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!

Dhideer Chakkuli / Easy Chakkuli

This Deepavali, I did not have in stock Mom's or MIL's Chakkuli flour also means that it is about time I go home. So I was forced to make my own. Obviously I do not have the luxury of flour mills,nor do I have the luxury of time here so I had to do something easier and quicker. Mom suggested me a recipe which is popular in the rural areas. My folks who live in the more rural parts  and do not have uninterrupted electricity, make Chakkuli for Mahaekadashi this way.
Chakkuli made this way turned out to be crispier and stays that way for as long as three weeks. But appearance wise  they have a rustic look to it and it might look a little patchy, not homogeneously golden brown. But they did taste absolutely good and super crunchy.

We will need,

Urad dal (washed and split) 2 cups
Rice flour (as required, sorry I could not measure it)
Cumin seeds 1.5 tsp
Sesame seeds 2 tsp
Chilli powder (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Oil to deep fry.
  •  Pick and clean the Urad dal and wash it in several changes of water. Place the dal in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water and cook till the dal is soft.
  • Once the dal is cool enough to handle, use a wooden spatula to mash the dal.
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients into the dal. Keep adding rice flour little by little to form a soft dough like that of Chapati. Knead the dough well and keep it aside.
  • Adjust all the seasoning.
  • Now heat the oil in a big Kadai.
  • Grease a Chakkuli mould. Press the dough into spirals of Chakkuli on a wax paper. 
  • Once the oil is warn enough, lower the Chakkuli spiral into hot oil carefully.  Fry till golden brown, remove and drain on several layers of paper towels. 
  • Once cool, store in an air tight box. Chakkuli's stay good for several weeks. If a good(i prefer refined sunflower oil) oil is used to deep fry, it will stay good for as long as a month, though they are unlikely to last that long!

Mango Phirni and tribute

This past weeks has been very eventful. In a sense it is an end of an era, things that make me feel that every new day I am growing old and the world around me is getting older too.  Sachin Tendulkar retired finally. I cannot remember Indian cricket with out him. I am not a Sachin fan, much less Cricket fan. But, he is a part of my life, my memories. Those were the days when everyone in my family, all my neighbors, my entire city watched cricket; those were the days when there would be a curfew like atmosphere on the street every time India played a one day match with Pakistan;those were the days when Door Dashan was the only channel to watch on TV and if there was power cut in between the match, everyone would call the K.E.B (Karnataka Electricity Board) and yell, curse the poor folks at the other end. It was a different time, but feels like a different world.
I remember that time when middle order collapse was the hallmark of Indian Cricket, Sachin still at the crease meant a convincing chance of victory. He was the man who could deliver, who could be relied on and most importantly we gave us hope. I stopped watching Cricket long long time back. The last complete match I watched was the one in which India exited the World Cup in Eden's Garden, eventually Sri Lanka went to win that World Cup. I was never a big fan, I do not miss much. But I miss those days. Cricket than was an occasional treat but now it is reduced to just another routine like the soap operas,nothing special about it.

A few days back Srikanta Datta Narashimharaja Wodeyaar passed away. Having lived for a long time in the Shankar Mutt area of Mysore, he was a constant presence. He had contested elections won many, lost many. He would come to a school near my home to cast his vote with his family. We would occasionally catch a glimpse of him when we walked through from one gate to the other gate of Mysore Palace. He stood for a different era, he was still the Maharaja, the man who was destined to wear dark shades because his direct gaze was supposed to bring hardship to his people. He did hold a private Durbar during Dasara full with regal splendor. With him and that he does not have any male heirs, comes to end the grand tradition of Dasara.

Then it is my own grandmother. She passed away last week. She was in the eighties. She is the one that made the best ever Idlis, Sambar, Chutney and sweet chutney. I cannot remember any other Idli that was better than the ones she made. She also make very good Bisibelebath. But I am not glorify her in death. I am very aware of our tradition, we do that. A scrooge in death becomes the man with the largest heart. But I want to be realistic about what my grandmother and her death mean to me. She played favorites all her life. She preferred my cousins over me and my sister. She made her dislike very clear, in life and death. She was apathetic when I was sick but went into frenzy when my cousins were sick. She glowed when my cousin came home with small accomplishments at school, but was not happy when I or my sister came home with trophies in state level competition. All her happiness and all her tears were for my cousins, she had nothing to give us. Yes! sometimes I wonder how a parent can play favorites with her own kids? Now that I am a parent myself, I cannot bring myself to play favorites but she did. When I was young, I resented her preference but as I grew older, I accepted the fact. We were very civil to each other. But the day I got to know that she was on the verge of death, I cried, so much that I did not know she would elicit in me. After a few days of mourning, I was wondering why at all was I sad? I loved her no doubt, though she never returned it. I cannot remember fondly any moment she spent with me, any 'grandparent' moment that everyone has. My own father remembers all those fond moments he spent with his grandmother. I know a lot of people who tell me that I am lucky to have played in my grandparent's yard. Naturally grandparents are associated with pampering. I am not the lucky one though. Pampered we never were, not by my paternal grandparents. That part of my life is a big hole and sadly I should say, I missed the 'grandparent' moment even though my grandparents were very much alive into my thirties. With her passing away it is another 'end of era' moment. I remembered the days when she did make Rotti with loads of ghee /butter and oil to her loved ones and ask my mother to make Rotti without any of those for us. She reminds me of an era when cost of food was very important. She reminds me of an era when we had to go to fair price shops, stand in the line for hours to get our monthly quota of food supply, she reminds me of an era when her favorites ate different foods than us lesser mortals. She reminds me of the dangers of playing favorites. Now she leaves behind a great deal of bitterness between me and my cousins. I wish she had known where she was leading us. Had she not played favorites, we would all be lot more nice to each other, probably I would have enjoyed my 'grandparent' moment too. It is now end of something, a long wait for acceptance, for her love, for the love that I saw in her eyes for my cousins. Now there is no hope that there will be such a day, she left, leaving a hole in my heart, the grandparent hole.
After all the bitterness, I feel like serving something sweet. Here is some Mango Phirni.

 We will need,

Broken rice 1/4 cup
Ghee 1 tbsp
Milk 1 liter
Sugar according to taste
Mango pulp 3/4 cup
Cardamon 1 (seeds crushed and skin discarded)
Pista a few for garnish

  • Heat ghee in a non stick pan. Throw in the broken rice and toast it till it is fragrant about 5-8 minutes
  • Pour in the milk and reduce the heat to low.
  • Keep stirring the mixture and make sure the bottom does not scald. 
  • Cook till the mixture reduces and thickens to about a third. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in the cardamon. Allow it to cool and then stir in the mango pulp. 
  • Garnish with pista and served chilled.

Khara Sev /Shevu and Deepawali Thindi

Every Deepawali I make loads of goodies to be shared with loved ones and friends. This time on the menu were the usual suspects Kajjaya, Godi Laddu , Seven cups and savory debutantes- Chakkli and Khara Shevu.  Typically either my mother or my MIL would send me Chakkli flour and I did make Chakkli. This time around no one came from India this past year nor did we visit home. So I had to make it myself. Mom suggested me an easy method. I followed it and viola, I had prepared some rustic looking super crunchy Chakklis. Yum.

For now it is Khara Shevu. I do not know why it should be called Shevu, when Sev sounds better. But it is one of those unexplained phenomenons where it might sound weird but tastes fabulous. The best part  of this snack is that even though it looks very complicated, it is rather easy to prepare and also it does not absorb a lot of oil while frying. I love the effect it has on my Deepawali platter.

We will need,

Kadale Hittu / Besan 1 measure
Rice flour 1/4 measure
Ajwain or Jeera (1/2 tsp per cup of Besan)
Salt and chilli powder to taste
Hing a dash
Oil to deep fry

  • Heat the oil in a wok. 
  • Stir in all the ingredients in a wide mouthed steel/glass bowl. Make a well in the center.
  • Once the oil is hot, ladle about 1/4 cup of hot oil into the well in the flour. 
  • Stir the flour carefully to incorporate the hot oil into the flour. 
  • Pour in water a few tablespoons at a time to make a firm dough.
  • Oil the Khara shevu mould. Break orange sized balls of dough and stuff it into the mould. Press the mould to squeeze the khara shevu into desired shape.
  • Gently lower the Khara shevu into hot oil and deep fry till golden brown in color. Remove and drain it over layers of paper towel. 
  • Store it in air tight containers for up to two weeks. I am sure it would not last that long though.

