Review – Lavaash By Saby – An Armenian – Bangla Culinary Affair To Remember


I had heard a lot about Lavaash by Saby from my son and was craving to go there since some time. Though I have had authentic West Bengali cuisine I did not know about the Armenian influences on the cuisine in certain parts of Bengal especially Asansol, a small coal miners’ town near Kolkata, where the Armenians came some 200 years ago. It is the place where Chef-Owner  Sabyasachi Gorai grew up. Lavaash is a slice of his childhood.

Somehow, unlike all other times I did not do any online research about the restaurant. I went there with an open mind last Saturday for a informal dinner with family and friends. I think that worked in my favor. The Mehrauli area is one of my favorites because of its pristine  greenery, heritage buildings, monuments and some fine eating joints but Lavaash took me to another world. I was simply awestruck by the sheer beauty of the place.

Located in a heritage building shaded by an ancient Neem tree the place takes your breath away at first glance even at night.  Ambavatta 1 also has another restaurant En and the coveted Manish Malhotra Store at ground floor.

Even without tasting the food I made a mental note to come back here during daytime just for the view. Apart from the location the other plus points are ample parking and quiet. Far from the madding crowd one can just sit and relax for hours here. I thought of hundreds of chirping birds and colorful flowers lay asleep as we marveled at the magnificent Qutub Minar from the terrace.

As we took a tour of the place and gorged on the delicious food we were told about the culinary history of the Armenians in Bengal and how Chef Saby  thought of preserving the dying legacy of that specific cuisine. Never have I been so impressed by the passion and research done to revive a cuisine and bring it out to those who appreciate good food.  A look at the creatively designed menu will tell you how deep the roots go.  It is interesting to see how Chef Sabyasachi has pieced together the history of a particular community through their food. A perfect bond of two cuisines so different and yet so similar.  It makes you nostalgic about a place  never visited.

The decor of Lavaash is subtle and aesthetically very pleasing to the eyes. Eight peacocks intricately laser carved on wood form the name Lavaash.  The main doors are painted with pomegranate trees. If you know a little history you’ll know why.

The use of blue and white is perfectly balanced and nothing is jarring to the eyes. One can see the Armenian motifs that adorn the restaurant making it a piece of history. That instantly sets the mood for what is in store.  The hand painted glass windows,  huge arched windows, the hanging blue metallic partition with peacock carved into it, the Armenian and Iranian tiles on the wall, the rustic mud texture of the walls and the gorgeous floral Kantha work on the upholstery, the hand painted lampshades and the retro music in the background  will make you fall in love with the place.  The colorful little parrots hanging from the big chandelier in the main dining area and the lovely owls sitting outside the glass windows looking at the balcony dinning space looked so pretty that you have to see them to believe.  It is the prettiest restaurant I have visited so far.

Our table was reserved in the picturesque outdoor seating area (the balcony delicately shaded by the Neem tree)  where the almost full moon added to the charm of the evening .

I met Megha Kohli, the youngest female head chef in India and the face behind Lavaash. I was told that Megha  did a lot of research about the Bengali cuisine and is one of the people behind making Chef Saby’s dream come true.

The young Chef is so full of life and her face lights up the moment you recognize a local ingredient  and appreciate its delicate use in the dishes. She explained  about the food and its history to us and how local produce that is intrinsic to Bengali cuisine is paired delicately  to make the dishes at the restaurant. Incidentally she is the one who designed the menu for Lavaash and put the recipes together. A true labor of love and commitment.

The menu is divided in two parts – authentic Armenian dishes and Bengali dishes with Armenian influence. Each dish is beautifully described.

It was a delight to find the aromatic short grained Gobindobhog rice, kasundi and the fragrant Gondhoraj Lemon  as part of the ingredients used. The use of local and indigenous ingredients is the winning point of this place.

We were spoiled for choices but settled for  Crisp Lavaash chips with dips, Iranian Lamb Koobideh, melt-in-the-mouth lamb kebabs cooked on charcoal and served on soft traditional lavaash made in the traditional Tonir, and Jewish hot and sour Panir skewer  as starters with the excellent pomegranate white Wine  Sangria with cherries and green apple, Rum, whiskey, virgin apple mohito, whiskey sour and a few other beverages.

As it was the Holi weekend we got the Thandai Vodka Shots on the house. They were unbeatable.

The dips were out of the world especially the whole white bean humus spiked with garlic and the chili dip. The Armenian mezze Platter with crisp Lavaash chips and four traditional dips was a great start to an unforgettable meal.

The koobideh, unlike the traditional kebabs, were mildly spiced and served with green coriander chutney ( In Armenian cuisine coriander is used rather than mint for chutneys), the indispensable kasundi (Bengali mustard sauce) and a dash of Gondhoraj lemon. The dish was bursting with flavors. The Lavaash bread which is like a roomali roti but definitely better in texture and taste is the oldest bread known to mankind. It is from this the restaurant gets its name.

The Jewish hot and sour panir skewer was a revelation. The tangy tamarind glaze with chili and pomegranate  made  the soft, char grilled panir a treat. I am not a ‘paneer’ lover but this was something else.

I had the Roast Garlic and Jalapeno Chicken for the first time and found it mouth-watering. Simple and flavorful.

In the mains we ordered  Mushroom Manti, an Armenian style ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and served with spiced tomato chutney and Kalinmpong cheese (Indian version of gauda cheese). The chutney was a perfect alternative to the more popular salsa. I loved its texture and taste.

