Pudina Coconut Chutney

Chutneys define Indian cuisine in a way nothing else does. They are spicy, adds that zing which takes a meal to the next level. They are of course a part of every festive meal. They can be a part of a regular meal too. Here is a a chutney that I love. It particularly goes very well with Masale Idlis and Idlis. 

We will need,

Coconut 1 cup grated
Kadale Poppu/ Putani/Roasted Channa dal 3 tbsp
Fresh mint leaves a generous handful
Green chillies 6-10 (adjust according to taste)
Garlic 1 clove
Curry leaves a handful
Tamarind a small piece (1/4 tsp concentrate)
Salt to taste

Method:
  • Heat a thick bottom pan on medium heat. Once hot, throw in the green chillies and toast them till they develop dark blister and char spots. Remove the chillies from heat.
  • To the same hot pan, throw in the curry leaves and toast them till they change colour. Turn off the heat.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a blender and grind it into a paste with very little water.
  • Serve with Idli/Dosa or a bread of your choice.

Masale Idli

Our grandmothers were very creative when it came to using left overs. They lived in a world without Microwaves and Refrigerators so the task of preserving  and consuming left overs was rather hard. Since we have all these luxuries we did rather throw left overs in the refrigerator and heat it up the microwave. But because our grandmothers were so creative we have some really tasty bits to eat. So here is one such recipe. Back in the days when Idli batter was left over and turned a little too tart for regular Idli this is what my Grandmothers and my mother did. Now I make it often not because I have to salvage the best out of a batter past it's prime, but because these are tart,spicy and very addictive!

We will need,

Idli batter 3 cups (preferably a few days old and rather on the tart side)
Onions 1 medium chopped
Dill /Sabsige soppu a handfull chopped
Curry leaves chopped
Green Chillies 2-3 (adjust according to taste) chopped
Peanut oil 2 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Salt to taste.

Method:
  • Heat oil in a pan, throw the mustard seeds, Jeera and Hing. Once the spices stop spluttering, throw in the onions. 
  • Once the onions are translucent,  add the curry leaves and green chillies. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool down completely.
  • Once the onions are cool, stir them into the batter, stir in the dill leaves adjust salt and prepare to set the idlis.
  • Follow directions on your Idli cooker and prepare the steamer. (Instructions vary so I am not elaborating here) Pour batter into Idli moulds just like regular Idlis and steam till they are cooked.  I use a regular pot with a lid. I fill the pot with an inch of water at the bottom and bring it a rolling boil. I place my filled idli stand and close the pot with its lid. My Idlis are done in about 10 minutes.
  • Once the Idlis are done i.e. when poked with a wet finger it should not be sticky and is  firm, remove carefully and serve immediately with Pudina coconut chutney (coming up shortly) and ghee.

Kadalebele Payasa with condensed milk


Of late food scene in India has exploded. We see so many restaurants, cuisines of all kinds in tier two cities as well. Super market shelves are exploding with new ingredients, sometimes for better and some times for worse. In these times, how do we cope up with such drastic infusion of new knowledge? For instance Australia is dumping oats in the Indian market. Internet and pop scientists are singing the praise of Oats so much so that it is now very difficult to separate the fact from noise. Bloggers have caught up too. Makes Oats Idli, Oats Poha and what not. I see my family members, educated and professional falling prey to the 'Miracle Oats' machine. They say they are eating healthy and that they are eating Oats for dinner. Really?

