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Thursday, 31 May 2012

The deep fried coup and Desi Quesadillas

Ever since we reached our thirties, my husband and I have been subject to guerrilla wars and coups every year. The year begins with The revenge of the parathas that we have tucked into all winter.
By May we usually manage to suppress, if not uproot the paratha guerrillas that have subjugated us and fashioned unsightly bulges on our persons.
 It is a true moment of pride therefore, when we manage to fit into our swim wear without looking like aliens.
We then resolve to swim away the last of the bulges and slip into complacence.
We are blissfully unaware therefore that as we swim - another coup is gathering on the sidelines - The conspiracy of deep fried junk food.
These conniving soldiers station themselves innocuously next to all swimming pools. The samosas , aloo bondas , French fries, and cheese balls are the first cousins of the parathas and they have their vendetta chalked out.
They demurely perch in their cases as we walk in. Then as we are on our sixth lap and our stomachs are just beginning to growl, they leap into the oil to entice us with their aroma. By the time we are out of the changing room, they have won the war. We the pro food democracy champions, firm believers in balanced diets, are overthrown by the evil conspiracy of the junk food.
This summer however parental instincts were ruling. We had our daughter to protect. We didn’t want her to suffer the anguish of jumping in and out of overweight categories forever. So I devised a counter attack. A delicious (healthy) snack would stand guard in the changing room as we swam. It would faithfully jump in to sacrifice its life to satiate our growling monster stomachs as soon as we got there. With our greed satiated we would then be armed against the coup awaiting us outside.
Today’s recipe is a tribute to the faithful snacks that have fortified us against summer long coups.
 Desi quesadillas
I cheat a good bit. So instead of making or buying tortillas I just use leftover roti.
My filling varies every day
Day 1 – Boiled chicken shredded from the bone and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Day 2 – stir fried bell peppers, simply seasoned with salt and pepper
Day 3 – shredded chicken stir fried with some tomatoes and onions until done and seasoned with salt
Day 4 – egg bhurji
Day 5 – Left over chicken noodles from the previous day’s dinner. This was the biggest hit. There after I’ve decided to smuggle away a bit of all favourite dinners to fill my Desi Quesadillas the next day.
The method
Heat the tawa and grease it with a few drops of oil
Place the roti on the tawa and place the filling on one half of the roti
If you have grated cheese handy, line the edge of the filling and thereby the edge of the filled half of the roti with grated cheese.
Now fold the roti in half to cover the filling. Press the edges together with a spatula or spoon
The cheese along the edge of the roti melts in a few seconds and the semicircle sticks along the perimeter
Flip the folded roti over once the edges stick together and fry the other side as well.
Both the sides should be crisp.
Take the roti off the tawa and allow it to cool slightly and then cut it up into three pieces.
You are now armed to overthrow any coup. Feast on!!!!
(If you don’t have cheese at hand you could make a paste of flour and water and stick the edges with this.)

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A letter to Kyra - the sunshine girl

Dear Kyra,

I’m writing to you because you sound just like me. I’m a sunshine girl too. There was a time when I was scared of getting tanned, but that was before I discovered sunscreen.
I fell in love with the sun back in the summer of 1981 when I was five. We had traveled to Puri to beat the heat. On the rickshaw ride from the station to the hotel I was at my crankiest best when the rickshaw turned a corner and I saw the sea. It was the first time I saw that magical blue – and it was love at first sight.
That affair was destined to be much more than a one vacation stand. The years of my life thereafter were filled with longing for summer and beach trips. Gopalpur on sea, Chandipur on sea, Goa, Vishakhapatnam, Chennai, Mumbai, Kanyakumari, Cochin we did them all.
This summer unfortunately we couldn’t fit in a seaside vacation, but we’re planning to live it up at the swimming pool instead! We’ve got the trendiest swim wear ready and we’re ready to take the plunge.
The plan is - to get to the pool every morning armed with a picnic hamper and some huge beach towels. Plunge into the pool  - swim to your hearts content, come out  - attack the picnic hamper, lie on the beach towel under the sun umbrella - to cool off and then when the music gets irresistible - get up and dance. When the dancing makes you hot - plunge into the pool again!
How does the plan sound?
I’d love it if you could join me. We are sure to have lots and lots of fun!

