Friday, 30 May 2014

Lychee Ras Malai

Kashmir is a curious juxtaposition of beauty and decay, the echo of music and the gasp of anguish... flowers blossom where wounds fester, but the spirit...the spirit soars high, high above the mountains.... the shimmering snow, the swaying trees, the dilapidated houses, the happy homes, the lattice of leaves and the tangled wires, the nervous laughter, a surreal glow. Happy to be home, but the mind wanders....wonders?

Yes, in the last two weeks I was away  frolicking in the valley of Kashmir and boy! did I have a good time? The trip wasn't a smooth ride...but who wants it smooth anyway. But all about the trip in another post. For now, there is only one incident I would like to share with you which of course would lead, in the most circuitous way, to the recipe of the day. 

Now, this was my first time in Kashmir and I was travelling with few other folks. So I had to, though unwillingly, stick to the usual tourist circuit. So, our itinerary include stops at Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam. Now Gulmarg and Sonmarg were only day trips from Srinagar, but we stayed overnight in Pahalgam. Our acquaintance in Srinagar who had arranged the trip for us had booked us rooms at a tiny guest house nestled in the hills. The rooms had only basic amenities but offered excellent views of snow-capped mountains. 

What was more exciting for me was that here the kitchen worked differently from a regular guest house and hotel. So you had to order a few hours in advance and only after you had placed your order from a small but hearty selection of dishes, one of the two guys working in the kitchen would head to the market and buy all the ingredients, meat, vegetables, et al. So, there was no doubt that the food on offer was absolutely fresh. On the day we reached, we ordered for Rogan Josh and rice for lunch. 

The lunch arrived after a seemingly unending 2 hours but what was served blew our mind. Huge chunks of meat floated in the soupy gravy. No oil floated on top and yet the gravy was a brilliant red. I poured some of it into the rice, tore off a morsel of meat that came off easily and along with it some delicious fat, scooped a mouthful with my fingers, I was salivating already, and put it in my mouth. Then I died. 

I do not know if it was the fact that we were super hungry or if it was the setting or the fact that the ingredients were super fresh, but that meal was by far the best I have had in Kashmir. The Rogan Josh was brilliant, the meat, with layers of fat, superlative and my heart was doing somersaults. At the end of the meal everyone in the group believed that we were a blessed lot. 

Now comes the twist in the tale. 

Egged on by the success of the Rogan Josh, we ordered for Kashmiri Kheer. We hadn't tasted too many desserts during our stay in Kashmir, and decided this was perhaps the best place to try it considering the culinary skills of the young guy who had whipped up that mind-boggling Rogan Josh. So we ordered, a bowl for each of us. The Kheer arrived three hours later. Yes three hours. A chalky soupy concoction or ground rice, water and milk, and yeah they did say sugar, though we couldn't trace it. I am known for being able to get anything down my gullet, this I couldn't. 

Now, in many parts of the country kheer means rice pudding....for me rice and milk means payesh. Kheer is something quite different. Kheer for me is what Didun used to make and I used to devour with luchi or porota, milk reduced ad thickened with sugar to a thick golden delectable delicacy. Initially I used to be quite confused, now I know. So I was expecting a dessert with rice and milk but not what I got. I have had some excellent meals in Kashmir but this one dish I couldn't get over. It kept haunting me. I had decided I would make some kheer and calm my soul once I got home. 

And I did. 

However when I walked in last evening, the first thing I noticed was a huge mound of lychee on the dining table and my dad popping one lychee after another. Now while everyone celebrated mangoes during summer at my place we celebrate lychee with equal panache. My dad and my brother love lychee and it's crazy how much lychee you'll find at my place during the summer. 

It came to me in a jiffy I will make some Lychee Kheer...Ummmm lets call it Lychee Ras Malai. The Lychee quite looks like rasgulla, no? It's the simplest recipe ever and can be done in a jiffy. My father always ends up bringing too much lychee home and considering the heat some of it simply rot and go to waste. I figured this was a good way to use up some. 


