Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Egg-dunked Chicken Sandwich

There is something melancholy about a year coming to an end. In grand scheme of time it is undoubtedly insignificant, but somehow it is significant in the moment. Another year comes to an end today and I feel a little sad. I wonder why though. It has been a good year punctuated by moments of haze, and I am raring to whoosh into the new year, but this lingering feeling of loss remains. And the weather here in Calcutta, dull, grey and gloomy, is not helping. The only thing that could help get over this gloom and get into the party mode is great food. So, I made a special breakfast, the last breakfast of the year. And now that I have relished my Chicken sandwich dunked in eggs, I think this will feature on my breakfast menu recurrently in 2015. You could make this for a special New Year breakfast or brunch tomorrow. It is easy to make, the stuffing can be made in advance and it is delicious. The sandwich is inspired by the classic Monte Cristo sandwich, that usually has han, cheese and turkey between bread which is them dunked in an egg batter and fried. But it is quite different at the same time.


Sandwich bread slices : 12
Tomatoes cut in thin discs : 2 large
Butter to smear on the bread
Eggs - 4 large
Milk - 1/2 cup
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Oil spray or white oil for shallow frying.

For the filling
Minced chicken : 500 g
Butter : 50 g
Nutmeg powder : 1/2 teaspoon
Minced garlic : 1 tbsp
Juice of an onion
Salt to taste
Coarsely ground pepper - 1 tsp
Milk - 1.5 cups
Flour - 1 tsp
Parmesan cheese - 4 tbsp (optional)


For the filling 
Marinate the chicken with onion juice, garlic paste and salt.

Heat butter in a pan. Add nutmeg. Once it splutters add the marinated chicken.

Fry the chicken until it begins to acquire a golden tinge.

Add milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until chicken is absolutely tender and the liquids have almost dried out. Stir from time to time during the cooking process.

Add coarsely ground pepper. Sprinkle the flour and mix well. Add cheese (optional) and remove from heat and keep aside.

For the sandwich.

Whisk eggs in a bowl. Add milk and whisk some more. Season well.

Remove the sides of the bread slices. Spread butter generously.

Place stuffing on the buttered face of six slices. Top it with tomato rings. And then cover with the remaining slices of bread, Press the sandwiches gently but firmly. Cut each sandwich diagonally to make triangles.

Now place the frying pan on heat. Grease it well with white oil or use oil spray. Now carefully dip each sandwich into the egg batter and shallow fry until both sides are golden. Or fry to your liking.

Serve with some fresh cut salad.

Mad about Melbourne

Hi Guys, This post is my entry for a contest by Tourism Victoria on IndiBlogger.in.All I had to do was answer this....and boy did I know exactly why! 

What's your reason for falling in love with Melbourne, the most livable city in the world?

Wish me luck since this is the first contest I am entering as a blogger. 
 If I win the contest I could go on a trip to Melbourne! But there is something in it for you too. Read on 

I still have the pair of Koala Bear earrings my aunty Tutu brought me as a gift from Australia when I was nine, may be ten, years old. Aunty Tutu is my mother’s best friend who shifted to Australia after marriage, and her yearly visit to India has been the top annual attraction of my childhood years. Aunty Tutu’s accounts of life Down Under, the description of her suburban home on the outskirts of Melbourne, the backyard barbecues and wild macaws that visited her garden from time to time, are still brilliant and vivid in my memory. “Melbourne is the place to be,” Aunty Tutu would state categorically, “you guys must visit us soon,” she would urge my parents.

My parents invariably made promises, assuring Aunty Tutu that a trip was on the cards. They said it in such earnest that I too believed that I would be on a plane to Melbourne soon. In my mind I had imagined chasing kangaroos on the roads of Melbourne and cuddling Koala Bears in Aunty Tutu’s backyard. Come on I was only a child. But that trip never happened.

However, my desire to visit Australia, especially Melbourne, continued to linger at the back of my mind. And now, right at the top of my Things-to-do-before-I-die list is to explore Melbourne’s bustling food scene. Melbourne is all about gorgeous, delectable food – from tiny cafes tucked in narrow lanes to chic fine dining destinations, rustic backyard barbecues to groundbreaking culinary experiments in Michelin starred kitchens, celebrity chefs and ingenuous rookies – Melbourne has the world eating out of its palm. With a culinary fabric as rich, I have no doubt that Melbourne is the most livable city on earth. Add to that a crazy love of sports and the arts.  In fact, I say, it is the place to be.

