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 Baking, on the side, Tea Party, Vegetarian on September 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm
This weekend, I finally snapped out of my laziness and decided, after a long gap, to fire up the oven. The extended rains have brought lowered the temperature enough to consider outside of subsistence food and I thought I might bake some tarts.
The pages of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are replete with mentions and tales of much food. Just as there is purpose to every word of fantasy and nonsense in Alice, it is there to the bits about food as well. It is as much a tale of wonder for children as it a reflection of the times. The frequent discussions about food in the story are but a contrast to the scarcity of food in Victorian times. And, like most of us today, Alice too seems to rely on something to eat or drink to alter her size all the time!
In modern times we are equally obsessed with food but for different reasons. We are constantly trying to put food in some category or another and then assigning a value to the food as well as to the diets they fit into. Some foods, and some diets then get to be regarded as inferior/superior. Whether a people are vegetarian or eat meat, has all come out of pragmatism and to put values on these seems ridiculous. I have the same view of raw-food and similar such other diets. A good diet for anyone is surely one they can stick to without harming themselves or others? If you are going to eat the shark to extinction, then there is a problem. For me, a good diet is also one that does not require me to analyse food excessively before I can decide if it fits into the way I ought to eat. That would make shopping for food such a chore! Read the rest of this entry »
In on the side, Pickles, Punjabi, Vegetarian on July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm
I know you have had enough with green mangoes. But, it is mango time here in Delhi: all kinds of ripe mangoes to eat – Chausa and Lungda varieties have arrived, and green ones to pickle and make into chutney. This season I have made a sweet-sour mango chutney and three kinds of mango pickle: Maharashtrian-style amba lonche, Andhra-style fiery pickle with garlic, and also a batch of Punjabi-style mango pickle. I have attempted the Punjabi pickle after a gap of many years since the husband’s loyalties had shifted to the famous Pachranga brand. There was no point competing with this well-known brand and if he preferred it to the home-made recipe, that much less pickle making for me.
The Punjabi-style mango pickle though, is the pickle I grew up on. As kids we would rinse out the pieces and eat just the pickled mango, sucking on the stone-skin for a long-long time till there was no saltiness left. That was the only mango pickle we had known until one day, mom bought home a bottle of Bedekar’s amba lonche (a lot like this one, except that the mangoes are chopped fine instead of being shredded). It was nothing like our mango pickle! And because it was so different, it became a favourite immediately. Read the rest of this entry »
In on the side, Preserves, Under 30 min!, Uttar Pradesh, Vegetarian on June 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm
Mangoes are definitely the silver lining of the Northern Indian summers. Unlike in some southern Indian states (and further east of India) where mangoes are available year round, in Delhi we have access to both green and ripe mangoes only through the summer. Or, maybe, I should say that we have seasons other than summer and therefore, our fruits and vegetables change as the seasons roll! Another silver lining of living in the heat and dust bowl that is the North India Plain!
The superior pickling mangoes, such as Ramkela, arrive after the first monsoon showers. Evey year I make batches of mango pickles though the quantities I now make are more proportionate to the moderate amounts we consume. Amongst the mango pickles I make is the Punjabi kind to which I sometimes add karonde and chickpeas. The Andhra-style mango pickle with garlic and loads of chillies is a favourite of ours, especially the son and I; it makes a great combination with besan-paranthas. Since the last few years I have also started making Shilpa’s (actualy, Varada’s!) konkani-style shredded mango pickle. At the start of mango season, I also make a quick pickle from the fallen Amrapali mangoes in my mom’s backyard using my own pickling spice mix, or, sometimes, the K-Pra brand amba lonche spice mix from Maharashtra. Read the rest of this entry »
In Drinks, Eating Out, on the side on October 1, 2011 at 11:11 am
L’aperitivo Italiano at The Grey Garden
I have been vegging the last two days. TV and the couch have been a major part of this weekend. Before the weekend comes to an end I think I should clear a few pending things [too late…it’s
midweek already almost end-of-week the weekend already!]. Reviews for one…
In March this year (yes, you cannot depend on me for a timely post) I was sent a box of picture perfect Washington apples by the India representatives of Washington Apple Commission(!). I was invited to a tasting session which I declined since my 9-6 time is usually spoken for during the workweek, and hence, the delivery. Each one of those seven specimens (Braeburn, Cripps Pink, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith) were easily amongst the best apples I have ever eaten. Crisp, juicy, and flavourful.
