Top 5 Indian Desserts – jalebi – the whirl of delight

Deep fried dough is a delicacy. French would eat ‘beignets’, the Italians ‘ciambelle’ and the South Americans ‘hush puppy’. In India we have the balushahi, gulab jamun and the jalebi. But for the time being, move over all, for we choose – as the star of this week’s search – jalebi. Interestingly, jalebi is a corruption of the word ‘zalabia’ which belongs to Arabic. Scripts have also given us proof that a Jain work by Jinasura dated 1450 AD mentions of a feast which includes jalebies. So we know it goes quite far back in history!

Well, every farsan shop, be it a nondescript Nandu at the corner of your lane or a glass shelved mithai centre in a strategic corner of the local station, would have a huge pile of yellow or orange coloured jalebi in the early hours of the morning: likely to be breakfast time. And they will sell as soon as the stuff comes out of the syrup. In fact, sometimes there is a waiting period especially on Sundays. The recipe varies in different parts of the country. In South India, they use ground urad with a little rice flour or a mixture of besan and wheat flour. In the north, it is either white flour or besan or a mixture. In Bengal, they make jilipi using saffron to give the orangish colour and the base is white flour or a mixture of chenna and khoya. Though made in small and large sizes, this spiral sweet has been made even three feet wide at one time. Some jaleba! Wonder how many people would have feasted on it?

Our feast begins with the normal eight centimetre ones available. Best had hot if one carries them home, the temperature is bound to come down. In any way, it is good that way because then you are absolutely ready to eat it! This recipe will make about 30 pieces. Place 1½ cups refined flour (maida) in a bowl, add 1 ½ cups water and beat with your hands for ½ hour. The batter should not have any lumps and should be absolutely smooth. Cover the bowl and keep in a warm place to ferment for 20 hours.

Beat the batter with your hands again for 15 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon edible yellow or orange colour and 2 tablespoons refined flour and beat again for 10 minutes. To prepare sugar syrup, cook 2 cups sugar with 2 cups water. Cook, stirring continuously, till all the sugar dissolves. Add ½ teaspoon green cardamom powder and cook, stirring, till the syrup reaches one string consistency. Let the syrup cool but ensure that it remains lukewarm. Heat 2 cups ghee in a jalebi kadai. Pour some of the batter into a plastic squeezy bottle. When the ghee is heated, lower the heat and holding the bottle over the hot ghee, gently squeeze the batter into the ghee in round spirals. Start from outside to inside for better results. Fry, on both sides, till the jalebis are evenly golden and crisp. Drain and soak in the sugar syrup for 2-3 minutes. Drain and serve hot.

Traditionally, the batter is squeezed through a jalebi cloth which is a piece of thick cloth in which a three mm hole is made in the centre. Jalebi making takes some practice and patience. To start with, try making individual jalebis and when you have perfected that, try making them together in a row. To make crisp jalebis, add a little rice flour to refined flour. Only after you feel confident about making jalebis progress to making imarti at home.

The fact about simplicity

US based well known cookbook author Monica Bhide who was instrumental in getting my book HOW TO COOK INDIAN going has a very interesting blog:
She is contending for the 2011 best blog award and sends the link:
I have of course given my comment: “Monica, this is bang on. According to me every thing great in this world is just pure and simple. And it is not restricted only to food; be it music, be it art, be it writing, be it life, simpler the better. For trained professionals it is often hard to unlearn complexities and see dishes from a simple perspective. When I started teaching recipes and cooking through my television show, Khana Khazana, I was often lambasted and criticized by my fellow chefs for showing very simple dishes on TV. Today with the longest running food show in this part of the world, my stand is vindicated. I think you have been able to present simplicity in your food and recipes with such ease, comfort and elan that would make chefs with complex recipes go green (with envy)! Thank God you have not spent years learning complex dishes!”
Now getting ready for the Sanjeev Kapoor’s Kitchen shooting that will go on for more than a week. My choices are simple and if at all the recipe reads a little complex, when you see it on the programme, it will look simple!
A taste of my latest favourites :

Till I write again
Sanjeev Kapoor

Top 5 Indian desserts

It’s time for confessions. Confessions about the love for confections! For a true Indian palate will vouch for the passion for mithais. For us in India, happiness means sweets, mithais or mishthan, call what you may! We love all sweetmeats and love them very sweet. Somebody from a western country might just comment that they are too sweet because their palate just cannot take it. It is the occasion and the celebration that necessitates the distribution of sweets for they are the symbol of spreading sweetness and happiness.

