Archive for the ‘PUNJABI FOOD’ Category

Peak of militancy didn’t mar Jyoti Arora’s love for Kashmiri Cuisine / ..By Rashmi Talwar


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AMRITSAR'S CHEF JYOTI ARORA 'S COOKERY BOOK

AMRITSAR’S CHEF JYOTI ARORA ‘S COOKERY BOOK

Cookery Book

Peak of militancy didn’t mar Jyoti’s love for Kashmiri Cuisine

Forthcoming book “Traditional recipes of Undivided Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir”

Rashmi Talwar

A pinch of February’s last chill or ending of the ‘Chilla Bacha’ of Kashmir, and in trots a glass of ‘Kanji’ in neighboring Punjabi homes. However, the tradition of creating the ruby drink in homes, is slowly dying in nuclear families.

Alternately, traditional drinks that got beaten, by fizz cult of Cokes, like Chhaach or buttermilk, kanji and Raww or sugarcane juice have surprisingly somersaulted to turn winners, from their humble beginnings. Successfully sidelining fizz colas, the delicious nutritious desi concoctions now find a pride of place in the best stemmed globular glasses to circulate amongst the who’s who, of classy weddings and celebrations. Kanji, made with black carrots, of the richest cherry tint, is not only tangy, a fabulous antioxidant, a digestive, but also spells tinkling bells for pseudo-drinkers who pass it for the rich French red wine (Merely hold a glass ). Some say in effect it easily beats firangi red wines and stands tall in bejeweled or even macho hands, crackling crimson, as it comfortably occupies flute glasses.

Likewise cashing in on the ‘down memory lane’ formula, a company- “Paperboatdrinks” scooped up traditional drinks recipes and packaged them into ready to serve tetra packs. Now, UAE, Nepal, Australia and others have already become hooked to age-old liquid concoctions of India like Jamun kala khatta, Aamras, Jaljeera, golgappe ki kanji etc.However, the traditional tipple can be found only in select cities of India.

Of course, nothing could be better in Kashmir to beat the biting icicles hanging from roofs and windows in December snows than the ‘Noon or Sheer Chai’.
A well-known Kashmiri poet Hakeem Manzoor, in his memorable musings wrote —

“Kangri bister mein le kar, khidkiyon ko waa karain
Barf girne ka nazaara, iss tarah dekha karain.”

The Kashmiri poet surely forgot the magic-combination of ‘Kehwa-Kangri’, promising to double the delight, during a spectacle of snowfall. Similarly, summer in plains can be extremely hot and baby mango made aam pana, thandai, sandal/ Khas sherbets and ice Popsicles or golas are fun.

Putting together traditional recipes of undivided Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, complete with Lahori cuisine, is Jyoti Arora, a popular cookery expert from Amritsar. While assisting renowned Masterchef Vikas Khanna, her mentor, also from Amritsar, Jyoti, a finalist in the Masterchef TV programme, was inspired to pen her own cook book, on traditional lines.

“Despite horrendous turmoil in Kashmir in 90s and early 2000, I learnt Kashmiri cooking. Those times weddings were low-key in Srinagar and around. I sat with wazas to learn Kashmiri Wazwan- Goshtaba, Rista, Haakh, Gogji Meat, Matsz, Rogan Josh, Tabakmaaz”, says Jyoti. “Since I loved to have people over for no specific reason other than the warmth of friendship in those trying times in Kashmir, I introduced and invited them for delectable Punjabi home-made – Samosas, Jalebi, Mathis, Mutton Champ, Tandoori Tikkas, Kabab and Brain Curry. In sweets the Ladoos, Besan Ki Barfi, Chandrakala, Rasgullas, Jalebi, Gulab Jamun, Ras Malai became instant hit with my Kashmiri friends. Those times, Chinese and Italian cuisines had just entered the Indian stratosphere. So, side by side I cooked these novelty items that intervened from foreign shores like noodles, spring-rolls, pizzas. The foreign introductions vanished off from plates in seconds,” she laughs.