My desire to sit on that plane to Melbourne returned with a renewed vigour following my fixation with the MasterChef Australia. The show of course needs no introduction. My obsessive love for food is no secret, and MasterChef Australia is all about glorious food. But that was not it. It was also about glorious judges, who in turn were glorious chefs. My favourite – Gary, of course. Gary Mehigan is a gorgeous man who cooks gorgeous food and one of the reasons why I would love to visit Melbourne is to eat at Mehigan’s gorgeous restaurant in Moonee Pond - The Boathouse. The food he serves is simple but stunning, just the way great food should be. I would happy to sample a simple wood-fire pizza at Gary’s. And I can always hope to bump into the man himself!

But The Boathouse is only one glittering strand in Melbourne’s mind-boggling culinary fabric. There are culinary giants like Shannon Bennett, Frank Camorra and others taking the city’s gastronomic reality to fantastical heights. Oh how I would love to crunch into Camorra’s signature Anchoa, hand-filleted Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on croutons with smoked tomato sorbet, sitting in his very own MoVida. And what I could give to dine to a view like the one offered from Bennett’s Vue de Monde, located on the 55th floor of the iconic 63 floors high Rialto building.

 It’s not just about, sophisticated gastronomy, I cannot wait to explore the lanes of Melbourne to make my own culinary discoveries that I would be proud of. Or spend an afternoon at one of the cafes in the beautiful Federation Square. “Melbourne won’t disappoint you,” a friend who has lived in Melbourne for a couple of years assures. Or merely explore the fresh produce at local markets – the meats especially! The best part about the city’s food culture, often dubbed as fickle, is its diversity. Melbourne has food from all over the world and for all budgets.
And, between all the eating in Melbourne, sneak in  a trip to the Yarra Valley to sample some superlative wine and with it some great food. And while in the area why not hop onto the Puffing Billy, the century old steam engine that chugs through the picturesque Dandenong Ranges. In fact, other than food, there are innumerable attractions in the city of  Melbourne and its surroundings in Australia's south-eastern state of Victoria. Read more about it here.

And now a contest for my readers too. Answer this question and stand a chance to win a exciting gift voucher. 
Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why? 


Please note this is a Tourism Victoria Contest on Indiblogger.in 


Sunday, 28 December 2014

Nolen Gur'er Kanchagolla

I still remember Moni Dadu. Moni Dadu was a friend of my paternal grandpa, a younger brother of sorts actually. They lived in the same neighbourhood in Serampore, a former Danish colony on the river Hoogly in West Bengal, where our ancestral house is. I haven't told you about my paternal grandpa before. That is because I have no memories of him. He died when I was a year old. I have grown up hearing about his life from my grand ma and the others And from Moni Dadu. Perhaps that is why I remember him so vividly. About Moni Dadu, now. His name was Moni Shankar De, a humble man of modest means but one with a big heart. And even after my grandfather passed away he maintained the tradition of his annual visit, and always looked out for our family.
After my grandfather's death, however, he always came around the day of his death anniversary. And his conversations were invariably restricted to reminiscences of his time with my grandpa. For years it had been the same, he came on the first or the third of December, in the afternoon, he wore the same white dhoti, a white shirt and a brown sleeveless sweater, spoke of the same things, asked the same questions, and left in the evening, 7 o clock sharp, every time. Another constant was a huge box of sweets from my grandpa's favourite sweetshop, the legendary 160 year old Felu Modak Sweets in Rishra, the town adjacent to Serampore. That was for me the highlight of his visit.
Felu Modak's  sweets are stuff of legends and their Gutke sandesh, especially the ones infused with date palm jaggery or Bengal's fabled Khejurer Gur, made only during the winter months, is cult stuff. Moni Jethu always brought the gutke sandesh for us. The problem was - I only got to eat a couple. After all we are a big joint family and we shared. I was not too happy sharing the gutke though. It is difficult to stop at a couple.
One time when Moni Dadu came visiting, my aunt made the mistake of giving me the entire box of gutke sandesh to keep in the kitchen. I obeyed. I went into the kitchen, kept the box on the kitchen counter, turned around and was just about to walk away, when the thought occurred. I can always pop in one gutke, from my share of two. So I did. The problem however was, I didn't stop at one, neither at two. I have no clue wht had gotten into me, but by the time I came back to my sense only 5 or 6 gutkes were rolling around in the box. I was terrified.
I have always been a commendable actor and I can cook up stories alright. So I ran down the stairs, panting more than I should have and screaming at the top of my lungs, "The cat, there is a cat in the kitchen," The plan was to convince every one that the cat had eaten 30 odd gutkes. Our kitchen, back then, was on the fourth floor, a roof top kitchen actually, and a cat had been the least of our worries. I do not  exactly.remember what followed but I do remember the feel of my mother's merciless fingers wrapped around my ears as she draged me past Moni Dadu into my grandmother's room and I also remember the slaps she planted firmly on my cheeks.

