Pine nut Peda

As I have mentioned many a times in my previous posts, this is my favorite time of the year. No wonder I go crazy on and off starting the month of Sravana all the way up to Diwali to New year. (That is pretty much half the year any way) I just need excuses to prepare, serve and eat something nice, mostly sweets.

To think of it, I never had a sweet tooth while growing up. My only weakness was for chocolate which any respectable kid back then would be fond of. Besides there was a scarcity value attached to chocolates be it Amul, be it Chadbury's. It was not like today, where kids just go and buy a bar of chocolate at a local Kirana store. We had to wait for days, months before we could get our bar of chocolate, mostly when one of my favorite uncles or my grandfather would visit us with the gift  of a bar. Most often than not, a single bar would be handed over to myself and my sister to share. I would eat mine up and wait for sister to save part of her's so that I could steal and eat it later when she was not around. I did that all the time. Most often my sister would not even remember the last few pieces that she had 'saved' in the fridge. When she did remember there would be a Mahabharatha -2 war unfolding in my own living room! I feel bad about it now. But as my Karma would have it , I am at the receiving end now. Honey steals and eats my share of 'nice' food before I realize it is gone.

My sweet tooth, I think I grew them when I was pregnant with Sunny boy. Somehow I did not crave for anything spicy at all through out my pregnancy. I was absolutely unable to tolerate chillies and ended up eating sweet-tart-mild Pulioggare by the tonnes. Normal times I would not even touch Pulioggare.  Pregnancy is indeed strange and makes you a stranger to your own self.

So to satisfy my sweet tooth, here are some Pedas I made using Pine nuts.  Pine nuts are very fatty and yummy. They make a perfect ingredient to make Pedas. These Pedas are great with kids, Sunny boy loved it and so did a few other kids, a perfect item for Dasara Bombe habba. So here it is the Pinenut Peda.

We will need,

Pine nuts 1 cup
Evaporated milk or regular milk 3/4 cup
Sugar 3/4 cup
Kewra a few drops
Rose Water a few drops
Cardamon 2 (seeds crushed and pod discarded)

  1. On a thick bottomed skillet, toast the Pinenuts till fragrant. Pine nuts are very fatty and sort to burn right away. So it is important to keep stirring them to get a nice golden color without burning them. Remove and spread out to cool on a cookie sheet.
  2. Once the nuts are cool, combine it with the milk/evaporated milk in a blender and blend till smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into a thick bottom pan (I use a non-stick pan, just for sweets and prasadas)
  4. Stir in the sugar into the nut mixture and cook on a gentle heat stirring frequently.
  5. After about 25 minutes, the mixture will start coming together into a ball.
  6. Now fold into it the Kewra, rose water and cardamon powder. Mix very well and remove from heat. 
  7. Let the mixture cool down a bit and then pinch little ball the size of a small lime from the mixture and roll it between two palms of your hands. Flatten it slightly and stamp a desired design on the Pedas. 
  8. I just used my citrus zest peeler to sort of create a design on the Pedas. Let the Pedas cool and set before serving.

Seekarane / Sweetened Hung Yogurt

I love Krishna, as they  say, he is my 'Istha Deiva'. He might have been a historical person, a power broker, an astute politician we probably will never know. But to me he is that cherubic little kid who stole butter as well as hearts. What is there not to love in the little kid who did everything to bring the pot of butter down, especially if you have one such kid yourself!. He is worshiped as god, yet he is no human, so one among us, so close to heart. If he were ever a historical figure, it would be so difficult to objectively judge him, because of the personal bond that we share. We grew up hearing the stories of his naughtiness, kindness, bravery and everything else. So it is indeed very easy to fall in love with him.
So Janmastami happens to be special. It is after all the birthday of the little lovable imp. I try to fast during the day and prepare a lavish spread for the evening, but this time I could not really do that. Simple does not necessarily mean an ordinary affair. It had to be something special, something Krishna liked. So I decided to make Poori and Seekarane along with Bendekai gojju. After all Krishna was fond of milk, yogurt  and butter.

We will need,

Yogurt 3 cups
Milk 2 tbsp (warm)
Saffron 1 pinch
Sugar 1/4 to 1/2 cup adjust according to taste
Cardamon 1 pod, seeds crushed and pod discarded

  • Set a sieve over a smaller container. Line the sieve with a piece of muslin or cheese cloth. Pour the yogurt into the sieve, cover and keep it aside for a couple of hours in the refrigerator till the moisture in the yogurt is drained and a thick creamy solids are left in the sieve.
  • Crush the saffron and dump it into the warm milk. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Remove the hung curds into a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. I used the super fine variety and it was a breeze to get it all mixed up. 
  • Throw in  the crushed cardamon and the saffron milk. Stir well to combine.
  • Chill it in the refrigerator for several hours for the flavors to develop and serve well chilled with Pooris.

Khoa Kobari Peda

Sunny boy started school today. My little baby rode on the school bus all by himself, I mean neither me nor Honey were with him. It was a mixed feeling. A was going through a gamut of emotions. My little baby did not need me as much as he did when he was say 2 years old. There is a degree of pride when I see him pick up his back ease his tiny feet into his shoes and walks to the door. At the same time, a part of me cries and cringes that my baby is now a boy, not the tiny little bundle in my arms that could stare into for hour. Like the little bird who has mastered the art of flying, he too one day will fly away from me in the quest for his life.

It is when I am under such emotional duress that my heart starts to ache, remembering people who never came back. It does not help that living here in NJ so close to New York city, September is a brutal month, at least the first two weeks are. Deliberate switching off the TV or avoiding the news papers, is not really enough to escape the 9-11 tragedy. It somehow hangs around like an apparition. The other day I saw this on the notice board of a local church "Grief Share starts Sep 10, 6 PM". For a moment I was wondering what it could be, before it hit me that it is September. And then there are the local memorials, which gets drenched in tears around this time of the year. Of course it is this time of the year that my eye start catching "We remember", " We will never forget.." and such. I do not know if my mind is unconsciously playing the trick or if it really happens at this of the year. No September 11 has been a normal day for me ever since I came to this country.  Somehow a tragedy of this extent feels way more painful here. May be it is the way they remember indeed. Many more people have died back home say due to natural calamities, insurgency and of course terrorism. They have all been equally painful, but grief is not public back home, it is personal, it is got nothing to do with our collect psyche as a society. But here it is a fully public grief share and re-living the memories of those who never came back on a very typical balmy feeling summer day. We have friends who worked there but were caught in the traffic jam and thankfully never made it to their office. We know of people who were in the building a few hours before the incident happened and could not believe what happened a few hours, minutes after they left. We know people who worked there, safely made it out  even as the building smouldered on at the top and never had the nerve to go back to the highrises of the city. All these somehow hits so hard.
On the contrary the Mumbai terror attacks have all but forgotten. I remember what I was doing as the tragedy unfolded, just like I remember that day when I heard what happened in NYC on that fateful day. Perhaps we all do. You cannot  forget the moment something so disturbing happens. But Mumbai terror attacks were soon forgotten. We do not remember the victims any more. All I can see is may be a small article in  some news paper. No public grief share, no public tribute  and not much impact on the collective Psyche of the city. I do salute the resilience of the city, it is perhaps a different way of coping up with a tragedy like that, to move on.
The difference how it is treated here and back home are however very stark. Ultimately, why it happened does not matter. All that matters is that people never came back because of  some one amongst us was crazy.
After all this let us go back to Khoa Kobari Peda, a nice tribute to all our dear departed as well as our Pitru's (ancestors). The timing could not have been right 9-11 and Pitrupaksha coinciding.

We will need,

Khoa (the moist variety ) grated 1 cup
Sugar 1/2-3/4 cup
Evaporated milk 1 can (the small one)
Kopra /dessicated coconut 1/4 cup
Ghee 2 tbsp

  • On a hot skillet, toast the dessicated coconut till the coconut is slightly golden and aromatic. Remove it on to a cool plate and set it aside.
  • Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pan. Throw in the Khoa. Keep stirring till it changes colour to slightly golden. This takes a while.
  • Pour in the evaporated milk and sugar. Cook till the sugar is well incorporated and the mixture comes together into a ball.
  • Remove from heat. Once it is cool enough to handle, pinch lime sized balls of the khoa mixture and roll it in the toasted coconut mixture. 
  • Set the coconut coated khoa balls in a tray and air dry for a few hours till the Pedas harden slightly. serve at room temperature.

