Monday, August 28, 2006

Ganpati Bappa Moryaaaaaa!!!!!

(This is the most famous idol of Ganpati in Pune-Maharashtra, Shrimant Dagdusheth Ganpati.)
This is one of the simplest yet tasty desserts... I have always associated with Sheera, as 'Prasad' given during 'Ganesh Utsav', 'SatyaNarayan Pooja', in small paper cups (similar to muffin cups).. my Mother used a special decorative small sized steel mould into which I would spoon the 'Prasad' Sheera with tiny bits of banana and almonds, raisins, ghee and the hint of kesar (saffron)& cardamom and 'whack' it into the paper cups.... I was not above spooning a few of these into my mouth!
Making sheera is not just easy and quick to make, but also is filling when eaten.

1 cup Farina / Rava / Sooji
1 cup sugar ( i usually take out a couple of spoons from the top)
1/4 cup Ghee (can use less)
2 1/2 cups Milk+ Water mixture
A few almonds blanched and sliced thin
1 Cardamom powdered
A few raisins
Few strands of saffron
Heat a spoon of ghee in a kadhai. Add the rava to it and roast it till it turns a lovely golden colour. In the mean time,mix the milk and water add saffron strands and bring it to a boil.
After the rava is done, add the sugar to it and mix thoroughly. Slowly add the milk & water combo to it and keep stirring and mixing so that no lumps are formed cover and cook for 2-3 mins.
The rava will have absorbed the water and now will look creamy, add a couple of spoons of ghee to it and the dry fruit (almonds, raisins..) cardamom powder -cover and cook for another 2-3 mins.
Serve hot.
* If you like, you can add banana pieces (which will enhance the taste) to the sheera before eating.

In a typical Maharashtriam household, during Ganesh Utsav, they have a traditional feast prepared on the first day of the festival.
The highlight is ofcourse 'Modak'. The most common are the 'ukdiche modak' - steamed modak with coconut and jaggery filling. This time however I decided to do a slight variation to the tradition. I made modak with the 'puran' stuffing.
Here's how I made them:

For the cover:
2 cups Chapati ata
2 spn oil
Oil for deep frying
Knead the above ingredients in a soft dough like chapati/ roti. keep aside.

For the filling:
1 cup chana daal
1 cup Jaggery
1/2 sp cardamom powder
2 Pinch nutmeg powder

Clean the chana dal and pressure cook it (4 whistles). When cooked, drain excess water (do not throw away this water, it can be used to make katachi amti ). In a heavy bottomed kadhai, add the soft daal and jaggery and cook. The mixture needs to be cooked till the time all the water is soaked up and it looks dry. add the cardamom and nutmeg powder.

Make small ping pong ball size balls of the dough and flatten it using your fingers, shaping it like a well.

Heap a spoon of 'puran' into the well..
Now to make the petals and close the dough in the form of a 'modak'..

Pull up the sides gently and seal by pressing them together.
Deep fry the 'modak' till they are a lovely golden brown. My little Ganesh Pooja.

Food cooked on Ganesh Chaturthi is made without onions and garlic. The fare is traditional and tasty. The best part is, it is served in banana leaves, which enhances the taste of the food. The food is arranged in a typical order . On the left hand side, starting with salt, lemon wedge, koshimbir, chutney, raita. On the right hand side, vegetable(s), rice with daal (typically it is varan bhaat with ghee).
There are other items that can be added too, like potato bhajji on the left.
The modak is kept in the middle. And has to be eaten with ghee... makes the filling easy to digest.

Mumbai comes alive during these 10 days of Ganesh Utsav. Amongst the most famous 'sarvajanik ganesh mandals' is the 'LALBAUGCHA RAJA' this committee has been hosting Ganpati for nearly 73 years now you can check out the photo gallery here. Pin It

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Getting ready for Ganesh Chathurti.

