World Heritage Cuisine Summit and Food Festival 2018, Amritsar

When the student is ready, the masters appear’ so goes the saying and how true it was for as the hours unfolded during the three days of The World Heritage Cuisine Summit and Food Festival 2018, Amritsar, where I cooked along with some amazing food heroes and heard the stalwarts speak about Heritage Cuisine. The Summit not only saw Masterchefs from over 40 countries but also our Regional Chefs who have been creating a huge food revolution with their art and flair.

FB_IMG_1540024229366

In my course of narration, a lot of names will come up who not only inspired me but also have influenced me to work more and more in the field of Heritage Cuisine. The energy there at the Summit in Quila Gobindgarh, Amritsar was beyond electrifying and the food gurus made sure that they create an impact to new chefs like me to the optimum. I will also speak about a few Chefs who not only are working in the field of hospitality but are also legends for me and I will speak about them in the section MY FOOD HEROS in due course of time.

20181019_183201
The joy of feeding

Now coming back to the experience, I had in presenting Assamese Heritage Food to everyone out there was phenomenal and cooking in front of luminaries was another high for me. Chef Manisha Bhasin, Chef Manjit Gill, Chef Parvinder Singh Bali and Chef Ajay Sood were relentless company and their presence right outside the kitchen was an exhilarating experience in total. The food tasting was a sight to see where world chefs and our regional chefs all came together to taste and visually experience Assam food.

20181019_183716
My Identity and my Heritage

The synthesis of all coming together in this amazing cultural amphitheatre was seeing History take its course. I came back enriched just by witnessing Master chefs at work and the maestros during the panel discussions, every moment was something that I could pack and carry back home to Assam and to my people here in the land of the Blue hills and the red River.

20181020_164209
The inspiration and the much needed pictures with them. Chef Madhu, Chef Manisha, Chef Ajay Sood and Rocky

After the wrap ups there were times when I would find myself listening to chefs about their food journey and the amazing feat that they have achieved was so exciting and that in no way I could not feel proud of the moment by merely sitting next to them. The stories of Chef Grecho Vittorio, Chef Chris Bason, Chef Gareth Johns, Chef Akshraj Jodha, Chef Vaibhab Bhargava, Chef Denny Gunawan are no less than any thriller movie to me. They came, they saw, they cooked and they conquered. I was in absolute awe when I met Chef Sanjay Thakur who holds the Guinness record of setting up the world’s highest restaurant under the name of Project Triyagyoni and for that he trained for months and with blessings from Chef Gill and Chef Soundarajan, who also was part of the team, created history. Another source of inspiration came from the very talented Chef Hareesh Padmanabhan, the Executive Bakery and Pastry Chef, Qatar Airways and a very talented photographer. To see the master chef at work, with such precision and skill, was taking baking to the next level.

20181020_164952
With the legend Chef Manjit Gill along with Masterchefs and Visitors trying Assamese Food

The travel stories of Chef Hareesh and Chef Jodha were mesmerizing and understanding how food travelled and transcended cultures and geographical boundaries to culminate into cuisines that we know of today.

20181015_180237
The Divine Blessings of Golden Temple

The Summit to sum up was not just a mere platform to showcase and talk of my cuisine, which is less known of, but also to understand Heritage Food and be proud of to be representing it in global showground that break cultural barriers, language and distance. Food brought us together under one roof, to celebrate one another and be a part of something that World has not seen before.

Advertisements

Lau’r Palla (a delicate sweet dish made in Lower Assam kitchens)

Lau, meaks Lauki or Bottle Gourd in Assam and this dish is a traditional sweet dish from regions like Nalbari and adjoining places in Lower Assam (Lower Banks of the River Brahmaputra).

I first had this right after my marriage in my in-laws native home in Nalbari District and me being from the Upper Banks or Upper Assam, this was relatively new and interesting. I must add here that the Husband loves it the way his grandmother made. The recipe has come down from her kitchen into my mother-in-law’s and then she showed me how to make it and I followed suit. I am glad that I did. These recipes which are now gradually losing relavence, still lives on in my semi modern kitchen in a city far away.

Let me tell you how this is made. Its basically three (3) ingrediants fix. Oil is used to shallow fry the pithas or dumplings and then is kept in a syrup made of jaggery heated up with a little water. This delicacy is usally eaten a little cold or the next day so that the jaggery syrup is completely incorporates inside the pithas.

