In Fruit, Low Fat, Soup, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on January 16, 2016 at 1:02 pm
It got nippy and there it stayed, just nippy. Kashmiri people divide winter into three sub-seasons associated with the intensity of the cold. Right now, we are in the middle of the 40-day period of Chillai Kalan, the harshest part of winter that starts on the night of the winter solstice. It is followed by a 20-day long Chillai Khurd, and then it peters out into a brief 10-day Chillai Baccha, before the herald of Spring in March. Many of our festivals and rituals, as seen in our winter celebrations, are closely tied to a shared history with Persian Zoroastrian traditions.
In Punjab Lohri celebrations, with the ceremonial communal bonfire, mark the coldest night of Winter. Lohri, which was two days ago, on the 13th, came and went with nary a shiver. We were still walking around in the lightest of sweaters here in Delhi. It was far from the coldest night of the winter it is expected to be.
But, the morning after, the clouds rolled in. It hasn’t rained but the Western Disturbances, as they are called, have brought in some chill and the resultant cheer, to Delhi-winters. There should be snow in the mountains too!
Read the rest of this entry »
In Low Fat, south Indian, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on July 8, 2014 at 6:30 pm
It’s great when you discover a new way with regular ingredients. It’s even better when the ingredients involved are few and the recipe is effortless. My friend SK, who knows my love for Southern Indian food, is often my guide and shares new ideas or leads me to lesser known food-blogs that highlight the kind of food I like to cook. She is a writer and is constantly engaging the characters, such as you and me, around her. These ‘encounters’ make her a treasure trove of traditional recipes as well. During one such chat with me, she sketched the dish the maid had put together for her lunch that day. A basic, peasant-style approach to food, it involved the ubiquitous red chilli as the only spice. The addition of roasted peanuts, of course, adds to the nutritional content while providing a hint of refinement to what is otherwise a truly minimalistic dish. It is almost as if you were deconstructing the Maharashtrian-style gavar-bhaji, and trying to retain what is absolutely essential. The two dishes are similar, yet it is clear that the peasant-style one has been pared down to its essence. Frugal, but, full of flavour.
The finished dish can work as a side to any Indian meal, or even as a salad. You could replace cluster beans with another vegetable – french beans, peas, cabbage – endless combinations. Or mix it into cooked rice, as Sangeeta said she did, with some additional oil or ghee, and you have a one-dish pulav/stir-fried rice that is perfect for a packed lunch. It has won gavar-haters over to this side! Read the rest of this entry »
In Birds and Bees, From the Garden, Fruit, Low Fat, on the side, Pickles, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on June 10, 2014 at 8:16 pm
Hot, hot. It’s a dry sauna in here! You could actually fry an egg on the sidewalk. And yet some things, native plants and creatures, thrive in this heat. At the moment, I am functioning with hardly any house-help. Kumari is away (for more than a month now) to her village in Bihar; Babloo, the presswala (for those who may not know, the chap who wields the “press” or iron, to iron our clothes!), also from Bihar, went away for a few weeks to make the most of his children’s summer vacations (he got back this morning!). He was also filling in for Chandu, who comes weekday mornings to wipe down the cars. So, I have had my hands more than full. The gardener, though in town, was a bit down in spirits, and there I was, watering the plants every other scorching evening. Yes, it doesn’t cool down even in the evenings. It become less hot, but never cool, till the monsoons arrive. No wonder we make so much song and dance about the Monsoon Season; yes, it is its own season – Saavan – in these parts, and much celebrated in Indian literature, paintings, and music.
On that first evening when I picked up the hose, I also decided to turn the pots to get even light on the less exposed sides. And, there was this tiny nest in the Ficus in the corner! The mystery of the chirpy
sunbirds tailorbirds every morning explained! I rotated the plant back, so that the nest continued to stay hidden. A few days later, I became the anxious “carer” not having spotted the parents birds all afternoon and believing the nest to have been abandoned. I took a peek, and there they were, four tiny hatchlings in the nest! Google came to the rescue as always and I researched on how many hours hatchlings can survive without parent attention. I learned, with a heavy heart, that it is best to leave them alone and not care for them even if they have been abandoned. Ah, but come evening, there she was, the mother tailorbird! All was well after all. I resolved to take no more peeks lest I scare the parents to abandon their babies. Read the rest of this entry »
The Nest ‘Tree’
The last hatchling – in the nest
Fledgling #1: Not Dead!
