Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Come on Food lovers! Let us celebrate International #PulaoBiryaniDay from everywhere on 25th June 2017

There are many debates about the difference between Pulao and Biryani, and so many stories on the origins of Biryani. But there is little doubt about one thing...  We are all united in our love for Pulao and Biryani! This legendary dish enjoys a cult status among food lovers across the subcontinent and beyond.

Every community of India has its own special pulaos and biryanis. Celebrate them through #PulaoBiryaniDay on Sunday, 25th June 2017 in any of the following ways:

1. Cook and eat your family’s signature recipe for pulao or biryani or order in from your favourite biryani outlet and tweet about it using #PulaoBiryaniDay.
2. If you are a chef, food outlet owner or a restaurateur, you can feature a special pulao or biryani dish and encourage your customers to try it by talking about it on social media.
3. Get together with family and friends over a #PulaoBiryaniDay potluck.
4. Use the hashtag #PulaoBiryaniDay on Sunday, 25th June 2017 and share what you are cooking, your memories, recipes your family makes and stories about pulaos and biryanis.

Indian Food Observance Days are an attempt to promote & support traditional Indian ingredients, dishes, food-ways and recipes with the goal of these days gaining international recognition in the years to come in the culinary world. The idea is to celebrate them online as well as encourage off-line, ground events for people to come together and celebrate.

#PulaoBiryaniDay celebrations in India
Food lover across India are gearing up to celebrate #PulaoBiryaniDay Food Blogger Monika Manchanda​ is organizing a #PulaoBiryaniDay potluck in Bangalore. Home Chef Shri Bala​ is doing a bunch of things in Chennai and Chef Amit Pamnani​ is organizing something in Indore.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Celebrating International #Masaladay on 20th May

What makes something taste Thai, Italian, Mexican Or Indian? What makes something North Indian, South Indian Kashmiri, Kerela style, Gujarati, Bengali or Assamese? 

The Masalas or Spices!

So #Aamachaarday was a great success and it looks like #PapadBadiDay is going to be too. And I am aware that I am going to get a bit annoying soon (although I hope not, because I am just beginning to have fun!) But my Indian Food Observance days follow the Food Calendar on India, so I have no choice but to celebrate #MasalaDay or #SpiceDay on 20th May. 

Because the height of summer in May is when a lot of food production takes place. Ingredients are sun dried and most importantly quintessential Masalas are made and stored to flavour our meals throughout the year. Let us mark this time with a specific day to stock up on our masalas, celebrate our food traditions, and celebrate the unity in our diversity by making our masalas and cooking with them! 

Protein, carbohydrates, fibre, beans, meats, rice, noodles, cooking fat, breads all form the bulk of a cuisine but the definitive factor, the 'tastemakers' that characterise a cuisine are the spices or Masalas it uses. And every cuisine in India has specific spice combinations and spice mixes that characterize them. From the Ver of Kashmir to the Sambhar Masala of the South, from the Methiyu no Masalo of Gujarat to the Panch Phoron of Bengal. And thousands of Masalas in between as cuisines branch into various dialects. The hot summer month of May is when communities all over the country dry and grind the spices and spice mixes that give their cuisines characteristic identity. Let’s celebrate our Masalas on May 20, International #MasalaDay or #SpiceDay to mark the ethos of Indian food. Because our cuisine could not be without its Masalas!

On May 20 #MasalaDay celebrate by:
-          Making your own Masalas for the year.
-          Chefs, Restaurants and food outlets can add a special based on a specific Masala, tell the story, to their customers and share it on social media. Give away packets of the masala to patrons that dine with you that day. 
-          Use the hashtag #MasalaDay #SpiceDay on 20th May and share what you are cooking, the memories of the masalas your family makes, recipes and stories of making Masalas, dishes that are made with those masalas and how they flavour your food and your memories.
-          Get together with family and friends at potlucks to cook traditional dishes made with the masalas in your cuisines.
-          Have a food exchange. Get together with friends to exchange masalas with one another so everyone gets to try each other’s Masalas.

The #MasalaDay #MasalaExchange 
Remember the popular Book Exchange? This time, I am taking the celebrations for #MasalaDay online. To celebrate #MasalaDay on 20 May I am starting a #MasalaExchange #SpiceExchange so we can all learn more about one another's food. 

