Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Scattered





The picture above was not meant to look the way it does. I put the semiya (vermicelli) into a paper bag, planning to click a pile of vermicelli in a bag. But before I could click, the bag toppled over scattering the semiya on the board. Too lazy to put it back into the bag, I took pictures of the scattered semiya instead.



This picture is off to Susan's brilliant culinary photo event, Black and White Wednesday.



Monday, September 26, 2011

Gajar Halwa/ Indian Carrot Pudding


Pick any Bollywood movie of the 70s or 8os and in all probability, the script would have a long-suffering mother who has battled poverty and other evils and injustices to raise a son on whom she has  pinned all her hopes. And whenever that prodigal/recalcitrant/obedient/law-abiding (choose any one – just take your pick) but dutiful and mother-worshipping (absolutely necessary and essential qualities) would return from his studies in a boarding school/ a spell in the jail/ deputation at work (again, take your pick), this long-suffering and sometimes ailing mother would make some ‘halwa’ for her beloved son.


So what is 'halwa'? Halwa is originally an Arabic word meaning a sweet confection. Typically, it is made of either flour or nuts or fruits or even vegetables cooked in copious amounts of butter or ghee and sweetened with either sugar, jaggery or honey.


From Argentina to Ukraine, different countries have their own versions of halwa; in India, the more popular ones are sooji ka halwa (semolina halwa), moong dal halwa, atte ka halwa (whole wheat flour halwa), doodhi halwa (bottle gourd halwa) and gajar halwa (carrot halwa).


Coming back to Bollywood movies and halwa, I don't recall any movie ever mentioning what halwa the mother cooked for her son but I had this firm belief that the said halwa was none other than gajar ka halwa.


Probably because gajar ka halwa was, and still is, my favourite halwa.






You need all of 6 ingredients to make gajar ka halwa: carrots, milk, sugar, ghee, raisins and cardamom powder.


Oh and I forgot to mention - you also need plenty of elbow grease. After all, the carrots need to be grated. Well, yes. You need grated carrots. No, there are no short-cuts(unless you have a food processor, of course).






Gajar Halwa/ Indian Style Carrot Pudding


Ingredients:


Grated carrots: 4 cups
Low fat evaporated milk: 2 cups
Fresh milk: ½ cup
Sugar: ½ cup (adjust the quantity as per your taste and the sweetness of the carrots. Normally, this amount works for us)
Raisins: 1 tbsp
Cardamom pods: 10, powdered
Ghee: 1/3 cup


Method:


Melt 2 tbsps of the ghee in a wok. Add in the carrots and sauté in the ghee till they start to change colour. Then, pour in the milk (both evaporated and fresh milk) and simmer the carrots in the milk, stirring occasionally, till the milk almost (but not completely) evaporates.


Add the sugar, cardamom powder and the raisins and stir constantly (at this stage, you need to continuously stir the halwa, else it will stick to the bottom of the pan) till all the liquid dries up and the halwa starts to come off the sides of the pan. Taste and adjust the sweetness as per your palate preference.


Finally, add the remaining ghee and stir briskly for a minute.




Garnish with slivered almonds or pistachios.


Most people like to have gajar ka halwa hot, but I love to have it chilled. Have it any which way you please, but remember, thinking of diets when digging into the halwa is absolutely forbidden!


Sending this to Raks who is hosting Nivedita's  Celebrate Sweets: Sweets/Desserts with Fruits and Vegetables


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tikshe Amshe (Spicy and Sour Curry)


Having moved out of Singapore, one of the things I miss most about the city is the wet market that I used to frequent - the Tekka Wet Market in Little India. Bursting with fruits, vegetables, herbs, meat and fish of almost every kind, a visit to the market would leave me feeling envigorated and energised.


















To me, the appeal of the market lay more in the experience - elbowing my way through the crowds, watching my step on the wet floor, chatting with the vendors, haggling on the price - just for the sake of it, sometimes sampling the fare....the entire experience of shopping there was magical!
Come to think of it, the sights and sounds of a bustling market can never be matched by the quiet and sometimes, antiseptic aisles in a supermarket.







  
                                                       fish heads*


Of course, the fact that I could find many things in the market that the more popular supermarkets didn't sell made the trip to the wet market even more worthwhile! One of the things that I would buy exclusively from Tekka was fish. Not only was it fresher and cheaper, the variety was mind boggling. And once I discovered Tikshe Amshe on Manisha's blog, my trips to the market became even more frequent. For, that was the only place where I could find the tongue - tickling mackerel.








Tikshe Amshe ( recipe from Indian Food Rocks)


Ideally, make tikshe amshe with bangda or mackerel. If you don't get mackerel, substitute with any other (oily) fish of your choice. The last time I made this, I used kingklip which was very nice too.


