Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Towe - Simple comfort food

Every once in a while, I get tired of cooking dishes that are rich with spices or laden with a whole lot of vegetables. My palate craves for simple meals that soothe the stomach as well as fill it up without burdening it with too many calories..
That is when I dish up a simple lentil soup which is the basic recipe that almost every Indian has savoured. Its known simply as Daal in Hindi , consumed as Varan by Maharashtrains and slurped up as Towe by Kannadigas ! This is one of those recipes that would vastly help a beginner cook or an ambitious bachelor trying to navigate the way in the kitchen.
(Now if only I could motivate my brother to learn how to make this recipe, it would be a great change for him from his almost daily curd rice dinner menu !!! )

Without further ado :

Towe



Ingredients:

1 Cup Tuvar Daal (can be substituted with Masoor Dal or even Moong Dal )
1 tomato - diced
1 - 2 green chillies, slit and chopped into two pieces
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated or chopped finely.
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

For Tempering :

1 tsp ghee ( canola/ vegetable oil can also be used )
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp jeera
1 generous pinch of asafoetida

For Garnishing
few springs of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves - washed and chopped finely)
couple of tsp of fresh grated coconut


Method:

1. Boil the dal along with the green chillies,ginger, tomato and turmeric, with at least 2 Cups of water.
I usually use the pressure cooker ( 3 whistles) for this, but the dal can be boiled directly on the stove as well.
2. Once the dal is boiled, add salt, more water to get the correct consistency and boil again.
3. Meanwhile prepare the tempering. Heat the ghee or oil, add the mustard seeds and the jeera seeds and heat through until the mustard seeds start spluttering. Take off the heat, add the asafoetida, mix well and pour slowly over the dal.
4. Garnish with coriander leaves and coconut and serve hot over a bed of steaming white rice !
5. You can also sprinkle some black pepper for a stimulating taste.

This is wonderful with a dollop of ghee on top, but it can easily be skipped for the figure conscious population :-)
Its really really simple recipe, doesn't ask for too many ingredients, of course there are several ways to jazz this recipe up, if you are up to it ! For added variations, a handful of peas or diced potato can also be added to the daal before cooking it.

The dal and the rice provide complete protein. if you add vegetables to the daal, that's an added bonus ! For me, this rustic, simple recipe is almost a comfort food...When the weather cools and temperatures dip, enjoying the daal and rice is as good as wrapping a warm blanket around me ! Try it !!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Baking Bread - From scratch !

When I have time to indulge in , all I like to do is hop , from one fabulous blog to another.
In doing so, I have come to one conclusion - food bloggers out there are extremely talented !!!
To get fussy kids to eat and more importantly like what they eat, takes creativity of an entirely new level.Each blog that I visit, adds so many more recipes to my repertoire and more importantly stretches my mind just that bit, allowing me to see how much I can let my fledgling imagination soar and work wonders in the kitchen.
Well...I have miles to go before I reach that level of expertise, but every journey must begin with a single step. And every goal of becoming an experienced bread baker must begin with the first loaf of bread ! With such an exalted aspiration, I began scouring the virtual kitchens for easy sounding bread recipes. Most of them sounded either too intimidating or too time consuming..Eventually I stumbled upon this recipe ..
I decided to try it out and was nothing short of stupefied at the result !!!

I couldn't believe at the delicious looking and smelling loaf that came out of my oven and sat alluringly on my counter top ! When it finally cooled and let itself be sliced into generous sized slices, I was more than glad that I had embarked on this quest to try my hands at making bread from scratch ! It was crusty and crispy on the outside and tender inside...perfect !

I followed Trent's recipe to the letter, so I will not bother writing it up again, until I have enough courage to tweak it and make it my recipe ! I have already made this loaf twice now and anticipate making it again and again with different flours and flavours !
Will keep you posted !


Notes:
  • I do not own a stand mixer and did the kneading by hand. For the dough that is required for a couple of loaves' worth, I didnt find it too hard to do the kneading. As has been mentioned in scores of blogs, it is indeed therapeutic to get your CLEAN hands into the dough and knead it until it goes from a sticky messy mass to a smooth, round , impressive looking ball of dough.
  • I have only used white unbleached bread flour. I intend foraying into whole wheat and whole grain breads, because I am not too fond of including white bread in our diets.
  • Temperature of water, freshness of yeast and allowing the dough to rise are very important to the end result !


I will leave you with some pictures and some links to expert bakers who can explain thge process so much cleary than I can !


http://www.thefreshloaf.com
http://ayearinbread.earthandhearth.com
http://breadbasketcase.blogspot.com

No doubt there are loads of helpful and expert resources available on the internet as well as in your local public libraries.I am just listing a few that make me drool every time I see the pictures!

Do you have any bread recipes that you rely on ? Do you have any tips and tricks that would make it easier for novice bakers to attempt this wonderful art ? Do share !

Green Thumb Series:Enthralling Flowers !

This is a continuation of my previous post in the same series.
This year being our first attempt at gardening, TH and I tentatively began with only a few flowering shrubs. One of the first ones that we purchased was a hibiscus plant (actually two). Hibiscus shrubs are very common in India and almost every backyard is home to at least one plant, if not more. The hibiscus flowers come in various colours, each more brilliant and enthralling than the previous one !
Although short lived ( they stay fresh on the plant for only a day), they provide a burst of blooming freshness and colour throughout their flowering season.
The hibiscus is not planted for only aesthetic purposes, however. The entire plant can be used in a variety of ways.
  • The seeds are used for their oil .
  • The leaves and fruits have diuretic properties.
  • Leaves are also used in some parts of the world as a soothing cough remedy.
  • Hibiscus flower extract is also used for liver disorders and high blood pressure.
There are recorded culinary uses as well !
  • Tender leaves and stalks are eaten in salads.
  • The flowers are also used in jams, jellies and the like.
  • A good friend has also posted a very delicious sounding idli recipe made with the leaves of the white hibiscus plant.

People familiar with Indian deities should also note that hibiscus flowers, especially red ones, are considered to be the favourite flower of Lord Ganesh.

That done, here are a few pictures of my thriving hibiscus plants. The only problem being, these are not tropical hardy hibiscus, which means that in all probability, these beauties will not survive the winter here. That would really be a shame.
Had I known in advance, I would have either opted to plant these in big containers or would have gone for the hardy variety.I guess all I can do now is take some cuttings from these plants, mulch them heavily, and pray for a tiny gardening miracle !


How can any self respecting aspiring gardener not have roses ? With hundreds of varieties to choose from, getting a few is that much easier (or that much harder, depending on how you look at it :-) )
These are the fragrant flora that bloomed in my front yard !


I couldnt resist taking a picture of this okra bud in my vegetable garden !



I will leave you for the moment with these few peeks into my humble garden. Hopefully I will have more pictures to share!
Until then, may the grass be always greener on your side of the fence !

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Green Thumb Series:Summer Rolls into Fall....

As the growing season here in Texas comes to an end, I realize that I have not posted any updates on my
gardening ventures lately. Now that I am done with the vegetable bed for the year, its time I have a few pictures in my blog !



The most successfully grown plant this season was the bottle gourd...aka sorekaayi (in Kannada), dudhi bhopLa (Marathi), lauki (Hindi)..
A mere three plants provided me with at least 20 gourds, which I happily shared with friends ! ...I am sure that if the plants had been given the support they deserved, they would have produced even more...In any event, even without the support, they did perform extremely well...taking over almost my entire vegetable patch very aggressively ...they even strangled my precious tomato plants (sob ...sob...) ..


