Monthly Archives: April 2010

A grammar lesson for me-Homonyms

Yesterday Indira’s class did a lesson in French about homonyms – a class of words that are pronounced the same way but are often spelled differently. So when I coincidentally came across two such words this evening,  I was sort of chuffed that I now knew the right term for this !

The title of an article  about Sarah Palin in a blog on TIME magazine’s website  includes the phrase “…Outrage or Just Deserts?”

It seemed to me that something looked wrong there and when I read the comments, posted in response to the article, I thought another more observant reader had  caught the mistake – a small error in spelling. This person wrote to  point out that the word desert is missing an s and in fact I have always assumed too that this phrase uses the word “desserts”, since the meaning of the phrase makes the latter seem the logical choice.

Turns out , as the writer explained in his response, that in fact the correct usage is as in the article’s title.

Apparently, the word desert has a secondary meaning – “that which is deserved” (the root of the word is the Latin deservire, which is also the root of the word “deserve”) as discussed in the following links:

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/just-deserts.html

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-just-deserts-mean.htm

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/just_deserts

Homonyms include all sorts of sub-categories and the desert-dessert pair may belong to either homophones or heterographs, I haven’t been able to figure out which one, from this Wikipedia page link here

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

Curried Potatoes aka Rasedar Aloo Tamatar

Shri loves this potato curry – he calls it aloo shak, which is probably an Indori name for it since he talks fondly of having eaten this many times in the sarafa bazaar of Indore – with puris and if he had his way this is what I would make each time we have friends over for a meal.

Yesterday, for dinner with Vishal and Shefali’s family, we had this curry with palak puris.  And it was so pleasing to see Twisha and Vayun enjoy the carrot salad I had made to go with the aloo-puri as much as Shri, Indira and Noor do.

Curries Potatoes/Rasedar Aloo Tamatar

600 gms of potatoes (enough for 4-6 people)

300 gms of tomatoes or an equivalent amount of canned tomato pulp (about 6 tablespoons)

4-5 tablespoons of oil

1/4 teaspoon each of the ingredients of paanchphoran – mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds and fenugreek seeds

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon of coriander powder

1/4 teaspoon of kashmiri red chilli powder (or to taste)

2 small cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped fine

1 teaspoon of kasoori methi and/or 1/2 a teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

1 large dry red chili (optional), broken in half

salt to taste

fresh, green coriander,chopped fine

Leave the tomatoes in very hot water – freshly boiled – till their skin comes off easily.  Then drain and leave aside to cool.

In the meanwhile cook the potatoes, till they are soft, in a pressure cooker. When the cooker has cooled a bit, open the lid, drain the water, take out the potatoes in a colander and leave aside to dry and cool.

Peel and chop the tomatoes in to very fine pieces.

When the potatoes are cold, peel them and dice them in to small pieces.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and put in the  red chili, the mustard seeds and the nigella seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the fennel seeds, fry for a couple of seconds, then add the garlic and fry for a few seconds till the garlic loses it’s raw look. Now add the cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds and fry for just another couple of seconds else the fenugreek seeds can burn and will develop a bitter taste.

Add the tomatoes next and cook on medium heat till their juice starts to dry up. Then add all the dry spices and fry for a minute or so, till the oil starts to appear on the sides of the mixture. Now stir in the kasoori methi and fry for another few seconds.

Add the potatoes, along with salt. Fry for a few minutes till the potatoes are  well-coated with the tomato mixture.  Then add about 2 cups of water and simmer the curry for a while till the gravy is as thick as you like (add more water if needed). Once way to ensure the curry is well-done is to let it simmer, stirring occasionally, till the surface starts to acquire a rich red color/glaze.

Garnish with green coriander , if you haven’t used kasoori methi.

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Filed under Curries, Everyday Subzis, Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas

Lemon Rice

I have always loved this rice dish because it is so light yet flavorful. But then that is a hallmark of so many recipes of the cuisine of Tamil Nadu in India.

I made it for dinner yesterday when we had friends come over to eat with us.

I always make so much more rice than ever gets used so there was lots left over. We had some of that for lunch today with the raita and carrot salad that were also left over from last night.

This recipe borrows from Viji Vardarajan’s “Samayal”.

