cooking with Ritu Dalmia, the diva who is unstoppable, incorrigible and totally in love with all things food...
It was not too long ago when I started watching an Indian woman presenting Italian recipes on her TV show and I was completely smitten. Her quaint androgynous style and a knack of expanding her food repertoire while traveling, kept me glued to the TV screen while she presented Italian Khana and Traveling Diva. I am not into habit of watching TV now, and I was not into it even back then, it was my sweet housemaid who was also smitten by Ritu's style and would always remember the timing of the show and switch on the TV by herself. Such is the charm of an effervescent diva that Ritu Dalmia is.
I got a chance to interact with her and learn some nuances of her style of cooking at the launch of her new book Diva Green, at Fisher and Paykel experience center. Ritu Dalmia held a masterclass for a few people, cooking a few selected recipes from the book. I love the way she cooks with all her bodily tissues involved, look at her facial expressions when she cooks and talks about food.
One universal law of cooking is established now, the one who makes faces while cooking, cooks the best food. She cooked a Saint's day pasta with sliced aubergines, loads of cheese and freshly made tomato sauce and a risotto with carrots and oranges. Arancine were also made using a cold risotto, she demonstrated how to make perfectly sealed balls of arancine so the mozzarella doesn't leak from it while deep frying.
She made a lovely baby potatoes, pearl onions and feta cheese salad and lovely pumpkin fritters as well. These were all simple things but the way she combines flavors is worth watching.
She even served the food in our plates. Such luck, who knew the Diva would serve risotto in your plate while you lick every last grain.
These pumpkin fritters she cooked in the last were like our Indian gulgule which is a deep fried sweet batter dumpling. Sometimes we add sweet potatoes or bananas to this gulgula fritters of ours. Ritu's pumpkin fritters were like sitaphal ke gulgule. Dusted with powdered sugar and then drizzled with maple syrup, these are nice warm and sticky baby pancakes.
I was thinking how much Arvind loves all things gulgule and pancakes. I decided I'll cook the pumpkin fritters for him the very next day. While Ritu Dalmia is finicky enough to use Farina instead of Indian maida in her pumpkin fritters, I used a mix of oats and atta (whole wheat flour) to make these fritters and replaced pumpkin puree with mashed bananas. Not because I don't like pumpkin enough, but for the ease of it. Preparing the pumpkin two ways to make these easy looking fritters was a bit of work, I cubed and stir fried the pumpkin in ghee the night before and used it for the fritters at breakfast time.
Boiling or roasting and pureeing the pumpkin would have required a bit more work in the kitchen, I wanted to, but skipped to save time and to help me make the fritters without sugar. The result was equally good I would say.
I made a thick lumpy kind of batter with 1/2 cup of oats, a tbsp of whole wheat flour, one mashed banana, a little milk and 1/2 a cup of the cubed and stir fried pumpkin bits. Added a pinch of salt and shallow fried little fritters in ghee. I know it was quite a detour from the original recipe but I wanted the pumpkin bits in my fritters and that was there alright...
Drizzled with mono-culture honey the fritters were polished off in minutes.
The love for food is so contagious. You can't be spared if you are around someone like Ritu Dalmia.
And then she signed her book for me.
The book Diva Green is such a refreshing vegetarian cookbook. I do cook a lot of vegetables and these recipes are almost like the kind of cooking I do, simple local ingredients, with many more unusual flavors and combinations. See a few of my favorite recipes from the book...
I know you are getting curious if you are regular reader here. You know how much I love my vegetables and these are such beautiful looking vegetarian recipes you would itch to try out.
Look at the book how it was displayed at the Fisher and Paykel center. An airy, space where you feel like wishing for an open kitchen which can entertain people as well..
Now a surprise for you all. I have a copy of Diva Green that can be yours. Just let me know what vegetables will be the topmost in your list when you want vegetarian food for your best friends and the people you love.
And please do a couple of things for me to qualify for the giveaway. You know well how eagerly I want everyone to stay healthy, such small favors help me spread the word.
- 'like' my facebook page.
- Follow me on twitter (@ sangeetakhanna).
- Follow this blog publicly
The giveaway is open to Indian readers only, but you can get it delivered at an Indian address if you live outside India. I will announce the winner on 5th of July so hurry up and comment here.
Edited to add : I announced the winner of this giveaway in this post and the winner was Madhuli. I tried to send her a message on my fb page as well where I had announced the giveaway but she is not traceable and it has been more than 2 weeks now (a bit weird as one of the condition of the giveaway was to follow this blog :-)).
I did another draw and the new winner is Deeba Rajpal. Congrats Deeba I know you would love a vegetarian cookbook :-)