The patch was also graced by a lone okra plant that also did well..turned into a very healthy and very tall plant ( growing to almost 6 feet)..producing several okras, although only a couple at a time..I have plans to plant many more next spring, since these plants don't require too much care, do not take up a lot of space ( this is aimed as a special dig at the bottle gourd plant).


I had very high hopes from another plant that had I had lovingly tended from seed...Its called the Mangalore cucumber ( at home we also called it as the mogekai ) ...its available in most Indian groceries as the dosekayi. The plant did well initially and also gave one big squash..but later withered away dramatically...probably did not get enough water ( blush.. blush ) in the hot weather ...I have preserved some seeds and hope to do better by it next spring !

Basil and bell peppers also deserve some mention because they did reasonably well under the circumstances.

This was my first attempt at tending a vegetable garden and I know that it is not a venture to be taken lightly...It does need a lot of work and patience.....I am too much of an amateur to pretend that I know all about it ...but I will say this...whatever the efforts, the rewards are amazing ! To be able to step into your backyard and come back into the kitchen with the makings of a healthy delicious meal is such an exhilarating feeling..I am already planning my spring bed !!!
What did you grow in your garden this year ?

Until the next post, may the grass always be greener on your side of the fence !

Friday, October 17, 2008

All Featured Quotes

Dear Readers, you might have noticed that the blog has a section titled 'Quote of the Week' on the left side bar. I try and add all such quotes that have caught my attention. They either make me laugh, make me think ! I have been meaning to consolidate those quotes that have already appeared on the site.
This post is just that - a place to visit if you are looking for wise words :-)
Enjoy browsing!



  • When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
- Victor Frankl


  • Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.
- Mac McCleary


  • To love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love forever is to live forever.
- Henry Drummond


  • Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
- Mother Teresa


  • The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
- Allan K. Chalmers


  • Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.
- Eleanor Roosevelt


  • Love is not blind : it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.
- Rabbi Julius Gordon


  • Modesty is the gentle art of enhancing your charm by pretending not to be aware of it.
- Oliver Herford


  • The things people discard tell more about them than the things they keep.
- Hilda Lawrence


  • Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.
- Blaise Pascal



  • Nothing is too small to know, and nothing too big to attempt.
- Sir William Van Horne



  • Success is more a function of consistent common sense than it is of genius.
-An Wang
  • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.
- Pierre Corneille

  • When I open my eyes and look at the wide world, I become great; when I close my eyes and look within, I become greater still.
- Hazrat Inayat Khan



  • Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.
— Victor Hugo

  • You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.

-- George Burns

  • Money and time are the heaviest burdens of life and...the unhappiest of all mortals are those who have more of either than they know how to use.

- Samuel Johnson

  • There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.

- Hodding Carter

  • Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.

- Judy Garland

  • Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old
- Franz Kafka
  • Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

- Charles W. Eliot

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Facts on Flax...

With all the information available at their fingertips, people are getting amazingly conscious about what they put into their bodies.
Food pyramids, weight charts, food labels are good reference sources for people who want to watch what they eat. I am also realizing that vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more and more common even in the densest meat eating populations, which is heartening indeed. However, diets based mainly on plant sources have to be supplemented in order to incorporate some micro nutrients and essential acids which are in short supply in the food that is generally consumed. For e.g. calcium is readily available in dairy products, but if you are a vegan then you have to depend on soy products, dark green leafy produce. Vitamins B and B12 are not processed by either plants or animals. Vegans and vegetarians can get this essential nutrient ( required for cell division and blood formation) by including fortified cereals and milks in their diet .Nutritional yeast is also a good source of Vit. B12.
Another essential nutrient that I want to pay attention to today are Omega 3 Fatty Acids. These are not produced in the human body but are required for well being. Omega 3's are readily available in fish, eggs and some meat products. This often poses a problem for diets abstaining from meat.
Why do we need Omega 3 acids , you ask ? Well, these acids are deemed essential to normal growth in children. After much debate and research it has also been shown that this component reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases. People suffering from Depression, strokes, blood circulation problems all seem to benefit from this essential nutrient. Its also a point to note that a small amount of Omega 3 fatty acids was sufficient and increasing the quantity had no additional benefits !
So, coming back to Vegetarian sources of Omega 3's, without further ado:

** Eggs, Milk and cheese are also good sources of Omega 3.

I was always partial to nuts and had no problem retaining them in my diet. But my husband and I also started using Flax seeds to reap its nutritional benefits. Flax seeds are available as whole form as well as ground. Whole seeds pass through the human body undigested,so if you buy the seeds, then you have to grind it to a fine powder before using it.
Both forms of flax are available in grocery stores and whole food stores. The seeds have a very high content of oil, so its recommended that they be stored in the freezer.

Now for some advertising for the tiny flax seeds that pack such a nutritive punch !
  • Flax seeds are one of the best plant based sources of Omega 3 fatty acids
  • They contain both soluble as well as insoluble fiber.
  • They are also one of the best sources of lignans and phytoestrogens which are supposed to prevent breast, colon and prostrate cancer.
  • Flax is safe for everybody, including pregnant and lactating women.

How to use Flax Seeds:
  • Flax seeds have a distinctive nutty flavour. Ground seeds can be mixed in smoothies and fruit drinks.
  • Ground flax seed can be sprinkled over any kind of sandwich or salad for a nutty, crunchy taste.
  • Flax seeds can also be sprouted and used in salads.
  • Flax seeds can be used as an egg replacer in baked goods.
  • A couple of tablespoons of flour can be replaced by ground flax seed in baked products.

Caution:
Excess consumption of flax seeds can cause diarrhea.


Other facts:
The flax plant is grown for both its seeds as well as for its fibers. Various parts of the plant have been used for making fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets and soap.
The use of flax for the production of linen goes back 5000 years !!!

Please note that this article is for reference purposes only...something for you to start your own research. It is not intended as a diagnostic article..I have no medical background ! Please consult a physician if you are troubled by any of the above mentioned ailments. However, if you are looking to supplement your vegetarian / vegan diet for Omega 3 fatty acids, then don't hesitate to grab a box of milled flax seed on your next grocery run !


Here are a few more links about Flax and its benefits:

http://www.naturalhealthweb.com/articles/weil3.html

http://arthritis.about.com/od/flaxseedoil/Flax_Seeds_FlaxSeed_Oil_Flax_Oil_Uses_Benefits_Side_Effects.htm

http://medicinehunter.com/flaxseed.htm

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Green Beans and Bell Pepper Subzi

In an effort to eat healthy and not tear out my hair in the decision making process on a hectic weekday, my husband and I have come up with a technique that we have begun implementing from last week. It remains to be seen if it will be effective enough to continue.
Every weekend, we go through the refrigerator and pantry shelves, check what is available and then make a list of what we would like to have for lunch and dinner, for every day of the coming week. Grocery shopping also becomes easier and less impulsive when I know exactly what I need to shop for. Evenings are less stressful too since I already know what I need to do to get dinner on the table in time. If possible, I try and do the prep work beforehand, like chopping vegetables or boiling dals and lentils.
My recent trip into the Sprouts Farmer's market had me coming back with a big bunch of fresh green beans and luscious red bell peppers or capsicums as they are known in India. I decided to pair it up with whole wheat chapaties for this evening's dinner.
Fresh green beans usually needs to be cooked for some time to get it tender enough to absorb all the flavourings. earlier, I used to prepare the seasonings, add the fresh beans , sufficient water, spices and just cook it till tender. But this time I decided to use as less water as possible. I decided to steam the beans instead of boiling and I liked the result !
Try for yourselves -




Ingredients:

Big bunch of fresh green beans
(I don't know what quantity it was, but it was enough to make 8-10 servings!)
1 medium sized bell pepper (any colour, I used red), finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seed powder
1 tsp cumin seed powder
1 tsp garam masala (or any other masala of choice)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper / paprika
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
pinch of sugar
2 tsp lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander/ cilantro leaves
2 tbsp peanuts, powdered


Seasoning:

1 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
generous pinch of asafoetida
2 -3 curry leaves (optional, but really enhances the taste)


Method:

Steam the fresh green beans in a double boiler. If you don't have one, improvise ! That's what I did..Brought a pot of water to boil. Put the chopped beans into the steamer plate that is included with any rice cooker. Placed the plate over the pot of boiling water and covered the plate. Steamed for about 15 minutes.

1. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and roast until the mustard seeds start popping.
2. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves and saute for some more time.
3. Add the coriander and cumin seed powders, cayenne pepper, salt and sugar and mix well.
4. Add the chopped bell pepper and saute for about 5 minutes, until the pepper starts getting tender.
5. Add the steamed green beans and mix well so that the spices coat the vegetable pieces well.
6. Add the garam masala and the peanuts and about a quarter cup of water.
7. Mix well, cover and let cook for about 5 minutes.
8. Take off from stove, add in the lemon juice, mix well and serve hot with chapaties, tortillas or as a side dish with rice !

This subzi also makes a wonderful sandwich or wrap filling.

Verdict:
The steaming retained the colour of the beans better than boiling. I liked that the beans were tender yet a little crunchy. The flavour from the spices was not overwhelming and complemented the beans quite nicely !
This subzi is sure to be seen on my cooking list often.

What methods do you employ to have a worry free week day ?

Lost in Time ?

Time - The one thing that is the epitome of constantly moving forward and never looking backwards. The only dimension that surges ahead no matter what - come summer or winter, rain or frost, peace or war, happiness or dejection - it doesnt stop for anyone or anything. The passing of time brings along with it many changes. Nations advance, societies change, cities replace towns and villages,modernity replaces antiquity. This in itself is nothing to be worried about, I guess.. Its a given fact that things will change, for better and for worse.
We gain a lot of things as time progresses, but how much and what do we lose ?
Some time back, a friend's mother and I were discussing in general how people used to be quite self sufficient in the way they led their lives. They maintained livestock for their dairy needs, grew vegetables and fruits for consumption, cultivated fields to provide food, knitted clothes, fixed up roofs and walls as much as possible..if they didnt have a particular commodity, they would barter with neighbours and friends and be satisfied. Paying loads of money to get the basic necessities of life was quite unheard of. In fact, if a family had to pay to get something it would indicate a lack of skills or a lack of good upbringing (for a woman who wasnt able to make things herself!!)
However, as time evolved,societies progressed and modernity became the fashion of the day, this ability to put one's own effort into making our lives comfortable is not as appreciated as before and is dying a slow death at the hands of convenience. Farms made way for modern buildings, barns were replaced by garages and old houses were torn down in favour of high rises. All necessities are now purchased. There is hardly a required commodity that is not available if you have the means to pay for it. Making things by hand, at home is left to the few who are either practicing frugal living or have an interest in gaining skills at things like making bread, knitting, woodworking, etc.
What is the point in this monologue, you say ? Well, all said and done, I am all for modernity and convenience where required. But it saddens me to think that all the knowledge and practices of our forefathers and families , small things which were and still are part of their everyday lives, will be forgotten and relegated to memories only.
When I was growing up in Pune, my mother used to reminisce about her bittersweet childhood days in a little village in the Uttar Kannada district. She talked about going to school in heavy rains using umbrellas made with leaves of plants like the palmyra palm , of summer days when she and her sisters would finish their household chores and then dive into the pond for a heavenly swim, of picking raw mangoes from trees and eating them with salt and pepper ! She would go into ecstasies about the sugarcane season when fresh jaggery would be made and the first batch would contain fresh coconut pieces, ginger, lotus stems ! Her memories of my uncle going to village fairs sitting on my grandfather's shoulders, of clutching a 10 paise coin and trying to make up her mind about what to spend it on were very nostalgic indeed...How quaint and idyllic it all sounded. For city bred kids like me, it was both wondrous and alarming !
I am sure there are scores of people from my own generation who share my lack of village life knowledge. On the other hand, there must also be scores of my peers who did grow up in small cities and villages and have had an intimate, first hand look at my mother's experiences. But I cant say the same for our children or from children in the next generation. One might very well say that its not a big deal and today's or tomorrow's kids do not need to know at all, but for me...village life and all the toils and joys associated with it is part of our culture, it has a simplicity of its own, an earthiness and humility that we are in danger of forgetting if we don't hold on to it..
I have therefore made a simple list of things and activities that I can do in my life time, along with my family that will help us preserve this life, if only in memories and photographs:

* Visit our native place during the sugarcane season and participate in the small festival that is celebrated at this time.
* Eat sugarcane with my family.
* Watch the process of making jaggery.
* Learn how to milk a cow (!!!!) ( Cows are notoriously finicky about who they will allow to milk them...so I will have to find a really docile cow back home :D)
* Pick fresh jasmine flowers and make a garland out of it.
* Drink fresh tender coconut water.
* Learn how to make pickles and papads. (This continues to be a major summer time activity in many Indian households today with neighbours pitching in to help.)
* Learn how to pollinate a vanilla flower.
* Learn about the various festivals celebrated in our heritage and then acknowledge those festivals every year.(It doesn't have to be a grand celebration).
* Get acquainted with the stories in the Bhagwad Gita and other ancient texts and read them out to my son as he grows up.

Hopefully I will be able to complete the things listed here and add to this list. I am aware that these are very minor activities and thinking that on their completion I will have achieved something worthwhile would be very absurd. That is not my intention here at all. My wish is just to remember that we have a culture that is very rich and ancient. It doesnt deserve to be neglected and forgotten. This effort would just be my attempt to keep up with Time, but not forgetting about what it has left behind in its march towards the future.

What would you have in your list if you compiled one ?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Yummy Tiramisu (without Eggs and liqueur)

The first time I ever heard the word 'Tiramisu' was in front of the erstwhile Holiday Inn, in Pune (I believe its now the Sun and Sands). It was a cool night, my friends and I were returning home after a movie and my room mate S exclaimed that the Tiramisu at the Holiday Inn cafe was absolutely delicious ! Now I don't exactly remember the sequence of events ( this was some 7-8 years ago ), all I do remember is that I never got to taste the famed Italian dessert, we had to satisfy ourselves with some ever delicious chocolate ice cream instead..
After that I forgot all about it.

Tiramisu is an Italian layered dessert meaning 'pick me up' or 'cheer me up'. (Probably due the coffee/espresso and sugar used in the dessert !!). The original recipe consisted of briefly soaking the special lady finger biscuits (savoiardi - long finger like delicate biscuits which are super absorbent) into espresso (with an optional splash of brandy). These are then layered with a mixture of mascarpone cheese and a custard made with eggs, Marsala wine and sugar. A light sprinkling of cocoa powder or chocolate shavings provides a subtle finish. The whole thing is refrigerated for some time before serving.

