I was gushing about the April Fool’s Blog Swap to my schoolfriend. She was not very impressed and instead she drove the conversation in another direction:
So you meet these people on the Internet and they become your friends?
Um, yeah. Well, some of them even become very good friends…
How do you know if the woman isn’t really a neurotic man or a psychotic killer? And when you do meet him, he stabs you in the back!
Gulp! I sent a very sharp knife to Anita recently and was angling to be adopted. What was I thinking?
So my post began when I started writing it almost two weeks ago…
Life has served a few surprises since then and I have been at a total loss – numbed into inaction and unable to digest the news. It’s the big C. One of my closest friends has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and unfortunately the prognosis is rather bleak. While she snapped into action, writing list after list of things that needed to done; I switched off and slept. As did this post – until we met to celebrate her and her life. We laughed, we hugged, we cried and we laughed some more – each of us hoping for a miracle. The mood switched from very sombre to reflective and appreciative of what we do have at this very moment – and fortunately for all of us, that is the mood that persists.
So, pour yourself a cup of tea as I dedicate this post to my friend Francie and do my best to hand this blog back to its soul. Tea is an important ingredient for a party on this mad blog, right?
It’s been a stormy spring in Colorado with the weather swinging between tee-shirt-and-shorts weather to winter coats every other day. Just last week we went from a bright, sunny and windy 82F to cold and snowy 32F in less than 24 hours. And while some of you might recoil in horror, this is typical spring weather for us. March is the snowiest month for the mountains, followed by April. And we don’t complain when some of that white goodness brings moisture to us in the semi-arid foothills. It’s very normal for us to fire up our grills and have a barbecue on the patio one evening, and then huddle over a warm soup or stew the next evening as we watch the white come down. April also happens to be a celebratory month for my family and I. It’s a time when we bring out the family album and rib Medha for not being invited to a small but special party, our wedding. It is also the month that I really got my food blog going. My other food blog, that is. And each year, we celebrate by having a special home-cooked meal.
This year, Gujarati kadhi was on the most-wanted list. Especially since I have been able to reverse engineer to perfection the kadhi that Vimlaben brought with her straight from Nadiad to Hoboken. Over a decade and a half ago , when my sister first told me she had a ‘housekeeper’, I did not know what to expect. There she was, a diminutive lady dressed in a sari with sock-clad feet and a voice that bounced off the walls and made them reverberate. We warmed up to her immediately and she reciprocated with simple yet very satiating meals. Vimlaben had her quirks – very little hing and next to no turmeric powder but lots of ginger and a truckload of garlic, whenever she could get away with it.
Our anniversary dinner was an ode to many. Gujarati kadhi for Vimlaben, vangi bhath because we like to take a dip every now and then, kaachi-paaki for my sister’s mother-in-law who has had a great influence on my cooking, and lime pickle to remind us of the goodness of the sun. All vegetarian to honor my friend Francie. And, all yellow! Naturally, the drink of choice was a light beer. Medha had orange juice.
Vimlaben ni Gujarati Kadhi
- 2-3 tsp oil
- 2 cups low-fat or fat-free yogurt, slightly sour
- 2 tbsp besan or gram flour
- 4-5 cups water
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- pinch asafetida, or not
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1-2 hot green chilli peppers, sliced into two vertically
- 8-10 fresh curry leaves
- 6 cloves
- 1/8 tsp turmeric powder, or not
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1.5 tbsp sugar (use about 1tbsp Indian sugar, since it is sweeter)
- 6-7 sprigs of cilantro, chopped fine
- salt to taste
- Whisk the yogurt with besan until there are no lumps. If you see any lumps, break them with your fingers and whisk some more.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and toss in mustard seeds.
- When they crackle and pop, add asafetida, followed by cumin seeds, green chillies, curry leaves, and cloves. Ensure that the spices do not burn.
- Add turmeric powder and then add the yogurt and besan mixture.
- Turn the heat to medium and stir the mixture briskly for a couple of minutes until it thickens ever so slightly. You will feel the change in consistency as you continue to stir.
- Only then add water slowly to the mixture, while stirring and mixing continuously.
- Fish for the green chillies and discard them. Their job is done.
- Add grated ginger and sugar.
- Bring to a boil at least 3-4 times. Each time the kadhi threatens to boil over, reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes and boil again. If you have the time, allow it to simmer for as long as possible instead of bringing it to a brisk boil each time. If you do simmer it for a long time, be sure to adjust the amount of water (and salt) to bring it to a pouring consistency that is not too thick.
- This kadhi goes from the stove to the table. So just a few minutes before serving, add the chopped cilantro and continue to simmer until you are ready to take it to the table.
Cloves add a wonderful dimension to this Nadiadi kadhi. The flavor hits you in the back of your throat and it leaves you wanting more and more of the same. What I also like about this kadhi is that it is not overly sweet and the sugar actually complements this flavor, instead of competing with it. It can be served with plain steamed rice, too. Or a vegetable pulao.
- Most seasoned cooks add water to the yogurt mixture before heating it. I prefer to heat the yogurt+besan mixture until it thickens and only then add water slowly to the mixture. It serves two purposes: the yogurt never curdles and the besan cooks quickly, avoiding what is often called the “raw smell” of besan.
- You could keep the green chillies but we prefer the flavor of green chillies and the heat of the cloves rather than have the heat of the green chillies compete with the cloves.
- You could omit the sugar but then this would not be Gujarati kadhi anymore. And it certainly would not be Vimlaben ni kadhi.
I am sending this yellow meal to Barbara for LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow 2008.
It’s been a fun month and a great party! We did manage to trick folks well into April even though most of you didn’t really buy the blog swap. But seriously, have you come across a better April Fool’s trick? Anita and I could not have pulled this off if we did not share a very interesting friendship, separated as we are by several thousand miles and having never met. No! Ours is not an internet romance and we don’t want to marry each other. But there is a connection – a bond – that is difficult to put into words.
I have very few close friends, making each one very dear to me. And I have even fewer of the kind who will tell me that I need to use a tissue on my nose or pull out that pesky chin hair. Anita is like that. She gives me her opinion, no holds barred. Sometimes when I don’t want to hear it, too. So knife or no knife, I would not trade our relationship, online or not, for anything in the world.
So with a toast to those gems that make our lives colorful and special, I hand this blog back to its rightful owner. It’s a Mad Tea Party again!
She will be back soon, people! Pictures of fields in your browser coming up …