Oats like any other grain is a rich source of carbohydrate. Well it might be marginally better than rice, or just as good as Ragi, it still remains a grain and carbohydrate. The problem with our generation is that we are eating like our ancestors did plate full of starch while living a sedentary life. So we are consuming more calories than we can actually burn.  But the solution is not just reducing the number of calories consumed, in which case we will have to eliminate fat which happens to be the most calorie dense food group. Not all calorie is created equal. We need to keep in mind that all nutrient groups are vital to our body including fats and protein. Remember high school biology? Vitamin A is fat soluble! Eliminating fat is not a convincing solution. Nor is eliminating Protein. But reducing starch makes more sense. But again, very low starch diet like the Atkins diet might not be for every one. Definitely not me. Being Indian, I am genetically predisposed to like and thrive on carbohydrates.  But given the modern conveniences and my desk- life, I try to cut back on carbohydrates and sweets while generally consuming fats(one of ghee, coconut oil, filtered peanut oil) and lots of vegetables and fruits. My protein includes legumes of different kinds, eggs, occasional fish or chicken. But if I am asked to eat oats Idli, oats Pongal or Oats Poha? No thank you very much. Oats is probably as calorie dense as rice while not giving me the comfort that rice gives me. I did rather eat half a cup of rice and feel contended than eat one bowl of oats. Eating oats does nothing to my soul or for that matter not much better for my body either.

The same philosophy when indulging in treats like sweets. I see fat-free sweets and snacks in the super market all the time. They mostly taste bad, either loaded with sugar or sugar substitute and assorted ingredient that I cannot even pronounce. There are many such crappy food sold as 'organic' as well. Just because they used Organic sugar does not make a product better. I would rather eat a few spoons of real sweets that would make my soul happy than eat bowls of stuff that does not make my soul happy while being just as bad. The saying in Kannada goes (Vrata kettaru sukha padabeku: meaning If at all your penance is disturbed, make sure to have fun).

So here is one such recipe, that to me is soul satisfying, so rich that just a few spoonfuls will make your stomach and soul happy. Kadalebele Payasa comes in two different varieties. One where the dal is cooked till it falls apart, the other where the dal is still al-dente and is cooked in coconut milk like this .

We will need,

Split chickpeas /Kadalebele/ Channa dal 1/2 cup
Sweetened condensed milk   about 1/2 a cup
Milk as required
Cardamon powder a pinch
Ghee 1 tbsp

Method:
  • Wash the dal in several changes of water and place it in a pressure cooker. Pour 1 +1/4 c of water along with a drop of ghee and cook till the dal is soft, my cooker does it in 2 whistles. Remove from heat
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool enough to handle, open the lid and stir in the condensed milk and ghee. Place it on low heat.
  • If the mixture is very dry, add milk by the tablespoon at a time to thin the Payasa to a desired consistency. 
  • Once the mixture starts gently bubbling again, stir in the cardamon powder. Remove from heat. 
  • Serve Warm, room temperature.

Quinoa and Strawberry Kheer

Fashion has not spared food. We come across some fad, some really 'cool' ingredient to work with often. Then comes a deluge of good things about the ingredient. Once people start consuming it in a big way, the bad news starts popping up here and there. But by then who ever had to make money on that particular ingredient would have made money and moved on to the next big thing. Can we insulate ourselves from the deluge of information, marketing tactics? Let us examine the case of coconut oil. Coconut oil was a widely consumed product on the west coast of India. We people from the coconut belt consumed one coconut/meal/family. Back then our people were strong, healthy and enjoyed a good life. However during my teen years, we were told the coconut is very high in cholesterol and we should avoid it. Obviously it was not  true, it is high in saturated fats which is a good thing! I used to fight with my mom when she used a lot of coconut in her Palyas/Huli etc. Mom would defend her action saying coconut was good for hair and complexion. But as a head strong teenager, I thought I 'knew' better than her. Poor Mom, that was the only way she knew to cook but she adapted to using lesser coconut over the years. We started eating refined sun flower oil which had no smell, which stayed good indefinitely and which looked thinner therefore 'felt' much healthier than either coconut oil or our own filtered groundnut oil.
Then I moved to the States and found canola oil was the oil in 'fashion' and started eating it, though I never liked the weird taste and flavor it had.

