baking in India

“The belly rules the mind.”
Spanish Proverb

SBOW Khan MarketSodaBottleOpenerWala, Khan Market. It was just going to be a matter of time. When AD Singh opened the now almost iconic SodaBottleOpenerWala in Gurgaon it made waves across the NCR. Soon there were groans from folk across Delhi, pleading for a branch in their part of town. With many iconic Irani cafés, a quintessential experience of a near extinct culture and cuisine, downing shutters of late in Mumbai, one might have wondered why Delhi would even consider a rebirth here. Then again, this is AD Singh & Olive …he got it spot on! Again.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon You know I loved the first SBOW that opened closer to home in Gurgaon. I never stopped talking about it. Recently we heard whoops of joy from the Dilliwalahs. A Bawaji joint was opening in the heart of Delhi, and they were loving it! What better location for an iconic Delhi Parsi Cafe than the iconic Khan Market, vibrant and bustling. Tucked away in the heart of Khan market, Olive pays tribute to the dying legacy of the Irani café … bringing it to life in style!

SBOW KhanSBOW at Khan is located on the first and second floor off a long winding food lane, very old world charm. Quite unlike the Cybercity venue which is very retro, French cafe street feel on the outdoors, set amidst new architecture. The feel within is the same … chaotic, crowded, bustling, colourful, quirky, eccentric and real world Irani café. Up the steep stairs in Khan Market and you are once again ushered into a different world. Framed pictures in sepia and black and white from generations of Parsis unknown, actual antiques, quirky quaint mirrors, quotes so reflective of this small tight knit community. Barni glass jars, tiffin carriers, taxi meters, cuckoo clocks, tin boxes…paraphernalia galore, it’ a feast for the eyes!

SBOW Khan Market
Photo Courtesy Lavina Kharkwal

It was a cozy small get together at the launch … food enthusiasts from across the NCR, AD Singh in gentle attendance, drinks and food flowing non stop. Such a fun opening menu brought together by an ace team , drinks did the rounds with the heady Bawaji Nu Thullu and Raspberry Soda amongst the most popular, with the Shikanjiben following a close second. It was time to abandon the camera and nonsensical light headed banter took over!

SBOW KhanWith drinks can food be far behind? The menu sees several new additions and make overs from the first branch. My absolute favorites in starters were Mushroom on Khari, Breach Candy Awesome Okra, Tareli Macchi, Chicken Baida Roti. The egg lovers didn’t stop ranting about the Dukkar Galli John’s Famous Egg Sandwich, and couldn’t tear themselves away from it either. Everyone ate lots. LOTS!

Berry Pulao, Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, GurgaonSoon came main course. Main course? I was stuffed already but one look at the Berry Pulao, a lamb berry pulao at that had everyone grabbing forks again. It is the best offering from SBOW and one not to be missed. It’s a must try on their vast and intriguing menu. Add some Bhendi Bazaar Sheekh Paratha and Kolmi Fry and this gastronomic Parsi journey is even happier. Did I mention the sweetest and funniest young stand up comedian Danesh Irani? That too. He had the captivated audience roaring with laughter with ‘The Last Parsi’ written by Meherzad Patel.

Soda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon

SBOW Khan 5Dessert anyone? I groaned as I was ready to burst but can you keep the fingers away from the delicious to the last crumb 5 Star Brownie? Not possible at all. Also impossible to resist is the Toblerone Mousse which is smooth, silky, indulgent … divine. Glass scraping good stuff. Another very interesting dessert addition is the Bun Maska Jam. Pillowy soft white buns smothered with butter and jam send you right back into a nostalgic journey into the past. Yes they’ve got it spot on. Again! SBOW KhanSoda Bottle Openerwala, Cyberhub, Gurgaon It’s a celebration of a cuisine that faced possible extinction and exposure to a community which is very small and largely unknown for it’s cuisine in North India. Ad Singh with his wonderfully talented team has given Delhi a memorable foodie destination, not once, but twice over! Kudos to the team behind this legacy … very talented and quite unassuming Mohit Balachandran from the food blog Chowder Singh who’s been active with Olive for several years, Head Chef Kulbeer, Cuisine authenticator and Parsi Chef Manager Anahita Dhody

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“I ♥ Avocados”

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free} & the New Zealand Avocado Season Launch, New Delhi with Masterchef Kunal KapoorAvocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {Gluten Free}…a cake inspired by so much avocado goodness that we saw at the New Zealand Avocado Season Launch. Last week saw loads of avocado recipes churned out by the very talented and sweet Chef Kunal Kapoor at the New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi.

