E for…. Ennai Kathirikkai

24 Jul

And I have arrived at the the fifth letter of the English alphabet, E, for the Alphabet Cooking Challenge! I decided to try my hands on Ennai Kathirikkai, something that I love but had never made at home before. :) Made it for dinner today, and it turned out great!

I looked up several recipes for Ennai Kathirikkai on the internet, and learnt that there are SO MANY variations. I decided to keep this recipe as the base, with a few variations of my own.

Here is how I made it.

Ingredients (for two people):

For the stuffing:

1 tablespoon oil

1 large onion, chopped into large cubes

About 5 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon of raw peanuts

1 tablespoon of dhania

3-4 dry, red chillies

1 tablespoon of fresh, grated coconut

1 tablespoon of chana dal

Salt to taste

Other ingredients:

About 10 small, purple brinjals

Salt, to taste

Turmeric powder, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

1 tablespoon of oil

A pinch of asafoetida

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind

Jaggery/sugar to taste

Method:

For the filling:

1. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the peanuts, dhania, chana dal, red chillies and grated coconut to it. Roast till it starts getting brown, or till the mixture starts emanating a heady fragrance.

2. At this stage, add the garlic and onion to the pan. Roast for 2-3 minutes.

3. Allow the roasted mixture to cool, and grind it into a paste in a mixer with salt to taste, without adding any water. Keep aside.

For the assembling:

1. Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 5 minutes. Extract a thick paste out of it. Keep aside.

2. Cut off the stems of the brinjals. Make one cut horizontally and one vertically across the head of the brinjals, for about 3/4 of their length.

3. Stuff the filling into the cuts in the brinjals. If the filling is still left over, it can be used later while cooking the brinjals.

4. Heat the oil in a small pressure cooker, and add the mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Add the asafoetida.

5. Put in the stuffed brinjals and reduce the flame of the gas. Stir them lightly, taking care to ensure that they do not break apart. Let them cook for 3-4 minutes.

6. Add the tamarind paste, turmeric powder, chilli powder, jaggery/sugar and salt to taste. Any filling that has been left over can be added at this stage.

7. Add a very small quantity of water. Mix well. Close the lid of the pressure cooker. Cook for about 2 whistles.

Goes well with rotis and parathas!

The randomness strikes again

22 Jul

~ Remember the reading slump that I was telling you about some time back? The last two books that I read did not pull me out of it. I just went on reading them, and they got over. That’s about it. However, over the weekend, I picked up Annie Sanders’s The Gap Year For Grown-Ups, and got hooked to it instantly. It is chick-lit, yes, but the storyline is interesting. At least, till now, and I am almost half way through the book. Fingers crossed for this to be the book which pulls me out of my slump.

~ Suddenly, I seem to be surrounded by loads of juicy books that I absolutely HAVE to read. I want to rush through each one of them, so that I can get to the next. At the same time, I also want to savour each bit of juiciness to the utmost, for as long a time as possible. :)

~ It has been a while since I cooked for the Alphabet Cooking Challenge. I do have something in mind for E. Hopefully, it will get cooked soon!

~ The OH took the day off work yesterday, just like that, to spend time with me. It had been ages since we did! I was thrilled. It reminded me of how therapeutic such unplanned breaks are. We went out for some time yesterday, and it was good not to have to face the usual crowds that we have to deal with, wherever we go, on weekends.

~ What’s with the prices of vegetables being sky-high these days? I can hardly find any vegetable which is below Rs. 80 a kg, except for cabbage. And, I am tired of cooking cabbage. Decent coriander is nowhere to be found, either. :(

~ In spite of my social life being extremely low-key in the past month, I have been procrastinating badly on my freelance work. Not great attitude towards work, I know. I am not proud of it. I have, however, pulled myself together today, and am geared to do the best I can. Wish me luck with that!

~ Remember this little one? Well, she has grown up to become one of the most adorable babies I have ever seen. She recently had her head tonsured, and is now looking all the more adorable!

~ I had a Baskin Robbins ice cream for the first time in my life, last weekend. Yes, I am slow like that. :) I had a scoop of Swiss Delight mixed with one of Praline. Delightful!

~ Amma has returned to her place, now that the OH is back from Delhi. She has left a huge vacuum in place of her. How do I fill that?

~ I am in love with the sound of glass bangles and anklets, all over again. Everywhere I go, I put on glass bangles and chunky anklets these days, both of which herald my arrival much before I become visible, causing everyone to turn around and look. Yes, I know I am not a cow, but I love the sound! :) I love the feel of them on my hands and feet, too.

