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  1. Some more suggestions from this thread: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=100249
  2. Vikram

    Madeira in London

    Maybe I should have posted this in the UK section, but I'm hoping someone here can help. I'm thinking of writing an article on the wines exported to India by the East India Company in the 18th and 19th centuries and madeira formed pretty much the bulk of it. This isn't an academic piece - someone has done that, a very informative essay with lots of figures - more a feature, and I'd like to try madeira for it since I never have. A friend is coming from London (I live in Bombay) in a few days and could conceivably be persuaded to buy a couple of bottles if given exact address of wine seller and which bottle to buy. The only seller I know of is Oddbins and according to the site they only seem to have two madeira labels in stock, so I don't know if this would be a good place to buy. Can anyone help? I'd like to know the name of some reasonably accessible shop in London where I might be able to find something, and if you could suggest which bottle to buy for a representative taste of madeira that would be great. I've read that there's quite a variety of stuff available, from wine only fit for cooking to really old stuff which would probably be completely unavailable and unaffordable. As I said, I'm looking for something just reasonably representative - and hopefully reasonably priced too! - that can give me an idea of this style. Is there much consumption of madeira these days? I've read of a Madeira Society in Savannah that still goes for the stuff, but other recent references seem scarce. Vikram
  3. That could also have been picked up from the Middle Eastern market. Remember a major influence on chefs in both India and Pakistan these days is the experience they get while working in Dubai and the rest of the Gulf. Many chefs go there to make some money and then come back to open restaurants back home or take up senior positions in the big hotels. I'm guessing that more Pakistani chefs go to the gulf, while Indian ones tend to go to the cruise liners, but its certainly one way that Middle-Eastern - and you can probably equate that with professional Lebanese restaurant cooking in this context - influences are transferred to the subcontinent, Vikram
  4. Pakistani friends joke that Pakistani cuisine is North Indian food with the vegetables left out. There was an amusing piece in the Times of India a few days back describing how Pakistanis who have come to Delhi for the cricket series are dealing with Indian food. Its the abundance of vegetarian stuff that was most interesting for them, with reported comments like "if its green is that saag?" and "paneer is that white stuff, no?" Vikram
  5. Russell Market is one of the nicest produce markets to browse in. You must do one meal at Koshy's, a large old Bangalore restaurant that is the city's unofficial crossroads. Everyone comes to Koshy's, its one of the few really open places in the country, and the food is good too. Try the Kerala fish curry or just ask Oomen, the owner, what's good that day. But your best bet is really just trusting yourself in Episure's hands. I've been cheap restaurant crawling with him in Bombay and its a food experience like no other. I still regret his decision to leave for Bangalore. Vikram
  6. Sometime back I'd referred to Nilanjana Roy's upcoming anthology of food writing from Indian literature. I'm happy to announce its out now - 'A Matter of Taste: the Penguin Book of Indian Writing on Food' (and with a lovely Kalighat print of a cat with a prawn in its mouth as the cover pic). I'm still reading it so no major comments on it, but these are hardly likely to be unfavourable! Nilanjana has focussed on the literary aspect so most of the well known modern Indian writers like Rushdie are featured. (Tantalizingly, it looks like his new book, out next year I think, will have even more on food). The only thing that occurs to me is that she could have gone into historical writing a bit more - it could have been writings on Indian food, rather than Indian writings on food. That way she could have got in Raj writers like Wyvern. There are several writers from Indian languages, but I think more could have been added - where, for example, is Ambai who has written well on food (I posted an extract in this thread). I could also have done without David Davidar's dreary mumblings on mangoes, but I suppose that was unavoidable with a Penguin book. But then I guess that the pleasure of any anthology is the dialogue one can have with the anthologist about what should have been chosen or could have been dropped. After all, that's the best guarantee that there could be more such anthologies like this, Vikram
