Monthly Archives: March 2012

Simply peas & potatoes.(Aloo Matar)

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Aloo means potato and Matar means peas.
Keeping in mind all the non – Indians, I am giving sme simple recipes.Things that I make when I want to keep it simple and quick.
Even so, for Indian cooking, there are some basic spices to need to have on hand.You can go and buy the smallest packets of the following:
Turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin powder and seeds,mustard seeds,hing(astofoetida) coriander powder,curry patta (its little green leaves
garam masala( its mix of ground up whole spices). We also use a lot of fresh green and red dried chillies, cilantro for garnish as well as to make lots of chutney along with fresh mint.Ginger garlic paste also is a regular ingredient in most dishes.

For Simply peas & potatoes you will need:

A cup of frozen peas
Two cups of diced potatoes(any kind,washed and cut)
a pinch of hing(imp as its an antiflatulent)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 green chilli slit in the middle
1/2 tsp turmeric pwd
1 tbsp oil(vegetable,canola or olive)
2 cloves of chopped garlic
a handle of cilantro leaves chopped
2 pinches of sugar
1/2 a lime or 1/4 of a lemon
salt to taste
A pinch of garam masala optional.

1) In a non-stick pan on medium flame, heat the oil then add hing,now the cumin seeds,let it turn dark brown.
2) Next add the green chilli and garlic.let the garlic turn pink.
3)Now add turmeric pwd, saute for a minute,add the potatoes, peas and saute
for 10 minutes.
4) Now add salt, sugar, lemon or lime juice and saute for another 5 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.
5) Sprinkle cilantro and serve.

Note: Can add more green chillies if you like it spicy.This dish can be added to a sub with cheese and grilled onions.It can also be a stuffing for a grill cheese sandwich too.

There are many variations to this dish but this is the basic and simplest.One can add ginger garlic paste instead of just chopped garlic.You can even add tomatoes and a little water to make gravy in this dish.Tomato paste works as well.Also add cauliflower or carrots with the potatoes and peas. Try it and enjoy!!

Phir Milenge!

Easy Rice.

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Indian food staple – Rice.
There are different types of rice and different methods to make it.
I want to give you a simple recipe. The simplest way to cook rice is
take one part of rice and two parts water add few drops of oil and salt
to taste. let it boil on high and then lower the heat. Cover and let it
simmer till the water has been absorbed.Serve with any gravy and enjoy.
But you have to remember that different kinds of rice require different
quantity of water.Read the instructions on the rice packet.

And if you are willing to put in some more effort, here’s another recipe.
This is how I like it.

Serves 3-4 people.
Of course accompanied with some chicken in gravy or lentil soup or even tomato soup.

Ingredients:
Basmati rice – 1 cup
water – 2 cups
1/2 of a small red onion, sliced
cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
1/2 inch piece of cinnamon
2 medium sized dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon clarified butter(better known as ghee)
Salt to taste.

You can use butter instead of ghee or olive oil can be a healthy choice.If you use oil just 2 tsp will do.

1) Wash and soak the rice 10 minutes to half hour.
2)Slice the red onion and gather your ingredients.
3)In a pan heat the ghee/butter/oil, add cumin seeds, bay leaves and cinnamon.
4)When the seeds turn dark brown, add onions and fry till they turn pink.
5)Strain the rice and add to the onions and roast them for a minute.
6)Add the 2 cups of water and salt to taste.
7)On a medium flame, let the rice come to a full boil.
8)Now lower the heat, cover partially and let the water get absorbed completely,
the rice is now ready to eat.

Note:You can add add frozen peas/diced carrots/diced potatoes(sliced green chillies too if you like a bite to your food) to make it a simple pulao or more nutritious for kids.
Enjoy!!

The faithful Mongoose.

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Long long time ago, there lived a farmer and his wife in a quiet village. They had a new born son. The farmer’s wife wanted to have a pet animal to protect the child which would also be a companion to the child.So one day when the farmer found a baby mongoose, he thought it would be a perfect companion to his son. The farmers wife was not very happy about this and didnt trust the mongoose.But the farmer started rearing the mongoose with his son.

A couple of months later, one day the farmer wife wanted to go to the market and asked the farmer to keep an eye on their son who was fast asleep in the cradle.The farmer agreed but soon fell asleep.

