Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Dhuli Moong ki Dal / Tempered Yellow Lentils

dhuli moong ki dal
So spring is in the air.
A few days of stifling heat had led us to believe that summer is here ... bang in the middle of a beautiful February.
But no.
Soon the haze ... read pollution ... in the air cleared and Pune was sparkling again.
The air was so clean that the sun seemed brighter and the night sky was filled with the brightest of twinkling stars again.
We are the lucky few who still get to see the stars at night .... beyond eye piercing led lights and smog, that have taken the rest of the country by the throat.
We still have trees around here, which is why we can enjoy even the lightest of breeze and lots of chirping of birds.

I am loving sitting out in the balcony these evenings.
The sun turns a pink red as it prepares to set, the old peepal turns dark against it, the birds swoop down on my balcony for a last drink of water before returning to their nests as B hands me a cup of my favourite, light Darjeeling tea before sitting down beside me.
We sit there till it turns dark and the first few stars come out, taking in the cooling breeze and the birds' chirping, along with the smell of wet earth from my just watered plants.

I have been cooking regularly but since I have not clicked any photos, I cannot make posts.
Also, I am taking it a little easy these days.
The pressure of cooking a complete meal, along with other chores doubles when I have to click a photo.
All that laying out, arranging the food on the table, arranging curtains to let light in, cleaning up .... everything seems overwhelming at times.
Especially when we have a matter of vegetarian food and non vegetarian food at home.
So balancing B's lunch time, after which I bring out my fish to photograph, at times, throws me out of time balance.
And leaves me too drained to even look at what I am eating.
Therefore, at times,  I just give up , breathe easy , enjoy my food and B's company during lunch.

Like on Thursday, I packed my freezer with some good Rohu and fresh water prawns.
And while doing that, my mind was buzzing with the number of recipes I can post with prawns.
But when I finally fried some yesterday, all I wanted was to sit down with my plate of food and that is just what I did.
No ... did not even click a photo for Instagram too.
And boy! did I love it!
Smooth, sweet life ... no pressure of showing off my plate or my food or my recipe.
At times, we do need to breathe easy and let time pass by.

And that is what I am doing these days .... breathing easy and watching time pass by me.

moong dal

I may have taken this easy thing a tad too far when we decided to go out for lunch on Tuesday afternoon, instead of cooking at home. B looked up the net and we decided to try the branch of Bhagat Tarachand, a vegetarian restaurant that we had not tried before.
And my phase of disappointment took another step ahead.
We had asked for the thali as we were famished and did not want to go through a huge menu.
After what seemed like ages, we got our thalis.
Each plate had exactly 5 small bowls, two of which had one single little corn tikki and a gulab jamun respectively.
The other three had a mixed veg, that tasted stale, a palak paneer that tasted of raw greens and the last one held a few long dead and limp deep fried cauliflower and a few small potato pieces.
And every single thing was cold.
Except for the rotis that came hot, scrunched up and bleeding oil.

We were so disappointed that I am glad I did not click a photo before eating.
I have seen and eaten at better thali places .... even Sahare, near Pune staion, has better food than this place.
dhuli moong ki dal

All this eating out at disappointing places made me gear up and cook a light lunch the next day.
Which was when I made this light Moong ki dal ... yellow lentils boiled and tempered mildly.

I do not roast the Moong dal, as Bengalis usually do. This is made in my Rajasthani family and I fell in love with the beautiful flavour of raw moong dal.
While it is usually eaten with rotis, it goes beautifully with plain rice too.

Need :

Yellow Moong dal - 1 cup
Water - 2½ cups ( use the same cup )
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste ( I keep it low )

How to :

Pressure cook the dal with water + salt + turmeric powder for two whistles on low flame.
( I do not soak the dal ... if you do then I think one whistle will be enough. )

Cool cooker and remove cover.

Heat the ghee in a pan.

Add the jeera.
When it starts to splutter, add the red chilli powder and immediately remove from heat.

Pour it in the dal and set it on heat again.

Give a good stir.

If needed, add some more water and simmer for a minute or two.

Remove from heat and serve hot.

dhuli moong ki dal

We had it with roti, cabbage cooked with vadis, tomato chutney and gajar ka halwa on the side.


Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Tikkis from leftover Upma

upma tikki

Last and the week last to that have been filled with disappointments. Which left me with a lack of enthusiasm to come over and write anything. The morose feeling was so deep settled that I still have not been able to come out of it.
Disappointments are a way of life and I am used to dealing with them.
But people, who otherwise walk about in life with and appear to be warm, friendly and sincere, actually show their ignorance or neglect or whatever it is, it hurts.
When you know them as persons who care and as friends and then find them to be actually cold and selfish.
They will be around when they need a human handkerchief .... someone to dump their woes on.
And then disappear .... giving nary a thought to how you are faring or a simple line of goodwill.
I enquire because I care; I try to stay in touch because I want to; not because I have nothing else to do; not because I am never bogged down by the unfair ways of life.