Alternately, local Kashmiris too invited us and I learned realtime home food and traditional recipes. Knol-khol Lamb, Baingan (Auburgine) Lamb, Haakh Meat, Potato Lamb, Lauki Meat (bottle gourd), Gogji Meat, Harissa, Mujj Gaad, Nadru Yakhini and others, although in Kashmir, the culinary art is learnt through heredity and is rarely passed outside the blood relations.

“I remember, in 1994, my brother got packets of pasta, Italian spices and instructions to make them from America, which perhaps became the first time Italian food was cooked and served to a select gathering in Kashmir, that too quietly. My mother especially sent me semi cooked mincemeat from Amritsar to Srinagar, from which I cooked Keema Naan, Keema Mutter, Keema Koftas along with loads of authentic Punjabi foodstuff besides tandoori rotis, kathi- kabab, that people relished in Srinagar despite being rice eaters.”
There is popular belief in Kashmir- “If you eat roti, then you must be poor, as rice is un-affordable for you.”

“I am still completing chapters on traditional Lahori cuisine including Nihari, Paayye, Kaleji, Kunna, Korma, Gurdey-Kapurey and Raan” Jyoti inserts.

Jyoti, who organizes high end Food Festivals with hotel-chains like Holiday Inn, Marriott, Sofitel, Swissotel, Novotel in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Delhi contends –“I train staff of the hotels for 15 days and the Festival runs under my signature ‘ Jyoti Arora Food Fest’.

Talking about her tribulations in collecting recipes, the masterchef says- “I had to travel extensively in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir to find roots of some lost flavors. I talked to the elderly in these locations, but they were extremely guarded about the family’s culinary secrets. It was very tough to get them to share their recipes and sometimes it was all a big rough estimate from a pinch to a fistful. Apart from this, I tried some recipes three times and some with frail outlines, perfecting, cutting out edges and fine-tuning existing ones before including them in the book. Some required pictures from the pre-partition era, and were tough to source.” And adds “Surprisingly, food and delicious flavors strikingly emerge from differences in traditional fire sources like sigdis, tandoors, angithis etc. They are simplified in the book with possible alternatives,” she clarifies.

Talking about her forthcoming book she said, a Mumbai based photographer from New Zealand- Michael Swami, has done the food photography and book is slated for release in December 2015.

Jyoti, is also looking forward to the launch of ‘World’s Biggest Book on Food’ by Masterchef Vikas Khanna, being released by the Indian government at ‘Cannes Film Festival’. “The book is being launched by the Government of India and I too have contributed to it,” she smiles and answers -“I have already carved an outline of my next book which would be a sequel to this with innovations of traditional cuisines”.

Jyoti has been popular on Television too with 26 episodes already completed in the ‘Rasoi Show’ on Fastway TV channel which promotes new culinary talent. Apart from this, she has churned out more than 100 episodes in DD’s ‘Zaika’ show besides becoming a finalist in Masterchef show on Star Plus.

Do you have a best moment? I ask – “The best, was when I made a unique dish called ‘Chicken Halwa’ for a series -‘Dish with a sweet twist’ on ‘Fox Traveller’ an international TV channel”. What would be your comfort zone? I barge in another question. Pat comes the reply- “Cooking after dusk with Jagjit Singh Ghazals playing in the background and using my own herbs- mint, coriander, karri patta, basil, thyme, chives from my little kitchen garden”. “A last tip”, I insist- “Presentation is King!” she smiles, lovingly stroking one of the huge collection of traditional utensils, she has sourced and treasured, Jyoti wraps up her food Zone.

Little known facts ———-

Cake: There was a kind of cake prepared in the earlier times without electric or clay ovens and not given a name. Eggs, sugar and maida and desi ghee were mixed with hand and put in a greased thali covered by another thali and left in the angithi’s warm ambers of wood. In the morning it would be similar to today’s cake. The cake had a matchless smoky woody flavor.

No fire, lamb: Lamb is cooked with no fire, kept buried in a matka with other herbs and a tenderizing herb called chibber sold by select old shops in walled city of Amritsar only. Chibber is also used as a tenderizer in pickles of lamb, fish chicken and even teetar or partridge. The food would be ready in about a week during summers and a little longer in winters.