While the farmer slept, a snake slithered into the house and made for the cradle.The mongoose was smelled it and quickly thought of the baby and ran towards the snake.Mongoose and snakes are natural enemies. Not expecting a mongoose there, the snake was taken by surprise.There was a terrible fight between them. The mongoose too was injured and bloody but eventually the mongoose won and killed the snake.The little mongoose was so happy that he saved the baby that he scampered out to show the farmer what he had done.

That very minute the farmer’s wife returned and on seeing the bloody mongoose, she immediately inferred that the mongoose had killed the child. In anger she threw the heavy box of groceries,she was carrying, on the mongoose and the mongoose was killed. She then rushed inside to see her baby. She was surprised to find a dead snake lying in the room. She guessed that that the mongoose had saved the baby’s life by killing the snake. But alas, it was too late. The mongoose was already dead.

Moral of the story: Don’t act in haste. Think before you act.

Food Part 3

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My personal favorite – Gujarati Cuisine

Khaman is a popular Gujarati snack.Image

Gujarati cuisine is primarily vegetarian. The typical Gujarati Thali consists of Roti (a flat bread made from wheat flour, and called Rotli in Gujarati), daal or kadhi, rice, and sabzi/shaak (a dish made up of different combinations of vegetables and spices, which may be stir fried, spicy or sweet). Image

Cuisine can vary widely in flavor and heat, depending on a given family’s tastes as well as the region of Gujarat they are from. North Gujarat, Kathiawad, Kachchh, and South Gujarat are the four major regions of Gujarati cuisine. Many Gujarati dishes are distinctively sweet, salty, and spicy at the same time. The cuisine changes with the seasonal availability of vegetables. In mango season, for example, Keri no ras (fresh mango pulp) is often an integral part of the meal. The spices used also change depending on the season. Garam masala and its constituent spices are used less in summer. Regular fasting, with diets limited to milk and dried fruits, and nuts, is a common practice.

Himachal Pradesh

The daily diet of Himachalis is similar to the rest of north India, including lentil, broth, rice, vegetables and bread, although non-vegetarian cuisine is preferred. Some of the specialities of Himachal include Pateer, Chouck, Bhagjery and chutney of Til.

Jammu & Kashmir

Kashmiri cuisine has evolved over hundreds of years. The first major influence was the food of the Kashmiri Hindus and Buddhists. The cuisine was then influenced by the cultures which arrived with the invasion of Kashmir by Timur from the region of modern Uzbekistan. Subsequently, it has been strongly influenced by the cuisines of Central Asian, Persia, and the North Indian plains. The most notable ingredient in Kashmir cuisine is mutton (lamb), of which there are over 30 varieties.

Kashmiri Pandit food is also very elaborate, and is an important part of the Pandits’ ethnic identity. One of the key differences between Kashmiri cuisine and Punjabi cuisine is that the staple in Kashmiri cuisine is rice, whereas that in Punjabi cuisine is Chappati also known as Roti. The Kashmiri Pandit cuisine usually uses yogurt, oils and spices as such turmeric, Red Chilli powder, Cumin powder, Ginger powder and Fennel Powder.

 Jharkhand

Traditional Jharkhand cuisine is equally vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian. These traditional dishes are not available at the restaurants as they have not been commercialised. However on a visit to a tribal village or a tribal wedding in a remote area one can get a chance to taste such exotic food. All preparation except the pickles and festive ones are low on oil and spices.

Karnatak

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The cuisine of Karnataka includes many vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines. The varieties reflect influences from the food habits of the three neighbouring South Indian states, as well as the state of Maharashtra and Goa to its north. Some typical dishes include Bisi bele bath, Jolada rotti, Chapati, Ragi rotti, Akki rotti, Saaru, Huli, Vangi Bath, Khara Bath, Kesari Bath, Davanagere Benne Dosa, Ragi mudde, and Uppittu. Masala Dosa traces its origin to Udupi cuisine. Plain and Rave Idli, Mysore Masala Dosa and Maddur Vade are popular in South Karnataka. Coorg district is famous for spicy pork curries while coastal Karnataka has seafood specialities. Among sweets, Mysore Pak, Dharwad pedha, Chiroti are well known. Although the ingredients differ regionally, a typical Kannadiga Oota (Kannadiga meal) includes the following dishes in the order specified and is served on a banana leaf: Uppu(salt), Kosambari, Pickle, Palya, Gojju, Raita, Dessert, Thovve, Chitranna, Rice and Ghee. The coastal regions of Mangalore and Udupi have a slightly varying cuisine with extensive use of coconut in curries and an inclination towards sea food. Some of the Mangalore specialities are pathrode, pundi, neer dosa, kori rotti, tendli kaju, goli baje, basale (type of spinach), kashi halva, etc.