Which is why I have finally decided to give away a little less of myself away ; henceforth.

Anyway, a couple of weeks back, we went for the movie Padmavati or Padmavat or whatever. Pushing aside the still hanging heavy fracas all around regarding the movie, we went.
Or rather I went; dragging B along.
We were fully aware of the kind of movies the guy makes and so had kept all our logic, better judgements and expectations at home.
I had watched Bajirao Mastani earlier and had actually liked it ( which B attributes to my lack of knowledge regarding the real story ... and which I agree to ) ;
and have actually sat through Devdas the whole length through ( which again B attributes to have nothing to do with the movie but his company ) ... to which I agree too.
And had wondered just how bad can this new one be.

Well , we were not even halfway through the movie and I had already started to plead 'let's leave'.
B grinned and stayed put.
He had actually given me a look when I had said that I wanted to see the movie for the sets and grandeur that its maker is so known for.
Even if I am not one to be so frivolous.
So, that is what I was expected to do ... sit through the movie and all its 'grandeur'.

To top it, the stale samosas and lukewarm cold drink did not help at all.
Inox, Bund Garden Road, Pune, has been our favourite haunt for watching movies. 
But not anymore.
Maintenence is zero , the food is appalling and the screen lighting is way too poor.
The whole movie was such a disappointment just because of that dim lit screen.
And the cherry on the cake was Inox's latest hobby ... cutting scenes.
This is worse during weekdays when a whole movie starts and ends within an hour and a half ... including breaks.
As well as advertisements .... which are innumerable during half time ... so much so that one actually wonders if someone has forgotten to restart the movie.

With a heavy heart I promised never to visit Inox Bund garden, ever again.

upma tikki
The third disappointment came this weekend when we, for lack of doing anything better, decided to drive down the old Pune Mumbai highway for a lunch in one of the dhabas on the roadsides.
Pune's spring is fabulous.
And this weather is to be outdoors .... in the bright sun, cool breeze that has a hint of summer and beautiful evenings that have started to tarry a wee little longer before turning dark.
So off we went.

While we had already tried the food at Sunny da dhaba and Toni da dhaba, we hadn't tried Babbi da dhaba.
To be very honest, there isn't much difference between the three ... foodwise.
All of them serve the same, red coloured tandoori chicken.
I have been on the lookout for a good Butter chicken ever since I left home ... where we got the best butter chicken ever in the Punjabi dhabas on the highways.... and have tried umpteen number of places, risking health.
Only to be disappointed, as always.
This time too was not an exception.
The Butter chicken that came was bloody red in colour, with strips of boneless chicken in the overly sweet gravy, that promptly stained my fingers with a colour that refused to go till the next day.
B's dal makhni was full of Rajma and had the strong smell of raw turmeric.
The dry Chole was however good .... just stir fried Pindi Chole with onions and some masalas.
And I loved the crisp tandoori rotis .... made of maida though.

And that was not the end of the story.
Exactly five minutes into our return journey, I could feel that familiar soreness in my throat and the feeling of choking.
The darned food had ajinomoto / monosodium glutamate in it !!
It is usual for small eateries to add ajinomoto to dals and gravies as taste enhancer .... for that special, smoky flavour, these  days.
Most people do not know, or not notice or don't care.
But I do because I am allergic to ajinomoto .... hence no better tester than me.
And since eating in small joints is now a thing of past for us, the ajinomoto thing had completely skipped my mind.

The only saving grace that evening was the evening itself.
As we drove homewards by the beautiful, dark grey hillocks against the setting sun, we talked about the old days when we would hop on our trusty old bike and zoom off towards the highways, with hardly any traffic to deal with on the way, and sit beside the road at any eatery or dhaba and enjoy a good meal of hot rotis and a fragrant, simple dal.
Life sure has changed.
And so has Pune; drastically.

upma tikki
Coming to today's recipe, it is not much of one.
Long back, during the monsoon months, I had made Upma one day, for breakfast.
And had a bulk of leftover.
Asked my blogger friends and got varied recipes out of which I took a little from all and made these tikkis or patties.

My Upma already had onions and grated coconut, so all I did was add some boiled potatoes and used some dal water (from the chana dal / Bengal gram lentils that I had boiled for later use ) to soften it.
Plain water would have diluted the taste; also the water from the boiled dal added to the flavour too.

Threw in some chopped, fresh green chillies and a spoonful of Maharashtrian peanuts chutney for some zing.
Rolled them in breadcrumbs seasoned with chilli flakes and fried them with very few drops of oil in my well seasoned iron tawa / skillet.
Some ketchup and adrakwali chai ( ginger tea ) on the side and we happily welcomed the dark skies and the drizzle that day. 

upma tikki

I had clicked the photos on my phone ... so I know they are not much to write home about.
But do try these crisp on the outside and soft, 'melt in the mouth' inside  tikkis the next time you have some leftover Upma.
I know you will love them.

