Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chapter 2 : The metamorphosis begins

[Here's a link to the first Chapter.]

Disclaimer : These are just incidents from my life and I don't mean to offend anyone. And, don't get judgemental. What's here is mostly just the past.

Co-education and the rise of Ekta Kapoor!!! What better way to begin the change with? Now that I've got your ears perked up, let's dig in.

First things first, I nailed the TNPCEE entrance exam. Just as my winning streak continued, Moi topped the coaching center.

Next was selecting the college. The Dad and Moi headed to Anna University, Chennai for the "window" selection process. Now, the Dad too is quite the naive guy who ended up paying the cunning rickshaw wala twice. Okay - selection time - Coimbatore Institute of Technology it had to be - far away from aunt's place to get some breathing space. Moi had slightly lesser marks required to make it to the Computer discipline at the prestigious PSG College of Technology.

This was going to be a 4 year stint and I had already let the cat out of the bag which had gotten me into enough trouble. Moi had to tread this chapter with caution. One piece of advice - never ever ever trust a relative when it comes to your relationships.

The Aunt would diligently wake up every morning at 5:30 and prepare delicious food for the dabba. On some days, there would be two dabbas - one for the friends and one for Moi. Her rotis were in demand always. I learnt to make rotis from her. So, food was taken care of, so was stay as well as Ganesha who would wash and iron my clothes. The pocket money Moi got was spent at the cafeteria and the occasional "MarryBrown" indulgences. I am ever thankful for what she and her family have done for me. Now, how often do we actually thank the people who have touched our lives?

The bus ride to and from college meant getting to meet more people and to get smart. One had to  make friends with the conductor of S8 to ensure he'd allow us to get in at the very last bus stop so that we'd get a place to sit before the mad rush entered at the first stop. Now, for those who are not accustomed to taking buses, the last stop will be the stop on the opposite side of the first stop. (Doh)

Senior 1 : "Hey Jyothi, come here. Do you know tamil?"
Moi : "No."
Senior 1 : "Okay then sing a song in tamil. We won't let you get back into the class until you sing."
Moi : "Nila kaayum neram, saranam."

This was one amongst the initial friendly ragging incidents. Another common form was to force the junior to purchase the second hand text books, no matter what the condition, for a fixed price.

It is a very fine line between friendship and flirting/infatuation. One has to tread carefully so as not to lose a good friend or make the wrong impression. Moi saw a fair share of crushes, heartbreaks and broken promises

These 4 years taught me patience, acceptance and humility. I had classmates who had struggled to get where they were. It was an interesting mix - rich, spoilt kids waiting to take advantage of you and the poor ones who were scared to approach you because they are not comfortable with the English language.

At home, what with "Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki" and "Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi" making an entry, the Ekta Kapoor saga started forming its impression on my already limited world. One would think that one's only aim was to become a "Parvathi" or a "Tulsi".

And it is with that intent that Moi returned to Ooty, to be "happily" married to the chosen one.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chapter 1 - of being cocooned in Ooty

Disclaimer : These are just incidents from my life and I don't mean to offend anyone. And, don't get judgemental. What's here is mostly just the past.

A few more days and two things will hold good. One, I'll be on the wrong side of 30 (officially). And two, a new chapter in life begins. Co-incidentally, I got introduced to Travel With Neelima and to her  Neelima's 30 things to do before 30.
Like every other girl who has/will read this, retrospection was needed.

Would I have come up a list which had items close/similar to that?

No. I would never have thought of being published in a magazine or the newspaper or standing on a camel. Oh yes, I did feature in a local newspaper in Ooty after I got the highest score in secondary school but that was not aspirational.

The one and only aspiration I had was to travel to Switzerland. Well, I've not done that yet. The rest was always about getting married to a good guy after I turned 21, having kids and getting them married. God!! Seriously!! Is that all I could have thought about? Well, these are the voices that are ringing in my head right now.

X : "Feature, furniture a thas?" (Translated from Sindhi : Is the girl good looking and from a rich family?)
Y : "When making the chappati dough, there should not be any flour or dough sticking to the sides of the thaal. That's how they will test to see if the girl knows how to cook"
Z : "When a girl gets married, for the first year, she should listen to her in-laws and do just as they say. Then on, the in-laws will do as you say and you will be the queen of the house"

Believe it or not, these have affected me in some ways and have been a part of the moulding process.

This post and the next few will show sneak peeks into my life that was and has been. Incidents that have shaped me into the person I've become. I've decided to split this into chapters based on the places in which I was based at for considerable periods.

"of being cocooned in Ooty" is the first one in the series highlighting the limited application of thought by moi and the general mindset of most middle class business families.

"... as long as I have a roof over my head, food to eat and lots and lots of love...."
Well, that's how one of the expectations that I had from my marriage goes. "And they lived happily ever after" - that's how most movies of 80s end. Boy and girl fall in love, finally get married or get together and they live happily ever after. So, obviously that had to be an expectation. Well, it should not have been the only expectation. (It was not, thank my husband for that. More on this in another chapter)

Being born into a fairly affluent family of the time, I was sent to the best day school for girls, St. Hilda's. Moi had a life full of love, care, affection and anything that one could ask for. Hop-skip-and-jump and I was at the bus stop. The school bus would wait if I was a bit late or I got a second chance to get onto the bus as it came back from Finger Post. Honestly, how much simpler could life have been?

Ours was and is a joint family and I don't remember even one occasion on which there was an argument between two individuals.(Yes, things change) I don't remember ever seeing my parents fight or argue. Ok, I'm trying to drive in the fact that there was no exposure to violence of any kind, save for the stray chappal that "Mayaji" (our granny) threw at us in frustration, when we kids were up to something naughty. She always missed.

