Peanut Sambal

peanut sambal

[As is usual, this post has been a few days in writing…]

I hope you are having a great feast today on our beloved Krishna’s day of birth.  Today we celebrate a God whose myth recognizes and cherishes much in our very flawed human lives: the innocence of childhood, a mother’s love, the exuberance of youth, trusted friendships, the power of love, and duty above all.  He has been the inspiration for artists, musicians, and writers through ancient time and present.  His love of food, particularly fresh churned butter, laddoo, and of course, Sudama’s sattu makes him a legendary foodie as well.  While today your feast may consist only of vegetarian, grain-free dishes, tomorrow you might want to have a different party.

On most weekend evenings TH and I sit ourselves down with the tipple of choice and munchies such as these on the side.  There is usually a dip: fresh-made tomato salsa or tzatziki.  On Sunday, when the maid gets her day off , I celebrate my freedom from having to supervise her.  I know – you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.  In any case, I am planning to get the maid out of my kitchen for good.  She has been sick and out of circulation for the last three months and I have honestly felt more in charge of my time since I don’t need to disrupt my time in the office to plan her work!  It is so much more efficient when I plan for myself.

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Dried Fish!

Kashmiris have hogaad, (ho- from hoakh – dry, and gaad – fish), tiny dried fish that are cooked with vegetable or greens to up the nutrient quotient, or simply fried in oil to a crisp and served on the side. My mother would add tiny amounts of hogaad to the bags of other foodstuff we would carry back to Delhi from what used to be annual summer visits to Srinagar. The hogaad was out of pure nostalgia I am sure. To my credit, I did taste it every time she cooked some. I wonder how I overcame the stink.

dried fish in Munnar

A year ago browsing around in the market in Munnar I saw piles and piles of all kind of dried fish and other sea creatures. I was struck by the same nostalgia. So I ended up buying a 100 grams of medium-sized dried fish. As you can tell, I cannot tell my fish. I only know big, small, medium or tiny. I gave some to my mother to cook, who is now a vegetarian. She cooked it out of love (and nostalgia) for me and my dad. My dad does not care for hogaad; never did. I tasted some of it and couldn’t figure out why we bother. I have been looking at my portion of dried fish in the jar…for awhile.

nasi goreng

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Curry (leaf) Powder

curryleaf podi

We are well into winter now here in Delhi. Autumn is past; the tiny leaves of Gulmohur have finally done their main shedding. It’s not bare, it never is, but we don’t sweep up a pile of leaves by the gate anymore. This is also the time when a lot of us feel the need to prune some of the evergreens so that there may be just a little more sun on the ground. My curry leaf tree does tend to shade my lime and keeps it from bearing a winter crop. It was also growing a bit too tall with hardly any low handy branches for a quick tempering. So, I had my gardener lop off a few branches last month.

It would have been a shame to have that huge pile of curry leaves go waste. Curry leaf podi has been on my list for a long time. I gathered a bunch of fresh leaves this time, like all the times before, to make into some spicy podi.  I was finally going to have curry powder in my kitchen! Actually, that is not true. I did get myself some of that authentic curry powder on my last visit to the US. My brother-in-law was very kind to give me a big bottle of it which I have used to spice many mixed vegetable stir fries; perfect when I want that exotic twist 🙂 to my everyday Indian.

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Caronde he Caronde

caronde ki chutney

Please don’t mention Caronda* for some time…it is in every jar I had spare!  There is no room for any more pickles or preserves…As I mentioned last time, I made some caronda chutney a week ago, to use up part of my Dad’d harvest from a bush I planted about ten years ago in the front yard of their house.  I used the idea of a sweet-tangy Indian chutney such as saunth (sweet and sour tamarind chutney) or a mango chutney made with unripe mangoes.  The effort was much appreciated. Since it was a trial batch I got just enough to fill two tiny jars that I sent off to my mum and sister.  The next batch was a repeat of the recipe and this time the effort yielded a big jar – plenty, I thought.

There were still some carondas left which then went into a pickle, pits and all, along with some unripe mango, lotus root, and green chillies. I keep that stoneware jar in the sun, what little there is of it at this time, bring it in every evening, and give it a good stir.  It is looking good.

So far so good.  My mum liked the relish a lot.  She doesn’t eat too much pickle because of the high salt content.  I told her that pitting the fruit was a pain in the rear.  She pitted about a kilo with the help of her maid and presented it to me.  I had thought more like: ok, here’s a recipe you might like to try… But I came home and made my third batch of caronda chutney.  This batch had fewer ingredients – I had already used up my dates; no gur – I couldn’t be bothered; less sugar – I had used up a lot of sugar in the past couple of weeks between the caronda relish and the mango jam, and was making statements with big exclamatory marks regarding the sugar content of the chutney.  The fruit for this batch had ripened further on the plant, was a deeper pink, and there was a subtle change in texture too.  What a pretty pink it turned in the pan!  And the texture – why, it reminded me of sour cherries in syrup!  The slight crispness as you bite into one was so similar!  That made me Google for recipes using sour cherries and I found a bunch that hold promise for next year!  I make no promises…but there might even be Caronda Liqueur on these pages one day!

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