Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ragda Pattice

Yes folks ...it's yet another pattice. This time it's potatoes smothered in a white bean curry. Drizzled with tamarind chutney, this pattice falls into the chaat category. Chaat is part of my DNA. It's what I ate in the afternoon returning home from school. It's the snack I munched on my mid-morning break. It's was a tea time ritual at my grandma's house. It was lunch during college days. Countless mini bites eaten at all hours, standing next to roadside vendors, soggy leaf and newspaper cones piled with chutney drenched treats. Later, we graduated to cafes like Vithal's, Shetty's and Swati Snacks. Now I make the whole shebang at home. This session is at Shauna's request.

Today's chaat session comprises of paani poori and ragda pattice. I make the pattice by mashing boiled Yukon Golds with arrowroot. It used to be cornstarch, but I find the former has a cleaner, crisp taste. Ragda is usually made with white vatana or peas. Dried peas are soaked in water overnight and cooked with baking soda to give them a soft texture. My shelf is devoid of dried peas. Or the alternative, garbanzo beans. But deep in the pantry I find a can of white kidney beans. They prove to be more than adequate, so that I plan to keep on using this bean in place of the dried peas. Their mushy consistency is just what the curry needs to give it substance. 

Serves 4

1 can white Kidney Beans
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1 small Onion
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Amchur or dried Mango powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 teaspoons Green Chile Chutney  (store-bought or home made)
10 Mint leaves

Green Chile Chutney
3 green Chiles
2 Ginger slices
4 Garlic cloves
1 cup Cilantro
3 tablespoons Lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

3 large Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes 
2-3 teaspoons Arrowroot 
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon Oil

Tamarind Chutney  (store-bought or home made)
1 cup Tamarind pulp
2 cups Water
1/2 cup Jaggery or Brown Sugar
A pinch of Kosher Salt.

If you are making the green chile chutney, start by blending all the ingredients with a tablespoon of water. Puree till smooth, place in a jar and refrigerate. The chutney lasts a week in the fridge.

If you are not using store bought tamarind chutney start by making it first. Soak tamarind in water for 3 to 4 hours.

Squeeze pulp well and strain into a saucepan. You should have just the liquid. No pulp.

Add jaggery and salt and simmer on a medium flame for 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Cool and place in a glass jar.
Start ragda by draining and rinsing beans well. 

Mince onion finely.

Heat oil in a pot.

Splutter mustard seeds for 10 seconds.

Add onion. Saute till light brown.

Drop beans into onions and add turmeric, chile, amchur and salt. Stir well. 

Rinse bean can well, fill with water and add to beans. Bring to a simmer.

Spoon chutney into beans and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Thinly sliver mint leaves and add to beans. Continue cooking for a few minutes more.

Start pattice by boiling potatoes. Drain, peel and mash them.

Add arrowroot and salt. Use your hands to mix potatoes.

Form into 1 1/2 inch wide flat patties. You should have 10-12. Eyeball it. Patties do not have to be uniform in size.

Heat the tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet.

Slip patties into hot oil. Brown on one side for a few minutes, then flip and brown the other. 

Plate a couple of patties in a shallow bowl.

Top with a couple of ladles of warm ragda.

Drizzle a teaspoon of tamarind chutney over the potatoes and savor the magic.


The official bean in ragda is vatana or dried white peas. I have experimented with garbanzo beans on many occasions. But since this attempt with white kidney beans, i am a convert to this bean. Use any easily available white bean. 

Feel free to use store bought chutneys. The green chile chutney I used is the Swad brand. Its convenient, fast and tasty.

The same goes for tamarind chutney. Indian grocery stores now carry a range of chutneys.The above tamarind chutney recipe is easy. The chutney stays well for a few months in the fridge.

Chaat goes over very well. We slurp paani poori, moving on to warm ragda pattice as lunch progresses. Potato pattice offer comfort on all levels. These small discs drowned in beans taste heavenly. Then again this weekend has been hellish on carbs!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Coconut and Potato Pattice

I make these for potato loving Shauna. She can eat taters in any form, any time, any day. Well...this is gather from my years as her mum, but things could be different now. These coconut filled potato balls are small bites I fondly remember from Bombay days. They were bought at a Gujarati farsan store, where you could also feast on dhokla, khandvi, kachori, undhiya, pakoras, fafda, all manners of chiwda and sev. If you are not from the subcontinent,  this might sound like gobbledygook to you. But those of us raised in the western metropolis, farsan is an inherent part of foodie life. 