What participants have to do:
1. Make a packet of your family's or cuisine's signature Masala/Spice mix. Add a note about its use and a favourite recipe.
2. Send it to a stranger (I’ll send you a name and address).
3. Share when you receive the Masalas you are sent and what you do with them on your blogs or facebook.

You will only be sending one masala to two people. (the stranger and me).
Depending on how many sign up here, you will receive a few masalas in return.
Leave a comment with your email if you want to participate and I’ll inbox you the details.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Lets celebrate International #PapadBadiDay on 13th May 2017

After the wonderful reception #AamAchaarDay recieved, let us get together to celebrate #PapadBadiDay this May. According to the Indian food calendar, the height of summer in May is when a lot of food production takes place. Quintessential ingredients like papads, and badis/badiyaan/wadis are made and stored to supplement our meals throughout the year. 

Papad or poppodums which need no introduction and wadis or badis (sun dried lentil and/or vegetable dumplings) have been an important supplementary food in Indian cuisine and the food calender of India. Historically dried in May when the summer heat is at its peak, papads and badis are and stored for use in Monsoons and winters when vegetables might be scarce. And most Indian regional communities follow this tradition and dry their own varieties of papads and badis based on the ingredients they have to hand. Lets all get together to celebrate this food tradition unique to India and the variety of papads and badis we have in India with International #PapadBadiDay and mark the tradition on Saturday, 13th May 2017.

You do not need to be a food bloggger, writer or chef. You just have to love food! Here are some things you can do! 

1. Make and talk about your family or community’s papad or badi dish and share it on social media. Or try a papad or badi you may never have tasted before.
2. If you are a chef, own food outlet or a restaurant you can have a special dish on that day featuring papads and badis and encourage your customers to try it by talking about it on social media.
3.  Get together with friends to make them a variety of papads and badis.
4. Have a potluck and cook up dishes with papads and badis from different communities so everyone can taste different things. 
5. Use the hashtag #PapadBadiDay on Saturday, 13th May 2017 and share what you are cooking, your memories, recipes your family makes and stories or dishes around papads and badis.
6.  Have a food exchange. Get together with friends to exchange papads and badis.

International #PapadBadiDay PotluckAPB Cook Studio
To support #PapadBadiDay, APB Cook Studio is hosting a potluck at the studio at which regional cuisine evangelists from the city will gather at the studio with papad and badi based dishes from their communities. On the menu so far are specialties from Punjab, Uttaranchal, Gujarat, West Bengal among others. We have a few seats left (limited) so if you would like to join in, do get in touch. 
Date: Saturday, 13th May 2017 Time: 12pm-2pm Venue: APB Cook Studio
For more details, please call us on 022-42152799 or email us at info@apbcookstudio.com

Friday, May 05, 2017

What #AamAchaarDay meant to me...

As planned, #AamAchaarDay was celebrated on 22 April. We had people all over the country join us online and offline with making achaar, sharing memories, stories, recipes, learning and more. We got lakhs of views and reached millions. On ground, at the studio, we had a pickle exchange.  All of that happened and happened more amazingly than i had planned! But it was this moment, captured in this picture that summed it all up for me.

My daughter Natasha, is 9. She has been showing an interest in all things cooking since she participated in my kids in the kitchen course last year. But I was unexpectedly surprised when she came up to me and asked if she could also take part in ‘the pickle thing’ I was doing.‘The pickle thing’ was the pickle exchange I had organised at APB for #Aamachaarday

I have very fond memories of days when pickling sessions when I was a child. The women of my family would gather on the terrace to make the year's pickles. As the family grew and branched out, the pickle sessions stopped happening. But I have always remembered the camaraderie, the learning and amidst all of that the passing on of food knowledge. It is a tradition I always wanted to recreate but the coordination and planning always made it difficult. This year I was determined to make it happen. I got regional cuisine experts from the extended APB food family together. And I was so gratified that each of them supported my plan wholeheartedly!

We congregated for a wonderful afternoon of pickle making to teach each signature pickles from our community cuisines along with a other pickle enthusiasts. On the menu were a Garhwali Hing Achaar by me, Sindhi ‘Bhendi’ pickle by Usha Auny, my sister in laws Mom, Maharashtrian pickle by my friend, Gujarati chundo by my Mom,  Vadu Mango by Geetha and a Bengali Mango chutney by my friend Rhea.  It was a beautiful day, we cut mangoes, mixed pickles, gossiped, ate ravenously and all took home with a share of 6 different pickles! We also learned new pickle recipes, which was the true exchange. 

