30 June 2006

Happiness is...

I'd like to take this happy thread started by Ammani forward




Happiness is watching my plants dance and bob in the monsoon breeze,
enjoying their little shower





Anybody who wants to share a little happiness is welcome to take this thread forward.

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Just reminding you all to send me your entries for Weekend Breakfast Blogging #1 by the 10th of July.



An unpleasant incident and a concern

Someone has publicly accused me of 'getting inspired' by her recipes as a means of finding a solution to my 'Writer's Block'. I don't know if anyone has faced a similarly embarrassing problem in the food blogosphere. It’s taking me a lot of effort to bring this out in the public, so that people who have faced something similar can give their advice on the matter.

The person gave me a link to her archives for me to find out how I have lifted her stuff. The only common recipes I could find were the ones involving bread, eggs and curd rice. After all people in the food blogging world do have similar interests and somewhat similar ideas. And since when have bread, eggs and curd rice become anyone’s copyright? Bread and eggs are universal and curd rice is the life-blood of every South Indian. And then, there are trends-there was a ridge-gourd trend, now I see a Ven pongal trend. Priya of sugarandspice in her venpongal recipe has graciously mentioned names of others who have posted a recipe for the same. In my case, I would have done the same, had I actually spotted the aforementioned recipes in someone’s blog earlier. I have absolutely no intentions of stealing someone’s thunder, let alone recipes

I love cooking, and I can humbly say that it is a God given gift, and that any permutation-combination I’ve tried, the results have never been un-edible. It’s the love and passion that goes into making ‘food’ out of just ‘ingredients’. And the same love and passion goes into writing about them. In such a scheme of things, when someone accuses one of ‘lifting’ recipes to cure a Writer’s Block, it is extremely hurting. At this very moment, I have over 50 pictures of various recipes that I want to blog about. I actually wish I develop a Writer’s Block sometime so that I can take a forcible break from blogging. Because, the love of cooking and writing combined, is turning out to be a time-eating proposition-and a very enjoyable one at that.

I definitely admit the fact that I have visited the concerned person’s blog off and on, but probably didn’t stop to comment. That doesn’t mean that I’m anti their blog. Come on- we visit about atleast 10 blogs a day, on an average and spot 2-3 new recipes on each. It is not really possible to comment on each and every recipe that one spots. And not leaving a comment doesn’t mean that we are giving any less credit or praise for that person’s effort. Also, the sitecounter that most of us have on our sites- will tell that I visited a particular blog, and if I left my connection on, on one particular page for over an hour while attending to chores, it can’t probably mean that I have spent that much time on one site trying to rip-off content from the archives. If the person had a sitecounter for those particular recipes that she’s talking about, she would have realized that I have never ever visited those pages, until today. That too only because she pointed it out.

At this point of time, I would like to appeal to all the friends- to tell me how we can protect ourself from such allegations which are emotionally disturbing than anything else. It is not quite possible to visit each and every food blog before we post entries to make sure no one else has posted a similar entry. So what is the solution?

To the person concerned: I’m sorry you felt the way you did about me-I only wish you could have asked me personally or raised your concern instead of jumping to that conclusion. Personally, I know my high level of integrity and I owe no explanations. But what I can do to assuage is this. I can assure you that you will never see my IP address / blog name on your site-counter henceforth-so that you can be sure that anything I post is not a result of getting 'inspired' by you.

29 June 2006

Indianised French toast (with Video)

This is one thing you can make from start to finish in under 5 minutes. Can you guess 3 of the ingredients that have gone into making this one? Other than the BREAD ofcourse.
And if you can guess what the dish is, nothing like it!!



Indianised French Toast with Coffee in my Fav. Mug

There's a close up for you here...


