Away on break!!


November Cookbook shelf


Chestnut & Onion Soup

Is my blog burning

Broccoli Soup

For Broccoli Haters( yes with a capital H :)) this soup will come as a very pleasant surprise. It is easy to make and has a nutty and deep flavor with none of the nasty texture of the vegetable.

Makes one bowl, Increase proportionately

1 Cup Broccoli Florets
1 pod garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
Grated cheese to garnish
Heavy Cream ( optional)

I usually use the frozen broccoli florets i buy at the supermarket for this soup. It is really important in that case to not defrost the florets in the microwave but put them in a heavy saucepan with a pinch of salt on the stovetop at a low temperature. Also keep the saucepan covered. For some reason defrosting the florets in the microwave entirely ruins the texture of the final product and makes it very fibrous instead of smooth.

I cook the florets until just about thawed. It is important to avoid adding water to the saucepan. Make a nice puree with the thawed florets in the blender.

In another sauce pan on the stove i quickly grate the pod of garlic into some olive oil, wait until the olive oil is infused with the garlic , add the puree . Give the whole thing a single boil. Salt and season to taste.

Serve with a garnish of cheese and some garlic bread. Other infusions could be chives or some basil.


Happy Diwali!!

A very happy diwali to everybody. Here's a typical Diwali bachanam recipe - Chettiar style ribbon from Salem in Tamilnadu , India. Best on diwali or any rainy day. It is different from other ribbon in its smoother almost silky texture and a very slight sweetness which depends on whether your coconut milk is store made or home made.

For newbies, the tall steel thingie is called an acchu - a modern variant of an old device - sort of like a cookie maker with different molds for pressing out different shaped fried objects ! :) Reminds me of the old joke - UFO is an unidentified fried object.

Ingredients are simple,

Rice flour

Coconut milk ( fresh or store bought)

Sesame seeds

Kadla Parappu

Rice Powder and Kadla Parappu should be in the proportion of 3:1 . Grind the kadla parappu into fine powder. Add sesame seeds and salt to season. Red Chilli powder is optional. Knead the flour using as much coconut milk as you require. Heat oil in a deep pan , use the slotted plate in the Acchu to squeeze out the dough into hot oil.

Voila - Deepavali bachanam Ribbon!! Enjoy madi.


Unusual Cookbooks

I apologize for being MIA. Here is a short ice breaking post on the unusual cookbooks ive run into so far :

Revolting recipes by Roald dahl.
One of my friends brought this unusual book by Roald dahl to my attention. I love all his writing, from Charlie and the chocolate factory to Switcheroo. This cookbook entices children into the kitchen with quirky humor and even quirkier recipe names - Mosquito mudpie being one - if memory serves right.

The other unusual cookbook is based on the popular soap, The sopranos and features recipes from Steak pizzaiola to pasta fagioli.

The last book is from an unusual blog http://foodcompanycookbooks.blogspot.com/ devoted to food company vintage cookbooks and advertising. In the context of India, this is really a concept that has very little weight. Who reads the recipe book that Prestige sends along with their pressure cookers? Does anybody really?


Mirepoix and Soup!

Fall is tiptoeing in behind Ernesto. Days are bright but lightly tinged with that hint of chill in the air. No kidding folks, the first of the Soups have been sighted. Soups are shy creatures , who venture out to provide warmth when the Big chill threatens to start. Notoriously difficult to photograph, they have been known to hide their bright flavors and warmth in photographs which look like muddied waters.

:) :)

Ive begun with a few classics, but I donot have photographs of the finals. I gave up - they come out as indistinct muddy juices.

The first is
Mirepoix, A classic French Stock:
Equal parts of celery, onion and carrots to be boiled with aromatics - mint, basil , oregano. Pick your choice.

Mushroom and Onion Soup:
Take three large onions, slice finely. Take a soup pot with a thick bottom , saute the onions in plenty of butter on very low heat until the onions brown to a nice golden color. Donont burn / blacken the onions. Add sliced mushrooms ( white button / portabella ). Saute for another 2 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil. At this stage salt and season with black pepper to taste. This is a "thin" soup.

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup:
Take the same combination of carrots, celery and onions as in the stock . Take a generous helping of olive oil in the soup pot, add these vegetables. In addition add sliced mushrooms. Saute until vegetables are nicely roasted and soft. Add stock , bring to a boil. Add aromatics, I used mint this time. Add a tbsp or so of tomato paste. At this point you could add either boiled pasta of your choice or boiled barley. Season with salt and black pepper to taste -Voila, soup is ready!! It is really amazing how flavorful this soup is. Roasting and adding the same vegetables really highlights the basic flavors of this soup.

Chinese sweet corn soup:
Saute sweet corn, chopped green chillies to taste and fresh green onion in sesame oil. In another pot bring about two cloves of garlic and an inch of ginger, both finely chopped or grated to boil in a pot of stock. Once the water has boiled, filter the stock out into the pot with the corn and green onion. Thicken with about a tbsp of corn flour. Season with salt.



Pineapple cake

Pineapple Upside down with fresh home made whipped cream:

I made this last night in about under an hour, with the recipe from lindystoast. As baking goes, the upside down cake ranks with apple pie and all things americana. I found recipe variations with different fruits- pear and apples. I added some cinnamon to the recipe and reduced all proportions to 1/3rd. Its difficult cooking for two!!

