Sunday, May 30, 2010
Yes, she would have to eat it, else the tabloid journalist accompanying them would have a field day declaring how the heroine of the movie acted snooty and refused to touch a morsel. And moreover, she would hurt the feelings of the lady who had made it if she didn't eat.
Yet, she couldn’t get herself to eat even a single spoonful – she dreaded the torrent of emotions it would unleash - and so she toyed with her food, absently pushing it this way and that on her plate, as she took in her surroundings. It was a simple house that had homeliness written on every wall.
There was a time when she had known a house like this intimately, she thought.
Coming here to this house hadn’t quite been part of the plan, but then her co-star Aamir could be extremely eccentric sometimes.
They had been touring the country as part of publicity for their soon to be released movie; the promotional blitzkrieg had taken them to theatres and multiplexes, malls and restaurants in an attempt to connect with the audiences. But barging in unannounced into somebody’s house? That was something that happened on the spur of the moment.
They were waiting at a traffic light when Aamir saw this chawl at the corner of the street. “Let’s go visit some house in that chawl,” he said. “It would fit in wonderfully with the theme of the movie.”
The sycophants accompanying them had lauded the idea and that is how she found herself in this house; the paint peeling off its walls, a noisy fan spinning furiously, its attempt at offering some respite from the relentless summer heat almost futile.
There was a time when she had lived in a house just like this one, she recalled.
Their visit had created quite a stir, people from the neighbouring houses were thronging to see them and the ladies of the house had bent over backwards bringing out tea, coffee and snacks for them.
Her publicist gave her a subtle nudge. “You’ve not touched your plate and everyone is watching.”
Reluctantly, she ate a spoonful. It had the perfect balance of spicy, sour and sweet, with just the right crunch. A burst of freshness from the cilantro and grated coconut. Exactly the way she liked kairi chi dal.
Exactly the way her aayi used to make it, she remembered. Exactly the way it tasted the last time she had eaten it.
She could barely swallow that small spoonful. The lump in her throat made swallowing difficult.
“Did you like it? I helped my mother make it,” said a voice. Looking up, she saw a young girl, her long hair neatly braided into 2 pleats. She was apparently shy for she was clinging to her mother’s sari, her face virtually covered by the pallu.
She used to be like that little girl, shy and reticent and extremely attached to her mother. Her mother was the centre of her universe and vice versa, till that fateful day 6 years ago when her actions and decisions had changed it all:
“Aayi, there is something I need to talk to you about,” she began, tentatively.
“What is it Gauri? And grate the kairi quickly. If you want to take the kairi chi dal in your lunch box, you’d better work those hands,” her mother admonished, as she added the coarsely ground chana dal to the hot oil.
“Aayi, I don’t know how to tell you this, but some days back I had sent my pictures for the Miss India contest,” she said, “I got a letter today confirming my selection in the final 24 contestants. I have to go to Mumbai next week,” she concluded.
She knew her mother would be upset at this revelation and prepared herself for an angry outburst. But her mother turned up the flame of the gas and proceeded to vigorously stir the dal. When she finally reduced the flame and covered the vessel with a tight fitting lid, she turned to her and said, “ Turn off the gas after 5 minutes and stir in the grated raw mango. Top it off with the coriander and grated coconut. I am getting late for work, pack your own lunch box today.”
“But aayi, what about…”
Her mother had silenced her mid sentence. “There will be no further discussion on that matter. I want you to finish your medical studies. Two years and you will be a doctor! And,” she continued, “Should you pursue this stupid beauty pageant thing, I will cut all ties with you,” she said as she picked up her handbag and left for work.
Tears streaming down her eyes, Gauri packed her lunch box and gathered her books. She was torn between her dream and her mother’s ambition. She glanced at the watch. Her friend would come to pick her up in 10 minutes; the bus to Mumbai left in 25 minutes. She took a deep breath and made her decision. She threw in some clothes into a suitcase, wrote a brief note to her mother, used her lunchbox as a paper weight and walked out of her home.
