Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On The Gravy Train, Again

I only rarely used coconut in my cooking till I got Mikcee. I don't think we've ever used it that much for me to miss it but I miss the old-style traditional rotary grater, which looked something like this. Grating coconut was a breeze with those things.

Then in the last few years, a store we patronised began offering grated coconut but we couldn't really use it well because I had a fancy food processor which couldn't do many tasks that an Indian kitchen demanded, so between the lack of a grater and a mixie, our coconut consumption was pretty limited.

I finally traded in the food processor for a regular, no-frills Indian mixie because the former was occupying too much space, and it's one of the best decisions I've made. We consume a little more coconut now in the form of gravies and avial.

I like mixed vegetable gravies and recently went looking for recipes for something a neighbour had given us long ago. It may have been Poricha Kuzhambu but none of the recipes in the first few searches were printable. I didn't have the patience to write them down. So I kept surfing and searching till I came across some recipe that used tamarind, another that used dal, another that used coconut and others that used all these and more!

I combined all these into one and only halfway through remembered a colleague telling me that poricha kuzhambu was made without tamarind. But the recipes on the Net said otherwise and anyway, I had soaked some tamarind already so I just went ahead with my concoction.

I had had more than a cup of soaked and boiled field beans in the bridge, and some broad beans as well (a dozen), which I boiled and chopped into big pieces.

I ground

1/2 a cup of coconut bits 
2 red chillies
A teaspoon of cumin
More than a teaspoon of peppercorns

I put a spoon or two of oil into a pan, heated it and sauteed a chopped onion.

Then I added the beans and the vegetables and sauteed them.

I cooked it for a bit in tamarind extract - a lime-sized ball in a cup of water.

I then added the ground paste and let it cook for a while.

At this point, I remembered I had some cooked toor dal (pigeon peas) in the fridge, so I added a ladle of it to that.

It was wonderful!

The next week, I did the same thing with a mix of 10-12 broad beans, one green banana, some soaked and boiled black channa and a drumstick. I omitted the dal, didn't miss it at all.

There are a lot of beans in the first dish and more than a handful in the second one, so I'm sending off this post to MLLA 55 hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pomogarnet - The Fifty-2 Weeks of 2013 Project

I did think of a pomegranate initially when I announced the theme The Colour Garnet for Week 2 of The Fifty-2 Weeks of 2013 Project. It was Aparna's idea to introduce a photography-only, colour-based theme once a month. I was going to announce a plain colour but thought describing it this way would be more challenging. At that time, I had no clue what I would serve up in fulfilment of the challenge. Then a little later, I spied a long-ignored pomegranate sitting in my fruit bowl. I think it's been around for three weeks at least. 

But as the days went by since the announcement, I was struck by a horrible doubt - was it the ordinary pomegranate where the arils would be pink or the Kabuli variety, where they would be deep red ... er, in a jewel-like colour? Gripped by that fear, I couldn't slit the fruit open for two days. Because, then, I'd have to go scrabbling for garnets in my cupboard or worse, if they weren't there, in my bank locker. And that seemed a bit over the top. There was another option (which I won't reveal because many of us are yet to work on this challenge) but it seemed like I was trivialising things, taking the easy way out and trying to be smart alecky.

This morning, I started things early, so I got back from the gym with some time to spare before I left for work. Last night, or was it this morning, I had remembered that my camera has a colour accent option (which is why I chose that brand, in fact) and that I could probably put it to good use if the arils were indeed garnet. 

I cut open the pomegranate with some trepidation and danced with joy (figuratively, of course) when I saw the colour. Then I spent several minutes staging it for the photo: on my old yellow MW plates, on a sunken white plate that I bought solely as a blogging prop, now covered with years of dust, and in a certain spot that I thought was sunny (but not sunny enough - I have not a single balcony in my apartment, and the builder has done a good job of protecting it from the sun on all the sides.)

That's the original above. 