Cranberry Jeera Rice

It is not that I love cranberries. It is just that I happened to buy a bag impulsively at Costco and struggled to finish it until I realized that they could be used everywhere we traditionally use raisins. In fact there are dishes especially the savory ones which gets better with cranberry because of the tartness in the background. It worked especially well in Jeera rice. The color of the cranberries also make the dish pop and festive! So here comes Cranberry Jeera Rice.
We will need,

Basmati Rice 1 cup
Ghee 2 tbsp
Jeera 1 tsp
Cardamon 2
Green chillies 3-4 (slit)
Dried Cranberries a generous handful
Salt to taste
Scallions 2-3 chopped

  • Wash the rice in several changes of water and soak for 15-30 minutes and drain.
  • Heat the ghee in a thick bottom pot or pressure cooker.
  • Throw in the whole spices and the green chillies. Once the spices stop sizzling, throw in the cranberries. Saute for a few seconds and throw in the rice. Stir gently to coat the rice with ghee and is translucent. 
  • Pour in about 1.5 to 2 cups of water (depending on how soft the rice is desired).
  • Adjust salt, cover and cook till the rice is done.
  • Garnish with chopped scallions before serving. Serve it with Sorekayi Kofta Curry .

Kesar Peda

It is the time of the year to go crazy over shopping. Usually by this time I would be having my shopping list ready, would have checked the best prices for the stuff on my list and have a mental map of stores to hits on black Friday. But this time around no such list and I have not even looked for the black Friday flyer. What is wrong with me? Have I grown out of retail therapy? or have I reached some sort of saturation buying stuff that I do not need all because they were on sale? or is it that I have grown slightly more sensible? or that I am just trying to be very sensible right now and end up buying cart full of stuff on the actual day (and be stupid!). No straight forward answers for now, will have to wait and watch.
Till then it is more eating. The season of eating continues. Thanksgiving, quintessential celebration of over eating is round the corner. This time where ever we are (company and program not yet decided, but food will be plentiful wherever we decide to go) I am determined not to over eat. (The probability of which will be ever so slight, unfortunately).  These were some Pedas I made the other day. They were Yummy and ran out pretty fast. They are not uniform. I should have paid more attention to the size. But does it not scream "HOMEMADE" and no one will asked me if I made them. It is quite obvious that you do not get Pedas of differing size/shapes in store. Happy eating everybody.

We will need,

Ghee 3-4 tbsp
Ricotta cheese 2 lbs
Milk Powder 1 cup
Sugar 1-2 cups (I used a little over one cup. But if you prefer your Pedas sweet, use 2 cups or more)
Saffron a generous pinch (crushed)
Milk 2 tbsp
Food color (optional, I do not use food color)
Cardamon 2 (shelled and the seeds crushed)
Pistachios 4-5 for garnish (finely chopped)

  • Freeze the ricotta for a day and thaw it on the kitchen counter for a few hours. By doing this we can easily separate the whey from the milk solids and making Pedas will be faster. 
  • Line a colander with multiple layers of cheese clothes.Pour the ricotta over the colander and drain as much whey as possible.
  • Heat ghee in a non stick pan. Once the ghee is warm, throw in the ricotta, milk powder and sugar. The mixture will be very loose but will thicken pretty fast.Keep stirring constantly to make sure the mixture is not burning.
  • Heat the milk till it is pretty warm and soak the saffron in the warm milk.
  • Once the ricotta mixture starts to leave the sides of the pan, stir in the saffron and crushed cardamon.
  • Remove from heat and once it is cool enough to handle, pinch lime sized (or smaller/bigger) balls of Peda and flatten it slightly between the palms of your hand. 
  • Garnish the Pedas with chopped pistachios. It will last a couple of days at room temperature or about a week in the refrigerator.

Bendekayi Huli Gojju

Deepavali is just round the corner. Wishing you all and your families a very happy Deepavali. This year as usual most of my Deepavali 'tindi' is ready. Just Kajjaya needs to be fried. I will update my Deepavali thali very shortly. Like I said in my previous posts and all my posts at this time of the year, this is my favorite part of the year. It is all about feasting, celebrating with friends and family and a whole lot of cooking. What is there to not love about it! I ending cooking the entire weekend. I was physically tired after standing at a stretch for hours. But at the end of the day I was so happy that I was able to finish everything that I had in mind. The tediousness only added to the festive mood. That is how you should end up feeling on a festival. In fact when I was young and my mom would work crazy during festivals like these, I would ask her to stop being so crazy. Back then my point was if you cannot relax what is the whole point of a holiday? But now I sort of get what she was up to. Now I really do not feel festive if I did not do my share of shopping-cleaning-cooking and getting tired routine. That is what festivals are all about.

Now for some Bendekayi..Bendekayi aka Okra aka Lady's finger is my favorite vegetable. I love them in all form. Bendi-do-Pyaza, Tawa-Bhindi, Bindi-Masala, Bendekayi gojju, chutney, raita, anything and everything! So when ever I find good Bendekayi, I am sure to buy some. This time around I was in a playful mood and tried something slightly different from my usual favorites.

We will need,

Bendekayi/Bendhi 1 lb cleaned and trimmed
Ghee 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Ginger grated 1/2 tsp
Green chillies 4-5 (adjust according to taste)
Dhania powder 1/2 tsp
Tamarind extract 3/4 tsp
Salt to taste

  • Heat ghee in a saute pan. Throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera and hing. Once they splutter, throw in the green chillies and the ginger. Saute for a brief second 
  • Throw in the Bendi. Saute till the stickiness disapper. Keep moving the Bhendi on medium high flame.
  • Once the Bendi is no longer sticky, throw in the chilli powder and dhania powder. Saute for a few seconds and then stir in the tamarind extract along with 1/4 cup of water. Stir well and cook to reduce the water a bit. 
  • Adjust salt and remove from heat once the Bhendi is slightly tender. Serve hot with rice /roti.

Sorekayi Kofta Curry

Navrati to Deepavali is all about eating! It is another thing that to me eating well is a very big part of living well. But this time of the year is all about reckless and guilt free eating. But then it is also challenging to cook something different from our traditional recipes because during Navratri we usually resort to abstaining from consuming onions and garlic. Our typical Huli, Saaru,Chitranna, Bisibelebhath, Vangibath fit this bill and they are my go-to recipes during festivals. But then there are days when I feel like making something different but still fit the no-onion-garlic bill. I had to work around a bit but Kofta curry turned out very well without onions or garlic.Not as rich as it is normally but just enough to make the table festive. Here it is.

We will need,

For the Koftas,
Sorekayi/Lauki 2 medium (grated)
Chickpea flour 3-4 tbsp
Red chilli powder (to taste)
Salt to taste
Dill chopped 2-3 tbsp
Jeera a generous pinch
Oil to deep fry

For the curry,
Peanut oil /Ghee 2-3 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/42 tsp
Fennel seeds 1/2 tsp
Cardamon (big) 1
Green Cardamon 2-3
Dhania powder 2 tsp
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Jeera Powder 1 tsp
Tomatoes 5 medium
Cashews 1/4 cup
Green chillies 5-6 (to taste)
Garam masala a pinch
Salt and lemon juice to taste

  • Sprinkle some salt on the lauki and place the salted lauki in a colander to drain the excess water. Squeeze the lauki to get rid of excess water.
  • Combine the tomatoes, cashews and green chillies in a blender and blend till smooth. Reserve.
  •  For the curry, heat oil in a thick bottom pot. Throw in the whole spices and once they stop crackling, throw in the turmeric, Dhania powder and Jeera powder. Stir for a few seconds and then pour in the tomato paste and enough water for the gravy (about 2-3 cups). Bring it to a gentle boil and simmer till the curry is fragrant.
  • Meantime prepare the Koftas. Combine the lauki with all other ingredients for the kofta except the oil and mix gently. Take two tablespoon fulls of the mixture and pat then into the shape of Kofta. 
  • Heat oil in a Wok and deep fry the prepared koftas. Remove once the koftas are brown and drain them on paper towel. 
  •  To finish the curry, sprinkle the garam masala and adjust salt and lemon juice. While the curry is still warm, place the koftas and serve immediately.  Serve it with raita and Jeera rice or Jeera-Carnberry rice (recipe coming up shortly).

