Thursday, January 24, 2008

Announcing AFAM - Pomegranate

Hi folks, a hurried note - the Fruit of the Month for February is Pomegranate. This event was started by Maheswari of Beyond the Usual and I am hosting it this time. Please send your entries to srablogATgmailDOT com.

Here are the rules:

Prepare a dish of any kind with this ingredient, and put up a post about it on your blog.

Please link to this event announcement, as well as to Maheswari's blog.

Please mention AFAM in the subject field of the e-mail. Mention your name, blog name and provide the permalink of your post.

You can send me a 75 x 75 pixel picture of your creation with your e-mail, if you like.

If you don't have a blog but want to participate, e-mail me with your write-up and picture, I will include it in the round-up.

The deadline for this event is Feb 25, 2008. I will try to do the round-up the following week. I may not use the pictures if there are problems with them or with my computer or my Internet connection.

I am going away for a while, will be able to check mails and respond only after Feb 3.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Introduction to Kerala

This has got to be the fifth or sixth vegetable stew post for RCI-Kerala, hosted by Jyothsna of Curry Bazaar. This was also one dish that wasn’t dished out to us at our hostel mess, run by a Malayali chef and his sons and nephews and staffed by a number of assistants whom we addressed as Chechi (older sister).

If you were from Kerala, or spoke Malayalam, you would be sure to win the Chechis’ favour – you could come away with an extra papad, and on the weekly 'sweet day', you could be rewarded with an extra ‘apple cake’ – these were restricted to one per student, unlike the sambar and rasam which we could have any amount of but didn’t really want.

My introduction to Kerala and its food was largely at this hostel. In a college where Kottayam was called The Homeland and our Malayali friends introduced us to many treats from their tuck boxes, I first heard of aappam. “Think of it as an idli with frill,” said my roommate from Changanachery. Then there was the meat pickle which only later I found out was beef and not mutton, the diamond cuts, the prawn and fish pickles, a novelty to me, and the rose cookies flavoured with coconut milk. Evening tea once in a while featured a cold, grey pancake with bits of coconut in it. To someone who was not exposed to Kerala food, it was a mildly sugary ootappam!

The main meals, however, did not feature much Kerala food. I don’t remember if the rice was of the parboiled variety but it was the simplest of food, and also the most flavourless. (I came to appreciate its goodness only after I moved to another hostel which offered much tastier food but also gave me a month or two of tummy trouble.)

I don’t even remember if we got avial in that mess, the first one. What we did get was the whole green gram curry. Or a very dry sauté, as it was made there. I would be completely clueless as to the method of eating it - in general, people from Andhra don't treat vegetables, even dry preparations, as side dishes for sambar rice or rasam rice. They are eaten mixed with the rice, usually with some ghee. I used to think it was something the chef would rustle up every week when he fell short of vegetables at the right price; little did I know it was a traditional item. We also used to get a few vegetable preparations that were spectacularly unidentifiable and undistinguishable in looks and taste to a person such as I who had had no exposure to cooking and kitchens – I ate them for three years thinking they were such-and-such but they turned out to be something else totally.

I do have that mess to thank for a good habit, though – the lack of choice made me eat whatever was available and now I don’t dislike any vegetable.

The stew, however, is a different story. I only came across it much later in a book on Kerala cooking but didn’t really probe. I don’t remember where I first tasted it, or when I had my first aappam. Friends of ours invited us for lunch, and something like this featured in the menu. They had a nifty little tool which helped them cut the carrots and potatoes into wavy shapes, and the stew, with a peppercorn or two peeking through, dotted with orange and pale yellow and green from the beans has been one of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen.

Here we go then, from memories to now:

Carrots, 1-inch pieces: 100 gm
Potato, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces: 150 gm
French beans: 6-7, cut into 1-inch pieces
Onion – 1, sliced
Green chilli – 1, sliced
Ginger – ¼ inch, peeled and chopped
Coconut milk – 1 pack of 200 ml
Crushed pepper – 1 tsp

Green cardamom – 2
Cinnamon – ½ inch
Cloves - 2
Curry leaves - 4-5

Oil (I used coconut) – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste

Boil the vegetables till they are tender – they should hold their shape and not get squashed. (I used a pressure cooker, put about half a cup of water, and let it hiss once.)

Heat the oil in a pan, sauté the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.

Add the onions, ginger, curry leaves and the green chilli, sauté till onion is transparent.

Now add the vegetables and salt. Mix gently.

Reduce the heat to the minimum. Pour in the coconut milk and heat for a minute or two. Add the crushed pepper, remove from fire.

I’m not sure if this is the way it’s made traditionally, this is made from the memory of a recipe, but it tasted very similar to what I have had in Kerala homes and restaurants.

Friday, January 11, 2008

An Eventful Breakfast: Tofu-Egg Custards

Ever noticed those homely women on Indian TV who proudly whip up something on a cookery show and say this is full of vitamins A, B, C, D, will help cure this ailment and that, is good for this body part or that but mostof allit’sgoodforyour kidsalsoandtheywillsimplygobbleitup? Well, I'm not quite in their league but I do know this is a protein-packed dish. Well, an overload of it, maybe, but I’m so thrilled I even thought of it, bear with me if I gloss over the negatives.