There is a curiously interesting tale about the birth of Ganesha. It is believed that once while Parvati was bathing, she created a human figure from some unguent and balm, gave him life and asked him to guard the door while she bathed. After a long period of meditation on Mountain Kailash (Shiva’s abode), Shiva chose that very moment to drop by to see his better half, but was abruptly stopped by the man-god Parvati had posted at the door. Outraged by the cheek of this stranger, Shiva cut off his head only to discover that he had killed Parvati’s son! For fear of enraging his wife, Shiva immediately dispatched his ganas (attendants) to get him the head of the first living creature they could find. Well, the first living creature happened to be an elephant. As instructed, the head was chopped off and brought back to Shiva, who placed it on Parvati’s son’s body, bringing him back to life. This elephant-headed god was welcomed into the first family of the Hindu heavens and named Ganesha or Ganapati, which literally means the chief of the ganas, or the attendants of Shiva. Ganesha is the foremost god of the Hindu pantheon. This brave guardian of the door to Parvati’s bath is beheld today as the most auspicious God of new beginnings. He is worshipped during every festival and before people undertake a journey or embark upon a new venture. You will also see him carefully guarding entrances to temples and homes, peeping out of calendars and happily gracing marriages and other such occasions.
During Ganesh Utsav, each locality makes its own special pandal with a themed decoration. People attribute considerable social significance to the pandals as communities compete with each other to put up a more outstanding one. Amidst much fanfare and revelry, the pujari (priest) installs the idol of Ganesha in the locality to the chanting of shlokas (Sanskrit holy verses). Special prasad and food (cooked without onions and garlic) are prepared to mark the first day of the puja. Aarti (a ritualistic puja with hymns) is performed twice a day – in the morning and in the evening. Most people of the community attend the evening aarti. They actually rush home from work to take part in the festivities and gather around the brightly-lit Ganesha. People offer prasad of modaks or pedhas (a type of sweetmeat),or sheera, coconut, hibiscus or any other red flower, sheaves of grass, vermilion, turmeric powder and rice. During Ganesh Chaturthi, in most parts of the country people offer prasad to the image of Ganesha in their mini temples at home. The entire family wears fresh and clean clothes and assembles in the sacrosanct area. As they sing hymns (aarti), everyone is given some flowers and rice in their hands. These are later showered on Ganesha. Sometimes a few families get together in someone’s house for the aarti. Each ceremony is rounded off with people tucking in modaks, in keeping with Ganesha’s style. Hindu mythology has a story to tell even about Ganesha’s modaks.
It is said that Ganesha loved modaks and simply could not stop himself from eating them. In fact he devoured them by the hundreds. Amused by Ganesha’s obsession with modaks, once the beautiful moon made fun of the chubby God. Ganesha was so furious with the moon that he cursed him, saying that his beauty would never remain constant. Since that day, way back in time, the moon reveals itself in all its magnificence only once in 28 days. Since the incident occurred on the fourth day of Bhadrapad, he also added that anyone who looked at the moon on the fourth day of any month, specially of Bhadrapad, would be falsely accused of some wrongdoing.

At home now, they would all be preparing for Ganesh Utsav! Mumbai wil be alive with pandals and beautiful decorations. Every where one will come across small sign boards. "Penche Ganpati" ," Subak Ganpatichya Murtya". Pen, is a small town in Raigad Dist. of Maharashtra where the idol making industry flourishes. Thanks to the dedication of the craftsmen of Pen, we have Ganesha idols of myriad shapes,colours and sized, individually crafted and mass produced, truly a labour of love.
Small children will be holding on to their parents hands and gazing at the Ganpati idols, trying to select one...
Ladies stock sweetmeats and dryfruit at home, to make 'Prasad' when people come home to take 'Darshan'.On such ocassions, sheera is the most common prasad that is made, in pure ghee.
Though I will not be having the traditional Ganesh Utsav in CA, somewhere, I feel that I do want to be a part of it!
So rolling my sleeves, I started the first task, making Ghee.

I pulled out :

2 sticks of UNSALTED butter
1 heavy bottom deghchi/ saucepan.

Heat the saucepan on medium flame, place the butter sticks in it.

The color of the butter will slowly change as the butter melts

The Final product... oh yes it looks kinda messy, but smells heavenly of home made ghee!

Strain the ghee and you are set!

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Since the words are a little blurred....
Left side (Top-Down approach)
Large ears : Listen more
Axe: TO cut off all bonds of attachment
Small Mouth : Talk less
Blessings : Blesses and protects on spiritual path to the supreme
Large stomach :Peacefully digest all the good & bad in life
Prasad :The whole world at your feetand for your asking
Right side (Top-Down approach)
Big head: Think Big
Smalll eyes : Concentrate
Rope: to pull you nearer to the highest goal
One tusk : Retain good and throw away bad
Trunk : High efficiency & adaptability
Modak: Reward of sadhana
Mouse :Desire, unless under control can cause havoc.You ride the desire and keep it under controland don't allow it to take you for a ride
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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Palak ki subzi aur garam parathe! Kya Kehna!

