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Monday, September 22, 2014

Online Grocery Shopping Creating a Buzz (Guest Post for 27Coupons)











With grocery predicted to be a US$ 11 trillion market globally by 2018 (Reference) and India poised to overtake Japan as the third largest market by 2016 (after China and USA), it hardly comes as a surprise that every investor worth his salt (or shares) want a share of this ever mushrooming pie. But even the most hardcore of shopping fans or shopoholics as we put them, would concede that shopping for grocery is only marginally better than the proverbial pain in the ass. And this is where the new age grocers or e-grocers like Bigbasket, Zopnow, Aaramshop, Ezkart, etc step in. Helped by technology like real-time monitoring and predictive data analysis, they promise to take the pain and drudgery out of shopping for groceries through online grocery shopping.
Leading the pack is Bigbasket which has a presence in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai and plans to expand its operations to Pune and Delhi within the next six months. With over 12,000 products across categories like Fruits & Vegetables, Grocery & Staples, Bread Dairy & Eggs, Beverages, Branded Foods, Personal Care, Household, Imported & Gourmet, Meat, Frozen Foods, etc, it offers a customized shopping experience by allowing one to shop from his/her previous order or an online shopping list or even a smart basket which consists of the frequently bought products for the customer. This flexibility of choices certainly helps, when one is hard pressed for time or keeps shopping for the same items/products at regular intervals. Orders below Rs 1000 attract a delivery charge of Rs 20 while above Rs 1000, the delivery is free of cost. You can use theircoupons to use some of their current offers. Also, there is no minimum order value which comes a boon for folks who are hard-pressed for time. Bigbasket offers an option of 4 time slots in a day, starting from 7 am and stretching till 10 pm. Customers can choose a slot as per their convenience. With real-time tracking in place, the customers receive regular notifications about the status of their order via SMS. Customers also have the option to return/decline a particular product if they are not satisfied with it. COD (Cash on Delivery) is also available. No doubt online grocery shopping has picked up in various cities where they are serving.
Bigbasket has a delivery model which is very logistic intensive as they are involved in every step starting from the point the order is placed to the final delivery which happens at the customer’s doorstep. ‘Till the last mile’ is how V.S. Sudhakar, one of the co-founders of Bigbasket puts it. The company has recently raised Rs 200 Cr funding from VC firms Helion and Zodius Fund II with Avendus in the second round of its capital raising. With this move the less than 3 year old company reaches a 1000 Cr plus valuation. The founders plan to use it for expansion to 10 cities by end of year 2015 and acquiring cutting edge technology solutions that will help understand/predict consumer habits and improved online grocery delivery. According to a report in the Economic Times, the company has crossed an annual revenue of Rs 250 crore and are growing at 10 percent month on month. They currently execute over 5000 orders per day and have recently reached the milestone of one million delivered orders. The shrewd use of technology and the vast domain experience of the founders (they had previously launched Fabmall, the pioneer of online shopping in India in 1999. The ensuing dot-com bust made them convert it to a chain of 200 plus offline grocery stores in South India. They were later on sold to the Aditya Birla group and re-branded as ‘More.’) ensures that every order remains profitable.
Ever since I started shopping with Bigbasket (sometime in late 2012), I have seen them introduce innovative features and products on a regular basis. They have recently introduced a recipes section on their website on a pilot basis. The ingredients used in a particular recipe are clearly mentioned and linked to the page which lists out the various varieties and brands available. Quite an useful feature as it saves one valuable time and effort that would otherwise be wasted in searching for it. Add that to the guaranteed on-time delivery and the widest selection of products, I am now a Bigbasket convert.
Note: Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Safed Zarda

Zarda is a traditional Pakistani dessert that has rice cooked with spices, sugar syrup and milk solids (mawa). Usually it has yellow food coloring added to it but I have skipped it. Enriched with nuts, milk and milk solids, it is one healthy dessert. An interesting variant to the Indian 'Meethay Chawal' or 'Kanika' (Odia recipe).

Read on for the recipe -







Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -


  • 1 cup Basmati rice 
  • 4 tbsp Sugar
  • a few saffron starnds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 star anise
  • 1-2 strands of mace
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 1-2 green cardamoms
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 cup khoya
  • 4 tbsp warm milk
  • 2-3 pinch salt (optional...not a part of the original recipe)


Preparation - Soak the saffron in the warm milk. 

