Feb 24, 2013

Officially a desisoccermom again and some accidental chole aloo

If you are wondering what the title means, read on.  It will all be explained in the 900+ words that will follow this paragraph. If you are wondering how the accidental chole aloo are related to me being a desisoccermom, that too will be explained eventually with a recipe at the end of the post. You just have to bear through the 900+ words to get the picture.

You see, when I started this blog my son was three and had just started playing soccer. He was playing in one of those little Y leagues for boys and girls and it was a very tame affair given the kids’ ages. He enjoyed the experience of playing with other kids, kicking the ball around and generally running around. I would drive him to practice on weekdays and games on weekends in my car, not a van but a car, but it still gave me the rights to be called a desisoccermom. Born and brought up in India gave me the rights to ‘desi’ as in from des or country of birth. That, in short, is the blog naming story.

All ready for the game
Six months later, the kid had graduated to playing serious soccer which meant the practice games were more disciplined and the matches with other teams were much intense. The kids from the other teams were bigger, aggressive and driven compared to my kid who was in it just for the fun and none of the jostling and pushing. The first day of the match was on a cold winter morning. My son took one look at the opposing team players kicking ball and pushing players out of the way to score a goal and he clung to me with a pincer grip. “I don’t want to go play,” he wailed. “I am cold. I want to go home.”

The husband couldn’t stand his three and a half year old cowering in my arms. He started pacing up and down the field to work off his agitation. The coach sensed the kid’s fear and gently coaxed him to go on the field. He held his hand and ran on the field with him. It was totally against regulation but they allowed him anyways. A few minutes late the kid was back in my arms and the husband back to his pacing. The routine continued for two more weeks before I had had enough. We withdrew our boy from the team (over the phone) and I announced that we were not going back to the soccer fields till both the boys could learn to handle themselves on the field.  

Four years later, the kid said he wanted to play soccer again and promised he would behave. The husband promised to be a better sport on the field. So, I enrolled the kid in the same soccer team his best friend also plays in. The games are played indoors so hopefully the weather won’t be a mood dampener this time. We had our first practice session last week on a cold, windy evening but both the boys were a good sport. The younger one kicked the ball around, went around the cones and ran with his teammates. The older one coached him a bit and cheered him on. I walked the perimeter of the soccer field trying to keep warm.
 Warm up before the match

Two days later, the match went off smoothly as well. The kid’s team, Hawks, won 7 to 3. The kids were happy as were the parents. The kid didn’t too badly on the field even though he incurred two penalty points for his team when he touched the ball in the circle (yeah, I am talking soccer jargon already). The older boy was happy his son didn’t chicken out like four years ago. I was happy I didn’t have to handle two cranky, agitated boys. We came home exhausted and hungry.

This is where the accidental chole aloo come in. I looked in the fridge and found some cooked garbanzo beans from two days ago with a small jar of left over onion-ginger-garlic paste. Now the ginger-garlic paste was no ordinary paste. It had khus-khus (poppy seeds) and cashews in it as well as a small tomato. This was a paste leftover from a special curry I tried to make the day after V-day. It was supposed to be kaju-paneer masala, a rich, decadent dish but it ended up not so good because I over roasted the masala too much, added too much garam masala and used whole milk instead of cream to thicken the gravy. It was a masala paste made in haste, using a combination of ingredients grounded together instead of roasted and ground separately. It was not the best thing I ever made but he ate it without any fuss. I am married to a saint, I tell you.

Anyways, I had some of that raw masala paste leftover from last week’s experiment gone awry and maybe half a cup of garbanzo beans. I added some oil to the karahi and added the raw paste. The paste was sautéed on a medium-low flame for about ten minutes. I don’t care much for ground onion pastes. It tends to get bitter if you roast it too much and has the potential to burn if you take your eyes off even for a minute. It also tends to taste raw if not roasted enough. It is a delicate balance and I don’t do well with delicate. This paste was easier to work with because of the added fat from the ground khus-khus and cashews.