Uddina Kaalu Tovve /Kaali daal/Maa ki dal

When I read about people protesting globalization at WTO and other events I smile! They do have legitimate concerns, agreed and their concerns need to be addressed too. But the militant types really baffle me. All right corporate expansion, profit mongering is one side of globalization, but what about ideas? what about food? We Indian have always been at the forefront of global exchange of products, ideas and of course food for millenniums now. It was an accepted way of life to appreciate knowledge where ever it came from. It is just the past few centuries that we lost ourselves and we were so alien to what our forefathers saw millenniums ago. How many of us now know about pizza? what about Taco? Early in my childhood the only Pizza that was available in Mysore was in Krishna Bakery, Modern kids would not even recognize it as pizza. They would call it an unidentified object, circular in shape with some tomato Palya on top and mind you no sign of cheese (even if it did, it was not immediately recognizable) But today every single kid knows Pizza and the intricate differences between the various styles, just like they know their Dosa.  Tacos! I had never heard of them as a kid. I had read in Tinkle Digest that in Mexico they make unleavened bread like our Rotis called Tortilla but Taco sounded more like gibberish. Now every one knows about Taco. Pasta, Cal-zone,  fried chicken, noodles etc etc the list goes on. We have incorporated so many foreign foods and made it our own. This is indeed the best part of globalization. We incorporate new ideas while making it our own. Though I cannot but look at the irony when I shopping at a local Patel store in New Jersey almost always end up picking up Sujata brand wheat flour, made by the 'Evil' General Mills head quartered somewhere in the American heart land, in the wheat basins of India and sent to this side of Atlantic in huge container ships! I click my tongue and say "Ah! globalization".

When I see this side of the coin clearly, I end up appreciating the other side of the coin better. We do learn new things but we are equally good at retaining part of our old established knowledge. For instance  whole urad dal is one of the native crops in India. It has been mentioned in ancient Kannada texts and has been used to make Idlis for more than a 1000 years now! So we have indeed retained and refined older knowledge to this day. Though I rather cannot imagine following the original known recipe for Idli, soaking whole Urad in buttermilk, grinding, fermenting, seasoning and steaming it as Idli. The end product looking rather dark grey and definitely not as light and fluffy as their modern counterparts.  So being one of the oldest pantry ingredient it is therefore not surprising that Urad dal finds it's way into a lot of yummy dishes, including this simple rendering.

This is a simple dal. The Urad dal when cooked till it falls apart makes this dish very earthy, hardy and festive. I love it. So here is Maa ki dal

We will need,

Whole Urad dal 1/3 cup
Rajma (optional) a handful
Ginger 1/2" +1 "
Hing a dash

For the Oggarane
Ghee 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Fennel 1/4 tsp
Garlic 4 cloves

Onion 1 small chopped
Chilly powder 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Dhania powder 1/2 tsp
Tomatoes 3-4 chopped
Salt to taste
Coriander chopped

  • Pick and clean the Urad and Rajma(if using) and wash it with several changes of water. Soak it in generous quantity of water overnight.
  • Drain the dal and wash it again in several changes of water. Throw it in a pressure cooker along with 3 cups of water, 1/2" ginger (slightly crushed) and hing. Cook till the urad dal falls apart. (about 3-4 whistles in my pressure cooker). Remove from heat.
  • Prepare the Oggarane. Heat the ghee in a wok and throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera and fennel. Once they stop sizzling throw in the onion. Saute till the onions are translucent. 
  • Coarsely crush the remaining ginger and garlic and throw into along with the onions. Saute for a brief minute. Throw in all the spice powers and  the tomatoes. 
  • Cook the mixture till tomatoes turn pulpy. Remove from heat.
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool enough to handle, combine the cooked dal mixture and the onion mixture. Heat the mixture, adjust salt and  add the fresh coriander. Add more lemon juice if the dish is not tart enough.
  • Serve hot with rice.

Tondekayi Flaxseeds fry

Typically I do not buy into food fads. I sort of always rely on age old wisdom than the pop-researches published by glossy magazines. That is the reason flax seeds never charmed me till now. I finally decided to try them succumbing to heard mentality I guess. They did look rather sad for a miracle food. But then appearance is always deceptive. I went ahead and tried them. Initially I thought I would substitute them in our recipes calling for oil-seeds like peanuts or sesame. It is easy to begin with substituting for ingredients in the same family when experimenting  it the first time!

This Tondekayi fry turned out to be quite nice and I did not have to sell the idea of eating 'healthful' food to Honey. The health benefits of flax seeds, not sure as of now!

We will need,

For the masala

Flaxseeds 1 tbsp
Dhania seeds 1 tsp
Byadagi chillies 2-3 (Adjust according to taste)
Urad dal 1 tsp

For the fry
Tondekayi /Tindora 1 lb  cleaned, trimmed and cut into quarters
Peanut oil /coconut oil 1-2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/6 tsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
Tamarind extract 1/2 tsp (adjust as per taste)
Jaggery crushed 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Coriander fresh to garnish

  • To prepare the masala, toast all the ingredients on a hot skillet one by one till golden brown and cool it. Once cool enough to handle blitz it in a grinder to end up with a smooth power.
  • Heat oil in a wok. Throw in the mustard, cumin, hing and curry leaves. Once they stop sizzling add the prepped vegetable. Saute till they are slightly tender about 5-6 minutes. Alternately it can be braised with a little water too.
  • Add the prepared Masala,tamarind, Jaggery and salt. Cover and cook till the vegetable is tender. Adjust salt and garnish with coriander. 
  • Serve hot with rotis.

Jalebi Revisited

It is my favorite time of the year! Sravana is here and the season of eating  has begin. We celebrated Varamahalaxmi habba last Friday.  Looking forward for Janmashtami this Weekend and Gowri-Ganesh soon after wards. So the season of eating has officially begin. With this comes a series of yummy goodies, sweets and all.

My love for Jalebi is legendary in my family circles!  I did win the Jalebi eating competition back in college, though it was not for quantity that I won, probably I would have won that too, but for eating a single Jalebi which was tied to a swinging sting overhead! So much so that my sister would spin the song "Love ke li ye saala kuch bhi karega" to "Jalebi ke li ye sala kuch bhi karega...".

After many attempts to make the perfect Jalebi, I think I m almost there. First I needed to list out the qualitites that makes a Jalebi good.

1. It must be crunchy
2. It must have  cavity inside to soak up the syrup and become juicy.

3. The sugar syrup should taste good with a hint of flavor.
4. Jalebi should stay crisp for a few days.
5. There should be just a hint of tartness.

The secret to making good Jalebis is fairly simple. Fermentation!
If we get to ferment our batter well, the Jalebis are a breeze to make.  The recipe is the same as was posted in my older post here.
But of course it is the fermentation in the process that made all the difference. This time around I sat the batter for one whole day instead of overnight. I could see the yeast action and small air bubbles in the batter before I started making the Jalebis. I reduced the amount of cornflour too, now I would say about 1/6 of a measure instead of 1/3 of a measure previously  noted in my recipe. I was happy with my results this time around.They were very good and disappeared in no time.

Some points to remember

1. Use organic cane sugar instead of the regular sugar (here in the USA). Indian sugar is just fine. The regular American sugar sort of leaves a chemical after taste which ruins the Jalebi. They work fine for cakes and Ladoos but a definite no no for Jalebi.

2. Always use Ghee in the fat used to deep fry the Jalebi. A few tables spoons of Ghee for a cup of refined oil will do too. But the flavour of ghee in the Jalebi takes it up a few notches.

3. To aid fermentation, I left the Yogurt on the counter top overnight so it is really tart to start with. This make the fermentation easy. I also added a teaspoon of sugar in my batter to kick start the fermentation.

4. The sugar syrup should be just about one thread consistency. Remove the sugar syrup to a cooler bowl once the desired consistency is achieved. Leaving in the same pot makes the syrup thicker and that makes it difficult for the Jalebis to absorb the syrup. Alternately stop shy of one thread consistency and the heat of the pot will help achieve the desired consistency.

5. Finally add a little flavoring to the syrup either saffron/ Elachi (i love) or a few drops of rose water (heavenly)

This one for more Jalebi making!! By the way I like mine one the golden side, it makes the Jalebi crisp and heavenly. So I made a few batches that were golden and a few that were not.


There are few recipes I end up repeating many times a week. It is rather curious that I have never posted a few of those oft repeated recipes at all. Is it a case of familiarity breeds contempt? could be.  We as a family of three consume a dozen eggs in two - three weeks, mostly. I love eggs. They are my favorite breakfast. Eggs and a cup of milk, picked up during my hostel years at JNU. I hated the many different things that was served in the hostel. I hated the greasy Parathas, I hated the thick, heavy concrete circular slab called Uttapam, I hated the bland Upma and of course Tuesday was the day of fasting for Hanuman therefore we were served Bananas or eggs for breakfast. Since I did not like breakfast served on most of the days, I took to having egg and milk everyday since these were the constant alternate on the menu everyday.

Before my hostel days, we had tradition of bread and eggs for breakfast on Sundays. My mother used to prepare fresh butter on Sundays and me and my father would go to a small shop in Agrahara, Mysore to get our loaf of Modern sweet bread. Sometime, we would also pick up a small loaf of Modern fruit bread too. Then from Chick-Market  we would buy our eggs.  Back home my mother would prepare Omlette, french toast or boiled egg as per our choice. I would mostly stick to either Omlette or French Toast. My father would some times have it scrambled. Curiously enough Sunny boy loves eggs too. But he is a boiled egg whites only guy! Not like me who as a toddler used to drink my milk  beaten with raw egg, something of an eggnog (eeek.. I hate it now). My mother thought that would make me strong till some one told her that I could be food poisoned to death! So I actually do not remember what it tasted like though I survived the food poisoning scare. It is just that back then food was more wholesome and food poisoning was much lesser a scare then than now despite all our refrigeration and modern technology etc. Commercially farmed, processed and transported across half the globe food will never be as good as the locally grown fresh food.