Lots of love


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Aloo - bhaja - fried potatoes - a Bengali favourite

In the days before calorie counting became such an obsession, life was a lot of fun.

Deep fried treats were an integral part of every meal and a favourite was aloo bhaja (deep fried potato sticks).

 Meat obsessed Bengalis deign to make the exception only for very few vegetables. These irresistible deep fried potato sticks, generously sprinkled with salt are among the few that make the cut.

Even with unfaltering calorie defiant love it is impossible to monopolize this mouth watering dish. Every Bengali worth his salt at some point in his life has been in the raptures of love with this dish and once a lover always so.

Every family has patented their own version of this fantastic discovery. It is impossible to play favourites with the recipes. Each one is resplendent on its own throne. The fan following is staunch. The throne impossible to usurp.

The aloo bhaja stands its ground alone and when the occasion demands partakes in delectable threesomes and foursomes. The heavenly combination of dal, bhaat and aloo bhaja is the comfort food of an entire region for good reason. It is so reassuring and filling that it lulls you to sleep.

Aloo bhaja has held its own despite the efforts of frozen French fries because of their sublime character and their ability to merge into rather than dominate the plate.

Fry aloo bhaja and you will attract several noses followed by the respective hungry stomachs to your kitchen.

Long live the aloo bhaja!

Aloo Bhaja

Classically aloo bhaja is fried in Mustard oil.  In deference to rising cholesterol levels, mustard oil has been substituted with refined oil. A tablespoon of Mustard oil added to the refined oil imparts the flavour.

The tough part is the cutting of the potato. Matchstick thin slices are difficult to produce but a few bleeding fingers later one does acquire the requisite patience and skill.

1.     Peel a potato and cut it up into matchstick like pieces. If that is too tough, do thin round slices. The advantage here is that the slices can be on the thicker side and still taste good.
2.     Soak the slices in water for half an hour and then drain the water.
3.     Dry the slices in a strainer and allow all the water to drain out so that the water does not make the hot oil splatter.
4.     Sprinkle and mix in some salt on the dried slices.
5.     Heat oil for deep frying in a kadhai and add a few slices at a time.
6.     Fry them until they are golden brown
7.     Remove them from the kadhai and drain the oil on a paper napkin.
8.     Sprinkle some salt on top and serve

The trick in getting a crisp finish without ending up with a lump of limp sticky potato is to fry in small batches. Allow the oil to heat up before you add the next batch. The oil should be hot enough to brown the outside of the potato as soon as it hits the oil. Small quantities added to hot oil keeps the temperature high enough for this. Too many slices lower the temperature abruptly and with that out goes the crispness.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Mango thieves and Instant mango chutney

I vividly remember how afternoon siesta was snipped short every day in the summer to chase the mango thieves.
 The huge mango tree was the pride of our backyard. We were intensely possessive of our prized mango tree.
The tree had dared to grow with us in the face of adversity when our garden was just barren land and huge rocks.
 It was the seed of a mango that Baba had sucked dry and flung into the far corner of the garden. Determinedly green fingered, Maa had given it its place of pride in the middle of our backyard and nurtured it into this massive tree.
It vied with us for her affection and we were often jealous. In summer when the branches were weighed down with mangoes however, we were compelled to love it just as much.  
There was a lot of competition for the mangoes.
The parrots were the first ones to discover the mangoes. They greedily gobbled up the juicy bits and let the rest plunk messily on to the courtyard floor.
This did not go down well with us kids and we immediately commissioned Vishwanath our handy man to salvage some mangoes for us.
The raw mangoes would be lovingly turned into chutneys and murrabbas by Maa. The ripe ones would go to Pahlwan our fruit vendor to be further ripened and sweetened by his own secret techniques.
The evenings would then be excited trips to friend’s houses to give them their share of the booty.
Finally one day Vishwanath would give up and say he had had enough of climbing the tree and plucking and throwing mangoes into bed sheets eagerly spanning the courtyard beneath him. That was when the thieves were invited in.
My parents would call in the boys hanging on the trees along the road side and let them loose on all the remaining mangoes. Their squeals and smiles were the stuff that would inspire fairy tales.
Then the dear tree would go back to its quiet undisturbed existence for the next year and give us just its loving shade.

