Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mexican Black Bean And Tomato Rice

October was a very exciting month and so was November! Since I have quit my job I think I am doing a lot of things I never had time for, distinctly interesting things that make me happy. 

I went away to Gondavale for 10 days and returned home and guess who was here in Mumbai? Remember her first visit yes that was my first Bloggers Meet and therefore special. P of Evolving Tastes was here again.

Mails went back and forth and while I was away the ladies met up at Harini's do that I missed. So finally since no one else could make it when I was back P and me decide to meet up at Matunga. Well I wanted to take her to Gaiwadi Balaji temple in SOBO and rediscover Girgaum with her but to save travel time and the long commute we agreed finally on Matunga in keeping with the South Indian theme that we had in mind.

That afternoon, I was travelling to Matunga after very long and since it was on a week day I thought going to King circle by train was wise. After buying the ticket and travelling right upto Kurla while chatting up with a co-passenger I realized that King circle is a station on the Bandra line! Being away from Mumbai for so long I had forgotten some things and this was a relearning of sorts for me. I did know though that Guru Tej Bahadur or Sion Koliwada is a station closer to King Circle so I hopped off from the train and a helpful Sardar showed me the way to the bridge. Now I was outside the station and waving out at the cabs but none were ready to go the short distance. P was already waiting for me as she reached early and I was getting late. I jumped on to a BEST bus that went all the way near King circle, yeah the conductor pointed it out from the bus for me but suddenly the bus swung into a back lane. I was just getting so irritated with all this.

Finally I walked up to the Aastik Samaj Temple and we were happy to see each other, again! Meanwhile P had already done 3-4 rounds of that street peering at the various colorful shops. It was a hot day and we just needed to cool off in a place that had a/c. So we trooped into A. Ramanayak & Sons at King circle. It's a tiny place and looked like a women's club at that moment. Amid chatter from other tables we had Rasam vada and Mysore masala dosa, it was good, excellent chutney but sambar was more like a dal. Both of us were going to hop around to some thali place so these were like starters for us.

With the temporary fueling done we walked thru the shaded streets of Matunga and stopped to peer at the tiny Annapoorneshwari stores, shopping for Kai murukku, appams and chutney pudi, having used all of it now I can tell the stuff was quite good.

Since it was getting late for proper lunch we decided it had to be at The Udipi Shri Krishna Boarding we both were smitten by the legend. I had faint memories of eating there sometime but was so confused with the other establishments around. Well in Matunga you see a Rama Nayak's board every where, its like the Maganlal Chikki in Lonavala, there is the Idli house, the A. Ramanayak & Sons and the Nayak's sweets all are the medias pets. So with a very high expectation we walked in. We were told that a unlimited meal served on plantain leaf will be too heavy for us, the manager must have figured out we did not exactly look starved. So we bought coupons for a plate meal and walked into an area marked for ladies. Through a crowded passage and waiters balancing stacks of thalis we seated ourselves on the squeeze in tables so typical of Udipi joints making the most of the space which is more expensive than gold. As they started serving, some thing told me the food was not going to do much for us. I was so disappointed with the meal. This was not a meal that any homebody or gourmet would enjoy. The Udipi Shri Krishna food turned out to be so passable that they lived up to their name of being a bachelor's hope for South Indian food, yeah bachelors never have a choice. The worst thing was their cloyingly sweet tiny gulab jamuns that were vanilla flavored! I am never going to go there again or take any of my friends there. I may be a purist for my tastes and skills for Canara cuisine were honed in the land of the origin.

However shopping at Chheda Stores put us back in the mood. We bought lots of stuff to bring back home and the same things for P to take back to US with her. Here is my loot.

We then loitered around a bit, Nallis, Milap is a readymade blouse wonderland, a pooja item store where we found many editions of Samaithu paar but I did not buy any. P bought puja clothes for her Gauris, to be used during the season.

It was late afternoon and we were tired with all the sweating in the October heat and just needed to sit down and have a refreshing drink. P wanted to try the Mawa cake. There are legendary ones from Merwan and Yazdani but what was accessible to us was Koolar & Co. at the Kings Circle on this day. We were shown a table reserved for ladies, it had a view of the circle and was near one of the large doors that make the Irani cafes inviting. I ordered the Irani chai and a 'esspecial' for P. A tasting of brun maska and mawa cake that did not really please anyone but here is my recipe of brun that has worked every single time I make it. Oh, but I forgot to tell P that a brun maska is eaten dipped in tea! Won't you all try to make brun at home?

Then before we parted we did the food exchange, here are the gifts from P.

From the back: dried white and yellow nectarines, thyme and oregano, in the front : Turkish apricots and black beans.

I made this hearty Mexican black bean and tomato rice, it had to be an authentic dish using 2 of the items from above, black beans and oregano.