Lychee - 20 (seeded)
Milk - 1/2 litre 
Cinnamon stick - 2 inch 
Sugar - 3 tbsp + 3/4 tbsp 
Pinch of salt 
Water - 1 cup 
Condensed milk - 2 tbsp 


In a pan add the water and 3 tbsp sugar and heat until sugar dissolves and the water begins to boil. Add the lychee and boil for five to six minutes. Keep aside to cool. 

In a pan add milk, cinnamon stick, 3/4 tbsp sugar and pinch of salt stir and place it on medium high heat. Reduce milk to less that half, stirring continuously. 

Add the lychee along with three fourth of the sugar syrup. Stir and combine on low heat, cook for a few minutes, stirring along. 

Finally, stir in the the condensed milk and remove from heat. Add the almond flakes and keep aside. Once it comes to room temperature.Then put it in the fridge to chill.

Garnish with almond flakes and serve chilled. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Chili Fudge Dip

Ok. The summers always drive me up the wall. I wish I was born in Greenland. I love cold. And here I am struggling through life in this tropical heat. By the way, isn't it funny that Greenland should be all ice, literally, and Iceland, lush green?  Anyway, the last week I have spent as little time in the kitchen as I could. So mostly, I have trumped up salads and now this dip. I think dips are great. They are easy to make and takes little time, ccan be made way in advance and the best thing to serve with some chips, fresh cut veggies and crackers if friends should decide to invade. And during summers especially, they are life savers for me.
Now I really started out to make Fudge the other day, and guess what I ended up making a savoury dip. Check it out.

Sugar – 2 tbsp
Chili flakes – 1 tbsp
Vinegar – 2 tbsp
Heavy Cream – ¾ cup
Salt to taste
Dried basil – 1 tsp 

Olive oil – 120 ml

In a pan caramelize the sugar until it’s a deep golden, add the cream and stir vigorously until well combined. 

Add salt, chili flakes and dried basil. Remove from heat and stream in the olive oil whisking vigorously, followed by the vinegar. Whisk in well until well combines. Chill.

Best with: Crackers, Fresh Cut Raw Vegetables,  or even Toasted Papad! 

Friday, 9 May 2014

Noodle Salad with Raw Mango dressing and Dad's love for Calcutta Chinese

Alright I am on a Salad spree right now. Yes it is topical and my salads are anything but boring. After my cold pasta salad with Garlicky Buttermilk dressing, I tossed up some Asian-inspired Noodle Salad with the works. I love the my way dad's face lights up whenever he sees noodles. He loves Chinese, or at least Calcutta Chinese and is happy with having his chicken prawn chowmein with gravy every time. Nothing fancy, same old, same old. He insists every second night at the dinner table that the best Chinese he has had and will ever have was the food he had feasted on in her growing up years, in the 60s and 70s Calcutta.
           For the first few years of his life, till he was 6 or 7, Baba grew up in our ancestral home in Sreerampore, in the Hoogly district. My gradfather's stayed in Calcutta looking after the business and would visit on weekends. His mother, dad's Didu, was still alive and my grandfather insisted that my grandma and the kids stayed with her. The rest of the family moved to Calcutta only after Didu passed away. Dad recalls, the first time he had Chinese Food was when he was 5. My grandpa had taken him to Waldorf. It was the first time Dad was eating at a restaurant on Calcutta's legendary Park Street. He says the day is etched in his memory and so is the taste of the Chowmein and Chili Chicken he had had.
       So, no matter which restaurant we eat at, Dad's never happy with the Chinese. He says, Fancy yes, tasty, well not the same thing. I feel rather frustrated, avoid cooking Chinese food at home, but then when I do I make sure I get it right. Anyway, I tossed up this salad last evening and Dad was absolutely delighted. For a change he didn't bring up the 70s. Not that he thought it was better, just that he didn't at least go all nostalgic.

I am also sharing this on Kolkata Food Bloggers Summer Special event Beat the Heat.

