PART 1 – MIRCHI MANIA
It all started with our curiosity to experience new tastes and cuisine. To explore new dishes and capture tastes of regional dishes. That was the intention when we set out to track down popular eateries in Hubli. But exciting events do not usually happen in smaller towns, or so they say. With the sight of roads busy with people going on about their daily shopping or the large crowd sampling the local delicacies, this assumption was far from true. Intriguing and stimulating things do happen everywhere, in their own way and their own pace.
The sight of crowd beckoned us to explore the area. We walked in the direction of crowd and aroma! Yes, the spicy and pungent aroma of something being deep fried drew us to that narrow lane. At the turn we asked a local to suggest a good place to gorge on local street food, girmit in particular, and he pointed in the direction of the aroma! And without a second thought we proceeded in that direction. There we encountered an eatery selling another much talked about street food of Hubli – ‘mirchi bajji’ and decided to give it a shot!
The alarm rings. And like any other day I curse it for doing its job so perfectly, without taking a day off! I look out the window and the world outside was already ahead of me in getting started for the day. It was a Sunday, a day to take a break and be filled with family, food and fun. That is when I remembered. The day was definitely going to be filled the 3 F`s! And I silently thanked the alarm for doing its job so well!
Why was it going to be one good day? Because it was going to be filled with all things good. And chocolate. And loads of sweet and sugar. It would be a treat to the eyes and palate to be immersed fully in all of the above. But then by the end of the day I realized that yet another feature would be the highlight of the day. An aspect that would make the day more meaningful, life more worthwhile. A small awakening to spread and share with others.
What was it that made the day different?
They say small towns are devoid of thrilling events. Like my native place. The place were I spent many a vacations in. Here the time stands still. The nights are dark and peaceful with the silence broken only by the fireflies. A blanket of calmness covers the whole town. It was a place we ran too whenever we craved to calm then frenzied mind. I am talking about my ancestors village. It is a village untouched by noise, pollution and all the characteristics of a modern town. It is a village of simple living, unity and hospitality. To me it is a prosperous. It is a place rich in humanity, love for neighbors, fresh air, cool breeze, plentiful of shade under the big trees. Flower blooms merrily The golden sunlight fills the entire village with warmth during the day and the with silvery light during the night. Sunrise and sunset are an everyday sight, something that is not visible in big cities.
Festivals are a time to attend poojas, meet the family and have good food. By good food I mean authentic, traditional recipes that have been handed down from many prior generations. Most of such dishes call for long and tedious processes. Yet, that does not stop many homes from preparing them all with great enthusiasm.
Consuming cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper, garlic during winter helps combat and overcome winter related ailments!
The land of spices and aromas always fascinated me. The natives of the place are considered as ‘master chefs’. The region is well known for its architecture and temples too. The 18th century mansions comprise a spacious rooms and courtyards. They are embellished with imported marble, crystals, exquisite mirrors and teak that give it a magnificent look. The temples were built as per vaastu shaastra and by Tamil dynasties like Cholas.
I can`t wait to visit the land of food paradise – Chettinad, a region of Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu! Traditional, this small community have been traders and bankers by profession. The natives of this plave are known as Chettiars. So much has been told about their mouthwatering and addictive cuisine. With vast varieties of spices that go into making their delicacies, it is no doubt that its ‘flavor‘ is spread far and wide. The rich spices give a magical spin on the dishes that make them so addictive. The cuisine is one of the spiciest in India. Popular dishes of the Chettinad region are kara kulambu (South Indian sambhar), paal paniyaram, vellai paniyaram, kuzhi paniyaram, kozhakattai, seeyam. Gravies and stir fries are generally had with rice or rice based dishes like dosa, appam, idiyappam, adai and idlis.
With all the popularity given to the cuisine, I was eager to taste their delicacies. But a visit to the place was no where close to sight. So I had to manage with the existing situation. Why not try one of their specialties on Prathi Ruchi kitchen? I did a bit of browsing to get familiar with the basic of the cuisine – the basic spices and techniques. Spices commonly used are marati moggu (dried flower pods), saunf (fennel), dagad phool (stone flower), cinnamon, cloves and of course red chillies. And lots and lots of chillies! Then there is black pepper. Chettinad cuisine is incomplete without pepper. Tamarind is what gives the sour element to most of their dishes. Lentils are used in plenty. Pickles in brine with fruits and vegetables are again a specialty of this region. The base for all their food is meals need to be healthy but economical at the same time.
Then I picked a dish which tempted me right from its name – Chettinad Urulai. Urulai is nothing but potatoes. Stir fried potatoes coated with aromatic spices. Serve them as a side with rice and sambhar or as a starter too. Either ways they taste finger licking good.
- 1/2 kg baby potatoes (aloo) OR 4 medium sized potatoes
- 3 tsp ghee
- 3 tsp oil
- 2-4 curry leaves
- 1 medium onion
- 1/2" 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp red chilli powder or 2 to 3 whole dry red chillies
- 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric (haldi) powder
- 1 tsp tamarind (imli) paste
- 1/2 tsp peppercorns
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp fennel (saunf) seeds
- 4 curry leaves
- fried curry leaves and green chillies
- lime wedges
- Peel and cube potatoes. If using baby potatoes, peel and halve them. Prick with fork. Immerse them in water to avoid discolouration. Drain before adding the paste.
- Grind together ingredients under 'masala paste' to a thick paste, adding little water only if needed.
- In a mixing bowl put the masala paste, potatoes (drained), 1 tsp oil. Mix and let marinate for 1 to 2 hours or even overnight.
- In a pressure pan put the marinated potato mixture, little water (about 1/4 cup). Pressure cook upto 2 whistles or till cooked but still firm.
- In a wide pan put ghee, curry leaves, contents of the cooker. Cook over low flame till evenly roasted. In between shake pan gently to stir but not to break the potatoes.
- Serve as a side dish with rice meals or as a starter.
- You can substitute tamarind with 2 tbsp curd (slightly sour).
- If you do not have much time to marinate, you can marinate for upto 15 mins too.
- Adjust chilli powder/ dry red chilli as per spice level desired.
It was time for yet another journey into the wonderful world of refined french cooking. Having touched upon the basics of this cuisine the first time round, the learners were all the more eager to explore more of this elegant cuisine.
Chef Name : Monsieur Lucas
Venue : Alliance Francais, Mangalore
Co-ordinator : Larkins D`souza
The menu for the day included a French classic dish – Gratin Dauphinois.
Think Italy and you are your mind is instantly flooded with images of well dressed Italians, the Collosseum, the gondola and of course great food! Pastas and pizzas topped with layers of melting cheese, fresh out of the oven are a sheer delight to indulge in!
What are the reasons that make Italian cuisine so popular and acceptable worldwide? The liberal use of olive oil?; the freshly plucked tomatoes?; the aromatic herbs used in cooking?. Probably all of them and many more reasons make up the highly addictive Italian cuisine!
“Light, refined, learned and noble, harmonious and orderly, clear and logical, the cooking of France is, in some strange manner, intimately linked to the genius of her greatest men. “
~ Rouff Marcel, French journalist and writer
Describe French cuisine in two words and ‘elegant‘ and ‘refined‘ stand out. The people of France possess tremendous passion for food. Simplicity in the amount of ingredients used and yet a complexity in flavors, textures and techniques is what has made French cuisine to be considered one of the best in the world!
The measurements, seasonings, ingredients are often precise and do not welcome much deviations. The same characteristic of preciseness is seen in execution in other areas as well. The people of France share the same appreciation, respect they have for food with art, literature, architecture and theatre.
And it was indeed a pleasure to having got a chance to learn a French dish taught by a Frenchman! The dish was Ratatouille Nicoise – cooked in South of France style. The main ingredient here is the aubergines or the eggplant that are diced and sauteed and then simmered with onions, bell peppers, zucchini and loads of tomatoes!
What is a Ratatouille Nicoise?
Ratatouille Nicoise is a French Provencal stewed vegetables originating from Nice. It is usually served as a side dish but can make a meal of its own along with rice or pasta.