I was only half serious when I said yes to Natasha, I didn’t think she would see it through (you know how kids can be, so easily distracted!). But she surprised me, willingly sticking by me every second of the day. And as we cut mangoes, mixed masalas, made pickles, talked and gossiped, she was right there, with me, little hands learning, struggling at some points to do adult things, but there, not giving up, even throwing in a few 9 year old jokes that had us all in splits! But, importantly she did it all. And every second of her being with me is magnified in my memories, larger than all the other memories of that wonderful day. Sweeter, more beautiful, most precious amidst all the other lovely moments. Lingering, as we made our way home that evening, carrying our bounty of pickles we had made.  But the truly defining moment was yet to come. 

Serendipitously, the Mango tree in my office complex was being harvested of its fruit at the time and Natasha wanted to watch so we stopped. And came away with a couple of the green mangoes from there as well. When we got home, I put everything away and did not give it further thought as I got on with dinner prep. 

Until the next day, when I came home to the moment in that picture. Natasha used the mangoes she got from the tree on our way home and made her very own batch of Hing ka achaar, grinding the hing, remembering the proportions and mixing everything just like I taught her. It was not perfect, but at that moment that didn't matter, she has a lifetime to perfect her recipe. What is importantis that she had made a family recipe. A recipe I had learned from her Dadi that she had inherited. And a tradition had been kept alive.

In the FB Live food chat on #AamAchaarDay, Saee pointed out that Indian pickles are as Artisanal as food can get. She is right. The term “Artisan” describes non industrial food, made in small batches by hand, by methods usually handed down through generations and often in danger of being lost. My paternal grandmother, Moti Mummy, made more than 90 pickles round the year, but I only inherited a handful of her recipes. My maternal great-grandmother is is said was an expert pickle maker too, her repertoire had some truly unusual pickles that I only have descriptions of. 

I don't mean to sound preachy, but if we are lucky enough to inherit family food traditions, they exist for a reason. And we owe it to ourselves and our kids to keep them alive. We must make our own pickles, even if its just a bottle or two. Having hands on made 10+ kgs of pickle this #AamAchaarDay we all realised it’s not so hard! Perhaps living away from family or alone in a city might make it difficult. But like me you can get together with friends and make a party of it! Or preparations might feel too hard. At one time, they might have been because everything would need to be done at home but not anymore! Our bhaji wallas and kirana stores have also evolved with us. Today one can get mangoes, whatever kind, prepped as we require, community stores stock ready masala mixes. It’s easy to put a batch of pickle together. Or if you must buy your pickles, buy from home chefs bottling pickles (store-bought pickles are RUBBISH compared to home made!). It is the only way to keep culinary legacy alive. And losing this legacy would be tragic.

And we must expose our children to our food culture. We owe it to our kids to pass food traditions on. The Mango pickles that flavor life’s memories for us in India are at home, made by our Grandmothers and Mothers. AND US now! And our children in the future! 

We all need to remember, that If our grandfathers planted mango trees for us to enjoy, our grandmothers pickled the fruit for us to savour. 

Gyaan and links 

Here are links to pickles from different community kitchens:
And my Ma in law's Heeng / Hing ka Achaar on my blog as well. 

If you have blogged recipes for mango pickles on your blogs, can you paste links in comments? Ill compile a comprehensive list of them. TIA!

An old painting of pickling mangoes I once made. 

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Join me on a virtual Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal with JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort

Sorting Buransh (Rhondedron) Flowers. 
My fondest memories in life are centered around food and family. Alot of memories from my early life, were captured in my first book ‘A Pinch of This, A Handful of That’. But my culinary journey as a wife, daughter – in – law and mother are part of another yet to be published book on the food of Uttarakhand, filled with stories and recipes of  from the kitchen of our home in Dehra Dun, the kitchen garden and the women in my husband’s family from whom  I have inherited my knowledge.

Cooking in a Garhwali home.
Garhwali food has always been close to my heart. It is literally where my career in food began. My first piece of food writing was on on Garhwali cuisine. I am a Gujarati and I married a Garhwali. In doing so, I discovered a whole new cuisine. My pursuit of traditional recipes inspired my professional side and my eternal curiosity about cuisines, their roots, evolution, ingredients and preparations came to the fore. And I delved deeper and deeper into the history of Uttarakhand’s unique culinary culture.

