Monthly Archives: October 2009

All About Alliterations

Are they just exceedingly common – like the three or four on most pages of a book called “Legend of Dirty Bert the Bandit” – or did the one in the title of this post come about because I am thinking alliteratively today?!

Sonu Bua – the family’s English language champ – could probably tell us about that.

But now to the point of this post.

I still remember the day- many years ago now –  when I first started to fall in love with the English language; it was when Sister Manisha pointed out the alliterations in a poem we were studying in class (it might have been grade 4 or 6, or class 4 or 6, as it is known in India but I am not sure).

So it has been such a pleasure – and a nostalgic “how time flies” feeling – to see Indira pick out, quite easily, all the alliterations in the afore-mentioned book as she does her holiday homework this morning.


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A Delightful Happenstance

It’s not everyday one gets to hear from an author so when that happened this evening, I could hardly believe it at first.

I am refering here to the visit to this blog of Kaumudi Marathe, whose book on Maharashtrian cuisine is the source of more than one recipe here.

When she left a comment a while ago, it felt kind of surreal.

Or maybe this is what the internet and blogging are all about.

Last week, I felt so pleased when Mohan b.  told me that he’d actually cooked chicken curry from one of my recipes here, and now

it has helped connect me with someone whose book I have had in my kitchen for years !

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Sweet Potato and Broccoli Soup

I am making this again for dinner tonight, as I find that sweet potato works well with broccoli.

The recipe is the same as for the pumpkin and broccoli soup. Just replace the pumpkin with 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped fine.

This is very nice too. I am going to make some simple scrambled eggs with this , the way I saw Nanda’s Ma make them once when Indira and I visited them in Amsterdam many years ago.

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A Weekend with Calinours

Noor’s teacher, Natalie, has introduced a cute little tradition. She has got a bear for the class -since they have been reading and learning about bears this term- called Calinours who visits the home of one of the classmates each weekend. Last weekend it was Noor’s turn and she was thrilled to bits.

We took him with us to the park here in MLH where he went on the slide as well , the girls introduced him to all the other animals in their menagerie,  Indira even tried to feed him her cereal.

Noor read him a story (about bears, biensur !) and he sat through at least 15 repetitions, so I was glad that she finally got the patient audience that she doesn’t find in me.

Good for you, Calinours !

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Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls

A Diwali treat – Coconut Laddoos

This was one sweet I loved when I was in school.

Ma made it for most festivals and I loved the color – she added something that always made for very pretty pink barfi or laddoo– as much as I did the taste !

I made these with dessicated coconut a couple of years ago when she was here, when I took some Indian food for the international day at the CIV that year. Those tasted quite nice too, but when I called Ma for the recipe last week – not having made this dessert since then – she encouraged me to make this mithai with fresh nariyal – not for her,the packaged, dessicated stuff ! – so I did, since I trust her judgement about these things and do agree with her general principle that “fresh is best”.

As it turned out, the taste of the laddoos was close enough to the memory I have of her delicious barfi that I was glad I followed her advice.

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Coconut Laddoos

Fresh coconut – 1 (this will be enough for around 20 laddoos)

Milk – 500 ml

Sugar – 3/4 cup (to be honest I approximated this so start by adding half a cup, then add more if the mixture doesn’t seem as sweet as you’d like)

Raisins – a small handful

( I did this too totally by approximation and then found that eventually there were about 2-3 in each laddoo. Use less if you like)

Powdered green cardamom – 1 tsp or a little more if you like

1 and a 1/2 tablespoons of Ghee

Take out the flesh of the coconut from the hard shell, remove the brown skin using a knife or a peeler, then chop in to chunks. Put it through a food processor to obtain a very fine texture.

Bring the milk to a boil  in a thick-bottomed pan, then add the coconut. Cook the two together, on a moderate heat, stirring thoroughly occasionally, till the milk begins to be absorbed.

You may find you need to add a little more milk if the quantity you started with dries up before the coconut is as soft as you’d like (though it will retain a bite and not go totally soft even if you add more milk).

Once the milk is almost completely absorbed, add the sugar and the raisins and cook the mixture for a few more minutes till it appears quite dry. Now add the ghee and the cardamom powder and cook the mixture again for a few minutes till it starts to leave the sides of the pan.

Take the pan off the heat, let the mixture cool a little for , say, 5 minutes. Now apply some ghee on your hands and roll the laddoos with the mixture (about 1 tablespoon of the mixture will make one laddoo). Try and finish rolling all of them as quickly as you can because the mixture tends to dry a bit gradually, making it a little more difficult to handle.

The girls love these, which makes the effort worthwhile. Not that it is that tough, anyway. Except the first part (preparing the coconut ) which does take time, the rest of it is something that one can do while there is a whole lot of other stuff going on.

