Saturday, 21 April 2018

Aloo Kheema

I rarely cook these days but I recently happened to come across this recipe. The photograph looked so amazing (and the recipe, too, made sense) that I decided to give up my sabbatical for a day and venture into the kitchen. I have added a few ingredients as I prefer kheema to be a tad robust but other than that this recipe belongs to my dear friend, Farida. 


1 kilo mutton mince (kheema), washed in a sieve
6 large onions, finely chopped
4 green chillies, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
200 ml tomato puree (1 small tetra pack)
3 tomatoes, liquefied in a mixer (or grated – skin discarded)
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
3 teaspoons red chilli powder (I used MDH Deghi Mirch powder)
2 teaspoons red chilli/cumin/garlic paste (I used Aatash brand)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons coriander-cumin powder
1 teaspoon Parsi Sambhar masala (optional)
6 medium sized potatoes cubed
2 cardamoms
1 inch piece cinnamon
8 black peppercorn
Salt to taste
Oil, use sparingly or liberally (I, of course, used it liberally)
A handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped


  1. Heat oil in a cooker. Splutter the cumin seeds. 
  2. Add onions, cinnamon, cardamoms and peppercorns; fry till onions are golden brown. 
  3. Add ginger-garlic paste and red chilli/cumin/garlic paste. Sauté for a few seconds.

  4. Add powdered spices and sauté. Do not allow the spices to burn.

  5. Add the grated/ground tomatoes and the tomato puree and cook till the raw smell of tomatoes is no longer evident and oil separates.

  6. Add the mutton mince and cook until it uniformly comes together with the masala and the colour of the kheema/mince gets a tad darker.

  7. Add the cubed potatoes and cook for a minute. 
  8. Add salt and a glass of water. Close the lid of the cooker. 
  9. Cook for three whistles, lower flame and continue cooking for 2 minutes. 
  10. Allow the cooker to cool down. When cool, open the cooker check the water content and, if need be, simmer if you wish to reduce the water content.

  11. Check for seasoning and sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves. (I added coriander leaves while simmer the kheema to adjust the water content as mum doesn’t like raw coriander sprinkled on her food. Sigh!!) 
  12. Serve with ladi pau, brun pau or chapattis.

Chef’s Notes:
  1. The ingredients added by me that aren’t in the original recipe are, cumin seeds, green chillies, Coriander-cumin powder, Parsi Sambhar masala, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom and coriander leaves. 
  2. I have also increased the quantity of oil and chilli powder to suit my taste buds. I refuse to cook dishes like kheema in minimal oil. To me that is sacrilege. *evil grin* 
  3. Please do not let the dry spices burn when sautéing them. If need me add a wee bit of liquefied or grated tomato to help it along. 
  4. The water content added to the kheema may be adjusted depending on whether you wish to have the Aloo Kheema with rice or pau/chapattis. 
  5. In the original recipe the potatoes are cubed and fried. While I did use ample oil to cook the kheema, I decided to cook the potatoes with the kheema and refrained from frying them. Feel free to fry them and add them to the kheema while serving if you so wish. 
  6. Please do not tell me it Qeema or Keema. We Bawas (Parsi’s) say Kheema so Kheema it is. Deal with it! :P 
  7. You may share the direct blog-link of the recipe/s but do NOT publish my recipes and my photographs on any blog-site or website without my explicit consent, or attempt to pass off any recipe/s as your own. You will be held accountable for plagiarism. For this recipe, the credit for the base recipe goes to Farida Ankleshwaria.

Friday, 13 April 2018

A Stellar Gujarati Thali - Hotel Chandralok - Lonavala

I rarely write full reviews these days but when I encounter places that serves me a meal that warm the cockles of my Bawi heart, I cannot help but pen a full review. 

Sometime last year Priyus (Priyadarshini) dragged my big, fat ass all the way from Wanowrie to Chinchwad to eat Dal Battis at Baba Ramdev Dhaba. I'm not as big a fan of the stuff but I love trying out new places hence happily gave in. At the time I thought that was the furthest i had travelled, merely to eat a meal; a vegetarian meal at that (yes, I'm a hardcore carnivore). Little did i know at the time that I'd be travelling even further for yet another vegetarian meal.