She was asking me when I would put up a food post on the blog and I was telling her I wanted to but I couldn’t think of anything.

“Soy, soy, soy,” she said.

“Yuck, I hate soy, I’ve tried it, I will never go back to it, it tastes bad and it makes me feel bad,” I said.

And then the penny dropped. I had put my foot in my mouth – SHE is hosting Weekend Breakfast Blogging and the theme is soya. Once I got over the embarrassment and the apologies, I had the simpler task of racking my brains about what to make. I saw some khakra-like soya crisps in the store but the label said they were 85 per cent rice and wheat – and I couldn’t come up with anything featuring them for breakfast and brunch.

I’d almost exiled eggs from my home these past few months and had been considering repatriating them. A chance visit to Kalyn’s blog revealed a post on egg muffins, which I’d always imagined the recipe of but never got down to. It had to be a sign – a long-imagined dish, an actual recipe, the return of eggs into our lives, and the happy realization that adding tofu would qualify it for this event.

Before unmoulding

Eggs: 6, beaten
Carrots: 2 (small, about 50 gm), grated
Capsicum/green bell pepper: 2 (about 50 gm), chopped
Tofu: 200 gm, cut into small pieces
Green chillies: 4, chopped
Onion: 1, chopped
Garlic: 3 cloves, skinned and minced
Salt, to taste
Oil (I used olive): 2 tbsp

(Makes 6-8 units)

In a microwave-safe dish, heat the oil for two minutes on full power.

Now add the garlic, MW for a minute.

Add the onions, mix well, MW for two minutes.

Now mix the capsicum, carrot and the green chillies with the onions well and MW for three minutes.

Prepare a few ramekins – grease them with a little oil and put some tofu inside.

Layer that with the MWd vegetables. Sprinkle some salt on them.

Add salt to the beaten eggs.

Now pour the beaten eggs over the tofu and vegetable layers.

I microwaved each ramekin individually for one minute on 100 per cent power but the bottom was still not done – I suggest you MW them for three minutes but check after 90 seconds to see if they are done. I only found out mine were unset at the bottom after I unmoulded the whole lot and they leaked all over the plate and then I MWd them together for a good three minutes.

The guinea pig said it was good. I, on the other hand, have inhaled too much egg and could not bear the thought of actually ingesting one, so if you find yourself in that position, you could do what I did and slurp up some nice, cool cucumber raita as the antidote to those odorous memories!

... and after

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Peas of Mind

Ask and ye shall receive. While this has been true of most things in my life (God, Fate, and whomsoever else it may concern, please note, I’m counting my blessings and not being an ungrateful wretch), I’ve felt the inspiration a little lacking when it came to a post. Well, I could have done a pending meme, but I don’t have a middle name and haven’t given myself one yet, so that will take some more time; I haven’t looked at the rosters of events and even otherwise probably won’t be able to fit in anything, into my schedule, diet or fridge.

I did, though, have a kilo of peas that I shelled patiently last night and some khoya (solidified milk) which I’d bought last week intending a discovery of khoya matar – but the romance of which delicacy fast disappeared this morning when it turned into another one of those quick-fix-like gravies – a sea of red and some peas to break the monotony, and the red discolouring in suspended patches where it’s been diluted by the khoya – but as I’d been asking and seeking quite a bit, I realised this is what I found and received.

A visit to Susan’s blog revealed a leguminous turn of heart, and voila, I had something for the blog – at least one reader was getting twitchy not seeing my blog updated, not to mention the blogger, so here’s to us both. A little later, I found out I’d been tagged for yet another meme, but that’s going to be a story for another day.

I got this recipe from my microwave’s recipe book, no names are being mentioned for various reasons.

Khoya, grated – 100 gm
Shelled peas – 250 gm
Oil – 2 tbsp
Tomato puree – 50 gm (I used a commercial variety)
Red chilli powder, cumin powder, garam masala – ½ tsp each
Onion, chopped – 1, medium (the book said 50 gm)
Green chillies, chopped – 1
Ginger – ½-inch piece
Salt – to taste
Water – a few tbsp

Grind the onion, green chillies and ginger together.

Heat the oil in a dish at 100% power for two minutes.

Add ground paste to oil and mix well.

Microwave at 100% power for five minutes.

Add the tomato puree, the spices and 3-4 tbsp water. Microwave on 100% power for three minutes.

Add salt, grated khoya and 6-7 tbsp of water. Mix gently so that the khoya is not mashed (I did, but it spread throughout the dish, though it didn’t integrate.)

Microwave on 100% power for two minutes. Serve hot.

Note: I pressure cooked the peas for two whistles ahead of the microwaving – I didn’t trust the book’s directions because of past experience. This is additional to what’s mentioned in the recipe.

It’s a really mellow, mild dish that I imagine would go best with a butter naan.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Foodwise in India

Photo & Copyright: My dad

Here's some more.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Grind Is Over

I won't leave you Sra, she said, sending me another entry when I told her the first one wouldn't qualify. Please don't, send me as many entries as you like, I said.

