Last year, after years and years of procrastinating, I finally prepared my first batch of maavadu or vadu manga, one of Southern India’s most loved pickle. The pickle is made with immature green mangoes about half an inch to maximum two inches in size. The intent obviously was to not waste anything, not even fallen fruit. There are thousands of fragrant flowers in each inflorescence of the mango tree. Scores of them get fertilized into fruit but only a few will mature and ripen. The rest just fall to the ground. The mango is called Kalpavriksha or the wish-fulfilling divine tree for a reason. The immature fruits as well as the more mature but still tart green mangoes are used to make our most favourite pickles. Once the fruit matures, it takes on the status of the King of fruits.
This pickle relies on the salting of mangoes to release enough of the juices to create a brine in which the mangoes eventually cure and drown. While the basic process and ingredients were similar in all the recipes I searched a few did casually mention that a little water may be added in the beginning. Whether I was impatient or my arid-Delhi mangoes are drier than their humid-Southern counterparts, the lack of enough liquid to submerge the fruit caused me to add water. As is now the habit, I shared a few pictures of my process on Instagram. Not a single person there (among those who follow me) had ever heard of such a thing and I was certain my maiden attempt would soon be enveloped in mold.
I stirred the jars a couple of times a day and sent a prayer out with every turn of the hand. Much like spinning the Buddhist prayer wheel. The Universe was listening! At least Annapurna Devi, the benevolent Goddess of food and the patron of all cooks, the one my mother-in-law had called me an incarnation of on many an occasion, was and helped the pickle along. The slight effervescence subsided in just a day of stirring and the pickle lasted the entire year. As I prepare the next batch this year, an ambitious 5 kilos of it, I still have two shriveled pieces of tender baby mangoes, covered in salty, spicy delicious brine – just the dressing a bowl of thayir sadam begs. Continue reading “Vadu Manga – pickled baby mangoes in brine”→
My mor milagai post on Instagram started a conversation between me and Radha, another Tambram schoolmate of mine. She mentioned how well it combines with fermented rice. This morning I had a bowl of rice that had now been fermenting a good 30 hours. I could see fermentation bubbles on the surface and it had that distinct funky smell. I had intended it for something else which the overcast skies put a spanner in. I could have made panta bhat, the Bengali version that has been on the list, but I also wanted to chip away at the mor milagai stash. No, it is not stashed away in my, now infamous, refrigerator #2 but might as well eat through the rest of the pantry while I am on #missionpantryclean.
This fermented rice used to be a popular breakfast dish in all parts of the country where rice is the staple. Known variously as pazhayadu, tangalanna, or yennai chadam, it was a great way to not only prevent waste but actually improve the nutritional content of the cereal. Fermentation, as we all know, increases the bio-availability of nutrients especially the B vitamins, as also calcium, and certain other trace minerals. Ayurveda bestows rice fermented like this with cooling properties, just what you need in the coming summer months. Hooray, for fermentation! Continue reading “Yennai Chadam – fermented rice”→
The day temperature is starting to soar. Soon it will be mango season. As it starts to hot up the mind naturally turn to thoughts of mango. All winter the containers of mango pulp from homegrown Amrapali mangoes just sit forgotten in the freezer.
I was on quite a roll last year. I’d made two kinds of ice creams with the bought cream but still had half the whole milk. which I turned into creamy yogurt. Don’t you love the malai on top of whole milk dahi? The following day as I reached for dahi to make the morning mango-smoothie/lassi, I thought the creamy dahi would be even better in frozen yogurt. The dahi had been cut and about a fourth of it already eaten. I tilted the dahi pot to drain as much whey as I could. As I set about grabbing the blender and other things, I took more dahi (made with regular 3% fat toned milk, the one that does not come in plastic bags!) in my big metal strainer lined with muslin. This dripped for not more than 15-20 minutes. You can skip this step if you are pressed for time; I don’t always do it.
I blended everything with a stick blender and chilled the mix in the fridge as the container of the ice cream maker chilled overnight in the freezer. Next morning I churned it for a mere 15 minutes and transferred it to the freezer to chill for a few hours. Remember to remove the frozen yogurt an hour or more before it’s time to serve. That brings it to just the right temperature and level of thaw to taste the flavours better and also makes it easy to scoop. Continue reading “Mango Froyo”→
My Workshops are but an excuse for me to cook up new recipes for an unsuspecting crowd. Somehow I have never been afraid to try a new, untested recipe for a crowd of complete strangers who are yet to make up their minds about my cooking prowess. In fact, more often than not, I pick new recipes for grand meals where my reputation is at stake. Most of the time I sail through reputation unscathed.
As was with these slow-simmered tomatoes I selected to cook from an old Bon-Appetit cookbook bought a very long time ago. It was one of the few photographed recipes, duly captioned, yet missing from the index. I had to scan the book, page by page, to find the recipe which was simplification itself. Other than the oodles of olive oil and a really long simmer it asked for little else.