Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Need Some Distraction? Snack On This!

Any time between 4 and 6 p. m. in my office is just before we start getting into the thick of things. Suddenly, there is a crackling sound, that of a pack of snacks being ripped open impatiently. It may be plastic, but it's the sound of music, a very welcome interruption from the monotony. Sometimes the music could be metallic - it could be the clink of a spoon against a steel container.

If you haven't called out to your colleagues asking them to join you, never fear, they will come soon enough. "Ah, I hear plastic," says A (name changed and fake initial given to protect identity). She takes very little, snipping off just a piece of the fried treat, and retreats to her desk, thanking the donor profusely.

B (name changed, etc etc) will not only come over, she will take a little more, appreciate the snack, its taste,  its energy-/happiness-giving qualities, the donor's generosity and thoughtfulness for bring a bit of golden-fried goodness into a dull day, hover a bit relishing the taste and reluctantly depart to her own cubicle.

Then there's C (name changed, okay, all names changed) who will rise out of her seat in the next bay with a joyful smile, bite into it, analyse it, appreciate it, discuss the recipe with the donor, thank them once again and sit down, the smile lingering on.


D will worry about her weight, will be persuaded to have some, will have just a bit and then within 10 minutes, will be back at the donor's cubicle foraging for another.

Then there are those who walk by, driven there by happy happenstance, eat their fill, shower their blessings on the donor and move on. Of course, there are those who decline the snack too, but it never fails to bring in an extra bit of happiness into the atmosphere.

Depending on the person, the happiness is just a little dulled when the snack on offer is 'healthy' - like sundal, or fruit or oil-free food. Sweets and cakes are extra-happy-making, as are banana chips brought back by someone who has just returned from a holiday in Kerala. Sometimes prasadam from various religious places makes the rounds; sometimes it's chocolates brought from a jaunt abroad. (That's prasadam too, in my book.)

Sometimes, there's a repeat performance a few hours later, and then it's time to wind up and leave. Which of the above types are you? Are you a donor, a taker or both? What's your favourite office/tea time snack?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

'Haleem' Again - Meatless, Wheatless

With Id around the corner, Haleem is very much the flavour of the season. The vegetarian haleem post on my blog is one of the most popular ones, and perhaps one of the three or four posts which people have commented on after trying out the recipe. It even got copied, which is a rather sad way of establishing its popularity. This time, though, the haleem comes with a lot of changes. (It's gluten-free, and it could be vegan if you used oil instead of ghee.) So much so, I wonder if it can be even called haleem. The main ingredient in this is bajra/pearl millet. (I thought I had some broken wheat left over from a previous khichdi experiment, but I didn't.)

I had used the bajra so long back I'd even forgotten whether it was jowar (also a millet) or bajra. I hadn't eaten it before that but had decided to try it out because I saw some recipe for a khichdi with it. That turned out to be a not so pleasant experience and the cereal stayed in my pantry, unused. When I found out there was no wheat, I was a little disappointed but decided to use this for the haleem. The next step was to identify what it was.

Typing 'jowar' and 'bajra' and trying to label it as one or the other based on the colour didn't work. My cereal was green, but on the Internet, there was green jowar and green bajra, as well as dull white. Then my memory helped me and I remembered the khichdi recipe had called it bajra khichdi and I had bought a packet labelled 'bajra'. So bajra it is!

Incidentally, when we were kids and travelling, we used to see jowar/bajra stalks strewn on the road. I imagine the intention was to get it threshed as vehicles went over it. I even found a picture, see? Guess it still happens!

I set about making the 'haleem' - yes, it's haleem in spirit alright, so that's what I will call it. Now that we've got that out of the way, let me tell you about what I put in it. The original recipe called for peas, cauliflower, brinjals/eggplant and capsicum/green bell pepper but all I had was yellow pumpkin, broccoli and potato.