Yesterday morning, while the milk and coconut mixture cooked ( I made twice the amount for an after-dinner Diwali party that we had been planning with friends, so that took a while), I also made a wheat berry salad for lunch,  supervised Indira’s homework, had two cups of tea through the two tasks and there might have been another chore that got done as well that I am forgetting now, including some stuff I did with Noor, I think.

So this is another one of those dishes that sort of cooks itself – once the basic prep has been done of course ( I did that the previous night so yesterday morning it was as easy as taking the prepared coconut  out of the fridge and putting it in to the milk, which took the pain out of it).

For me, this is the real McCoy – though the recipes that use dessicated coconut and condensed milk make for very nice laddoos too and save so much time and effort – so I would probably make the laddoos again this way 🙂

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Filed under Desserts, Starters and Snacks

Steamed Salmon

This recipe is the same as for steamed trout, but Indira loves salmon cooked this way so much – and she certainly prefers it to the trout – I thought it deserves its own post.

Though Noor informed me a couple of days ago that she still prefers her trout/salmon to be grilled with pesto, so I must remember to make it like that for her next time, instead of steaming the fish yet again 🙂

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Steamed Salmon

Salmon fillets

1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary

sea salt to taste

a few slices of lime

Sprinkle the salt on the salmon, spread the rosemary, then place the slices of lime on top.   Fill some water in the bowl of the steamer and set it to heat. Now place the fillets in the basket of the steamer and cook the fish till it is done.

Eat this hot, squeeze some more lime  if you like after breaking up the pieces of fish a little.

Just delicious.


Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments

Lemon Loaf

This turned out to be so much nicer than I’d expected.

For some odd reason I have never tasted a cake before with a lemon flavor and therefore I have always instinctively chosen to bake ones with other flavors – cocoa, dates, pineapple, raisins, apricots and even poppy seeds, but never lemon.

But Indira has often said that children at school love lemon cake, which has often made me curious about it’s appeal.  So last weekend when I needed to bake some dessert in a hurry to take to the school picnic, I decided to try this recipe. I thought I’d keep one tiny piece for all of us to try as it would a good way to find out what lemon tasted like  in cake and whether the girls liked it enough for me to make again. And if they didn’t, I figured I luckily didn’t need to worry this once about how the the rest of it would be used up since it was to be eaten by all the other folks at the picnic !

Well as it turned out, Shri and Indira – Noor had left already for a birthday party – both said “hmmm!! nice !” after eating their little portion of that piece so I made it again yesterday for gouter.

Noor, especially, seems to like it a lot, just as she does the orange loaf.

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Lemon Loaf

2 eggs

1/2 a cup of softened butter

1 cup of sugar

1/2 a cup of milk

1 and 1/2 cups of flour (either white or a mixture of wholewheat and white) with the following mixed in –

zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of baking powder

For Glazing –

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup of sugar

Blend the butter,eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl, then stir the  milk in. Now gradually fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter in to a loaf tin.

Pre-heat the over for 5 minutes to 18o degreesC, then place the loaf tin near the bottom shelf  and bake the cake for 45-50 minutes, till done.

A minute before the cake looks ready to come out, prepare the glaze by mixing the sugar and lemon juice, to combine them well,over moderate heat. Allow this mixture to simmer for 1/2 a minute (make sure not to let it get at all thick or syrupy) then take the cake out and pour the glaze all over, using a large spoon to spread it evenly.

When the cake has cooled completely, take it out very carefully as it will tend to stick a little to the sides because of the glaze.

This cake has a slightly moist softness because of the glaze and a beautifully even, mild hint of the lemon.

Simply yummy !

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Filed under Cakes and Muffins, Desserts, Picnic Food, RECIPES, Starters and Snacks

Indira’s Favorite(at the moment) Salad

This is so pretty with the red,white, orange and green, I like to make it as much for the visual treat as for the taste of the bell pepper and feta cheese !

The same day, some weeks ago, that we had the delicious steamed fish at Celine’s home, her mother Doris also made a green salad to which she added feta cheese.

Up until then, Indira and Noor had never quite taken to the taste of this sheep’s milk cheese which is why I usually only mix it with boiled potatoes to make croquettes with it, but that evening Indira declared,  “I love this cheese !!”

Which suits me because Shri and I like it a lot too 🙂  So since then we have started to add it to salad, though we have yet to convert Noor.

As with most other salads, I make this at least an hour before we are ready to eat. Tonight we had this with chole masala and rice.

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Bell Pepper,Feta Cheese and Carrot Salad

1 small red bell pepper, sliced fine

2  carrots, peeled and grated

100 gms of feta cheese, cut in to small cubes

some salad leaves

Mix all 4 ingredients and dress with olive oil, lime juice, sea salt  and dried basil flakes.