"Mayaji" always had a maid servant for every job. Every morning, she sat at the dining table and ensured that every corner was dusted and that the house was put in order. So, obviously, the naive me thought that it was as simple as having a maid servant to do the house chores. Who cared about where the money to pay the maids came from?

Who also cared or thought about where the food came from? Food was and is still aplenty at home(touch wood), cooked on time and served hot. Most times, one did not even have to move even a finger to get a plateful of scrumptious food in hand. For special goodies, one had to run to the small store opposite the house ,"up shop" as we called it, and get the chocolates on "kadan"(credit). It was grand mom who had to settle the credits. Yours truly had one dairy milk every day. Yes, I am paying for all that now - at the dentist.

Clothes were bought for occasions and by visiting relatives. How I used to look forward to wearing that new frock or that new shoe. It mattered not if the frock was in fashion or was it of the trending colour or if it had a brand label. All that mattered was that I'd got a new outfit and I'd wait for the next kitty party, temple function or birthday party to wear it to. Kitty parties were a monthly ritual where aunties showed off their hosting and culinary skills and we kids got to play some fun games like "tail the donkey", "lemon in spoon", "passing the parcel with punishments", etcetera. Mom and aunt also had a book on hosting and games. Who even tries to put in that effort now? You just head to the nearest pizzeria.

Every year, these relatives visited us for 2 whole months. There were times when we had around 50 people at home and we'd sleep in the living room. Those were the times when life was easy, less materialistic and of fewer worries. It was more about building and maintaining relationships.

I was mighty proud of the swing in our compound. I was mighty proud of the huge play area around my house. I was mighty proud of the size of my house. But, I never thought of what had gone in for me to have all of these things, to call them mine. Not once did I think of those who did not have a roof over their head. Yes, we used to provide food to the poor outside the church. Yes, we used to serve food at the deaf-and-dumb school.

There were the school excursions every other year. They gave a glimpse into the outside world. Being from a business family and in a tourist spot, our travels were few and limited to may be attending weddings in South India. Moi went on every excursion that was organised while in school without thinking about how much they cost. All that one would think about was how much pocket money to carry and what would be the things to buy from the place. Dad paid for all of them and I did not realize until the very last one to Nepal where I had to beg him to send me. That's when, at the age of 16, that money became a reality for me.

Another thing about these excursions are that they are all pre-planned for and teachers all around provide security. There is no need to worry about missing a train or getting lost.  One is cocooned from the actual nitty gritties of planning a trip, booking stay at a good hotel. Not once, not once did we stay at a bad hotel.

The latter part of this chapter of my life, saw me flirting with infatuation and crushes. This carries on, into the next chapter too but it all started here. The fad of boys and girls buying each other cards and gifts saw its rise. Archies outlets sprung up everywhere. Everyone around was having a boyfriend and/or was getting proposed to. Friends link you up and you end up thinking it is all for real. Absolutely zero thought into what might actually be in store.

Chapter 1 ends with moi scoring a good percentage and deciding to pursue engineering. Moi had no idea what engineering was about except that it was a 4 year course and that's exactly what I wanted. I did not want to get married before I turned 21 and a 4 year course meant marriage after 21. Moi had no idea as to what had to be done to get into engineering, but it all fell into place. Well, thanks to the efforts of my aunt and uncle who did the needful.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stuffed Capsicum/Bell Peppers

The Bell Peppers need to be cooked through to really enjoy this dish.The stuffing can be modified as per one's taste. I was inspired to make these again after seeing Sunitha's blog. Sunitha has recently joined the blogging world. Her blog has a beautiful template and she does have an interesting collection of recipes.

Now, stuffed bell peppers are a definite hit if the stuffing tastes great. It's just like most of the other chaat items - samosa, kachori.
partially stuffed bell peppers

All ready to be eaten with dal and roti

Just before they were zapped in the microwave
Equipment used :
  • Gas
  • Microwave
Time taken :
Preparation time : 10 minutes
Cooking time : 30 minutes including time to boil potatoes
Difficulty  : Easy

Ingredients (serves 4):
  1. Green bell peppers/capsicum - 2
  2. 3 large potatoes
  3. 1/2 cup green peas
  4. 1 onion chopped
  5. 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
  6. 1 tsp oil + a little more to coat on the bell peppers
  7. 1 tsp saunf/fennel seeds
  8. 1 tbsp kasuri methi
  9. 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  10. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  11. 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  12. 1 tsp garam masala
  13. 1/4 tsp amchur powder
  14. 2 tbsp chopped cashew bits (optional)
  15. A few raisins chopped (optional)
  16. Salt to taste
  17. 4 tbsp grated cheese
How I made it :
  1. Slice the bell peppers into two lengthwise. Deseed them. These will serve as our cups. Spread oil on the outer side of the cups.
  2. Boil the potatoes till completely cooked. 
  3. Peel the potatoes and mash.
  4. In a pan, heat oil.
  5. Add the saunf seeds and kasuri methi.
  6. Add the onions once the saunf starts to brown.
  7. If using frozen peas, cover with water and zap in microwave for 2 minutes. If using fresh peas, zap for longer.
  8. When the onions are translucent, add the ginger garlic paste.
  9. When the raw smell goes away, add the green peas.
  10. After a minute, add the red chilly poweder, coriander powder, cumin powder, amchur powder and garam masala powder.
  11. Adjust salt.
  12. Add mashed potatoes.
  13. Fry for a minute.
  14. Turn off heat. Divide the mixture into 4.
  15. Put each part into a capsicum cup. Sprinkle with cheese on top.
  16. Zap in microwave on high for 10 minutes, until the skin starts to wrinkle.
  17. I optionally placed them after zapping on my hot tawa, which was ready for rotis, for two minutes covered. This helps give it a char enhancing the taste.