Once the paste was roasted to ‘just the right amount’ and the oil started releasing from the sides, I added some tomato paste and roasted some more. Then, I added the chickpeas, some peeled and chopped potatoes and a generous amount of liquid. The whole mix simmered on the stove for a few minutes till I got tired of the simmer. So, I dumped the whole mix in the 3 ltr Prestige pressure cooker and turned it off after two whistles. The resulting chole were good, just like they would be made in any Maharashtrian home, with a simple rassa (gravy) only this time the rassa had poppy seeds and cashews as an added bonus.
Here is the accidental recipe for chole aloo:

The day before you make this, soak 1 cup dry garbanzo beans (kabuli channa) in plenty of water. By plenty I mean at least 3-4 cups.
Next day, wash the garbanzo in plenty of water or transfer to a colander and let water run over the soaked beans for a few minutes. Transfer to a pressure cooker, cover the beans with water and add two teaspoons of salt and set the lid. Let the pressure build up and then lower the heat to medium. Wait for at least 3 whistles before turning the heat off.

While the beans are cooking in the pressure cooker, and much later when the pressure is subsiding, prepare the masala by grinding the following:
1 cup roughly chopped onions
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
2 small tomatoes or add 1 tbsp of tomato paste later
1 tbsp ea of khus-khus (poppy seeds) and cashew pieces soaked in water

Now, heat a tbsp. of oil in a thick bottom karahi or wide pan of your choice. Turn the heat to med-low and add the masala paste. At this point the water in the onions and tomatoes tends to splatter the oil and the low temperature helps reduce the splatter. Of course, if you have minions to clean up after you, by all means splatter away on med-high.

Roast the masala till the oil starts to separate. Keep a close eye on the roasting masala while you peel and chop two potatoes.
My beat up but still functioning 3ltr Hawkins
Once the potatoes are chopped, soak them in some water and then pay some more attention to the roasting masala. Stir it if it looks like it is sticking to the bottom of the pan and add a little bit of water if it needs coaxing to separate from the bottom of the pan.

At this point add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp chole masala (recipe to come later) and 1/2 red chili powder.
Let the spices roast in the masala for a few minutes before adding the chopped potatoes. Add some salt to taste and 1/2 cup of water. Cover and let the potatoes cook.

Meanwhile, check if the pressure cooker has cooled down. Take the lid off carefully making sure your face is away from all the trapped steam under that lid. Check if the garbanzos are tender and then carefully tip them or use a ladle to add them to the simmering potato masala. Add some more water and let the chole-aloo simmer till the potatoes are tender and the gravy thickens.
I, of little patience, dumped the whole mix back into the pressure cooker and cooked it under pressure for two whistles. In ten minutes I had the softest garbanzo and the tenderest potatoes simmering in the delicious gravy.

We had the chole aloo that day with store bought wheat tortillas and some leftover rice. More importantly, I cooked my chole aloo in an Indian pressure cooker and it didn’t blow up in my face!

We had the chole aloo that day with store bought wheat tortillas and some leftover rice. More importantly, I cooked my chole aloo in an Indian pressure cooker and it didn’t blow up in my face!

Feb 15, 2013

An escaped fugitive, garage door malfunction and deadline extension

Yes, you read it right. This is what our week has been like so far. On Tuesday, a prisoner transfer went horribly wrong when the convict escaped from the parking lot of a Walmart about 30 miles from where we live. The police advised caution; the husband advised locked car doors and my yoga studio started locking the lobby door while we sweated in 105 degree heat and humidity inside. All the school campuses in the surrounding areas, including my kid’s, went into lockdown mode. Four days later the fugitive is still on the loose and the schools are still in lockdown.

With a fugitive running around who knows where the last thing I needed was a broken garage door but that is what happened the very next day. As I slowly backed out of my garage I heard a loud banging/ grating noise, a metal on metal crash of some kind. I had the presence of mind to brake and pull forward. I stopped the car and got out to see that top of my van had crashed into the bottom panel of the garage door which apparently had not rolled all the way back up as it is supposed to.
Being the calm and collected person that I am, I checked the rear of the car for damage. It seemed to be unharmed. Then I noticed that the garage door was off one of its rollers and bent into a V from the middle. Yeah, it was not good. At this point I called up a friend and asked her to pick me up since I was due for a seminar at the kid’s school. Then it dawned on me that I couldn’t leave the garage door open, all banged up and broken, especially with a fugitive who may or may not be looking for just such an opportunity to break into a house for food and shelter. So I told the friend to cancel the pick-up plan and instead ran over to my neighbor’s and banged on her door. At this point, I was panicking slightly. She greeted me in her bathrobe and I told her to come quick, I had an emergency.

