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Indian

“I’m a man of simple tastes. I’m always satisfied with the best.”
Oscar Wilde

When the Tropical Collection from Chumbak comes knocking at your door, how  can you not fall in love with it? It’s fresh, it’s tropical, it’s everything you can celebrate spring with, a line you can usher summer in with as well! It’s an inspiring line, and immediately nudged me to do something fun. Take a look….

I played with the collection endlessly. It brings alive the child in you. You can’t take us Indians out of the our beloved tropics {for long at least}and you can’t take tropical out of India, so the collection is a sure win. I love the crisp, colourful feel, the energy it shares, the vibrancy it spills. The collection is inspired by tropical elements like palm leaves, pineapples, flamingos and the like.Here’s what I was inspired to do – Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies & Watermelon Kiwi Gooseberry Fruit BowlWhen we were young, my dad scooped or rather balled out watermelons and musk melons on our birthdays, then served the fruit chilled in fruit bowls. For some reason, just looking at the collection took me right back there, and before I knew it I was carving a fruit bowl. It’s the funnest thing to do for a pool party, kids birthdays, an evening pick me up in summer, or an anytime fresh healthy snack.I used kiwi stars, halved gooseberries and watermelon balls. I thought I’d throw in strawberry hearts too but forgot the in the fridge. Gah! Summer will see stone fruit galore, so the fun will double. You could do a stone fruit and berry inspired bowl. Or maybe set a watermelon granita in the melon bowl, freeze, slice and serve! No dearth of ideas when your life is flooded with inspiration.

Chumbak had a #spotthepineapple fun campaign to launch the collection. How can you be tropical and not have pineapple? So I figured I’d do a pineapple strawberry smoothie too. I freeze both strawberries and pineapple chunks, so this smoothie is the easiest thing ever. Throw in a cup of each, a cup or two of water, some sweetener, a dash of lime juice into the blender. Whirrrrrrrr it up and you’re good to go.That’s what the coming summer is going to ask for. Quick fresh foods that will keep the spirit light and happy. See how beautifully they paired with the Chumbak Tropical in the light of the afternoon setting sun? Such pretty hues that go so beautifully with the bougainvillea too. Same colours, tropical feel, and I am all set! There’s plenty of choice…

With a range of cushion covers that explode in bright colours, I think this is the best time for a summer makeover! Vibrant, vibrant, vibrant is all I think! Pineapples, flamingoes, elephants, flowers, geometric patterns {♥♥♥}, I want to redo my place! Oh and the sweet little owl too stepped out from a smitten golden ex Diwali into a rustic rainbow coloured creature. Can you imagine that the ullu {owl in hindi} went tropical too? I fell in love with this little fellow, toes and all!The other thing I really liked are the cookie jars. Spacious, clean lines, good quality airtight jars, and beautifully patterned, the counter tops will never be the same again. Even though I am not a gold person, I really like the golden cookie jar too. It fits in so well with the rest. And of course there is PLENTY MORE to the collection. I just picked a few.My all time favourite is of course the palm leaf pattern line. That has my name written all over it. It is fresh, understated, almost like each piece has been hand painted. The teacups are a generous size and stand tall. The pitcher is a winner and I would LOVE for it to sit on my counter. It pours well, it’s easy to clean and is an ideal size for milk or juice. Heck, it even doubles up as a stunning flower vase! It’s lovely to begin the day with for breakfast. Quick granola and fruit parfaits, omelette, toast, a glug of milk from the jug, coffeeeeeee … the leaf pattern is my kind of pattern. For salads too. The interesting bit is that the leaf pattern fits in to every time of the day, every meal too. From a crisp beginning in the morning for breakfast, to a soothing, lilting sun-downer feel, with calming, soothing hues. 