Now life has come a full circle. Coconut oil lobbies took a decade to realize that if they did not  fight back the battle of information with more information, people would stop eating coconut oil all together and their business would be shut down. So then came the wave to information and research on coconut oil. They some how proved that coconut oil was good for you and eating a teaspoon was heart healthy. The proof of a successful counter attack by the coconut oil lobby? Big cans of organic virgin cold pressed coconut oil on Costco shelves. That is good news for me though. I have gone over several cans of it and absolutely love it. But this was a story of 'good food'-'called bad'-'then back to being good'. But then there are so many bad foods in the disguise of good foods too. It has become so hard for a well informed person to judge what is good and what is not, let alone lay people like us.

I have been one of those people who gets carried away by such fads. Though these days I am a lot of cynical about such researches and do not experiment as much as I used to before. From my experimenting days I had a bag of Quinoa lying in my pantry for ages now.  I have been thinking of using it more often but then buying fad foods is one thing eating it is yet another. We actually did not like it much and I am happy with my Rice-Ragi-Wheat diet. But then I had to use up this bag of Quinoa. So here is something I did with it, Kheer!
I would not recommend people to buy bags of Quinoa to make this Kheer, but if you happened to have some in your pantry and struggling to get over with it, here is a recipe to try.


We will need,

Quinoa 1 cup
Sugar 1/2 cup
Evaporated milk 1 cup
Salt a pinch
Strawberries washed and chopped

Method:
  • Wash the Quinoa with a little water rubbing between your palm very well. I was told that it could get bitter if we did not wash it this way. Cannot comment much on it given my limited experience.
  • Once rubbing is done, wash it well with several changes of water.
  • Place the Quinoa in a pot and cover it with 1 and 3/4 cups of water. Cover and bring it to a boil. reduce heat and simmer till the Quinoa is soft. 
  • Throw in the evaporated milk and sugar and stir. Cook on low heat till the mixture comes together. Remove from heat.
  • Once the Kheer is cool enough to handle, fold in the the strawberries. Cover and stand the Kheer for a few hours for the Strawberry flavor to seep into the Kheer. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Hurali Kattu

What could be a Kannadiga's answer to Dal Makhani? the rich decadent elixir, just a spoonful of which makes that moment as smooth as silk, as light as a feather and as satisfying as a mother's touch... If I were to pick one dish, it would be Hurali Kattu. Both are rich, luxurious, smooth, very very satisfying besides taking a very long time to cook. On the contrary, Dal Makhani has oodles of fat, butter, cream etc, but Hurali Kattu is more of a poor man's food and has no fatty garnishes. But then it is easy to amp up the fat content of any dish and I typically add a generous spoonful of ghee on my rice-Hurali Kattu. I would recommend serving just like that bowls full of Hurali Kattu and a spoon full of ghee on top.

This dish looks to be of humble origin. Horse gram raised during dry season, piled high in gunny sacks to last the entire season, could provide the scarce protein. Bowlful of beans were washed, placed in earthen pots with lots of water and simmered all through the night over glowing embers of wood fire. The ingredients are very simple, and cooked this way the beans did not need any baby sitting.

However it is not so simple in a modern kitchen. Horse gram is a very tough bean to cook. It takes ages to breakdown. I had my share of unsuccessful attempts to get them to cook. Now, after all the efforts I have a good technique to get the beans to cook and breakdown. So here it goes.

We will need,

Horse gram 1 cup
Hing 2 generous pinch
Onion 1 medium
Garlic 5-6 cloves
Saaru Pudi  2 tsp
Tamarind extract 3/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Ghee to serve

Method:

  • Start the previous night. Pick and clean the beans carefully and make sure to discard all the gravel and dirt. Wash multiple changes of water. Put the beans in a deep pot and add about 6 cups of water.
  • Throw in one pinch of hing into the beans and place to pot on high heat. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover. Set it aside for the entire night.
  • The next morning, drain the bean and discard the soaking liquid. They say the eating the soaking liquid will cause flatulence and in my family we always discard the liquid that the beans has been soaking in, expect in the case of Idli /Dose, fermentation does something to urad dal in and it is quite easy on stomach. 
  • Transfer the beans to a pressure cooker. Add 6-7 cups of water and the remaining hing and cook on slow flame for about 5-6 whistles for about 20-30 minutes. Adjust the time/whistle according to your pressure cooker and no two are alike. The idea is to let the beans cook in the pressure cooker for a long time. We do want it to break down completely. Remove from heat and set it aside to cool.
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool, open and check if the beans are soft. If they are soft go ahead to the next step, if not add more water and cook again till the beans are soft.
  • If the beans are soft, throw in the rest of the ingredients and pressure cooker again on low heat for 20-30 minutes till the beans completely break down and the mixture resembles a thick and rich slurry. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in desired quantities of ghee. Serve hot with Rice. I eat it like a soup on a cold day. It magically warms up my entire being! 



Palak Panner Butter Masala

There are always times when we find mind blowing food at the most unexpected places, especially when we travel to unfamiliar places.Such foods and the experience of that particular meal leave a lasting impression if you are a foodie like me. I distinctly remember a few unforgettable meals in my life. I am not sure what makes the meal so special, the time, the company, foreign land or perhaps simple hunger, but the experience will leave an indelible mark. One such meal was at a nondescript place somewhere in Mahabalipuram. It was an adventure alright, me and Honey on a trip to US embassy found ourselves with most of the day on hand before we could fly out of Chennai. We took a Rickshaw back to hotel. Honey in his smattering Tamil asked the Rickshaw driver for suggestion on touristy things to do in Chennai. He said he could drive us to Mahabalipuram. I remembered it to be quite a distance from Chennai, but Honey and the Tamil speaking Rickshaw driver bulldozed me into thinking that it was closer than I thought. Then the seemingly never ending journey started. The noisy Rickshaw huffed and puffed and we finally pulled into the sleepy town of Mahabalipuram. We stopped to catch our breath and to give our Richskaw time to recuperate.Our rumbling tummies would not let think of the Pallavas or their temples. So we looked around and our guide suggested a nice looking air conditioned restaurant. But our Rickshaw driver shot the idea down bluntly. He convinced Honey in Tamil to go to some other restaurant. All I could make out was that Honey was sold on the idea. He led us to a small but clean looking crowded eatery. There was no such thing as a table for a party. There were benches in rows like in a class room and people just went and sat where ever there was a spot. Honey found a spot for himself in one of the rows in the end. I found one for myself in one of the middle row. It felt strange to be sitting next to an absolute stranger in a pair of Jeans while all the ladies sitting in that restaurant looked a lot more traditional in Saris and Jasmine flowers in their hair. Of course there was no such thing as a menu, like our own Udupis the waiter just ranted a list in Tamil. I just said "Vegetarian, no Tamil" and gestured with my hands to indicate anything that tastes good. He nodded his head.

Then came a young boy with Plantain leaves. Before I realized there was a mound of rice on it, assorted side dishes. Now I can say with conviction that it was not Chettinad cuisine, me not a big fan of Chettinad cuisine. I did not know the names of any of the dishes, but the moment I ate it I knew I was in foodie heaven. It did not end there. The waiter came back to me with a small bowl in his hand. It was some sort of curry and he said "Special".. That was it, the most memorable dish in one of the most memorable meals I have ever had. I polished the entire bowl clean in a few minutes and asked for more. But the waiter said something in Tamil with a sad face. Looking at my bewildered face, the lady next to me said 'over, no more'. That was sad. But I had enjoyed my meal so much that I forgot the Rickshaw ride from Chennai.

Then there are days when I feel like eating that most memorable dish, something rich, creamy and makes the day extra special by touching a treasured memory. It was on one such day that I prepared this dish. It is buttery and fatty just like the food served in eateries I just mentioned. It is indeed so rich that a little goes a long way. I threw in some spinach to give it some body and Panner to make it extra special. Oh! ok, Panner because Sunny boy loves it.