Taking inspiration from other blogs.
I love roti, paratha, naan, kulcha.... yum! Indian Breads ROCK! Friday nights are always special to me... the weekend has started.. I get to spend quality as well as quantity time with my hubby!
I try to make someing nice (though not necessarily different) this week I had this whole bunch of spinach in the refirgerator.. alu palak seemed a tempting option... easy how the mind latches on to the first thing that the eye encounters! Alu palak and paranthas.. nice... What I really wanted to make is this layered parantha that you eat in a restaurant. I came across this real neat paratha (or Parotta, as it is called in Kerala) recipe link in Vineela's blog and that decided it..for me! It looked just like the Paratha I was looking for!
I read thru the whole thing and I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about the 'pleats', canI ? can't I?.. well, I will.
And hey! it turned out swell, just a lot smaller than the original (the 'pleats' thing had me on the edge u know!), but real nice and layered.
For Alu Palak, well, I have made it a few times earlier so I needed no help on that one!
I just took
1 big bunch spinach leaves (you can use canned spinach too)
1 med. size potato
1 Onion chopped
1 large Tomato
3 Green chillies
1/2 spn. Cumin seeds
3-4 pieces of Garlic minced
1" ginger grated
1 sp. Garam masala
Salt to taste

Clean the spinach leaves,and roughly chop them. Pressure cook the potato and Spinach (seperately). Finely chop the onion and tomato ( u can also make a paste of the onion and tomato if u so wish). Peel and cut potato in to cubes. Mash the spinach, or just run it once in the blender if u like it smooth. Heat oil in a kadhai. Add the cumin seeds, add the green chilies, minced garlic and grated ginger, saute it. now add the onion and cook till it is pinkish in colour. add tomato, mix and cook till they are well mixed. Now add the cubed potato, spinach, add garam masala, salt, mix thoroughly and cook for a few minutes. Serve hot with Paratha.

These snaps are taken in a bit of a hurry, not to mention my amateur skills, which really translate into , clicking every item atleast 50 times to see which one can do it real justice... M has this comical look on his face and says, "ok ! let's do the camera naivedya (bhog chadhana / offering to the camera -like- before God as the Hindu tradition goes!) and then re- heat it to eat it!"
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Friday, August 18, 2006

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen.

Not my quote! read it somwhere, but sure felt like it!
As I was peeking into various cook blogs ... I noticed that many contained a lot more than recipes. Bit of history and heritage, travel destnations with interesting postcards /pictures taken..that set me off.. I have always liked going off to some tourist attraction (well, who doesn't?)
At the start of summer, M and I went on a week end trip to Yosemite and Sequoia National park.
Yosemite Park is a treat for the eyes!All that u see around u is trees, mountains and some SNOW! Can u beat that?!?! Snow in the middle of hot summer!!(we were lucky to go when we did, a couple of weeks later the heat intensified and there was no snow covering the ground) In winter the snow completely covers the ground and slowly melts, yet there are spots where it has not melted and still lies in a heap! It was an unusual sight… to see snow in the middle of a hot day! It was even more fun to play in !

The water falls are another story all together! Huge amount of water… gushing forth, sparkling clean and ice cold! It was real fun standing on some nearby rocks and getting splashed by the water plummeting from the water fall !

The GIANT Seqoias are AWESOME.. HUGE.... my pics do not do them justice at all. One cannot really capture their grandeur in a postcard size piece of paper!

