Thursday, June 29, 2017

Masala Day and Sunday Malvani Chicken

Sunday Malvani Chicken
Sunday Malvani Chicken
Among the myriad blends of masalas that I got for the Masala Day Spice Swap was a Malvani Sunday Masala sent by Shakti Salgaonkar. This fiery vermillion coloured mix smelled heavenly and I was eager to cook with it. The weekend was on us and I decided to make a Sunday Malvani Chicken using the masala she'd sent. I followed the recipe Shakti shared and the only thing I tweaked was the quantity of onions (I used more). The recipe below is completely Shakti Salgaongar's and like I mentioned, just the quantity of onions is greater.

I had heard of charred onions being used in recipes but had never done so myself. This was my first time and I was quite excited to learn a new technique. I have to say the results were worth all the effort.

Prep for Malvani Chicken

Sunday Malvani Chicken

3 full chicken legs cut into thighs and drumsticks

3 tbsp curd
1 1/2 tbsp ginger garlic paste

2-3 tbsp Malvani Sunday masala
3 medium onions sliced
2 onions charred over the gas flame
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
A few sprigs fresh coriander

Half a dried coconut (vati)
2 tbsp fried onion


Marinate the chicken in the marinade ingredients for an hour or longer. Make slashes in the fleshy parts of the meat so the marinade goes in nicely.

Grind the charred onions to a paste.

Heat ghee in your cooking vessel and fry the sliced onions till they turn brown. Don't burn the onions. I like to add half a teaspoon of sugar for a richer brown and deeper flavour. Set aside a couple of tablespoons of fried onions for the Vaatan.

To make the vaatan grate the dried coconut and toast on a tava till you get a nice aroma. Cool slightly and then grind to a paste with the reserved fried onions.

In the wok with the fried onions add the Malvani masala powder and the charred onion paste. Fry slowly till the masala is cooked and has no raw smell.

Add the marinated chicken legs and cook further till the masala is nicely coated on the chicken and the meat has turned opaque. Add water and cook till the chicken is half done.

Now add the vaatan and mix it all well. Adjust salt and then cook covered till the chicken is cooked through.

Remove to a serving dish, garnish with fresh coriander and serve with rotis or parathas or even with rice if you like. A simple kachumbar of sliced onions, minced coriander and lemon juice also goes really well with the Sunday Malvani Chicken and parathas.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

On Grandmothers and Half-Fried Potatoes

My Maternal Grandmother


Most of us have fond memories of our grandmothers and a big part of those memories are linked to food. I guess the most pampering happened through food, followed by bed time stories and snuggling up to their softness in the night, and of course protection from the parents' scoldings and spankings that invariably followed all our mischief.

Since my parents moved to Bombay I got access to my grandmothers only in the summer holidays when we went to Calcutta. Needless to say the pampering was even more because we weren't around all year through.

My Didin, mother's mother, and her sisters married into the same family, marrying brothers and cousins. Consequently they all lived quite close together and whenever we visited it was like having multiple grandmothers to indulge us in every whim. There would be umpteen unplanned meals, teas, and treats, and then there would be the planned and orchestrated meals where I would expect to be served on banana leaves with terracotta bowls and glasses to complete the experience. The thing is, we invariably missed most family weddings thanks to exam schedules and this was our chance to experience the traditional spreads at least to some extent.

The grand uncles would be packed off to the market and the grand aunts would sweat over the hot and smoky 'unoon' (clay coal-burning stoves)cooking for us spoiled brats. At lunch time we would be seated at the table, just my brother and me, and we would be fed a royal repast - the menu decided by us of course!

On the road leading from Didin's house to her sisters' house (three of them lived in a large house divided into three portions) was a coal shop that also stocked soft drinks. This was another great source of indulgence as we would often stop at the shop and share a bottle of Campa Cola or Rush or Limca. It was taken for granted that some uncle or aunt would pay for these! Soft drinks were never permitted by the parents in Bombay so the few we had from this coal shop were treats of the highest order!

This same road housed many momo shops, some of which are now very well known. Though the grand aunts, Didin, and in fact, most of the women in the family including my mother looked down their noses at the food from these shops, occasionally one of the numerous uncles would indulge us with a plate of hot steaming pork momos and the inevitable plate of chow mien.

