6 Tips to Grow-Your-Own Food

Garlic Nation

There’s a certain romance in enjoying a rustic meal in a humble rural home in India. Whether it is a simple zunka bhakar on a damp, monsoon morning near Sinhgad fort in Pune or enjoying sarson ka saag – makke ki roti topped with homemade butter on a chilly February afternoon in Ajnala, in the suburbs of Amritsar.

No matter how hard we try, we are hardly able to achieve those smoky flavours of a bhatti or the pungency of the mustard in a similar meal which is cooked in the city. No matter how perfect the recipe was, and no matter how many times I tried to improve it with fancy techniques, I was almost never able to achieve the pure flavours of these classic dishes in the city.

Then one day, I stumbled upon the reason for my not-so-perfect cooking. I was in Ajnala, in the suburbs of Amritsar for some research for Masterchef India a few years ago. While chatting with the lady of the house, I just picked up some wild mustard leaves, growing near the hinge where the cows were tied, and chewed them just like that. To my surprise those leaves were tastier than any salad or sarson ka saag that I had every tasted. Fresh, flavourful, pungent and perfect!

This was a eureka moment for me. I had always wondered why mom’s aloo-gobhi so proudly exhibited the fragrance of cauliflower while my aloo gobhi tasted like masala on a bland floret. I only realised after this incident that my mother buys cauliflower from a local, farmer’s market that sells organic or “gawthi” produce, while I buy large, beautiful looking vegetables from the supermarket.

This made me wonder whether the next generation will recognise any flavours other than garlic! We are so used to masking the blandness of our vegetables with garlic, that garlic is all we know, garlic is all we can taste. If you don’t believe me, try making a clear vegetable soup or vegetable puree and you will realise that it tastes like nothing. No distinct smell of vegetables, no pungency and no fresh flavours.

When vegetables are genetically modified or injected with growth boosters for speedy growth and bigger size they don’t always develop the flavours completely. In rural areas on the other hand, people have the space and luxury of growing their own vegetables. They also have easy access to “gawthi” or organic produce growing nearby, which is also cheaper than GMO (genetically modified) vegetables due to lower investment on growth and size boosters. Hence, when you eat a meal in a rural home or a dhaba, they taste distinctly different, fresh and pronounced in flavours other than garlic.

In a city like Mumbai, it is a challenge to buy “gawthi” produce at affordable prices, let alone grow your own vegetables. There are a few tricks and tips however, that can help grow a few vegetables at your window.

6 Ways you can Grow-Your-Own Food

  1. You can easily grow smaller plants like chillies, tomatoes and even bell peppers at your window garden. You can simply dry and use the leftover seeds of these vegetables before they are refrigerated. These vegetables grow easily, and also fruit quickly.
  2. It is a good idea to plant any type of beans in the soil before planting any other kind of vegetable. Beans make the soil fertile and nitrogen-rich, which will aid in growing other vegetables better.
  3. Coriander, methi and mustard among other herbs are easy to plant. The fresh herbs are ready to use in just a couple of weeks. What’s more? Most Indian households store coriander seeds, methi seeds and mustard seeds in their spice box. As long as they are not roasted, they can simply be planted on damp cotton.
  4. When planting beans, it is good idea to soak them overnight, then tie the soaked beans in a damp cloth until they sprout. Once they sprout, they can be planted in damp cotton or directly in soil.
  5. Keep a larger pot with some soil aside at your window. Throw in fruit or vegetable peels, even egg shells in this pot. The soil should remain damp. In four to six weeks, this soil and other contents can be used as manure for your vegetable plants.
  6. I simply bury leftover fruit and vegetable peels in my full-grown vegetable plants. This nourishes the plant with no extra effort.

There is a strange sense of satisfaction in plucking a few fresh coriander leaves and tearing them into a freshly made, piping hot bowl of dal and teaming it up with a side salad of freshly picked homegrown heirloom tomatoes. It is a feeling that can hardly be described but only experienced. If you too feel that vegetables don’t taste the same any more and have ideas to make a difference in home cooking. Do share your views in the comments below.





















How This Pasta Sauce Will Become Your Genie-in-a-Bottle?


Have you ever seen the spaghetti scene in Eat Pray Love? A woman, jilted in love gives up her job and goes to Italy to simply eat! In a way, I can completely understand the simple classic love affair. In the scene, when she dips her fork into the mountain of spaghetti coated in a rich flavorful sauce that clings on to the strands and paints them into their lovely red, it makes you fall in love, a little bit at a time. I can still picture every bite of spaghetti as Julia Roberts eats it and I can almost taste the spaghetti myself. When you watch that scene, what you need is a genie in a bottle to make tomato-coated spaghetti appear in front of you that very second.


