Dec 30, 2009

The year errr… nine months in review

In an ideal world my last post of the year would have also been my 100th post. But my world is anything but ideal so even though I was reaching hard for a century, I fell short by four posts.

As I write this post, there has been a second helping of snow in Texas. Technically, this is the third time it has snowed but the first time it was just for a few hours. The second time we had snow flurries the whole day and when it stopped the snow stayed on the next day. We had enough to make a snowman and have a snowball fight. Of course, we didn’t do it cause it was cozy and warm inside.

But I digress. Coming back to my eight months in review that starts in the month of April. I remember it was the beginning of spring and I felt it was a good day to start a blog. Of course, like all things I do in my life, I did not give it much thought but jumped right in.

I was on a high after having mastered the art of making sabudana khichdi from a friend just days ago. I was making it every weekend and felt like sharing the secret to a non-sticky sabudana khichdi with the world. The picture was taken as an afterthought on the dining table, with my son’s toys scattered around.
A few other random recipes followed, some with pictures, some without. I was yet unaware of all the other amazing food blogs out there.  I just went exploring through the ‘Next Blog’ button. That is how I chanced on Dips’ Centaur Cooks. Through her, I found Vaishali’s wonderful, passionately vegan blog, Holy Cow, Recipes from a Vegan Kitchen.
Following few comments led to Supriya’s tasteful Red Chillis and the Holy Grail of Indie blogs, Jai and Bee’s Jugalbandi. Jugalbandi's monthly photo event was one highlight of my monthly posts as I tried to take better pictures every month. I am most proud of this one:

Of course, RC’s Food World blog aggregator introduced me to a whole new world of blogging. One blog led to another and soon I was chasing blogs like one tries to count the stars. In the end, I had to curb my enthusiasm and detox myself of the wonderful but addictive world of blogging.

By then I had also found the world of food events and there came a time when everything I posted was with the intent of entering in an event. I become obsessed with it to the point of exhaustion. You just have to look at the months of June and July. I was in full swing, with every post geared towards an event.

Thankfully, I got out of that phase quickly. Now, I do enter a few events but I don’t stress myself out.
August was the result of my putting on a few pounds and logging my eating habits for the whole world to see.
By the end of that month, I was spent and two pounds lighter. I was also learning to relax with my posts and not try to force myself to write.
September was the month to brew some old memories and long forgotten recipes, not to mention two cathartic rants.

October saw fewer posts but by then I was no longer worried about posting something every couple of days and was taking my time with each post.
I had discovered Sra’s witty blog When my soup came alive and Manisha’s Indian Food Rocks the previous month. It was Diwali time by then and a total of my seven posts had either Diwali recipes or an entry for Sra’s unique The Write Taste event. Rock on Sra!
I would have completed the 100 post mark in mid December if I had been more active in November (only 4 posts!). But I was busy with going back to school (College for non USA reader), my final papers and presentation.

I even missed my monthly book club review, This Book Makes Me Cook, that I had been religiously doing every month since July. It is a wonderful group of bloggers, headed by Simran of Bombay Foodie, who choose and review a book at the end of each month. We also try to create a recipe based on the book. If you would like to join our book club, drop a line to Simran or any of the other members and we will welcome you with open arms.

December started with only 10 posts to go and a steely resolve to hit the century.  Of course, the gods of fate conspired with a fun filled family holiday spent visiting children’s science and history museum and planning for my son’s fourth birthday.
So here I am, at the end of December, with four more posts to go but no more days left in the month.
It was still worth it though, making friends over the blog and meeting them on FB. Finding out about networked blogs (Thank you Vaishali) and trying to take better pictures of the food.

I will be remiss if I don’t mention a very witty blogger and now a good friend, Ann of Split Pear Personality. I met her through the book club (correct me if I am wrong Ann) a few months ago. If any one can make a recipe read funny it is Ann. Check out her left over Shepherd's Pie or the Counterfeit Appams.
Last but not the least, a special mention goes to Sangeeta of Banaras ka khanna, who despite personal adversity cooks delicious, regional foods from her kitchen in Delhi and puts it on her blog for the world to benefit from. You are a hero Sangeeta. Keep on blogging and smiling.
This brings us to the end of my post which is being shipped off hurriedly to Srivalli’s Best of the Year, just before the deadline ends.
Hopefully, the next two weeks will see me hit the century post.
Here's wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous 2010.