Raw Mango Dressing 

Rice wine vinegar – 2 tbsp
Soy sauce – 2 tbsp
Fish sauce – 2 tsp
Raw mango- 1
Red chilies (fresh)- 5-6
Grated ginger – 1tbsp
Salad oil – ½ cup
Salt to taste

A little sugar 

Char grill the mangoes in a tandoor or on the gas. Scrape out the pulp and manually mash into more or less smooth paste.

In a bowl whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, grated ginger, salt red chilies and sugar.

Add the mango pulp and whisk to combine.

Stream in the olive oil whisking all the while. 

Noodle Salad 

Noodles of your choice - 1 packet
Diced Carrots - 1 large cup
Diced Cucumber - 1 cup
French beans (cut small) - 1 cup
Fried cashew nuts - A handful (optional)
Shredded boiled chicken* - 1 cup
Salt and pepper
Chili flakes
Fried noodles for garnish


Bring to boil water in a deep pan with a spoonful of salt and a drizzle of oil. To  it add the noodle and cook until just soft, but not too soft.

Drain out and spread it out on a tray to dry. Once it dries up drizzle some oil, toss it and keep it aside.

This step is optional but I usually do it. Blanch the vegetables in salt water and leave to cool.

Now in a bowl mix all the ingredients together, season well, add dressing and toss and I insist with your hands. Pour in a salad bowl, garnish with crisp fried noodles and serve at room temperature.

Note: Boil the chicken in water to which you have added salt, pepper, some dried or fresh herbs (I used parsley and basil), a couple of celery sticks and a few cloves of garlic. I leave the chicken in its stock in the fridge over night. While using it for the pasta I use the cold chicken straight out of the stock with some stalk dripping from it. I think that adds  to the taste of the salad. 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Garlicky Buttermilk dressing and simple cold pasta salad

My university days feature often on my periodic happy-memories spree. So here goes another bunch of happy memories.

Six years have passed since and yet the memories of that September Sunday I landed in London is so vivid that I wonder if it was only yesterday. I had cried my eyes out all through my 10 hour flight to London causing much distress to an elderly NRI couple who were on their way to San Francisco via London. Once our flight had landed though the excitement took over once again. I was in England, the fairy tale land of my childhood, what with my grandfather's captivating stories about life in London I devoured wide-eyed. I made through immigration, sporadic panic attacks notwithstanding, and all I wanted to do was to get on that bus to my university.

The university, University of Sussex,  was supposed to send a bus to the airport to pick up students arriving that day from across the globe. I had been advised to ask at one of the travel information desks on arrival. I did. A rather rude woman behind the glass said in a voice as cold as steel that I was in the wrong terminal. She pointed to a sign reading terminal 3 and said "I hope you can read" I wanted to box her ears. I decided to ignore her, gave her the look, she stared back, and I walked away. I was definite by then that it was a wrong decision coming to this country anyway.

Anyway, the thing was that I would have to take an inter-terminal train to the other terminal to catch the university bus. Ok Train it is. Now  I had two huge suitcases, a smaller trolley kit and a laptop bag and was in tears when I realised that I would have to leave the luggage trolley behind, a hundred metres from the platform. Another girl, also from Calcutta, she had been on the same flight, had joined me at some point at the airport and we had decided to travel together, but she was obstinate about well NOT helping. She simply refused to help. She said "Sorry you'll have to manage on your own", exact words I tell you. I still can;t believe someone could say such a thing. Anyway,  a sudden turn of events, and as I was struggling with my suitcases, my eyes brimming with salty tears, a man appeared out of nowhere, and I mean no where, and offered to help. Help? He actually carried all my bags into the train, thus reinstating my faith in humankind. I thanked him, and my stars, profusely. The thought of travelling with this particular girl was revolting by now. But I tried to keep an open mind.

We reached the right terminal, and frantically looked around for Sussex placards, nothing. Another round of asking around and we figured the bus had left without us. Wow! This is exactly where I am supposed to have a nervous breakdown, a panic attack at the least. Surprisingly, I felt rather charged up. Another round of asking around and soon we were on a National Express Bus headed for Poolvalley station, Brighton. Once on the bus, enervated after the last hour's excitement, I cried some more before drifting into sleep.

