Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Relaxed Morning

So Diwali is over. Except for the sweets and food that have found comfortable places in me and are going to take a lot of dedicated hours in the gym to get rid off. We still have a few more crackers to burst this evening. I think I was around 4 when a sparkler fell on my foot. And ever since, I have not been excited about fireworks. Till about a few years back when N insisted I light a flowerpot. Now, every year thats exactly what I do- light the flower pots and the ground wheel (chakra).

We had a yummy breakfast, courtesy Mom-in-law and Seema, of Pongal and Tomato Chutney. Pongal used to be a Sunday staple back in my parents' home.


1 cup uncooked rice
3/4 cup moong dal
1 small piece of asafoetida or a pinch of its powder
7-8 curry leaves
2 green chillies
1 tsp cumin
8 peppercorns
1.5" finely chopped ginger
Salt, Ghee, oil

Pressure cook the rice and dal with 5 cups of water with salt, asafoetida and peppercorns till soft. Heat a mixture of 2 tbsp gingelly oil and ghee or just ghee. Fry the other ingredients in it for a minute, add the cooked rice and mix well. Add a little more ghee so the rice begins to leave the sides of the pan. Garnish with cashews fried in ghee.

Tomato Chutney
4 ripe red tomatoes chopped
1 big onion chopped
1" ginger chopped fine
1 green chilly chopped
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp sambhar powder
1/2 tsp mustard
1 pinch asafoetida/hing
Turmeric powder, salt to taste, oil
1 sprig curry leaves, 1 tsp coriander chopped fine
Heat 2 tbsp gingelly oil in a pan. Add hing, mustard seeds, curry leaves, ginger, chilly and stir for a minute. Add the chopped onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Mix in the tomatoes, sambhar powder and a pinch of turmeric powder. Meanwhile, dilute the tamarind paste in 1/2 cup water. Add to the tomatoes after 4-5 minutes. Mix well, add salt and let cook till the veggies are all cooked and the chutney reaches desired consistency. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy Deepavali

Happy Deepavali to one and all

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Kerala temple murals

We finally bought a few paintings that are in the Kerala temple art style. N has been very keen to find at least one of them for a while. Our search started in May when we visited a restaurant called Spice Route Courtyard housed in the really Imperial Hotel in New Delhi. We loved it- both for the amazing South East Asian cuisine and the interiors that had artwork we fell in love with but couldn't identify.

We saw another beautiful piece at Ambara in Bangalore and found out more about it. The third time was when I visited Dakshina Chitra a couple of months ago and found 7-8 pieces of this artwork. We picked a couple of pieces and are still in love with them. So we thought our wait was finally over and we started planning where in our apartment we should give them pride of place, not realising it would take a whole 4 weeks to get the canvas framed.

So now, we have the framed canvasses... but are now waiting for the VIP called "The Carpenter" to show up someday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The illusion called Bangalore- 1

I am usually a cheerful person, but the 1 hr 45 min ride from home to work to travel a distance of about 25 kms in bumper to bumper traffic was enough to make the cheeriest soul grumpy!

Bangalore is an extremely difficult place to live and work. It is only the the weather, which is pleasant through most of the year that makes it compelling to overlook the awful roads, the construction rubble everywhere, drivers on the road who have no road sense whatsoever, poor work ethic and the rampant corruption.

It appears as if growth in the city has slowed down visibly in the last 18 months. Except of course, the government PR machinery and the wonderful Times of India that probably have their head deep inside sand and are yet to acknowledge the stagnation of a city with a lot of potential.

Its probably a standing joke to check what futuristic building/ flyover/underpass/road/etc.... the Times prints on page 2 and 3 daily which is along the lines of the regular tease on page 3 of most tabloids. Yesterday it was the picture of an underpass on a road that first needs to be relaid, and one I have to pass through to get to Bangalore. That the underpass work is expected to be completed in 2-3 days is most ironic.