Then we went to the famous Boyden caves.. these caves were discovered by a man named Boyden who spent years in the caves, studying them. I was very very excited to see these caves. The climb upto the caves was extremely steep, (huffin' n puffin')but in the end it was worth it! The caves have calcites, these have been forming for hundreds and thousands of years! Outside it was a warm sunny, I may as well say hot day, but inside the caves it was real chill ! the temp. dropped to less than 50 deg. F ! it is completely dark, but for the visitors to see, they have put up lights in many places and also bars to hold on to and walk, not just for the safety of the visitors but more importantly for the stalagmites and stalactites, which when touched may stop forming.
I have always wanted to see stalagmites and stalactites! Ever since I have been a school kid! I was so absolutely thrilled….. the tour guide told us that the stalagmites and stalactites were very old, and we can judge how old they are… it takes 100 years for them to grow 1 inch!! The ones we saw were maybe a footlong and some even longer than that!! The stalagmites and stalactites have water drops glistening on them, these when combined with limestone air… etc. form a deposit slowly … oh, very slowly. I always had an easy way to remember stalagmites and stalactites : stalagmites are the ones that grow from the floor and reach out so they might reach the ceiling, and stalactites are the ones who hold on tight to the ceiling in the fear that they might fall ! get it?!

We went to see the oldest living thing in the world…… guess what? A tree! It is called the General Sherman tree. It is said that the tree is ancient, can u guess the age? 110-200-300-400 years old….? No, well let me tell you , it is around 2500- 2700 years old!! It is HUGE and the best part of the tree is that it is still alive and growing!! It was awesome!! No pic of this.... seeing is believing!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

JFI # 5 - MILK

Milk... Milk.... memories of a childhood spent avoiding drinking it! My Mom must have tried every trick in the book to make me drink milk, syrups, Bournvita, Complan.... NAH! nothin' worked! All she had to do is turn her back and quick as lightining... It's gone (not down my hatch)!!
.... So when Vineela announced 'MILK ' as the ingredient of the month all these memories came swarming back... the time when we (me and my cousins) were at a creche and our glasses of milk would be given at 4 pm, I'd quietly pass on my glass to my cuz (who loooooved milk) and then pretend to lick my lips :)
But over the years I have learned to like it.. in the form of sweets, Bengali sweets, Maharashtrian sweets, SouthIndian sweets...
So many options of using milk, in it's natural form, cream, yogurt, khoya, paneer...
Then I travelled back in time when for the first time I had eaten Ksheera Anna, or simply put a rice pudding.. so simple and SO VERY tasty, this was at a friends house when they had some pooja (heck, I don't remember the pooja, but the food was finger lickin' good!)
This is so easy to make and does not take time too!

All you need is,
1 cup Basmati rice
2 1/2 cups Milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 spn. Cardamom powder
A few strands saffron (optional*)
Cahews / pistachios / raisins/ almonds to garnish
1 tsp ghee (to fry the rice)

Wash the rice and drain all the water. In a pan, heat the ghee, add rice and mix well so that the rice has a thin coating of ghee. Pressure cook rice and milk for upto 3 whistles. remove from the cooker, if it is too thick / dry add some more milk, mix well, add sugar and cook for a few minutes. Crush the saffron strands in a bit of milk and add to rice. Add cardamaom powder. Add the nuts (leave some to garnish).
* The aroma of Basmati rice well cooked in the milk is so good that I decided not to add saffron. It is ofcourse a matter of choice.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Maharashtrachi Misal!!

If you are a Mumbaiite or a Punekar,or from Kolhapur, then you are ( should I say , there is a good chance that you are..) a Misal addict... right??
So am I! this simple yet very tasty dish is nutritious too. A delicious mix of pulses/ peas cooked in a spicy gravy topped with farsaan (savoury snack), garnished with onion and cilantro - served with pav/ bread with a small serving of 'katt' and sometimes creamy yogurt. Umm-hmmh!
All it need is a bit of planning... well, not that much!
All you need is
1 cup Matki / Moth
1 medium onion
1 tomato
1 potato
1 sp. tamarind paste
2 sp. Jaggery powder
salt to taste
1/2 sp cumin seeds

1/4 sp turmeric
1 clove garlic finely minced
1 sp. red chilly powder
1 sp. Kolhapuri masala or Rajwadi Garam masala and Kitchen king masala (mixed)
2 sp roasted peanuts (to garnish)

2-3 sp oil
1 cup poha
1 green chilly
a few curry leaves
A dash asafetida
salt to taste
pinch sugar

Soak the Matki / moth in water, leave overnight. the next day, rinse them well, drain water, tie up the matki in a fine muslin cloth and leave it overnight to sprout.

