Monday, April 28, 2008


Ammumma and Abu and their family tree....

The tiny hands which should have played with toys and fumbled with pens and books had to deal with the heavy kitchen utensils. The tiny face which should have glowed playing in the sun had to face the smoke and soot from the kitchen.

Till yesterday she was happy with her books and school and in one day fate took a different turn. Her mother was ill and she had to take the responsibility of her younger siblings and house.

She was none other than my grandmother….the most intelligent person I have encountered. She embraced life as it was, and even in the direst circumstances kept her faith alive.

I remember her taking one handful of Dal from the amount she had taken for cooking and putting it in a separate jar. I saw her repeating this with what ever ingredient she used in kitchen. When enquired why? , she told that there was a time in her life when food was scarce and it was difficult to make ends meet. She used to store just a handful of all ingredients and store it separately without anyone’s knowledge. When it was the month end and it was time to go grocery shopping, she still had enough stuff which would keep them going for few more weeks.

She is one of the most creative person I have seen. Creativity according to her does not need any pre requisites. It blooms with an open eye and clear thought and minimum materials.

I have tried to follow this always…in kitchen , in the house or in dance….
Here is one bread bowl (born from the sheer motivation from my kids who look for variety)

Cut the ends of the bread slices.Roll the bread slices with a rolling pin. Grease the muffin pan with butter and keep the bread slices fitting the muffin pan in the shape of a bowl.Bake it for 10 minutes on 350 degrees F or till the sides start to brown. Once done fill these bread bowls with grated carrot and dress with Italian ranch dressing and serve it hot.

Submitting this to Jihva for love , Though the recipe listed is not Ammamma's recipe , it does have the ingredient love and quick flashes of creativity which I have inherited from her.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reduce your cholesterol level with this curry leaf chutney!

Those faded green pockets were sitting quietly beside the red and round tomatoes. I gave them a passing glance but did not stop to investigate on them. Just then a Chinese lady came up to those green pockets and enquired., “ what are these? How do you eat them?”
I looked up to the placard which had the vegetable’s name and read out loud.”tomatilloes”. I had no idea , how this vegetable tasted , though the name and looks suggested , it belonged to the tomato family.I decided to give it a try and filled my cart with a few of these green pockets.

Back home , I peeled open its green skin and found a smooth and shiny ball . I surfed the net for a dish with tomatilloes , but couldn’t make up my mind on what to try. So I came up with a recipe of my own. Blending together the goodness of curry leaves and flavor of fresh coconut , tanginess of ginger and a kick of shallots , I made a tomatillo chutney , the taste of which lingered on our palettes longer than usual.

What I used:
Tomatilloes 3
Curry leaves ½ cup
Grated coconut ¼ cup
Green chillies 2
grated ginger 1tbsp
Shallots a handful
Mustard seeds 1tsp
Cumin 1 tsp
Salt to taste oil for seasoning


Heat a pan. Add in chopped tomatilloes, curry leaves and shallots on low heat till the tomatilloes turn soft. Keep aside to cool. Once it cools down add in the coconut, ginger, green chillies and salt and grind to a smooth paste. Add in water if you need and season with mustard seeds and cumin and a few curry leaves. Evoke your taste buds… and enjoy!

You can also make this chutney without tomatilloes. A daily dose of curry leaves can reduce the risk of cholesterol .
I submit this to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Susan of well seasoned cook and also for the click event.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Magic Spice that works wonders!

Two days back I read about Dosa mela being hosted by Srivalli, and wanted to participate. But I did not have much time to spare. So I am reposting an article I once wrote in my travel blog. I am sure this would be an unique recipe born out of circumstances and blends well with this theme.So read on , friends, about the secret spice that works wonders......

He was feeling terribly lonely and upset, for this was the first time he was in his house without his wife. This was no more a home to him, without her around. For the first time he realized, how much he had got used to her. She had managed their lives with such skill, that life just flowed so smoothly for him. He was always welcomed home with the appetizing aromas from their kitchen, where she used to cook wonders! He was always eager and proud to invite friends and guests home for lunch and dinners, for he was sure she would present on their table her magical recipes, rich in color and quality!!!

The thought of her food made him feel hungry as usual. He involuntarily opened the kitchen cupboard where she used to store her goodies, home baked muffins and loafs. As he took his first bite he was transported into a different world,"yes, this is the taste of heaven!", he thought. Now he will have to spend two more days without her in this house. She was hospitalized for a minor eye operation. He was grateful to her for having prepared and stocked upon his favorite frozen meals and mouth watering raisin breads.

He recalled the day when he first set foot in their new home. The day was well etched in his memory. His mind had captured it like a black and white photograph. How could he forget their day of wedding!The day when this wonderful woman stepped into his life, and became his life itself. Those were nostalgic moments......laughter and music of bygone days still echoed in his ears.

He took a second bite of the coffee muffin......every thing his wife prepared was always special. He was not her only silent admirer. He had heard numerous praises for her culinary magical skills. He had worn each of her praises like a feather in his cap. As he took his third bite, his memory flashed back to a few years when he was helping her out in their kitchen. He remembered how adamant she was, giving him strict orders not to touch her spice box, which was a wedding gift from her mother. Even after all these years she still preserved it like a treasure. He had spied her dutifully opening it whenever she was cooking, and wondered what magical spice it was ...... it needed no refilling , and still served to be a major ingredient of all her recipes. By the time he was finished with the last bit of the finger licking muffin, he was filled with an intense urge to open the spice box and find out what contents it held."She was not going to find out any way..." he assured his guilty self.