India Bookshelf

August Bookshelf


Black Forest Cake

I made this black forest cake today from recipe posted at the link above. It took me about an hour and a half . I referigerated it for a couple of hours before cutting and smoothing the edges. Oh and two touches not in the recipe- I added a touch of lime juice while beating the eggs for extra stiffness and i used cake flour not all purpose. thanks for a wonderfully easy recipe!!


Fruit: An illustrated History by Peter Blackburn Maze

Book Review :
A glossy coffee table book about what else :) fruits with average text but beautiful pictures...

Fun facts from this book:

  • Todays Citrus fruits probably arose from about a dozen wild species that originated in the region encompassing South East Asia and India.
  • The scientific names of the pineapple - Ananas comosus and the Chickoo - Manilkara Sapote are surprisingly enough prevelant as common names in India. Pineapple and Chickoo are called Ananas and Sapota respectively in Gujarati.

Click on the Images to see a larger version.



Entry for Mahanandi Independence Day Food Parade::
KHICHADO:: from Gujarat

A very happy Independence day to all!
Since Ive only been cooking for the last couple of years, the word traditional / classical "food" really threw me for a loop. In between desperately dredging up memories of grandmas cooking and phone calls to the motherland i was struck by an epiphany, what is traditional in Indian cooking?

Our culinary traditions have been handed down generations orally, from mother to daughter (mostly- i think!). Fragments of memory and little modifications along the way, but at best we have a comprehensive culinary record of what - the last two hundred years? Vegetables like tomatoes and potatoes arrived in India after the new world, i.e the americas were discovered. It is our ability to transform whatever is at hand into something that our heart immediately knows is ours - ' Indian', if you want to call it that is perhaps the cornerstone of all indian cooking; something that unites all Indian states and regions.

Nuff ruminations already!! What I have here for Independence day is a really really authentic, real deal Gujarati recipe called Khichado. It is traditionally made for January 14th , Makarsankranti or Kite flying mania day, with young wheat berries from the famous Bhal wheat growing region of Gujarat. Best part is, it is both a recipe for a single dish and a meal in itself. I would recommend it as a good breakfast porridge.

1 cup spring wheat berries ( available at your local organic co-op)
1/2 cup Toor dal or Tuver dal
Handful raw peanuts
2 dried dates(kharek) or fresh dates
Pinch Haldi/ Turmeric
Red Chilli powder to taste
1/3rd cup fresh coconut

1 tbsp ginger
Green Chilli to taste
5 Cloves
2 inch Cinnamon


Soak the wheat berries in warm water overnight or for six hours minimum. Boil in the cooker with some extra water. Remove. At this point you could either give it a quick whirl in the mixer or pound with potato masher to make the wheat berries less chewy. I prefer the chewy texture and leave it as such. Cook the tuver dal / toor dal with the kharek or fresh dates, a pinch of salt , the handful of peanuts, and the coconut . In a pan take as much ghee as your arteries can stand, and add the seasonings in the following order - ajwain, cloves & cinnamon, ginger and finally green chilli. Combine the wheat berries, tuver. Add a pinch haldi or turmeric, red chilli - give it a quick boil. Add seasoning and serve.

Usually Gujarati food is a combination of salt and sweet. If you wish you can add more sugar preferably brown. Traditionally khichado is served with finely diced cucumber and onion as a meal in itself. Enjoy!!


Indian Oil

This post is in response to feedback on my earlier post : Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva.

When I vacillate between the tempting cold pressed olive oil and the prosaic canola at the supermarket, I struggle between two priorities - the healthiest and the most cost effective. This is a familiar recurrence of opposites, health and economics.Turns out what is perhaps a five minute decision for me is a complicated matter for a nation. Individual choice becomes the Market, a business in Edible Oils - or if you want to go all starchy on me, the Commodities market.

Indian Edible Oil Market: Per capita consumption of edible oils in India rose from 2 kilos in the 70’s, to 10 kilos in 2001 (That is still well below the US per capita consumption of 33 kilos). Oils in India are primarily sold as:Loose Oil - referring to unrefined oil sold in bulk without packaging or branding, constituting roughly 61% of all vegetable oils sold; Vanaspati - around 12% of edible oil consumption and Branded oil-constituting only 3% of all edible oils sold.

The Market being as big as it is, unfortunately is a bully. Poor individual me does not matter, I buy what they put out there.Now here is the fun part, Imports represent about 55 percent of India’s edible oil consumption today. This has had three consequences. Government disinterest in domestic oil production has increased Indian reliance on imports- mainly of soy and palm oil. It has decreased diversity and quantities of edible oils and brought the spectre of GM( genetically modified) oils to our door. With higher imports, come the dubious business practices of Multinationals.

Changing patterns of consumption and production have meant that palm and soybean oil consumption has increased, from mere 4% in 1970’s to 59% today (38% palm and 21% soybean) oil today. Around 4% of all soybean oil consumed in India is imported, mainly from Brazil and Argentina who grow transgenic soy or Genetically modified (GM) soy. India is also a major producer of soybeans and produces 18% of soybean oil consumed in India.

Next comes Vanaspati which has a double strike against it. Not only is Vanaspati bad for your health because of all those lovely trans fats it contains, the Dalda brand is also now owned by Bunge Agribusiness India, a subsidiary of Bunge USA. Vanaspati, to reiterate, is 12% of the Edible Oil business in India. My hunch is also that multinationals also bring with them exploitative farming practices - something i have to confirm.