Kerala

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Kerala cuisine is a blend of indigenous dishes and foreign dishes adapted to Kerala tastes. Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala, and consequently, grated coconut and coconut milk are widely used in dishes and curries as a thickener and flavouring ingredient. Kerala’s long coastline, numerous rivers and backwater networks, and strong fishing industry have contributed to many sea- and river-food based dishes. Rice is grown in abundance, and could be said, along with tapioca (manioc/cassava), to be the main starch ingredient used in Kerala food. Having been a major production area of spices for thousands of years, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon play a large part in its food. Most of Kerala’s Hindus eat fish except the Brahmin community and because Kerala has large minorities of Muslims and Christians that are predominantly non-vegetarians, Kerala cuisine has a multitude of both vegetarian and dishes prepared using fish, poultry and meat. Rice and fish along with some vegetables is the staple diet in most Kerala households. Kerala also has a variety of breakfast dishes like idli, dosa, appam, idiyappam, puttu and pathiri.

There is more to come!

Festival again.

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Today is GUDHI  PADVA !

On the festive day, courtyards in village houses will be swept clean and plastered with fresh cow-dung. Even in the city, people take the time out to do some spring cleaning. Women and children work on intricate rangoli designs on their doorsteps, the vibrant colours mirroring the burst of colour associated with spring. Everyone dresses up in new clothes and it is a time for family gatherings.

Traditionally, families are supposed to begin the festivities by eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree. Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with dhane, gul/gur (known as jaggery in English), and tamarind. All the members of the family consume this paste, which is believed to purify the blood and strengthen the body’s immune system against diseases.

Maharashtrian families also make shrikhand and Poori or Puran Poli on this day. Konkanis make Kanangachi Kheer, a variety of Kheer made of sweet potato, coconut milk, jaggery, rice flour, etc. and Sannas.

Significance

 Chronological

Being the first day of the first month of a year, Gudhi Padwa is the New Year’s Day for Marathi people.

 Agricultural

India is a predominantly agrarian society. Thus celebrations and festivals are often linked to the turn of the season and to the sowing and reaping of crops. This day marks the end of one agricultural harvest and the beginning of a new one. In this context, the Gudhi Padwa is celebrated at the end of the Rabi season.

 Astrological

Gudhi Padwa is one of the Saade-Teen Muhurta (translation from Marathi: 3 and a half auspicious days) in the Indian Lunar calendar. The full list is as follows.

 Historical

This day also commemorates the commencement of the Shalivahana calendar after he defeated hunas in battle.

 Religious

According to the Brahma Purana, this is the day on which Brahma created the world after the deluge and time began to tick from this day forth.

 Seasonal

On this day, the sun assumes a position above the point of intersection of the equator and the meridians. According to the Hindu calendar, this marks the commencement of the Vasanta ritu or the spring season.

On Gudhi Padwa, a gudhi is found sticking out of a window or otherwise prominently displayed in traditional Maharashtrian    households. Bright green or yellow cloth adorned with brocade (zari) tied to the tip of a long bamboo over which gaathi (sugar  crystals), neem leaves, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of red flowers is tied. A silver or copper pot is placed in the inverted position over it. Altogether, it is called as Gudhi. It is hoisted outside the house, in a window, terrace or a high place so that everybody can see it.

So here’s wishing all a very happy Gudhi padva!!

Food Part 2

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Ingredients                  Image

The staples of Indian cuisine are Pearl millet (bajra), rice, whole wheat flour (atta), and a variety of pulses, of which the most central to this cuisine are masoor (most often red lentils), channa (bengal gram), toor (pigeon pea or yellow gram), urad (black gram), and moong (green gram). Pulses may be used whole, dehusked – for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad – or split. Split pulses, or dal, are used extensively. Some pulses, such as channa and mung, are also processed into flour (besan).

