Monday, April 28, 2008

Rediscovering An Old Faithful

Friends who know me well will attest to my reluctance to try the same dish twice. I’m known to order the newest or most peculiar-sounding dish on the menu (often to be told it’s not available) and appreciate it heartily. It’s not unless I go home or to a relative’s house or read the blogs that I realize I only rarely make traditional favourites at home.

That’s because I’m always looking for something new to make my meals more interesting, and often, the “Oh- it’s-just-that-routine-old-thing” attitude kicks in when I spy these vegetables on the shelves. But sometimes, something propels me to make it, and going back to old faithfuls to me is as good a new venture as eating strange and fascinating stuff, as it’s been ages since I’ve eaten any of these.

Yesterday, at an aunt’s house, I had some really spicy scrambled eggs, a dinner staple when I was still living at home. That really prompted me to get on with this post – I’d made this a week ago but haven’t made the time to post it due to other new-age distractions, DVDs being one of them.

Where I live, I don’t get very good specimens of this vegetable, but I try and make do. This dish, dosakaya koora (melon cucumber curry), is light and uncomplicated; I also think it’s a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of fresh curds/yoghurt if you want a low-calorie one-pot meal.

Dosakaya/melon cucumber – 2, peeled, de-seeded, diced/cubed (taste and make sure they aren’t bitter)
Onion – 1, chopped
Green tomato/red tomato – 2, chopped
Oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seed – ½ tsp
Cumin seed – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Red chilli powder – ½ - 1 tsp
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Salt, to taste

In a pan, heat the oil and temper with the mustard, cumin and curry leaves.

Add the onion, fry it till translucent.

Now add the cucumber, fry for about 30 seconds. Add the turmeric and fry some more.

Now add the salt and chilli powder, about ¼ cup of water and simmer covered.

It cooks very easily so make sure it’s not all squishy before you add the tomatoes.

Once you’ve added the tomato, cover it again and let it simmer. You can add a little more water to hasten the cooking process.

It’s generally eaten with rice but also as I described above.

Bon appetit!

Another dosakaya recipe from my blog here

This is my entry for this week's WHB started by Kalyn, and hosted by Anh.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bloggers' Meet: Reality Bites?

Bloggers' meet? Nope, just us gals relaxing with some lime juice after a day out in the sun on our recent mid-week break!

My Dad and I just had this funny conversation over the phone:

Dad: What’s up?

Me: A group of us food bloggers are meeting up soon. (Okay sports, no clues, no comments on the participants, place, or anything … indulge me, please!)

Dad: (Begins to laugh) Oh, is it just a meeting or is there going to be any cooking there?

Me: Oh, apparently we’re all supposed to make and carry some stuff there, not sure whether it’s meant to be presents for the others or to be consumed there.

Dad: (and me, now both laughing) Watch out! Blogging is fun only as long as you write about food without having to actually cook.

Me: (dissolved in helpless laughter) True. I can’t make any snacks so I’ve asked if I can buy stuff and dole it out … I also have to go for some wedding-related ceremony that morning.

Dad: So take some stuff from the meal there and distribute it among your friends. OR, take something somewhat moist or liquid, so you can pass it off as fresh, just cooked?

(More guffawing from both sides.)

Dad: Beware, you may have to close down your blogs if you actually meet and sample each others’ wares – these things have to be handled carefully!

Phone drops from my hand as I double over with laughter ...

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Sheep Called Kabab

At the resort we stayed, in the middle of almost nowhere, there was a pet ram called Kabab. You can see it tethered to the tree on the left. This was the view from our room - there was a stone bench outside in the verandah where we sat and tried to commune with nature, often rudely interrupted by Kabab, which at other times would refuse to respond to our calls. I wonder, did it have a sense of the macabre, and protest its naming?

Our holiday home was close to the Shivanasamudra waterfalls. This is the Gagana Chukki, which had more water than its partner, the Bhara Chukki, a little distance away. These falls collect in a pool at the bottom, which one gets to by descending some rough-hewn steps for 15 or 20 minutes. Then, you can go for a ride in coracles, or swim at your own risk despite the warnings.

Camping, India-style. At the Bhara Chukki waterfall, we noticed this lorry - it was filled with people young and old, in various stages of activity - awake, sleeping, chatting, cooking ... Inside, it was even fitted with a platform to utilise the space - some sat on the platform and some underneath.

The Keshava temple at Somnathpur, 55 km away from our homestay. We had the choice of taking an autorickshaw or a van to the place. Good sense prevailed, and we chose the van. We saved our backs and bones - and had a wonderful time combing the walls and identifying the various gods, goddesses, the flora and the fauna which resided on them in sculpture.

