Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Experiences at Kasauli: A slice of heaven on Earth! Part 1- Introduction

Imagine yourself in a place overlooking hills, lush green forests of pine, oak and deodar trees, no unwanted or disturbing sounds, a pleasant "Nip in the air" atmosphere and some local beer and good food. That's exactly where we were and where we wanted to be on hubby's birthday!!! After doing a lot on R n D of the weekend getaways around, this not-so-commercial tourist place seemed like a treasure hunt for us when a friend recommended it's name. Kasauli falls in the Solan district of himachal pradesh and is a small town where everyone knows everyone. The people there are extremely humble and thankfully, the mindset is not like any other tourist destination locals.

A colonial hill station established by the British Raj in 1842, this cantonment still retains that architecture, and has a terrific old world charm. As much as road trips are fun, sitting by the window with the rays of sun falling on my lap, train journeys seem as exciting to enjoy the picturesque views outside. On the travelling day, while we were still waking up brushing the sleep from our eyes, the Sun God was already flaunting his brightness asking us to hurry to make it on time at the New Delhi railway station for the 7:40 am train. The taxi ride gave us some beautiful views of a father dropping a daughter to school on a sccoter, early office goers waiting for their public transport, cleaners brushing the dust off the road and with almost no traffic on the ever buzzing Delhi roads, we reached the station right on time!

The time in the train went in a jiffy as we were busy munching on the delicious breakfast served to us. From Kalka, we wanted to ride in the heritage toy train, but unfortunately it was already full. Ditching the taxi stand, we went to Dharmpur in a bus just to experience the local transport and we were not dissapointed. The bus was super packed and i made way to my seat climbing atop all boxes and bags. A very funny line i read written on the bus interior was :

Interior of the bus

And i jokingly commented to my husband - Check this, "As they say, men do, women don't ;)".
The bus ride

Well the small buses from Dharmpur to Kasauli are worth a ride. Loud punjabi music playing through the speakers, the locals chit-chatting, people savouring some "Chaat" (which i must say was spicy, tangy, crunchy... so flavourful), the ride was an experience! And the views....breathtaking!

The snack we had in the bus

After all this travel, all you need is a cosy room which makes you feel at home. Kasauli Regency provided just that! This is how our Deluxe room looked like:

WI-fi in the room (though, surfing internet was not on our priority list), calm surroundings, cleanliness and hygiene maintained and the USP of the hotel: Hangout, Roof top restaurant overlooking the Sanawar. We got the best corner seat for lunch and the food was lip-smacking too. After a little rest, we went for a small trek from the hotel to the market and the views didn't stop to fascinate us. Since it was hubby's birthday and we wanted to shake a leg, we went to their Saturday night party and we had to find a place to place a foot. Great music, great cocktails, this place is "the" place to be, if you want to groove to some music instead of watching tv in your room. 

And now comes the best part! Following European concept to cope with sound restrictions after 10 pm,this is the first Hotel in India to start "Silent parties" or "Headphone parties". Yes, you heard it right! So, you take a headphone and tune in to your favourite music (you have 3 options from trance, hindi bollywood and house music or hip hop) and you are the boss of the time! You can dance and party as late as you want to! We made some new friends there, as the second best policy they have of not allowing stags but only girls and couples. There were families sitting with babies grooving to the music and enjoying their dinner and there were couples getting cosy in the beautiful weather listening to some romantic songs! Doesn't this place sounds fun?

We also met the owner Rajesh Dogar who at the party who is an amazing human being, and so to say about his DJ brother Paras Sharma. Both are beautiful persons by heart and their warm friendship stole our heart. Hangout seemed like a family get together party, when we sat with strangers (now friends) chit chatting till 3 am in the morning.

This place is surely a must-visit for their amazing hospitality, good food, great music and out of the breath view. I joked asking the server whether he finds it funny seeing all people dance considering they hear no music, to which he laughed and said, "At first we used to find it funny, but now we have got used to". If you tend to sing along and get loud, they have these cardboard placards shown to you on which is written, "You are too loud" as a warning sign. 

