Wednesday, August 31, 2011

There's A Girl In My Coffee!

Last week, for a couple of days, my Mom took up residence at the city's latest mall. Aunt and I accompanied her. On the first day, they went ahead to the mall while I joined them less than 30 minutes later. I rang my mother about 10 times but she only heard it the eleventh time. By this time, 45 minutes had passed and I had wended my way through three floors with a cup of lukewarm coffee in hand - I don't usually drink coffee but use it when I need to get rid of a headache.

When I told them I had had coffee, they immediately wanted some themselves and looked at me accusingly - then I told them that I had come more than an hour ago and I had got a headache from the number of futile calls I'd made trying to locate them. Then they looked contrite and I took them down for some coffee.

My coffee came from another cafe and though I asked for plain South Indian filter coffee, I got some frothy mess to which even two packets of sugar didn't make a difference, so I took them to another cafe which had some alluring chocolate eats as well. We bought a brownie for the three of us and ordered two lattes.

I was busy chatting with them when the person at the counter called out to me to come get the coffee but his colleague had still not finished making it. So I stayed there and watched the people go by - within two minutes, I'd got my coffee and voila, this was what I saw in one of the cups.

I didn't notice how he did it, whether he did it with the little jug of milk itself or whether he used a brush or some other implement. That set me off on a voyage of YouTube where I saw many videos that showed baristas making hearts, leaves and associated flora, and yes, even some fauna, in the cup, all by pouring the milk in stippling motions above the coffee cup. I only had my mobile phone to photograph this with so that explains the size and the quality of the picture. A thrilling experience for me which I'd like to share with you all because my experience of coffee art is limited to hearts and flora.

Naturally, we all felt sad that the drinker (I don't remember who, Mom or Aunt) had to stir it to add the sugar. The girl dissolved into the coffee but next time I go there, I'm going to try and get them to give me the same design, headache or no!

This is my entry this week to Susan's Black and White Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hungry Enough To Eat A Horse Gram Pancake?

Recently, some nutritional advice saw me adding to my ever-creaking pantry. I was advised to eat dosas made of sprouted ragi (finger millet) and red rice flours so I have two tins full of those now. As I feared, the 3/4 cup:1 cup proportion of ragi to red rice flour did not work and I was left with a sticky, wet pancake that felt like a cold fish.

Even as I was mulling, well, not mulling, strictly speaking, but stressing out about how to use up the abovementioned flours, I got some further advice on supplementing nutrition with pancakes made with whole grains and millets of various kinds. Well, there is already a millet (ragi) in my pantry, and I wasn't about to buy more till I had lessened the load on those shelves a little bit, so I bought some horse gram and combined it with dals, flax seed and some of the ragi to make an adai of sorts. Adai is something like an unfermented dosa, made of a mixture of dals and rice, and always leaves me feeling like I've eaten something uncooked - it doesn't go down my throat smoothly and has always been a disappointment to me whenever and wherever I've eaten it. I've finished with keeping an open mind about it.

But I digress. This creation was much better than any adai I've come across and I think it's a keeper of a recipe. I already feel full of sunshine, vitamins, trace elements and folic acid. (You know I exaggerate.) Here's how you can get some yourselves.

List 1

Horse gram/Ulavalu: 1/2 cup
Bengal gram/chana dal: 1/4 cup
Whole masoor dal: 1/4 cup
Flax seed: A fistful


Sprouted ragi flour: 1 tbsp


Green chillies, roughly chopped: 2
Ginger: 2-inch piece, peeled, roughly chopped


Coriander & curry leaves: 3 tbsp, washed, chopped


Soak all the items under List 1 in plenty of water overnight or for 8 hours.

Drain the water, wash once or twice and blitz in the mixer with the ginger and green chillies. Add splashes of water only enough to ensure that the mixer's motor runs smoothly.

Once it becomes a fairly fine paste, add the sprouted ragi flour. Mix it really well or operate the mixer on 'pulse'.

Add another splash of water if you need to achieve a 'spreadable' batter. Add the salt. Fold in the chopped coriander and curry leaves.

(Note: In my experience, this doesn't spread as smoothly as dosa batter. I can make perfect dosas, but these, they are 'maps of the world'.)

Take a ladle of batter, put it on an oiled, heated tawa/griddle, and spread it as carefully as you can. At some point or the other, it might threaten to come off along with the ladle you're spreading it with, but just pat it gently, leave it alone and simply go to another portion of it and smooth it there.

