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Showing posts from March, 2011

Book Review: How to cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor

The books that I have reviewed during the past one year all had something in common, The authors were first & foremost, passionate about food, the history & traditions behind it & ultimately, the art of creating a perfect dish. Reviewing this book has put me into a totally new turf. The author, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is  the most well known celebrity chef in India and amongst the Indian diaspora worldwide. which clubs him in the exclusive clique of such personalities as Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck & Mario Batali. The task of being objective is made just a tad bit more challenging.

What drove me to buy this book was the curiosity about how Indian cuisine was represented. Its an unfortunate fact that cuisine from Southern India still continues to play second fiddle to its more well known Northern Indian counterpart and this may be partially because it lacks a celebrity force to champion its unique flavors. (Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi may be of South Indian origin, but …

The ABC of an innovative day....

Today was a wonderfully productive day in terms of recipes.. 2 new dishes with secret ingredient that hardly features in any Indian dish, North, South, East or West.

 A. One of the first things that popped up on my facebook page was a YouTube video posted of a  song that has seen a resurgence thanks to the movie Mamma Mia. Yes. I'm referring to that ABBA Classic 'I have a dream'
As with all of us who have grown up to Abba, this was that 'song of the day' that would keep humming inside my skull for the remaining part of the day, thanks in part, to an Ipod set on repeat!

B. The person responsible for the ABBA posting was Karan Bali, an alumni of FTII and co-founder of http://www.upperstall.com/. This is the site I go to by default whenever I need objective information & reviews on any Indian movie in any language, new or not. Its one of the most comprehensive databases for all kinds of films made in India. Do take a moment to check the site out, Its definitely w…

Chukku Kaapi: Mocktail Version

When I blogged about my foray into mixology fusion, in addition to the group that were quite thrilled about the idea of a boozy version of  the traditional South indian Chukku Kaapi, there were an equal number of people who requested  a mocktail version. The immediate blunt first thought that replied mentally was... but that is just chilled regular chukku kaapi...& nothing could have been further from reality..

A lot of fruits have flavors that cannot to 'unlocked' by  a water based solvent. They require a chemical such as ethanol to completely dissociate & be perceived by the tastebuds & the nose. Next time you hear someone extolling the virtues of the nose & bouquet of a great bottle of wine, you know why! Ditto with fruit & other flavored liqueurs, the alcohol helps unlock some flavors that are otherwise hidden simply because the H2O in our Saliva cannot dissolve them to release their aroma to be analyzed by the nose.

The reason that so many Creme lique…

NOT your mother's 'Chukku kaapi' (Flames optional!)

(Entering this recipe for  Monica Bhide's spicy cocktail contest..Hey if you try, you might... if you don't you won't!!)
If there is anything that could possibly earn me the wrath of the angels, enough to flambe the top of my head, this recipe would be it.
The inspiration came from out of all things... a ginger spiked coffee that is part of the standard prescribed diet for new moms in many South Indian communities. Ginger being a natural digestive aid, is prescribed for its healing powers during the first 40 days of recovery after delivery! (I've probably disgusted half the men reading this by now!).
Personally speaking, there is little to compare over a warm mug of this freshly prepared spiced coffee (called 'Chukku kaapi' (chukku: dried ginger, kaapi : coffee in Tamil) in the early hours of the day, especially when prepared with care by a loving mom! The beverage is sweetened with honey or jaggery, never refined sugar.
Back to the fun stuff...
Th…

Really Large Ricotta stuffed gnocchi

Anyone familiar with the street food scene in India would invariably have come across a firm favorite: The 'ragda patty'
This surprisingly nutritious street side snack consists of a pan fried potato patty drowned in 'ragda', a mildly seasoned curry made with dried peas, & liberally garnished with raw onion & cilantro.
In the early days of panfusine & this blog, I had created a version of ragda substituting the patty with gnocchi. The dish was delicious, but my inexperience in writing about its potential as a star recipe may have pushed it towards oblivion.
My interpretation of this dish consists of a rather large pan fried gnocchi stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixture. The ricotta itself is seasoned with mint, coriander & lemon zest.
Its paired with a split pea puree, seasoned with ginger, scallions & garam masala.
I've resorted to including store bought tamarind sauce for the sake of convenience. A basic version of the recipe can be …

Tartlet Alphonse

It may be late winter in the US but this time of year marks the beginning of the Mango season in India and the 'Alphonso' is the reigning king of the hundreds of varieties that sequentially make their appearance.
http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/05/10/travel/10mumbailetter.html
Although the canned variety is never as good as the real thing, the uniformity in sweetness & texture renders it useful for baking purposes. I tried to recreate the taste of a refreshing mango punch ( referred to as 'aam ka panna' in hindi) made with ginger, mango pulp & a hint of cardamom.
The tart pastry recipe is from Carole Walter's book 'Great pies & tarts, p. 104, with minor substitutions (ghee instead of vegetable shortening and equal parts of All purpose flour & pastry flour)
Makes 9-10Tart Pastry:
3/4 cups All purpose flour3/4 cups pastry flour1/4 teaspoon baking powder1/3 cup frozen butter diced2 tablespoons Ghee partially frozen1/2 cup iced water1/3…

Schezuan pepper spiced South Indian 'Sundal'

Oh boy, that recipe name almost qualifies as a tongue twister!,
'Sundals' are simple stir fries using lentils or beans as the key ingredient.
Primarily of South Indian origin, they are a staple holy offering during the Hindu festival of Navratri. While the choice of lentils & beans may be numerous, the basic seasoning is almost always a 'tadka' (mustard, a dried arbol & dehusked split 'Urad' dal, sputtered in smoking hot oil) and a pinch of asafetida powder. Certainly NOT toasted Schezuan pepper!
The inspiration for this recipe comes from Merill Stubbs of Food52.com who suggested this recipe
http://www6.food52.com/recipes/3098_shichimi_edamame created by chezsuzanne, a contributor on food52.
Asafetida is a spice pretty much confined to Indian cuisine & it was pleasant to discover that it paired very well with schezuan pepper. The pepper itself lends a nutty aroma that complements the dish beautifully.
Thanks Merill & Chezsuza…

Kumquat pickle - Kerala style

On a visit to the Oriental grocery around chinese new year, I happened to pick up a rather large container ( the only size available) of Kumquats. These miniature oranges are so cute to look at & sniff, but can be quite challenging when trying to decide what or how to cook with them.
For one thing, this egg shaped citrus is quite reversed in its flavor profile. The peel is sweet & redolent of citrussy orange flavor, but once you peel it, you can barely make out 4 tiny segments bloated with inedible seeds. To top it all, the teeny bit of pulp is extremely lip puckering sour.
And so, these fruits sat on my kitchen counter for about 3 weeks. I kept weeding out the occasional rotten bad eggs from the rest, until i decided to use some of the peel for last weeks recipe. (yes folks, the pannacotta was garnished with candied kumquat peel, not orange)
Cut to my umpteenth sweep of Mrs. Ammini Ramachandrans book 'Grains, Greens & grated coconuts' ( I just have …