Cashew Burfi

My fondness for sweets is well known. I sometimes doubt if it is the sweets that i like better than the festival itself. And what can be better than nine continuous days of celebrations and of course sweets. This time around I did not make sweets everyday of Navratri, this is the third one and may be there is room for one more.
After two Pedas I was ready for a burfi. Burfis are always difficult, consistency is not right then burfi either gets too crumby or never sets. So after a lot of trial and errors I figured out that cooking the sugar separately is the best way to solve the problem.
The immediate question was what Burfi to make. I was thinking of Almond Burfi but yesterday I scored a good deal on Cashews at the local Indian grocery so decided on Cashew burfi instead. Cashew burfi has a different texture than the more popular Katli. I love them both for now it is just Burfi.

We will need,

Cashews 1 cup
Sugar 3/4 cup
Ghee 2 tbsp
Saffron a few strands (optional)
Water 1/4 cup

  • Pulse the cashews in the food processor till the nuts are fine.
  • Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Throw the cashew powder. Toast the cashew powder till fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Remove onto a plate.
  • Heat the sugar, saffron and water in the same pan. Cook the sugar till the sugar reaches two thread consistency. (i.e. when the sugar syrup is pulled between two fingers the syrup forms at least two threads.)
  • Stir in the toasted cashews into the sugar and cook on very low flame and keep stirring the mixture.
  • Once the mixture leaves the side of the pan, remove  and pour the mixture into a greased pan. 
  • Score the mixture and when it is slightly cool cut it into pieces. Store in an air tight box.

Dharwad Peda

Darasa continues. Today is Saraswati Pooja. May the blessings of Mother Saraswati  be with us all the time.
While writing my previous post on Peda, I happened to think of Dharwad Peda. Once the thought of it entered my little brain, I had to make it. So here it is Dharwad Peda. It is quite easy to prepare but it takes about 2-3 hours at the least.A good way to go about it is to turn on a movie on laptop/tablet. Turn on the stove and keep stirring while watching the movie. That is exactly what I did. I watched Fukhrey while making this Peda.
Once the Pedas were done, they needed to be cooled. So I left them on the table and took Sunny boy to a near by temple for Navrati Aarthi. When we came back home, Honey looked quite pleased. He asked me who was back from India? I thought for a while and said no one. Then he asked me who got these Pedas from India.. I take it as a big compliment.

We will need,

Ricotta (old fashioned) 1 pint (Fresh Khoya can be used too)
Ghee 2-3 tbsp
Sugar (fine variety ) 4-5 tbsp (adjust according to taste)
Whole Milk 2-3 tbsp

  • Drain the ricotta into a cheesecloth lined sieve to remove excess liquid.
  • Heat the ghee in a non stick pan. Throw in the ricotta. Cook the ricotta till most of the liquid evaporates. Keep stirring all the time.
  • Once the ricotta becomes dry and sort of comes together into a ball, reduce heat and break the ricotta into smaller pieces. Keep stirring lest the cheese burn.
  • Keep breaking the cheese up and stirring till the cheese resembles grains of sand. Remove from heat.
  • Pour the milk over the cheese, add about 3 tbsp of sugar and stir well. Allow the mixture to cool well.
  • Once the mixture is cool, run the mixture in a food processor till the mixture is very soft and smooth. Add a little more milk if necessary. 
  • Return the mixture to the pan and heat it gently. Taste and adjust sugar. The peda should be nice and sweet but not very sweet. It should still taste like caramely milk.
  • Once the mixture comes together into a ball, remove and shape it into walnut size balls. 
  • Roll the balls in sugar and set it aside to dry. To make it look distinctly asymmetrically flatish Pedas, throw the round pedas into a plate of sugar from a distance. 
I prefer to use ricotta because we get fresh, very good quality ricotta while the khoya we get is the one that has been in the freezer for a while. A good quality Khoya will work just as well.

Vangi Bhaat MIL style

Navratri is in full swing. This past weekend we went to a south Indian temple to see the Bombe habba. Then in the evening we went to a Punjabi temple for Durga aarti. Later we went to a Gujarati temple to be a part of  Garbha. Sunny boy loved it all. I am very happy. Such a cultural mosaic, so colorful and so festive. All of us celebrate the same festival in so many different ways. This is indeed my favorite part of the year.

I have often professed my undying love for Vangibhaat. It is on my bucket list and has always been. Needless to say, there are various way to make the right Vangibhaat. Mom makes it in her own style. MIL's variety is slightly different but equally good. This time around I made it MIL style because it is much more faster and lot less labor intensive than Mom's. The most critical part of getting the Vangibhaat right is choosing the right eggplant/brinjal. They must be tender, should not be thicker than two-three of your fingers put together. The green variety is the best but if the green ones are not available then the purple ones can do. But they must not be thicker than two fingers. The fatter the eggplant the mushier it gets and the Vangibhaat looses its texture. So getting the right Vangibhat is half the battle won.

We will need,

Eggplants /Brinjal 1 lbs
Green Peas 1/2 cup (optional)
Tomatoes 2
Peanut oil 1/3 cup
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
Hing a dash
Cashew pieces a handful
Vangi bhaat masala powder 3-4 tbsp (adjust according to taste)
Salt and lime juice to taste
Ghee 1 -2 tbsp (optional)
Rice (cooked and cooled) 3-4 cups

  • Wash and clean the eggplant and wipe it dry. Cut it quarters vertically and chop the quarters into 1.5" long pieces. Chop the tomatoes and reserve.
  • Heat the oil in a wide saute pan. Throw in the mustard seeds, jeera, hing and curry leaves. Once they stop spluttering throw in the cashew nuts. Once they are golden brown, remove it using a slotted spoon and drain it on tissue paper.
  • Throw in the eggplant and gently stir to coat the eggplants with oil. Keep moving the eggplant till they are almost tender. 
  • Throw in the green peas, vangi bhaat masala powder and the tomatoes. Toss the mixture gently. 
  • Cook the vegetables till they are tender. Adjust salt and remove from heat once all the moisture has evaporated.
  • Once the mixture is slightly cool, mix the cooled rice along with toasted cashews and ghee.
  • Adjust salt and lime juice and serve immediately.

Ricotta Almond Peda

It is my favorite time of the year. Dasara/Navrathri has begun and we as usual have the bombe (dolls) out and all set up. So for the first day I was thinking of making something special, not the usual stuff. I had a container of ricotta cheese in the fridge, and what better way to finish it?
Pedas! ah...they are sweet, they are soft, they come in all different colors and flavors and they are absolutely delicious. The brown not so sweet but sugary Dharwad Peda, the milky, fudgy off white Doodh peda with floral designs on top, then the saffrony Kesar Pedas.....Ah! I love them all. Just that they have to be fresh and have just the right amount of sweetness to it. I hate the ones that are too sweet.
Unlike Burfis peda is relatively easy. Burfi can be problematic if the sugar syrup consistency is not accurate, but peda is quite forgiving. So for me when ever I try something new, I start with a Peda. If the Pedas turn out nice, I think of a Burfi. So this time around it was peda.

We will need,

Ricotta cheese 1 pint
Almond 3/4 cup
Ghee 1/4 cup
Sugar 3/4 cup (adjust according to taste, I like it on the less sweet)
Salt a pinch
Saffron a few strands
Cardamon 2 pods (seeds ground into a powder and skin discarded)

  • Drain ricotta using a sieve and a cheese cloth. Reserve the cheese and discard the whey.
  • Soak the almond in warm water a few hours. Remove the skin and blend it into a smooth mixture using as little water as possible.
  • Combine the ricotta and the almond paste.
  • Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pan.
  • Throw in the ricotta almond mixture and cook till the mixture changes color and leaves the edges of the pan.
  • Mean time, cook the sugar with a 2-3 tbsps of water and melt the sugar. Remove from heat.Throw in the saffron strands.
  • Pour the sugar syrup carefully into the ricotta mixture stirring all the time making sure there are no lumps. 
  • Cook till the mixture comes together again. Stir in the cardamon powder. The mixture is ready when it begins to harden. Remove from heat.
  • When the mixture is cool enough to touch pinch small balls of the mixture and roll it between palms or shape as desired. Optional garnishes include Pista, Almonds etc.
Happy Dasara ! Happy eating and celebrating.