When I did the FB contest showing this rice bubbling away it was fun to see the imagination of people and their guesses. The funniest part is so many thought I was using Koli masala in it just because I announced a give away of it. Well I must say unlike my forefathers I do not add Koli masala to everything I cook ;)

Now lets go to this very easy recipe. It's delicious and protienious beany and oh so soul satisfying. It is Mexican but yet feels so Indian. We enjoyed the nutty black beans a lot and Thanks again P for all the gifts!

Recipe source: Fine cooking, I adapted the method to smarter cooking and time saving.


1 cup medium grain raw rice (I use Surti Kolam)
400 gms fresh tomato diced (original uses canned)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 medium cloves of garlic chopped
1 medium fresh jalapeno ( I grow mine)
1 cup black beans soaked overnight
2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used Kashmiri for the vibrant color)
1 heaped tablespoon dried oregano or (as in original recipe: 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves and stems)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
salt to taste

At first pressure cook the soaked black beans for 4-5 whisltes or 30-40 mins. This will cook the beans well. The cooking time is longer as these beans are quite nutty and even when soaked hold their shape well when cooked.

Now in the cauldron heat the oil, brown the chopped garlic and add the slit jalapeno till an aroma emanates. Now add the cooked blacked beans, salt, cumin powder and chili powder. Stir and let it come together. 

Add the diced tomatoes and let them crumble completely on high heat. Add 4 cups water. Reduce to a simmer. At this point wash the raw rice and add to the boiling curry. Cook covered on lowest heat till the rice grain when pressed between the thumb and fore finger feels cooked.

In the end add the oregano and the cilantro give it a nice stir and Serve steaming hot!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Doll Cake For Meetu

On the 11th Nov my helper Sweety was asking for a day off when I got to know it was her daughter, Meetu's birthday on 12th Nov. I asked her if she was going to come to our area on the day. She lives 4-5 kms from my home. I offered to bake a cake for Meetu if she could come pick it up.

So I just had a day for buying the material and ingredients from my neighborhood shops. I baked the cake on a day prior to decorating it. It allows the cake to cool completely and also to allow icing and decoration in a relaxed mood.

To begin making this cake you will need a few special materials

For the decoration

1. A pudding mould, this is used to bake the cake which for the skirt for the Doll.
2. A real doll. The size of the doll should match the size of the mould, such that the mould should form the skirt of the doll.
3. Sugar Sprinkles: I used colorful stars, moon crescents and small beads.


For the sponge

1.5 cups all purpose flour / maida
½ tin sweet condensed milk
¼ cup oil
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
1 cup milk

In a large bowl first whip of the wet ingredients, condensed milk, oil, vanilla extract, milk and sugar. The sugar should be dissolved completely.

Now in a sieve add the all purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda and salt. Sieve thru into the whipped up wet ingredients. Fold the flour into it. The batter should fall in folds.

Grease a pudding mold with oil and dust with flour. Remove the excess flour. Pour the batter into the mould. Preheat oven to 180 degrees for 10 mins. Place the mould filled with cake batter and bake for 20 -25 mins till golden brown and knife inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely in the tin and then remove on to the rack. Keep it aside for a day or atleast till completely cooled down so that the icing holds well onto it and does not melt.

For the icing

1 pack Whipped cream

Prepare as directed on the pack. I used Blue Bird brand whipped cream. I kept it white as I do not use artificial colors. If you are using colors match it up with the dress of the doll.

Note: This is the first time I used Whipped cream. I hate artificial foods and so this trial of Whipped cream also did not match up to my taste. It was light and frothy but just so artificial. I am not used to it and do not want to recommend it. I would rather use fresh cream/ Mascarpone/ hung curd/ sour cream for icing or frosting.

Steps for the decoration

On a cardboard covered with foil create a base with the cake. Turn the cake upside down with wide side as the base. With a long spoon scoop out the center, big enough for the doll to stand in it.

Now, upturn the skirt of the doll's frock so that you are not messing it when decorating the cake. Smear the cake with the whipped cream. Use the decorating knife to give the whipped cream, a pleated look. How you do this is with the tip of the knife stroke the whipped cream in upward movements, it will looked ridged.

Next place the sugar sprinkle stars and crescents on the pleats in the center, leaving the ridges to stand out. Do this in the front side. On the backside and at the base sprinkle the tiny multicolored beads to form a nice trimming. Don't worry if it is not very neat, actually a little awry looks good and natural.

Turn down the skirt of the cloth frock as it should be. There your Doll Cake it ready!

Just one more thing personalize it with a little flag with the birthday girl's name on it, after all it is a special cake. You can even pipe the wishes with cream on the sides. I did not do it as this cake was to be carried by Sweety to her home 5 kms away from mine and she was going to take a bus. That was another challenge so I packed off the cake in an upside down plastic bin. Doesn't she look like Anarkali shrouded in a veil, waiting to be revealed to Meetu!