Lemon Rice

1 cup of Basmati rice

a few curry leaves

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

2 tablespoons – a little more or a little less would be okay too- of chana daal (yellow split pea lentils), soaked in warm water for 3-4 hours then drained

juice of half a lime

salt to taste

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder

1 green chilli, sliced in to halves (optional)

2 tablespoons of oil

Wash and soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes, then cook with salt, a teaspoon of oil and 1 and a 1/2 cups of water. Leave the rice to cool, then fluff up the rice a little to separate the grains.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the curry leaves and the mustard seeds. When the latter begun to crackle and jump out of the oil, add the lentils and stir fry for a few minutes till they are quite soft. At this point they will begin to look a darker yellow and be just a little bit crisp (but not hard). Now stir in the turmeric powder, add the lime juice and then the rice. Mix everything together, then fry the rice for 3-4 minutes, turning over a couple of times and then take the pan off the heat.

Sambhar is an excellent accompaniment for this rice dish.

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Filed under Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Baaths

Cucumber and Tomato Raita

I made this for dinner last night after a very long time, so that for the girls it was quite new. Indira had only the yogurt from the raita yesterday but this afternoon as they ate it for lunch with lemon rice and  carrot salad- both of which were also left over from dinner yesterday – she said more than once “simply delicious !”  which was both pleasing and amusing in the nicest way because it makes her seem all grown up 🙂

2 pots of yogurt (250 gms)

half a cucumber(or a little less or a little more, to taste), peeled and diced fine

3-4 tablespoons of milk

2 small tomatoes, diced

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

1/2 of a dry red chilli (optional but adds a great flavor)

a pinch of asofetida

1 or 2 teaspoons of oil

salt to taste

Pour the yogurt in a bowl , add the salt and the milk, then whisk the yogurt with a spoon to make it smooth. Mix in the cucumber and the tomatoes.

In a small frying pan, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds and when these start to crackle add the curry leaves, the red chilli and the asofetida. Fry for a few seconds, then pour this mixture in to the yogurt and mix everything well.

This is best made at least a half hour ahead of eating, to allow all the flavors to mingle.

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Filed under Raitas

Quel Aventure !

Living as I do in a place that is quite literally only a village, with its’ population of just around 5000 people, a trip like today’s leaves me feeling a little out of my comfort zone, and a little bit of a country bumpkin gawking at big city marvels.

I went on the TGV from Cannes to Marseille this morning, in connection with a visa application. While the train ride was  of course very pretty, with breathtaking views of the Med, the verdant spring countryside and beautiful provencal-style homes all along the way, it struck me as I got off at Marseille’s St. Charles Station that it’s been a while since I was out and about in a true big city, especially one I don’t know.

I am used now only to the quiet, safer than safe little roads in Mougins le Haut and the placid trails in the Valmasque; so even a day of shopping in Cannes – yes, even on the famed Rue d’Antibes – can feel tiring, with the unaccustomed levels of noise and traffic (which is not to say that I am complaining about the shopping itself !!). And while I do occasionally travel on work, it typically involves only the cloistered environs of large airports and hotels.

So bustling Marseille, with it’s Paris-style Metro (the main train station for inter-city trains and the local underground terminus are all in the same buiding, a massive, extremely well-equipped complex with restaurants, a post office, a pharmacy etc.) made quite an impression on me.  And I think I might have clutched my bag a little tighter, as I made my way to the information counter to ask about the connections to the address I needed to get to and spotted a couple of young men hanging about who appeared to be of the kind one sees only in the big bad city…

I was amused at my own reaction. In another life, a very long time ago, I traveled all over India, very frequently and by all means of transport available (including a ride hitched one afternoon on a vegetable truck in the interiors of Maharashtra, in the days when I was a foolish, rookie sales trainee – though I was accompanied by a smart young man who worked for my company’s distributor -and many trips on bone-rattling buses on trips across different parts of the country both when I was a student and then after I started working).

So I wonder at my little sense of achievement that I made it today to Marseille and back on my own. When in fact it could not have been easier- I went on the TGV to Marseille, on the metro all the way to the consulate office and back, then traveled back from Marseille to Cannes on another very comfortable train (that’s the other thing – having traveled all through my childhood and when I was in college by second class all around the country on those nightmarish Indian trains, the TGV and other European trains qualify for me as pure luxury).

Well, I guess this is what some years of being a stay-at-home mother – which does tend to make one less venturesome – and living in a small village has done to me; it’s taken the edge off me.

