Taking Stock 1

I’m kicking off a new sub-series within my blog, inspired by something my friend and fellow blogger Meenaxi does. Meenaxi is a food blogger 6 days of the week. On Fridays, she fasts (figuratively) and touches on other subjects. And so her Friday blog entries are named Foodless Fridays. On that day, she lists out what she’s been reading, cooking, watching, doing and so on. I liked the idea and decided to emulate her. Beginning today.

This serves more as a chronicle in personal interest, to help me take stock, if you will, of what I have been up to. Hence the name of the sub-series: Taking Stock. The numeral at the end will reflect the number of times I have taken stock.

I am open to suggestions on what to read, cook, watch, do and so on. So feel free to comment/suggest.

Reading

Let me state that this section will not include reading that I do for work or reading/editing my husband Dr. A’s articles for academic journals and so on. The books mentioned here are those read for pleasure. Not that reading his work is not pleasurable. But you know what I mean. (I’m tempted to resort to some hashtagging, as is the rage nowadays, but not of the annoying, stating-the-obvious variety.) #SkirtsALandmine. There! I did it. 🙂

I am reading two books these days.

(courtesy: vidyasury.com)

(courtesy: vidyasury.com)

One is a collection of timeless poems by writer, poetess and activist Maya Angelou. Her words are so soothing – music to the ears. This one is titled “Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer”. Here is a sample. (I reckon you will want to pick up a copy, or read it online).

Each of you a bordered country
Delicate and strangely made, proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, current debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

(An excerpt from ‘On The Pulse of The Morning’)

(courtesy: bookvista.com)

(courtesy: bookvista.com)

Dr. A and I have embarked on a new project, which I hope becomes “our” tradition. We have begun reading a book together: Raag Darbaari by Srilal Shukl, a Hindi writer and former civil servant who also received the Jnanpith, Sahitya Akademi and Padma Bhushan awards for his work. I must confess that I had never heard of or read him until a few days ago. The only Hindi writer I have read is Premchand, and that too because it used to be on CBSE’s reading list in school. But I’m hooked on to his work now. His style of writing is satirical and political, in a subtle way. When I say we read it together, I mean, Dr. A reads out loud for both of us. Today is my turn. We turn the page to Chapter 2.

Feel free to recommend more books. Books written in other languages and translated into English or Hindi are welcome.

Watching/Seeing

Courtesy: loadtv.biz

Courtesy: loadtv.biz

I’m just coming out of a marathon-viewing of Broadchurch, a British crime drama television series, produced by ITV. It’s a classic whodunit set in a small coastal town. The Latimer family loses their 11-year-old son in a brutal, cold-blooded murder. Detectives Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller pair up grudgingly to solve the murder. The case spans 8 episodes. The investigation to find the killer ends up causing many skeletons to tumble out of the town’s residents’ closets: sex, lies, theft, infidelity and paedophilia to name a few. It’s almost as if every one has a past to hide, to run away from.  To complicate matters, and this is the part that I love, Hardy is a brooding cop with a heart disorder, tonnes of emotional baggage and a manner that won’t win him any prizes in a Mr Congeniality contest. I love such protagonists. Eccentric individuals who fail miserably at the everyday, in their personal lives but perform exceptionally and show extraordinary genius on the job. Other favourite eccentric, broody protagonists whom I love include Sarah Lundt from Forbrydelsen (The Killing) and Saga Noren from Bron Broen (The Bridge). Both crime drama thrillers are based and produced in Denmark. Man, I love the Danes. Hollywood doesn’t hold a candle to their writers and producers. Seriously.

Cooking

When a sweet craving collides with acute laziness, it’s time to cheat in the kitchen. I wanted to make a classic North Indian delicacy Gajar ka Halwa. Now there are multiple ways of making it. Some folks like to tenderise the grated carrot in a generous dollop of ghee first before adding the milk in. Others like to reduce the milk down before adding the carrots in. Both with tasty outcomes but way too time-consuming, especially when time is not a luxury and laziness is calling the shots. So I went online to find some cheat codes. The result: A 400g can of Nestle condensed milk. Using this cuts down the cooking time by half. The normal way (the two options mentioned earlier on) takes about 1.05 hrs. The condensed milk way takes 25 minutes.