I wished Meetu a happy 4th birthday!

The next day Sweety told me that her girl was thrilled and immediately grabbed the doll even before it was cut! She had hosted a party of 35 people and ordered another cake at a Shop as any careful host would do. I felt happy when she came back the next morning and told me that her party loved the Doll cake and the taste and that mine was better!

 Yay! Felt so satisfied. Next time I feel confident to make a princess cake.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Orange Marmalade Shortbread

Mrs Rekha Karmakar posts on her son Kalyan's blogShe is a storyteller who is full of wonderful memories. Whether it was her going back to Diamond Harbor looking for that home of her childhood vacation along with her two school going sons or her rediscovering Delhi, her memories of Jalpaiguri  or her travels around the world take you back into a different era. I feel like I am listening to my own aunt telling stories.

When I conducted a contest on the Fb page Mrs. K participated in it, I was happy she did as she was just recovering from bad health. She deserved a treat!

So along with the pack of masala I promised to send her for her enthusiasm to participate in the contest; I also made Shortbread with Orange marmalade. Keeping her health in mind I thought this is mildly sweet so she will be able to enjoy it and hoping she will like it.

Thanking Mrs. Rekha Karmakar for sharing her wonderful memories of travels and childhood and wishing her good health!

Basic recipe source: Indian food rocks


2 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup ghee
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Orange Marmalade

Just dump everything in the food processor and whiz. Remove to counter and knead to form a smooth ball. Line a baking sheet with foil. press the dough into the sheet. Roll out evenly. Score into fingers. Chill the baking sheet with the dough for 20 mins. 

Preheat oven to 140deg Celsius for 10 mins. While you do that, remove the baking sheet from the fridge. Use the fork to prick the dough so that it does not puff up. 


Bake the shortbread for 20 mins. Remove on counter. Score the fingers again on the same lines to ensure the fingers can be separated out after baking. Bake again for 5 mins to get the pinkish tinge on the fingers.

Remove the baking sheet. Cool for 5 mins. Then lift out the foil along with the shortbread fingers carefully separate out the fingers. Put them on a rack to cool completely. Store in air tight container.

For chocolate drizzle
2X2 inch piece of chocolate + 1/4 teaspoon of ghee 

Zap in the microwave for 20 secs. Give a stir to thin the molten chocolate evenly.

Since I was to speedpost these for Mrs. K I did not drizzle chocolate on hers. But I thought let me do it for Dad and so there you see. Well I just drizzled with a fork for neater drizzle use a ziploc bag or icing bag.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Moongachi Bhaaji

This is a delicious very Koli style curry made with whole moong. It difficult to say why it is soul satisfying, the protein or the masala. It is very quick to make as moong gets cooked fast in the pressure cooker.

A Koli home if not well stocked on green veggies will always be stocked with green moong for sure. But I hate it when most relatives cook it up for me just because I do not eat non veg. It's not about not affording to buy vegetables but pure laziness to even look in the bazaar for veggies and they expect me to sing their praises after the force fed meal. Yet I am polite, I always thank them for entertaining me.

However once in a while when I crave for my homely flavors and when I want to make something that will make a lipsmacking meal for Dad without too much effort then I go to this familiar taste.

Here is how to do it...


1 cup whole green moong
1 whole potato with skin on

Soak moong in hot water for 1/2 hr OR if cooking directly use water enough to cover the moong, about 1 inch above the moong level. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles or 30 mins. Cool completely and open the cooker. Mash some moong with the back of the spoon. Keep the potato aside.

The masala

1/4 cup grated fresh or frozen coconut
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon koli masala (buy it now)
1/2 inch piece ginger
4 cloves garlic
handful cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 green chili

Grind in fine paste in the chutney grinder. Keep

The Phodni 

2 teaspoons oil

Heat oil in a vessel. Add the ground masala and fry a bit for about 2 mins. Cut the potato into 4 long wedges and  add along with the cooked whole moong into the masala. Top up with water. Keep a thickish consistency. Boil well to remove the raw smell of masala. Put off heat and let it sit for atleast 15 mins before serving.

Serve with hot steamed rice.

Enjoy mixing it with your fingers and licking up!

In Thal food is mostly cooked at home and then at lunch time packed and taken to the fish drying area and the little account offices that are put up in the huts on these fields, where family slogging it from morning awaits. In the old days it used to be carried in small terracotta pots called handis or brass vessels, then put in a basket and carried on the head. I wanted to recreate that scene so I used large terracotta diyas which I had from the last years Diwali. Then came Diwali and I actually found a small pot much like a handi but still not a handi. I am still looking out for a handi that is used for cooking fish curry.

I also made a teeny bit of Moogache puran just to make Dad happy, for he loves to end all his meals with a little bit of sweet and as long as his health can afford it I will continue to indulge him.

