Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Curry Leaf Crush

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I know, it’s nothing more than fried curry leaf, but considering that I’ve never seen a recipe for curry leaf raita with it, I think it’s worth putting up in the blog.

It was a serendipitous discovery for me. Cashew lover that I am, when the flesh is willing and the spirit is weak, deep-fried cashew nuts often find a place in my pantry. Of late, a store near my place has started frying them with a spicy, salty mix of curry leaves, so much so that they come coated green! And the considerable amount of curry leaf dust rendered oh so crisp and spicy by all the seasoning that’s gone into the snack makes it an awesome accompaniment to plain curds/yoghurt.

In India, nowadays some vegetable shops hand over curry leaves by the bushel – you are not charged for it and the grocers stuff your shopping bags with so much you have to tell them you just want a sprig or two.

I, for one, haven’t discovered how to store an excess of curry leaf effectively in the refrigerator (mine still wilts and darkens) but just last week I read somewhere that frying and putting them in will help. Somewhere else, on the Net, I think, a Web site said freezing them on the stem was a better option.

Here's some information from Buzzle.com: The curry leaf plant (or tree if you wish), is a native of Tropical Asia, southern India and Sri Lanka. Belonging to the Rutaceae family, the Murraya Koenigi plant grows to a height between two and five meters, depending on various factors.

The plant is found almost across the length and breadth of the India and Sri Lanka.
Curry leaves are best used fresh. While some people may add it to their curry powder, it is largely a seasoning leaf, to be used only in specific curries to provide specific tanginess.

Apart from cooking, the curry leaf has a number of medicinal uses. It is an essential ingredient of almost all traditional medicine systems of peninsular India. Unani, Ayurveda and other systems use it to cure ailments such as piles, to allay heat of the body and to treat leucoderma and blood disorders. In India, the curry leaf is used to prevent conditions such as nausea and stomach upsets. It is also used in treating skin irritations and poisonous bites. Its oils are invaluable as repellants and to cure skin disorders common to the tropics.

A friend boils it in coconut oil and uses it on her hair to keep it black.
Read more about it here

Most South Indians swear by it but in the finished product, like chillies, it ends up being pushed to a side of the plate as it’s deemed a bothersome presence, probably because the flavour it lends is more delicate than the actual taste. In fact, long ago I read a story titled ‘Karivepaku’, the Telugu name for curry leaf, where it becomes a metaphor for wives and mothers who slave over their families but get very little appreciation!

A few months ago, vexed by the large amount of curry leaf that the vegetable shop dumped on me, I threw a handful into a chicken curry and discovered the secret to the chicken curry I’ve tasted in the many no-frills, non-vegetarian, ‘military’ hotels that are popular in South India. (Find that recipe here.)

This curry leaf crush is a good thing to have handy not just for yoghurt and for the usual seasoning/tempering that your food needs, but can also be an instant mix for rice. Mix it with hot, soft rice, adjust the seasoning, enjoy! It will also come in handy to sprinkle on snacks and mixture (a typically Indian snack which’s a medley of daal, nuts and other fried savouries).

There isn’t much technique involved – all you need is some salt, chilli powder, about two cups of washed and dried, loosely packed curry leaves, 3-4 tbsp of oil. Heat the oil, put in the curry leaves and keep sautĂ©ing till they turn dark and papery – it takes a few minutes. Season with salt and chilli powder, let cool. Once it cools, crush it with your fingers, store in an airtight container.

For the raita, mix a spoonful or two of it into a cup of yoghurt and enjoy!
When I mentioned this to my friend, she said a healthier, oil-less version would be to heat the curry leaves till they shrivel and dry - take your pick!

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This is my entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Five Things Most People Don't Know About Me

So this is the flip side of me telling the whole world and its sister that I love memes! I get tagged to reveal five things that the world doesn’t know about me – and run the risk of letting the whole world know what an uninteresting person I am. It’s been a few days since Anna of Anna's Cool Finds tagged me for this meme, and every day since then, I’ve been jotting things down whenever I remember, desperately trying to total up five, and think I’ve just about made it.

But first, a diversion - here's a bit of my kitchen:

Ok, back to the five things:

It's been almost eight years since I started blogging. (I updated this on April 9, 2013.)

Not many people know that I have a blog - just some family, and a few friends.

Hardly anyone knows why my blog’s called what it is: Many, many years ago, two cousins and I reconstituted some packet soup, poured it into mugs and took ourselves out to the front verandah. A few sips later, my boy cousin suddenly said, “Wait!” and scurried into the kitchen from the verandah where we were sitting – he refused to tell us what the matter was. Then he scurried back to us and showed us his soup mug – there they were – tiny, curled-up, soft, white worms that could well be mistaken for noodle rings or pasta alphabets or whatever! Well, they were quite dead, of course, but when I was thinking of a name for my blog, I thought of how the worms had well, wormed themselves into our soup, and … it’s not entirely logical that I say my soup came alive when the poor things died, but let me not explain further and make it all prosaic and boring!