Celebrity Masterchef Kunal Kapur said “New Zealand Hass avocados are an amazing healthy and versatile wholefood that contain the good fats needed to maintain a healthy heart. They interestingly blend with everyday Indian meals and the soft buttery texture and nutty flavour goes really well with many traditional dishes such as Bhel Puri and Tawa Pulao. They also blend seamlessly with curries”.

 New Zealand Avocado Season Launch with Chef Kunal KapoorIt’s always interesting to see what the chef does with food, creating innovative recipes, often off the beaten path. He put  avocados right into the heart of Indian cuisine, the pairings quite unexpected and intriguing. I loved the idea of a New Zealand Avocado and Cheese Parantha, New Zealand Avocado Bhel Puri, New Zealand Avocado & Cucumber Soup, AVAVZA Avocado & Vanilla Srikhand and a New Zealand Avocado and Kiwi Lassi. Other recipes included New Zealand Avocado and Chicken Kebabs, New Zealand Avocado and Coconut Stew, New Zealand Avocado and Tuna Cheese Toast,New Zealand Avocado Tawa Pulao , New Zealand Avocado & Coconut chutney.Avocado

Health benefits of New Zealand Avocado

Beautiful skin The vitamins & antioxidants in Avocado can improve your skin from the inside
Energy & vitality The iron, niacin and vitamin B6 in Avocado support energy levels and help to unlock energy from your food
Healthy heart The good fats and omega acids in Avocado help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels
Nutrient booster Avocados help your body absorb more nutrients from other foods they are eaten with
Protection Vitamin C in Avocado contributes to  protection of cells from free radical damage
Healthy digestion Fibre in Avocado keeps your digestive system in shape

With Chef Kunal Kapoor & Chef Sabyasachi Gorai at the New Zealand High Commission for the Launch of the avocado season, Oct 2014It was an interesting and fun evening, with loads of good company too. Two of my favourite chefs I recently spoke about were there – Kunal and Saby, or formally Master Chef Kunal Kapoor and Chef Sabyasachi Gorai. Also present were a great bunch of foodies. The evening disappeared amidst non stop banter, laughter, fine avocado based bites, and choicest NZ wine.AvocadoWe came away with an avocado each. I swapped my normal green one for this ripe one because I fell in love with the pinkish red hue. It seemed a good fit for Pinktober too! I had an idea in my head after all the avocado talk! Back home, my ripe and ready to eat av headed for a gluten free chocolate cake; a cake where the New Zealand Avocado and Indian buckwheat flour aka kuttu ka aata met. Fab pairing!

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free}The cake was yet another experiment. A delicious one. I was fairly confident it would work, but you really never know until you slice it, nibble at a few crumbs etc. It was divine. Fudgy fudgy fudgy. Sinfully chocolaty too; a fallen chocolate cake.

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free} I substituted 50% of the fat {butter} with the mashed avocado to reduce the fat content and add some fibre, iron, niacin etc. The  Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {Gluten Free} tasted even better the next day. Maybe the flavours matured. It was fudgier, the chocolate taste was deeper, and it stayed as moist as moist could be. The crumb is delicate because the only flour in here is a gluten free buckwheat flour, or ‘kuttu ka aata‘ as locally called. Handle it with care!

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free} Try this if you like. You can always use almond meal to keep it gluten free, or use whole wheat flour to keep it healthy and whole grain. It’s been a while since I’ve used plain all purpose flour, and I’m not in a hurry to do so! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I might skip the butter altogether next time.

Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {gluten free} Well now I’m going to keep my eyes open for more avocados as I have a few sweet and savoury ideas brewing in my head. Avocados are not commercially grown in India. They do grow down south in a few private gardens as I remember seeing the beautiful fruit hanging off trees when we went on a midnight walk while attending the IFBM in August! Until then, it’ll have to be New Zealand avocados for me!

[print_this]Recipe: Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {Gluten Free}
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Summary: Avocado Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cake {Gluten Free} is divine. Fudgy fudgy fudgy. Sinfully chocolaty too, this fallen chocolate cake tastes even better the next day. It is fudgier, the chocolate taste deeper, and it stays as moist as moist can be. The crumb is delicate because the only flour in here is a gluten free buckwheat flour.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

  • 150g dark chocolate {52%}, melted
  • 50g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 150g ripe avocado flesh {from 1 md avocado, mashed with a fork}
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 50g buckwheat flour {kuttu ka aata}
  • 10g popped amaranth for topping {optional}


  1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line the bottom of a loaf tin.
  2. In a large bowl, whip together the melted chocolate, butter, avocado puree, vanilla extract and eggs until smooth and light.
  3. Add the sugar, baking powder and salt and beat again for a minute to incorporate.
  4. Fold in the buckwheat flour and transfer batter to prepared tin. Sprinkle over with popped amaranth if desired.
  5. Bake for about an hour / until done using the tester.
  6. Leave to cool in the loaf tin. Loosen edges and gently turn out of tin.


