My verdict on the soup
My verdict on the platter
My Verdict on the cake
2010 was when Master Chef India was aired for the first time. It was a huge platform for people passionate about food, to show their hidden talent to the entire nation. So many people from different walks of life tried their luck to get into this competition/reality show and only the very talented could make it to the top twelve. These involved home cooks, strugglers, college going students, a few corporates and amongst them was also Pankaj who had quit her many years of teaching job to participate here, so there was quite a lot on stake…
The entire journey of Master Chef India was fun and lot of learning, though quite melodramatic at times unlike Master Chef Australia, but I guess all Indian reality shows have a lot of melodrama in it to gain TRP. Millions of the viewers watching the show laughed and cried along with the participants. People had their own favourites and I had mine too. I loved to watch Radhicka, Zebi, Smitha, Jaynandan and Pankaj cooking. But in heart of hearts I prayed that either Pankaj or Jayanandan should win as they were not only talented but both of them needed the title badly as Jaya would have got a direction in his life and Pankaj because she took a big challenge by quitting her job of 16yrs and I surely could relate myself easily with her..
To my delight Pankaj won and Jayanandan was the runners up. We had a privilege of meeting Chef Jayanandan at The Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon. He was kind enough to spend a quality time with us and surely helped us decide on the menu at the famous restaurant Diya. The food was amazing and I would highly recommend it.
It was around this time of the year, last year, when Pankaj Bhadouria was declared the winner of the coveted Master Chef India 1 Title and a few days back her book got released for sale. I have already tasted Jayanandan’s cooking and since I’m an equal admirer of Pankaj, I wanted to grab my copy and explore her recipes and live her style of cooking in my kitchen.
The book titled Master Chef India Cook Book by Pankaj Bhadouria starts with a foreword by Akshay Kumar, brief introductions about Chef Kunal Kapoor, Chef Ajay Chopra and Pankaj Bhadouria herself. Then Pankaj describes her journey in Master Chef kitchen to winning the title.
Whenever I buy a cook book, I majorly get attracted by the paper-print quality, the pictures, method of description of the recipe and surely the simplicity of language. This book has an excellent paper-print quality, the papers turn easily and do not produce glare. The font size and font both are adequate to provide an ease in reading and do not strain your eyes. The photograph quality is excellent and the food is very aesthetically captured, making you drool over it and surely inspires you to try it. Each and every recipe has a photograph to go with it, giving us a fair idea how the final product looks like. All recipes provided in the book are new except the last section. It has about 75 recipes and is priced around Rs350 which I thought was reasonable for the quality of paper used in the book and also the number of recipes one learns. I got the book at much lower price as I had booked the book much earlier.
The book is divided into 4parts which are
Quick Fix Recipes
Master Chef Kitchen Recipes
The first three parts have most of the recipes by Pankaj and a few contributions are by Chef Ajay Chopra and Kunal Kapoor who are the Master Chef judges. The last section has selected popular recipes made by the Master Chef contestants in the Master Chef Kitchen of which I definitely want to try Zebi’s Kimami Seviyaan and Sweet Cheesy Basil by Jayanandan.
Barring a few, most of the recipes are made with ingredients easily available in the market. Each recipe has been provided with preparation time, cooking time and the number of people it serves making it easy for us to choose recipe based on the time we have in hand and also we can increase and decrease the quantity of ingredients based on the number of people we are cooking for. The book also helps you to understand how the recipe is served.
Each section except the dessert section has a mix of recipes for starters, soups, salad and main course. I have tried a soup, a starter, a main course and a dessert to write this review. I was particularly interested in trying out so many because after watching the episode of this year’s Master Chef Australia in which the final four contestants Kate, Michael, Alana and Danny had to write their recipes for the cook book in such utmost detail that when their recipe was tried by home cooks they would not face any problem at any step, for which they tried their recipes many times and corrected the procedure. There was a detailed description regarding the size of pan and utensils used, the portion size, quantity of ingredients etc. making it extremely easy for anyone to understand and try..
I wanted to see whether Master Chef India has taken enough pains like Master Chef Australia to provide us with a cookbook which is flawless has highly accurate and detailed descriptions. I also wanted to check whether the book provides simple tips, precautions and tricks while cooking the recipe. Does it provide alternate ingredients and substitutes in case an ingredient is not easily available. In short I wanted to understand the highs and lows of the method described in the book. Four recipes surely gives you a fair idea about the positives and negatives of the book.