For now it is just simple Omelet. Serve it for breakfast by itself or with a slice of bread. Or serve with for lunch dinner along with  Rice/Curry to make the meal a little more interesting. Also unlike the french Omelet which is served jiggly in the center we really cook the hell out of our eggs till they are golden brown. We make sure our Omelets never look like they were made out of eggs.  They should resemble the more familiar Dose to be good enough to be eaten! I know the French would probably cringe at our presentation, Julia Child might be rolling in her grave but then my Mother would never ever touch a completely yellow omelet, much less the jiggly ones. As a matter of fact, I would not either if I had a chance. Sorry IHOP I never liked your omelets or pancakes for that matter.

We will need,

Eggs 2
Onions 1 medium chopped
Green chillies 2 chopped (adjust according to taste)
Coriander a handful washed and chopped
Coconut fresh grated 1 tbsp
Peanut oil/Coconut oil 2 tsp
Salt and Pepper to taste.

  • Pre-heat a heavy bottom pan on medium high heat. 
  • Break the eggs into a bowl. Pierce the yolks and start whisking the egg. Whisk till frothy. 
  • Throw in all the ingredients and mix well.
  • Pour a tea spoon on oil into the pan and swirl the pan to ensure a thin film of oil all over the bottom of the pan. 
  • Gently pour the egg mixture into the pan and cook till the sides look set and golden brown.
  • Flip, pour the remaining oil around the edges of the pan and cook the other side for a few more minutes till the other side is golden brown too.
  • Serve hot.


I have always believed that simplicity is the USP of Kannada cuisine which augers well for busy time constrained modern life. We have no time to cook elaborate meals now, looks like our ancestors did not have time for elaborate meals either. Our everyday meals are quick and easy with a sort of no-nonsense air about it. One such meal is Uppsaaru along with Ragi Mudde/Rice. Uppsaaru is just a handful of beans/legumes, vegetables, greens or any combination of the three cooked together and served with a side of "Khara" a spicy chutney made of red chillies and garlic.  A little more refinement means draining the cooked beans and vegetables reserving the stock. And then a quick Oggarane on the cooked beans/vegetable combo. How about this for a quick weeknight meal? Make the "Khara" once and Uppsaaru is ready in no time. In fact the Khara ground in a stone mortar/pestle would last for days without any refrigeration. That was how it was done indeed, kept in the empty shell of a coconut in open air.

There are three components to a more refined version of Uppsaaru, the Palya, the Kattu or the broth and the Khara, all served separately. As we ladle rice into our plates, we make a hole in the center and pour the Kattu into the hole. Then we throw a peanut size Khara and mix everything. We increase the heat by helping ourselves for more Khara if preferred.

So here it is. Simple food at its best.

For the Palya and Kattu,

We will need,

Beans/legumes of choice I have used Alasande (red chori) 1  cup
Mixed greens  1 lb or chopped vegetables (green beans, carrots, ridge gourd etc) 1 lb
or a combination of green and vegetables
Onion 1 large
Garlic 2 cloves minced
Red chillies 2 (broken)
Peanut oil/ghee 2 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
Coconut fresh grated 1/4 cup (optional)
Salt and lemon juice to taste

  • Pick and wash the beans till water runs clear. Combine it with six cups of water in a pressure cook till al dente. 
  • Once the beans are cooked, throw in the greens/ vegetables and cook till vegetables are tender al dente.
  • Drain the vegetables in a colander and reserve the stock.
  • Heat oil/Ghee in a Kadai. Throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera, red chillies and curry leaves. When they crackle throw in the onions and the garlic. Saute till the onions are slightly pink. Throw in the well drained vegetable mixture.
  • Adjust salt and lemon juice. Throw in the coconut if using and remove from heat. 
  • For the Kattu, place the stock in a pot and adjust salt. Throw in a tea spoon of butter if preferred.  Serve the Palya and Kattu separately with the Khara as shown in the below picture

There are a bunch of recipes for Khara. It is nothing but one size fits all. I guess our grandmothers and their mothers were quite creative when it came to recipes like these. They just used what ever ingredient was handy, from coconut to garlic to peppers to toasted curry leaves.  Think of the recipe below as a starting point and customize is as desired. Most of the ingredients are optional except Red chillies, garlic, tamarind and salt.
We also make a green version of this Khara and call it Sapneeru.

We will need,

Byadagi chillies 10-15
Garlic 4 cloves
Pepper corn 2 tsp
Jeera 2 tsp
Tamarind extract 1/2 tsp
Jaggery 1 tsp
Kopra /dry coconut 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

  • Combine all the ingredients in a blender with as little water as possible and grind it to a smooth paste. Better it grind it in a granite mortar/pestle
  • Keeps well for at least two weeks in the refrigerator.

Canada Diary

This past week we were in Canada on a vacation. Since we did not have time to plan ahead, we decided on a rather impromptu road trip.

Day 1: We started from Princeton well past 11 AM and after a quick stop at Durga Temple, we headed north to Quebec city. Thankfully 1-87 was quiet and we were able to make decent progress before the lunch hour stuck. We stopped at one of the rest areas to finish our lunch of home made vegetable Pulao. Once we entered the Adirondacks region, the scene was breath taking. With the pine lined mountains and azure lakes the scene out the car window looked straight out of coffee table books! Sunny boy however was loosing his patience. I forgot to pack some activity books, crayons for him. He made us listen to his favorite songs ("Yello Jogappa" from the Kannda movie Jogi and "12 3 Vishnuvardhana" from the movie Vishnuvardhana) for a few continuous hours. We reached the Canadian border at around 5.30 PM. With summer in full swing, we got to enjoy the landscapes in bright day light for a few more hours.It was at the customs post that I first heard "Kubek". That did not prepare us for the amount of French we would be encountering in Quebec. After a brief stop just outside Levis for an early dinner, we headed into Quebec city. Our accommodation was at Beauport just a few minutes from downtown Quebec. The lady at the reception greeted me with a "Bonjour" but she was courteous enough to switch to English the minute I fumbled with my Bonjour! Though I did my research before to get at least my "Bonjourn" and "Merci" right, I often did not get it right. However, a nice smile with the wrong word and the large hearted Quebecians made sure that we had a very good time at Quebec!

The first thing that stuck me when we got out of our car was how expensive Canada was. A dinner of two small sized pizzas cost us $25! Something that would cost us a little over $10 here in the states. I still gave a benefit of doubt , may be it was just this joint?

The second time I almost got a heart attack when I looked at the price of Gas in Canada. With all the shale oil, arctic reserves, I was not really ready for such a steep gas bill filling up our tiny Pruis-C. Half of a tank cost more than $30! it would never cost more than $25 for a full tank here. That was to come a little later though.

Day2: It was a beautiful day. Sunny and nice, after a quick breakfast of Ashoka ready to eat Palak paneer and  chapatis we were ready to explore the streets of Quebec. We headed out and hit the downtown before we had finished listing to a song. After the mandatory photo stop at the fountain near the National Assembley of Quebec, we proceeded to explore the grand building behind the fountain. Unfortunately most of the information was in french  and one of them said "Hotel du parlement". Now we were confused. Here we were gloriously clicking selfies thinking we were right in front of Vidhasouda, which turned out to be Le Meridian? a bunch of Chinese  tourists were not of much help and so were a bunch of other French speaking tourists. But we got lucky just as we were about the walk away to the next attraction, we spotted a blue booth handing out maps. Thinking that we would be smart with a map in our hand, we dropped into the booth with our broken "Bonjour"s and brilliant smile only to be greeted back with "Good morning,how may we help you"!! turned out that there was a free English  tour of the national Assembly in just about 10 minutes. We were ecstatic. The tour was good, that was my first time in any Parliament building. When our tour guide finished explaining and was ready for a question answer session Sunny boy had one "Why are we wearing this" pointing to the visitor passes clipped to his shirt.  Our tour guide was gracious enough to give him a one line answer even as the whole tour group broke into laughter!