This much touted "Silicon Valley" of India has a good percentage of non Kannadigas who have made the city their home. But it is a little odd that all government documents and bus signs are only published in Kannada. I am sure the bureaucracy has its own reasons for doing so but what I would like to know is why then go on and on about Bangalore being the Silicon Valley? I doubt a visitor from the real Silicon Valley would be able to use the public transport here. And what about when a non Kannadiga on the roads needs to use the bus to go somewhere?How is he/she supposed to get to his/her destination? I also have no idea if any of the official documents we have signed state what they are supposed to state or are actually something totally random. And while we are on this subject, why should the recently concluded Bangalore have been conducted in English? Why not compel all CEO's to speak in Kannada while in Karnataka?

So why do we continue to live in this city if its such an unpleasant place to stay in? One reason is the undying hope and optimism that people have about things improving. Another reason is that Bangalore is a really cosmopolitan city because people from all over the country and from many parts of the world have settled here, mostly seduced by the wonderful weather.

More on this another time...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Reviewing Restaurants

I love eating out. And I like trying different restaurants and different cuisine. And I manage to convince Jin to do the same, difficult though that task is. We now eat out a couple of times a week during lunch. Lunch on other days is courtesy my cook Seema.

We tried out a new restaurant on MG Road, Bangalore a month ago. Its called EmGee's -- not very inspired, I agree. Its a vegetarian multi cuisine kind of place, on the lines of the ubiquitous Udipi restaurant in Bombay. It serves the different kinds of dosas, pav bhaji, sandwiches, chaat, punjabi, chinese.. you name it and its there.

But the food is amazing and given the location and the well done interiors, the prices are amazing too. Especially for someone like me who grew up eating at Udipi restaurants in Bombay and missed them when I moved to Madras. Somehow, I never liked the sambhar served at restaurants in Madras. We try to eat there ever other week if possible. So much for being adventurous and trying out new places. A meal for two would cost about Rs.200, if you really stuff yourself.

Another place we like is Mast Kalandar on CMH Rd. It serves veggie punjabi khana but in a fast food style format. The interiors are bright clean and with no unnecessary artwork and heavy furniture. Its just got bright tables and chairs and a friendly staff. They have awesome parathas and I highly recommend this restaurant for a quick bite. We practically lived out of there a year ago when we had a project to complete in that area. Meal for two costs between Rs. 250 to Rs.350.

We had a nice lazy Sunday listening to old hindi film songs on Worldspace. Jin wanted me to make some nice good old fashioned south indian dinner. We had keerai kuzhambu, lemon rasam and vazhakai curry for dinner.

Lemon rasam:

3 tbsp tur dal, pressure cooked with a little turmeric and mashed lightly
1 big ripe tomato chopped
1" piece of ginger pounded gently to release juice
1-2 green chillies slit lengthwise
a pinch each of turmeric and cumin seed
a few sprigs of curry leaves, finely chopped coriander leaves for garnish
2 tsp ghee or clarified butter

Add ginger, chopped tomatoes, chillies, turmeric, curry leaves and salt to 3/4 cup of water and boil till tomatoes are cooked and soft. Add the mashed dal and mix well. If the rasam is too thick, thin it down with more water till desired consistency. Fry cumin in 2 tsp ghee and pour on top of rasam. Garnish with coriander.

Enjoy it with hot steamed rice with a little ghee or just by itself as soup.

Vazhakai or Raw Banana Curry

2 raw bananas cut in half lengthwise and sliced horizontally
2 tbsp grated coconut
1/2 cup tamarind water (soak a small ball of tamarind in water or dissolve 1/2 tsp tamarind paste in water
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp chana dal
1-2 green chillies slit vertically or 2 dried red chillies
few sprigs of curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric, pinch of asafoetida (hing), salt to taste
2 tbsp coconut oil

Cook the chopped banana in tamarind water with turmeric and salt for a few minutes till just lightly cooked Strain excess water. Heat oil, add asafoetida, mustard seeds, chana dal, curry leaves and chillies. Stir briefly, lower heat and add grated coconut. Roast gently till it begins to turn red and add the cooked banana. Increase heat slightly and cook for 10 mins till banana starts browning.
Eat as a side dish with rasam and rice

Monday, October 15, 2007

Goan Holiday

We are back from our short family vacation to Goa. Or rather, to the Club Mahindra Resort at Varca Beach.