Dec 28, 2009

Ladies Coupe and a couple of idlis

So this then is Akhila. Forty five years old. San rose-colored spectacles. Sans husband, children, home and family. Dreaming of escape and space. Hungary for life and experience. Aching to connect.
In a paragraph, this is the heroin of Anita Nair’s Ladies Coupe. She is a spinster who since the age of 19 has taken care of her three sibling and widowed mother. At 45 she finally wants to be free of her responsibilities and find herself. But her family and her fears weigh her down. Not sure if an educated, financially independent woman can live by herself (really Ms. Nair?), she decides to consult five other women travelling with her in the now extinct Ladies Coupe of the Kanyakumari Express.
Akhila finds out that these women, from a sixteen year old girl to a 60 year old married woman, are not all that different from her despite their varied social and economic background.
They all find themselves bound by duty, tradition and family to put the needs of others before them. Nair reduces these strong women to sniveling, docile, weak women who either wallow in self pity or eat their way through bars of chocolate to curb their anger and hatred.

Thankfully, their stories end on a positive note when they realize that all their sacrifice comes to a naught unless they take charge of their lives and find happiness.
Whether it was Prabha who rediscovers her spontaneity with self taught swimming lessons or Sheela who is perceptive at a young age of the hidden intentions and thoughts of adults.
The plucky Margaret who finally realizes that drowning her husband’s obnoxious nature in sinfully rich food was the only way for her to find happiness. Whoever said the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, eat crow. Today’s women know how to turn the tables on you!
It takes forty years for Janaki to realize that though she will be able to survive without her husband, it just wouldn’t be same.
I was left wondering if it was Mari with whom Akhila bonds with at the end. Their life paths are so different yet so similar. Both have to shoulder the burden of their families at a young age and both are shunned by their families in the end.
And yet, while Akhila lives her life like a martyr, I couldn’t help but admire Mari who rebels against the conventions of a society that expects her to behave a certain way. Her rebellion comes at a price though and only when she accepts her past does her future starts to look good.
So it is with Akhila, who has to seduce a younger man to absolve her from her sense of duty and insecurity.
Nair weaves a deft tale of the six women, ties up all the loose ends and leaves us questioning our intents, desires and relationships. However, there was not a lot of sympathy I could muster for Akhila’s martyr like behavior or her bold yet sneaky move to travel to Kanyakumari. But then again, we wouldn’t have a Ladies Coupe without Akhila’s journey of self discovery, would we?

After the book review, which regrettably is longer than Nair’s prologue, I leave you with pictures of Idlis I made in the morning. I do make them from scratch at home but with idli rava instead of the urad dal recipe in the book. The ones above were made from store bought batter and so no recipe, just pictures. Enjoy! And Ann, you got my permission to take points off for no recipes.

Other members of our book club who not only posted the reviews but were inspired to cook from it, with the exception of Sheba of Forks, Boots and a Pallette who followed her review with some pictures of hideous cakes (her words, not mine), were:
Ann of Split Pear Personality who made Counterfeit Appams.
Simran of Bombay Foodie made Lacy Appams.
Sweatha of Curry Leaf made Cutlets.
Bhagyasrie of Taste Buds made aubergine fritters.

Dec 23, 2009

Rustic three lentils vegetable soup

I am a creature of habit when it comes to ordering food at tried and tested restaurants. So when I stumbled into Corner Bakery the other day I surprised myself by ordering their three lentils vegetable soup instead of my regular roasted red tomato soup.
In retrospect, I am inclined to believe my decision was a result of half a day of fasting for my annual physical and having finished the last of my big pot of gingered tomato carrot soup the previous day.

I was surprised to find that the three lentil soup was a happy combination of lentils, carrots, spinach and corn. It warmed up a famished girl on a cool, breezy day while catching up with her gal pal, Erin.
I am usually happy to leave the making of a restaurant soup to a restaurant but there was something about this soup that tickled my taste buds and made me want another bowl the very next day. Since I had no plans to drive 10 miles to the bakery and pay $3 for a bowl of soup, I decided to make my own.