Now we all know broccoli isn't the best substitute for cauliflower though there's a resemblance, but I plunged it into some hot water anyway. Then I realised there was quite a big chance of the haleem getting into hot water if I went ahead with my eyes wide open, so I used only the stalks.

I halved the amount of vegetables and pressure cooked it as Farah and Neff, who commented on the previous vegetarian haleem post told me. I did face some reverses: the mixture started burning despite all the water I put in it, and when I rescued it and transferred it to another pressure cooker with more water, it stuck to that too, but it was all edible and didn't smell charred. So though it's going to be painful to evaporate all that water later, I suggest you use a spacious pressure cooker and lots of water, maybe two cups more than I did.

So here's how I made it

Bajra - 3/4 cup
2 tbsp red gram/toor daal/kandi pappu
1 tbsp green gram/moong dal/pesara pappu
1 tbsp split Bengal gram/channa daal/senaga pappu
A handful each of peeled, cubed yellow pumpkin, potato, and broccoli stalks
2 medium onions, sliced
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander/dhania powder
1 tsp cumin/jeera powder
5 cups of water (I used 3)
4 tbsps of ghee or oil
For garnish: Some sliced onion, fried crisp
Coriander leaves/hara dhania/kothimeera, chopped

Soak bajra/pearl millet and dals separately overnight. Wash well. Drain and keep aside for 20 minutes.

Grind the millet coarsely.

In a big pressure cooker, heat half the melted ghee or oil. Fry onions until brown. Reserve about two spoons for the garnish.

Stir in garlic, ginger paste, fry for a few minutes. Add coriander powder, turmeric, chilli, salt, coriander and cumin powders and add the millet and dal mixture. Stir well. Pour in the water.

Let it cook without the weight till the millet and lentils are tender. Don't leave the kitchen, because the moment you do, it will burn and your haleem might be ruined.

Once it's tender, add the vegetables, some more water if you think it's necessary and pressure cook again, with the weight. (Just go by your instincts here - my instincts went away and I had to firefight, literally.) This will take just about 3-4 minutes. Again, don't leave the kitchen, and watch the haleem like a hawk.

When the pressure drops, open the vessel, add the garam masala and the remaining ghee or oil.

Keep stirring often. Let the extra water evaporate. Watch out for some heavy-duty spluttering.

Let the ghee float to the top and the colour turn golden. Once you’ve put it into a serving bowl, garnish with the fried onions and chopped coriander. Serve hot with pieces of lime.

 I'm sending this off to Susan who's hosting the 50th edition of her event, My Legume Love Affair, on her blog this month.

If you want another 'Id delicacy' that's as unorthodox as this haleem and no less delicious, in my book, here's some Khubani ka Meetha! Eat both together at your own risk - you won't be able to lift yourself off your chair!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Eating In At Hong Kong

About a month ago, I went to Hong Kong for a day and a half on a business visit. I knew I wouldn't have any time to go around the city due to the lack of time, but we did manage to get away for a couple of hours the day we landed. The only thing we managed to see was the skyline.

We had lunch at our hotel, this was a seafood salad with pommelo. Don't miss the bit of pommelo resting against the lettuce - recognise the shape?

A colleague chose duck.

These were the desserts. Don't miss the familiar character on the platter!

And this was the Indian option.

We made it to dinner by the skin of our teeth and I forgot about photographing it, which was a pity, because it was quite ethnic South- and North-East Asian.

But I managed to capture a bit of the breakfast.

I've already forgotten what the pale yellow stuff to the left is, but in front of it is a fish ball. Behind it is a tea egg (which I didn't find any different from an ordinary boiled egg). In the black bowl is pork and sticky rice. The triangular yellow item in the centre is a water chestnut 'cake' and behind the sausages is a turnip cake, which had bits of pork in it.

In stark contrast to the skyscrapers that abound in the rest of the city, here's its green lung - Lantau Island, as seen from a train station.

And this is downtown Hong Kong

Here are links to other posts from the Far East, a region I've been lucky to visit, however short those visits may have been!





Thailand 2