Oddly, in spite of having lived in Bombay for 20 years, I hadn't ever been on a Goan vacation. Last week was a nice timeout from the regular monotony of our busy and active life. And Ananya got enough time with just the two of us. The last time she had that luxury was during our London trip in August 2006- which we all really enjoyed, but more about that in some later blog.

We have had the Club Mahindra membership for over 5 years but just got around to using it. And I must say, we were pleasantly surprised. The resort is, as are most of their other resorts, quite a distance away from the city centre (about 30 kms from the Airport). While this distance doesn't in any calculation, seem far off, it is when considering nearby amenities and infrastructure. The resort is a haven for holidaying groups of families and a definite no-no for couples looking to spend some quiet time together in a romantic environment. They have a couple of big nice swimming pools, with a lot of space segregated for toddlers and young children to splash about, which is what Ananya did most of the time.

For Jin and me, the highlight was the very brief jet ski ride available on the beach nearby. Half a minute after I got one, after a lot of misgiving, we rode into the biggest wave ever and I was sure that was it for me! Miraculously, the guy driving the scooter held on to the handlebars and successfully steered us into the next big wave. Thankfully I was too busy hanging on to the scooter for dear life, else I would have started blabbering about wanting to get back to the safe and solid shore that seemed to be getting further away from me. However, I survived the experience and I loved it. There is something amazing about being right in the middle of the deep blue sea and nothing else around. I can't wait to do that again sometime.

We also visited the Shantadurga temple- why is it that there is someone in the family (in this case, my mom) who manages to influence a mandatory visit to a temple? My mom had gone to this temple before Ananya was born and made this "vaenduthul" for her safe birthing. This temple is quite old, but what's interesting is that the temple architecture has the look of an old church.

I really wanted to visit the Anjuna flea market that I heard and read so much about, but apparently that is only open between November and April. Bummer!!Maybe next time.

Comfort food time. Plain old yummy mac-n-cheese, that can be dished up in no time at all.
Mac and Cheese

1 cup shell pasta- I used Fettucine here, though its usually macaroni if its just for Ananya
1 cup milk
3 tbsp grated cheese- I usually use a mix of cheddar and Parmesan
Salt n Pepper to taste

Boil macaroni as per package instructions. Just before you drain it, heat milk in a shallow pan till hot. Add the drained pasta, reserving a bit of water for later. Once you have mixed the pasta and milk, slowly add the cheese and pepper. Voila! Before serving garnish with a little more cheese and parsley. On days I want to add veggies and make it a healthy meal, I steam broccoli, peas, carrots and add them along with the pasta and increase the amount of milk used.

My mom used to make a nice and flavourful Indian version of macaroni with garlic, onion, capsicum, tomatoes and regular spices. And we, my sis and I, really loved it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mothering or Smothering

It's true that one can learn from children. I knew about this 4 years ago when Ananya was born. I learnt to recognise when she was still hungry (even after a 20 minute feed-time limit prescribed by my doc) and when she was full after 8 minutes too. And she was the perfect baby- nursed well, slept well, played well.

So, why is it that 3 years later I am wondering what went wrong? Why is it that I am obsessed about her eating each meal well at the right time? And when am I going to be able to let go and let her start learn the meaning of hunger and learn to eat by herself? Because its high time she started, given that neither of us has the time to spend 4 hours a day feeding her.

So what if a couple of meals that she hasn't eaten well translate to an immediate and obvious loss of weight. Yes, I know I needn't worry if she is active and cheerful. Why am I still feeling guilty each time I try to enforce the "eat by yourself" rule?

And why is it that a lot of kids her age are still being fed by parents/grandparents/nannies? I sit because we don't know how to change eating habits of our children or is it something we do to pass time so we can justify to ourselves about how caring/busy we are? Isn't it time we really started living for ourselves and not for our children?

And how on earth can we expect them to learn how to eat by themselves if we don't let go? Didn't you let go of your baby when he or she was starting to crawl, walk, run, go to school? It is heartbreaking to see your baby stumble, fall and cry. But its equally heartwarming to see her tears dry up in a minute and start all over again.

I think I feel clearly now, that I really want Ananya to be independent and not have to worry about her food habits. Its time I let go of her so she can start her new activity and learn by herself. So sweetheart, its time for your new lesson. You have no idea how difficult it is going to be for me not to spoon up your lunch and feed it to you, when you return tired and sleepy from school. But I am going to persevere. And I know you are going to learn really well, lovely child, that you are.

