Friday, December 21, 2012

I Made Marmalade

Of late, I've been getting more active on Facebook and have been uploading a lot of pictures of food, mainly of my daily meals. Two nights ago, what went on to Facebook was not a picture of a daily meal but of midnight madness - I attempted to make marmalade, with oranges and limes, for the first time ever and it was quite a success.

The picture was quite pale despite the oranges and limes that went into it but it attracted some attention, especially for the knotted piece of cloth that was in the dish. A couple of friends asked me why and I was very relieved I knew the answer - I had done some research before getting bored and confused and didn't do anything crazy like I do when I'm eager to get on with it and not have to delve into a whole lot of learning. But then I've been called the Queen of All Things Shallow (for joking that I'd rather have a good figure than good health) so you see why I am not so inclined ...

But I digress. My marmaladic venture has its genesis in a recent conversation with my uncle who was complaining about not being able to feel the peel in most marmalades. I threw the words 'thick-cut' and 'macerated' at him and as I was saying them, I felt like I had to finally make it. I had always been fascinated by the idea of making marmalade, easily my most favourite preserve, by the idea of soaking oranges in water overnight, ever since I read the recipe, but never did anything about it because I didn't like the idea of making anything using so much sugar - I mean, eating it on a croissant or a piece of toast at a breakfast buffet at a nice hotel is one thing, but keeping it in your fridge everyday and eating it just because it's there? Nah ...

As you can see, I capitulated.

I went through several recipes which had several instructions on how to remove the pith and tie it up in a muslin bag with the pips and etc, etc, etc. I was in a hurry (it was close to midnight, I had already dithered for two days), I was tired and I didn't want to do any complicated operations. I finally came across David Lebovitz's recipe for Seville Orange Marmalade. He made it with six Seville oranges and one navel orange. I used four Nagpur oranges and three rather big organic limes but didn't make any adjustments to the rest of the recipe. The Scotch is optional so I didn't bother with that either, we don't stock any. He sometimes uses the overnight method, I did. The recipes with overnight steeping of raw oranges entailed a lot of work the following morning, which I wasn't inclined to do, so I went with this.

I didn't really cut the pieces in any aesthetic manner, the limes were tough to cut and to my surprise, were totally seedless. The oranges didn't have fat pips either, they only had pipsqueaks of pips, pardon the bad pun. But I collected them for whatever they were worth, and they were worth the effort. Reading all those recipes had taught me that the pips were the most important ingredient to help the jam set - they contain pectin, the gelling agent.

That piece of cloth there was the only thing I had close to a muslin bag or a piece of muslin - I put all the pips in it, tied it up nice and tight and put it into the vessel.

After boiling it and leaving it overnight as per the recipe, I brought it to a boil again. I don't have a candy thermometer but kept stirring very frequently the next day while it was boiling, and after one hour, removed the cloth. Then after about 45 minutes, I did the has-it-set test. I passed, but I wanted to be sure and boiled it a little more because I thought it was too liquid even then. Maybe I was right, or maybe not - I ended up with a nice, thick marmalade which is not runny. This morning I had it on a piece of shallow-fried bread, it spread pretty easily with some difficulty, because there was so much peel in it, and tasted heavenly. It also wasn't as bitter as it was when I took it off the fire yesterday morning. And it had a lovely, rich colour.

A note: Towards the last 30 minutes, there was much foam in the marmalade when it was on the fire. Some more Internet searching and I learnt that a tablespoon of butter helps get rid of it. I did add the butter but it didn't seem to have any effect. I finally skimmed off the foam.
Beware of sensitive teeth - at one point when I looked into the vessel, just the steam made my teeth tingle!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Some Things I Need To Say About Food, Facebook, Etc

1. It's so heartening to cook for people who like to eat well. I was reminded of that today when a friend came home after some six months of falling out of touch and lit into the food with gusto, especially the bread pudding I had made for dessert. I have to admit that I too fell in love with the pudding and kept shaving off little slivers with a spoon and putting them in my bowl hoping to minimise how much I ate but at the end of it, we had left just two spoons which The Spouse was grateful for.

