Friday, 20 December 2013

Kanji Vada
 The first time I had Kanji vada was in Jaipur, on a cold winter afternoon in the middle of a Diwali week.
They are sold on hand carts ... big sized mud pots filled with the fermented, tart water and big sized and very soft lentil dumplings or vadas in it.
I did not like the taste ... found the taste close to something rotten ... and promptly rejected it.
The Rajasthani man was not amused and insisted that the properly made ones are really tasty.

And so on the next Holi, I was introduced properly to the perfect, home made Kanji ... this time made by sis-in-law at her home.
I'm not too fond of sour things ... but liked the taste this time.
It was fermented just right and had that light tartness .. not too sour , not too salty.
The vadas were fresh and perfectly soft ... not falling into pieces like they have reached a state of  'too much of fermentation'.
I loved it this time.

In the intial years of my marraige I never made this. But later I started to make it once every year.
But not in winter. I used to make it in October. The intensity of the sun was just right to ferment the water in just a couple of days.
This time however I made this in December and it came out perfect.
My Rajasthani in-laws do not add anything to the kanji other than just the vadas.
Sis-in-law uses the black carrots that she gets abundantly in Delhi during winter. I used some plain carrots.
I used Urad dal and also added some fresh chillies and sliced ginger for some taste.
With the intense sun on my balcony, it took just 4 days for the Kanji to ferment.
I sunned it under direct sunlight on the balcony for 4 days and then kept it in the light sunlight on my dining table for the next 5 days that it lasted for.

On my dining table these days .... 
Need :

Ample sunlight
Urad dal - 1 cup, washed and soaked overnight
Carrots - sliced into thin pieces
Ginger - sliced into thin pieces
Fresh chillies
Mustard powder - 3 tbsp
Black salt - 2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Water - around 8 coffee cups
Oil - to deep fry

How to :

Make a paste of the soaked dal with some salt.
Heat enough oil and  deep fry small balls of the dal paste.
Take a clean bottle ... I have given the full picture of the bottle I have used to give an idea.
Pour in the water and rest of the ingredients.
Add the vadas too.
Close lid.

Sun it for 3-4 days in direct sunlight, with the lid slightly open.
Do remember to bring it inside before evening sets in.
After that it is ready to consume ... but do check for the level of tartness.
If you feel like, you can sun it for a couple more days too ... depending on the intensity of the sunlight that you get in your part of the world.
Serve cool. 
The carrots and the ginger soak up the flavours and taste great!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Shorshe Narkel Chingri / Prawns cooked in mustard and coconut paste
Winter is on in full swing ... if I can say that. How is winter swinging I can't say. But yes, winter is here.
Not in the elusive way that it has been the last few years but in a proper wintery way.
Like it is supposed to be cold, real cold.
There should be a clear, crisp breeze.
The sky clear ... so clear that you can see the stars at night ...especially the Evening star ... huge and shining way too brightly.
The sun should be bright and shining and inviting.
You are tempted to stand in it ... soaking up the warmth on your shoulders and back.
And in a little while you feel so hot you need to step back into the shade.
And in a while you are tempted to step back into it again.
Yes, this winter everything is in place.

Mornings are foggy.
And cold.
Morning walkers are bundled in sweaters, jackets and caps.
Evenings are foggy too. And hold the sweet smell of wood smoke.
Maybe someone is burning dry leaves and twigs somewhere. I can see a thin billow of smoke afar, crossing the tree tops and meandering up and away.
Leaving behind that smell that reminds one of evenings in rural India, where every house lights it's chulha to  cook dinner and the air is filled with light smoke.
And you are tempted to spend your evenings leisurely ... bundled up in a comforter, lounging in front of the telly ... with spicy adrak wali chai and some deep fried munchies.
Right now I'm loving the glorious sun on my home ... windows, balcony ... even in the kitchen.
Am tempted to make full use of it ... my injured shoulder and arm notwithstanding.
Hence, ignoring  doc's warning against strain, I am making small batches of pickles and boris.
Of course other than sunning every piece of blanket, clothing,woolen, etc. that has soaked up the dampness of the last year.
Yes, am happy to be home. :-)

Here's a glimpse before I make a post on it ... in case I'm  banned from typing and posting ... again.

Last year I had my fill of fresh fish ... caught off the lakes right in front of me. Remember  I  had made the  Kaatla Shorshe. Well, I had some masala left, so used it to make prawns.
Not in the same way ... just the same masala.

I eat prawns with regularity. But realise that I hardly have any posts on my prawn recipes.
One of the reasons must be the lack of time.
Prawn is something I can munch on while frying them ... and happily finish a batch just like that.
And most times I just put in this and that together and cook up something ... needless to say, tasty.
 But by the time I finish cooking the whole lunch/dinner and finish with the prawns, it is mealtime.
And I do not have the patience to arrange+click for a post.

