Sunday, 24 July 2016

Methi daane ki sabzi

Last Sunday we were at Dorabjee's, Camp, Pune, for our usual monthly supplies.
I have been coming to this place ever since I came to Pune. In those days, it was a store on the ground floor of a small mall at the time. Slowly it grew and took up the space where Westside was, on the left, and Planet M upstairs. Now the whole building is Dorabjee's ... along with a food court on the third floor.

The staff has always been polite and helpful. And we have almost always got whatever we looked for in this one store ... saving us the time that otherwise would have been wasted in searching for different things at different places.

But of late, things are changing.
There has been a drastic change in the behaviour of the staff.
Bordering on rudeness, they are a far cry from the warm people we are used to and associate with the name Dorabjee's. And not only have I felt this in their store in Camp, but also in the newly opened Dorabjee's Mall off NIBM road.

Other than that, the one other thing that I found sad was the way the people at the parking behave.
This Sunday was the third time in a row which prompted me to write about it.

Given that Dorabjee's is now huge place , I love going through the floors and everything they have on display. Selecting household things can take time ... unless Dorabjee's want people to just have a glance and leave.
And by the time I finish shopping, it is a good one hour.
Then comes the long wait at the billing counter .... which can be as much as ten to fifteen minutes on any weekend.

And when we finally come to get the car out, the person starts behaving as if we have made a crime spending so much time inside. The parking people are supposed to return the parking deposit if you have shopped at Dorabjee's. It has been a long time practice.
But of late, the attendants stop your car and ask for the bill. And then start grumbling that we were inside for so long, were we sitting at the food court.
One even went to the extent of asking if we had been to the mall on the other side of the road after parking our car.

This insinuation makes me livid.

I wish Dorabjee's had a fixed parking amount. Park, shop, pay and leave .... just as we would at any other shopping place.

 I also wish Dorabjee's looked into their staff training a little better. 

As for now, I will not go to shop at Dorabjee's any more.
Especially because I love shopping in this place.
But not at the cost of unnecessary unpleasantness.
And humiliation.

That off my chest, I will move on to today's recipe.

It is again a simple, healthy dish that is made at my in laws' place.
Mummy makes this with raw mangoes as well as dried mango powder or amchur ... when raw mangoes are not in season.

Need :

Methi or Fenugreek seeds - 1 cup
Coriander or dhaniya powder - 5 tbsp
Turmeric or haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Asafoetida or hing - a pinch 
Grated raw mango - around 3 tbsp or Amchur powder - 1 tbsp
Salt -to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp
( Mummy uses ghee; I use a mix of a little oil and and a little ghee )

How to :

Soak the methi seeds overnight in enough water.

The next day, strain it and boil in a pan with enough water + salt.
Mummy pressure cooks it but I find the methi turns too slimy that way.

When done, strain.
Mix it with the coriander  powder + turmeric powder and the red chilli powder. 

If using amchur powder, mix that too.

Heat oil. 
Add jeera and hing and the grated mango.

Add a  little salt.
Cook till the mango is mushy.

Add the methi seeds.

Give a good mix and fry for 5 minutes.

Adjust salt.
Cover for sometime.

Give a final stir and remove from heat.

Serve hot with rotis and dal.


Monday, 18 July 2016

Bhaja Khichuri / Dala Khechedi

There is something about the rains that can turn anyone into a hopeless romantic.
One look outside the window, with some time at hand, and you are sure to write verses.
Dreamy, cloudy skies. The persistent screen of rain. The breeze ... somewhere balmy; somewhere cold.
A fluttering curtain. A twirl of smoke above a cup.
Fresh green everywhere.

And ....
The smell of ghee, roasted dal and jeera wafting from the kitchen.
That aroma itself can turn a Bengali into a poet.

There is something that binds the khichuri and the rains and a Bengali together.
If it is raining, it has to be khichuri on the day's menu. There may or may not be a maach bhaja on the side; even better if it is an Ilish maach bhaja.
But other wise, khichuri has a lot of other accompaniments go with it. Most of them will be deep fried bhajas or boras.
Then there will be the labra or a mix vegetable on the side.
Followed by the tomato chaatni and Papor(papad) bhaja.