 I remember another dinner we hosted a few years ago for The Spouse's academic advisor and his wife. She must have been in her mid- or late 50s, a petite, twinkling, cheerful woman, who kept serving herself several helpings of everything on the table and appeared to enjoy every morsel. Why did it fill me with such joy to see someone enjoy their meal so much? Probably because such women are rare to come by.

 I've seen many who have one piece of paneer and claim to be full and not eat anymore. To add insult to injury, they say, "Oh, I can only eat this much." Some of them take it a notch higher and writhe in discomfort, pat their stomach and tell me they have a big belly and it needs to shrink. Needless to say, these are the people who do not have either a weight problem or a belly-size problem. Some don't do all this, they simply look ready to cry at the torturuous thought of putting another grain of rice in their mouth.

 Then there are the others who are outraged if you ask them whether they are hungry and would they like to stop somewhere for a bite. They are indignant that I should even ask. They never feel a base passion like hunger! Well, get this: Most of us get hungry and actually eat. Even like to eat. And we don't believe you when you say you don't. Especially if you go on trying to convince us that you can go on and on working, walking, shopping, doing anything, except feel hunger. Rile us a little more with such statements and we'll tell you that most of what's wrong with you is because you never allow yourself to have a decent meal.

About Facebook 

I am on Facebook as Whenmysoup CameAlive. I get friend requests from many people who don't identify themselves. If you are a blogger and don't have that information or a link to your blog in your 'About' section, please introduce yourselves through a private message.

 If you're a reader or someone connected to the food and beverage industry, or anyone who wants to make fransip with me, please do the same thing. I am wary about adding people without knowing who they are or why they want to be friends with me, even if we share 134 mutual friends.

I'm sure I speak for several bloggers when I say this. In fact, I used to try and check out the requests but it turned out to be impractical. So I simply do not add anyone who doesn't make it easy for me to identify them. Please do not add me to groups on Facebook without my permission - I find it maha tiring - and am crushed - to see the red notification flash only to tell me yet another recipe has been added to Magnificently Quotidian Recipes. Nor do I want it to flash only when I'm being invited to Farmville or open a message to see I'm in some group conversation to discuss something equally mundane.

Some real interaction would be nice. But I don't interact either, you say? Fine, then let us both coexist in companionable silence and contemplate why we are being unsocial on a social network, but please don't try to punish me for it by adding me to groups, chain mails and games - I will simply leave the groups and turn off game invite notifications.

And while I'm ranting, here's another one: I know we're all on social networks to draw attention to ourselves, our blogs, looks, or whatever aspects of ourselves we choose to promote. Should we not draw a line, though? How far will we go to get attention? Flaunting utterly private moments of ourselves, even in less than pleasant situations, do we really want publicity in exchange for coming across as tacky?

 Yeah, I'm probably in fuddy-duddy cantankerous crone mode now, but I needed to say it.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Discovering Radishes In a Pod

Some sort of underdeveloped beans, I thought, when I saw them a few years ago. I couldn't quite decide whether they were cluster beans - they really were not. What they were, I could not tell. Neither could the seller. I didn't even think to taste them - come to think of it, I don't really taste many raw vegetables except in salad, and I certainly don't taste them when I'm buying them. I do, though, flick the tops of ladies' fingers (okra) to see whether they're good enough to take home. I know that riles a lot of people.

They were chilling in my fridge, when Anita put out this post and I got to know they were radish pods. I don't remember what I did with them then, probably a stir-fry. This time when I saw them at the store they were a little wilted - not their fault, I usually do my vegetable shopping at the fag end of the day - but I bought them anyway. I remembered they were pretty hardy, took a long time to cook and there was no harm of their withering into insignificance.

I tried dissecting them to look at them more closely but I couldn't find much. A pod pre-supposes a seed, but I couldn't find any after I cut them, though before I did, I could see and feel some bumps. I'll blame it on their thinness.

