Yesterday, on dhanteras (the thirteenth day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin), I gathered up some enthusiasm to get the Divali cooking underway. There was no way I could have shopped for gold – the prices are at a record high and the market at a record low. Making Divali treats seemed to be just the thing to get the festivities off to a happy start. The easiest munchies to make are shankarpare and namak pare, one sweet, the other salty.
Archive for the ‘on the side’ Category
If you have been seeing Batata Vadas appear in some of the food blogs you read and wondering what is up with that, here is what is at the root of it all – old fashioned indulgence. A year ago, while discussing this and that on this blog, I and my readers decided a party was in order – an old fashioned yet not completely throw-caution-to-the-winds party. Celebrating food without worrying about what went into it, or got left out; being intuitive instead of thoughtful. It lead to a bunch of us frying poori last year, some for the first time!
This year we are experimenting with frying batata vadas, some of us for the first time! The motive, again, has been to cook and share with friends and family, and remind ourselves that a little indulgence is a good thing. And, of course, have some fun while we were frying!
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!
A big chunk of my readers live outside India. And all of them will appreciate how I have tried not to rub salt on their mangoes wounds this year. There has been no talk of mangoes, whatsoever, on this blog so far this year; no debate on which mango is the King, or that mango is King.
But ’tis the season and you all have access to reasonably good unripe sour mangoes. Sour mangoes are loved all over Asia, cooked with dal, with vegetables (it is the perfect foil for bittergourd), or enjoyed as a relish such as Pel’s nam prik wan kap mamuang khiew. And when you don’t want to fuss, just slice them up, dip in salt, and taste nirvana. Not as much fun today when my teeth sour much too quick, but a favourite summer activity when we were kids. Read the rest of this entry »
Here are my bundles…three bundles of organic udon noodles (Japanese wheat noodles)- perfect for the three of us. In case the fussy men in this house don’t like – more for me!
Like this clutter-free picture, I am now looking for a simple recipe for these noodles; I hope I can find one that will not involve a major restock of the pantry. From what I have reviewed, a trip to INA Market for some mirin seems inevitable. Do you have a favourite udon or soba recipe?
I mentioned earlier the likelihood of my having been a South Indian in previous life. I believe there are people who are offended by this title – South Indian. I know not why. I do understand though, the umbrage at everyone from Southern India being (once) called ‘Madrasi’ by self-centered North Indians. May I add that for my grandma’s generation all non-Kashmiris were Punjabi – likely the only other state they had heard of from their insular position. “So, you married a Punjabi,” she would say.
Southern India is not a homogeneous region; neither is Northern India nor, for that matter, the Eastern or the Western parts of our country. And, just as the cuisine and customs of the Northern plains have a lot in common, the people of Southern Peninsular India also share a long cultural heritage.
While I have established (some might say – followed my tummy to) the general region of my previous birth as Dravidian India, I have not yet been able to point to the exact spot. In my early teens I already knew that Andhra and Tamil food gave me as much comfort as did my mum’s cooking. I relished the everyday-kind dal-based vegetable preparations (which I may not know by their names) served with thick short grain rice; idli smeared with fiery milagai podi was as much ambrosia as was tayir saadam. I discovered Kerala cuisine a little later – in my twenties – though it was confined to the odd fish curry, thorans and pachadis, and the exotic (to me) appams with either avial or ishtu.
On the morning of the wedding, preparations were on for the Devgon – a ceremonial cleansing of the self to get ready for the next phase in one’s life – entering the grihasta (family) ashram. In India, it has always been said that a marriage is a relationship not just between two individuals but between two families. The living members and those who have passed on to the other realm. On this day the groom and his family first seek the blessings of their ancestors by performing the pitr pooja.
Hindu philosophy believes agni (fire) to be the ultimate cleanser – it can never itself be sullied or polluted, and all are equal before him. Devgon is performed around this sacred fire. The groom-to-be sits by the fire after a ceremonial bath and offers prayers to Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. All the elders of the family participate in the ceremony and fast till the conclusion of the havan.
Daughters of the family are always a part of the ceremonies with the bua (father’s sister) enjoying an enviable position. She prepares kheer and monjjvor (flattened moong dal vadas) on this day which are offered to the Gods and then distributed to all family members to break their fast. The function is usually followed by a simple vegetarian meal of rice and vegetables. Our lunch that day comprised of a yellow subzi of pumpkin, a fiery red dish of radish and potatoes cooked with nadur (lotus roots), and served over steamed rice with yoghurt. (Read more about Devgon and Kashmiri wedding rituals here).
The spirit was willing…but the flesh very weak. But here I am after a not-too-long hiatus from blogging. I guess, we all need a break now and then, to get the juices flowing again.
JFI:Rice came. And went. Nothing from the Kashmir stables after having admitted “there is much Kashmiris do with rice.” That too when I have, at the least, nine varieties of rice in my pantry! And I had so planned to cook ver, the Kashmiri rice gruel/konji/risotto named after the spice mix that goes into it, that is cooked to kick off all auspicious functions. It will have to wait for some time, though I do have just the rice for it.
Meanwhile, let me serve you something cool and refreshing, while there is still some heat in the sun and warmth in the weather. Just in time for Meeta’s Monthly Mingle: Liquid Dreams.
Almost every region of India boasts a chilli variety with its own unique qualities in terms of flavour, colour, and heat. Kashmiri chillies have a deep red colour but are otherwise mild; Andhra chillies with their bright colour and fiery heat are shown off to great advantage in their pickles; and now we’ve all heard about the bhut jolokia from Assam that holds the world record for the hottest chilli.
Athana in Rajasthan is also famous for its chillies. The long and fleshy Athana mirch is pickled whole and is favoured by the Marwari community. The chillies are slit and stuffed with a mix of spices that include fennel, coriander, mustard, methi seeds, turmeric, and amchoor. A similar large chilli, much like the Bhavnagri mirch, is made into the most delicious mirchi vadas the best of which are to be found in Jodhpur.
This is my son’s favourite salad. And it is, perhaps, the oldest recipe in my repertoire. I read the recipe in National Geographic Kid’s, NatGeo’s magazine for children, when I was about 13 years old, and have been making it since.
Yes, it is very much like the Indian cucumber raita. But with a twist. This raita includes lime juice, which I had thought odd, since dahi is already a little tart. But am I glad my young mind didn’t decide to omit it! I have a rule of sorts – the first time around I try to stick to a recipe as much as possible, substituting only if an ingredient is unavailable.