I tried the Minty Green Pea Soup, Chickpea Kebab with Couscous, Tahini and Arabic salad, Ker Sangri and Chocolate Lava cake. All recipes that I tried are by Pankaj and they gave me a fair idea of her style of cooking. I must say that I admire her more after trying them. Barring Couscous and Ker Sangri which are not available every where, all the other ingredients for making these 4 recipes are easily available. I picked up Ker Sangri intentionally as I had bought them when I had visited Jaipur and wanted to use them.
Minty Green Peas SoupPreparation Time-5min
Cooking Time- 20min
1medium onion finely chopped
2cloves garlic finely chopped
2cups shelled peas
1cup mint leaves
2-1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4tsp black pepper pwd
Swirl some cream over the soup and serve with crunchy bread sticks.
My verdict on the soup
The soup is extremely simple to make and is surely a quick fix item. It tastes good, is very refreshing and filling too.The method explained is easy to comprehend and try. The soup was relished by my family. I personally found it under seasoned with 1/4tsp salt as I had used unsalted butter in my cooking. I would have preferred a salt as per taste in the list of ingredients or the mention of using salted butter. I guess the author had used salted butter for cooking in that case 1/4tsp salt should be enough but in case of unsalted butter the soup needs some salt. Plus the soup uses vegetable stock, I made my vegetable stock by boiling a mix of carrots, celery, beans and cauliflower. A quick tip on making veg stock by the author would have helped many.
Also, I would have appreciated that the author gave an alternate option to peas. I personally thought that Spinach or Lilva Beans/ Fresh Pigeon Peas can also replace Peas.
Chickpeas Kebab with Couscous, Tahini and Arabic Salad
Preparation Time: 40mins plus soaking
1tsp Tabasco sauce
1tbsp each of finely chopped ginger and garlic
1tsp finely chopped coriander
1tsp dried oregano
1tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2cup olive oil for shallow frying
Soak the chickpeas for 6hrs in water. Drain and cook in fresh water till tender. Drain and spread out on a kitchen towel to dry.
Grind the chickpeas to a coarse paste. Transfer to a a bowl and add the remaining ingredients, except the oil and mix well. Divide mixture into 10 portions and shape into flat oblong kebabs.
Shallow fry in moderately hot oil till light golden brown on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper.
250g Couscous or broken wheat (dalia)
1medium each of yellow, red and green capsicum finely diced
4tbsp fresh corn kernels
1tsp freshly ground pepper
1cup vegetable stock
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
Place the couscous in a bowl. add the vegetables, salt and pepper and mix well.
Heat the stock and pour over the couscous mixture. Cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes till the stock has been absorbed and the couscous grains are light and fluffy.
Garnish with finely chopped parsley.
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3cloves garlic chopped
1tbsp olive oil
1/2cup lemon juice
1tsp finely chopped parsley
Dry roast the sesame seeds and soak them in 1 cup of warm water for 20mins and process or grind to a smooth paste.
Add the garlic, salt, olive oil and lemon juice and process till smooth.
Transfer to a bowl and garnish with copped parsley.
2medium cucumbers quartered
2 large tomatoes quartered
12 baby spinach leaves
3tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp olive oil
Toss all ingredients together and transfer to a serving bowl.
Arrange the kebabs on a platter with the couscous. serve with the tahini and Arabic salad.
My verdict on the platter
It is a filling platter and can make a light meal for the family with simple ingredients easily available in the kitchen. It is an extremely good platter for people on a diet. I replaced the parsley with coriander as the herb is not easily available here.The couscous is very light and with the richness of so many colourful vegetables it looks very appetising and also the Arabic salad. The recipe asked for mixing the veggies with the couscous and then pouring the warm stock, I did not do that as I like my veggies with a bite so I mixed the veggies later. Couscous is not readily available everywhere and Pankaj has given daliya as a substitute for couscous.
The Kebabs were bland for my Indian palate and I found them dry too, but then Arabic food is bland! I thought that the idea of spreading chickpeas on a kitchen towel is not good as it makes them further dry. I would surely add a little oil in the kebab mix the next time and also more of Tabasco sauce and pepper too. I also thought that the author should have mentioned that these kebabs need gentle handling. Using a lightly wet hand while making the kebab surely helps in shaping them easily.
The Tahini recipe can be a disaster if you add the half cup of lemon juice mentioned in the list of ingredients. I followed my instincts and squeezed only two small lemons. Plus this makes a lot of sauce so use this quantity only if you want to store it and while storing spread a layer of olive oil on the top and refrigerate.