I decided to start with split and whole red lentils (masoor) since they cook quickly. I added some solitary green lentils sitting in my pantry to complete the trio. Some onion, kale, carrots, corn, mushrooms and tomatoes later, I had my big pot of three lentils soup with vegetables.
A friend’s visiting Dutch in-laws tasted the soup and said it was a “meal soup” because it was so hearty and filling. This is a free for all soup, so feel free to add any veggies or greens of your choice. I have added spinach instead of kale on occasions as well as cooked garbanzo beans and it still tastes great.

I have also made it using just two lentils (split and whole masoor) and it still tastes great. Here’s my version of Corner Bakery’s Three Lentil Soup.
1/3 cup split red lentils (masoor)
1/3 cup whole red lentils (masoor)
1/3 cup whole green lentils (optional)
1 big onion, chopped roughly
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 big tomato, chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and diced small
½ cup of mushrooms, chopped (any kind)
1/2 bunch of spinach or 2-3 big leaves of kale, chopped fine
1/4 cup of corn kernels
2-4 cups of vegetable/ chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine and wash all the lentils and keep aside.
In a big pot, heat some olive oil and sauté the chopped onions, carrots and garlic till the onions turn translucent.
Add the mushrooms and some salt. Sauté the mushrooms till they get soft, a few minutes, before adding the tomatoes. Cover and let them get mushy. Add the lentils, spinach, corn and broth.
Adjust the salt and pepper and bring to a rapid boil.
Lower the heat and simmer till the carrots are tender and the lentils, spinach and corn are cooked through, about 30 minutes. I like my soup thick so I keep simmering it at medium heat till the split lentils are first mushy and then completely disintegrate.

Note: Add water in the absence of broth.
This hearty, filling soup goes to MLLA 18, hosted by Srivalli and the brainchild of Susan.

Dec 13, 2009

The Decade from Hell!

In response to Time's last week's cover story, The Decade From Hell by Andy Serwer, a reader, John Grull from Lincoln, Nebraska, had this to say in this week's issue: " How can TIME devote six pages to the "Decade from Hell" without acknowledging that for eight years we had one of the worst Presidents in the American History? The divisiveness that Bush and Cheney fostered was a key part of this abysnal decade."

Dec 10, 2009

Gingered tomato carrot soup

Due to a shopping list error my fridge received an additional bag of vine ripe tomatoes. To take advantage of the bounty of tomatoes I had no choice but to go the soup way. Also, I thought it was a nice way to honor Maurice Sendak’s (upper left corner) ode to Dec in his Chicken Soup with Rice poem – “with soup bowls draped all over me”.
A chicken soup would have been a more fitting tribute but I am sure he will forgive me opting for a tomato soup instead.

Caution: This soup does not taste like your regular restaurant soups, where the flavor and taste of tomatoes is masked by heavy cream. It is tangy with a hint of sweetness from carrots and a subtle zing of ginger and green chilies.
One hot cup of this soup is being sent off to Harini of Tounge Ticklers who is hosting Meeta's Monthly Mingle this month.

8-10 vine ripe tomatoes
2-4 large carrots
2 green chilies (vary according to heat preference)
1 big chunk of ginger
1 tbsp cream cheese (substitute with cream)
3-4 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the tomatoes, carrots, green chilies and ginger. Chop the carrots, chilies and ginger in big chunks.
Put everything in a pressure cooker with some water and cook for one whistle. Turn off the heat and let cool.
Alternatively, bring to boil everything in a big pot till the carrots are fork tender and the skins of tomatoes start to peel.

Remove the skins off the tomatoes. Blend the tomatoes, carrots, chilies and ginger in a blender till smooth.
Transfer to a big pot and add the water left over from cooking the tomatoes etc. Whip the cream cheese and add to the soup with sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Boil till desired thickness is achieved.
Transfer to soup bowls and serve hot with some crusty bread or sandwiches.

Notice the white flecks of cream cheese? Can be avoided by whipping it before adding to the soup.

Note: I added a tbsp of cream cheese, which sounds decadent but is guilt free at 45 cal divided between 6-8 bowls of soup.
4 tsp of sugar seems like a lot but it helps to cut the sharp acidity of the tomatoes.