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Thanks for all, dear friends your enthusiastic participation. Priya, the first one to guess, hit the nail on the head and pretty much all of you who took a shot :) Teaches me how I must make the guessing games a wee bit more difficult from now on-hahaha

This is one of the quickest things you can make if you have bread and eggs on hand-and if you think an omlette is too boring ! Inspiration for this recipe comes from the good ol' canteen in Ogilvy, where people used to keep ordering food to keep their creative juices flowing...(Ogilvy and Mather is a leading worldwide Advertising Agency)

All you will need for the Indianised French toast (Name courtesy Krishnaarjuna) is

4 slices bread (I use whole wheat / multigrain )

2 medium eggs

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp chopped coriander

2 green chillies finely choppes

1/2 onion very finely chopped

1 tsp each of gram flour and rava (Gram flour for the binding and rava for the crispy texture)

Oil / Butter to cook each slice

Salt to taste.



Method:

Put all the ingredients except the bread into a dish. Nicely coat the bread on both sides with the mixture. If the onions / coriander fall off-just stick some of it on each slice with your fingers.

Heat butter / oil in a non stick pan. Once oil is hot enough, put a slice of coated bread. Let it sizzle for about 30 seconds until the egg batter cooks and then turn the slice and cook other side too till golden brown.

Serve hot for breakfast with coffee or as a snack when the weather's all gloomy like how it is now in Bombay with a hot cuppa masala chai to beat the blues away.

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28 June 2006

Comfort Khichdi

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Not so mushy Comfort Khichdi
Simple, wholesome, light, fast, easy, comfort, meal-in-a-pot- I was toying with all the above adjectives while thinking of a name for this dish and each one was as fitting as the other.
You can resort to a Khichdi when...

~you have to cook something just for yourself

~you have come home late after a shopping spree and have no interest in searching through take-away menus

~ you're feeling low in spirits

~you're recovering from an illness

~you're feeling homesick

~your maid is on leave/ or the dishwasher has conked off

Khichdi is a simple gruel of a lentil and rice which can be made bland / spicy, with/ without vegetables. It's very versatile and can be made in a matter of 10 minutes if you have a pressure cooker and in 20 if you don't. It's also very forgiving-because you don't need each grain of rice to be separate as in a pulao. You just throw in the ingredients and it take care of itself.



Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Rice and Split moong after washing

I'm sure everyone has their own recipe of Khichdi reserved for the times mentioned above. Mine goes like this-

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rice

1/3 cup split green moong (shown in pic)

1 medium onion-sliced

Handful of frozen green peas (optional)

Pinch of turmeric powder

Salt to taste

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp curry powder (optional )

2 tsp ghee (clarified butter)

Method:

1.Take a big bowl. Dump the lentil and rice into it. Wash it three to four times with water. Soak the rice-moong mix in lots of clean water for around 20 minutes. You can actually skip the soaking process if you are in a hurry / or if you are going ot pressure cook.

2.In the cooker, take a tsp of ghee. Add the cumin seeds and let them crackle. Put in the sliced onions and turmeric powder to the ghee. Saute until translucent.

3.Add the rice and lentils, saute for a few seconds. Put in the required amount of salt, curry powder, frozen peas (if using) and water. Water must be double the quantity of the rice-lentil mix. In this case, roughly two cups. Let it come to a boil. Close the lid of the cooker, with the weight. Get the flame to SIM after 3 whistles. Switch of the flame in 3-4 minutes.

4.Open the cooker lid after it has cooled off outside. Serve the khichdi onto a plate and run a little ghee around it for that absolutely home-cooked aroma.

Eat it piping hot, with your favourite pickles and a bowlful of curd.

You cant get more comfortable than that!!

Note:

For those of you who don't have a pressure cooker, proceed with step 2 using well-soaked rice and moong, in a non-stick vessel / saucepan. Add the water as in Step 3 and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding more water if necessary to make the mixture soft and mushy. In case of Khichdi, the mushier the better. So, you are better off adding more water as against less. My khichdi as shown in pic isn't as soft as I would have liked it to be.

