Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Plk Mngdi

Technology, specifically, the cell phone, has brought my friend V and I, who go a long way back, closer. Almost every night, we SMS (text message) each other quite a lot. The Spouse begins to feel the day is incomplete if he doesn't hear my mobile phone ping and wonders why she or I haven't begun yet. Sometimes I've to tell him it's because she knows I'm staying back late at work, or that maybe our fingers are too knotted up from all the texting. And sometimes I text her just to quell his restlessness, that V's in my cell and all's right with the world. (Sorry, Mr Browning!)

Neither of us use the 'predictive text' feature - I find it too troublesome to bother with, I don't know why she doesn't, but we have our own SMS lingo which we seem to follow rather well, skilled at it over a few years of practice and the rather common tactic of doing away with the vowels. But a couple of days ago, I was rather foxed with this: "Don't rmbr td dint hve ful rec then ggld." Er ... Okay, she "didn't remember", "then Googled", i got dat, but who or what was 'td' and what wasn't there, in between? She was telling me about the Ker Sangri we got during our recent trip to Rajasthan and which she'd finally attempted, and I was asking her which recipe she followed. So I texted her back - "ur sms lngo 2 hrd 4 me 2 get" (Your SMS lingo too hard for me to get). Then she texted back properly to say she tried Tarla Dalal's site but it didn't have the full recipe so she Googled it and found it somewhere else and she doesn't remember the source. Whew!

Then it struck me I had to use up my stash too. But I remembered that the grocer who sold it to us in Jaisalmer told us it would turn out well if soaked overnight and well, overnight was over the previous night. But the golden yellow mangodis glinted from the dark corner of the shelf, and I had a bunch of Rs 15-spinach (ordinarily Rs 6, have you been reading about the horribly expensive time we're having, vegetably speaking) so I made the Palak Mangodi instead. Palak is spinach and Mangodi are bits of sundried moong dal (green gram) or urad dal (black gram) paste, usually used as an accompaniment to various curries in Rajasthan, from what I gather.

This is from TD's book on Rajasthani cooking but I halved the recipe as I had only one bunch of spinach - and added a tomato. I was also careless and added the original amount of onion prescribed.

1 bunch spinach/palak
1/2 cup mangodi, crushed (some info here)
1 tsp cumin seed/jeera
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp ginger-green chilli paste
1/2 tsp garam masala
a pinch turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1-1/2 tsp oil
salt to taste

Cook the spinach briefly in hot water, dunk in cold water and drain completely.

Then puree the spinach and tomato. Keep aside.

Add a cup of water to the mangodi and pressure cook for 3 whistles. Drain, keep aside.

Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. Once they splutter, add the onions and saute till pink.

Add the ginger-green chilli paste and saute for a few seconds.

Add the rest of the spices and the puree. Let it cook for a while.

Now add the cooked mangodis and salt and simmer for five minutes. We ate it with rice, roti and by itself, nice all three ways.

I'm sending this off to Priya who's hosting Susan's MLLA this month.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Star of Wonder, Star of Light

This star and its shadows confronted me this evening when I got back home from work. I fished out my cell phone and took a couple of pictures. Then I went up to my apartment, brought my camera downstairs and took some more pictures. Then it turned out there's an event in NCR called Festive Photos and I'm hoping Jacquie will accept it even though the round-up is due any moment.

Season's Greetings!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meetha, Doubled, Tripled

It was an evening when my heart ruled over my head. There was a buffet waiting in the restaurant but I stubbornly decided to go out of the hotel, find a store and buy myself a snack. It was too early for dinner, but I could do with a snack.

The hotel in which I was staying shared space with several blocks of apartments, and there was a store somewhere amidst all those apartments. I took the long walk over to the other side, located the store and bought myself two packets of chips and a bar of dark chocolate with almonds.

