Utensils up: The Varli Food Festival


I can’t even count the number of times people ask me, “Where do you go to get good Indian food in New York?” My response: “My mom’s.” Well after tonight, I’ll hopefully have some better answers. I’m headed to the Varli Food Festival, an annual foodie affair where the best Indian chefs from all over the world — and Manhattan of course — showcase their culinary creations. There’ll be food tastings, cooking demonstrations, a (free!) spice market, and cocktails and desserts galore, all created by famous chefs such as Sanjeev Kapoor, Vikas Khanna, Suvir Saran, Jehangir Mehta and many others. Never heard of them? It’s OK —  the idea behind Varli is to bring the Indian cooking scene to the mainstream. Did I mention Padma Lakshmi is hosting? For those not attending try a little Indian cooking demo in your own kitchen with this recipe by Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

Courtesy of Sanjeev Kapoor


1½ cups basmati rice                       
7-8 saffron (kesar) strands                           
7-8 mussels                         
Salt to taste
15-20 prawns (jheenga), shelled, deveined                    
2 large pomfret fillets, cut into 1 inch pieces       
¾ cup yogurt, whisked                   
2 teaspoons ginger paste                       
2 teaspoons garlic paste                       
1 teaspoon green chilli paste                   
Oil to deep fry
4 medium onions, sliced                   
2½ tablespoons pure ghee                           
1 bay leaf (tej patta)                       
6-8 black peppercorns (kali mirch)                       
2 black cardamoms (badi elaichi)                   
3-4 green cardamoms   (chhoti elaichi)               
1 star anise (phool chakri / badiyan)                       
2 inch stick cinnamon (dalchini)                         
½ teaspoon turmeric (haldi) powder                   
1¼ teaspoons red chilli powder                   
2 teaspoons garam masala powder               
1 tablespoon coriander (dhania) powder                    
1 tablespoon lemon juice                       
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves (hara dhania)           
10-12 fresh mint leaves (pudina), hand torn               

1.   Soak rice in three cups of water for half an hour. Drain and set aside.
2.   Wash mussels and cook in salted boiling water for two minutes. Drain and set aside unshelled. Reserve the water.
3.   Take yogurt in a bowl, add half the ginger paste, half the garlic paste, half the green chilli paste and salt to taste. Mix well and marinate prawns and pomfret pieces in it.
4.   Heat sufficient oil in a kadai or wok and deep-fry half the sliced onions till brown and crisp. Drain and place on absorbent paper.
5.   Heat ghee in a pan and add bay leaf, black peppercorns, black cardamoms, green cardamoms, star anise, cinnamon and the remaining half of the sliced onions. Sauté for two minutes.
6.   Add remaining ginger paste, garlic paste, green chilli paste. Stir well and add rice. Sauté for two minutes and add water in which mussels were boiled.
7.   Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garam masala powder, coriander powder and saffron strands. Mix well, add marinated prawns, fish and boiled mussels.
8.   Add salt, lemon juice, coriander and mint leaves. Stir and add fried onions.
9.   Cover and cook on low heat for ten minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest, covered, for five to ten minutes. Serve directly from the cooking pan at the dining table in order to retain maximum flavor.


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