Mango chutney

This is an instant chutney made of mangoes that are falling off the trees right now. They are not ripe enough to be enjoyed as such but they are not raw enough for the real chutneys either.
They are somewhere on their way to being ripe and the pulp is yellow but not sweet.
1.     Take a mango and grate it. Don’t grate it too fine – a coarse grating is better as it gives the chutney a texture
2.     Put this in a bowl.
3.     Add 2 tablespoons of sugar, ¼ tsp of red chilli powder and a tiny pinch of salt to this and mix
4.     Taste it.
5.     Add a repeat of any of the already added ingredients as per taste

Store it in the fridge for up to 3 days

Get ready to lick up the whole mouth watering bowl with an eye squeezed tightly shut.

This picture was taken from our bed room window. It shows our mango tree peeping into our room

Monday, 14 May 2012

For the first ten years of my life I was an adamant vegetarian. An anomaly in a family of meat lovers.
In the 26 years that followed that bizarre anomalous phase of my existence I have more than made up for that period of abstinence. 

The family however has been unable to forgive and forget.

So I often have to remind my family that even during those childhood years I did make an exception.
 My favourite non vegetarian dish then  - was "Kurkuru". This was a family specialty - only my Mom could make it (much to my disappointment when we happened to eat out). 

I remember generously sprinkling this crisp heavenly fish dish all over my daal - chawal and thanking God for giving me a Mom who was such an immensely talented cook

The mystery plagued me however. Why did  no one else know about the existence of this exotic dish?

It was finally when I stepped into the kitchen (accidentally) one day, and saw the contents of the karahi (wok) that it finally dawned on me that my famous Kukuru was actually broken bits of fried fish that were salvaged from the karahi at the last minute and so got fried crisp.

Unfortunately for me I turned out a perfect Bengali and frying fish was magically second nature to me from the day I started.
I therefore never had the culinary pleasure of producing any Kurkuru. 

My strict vegetarian Punjabi Bramhin Mom, married into a fish worshiping Bengali family also eventually learnt how to fry fish without breaking it - and so Kurkuru is now extinct.

When I am introduced to someone as Bengali I often get these  admiring looks that in the end translate into envy at my ability to fry fish. 
At gatherings I often find myself explaining how fish can be fried without breaking it and I have now ceased to be surprised at the audience it seems to attract.

Being home and being surrounded by exotic fish dishes I think Bengali fried fish is what I should write about today.

Fried fish (Bengali style)

With my limited knowledge of fish - all I do when buying fish is go to fish monger and ask for either Rohu or Catla. Here I must say that in spite of not knowing the first thing about buying good fish, the fish mongers have always been nice enough to sell me the best of their catch. What I have learnt in my years being a Mom is that it is always best to buy a portion of the biggest fish available, because big fish - big bones - easier to remove.

  1. Take the pieces of fish and wash and clean them well.
  2. Put the pieces of fish in a bowl and sprinkle a tiny pinch of turmeric powder (haldi) and salt to taste.
  3. Mix the turmeric powder and salt into the fish pieces to coat them all on all sides.
  4. Leave the fish to marinate for about 15 minutes. I have often fried the fish immediately so that works fine too.
  5. The oil used is Mustard oil traditionally and that gives the real taste. Keeping the family's cholesterol values in mind however - I use refined oil and just add a tablespoon of mustard oil for the flavour.
  6. The problem with fish is that it tends to stick to the karahi and breaks when you prod it free. My solution to that is, to coat the fish with egg. Beat an egg and mix it into the marinated fish pieces to coat them. 
  7. Now heat the oil in the karahi. Add the egg coated fish piece to this oil and fry. The egg coating the surface of the fish gets cooked as soon as it touches the oil in the karahi and so a layer forms that prevents the fish from sticking to the karahi.
  8. Wait until the fish turns a golden brown and then take it out and drain it on absorbent paper napkins

That's it! Enjoy it on it's own or with some plain rice and dal.

Friday, 11 May 2012

A trip home is always the most difficult to pack for. I am otherwise a very prudent traveller who carries only so much and no more.