A couple of days ago Priyus mention her visits to Lonavala. On both visits she ate a Gujarati thali at Hotel Chandralok (with excellent unlimited aam ras). Once told about this how could i resist. Plans were made and finally put into action this morning. We drove to Lonavala and back for this fabulous thali.

Beginning from a bunch of dishes scattered at 6 o'clock position and moving left to right the thali consisted of.. Batata Wada (superb), Patrel/Patra (no great shakes), Veg Sesame Toast (so darn good it would put good restaurants to shame) Bhindi (so, so, so good), Lobia (very good), Aloo Rassa (excellent), mixed veg (did not touch.. too vegetarian for my liking 🤪), sweet Gujarati Dal (yummm), spicy Dal (very nicely made but I'm always partial to sweet Gujarati dal toh ismein bechari spicy dal ka kya kasoor), sweet Gujarati Kadi (loveddddd it), Aam Ras (please, please don't ask me how many helpings i had, i'd be too bloody embarrassed to tell ya.. just know it was bloody STELLAR) and lastly the mixed fruit custard (nahiiiiiiiiiiii, except for mangoes and bananas mein koi bhi fruit ko haath aur muh nahi lagaungi). They also served us taak, papads, puris, phulkas, bhakri, rice and khichdee (drizzled with pure ghee.. sigh! ).

The price of each thali was 400 buckaroos. Effin' VFM! The service was superb too. Prompt, efficient and yet when we told them to slow down they did just that. I'm going to totally ignore the mediocre patrel/ patra and say.. All in all, this meal deserves a hearty 5 on 5 rating. Psssst... yes, though vegetarian, I'm definitely going back before the mango season ends. Give it a try even if you have to travel all the way from Pune. It's so worth the trip.

Address: Near Bus Stand & Post Office, Opposite Mumbai-Pune National Highway, Lonavala, Pune
Tel: 02114 272294 / 02114 273939

Hotel Chandralok Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Sagan Nu Patru - Parsi Food Festival – Jamva Chalo Ji!

As much as I love trying out new cuisines, flavours and textures, at the end of the day, I’m a true blue Bawi. I love my Parsi Bhonu (Bhonu / food). 

When I was told that Conrad-Pune, under the confident new wings of Chef Pavan Kumar Chennum, was planning to host a Parsi food festival I was elated. Conrad flew in a very experienced chef from Abu Dhabi, Chef Anahita Gustaspi, to curate the menu and conduct the festival.

Parsi food for festive occasions is a sit-down affair, set up over long tables where the entire community eats together. ‘Sagan’ loosely translates to ‘celebration’ or ‘auspicious/festive occasion’; while Patru literally means leaf which in this case points to the banana leaf on which the food is served. This Parsi food festival hence is very aptly named, ‘Sagan Nu Patru’.

They began service with Saria and 2 varieties of Parsi achaar/pickle. The Gajar Mewa nu Achaar; a carrot-dry-fruit pickle & the Gour Keiri nu Achaar; a Jaggery-Raw Mango pickle. 

Saria are typical ‘Parsi poppadums’ and a typical meal for an auspicious occasion begins with this. While the Gajar Mewa nu Achaar borders on spicy, the Gaur Keiri nu Achaar is sweet and sour with a hint of spice. The pickles pair perfectly with Saria or just plain rotli /chapatti.

Our drink for the evening was a deliciously refreshing Rose Sherbet. The dry rose petals for this sherbet were brought down by Chef Anahita from Abu Dhabi and the sherbet is exactly as the one made at Irani/Parsi homes during Navroze; so different and so much better than the one sold commercially. I gave my glass of water a miss and polished off nearly 5 glasses of sherbet through the evening. 

They also served us the legendary Raspberry Soda from Ardeshir’s; a drink that is very nostalgic for Parsi’s as it is usually served at most festive dos.

The first platter served was Parsi Starters: Salli par Edu (potato straws cooked with an egg on top), Marghi Na Farcha (Chicken fried the Parsi way), Kheema na Cutless (Lamb cutlets, perfectly marinated and fried in typical Bawa style), Khara Papeta (potatoes cooked with cumin and onion) and Tarlela Motta Vangena (Large roundels of pan-seared eggplant).