~ I am looking forward to the festive season to begin in August. I want to experience all the cheer and warmth that comes with it!

So, that’s about it, people. What have you been doing lately?

Just Read

18 Jul

The Mermaid Garden – Santa Montefiore

I’ve read Santa Montefiore once before and been utterly disappointed. However, just one book is not enough to judge a writer, I feel, and so, I went on to pick up another one by her – The Mermaid Garden. Moreover, the plots of her books are so very interesting that you cannot help but pick them up, and then you want to know what really happens in the end so badly that you continue plodding through the books even if you are not really liking them. That’s what happened with me in case of The Mermaid Garden, too.

There are two parallel story lines in The Mermaid Garden.  One is set in Tuscany in the 1960s, and involves a little orphan Floriana. Floriana falls in love with the beautiful sea-side villa that is La Magdalena from the day she sets eyes on it. She gets the opportunity of her lifetime one day when Dante, the young son of the villa’s owner, invites her in for a look-around. Floriana falls even more in love with La Magdalena and its pretty mermaid garden. She begins to believe that her destiny lies in the villa and with Dante. The second storyline is set in the 2000s, in the little coastal town of Devon, England. She and her husband, Grey, are the owners of a lovely heritage hotel, The Polzanze, which is crumbling to bits thanks to the owners’ financial troubles. Marina employs an artist-in-residence, a handsome young man called Rafa Santoro, as a last-ditch attempt to save The Polzanze, and this move of hers brings about many, many changes. How exactly are these two storylines linked? You have to read the book to figure that out!

Like I said earlier, this is not the most perfect of reads, but it has its good points. The characters are well etched out, and the story line is captivating. That said, the mystery, when it is resolved towards the end of the book, lacks a punch. The book, at over 500 pages, is a very long read and could have been cut down by quite a bit. There are many stereotypes in the story, and parts of it are pure chick-lit. I wasn’t thoroughly disappointed with The Mermaid Garden, but wasn’t utterly enamored of it either.

Read it if you are in the mood for a chunkster, but don’t want to strain your brain too much.

The Piano Shop On The Left Bank – T.E. Carhart

The Piano Shop On The Left Bank is a memoir about a piano shop that the author discovers by chance in Paris. The author notices the shop every day, while walking his children to school, but never really goes inside. One day, he decides to pay it a visit, though, and that visit opens up a whole new world for him. The shop brings to the fore the author’s latent love for pianos, and he decides to buy one. Subsequent visits to the shop help the author forge a friendship with the owner which, in turn, teaches him a lot about the different aspects of pianos and the specialties of their various kinds.

I don’t know why I picked this book up, really. I am not particularly interested in pianos or any other musical instrument, actually. I am not interested in knowing the ins and outs of the world of pianos. My interest in music is limited to listening to songs, sometimes instrumental, and enjoying it to the core. But then, there was something about this book that called out to me. I am glad I read it, now.

The book, like I said, opens up a window into the different kinds of pianos there are, and the different aspects of one. In that sense, it enlightened me. Secondly, it is dripping with passion – the book is full of people who are extremely passionate about pianos and music, and that doesn’t leave the reader untouched. That said, the detailed descriptions of the different parts of a piano were not really my cup of tea. Maybe, an enthusiastic lover of pianos would have been able to derive greater value from them.

All in all, I would say I liked the book, though some parts were not for me. Go for it if you are passionate about music and musical instruments.

Have you read either/both of these books? How did you find them?

What are you reading at the moment?

D for… Dahi Vada

16 Jul

I had promised the OH I would make dahi vada whenever he came home from his Delhi trip. The man returned home today, and I kept up my promise. I made them this evening, and they are waiting for the husband to come home from work to devour them. :) Two purposes solved – 1. The husband is happy, eagerly looking forward to return home from work today, and 2. I am happy I made something for the Alphabet Cooking Challenge, something new that I love but have never tried making myself. :)

The dahi vadas turned out quite well for a first try, though I had a lot of trouble making the ‘holes’ in them. :D

 

Amma taught me the recipe for the vadas, the way she has always been making them.

Ingredients (for about 10 medium-sized vadas):

For the vadas:

1 glass of urad dal

Salt to taste

2 green chillies, chopped

A small piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

A few fresh curry leaves

Oil for frying the vadas

For the curd:

A few stalks of fresh coriander, finely chopped

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon oil

Salt to taste

2 green chillies

1/2 litre curd, not too sour

About 2 tablespoons of fresh, grated coconut

About 2 tablespoons of Bengal gram (pottu kadalai)

Method:

For the curd:

Keep the curd ready, so that you can drop the vadas in it as soon as they are fried and ready.