Dec 8, 2009

On the fringe and back

November was a tortoise/ rabbit month for me. I had my final papers due in college, a group presentation, a PP talk at my writer’s meet besides taking care of a friend’s kid for a few days and carting him and my son to school. Of course, other regular chores like cooking, cleaning and entertaining go on as usual. At the end of the day, what little energy I had left I chose to spend on catching up on missed episodes of Fringe instead of blogging. After all, I reminded myself, a wise man once said about blogging “blog only if it is fun”.

It was hard not to blog though. In the eight months that I have started blogging, it has become an extension of me. In the few weeks I have been absent from my blog, I was constantly taking pictures to post and mulling over my text to write. But at the end of the day, sitting in front of my laptop, my hands would pause, the mind would turn blank. I would hit the shut down button and go back to watching Fringe.

If you are into sci-fi/ paranormal genre, you can understand how addicting it is to watch Fringe. It airs every Thursday on Fox but clashes with my other favorite genre, comedy. At the moment, there is nothing more hilarious on TV than NBC’s Thurs nights with The Office and 30 Rock. Thank the technology for Hulu, where I can watch my other favorites the next day, especially if I missed the first season but can catch up with the click of a button.

Did I just digress from blogging to TV talk? Well, that is what happens when you take a break and come back after a few weeks. Hopefully, I am back for good, at least for a while. My college doesn’t start till middle of Jan and even though my next three weekends are busy, my weekdays are relatively free. So, brace yourselves for a barrage of posts (fingers crossed).

Before I leave, here’s a bunch of photos I clicked on my brief hiatus. More details and recipes coming soon.

Methi Theplas with potato cauliflower sabzi and carrot, tomato, onion koshimbeer (salsa).

Found this simple but yummy recipe for Eggplant Talasani at Manisha's Indian Food Rocks.

Eggless Banana Walnut Bread made with semolina (rava). Recipe on Supriya's Red Chillis.

Jammy Biscuits baked from Curry Leaf's Experiments, Emotions, Experiences with Food .

"I'll eat the jam first, cookie later."
 All those concerned parents out, don't worry. He didn't get to eat the whole plate of cookies. I took away the plate after he polished off two. So don't send me any concerned, anonymous comments like this one.

Nov 26, 2009

Sprouted whole Moong Usal

And how to sprout moong beans?

One hot, humid day, I forgot to grind my soaked moong dal rice mix and it sat on the counter the whole day. The next day I found my whole moong was sprouting tiny buds. So, I grinded the mix for my dosa and then proceeded to soak some more sprouted moong dal for my usal (not to be confused with usual).

The process of sprouting beans/ legumes is easy but does take time so planning a day or two ahead is necessary. Here is the easy 1-2-3 step to sprouting beans (okay, so there are more than three steps to doing this. But it is still easy).

1. Soak in plenty of water for 8 – 10 hours or overnight.
I used 3 cups of water to soak 1/2 cups of moong beans

2. Drain all the water. The beans will have doubled in volume and become plump and soft.

3. Take a damp cotton towel/ dish cloth and dump the moong beans in the center. Loosely wrap the ends around, put it in a covered pot and keep it in a dark, warm place (ex. under the stove top, in the oven or covered by a bigger pot).
4. Forget about it for 24 – 30 hours.

5. Take out the bean pot, open the dish cloth and behold glorious sprouted moong or any other beans of your choice.

You may be tempted to ask, “Why go through the trouble of sprouting the beans?” and here’s my answer. The benefits of sprouting beans are many. The sprouting process not only doubles the volume of the beans it also increases the vitamin, mineral and protein content of beans and decreases the calories and carbohydrate content. Plus they taste good even raw. So go ahead and sprout some beans today and cook them the usal way.

The usal is just a simple sauté of onions, garlic and tomatoes with some garam masala thrown in for good measure. For the purist in search of the authentic, adding a little grated coconut will achieve the desired result. I usually omit it in pursuit of retaining the earthy flavor of the moong beans.
Supriya of Red Chilies recently posted this version of cooking moong beans which is also super easy and tastes delicious.