Anyway, so much for Nolen Gur'er Gutke. My other nolen gur favourite is the kanchagolla. A soft, moist cottage cheese sandesh infused with the goodness of nolen gur. And a couple of days ago i tried making it at home. It was bull's eye at the first go and I couldn't be happier. My cousin said it was as good as store-bought and I was ecstatic. Now date palm jaggery or Khejurer gur comes in various forms, the hard 'patali', the smooth, runny golden syrupy version referred to as 'jhola' or 'poira' gur and also a thicker, grainy version - nolen gur. In my recipe I used the thick grainy nolen gur. 

Ingredients  (Makes 8-10)

Milk - 1 litre
Calcium lactate
Nolen Gur (thick grainy variety) - 3 tbsp + 2 tbsp
Condensed milk - 2 tbsp
Raisins - 8-10


Bring the milk to a boil, and while the milk is bubbling away, add the calcium lactate and let it boil until the milk curdles producing chhena and water separates.
Strain  the water and the give he chenna a nice rinse under cold running water.
Tip the chhena onto a large tray and knead it until smooth. Add the nolen gur (3tbs) and knead some more so that it is uniformly infused. Finally add the condensed milk adnd mix well.
The mixture will be a little wet. But that's how we want it.
Now heat a heavy bottomed pan and add the chhena mixture into the pan, lower the heat and let it cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring continuously. Once the gur releases it smoky aroma and leaves the sides of the pan,  and the chhena is somewhat dry, remove from heat. Be careful not to overwork the chhena or you will get extremely dry and the sandesh would turn out brittle.
Add another 1 tbsp of nolen gur and mix well. Sculpt into 8-10. equal balls while still warm and top it off with a raisin and a smidgens of gur..  

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas at Flurys

If you're in Calcutta during Christmas, and I insist on calling my city Calcutta rather than Kolkata, especially in this context, you can't not take a stroll down Park Street and if you are on Park Street you might as well stop for a meal at Flurys. In fact you must, especially to sample their Christmas Specials menu. I have.

The predominantly meaty main course section includes holiday classics like - Traditional Roast Turkey with onion stuffing and the works - roasted new potatoes, crunchy vegetables, bacon wrapped chipolata sausages - topped with a sweet and tart cranberry sauce; Grilled pork chops with maple glaze served on a bed of bacon studded rice with vegetables like Brussels sprouts, baby corn and carrots, and a chunky, caramelized pineapple sauce, finished off with some rocket salad; Parmesan-crusted baked fillet of Basa. My pick - the pork chops especially for that delectable layer of fat and the sweet and tart pineapple sauce.

Desserts include, the in house specialty Christmas pudding served with caramel cinnamon custard, white chocolate and strawberry trifle and warm pannetone pudding. topped with creme anglais and hazelnut sauce.

The specials are on offer for lunch and dinner up to January 4, 2015. The pork or Turkey dinner (main course and dessert) is priced at Rs 950, while the fish dinner would come for 750. Vegetarians could opt for the Mushroom, Brussels Sprout and baby corn shepherd's pie with sweet potato and cheddar mash, along with a dessert of their choice, priced at Rs 600.

Wish you all a Merry merry Christmas

Monday, 22 December 2014

Meatloaf for the Holidays

I think of school the most around Christmas. I went to a convent and Christmas has always had a special connotation. The month of December was by far the most fun at school - fun activities, acting in Christmas plays, carol singing and crib designing competitions, Christmas party at school and of course the annual day function a couple of days before Christmas and then the holidays. Come December and text books took a backseat for once. What I love about Christmas the most. The Tree. And Santa Claus. You have no clue how much I cried the day I discovered there was...well I don't like saying it still. 

Once I played Santa Claus in high school, on our annual day function, in front of a couple fo thousand strong audience. I was the emcee for the evening too, and at the end of the programme I had to dash to the green room and wiggle into a Santa suit in record time. And minutes later there I was making a fool out of myself on stage doing crazy Santa steps, or what I thought would be crazy Santa steps, before I jumped off the stage and ran into the audience, hollering out to them. A couple of kids broke into hysterical tears, the parents were the only ones amused. My performance was a super hit. 

That evening as a teenager I wasn't really psyched to be playing Santa Claus. I mean come one, I was chosen for that role because I was round! And I could act of course (give the woman some credit). I mean a sixteen year old girl DOES NOT want to play Santa. Not that I have anything against Santa though. Anyway, so somehow I made through the evening's embarrassment, came home and stopped eating. Only for a day. Then I decided it was not worth it, so went back to eating. 

Talking of eating, how would you like a spicy meatloaf on your breakfast table this Christmas. Or may be the day after! I made this chicken meatloaf  today which I think will feature on my Christmas brunch this year. I have added a desi twist to it by adding a few spices like cumin and cinnamon and some fresh coriander leaves and topped it with a simple sweet and salty tomato sauce. I loved it on its own and between bread. I think you will like it too! 