Methya Avarekaalu Khara Bhaath

I often always have stories to tell, reams and reams of paper to write, yarns and yarns to knit my stories,but the  past few months have been surprisingly dry for no apparent reason. I had photographs ready to go, blog waiting for me, but I somehow could not bring myself to write a word! Today I woke up and said to myself, 'today is the day, got to write something'. So here I am.
Past few weeks has been eventful. As an immigrant living in a foreign country, there are things that even after years of living abroad appear foreign to you. Generations later the foreignness disappears and immigrants become mainstream. Once that happens the new cohort of immigrants feel a lot less foreign in the new country. Something of that sort is brewing here right now. We have a new Miss America who happens to be an Indian-American. There are also Indian-American senators, state governors, Mayors, Judge, Astronauts not to mention doctors,engineers, professors, entrepreneurs etc. The children of Indian immigrants are well adjusted, thriving and they are not the stereotypical "American Born Confused Desi" aka ABCD. Thinking of how different the part of the world their parents came from, it is indeed a tribute to the human spirit. Imagine someone growing in India during the 1960s-1970s, where buying as much as a loaf of bread was a challenge let alone radios, TVs or cars, coming to USA to a land of plenty, to an open society, a free economy. Their children growing up often as the only brown kid in their schools,a generation of ABCDs. I do not see that anymore.  Now Desis are a lot more mainstream. The only brown kid in the school is not weird, he is just Indian, the kids who would go on to the spelling bee. It is no longer that the brown kids eat a lot of smelly-spicy strange foods, on the contrary it will probably be surprised to non-brown kids to know that we do not all eat 'Naan or chicken vindaloo' for dinner!
The Celts,the Italians, Asians, South Asians and people from everywhere melting into one pot. It is interesting indeed. The parallels are very similar. This is exactly what happened to India centuries back. The promise of a better land, a better life invited people from far away and India became home to people of different ethnicity, language, religion, food habits, etc. As an Indian pluralism is my second nature. I am a Kannadiga, I am also a Hindu, I am also a South-Indian, I am also an Indian. Now I am also an Indian-American! I am happy that both the oldest and the largest democracies are pluralist societies. It reminds me of a former colleague who happened to be half-Lithuanian. The first time we met, I told her I was from India. She said immediately, 'Yes! We are all from somewhere.'. At the same time I am thankful that I am not in a society where pluralism is not tolerated, let alone respected. It is sad that most of the world is.

So here is a tribute to all Indian-Americans. A bowlful of Menthya-Avarekalu Khara Bhaath. It is funny to see Avarekalu here. Because Avarekalu is available in all Indian groceries here. But I never got to see/eat them during my years in Delhi, nor did my parents find it in Uttar Pradesh during there three long years there. So is 'Home' just so archaic an idea? Got to think about it.

We will need,

Akki Tari /Idli Rawa 1 cup
Fenugreek greens /Menthya soppu a bunch
Avarekalu /Surati Papdi Lilva 3/4 cup
Ginger 1"
Cloves 4-5
Cinnamon 1"
Mint a handful
Fresh Coriander a handful
Green Chillies 5-6 (adjust according to taste)
Ghee 3-4 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Salt to taste
Lemon Juice to taste.

  • Heat a thick bottom Pot. Toast the Akki tari/ idli raw till it is warm to touch. Remove it onto a plate.
  • Pour water into the pot and throw in the Avarekalu and salt to taste. Bring it to a boil and simmer till the Avarekalu is tender. Drain the water and reserve the Avarekalu.
  • Pick the leafy parts of the fenugreek. Tender steams can be included. Discard the tough steams. Wash the greens in multiple change of water and reserve.
  • In a blender, combine the ginger, cloves, cinnamon, mint, coriander and green chillies with as little water as possible and pulse it into a smooth paste. 
  • Heat the ghee in the pot. Once the ghee is hot, throw in the mustard, jeera, hing and curry leaves.
  • Once the spices splutter, throw in the masala paste. Stir for a few minutes and throw in the fenugreek. Saute till the fenugreek is tender, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add two (a little more if you like it soft , i do!) cups of water to the mixture, adjust salt and lemon juice. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and throw in the Avarekalu.
  • Give the mixture a good stir and gently pour in the toasted rawa, stirring to combine the mixture. Make sure to pour in the raw in a slow stream else it will end up lumpy. Cover and cook on low heat for a few minutes till the water has evaporated and the rawa is tender. 
  • Serve hot will dollops of ghee on top. Yummy.

Brussel Sprouts Rice

We Indians have long been a seafaring community. We have long gone to unknown lands and called it our home. Our forefathers went to lands as far as Guyana, Caribbeans,South Africa, Mauritius, Belize, Fiji, Malaysia ages ago when they were quite sure that once they left there was no coming back. Back in those days when there was not as much as a telephone much less 'unlimited calling to India and 60 other countries- try Vonage today'!

How did they feel when they landed on lands that were so alien to what they had seen their entire life? Were they forced to leave their home country because the far off lands promised them a life that their home land could not afford? Was life back home so miserable that they readily boarded a ship to cross an ocean they had never seen? Was it the spirit of adventure, the innate human curiosity to see and experience things that were new? What ever it was, we were absolutely unapologetic about it. We went everywhere, where ever we went, we took a part of homeland and made a new land our new home. So people in Trinidad still eat what their ancestors remembered for their meals back home albeit with new ingredients and substitutions for ingredients that were hard to find. That is why curry is so pervasive all across the populations descending from the south Asian stock. (I meam the broader sense of curry, the subzi,bhaji, saaru,kari, all together)

As I think of all these people, I think of myself an expat too. I also think of people who came to the States about thirty-forty years ago, who ended having and raising kids here. The first time they set their foot in this country of skyscrapers, underwater tunnels, cable bridges and other engineering marvels! of 24 hr electricity, metaled roads, cars...coming from a country that had a handful of airports let alone metaled roads or 24 hr electricity or TV! When I set foot here for the first time, it was just another place. I was used to almost 24 hrs electricity, back up power, broadband internet, car and a pot holed but still metaled road. There were a few cultural surprises but I was not surprised that buildings could indeed be so high. All I could marvel was the time they were constructed. Just around the time when my great grand father as a police officer rode a horse all night long across tiger infested jungles to attend a status meeting with his British bosses!
As I try to incorporate more seasonal produce in my menus, the more I Indianize, just like our forefathers elsewhere did, to please our palate. So here goes a sort of Vangibhath styled Brussel Sprouts rice. Please do not go in search of Brussel sprouts if it is hard to find. Just substitute any leafy member of the cabbage family.

We will need,
Rice 2 cups cooked and cooled
Brussel sprouts 2 lbs washed cleaned
Peanut oil 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves 15-20
Green chillies 2-3 (Adjust according to taste)
Hing a dash
Chilli powder 2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Dhania powder 2 tsp
Jeera powder 2 tsp
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala 1/4 tsp
 Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  • Spice the brussel sprouts length wise and chop the halved into thin strips (julienne). Set it aside.
  • Heat oil in a wok. Once hot, throw in the mustard, Jeera and Hing. 
  • Once the spices stop spluttering, thrown in the curry leaves and the slit green chillies. Once they stop sizzling, throw in the powdered spices. Saute the spices for a few seconds till aromatic and throw in the brussel sprouts.
  • Saute the sprouts till tender crisp. Keep moving the vegetable, we need it nice and tender not steamed and mushy.
  • Adjust salt and remove from heat. 
  • Stir in the cooled rice, adjust lemon juice and serve warm with yogurt on the side.

Grilled Veggie Salad

I got to know that recently a Kannada cookery show aired an episode featuring Oats in good old Akki Rotti. Ah! So good job Quaker and agriculture department of Australia.
It looks like there are pouring tonnes of money on promoting the 'healthfulness' of oats and our people are readily buying it. So we are abandoning our native grains which our forefather ate, thrived well on and lived long healthy lives, for grains that were grown and consumed in very different climates by people with very different lifestyle, habits and of course genes. We so very well buy the argument of loud MNCs than look at our own backyards. There is a saying in Kannada, 'Hittala gida maddalla'. Your backyard herb cannot be a medicine! indeed.

