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Mar 292012

 “food is capable of feeding far more than a rumbling stomach. Food is life; our well-being demands it. Food is art and magic; it evokes emotion and colors memory, and in skilled hands, meals become greater than the sum of their ingredients. Food is self-evident; plucked right from the ground or vine or sea, its power to delight is immediate. Food is discovery; finding an untried spice or cuisine is for me like uncovering a new element. Food is evolution; how we interpret it remains ever fluid. Food is humanitarian: sharing it bridges cultures, making friends of strangers pleasantly surprised to learn how much common ground they ultimately share.”

― Anthony Beal

Food is the reason I chanced upon Chef Ajoy’s blog – thoughtsfromajoy and stopped there for quite sometime, to read stories, feel the magic of Indian cooking, learn a few ( more than a few) new things.

Chef Ajoy is an accomplished and a well traveled chef.  Founder of the very chic Indian restaurant, Nilgiris in Sydney, Australia and author of  quite a few inspiring cookbooks, – A feat that leaves you filled with wonder.

And rightly so. The very first recipe that caught my attention on his blog was the Kashmiri roganjosh. Being a kashmiri, I am always on the fence when people call a dish “kashmiri”. Please don’t get me wrong, but calling anything with raisins and cashews and cardamom in it a kashmiri dish is inaccurate. Wrong ! Not done!   But I digress…

So the skeptic in me, gingerly treaded on the blog post called Recipe for Rogan Josh Kashmiri Pandit Style. Intrigued I was, because here was an article heading telling me that the author knew there were different styles of kashmiri roganjosh! Not many people know that.  At that moment, I knew this was a unique blog – created by a maestro who had spent years learning the art of Classic Indian regional cooking.

I read on fascinated and loved every bit of the post. It was the quintessential roganjosh with all the right spices, infused in the right order and cooked to perfection . Just the way it is supposed to be.

I had just one word for this blogger – RESPECT!

Fascinated, I looked into a few more blog posts.  It was like reading a good book – the one you just can not put down. And I gathered inspirations and learned quite a few new things.

For example, this Dosa recipe. I had been struggling to get my dosa right after I moved to Colorado. And for someone who calls Hyderabad a second home, it was kind of disheartening that my dosa would not be as exquisite as it used to be back home. Sometimes, not enough crisp, sometimes it was not ground right and then sometimes I would lose the battle with the altitude and temperature for the batter to ferment right.

So I tried the Dosa recipe from the blog. Guess what? I don’t think I am ever going back to grinding the batter at home. I made steamed dosa, regular dosa, masala dosa, paper dosa.. I gave the recipe every test I could – and it shined. It couldn’t get any faster and easier than this!

One word for the recipe – ADMIRATION!

And as if this was not enough, I weaved my way through to  the recipe for Dum Ka murgh.  And as If I was already not a “BIG FAN” I became a big fan all over again.

One word for the recipe – Sheer Brilliance! Ok that was two words. But the recipe is pure Brilliance!

Why ?

Here is why?

As you know by now, I call Hyderabad my second home, which means I have lived there for many a good years. As a very young person, this is the city I fell in love with at first bite because the food tasted like home. Not the exact taste per se, but I felt there was something comforting.

Not only did I enjoy eating Hyderabadi food, I also enjoyed learning to cook it. My friend and then neighbor, who is a Persian by origin and married into one of the most culturally rich Muslim families in Hyderabad, ensured that I get lessons in the Hyderabadi cuisine at her house. So I would watch while she or her Mom in law cooked, helped when they felt assured that I was not likely to mess up the perfect leg of lamb or sometimes just hopped on over to eat a plateful of biryani.

With lessons from the duo and occasional lessons from their family Khansama, I have quite a collection of time tested Hyderabadi recipes.

And then I found the recipe on  Ajoy’s blog. Using Tahini instead of sesame seeds .. why did I not think of that? Substituting peanuts with cashews .. thus making it accessible to people with peanut allergies .. awesome!

I made this dish with the recipe from Ajoy’s blog and it was the best ever Dum ka murgh I made. I am sharing the recipe here with his permission, but for a more detailed step by step instruction, you do need to go visit his blog.