Me and hubby enjoyed staying here, playing some pool, carrom and table tennis every evening and experiencing the relaxed atmosphere for 3 days....

My journey continues in Part 2....

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Koshimbir special

Maharashtrian cuisine is full of flavours and spices, and a thali (a meal for the day) includes all the nutrients in a balanced way. Since childhood, having koshimbir on the side was always a part of meal. Though served in limited quantity, this was what i loved, especially the kakdichi koshimbir. Kakdi is cucumber and koshimbir is salad. But it's not just about cutting or chopping fresh vegetables, but they are always topped with green chillies, corriander leaves, peanut powder and sometimes with curd and at times with Phodni (Known as tadka). The one made with curd is popularly known as raita. But you can do variations by adjusting the amount of curd and see the magic!! The taste changes dramatically and what you get is different flavours each time.

Salads are always healthy, as they are fresh, raw and light. But at times, they would get boring. So, my mother usually makes tons of varieties, sometimes by adding sprouts, sometimes by mixing two vegetables, sometimes grating them or at times chopping them. And every time the taste is different.

So here i am presenting two different types of koshimbir. Both are made with Phodni (Tadka), but you can skip adding the tadka and add curd instead. Or add tadka and add little amount of curd. Choice is yours.

Kakdichi Koshimbir: (Cucumber salad)


Cucumbers - 2
Peanut powder - 3 tsp (If you don't have this, you can even add crushed roasted peanuts for a cruncy effect)
Green chillies - 2
Onions - 1 small (optional) 
Oil - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Kadipatta (Curry leaves) - a few (Optional)
Lemon juice - about 1/2 lemon


Wash and slice the cucumbers. Now you can either chop them into small pieces or grate them. Either way tastes great and different i would say. Leave them aside for 15 minutes or so, so that they leave water. 

Squeeze out all the water from the cucumber and take them in a fresh bowl.

Chop the onions and green chillies and add them to the cucumber.
Add the peanut powder. Mix well.

Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds. When they crackle, add asafoetida and cumin seeds. After about 10 seconds, add in the curry leaves and take off heat.

Add this to the cucumber mixture. Mix well. Add salt and lemon juice at the time of serving as it would make the salad watery (Cucumber leaves a lot of water).

Healthy koshimbir is ready :)
If you want to add curd, just add a spoonful for a different taste.

Tomato Carrot Salad (Tomato chi koshimbir) :


Tomato - 2 medium
Carrot - 1
Rest all the ingredients are the same :
Oil - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Peanut powder - 1-2 tbsp (optional)
Salt - to taste


Wash the carrots and tomatoes.
Chop the tomato. Peel the carrot and grate it. 
Take the tomatoes and carrot together in a bowl.
Now heat oil in a pan. Make Phodni by adding mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin seeds and curry leaves.
If adding the peanut powder, add now.
Add this to the carrot and tomato. Mix it well. Add salt according to taste.

Isn't this easy?
You can change the taste and flavours by adding lime juice, or sometimes curd, sometimes not adding fodni and adding only curd or at times, just adding salt, pepper and lime juice. 
Whichever way you make it, it tastes great :)

Happy Cooking :)

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bhendi Masala (Maharashtrian style)

There are so many different ways of making Bhendi masala, but the one i love most (obviously!) is the one that is made back home in Maharashtra. Spicy, tangy, crunchy, chewy, this dish has all flavours blended in one. Bhendi or Bhindi or Okra as it is called, tastes best when it's stuffed. And there are many versions of making the stuffing. Some make it with onions and spices, some add grated fresh coconut, some add peanut powder, and some with only spices. But the main ingredients in making this aromatic recipe Maharashtrian style is the sesame seeds and the goda masala. I feel it really transforms the dish into something else and gives it a distinct taste.