Minced Chicken - 1 kg
Breadcrumbs - 1 cup (200 g approximately)
Finely chopped onions - 1/2 cup (packed)
Minced garlic - 1 tbsp
Grated carrot - 1/2 cup
Finely chopped parsley - 2 tbsp
Finely chopped cilantro - 4 tbsp
Nutmeg powder - 3/4  tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Coarsely ground peppercorns - 2 -3 tbsp
Red chili powder -  1/2 tsp
Butter - 50 g
+ more Butter for greasing the pan
Salt to taste
Egg - 1 large

For the tomato sauce
Tomato puree - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Sugar - 2 tbsp
Chili flakes - 1 tbsp
White oil - 2 tsp


In a mixer pulse the ground chicken to a fine mince.

In a pan heat 50 g butter. Add half the nutmeg Add the finely chopped onions, lightly saute. Add the grated carrots and minced garlic ad saute until soft. Take of heat and keep.

In a bowl mix  mince chicken and breadcrumbs, working the two to form a uniform mix. Add the sauteed oninion-garlic-carrot mix, remaining nutmeg powder, cinnamon, cumin, ground peppercorns and
Red chili powder one by one. Add salt to taste.

Finally beat the egg lightly and add to the mixture. Mix well with hands or a spatula, the former always better.

Heat the oven at 180 degree centigrade.

Grease a loaf tin well with butter. Pour the meat mixture into the loaf tin and spread it out uniformly. Bake at 180 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

In the meantime whisk together the tomato puree, oil, salt and sugar to taste and chili flakes.

Bring out the loaf tin and pour the sauce over the meat loaf, spreading it with a spatula. Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

Serve with salad or soup, some bread on the side may be. My favourite - a meatloaf sandwich.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Asian inspired rice and chicken with date palm treacle sauce

Christmas is only 5 days away and I am not as excited as I usually am. This is the second year in a row that my parents will be out of town on Christmas. They are off on a tour of Rajasthan in a few hours actually. As I write I can hear my mother fussing over what has been packed and what not. My brother, planned to join them last minute. Now it's me and Buddy, my 3 year old golden retriever for the next 12 days. I am HOME ALONE on Christmas and no I am not really happy about it.

Yeah I know it could be a lot of fun but what's Christmas without the family around. Christmas might not have a religious connotation for us, but it had always been special in my family. We always celebrate with pomp, the tree, the carols, the stocking, Santa and the special roast and Christmas pud. We do it all. The best part is the assorted pastries from Flurys that Dad gets every year, without fail. This year too I ll put up a tree, call a few friends perhaps. But it won't be the same, would it?

However, I plan to cook a lot these few days. And I will cook myself a special meal on Christmas too. No I ll leave the roast out, doesn't make sense making a roast just for myself. May be I ll make this dish, I am sharing with you today. It is quick and easy ad delicious and looks as lively as a Christmas tree! I am also sending this as an entry for Kolkata Food Bloggers Christmas week special event Christmas Recipes.

The dish, basically oven grilled chicken on rice drizzled with a sweet and lemony sauce, more like a dressing actully, is inspired by Asian flavours. The lime and star anise make for a good combination of flavours. But what gives the dish its character is the Date Palm Treacle, Bengal's fabled Nolen Gur. You can use regular jaggery too, but the slightly smoky and distinctly sweet notes of the nolen gur gives the dish a special touch. I made it the other day for a few friends and they loved it. So did I. And I am quite sure you would too.


Boneless chicken - 500 g
Chopped red chilies (fresh) - 3-4 tbsp

For marination
Minced ginger-garlic - 1.5 tbsp
Lemon juice - 3-4 tbsp
Date palm treacle- 1.5 tbsp
Star anise powder - A large pinch
Red chili powder - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Sesame oil - 1 tbsp

For sauce
Date palm treacle - 2 tbsp
Lime juice - 1.5 tbsp
Red chili powder to taste
Salt to taste
Finely chopped coriander leaves - 2 tbsp

To serve
Steamed rice
Chopped red chilies and coriander leaves
Lime wedges


Marinate the chicken over night with all the ingredients listed under 'For Marination' list.

Pre heat oven at 190 degree centigrade.

Add a drizzle of date palm treacle (optional) and the chopped red chilies to the chicken. Place the chicken on a sheet of aluminium foil, at the centre. Fold in the sides to form a envelope. Now place the envelope on another sheet of aluminium and fold in the edges so you have two layers of aluminium foil encasing the chicken.

Grill the chicken in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes. It should be ready and will melt in your mouth.

