Monthly Archives: February 2010

Getting to grips with Jowar/Bajra/Ragi

Neelam asked some weeks ago if I knew whether ragi flour is available here. That was the first time I actually looked for the French – or indeed the English – name of this flour since I have never cooked with it.

Turns out it’s called finger millet in English and eleusine cultivee, coracan or koracan in French.

She has also been trying to find out about jowar and bajra, two other very healthy grains that are popular in India but which I have no experience of.

While bajra is another variety of millet – pearl millet in English, millet perlé in French – ,

jowar, I believe, is a variety of a group of grasses/cereal crops called Sorghum

I believe millet is very rich in calcium and that’s the reason I remember Harshini used it a lot to make baby food for Kavana.

Now to start the search for these flours here. It would open up whole new possibilities for our daily bread, so to say !


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Filed under Food Discoveries, FOOD FACTS

Two evaluations, both aced

I get a little kick out of Indira’s grammar evaluations – usually always more than good – in both the French as well as the English curriculums.

She is the only child in her class with parents who are neither French nor from any of the usual English-as-the-first-language countries.

So I was particularly chuffed with the 60/60 she made on a fairly long test they had in English grammar before these holidays began.  She was, in fact, the only one in her class who got that score.

Noor had a super report too; their class – the moyen section – got their first evaluations of the year and she’s got a green dot (which means skill or concept “well-acquired” as opposed to not, or in the process of) on all the parameters there are in the very detailed, four page report.

Good going, girls!

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A Perfect Cup of Tea

As I write this – indeed it is the reason I am writing this – I am drinking a cup of very well-made tea.

The really significant thing here is that it is the first cup of tea that Indira has ever made for me all by herself. So that is a memory of today I want to preserve.

As I vacuumed this morning I debated whether to ask Shri or her to make me my second cuppa of the morning. Then I remembered that Indira put together her own tea last night at the table- to drink with dessert after dinner at the home of their schoolmate Katia (who lives with her parents Maria and Louis on the first floor) – quite carefully.

So I decided that perhaps we can now move on to letting her handle the electric kettle as well, since she has helped Shri and me with all the other steps several times.

And she has in fact done this very well indeed and got the amount of milk exactly right too.

Ever since the girls were quite little, I have said to them often -and only half in jest – that I look forward to them being old enough that I can ask them to make for me the endless cups of tea I like to drink everyday.

Thank you Indira, I have waited years for this, it is very special !

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Carrot and Coconut Soup

Well, what this really is, is a tomato and carrot soup with packaged coconut milk added in towards the end of the cooking process.

The result is a delicious variation on an otherwise regular sort of vegetable soup in our home.

The girls loved it when I served it for dinner yesterday, so I was glad for the impulse that had made me reach for the pack of coconut milk and pour it in while the soup simmered.

The following quantities made enough soup for two meals for the 4 of us.

2 thin (which is what I had in the fridge yesterday) or 1 thick leek

6-7 large tomatoes

7-8 carrots

3 garlic cloves

4 tablespoons of olive oil

salt to taste

one 200 ml pack of coconut milk

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Plum Chutney

The principle/process is just the same as for the mango chutney.

Today when I made this for the boulangerie I got about 16 tablespoons of chutney from –

350 grams of plums

8 tablespoons of brown sugar

1/3 cup of water

The other ingredients are:

salt to taste

3-4 sticks of cinnamon

4-5 cloves

1 teaspoon (or less) of cumin seeds

1/2 of 1 whole red chilli (optional)

1 tablespoon of oil

Cut the plums, remove the seeds and dice the flesh in to small cubes. Heat oil in a pan, then add the cumin seeds and other spices. After a few seconds add the plums, the salt and the water. After the plums have become soft add the sugar and cook everything together for a few minutes till the chutney begins to acquire a syrupy texture.

Another nice accompaniment for things like pakoras ,tikkis and even tandoori chicken.

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Filed under Dips,Chutneys,Sauces,Spreads

Mango Chutney

During my second pregnancy, I developed this craving for the Gujarati mango chutney called chhundo. The odd thing was that I had never liked it’s taste before, since it was always a little too sweet for me, so I couldn’t understand this sudden yearning for it.

I made this chutney for the first time then – since it is not available anywhere near here – with one of those large Peruvian mangoes (like some of the African varieties now available as well, these are not as sweet as most Indian varieties and in fact even a ripe fruit often retains a sour tinge) I found in Carrefour. The recipe itself is adapted from one I found on the net at the time.

This is definitely not the real McCoy, but nice enough. I like it on a slice of toast, or with puris.

Mango Chutney

1 firm mango, peeled and diced very fine, or grated

1 whole red chilly broken in two

a couple of sticks of cinnamon

3-4 cloves

1/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1/2 a tablespoon of oil

1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder

salt and sugar to taste

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the whole spices. When these start to release their aroma, add the turmeric powder, the mango

and salt. Cook on a medium heat till the mango is quite soft (I sometimes add a little water to help this along) and then if needed break it up with a potato masher. Add some sugar and cook for a few minutes. Check to see if the chutney needs more sugar or salt, then take off the heat and store in a bottle when it has cooled.

This is nice with pakoras too.

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Sabut Moong ki Daal

This is a delicious daal, made with whole green mung beans. I don’t make it too often, but one that I’d want should stay in the girls’ memories as they grow up, go away and set up kitchens of their own, since it is so nutritious.

So as I made it for dinner tonight, I thought I must include the recipe here.

Like chana daal, this is especially nice with a touch of lime juice.

