Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pav Bhaji

Last week my wife wanted to have a snack which had too many preconditions - not too oily, not too sweet, not too spicy, not too heavy, not too filling, not too far from home and something different than usual egg puffs, fruit bowls, idlis & dosas, pizzas or burgers.  After much pondering over what else was left I took her to Shanti Sagar in Vijayanagar and told the cashier "vond pav bhaji kodi, haage vond extra pav" (an order of pav bhaji with extra pav) and coughed up 50 bucks for the most insipid pav bhaji I had ever eaten.  I promised my wife I'll make pav bhaji atleast ten folds better than what she just ate and I lived up that promise over the weekend and here is how I did...

  • pav bhaji masala (any brand is fine, I did with MTR)
  • pav (ask for pav bhaji bread in supermarket, but can make do with Iyenger bakery ones too)
  • 5 onions (3 for cooking, 2 for garnishing)
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 3 capsicums
  • 3 potatoes
  • mixed frozen vegetables (carrot + beans + peas combo works well)
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • lemon sized ginger
  • 3-5 green chilies
  • coriander leaves
  • butter (loads of it, some for cooking & some for roasting pav)
  • lemon
  • Over cook the potato so that it's really soft, peel and mash it well
  • Make paste out of chillies, garlic and ginger
  • In a wide shallow vessel drop a big lump of butter and wait for it to heat
  • Add the aforementioned ginger-garlic-chili paste and roast till the raw smell is gone
  • Add chopped onions and roast it till it turns golden brown (adding a pinch of salt speeds up)
  • Add chopped capsicums and roast it for a while
  • Add tomatoes, turmeric powder and pav bhaji masala; mix and roast the mixture for a while
  • Add mashed potatoes and assorted vegetables; add water, mix well, cover and allow the mixture to get cooked
  • Keep mashing the the entire mixture using a masher every now and then, so that the texture of the gravy becomes uniform more or less
  • Don't forget to add salt wherever/whenever you feel is apt
  • Add finely chopped coriander in the end
  • Drop another big lump of butter once the baji is cooked
  • Baji is ready now
  • Roast the pav with butter 
  • Serve it with chopped onions and lemon

Eaters, dunk your pav in baji, sprinkle chopped onion on top and squeeze few drops of lemon and relish the dish.  This one's particularly famous in the state of Maharashtra, I've never been there and eaten the authentic pav baji, but whatever I had prepared gave me lotsa pats on the back.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Palak Paneer

I had not given an opportunity for my family to relish my delicacies for a while, I did it last night by preparing Palak Paneer, which is as exotic as hors d'oeuvre or truffle dessert at my place, in fact, in most south Indian orthodox Brahmin's house I must say.  So I asked my mother to bring Paneer and she said she wasn't sure if she can get the right one, for my father had got mozzarella cheese last time when he was asked to get Paneer and mom didn't want to make the same blunder.  Finally I bought 2 packs of Niligir's Paneer (cottage cheese) and got into the job, here comes my recipe:

  • 2 packs of paneer (cottage cheese)
  • 2 bunches of palak (spinach)
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • thumb size garlic
  • 3-5 green chilies
  • garam masala
  • turmeric powder
  • black pepper powder
  • cream (optional)
  • oil
  • salt
  • people to eat and appreciate it
  • Cut the paneer into small sized cubes and shallow fry it in oil till it turns golden
  • Cook palak for 6-8min, drain the water and allow it to cool
  • Make chili-garlic-ginger paste
  • Now comes the most widely used north Indian formula - heat the oil, fry the chili-garlic-ginger paste, wait till the raw smell's gone, add finely chopped onion and fry till golden brown, add finely chopped tomatoes, turmeric, salt, garam masala, chili powder (if you're more spicy types), black pepper powder, mix well, closed the lid and allow it cook for a while.
  • In the mean while blend the cooked palak in a blender into a smooth paste.
  • Add fried paneer pieces and allow it cook for a couple of minutes.  This will make sure that paneer soaks in the masala well.
  • Add the palak paste and mix well, add a bit of water if needed, cover the lid and cook on a low flame.
  • Cook it for about 5-7minutes and you're done.
  • Add cream in the end (you can make do without this).
Goes well with chapathis, a dash of lime and raw onions would greatly better the taste.

Try it out and let me know...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Xinjiang consolidated...