In a microwave-proof bowl add all the ingredients for the sauce. Microwave it for 30 seconds. Bring it out give it a quick whisk and put it back in and microwave for another 30 seconds.

Serve the chicken on a bed of plain steamed rice with a generous drizzle of the sauce and a wedge of lime. Garnigh with more red chilies and chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Mutton Aamsol and why A is the best host ever

Being an ideal guest is not easy. Being an ideal host is difficult still. Above all it is tricky. Especially in these insanely busy and taxing times we live in, having guests at home, can only add to the stress. I travel considerably and have stayed with quite a few friends and relatives on my trips. They have all been good hosts is differing degrees,but Angona, my friend I went to Pune to visit, has by far been the best host ever. Here's why

1. My holiday was her priority too
I received a mail a week prior to my trip from A. The Subject Line read "Your Pune Itinerary". The mail comprised a beautiful plan for my week in Pune down to the slightest detail. And it included everything I had expressed a desire to do, on my holiday, in my previous conversations with A. And also a few special treats thrown in from her end. In effect we strayed from that itinerary ever so often, doing things impromptu really. But what that mail meant to me was something different. The mail was like a confirmation that my visit was something my host was looking forward to. I mean come on I was going to turn her life upside down, raid her fridge, wear her makeup, dribble on her pillows, etc etc. But here she was putting in real effort to make my holiday a success. It is a warm feeling. Considering the fact that she had to go to work and go through 8 sometime 10 hour stints at office and take care of mundane responsibility, it couldn't have been easy.

2. Because, she was as enthusiastic about my trip as I was, if not more. 
I could trust A to return from a ten-hour stint in office and suggest we go and check out that restaurant someone had been raving about. No she didn't say "let's stay home because I am tired." I might have said that a few times, not A. The thing is it is not difficult to understand that after a busy day at work one might feel like chilling at home, and had A felt like it I wouldn't mind at all. But no A is awesome-sauce....work hard, party harder, eat hardest! The kind I dig really. 

And she is fine with taking crazy selfies even if she hasn;t slept for 24 hours straight! 

3. Because she respected my space. 
I was staying at her house and I was only keen on doing things her way but I didn't have to. I never felt obligated or compelled to give her company while she was in the house. And while she treated me with utmost care, I was like staying in your own house. We were like flatmates, only I wasn't sharing the bills. And she never said "Have you not come to see me, why are you on the laptop?" or "Why are you on the phone for so long?" But at the same time we had a great time together and had some brilliant conversation, and bonded famously without suffocating one another. (Ummm here I am assuming I didn't, but that's ok. Not that she'll tell me if I did..Buhahaha)

4. She did not over do it, and at the same time took care of every little thing 
No she didn't hover on me all the time, She made hosting look effortless. A took it easy, but made sure I had everything I need. The fridge was stocked and how, so was the pantry, I had access to her kitchen too so I could cook anything I wanted, a local number to call from, contact details for people and services I might need. All this after the assurance that she was only  a call away. And the most endearing bit - she would make time to call in the middle of the day to make sure I was ok. Gestures that matter.  

5. She cooked me amazing food! 
And finally and most importantly, A is a brilliant cook. While we ate out a million times during my say in Pune, the meals A cooked were by far the most delightful. So, on the day of my arrival the lunch that awaited me comprised spicy Marathi egg curry which I savoured with obscene amount of rice and a gorgeous roasted raan with a side of ajwain parathas. The meal was the final confirmation that this holiday was going to be one of the best I had had. And it was. Another time she cooked me a subtly spiced, light and hearty chicken curry tempered with nigella seeds, which was finger licking good and forced me once again to stuff myself silly. But A had reserved the best for the end. 

Marathi Egg Curry;Raan;Amsol Pork

So, it was my last weekend in Pune. And we had plan. The idea was to get sloshed and dance the night away. The music list look promising. But there couldn't be a party without food. A of course volunteered to cook. She had promised to cook me some pork and she did. A had learnt to cook the dish - Pork Amsol, a dish of Goan origin - from a friend and as far as I am concerned she nailed the dish.A light, gorgeously fragrant pork stew cooked with amsol, popularly known as kokum. That evening I decided I did not want alcohol. I couldn't not know what I was eating when the dish in question was A's Pork Amsol. And ever since my return home I have thought about it numerous times. Finally yesterday, I decided to make it at home for the folks. And they say it was one of the best Sunday meals they have had in a long time. 

For personal and religious reasons we do not cook pork in our kitchen at home. My parents do not eat pork either. So, I replicated the dish with mutton/goat meat. Purists might cringe their nose but trust me the Amsol Mutton was nothing short of fabulous. Experimenting in the kitchen is fun, but nailing a classic on the first go is pure ecstacy. The dish is cooked without a single drop of oil. Yes you read it right. Not one drop. However, the meat should have some fat. The ingredients are simple and your manual labour is limited to not more than 7-10 minutes. It is one of the simplest dishes there is and in its simplicity is its glory. Yes it is easy to make but because it is so simple, you must handle the dish delicately.


