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.

10 top Diwali recipes and serving ideas

What could be more wonderful than getting our hands on good quality mithais for Diwali at reasonable prices! Well, the going is tough with some mithais touching more than 500 Rs a kilo! So what could be best as gifting ideas for friends and relatives? Yes, you guessed correctly: make your sweets at home. Two things are ensured….they will be hygienic and of good quality because you are buying the best of the raw ingredients. And the price? They are priceless because of the love that goes into them as you enjoy your cooking and the appreciation that you will win from your friends and relatives.
So what is best for homemade Diwali sweets that can be boxed? has a plethora of sweets and you only have to choose what takes your fancy. You could gift them in nice food grade plastic boxes decorated with a little glitter. Suggestions that are likely to come your way are of: Anjeer and date burfi, badami besan ke laddoo, balushahi, boondi laddoo, choco coconut laddoos, chocolate and nut karanjis, dry fruit and khajur laddoo, gajar pista burfi, kaju pista roll, pineapple burfi, two coloured coconut barfi…
If you are the adventurous sort try out some different Diwali recipes at home. Here goes:
Like covering gulab jamuns with boondi. Serve them in halves, garnished with pistachio flakes.
A bread pudding with peas puree. It is different and tasty.
Chocolate samosa that will evoke a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. Simply fold some grated chocolate in a samosa patti and deep fry. Serve immediately.
Santra basundi with oranges giving it a wonderful tang.
Those who look forward to salty and savory crunchies….there is something in store for you too!!
Coming up next: Indian snack recipes –Diwali ideas

Indian festive recipes – Get set for Diwali recipes

This Diwali we foresee some reckless indulgence. For those who have the quintessential sweet tooth, it is time to revel! The sweet shops will have feverish sales pitches, and mithais will sell like the proverbial hot cakes, the pricing (though exorbitant) not deterring anyone! It is going to be one huge enthusiastic round of gifting and receiving mounds of laddoos, pedas and kaju katlis. The trend of chocolates coming upfront will continue as also the usual fancily packaged boxes of dry fruits (‘the-more-packaging-less-nuts’ kind of box).
For those of you who want to provide home made goodies to all your friends and relatives, we would strongly suggest be very wary of the raw ingredients. As far as possible, use homemade ghee or ghee bought from a very reliable source. The quality of ghee can make or mar the sweetmeat. Also the quality of maida and besan. Buy fresh and sieve before use. Sugar – it is bound to have some dirt factor – unless you plan to go in for the more pricey qualities.
For your choice of Diwali recipes, you can click on and in a fortnght’s time, there will be whole lot of them for you to enjoy.
Gujiyas or karanjis can be made some two-three days before the festival. Keep them in airtight tins. As also mohan thaal and besan laddoos. Boondi laddoos should be made just a day early and consumed/distributed as fast as they can be. All khoya-based barfis should be refrigerated or consumed on priority. Those who wish can make jalebis and gulab jamuns at home and serve them hot. All packs of sweetmeats that come along as gifts should be unwrapped and inspected immediately for if they contain some easily perishable Bengali sweets and malai barfi they are best consumed the same day or refrigerated till the following morning.
There is a great influx of kaju katli based mithais. The base is excellent for shaping into miniature watermelons, custard apples, corn-on-the-cob, a kalash and what have you! These look very attractive. Savouries like namkeen shakkarpare, methi mathri, cholafalli and chiwda are other favourites that will be highly visible during the festive season. All these Diwali recipes and more await.
Coming up: Ten top Diwali recipes and serving ideas
Indian traditional recipes – some Punjabi greats
At the thought of Punjab one can picture the swaying wheat fields, the bhangra dancing farmers, the truck drivers singing merrily into the night while driving on the highways, the valiant soldiers of the Sikh and Punjab regiment and last but certainly not the least the delicious food whether it is sarson da saag and makai di roti or tandoori murg.
Punjabi food on the whole is full of rustic flavours. There is a profusion of dairy products like malai, paneer and dahi. Punjabi dals are a speciality too made of whole pulses like black gram, green gram and Bengal gram. They are cooked on a slow fire, often simmered for hours till they turn creamy and then flavoured with spices and rounded off with malai for that rich finish. The most famous vegetarian preparation of Punjab is, perhaps, sarson da saag accompanied with makki di roti. This is one of the most popular Indian traditional recipe from the Punjabi repertoire. One could have a tough time choosing between dahi bhalle, palak paneer, matar paneer, ma ki daal, rajma rasmissa, a variety of paranthas – stuffed or plain…alu parantha served with either aam ka achaar or butter is a typical, wholesome Punjabi breakfast. Breakfast on Sundays could probably mean chole-bhature and teatime could be samosas, paneer pakoras, tikkis, mathries…the list seems endless. Though the staple food is wheat, rice is also eaten but mostly on festive or special occasions. Rice is usually eaten as a pulao. Winter time is also the time to have sweet dishes like gajrela (gajar halwa), gulab jamun, phirnis like Strawberry Phirni, jalebis and pinni.
To say that tandoori chicken and murg makhani (butter chicken) have made Indian cuisine globally acceptable would perhaps be repetitive but certainly not refutable. Fresh water fish is available in plenty. Among the fish dishes fish amritsari and peshawari machli are very popular. Among the lamb preparations palak gosht, Patiala mutton and achari gosht come to mind. Another Indian traditional recipe that is world famous is the afore mentioned tandoori chicken. It is a dish whosoever tastes, keeps asking for more! It is cooked in a tandoor, which is an earthen oven fired with charcoal. Also known as Sanjha Choolha meaning common cooking place it tends to bind the people together. Tandoor cooking is one of the oldest ways of cooking food and can be traced back to the nomadic tribes of the North West Frontier who used to cook their food, which was mostly meat, in holes dug in the ground and fired with charcoal and dry cow-dung.

