Monday, April 27, 2009

Bendi-t Like This!

In our house, trash doesn't go only into the dustbin. It goes into our refrigerator too, only to be discarded after weeks and months of making a home there. But I've been getting better at waste management lately. The zillions of sauce sachets we've collected over the last year with deliveries of pizza and fried chicken went into some home-assembled pizza, and the jackfruit seeds I saved, intending to roast in the oven, went into some 'bendi'. Within just 10 days of our having consumed their flesh.

I am so proud of myself.

I am lucky enough to own a book, now rarely found, called Green Leafy Vegetables, by Shyamala Kallianpur. Yesterday, after buying some amaranth (thotakura) and Malabar spinach (bachalikura), I leafed through her book to look for something other than dal to make. And sure enough, my eye fell on this Amaranth and Jackfruit Bendi, which is described as a dish native to the Dakshina Kannada region of Karnataka. Some not-so-intensive searching on the Internet gives me the information that Bendi is so called when it is tempered with garlic.

The other stashed away leftovers I used to make this curry were half a small carton of coconut milk and a cup of grated and frozen coconut. More importantly, I didn't have to buy anything new to use up the old supplies I had. The amaranth, of course, was happy coincidence.

The recipe is from the book. My addition was the coconut milk.

Amaranth/thotakura, chopped along with tender stems: 4 cups
Jackfruit seeds: 16
Water: Some
Salt, to taste

Grind to a paste

Grated coconut: 1/2 cup
Coconut milk: 1/2-3/4 cup
Red chillies, dry-roasted: 8-10
Tamarind: Large lime-sized
Coriander powder: 1.5 tsp (The recipe suggested 1 tsp of coriander seeds sauteed in a few drops of oil)


Oil: 1 tsp
Garlic, crushed roughly: 8 cloves

Remove the outer skin of the jackfruit seeds and soak them in warm water two hours ahead.

Pressure cook the jackfruit seeds with water for 10 minutes. I used fresh water, not the water in which they were soaked.

Put the seeds along with the water in which they were cooked into a large pan. Add the amaranth and some salt, along with some water, and bring to a boil.

Now reduce the flame. Cover and cook till the greens are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the ground paste, bring to a boil and temper with the garlic fried in the oil.

Cover immediately to retain the aroma. Of course, this doesn't apply if you're a food blogger - at this point, you pour it into a pretty dish, wipe the splashes, lick your fingers and start the photography session.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Toughtan? Taftan.

Some old flour, a much, much older oven that clung to me, refusing to be given away, some yeast bought expressly for this purpose, a casual remark about how we made this only once and ages ago at that - these were the elements that combined to have me make the Taftan. It was a tough enterprise - though I didn't do most of the kneading by myself, the little that I did pained me, and the end result, while edible, wasn't desirable.

Most of you don't know, because I have mostly forgotten myself, that I used to be an acknowledged baker. In my own right, of course. I can't even say my repertoire was limited, because what I baked didn't extend to any breadth that can qualify to call itself a repertoire, but I achieved some success with brownies which my cousins would request me to make repeatedly, the summer/s they visited. We didn't have an oven at home those days but my dad repaired an old one that used to belong to his sister and I launched into cooking, with baking. I made a savarin, some crumbly cakes, some souffles, and then I went on to post-post-graduation and my experiments took a break.

When I became the chief cook in a kitchen a few years later, The Spouse and I went shopping for an oven, one of my dream buys. I then made some more cakes, some more puddings, some kababs and Taftan. It was quite a long time ago so I don't remember how it turned out, but I don't remember it becoming crisp, like it did this time.

Then I stopped baking such stuff but managed to use the oven for the odd baked potato. I even sent it away recently because it was taking up too space in my small kitchen in my once new but now not-so-new home. For various reasons, I brought it back recently, and am I glad I wasn't able to give it away!

Despite the middling result of the tough experiment, I decided to post it all the same hoping you can tell me what went wrong with it. The recipe is taken from Rotis and Naans of India by Purobi Babbar. The recipe was for eight taftaans, I halved the amounts and made four.

Plain flour/maida - 2 cups
Dry yeast - 2 tbsp
Plain curds/yoghurt - 1 tbsp
Sugar - 1.5 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Nigella/Kalonji - 1 tbsp
Milk - 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp
Some ghee

Sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm milk until it starts to froth.

Sift flour in a bowl with salt. Make a well in the centre and post the yeast mixture with curd and 1 tbsp of ghee. Mix well.

Knead well for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Rub oil in a warm large bowl. Place the dough, cover and leave it to swell for 6-8 hours.

