Lockdown meals: What the experts whipped up
Dal Ka Fara by Saransh Goila
This is a dish from Uttar Pradesh that I tried my hand at during the lockdown and sort of fell in love with. I was doing a social media campaign at the time, cooking 74 new dishes, each from a different part of India. I’d asked people to send me suggestions and this one came from the writer and columnist Sangeeta Khanna. Delicious! This dish can be steamed, fried or pan-fried.
For the dough: 2 cups whole wheat flour; 2 tbsp fine semolina; ½ tsp salt; ¼ tsp cumin powder;1 cup warm water for kneading
For the stuffing: 2 cups chana dal; 2 inch ginger; 6-8 cloves garlic; pinch of hing; 2-3 green chillies; 1 tsp black pepper powder; ½ tsp garam masala; 1 tsp cumin; salt to taste.
To prepare the stuffing, soak chana dal for 3-4 hours. Drain and grind with stuffing spices and ginger-garlic. Add minimal water ¼ tsp at a time, making sure you don’t overdo it; keep the stuffing thick (you shouldn’t need more than 1 tbsp water at most).
For the dough: Mix flour and semolina well in a bowl. Add salt, cumin and mix well again. Add warm water and gradually knead into a medium dough. Set aside for about half an hour. Now prepare the dumplings or gujiya-style fara. Take a small golf sized dough ball, roll it into a small thin circle, roughly the size of a poori. Place a couple of spoons of stuffing at the centre. Fold one side over the other, pressing the curved edges but leaving the two end corner sides slightly open to help the stuffing cook.
Boil water in a pot. Season with salt, add 1 tsp oil and bring to boil as you’d do for pasta.
On medium flame, slide the dumplings in. Let the fara cook uncovered for12 minutes. To check whether they’re done, insert a knife. If it comes out clean, then the fara is cooked. Serve hot. For indulgent versions you can also stir-fry fara in ghee with kari patta and rai.
(Goila set up and runs Goila Butter Chicken and is the author of India On My Platter)
The Perfect Dosa by Anahita Dhondy
What I have most enjoyed tinkering with in the lockdown is the dosa. I first learnt how to make this precarious batter while I was training at the Taj in Aurangabad 12 years ago. We had to have the batter ready by 5 am for the breakfast service. As an 18-year-old just starting out, I never got it right. My batter always stuck to the hot plate and the senior chefs would have to come and help.
All these years later, being a big fan of South Indian cuisine, I decided to try my hand at it again. I have a dear friend — pastry chef Vinesh Johny from Bengaluru — who’s always making the perfect dosas on Instagram. So I asked him to help.
He messaged me the ratios from his mother’s heirloom recipe and voila! The next day I had the most gorgeous dosas I’d ever made. I was so excited and proud — this is a dish so simple yet so complicated. I make it every week at home in Delhi.
The secret is mixing urad dal and idli rice together with a few methi seeds and leaving it overnight. You get the most luscious batter.
So here’s the recipe:
Remember 3:1:1. That’s 3 parts idli rice to 1 part urad dal and 1 part poha or flat rice. Leave in water enough to cover it double. Let it soak overnight and grind it in the morning. Add salt and adjust water for consistency.
When making your dosa, the trick is to heat the pan, grease with some fat and then wipe off the fat completely. Then, like the dosawallahs do, splash a little water on the pan (do it like you mean it and be a pro, but also stay far enough so you don’t burn yourself).
Now spread the mixture in an even circle, using a ladle or katori. Dribble a little oil or butter on top. And you should have a beautiful dosa, crisp at the bottom and super fluffy on top. Try it. It’s life-changing.
(Dhondy is chef partner at SodaBottleOpenerWala, Cyber Hub)
Saada Aash soup by Amit Chowdhury
The past couple of months have been a chance for me to rekindle my passion for cooking from scratch. A recipe I have had the opportunity to learn and perfect is Saada Aash — a soup inspired by a 150-year-old recipe from the kitchens of the Nizams of Hyderabad.
This recipe was unearthed while the Falaknuma Palace was being restored. It’s a grand soup with roots in Persia, that was traditionally garnished with gold leaf! There are also versions to be found in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Because it’s a hearty lamb broth, it is also eaten in these countries as part of the iftar spreads laid out during the month of Ramzan.
This soup is simmered for several hours, the broth enriched by lamb trotters and marrow. A baghar of ghee, garlic and black cardamom gives it hints of subtle spice. Saada Aash is usually served with small raviolis called lukmis, stuffed with minced lamb, along with shreds of lamb flavoured with pepper. Try it.
Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients: 1 kg nalli or lamb shank; 1 kg ginger; 1 kg onions; 6-7 green chillies.
Cook together on slow flame in 1 litre of water for 4-5 hours. Strain the water and remove the meat when cooked. Add chopped ginger and mint to that meat and make a quenelle. Strain the soup and temper with chopped garlic and black cardamom. Repeat this tempering process seven times so the flavour is fully infused in the soup. Strain once more and adjust salt and lemon juice to taste. Put the meat back in the finished soup and serve hot.
(Chowdhury is executive chef at the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai)
Urvika Kanoi’s Ragi Loaf
I love sustainable eating and I think it should be our way of life. Our country has such incredible produce. During the lockdown I experimented quite a bit with one of my favourite ingredients — millets. Earthy, nourishing, tasty and satisfying is how I think of this indigenous grain. I hit upon a great bread recipe that is delicious and healthy.
Here is the recipe:
Ingredients: 1 cup ragi flour; 1 cup atta or all-purpose flour; 1 tbsp honey; 2 tsp dry yeast; 1 tbsp sugar; salt to taste; 3 tbsp almond flakes; 1 cup warm water; 2 tbsp warm milk; olive oil to grease.
Method: Dissolve the sugar in the water completely. Add yeast and let it get activated. Once it’s frothy, add milk.
In a separate bowl, mix the flours, salt and almond flakes. Now add the yeast mix and honey to the flours. Mix well, the dough will be sticky. Tip out onto a clean surface and knead for 5 - 10 mins. You will need a little extra flour to dust.
Now take a bowl, grease with a little olive oil and put the dough in. Let it sit in a warm place for 1.5 hours or till the dough doubles in size. Punch the dough and knead till smooth. Put this into a greased loaf mould or shape and place it on a greased baking tray. Let this rise for 30 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-30 mins. Let cool, slice and serve with your favourite conserves or butter.
(Kanoi is chef-owner of The Daily, Kolkata)
Beans and Eggs by Atul Kochhar
This is something I’ve cooked at home for my family many times in the pandemic. The pandemic has been especially difficult for the poor. My aim with this was to develop a dish that a person could cook for under 1 GBP (about Rs 99), that would be nourishing as well.
For my Beans and Eggs, you can use any kind of beans. I often use mixed beans or chickpeas or even red kidney beans.
In a pot, sauté onions, cumin and garlic and add the beans. Then add either canned or fresh tomatoes, salt, a pinch of garam masala, turmeric and some chopped ginger.
Sautee together. If you can get hold of some kale or spinach, add that to the mix. Let it all simmer. Once this mixture seems to be uniform, make four or six depressions in the chickpea curry and crack six eggs atop.
Turn the heat down, put a lid on and let it cook. When the eggs are to your liking, whether soft yolk or hard yolk, which takes about 4 to 7 minutes, take it off the heat, garnish with coriander and serve hot. It’s a dish that needs no accompaniments.
(Kochhar is a twice-Michelin-starred chef who runs Kanishka in London and Vaasu in Buckinghamshire)