Jun 16, 2015

Nizam-e-Awadh Food Festival

Holy Ramzan month is around the corner.  What better time to celebrate the cuisines of the Nizams and the Awadh. So it is that Sheraton Bangalore has curated another gastronomic extravagance revolving around Hyderabadi and Lucknowi food.

You will see fragrant, redolent, rich, and such adjectives being used repeatedly below. That should give you a good idea of what to expect at the Food Festival! Also unique here, is the presence of the Chefs, heroes who often are never in the limelight. It was a great initiative to bring them out of the kitchens and gave us a peek into the intricacies of the dishes.

Rose milk to set the note for fragrant courses to follow.

Rose milk

Warqi parathas – flaky, aromatic from the cardamom, great foil to the smooth-as-silk galouti kababs. Special baingan bharta, an exotic cousin of the Punjabi bharta we are more familiar with. Chef Jebin Robert deftly made the galouti kababs. His passion for his job was so evident!

Jebin Robert at work

Tafta – A unique sweet yeasted bun. Aromatic, pillowy soft. Served with Nalli Nihari. A specialty by Chef Ansari Ali.

The Chef also demonstrated the making of Roomali roti much to our delight. Flair and panache was evident in full measure. With practised ease, he made it look like child’s play. But one attempt by a blogger told us how difficult it is.

Chef Ansari Ali making the Roomali Roti

With Ramzan, can Haleem be far behind? The huge Lagaans for making the perfect haleem were brought in from Lucknow exclusively for the event. Chef Maksood is a soft-spoken, smiling person. Do not be fooled though! He can make a mean haleem, is a master of the Kachi Gosht Biryani and together with Chef Fahim Qureshi, had also made a perfect Subz Hariyali Biryani.  It’s vivid hue was inviting. The flavours lived up to my expectations. Gentle aromas of green herbs, perfectly cooked rice, accompanied by an enticing whiff of the Chef’s specially created spice blends.


Subz Hariyali Biryani

Zarda Pulao, a fitting dessert. Sweetened with date puree and sugar, richly imbued with the hue and aroma of saffron, topped with chironjee, and dry fruits fried in ghee. Also on the dessert menu were matka kulfi and phirni. That the milk was patiently reduced by boiling and that the best quality of pistachios were used in the kulfi was amply evident in it’s flavour and perfectly grainy texture.

Chef Maksood and the Zarda Pulao Chef Fahim Qureshi and the Kachi Gosht Biryani

The Food Festival does tend more to the non-vegetarian selections. Go for an indulgent treat, for a feast to your senses! Beware of the calories. Nothing here for the dieter. Unabashedly rich and aristocratic offerings.

Open for lunch and dinner till the 21st of June 2015. At Feast, Sheraton at Brigade Gateway, Bangalore.

Jun 3, 2015

Idli – The Ultimate Guide to Softest Idlis.

Idli. Enough said. That spongy, light as air, uber healthy, steamed breakfast of millions in India. It is every idli lover’s dream to make the fluffiest, softest, ‘malli poo’ idlis (as soft as jasmine flower) at home. Idli is the stuff of  culinary dreams. The perfect idli seems so much in reach and yet, so elusive. As my friend put it, “Idli is the cause and weapon of marital fights at our home.” If you want Idli to be the cause of marital harmony rather than distress, or if you are looking for a healthy breakfast recipe, read on..

Much has been written about how to grind the perfect idli batter. Family and friends who have tasted my idlis have been reminding me to document my recipe at the blog. So here I am, with my method of making idli batter. Do share what works for you as well. It would be great to hear from everyone.

The key to good food begins with good ingredients. I use Salem idli rice. I use the best quality whole white urad that I can find. In Bangalore, Salem idli rice and whole white urad can be bought at most wholesale rice and grain shops. (rice mandi) Some supermarkets like Nilgiris, Spar, Star Bazaar, Towness also carry them. “Can I use idli rava instead of the rice?” You can. But the texture of idli will be different. Don’t tell me I did not warn you.

The next step is correct technique. For fermentation, timing is key! I soak the grains overnight, grind it the next morning and leave it to ferment through the day. By evening, the batter is ready. I store the fermented batter in the fridge and use it for up to a week without any loss of flavours.

Idli topped with two chutneys 

If you are eager to make the perfect idlis for your family, follow these steps carefully. Please read the method thoroughly before trying. As with other recipes, perfection comes with practise. If you have any doubts, write to me and I can try to sort it for you.


COOKWARE – Wet grinder, big bowls, spatula, idli steamer 


  1. 4 cups Salem Idli Rice
  2. 1 cup Whole white urad
  3. 1 tsp Fenugreek seeds – (optional)
  4. 2 tsp Salt
  5. 5-7 cups chilled drinking water for grinding.


  1. Measure out rice and urad in two separate bowls. Add fenugreek seeds, if using, to rice bowl. Rinse in enough changes of water till water runs clear. Soak in fresh drinking water. Water level should be 1 inch above the grains. Soaking time can range from minimum of 4 hours to maximum of 8-9 hours. I soak overnight. (about 8 hours)
  2. Measure out 2+1/2 cups of drinking water. Drain the soaking water from urad and grind in wet grinder. Keep sprinkling a quarter cup of water every 8-10 minutes. Use all of the 2 cups of water. Add as much of the 1/2 cup as needed. I grind for 40-45 minutes. Remove to a deep bowl when the batter looks doubled in volume and is silky smooth when you feel between your fingers.
  3. Measure out 3+1 cups of chilled drinking water. Drain out the soaking water from rice. Grind in wet grinder with 1 cup of water to begin with. Sprinkle just enough water to keep the grinder running smoothly. Keep checking every 4-5 minutes while grinding. Add water as necessary. I grind rice for 20 minutes. I stop grinding when the rice feels a little coarse and before the rice becomes a very smooth paste. That is not to say a semolina texture. Rather, between fine semolina and paste….
  4. Remove to same bowl as urad batter. Add salt and mix well with your hand. Yes, I dip most of my forearm into the batter to mix it up. This is vital to good fermentation. Have you not heard?
  5. Set this covered bowl of batter to rest in a warm place. Make sure to fill you bowl only half way to give room for rising. You can divide the batter into two bowls too. At my home, the batter takes about 8 hours to ferment. If your room temperature is below 20C, set to ferment inside your cold oven. Or cover the bowl with a beach towel/blanket. And pray that the batter does not attach itself to your blanket!
  6. The batter is completely fermented when it rises to double in volume, has a sour-sweet fragrance. Stir it lightly. Pour into greased idli moulds.
  7. Steam for 10-12 minutes over a medium flame. The idlis are done when a knife inserted through the centre comes clean.
  8. Serve hot with assorted chutneys, or molaga podi or sambar. Or all of them!

Mini idli served with love