Malai Makhan – spoonful of saffron flavoured clouds.

[This post was published in the October ’16 issue of PoWWoW, an intra-community magazine of Hiranandani Estate, Thane.]

Back when we were children, and education had yet not tamed our free spirited imagination, when castles still had chocolate walls, rivers filled with lemonade and clouds were edible – this recipe belongs in that time. Sweetened milk foam infused with subtle notes of cardamom and saffron, trust me, it is the closest you can get to eating clouds! Even before you wrap your head around the flavours and textures in your mouth, it magically disappears and you find yourself reaching out for more.

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Malai Makhan

Popularly called as Malai Makhan, Malaiyyo, Nimish or Daulat ki chaat, it goes by different names in different regions. Full fat milk is boiled for hours and the creamy foam on top is collected in a deep thal. Billowy milk foam is then set under the wintery night sky and sold by the street vendors the next morning. Apparently the dew collected on top is what gives it a distinct flavour.

Here’s a recipe that captures the essence of this dish as you would in an urban kitchen. It’ll be a sure-fire hit this festive season with your family and friends alike.

400 ml double cream
40 gms or 1/3rd cup icing sugar
1/3rd cup milk
generous pinch saffron
1/4th tsp powdered cardamom powder
Pistachios, chopped

Here’s how I made it-
1) Add saffron and powdered cardamom to hot milk. Set aside to infuse and cool completely.
2) Whip the heavy cream with an electric beater or a hand whisk, till it reaches soft peaks. It is important that cream reaches only to soft peaks consistency.
3) Part by part, sift in the icing sugar till combined.
4) Next, add completely cooled saffron infused milk to whipped cream and continue whisking till you see small bubbles or foam on top.
5) Pour the whipped cream very gently into serving bowls and refrigerate for minimum of 6 hours or overnight.
6) Garnish the set foam with chopped pistachios. Cream loses the billowy foam as it arrives at room temperature, therefore serve chilled on the very same day.

PS: Try a modern rendition of the recipe by adding a fruity flavour of mango or strawberry or even Irish Coffee liquor for a boozy spin. 

Pathare Prabhu Spl: Karandi Pie or Prawn Pie

Big plus of growing up in a vegetarian household is that when you actually grow up and start cooking in your own kitchen and dabble into the “non-veg” realm, you are not fixated on cooking only a certain type of food. It is one thing to take pride in your culinary heritage, another to claim “my way or the highway”. In my home kitchen we travel the length and the breadth of our country and sometimes cross over to foreign lands too. Helps when you are married to your biggest fan who is always an enthusiastic audience to your cooking endeavours (at times disasters).

Karandi Pie

Karandi Pie

Karandi Pie  is much like the Shepherd’s Pie, but with spicy onion based prawn filling. Karandi‬ are prawns of a smaller variety, but more flavourful than its slightly bigger counterpart. This is the kind of pie that a Marathi grandmom of Pathare Prabhu(PPs) community would bake on stove-top ovens in the early 1900s. PPs are one of the initial dwellers of Bombay, much like Parsis and Kolis. They’re are known to be very progressive and adapted to the West and their modern cooking techniques like baking, back then. They have a very interesting culinary heritage of “fusion food” in the true sense of it. Traditional recipes with modern outlook. Savoury puddings, sour dough bread, fritters, hand rolled pastas, shortcrust crescent pastries, all of these evolved during the era of “Raj”. Karandi cha pie is one such.

Be warned – 1) The dry prawns masala that goes in as a filling is going to be super hard to resist to not eat wrapped up in a leftover roti or a slice of bread. Better still, make extra! Settle the matter. 2) Battles will be fought on the dinner table over the crunchy caramelized crust that forms at the edge of pie dish. If you are cooking it, scrape off a little bit in the kitchen itself on the pretext of checking for doneness.. heh..

Recipe inspired and adapted from here


:: For the filling-
200 gms of deshelled karandi/tiny white prawns (google to check how they look)
3-4 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
7-8 garlic cloves, pounded
1/4th tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp Pathare Prabhu Sambhar Masala / Or any other garam masala, preferable meat masala
1 tsp chilly powder, adjust heat to your liking
a generous pinch of dry mango powder (amchur)
salt to taste
handful of shelled peas, fresh or frozen, pre-boiled
handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp oil

:: For the pie crust-
4 medium-sized potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 tsp cumin powder
half tsp chilly powder
salt to taste, (preferably under salt to balance with the filling)
egg yolk lightly beaten (for final eggwash)