So I'm done with posting all the Xinjiang photographs and below are the links for all Xinjiang articles, not much wordy but definitely a lot photographic.  I would like to reiterate that these are archival photographs shot about 5 years ago and am not in China any more, for many people had this question if I'm still travelling in China.  The reason for publishing these blogs now was that these photographs were never published in my blog and I always wanted them here.  Secondly since I'm not planning any big trips or shoot outs till early next year, I had lots of time to dig into my archives, retouch them (with Aperture) and publish.  

In case you love some of the photographs and want them to be on your desktop wallpaper or something, please do write to me at sachin dot cas at gmail dot com, I can send you high resolution photograph.  Of course your comments will be much appreciated.  Here are the links...

Taklamakan desert...

Continued from Bayinbuluke...

From Korla city hired a wagon to Yuli, the next morning, place where the great Tarim Pendi desert is located. My intense love of excitement and adventure was catered to in this desert. A model of Lopnur village (a typical desert village at olden times) gives an aesthetic look to the overall place. We walked down the huge sand mountains and reached Shennu River. My camera had her virgin gaze of the desert and she was glad to see the colors of desert. Experienced the flight of a glider over the desert that made me envy those birds, which can have such a magnificent aerial view at its will and for no cost.  The dinner on the way back is definitely a worth mention and also a memorable one. The restaurant is named “Shenghui”. The sheep is cooked in an unique way, the whole sheep (of course, after stripping off wool), after smearing with spicy paste is hanged in a furnace that largely resembles Indian tandoor oven. Later its chopped and served hot with onion salads and a bowl of thick and tasty curd. It was absolutely delicious, my mouth wanted more but my stomach said no. A sleeper coach drove us that night to Urumqi.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bayinbuluke - The mesmerizing meander

Continued from Sayram lake article...

Ba-yin-bu-lu-ke (巴音布鲁克) was our destination next morning, stopped by at Tungbazaar for a hot and healthy breakfast of freshly baked veggie bread. The journey to Bayinbuluke was a tough one, winding mud roads along the mountains and totally dusty, we stopped over enroute for a lunch of mutton rice and soup. Threw the luggage in a hotel and headed towards Swan lake, the journey was absolutely gorgeous among the brownish yellow meadows. Entry to Swan Lake was stopped by a lady who asked us to pay money without issuing the tickets, for she was running out of it. We ditched Swan Lake and speeded towards Jiǔ-qū-shí-bā-wān (九曲十八弯) Lake. The terrain put our jeep’s stability and balance systems to thorough testing during this small stretch, as it had to incline at 45 degrees at some places, was in air at other. Four miles was all we had walk to reach the lake which was elegant, exquisite and exotic and worth every pain we took to reach this serpent shaped lake (actually river).  Jiǔ-qū-shí-bā-wān translates to 9 turns and 18 meanders, which is what we saw from the cliff we stood on.  I got down to the bottom of the hill with the hope of feeling the water, but marshy quagmire put my effort to vain. Ascended the hill back quickly for I did not want to miss the colorful pomp of the setting sun. The reddish-yellow sunlight shimmered on multiple meanders of the lake and the blue sky with artistic clouds complemented the scenery.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Sayram lake - A mirror to the sky

Continuation from Devil's City...

After chasing the mirage for nearly 600Km (We also happened to see Karamay Oil fields on the way) in 4x4 Cherokee, we made it to Sàilǐmù hú (aka Sayram lake). Located in the north of Yining city, this lake is the biggest (458 sq. km) and highest (2070m) in Xinjiang province. The water is crystal clear and ice cold and the lake appears like a mirror to the sky beautifully glimmering under the mild evening sun. The surrounding landscape is a feast for eyes, meadows and mountains beautified by the calm flock of silver-fleeced sheep.  It was freezing around the lake and mountain breeze made it worse, it was hard to click photographs. My wish to stay in Mongolian teepee again was satisfied here, for we could not find any hotels nearby and had to stay in an extremely well decorated and vivid tent on the meadow just opposite to the Lake. We were treated with gourmet dinner consisting of sheep rice and various spicy curries of aubergines and potatoes. The following morning we witnessed the sunrise by the lakeside, which was another memorable moment.  Had breakfast at the tent and hit the road towards Korgas, with a small stopover at the lake where we satiated our aquatic pleasure in the lake.