It’s that time of the year when Mahabaleshwar beckons, with its myriad sunsets, fresh fragrant strawberries and over powering array of flowers. We had ourselves farm fresh and organic vegetables just off the farm.
Since we do not use fertilisers or pesticides of any kind, we pluck off cherry tomatoes and radish straight from the Canadian pharmacy plants and merrily munch it on the go!
For a day and a half, we were just mom and son! We ate, drank and had some crazy conversations.
We both wanted something a bit healthy for our brain doping lunch, and anyways friends who love this dish have been asking for the recipe. So we decided to make it and blog it.
This is a super healthy snack. I sometimes have it as the lonesome dish for dinner too. It’s super filling, high in protein and very very healthy. It does not sit in your tummy, but leaves you feeling full and satiated. The tangy, spicy flavour makes it soooo very edible and tasty.
I optionally also add finely chopped raw mango (kairi) to it and reduce the lemon a wee bit. You can play around with it as you like. Reduce the spice, increase it (yaay!), add onions, take off the coconut, add a dash of green chutney!!! Just go for it. Not much can destroy this dish!
Add to it a dhokla mix, or to some other chaat item. Serve it mixed with broken idli and podi chutney. Let your creativity flow and do tell me also how you played with it!
Soong dal goes amazingly well with drinks. But serve it chilled. Like – absolutely and totally chilled. If you think of heating it – u might as well eat dal. So DO NOT HEAT this dish!!
Have fun! Cheers!
PS: Here is the video shoot we did for the Soong Dal. It’s very basic and rustic, as is the kitchen in our farm.
You have all the right to give me a few kicks on the backside. Talking off which, I promise you, the lack of communique and posts were nothing to do with me lying on my backside. I have been travelling non-stop and in a good way. Went visited the son in San Diego, and then the daughter in San Jose.
Immediately after that, there was a quick trip to Delhi, Bangalore, Chikmanglur, UK and Scotland – so you tell me, other than amassing a repertoire of good food recipes to develop, where would I have found the time to write a post? HUH?
I sent the husband to Food Hall (our best gourmet store in Bombay), for a spot of food shopping. Foodie that he is, he went quite unhinged and brought me back so much food, that when I think of it even now, I break out into a sweat!
Within this shopping frenzy, he got back fresh Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese. Since it was staring at me from the fridge shelf for more than two days, I wanted to make something with it. Frankly, I was quite done and dusted with the typical Caprese Salad. Using the same ingredients, we went about trying something completely new. I first considered topping it with mango salsa, but it sounded so bleh! And – the son made such a face, I immediately gave up the idea. So while standing and staring at the Mozzarella for more than 5 minutes, I came up with this concept.
One can call it a Baked Caprese Salad, but somehow the word “melted” made it sound a bit exotic and intriguing.
You will need a cast iron skillet. Mine was too deep, so I used my sizzler plate instead.
I sliced tomatoes and onions and sautéd them in a non-stick pan with good old olive oil. Then transferred them to the sizzler plate. Then – added the mozzarella and popped it into a hot oven. The Mozzarella melted overwhelmingly, and Voila I had a brand new dish in my hands.
I could have set the sizzler plate on top of the stove and roasted the tomatoes and onions directly on it, but I found it easier and cleaner to use the non-stick and then transfer the contents.
I wanted to use basil leaves and/or pesto, but again not the same typical recipe. Instead, I made Basil oil.
Melted Caprese Salad, is different, outlandish and out of the box. But hey! It’s tasty, wholesome and the best thing is it’s not boring. Enjoy it as a starter, or even as a heavy serving of side dish. I served it with thin slices of toasted baguettes drizzled with aged extra virgin olive oil. Melted Caprese Salad is garnished with pickled green peppers, but I think even capers would add an additional piquant flavour.
Another shout out from my daughter, for this recipe. I had made it for their friends when they were here and it was polished off in no time.
Well, many a good news hovering around me. The daughter got into Yale, my cooking classes have taken off and this darned blog has got fixed. There were some major issues, so all those of you who tried to come back for your favourite recipes and found gibberish in the ingredient section, my apologies. My very profound and heartfelt apologies. It could have got fixed earlier, but as usual, I was travelling.
I was in Mahabaleshwar, a small quaint hill station a few hours from Bombay. I have a home and a farm there, so this time the 12 days I stayed there, I ate off the farm, played with the new pup and chilled with my best friend Nishi.
We would wake up in the mornings, sit in the sun, (it was cold there!), and sip our tea and coffee. Then after a leisurely breakfast, we would put face packs (moisturising ones – like I said it was Brrrrr!) and jabber away for an hour or so. By the time the watch thought of turning both its hands to 12 – we would be sitting with our afternoon drinks – again yakking away to our hearts’ content. It was the most idyllic holiday one can have.