Not many people know that I taught English for a short while. That was my very first ‘job.’ I was taking a course in computers when the people that ran the centre there decided they would do well to start a TOEFL course and asked me to teach it. I had just two students, both much older than me, engineers, I think. I was paid Rs 750. It was only for a few weeks.

And (confession time!) not many people know that once in a while, I can’t bring myself to eat a dish that I’ve put on my blog!

I tag Pooja and Coffee for this meme!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Oaty Tomatoes (Answer to Guessing Game)

Well, most of you got the coriander right – that was obvious. But only Asha got the oatmeal right. For the rest of the ingredients, see the recipe below! I don’t understand why clicking on the pic didn’t result in anything – did you have that problem too?

It’s been a hectic few days since my last recipe post, what with work and folks at home and then work again. I almost didn’t miss blogging, and that’s saying a lot considering my involvement with it qualifies as obsession, but am glad to say it has been crying out loud and clear for my attention the last few days. I wanted to participate in a few events but because of the busy-ness, I didn’t give them much thought, other than to buy a couple of packets of small tomatoes (grape or cherry tomatoes, I suppose) and wonder what on earth I would do with them. I’m like that – buy everything exotic on the face of the earth, keep it for weeks (if it’s perishable) or months and years (if not so perishable) and wonder how the hell I’m going to use it/get rid of it without feeling the pinch until it finally rots/irritates me so much I whisk them off the shelf and into the dustbin.
I’m trying to get rid of this habit – the self-control it involves demands inculcating in oneself an attitude of resignation, self-consolation and even a measure of cynicism – “How different can it be? A tomato is a tomato big or small, grape, cherry or plum!” Well, I’m glad to say it didn’t work this time – for one, I didn’t have much time to debate all these issues as my family, which had sent me to the grocer’s for a quick errand, was waiting impatiently in the car outside, and the challenge was too pretty to pass up - I can only hope the pictures do them justice. I’m also proud to say these tomatoes didn’t join the legions of exotic veggies and other foodstuffs that died in my fridge or pantry over the years!

I love salads, but can’t get the dressing right, and these tomatoes were too novel for me to waste in soups, daals and raitas. They didn’t taste extraordinarily sour or sweet, either, just plain fleshy! Leafing through my many cookbooks made me adapt a recipe from a Reader’s Digest cookbook which I shall call Oaty Tomatoes. Here’s what you need:

Baby tomatoes – 300 gm
Oats – 125 gm
Onion – 1 medium, minced
Coriander leaves, chopped – 2 tbsp
Butter – 1-2 tbsp
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 200 C. Halve tomatoes, place them cut side up in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat butter and fry onion on low heat till soft and browning – that should take 15-20 minutes. Stir frequently. Now put in the oats, some salt and pepper and toast the mixture till crisp. Make sure you toast the oats really well, otherwise they tend to taste floury.
Top the tomatoes with this mixture once they come out of the oven. Garnish with coriander leaves all over!

This is my entry for Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted by Scott of Real Epicurean.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Guessing game, and a Meme about Them

The guessing game first. Now tell me what this dish is, or what it contains. You have the herb to start you off, what do you think the rest are?

Now for the meme. (Am updating on popular demand)
Background: Jayashree of the blog My Experiments with Food wondered if we ever thought about how our blogger friends looked – I joked that we should do a meme, and Maheswari seconded it, so I started it but was reluctant to stick my neck out and do it ever since I read what Sandeepa had to say about it. But Asha tagged me for it, and I think it’s only fair that I do it when I started it so, here goes … this is how I intended it to be.

Sandeepa, who always has a comment for whatever I put up here, sounds like a sensitive person with a strong streak of humour. Looks? Hmm … I’m inclined to think she’s cherubic. Just a hunch, really can’t justify it. Please tell me if I’m right, Sandeepa.

Maheswari – a gutsy and creative soul, I would think, for the way she’s dealing with a couple of issues, including her failure to eat a good amount of fruit. Wish you all the best! As for looks, I’m not able to conjure up a face for her because I keep thinking of the South Indian actress Maheswari, who has sharp features and looks light-complexioned on screen.

Pooja sounds like a vivacious and fun-loving girl. For some reason, again one I can’t justify, I visualize her with short hair. Am I right, Pooja? And she must have a lot of energy if she conducts an event and does a round-up every week.