Tomato Dal

My friend brings this dish quite often and it is mouth-wateringly delicious. It is an amazing way to transform the simple dal.
Tomato Dal with rotis in my newly acquired soup bowls
Ingredients :

  1. 1/2 cup toor dal
  2. 2 tbsp masoor dal
  3. 2 large tomatoes
  4. A tiny piece of tamarind
  5. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  6. Salt to taste
  7. 1 tsp oil
  8. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  9. 1/2 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
  10. 2 tbsp chopped onions
  11. 2 pods of garlic crushed
  12. A pinch of hing/asafoetida
How I made it :
  1. Pick, wash and soak the toor and masoor dal for ten minutes.
  2. In a pressure cooker, add the dal, sufficient water, tomatoes chopped, tamarind, salt and turmeric powder.
  3. Let this boil for one whistle on high and about 4-5 whistles on low.
  4. When pressure releases, heat one tsp oil.
  5. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds.
  6. When the mustard stops spluttering, add the onions and garlic.Fry till onions are translucent.
  7. Mix the dals well and add to the tadka. 
  8. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve.
We had it with rotis and stuffed capsicum. This recipe is a definite keeper. You can avoid the tamarind, if you don't like the sourness it imparts.

Alila Diwa Goa and Groupon - a combinatorial review

This one has been on my mind for sometime now. Just did not get down to writing it. This is like a combi review of both Alila Diwa Goa and Groupon, the erstwhile Crazeal. Groupon is one of the many deal websites who apart from shopping deals, restaurant deals also have travel deals. We were quite skeptical initially of making a booking of 20k rupees via a deals website but I had used their site to purchase another deal at the Movenpick hotel and did not face any issues. It is as simple as

  • select deal
  • purchase the coupon
  • make a reservation with the client/merchant
  • take a printout of your voucher
  • present yourself at the said date and time. 
What's the best part about it? You can get a full refund if you are unable to redeem the purchased deal. The bad part is that the refund is in groupon credits. This happened to me when I bought the voucher for a Sunday Buffet Brunch at Soul City, UB City. They were completely sold out and so I got a refund of 1k in Groupon credits.

And now, back to Go Goa!! Our deal included 3 nights and 4 days stay at Alila Diwa Resort in South Goa, close to Betalbatim beach. Also included was buffet breakfast and evening drinks with snacks, limited to 2 happy hours. This was 24k for 2.

A resort in Goa would mean sunny, sandy beach outside the window but Alila Diwa is nestled amidst rice fields, a ways off from the beach. The property is huge and is nicely done up using natural mud bricks, eco-friendly decor of old metalware.
The pillars made of mud bricks

They have 3 blocks with the Diwa wing being the most beautiful or so I am told. They believe in sustainable tourism. The resort has 3 restaurants and the food at Spice Studio is what I'd recommend. It's value for money in a nice romantic ambience. Vivo is where breakfast is served. Vivo overlooks the pool and the food here is not that great. Avoid it except for the HUGE, I mean HUGE, breakfast buffet. We did not get a chance to checkout Bistro. Edge bar overlooks the pool, dimly lit and has the perfect setting for a good get together with friends. The staff at Edge Bar were very knowledgeable and suggested dishes that we would like and mentioned the ones to avoid as well. (LOL)

Drink at Edge Bar
The rooms were a delight, minimalistic but full of surprises. The sliding doors which open the toilet into the bedroom were a first for me. Oh yeah, I know what you are thinking now. The rooms are cleaned well every day and so you don't need to worry about any stray smells.

The cozy balcony (don't miss the wooden blades of the fan)
The beach is about 600m away from the resort. You could go on the trusty two wheeler that you can hire just outside the hotel or use the free buggy service. Having the beach away and taking a walk to and fro would mean a good way to digest all the food.
Entrance to the beach

The beach - there had to be at least one of these
What we liked :

  • Friendly, knowledgeable, helpful staff
  • The room
  • The decor
  • Dinner at Spice Studio

What we did not like :

  • Over crowded - fortunately, we vacated the day there was a wedding reception to be held at the resort
  • Food was mostly for the foreign palette, quite bland

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Inkaar - a review

What does one do to make a movie work? Put together two good looking people, add in some hot scenes and voila, there you have a perfect disaster. Well, that's Inkaar for you. A movie worth every miss, except if you are a Chitrangada Singh fan. Honestly, the woman can't act for nuts. Yeah, she does look sexy and hot but please save that accent. That don't buy me.

The story line is, well... ummm.. I don't think there is any real story. Come on, tell me, how hard is it to tell some one that you like/love them? Does one throw a sexual harassment case on someone with whom the relation has turned sour? Is sleeping with the boss the only way to get what one wants? If only all of us were in jobs where the bosses were waiting to get laid. Okay, I'm just kidding.

The promos screaming "Sexual Harassment" bought me and I was waiting to watch the movie. Protrayal of the female as the "taken for granted" and made to bear the brunt, is how it usually goes. Here, the lady gets what she wants, and at her will moves between cities. The surprise element for me was how it ended, with the guy quitting and heading back to his roots.

Okay, so what's nice in the movie. There's got to be something. I liked the way the movie is shot as a narrative. There's a touch of reality with witnesses taking sides. Deepti Naval's sarees are beautiful but the role does not do justice to her talent.