I know we are a generation living on instant gratification and depth of sensual experience. But our common sense is not something that should take a back seat. 'I was never thus, but keep going on...' goes a poem. Yes I was never thus. But as more candles pile on my birthday cake my point of view changes. Now when I look back at all the years trying to  'live healthy' eating 'canola oil' I cannot stop but think 'what the hell was I thinking?'.
Now it is all about eating sensibly. No hard rules. But I am not going to buy ten different of things, just because a recipe calls for it,or it so 'oh!god so healthy'. So if I have peanuts instead of peanut butter I just go ahead crush some and toss it. I am not buying raw peanuts, peanut butter and salted peanuts. I am also not going on a missionary quest for some strange vegetable that I read about or the miracle food that has kept some Amazonian tribe youthful into their eighties.  

The mantra now is what is available locally and seasonally. The best part of summers in this part of the world is the bounty of vegetables. Keeping in mind my current approach to food, I just grilled a few fresh vegetables and served it with minimal dressing. It was yummy. The dressing also was do-with-whatever-is-in-your-fridge, but very creamy and tasty.

We will need,

Zucchini  2 medium cut into length wise and diced into half moons about 1/4"thick
Peppers   4 medium cut into 2" squares
Red Onions 2 medium cut into quarters and separated
Lettuce as needed
Oil as needed

for the dressing,
Yogurt/sour cream 2-3 tbsp
Ginger grated 1 tsp
Garlic 1 clove
Green chilli 1 minced
Coriander a handful
Salt to taste
Juice of lemon to taste

  • Heat a griddle on high heat. Brush the griddle with some oil and dump the Zucchini, peppers and onions. Sprinkle salt. Grill till the vegetables and nice and charred on the edges. Remove and keep it warm. If the griddle is small, do the vegetables in batches as we do not want them steam. Also the vegetables can be done one at a time because the cooking time varies for the vegetables. My griddle is fairly big so I could accommodate all of them at once.
  • Crush the garlic and ginger. Push the mixture through a sieve and collect the juice in big serving bowl. Discard the ginger garlic fibers. 
  • Toss in the lemon juice, green chillies, chopped coriander and yogurt/sour cream. Adjust salt. 
  • Toss in all the grill vegetables. Serve warm on a bed of lettuce. We had it for lunch and this was the only dish that day. We just grated some cheese on top.  It was yummy.

Avial - Majjige Huli

All cultures celebrate a vegetable medley dish. For some reason we all adore our mixed vegetable dish. They are just so festive and awesome.  We Kannadigas we have Huli where all kind of vegetables find a place. The Gujarati's have Undiyo, then the Bengalis have Shukto, the French have their Ratatouille and of course the Malayalis have Aviyal.
Aviyal is a wonderful combination of vegetables in a coconut and yogurt gravy, much like our own Majjige Huli.  The actual version calls for the vegetables to swim in the gravy but I did rather have just enough gravy that we could finish the dish in day. We do not appreciate the gravy sans the veggies.
Just about any vegetable can go in there. But my favorite combination is green beans, carrots, ivy gourd, Zucchini and plantain. I would love the snake gourd, raw mangoes (those that are not so tart).
So here is how it goes. This is typically not the way to make Aviyal. The purists will cringe at my handling, But this is more or less how we make Avial's cousin Majjige Huli. I love the idea of mixed vegetables in a Majjige huli like gravy. So here it is.

We will need,

Mixed vegetables 1 lb (cut into 1/8" wide 2" long sticks)
Coconut         1/4 cup grated
Green Chillies 4-5
Coriander a handful
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1 tsp
Coconut oil 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Curry leaves a handful
Yogurt 1/4 cup
Salt to taste

  • Combine the vegetables in a wide mouth pan and about 1/2 a cup of water. Cove and cook the vegetables till they are slightly tender but still crunchy, about 10-15 minutes on medium low heat. Set it aside.
  • Combine the coconut, green chillies, Jeera, coriander, turmeric and 1/4 cup water in a blender and grind till smooth.
  • Place the ground mixture in a thick bottom pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-7  minutes. Add more water if mixture is very thick.
  • Transfer the coconut mixture to the vegetables. 
  • Prepare the oggarane. Heat the coconut oil. Throw in the mustard seeds and hing. Once they crackle throw in the curry leaves. Remove from heat and pour over the vegetables. 
  • Stir in the yogurt simmer the mixture for a few more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with hot rice.

Google reader to be retired


I recently found out that Google is retiring the Reader. All these days I have used the Google Reader to keep in tough with all you folks and your lovely blogs.
My question is how are you people planning to keep in touch? Any tips to depend on Facebook to follow blogs?

Thanks much

Motte Tovve

As I grow older and as I spend more and more time in the kitchen I realize that my idea of a well stocked pantry was too exhaustive. In fact my list can actually be cut down by half. If we are creative, we can dish out excellent and healthy meals with very few ingredients perhaps with what ever we have in the pantry/refrigerator. I have been steadily reducing the number of items in my pantry and still being functional.

This was one such week, I decided not to go grocery shopping until I used up every thinkable ingredient. Finally I was down to two ingredients eggs and split green grams (Hesaru Bele). So this is what I did and we enjoyed the dish so much that it set me thinking on a well-stocked-pantry Vs creativity.

My very good friend A got me an earthen pot from Kerala a few months back. I just love it.She had it seasoned in India too. It was a breeze to use, but so much better than any other pot I have used till date. This earthen pots make the best of Tovve, dals and of course fish curries.  I have tried a number of dals in this pot and all of it tasted great. The dal miraculously turns silky, rich and delicious even without any additional fat. So lets get cooking in an earthen pot.

Split washed Moong dal (Hesaru bele) 1/2 cup
Turmeric a  generous pinch +1/4 tsp
Eggs 4
Ghee 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder 2 tsp
Dhania powder 2 tsp
Tomatoes 1 chopped
Garam Masala 1/4 tsp
Fresh coriander a handful
lemon juice and salt to taste

  • Wash the dal in several changes of water. Combine it with 2 cups of water, a pinch turmeric and a touch of ghee and pressure cook till  the dal is soft.  (I cooked my dal in the earthen pot)
  • Hard boil the eggs, shell it and keep it aside. (If you do not mind the green ring, pressure cook the eggs with the dal)
  • Heat the ghee in a pan. Throw in the mustard and jeera. Once they splutter, add the hing, chilli powder, turmeric and dhania powder. 
  • Throw in the tomatoes right after the spices. Cook till the tomatoes soften. 
  • Now gently lower the eggs and saute the eggs till all sides are colored.
  • Transfer the eggs and spices to the dal. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Add more water if needed. 
  • Fold in the Garam Masala. Adjust salt and lemon juice.
  • Finish with coriander. Serve hot with rice or a bread of your choice.

Morning Glory Slice

It is matter of few weeks. I got tired of fixing breakfast every morning. No we are not cereal-out-of-the-box or bread kind of people. We are Dose-Paddu-Chapati-Akki rotti kind of people. I felt like I needed a break from the first dish of the day but I wanted to make something rather healthful. So I decided to make morning glory muffins. But I did not have a proper muffin tin, I converted the muffin into a slice. Just that the slices were a little to small and we had to eat two of them to get the feeling of eating a decent breakfast. I love the muffins at King Arthur . But like always, I need to add and subtract from the recipe to make it my own.This particular recipe yielded the most tender and moist muffins ever. They were also rather rich. It is fine for a few days but long term this is again something that did make you regret every time you try to get into that new pair of jeans.

