Thursday, May 21, 2015


Bread is one of the oldest cooked foods and evidence suggests that bread was first made some 30,000 years ago. Everyone has bread in their homes and probably eat bread every day. Almost every home makes bread every day.

There are thousands of types of bread, and, in this I include the thousands of unleavened breads that are made. Unleavened bread simply means a flatbread or, more correctly, breads that do not have a `leavening agent’ i.e. yeast or a chemical agent like Baking Powder. So our humble Chapatti, Poori, Tandoori Roti are all examples of unleavened bread. So now do you know why I say that every home makes bread?

Europe is a wheat growing region and bread has developed over the 30,000 years into something that is special and local. In Europe alone there are as many varieties of bread, with local variations and characteristics -with `Terroir’ - [a word which Oenophiles love to bandy about] as there are wines. Every country in Continental Europe has its own breads, and I am speaking in huge generalities here. Just by way of a simple example, Italy has a Focaccia, Germany its Pumpernickel, France its Baguette, the Crisp breads of Scandinavia, Soda Bread from Ireland, Broa from Portugal, the Pita, the Bagel, and the names can go on and on. The number of breads available in France and Germany are truly impressive. Each has a different flour, shape, texture and most importantly purpose. To get a proper sandwich you need the right bread.

Making bread is a fascinating experience. Once again the ingredients are not only available everywhere, but, as an added bonus, they are damn cheap. So if you cock up, you lose nothing. If you make decent bread you are a star. What do you need? Water, Maida, Salt and yeast [fresh or dry]. The first three ingredients every house has, even a Jain, Shah and Khandelwal home. Yeast is available in dry form with most baniya shops, fresh yeast may be a bit more challenging but it is very easily available in Bandra. The only tricky thing is an oven. Without that you are stuck with flatbreads.

Our own experiments with making bread started about 13 odd years ago, when we bought our oven. Pinky Auntie, a damn good cook, taught HRH The Queen of Kutch how to make bread. It was hard work kneading the dough. The results were, at best, middling, but, a proverbial spark was lit.

Then circa 2006 HRH The Queen of Kutch enrolled in the Patisserie section of Le Cordon Blue where one segment was bread making. She learnt a lot more. On our return we invested in a really good sturdy US made Viking brand stand mixer which we bought in Mumbai. That machine could knead a large amount of dough very well and consistently. HRH The Queen of Kutch had learnt about the `dough window’ the point to which bread dough should be kneaded. She also learnt that you had to bake the bread at more than 180C to `kill’ the yeast. The bread became better. In fact breads became quite good.

Baking bread became regular. A ham sandwich with fresh bread, lashings of butter and some sharp English Mustard is a most enjoyable lunch. Add a salad or a soup and you have a great dinner. The stale bread can be turned into toasted cheese sandwiches, with a slice of ham, if you are feeling extravagant. Soon HRH The Queen of Kutch started making whole wheat loaves, Caramelised Onion Bread [absolutely delicious] Sun Dried Tomato Bread, Walnut and Raisin Bread which is delicious with some Brie or Camembert. Along with Miss Stonethrower earlier this year we made a squid ink bread and had bacon butties for lunch. Absolutely delicious. Breads were turning out well.

Squid Ink Bread with Pistachio 

Ham, Bacon, French Fries and Hollandaise. Yes a heart attack. 

Then, while in England in March, while in the Cooking section of Waterstones [a good bookstore and one of the few that has not yet shut because of the online book sites] I saw a book on bread. I glanced thru it and thought it was fantastic. I called HRH The Queen of Kutch to have a look and she said lets buy it. So, that evening while in London I ordered the book on Flipkart to be delivered at home. The book arrived soon enough and it was truly fantastic. The best book on Bread that I have ever seen.

The book gives you a recipe for a Sourdough starter. This is something we had read about but never tried. It takes 4 days for the starter to be ready. We made the starter and as a first HRH The Queen of Kutch decided to make Bagels. It was her very first try at making Bagels. Honestly, with hand on my heart, the Bagels were fabulous. Okay, I admit that the shape is irregular, but this was the first attempt. This was a massive improvement to any bread we had made earlier. We had excellent sandwiches with the Bagels.