Yukon Golds are boiled in plenty of water. Yes yes...as I've said before YGs, with their buttery golden flesh, are the tastiest. Russets also work. Mashed, fortified with arrowroot and seasoned, they become small pockets filled with fresh coconut, cilantro, raisins and chiles. Fried in hot oil, pale brown and crisp, they are irresistible.

Makes 10-12

3 large Potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
2 tablespoons Arrowroot 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 cup grated Coconut 
1 or 2 Green Chiles
1/4 cup Cilantro
1 tablespoon golden Raisins
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
Canola Oil for frying

Boil potatoes in water. 

While potatoes cook make the filling.

Put coconut in a bowl.

Mince chiles and cilantro and add to coconut..

Add raisins, sugar, salt and lime juice and mix.

Peel and mash cooked potatoes.

Add arrowroot and salt to potatoes. Blend well to mix.

Form potatoes into golf ball size balls.  

Take a ball and make an deep indent with your thumb. Be careful not to press all the way through. Widen the depression with your fingers. You should have a 1 inch hole in the ball. 

Fill the indentation with a tablespoon of coconut filling. Tamp the filling down. 

Close the top by pushing the potato gently together so that the top closes. Smooth out the edges and keep aside. 

Repeat with the rest of the potato balls.

Heat canola oil in a wok or kadhai. You should have 2-3 inches of oil in the pan.

Test oil with a smidgen of potato. It should swim to the surface immediately. 

Fry 2-3 balls at a time, turning often so they are browned all over. 

Drain on paper towels and eat them hot. 

They could be reheated in a hot oven.

You must wonder why I call them pattice. I know of no reason other than the fact that Indians like calling stuffed and fried balls just that. With that name comes memories of times gone by, of Dad and Mum buying pattice in Babulnath, of eating them off jamum leaves, nestled in oiled-stained newspaper. The innocence of childhood wrapped up in biodegradable packages lives on for the next generation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dal Fry

Cousins visit from India and at the end of their trip meal requests comprise of the taste of home. So dal is on the menu. Having eaten dal since forever, I mull over my choices. Back home dal made an every day appearance. Toor is the popular choice, but moong, masoor and chana come on strong as well. Native to each state, dal is paramount to every meal. Each dal has a distinct taste, different cooking times, colors ranging from pale yellow, black and white to pinkish red. Walk down the lentil aisle in an ethnic grocery and be dazzled by the broad color spectrum. Leaving all this frippery aside, lentils really are a solid source of good, cheap protein. And so ends the leguminous talk. 

To get on with my choice, I opt for a blend of toor and chana dal, which I soak for a few hours. Both these dals cooked together, make a homogenous sturdy blend. Chana dal cooks up softer if it is soaked for a while before cooking. Pressure cooked dal is the easiest and fastest way to make dal. The alternative, stove top cooked, is much longer and tedious process. I am a PC fan and will use this device happily. Once the dal is cooked, I make the tarka or the tempered spice paste that lends much needed flavor to bland dal. Browned onions, tomatoes, curry leaves, chiles, garlic, ginger, a bunch of spice powders and lots of lime juice aids the transformation. This is not a thin, soupy dal, but a thick, scoopable mass of spiced lentils. One tempting dal fry coming to the table. 

Serves 4

1/2 cup Toor Dal or split Pigeon Peas
1/4 cup Chana Dal or yellow Split Peas
A pinch of Asefoetida
1 Onion
1 Green Chile
3 Garlic cloves 
1 tablespoon Ginger, finely chopped
10 Curry Leaves
1 Tomato 
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
3 tablespoons chopped Cilantro plus more to garnish 
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 Lime, juiced

Wash both dals well. Cover dals with an inch of water and let them soak for 2-3 hours.

Pressure cook dals with asafoetida, for 20 minutes. Cool, whisk well and keep aside. Alternatively, bring dals to boil, cover and simmer for an hour or till mushy. Stir often. Add more water as needed.  

Chop onion and tomato finely.