It was only after we got out of the National Assembly that  we realized how hot Quebec could get by noon.  With the blazing sun to keep us company we stumbled into guess who! good old Gandhi tata..It is always lovely to bump into friends,family and familiar faces far away from home.
We decided to head to the lower town in old Quebec for our Lunch.  We stumbled into a Pizzaria right opposite to the Notra Damn Basilica. They served us some excellent food. A fan of thin crust Pizza that I am, I loved the pizza they served, with thin crispy crust, sweet fresh tomato sauce and  fresh basil with good fatty mozzarella cheese on top. Also good was their Chicken Milanese. Though the portions looked rather small having gotten used to the super-sized American entrees. Finally we got the check/bill that reinforced my suspicion of Canada or more specifically Quebec being more expensive than the States!
It was not before long that we realized that the heat and the hearty meal did not go well together and decided to head back to our hotel. Me and Honey napped while Sunny boy played by himself!!
That evening we headed to a water falls a few minutes from the hotel, Chute de Montmorency. Climbing up about 500 steps we were treated to breath taking views of Quebec and St Lawrence river. It was lovely to be by the water on a hot day as well. We decided to end our day with a meal closer to our Hotel. Bad choice. We went to a place called Thai Zone, which looked like a Thai-Canadian Panda Express. The food was bad... We were barely able to finish our order though we ended up forking $35 for a meal that would have cost about $20 at Panda Express.

Day 3: Our last day in Quebec, we woke up to an over cast sky. Typically I would crib looking at an over cast sky. Not that day. I had had enough sun the previous day and welcomed the clouds and a rain shower per chance too..That morning we witnessed the change of guard and toured the citadel of Quebec.
The fort was something like the Lal Kila meeting Srirangapatana fort. A live garrison like red fort, it was also a site of conflict between the  British and French as it played out in Deccan back then, the same style of mounting cannons over the fortified walls,  town within a town like Srirangapatana, it was only Tippu Sutan who was missing in Quebec!
After the tour of the fortification, we headed back to nap at our hotel (yes we napped a lot , it was a vacation after all ) On the way we picked these up.

 These are called Poutins, a local specialty.  It is quite simply French fries topped with gravy and fresh cheese. I loved the cheese, tolerated the gravy but sorry I am not a  french fries person. But Honey enjoyed these a lot. He was also impressed with the average coffee served in Canada. He loved it.
That evening, it was perfect to meander along the promenade by the river, waving bikers and walkers passing us. It was a perfect way to relax. (the only way to elevate the scene would have been a big bag of Churmuri). We rode the Ferry to enjoy the views of Quebec from the St Lawrence river and by the time dusk fell, it was a lovely sight. We had the by lanes all for ourselves with the week end tourists all gone. At 8 PM we were the last patron at a Trattoria in lower town. We ordered a Veggie Pizza which was not all that great given my preference to thin crust Pizzas. But the Spaghetti with sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms was good.

We left downtown Quebec with a happy belly and a heart full of lovely sights of the city.

Day 4: We hit the road early heading into Montreal. Montreal greeted us with open arms and traffic choked roads. Sunny boy was running a temperature by then. We stopped at the China town area and walked into one of its many restaurants for a quick meal. Surprise! the food was supurb. We ordered some Chicken coriander Dumplings (Lloved them!) They were hand made right in front of us by a couple of old ladies. Unlike the regular dumplings, the skin of these dumplings were rather spongy and thick but they were out of the world.

The noodle and dumpling soup enough to bathe a baby was equally good. Just that the dumpling kept slipping down my chop sticks! we thanked heavens and Tylenol for such a great meal, a meal that made my sick picky eater Sunny boy eat his lunch with out making a big fuss. 

The next stop was Notre Damn Basilica. It was grand. Sunny boy did not like the rather dark church. He wanted to go out and play. It was Canada Day and there was a big party happening right behind the Basilica. We decided to walk to the party. What a way to celebrate the birth of a Nation. It was all about concerts, cakes, puddings and lots of fun things to do. But with Sunny boy sick, we did not enjoy it all that much and decided to head over to Ottawa, our next stop. We gave the Montreal Olympic village a miss. That will have to wait.
Ottawa reminded me of Washington DC. There is something about capital cities that makes them smell and feel similar. Is it power? is it something else I know not. But New Delhi, DC and Ottawa all feel the same to me. That night Sunny boy was better and we decided to head over to the heart of Ottawa to watch the fireworks. With major road closings and a new city, it was actually a brave decision to  go there in hindsight.  But there were good Samaritans all along who guided us to the right place and then we were at the heart of Canada day celebrations. It was Diwali, New year at Times Square and 'Marammana Jatre' all rolled into one. It was a hell of a block party, merry making in every sense. Only the red and whites of the Canadain flag could set it apart from  a grand block party. The fireworks began shortly so did a thunderstorm. I ran with Sunny boy to a shelter close by and a sweet Canadian girl offered me her umbrella. I was hesitant to accept her kindness as there was not way I could return her umbrella in that crowd. But she was sweet enough to give it me to keep. That is my souvenir from our trip, an umbrella from a kind hearted girl who could not bear to see my little Sunny boy getting drenched in rain.

Day 5: We  walked along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, got the last tickets for an emglish tour of the Canadian parliament hall and hopped into the Nature museum. Well for starters, the museums are expensive unlike DC museums which are free. But Canadian Nature museum is much beautifully laid out that the DC natural history museum. We also had a wonderful Raspberry pastry at the museum canteen, it was so delicious that it was gone before I could click a picture! It more than compensated the mediocre Pizza they served us for $20+taxes.
We rode the water taxi again to see sights of the Parliament Hall from the water. The Rideau canal was very impressive indeed. Would have love to see a boat cross the locks but that was not meant to be.
We had plans of watching the MosAika sound and light show at the Parliament hill, unfortunately we were too early for that. It will be starting next week.

Day 6: We headed out of Ottawa to Kingston to the land of thousand islands. Our trip was now in sailing rough because Sunny boy was tired and ready to go home. But decided to stop briefly at Kingston for a ferry ride and go over to Niagara falls and then home cutting short of trip by a day and a half.
The ferry ride was very good. But we realized later that a ferry ride from Gananoque would have been better.  But we got to have beaver Tails in Kingston. Well those of you wondering if we did really eat a tail of a beaver, beaver tails are something like fried dough topped with cheese, chocolate and other goodies. They are shaped like Beaver tails though. we had the ones with Cheesecake ,chocolate and caramel candies.

Our next stop was a brief stop over at Toronto and then to Niagara falls. Niagara falls from the Canadian side is awe inspiring. The gushing waters made the earth beneath my feet shake..the mist that rose as the water fell into the deep gorge below made my mind go numb for a while. My heart thumped at the might of the currents, of water. I though I saw a cormorant drown in the currents, but she popped up after a few minutes, probably happy with her catch. Never knew cormorant could dive. It was also a tribute to the diversity of life on earth. An all powerful man would not have survived the dive there but a tiny cormorant did. She is blessed with a talent we are not. No wonder people have always tried to conquer the falls in barrels, rafts and what not. That was the end of our trip and we headed back  home after a long road trip , it did feel nice to be back home. So long Canada, we will remember your Poutins, Beaver tails and the raspberry pastry for a long time to come!

Bari Soppina Saaru

I love  regional Indian cuisine. The robust Punjabi dishes, the refined and elegant Awadhi dishes, the rich and royal Hydrabadi, the elaborate Chettinadu cuisine, all of them are my favorites. My own Kannda cuisine is nothing like any of these more popular cuisine, I cannot claim Kannada cuisine to be refined and elegant like Awadhi dishes, nor is it rich and royal like Hydrabadi or Mughali or even robust like Punjabi but it is earthy, simple and unpretentious. Kannda food is what Kannadigas are, simple. What we grew we ate in the most simple fashion. I guess we are a no-nonsense, to the point creed when it comes to our food..A can think more than a dozen dishes with few ingredients than finger in my hands. And yes Kannda cuisine is not just the fare we get at the ubiquitous 'Udupi  hotel's around the world.

Here is one example of a classic Kannadiga dish. This dish is an example of how people ate in the era before the advent of super markets stocking all sort of produce all the year round. Back in the days (i have seen them too, so it was not like 200 years ago) in the smaller towns, we had a weekly market "Sante". We would buy most of our produce for the week there like onions, tomatoes, garlic ginger etc. The rest of the week farmers would hawk their wears in a bamboo basket right on your doorstep especially your regular ones. They would sell freshly harvested greens and things that would not survive till the next "Sante". (and yes, cold storage is still unheard of in a large part of our large country). This dish is from that era, when your pantry staples came from a Sante and a farmer just sold you freshly harvested greens right at your doorstep. 

We will need,

Assorted fresh greens 1 lb
Onions 4 medium
Coconut 1 cup (grated)
Garlic cloves 5-6
Chillies 4 green and 2 red dry (dry chillies optional)
Tamarind paste 1/2 tsp
Coconut oil /peanut oil 2 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  • Wash and chop the greens. Put it in a big pot, along with half of the coconut and  2 cups of water. Cover and bring it to a boil. Once the greens are tender i.e the first boil, turn off the heat and pour the mixture over a sieve collecting the drained cooking liquid in a another pot. Set aside the cooked greens. 
  • Throw in the remaining coconut, two cloves of garlic, green chilly, jeera , tamarind  and little water into a blender and pulse till the mixture is very smooth.. Remove the mixture into a  pot and cook it till the raw smell of the masala disappears. 
  • Once the masala paste smells fragrant pour in the cooking liquid strained from the greens. Adjust salt and bring it to a rolling boil. Simmer for a few minutes and remove from fire.
  • Chop onions and remaining garlic. 
  • Heat oil in a Kadai, throw in the mustard and red chillies if using. Once fragrant throw in the onion and garlic. Once the onion is golden brown, throw in the cooked greens. adjust salt and add lemon juice if preferred. Serve with Ragi Mudde or rice.