1. Take the curd in a large mixing bowl and add salt to taste. Add the chopped coriander leaves.

2. Grind the grated coconut, Bengal gram and green chillies into a paste, adding a little bit of water. Add this paste to the curd.

3. Heat the oil in a kadhai and add the mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Add this to the curd. Mix everything well together.

For the vadas:

1. Clean the urad dal thoroughly. Soak it in a large vessel, with sufficient amount of water, for 3-4 hours.

2. After the stipulated amount of time, drain all the water out of the soaked urad dal. Grind it in a mixer, with the chopped green chillies and ginger, little by little. You will have to add water in small quantities, as and when required. Grind it till the dough is soft and springy. Ensure that it is not too watery, otherwise making the vadas gets very difficult.

3. Take the dough in a large bowl. Add salt to taste only when you are ready to fry the vadas.

4. When you are ready, heat the oil for frying in a kadhai. In the meantime, spread a little bit of oil on a small square cut out of thick plastic paper. Take about a spoonful of the dough and spread it out well on the plastic paper. Make a hole in the middle.

5. Fry the vadas in the hot oil till they are brown on both sides. Drop the vadas into the curd immediately, so that they absorb it well. Serve immediately.

Variation: If you want to, you can garnish the dahi vada with boondi or mixture. You can add a dollop of sweet chutney to it, too, if you like.

On discovering the joys of Skype

15 Jul

It has been over a week since the OH left on an official tour to Delhi. Yes, again! The Delhi office of his firm is extremely short-staffed at the moment, and the OH is having to face the brunt, knowing the ins and outs of the transactions going on there thoroughly. The Delhi weather has been, infamously, bad and this trying period has taken a toll on the OH. Indirectly, it has taken a toll on me, too. The last month or so hasn’t been easy on me, with the OH only popping in home for a day or two before rushing off to Delhi again. Amma has been staying over at my place and, while that has helped, it hasn’t stopped me from feeling an ache in my heart at missing the OH.

‘I feel like an army man’s wife these days,’ I keep telling the OH. I have been unable to share the little things of my life with him, the way I used to. I have been unable to pull him to the balcony after his return from work, and ask him to just stay put with me in the refreshingly cool breeze. I have been unable to surprise him with a tub full of hot water, with salt added to it, for his feet after a tiring day at work. I miss pestering him to rub my feet on a cold morning. I miss the little treats – sometimes a strand of jasmine, sometimes a chocolate, sometimes a packet of bajjis – that he used to bring home for me every now and then. I miss having him to comment on a dish that I have made, which he would do in the most diplomatic of ways.

We used to talk on the phone whenever he found the time, or whenever we simply needed to hear each other, till last weekend. It took a friend’s innocent question – ‘Do you guys Skype when he is on tour?’ – to realise that we have never done that! I don’t know why we never really got into it, in spite of Skype being installed on both our phones! Last Saturday, we decided to try out Skype – the saviour of long-distance relationships, as we have heard many of our friends put it. And, it turned out to be a wonderful, wonderful experience.

Like kids over-excited at finding something new, the OH and I explored Skype conversations throughout the day. And the next day, too. Then, once a day, at dinner time usually, after that. He took me on a walking tour of his guesthouse in Delhi, and showed him the inside of the refrigerator there, which was pathetically empty. I made my afternoon cup of masala chai with him online once, and shared it with him virtually. He showed me the children in his guesthouse surroundings playing football in the rain on the weekend, thoroughly enjoying a rare shower in the city, a respite from the heat. I showed him how the skies in Bangalore, too, were darkening and the clouds were getting ready to pour. He showed me the kadhi chawal he had for lunch one day, and I showed him the saree I was planning to wear to a poonal ceremony in our family the next day. He made me carry my phone to the balcony, so that he could see the plants in our little home garden. He was overjoyed to see the basil he had replanted, before he left, blossoming. I was intrigued to see the sticks of meswak that he had picked up, out of curiosity, on one of his bored-weekend-street-walks in Delhi. He asked for my opinion about the bed sheet that he bought there, and I asked for his, on an amateur pencil sketch of mine. He commented that I had put on weight while he has been away, and I said that he looked darker but fresher without my constant badgering.

Since that day, Skype has become a part of our daily lives, and it has brought some much-needed cheer to both of us. We have sung songs for each other, poked fun at Amma sleeping with her blanket drawn over her face, shown each other our miss-you and happy-to-talk-to-you expressions, and what we have been having for dinner. It hasn’t been able to recreate the warmth of the OH’s hug or his smile, but it has come quite close. The past few days of Skype conversations have been reminiscent of our long-distance courtship days, if they could be called that at all, when he was in Bangalore and I was in Ahmedabad. It has been like falling in love with each other, all over again.

