Stuff it

‘Atithi devo bhava’ we Indians are taught this phrase and its meaning since our childhood. We all follow this custom since then. What happens when guests come over to your house, unannounced! After the customary pleasantries you find yourself rushing into the kitchen trying to whip up something to serve the guests. After all we don’t serve just chaiand biscuits anymore. All of us want to make something special for guests and not the normal routine khana and mingle with the guests at the same time. One thing I have noticed is that a dish which involves a stuffing of any sort automatically becomes special, be it a Bharwan Bhindi or a lavish stuffed chicken. Stuffing is basically filling a cavity in a food item with other edible ingredients. Stuffed dishes offer us more scope for using different textures, colours and taste in one dish itself. Hence making it very interesting to prepare and eat. Dishes with stuffing can most certainly act as a complete meal if the right ingredients are used. Almost every cuisine in the world has a traditional stuffed dish – be it Italian Ravioli, Spanish Stuffed Chilli Peppers or our very own Indian stuffed kulcha’s and parantha’s or even samosas.

Preparing a stuffed dish need not be complicated. All you need is something with which you can create a cavity. Vegetables like bell peppers, Bhavnagari chillies, tomatoes, potatoes, brinjals, lady fingers and mushrooms; fruits like lychees, apples and dates as well as dishes like paranthas, kachoris, tikkis and omelets etc. make an excellent base for a stuffed dish. What do you use as a filling? Anything! There is no hard and fast rule about ingredients for a filling. Cheese, potatoes, vegetables, mince, sea food, dry fruits, nuts, paneer, eggs – it works. The dish can be baked, steamed, pan fried or deep fried. The good part about making a stuffed dish is that you can let your creative juices flow free.

Dishes produced by this method of cooking may seem fancy and look like the cook has toiled in the kitchen for hours to create it, but it is not the case. If you take care of a few basic things making a bharwan dish should be as simple as any other recipe. It is important that the cavity, into which the stuffing is put, should be correct. If it is too thin then the stuffing may ooze out of it and the resultant dish may end up looking shabby. If it is too thick or chunky the stuffing inside it may not cook well. It is also better if the filling is on the drier side. If the filling is to wet or is like a gravy then the entire dish may end up becoming kind of soggy. You should also ensure that the outer covering and the filling inside both complement each other in terms of taste, texture and visual appeal.

Since I went to Muscat this week, I thought I would share with you one of my stuffed recipes with Arab influences – Taboulleh Stuffed Tomatoes. Taboulleh is a classic Arab dish that is made using bulghur or broken wheat. This recipe of Taboulleh Stuffed Tomatoes is sort of a fusion dish.

Taboulleh Stuffed Tomatoes

I am sure all of you must have made some innovative dish using the stuffing method, hoping that you will share them with me, just like how I share my recipes with you. Yaad rahe – khana, khushi aur pyaar baatne se kabhi kisi ka bura nahin, sirf bhala hua hain!You must also try making these -I have added my own twists to it and this dish has collected many praises by everyone who has eaten it.  Blanched tomatoes are scooped and the cavity is stuffed with a mixture of bulghur, scooped out tomato pulp, radish, onions, parsley, salt, pepper and lemon juice. This dish is very easy to make, is tasty and is very visually appealing. This dish has it all – the crunch of the bulghur, slight pungency from the onions and radish, freshness from parsley and tomato and plenty of zing from the crushed pepper and lemon juice. Healthy and tasty is the combination that we are all looking out for in our recipes and this one has just that! It is low in fat and high in proteins and also keeps your stomach full for a long time. You can also add ingredients of your choice to the tabbouleh mixture, after all what is life without a little innovation. Hope you try this recipe in your home, it is easy to make, and you can make a batch, keep it in your fridge and bring it out just before eating. It’s an attractive dish and is made in individual portions so it is also ideal party food.

Baida Roti 
Stuffed Aloo Tikki
Stuffed Gulab Jamun

Keep cooking, stay happy and stay stuffed!

Sanjeev Kapoor

Cooking for Mom

Tucked up whole day in office today with a series of meetings, restaurant updates and some telephonic interviews.

Yesterday we had some special demonstrations for Wonderchef during the first part of the day.Finished and went home as we had special guests over for high tea! About thirty of Mom’s senior citizen friends came over (well it was a planned evening) as they wanted to have a chit chat with me! We had quite an interactive session with a lot of recipe swapping. I had decided the menu before hand with close consultation of my mother and we served the popular favourites like kulche chole, bhel puri, sev puri, khandvi, dahi bhalle and phirni. I admit that Alyona’s khandvi turns out better than mine and the dahi bhalle (with stuffing ) that my mother makes I cannot copy! So all my cooking prowess was put to test making the other items. One lady was quite enthusiastic about different flavours of phirni and we had a long discussion about that. She came up with the contention that if ice creams can be available in so many flavours then why not Indian desserts! So her ideas are of orange phirni, chocolate kheer ( I have made chocolate phirni, fruit kheer, chocolate shrikhand), gulab jamuns in strawberry juice….This does get one down to thinking!

As some Til Poli is coming off the tawa in the kitchen, in readiness for a perfected recipe for you, time for me to go check it out at lunch!

Till I write again.

Sanjeev Kapoor

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.