Chop garlic and chile finely.

Heat oil in a pan.

Add onion. Saute till golden brown.

Drop garlic, ginger, chile, curry leaves and 3 tablespoons of cilantro and saute on a high flame for 5 minutes. 

Add tomato, turmeric, chile powder, garam masala and cooked dal to onions. Stir well.

Season with salt.

Lower flame and simmer dal for another 5 minutes. 

Pour lime juice over dal and stir to mix.

Garnish with remaining cilantro and pair with roti or rice.

Dal is comfort food, the essential component, for generations of Indians. A feisty aroma fills the kitchen as the pot bubbles. Everyone waits with anticipation for dinner. The Indians feast on homeland favorites...most popular being a bowl of lentils. Nothing wimpy about this dal..just asserting itself strongly amongst the other contenders.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Oklahoma Burgers

Until yesterday I am in the dark about an Oklahoma burger. An episode of Cooks Country on PBS enlightens me and I am intrigued. What distinguishes this burger from regular ones are the onions embedded into the patties. You start with salted sliced onions. Heaped in mounds, they serve as a base for the meat. They slide into hot butter and olive oil, resulting in a golden brown onion base and a perfectly cooked patty. Nothing much to it. Just onion and beef elevating a burger to new heights.

Makes 5-6

1 1/2 pounds ground Beef
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
2 medium Onions
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 + 2 tablespoon Butter
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
Hamburger Buns
Cheese slices

Peel and cut onions into thin slices and place in a colander.

Salt onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let onions sit for 30 minutes. Squeeze all water out and keep them on a plate.

Mound onions into 5-6 small heaps.

Place beef in a bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Mix well and shape into 5-6 balls.

Place one ball over onion mound and press down so beef adheres to onions. Do the same for the rest.

Heat butter and olive oil in a nonstick pan.

Gently slide each patty into the pan and cook on high heat for for 7-8 minutes. Flip burgers over and cook for a few minutes more.

Butter hamburger buns and brown them in a skillet.

Place a slice of cheese on lower half of the bun. 

Top with a beef patty.

Schmear the other half bun with mustard and/or ketchup and enjoy.

Caramelized onions give an enormous oomph to this burger. Buttered buns add more to the taste. A different take on a classic will make a simple burger a repeat performance.

Friday, May 13, 2016


Now that's a funny sounding title.  What does Yakamein rhyme with? Lo mein, chow mein..something Asian! Then again, This hybrid title elicits laughs. I experiment with a Chinese Cajun Creole noodle bowl. This Mother's Day Rehan gives me The Southerner's Cookbook. This is his way of saying my food does not venture in that direction too often. I take the hint and run with it. This elegantly clothbound book is a lovely compendium of Southern chefs repertoire.  Strangely, the one recipe that jumps out is Yakamein. It practically screams 'make me... make me.' So I do.

A roast is called for but I use chuck steak in it's place. Store bought Creole seasoning is replaced by spices from my kitchen. I use Shanghai noodles in place of spaghetti. Cilantro in place of scallions. Just some small amendments and the house is smelling like a Asian food bazaar!!

Serves 4

1  1-2lb Chuck Steak
1/2 teaspoon Chile Powder
2 teaspoons Paprika 
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1/2 teaspoon Onion powder 
1-2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
6 cups Water
3 tablespoons Soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Ketchup 
1 teaspoon Sriracha 
1-2 cup Cilantro leaves
2 hard-boiled Eggs, cut in half

Place the steak in a Dutch oven or a deep saucepan.

Sprinkle chile, paprika, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper, onion powder and salt over steak. 

Add water to steak. 

Set the pan over a high flame and bring the water to a boil. Turn flame to low, cover and cook for 2 hours till a knife goes in easily into the meat. 

Take steak out of the liquid and shred into bite size pieces.

Return the liquid to a medium flame. Add soy  and Worcestershire sauces, ketchup and sriracha. Simmer broth for 5 minutes.

Boil noodles. Drain. 

Divide noodles between 4 bowls.

Top noodles with steak.

Pour broth over noodles.

Top with cilantro and half an egg.