I believe I can fly!
In Low Fat, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on June 22, 2013 at 8:47 pm
Hot and Humid.
But the early onset of Monsoons this year brought relief to some and tragedy to many. Engineers (and politicians) will have us believe we can control Nature, twist, throttle, and contort it every which way, without any consequence. Nature, then, has no choice but to show us what she is capable of. Last week, just two days of incessant rains laid waste to much of Uttarakhand, the new state that was carved out of the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh in 2000. The rivers Mandakini and Ganga reclaimed their banks with incredible force. My parents were also amongst the many stranded in the state. They were lucky to not have ventured further up beyond Uttarkashi, though Uttarkashi itself witnessed hundreds of buildings being swept away into the Ganga. Sensibly, they decided to stay put in the safety of the ashram they were at, and waited for the rush of people to clear. I was myself scheduled to be in the upper reaches (Bhimtal-Pithoragarh) at that very time for work but the unavailability of train tickets for our team meant we must reschedule the visit. The official meeting at Dehradoon on Monday happened as scheduled while the magnitude of the disaster was still being uncovered. Read the rest of this entry »
In Desserts, Low Fat, Vegetarian on June 20, 2012 at 11:33 am
Hell couldn’t be hotter than Delhi in June. This summer seems to be particularly hot. Many of my less heat-hardy plants have just dessicated. Even the Temple Tree is showing signs of heat stress! I can only pray the monsoon will keep its date with Delhi; if all stays well with the wind systems, it should hit Delhi on June 29.
The week has started off well with a sharp shower on Monday morning that brought a seven degree drop in the day temperature, from a scorching 44 degrees Celsius the previous day to a ‘balmy’ 37. We take our silver linings as they come. Monday was also my birthday and I was supposed to hit the streets, albeit those of the air-conditioned neighbourhood mall, with my sister, mom, and niecelet, who herself turned all of six years last week. No, I wasn’t planning to shop till I dropped; it was Mom who needed company to shop. We spent a pleasant couple of hours telling her what to splurge on. Nothing beats shopping therapy when it is not even your own money.
Read the rest of this entry »
In Low Fat, south Indian, Travel, Vegetarian on April 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm
Talk about signing up for more than your fair share! I am an adjunct faculty for a Grad program at a college nearby but ended up with full-time teaching load this semester. The work load in the office stayed unchanged which translates into ‘busy’ and is reflected in the woeful frequency of posts here the past two years. Factor in the absence of any kitchen help and you get the picture. But there must be a silver lining, surely?
I had made a case last time that I was better off without the ‘help’. Well, I think the fact that I was able to handle the additional work load was in no small way because I did not have to supervise the cooking and cleaning downstairs. In the past four months we have eaten out no more than we normally do; perhaps, even less. In fact, the folk at Andhra Bhavan might be wondering if all was well. We have resorted to a meal of bread-and-butter on very few occasions. The family has had to compromise on the freshness of their roties since I firmly believe they (roties, not the family) are not worth the trouble of the clean-up involved, twice a day. I usually cook enough roties for two meals and sometimes, with the right accompanying dishes that are best with rice, the leftovers get stretched into a third meal. Otherwise, I feel our meals have more variety, are fresher (except for the roties!), and there is less waste as I use up ingredients before they spoil.
Lest you think it has been all work and no play let me tell you that in 2012 we have already managed two holidays! The last week of January found us in Rajasthan walking the gorgeous dunes of Jaisalmer. Yes, it was the same group that did that arduous hike to the Valley of Flowers five years ago; a bit older, none the wiser. It was a bit hectic and we have resolved that the next trip together will be to a spa – a luxurious spa, not one of those detox ones where they near-starve you – and just let our hair hang down.
That is precisely what TH and I did early this month when we visited the son, now in his third year at college. This year he has opted out of the college hostel and is trying out apartment-living with two classmates. It is gladdening to watch him deal with the mundane and the interesting aspects of living on one’s own and sharing space with others with different backgrounds. While A is a carnivore, both his roommates are vegetarian; one will eat eggs while the other is a vegan and an animal-right activist to the extent that even roaches get protection! I wonder what they think of A and his ways!