Preparation Time: 15mins + Soaking
Cooking Time:20 mins
25g dried ker
75g dried sangri
1tbsp mustard oil
1tsp cumin seeds
1large dried red chilli
1large onion, finely chopped
1/2tsp cumin pwd
1/2tsp coriander pwd
1tsp turmeric pwd
1tsp red chilli pwd
2large tomatoes, finely chopped
25g kumita seeds rinsed
1tbsp finely chopped coriander
a pinch of sugar
2tsp lemon juice
Wash and soak Ker and Sangri separately, in cold water to cover for 3hrs and drain.
Heat the mustard oil in a large pan until it reaches smoking point and add the ghee. When the ghee melts add the cumin seeds and dry red chilli and sauté till the seeds start to change colour. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for a few seconds.
Add the chopped onion and saute until golden brown; add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powders and saute for a minute.Add the tomatoes and cook until the moisture from the tomatoes has evaporated and oil starts to separate from the mixture.
Add the ker, sangri and kumita seeds and saute for a couple of minutes.
Add the salt and yoghurt and stir until the mixture returns to a slow boil. Pour in half a cup of hot water and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until the beans and berries have almost soaked up most of the liquid from the sauce.
Stir in the chopped coriander, sugar and lemon juice.
Ladle the ker sangri into a bowl and serve with crisp papad and hot roti.
My Verdict on the dry curry
I had been longing to try this preparation ever since I tasted it for the first time at the Spice Court in Jaipur. It is an amazing preparation and depicts the real flavours of Rajasthan. The ker and sangri are dry berries and can be stored and used when required. If only I had not tasted this preparation earlier, I would have hated myself for cooking this recipe, as the quantity of spices and the salt is definitely not enough for the amount of ker and sangri mentioned in the book.
The ker and sangri triples in volume after soaking and this preparation is enough for almost 6-7 people. The berries demand a large quantity of salt. I added almost 3tbsp to this preparation and almost 2tbsp of red chilli pwd and other spices. I also added a dash of garam masala too. Do not avoid the yogurt and lime juice as they help remove the pungency of the beans. The next time I make this I will soak the berries in butter milk and not water. The kumita seeds, I have never heard of and I could not find about them on Google too. Let me warn you, if you follow exactly the way the book mentions, one might hate this preparation. But after all the repairs done, my family relished the curry.
Chocolate Lava Cake
Preparation Time: 20mins
Cooking Time: 10mins
Serves: 6 small cakes
100g dark chocolate chopped
2 extra large eggs
1 egg yolk
2tsp cocoa powder
Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Melt the chocolate and butter together over a low heat.
In a bowl whisk eggs and sugar lightly till the sugar has dissolved. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mix and stir well.
Sift the flour and baking powder together. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture quickly. Do not over mix as this will make the cake heavy.
Pour the batter into 6 buttered ramekins or small ovenproof dishes. Bake in the preheated oven for 10mins. Remove from the oven.
Dust icing sugar through the sieve on top of each cake and serve immediately.
My Verdict on the cake
This was a super hit with my family and you can understand by the fact that I’ve already tried it two times in the last few days. It’s a quick preparation and can be a winner with anyone. I'm sending this cake to my event 'Only' Cookies and Cakes.
The only problem I faced was that the ingredients does not mention baking powder and the method does. I added 1/2tsp baking powder to my preparation. The recipe mentions 10mins cooking time but the crust gets flaky in 10mins so I reduced the time to 8-1/2mins the second time and got perfect result.
Coming from Master Chef India, I had expected the book to have interesting recipes, on which it does keep the promise. The book has recipes from India as well as the East and West. The book shares drool worthy desserts, starters and kebabs. As you all know, I am big fan of Kebabs, I’m looking forward to try many more from here. I also want to try the different Indian breads that the book offers.
This book has many exciting recipes which I do want to try in future but after trying 4 recipes I have started doubting the measurement of ingredients to an extent, this is where Master Chef India needs to learn from Master Chef Australia, on trying to produce a recipe which is flawless!!!
I love Pankaj’s style of cooking but I would have appreciated this book further more if the measurement of ingredients was flawless and ingredients not missed out. Many recipes in the book are surely not for beginners in cooking, as it misses out giving handy tips and tricks and one should know basic cooking skills to attempt this book. I also did not like that the veg and non-veg recipes are not segregated, though it compelled a veg cook like me to peep into non veg recipes and think of suitable ingredients to replace them, yet I feel I would have preferred the segregation. Overall the book is a keeper and a must buy for cooks and foodies like us, the food bloggers, and also for all those who are ready to try innovative recipes, explore higher culinary skills but at the same time ready to take risks too while cooking. But taking risks while cooking is surely what we all food bloggers do…isn’t it?