 I searched for both moongre and radish pods and came across quite a lot of both information and recipes. I finally came across this one and chose it because the tempering seemed quite different from the kind I usually use. Well, only the carom and cumin must have stuck in my head because I quite forgot the curry leaves, ground coriander and green chillies the next day when I made this dish. I had decided to give the tomato puree a miss and replaced the courgette with bottle gourd, which is as mildly flavoured. I had also had some soaked cow peas in the fridge, which I boiled and tossed in.

And oh, I did taste a few raw ones and they were very much like radish. I've seen other descriptions say they weren't quite radish-y or that they were milder but I couldn't discern a difference.

 My cousin who was visiting and tasted the stir-fry said it was excellent.

 I can't remember whether I used chilli powder or not. Not, I think.

 Radish pods/moongre: 250 gm
Bottle gourd, peeled and diced: 1-1/2 cup
Cow peas, boiled: 3/4 cup
Ajwain/Carom seed: 3/4 tsp
Jeera/Cumin seed: 1/2 tsp
Turmeric: A pinch
Chilli powder: 1/2-3/4 tsp (Optional)
Salt: To taste
Cow's Ghee/Oil: 2-4 tsp

 Top and tail the pods.

 In a pan, melt the ghee and temper with the carom and cumin.

Add the radish pods, saute for a couple of minutes.

 Now add the bottle gourd, mix well and saute for about four minutes.

 Then lower the flame, add the cow peas. Add salt. Mix.

 Cover and let it simmer. You can sprinkle some water if you like.

 Keep checking to see at what stage you can bite through the radish pods. I think it will take a long time to soften them (unless you use the pressure cooker) but I liked them when they still offer a bit of resistance. And I couldn't taste any radish once they were cooked.

I'm sending this off to Elena at Zibaldone Culinario who's hosting WHB this week, created by Kalyn and now run by Haalo.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bathing The Microwave Oven

Iknow, I know, I've been making a big mistake, but truth be told, this is how I clean my microwave oven. Thoroughly, with a scrubber and detergent under the kitchen sink, or under the bathroom tap, like I did today, slipping on the soapy floor in the process. The stars were kind and I didn't hurt myself but I have been getting quite a few outraged queries on how I can do that to the microwave because it can short-circuit or set the house on fire.

Actually, I didn't do this till a few years ago. I saw a friend doing something similar to this and when I exclaimed in surprise, she said, "Just make sure it's not plugged in," with a hearty laugh. I used to wipe it down. Then after I started bathing it, I would dry it for a day or more, turning it over a couple of times in the fond hope all the water in all the holes and crevices would drain and evaporate.

Well, no longer. I go back to the non-easy way of more frequent and less invasive maintenance. I'm sending this off to Akheela of Torview Toronto who's hosting Black & White Wednesday this week, created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook and now organised by Cinzia of Cindystar Blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Legume Love Affair-52: The Round-Up

Innovation, gorgeous photography and a lot of learning marked this edition of My Legume Love Affair, created by Susan. I hosted the October edition. Here are the entries I received. The winner(s) named at the end.

                                             Chole Baingan - Garbanzo Beans with Brinjal


                                                   Susan Mathew of Chacko's Kitchen

                                                Jota/Bean, Sauerkraut and Potato Soup


                                                           Simona of Briciole

                                                                 Methi Mattar Malai

                                                           Sharanya of Sara's Tasty Kitchen
                                                                         Spinach Dal

                                                       Sharanya of Sara's Tasty Kitchen

                                                                 Yardlong Beans Usil

                                                             Cham of Spice Club
                                                     Peruvian Mayocaba Bean Bowl with
                                                              a Roasted Pepper Sauce
                                                                  and Fried Plantains

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dessert Hummus

                                                                 Janet of Taste Space

                                                                     Hummus, Revisited

                                                     Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe


                                                              Lubna of Yummy Food

                                                          Ammini Ramachandran's
                                                                  Pacha Sambar

                                                        Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen

                                                     Roasted Garlic Black Bean Stew

                                                             H T of Teczcape

                                                         Broccoli Paruppu Usili

                                                          Siri of Cooking with Siri

                                                     Rajma Chawal/Beans and Rice

                                                     Finla of My Kitchen Treasures

                                                           Vegan Refried Bean Soup

                                                      Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook

                                  Green Pea Dessert with Agar Agar and Coconut Milk

                                                 Sra of When My Soup Came Alive

Using a set of numbers generated by turned up Janet of Taste Space as the winner of the Super Natural Everyday: Well-Loved Recipes From My Natural Foods Kitchen by Heidi Swanson.