With these pictures I can almost hear one of our Khapnarin (lady staff) calling out "Jevaan hanlay gharshi!" which meant lunch has been brought from home. Then some one would rush to help offload the basket which was carried on the head and put it on stable ground without spillage.

Then every thing would be removed from the basket and the basket would be overturned to cover the pots and a heavy something would be placed over the basket so that no cat or dog attacked the food before the family.

Then one by one everyone would wash their hands as they would be smelly with handling fish. If this was the exact menu, then the men would ask "Koncha upas hai?" LOL you see my Koli people cannot live without fish! and the day there is no fish in the meal it is Upas/ Upvas or fasting for them!

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Green Balcony Is Back As The Window Grill Box

Are you done with Diwali indulgences? I am. So today lets not talk about food.

Ever since I returned to Mumbai, I wake up to the chirping of the birds and a view of the Gulmohor. A priceless view especially when the Gulmohor is ablaze in the summers. It was not like this when we bought this home in 1995 but our neighborhood green initiatives have fruitioned. 

Introducing a new label here, the "Window Grill Box". The Green Balcony that saw me adopting so many environmentally conscious activities and successfully making them a part of my everyday life in a city, is now back in the form of a Window Grill Box. 

The last time I posted about growing greens was in May. That is when the renovation in my home started and it went on for 2.5 months. I was lucky that I was able to move some of my plants to my bro's side of the home. So when The Window Grill Box was ready I did not really start from scratch. Yes but it has taken time to get back to its glory.

Except the change in structure nothing much changed in that area. The Green balcony had the Daily dump unit and it still stand at the right end. Now it's a Bay window where I can sit and talk to my plants and nurture them. Those colorful jars are my Diwali decor. The Terracotta bell has moved to the right end from the left, and the left is not bare...

Right to left: The Daily Dump KhambaChavali creeper, Brahmakamal, Peace lily, in the wooden crate Tur and lemon grass, sitting on it spot the bird feeder. The last are tomato saplings that are growing fast and I can't wait for the harvest, everyday I whisper to them to hurry up!

The leftside view reveals a money plant, a pumpkin creeper that has flowered well but no fruit yet. Then you have more tomato saplings, Jalapenos in the tall porcelain pot. More Chavali creepers and tomatoes. Hanging from the roof are two new elements I added a decor lantern which is a copy of the Petromax of a bygone era and a wind chime that reverberates in the silence of my home.

The Window Grill Box in the living room is smaller, but we have a lovely green view of the Gulmohor and its great to see lots of birds nesting in the benevolent branches. That middle seat is my perch every evening with the new binoculars that I bought just to watch them. Yeah but I haven't been too lucky to show you some clicks, but there will be more lucky days to come I hope.

Outside that window in the grill box this is what you will see...

The hibiscus on the left
Lemon grass, more Jalapenos, Curry leaf plant.

While my side of the home has undergone change my bros side continues to bloom. You saw it here and here.

Now that you are introduced to the Window Grill Box rather boxes do come back to read on what's making my home green.

Annaparabrahma's green journey in pics is available here.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Happy Deepavali 2013!

Happy Deepavali 2013!

Thank you my dear readers who shower all that love on me and this space. On October 9, 2013 this blog celebrated its 7th Anniversary. Since I was away at the time we missed the celebration here. 

So light up the Deep, play the shehanai, a recorded one is alright! ;) and lets celebrate it with the big bright festival of the year!

I need to thank all those wonderful people who did business with us this year. Most of our last years clients did repeat business with us. That means a lot to us! 

All the Mumbai and Suburb orders have been delivered. All Pune orders are in transit. So Set your self for a wonderful Deepavali and just Enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Panchamrut Cake

I have a load of fruit from the Ganpati puja, some bananas ripened and freckled completely. Was talking to The cooker when she suggested freezing some fruit for smoothies and tempted me with this Sunshine cake, which I will try a little later there are still 2 birthdays coming up in the family and especially my bro Sumeet would love the light cake. 

Well this recipe had to be shared as it is one successful experiment from my kitchen. I have been making it often but this time its 100% whole wheat. It has to go out to you my reader immediately, isn't it. So this got baked in the afternoon and here I am posting it right away after my Dad swooning on a largish piece. I did taste it and loved it too but I am not going beyond the tasting even though I loved it, just have to stop myself from indulging.

I have been shaken up by a flash, a Biomedic professional, having 22 yrs of experience and witness to 3000 surgeries, we were talking about many things and he was telling me very inspiring and amazing stories of people he has seen fighting with disease and sorrow. When he said, "Death does not come easy, so you have no choice but to live happily!" He has inspired me to take control of my health. I have just let my health deteriorate over the years due to reasons that can range from depression to pure negligence and lack of focus on self. Not anymore. I promise this to myself, I will do everything to correct whatever has gone wrong. If anything I have been trying to better the quality of my life over last few years. This time, I am going on a month long health retreat starting next week. So this space will be quite till I return. But before I go here is the Panchamrut Cake for you my readers.

