mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Caronde Hari Mirch ki Sabzi

In From the Garden, Fruit, on the side, Pickles, Under 30 min!, Uttar Pradesh, Vegetarian on June 21, 2016 at 7:56 pm

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The summer bounty of produce from the garden that can be made into chutneys, pickles, and jams has started. The first to arrive are the fallen mangoes that I usually make into a quick-pickle or a sweet mango chutney. But, this year, owing to Mum’s house crawling with workers (we are renovating) there weren’t many left for us. In fact, most of the low-hanging fruit disappeared from the trees while still quite green.

The army of kids of the caretaker in the neighbour’s house have also been very kind to pluck a good portion of the higher-up fruits off the tree that abuts the common wall. I will likely have fewer mangoes that will need to be processed into jam. They have also had a free run of the carondas from the bush that is planted in the front yard. Limes have started ripening; I plucked a few from my tree this morning.

My dad remembers his ‘foraging’ days in Kashmir and lets the children be. The caronda shrub is heavily laden and has yielded enough for them and us. I shared some with friends and neighbours as well. There should be an even bigger crop around September, after the rains. That is when I will make Caronde ki Chutney to keep till next year. To start the season off I made this simple caronde-mirch ki sabzi, more a pickle than a sabzi really, that takes all of ten minutes to put together. It makes a great accompaniment to North Indian food and is just the kind of side to perk up those taste buds overwhelmed by this muggy weather.

Preserved Labneh (Labneh Korat)

In Dips and Spreads, on the side, Preserves, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on May 28, 2016 at 4:08 pm

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Labneh is a staple in my fridge. It is versatile and we love to lather it on to toasted bread or roti for a quick breakfast on the run, or serve it with crackers over drinks. Imagine my delight when on my recent trip to Jordan I discovered that it was possible to ‘pickle’ it! This meant I could share my love for both, labneh and pickles, with friends in one jar!

At home, we are not drinking much milk these days and I end up turning most of it into dahi.  When I run out of containers to make dahi in and it’s staring at me from every shelf in the fridge, it’s time for labneh-making. Now, it seems I have an even better deal with these labneh balls. I have served them earlier as cheese balls rolled in nuts and spices but didn’t know that I could put them in a jar, drown them in olive oil and have another pickle of sorts on my hand. They have their own name too – Labneh Korat (Balls of Labneh!). They make a handy addition to a breakfast or mezze spread.

So here is this traditional Levantine recipe for my pickle and preserve loving readers. To prepare the labneh for making balls it needs to be drained longer than for making a regular creamy spread; 12 hours or overnight should do the job. Place a large piece of muslin over a non-reactive pot and tip dahi into it, mix in a good amount of salt – most of it will drain away anyway with the whey. Tie into a bundle and hang to drain overnight. Untie and transfer the drained dahi into a bowl. Taste and mix in more salt, if needed. Labneh served in Jordan is extremely salty which also helps preserve it for longer. Preserved this way it can stay for six months to a year!

Eating my way through Jordan – A Day in Amman

In Road Trip, Road Trip, Travel on May 26, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Up until last month my travels through the Middle East had been restricted to the airports of some of the bigger cities there – Dubai, Doha, and Abu Dhabi – when flying back and forth between the US and Delhi during my 3 years of grad school. But earlier this month I got an opportunity to visit Jordan and it became my window to the Arabic world.

For neighbours it has Syria, Iraq, and Israel, countries associated with war and disturbance. The region that was once the Cradle of Civilization might as well be called the cradle of instability today. Murmurs within the family doubting the wisdom of my choice for travel were only natural with even the son voicing concern (wow, he’s all grown up!).

And here I am, after spending a week in the gorgeous desert country of Jordan to tell you that it is as safe as traveling to those places for which there are no advisories. The people there are friendly, most speak English, there is lots of fresh vegetarian food to chose from (yes, I do prefer to eat mostly vegetarian), and the US Dollar is as legit as the Jordanian Dinar. Mental conversion is also quick and easy for us Indians; 1JD=₹100!

We took off on an early morning AirArabia* flight and arrived at the Queen Alia International Airport (Amman) via Sharjah absolutely sleep deprived. There was no time to waste. A quick shower fixed us up for the moment and we reported promptly for lunch. We were spoiled for choice at the lavish buffet lunch at the Crown Plaza Amman. The centerpiece of the spread was a pilaf – lamb shoulder with rice. But before that I piled my plate with all the mezze fixings – got to eat your salads first! There was an entire counter devoted to pickles – imagine my delight. Pickled olives, chillies, cucumbers, gerkins, and even eggplant stuffed with chillies! The black olives on offer here were surely the best on the trip.