Boondi Laadu

Finally the dust settled over the elections, we have a new Prime Minister and hope of a new dawn. All that needs to be is seen is how far the promises are kept and manifesto delivered.

It is summer here. As my fingers pound over the keyboard, I hear the gentle swish of the breeze blowing through the dense leaves of the big trees in our back yard. In a few hours, the breeze will carry with it the tantalizing fragrance of a flower , the name of which I know not. These remind me of home and make me home sick indeed. More than home sick I should say nostalgia. Because I can still come back home. But the 'home' as I remember is no longer the same. The swish of the breeze between the leaves of the "Arali mara" near our ancestral farms is no longer there because the farms are now residential area, it is some body's home now. I cannot go home and hope to pick 'Karehannu' the buttery, sweet berries off the bush on the road side and pop it into my mouth, because the bushes are no longer there, it is a concrete jungle out there.

Despite the water under the bridge, there is always a hope that one day things will resemble days gone by when everything we had was valuable, time, the breeze, the carefree life, birds singing in the back yard and rooster crowing at day break.

For now it is some Boondi Laadu. Boondi Laadu is an exquisite sweet. Made right it can win the heart of the most bitter skeptic. Made wrong it can break the heart of the most generous fan. Laadus are synonymous with Kannadiga weddings. If it is not -Laadoo-Chiroti, nah! what a wedding feast it could be? It will be featured in at least one of the meals. (Yes it was there in my wedding, and all the weddings in the family and beyond!) if not, it will be packed in nice little bags with a savory snack like Chakkuli and given as a return gift at the weddings along with the Tambula- the auspicious combo of coconut, beetle-nut, betel leaf and a small present.
My first encounter with Boondi Laadu was when my uncle got married. Honestly I don't remember what I ate in the wedding. All I remember was the frantic last minute shopping for a nail polish with my oldest cousin, and then the entire family dabbing the same nail colour for the wedding. Kids these days would scoff at some thing like that. But those were the days. It was perfectly alright for 25 girls/women to wear the same nail polish on the same day at the same place.
Before the actual wedding, my grandparents had a cook prepare Laadoo and Khara Boondi for the customary present for the wedding guests along with the Tambula. The cook came home at the appointed hour and set up a make shift stove in the back yard with three big granite stones. Some one got him the wood he needed to get the stove going. He had a huge Kadai, something that would fit me and my sister together back then. He set the Kadai on the wood-fire make shift stove and poured tins of 'refined-oil'. Then the Laadoo factory started. I sat  there watching for hours till the smoke and heat got me...I do not remember much about the proportions he used but I do remember his tip. He said 'Boora sakkare' Boora sugar makes the best laadoo. The laadoo he made that day was unremarkable, well the end product would be as good as the raw materials that went in. What better could we expect with gallons of refined oil? The real deal means pure ghee or at least a combination of ghee and 'refined oil.'
I had been meaning to make these for a long time but was rather intimidated. Finally I did manage some brave heart to go ahead and try these and they came out surprisingly nice. Not the best ones I had ever had. (I remember that one, it was again a wedding present back in the 1990s. I cannot forget good foods ever!)
We will need,

Chickpea flour 1 measure
Turmeric a pinch
Salt a pinch
Sugar 1-1.25 measure
Fine Sugar /Boora sugar 0.25 -0.5 measure
Saffron a generous pinch
Cloves 2-3
Cardamon 1
Nutmeg  a dash
Raisin (as desired)
Cashew nuts (as desired)
Ghee 1 tbsp + to deep fry

  • Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pan and toast the cashew nuts and raisins till the cashews are golden brown and raisins plump up. Set it aside.
  • Prepare the sugar syrup. Mix the sugar and 1 measure of water and cook till the sugar becomes one thread consistency. That is when the syrup is pulled between the thumb and forefinger, it should form a single thread. Remove from heat and throw in crushed saffron, cardamon and nutmeg. Set it aside.
  • Sift the chickpea flour to get rid of impurities and lumps. Once the flour is fluffy and light,stir in the turmeric and salt. Add water to make a batter rather a thin one something like a dosa batter. I had to use  a little over 2/3 measure of water to get it runny. 
  • Heat ghee in a Kadai and once the ghee is hot (try dropping a a dab of batter into the hot oil, the batter should puff up and rise to the top in a matter of seconds.) pour the batter into the oil through a sieve or a laddoo ladle. (I just used my sieve)
  • Once the boodis puff up  remove them carefully and drain them over a paper towel for a few seconds before dunking them into the sugar syrup. Repeat till all of the batter is used up.
  • Let the boondis sit in the sugar syrup till it is cool  enough to handle (while still warm to touch). Throw in the cashew-raisin mixture, cloves and the Boora sugar. Stir the mixture gently.
  • Grab a hand full of the boondi mixture and press it tightly between two palms to form a tight ball of sorts. Let it air dry for a while, when completely cold, pile them on to an air tight box and it says good for weeks.
1. I used golden raisins and it does nothing to the presentation. I wish I has some of those dark ones.
2. I  have tried the 'Made in Canada' besan which is more widely available here, but it is bitter, never use those. Always try to find the 'Made in India' Besan brands they come out much better.

Nallikayi Chutney

This time the Loksabha elections are like nothing we have seen before. The slander, bitter war of words and lack of a meaningful debate on issues that matter is actually so frustrating. Is this the best show we could put forward? I am sure we can do better. But the fact that an erst while tea seller is vying for the post of Prime Minister and legions of 'aam admi's are makes me hopeful that 'we shall overcome, someday'.

For now it is Nallikayi chutney. I was not a big fan of the Gooseberries also called 'Bettada Nallikayi'. But I loved the smaller ones called just 'Nallikayi'. I loved the tart brightness of the fruit. My neighbor had a bush and we did pick juicy ones and pop them into our mouths. Then there the old lady near my school who would sell Nallikayi, Elachikayi, the star fruit and such fruits when they are in season. She would bring the fruits in a wicker basket and wrap a hand full of these goodies with a sprinkling of salt and chilli powder in a piece of news paper. The tartness of the fruit complemented the salt and chilly powder so very well. Who ever discovered the combination must have been a genius.
It has been so long that I have Nallikayi. But I saw a bag of frozen gooseberries aka Bettada Nallikayi.  Frozen fruits are not suitable for pickles so chutney was one recipe that I could think of.  So here comes Nallikayi chutney.

We will need ,

Gooseberries 8-10 big ones
Fenugreek seeds a generous pinch
Peanut oil /coconut oil 1/3 cup (I know, that is good enough for me to faint!!!)
Mustard seeds 1/8 tsp + generous pinch
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Turmeric a generous pinch
Hing a generous dash
Curry leaves a handful
Chilly powder 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Salt to taste
Tamarind  paste (optional about 1/4 tsp)
Jaggery to taste

  • Crush the gooseberries in a mortar roughly with a little salt. Remove the seed in the middle of the  fruit. Crush the flesh well, the mixture should resemble shredded coconut.
  • Toast the fenugreek and a pinch of mustard on a hot skillet.  Crush it into a fine powder, reserve.
  • Heat oil in a pot. Throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera and Hing. Once the spices sizzle, throw in the turmeric and curry leaves.Once they sizzle, throw in the gooseberries. Add a few tbsps of water, cover and cook on low heat till the fruit is tender.
  • Throw in the chilli powder, jaggery and the fenugreek mixture. If the gooseberries are not tart enough throw in the tamarind as well. Adjust salt and cook the chutney till it comes together. Serve with hot rice and oodles of ghee. (slurp!)

Oggarane Anna with a twist

Which is the most entertaining event in India? is it the soap operas? no; movies? no; IPL? no; Elections? Yes; We have "Shehezada", "Monkey", "Joker","Hitler","Mussolini","Idi Amin" and what not...It is entertaining nevertheless a disgrace that we have handed over our future and the future of our country to people who are not debating the issues that need their attention but are engaging in name calling, one-upmanship and blatant populism. We have so called leaders who trivialize a violent crime like rape, openly threaten people to vote or to loose water supply and worst of all accuse an esteemed institution like EC of partisan politics. Some times it surprises me as to how we have survived all these years despite the negativity but then 'men may come and men may go but' India will go on for ever like it has always been.