Making this vegetable requires a little more oil, but it helps prevent "bhendi" from being soggy. Hubby dearest loves this version, and the first time i made it, he called me from office just to tell me how tasty it was. So, be assured that if you make this version, you are going to get loads of pats on your back :) And the best part- It's super easy to make :)


Bhendi/Bhindi/Okra/Lady's finger - 1/4 kg
Onion - 1 (cut lengthwise)
Oil - for deep frying
Oil - 2 tbsp
Sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
Roasted Peanut powder - 4 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Corriander powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Goda masala - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Amchur powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - just sprinkle on top ( about 1/2 tsp)
Corriander leaves - 1/4 cup
Cashewnuts - 4-5 halved (This is optional, just to make the dish rich. At home, we don't add cashewnuts, but i took this idea from the famous WahChef)

Recipe :

Wash the bhendi properly and pat dry. It is very important to dry them properly, as if they remain moist, they will be sticky and soggy when you deep fry them.

Remove the end portions from both sides, and slit them vertically from one side keeping the other side intact.

Heat oil in a kadhai. When the oil is hot enough, fry the onions and remove them just when they start turning brown. Keep aside.

To the same oil, add cashews and fry till they get a nice golden colour. Keep aside.

Now add the Bhendi to this oil, and deep fry them till they are crisp. You will know when they start browning that they are done. Remove and keep aside. 

I purposely didn't drain the oil from all the 3 deep fried items as it helps coat the masala properly when they ooze out oil.

Now in a pan/kadhai, add 2 tbsp oil. Add cumin seeds and then sesame seeds. When they splutter, switch off the gas.

Now add the peanut powder, and mix it well. Then add all the dry spices like chilli powder, turmeric powder, corriander powder, amchur powder, salt, sugar, garam masala and goda masala. Give it a nice mix. Lastly add the corriander leaves and then the onions, cashews and bhendi.

Do not cover the pan. The masala will coat automatically to the bhendi when you mix it. Also please note : Add all the spices after switching off the flame.

Now that really looks tempting, doesn't it?

Happy Cooking :)

Friday, 5 September 2014

Dadpe Pohe

Dadpe pohe is a typical Maharashtrian dish which is eaten for breakfast or as a mid-time evening snack. The name of the dish has significance in it's cooking method. Dadapne in Marathi means giving pressure. No, this dish is not pressure cooked, hehe... Instead the thin variety of poha is mixed with chopped onions and mixed with tempering and fresh coconut. This mixture is covered for a while which gives it pressure which make the flavours blend well. So technically, there is no cooking involved. Just chopping and mixing. 
Isn't it easy?

And as simple as it sounds, it is made in just 10 minutes to be precise. The main ingredients for the dish being onions, grated fresh coconut and the tempering. Tempering is usually oil, cumin seeds, asafoetida, mustard seeds and at times curry leaves. Traditionally, the dish is made with fresh coconut, but if you don't have it at hand try making it with dessicated coconut (the taste will vary a bit, but if you are experimental with food, you will surely like it). And if you don't have dessicated coconut too at hand, just try it with other ingredients. Yes, we are the queens of our kitchen, and we can create magic with what's available, right?


Thin poha - 2 cups
Onion - 1 (chopped finely)
Green chillies - 4 (Either chop them finely or cut them in half size according to your choice)
Grated fresh coconut - 1/2 cup or 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (If you don't have coconut, then add tomatoes, or you can add both but don't add a lot or else poha will become too soggy)
Curry leaves - 5-6 (i didn't have them handy, so i skipped adding these in the picture)
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Corriander leaves - a few (finely chopped)
Asafoetida - a pinch
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp (just to give that colour)
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tbsp
Sugar - 1/2 tsp (this is optional, but we maharashtrians always add salt and sugar together to a dish to give that mixed flavourful taste)
Lemon - 1/2


Always use thin variety of poha to make this dish and not the "Mota poha".

You can make a paste of the coconut by adding little water or you can add the coconut as it is. My mother usually adds the coconut as it is.

Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add asafoetida, cumin seeds, curry leaves and green chillies. Saute for about 30 seconds.

Now add the onions and cook till translucent. Add in the turmeric powder, mix well and switch off the gas.

Take poha in a mixing bowl and add the above mixture to it (If adding tomatoes, add now). Add salt and sugar and mix it all well.