  7. I was just speaking to chef Ananda Solomon at the Taj President here in Bombay, where they serve some upvas items like saboodhana khichidi at their Konkan Cafe restaurant. He brought out some aspects of upvas food which I didn't know about like the fact that in the strictest sense the restrictions on the ingredients used extended even to how those ingredients were grown. So the special plants used for upvas food were sometimes grown in separate plots of land, often close to the village temple. And one couldn't use just any fertilizer or manure to grow them, particularly since these might include fish meal or other non-vegetarian products. Instead only decomposing vegetal matter could be used. He drew a slightly distant parallel with the 'qurbani ka bakra', the sacrificial goat for Bakri-Id in the Muslim community which has to be raised in the house almost like a family pet, before it goes for slaughter - a surefire prescription for childhood traumas-cum-harsh-lessons-about-life! Isn't there a similar Jewish or Eastern European tradition about a carp in the bathtub for Rosh Hashannah/Christmas? The other interesting point he made was that for upvas food coconut oil was preferred to peanut oil since the latter would have been ground in traditional oil presses through the labour of cows that had been subjected to stressed labour to do it. Vikram
  8. I think Kandos was Sri Lankan, not Indian. I remember eating them too - not bad, slightly superior mouth quality to the Indian chocolates, though not on par with chocs from Europe. Vikram
  9. I thought we'd had a specific topic on this on the forum, but doing a search I can't seem to find one although the subject does crop up in threads like this one: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=22596&hl=upvas I've been interested in the subject for some time now, mainly because of the odd ingredients that seem to crop up in upvas khana, the fasting foods which aren't the contradiction they seem. While there are extreme fasts in the Indian tradition when neither food nor water is taken (nirjala vrat), the more common sort is where certain types of food are abstained from. There are many different variations on what is and isn't allowed, but the most common distinction is between "foods from the plough", meaning cultivated crops like cereals, and "foods of fruits" which include fruits themselves, but also roots and tubers of various kinds and some other odd ingredients like water chestnuts. Some of these ingredients can be dried and made into flours, so the lack of cereals is not felt as strongly - you can even get a 'fasting pizza'! More than the ingredients though, fasts are interesting for the light they shed on social customs and hierarchies and the role that food comes to play in these. The major source of academic study on this is R.S.Khare's The Hindu Hearth & Home which I have finally got down to reading and it is really fascinating (though mostly focused on North India). We're bang in the middle of Shravan, the fasting season now. This is actually a pretty good season to be a non-religious foodie in India since you can both eat the fasting foods at the few restaurants that make them, or at the houses of suitably spiritual old aunties - and the price of chicken is also at an annual low! I've written an article on the subject, which I'll give a link for. But I'd also be really interested in hearing the experiences of others on this forum with fasting - have you done it, or do you have family members who do it? Do you make special fasting recipes in your family? Any examples of the fasting regimes that members of your family followed? Have you tried keep such fasts in other countries? Any idea if these fasting ingredients could be used in other contexts? Vikram (link to me article below) http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/806793.cms Somewhat annoyingly the editors have chopped off my concluding lines which I think made an interesting point about fasting foods, so here they are: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/806793.cms
  10. I don't know how curry plants respond to the cold, but otherwise I'd recommend them as really easy to grow and also the most helpful in cooking terms, since one often needs just a few curry leaves and that's when I find I'm either out of them or the ones in my fridge have all withered away. An aunt of mine who has really green fingers has dispatched curry plant seedlings across the world - just a few twigs bundled up into newspaper and shoved into suitcases and despite this terrible way of traveling, they've often sprung up again in their destinations. My own curry plants come from her and are growing and branching very nicely. I grow them in a pot along with tulsi (basil). Like most of my plants, they've gone nuts with the monsoon that's finally arrived, they're all growing like crazy in all directions, so I had to do some pruning last weekend and that's when I realised the other great reason for having a herb garden. As I cut the plants and stripped the branches I got these huge heady waves of curry and basil scents, almost better than anything I've smelled in the kitchen. It was amazing! The other food plant I've got growing was the result of one of those look-what's-growing-on-top-of-the-fridge moments (there was a great thread on this on one of the eG forums once). This time it was a packet of Madras onions - which may or may not be shallots, I don't think this group has ever decided - which I'd left for too long and were now sending out long green shoots. Instead of junking them I pushed them into a corner of a pot and now its like I have some alien life form, a bunch of long strong green shoots reaching out of the pot... Vikram