In the same way, I determined that the winner of Hurst Bean Box would be H T of Teczcape. This prize is available only to US residents.

You can reach me at srablogATgmailDOTcom for clarifications, if any.

Simona of Briciole is hosting the November edition - MLLA 53.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pease Pudding, Twisted

Desperation is the mother of invention. What else would drive you to combine green peas, agar agar/China grass and coconut milk? This bears no relation to the traditional pease pudding which is made with yellow split peas and served with ham or bacon. Going by the majority of the ingredients, it could be more South-East Asian than anything else. But really, it is just the product of a fevered imagination.

Two days away was the deadline for MLLA 52 that I'm hosting for Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, and I still had not zeroed in on a dish. I didn't want to make any of the routine stuff because I didn't want to have to sit and eat it. What if it bored me? I had heard of green pea burfi (fudge-like) too, but I didn't want to have to use any elbow grease - burfi has to be stirred and watched over.

Among the entries I had got so far, chick peas had been used. So had rajma. There's a green pea entry too, but along with the rest, they were mostly savoury dishes. And I badly wanted mine to be different because I didn't want to be a host in name alone but in spirit too. And I had some agar agar needing to be used up.

I looked up instructions on the proportions of water and agar agar needed for the latter to gel the former. It seemed to be 5 gm for just a little under 1 litre of water, so I set about making it yesterday before leaving for work.

I kept it in the fridge and hit upon the idea of the topping only much later. I had decided not to use any other flavouring but when I tasted it, it seemed a little bland, except for the taste of pea. But I didn't really fancy the idea of garnishing it saffron or with raisins and cashews. I went for sesame instead, and then I spied a packet of poppy seed. I toasted a tablespoon of each and sprinkled it on the pudding. It really lifted the taste and lent it texture too.

This morning, I messaged my friend S asking her if she wanted to try a mystery pudding - I had to know what others thought of it before I put it up on the blog. I was prepared to confess, of course, that it was 'peasy' but I thought I'd check anyway. My friend S is a big foodie and I knew she'd be sporting enough to play a guessing game.

When the afternoon rolled around, she came over and I gave her the plate in which I'd set the pudding and asked her to guess. Cucumber and pista were among her first guesses but they weren't right.

I dismissed all her guesses so finally she asked if she could smell it.

She couldn't smell anything. (Neither could I.)

Then she tasted it. She still couldn't taste anything green. I was relieved to know she couldn't taste any green pea because I doubt most people would be drawn to it if it tasted peasy.  I guess it smelt that way to me because I was too close to the whole affair.

Or maybe the sesame-poppy seed topping helped mask it.

What you need
Green peas, frozen: 1 cup
Agar agar/China Grass: 5 gm
Coconut milk: 200 ml
Coconut sugar: 25-50 gm (I used a block, not loose) (You can use ordinary sugar too)
More coconut sugar/white sugar (optional): 2 tsp
Water: 1 cup

Sesame seed and poppy seed: 1 tbsp each

How to proceed
Soak the agar agar for at least 15 minutes in the water.

Heat the coconut sugar in less than 1/4 cup of water to get it to soften/melt.

Microwave the green peas till half done in less than 1/4 cup water. Cool and grind into as smooth a paste as you can.

Boil the soaked agar agar with the water. Once it comes to a boil, turn heat down and simmer for about 10-15 minutes till the agar agar strands have melted completely.

To this add the softened/melted coconut sugar.

Stir once and add the green pea paste.

Mix well and turn off the heat.