Mithais seem to have won the taste buds the world over and Indian sweets have extremely high visibility these days. Be it the fudge like dry sweetmeat barfi and peda, or the syrupy Gulab Jamun and rosogulla that require a bowl and a spoon, the sticky deep fried balushahi and gujiya, the fragrant hot halwa and jalebi, round besan laddoo and motichoor laddoo, creamy milk puddings like rice kheer or seviyan and then shahi tukre. A description of Indian sweetmeats requires reams of paper, a gourmet to relish them and the constitution to digest them. A quicker version of kheer is the ever popular phirni and a variety like Badam Pista Phirni, Rasgulla Phirni, Kesari Phirni make interesting bowlful of dessert at parties.

Indian sweetmeats and sweet makers are a world unto themselves, a world that draws anyone who has a very sweet tooth into a series of temptations! Indian sweetmeats are not only sweet, but also rich. If you do have a good supplier of fresh mithai like the local halwai then your life is made because making the sweets themselves can be a sticky (rocky) road to success. What one needs is the inclination to try it out the very first time and then remove all fear of failure. Generally, sweet making is a family business handed down from one generation to the next. Halwais are understandably reluctant to pass on their recipes and the tricks that make them work, so finding the perfect recipe requires luck and persistence. Then, as in all branches of confectionery making, it requires not only the ability to follow a recipe, but practice and observation of how the mixture behaves at every stage of preparation so that the end result is worth the time and effort invested.

Some traditional desserts that will never go out of fashion are given here for you: Gajar Halwa, Rasmalai, Kesari Kulfi!

Good time at FoodFood bash!

As another Monday arrives so does the list of work to be done this week! Beginning shoot for my show on FoodFood in two days’ time. Got to put down my list of recipes that I would like to cook.
Our party, hosted by Sandeep Goyal and myself, at Bungalow 9, Bandra on Friday went off really very well. We both had made it a point to invite all our guests personally and it was so wonderful to see friends and their families grace the occasion. I would like to use this space to thank each and everyone who took the time off to come to the party. It was a pleasure being with all of you. Giving you pictures in these elinks:
Food was the highlight, so to say, and I am sure everyone enjoyed themselves. We had a tremendous variety but giving just a glimpse here: Dimsums from a live counter, Sofiyani Paneer for veg starters, Lava Grilled Chicken and Crab Roll for non vegetarians. Salads were a great hit: Baby Potatoes in Curried Mayo and Prunes and Olives in Orange and Walnut Dressing were much appreciated. Italian Breads and Honey Wheat Mini Loaves graced the table. Whole range of pizzas and pastas were prepared live. I mixed the main courses, lots of Oriental and Indian: Vietnamese Chicken, Awadhi Chicken, Thai Green Curry, Paneer Pasanda and the quintessential Kali Dal. These had the supporting baskets of different rotis – all prepared live. The desserts were the star attraction and these were classics like Tiramisu and Phirni and new offerings like Red Wine Kulfi, Blueberry and Gin Cheesecake, Lime and Lychee Crème and Chocolate Madagascar Ice cream.
We had a small parting gift for all our guests: a FoodFood apron, hand gloves and a copy of my new book 100 Favorite Recipes. That they were thrilled was evident by the effusive thanks we got!
After such a huge meal at the party, spent the weekend eating light foods only! Some of my weekend specialties.


Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Konkan food – a blend of three cuisines

Konkan cuisine is an interesting amalgamation of all food traditional: be it from Malvan, Goa or Mangalore. In keeping with the distinctive type of cuisine in each of these areas there is a plethora of flavors that can be played around with. Each household has its own variation of the same recipe hence the repertoire increases.
Malvan food is known for its fish preparations. What distinguishes Malvani fish curries is not just the variety of gravies but also the variety of recipes for the same kind of fish made by a dazzling permutation and combination of spices and ingredients and dry-to-wet cooking styles. For a good recipe read Malwani Fish Curry.