All in all, a good one to miss.

Taste of South India - 3 recipes in one post

Horsegram also known as kollu is known to help with weight loss and is also supposed to be very good for women to keep their bones strong. It is generally considered to contribute to body heat.  The last time I had tried a rasam with this gram, it was quite a flop. This time I tried it differently and it came out awesome. What's more nothing is wasted. The boiled gram makes a palya and the water in which it is boiled is made into a rasam. On the side, I also made some beetroot palya.

Beetroot Palya :
Equipment Used : grater, coconut scraper

Difficulty : Medium

Time taken :
Preparation time : 10 minutes
Cooking time : 15 minutes

Ingredients : 

  1. 2 medium beetroots grated
  2. 1 tsp oil
  3. 1 tsp mustard seeds
  4. 1 green chilly chopped
  5. Salt to taste
  6. 2-3 tbsp fresh grated coconut

How I made it :
  1. Grate the beetroot.
  2. Heat oil in a pan.
  3. Add the mustard seeds
  4. Once they stop spluttering, green chillies and fry for a minute
  5. Next add beetroot.
  6. Adjust salt.
  7. Cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes, mixing once in a while.
  8. Garnish with grated coconut and serve.
Horsegram/Kollu Palya :
Equipment Used : coconut scraper

Difficulty : Easy

Time taken :
Preparation time : Soaking time
Cooking time : 15 minutes to boil + 5 minutes

Ingredients : 

  1. 1/2 cup horsegram soaked overnight
  2. A pinch of turmeric powder
  3. A pinch of asafoetida powder
  4. 1 tsp oil
  5. 1 tsp mustard seeds
  6. Salt to taste
  7. 2-3 tbsp fresh grated coconut

How I made it :
  1. Boil the horsegram with salted water enhanced with turmeric and asafoetida powders. This takes about 15 minutes. One whistle on high and about 2 whistles on low.
  2. When pressure releases, drain and reserve the water. It will be used to make rasam.
  3. Heat oil in a pan.
  4. Add the mustard seeds.
  5. Once they stop spluttering, add the horsegram.
  6. Fry for  minute.
  7. Add grated coconut. Turn off heat and serve.
Horsegram/Kollu Rasam :
Difficulty : Easy

Time taken :
Preparation time : Soaking time of horsegram
Cooking time : 15 minutes to boil + 5 minutes

Ingredients : 

  1. 1 country tomato roughly chopped
  2. 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
  3. The reserved water from the boiling of the kollu.
  4. 1 tbsp pepper powder
  5. 1 tbsp cumin powder
  6. 1 tsp oil
  7. 1 tsp mustard seeds
  8. 1 whole red chilly
  9. 1 pod of garlic crushed (optional)
  10. Salt to taste - be careful as the kollu water has some salt
  11. Asafoetida - a pinch, be careful as some was added to the kollu water
  12. Chopped coriander leaves

How I made it :
  1. In a vessel, boil the tamarind and tomato in about 2 cups of water. Let that simmer away for about 10 -15 minutes till tomato is extremely soft.
  2. Now, you can strain this liquid or you could just remove the tamarind pulp.
  3. Add the reserved kollu water to this.
  4. Heat oil. 
  5. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter.
  6. Add asafoetida powder.
  7. Add the whole red chilly and garlic and fry for 30 seconds
  8. Pour in the water mixture.
  9. Add salt, pepper powder and cumin powder.
  10. Let this come to a boil. 
  11. Turn off heat, add chopped coriander and serve hot with rice.

    Cafe Pascucci - a review

    What do all boring people do on the day prior to V-day? Ask others what they are gonna do for V-day :p
    That does include me too with the excuse that one does not need a single day to express love. 

    This V-day we headed out to Cafe Pascucci in Kalyan Nagar for dinner. Our tummies were actually already quite satisfied on banana split with chilly chocolate sauce made by moi, of course. We headed out anyway.

    What's nice about the place : 
    Nice interiors, Cozy place, Crunchy thincrust Pizza, Good quantity

    What's not so nice about the place: 
    Cramped up - not much privacy as the tables are quite closely placed
    Measly amount of topping on the pizza
    Meatballs made of chicken??

    What we had :
    Green Pizza with Broccoli
    Spaghetti Meat Balls

    Average cost of meal for two :
    750 rupees

    Layered Pasta bake with broccoli

    I got to buy some fresh broccoli over the weekend. I was thinking of making a broccoli pesto sauce that I had seen while food gawking on the internet. Since I have run out of any kind of nut that I could use in the pesto, I decide on making a pasta bake. The alternate was a quiche but that would mean having to see the pack of pasta lying as is.

    Broccoli is one vegetable that I've seen in the exotic section of every super market. This veggie is actually found so easily in the local market in Ooty and at a much cheaper price. Earlier I used to refuse to reach out for it cause of the exorbitant MRP displayed. Now, as I keep trying out different dishes and like to choose different veggies, this gets into the basket once in a while.

    Broccoli has a very high iron content and I've seen it in many forms in the dabbas of pregnant and anaemic women. When buying broccoli, stay away from the ones which are turning brown at the tips of the florets.

    Now, when it comes to this dish, the seasoning is all that matters. So ensure you add sufficient salt and pepper.