Add the coconut milk and mix gently.

Check for taste and add the white sugar or more coconut sugar if you want to.

Pour into a shallow rimmed plate and leave it to set. As it's agar agar, it even sets without a refrigerator, and quite rapidly.

After it's firm enough (after about 2 hours, just to be safe), it's ready to eat.

Sprinkle the sesame-poppy seed garnish on it. It unmoulded easily after it was cut into pieces.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Savoury Cherry Berry Chase

Over a month ago, I posed a question about an ingredient in this post. One of you got it right. Those berries were karondas, as they are known in Hindi, or vakkaya (Telugu). I will not add the names of it in other languages, especially English - there seems to be enough confusion as it is, but they go by the name of some plum or the other.

I'm calling it a berry.

I haven't seen them in ages so when I saw them at the store, I picked up a packet and used them indiscriminately - i.e.- all of them without regard for the proportions vis-a-vis rice and other ingredients. I watched this video and didn't refer to it again because I believed that the only thing that differentiated it from lime rice, which is a breeze to make, was the berry, so I went ahead and did whatever I wanted.

Deseeding the berries is a boring job but we did it - they are terribly sour.

I was left with about a cup of berry after the process. I sauteed it in some oil with some mustard seed, three green and three red chillies, and a little bit of channa dal/Bengal gram.

To this, I added about 1 cup of cooked and cooled rice and mixed it well so that the sourness of the berry adhered to it.

I could have used a little less berry but I was making this for the first time and I didn't want any leftovers as I had no more ideas for them except dal and I didn't want to make dal. But I have eaten the dal my grandmother made with this berry and it was really nice. I don't know when I can make this next because I hadn't seen these berries for years till now and don't know when I will see them next again. Probably during the Vinayaka Chaturthi festival some year, because they are often used to decorate Vinayaka's puja. At least that's when they made their appearance here this year.

Apparently, this berry helps treat anaemia, and traditionally has been used to treat anorexia and insanity. There's more information here.

More interestingly, did you know this is what passed for cherries in most Indian bakeries of a certain time? In fact, it was these that the average Indian knew as cherries before the real tinned cherries became widely available - and those are expensive. These 'karonda cherries' still make an appearance in cakes from smaller bakeries and are used to top Indian sweets too!

I'm sending this off to Terry at Crumpets & co. who's hosting WHB this week, created by Kalyn and now run by Haalo.

My Legume Love Affair - 52 is hosted here this month. Do send in those entries!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Legume Love Affair - 52

My Legume Love Affair, created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, will be hosted here this month.

The deadline for entries is November 11 and I will post the round-up shortly afterwards.

Please mail your entries to srablogATgmailDOTcom.

 Legumes, and legumes as defined for this event: "As much as legumes are most commonly known as fresh or dried beans, peas, lentils and pulses, they are also the sometimes edible pods that contain these seeds. Add to the list alfalfa, fenugreek, peanuts, carob, tamarind and other members of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family, as well as derivatives such as tofu, and you'll have a hard time focusing on just one.

All courses and cuisines are welcome, as long as legumes are the dominant ingredient. (Please note: In France, vegetables of all sorts are known as l├ęgumes, and are not included in this event.)"

It's important that legumes are the dominant ingredient. A sprinkling or a soupcon of them won't qualify, except in exceptional circumstances and Susan and I reserve the right to judge those. Here's the logo for this month if you want to use it.

Now for the rules:

In your email sending me the entry, please say MLLA - 52 in the subject line.

Mention your 1) name, 2) blog name, 3) recipe name, 4) the URL of your post, 5) a picture of your dish resized to 300 x 500 (either orientation, but resizing is a must), and 6) your location (necessary, if you win the prize - and let me know if you want that information to be private and not published in the round-up).

 Link your posts to this announcement and to Susan's post here. This is mandatory, please take care to link it to the right posts and not to our blogs themselves.