I'm hesitant to continue this, but here goes:
Coffee kept changing in my imagination. I keep thinking of her as a tall person in elegant clothes - could it be that her being a professor is giving me this impression? Does she have long hair? Or am I saying that because it fits the painter image? Tell me, do, Coffee!
Mallugirl, as she's signing off nowadays, reminds me of my classmate Shaheen. She was tall, smiley, had naturally brown, thick hair, well-defined features, was well-built, light-complexioned and used to wear bright pink offset by pale pink. I'm unable to put a face to Mallugirl, can only imagine a figure driving a car on New Jersey Roads because she's mentioned it - still, everytime I look at her blog, I think of Shaheen. Anyway, Mallugirl comes across as a busy mom who takes immense pride in her Malabar heritage. Beauty and symmetry are important to her, as her blog shows, an offshoot of her architectural instincts or most likely, she chose architecture to study because she was fond of these qualities.

Funny, isn’t it? I could be miles away from reality, but let me know how close I got!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Eggs over Greens, Bread

This is a great favourite with us ever since we discovered it. As with all great things, it seemed very simple once it was revealed, but really, the only tiresome bit about it is processing the fenugreek greens. But then, you can leave them out altogether or use larger greens which take lesser time.
The story: This is a traditional Parsi favourite which I read about in the book Parsi Food and Customs by Bhicoo J. Manekshaw, Penguin 1996. This is a real treasure trove full of painstakingly documented recipes, in which some ingredients’ lists run to more than a page! It’s also a good introduction to the community as it contains information about its customs and rituals. Come to think of it, it’s like an extended blog post – the recipes are borrowed from family, relatives, friends and the writing is very personal and involved.
I have eaten in a couple of Parsi restaurants before this book and after. I remember visiting a restaurant in Bombay after reading about it in a food guide. It was run by a Parsi couple and certain dishes were available only on certain days of the week – well, I was a budding, enthusiastic cook then, my cookbook collection was growing by leaps and bounds and mentions of Dhansak and Lagan Nu Custard seemed to be confronting me everywhere – the day after we landed in Bombay, I called the restaurant and asked the lady who answered the phone whether it was open for dinner, and whether we would get Dhansak that day. She said yes, and we went there. When I anxiously asked for Dhansak, she looked amused and asked me whether I was the one who called. It turned out to be regular stuff but the custard was truly to die for! I later ate cutlets in a Parsi restaurant in Pune, and were they delicious!We also ate a curry full of matchstick potatoes, don't remember whether we ordered the chicken or lamb.
But I digress. In these places, I didn’t notice the egg dishes I’m presenting now, so I don’t know how they would look in a Parsi home, but all the same, it’s a dish you must try. Depending on the time available, and the number of ingredients that go in, you can decide whether to serve them at breakfast or a bigger meal. I love making this dish, watching the eggs pool into the depressions, sunny yellow yolks in liquid whites flowing slowly into the rest of the dish until they begin to set and make a whole that you can divide and eat with rice or bread.

You can see the picture of fenugreek leaves and read a bit about it here.

Here’s the recipe as I made it:

Eggs – 4
Fenugreek (methi) leaves/Spinach – 1 big bunch of the big-leaf variety (the book suggests “20 bunches of the small variety that grow in the sands of Bombay beaches” as an alternative) – makes two cups
2-3 onions, chopped
Tomatoes – 2, large
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Turmeric – a hefty pinch
Green chillies – 3-4 chopped, and seeded if you like (in which case, you can add some chilli powder)
Coriander leaves – a good fistful, chopped
Oil – 2-3 tsp
Salt, pepper or curry powder/garam masala – to taste

A pan large enough to hold everything

Wash fenugreek leaves thoroughly and chop. Mix them with salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Squeeze them out to get rid of the bitterness and some of the vitamins too. :)
Heat oil in the pan and fry onions till a light brown. Add green chillies, the ginger-garlic paste, turmeric and chilli powder, if you’re using it. Mix well and add tomatoes, coriander leaves and salt. Simmer on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Add fenugreek leaves (or other greens) now, mix well and saute for 1-2 minutes.
Spread mixture evenly in the pan, make depressions in it, and break the eggs into them. Season just the eggs with salt and pepper or curry powder. Wait till eggs set to remove from fire. Do all this in simmer mode.

Here's another version:
Cube 6 slices of crustless bread, fry in oil.
Fry 3 onions till light brown, then a couple of green chillies, ginger and coriander leaves. Season with salt.
Line the base of a pan with cubed bread, top with the fried onion mixture, make depressions and break three eggs into them. Season only the eggs with salt and pepper and wait till set on simmer.