Travel light is my motto and I am always poking fun at my Fauji husband who amazingly carries a whole bag of shoes wherever he goes. His defence in this regard is so infallible (in his mind) that it is impossible to convince him to do otherwise. There are the formal shoes, the uniform shoes, the sports shoes, the casual shoes, the sandals and the chappals that need to be carried. And this is the bag of a person who otherwise doesn't care two hoots about what he is wearing . It is only the shoes that must be correct (not fancy, just occassion appropriate) at all times.

It is distressing to say the least to be ceremoniously dethroned from my proud position as a light traveller everytime I go home. The six foot high man of the house casts amused glances in my direction as he purposefully lifts my many bags, but in the interest of world peace refrains from comment.

The problem at hand is impossible to reslove.

Packing for a vacation is good fun and stress free - no one knows you there - you wear what you like and you do what you like. On a business trip again you have absolutely no doubt about what to pack because you need only work clothes. It is on a trip home that all the problems arise.

You want to be casually dressed, but there may be a formal occasion. You plan to lounge around so you need your club wear and swim wear as well. You never know there just may be a wedding to attend so you pack some finery as well. Then of course on some occassions you may need to appear like the doctor you often want to forget that you are - and so you need work formals. Excercise clothes are a must because the calorie intake needs to be atleast partially neutralised. One set of each of these is absolutely inadequate because they have to be approved by a household full of people with varied tastes and so most of everything I own gets packed.

 Of course much as I hate to admit this to my husband - this also involves packing ALL the appropiate shoes.

So when I'm finally done with packing, the fervent prayer is - that the scales do not show (too much) excess baggage. The prayer has its foundation not in the thoughts of the onward journey but in the return, when another three (at least) bags full of shopping are sure get added on.

With all these vital issues plaguing me - it has been really difficult to cook. After much procrastination when two pairs of hungry eyes began following me relentlessly , I decided on a quick pasta.

Pasta and quick should never be uttered in the same breath and so I really hope the champions of the slow food movement don't read this blog.

Fatafat Pasta

It is blasphemous to talk about pressure cooking pasta but blasphemy is what I have in mind today.

  1. Measure out 3 cups of pasta into a pressure cooker. Any pasta is ok - elbow, penne, fusisli - whatever you like. Add 6 cups of water to this. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon full of salt to this and close the cooker. Put the whistle on and cook on full flame until the first whistle. As soon as the whistle sounds, switch off the gas and cool the cooker by holding it under a running tap. When it has cooled sufficiently, open the lid and fish out one piece of pasta from the cooker. If it has cooked enough drain out the water from the pasta immediately using a strainer and wash the pasta in the strainer under running water. If you think the pasta is not done enough leave it for a few minutes in the hot water before you drain it out.
  2. Spread the rinsed out pasta on a plate
  3. Cook a creamy soup from a packet. My favourites are Cream of chicken and Cream of Mushroom but choose your favourite. The cooking of the soup is as per packet instructions except that instead of water its great if you use half water and half milk. This will make the soup thicker. A word of caution here - the  soup powder has to be dissolved in cold water or milk as the case may be. I know umpteen people who boil the water and then add the powder to it. This makes them wow never to make soup again.
  4. Mix the pasta into the soup .
  5. Your pasta is ready. Crush some fresh pepper in a pepper mill (if you don't have one you really need to get one) and sprinkle it over the ready dish.
Serve it up!
The only problem with this dish is that you can't stop eating it until the bowl is empty.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The magical thing called papri chaat

For many years after I was born I had no idea that chaat existed. It was a secret that my parents successfully managed to keep for 12 years.

 It was one day when I was at the market with a neighbour that I discovered this irresistible thing called golgappa (pani puri) and papdi chaat.

 At this point I've got to say that Jamshedpur , where I grew up has the most delicious chaat in the world.
Here it is unlike pretentious big cities where you go to swish joints, sit at tables and get served the pani (made of mineral water) and the puri seperately and then you attempt to put the two together with a spoon and end up with disastrous results.
In Jamshedpur you need to patiently await your turn to get to the coveted, grubby ill lit thela (hand cart) - which is just as well because the wait compells you to watch others gorging on the mouthwatering mucky water for long enough to tempt you beyond all reason.

