Category Archives: Random bits and bobs ..

Dosa part DEUX – Sambar

This is not a recipe for a dosa but more like the mini me for your dr evil or the thorn for your rose. Don’t tell me your mum makes it better than this…I’m sure she does but a it’s not a competition..every one has their own version..this is my own

These are the accompaniments for that delectable fermented pancake or the steamed rice cake the idli .there will be part trois absolutement for the two chutneys ..too but that’s not today..the train I’m writing this in will reach much before that.

So for the dal we need either tur/ Tuvar dal or a mix of tur dal and masoor( the red lentil).we will make one pot full of sambar it’s hard to put down how many portions we can get out of it.

  • Tur dal.- 1/2 cup / approximately 120 g wash rinse and soak.Cook either in the pressure cooker approximately 2-3 whistles or in the pot till it’s soft and mushy. Add a qtr spoon of fenugreek seeds during the cooking time
  • eggplant -30-40 g cut in cubes
  • small red shallots – 4-5 peeled called vengayam in Tamil they give a hint of sweetness to the lentil
  • Drumstick( not the chicken kind)/ Moringa / Murungakai-1 cut into 2 inch pieces . Give a unique flavour to it
  • Tomato small / 75 g cut into large dice.
  • oil 10 ml
  • mustard seeds -1/4 t / 2 g
  • Asafoetida- pinch prevents you from becoming Gassy classy ..
  • curry leaves – 1 sprig fresh or dry..
  • dry red chilli – 1/2 small one
  • turmeric-1/4 t..yup the same thing which goes in your latte but with no sugar
  • Sambar masala podi/ powder use mtr or brahmins – 1/4- to 1/2 t
  • Tamarind -5 g soaked in 50 ml hot water
  • Ghee – 10 g to add in the end ..for that flavour burst

Raan -sublime slow braised leg / shoulder of lamb

So…theres this slow braised kind of lamb which I’m sure had it’s origins in the Levant region or with the Ottomans.. in the middle east it’s quite the custom to serve a braised / roasted whole lamb for a feast.

Since we don’t have Tyrannosaurus sized ovens at home and because a raan is an Indian version of the middle eastern thing we will use the lamb leg . You could use a shoulder..if you like that’s perfectly fine . The idea is to get it so tender that when you touch it with your fork or fingers the meat should be easy to tear off ..kind of like the Galouti kebab invented for the toothless Nawab but not as melty..but you get the general idea.

The first step is to get a whole shoulder or leg of lamb, not too big approximately 1.5 kgs -2 kgs..a day and half before you want to eat this any faster and you swiftly lose the plot..its not meant to be fast food.

So

  • Lamb leg / shoulder bone in( better flavour)-1.5-2 kg
  • Plain natural yoghurt- approximately 200 g
  • Red chilli powder bright red in colour not crazy hot- as much as you like/ or 1/2 t
  • fried onions – approximately 2 T or 35-40 g
  • Ginger chopped/ ground- 20 g
  • Garlic chopped / ground- 30 g
  • Nutmeg grated – very small pinch .grate it fresh it’s better but not too much it can be toxic and and we don’t to overpower the meat flavour
  • Turmeric – yup the stuff they add in these new fangled lattes these days – pinch
  • Slit green chilli- 2-3 depending on how much heat you want..
  • Roasted cashew – 1 T ground to a paste .. this is optional but adds some thickening to the sauce and makes it richer.

So we are going to poke the lamb with a fork or the tip of a stout sharp knife , minding those fingers we don’t want you bleeding all over the beautiful meat.

Then we combine all the ingredients and rub it into the meat with some salt ..cover it all up and keep it overnight in the fridge .

The next day if you want this for dinner then you need to start in the morning and slow roast this with some water or better still lamb stock..

So the way to do this is keep it In a deep dish/ roasting pan lined with baking paper + foil underneath .then set your oven to 170C/ 375F . Add liquid ( stock or water) till it’s atleast 1/3 rd upto level of the meat . Then slow cook this and baste several times so it’s stays moist .

The liquid helps the break down the connective tissue in the meat faster and converts it to gelatine( but that’s the science behind it). We use science to make yummy food. We also test the lamb for doneness the old fashioned way.. poke it till the meat is fork tender .almost falling off the bone.. ( no this is not eaten medium rare or pink ) .

When youve achieved this take off the heat and flavour with some fresh mint and a pinch of garam masala .In some of our hotels we would flambe this with some dark rum but I believe this was more for the ” Oooh Aahh ” factor ..let’s save the rum for the chocolate truffles ..

Serve with hot parathas basmati rice or Turkish bread . Best eaten with a crowd as a part of a few more food offerings .more is good in this case.

Ayam berempah /goreng / KIND of …k…fried C WITH A tonne of flavour

The name is not really accurate it’s like saying grill fry chicken. Berempah is grilled goreng is fried so this is kind of hybrid version of them both.