A tomato sauce in Italy is slow cooked for 4 to 6 hours, traditionally over fire, to get the correct consistency and flavor. Although we love food nearly the same, none of us have the time, patience or inclination to stand in front of a pot, stirring it and watching it for hours. We believe in instant satisfaction for such cravings, we are used to being provided for and having things done. So it isn’t a surprise that we like our tomato sauce in a bottle too.


Here’s the problem, most of the tomato sauces that are on shelves in the Indian market, aren’t really up to the mark. Oftentimes they taste bad, too acidic, too spicy, and too oily, at times it just tastes like off-season bad tasting tomatoes have been masked in excess dried herbs. They are not all bad, you might say. There are some good “imported” tomato sauces for pastas available. Of course, there but I could only afford them if I had diamond shoes and a gold collar for my pony! Pardon my exaggeration but some of these sauces are painfully expensive.

I don’t mind investing in authentic Parmesan cheese, but we get good enough tomatoes in India, why should a burn a hole in my pocket for tomato sauce?


Luckily, I did find a Pasta Sauce that succeeded in coming somewhat close to my genie-in-a-bottle tomato sauce expectation. Soul Food (http://bit.ly/bigbasket_soul OR http://bit.ly//greencart_soul ) , yes that same Olive Oil pickle brand, they have also recently introduced a range of other products including a tomato based Pasta sauce. I have enjoyed the flavor of their pickles before, and to be honest they sell a product that preserves Indian flavours and adds the health benefits of Olive Oil to it, something about that thought resonates with my theory of cooking. Aside from the theory, that is, we need to keep things quick and simple in the kitchen. Hoping for a better result, and noticing that my experiment wasn’t going to cost me a bomb, I picked up a bottle of Soul Food Pasta Sauce one day.


I tried it out on the same day; at first I only boiled 10 or 12 strands of spaghetti and heated it up the sauce, mixed it up and tried a bite. You see I didn’t want to risk too much spaghetti over it, if this was going to be another disaster [and believe me, I have seen a lot of disastrous spaghettis]. There was no oil floating on top of the bottle, the sauce was not bright red, it looked naturally red. As I nervously took a bite, I was pleasantly surprised with the flavours. Pulpy pieces of cooked tomatoes, some down to mush and some added a fresh texture of slow cooked sauce, there was a mild flavor of dried herbs and seasoning in the sauce. There was no red chilly powder and not too much garlic that would mask the taste of the tomatoes. It was just a rich, thick and well-cooked tomato sauce, very easy to enjoy with some more spaghetti. And this time I emptied the whole packet into the salted boiling water, just one bite of that spaghetti wasn’t going to be enough.


When you really love a dish, like I love spaghetti, you tend to try new things and experiment with it. While Spaghetti in tomato sauce with some fresh basil and Parmesan cheese is a classic that no one can beat. I decided this time to give it a break and try something new with simple spaghetti in tomato sauce.


I had recently found out that Broccoli makes you beautiful! It is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. Tomatoes too are packed with ant-oxidants too. So I decided to make a dish that is as soulful as its ingredients are. Roasted Broccoli and toasted almonds go wonderfully well with tomato sauce, what’s more, they add a deeper flavor and crunch to the dish. Almonds are good for you eyes and rich in essential oils, so all in all you are literally becoming more youthful and beautiful as you eat this dish.


Roasted Broccoli & Toasted Almond Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce


Serves 2


You Will Need


Broccoli, florets; 1 cup

Broccoli stems; ¼ cup

Almonds; 5 to 6

Olive Oil; ½ cup

Salt; to taste

Pepper; a pinch

Spaghetti; 100g

Soul Food Pasta Sauce; 1, 400g bottle

(http://bit.ly/bigbasket_soul OR http://bit.ly//greencart_soul )

Garlic, peeled; 4 to 6 cloves

Sweet Basil; 10 leaves

Parmesan Cheese; ¼ cup

Chilled Butter; 1 cube (optional)





  • In a bowl, toss the broccoli pieces and almonds with a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 300 degree Celsius. Place the Broccoli and almonds over aluminum foil on an oven tray. Allow them to roasted for 15 minutes.


  • Meanwhile, heat up salted water in a stockpot or pan. Add the spaghetti to boiling water and allow it to cook for 7 to 10 minutes until it is firm to bite. Drain the spaghetti but save the water.


  • Take the broccoli and almonds out of the oven and allow them to cool on the side.


  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan, crush and roasted and piece of garlic in it, till you get the smoky flavor. Add in half a bottle of Soul Food Pasta sauce (http://bit.ly/bigbasket_soul OR http://bit.ly//greencart_soul ) to the pan, add 2 spoonful of salted pasta water and allow the sauce to cook for a minute.