Very rarely do you come across a creative and talented chef, who loves to teach and reach out as Chef Ajoy does.

Dum Ka Murgh and a Special Blogger


  • 2 tablespoons Garam Masala (Made with 1 cinnamon stick, 5 green cardamoms, 7-8 cloves, 3 star anise, 2 tsp each of fennel seeds and mace blade - all of this is ground into a powder.)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups onions (thinly sliced)
  • 1/4 cup oil ( I used grapeseed)
  • 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
  • 1.5 tablespoons thai green chili paste
  • 1 tablespoon Tahini paste
  • 1.5 tablespoons ground cashews ((or use crunchy unsweetened peanut butter))
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cups Plain yogurt ((suggested full fat))
  • 2lb chicken (skinless drumsticks, thigh and breast pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint


  1. Heat up the oil and fry the onions to a golden brown, in small batches
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix the onions and the chicken with the rest of the ingredients except the mint and lemon.
  3. Set this aside for about 15 minutes
  4. Take your best looking big dutch oven, which is big enough to have more than 2/3 of space left after you put the entire chicken and the marinade in it.
  5. Take a griddle/ saute pan and place it on top of your stove on medium heat
  6. Place the dutch oven on top of the griddle and cover.
  7. Cook on low heat, undisturbed and covered for about 35- 45 minutes
  8. The settings in your stove and the heat distribution in your dutch ovens may vary.. use your best judgement.
  9. When ready to serve, dash in some lemon juice and mint and eat with naan or roti.

Feb 012011

At the outset, I do not claim that this is an authentic Bagara Baingan – Stuffed Eggplants recipe. But sometimes, one must deviate from the norm and suit one’s own palate and that of one’s dearest friends. This recipe has an interesting anecdote attached. I had invited my friend Jen over for some Indian lunch. Actually,  we planned to cook and enjoy it together. For some weird reason I decided to make stuffed eggplants as one of the dishes for the day. I had no idea what Jen liked as we were just getting to know one another and wisdom suggested that I stick to a known fare for the American palate … like the mushy saag paneer or samosa or something like that. But I wouldn’t be me and you wouldn’t be hearing this story if I followed time tested wisdom (there is a thought)!

So I get the ingredients ready and made careful measure adjustments of a few things like chilies and addition of onions. It worked wonderfully and we both liked Bagara Baingan – Stuffed Eggplants. But I must commend Jen for her love of adventurous eating. I would not have been able to pull this dish off as a first time introduction to traditional Indian food on someone else.

Here is the recipe for you Jen. Keep the love of cooking stoked. I can’t wait to see you back in the states!


  • 10 – 12              small eggplants
  • ½ cup                roasted peanuts
  • 1 tbs                   toasted sesame seeds
  • 2                         dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp                   kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp                   salt ( or to taste)
  • ¼ C                    minced onion
  • 1 tsp                   ginger garlic paste
  • 4 tbs+ 1 Tsp     sesame oil
  • 3-4                     curry leaves
  • 1tsp                   coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp                 cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp                 turmeric powder
  • 2                          cloves
  • 1tbs                    tamarind concentrate


  • If you have raw peanuts, you need to dry roast them before you can proceed to the cooking part.
  • On medium heat, put the peanuts in a dry non stick pan and roast them until you see brown spots on the skin. Roasting them on medium low heat is important, because you don’t want them burnt yet raw.
  • Do the same thing with the sesame seeds.
  • Now slightly fry the onions in one tsp of oil. Cook on low heat until browned.
  • Take your grinder and put in the peanuts, sesame seeds, dried chilies, chili powder, salt, onions, ginger garlic paste, cumin seeds, coriander powder, cloves, and tamarind and turmeric powder in it.
  • Grind to a fine paste, but do not add any water. The moisture from the onions and ginger garlic and tamarind should do the trick.
  • Divide this paste into two portions.
  • Leaving the stems on the eggplants, Make cross slits from top. It’s like you wanted to slit the eggplant into four, but you will leave it connected at the base.
  • Using one half of the stuffing fill in slit eggplants, dividing the stuffing equally. You basically fill the gaps you just made.

