Peshawar to Pune- Chef Altamash Iqbal

Weekends in Pune can be a social whirl . With a bewildering choice of events to attend, from book readings to jazz concerts, presentations on the craft of stained glass, art show openings accompanied by the requisite wine and cheese, and one is hard put to decide which occasion to go to, since most of these are free and open to all.  

Many events now are built around the still relatively new interest in food. Farmers markets with nary a farmer to be seen, Organic Fairs with a lot of additives , restaurants hosting flea markets  and such like are the order of the day. 

Several of these events are held in five star hotels as they have large spaces but now  malls have jumped into the fray of events to attract more visitors to their stores.

Nitesh HUB, till recently known as Koregaon Park Mall , had organised a  chef interaction on their premises recently with Altamash Iqbal, the chef behind Riwaz, a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Bangalore. showcasing  the cuisine of  the North West Frontier, a new, rather dashing term for what basically remains tandoori and dum pukht.

Chef Altamash chose to demonstrate two dishes , strangely enough vegetarian, from a region known for the predominance of mutton , dairy and lentils in their cuisine. I mean its Baluchistan, Peshawar and Malakand!

Nevertheless he spoke to an interested audience. On show were a Mushroom Galouti with Porcini and Morel Soil, and a Stuffed Potato with Kadhai spices and Curried Yogurt.

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What was interesting about the galouti was the morel soil,  which was made with toasted almond flakes served along with a porcini espuma made of pureed porcini. The mushroom cutlet was made of ground field mushrooms cooked with onions, ginger garlic , cashewnuts and some spices. It was smooth and very kebab like and the porcini foam and shimeji mushrooms added a rather special flavour. Beautifully plated, with edible flowers and a smidgen of mango sauce, it was a pleasure to eat and we could all have done with seconds.

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The stuffed potato was a scooped out potato leaving a shell. While the chef had pre cooked the potato shells to save time, they are to be deep fried till golden. He then made a tasty mix of cottage cheese, crushed almonds. ginger peas and chillies , sauteed and lightly mashed and filled into the shells. This was then marinated in yogurt and powdered spices and baked for a few minutes. The yogurt was tempered with kadhai spice , made of coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Again the plating was interesting, the stuffed potatoes sliced into perfect rounds and served with the tempered spiced yogurt and a sprinkling of micro greens which were delicious ... this one being from sprouted green gram.

Chef Altamash, a personable young man with an obvious relish for creating new dishes,  fielded  questions from the audience while cooking and even shared a few interesting tips with us.  He said most people  today use foil instead of a pastry to seal the dish for dum pukht  and the trick to making an unforgettable Dal (Bukhara/Makhani/ Kala / Maa) call it what you will, is to add some rajmha  and channa dal to bind the dal plus an amount of cream and butter equal to the weight of lentils used ! 

My afternoon was well spent , having picked up some valuable tips for my home cooking from a true professional and an introduction to several ingredients new to me. Not to mention the delicious food  !! 

Pune Wine Festival

Winetastingpune The Pune Gourmet Club is holding a wine tasting festival on the 13 and 14 December 2008. Read all about it here

Mango Festival at the Bal Gandharva


This is the season of mangoes and mellow fruitfulness. Lychees, apricots, peaches….all those fruits are seen on the market for a very short time in summer. Mangoes dominate the scene, in the retail stores, at the market, on the pavements. We even have festivals to celebrate this  increasingly expensive fruit.


One was recently held at the Bal Gandharva on Jungli Maharaj road. If people had not picked up a dozen of their favourite fruit till then, this was the place they finally gave in and coughed up the dough for twelve of the best.  Old and young were seen leaving with their precious load in peshwis, having sniffed out the finest of the lot.  I mean what is a Maharashtrian without a mango. A cloud without rain, a book without words, a…a.. pain without paracetemol ?

The number of orchards represented were not as many as in earlier years and the hapus and kesari ruled the show which, personally, I find a bit boring. Considering that India boasts of having such diversity it is a pity not more of the others make their way to this celebration of our most lauded fruit.Where were the Totapuri's, the Dasehri, the Alampur Baneshan,the Chausa,the Sundri,the Mulgoa, the Langra, the Safeda or Banganapalli, the Rumani?  The Alphonso is considered the most tasty but  its promotion is a bit like ignoring all the other rice varieties because the basmati has gained universal acceptance. Tastes differ. It would be nice to have a bit of choice.

The College of Agriculture in Pune put up a small exhibit here of varieties grown , pictures of which might be helpful in identifying  the type of mango you are about to invest in.

Aamrapaali_2 Aamrapalli

\Hapus_green Alphonso/ Hapus

Goa_mankur_greenGoa Mankur




Ratna_greenRatna ( a hybrid between Hapus and Sindhu)