Here’s how I made it-
1) Heat oil in a wok and add pounded garlic. Sauté briefly.
2) Add onion and fry till translucent.
3) Add all the masalas – turmeric, chilly powder, coriander powder, garam masala, amchur, sauté till fragrant.
4) Add prawns and boiled peas, season with salt and mix till the masalas are well coated. Cook on high heat to completely dry this out.
5) Check doneness and seasoning. Adjust salt and chilly powder, if necessary. Top it with chopped coriander. Take it off the heat and let it come to room temperature before filling it in the pie.
6) For pie crust, to the mashed potatoes add all the seasonings listed under “pie crust”, except egg yolk. Make a homogeneous mixture, divide it in 2 equal parts.
7) In a well-greased pie dish, press one part of the potato mash to cover the base of the dish. On top of this, spread evenly the prawns masala. Cover this with the final layer of leftover mash, seal from all the ends, if feeling creative and fancy create a crisscross pattern with a fork on the mash. Finally brush the top with oil.
8) In a preheated oven, bake the pie at 180 degrees C for 20-25 minutes or till browned, especially at the edges.
9) Bring it out of the oven, liberally brush with egg wash and return to the oven to bake for another 5-7 minutes or till it acquires golden colour.
10) Serve hot, with garlic bread on the side.


Wholewheat Naan Recipe

Punjabi dhaba style food seldom features in our home menu. Makhani gravies with parathas are reserved for rare occasion when accompanying friends or family who prefer it. Lets just say, we don’t particularly take to rich, creamy, cashew paste and ghee laden Indian gravies, neither me nor R. However, Naan being an exception. Naan is our absolute favourite Indian bread, especially while teaming up with kebabs and dal. This beautiful leavened flat bread is absolutely versatile and can pair with almost any Indian curries or stand alone. It had been on my to-make list forever. I came across a recipe of whole wheat naan that came with a promise of  soft textured naan even after they’ve cooled down, unlike restaurant style rubbery naans that can double up as bullet proof jackets minutes after they’re out of the tandoor. And it did live upto every word of that promise.  Naans turned out super pillowy and soft and retained their freshness even after cooling down. Which also means you can make them ahead of time when there’s a party at home. They came together pretty quickly, 2 hours dough resting time aside. You can stud these naans with seeds of your choice and add minced garlic and coriander and top it with cheese as you may prefer. Do yourself a favour, give this recipe a try!

Wholewheat Naan

Wholewheat Naan with nigella seeds and sesame seeds

2 cups whole wheat flour (I used chakki fresh atta)
half tsp fresh/ instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
half cup warm water
1.5 tsp salt (adjust as per taste)
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp yogurt
half a cup mixture of onion seeds(kalonji) and sesame seeds, or any that combination you prefer
melted butter or ghee to brush on top of the naan (optional)

This is how I made it-
1) In a bowl add yeast and sugar, top it with quarter cup warm water, mix, and leave it in a warm spot for 5 minutes or till frothy.
2) Sieve together flour and salt in a large basin.
3) When yeast mixture turns frothy, add it to the flour and bring together the dough by adding 2 tbsp of ghee, yogurt and little water at a time, as required(I used up half cup water). Knead for a good 7-10 minutes till you get a soft elastic pliable dough (same textured dough as you make for roti/phulka). On achieving the desired dough, roll it in a ball, rub ghee/oil to the surface and cover with a cling wrap. Set it aside in a warm spot for the next 2 hours to rise till doubled.
4) After 2 hours, when the dough would have doubled, punch it down for the air to escape and knead again lightly for 2-3 minutes.
5) Divide the dough in 2 equal parts and further divide in 4 parts each so that you have 8 equal portions. (er.. trust you figured the math). Roll each of the 8 parts into balls and cover with a clean kitchen towel so that dough does not dry out while making naans.
6) Roll each one with a rolling pin into any shape – round, oblong, obtuse. Best part, you don’t need great rolling skills for making naan.
7) Sprinkle seeds on top of the naan and lightly roll with the rolling pin over it so that the seeds get embedded.
8) On a hot skillet par cook the naan on both the sides and with the help of a tong finish it off on an open flame with quick movement till they puff up, just like you would roast a phulka.
9) Brush butter or ghee on the roasted naan before proceeding to the next.
10) Hot naans pair beautifully with gravies and dal. They remain soft even after cooling down.

Recipe: Kerala Egg Roast

Mahim may be more famous for the street food outside the Dargah, but let me tell you, it also has fairly good number of Mallu eateries. During my first job, when pockets were inversely proportionate to the appetite, Mallu restaurants around Mahim dargah area were my regular go-to during lunchtime. It was also the job where I worked with R in the same office briefly during our courtship days. A relatively easy day at work meant sneaking out on a quick, cheap, delicious lunch date during office hours. Hotel Madina in particular(opposite Paradise Cinema) serves up the most scrumptious Mallu fare. Beef chilly fry, chicken fry, prawn curry, egg roast with flaky kerala parotta or kappa with extra curry a.k.a “surva” on the side was our regular order. Anna, the server, attended all tables, took orders, served up dishes as if they were Frisbee and settled bills, all by himself, like a ninja. He also remembered orders of his regular patrons and gave gentle reminders just before Onam for the traditional festive fare. When I left that job and soon after got married and moved to a faraway suburb, Hotel Madina’s egg roast and parota cravings had to be satiated only through fond memories.