She didn’t make it beyond the first round of the pageant but managed to catch the attention of a film producer. The rest, as they say, was history. Instead of Dr. Gauri, she had become megastar Gauri.
Another voice jolted her back to the present. “Yes, she is my little helper in the house,” laughed the girl’s mother. “She loves your movies and can mimic all your dance moves!" The mother’s eyes lit up with pride as she spoke about her daughter.
Seeing her, Gauri felt a pang. Yes, she had always missed her mother all these years, but today, her pain at being estranged from her mother was suddenly overwhelming her.
Would her mother be proud of her achievement, the heights she had reached, she wondered. What would she say to her when they met? And most importantly, how was her mother?
She could not bear it any longer, this separation from her mother. She just had to meet her mother and reconcile with her. Yes, she would go right away to her home, to her mother. She calculated the distance to her home town; from here, it would take her around 6 hours to reach by road. This meant that by the time she reached, it would be very late in the night.
But then, it was never too late to go back home, was it?
Sandeepa is hosting the 2nd edition of our food fiction event, 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' and this is my entry for the event.
Have you sent in your entries to Sandeepa yet?
Kairi chi dal is a very popular evening snack in Maharashtra in the summer months and is something I absolutely love.
The final taste of this dal depends a lot on individual taste buds. I load mine with a lot of raw mango - I love mine tangy, my husband, on the other hand doesn't like it so sour.
You are looking for a balance between sweet, sour and spicy that tickles your taste buds, so use the quantities, especially of the raw mango, given here more as a guideline.
Once you've found the right balance of the three tastes, believe me, you are going to go into absolute raptures of delight.
Chana dal: 1/4 cup, soaked overnight
Raw mango, grated: 1 (use lime juice as a substitute if you can't find raw mangoes)
Ginger: 1" piece
Green chillies: 3-4
Oil: 2 tbsps
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Asafoetida: 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
Salt, to taste
Sugar: 1 1/2 tsp
for garnishing (essential):
Chopped coriander leaves: 3 tsps
Grated cocout: 2 tbsps
Soak the chana dal for at least 5 hours, preferably overight.
Drain the water and let the dal 'drip dry' for about 30 mins.
Grind alongwith the green chillies and ginger to a coarse powder.
Heat oil in a wok and pop in the mustard seeds. When they start to crackle, add in the asafoetida and the turmeric powder followed by the coarsely ground dal. Sprinkle the salt. Stir briskly for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the flame to the lowest possible - and cook covered for a further 2 minutes. When you uncover the lid, steam should rise up from the dal. Stir once more and turn off the gas.
Stir in the sugar and the grated raw mango - don't add in all the mango in one go - taste as you add some in - stop adding the raw mango once you reach your desired level of sweet, spicy and sour.
Garnish with grated coconut and chopped coriander leaves.
This is also my entry to MLLA - 23 that Susan herself is hosting this month.
Friday, May 21, 2010
No matter that it is almost 20 years(!) since I last attended school, no matter that my daughter's school follows a completely different calendar, to my mind, the months of April and May will forever be associated with school holidays.
Two months spent with nary a care in the world, gallivanting barefoot in the scorching sun, playing chor-police or lagori or dodge ball or simply riding the bicycle aimlessly around the neighbourhood.
By noon, sweaty, tired and thirsty from spending long hours in the hot sun, we'd run home, open the fridge and glug down whatever juice or sherbet my mother would have made. Sometimes, it would be kokum sherbet, sometimes, nimbu pani; April and May being the mango season, most of the times, there would be kairi panha sitting in the fridge. Cold, tangy and sweet with a hint of cardamom, it was manna from heaven, the best thirst quencher ever.
However, that day, after my little trip down memory lane, I just had to have it. I literally flew out of the house and to the Indian grocery shop to buy some raw mangoes.