Most Indian curries are cooked in vegetable oil. In northern and western India, peanut oil is popular, while in eastern India, mustard oil is more commonly used. Coconut oil is used widely along the western coast, especially in Kerala; gingelly (sesame) oil is common in the south, as well. In recent decades, sunflower and soybean oil have become popular across India. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee, is another popular cooking medium. Butter-based ghee, or desi ghee, is used very frequently, but still less used than before.

The most important or frequently used spices in Indian cuisine are chilli pepper, black mustard seed (sarso), cumin (jeera), turmeric (haldi), fenugreek (methi), asafoetida (hing), ginger (adrak), coriander (dhania), and garlic (lehsun). One popular spice mix is garam masala, a powder that typically includes five or more dried spices, especially cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. Each region, and sometimes each individual chef, has a distinctive garam masala blend. Goda masala is a comparable, though sweet, spice mix that is popular in Maharashtra. Some leaves commonly used for flavoring include bay (tejpat), coriander, fenugreek, and mint leaves. The use of curry leaves and roots is typical of Gujarati and all South Indian cuisine. Sweet dishes are seasoned with cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and rose petal essences.All of these can be found at any Indian store.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands              

Seafood plays a major role in the cuisines of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which were, and still are inhabited by the indigenous Andamanese. Since they had very little contact with the outside world, raw fish and fruits were their staple diet for a long time, but as people immigrated from other regions of India, the cuisine became more varied.

 

Andhrapradesh

Cuisine of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh is referred to as Telugu and Hyderabadi cuisine. Rice is the staple starch and is usually consumed with a variety of curries and lentil soups or broths. Although many people in this region are vegetarians, people living in the coastal areas are known for their seafood dishes. Food in Andhra Pradesh is known for the heavy usage of spices and chillies. One of the most important parts of the Andhra cuisine is the use of various pickles, such as avakaya, a pickle made from green mango, and gongura, a pickle made from red sorrel leaves. Curds are a common addition to meals to neutralize the spiciness of the food. Another popular Andhra Pradesh dish is Hyderabadi biryani, a mixture of rice, yogurt, onions, meat and spices. Hyderabadi biryani is popular for its exquisite taste and is derived from the Persian style of slow cooking. While only a small proportion of the Hyderabad populace are vegetarians, vegetarian food is still quite popular, and is generally served for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast items like Dosa, Vada have origins in Udipi, Karnataka but are influenced by spices native to Andhra Pradesh.

Assam

Assamese cuisine, from Assam, a state in North-East India, is a mixture of different indigenous styles with considerable regional variation and some external influences. Although it is characterized by the limited use of spices, the flavors are still strong due to the use of endemic exotic herbs, fruits and vegetables that are either fresh, dried or fermented. Fish is widely used, and so are birds such as duck or pigeon. Preparations are rarely elaborate; the practice of bhuna, the gentle frying of spices before the addition of the main ingredients, which is so common in Indian cooking, is absent in the cuisine of Assam. A traditional meal in Assam begins with a khar, a class of dishes named after the main ingredient, and ends with a tenga, a sour dish. The food is usually served in bell metal utensils. Pann, the practice of chewing betel nut, generally concludes the meal.

Daman and Diu

Daman and Diu is a union territory of India which, like Goa, was a former colonial possession of Portugal. Consequently, both native Gujarati food and traditional Portuguese food are available. The neighbouring state of Gujarat has prohibited alcohol, and as a result, dining and wining is the most popular pleasure in the territory, with almost all popular brands of foreign liquor available.

 Goa

Seafood, coconut milk, rice and paste are main ingredients of Goan delicacies. The area is located in a tropical climate, and spices and flavors are intense. Use of Kokum is a distinct feature. Goan cuisine is mostly seafood based; the staple foods are rice and fish. Kingfish (Vison or Visvan) is the most common delicacy, others include pomfret, shark, tuna and mackerel. Among the shellfish are crabs, prawns, tiger prawns, lobster, squid and mussels. The cuisine of Goa is influenced by its Hindu origins, four hundred years of Portuguese colonialism, and modern techniques. The state is frequented by tourists visiting its beaches and historic sites, so its food has an international aspect. Goan Saraswat Brahmin and Daivajna Brahmins can be considered facultative vegetarians, as they eat fish and chicken most days, reverting to vegetarianism occasionally for religious reasons, although Brahmins belonging to Pancha Dravida are strictly vegetarian.To be continued…..