It was so refreshing to see the use of especially crafted earthenware for the dishes.  An excellent attempt at traditional, ethnic dining experience. Clay-pot cooking is part of the traditional everyday Bangla  and Armenian cooking.

We also ordered Lavaash fish, wrapped and baked in a soft lavaash bread. The betki was melt in the mouth and the flavors reminded me of a typically Bengali household kitchen.

Two portions of Gobindobhog rice with dollops of butter and a slice of Gondhoraj lemons were a treat. It had been ages since I had eaten this aromatic rice cooked to perfection.

Another star of the meal was the fabulous Matnaksh Claypot Bread. Soft and flavorful this was truly addictive.  Baked and served hot in a clay pot on dry Sal leaves this Armenian farmer’s  leavened bread was sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and chironji (onion seeds). A accompaniment to lap up the awesome gravy of the Spicy Chicken in Georgian walnut sauce. Nothing compares to this freshly baked bread. Nothing at all.

This chicken dish was amazing. The succulent boneless chicken in the nutty tomato gravy tossed with roasted walnuts was something I hadn’t eaten before.

After gorging on this decadent food I eagerly awaited the desserts. My son had raved about their Dark Chocolate and Old Monk Mousse and I was dying to have it. It came in a clay pot and I fell in love with the first bite.  It was a match made in heaven. You need to try this to experience the bliss it is.

The Orange pound cake served with palm jaggery syrup and Nolen Gur Ice cream was another dessert I loved. Being a huge fan of palm jaggery this combination was out of the world. The moist, dense cake was so well balanced in sweetness. The tart caramelized orange slice cutting through the nolen gur ice cream made it finger licking good.

We were through with the meal but I was still craving for more. I told Chef Megha that we will be back soon. There was still so much to relish from the exquisitely well executed menu especially the Armenian cheese platter which you won’t get anywhere else. Another positive point about the place is the extensive vegetarian dishes in the menu. I have not seen so much variety elsewhere in Delhi. Sumptuous too.

I loved the warmth with which the staff served us. The service was quick and Chef Megha was the perfect hostess. It was such a joy to be there experiencing a world beyond the mundane.

The experience of eating at Lavaash was a beautiful historical, cultural journey through food. A Brilliant effort in preserving a culinary culture lost in time.

I am already planning my next visit and this time during the day.

When are you heading to Lavaash?

Note- 

When you are busy licking your fingers you forget about taking photographs and then source them from the Chef and post them with permission. You should also focus on the food and the ambiance. 🙂

This is not a paid review. 

Overall rating – 4.5/5 

Location – H-5/1, Ambawatta One, Kalkadass Marg,

Mehrauli, New Delhi.

Quick Recipes With Popped Amaranth Seeds


Amaranth, the royal grain, is known as Raamdana/ Ramdana, Rajgira in India. Actually it is not a grain but seeds of the Amaranth plant. These tiny seeds  pop up  when roasted to become light and fluffy and provide more protein content than the much touted quinoa. A whooping  9 gm of complete protein in one cup. Amaranth contains all the essential amino acids which makes it much better than any seed/grain.

This tiny yet power packed seed is a store house of many essential nutrients. It has a significant amount of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin C. Another good thing is that it is gluten free so people who are celiac or gluten intolerant can easly incorporate it in their meals.

I have very fond memories of munching on raamdana ladoos as a child. Light and mildly sweetened with jaggery they are the best snacks to have at all ages as they are easy to digest too. We even used these popped seeds in porridge, both sweet and savory. Raamdana is very versatile and you just need to be innovative to include it daily in your diet one way or the other. You can use them in cutlets, frappes, ladoos, soups, muffins, breads, cakes, quiche, energy bars or use it as a breakfast cereal or baby food or sprinkle over salads etc. .

Here I made some quick sweets and a frappe using Organic popped amaranth seeds from I Say Organics. 

Dates, Mix Dry Fruit and Popped Amarath Ladoos 

This is a fantastic easy and quick recipes which can be made with or without cooking if you already have the amaranth seeds popped.

You can make bite size balls to eat as snacks. The size depends on your wish. I make them small so I can eat it often. There is no oil/ghee or added sugar so that makes these a wonderful snack.

To make these nutritious ladoos you will need :

Dates –  1 cup pitted (good quality)

Popped Amaranth / Rajgira Seeds – 1 Cup

Chopped or Powdered Mix dry fruits ( Almonds, raisins, cashews. walnuts etc. ) – 1/2 cup

Any seeds ( flax seeds sesame seeds) if you desire – 2 tablespoon

( If you have the  wet dates then no cooking is required but if the dates are dry then they need to be heated a bit. )

Method – 

Pit and chop the dates fine.

Dry roast the nuts and chop or powder them as per your taste. If using seeds then dry roast them too but take care not to over roast. Just light roasting is fine.

If  you are using dry dates then heat a non stick pan and add chopped dates to it.

Keep the flame low and stir till the dates soften.

Add the nut mixture,  seed mixture and popped ramdana, give it a nice sir and switch off the gas.

Remove the mixture in a plate and mix it thoroughly so that everything gets incorporated nicely.

Make small balls of the mixture and let them cool before putting them in an airtight container. Eat these  nutritious power packed ladoos any time of the day. I am sure kids wuld love them too. Do give it a try.