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This one goes for FMR #6- For the love of rice which is being hosted this time by Cooking adventures of Chef Paz

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Just to remind you that you may send me your Weekend Breakfast entries by 10th July for the Weekend Breakfast Blogging (WBB) # 1 round-up

WBB is an event sponsored by Saffrontrail. For event details, click here

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Since this has split moong (lentils) as one of the main ingredients, I would also like to link this recipe for Jihva for Dal hosted by Sailu.


27 June 2006

Spice Box

This is traditionally found in most Indian Kitchens. It's quite a pratical thing to have all you rregularly used spices in one box, so that when the oil is hot and ready to be infused with the aromatic spices, one is not running after different jars for different ingredients.



There's a picture of my spice box for you. I was planning to put up a picture as soon as my mom got me the box with the 7 containers and I had filled them up with the spices I use daily in cooking. But Sweetnick's event: I'll show you mine if you show me yours #2 now gives me a valid excuse to display my spice box.

From just before the 12 o' clock position:

Golden yellow turmeric powder- A pinch of this powder adds that flavour to curries, colours them a natural golden yellow colour and according to Ayurveda -is also a potent anti-bacterial which can kill any germs in the food
Did you know that Sangli, a town in the southern part of the Indian state of Maharashtra, is the largest and most important trading centre for turmeric in Asia or perhaps in the entire world? Well I didn't know that despite living in the same state!

Fiery red chilli powder- Add a teaspoon of this in your savoury recipes, and you will never want to eat bland food again...It also adds a natural red colour to curries and a depth of flavour

Nutty Udad dal- It belongs to the lentil family and a teaspoon of this Dal is used in traditional South Indian cooking for 'tadka' to dry curries like Cabbage, Potato, Brinjal etc...
Doing 'tadka' with udad dal is a tactful affair where you remove it off the flame to early and you have a sorry looking whitish dal and remove it too late, you have a burnt bitter charred mess.

For the perfect tadka, heat 2 tsp of vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed ladle-once the oil is heated (as soon as you see it steaming)-take it off the flame, add the ingredients for 'tadka' ie-Mustard seeds, Curry leaves and the dal. Stir it around. The curry leaves will be the first to crackle and then the mustard seeds will begin to pop. Take the ladle back on a medium to low flame and stir the dal around till it turns a light golden brown. Immediately take it off the flame and pop the contents onto the curry / sambhar ...

Aromatic Cumin seeds- No Indian savoury dish would be complete without these seeds or it's powder. Stir in a generous pinch of cumin powder into your dish, and you will discover what a depth of flavour is all about ! Something that the chefs on Food Network love to call a SMOKY flavour.
Cumin is also considered an excellent digestive- most Indians will readily remember what we used to eat as kids- the 'jeera goli'-which roughly translated means cumin pills.

Good old Mustard seeds- As a child I would never like to see these little black seeds on plate. Whenever I would accidentally bite into them, they had a strange taste which couldn't be classified as any of the tastes I was familiar with. Now, I'm so used to it, that if I don't see the familiar black dots in my Upma / Chutney / Sambhar / Masala Mor, I get this feeling that something's missing.
I don't really know what is the health benefit of this common fellow. Crushed mustard seeds are used generously in Indian spicy pickles.

Panch Phoran- No self respecting Bengali cook would be seen without this spice in her kitchen. I got introduced to this one by my Bengali friend when she used it in a Matchstick Potato Curry. I was absolutely addicted to the melange of unknown flavours that tickled my tastebuds. One gets this pre-mixed in some supermarkets, or you could mix the five spices yourself. I'd rather you heard a more authentic line about this one than from me. Read what Haalo has to say and check out her recipe for Potatoes using panch phoran.

Dried Red chillies are the dormant volcano in my spice box. There they lie in the center all curled up and benign looking. Add a few of them into hot oil and the pungent fumes can make the bravest of people smart and sneeze. Hey don't get me wrong, that's not what I do with them. I use them in grinding gravies for curries, a couple of them as part of the 'tadka' in dry vegetable curries etc...