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Mint- and Coriander-flavored Grilled Chicken

This is another recipe adapted from “Tikkas & Kebabs”, one of the “Chef’s Special” series published by Lustre Press in India.

I have wanted to try this one since a long time because of the very clear memory I have of the delicious mint-flavored chicken tikkas I ate once  in a restaurant in Delhi.

The girls loved this dish, when I cooked it for lunch last Wednesday.  When I told the boulanger about it – I wasn’t able to take any for him to taste because the girls and I polished it all off – he seemed to like the idea of it and has agreed to try it one Tuesday soon, instead of the usual tandoori chicken.

10-12 chicken drumsticks

100 grams of yogurt

2 tablespoons of lime juice

1 tablespoon of garlic paste

3-4 teaspoons of ginger paste

1 teaspoon of cummin powder

1 teaspoon of coriander powder

1 teaspoon of garam masala

4 tablespoons of oil

1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint leaves

4-5 tablespoons of melted butter, for basting the chicken

salt to taste ( two teaspoons or a little less, for this quantity of chicken, works for us)

Mix the ginger and garlic pastes with the salt and lemon juice.

Skin the chicken, make 3-4 incisions on each piece, toss the pieces thoroughly in the lemon juice mixture and  leave them in this marinade for 30 minutes in a large bowl.

In the meanwhile, strain the water in the yogurt by leaving it in a fine sieve for 15-20 minutes.

Mix the rest of the ingredients – except the butter – in the yogurt. Add this mixture to the chicken pieces and coat them well in it. Leave the chicken in this marinade for at least 8-1o hours, turning over the pieces once during this time.

Heat the grill to about 240 degrees Celsius, then place the chicken on a wire rack and grill till done (this takes about 40 minutes in my oven), turning the pieces over a couple of times during this time to make sure they are evenly cooked and basting with butter each time.

I love the mild but distinctive flavor of herbs here.

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Filed under Baked Main Meal Dishes, Picnic Food, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments

Look Ma, no wheels !

Today’s the day Noor started to ride her little red cycle, for more than just a little bit, for the first time without the training wheels.

She is so pleased, as were Indira and I as we watched her go in the park this afternoon.

Fingers crossed for another sunny day tomorrow, so that we can go back to practice some more.

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Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls

Say no to white bread, eat potatoes in moderation

I tend to be very anti-white bread because I view it as a zero-benefit food, since it is made of white flour which offers no significant nutrients.

This also makes it a high glycemic index food, like potatoes. The risk from these as well as other high GI foods – which raise the level of blood-sugar too quickly – is described here and here. Both stories profile a recently concluded study that links the consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates to the increased risk of coronary disease in women.

The surprising thing was that the list of high GI-foods includes watermelon, which one might imagine is quite harmless, and brown rice, which one is always exhorted by most informed/medical opinion to choose over white rice.

Just goes to show that probably moderation is the key though with bread I believe it is best to skip the white variety altogether.

And the combination of bread and potatoes – which probably counts as double-trouble, in view of  the science- in bread rolls is what decided my mind against writing the recipe as I completed the post about this dish today morning !

The small bit of good news is that when I looked up “glycemic index” just now, I saw on the Wikipedia link that Basmati rice is listed under “medium” GI foods.

Phew !  That’s one less worry for an Indian kitchen !

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Filed under The Food Police says...

Vegetable Korma

I made this for lunch yesterday, since I was looking for a new idea for a curry for the boulangerie.

Patrick the boulanger seems to have liked the look of it, though he hadn’t tasted it yet when I went back yesterday evening to ask what he thought of it, since he said he’d like me to make this along with the bread rolls for next Tuesday.

The girls did like it a lot though when they had this for lunch with phulkas.

I enjoyed making it because it will make a nice addition to the repertoire of vegetarian dishes to cook when friends come over for a meal.

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Filed under Curries

Cabbage Poriyal

We had this for dinner last night, with khichdi.

This dish is so easy to make but it has simple, delicious flavors.

My recipe for this dish is an adaptation of the classical version, since I make it from the faint memory I have from a long-ago time in Nagpur, when I saw a Tamilian friend’s wife cook it.