And this is also a lesson for me. To let go. And to live for myself.

Its Ganesh Chaturthi today and I am planning on making kozhakattai now. If it turns out well, will post the results. Jinny, Ananya and I went around our neighbourhood looking for some Ganesha idols in the morning and picked a nice clay idol. We decided its time we started celebrating some important festivals given that we have settled down in our current home, for now.

I am sharing one of Ananya's favourite meals, which I plan to make for dinner tonight.

Puri and Aloo (potato) gravy

Aloo gravy

This is one of my dad's favourite side dishes, but when we were growing up, my sister and I didn't quite appreciate it. But it's one of the easiest dishes to make, especially when you don't have must time and it can be served with puris, rotis and hot rice.

4-5 medium sized potatoes boiled, peeled and cubed
1 cup ripe tomatoes chopped fine
1/2 tsp jeera (cumin) seeds
1 tbsp dhania jeera powder (see below for recipe)
1 tsp haldi (turmeric) powder
1 tsp ground chilli powder
salt, oil
finely chopped coriander for garnish

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, fry jeera seeds, add the dhania jeera powder and fry for half a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3-5 minutes on a medium flame. Add the haldi and chilli powder, mix well. Then add the potatoes, half a cup of water (based on required consistency of gravy). Cook for another 5-7 minutes on a low flame. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Dhania-Jeera powder

1 measure dhania (coriander) seeds
1 measure jeera (cumin) seeds

Dry roast each separately till they just begin to turn colour. Cool and grind them to a coarse/fine powder and store in an airtight container for up to 1 month. I use this to flavour quite a few simple side dishes and my cook Seema makes it every week.


1 cup wheat flour
warm water
1/2 tsp salt
Oil to fry

Knead the flour with salt and warm water, add 1 tbsp hot oil, and knead to make a soft but still ball of dough. Keep aside covered with a mildly damp cloth for 10 minutes. Make small lemon sized balls, and roll out each to 2 inch diameter. Heat oil is a deep pan (kadai). Once you have rolled out about 7-8 of them, fry the puris till cooked and keep them on some paper towels to reduce the oil content in them.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Third time lucky?

I have been trying to get started with a blog for quite some time. The first time was a year ago, with my sis urging me to start writing again. I gave in, not realising that what seemed easy 15 years back, became quite daunting now. So after I enthusiastically set it up and worked on my template for a long while, just to get that perfect look.... I let go, quite easily, I must say.

The second one, I began a few months ago, with my sister-in-law. This was supposed to be a collaborative project with anyone in the family contributing. Or so, thought Srid and me. 2 months down the line, there is just the one entry by Srid, borrowed from Steve Jobs. Thanks Steve.

So, we start again. So what should I write about? Should I restrict myself to a topic or two? Or let loose anything that comes to my mind. (note to myself: definitely not a good idea, given the randomness of my thoughts and inability to concentrate on any one topic at a time!)

While I ponder on that, let me go check on the milk boiling on the stove, on my way to open the door... maybe I should quickly check on whats happening with the cars at Chennai, did I check with Jin about when his flight lands? Should I get a pedicure done today?

Till I figure that out, I am going to post my mom's recipe for Idli Milagai podi... that I keep forgetting and end up having to ask her for every month. This way, I can always refer to it online.

Idli Milagai podi

1 tbsp white sesame seeds (til)
3 tbsp chana dal
3 tbsp urad dal
1 small piece hing
10-15 dried red chillies ( I usually use a mix of the ones we get in Bangalore that are great for colour and the spicy kashmiri chilli)
Coconut oil

Dry roast the til seeds till they just start turning red. Keep aside. Add 1 tsp of coconut oil and fry the hing. Keep aside, then adding a little more oil if required, roast separately the other ingredients. Cool and grind coarsely all, except til. Add til and salt and grind till you get the texture you desire. I personally, like it a little coarse.

Spice up your idli, dosai with a little powder and sesame oil. It probably even tastes good mixed with hot rice and ghee, have'nt tried that though.