I kept coming across the item in most of the menus when I came to the US. I never tried it though. Recently I decided to try it out at home myself...I checked out a few recipes on the web and most of them either had some kind of a liqueur or an egg-based custard. Since I do not use either in my cooking, my recipe options were limited. Eventually I did find one and reproduced it with delicious results !




Ingredients:
20 - Savoiardi (Lady finger biscuits)
16 oz plain mascarpone cheese
1.5 cups strong coffee or espresso (cooled)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/3 C powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla / almond extract
cocoa powder or chocolate shavings
finely chopped nuts (optional)


Method:
1. Prepare the coffee / espresso beforehand and make sure it is cool.
2. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator and make sure it gets to room temparature.
3. Whip the heavy whipping cream in a large container. ( A hand held mixer can do this in minutes)
When the cream starts getting thicker, add about half the amount of the sugar and the vanilla and whip again for a couple of minutes until stiff peaks are formed.
4. Mix the remaining sugar well with the mascarpone sugar. Gently fold in the whipped cream into the mascarpone cheese, in batches if required. This is to be done with a light hand so that the whipped cream doesn't lose all its airiness !Keep aside.
5. Dip the lady fingers into the coffee for 2 seconds on each side. ( This might depend on the type of biscuits used. They should not get too soggy, just enough to soak some of the coffee).
6.Lay them into a 9 X 13 glass dish or any container of your choice. Once the base of the container is covered with the coffee-laden biscuits, pour half of the whipped cream - mascarpone mixture over them and gently spread over the entire surface.
7.An optional step here would be to sprinkle some nuts and chocolate shavings over the first layer.
8.Repeat the process with the remaining lady fingers and the whipped cream mixture.
9. Sprinkle cocoa powder over the whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap / foil and set into the refrigerator. Keep chilled until time to serve.

Slice into squares and enjoy !!!


Notes:
Since I have not tasted any other kind of Tiramisu, I have no idea how close( or distant !!) it is to the original recipe. I am sure the inclusion of Kahlua (coffee liquer) or an egg based custard might produce superior results. You will have to test that and judge for yourself. But this version, although a very plain and basic one, did not disappoint me. The biscuits were soaked just right and had a melt in the mouth feel to the dish. The taste of the coffee was very pronounced. I could try using espresso or a different flavoured coffee for a slight variation. The whipped cream mixture could also be flavoured differently. That however, is for another post !

Ciao !


Here are a few other Tiramisu recipes:

http://www.heavenlytiramisu.com/recipes.htm
http://365daysveg.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/tiramisu-eggless-way/

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Jai Ganesh !

Wishing all readers a very Happy Vinayak Chaturthi !

This is the day when scores of people celebrate the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed son of Shiva and Parvati.Ganesha is revered as the God of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. In any religious ceremony, the first offerings are always made to Ganapati*. Ekadanta* (One who has a single tooth) is also the first one to be worshipped when any new task is to be started. This is supposed to ensure good luck and bring prosperity and wealth in all new ventures ! The mythological story about Lord Ganesha is a very captivating one..It is a story that is told and retold by grandparents to their beloved grandkids ! (Click here to read the story :-) ) Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the festivals that is celebrated widely throughout the state of Karnataka (Maharashtra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh are the other states where this festival is also accorded a lot of importance).
I remember from my childhood, when my mother used to start preparing sweetmeats well in advance of the festival. Chaklis, various kinds of laddus, chivda were the most common ones..Then on the day of the festival too, she used to prepare, modaks and karanjis, sometimes kadubus(a special kind of a sweet, wrapped in turmeric leaves and steamed and served with fragrant ghee!). My grandmother used to send a packet all the way from our village and it used to contain another variety of goodies..home made sev and more chaklis..
It does seem that festivals are all about food ! In addition they were also all about families coming together and celebrating together!Nostalgia aside, it is still a very effective method of bringing families and friends together, of communal harmony, giving a sense of belonging. The beautiful stories keep the children enthralled and give them a sense of wonder about their heritage !
In my humble opinion, modern thoughts and actions give us the freedom to soar up to the sky,
but its our heritage and traditions that give us roots and keep us firmly on the ground ! How wonderful would it be to be able to use both to have a richer and fuller life !!!
On that note I give here a recipe for the traditional panchakajjaya (offering to God with 5 ingredients)..This is a simple yet delicious treat, often offered as prasadam and is often prepared when time is of the essence !
Panchakhadya, as it is also known, is also regarded as one of Lord Ganesha's favourites !

Ingredients:
1 cup roasted chana dal (dalia)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white sesame seeds
1/4 - 1/2 C grated coconut (can use either fresh or dessicated)
1/4 C cashew pieces
3 cardamoms
2 cloves

Method:

1. Lightly roast the dalia in a tsp of ghee. (Although this is optional, it gives a great texture and taste to the final product).
2. Also roast the sesame seeds until light brown. Do this on a low flame so that the sesame seeds dont get scorched. Sesame seeds will be bitter if burnt, so beware !
3. Coarsely grind the dalia, sesame seeds and the sugar.
4. Lightly toast the coconut in another tsp of ghee.
5. Combine the coconut with the dalia sesame mixture.
6. Fry the cashews and add them to the above mixture.
7. Powder the cardamoms and the cloves and sprinkle over the mixture.
8. Turn well with a spoon so that all the ingredients are well mixed.

The panchakajjaya is now ready to be served.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to everybody !

ಗಜಮುಖನೆ ಗಣಪತಿಯೇ ನಿನಗೆ ವಂದನೆ
ನಂಬಿದವರ ಪಾಲಿಗೆ ಕಲ್ಪತರು ನೀನೆ...

(Translation: This is a kannada devotional song, much loved by kannada audiences, sung as a glorifying ode to dear Lord Ganesh. "Oh Ganapati , with the face of an elephant, we offer our humble prayers to you...for all those who believe in you, you are the Kalpataru." According to ancient mythology, the Kalpataru is a divine magical tree that has the power to fulfill any wish.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Simple Life

It was a few weeks ago when I was driving along a long stretch of empty road early in the morning, with my soon-to-be-two toddler P strapped in his car seat, making our way to his Montessori school. Little P was happily prattling to himself, sometimes pointing out wondrous creations like a firetruck or a school bus or even a digger, to his apparently ignorant Mummy..I was acknowledging his exclamations, making the appropriate responses, while at the forefront of my conscious mind, several thoughts were going on at once(Oh yes ! we women have been blessed with that capability...or do I mean cursed ?? How advantageous is it to have the ability to worry about several things simultaneously ??? But wait, before I launch into that thread, let me restrain myself...that will have to wait until another post !!)
Going back to that weekday morning, I was sorting out and thinking about several different topics..Important matters like trying to find a suitable job, keeping family members healthy, mundane matters like housekeeping, being in touch with friends, trying to deal with the guilt of keeping little P in school for several hours...you get the gist. It took me some time to realize that I was driving under near perfect conditions.The skies were clear, there were a few wispy clouds floating lazily, there were green fields on both sides of the road, there was hardly any traffic on the road and there was a sweet smell in the air...that of freshly cut green grass ! There is something so sweet and crisp about freshly cut grass, it always makes me smile and take a moment to just enjoy it.
And it just hit me all of a sudden that life could not be any simpler and more beautiful than at this moment: My loved ones and I were healthy and energetic, I was in no hurry to find a job and at the same time was certain that I would find something that liked very soon, Little P was adjusting well to school and was always a delight to his parents. The weather was great too ! There it was , my slice of heaven for the day !
I also realized that it was not too difficult to find such slices throughout the day, everyday ! Little things that lift my mood, moments that make me happy to be where I am, events that show that beauty and happiness can be found in the simplest of things, are all peeks into heaven, in my humble opinion.
A new bud on a flowering plant, dew drops on leaves early in the morning, flocks of birds against a clear blue sky, driving with the window rolled down and feeling the breeze on my face, seeing the unrestrained wonder and laughter on little P's face, finding myself with some extra time with no chores to do, having an uninterrupted chat with my best friend after a long time, teaching new thing to little P and then discovering that he is teaching the same thing to his father, finishing an edge-of-the-seat mystery novel,trying out a new recipe and having TH compliment it, hearing from a school friend after what seems like ages, receiving a nice comment on my blog; these are just a few of my favourite happy moments
We don't need to have the biggest houses, the latest car model, the most number of jewels and clothes, the most intelligent and gifted kids. We don't need to worry about money (it will always keep changing hands), about housekeeping (its a never-ending chore !), about the grades that our kids make (just ensure that they give their best effort and accept it at that). I mean these are all nice things to have...I wont deny it..but they are not necessary to enjoy life :-)
All we need to do is just honestly see what it is that gives us peace of mind and fills us with unconditional joy and then realize that it is already available to us in our life, in one form or the other !
So here's to our efforts to make our lives simpler, happier and clutter-free !
Hope you find your slice of heaven today :-)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Aloo Methi (Potatoes with fenugreek leaves)