Mutton - 1 kilo 
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp 
Peppercorns - 1 tbsp 
Dry red chilies- 10 
Green chilies - 10 (whole)
Onions (thinly sliced) - 6 (medium sized) 
Garlic cloves - 15 (medium sized)
Kokum/amsol - 10-12
Salt to taste 
A pinch of sugar 
Tamarind pulp - 2 tbsp (or to taste)


Place your pressure cooked on heat. Once it is hot reduce heat and add the cumin and peppercorns. Lightly roast them. 

Once the cumin is fragrant, add the dry red chilies and green chilies. Stir around for a few seconds. 

Add the onions, garlic cloves and stir until onions begins sweating.  Add tamarind pulp diluted in half cup water. 

Also add the kokum/amsol now 

A minute later add the meat, fry for abour 5 minutes. Add salt, a pinch of sugar and about 2 cups water. 

Pressure cook for about 7 minutes on high flame (2 whistles!) and then reduce flame and pressure cook for about 15 minutes. Do not let the steam out immediately. Let the meat rest for about 5-7  minutes while before you serve it...piping hot. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Heritage Breakfast Walk in Pune

There I am waiting for Jayesh Paranjape under the ornate carved-wood balcony of  Vishrambaug wada, once the residence of Peshwa Baji Rao II, early on a Saturday morning. It is another bright sunny day in Pune, the nip in the air more pronounced than it has been in the past few days.  A parade of school children marches by, screaming slogans in unison, in Marathi. I try to figure out what it is that they are rallying for. Then I spot Jayesh waving at me from across the road and forget all about the rallying children or their cause.  I had met the Jayesh over a delectable Maharashtrian thali at Janaseva Bhojanalay a couple of days earlier and today he is taking me on a Heritage Breakfast Tour in the old town area. The idea is to eat at a few of Pune’s oldest and best eateries. I am excited. It is food we are talking about. 

Jayesh runs the show at Western Routes, a local out fit that organises interesting tours and trips in and around Pune and across Maharashtra. And I have signed up for their Heritage Breakfast Trail, only this one was going to be an exclusive one-on-one affair.

 “Let us buy the bakarwadi first,” Jayesh says once we have exchanged pleasantries. Ah he remembered. I had mentioned the other day how I wanted to take bakarwadi for the family.  One of my aunts had especially ordered for “a couple of kilos at least.” She, of course, didn’t bother much about the fact that air tickets come with a restricted baggage allowance. 

Across the lane adjacent to the Vishrambagwada, on the corner, stands the septuagenarian Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale’s shop, one of Pune’s most illustrious sweetshops especially famous for its bakarwadi. “They sell over 3000 kilos of bakarwadi a day,” Jayesh tells me as we enter the shop. Inside it takes me much resilience and self control to stay off the mind-boggling array of sweet and savoury treats sitting pretty in large glass showcases.  I manage with little assistance from Jayesh, he keeps reminding me how much eating we had to do that morning. I do not want to ruin my appetite of course. So I train my eyes on the guy packing bags of Bakarwadi, willing myself to think about other things, for instance the thalipeeth I would get to sample at the Poona Guest House later in the morning. 

Finally I walk out with little less than 5 kilos of bakarwadi, all the while running in my mind the things I would say to the airlines officials. I could cry a little perhaps. It had worked once. Our next stop is the New Sweet Home in the Sadashiv Peth area. Originally Western Routes’ Heritage Breakfast walk starts with a tour of the Mahatma Phule Mandai, the city’s old fruits and vegetables market  followed by a treat at Sri Krushna Bhavan, another heritage eatery of the city. However, I had taken another tour with Western Routes around the historical sites of the city like on an earlier date when I had toured the Mandai and sampled the fabled Puneri Misal at Sri Krushna Bhavan. 

Misal pav is another archetypal Maharashtrian dish. Though there are numerous versions of the Misal, the most common version comprises fiery gravy called Kutt and curried sprouts (usually moth beans) topped with a generous serving of deep-fried gram flour crunchies or sev. It is served with bread. I had had Misal Pav once before, on another trip to this part of the country. I had come on a press trip to the Four Season’s winery in Baramati, a couple of hours drive from Pune. 

However, the Misal Pav served at Sri Krushna Bhuvan is interestingly different. So instead of sprouted beans, SKB serves a mildly spiced poha, a pilaf made of flattened rice which is topped off with crunchy sev and some chopped coriander. Finely chopped raw onions and lime wedges come along with it. The kutt, called sample locally, is very spicy with a mighty heat quotient. The idea is to pour the kutt onto the poha, add a squeeze of lime, sprinkle some raw onions and then scoop the mix up with bread and relish it. 