1/2 cup moong beans, sprouted
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 tomato, chopped fine
2-4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp grated coconut (optional)
1 small potato, chopped into cubes (optional)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 green chili, chopped fine
1 tsp garam masala
Cilantro for garnish

Grind the onion, coconut (if using), tomato and garlic cloves.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in the small, 3 liter pressure cooker. Alternatively, use a pan with a tight fitting lid. Add the mustard seeds and lower the heat when they start popping.
Add the cumin seeds, green chilli, turmeric powder and garam masala. Let it cook for 30 sec before adding the onion-tomato paste.
Cook till the raw smell of onions turns fragrant and the watery paste turns thick. This should take about 10 min on medium flame.
Add the sprouted moong beans, adjust the water and put the cooker lid on. Turn off the heat after one whistle.

If using a pan, add the tight fitting lid and cook for about 20 minutes or till the beans are cooked through but not mushy.
Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro. The usal can be eaten as a side with dal and rotis or as a main dish with rotis.

Notes: If cooking in a pressure cooker, make sure to turn the heat off after one whistle. If not the beans will still taste good but will not hold their shape and will be mushy.

If using, add the cubed potato before adding the onion-tomato paste. Coat it with the spices and cook for a few minutes.

The sprouted moong bean usal goes to Susan's MLLA-17, currently hosted by Sra of When My Soup came Alive.

Nov 19, 2009

Plugging Wagle on World Toilet Day

The title is not a pun. It is World Toilet Day (I am not kidding you!) and I am plugging a blogger friend, Dinesh Wagle (no relation) who blogs at Wagle Street Journal.  Dinesh is currently the bureau chief of Nepal's Kathmandu Post and is stationed in Delhi. He blogs and posts photos of happenings in Delhi and the country from the eyes of a Nepali. Frankly, I never thought of Nepal as another country (I knew it was), just a friendly neighbor separated by a border.
It is always interesting to see your home country from an outsiders point of view and Dineshs' views are exactly that, interesting and unique.
I found out about the World Toilet Day from his blog and almost burst out laughing at his account and the photos of public urinals in India. So, if you are not squeamish about public toilets, do hop on over and take a peek (pun intended).
What are your best/ worst public toilet experiences?

Nov 8, 2009

Moong dosa/ adai inspired by Holy Cow

I have to admit that till I started reading Vaishali’s blog, Holy Cow, my conception of vegan was vague. Not so any more. Eating a vegetarian Indian diet gets you as close to being a vegan as possible with the exception of daiy, fat and meat. Nevertheless, I try to check up Vaishali’s recipes as fast as she posts them. Trying them out at the same speed is another matter. In the past I have made her baghare baingan and loved them. This is saying a lot from someone not fond of baingan (eggplant).

Her moong dal dosa were another hit in my home. Soaking time two hours, no fermentation and a little grinding later the batter is ready. All you have to do is roll a ladleful on the skillet and your breakfast, lunch or snack is ready. These are not only easy to make and full of nutrition and protein but addictive as well. Ever since I read the recipe three weeks ago, I have been tweaking it and trying it out every few days. What I have not done is stop eating them.

So here’s my version of Vaishali’s moong dosa:

1/2 cup moong dal (I used whole but split can be substituted)
1/2 cup ponni rice (Vaishali recommends any medium grain rice)
1/4 cup chana dal (optional)
2-4 green chilies
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
1/2 bunch of coriander

Wash and soak both the dals and the rice together. Soak in about a cup and a half of water for two to three hours.

In a blender, grind the soaked ingredients with the chilies, garlic, ginger, coriander and cumin to a smooth consistency. Add salt to taste and keep aside in the refrigerator till ready to use. If the batter is too thick, add a little water to the batter.

When ready to use, heat a non-stick or a cast iron skillet on medium heat. With a smooth concentric motion of the hand, spread a ladleful of batter in a thin circle on the skillet. For a demo on how to spread dosa batter, check out this link.
Add a few drops of oil on the dosa. Unlike regular dosa, this one does need only a few drops. If you add too much, the dosa will get oily. A few drops of oil is another plus of this dosa.

When the dosa starts lifting from the edges, in a minute or two, flip it with a spatula and cook the other side. Fold it in half and serve with chutney of your choice.

Sra of When My Soup Came Alive is hosting this month's MLLA -- 17, originally started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook. The moong dal dosa is getting shipped to the two lovely ladies on account of it being loaded with legumes.