If yo uare using the soft, wet dates then just chop them and put the dates and powder/chopped dry fruit mixture in a blender and mix till a gooey mix is obtained. Take it out in a bowl and make small bite size balls from it.

Ramdana/ Popped Amaranth Brittle/ Chikki 

Our next recipe is for the brittle made of raamdana.  I have used Organic jaggery and popped amaranth seeds from I Say Organics in this recipe to get the maximum benefits from the ingredients.

Ingredients: 

Popped Amaranth Seeds / Rajgira / Ramdana – 1/2 Cup

Organic Jaggery – 1/2 Cup ( you can use Palm Jaggery too. Crumble it or cut into slivers with a sharp knife.)

Ghee/ coconut oil – 1 tbsp ( coconut oil for vegans)

Pinch of salt

Method – 

Grease a baking tray/ plate with oil and set it aside.

Put a heavy bottom pan on medium heat and add the oil or ghee to it.

Add the grated or crumbled Jaggery with a pinch of salt. I don’t use shakkar or granulated jaggery.

Stir it constantly till the jaggery melts and there are no lumps. Keep the heat low if required so the jaggery doesn’t burn. It will become more like a syrup.

Add ramdana / amaranth seeds and mix well.

Pour the mixture in the greased tin and

spread it evenly with a spatula.

Let it set for 20-30 min then remove it from the baking tray and either break into pieces or cut into squares.

Keep in an airtight container.

Note- Some people make a syrup or Paak of jaggery with water. I prefer it this way. To make it crisp you’ll need to melt the jaggery a little longer without burning. I just wait till it dissolves completely and add amaranth.  This chikki/brittle is a bit softer than the market version.

Popped Amaranth seeds Parfait with Mixed Fruit And Nuts 

I love yogurt Parfaits and this is one of my favorites. You can do so much with this basic recipe. Add any fruits, nuts, seeds to it with natural sweetness of fruits and perhaps some home made preserve or organic honey  or organic jaggery slivers/ granules if you like it sweeter. Dates/ Prunes make this frappe very delicious and naturally sweet too.

Ingredients –

Chopped Prunes or Dates

Popped Amaranth seeds

Chopped mix nuts (walnut, cashew, almonds etc and  mixed raisins ( black, gloden)

Hung yogurt

Homemade preserve/ honey/ maple or date syrup/ molasses or jaggery

Method 

Just layer these ingredients one by one to make the parfait presentable or if in a rush just toss everything together  and have it. Both ways you’re getting the goodness of this power packed recipe. Top the frappe with the Preserve or any of the other sweetening ingredient mentioned above. It is entirety up to you what to add/remove.

Make it as healthy and innovative as you desire.

Hope you liked these recipes. Do try and let me know in the comment section about your experience.

Easy Mango Jam (No Preservatives Or Added Pectin)


Monsoon is here in Delhi and the last of the mangoes have flooded the market. I found vendors selling them at a very low price.  The small dasheri is a delicious variety we get in North India. Sweet, fragrant, juicy and full of flesh. The pit/stone/seed inside the fruit is very thin. I prefer it to the bigger variety of dasheri.  One can simply massage the fruit between palms and cut a tiny opening at the stem end the n suck the juicy flesh straight away, rolling and sqeezing it till every bit is finished. Then take out the pit and suck it clean. 😀

That’s the best way to to have mangoes.

I find it sacrilege to cook some of the fruits. They need to be consumed as fruits. Figs, leechee, mangoes are a few of them but this batch of mangoes had some very overripe ones and so I decided to make a little quantity of Jam. I don’t eat commercial bread these days but home made preserves can be used in many ways. I use them for filling, as topping or spread.

Usually I mix a few varieties while making Jam. Also, I prefer to choose a combination of overripe and fully rip but firm mangoes when making  chunky version. It makes the jam rich in flavor and texture. I use no artificial pectin or preservatives.

This is the simplest way to make mango jam.

Ingredients :

Ripe, juicy mangoes – 4 medium size

Lemon Juice – Of 1/2 a lemon

Lemon Zest – 1 teaspoon (optional)

Minced Fresh Ginger / Fresh Ginger Juice – 1 teaspoon (optional)

Sugar – According to the sweetness of the mango ( I used 2 heaped tablespoons)

Red chili Powder – 2 pinches ( optional)

Steps –

Wash, peel and chop mangoes. Squeeze  and gently massage the pit / seed / stone to recover all the flesh and juice.

Place a plate and spoon in the freezer for plate test later on.

In a thick bottom pan add mango pieces, sugar , lemon zest, minced ginger, red chili flakes or powder if using ( you can use cayenne pepper also, it tastes yum) and the lemon juice.

Cook these on a high flame , stirring continuously till the sugar melts.

Turn down the heat to medium low now and let the mixture simmer.

I like my jams with fruit pieces but if you prefer smooth jam you can either puree the mangoes or mash the pulp with a masher or back of the ladle.

Keep stirring the mixture as it thickens. It may take about 10 minutes or so. Test for sugar and add more if you like it sweet, I prefer to retain the natural sweetness.

As the mixture cooks it will start to leave the sides.  Keep a check on the consistency as you won’t want to overcook it. The mixture at this stage should have a  rich deep color an a glossy texture.

Do the plate test at this point.

Remove the pan from heat to avoid over cooking.

Drop some mixture on a chilled plate and give a slight nudge with your finger, if the mixture should give away a little but shouldn’t be runny. If that’s the case then the jam is done. I invert the plate usually to check. Mixture shouldn’t fall off.