I didn't wait to get back to my room. I opened one pack of chips and tried them - not a fan of assembly-line chips, I rarely buy them, but this was not bad, I thought, reflecting on the taste and detecting a hint of clove! It was only a 35 gm pack, so most of it was gone by the time I reached my room. I am fond of hotel rooms - I love the fact that they are 'housekept', unlike my own house, and I try to leave them in as pristine a state as I find them. I tried to enjoy the room, sitting in the chairs, reading at the table, watching the TV, and sinking into the big bed underneath a cool blanket (it should be a warm blanket but the air-conditioning keeps it cool, even after you turn off the AC).

Two meals of conference food were bad, and though I tried to wriggle out of one, given that it was laid out in the open for humans, mosquitoes and other flies to flock to it, my gracious hosts didn't let me go back to my hotel hungry, shooing off the caterers who advanced every minute to pack up. So I had to eat something there and after trying a few bits here and there, managed to down some rice and dal and escaped to the sanctuary of my hotel room. The irritation of not having had a fulfilling meal went to my head and I reached for the chocolate, dreaming of the breakfast buffet ...

Second day of conference and I had planned to go out to lunch with my friend, but a text message from the powers that be put paid to that plan - I had to call Friend and tell her to have her lunch, I'd call her when I was leaving ... the silver lining to the disappointment was that I got to eat a little bit of the double-ka-meetha that was being served.

Rich, moist and spongy. It must have haunted me, because back home the next day, I went shopping for a loaf of bread and proceeded to make it as per a recipe in Pratibha Karan's 'Hyderabadi Cuisine'. I made one change - instead of the rose water she mentions in the recipe, I used orange flower water because I have a full bottle of it and haven't used it yet since I acquired it two years ago. I didn't use the almonds, just a packet of cashews. And oh, I also didn't stick to her direction to use 2/3rds of a cup of ghee. I used less.

Or probably more. Because I didn't measure it, used it in tablespoons.

So here's what you do. Take 10 slices of bread, cut off the crusts. (What do you do with them? Dump them if you're not environmentally-friendly, dry them and crumb them if you are, or glaze them and lattice the pudding with them later. Glaze them how? I don't know, I just assume it can be done.)

Fry the de-crusted slices in tablespoons of ghee till they are golden brown both sides.

Meanwhile, to 500 ml of boiled milk, add 200 ml of cream and reduce to half, stirring now and then, in simmer mode right through.

Make sugar syrup with 1 cup of sugar and half a cup of water.

Put the fried bread in a greased baking dish. Pour the milk-cream reduction over the bread, and the sugar syrup as well. Sprinkle with saffron and cashew nuts.

Bake in a pre-heated oven - no temperature was specified so I put it somewhere between 130 and 180 C, fancying that I remembered some baking instruction that heavy cake batters needed lower temperatures. Whether I remembered right or not, it was a good thing to do because the milk reduction took its time to reduce further and everything got brown and toasty, cashew nuts included, without getting burnt.

Eat it up, share it, throw it out - fast - it's extremely heavy and can clog arteries and everything else that can be clogged. It's that delicious!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Kadhai Rajasthani

Hah! Thought it was a Rajasthani curry, didn't you? It is a recipe, though.

Recipe for Kadhai Rajasthani: Take some time off, go to Amber Fort in Jaipur and see these huge kadhais.

How could I have forgotten to post these pictures in my previous post? Anyway, here's some trivia for you - I haven't watched Jodhaa Akbar but apparently these kadais feature in the movie. Jodhaa cooks kheer for Akbar in these kadhais. So I read on the Net.

The vast and rambling Amber Fort is also complex and maze-like. I saw these kadhais about 90 minutes from the top before I managed to get to them. I didn't figure it out - I made my way to several points in the fort through a combination of stumbling and guesswork. There are no directions anywhere, not even on the audio guide, if you're lucky enough to be able to listen to it.

There was no information about these kadhais. I shot these pictures from high above, as much as my 14X optical zoom compact camera would allow.