The Bagel after the boil

Bagel post baking. Bottom left - Sesame  Seeds, bottom centre Black Poppy Seeds, bottom right White Sesame Seeds  

Egg Sandwich

Next up, HRH The Queen of Kutch made the classic French Boule. This is a large free form loaf. The recipe had three major departures from any other bread recipe we had used in the past. First the dough had much more water resulting in softer dough, very little yeast was used as the Starter was mixed into the dough, and, lastly, the bread was baked at a much higher temperature of 230C. HRH The Queen of Kutch was extremely apprehensive of the high temperature as she thought the bread would be burnt. However, she had no reason to fear. The bread turned out absolutely fantastic. HRH The Queen of Kutch had never hitherto achieved this quality of bread. The crust was crunchy, chewy and deep. The crumb was light and airy with large holes. The bread smelt wonderfully toasty. Frankly, I would pay a lot of money for the bread. Have a look at the photographs.

The beautiful Boule

The book was singularly the reason for the dramatically better bread.

We still had some starter left. So over the weekend it was time to make a Cibatta. The ingredients were the same as the Boule, however the proportion of water, the kneading time, proving time, shaping and baking time were different. The Cibatta were baked. They were a knockout. So once again we had sandwiches. Ham, Chorizzo, Tomato, Cheese, Mayonaise and some Lettuce. The Cibatta made a good sandwich.

Cibatta - The first rise. Folded side down

Second rise. Folded side up

Fresh out of the oven

The sandwich

Have a look at the photographs at the difference in the crust [colour and depth] and the crumb [massive holes v/s smaller holes] in the two – Boule and Cibatta. 

Boule - Deep crust, open airy, holes in the crumb

Cibatta - Very light crust. Dense crumb

Lighter crust, wonderful light airy crumb. This is the Batard

The experiments continued. Next up was Coriander Bread. This was an adaption of Basil Bread. We thought that Coriander Bread would be great to have with Kheema which we had made for dinner. The Coriander Bread was good bread, however, there was too little Corainder, so the flavour did not shine thru.   

The shine is because they are brushed with Olive Oil

The latest was an attempt at Batard. A Batard is similar to the Baguette, except it the shorter and broader. The Batard requires a single slash. This is done with an old fashioned Safety Razor Blade. Even if I say so myself, the results were extraordinary.

After the Batard, encouraged by the grand success, we made Walnut & Butter Rolls. I apologise for the lurid coloured cloth. These turned out very good.

In balance, while no doubt the adjustment of the water, the shaping and the baking temperatures made a difference, I think the use of the Sourdough Starter was what made the biggest change. The texture of the bread has changed for the better. It is surprising how buying a new book can make such a difference to a simple thing like bread.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Giant `Surprise’ Spinach Ravioli with an Egg Yolk

We like Pasta.

A quick and delicious lunch of Spaghetti dressed with a Pesto is something we have off and on. For this, we use premade packet pasta, only Barilla though. Indian Pasta is really not up to the mark. For some unexplained reason a few months ago Barilla pasta went off the shelves. That made life a little difficult, but, now, Barilla has returned. Thank God.

Eating fresh pasta is a great pleasure. Making pasta at home is simple, no unusual, hard to find ingredients, just egg, Maida and salt. Every home has them – except Jain, Shah and Khandelwal homes. One essential to make really good, restaurant-quality pasta is a Pasta Machine. This too is easily available in Mumbai. The New India Electric Trading Company at Ambalal Doshi Marg, the old Hamam Street, in the Stock Exchange area imports and sells them. You could even buy them online from him. He sells the Imperia machine which is really the Gold standard for pasta machines. It costs Rs. 4,500/- and will last a lifetime. Believe me, it is a good investment. Have a look at the website.

Anyway, off and on we get into a pasta-making frenzy. A few days ago, our friends Mr and Mrs Jeweller’s daughter said she wanted us to teach her something to make. So we thought what better than fresh pasta and an Ice Cream. So HRH the Queen of Kutch taught Ms Jeweller and their cook how to knead pasta dough and then Ms Jeweller, Mrs, Jeweller and Master Jeweller all delightedly rolled out the pasta. Once the sheets were rolled, they happily stuffed them with a Mushroom & Ricotta filling and made little Ravioli. The Ravioli were boiled, tossed in a Brown Butter Sage and Lemon Sauce and devoured.

We decided we need to make pasta at home more often. So this weekend we set about doing just this. So we bought a small tub of Ricotta, actually quite good, made by a company in Delhi at a most agreeable price of Rs 145 for 200 grams. The imported Zanetti Ricotta cost an eye-watering Rs 450 for 250 grams. We also bought Parmesan and a couple of bunches of Spinach which is all that was required.  We were planning to make a giant `Surprise’ Spinach Ravioli with an Egg Yolk inside. I am sure you have seen this on TV on cooking shows.

So, HRH the Queen of Kutch kneaded the pasta dough while I set about making the filling. Blanch the Spinach, squeeze out the water and chop it finely. Add some grated Parmesan, some Ricotta, freshly grated Nutmeg and salt and your filling is ready. Put it in a piping bag with a broad nozzle.

You roll out the Pasta sheets and cut out a 9 – 10 cm diameter round. You pipe a ring of the Spinach filling and gently, ever so gently, nestle an egg yolk in the centre. Cover the base with another pasta sheet and cut out the Ravioli. Boil this for 6 minutes in salted water, drain and plate. 6 minutes is enough time to cook the Pasta and keep the yolk liquid.

Separately make a Brown Butter and Sage sauce which you spoon on top of the Ravioli. Sprinkle on some grated Parmesan and eat. The yolk should ooze out and mix with the brown butter to form an absolutely delicious sauce. I must confess here that Indian yolks are a rather pale yellow colour. Thus, the Pasta itself is a pale yellow and the Yolk oozing is similarly pale yellow. The deep orangey yolks are something you get with eggs abroad. Picture in your mind’s eye, how utterly shattering the effect would be if we had those deep yellow, almost orange egg yolks doing the job. Sigh.

Now since you cannot eat too much egg, we made just 1 giant `Surprise’ Spinach Ravioli for each of us. The remainder of the Spinach mix was used to make simple Ravioli which we had with the same Brown Butter and Sage sauce.

This was washed down with the excellent Chandon White Sparkling Wine, without doubt the best Indian Wine.

It was an excellent meal.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mango Pickle

May is the time for the Mango Tree in our building to bear fruit. Our building has one tree, the adjoining building - Char Dham - has a large Mango Tree and the building behind us has a tree too. The building gardener the Right Hon’Ble Shambhu rigged up a pole by attaching several shorter sticks and set about harvesting the Mango. Much excitement in the building. All the drivers we on hand offering their advice, the watchmen abandoned their posts and looked upward expectantly. A lot of Mango was harvested. Shambhu turned up at our house with 5 kilos of the stuff. I asked is the Mango had been equitably distributed and was told yes.

What do you do with 5 kilos of raw Mango? You make pickle. You will recall in an older post that the recipe we used was one by the Late Mrs Bhicoo Manekshaw. This time we thought we would use a different recipe. We got what looked like a good recipe from a book called “Aharam – Traditional Cuisine of Tamil Nadu” by Sabita Radhakrishna. The recipe seemed good and the South Indian flavour profile attractive. It had a short list of easily obtainable ingredients.

So we set about making the pickle. When cutting the Raw Mango a couple of the fruit turned out to be ripe. These could not be used in the pickle, so, we simply ate them. We were amazed at how sweet the mango was. I mean this is a lone tree with no fertilizer ever added, growing in ground covered by pavers, the tree is never watered or looked after and the delicious fruit it had! I was gobsmacked.

The recipe did not say when the pickle would be ready to eat. So after a couple of days we tasted the pickle. It was ready. It was delicious. It was sour and salty and spicy and with a vibrant red colour. Thru this summer, a favourite meal, during the hot sticky afternoons is ice cold Dahi Bhaat or Curd Rice with lashings of the tangy mango pickle.

The Recipe for Hot South Indian Style Raw Mango Pickle

3 Kgs or thereabouts Raw Mango thoroughly washed and dried in the sun for 24 hours.

The Powder
2 tablespoons black Mustard seeds
1 tablespoon Fenugreek [Methi] seeds

The Spice Mix
½ and a bit more cup of hot red Chilli powder – Thikalal
½ cup of non spicy red Chilli powder – Kashmiri
2 tablespoons Turmeric powder
½ to ¾ cup salt


500 ml Gingelly [Sesame/Til] Oil
1 tablespoon black Mustard seeds
½ teaspoon Asafoetida powder [Hing]


Cube the Mango, removing the hard central seed. No need to skin the Mango

Dry roast the ingredients for the powder and then powder them

Combine the Powder and the Spice Mix.

Add the chopped Mango and stir well

Heat the oil for the tempering and when smoking add the Mustard seeds. They should violently crackle. Remove from heat, add the ½ teaspoon Asafoetida Powder [Hing]. When cool add to the Mango mixture and stir well.

Store the pickle in a dry airtight glass bottle. It should be ready to eat in a day or two.

Remember that you should have a reasonable layer of oil at the top of the jar. This oil forms a barrier between the air and moisture reaching the pickle prevents the pickle from spoiling.

If you think the pickle is not salty enough, add some more salt and stir. Leave for a day more and then eat.

The Raw Mango


The ingredients for the Powder - Mustard and Fenugreek seeds 

The Powder 

The spice mix 

The Oil being heated to smoke point 

The Mustard for the tempering 

The  Mustard Seeds popping in the hot oil 

The Mango combined with the Powder and the Spice Mix 

With the tempered oil added  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Salman Bhai - His experiments with the truth

This post was to be on the pickle we made. I had also thought of writing on my random observations and stray thought on matters relating to packaged food.

Then Bhai got bail.

That was the end, as far as India is concerned, of everything. RaGa, NaMo, AK, RSVP, AAP, GST, MAT, - no abbreviation meant anything anymore.

Salman Bhai has got bail!

I have a problem. Let me tell you what that is.

Let us be clear on a few points:

Life is unfair. The rich, the powerful and the connected generally do better than those who are not. Salman and his team did everything to see that he is let off. I would do the same for myself and my client. It is up to the prosecution to prove his guilt. If the prosecution is corrupt or incompetent or lazy or unfocussed, then that is something that will be exploited by the Defence. As I said, life is unfair, shit happens. I am not condoning it; I am merely saying this happens.

Has the 13 year trial worked for or against Salman Bhai? I believe for. He has been free for the time, witnesses are dead, memories are foggy, perceptions are different and all this has acted in favour of Salman Bhai. One thing against him is that now he has to face the more stringent charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder – manslaughter – as the Yanks call it.

I believe, and I believe this with all sincerity and without a trace of irony or sarcasm, that ultimately Salman Bhai will be acquitted.

Let us, take a deep breath at this provocative statement and look at how this all started. Salman Bhai and friends went for a drink or three to a now defunct bar called `Rain’. They got drunk. Salman Bhai drove his Land Cruiser at high speed, lost control at the right turn from St Andrews Road onto Hill Road and ran over people sleeping on the footpath. That is it. However you look at it, Salman Bhai was drunk and he killed. I know this; Salman Bhai knows this, his mother, father and everyone else knows this.

As I have said, for myriad reasons, I believe - however shocking my claim may seem to you -  that this is the proverbial perfect crime.

How do we deal with this? Very very badly, in a manner that absolutely shocks me. I wonder if we as Indians have any moral compass.

Bollywood in its entirety has come out in support – I have no idea what that word means anymore – of Salman Bhai. Our son of Maharashtrian soil, upholder of the Hindu Maharashtrian, Raj Thackeray was quick to visit Salman Bhai. I am so bloody self-righteous Anupam Kher was seen visiting Bhai. The complete enigma Zafar Sareshwala popped in. Does no one have any morals? Is what Salman Bhai done not wrong?  The only person whose presence at Galaxy I could not feel outraged by was Priya Dutt. Her brother is incarcerated, she may have some inputs to give Salman Bhai, and, I write this with all honesty.

The role of the Mango People who thronged the Court and Galaxy is also hugely disturbing. I appreciate that they want to see the stars. Granted. But to celebrate and burst crackers on hearing of the bail? Hello? Right and wrong, sheep, Mango People and, dare I say, kuttas? I mean really?

A bit about celebrating. The Times of India carried a report, and I quote “According to a source close to the family, patriarch Salim Khan forbade his family from celebrating and his sons from getting drunk. "He pointed out to them that while the Bombay High Court's decision to suspend Salman's five-year sentence is a relief it is not a cause for jubilation," added the source.” Assuming this is correct, is everyone totally delusional? I agree this is not a time to celebrate, but why bring drink into the equation, especially at this time? This is the link.

This herd like `support’ by Bollywood of their family is deeply disturbing. The same thing happened around Sanjay Dutt. If I was to choose, Dutt’s crime was far less serious. Dutt violated the Arms Act and had a deadly weapon in his possession. He did not use it and ultimately the gun was melted down. Salman Bhai killed a man. There is a difference between the two crimes, a big difference. But still Bollywood `supports’ Salman Bhai. We all know that Bollywood films have extremely strange value systems and encourage a rather deviant behaviour. That is of course the subject of another post. But this? `Support’? The only person against who Bollywood rallied was that other despicable character Shiney Ahuja who raped his maid. That creature seems to have been washed off by Bollywood.

If Bollywood could have the moral compass to rally against Ahuja why does it not do so against Salman Bhai? Is it that Salman Bhai and family – Arbaaz, Malaika, Sohail, Salim & Helen - are too well entrenched and have a lot of money power  thus cannot be shunned? So moral compasses change with the force applied to them?
When things like this happen, I really despair India.