Vegan Carrot Kheer

The lock down continues. We are holed up but life goes on.  A good chunk of April is gone. Cherry blossoms came and went. It must be time for Tulips now. Parrot green young leaves are shooting their way out of their winter slumber. It is as if mother earth patiently waited all these months for this warm window to come out and begin her dainty dance.

The grocery situation seems to have eased a bit, or it might just be that people have accepted that this is the new normal and are planning accordingly. We will not know. From the era of social media to that of social distancing, the hill has been too steep. Do I miss the interaction? Not really, video calling family and friends help. Do I miss weekly grocery shopping and maintaining a tight control over the pantry/refrigerator inventory? Yes I do.This stocking up canned vegetables and non-perishables is just not me. I am eagerly waiting to get back to the days of weekly grocery planning and fresh vegetables.

There is one upside to this lock down. I don't remember the last time family has been home this long. Sometimes it gets too much. It is then that I think of the families of 33,000+  people here in USA and 4000+ people in NJ and many more worldwide, who probably will do anything to get their loved ones homes, but cannot.

With the family home, food follows naturally. It so happens that in stressful situations, we naturally seek comfort, be it comfort food, company or comforts of the familiar. Here we are seeking comfort in food as well. Nothing soothes my soul like desserts and sweet dishes. Here is a warm cup of carrot kheer. It is rich and just sweet enough to warm my soul. It is easy and scales up easily.

Here we go. We will need,

Carrots (washed and peeled) 3 big
Cashews raw 12-15
Sugar 2-4 tbsps
Salt a tiny pinch
Nutmeg powder  or saffron or cardamon powder a scant pinch

  • Chop the carrots roughly and combine it with the cashews in a pressure cooker along with 2 cups of water. Cook on medium heat till one whistle. Remove from heat and let the pressure cooker cool.
  • Once it is cool enough to handle,  transfer the carrot mixture to a blender and blend till smooth. Alternately, a hand blender can be used as well. Transfer back to the pot and heat it gently.
  • Stir in sugar a tablespoon at one time, stir , taste and add more if necessary. There are times when I had to stop at the second tablespoon of sugar because the carrots were super sweet. And then there are times when I had to go all the way to 4 tbsp because the carrots were bland. Typically, if they are in season, they are super sweet. 
  • Add the pinch of salt and stir. Add up to another cup of water if the kheer is too thick. It should be drinkable but still creamy and rich. Once the kheer comes up to a gentle boil, remove from heat and throw in the spice (any one of nutmeg, saffron ,cardamon). Enjoy it warm. 
  • It can also be refrigerated and served chilled. If refrigerating, go for a thinner consistency, it tend to get thicker sitting in the refrigerator. 

Puliminchi /Tamarind gravy

Our generation, for the matter or parents' generation has not seen anything like this before. This Wuhan virus pandemic has been an eye opener of sorts. How many of us would have imagined sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, disinfectant wipes, toilet roll and water to disappear from the copious shelves of Costco, Target, Walmart and all other supermarkets? How many of us would have ever prepared ourselves to have kids attend school from home? How about staying home for weeks? How about everyone working from home? Wealthy countries fighting for cargo of masks and gloves and ventilators? air travel pretty much banned across half the world? Not many. But we are here, where sneezing, coughing is suddenly scarier than the idea of crazy gunman. The isolation under a lock down does not help either. It is now a dystopian world where neighbors, mailmen, delivery folks, staff at our favorite restaurants, supermarket clerks, smiley fellow commuters that we know by face, if not by name are all potential asymptomatic carriers and therefore dangerous. Hell, for all we know we might be one of them and might end up killing our beloved grandparents and parents if we are not careful.
How could we let this happen? This is not some nondescript corner of Africa. This is not even the backyard of a great political theater involving foreign drones bombing our towns and cities. Yet, we are here, living under fear, longing for life as usual. I stare outside the window. Far away, I see the top of a cherry blossom tree. The tree knows no Wuhan virus. So she has decided to bloom like every year around this time. She wears her colors with pride. She could care less but I miss walking on the pink carpet around her. I miss the touch of her delicate blossoms after all, she signals the end of cold winters better than Punxsutawney Phil and the blackbirds. I miss the luxury of having a well stocked pantry and refrigerator. I miss well stocked supermarket shelves. How much did I take everything for granted. How privileged I am to be eating well.  I feel guilty too, for being able to afford through price gouging while a whole lot of people have lost their jobs and do not know where their next meal is going to come from. I feel sorry for the families that have lost loved ones needlessly because someone else lied to us and our leaders failed us.

It is in these distressing times many of us seek familiar comfort food. Unfortunately, many stores around here have run out of cake/ cookie/brownie mixes,sugar, flour, chocolate chips, essentially everything associated with comfort foods. That throws another curve ball, yet another adjustment to a new normal...

It is one such day here, a nice bright spring day that I decided to make something special. This is my sister's recipe and family loves it. More than anything else, the ingredient list was fairly short and I had everything on hand.

We will need,

Spices to be toasted:
Cumin 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds 2 tsp
Black pepper corns 3/4 tsp

Ajwain 1/4 tsp
Red chillies  preferably byadagi 5-6 (adjust according to taste)

Coconut  1/3 cup
Garlic 1 clove minced
Onion 1 small minced
Tamarind lime size soaked in warm water
Green chillies 1-2 (adjust according to taste)
Ginger minced
Salt to taste

Eggs(boiled, shelled and lightly fried in a few tsp of oil)  5-6  or
Mackerels (marinated in salt and turmeric, shallow fried lightly in a few tsp of oil)

  • Heat a skillet at medium heat and toast the spices one at a time till fragrant and set it aside. Go for the chillies last and cut off heat, that way chillies will not burn and trigger the smoke detector. 
  • Combine the toasted spices and coconut in a blender and grind the mixture into a fine paste. 
  • Place the spice paste, minced garlic, onion, ginger, green chillies in a wide mouthed pot. Extract the tamarind juice and stir it into the spice + mixture. Thin the mixture with some water if needed and set it on medium heat. 
  • Once the mixture starts bubbling gently, stir in turmeric, salt and let it cook till the gravy is fragrant. 
  • Slip pieces of fish /eggs in the gravy, cover and simmer for a few more minutes till the fish is tender. Try not to stir the fish to avoid breaking them. Instead gently shake the pot.
  • Remove from heat and set it aside for the flavors to combine. The gravy tastes better the longer it sits. Heat it right before serving and enjoy with a bowl of steamed white rice.