Assamese Cusine has no distinct dessert as such apart from the payokh or kheer that can be served as a dessert, I make this during our lunch or dinner parties at home, hence tweaked a bit here and there. I use chopped dry coconut and some almonds while mixing the dough for the pithas.

The ingrediants- grated lau or lauki or bottle gourd, jaggery and rice flour .

Now that we know the basic requirements to prepare this dish, I can do down to the instructions part that will eventually result in the final dish.

1. Grated Lauki or Bottle Gourd or Lau – 1 cup. Sqeeze the water out of it and keep it aside.

2. Rice flour- 1/2 cup. I have used the rice flour of bora saaul or the local sticky rice which is excellent while making pithas.

3. 1/2 cup of chopped jaggery with little water added to make into a syrup consistency. Heat the liquid and allow the jaggery to melt. Now that the syrup is ready, keep it aside to cool down.

4. Oil for frying. I have seen that in earlier households mustard oil was used in shallow frying the pithas. I however use the white oil.

Step By Step Method:

1. Add the rice flour to the bowl of grated lauki or lau or bottle gourd. Using your hands give it a good mix.

2. Add the chopped dry coconut and almonds. I also add some cardamom powder at this stage. Mix them all togther till they form a dough, enough to give them shapes of pithas or tikkis.

3. Now, make the pithas in the regualr disc shape about 1/2 inches thick. This ensures even frying and cooking through of the pithas.

4. Heat oil in a nonstick pan, and as the pan heats up add the pithas and shallow fry them making sure that they are evenly fried and cooked through.

5. Once done with the frying, add these pithas or fried dumplings into the jaggery/gur syrup. Let them all rest for a few hours before it gets ready to be served.

I usually let it rest overnight and I am always satisfied with thr results. So you may do the same and savour these lost pithas of time back again in your own living rooms and surprise your family and loved ones.

All set to be served

Lau’r palla is a very simplr, rustic yet full of flavour dish and this one occupies a happy place in my heart is because of thr loving memories etched with this dish.

My father-in-law loved it and so did the husband and I remember both of them savouring bowls after bowls of this pitha over some amazing stories of his hay days in Lower Assam. This falls under the category of happy recipes because of these happy memories attached.

Ladies and Gentelman ‘the humble Lau r Palla’

Boiled Country Chicken with Vegetables.

Ours is a family who enjoys boiled and steamed food more often and its the constant demand from them that makes me cook country chicken in this form, which for me is apparantly tasty and one of the easiest, hassle free cooking.

It is a no oil dish and protein power packed, teamed with goodness of all the vegetables that I add in it. Squash, Beans, Tomatoes, Ginger and Garlic, Potatoes, chucnks of ash gourd too, not only adds flavour to the chicken but also makes this rather simple looking recipe very intense. My elder son loves it and so does the husband and now I add the stew from the chicken in my younger one’s Khichri every now and then and this makes me feel very happy and also relief that I am saved from extensive cooking for the day.

The big bowl of goodness and health goes a long way. Some steamed rice along with a fiery hot chutney is my all time favorite. You can choose to add bambooshoots to this chicken along with chillies if you are the chilli kind of a person.

The chicken is cleaned washed thoroughly, and add all the vegetables of your choice. I generally add Squash, tender squash leaves, Potatoes, Onions, giner and garlic crushed, sliced onions, tomatoes, bottle gourd etc. I hand tear coriander leaves, pound some culantro etc. Add salt and fresh pounded pepper and mix everything.

Since I am into slow cooking my food, I put the chicken and vegetables in a wok and cook everything over slow heat. Gradually the chicken will leave its own water and so will the vegetables and the chicken will be cooked. You can later add warm water to adjust the stew requirement. Cover it with a lid and keep stirring from time to time. Once your chicken is done, you can add some coriander leaves as garnish.

Another poular method is to pressure cook everything together. You can add about half cup water into the cooker and then add the chicken and vegetables. Pressure cook over medium flame for 3-4 whistles. Remove from flame and serve hot.

This is a very easy and healthy chicken recipe. You need very minimal ingrediants to whip up this rustic yet yummy chicken prepration.

Team it up with steamed rice and some butter or fresh baked dinner rolls, this chicken recipe for sure won’t disappoint you.

Enjoy.

Squid Masala Fry

We are a family of fish lovers and my love for fresh water fish is as deep as my love for sea food.