Well as you know Panchamrut is a offering we make for Pujas. It consists of 5 ingredients viz. sugar, milk, curd, ghee and honey. I added the banana too as it is not uncommon to include banana in panchamrut. This Panchamrut is used to bathe the Gods during rituals like a Abhishek and many times after a puja you end up with a good quantity of Panchamrut. I have been using this Panchamrut after every puja to bake a cake. This time however I used 100% whole wheat flour/atta as I did not have maida / all purpose flour on hand and I was blown away by how it turned out. So without further delay here you go...

1.5 cup atta / 100% whole wheat flour.
1 cup demerera sugar
1/4 cup ghee
1/2 cup curd
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 very ripe bananas
1/4 teaspoon lime juice
2 handfuls caster sugar for topping

(Incase you are making the cake with Panchamrut from the puja measure out 2 cups of already mixed Panchamrut for the cake. This is equivalent to all the wet ingredients I have used here. You may need to adjust the sugar to taste and ghee for the fat content.)

This is a very easy peasy bake all you got to do is measure out the ingredients and the peeled ripe bananas dump them in mixing bowl of the stand mixer and whip up the batter till everything comes together, about 1 minute. 

Meanwhile preheat the oven for 10 mins at 200 degrees celcius in convection mode. If using OTG reduce temp by 20 degrees.

Grease the baking tin with oil and dust with wheat flour. I inaugurated my new springform pan with this recipe. Panchamrut cake is auspicious start right? Recently I bought a set of 3 springform tins, 9, 10 and 11 inches. This recipe uses the 9 inch tin.

Pour the batter in the tin. It levels out on its own. Sprinkle the castor sugar on top for a nice crunch. I recommend this as it gives a lovely golden flakiness to the cake which is quite moist.

Bake for 40 mins or till the skewer pricked in comes out clean.

Let it cool completely before you slice.

My house was smelling divine as it baked and induced happy smiles in the inhabitants. Large slice for the Ketchup kid with a light drizzle of honey.

This cake is also for you Kiran, your post made me rush to make it yet again and in a healthy atta version.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Gajanan Sthavila Me Namila with Talele Modaks

Hi Friends!

Hope the Ganpati Festival is swinging for you. It has been good for me so far.

This year for the first day of Ganpati I made Talele Modak. Talele Modak is a rare thing in my Koli community. For us it is always Undre. I might have made these Talele Modak before may be a couple of times but since it was not posted on the blog, here I am sharing it. I really liked how they are much easier to shape than Undre as the cover is made with whole wheat flour which lends it self well for the shaping. 


For the filling
1 coconut grated
1/2 cup jaggery
1 tablespoon ghee
1/8 cup nuts and raisins
1/2 teaspoon Cardamom powder

For the cover
2 cups whole wheat flour / atta
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 spoon salt

First lets make the filling. Heat a deep pan add the ghee. Combine the grated coconut and jaggery and add to the pan. Keep mixing till you get a semi solid ball. Mix in the nuts and raisins and the cardamom powder. This filling is called Chauri in Koli. Our Kolis like their Chauri sweeter but this proportion is what we prefer at home. Divide into 21 equal portions. As this makes 21 modaks the auspicious number for naivedya. Keep aside.

Now knead the dough in a food processor. Add the atta or whole wheat flour and salt, run the FP adding the water slowly. The dough should be tight like for puri. It is slightly harder than we make for regular chapatis.
Now pinch off some dough and divide into 21 portions. Then make a ball and with your thumb press in the center and shape it like a basket. Fill a spoonful of Chauri in it. Next step, we need to pinch the edges to form petals around the stuffing. Make 11 petals. Then pull the pinched petal edges of the basket together to peak it.

In my home since this is Naivedya or offering for the Lord we chant this name "Ganpati Bappa Morya" as we do each petal for the modak. We always make 11 petals for each Modak and an offering of 21 Modaks as its is considered auspicious. 

Place all the Modaks on a greased pan. Wet a towel and wring it to remove excess water. Cover the modaks with moist towel to prevent drying up till you fry up all the modaks.

Once done heat oil in a wok. Turn down the heat to medium. Fry 5-6 modaks at a time in the wok so u have enough space to swish them around for a even golden color. 

Sometimes the coconut and jaggery syrup leaks out and starts charing the modaks at such a time just put off the heat and skim of the charred material with a tea sieve. Then restart frying this will save the Modaks from getting speckled with charred particles, which look very unappetizing.

Remove the fried modaks on a sieve, let the oil drain off then space them out in a plate to cool. Serve once cooled. Don't bite into the fried Modak, hot jaggery can scald the tongue. 

It's made for the Ganpati Bappa so offer the Naivedya to him first and then partake it as prasad. Share the prasad with friends.

Enjoy the celebrations till Ananth Chaturdashi while the Lord is still our guest!