So here it is Palak, Panner Butter Masala
We will need,

Spinach  1 lb
Peanut oil 1 tbsp

Fennel seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Onion diced 1 small

Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Dhania power 1.5 tsp
Chilly powder to taste
Tomatoes 1/2 lb
Garam Masala 2 generous pinches
Butter 50 gram /half a stick
Panner 1/2 cup cut into cubes
Salt

Method:
  • Wash and chop the spinach and set it aside. 
  • Heat oil in a kadai and throw in the fennel seeds and cumin. Once they splutter, add the onions.
  • Saute the onions till golden in color and throw in the spice powders. Saute the spices for a 20-30 seconds till they are fragrant and add the tomatoes.
  • Cook till the tomatoes are pulpy. Add the spinach and cover till the spinach wilts down about 7-10 minutes.
  • Throw in the Garam Masala, adjust salt and cook for a few minutes. 
  • Throw in the Panner and butter, simmer till the Panner is heated through. 
  • Serve hot with Rotis.

Short Cut Kajjaya

We love our Kajjaya. But it is really a labor of love. It takes for ever to get done. Soaking the rice, grinding it and then making the Kajjaya mixture and then deep frying, indeed it a time consuming and laborious process. This time I decided to see if I can some how make it a little easy for myself. I did experiment a bit and finally it looks like I did cut down on a couple of steps. If making Kajjayas in huge quantities traditional recipe is still the gold standard. But if you are making a smaller batch like me this time around, this will just be good enough.

Cooking is a science. Most of our traditional recipes have roots in Ayurveda. Our palates are accustomed to recipes which probably started off as a part of Ayurvedic life style. Making great Kajjaya is as rigorous as a science experiment. It is very unforgiving as well. A little less moisture the batter will simply disintegrate, a little more moisture the Kajjayas will turn up like beer battered rice flour!

The other day some one asked me why their Kajjayas disintegrated once the batter was dropped into the ghee. Well I did get the answer during my experiments. The deal is rice flour is naturally gluten free. So it is inherently difficult to get rice flour to bind. Typically we encounter this problem while preparing Akki Rotti also. To improve the cohesiveness of the Rotti what we do is cook the rotti dough briefly. Somehow, hot water and gently cooking it briefly makes our Rotti dough pliable, elastic and cohesive something like what gluten does to wheat flour.  So that was one challenge solved.


The other challenge was to make sure that the rice powder had enough moisture to 'cook' in the Jaggery syrup. So to solve this problem, here is what I did.


Rice flour (yes! the rice flour out of the bag)  1/2 cup
Jaggery grated just shy of 1/2 cup
Hot water 2-3 tbsp (or more depending on the rice flour)
Cardamon.
A combination of Ghee and sub flower oil for deep frying

Method:
  • Place the rice flour in the food processor. Pour the hot water over the rice flour and process it for a few seconds till the mixture resembles bread crumbs. The rice flour is ready when it comes together when pressed in our fist. If it does not, add spoon fulls of hot water and process till it achieves the desired status.
  • For the syrup, combine Jaggery with a tablespoon of hot water and cook till it reaches the softball stage. 
  • Dump the rice flour and stir vigorously. Toss in crushed cardamon seeds. The mixture will be fairly runny at this point.  Remove from heat but keep it covered. Once cool, the mixture will become slightly thick, sort of fudgy. It can easily be pinched into lemon sized balls and patted into small circles.
  • Heat ghee and sunflower oil in a  Kadai. 
  • Pinch lime sized dough and roll it into small balls between your palms. Place the rolled ball on a piece of wax paper and flatten it out into small circular discs. 
  • Once the ghee is hot enough, gently lower the flattened disc. Deep fry on medium heat till golden brown in colour.
  • Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Kalakand

We are proud of our diverse society, something that is in or DNA.  While it is cool to be a multicultural society, it takes a lot to be there and be nice especially with all the under currents of dissatisfaction that lurk around us.