Have you visited our project group on Facebook yet? We're in Week 2 and there's 50 more weeks of fun to look forward to. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Not Resolving To Do More ... The Fifty-2 Weeks of 2013 Project

I don't remember when I stopped making resolutions. I don't remember how long my resolutions lasted. They were usually mundane stuff, well, now mundane - lose weight, eat better, write a diary, blah blah. I don't think I took resolutions very seriously at all and then I found the exercise pointless and stopped making any, though I do think about them whenever the new year comes around. This is not to say I gave up on the resolutions but I didn't organise my life around them. So while I'm fairly obsessive about losing weight and eating better, I don't have a goal because it makes me sad when I don't achieve it by a certain date. These are constant, ongoing projects for me.

Then a couple of years ago, I was so irritated by the yelling-shrieking-holier-than-thou-intolerant-of-others anchors on the news channel I generally watch, and I resolved to watch less of it. I succeeded. Though I would choose that channel by habit, I would click away and watch another.

This year too, I don't have any resolutions, just some amorphous thoughts. Maybe I could describe them better as being halfway houses between thoughts and resolutions, teetering on the threshold of crossing over to resolutions, me unwilling to make the commitment. What's the point of starting out with great ceremony (even if it's limited to your own mind) only to feel misery and self-loathing for grand goals not fulfilled later? Might as well cut out the mental pomp and formality and strive for whatever you want with some sincerity unfettered by a starting date and an ending date. That said, January 1 is a nice, clean, easy-to-remember date to start on.

Getting more social: Maybe I'll get more active on Twitter - I've got an account and have signed on to follow some folks whom I know through work, but I rarely visit it. Keeping up with work, life and other social media is quite time-consuming, do I really need another? Maybe not, but that's where the vocal, the bold and the beautiful seem to be saying a lot and I don't want to miss out.

Itchy feet: Another nebulous thought is about making the time for more travelling, even if it's a short trip. I have promised myself, and my friends, at least three visits in total. None of them worked out and one friend is moving away from the city where she now lives that I want to visit. I have to get there soon. The last time I went there six years ago, it was so cold during this time that I had to rig myself out in woollens from top to toe, replete with mittens, two blankets underneath me, five above and a room heater. My host told me she didn't tell me the temperature dipped to zero in case I felt colder. But still ...

Some other thoughts: Learning something new, be it a craft or some music; being less obsessive and more easy-going about certain things; watch more movies; volunteer; even more home-cooked meals; taking healthier snacks to work, not giving The Spouse a hard time ...

This morning, as soon as I returned from vacation, I told him I had made some resolutions.
"Oh?" he said.
"For you," I said. "You will give (the ironing lady) the suitcase full of curtains that we washed about a month ago. You will empty your writing desk and move it out of the house. (This is so that we can make more space in our TV room for the recliner we bought recently. He promised.) ... And you should get the plumber to check on the heater in my bathroom." I forgot the third. I would have woken him up and checked but I had decided to be easy-going. Luckily, he woke up and remembered. Now let's see if he sticks to his resolutions.

And best of luck with yours!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

'The Fifty-2 Weeks of 2013' Project

Happy New Year! Here's a new year wish in someone else's words: "Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right!"

And that's what we're trying to do with The Fifty-2 Weeks of 2013. Aparna and I were brainstorming about an easy-to-do, interpret-it-your-way, in-your-medium kind of project and we've cobbled together something by this name. There will be a theme every week which you can interpret in writing or in photography or in any other medium such as art. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can upload the photographs on Flickr and if you are writing, it can be on your blog or it can be a note/photo on your own Facebook page. You can then link those posts to the open Facebook group that we've created: This is so that we have a collection of everyone's work at one place.

Now for the first theme of the project: New Year resolutions. Write about it or express it pictorially. (That doesn't mean you can write it on a piece of paper and photograph it like the stuff we see on Facebook. We may make an exception for calligraphic depiction, ahem!)

Have no clue how? Neither have I. Put on those thinking hats, and join the Facebook group. If you aren't on Facebook, just do it on your blog!

And here's another new year wish:
May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions! (Joey Adams)