If you are in North India, winters are synonymous with gajar ka halva. I got to know this fact only after I came to stay in this part of the country 14 years ago. Not that I did not know of this sweet dish made of the healthy carrots but loaded with calories, but the cult status it enjoys in the region was kind of a surprise to me.
My mother used to put in great efforts to cook this dish. Grating the carrots was a must, because nobody at home liked the taste when it was cooked the easy way, by boiling and mashing the carrots. She would use all sorts of goodies to give it that heavenly taste.
A bowl of hot and tasty ghee-dripping gajar ka halva generously laden with dry fruits is all you need on a freezing cold day. The day I made the dish some days back was incidentally the season’s coldest day in Delhi.
Here goes my recipe of the winter beauty.
Food for thought: Gajar ka halva
Carrots: 1 kg
Sugar: 1/2 cups
Condensed milk: 1/2 tin
Milk: 1/2 litre
Khoya (Mawa): 200 grams
Cashew & raisins: 1/2 cup
Ghee (clarified butter): 4 tablespoons
Preparations: Grate the carrots and keep it aside. In a pan, heat ghee and fry the carrots till the ghee separates. The ghee will turn orange. Pour the milk and cook the carrots till done. Add sugar, condensed milk, khoya, cardamom and the dry fruits and cook till you get the desired consistency.
It was my first outing as a food blogger. I am glad it happened, for the experience gave me a chance to get back to writing.
With its “discover” theme, Opera Software organised the #DiscoverWithOpera food bloggers’ meet at Ahoy! Asia, a new Oriental restaurant in Delhi. Started by friends Arun Chanda and Satyajit Mukherjee, Ahoy! took me on a journey of cuisines I hadn’t tasted before.
A lot of travel has gone into the menu finalised by the restaurant, a menu way different from the ones you see at other restaurants serving Asian food in India. You will need a magnifying glass to find chilli chicken. Mukherjee minced no words in saying that they don’t serve “Chinjabi”.
From Okonomiyaki, the starter, to Banana Spring Rolls, the dessert, the food gave us a tour of almost entire Asia. But what intrigued me most was the Uyghur cuisine from Xinjiang region of China. An amalgamation of Islamic and traditional Chinese cuisines, it gives you a very different Chinese experience.
As food bloggers embarked on a journey of Oriental food discovery, Sunil Kamath, Vice-President for South Asia, Opera Software, compared it to the experience of browsing the Net with Opera to ‘discover’ content. “Opera gives an opportunity to users to get hot new content with no browsing necessary with the new ‘Discover’ feature available on Opera for Android and Opera for Windows & Mac.’ The feature allows you to get fed with new articles from whichever region you want to get inspiration from, right in your browser — all in one place. Users can pick and choose their category: news, food, technology or anything thing…” he said.
The Ahoy! menu boasts of a range of food from the Uyghur kitchen — from Tangjiao (a lamb dumplings soup in a meat broth) to Chuanr (spicy lamb skewers grilled over charcoal); DaPanJi (Chicken stew served with Uyghur rice pilaf) to Zhua Fan (pilaf of mutton, carrot, chickpeas and rice, served with curry & Uyghur style yoghurt) and stir fired spicy lamb with wok tossed noodles.
Dishes from Sichuan and Canton regions of China too rub shoulders with Uyghur cuisine at Ahoy! kitchen.
The other countries we “covered” on the gastronomical trip were Vietnam (Chicken Banhmi Sandwich), Malaysia (Lamb Murtabak) Japan (Chicken Yakitori) and Thailand (Tofu & Bell Pepper Satay). The menu also travels to Mongolia, Myanmar and Tibet.
Some of the other varieties we tried were Toho Kawap (chicken wing kebabs grilled over charcoal), Kung Fu Caesar Salad (greens with grilled chicken and garlic croutons tossed in lemongrass mayo) and Banana Spring Rolls with a vanilla ice-cream scoop & caramel sauce for dessert.
After tasting such delicious Asian fares, the first thing I had on my mind was if it was possible to replicate at least one of the dishes at home. The most doable one seemed to be the popular Japanese breakfast dish, Okonomiyaki — the pancake of different flavours served on a bed of cabbage. The recipe is simple, and since Chef Chanda said we could use our own ingredients to replicate it at home, it was all the more welcome. I instantly decided to replace the special mayonnaise he had used by the normal one I use at home, and Aonori (seaweed flakes) with bacon/chicken strips and the sauce with a distinct flavour with my good old tomato sauce.
Share my recipe with you.
Food for thought: Okonomiyaki
Flour: 1 cup
Stock (chicken/veg): 2/3rd cup
Cabbage: 4 cups
Spring onions: 1 cup
Boneless chicken (boiled): 1 cup
Ginger: 1 tablespoon
Bacon: 2 strips
Prawns (small): 4-5 pieces
Sausage: 1-2 links
Preparation: Cut the cabbage into thin slices and keep aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour and stock until smooth. Add eggs, onions, ginger, shrimp and sausage and lightly mix, seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste. Now, oil a hot griddle and make a bed of the thinly sliced cabbage. Add the Okonomiyaki mixture on to that and using a spatula flatten the mixture on the bed of cabbage. The pancake should be around 1.5 cm thick. Lower the flame, and cook until firm. Flip it over and cook for another minute or two. Flip it back if the cabbage side is not well browned yet. Remove from heat and serve hot with mayonnaise and tomato sauce topping.
Last words: Mine is not the original Japanese recipe, but for the uninitiated, this should work fine as a breakfast choice when you are not in a mood for your regular bread and eggs or dosa-sambhar or dahi-parantha. Please feel free to improvise and use the ingredients of your choice. For a vegetarian version of it, chicken or bacon can be easily replaced with mushroom or other interesting stuff.
Douzo meshiagare! (Apologies, if I am not using it at the right place and have not spelt it right)
MONSOON has failed to keep its date, and Delhi continues to sweat it out with the mercury hovering around the 45-degree Celsius mark. I wish I could go on a vacation in a cooler place, but that’s not an option.
When I went to the kitchen this morning to make breakfast, I wondered if I actually needed to switch on the gas for cooking. Given the heat, things should have cooked on their own.
Jokes apart, the thought of eating anything hot was repulsing. So I decided to go raw.
I had picked up a packet of couscous during one of my last trips to a supermarket and what could have been better than that for a cold salad on a hot morning. I had capsicums and tomatoes and cucumbers in the fridge, besides a special summer ingredient – raw mangoes. I chopped everything and tossed them up with the couscous, seasoning it with a little dried rosemary, chilli flakes and lemon juice.
With all fresh ingredients going into it, nothing could have gone wrong with the dish. And nothing did. Here it goes:
Couscous: 1 cup
Chopped onions: ½ cup
Chopped cucumber: ½ cup
Chopped tomatoes: ½ cup
Chopped capsicums: ½ cup
Chopped raw mango: ½ cup
Salt: To taste
Pepper powder: To taste
Dried rosemary (optional): 1 teaspoon
Chilli flakes: ½ teaspoon
Juice of one lemon
Coriander leaves: 2 tablespoons
Preparation: Prepare couscous as per instructions on the packet. Usually, for one measure of couscous, you need an equal measure of hot/boiling water. Mix all ingredients together and season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes, lemon juice and dried rosemary.
Last words: I had fixed the salad in a hurry, so did not play much with the contents. You always have the option of using boiled peas, baby/sweet corn, shredded chicken and other interesting salad ingredients to add meat to the dish.
On a trip to the market near my home last month, I had noticed this vendor selling egg/chicken rolls. I immediately wanted one, but since we were heading for dinner that night, I had to resist the temptation. But there was no such compulsion today, as I picked up a takeaway parcel for our evening snack at home.
I wish the rolls were as tasty as I had expected them to be. With the cabbage-dominant filling eating into the taste of eggs, I found them hardly different from the one they sell at my office canteen. The egg roll we get at the canteen always makes me regret having ordered it.
You may ask why do I need to order egg rolls from the canteen if I don’t like the way they make it in the first place? To answer this, I have to take a trip down memory lane – to my childhood when I would make those trips to erstwhile Calcutta, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal so famous for its street food. No visit to the eastern metropolis was complete without the mandatory stopover at one of those roadside stalls selling egg/chicken rolls. Not much used to outside food back then, at a time when fast food wasn’t a craze yet, I would eagerly wait for the juicy bites.
Over time, I was exposed to several fast foods – South Indian, Chinese, American — but nothing could beat the oil-dripping calorie bomb, the Calcutta-special egg rolls, something I cannot resist even now.
Maybe, that’s why I was so sad when I left the South Delhi locality to move into a bigger flat in East Delhi six years ago. The house we lived in earlier was so close to CR Park, the mini-Bengal in Delhi. And yes, you get all the street food goodies there — from mutton ghoogney, fish/mutton/chicken chops and cutlets, jhalmuri, churmur and fuchka to all special Bengali sweets, and, of course, the good old egg rolls that taste more authentic there than what you get in the present-day Kolkata, I am sure. By authentic, I mean the filling would only consist of a raw salad of sliced onions, fresh cucumber and shredded carrots soaked in vinegar and sprinkled with salt.
I had this major craving for these rolls one day when I was expecting last year, so much so that I got up early on a hot June morning only to fix one for my breakfast.
Before I create a bigger hype, let me stop explaining the dish and share my recipe for all to see and taste.
Food for thought: Calcutta-special egg rolls
Ingredients (4 pieces):
Onions: 2 medium, thin slices
Carrots: 1, thin shreds
Cucumber: 1, thin slices
Vinegar: 2 tablespoons
Atta: 1 cup
Maida: 1 cup
Oil: 2 tablespoons for the dough and as required for frying
Salt to taste
Preparation: Knead the dough well (for at least 10 minutes) by mixing the atta and maida with oil and water. For the filling, mix sliced onions, cucumber and carrots with vinegar and salt. Make balls out of the soft dough and roll out like chapattis/paranthas. Fry one by one on both sides with a little oil and keep aside. Put one egg (beaten or directly) on a tawa like you make an omelet, but don’t turn it over. Instead, on the raw side put one of the fired paranthas that will stick to the egg. Now take it off the fame and keep it on a plate. Spread some tomato sauce on the egged surface and put the salad filling in the middle, before rolling it up. Serve hot.
Last words: For the filling, you can also use shredded chicken cooked in with onions, tomatoes and spices. Just make sure it is juicy but dry. Instead of paranthas, you can use tortillas the same way, though the taste will be different.