The good neighbor that she is, she came, tightening her blue bathrobe around her, took a look at the garage door, climbed a chair to check for damage to my car roof (a couple of scratches) and declared I needed to call a repair man to get the door fixed. Which I did (thanks to Angie’slist) and two hours later a very efficient repair man parked his van in front of my house, assessed the situation and gave me a very reasonable estimate to fix the door. I agreed on the spot and he proceeded to mend the garage door. An hour later the door was fixed and I breathed easy.  
In the entire garage hullabaloo (yeah, I am using that word and sticking to it) I totally forgot to do my weekly blog post. Now that the drama around our house has cooled down, here I am with my sixth blog post of the year (I am running one blog post behind) announcing a two week extension of the “I cooked in my Indian pressure cooker and it didn’t blow up in my face”.

The reasons for the extension: One, I haven’t had a chance to write another pressure cooker post. Two, a few friends requested an extension. Three, I have received only a couple of entrees so far, mainly because I haven’t talked about the event much or maybe because the PC is blowing people’s faces more than I thought it did.

So for now, the deadline has been extended to Feb 28. Send in your entrees to jayawagle (at) gmail.com and don’t forget to end the post with “I cooked (insert the name of the dish you cooked) in my Indian pressure cooker and it didn’t blow up in my face!” Also, tell me what PC you use and why. Meanwhile, check these heart warming posts by Anita and Soma 

Fugitive Update: Four days ago, the escaped fugitive was found and killed in a confrontation. I can keep my garage door open now, not that I would ever do it on purpose.

Feb 5, 2013

Racing paper boats

Last week was one of the erratic weather weeks we Texans have become used to. For those of us who grew up in a clearly demarcated climate season, it can take some getting used to pleasant 70 degree weather followed by a cold front and two days later foggy and humid weather. There is no rainy season in Tx either. The rains grace us intermittently; soak the land for a few hours or a few days and then vanish over the horizon to return at another time of its choosing. Last week, the rains started just as I picked up the kid from school and was heading back. The light drizzle quickly turned to a torrential downpour by the time I parked the car into the garage. Five minutes later, the rain was falling in steady streaks.

I was about to close the door when the kid asked, “Mamma, can I go play in the rain, pleeease?”
He was waiting patiently, beseeching me with his big, brown eyes. “Ok,” I said, “but wear your raincoat and your rain boots.” I needed to unload some groceries anyways.

“Ok, ok, ok,” he yelled as he ran off to find his rain gear. The raincoat is from last year and getting a bit small for him. His sweater sleeves poked out under the yellow raincoat’s sleeves. He jammed his feet into the black rain boots and went in search of his plastic boats.
I opened the garage door to let him splash and play on the driveway while I watched over him from the dry safety of the garage. He found a small puddle in the driveway and immediately jumped in it. “This is no fun,” he said. The water wasn’t too deep and the splash barely made it to his ankles. So off he went in search of deeper puddles. He found one in the neighbor’s yard. Their driveway slopes steeper than ours and one corner forms a tiny pool, big enough to make a splash up to his knees.
Not much of a puddle
After testing the puddle for its staying power he brought in his plastic boats and started floating them. “Can you bring my dump truck?” he asked squatting at the shore of the puddle.
“Sure,” I said. I handed him the dump truck which he immediately proceeded to fill with the water gushing down the drain. Then, he dumped all the water over the boats.

“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I am flooding the boats with water to see if they will sink.”

“Are they sinking?”
“Nah, this puddle isn’t big enough,” he said. “Can you bring me a bucket?”

“I am not bringing you a bucket and I want you to come in now,” I said to him. I was cold and wet and ready to go in the warm house.
“Five more minutes, pleeeease,” he said as the fists started to come together in the familiar, begging/ prayerful gesture.
Following the floating boat
I decided to let him play for a bit more. Watching him splash and play in the water, my thoughts wandered to my own childhood. Memories of splashing and playing in the rain with my sister and my cousins came flooding in. I don’t remember who first started the boat competition but it became standard practice for us to make paper boats and race them in the temporary gutter that formed at the side of the road every time it rained.
His boat is ahead of mine
Suddenly, I had an idea. I grabbed some papers from the junk mail and started tearing squares, folding them twice over and then folding them in triangles to make some paper boats.
“Come on kid, let’s have a boat race,” I called out to him.

And the winner is... The red boat

He was skeptical at first but once the boats started floating he was hooked. I watched my son watching intently over his boat, coaxing it to float ahead of mine and sighed contently. We stayed out, racing our paper boats, till our boats were wet and limp and couldn’t float anymore. It was a day well spent even if it was cold and wet and windy. What are your memories of rainy season as a child?

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