 

 

 

 

Beliefs Part 2

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Sindoor

Traditional authentic Kumkum of India is made by grinding the dried turmeric to a powder. A few drops of lime are then added to this yellow powder, which changes its hue to a bright red. Kumkum is considered to be very auspicious by Indians and thus, used for various purposes on special occasions like wedding and festivals. People, however, use both red and the original yellow powders depending upon what they need the Kumkum for. Kumkum holds a great degree of significance in India, especially for married women.

When an Indian woman wears a little red Kumkum in the parting of her hair just above the forehead, it conveys the meaning that she is married. In this case, the Indian vermillion or kumkum is referred to as Sindoor or Sindur. Whenever a female visits someone’s house, it is customary for the elder ladies of that family to offer or apply a little kumkum on her forehead. In south India, whenever married women visit temples they dip their finger in yellow turmeric powder and apply a dot on their necks.

Sindoor is not just used by the womenfolk of India. Even men, boys, girls and little children apply a dot of this powder on their forehead when they visit a temple or attend some religious function. However, for married Indian woman, it’s is almost compulsory to apply Kumkum in the parting of their hair everyday. As per Hindu customs, she is supposed to cease wearing Sindur only after the demise of her husband.

In earlier times, women preferred to prepare Kumkum at home. Now, most of them buy the readymade Sindur from the market. Depending on what brand of Kumkum you are buying, the cost of one small box of Sindur varies from Rs. 5 to 20. A traditional component of the sindoor is powdered red lead and other ingredients are alum and turmeric. Another custom followed by married Hindu ladies of the country is to wear a bindi on their forehead. At times women apply a kumkum dot instead of the bindi.

Kajal

In India, Kajal is a form of eye makeup, which has been in vogue since the ancient times. It’s the womenfolk of India who mostly apply kohl to darken their lower eyelid. However, it is also applied in case of children and earlier, even the Indian men used to wear kajal. Kajal accrues the word Kohl, which is also at times spelt as Kol, Kehal or Kohal. Traditionally, it was prepared at home by females, as protection against eye ailments.

However, today, it is easily available in almost all the shops. Infact, the concept of applying Kajal has become more of a fashion trend in urban India. Those people who prepare Kajal at home make it out of soot and other ingredients. In olden times, people believed that kajal or Kohl provided relief from the sun’s glare. Another perception pertaining Kajal was that it wards off bad luck or keep evil eye at bay.

As such, many women even today apply the Kajal as a small dot on the forehead of their toddlers as well as in their eyes. It is also applied at the nape of a child’s neck, where it is not visible. Some people believe this will strengthen the child’s eyesight. Applying Kajal is a strong tradition practiced by inhabitants of almost all the regions in India.

Bindi

Bindi can usually be described as a traditional red circular mark or dot worn by the Indian women on their forehead. When this is accompanied by a vermillion mark on the parting of hair just above the forehead, it indicates that the particular lady is married. The term ‘bindi’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘bindu’ meaning “a drop or a small dot or particle”. Even though traditionally, bindi is a red colored dot, it is worn in other colors also. Today you can find bindis in all types of fancy designs to suit whateer colored outfit one wears and to suit all different occassions.

Conventionally, it’s the Hindu married women who wear bindi. But, this mark can have several meanings and so, you may also see unmarried girls and even children wearing it. It’s the occasion, the color of the bindi and its shape that determines what it denotes. The customary bindi is made with red sindoor powder. The bindi is called the tilak when it’s applied on the forehead of a person, at the conclusion of a religious function or havan.

The purpose of wearing a bindi can also vary. If it covers the entire forehead in three horizontal lines, then it denotes the wearer is an ascetic or belongs to a particular sect (like Brahmin). Sometimes, the bindi is used for mere beautification purpose by females. In this case, you may also find her wearing a small jewelry instead of the typical red dot. Though in India, a widow cannot wear a vermillion, she is free to sport a bindi.

Bindi is called by different names in different languages of India. Thus, alternative names for bindi is Pottu in Tamil and Malayalam, Tilak in Hindi, Bottu or Tilakam in Telugu, Bottu or Tilaka in Kannada and Teep meaning “a pressing” in Bengali. Sometimes, the terms sindoor, kumkum, or kasturi are used depending upon the ingredients used in making the Bindi mark.

One can buy bindis just about anywhere in India and any Indian store outside of India.Especially near to the festival times,the bindis even go on sale.