For the first few days, this was the nature of the conversation I held with some bloggers - an entry would come in, I would check it out, say no in what I hoped was a pleasant manner, and would get another. I've earned much notoriety and some praise as the event evolved and rules went on being added for the first couple of weeks. In the last six weeks, it's been a pleasure to open my e-mail and see an entry waiting - around 40 in all, not counting my own. Thanks, all of you, for participating!

Next to enter was her. When I saw the title, I wondered anxiously if this was another dish I had to turn down, as I had said "no dunking in sauce". But happily, it wasn't.

Trust your instincts when you are tempted to eat at an "authentic" Indian restaurant - home-made is usually better, she seems to say. Here are her nine gems of a curry.

This was a new (to me) and easy combination of mustard oil, paneer and besan - I must remember to make this soon.

It's one of her favourite greens and she makes this dish when she's short on time.

This girl did what so many of us are doing - attempt something because she has a blog. To go with her first attempt into non-instant rava idli, she made this grindless gravy.

Et tu, Brute! was her reaction when I announced the event, buffeted by events as she was feeling. But she rose splendidly to the occasion and made these.

As green as jade, this is a curry often present in Maharashtrian weddings. She has used kokum to make it.

She said this curry was a breeze and I found it very unusual. Check it out on this new blog.

It's a crazy challenge, there are a zillion conditions and it's very clever, she said, and I was quite flattered! Here's this much mulled-over recipe.

Juicy potato was her contribution, literally speaking. Check it out!

She said she made up this dish specially for the event. Delightful, isn't it?

The handy and versatile potato makes another appearance in this event, through this dish. She will show you how to make this spicy dish.

Please play this game in its true spirit and don't look for loopholes in my rules, I said, and Madame took the cue. See what she did!

She made this for the event. Read her piece to find out why it was made and how it turned out! Funny as usual. The piece, that is, not the dish, I hasten to qualify.

This aficionado of Indian cuisine thought long and hard and cooked up something with much potato and not much toor dal in this.

She thought it wasn't difficult when she read about the event, but was proved wrong. See what she came up with.

This blogger had an Old Mother Hubbard moment, and see what she came up with!

Did you know you needn't soak dry black-eyed beans overnight? Here's how it was revealed to her.

This kadai featured a beerakai (ridge gourd/turai)-and-tamarind gravy, take a look.

No way, she told herself, when she found out about this event, but she had to eat her words. In more ways than one, and how!

The pumpkin gets its due in this recipe, helped along by kalonji/nigella. Don't omit that or the coriander powder, it just won't be the same, she says.

Like her, I have roots and shoots sprouting out of my potatoes, sweet potaotes and onions. A bit of cabbage and I have the makings of this fulfilling gravy.

This fan of no-fuss meals realised halfway through the process that she was cooking a grindless gravy. Find out what it is!

This is her second entry, made in energy-conservation mode. And one of the few non-vegetarian entries entered in this event.

She sent in what was to become the first 'fishy' entry - tangy with tamarind and spicy with green chilli.

She claims it really wasn't hair oil she was using to make this dish. What a culture shock the cooking medium in this dish turned out to be!

A prize fillet of trout demanded a dish from across the continents. Warm comfort for her on a cold day.

An unusual combination of cauliflower and pepper - she teaches you how to make a different dish!

Hail the minimalist recipe, she says in the course of her rant. And presents us one with an unusual combination of ingredients, here it is!

She had a couple of ideas, but alas! My rules cruelly shot them down. She soldiered on, and see what she came up with!

She put a lot of thought into this dish, often despairing at the evolving rules, but made it!

There's always stock of this, a happy combination of Mum and Mum-in-law's recipes, in her fridge.

She doesn't really like gravies that have bits and things in them (which is how they look without a blender), she said, but found one for me anyway. Why worry, when she can put it on pizza and jazz it up with cheese?

Here's an easy, hearty, grindless gravy that she made - hop over to her blog and check it out!

This is one of those dishes that has the same name across various States though the recipes often differ. She even has us peek into the legend behind its name.

Fate gave her two good reasons to post this dish. I'm glad this event was one of them.

She's just returned to the world of blogging, and as usual, has an unusual recipe for this event. Here it is!

Curry with all my terms and conditions and deadline was on her mind even as she had to think about Christmas preparations. See what she came up with.

This started off as a very promising poem, but I found out that the point of it all was an entry for the event. She just needs to change the last line and it would speak volumes for what many of us encounter in life sometime or the other.

This multi-coloured dish has an unusual ingredient added to give it richness but let it stay low-cal. Find out what she added.

And here are my own entries:

Vegetables in Dressed Up Coconut Milk

Cauliflower-Brown Rice-Besan Gravy

A Kashmiri-style Paneer

I've listed the entries largely in the order I received them. Some of you didn't send me the details, some of you didn't send me the pictures, some sent pictures that were too large, and some, pictures that were not small enough - I've not used those but have chosen to decorate them with my artwork instead! If there's anything that needs to be amended - mismatched links, mismatched photos, missing entries - please let me know.

A Very Happy New Year to all of you!