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“Never forget that quality and value are the foundation for successful brands”.
Dr Kurien

AmulThis post is not about the roulade above I made this morning. That isn’t being shared today. This post is about what went into it … and my connect with the brand, Amul, specifically Amul cream.  My life in the kitchen every single day is touched by someone fondly referred to as the ‘Milkman of India‘. That someone was no other than Dr Kurien, the father of the milk revolution in India, the brain behind the largest rural dairy development programme in the world {Operation Flood}. This is a tribute to him.AmulIf there is one man who changed the dairy map of India, that credit would be his. He passed away last night leaving behind a legacy, a business model, an organisation that put the consumer at the centre of any major decision it took. At 90 years of age, he still led from the front, ethically  building one of the greatest brands India has ever had – Amul, which means ‘priceless’ in sanskrit.Amul

The Birth of Amul began when milk became a symbol of protest as early as the 1940’s. The seeds of this unusual saga were sown more than 65 years back in Anand, a small town in western India. The exploitative trade practices followed by the local trade cartel triggered off the cooperative movement. Angered by unfair and manipulative practices followed by the trade, the farmers went on a milk strike and eventually formed their own cooperative in 1946. Amul grew from strength to strength thanks to the inspired leadership of Tribhuvandas Patel, the founder Chairman and the committed professionalism of Dr Verghese Kurien,who was entrusted the task of running the dairy from 1950.

AmulA visionary who gave us a Taste of India, Dr Kurien touched numerous lives across the nation on a daily basis, from farmers to end consumers! At the very micro level,  he touched a little life in an obscure corner of Gurgaon, tucked away in the National Capital Region … mine! Almost no day goes by for the obsessive baker and cook in me without reaching out for an Amul product – cream, cheese, milk, ghee, condensed milk! Amul When I think of it, it amazes me. How much we take things for granted as they’ve been there right through our growing years. Amul Butter was the butter we grew up on … we knew no other. It ‘greased’ our growing up years, those stolen spoonfuls, those slathered slices of bread jam & butter, hot parathas rolled with butter melting right through … always Amul!Amul At the time, the Indian economy wasn’t brand explosive like the West. Until the 80’s we had single brands on the market.It was simple for the consumer … butter was Amul, Kissan made jam and ketchup, for jelly it was Rex, colas meant Thumbs Up … and growing up in Delhi, milk was Mother Dairy or DMS! So much brand loyalty and connect.AmulToday it’s a whole new ball game. Brands have exploded through the roof. You don’t just reach out for or ask the corner store for butter. You’ve got to name a brand, and the same goes for other dairy products. The choices are mind boggling in a speedily hungry economy like India where the consumer is king! AmulHere too, Amul held its ground, building a formidable business model, a management lesson that is staggering for economies like ours! For a co-operative, that is certainly a tall achievement. {Much of what I studied in economics in university makes more sense now!}. As Dr Kurien said, “There is no room for complacency. We must not only maintain our lead, we must increase it.”Amul

“The key to retaining our competitive advantage lies in keeping focused on the basic business principles:
• Be Customer-Driven
• Adapt quickly to the changing environment.
• Anticipate change and act today to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”

AmulPutting this into practice in a complex ‘madhouse’ like economy like India  isn’t easy! A small example. Home bakers in India have cribbed for whipping cream for ever. I am a locavaore to the core and refuse to buy imported cream. Recently the thread came up on an FB group and we rallied for our cause. I posted on Amuls FB wall, many like minded folk pleaded the case. Nothing happened.AmulThen a few days later, I saw sweet Sushmita ‘LIKE’ Amul on FB. That reignited my call! I was back on FB and said “I will LIKE you Amul if you promise to consider introducing whipping cream to your line of products! I WILL!” I knew someone would hear. Then one day, out of the blue, Amul said…


That is how dynamic the company is. How many would have bothered in a country of a billion people? They listen, they are consumer driven, they are ethical, they give back to community, they are inspiration … and they are oh-so-creative! Every morning the paper has an Amul advertisement to portray the days news/sentiments! From Clint Eastwood  to ….….Prince Harry in LA, the ads covered them all! At my end, Amul kept my culinary adventures alive and ‘covered’ – pasta, pizzas, soft cheeses, cakes, ice creams and desserts covered! I could dream because of you. You made it possible! There is Amul in almost everything I enjoy making!Amul

RIP Dr Kurien, you are an inspiration to millions … to me too!

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