Previous month:
June 2005
Next month:
August 2005

July 2005

The changing face of food



Our little cooperative vegetable market, housed in a something like a garage, stocks most of the essentials needed for Indian cookery. Green coriander, coconut, kari patta i.e. curry leaves, ginger, garlic, green chillies, lime, leafy vegetables, khatta bhaji, chawlai /amaranthus, methi sag, /fenugreek leaves, root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, arvi/colocasia and seasonal vegetables,


like Tonli, padwal /snake gourd, bhindi /okra, green beans, cabbage and so on.
For anything special one had to go to the main market in the Cantonment area ...Shivaji Market.
Now what do I see pasted on the wall recently?


We have gone upmarket, we have become fancy, we are changing. And in case you can't read the writing on the wall, it says...Basil, Broccoli, Curd (yogurt), Parsley, Celery.

This means I can cook up an Italian meal without going out of the way , as some of the fresh ingredients are readily available to me. Thyme, sweet basil, red and yellow peppers, asparagus and so on are also more commonly seen in local vegetable shops.

None of these vegetables and herbs are imported. They are grown locally by enterprising farmers who find a ready market in hotels and restaurants in Pune, and the local population who are much more open to trying out new recipes and other cuisines besides their own.

This is a matter worthy of some rejoicing as we always had to look around for substitutes when recipes specified certain herbs or vegetables .

Today I can make a mean Crostini di fegatini di pollo as I can get celery, rosemary, sage, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, anchovy fillets, capers and a fairly good white wine right here. The only thing I need to substitute is a a Broon( fresh baked crusty bread) for a Tuscan baguette.

But that is as good , (at Rs 4, maybe better) than the Real thing.

Olive and Spinach Surprise: Alu Palak bonda

The Paper Chef is a brilliant initiative begun by Owen of Tomatilla. It is for all those who cook as well as the armchair cook, that most demanding of people, who slavers at the description of ingredients, and puts it all together in his mind to create a feast that defies any other to come up to scratch.

As a new-ton to most events in the online food world I was late again but this list was too much to pass up . (Well the time difference saved me as I am typing this up well beyond 12 o'clock but ....that's my 12 o'clock.) The olives, potatoes and cheddar cheese were already there. All I needed was some nice fresh spinach.So I rushed off to the market.

First, I thought a salad would be good, but on second and a half thoughts the salad idea was shelved for something a bit more adventurous. At the market I saw gavraan lasun that is wild or indigenous garlic which is characterized by its small cloves . That became one of the other ingredients. Baby spinach was also found, if a trifle wilted. So with the addition of a few other spices from my masala rack I was all set to go.


4 medium potatoes
1 cup of cooked spinach/ about 1 bunch of palak
1/2  grated cheddar cheese
10 green pitted olives
5 cloves of garlic/ lasan chopped very fine
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup gram flour/ besan ka atta
1 tsp rock salt
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder/paprika
½ tsp turmeric powder/haldi
1 tsp cumin/jeera powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 - 1/2 cup water

Boil and skin the potatoes. Grate the cheese fine and add to hot potatoes. Mash together till smooth. Add salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.

Cook the spinach on low heat without any water. Pour off any liquid then measure 1 cup. Squeeze out all extra water from spinach and flatten it into a rectangle about 1/4" thick.

Heat one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Toast the garlic in the oil till crisp and brown but not burnt.Spread the toasted garlic on the spinach and sprinkle on some salt.Cut the spinach into strips and roll the olives in each till the spinach strip encircles the olive.

Divide the mashed potato into 8 equal parts. Take one part and shape it into a ball (like a clay pinch pot ) with a well in the center. Place the spinach covered olive into the well and again pinch the top of the potato pot together and roll it lightly between the palms to make a perfect circle.Make all 8 the same way.

Heat up a pint of vegetable oil. While it is heating up make a batter of the gram flour, the spices and baking powder. Add the water bit by bit,( reserving any if it seems to be getting too thin) stirring till all lumps dissolve and it forms a thick batter.
Dip/coat each ball in batter and fry in hot oil till golden brown and crisp on the top.
Serve as a snack or an appetizer.


The toasted garlic spread on the spinach along with the olive oil tasted yummy and added texture to the whole with its crunch. Since the olives I had were nothing special, the oil added that extra taste it required. The cheese blended well with the potatoes and the masalas mixed in the batter did not overpower the the rest, just adding that bit of tang to make it more interesting.

P.S. for Meg in Paris. The dedication continues...darn it if the lights didnt shut down again as soon as I put the potatoes on to boil!

P.P.S. dated july 18 . This recipe has been awarded the Best Foreign Feature  by Sarah  in the finals of  the Paper Chef # 8  Golden Tomatilla  Awards. Thank you thankyou.

German Bakery


Pune reaches out to a different kind of tourist. Many of them are here for study courses and their holidays are activity based. New age therapy travellers, yoga enthusiasts, academics doing Phd's in temple architecture, dancers learning the intracacies of Bharat Natyam, and many other kinds of tourists as well , back packers and guru seekers, looking for an exotic and inexpensive holiday, stop by from Varanasi or Dharamshala via Bombay on their way to Goa. Signs_2

After a month of dal, rice, sabzi and hot curries, it is not surprising that many look out for food more recognisable to their intrepid but weary tastebuds. Besides pizza and burger outlets , of which there are many, a little caffe und kuchen is what the tourist yearns for. And a busy, on-the-road sort of cafe, good for people watching and being watched, is even better.

So you have Cafe Coffee Day and Barista, which are very much teen crowd hangouts. The first is for young people who earn their own pocket money, and the next for those whose allowance is generous (and from a parental pocket). Most of them seem to be talking into their mobiles and not to their companions at the table, so there is very little to distinguish the two.Cakeandtea_2 

And then there is the German Bakery, of which several versions exist, in Nepal, Kashmir, and Goa. They offer whole wheat breads, cakes, pies, desserts, soft drinks, herbal teas, lassi, fruit juices, Nutella sandwiches, Darjeeling tea and coffee.

Their Pune customers are often from the Osho Ashram close by, dressed in maroon or white depending on the time of day and their status within the organisation.

Others sport rasta hair and multicoloured clothing, all a bit ethnic and brocadey, with flowing clothes, shimmering gowns at breakfast, and other garb more exotic than even their surroundings, conducive to living out an oriental fantasy. Fantasy being a non violent activity, they are accepted and treated well by most residents.

Sound in the German bakery is a babel of languages mixed with the squawking horns of the rickshaws, cars, and trucks passing inches away. In earlier and presumably better days, German bakery had usurped part of the main road and kept growing with little shacks extending in all directions.

Then the PMC (Pune Municipal Corporation) decided to undertake road widening on North Main Road, cutting a swathe through 400 year old trees and the popular Bakery, as well as several establishments of doubtful nature.

Ancestral homes were reduced in size as well, so the pain was felt all across the social board. A road, as anyone knows, is only as wide as its narrowest part. Therefore traffic on North Main road is just as mad as it always was , as 'lanes' of three or four abreast merge to form one, and spread out to reform into four to six lanes as the need arises.


As a result, GB is at the heart of the hustle and bustle. Trade does not seem to have been affected, and the cafe is just as full as it always was.Their notice says it succintly " Please do not sit for a long time" which is why I listed this blog under Fast and Furious. However I did not feel any pressure to vacate my table in a hurry.

I ordered a carrot nut cake and ginger lemon tea . Both were good and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the place.It was very holiday like and made me want to get on the bus and head for the laid back beaches of Goa as well.

German Bakery
North Main Road
Koregaon Park
Pune 411001