Cabbage Poriyal

3/4 of a small cabbage, shredded very fine

3- 4 tablespoons of yellow split peas(chana daal), soaked in cold water for 3-4 hours then drained completely

6-7 curry leaves

1 large dry red chilli, split in half

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

2-4 tablespoons of sunflower oil

salt to taste

1/3 spoon of turmeric powder (less is more, in this case)

1/2  a teaspoon of coriander powder

2 tablespoons of fresh, grated coconut (optional)

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Everyday Subzis

Mesclun

We eat this so often – it is my favorite mix of salad greens – that I thought it merits a mention here.

According to sources such as wikipedia and wisegeek, mesclun (“to mix” in the Provencal language of the south of France) is a mixture of young greens (i.e. harvested while they are young, for a great flavor)  and can include  dandelion leaves, sorrel, rocket or arugula, mache or lamb’s lettuce, other leafy lettuces, spinach, mustard, swiss chard, chicory, frisee and sometimes edible flowers such as rose petals and nasturtiums. The original mix apparently consisted of chervil,rocket, types of lettuce and endive mixed in equal amounts.

A delicate olive oil and lime juice dressing is all a mesclun-based salad needs, I feel, so that the fresh flavors of the leaves are not subdued.

http://www.foodreference.com/html/fmesclun.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesclun

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-mesclun.htm

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Filed under Food Discoveries, Salads, The Food Police says...

Potato-stuffed Bread Rolls

Last night, dinner consisted of exactly the same combination that Ma often made for dinner in the winter when we lived in Bokaro – vegetable soup, with these aloo-filled bread rolls on the side.

Ma never served these rolls on salad leaves, but I guess I felt that a few leaves from the bag of mesclun would stop me from thinking about the significant amount of oil which the bread must have soaked up when I fried the rolls !

I actually made these as a sort of  trial-run, since I wanted to take a couple to the boulangerie.

This is another of Pooja’s suggestions and has been a winner too.

Next week’s order from the boulanger is for these rolls and vegetable korma.

April 13th 2010

I did, as planned, hand over bread rolls and korma for 10 to the boulanger this morning. But I have spent the last few days wondering if  this has really been such a good idea, to introduce the girls to this snack (well alright,my own tendency to over-indulge once the rolls are made has been worrying me too).

The combination of bread and potatoes which is then deep fried is surely not a recipe for good health.  I did substitute white bread with multi-cereal bread but then commercial versions of the latter are not the real deal at all.

Then, in what must surely be a Sign, a news story that  highlights once again the problems with high glycemic index foods – of which potatoes and white bread are common examples -caught my eye first thing this morning.

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/12/glycemic.diet.heart/?hpt=T2
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diabetes/articles/2010/04/12/eating-the-wrong-kind-of-carbohydrates-increases-heart-disease-risk.html

So while I fried a few rolls – which have been hugely popular with the girls – this evening for gouter –  with the leftover potato stuffing, I decided that I am not going to include this particular recipe here.

They’ll just have to call me for this one, if they do remember these rolls when they are older. For my part, I am not going to make these again in a hurry !

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Filed under Picnic Food, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments

Chawal ki Kheer, or Indian Rice Pudding

I go through phases when I feel I must have a small dessert after dinner and the small pots of rice pudding – riz au lait in French – that we buy in the supermarkets do satisfy the craving.  Despite the vanilla flavoring,  they serve as a reasonable substitute for home made chawal ki kheer.

So I haven’t made this kheer in a long while.  Then, this last weekend, we had friends for lunch on Sunday and as I planned the meal the previous day I asked Shri what might make a nice dessert given the weather, since it was forecast to be a cold, rainy day.  He very firmly insisted I make chawal ki kheer, since he loves it too.

I am glad I went along with his idea especially because all the children, including eighteen month old Vihaan, seemed to enjoy it.  As did I, for this is the real Mccoy.

As did Shri, I was pleased to see.  He is usually very cautious about his intake of sugar but this time  he asked for a small bowl of kheer each evening after dinner till it was all gone by tonight.

Chawal ki Kheer

50 gms of Basmati rice

1 kilo of full cream milk

sugar to taste (3-4 large spoons – such as a serving spoon – and then more to taste)

freshly powdered green cardamom, 1/2 a teaspoon

a handful of raisins (about 1/3 of a katora/small bowl), soaked in a cup of hot water for about 15 minutes

15-20 almonds, soaked in hot water for at least an hour, then peeled and sliced in to quarters

Wash and soak the rice in 1-2 cups of cold water for about 30 minutes.Then drain all the water out.