My fondest memory, however, is of the stolen half-fried potatoes. Potatoes are always present in some form or other in Bengali meals and Didin was always frying them for use in various vegetable preparations or the mutton or fish jhols (stews). Potatoes would be peeled and cut in specific shapes and proportions for the dishes of the day and would be lightly fried and kept aside. Oh the joy of whacking a piece or two! These would be semi-fried and not quite cooked through so once in a way if you chanced upon one that was completely fried it was heaven!

Half fried potatoes

I was indulged even more by my Thakuma - dad's mother. I was the first granddaughter after a long string of grandsons and I was spoiled thoroughly by everyone. Thakuma was a strict matriarch and ruled her daughters in law with an iron hand. She supervised the cooking of all the meals and her daughters in law assisted and worked under her instruction. She would sit at the unoon and proceed with the cooking and one of the things that was a daily affair was frying potatoes. The fried potatoes would be lifted out of the hot oil and placed carefully in a stainless steel bowl waiting to be added to whatever dishes they were set aside for.

One day as she cooked she reached for that bowl of potatoes only to find it missing. I was discovered sitting under the dining table, hiding behind the chairs enjoying those potatoes.  I was a toddler then, and Thakuma was so amused and pleased with her apparently faultless granddaughter, from then on she would fry a small bowl of potatoes and leave them aside for me to find.

How sweet those simple indulgences and the sheer love. Those indeed were the days...

Friday, June 2, 2017

On My Love-Hate Relationship with Fruit

Lemon Blueberry Tray Bake

In the years at Deccan College I encountered many people. And among them was Mrs Misra, Dr V N Misra's wife. Dr Misra was the hubby's PhD guide and the hubby therefore spent a lot of time with him in his office, and at his house too. The ties were closer than that of the other students with their guides because Dr Misra had also been my mother in law's PhD guide - probably a unique occurrence among guides and students the world over.

My memories of Mrs Misra are of a typical Indian housewife immersed in her husband, her family, and her household. And like most women of her generation, immersed in her kitchen. It goes without saying that she saw a steady stream of students at her table over the decades and must have cooked countless meals and made gallons of tea! And of course I heard stories about her cooking.

What intrigued me the most was the fact that she was a staunch vegetarian but would often cook chicken when there were guests at her table, be they students or Dr Misra's colleagues. I used to wonder how she cooked with ingredients whose flavours she had no idea about.

A few days ago I'd baked this blueberry and lemon cake and on an impulse I took some over for my friend Deepa. She said something to me that somehow explained how Mrs Misra cooked chicken without knowing how it tasted. Deepa said she was amazed at how in spite of my deep dislike for fruit I looked forward to fruits of the season, sought them out, lovingly photographed them, cooked or baked with them, and in fact, enjoyed them so thoroughly without needing to eat them.

Fresh Cherries

The hubby loves fruit and desserts and I love baking and cooking. Somehow fruit would always get left out because of my dislike but somewhere along the way as I spent hours on Pinterest, friends' blogs, and various websites, seeing beautiful cakes and desserts my interest was piqued. Alongside my friends would get excited over the variety of fruit as the seasons changed - mangoes, berries, stone fruit, citrus, the list was ever-changing and endless all the year round. There they were squealing over cherries or mulberries, planning strawberry trips to Mahabaleshwar, posting pictures of rambutans and dragon fruit, going ga ga over mangoes and pineapples - I felt left out.

Fresh Apricots

And thus began my love/hate affair with fruit. The first fruity thing I baked was probably a banana cake - the hubby mashed the bananas and I was just this far from putting a clothes peg on my nose to keep from breathing in that banana-y smell (oh LORD!). But now you will nearly always find fruit in my house waiting to be flung into a cake, pie, or clafoutis, turned into a compote, zested within an inch of its life, or cooked in some form or other.

Plum Clafoutis

The journey is exciting. From learning how to buy fruit to learning how to prep, to anticipate flavours, think of combinations, and to finally create something edible - but with stuff I don't eat - the experience wasn't strange, I never felt handicapped. There's so much information out there to tell you what works and what doesn't. You just find that starting block and you go on from there.

Lemon Zest and Microplane

And now I understand how Mrs Misra did it. It made her man happy and yeah, it makes mine happy too. And that is the biggest motivation indeed.