With the flame on medium, add some oil around the edges - 1/2 a tsp should do. Once the bottom feels cooked (you should be able to lift it off without bits sticking to the tawa), flip it over and cook all the uncooked parts.

I ate it with ginger pickle.

This goes off to Preeti at W'rite' Food who is hosting Susan's My Legume Love Affair.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Of Sibling Rivalry - Of Chalks & Chopsticks

So what if she made fun of me? She's always doing that - taking a swipe at people through her dratted blog. Does she think I can't make out who she is or what she does? Just because she lives in this fond delusion that she has a gift for "writing" - and a gift for pretending she can cook and bake - she writes a food blog? Why shouldn't I do the same?

Sisters, I tell you! So irritating! How does she always stay one step ahead? Oh well, maybe it's time I learnt not to compete with her, even mentally. Thank God, I've never said this aloud to anyone, they'd say I was jealous of her!

I can't faff about myself like she does. So self-absorbed, hmph! Who gives a fig whether she went to Japan and had yuba out of a Bento box or went to Taiwan and gingerly tasted one measly pickled chicken's foot? Evoking Grandma at every possible juncture and talking about "my grandma's recipe" in her bl***y blog, never mind that she wouldn't lift a finger to help her! And she doesn't even cook - all that those swooning, frenzied fans of hers see on her blog is what she gets the cook to do, and passes off as hers. She can't even make lime juice, and she has a food blog?

So what if I made guava payasam? It's no worse than onion or brinjal halwa, is it? And Belgian cauliflower fudge - what was so funny? Mum and Dad couldn't even guess what was in it, and neither would this idiot have, if Aunty hadn't let on that she saw me chopping cauliflower. (I'd made the entire thing in their kitchen so it would be a surprise for their wedding anniversary.) Everything had been going fine, they were enjoying the party, had downed quite a bit of the fudge, chocolate fiends that they are, till she had to spoil things by announcing that the supersoftness came from cauliflower. Ever since it happened, the intensification in the look of despair that comes over their faces when they see me has not let up at all. It's not like I poisoned them, is it?

I'd love to teach her a lesson, wouldn't I? I know the password to her blog. Oh yes, I do! I may be a cook unappreciated and unsung, a non-starter of a blogger, but I can observe, spy. She has no love lost for me but that didn't prevent her from using my name and date of birth as her password. Stupid fool!

Pic courtesy: Desi Soccer Mom

The latest is some hare-brained effort to make marmalade. Look at all the fruit she bought for that - she read somewhere eons ago that the fruit should be soaked overnight in water, macerated (which she spells 'masserate', of course) , and that fascinates her. Her friend's mother once fed her pommelo jam and our comics used to carry ads for silver marmalade, made of limes and lemons, and she thinks she's going to get it right just by looking at recipes on the Internet and mixing them up.

Tell me, who needs marmalade? She is fat. I don't touch the stuff. Neither does anyone else. But it allows her to write stuff like: "Yoga done, showered and ready to face the world, I come down to see the rays of dawn illuminate the pantry with a warming glow. The pantry, the kitchen, this is where I bond with my loved ones, these rooms that have so much soul. I take a deep breath of fresh morning air, grateful for the bounty I have been given. As I turn to go out the door and give myself up to the crisp air and the morning dew, I catch sight of my sister's things in the fruit tray. I'm so fortunate to be blessed with a beautiful and brilliant sibling who would think nothing of combining okra with marmalade to give it some beautiful green flecks ... Oh oh, let me go put her charger back where she usually puts it, she's going to worry when she wakes up and finds it missing."

Okay, okay, so I'm getting carried away. Left to her own devices, she would even pickle the charger and not notice. Still, I won't hack into her blog or anything, but I will surely give her a birthday present of marmalade with bits of okra in it. I'll tell her it came for her through some bloggers' surprise event in the mail and feign hurt at how mean she was to hide her blog from me! I bet you anything she will think it's mint or angelica or some other exotic herb until it starts going bad. And then, I will watch the fun.

This piece of utter fiction goes off to Desi Soccer Mom who's hosting Aqua's Of Chalks and Chopsticks July-August. It was DSM's idea to incorporate in this year's round a visual cue, the elements of which would find a place in the story. With life in the real world, burn-out, deadlines and laziness getting in the way, it has been a real challenge to come up with a story that doesn't seem too contrived. But we managed, I think. You can read my previous story here.