Yes Ganpati Bappa or Gajanan be praised and worshiped that is what the title suggests.We do and this is our Ganpati @ my Thal home.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Focaccia and Koli Masala Love Story

Pithori Amavasya marks the end of Shravan Maas. It is a no moon day and celebrated as Matrudin or mother's day. It is celebrated as Matrudin as we worship all the Devis or Goddesses on this day.

The name Pithori is derived from the offering made with flour or pith to the Goddesses. Well to celebrate the end of Shravan and my event which began on a non-traditional note, after travelling thru memories of a more traditional Shravan, I post here an offering for my Mother, my Aai. 

I had made this Focaccia as an experiment to use my Koli masala in the most non traditional way. To create a fusion of flavors that will stand out as the mark of this city, Mumbai. What better time than to share it with you on this day when offerings are made to the ancestors, my Koli ancestors who were the first inhabitants of this city. The recipe adheres to the tradition of making something from Pith or flour. My Mom always offered ghaas or food offering to the departed on this day.

Going by how it turned out and that half eaten focaccia is proof enough to get you going into the kitchen to try it out immediately.


For the Koli masala spiced Caramelized onions
4 large onions, halved and slivered
1 teaspoon of Koli Masala ( Don't have it? Order it now!)
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

In a hot wok add oil, quickly add the slivered onions. Fry until translucent. Add the koli masala and salt, give it a stir. In the end just before putting off the heat add the finely chopped cilantro and give it a mix. Keep aside to cool until dough is ready.

This is a basic recipe for the toppings but you could stretch your imagination to the limit to give it your own veg - non veg twists!

For the dough
500 gms of Maida/ all purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup corn meal / makai atta
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes

In a bowl mix the water, sugar and yeast and let it bubble up for 10 mins.

Meanwhile soak the sundried tomatoes in 1/2 cup water.

Now combine the flour and bubbly yeast in a stand mixer using dough hooks. Run the mixer till you get smooth well combined dough. Now add salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the dough and run the mixer for another 5 mins. Cover with wet towel and leave it till the dough is doubled.

Remove the dough on to the counter. Knead for 5 mins. Incorporate the sun dried tomatoes in the dough at this point. Chop up the hydrated tomatoes into small bits. Discard any water remaining after soaking the sundried tomatoes.

Grease and dust the baking pans with oil followed by corn meal. Spread the dough in the pans with your hand like you do for bhakri. Create depressions with your finger in the dough. drizzle the remaining olive oil over it like seen here. Leave it to double up again.
Now after the second proofing. Spread the koli masala spiced caramelized onions on the two focaccias.  Preheat the oven at 180 deg celcius and bake till golden edges are seen. This takes about 40 mins. I baked both the focaccias at the same time in the oven. 
Remove from the baking pans on to the cooling rack. I ate that half as soon as it permitted me to take a bite. These focaccias are not very thick and are quite crisp. Every bite is fiery and a morsel of the sundried tomato delivers the perfect fusion of an Italian bread with a very local Koli masala.

If I say it was gorgeous! I will sound narcissistic, so be it.

Here is the ordering information for my Koli Masala.
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Mail Subject: Koli masala
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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Vari Che Ghavane

Foxtail Millet Crepes

Yesterday was the last Shravani Shanivar. For all the Fasts till now We were eating Vari/ Samo seeds/ foxtail millet only as it is the healthier option. We avoided Sabudana or sago seeds as they are too starchy. I hope I have achieved some improvement in health and it would be indicated soon in my upcoming date with the Doc.

Well let me update here, to all the people who show concern about my health. I had my annual health check up done. Most parameters are normal except for the Vit D3. So a course of medicine has been started for correcting it. I am walking a lot more than May, June and July. Waiting for the stress test to get done in Sep so we'll know if the stents are working well. I have better health now since I cut out all the crap in life. Yes I am lucky that I have a cushy fall back system and I never take that for granted.

Coming back to Vari, a month of eating Foxtail millet only is definitely boring. I stuck to the jeera tadka and even avoided Potatoes. We would eat it with Danyachi aamti but I ensured that the aamti was watery to keep it light.

Yesterday I thought of trying something different and recollected that my Mum used to make these Crepes or ghavane with Vari. I soaked a cup of the samo seeds in curd and thinned it with a cup of water. This proportion makes only 3 dosa skillet size ghavane, which I wrongly estimated that would not be enough for 2 adults. I was wrong. These are really filling. I had therefore made Vari cha bhaat too, it was too much on the plate you see.


1 cup foxtail millet/ samo seeds/ Vari
1 cup sour curd
1 cup water
2 green chilies
salt and sugar to taste

Soak the foxtail millet in curd for 30 mins. Thin it with water and grind to paste. Let it soak further for 1 more hour.