I plucked fresh Spinach, from the field and made this ultra easy and very delicious recipe. It needs very little preparation time. I have cooked it on a non-stick, with very little oil, but if you have a large party you can easily fry it in oil. I did it for the kid’s 21st birthday party and it vanished into mouths as soon as freshly fried plates were put in front of them.
I have also made a video, for a quick look-see. The first video I made was not “good enough” and my niece and son insisted I work a little harder and produce a better one. Well, they are not all that happy with this one either, but I lack patience so there is for all to view.
Unfortunately, I am not able to load the video here because of (temporary – I will fix it asap) data restrictions. But here is the Facebook URL
and there is the google drive URL.
I hope you will see the video and try the recipe. It makes for great cocktail snacks, lunch box sides, or sides.
Promise to get back with a recipe soon. I’ve been tardy!
This is something my grandmother used to have on her table, every winter – with big chunks of garlic and green chillies. This tart, sour mix tastes absolutely amazing with Indian meals. Try it with khichadi, roti, rice and dal, anything.
I made something completely off beat with it though. This is how it happened – I had guests coming over for dinner, I had fresh goat’s cheese on hand, and I love goat’s cheese, – And – I was bored of serving the same old goat’s cheese with the quintessential caramelised onions, or roasted veggies. So I looked in the fridge and saw my freshly made amba haldi.
I ran the tastes of both goat’s cheese and amba haldi in my mind, and thought it was worth taking the risk. I served it with great trepidation and waited with baited breath for feed back (no I had no time to taste it before serving it! – in any case I had already liked the pairing in my head!)
Everyone liked it. They loved the taste. And thank God, because it was very offbeat and very risky to serve something so bizarre!
Amba Haldi, is basically fresh white turmeric or mango turmeric. This is the yellow slices you see. The orange one is new turmeric. Ordinarily these two go together in this very traditional Indian pickle, optionally along with garlic and green chillies. It’s available in the onset of winter, and makes for a good healthy pickle which also works to build your immunity.
Amba haldi, tastes sour and tart. A lot like raw mango; even without the lemon juice decoction. Turmeric – well most of us have turmeric as a spice in our food. It really has no taste, but the raw turmeric does. It has an odd piquant taste, not very strong. Not something you need to get used to like truffles. It’s just a very different taste. I cannot liken it to any other flavour I have had.
Scrape the skin with a sharp knife, as the peeler will take away too much of the flesh. The skin is so thin and new that scraping with a sharp knife is good enough. Be careful as the turmeric will colour your hands yellow. It needs a load of lemon juice. Adding garlic and chillies is completely your call, as is adding salt. We Indians, any case eat a lot of salt in our diet, so I skipped it in my amba haldi pickle.
It hits the market as soon as the weather starts getting pleasant and the skin feels a bit dry! Also, try and get the fresh green peppers. I will give you the recipe for that real soon.
Enjoy and do send me feedback about this very off the beaten track combination.
First and foremost let me be fiercely profuse in my apologies for just disappearing. I spent 3 weeks running around Europe having a mad time. First two weeks with my girlfriends in Ireland, and then with the husband and another couple in Germany. It was a sabbatical of enormous proportions.
Our farm in Mahabaleshwar is well on its way to being planted. The rains were particularly vicious this year. We lost many trees and shrubs. But well, that’s the ebb and flow of life, and we are looking forward to some organic, homegrown fruits and vegetables.
I had my best friend over in Mahabaleshwar, and we kindled up the wood-fired oven and made ourselves some pizza. I make the dough using fresh yeast. When it is nice and plumply risen, I roll out small rounds and give it an initial dance into the fire. Once it’s mildly pre-cooked, I add the pizza sauce, cheese and toppings and send it for another jig. As a result, I get thin – and I mean ultra thin pizzas, with a crunchy crisp bite.
This time around, the wood was still wet from the rains. The fire would not catch, the hearth would not heat and the pizzas would just not pre-cook. After a few exasperated tries (the dough was rising, and would have spoilt) I picked up the rolled out pizza dough and flipped it straight into the flames.
I heard a collective gasp from my helpers. One started dancing on his feet, saying “ It will burn, it will burn”. I just grinned and took a tong and flipped it over to let it cook the other side. All this took just a few seconds. And out came the most fantastic precooked pizza. It had blown up like a pita bread, but the results were sooooo good. Crunchy, with oozing melting cheese which stuck to our palates and teeth.
beer battered onion rings
What I am trying to say here is cooking is an art – agreed, but it is also instinct. When I give cooking classes, I always tell my students, don’t think too much. If you want to substitute an ingredient with another do it. If you want to increase the heat do it. There is no right or wrong in cooking. Some person somewhere must have had jam with goat’s cheese and then started the trend of serving preserves with cheese. To my taste buds – nothing tastes better!