Our hosts had one of their employees take us on a morning stroll around the resort - this is one wild flower that I haven't noticed earlier! In fact, I'd noticed it the previous day, but hadn't had my camera on me then. We forded small streams and pools, saw banana and papaya plantations, tried to get rid of the little stones that got into our shoes and were glad to come back to breakfast and a bath.

Three girls in a boat. On the Cauvery at sandy Talakkad, in a coracle. There are five temples big and small scattered over a mile or so amidst eucalyptus and cashew groves, and the scent changes as you move from a profusion of one to another.

Ending the hot, summer holiday on a cool, cool note - that's warm Jamaican Rum Cake with a scoop of ice-cream.

Cold chocolate with a scoop of cold chocolate ice-cream - can it get any better? We had dessert at every single meal!

Shopping at last! From the South to the West, on a work-related trip. We had just an hour to shop after two days of meetings before we finally went to our hotel and freshened up for an authentic Gujarati meal - we were taken to Law Garden Market in Ahmedabad and came away with some gorgeous crafts; in my case, cushion covers with Kutchi embroidery. We didn't get to see much of this city, nor of Rajkot, the other city we visited, but still, I can now say I've been to Gujarat! And thus a little more well-travelled!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Of Coconut Milk and Bengal

As schoolchildren in a small town, we only had a few schoolmates from other ethnicities. So when someone came in on a transfer to this district headquarters from a strange town or bigger city, and if they spoke no other language but English to us, their exotica didn’t fade for quite some time. We also had the other kind – children who were originally from our State but who had rarely lived there, and who would fondly refer to their past place of residence as their true home, often discounting or denying the influence of Telugu and Andhra Pradesh in their lives, amusing/irritating/angering us as we saw fit.

One such of my classmates was a Telugu girl who had some family connection to Bengal, I think her grandparents had worked there; I remember that much about her though I don’t remember where she herself came in from. She was not like the others, spoke Telugu quite well, but constantly referred to Bengal, aloo dum and curds mixed with sugar. To put it mildly, that last thing took us some getting used to, but it was also my first exposure to Bengali cooking, if only in hearsay.

It was not till about seven or eight years ago that I found my first Bengali cookbook – not a very slick production, the author didn’t even sound Bengali (though there’s no rule that ethnicity determines authenticity), but the recipes worked very well. Though I have added another book or two on the cuisine to my collection since then, I always turn to this book when I look for Bengali recipes because the tastes of whatever I made from this were the same that I experienced in an ethnic Bengali feast I was lucky enough to sample a few years later (ratification, I mean).

However, I have to admit that this recipe sounded most un-Bengali to me, though I do know that coconut milk is used now and then. Only, I was familiar with chingri malai curry, not with egg malai curry – well, either I’ve not been reading the Bengali blogs too attentively or I haven’t been cooking or eating enough Bengali food, but this curry seemed as South Indian as it could get.

IF you don’t count the deep-frying of potatoes and egg yolks that is prescribed.

However, in the interests of our arteries, we can safely avoid this portion and go ahead with the discovery of Bengal.

This, of course, goes to RCI-Bengal, hosted by Sandeepa.

Egg Malai Curry

Eggs – 5, yellows only
Tomatoes – 3, big; blanched and sliced
Onion – 1, big
Garlic – 2 cloves
Ginger – ½ inch
Sugar – ¼ tsp
Potatoes – 2, medium-sized, boiled, peeled and quartered
Coconut Milk: 1 cup
Ground cumin – 1 tsp
Bay leaves – 2
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Garam masala – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste
Chilli powder – to taste
Coriander leaves, chopped – to garnish
Oil, to deep fry
Ghee, to saut̩ Р3 tbsp (I used oil, and only 1 tbsp)

Grind onion, ginger and garlic to a paste.

If you want to be true to the recipe, deep fry the egg yolks and potatoes on both sides. If not, you can use the boiled potatoes and fried eggs (a bulls eye, fried both sides, no runny yolk).

Heat the oil, add the bay leaves and onion-ginger-garlic paste.

When that seems well-fried (changes colour, loses smell is my cue), add the blanched tomatoes, salt, sugar and all the spices. Fry till dry.

(Well, dry isn’t exactly what I noticed, but it does become thick and concentrated.)

Turn down the heat, add the potatoes, then the coconut milk. Let simmer.

Once it begins simmering, add the yolks.

Simmer for five more minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves.

You can use the egg whites to make an omelette or scrambled eggs. Here’s an idea.

I'm away for a week or more, so until then, Ugadi greetings!