  • Add in the cooked spaghetti, broccoli florets and one sliced almond to the spaghetti. Keep it aside.
  • For the Broccoli & Almond Pesto, add broccoli stems, almonds, garlic, basil, parmesan cheese and remaining olive oil to a grinder. Blitz it till the paste is smooth but thick.


  • Blitz some chilled butter with the remaining tomato sauce and keep it aside.
  • To plate, make a thick disc with the broccoli almond pesto on the plate, twirl the spaghetti in tomato sauce over it. Pour the remaining chilled butter with tomato sauce mixture around the spaghetti in an outer red ring. Place a few broccoli florets and sliced almond on top as garnish. Serve!


Honestly speaking, I have always read so many articles about the health benefits of Broccoli and heard my nutritionist ask me to add it in my diet over and over again, yet I always found it hard to pair. I usually ended up pairing it with oodles of cheese, which not only masked its crunch and flavor but also compromised the health quotient of the recipe. I’m so glad that I finally cracked the perfect recipe with this ADF Soul Foods Pasta Sauce (http://bit.ly/bigbasket_soul OR http://bit.ly//greencart_soul )

This pasta sauce is low sodium and filled with freshness and goodness of tomatoes, and its herb flavor goes perfectly well with roasted Broccoli. The best part is that the recipe with all the antioxidants and essential oils will give you a glowing skin, a healthy body and keep you young! I hope that you enjoy cooking this recipe as much as I enjoyed eating it. Do try it out and let me know what you thought of this recipe.


Buy ADF Soul Products here and here.

How to Cook Aloo-Gobhi the Ayurvedic Way?

Please Note: This Article was published earlier this month on India Food Network Blog, August 2015 issue.

I vividly remember my after-school meals. I would knock off my shoes, throw away my massive bag, run to the kitchen in my parrot green uniform and plant my chin to lean over the kitchen counter. My mom would be busy making hot rotis by the stove, and I could smell the aloo-gobhi topped with fresh coriander as I waited for my roti while holding a steel plate. Not much has changed, even today when I get the whiff of my mom’s aloo-gobhi, the child in me runs to the kitchen and waits in anticipation for my hot roti.

When I was growing up, my mom would always tell me her little tricks and tips of cooking this vegetable or that as I stood in the kitchen with my plate. “Always cook cauliflower with adrak (ginger)” she would say. “Gobhi and adrak are perfect partners, aloo-gobhi can never be made without it”. It was my mom who taught me never to add water while making dry preparations, but to cook vegetables slowly in their own steam. This allows the vegetables to release their own flavor. She taught me about the “perfect partner” of every vegetable that she cooked.

At that time it never made any sense to me. I never really understood why pumpkin is cooked with methi seeds or why bhindi was always cooked in panchphoran, or why it’s necessary to add hing in cabbage sabji. While it’s easy to assume that one flavor compliments the other, the science behind my mother’s cooking was far deeper.

You see my mother grew up at a time when onion, garlic and tomatoes were not that common in Indian cooking. Her grandfather, an Ayurveda doctor had told the women of the house that each vegetable must be cooked keeping mind its digestive properties, and based on which herb or spice would compliment flavor as well as help in digesting the food better. Every vegetable is cooked with a specific type of spice in order to aid its proper digestion and assimilation in the body.

The reason why cauliflower must be cooked with ginger, or a cabbage sabji must include hing, is that both vegetables cause flatulence meaning a bloated stomach. To prevent this bloating we add ginger to cauliflower because the digestive properties of ginger aid in the proper digestion of cauliflower and prevent you from feeling bloated.

Indian cooking is based on such simple principles that revolve around the nature of ingredients, understanding of digestion and assimilation as well as on geography and climate. Every recipe has a science behind it, and every household carries a legacy of cooking styles that maximize flavour and health benefits from an ingredient.

Cauliflower for instance, is a winter vegetable in India and ideally should be eaten in the winter season. It can be paired with ginger, hing (asafetida) or cloves for better digestion. The best way to cook cauliflower is to allow it to cook in its own steam. After sendha namak, or pure Himalayan pink salt is added to the tempered cauliflower, cover the vessel with a fitted lid. The moisture released by the cauliflower is trapped in the vessel as steam, which cooks the cauliflower while keeping the entire flavor from escaping. You need to have patience, keep the heat as low as possible, do not uncover and do not add water in a hurry. Check the cauliflower after about ten minutes, once it is soft turn off the heat.

Here’s my version of mom’s classic Aloo-Gobhi. I hope that you will try it, do let me know if you enjoyed it.

Adraki Ghhuti Gobhi aur Lachha Aloo Recipe

This recipe is loaded with herbs, green chillies full of antioxidants and ginger, cumin, bay leaf that aid in better digestion. Grated cauliflower reduces the time of cooking while preserving the taste and nutrition in the vegetable.