Enjoy the beer battered onion rings. These are my favourite fried snack, and my kids love them.
Darned easy to make. Just a little planning, as the onions have to marinate at least for two hours before they can be fried.
I make a quick fix, cheat sauce with these onion rings. They taste way better than, some store-bought sauce (though mine is a mix of store bought sauces :P) The fried ring, with the tart hot sauce gives it an amazing balance. Of course, you can substitute it with any other sauce of your choice. But do give my recipe a fair chance too.
Baking powder is a crucial ingredient in this recipe, so don’t try to substitute or do away with it. It is what gives the onion rings the crisp and crunchy texture when mixed with a beer in the batter.
My friend and me feasted on them, in Mahabaleshwar. Hope you like them too – PS: they go really well with chilled beer!!!
I was all set to meet the husband for a romantic lunch, but Bangalore being crowded, overpopulated, Bangalore, the traffic was such that it was either the lunch or the airport. And that airport had a plane parked which was going to take us to Goa! So really there was no dispute, the airport on time – it was.
I surprised our caretaker with a lunch request. She wasn’t prepared to make anything since I had announced gleefully about my romantic plans. So she hemmed and hawed, wondering what to make. (And I was feeling fussy about food that day!) Her husband (I have mentioned him before in my blogs. He is a complete foodie- for which I am eternally grateful!) Well her husband suggested “Kachcha Sambhar” in his typical local accent. It took him three repeats of the word before I realised that is what he actually meant. Raw Sambhar.
I have learnt to experiment and sometimes leave the suggestions to the experts. AND I WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED. In fact, I was in food paradise. Every spoonful going in was ambrosia. Now I love garlic, and I love spice, and the most fun part was it has not one drop of oil!! Perfect right??
We did take off to Goa, and we had an amazing time, caught up in that leftover romance and all that! 😛 But I raved and raved about the Kachcha Sambhar, and he finally told me to use other methods to turn him on!! ( 😛 we are a foodie family!!)
Here is the recipe — the tomatoes have to be burnt — burnt black on a high flame. Wait for it to cool, and skim the skin off. Please do wait for it to cool — this way the skin comes off and does not leave small pieces of black burnt skin behind. We don’t want any black stuff in the sambhar. Same goes for the green chilly.
This is a very spicy dish. Deseeding the chilly reduces the spice. If you want it less spicy, reduce the quantity of the chilly, but don’t delete it completely. That would be a SIN! and Karma will pay you back!!
Tastes absolutely amazing with rice and a bland veggie. I love it with chilla. You make your own combinations and message me.
I was on the floor worshipping this dish! Hope you like it too!
I had Hummus for the first time as an adult. It picked up as a rage, and every party had a bowl of Hummus, with Pita. Then came the Lavash. Crisp flat wheat savouries topped with seeds.
I had Hummus for the first time some 20 years ago, in a restaurant called Olive. They had the typical platter of Baba Ganoush, Hummus and Tzatziki. At that time – I thought it was made with magic. How could something so tasty, so creamy be so amazing and healthy? When I learnt to make hummus, I was amazed at how easy it was, but I never seemed to like it as much as I liked the ones in a restaurant.
The fact is – I used terrible shortcuts. Sesame instead of Tahini. Sacrilege!! (my logic – Tahini is made out of sesame right??) Too much garlic, not enough creamy texture — blah blah!
I thought I would never be able to replicate the hummus, we have in good Mediterranean restaurants.I love the Hummus Beiruti. Its creamy with a mild tang of spice. Polishing off a small bowl is no big feat.
I tried Hummus again, (after my many not so good tries) and this time I used the proper Tahini. Another thing a chef friend of mine suggested was using cold water.
In this recipe, I use a little leftover water after boiling the chickpeas. I like to soak the chickpeas at night, and cook it the next morning and make the Hummus a few hours later. The water left over from cooking the chickpeas and the chickpeas itself are cooled down and refrigerated.
The hard work is soaking and cooking, after that its the quickest recipe you can make.
Serve it with a Rocket and cucumber salad, over toast with Avocado, obviously with Pita and Lavash. So many ways!! Do write in and tell me how you like to present it.
I made Hummus for my son last evening, thinking he could have it with Avocado. Confidently, I also made a small olive oil, garlic and Sumac drizzle for the top. Failure of failures! – the Avocado was not ripe enough and we had to chuck it. (Once cut it turns black quicker than a piece of charcoal rubbed on a face!) Then he suggested that we caramelise some onions, and top it with the same. Bigger flop. I had no brown sugar with me, and any case something made in a hurry not always turns out good. It was sticky …. basically – a flop!! I was flapping around about what he would eat, but he said the Hummus was good enough to eat on its own.. YAAAY!! Hummus saved the day!