So I am especially excited to share details of my latest project. This May, I am curating a Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal in association with JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa. It is a unique partnership intended to promote the cuisine of a region close to my heart through sustainable tourism.

At JW Cafe
Especially now, in the present scenario of international gastronomy. Currently,  Indian Cuisine is the flavor of the moment globally and closer home, regional cuisines are gaining recognition. Globally, there is an increasing interest in food that drives the choices travelers make when planning their trips. There is also a growing segment of travelers that are interested in culinary tourism and local food and flavours.

It has always bothered me is that while the many virtues Uttarakhand’s are so celebrated, its food, which is unique, barely gets any mention – if at all. Visitors to the state would be hard pressed to find local food anywhere unless they had access to a Garhwali home. This is a crying shame because the cuisine of Uttarakhand has so much going for it!

The Garhwali Thali at JW Cafe
Thankfully, this has begun to change, thanks to the JW Marriott Mussoorie. The management of this property have been active in the advancement of Mussoorie from the very inception of the property. Some of those efforts include planting walnut groves around the property, promoting the socioeconomic well-being of the locals, generating employment, working with local cooks and food producers to learn, document and promote Garhwali food. Sunil Kumar, Directorof F&B began with employing local women to come in everyday to make fresh Garhwali flatbreads, mandue (finger millet) ki roti, gehat parathas for the breakfast buffet, growing their own produce, making their own local pickles and recently introducing their  Garhwali thali. A laudable step towards showcasing Garhwali food to their guests.

With Chandrashekhar Joshi and Ramndeep Marwah 
In natural progression came the Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal born of an idea sparked of by a simple bowl of gehat dal a year ago, between Chandrashekhar Joshi who was then GM of the property and me. And here we are! Our idea was to showcase Garhwali cuisine and culture to the world. And over the past year the team at JW Marriott Mussoorie (Sunil, Chef Sidharth, Vaidehi, Balbir) and I, with the support and backing of the new GM Ramandeep Marwah have worked together to research, document, trial and taste this cuisine  over many recces (Yep it was so much hard work!! LOL)

By the end we had put together an itinerary of unique experiences, village visits, step farming and a re-creation of Garhwali traditions and curated meals to showcase the cuisine, culture and heritage of Garhwal to food media from all over Indiabetween 29th  May to 1st  June 2017

Vendor of local ingredients
Our objective is to showcase these unexplored aspects to help boost tourism as well as to support local farmers and food producers.  Which is the other reason why I am really happy to be able to showcase Garhwali food at this point. Worldwide, there is a move toward returning to traditional foods and food ways. Slow, Organic, Local, Sustainable, Foraged are all catchwords in food trends globally. Juxtapose Garhwali cuisine against this world view and you will find that it meets many parameters of these movements in its approach to food production, preparation, diet and nutrition. In Uttaranchal, these practices are a living culture that have existed for thousands of years and where the rest of the world is trying to revive them they are living practices here. And hopefully, we will be able to showcase it all through the Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal.

Thankful at Lakhamandal
Life has a way of coming full circle! I just realized as I wrote this post that it was in the April of 2005 that my first article  was published. 12 years down the line today, I’m still talking about Garhwali food! What a journey of discovery it has been, and I am still learning! Gratified to be able to bring together all my abilities to put this together. I have to stop to say a special thanks to Chandrashekhar Joshi, fellow lover of Garhwali food and a good friend of long standing. This could not have happened without you! You know just how much I am going to miss you! But I promise to eat extra on your behalf!

So dear reader, please follow JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to #ExploreGarhwal and #DiscoverGarhwaliFood with me and a bunch of my food loving writers and bloggers. If you follow these hashtags on social media through May, you can stand a chance to win a complimentary stay at the resort by participating in the contest JW Marriott Mussoorie will run in June. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Don't kill me yet! Ideas with Jam.. beyond breakfast and in Indian recipes?

Fig Chutney from the Lust Pantry.
Good jam, full of the fragrant, vibrant fruit and tangy sweetness, capturing the full, rounded flavor of summer's always make me feel grateful that someone put the time and effort to bottle the flavours of summer in a jar! I make a lot of my own Jams, and I am really particular about the little Jam I buy. Bonne Maman Jams are one of the few I do buy, because they meet me parameters of a good jam and my kids love them. 

