Saturday, February 18, 2012

Greens in Yogurt ( Akukoora Majjiga Pulusu) and a chance to make a difference!

One evening, we sat at the dinner table, my parents, Lisa (my friend) and I. I was talking about something and laughingly, Lisa said, "tu pagal hai! poori pagal!" ( you are mad, completely mad!) Turning to my parents now going into the living room to catch the news, she said, " She is SO unlike you". 
" I am , aren't I? but then, why won't I be? , Lisa, do you know my story?", I asked.
"Sure, sure, I know your stories" She said and burst out laughing
" No, no, not the stories  I tell to amuse.. I mean 'my' story" I insisted
"What do you mean?" She asked, intrigued
"Let me tell you" I said, arranging my facial expressions and launched into 'my story'
" One rainy night in July, Baba and Aai woke up to a terrible thunderstorm and rain.They stood in the  sheltered part of the patio and looked out, awed by the fury of the rain. It almost felt like the heavens were crying. as they stood looking out, Baba's eyes fixed themselves on some object  under the street lamp. "Poor puppy", he thought, stranded in this storm and then he heard a wail. He jumped like he was shot! A wail, on this rainy night! My Mother also looked shocked and both of them moved out into the patio, to get  a better look. And as they stood, looking for God-knows-what, the 'puppy' moved under the street lamp and revealed a tiny... hand?
Baba grabbed an umbrella and rushed out and ran to the lamp post and stood there, the umbrella falling from his hands...
It was a tiny baby, wrapped in some cloth and abandoned under the lamp post. He picked up the baby and asked, "  koi hai?..arey, kiska baccha hai ye?..." (hello? whose baby is this?)  only to be met by silence and the pitter patter of rain.
He took the baby home and they both looked at the pretty face, now calm after being held and comforted.
Baba could not take his eyes off the baby and when he did, he simply said to Aai, " she is my daughter, now"
And that, Lisa, is how I became a part of this family."
By now Lisa's eyes resembled the dinner plates we had placed in the sink, " I.. I.... didn't know.." she faltered
I nodded, " not many do", I said.
She sat, her chin in her palm, frown on her face, brooding. 
Aai walked in and asked her why she looked so serious and out came the reason! My Mom burst out laughing! " kiski baaton mein aa gayi tum, Lisa!? Yeh to pagal hai, pura bakwas karte rehti hai, nautanki hai yeh ladki!" (Did you actually believe her? she is mad and  is always spouting some kind of nonsense, loves all kinds of drama) 
I was rolling on the kitchen floor, with laughter! HAH! she swallowed it!  Even if just for that one second! Her face! Oh! 

I made up that story on the spur of the moment, just to pull Lisa's leg, just to see a range of emotions flit across her face. But what if.............? What if any of this was true?

What if I had been abandoned? 

When I think of that possibility, my heart grows cold with fear. Not to have known parental love. nothing can be as harsh as that. Not knowing  why I was abandoned, why I was so unwanted or if I was saved from some tragic accident and was the only survivor, so many questions, no answers. 

At such times I look up and thank Him, for my parents, for their endless love and sacrifices  for me, for everything I have, for my little boy and for keeping me alive, so I can love him, the way I was loved.

But what of the many children who are orphans? Who have not known, what you and I, my dear readers, have know all our life and also at some point taken for granted? 

Take a look at the other side, read about how you can make a difference.

Take a minute to look at these cheerful faces, look into the innocent eyes and read the story behind each.  

Take 10 minutes out of your schedule and Chip in and show your support for Vaidehi Ashram.

There are prizes  that you could win for the contribution you make, apart from the 
warmth it spreads in your heart. 

Do your bit today.


And after your soul is satisfied with the good deed, come back to try this tummy satisfying offering I have for you today.