The spicy broth has me reaching for water. Chile predominantly flavors the meat and broth. This bowl meal is cross pollination at its best. Chinese and Cajun puts 'me in' a great mood!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Paani Poori

Damini comes for the weekend. On asking, she unhesitatingly tells me what she craves. Living in a dorm, with home being on another continent, her food memories set off aches and longings that I try to quench. On the menu is mutton, chicken, dal bhaat and ghee laden phulkas. I add a drumstick bhaji and a simple cauliflower. We talk about life in Pune with nostalgia...after all she has been away from home for nine months! It also happens to be my sister, Prassy's birthday. She has Damini's mum Reena over for chaat, the all encompassing snack genre in India. Her menu has paani poori. Not to be left behind we replicate the meal across the seven seas!

Chaat is the eponymous term for small snacks, eaten throughout the the day. They  comprise of pooris, chickpea flour noodles, potatoes, onions, tamarind chutneys, green chile chutneys, yogurt, herbs and spices, put together in a multitude of combinations. Every region in India has some territorial form of chaat. Paani poori is one such item, often sold on streets. Vendors set up carts, punch holes in pooris, stuff them with potatoes and sprouted mung beans, dip them in cool spicy mint flavored water and serve them in bowls made out of leaves. 

My spiced water recipe is adapted from one given to my mum by an old family friend, Sarla Sanghvi.  It is a quick blend of mint, green chiles, cloves, ginger, salt and pepper. Making pooris from scratch is redoubtably an uphill task, so store bought is a convenient option. Boiled and cubed potatoes, cooked sprouted mung beans and boondi or tiny chickpea flour balls are piled into pooris.  A teaspoon of sweet and sour chutney and a dunk in the spicy mint water results in a savory explosion in your mouth. Fair warning ..they are extremely addictive.

Serves 4

Mint Water
20 Mint leaves
4 Green Chiles 
2 thin Ginger Slices
10 Peppercorns 
4 Cloves
1 heaped teaspoon Black Salt or Kosher Salt 
2 teaspoons Amchur or Dried Mango powder
4 teaspoons Tamarind Paste
3-4 cups cold Water

2 packages of store bought puffy Pooris (30-40 pooris in each package)
2 Potatoes
1 cup Sprouted Mung Beans (see notes)
A few pinches of Kosher Salt 
1 cup Boondi (see notes)
1/2 cup Tamarind Chutney ( see notes)

Put mint, green chiles, ginger, peppercorns, cloves and black salt in a blender. Add a few tablespoons of water and blend till smooth. Scrape paste into a bowl.

Add amchur, tamarind paste and water to mint mix. Stir well and refrigerate for an hour.

Boil, peel and cut potatoes into 1/4 inch chunks. Season with salt.

Steam sprouts for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt.

Soak boondi in water for 10 minutes, then squeeze the water out, doing this with fistfuls of boondi. It should be soft and dry.

Arrange potatoes, sprouts and boondi on a platter.

Start assembling the pooris by poking a hole in the top of the poori. Your thumb is the best instrument. 

Stuff each poori with a little of potato, sprouts and boondi. Start with 2 or 3 pooris. If you do them all, they will get soggy.

Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of tamarind chutney into poori.

Dip poori in mint water till filled. Put the entire poori in your mouth. No small bites or else you will have a waterfall on your shirt. Alternately, you could put the mint water in a small bowl and spoon the water into the poori. Both ways lead to the same place...an entire poori in your mouth!



Black Salt, amchur and tamarind paste are available at Indian grocery stores. You could use kosher salt if you cant find black salt.

You save yourself the effort of making the mint water and buy store bought paani poori mix. It comes in a jar or in powder form.

Paani poori are only found at Indian grocery stores. 

Sprouted mung beans are found in the refrigerated section in Indian grocery stores. These are not the huge, crisp Chinese mung beans but whole green beans with delicate sprouts. They can be sprouted at home by soaking them overnight, draining them in the morning and placing them in a container with a lid for 24-28 hours. They will develop small sprouts, depending on the warmth of the kitchen. The warmer the climate, the faster they sprout.

Boondi and tamarind chutney are also found in Indian grocery stores. Or make the recipe below.

Tamarind Chutney

1 cup Tamarind pulp
2 cups Water
1/2 cup Jaggery or Brown Sugar
A pinch of Kosher Salt.