Serves 2

You will need

Cauliflower, grated; 2 cups

Ginger, grated; 1 tablespoon

Sendha Namak (pink salt); 1 teaspoon

Ghee; 1 tablespoon

Cumin; ½ teaspoon

Bay leaf; 1 no.

Turmeric powder; 1 teaspoon

Coriander powder; 1 teaspoon

Chilli powder (optional); ½ teaspoon

Coriander Leaves, chopped; ¼ cup

Green Chilli, chopped; 1 teaspoon

Potato, cut into thin strips; ½ cup

Amchur (dried mango powder); ½ teaspoon


  1. Mix the grated cauliflower and ginger in a bowl with ½ teaspoon sendha namak. Allow them to release their juices.
  2. Lightly apply a thin film of ghee on an iron pan and allow it to heat.
  3. Roast cumin and bay leaf lightly on the pan until they turn a shade darker.
  4. Add in the mixture of cauliflower and ginger along with the moisture in the bowl.
  5. Add in turmeric and coriander powder and mix well.
  6. Turn the heat as low as possible (keep a heavy bottom pan under the vessel if necessary). Cover the cauliflower vessel with a fitted lid. Allow it to cook for 5 to 7 minutes without opening the lid.
  7. After 5 minutes, open the lid and stir. Check if the cauliflower is soft and mushy, entirely cooked through. Add chilli powder if you wish to.
  8. Mix in chopped coriander leaves and green chillies into the cauliflower.
  9. In the end, mix ½ teaspoon of ghee in the cauliflower.
  10. For the Potato lachha, heat up a tava and line it with a thin film of ghee.
  11. Add the thin strips of potato to the pan and roast them until they are crispy.
  12. Lightly toss them in sendha namak and amchur.
  13. Top the cauliflower with the lachha potato and serve hot with rotis.

How to Become a World Class Chef in 10 minutes? 42 Spices Unleashes Kitchen Sorcery

Couple of weeks ago I ate the best Thai curry that I have ever eaten. This is in spite of the urban jewels like Thai Pavillion in Mumbai city that have flaunted their curries for over a decade, or even every “multi-cuisine” restaurant and chinese corners that serves Thai Curry around town. I’d dare to say that this was the best Thai Curry ever! For me, it was a combination of fresh, authentic flavours and a sprinkle of love. What made this Thai Curry so special was that my man had cooked it for me after a hard day at work. Before you go, “Awwwww..!”, let me stop you right their and tell you all about his Thai Curry Sorcery.

Recently, a friend of mine, from my old Masterchef India team, Abhishek, started a small venture of his own – 42 Spices. I am not sure why he calls it 42 and not 41 or 43, but let me tell you how it works. 42 Spices is a cooking kit, which helps you create authentic and exotic recipes from scratch. It literally translates into – now anyone can cook anything!

All the hard work is already done for you. The kit consists of cleaned, measured and chopped ingredients to help you create your favourite Indian or International dish. They provide you with a printed copy of the recipe and they even send you a short video link on “How To Make” the dish. So whether you are Indian, Chinese or Italian by nationality, you can now cook Indian, Chinese or Italian just as easily with these authentic ingredients.

What I loved about this concept was that it is almost as convenient as making maggi after work. Okay, may be it takes a little longer than 2 minutes, but its totally worth it. It is exotic, special and doubly quick because most of the work is already done for you.

  • You don’t need to hunt for authentic ingredients; go to expensive gourmet stores, the city market or request your vegetable vendor a day before to source the ingredient. No need to pray you get all the authentic ingredients that you need to cook your favorite dish.
  • No need to buy full bottles of authentic condiments that you may not use for the next six months, or wonder what to do with exotic veggies you bought in quantities.
  • You don’t need to do any of the grunt work like googling and shortlisting the perfect recipe, measuring the right quantities or the chopping and peeling.
  • You don’t need to worry that after all that hard work you may ruin the dish. The step-by-step procedure is explained to you, and the recipe is tried and tested.
  • It is super quick and anyone can cook it. If you are a non – cook, trying out a new cuisine for the first time, or simply don’t have the time to cook after work, this is a fresh, healthy and yummy alternative to ordering in every other day.

Honestly, forget about everything else I just said, for a minute; forget about the ease, freshness and all those things. What is the one that makes you drool just thinking about a dish? The crunch, the moistness, the velvety sauce flavoured with aromatic herbs, the Taste. It is the taste that matters in the end. In my experience the taste over anything else is what will make you go back for more of this Thai curry. If 42 spices continues to impress us with the taste an quality of their other dishes as well I don’t see why this can’t be the perfect weekend meal with friends and family. No one needs to sweat it in the kitchen and you get to eat world cuisine and delicacies for affordable prices in the comfort of your home.

The Dum Pukht Biryani: How to Achieve Spiritual Awakening through Food?

