Yakitori Gone Desi

[I didn’t plan on making this a series, but I think I have a handful of recipes now. So this is, what I’d like to believe, the second of a five part series on non-vegetarian Gujarati cuisine. In case you’ve missed the first part, it’s here.]


I was at Malaka Spice, in Pune, last week on a whim and got a taste of their summer menu. I was with a friend and we binge ate six different kinds of Yakitori:

  • Reba Gushi (レバー) – liver
  • Tebasaki (手羽先) – chicken wing
  • Negima (ねぎま) – chicken alternating with and spring onion/leek
  • Bonjiri (ぼんじり) – chicken tail
  • Tsukune (つくね) – chicken meatballs
  • Tori Kawa (とり)かわ) – chicken skin, grilled until crispy

Grilled cuts of chicken, marinated in spices and ginger-soy sauce.

So when I asked my mum for the recipe for Maamnaa later that week, a little light bulb went up, about how I could serve them – the way I’d been served Yakitori – on a stick.

Mutton Mince Meatballs - Maamnaa
Mutton Mince Meatballs – Maamnaa

 

Maamnaa are fried/grilled meatballs made with very fine lamb mince and spices, served with lots of fine sliced onions, lemon and green chutney.

My limited knowledge on Surati Khatri food comes from my mum’s conversations with the daughters-in-law of a certain Kadiwala family. The patriarch of the family, Ratibhai Kadiwala grew up with my grandfather in the bylanes of Surat in the 1930s. Over the years, the families grew apart, migrated to different cities and adopted new lifestyles altogether, but didn’t quite lose touch. Though Rati Kaka passed away over a decade ago and my grandfather’s mental health has deteriorated owing to dementia, there still are memories that come up in conversation every once in a while. And some recipes.

As if it were a coincidence, or some sort of sign, my mum gave me the news of Kanta Kaki’s passing the day I asked her for the maamnaa recipe. Kanta Kaki – Rati Kaka’s wife. Of late, my heart aches when I hear about the demise of people from my grandparents’ generation. I wonder if they’ve left behind notebooks in old trunks, scribbled with recipes… letters written to loved ones in an age when there was no internet or even an inexpensive phone call system… black and white photographs turned sepia and dog eared. I wonder if us grandchildren, or maybe generations after us might chance upon these some day, make sense of these little notes and preserve them for the future.

My great grandmother has left behind a notebook filled with recipes for mathiyas and nankhatais and other cookies and biscuits that I intend to digitize, sooner or later. While my grandmum was never much of an enthusiast in the kitchen, my mum’s gotten her hands dirty with recipes that have been passed down generations. She still makes mathiyas several times every year. And much to her displeasure, they make for some delicious chakhna – one of the countless varieties of nibbles that make cheap alcohol palatable.

And that’s where I pull the Khatris back into this story. As dry as state as Gujarat is, every other home I’ve visited in Gujarat has a full fledged bar cabinet. While alcohol consumption for most other communities might be a covert affair, the Khatris openly enjoy shating a batli (bottle) during social gatherings. And Surati Khatris are known to swear by the “Khaai, pee ne jalsa karo” (eat, drink and make merry) rule.

Men and women, alike, enjoy drinking alcohol, often out of steel glasses, with enough to grub going around – fried peanuts and cashews, deep fried daal mixed with onions, coriander, tomatoes & a dash of lime. And maamnaa.

Mutton Mince Meatballs - Maamnaa
Mutton Mince Meatballs – Maamnaa

Recipe

Ingredients:
Maamnaa Masala:
(each ingredient roasted individually and all ingredients then ground to a fine powder)

100g coriander seeds
30g cumin seeds
30g black peppercorn
30g sesame seeds

10g stone flower (dagad phool)
10g black cumin (shahi jeera)
10 g cinnamon stick
10 g cinnamon leaves
10 g bay leaves (tamaal patra)
10g black cardamom (badi elaichi)
10 g cloves
10 g star anise
10g mace