Goans traditionally use a lot of vinegar or toddy in their spicy dishes. Toddy is locally brewed palm vinegar. Garlic is another favourite. Goans believe in preparing everything freshly from raw ingredients, they believe it tastes much better that way. While that may be debated in some circles, one cannot dispute the outcome is usually mouth watering! Goans make the best crab preparations. Being a former Portuguese colony, Goan cuisine encompasses Portuguese dishes but is also characterized by strong flavors and tropical notes such as lots of coconut. It also makes exuberant use of many new ingredients such as cashewnuts that first entered India through the port of Goa. The long period of Portuguese rule, besides that of the Muslim and Hindu kingdoms, has left an indelible influence on the original style of Goan cooking and this has led to an exotic mix of truly tasty and spicy cuisine.
Mangalorean cooking is unique in the way the spices are used to enhance the taste and the flavor. When fresh coconut, chillies and various combinations of spices are ground the result can be described with only one word – culinary magic! The people of this region are fond of variety and therefore have perfected the art of improvising and coming out with a veritable repertoire of perfectly cooked food.
Another community that has now adopted Karnataka is the Saraswat Brahmins. Having coursed through various lands the Saraswats have a unique cuisine. They make use of practically every vegetable so much so that even the skins and seeds of many vegetables that most others discard, are used effectively in different chutneys. Even fresh fruits like mangoes and jackfruit are used in a variety of dishes both sweet and savoury. Among their vast repertoire Batata Humman and Mango Sasam have to be mentioned.

Celebrations today

It’s a nice exciting day lying ahead. Birthdays are like that only – as Alyona and Chef Harpal celebrate their birthdays- and there is an air of bonhomie in the office. Later in the evening we are throwing a party to celebrate the success of Foodfood. Coming to that, the success of Foodfood, there was an interview in The Guardian UK. I am giving the link here in case you want to review it.
I take a few lines from the interview here: of 120 million households with cable or satellite in India, more than half are Hindi speaking (rather than English speaking), and Foodfood channel is being watched by around 12 percent – around 8 million homes.
It is only when you evaluate the data and see results for yourself that you realize where you stand. It is easy in life to assume things and then take spin offs on that but when facts stare at you from paper it is time to shape up. I have never feared evaluations and firmly believe good ones are bound to turn up just as the disappointing ones. The first we celebrate and from the other take heart, tighten up the belts and work at improving the figures.
In any case, food and all things about it bring happiness and nothing else. When we face the downs, remember the exorbitant onion prices of this Jan, we create food for the family without them and when we celebrate it is also about food and good company! Sharing some Foodfood recipes here.


Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Konkan cuisine – aromas from the coastal line

India is a country of diverse cuisines that intermingle ever so harmoniously that if one traverses from the northern tip to the southern, from eastern tip to the western, one comes across a plethora of delectable delicacies that have their similarities and yet are pleasantly different. The food of the west coast of India – the Konkan region – is a top favourite. In recent times, Konkan cuisine has become one of the most popular cuisines well showcased by a number of speciality restaurants that draw appreciative crowds. Though Konkan food is largely synonymous with fish, the variety of vegetarian dishes is equally impressive. Tender Coconut and Cashew Sukke has no competitor!
The Konkan area boasts of the spiciest and most delicious recipes of fish and other seafood. Konkani, the language spoken by the locals of this region, has different dialects with varied accents that make this belt unique. Konkan cuisine is as diverse as spoken Konkani. As you traverse the region you will sense the difference not only in the taste of the dishes but also in their names. Like for example a dish that may be called ‘sukha’ in the Malvan region will be called ‘sukke’ in Mangalore. But both mean a semi dry dish. Chana and Jackfruit Sukka has interesting texture.
The unique tastes of kokum and triphal make the cuisine of this region distinct from the others. As is the case the world over, locally grown crops play a key part in giving the cuisine its identity. Besides kokum and triphal, coconut too is a major crop and therefore is used generously. Kokum is a sweet-sour fruit whose dried skin is used for adding a gentle sourness to Konkani curries. One of the popular beverages that use kokum to good advantage is the Solkadhi. Triphal, on the other hand is used extensively in Goan, Malvani and Mangalorean cooking. When added to fish gravies and pulses, it enhances the flavour of the dish. It can be used both fresh and dried.
A vast variety of red chillies are available in the area with varying degrees of spiciness and colour. Though coconut is abundant in the Konkan, it is groundnut oil that is largely used as a cooking medium. In Karnataka, however, coconut oil is also used to add a special flavour to certain dishes. Of course one has to cultivate a taste to enjoy the flavour of coconut oil. Some like it but if you don’t you can always give it a miss and use groundnut oil instead.