We will need,

Craisins 1/2 cup
Whole wheat pastry flour 1.5 cups
All purpose flour 1/2 cup
Sugar 3/4 cup (Can be increased upto 1 cup. But I found 3/4 to be rather too sweet for my taste)
Baking Soda 2 tsp
Cinnamon 1.5 tsp
Ginger ground 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg 1/8 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Grated carrots 1 cups tightly packed.
Large apple grated and pealed 1
Kopra 1/2 cup
Almonds 1/2 cup chopped fine
Sunflower seeds 1/3 cup
Sunflower oil 1/2 cup
Eggs 3
Vanilla extract
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2 lime

  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease and line a loaf pan. (One of those largish loaf pans. If smaller use two loaf pans)
  • Soak the Craisins in hot water. Set it aside. 
  • Mix in all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. (flour, baking soda, sugar, salt and spices)
  • In another mixing bowl stir in the wet ingredients like eggs, oil, carrots, apple, orange juice, lime juice. Combine all the ingredients well. 
  • Stir the nuts and seeds into the wet ingredients. 
  • Drain the craisins and toss them into the dry mixture. Make a well in the dry mixture and pour the wet ingredients. Gently mix everything together until just combined. I read somewhere that anything more than 50 strokes will make the muffins dry and tough. I agree. 
  • Pour it into the loaf pan and bake till a toothpick inserted comes out dry about 30  minutes in my oven. 
  • Remove onto a wire rack and allow it to cool. Once completely cooled slice the loaf and store it in an air tight jar for at least a week. Mine did not last past the week end. We are a grazing family you know.
Well actually I cannot think if this is a good breakfast recipe or is it a dessert recipe. Because we ate it both ways, I will label it thus.

Kayi Obbattu

Ugadi is just round the corner. Ugadi is the first day of our calender and therefore celebrated by all communities across the Kannada heartland. It is probably the one of the two festivals that is widely celebrated back home, the other being Deepawali. Traditional Ugadi celebrations are best observed in smaller towns and cities. Bangalore being so cosmopolitan these days Ugadi in Bangalore is just like any other day. But growing up in Mysore and a host of other smaller towns and cities in Karnataka, my memories of Ugadi is all about food, family and gambling. While food and family are the usual suspects, gambling is rather unusual right. But well that was the tradition. I still remember tents and pandals being set up by the road side, in parks and essentially every where there is space enough to hold those tents. Those tents and pandals serve as makeshift gambling dens. It is perfectly legal to gamble and to set up gambling facilities on and around Ugadi. So any body is free to gamble and have a good time on Ugadi. Las Vegas? yes please, they did do it on Ugadi. So after the ritualistic bath, wearing new clothes, pooja, partaking of the prasadas and 'Bevu-Bella' a combination of Neem blossoms and jaggery (which is a our way of paying tribute to both good and bad in life) we indulge in one serious meal. Then off to gambling. We never visited any of those dens but we would play a game or two of cards at home and my father would give us money regardless of who won the game. I love Ugadi and hope this new year fills our lives with all joys and just a touch of Neem.
Here is Kayi Obbattu. Obbattu and Ugadi goes together. But the one with 'bele' or dal is traditionally made the same day. But if you are looking forward to a make ahead Obbattu, it is Kayi obbattu. It is festive, tasty but also good made ahead.

We will need,

Coconut grated 3 cups
Jaggery roughly crushed 2-3 cups (2 would do for me, but FIL likes it sweeter )
Cardamon 2 (seeds crushed and the skin discarded)
Poppy seeds 2 tbsp (toasted and ground)

For the dough:
All purpose flour 1 (may be 1.5 cups)
Salt pinch
Turmeric pinch
Oil 3 tbsp

  • Sift flour with turmeric. Stir in the salt. Dump the flour on to a large plate. Make a well in the center of the well. Pour water into the well a little by little and start combing the flour and the water, making a dough much softer than chapati dough. Knead the dough very well, like while making bread. The dough is ready when it is very stretchy. Pour the oil on top of the dough and cover with a damp cloth and rest it for at least 2 hours
  • Combine the coconut, cardamon and the poppy seeds in the food processor and process till the they are well combined and the coconut has become rather homogenous.  Do not add water while processing the mixture. 
  • Remove the coconut into a thick bottom non-stick skillet. Throw in the jaggery, cook till the jaggery has melted and the mixture comes together. Remove from heat and set it aside to cool. The sweet filling /hurana is ready to go.
  • Pinch small balls of dough and roll the filling into small balls as well.
  • On a greased plastic sheet, roll out the dough balls into circles of 3" diameter using your fingers. Place the filling and pinch the dough to close the filling.
  • Using your fingers, roll the stuffed dough ball into 8-9" circles.
  • Ideally the filling should be uniformly distributed and the flour skin should be as thin as possible, so trying to achieve the ideal is a good idea. Mine is never perfect, but in my quest for the perfect, i end up making decent stuff..
  • Heat a griddle. When smoking, grease it with ghee. Place the rolled out obbattu on to the griddle. cook of both sides with oodles of ghee.
  • Serve it hot or at room temperature. If storing to be consumed later, cool it completely and store it in air-tight boxes between parchment sheets.

Badam Puri

Badam puri also known as Surali puri is one of those old fashioned sweets which were very popular back in the days when everything home made was the only option. I remember my grand mother making this for important occasions. She made it for our house warming ceremony and for my cousins naming ceremony. Those were the days when women in family gathered to cook elaborate meals for 100-200 people. Catering was as common as it is today. Everything had to be cooked at home and offered to gods before it was served to guests. Today life is much simpler. Call a caterer and the food will arrive just in time and of course they will serve, clean etc. Our generation of women never got to huddle  in front of the giant temporary wood burning stoves and gossip as we stirred the giant vats of curry. Instead we can huddle up in front of the TV and comment on how silly the heroine looks!

We will need,

All purpose flour 1/2 cup
Chiroti Rawa (cream of wheat) 1/2 cup
Salt a pinch
Ghee 1/4 cup
Orange food colour (optional, I dont use it)
Sugar 1.5 cups
Saffron a few strands
Kopra 1/4 cup grated
Cardamon 2 pods
Refined oil to deep fry (I prefer sunflower oil)

  • Pour the flour, chiroti rawa, food colour and salt into a deep mixing bowl. Stir in water a little by little till the mixture forms a tight dough. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set it aside to rest.
  • Mean time, heat sugar and 1 cup of water over medium heat. Bring it to a boil. Throw in the saffron. Simmer till it attains a single thread consistency i.e. when the syrup is pulled between the thumb and the fore finger, it forms a single thread. Remove from heat and set it aside.
  • Set a wok on the stove with the sunflower oil. Heat it till the oil shimmers. 
  • Meantime start rolling out the Puris. Pinch a lime size dough and roll it out like a roti. Brush it with ghee and fold it into a semi circle. Brush it once again with ghee and fold it once more to get something of a triangle.
  • Drop the triangles into hot oil. Deep fry till golden in color. The golden ones will be flaky and tender while a deeper golden brown color will yield Puris that are softer and chewier.
  • Dip the hot puris in the sugar syrup and set it aside. Repeat till all the dough is exhausted.
  • Crush the cardamon seeds and mix it with the Kopra.
  • Sprinkle the kopra-cardamon on top of the Puris. Store them in a air-tight box for upto a week.

Huli Pudi

When do cooks back home feel they have come of age and are no longer amateurs in the kitchen? My answer would be when you make pickles and pudis. I few weeks back I ran out of my stash of Huli Pudi that my MIL brought last summer. I had been conserving it for quite some time but I had to see the bottom of the bottle one fine day. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to do what was needed. I had the recipe from my grandmother who makes the best in the world Huli Pudi. So I set out to make Huli Pudi for the first time.
It was a long labour intensive process. Imagine with food processors we feel it is time and labour intensive, if only I was born in the previous century I did be pounding the wicked spices as it blew into my lungs! huff huff. I know that is how my grandmother started making it. Some where later in her life that those flour mills started to pop up and she got the wicked spices ground at those noisy mills.
This time my pudi turned out sort of good, not as half as good as my grandmother, not as good as my mother or MIL would make but still I prefer this over the silly stuff sold in Indian stores labeled 'Sambar Powder'.