Even the coordinated leaf platters are darling. I just find the leaf pattern very very refreshing, something anyone would love to own, serve on, put out for guests, hang on their wall as part of a   plate collection. I shot with it a lot as you might notice. You can see I shot it the most. With flowers {poppies} for breakfast, with milk for breakfast too, with onion flowers just like that, then with the Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies & Watermelon Kiwi Gooseberry Fruit Bowl . That’s how versatile and handy it is. The great thing is that it pairs with almost every colour and meal. I’m thinking chilled lemonade through summer!

Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies & Watermelon Kiwi Gooseberry Fruit Bowl
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Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies, and a Watermelon Kiwi Gooseberry Fruit Bowl are quick, inspired, no cook, tropical fruit based recipes for summer! Inspired by the Tropical Collection from Chumbak.
Servings Prep Time
3-4 people 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
3-4 people 15 minutes
Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies & Watermelon Kiwi Gooseberry Fruit Bowl
Yum
Print Recipe
Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies, and a Watermelon Kiwi Gooseberry Fruit Bowl are quick, inspired, no cook, tropical fruit based recipes for summer! Inspired by the Tropical Collection from Chumbak.
Servings Prep Time
3-4 people 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
3-4 people 15 minutes
Ingredients
Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies
Watermelon Kiwi Gooseberry Fruit Bowl
Servings: people
Instructions
Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies
  1. Place all ingredients in jar of blender and process until smooth. taste and adjust seasoning adding more sugar if required.
  2. Garnish with slices of fresh strawberries.
Watermelon Kiwi Gooseberry Fruit Bowl
  1. With a melon baller, scoop out balls of watermelon. gently remove any remaining flesh to take a bowl out of the skin. Carve the edges with a sharp fruit knife if you like.
  2. Peel and slice the kiwi. Stamp out stars with a small cookie cutter.
  3. Halve the cape gooseberries.
  4. Toss them all and put into the watermelon bowl. Chill. Scatter fresh mint over it. Serve chilled.
Note
  1. Run the left over watermelon and kiwi in a blender to make watermelon juice. Add a dash of honey, fresh lime and rock salt. Serve chilled.
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Thandai Indian Rice Kheermy version of serving up Thandai in an Indian rice pudding, or kheer as locally called. Flavoured delicately, this indulgent rice pudding hits all the right notes. Sweetened gently with jaggery, the flavours of almond, cardamom and saffron just shine. The texture of broken simmered rice is what adds body to this delectable kheer or pudding.The underlying inspiration comes from Dolphia who inspired, coerced and pushed me to shoot saffron. That’s one of the reasons this kheer came to be. The other reason of course was that the better half has bitterly complained over the last few days that I haven’t made a kheer in years!  As much as I love stirring a good kheer, for some reason it hadn’t happened yet…

Then yet another trip into Old Delhi, some Kashmir saffron bought to please Dolphia and the hub {in no particular order of course} meant that the kheer was simmering away gently quite soon. The recipe of course inspired by the season, all the Thandai kind of stuff I make at this time of the year. Thandai is a spice and nut blend, with ingredients that include almonds, melon seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, green cardamom, saffron, rose petals, sometimes whole pepper too. It is popularly served up as a milk cooler, often with a local bhaang or intoxicant, on Holi. There are a million versions, every household laying claim to their recipe. Mine changes all the time!

Sometimes, a theme helps me find direction, and this time around the prettiness of the colours got to me. Spring is like that, and so is every visit into the heart of Old Delhi!

First I did a Saffron Almond Chia Thandai for  Olive Tree Trading and that really set the mood. So much colourful prettiness and so much inspiration. That’s just how this time of the year is. I’ve dried loads of organic rose petals, so you’ll see me using those a lot.And so to cut a loooong story short, I finally made the Thandai Indian Rice Kheer. And it came out finger licking good. It’s a quick one, one I figured out as I went along. It’s the first time I’ve ground almonds with rice {an earlier version had the Thandai nut mix}. 
For some reason, I loved this simpler version. Here it is, the Thandai Indian Rice Kheer.

