Showing posts with label Jain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jain. Show all posts

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tulsi-Adrak ki chai: warmth for your heart.


Boy, is it cold outside! We've had 3 rounds of snow storms, and rain, at least the same many times as well. We even got a snow day at work this past Friday. I entertained myself by making Instant Coffee- Indian style (more on that later) and a perfectly well turned out Banana-Berry bread. Now they predict a severe weather watch for tomorrow as well. 

But this morning, as I smelled my morning cuppa made with the newly acquired prized ingredient while gazing out at the pouring rain, I was reminded of my mom…again. Her go to cure for everything monsoon  - getting drenched, runny nose, body aches - was a cup of milky, aromatic broth, generously infused with wild-growin Tulsi leaves on our balcony. I was so used to tea with Tulsi  that my first couple of years in USA I felt truly deprived and tried desperately to get a plant survive with me. I got them multiple times from our local temples, but the seedling never grew healthy enough to be useful. Then I gave up. I tried using Italian basil in my tea- didn't even come close to my needs. And until recently, I had even forgotten how heavenly a Tulsi infused chai smelled like….But let me start from the beginning…..

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gajar Ka Halwa - slow cooker


Gajar-Ka-Halwa and Delhi winters are synonymous, in more sense than one.  Start November, and fresh, red juicy carrots flood the vegetable markets. By December, the were the most prolific fresh produce you’d find for the next three months. This deluge of carrots also coincided with the festive and the marriage season back home. There just was no escaping this rich Indian fudge like sweet made with fresh grated carrots, milk, and loads of ghee.  

Although it requires relatively few ingredients, the actual recipe varies from family to family. My mom’s style of cooking this popular North Indian dessert involved roasting the grated carrots with  a humongous amount of pure ghee in a heavy bottomed karahi, till the moisture evaporates completely. Then she’d add whole milk and sugar and cook till the carrots were mushy and milk evaporated. Then she’d top off with khoya, nuts and raisins and crushed cardamom seeds.  It was melt in your mouth delicious, but it also took a greater part of half- a- day from start to finish to get it done. Whenever I made it here in the US, I never got it right. First because I did not have any heavy-bottomed cast iron pots to cook it in- so the milk eventually, almost always, got stuck towards the end and gave me the burnt flavor. Second; for all my faux-health conscious issues, I always skimp on the ghee….and third, my patience usually lasts about 45 min or so. So if it don’t cook by then, I just assume it’s done :-)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weekend Morning Brunch with Samosa

We grew up in a time when schools and offices in India dictated a 6-day work-week rule. To re-affirm Sunday as his day off from work, my dad did all the things that he normally wouldn’t on a week-day. He was always an early riser, but on Sundays, he made tea for mom and himself.   He also let her sleep that extra half-hour - a big concession since he was a stickler for time and schedule. My dad was also a foodie, as well as overtly conscious of hygiene. He loved eating spicy chaat and “gourmet" food; but then insisted that his digestion-related issues were because of the unhygienic conditions of the roadside stalls rather than his over-eating. In his mind, the perfect solution was to start a Sunday Brunch tradition where he insisted that we break free of the dal-roti-sabzi routine and cook something “special". My mom wasn’t too keen initially; but he promised her he would help her with getting the brunch started. And he kept his promise as far back as I can remember….

One of the first recipes I remember him bringing home is that of a Samosa. He had it on a piece of a greasy, lined notebook sheet, with step-by-step diagrams for my mom to follow. He said he’d given 10 rupees to his favorite roadside-samose-waale-panditji for the recipe. Mommy was so miffed, that she refused to make it for him. So him and I sat down with a bowl full of all-purpose flour and emptied a big jug of water to make the pastry dough. And then, we were stuck- for the recipe said to break the dough into balls while we had a river of white gooey stuff in our bowl…nowhere near a dough that you could break balls out of….The samose-waale-panditji, in all his wisdom, hadn’t bargained for complete novices trying to replicate his recipe. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

A blast from the past: Kalmi Vada

My MIL claims not to be much of a cook herself. But the truth is, her discomfiture in the kitchen makes her one of the better home cooks I know of. She measures and tastes and strives for perfection when most people, including yours truly, get side-tracked by their own confidence into serving without tasting first.  One of the first things I remember from her kitchen was this delicacy she called Kalmi vada.  I had been married barely about a month,  when she made these for the Holi festival over a decade ago.  I remember she'd sounded surprised when I said that I'd never eaten those before. Apparently,  Kalmi vada is a Rajasthani snack....never saw it made in my Rajasthani side of the family though.....