1/2 cup Split Red Gram ( Toor Daal)
1/2 cup Bengal Gram (Chana Daal)
1 bunch Amaranth Leaves  or Spinach leaves, wash and chop finely
3 cups Thick Yogurt (plain), churned
1 Tbsp. Tamarind Pulp ( reduce amount if you are using Tamarind Concentrate)
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp.  Asafetida
3 Green Chillies , slit
1/2 cup Cilantro leaves , chopped fine
1 stem Curry leaves
2-3 Tbsp Ghee
3 Tbsp. Oil
Salt to taste


The Paste:
1/2 cup Fresh coconut, grated
2 inch Ginger piece
1/4  cup Cilantro leaves
3-4  Green chillies


The Tempering:
1 Tbsp Mustard seeds
6-8 Red chillies, nicked at tail, stalks retained


Cook the daals together in 3 cups of waater to a very soft consistency ( I use my pressure cooker). Add /2 cup water and churn well. Set aside


For the pastte, grind the ingredients to a fine paste, using  a little water.
Mix this paste into the  cooked daal and set aside.


In a  wok, heat oil and pop the mustard seeds. Lower the flame and add the red chillies


As the chillies  turn bright red, add the chopped greens. cover and simmer for 12-15 mins or until well done, stirring now and then


Add the tamarind, turmeric, asafetida and salt and simmer for a few minutes.


Add the churned daal mixture to which you have added the coconut paste, curry leaves, slit green chillies and cilantro leaves and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.


Finally, switch off the heat, stir in the ghee and yogurt *.


Serve with steamed rice.


NOTES:


  • Substitute Spinach leaves if you do not have Amaranth leaves
  • Use Chillies as per your tolerance level.
  • *Take the wok off heat and then add in the yogurt. I let my curry cool a little before adding yogurt. I  manage to curdle yogurt in such cases and so am extra careful.  If you are unsure how to, just do what I did, let the curry cool.
Enjoy the weekend! Peace out.



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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spritz Cookies for V-Day!

Ah me! I have no story for you all today, in a rush to get this post published.

 A couple of months I invested in a cookie press and have experimented with it a bit! And while I am still  looking the perfect recipe, let me share with you the one I made just yesterday for my son's V-day party at school.


I followed the recipe mostly, except for a small change, I skipped the zest.


Original Recipe Yield 6 dozen
 
Here is the recipe as on the site and is linked above.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and egg yolk; beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and orange zest. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Fill a cookie press or pastry bag with dough, and form cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. 
  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cookies are golden brown on the peaks and on the bottoms. Remove from cookie sheets at once to cool on wire racks.



* Notes:
  1.  The next time I will increase the amount of Cinnamon powder and add the zest as well.
  2. Continue my search for the perfect spritz cookie.




HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Kutchi Paneer (Nutty Cheese in a Spinach-Chickpea Flour Sauce)- Jain Style

About 15, maybe 16 years ago, I was hospitalized, for the very first time in my life. The doctor poked my arm with a foot long IV needle and despite my extreme indisposition, I screamed, the young doctor, a novice, had poked the arm incorrectly, all that happened was blood gushed out in a fountain and spread  itself in a small pool on the stark white sheet. I screamed and screamed and screamed ( okay, you get the point) and the doctor shook and shook and shook in his black shiny shoes and nurses rushed here and there, calming nervous patients who thought it was the end of the world and were praying for it to end peacefully and calling upon HIM to help.
Peace was restored and the nervous doctor pleaded with me to remain calm and produced one more foot long (and equally wide) needle  and advanced towards me with slightly shaking knees and a sweaty brow. I threatened to unleash the lung power once more and he guessed  that I would and so hurriedly handed the needle to a pleasant faced nurse ( who managed to calm me and also my dad, who on seeing the fountain of blood gush from my arm had turned white, like the sheet) and made an excuse about rounds or something on those lines and scrammed from there. I never saw him again in the next 10 days that I was in the hospital.
But I saw a lot of visitors, they came, armed with mosambi (sweet limes), every one of them. Soon I felt like mosambi juice was running thru my veins ( the novice doc had already drained all blood from my body) and I was sick and tired of laying down and sipping mosambi juice.. I wanted a plate of pani-puri or bhel  or sev-puri. But I was off that, as per Dr.'s orders for about 6 months! 
Seemed like a life sentence to me.
 I had died and gone to hell.
I could not keep away from a chaat thela  for long, I kept away for 3 months and then I lost it, I needed chaat to survive. So one day, I snuck out and walked to the chaat walla and stood with my back to the street and tried to hide if I saw a familiar face, who would rat on me to my parents. I ordered a Sev-puri ( I judiciously decided pani-puri was out, water being the reason why I had landed in the hospital in the first place). I had to wait (the bhaiyya had many others waiting before me) and whiled away my time looking at what others had ordered and were eating ( I know, please don't raise those brows at me, I was a poor deprived thing.... ) Someone had ordered Jain Sev Puri and I looked in wonder... no potatoes (gulp), no onion (gulp, gulp), no lal mirch chutney ( it has garlic) ... Oh NO! To me, it looked like a punishment, just like my diet when I got out of the hospital, no this, no that, no nothing...... my head began to swim, I needed my sev-puri fix, potato, onion and garlic chutney! 
After that incident, I never took interest in Jain food (where eating out was concerned), I know it is pure and satvic, but I was not ready to give up all my vices. 