Nov 3, 2009

Vermicelli Kheer (milk pudding)/ Sevainya/ Shevayachi kheer

As promised in my previous post here’s the recipe for Vermicelli Kheer with pistachios and golden raisins and delicately flavored with cardamom pods. In Marathi vermicelli or sevainya is pronounced with an ‘H’ in front of the ‘S’. The taste remains the same.
Let me correct myself. The taste of the vermicelli stays the same but depending on how much elbow grease you are willing to put in boiling the milk, the taste of the kheer changes from good to delicious to decadently rich. On the few occasions that I make it, I like to take the time and effort to cook it to a consistency where the milk starts turning yellowish from all the boiling and the spoon starts picking up the soft layers of cream with every swirl.

1 gallon or about 3 liters of milk
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp of ghee or unsalted butter
1 ½ cup of vermicelli
6-8 pods of cardamom, powdered
1/2 cup of golden raisins, pistachios and cashews (or any other nuts of your choice)

In a small kadahi or wok heat a teaspoon of ghee. On low heat toast the vermicelli until it is golden brown. Be very careful not to burn it. Take off the heat and keep aside.

In a heavy bottom pan, bring the milk to a rolling boil. Turn the heat to medium and keep the milk on a gentle boil. It is very important that you stir and scrap the bottom of the pot every five minutes.

If the milk starts sticking the bottom and you ignore it, it will eventually start burning and you do not want to taste burnt milk in your kheer. So ladies, just for this one, do not multi task, concentrate on the milk at hand (in the pot).

In about 30 to 40 minutes, told you lots of elbow grease, the milk will have reduced to 1/4th of the original amount.

As you keep stirring and scraping the milk, you want thin layers of cream (malai) floating in the pan. The more layers of cream you have, the richer your kheer will be.

At this point add the toasted vermicelli to the boiling milk. Add the sugar and the raisins.

Keep the kheer on a gentle boil, still stirring so the vermicelli doesn’t stick together. The vermicelli is done when it plumps up, about 10 minutes.

Check the kheer for sweetness and add some more sugar if desired. Turn off the heat and add the powdered cardamom and toasted pistachios and cashews.

As the kheer cools, it will get thicker so decided how thick or runny you like it and boil the milk accordingly. In my house, we like it thick like a custard.

Garnish with additional cashews and pistachios before serving.

Oct 26, 2009

Hindi Bindi Club and delayed kheer

Towards the end of Monica Pradhan’s The Hindi-Bindi Club, Meenal Deshpande shows her daughter Kiran her list of ‘Things I want to do before I die’. One of the things on the list is her wish to write a novel. Her daughter requests her not to write a “Life’s-a-Bitch-and-Then-You-Die” novel. Meenal assures her daughter she will write a story that’s ultimately uplifting, about survivors of hardships and of resilience of the human spirit.

Pradhan attempts to write just such a novel and it is easy to see where she draws her inspiration from -- The Joy Luck Club and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. But it is fair to say these books were just inspirations and Pradhan thankfully tries to make the story her own or about the three set of mothers and daughters.

The story of the six women is told in first person and first half of the book draws the reader into their personal lives in a very reality-TV-like way. And even though they are from the same country, the cultural diversity of the three (Bengali, Maharashtrian and Punjabi) is well narrated and explained for the non-Indian reader. But then, like the average reality show, these stories too start to falter, stumble and fall apart at the seams; especially, that of Saroj and her daughter Preity and Uma and her daughter Rani. It is not hard to see why.

When you are attempting to voice six strong women and their mother-daughter bond, not to mention their past and present and future, it can become daunting not to mention challenging. Ms. Pradhan’s easy way out was to chop the stories just when they got interesting.

For example, suddenly out of nowhere we find out Saroj is having an extramarital affair with her old flame. Except for her husband’s less than satisfying performance in bed, we get no hint of why, when or how she started her affair.

We know everything about her daughter Preity’s first love affair and her desire to find closure in the face of an abruptly ended affair. But the built up is deflated just as suddenly with a hand delivered letter and a few tears.