Lost spices: Spices like Pipli with a peppery tinge, Tukmalanga, Beydaana used in chutney is a thickening agent have been used in recipes in the book. Interesting that Star aniseed or chakri phul has become so popular after its entry in an advertisement cooking palao.

Fire types: Sigdis, Angithis, Tandoor, clay oven, Chula using wood, charcoal or, cow dung cake are being revived to conform to original fire flavors

Chat masala: Pipli, lemon juice, black salt and ajwain not only make a most digestive chat masala but is an energy booster.

Romali roti: When there was a death in the family the Tawa was inverted on the fire as a sign of mourning, an inverted tawa or kadai is used to make Romali Roti.

Cashew Paste and Cream: Are alien ingredients, sourced from Hyderabad cuisine, that were hardly used in cooking in this region.

Butter chicken: Which has come to be associated with Punjabis food is actually an innovation and not originally Punjabi. Butter chicken is an invention of Moti Mahal, Delhi.

Tomatoes and chilies: Tomatoes came into Indian lives much later. The Red chili is a Kashmiri influence and only green chili was the regions hot-maid.

Kaali gajar ka Halwa: Was once as popular as routine Gajarela – sweet dish made with carrots.

Lost sherbets: Jamun sherbet, Falsaa Sherbet (still popular in Lahore) Ginger sherbets,Plum sherbet ( very good for jaundice patients) woodapple -Bel Sherbet (a fruit offered to Lord Shiva)

Dry fruits: Dried apricots, plums, raisins and almonds added to dishes are an Afghaniimpact on our cuisine popularly using ‘Shahi’ before the dish, like – shahi paneer, shahikorma, shahi Kofta etc.

Around: Himachali cuisine includes Kulth ki Dal, Chha meat, Meat chawal with anAvadhi impact and Haryana with bajra as ingredient is influenced by Rajasthani pakwan.

Homemade vinegars: Vinegars of Jamun, sugarcane, apples, and grapes are rarely seen now. It is a lengthy process but amazingly these organic vinegars do not pinch the throat unlike synthetic vinegar.

Banana: Banana was considered a south Indian fruit, but in reality banana was very popular in its raw form in the North. Hence we had raw banana kebabs, Kofta and chips.

Throwaways: Concentrated flavors are in the stems and some roots that most people throw away, use them in cooking and garnish with leaves like mint, coriander, palak etc.

No tamarind: No imli or tamarind was used to make sour chutney; it was originally made with dried plums, sugar, black salt, zeera and water.

Turbulent days in Kashmir

Jyoti was married in Srinagar in a Sikh family in 1993. “It was the most turbulent period in Kashmir. I came from Amritsar, where I had witnessed the complete militancy period of the Khalistani movement in Punjab, aided by Pakistan. Thereafter, I landed in Kashmir as a newly wedded bride and saw a similar or even worse scenario. I felt that I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire,” says Jyoti, recalling those stormy times.

“I was petrified seeing torch bearing youth in the dark, shouting anti India slogans, and much more, firing gunshots, throwing stones at our houses, breaking windows and ordering everyone to arrive in masjids. Alternately they used masjid loudspeaker to threaten non-Muslims. It was scary; I saw them burn some houses while the police and firemen stood mute spectators to wait for the signal from militants to start dousing the fire in abandoned houses left by Kashmiri Pandits.

Militants demanded haftas the weekly contributions from all. The fire scarred buildings looked like ghost houses. Thus, patches of such areas looked like war ravaged zones. We were spared some of the ignominies by militants, mobs and army, since we were of the Sikh community.
Our daughter was studying in Presentation convent when a bomb blast took place, close to our shop ‘Jandiala Hosiery’ near Aftab Newspaper Printing Press, in Lal Chowk. One of our employees was hit by bomb shrapnel and remained critical. There was another blast which I saw at Dalgate. I recall a case of young student firing upon his school mate after having stolen a pistol from his elder brother’s bag, killing the boy on the spot.

Times were terrifying. House gates were locked at 6.30 in the evening. For years we didn’t know if our car headlights worked or not, as vehicles never plied during dark.