Here we go,

Chillies  1/2 kg
Dhania 1/2 kg
Jeera 360 grams
Pepper 60 grams
Turmeric 60 grams
Hing 60 grams
Channa Dal 120 grams
Uddina Bele 120 grams
Fenugreek seeds 120 grams
Mustard seeds 120 grams
Curry leaves 2 giant bunches (washed and dried)
Cinnamon 50 grams
Marati Moggu 3-4
Jaggery 60 grams
Salt a generous fist full

  • Measure out all the spices carefully and keep it handy. A choice of chillis can be used. I prefer 3/4 Byadagi  and 1/4 Guntur or the spicy varieties because Sunny boy still prefers milder food. My grandmother and mother do  1:1 for Byadagi:Guntur.
  • Open windows if any all over the house. Turn on the exhaust at full speed.
  • Set a heavy kadai on medium flame. One the kadai is hot, start toasting the Dhania. When the Dhania is toasted and is fragrant, remove into a big wide platter and allow it to cool.
  • Mean time, start toasting the other spices one at a time starting with the spice after Dhania up until curry leaves.
  • Once the curry leaves are done start toasting the chillies. This one is the wickedest of all. It will make us cough and gasp for breath. Toast them till they change color.
  • Remove the chillies to the same platter. Allow it to cool.
  • Once cold throw in the Jaggary and salt. Grind the spice mixture in a coffee grinder till fine but still has some texture left.
  • Combine the ground spices in the large platter and allow it to cool slightly. Mix the spice blend using a dry spatula. 
  • Once the spices are cool, fill it in bottles and use as required.
Thanks Chitz and Nagashree  for thinking of me
  1. If you were allowed to change something about yourselves, what would that be? :I would definitely be more organized and be detail oriented. 
  2. Your favorite time pass other than cooking :Reading
  3. According to you which is most important in a blog - presentation, recipe or pictures? : Well I did say the story
  4. Your ultimate dream: Win a lottery perhaps?
  5. Three qualities you would love to see in others: Patience, kindness and reason
  6. One prank that you played on someone: write anonymous love letter to a friend and giggle when she did show it to us.
  7. Your favorite vacation spot: erstwhile Kovalam beach
  8. Cooking according to you is: stress buster
  9. Who influences you the most? Like you would always listen to what this person says: my mom
  10. Your favorite dessert: Rasgolla
  11. One habit that you cannot change for life: over-eating when I like something.
Here are a set of questions Nagashree sent me.
  1. What was your reaction when you received the Liebster award? :Wow 
  2. What do you most look forward to with your blogging? Comments
  3. What is your all time favorite ingredient or spice in cooking? Ghee
  4. Do you always give credit to a recipe source or blogger when you use one? yes
  5. What are your hobbies outside of food blogging? reading and eating
  6. What appeals to you most in other food blogs (writing style, blog layout and visual appeal, pictures, recipes and anything else)? story and the pictures
  7. How has blogging changed your life? Make new friends with the same feathers
  8. How do you feel about plagiarism in food blogs? uh! despicable , come on gals it is supposed to be a creative outlet.
  9. Who is the one person that influenced you most in starting your blog? LG
  10. Who is your all time favorite cook/chef and why? Jacques Pepin, his philosophy is waste not want not. Love it.
  11. What is cooking currently in your kitchen?Mixed vegetables from left over vegetables.

Spring Break Brownie

It is time for spring break in this corner of the world. Sunny boy too enjoyed a sort of spring break last week. We had a wonderful time. We hit a milestone that I have been looking forward for a long time. We baked together for the first time. No prize for guessing that we did a brownie. Sunny boy helped me measure out everything. He stirred the mixture and of course he licked my beaters clean.
I have always had him in my kitchen as I cooked. Long before he was 15 months old he knew the names of the vegetables and ingredients.  This very morning he was playing with his father and then all of a sudden he said, "Appa, will you please move away a bit?" Honey was perplexed and asked him why. Sunny boy said, "I am preparing Oggarane and it will splatter all over you". It make my heart puff up in joy. Like me my son. I am so very looking forward to having him in the kitchen and of course cook with him. I certainly hope that when he grows up, he will put together healthy from the scratch meals for his family in which ever part of the world he did be.

The brownie we put together was gone before I could snap a few pictures. But here is the journey which was way better than the destination. Sunny boy mixing batter. The end product looked like it was over mixed. The brownie had a cake like texture to it because of the over mixing. But  Sunny boy liked it anyway.Between me and him, we polished half the 8" we made that day.

After mixing the batter and popping it into the oven, Sunny boy got to lick the beaters.By the way, licking is supposed to be very bad etiquette back home. That is a strict no no. My grand mother would be livid if she gets to see this. Any way grand mother is  far away from my kitchen and will probably not eat any thing from my kitchen any way.
In short, we had a great time! I cannot believe that my little sunny baby is old enough to cook with me.

Tondekayi Fry

After three short years my laptop battery decided to die on me stalling my life as a blogger for weeks. Just happened to receive my shipment and guess what the first thing on my mind, write up a post. I have a bunch of photographs from the previous weeks that needs to be done and sent to blogger heaven!

Here is the first one. Tondekayi or the Tindora /Ivy goud is one of my favorite vegetables. It makes a wonderful Huli, Palya and also Gojju. This one is a fry. In my lexicon, that means a more elaborate dish than a Palya but less so than a Gojju. Mom makes a delicious version but that one seems to take forever and also she uses like a cup of oil for every kilo of the vegetable which is a little too much even by my standard. But sure enough it is absolutely tastey. This version is my modified version with much less oil almost the bang taste wise.

We will need,

Ivy Gourd/Tondekayi/ Tindora 2 lbs (cleaned slit into four length wise, ends discarded)
Peanut oil 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Curry leaves a handful
Turmeric a generous pinch
Green chillies 4-5 chopped
Dhania powder 1.5 tsp
Jeera powder 1 tsp
Jaggery  about a tsp crushed
Amchoor powder 1.5 tsp
Kopra 1/4 cup (coarsely powdered)
Salt to taste

  • Heat peanut oil in a non-stick wide bottom skillet. 
  • Throw in the mustard, Jeera, Hing and curry leaves. Once they stop sizzling, throw in the Ivy Gourd. Cover and cook for about 7-10 minutes till they are every so slightly tender. 
  • Throw in all the spice powders, stir well cover and cook till three fourth cooked. It took me about 10 minutes on very low heat. 
  • Once the Ivy gourds are tender-crisp, throw in the Kopra, adjust salt and remove from heat immediately. 
  • Serve hot with hot rice and a little ghee. Goes well with Rotis as well.

Pinto Beans Toge

Winter is such a sad time for a vegetable lover like me. There are very few great looking produce in the super markets. So this is the time of the year that I end up buying all kinds of beans and lentils. This past week I got a big bag of Pinto beans. They looked good and they ended up in my Toge. The toge was rich and creamy and very rich even though there was hardly any added fat.
We ate this with Chapatis. I can imagine this particular dish going very well with rice.

We will need,

Pinto Beans 1 cup
Turmeric a pinch
Hing a generous dash
Coconut oil / peanut oil 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Onions 1 large
Tomatoes 2 medium
Garlic 2 cloves
Dhania powder 2 tsp
Red chilli powder 1 tsp (more if preferred spicy)
Jeera Powder 2 tsp
Green chillies 2 
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  •  Pick and clean the pinto beans. Wash it in multiple changes of water. Soak it in a wide mouth bowl with  plenty of water overnight. 
  • Drain the pinto beans place it in a pressure cooker along with 2 cups of water, hing and turmeric. Cook till the beans are soft. (As my mom tells me, its  belly should be soft enough to squeeze). Set it aside.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottom pot. Throw in the mustard seeds. 
  • Once the seeds splutter, throw in the onions. Cook till the onions are deep brown in colour. Keep stirring making sure they do not burn.
  • Once the onions are brown, throw in the garlic and cook for a minute or so just to get the garlic warmed up a bit. 
  • Throw in all the powders. Stir the mixture and cook for a few minutes till the spices are aromatic. 
  • Throw in the tomatoes along with all their juices. Pick up the masala and onion bits from the bottom of the pot. 
  • Add a little water if the spices are burning. Cook till the tomatoes are mushy and the spices have come together. 
  • Pour the beans along with the water into the Masala. Bring it to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.
  • Adjust salt and lemon. Throw the green chillies slit length wise. Cover and remove from heat. Serve warm with rice or roti.