What this short and quick survey also shows, is that the major opportunity for mischief, i.e adulteration, blending with cheaper oils etc is in the Loose Oils market, affecting the poorest of the poor. Much of the imported oils find their way to this vulnerable market.

What can you do in this situation ? As Michael Pollan says, vote with your fork; or in this case with your oil. Buy Local, avoid vanaspati, avoid soybean oil unless you know and trust the source, avoid Loose oils.

http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/OCS/nov03/ocs090301/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgenic_plants


Milk in India

I just finished reading Marion Nestles book, What to Eat. She gives a comprehensive walk through tour of an American Supermarket with nutritional, dietary and political commentary thrown in. In her chapter on milk she describes how milk is collected from many cows, all fat extracted - and then added back according to required percentages. From a nutritional standpoint, she warns against consuming too many saturated fats from dairy products - a primary source for vegetarians.

Other critical issues are the use of growth hormones like rbst , usually with high amounts of antibiotics typically peddled by multinational companies.

I have bucolic memories of fresh buffalo milk being delivered to our doorstep. Only years later , did we make the transition to milk in plastic sachets, and finally to a lower fat % milk. I wanted to test out this eldorado of milk memory- was i actually consuming rbst and antibiotics as a child? Here is a quick answer.

Milk in urban India is a child of that 60's miracle called Operation Flood. Funded primarily by foreign sources, it was remarkable for two features- incorporating social equity by using cooperatives and of course for making milk available everywhere in India. Milk supply in India is changing atleast on the first count - the influx of multinationals. A case in point is Dynamix, a company whose 49% of equity is held by Shreiber international, an American multinational. With operations set up in Baramati, Maharashtra - its products are snapped up by other multinationals such as Mc Donalds for which Dynamix is a major supplier.

On the other hand are numerous small time players, usually city specific. While rbst has been banned in India according to most internet resources, several organisations have found high concentrations of antibiotics and pesticides ( like urea) in milk and carbonated drinks.

Should you be worried about the milk your children consume in India? If you are lucky to have a consumer education society in your city , best check their reports from periodically to make sure your brand of milk meets all specifications. Some reports can be found at http://www.cercindia.org/ .


What to eat by Marion Nestle

On my first visit to the US, about five years ago, my hostess took me on a trip to the local supermarket. I was overwhelmed and fascinated by the displays , the long isles and the number of product choices . I spent most of my grad school days trying to navigate and interpret these, because i cooked my food at home. The first challenge was the produce section - the supermarket had huge tomatoes, i was excited , but they only looked and felt like tomatoes, alas they did not taste like one. Shouldve been charged for impersonating a tomato. Vegetables, the mainstay of indian cooking were really really expensive. A pound of Eggplant was almost 3$, around 150 rupees. I couldve bought one in india for as little as 10 rupees. This situation lasted until i discovered the local farmers market for a wider variety of cheap veggies.

Bread was another challenge.With no guidance, i took to subjecting the brands of bread i bought to what i called the soaked in milk test. Back home i would soak a slice of bread in milk sprinkle a little sugar and voila - dessert. The bread soaked up the milk and retained its shape, and gave a good bite. I soon discovered that breads which were very light, more air than dough did not pass this test. Going through all the brands in the supermarket, including the wonderbread i had read so much about , i discovered bakery bread and artisan bread, finally getting into baking my own bread.

With time supermarkets in the US have become less intimidating places for me. But with marion nestles book i feel like i have been handed the key to navigating american supermarkets, a tourist guide and a pretty comprehensive one at that. The first real clue that i got to the aggressiveness with which supermarkets are planned are their layouts. Stick to the periphery and dont got towards the centers. Only 5% ( or some small figure like that) of customers manage to stick to their shopping lists. She then proceeds on a walk through the supermarket, through produce, bread, milk, eggs, meat, fish, the center aisles*, beverages*, and special sections*. Along the way she interprets labels and nutrition information for us along with juicy tidbits on the amount of political fighting it took to reach these.

The main issues she focuses are on are both dietary( eat less, portion size, nutrients and what they do to you) environmental ( organic, fair trade, humane treatment cows and birds) and political( the sordid marketing practices of multinationals, the price of a potato to potato chip, selling to children). She points out how ownership of these corporations, Altria specifically with its ownership of phillip morris and krafts results in marketing practices being 'imported' from 'hazardous' industries into food marketing.

Supermarkets back home are getting bigger( with ice berg lettuces being sold in a hot AZ Phoenix like Indian city for 600 rupees - about 12$ a head :)) . Marion nestles book gives me insights into the ways these will evolve too. With this guide to American supermarkets and their products, i need to look at the indian food scenario under a similiar framework.

*Center Aisles: Processed foods, Sugars, Cereals, Packaged foods, Snack foods, Foods just for kids, Oils
*Beverage Aisles : Water, "Healthy" Drinks, Teas and Coffees
*Special Sections: Infant formula, Supplements, Bakery

What to Eat - Marion Nestle Review of the book at NYT

Gulmohur Tree

Delonix Regia, Gulmohur, the flame tree and native of magdascar and mauritius. Gulmohur, i rolled the word in my mouth, sounds very moghul. Gul - flower and Mohur - coin; maybe. Although my marathi friend insists Mohur also means something like season in Marathi.