A pinch of grated nutmeg

For the kebabs/meatballs:
1 lb meat keema
2 tbsp ginger, freshly grated
2 tbsp garlic, freshly crushed
2 tbsp green chilli paste, fresh
3 tbsp maamnaa masala
1 tbsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 egg
1 tbsp cornflour
Salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Wash & drain the meat keema properly. The meat should be a very fine mince. If you think it’s chunky, you can pulse it in a mixer-grinder for a couple of minutes.
  2. To about a pound of the mince (450g or so), add ginger, garlic, chilli paste and masala and mix well. Let the meat marinate in the spices for 2-3 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to cook the maamnaa, heat some oil to shallow fry the meatballs. Alternately, you can fire up a grill or heat up a grill frying pan.
  4. Add an egg and some cornflour to the meat mixture, so that it binds easily and doesn’t fall apart in the oil (or off the skewers, when grilling).
  5. Make fist sized balls. Lower into oil. Cook uniformly for 4-5 minutes.
  6. For seekh kebabs, add a little more cornflour to bind, roll around skewers and grill over charcoal or on a grill pan.
  7. Serve with onions and mint chutney.

Next up: The many colours of Undhiyu

 

Ep2 : Chinese and Thai 400: Delicious Recipes for Healthy Living

Saturday evening, a handful of us got together for our second potluck dinner. The usual suspects and some new faces. The menu, when Sahil posted it to his Instagram, was drool worthy. The end products, pretty good. But far from the gloriousness that that Instagram picture had promised.

Sahil did a great job of posting several updates to his Instagram and Facebook accounts on the day of the potluck. Here are some pictures:

The second cookbook club dinner is going to be amaze.

A post shared by Sahil Khan (@sahilk88) on

 

Aromatic Pork with Basil. Died getting all the ingredients. Turned out okay, thankfully. I think.

A post shared by Sahil Khan (@sahilk88) on

 

 

Beef stew with a chicken broth, by @kalaraju1 at last night's dinner.

A post shared by Sahil Khan (@sahilk88) on

 

 

All in all, it was a successful potluck. But I did a lot of thinking after everyone left that night. And I think this blog post is going to be more about that. Along with the recipes we cooked, of course!

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As a host, what does an event like this entail?

  • How do you make sure you have enough dinner ware?
    • I knew what everyone was bringing. But I’d only seen my own recipe. So I had the requisite number of plates, one bowl each, a fork, a spoon and a pair of chopsticks for every person in attendance. I also had a handful of spoons and forks handy. The bowl was for dessert – a tapioca & taro pudding that Raunaq Gupta was bringing in. What I missed was that Kala Raju was bringing in a beef stew and that might need soup bowls. So, when it was time to serve dessert, I had to bring out mismatched bowls and scramble for spoons. Lesson learnt.
  • Do you want uniform serving bowls for pretty pictures? Or are you okay with serving your food in the bowls and containers that participants brought their food in? Does this also include certain dishes being served in a certain kind of vessel?
    • I cooked and served my claypot rice in a, well, clay pot, for instance. Asking participants what they might need to serve their food in might come handy in the future.
  • Is there a quick way you can heat the food, especially when you have 4 appetizers that need heating all at the same time?
    • Maybe you even need something to stay warm through the course of sitting around and eating. Crab cakes gone cold or pork gone a tad chewy because it’s now at room temperature and not nice and warm can be a downer. I guess I’m going to keep my stove top free of things and my kitchen counter better organized to manage this more efficiently next time onwards.
  • Is there enough drinking water? Well, yes. But is all of it cold? Or enough of it cold?
  • What’re the odds you’re going to run out of ice?
  • Is there enough room in your fridge to put any food that might need refrigeration?

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Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to talk about what cooking for a larger number of people was this time around. I’ve had guests over several times. I’ve fed parties of 15 and 20 people and things have been great. But a cookbook potluck puts a different kind of pressure on you, as it turns out.