I am really not that big a fan of corn. According to me, eating it off the cob is the only way – boiled, roasted, barbecued! But man! It is too much of an effort! The son took me to Puesto, in San Diego. We had Mexican Style Street Corn, and I tell you, the effort of stuffing huge gobs of corn in your face, yanking off the kernels, and getting all the mayo and cheese stuck on your nose and cheeks was well worth it.
Many years back, I read an article, on corn in National Geographic magazine. A very young and naive me, almost had a hysterical moment, when I saw the variety of different types of corn grown around the world. Mexico takes the top position for it. I saw pictures of blue corn, 2 coloured corn, black corn, red corn, small corn.
The world just opened up for me. So now while I travel, I look for the local food caverns and stops, drink the local alcohol and eat the local food. My friend is a big believer in this – and has tasted alligator meat too. (Yup! she landed up with a massive stomach pain the next day!) I have always been taken by surprise on how local salt, local water and local ingredients can paint each dish with different colours.
When we have dal ki pakodi, in our native village in Rajasthan, the flavours are so original, so specific off each ingredient. And the same thing tastes a bit bland and bleh, back in Bombay. It is the local dal, and the water, which makes the dish all that much more delicious.
Corn from my farm in Mahabaleshwar tastes really good. It’s organic, and we cut it just a few minutes before we want to cook it. This recipe requires crumbled Feta Cheese. I like to freeze the cheese for an hour or so, then grate it with a cheese grater, then again freeze it. Just thaw it an hour before I need to use it. The cheese looks really nice and even and does not coagulate. I use the same trick when I need to crumble Goat’s cheese.
See the link of “how to roast corn” as shown in my previous post. You can, of course, use boiled corn too for this recipe.
Let’s go – visit the streets of Mexico with this one!!
Firstly – apologies for a late blog. I have been stubbornly trying my hand at making a video. (Sometimes a 7 sec video does the work of 70 words!) You will see the videos – its a clumsy first effort – but its there! And I refused to sit and refine it further as I was too impatient to get this post out!
It’s the monsoons in Western India, and corn grows like a rapidly thriving weed in this season. Our farm in Mahabaleshwar (Mahabaleshwar is known for corn) is throwing them out by the bushels. Unfortunately, my corn loving daughter is in the throes of digging our skulls and bones in the Caribbean. The husband travels around too much and the son and mom are not too fond of corn.
(Check out the anatomy of a cob of corn.)
Nevertheless, the way we roast the corn is something I wanted to share with you. (btw – I looked up the word roast in the thesaurus. It has a completely different meaning than what I am trying to do to the corn!!)
During the monsoon, every corner has a street vendor selling corn. We were in the market in Mahabaleshwar and saw this new technique. It takes longer, but the corn gets less burnt and tastes way sweeter.
The corn is peeled off all its layers, except the last. The silk (long strands) stays inside that layer. Then over hot charcoal, the corn is cooked, turning it repeatedly, along with the last layer of the husk (leaves). What happens is that the corn inside starts getting steam cooked, and the sweetness of the silk (the long thin strands) and the flavour of the husk (leaves) permeates into the kernel.
Once the leaf layer, burns off, you will start seeing the kernels. The corn might burn a bit if you are not careful and if the flame is too high (as it did when I shot the video!). So one has to be a bit careful here.
After the last bit of husk and silk are burnt off, and you feel the corn has cooked (press a kernel and check) you can manually peel away the rest of the (now semi-charred) husk.
Your corn is now ready to eat.In India, we rub this corn with a slice of lemon, dipped in salt and red chilly powder. While rubbing the corn, squeeze the lemon wedge into the corn. You can make it as tart and as spicy as you like. This is a typical street style corn on the cob.
I make this very often for the husband. But this time around I made Mexican style street style corn (next on the blog). The son had taken us to an excellent restaurant in San Diego, called Puesto. Mexican food bug bit me hard there. The menu was so very different from the typical Nachos, and Burritos. There is another dish that I have to put up on the blog soon – Street style fruits. I was very reluctant to let go of the water glass they had served it in. Bits of the spicy tangy mix was left over and I wanted to push my face in and lick it clean. I think letting go of the glass was as difficult as letting go of my kid when she first went to kindergarten.
Its the season to walk hand in hand with your partner or kid, get wet in the rains and munch on a hot spicy corn on the cob, straight from the street vendor. Go do yourself this favour – immediately!!
Then bring back home some corn and try roasting it my way too! How you eat it is up to you! 😛