Dum Pukht Biryani

Dum Pukht Biryani

It is the most gratifying aroma, and also the most painful craving that comes with the scent of a steaming-hot Dum Biryani. That aroma of basmati rice & robust spices flirting with my nose is divine, so comforting in the midst of a winter evening just setting in.

As the waiter sets it onto the next table, I can’t help but look lustfully at the golden yellow grains of long, unbroken basmati rice studded with the large chunks of moist, browned meat. I must look like a hungry tigress I thought, almost ready to jump shamelessly to the next table and attack that gorgeous biryani. But as I saw the proud glare on the face of the woman who was just about to eat it all by herself I quickly turned my head and shied away, as though I had been caught.

Although I hadn’t completely ditched the thought of attacking her biryani, I was now stealing a glance or two, pretending like I was searching for the waiter at Dum Pukht. There are few things in the world that can make you feel as good and satisfied as a Dum Pukht Biryani. After all, it is hardly ever that I feel envious and make eyes at another woman’s dinner!

It was a sticky situation but as I waited for my own Dum Pukht Biryani I managed to steal a few glances at that rich, regal-looking dish and my heart was pounding, as she was about to slice into that chunk of meat. The moment she touched the meat with her fork, the meat just slipped off the bone. “Ah!” I said, as the lady closed her eyes and enjoyed that first bite of her Dum Pukht biryani. Lovely.

As I looked eagerly at her face, searching for an expression of indulgence and gratification, she slowly opened her eyes and looked at me, almost dizzily in love. There it was an instant love-for-food connection, and we both burst into a chuckle. “I’m sorry I can’t share this Biryani”, she said with a funny face. “Neither can I”, I said as my Dum Pukht Biryani arrived at the table.

Suddenly, I felt like a five year old child, my eyes twinkling as I was being handed the lollypop. I had been good this year and my reward was finally here. Sometimes in life, it is best to enjoy a meal all by yourself, just drown in the dream, close your eyes, inhale the aromas, slice it softly, chew slowly and just let every sense of your being enjoy that bite of biryani, as if it were your last. That’s what I did.

As I slowly worked my way through every bite, each one was a medley of flavours & textures, and each awoke a separate sense of my being, I don’t mock spirituality, but for me this was like enlightenment. This meal, suddenly made me feel alive. I was there, in that moment with every bite that I ate. Call me crazy but I think that food like this is answer to real spiritual awakening, Haaahaa..

In the end, I felt sad that it was over but I was enchanted by the experience, and perhaps addicted to the biryani. As the lady from the next table left, we exchanged a pleasant, “I know how you feel” look. It is amazing how people and how many people connect over food.

There was something about this Dum Pukht Biryani that kept making me want to come back. Frankly, I could not afford to come every now and then for this special treat, and certainly could not afford to bring a dozen of my loved ones here to try it out, so I took the other road. The other road being, learning how to make this brilliant, regal-looking Dum Pukht Biryani from the man himself, Chef Mohammed Shareef the Dum Pukht Masterchef at ITC Maratha Mumbai.

It was a pleasant evening, we shared a laugh over food talk and he gave me so many little tips about making this biryani right. Apparently, there are some people in the world who still take their art very seriously, and it is not just about the recipe, it is everything from the perfect quality of Basmati rice, cut of meat to the choicest of spices and the order in which they should be added!

With the Chef’s guidance, I successfully recorded the step-by-step recipe of “How to Make the perfect Dum Biryani?”

Here’s the video of the Dum Pukht Biryani recipe for you.

This is the authentic recipe of the Avadhi aka Lucknowi Pakki Biryani as seen or eaten at Dum Pukht, ITC Hotels. Do try this recipe and whichever part of the world you come from, do tell me how it turned out because I am really curious to know. .

Making the Ultimate Tandoori Chicken & Finding Someone To Share the Love

I woke up this morning with a smile on my face, birds were chirping at my window and the sun was shining brightly. Being in love is such a feeling; a simple thought makes your heart sing. I always wanted to grow up and fall in love, just like my parents fell in love, and then got married in the Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak style in the 1980s. I always had a condition in my mind, the day I fall in love, I will be willing to share my tandoori chicken with him. You might say it was a childish, silly condition but it makes a lot of sense to me. Tandoori Chicken is the one dish in the world that I like the most and refuse to share. Call me greedy but I don’t even enjoy leaving out the bones for my dogs (who I love very much), simply because something about a perfectly cooked, juicy leg of tandoori chicken on my plate makes my heart skip a beat. So there it was, the simple condition, that when I fall in love, I will be willing to share my Tandoori Chicken with someone.