Knead the dough again. Divide into four equal portions and shape into balls. Keep aside again for 20 minutes.

Pat the dough into a circle in your palm, keeping them think in the centre and thicker around the rim. Now pull one side to give the naan the shape of a tear drop.

Brush the top with melted ghee and sprinkle the nigella. Place them in a baking tray.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (190 C/375 F) for 2-4 minutes until brown specks appear.

My experience:

It took much longer than 2-4 minutes, maybe 10 or more minutes per batch of two.

It was crisp outside, and the inside was not well done - it was moist/sticky.


This goes to Think Spice Think Nigella/Kalonji, the event started by Sunita and hosted by Dee this month.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Time For Rediscovery

By some strange and interesting twist of fate, the year so far has been full of getting in touch with old friends and classmates. One of them left a comment on my other blog last summer. I don't subscribe to comments by e-mail as I find that the comments come into my Inbox only after I've read them on the blog, and as that blog is dormant, I've missed the two or three comments that have been left there since I last checked, which is probably well over a year ago. I only noticed them last month. Another friend, whom I've known since I was four or five, and who I'm in touch with occasionally but haven't seen in some 13 years, came and stayed with me last weekend.

It's fun to see what these old friends are like now, as adults, professionals, householders. It is a fascinating journey of discovery and rediscovery. As is the recipe that's being featured here today - drumsticks in a milk gravy.

I rarely cook with drumsticks as The Spouse doesn't like them and I don't care to eat the leftovers for days on end but when these came from home, so fresh and tender and unblemished, I couldn't bring myself to give them away. I had been thinking of making this curry for a while so I guess it was a matter of things falling into place by themselves as I discovered a bit of leftover gram flour (besan/senagapindi) in my kitchen and I had everything else necessary on hand.

I also had a Telugu cookbook to guide me but I find that the editing leaves a lot to be desired. My pet peeve with this class of cookbooks, often expressed in these posts, is that items in the recipe make a sudden appearance or disappearance, and very often, we just have to make the most of it. So the cookbook shall go unnamed but here's how I made it.

Drumsticks/mulakkaya: 4, cut into 2-inch pieces

Besan/Gram Flour/Senaga pindi: 1 tsp

Mixed well with

Milk, boiled, cooled: Approx 1.5 cups

Onions: 2, chopped
Green chilli: 2-3
Red chilli powder: 1/2-1 tsp
Salt: To taste
Turmeric: A pinch
Oil: 2 tsp


Dry red chillies: 2-3, broken into bits
Mustard seed: 1 tsp
Curry leaf: A sprig
Urad dal/Black gram, hulled: 1 tsp

Heat the oil in a pan and temper with the ingredients listed under 'Tempering'..

Add the onions, green chillies and saute well.

Now add the drumsticks, mix well and season with salt, turmeric, chilli powder and cook covered till the vegetables are soft.

Reduce the heat to the lowest and add the milk-besan mixture to the curry. Mix gently.

Simmer till the mixture thickens a little and remove from fire. It's usually eaten with rice. I ate it for four glorious days, for once not feeling the burden of its leftoverness.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Puns Use Key Words

Puns. The lowest kind of wit or more picturesque speech? As you know, I believe they are the latter. Susan recently pointed me in the direction of an NYT article on puns which I'd like to share with you.

The inglorious pun! Dryden called it the “lowest and most groveling kind of wit.” To Ambrose Bierce it was a “form of wit to which wise men stoop and fools aspire.” Universal experience confirms the adage that puns don’t make us laugh, but groan. It is said that Caligula ordered an actor to be roasted alive for a bad pun. (Some believe he was inclined to extremes.)

Addison defined the pun as a “conceit arising from the use of two words that agree in the sound, but differ in the sense.” “Energizer Bunny Arrested! Charged with Battery.” No laugh? Q.E.D. Puns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion. Most resemble mathematical formulas: clever, perhaps, but hardly occasion for knee-slapping. The worst smack of tawdriness, even indecency, which is why puns, like off-color jokes, are often followed by apologies. Odds are that a restaurant with a punning name — Snacks Fifth Avenue, General Custard’s Last Stand — hasn’t acquired its first Michelin star.

You can read the rest here. As Susan points out, "a pun's wit and entertainment is in the very groan that it produces."

My predilection for puns has me and my blog landing into a soup often (pun fully intended), if one were to go by the weird keywords or search phrases that I get. I've left off the usual risque ones so here are a pick of the past few days:

"I was just sitting there, eating my soup"

"Caterpillar in my soup"

"Can turnip greens be used in wedding soup"

"My love is alive summer begins"

"How we came alive"