My companion on the walk, a young girl from Estonia who was currently staying in Pune, working as a yoga instructor, had a difficult time dealing with the Kutt. She seemed to be in pain, this despite the fact that we had requested for a mildly spiced Kutt for her. We had ordered for some buttermilk to wash down our missal with and that provided some succor, and not only to my companion.  I had rather condescendingly declared I wanted to sample the real deal, despite my guide Shruti’s warnings, and but the time I had taken a few mouthfuls of the missal doused in the chili-laden kutt my tongue had been on fire. But it was so good there was no stopping me. On our way out we saw there were 30 odd people waiting to get a table at Sri Krushna Bhavan and the queue had trickled onto the streets.  I knew exactly why.

Anyway so today I choose to give Sri Krishna Bhuvan a miss. So we head straight to New Sweet Home. The shop, almost six decades a part of the Puneri food scape offers a few rare treats. “This isn’t the most popular sweetshop in town but they serve a few things that you just cannot miss,” Jayesh tells me as we settle for a table outside the sweetshop cum restaurant, in the open. Jayesh knows exactly what to order and wastes absolutely no time. Minutes later we have a plate of Matar Karanji and one of Upvas Kachori in front of us, one comes with pain coconut chutney, the other with a mint-coriander chutney, this one has coconut too. A third plate arrives soon after, this one with three different kinds of laddu, gond, atta and khajur/dates. 

I go for the Matar Karanji first. Karanji is usually sweet, deep fried pastry stuffed with a sweet coconut, dry fruits and jaggery filling. But this one, crisp and flaky, is a delightful savoury version with a mildly spiced coconut and green peas stuffing. I take small bites lest I finish it off too soon, and with it I savor spoonfuls of the green coconut-mint-coriander chutney, relishing the heat from the green chilies. Jayesh;s phone wouldn't stop ringing. The morning paper carried news of an exciting camping trip Western Routes was organizing and too many people seemed interested. Jayesh is apologetic. I tell him not to bother,  I have food to keep me busy. 

Next I turn to the Upvas Kachori. Upvas means fasting and as the name suggests this dish is especially made in Maharashtrian households on the traditional days of fasting. The upvas Kachori is nothing but deep fried potato croquettes with a sweet coconut and dry fruit centre. I am qite impressed by the play of sweet and savoury in the same mouthful of Upvas Kachori. The potato is merely seasoned with salt and tempered with little cumin, the coconut stuffing is nothing but sweetened fresh coconut and dry fruits. It is simple, and it’s the simplicity that makes the dish so endearing.

Next I turn to the Upvas Kachori. Upvas means fasting and as the name suggests this dish is especially made in Maharashtrian households on the traditional days of fasting. The upvas Kachori is nothing but deep fried potato croquettes with a sweet coconut and dry fruit centre. I am qite impressed by the play of sweet and savoury in the same mouthful of Upvas Kachori. The potato is merely seasoned with salt and only a hint of spice is added and the coconut stuffing is nothing but sweetened fresh coconut and dry fruits. It’s the simplicity that makes the dish so endearing.

From Sweet Home we head straight to Poona Guest House on Laxmi Road, the busiest commercial street in Old Poona.  Poona Guest House was founded in 1935 and has over these eight decades maintained its illustrious reputation for serving superlative Maharashtrian food , authentic and delicious. The restaurant is on the first floor and  when we walk in  it is relatively less crowded. We find a table without having to wait and Jayesh immediately places the orders - Thalipeeth and Dadpe Pohe, two of Poona Guest House's iconic dishes.

Thalipeeth, which is nothing but  spiced multi-grain fried bread,  is not new to me but I have never sampled Dadpe Pohe before. Jayesh explains that it is uncooked flattened rice or poha that is lightly doused in buttermilk, and then tossed with finely chopped onions, green chilies, fresh grated coconut, seasoning and crisps& crunchies like crumbled papad. With a squeeze of lime, Dadpe Pohe is one of Maharashtra's favourite snack.

I like the idea of Dadpe Pohe, but when I finally eat it I realise am not crazy about it. I like the play of texture, especially the large grains of sugar that add a sweet bite to the Poona Guest House version of the dish but after a couple of spoonfuls I decide I could do without it. It was the thalipeeth I was excited about.