This particular recipe was, as usual, done in a hurry too.
But there was good sunlight ... something rare for me for the whole of last year ... so clicked some snaps.
Not as good as I would want them to be.
But decent enough to make a post.
So here is my Shorshe Chingri ... not bhaape (steamed ) though.
Need :

Fresh water prawns
Mustard paste - I used white and black mustard seeds
Coconut paste - I grind freshly grated coconut
Turmeric powder
Kalonji / Kalo jeere / Nigella seeds - a pinch
 Mustard oil
Red chilli powder
A pinch of sugar ( optional )

How to :

Clean the prawns and marinate them with salt and turmeric for 15 minutes.
Heat mustard oil in a kadahi / wok.
Fry the prawns, remove and keep aside.
At this point you will need to restrain yourself ... I cannot resist the hot, fried prawns and start munching on them. Go ahead , indulge, but only a piece or two.
In the same kadahi and oil, add the kalo jeere / nigella seeds.
Add the mustard and coconut paste.
Add a little red chilli powder.
Fry well till oil starts to leave the sides.
You can add some beaten curd at this point too ... I haven't.
Increase heat and add water.
Bring to a boil, add salt and sugar.
Add the prawns and cook till the gravy reaches desired consistency ... some like it dryish and others like some gravy ... so decide accordingly.
 Remove from heat.

Serve hot with plain steamed rice.

A few other Prawn recipes on Kichu Khonn

Prawns with burnt Garlic Noodles

Tomato Prawns 

 Chingri Malai Rice 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Spicy Chana Dal

They come in all kinds.
And whatever the kind, you love them.
You can do nothing otherwise. They endear themselves to you by just being themselves.
And by loving you ... just the way you are.
No expectations. No rancour.

One Sunday morning, three months back I got a call from my best friend from childhood C.
For those who came in late, you will know about C here.
I was very ill; confined to bed and in tremendous pain.
We had come back to the city to get treated by my old orthopaedic. Trying to settle into a bare house with minimum facilities was driving me crazy. Pain and invalidity were driving me towards self sympathy.
Days and nights were passing in a blur.
And then came the call.

I had just woken and the pain wakes up along with me; till I get to take the first painkiller of the day.
Groggy, I slowly moved to pick up the phone .... willing it to stop ringing by the time I reached it.
It did not. Went on persistantly.
I picked it up without looking at the screen.
"S?!  How are you?!!  Are you alright?!!!"
C's voice was urgent. Just hearing her voice put a wonderful cheer into me immediately.
But the questions put me off. I did not want to discuss my illness right now. Not with her; not so early in the morning.

"Hey! How are you?! What a surprise.", I said.
"Tell me first ... are you alright?"
"Of course I am! What's wrong?"
"I don't know. I have a feeling you are not well".
I take a breath. I had not told my parents back home about my illness then; not yet... I had kept telling myself.
How did C know then? "How did you know?"
"Know what?", she asked.
"That I am ill." ...  I was convinced she meant it as a joke.
"I don't know! Which is why I'm asking you."
So I told her I was not well. She listened quietly.
Then she said "I dreamt last night that you are very ill. So had to call you as soon as it was morning.
I am coming down."
Friends! :-)
I make this spicy version of the Cholar dal usually when I don't have any other dishes on the side.
Or when I have plans for only dal and rice for dinner or lunch.
Actually it is B's recipe. He loves to add tremendous amounts of onions and ginger to dals ... which personally I do not like.
Give me a simple dal anyday.
But this dal is perfect for a rainy day lunch or a light dinner on a cold, winter night.
Presently I am on a draft clearing mission ... all photographs languishing in my drafts folder are going to see the light of these bright, sunny, wintery days.

Need :

Chana dal / Bengal gram - 1 cup, washed
Cloves - 3
Green cardamom - 1
Cinnamon - 1 small stick
Jeera / Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Ginger - 1", chopped
Garlic - 6 cloves - chopped
Green chillies - 2, chopped
Tomatoes - 2, medium sized, chopped
Turmeric / Haldi powder - ½ tsp
Red chilli powder - ½ tsp
Garam masala powder -1 tsp ( I sometimes add a pinch of Biryani masala instead )
Roasted Jeera /Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar - ½ tsp
Cooking oil
Fresh Coriander leaves - chopped

How to :

Pressure cook the dal with 2 cups of water, turmeric powder and a little salt for 2 whistles on low heat.
The dal should be cooked but not all mashed up and gooey.
Keep aside.

Heat a little oil in a kadahi / wok.
Add the jeera. When it starts to splutter add the cloves+green cardamom+cinnamon.
Now add the chopped onions and fry till translucent.
Add the garlic , ginger and the green chillies.
Fry well.

Add the tomatoes and fry till it becomes a thick paste. Use a ladle to mash them while cooking.

Raise heat and add the cooked dal.
If too thick, add enough water.
Check for salt. Add sugar.
Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover.
Simmer for 10 minutes, check that it does not settle and burn at the bottom of the kadahi.

Remove from heat.
Sprinkle the roasted jeera powder and chopped coriander leaves on it.
Serve hot.
This dal is slightly thickish and gravylike. Goes great with rotis or rice.
Add some salad on the side for a light, complete meal.


Monday, 9 December 2013

A few handiworks by me

A lace knitted frock jacket.
The belt and the edges are crocheted.