The Margi na Farcha were perfectly spiced and the Khara Papeta felt so like ‘home’ that it warmed the cockles of my Bawi heart. As for the Salli par edu, it was just as it should be. I will say, though, I would have preferred a runny yolk on my salli. They, of course, had to play it safe because quite a many people grimace at the sight of a runny egg. I did give the Tarlela Motta Vangena a miss because the carnivore in me cannot handle eggplant, but the others at the table relished it so if you are a fan of the vegetable, you will love it. The starter that totally blew me away was the Kheema na Cutless. They were perfect in every sense of the word! The cutless/cutlets were supreme!

The platter of mains consisted of: Patra ni Macchi (Fish coated with coconut and mint chutney, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed), Saas Kolmi (a delicate flavoured sauce made from rice flour, garlic, green chilies, coriander leaves, vinegar and prawns). Salli Gosh (mutton cooked with ground spices to a fabulous succulent texture and served with crisp potato straws) was so yummm! They also served us Ras Papeta Murghi which is home-style gravy of chicken potatoes and peas and Masala ni Daar which is lentils cooked with vegetables with a typical spice mix that lends it a superb flavour. The Iranian influence in the meal shone through with Oush-e-brenj (a one pot rice, lentils and dill flavoured dish) and Berry Pulao (saffron and rose flavoured rice with a sprinkling of barberries).

Of the mains, every dish was cooked exactly the way it is supposed to be cooked. I could find absolutely no fault with regard to flavour in any of the other dishes. The green chutney for the Patra ni Macchi was delish and the fish was steamed to flaky perfection! 

The saas was very flavourful and the prawns were spot on in texture. The only thing I would prefer changed is for the sauce/saas to be a tad thicker. The aroma of the Berry Pulao hit our olfactory organs as soon as the bowl was brought to the table. The fragrance of saffron and rose and the intermittent hit of tangy barberries and the fabulous quality of rice used, made this a stellar dish! Each morsel was heavenly.

While I sat sipping on that cool Rose Sherbet (I could not get enough of it) they brought us our dessert platter. The desserts served were, Sagan Ni Sev ne Mithoo Dahi (Parsi style sevai which is usually served with creamy sweetened dahi), Daar ni Pori (Dal/lentil sweetened and thickened, sprinkled with dry fruits and ensconced in a flaky pastry) and the quintessential Lagan nu Custard.

The lagan nu Custard was superb in taste, absolutely no complaints there but ideally, after such a heavy meal I would have preferred the light variety of Lagan nu Custard (without the khoya, the smooth textured one). I’m not a big fan of dahi hence I gave that a miss but I made up for missing out on it by requesting a second helping of the Sagan ni Sev. Light and fragrant, it was sublime! The daar ni pori was also excellent. Making daar ni pori is an art. Chef Anahita truly needs to be applauded for this effort. Not many get it right and having had the ones made by my maternal Grandma, I do know which ones are ‘right’. This one was definitely done ‘right’!

This was one of the best Patra nu Bhonu (food served on a leaf) I’ve had in a long, long time. Anahita was very friendly and came around to discuss the food, ask for feedback and spin magic with her unique Bawi humour. I saw her do the same at other tables too. It feels wonderful when the chef comes over to interact with their patrons.

Most people have rarely eaten Parsi food, they’ve merely heard wonderful things about Parsi Bhonu. Those who have eaten ‘lagan/sagan nu bhonu’ at festive bawa dos crave it time and again. This is a chance for all of you to experience Parsi food at its every best. Take it from this Bawi, Parsi cuisine does not get any better than this!! The meal is priced at INR 1550 + taxes and all dishes are served in unlimited quantities; eat to your heart’s content. Am I going back to this festival for round two? You bet I am! :P Pssssttt! If I get the chance I just may do a round three. *greedy me* ;)

Jamva Chalo Ji! 

What: Sagan nu Patru (Parsi Food Festival) 
Where: Zeera, Conrad-Pune, Mangaldas Road, Pune
When: Until March 24, 2018.
Timings: 7 PM onwards (dinner only) BUT… The festival will be on for LUNCH and DINNER on Navroze (March 21, 2018)

For reservations call: 020 71966623
Videos... Watch!!

Some more photographs from my second visit to the 'Sagan Nu Patru' Parsi Food Festival.