here is how :

  • Heat the remaining sesame oil in a non stick pan and carefully lower eggplants, one at a time into the pan.  Do not over crowd the pan. Cook on medium heat for about 3- 4 minutes and then gently turn the eggplants on to the other side.
  • When the eggplants are cooked thoroughly, they would appear slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
  • Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. There should be some residual oil in the pan , if not.. add a few drops of oil.Now add the curry leaves and  second part of the filling into the pan. There should be some residual oil in the pan.
  • Saute and add 2 cups of water. Mix it all together and bring it a rolling boil
  • Lower the heat, add the egg plants back into the pan, cook for 15 minutes on medium heat or until the gravy thickens and eggplants are done and you see a little oil separating on top.
  • I eat it with plain boiled rice.. you may chose any other carbs to go with it.

Aug 112010

“Food is not about impressing people. It’s about making them feel comfortable.”
–          Ina Garten, ‘The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook’

Food is not about impressing people, it’s about making them feel comfortable.” Ina Garten

And comfortable they do feel with this fiery dish. The crescendo of the stir frying chilies, curry leaves and garlic is always a conversation stopper; and not in a bad sort of way.  It just moves people, the way musical crescendos do and then like any great piece of music, it reaches the climax. The spicy aroma of chicken 65 drifts about, people gather around and the party begins. Compliments galore, happy  –  smiling friends, satisfied taste buds. Secret Recipe?  Lots of love and the following ingredients :-

Serves 4-5


  • Chicken: 1 pound boneless thigh meat cut into 1”- 2” pcs
  • Greek Yogurt: 2 Tbs + 2 Tbs (whisked)
  • Corn starch: 2 Tbs
  • Ginger Garlic Paste: 2 tsp
  • Red chilli powder  : 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder – ½ tsp
  • Coriander powder : ½ tsp
  • Cinnamon powder : ½ tsp
  • Garlic : 2Tbs sliced thin
  • Curry leaves: 8 – 10 (washed and patted dry)
  • Peanut Oil  : for deep frying
  • Lemon Juice: 2 Tsp
  • Egg  : 1
  • Salt  : As per taste
  • Rice Vinegar – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Thai Green chilies  : 3 – 8 ( julienne super thin)( 3 being hot and 8 fiery fiery hot – use less than 3 for a mild hot)

Procedure :

  1. In a deep bowl, mix yogurt(2tbs), red chili, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger-garlic paste and salt
  2. Mix in the lemon juice and add  the chicken pieces
  3. Now add the corn starch to coat all the chicken pieces.
  4. Beat the egg lightly and add it in and mix well.
  5. Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour max.
  6. Heat the oil in a wok to a scalding 350*F (175 C)
  7. Turn the heat to medium high, add a few pieces of chicken at a time.
  8. Take care not to over crowd the wok.
  9. Cook until the chicken turns a nice shade of brown and reaches an inner temperature of 165F.
  10. Fish out the fried chicken with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a tray lined with paper towels.
  11. Repeat for the remaining pieces.
  12. In a different wok or pan, add a tsp of oil ( you can use the hot oil from the frying wok)
  13. Add in the curry leaves, let them sizzle
  14. Add the garlic , let it sizzle n cook but not burn
  15. Add the thai chillies and sizzle sizzle sizzle they go
  16. Add the vinegar and the yogurt and keep stirring until the liquids sort of mix in
  17. Add in the fried chicken
  18. Stir, transfer to a plate, and serve with lemon wedges and onion rings.


And your Chicken 65 is ready to shine.

Notes :

1) Chilies vary in pungency at times, so use caution while adding them.  Sometimes a couple of them can make a dish really hot. I usually chop the tip off and carefully take a whiff. The strong pungent ones smell strong and pungent from a distance. So there! Use caution and experience and your instincts.

2) Remove the white membrane carefully if you do not want your food too hot

3) Never touch slit green chilies with bare hands. Use food safe gloves or a food scraper to transfer them from the chopping board.