Kerala-style Egg Roast

Kerala-style Egg Roast

6 Eggs, hard boiled, sliced into half
6 medium onion, sliced into julienne
3 large tomatoes, cubed
2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
A generous fistful of curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1.5 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
Half tsp turmeric powder
A pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp of chilly powder (as per liking)
1 tsp of ginger garlic paste
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A handful of coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil (I used refined vegetable oil)
A pinch of sugar (optional)
Salt as per taste

Here’s how I made it-
1) Heat oil into a wok. Add mustard seeds. Once they begin to crackle, add chopped garlic and saute briefly. Add curry leaves and step back only for a moment to take in the aroma. Fresh curry leaves dropped in hot hot oil is my favourite-est aroma in the whole world. Okay, moving on.
2) Very quickly add onions and saute till they turn translucent on low heat.
3) Add ginger garlic paste along with your masala powders – asafoetida, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder. Saute for a couple of minutes till fragrant.
4) Add cubed tomatoes, green chillies, chilly powder, salt and saute briefly till well incorporated with the masalas.
5) Add a cup of water and let it come to a rolling boil. Simmer the gravy for another 8-10 minutes or till tomatoes turn mushy.
6) Add more water to adjust consistency, the gravy has to be thickish but not dry.
7) Add half sliced eggs, you could also choose to make a slit halfway through the egg than slice it into two, and give a very gently stir for all the masalas to coat the egg.
8) Put a lid on for the next 10 mins on very low heat to allow the eggs to soak up all the beautiful flavours of the gravy. Give a gentle stir in between to avoid burning your masala at the bottom.
9) Once done, garnish with chopped coriander and serve it with parota, pav (recipe here), kappa,iddiyapam, appam or rice.

How-to make Vanilla Custard

Now that FooDooF (pronounced as FooD DooF) is several recipes old, it’s a good time to kick-start a brand new section. I started out this blog as my little escape from everyday routine to share recipes and stories. But another reason, and an important one, was to get across to readers the simplicity and joy of making food in your own limited kitchen that you’d otherwise order-in or eat at a restaurant. Simple hacks and tricks is all that it takes. And oodles of willingness. This section is dedicated to your simple cooking basics. How to make chicken stock, or herbed butter or flavoured sugar, simple things like these that are sold for a bomb at a super store. No rocket science okay? Just stay with me on this🙂

How easy is it to open a packet of instant custard? Well, not easier than to make one yourself. Here’s how –

Vanilla custard

Vanilla custard

1 egg yolk
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup full cream milk
½ tsp vanilla essence

Here’s how I made it-
1) Beat egg yolk and sugar with a fork. Add cornflour and beat till smooth.
2) Warm milk in a microwave or a stovetop. Do not boil it. If the milk is too hot it’ll cook the egg and make the mixture lumpy.
3) Slowly add milk to the egg yolk + sugar + cornflour mixture and whisk as you do. Return it to the heat.
4) Keep the mixture on a gentle heat while whisking at all time. You’ll see it thickening gradually. Do not let it come to a boil, else your custard will split.
5) Once you see tiny bubbles at the edge of the pot and the custard thickens to a pouring consistency, remove from heat and let it cool. Another way to check is to dip a wooden concave spoon in the custard, when you turn the spoon if the custard forms a coating at the back of the spoon, it is done.
6) Add vanilla extract and let it come to room temperature. If using vanilla bean, split open the bean with a sharp knife and scrape off the extract. Add the extract to the custard. You could also plonk in the vanilla bean straight up while heating the mixture (step 4 and 5), later make sure to strain it. Vanilla bean is way more potent, use eyeball measure while adding it.
7) Custard will thicken further as it cools down. Refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.

This harmless looking custard is super creamy and delicious. Can be served as fruit salad with fresh cut fruits, or poured over a warm pie or a crumble or can be devoured as is by bowlfuls.

Recipe: Mulligatawny soup

The last time I was up in the hills of Mukuteshwar, I chanced upon a hidden jewel of a book called The Raj at Table. The book jots down the culinary history of The Raj(Britishers) when they ruled India. Not only does it have some delightful Anglo-Indian recipes of  that era but also gives trivia based insights on pantry staples like Worcestershire sauce that make for an interesting read. When I was not busy exploring the beautiful well aged property perched atop a mountain offering unobstructed view of the rolling hills, or distracted by the shadow-play cast of the clouds ambling over the valley, I’d make myself comfortable under the shade of a mulberry tree with a tall mug of beer and flip through pages of this book while making a mental note of recipes I’d go back home and cook. Mulligatawny soup is one such stumbled-upon discovery from those pages.