Now for some Ogggarane Anna. When ever there would be some left over rice from the previous dinner, my mother, Ajji and Ammaji (both my gradmother), indeed all the women folk in the family would make this the morning after. The underlying current of patriarchy would become striking on such occasions. The  servants were the first in line for Oggarane anna. Any thing more would be for the women. The next in line would be children. But men folk almost never ate something like for breakfast. It was always fresh-hot breakfast for them. How much ever we deny the under currents of caste and patriarchy has always been a part of our life. So much so that Pranoy  Roy was calling Karnataka a 'CASTE'-nataka. It took me a while to realize he is right indeed. Caste back home determined what we eat and how we eat and where and when we eat too! So much for a state that boasts of itself as the Silicon Valley of India.

Oggaraneanna is Chitranna-coconut + onions.  To make it a little more healthy, marginally so ,I added a handful of spinach too. So here is Oggarane Anna

We will need,

Rice(cold, left over preferably) 2 cups
Peanut oil /Coconut oil 1-2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Urad dal 1 tsp
Channa dal 1 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
Hing a generous dash
Green chillies 3-4 (adjust according to taste)
Onion 1 small chopped
Turmeric a dash
Spinach washed and chopped  2 cups (loosely packed)
Coriander washed and chopped a handful
Salt and lemon juice to taste

  • Heat the oil in a wok. Throw in the mustard, Jeera, Urad dal,Channa dal, curry leaves and Hing. 
  • Once the spices sizzle, throw in the green chillies and onions. Saute till the onions are soft.
  • Increase the heat and throw in the spinach . Saute till the spinach is wilted.Remove form heat and allow it to cool down.
  • Once slightly cooler, stir in the rice and adjust salt and lemon juice. Finish with fresh coriander.

Vegetable Soup

It is election time in India. I love elections, somehow the curiosity of who is going to be our next leader and the hope that someone will do a difference for the better gives me a high that nothing else can! Despite all the negativity and vicious personal attacks, this election has thrown us two welcome surprises. One is Modi and the other is AAP. I am hopeful about Modi because he is a guy who was born in to a regular lower middle class family and became what he is only because of his hard work and merit. As a chief minister, he has improved infrastructure in Gujarat. I for one have always believed that development follows proper infrastructure. Despite several criticisms against him I feel he is a welcome change in the  Indian political scenario where meritocracy has always been an endangered species.

Then the AAP. That is a political outfit started by people like me. It is an outfit where people like me can participate in the democratic process from a closer quarter. So much for the dynastic politics, the very thought that a regular person could build a political party from scratch is exciting. It is indeed exciting times in Indian political scene.

Let us say cheers to these two developments with some warm vegetable soup, a regular Minestrone that I have adapted to suit my complex Indian palate. The idea is to cook up a delicious broth with our regular spices instead of using canned broth or stock. Not only does my palate reacts favorable to the flavor of spices but also that it is way healthier to cook something from scratch at home than use processed product like canned broth/stock.
Spring in the North East is cold, rainy and best time for a bowl of vegetable soup.

We will need,

Coconut/ peanut oil 3 tbsp
Garlic 3 cloves
Big Cardamon 1
Star Anise 1 
Bay leaves 2
Cloves 3-4
Onion 1 big chopped

Carrots 2 diced
Green Beans 1/2 lb chopped
Mushrooms 1 pack diced
Zucchini 2 diced
Tomatoes 4-5 medium chopped
Spinach 1 pack washed and chopped
Chickpeas .51 cup (cooked)
Coriander fresh a handful
Mint a handful
Salt, pepper and lime juice to taste.

  • Heat oil in a soup pot. Throw in all the spices and the garlic. Cook the garlic till it is golden brown. 
  • Throw in the onions  and cook till slightly brown. Add the carrots and  green beans cook for about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and saute for a few more minutes. Once the tomatoes look slightly softer, add about 10 cups of water.
  • Throw in the chickpeas, zucchini and mushrooms. Bring the broth to a boil. Once the vegetables are tender, throw in the spinach and the rest of the ingredients. Adjust salt, pepper and lime juice to taste and remove from heat. The heat of the broth will wilt the spinach.
  • Serve hot with crusty bread or crackers.
1.Cooked rice or pasta can also be added  to the soup to make it a hearty meal.

Nimbe Uppinakayi lemon pickles

I ran out of homemade pickles a few weeks  back. Sunny boy being so particular about pickles, I had to make a fresh batch. While shopping at Target stores, I found this Anchor Hocking Half Gallon cookie jar. I fell in love with it. It is so much like our own "Uppinakayi Jaadi" the pale while and yellow-brown ceramic jars, some long ,some stout each one for a different pickle in my Ammaji's (maternal grandmom) kitchen. I am sure she is proud of me for all the  homemade pickles!
I have just one jar unlike Ammaji, but that is sufficient for my family. Ammaji makes Uppinakayi for the entire clan, therefore she needs multiple jars. After years of making Uppinakayi in assorted jars and bottles, I have come to the conclusion that jars with tight fitting lids end up making sticking and slightly off smelling pickles. But jars with loose fitting lids like a cookie jar makes good uppiakayi. Once done, however, they do stay good  in regular glass jars in the refrigerator. It is just initial 3-4 weeks that are critical in  the life cycle of the Uppinakayi.

So here is my newest batch of Lemon Pickles...I had filled it to the brim and look how much it has shrunk!

Recipe can be found here. This time around it is just a 8-9 organic lemons and skipped the bitter gourd the other ingredients are roughly the same. Cannot wait to try them..On the pickle factory list for summer are Mangoes, chillies and bitter gourd and Nallikayi, then I am  set for the year.

Balekayi Gojju / Plantain Gojju

There was a time when I was way younger, every festive feast, like wedding, house warming, naming ceremony etc used to feature Balekayi Gojju and/or pineapple Gojju. It took me a while to realize that menu for such feasts do follow "fashion". Roomali roti and Panner were in fashion a decade back, then came Akki rotti/ Jolada rotti and ennegai and of late I see a variety of salads / Kosambari like Mexican salad, sweet corn Kosambari etc. Fortunately classics like Chiroti, Peni have stood the test of time. The sweet dish playing the second fiddle have again been subject to fashion, from Laadoo to Rasmalai to Malpuri to Jaleebi they have come and gone.But there are times when we remember dishes from the by gone era and lo behold they pop up in our kitchens.

Honey got a couple of plantains the other day and insisted that I make Balekayi Gojju. So here it is Balekayi masale gojju.

We will need,

Balekayi/raw plantains 2 medium peeled and diced
Peanut oil 2-3 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
salt and lemon juice to taste

For the masala

Garlic cloves 3-4
Green chillies 3-4 (adjust according to taste)
Kopra/ Dessicated coconut grated 1/4 cup (loosely packed)
Fresh coriander a handful
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Black pepper corn 1 tsp

  • Combine all the ingredients for the masala in a blender and pulse till very smooth, reserve.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottom pot. Throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera and curry leaves. Once they stop spluttering, add the diced plantains.
  • Add a generous pinch of salt on  to the plantains and  cover. Cook for a 1-2 minutes.
  • Now add the Masala paste and 1/2 cup of water. Cover and cook on medium heat till the plantains are soft.
  • Adjust salt and lemon juice and serve hot with Roti or rice.

Tomato Bhaath- Ajji style

To me food is not just about cooking and eating. To me it is also about people, people that love me, the people I love, the people I loved and lost. Food is about memories, the way I saw the world once upon a time. My Ajji passed away a few months back. Unlike my grandfather, I never spent a lot of time with her, but there was always a longing for some time with her. For umpteen number of reasons it never worked that way. But in the time that I got to spend with her a few hours, each time I went home during last decade and half, I got a piece of her, very little at a time, just like the summer rains it left me far from satisfied. If anything it only left me parched and dry looking for more of her. Human relationships are so weird. Unfortunately, this contorted relationship will remain that way.

But I still remember her for all the foods that she made. This past Shivratri, I was reading one of my previous posts, and I noticed that three years ago, I had called her for the Tambittu recipe. This year all I am left with are the recipes I collected from her over the years.  I hold close to heart, her signature dishes, Idli, Sambar,Chutney and sweet Chutney, Tomato Bhaath, Kargalu , Mosaru Shaale, Akki tari uppittuand her Kodbale , Rave unde, Mithai....the list goes on. For  now it is Tomato Bhaath. My sister spend a while with my Ajji and she did pick up a few of her signature dishes. So this time, I borrowed the recipe from her. The trick really was to use very little fat but to get the best of flavors in the dish, just like my Ajji did. I guess it was just her. She could do it much better than any one else in my family.

So here is  Tomato Bhaath my Ajji style.
We will need,

Rice 1.5 cups washed and soaked in water for 20-30 minutes.
Tomatoes 300 grams (about 3 medium)
Peanut oil 1 tbsp
Mustard seed s1/4 tsp
Fennel 1/2 tsp
Cardamon 1
Cloves 10-13
Cinnamon 1" piece
Onion 1/2  chopped ( small )
Methi leaves from 1 bunch (washed,cleaned and tough stalks discarded)
Avarekalu /Indian beans/Papdi Lilva 3/4 cup
Salt and juice of Lemon to taste.