I had made this khichuri a few days back when an old friend, D, had dropped in to watch the Ratha yatra on the telly with me. She does have a telly at home, but wanted to be with me this year when I will be watching the rath without getting Bapi's call in the morning ... "Tv ta chaala .... roth shuru hoye jabe je!!"

There was no fish at home. And somehow this niramish khichuri seemed apt on this auspicious day when Lord Jagannath sets off for a vacation to his aunt's place.
D watched with amusement as I quickly lay the table and arranged this cluster to click a few snaps.
I was in such a hurry that none of the photos came out well .... the sun played spoilsport too and it was very cloudy.
But that will make no difference to the taste or the flavour of this beautiful khichuri.

This is also called the Dala khechedi in Oriya.
Very different from the Bengali dhala ( of pouring consistency) khichuri, this khichuri is very dry and the grains of the rice and the dal are not cooked into much. Rather, they will stay whole and just done.

I love coconut .... so added it.
You may skip it in this khichuri.

Here is a closer look at the texture.
Need :

Yellow moong dal - 1 cup
( The traditional Oriya Dala khechedi has moong dal with the skin on )
Rice - ½ cup
Jeera - 1 tsp
Tej pata - 1
Whole red chillies - 2, broken
Black cardamom - 1, broken
Cinnamon - 1 small piece
Grated or chopped ginger - 1 tbsp
Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Roasted jeera powder - 1 tsp
Grated coconut ( optional ) - 5 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Sugar - to taste
Salt - to taste
Hot water - around 4 cups

How to :

Dry roast the dal in a thick bottomed, heavy kadahi, on low heat.
Stir constantly. Do not brown.
Roast only till you get the nutty aroma of roasted dal.

If you have a kitchen exhaust, I suggest you keep it switched off now ... you may not get the aroma; a major part.

Wash the rice and the dal and keep aside.

Heat oil +  ghee in the same heavy kadahi.
Add jeera +  tej patta + whole red chillies + black cardamom + cinnamon.

Add the chopped ginger.
Fry well.

Add the haldi powder + red chilli powder + the rice and dal.

Mix around well and keep stirring on low heat till everything is dryish.
This will take around 5 to 7 minutes.

Raise heat and add the hot water + salt + sugar + roasted jeera powder + 1 tsp ghee.

Cover and cook till rice is just done.
Do check for water in between ... but do not add too much.

When the rice is not too soft but done, switch off heat and let it stand covered for 5 more minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove cover and fluff it lightly with a spoon or fork.

Serve hot.

I had made the Ramrochak tarkari instead of the labra .... to give a feel of Odiya food.
And the Tomato chaatni with khejur / dates .... the quintessential Bengali as well as Odiya favourite to go with the khichuri.
And of course papor bhaja.

You can pair it with fried vegetables like the brinjal, pumpkin or the parwal too.
My home made Aamer achar came to join the band too.

All in all .... had a good time with good friend, good food and reliving memories.
No complaints there ... not even to Jagannath too.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Chilke ke pakode / Fritters made from vegetable peels

Khosar bora

 "Munh ki baat sune har koi, dil ke dard ko jaane kaun,
Awaazon ke bazaaron mein, khamoshi pehchane kaun
.... "

My favourite ghazal singer mourns soulfully as I sit at the window, watching the light rain outside.
The room fills with his deep, heavy voice and spreads a blanket of sighs all over.
The grey from outside seeps in through the large glass windows; doing little to add any brightness.
I wish I had changed the dark, heavy curtains of summer earlier ... I think.
Now I do not feel like. So they too do their bit to add to the sense of grey.

I sit there, snuggled into a warm comforter, a picture of laziness personified, and watch the rain dance on the branches and the leaves of trees.
And the birds too.
Soaked to their skin, a crow and two koyels sit in different branches of the coconut tree, fluffing up and shaking vigorously in an futile attempt to dry themselves.
A bulbul sits atop a heavy branch, right at the top. But not for long.
The rain is too heavy for it to bear.

I sit and soak in the quiet all around.
Of late, I do not feel like talking or writing much. Too much of noise all around.
Too many people talking; too many opinions.
Too much aggression and force to put points forth.
Too loud thoughts. Too few listeners.
Everybody talking at once.
Too tiring; too overbearing.
Too overwhelming.