Green (raw) mango sorbet wasn't something that I had even heard of. Yet, as I churned the raw mango pulp to make the panha, I noticed that it was incredibly smooth and creamy. A little germ of an idea began to take shape....how about a green mango sorbet.......
Raw mangoes: 2 large
Jaggery: 1 cup (you might need to add more or less depending on how sour your mangoes are)
Water: 1 cup
Cardamom powder: 3/4 tsp (essential)
Salt: a pinch
Pressure cook the mangoes till they are cooked through - about 2 whistles should do it.
When they are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside. You need 1 cup of mango pulp; I needed 1 large mango for that amount.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the jaggery and water and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and cool.
Blend together the mango pulp and the jaggery-water mixture till smooth and creamy (taste at this stage, you might need to add more jaggery if your mangoes are too sour). Add in the cardamom powder and a pinch of salt. Chill for about 3 hours and then freeze in your ice- cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
This sorbet is best eaten when it has just set; else leave it on the counter for about 5 minutes before serving.
What can I say about the taste? Suffice to say that when I had the first spoonful, I did a little dance in the kitchen. If tangy and sweet is to your taste, then make this sorbet while green mangoes are still in season. I pigged out on the sorbet and ended up with a severe cold for the last 10 days that led to a sore throat and a ear infection.
Now that I have recovered, I have another batch being churned in the ice cream maker even as I write this post!
Sharing this Green Mango Sorbet with 'I Scream For Ice Cream' Challenge hosted by Yasmeen.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
And while you have your thinking caps on, head over to Sandeepa's blog. She is hosting the second edition of our food fiction event 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks'.
So quick, spin a yarn and send it to her at: sandeepa(dot)blog(at)gmail(dot)com
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
That is was the case when I saw the Cinnamon Chocolate Bundt Cake on Deeba's blog sometime back. I think I headed straight to the kitchen after reading it. And ever since, I've been baking this cake regularly. Very regularly, in fact.
Not only is the cake a breeze to make, it tastes absolutely awesome. Intensely chocolatey with a hint of cinnamon, it is a crowd pleaser.
Which is why I take it very often when we go visiting friends. Which why I decided to make it for a dinner that we were invited to. But then, just as I finished measuring the ingredients, panic struck. Three of the guests had already had this cake. Now I didn't want them to assume that I knew only one type of cake, did I?
It was late at night, around 10 I think, and I really wasn't in a mood to contemplate which other cake to make and then start the process all over again. Maybe, I could change the flavour and then it would be okay. Coffee was the obvious choice. But then, just as I was reaching out for the jar of coffee, my eyes fell on a bottle of orange essence. Lying unopened for over 4 months.
And then, I was inspired.......why don't I make...oh if only I have some oranges.......which, almost miraculously, I did and so this Chocolate Orange Bundt cake happened.
(Adapted from Passionate about Baking who adapted it from The Food Librarian who got the recipe from Vintage Visuals - quite a link list that!)
Water: 1/2 cup
Butter: 1/2 cup or 115 gms
Oil: 1/2 cup
Cocoa: 5 tbsps
Orange juice: 1/2 cup
All purpose flour: 1 1/2 cups
Wholewheat flour: 1/2 cup
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 1 3/4 cup
Buttermilk: 1/2 cup
Baking soda: 1 tsp
Eggs: 2 nos
Orange zest: 1 1/2 tsps
Orange essence: 1 tsp
Pre-heat the oven to 375deg F or 190 degC
Combine the water, butter, oil and cocoa powder in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the gas and then add the orange juice.
Next, add the sugar in and mix well to combine. Mix both the flours with the salt and add it to the chocolate-sugar mixture. Stir carefully till there are no lumps.
Then add the buttermilk and baking soda.
Finally, whisk together the eggs, orange essence and the zest and add to the batter. Mix well.
Pour the batter into a bundt pan (grease the pan first!) and bake for 35 mins*.
(*original recipe calls for 25 mins, but mine takes between 35 and 40 mins).
Let the cake cool completely in the pan - about 2 hours - before you turn it onto a serving plate.