So I was happy to attend a lovely Champagne Brunch hosted by Bonne Maman and Atout France at the Artisan restaurant, Sofitel BKC. A beautiful spread of breakfast treats - French breads, meats, cheeses and more awaited us, alongside Bonne Maman preserves. What made the brunch unusual  however was that the chef at Artisan, encouraged by Sheetal Wadhwa-Munshaw, had used Bonne Maman jams in Indian dishes to give them intriguing twists! 

Dhoklas, were zinged up with chillies and Raspberry preserve into Khaman Dhokla Raspberry Preserve Sandwiches, Dahi Wadas were given a twist with fresh fruit preserve chutney and Maska Pav were made into the most decadent French toasts! The Khaman Dhokla Raspberry Preserve was the one that I loved! If like me you have drool over Dhokla and aamras as a combination (a classic Gujaratis love) then you will totally love the idea of savoury, tangy fermented dhoklas with a spike of green chillies and spread of fruity sweet sour Raspberry Jam. 

It got me thinking, all the way home,  of ways to use Jam beyond breakfast in the Indian Kitchen. Here are some ideas...

What is very important in all of these ideas however is a good jam. It will make all the difference to the dish! 

What makes a good Jam ?

- A good jam should look fresh and bright rather than cooked and dull.

- It should be low on sugar - look for a soft set that moves around on shaking the bottle. A hard un-moving mass means there is too much sugar. 
- It should be high on fruit. I make my jams and marmalades with as much fruit and juice as I can, combining ripe and semi ripe fruit to balance tartness and avoid using added pectin. Or I will use only ripe fruit and low-sugar pectin, which allows jam to gel quickly without overcooking, avoiding a cooked to death flavour.  

Drink up! 
The first thing that came to mind was beverages. Jams are great in milkshakes and smoothies, but have you thought of mocktails and cocktails with jam? Most require syrups to sweeten, so why not Jam? Shake jam into literally any mocktail or cocktail.

- Soda Bottle does their own 'Raspberry' by crushing fresh raspberries into soda. A riff on that with Raspberry jam and lemon juice would be fantastic in this heat methinks! 
- And jams with real fruit or pulp could really add flavour and texture to Cocktails..think...  a whiskey cocktail with marmalade or a peach jam and a hint of garam masala, or pepper vodka with raspberry jam and curry leaves, or gin with an orange marmalade kala namak and long pepper..... 
- Jams could also work beautifully in hot drinks. I remember a Korean friend that used Lemon marmalade to make a hot lemon 'Tea'. I often make that. And I can well imagine a hot toddy with a bit of orange marmalade and ginger perhaps. 
- Talking of hot drinks, soups come to mind, a pineapple jam in a rassam? or a mango jam to make a spin on the Gujarati Fajeto?    
Make dips spreads and dressings! 

Add Jams to salad dressings and vinaigrettes that make salads zing! Mix jam into all sorts of dips.

- Try Raspberry jam, lime, green chillies and garlic, tossed with bitter greens and Kali miri chicken or paneer. 
- Puree cherry jam with mint kala namak and pepper to make a chutney for kebabs. 
- Make flavored ghee. Soften ghee and mix with your favourite jam, add a pinch of salt and make a salty, sweet, creamy sauce to glaze hot chapattis or parathas with. 
- Jam is a great flavoring for cream cheese as well, try mixing a blueberry jam with cream cheese, a hint of salt and green chillies for a beautiful topping on a bagel.

Get Cheesy!  
Take your palate on a sweet and savory adventure! Jam and cheese pair exceptionally well together. But you know what else works? a bit of spice!  For a perfect brunch, lunch, or a quick dinner put jam with cheese  and light a fire around them!

- Try orange marmalade on brie dusted with garam masalla. Bake till melty and serve on a bed of baby spinach with toasted Naan to dip! 
- Top a wheel of cheese with a few spoonfuls of cherry jam, dust with pepper, wrap in a roomali roti and bake.
- Fire up your tava and make cheesy 'rotiwitches' (yes they are as sinful as they sound). Brush tawa with butter or ghee, place a roti spread with jam (I like currant or cherry), top with grated Gruyere or a sharp chedder, sprinkle with minced green chillies, cover with another roti and (I often add ham or bacon slivers) toast to golden and crispy on both sides. Thank me later! (The jam is what makes them ultimate.) 
- Prefer bread ? Take a Pav, spread with raspberry jam, layer with smoked ham and cheese, top with kasundi and green chillies and press together. Dip the whole sandwich in egg batter and pan fry in butter. 