In a large, thick-bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil on medium heat.  Add the rice and stir.  Continue to simmer the milk and rice mixture on a medium-low heat, stirring often – scrape gently at the bottom each time to make sure that the milk does not stick to the bottom; that will spoil the taste completely as the milk will acquire a burnt smell and flavor – till the rice is very well-cooked (the grains will break up a bit and no longer be long as they originally were) and the milk has thickened a little. At this point, the milk acquires the signature, like-old-cream color of all milk-based desserts which involve cooking for a long time.

Sometimes I find that the milk starts to become too thick before the rice is as soft as I like it, so then I add a little more milk.

Add the sugar, the raisins and the almonds and cook for 5-7 minutes. Stir in the cardamom powder, then take the kheer off the heat.

It’s delicious eaten warm in the winter, it’s delicious eaten cold  in the summer !

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Filed under Desserts

A beautifully written poem – Desiderata

I first came across this poem  when I was in school and I  kept a copy of it with me for many years.

Then a couple of days ago, when the word-of-the-day email from wordsmith.org was about desiderata (n. -something desired) , I was reminded of it after many years. So I looked for it online and found it here.

The writing has a certain grace that I love,  the words all so well-chosen.

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

Tandoori Chicken

Though what this is , actually, is oven-grilled chicken.

The girls  have always called it “red” chicken after the color of the excellent chicken that Jitender and Neelam always make at their barbeque parties and which Indira so looks forward to eating when we are invited !

The marinade – and therefore the taste of the chicken – I prepare is different from theirs though and is adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe in his  “Khazana of Indian Recipes”.

Tandoori Chicken

800 gms of chicken drumsticks

1 or 2 teaspoons of kashmiri chilli powder

4 tablespoons of lime juice

200 gms of yogurt

4-5 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic pastes

3/4 teaspoon of garam masala powder

salt to taste

about 100 ml of melted butter

2-3 limes, cut in to wedges

Skin and wash the chicken, then make cuts in several places on each piece.

In a flat bowl, mix half the lime juice and Kashmiri chilli powder and toss the chicken pieces in this mixture. Keep aside for 30 minutes.

In the meanwhile, leave the yogurt in a very fine sieve – to drain the whey – for 15-20 minutes.

Then mix the yogurt with the rest of the ingredients (except the butter),  toss the chicien pieces in this marinade to coat them well and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

Pre-heat the grill to 240 degrees C, then place the chicken pieces at the top of the oven and cook till they are done, turning them over a couple of times so that all the sides are cooked evenly. Apply butter lightly with a brush each time on the surface just below the grill.

This dish is best eaten hot from the oven and lime wedges are a must-have accompaniment, for the juice to be squeezed on to each piece as it’s eaten.

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Filed under Baked Main Meal Dishes, Picnic Food, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments

Mangori – Green Moong Daal Vadas

This is another great dish that I learned to make from Atto.  On our visits to her home in Indore, I used to look forward to eating these – which she made each time – hot and crispy as they came out of the karahi.

These vadas have always been very popular whenever I have made them for get-togethers with friends here so when Pooja suggested I make these for the boulangerie, I thought that a great idea.

And indeed, the boulanger simply loved the mangoris I took for him to taste a couple of days ago.

So this is one of the things I’ll make for next week’s order, along with some vegetable biryani and tandoori chicken.

This recipe is adapted from Atto’s.  I also  add fennel seeds as Pooja does since this adds a wonderful flavor.

Mangoris

1 cup of whole green moong daal (or split/chilka moong)

1/4 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds

1 teaspoon of ginger paste

1 onion , chopped very fine

3 teaspoons of fennel seeds

1 and a 1/2 teaspoons of salt (or to taste)

oil to deep fry

Soak the lentils with the fenugreek seeds in 3 cups of water for at least 12  hours. then drain the water and grind the daal with as little water as possible to a smooth paste. Take this out in to a bowl and mix in the salt, the chopped onion, the fennel seeds and the ginger paste.

Heat about 400-500 ml of  oil in a deep frying pan till it almost reaches smoking point. Drop small portions of the batter – about 1 or 1/12 teaspoons each – to the oil and fry  the vadas till they are brown – they will be need to be darker than a golden brown so as to be well-cooked inside – and crisp.

These are delicious enough by themselves; coconut chutney on the side would be the icing on the cake.

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Filed under Picnic Food, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments