Sunday, September 25, 2011

Achija's Pav Bhaji

Somehow the pav bhaji at home never quite tastes the same as the street variety. This is my attempt at getting as close to the street food variety (especially the one at Achija's at Ghatkopar) which one of my friends thinks is the 'best food in the world'. 

One of the big follies at home is the overload of all types of veggies. While this might be healthier, it is not what is sold on the streets. No carrots, no cauliflower. Please stick to the veggies in the recipe. The other secret to getting the street side flavor is heeng and Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves). Have fun with this ... 


1 medium green bell pepper
3 medium potatoes boiled
2.5 medium tomatoes chopped
1 cup peas (can be frozen) boiled and mashed
5 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 tsp red pepper powder
1 tsp turmeric
6 tsp Pav bhaji masala (any brand works fine - I tend to be partial to K-Pra)
1 small onion chopped
2 small lemons
1 cup chopped coriander
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp heeng (asetofoeida) 
4 tsp kasuri methi 
Lots of butter :)


1) In a heated flat pan add diced bell pepper and saute for 1-2 minutes without any oil. Add some water to  soften the peppers and continue moving around in the pan.

2) Add the tomatoes, potatoes, peas to the mixture and sufficient water to mash the vegetables together and make a uniform paste. Continue doing this for 4-5 minutes, periodically adding small amounts of water to avoid the mixture drying up.

3) Add half the ginger garlic paste along with the red pepper powder and turmeric and continue mashing and adding water as needed (2-3 minutes)

4) Add a large dollop of butter, 4 teaspoons of the pav bhaji masala, salt to taste and half of the chopped coriander and continue mashing and mixing together, adding water as necessary. This is where the flavors all start to mingle together. Make sure to continue mashing at this point for 10-12 minutes, periodically adding water, till the oil from the butter starts to separate out.

5) Create a small opening in the pan and add 2 big dollops of butter. Add the chopped onion and saute for 1-2 minutes without letting it mix with the rest of the bhaji.

6) Add the remaining pav bhaji masala, the heeng, kasuri methi, coriander and the juice of 2 lemons and continue mashing/mixing together (4-5 minutes). 

7) Do a quick taste test to adjust the salt/lemon juice/red pepper powder etc. per your taste. Make sure you keep adding water so as to keep the consistency of a thin pulp. 

8) Pav bhaji is done. Serve with a thin slab of butter, coriander and chopped onions ... and not to mention - bread :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rishi's signature Chicken

I call this my signature dish ... started off with the basic chicken curry and tinkered around to make it better. Also, even though my mom will kill me, I have tried to combine different aspects of CKP, Malvani etc. cooking styles in this dish, which I personally believe add to the overall taste profile.

The one major ingredient of this dish that is different from most CKP cooking is the Malvani Masala. It gives a very distinctive taste to the curry. You can generally buy Malvani Masala in grocery stores. A company called K-Pra (similar to Everest, MDH etc.) sells this masala. Alternately any 'assal Marathi dukaan' will definitely sell this. Ask Renuka Vahini to find some for you - I am sure she'll know where to go look. Any shop that sells kokum aagal will almost certainly have Malvani Masala.


Chicken pieces - 800g - 1 kg
Vaatan - 2 tablespoons
Malvani Masala - 4 heaped teaspoons
Garam Masala - 1/4 heaped teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Turmeric - 1/8 teaspoon
Water of one large baby coconut (Shahaala)
Freshly grated coconut - 1 large vaati
Onions - 3 large
Chopped coriander - 1/2 cup


1) Clean the chicken pieces, liberally apply vaatan and let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes

2) Take 2 of the onions, and slice them vertically (no need to be too precise). In a large flat pan, add a little oil (3 teaspoons), and dry roast the onions thoroughly (almost till they start getting a little burnt). This is similar to when we dry roast onions for making crabs.

3) Once the onions start turning a dark brown, add the freshly grated coconut to the pan, and continue roasting till the coconut starts getting brown as well. Keep on constantly moving the items in the pan to prevent any 'karapne'.

4) Let the dry roasted onions+coconut mixture cool, and then blend it in a mixer with a little water to get a thick brown paste - this is the typical Maharashtrian 'garam vaatan' which is the base of almost any non-fish meat dish.

5) Chop the remaining onion finely

6) In a large utensil, heat 2 tablespoons of oil

7) Once the oil is heated, add the chopped onion and saute till it turns golden brown

8) Add Malvani Masala, Garam Masala, Turmeric and about 1 teaspoon of salt and saute the onions a little more (1-2 minutes)

9) Add the marinated chicken pieces and saute for 1-2 minutes

10) Add the water of one entire shahaala, cover the utensil with a lid and let it cook for 7-8 minutes on a medium flame

11) Add the garam vaatan (roughly 4-5 heaped tablespoons of it), and a little water (1/2 cup). Cover and cook for another 5-6 minutes

12) Check the doneness of the chicken pieces, and the salt level. Add more salt if needed.

13) Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon on Malvani Masala into the curry and stir it in. You should have a thick-ish curry at this point.

14) Add the chopped coriander, turn off the flame, cover with a lid.

Enjoy this with 'kombdi vade' ... ask vahini if she knows how to make kombdi vade. If not, chapati and jeera rice.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kolambiche Kalvan (Prawn Curry) CKP style

Refer to the following for my definition of a teaspoon :)

Ingredients (For 2 people for 1 meal with roti and rice)

1 cup shelled prawns (1 cup after shelling, not before, cup is more like mothi vaati) Note : If possible, do not buy the big giant prawns - not as tasty. Also, do not buy the pink prawns - go for the black ones if available.
Salt - to taste
3/4 teaspoon red chilli powder (if you do not want it to be 'jhanjhanit', then use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder (dhana pood)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Tamarind - a ball as big as a medium sized lemon lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon Vaatan
3/4 vaati coconut milk (not too thick, of the consistency that we have in kokum kadhi)
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 potato peeled, and chopped into 1/8ths :)
2 green chillies
3 garlic petals peeled
1/2 cup chopped coriander


1) Seperate the turmeric into two halves - soak one half in very little water (3-4 tablespoons of water) and soak the remaining in 2 1/4 vaatis of water. Let both sit in the water for a while. After the tamarind softens, mash the tamarind in both the waters with your hand, creating a fine pulp. Discard any seeds. At this point, do not discard any of the soft solidy parts of the tamarind let them stay in their respective waters.

2) Take the cleaned shrimp in a plate or bowl - add salt, red chilli powder, turmeric, dhana pood, vaatan and apply evenly to the shrimp

3) Take the tamarind mixture with the little water, and squeeze the thick tamarind pulp over the above mixture (about 2 tablespoons of thick pulp). Rub into the prawns.

4) Let the prawns marinate in the above masala for 30 minutes (you can taste the masala to check for salt level etc. You are looking for a predominantly aambat-tikhat taste)

5) In a vessel, add some oil and let it heat on a medium flame

6) Smash the garlic petals, slit the chillies lengthwise and add to the heated oil

7) Saute for 10-15 seconds, then add the chopped onions and saute till the onions become light golden brown. At this point add the marinated prawns along with all extra dripping marinade - make sure to get as much of the marinade in along with the prawns as you can.

8) Gently saute the prawns in the oil for 1 1/2 minute till they start changing color - hyala CKP loka savtaalne mhantat bara ka!

9) Add the peeled potatoes to the mixture and stir for a minute longer

10) Take the other tamarind water - which should really not be too strong - just a hint of ambatpana to the water, remove any tamarind solids from it, and add the water to the cooking prawn mixture. You might have to add a little more water - make sure that all the prawns and potatoes and covered. This is a proper rassa dish - not a dry gravy, so do not skimp on the water.

11) Cover the pot with a lid and let the prawns cook for 5-7 minutes

12) Remove the lid and add the coconut milk to the prawns. Mix well, cover and cook again on a low flame for 7-8 minutes.

13) At this point add salt to the curry. Start with less and then increase more - the tamarind will already have given some ambatpana, plus there was salt in the marinade. You might also want to adjust quantities of water / coconut milk depending on how much gravy you want.

14) Let the curry cook for 3-4 more minutes after adding the salt. Check on the potatoes to make sure that they are cooked.

15) Once the potatoes are cooked, add the chopped coriander to the curry, shut off the flame, and cover with a lid.

Enjoy with chapati and bhaat! Kolmabiche kalvan is one of those rare kalvans in CKP cooking that actually uses onions. The final result should reflect an aambat-tikhat taste. Experiment subsequent times with more or less tamarind, more or less tikhat etc. per your taste.

Basics of CKP cooking - 2

Two other things besides Vaatan, that are a staple of CKP cooking are - tamarind (chincha) and coconut milk (naralache doodh).
Preferably the coconut milk should be fresh, and homemade ... but the canned variety can be used as a last minute substitute. If using canned cocnout milk, then -
1) make sure that it is not sweetened
2) The consistency that you want to achieve for the coconut milk is more on the watery side, not the thick pulpy, creamy kind that you usually find in the cans. If using canned variety, then as a general guideline, add 3/4 cup of water to one cup of milk and dilute it before using.
Making coconut milk at home is best -
1) Grate fresh coconut
2) Blend the coconut + water together in the blender (you'll have to judge the quantity of water - general guidance is 2:1 ratio of water to coconut). Blend for a nice long time.
3) Pass the mixture through a seive to separate the chotha from the milk.
4) Depending on how much juice is left in the chotha, it can be blended a second time with some more water for additional milk. However add lesser water (1:1) when using chotha instead of fresh coconut.
5) Try out the above on a small batch first to judge the overall richness, thickness and taste of the coconut milk, and accordingly adjust your water quantity up or down. Each coconut is different - some are juicier than others, some oilier than others. Based on each of these the exact amount of water you add will be different each time. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The basics of CKP cooking - 1

A self-respecting CKP khavaiyya considers it a shame to not have certain basic cooking material in his or her house. These are things that cannot be tolerated if they are store bought. My mom would probably commit suicide if someone caught her buying some of these 'ready made'. These are the backbone of a majority of CKP dishes, so before we start with the actual dishes, let us learn the basics. 

The key to most CKP cooking is their fish, and at times meat dishes. No non-vegetarian food can be cooked without the pungent and aromatic ginger-garlic paste (which we call vaatan). Vaatan is one of those things that you HAVE to have in your home. Each CKP home has a slightly different version of vaatan based on the proportion of the different components that go into it ... some households add or delete some of the components. But each household also has a legendary story about the vaatan made by someone in their family - arre amchya aaji cha vaatan mhanje kaay! Nusta dagda la cholala tari chav yeil etc. etc. 

Here is my aaji's version of vaatan. I remember a time in Dadar when vaatan would only be made 'to order' as needed for the dish being cooked. But, in these times of modern conveniences, it helps to prepare a large enough batch of vaatan and store it in the fridge. It has a ridiculously long expiry date ... so no major worries about it going bad (other than changing color a bit over time). Also, if you are going to be a true CKP cook, then you never have to worry about your vaatan lasting too long. You'll always face the opposite problem - Ravivari banavlela vaatan Shukravar paryanta sampun jaata. But in case that does not happen, you can safely refrigerate it for 3-4 months.

Okay ... so here goes the vaatan recipe -


Peeled garlic petals - 3 handfuls - or as my mom says teen bachka bhar muthi bharun
Peeled ginger - A piece as long as your pinky finger and an inch wide 
Green chillies - 10-12
Coriander - A lot! (30 full strands of coriander - stalk and all)

There is no prep other than peeling the individual garlic petals, and peeling the ginger. 

The preparation is pretty basic - put all ingredients into a mixer/blender and blend to a fine paste. Add a little water (enough to grind everything together). No need to make this TOO thick.  You should get a nice dark green colored paste that has a pretty pungent fragrance to it. That's it. Store it in the container, put it into the fridge and use as needed. The color might turn brownish over time, but don't worry. 

A cooking blog?

Never ever in a million years! There are way too many NRI housewives with way too much time on their hands while their husbands are away at work ... Let them rule the domain of culinary blogging? Why me?
Well ... its for my friend B ... who insists that he wants to learn CKP cooking. And especially now that he has the additional time on his hands to experiment, I have decided to help him out. I'll start out with the CKP stuff, but I'm sure I'll also venture into other recipes like Kerala meen curry better than Ninn's mom, and Paav Bhaji that is better than Achija's. Oh well ... one can hope!