Ive always been fascinated by the fact that trees are almost symmetrical above and below ground. A stark contrast between light, air, breath and life and death , darkness and claustrophobia. Every tree perches on this divide with something like equanimity, but no the gulmohur is distinctive in almost dancing its way into confinement, the trunk in gentle whorls like the folds of a dancers gown.

My earliest memory of the gulmohur is at the house i used to live in as a child. It was big and blue, a whale of a colonial house. The bedroom was rectangular, stretching into in a semicircle. One whole side of the room was covered by windows- small squares, meticulously barred. I remember, once, on a summer night when the electricity went out , we opened up all the windows revealing the blooming gulmohur outside in all its glory. In the moonlight the tree pressed against the windows, almost bounding inside, filigreeing the view of the street outside.

It was in Bangalore and Chennai , that I saw the Gulmohur used extensively along streets as an ornamental tree. These trees were huge, so much that two from the opposite sides of the road intertwined, making a canopy through which the sun filtered and made you feel glad that you were alive.

Curry by liza collingham

Growing up in a medium sized indian city, the only place i ran into the word curry was on the menus of restaurants serving chinese, continental , punjabi and south indian food all at once. Thankfully such outings were rare. Curry was a word very much on the periphery of food, indian or otherwise. So a book on Curry, with all its 'indian' associations - very tempting.

The pattern of cultures and countries mingling and evolving new hybrids of food in india should be familiar to any one with an aquaintance with indian history and religion. Our (the Indian) capacity for assimilation and reworking of unfamiliar ideas into something at once strange and familiar is truly unparalled. In culinary terms, this has worked for indians in india and the indian diaspora - which brings to mind liza cunninghams accounts of indian food in indonesia, africa, mexican punjabi , indian chinese( which is becoming quite big in the US i gather) and the like.

Liza cunninghams book also unearthed memories of food at temples ive visited over the years. From the sundal and pongal of our annual trips to tirupati, to the exquisite sweets made at Nathdwara's Krishna temple... Temples as centres of cuisine were unearthed and made explicit.

She ends with the beginnings of marketed food in India, Tea and Dalda ( Hydrogenated oil). Now that is another interesting story waiting to be told.

Lizzie Collingham "Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors" Find the comprehensive New York Times Review (NYT) here.
Short table of contents:
Pre Mughal : Primarily vegetarian, few records from the Royal Courts. Temple cuisine.
Mughal: Babur and the Central asian influence.
Portugese: and how the vindaloo was born
Colonial: Cutlets and the curry boom
Post Colonial : A British impression of indian food and vice versa.
Present: India twice removed, indian food in indonesia, japan, usa and of course britain.


Ajanta Regional Feasts of India

1. Alu aur Sem ki Fali ( Green beans with Potatoes)
3 tbsp oil
6 to 8 garlic cloves, grated
1 pound green beans in 2" pieces
1 large potato cut similiar to the beans
1 spoon turmeric
3 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp mango powder
salt to taste

2. Sabzi Rangarang
1 tsp mustard seeds
6-8 cloves garlic
1 green chile pepper
1 inch ginger
2 medium onions finely chopped
3 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp mango powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin poder
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp salt
3 medium tomatoes chopped
2 medium potatoes diced
2 carrots in 1/2" slices
11/2 pounds cauliflower florets
1/2 pound green beans

3. Hara bhara kabab
2 slices white bread
1 cup spinach coarsely chopped
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup cilantro
4 medium potatoes
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ajwain seeds
green chile pepper to taste

4. Khumb jahanara
2 tbsp oil
8 to 10 medium cloves garlic
1 green chile
1 inch med piece ginger
2 medium onions
3 medium tomatoes
11/2 tsp salt
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
3 tbsp chickpea flour
3/4 pounds shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup ground cashews

Heat the oil in a saucepot. When hot, add garlic , green chile and ginger. Saute for abt 30 seconds. Add onions and saute over med high to high heat for about 12 min, until translucent. Add chopped tomatoes, salt and all the spices. Cook for abt five minutes.

Add chopped spinach, stir and wilt.


Add chickpea flour, mixing throughly with a whisk to make sure the flour does not become lumpy. Add mushrooms. Partially cover and cook another 10 min. Add whipping cream and ground cashews. Mix thoroughly and remove from heat.

5. Achari Baingan
2 pounds long eggplans
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 inch piece ginger
8 medium cloves garlic
2 medium onions chopped
4 medium tomatoes chopped
salt to taste
3 tsp coriander powder
11/2 tsp turmeric
11/2 tsp red chilli powder
crushed chile peppers

6. Bhendichi Bhaji
Bhindi with potatoes and mustard seeds

7. Masala Bhat( Rice with Goda Spice Mix)
2 tbsp oil
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp cloves
4 bay leaves
2 cups basmati
4 cups water
11/2 salt

Goda Spice Mix
Mix together, toast and grind
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 dry red chile
1/4 cup cashew pieces sauteed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

8. Goanese Green Pulav

2 tbsp oil
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 large onion
1 pound green beans trimmed
1/2 cup green peas
11/2 cups basmati rice
2 cups water
1 tsp turmeric
2 - 3 sticks cinnamon
6 bay leaves
1 cup coconut milk
salt to taste
whole peppercorns
1/2 cup roasted cashew pieces

9. Vendeka Masala Pachadi
5 tbsp oil
11/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dry red chillies
11/2 medium onions finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes finely chopped
2 tsp coriander pwd
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
11/2 tsp red chilli powder
11/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup yoghurt
1/2 cup ground cashews
curry leaves
2 pounds okra

Make the sauce and add sauteed okra to the sauce.