For the ganache - and this is optional, but adds oodles of flavour to the cake:
100 gms chocolate
75 gms butter
few drops orange essence (skip if you use an orange flavoured chocolate)
zest of an orange
Melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Add a few drops of orange essence and stir briskly for a minute. Allow to cool and then pour it over the cake. Sprinkle the orange zest on top.
So now you want to know which tastes better - cinnamon or orange. You do want to know, don't you?
This is where I should be diplomatic and say "depends on your taste, really." Which, to a large extent, it does.
Personally, I preferred the orange flavoured one. For three reasons. One, I love the chocolate - orange combo. Secondly, the flavour of oranges does not overpower the chocolate and still manages to linger on the palate. And yeah, thirdly, this is my twist on the original recipe - sometimes, I do toot my own horn!
Nupur's theme for Blog Bites this month is Adaptation, this is my entry to the event.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Here goes the round-up of the first edition of 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks':
"Little girl still amused , decided to hang out in kitchen some more time and saw her baba so enthusiastically assemble the pulao.She was assigned the job to peel onion. While peeling an onion, tears started flowing down from her eyes easily. Her father quickly came to rescue and wiped the tears coming out."
Yakhni Fish Pulao @
Spice and Curry
"She saw the packet of bread again and suddenly remembered that her hen had laid one egg in the morning that she had collected and kept in her refrigerator. She has a pet hen which is now her only supply of eggs. She rushed to her fridge and took out the egg. Then she took the bread packet and made herself busy in the kitchen."
"Given her years only a visit to the doctor, or to a family marriage, was proper. So who would go to the mutton wallah? How could she get the mutton? A flight of stairs stood angrily between her and the road to the market. A distance which counted for nought in square feet. And yet tormented her. The demons of fear were fierce. The consequences of a fall scary. The fractures her childhood friends had succumbed to shook her.
Then she thought of the little girl. The way her face would lit up as she bit into the kebabs lost in potatoes."
Crispy Potatoes @
"She wanted to talk to someone-mom,a friend-someone who would make her near to her hometown.Tears welled in her eyes and slowly rolled down her cheeks.She did not want to wallow in self pity so she made her way into the kitchen."
Oriental Curd Rice @
Seduce Your Tastebuds
"Finding the dark corner she was looking for ,on the other side of the huge tank in the courtyard, she ate the fish , hurriedly but with relish , watchful eyes darting here and there . It tasted like manna , it was exciting , it was glorious . She closed her eyes as she licked her fingers and ran her tongue around her teeth and it was then that the fear overtook her and the sheer magnitude of her act overtook her ."
"The little girl tip-toed closer to the cake, brushing against the white voile curtains that billowed softly with the afternoon breeze. She straightened her red cotton dress and leaned closer, inhaling the heavenly scent of the chocolate and vanilla that wafted from the warm cake. The smell was intoxicating, and some of the little white flakes that dusted the cake stirred and whirled around, dancing to the wind."
"The next morning I knew what it was.I was surprised and happy.I never realized that I had actually started liking the person so much.And French toast.It somehow reminded me of our classes and of him.I said a silent prayer."
"So it became a ritual. Inspite of C always hesitating a little before taking a glass, summer became synonymous to glassfuls of watermelon juice that both girls had many an afternoon all through their junior college days, sometimes when cramming for exams or when just yapping away about nothing. :-)"
Watermelon Juice @
"Mala Maasi's mother-in-law didn't live with her, she mostly stayed with her older son, but when she was due to visit, Maasi would hide all traces of the onions she normally cooked with, as her mother-in-law was old fashioned, and would not eat in her house if she knew that 'taamsik' food was being cooked there. Her grandsons would wait for the old lady to leave so that they could have raw onions in the salad and gravies redolent with onions and ginger."
Peanut Brittle @
Of This and That
"She shivered again, and wrapped her beige coat tightly around her. The air was heavy and stale. The chill cut through her, even her tough exterior could not provide her respite from the bitter cold.