I had never known the simple pleasure of harvesting my own vegatables and herbs until a few weeks back ! I had planted methi seeds in my vegetable bed, by just sprinkling a handful of the seeds in a small area. Soon, I watched and gloated as the seeds sprouted and the shoots reared their heads skywards ! How I waited for them to grow so that I could pick the leaves and take them into the kitchen !! I didn't have to wait too long...At the time of sowing the seeds, in my excitement, I didn't realize that there were too many seeds in the given area and found to my dismay that the shoots were fighting for space, nutrients and sunlight...When I saw that unless I harvested, the plants would soon meet an untimely demise, I picked the tender leaves and shoots and brought them inside...
Even though I wasn't able to maintain the plants for a longer duration, I was able to get enough leaves for me to prepare two dishes and that is saying a lot ! It was so gratifying to be able to grow something and be able to cook with it !
Below is my version of Aloo Methi, a very simple, no-frills and earthy dish....Hope you like it.


Ingredients

2 medium sized potatoes
1 bunch of fenugreek leaves
2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp red chile powder (cayenne pepper)
pinch of asafoetida
dash of lemon / lime juice

Method:
1. Peel the potatoes. If you prefer to keep the skin on (potato skins have a high nutrition value, so its recommended that you keep them on)...just make sure you scrub the potatoes really well before using them)
2. Dice the potatoes into small, equal sized pieces. Wash the fenugreek leaves thoroughly o get the dirt out of the leaves, Chop them finely and reserve.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds and allow the seeds to splutter. Add the asafoetida at this point.
4. Add the turmeric, cumin powder, the coriander powder, cayenne pepper and salt. Mix thoroughly.
5. Drop in the potatoes and turn with a wooden spoon until potato pieces are covered with the oil-spice mixture.
6. Add about a quarter cup of water, put a lid on and reduce the heat to medium-low.
7. After 10 minutes, add the chopped fenugreek leaves and mix well. Add a little bit more water, if required. (Only add as much water as is required to keep the potatoes from sticking to the pan. Do make sure to cover the pan when you add the water, so that the potatoes get cooked due to the steam)
8. Once the potatoes are tender, squirt the lemon juice on top and serve as a side dish with rice.

Notes:
* Addition of a lot of water will make the potatoes mushy and it will no longer be (as Alton Brown says) "Good Eats" :-)
* If you do not have fresh fenugreek leaves, you can also use kasoori methi instead. You might have to add a tad bit more water.
* This preparation can be had with chapaties / tortillas too, but I find it a bit dry with chapaties.
* Makes a good sandwich filler !

All in all a good recipe to have.

Nuritional Facts on Potatoes:
* A large baked potato, including the skin, has 278 calories, out of which only 3 calories are from fat.
* The potato , as well as the skin is a great source of Vit. C, Vit. B6, copper, manganese, potassium and fiber. It is also high in iron and protein content.
* Potato skins contain a variety of phytonutrients which help in maintaining the cells of the body.

Nutritional Facts on Fenugreek:
* Fenugreek or methi leaves have a very high iron content.
* Methi seeds have nutritional as well as medicinal values. The seeds can help relieve sore throat,cough, hyper-acidity and burning sensation in stomach.
* The usual way to consume methi in medicine format is to make a tea with the seeds and have it with a little honey.
* Methi seeds can also be ground and used as a remedy for dandruff and for making hair shinier and silkier.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fantastic Fruit Series : Captivating Cantaloupe

Fruits were a big part of our meals growing up. More often than not, my father would come bearing some or the other seasonal fruit when he returned from office. Exotic fruits were not available then as they seem to be now, so apples, oranges, grapes , et all were familiar on the kitchen table. Come summer and the two oft seen fruits in our hands would be the cool, sweet watermelon and the luscious, almost fragrant musk melon. My mom would peel the fruit...the distinctive gray coloured peel with the rough lattice like ridges...would cut the sweet pale yellow to orange coloured fruit, divide it EQUALLY amongst 4 bowls and serve it to the family...we would devour the contents in no time ! Some times she would make a delicious coconut and milk based fruit salad with the musk melon ( we called it shikarni...or as the Maharashtrians would have it, shikaran :) ) ...on warm sultry nights...a bowlful of this cool delicious fruit salad would taste like nectar, straight from heaven!
Imagine my delight then when I saw the same fruit when I arrived in the States..only it was named differently...now known as a Cantaloupe ! (I do not know if there are any botanical differences in the two varieties of fruits...but I am assuming that they are the same) I don't remember seeing the honey dew melon ever in India...these are refreshing too..but thats for another post.
Regarding the Cantaloupe, it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, to which belong illustrious members such as the cucumber, pumpkins and gourds. The fruit seems to have to be native to the region stretching from Egypt to Iran. The finest fruits are supposed to be the ones grown in Afghanistan and Iran.

Cantaloupe Fun Facts:
* As with the other members of the family, the cantaloupe is high in water content, making it a perfect fruit for the summer months and is low in calories.
* The more orange the flesh, the more carotene it has.
* Melon seeds are also dried and eaten in salads or as snacks.
* If the fruit is left uncut at room temperature for two to four days, the fruit becomes softer and juicier.
* One serving of the fruit is sufficient to provide a daily dose of Vitamin A and Vitamin C ! Amazing !!

Health Benefits:
* Cantaloupe has antioxidants that help us to fight various ailments such as diabetes, blood pressure, cancer and heart diseases.
* The fruit is a very good source of potassium, Vitamin B6, dietary fiber and niacin.
* It is fat free and cholesterol free ( magic words for all of us there looking for healthier snack and dessert options )
* Cantaloupe is a good source of folate, which is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells

The following is a recipe that I got off a recipe card distributed in grocery stores. I tried it once and found it really really delicious.

Cantaloupe Sipper:




Ingredients:

2 C chilled cantaloupe cubes
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/8 C apple juice
1 tbsp honey
a dash of ground ginger

Method:

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and and process until smooth and foamy.
2. Pour into your favourite glasses and serve immediately.