Sweet confessions

It’s time for mithai and then some more mithais. With Rakshabandhan gone, it will be time for Ganpati next month, and soon Dassera, Diwali, Christmas….who wouldn’t want some new Indian festive recipes then!

For us in India, happiness means sweets, mithais or mishthan call what you may! Mithais seem to have won the taste buds the world over and gourmet Indian food and Indian sweets have extremely high visibility these days. Be it the fudge like dry sweetmeat barfis and pedas, or the syrupy gulab jamuns and rosogullas that require a bowl and a spoon, the sticky deep fried balushahis and gujiyas, the fragrant hot halwas and jalebis, round besan laddoos and motichoor laddoos, creamy milk puddings like rice kheer or seviyan and then shahi tukre.

All the sweets that we eat with so much relish today seem to have their roots in the past. Today the sweets are almost the same only the names have changed. There are commonly known sweets that were prepared then as they are now like ghevar, jalebi, boondi laddoos, churma laddoos etc. Ghevar, the delicious, juicy sweet made of refined flour, sugar and ghee has been mentioned in the Mahabharata as ghrita pur. Now Rajasthan is the best place to taste a good ghevar. Would you believe it if I told you that jalebis were known as kundalika which as a sweet delicacy was served specially during marriage feasts. Jalebis go back to 4th and 2nd centuries BC. In ancient classical literature boondi laddoos were named bindumodak laddoos. Churma laddos erstwhile dahitra laddoos had almonds, pistachios, raisins, dry dates, dry coconut and peppercorns. Let us talk about the half moons known as karanjis in Maharashtra and as gujiyas otherwise. Called sanyavas in ancient times it is believed that karanjis were prepared in a special manner with ingredients having medicinal values like cardamoms, aniseeds, dry coriander, cinnamon etc. These sanyavas were administered as medicinal cure for those who suffered from cough and cold. Suji halwa was mohan bhog. In ancient times the custom of serving it first thing in the morning was meant for lubricating the entire system thereby making the body strong and improving the complexion too. Meethe chawal, sakharbhaat in Maharasthra, had the old name of sharkara bhakta.

It is a fact that our forefathers with their expert knowledge of Indian cookery prepared delicious sweets that must have been the gourmet’s delight. We do seek to probe deeper into our ancient literature to seek information and then go on to create many more recipes with a definite change in taste. For then, there is this thing called evolution: of recipes, of palates and where the twain meet, it is the latest trend.

Fig and Apricot Sandesh
Instant Gulab Jamun

Till I write again
Sanjeev Kapoor.