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 ) 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 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

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

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 :)


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.

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.

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 !