I woke up only on reaching Poolvalley. And as I stepped out of the bus, I was greeted by a a gush of cold sea breeze that sent a shiver through my body. It had been bright and sunny in London, but here in Brighton, it was windy and dark clouds were gathering in the sky. The bus pulled out once we had unloaded our luggage and my heart skipped a beat. Across the road was the beautiful expanse of the sea and above it numerous murmurations of starlings were performing an aerial recital of unbelievable acrobatic feats. I was bowled over. This was the first time in the day that I felt good. Real good.

We took a taxi to the campus and the next hour was gone in a jiffy,  getting done with the formalities, getting keys to my flat, etc etc. Once inside my room in Flat 60 A,East Slope, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of dread and loneliness. I spent hours in that room crying. When I looked out of the window it was dark. I was so thirsty that the insides of my mouth had turned bitter. My hunger had died. I came out of my room, checked the kitchen, wasn't sure if the tap water was safe for drinking, took a little change and headed down the slope to the Union Store I had spotted earlier in the day.

There I bought a bottle of water for 89 cents, calculated how much it was in Indian currency, freaked out and took a gulp. Inside by mouth the water fizzled and whistled. I spat it out. It was sparkling water!!! For a moment I panicked, what if that's the only kind of bottled water they stocked here. I went back again. No they had still water alright. I spent another 89 cents on a bottle, then decided to buy a couple more. I even bought a pack of cigarettes. I didn't smoke usually, just for fun at times but at that point I thought I needed it. I had planned to make Maggi for dinner, I was carrying 20 packets of maggi, yes call me whatever you wish, I tell you that's what got me friends out there. Maggi and Haldiram Bhujia.But just when I was walking out of the union store I spotted a box or ready to eat cold chicken and pasta salad. And I just had to have it. I also bought a walnut brownie. After the day I had had I deserved a little indulgence.

I will never forget that cold pasta salad I had that day. It was delicious with chunks of tuna and a light dressing and the satisfaction that meal gave me was special. Since that day and through my stay in London, cols pasta salad was my number one comfort food. I turned to it whenever I was down, lonely, irritated or plain happy. At home now I often make a cold pasta salad, especially in the summers. Thank God summers last forever here. I make different kinds of dressings, sometimes only mayo and Dijon mustard is enough, but this garlicky dressing made primarily with buttermilk is my favourite. It is light and flavourful, perfect for the summer heat. The dressing is the star in this humble salad.


Butter Milk – ¾ cup
Hung Curd – 4 tbsp
Mayonnaise – 4 tbsp
Minced garlic – ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Dried Parsley – 1 tsp
Chili flakes – ½ tsp
Pinch of sugar

Cream the mayonnaise, minced garlic and hung curd together.

Add buttermilk littleby little to form a smooth, creamy concoction.

Add salt, sugar, dried parsley and chili flakes

Best with:  I like this dressing on a cold pasta salad. How I make it? Well here goes.

Pasta Salad 

Pasta (Fussili)– 200 g
Capsicum – 2 (diced)
Onions – 2 large (diced)
*Boiled chicken (boneless) – 500 g
Fresh coarsely ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Water to boil pasta
Garlicky Buttermilk Dressing

In a pan boil water to which you have added 2 tbsp salt and 4 tbsp olive oil. Add the pasta and cook it until al dente.

In a bowl mix the chicken, diced onions and capsicum,  salt and pepper, and olive oil. Toss well. Use your hands; that’s the best way.

Strain the pasta, give it a toss with your hands to ensure they don’t stick and add it to the rest of the salad. Keep aside and let it cool.

Once it comes to room temperature, pour in some of the dressing, toss well and refrigerate until it is cold to your liking.

Bring it out, pour more dressing, as much as you like and dig in.

Note: Boil the chicken in water to which you have added salt, pepper, some dried or fresh herbs (I used parsley and basil), a couple of celery sticks and a few cloves of garlic. I leave the chicken in its stock in the fridge over night. While using it for the pasta I use the cold chicken straight out of the stock with some stalk dripping from it. I think that adds  to the taste of the salad. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Wednesday Wine O Clock at The Taj Bengal

   If the whole universe is in a glass of wine….I’ll take two.