The thalipeeth we are served comes with a dollop of fresh Buffalo milk white butter locally known as loni, and with it some dry garlic and peanut chutney. I can spot the sesame seeds and the finely chopped onion studding the deliciously crusty, deep-fried disc of spicy goodness. I waste no time. Jayesh tells me about the specil mix of flour that is used to make the dish, he even shares a healthier recipe for making thalipeeth at home, I nod and mumble something from time to time but otherwise I expend all my energy in wolfing the thalipeeth down. I am so stuffed I can hardly breathe but I can't  stop. And we have another place to check out before we can call it a morning!

After I had polished off the last crumbs of the thalipeeth, I find it difficult to move. But a walk now is all  the more necessary. And the walk down to the Gujjar Cold Drink House does me good. The struggle to dodge collisions with cycles and scooters for once helps in settling the food down. We are at eight decade old  establishment to sample one of Pune's most iconic drinks Mastani - a Puneri version of a milk shake with ice cream or an ice cream shake. Though you get mastani in numerous joints across Pune, Gujjar Cold Drink House stands out, says Jayesh. We order for a Mango Mastani, split into two. I like the name Mastani. I think of Mastani, the woman, the lover, the wife of Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao 1. A muslim in love with a Hindu Brahmin, at that time. Just then some one orders for a Bajirao Mastani. Ah so they have a drink named after the lovers. I sigh.

Inside Gujjar Cold Drink House it is dark - power cut - but the legacy of the place is unmistakable. I sit on one of the benches, across the cramped little room three men relish their mastanis with utmost concentration. The glasses full of creamy goodness look delectable. My stomach does a somersault. On the opposite wall hangs a huge mirror framed in an ornate wooden frame. The mastani arrives soon. It is a delicious milk shake with scoops of ice cream and mango pulp. I go through the next few minutes oblivious to my surroundings. No the drink is nothing unique, but it is delicious nonetheless! 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Konkani Chicken Rasa

I am still not over my recent trip to the Konkan coast. Memories of  the Konkan shoreline, the pristine beaches, the quaint fisherman;s hamlets, the smell of the sea, the clear blue skies continue to clutter my mind. Above all it is the food I can't stop thinking about. 

Like I mentioned in my previous post, our dinner at the homestay in Ganeshgule where we stayed the night, was a delicious affair. I had mounds of rice with the dry and spicy sukkha chicken, and even more with the spicy rasa. The woman who cooks at the homestay was only too keen to share the recipe when I asked for it. In fact, she took the trouble of writing it all down for me. And then she posed for me too. In my ecstatic state of mind I forgot to ask her name. I'll just call her Taayi ( elder sister in Marathi), just like the lanky lad waiting on us.

I was a little perturbed when I realised the recipe was written in Marathi, I don't know a word in Marathi, but then A came to my rescue. Luckily A had some knowledge of Marathi and she managed to summarize the recipe for me, on the road. However, when I decided to try it this morning I found myself in a fix again. So I turned to an aunt who has grown up and still lives in Maharashtra and thanks to technology she was able to read and translate the recipe, somewhat, for me... (she struggled with a few parts that were difficult to read in the poor photograph taken on my not-so-smart phone) so that I could trump up this flavoursome and simple curry I have grown to love, in my own kitchen.  The recipe however had not come with exact measurements hence I had to follow my instinct. My version is no less delicious, and pretty close to the delightful dish I had savoured a few nights ago in that humble homestay on a distant Konkan beach. 

The recipe!!!

The soupy curry goes best  with plain steamed rice or thin chappatis, I prefer rice. I always prefer rice. The heat is far from overwhelming and the flavours of the fresh ingredients shine through. On a winter night this rasa is my pick for a night-in with friends or family.


Chicken - 600 g
Grated desiccated coconut - 80g
Onion (roughly chopped) - 2 (medium)
Onion (thinly sliced) - 1 (medium)
Tomato (finely chopped) - 1
Ginger-garlic paste - 3/4 tbsp
Garlic cloves - 3-4
Cloves - 6
Peppercorns - 10-12
Cinnamon stick - 2 inch
Red chili powder  1 tbsp heaped (or to taste)
Finely chopped coriander/cilantro leaves - 4-5 tbsp
Salt to taste
A pinch of sugar
White Oil as required


Boil in the chicken in 5 cups of water (1 l) along with a little salt and a few cloves of garlic. Keep aside. Reserve stock.

Fry the desiccated coconut in a little oil until golden. Also fry the roughly chopped onions to a uniform golden. In a food processor grind the two together to make a paste.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat a few table spoons of oil. Add cloves, cinnamon and whole peppercorns
into it.

Add thinly sliced onion and fry until soft and golden. Add ginger, garlic and chopped tomatoes. Also add red chili powder. Fry until oil separates and then add the onion-coconut paste. Fry for a few minutes and add the chicken, along with the stock.

Bring to a boil, add salt and a pinch of sugar. Let it it simmer for a few minutes.

Finally add chopped coriander leaves and remove from heat.