When your turn arrives at last, you are handed a Sal leaf folded into a cup and you gratefully accept the water laden puri from the hands of the stall owner.

Once the ball explodes in your mouth your taste buds go into raptures of joy and the only way you can wait to be served the next golgappa is by slurping the remaining water in the cup while he serves the others.

It is amazing. It is the one time when taste beats logic and you actually understand what greed can do to perfectly sane people.

Greed got the better of me time and again after that and I braved several episodes of upset stomachs but was never discouraged from pursuing excellent taste.

I have never been able to find golgappas and papdi chaat of that calibre in any of the cities that I have subsequently inhabited in the past 20 years. Nothing has given me that heady high that that chaat did and I have not been able to justify the torture of taking ten bitter tablets to cure an upset stomach.

Three years ago I started attending what in the forces is known as ladies clubs. At every meeting home made papdi chaat would rule the table and that's when I hesitantly started imagining recreating this food of the Gods in my kitchen.

 Then - I actually attempted it.

 Though I have to admit that the chaat sans the roadside germs and bacteria can never attain the status that it aspires to - I think it did deserve a pass mark because it was instantly gobbled down.

Papdi chaat - taste that beats all logic

The first step is to get hold of papdi . These are like small puris that are hard instead of soft. Of course it would be great if we could make them at home and I have met people who churn out fabulous home made papdi, but frankly that much work is just not my cup of tea. I buy my papdi from supermarkets and confectioners. I prefer the kind that is salty. In the absence of papdi I have used salty biscuits (Monaco) or even fried papad  - with excellent results.

  1. Soak a cup of chick peas (kabuli chana ) overnight in a lot of water. In the morning pressure cook it with salt to taste and some ginger garlic paste. Pressure cook for one whistle at full flame and then for half an hour at minimum flame.
  2. When the cooker cools open it and drain the liquid away from the chana.
  3. Boil 5 large potatoes. I like to keep the peel on and pressure cook it because that makes it really fast. yYou need to watch it however because the potatoes must not get over cooked and mushy. They must retain their body.
  4. When the potatoes are done - peel them and cut them up into small squarish pieces. the pieces should be about the same size as the chana.
  5. Now take a big tub of curd. I never have the fortitude of setting curd in advance so I have to buy curd - but if you remember its great.
  6. Mix the cooled chana without its liquid into the curd and then dump in the pieces of potato.
  7. Taste a little of all three elements of the mixture to get an estimate of how salty it already is.
  8. Now start adding the commercially available chaat masala in generous teaspoon fulls. Taste each time after mixing to get exactly the right taste.
  9. Once you've got the mixture right cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate
  10. At serving time, crush the papdi into largish pieces and add it to the bowl. Mix these in. Save a good number of intact papdi and line the edges of the bowl with these.
  11. Squeeze imli chutney over it ( I always use imli pichkoo)
  12. Sprinkle the dish generously with sev bhujia ( I buy it - it's not worth the effort to make it).
  13. Sprinkle some chaat masala on top and serve.
You have the queen of all dishes ready to serve on the table.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Chocolate cake - wins hands down every time

Ah! the day after a party ................. amazing.
 Only if you happen  to have the day off maybe. Or no - even otherwise I think.

 The fridge is choc - a - bloc with goodies. (Of course the foresight of cooking in excess is a necessary pre-requisite.)
The day can be spent lolling around (no cooking to be done) and occassionally (frequently rather) dipping into the party leftovers with the spoons that I have convieniently left around in my favourites.

Of course several years into marriage when polite enquiries about preferences have been abandoned, the aforementioned pass time does involve a mini stampede for the favourites.

 In our refrigerator  today the first target was the chocolate cake.

I woke up this morning dreaming of its gooey texture , dark rich colour and heady chocolate taste. I wanted a bite immediately.

 Guess who I found in the kitchen though?

Hubby dearest was already pottering around with his cuppa when I got there.

My heart missed a beat - there had been very little left over from the party - what if it were already gone!

 I scowled at him in apprehension - he gave me a nonchalant glance.  My heart beat fast - and I opened the fridge.

 Phew!! There it was - the fruit of my labour.

 I curled up on the well worn corner of my well worn sofa to indulge myself after the anxiety of the previous few minutes.

