Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Zippy Zesty Za'tar Zeanuts

Well, I had to keep up the alliteration, didn't I? I mean peanuts. At my workplace, colleagues often bring a snack called Congress Peanuts (read about the name here) from Bangalore, which I love for the combination of chilli powder, curry leaf, asafoetida and sugar that they seem to be spiced with. I usually have peanuts in stock thanks to The Spouse who thinks peanut chutney goes with anything and everything - from idlis to khichdi to biriyani.

 I swiped his stocks and set out to make them but as I am always in fridge-cleaning and pantry-cleaning mode, I remembered the stock of za'tar I had and proceeded to use that. It didn't make a dent - I used only 1.5 tsp, but it made for a snack that had my colleagues at work compete for it. One of them said it woke her up, and hence the title of this post!

 I used olive oil since it went with the za'tar, Mediterranean thing.

 What you need

 Extra-virgin olive oil: 2 tsp
Turmeric: a pinch
Za'tar: 1 tsp + some more
Salt: 3/4 tsp of iodised fine salt, to begin with

Peanuts, roasted, skinned and halved: 300 gm

 Heat the olive oil gently. Continuing to keep it on low heat, mix the spices with the oil and heat for less than a minute. Add the peanuts and mix well to ensure they are coated well with the spices. After you take them off the stove, let them cool and taste for seasoning. Add some more of the salt and za'tar if you like.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Of New Year Wishes, Surprising Yourself and Perfect Trials

Last year, I made this greeting to wish family and friends on Facebook a happy new year! The photo is mine, from my trip to Newport, Rhode Island in December 2014.

When I made it and found the words to go with it, I had no more hopes than my usual - that the year should not bring any earth-shaking changes and rock my boat, and that if there was any change, it should only be for the better. Then I forgot all about it as the year went by. (I even had a moment's trouble recently remembering the name of this place that I visited.)

When Facebook prodded me to 'See Your Memories' this New Year's Day, this greeting came up. I was surprised to see that I had actually done a few of those things it said.

I 'made some art' as the picture exhorted one to - I took to colouring late in 2015, in end-October or early November, and have been having a lot of fun. I know much has been written of its therapeutic and stress-busting value. I don't know about that, really. I'm not one to take to every new-age hobby or discipline and declare them a marvel but I enjoy it thoroughly. I have accumulated a bagful of sketch pens, pencils, a few paintbrushes, and three colouring books. I am also planning to go and buy a few paper supplies tomorrow. The pictures you see below are a mixture of the designs I've found on the Internet (search for 'adult colouring free prints') and those from my colouring books.

I've even arranged to go for a certain art class this Saturday!

I 'read and re-read some fine books' (A Spool of Blue Thread, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Painting The Darkness, I Do Not Come To You By Chance, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and quite a few more, fiction and non-fiction).

I went on a completely unexpected trip - the nice part was that it was unexpected. The trip itself, well, let me say I was glad to have taken two days off for myself after the first three days which were important - I really found the time to unwind and not feel too bad about the earlier part.

I kissed someone who thinks I'm wonderful (my 7-year-old niece, who really does, but would never admit to it) dozens of times.

And I did 'surprise myself' with handling a certain challenge which I shall not discuss as I'm superstitious about it. Another thing I surprised myself with was getting off one of my two Facebook accounts and not missing it. It was linked to this blog but it wasn't delivering what I wanted it to and I decided I would no longer waste any time on it.

It has nothing to do with how I feel about this blog, though. I'm still keen on keeping it going. I haven't had the time in the last few months to do much blog-hopping either, given the pressures of my job, but I will set time aside for it once a week at least.

At home with my parents, I watched my cook make a favourite colocasia fry and got it right when I tried it in my kitchen. Now that was a solid achievement. It also reminds me of what one of my friends says, that cooking is one area where it's possible to get instant gratification.

Before I get to the ingredients, I'll tell you what I learnt first

Boil, not pressure cook, the colocasia. Keep poking it with a fork or a knife to check for just-doneness. If you pressure cook it, it gets squishy even with just one whistle.

Do not turn the pieces immediately after you have slid them into the oil. Just de-clump them if you have to, with the ladle, but don't turn them over deliberately. They have to fry a bit before being turned over. Once you turn them over, don't disturb them again till you see the colour deepening a little more - then use your good sense and sense of sight to determine when they are golden brown and then remove them from the oil.

For the amount seen in the photo, you will need

1/2 a kilo of colocasia, arbi or taro root, boiled as above and sliced
Oil to deep fry (try deep frying in a small but deep vessel, I think we use up lesser oil that way)
Red chilli powder

Heat the oil well, lower the flame and then slide some of the colocasia pieces into the oil. Do not crowd them. Some will stick to each other. Separate them with the ladle. Let them fry for a minute and when you notice them turning brown, turn them over. Repeat the process as the colour deepens, once or twice, and remove them when they are a golden brown.

Put them on paper napkins so that the extra oil is absorbed.

Sprinkle salt and chilli powder little by little, tasting at each step, and mix lightly to coat with the spices.

I am very greedy when it comes to this dish but miraculously I managed to save some for The Spouse. So I guess the year did have some 'magic' that is mentioned in the greeting - it was magical that I wasn't so much of a glutton and he got to eat something he never would have otherwise. As for dreams and good madness - yes, there are always the dreams and the craziness in all spheres, too many examples to recount here.

How was your year? What did you do? Did you surprise yourself?

The same wishes are what I wish for you, and of course, I wish that we see more of each other this year, much more than before. Happy new year!