I finely grated a kilo of carrots. Added them to a hot kadai (deep, thick-bottomed wok), greased with 3 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter). On a slow heat/low flame, I cooked the carrots till they became more tender and looked tungsten-coloured. Stirring occasionally. This took about 15 minutes. I then added about 350 g of condensed milk. The mixture became wet, gooey. I kept stirring, until the carrots absorbed most of the condensed milk. A sprinkling of green cardamom powder and a cupful of nuts (crushed, assorted). I used almonds, cashews and dark raisins. You don’t need to add sugar, as the condensed milk is sweet enough. Too sweet for some.

The halwa turned out fine. Not great. This is not to say I am never using condensed milk again. I will modify the recipe the next time around. Maybe adding 3/4th cup of milk and reducing the condensed milk to just about 200g. I promise to take a picture of the new and improved gajar ka halwa the next time the stars are aligned for a sweet experience.

Good Gourd! (Making lauki taste good)

(pic courtesy: sweetclipart.com)

(pic courtesy: sweetclipart.com)

This one’s for my new saheli Karishma Rajani whose appetite for life is equaled by her appetite for good food and new recipes. The protagonist of this recipe is the often disliked lauki (also called ‘doodhi‘, the english name for which is bottle gourd). I’d go as far as saying that this recipe – Koota – is the perfect PR agent for the veggie. It not only makes the lauki look good but taste good. The credit for this goes to an anonymous person who came up with the first ‘koota’. But I want to thank my maternal grandmother, my Amama who passed this on to me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made koota at home. It helps that it doesn’t take time to make and that my husband laps it up each time.

The preparation time is 5 minutes, cooking time is about 20.

All you need is..

1 lauki (bottle gourd)
2 tablespoons moong daal (golden gram)
1 teaspoon rayi (mustard seeds)
1 teaspoon jeera (whole cumin seeds)
1 green chilly slit
1/2 teaspoon haldi (turmeric)
a pinch of hing (asafoetida)
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
water
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon jeera powder (cumin powder)
1 teaspoon dhaniya powder (coriander powder)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
a dash of lime
a fistfull of freshly chopped coriander leaves

And here’s how you do it..

  • Soak the moong dal in a katori of water.
  • While the moong soaks, chop up your lauki into lil cubes
  • Heat the oil in a kadai. Add the rayi, jeera, slit green chilly, haldi, hing, salt and sugar
  • Turn to the moong dal now. Strain it (don’t throw away the water as it has plenty of nutrients in it, use it in your daal or another dish later) and add the moong to the kadai
  • Stir fry the moong in the masala for half a minute, before adding in the lauki pieces. Stir briskly.
  • Pour in the water, enough to submerge all the lauki. Put the lid on your kadai.
  • Let it cook on a medium/high flame. Stir occasionally.
  • When the lauki has absorbed 90% of the water (the dish should have a bit of gravy), add in the powdered jeera, dhaniya and pepper. Stir and cook for another minute
  • Switch off the stove. Garnish with coriander leaves and a dash of lime. Serve immediately. (If you’re not serving it immediately, add the lime just before you do)
    Tastes good with both rice and rotis.

I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of Koota to share. I will take pictures and upload them here the next time I make koota.
If you try this recipe, please share your experience.

Bon Appetit

The Gud, the Bad and the Tilgul laddoo fiasco (or Sesame Jaggery Ladoos Part 2)

Here is the blog entry I promised I’d write once I attempted making the tilgul ladoos a day after Makar Sankranti. But before I say anything else, let me state for the record, the heaps of respect I have come to have for my grandmother, great grandmother, sisters-in-law and countless Indian women who make these laddoos with such ease. Here’s why.

I set out to make the Tilgul ladoos according to the recipe on aayisrecipe.com. I diligently followed the recipe to the T. First collecting all my ingredients, doing my prep and keep them ready on the kitchen counter. All went well till I had to take the mixture off the heat. I greased my palms with a lil ghee, eager to shape the mixture into laddoos. But, aaaaargh…the heat from the jaggery-sesame mixture straight off the stove was something I had not bargained for. My palms were completely scalded. The woman who shared the recipe had warned that this might happen.  So I abandoned the laddoo-shaping to pursue plan B: greasing a thaali with ghee and turning out & flattening the mixture on it! But that didn’t work either. Because there didn’t seem to be enough jaggery in the mix. The recipe recommends just half a cup of jaggery but i think it would require at least two more cups. Oddly though, the mix tasted great but just wouldn’t come together. My mix looked very grainy and not sticky like the one on the websites pictures.