Mushroomy Onion Soup

I had heard so much about the french onion soup. I had to try it. Long long ago, when I landed a job, I took Honey out for a treat to a local restaurant. I saw the soup on the menu and was very excited about trying it. I asked the waitress if the soup contained meat. She said no. I was ecstatic. I ordered the soup ate it and enjoyed it. As a new bee to this country and to the culture, I did no know the difference between 'something containing meat' and something being 'vegetarian'. It did hit me like a tonne of bricks watching a cookery show where they called for beef stock in their french onion soup. The next time we were in the same restaurant I asked the waitress the right question. No it was not vegetarian. I did not want to know what was in there. It was sad. So if you are new to the States and what to know if the food is vegetarian, shoot the straight question. Never try to state a complicated problem the way I did.
The was my only experience with the soup. But I did enjoy the soup. I had been thinking of making my own version of the soup. This time I did and loved it. It is quite simple to substitute chicken stock/beef stock call for in most recipes. Just use Porcini/ dried shiitake mushrooms. Soak them and use the soaking liquid as a substitute to stock. Throw in a few bay leaves, cloves and a piece of cinnamon. The broth will be as flavorful as any meat based stock. I routinely use this method and get excellent results all the time. The Shiitake mushrooms does smell sort of fishy but I am ok with it. I did rather do the fishy mushroom than an over processed junk called bouillon/ stock cubes. Just a look at the ingredient list of the cubes is good enough to put me off for the rest of my life. No thanks Nestle, I am good on my own.

We will need,

Mushrooms 1/2 lb chopped
Onions 2 large chopped
Shiitake mushrooms 5-6 caps soaked in hot water
Kashmiri chilli (dried)-1
Butter 1 tbsp
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Garlic 2 cloves
Soy sauce to taste
Rice vinegar/ lemon juice to taste
Ginger root 1/2"
Mint for garnish.

  • Heat the butter and oil in a thick bottom pot. Throw in the chopped  onion. Cook the onions till the onions are deep brown in colour. Keep stirring making sure that the onions do not burn. It took me about 30 minutes to get there.
  • Push the onions to the side and throw the chopped garlic. Cook for a quick minute.
  • Throw in the chopped mushrooms , the soaking liquid. 
  • Chop the shiitake mushroom and throw them into the pot as well.
  • Puncture the Kashmiri chilli and throw it  into the soup pot. Bring it to a boil.
  • Simmer and cook till the mushrooms are tender and the soup has come together.
  • Adjust the soy sauce and vinegar.
  • Garnish with fresh slivers of ginger and chopped mint. Serve warm with some crusty bread or with cheese toasts.

Spicy Orange Baby Bok Choy

Sunny boy wants to be a chef these days. He is in the kitchen all the time, trying his little hands in making one pretend dish after another. After endless chocolate, strawberry pancakes, Doses and Paddus, he finally graduated into a dish of his own. He said he was making 'strawberry chicken and ......may be banana chicken'. I am like wow! He will probably grow into a foodie like me. That reminded me of orange in savory foods and I had to try it. Soon enough, I got a box of baby bok choy. Any way there are not many options during this time of the year, except for greens, leeks and mushrooms. So Bok Choy it was in a sort of orange glaze. I make a generous batch of this glaze and enjoyed it over cheese toast, over shredded Romain and will be trying it on a lot of other things as well. It is a super yummy versatile glaze/ chutney.

We will need,

Baby Bok Choy 1 lb
Peanut oil 1 tbsp
Garlic cloves 2 
Ginger 1/2"
Oranges 2
Soy sauce 2 tsp
Chilli flakes 1 generous pinch
Sugar scant tsp
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  • Sqeeze the juice from and orange, place it in a thick bottom sauce pan. Heat and reduce the juice to half.
  • Stir in the soy sauce, sugar and chilli flakes. Cook it down till it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and refrigerate it in a air tight bottle.
  • Trim and clean the Bok Choy. Separate the white parts and the green parts.
  • Heat peanut oil. Throw in the garlic and ginger. Once the garlic is golden, throw in the white part of the Bok Choy. Saute it till it softened a bit. 
  • Now throw in the green parts and cover and cook just for a couple of minutes till the greens slightly wilt. 
  • Remove it to a serving platter. Drizzle the orange glaze, salt and lemon juice and serve immediately.

Lentil and Spinach Soup

They say Indian Agriculture is a gamble with the weather gods. My blogging shares a similar equation with the weather gods.  If the weather is bright and sunny, I get a chance to get some decent photographs. If I have decent photographs in my folder, I force myself to weave a story around it. Once I have a story ready, I can have the post up and running in no time. But the past few weeks, I have been at the loosing end and the weather gods have been brutal. It was one cloudy day after another and then another and it stretched into weeks. I tried my best to cox my camera to click some decent photos, but the camera could do just as much and gave me sub-par output. I kept deleting picture after picture and the entire fortnight went without a decent picture. Today the sun god was merciful enough peek through the clouds just long enough for me to get a few pictures. So here it is, a lentil soup.
I love lentils. Right now I am also loving soups. The mercury plunged long and deep enough to freeze my bones that even a spring like day a couple of days ago could not thaw it. So I am attempting to thaw my frozen bones with bowls full of spicy soups. Sometimes it does help.
I call this one a soup because we ended up eating it out of a bowl. I can equally enjoy the soup in the form of a Saaru, generously poured over hot rice with may be a dash of ghee. Serve it which ever way you like.

We will need,

Lentils / Sabuth Masoor dal  1/2 cup
Turmeric a generous pinch
Hing a generous pinch

Kashmir chillies 2

Garlic 2 cloves
Onion 1 small
Spinach 1 lb chopped
Ghee 2 tbsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  • Boil about 1/4 cup of water, throw in the chillies and cover it for a few minutes.
  • Pick and wash the lentils in multiple changes of water. Combine it with 2 cups of water, hing and turmeric in a pressure cooker and cook the dal till soft. Remove from heat and set it aside.
  • Skin the onions, stick it to a fork and hold it on to the stove flame till the onion develops blisters and is slightly charred. Remove from heat.
  • Now combine the soaking chillies, the soaking liquid, garlic and the charred onions in a blender and pulse till smooth.
  • Heat ghee in a pot. Throw in the Jeera. Once the Jeera sizzles, gently pour the chilli paste. The mixture will splatter and got to be careful with this one. Cook till the spices are fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Pour the cooked dal and the cooking liquid into the spice mixture and bring it to a quick boil.
  • Once it boils, reduce heat and fold in the spinach. Give it a few minutes. Adjust salt and lemon juice. Remove from heat. Serve hot like a soup or over a bowl of rice.
I would have loved the spinach to retain the vibrant green, indeed it was yesterday but sitting in the refrigerator overnight the spinach has become dull. Thanks to the weather gods. Had the sun made an appearance yesterday, the photograph would have been a lot more vibrant.  I loose the gamble once again. 

Eggplant Salad / Badanekayi Salad

Eggplant aka Brinjal aka Aubergines, are versatile vegetables. They are great in curries, steamed, fried, grilled, in pickles, pizzas, with rice ....the list goes on. I love them. I got to pile them onto my cart every time I look at them in the super market. It reminds me of a friend who I happened to meet in the supermarket, back during my university days. I was as usual piling on more eggplants. This friend smiled at me looking at all the eggplants in my basket and said earnestly, 'Anybody can cook with these many eggplants and not go wrong'. I smiled and nodded. Another friend who was with me was almost giggling. She hated eggplants and could horribly go wrong with them. We looked at each other and reminded ourselves of the dangers of blanket statements.

Today, I have some eggplant salad. Well I would say this is just a twist on good old Badanekayi Gojju . It is just jazzed up a bit and served in a fancy way.

We will need,

Eggplant 1 (the giants one)
Peanut oil 2 tsp (divided)
Peanuts 3 tbsp (about a handful)
Green chillies 2-3 (chopped)
Grape tomatoes 4-5 chopped
Ginger 1" (grated)
Soy sauce 1-2 tsp
Juice of one lemon
Fresh Coriander  a handful (chopped)

To serve,
Romaine lettuce 1

  • Slice the eggplants into 1/4" discs.  Heat a skillet with about 1/2 tsp of oil. Saute the eggplant slices, if necessary in batches. Remove once it is soft.
  • In a separate  skillet, toast the peanuts and remove from heat once fragrant. Set it aside to cool.
  • In a bowl, mix the green chillies, ginger, soy sauce, lemon juice, grape tomatoes and fresh coriander.
  • Chop the cooled eggplants into bite size pieces. Crush the cooled peanuts.
  • Stir the eggplants, the green chillies mixture and peanuts. Check taste and adjust salt-lemon juice. Sit this mixture for a few hours.
  • Clean the lettuce and shred the into large pieces. 
  • Place the lettuce on serving platter and fill the lettuce with spoonfuls of eggplant mixture. Serve immediately.