Yesterday a few guys from the North East were beaten up by some local boys in Bangalore for not speaking Kannada. The English media was quick to condemn the attacks and indeed they are right in doing so. There is of course no role for violence of any kind in a civil society. We Kannadigas despite the highest number of Jnanapeetha and rich cultural heritage we never encouraged militant language fanatic groups. Violence is just not us. We take pride in our tolerance, sophistication, in our accepting and accommodating different groups. No wonder Bangalore is as cosmopolitan as it could get.   But the story does not end there. The last decade or so things have changed. The under currents of dis-satisfaction has become more and more apparent. Incidents like the ones mentioned below started to occur quite frequently.

One morning I was to ride a BMTC bus, I do not remember where I was going, but as I walked to the bus stop the bus started moving, I ran after the bus. The bus stopped suddenly, perhaps bus driver had noticed me. I boarded the bus and thanked the driver in Kannada and found myself sitting in the first row. After the next couple of stops the same scene repeated, a very well dressed girl ran towards the slow moving bus saying 'roko, roko' (stop in Hindi). The bus driver suddenly accelerated and the girl was not able to board the bus. I later heard the conductor and the drive have a conversation about how the girl spoke in Hindi. 'Bari Stylu' I heard him say as if, 'Oh! you think you are cool speaking Hindi? we do not think so. So wait for the next bus'.

Then once on one of my early sojourns into the northern plains on the great Karnataka Express, I found myself in the amusing company of a bunch of North Indians. I was the only women in the cubicle and the rest of the five were all north Indian men of various ages. After a polite introduction I found myself defending Kannadigas and south-Indians in general. They started ridiculing everything that we valued, right from making fun of Idli and Dose, how Kannada sounded like a can half filled with pebbles, how Kannada movie heros are dark skinned, old and ugly and how heroines were very fat etc. Being the younger me, I let my blood boil. It did not help that I was heading back to university at the end of my vacations. I defended everything they said wildly. I probably would not do it today because it was just a bunch of loosers bully a young girl whom they found alone in their cubicle. What really riled me was their attitude. I knew all of them worked in Bangalore. All of it stopped when I told them that I pity their situation. How horrible it must be back home for them that they should be coming to a problem filled Karnataka to make a livelihood.

These two were not isolated incidents, it eventually became a pattern coming across more and more often..Some how there was an air of elitism when it came to Hindi and everything North-Indian. How Delhi had huge fly overs and Bangalore had none.Why could not people after having lived in Karnataka for years show some respect towards the land? Learning Kannada would be the best tribute to the land. Agreed it is hard, but there are people who make an effort and their broken Kannada is appreciated.

The unwillingness to learn Kannada is viewed as a pseudo-elite rebuke to the locals and that is the reason why the guys were trashed the other day. It did not help that they look different too.

When I read about racism, intolerance and all that written about incidents like these, I squirm. Yes there is intolerance, but why did this intolerance begin in the first place. No one seems to ask that question and definitely not the English media. Disrespecting your host is never a good idea, is it ?

Now for the Kalakand. Like the good Mysore pak, this mildly sweet, moist and milky goodie is a rarity. Cheaper imitations are found in plenty, the ones the smell like stale Khoa, the ones that are dry and crumbly. But the ones that moist, with just the right amount of sweetness is so hard to come by.  I made these during Navratri and they were very well received.