Raj at table, by David Burton, jots down the culinary history of The Raj(Britishers) when they ruled India.

Raj at table, by David Burton, jots down the culinary history of The Raj(Britishers) when they ruled India.

Mulligatawny soup is a lentil based soup and therefore makes an instant connect with an Indian palate. It has a rich velvety texture. The chunks of apples add a delighful surprise and the garnish of golden fried onion and cashew lends richness to the dish. Flavours of the spices are completely under played and “subtlety” is the true hero of the dish.  It’s traditionally made with chicken stock and topped with chicken chunks, although you can make a vegetarian version to suit your preference. It makes for a comforting bowl at an end of a trying day.

Mulligatawany Soup

Mulligatawany Soup with chicken strips, crispy fried onion and cashews.

Half cup red lentils (Masoor Dal), washed
2 small firm red apples or 1 large grammy smith apple, peeled, cored, chopped in chunks
10 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1 inch ginger, finely grated
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, deseeded and diced
Half tsp cumin powder
Half tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilly powder
half tsp curry powder
4 cups chicken / vegetable stock (you can use chicken cube)
Half cup coconut milk
Handful of coriander leaves
Crsipy fried onion and golden fried cashews for garnish
Boiled chicken strips for topping (optional)
1 cup cooked basmati rice
2 tbsp oil or clarified butter (ghee)
Salt to taste

Here’s how I made it-
1) In a heavy bottomed pan  heat oil, add garlic and grated ginger, saute till aromatic but do not let them brown. Tip in onion, saute till translucent. Add apple chunks, jalapenos, carrots, give it a minute and add masala powders. Let it cook on gentle heat for a minute till fragrant and then add washed masoor dal, mix well. Add chicken stock and season with salt. Let the broth come to a rolling boil. Reduce the flame and let it simmer for 45 minutes.
2) Take the broth off the heat and let it cool. Once it has sufficiently cooled down, blend half the quantity to a smooth consistency in a blender jar and let the other half remain chunky. Chunky bits add a great texture to the overall soup. Add the blended velvety broth back to the chunky broth and return to the heat. Adjust water, if required, for soupy consistency of your liking. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and add coconut milk and half the chopped coriander leaves, simmer for a minute and take it off the heat.
3) For serving, in a large bowl add a generous helping of basmati rice, ladle pipping hot soup on the rice making sure to add chunky bits from the bottom of the soup pot. Garnish with crispy fried onions, cashews, chicken strips, coriander and a wedge of lime on the side. Enjoy!

Recipe: Frangipane cake with strawberries

I Confess: it’s the title and the image that lured me. A moist sponge cake with grainy crumb and top embedded with what looked like wilted rose petals caught my attention. Frangipane cake sounded a little too posh for my humble baking experience. As I quickly read through the recipe it said almond flour and strawberries. I needed no further convincing. I was to meet a bunch of friends the same evening and this seemed like a perfect cake to takeaway.

Frangipane cake

Frangipane cake

Frangipane cake with strawberry makes for a perfect teacake. The grainy texture of the homemade almond flour adds a delightful crunch while the embedded strawberry slices bleed through lending sweet and sour climax to the cake. You can add a pinch of cinnamon or a hint of lemon zest or a dash of freshly grated young root ginger for a different variation. Go with slant cup measure of sugar for other flavours to shine through. All in all, this one is a must-try for the strawberry season. Trust me, it’s hard to stop at just one small sliver.

100 gms butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
100 gms almonds
1/4th cup refined flour
1 tsp baking powder
small pinch salt
4-5 strawberries sliced, lengthwise

Here’s how I made it-
1) Blitz almonds in a mixer jar until slightly grainy consistency and not very fine. If you’d rather not have chunky texture to the cake, you can make it very fine.
2) Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Grease  6″ cake tin with butter. I used one small loaf tin to takeaway for friends and 4 small cup cakes for home.
3) Cream together butter and sugar with an electric whisk. Add eggs, one at a time, vanilla and any other flavouring you may want, and beat it till smooth. If your batter appears split at this moment, do not panic, mine did. It’ll all workout okay in the end.
4) Add almond flour and mix again. If your batter had looked split earlier, it would have come back to a respectable consistency by now.
5) Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the batter and gently fold till evenly combined. Your batter will be thick in consistency which is fine.
6) Transfer the cake batter in the prepared pan and press down gently.
7) Embed the strawberry slices on the top and bake for 40-45 min or till skewer comes out moist but without any batter. The strawberries should look wilted by the end.
8) It is important to note that cake will not rise significantly, however the sponge will be very soft and moist.

Frangipane cake crumb shot

Frangipane cake crumb shot