If the mixture is runny , cook a bit more till it gets to the desired consistency.

Once the gorgeous fragrant jam is done, spoon it in clean airtight container and let it cool on the counter completely before putting it in the fridge.

 

I make small amounts so keep them out for daily consumption.

This jam usually stays good for at least a fortnight in the fridge.

You can spice it up with all spice or star anise or cinnamon but I prefer the natural flavor of the mango, ginger and lime.

Enjoy this dose of summer sunshine with any thing of your choice. I spooned it over a cracker and devoured it with strong black coffee.

PS –  You can cut thin strips of lemon peel and add if you wish to convert the recipe to a marmalade. I love that version too but I don’t use it with very sweet fragrant mangoes.

 

 

 

Steamed Caramelized Bread Pudding


Brandy Raisin Banana on the left and Plain Cinnamon on the right.

I love anything with caramel and creme caramel is one of my favorite desserts. The other thing I can have any time any day is bead pudding. I make both these things regularly esp the bread pudding and keep innovating the basic recipe. I have made steamed pudding too and a quicker version for instant cravings but this cheese cake like caramelized bread pudding took me to heaven and back.

While looking for something on my favorite Better Butter website I cam across the recipe for this pudding by Sharon Dcosta and the picture held me captive. I instantly decided to make it. She had used ladi pav and we don’t get them in Delhi so the usual white bread or some other sliced bread / loaf was my option.

Now, I had to tweak her original recipe. She had suggested 18-20 slices but my gut feeling said it would be too much for a 5 inch  baking tin so I reduced it to 12 and still I needed two tins so you will need to adjust the proportions for one 5″ tin or take a bigger tin which fits in your steamer or pressure cooker. You can pour the mixture in individual ramekins too.

For a single 5 inch tin i think 6 slices and 1 1/2 cup of milk + one egg should suffice but I have not tried it. For eggless version my friends use cornstarch  / custard powder but again I have not tried it.

I made one simple plain pudding and one with brandy soaked raisins and mashed banana. Both were the best things one could have as desserts.

The dark caramel the soft smooth textured cheesecake like pudding the flavor of brandy and banana in one and nutmeg in the other was delicious. I do not use vanilla much as I like the natural flavors of the dish.

Here is how I made the two.

Ingredients :

Bread Slices – 12

Egg – 1

Full Fat Milk 750 ml or 3 cups

Cinnamon Powder – 1/4 teaspoon

Salt- 1/2 teaspoon

Brandy / dark rum – 1 tablespoon

Raisins – A handful ( about 10-15

Over ripe Banana – 1 medium

Sugar 4 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons

Round aluminium cake tin or pressure cooker separators

 

Caramelized Bread pudding with Cinnamon 

Steps –

Collect all the ingredients on the counter and soak the raisins in the brandy if using and set aside. You can soak them in water too if alcohol isn’t your choice.

In a large mixing bowl pour milk .

Beat the egg and add to the milk. Mix well.

Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and stir properly. You can increase the amount if you like more sweet. I prefer mildly sweet.

Caramel – If you are making caramel for the first time don’t use the dry sugar method but use the wet one. Also, don’t make it directly in the tin you will be using for baking.. just in case it burns…

In a small thick bottom pan add the rest of the sugar and water to make the caramel. I add a little salt ( 0.6 ml spoon or 3-4 pinches) to it for a contrast flavor. Keep the heat medium and once the sugar melts keep playing with the heat from low to medium as the color changes to light brown to dark. Keep it on lower side and DO NOT stir just swirl the pan if you need to.

Once the caramel is deeper color our it into the baking tin of 5 ” or whichever you are using and swirl it so that the entire base it properly covered. It will begin to set quickly so do these steps quickly. Let it set properly or it will mix in the pudding mixture. Do it with both pans if making two puddings. Keep aside.

Tear the bread slices into small pieces and dip in the milk egg mixture. I keep the thick first slice + the crusts but you can omit. I feel they give a great texture to the pudding cheese cake.

Soak the pieces properly and let it stand for about 20 – 30 minutes.

Now, mash the soaked bread pieces with a masher or back of a ladel ( I do with fingers) and then put the mixture in the blender and blend into a smooth mix. No lumps should remain.  Blending a mashed mixture will ensure a smooth mix.

Pour half of this mixture in the pan but keep some space so that the pudding can rise.

Mix raisins and properly mashed banana in the rest of the mixture and pour it in the other tin for the  brandy soaked raisins and mashed banana caramelized bread pudding.

Cover the baking tins  with lids or aluminium foil. Keep a stone on lid so that the water doesn’t go in. Tightly covered bin with aluminium foil works well.

In a pressure cooker or steamer add water up to one inch at least and keep the baking tin in it.

Cook on high heat till three / four whistles and then 10-15 min on low heat. The heat will depend on your utensils and cooker size / steamer etc. I check after 3 whistles and 10 min on low. If the knif comes out clean from the center it is done.

Once done remove it on the counter carefully and let it cool completely. You can unmold it at this stage by sliding a sharp knife along the edge of the baking tin to loosen the pudding  or tap it with the heal of your palm a few times. Keep a serving plate on top and invert. The pudding will release nicely on the plate. You can serve it right away at room temperature or chilled.

I keep the covered tin in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours and then remove lid / foil and unmold. Then chill it again for some time before using.