 Multiple recipes are permitted (although only one submission will be counted towards the random drawing/s). Recipes submitted to other events are also permitted, but other events might have different rules. Recipes from archives can be accepted ONLY if updated and reposted as current. Recipes from those who do not blog are accepted and make eligible the participants to win a prize.

 Link your posts to this announcement and to Susan's host line-up post here. This is mandatory, please take care to link it to the right posts and not our blogs themselves.


 1) Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen by Heidi Swanson. This prize is offered by Susan without influence at her expense, and she will also absorb worldwide shipping charges. F.T.C. Notice: Susan does not receive any compensation from Amazon.

 2) Hurst Bean Box - A case of six bags of the winner's choice of Hurst Bean products, suitable for every diet, sponsored by Hurst Bean. (Due to shipping restrictions, this prize can only be awarded if the winner is a U.S. resident.) F.T.C. Notice: In May 2010, Susan, at her request, received two Hurst Bean complimentary products which are not available for purchase in her local markets. Susan does not generally accept free products from Hurst Bean nor is she financially compensated by them.

 3) Drawing Structure - If the winner is a U.S. resident, she/he will be the recipient of both Prizes 1 and 2 above. In the event that an international winner is drawn, a second drawing will be conducted from the U.S. pool of entrants to ensure that the Hurst Prize is awarded every month. In these instances, the international winner will receive the book, and the U.S. winner will receive the Hurst Prize. Families and friends of the hosts are not eligible to win prizes.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Keeping It Short 'n 6y

It's my sixth blog birthday, and I'm fairly tongue-tied.

Even a mug of top-of-range lemon green tea is not helping.

I wanted to do another big anniversary post but I find I've said most of it and don't know what to say except "Thank you, readers!" and "It's been so much fun!"

I know I have to relieve you of the suspense from my previous post, but I pray your indulgence until next week, because today is my birthday and I don't want to mix it up with recipes or rehashed ramblings.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Guess What? The Truth About Me And My Blog!

Blogging often gives me a complex. Reading others' blogs, that is. Every time I read most blogs, apart from the superior quality of the photos and blog design, I am often envious of the gracious homes, gardens and lives they evoke.

 "I served it with ...," they say. Now to me that conjures up visions of picture-perfect hostesses and homes delicately proffering the right delicacies with the right accompaniment, not a crumb or hair out of place.

Not that I haven't used the line myself. I have, but it really makes me feel like a fraud - and a frump - because convenience dictates the way I have most of my meals: Breakfast is had post-morning wash but before bath (clad in nightgown); lunch is had immediately after a bath, half-dressed, powder caking on face, hair drying under fan (or sweat beading freshly washed visage if the electricity is gone); and dinner is slumped in front of TV/in couch/at dining table amidst the junk accumulated during the day, in nightgown.

And, of course, I serve It to myself with whatever is available, not something I have created by design. I end up eating curries by themselves, without rice, and sometimes pair them with idlis or whatever else even though they don't make a great combination, just because I have to finish them.

  Sometimes a newspaper acts as my table mat, and there are several pictures on this blog to prove that, I'm sure. Including the one above.

When I moved into my own place, I had visions of maintaining it like those homes in slick and glossy magazines on housekeeping and interiors. That dream died soon enough. Now I just aim for clean and tidy, not beauty, something I manage by the skin of my teeth. Naturally, these dreams went with others where I made and ate perfectly designed and balanced meals, with the right crockery, cutlery and napery. Well, we eat off plastic, microwaveable plates, bringing out the crockery only now and then, and the silverware that we have is in my wardrobe, still securely wrapped in its pink tissue paper. I haven't bought new napkins in years. The oldest ones become kitchen rags and the better ones are washed everyday, journeying towards kitchen-ragdom.

My beautiful home is ultimately a repository of the unused, the unwanted and the unsung, as is my refrigerator, and I find myself confronted with a profusion of things I'd rather get rid of. Much like Five Super Foods to Always Have in Your Pantry or Five Tips for that Super Flat Tummy, I have set myself the task of Five Things I Will Junk Today.