  • All of us seemed eager to please and had some performance pressure riding on us.
    • One of us re-did her dish. Another freaked out about his pork not defrosting in time. One bailed out altogether. And another brought in only 1 dish, instead of the two he originally thought he’d bring.
    • And all of us scuttled around from grocery store to grocery store hunting for that one ingredient we thought our dish just couldn’t do without.
    • The key is to not over-promise, then, I guess.
    • And plan better, perhaps? Know what you’ll need for the cook and where you can procure it from, fresh/frozen/however, at least 6 hours before hand?
    • Make sure you’re done cooking at least 2 hours before the time you’re scheduled to meet and plan backwards accordingly?
  • What quantity should one cook?
    • Most recipes are made with 1 lb of meat or 450-500g of meat. For a potluck where 6-8 dishes are being brought in, using anything more than a half kilo of meat might leave you with leftovers. We discussed on Whatsapp, about quantities we should bring in and we decided 500-750g of the core ingredient would suffice. And we had A LOT of leftovers.
    • While all starters and the stew were devoured, a considerable amount of the mains were left.
  • What accompaniments are needed with your dishes? Mains are typically served with rice or bread (Indian or otherwise) and most curry recipes end with suggestions for what to eat these curries with. Is the the responsibility of the participant making the curry to make the rice/roti as well? Or should the host ensure someone takes this up voluntarily?
    • We had two curries and no rice on our original menu, so Ana volunteered to do a simple chicken fried rice and I made some claypot chicken rice. While I only had enough to make sure my husband had his fair share of the rice as leftovers, Ana was left with about 2/3rds of her chicken fried rice uneaten. That’s just disappointing. It takes effort to cook, more so if it’s an extra dish you volunteered to make. I’m sure it hurts.
  • Does guesstimating when you’re using a cookbook help? Or must you follow recipes to the tee?
    • The recipe for the crab cakes asked that they be cooked for 3-4 minutes on each side. And my crab cakes ended up with charred tops. I was wary of straying away from the recipe because I’d had a tender coconut pudding disaster during the first pot luck, and didn’t want to screw up again. Oh well! I guess this is another recipe I’m going to have to re-do and post with perfect results.
    • A recipe might call for a broth to simmer 20 minutes until the meat is just done. And 20 minutes in, you don’t think it feels quite right. So you push it by another 10 minutes, at 3 minute intervals. And bam! That last minute probably just overcooks the meat? Or those 10 minutes extra were the right thing to do.
    • A baking recipe, on the other hand, might need you to follow instructions and measurements without any deviation.

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Next. The most important part of the event. The book.

  • You MUST take a picture of the book you cooked from! But that makes me wonder whether we need to have things done in such an organized fashion. The evening/meal is about meeting new, like-minded people and having a good time over some interesting and fun recipes, right?
  • Every book has a story. And everyone attending needs to know it. 🙂
    • Did you buy it on the streets second-hand?
    • Or did your grandmum give it to your mum when she got married and was moving to a new family? (Following which you stole it shamelessly because it looked so amazing!)
    • Did a friend send it to you from another country where he lives and because he knows you’d appreciate something like this?
    • Or did you pick it up on a whim when you were travelling?
    • Maybe an ex-boyfriend gave it to you.
    • Maybe you borrowed it from someone and never returned it (you horrible, you!)
  • What book will we cook from next?
    • Bring a book along. Three, if you really want to. Show it/them to everyone around. Ask them what they think.
    • Have a handful of books around that evening. If you can’t arrive at a conclusive decision then, at least you’ve started a conversation about it. And thrown some ideas around. It should only get simpler.
    • We might cook from Jerusalem: A Cookbook (by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi) next time… if we can’t find a great book filled with all things mango, that is.

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Pictures of the food?

  • While I’m all for live-tweeting or putting up an Instagram story and taking pictures during the event, how much is too much?
    • As the host, I’m often too caught up to take pictures. Besides, I have this silly habit, where if I’m having a good time, I couldn’t care less to know where my phone is (so that throws tweets and phone camera pictures out of the window altogther)
  • When everybody comes in, get all the food together, mains, desserts everything and take one grand photo, possibly even with a good camera, perhaps?
  • A designated social-media person in the group can keep taking pictures and posting them through the event/evening?
    • No brainers, in our case, it’ll just always be Sahil.

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Just one last thing before I share the recipes with you. Feedback. Constructive criticism. I really need some ideas and suggestions on how to go about doing this. How does one do this exactly?

  • Take turns critiquing every dish?
  • Allow anonymous feedback forms after everyone’s gone home?
  • Make a little suggestion box and get everyone to write their thoughts out, if they’re not comfortable sharing their views up front?

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And finally, the recipes.

(The Chicken in Lemon Sauce recipe is missing, but I promise to put that in when I get my hands on it. In the meanwhile, I will graciously accept anything you wish to send my way – feedback, suggestions, rotten tomatoes, enthu cutlets for the 3rd cook, a new cookbook…)

Bon Appétit!