When I was sixteen years old, I fell madly in love with this Kashmiri boy who I thought looked very much like Aamir Khan. He was in my class, and one of my closest friends brother (Classic filmy Love situation). Each time he looked at me I blushed, I wrote a lot of love poems for him and spent two years obsessing about how great it would be when we got married, and the stories we would tell our grand children. I also thought it was perfect because my parents had met each other when they were that age. Alas! Cupid had his station elsewhere, and I was called by my school counselor and told to ‘Stay Away from That Boy, He is Trouble’ (all the more reason to find him attractive at that age). In the end, we attended that farewell party, school was over and the Tandoori Chicken on my plate kept waiting.


In the first year of college I was still feeling blue about my Kashmiri tragedy, so I was not on the hunt for Mr. College Cutie like everyone else. All the girls were crazy about this one boy, who was from Nainital (yes, Hill-boy again) he would play the guitar, was in a band and was a karate champ. He also had a great body, and the girls loved to watch him work out. I had heard of him in the background, but I didn’t really know him. Then one day my closest college friend dragged me to this rock concert, he was there too and he asked me out. I didn’t really know him well, but everyone thought that he was really cute and such a great guy, so I should go for it, so I did go for it. I didn’t end up sharing my Tandoori Chicken that year either, I guess we were both still growing up and searching for ourselves, and it was too soon to find each other.


Over the next two years, I dated a couple of people from college and outside. I also dated two of my good friends (never a good idea!). But in all this time, I never got to share my beloved meal with anyone. I spent a year in Nottingham, studying, cooking, that was a lonely patch for me at first, but also very beautiful because I found all the things that brought me happiness, I found myself. That year, for the first time, I enjoyed that Tandoori Chicken alone, not waiting and not searching for anybody to share it with.


I was happily in love with myself, living like I liked living, pampering myself and enjoying my food with my friends and family back in Mumbai. It was during my first project that I first met A. ‘A’ was nothing like any of other guys I had dated earlier, firstly, he wasn’t even a boy, I mean he was already a full-grown man when I met him. I could tell that he found me attractive (women can always tell) but I found that very strange because something about him made him look like he was in a committed relationship. Well, he wasn’t in one then but he is now. For the first time I had met a man that cared so much, to bring everything I loved to me. He brought me dark chocolates and lilies, held my hand and took me on long walks under starlight and brought everything that I loved a million steps closer to me. This is for him, because he was the one who encouraged me to start writing this blog and he is the one that orders that full plate of tandoori chicken, just for me, only to see me light up when I eat it. I found someone who has brought me immense happiness, and so many plates full of tandoori chicken that I can’t even count. I finally found someone to share this happiness with, to share my perfect tandoori chicken with. So here is a recipe I have specially devised to make the ultimate, perfect, succulent Tandoori Chicken at home, and it is dedicated to the love of my favorite dish and the man I share it with.

TC final 3

To Make the Tandoori Chicken you will have to start a day before, to enjoy it the next day.


You will need an Oven that goes up to 275 degree Celsius or prepare a water bath, or a double boiler.


For the best tasting Tandoori Chicken, I prefer using the leg meat, meaning the joint with the thigh and the drumstick.




Chicken 4 Leg pieces, cleaned


Day 1

Stage 1


Brine, prepared by mixing 1 litre water with 3 tablespoons (45g) of Salt along with 1-tablespoon (15ml) vinegar.


Stage 2


Lemon juice   2-tablespoons (30ml)


Ginger, grated            1 tablespoon (15g)


Garlic, minced            2 tablespoons (30g)


Salt      to taste (if the meat is not too salty with the brine already)



Stage 3


Mustard Oil, raw       2-tablespoon (30ml)


Hung Curd or thick Chakka, beaten            1 cup


Kashmiri Chilli Paste                        1-tablespoon (reduce if your prefer less spice)


Chilli Powder             a sprinkle, if required for colour


Ginger, fresh paste    2-tablespoon


Garlic, minced            2-tablespoon


Cloves, roasted & powdered            1 teaspoon


Coriander Seeds, roasted & powdered       2 teaspoon


Cinnamon, roasted & powdered     1 teaspoon


Cumin Seeds, roasted & powdered             2 teaspoons


Black Cardamom, roasted & powdered      1 teaspoon


Black Pepper, powdered      ½  teaspoon


Turmeric, powdered             ½ teaspoon


Garam Masala Powder         1 teaspoon


Add 1 teaspoon Green Chilli paste for extra zing


Foodmantra #Tip : When making the spice powders, using a mortar pestle to grind the spices and then sieving, brings out better flavour in the spices.


Day 2

Stage 4


Ghee (Clarified Butter)


Chaat Masala (optional)


Lemon Juice


Onions, sliced





Stage 1


Prepare the brine solution and soak the chicken legs in brine for 5 hours in the refrigerator.


Wash off the brine completely. Make sure you wash it off completely, else the chicken might get too salty.