Boil the sugar with 1/2 cup water till it reaches a thick (one string) consistency. Keep aside.

Cooking - Boil sufficient water for the rice. Add the spices, salt and the washed rice. Cook for 8-9 mins till it is almost done ( 90 % cooked ). Drain and keep aside.

Heat the ghee in a flat bottomed vessel. Add the cashews and raisins. Fry for 30 seconds. Add the rice, crumbled mawa, sugar syrup and milk along with the saffron strands. Cover tightly and cook on low flame for 5 mins. ( one can also place the covered vessel on a tawa to avoid the direct flame ). 

Remove from flame and keep aside for 10 mins before serving.





Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mawa Gujiya

The first of my posts leading up to the Diwali festivities ( I know it is still a long way but was feeling quite happy after a thorough cleaning session ). Mawa gujiya is one of those classic Holi/Diwali recipes that are on the must-do list of everyone. They are deep fried pastries stuffed with a spiced khoya (solidified milk ) and dry fruits filling. They can be stored in an airtight container for upto a week. The vegan version uses a mix of roasted semolina and fried coconut instead of the milk solids.

Read on for the recipe -




For the dough -

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 tsp hot oil
  • 2 tsp semolina
  • 2 pinch baking powder
  • salt to taste
  • cold water for making dough
  • oil for deep frying


For the stuffing -

  • 2 cups khoya
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 12-14 cashews
  • a fistful of raisins
  • nutmeg powder


Preparation - Take the all purpose flour, semolina baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the hot oil and rub in. Then add water, very little at a time and knead into a stiff dough. Cover with a damp cloth/little oil and keep aside for sometime. Knead it once again after 30 mins. It should feel smooth else repeat the process once again.

Cooking - Fry the khoya in a wok till it just starts to brown. Remove and keep aside.

Fry the raisins and cashews in the same wok with a little ghee. Remove and add to the khoya. Also add the powdered sugar and mix lightly using your fingers.

Pinch small portions of the dough and shape into a flattened disc. Dust a working surface and roll out the discs into small circles. Put some of the khoya mixture in one half of the circle leaving out some space on the edges. Apply water along the circumference before folding it into a half moon shape. Use a fork to make crimp patterns on the sealed edge. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and stuffing.

Heat sufficient oil in a wok. Add the gujiyas one or two at a time. Fry on one side till brown before turning over and frying the other side as well.

Allow to cool down a bit before serving. Keep the rest in an airtight container.

















Friday, September 19, 2014

Cheesy Quesadillas ( Three Cheese Quesadilla )

The third and final post for the Indusladies Kid's lunchbox event. This time I have chosen to do a three cheese quesadilla as most kids happen to love the cheesy filling in almost everything. Quesadilla's are quite healthy if one substitutes the white flour for the whole wheat version. The cheese provides the much needed proteins that children require and the veggies pack in an impressive amount of fiber and nutrients.

Read on for the recipe -






Sending this as a contribution to the Indusladies event 100 Kids Lunch Box Recipes. Check out more details here - http://www.indusladies.com/food/kids-lunch-box-recipes/







Preparation Time - 25 mins (plus some standby time)

Ingredients -

For the Tortilla/rotis -

  • 1 cup wheat flour or maida
  • 1 tsp butter
  • salt to taste
  • a dash of pepper
  • warm milk for kneading

For the filling and final touches -

  • 1 cup chopped vegetables ( I used lettuce, peppers and tomatoes )
  • 4 tsp grated Cheddar cheese
  • 4 tbsp cream cheese ( one can also substitute it with softened/crumbled paneer )
  • 4 tbsp grated processed cheese (I used Amul processed cheese)
  • pinch of pepper
  • a bit of grated garlic
  • a dash of vinegar/lemon juice (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • EVOO for brushing the quesadillas.

Preparation- Take the flour in a wide plate. Add salt, pepper and butter. Rub in.

Add milk to the flour, little by little and keep on mixing so that it is well incorporated into the dough. We want a soft dough. It is ok if it is slightly sticky but too sticky means more flour should be added.

Cover dough with moist cloth and rest aside for 30 mins.

Take the veggies in a mixing bowl. Add the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, pepper, vinegar/lime juice, garlic and salt. Mix well and keep aside.

Pinch small balls from the dough. Dust a working surface with flour and roll out into thin circles.