I have been asked, time and again, for some photographs of my hobbies.
I don't have too many hobbies ... i.e. if you leave out reading and writing and singing and cooking.
And knitting.
I don't say knitting and hobbies in the same breath. Knitting is passion.
I knit like I breathe ... no exaggeration here. I need to knit at least a few lines in a day.
Ironically, it was my hand that had to play mean. These days I don't knit as much as I used to once upon a time.
I've been knitting and embroidering from ever since I can remember.
I have knitted for grandmas, cousins, their children, friends, their children,myself, the in laws, the man ... everyone I know or who knows that I knit.

A crocheted hot water bottle cover.
But I've never photographed my handiworks for posterity. It just never struck me.
I just happily created things and gave them away with huge smiles and love.
And got even huger smiles and more love in return.
A lace knitted jacket ... for that light nip in the air.
After I was asked to show some works by me, I pulled out some old things and photographed them ... feeling silly all the while at the prospect of showing off in the form of a picture and not a real thing.
Here's a compilation.
A crocheted poncho/wrap.
The open neck helps it fall just right on the shoulders and down.

Will keep updating this space ... but I seriously doubt I'll really click every single curtain, cushion cover, dress, skirt, top, sweater, throw, blanket, etc. etc. that I make/knit/crochet.
But I'll try ... I promise.
Till then ...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Palak Dal / Spinach cooked with lentils
December. Already!
Last year this time I was on unfamiliar soils. Trying my best ... well not exactly my best but try I did ... to settle in. More than the new people, the climate got me.
I just could not get over the crisp, cool and wonderfully pleasant weather I had left behind.
People soothed me ... I'll get used to it ... they said.
I tried to believe them.
But my heart did not. Believe, I mean. Did not even try to.
And it was not helping me at all.

After coming back, every day has thumbed it's nose to me ... proving me right  and making me realise all over again what I had missed.
Not that I am complaining. With this wonderful weather I can take 10 thumbs, or noses, on, happily.

One thing that I missed here the whole year through was the rains .... except in the rainy season.
It never rained to surprise you.
And how I wished for a December or January rain ... the light drizzle of this little hilly city, that will catch me with surprise and make us shiver with the intensified cold.
Nah ... never got one.
Till now.

The last two weeks, it has rained intermittently.
On and off.
Just when we set off for the long drive promised by B on our anniversary day ... it rained.
Clean and sprightly droplets, happy and sparkling in the late afternoon sun.
We had just stepped out of the restaurant after lunch and were heading towards the expressway.
I was savouring every moment and sight ... given that I was actually being able to sit in the car and go for a drive was making me doubly thankful.
And the rain was a bonus.
And like a good bonus, it lasted till we had our fill. And then the late evening sun burst out of the clouds, gave us a picturesque goodbye and went to rest behind the Khandala hills.
And still left some vibrant colours spread across the sky till darkness took over.

It rained last night ... again. The blissful sound of pouring made us switch off the telly and rush to the balcony.
It was raining in earnest. And the trees were covered with fog.
We stood there ... taking in the cold air and the spray on our faces.
B suggested coffee. But I suggested just standing there ... I knew it would only for sometime .. then all that will be left will be the clean air and the fog enveloping us.
We stood there for a long time.
And got up this morning to a beautiful, fog enveloped morning.
And yes, there is a very light drizzle too.
I cannot do without the sun ... but, just for today, I wish that the sun gets a day off. :-)
I make this dal with Palak / Spinach very often ... most of the times for dinner, which is why I had never made a post on this. Right ... for the lack of good photographs.
Paired with hot, fluffy rotis and some salad on the side, this make for a good, wholesome meal.
I had learnt the adding of  fried garlic as garnish when I learnt to make this ... so had sprinkled some on the top too.
Else, just the addition of garlic while cooking is enough.

Need :

Palak / Spinach - 1 bunch
Chana dal / Bengal gram - 1 cup
Garlic - 6 to 8 cloves
Jeera / cumin seeds - ½ tsp
Haldi / turmeric powder - ½ tsp
Ginger -  1", grated
Green chillies - 2
Ghee - 2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Whole red chilli - 1
Water - around 3 cups

How to :

Pick, wash and chop the palak.
Wash and soak the chana dal for around 20 mins.
Slice the garlic into roundels. 

Cook the chana dal in a pressure cooker with the grated ginger + green chillies + salt + haldi powder, for 2 whistles on low heat.

Heat 1 tsp ghee in a small pan.
Add the garlic slices and stir fry till brown.
Add the whole red chilli and remove from heat.

In the same ghee ( add some more if needed ), add jeera and the chopped palak.
Add red chiili powder and a little salt.
Fry for a while, till the palak releases water.
When slightly dryish, add the boiled dal and give a good stir.
Add water and salt, if necessary.

Add the roasted jeera powder and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer for a while, covered.

Serve the dal steaming hot with the fried garlic and chilli sprinkled on top.
Goes great with rotis as well as rice.
A perfect dish for a fog enveloped winter evening.