    When I walked into Junction, Taj Bengal, a few minutes past 6:30 last Wednesday, the hotel’s General Manager, K Mohanachandran was deep in discussion with a journalist. I was there to attend the inaugural evening of the Wednesday Wine O Clock and it was no surprise that the discussion was about…well wine. But it was a curious bit of information that I walked in upon. It seems a research concluded in the UK has inferred that Wednesday was the day when most people (in the UK) cracked open a bottle of wine after a three-workaday-dry-spell. And that t precisely at 6:55 in the evening. (Read a report on the research here).

      I expressed my amusement, parked myself in a comfy chair, browsed through the selection of wine on offer and settled for a Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Semilion, a medium bodied Australian White Wine with lovely citrus notes, I rather love. By the way 36 per cent Brits who prefer white wine on Wednesday’s wine-o-clock. Yes the study says that too. 36 % choose white, 37% red, 20% go for a Rose and 6 % opt for sparkling wine! For me the experience of drinking wine begins with soft gurgle of wine being poured into the glass, the wine was poured and I soft golden liquid shimmered invitingly , but I didn’t touch it, not yet. I checked, it was 6:52 by my watch.  Another three minutes I said, and just at the clock struck 6:55 I took my first sip. I am crazy that way. Ah no I didn’t hear invisible bells toll somewhere, but the Chardonnay Semillon surely did its trick. Chardonnay is arguably the most popular grape in the world and my absolute favourite.'
       So,  Taj Bengal’s Wednesday Wine O Clock is an attempt to bring the city’s wine lovers an eclectic selection of wines served by the glass. On offer is an impressive rage of 25 different types of wines – sparkling, red and white, from across the globe, from India to Chile and Spain to Australia. The selection will be altered and updated from time to time. But yes the number 25 is fixed, you see 25 here has a special connotation. Taj Bengal celebrating its Silver Jubilee this year and Wednesday Wine O Clock is part of the grand celebrations and will continue till October.

          The assortment showcases a good balance between Indian and international wines. So, there is Torres San Medin and Tarapaca Vina from Chile, Oxford Landing and Jacob's Creek from Australia, Pouilly-Fuisse from France and also Sula, Fratelli and Nine Hills from India among the 25 options. And the idea of wine by the glass makes it affordable.

I pondered over the GH Mumm Cordon Rouge, (Rings a bell? Think Formula1) but finally declined the bubbly for a glass of Soave Allergrini DOC “Corte Giar” Pagus, Garganega. Garganega is  by the way are a kind of grapes grown on the slopes the Veneto wine region of North Eastern Italy. A supple fruity white wine that has made to my favourites list right away. 

My last pick for the evening was a Red. I am not too fond of Red wine. Did I mention that before, but I simply wanted to try the Ebeia Riberia Del Duero DOC made from Tempranillo grapes grown in Ribera del Duero, an important wine region in Northern Spain, One because Vinod Pandey, F&B Manager, Taj Bengal, vouched for it. Two, I have a soft spot for all things Spainish. Except may be the bull fights. For a red wine it is delightful, medium supple, the tannin fine and lingers on your palate for quite a bit. I wished there was a Rose on the wine list for the day though. 

With the wine you could order for a cheese platter. Pocket pinch: Rs 250

Monday, 5 May 2014

Chili Herb White Butter: A lesson in perseverance

I am in extreme pain right now. I have not caught a minute's sleep all night. I am struggling to key in these words. A sharp mind numbing pain is shooting up my arms every few seconds. I am gasping every time I am moving my arm. Well what got me into this painful predicament?

I made butter last night.