This is my dish for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Coffeepot of Coffee & Cornbread.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Three Things Meme

Oh, how I love memes! I’ve participated in just a couple, initiated one (which hasn’t taken off despite being labelled ‘interesting’ – sob, sob!), and now this! Thank you, Sandeepa, for tagging me. I’m not going to be as self-effacing and humble as you were in your memes, oh no, and am going the whole hog with this just a day after you mentioned me – indecent haste, but that’s my meme personality!
I’m not sure whether it’s the late hour after an intense and long day at work or whether it’s the attempt to strike a fine balance between being engaging, honest, politically correct, smart alecky-but-humorous, venting some pet peeves but not wanting to carp, and tempting fate (WHEW!), but this took me hours to think over, complete and refine, and I’m still not satisfied! Oh well, you can’t have it all!

Three people/things that make me laugh

My Dad
Everybody Loves Raymond
Sridevi in the Telugu movie Kshana Kshanam

Three things that scare me

Sleeplessness (but probably this blog/meme wouldn’t get done without it)
Weight gain :)

Three things I love

Getting together with friends

Three things I hate

Male chauvinists (ugh!)
Jobless, malicious gossips

Three things I don’t understand

Science (I liked biology, though)
Why I want more clothes despite having so many
Why people extend invitations to visit them when they don’t really mean it

Three things on my desk

A picture of me sitting on a log in San Francisco
A Scrabble CD, which we bought long ago but haven’t yet unwrapped
A dolphin carved in stone

Three things I’m doing right now

Thinking of how to wow people with this meme :)
Wondering if I’ll be able to sleep after this
Wondering what I should put down as the third thing

Three things I want to do before I die

Travel extensively around the world
Live in at least a couple of the greatest cities and picturesque countries in the world
Be content

Three things I can do

Play word games
Do the dishes painstakingly

Three things you should listen to

Silence – so delicious in the late hours of the night and wee hours of the morning, with just a car or truck to offset it now and then
Birds chirping in the early hours of the morning – I’m surrounded by concrete but I still hear them, isn’t it magical?
Still afternoons, enhanced by the occasional rustle of leaves or a crow cawing

Three things you should never listen to

Raucous music (now I know ‘raucous’ is subjective)
Well-meaning people who egg you on to break your diet just this once
Yourself – if you agree with them

Three things I’d like to learn

More languages (I know five-and-a-half – I can read Russian, but don’t remember enough to understand it or speak it, any longer)

Three favourite foods

Most seafood
Fresh, thick curds/yoghurt

Three beverages I drink regularly

Water, water and more water, that’s it!

Three TV shows/Books I read as a kid

Enid Blyton
Amar Chitra Katha
Sesame Street

Three blogger friends that I am going to tag
(Only if you're interested)


Monday, January 01, 2007

Baked Leftovers


There are the strangest of superstitions and beliefs and I consider this as one of those – if you do something today, on New Year day, you’ll be doing it for the rest of the year. So, if you spend money today, you’ll be doing that the rest of the year (oh no!), if you eat a lot today, you’ll be gorging the rest of the year (oh no no!), whatever animal you think of, the year will go by at a pace matching that animal’s (really, what will they come up with next!), and if you blog today, you’ll be blogging the rest of the year (Yes, Yes, Yes!)
Here’s a dish that I tried out yesterday – it’s a bake of leftovers and comes in handy when you have old bread that refuses to finish. I suppose it’s something like a soufflĂ© with bits in it, it doesn’t have the velvetiness but it rises like one when it’s baking. It’s not my own recipe but I’ve seen it in several avatars in various books, but really, go ahead and do what you want – these are just guidelines:

Sandwich bread, crusts sliced off – 4 slices
Cooked prawns/veggies – a big handful, chopped
Eggs – 2, separated (* so that’s two yolks and two whites, beaten till stiff *)
Milk – 1¼ cups
Cheese – 4-5 cubes, cut up into bits/grated/just crumbled
Seasoning: Salt, pepper, mustard powder/chilli powder

Tear bread into pieces, soak in hot milk for 15-20 minutes. Add prawns, egg yolks, cheese and seasoning, mix well. Add egg whites, fold in well. Grease a baking dish and pop it into the oven.
I baked it for an hour at 180 C which I thought was too long, but the usual test – sticking a knife into it and seeing if it came out clean – took a long time. Funnily enough, it smells like sweet bread pudding and I felt full just inhaling it – I guess it was the combination of the milk and the bread, though why sandwich bread should result in a smell so sugary, I don’t know! After a while, I even began tasting the raisins (non-existent, of course)! It tastes fine, but there’s no correlation between the smell and the taste, know what I mean? Go ahead and try it, it takes little effort and makes a filling meal!