I was exposed to sea food eating when I was a little girl and from tinned tuna to fresh octopus were a delight for me. Gradually when I started cooking, I began to explore more of Sea food. Another reason for this deep liking is because we are far from seas and its a rare ocassion we get to cook a beautiful fresh salmon or a lobster. So the raritiy became a huge liking when it comes to eating especially when I get to cook it.

Last week we had a few friends home over drinks and food and I decided to make a masala fry for the packet of frozen squid that I got from the store as a starter. I kept it very simple and needless to say it turned out super hit amongst the guests.  The squid rings were cleaned and pre washed so it took care of the cleaning part. I gave a quick turmeric powder added to water wash and it was all ready to be cooked. Its how I did it.

1. 250 gms squid rings, washed with turmeric water and then water drained out properly.

2. Add salt to taste, red chilli powder for colour and heat as well. To this I added coriander and cumin powder and some peanut powder as well. I sprinkled some garlic powder and a pinch of garam masala. Give it a mix and let it stand for about an hour or two.

3. In a wok, add white oil and allow it to heat. Take a bunch of curry leaves and fry them crisp. Keep the leaves aside.

4. In the same wok, add oil if required. As the oil heats up , add the squid mixed with spices. Fry them in medium heat for not more then 3 minutes.

5. Transfer the squid fries into a platter and top it with the fried curry leaves. Give a good squeeze of lemon and its all set to be served.

This came out as a wonderful starter and though I am not a fan of frozen food, this can be my saviour at times.

Tips: To avoid the squid from becoming rubbery and chewy, do not over cook.

Bird’s Eye Chilli Pickle. ( Kon Jolokia Asar)

Are you making your Pickles yet??

Winter season in Assam is not only beautiful but its bountiful too of amazing vegetable and fruit produces. Not only our appetitie is at its best, thr availability of nature’s goodness is at peak as well. We just recover from the harsh summer floods to good weather and greens flooding the market and our vegetable patches, its time to pickle and there is no exception at our home as well. I have already pickled ‘The Indian Olives or Jolphai in Assamess, the recipe I will discuss later in the week, but now let’s see how my favorite chillies, the bird’s eye chillies are pickled.

1. Clean and remove the stalk from the chillies.
2. I have used about 400 gms chillies and about 100 gms of garlic.
3. Sun dry them for the day to lose enough moisture from them.
4. Now, for the pickle masala I have used.
1 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon methi seeds
1/2 teaspoon of black mustard seeds.
2-3 whole dry red chillies.
Salt as per taste.

The above mentioned ingrediants are then dry roasted till they release their full flavour. Allow them to cool down completely.
Grind them coarse after adding 2 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Mix the masala into the chillies and allow it to stand for sometime.

Now in a kadhai, heat mustard oil, I have used about 450 ML, enough to keep the chillies soaked. As the oil reaches smoking point switch off the gas and allow it to cool completely.

Add the chillies mixed with the masalas into the mustard oil and give a gentle mix.

Fill them up in a clean, sterile glass jar and cover the lid. Keep placing the pickle jar in the sun for about 4-5 days. You pickle is all ready consumption.

Fish with Bamboo shoot (Maas khorisa diya)

A lot happened over the past one week , from gearing up for Durga Puja celebrations to a small accident I met with where I almost fell on the main road but fortunately got away unhurt and in the process broke my phone where all my phone numbers, email ids and important documents, pictures etc were stored. So this week I wanted to go gadget free and hence was away from my computer too. But how long can a person like me stay away from my kitchen? Well probably not very long.

I made Fish with Bambooshoot, which is an excellent side dish for lunch and dinner if you are serving rice. I make this dish a little high on heat with local chillies added generously. The husband loves this preparation and this was something that my late father in law would often ask me to make some especially when the whole family would sit for a big Sunday lunch. This is again a very easy preparation with just a few ingredients and you can make a scrumptious fish dish under 20 minutes. Highly recommended if you are in a jiffy.

HOW TO GO ABOUT IT.

1. Wash, clean andat dry the fish pieces .  Rub a little salt and turmeric and keep it aside.

2. In a wok, over  medium heat, add mustard oil and as the oil heats up, fry the fish pieces one by one and keep them aside.

3. In the same wok, add a little more mustard oil if required, fry thinly sliced onions, say for 6 pieces of fish, the proportion is two medium size onions. Fry them till a nice aroma is achieved.