10. Bheh khumbi aur matar( Lotus root Mushrooms and peas in a caramelized onion sauce)
11/2 pounds lotus root
3 tbsp oil
2 inch piece ginger
4 medium onions , thinly sliced
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tsp mango powder
2 tsp red chilli powder
salt to taste
1 cup green peas
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms

Boil lotus root. Heat oil, add ginger , saute onions until brown. Add all the spices and salt and reduce heat and stir fry for abt 10 min. Add the sliced lotus root, peas and mushrooms and stir fry another 5 minutes.


Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva

Just got this book from the library. After a fast read i am fuming, steaming with smoke pouring out of my ears! Here is my fast and furious take aka book review.

This book is organized into short essays which have the following themes:

1. The concentration of world agriculture in 6 corporations
Seed patents and crop patents and their monoculture cultivation
2. Shrimp farming and destruction of Seabeds
3. Cows as only milk and meat producers
4. Soybean Oil and Oil domination

Her tone is passionnate, and she illustrates her case with headline making news in India. Vandana Shiva is against the processes of globalization and industrialization . She contrasts the earlier, more earth friendly, ecological practices in India to current multinational corporation practices. For example, in farming the shift from a dung fertilizer, multi crop rotation scheme to monocultures and genetic engineering.

Sounds great so far. So why my allergic reaction? First thing to make clear is I am sympathetic to all her causes, anti globalization, anti jumbo corporation and all that. But Vandana Shiva writes as an activist only can. Her style is rabble rousing, and provides a small picture bursting with indignation. Its nostaligia for the past is palpable and questionable for its claims of an ecological eldorado.

Why do i feel this? Take for example The Oil Story. Multinationals supposedly want to take over the oil market in India, not only do they flood the country with cheap soybean oil, they also adulterate local eco friendly oil methods. OK. So i go back to my experiences buying oil in India and think - did i really have to choose unilever cooking canola oil? Was there no similiarly priced alternative? Did i eat at an local Macdonald equivalent which might have meant a high soy bean oil consumption on my part.

The answer is NO. I had a wide variety in choice and price with local brands and a variety of oil types to choose from - sesame, castor, peanut, mustard and of course sunflower oil. Was there a macdonalds? Nope , there was only saravanas, and it is a chain of all of 20 outlets. Not even a measly amoeba in the super size me world of the Big Macs.

In short, verifying what i read- with my experience of india leads me to the conclusion that her writing has a lot of bogeyman claims. I agree that multinationals are cut throat enough to engage in practices that border on conspiracies. But i think she needs a more comprehensive picture, backed up with data and statistics to support her claims.


In Light of India by Octavio Paz

Excerpt from In Light of India

"Food, more than mystical speculations, is a reliable way to approach a people and its culture. I have mentioned that many of the flavors of Indian food are the same as Mexican. There is, however, one essential difference, not in flavor but in presentation: Mexican cuisine consists of a succession of dishes....In European cooking, the order of the dishes is quite precise. It is a diachronic cuisine, as Claude Levi Strauss has said, in the which the dishes follow one after the other in a sort of parade interrupted by brief pauses. It is a succession that evokes th eimage of a military march or a religious procession. It is in itself a theory(italics by Paz), in the philosophical meaning of the word: European cuisine is a demonstration.....A radical difference: in India, the various dishes come together on a single plate. Neither a succession nor a prarade, but a conglomeration and superimposition of things and tastes: a synchronic cuisine. A fusion of flavors, a fusion of times.

....I realized that its ( indian food) secret is not a mixture of flavors, but rather a graduation of opposites that are simulataneously pronounced and subtle. Not a succession, as in the West, but a conjunction. It is a logic that rules nearly all Indian creations."


Food Travails - beginnings

This is a blog about the politics of food. This interest began when i read a couple of books by Eric Schlosser,Michael Pollan and Rachel Carson . Their focii were:

1. Analysis of Dept of Agriculture policies and their effect on what ends up on our table
2. The food chain in processed food
3. The food chain in the journey of raw food from the field to the table.

Eric Schlossers account of how the production and processing of food by the Fast Food Industry in America with particular emphasis on Mac Donalds was both,"funny and terrifying". As the blurb went, "You are what you eat. But do you really know what you’re eating? ". Thats when i started looking at what i was eating.

On the other hand was Botany of Desire, a seductive lament to the way the apple was( and tulip, marijuana and potato) and is. This book opened my eyes to natural foods, and their histories. It is amazing what a hundred years of human attention has done to the apple.

When i went back to India , i really looked around me. There were huge Gulmohur trees(more about them in a different post), natives from Magdascar. Hmm, imagine that. So many foreign trees and plants around me , and i just did not know. Natural history in India is as much a melting pot as its cultures. What is the quality of nature in India and our attitudes towards it?

When i ate my food from the thali (Hindi word for food plate) , I asked- now where did this come from? What fields, what waters, how did it grow? Was it processed? How was it processed?

For India, I found some answers in KT Achaya, Ramachandra Guha, Vandana Shiva. But this is a blog of a journey just begun. I would love to hear your comments / opinions and about similiar works on India.

1. Eric Schlosser "Fast Food Nation"
2. Michael Pollan "Botany of Desire"
His blog on the NYT site is also awesome, however might be restricted access to members.
3. Rachel Carson : Silent Spring

Iam expanding on the Indian authors assuming that you know/ have access to the Western authors.