Add salt and sugar to taste. Mix well before pouring the batter on the dosa tava. The batter should be thinner than dosa batter and it should be pourable.

Heat the skillet or dosa tava. On the hot tava pour out the batter with a ladle do not try to spread the batter like you do for dosa. Here the thin batter will give you a lovely lacy crepe and if you try to spread it, you will get clumps of dough. The pouring of batter is more like sprinkling the batter over the skillet so do it with a deft hand. Cover the entire area of the skillet for perfect shaped Crepes.

Drizzle some oil over it. Check if browned from under. The topside get dried out as foxtail millet is low gluten, but don't worry it gets cooked. Turn over and cook the other side. After five mins, fold over in to half and then again into quarter folds. Serve hot. 

I served it with a upvas peanut chutney that turned out so creamy tangy and excellent accompaniment for this dryish crepe. I am thinking a potato gravy would have been lovely too.

I am going to make this more often now on though I made this after years yesterday.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Happy Gokulashtami! And Naivedya of Atte Ka Halwa.

Happy Gokulashtami ! Hope you are enjoying your Gokulashtami celebrations your own way. Here in Mumbai amidst din I am here to quickly post a naivedya I just made for Lord Krishna. Shh..Shh.. Also to inaugurate my new stainless steel cookware.

Last night was Krishna Janma or birth of Lord Krishna so I made Steamed Rava Ladu for naivedya. And today is Gopal Kala or Dahi Handi. I don't need to reiterate how this festival is celebrated here in Mumbai. This city has its two festivals when the citizens come out on the street and for this one shouting out Govinda Aala Re, Aala Jara Matki Sambhal Brij Bala! Here Bala means young woman, how endearing! Hope the days of that pure love and clean fun returns to this city. That's my prayer today.

Now here is the quick recipe of my second naivedya. This is a Rajasthani recipe which transforms the pantry staple atta into a delicious halwa with dollops of ghee. So be generous!


1/2 cup wheat flour / Atta
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Ghee
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
Slivered pistachios for garnish

Washed my brand new 18/10 SS Kadhai (note that). Kanha it should taste better than my previous Aluminium Kadhai and also no farting now and blaming it on Al OK! :D

Ok what are you laughing at? heat that Kadhai. Add one tablespoon ghee and when molten add the wheat flour to it. Roast it till dark brown and aromatic. Don't roast it till caramelisation as the color intensifies further as we use sugar syrup to make the halwa.

While you are roasting the atta in a saucepan boil together 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup water till sugar dissolves. This is your sugar syrup. Add a pinch of salt to bring out the sweetness of sugar.

Once the atta is nicely fragrant and golden add slowly sugar syrup to it. Keep stirring till the atta absorbs all the liquid and is plumped up. At this point at about 5 mins the halwa is cooked to perfection and will start forming a mass at the centre. Now add one teaspoon ghee to give it a glaze. Keep stirring.

Finally garnish with slivered pistachios.

Tastes best warm.
And here is scene on my street.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Daar Paanache Bhajji

My Paternal Grandma was a petite and beautiful woman. As much as she was known to be a beauty she was known to be kanjoos or stingy by her kids. Even today Dad and Uncles narrate how she shallow fried fish in the tiniest bit of oil and while doing that she would make the entire household cough up. So her kids loved to call this style of cooking 'Tal-bhuz' which translates to half frying and half roasting and they did coin that word!

The same children reminiscence over Shravani Somvar of their childhood when Grandma would have head bath and go to our Family God's house pray and then go to the bazaar to choose the best bunch of 'Daar bhaaji'. 

The afternoon would be spent cleaning it carefully, most of it would be chopped fine to make a stir fry with either green or red chilies and some leaves would be kept away. All the children starving by then would get excited. They knew their mother was generous on Shravani Somvars. Grandpa and her children nodded in approval and winked at each other for they knew what she would make.

Such simple pleasures but deep frying was not so common at home in those days atleast not in our home. When I look back I realise how conscious my Grandma was about what she fed to her kids and when.

So on Shravan Somvars when the sun is going down, Piri (flat seating platforms) which are also called Paat in Marathi, Piri is plural for Pira in Koli; would be laid out in two rows with some space for movement between the two rows. She would then place one by one a Dinda leaf in front of each Pira. After serving all the food perfectly in order the way it should be on the leaf with the chutney on top, veggies on the right, rice in the middle and chapati or Ghari on the left. She would then call out to the husband and children to wash their hands and seat themselves. They would obey immediately and then she would rush to the kitchen as they chanted the prayers to rustle up the star of the menu, to fry up the Paanache bhajji! 

The Daar bhaaji or Lal MaaTh leaf bhajji turned out crisp and were served to the groaning stomachs in the Pangat (a way of seating in a line at lunch or dinner just like sitting at a dinning table,  it's a formal affair).