Mix Sweet and Spicy!
Jams  are ideal to add sweet, fruity notes to spicy recipes. Fruity jams like apricot make an amazing fruity glaze for meats. But I am thinking more adventurously... 

Ham glazed with Bonne Maman Peach ham at Artisan
- A Red currant or strawberry jam, with bhoot jholokia sauce to marinate chicken tangdis or kebabs come to mind. Or a fruity jam with mirchi or sriracha sauce to make a BBQ sauce or glaze! Brush over chicken tangdis, or add to prawns to make them sticky and finger-licking!
- Use a fruity jam like apricot in a cashew based curry, not only will it  help thicken it, but add subtle fruity notes of sweetness and flavor to complement the cashew and spices. 
- Peach jam and old monk rum, with chai masalla will make a great basting sauce for pork chops, ham or even a whole roast chicken! 
- One of my favourite things to do is rub chicken with a marinade of salt, lemon, ginger paste, guava, pineapple or apricot jam, chilli powder and toasted cumin and bake. As chicken bakes, the tropical flavors intensify and the marinade cooks to a  wonderful thick glaze. Or skewer the chicken alternately with pineapple chunks and lemon slices and grill for delish kebabs! 

Sweet finales in Mithai! 
Jam in desserts is a no brainer of course. But sweet sour jams could bring so much layering of flavour to Indian sweets. 

-  The bittersweet or sweet sour notes of jams and marmalades can add nuances to many Indian desserts, giving things a lovely layering of flavour and cutting through sweetness.  
- Perhaps a cham cham sandwich with a bit of marmalade in the filling? 
- Or The next time you make balu shahi how about a jam flavoured chashni to soak it into? 
- Maybe a Kesari Halwa with pineapple jam or Orange marmalade? 
- Or swirl jams into mawa cakes, dollop onto khari biscuits, and butter kharis, glaze nankhatais and flavour syrups for Rasgullas and Gulab Jamuns?

Lust Pantry at APB Cooks Studio
I can see many of you looking skeptical. But I don't suggest these ideas lightly. Mixing things up is always a risk. And Fusion gets a lot of bad press. But thoughtfully done, with due respect paid to ingredients and cuisines it can offer up delicious results, especially for those of us who like to taste new foods. After all, fusion is what has driven cuisines to be what they are today. If our ancestors had not experimented we would not have cuisines, would we? A classic example is our own Indian Chinese food. Most of the dishes would be unheard of in China. Its essentially pakoras in spicy sauces! But it is successful enough to be on every street corner in the country! Because it marries crisp textures and layered flavours with spicyness, everything the Indian palate loves, regardless of any culinary rules! Successful fusion can bring together familiar foods in unusual combinations to make a new dish. And done well, it works for me. 

GYAAN and Links
Here is a video capturing glimpses of the Champagne Brunch!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lets Celebrate International Mango Pickle Day aka #Aamachaarday

In continuation of my post on Celebrating more Indian Food Observance days, here is more. One of the first days on the list is International Mango Pickle Day or #Aamachaarday on Saturday, 22 April! A day to celebrate our ubiquitous Aam Achaar, that is made in infinite varieties across the country. From Chunky robust Aam achaars of the north to tender brined baby mango pickles from the south, from the sun cooked Gujarati Chundo of the west to the fiery bhoot jolokia and mango pickle of the North East! Aam Achaar most definitely deserves a day of its own!

What would an Indian meal be without a pickle ...or three to round it out?
Pickles flavor life’s memories for us. And there is an astonishing range to pick from. Every home will have an assortment lined up in ceramic and glass jars in a sunny spot in the kitchen or balcony. Jars that our Mothers or Grandmothers will carefull reach into ever so often, to replenish little pickle cruet sets at the dining table or to pack a bottle for us to take away when we live away from home. Bottles we will hoard and conserve, taking out spoonful ever so often to brighten up a meal of boring hostel parathas or dal rice. Pickles might occupy the tiniest areas of real estate on plates but explode with flavor on palates.

Mango Pickles are ever present!
While there are thousands of pickles in India, every home will have a bottle of their favourite mango pickle or two, ranging from fragrantly sweet to face-puckeringly sour to blisteringly hot. We have as many variations of mango pickles as there are dialects in our country; based on the fruit used, the stage of development its at, the method of preparation; the spices, oils, souring/ sweetening agents and the treatments. But there is also uniformity in this diversity. In the use of spices and the concept of pickles themselves.

