Sunday, July 31, 2011

Perfect Pancakes

Perfect Pancakes by Bombay Foodie

This recipe is typical Pioneer Woman. She takes what you and I do when making pancakes - mix flour, sugar, baking powder and add milk and eggs and butter. But she adds her little touches. Like the flour is cake flour so its much, much lighter. And she adds melted butter at the very end and I think that makes this pancakes extra soft.

If that wasn't a good enough start to the sunday, I topped the stack of pancakes with caramalized bananas. First, you cut the bananas in thick slices. Then you roll them in caster sugar. Now heat a non stick pan and add the bananas in a single layer. Wait a couple of minutes to them to brown, then flip and brown the other side too. All this should not take more than 3 minutes. Slide the bananas off the pan right on to the pancakes. NOT on the plate. It's sugar and it will stick.

For that last finishing touch, add chocolate syrup. Or honey, or maple syrup. Just add a lot of something sweet. It makes weekends sweeter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Before there was McDonalds

Bun Tikki by Bombay Foodie

And even before there was any kind of burger shop in Amritsar, there were street carts selling band tikki or aloo tikki in a bun. It's a dinner that brings back memories from decades ago.

For the tikki or the potato croquette, I boiled two medium sized potatoes. Peeled them when they were still warm and mashed them. Next, I cut off the sides of a slide of white bread, soaked the slice in water and squeezed it dry. I added the bread to the mashed potatoes along with salt and black pepper. Go easy on the spices here because we are going to add some zing later.

I divided the potatoes into four parts and shaped each into a round flat-ish tikki. Heated some oil in a non-stick pan and pan fried the tikkis till they were golden brown on both sides.

This takes 4-5 minutes so while the tikkis were cooking, I split two burger buns in half and toasted them. Also thinly sliced a small onion. The recipe assumes that you have tamarind chutney and green (cilantro) chutney tucked away in the fridge already but write in if you would like my recipes.

To assemble, spread tamarind chutney on the bun. Arrange two tikkis on top, add some sliced onions and sprinkle the fiery green chutney. Top with the other half of the bun, squish it closed and time travel to your ten year old self.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Wrong Book

Last month, our book club read A Moveable Feast, a collection of food stories published by Lonely Planet. When I went to buy it on flipkart like I do every month, the first book to show up was in fact another book by the same name. The “other” Moveable feast turned out be Ernest Hemingway’s memoirs, written as a young man living in Paris in the 1920s. This is the time before “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. And way before “The Old Man and the Sea”. No wonder I ended up ordering this book of memoirs instead of what the club had planned.

And what a feast this book is. This is Paris is 1920s, a haunt of American artists. Hemingway has not yet made it as a writer so he is as poor as a church mouse. But you can’t say the same of the people he hobnobs with. His friends and associates – Gertrude Stein, Erza Pound, Scott Fitzgerald – famous yet eccentric all of them, feature more prominently than the author himself.

In between these friendships and conversations, there are a lot of Parisian cafes. But there is mostly drinking and very little eating. Oh! what a life these footloose Americans had! The book had me in stitches with its humorous bent.

Croque Monsieur by Bombay Foodie


And wrong book it might be, it still prompted me to cook. Parisian bistro fare is what I wanted to make and my brain just screamed one dish – croque monsieur. It’s originally a ham and cheese sandwich but I made it in a vegetarian version. There are quite a few components to the dish:

Bread: Nothing too soft, crusty baguettes work but day old white bread is classic and that’s what I used.

Instead of ham: I have sautéed mushrooms. Sliced 5-6 mushrooms thinly. Heated a tsp of olive oil in a pan, added mushrooms and stirred until they started to exude some water. Then let them cook until the moisture all evaporated and the mushrooms were cooked through. Seasoned lightly with salt and dried oregano.

Bechamel Sauce (trust me, you will need it soon!): Warm ½ cup milk. Heat ½ tbsp butter in a pan. Reduce the heat to low and add ½ tbsp flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. It should not brown. Add the milk slowly, stirring all the while so you get no lumps. Let cook for another minute or two until the sauce thickens a bit. I usually have to stir it all the time to get rid of any lumps. Add salt and pepper.