One example of food studies in India is KT Achaya's oft referred and seminal work, Indian food :a historical companion deals with the prevalent crop patterns in India until today, traces the introduction of various species like the Potato and Red Chilli in India, and traces the history of foods still current. What it does not deal with are the politics and the ecology of food in India.

Vandana Shiva : Now India has always focussed on agricultural policies, filling the nations granaries has been a preoccupation for long. Vandana Shiva's analysis of the role of the World Bank in Indias green revolution in the 60's, Dam preoccupations, and pesticide use in India is great. Some of this information , specially on pesticides(with particular focus on pesticides in softdrinks) can be found on the CSE( Center for Science and Environment website).

Mr.Ramachandra Guha (This Fissured land, An Ecological History of India and Ecology and Equity) gives the best possible introduction to Ecology, Environment and their history in India , his focus is rather broad and does not include particularities on either pesiticide - use and impact or foods.

Food On Paper

Some of the best cookbooks on Indian i have run into so far

1. Shivaji Rao Holkar & Shalini Devi Holkar "Cooking of the Maharajas"
Unfortunately this book is out of print now, you might find it on amazon or in your local library if you are lucky. A very well written book on Royal food complete with cuisine from a dozen fiefdoms with anecdotes to match.

2. Madhur Jaffrey
Indian Cooking Barrons Educational Series 1983
Flavors of India West 175 Publishing 1995
From Curries to kebabs Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail Clarkson Potter Publishers 2003
3. Others :

Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels through the great subcontinent Artisan 2005

4. My current reading list / wish list :

Maya Kaimal
What to Eat - Marion Nestle

5. Articles
Lizzie Collingham "Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors"
Find the New York Times Review (NYT) here
Famous chefs talk about their favorite out of print cookbooks
Might require membership to NYT for access
The New Puritans - New York Times
Analysis of the wave of books hearkening to organic, nutritious, anti big corp food


Spiced Fruit Kabobs

1. Spiced Fruit Kabobs:
Pineapple and Plums
Unsalted Butter
Confectioners Sugar
Lime Juice

Tandoori Kabob:
Tandoor Masala
Salt Chilli Powder
Mushroom, Red / Yellow Bell Peppers, Paneer, Onion.

2. Vietnamese Corn Fritters

1.25 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs beaten
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
grated rind of 2 limes

3. Zucchini Drops
3 small zucchini
olive oil for frying
1 small onion grated
1 clove garlic
salt & garlic


1. Herb and Garlic Broth(Aigo Bouido)
Big head of garlic
6 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
2 parsley branches
sea salt & Pepper
Olive oil

Put 5 cups water in a soup pot over a high heat. Separate the garlic cloves, peel them and add them along with the herbs and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil and cook, covered for 20 minutes, then strain into a clean pot or simply remove the herbs leaving the pearly garlic cloves if you wish. Season and add Olive oil. You can now enjoy this as a broth or use it as the base for a soup.

2. Rustic lentil soup with spinach
11/2 cups lentils
Olive Oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot finely diced
1 red bell pepper - roasted peeled chopped
2 tbsp parsley
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp mustard paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
Hefty bunch of spinach chiffonade
Chopped mint or parlsey for garnish
red wine vinegar to taste

Warm the oil in soup pot. Add onion, carrod, red pepper and parsley. Cook over medium heat , stirring now and then, until the onion is softened and starting to color. Add the garlic, then stir in the tomato paste and mustard, working both into the vegetables and cooking until theres a film on the bottom of the pot. Pour in the wine, scrape up the pan juices, then simmer until partially reduced after a few minutes. Drain the lentils and add them to the pot with the bay leaf and water, using the larger amount if the lentils were soaked only briefly. Bring to a boil, then reduce the ehat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes. Add salt and cook until lentils are soft. Add spinach chiffonade and serve.

3. Lentils with pounded walnuts and cream

2 cups lentils , soaked
2 - 4 tbsp butter
1 onion finely diced
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper

for walnuts:
1 plump garlic clove
1/3 cup walnuts lightly toasted
1/2 cup cream

Drain the lentils, melt butter in pot, add onion and bay leaf and cook over medium high heat for 5 min. Add lentils and cook until soft. Pount garlic in a mortar with pinch salt, add walnuts and start working them into a paste. Add cream a tsp or so at a time, which will make it easier to break down the nuts. Serve soup in soup plates and add walnut cream, parsley and pepper.

4. Cream of barley soup

1/3 cup barley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large or 3 medium onions diced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 large leek
1 large carrot
1 large garlic clove
sea salt
1 cup sour cream

to finish:
1/3 cup barley
1 leek white part julienned
2 tbsp butter
mushrooms thinly sliced for garnish

Cover the soup barley with water and soak. Heat olive oil and butter in soup pot until foaming. Add onion and oregano, give a stir and cook for 5 min. Then add the leek , carrot and garlic. Cook for 10 min more until glaze forms on bottom of pot. Drain barley and add it into the pot along with 6 cups water. Cook until soft and puree the soup with sour cream until smooth. Return soup to the pot , taste for salt and season with pepper.

Rinse the remaining barley and cook until tender. Simmer the leek in salt water until tender, drain and toss in a little butter. Saute mushrooms in butter. Serve barley soup with the added barley grains, mushroom and leek.