Ideally made with chicken with the skin on cos the fat from the skin slowly melts as you cook it and bastes the chicken and gets cripsier yeah that’s an actual word that some folks have invented .

So in the world of takesaway and fried chicken places galore this sticks out like a sore thumb cos it’s slow not deep fried and needs some effort to get right.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say and it’s the same with me goreng..( see the pun there).

  • Chicken cut into 12 skin on ideally roughly 1-1.2 kg
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice or white vinegar
  • Garlic5-6 cloves
  • Ginger – 1 piece roughly 25 g
  • Turmeric – 1/4
  • Coriander stems- 5 g
  • Red chilli fresh 2-3 ( not very hot but not mild either)
  • Cumin-1/4 t
  • Star anise- 2-3 small petals from 1 star.
  • Chicken stock powder/ji jing – pinch

Ok we need to grind the above except chicken to a kind of paste / marinade and then add in….

  • Oil 30 ml approximately
  • corn flour- 10 g/ 1/2 T
  • rice flour- 20 g/ 1 T

Marinade and keep overnight atleast ..12 hrs.. the longer the better.

The next day , take the chicken out of the refrigerator atleast 30 mins before cooking. then line a cast iron deep saute pan with baking paper and arrange the chicken on it skin side down. Heat the pan , and keep the lid on so it stays moist and juicy. after about 10 minutes turn the pieces over to see that they are not burnt and cook some more. How much more , youll know it when the juices from the leg , when pierced run clear( or use a meat thermometer – to cook until 75 C/ 165 F internal).Chicken is not something you cook rare or medium..

You wont need any extra oil as you already had oil in the marinade and the trick is to slow cook it so that the skin fat melts aand bastes the meat and keeps t moist and juicy and gets crisped. the Rice flour and cornflour also help with that. If you want it crispier you can add a bit more of those and as in all recipes feel free to play around a bit to get it to the taste/ flavour profile you are looking for. This is recipe is not the stairway to heaven , merely points in the general direction .

You have to love the food , so that you get make it good!! thats the trick.

How we discovered not to go fishing-or how not to be a drownded rat!

So this is a story not related much with food unless you say but theres fish on the heading. Well there is but these were not the kind that you ate unless your were Gollum/ Smeagol and ate fishies.

So imagine a city in Western India where you have a band of young peoples. Their names are Yash and Deep and they are typical boys who want to have a bit of an adventure as boys are prone to be. So these young scoundrels were interested in fish because they save fish in a tank at someones house. Now there are shops which sell fish and the paraphernalia to go with the fish but that costs mucho rupees,(2-3 Rs, which at the time in the 80’s was a fair bit ) which they are not likely to get ( or so they think), but they havent asked yet.

So in the are where they live lets call it the colony..indiranagar colony.

There they have other male children who have similar tastes. One male child says hey there are sugarcane fields next to the colony and ive seen a well in them. All the other kids are wide eyed/ OMG, he has been in the forbidden forest of sugarcane, where no living being should go.

So they set off on Sunday morning for this quest. The well is deep in the fields, and has a narrow set of stairs to go by the waters edge deep down. these steps were solid mud not brick or stone, so as the kids went up and down they would get wet , nay make that very wet and slippery.

When the kids went missing for such a long time, the father met up with another dad across the street and they took their black retriever “Bagheera” to track these rascals.

Back the well the kids were having a blast. Walk down slippery clay to the waters edge and crouch down on thee knees and with your palms try and catch slippery colourful fishies. they had collected a few in sort of container by noon. Suddenly they hear barking and a familiar voice calling out and lo and behold. Two dads and a barking Bagheera are by the wells edge .

40 years later i realise how stupid we were and so lucky not to have an accident or drown. None of use knew to swim and followng this we did get a fish tank with 2 and 3 rs fishes swimming inside till they all went belly up

Nairobi , and the misadventure at Wilson airport/ langata Prison

So when I lived in Dubai, one year my mum and dad or rather Aai and Baba as I call them we went for a fabulous Safari in East Africa. I had been inspired by my friend from a long time Chris Francis and his wife Ashwini who went the year before and came back with hordes of videos on their handycam of sorts on mini dv tapes that we sat at their place near Lamcy Plaza and i said this must be done. We saw dem and said Wot men, we have to do this thing..

So the plan was I would set ff from Dubai and meet my folks in Nairobi and then we would go on a tour together to Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara, to see the big 5. To cut a long story short it was a great safari we saw all the big 5 , we cheetah’s chase down and make a kill everything was amazing. Unfortunately my brother couldnt make it, since he was caring for the dogs( we had 5 back then) at home ..

So the next year we planned to do the safari again this time with Deep and I. so everything was set, I booked it through a customised safari company called Suntrek Safaris and we would goto Mountain lodge , first then come back to Nairobi and thrn proceed to Masai Mara, and hopefully get to see the migration through the river.