Bliss! Bless you husband!

The Winning chocolate cake

I love to watch Rachell Allen as she lovingly cradles her beating bowl and creams the butter and sugar with a divine smile on her face.

When the show is over and I'm off the couch however - all I can think of are the virtues of my food processor. No food processor - no cake.

  1. The first thing I like to do is to get the baking tin ready. Scatter a few drops of oil in the tin and spread it all over, then place some paper (wasteful me - I always use printer sheets) to cover the base of the tin.
  2. Now turn on the oven on convection mode - set it to 180 degrees and let it preheat. In my experience it is always better to preheat for longer  - so I set the timer for 20 mins
Now its a race against time. I have only 20 minutes

3.     Turn on the food processor with the mixing blade in place. Crack 5 eggs one after the other and keep adding them to them mixing bowl.
4.      As the eggs get beaten up, measure out 1 and 3/4 cup powdered sugar   and add it in the bowl.
5.       Allow the beating to proceed and measure out 3/4 cup oil. Pour this is in as well.
6.       Keep the mixing going and add 2 tsp of vanilla essence.
7.       When theres a nice frothy mass in the bowl stop the food processor.
8.       In a seperate dry bowl, mix 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda with a cup of maida. Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Mix all this well - with your hands if you like - its faster. I never sift but you could if you like.
9.       Take another bowl and pour out the contents of the food processor.
10.      Now tip in the flour and cocoa powder mixture into the egg mixture mixing gently. This is one step in my careless life that I am extremely careful with.
11.      Once these two mixtures have been mixed, there is no time to lose, quickly pour it into the paper lined tin and shove it into the oven
12.      Bake it for 30 minutes at 150 degrees
13.      Take out the cake and allow it to cool. Then unmould the cake by turning the tin over.
14.      When the cake cools, slice it into two horizontally. This is easier said than done
15.      Drench both the inside surfaces with chocolate sauce and then fit them back together again.
16 .      For the top icing - Mix  5 tablespoons of powdered sugar in 4 tablespoons of hot water. Mix in 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder and add about 50 gms of butter. Mix well. If it seems too runny, cool the mixture a little and add a tablespoon of cornflour powder. Spread this mixture on the top and sides of the cake .

Refrigerate and serve chilled .

Ummmm ........ Heavenly!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Easy quick pakodas (bread fritters)

There's nothing quite like chatting with old friends. It takes you to the giggly madness of your youth. You feel like a teenager again. You mull over the elements of the conversation for a whole day. And your worries and cares just fall away.
That's the way I felt yesterday. I was fast asleep at 9:30 PM (believe it or not) with a viral fever afflicted husband and a dead tired kid for company, when out of the blue my phone flashed to life. Since I get these emergency calls at all times of the day and night from sick friends with sick cranky babies in urgent need of advice, I got up thinking it was one of them. I was expecting the anxious whisper and instead I heard a happy chatty voice at the other end who was shocked that I was asleep at this unheard of time.
A smile on my face and an uncontrollable giggle in my voice I chatted with my friend Poonam in what was for me the middle of the night. The only evidence of that chat in the morning was my buoyant mood and my goofy smile (I can tell you my husband was delighted not to encounter Mrs Grumpy Face this morning)
We talked about everything and nothing in particular. Of course we chatted about cooking because she is crazy about baking.
So today's recipe is dedicated to the chai and pakoda meetings with old friends

When I started cooking, I once ambitiously attempted paneer pakodas, and promptly fell flat on my face. The batter was too runny, I kept adding more and more besan and ended up with a huge quantity of gooey mess. The sticky mess stuck to my fingers rather than the paneer. The paneer and the batter that eventually did make themselves to the kadhai got fried seperately.

Thank God for forgiving hungry post graduate trainees (my guests that evening) they just ate that nonsense that I served up as pakoras.

Well many such disasters later I discovered that bread pakoras are the most forgiving and they were the only ones I attempted then for many many years.