 I am happy to report that I have done this to my wardrobe and am at a stage where I need to go shopping for more clothes. Now needless and unsolicited confessions done with, can you guess what's in the photo above? Not the rice and the chillies, but the other brownish-pinkish things?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Need Some Distraction? Snack On This!

Any time between 4 and 6 p. m. in my office is just before we start getting into the thick of things. Suddenly, there is a crackling sound, that of a pack of snacks being ripped open impatiently. It may be plastic, but it's the sound of music, a very welcome interruption from the monotony. Sometimes the music could be metallic - it could be the clink of a spoon against a steel container.

If you haven't called out to your colleagues asking them to join you, never fear, they will come soon enough. "Ah, I hear plastic," says A (name changed and fake initial given to protect identity). She takes very little, snipping off just a piece of the fried treat, and retreats to her desk, thanking the donor profusely.

B (name changed, etc etc) will not only come over, she will take a little more, appreciate the snack, its taste,  its energy-/happiness-giving qualities, the donor's generosity and thoughtfulness for bring a bit of golden-fried goodness into a dull day, hover a bit relishing the taste and reluctantly depart to her own cubicle.

Then there's C (name changed, okay, all names changed) who will rise out of her seat in the next bay with a joyful smile, bite into it, analyse it, appreciate it, discuss the recipe with the donor, thank them once again and sit down, the smile lingering on.


D will worry about her weight, will be persuaded to have some, will have just a bit and then within 10 minutes, will be back at the donor's cubicle foraging for another.

Then there are those who walk by, driven there by happy happenstance, eat their fill, shower their blessings on the donor and move on. Of course, there are those who decline the snack too, but it never fails to bring in an extra bit of happiness into the atmosphere.

Depending on the person, the happiness is just a little dulled when the snack on offer is 'healthy' - like sundal, or fruit or oil-free food. Sweets and cakes are extra-happy-making, as are banana chips brought back by someone who has just returned from a holiday in Kerala. Sometimes prasadam from various religious places makes the rounds; sometimes it's chocolates brought from a jaunt abroad. (That's prasadam too, in my book.)

Sometimes, there's a repeat performance a few hours later, and then it's time to wind up and leave. Which of the above types are you? Are you a donor, a taker or both? What's your favourite office/tea time snack?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

'Haleem' Again - Meatless, Wheatless

With Id around the corner, Haleem is very much the flavour of the season. The vegetarian haleem post on my blog is one of the most popular ones, and perhaps one of the three or four posts which people have commented on after trying out the recipe. It even got copied, which is a rather sad way of establishing its popularity. This time, though, the haleem comes with a lot of changes. (It's gluten-free, and it could be vegan if you used oil instead of ghee.) So much so, I wonder if it can be even called haleem. The main ingredient in this is bajra/pearl millet. (I thought I had some broken wheat left over from a previous khichdi experiment, but I didn't.)

I had used the bajra so long back I'd even forgotten whether it was jowar (also a millet) or bajra. I hadn't eaten it before that but had decided to try it out because I saw some recipe for a khichdi with it. That turned out to be a not so pleasant experience and the cereal stayed in my pantry, unused. When I found out there was no wheat, I was a little disappointed but decided to use this for the haleem. The next step was to identify what it was.

Typing 'jowar' and 'bajra' and trying to label it as one or the other based on the colour didn't work. My cereal was green, but on the Internet, there was green jowar and green bajra, as well as dull white. Then my memory helped me and I remembered the khichdi recipe had called it bajra khichdi and I had bought a packet labelled 'bajra'. So bajra it is!

Incidentally, when we were kids and travelling, we used to see jowar/bajra stalks strewn on the road. I imagine the intention was to get it threshed as vehicles went over it. I even found a picture, see? Guess it still happens!

I set about making the 'haleem' - yes, it's haleem in spirit alright, so that's what I will call it. Now that we've got that out of the way, let me tell you about what I put in it. The original recipe called for peas, cauliflower, brinjals/eggplant and capsicum/green bell pepper but all I had was yellow pumpkin, broccoli and potato.