Thank you, Skype. You have changed a pair of stressed-out married adults into gushing teenagers, if only for a brief while every day.

C for…. cheese and onion paratha

12 Jul

I was wondering what to make for the letter C in the Alphabet Cooking Challenge, when I came across this by chance. I decided to ditch carrot halwa and chocolate cake, and make cheese and onion parathas instead, yesterday. I was in the mood to eat them, and I had a few cubes of Amul cheese lying in the fridge too. So, the parathas were duly made for lunch and heartily relished. They turned out super delicious, if I may say so myself.

I followed the My Magic Pan recipe completely, and just added a bit of amchoor powder of my own. I felt it added a nice tangy edge to the cheesy flavour of the parathas.

I know the picture isn’t great but, trust me, the parathas were.

Here is the original recipe, with the little addition of amchoor powder…

Ingredients (for five medium-sized parathas):

2 cubes of Amul cheese, finely grated

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder

1/2 teaspoon of chaat masala

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

A few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Salt, to taste – be careful with the salt, as the cheese already has quite a bit of it

1 cup of wheat flour

Oil for making the parathas

Method:

1. Take the wheat flour in a large bowl. Bind it into a dough, using the required amount of water. Keep aside.

2. Heat a little oil in a pan. Add the chopped onions, and cook them till they brown. Let them cool down completely.

3. In a bowl, mix together the cooled onions, chopped coriander, grated cheese, salt, chaat masala, turmeric powder, chilli powder and amchoor powder. Taste, and adjust spices if necessary.

4. Make balls of the dough, and roll each one out into a thick roti. Place a generous amount of stuffing inside each roti. Then, close the rotis and pinch out the excess dough. Roll them out again, carefully.

5. Heat a tawa and cook the rotis evenly, adding oil on both sides. Serve hot.

Do you make cheese parathas at home? How do you make them?

Some thoughts…

10 Jul

… inspired by being a lot around babies, the past couple of days.

** It is so, so, so beautiful to watch a mother and her baby daughter cooing to each other. They have a language all their own. Nothing matters when they are talking to each other – they are lost in a world of their own. The daughter recognises her mother’s voice instantly and calms down from her crying fit, a special smile for her mother replacing her tears.

** Feeding a baby has got to be one of the most peaceful experiences in the world. It is such a beautiful bond between two human beings that it can only soothe, both the baby and the mother, irrespective of the number of problems that I have heard of in association with breastfeeding.

** Holding a baby tight against your chest has got to be a close second in the list of most peaceful experiences. That feeling when the baby burrows into you, feeling safe and snug, is priceless. You don’t know who is more calmed by it – you or the baby.

** Baby booties, baby clothes, baby napkins.. are all extremely adorable. No wonder the parents want to buy everything in baby stores, in every conceivable colour and design.

** Watching a baby recognise you and squeal with joy that you are visiting is, again, out of the world. Being adored like that has to feel darn good!

** A baby holding on to your finger while it sleeps is another priceless feeling. The baby has implicit trust in you, that you will not let go of her tiny hand, and neither do you want to.

** You think you cannot do baby talk, but it is not something that you learn. The inga-inga-oos come naturally from somewhere within you.

** The smell of a freshly bathed baby is one of the most beautiful in the world. One that you cannot get enough of.

If you are thinking I am besotted with wee babies, you are right! :)

PS: While we are on the topic of babies, let me point you to this video. Do watch it, if you haven’t already. It is oh-so-lovely it brought tears to my eyes.

Link courtesy: Visha

 

B for… Bhindi Masala

9 Jul

Ladies’ fingers, for me, have always been associated with moar kozhambu and a simple Tam-Brahm style of curry, made with nothing but a generous dash of oil, chilli powder, salt and turmeric. The curry has always spelled out ‘home’ for me – no wonder that I prepare it with dal or rasam rice whenever I am in need of some comforting. :)

When I miss Gujarat too much, though, it is another type of ladies’ finger curry that I turn to – the Gujarati version, made with salt, sugar, lemon juice, cumin powder and coriander powder. This curry, with its hints of spiciness, sourness and sweetness, goes wonderfully well with rotis.