Only recreation in those times was to pack a picnic basket and go to Gulmarg. Studies were hardly regular and during winter vacations when the family used to go to Amritsar, no one wanted to come back. Militancy was completely wiped out in Punjab and happy times, late-nights and partying scenes with lavish weddings had restarted.

The comparison between Kashmir of then and Punjab was so odious and stark that children were adamant to stay back in Punjab. Even after nearly eight years of a good marriage with Harpreet Singh my husband a hosiery owner, things failed to soften in Kashmir, and the family decided to migrate to Amritsar where I had a marital home as well.

In 2001 we migrated and my mother-in-law and father-in-law, who had lived their entire lives in Kashmir, followed us with a heavy heart after news of daily killings and destruction nearly drove them insane. My in-laws never went back to Kashmir. They say-“Kashmir means only tears, for them and us too, there is nothing more for us than nostalgia of our happy times. But the shadow of militancy has smothered all feelings for the vale for us.”

The author is a freelance journalist and can be mailed at –rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

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‘Magic’ or ‘Idiot’ box ? DOORDARSHAN v/s PTV


By Rashmi Talwar

Chaudhary Hashmat Khan in PTV soap telecast from Lahore
The”50th anniversary of DD” in 2009 really amazed me! Was DD (Delhi Doordarshan) born before our generation in the 60s emerged? I recall the first encounter in late 60s when neighboring tiny-tot friends grandly held court about TV meaning –’Tele-Vijon’ –a ‘magic box’ that popped up movies, cartoons, songs and what-not.
Word spread like an animated wild fire about the fairies. Every Lil-one wanted sunflowers waiting for the feathered beauties to deliver the ‘enchanting box.
But Things moved fast and before we knew it our father got the 1st TV in the entire neighbourhood in 1969. A ‘pie’ company one, almost like a mini almirah with a fattest bottom that refused to sit on the ordinary and had to be provided with a luxury spread. An aerial installed and everyone stared starry-eyed as pictures and sounds emerged. Although coined much later the jingle of Onida TV commercial “Neighbor’s envy Owner’s Pride” aptly fitted the state of affairs.
Before JD (Jalandhar Doordarshan)entered our homes and lives, it was the neighboring PTV that dominated the silver screen in the border areas of Amritsar, Punjab and high reaches of Himachal Pradesh. We often used to envy the Lahori Pakistanis and their American fare on TV, delectable cartoons ‘Popeye the sailor’ and glued-to-seats soap operas “Time Tunnel”, “Bewitched”, “Star Trek” , “Lost in space”, “Six million dollar man” , “Bionic woman” , “Lucy show” , “CHIPS (California highway petrol)”,”Planet of the Apes” ,”Different Strokes”. The visually mutilated lip-locks in foreign soaps (conservative PTV!) actually helped in watching TV with parents and elders. That (soberity !) amazingly still holds true for some border farmers who stall any attempt by their young, to subscribe to cable or dish TV and religiously watch PTV and JD till date.
The recall, virtually put me in a childhood reverie when games like marbles, guli danda, hide and seek, seven plates, staapu or football would see a disappearing act, by the dot of time for a serial. By then almost everyone had a TV Set after the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
During the ’71 war, PTV was used in ample measure to spew venom at India. Soon after the war, the Indian government woke up to the harrowing reality of influence of negative publicity and a swift damage control exercise came in the form of JD channels that entered our homes in the border areas, with the first movie “Pakeeza” then “Mugle-E-Azam” and rocked the boat for PTV.
But then merely “two” energy pills hardly weaned away the audience from PTV which in contrast presented aesthetically beautiful weave of its own soaps “Ankahi”, “Tanhaiyaan”, “Uncle Urfi” immensely popular “Waaris” story of dominating Pakistani tribal War-lords; or the laughter riot of “Sona Chandi”, “fifty fifty” and even the shining Toyota to be won in quiz programme “Nilam Ghar” by Tariq Aziz besides the ghazals of Noor Jahan, Abida Parveen, Gulam Ali, Mehandi Hasan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mussarat Naseer’s wedding songs “mathey te chamkan val..”,Mallika Phukraj and her beautiful talented daughter Tara Sayeed.
No longer were we the poor country cousins of our Delhi counterparts because we enjoyed a choice of 2 Channels while they sufficed with only DD. Slowly JD picked up with “Chitrahaars” and “movies” followed by the first serial “Buniyaad” and subsequently “Hum Log”. Although we enjoyed them but frankly they were no match for the classy and slick productions of PTV.
But then 78 weeks of “Ramayan” in 1986 followed by “Mahabharat” in 1988 were unprecedented addictions that finally won the war for DD against PTV. PTV pittered out after private Indian channels followed CNN and BBC into Indian homes, rechristening the ‘magic’ box as the “idiot box”.

