Food (53) Fitness (10) Nature (7)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Kadamb

Happy Halloween and early Diwali to everyone!

Fig. 1. Pumpkin Kadamb
Pumpkin season and Halloween = Pumpkin recipes! We often get good pumpkins at the market in this period. And usually pumpkin pie is the thing to make. But recently my Mom sent me some "Haldi Paan" (turmeric leaves)!!!! :)

She had got them fresh during Ganesh Chaturthi and it appears to still be available some places. She knew there was no way I could get my hands on the fresh haldi leaves. So she dried them and saved a bunch for me!! And as soon as some of my family came around to visit they brought along this amazing gift of leaves!! Ya-ya-yippee-yippee-ya-ya-yeah!!

Haldi-paan are used to flavour/impart-fragrance to several somewhat super-traditional dishes. So the fragrance of haldi leaves reminds me of Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Satyanarayan poojas and other such religious festivities! Ooh.. I couldn't wait to use them!

I got pumpkin, thinking I would make pie with it. Then I spoke with Mom and she mentioned she adds pumpkin to Kadamb (KuhDumb). And Kadamb also uses haldi paan! I jumped at that! :) Pie will happen next time. Now we make Kadamb!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Parotta Salad

Hey everyone.. a good lunch-box item today!

Fig. 1. Parotta Salad
Every day I pack lunch. And I find myself having to constrain the contents based on various objections. True life examples: "When one bites into a soggy sandwich, tiny pieces of food get stuck in the front teeth. Then that doesn't look good." and "Wraps drip, hands get yucky." "Egg smells." "Food that is too Indian also smells... then people look at me funny." and then there is the questionable "This aloo-palak looks too green-green. I don't want to be called a grass-eater. So let's skip too-green stuff, too brown-stuff.. anything that might elicit comment actually."

No, it is not my kids that register the above complaints, bless their little angel-hearts. No, it is not the significant other, bless his tall, dark, handsome, Prince Charming-ness. And no, this is not my dabba-service clients either, bless their well-paying, hard-working souls.

These are all my own objections.. (eyes lower with embracement.. noticing a badly needed pedicure..)

And since it is me-myself that packs lunch, such constraints mean that I eliminate about 90% of the refrigerator.

One-pot dishes are really the most convenient for lunch-boxes. And I do make pulavs and khichdis a lottt. Fortunately the world of food-blogs opens us to many potential dabba candidates. I had seen kothu parotta on several blogs. Cham's version with chalna looks like a good one to try.. somewhat more authentic looking. I will make her version very soon too. So I am noting the link here. I also found a quick and easy version of Kothu Parotta on Show me the Curry, which does not require chalna preparation. So I note that here for quick week-nights.

I will post the real Kothu Parotta sometime in future when I actually manage to make it like the recipe says. I started out thinking that I would make Kothu Parotta. But by the time I got to the refrigerator I found myself wondering if there isn't a cold version of this dish I could concoct? A Parotta Salad? I suddenly remembered a whole bunch of salads I had seen at Soma's ecurry!

So I decided that Parotta Salad it would be! I started out with the basic idea of Kothu Parotta from what I have gleaned from these blogs - mixing cut roti/paratha pieces for carbs, a source of protein (like egg or chicken), mixed vegetables and a curry or sauce to bring them all together. I just adapted the ingredients to make it a cold salad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The technology of cooking

Ok, an interesting TED talk for when you have time.. about cooking as a technology! This gentleman brings up some interesting ideas. He projects that cooking is a technology that was invented to make the energy conversion (by our body) more efficient. Talks about how cooking influenced the evolution of our body, brain and gut.


Yes, cooking is a technology older than most "technology" commonly brought to mind. And it has helped us consume many foods that earlier were probably either hard to eat, like certain raw vegetables or seeds, or even completely inedible like raw meats. Since we are the only species that cook food before eating, Mr. W calls us "coctivores" rather than omnivores. :)

Ok, summary over.

This talk made me realize that we, cook-ers, perhaps rarely think this way about our own cooking.. as a technology! But indeed (if we now think about it) that is exactly how cooking works. People learn to cook. Are taught or develop certain techniques. Then we try newer things. Mix and match and generate newer recipes. And this has been on-going for many many years!

First there are cars, then come faster cars, safer cars, more fancy cars. And then there is the abrupt and prolific jump to airplanes. What are the jumps or prolific advances in cooking that you really appreciate?

Techniques like grilling, frying, baking.. baking cakes versus cookies, making kulfi versus ice-cream versus gelato and now frozen yogurt (mostly heat-cold applications) are a big benefit to us.

Also techniques of handling certain foods, for instance, how to cook colocassia leaves and rhubarb, handling the oxalate crystals, how to make pickles, preserves, jams, how to ferment batter, idli-dosa-dhokla.. dried goods like papad, wadis, etc.. fried goods.. making cheese, paneer, even simple yogurt..