It was only recently, while reading some cookery blogs, that I thought of using ladies’ fingers in a way that is completely foreign to me, in terms of cooking – in bhindi masala. While I have had bhindi masala quite a few times in restaurants and weddings, I have never attempted to make it at home. The Alphabet Cooking Challenge provided me with just the perfect opportunity to do so, and I grabbed it with both hands. Ladies’ fingers were duly bought and all the other ingredients were assembled. :) It turned out delicious! Quite a nice change from the usual, for us, and I am sure this is not going to be the last time I have made it at home.

The recipe that I used is a mixture of what I read on different food blogs. Here’s how I made it.

Ingredients (for two people):

500 grams ladies’ fingers

3 large, ripe tomatoes

1 large onion

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled

A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled

About 4-5 tablespoons of curd, sourness depending on taste

Salt, to taste

Turmeric powder, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

Coriander powder, to taste

Cumin powder, to taste

Oil for cooking the ladies’ finger + that for garnishing

A pinch of asafoetida

Mustard seeds, for garnishing

Fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped, for garnishing

Method:

1. Remove the heads from the ladies’ fingers and chop them into small pieces (or large ones, if you so fancy!).

2. Heat a generous amount of oil in a pan. Put in the chopped ladies’  fingers, and let them cook on a low flame till done. Keep stirring intermittently. this will take about 10 minutes. Remove the cooked ladies’ fingers in a plate and keep aside.

3. Peel the skin off the onion. Chop it finely. Keep aside.

4. Grind the tomatoes, ginger and garlic into a paste in a mixer. There is no need to add water. Keep the paste aside.

5. Heat the oil for garnishing in the pan, and add the mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Then, add the asafoetida.

6. Add the chopped onions to the pan, and let them cook till they turn brown.

7. Add the tomato-ginger-garlic paste. Let it cook till the raw smell goes away.

8. Add the chilli powder, salt, turmeric, coriander powder and cumin powder. Mix well. Let everything cook together for 5-7 minutes. At this stage, add a bit of water, if you think it is necessary.

9. Add the curd to the mixture. Mix well.

10. Put in the cooked ladies’ finger pieces. Mix well. Let it cook for 5-7 more minutes, so that everything is nicely incorporated together.

11. Garnish with the finely chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rotis.

How do you use ladies’ fingers at home?

Of the OH, considerate men, and bearing babies

7 Jul

One fine day, after observing a pregnant woman with her daily aches and pains and worries, the OH tells me: ‘You know what? God should give both parents a fair share in the process of childbirthing, no?’

‘How exactly do you mean?,’ I ask him.

‘I mean – when the woman is tired of carrying the baby, she should just tell her husband. God should have designed partners in such a way that a couple can hug and the baby can shift from the woman’s tummy to the man’s. Then, the man can bear the child till he gets tired. He can then shift it back to the woman’s belly,’ the OH replies.

I am too caught up in imagining this scenario to say anything.

‘After all, a husband and wife are supposed to be equal partners in everything in their life, no? Why not in this, too?,’ he asks.

I nod mutely.

Why doesn’t God give such considerate men a chance at bearing children? ;)

OH tales

6 Jul

OH: I wish you had the superpower of absorbing everything inside a book by just quickly flipping its pages, from cover to cover.

I wish I could do that, too! :)

*******************

Me: Travelling on work on a weekend? Again?

OH: What do I do? That’s life!

Me: Gah!

OH: My first morning in Delhi, I’ll call you as soon as I hear the kabaadi wallah shout. You’ll feel like you are right there with me.

Me: !!!!

*********************

At the vegetable market

OH: Why don’t you buy all the ingredients you need to make undhiyu? See, you’ll get everything here.

Me: Great idea, OH. Thank you so much for reminding me about undhiyu. I’m already craving for it.

OH: I thought it was a good idea to remind you, too. If you buy the ingredients today, you’ll make the undhiyu while I’m away in Delhi, no? I’ll not have to eat it.

Me: !!!!!!

*********************

Me: Which book should I read next, OH?

OH: Read this one. (picks out a book)

Me: Why did you choose this one? You have to tell me your logic behind that, too.

OH: Don’t ask me such difficult questions. I just chose it because the cover is a pretty blue colour.

*********************

A G-talk conversation

Me: OH, I talked to X today.

OH: OK

Me: She sounded pretty serious.

OH: OK

Me: She said she will e-mail me the details.

OH: OK

Me: I’ll forward it to you. Let me know what you think.

OH: OK

Me: ok

ok

ok

ok

ok

ok

Is that all you have to say for everything?

OH: Not ok, it’s OK.

********************

The OH is busy looking at the cover of a book, which shows the back of a lady.

Me: What happened?

OH: Does this book have a description of what the cover lady’s face looks like?

Me: !!!!!

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