied. When you have it with their Sāmbhar and chutney, it is absolutely yum.

5-canarauttapa

Look at these pictures which show how the place still retains its old charm.

8-canaraext 7-canaracorner 2-canramenu
The thing with the lights is their menu. They have a wonderful concept for the menu here. The menu has a listing of all the dishes they serve along with its price. Since the things that are served change for breakfast and evening meals, each item has a light turned on to show if it is available for serving at your time of order. I absolutely love it.

6-canaramenuclose

If you ever want to visit this place, I am attaching its location on Google Maps. Let me know when you’re coming, and we’ll enjoy a meal together.

 

 

 

 

Written for day 3 of the A to Z Challenge 2014

Recipe: Appe with green chickpeas

Appe is South Indian dish that is popular in the Konkan region of India. Traditionally, Appe is made from rice flour and Urad dal. Since green chickpeas (hare chane) are in season, I’ve added a twist to the recipe to make it with the chickpeas and semolina (Suji). You will need a special cooking utensil called ‘Appam patra’ for this. It is a pan with mini bowls built into it. You can see how it looks in the pics that follow.

Ingredients:
• Green Chickpeas / Hare Chane – 2 cups, soaked over night
• Semolina / Suji – 2 cups
• Onion – 1
• Peanuts – 2 table spoon, crushed.
• Green Chillies -2
• Coriander – 1 table spoon (Optional)
• Red Chilly powder – 2 teaspoons
• Asfoetida / Hing – 1 pinch
• Tomato Puree – 2 table spoons
• Salt – To taste
• Water – 1 cup
• Oil – to fry

Process:
• Finely chop the vegetables (Chick peas, chillies, onion). I like to run them together in a chopper

appam ground
• Place the vegetables in a large bowl, and add the spices.
• Add Semolina and the crushed peanuts. Mix well.
• Add the tomato puree and mix well.
• Add half a cup of water. Mix the concoction so as to remove any lumps. It shouldn’t be too runny. Only add the other half cup of water if your mixture is too solid and cakey.

appam mix resting

• Let the mixture rest for at least 30 minutes.
• Put the Appam patra on medium heat, and grease it with oil.
• Using a spoon, place a dollop of the mixture in each mini bowl.

appam cooking
• The lower part should get done in 5 minutes. You will notice drying and browning around the edges when this happens.
• Delicately over turn the dollop in the mini bowl.

appam done
• Pour oil around its edges.
• You can cover it now with a lid if you want the Appe to be softer.

appam covered

And voila, you’re done with the Appe. You can serve it with a chutney of choice.

appam all

Since I had some leftover rajmas from the night before, I used that as a dip instead of going for a chutney.

appam plated

Happy eating 😀

Written for the A-Z blogging Challenge for April 2014. I would not have been part of this challenge had it not been for the nudging of Blogwati G, Shail Di, Janaki, and Kajal

Happiness on a barbeuqe

Food has always been something that makes me happy. Some of my favorite memories are associated with it. I think I have now come to a level where food is something beyond the daily nutrition a body needs. It is a spiritual experience. Food is something that can make you salivate as you look at it, a mere whiff of well-made food can give you goose bumps, while taking a long slow bite will have you close your eyes and just get lost and the juices flow down your throat.

This post is about one of my favorite place to eat: Barbeque Nation (Vadodara). While I have been living in Baroda since 2009 started, and kept hearing rave reviews of the place I could only eat there a year after in 2010. It happened as a spontaneous decision, when I was discussing with a friend where we could get to eat some wonderful chicken. Twenty minutes later, we were giving out orders for juice at the place.

Let me tell you how the place works. You select one complimentary drink from the menu (and can order more that will be charged extra), while they start serving you starters on your table. The center of the table has been cut out to make place for a mini barbeque, where skewered foods will be placed with red hot coals below the grille. Let me tell you that their food is wonderful. One of the best I have ever had. My friend and I literally hogged our way through them. When we were about to be feel full, we asked for the bill to be brought in. The server who came asked if enjoyed our main course, which made my ears twitch and ask him where the main course was, followed by asking him if we would be charged extra for it (sheepishly so, I might add).

The main course you see, is part of the package. It is not served to you at your table, you have to go take what you want in your plate instead. There are salads, soups, daals, sabjis, some pulav or biryani of some sort. Rotis and naans are served at your table though. Yes, both veg and non-veg options are available in the main course as well. I had my second emotional surge when I saw that there was a big assortment of desserts as well. Belt loosening, salivating and becoming a poster boy for ‘kid in a candy shop’ later saw me eating even more. This is how it is at all barbeque nation places, and how I am each time I visit them.

I have been to this particular Barbeque Nation many times, and once to a different city as well. While the food was awesome at both the places, I have a soft corner for this on account of the fondness for the staff here who are ever so courteous and happy to serve you. No matter how packed the place is, their service and quality doesn’t go down. I have pictures of one such time spent there with friends, which I will share with you now.

nonvegskewer
Chicken, lamb and fish on skewers
Broccoli, mushrooms and some other vegetables
Broccoli, mushrooms and some other vegetables
Sushi
Sushi
Our drinks. I have a pearl oyster. Which had an egg in an oyster on a bed of ice
Our drinks. I have a pearl oyster. Which had an egg in an oyster on a bed of ice
Gulping the oyster
Gulping the oyster
Trying to have it all in a go
Trying to have it all in a go
The fish
The fish
This is the wonderful reaction to that wonderful dish
This is the wonderful reaction to that wonderful dish
Closeup of the fish. Don't ask the name, forgot
Closeup of the fish. Don’t ask the name, forgot
Friends having a go at the salads
Friends having a go at the salads
I love desserts, and they love me back
I love desserts, and they love me back
nirvanabbq
This is how I look when I am lost to good food

Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words -2. Day 2 prompt : Food