Now add the grated fresh coconut or the paste, corriander leaves and lemon juice. 

Mix it all well and keep aside covered for about 10 minutes. Dadpe pohe is ready to serve :)

They taste great as it is, but you can even eat it along with some pickle, chutney or dahi (yogurt).

For a change of taste, some add roasted peanuts or roasted chana daal to this poha. Some add buttermilk instead of lemon juice, and some make it without heating the oil (add oil directly to the poha). As i always say, cooking is so regional as the water, weather and ingredients available always play an important role. So you can make your own version and am sure you will love it!

Happy Cooking :)




Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Bharli vaangi : Stuffed Brinjals

I wanted to post this recipe since a long time,it being one of my favourite dish. I never really used to like brinjals so much in childhood, but as i grew up, my taste buds became adventurous and i experimented a lot with food. Has it happened to you all that you didn't like any particular ingredient or dish as a child, and now you love it?

The famous two dishes of the vegetable in India are Bharta (Bharit as we call it in Marathi) and Bharli Vaangi (Bharwan Baingan or stuffed brinjals). Although majority of the brinjals are purple, there are also the green or white variety. Also known as aubergine or eggplant, brinjal is the common word in India. Having immense health benefits, the major one (and the one i should mention here for all my beautiful ladies reading this blog) is brinjal helps skin look younger as it has a good amount of antioxidants and vitamins. So there is no reason not to eat this vegetable right?

There are different methods of making Bharli vaangi... some stuff the masala inside the brinjals and saute it or even roast it. Some saute the masala and then stuff into brinjals and cook it covered. Some make the curry, and add roasted/cooked brinjals to it, but the one my mother makes is a little different. I like her version a lot, though at times i myself make the dry version too to give it in tiffin to hubby. But whenever i go home, i "demand" my mom to make this dish her way. And she makes it lip smacking!!!

So, the last time i visited her, i took some pics of the dish she had made ( took them in a hurry, as i was so hungry and slurrping that i didn't have the patience to click pics with the DSLR). So these pics are clicked with my I-phone and hence sorry for the image quality :) But guess you can make out, how tempting the curry is :)


Brinjals - 8 medium sized ( my mother here has used green variety, but the purple variety tastes great too )

Red chilli powder - 1 tbsp ( adjust to taste )

Goda masala - 2 tsp

Salt - to taste

Onions - 4 

Garlic - 4-5 pods

Oil - 2-3 tbsp

Corriander leaves - to garnish

Cumin seeds -1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp

Asafoetida - a pinch

Peanut powder - 2 tbsp


Wash the brinjals thoroughly. Now remove the stem and cut slit the brinjal keeping the other end intact ( cut both horizontally and vertically).

Take some water in a bowl, add about 1/4 tsp salt to it. Now put the cut brinjals into water and keep aside.

Grate the onion ( Yes, that's her secret!!! ). Takes time and you might end up with loads of sneezes and tears, but trust me it's totally worth it !!! The grated onions give a nice thickness to the gravy.

Chop the garlic finely or you can even crush it.

Take oil in a kadhai/pan. This sabzi requires a little more oil, as it gives good taste and "tari" (a layer of oil) on top. Let the oil really heat up well.

Add mustard seeds, when they crackle, add asafoetida and cumin seeds. Now add the crushed/chopped garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds and immediately add the grated onions.

Saute for about a minute ( don't burn it ) on low flame and then add the turmeric powder,salt and red chilli powder. Mix it all well and let it cook till it starts leaving oil. 

Now add the cut brinjals and mix it, so that the brinjals coat with the masala. After about 1-2 minutes, add enough water so that the brinjals are immersed in it. Let it come to a boil on high flame, and then reduce to flame to low. 

Cook till brinjals are done. Now add the goda masala and peanut powder. Mix it well and add little more water (according to the consistency of the gravy needed). Adjust salt, and garnish with corriander leaves.

Traditionally we serve it with Bhaakri (roti made of jowar, bajra or rice powder), but it tastes great even with normal chapati or paratha.

Happy Cooking :)