Mountain lodge was great and we had a day to kill when we were back at the Hilton Nairobi waiting for the next day to go to the Mara.So through our company Suntrek i booked a day day trip deluxe of nairobi which included a trip t Sheldrick the animal orphange where we met delightful baby elephants and rhinos, followed by a trip to Giraffe Manor where we can hand feed the giraffes, a crocodile farm ,an ostrich farm where one tried to peck my toes .Luckily my red wing shoes saved me feet.What was going to come next was an overwhelming adventure which we never had thought would happen.

Since this was Deeps first trip out of india , naturally he was excited and was clicking photos on the 35 mm camera , like it was never going to end.

We finished the ostriches and were on our way to Nairobis most famous restaurant ” Carnvivore”, when we started passing Wilson Airport , Nairobis domestic airport. Now unbeknown to us, since 9-11 , British airways had cut all flights to Kenya and were restarting on that day, so there was heightened security around all airports.

Deep saw some red and yellow propellor kind of planes and wanted to photograph these. by this time i was fed up and said you go ahead and do it quickly , because we are already behind schedule. A few minutes later the driver got out to see what was happening an 5 minutes later i lost it and stormed out to see an airport police man with a big gun talking animatedly in Swahili to the driver. It turns out that photography around there isnt allowed and the guy wanted some baksheesh from the dirty foreigner tourists. I said ok i apologise but im not paying any money and if you want you can keep the film. so this goes on for sometime until there is a big truck coming up, and more policemen and more Swahili.

Then the three of us were sent to Langata which is the closest police station and apparently one with a ” reputation”.

The inspector there looks us over like were the scum from Waka Chaka land and interrogatedus, took our belongings and keep us in a room. Form here it got even more and more crazy. Then we were interrogated as a group and individually , to see if there are any inconsistencies in our story, which got very frustrating for us.

The drivers cousin brother is also at the same station and he informed the tour company, who in turn informed our uncles from a long distance who incidentally was working for USAID and an diplomat or some sort .

So by the time all these things had been worked out we had been put in a holding cell, with all our belongings taken away and a handwritten piece of paper given to us , with the warning, ( if we lose the piece of paper we dont get our stuff back) . The inspector wanted to know why i had the big swiss army knife with me and his eyes sparkled when he counted all the $$ in the wallet. we were also hobbled by being allowed to wear only 1 shoe/ boot so in case we broke through the walls we would not be able to run far or very fast.

The cell itself was wonderful , about 5 m x 2 m and 1 window 30 cm or so high up on the wall and a bunch of colourful folk inside who wanted to know what we were in for.with nt much to do we had to sit down on an ammonia scented floor ( God knows how many folk wouldve peed there).

Then in the evening we were summoned to the office where the tour companys people had gotten s some food ( but having used the toilet before ) i didnt want to get even close to there. Deep pleaded with the inspector for a better cell and the guy wanted to his palms greased which ” no way jose”, from me which peeved him off even more and he locked us away from the others in our own private cell. We were also able to talk with our uncle who said theat they would be able to do nothing until tht next day at the earliest , because there wasnt anyone to speak with .

We then went back to our cell to suffer in silence .Luckily our passports were safe in our hotel safe and I used to at time carry a miniaturised photocopy of mine in my wallet, but never the original.

The maybe at 10 pm we were woken up.I had decided to goto sleep because there was no point in sitting and worrying. Then go back to the desk and put on our shoes , but no belongings yet.

Then we have to go in the back of an army truck with three soldiers, by which time Deep says” now they are going to do an encounter with us and we are gone” . I said well if they do would be your fault i think for taking those stupid photos..or something along those lines.

Those army dudes kept taunting us saying hey you guys are from this and that and then we stopped at the petrol station and were asked to get down. Next we get into a car with some plainclothes guys and we drive to the Hilton and goto reception and upto our rooms.

The guy who took is in the car checks ur passports and then returns them and says ok , you can stay here now and come tomorrow to Langata and then the secret service office or whatever they have t collecect your stuff.

Pheww , was like a spy movie gone wrong . we then got a knock on our door and was the owners son Nish Lakhani. they had to pull a lot of strings to get us out but they did it. Thank you once again .

The advnture though had not ended until the safri was done and we were back at the airport to go back , me to Dubai and Deep to India.

At the airport , the immigration police guy tells me i dont have small pox vaccination so i cannot board the flight and by now i know what they are wanting , but im nt going to budge an inch. I said i need yellow fever vaccine and heres the boklet for that which says clearly i dont need the other. He says i can help you if you help me. i said no.. i can wait here at the ariport and you arrange the vaccine for me , and ill just take the next flight to Dubai,…hehehe.. the dude decided i was to stubborn and the Emirates guys came to look for me and he said ohhh just get out of here..

Im waiting for the next chapter when i go the next time , with Viraaj and Ananya my kids and get them introduced to the wildlife outside the Mara river ..