Enter Raghavan Iyer with a recipe that sounded awesome even as I read it... and what was amazing was, it was a paneer curry, Jain style! 

Was that possible?  I asked myself... paneer usually swims in a tomato based gravy spiced with ginger- garlic and garam masala, no? Or made with with pickling spices maybe or even the ever popular scramble
And yet, here was a new avatar, sans the usual suspects and to top it all, has chickpea (besan) flour... if you, dear reader, are like me, unaware of this variation, you must be very intrigued and so without further ado, here is the recipe.




Source: 660 Curries
Serves - 6


You Need:


2 Tbs Canola Oil
1 tsp Cumin seeds
2 tsp White, granulated Sugar
11/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 tsp Cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp Coriander seeds, ground
1 tsp Cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Asafetida
1 medium sized Green Bell Pepper (stemmed, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces)
1 large Tomato, cored and finely chopped
8 ounces fresh Spinach leaves, well rinsed and finely chopped
8 ounces Paneer ( cut into 1 inch pieces and pan-fried)
2 Tbs Toasted Chickpea (besan) flour


* To make toasted chickpea flour, dry roast the flour in a pan over medium heat until golden brown and develops an intensely nutty flavor.


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.


Add cumin seeds and cook until they turn reddish brown and are fragrant


Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the sugar, salt, ground  cumin, ground coriander, cayenne, turmeric and asafetida. The spices will sizzle and smell aromatic. The oil is hot enough to cook them but not burn.


Immediately add the bell pepper and tomato and return the skillet to medium high heat. Cook uncovered , stirring until the tomato softens slightly and the mixture looks sauce- like (2 mins)


Pour 2 cups water into the skillet and bring to a boil. Pile in the spinach, stirring occasionally to wilt the leaves. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until the spinach is olive green and soft and the bell pepper is fork-tender(12-15 mins)


Stir in the fried paneer and cook covered, stirring occasionally until the cheese has softened, about 5 mins.


Sprinkle in the flour, stirring it in quickly to prevent any lumps from forming in the sauce. Bring it to a boil  and cook uncovered, stirring once or twice until the sauce thickens slightly (3-5 mins). Serve with bread of your choice ( Roti/ phulfa/ paratha/ naan).


Enjoy the weekend, Folks! 
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Monday, February 06, 2012

Theeyati Pulusu and a rant....

" Oh! It's so darn easy for you" she said, " one kid and nothing more to fuss about"! 
I was stung by this remark when I heard this from my friend a couple of weeks ago. There was a bit of truth in her remark, I admitted to myself, but I don't think I quite accept the so darn easy.. 
Here is how she sees herself, a mother of 2 (which I know is very challenging), lives in India, in a joint family (which I know is very, very challenging), the family is rolling in money and have servants of all kinds to do all they need, however, from her constant complaints- are hopeless and lazy and don't do anything and she has to do  so much..
She complains they are always gossiping, or lazy or want to go back to their village and she has to spend all her time 'counselling' them. Really? Do people actually counsel maids? as far as I understood things, if you don't like 'em, sack 'em! 'Counselling' them is such a waste of time and energy! I could sack 'em, save the time, energy and effort to direct it to doing chores and getting over with it.... 
The rest of her time, she says, is spent in getting her daughter to study ( and the child, apparently refuses to) and threaten her or spank her...  and left over time in taking care of the younger child and many a times in trying to resolve issues with her co-sister ( they are always at logger heads) and taking criticism from her in laws..... 