Cooking - Heat a tawa/flat pan. Put the roti/tortilla on it. Wait till small bubbles begin to form. Add some of the veggie filling to one half of the circle. Sprinkle processed cheese on the veggies. Fold over the other half so that the veggies and the cheese are sandwiched inside.

Slightly press with a spatula for 1 minute or so to allow the cheese to melt from the heat. Brush some olive oil on the side. Flip over and brush more olive oil on the other side. Cook for 30 seconds.

Remove from tawa and keep aside. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Serve immediately or cover tightly with a foil wrap before putting in the lunchbox.
























Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lauki ka Halwa

As a kid I used to wonder aloud about the the perceptible change in the atmosphere during the Puja (Dusshera) season. The slight nip in the air was accompanied with a divine fragrance as if someone had made it a daily ritual of emptying a lot may bottles of perfume all around us during the evenings. Even the nights grew more and more silent. My grandmother who was adept at spinning tales would explain that it was the harbinger of the arrival of Maa and other gods. And she would further support her theory with the argument that the gods and goddesses who were adorned with the heavenly blossoms were the ones responsible for the aura. For years I believed her before reasoning got the better of me and I could attribute the aura to a combination of factors like the cooling of the atmosphere, the steadily dropping humidity levels and the blossoming of a variety of winter blooms. Even the cacophony of the insects which peaked during the monsoons, was slowing fading away as the approaching winter forced most of them into hibernation.

Ever since I moved out of my native, I really miss the Dusshera festivities and also the run-up to the actual event. The shopping for new clothes, watching the idols shaping up, the Pandals being put into place and drawing up the itinerary to cover the maximum number of pandals during those five days would sometimes be even more fun than the actual Pandal hopping. And ofcourse, there was the mandatory 'mela' (fair) and the au rigueur joy-rides which was on every kid's bucket list. At times, growing up is no fun.

Unlike some other parts of India, people in Odisha do not keep as nine day partial fast during Durga Puja. There is the mandatory Ashtami Vrat and some also keep the Navami Vrat but no more. Onion and garlic are prohibited on these two days and people usually prefer to consume Khichdi/ rice and dalma/ puri-alu dum etc apart from fruits. But for people who follow the 'navratri fasting' quite rigorously, it is nine days of subsisting on 'phalahar' or a plant based diet. There are a number of dishes which are religiously prepared during this period. One of them happens to be the 'lauki ka halwa' or bottlegourd halwa. Read on for the recipe -

(For more Navaratri recipes, click HERE)






















Preparation Time - 30-35 mins (less if you use a food processor to grate the lauki)

Ingredients -

500 gm lauki/bottle gourd
2 cup milk
2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup milk powder
3-4 tsp sugar
2 green cardamoms (powdered)
a few strands of saffron
1 1/2 tsp ghee
7-8 cashews
12-15 raisins

Preparation - Peel the gourd and chop into big pieces. Grate coarsely leaving aside the center portion containing the seeds.

Cooking - Heat the ghee in a wok. Add the raisins and cashews. Fry for 30-40 seconds before removing from wok.

Add the grated bottle gourd to the wok. Fry on medium high till much of the water evaporates and it starts to turn light brown.

Add the milk and bring it to a boil. Cover with a lid. Allow it to cook on low flame for 6-7 minutes. The bottle gourd would be cooked by this time. If not, cover it again for 3-4 mins.

Finally add sugar, milk powder, condensed milk, cardamom powder and saffron strands. Cook till most of the water evaporates. Add the fried cashews and raisins.

Serve at room temperature or even chilled.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ordering Food Goes Online (Guest Post for 27Coupons.com)