Entrepreneurial lessons from Amritsar


BY HIMANSHU JHAMB ON DECEMBER 28, 2009

I recently visited the holy city of Amritsar – home to the famous Golden Temple, the most revered shrine for Sikhs. Little did I know that my intended spiritual pilgrimage would turn into an entrepreneurial pilgrimage as well. It all started with a chance meeting with the owner of the hotel where we were staying, Mr. Ajay Kapoor. My brother and I were looking for an internet connection and were escorted to Mr. Kapoor’s office, for that purpose. It did not take us long to strike a conversation with Mr. Kapoor and find out that not only was he the owner of the hotel where we were staying but also an entrepreneur at heart. Many stories were shared but one of them stood out that I’d like to share, in Mr. Kapoor’s own words.
I do not have a lot of formal education but what I do have is a lot of practical, on-the-field education. One of the key things I have learnt over the course of my entrepreneurial career (Mr. Kapoor has been running various kinds of businesses for more than 30 years now) is that Relationships are fundamental in building any business. My son is pursuing formal education in Australia and I help him out a bit, financially. I do not send him money directly, I send the money to friends of mine in Australia and then ask them to hold on to it until my son comes and picks it from them… and I tell my son to visit these friends of mine and collect the money from them. Sometimes, I even send envelopes with “Very Important” written on them to my acquaintances (some of them are very accomplished folks) and request them to hold on to those until my son shows up to collect the envelope… and what I send inside the envelopes is a simple letter addressed to my son, that just says “I love you”.
I was quite moved by Mr. Kapoor’s story because it contained deep practical knowledge of an important lesson in entrepreneurship, in the simplest of ways – Relationships matter, big time! All Mr. Kapoor is constantly doing is increasing his son’s capacity by creating an opportunity where he can show up at the doorsteps of these accomplished people and coordinate some action with them. You never know which one would blossom into a rewarding relationship for life.
Here are a few other lessons in Entrepreneurship I took away from Amritsar:
It is all about the People: Mr. Kapoor insisted we address each other by our names and said that that is just his philosophy. According to him, without names, people just end up as titles once they are gone and that is just common practice that will generate mediocre results for the business.
Competitive Advantage: Our train was late the night we reached Amritsar and by the time we got to our hotel it was 11:30PM. We had a full 3 course meal before we went to bed, something that would be a luxury in most hotels (keep in mind we were not in a 24 hours service 5-star hotel, but a local hotel in this holy city). The hot meal, after a tiresome journey, just hit the spot and this does give Mr. Kapoor a competitive advantage over those that do not provide this service, that late.
Personal Touch: By the time we were done with our day trip, the next day, we were quite tired. Being a little short on time (we were leaving at 5AM next morning), I could not imagine leaving without eating the city’s favorite delicacy – Amritsari fish. Mr. Kapoor not only arranged for it for us but also accompanied us on our table with his charming company, while we savored the delightful dish. We were simply “Wowed” by the Personal touch he extended as part of his fantastic hospitality.
Trust from the ground up: Mr. Kapoor lives and works with his brothers where he and his brothers run the common business and the entire family treats the resources as a common pool – which he fondly called “Swimming Pool”. I was awed by the mere thought of how much one can learn about trust, a fundamental virtue in every business, just by living and working in this model.
While sitting on the train on my way back to Delhi, I could not help but reflect back on my trip to Amritsar, where I got much more than what I had bargained for – Not only was I fortunate to take my grandmother to the sacred pilgrimage, but also inadvertently was taken on an entrepreneurial pilgrimage of my own – thanks to Mr. Kapoor.

This article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of Active Garage. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.

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