Now we all know broccoli isn't the best substitute for cauliflower though there's a resemblance, but I plunged it into some hot water anyway. Then I realised there was quite a big chance of the haleem getting into hot water if I went ahead with my eyes wide open, so I used only the stalks.

I halved the amount of vegetables and pressure cooked it as Farah and Neff, who commented on the previous vegetarian haleem post told me. I did face some reverses: the mixture started burning despite all the water I put in it, and when I rescued it and transferred it to another pressure cooker with more water, it stuck to that too, but it was all edible and didn't smell charred. So though it's going to be painful to evaporate all that water later, I suggest you use a spacious pressure cooker and lots of water, maybe two cups more than I did.

So here's how I made it

Bajra - 3/4 cup
2 tbsp red gram/toor daal/kandi pappu
1 tbsp green gram/moong dal/pesara pappu
1 tbsp split Bengal gram/channa daal/senaga pappu
A handful each of peeled, cubed yellow pumpkin, potato, and broccoli stalks
2 medium onions, sliced
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander/dhania powder
1 tsp cumin/jeera powder
5 cups of water (I used 3)
4 tbsps of ghee or oil
For garnish: Some sliced onion, fried crisp
Coriander leaves/hara dhania/kothimeera, chopped

Soak bajra/pearl millet and dals separately overnight. Wash well. Drain and keep aside for 20 minutes.

Grind the millet coarsely.

In a big pressure cooker, heat half the melted ghee or oil. Fry onions until brown. Reserve about two spoons for the garnish.

Stir in garlic, ginger paste, fry for a few minutes. Add coriander powder, turmeric, chilli, salt, coriander and cumin powders and add the millet and dal mixture. Stir well. Pour in the water.

Let it cook without the weight till the millet and lentils are tender. Don't leave the kitchen, because the moment you do, it will burn and your haleem might be ruined.

Once it's tender, add the vegetables, some more water if you think it's necessary and pressure cook again, with the weight. (Just go by your instincts here - my instincts went away and I had to firefight, literally.) This will take just about 3-4 minutes. Again, don't leave the kitchen, and watch the haleem like a hawk.

When the pressure drops, open the vessel, add the garam masala and the remaining ghee or oil.

Keep stirring often. Let the extra water evaporate. Watch out for some heavy-duty spluttering.

Let the ghee float to the top and the colour turn golden. Once you’ve put it into a serving bowl, garnish with the fried onions and chopped coriander. Serve hot with pieces of lime.

 I'm sending this off to Susan who's hosting the 50th edition of her event, My Legume Love Affair, on her blog this month.

If you want another 'Id delicacy' that's as unorthodox as this haleem and no less delicious, in my book, here's some Khubani ka Meetha! Eat both together at your own risk - you won't be able to lift yourself off your chair!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Eating In At Hong Kong

About a month ago, I went to Hong Kong for a day and a half on a business visit. I knew I wouldn't have any time to go around the city due to the lack of time, but we did manage to get away for a couple of hours the day we landed. The only thing we managed to see was the skyline.

We had lunch at our hotel, this was a seafood salad with pommelo. Don't miss the bit of pommelo resting against the lettuce - recognise the shape?

A colleague chose duck.

These were the desserts. Don't miss the familiar character on the platter!

And this was the Indian option.

We made it to dinner by the skin of our teeth and I forgot about photographing it, which was a pity, because it was quite ethnic South- and North-East Asian.

But I managed to capture a bit of the breakfast.

I've already forgotten what the pale yellow stuff to the left is, but in front of it is a fish ball. Behind it is a tea egg (which I didn't find any different from an ordinary boiled egg). In the black bowl is pork and sticky rice. The triangular yellow item in the centre is a water chestnut 'cake' and behind the sausages is a turnip cake, which had bits of pork in it.

In stark contrast to the skyscrapers that abound in the rest of the city, here's its green lung - Lantau Island, as seen from a train station.

And this is downtown Hong Kong

Here are links to other posts from the Far East, a region I've been lucky to visit, however short those visits may have been!





Thailand 2