For another dash of color, you could add some sweet corn too.

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More Pertinent Questions-Learning about History

Today, when we talked about the time line of humanity’s history (Indira and her class are learning about in their French curriculum) from Prehistoire to L’Antiquite, Moyenne Age, Renaissance, Monarchie Absolue and L’Epoque Contemporain we discussed the idea that events are referred to as B.C and A.D and why (and the French terms for the same) and the fact that the starting point of our present day calendar is the time of Christ’s birth.

And she said “but why not from prehistoire? we know that people have been living on earth since then so why do we not include that time? ”

I though that a good question and it reminded me of an ad campaign in the year 2000 , it was I think.

When most of the world was celebrating the second millenium, the Egyptian Tourism Board ran a commercial which said, “welcome to 5000 years of civilization” or words to that effect.

It’s all relative 🙂

And while googling about the Gregorian calendar just now, I found a great site called with an amusing discussion along the lines of the question Indira asked –

She also wanted to know why it was the Europeans who discovered America (in 1492, I think her lecon says) who decided that the land they had found would be called America.

Did the people who lived there already not mind? What did they call the place? How could someone else decide what the place was to be known as?

I started to tell her that yes there was a native population but that might have become a whole new conversation (What happened to them?) so I stopped.

I guess children eventually learn too that history is written by the victors, but in the meanwhile this sensibility and instinct for what is logical and fair/ just/right is very nice to see.

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Desi scrambled eggs – Egg Bhurji

A desi version of scrambled eggs, this is a really versatile dish.

It makes for an indulgent Sunday breakfast, with toast and butter or even baguette and cheese and I make it for dinner  too sometimes, to go with soup, in the winter.  And the leftover portion is always good for a sandwich filling the next day, with a little ketchup tossed in 🙂  Shri and the girls really enjoy this dish and I am glad about that as it is one of those things that is so easy to make .

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With or without the peas or green bell pepper, this is a delicious way to eat eggs.

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Filed under Breakfast Ideas, Easy One Pot Cooking, Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas, Versatile Accompaniments

Batata Vada

This is a Mumbai street food classic. Its is often sold stuffed in to a pav, and it is what I often ate for breakfast in the little tea and snack  shop on  our college campus  (the other stand out memory of that shop is the long string of fine but strong thread the Malayali owner kept hanging from a nail on the wall, which he would use to slice through boiled eggs every time someone ordered a plate of those !)

That canteen, and the memory of  the times it kept me going when I needed to get a cheap lunch, have given me a special fondness for this snack 🙂

The girls love it too, so some days ago when I could think of nothing else I made these vadas for their gouter.

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Batata Vada

Luckily I had some green chutney  in the fridge and that goes really well with these vadas but ketchup is nice too, on the side.

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Filed under Picnic Food, Starters and Snacks

Baked Sweet Potato Chips

I just love the color of these.

Sweet potato is a vegetable that always brings back memories of holidays in my grandparents’ village in Rajasthan. If I remember the process right – Biji, my maternal grandmother, would leave whole sweet potatoes (shakarkandi in Hindi) in the coal/wood-fired angeethi in her kitchen overnight, and the dying but still hot embers would cook it to perfection by the next morning. I remember we’d eat them straight out of the angeethi, without adding anything and I just loved that smoky, sweet taste.  Which is why I never did take to the chaat that many people, including my mother, make with this vegetable since it  involves adding lime juice to the cooked cubes of sweet potato. That spoils the natural sweetness of the vegetable, IMO.

But ever since I ate baked parsnip chips at a school mums’ lunch once, and baked sweet potato fingers at Jenny’s some months ago, I have been thinking I ought to try and bake sweet potato too, since I discovered that this way of cooking also brings out the vegetable’s wonderful taste and sweetness.

I had been forgetting to get around to it though so Shri – he loves those old-style roasted sweet potatoes too –  decided,I guess, to take matters in to his own hands and bagged a couple of sweet potatoes one day some weeks ago when he was shopping with me, saying  “these are for roasting/baking”

Well I am glad he did – these chips were yummy 🙂

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Sweet Potato Chips

2 sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

some sea salt to taste

Peel the sweet potato and cut in to 5 cm thick slices. Sprinkle the salt on these and leave for 5 minutes. In the meanehile heat the oven to 22o degreesC. Now add the oil to the sweet potato slices, toss well, spread in a single layer on a baking tray and cook at the top of the oven till they are soft (they will cook quicker than regular potato chips). Turn over once, halfway through cooking.

Really nice, loads of natural flavor. We had them with steamed salmon and  olive bread.

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