The rich deep caramel on top on the perfectly set smooth pudding is a sight to behold and a joy to eat. You can make your own variations to the original recipe. You can add apple pulp or chocolate or pumpkin or anything you like but I prefer the original unmasked taste of pure decadence ie the plain caramelized bread pudding with just the right amount of nutmeg/cinnamon

 

 

Hasselback Potatoes With Garlic Butter And Herbs


 

Baked potatoes are my favorite and these beauties top the list. Though there are numerous ways to bake potatoes I love the shape of Hasselback or the accordion potatoes as they are called. For a long time a wondered why they were called Hasselback as they are totally hassle free to make but then someone told the history. You will find it on internet too.

This Swedish version of baked potatoes, with their slices fanned out like the feathers of some exotic bird or the expanded bellows of an accordion.

One can use a many variations of stuffing and seasonings, herbs to make these or keep them simple by just sprinkling salt and coarsely pounded black peppercorns. You can add lemon zest or sneak in ham, bacon, spinach, chives or any other stuff that fancies you. Load it up with cheese of any sort but Parmesan, Cheddar or a mix of your favorites.

The fun thing is that you can make them as per your taste and adjust the ingredients to your choice.

Crispy from outside and tender from inside these delicious baked potatoes can be made with any  variety of potato that is available in your local market though the recipes may call for specific ones. You can use large ones or small ones as per your liking.

I usually keep the skin as it tastes awesome and also gives the desired crispiness to the hasselback but here I am using the peeled ones.

I love the use of roasted garlic where ever possible but here I have used them raw.

To make these mouthwatering baked potatoes you will need,

Ingredients – 

Potatoes – 6 medium small

Butter – 4 tablespoon (I used salted)

Olive oil – 1 tablespoon ( I used a herbed one from Ottimo, at West View, ITC Sheraton)

Fresh cracked black peppercorns – 6-8

Garlic ( roasted or raw) – 4-5 medium cloves ( finely chopped)

Fresh herb of your choice

Seasoning of your choice ( dried herbs, oregano, etc) I used Ottimo’s Italian herb mix Seasoning in some.

Salt to taste

Cheese of your choice ( optional)

Steps –

  1. Choose potatoes with clean, unblemished skin, wash and peel ( if you do not wish to retain skin, If retaining then pat dry completely so the moisture is all absorbed and keep aside. Hasselback Potatoes taste best with skin though.
  2.  Pre heat the oven to 200 degree Celsius or 420 degree Fahrenheit.
  3. Put the peeled potatoes in a pan full of water so the potatoes don’t brown.
  4. You can par boil the potatoes till they are just tender enough for the fork to go in when pricked. (optional)
  5. In a bowl melt the butter to room temperature and beat it with a spoon. You can microwave for 2 seconds for it to melt completely. Add the olive oil to it and mix. Mixing these two give a nice flavor to the potatoes.
  6. Finely chop the fresh herbs and garlic. You can slice the garlic fine. If using roasted garlic, roast it in the oven or gas stove and then slice/chop. I love garlic so put a little more than usual, you can cut it down or omit if you wish.
  7. Mix the fresh herbs, a little salt & pepper and chopped / dices garlic in the butter + oil mix and mix them well to make a smooth garlic and herb infused butter.

( I do the steps 5-7 a few hours before making the Hasselback so that the garlic and herbs release all their flavor in the butter oil mix.)

8. Line a oven proof dish or baking tin with aluminium foil / parchment paper  and smear it with some herb infused butter.

9. To prepare the potatoes, dab the peeled potatoes dry, cut a very thin slice for the base so that the potato doesn’t roll over and rest it in a serving spoon. This will ensure that you don’t cut through the whole potato till the end.

10. Now slice the potato till the knife hits the edge of the spoon. You can make as thin or thick slices as you wish. Repeat with all the remaining potatoes. (I have no knife skills so this is the best way to ensure nice, equal thin cuts)

11. Smear half of the prepared butter mix all over the potatoes. gently push the butter, garlic, fresh herbs in the crevices with a sharp knife but don’t push to hard. We will add more at half way through the baking.

12. Arrange the potatoes in the baking dish and sprinkle salt and cracked black pepper generously. Using freshly cracked pepper gives this dish a unique rich spicy flavor which is not achieved by the powdered pepper. If you have used salted butter like I did then go easy on extra salt.

13. Put the baking dish in the oven and bake the potatoes for at least 20 minutes. You can grill them too.

14. Take out the baking dish and baste the potatoes with more of the butter or just olive oil. Make sure it goes well into the layers as it will help the layers to spread open.

15.  At this point the slices will begin to fan out in an arch so do insert the extras like ham, bacon, cheese or whatever you choose carefully between the layers. take the help of the knife to carefully nudge the layers open a bit for stuffing.

16. Bake for another 30-40 minutes or till the outside it crispy brown and the flesh is tender soft. Pierce the potato between the layers to check if the potato is done.

Your baking time may vary with the size of potatoes.

Serve is immediately wit ha dip of your choice. I use sour cream or hung curd sip which is my favorite. Will post the recipe soon.

Baked hasselback is best had hot.

 

You can adjust the ingredients to your requirements for 1 or many hasselback potatoes, it is that versatile.

Make it simple or fancy as per your mood for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citrus Bread Pudding With Malta Fruit Compote


 

I love the citrus flavor of orange or in this case the Malta fruit in this rather heavy and rich bread and butter pudding. The compote as topping is just right to balance the mild sweetness of the pudding. I love to eat it warm with a mug of black sugarless home brewed coffee. A perfect dessert.