On the other hand, my life is so darn easy, one kid, no servants to deal with, no joint family. Hmmm... What would I have done in her situation? Would I have been any different? Would I do what I am doing today? get up and get going? 
I have less on my plate than she does, but I have my challenges too. For example, I have to handle everything on my own ( which is not a bad thing and surely something a 30+ woman can do), mostly without the husband ( he travels for work),plan, cook, clean, no elderly guidance, move every year or so ( and y'all know what that means, boxes and boxes to pack- without any help!)  handle illnesses  and so much more.

So why is is so darn easy  for me? Just because I live in a different country? Just because I do not live in  a joint family? 

 For a moment, my temper flared, I wanted to retort, "oh yeah! wait till you have a sink full of dishes to do, a child to drive to and bring from school, cook meals and clean the house, do the laundry when you have a skull- splitting migraine and a temperature and you feel woolly brained and blurry eyed.... and yeah, You are new  to the city, no friends to run to, no servants ( obviously) and no spouse by your side"

Instead, I kept quiet, I listened to her venting on and on about her problems, it was no use, I felt, telling her about my situation, she would not understand, maybe I could not understand hers as well, I am not in her shoes...  but I have lived in India most of my life and honestly, I did not think it was such a hardship, easier, if anything... sure everyone has issues with the help, but is that the focus of  the day? The school bus / rickshaw kaka comes to pick up kids and take them to school. If the domestic help bunks a day or 2, cook minimally and  order from outside. If you are so unwell, the Doctor comes home!  If you are still in a position to walk, the Doctors Clinic is very close, as far as I remember, many Doctors had their clinics in the building where one lives, just go down stairs /elevator or walk to the next building ( and given the space crunch in a place like Mumbai, the next building is  about 20 steps  away). 
Someone is there to make sure your child has good food to eat, what more do you want?  I remember, a few months ago, I was down with a temperature and my poor little boy sat by me, all the time, ran a tiny hand over my fevered brow and said, "it's okay, mommy"... I wept into my pillow, tired, miserable and angry , angry that I could not do much for my baby, and grateful that he in turn was my support. 

Oh well, all this has nothing to do with my recipe today, but just something I wanted to rant about and ask... do you all get into situations like these? What do you feel? How do you react? What do you think?

And now, let's move on to the recipe. This one is 'authentic' as a friend who tasted a bit of the tiny leftovers in a vati and  said, "jaldi recipe post kar iski" (post the recipe quickly) and so, P, this goes out to you. hope you try this and like it, just as much as you liked it at my place! 

This recipe, like any, from Pedatha's cook book is awesome! The taste, as my friend, said is totally authentic and will have you licking your fingers and fill you with comfort. Try it, you will love it.





Source::Cooking with Pedatha


You need: 
100 gms Red Pumpkin
100 gms  Bottle Gourd (dudhi/ Lauki)
100 gms Sweet Potato
100 gms Brinjal  ( I did not use any)
100 gms Raw Mango
2 nos. Drumsticks
3 Tbsp Tamarind Pulp (reduce amount if you are using Tamicon or some strong concentrate)
2 Tbs Sambar Podi
11/2 Tbsp Jaggery
3-4 Green Chilies,slit
8-10 Curry Leaves
Cilantro , to garnish
2 Tbsp Oil
Salt to taste


The POWDER:
1 Tbsp Split Black gram, husked
1 Tbsp Bengal Gram
1 tsp Sesame seeds


The TEMPERING:
1tsp Mustard seeds
1tsp Fenugreek seeds
3/4 tsp Asafetida powder


Cut the vegetables into large chunks, retaining skin on all except the bottle gourd and sweet potato


For the powder, dry roast the ingredients till deep brown and then grind to a fine powder


Mix the above powder, tamarind pulp, sambar podi and jaggeryin 1- 11/2 cup water to make a thing smooth gravy


In a wok, heat oil for tempering, Add mustard seeds, once they pop, add the fenugreek seeds. Lower the heat with the browning of the fenugreek, add asafetida powder
Add chopped vegetables and , adding enough water to cover the vegetables to simmer


When the vegetables are done, add the prepared gravy, green chilies and salt and cook for 4-5 mins.


Finally, garnish with curry leaves and cilantro just as you switch off the heat.


Serve with hot steaming white rice.
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