Pickling season... 
With March passing the Mango season is here and we are reveling in ripe mangoes and aam ras. But it also means it is mango pickling season! Green mangoes are weighing down trees all over the country, swelling in the summer sun. Ready for some to be picked and pickled. And everywhere women are getting together to pickle them! An annual exercise that has taken place in the hot summer months of India for eons. It is an ideal time to celebrate the Mango Pickle! 
How to Celebrate?
So if you are as crazy about mango pickles as I am let us get together to celebrate International Mango Pickle Day! On 22 April, use the hashtag #Aamachaarday/ @Mangopickleday and share memories, pictures, videos, blogposts, recipes of mango pickles you love, where to find them and those who make them. Have pickle making parties or achaari potlucks and talk about them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, snapchat- everywhere! Let's make our _Aam Achaar_ an internationally recognised dish!

Also - Aam Achaar Day at APB Cook Studio
Also to support #Aamachaarday team APB has invited a few of our favourite pickle makers to teach us how to make their signature Aam Achaars at a pickle exchange. Like women in families get together to make pickles, pickle makers from the extended APB food family are congregating to make their community pickles. On the menu are a Hing Achaar by yours truly, Sindhi ‘Bhendi’ pickle by Usha Wadhwa, Maharashtrian pickle by Saee Koranne Khandekar and Gujarati chundo by my Mom. Rhea Dalal is going to make a Bengali aam chutney. We will make pickles, talk, gossip, share stories and food lore,have a lovely paratha pickle lunch with my Mom’s famous kairi nu shaak and at the end of the day take home a share of all the pickles! We might have 1-2 seats left if one of you wishes to join us, call 42152799 to check! And those who cannot join us, watch us on our Facebook and Twitter channels, where we will share the days activities as they unroll.

Happy #Aamachaarday folks, with all its piquancy! 

Lets celebrate more Indian Food Observance Days - here are 10 suggestions from me!

Just before Macaroon Day my husband commented on how we celebrate all these food days but there are so few Indian themed days. It got me thinking…  and googling. I discovered the concept of Observance days and the many, many  Food Observance days social media has been amplifying.

Special Observance days are usually the premise of governments or agencies of countries. In the US – which is a leader in this area - the President authorizes days. Other countries also have government driven festivals, Good France day was recently celebrated globally on 21 March. Food observance days were typically introduced by government bodies, trade organizations or PR firms as marketing moves to promote specific ingredients or foods and raise their popularity. And then thanks to the Internet the concept took on a whole new spin in 2011 when two bloggers declared February 5th to be Worldwide Nutella Day.

Suddenly a whole new world of delicious possibilities were available! Today we have at least 1 if not more food days for every day of the year! From Apple pie to Fried Chicken, Fresh Spinach to Bologna, Caviar to Junk Food, there are days for everything! Zuchinni bread, Lasagna, Watermelon to peanut, caramel to sriracha, Orange Juice to Beer! Deviled Eggs, Cotton Candy, Popcorn, Corn Dogs, S-Mores, Fortune Cookies Nacho’s all have days. Currently there are 3 days dedicated to Indian foods, Undhiyu Day on 14th Jan, Idli day on 30 March and a World Samosa Day that for some strange reason is on February 29 (which means it can technically be celebrated only in leap years!).

Good or bad? You decide. Personally, I love the idea. Of course some food days seem over the top. But so what? There is so much nonsense and negativity out there in terms of information that we all could do with something delicious to look forward to. And at worst, these days make us stop to think about something we love to eat or someone that cooks for us, something we can savour...  and it makes us smile. And I think that’s worth a bit of effort. Of course food observance days might not seem important in the larger scheme of things but as someone in the food industry I do wonder why we cannot have more Indian food observance days. After all we are the country whose national pastime is food – the eating and the talking about - of it, isn’t it?

And then on 20 March, as I prepared  to celebrate Macaroon Day I woke up to Twitter resonating over #PakhalaDibasa (Universal Pakhala Day) being celebrated by Odias worldwide. Pakhala is a dish of cooked rice washed or fermented in water, kind of like a conjee, accompanied by assorted condiments is a popular summer food in Odia cuisine. It has been in existence from the 10 Century AD if not earlier. On the day Odia people all over would eat pakhala to mark the Spring Equinox (20-21) post which the summer sets in and the diet changes with the season.
So if everything under the sun has a day, then why not Indian food? 

