i’ve been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i’ve owned nilgiri’s indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i’m on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a ‘curry in a hurry’! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i’m enjoying exploring the new social media to fulfil this passion! i’ve also published cookery books, been on tv, the radio, won awards! now i’m also moving into making cookery videos. these are simple and easy to follow and don’t go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!
a simple soup, or a starter, for Mother's Day buffet at nilgiri's !!
Its time for Mother’s Day and, as always, there is a lot happening at nilgiri’s.
Srinivas, my Hyderabadi and kebab chef is returning to India, after two years with us, to be with his family. He will spend Mother’s Day in Hyderabad. He has been planning this for some (well, quite a long) time now, to be with his daughter, and son and his beloved wife . . . I am sure he will have a great time! Enjoy your holiday mate!! See you in July!!
Srinivas' family: daughter Anisha, wife Aish and son Asif
But for now, as well as farewelling a friend and colleague, my mind is focusing on getting organised for Mother’s Day!
What do we need for this special day?
Well, we need a menu and we need a theme and we need it ‘now’.
Every single year, since we moved into the present premises, we have had a special theme whether it’s celebrating something like Mother’s Day or just celebrating our food!
For example, one year we focused on the ‘coastal food of India’, then another year we did a buffet and called it ‘roadside stalls of India’.
A few years ago we did food from the ‘North West Frontier Province’, then there was ‘Calcutta Chowringhee Chat’, and. . . Well, this is a new year and we need new ideas so I call a meeting with all the staff, from both the front and back of house, to discuss possible themes, the menu, the pricing, the marketing, and much more besides!
Marketing is Meera’s domain, and with around 7,000 people on the nilgiri’s mailing list her job is quite a ‘cakewalk’, or so we all think! There’s always more to it than meets the eye and at the end of the day we need bu*s on seats and Meera generally delivers!!
So, the menu is the next big challenge but before we start composing that there is the ‘theme’ that we need to come up with and with Mother’s Day around the corner that seems to guide us.
So, we all agree on” maa ki rasoi “ as in ‘mum’s kitchen but with a difference’!
So, with a twist on the usual meaning of that phrase, the staff are going to cook their favourite dish for their mum and not the other way around! It is Mother’s day after all and mum is not cooking, not today!!
We agree that each staff member will come up with a starter and a main dish to feature on the menu. That’s easy! What is challenging is to select a dish and reject another as each staff member has such a vast array of dishes they want to use.
So, my job is to set the emotional part aside and decide from the long list of dishes that have been chosen for gastronomic, fond memories and many other personal reasons, what will work on the day.
I try to keep things very simple, as always. If it sounds good and looks good, well, it’s on the list!! After all, we are all professionals and we know what mum will like even if we have to discard a dish that our mum used to make us which carries us back to when we were kids!
So, after much deliberation we proudly present our 2012 Mother’s Day Sunday Buffet menu!
I am planning on making a soup for maa ki rasoi. With winter creeping around the corner, particularly mornings and evenings, I am planning on my soup as a ‘warm’ starter.
The soup could be shorba from the north or a rasam from the south, but I decide on a kadhi that hails from either Maharashtra, Gujarat or Punjab. It is one of my favourite starters and can be served with or without the dumplings. (Interestingly, the west coast version of this soup is generally served cold and has no yoghurt added, it is called sol kadhi and uses coconut, another one for our vegan friends!)
Anyway, with this soup in mind I ask the staff to come up with a recipe for our own kadhi. I’ve got to focus on other things and letting them get the recipe makes my job ‘easy’, after all I am the chef!
I am absolutely dumbstruck when all the staff come back to me with a recipe for a ‘hot’ kadhi that their mother makes and they all swear that this is the best and most authentic!
So, one by one they come to me with their own personalised version.
Kiran Hariyani, who is part Sindhi, part Punjabi, part Maharashtrian, comes up with a sindhi kadhi that uses tamarind along with yoghurt and she claims, most adamantly, that this is the most authentic version!
She also claims to have a recipe for a Maharashtrian kadhi. I am aware of this version as it is one that uses very little chickpea flour and no turmeric. If you do not trust me, ask my mum!!
Then comes Akhil, who is from Chandigarh, and his recipe includes chopped onions both in the kadhi and in the dumplings.
Durga Prasad – who is a new addition to the team and is probably the only ‘international’ chef in my kitchen, having worked in hotels from Mumbai to Hong Kong to London to Zurich to New York and Sydney – has a kadhi recipe from Benaras (Varanasi in UP) which uses extremely sour yoghurt and has a bay leaf added to it. His recipe also includes dumplings. Most unique!!
Then there’s Nishant Shah, he’s the Gujju Bhai in my team, and he swears that only Gujaratis can make a good kadhi. “Yes Nishant,” I say, “but you add a bit of sugar to yours.” “But chef! That is what makes it a kadhi.” he replies most passionately! He also knows a thing or two about a Rajasthani kadhi which includes cassia, cloves, fennel seeds and kari leaves in the tempering!! Rajasthani kadhi also includes dumplings.