We will need,

Ricotta cheese  15 oz can
Condensed milk 7 oz (half a tin)
Cardamon 2 (seeds grounds and  the skin discarded)
Kesar a pinch
Milk 1 tbsp
Pista for garnish
Ghee a tsp

Method:
  • Pop the ricotta into the freezer for several hours and thaw it for a few hours on the counter top. (I do this to separate the milk solids from the whey)  
  • Line a sieve with a cheese cloth and dump the ricotta into  the sieve. Discard the whey and save the milk solids.
  • Warm the milk , stir in the saffron and set it aside. Grease a tray with ghee and set it aside.
  • Once the ricotta is drained well, combine it with the condensed milk  in a microwave proof bowl. 
  • Pop it in the microwave for 3-4 minutes on high. Remove and stir well, add the cardamon, saffron mixture and microwave it on high again for 2 minutes. Repeat this every minute or so keeping a close watch on the mixture, till it gets bubbly and leaves the side of the container.  It took me a total of 8 minutes. But the duration can change depending on the quantity, the moisture in the ricotta and also the power of the microwave oven.
  • Dump the mixture into the greased tray. Even out the mixture and sprinkle grated Pista on top. Refrigerate for two hours, remove and cut it into pieces






Quick Carrot Halwa

Wishing you all a happy Ayudha Pooja. Also spending a minute here to remember Gandhiji and Sastriji on their birth anniversaries as well.

It is poignant that the Prime Minister should be kicking off the Swacchata Andolan today. Cleanliness is all about attitude, much less about resources. During my younger days, in one of the several towns we lived , I had noticed something. It was summer and there was no piped water back then in the town. We all had to collect water from street side taps and store it so it lasts for 3-4 days. About half a kilometer from where we lived was the area where the 'Vadda's a Dalit subgroup lived. We used to pass the 'Vaddara Hatti' as the area was called sometimes. They did not have street side taps, probably they got all the water from one of the wells in the area. Their houses were small compared to our own but their yard relatively big and very well maintained. The yards would be plastered using cow dung  which was a common practice back then to keep away the wild dusty earth a little more tame. Also part of the year were beautiful Rangolis which were drawn when the cow dung plastering was  moist so that the Rangolies lasted a little longer. Such yards were extensions of the tiny houses. Women sat in the yards doing various chores, kids played around, they also combed their hair, did a lot of routine activities in the yard.  The point is that particular area was much cleaner than our own area where the houses were bigger. It was about attitude and need than resources. How do change attitude is the question.

For now it is a quick Carrot halwa. I made this as an offering on one of these days. It was quick for a week day and much lighter than the regular fare. So here it is.

We will need,

Carrots grated 2 cups
Condensed milk 1/4 cup
Ghee 2-3 tbsp
Almonds  4-5 chopped
Raisins a handful

Method:
  • Heat ghee in a skillet. Throw in the almonds and the raisins. once they are golden brown remove them one to a plate using slotted spoon. 
  • Throw in the carrots and saute till the moisture is gone and the carrots are fragrant about 8-10 minutes.
  • Pour in the condensed milk stir and cook till the carrots are soft. 
  • Fold in the almonds and raisins. Serve at room warm or at room temperature or chilled.

Rice Badam Kheer

Dasara is such exciting time. Celebrated all across India, various traditions are popular in various parts of the country. Mysore Dasara for me is synonymous with crowded Mysore, the time my father planned carefully to get us out of the city while the tourists flocked to see the spectacular Jambosavari. My memory of the only time I went to see the Jambosavari is perched up on someone's shoulder (most likely our then maid servant ) trying to make sense beyond the sea of people. I do not think I got a single glimpse of Drona or his Howda. Nothing short of a VIP pass would make Jambosavari an enjoyable experience. I consoled myself that in the absence of VIP passes, Drona looked majestic on Doordarshan with all its "Rukaavat Ke Liye Khedh Hai"!!
Apart from the Jambosavari which is indeed a culmination of the ten days long celebration, there is the Palace illumination, Exhibition, Kacheri aka concerts, flower show ,Khusti -wrestling matches in the arena near the palace and the most recent addition 'Ahara Mela' the food show. We lived a stones throw away from Mysore palace and could see the Palace illumination from our terrace. We could occasionally hear the Kacheri if it was not drown down by the 'Mikasura' - huge stereos playing Sandalwood songs from the Exhibition grounds.