Verdict !
Refreshing and delicious. The ginger adds the zing and the lemon juice adds the tang.
Perfect complements to the sweetness of the cantaloupe !
( The recipe can be easily made vegan by omitting the honey)
I tried this with a watermelon too and that was good too..but if you like the taste and fragrance of the captivating cantaloupe, then you have to try this :)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

To Be Or Not To Be.....

.....That is the question...A working mom, that is. Thats the question thats been bouncing up and down in my head ever since I decided to start looking for work after a 2 year hiatus. I am sure that this question has been pondered upon by scores and scores of women, I am not the first and I certainly will not be the last...Why the dilemma, you ask ?? Well lets see...Being at home, having the privilege of being able to watch little P grow in leaps and bounds, being able to spend more time on all the hobbies that I neglected when I was working, being able to lead a simplistic life is wonderful. I have more options to spend my time on, I have nobody to look over my shoulder, I am not accountable to anybody , nothing that will conflict with my most important priority.
That said, in some ways, I miss the days when I used to be a working gal. At work, all said and done, I am me..not somebody's wife or somebody's mother. For those 8 hours, its my personality that comes through, my inherent qualities that are let loose. I am free to be my self and that is exhilarating. Don't get me wrong...I love being a wife, a mother...I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world..but as a mother and a wife, we tend to continually push those roles to the forefront, and it is nothing if not exhausting ! One one hand you have the cleaning, cooking, laundry, house work that is a never ending chore and on the other hand you have the kids to look after, their nutrition, their upbringing and everything else that motherhood entails. Add other friends and family and outings and parties to the mix and there is hardly any time for oneself. And I do not think that it would be selfish of me to crave some time for myself ! Having a career outside the house would give me some time, albeit hectic, in which I will not have to worry about anything else but being myself.
Lets come back to playing devil's advocate now...if I start working..every day will begin on a hectic note..getting three people ready, when one of them cant even put on his own clothes is bound to be time consuming !! Getting myself ready, packing lunch boxes, getting little P's bag ready and being out the door by 8.30 am will not be an easy feat ! The day will pass by in a blur and it will be time to pick little P from his Montessori, getting home, completing any necessary chores on the way home...cooking dinner, taking care of everybody's dinner, getting P to bed, getting everything ready for the next day...whew ! Just anticipating this whirlwind of a week makes me long for the weekend. I also feel that unless TH and I plan weekends properly, we are not going to get much opportunity for spontaneity !!! I will be cramming everything that I missed during the week into the two days of the weekend. Little P will be spending quite some time outside the house and I will not be a part of those hours of his waking time which he spends at the school ...sigh..
Are we modern women attempting to be superwomen ? Trying to do everything and be successful at it ? Did mothers in previous generations have some knowledge that made them choose to stay at home ? My mother was a stay at home mom and so were all my friends'. I do not know what effect it has on children to spend that much time away from home from a very early age...I do not know what effect it has on families..
So should I reply on an environment in which I grew up and be a stay at home mom, at least until my son starts attending proper school ?
Or should I be willing to work extra hard to try and achieve a little bit more, have a career and give my child an early handle on independence ?
Which is the correct answer ?
Well, thats just it !!! There is no correct answer to this question ...Amazing isnt it ? In my opinion, each and every woman can have a different answer to this question, an answer that could change at any point in her life and still be a valid answer ! I could decide to wait until my son starts public school, or I could start working now or I could decide never to go back to work again and I still would have it right !
Thats the beauty of it...Whatever the decision, it is individual to a family and should have no influence from outside factors..
A bumper sticker somewhere reads " Motherhood is not for wimps ! ' and that is proving to be truer and truer as I get more experienced at it :D
So here's to the mothers everywhere, working ones as well as stay at home ones, because its the most challenging and fulfilling of all the roles that a woman will ever play in her life !
(And best of luck to all those women in the same boat as me :D:D )

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful mothers out there !

(Mother's Day is on May 11th)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Maavinkaayi Gojju / Raw Mango Gojju

Generally when we plan for any major meal, we select a main dish, an entree, something that will be the star of the show, something to dazzle the senses of the guests, a dish that will set the theme for the table. If the menu is Indian, the entree could be one of several tantalizing rice dishes, or a wonderful korma or a finger licking-good makhanwala dish. You could have wonderful pasta dishes that adorn the center of the goodie table. But, in all the adoration for these main dishes, the ubiquitous, necessary side dishes are almost always forgotten. They are made with regularity, enough care is put into their preparation so that they do not spoil the meal, but I don't think they ever get the appreciation that they deserve. After all, its these chutneys, sauces, raitas and side vegetables that enhance the flavour of the entree or can even save the day, if disaster strikes the main attraction !
So today's ode is to the wonderful array of side dishes that any cook would gladly have in his/her recipe collection - Gojjus or chutneys.
I love gojjus, the ones that I have had till now have always had a wonderful balance of tartness and sweetness, which makes them suitable with bread, dosas, chapaties and even rice ! I got this recipe of raw mango gojju from my mom. She made it quite frequently when mangoes were in season. Unlike in the US where you can generally get mangoes all round the year, we would have to impatiently wait for the mango season in India. That was the time when mangoes of all shapes, colours and ripeness levels could be seen on every nook, corner and stall.
Made with sour mangoes and fresh succulent coconut, this side dish is worthy of any Indian menu.

Maavinkaayi Gojju / Raw Mango Gojju

Ingredients:

1/2 raw mango
1/2 C fresh coconut, grated.
(you can also use frozen coconut, just thaw and warm in the microwave before grinding)
2 green chillies
1/2 inch fresh ginger (optional)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp sugar

For tempering:

1 tsp canola oil
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 -3 curry leaves
generous pinch of asafoetida

Method:
1. Peel the raw mango and dice into small pieces
2. Grind to a coarse paste along with the coconut, green chillies, ginger (if using), salt and sugar.
3. Transfer the gojju into a serving bowl.
4. For the tempering, heat the oil in a small wok, add the urad dal and the mustard seeds. Fry until the urad dals turns golden brown and the mustard seeds splutter. Add the curry leaves. Take off from heat, add the asafoetida and mix well.
5. Pour the tempering over the gojju and mix well.

This gojju makes a delicious accompaniment to various dishes such as idlis, dosas, even chapaties, bread and rice. With few ingredients and uncomplicated steps, you will have a
dish that you can easily whip up ! Try it !!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Green Thumb Series : Spring is in the air !

Its Springtime and you can tell ! Longer days, kids and parents alike, enjoying the outdoors, garden centers doing brisk business and gardeners giddy with the prospect of another season of puttering about in the soil, with thoughts of perennials, herb and vegetable gardens and such !!
Although I have been late in climbing aboard this wagon, the bug has definitely bitten me. Don't get me wrong...I have always loved plants and gardening, but never before had I been presented with such an array of goodies to help the novice gardener ! I browsed the internet for all things 'garden', local gardening centers got a visit or two :) Armed with a little knowledge and a willingness to spend a little, I made a couple of purchases and have set them into the soil !
Here are a few things that I am hoping will take root in my garden !!