So I go through the days saying nothing. Or hearing nothing.
I like this quiet in me and am going to savour it for as long as I like it.

Chilke ke pakode

I like the dark, rainy days.
There is a sense of soothing severity in them.
They push us to quieten down. And take in the beautiful transition that goes on in nature.
While the soul soothing and all nourishing rain dances outside, the mind is pushed into sitting back and rest.

"Kiran kiran alsaata sooraj, palak palak khulti needein,
Dheeme dheeme bikhar raha hai, zarra zarra jaane kaun ... "

Unnh huh.
No bikharna.
I am trying to get a grip on myself.
Pick up my cup of tea that is fast getting cold and take a sip.
And turn to my blog.

I often make these pakodas, especially when I am making the Chorchori or any other mixed vegetable curry. Using different kinds of vegetables allows me to have all kinds of peels and this is a good way to use them.
Just make sure the vegetables are fresh.

Leftover chilke ke pakode
Need :

 Vegetable peels -
I used potato, ridge gourd (turai), pumpkin and pointed gourd (parwal / potol ), around 1 cup
Onion - 1 medium
Green chillies - 2 or more
Besan - 4 tbsp
Rice flour - 1 tbsp
Haldi powder - 1 pinch
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Baking soda - a little pinch
Fresh coriander leaves - chopped
A little water
Salt - to taste
Oil for deep frying

How to :

Wash the vegetables well.
Peel them with a knife ... keeping the skin slightly thicker than usual.
Soak them in salt water for a while.

Slice them into thin, long pieces.

Slice the onions.

Mix everything, except the oil, together with a little water to make a thick paste.

Heat enough oil in a deep, heavy kadahi.

Scoop out small balls and let into the oil carefully.

Fry on low heat till golden brown.

Drain and remove. Keep on paper napkins to drain extra oil.

Chilke ke pakode
 Serve hot with ketchup, any chutney or kasundi.
And of course, a cup of very hot drink.

Perfect for these rainy days when the heart longs for something hot, spicy and deep fried goodies.

Chilke ka pakoda
"Aankhon se aansooon ka marasim purane hai,
Mehmaan yeh ghar mein aaye toh chubhta nahi dhuaan .... "
Tears will be treated as guests in our lives.
Will be welcomed with warm hearts.

Stay well friends.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Pui shaak diye muri ghonto or Malabar spinach cooked with fish head

Pui diye muri ghonto

At one time, I had no idea of life's real deal.
I used to write a lot on pain but had no idea what real pain was.
Strangely, now that I have seen what life's real tough game is all about, what losing a loved one in the real sense is, I have nothing to write.

All words seem to have disappeared into thin air.
Just like fair weather friends.
All expressions void.
There is no way I can put forth anything ... just so that I can lighten my heart a little.
This is my blog, my space. I know I should.
But I can't.

Life. That is.

Pui diye muri ghonto

I had made this muri ghonto with some of the Pui or Malabar spinach that I had got from Bangalore, a few months back.
Since I had got two big bunches, I have been happily cooking up Pui dishes for a while.
After the bhaja, the jhaal, the bora,  and the posto pui, I still had enough to make a chanchra (post coming up soon ) and this muri ghonto.

I had a fresh Rohu head and with a generous amount of pui thrown in, it made a good ghonto.
I have added garlic this time and the ghonto turned out to have the exact flavours of any Odiya chencheda or ghanto. The flavours that are so familiar to me; which I have grown up enjoying so much.
Reminded me of our Oriya cook back home.

No more digressing to memories.
On to the recipe instead.

Pui diye muri ghonto

Need :

Head of Rohu fish - 1, fried with salt and turmeric and broken
Pui or Malabar spinach - 3 cupfuls, chopped, including some baby stalks
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Dry red chillies - 2, broken
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp

How to :

Heat the oil in a kadahi.
Add the jeera + broken dry chillies.

Add the ginger + garlic paste and fry well.

Add the fish head and fry some more.

Add  the pui. Mix well.

Add salt + sugar. Cover and cook till the leaves are well cooked.