She was tired. She had been up for days. Wondering. Waiting. When?"
“It has to go on the blog this time at any cost!” She thought. She had made them a lot of times before this, but somehow never went around to publish it on her blog. The excuse being the classic one – lack of good photographs. But today she was going to make sure she had snaps, in fact she was going a step further & taking step by step pictures. These were always a hit on the blog. "
"By then, mom brought us the Gulab Jamuns. I was worried that mom would have heard what Sonu said. So, I decided to change the topic. On looking at the jamuns I said "Wow! Amma, no one can make Jamuns like you. They look so perfect and yummy. Please tell me how to make this"
"She added the eggs into the boiling jhol and checked if the potatoes were almost done. She was browsing through the cookbook that Kumar had got her from his tutor’s income at the book fair 8 years back."
"She opened the gift with all enthusiasm but only found a cute barbie doll. She started crying and told A that she really expected her to bring marie delight which is her favorite."
"I did not hear my new husband return. It was only when I felt my hands pressed against the warmth of a corn on the cob that I smelt his signature cologne mixed with the earthy smell of bhutta. Heaven."
"She looks up, and smiles. Her sparkling eyes catch him looking at her, with hope and affection. She nods, 'Yes'. He smiles. She puts the note in the empty drawer. She knows what she is going to bake for their first date :)"
Starry Chocolate Brownies @
The Variable - Crazy Over Desserts
"Meanwhile, Renuka was sipping her coffee, and nibbling on the most delicious biscuits that she had ever eaten. The chef informed her that they were Galettes au beurre Normand, sucre, a speciality of the region, that also came in a savoury version. Renuka told the chef that as a keen cook, she would be researching a recipe for the scrumptious biscuits so that she would be able to make them herself."
"Aaaalu roll!!!!" Tutltul made a face and exclaimed. "I think the heat's got to you. These guys make the best mutton rolls. Shiraz and Nizam standards. Why alu roll? You are the one who keeps complaining about the roti, dahi, daal and subzi dinners at your P G every night. Why don't you eat some real food tonight?".
Sabina smiled indulgently and said, "I'll have an alu roll".
Alu Rolls @
"He didn't want lunch. Tea was all he wanted, tea was something he survived on. A cup of strong black tea was his lifeline. "Khali pete cha khas na, omlette kore dichi (Don't drink tea on an empty stomach, have an omlette)", Ma would say, trying to rejuvenate her young brother in that half day every week."
"That night, at dinner, she ate rice and tamata chaaru to her heart’s content, the grains floating in a thin, red river. There was some spicy cabbage-channa dal to keep it company. The cabbage was a mixture of fiery red and yellow, the channa dal undistinguishable from it at first glance. Had Ammamma got it wrong? It was usually a pale green, why did it look almost orange today?"
Coconut Milk Payasam @
"She cracked open a couple of coconuts and started scraping them. She was old and her movements were slow, but her hands steady as she worked on the scrapings to extract some coconut milk. When she mixed the thinnest of the coconut milk with some uncooked rice, I realised she was making – or rather, teaching me to make payasam, a sweet not quite unlike rice pudding. You see, Anand had been tutoring me on the basics of Tamil cuisine for quite a while!"
Served With Love
There you have it - 22 stories to read! Now, isn't that quite a collection?! Do take the time out and read them all. Weaving a story into a recipe isn't quite as simple as it sounds and as readers, your words of encouragement and appreciation will do a lot to boost the confidence of us budding writers!
In all honesty, when I announced this event, I was on tenterhooks. Given that the event idea was quite different, I wondered if I would get a 'decent' number of entries.
I shouldn't have been so nervous. After all, I had awesome co-hosts - Sra and Sandeepa - it is their support that has made this event so successful.
A huge THANK YOU to all of you who not only sent in their entries (and re-worked them as well, in some cases) but also boosted my morale by appreciating the event idea per se.
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!