Easy Kimchi and Other Noob Korean Cooking

I’ve been pouring over a couple of Asian cookbooks I have over the past few days, between conversations on what book we need to pick for our second potluck. Suraj has bought me Cook Korean! for my birthday, earlier this year, and I’d promised him we’d do a grill once we had our new place set up. But we have two hyperactive kittens and we’re overprotective parents, like that, so we’re a little skeptical about setting the grill up just yet. Suraj was craving a good biryani, but I just wanted to spend hours cooking and prepping several things and decided to sample Cook Korean! instead. He readily agreed.

Cook Korean! by Robin Ha
Cook Korean! by Robin Ha

He picked the Sweet and Sour Pork and I picked the Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps. And we also decided to make some easy kimchi… because why not?

The book – it’s interesting. It’s very interesting. The author, Robin Ha, has interspersed Korean cultural and traditional tidbits along with detailed recipes on how to make most Korean dishes. It starts off with a little prologue of how the author spent some time in college missing mom-made food from when she was little… until she figured it was high time she learnt how to do it herself, instead of relying on eating out all the time. That’s exactly how I started cooking too. When I moved away from home for the first time, I realized I’d have to learn how to cook, if I wanted to eat home-like meals. I’m pleased at how THAT turned out.

The author introduces a little girl named Dengki then, and she takes us through the rest of the book –  a chapter on what a typical Korean pantry and refrigerator might contain, another on cooking styles and key ingredients and finally, a few dozen recipes.

What the book is missing, perhaps, is a section on dessert. I absolutely loved the look and feel of the book, how content was organized and how everything just read like a breeze. Cooking Korean looked easy. And fun. There had got to be a catch. So, being the sceptic that I am, I looked up similar recipes online and  the recipes in the book match some of the best rated recipes on the internet spot-on.

Since we’ve only just moved (back) to Pune and are not quite sure of where to buy pork from, we decided to order online at http://meatroot.com/ and we weren’t disappointed one bit with their delivery timeline or the quality of the meat we got.

Cooking together with Suraj after several weeks (months, perhaps!) was fun. Our kitchen here is a little smaller than our Bangalore place (though far bigger than the one we cooked in before we got married, haha!), so we had a couple of nasty exchanges, but we’ll figure things out over the next few weeks, I’m sure.

The kimchi mix tasted great when I mixed it in with the napa cabbage and we opened the jar the following evening. It hadn’t fermented as much as I’d expected it to and didn’t tasted as awesome as I might’ve liked it to, so we’ve decided to let it sit around for a couple of days more and we’re hoping it’ll taste just the way we want it to. A few days later, it just didn’t seem right and we had to toss it away. Maybe the right way to do this, is to not use an “easy” recipe and just do it the authentic way it should be done. Or then, maybe there’s something out there waiting for my terrible kimchi streak to be broken!

I prepped everything Suraj needed for his sweet and sour pork because he was a little caught up with work. And at around 8 pm, when we started frying the pork, it tasted so good, we couldn’t keep our hands off it. We did behave like good kids though, and saved up enough to go with the veggies and the pineapple. We loved how it tasted. But there were leftovers, so we mixed them up with some spices and par-boiled rice for lunch the next afternoon and turned it into a yummy Asian rice! All is well that ends well, I guess.

The lettuce wraps were a mighty interesting experiment too. The pork belly was boiled in a yummy broth, which I warmed up and drank for breakfast the following morning because because everyone needs to start their mornings with something rich and wholesome, right? The belly took longer to cook through though, than the 30 minutes mentioned in the recipe. Adding another 15 minutes to our cooking time wasn’t really a problem at all though. I wish I’d kept aside more lettuce for the wraps though, because we ran out and then polished the pork belly off without folding it into wraps with lettuce and slaw. The radish slaw was almost like an instant kimchi without the napa cabbage, and at least THAT turned out awesome, even if my kimchi bombed.

Here’s a picture of the lettuce wraps and the sweet and sour pork. All in all, a fantastic dinner date at home –  we cooked together, we drank some good beers, watched some TV and sat around talking until bedtime (okay, yeah, boring!).

Sweet and Sour Pork and Boiled Pork Belly Wraps
The Sweet and Sour Pork in the foreground and the various parts of the Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps behind

I hope to be cooking from the book again, probably after the monsoons kick in or towards the end of the year when the whether in Pune gets nice and chilly. The kids will be a little over a year old by winter, and hopefully a little well-behaved. That way, maybe we can get our little barbeque out and do some grilled Korean meats. I have a feeling it might be fun.