For the Masala Paste
Coconut 1/2 cup grated
Green chillies 5-8 (adjust according to taste)
Mint leaves a generous handful
Garlic 5-6 cloves
Ginger 1" piece chopped
Onion 1/2 small

  • Heat oil in a thick bottomed pot. Throw in the mustard seeds, fennel, cardamon, cloves and cinnamon. 
  • Once the spices stop sizzling, add the onions. Saute for a few minutes and then throw in the Avarekalu and Methi leaves. Saute till the greens and avarekalu are tender.
  • Grind all the ingredients under the Masala paste  and pour it into the onion-methi mixture. Add about 1/2 a cup of water and cook the masala till fragrant. Separately grind the tomatoes into a smooth paste as well and reserve.
  • When the masala no longer smells raw,  add the tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil and add about 3 cups of water. Adjust salt, add lemon juice if the tomatoes are not tart enough. Bring it to a boil.
  • Drain the soaked rice well and add it to the tomato and masala mixture.  Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook till the rice is soft and fluffy.
  • Finish with a tablespoon of Ghee if  desired. (I always do it ) Serve hot.

MIxed Veg

North Indian summers are brutal. So brutal that most vegetables disappear from the markets. During my years in Delhi, summers was a pain. A vegetable lover like me could hardly stop dreaming about Gobi,Karela, Bhindi etc and unfortunately most of them are winter vegetables in North India. I did know that these were seasonal vegetables at all.
On such boring summer evening. I went to my hostel dining hall for dinner and my appetite died a sudden death looking at the cabbage curry. I asked the lady in charge of serving us why they were not making Gobi, Karela ,Bhindi. She looked at me as if I am from Mars and said. "lo! Yaad kiya to kab yaad kiya. Garmiyome kaha banenge Gobi,Karela". I am bewildered! what! you do not get these vegetables in summers. I see that counter lady is seriously convinced that I am indeed from Mars. Then I was smart enough to not look like a Martian any more and proceeded to eat my share of cabbage. But is was such days that reminds of 'mixed veg'. Every self respecting North Indian restaurant will have Mixed Veg on menu. When the weather gods are not benevolent it  is quite natural for ingenious cooks to make a dish of using the spare few vegetables on hand. No wonder potatoes are so 'hot' in Northern India.
So here is  mixed veg. It can be very delicious, or I could be pathetic. I have had both. The key to this dish is the texture. The vegetables must be cooked just right. So here it is..
We will need,

Mixed vegetable 1lb
(i used Carrots, mushrooms and Peppers)
Garlic 2 cloves crushed
Peanut oil 2-3 tbsp
Mustard seed 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds 1/4 tsp
Green chillies 3-4 (according to taste)
Dhania powder 3/4 tsp
turmeric 1/4 tsp
Jeera Powder 1/2 tsp
Garam masala 1/4 tsp
Salt and lemon juice to taste.

  • Heat oil in a pan. Toss in the mustard seeds, jeera , fennel and green chillies. 
  • Throw in the carrots (or the vegetable that takes the longest to cook) .Cook till half way through.
  • Now throw in the spices and  salt and  the other vegetables that takes just minutes to get done like Mushrooms and Peppers.
  • Cook for a few more minutes. The vegetables should  be still tender crisp. Remove from heat. The vegetables continue to cook in the hot pan, so turn off the heat while the vegetables are still raw.
  • Serve hot with Rotis.

Malai Mushroom

I was once in love with Mushrooms, back then it was a rarity, something the local HOPCOMS sold seasonally in smalls packets that were rather expensive. But then as time went by, mushrooms became more like green beans and carrots, something we could always pick up. Now  I do not like them as much. I eat them but not with as much relish as before. I think it is yet another case of familiarity breeds contempt!

Mushrooms are like blank canvas, except for texture they are not much when it comes to flavor. So the good part it, it fits into most gravies and masalas that  I make.  Malai style gravy is one of my favorite. It is light, rich and makes any dinner very special. Needless to say I make Malai gravies only if we are having guests. Last week it so happened that we  expecting a friend to join us for dinner and on friday's she does not eat any thing sour. I was at  a loss to feed her. I could not think of many recipes that did not either include tamarind or tomato. Then finally it occured to me that Malai fits the bill. It is one of the rare recipes in my repetoire that does not call for any sour ingredients. But there was yet another catch. I typically make Malai gravy with Panner  but Panner again was fermented therefore my friend would not eat it. So I decided to substitute mushrooms for Panner. The only mistake was I used brown baby bella Mushrooms rather than white button mushrooms. So the gravy turned out to be light brown in colour, though I prefer my Malai gravy to be white, at the most off-white,...taste wise i do not think it matter much.

We will need,

Mushrooms 10 oz (1 pack ) cleaned and chopped into quaters
Methi leaves  1 small bunch (pick and  wash leaves and discard the stalks)
Butter 1 tbsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Garlic 2 cloves (grated)
White pepper 1/2 tsp
Green chillies 2-3 (adjust according to taste)
Garam masala 1/4 tsp
Cream 3/4 cup
Salt as per taste

  • Heat the butter in a thick bottomed skillet. Throw in the Jeera and garlic. 
  • Once the garlic is fragrant throw in the Methi. Saute till the Methi wilts down. 
  • Make some space in the middle of the skillet and throw in the green chillies and Garam Masala.  Saute till fragrant.
  • Now increase the heat and throw in the mushroom. Saute for a few seconds and once the Mushrooms starts to soften, reduce heat and pour the cream. 
  • Bring it to a gentle simmer. Adjust salt and  white pepper and remove from heat.
  • Serve warm with  Roti or a bread of choice.

Soppu bele Palya

Where am I these days... well after moving to a new house in the suburbs life is thrown out of gear. We are settling down and the last thing I have time for it  to take pictures of the food I cook. Therefore not updated this blog in a while. This state of affairs will continue till I have the house set up!

For now it is Soppu and Kalu palya. North American winter can be brutal. This season has been the most unkindest and most brutal in years.. All kinds of dubious records have been created and February end feels like early Jan. The  only vegetables which can withstand this kind of brutal weather are Mushrooms (mostly because they are cultivated indoors / green houses) and hardy greens like Kale, Chard and Collards. Unless we are ready the buy the waxy super market produce which has been transported half way across the globe, there are not many choices. So during times like these I end up  cooking greens 2-3 times a week, sometimes even more.  How creative can I get with greens? Well not much I should say. My creativity is limited to the same old templet of Huli,Saaru, Gojju and Palya, only the combinations vary. May be I will experiment a bit more on this front in the coming weeks since the old man winter does seem to be going strong for now.

For now it is Palya with mixed greens and Hesaru kalu as the star ingredients. 

We will need,

Greens / Soppu (assorted/ choice)  1 big bunch
Whole Moong/ Hesaru Kaalu   1/2 cup
Onion 1 small
Green Chilli 2-3
Peanut oil 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a generous dash
Curry leaves 8-10
Coconut grated 1/4 cup
Salt to taste
Lemon Juice to taste

  • Pick and clean the Moong. Wash it in several changes of water and soak it in water over night. 
  • Drain the Moong and cook till it is soft. (Pressure cook, stove top cook. ) It can be cooked till al dente or till the belly bursts (as my mother says ) These days I tend to cook it till the belly bursts, that is it gets rather soft. That way it is easy to digest. Also use the stock to make rasam, saaru or soup.
  • Wash and clean the greens. reserve. Chop the onions and slit the green chillies. Reserve.
  • Heat oil in a skillet. Throw in the mustard seeds , Jeera and the Hing. Throw in the curry leaves and the onion. Once the onion is soft throw in the greens. Saute till the greens are tender. 
  • Stir in the coconut, followed by the cooked Moong. 
  • Adjust salt and lemon juice. Cook till the beans are warmed through. Remove and serve with rice, curry or a bread of choice.

The Holy Grail called Jalebi..

More stories from India. My little Sunny boy was a very picky eater till his previous trip to India. During our last visit, when he was just about two, we visited India and he fell in love with the food. It was wonderful to see him explore the restaurant Masale Dose, initially with suspicion and then experimenting with all sort of combinations -with chutney, with sambar, with both and with neither. Then there were the Gobi Machuris, Chilli Panner, Noodles and the other Chinese restaurant staples and finally the Dhabha staples like Naan, Panner and surprisingly Kalmi Kabaab. However he did not seem to have a sweet tooth. It was just Gulab Jamoon for him especially the giant but absolutely tender and warm Khoa ones in Lucknow. This trip was not as long as our previous trip so he did not get to eat out as much as I would have wanted him to.  In the two years since our last visit, he has acquired quite a sweet tooth and now in his list of favorites are Jalebi, Kaju Katli, Rasgulla  too. We had quite a lot of Jalebis. But It was never enough. I have been trying to make some at home because it is his favorite food and we do not always get to go to Sukhadia's to get their awesome Jalebis. Making some at home sounded reasonable. My grandmother was an expert at making Jalebis. Every Deepawali that was what she made. I had asked her for the recipe long back, but I did not write it down and now she is senile and her recipes are not fool proof as it used to be. So I had to do a lot of trial and error.