Yesterday, I was mindlessly Google-ing like I often do. I read about alien conspiracy theories, articles on the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, watched a few random videos, read obituaries of famous authors and of course browsed through recipes for inspiration. That's when I chanced upon an article on making butter manually. Yes no electronic blender, just hands and a shaker. All that you had to do, the article said, was take about 100 ml heavy cream in a shaker, cap it tight and shake for several minutes. They said, after several minutes what you'll have is whipped cream. Another few minutes of shaking back and forth and voila a blob of luscious yellow butter floating on residual buttermilk they said. "I am doing it," I said.

This time the Nescafe guys gave this free shaker with 50g pouches of coffee and ever since it arrived I have been shaking up milk, ice, coffee and sugar like my life depended on it. I decided it was time I used it for a greater feat. So out came a pack of Amul cream, the cream was poured into the shaker and the shaking began. It was somewhere between 8:30-8:45 last evening. It struck me at this point, that I, and not that lidded plastic tumbler, was the shaker. I was the one shaking things up. around here.

Now according to me several minutes meant anything less than 30 minutes. Now come on if it is 30 minutes won't we just say half an hour. And once it is above the half an hour mark, several is an under statement. After fifteen minutes of shaking at a more or less constant speed, I opened the lid to check. Ah no, no whipping cream, just slightly frothy Amul cream. So I continued shaking. At this point I had already come to the conclusion that this could be my prospective regime for slim, toned arms. I had begun to sweat, may I say profusely and my arms had begun to sense a tingling pain. Who said butter was unhealthy or fattening? The trick was to make it, rather than eat it.

9:15 still no luck. I was beginning to get impatient. Another five minutes, I said or you're going to the dust bin. I put on some music and continued shaking. I wished I had a glass of wine to sip on while I shook. At 9:40 ish I saw a slight change in the texture on the milk. A thin layer of sorts had formed on top. I thought I should take a picture, decided against it, lest the rest affected the butter formation. At five past ten, Ma called for dinner. I usually eat by 9. I throw tantrums if I do not get dinner by 9.

No, nothing. I was hungry, sweating like a pig and my arms and shoulders were throbbing. To hell with it I said. And then that little story came to my mind, about this guy looking for a diamond under a sea of pebbles and how he loses hope and gives up. And how had he only lifted the next pebble he would have found the diamond. So I continued. I also concluded that making butter was no trifling matter, it entailed life's bigger philosophies. By now I had come down to checking every 2-3 minutes. And yes the texture of the milk had changed, first it turned grainy and thick and then slowly I could see it get grainier and thicker. Another hour passed during the course of which I watched 1920, yes that excuse of a horror film, fought with my brother for accessing my Facebook account without my permission and read three pages from Albert Camus' The Fall. I wondered if I had been generating some amount of electricity in all this while. At 11:05 my mother threatened to clear the food and also called me a moron for shaking a shaker for two hours and a half. I peered into the shaker one last time, and yes there was butter alright. No not a yellow blob though. It was white but there it was clearly floating about a thin watery residue.

I decided I would stop and simply make do with what I had. I strained it, kneaded it under cold water for a couple of minutes. And there it was creamy butter. The pain in my arms was gone. Only a sense of accomplishment washed over me.

I was not satisfied with plain butter so I went on to add some salt, half a teaspoon chili flakes, a pinch of basil and a pinch of parsley and there it chili herb butter. It went straight into the fridge and I went off to bed. I skipped dinner anyway. I was too exhausted. All I wanted was to sleep. Little did I know what the night had in store. I'll go get myself a cup of coffee to calm my nerves. Long day ahead.

Inference: Now I am guessing one reason why it took me so much of time and shaking to get this butter was the fat content in the cream. I should have ideally worked with heavy cream and regular Amul cream clearly isn't. Next time, heavy cream and hands...errr a hand blender.