Since childhood bread pudding has been one of my favorites. Be it the simple bread cooked in milk on a gas stove with a little sugar and nutmeg or cinnamon or something more elaborate baked in oven. I can eat this anytime anywhere.

I sometimes layer orange.Malta wedges  along with the buttered bread to make it even richer but here we will just use the zest in the pudding and top it with the compote. One can grill the fruit before layering for that burnt orange taste which is yum.  I also make chunky marmalade sandwiches instead of using fresh fruit and it turns out just as amazing.

This is a simple classic recipe and I have used one day old white bread here. An ultimate comfort food. raisins soaked in Cointreau or brandy makes it a little more adventurous.

Ingredients :

Bread ( one day old ) – 6 Slices

Full Fat Milk –  2 Cups

Condensed Sweetened Milk – 1/2 tin (Milkmade)

Orange/Malta Zest –  2 Tablespoons

Cointreau / Brandy or Rum – 1-2 tablespoon

Eggs 2  Large

Butter –  50 gm ( for spreading)

Seedless Raisins / Sultanas – 50 gm

Cinnamon Stick – 1 inch

Steps :

Put the raisins/sultanas in a saucepan and pour the Cointreau / orange juice or the preferred liquor and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and keep aside.

In another heavy bottom pan boil milk and condensed milk  mixture. Add cinnamon stick and orange zest to it. Let it simmer on low heat  for 10 minutes so the flavors get incorporated.

Turn off the heat, cover and set aside.

I do not trim the edges of the bread but you can.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ 350 Degrees F. Place a bigger tin than the one you are using to bake pudding inside the oven to warm.

Grease a 12×9 inch baking dish. Mine was a little smaller but you should have one slightly bigger so that there is enough space for the pudding to rise.

Toast the bread slices lightly. This is my way as I find toasting gives a great flavor to the pudding. You can use them plain too.

Butter each bread slice and cut them into triangles.

In a large bowl beat the eggs. Add the infused milk  and a 2-3 tablespoons of the fresh malta juice into it and beat again till everything is combined properly. Remove the cinnamon stick. You can use powder too (1/4 teaspoon).

Layer the bread triangles, buttered side up, in the prepared baking dish. They should be slightly overlapping. Sprinkle the raisins and sultanas between the layers and pour the liquid and remaining raisins on top.

Sprinkle some more fresh orange zest on top.

Place the baking dish inside the warm bigger baking tin. Pour hot water carefully halfway till the smaller tin. Be very careful not to scald yourself or let water get  into the pudding.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pudding is wobbly from inside and browned from top.

A tooth pick should come out mostly clean when inserted in the center.

Scoop out and serve it warm with the Malta/Orange compote on top.

You can also use dollop of crème fraîche if that suits your mood.

Tips : Thick sliced breads work wonderful in this pudding. You can make thick chunky marmalade sandwiches and omit compote or layer fresh orange/ malta  wedges bweteen the bread layers.

Heat up a little marmalade over water bath and brush it over the top of the pudding for that orange glaze.

Explore all the possibilities and be innovative wit hthis classic rich bread and butter pudding.

I do not use too many spices or vanilla as the natural flavors get masked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Fruit Compotes – Mango And Malta Fruit


I am sharing the quick recipes for Malta Fruit Compote and Ripe Mango compote that I used in the Orange Bread Pudding and Mango French toast. I made small quantity  but you can adjust the proportions to make larger quantities and keep them in the fridge to use with various dishes esp barbecued meats and of course some desserts. 😉

Compote is a delicious fruit dessert made with whole fresh fruits or cut into pieces. Almost any fruit can be used – mangoes, orange, apple ,figs, berries, apricots, peaches etc. It is the best use of ripe seasonal fruits.

Mango Compote 

Ingredients : 

  • Ripe Juicy Mangoes – 2 large
  • Fresh Ginger juice – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Cayenne pepper – 1/4 teaspoon ( you can use chili flakes too)
  • Malta juice/ Orange Juice – 1/2 cup
  • Sugar – as required (depends on sweetness of mangoes)
  • Butter – 1 tablespoon ( a dollop)

Steps :

  1. Dice mangoes into small cubes and squeeze juice from the pit too. In a bowl mix diced mangoes, malta juice, ginger juice, lime juice ( if using), sugar, cayenne pepper or chili flakes. Let the mix macerate for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Heat a heavy bottom pan and add the fruit mix. Let it simmer for 10 minutes on medium flame. Stir gently so that you don’t squish the fruit.
  3. Add butter and stir again. Simmer again for 5 more minutes then turn off the heat. Your compote is ready to use.

 

Every variety of mango will give a distinct flavor to the compote. Try and choose the most juicy ripe ones to minimize added sugar.

The fresh Malta fruit ( kind of blood orange from the hills of Uttrakhand in India) adds a refreshing tang to the compote along with a little lime and ginger juice. The zest of the fruits goes in the egg bath or the custard. Ginger juice, cayenne pepper enhance the flavors just right. You can replace Malta wit ha good orange.