The only problem with the apples is that they are not local. Far from it. They really are from Washington, USA! I was hoping that they had just been named after some Washington varieties grown in Himanchal. It is one thing to occasionally try out exotic fruits (and ingredients) but quite another to eat apples on a regular basis that are flown in all the way from the US of A! Is it the same as Indians in the US splurging on the recently-allowed-to-be-exported Alphonso? Perhaps not since our own apples here are neglected for lack of proper storage and transportation facilities. Look for good apples from Kinnaur and Kashmir; crisp, with just a hint of tartness. It is impressive that the imported ones sell at all since they are priced at double the local ones (Rs90 vs. Rs 180/kg!). But, then in summer Delhites will buy the ones imported from New Zealand at almost Rs300/kg! I think I might be too middle class for Delhi. If only we would import quince… Well, we could encourage the Kashmiris to plant some more quince trees instead, I suppose. Here’s a promise – if I am ever safe to return to my homeland I will start my own quince and sour cherry orchard! Read the rest of this entry »
In Chutneys, Dips and Spreads, on the side, Tea Party, Under 30 min! on August 25, 2011 at 10:20 am
[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.
Read the rest of this entry »
In Chutneys, on the side, south Indian, Under 30 min! on July 15, 2011 at 7:47 pm
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.
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.
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In on the side, Pickles, Preserves, south Indian, Vegetarian on January 26, 2011 at 1:00 am
No New Year resolutions for me! Where’s the point? Didn’t I promise to turn over a new leaf just a little while back? I could use the weather as my excuse; you cannot turn over new leaves in the dead of winter. Let spring arrive…(This post has been in writing for
a couple of over three weeks, and I am afraid it almost is Spring!)
Let me wish all my friends here, in this virtual but not make-believe world, a very Happy New Year (while it is still January). I hope we continue to exchange and enjoy a healthy Madness here. If writing about food could be quick, I would post everyday! But it is not. These last two years it has been very busy at work. Blogging could not be the break I wished. At the end of the day it is hard to return to the computer for anything other than to read.
For all the work, and unusual for us, TH and I managed to squeeze out time for regular breaks. We had resolved to visit the son mid-semester each semester, irrespective of whether he could/would make the time or not. Our spring semester visit to Kochi, an overnight journey for him, coincided with his college festival. The following semester, in October, with plans to visit the temples of the Hoysalas, we landed in the middle of his exam week. We went ahead with the plans anyway and visited the ancient temples of Halebid and Belur. Once again, it was humbling to be in a shrine where our people have continued to pray for centuries, and I thought again of the little unspoiled temple by the backwaters of Aleppey where our houseboat had moored that night… Read the rest of this entry »
In Bread, on the side, Tea Party, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on September 5, 2010 at 10:24 pm
Have you been enjoying your afternoon tea with friends and family? I have been!
This monsoon the rains have been really heavy and incessant. Greens generally disappear from the shelves in this season as they spoil in less than a day. Coriander becomes elusive and very expensive. The Big Apple stores, thankfully, stock it in sufficient quantity. But this Friday when I went to restock in the evening they were out and I couldn’t make the all-time tea-time Indian favourite – chutney sandwiches. When we were kids no birthday party was complete without these. Instead, I had to settle for the other favourite – cucumber, tomato, and Amul cheese sandwiches! I brewed a large pot of tea just for myself (TH is a teatotaler), prepared the sandwiches (not all that dainty, it wasn’t an English tea after all) and had myself a jolly good time.
Today, my parents dropped by for lunch. I served them a most delicious vegetarian lunch which included Kerala-style bittergourds cooked in coconut milk with sour mango (this is now one of my favourite ways to cook karela!), a Maharashtrain style stir-fried bhindi (okra split along the length into two, and stir fried in oil tempered with rai seeds, hing, turmeric, and red chilli powder), pumpkin kootu (using Bee and Jai’s recipe for kootu podi), served with roti and rice. My parents thoroughly enjoyed their meal! As did I. Awesome. Even if I say so myself.
After a brief siesta we needed the afternoon cup. I served it with fruity scones. It was my first attempt at making scones and they turned out rather well. They were light, with a barely crusty bottom. Split, smothered with homemade jam (I served with the quince marmalade as well as this season’s mango jam) they were the perfect accompaniment to our afternoon tea! I recommend them wholeheartedly! Read the rest of this entry »
In on the side, Potatoes, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on February 10, 2010 at 11:52 am
Winter seemed almost over. The sun was out from behind the fog and days were back to being like they are in Delhi – bright and shiny. There were signs of spring and I was determined to turn over a new leaf.
You have to make the most of spring in my neck of the woods; you blink and you might have missed an entire season. Not so fast. We are back to gloomy overcast days; with added rain, for good measure. Which is all fine; who needs summer along before spring has had a chance. Just that I decided to put the sunshine to good use and make a batch of home-style potato chips which are an essential ingredient in my chiwda. Long story short – Lord Indra got a whiff, took a peek, decided to stay. I thought I would get around him and make sure I had chips that stayed white as if they had received their two days in the bright sun. Yup, the sun does different things for different people – some it bleaches, others it tans. Determined to save my chips from browning I heated the oven, turned it down all the way to barely warm, set my cellphone alarm for 10 minutes, and went up to the office with my cup of tea. One hour later…
Yes, these are from last year’s batch! 🙂
Well anyway, it was good weather for potato soup, which is what we ate for dinner last night. Read the rest of this entry »