    Equipment used :

    • gas stove
    • convection bake option in combination microwave
    • round cake tin
    Difficulty : Easy

    Preparation time : 15 minutes
    Cooking time : 25 minutes + 30 minutes for baking

    Ingredients (Serves 2 as main course):

    1. 1/2 cup of macaroni shell
    2. 1/4 cup milk
    3. 2 eggs
    4. 1 head of broccoli
    5. 1 largeonion chopped
    6. 4 tomatoes chopped
    7. 1 large pod of garlic chopped finely
    8. 1 tbsp butter
    9. 1 tsp olive oil
    10. 2 tsp pepper (adjust according to taste)
    11. 1/4 cup or more of grated cheddar cheese
    12. Breadcrumbs - optional
    13. Salt to taste
     How I made it :
    1. Cook the pasta as per the instructions on pack. Reserve the hot water.
    2. Put florets of broccoli into the hot water, while you chop onions, garlic and tomatoes.
    3. In a pan, put in the garlic, butter and oil.
    4. Turn on the flame and let the butter melt and oil get heated up.
    5. Put in the onions and fry till translucent and pink.
    6. Add the tomatoes and cook till soft.
    7. Add the broccoli florets without the water. Discard the water now.
    8. Add salt and pepper and let the broccoli cook. Turn off heat when the broccoli is 80% cooked.
    9. In another bowl, beat the eggs and add milk. Add a little salt and pepper.
    10. Preheat oven at 180 degree C
    11. In a cake tin, layer with pasta.
    12. Next put the broccoli mix.
    13. Next sprinkle the cheese, as much as you like.
    14. Pour over the egg and milk mixture.
    15. I had some bread crumbs which I sprinkled on the top. This can be avoided. 
    16. Bake for 30 minutes until top is golden brown.
    17. Serve hot with tomato ketchup.

    A poem that echoes my thoughts

    I was ecstatic to hear from my friend about her daughter winning the prize in a poetry competition held during the Youth Health Mela 2013 in Chennai. She shared with me her daughter's work and when I read it, I was proud to have such a lovely parent, who was bringing up her children the right way, as my friend. The poem echoed my thoughts to the tee and was written so well. She just had to win.  Her poem breathes life into naturalist David Attenborough's warning that humans have become a “plague on the Earth”.
    Reading this poem gave me hope for the future.

    So with her permission, here's the poem.

    Earth’s Agony

    On one night, I had a dream
    So true and so real it did seem
    I came to a moonlit forest, deep
    A black scarfed woman, there, did weep

    I went near and could hear her cry
    “Oh! How lovely, how beautiful was I!
    My skin was smooth and soft, but now
    Its been worked out with hoe and plough”

    “Scarred and marred, is now my face,
    Which once had shone with youthful grace…
    Oh! How I had once sung blissfully...
    But now, its nothing but my agony”

    She sobbed and wept and it touched my heart
    I went nearer, “I’ll comfort her,” I thought.
    “What’s your name?” I asked childishly
    “I’m Mother Earth” she said patiently

    Yes, by her answer, my eyes did blink!
    But her worries I couldn’t yet link…
    “Why are you crying?” I asked her,
    “Do you need some help my sister?”

    “And who are they who trouble you?
    And why do they your beauty slew?”
    “They are none but you”,  she told me
    “It’s you and your kind that trouble me”

    “My Nature has many plans for you
    But harm and no good is all they do
    They ripped and tore my Ozone cloak
    And in CFC and acid, it they soaked…

    Global warming is melting me down
    I used to be green but now I am brown…
    My forests they cut and my pets they kill
    Yet their desires won’t satisfy still…

    My seas, my eyes are filling with tears
    They are no more blue, but black I fear…
    My soil I gave for cultivation space
    And all my leaves, for flocks to graze…

    But what do you give me in return?
    Smoke from vehicles and the fuels you burn”
    “All day long I suffocate and cry
    But no one hears me, I’d rather die.

    I hope you see that if you harm me
    It’s YOUR END that’s soon gonna be...”

    Saying this, she was gone, just as my dream
                                                    More than Just a ‘Story’, it truly did seem.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    150th post - back to my roots - Sai Bhaji with Kichdi

    Finally my 150th post, but not necessarily my 150th recipe. I decided to get to my roots and make the famous Sai Bhaji with Kichdi. This combination is absolute comfort food, especially when served with fried potatoes on the side.

    Sai bhaji is similar to a keerai masiyal but has added vegetables like carrots, ladies finger, brinjals and potatoes.
    The Kichdi is a simple rice dish wherein green mung dal is added to the rice alongwith some turmeric powder.

    Ingredients for the sai bhaji :
    1. 1 bunch paruppu keerai/spinach
    2. 1 small handful of chana dal picked, washed and soaked for 1 hour or toor dal
    3. 1 tsp kasuri methi or small handful of fresh methi leaves
    4. 1-2 green chilly
    5. 1 tsp jeera seeds
    6. 1 large potato cubed
    7. 4 small brinjals cubed
    8. 5-6 ladies finger cut into 2 inch pieces
    9. 1 carrot cut into roundels
    10. 1 onion chopped
    11. 2 large tomato chopped
    12. salt to taste
    13. 1+1 tsp oil
    14. 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
    15. 1 tsp coriander powder
    16. A pinch of asafoetida
    17. 1 tsp Garam masala (optional)

    How I made it :
    1. In a cooker, heat a tsp of oil.
    2. Put in jeera seeds. Fry for a minute till they change colour.
    3. Add the green chilly. 
    4. After 30 seconds, add the onions.
    5. When the onions turn pink, add the veggies. Fry till the brinjals are 80% cooked.
    6. Add the tomato.
    7. When tomato is soft, add the dal and fry for a minute or two.
    8. Add the spinach chopped and enough water to cover everything.
    9. Adjust salt and give one whistle on high and 2-3 whistles on low.
    10. When pressure releases, mix well, mashing some of the potatoes.
    11. In tadka pan, heat one tsp of oil, add red chilly powder and asafoetida. Pour this on top of the spinach dal mixture. Ideally garam masala will be added too. I did not have any so skipped adding it. 
    12. Serve hot with kichdi or bhuga chawara

    Channa/Chickpea Pulao

    What do you do when you have some channa but not enough to make sufficient chole masala? I decided to make channa pulao. Usually, I'd make this from the leftover chole masala. This is a simple crockpot meal with most of the ingredients found around the kitchen.

