Sunday, February 18, 2018

Staff Appreciation Week and Indian food (Vegetable Pulao and Aloo Mutter)

I was one tiny drop in an ocean of a school. There were classes up to grade 10, 10 divisions and about 75 kids in a single class. 
If that wasn't enough, we had English medium, Marathi and Gujarati medium of instruction too.
So, you see what I mean by the tiny drop?
The teachers were strict. I don't remember them smiling and being cheerful and so supportive at all.  Now, when I think back, it must have been a stressful job for them. So many kids, so many challenges... Teens in a co-ed. Yes, it was chaos. 

And then, when my son went to school, everything was just SO different. Teachers were sunny and cheerful, kind to children and encouraging. Everything was 'awesome', 'fantastic' and any task done was always a 'good job'. Students never got a rap over the knuckles, were never asked to stand outside the classroom-facing the wall.
I used to think teaching was an easy job, but now I know, there are challenges, takes a lot of patience to deal with different personalities all day. 

Likewise, the school administrative staff, they are also cooperative and cheerful. 

As a gesture of appreciation, our school had the annual Staff Appreciation Week.
The work for this began early in January. A small committee discussed themes and ideas.I was lucky to be a small part of this make plans.
During the week, the plan was to treat the teachers and admin staff (a total of 70) to breakfast and lunch. Each day would also end with the staff getting a high-five, not the hands, this high five was a memento of the day, a small way of saying thank you.
A theme was set for everyday of the week. 
Mid-week was to be the big luncheon and 'Around the World' theme was decided, with breakfast being Indian themed. 

Another mom and I were in charge  and it was fun deciding on a menu. I chatted with  Nupur and Shankari and a Face book group and had tons of ideas. The thing was, getting volunteers for making those ideas a reality. 
So we settled on something very do-able.
The breakfast was to be omelet (Indian style) and Idli- chutney (The idli-chutney (sauces) were loved by all). 
Lunch, as it was a big affair and 'Around the World', we had a lot of variety (Indian, American, Mexican, German).

The Indian table was loaded with 30 servings each of  Pulav, Aloo mutter , Chana Masala, Naan, Butter chicken, Chicken Biryani, carrot salad. The dessert table had varieties like gulab jamun, kaju katli, pedha, kesari.

We got wonderful reviews and no leftovers! 

I took Aloo Mutter and a simple Veg Pulao.

For the Aloo mutter I used this recipe. I just scaled down the heat, a lot. 

Peas, potatoes in an onion tomato gravy
Peas and Potatoes in an onion tomato gravy. Aloo Mutter

The pulao recipe is one I make quite often. This recipe is #kidapproved

Here is a scaled down version.

Prep:
Chop 1 small Onion, lengthwise.
Measure out 1 cup of Peas and Carrots ( I used frozen)
You also need:
1 bay leaf
2-3 Green Cardamom
2-3 cloves
1 x 1 inch piece of Cinnamon
1 tsp Jeera/ Cumin seed
1 tsp each - Ginger and garlic paste
2 Tbsp Oil + 2 Tbsp Ghee

Wash 1 cup White Basmati Rice in several changes of water, drain and set aside.

If using Instant Pot or other Electric Pressure Cooker:
Start the IP / EPC on Saute mode. Add Oil and then Ghee ( this ensures that the ghee does not burn).
Add the cumin seed, bay leaf. As the Cumin sizzles, add the other spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick) and let them sizzle. Once they smell aromatic, add the onion and saute till it's soft and browning at the edges.
Add the ginger and garlic. Saute till the raw smell disappears.
Add the rice and mix gently, ensuring that the spiced oil coats the rice well.
Add the peas and carrots and salt to taste.
Add water (1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cup to get separate grained pulao).
Hit the 'cancel' button and seal the IP / EPC. Select 'Manual' mode and 6 minutes.
Once the timer beeps, let it go on warm mode for 5 mins (this is optional, but I've always done this) and the do QPR (Quick Pressure Release) carefully.