Parsees also make a kadhi called dahi ni cudhi and this version is one of my favorites.
If you ever get Babu from the Taj Bombay to make it for you you will forget Babu but not his cudhi, it’s just brilliant (remember Babu from the Parsee blog? No? Okay, then click Parsee Food – a beautiful yatra).
Then there is the Bihari version which has no turmeric added but incorporates garam masala in the tempering!! How amazing is that?!!
So, as you can see, a simple (“simple”) starter of a soup, a so-called straightforward kadhi, can be so diverse and intricate with hundreds of localised versions. This sort of thing can only happen with Indian food. This soup (and no, it’s not a cur*y my dear friends) is a staple dish to most Indians in the north just like the rasam is to the people of the south!
Southern Indians have rasam towards the end of the meal with rice whilst the northerners have kadhi for the same reason!!
Finally, after hearing all these wonderful versions of the same dish I decide it’s time I put my head-chef’s hat on. So, I create a kadhi recipe of my own for Mother’s Day, and tell the staff, “It is my way or the. . .”!
This recipe is in four parts: the soup, the dumplings, the tempering and then combining them all together. However, if you want to see a one-page version of the recipe, please click nilgiri’s kadhi pakodi.
Ingredients for the soup
left to right: yoghurt, buttermilk, thinned down yoghurt, turmeric, salt
Ingredients for the tempering
right to left starting from the 9 o'clock position: oil, black mustard seeds, brown cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, dry red chillies, asafoetida (ground), chilli powder, fresh kari leaves, fresh coriander leaves
Ingredients for the dumplings
left to right: spinach leaves (washed), ginger powder, brown cumin seeds, salt, green chillies, oil, chickpea flour
paper towel steel bowl, slotted spoon or a spider spoon
Part 1 – the soup
add yoghurt to a large saucepan and set aside yoghurt container
in order to not waste any remaining yoghurt, pour water into yoghurt container, swirl around, and then add to saucepan
add thinned down yoghurt – this helps in getting the right consistency, not too thin, not too thick so it's just right!
add water and fold if too thick, mixture should be like a thin soup to begin with (before you start cooking)
add chickpea flour to water and whisk
add turmeric to the chickpea flour mixture and whisk
add mixture to saucepan and fold
add salt and fold
now cook over medium heat and fold regularly till the soup starts to thicken slightly. Do not let boil but slow cook
Part 2 – the dumplings
add 2 cups of chickpea flour to a large mixing bowl
Step 2 – preparing the green chillies
lay out the green chillies on a chopping board
remove the stalks by hand
roughly chop green chillies
add chillies to mixing bowl
add brown cumin seeds
add ginger powder
heat plenty of oil in a pan to fry the dumplings – when oil is hot add 2 tablespoons to the dumpling mixture
add hot oil to dumpling mixture, this makes the batter light and there is no need to add any baking soda!!
fold dumpling mixture
add torn spinach leaves to dumpling mixture and then add 1 tablespoon of hot oil to temper the leaves
fold dumpling mixture
don't forget to stir the soup occasionally !
Step 13 – Frying the dumplings
Heat the oil and add the dumplings either by hand or by using a spoon and fork as shown below.
How to add dumplings by hand
adding dumpling mixture by hand
How to add dumplings using a spoon and fork
dunk spoon in water - this will prevent the mixture from sticking
scoop mixture onto spoon
place spoon about 1 inch above oil and scrape off mixture using a fork or spoon
slide mixture into oil - don't let it splash!
Fry dumplings until golden brown
turn dumplings to ensure they cook evenly
Remove dumplings when golden brown
remove dumplings when golden brown and place on paper towelling
Perfect golden dumplings!
your dumplings will (I hope) look like this!
Part 3 – the tempering
add oil to pan and heat until oil starts smoking
add black mustard seeds and let crackle
add cumin seeds and let crackle
add just a few fenugreek seeds and let them pop
remove from heat and add coriander seeds
and add whole dried chillies
then add asafoetida powder
and chilli powder
Part 4 – Bringing it all together
place kari leaves on top of the hot soup
add tempered spices to soup
add soup to pan used for tempering spices, fold, and then pour into soup saucepan - this will minimise waste
fold mixture until it thickens, do not let it boil!
when soup froths like this, remove from heat. I repeat: do not let it boil!
two minutes after turning off the stove, your soup will (again, I hope) look like this
Step 6- Serving suggestions
You can either serve the soup and add dumplings to the plate or you can add dumplings to the soup in the saucepan to infuse them with flavour.
Step 6 A – If adding dumplings to plate
ladle soup into bowl
add dumplings and serve
Step 6B- If adding dumplings to saucepan
add dumplings to saucepan
soak dumplings for 5 minutes
your soup is now ready to serve
kadhi, my favourite soup!!
Well before you disappear into your own ‘rasoi’ , send me a recipe of your favorite ‘kadhi’ and we will publish it in my blogs . How’s that!!
Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!!