There are also certain combinations in meals which probably allowed us to eat certain foods - for instance a lot of traditional Indian Thalis combine cool drinks like lassi, matthaa, buttermilk, solkadi or yogurt raithas and kadhis with our hot and spicy curries. And there are of course umpteen spices that probably work in certain combinations for good digestive health - ginger, heeng, cumin and whatnot. One often finds them in dals and other foods that are high in protein and harder to digest.

And then there are some seemingly mundane things that I, personally, think are cool inventions (nothing to do with evolution.. but oh well..) like tortilla and lettuce wraps - getting rid of the bread, granola bars - compact-ification of breakfast, cutlets or burgers - a method to combine any food into a convenient portion, all the egg-substitutes are cool discoveries, all the chaats we love are inventions of ingredient-combination, oh there are scores of such discoveries and inventions.. :)

Can you tell me about any other common cooking inventions/techniques that strike you as cool and handy?

I think even just adding pakoda to kadhi is a big deal! ;)

Three cheers for cook-ers everywhere! :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tandoori Fish

Tandoori anything is always a big treat! And at the end of a busy day there is nothing like this fish!

Fig. 1. Tandoori Fish
Sometimes I feel like all of the day is spent battling with paperwork. Fill this form, organize this that and something else, check on payments, make copies for your record, copies for someone else's record... Uff! Lately at least a lot of things can be done online. But even the online paperwork is not all that simple.

I was very excited to find that some forms I needed to fill could be filled online. I went, yay!! And then realized, never rejoice too soon. The one form was broken up into a series of 15 webpages! And you had to go fill-nextpage, fill-nextpage, through all 15. And then there was no option to save in the middle! What's more, by the curse of some crazy Rishi, the site would time-out in 15 minutes regardless of whether you are actively online filling the form or idling away from the screen with some chai-pani!!

When I was only on page 5.. the site starts giving me a warning.. "Your session will expire in 5 minutes." And I go Holy Rangoli!! 5 minutes for the remaining 10 pages!! I had no chance.. I totally couldn't make it. The session expired around page 8. And I had to start all over again!! Boy, was I mad!!

And when I am mad, I get even!! I had to do it again! And the second time around, I was prepared! If they were gonna play this new kind of speed game, I would play it too.. but Indiana Jones ishtyle! I got up, and found myself a hat, rubbed my trusty typing-finger on the collar.. (don't laugh.. I'm sure some of you out there type with only one finger too!) I set my stopwatch to buzz every 60 seconds, and.. GO!

This time I zippetty-zipped through the form and hit submit with perfect timing... and also saved my hat from being left behind! Haa! Speed demon!!

Needless to say, I soon heard back from the form-people. My submission was "invalid" it seems. They claim I have submitted the incorrect form!

Jealous.. that's what I think they are!

After all that excitement who wouldn't be rrravenous for dinner? Fortunately the fish was already marinated. All I had to do was bake! Such is the beauty of the refrigerator.. Anybody up for a refrigerator story? Maybe next time.. ;)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blue Jay on a run

Hey everyone..

I have been back to running fairly consistently past few days now. And every morning I remind myself of days like these.. See there are very definite benefits of running outdoors. You get to see cute stuff! :) Here is a little blue birdie I saw recently while out on a run.

Fig.1. Blue Jay - kind of small, maybe a baby Blue Jay?
It was nestling at the bottom of a tree trunk. All fluffy and cozy. Head under its wing. Like it did not want to wake up. Like it did not care that it was daylight outside. Like it did not even know that it was a week day for goodness sake!

Birds these days, I tell you..

Now if birds were on Twitter, we could leave them tweets about the day's to-do, whats-in, whats-not, which worm is happening and which isn't.. Then they wouldn't dream about staying in bed like this and missing out on all the buzz!

When will birds learn to tweet..

PS: On a more serious note.. why would a little bird be sleeping on the ground? Shouldn't it be in a nest somewhere up there? I couldn't see a nest up in the tree.. but then that doesn't mean there wasn't one. Oh well.. another mundane, but unsolved mystery!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Doi Fulkopi - Cauliflower Curry

Hey everyone.. I had been eying this curry for a while. Why did it take me so long to get down to it..?

Fig. 1 Doi Fulkopi - Cauliflower Curry

I love Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew and all those mystery novels. When I am really irritated and in a bad mood.. a juicy Agatha Christie is all I need! Tell an Agatha Christie fan that there was no murder! Tell a Nancy Drew fan that there is no secret behind the staircase.

But mundane real life mysteries are not about murder and vanishing staircases. They are more commonly about things like... Why did Suhasini not pick up my phone? Who does she think she is? Conversely who is it that picks up my Wall Street Journal? A big one.. where is our checked bag? And somewhat intriguingly.. why is my toothbrush still wet in the morning?

One mystery was in my kitchen...

I had seen this recipe at Bong Mom's Cook Book many many months ago and yet it took me this long to finally make it! Lahsuni Aloo Gobi is the only other dish I make with cauliflower as the main ingredient (will post in future). And it's not as if I have made that very much either. So.. the big mystery is..

Where is the cauliflower in my house going?

It is never entering the house! Mystery solved.

And the wet toothbrush?

.. aah.. that is because I am staying up too late and getting up too early!! :D Ain't gettin' time to dry.