Jalebis  are not a straight forward affair.  They need to crunchy and almost uniformly hollow  where the sugar syrup eventually enters and settles down making the Jalebis heavenly and sweet. There should be a discernible hint of tartness in the background plus it should remain crunchy after a while. That is  a lot to wish for in a dish with a handful of ingredients out of the cupboard and needs no special equipments either. But to get to the end product that meets my specification and that is appreciated by my little Sunny boy is not easily at all. I have seen them all in my previous attempts, the soggy ones, the flat ones, the somehow-smells-off ones. But now I think I am getting there. A few more times, we should be good enough. On my list is to try bread flour and use the beater.

We will need,

All purpose flour (Planning to try bread flour too, will update the result)  1 measure
Yogurt 1/4 measure
Turmeric a pinch
Sugar 1/2 tsp for every 1/4 cup of flour
Corn starch 1/3 measure
Sugar 1 measure
Saffron a pinch
Ghee to deep fry

  • Mix the flour, turmeric, yogurt and a little water to make a dough that resembles a very thick custard.
  • Stir in the sugar and set it in a warm place to ferment, preferably over night so that it develops  the much desired tartness.
  • Once the batter is well fermented, stir in the corn starch and beat the mixture very well. It is something like kneading the bread dough. Keep stirring the mixture till it is fairly elastic. Set it aside to rest for another or so hour.
  • Mean time combine the sugar and equal quantity water and simmer till the syrup reached the one thread consistency. (That is the syrup pulled between the thumb and forefinger should form a single thread.) Throw in the crushed saffron and set it aside to cool.
  • Now heat the Ghee.
  • Beat the Jalebi batter well once more and fill it into squeeze bottles. Gently squeeze Jalebi spirals into the hot oil and fry till golden brown of both sides. 
  • Remove the Jalebi and place it onto paper towels to drain it well. 
  • Once the Jalebi is well drained, pop it into the sugar syrup. Soak the Jalebi in the sugar syrup for a few seconds and remove to a serving dish. Serve warm for Breakfast with warm milk, else as a dessert with Rabdi.

Tomato Tovve

Wishing all my readers a very happy new year. I spend the fag end of 2013 back home in India with my loved ones.  We spent some good time together, ate great food and yapped to our heart's content.  I realize that when I am here, I always refer to India as 'home', when I am in India, I refer US as 'home'. I guess the is the true sign of an expat! To think of it, we Indians we always global citizens. If we ignore the past century or so we were always outward looking. Thousands of years ago our ancestors traveled to far away places in all directions for trade, religion etc. It was just this past century that we lost our true self, we imported inward looking socialistic and left-leaning ideas. It never was us, so it did not take deep roots and here we are again in the spirit of our ancient ancestors truly global Indian.

This time I visited Bangalore and Mysore. Mysore has a special place in my heart, it is the place that I lived the longest till date. I wanted my Sunny boy to have a piece of Mysore too. Raju hotel being no longer in operation, we had to go to GTR for Masale Dose, unfortunately they do not serve Sambar with their Dose. Sunny boy was disappointed. But he really enjoyed their Noodles! He had a gala time at the Dasara Exhibition, Mysore zoo and not great but good time in Nanjanagudu and Chamundi Betta.  We had a delicious Jolada Rotti oota at Kamat Manuvana right in front of Manuvana which is the Royal burial grounds (in simple terms that is..)

On a more somber note, it was also just a few weeks after the death of the Maharaja and there were tributes on every street and gully. Dasara will never be the same without him, but time is indeed the greatest healer, Dasara will be go on....

For now it is some Tomato Tovve. It is not our regular Tovve, but something similar to what my Akka makes, which she picked up from her in-laws.

We will need,

Toor dal /Togari Bele  1/4 cup
Tomatoes 2
Turmeric a pinch
Ghee 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Ginger 1/4 " piece
Garlic 2-3 cloves
Chili powder 1/2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Dhania powder 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Lemon wedges to serve

  • Wash the dal in several changes of water and place it in a pressure cooker. Add about 2 cups of water, the two whole tomatoes and a pinch of turmeric. Cook the dal till it falls apart. Remove from heat and let it cool
  • Chop the ginger garlic and crush it in a mortar-pestle. Set it aside.
  • Heat ghee in a wok. Throw in the mustard and jeera. Once they stop spluttering, add the ginger garlic paste. Cook for a few seconds and turn off the heat. Then add the dhania and chilli powder. Stir and let it cook in the heat of the wok for a few more seconds. 
  • Once the spices are fragrant, pour it into the cooked dal. Place the dal again on low heat. Using the back of a heavy spoon, mash the tomato well. 
  • Combine the dal, the spices mixture and tomatoes gently and adjust salt. Heat it thoroughly and serve with rice, pickles, papads and lemon wedges.

Hesaru Kalu Menasina Saaru

Money and power corrupts us mortals like nothing else, more so my fellow Indians who are rich and powerful. As an expat, it is very uncomfortable when a fellow Desi is apprehended for violating the law.  More than anything else is the Visa violation for domestic helps that riles me. Our more privileged brethren seems to think that because they are rich or powerful or both, they are entitled to bi-pass the law of the land. They process papers for domestic help and under pay them or abuse them, there by breaking the law. They seem to carry the 'Chalta Hai' attitude over to this side of theA tlantic. Well don't they realize that USA is far more an egalitarian society than India and that despite money,connection and power the law of the land is mightily enforced here?
Recently an Indian diplomat in NYC has been arrested on similar charges. And India is creating a furor over this. If we so worry about the image of our country what is the first lesson we need to impart our diplomats? It should be "Never break the law of the land you are posted in". This should be written on the stone. Second, if the law of the land is violated, the violator should be held accountable and GOI-MEA should not politicize the issue.It is interesting that an Indian diplomat had her domestic help imported from India! If she did, she ought to respect the law of land and make sure the domestic help is compensated properly.  If she did not, then the law must take its own course. Some one from MEA had commented that Indian diplomats cannot be expected to pay $9 + /per hour for domestic help because they do not make much themselves. Well, if you cannot pay the minimum ways stipulated by law, you should not be having domestic help at all. There are thousands of us living well without a domestic help. We all balance dual careers, children, school, extra-curricular activities, households everything. It does help us that we left behind the sense of entitlement, the "Chalta Hai" attitude that comes to privileged citizens of India, the privilege of bending the laws to suit us and go scot-free.
A bellicose India in this particular case means disrespect towards the law of the land. Besides MEA were informed about this two months ago.. They did nothing. Now after the arrest they are acting like school children. What else could it be during an impending election but dirty politics?
However, the accused, deserves to be treated courteously. Not because she is a diplomat, but because she is a women who was dropping her daughter to school and that the she is not a criminal. She did not have to be put behind bars with drug peddlers etc. Looks like Mr. Preet Bharara needs to slow down a bit. Treat Indian ladies with more respect please, because that is what GOI expects from the rest of the world though GOI cares two hoots for the safety and dignity of women in its own land.
The most hilarious part of the story is Mayawati playing the Dalit card. Who ever knew this particular diplomat was a Dalit and who ever cared if she is one? To us she was just an IFS officer, the creme de la creme of Indian bureaucracy, the best my motherland has to offer to the rest of the world. Sadly this 'best' however was already involved in the Adarsha housing society scam.
To me this story looks like a classic case of privilaged 'Desi' throwing their weight around in a land which is better than 'Des' at enforcing their law. Remember Shah Rukh Khan's detention in NY airport? Kudos to people like Abdul Kalam, who never made much of a similar incident. Indeed it is people like him that are the best India has to offer the world.

Now for some food. As winter sets in it is time for bone warming Rasams and Saarus.. This winter had a particularly snowy start. We have already had three snow storms and it is not yet January. 

We will need,

Green gram whole /Hesaru kaalu 1/2 cup
Turmeric a pinch
Ghee a drop +2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp

Curry leaves a handful
Garlic 3-4 cloves
Jeera 1 tsp
Pepper 1 tsp (more if you prefer spicy)
Dried red chillies 3-4
Tamarind extract 3/4 tsp
Jaggery 1" piece (according to taste)
Salt to taste

  • Wash the green gram in several changes of water and place it in a pressure cooker with 2 cups of water, turmeric and ghee. Cook till the green is soft and mushy.
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool enough to handle, open the lid and mash the dal. Throw in the tamarind extract, jaggery and enough water to get the Saaru to desired consistency, simmer.
  • Crush the pepper, cumin and garlic coarsely.  
  • Heat ghee and throw in the mustard seeds, the garlic mixture, curry leaves and the red chillies. saute till the spices are fragrant about 20-25 seconds. Remove from heat and pour the contents into the simmering green gram mixture. 
  • Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and adjust salt. Serve hot with rice or in a bowl with some crusty bread.  I love it both ways. In fact I do not even need the bread, just a bowl of nice hot Saaru to warm my soul and my cold bones!