Remove cover and cook till all water has dried up.
Take care to stir from time to time.

Add red chilli powder and give a good mix again.

Pui diye muri ghonto
Serve hot.


And oh! signing off with a look of the throw that I had promised all of you on my page on fb.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Aam kasundi diye Chingri or Prawns cooked in raw mango and mustard paste

I am suddenly very tired.
And drained.
For so long, I have been rushing so hard that I finally had a breakdown last week.
And not surprising too. The way I have been pushing myself ... living in denial; believing that every new morrow is going to bring me peace. That if I bury myself with numerous and more things to do, I will get far, far away from what I am running away from.

I have been running away from memories ... painful memories rather.  From the live video that plays in front of my eyes and in my mind every single waking moment. It drives me insane. 
Does this happen to everyone who goes through loss? I do not know.
All I know is what I have been doing to help myself definitely is not working.
Rather, it has overwhelmed me to the extent that I cannot keep up the pretense any longer.

It is coming to be a complete year since I was back home. And yet, it seems like it was just yesterday.
I tried to blog like a possessed person, write all the happy things I could see around or think of.
I went out to lunches and dinners and movies, bought and read books, drowned myself in music.
Immersed myself with numerous activities ... people praised me for being able to do so many things together. But what do the loving souls know?
They could not see the desperate me inside ... clutching on to whatever I could get my hands on ... to be able to escape from reality.

But nothing worked.
And all those memories and painful times swelled up high and high and built into a giant storm that swept me and my resolves and will power far away into the horizon just as it would a few grains of dust or some  dry leaves.

I had burned myself out.
And then came the nightmares.
I had stopped crying and avoided going out into the balcony in the evenings ... that time when I missed Bapi the most. That built up into suppressed trauma and returned to haunt me.
After not getting to sleep for a whole week straight, we consulted our doc.
And as usual, the only thing they know is to be an ostrich.
But I am not going to give up and let myself go in the hands of anti depressants and sleeping pills.

And have promised myself that I will get up again soon. Strong and stout.
Maybe I will be able to laugh too ... I live in hope.
Right now, I am learning to rest.
Have dug out all the books that I had got from the Boi mela at Kolkata.
My bedside table holds two by Samaresh Majumdar, that are in line and sequel to the first one that I have started reading.
Rabindra sangeet is my constant companion, especially in the kitchen, these days ... much to B's discomfort.
Since the rains have started, they are playing a part too. Pune's light, soothing rain is more like a balm on a parched soul. Not unruly, wild and noisy .... rather a light, soundless, steady drizzle with that cold wet breeze that stops you in your tracks as soon as you step out or open a window.
Take a deep breath and you can feel the insides of your heart and mind wash afresh with that sharp, clean and wet air.

I have been cooking too ... but not too much though.
The days and nights are perfect for hot, nutritious soups. And I am making a lot of them.
Very filling; very quick to make; very easily warming you up and your insides with that comforting hug of spices.
I do not feel like clicking any photographs and I am not pushing myself much.
Will take one day and one evening at a time.
I do not feel like communicating much these days ... so no friends or guests allowed. The family will be visiting soon ... that I am looking forward to.

Right now, I have this beautiful Prawn curry that I had made a few weeks ago.
Fuss free, no garam masala, redolent with the flavour of prawns and coconut milk. 
Fresh prawns, my aam kasundi and some coconut milk thrown in together to a boil and voila!, you have a beautiful, light almost malaikari like jhol in your hands.
 Some plain boiled rice to go with it and you will need nothing more on the side.

Need :

Prawns - 6 pieces, medium sized, cleaned and deveined
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Aam kasundi - 2 tbsp
If you do not have aam kasundi, just make a paste of mustard seeds + green chillies + salt + a little lemon juice
Thick coconut milk - 4 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Water - to make gravy
Cooking oil - 2 tbsp ( I used mustard oil )

How to :

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed kadahi / wok.
Marinate the prawns with a little turmeric powder + salt.
Fry them lightly and remove.

In the same oil add the aam kasundi and a little water.
Add turmeric powder and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and add the coconut milk.
Add salt and water, if required.

Let in the fried prawns and cover and cook for 5 minutes.

 Serve hot with steaming hot boiled rice.