    Time taken :
    Preparation : 10 minutes + time for soaking
    Cooking time : 30 minutes(for chickpeas) + 15 minutes

    Difficulty : Easy

    Ingredients (Serves 2) :

    1. 1/2 cup chickpeas soaked overnight
    2. 1 cup rice washed
    3. 1 large onion sliced finely
    4. 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped
    5. 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
    6. 1 tbsp oil
    7. 1inch cinnamon stick
    8. 4 cloves
    9. 1 bay leaf
    10. 2 tbsp chole masala
    11. 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
    12. 1 tsp lime juice
    13. Salt to taste
    14. Water - 2 cups for the rice + 4 cups to boil the chickpeas
    15. Chopped coriander
    How I made it :
    1. In a pressure cooker, boil chickpeas with 4 cups of water with salt. Give one whistle on high and about 5-6 whistles on low or about 20 minutes on low. This ensures that they are well cooked and soft. Drain any remaining water.
    2. In another the pressure cooker, heat oil.
    3. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaf.
    4. Once the cloves start bursting, add the onions.
    5. Fry the onions till dark golden brown. This is what gives the colour as well as imparts some taste.
    6. Add the ginger garlic paste and fry till raw smell goes away, about 2 minutes. 
    7. Add the tomatoes and fry till soft.
    8. Add the red chilly powder, chole masala, salt. Fry for a minute.
    9. Now, add the rice and fry for a minute.
    10. Add the water and the boiled chickpeas.
    11. Adjust salt. Add lime juice.
    12. Let it come to a boil.
    13. Cover the cooker and when the steam starts to build, lower the flame and cook on low flame for 8 to 10 minutes. 
    14. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot.

    Saturday, February 16, 2013

    Upcycled cabbage dal and raw banana cheela

    One of the more recent blogs that I've been exposed to is I was thrown away by the photos. Sanjeeta has a way with photos, that something not so healthy as a bread pakora too looks like it has to be made right away. The health conscious part of me decided upon the raw banana cheela and I bought that right that evening while picking up veggies.

    Unfortunately for me, I had some cabbage dal leftover in the fridge. Now cabbage dal is a crockpot dish which my husband calls hotchpotch and usually does not dig into. So, this time too it was leftover and I decided to upcycle it.

    Ingredients (serves 2) :

    1. Raw banana - 1 cup peeled and grated
    2. 1/2 cup gram flour/besan
    3. 1/2 cup leftover cabbage dal or plain dal
    4. 1 tsp red chilli powder
    5. 1tbsp curd
    6. chopped coriander leaves - I didn't have any on hand
    7. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    8. 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
    9. salt to taste - watch it as your dal will be salted too
    10. Oil
    How I made it :
    1. Add the curd to the raw banana to prevent it from browning
    2. Add all the other ingredients to the raw banana mix.
    3. If your dal is too thick, add water. Please refer the consistency shown in the picture on the side.
    4. Heat a tawa.
    5. Add a tsp of oil.
    6. Scoop a spoonful of batter and place on the tawa.
    7. Dip your hand in water and spread it around.
    8. Cook on low till you see the sides starting to turn dry.
    9. Flip it. And cook till it turns brown.
    10. Serve hot with tomato ketchup.

    Pavakkai/Bitter gourd Kara Kuzhambu

    My belief is, some pavakkai once in a while is good for the body to help it detox. Now, I don't believe in de-bittering the bitter gourd by salting it as I feel it takes away some of its goodness. I don't know how true all this is but it makes me feel good to be eating something bitter. It feels like redemption after having eaten all those chocolates and other goodies eaten almost everyday.

    I had made some dosa batter too and so we had it with dosas. This has a tang to it and Pras loved it because of that. To cut the bitterness of the bitter gourd, this has coconut and the sweetness of fennel seeds. I've learnt from a good friend that it is all about balance.

    Ingredients (Serves 4) :

    1. Bitter gourd - 1 large or 2 small cut into roundels
    2. 3 small country tomato or 1 large tomato
    3. 1 small onion finely chopped
    4. 1tsp mustard seeds
    5. 1+1tsp oil
    6. 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind soaked in warm water
    7. 1/4 cup coconut
    8. 2tsp fennel seeds
    9. 6 red chillies
    10. 1 tsp coriander powder
    11. 1tbsp jaggery - optional
    12. chopped coriander leaves
    13. Salt to taste
    How I made it :
    1. In a kadai, heat 1 tsp oil and fry the bitter gourd till 80% cooked. I try to cut through with the ladle and if it gives in without much effort, I know it is almost done.
    2. In a mixie, grind the coconut, fennel seeds, coriander powder and red chillies with enough water to get a fine paste.
    3. In a pressure cooker, heat 1 tsp oil.
    4. Put in mustard seeds and let them splutter. Cover with lid to avoid them from getting everywhere
    5. Add the onions and fry till pink and translucent.
    6. Add the ground mix from 2. Fry for 4-5 minutes on low.
    7. Add chopped tomatoes. Fry till soft.
    8. Add tamarind water extract.
    9. Cover the cooker and give abour 3-4 whistles on high.
    10. When the steam releases, add the fried bitter gourd. Adjust salt. Add water to get curry of desired consistency and let it boil for about 3 minutes.
    11. Add the chopped coriander.
    12. Serve hot with rice or dosas.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Vermicelli/Semiya Idli

    I've been trying to empty out my kitchen and one thing that I had a lot of stock of was vermicelli. I made a sweet version of it last week and this morning I made vermicelli idli. I'd heard of vermicelli idli as my sister-in-law makes it sometimes. I've not tasted it but my mom has told me about it. The idli is similar to a rava idli and actally has some rava too.