Strawberries : Spring and summer always mean that the groceries will be displaying their freshest produce , vegetables and fruits alike. Red,luscious strawberries with the tantalizing green stems are an all time favourite allure. Although there are several mouth watering recipes readily available all over the web, this fruit is remarkably well adapted to be eaten right off the plant !(make sure, its washed though). So with these thoughts, I decided to go ahead and plant a few strawberries in my own backyard..Since I read that strawberries can do quite well in containers, I bought two window boxes, placed coffee filters over the holes and filled them with MiracleGro potting soil. I had soaked the strawberry roots in water for about an hour. As per the instructions, I placed the crown of the strawberry plant just below soil level and watered the boxes thoroughly. I also worked in some coffee grounds (courtesy: Starbucks) into the soil before planting.
Needless to say, the plants seem to be doing well and have thrown up leaves.
The variety that I got were Ozark Everbearing strawberries.
I am supposed to pinch of all flowers that the plants bear until the 1st of July. Any blossoms setting after that date will be allowed to develop into fruits( Yummy ) ...so watch this space for further developments !!!!


















Blueberries : I love blueberries: the colour, the
taste, the cuteness( oh they are cute little bursts of sweetness and sunshine, don't you think ? ) And blueberries are easy to grow at home...they need good soil and regular watering and a little TLC :) and you are sure to get the fruits of your labour or so I have been assured by the numerous articles that I read !
So I went ahead and got myself a blueberry plant...its still a small plant..got it in a 4 inch pot ..I am sure it will take another year or so before it starts fruiting well, but nothing is rewarded like a little patience, right ?



Beauty of Moscow Lilac : Lilacs are considered to be one of the most beautiful and aromatic flowers that can be grown. I chanced upon a description of the beautiful blooms, heady aroma and enduring colour of this particular lilac hybrid and I was Sold ! I ordered the plant the next day !! I am hoping that I will not have to wait too long to experience the joy that these blooms will provide, although I am happy to observe that the dormant plant that I got from the online nursery seems to be thriving in its sunny spot in my front yard. Several healthy green leaves have sprouted from each of its tiny branches and seems to be just a matter of time and a little attention !


I would love to hear what you have planted in your garden space this spring. I could always use more information and motivation from other gardeners, experienced or otherwise ! Happy Gardening and may the grass always be greener on your side of the fence :-D

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cucumber Tellavu and Carrot Chutney

It wouldn't be a surprise if I say that while growing up, my family consumed a whole lot of rice in the form of different kinds of bhaaths (spicy rice preparations), idlis and dosas.
My mother made delicious dosas and idlis. Whether crisp masala dosas with spicy potato filling or soft fluffy urad- rice dosas, enjoyed with a savoury chutney, she had a variety of recipes at hand and could whip up something when her hungry kids demanded appeasement !
One type of dosas that she would make were the tellavus. This name is uniquely Havyak. I do not know if other dosa experts use this terminology, but this was a common preparation at my house and at my relatives'. Probably Neer dosa would be the nearest cousin to the tellavus. These dosas are very thin dosas and are almost lace-like in texture. They can be paired up with any kind of chutney. TH likes to have his tellavus sometimes with a little maple syrup and ghee and it tastes delicious :) Little P also likes to munch on pieces of tellavu.
This is a great breakfast or evening snack item. The batter does not need to be fermented, so its quicker to prepare than standard dosas using urad dal.
The batter stays quite well in the fridge for up to a week.
I prepare this frequently and the last time I paired it up with carrot chutney.

Cucumber Tellavu :
Servings: Makes about 10 medium tellavus




Ingredients:
2 C rice
2 C chopped cucumber
1/2 C fresh or frozen coconut
1 tsp salt

Method:
1. Soak the rice for 3-4 hours.
2. Grind the rice along with coconut and cucumber until very fine.
You might need to do this in batches.
3. The consistency of the batter should be almost like buttermilk.
You should be able to pour it out of a ladle very easily.
4. Add the salt and mix well.
5. Heat a non stick griddle until sizzling and grease it with a cooking spray.
6. Pour a ladleful of the batter onto the griddle.
7. You will not be able to spread the batter around. If you need to make a bigger tellavu,
just pour the batter slowly in concentric circles.
8. Cover the tellavu with a lid and let one side cook until golden brown.
(I discovered that the tellavu cooks better when covered.)
9. Flip the tellavu onto its other side and cook for about another 2 minutes.
If the griddle is well greased, you should have no problems in flipping the tellavus.
Another tip that I read that you rub a cut onion onto the griddle before pouring the batter. This technique works well too.

Continue making tellavus in this way and then enjoy them with your favourite chutney.


Carrot Chutney:
Source: Tarla Dalal
Servings: 4 -5



I adapted this recipe from a Tarla Dalal recipe that I had read a few years back.
This chutney tastes really good with chapaties, dosas and idlis. The fact that you are eating healthy carrots is an added benefit too :)

Ingredients:

1 C shredded carrots
4 tbsp peanuts
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
5 curry leaves
2-3 red chillies (or according to taste)
2 tsp salt ( or to taste )
pinch of asafoetida.
1 tsp canola oil ( or any oil of your choice)
small piece of tamarind soaked in water.

Method:
1. Heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds and coriander seeds. When the mustard starts sputtering, add the asafoetida and the curry leaves.
2. Add the peanuts and fry until the peanuts are golden brown.
3. Add the red chillies.
4. Add the shredded carrots and mix well and stir fry, stirring occassionally, until the carrots lose their raw smell.
5. Remove from heat and cool.
6. Blend the carrot mixture along with the tamarind water and salt until desired consistency is reached. Add a little water if chutney is too thick.


Result:
The tellavus have a subtle taste of the cucumber and go very well with any kind of savoury side dish, be it chutney or sambhar. The carrot chutney on the other hand can be made as spicy as you like it, it has a hint of a sweetness from the carrots and a little tang from the tamarind. It is a perfect companion to the tellavu. Needless to say these items have become a hit at my kitchen and hopefully will find a permanent place in yours too !

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Valentine's Day Surprise

The romantics of the world celebrated Valentine's Day a couple of weeks ago. The cynics would rather call it Hallmarks Day or Flowershop Day or even Hershey's Day because of the volume of sales for cards, flowers and chocolates on this particular day !
But cynicism aside, no woman that I know would refuse a gift of flowers (or chocolates for that matter :P). There is something about the freshness of flowers, the colour and warmth and exuberance that seems to seep into the very air surrounding fresh flowers !
TH and I do not celebrate Valentine's particularly. We do exchange e-cards when we remember and try and get a nice meal, usually at home. So imagine my surprise when the bell rang and I discovered that the UPS delivery guy had dropped off a rectangular box at my doorstop. As far as I knew, we were not expecting any deliveries and I was a little flummoxed. I ripped open the box, (oh yes, I am a very curious person...I cannot wait to open any boxes ! ), I saw that it was addressed to me :) (Thankfully !! else I would have had some explaining to do when TH came home )
Inside was a bunch of assorted colourful tulips, glass vase and all ! The card said that TH had ordered tulips for me and had arranged to have them delivered !!!
Surprise Surprise :) It was a very sweet gesture and I loved it !



Then in order to have something in return, I decided to have a fancier meal than we usually have ! I made sprouts curry, made with sprouted moth and whole moong. Paired it up with store bought masala naan. I made my favourite black bean corn salad as a side.
Dessert was Protein Rich chocolate mousse ! Protein rich, you ask ? Read on !
By the time TH came home, dinner was ready, the house was clean and neat (as neat as it can be with a mischievous toddler in the house) and was smelling fresh and pleasant, due to generous squirts of room freshener !
Dinner was a success and all three of us had a nice time around the dining table !
And so ended this years Valentine's at our house !