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gulgule: A Childhood Favorite


Holidays have this way of creeping up and evoking nostalgia. Long forgotten memories, of people and things that we have taken for granted for too long....and when life gives you a breather, you turn back to realize that those memories have gotten a lot hazier than you ever thought they could. 

Today we celebrated Karwa Chauth- an annual ritual I grew up with - a day, that my mom described as her day off. For according to tradition she couldn't touch any needles.  Without her sewing machine or knitting needles, she had the whole afternoon to while away. And she did that by spoiling herself and me. She couldn't eat or drink till moon-rise. But that didn't keep her out of the kitchen. Together, we made a whole bunch of goodies for the special dinner at night; went shopping for red glass bangles and bright red vermillion, oiled, washed and braided our waist long hair. Around mid afternoon, she sat me down to listen to the "katha"- mythological folk-lores glorifying the day of Karwa Chauth- before handing me a plate of the mouthwatering, strongly fennel-flavored Gulgule.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

For the love of Gaundh- Traditional Jain Gum-Nut-Coconut Brittle.

This post here, has languished in the draft format for more than 15 days now. It was meant to be a quick one, to coincide with the occasion that it is associated with; namely the Jain fasting days of Paryushan or Das Lakshan Parv. But time flew by quickly. And life got busier than it has been all summer.  I will try to get a bit more organized and regular, but meanwhile, this is what you've been waiting for - another one of my MIL's specialities. She's made it every year that I've been with her during these days of fasting. The first couple of times, I didn't pay much attention. But then last year, by the time I figured that I'd like to know how to make it, she was already done. So this year, I was ready. Made sure she made it on a weekend, at a time when I was around, and got to see it being prepared first hand. As far back as I can recall, this is nothing that I ever saw in my own home.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Panchmel Daal- no onion or garlic.

Making Indian dals look appetizing in a photograph has got to be the trickiest thing ever. I haven't been able to master the art at all.  Which is one of the reasons why my dal posts lie languishing away, gathering dust for ages....as did this one. Then, this past weekend, I had the pleasure of dining with some dear friends. Her mom is visiting from India; and she had made Panchmel dal for dinner.  We played the guessing game for a while, then she finally revealed what went in the dal. I was quite surprised; mostly because despite having the same ingredients, her Panchmel tasted so different from mine.  Guess it is all in a mom's touch....!! But then that dinner prompted me to brush some dust away; and picture or not, this old post is going to see the light for for sure.

Panchmel dal- as the name suggests- is a mixture of five dals; or lentils. You usually mix the lentils with comparable cooking times. In my family, the mix is made up of skinned moong dal (split green gram), red masoor dal (whole red lentils), chane-ki-dal (split Bengal gram), arhar (split red gram) and urad dals (split black gram).  Panchmel dal as a preparation was always considered a delicacy and held in high esteem; reserved for special occasions, such as a son-in-law's visit. Typically served as an accompaniment with baati, or missi roti with dollops of hot, melted ghee on top...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Of 150 ramblings; 4 years; and things gone right....

When the dashboard threw out the number at me, I was surprised. Didn't know I could persist as long as I have, in this blogging atmosphere. A bit over 4years (started on Aug 9th 2009), and this post today will be my 150th. Just goes on to say that I jabber too much :-) Jokes aside, it's your support through all this time that kept the motivation alive.  This blog started as a means to relieve some of those feelings that threatened to suffocate me. It stayed private for a few years, open only to some family and close friends. My Life & Spice became a public blog at the insistence of my "bitter-better half" :-) And there has been no looking back since......

 I couldn't have done it without either A or those of you who are regulars at the blogger site and those that keep the encouragement flowing through my Facebook page. It is for you all that I keep it up through everything else that comes up in everyday life, sharing my trials and errors in the kitchen.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Teej Greetings- with Malpua/ Indian Pancake

Today, I learnt this morning, is Shravani Teej.....the festival of swings and mehendi.