5. Avocado soup with herbs, slivered radishes and pistachios

2 cups low fat buttermilk
1 cup yoghurt
1 large avocado
1 cucumber
1 large garlic clove
sea salt and fresh pepper
3 slender scallions, white parts and a little green finely minced
2 tbsps chopped dill
1 tbsp snipped chives
1 tbsp minced marjoram or oregano
1 tbsp minced tarragon
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 chile
zest and juice of one lime
bit sweetner

to finish: finely sliced chives and chive blossoms
thinly slivered radishes
dill, mint and cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup shelled pistachios

Puree the buttermilk, yoghurt, avocado and a quarter of the peeled cucumber in a blender until smooth, then pour it into a bowl. Mash the garlic with 1/2 txp salt and stir it into the puree along with the scallions, herbs, chile and lime zest. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lime juice and sweetner if needed. Seed and finely dice remaining cucumber and add to soup. Cover and chill.
Finish with chives, radishes, herbs and pistachios

Recipes from my mom in law

1. Mysore rasam
Toor dal 1 tbsp
Channa dal 1/4 spoon
Dhania 1/2 tbsp
Roast with oil
Add coconut
Puli, Salt, Curry leaves, Asofoetida tomato Boil.
Add paste.
Add boiled Toor dal
Kadag and kothamali thalikofy.
Add slight vellum

2. Normal Rasam

Puli, Salt, Curry leaves, Asofoetida tomato Boil.
Add paste.
Add boiled Toor dal
Kadag and kothamali thalikofy.
Only Foam , donot boil.

3. Madras Koot

Equal Parts of moong and toor dal.
Boil with veg
Add turmeric, peringayam, Karvepillai, Kootu Powder and donot have to thalikofy.

4. Vayakka Kai

Roast Urad dal and red chilli and peringayam powder. Steam Vayakka with thol, peel and mush. Add fresh coconut. No thalikofy

5. Yellow Pumpkin Morkoyumb

Channa Dal
Red Chilli
Roast with oil.
Grind with fresh coconut. Mix in buttermilk. Thalikofy with mustard. No peringayam.

6. Normal Morkoyumb
Channa dal + green chilli
Roast vendiyum and powder
Jeera Dhania

7. Vengayam Sambhar
Saute Vengayam until soft and translucent. Add water.

Channa dal 2 tbsp
Dhania 11/2 tbsp
Molaga to taste
Vendiyum two or three seeds

Puli + karvepillai + salt + parap

To make it more "oniony" grind a raw onion into the sambhar

Pies & Pastries

1. Chocolate Bavarian Cream
2 oz Unsweetened baking chocolate 2 inch piece vanilla bean 1 cup milk 3 large egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar salt 1tbsp unflavored gelatin 1 cup heavy cream whipped

Combine vanilla and milk in a saucepan and gently heat the milk until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, stirring to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. Remove the pan from the heat. Beat the egg yolks lightly in the top part of a double boiler set over simmering water, or in a heavy 1 quart saucepan over low heat. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add a dash of salt. Then gradually add the hot milk . Stir and cook the custard until it coats a metal spoon. Remove the custard from the heat. Strain the custard into a bowl and stir in the softened gelatin and the chocolate. Cool the cream over the ice beating to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. Fold in the whipped cream .

2. Cheese and Water cress puffs:
1 bunch watercress
1 cup milk
2 eggs beaten
2 tbsp melted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
2-3 tsp fresh chopped parsley
salt & Pepper
firm goat cheese

Preheat oven to 425 F. Blend all ingredients, place a chunk of cheese in middle and bake for 15-20 min until risen and golden in muffin pan.

3. Rosti:
1/4 cup butter
8oz onion finely chopped
1 pound potatoes, grated soaked in cold water
4 eggs beaten
salt and black pepper
goats cheese for garnish.

Cook onions in olive oil, combine everything else. Fry.


Recipes from Neelam Batra

1. Okra with baby tomatoes

2 pounds young okra
1 small onion , sliced finely
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mango powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
20-25 colorful cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro.

Fry Okra until golden. Remove. Cook onion with masalas and onion. Add Tomatoes and cook in pan until skin begins to separate. Add the fried okra , season with salt, top with cilantro and serve. Makes a very colorful party dish.

2. Peas, carrots and Potatoes

2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 green chillis
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes
1 cup cilantro
3 cups peas
2 cups yough carrots in slices
3 small potatoes in 6 wedges
1 tsp mango powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 tbsp chopped cilantro

3. Naan
1 tbsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 large egg
1/2 cup smooth yoghurt
1/2 cup warm milk
4 cups maida
3 tbsp butter at room temp
1/2 tsp salt

Mix egg, yoghurt, milk. Make the yeast bloom in the warm water. Combine all with butter and flour. Ferment until double in volume. Roll and broil until browned. Optional topping, nigella seeds, sesame. Brush with water and ghee when in oven.

4. Dal Makhani
1 cup black urad dal
2 tbsp dried pinto beans ( substitute rajma)
3 cups water
1/4 cup split yellow chickpeas
1 tbsp mustard /peanut oil
10 small dried red chilli
1tbsp garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp asafetida
2 tbsp ginger
1 cup cilantro
6-7 cups water
tomato paste
1/2 cup milk / cream
1/2 tsp garam masala

Soak all beans overnight. In oil in pressure cooker, add red chilli, garlic - fry until garlic is golden. Stir in cumin seeds, coriander, cumin , asafetida, ginger, cilantro and fry for another minute. Add beans and cook in pressure cooker with adequate water. Simmer, add tomato sauce and cream / milk. At the very end add garam masala and garnish with cilantro.