If you don't eat fish but the gravy appeals to you, substitute with boiled eggs or baby potatoes. If using potatoes, boil them till they are cooked but firm. Peel and cut into two. Heat oil in a pan and fry the potatoes till they are browned and crisp on one side. I regularly make this gravy with potatoes for my husband who is allergic to fish. I will always remain biased to fish, but believe me, tikshe amshe with potatoes is very delicious too.


The colour of the gravy will depend on the variety of dried chillies you use. Byagdi mirchi gives the gravy that beautiful and inviting fiery red colour. I got the fiery red colour you see in the pictures the first couple of times I made tikshe amshe but lately, the colour isn't quite what I'd like it to be, all thanks to the dried red chillies I am stuck with at the moment.






Ingredients

Mackarel - 4 nos
Dried red chillies -  20-25
Tamarind -  1 small ball, about the size of a small lemon
Sichuan peppercorns - 10-12 nos (original recipe uses 6-8 nos of tirphal)
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Grated coconut, optional - 1 tbsp
Garlic - 2 large cloves
Ginger - 1/2" piece
Curry leaves - 5-6 nos
Coconut oil - 2 tsps (or use any other cooking oil of your choice)
Coriander - for garnishing
Salt to taste



Method:


Soak the chillies in warm water for about 30 minutes to soften their skin.
Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 15 minutes and extract the pulp. Use very little water when soaking the tamarind in order to get a thick pulp.


Marinate the fish with the turmeric powder and a pinch of salt.


Coarsely crush the sichuan pepper and then soak them in 1/4 cup of water for about 15minutes.


Drain the chillies (don't throw away the water) and grind them together with the tamarind pulp, garlic cloves, ginger and grated coconut to get a smooth paste. Avoid using too much water; normally, the moisture from the grated coconut and the tamarind pulp should be enough.


Heat a tsp of oil in a wok and toss the marinated fish for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.


In the same wok, add another tsp of oil. When hot, add the curry leaves followed by the masala paste, salt and sichuan peppercorns alongwith the water they were soaking in. Also add the reserved water from the drained red chillies. Bring to a boil.


Add the fish and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.


Serve hot with steamed rice. This is a fiery and spicy gravy that is best washed down with some sol kadhi.



* Fish head curry is a very popular curry and is unique to Singapore. The origin of the dish is an ode to the multi cultural and multi ethnic country that Singapore is. Fish heads are not prized by Indians, but to the Chinese, they are a delicacy. An ingenuous cook made a South Indian style curry with the fish head and a culinary delicacy was created! The picture of the fish heads is my entry to Susan's culinary photo event, Black and White Wednesday.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Cheers


Vodka with a splash of lime didn't appear in my last food fiction by accident. It is one of my favourite poison!





So tell me, what's yours?


This is off to Susan's Black and White Wednesday.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Of Chalks and Chopsticks: September

Sometimes, such things also happen.


I had, in fact, written this post a week back and then, horror of horrors, managed to delete it instead of some emails in my inbox that I was clearing! Moral of the story: don't do too many things together, especially when in a hurry! If you clicked on that link and came to nothing, my apologies.


Talking of stories, I have the pleasure of hosting our food fiction event, 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' for September.


If you have been following this event over the last few months, you would know that the previous three months have had a picture as a cue around which the story had to be based.


However, instead of a picture cue, I have a couple of written cues for all of  you:
1. You have been invited for a dinner party by a person you barely know. Your host/hostess has a reputation for throwing some amazing parties and you are eagerly looking forward to the evening. You reach the given address but the house seems disturbingly quiet. With a lot of misgivings, you ring the doorbell..........


2. You are a tourist in another country and are on your way to your destination. However, somewhere on the road, you realise that you have lost your way. In the distance, you see a dim light illuminating a sign that says 'Tr vel  rs Inn'. You have been on the road for a long time and are tired, sleepy and hungry with no way of finding the right direction to your destination. You, therefore, decide to follow the road and spend the night in the inn.............


So there....now all you have to do is spin a yarn - an original one - using EITHER one of the two cues. It could either be based on a real incident or could be something competely imaginary. Explore any genre: humour, romance, mystery, paranormal etc.


And while you are at it, do keep in mind a few simple guidelines:

1. The story you write has to have some food - it doesn't have to be a recipe.

2. There is no word limit on the story you write, but it has to be written in one single post.

3. You can, obviously, rewrite the cues the way you want in your story. It would be nice, though, if you could highlight the cue you are using.

4. Posts written for this event CAN be shared with other events.



Post your story between now and Oct. 5th, link it to this post and mail it to me at: aquadaze(at)rediffmail(dot)com with the following details:

1. Name and URL of your blog

2. Title and URL of your story




It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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