Recently I was on a cleaning spree before the Ganapati festival. Changing the curtains, dusting out every nook and corner, giving away the old stuff in anticipation of the festive shopping, etc. If you are in the habit of reading in between the lines, you would wonder why I cannot entrust the domestic help with such mundane matters. Well it so happens that I am quite finicky about small things like people touching my stuff or worse moving it around. Personally I would prefer things in their natural state of disarray as I have left them to things arranged in an orderly fashion by others. And this style of management is made even worse by a toddler who has made it a ritual of throwing things around the house or still worse…stacking them in secret places that he has discovered.
It was during one such broom wielding spree that I discovered this neatly arranged stack of flyers in a forgotten corner of the kitchen cabinet. Belonging to various restaurants in and around Marathahalli, Bellandur and Kormangala, they had been painstakingly and enthusiastically collected by me akin to the manner in which kids collect stickers and tattoos. Their yellowing appearance was almost metaphorical, evoking sepia tinted memories of a bygone era when they had been in-disposable for ordering food from a restaurant. Whenever I was not in a mood to cook or some friends/relative decided to put in an appearance at the eleventh hour, I would frantically rummage through the lot and pick up a restaurant. The next step would be to call up the place and check if they delivered to our locality/apartment. As fate would have it, more often than not the designated delivery guy for our locality would have either fallen sick or taken off to his native. However on the rare occasions that I got lucky, the next step would be to check if a particular dish would be available on that day. A curt ‘No’ for an answer would set me back to square one but I duly persisted till I successfully hunted down a restaurant that home delivered the food of my choice within the shortest possible time.
But that was before I discovered FoodPanda (Coupons), Just-Eat (Coupons) and TastyKhana. Now one just needs to log in to their website, select the city and the locality and voila, all the restaurants that cater/deliver to a particular locality are listed in a matter of seconds. Additional filters allow one to narrow down the choice based on cuisine type, delivery time, and even minimum order value. Plus they display the individual restaurant ratings based on the customer reviews as well. Having their app on ones smartphones make it still simpler, allowing one to order on the go. One needs to pay either cash on delivery or opt for an online payment (which often translates into an additional discount or cash-back).
A recent report in the TOI pegs the food services industry at a Rs 2.5 trillion valuation which is set to reach a Rs 4.1 trillion figure by 2018. Rising salaries and dual income households are fueling the trend which is being fanned by a number of cookery shows/competition on television. Exposure to various international cuisines is whetting up the Indian appetite for experimentation. Indian are regarded as quite conservative when it comes to their food but this is now changing at a very rapid pace.
A win-win situation for both parties, the portals/websites offer a wider reach for the restaurants while their own revenues are driven by large volume sales. While Foodpanda and Just-Eat are established global players who have targeted major cities where a sizable section of the population has more disposable income per household and established eating-out habits, the Pune based TastyKhana might as well emerge as the dark horse in this race. It has partnered with the Jubilant Foodworks owned Domino’s Pizza in India. The association would enable TastyKhana.in to take online orders on its website for Domino’s Pizza across 158 cities in India with an option of COD and online payment. While the 158+ cities on its map include Tier I cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, etc, it also takes home delivery to Tier III cities like Rourkela (Orissa), Manipal (Karnataka), Amravati (Maharashtra), Limbdi (Gujarat), Rongpo (Sikkim). With no major players catering to these cities, TastyKhana might have earned some customers for the keeps. Once the population of these cities get a hang of ordering food online, it is only a matter of time that more local restaurants jump on to the online bandwagon. And with industry pundits predicting that the future lies in Tier II and Tier III cities which is where the next wave of retail boom will take place, TastyKhana might be in for a windfall. I have my bets in place, what about you ?
Note: Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Noodles, Red Cabbage & Peppers Coleslaw

The basic definition of coleslaw is a shredded cabbage salad with a vinaigrette consisting of vinegar/lime juice, vegetable oil, sweetener like sugar or honey, salt, and other seasonings. It is commonly served with grilled/fried/barbecued chicken or used as a sandwich filling. While most of the coleslaw dressings make a generous use of mayonnaise, I am feeling a bit bored with it these days. Had a bit too much of it in those sandwiches last week. So, I have skipped it and added some mustard sauce instead.

Read on for the recipe - 








Preparation Time - 15 mins (less if you are using a coleslaw mix off the supermarket shelves)

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup red pepper juliennes
  • 1/2 cup yellow pepper juliennes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 cup cooked noodles

For the vinaigrette dressing -


  • 3 tsp vinegar/lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil/mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sugar/honey
  • 1 teaspoon mustard sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt ( I generally keep it less for salads and sandwich )
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper/paprika or as per taste

Preparation - Take all the ingredients of the vinaigrette in a large mixing bowl. Whisk it a bit to get it mixed up.  Throw in the rest of the veggies and the noodles. Toss together.

Chill for half an hour before serving.



















Note - Vegan Mayonnaise is loaded with fiber and nutrients and has a low GI value.