Stage 2


Use the sharp point of the knife and make slant incisions/ slits on the meat across the thigh and the drumstick.


Rub lemon juice, ginger and garlic along with a little salt (if required) on the chicken legs.


Let it stand for an hour and a half to 2 hours in refrigerator.


Stage 3


In a wide mouth bowl or a deep plate, mix mustard oil, hung curd, the red chilli paste, ginger garlic paste and the spice powders, and mix well. Rub this marinade on the chicken and massage it well into the slits on the thigh. Cover the chicken entirely with the marinade. The thick curds will cling on to the meat to soak in the flavour.


Cling wrap the bowl and refrigerate overnight or for 12 hours.


TC Final 1

Stage 4


There are two ways of cooking the chicken. Without a Tandoor and in a homemade tandoor or barbeque set.


Without A Tandoor


Preheat the oven at 275 degree Celsius.


Take a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap a marinated leg of chicken in this sheet completely. Seal the wrap properly from all sides. Repeat this procedure with all the marinated chicken legs.


Keep these sealed wraps of chicken in the oven and cook them for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the legs. To check, prick the chicken next to the bone, if it is white and comes off easily, it is cooked.



IF you don’t want to use an oven, simple use a double boiler by place a fitted sieve over boiled water, then place the chicken on the sieve and seal the vessel with a lid on top, let the chicken cook in a steam chamber for succulent.


To Give it that Smoky Charcoal flavour


Preferably in a balcony or at a window.


Take a thick iron vessel, or use a tasla used by construction workers to carry cement, make sure the coal is dry, you can dry it completely in the oven. Spread out the coal and light it up with alcohol or kerosene, the kerosene will evaporate completely, so you don’t catch the flavour. Now hold the chicken with a skewer or a forcep over the coal, until the outside gets that smoky flavour.

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To Give it The Boozy Charred Flavour


This is fairly simple.


After the chicken is cooked just pour a cap full of rum on the chicken, and light it up. This will give you a boozy charred flavour and that extra dramatic effect!


In a Home Tandoor/ Barbeque Set


If you do have a Barbeque set at home, and a nice outdoor space to enjoy the winter. You can create this homemade tandoor.


I saw this on one of my favourite Chefs episodes, he has placed brick to make a triangle closed chamber and surrounded it on all sides with coal. When this coal is lit and covered, the heat generated in this brick chamber is good enough to cook tandoori chicken the real way! In this set up it will take about ten minutes to make succulent tandoori chicken.


Serve it with onions slices, lemon and chaat masala on the side.


Foodmantra Tip: Don’t try to cook raw chicken on an open barbeque. It will take a long time to cook and the chicken will dry out in the meanwhile. It is better to pre-cook the chicken wrapped up in an oven or in a steam chamber before flashing it for a couple of minutes in the barbeque for the smoky flavour we love.


I hope you share this recipe and this tandoori chicken with those you love. It will make for some wonderful and romantic evenings..



You Too Can Cook Like A Great Indian Chef: A Lesson from the Master Himself


We’re Talking About: Aspire to venture into the food industry? Here are some tips and insights for people wanting to become Chefs or aspiring to own a restaurant someday. Chef Bali shares his valuable experience after training Chefs at The Oberoi for nearly two decades.


Whether the rupee rises or falls, people aren’t going to stop eating! They may switch to cheaper options or home-cooked meals, but the food business is one that is considered somewhat immune to changes in the economy. People today are getting attracted to the food business like moth to flame, some believe it is a creative job, others think food industry is always in business and some are just drawn into it being the natural requirement of humankind. What’s there to understand in something that comes so naturally? After all anyone with a heart to cook and feed people can be in the culinary business! Tiffin aunties, bawarchis and home-cooks here’s a key to the attitude you need to become a great Indian Chef.


Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD) has given us some of the finest Indian Chefs around the world. Celebrity Chefs like Chef Vineet Bhatia and Chef Atul Kochhar, who trained as Chefs at OCLD have even earned the prestigious Michelin Star for their restaurants and for world-class culinary representation of Indian food. What is the key to success in the culinary business in India? We find out in an Exclusive-Interview with the Chef Parvinder Bali as he moulds the Chefs of the future. Also learn about 5 Star Restaurant-kitchen techniques and a recipe from a Luxury Hotel kitchen.


Chef Bali

Chef Parvinder Bali is a Hospitality Educator and a Culinary Programme Manager with OCLD. He is a Certified Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America who specializes in Bakery and Pastry. He has been practicing ‘Cheffing’ (you know what I mean!) for nearly two decades. You might spot him judging chocolate sculpting competitions around the world.