Ingredient list
100 ml heavy cream
1/2 tsp chili flakes
A pinch of basil
A pinch of parsley
Salt to taste

Shake away!!!!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Chicken Balti

"Those were the best days of my life"...yes literally. My university days in the United Kingdom. I have probably mentioned this before but the serious job of acquiring a Masters degree landed my of all places in Brighton in South East England, a quaint beach resort famous for its shingle beaches and the famous Brighton pier and the flamboyant parties and Brighton rock,a kind of confection peculiar to this place and of course the annual gay pride. So there I was amid all the temptation life could offer trying to graduate with distinction...woof. Ah the best days of my life. 
Anyway, so I stayed on campus, at one the university residence halls East Slope, Flat 60. It was my home for a year and I haven't yet completely detached myself from that room of mine. I dream about it, still, 4 years later. I had the coolest flatmates and a few of them are now my best buddies. However, our flat was known as one where something was cooking all the time. Ummm...I mean the pots and vessels and stove top kind of cooking of course. And yes the fire alarm went off the most at our flat too. So we cooked a lot, I cooked mainly, others helped but it was some fun. 

But there would be times when everyone got busy with their course work, few afternoons when I would be in the flat alone, (my room mate would be away in London most of the time) while other flatmates were attending there classes. On those days elaborate cooking was no fun, and it's a drag cooking just for yourself. That's when the Student Union Store just down the slope came in. I had a few favourite frozen food stuff I always got from there , Frozen Batter Fried Fish,  Chicken mini Kiev and Southern Fried Chicken. Oh and there was the ready to eat couscous salad and those yummy chocolate muffins I was crazy about. And the tuna and pasta salad...oooo...I am drooling sitting here. My comfort food when I most needed comfort thousands of miles away from home. 
   It was at the Union store that I first discovered Balti Chicken, or should I say the Balti Sauce.They came in glass jars with a label that read Patak's , of course the brand's name and you needed to do it shallow fry a few pieces of chicken, pour in the sauce once the chicken is half done and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or until chicken was cooked through. There was the chicken tikka sauce too, and I would alteranate between the two. Sometimes I have seemly brought the sauce to a boil and had it with rice and potato crisps on hungover mornings. Well....what do think we do at university? 
Honestly I had no clue what Balti Curry is. Of course the first thing that came to my mind was a bucket, those aluminium ones. But I wasn't sure. I have never seen a Chicken or lamb balti feature on the menu of an Indian restaurant, but I soon figured that in UK it was rather popular. I had had it once in an Indian restaurant in Edinburgh too, but mostly it was the Patak's sauce that I ate. And loved. There is much debate regarding the origin of the dish, while some say it originated in Baltistan in Northern Pakistan, others swear it was born in a humble kitchen of Birmingham! That's what I got from my reading. And yeah there is a bucket connection, the Balti dishes are supposedly cooked in a Balti (metal bucket). 
Anyway I was reminded of the Balti Chicken again when someone posted a picture of a social network site. And I wondered why I haven't tried replicating it at home. I went through numerous recipes, some how none seemed to excite me.So I visited the Patak's website and tired reading the label on the sauce bottle, lol...well they had a section for the ingredients used. Of course, they are smart and had terms likes spices on the list...hah...but I had an idea alright. And for the first time I made my balti chicken right at home today, and though it wasn't an exact imitation, it was very close and rather delicious. I say read up about the Patak's too here, some interesting stuff there. 
 As for the goes!


Boneless chicken - 1 kg 
Sliced onions - 11/2 cups 
Red Bell Peppers - 2 (diced )
Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Ginger paste - 2 tbsp 
Tomato puree - 150 ml 
Coarsely ground coriander-cumin  - 3 tbsp 
Coarsely ground black pepper - 1 tbsp 
Salt to taste 
Sugar to taste 
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp 
Kasundi - 1/2 tsp


Heat oil in a pan and add the onions. Fry until golden.

Add the diced bell peppers and fry for some time before adding ginger, garlic and black pepper powder. Fry some more, all the while on high heat.

Add the tomato puree and coriander-cumin mix, fry until oil separates. Add the chicken and salt and fry on high flame until the meat is seared sealing the juices and oil separates.

Add enough warm water to cover the chicken completely, add garam masala powder and sugar. Bring to a boil and a few minutes later  lower heat and let it simmer until chicken is tender. Adjust seasoning.The gravy should reduce and once oil separates, stir in the Kasundi and remove from heat.

Serve with rice, pulao or phulkas.