    Now this idli is a bit on the heavy side because it is full of curd. It can be served with coconut chutney or some podi.

    Ingredients (Makes 6 idlis) :

    1. 1 cup vermicelli
    2. 1/2 cup rawa/semolina
    3. 3/4 cup curd + extra as required
    4. salt to taste
    5. 1 tsp + 1 tsp oil
    6. 1 tsp mustard seeds
    7. 1 tsp channa dal
    8. 1 tsp urad dal
    9. 1 finely chopped green chilly
    10. chopped cashew bits - as desired
    11. chopped coriander leaves
    12. finely grated coconut - skip this if serving with coconut chutney
    How I made it :
    1. Heat 1 tsp oil.
    2. Fry rawa and vermicelli for 5 minutes. Keep stirring to ensure uniform roasting.
    3. Once cooled, add curd and leave aside.
    4. After 1 hour, add some more curd if too thick. I added 2 tbsp curd extra. I added 2 tbsp of water as well. 
    5. In a pan, heat 1 tsp oil
    6. Add the mustard seeds.
    7. Once the mustard seeds stop spluttering, add the urad dal, channa dal and cashew bits. 
    8. Fry for a minute. 
    9. Add this seasoning to the batter. 
    10. Add green chillies, coriander and coconut. 
    11. Adjust salt.
    12. Grease idli mould or small ramekins and steam for 10 minutes.
    I don't have an idli stand. I make my idlis in katoris/stainless steel kinnams.

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Stuffed Eggplant Recipe

    Well, I wanted to use up the brinjal as well as cabbage lying in the fridge but could not zero in on one recipe that used both. I finally remembered the walnuts that I had and decided to make this recipe. I made cabbage sambar with the cabbage. Though the original recipe calls for the bigger variety, I made it with the small striped brinjals. The dish has a lot of texture to it because of the walnuts and the combination of the walnuts along with the brinjal is superb. I love walnuts and my dad sends me walnuts from his friend's farm in Ooty. Walnuts are supposed to be good for memory they say. Is it because they're similar in shape to the brain? But they are supposed to be loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids.

    Ingredients :

    1. 6 small striped purple brinjals
    2. 1 medium sized onion finely chopped
    3. 1 large tomato finely chopped
    4. 1/4 cup walnuts chopped coarsely
    5. 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
    6. 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
    7. 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
    8. 1 tsp + 1tbsp olive oil
    9. Salt to taste
    10. Coriander leaves chopped - 1 tbsp
    11. 30g cheddar cheese grated
    12. Bread crumbs made from one slice of fresh bread - just blitz in the mixie jar.

    How I made it :

    1. Wash brinjal. Halve them.
    2. Remove as much of the core that you can into another bowl. Keep aside to chop finely later.
    3. Place the brinjal shells in salted water with the skin side up and boil for 5-6 minutes or until the skill is soft to touch and feels like it will break easily. This is important else you could get chewy shells which would destroy the dish. Drain, pat dry and keep aside.
    4. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan.
    5. Add the onions. Fry till they turn pink and translucent.
    6. Add the chopped brinjal centers.
    7. After 2-3 minutes add the tomatoes. Fry till the brinjal is almost cooked. About 6 minutes. 
    8. Add the red chilli powder, salt, garam masala and cinnamon powders.
    9. Throw in the walnuts and fry till the brinjal is cooked completely.
    10. Turn off heat and mix in coriander leaves. 
    11. Now dip the eggplant shells in 1tbsp oil and put in oven with skin side down for about 3 minutes. I set the oven to 200 degree C and placed the shells in the topmost rack. 
    12. Spoon in the mixture. Sprinkle bread crumbs and grated cheese.
    13. Bake in oven for 20 minutes at 150 degree C or until cheese has melted and is brown on top.

    Tips :
    1. To ensure that you do not get a chewy shell, boil with skin side up. 
    2. When pre-cooking in oven, place the shells with skin side down to avoid getting a chewy texture.

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    Pazham Pori

    I got to eat this when I went with Pras for Nisha's wedding. We stopped at one of the famous India Coffee House enroute Palakad, while heading back from Thrissur. It was delicious and melt in the mouth. A perfect accompaniment to tea but also makes for a good dessert when topped with a dusting of icing sugar.

    Pras had bought some Nenthram Pazham yesterday and they are like huge. I'm sure they won't get over any time soon and to ensure that they don't end up in the dust bin, I decided to make Pazham Pori. These are from the banana family and have a bit of bite in them. Peeling off their skin requires a little effort and they are a Kerala speciality.

    Now that this is a Kerala speciality, you do know that it is one of Pras's favorites too. So, I thought of sending this to The Valentine's Day event hosted by Pari of Foodelicious and Cuponation.