Recipe for how plain vegeis are transformed into delicous side dishes 

Uma’s estrangement from her father and her special bond with her daughter is poignant and touching. Her attempt to translate her mother’s diaries gives us a glimpse into the archaic customs and prejudices of Indian families but it is just that, a glimpse. I would have loved to read more translations of her mother’s diaries and how it helped her decipher her daughter’s asthma as just misaligned chakras.

Her daughter Rani, struggling with an artist’s block and a husband dealing with the loss of his start up, in a matter of few pages, has suddenly everything working out for the best for her.

Meenal Deshpande's chicken curry

But more than the choppy stories and abrupt endings, it was the pontification that bothered me the most. It was out of place to the point of being ridiculous and unbelievable at best. I mean, seriously, who launches into a discussion with first time guests over how women should be put in charge of Indo Pak diplomacy and how politicians are to blame for all the world’s problems (True) and regular citizens do not hate people from other countries. Or when Meenal lectures Kiran, a family physian, on the hazards of smoking!

May be Ms. Pradhan should have worried more about fleshing out the story and less about Indo Pak relations or statutory warnings.

That being said, the characters are totally relatable and the mother daughter father bond/tension spot on. The lament of Indian parents at the loss of culture, language and respect for elders is reminiscent of discussion I have at Indian parties in the US. The recipes are as authentic as can be. I loved the reminder “Under no circumstance use curry powder’.

Here’s my reminder, “Under no circumstance buy the book if you can rent.”

This book review is for our monthly book club – This book makes me cook, started by Simran. Other members who reviewed the book are Ann, Simran, Aqua and Aparna. If you would like to join out book club, drop a line to Simran and she will get back to you with details.

My version of Meenal's vermicelli kheer
I made Meenal’s vermicelli kheer (porridge) with pistachios and golden raisins and delicately flavored with cardamom pods. However, this post has run long enough for the purpose of this blog so kheer recipe in the next post, promise.

Ann, don’t take any points off like the last time. It counts if I made and ate the kheer and post it a day later.

Oct 21, 2009

Mom Song

Ok, before you click on the play button, let me clarify that my almost four year old is still manageable in terms of getting dressed, eating his food or taking a bath. But I know I am getting there soon when I too will be singing the MOM SONG.

Oct 19, 2009

Baked karanji for Diwali

I know Diwali is come and gone, but indulge me with this and the next post. I did make the kranji and the savory shankarpali, just never got around to posting it before Diwali. I had a busy week making the faral (snacks or munchis, mostly fried, like this one), cleaning the house and cooking for five families for the weekend Diwali bash. Not much time left for posting or visiting a lot of blogs.

After the high of instant coconut barfi, I decided to google baked karanji and found a recipe here. The brilliant lady had used frozen Pillsbury Pie Crust to make the casing for karanji. Karanji for the uninitiated is half moons of falky dough, stuffed with delicious sweet filling of coconut, sugar and nuts and deep fried in ghee. In the interest of heart healthy goodness, I did not want to deep fry my karanjis in ghee, so I was all for baking the pie crust dough.

For the filling:
1 cup fresh coconut, grated (frozen is fine too)
1/2 cup sugar
4 – 5 cardamoms, crushed into powder
A few nuts like cashews or almonds, roasted and coarsely chopped
A handful of raisins


In a heavy bottom kadhai or a non-stick pan, roast the coconut and sugar on low heat till the coconut starts to turn a little red and the sugar melts.

Turn off the heat; add cardamom powder and the nuts. Let cool.

Unroll the pie dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it thinner.

With a cookie cutter or the lid of a ricotta cheese container, cut rounds. Save the scrapes, wedge them and reuse to cut some more circles.

Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle, run a finger dipped in some milk around the edges, fold the circle in half and seal the edges shut.
Keep aside on a cookie sheet, covered with a moist towel. This takes a little time so if possible keep the prepared karanjis in the fridge till you are ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 350 and place the karanjis in the oven. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes till they start turning golden brown.

Take out and let them cool before eating them.

Note: The dough is a little salty to pass off as authentic karanji but apart from that the crust is as flaky and crunchy as the original.
The dough gets softer after a lot of handling on account of the amount of butter it has. Try to make this in the day, when you don't have to switch on the overhead lights.

Next time I will try it with Puff Pastry Sheets rolled thinner to avoid a lot of flakes.

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