 

 

Cheese and Pomegranate Wheel

Some time in the first week of December, the internet was flooded with recipes for “cheese balls” and the one which first caught my attention was this one.

@shwetakapur and I ogled at this listicle shortly later.

And somewhere between those two, I made my own little cheese ball. Only thing, it looked more like a wheel, than a ball. So I’ll just call it a Pomegranate and Cheese Wheel.

Ingredients:
1 pomegranate, kernels only
1 500g container of yoghurt, hung for 3-4 hours (until the whey is completely drained)
1 cup any (hard) cheese of your choice, grated (I used a mix of some old cheddar and parmesan)
5-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme (from a jar)
2 tablespoons melon seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon table butter, molten or softened

Method:
1. Mix the cheese, yoghurt, melon seeds, herbs, pepper, butter and garlic in a bowl and freeze for a couple of hours.
2. Grease your palms with a little butter and roll the set yoghurt mix into a ball (or a wheel!)
3. Gently roll the ball/wheel in a plate full of pomegranate kernels. You might have to press down into them just a little bit, so that they stick into the cheese ball.
4. Serve with crackers.

A badly lit picture, this one! But I hope to get around to uploading pictures from my camera soon enough. I bought a new phone a couple of weeks ago (a 13 megapixel camera) and my SLR seems to have gotten side-tracked. But I promise to put up better pictures from the SLR very soon!

Notes:
1. This will last for at least a couple of days. I ate some the evening I made it and the following evening again when we had friends over.
2. Very easy to make and quite fancy (and healthy, if I may add), like that. So win win.
3. Instead of crackers, you can just serve this with thinly sliced carrots, cucumber and radishes.
4. You can add just about anything to make a good cheese ball – there are so many ideas on the listicle I shared earlier. Or then you could just come up with something that you think might make an interesting cheeseball.

Much Summery So Wowe

(Pardon the doge meme title for this post, but given the Paper Boat Flavours I’m going to write about here, a summery title seems apt.)

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says kalakhatta? For me, it’s baraf golas. Always.

I kept it simple with the Paper Boat kalakhatta flavour. I poured some of it into a cutting-chai glass and froze it for a couple of hours. I then stuck a lollypop stick into it and froze it overnight. Voila! Good old baraf gola, sans the tongue-lip-and-t-shirt-staining purple colour. And just as delicious. There’s jamun and some spices (for that added kick) that go into making this taste as good as it does.

DSC_1113_edit

I’m not sure if their aam-panna is out in the market yet, but I did get to taste some of it. It was good, but it was missing the old-school panha taste I was secretly hoping it’d have. I can’t pin what exactly was missing, though. Maybe that little bit of kesar? Or possibly some other spice, other than those mentioned on the pack? Or maybe just maa ke haath ka jaadoo. Heh. Not to say it was bad or anything, but this one didn’t quite do as much for me, as the other flavours have. Which is why I decided to work it into a recipe. Just like I did with the aamras.

The inspiration to use aam panna as a salad dressing came from a Thai Mango Salad I used to love having at a restaurant in Pune. Slices of raw mango, shrimp, a sweet-and-spicy dressing and greens. I modified the salad by using aam panna and olive oil for the dressing. I threw a couple of kinds of lettuce, a few basil leaves, some sprouts, thinly sliced red chillies and chopped spring onions into a bowl. I grilled some prawns, with chopped garlic, salt and black sesame seeds, and added those to the salad mixture. I finally put dressed it all in a lot of the aam panna dressing. The salad made for a delightful eating – the aam panna lending it’s characteristic tangy-sweet touch to the salad and just a hint of spice from the red chillies with the crunch of the greens. I was hoping it wouldn’t need any additional herbs and I was glad it didn’t.

IMG_0153_edit

That leaves me with not having tasted only the kokum flavour. I know it exists because I’ve seen it on their Facebook page. But I’ve never gotten around to seeing it at any of the stores I buy my groceries at. But then again, knowing me, I’d probably add some vodka to it (oh, vodka and kokum sarbat is a killer combination, I’ve left waiters at several restaurants mildly surprised) or try making sol kadi out of it (though I trust being able to do a better job, making it the conformist way) or throw it into a Coastal seafood curry.

{Edit: March 9th, 2014 = I found the kokum! I found the kokum!}