He slowly opened the spice box, doubly careful, not disturbing any of the magical contents...He saw something he least expected. He was awe-struck.....He saw in it a white note which was at the verge of wear and tear. Was his wife hiding anything from him? His heart missed a beat...How he had dotted on her and loved her!!!He felt an ache in his throat.... what would he find when he opened this treasure of hers?... what was the secret that she withheld from him for the past 25 years...?He was totally blank as he opened the note.....He could well recognize his mother- in- law`s bold hand writing... it read"what ever you cook my dear, do not forget to add in this magic spice, YOUR LOVE..."

Now he understood exactly, how and why her food turned out to be so special.....

What does this story have to do with my travels, my impressions? I`ll tell is this magical spice which came in handy for me, when I was a novice in the wonderful world of spices and flavors.

We were alloted a three bedroom apartment in Japan, which we had to share with two other team mates. Our team also occupied yet another apartment in the same building. So there were seven of us who made a real good team.....majority of us were vegetarians....and I could see that our team members were living on fruits and chocolates. My conscience pricked when I had to cook just for the two of us. I offered to cook for the whole team and I relished the look on their satiated faces.....They turned out to be my guinea pigs ,who readily obliged to every experiment that eventually was tested on their palates.

One evening I planned to make semia vegetable upma. Semia is a vermicelli or wheat noodles which I carried along with me from India. I cut all the vegetables, all set to cook : poured boiled water on my semia....I just needed to strain it , so that they don't stick to each other; and then season it with mustard seeds, jeera (cumin seeds), turmeric powder, green chillies and curry leaves, and blend it with the stir fried vegetables."Trrrng....Trnnnnn.g......rang the telephone...............................................................

......................after the long chat over the phone I completely forgot about the soaked vermicelli, which had now turned into a paste. Now what will I cook for dinner? I need to satisfy seven tummies..I could not afford to throw this over cooked vermicelli .... but feeding them this gruel would be definitely cruel and sacrilegious on my part. We could hardly get any Indian stuff in the remote country side we stayed...and each and every bit of groceries we carried along with us was of utmost value. “Annam Parabrahmasvaroopam”, goes a saying in Sanskrit, meaning food is God .I had been a fussy eater as a child giving infinite tensions to my mother....But here, in a land far away from home I realized the divinity in food.

So what do I do with the over soaked paste......Eureka!!!!!!A bulb sparked somewhere in my cerebellum and off I went surfing my cupboards for stocked up flours.....There was the wheat flour, semolina, all purpose flour and the rice flour.....I blended all these in equal proportions adding the overcooked semia and water to make a batter. I now opened by spice box(my mother gifted me !!!), adding a dash of pepper, turmeric,coriander powder and yes.. also an extra dash of that magical spice , love .....I stir fried the vegetables and seasoned it and added this to my batter making it look more appealing and colorful.

That night we had a sumptuous dinner, with vegetable vermicelli dosas and hot and spicy sambar. I was overjoyed to find that my friends shared an increased appetite that day. I experienced the joy of serving , the joy of giving......

When I met our team in Japan they were mere strangers to me..... but in no time we were sharing a roof and our food ... and here away from home I still had a family... I felt great. Yes ....magic spice works wonders!!!........

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

From tree top to table top!

The soft breeze is caressing the tall beauties pregnant with its heavy fruits. Amma is sweating heavily in the back yard, partly from washing the heavy loads of laundry and partly from the fear of those heavy fruits ready to be pushed down by the wind.

Its more than two weeks since they called Purusha to drop the coconuts, still there is no trace of him. Purusha is always in demand. He can only be seen like a lightening, flashing here and there in the neighborhood on his bicycle, with the best round coconuts, a sickle and a few ropes.

Now Amma is done with her laundry , and is on her phone calling neighbors to give “purusha alerts” …” ….if you see Purusha hanging around, do direct him to our place…..”

Finally Purusha turns up …..He demands unjustifiable fees for climbing those trees….And as usual he wins….and also gets to choose the best coconuts he can carry along with the fee.

He grips on to the tree with ropes balancing on his feet and climbs up with ease…dropping the bunch of coconuts ….in no time our yard is full of green, orange and brown coconuts and a few broken flower pots , an aftermath of Purusha’s hard work.

When the Sun goes down, everyone in the family is seen carrying these coconut bunches to heap it up in our shed. The next few weeks we would be drinking loads of tender coconut water, eat the various flavors offered by coconut in curries, have papads fried in fresh coconut oil…….

One dish which was commonly made in my home with freshly squeezed coconut milk was “dheeve ummen”, which is a traditional Konkani dish. “Dheeve” meaning white and “Ummen” means gravy.

So hear goes the recipe for “Dheeve Ummen…”

What you need:
1. 2 cups chopped vegetables( potato, bitter gourd, edo , potato and long beans are the usual combination)
2. 2 pieces of kokum( it can be replaced with star fruit or tomatilloes) This is added to reduce the bitterness of the bitter gourd.
3. coconut milk(I used 1 can coconut milk, though usually we use freshly extracted coconut milk)
4. green chilies 3
5. mustard seeds 1tsp
6. cumin 1tsp
7. curry leaves 1 sprig
8. oil to season
9. salt to taste


Add the chopped vegetables, green chilies and enough salt in a vessel. Add enough water covering the vegetables. Boil until vegetables are cooked. Add coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes. Temper with mustard seeds and cumin and curry leaves and serve hot with rice.

I submit this to Pooja of creative ideas for her VOW Bitter gourd.