Friday, November 30, 2007

Carb heaven

Kheer is by far my favourite Indian dessert. No doubt because it is very similar to Sutliash, the rice pudding my grandmother used to make for me all the time when I was a kid. The only difference is that in Sutliash, the only garnishing is sprinkled cinnamon.

Wikipedia: Kheer (Sanskrit: Payasam, Oriya: Kheeri) is a traditional dish in the Indian subcontinent, a rice pudding typically made by boiling rice with milk and sugar. It is often flavored with cardamoms and pistachios. Payasam stands for Nector and is derived from "Peeyusham" which is also called " Amrutham". Kheer is also from Sanskrit word "Ksheer" which means Milk. It is an essential dish in many Hindu and Muslim feasts and celebrations in South Asia, While the dish is traditionally made with rice, it can also be made with other ingredients such as vermicelli (semiya). The recipe for the popular English rice pudding was, in fact, derived from kheer when Britain had occupied India. The north Indian version of rice kheer most likely originated in the temple city of Puri, in Orissa about two thousand years ago. It is cooked to this day within the Jagannath temple precincts there. Every single day, hundreds of temple cooks work around 752 hearths in what is supposed to be the world's largest kitchen (over 2500 sq. ft) to cook over 100 different dishes, including kheer, enough to feed at least 10,000 people. Traditionally the Oriya version of kheer is sprinkled with fried cashews and raisins and served in most festive occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, and religious festivals. Although white sugar is most commonly used, adding gur (molasses) made of dates as the sweetener is an interesting variation that is also relished in Orissa. In Nepal, on the fourth month of the solar calendar, it is a tradition to eat Kheer. The dish is also consumed at Muslim weddings and prepared on the feasts of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. A similar dessert, variously called firni, phirni or phirnee, is eaten in North India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Today, rest South Indian version. The south Indian version, payasam, is an integral part of traditional South Indian culture. In payasam, coconut milk is routinely used instead of milk. The Hyderabadi version is called as Gil e firdaus, and is quite popular. Payasam is served as an offering to the gods in south Indian Hindu temples during rituals and ceremonies. In the southern Indian state of Kerala, people have a particular affinity towards this dish. The payasams served in the temples of Guruvayoor and Ambalappuzha are renowned all over the region. The dish is also a must-have in all wedding feasts. Sometimes, the payasam is mixed with banana, sweet boondi or papadum before eatingaurants offer firni in a wide range of flavours including mango, fig, custard apple, etc.

I was in Chandigarh last month, and at Gurtaj's aunt's place, after a comatose dinner, we were served a huge bowl of kheer - deatht by carbohydrates!!! How could I refuse?! I indulged in it without a trace if guilt. At the end, how much of it do I eat?

It is really difficult to find great kheer - they either make it too watery, or overboil the rice so that it becomes a squishy white mass. It is even more terrible if it becomes too thick.

The best ever kheer I have eaten so far has been made by my friend Madhu. She boils the rice to perfection, and you can see every grain separately. She is generous with the cardamom pods, the dry fruits and the raisins - which I love!

milk- 1 litre
sugar - 4-5 tbsps
condensed milk - half tin
rice - small bowl
green cardamom 4-5 freshly pounded
dry fruits - cashew (broken)

Wash rice and soak in water. Boil milk and add the rice to it. Wash dry fruits and soak in milk. Let the rice and milk cook on slow flame, half hour or so. When slightly thick and rice is thoroughly cooked (take in spoon and mash with finger), add the condensed milk. Stir well. Cook a while then add tablespoon at a time. keep tasting or may become too sweet. stir well then add the dry fruits. Keep for 5 more minutes and switch the gas off. Let it cool. chill in fridge. Will become thicker. If too thick add some milk. In the end add the cardomom before serving. Put a few slivers of dry fruit if you want.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Eating kulfi in the rain

This was a day when we just drove to Lonavala on a whim, and went to Kailash Prabhat for an orgy of Indian junk food - ragda pattice (a potato cutlet submerged in chickpea curry), fried pancakes in sambhar, pani puri (crispy balls that you fill with a spicy liquid and gulp down). And at the end, a special 'royal' kulfi.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Gourmet Bombay

Can you imagine that seven years ago, when I moved to Bombay, exotic fruits, vegetables, sauces and other "fancy" ingredients were almost non-existent. Baby corn? Travel an hour by cab to Breach Candy area and pick it up from the street market, if you are lucky! Yellow and red capsicums? Zucchini? Iceberg lettuce? I think for a while I forgot their taste... I had to content myself with lentils, rice, and my husband's favourite okra (which is, till today, prepared in our household on a daily basis!). Gone were the days when I would walk into a Parisian Monoprix and stroll around with a caddy... "Hmmm... why don't I pick this endive up? Smoked salmon? Yum! Strawberries... why not?" Getting my hands on something as exquisite as an avocado was a rare treat. And if I had found an interesting "Western" recipe I wanted to try, I had to take cabs and travel to several stores in order to collect all the necessary ingredients, and invariably at the end I had to improvise, as one or two things were always missing, or "out of stock". My one and only visit to a fish market with my mom in law made sure I gagged every time I saw sea food in the next few days.
It's amazing how much things have changed in just a few years. I thought about it some time ago, when I visited the Gourmet Market organised at Olive restaurant in Bandra. In a very small space, I relished the sights and smells of mushrooms, zucchinis, pesto sauce, chorizo saussages, Peccorino cheese, fresh bread, sun dried tomatoes, hummus...
Of course, like everything else in Bombay, the market had started late, and when I arrived (one hour after the announced starting time), the chefs and assistants were still running around, setting stalls. A furious Italian chef was shouting out orders, and a few early birds like me were wandering around, pretending they can't hear him. Nevertheless, for these few minutes, I really felt like I was in Italy, and of course picked up some cheese and salami. Inspired, I went back home and made bruschettas, Peccorino and chorizo toasts, and a salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar... No okra tonight, honey!!!!!!

Gourmet Bombay - my favourites:

Moshe's in Cuffe Parade - to-die-for cheese cakes; delicious dips; foccacia bread and much more...
Sugar And Spice at the Taj President - a sandwich counter to make you salivate; roast beef; savouries to take away; Gurtaj's favourite cheese straws
Nature's Basket - fruits, veggies, diet products, herbs and spices, Starbuck's coffee, to your heart's content!
Indigo Deli - the gourmet stall at this restaurant offers a great variety of cheeses and cold cuts, marinated artichoke hearts and mushrooms, wines from all over the world, Danish butter... oh god, can't even remember everything. Frightfully expensive but unbeatable choice!
Philips Tea and Coffee - an Indian chain offering the best coffee beans you have ever tasted. I love their old grinding machine. And I have carried packets full of Peaberry and Highlander back to Bulgaria many times.
Pesca Fresh - an online sea food store. They deliver everything spic and span, properly packed and totally clean. Salmon? Mussels? Prawns? They have everything!
The Gourmet Store at The Oberoi shopping arcade - what I like about this store is that they have vacuum packed cold cuts made in India. I am always really happy to buy Indian stuff. And they also sell palmatians, which Gurtaj just adores.