Apart from these I have many other spices in their separate containers-
Dried Indian Spices like Bay leaf, Star anise, Cinnamon, Black peppers, Cloves, Cardamom
Dried herbs on the herb rack- Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Lemonbalm, Italian spice mix and many others
I also use a homemade curry powder which I make each month from the recipe of Mridula Baljekar's curry cookbook. I shall put up a recipe of that soon.

Ah! What's life without some spice!

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I managed to miss the first one which was "Whats's in your FRIDGE?" - Do take a peek into fellow food bloggers' fridges over here

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Don't forget to send me your Weekend Breakfast entries at saffrontrail AT gmail DOT com, for the new fortnightly event that I'm hosting next month onwards.

For more details- read up here.

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25 June 2006

Weekend Breakast Blogging- A Fortnightly event on Saffrontrail

Weekend breakfast blogging on Saffrontrail
From L->R:


My first attempt at event hosting~~

I'm sure most of us prefer to have a no-fuss breakfast on most weekdays. Hopefully all of us are atleast eating some breakfast- as it's the most important meal of the day-blah blah blah! I guess, everybody already know this and hence there's no need for me to be preaching about the benefits of this good dietary habit.

Weekday breakfasts are generally cereal and milk, steel cut oats with milk and a banana, sliced papaya and a few nuts and so on... Weekends are the only days when one has the leisure to prepare elaborate / traditional breakfasts and the time to enjoy it with one's favourite tea / coffee and the morning tabloids.

I have been trying to write regularly about my weekend breakfasts- except that for the last 3-4 weekends, I haven't kept up the routine due to a variety of reasons. Meeta of What's for lunch honey and Tony, our very own bachelor chef of curry mela fame, have encouraged me to start this as a fortnightly event-where all our fellow bloggers can tell us what they have been cooking over their weekend mornings.

The first time over, ie. now- I am keeping an open event-which means, no themes. Since this is my first trial at hosting- I shall take a go at it in its simplest form and then see how I can keep improvising.

All food bloggers are invited to participate in the Weekend Breakfast Blogging. I shall be posting round-ups on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month-so you can send me a link and photograph of your breakfast blog entry anytime inbetween on the mail id: saffrontrail AT gmail DOT com and I shall include it in the next update. Please link your post to this blog with the line "Weekend breakfast blogging".

So that's simple, not too many conditions.

  • Your entry should be servable at breakfast.
  • Recipes that a reflection of your culture (not compulsary) will be most appreciated.
  • A brief write up about the origin / a tale associated with the recipe / when you first tasted it will make an interesting prelude.
  • Just in case I am unable to include it in one round-up, it shall most definitely be included in the next one.

So friends, I shall be expecting your first set of entries by 10th July or so so that I can post the first WBB round up by the 15th of July.

Hope to see you all with your family's favourite breakfast item on the table. Cheers!

18 June 2006

Cluster beans-Paruppu Usili

Sundays are the perfect time to indulge in traditional lunches followed by an extended afternoon siesta. Rice, Sambhar, curry with accompaniments like appalam, vadam, pickle and so on....This weekend, my in-laws are here from Chennai and it's another reason to enjoy our traditional cuisine.

I absolutely love this thing we call paruppu-usili. It's a lentil crumble that's added to vegetables like cluster beans or French Beans or carrots etc. It not only adds body to a vegetable like beans but also a great flavour.

The best combination is a paruppu-usili vegetable with Mor Kozhambu-which is a Stew kind of curry made with butter-milk. The recipe for that I shall write about some other time, but the picture is here for you to drool over :)



Cluster beans-Usili

Mor Kozhambu


The lentils are soaked, ground with spices, steamed and then sauted and mixed with the cooked veggies. It's a delight to make as much as it is to eat. It's the best thing that I can submit for Jihva for Dal.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup tur dal
Handful chana dal (split bengal gram dal)
2 red chillies
1 green chilli
pinch of asafoetida
Pinch of turmeric powder

2 cups chopped cluster beans
2 T oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 red chillies
Salt to taste

Method:

1. Wash and soak the dals for 3-4 hours. If you were to make this for lunch, then you can soak it first thing in the morning.