There are more pictures of Amber Fort here.

Swimming pool, bathtub, what other uses can they be put to? They would need a ladder, though. In various palaces and museums, we saw oversized vessels and containers like these that needed ladders to access them.

Like this. This was one of the two containers of Gangajal (water from the Ganges, considered sacred, and believed to wash away sins, including those accruing from crossing the ocean) that the then king, Sawai Madho Singh II, took to England when he went to attend the coronation ceremony of Edward VII. These are reported to be the biggest sterling silver containers in the world.

Kadhai Rajasthani

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Rajasthan - Vinaigrette of Past

Vignette, vinaigrette, does it matter? But the tag line of the hotel I passed by did make for a big grin - and I knew that would be the title for my next post. Here are some delicacies we tried in Rajasthan over the past week, across Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Jaipur.

Dinner at a canteen in the Jaipur Railway Station. The round breads in the plate in the foreground were a pleasant surprise. We got those when we ordered a 'kulcha' - it took us a few seconds to realise they were more pav (of the pav bhaji kind) and less kulcha - the South Indians in us immediately noticed their resemblance to ootappams. We liked them so much, we ordered another plate. The gravy was a thin channa/chick pea gravy, which was spicy and rather ordinary.

Behind, you can see some kachodis. They were filled with dal, spices (saunf/fennel, dhaniya/coriander) and red chillies. Very tasty, very heavy - and very, very hot! The other plate (covered by an arm) contains pooris.

How long has it been since you had a Cassata? This brand used to be famous all over India once, now I suppose it's not marketed everywhere any longer. This was dessert, and comfort, in the cold Jaipur night, in a women's waiting room where we huddled trying to forget we had only two confirmed tickets for a group of four.

Roasted papad and bandhani tablecloth - all set for our first full Rajasthani meal in our hotel!

Ker sangri - the desert vegetables Rajasthan is so famous for. I never realised it would be so oily. (Granted my picture/version in the link above is no adequate representation either, but none of the pictures on the Net seem to contain so much oil!)

Gatte ki sabzi - oily again, but quite tasty.

Samosas (right) with a dry, spicy filling and chilli/mirchi vada at a snacks/sweet shop in the market.

More savoury snacks. The one in the foreground is a maida preparation intended to resemble fried cashewnuts.

Mawa kachori, filled with milk solids and nuts and sugar, which Jodhpur is famous for. We had this in Jaisalmer, though. 

A hole is punched in at the centre of the kachodi and some sugar syrup is poured into it. The periphery also is wetted with the syrup.

Maybe we didn't eat it at the right places but we didn't like it very much as the mawa just tasted burnt and the other batch we had reeked of kerosene from the stove rather than anything else!

Yes, all these curries were very oily! This was a methi-papad curry, the methi being the fenugreek seed and not the greens.

That's a Rajasthani thali. Clockwise from the yellow dish is the kadhi, dal, churma, roti, ker sangri and the gatte ki subzi.

Breakfast at Pokaran - mirchi vada and kachodi frying. 

Another Rajasthani thali - rotis, dal, potato curry, kadhi with pakodas, cauliflower and potato curry

This churma was a delight, fragrant with ghee and cardamom

The chaas (light buttermilk spiced with roasted cumin and carom (ajwain) 

This stall serves up jaljeera, lime juice, shikanji and lemon soda. 

My friend asked for lime juice with mint - this is what she got, I guess it was shikanji!

Yet another Rajasthani thali - notice the churma, it's different in this thali.

Churma, close up - it's been processed in the mixer!

The baati of the classic dal baati churma. After we were served this, a waiter came up with more baatis and ground sugar, crushed a baati in our plates, drenched it in sugar and told us to eat it up with the dal. In a more ignorant past, my first reaction would have been to gag, but I tried it now with a more open mind. Strangely enough, it didn't make a difference or affect me much, so I was content with just a taste.

You can see more pictures from my Rajasthan trip here.