 

 

Orange Compote 

Ingredients: 

Orange | Malta Fruit – 2-3

Zest of the citrus fruit you are using – 2 tablespoon (from 1/2 orange at least)

Fresh juice of Orange/ malta – 1/4 cup

Sugar – 1/3 Cup

Salt – Sea salt or even coarse table salt would do

Steps:

Wash, dab dry and peel the Oranges / Malta. Remove the pith and seeds. Chop into small pieces.
Retain all the juice that dribbles out.

In a heavy bottom saucepan add chopped fruit, zest, sugar, salt and juice and mix.
Bring this mixture to boil on high heat and then reduce the heat.
Let it cook on medium low heat till the fruit collapses and the liquid resembles a syrup. (10-15 minutes)
Stir occasionally to avoid burning. Turn off the heat and cool the compote to room temperature.

Use it with your favorite dish or as a spread on breads.
You can use it as a topping for yogurts and ice cream too.
Spice it up with star anise, clove and cinnamon if you like.
I do not use vanilla as it masks the fruit flavors.
Sugar should be adjusted as per the sweetness of the fruit. I prefer natural sweetness over added one.

Cinnamon French Toast With Citrus Mango Compote


I am a huge fan of french toasts of all kinds but fruit filled ones top my list. I also love to indulge in  toppings made from fresh fruits for french toasts, pancakes and crepes. These french toasts are not for dieters.  Hot from the skillet with a soft thick center and crispy edges these french toasts make a good breakfast or brunch dish. I also feed the four PM hunger pangs with these.

The compote is quick to make and the divine taste of Indian ripe mangoes is decadent.  Put generous amount over the cinnamon flavored french toasts or fill the  toasts with the compote and drizzle some of the liquid from the compote over the stuffed french toasts for a more sinful dish. 

The fresh Malta fruit ( kind of blood orange from the hills of Uttrakhand in India) adds a refreshing tang to the compote along with a little lime and ginger juice. The zest of the fruits goes in the egg bath or the custard. Ginger juice, cayenne pepper enhance the flavors just right.

Overall it is a fabulous combination of flavors and textures.

Use a stale, sturdy, dense bread ( a day or two old) for making these french toast. A french loaf, challah or baguette would be perfect. Cut them into thick slices so the bread soaks good amount of egg mixture without being soggy. The bread needs some heft to hold the milk and egg mix. One inch thick is fine. Two inch for stuffed ones. If the bread is fresh the m dry it out for sometime in oven before dipping them.

These loafs are also good for the stuffed french toast as one can make a nice pocket to fill each toast.  Never settle for soggy and squishy french toasts.

But, if you don’t have any of them and want to use the white bread then toast it up before dunking in the egg bath. You will need to layer the filling between two slices before dunking.

Here are two versions of french toasts with citrus mango compote.

I have used a usual white bread here. The recipe is for 2 people.

Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast 

Mango Compote  – For filling and Topping

Bread – 4 slices (I have used a two day old white bread here)

Cinnamon –  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Eggs – 2

Condensed Milk + Normal full cream milk  – 1/3 cup

( usually I take four tablespoons of condensed milk (milkmaid) and two tablespoons of creamy full fat milk)

Malta fruit Zest – 1/2 teaspoon

Salt- 1/4 teaspoon ( if not using salted butter)

Butter and oil  for frying

I don’t add vanilla to retain the flavor of fruits but if you like it add 1/2 a teaspoon

Steps- 

In a shallow bowl make the custard or egg bath for the french toast. Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon and zest of Malta fruit . You don’t need to froth the eggs. Just blend well so everything is incorporated well.

Keep your mango compote ready for filling. You can make it fresh or use a previously made too.

Take four thick slices of bread.  Toast and lightly butter them on both sides. I don’t trim the edges. You can use cream cheese too.

Heat a skillet properly on medium heat. Keep it ready for use. You can use electric griddle or oven too.

For normal white bread – On one side spread a few spoonful of mango compote filling and press the other slice on top of it. Prepare two such sandwiches. (Make the other one once the first is cooked and ready). I used white bread so those who don’t get the other loafs don’t feel left out. 🙂

For the french loaf etc –  Cut a 2 inch thick slice and make a 3-4 inch incision halfway into the slice so a pocket is formed. Fill the compote into it. One end should be sealed.

Now the steps are quick or the bread will start falling apart.

Place the sandwich in a shallow plate and spoon the egg custard mix over it till it is properly soaked. Dunking is difficult with the filled one.

Add some butter and oil mix on to hot skillet and place the soaked sandwich in it. Oil prevents butter from burning.

Keep the heat medium low so we get nicely crisp and cooked french toast. No one likes burnt ones.

Cook on one side till it is nicely browned and crisp then flip gently to cook the other side. (2-3 minutes)

Press the sandwich lightly with slotted spatula to make it cook well.

Add more butter+oil mix if the skillet is drying up. Don’t hesitate to be generous. We aren’t dieting here.

Keep a serving plate ready. Place the Lovely citrus mango compote filled french toast in the plate and dust with icing sugar or top with compote sauce and some more pieces of fruit.

Dig in when it is still hot and crisp. Repeat steps for the next one.

You can keep one french toast warm in oven at 200 degrees F while you make the other.

Cinnamon French Toast with Just the topping 

Alternately, you can skip the filling and dunk each bread in the gg bath till it is fully coated then shallow fry in the hot skillet. Keep the french toast warm in 200 degree F oven and once all are made, cut them in triangles or keep them whole when you plate them. Top the crisp french toasts with lavish amount of compote and dig in when hot. you can serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche too.

I just can’t have enough of these lovely french toasts bursting with summer flavors.