2. Remove the ends of the cluster beans (called kotthavarangai in Tamil) and any other fibrous parts. Chop them into small pieces. Cook them in a cup of water to which turmeric and salt has been added. This is take 8-10 minutes depending on how tender the beans are. Try and take only as much water as is needed to cook the beans so that you don't have to throw away any water in the end. Keep this aside.

Cooked Cluster beans


3.Drain the dals well. Take the dals, 2 red chillies and one green chilli with some sea salt, a pinch of turmeric and asafoetida in a mixer. Rough grind the above. Don't make too smooth a paste.

4.In a steamer / cooker without whistle steam the above mixture for about 10 minutes. Once cooled, crumble it well with your hands.

5.In a pan, heat 2 T of oil. Crackle the mustard seeds in the oil, add the 2 chillies. Then, add the crumbled usili and saute till it turns golden brown. This is the paruppu-usili. This will take around over 5 minutes.

Sauted Usili


6. Add the cooked beans to this and saute for another 2-3 minutes. You may add a tsp of curry powder to this for added taste. But it tastes great even without it.

Note:
You can similarly make carrot-usili/ French Beans Usili.

If you don't mind using a little more oil, you can omit Step 4-ie. Steaming and add the ground mixture in 5-6 Tbsp of oil and keep sauteing and breaking up with the spatula until it gets cooked and crispy.



13 June 2006

Brinjal-Podi Curry

brinjal podi curry

Brinjal-Podi Curry


Brinjal, eggplant, aubergine-so many names for that commonplace vegetable.

One thing I've noticed about people's taste for this vegetable is that they either love it or they hate it! I'm not much of a brinjal lover myself- except for the roasted one which kills the itchiness. This is a version of something called Brinjal dry curry with podi (roasted and powdered lentils and spices ). I first had this a few years ago at a relative's house and it was one of the few times that the brinjal seeds didn't send my throat into a furious itch.

Here's how it goes-


Ingredients:
7-8 small brinjals (deep purple ones)- removed and sliced lengthwise into quarters

For podi:
3 T chana dal (split bengal gram)
4-5 red chillies
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 T sesame seeds
2 T grated fresh coconut

1 small lemon sized ball tamarind
1 tsp curry powder
Pinch turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp mustard seeds, few curry leaves
Finely chopped coriander for garnish

Method:
Take all the ingredients for the podi in a pan. Dry roast them, until the dal turns golden brown and the ingredients give off a nice aroma. Rough grind it to maintain the texture of the podi. Remove from mixer and keep aside.

Keep a cup of water to boil in a pan. Add a pinch of turmeric powder and the tamarind extract to this. Once the water starts boiling- add the quartered brinjal pieces and keep the flame on SIM. Let the brinjal cook for 5-7 minutes in the tamarind water.
Once they turn a little tender-drain and remove from pan.

In a dry non-stick pan, take 2 tsp of oil. Splutter some mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the podi, fry it in the oil for 5 minutes or so and then add the brinjal. Season with curry powder / sambhar powder and salt. Saute for some more time until the brinjal is completely coated with the podi and the podi looks well fried /golden brown.

Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with chapatis or sambhar-rice.

I'm sure this one appeals even to those who aren't very fond of the vegetable. The podi imparts a nice crispy texture as well as a nutty taste to the brinjal.

Note:
You could add a Tbsp of grated jaggery to the podi to add a nice sweet tinge to the existing spicy, sour and salty flavour.

You can use this podi for giving a whole new twist to the good old potato-curry too.


Pebble beach- Brighton

Sunny afternoon on the Brighton Beach


The ruins of the old pier


She sells sea shells on the sea shore

9 June 2006

Which place does this remind you of?


This is a clue to one of the places I visited last week in London ! Please, people from London, I'm sure it's only too obvious, this is open for the others... Will post more pictures from this place after a little bit of guessing is done.

Clue: It's in a university town