Thandai Indian Rice Kheer
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Print Recipe
Flavoured gently, this indulgent Thandai Indian Rice Kheer hits all the right notes. Sweetened gently with jaggery, the flavours of almond, cardamom and saffron just shine. The texture of broken simmered rice is what adds body to this delectable kheer or pudding.
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 5-8 hours
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 5-8 hours
Thandai Indian Rice Kheer
Yum
Print Recipe
Flavoured gently, this indulgent Thandai Indian Rice Kheer hits all the right notes. Sweetened gently with jaggery, the flavours of almond, cardamom and saffron just shine. The texture of broken simmered rice is what adds body to this delectable kheer or pudding.
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 5-8 hours
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 5-8 hours
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Dry grind rice and almonds to a coarse breadcrumb like texture in a coffee grinder.​ You can add the cardamom seeds here if you like.​Stir the above into cold milk with the jaggery, cardamom seeds and cream if using.
  2. Put over low heat and cook for about 25-30 minutes, STIRRING OFTEN, until the rice is cooked and the kheer thick.
  3. Taste and adjust sweetness if required. Take off heat and add a generous pinch of saffron. Stir well.
  4. The kheer will continue to thicken as it cools. You might need to add a little milk as the absorption quality of rice differs. Once it gets to room temperature, ladle into earthenware bowls, individual serving bowls etc to set. Garnish with saffron strands, almond slivers, pistachio bits, rose petals etc.
  5. Serve chilled.
  6. Note: Rinse, drain and d​ry the rice overnight, else dry in microwave for 1 minute.
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“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey.”
Eli Brown

Bhune Murgh ki Biryani  … fragrant, rich, flavoursome yet very homey. This one pot layered biryani was indeed a surprise, a biryani that cooked up quiet well for once. I have a love/hate relationship with making biryanis, often ending up in a puddle of tears. They never come out the way I’d like them to look and taste, and I had all but given up. This one recipe has given me immense confidence!It’s thanks to this cookbook from Notion Press, A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani, that I tasted success. Yet I want to talk about Notion Press first as they offer the novel concept of self publishing in India. It is startups like these that are changing the way books are created. Notion Press is a publishing platform for authors from India that helps create, publish, and distribute print and eBooks. In an attempt to make publishing as easy as possible, they offer a variety of customized publishing solutions. I’m already tempted to say the least, but now, back to the cookbook on hand.I love the feel of a good cookbook and the cover image and design had me immediately interested. Don’t judge a book by the cover they might say, but that’s exactly what I did. It’s a warm , yet beautifully styled cover which tells the story to perfection, spices and all. I couldn’t find credits for the image {maybe I missed it}, but I sorely missed more images within. A single image is not enough to whet my visual appetite…The paper feels good. Quality is important and it’s been taken care of well. The biryani cookbook offers over 100 ‘tantalizing’ recipes, and I have to agree since what I cooked was very promising indeed. Co-authored by Tanuj Singh and Varuna Mathur, it has a good narrative. The foreword is a great read, followed by notes to the readers; light-hearted warm, very homely, very interactive. It leads you to the kitchen and gets you playing with pots and pans almost immediately!
I bookmarked a few recipes, and have to say that the book is not error free. I  think perhaps with self publishing, the onus lies on the content writer, not the publisher. The book would improve with better editing and grammar checks. A couple of recipes skipped the meat altogether. The ingredients are not uniform across the book; sometimes in weight, sometimes a measures, other times a number. Also some capitals, some not is a bit of a distraction. Most importantly, the number of servings are missing across the book. The new cook will certainly be at sea as he/she attempts to guess how many mouths the recipe caters to. And of course, more pictures please. That said, the book is still a keeper!
Finally zeroed down to the Bhune Murgh ki Biryani, trying to play it safe, well aware of my past biryani disasters. The introduction had me smiling. “If ingredients could make a dish, this is one of the top variants in the list. With rice being cooked in cardamom, and chicken in whole spices, cashew and khus khus paste provide that richness and a crunchy edge to the dish thereby rendering it as a pretty common home-style“.For me it turned out to be pretty uncommon and quite a lot of fun. As they say in the notes, the book is “about perceiving cooking as an emerging process with no guidelines, no limitations but loads of creativity and fun.” That was so me, and just what I did. I took shortcuts to the steps, for eg, added whole cardamom to the water to cook rice in. I ground the onion and cashew together with the poppy seeds. I browned the onions first and then cooked the chicken in the same wok and remaining fat to simplify things. I finally baked the biryani layered in a ‘lagan‘ or Indian copper pot in a low oven for about 45 minutes. It still worked well.I am proud to say I have salvaged my reputation quite a bit with this Bhune Murgh ki Biryani from the book. Needless to say, I am already itching to try another one. I find biryanis most comforting, a one pot meal that hold eternal charm, hold nostalgic memories, and are ever so satisfying. The book also includes a few biryani recipes from around the globe which are interestingly unique in their own ways – Durban Biryani, Irani Biryani, Nasi Biryani, Swahili Biryani to name  few. It’s a good book to have on hand. Cuts out the work for weekend lunches! Oh and it offers a variety of pilafs, vegetarian biryanis  and accompaniments too.
My next biryani might be the Kashmiri Biryani or the Matka Murgh Biryani. Perhaps the Sri Lankan Muttom Biryani or Kolkata Biryani. Gosh, the book actually spoils you for choice! You can find it here – A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani

Bhune Murgh ki Biryani {roasted chicken biryani}
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The Bhune Murgh ki Biryani is a one pot comfort meal, rich, flavourful and homely. The flavours tease the palette and the chicken is beautifully spiced. It turned out to be deliciously good, and quite a keeper from the biryani cookbook. Be light on the spices if you are cooking for the first time, or like mild food. {Minimally adapted from 'A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani'}
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Bhune Murgh ki Biryani {roasted chicken biryani}
Yum
Print Recipe
The Bhune Murgh ki Biryani is a one pot comfort meal, rich, flavourful and homely. The flavours tease the palette and the chicken is beautifully spiced. It turned out to be deliciously good, and quite a keeper from the biryani cookbook. Be light on the spices if you are cooking for the first time, or like mild food. {Minimally adapted from 'A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani'}
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Ingredients
Rice
Bhuna Chicken
For frying onions
For layering dum
Servings: people
Instructions
Rice
  1. Wash and soak rice for an hour. Meanwhile, boil some water in a vessel and add salt and green cardamom to it. {I used whole cardamoms}. Once the rice is 3/4th cooked, drain it and keep aside.
Fried onions
  1. Heat ghee in a deep wok and fry the sliced onions until golden brown. Drain and reserve. Use remaining ghee for cooking chicken, adding more if required. {This is what I did. The instructions are missing from the recipe}
Bhuna Chicken
  1. Heat ghee in a deep kadhai/wok and add grated ginger, garlic, whole red peppers and carom seeds. As the garlic gets brown, add the onion paste and fry. Mix in the cashews and khus khus paste and continue to fry. Sprinkle garam masala powder and Kashmiri red pepper powder and mix it well. Cook until the fat starts showing at the surface, adding water occasionally as required.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and let them cook over high flame till the chicken is cooked. Stir as needed. {I cooked over high heat for 5 minutes, then covered and simmered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until done}.
Layer the dum {slow cooking}
  1. Once the chicken is cooked, add the rice to cover the chicken masala. Sprinkle the saffron and milk mixture on it along with some ghee and fried onions. Cover the lid and cook on 'dum' for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Notes
  1. I layered the chicken masala and rice for final 'dum' {slow cooking} in a heavy bottom metal 'lagan' / pot, dotted it with ghee, sprinkled over the soaked saffron and milk, topped it with fried onions, and sealed the mouth with heavy duty aluminium foil. Baked it at 150C for an hour.
  2. I reserved some fried onions for garnishing, and served the biryani with a garlic raita/spiced garlic yogurt.
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