The trick is to keep it simple. Too many flavors spoil the taste. On the other hand dash of Spiced rum, Bourbon and Grand Mariner add perfect taste to the french toasts.

I use less  or no sugar as the mangoes are super sweet and condense milk is sweet too. No maple syrup or honey drizzle is needed.

Enjoy ! 

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Twist to Tex -Mex Tortilla Chips


 

Usually Tortilla chips are made from corn tortillas and the main dish made from them is Nachos loaded with cheese, sour cream and salsa but I gave it a twist to this famous snack. These chapati chips are prepared from whole wheat and gram flour. Instead or cheese and salsa I served them with freshly made raw grated mango takku. A delightful tangy sweet relish. You can eat them with your favorite dip or have them the traditional way with fresh salsa and sour cream. Hung curd dip pairs well with it.

Ingredients :

  • Leftover Chapatis – 3-4
  • Salt and Pepper – to sprinkle over the chips
  • Chaat masala – To sprinkle (optional)
  • Oil – For Frying. (About 3/4 cup)
  • Your favorite dip | salsa | cheese or sour cream

 

Steps :

  1. Make some whole wheat and gram flour (besan) chapatis beforehand if you plan to make these tortilla chips. If you make fresh ones then dry them for a oil for crisp frying.
  2. Cut the chapatis into 5-8 triangle shaped wedges.
  3. Heat oil for frying in a medium size dry skillet.
  4. Once the oil is heated to medium high heat slip the tortilla triangles in a single layer into the oil.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to keep the chips in single layer so they don’t overlap and are covered in oil completely.
  6. Fry them for 2 minutes or until the chips are slightly brown in color and firm and no longer pliable.
  7. Place paper towels in a plate and remove the chips to paper towel lined plate.
  8. Keep the oil hot by adjusting the heat as we will use less oil.
  9. In a serving place heap the crisps tortillas and sprinkle salt and pepper. You can use chat masala too. I use it only when there is no topping.
  10. Serve the chapati chips hot as nachos with your favorite toppings or with raw grated mango takku / green mint chutney / guacamole any other dip or sauce you like.

 

My Tip: When kneading the dough for these chips you can either use just the whole wheat flour or mix gram flour with it like I did. The proportion I keep is 2:1 You can also use mix grain flour to make them healthier. Instead of frying you can bake them in the oven at 180 degrees for 6-8 minutes . Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper when you line them in baking tray. Do not overlap. Bake till brown and crisp. I also add finely chop green chili and coriander leaves and ajwain ( carom seeds) to the flour before making a dough sometimes. You can be as innovative as you wish. Personally I do not like cheese with these chapati chips. It overwhelms the basic rustic flavor of the chips.

 

Quick And Easy Kairi Kanda Takku | Raw Mango And Onion Relish


 

Each Maharashriyan family has their version of takku.Sweet and sour, this relish is not cooked like South Indian thakkus / thokkus and the use of finely chopped onions gives it a unique sweetness which is different from the sweetness that jaggery gives to the dish.

Summer is the best time to make pickles, chunda, launji etc apart from fresh chutneys. One can see carts full of raw and ripe mangoes all over the city and this year has brought in a very good crop of mangoes of all kinds.

We don’t use the ramkela variety of achar ka aam for these chutneys and relishes but the smaller variety whose skin is softer then the pickling mango of north.

You can eat this relish with almost anything from rotis to curd rice or even mathari etc. I sometimes spread it inside wraps to give them a tangy flavor.

I make it fresh in small quantities because that’s how it tastes best.

To make this lip smacking takku you will need very few simple ingredients.

Ingredients:

Medium Size Raw mango – 2 grated

Onion – 2 medium size

Salt- to taste

Red chili powder – 1 teaspoon

Mustard seeds brown (rai) – 1 teaspoon

Mustard seeds black (sarso) – 1 teaspoon

Fenugreek Seeds – 2 teaspoon

Oil – 2 tablespoon

Asafoetida – 1/4 teaspoon

Jaggery – as per taste and sourness of mangoes.

Steps –

Wash, peel and grate raw mangoes. Keep aside.

I like those which are beginning to ripe a little from inside along with completely raw ones. Gives takku a lovely flavor.

Chop the onion very fine. I don’t like grated version. Chopping fine gives takku a nice crunch.

Warm a seasoning pan and dry roast the brown mustard seeds and one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds separately till fragrant. Don’t let them burn.

Remove and grind them into a fine ( but not very smooth) powder. I powder them on silbatta (grinding stone).

Now add this powder mix along with  red chili powder, salt, onion and jaggery in grated raw mangoes and gently mix well with your fingers by tossing the mixture slowly. .

Let it sit for half and hour then taste and adjust sweetness, salt and spices. By now jaggery will melt and get well incorporated with the juices released from mango and onions.

Heat oil in the same seasoning pan and remove from heat once warm enough. Add asafoetida, black mustard seeds (sarso) to it. When they crackle, add the remaining fenugreek seeds and let them brown a little.

When the oil cools down, pour it over the takku and mix.

Your delicious takku is ready to eat.

This keeps good for a week to ten days in the fridge.

There isn’t much oil in this recipe and  unlike other thokku it is not cooked. You will relish the raw flavors of mango and onion in this relish.

Serve with chapati, curd rice, mathari or chapati nachos or use it for layering rolls etc. The tangy sweet taste will always tickle your taste buds.