Read the rest of this entry »
In From the Garden, Low Fat, Maharashtrian, Pickles, Preserves, Random Musings, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on December 28, 2011 at 12:34 am
It has been a mixed bag this year; from the very bad to very good. All years are like that but losing a dear friend earlier this year was a dip that was really low. Even winning Third Place in a National Architectural Design Competition, a rare enough achievement, was tinged with the knowledge that I couldn’t share the news with her, my buddy through those years of design school. We would meet only a few times a year – mostly on birthdays and anniversaries. I am not a phone person so we never had long chats on the phone either. Maybe, it was enough just knowing I could call her if I needed to. Now, I catch myself thinking about her every single day.
I and my friend, 1986
On the work front, it has been the busiest year for me. The coming year is poised similar. Which is as well (except that it has meant just ten blog posts, if I get this one in, for the whole year!). It means I don’t bother the son, now in his third year of college, with daily phone calls. I usually catch up with him on the weekends though he and his dad chat online more often. Presently, he is home for the holidays and has promised to not game through the nights so that we can see him at lunch and through the rest of the day.
Narthangai limes and mango ginger for pickling…from a year ago
Read the rest of this entry »
In Kashmiri, Low Fat, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on November 26, 2010 at 7:37 pm
Winter has set in Delhi. We have had some rain this week which has further brought down the temperatures and I am beginning to regret not airing out the winter wardrobe ahead of time when the days were sunny and bright. The sun will be back in our winter soon enough and we will be found lazily shelling peanuts outside during breaks from work, or while waiting for transport. Oh, but there’s a change to that script. Those of us who have got used to Delhi’s awesome Metro may not be able to indulge in this litter-generating activity. Imagine, not-littering might become a habit with the denizens of Delhi! Hope floats!
Read the rest of this entry »
In Kashmiri, Low Fat, Potatoes, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on November 12, 2009 at 7:46 pm
It’s nippy tonight – it has snowed in the mountains and it is raining in Delhi. Some beans and rice is just what I would like…
I was lucky to get a little of the stash of fresh cranberry beans that a cousin brought over from a visit to the valley and shared with my mom who, indulgently, shared it further with me. I had never seen these beans fresh before. They are called thool razma in Kashmiri. Much rounder than the regular kidney beans, they do indeed, resemble tiny spotted eggs! I had never cooked with them or even eaten fresh ones before so I asked my mom for some general directions. She suggested I cook them with potatoes using the usual Kashmiri combination of fennel and dried ginger powder. Read the rest of this entry »
In Desserts, Low Fat, Maharashtrian, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on September 30, 2009 at 11:29 pm
My previous post didn’t quite make the cut for Express Indian: 6-ingredients-or-under because I had one ingredient too many and there were some protests that I was breaking my own rules. Little do you know that we Delhi-ites are like that only; we know rules are made so that they may be broken! Nor are we about to turn over a new leaf just because the Commonwealth Games are round the bend and the honourable Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambram feels we ought to mend our ways. Some things take time.
Meanwhile, here is another Express recipe, this time from TH’s home state of Maharashtra: second to none, the Shrikhand, a creamy dessert that comes together in no time and involves no cooking. But do plan ahead, more so if you are planning to make the chukka (hung curd) at home. Shrikhand tastes best if you allow 12-24 hours for the delicate flavours to meld. Some like shrikhand to be really smooth and achieve this by passing the mix through a sieve. In our house we like some texture to shrikhand and skip this step. My mother-in-law used to add a few spoonfuls of malai (clotted cream) to the chukka. Every now and then there would be a tiny nugget of the soured malai that gave the shrikhand an additional richness and texture. But gone are those days of buying fresh water-buffalo milk every morning (long live low-fat lifestyles), skimming the malai off, adding some yoghurt for culture, and collecting it over the next week or two to make butter and ghee. The buttermilk from churning this cultured clotted cream made the best kadhi. Undoubtedly. Sigh.
Read the rest of this entry »