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 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 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.
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In Bengali, Vegetables, Vegetarian on May 29, 2012 at 7:39 pm
There is more shared between Kashmir and Bengal than a love for rice, fish, and mustard oil. There is a shared history. Eighth century Kashmiri emperor Lalitaditya’s empire is believed to have extended from Kabul right up to Bengal. But, that was centuries ago. Even in the last century there was a very strong connection between the two Indian states. West Bengal seems to have been the first choice for a majority of Kashmiri youth in my parents generation seeking scholarship outside of this remote state in the north. Nineteenth Century Calcutta was the bastion of contemporary western education. It was routine for teen Kashmiri boys to leave home for this faraway state to study medicine or engineering. Many generations owe a debt to this state of bhadrlok for their education: in my family my Dad studied at IITKgp, one uncle studied medicine at Calcutta Medical College (established by the British in 1835, it is our oldest medical college), two others studied engineering at Jadhavpur University. The Government Medical College, Srinagar, was established only in 1959, followed by the REC (Regional Engineering College) in 1960.
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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!
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In Bread, Deep Fried!, Potatoes, Tea Party, Uttar Pradesh, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm
The first month of this year is history already. How time flies!
After some fumbling this season, old man winter got into his groove here in Delhi. The weather has been at its frigid best for the past 6 weeks even though we celebrated Basant Panchami (the fifth day of Spring) last Saturday. I even poured myself a glass of kanji while preparing dinner the other day. But, the thaw has certainly started and if you blink the short Spring will be over.
In the fast pace of 2011 many celebrations got left out. No one got a birthday cake :shock:. The blog anniversary was overlooked since there was no time to come up with a theme, announce a party, or be a proper host to all of you. But, it is always party-time at A Mad Tea Party where we celebrate food as just that – nourishment; food that satiates, the kind that engages all our senses. Mindful eating without dissecting what is on the plate.
One-dish-themed blog-events are now commonplace. The poori-party might have been one of the first of that kind but it was quite by accident. None of the subsequent celebrations were a patch on that first party. From that party on, I have made a concerted effort to fry poories more often. Every time the son visits for holidays, poori-bhaji features on the breakfast menu on one of the days. Just the once maybe, but it is sure to be there. Then, for Ram Navmi I indulge the little girl in me who misses doing rounds of the neighbouring homes to
gather loads of prasad be part of the ritual to revere the goddess in all girls, by cooking poori, halwa, and kala chana. That adds up to at least three poori-frying sessions a year! And if there are friends or family visiting (and it is cool enough to fry in the kitchen) then it is likely they will get some deep fried love!
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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
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In Bread, Punjab, Vegetarian on December 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm
A lot has happened in the past four weeks since my last post. I am back to eating foods through the week that are usually reserved for weekends!
It’s not a very long story, actually. Over the past few years I gave into TH’s helpful insistence on delegating more housework to the maid so that I had less on my mind and hands. But that is more complicated than it sounds.
There are two kinds of people: those who like to have extra hands to do their work, and those who wish they could do without. If you have a slight OCD regarding how you want things in your home and kitchen, you may have to start by teaching the maid everything. And then you have to remind her constantly (about the same thing) in a kind of continuing education for her (which has nothing to do with your OCD). If you can look the other way, then it is all fine and dandy. I cannot. I cannot drink out of cups with the lightest tea-stain; I have to have my veggies cut exactly so; the rug centered, the doors shut, and the windows open. All this takes supervision. I mean, really super-vision! One time I caught her about to chutney a roach along with the coriander! I don’t know how I saw from the corner of my eye what she could not while putting the ingredients in! Enough to say that after that there was little chance of her being allowed to cook unsupervised. To me it always felt as if the maid was in control of my time!
Pizza dinner on Monday
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In Preserves, Travel, Vegetarian on November 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm
For all my extra time and planning for Divali, I got far less done than usual! I had forgotten that one of the days I was counting as a bonus was actually the day I teach from 9 to 5! But it was not a completely lost cause. The huge cauldron of chiwda I made kept all happy. The ladoos turned out well as always and there were enough to last until Sunday! The son’s stash is all packed and ready to be mailed. I know, I procrastinate there as well! But to him Divali means chakli, which I am yet to make. I plan to get to it this weekend and also plan to record the process here before I lose the precious family recipe.
The mountains already!
I would have gotten to the chakli surely this past weekend but TH, almost on the spur of the moment, decided enough was enough and it was time to take the car on a long drive. Off we were early the morning after Divali. There was hardly any traffic to speak of all the way from Delhi to Narkanda! I have promised myself more such holidays every year! We left home at 6am, and at just 11:00 we got our first glimpse of the mountains. We did stop for a breakfast of tandoori aloo paranthas and chai at a wayside dhaba at around 9:00. I hadn’t visited Shimla so we took a midday break there for a couple of hours. The Mall is a great place to walk forbidden as it is to all traffic. Smoking is not permitted in public spaces in Shimla making the Mall a great place to hangout. Read the rest of this entry »