Empty the pulao to a plate /tray to cool down.This ensures that each grain of rice is separate.

If using the stove top method:

Use a deep and strong bottomed pot.
Add Oil and then Ghee ( this ensures that the ghee does not burn).
Add the cumin seed, bay-leaf. As the Cumin sizzles, add the other spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick)and let them sizzle. Once they smell aromatic, add the onion and saute till it's soft and browning at the edges.
Add the ginger and garlic. Saute till the raw smell disappears.
Add the rice and mix gently, ensuring that the spiced oil coats the rice well.
Add the peas and carrots and salt to taste.
Add water (1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cup to get separate grained pulao).
Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let it cook till the water is absorbed and the rice is fluffy and the grains are separate.
Serve with a vegetable curry, raita, pickle. papad or enjoy it as is.

*NOTES: I've often substituted fried onions (store brought) instead of regular onions when in a hurry and that tastes very good too.Just eye ball it to about 1/4 cup or a bit more.  Add it on with the vegetables.  Please adjust the amount of salt, reduce the quantity as the fried onions have salt in them.

Rice Pulao with simple spices and vegetables
Vegetable Pulao


I have often come across questions like, 'doesn't Indian food require a lot of special spices and ingredients?', or, ' all those spices, I'm not sure I want to buy them and then end up not using them', or, 'what if I buy those big packs of spices and never know what to do with them, I'm not used to cooking Indian food, you know.'

I get it. For someone who might be trying Indian food for the first time, or is not comfortable buying all those ingredients and blends, only to waste them, it is a big deterrent.
I've so often wished for smaller ( read, single portion) packs of spices where I waste neither money nor the spices. so, for the High-Five of the day, which was to be a small memento, I thought of making a small packet with a recipe card and adding spices to it (pre-measured).
The challenge was to come up with a simple / non-fussy recipe. One that had few ingredients and simple to follow instructions. 
I narrowed my choice to finding a recipe from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries. After shortlisting 2 recipes, I also messaged him and sought his opinion. and then went with his recommendation (Pyaaz Murghi). The result was, we had typed out the recipe cards and the only spices needed were Turmeric and Garam Masala. These were added to small Ziploc bags and labeled.
I am not very good at wrapping up things and making them look pretty, but I hope they don't mind. 




We also had a Photo Booth set up. One mom made the booth with PVC pipes and hung white shower curtains. Another mom sent filmy posters and some oxidized jewelry and I took along some dupattas  and some imitation jewelry I had. The teachers and staff who came up to the booth had fun trying on the trinkets and bindis, an embroidered jacket, my friend Prachi loaned me and bangles and posing for us! 

This was for all the entire staff.

But I also wanted to do something for my son's class teacher. So I asked the 'Room Mom' if she knew anyone who did gluten free baking (our teacher has allergies). I have never baked anything Gluten Free  and did not want to experiment this time. Luckily one mom stepped up and said she'd bake a cake and I would decorate it. I went with my buttercream recipe for the floral decorations. I hope Mrs. T liked the cake.
Buttercream floral cake


It was a hectic week and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

But now, I want to take it easy and make simple food, you know, the amti-bhaat, poli- bhaji  meals. Which reminds me of the simple recipes I am planning to share with y'all. Coming up soon on AC@H.

Enjoy the long weekend and mid-winter break! 
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6 comments:

  1. The teachers and admin staff sure are blessed to have parents like you on their roll :-) Well done my dear

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! It was fun. And it’s a pleasure, putting in effort for those who do so much for kids.

      Delete
  2. You put in so much time and effort and it looks like a memorable day for the teachers and staff. I love all your ideas- the lunch buffet with the dessert assortment and the photo booth. The spice packets are such a nice gift.

    I also feel like my children's teachers are amazing and they have so much fun in school. I liked school growing up and had some good teachers but what my kids have access to- the art, music, huge library- is something else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a lot of fun and I was so happy to be a part of it all!
      I am waiting for next year!

      Delete
  3. This is such a feel good post with some yummy food.. the cake looks beautiful..

    ReplyDelete

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