Black Bean Corn Salad
Servings - 4 to 6

( Dinner plate on Valentine's Day 2008 - Masala Naan, Sprouts curry and Jicama Black bean corn salad )

Ingredients:

1 can black beans
3/4 C corn (Fresh or Frozen)
1/2 C onion (diced)
1/2 medium sized jicama (diced)
chopped coriander

Dressing:
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp spicy prepared mustard
1 tsp cumin powder
salt and pepper to taste
red chili flakes to taste (optional)

Method:
1. If using fresh corn, boil it until tender but not mushy. It should retain its shape.
If using frozen corn, then thaw to room temperature and drain all water. (I put it in the microwave for about a minute and its ready to use)
2. Mix with the remaining salad ingredients in a bowl. Reserve the coriander for later.
3. Mix all the dressing ingredients in another bowl and whisk until incorporated. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if required.
4. Pour dressing over the bean mixture and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle chopped coriander.
5. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve.


The salad can be served cold or warm. If you prefer it warm, then just cover it until its time to serve. This is a hearty, filling salad and has tons of fiber and protein.
If jicama is not available, diced cucumber can be added for crunch. But if it is available, I would recommend using the crunchy sweet root for a delicious difference !


Tofu Chocolate Mousse
Servings: 6



Ingredients:


1 packet silken tofu ( like the Mori-Nu brand for desserts and entrees)
3 oz semisweet or dark chocolate
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/3 C sugar (more or less according to preference)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
1. Puree the tofu in a blender until smooth. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk if required.
2. Combine chocolate chips, cocoa powder, sugar and maple syrup in a bowl. Place over another smaller bowl container simmering water and stir until chocolate chips melt.
3. Then remove off the heat and stir in vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly until no lumps remain.
4. Add chocolate mixture to the blender and blend again until well combined. You might need to scrape down the sides several times to ensure that no white streaks remain in the mousse.
5. Pour into several ramekins or serving glasses and refrigerate until ready to serve.
6. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or chopped nuts and enjoy !

The mousse was creamy and rich and sweet and delicious !
The taste of tofu was a little discernible but wasn't odd in any way and did not mar the taste of the mousse. If you have an unused block of tofu, then this recipe is a must try !

Sunday, February 10, 2008

An Evening in Frisco

As evenings went, there wasn't anything extra special about this one..It had been an ordinary day replete with the usual chores and toddler management experiences at my end :D ..Nothing worth celebrating or making a fuss about, really..But if you get down to it,almost every day is like that, isn't it ? Except for the occasional birthday or a festival..But why wait for a day circled on a calendar to bring out the special china or do something nice and special with your family ? I think we should try and celebrate every day for what it is worth ! Doesn't have to be extravagant or anything that requires a lot of advance planning..Sometimes all it takes for a day to be special are simple touches..like maybe a special meal with all the family members present, gathering everyone and taking spontaneous pictures, sitting together and playing board games (any games, for that matter !) and talking and laughing !!
Its true that we remember the big bashes for a long time, big gatherings, lot of people, rich food...they are the big pearls that adorn the golden chain of life..but the other moments,spent in the warm company of close family, where you feel safe and loved and contented, these are the moments that make the strands of that golden chain!
TH and I decided to make such memories for ourselves and our toddler P. We decided to
have a small celebration on account of P's 18 month birthday :)
I baked a cake from this recipe..It turned out great..although I made modifications to substitute the eggs..Along with the cake, I also made an easy savoury snack..no drum rolls needed here ...A snack made with puffed rice and grated carrots might not sound very appetizing , but once you eat it..you will be tempted to make it every day !
Healthy, easy to put together, delicious ! What else could I want from a snack !


Healthy Puffed Rice Snack







Ingredients:

2 C plain puffed rice
3/4 C grated carrot
1/2 onion, diced small
finely chopped coriander
1 small tomato, diced (optional)
cayenne pepper and salt to taste (very little salt is needed)

Tempering:
1 tsp canola oil
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 C unsalted peanuts
pinch of asafoetida

Method:
1. Take a wide mouthed bowl and put in the puffed rice, carrots, onion, tomato, cayenne pepper and salt. Add a little sugar (optional). Mix well.
2. Prepare tempering by heating the oil and then adding the mustard, coriander seeds and peanuts. Once the mustard seeds start sputtering, switch off the heat and add the
asafoetida.
3. Add the tempering to the puffed rice mixture. Mix well.
4. Garnish with the chopped coriander.

This dish is best eaten fresh. The puffed rice tends to get soggy if kept too long.

Variations:
The same snack can be made by substituting puffed rice with puffed wheat or even
cheerios or any combination of the three.
For added crunch and colour, sprouts or even boiled corn will be a nice touch.

Enjoy and Hope you make good memories for yourselves today :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Great Expectations

No, I am not talking about the classic by Charles Dickens - about a little waif called Pip..although that book is a must read for book lovers as well...What my grey cells were thinking about is the expectations that we harbour regarding our children...Now these thoughts didn't suddenly pop up in my head...rather they were brought upon in slow progression as I sat watching the movie 'Taaren Zameen Par' (Stars on the Earth ) ...my toddler P was playing nonchalantly in the room, not aware that his mother was glancing his way quite frequently, during the entire movie..
The movie is about a troubled young boy who has difficulty adjusting to life in school and getting along with his other classmates and sadly, his parents don't understand him as well..berate him for his failure to get good grades and compare him at every stage to his overachieving elder brother...well I wont spoil the movie for you if you haven't seen it..This is not a review post after all...
But what got me thinking was that the central theme of this movie is very much based on real life after all..how many times have we experienced the exhortations of our own parents to do well in school..how many of us have been scolded for not concentrating on our studies ? Before I get any indignant responses, I agree that there is nothing wrong in parents taking a bit of a hard line if their kids are playing mischief..it is after all in the kids' best interests to see that they perform to their best potential..
But thats the point, isn't it ? As parents, we have to recognize the budding potential in our children every step of the way. We need to make sure that whichever direction we are pushing our kids, its one that they want to go in, one in which they will be happy eventually, not one in which we want to go, or even worse, a direction that we had intended to go but couldn't...
I agree that it is important for a child to hone his / her skills, to go to school. Thats where lifelong friendships are forged, thats where independence is mastered and thats where camaraderie sparks. That might even be the place where a child finds something that can be made into a career...Most of us get caught in mainstream professions..its somewhat of a social symbol to boast that one's child is a doctor or an engineer ...its fine if thats what the child wants to do...but what if my child is interested in music or the fine arts and wants to make a carer of it ? Will I not be a good parent just because I didnt push him into becoming something more socially laudable ?
Isn't it more important to teach them to expand their horizons ?
To be able to give flight to their imagination ?
To teach them to see new fantasies in everyday mundane things?
To help them retain the sense of wonder and the gift of imagination well after they have stopped playing in the play yard ?

As the beautiful and heartwarming lyrics of the title song in the above mentioned movie go :

ये तो हैं सर्दी में धूप की कीर्णे
({Children} are like rays of sunlight in the cold )
उतरें जो आँगन को सुनेहेरा सा करने
(who have come to brighten our gardens)
मन के अँधेरों को रोशन सा कर दें
(They fill the darkness of the minds with brilliant light )
ठीठुरती हथेली की रंगत बदल दें
(They change the colour of shivering hands )
खो ना जाये ये तारे ज़मीन पर
({Take care} that these stars on earth do not get lost)

(Pardon me for the rough translation !)

We as parents have a big job ahead of us, but there is no reason why it should not be filled with fun and excitement, hope and trust, wonder and laughter !