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Home-made Butter

Our experience with this is here

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Filed under Breakfast Ideas, Dips,Chutneys,Sauces,Spreads, LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls

An idea that won’t go away….

This is an idea/dream I have had for years -one that keeps coming back to me every once in a while- that I’d like to run a salon de the style café or restaurant or a catering service of some kind.

It is hard work, so I keep asking myself why I would do this. I guess the answer is that I genuinely enjoy cooking and introducing people to “real” Indian food of the every day sort, as well as the  fascinating variety in Indian cuisines, which is so often not what most Indian restaurants offer.

I wonder if I’ll ever actually take that plunge; in the meanwhile I am testing out the waters by supplying Indian food once a week to the local boulanger and the food I provided him for 10 people (dhokla, aloo tikkis, tandoori chicken, green chutney, carrot salad and chole) last Tuesday sold out very quickly.

Since the girls are always so appreciative of all my cooking efforts, I split my takings from this first time with them and this has won me several points with them 🙂

Fingers crossed for next week now !


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The Snowy South of France

Yes it’s winter, but in my 11 years here I have never seen this much snow here in one day.

The girls were delighted with this opportunity to play in the snow right here in the village, in the park. One family ventured out even while the snow was still coming down lightly and built a snowman.

Even now, after a calm night and a very sunny morning, there is barely a dent in the 3 inch high pile of snow on our terrace and the girls are having the time of their lives making shapes in it and building up little forms with plastic boxes from the kitchen.

Winter wonderland, indeed !

11th February - in the afternoon

the family that ventured out first to build the snowman

the next morning - our terrace and beyond(Noor's rocking horse is completely snowed under-the little bump to the right)

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Singin’ in the Rain? Be careful how you dress!

Last week when Indira was at her flute lesson, Noor and I watched the “zoobie doobie” song – from the recent Bollywood film “3 Idiots”-  again on YouTube.

I had seen the film recently and just loved this song, so we watched it together one evening while eating dinner.

Noor did not say anything that day but last week when she watched it with me again, she said -when it gets to the bit where Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor are standing on the swing while it rains – “Mama, they don’t feel cold? They shouldn’t really be wearing those clothes in the rain !!”

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Shhh…It’s a birthday surprise…

Noor did the sweetest thing as we walked to pick up Indira from her dance class on Wednesday afternoon this week.

She began to tell me her plans for the card she intended to make for Shri’s birthday- which is round the corner – and I listened with half an ear until I suddenly realized that she was whispering ! And in fact she continued to whisper to me for the next few minutes, describing the color scheme and her ideas for hiding it from him until the morning of his birthday. I thought that was just the most adorable thing, that though he was not in hearing distance she felt the secret could only be whispered. So I found myself whispering back too, to acknowledge that I had heard and understood what she planned to do.

And tonight she helped me bake a cake for him – I depend on them now to bring out many of the ingredients and to do some of the mixing; it really makes the job easier and less mechanical to have one of them by my side – while he was away at the music school with Indira.  I’ll post the picture here after the formal cake-cutting ceremony.

Here it is

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Rava Upma

Like poha, the girls have loved to eat upma since they were babies.

For me, it is a convenient option as it is one of those easy to cook and all-in-one meals – carbs plus vegetables plus some protein from the lentils.

This is what we had for lunch today, with yogurt on the side, clementine juice and then fresh pineapple – which Indira prefers to the canned variety – for dessert.

Though coconut chutney and/or sambhar are the ideal accompaniments for upma, I sometimes eat mine with ketchup – a habit acquired in childhood.  Ma has always made the most delicious upma and it was probably sacrilege to smother its’ flavors in ketchup but back then it was the way Bittu b. and I enjoyed eating it most !

Rava Upma

1 cup of suji/rava/semolina

1 medium-sized onion

2 small carrots

1/4-1/2 cup of frozen green peas (less or more, as you like it)

1 small tomato

1 dry red chilli, broken in two

1/2-3/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds

2 tablespoons (or a little less) of yellow split pea lentils (chana daal)

6-8 curry leaves

2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil, 1/2 of ghee

Roast the semolina in a warm pan for a few minutes till the grains start to turn a very light brown – at this stage there is a very distinct aroma.

In the meanwhile, in another large frying pan, heat the oil a little and add the mustard seeds. When these begin to crackle, add the curry leaves, the chana daal and the red chilli halves. Roast the daal till it begins to turn a light brown, then add the onions. Cook these for a little longer than when they turn translucent,


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

Play school/Primary School- What should children be learning?

This article here makes very sound points on the subject.

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

A pleasurable afternoon

We woke up yesterday at 10am- after a very late night at Ayesha and Naiyer’s- to a light snowfall.

The view from our window yesterday morning

It was such a lovely sight and it  had the girls all enthused about going to one of the ski slopes not too far away to play in the snow.

But it turned out to be only just a flurry that stopped soon. The sun came out, in all it’s glory, by noon and it was another clear, gorgeous, warm day after all.

So after a late lunch we went for a long,leisurely walk in the Valmasque ( a large, forested area that extends across Valbonne and Mougins) which the girls enjoyed very much. I realized then that it has been a long time since we did this sort of thing with them and we have all resolved to make the most of spring and summer and go for such walks often.

This part of the forest is where I walk sometimes – the trail begins a five or ten minutes walk away from home – when the girls are in school, so I was pleased to take them there yesterday and that they enjoyed it as much as I do.

The beginning of my trail

Two cyclists who rode past me this afternoon

It is probably too early but it feels like spring is in the air, with that pretty splash of red

The table I hope to come to with Shri and the girls for breakfast next weekend

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