    Ingredients (serves 2 as a snack):

    1. 1 large nenthram pazham
    2. 3/4 cup maida
    3. 1 tsp sugar
    4. A pinch of salt
    5. 1/2 tsp of cinnamon/cardamom powder - using my mortar and pestle I crushed 2 cardamom and a thin stick of cinnamon
    6. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
    7. water to make a paste
    8. Coconut oil to fry
    How I made it :

    • Mix the maida, salt, sugar, turmeric powder, cardamom, cinnamon powder alongwith water to make a thickish batter - similar to bajji batter. It should be a bit thick so that it sticks to the banana and not easily slide off. That way you won't have any batter on the banana.

    • Heat oil in a kadai.
    • Slice the bananas. Don't slice them too thin. They should be about 0.5 cm thick.

    • Dip the bananas in the batter and fry
    • Let it fry on medium heat for 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel.
    • Serve hot with chai. Alternately, dust with icing sugar and serve with some ice cream as dessert.


    Karavapillai Podi

    Our present neighbour has a mature curry leaves tree in their garden. Today they decided to prune it and hence we got a lot of curry leaves. To put it to good use, I decided to make a powder which could be eaten with hot rice and ghee. I zeroed in on this recipe on Rak's Kitchen and later I also stumbled upon the "Tried and Tasted" event by Nivedhanam. Honestly, this is a very nice way to promote a blog while giving due credit to the person behind all the effort. This event is the brain child of Zlamushka, which was taken over by Lakshmi from Kitchen Chronicles.

    Since it is my first time making a Podi, I followed the recipe as mentioned in the original.

    Ingredients (makes 1 medium sized jar):
    1. 1 cup of curry leaves - washed and patted dry on a towel
    2. 1/2 cup urad dal
    3. 10 whole red chillies
    4. 3 tbsp coconut
    5. 1/2 tsp hing/asafoetida
    6. Salt to taste
    How I made it :

    1. In the microwave, spread the curry leaves.
    2. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Leave it alone there until ready to grind.
    3. In a kadai, dry roast coconut, hing powder and red chillies until the coconut gets a brownish color. This takes lesser time if you use coconut which has been in the frige for some time. Fresh coconut takes a longer time to brown. 
    4. Allow that to cool.
    5. In another pan, dry roast urad dal.
    6. Grind the coconut mix and curry leaves.
    7. Add salt and urad dal and grind to a coarse powder.
    8. Spread on a newspaper to cool.
    9. Once cool, use the newspaper to fill up a airtight jar.
    10. Goes well with freshly cooked hot rice and ghee.

    Baked Cheddar CheeseCake recipe

    Once in a year, I am treated to CheeseCakes from D&N Confectionary, Japan. Thanks to my lovely brother who does not forget to get me and solely me a separate pack. Here's a link to the confectionary in Japan that makes these delicacies. 

    Last year I had tried to make a similar cheesecake by following Diana's Desserts but then I think I did something wrong. I had two packs of cheddar cheese in my pantry and I've got to finish it all within the next month and so I decided to try cheese cake one more time. This time I tried it following the recipe from here. It turned out quite nice, soft, fluffy and light, melts in the mouth. However, the next time I will add vanilla essence or vanilla extract as the cake tasted too eggy. 

    It being Valentine's season, I tried cutting out a heart (bleh).

    Ingredients :
    1. 50g/1/2 cup all purpose flour
    2. 50ml milk
    3. 50g butter
    4. 30g cheddar cheese grated finely
    5. 3 eggs - separated
    6. 50g sugar - about 3 and 1/4 tablespoons
    7. Vanilla Extract/Vanilla Powder - 1 tsp
    How I made it : 
    1. Sift the flour and keep aside. 
    2. In a microwave safe bowl, place the butter and cheese.
    3. Microwave on low power - about 20-40 for 1 minute.
    4. Mix and repeat step 2 until the cheese has completely melted into the butter. This is a replacement for double boiling. I'm too afraid of double boiling lest I crack the little crockery that I have and also lose my precious ingredients.
    5. Add the milk and let this mixture cool.
    6. In a bowl, add flour, egg yolks and the cooled mixture from 5. 
    7. Beat with a hand blender until well incorporated. Don't panic if this is a bit sticky and stretchy. All will be well once we add the egg whites. NO, DON'T add the egg whites yet.
    8. Mix in the vanilla powder.
    9. Preheat oven at 150 degree C. The time taken to preheat will be the same as the time taken to beat the egg whites.
    10. Prepare your tin. Line with baking paper. I do not have baking paper and hence lined with aluminium foil. I then greased the aluminium foil lightly.
    11. In another bowl, beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks begin to form.
    12. Slowly add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time.  Continue beating until the egg whites are quite firm and the peaks hold. 
    13. Mix in half of this egg white mixture with that of step 7. Mix well so that it is well combined. 
    14. Add in the remaining. Fold it in until well incorporated.
    15. Pour into round 7 inch cake tin and bake for 70 minutes. Place this cake tin in a deep tray or plate filled with water. 
    16. I had covered my cake completely with anothet layer of foil once I was happy with the coloring on the top. This ensures
      1. No further coloring, hardening of the top happens
      2. The heat is well retained and the cake is completely cooekd through.
    17. Take out of the pan as soon as the timer is done. Allow it to cool completely.
    Tips :
    1. Use only a 7 inch cake tin and that too a round one. The last time I had taken a chance with a square one and it did not set. 
    2. Mix the whites and yolk batter well. Do not beat but fold one into the other slowly and gently.
    3. Do not microwave the cheese butter mixture on high. Do it on a low power and for not more than one minute at a time. This is a replacement for double boiling.
    4. Ensure that the cheese is well incoporated in the butter else you will have it all settle at the bottom of your cake.