Bread pakoda - the easiest pakoda in the world

  1. Take 2 slices of bread. The older the bread the better it is because fresh soft bread tends to disintegrate when shoved  into batter.
  2. Cut the bread neatly into rectangles with a serrated edged knife taking care not to mutilate it. The rectangles can be cut up further to make squares if you want smaller pakodas. Triangles however are best not attempted because they are too delicate for clumsy hands like mine.
  3. In a bowl take  5 tablespoons of besan (gram flour) and add some salt to taste and mix it into the dry besan. It is best to taste the batter after you add the salt to make sure it's just right. Be careful because bread usually is salty and its easy to overdo the salt.
  4. Add water measuring it out with a tablespoon. Pouring from the bottle is dangerous. Add about 5 tablespoons of water and make a paste then keep diluting the paste with a tablespoon of water at a time until the paste becomes thinner. The good thing about bread pakora is that it manages to hold batter of any consistency easily so you needn't worry too much about the consistency - it's ok if its runny and its ok if it's thick.
  5. Heat a cup of oil in a kadhai. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a blob of batter into the oil - the blob should come up to the surface immediately. Anyway the happy bread pakoda gets fried even if the oil is not at the right temperature - so don't worry
  6. Dip the bread slices in the batter and turn them around to coat them with the batter.
  7. Drop these batter coated bread pieces into the oil quickly otherwise the bread will break if it is moistened with batter for too long.
  8. Fry the pakodas to a golden brown colour, turning over to see that both sides are done.
Voila!!!! the pakodas are done. Get some chai and some good friends and settle down to some reviving gossip.
C ya!

Instant Masaledar Chole (chickpeas) Punjabi style

A mid week holiday is a special treat. It just beats everything else hollow.
You have the pleasure of treating the previous evening like a Saturday evening and staying up late. You reset your alarm for an hour or more later than the usual and then you have the pleasure of a  leisurely breakfast and a lazy lunch with a siesta thrown in for good measure.
So this Tuesday was a midweek holiday. I got up shouting JAI MAHARASHTRA!! and gloating over the privilege of having this special holiday by virtue of currently residing in Maharashtra. It gave me vicarious pleasure to call up people in other states and tell them that we had a holiday because we were so special.
 In some cases this didn't really work because it was May day as well and some other fortunate beings outside Maharashtra were off too.
Anyway I got off to a lazy start. The man of the house handled breakfast - with that blessed thing called MTR upma mix.
On my part - the only thing that was close to becoming edible that day was a bowl of chickpeas (safed chane) that I had been industrious enough to soak the previous night.

But making Chole was no mean task. I didn't want to chop and had not chopped on the weekend (that I had spent shopping) and so I had none of the mandatory chopped tomatoes and onions available.
With the holiday laziness refusing to budge from my person I decided that it was time to experiment.
The results of my experiment were fabulous to say the least. The whole bowl was wiped clean (much to my chagrin because I would have to cook again) and I had a new recipe to share

Instant Masaledar Chole ( Chickpeas /Kabuli chana) Punjabi style.

  1. Soak a katori of (Chickpeas/ Kabuli chana) overnight in a lot of water. At least 7-8 times the amount of water, because they absorb a lot of water.
  2. Wash the chole well after soaking until the rinsed off water runs clear.
  3. Put the kabuli chana in a presuure cooker with at least 8 times the amount of water
  4. To the water add 1 tsp of ginger garlic paste, and salt to taste
  5. Close the cooker and cook at full flame for the first whistle and then reduce the flame and cook for half an hour at minimum flame.
  6. Allow the cooker to cool and then open it
  7. In a seperate kadhai, heat 2 tablespoons of oil .
  8. Add 1 tsp of ginger garlic paste and 2 tsp of chole masala (available commercially from Everest and many other brands).
  9. Fry for a minute and then add the cooked chole with their liquid to the kadhai.
  10. Mash some chole on the walls of the kadhai with a ladle (this thickens the gravy)
  11. Allow the gravy and chole to simmer for 10 minutes on minimum flame.
  12. If you like the chole very very masaledar , add another tsp of chole masala at this point along with a slit green chilly.
  13. I like my chole slightly tangy and I like to add some lemon juice at the very end. However I frequently find that on occassions like this - there are no lemons in the house or that those available have shrunk and dried. My quick fix answer to this is vinegar and I find that a tablespoon of vinegar gives the same taste.

It was such a relief to hit upon this ultra simple recipe. Try it. It really works.