Soak tamarind in water for 3 to 4 hours.
Squeeze pulp well and strain into a saucepan. You should have just the liquid. No pulp.
Add jaggery and salt and simmer on a medium flame for 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
Store in a glass jar or plastic container in the fridge for up to a month.

Lunch is an industrious affair. The sounds of cracked pooris, the perfume of freshly ground mint and crunchy satisfaction fills the atmosphere. Everyone is intensely occupied, especially Damini, who silence echoes her penchant for chaat. Below lies the remnants of her lunch....

Friday, May 6, 2016

Chicken Braise with Winter Vegetables

Making recipes from chef authored cookbooks is a tall order! Their techniques range from using expensive cuts of meat and fish, often proclaiming a convoluted lengthy cooking process, to procuring obscure food items. It mostly stymies and mystifies the average housewife. That is me. Then I am gifted Flavorwalla, Floyd Cardoz's latest endeavor. And I am thrilled. The book is filled with anecdotes and insights...a glimpse into the chef's life. Then there are the recipes, easy everyday food with extraordinary flavors. They speak to me in tongues I understand. Contents read like a friend telling me what to cook. And I love love love that Floyd incorporates his family into his culinary story. It endears me to the book even more. Family and food are forever entrenched together, the butter to my bread, the yin and yang of kitchen love.

Having tasted Floyd Cardoz's wares at the now defunct Tabla and Bread Bar when it first opened, I savor his Indian leanings. His Mumbai bastion The Bombay Canteen is a convivial fun spot, where you wine and dine on his slightly corkscrewed take on traditional Indian fare. Some riffs are pleasantly surprising, others like Eggs Kejriwal are an intense flavor bomb. Then again I am a fan of One Spice Two Spice his first book venture. The coriander shrimp are scrumptiously easy. With these meager revelations, I have just scratched the surface that is the unassuming Master Chef Floyd Cardoz.

The cookbook, an avid and mouthwatering page turner, excites me into making chicken, my least favorite meat! The recipe calls for thighs but I plan to substitute chicken tenders instead.  I know the broth will not have that depth of flavor. But the braise sounds delicious. Miraculously, I have everything the recipe calls for to give it a whirl. 

Slightly modified from Flavorwalla by Floyd Cardoz
Serves 3-4

8 Chicken Tenderloins 
2 tablespoons Coriander Seeds
3 thin Ginger slices
2 Rosemary sprigs
2 large pinches of Kosher Salt 
2 + 2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
2 Bacon rashers 
5 Garlic cloves
1 large Onion
1 large Yukon Gold Potato 
2 Carrots
1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper 
1/2 cup Cabbage chunks
1 small Apple
2 tablespoons grainy Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flakes

Place chicken in a bowl. 

Grind coriander seeds to a powder and add to chicken, along with ginger slices, rosemary, salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix so chicken is well coated. Marinate for at least 1 hour or best yet, overnight. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

Cut onion into 3/4 inch wedges.

Peel and cut potato and carrot into large chunks.

Heat oven to 375F.

Heat remaining olive oil in a cast iron Dutch oven or any ovenproof pan.

Brown chicken a few minutes on each side. Remove and place on a plate or bowl.

Chop bacon into small chunks and add to pan. Let bacon fat render for a few minutes. Bacon should start turning brown.

Peel and smash garlic and add to bacon. Give the cloves a few minutes to turn golden.

Then add the chopped vegetables and a small sprinkling of salt. Stir, place a tight fitting lid on pan. I put some foil over the pan and then placed the lid on top. This gave the pan a good seal. The vegetables need to cook in their steam hence the tight fitting lid. 

Put the pan in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take the pan out of the oven and add chicken tenders and stock to vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and return pan to oven uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Peel, core and chop apple into chunks.

Remove pan from the oven and place over a low flame.

Add cabbage, apple, mustard and chile flakes to chicken and simmer for 10 minutes before serving.

I plate a bowl of potato and apple thickened broth laden with vegetables, bacon bits and chicken flecked with grainy mustard. The clatter of fork, knife and spoon takes over. I pair the braise with fluffy basmati rice. This soupy broth of coriander, ginger, mustard, root vegetables and chicken is a bowl of comfort. My face is awash with Floyd's steamy flavors...no pun intended!