On a sad note, I do remember Drona 26 years after he passed away. Peace to Drona once again. Having seen Dasara elephants closely as they lumbered on early each morning during their stay in the Palace, to Karangikere right by our doorstep, they have a special place in my heart. Hearing the tinkle of their bells, we would run out with occasional bananas or mostly a handful of grass and leaves to feed the Jumbos. Perhaps to the Jumbos we were like little curios, with an occasional surprise. What ever they thought of us, we loved those gentle giants. So here it is Rice and Badam Kheer, celebrating Mysore Dasara and the Dasara Aane/elephants.


We will need,

Rice 1/4 cup
Almonds 1/4 cup
Milk 2 cups
Evaporated milk 1 cup
Condensed milk 1/2 cup (+2-3 tbsp as per taste)
Saffron a pinch
Pista for garnish (optional)

Method:
  • Soak the almonds in warm water for a few hours. Peel the almond and discard the skin. Combine it with 1/4 cup of milk and grind it into a paste.
  • Remove 2 tbsp of milk into a separate container and stir in the saffron. Keep aside.
  • Combine the remaining milk and rice and cook till the rice falls apart. Keep stirring the mixture so that the mixture does not burn. 
  • Once the rice is completely done, stir in the almond mixture,evaporated milk and condensed milk. keep stirring till the mixture thickens and changes color.
  • Stir in the saffron and bring it to one gentle boil while stirring the mixture. Remove from heat.
  • Pop the Kheer into the refrigerator and serve chilled.

Kunda

Wishing all my readers a very happy Navratri. Dasara is in full swing here. It is already the sixth day! We feast-ers cannot believe how fast the last six days have passed. For fast-ers I know a few more days to go. I was toying with the idea of fasting sometime during Navratri. But ours is Mysore style feasting Dasara and I always guiltlessly adopt the more convenient of traditions. So it has been sweet naivedya for the Bombe Habba here. I will be covering the offerings made on all the ten days. The idea was to post the recipe the same day I make it. But that proved to be too ambitious. So here it is, a lagged coverage of Dasara, Kannada Cuisine style.

This time around, it is getting rather difficult to make elaborate recipes the first thing in the morning. Though always a from-the-scratch home made  kind of girl, this time I have made it a little easy on me. So this series will see a lot of made in the microwave recipes.

Kunda is rich, caramelized, condensed milk  un-apologetically rich but just sweet enough to bring out all the goodness of the fatty milk but never too sweet that you feel like you are swimming in a barrel of sugarcane juice. That dubious distinction will go to our Payasas... Kunda is delicate and rustic but comforting and proven to lift me up on those blue days.

We will need,

Dry Mawa/ milk powder 1/2 cup
Condensed milk  1/3 cup
Evaporated milk  1/4 cup
Butter melted 3 tbsp

Method:
  • Combine all the ingredients in a microwave proof bowl.
  • Pop the mixture into the microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and stir the mixture very well.
  • Pop the mixture again into the microwave for a minute more repeat the stirring part. 
  • Keep alternating between microwaving for a minute and stirring.
  • The mixture will start loosing moisture and the fat sort of separates slightly and the mixture will sort of turn golden brown as well. That is when the mixture is ready. At that point stop cooking it. Stir well and remove to a cool platter. Serve at room temperature.

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)

Method:
  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


Method:
  • 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

Method:
  • 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

Method:
  • 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
Hing
Curry leaves a handful
Tamarind extract 1/2 tsp (adjust as per taste)
Jaggery crushed 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Coriander fresh to garnish

Method:
  • 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.


Omelette

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.

Method:
  • 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.

Uppsaaru

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

Method:
  • 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

Method:
  • 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

Method:
  • 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

Method:
  • 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.
Notes:
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.