Recipes from Mom

1. Salem Tape :
3 : 1 rice pottakadla
some sesame seeds (ell)
tenga pal ( Coconut Milk)
Salt to Taste

2. Mysore pak
1/2 cup Besan
1 cup sugar
1 cup ghee
2 tbsp water

make two tar pag
add half ghee and salikofied besan
Keep adding rest of ghee slowly
Just before taking it of the heat, add baking soda to get porous structure

3. Kanchipuram Idlis
Take black urad dal 1Raw rice 2
soak separately, grind and ferment
add dried ginger, whole pepper, jeera, peringayam, karavapila, in lots of ghee

4. Upma koyakatta and Katrika Gochhu::
til oil - tadka, kadag peringayam, ultamparap, karvepillai, one cup rice- rice rava, three cups water 1/2 cup coconutcool and make shapessteam again
cut katrika, kadag peringayam, tomato juice, kadala parap, dhania, tenga , molaga, puli

5. Puliyodare
Red Chilli + Dhania seeds - 1 sp eachMethi Seeds
Tamarind Paste - 4 to spoonsSesame Oil , Kadag, PeringayamPut puli pulpsaltboil for a long time , maybe for an hourPepper powderTurmeric Powder
Minimum 4 to 5 hours it should soak
Spread the powder, mix nuts
Vella, jadika, yellaka, half maida, half rice and half vellam and half water

6. karvepillai thokku:
kadag peringayam red chilli thalikofy roast urad dal in same, add tamarind, add the karvepillai

7. Sambhar Powder
1 spoon channa dal
1/4 sp tuver
10 peppercorns
2 kernels vendiyum
1 tbsp dhania
2 Red chillies

8. Rasam Podi
1 cup tuver dal
1/2 cup dhania
3 spoons jeera
pepper less than 1/4 rth cup
red chilli


From Curries to Kebabs Madhur Jaffrey

1. Stuffed Vegetable Curry ( Aku Shaak)

4 tbsp chickpea flour

2 tbsp roasted ground peanuts

2 tbs dessicated coconut

1 tbsp grated ginger

4-5 cloves crushed garlic

11/2 tsp finely chopped green chillies

2 tsp salt

1.5 tsp cayeene pepper

1.5 tsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp jaggery

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 tbsp ground coriander

2 tbsp ground cumin

olive oil

1 tsp lemon juice

6 small round eggplants

4 tomatoes

4 onions

1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds

1/4 tsp asafetida

4 dried hot red chillies

3 medium boiling potatoes

1/2 cups grated tomatoes

1 green pepper, seeds removed and cut into small squares

Put the chickpea flour, peanuts, coconut, ginger, garlic, green chillies, salt, cayenne pepper, turmeric , jaggery, cilantro, coriander and cumin into a bow. Mix. Add 1 tbsp of oil and rub it in. Add the lemon juice and 1-2 tbsp of water to get a crumbly paste.

Cut deep crosses in the bottom of the egglplants , onions and tomatoes. Stuff with mixture.

Pour enough oil into the bottom of a pan to line it with abt 1/16th of an inch and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds, asafetida and red chillies. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, put in the potatoes. Stir for 30 seconds. Cover and cook for 3-4 min. Carefully put in the onions and eggplants in to the pan, cut side up. Cover and continue to cook over medium high heat for 7-8 min. Uncover and add abt 4 tbsp of water. Jiggle and move the vegetables around gently. Cover it with lid and cook for around 15 min. Put in tomatoes, scatter pepper pieces, grated tomatoes, remainder stuffing and cook for 20-25 min until done.

2. Mushrooms and Cilantro Curry

5 tbsp oil

2 medium sticks of cinnamon

2 smallish onions finely chopped

3 fresh green chillies

1 cup plain yoghurt


2 pounds medium mushrooms

1/4tsp ground cloves

1/4tsp ground cardamom

2 packed cups cilantro

3 tbsp hvy cream

Pour oil into a wide heavy lidded pan and set over med high heat. When the oil is hot put in the cinnamon. Stir add onions and chillies. Stir and fry until onions are golden brown. Take the pan off the heat and add the yoghurt and salt. Return the pan to the heat and cook , stirring until all the yoghurt is absorbed and you can see oil at the edges. Put in the mushrooms, adnother 3/4 to 1 tsp salt, cloves, cardamom and cilantro. Stir, reduce heat to low, cover and cook gently for 10-15 min, stirrring now and then. Remove lid and boil off some liquid. Add cream if desired and serve.


Im just here for the food

1. Red Onion Tomato Jam

2 tsp olive oil
2 cups red onions sliced lyonnaise style
1/4 cup shallot
2 cups seeded and diced tomatoes
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp tomato paste
1 cup stock
salt & pepper
basil cut into fine chiffonade

Heat a small pan over med high heat and add the oil. Add the onions and shallot and toss to coat with the oil. Reduce the heat to low and allow the onions and shallots to sweat and caramelize . Add the tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar and tomato paste. Stir to combine and cook until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Add the stock and reduce to thick bubbly consistency again. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set half the mixture aside. Puree the other half and fold it back into reserved mixture. Fold in the basil