(after the pulses have sprouted) pick and clean. Chop onion. Cut potato into cubes. Mince the garlic.
Heat oil in a kadhai/ wok, add cumin seeds, add the turmeric, garlic, onion, moth, cubed potato, mix well, add water (I added about 3 cups to get gravy) and cook till tender. Add salt, red chilly powder,tamarind, jaggery, masala (ideally u need to add this 'kolhapuri masala' - readymade in stores, which is the authentic masala, but since I did not have it, i subb'd it with a mix of Rajwadi garam masala and kitchen king masala, and it truned out really well!)
Soak poha, heat oil, add mustard seeds, after they crackle, add the asafetida, chopped chilly and curry leaves, add poha, mix well, add salt and sugar, cover and cook for a couple of mins.
Now all you have to do is, assemble the whole thing (sheesh!I'm making it sound like a mechano set!) well just.... follow the steps shown below
In some places, a 'katt' is served along with the misal, this is typically a soup like consistency mixure of water the masala and redchilly powder, VERY spicy that is poured over the usal and eaten...... which can make one go 'aaarrrgggghhh'!
Step 1
The Usal

Step 2
Adding Poha on the Usal

Step 3
Adding Spicy crunchy Farsaan and garnishing with fine chopped onion,tomato, lemon wedge & cilantro

Step 4
Serve with Bread slices / Pav

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Sunday, August 06, 2006


Living in California, I have drastically cut down on eating out… First and foremost, no street food….. no chaat (sigh) …. and few Indian restaurants… and fewer vegetarian food joints. For a quick grab I can only go to Pizza Hut or Subway.
A week ago we just finished shifting from our old apartment. Isn’t an easy job at all… hauling those heavy space-cases, loaded with stuff (even a few feet) can be such a pain in the back!! With that kind of activity and the kitchen arranging still pending cooking was not possible, so we just strolled off to the nearest Subway.
Tired as I was , and food lover that I am, my eyes lit up when I saw all those fresh greens and tomatoes…. Well everything! When the person there was making my sub, I thought to myself, “Heck , I can do that..” Result… I did! This weekend being the lazzzzzzzzy weekend, all I could do was go to the store and buy the bread.. my refrigerator was stocked with the usual salad stuff.. Arranging the Sub was fun ! Eating was even better!!!
The first thought that came into my mind when I was preparing for the Sub was of my Brother-in-Law…. A total health freak, eats tiny portions and has an amazing energy level… he works anything between 12-14 hrs (non-stop) and drives a goodish distance (on Mumbai roads) from home to work, on weekends finds time to go out with family, shop, socialize….. he would have loved this !! This one is for him!!

My Way!!!

Sub bread (you can use bead rolls / hotdog buns* too instead of the real sub bread)
Cheese slices (cut these into triangular pieces)
Cucumber slices (thin slices)
Tomato slices (thin slices)
Bell pepper wedges
Fresh spinach- a few leaves
Lettuce ( I used iceberg and romaine lettuce)
Jalapeno in vinegar
Jalapeno Mustard (or normal mustard, your choice)
Thousand island dressing
Onion slices
Black olives ( I skipped on these)
± You can use mayonnaise as well

SUB Veggie Paltter
Arranging the Sub:

Slit the bread (not thru and thru, just keep off the end)
Place the cheese slices.. go zigzag with the mustard. Place cucumber slices, tomato slices, bell pepper wedges, spinach leaves, chopped lettuce, jalapenos, olives, ranch, 1000 island dressing (in the same zigzag manner!).. close and CHOMP!
Easy to make and GOOOOOD to eat!
*Hot dog buns make it easier for kids to eat, as they are smaller in size.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Strangers are friends waiting to happen

A non-food post
One of the joys of life is the simplicity of how easily you can talk to people. My old neighbor Kristle is one of the nicest girls I have met,very lively, helpful, viviacious,also an animal lover.. she has the cutest dogs,a shy kitty and..... she is an Indian food enthusiast!

saxton (This is Saxon when she was a teeny pup! Irresistable ain't she?! )
I love sharing my recipes with Kristle! Her genuine enthusiasm at even the simplest food is motivating! But what really touched my heart was that she really appreciates the effort.
She and her boyfriend got me these lovely flowers and scented candles...I love scented candles (mind reader?)!
I was so pleasantly surprised that I really cannot help but show off her gift!
Thank You Kris & Alan!

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