Chefs today are entrepreneurs, celebrities and even ambassadors representing the country around the world, yet even a decade ago, wanting to become a Chef was not taken seriously in our country. Cooking was for women, bawarchis and Sanjeev Kapoor, and there was little hope for Chefs in a world of doctors and engineers. My first question to you Chef Bali, what was it like, wanting to become a Chef thirty years ago?


Chef Bali: I went to do Engineering because I could not get selected for medical science. When I left engineering to become a Chef, you should have seen my mother’s reaction. She thought that no girl was going to marry me and that I will end up only washing dishes in the kitchen.

She actually felt ashamed of me (laughs).


And that is not the case with most parents anymore, the identity and the value of a Chef has changed.


Chef Bali: We have something called as STEP programme in our hotel (The Oberoi). In this programme we take students who have just completed their 10+2. Earlier there used to be a small percentage, only 20 people or so applying to be a chef but now for the past 2 years or so 90 percent of the students apply to become chefs. We even had to change our recruitment strategy to incorporate such demands.


Being a Chef comes across as a very creative and a glamorous profession, but is it as easy as it looks? Does it get mundane and frustrating like other jobs too?


Chef Bali: ‪Well, nothing is easy in the beginning.

Initially, when you are trying to get your feet on the ground. You will have to practice a number of times to master a particular thing so that you can work effectively from your subconscious mind. So yes, it can be said that it gets mundane in the beginning but then perseverance is important, because its only after some time that you would actually get involved in strategic planning and the creative process.  One has to be patient to enjoy such rewards.


What does it take to be a good Chef?


‪Chef Bali: Lots of passion, quality to stick and commit to the job and knowledge about the subject and ingredients. Also, one needs to be people oriented because I have seen a lot of good chefs who ended up damaging their career because they were not a ‘people’s person’. A chef should be humble and ready to share his knowledge and at the same time accept criticism in a positive manner.



Are the jobs growing at the same pace as the number of people aspiring to become chefs, or is there saturation in this sector too?


Chef Bali: ‪In the food business, there never was such saturation and there will never be. The only problem is the way we think, we all want to work in 5 star hotels, and yes there is saturation there. Now there are opportunities to work in free stand-alone restaurants, fast food chains.

We don’t mind working in Pizza-Hut or McDonalds but take offence to working in a Sagar-Ratna or Haldiram. We believe it will not look good on the CV. Everyone is in a rat race and hence the so-called saturation.

In India we still need hospitality people in large numbers.


Is the food business in India on a rise according to you?


Chef Bali: ‪Food business has always been on the rise. More and more people are busy with their lives, and less people cook at home, so the food business is really on a high. After a few years you will see people cooking at home only to de-stress or for family time.


Any tips for aspiring Chefs?


Chef Bali: ‪Yes many,  but first and the foremost tip is, don’t practice the speed of slicing an onion but first learn to cut the slice correctly.

Speed will build up with practice. The students must learn the right way of doing things because with practice, good habits become a part of your attitude and then they always stay with you.


How can we learn to cook restaurant like Indian food? Is there a technique from a 5 Star Hotel kitchen or a recipe that you can share with us?


‪Chef Bali: Well of course, home cooks can make three gravies at home, an Onion &Tomato masala, Makhani (tomato based gravy) and white gravy (nut-based). You could combine these in different proportions to create restaurant-like food.

Although, even in hotels there is a lot of demand of home-cooked food,

Corporate clients and long-stay guests cannot eat the rich food everyday.


Here is a 5 Star Hotel Recipe that I would like to share with the readers. This recipe has an interesting technique, it is very popular around the world and is available in restaurants. Now you can learn to make it at home, and eat as many as you like!


Soft centered Chocolate Pudding/ Chocolate Lava Cake





Dark Chocolate, chopped     250gm

Butter, salted             250gm

Egg, whole                  4 nos.

Egg, yolk                     4 nos.

Castor Sugar              75gm

Refined Flour             75gm




Preheat the oven at 240 degree Celsius.


Grease with butter and dust the pudding moulds with flour.


Take chocolate in a glass bowl and place it over another pan with hot water so that it fits. Then whisk the chocolate and melt it slowly. Now add in softened butter and whisk the mixture.


Add in the eggs, egg yolks, refined flour and sugar. Whisk all the ingredients together and mix them well.


Pour this mixture into the prepared pudding moulds and bake at 240 degree Celsius for 8 minutes only.


Demould the pudding by lightly loosening it from the rim and serve it with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate noodles.


How to Make Chocolate Noodles?


Melt 200gm compound chocolate and fill into a butter paper, piping cone.

Cut open the tip of the cone, and by holding the cone at a height of 10 inches, squeeze out the melted chocolate into a glass containing ice-cold water. The thin strands will immediately chill to form lace like noodles.

Strain it from the water and elegantly top your vanilla ice cream with these to give it that Five Star dessert look!