Image

note: reddening of palms from working with piping hot tilgul mixture 😦

It was sheer will and desperation that helped me make 4 laddoos, before my aching palms screamed at my brain and I stopped.

If this happens to you – the grainy dry tilgul mix, that is- you can use it as muesli to go with a bowl of oats at breakfast!

Tilgul (Sesame jaggery laddoos) on Sankranti

Image

courtesy: aayisrecipes.com

I have one big regret the day after Makar Sankranti. I didn’t make tilgul ladoos – traditional sweets eaten on the day- on my first festival post-marriage! In a huff I had decided not to make them after 2 relatives nagged me about it in extremely patronising tones. Now I wish I had made them after all…more so because the recipe looks simple and do-able. I’m told making tilgul ladoos is an art. I guess it’s one of those things that you perfect with age.

Found this amazing recipe online on a site called aayi’s recipes (aayi is Marathi for mother).

You know what – I am going to attempt this recipe today! 🙂 Will share details of the experience, with pictures hopefully, tomorrow! So keep watching this space…

For now, here’s the link to the recipe. Good luck!
http://www.aayisrecipes.com/2008/01/13/sesame-laddoos-tila-laddu/

Microwave Cooking 101

Microwave Cooking. Always thought that was an oxymoron. I’m sure I am not alone in using it for pretty much just heating. Turns out there is a world of not just cooking  but BAKING possibilities that involve your microwave.

This search for microwave-friendly recipes was prompted by popular demand (read: ONE nagging but well-meaning, adorable friend). Found these do-able, minimal fuss sweet recipes which take an average of 20 to 45 minutes and enjoy 3 stars or more on the UK tv website.  I guess this mode of cooking is gaining popularity as more and more kitchens have microwaves and not ovens.

But first my disclaimer: I don’t endorse microwave cooking as I feel it kills the inherent nutrient value. So proceed with caution.

Market Kitchen’s Lemon Curd recipe  

Lisa Harris’ Jammy Dodgers cupcakes recipe

Greek aloo tikkis or Patatokephtethakia by Sophie Grigson

Pls share your recipes too…. buzz words are quick and non-fussy!

Easy Breezy Banana Bread


The idea of baking bread can be very daunting. Too many uncontrollable variables in the equation. (Will the yeast be temperamental? Will I lose my cool?) I haven’t mustered up the courage to go beyond a simple chocolate cake, orange madeira cake and plain scones. But I felt bold about baking Banana Bread purely because it’s a relatively non-fussy recipe. (read: no yeast)

I’ve been meaning to try this one out for quite sometime now after my mum and her friend baked this, on separate occasions. What made me attempt it today was the sight of 3 bananas in the fruit basket at home which I’d completely forgotten about. My forgetfulness had rendered them overripe and far too icky to peel ‘n’ eat.

The good thing about Banana Bread is that it needs precisely this…3 overripe, icky bananas! So if you’re someone who hates wasting food, then this recipe is for you.

It’s pretty easy to remember this recipe…because of the quantities of the ingredients: everything is either 3 or 1/2 a cup. See for yourself…

You also need a bread tin. Grease this well and keep aside. Pre-heat your oven to moderate heat (Gas mark 4). I set mine to 180 degrees C for 20 minutes
1. Beat 3 eggs, oil and powdered sugar

2. Chop up the bananas and add them in.

3. Sift in the flour, baking soda & baking powder. Add in semolina and oats and whisk well until it’s at a nice cake batter-like consistency

4. Add in nuts and choco-chips. This is optional, of course, but highly recommended as it adds a nice texture to the other wise smooth bread. I didn’t have nuts so roughly chopped up some almonds and Nestle’s dark chocolate. Be bold and improvise!

5. Pour this into the bread tin and put it into the oven for 25 minutes. Resist the urge to keep opening the oven door as this will let the heat out and jeopardise your bread.

Your bread is ready when it has visibly risen and forms a brown crust. Just to be sure, insert a flat knife or toothpick into the centre of the bread. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Remove the tin from the oven, and let it cool down on a rack for 5 minutes. 


Serve at room temp. Goes great with vanilla ice cream! 🙂

PS: Why was the lone banana sad? Because he was a-kela! lol 😀

Scones…again

Used heart and teddy bear shaped cookie cutters to make scones today. Lesson to self:  Go easy on the milk..
The recipe is in an earlier blog

Imagear

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