Grandma always kept the bhajji batter ready, the leaves washed and cleaned and drained well to serve hot crisp bhajji and then she would announce. 'Suru kara!' her kids always took that as a command 'Attack'. 

My Shravan series cannot be complete without a post on this Paanache bhajji. It's a simple recipe but you have to be a skilled cook to know how to turn them out best. The batter coating has to be gossamer yet the leaf should be fried to crackling crunchiness. The veins of the leaf forming a pattern on the batter. This recipe and skill is handed down by my Grandma to all her DILs and from them to us grandchildren. I made them after years and as I did a few I was wondering why they did not look like my Grandma's, of course then I thinned the batter a bit and the third bhajji onwards I had a perfectly crackling leaf bhajji. 

As far as I can remember this is the only recipe by my Gradma that is treasured in the family more for the lovely memories than anything else. Also Shravan as it is the monsoons was the only time she would get time to cook elaborately for her family as it meant four months of break for the fishing season. The kitchen was completely her domain then when all domestic help was on leave. My Grandma, Yesubai, was a Nakhwin, co-owner of a fishing business and had to run a household of family plus 25 to 30 employees plus more on the fish drying fields. She personally made Chavalachi roti for the staff and family every morning with the help of one of our Khapnarin (see how evolved that word is, not servant but someone who does hard work!) She never had the luxury to make goodies except for the basic meals. Plus even the staff was better skilled for fishing related activities so all the goodies were made by the village goldsmith's wife. Yes Kolis were a tribe and yet so evolved, our women were working and heading businesses since generations. A Koli woman was expected to know only the basic cooking to run a home and the rest was always delegated.

So finally here is the recipe of the Daar Paanache Bhajji

10 Daar bhaaji leaves
1/2 cup besan/ chickpea flour
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon rice flour
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon carom seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Enough water to thin the batter.
Oil to fry

First wash clean and drain the leaves. Dab them with a towel to remove all moisture.

Now make batter with besan, red chili powder, turmeric, salt, rice flour and carom seeds. Make it to a consistency that coats the leaf evenly yet is thin enough to let the leaf see thru. It should be gossamer is what I mean. Thick coats leave the leaf soggy inside. The only way to get a crunchy crisp  leaf is to coat it perfectly which lets it fry well thru and thru.

Deep fry in smoking hot oil till crunchy crisp.

Take a bite when it's fresh and hot. Serve instantly as a start to a meal or with your evening Chaha. Enjoy the rare indulgence of the deep fried, that's what my Grandma would have surely said but for her children this bhajji is about Shravani Somvar and never demand it any other time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Changing Of The Sacred Thread

Don't be surprised. No Kolis don't wear sacred threads. Kolis are a tribe and therefore outside the caste system as per the ancient scriptures. 

My father has a fascination for rituals and is very religious. He was brought up in a different era so he always looked up to the Brahmins. I must mention deliberately our generation does not care a damn about the caste system, especially in Mumbai but it is definitely prevalent in other parts of India and is practiced even now.

Dad is friends with a Brahmin who is a practicing priest. He gifted my Dad the scared thread for the first time about a decade or more ago. Dad is like Eklavya and has learnt to perform some complex rituals, he does Rudra every single day. For Ganapati pujas he does Atharvashirsha. He also performs the Pavman on the important days in the life of our Guru Brahmachaitanya Gondavalekar Maharaj. This priest knew about my Dad's keenness in following Vedic rituals so he encouraged my Dad to wear a scared thread. Dad does the rituals only for himself and family and has performed on a rare instance for friends.

The sacred thread is symbolic of purity in thought, word and deed expected from the wearer. Any one who pursues knowledge and the Vedas can wear it. Anyone who pursued knowledge was called a Brahmin in the ancient times so the sacred thread came to be a mark of the caste in the later eras too when pursuing knowledge is not the only thing they do. Certain other castes adopted this practice. The initiation of a boy into the path of knowledge is celebrated with a ritual of Upanayana when he first wears a scared thread across his torso from left shoulder to right flank. Following the Upanayana the boy gets permission to do Sandhyavandana and Chanting Gayatri mantra. He has to practice this every single day. Obviously the sacred thread gets worn out and needs a change.

Shravan is the most auspicious month for the Hindus and the NarLi Pournima is designated as the day for changing the scared thread and renewing the vows of pursuing knowledge. Infact the scared thread is also called Shravani to distinguish it from a change at any other time.

This is only a decade old tradition in the family and only Dad follows it. I find it quite funny why Dad started this new tradition that will end with him.

What will be preserved I am hoping by my family and future generation are the traditions of Kolis. We are Koli and my bro S without fail offered a coconut to the sea, thanking the Gods for toning down the ferocious waters which are characteristic of monsoons and now the brotherhood can go out to the sea for fishing safely.

Here are my old posts on NaraLi Pournima and the specialities we Kolis make on the day.

NaraLi Bhaat

Chaurichi Karanji

On Trail