  11. Its nice that everyone seems to like Indian chocolates so much, but I can't help wondering if nostalgia rather than taste is playing the major role here. I like Indian chocolates and god knows I've eaten my fair share of them - in my far off days in advertising I used to work on the Cadbury's account and 5 Star (their version of Mars) in particular and despite eating tons of them at that time - it was actually required in meetings - I still enjoy them. But I would never suggest they are particularly good chocolates by international standards and I'm not talking the finest Belgian and Parisian creations, but just ordinary commercial chocs. They simply can't be as good because they're made for Indian retail conditions which are mostly non-air-conditioned, dumped in tin and glass containers in already hot and cramped shops, and with all the many threats of spoilage and pests. There was in fact a major problem with pests that were alleged to have entered the chocolates last Diwali and in response Cadbury is now putting them out in supersealed packaging. What I'm talking about more is the climatic conditions which mean that the butterfat content has to be reduced and the sugar content increased to prevent the products becoming molten masses in most shops. It helps that Indians like sweeter chocolates - or have been conditioned to like them by being brought up on these chocolates. So is this what people are longing for - the greater sugar content in the chocolates? Or the relative hardness and resistance to melting? Its possible I guess, but personally, given a choice between an imported Kit-Kat and an Indian one, I'd take the imported one (checking for expiry date, since there's an unfortunate trade in out of date stocks from other markets like Indonesia being dumped in India where consumers won't be able to read the expiry dates in Bahasa on the packaging). Vikram
  12. I've occasionally seen siya-jeera translated as aniseed, but that's not correct, is it? Perhaps this might be a good time to try and agree on definitive translations for aniseed, fennel seed and caraway, all three of which get varying translations in Indian cookbooks. If we want to be really ambitious we could also tackle kalonji and radhuni? Vikram
  13. This reminds me of an anecdote my mother tells about how after she (Malayali, hates cooking and has insisted on having a cook all her life) married my Gujarati father. They were doing the rounds of his relatives and at one aunt's house my mother, at a loss for any other conversation to make, asked the aunt politely, "So do you cook?" My mother says there was pin drop silence, and then my father hastily changed the subject. Afterwards he yelled at her, "You NEVER ask a Gujarati woman if she can cook. What you should say is, 'so what is your speciality?'!" Rushina are your brothers really going to buy you all those books for Rakhi? You must be one powerful sister! And I promise to find you a copy of the Time Life India book somewhere on the pavements, and you give the booklet to make a photocopy, OK? Vikram
  14. A chimta - those tongs made from a long thin flat strip of metal. Unless you have palms of leather, they're invaluable for tossing chappatis, and I find myself using them for all sorts of other things. Like I have been burdened with a most annoying oven which the top and botton heating elements cannot be separately adjusted, so I basically have the choice of an underdone base and perfect crust or perfect base and burned crust. The answer I've found is an elaborate routine using covers of crumpled foil that keep having to be put on and take off and the chimta is hugely helpful here. Vikram
  15. I made a kadhi the other day, using the recipe in the Camellia Punjabi book. As a child I didn't like kadhi much, so I've never cooked it in the past, but this recipe looked good, there was okra in it, which I love, and I had tons of yoghurt in the fridge which needed using up, so I made it. The vagar was quite distinctive - lots of cloves fried in ghee with methi seeds (fenugreek) and cumin and then, off the fire, a pinch of asafeotida and some fresh curry leaves. The moment I poured it on the kadhi I got this huge fragrant smell which was EXACTLY the smell I remember from my Guajrati aunt's house. Odd, because I didn't think this a particularly Gujarati vagar - the amount of cloves, 8-9, in particular seemed odd, also curry leaves seem a much more south Indian thing - yet obviously it was right in some way because of the memory. The kadhi was good, though I don't think its changing my childhood opinion of kadhi, Vikram
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