Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mast Kalandar Vrat & Utsav Maha Thali | Make Navratri Special & Authentic

Dussehra,Dasara, Navratri, or Durga Puja -call it whatever name the nine days of celebrating the Goddess in different  forms are here again. In 2014 they start from today-25th September and continue till Vijayadashmi or the tenth day on October 4,2014. The festival celebrating victory of Good over Evil is observed almost all over India and is a time for fun and food.

A fast or abstinence especially from certain food and vegetables is observed by most people across India especially Northern India during the festival. The fast which starts from the first day and ends on the ninth comes with several rules. Scientifically we can think of it as a cleansing of the body of impurities and increasing immunity/ resistance to diseases especially when the nights grow long and cold. 

A 'no-salt more fruit' based diet might leave some confusion as to what to cook and how to make it tasty. Though age old fasting recipes are available sometimes it becomes tedious and you are in a dilemma. Also after elaborate cooking  you find your appetite gone in most cases. 

Its here that Mast Kalandar - North Indian quick service chain of  restaurants enters your life with its special Fasting  & Feasting Maha Thalis.

A 65 store strong retain chain in F&B sector, Mast Kalandar believes in food being a symbol of hospitality, togetherness, joy and traditions. This Navratri, the authentic Vegetarian North Indian restaurant, tries to revive the memory, taste, and smell of delicious fasting food. 

By doing so it tries to spread the awareness and pass on the age old recipes to the modern/ future generations. "We will not let the recipes and traditions fade into oblivion" were the words by Head Chef Samta Gupta and upheld by Pallavi Gupta, co-founder Mast Kalandar. I had the opprtunity to talk to these wonderful ladies and taste the Fasting Thali over a live cooking demo  last week.

The traditional vrat ki thali is created with the general rules of most of the Northern Indian communities and is semi organic.It has the key ingredients Kuttu ka aatta (Buckwheat flour), Makhana seeds (lotus seeds) and Sendha namak (Himalayan Pink salt). The thali comprises of dishes like aloo subzi , paneer subzi , nariyal laddoo , Kuttu ki puris, makhane ki kheer and sabudana pappad along with raita, salad and chutney/ relish.

Fact 1: The Himalayan salt is said to be purest ingredient and is 'fasting specific'. I have heard that if just leave it out in open it absorbs impurities and cleanses the atmosphere. MK fetches it from a reliable central source.

Fact 2: Kuttu ka atta has no gluten and while making puris kneading into a dough is tougher. Rolling out is another pain. It takes an accomplished chef to get it correct..

Psst..Thumbs Up Head Chef Samta (a.k.a Chef Cheeku) & Chef Aniruddh.

For those who are not fasting, there is an 'Utsav Maha Thali' comprising of 12 distinct dishes from UP and Central India like Pindi Chhole, Jodhpuri Kofta curry, with Pulav ,Ras malai and other desserts.

I loved the fasting thali especially the kuttu ki puris that go very well with the aloo ki subzi as recommended by chef Samta.The makhana kheer was to die for and so was the Jodhpuri Kofta curry which I  tasted from the feasting thali.

What are you waiting for? The festivity is in the air and enjoy it hassle free with

Mast Kalandar Vrat ki Thali & Utsav Thali
Available at all outlets of Mast Kalandar 
Over Lunch & Dinner
From 25th September till October 4th 2014

For Rs.229/- Only 
and also Mini Takeaway for Rs.149/- only

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Simit with Cheese & Olives | Baking Partners September '14

When it comes to bread baking I am definitely in. I love experimenting with the recipes adding a twist here and there, replacing this and that, etc. This also gives rise to confusion sometimes. The several options running inside my head might lead to nowhere. This time also for Baking Partners Challenge when simit was the given bread (adapted from here), I found myself imagining several options as I had already baked, loved and posted simit before. Aunty google threw open a wide window and I found adapted simit with cheese and olives  from here and went for it. I was sceptical about sesame topping about how it will taste as I was using pizza seasoning and toppings in my simit. But I am happy that I went for it as simit turned out the best. It was an enhanced and perfect simit.


All Purpose Flour : 1 and 3/4 cup
Sugar: pinch
Instant yeast: 1 tsp
Salt: 1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp

Water: 9 tbsp

Black Olives: 1/2 cup pitted stoned and chopped
Mozarella: 1/4 cup
Pizza/Italian seasoning/ choice of herbs: 1 tsp + as per taste

Molasses: 1 tbsp
Water: 4 tbsp
White sesame seeds: 1/2-1cup

In a bowl mix well together flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Gradually add in water to form a smooth non sticky dough kneading well for atleast 10 minutes.Cover and place it in a warm place and let it rise until double or 1.5 hrs.