Make for perfect snacks anytime of the day ... especially during winter and the cool monsoon months.

Cheerio all!!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Chanar Jilipi / Chena jilapi / Syrup soaked cottage cheese circles

chanar jilipi

My feet are itching to set off on the road again. My heart is restless and is longing for new visions.
Not goal visions; visual visions.
Like looking out of the window and seeing the countryside fly by. It can be a window of a train or the car ... I don't care much for flights because there is no countryside to look out at, but right now a flight will do very well too.
I just need to get out.

Last year was a whirlwind .... full of travels.
Even before we had emptied our suitcases, we were off again.
So much so that I had no time to update my travel blog, much as I wanted to.
January had started with Hampi and Bangalore, which we did by road and had way too much fun, then Rajasthan just a day after we reached back, which was by train, in
March we were in Mahabaleshwar, by road, Jaipur again in May, by flight,
July in Lonavla and September and October in the US of A, which included Miami, Florida and Disneyland, Orlando too.
I do have a very sincere intention of updating Country Roads with these trips, but not before I wade through the hundreds of photographs and select a few.

The weather, in Pune right now, is fabulous and it would be criminal if not soaked in.
A thought we are taking very seriously.
So we are going out, visiting exhibitions, sales, music programmes and sometimes eating out too.
We have drastically cut down on our eating out ... but do visit our old favourites once in a while.
Where we know the food ... read quality ... is good and the service polite and warm.
Umpteen number of eateries have sprung up in Pune in the past few years but quality is one thing that helps us decide which to try and which not to.
Most places will start of well and then quickly deteriorate in quality .... so we strike it off after two or three visits.
Others will start off weak, but gain momentum and realise the importance of the quality of food.

chanar jilapi

Besides, both of us love home cooked food and very very simple food. If you read my recipes or have tried them out, you will know just how light my cooking is.
And both of us love our food that way.
Give B a dal and rotis and he is the happiest person in the world.
Give me a dal with rice and I am happy.
Give me a light bhaja along with it and I am the happiest girl around.

So when I turned a year older a few days back, B wanted to go out for lunch.
And had been trying select a good place for lunch or dinner.
I, on the other hand, was not being helpful.
Because I did not want to eat out.
A plate of dal, bhaat and begun bhaja was calling out to me in my mind.
I was missing home, my family and the numerous phone calls did not help.
So, when it was late noon, I told B to give up searching.
And set off into the kitchen to cook. That is where I find solace.
So cooked a full meal of dal, roti and sabzi for B and a Chicken curry and Mishti bhaat / Polau for myself.
Indulged myself with a few aloo bhaja too.
There was Tomato Khejurer chaatni in the fridge.

And all these made a happy plateful( here is a shot) for me.

chanar jilipi
And I made Chanar Jilipi.
Or Chenna jalebis. Or Chenna jilapi ( in Odia ).
Or sweets made from fresh cottage cheese.
Call them by any name you want to.
I have been wanting to try my hand at making these for a while now.
And it was such a soul satisfying job .... by the time I finished and stepped out of the kitchen, I was smiling.

These light, soft, delicate, syrup soaked roundels of sweetness are pretty easy to make.
All you need to do is handle them with care.

Need :

Milk - 1 litre
Juice of lemon - 2 tbsp (or more if you need )
Fine semolina / sooji - 1 tbsp
Maida / APF - 1 tbsp ( a little more if you feel the jilipis break when forming )
Sugar - 1 coffee cupful
Water - 3 coffee cupfuls
Green cardamom - 3, crushed and powdered
Cooking oil - 5 tbsp
Ghee - 2 tbsp

chanar jilipi
 How to :

Boil milk.

Add the lemon juice to curdle and make the chana / chenna / cottage cheese.

Strain well. Keep it in the strainer or hang it in a muslin cloth to drain the water well.
But don't make it too dry. It should have some water left in it.

Heat the water and sugar in a heavy pan till sugar dissolves and the water comes to a boil.

After an hour, knead the chana with the semolina and maida till very soft and light.

Add the powdered cardamom and mix well.

Take small balls out of the kneaded chana and roll on a flat plate to make a thick, longish shape.
You can use a little ghee in your hands and on the plate so that the balls do not stick.

Gently twist the long shape into a circle.

Heat the oil + ghee in a heavy, flat bottomed pan.

When hot, gently let in the chana circles into it.

Fry one side till brown and then gently turn it over.

Remove carefully and let into the sugar syrup.

Soak well for a good two or three hours before serving.

 chanar jilipi

Wish you all a very happy spring!
Go out, enjoy the sun, the breeze, the flowers and be alive!!

Enjoy !!!