The Sandwich: Set your oven to preheat to 250C (or your broiler or grill, whatever works for you – I only have this one oven!). Butter one side of two slices of bread. Take one of the slices and dab some mustard on the unbuttered side. Arrange mushrooms in a single layer and add a layer of gruyere cheese. Top with the second slice and pan fry the sandwich until both sides are lightly browned.

Spread a thin layer of béchamel sauce on top of the sandwich. Its traditional to add more gruyere cheese on top but I varied the routine and decided on parmesan instead. Pop this under the grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese melts and starts to brown.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Contemporary Indian

My problem with Oberoi's Ziya is not that it takes familiar Indian dishes and whacks them out of shape to create continental style plated food. My problem is that the food that emerges at the end of this transformation is mere "meh" and not worthy of the Michelin stars its chef holds. We are seated for lunch at a fabulous table by the window, facing the sea. And the server shows up with two shot glasses of chaas. Totally ordinary, everyday buttermilk.

From the menu, we pick mushroom galouti as starters. I thought it will be interesting and it was delicious for sure, but not a hint of mushroom in there. By now, my dining partner was clamoring for mushrooms so for mains, we picked paneer lifafa with mushroom khichdi. What showed up was a very pretty plate but in the end, it was paneer bhurji in puff pastry. One of the best puff pastries I've eaten, mind you, but just a puff all the same. And mushroom khichdi? Well, there was really only two spoonfuls of it so not sure what to say.

What bugs me even more is that the server asked us what breads we will want, and totally failed to mention that there will be nothing to dunk my black olive naan in. To be fair, he did bring us some kaali daal after the fact but still...

Dessert was a chocolate platter. Served on a faux color palette, and very, very pretty. Wish it were flavorful...the brownie was dry. The white chocolate kulfi just not worth it, neither were the chocolate samosas. The paan flavored white chocolate mousse was nice and refreshing. And I am glad I discovered at least one redeeming fact about Ziya...the chocolate mousse with praline was yummy but that was the only one in everything that day to be so!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chaat Street

Dahi Puri by Bombay Foodie

I once tried explaining chaat to an American friend. It's not an entree or a main dish, I told her. For chaat's never eaten at meals. It's for snacking.

So it's finger food, she asked. Or a canape?

Neither, I said. Chaat comes on a plate because its dunked in sauces and its messy. And it's so spicy it makes your eyes water. But it's the best food there is.

By now, my friend sported such a bewildered look that I gave up. You don't explain chaat. You experience it. And preferably, because a little plate of food requires so much work, you don't cook it at home. In fact, chaat always tastes better when eaten off a street cart.

My favorite chaat experiences are dunking puffed golgappas in chilli and tamarind water. And eating that plate of coin sized papdis and dahi vadas drowning in chutneys and yogurt, aptly called bhalla papdi chaat back home.

Then in Mumbai, I made a new favorite. The Dahi Puri - the puffed golgappa filled with spicy mashed potatoes, some sprouted lentils and topped with tamarind chutney that's sweet and savory and spicy at the same time. Also with the extremely spicy cilantro and chilli chutney. Laced with yogurt. And finally garnished with fried gramflour strings as thin as rice vermicelli. Some fresh cilantro too, just for effect. You can't explain the dish, you have to experience it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mystery Fruit



This only happened a few times every year, just when the rainy season kicked in. A street hawker will come by, straw basket on head. He will yell "kaul chapni" and I will run out to buy a bundle of these. Stuck together like flowers, they looked like a bouquet. Every hole contains a little fruit. You break out the package, peel the tiny fruit that pops out and eat it. Done slowly, it can take you an hour to eat an head. Or did, when I was about 12 years old.

That was the last time I saw this fruit. I've never seen it again, didn't even know what it was called or where it came from. Three weeks back, Vikram Doctor wrote about a store in Khar that sells Sindhi foods. He described this fruit and I knew it came from my vivid childhood memories. And finally, I knew we were talking about lotus fruit.

Now talk about coincidences. Last weekend, I was passing by a lane in Bandra and for the first time in many, many years I saw the straw basket filled with my mytery fruit. It was like meeting an old friend. I wish I could say that the fruit was as sweet as my memories. The bag I bought was overripe and tough. But now I know where to look for it. Will be back with an update next weekend!

And Vikram Doctor, please write about falsas next. It's a tiny purple berry and again, I don't know what the world calls it outside Punjab. Maybe you'd be the lucky omen and I'd find that one too.