Turn out the dough into a floured surface and punch down. 

Knead into the dough olives, cheese and herbs.Knead for another two minutes and then let it rest for around 15 minutes.

Divide into equal sized small-medium pieces and shape each  into long rolls.

Take two rolls, place near each other and twist them together into a rope pinching together the edges.We have to make sure that the edges are pinched together.

Dip each ring into molasses diluted with little water/ then place it on the sesame seeds.

Set aside for another 20 minutes until it becomes puffy. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 450F /220C for about 20 -25 minutes or until brown.

Serve it at teatime or anytime. The texture of  simit varies from crisp to soft. Mine was the same texture as sandwich bread -a tad soft at the crumb due to the additions with a chewy crispy crust. 

An exciting and spicy simit perfect for tea. You can add your own variation and enhance it. Add a twist to your teatime or anytime snack so that you are not bored anytime. Lets hop over to Swathi's for a perfect simit party taking an olivy bite.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Broken Wheat Kheer | Wishing All A Prosperous & Healthy Onam

Today all Keralites across the world celebrate Onam, the ancient yet modern harvest festival. The festival brings to mind the colourful flowers, clothes and the prosperous or rich lunch or OnaSadya along with the myths associated with the festival. Not to mention the pookkalam or flower carpets.More details you can find with Google Guru.

My first memories of Onam starts with the lights decoration in Thriuvanathapuram. The four days of Onam were (still are) state holidays and my parents used to take me for long walks to see the light decorations near Rajbhavan or is it secretariat. We would start from home in a taxi or auto, go some distance and then walk. It was like a procession or peaceful march where people would walk or strut along watching the decorations. Then after the seventh day of Onam would come the float procession. Each and every district (and sometimes government agencies) in Kerala would make a presentation called float to show what they stand for or what is their USP. There was fierce competition here also and each would try to outdo the others and better themselves. This I used to watch on tv and for me it marks the end of the Onam celebrations of that year and back to the reality of routine school and life.

It was only later that Onam became associated with exam days or the First term exam or 'Ona pareeksha'. Nail biting days usually when I used to go to school in taxi and looking outside the streets dotted with pookkalams or flower carpets.These were done to invite the old just King Mahabali who will visit his people on Onam days.

While I never used to enjoy a sadya /traditional lunch at that time, these days I have started enjoying it. This happens when you are living with a person who loves and demands Kerala dishes for lunch and dinner if possible.Jokes apart, I tried a simple payasam or kheer and thought I would post it here today. Its simple and easy and cooks with 30-40 minutes. So if you can multitask you can get it done and ready along with your other dishes. The quantity is guestimates and feel free to change it as per your taste.


Broken wheat / dalia/ Sooji gothumbu : 1.5 cup
Water: 1 -2 cups needed to cook the broken wheat.

Jaggery syrup:1 -1.5 cup +/-

Medium thick Coconut milk  : 1-2 cups
Thick Coconut milk : 1 cup

Ghee: 1 tbsp
Cashewnuts & Raisins: handful each

Cardamom Powder: 1/4-1/2 tsp as per taste.

Cook the broken wheat in enough water and keep it aside. The water should be completely absorbed and if added more drain it away.

In a deep pan, add the jaggery syrup and bring it boil. add in the cooked broken wheat and stir it and let it cook in the jaggery for few minutes till it starts thickening absorbing the jaggery. Make sure you stir it periodically to prevent it sticking from the bottom of the pan. You can also add table spoon of ghee at this stage.

Add in the medium thick coconut milk or second extract of coconut milk and continue cooking on low heat. When this also starts thickening add in the thick or first extract of coconut milk and heat through but donot boil. Remove from heat and add it cashewnuts and raisins sauteed in ghee and cardamom powder.

Serve in bowls as a wonderful healthy dessert. Normally the colour of the payasam or kheer should be dark brown thanks to the jaggery available in Kerala. Mine is light in colour as I used different jaggery.

You can actually enhance the recipe by adding ingredients like nendrapazham or kerala banana sauteed in ghee and jaggery or whatever fruits u like and feel will enhance this. This can be made completely vegan by avoiding the ghee or using vegan substitutes for sauteeing the nuts and raisins. Otherwise also this is a healthy and perfect payasam in itself and hope you enjoy this payasam for Onam.

Thanks for visiting my Blog

/*TYNT script starts here */ /*TYNT ends */