Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Lunch Lesson 

I was invited to a household in Darj to participate in a feast they were preparing to celebrate the 85th birthday of their patriarch last weekend. I find myself anticipating every weekend with quiet self-contained excitement only because my food quest comes to life on those days. I find the time to hold my workshops, go visiting, share recipes, explore, try a new recipe or just eat great food with friends and family. The rest of the days I just work which again I love to do.

Shooting these delightful pictures of the home that I visited was a pleasure that I can only describe with the vague words of an Ernest Hemingway quote about Paris wherein he says that if you're lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young person then everything stays with you for the rest of your life because Paris is an unending feast or something like that. To my mind, the same can be said about Darjeeling. It is to us, biased people, a never ending feast for the eyes and for the stomach!

dalles and eggs. i love shooting eggs!

And this is the lovely couple Punya and Pratap Subba, both of them of Nepali celluloid fame of yesteryears. She, the lissome heroine of Bachna Chahane Haru ( on the sets of where they met and fell in love) and he the filmmaker who made great films like Mashal, Paral Ko Aago and Bachna Chahane Haru. They have been cooking together ever since.

I owe her a lot because she taught me how to bake my very first cake and shortbread cookies, a recipe she had brought from Hong Kong all those years ago. Mine still doesn't taste as delicious as hers despite the many times i have made them.

She also features in my very first cooking memories since I was always there in her house when she baked. It was those days of hand-whipped frosting and old fashioned creamy cake mixtures.She taught me how to beat egg whites until they formed soft white peaks just like the snowy Kanchenjunga peaks, to separate the dry ingredients from the wet, the method of 'folding' all those in and how to check if my cake was done or not by inserting a tooth pick right in the middle of it. I was just a kid then but those words have stayed with me all my life.

And then to top it all, she would let all of us kids to lick the mixing bowl!

The birthday menu had too many items on it because when these two cook, they usually cook up a storm and a meaty one at that. It was a feast for thirty people including family and friends who came in from all over to pay their respects to the grand patriarch and eat this scrumptious feast.

Among the aloo dums, the mutton curries, veggies and dessert, I chose the Slow Pork Roast and the Tandoori Chicken as the main feature for this post.

Marinaded Tandoori Chicken

In it goes

Out it comes in golden glory

And on to the table

Tandoori Chicken Recipe

1 kg chicken legs, skinned and trimmed of all visible fat
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon peeled and grated or crushed ginger 
2 tablespoon ground cumin
2teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Vegetable oil or butter , for brushing
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
Slices of cucumber, red (Spanish) onion, tomato and lemon, for garnish


Wash and pat dry the chicken.

Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork and cut slashes with a sharp knife to allow the marinade to penetrate.

Place the chicken on a large tray or shallow bowl.

Combine the dry ingredients first - salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, cardamom and cloves and rub the mixture evenly all over the chicken. Let it rest for fifteen minutes. 

Then combine ginger and garlic paste and smear it all over the chicken. Let it rest for another fifteen minutes allowing the ingredients to set properly.

The wet marinade is the last step. Take the yogurt and fresh lemon juice,  vegetable oil and pour it over the chicken and mix it well, turning the chicken several times.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.

It can be grilled or roasted. If using a charcoal grill, the fire must be prepared for direct heat cooking. Position the grill rack 5 inches from the fire. Allow the coals to burn until white ash covers them and the heat is moderate. 

Remove the chicken from the marinade, pressing lightly to extract the excess marinade and brush with oil. 

If roasting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, brush with oil or butter, and cook, turning once, 25 to 30 minutes and basting with the drippings of the roast -  until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife. 

Serve with cilantro, sliced red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, slit green chilies and lemon halves.

Slow Roasted Pork Thigh

This recipe is signature to this family and it has been gracing their table for many many years now. It has to be cooked long and slow for a moist and succulent outcome.


Whole Pork thigh, skin trimmed


1 bay leaf

Half a cup of Lemon juice 

1 tablespoon Cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon Fresh roasted ground cumin seeds

1 tablespoon Fresh roasted ground coriander seeds

Half a cup palm sugar or jaggery (optional)


Rub the pork thigh all over with all the ingredients except the palm sugar.

Take a large and thick bottomed pot and place the whole thigh in it.

Cover the pot and dry roast it over low heat until all juices run out, taking care to keep turning the pork to ensure it chars on all sides, until you hear the 'charring' sound - so says the couple!

Then pour water over the pork until it just covers it. Then cover and slow cook on simmer until the water dries out and one can hear the 'charring' sound again.

If you opt for the sweet and sour option, now is the time to melt the palm sugar/ jaggery in warm water and brush the pork with it. Slow cook it again until the glaze thickens and sticks to the pork skin.

Remove from heat.

If you prefer to go without the sugar, you can remove the pork from the heat after step 4.

It looks like this after slicing it. You can slice it slimmer or in chunks as below.

You can either have it warm or cold with a tomato and dalle based sauce


You can stir fry it with greens like raaye ko saag, some crushed garlic, dry red chilies, onions and tomatoes.

Pin It Now!