Pakhala Dibasa is a great example. A community came together, to celebrate a much-loved food via modern communication systems. As a result people all over the world cooked Pakhala, remembering its seasonal importance and perhaps also noting that summer was setting in and diets needed to change. Additionally, a whole lot of non Odias found out about an heirloom dish of our country!

Our traditional culinary practices evolved and transformed over time as our cuisine evolved. Geography, history, religion, rituals all played their part in its evolution. And our ancestors have codified many aspects of it. Ingredients, their uses, cooking methods, food combinations, a seasonal food calendar, Indian dietetics, and dinning etiquette have  all been built into a system of traditional practices. And behind every practice is a sound scientific reason for its existence that we are perhaps not aware off. 
Lets celebrate more Indian Food Observance days to promote & support traditional Indian ingredients, dishes, food-ways and recipes. Not just to celebrate Indian foods, but also because it a great way for us to follow the traditional food calender Indian cuisine has. So many of our food traditions are being lost, with us moving away from home, living busier lives and finding more convenient solutions. In the past, elders in our families and communities kept these traditions alive by ensuring they were observed. Maybe we do not have that guidance or we live away from home and do not have people to celebrate with. But that’s where the internet and its ability to make the world come closer kicks in.  

Indian Food Observance Days 
It is with all humility that I present the following days we can start with celebrating. These much loved Indian foods we can collectively celebrate mostly align with the traditional seasonal food calendar - of local and seasonal eating, drying and preserving foods and so much more. Some however are on this list for the fact that they are much loved by all of us. I will say here that I have also left many thigs out, so ohters in our food fraternity may take them on, like we must have a #ButterChickenday and I am hoping Chef Saransh Goila will carry the baton on that forward! And hopefully others amongst us will come up with foods we should celebrate as well! 

Aam Achaar Day - April 22, 2017 - #Aamachaarday #Mangopickleday
To mark the Mango pickling season in India. We have as many Mango pickles as we have dialects in our country (if not more) This day celebrates them! 

May 13, 2017 -  #PapadBadiday
Papads and Badis were dried in the hot months of May to use through the year. This day will celebrate the variety of papads and badis we make in the country.

May 20 #MasalaDay
Summers are when communities all over the country dry and grind the spices and spice mixes that give their community cuisines their characteristic identity. On this day we will remember to celebrate the unity in our diversity by making our Masalas.

June 25, 2017 - #PulaoBiryaniDay
Biryani is a national obsession in India. We don’t need a single day for something we can all eat at any time, but something so well loved deserves a day of its own.

July 30, 2017 - #ChaiPakoraDay
Because, chai and pakoras with the rain pouring down is a monsoon phenomenon that any Indian will subscribe to. We celebrate this in the height of the monsoon with our favourite combination of pakodas, vadas and fries with hot steaming chai!

September 24, 2017 #ChutneyDay
Chutney! Just the name makes the mouth water. We have as many chutneys as there are cooks in this country. Here is a day to celebrate our favourite chutneys!

October 7, 2017  – #LadduDay
This is a personal favourite. Laddus are to India what cookies are to the world. When Indian moms and grandmoms want to make something with love they make laddus. For prasad, for homemade treats, for kids going away from home, for pregnant daughters. From Atta, to Maghaz to Til, to Gaund, there is a laddu for every reason and every season, all made with love and desi ghee! We celebrate Laddus and those who make them for us!

November 12, 2017  - PaaniPooriDay
Paani Poori, Gol Gappa, Puchka, does not matter what you call them, we love them! So we mark a whole day to eat them!

December 10, 2017 - #MuttonCurryDay
Mutton Curry is quintessentially Indian because we are the only ones that call goat-meat mutton. Comforting, warming, slow cooked mutton curry with steaming hot rice is something we truly savour in the winter. Here is a day to eat Mutton Curry in all its avatars!   

January 7, 2017 #DalRiceDay
Celebrating home food for every Indian! 

We are lucky to have one of the richest culinary heritages in the world. And it would be so good if we could keep it alive and celebrate it.

Read more about Pakhala in this beautiful post -  My Beloved Pakhala on the blog Lost Recipes of Odisha by Swetapadma Satpathy.