4. Add green chillies slit or chopped as per your choice or heat you can consume. Stir fry.

5. Add about 2 tablespoons of fresh bamboo shoot and mix well. Here at this stage I add salt to taste and some crushed fresh turmeric .  Skip if you don’t have fresh turmeric. Fry them well.

6. Now add the fried fish pieces carefully. Add about a tablespoon of bamboo shoot juice to it. Cover with a lifetime for a few minutes.

7. Turn off the heat and transfer to a serve ware and garnish with some chopped coriander leaves.

The absolutely tasty and easy fish with Bambooshoot is ready for you to savour .

Happy cooking and happy eating.

Restaurant Style Malai Kofta

Vegetarian Delight that can’t be missed.

Who doesn’t like Malai Kofta? Each of us who goes to visit a North Indian Restuarant must have ordered this dish atleast once or whenever there is a special guest at home, we have made it for them. It is a well loved dish for many reasons. It is popular, it is tasty and hence it is well loved by all. So today I will attempt this super rich dish for you all and step wise point out how it can be done at home in restaurant style.

It is a beautiful dish with a combination of koftas  made of paneer and potatoes dipped in a tomato-onion gravy  with mild spices and topped with malai or heavy cream and served with Rice, Rotis or naans etc. Since it is a rich dish, and I make this for special occasions or when special guests come home to visit us. My kids and the husband are such fan of this dish that the other day I made it especially for them.

I will divide the whole dish into Two  (2) main segments and then eventually I will attempt to combine to form this special dish from this recipe today. Let’s do it segment wise for an easy grip and understanding

HOW TO GO ABOUT IT IN EASY STEPS:

For the Gravy we will require.

1. Onion- one large roughly chopped.

2. Ginger and Garlic about 3 tablespoon

3. Tomatoes- Two medium size roughly chopped.

4. Cashew Nuts (kaju)- 4-5 pieces.

5. Water – 1/2 cup.

Put all the above mentioned ingredients in a pan and over medium flame allow them all to simmer till they become soft and mushy. Now put them in a grinder/ blender and make a smooth paste. Keep the paste aside.

Now, in a wok over medium flame, add about 2 tablespoon of butter or ghee or refined oil as per your choice. As the wok heats up, add a bay leaf l, 4 cloves, cinnamon stick of 1/2 inch, 2 green cardamom pods and allow them to turn aromatic. Now add the puree that we made sometime back. Add salt to taste, turmeric, red chilli powder about 1/2 teaspoon for both colour and heat. Add coriander powder about 1/2 teaspoon and cumin powder of the same measurement. Mix everything well. Add about 1/2 cup  or more of warm water as the Masalas get dry. Add about 1 teaspoon of garam Masala powder to the gravy. Adjust the gravy as per your requirement by adding little water bit by bit. Crush a fistful of dry kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves) on top of the gravy. Now turn off the gas and keep the gravy aside.

Segment 2 of this section, we will try and make the kofta or the paneer balls, which are the most important component of this recipe. Let us see how to go about it.

This will yield around 12-14 kofta or Balls depending on the size you make.

1. 1 cup of boiled and mashed potatoes. Check for lumps and mash them properly.

2. 1 cup of grated paneer or cottage cheese.

3. 1 teaspoon of garam Masala.

4. Salt to taste.

5. 1 tablespoon of chopped cashew nuts.

6. 1 tablespoon of chopped rasins (optional).

7. 3 tablespoon of cornflour.

8 Oil for frying.

Combine all the above mentioned ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mash them all up so that everything incorporates well.

In a deep bottomed pan, over medium flame (change to low from time to time), heat the oil. The paneer potato dough that we just prepared needs to be divided into small golf ball size or a tad bit smaller. The whole dough will yield roighly around 12 to 14 koftas . Now deep fry them one by one carefully strirring them from time to time. As the koftas turn golden brown and appear crisp, take them out on kitchen towels and keep them aside. For easy access and even cooking, fry the koftas batch by batch. Once the frying is done, we are all ready to incorporate the gravy and koftas together.

For that we need to reheat the gravy that we have prepared. Either we can dip the koftas on malai (cream) one by one and then place them on the gravy or the other method is add the koftas to the gravy and then top it with the cream. Either way it will be just fablous. Add about 1/4th cup of cream or malai once koftas are added and you are about to serve the dish.

The absolutely gorgeous and sinful Malai Kofta is all ready to be served. Serve it with Rice, roti or naan, either way you will get all the amazing praises and accolades for sure.

Happy cooking and Happy eating.