Firstly VJJ stands for Valli, Jayadeep, Jagannath the colony I live in and “master chef” is the modern-day nomenclature for the age-old “cooking contest”, we still refer to it as the latter and trust me it is as competitive.
Like every year we decided on a key ingredient and it was jaggery for sweet and either paneer or moongdal for savoury. The idea here was not to give a rare or a difficult ingredient for people to rack their brains but one where they could come up with the best from their kitchens and for kitchen amateurs to make an attempt as well. It worked. We received more than 20 entries in all.
What is in the name? After being exposed to n number of tele shows people prefer to hear “spiced potato cakes served with white pea ragout, mint chutney and tamarind coulis” rather than “Ragda Pattice”. But thankfully the stress in this contest was more on food than fancy names; maybe the participants don’t watch as many shows!
The moongdal kabab was finely ground moongdal coated with poppy seeds and shallow fried, the paneer kabab was cubes of Paneer, capsicum and onions on skewers marinated in a tandoori like masala and panfried, the pizza was a Jain variant with a piquant sauce, moongdal paratha was rolled to perfection with spiced moongdal boiled enough to retain its shape for a perfect bite, the utterly butterly Paneer butter masala was delicious, the pakodas were cubes of paneer coated with moongdal batter and fried; leading to a soft inside and a crisp outside and then the fiery moongdal kachori quickly made us move on to sweets.
The Churma Laddoos killed the heat instantly, Gud papdi also called Sukhadi a Gujrati winter sweet made of wheat flour ,ghee and jaggery was sublime, the ‘handcrafted’ modak were with a thin skin and generous coconut filling, Halubai a Mangalorean speciality of coconut, rice and jaggery was an introduction to me and lastly the banana payasam with coconut bits left me really satiated.
With my food pangs taken care of, I thought to myself; media is surely a great knowledge bank of recipes but sometimes “loving thy neighbour” can serve you better. I really appreciate the pains taken by the members of the colony to participate in the contest year after year, not driven by prizes or fame but simply fuelled by passion, passion to cook and to serve.