For many many years in my growing up years, the first rains of monsoon would begin an impatient wait for Teej. More often than not, I knew it was around the corner when some strange messenger rang our doorbell with a box-ful of goodies for my mom - saree, red and green bangles, bindi-kajal-sindoor, toe rings, mehendi and mouth watering sweets made especially for my mom by her mom.....The D-day I'd see my mom deck up in all her finery, and dream of looking as beautiful as she did then; someday.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bhature - A Punjabi Flat Bread

I just came back from a 10-day vacation. My plan, apart from doing everything else you do while on vacation, was to catch up with blogging. In anticipation, I loaded up a few pictures, and saved a couple of draft versions of posts.  While I was doing that, I realized that this space of mine has become therapeutic to me. Writing relaxes me; but I have also become addicted to all the lovely comments that you all leave me. The last 10 days, I actually had severe withdrawl symptoms.

The one day I remember, is while visiting some family in Sweden. She made Chole-bhature for dinner. But somehow, her dough for Bhature got too sticky. They were hard to roll, and wouldn't puff up. I asked her her recipe, and realized it was quite a bit different from mine. So I figured, I'd share how I make this quintessential Punjabi flat bread. This may not be an authentic recipe, but this is how my mom told me I could make a fairly sticky dough manageable...and it works quite well.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Of Shakes and Mangoes.

Summer in India, and mangoes are two sides of the same coin. Can you envision one without the other? Summer brought with it initially the green tart unripe kairis- which would instantly be used up to make Aam kaPanna, ambi –pudina ki   chutney or ambiyari daal. As the sun ripened into a ferocious, blistering orange so did the mangoes. The tart turned to juicy, and the savory turned to sweet.  Rather than waste an over-ripe mango, you just made mango shake with lots of sugar in it.

Back again in my grand mother’s place, making a mango shake was a fairly communal event. The aam-wala was a maali from the neighboring orchard who loaded up his donkey with fruit that fell off the trees. Often he’d just plonk himself on somebody’s verandah asking for water to drink. Once the lady of the house came out, he’d expertly cajole the “bai” to taste his fruit.  A little sweet talk, a lot of haggling, and a deal was made.  Then he’d call out in a loud voice letting the neighbors know how this bai approved of his fruit, and what a deal he was giving her. More often than not, he’d attract several more customers. A few hours later, his donkey went home a load lighter...while the aamwala got loaded up :-)) 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Muchri Roti : And reminiscing about Dad...

I find it strange how memories have a way of popping out of my head at the vaguest moment.  

Recently, I came across something called Muchri Roti on a blog post.  I had no idea what it was. But as I read through the recipe, it was though I was 10yrs. old, standing in my mom's kitchen watching her serve warm-straight-from-the stove rotis to my dad. She had a way of picking up the roti straight from the tawa onto the palm of her hand, lathering it with generous amounts of ghee, and then mushing it up by rolling her palm so that the roti separated into crusty layers. My dad called that roti "Muchri roti"- just like that blog post did.  I had never attached much significance to that name, or that roti. Although sometimes I did wonder why I could never get the flaky layers to separate in my cooking ever. Always attributed it to my lack of experience.  But turns out that Muchri Roti is in a class of it's own....

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Simple and Sweet- Cheeni-Ka-Paratha.


The earliest memories I have of my grandma are of feeding my toddler brother a smushed up roti with ghee-boora (powdered sugar with clarified butter).  She, on a low woven seat we called peedha; and he, toddling about around her with a ball in his hand. All through the summer holidays that's what he and I ate. Naani was the best when it came to indulging picky eaters like us. She didn't insist we eat our veggies, was always ready to make a meal especially for us, and if both options failed; handed us a huge bowl of ghee-boora

Back in Delhi, my mom opted for a no-mess route incorporating the boora, ghee and roti together to make us a Cheeni ka Paratha. When we were very little, she'd roll it up, and hand it to us so we could  eat while we played. My dad occasionally threw a fit, threatening us with cavities and toothless grins, but mommy always found a way to ignore his rants.  As I grew older, my ma and I were often at loggerheads. With daddy gone for work or at school most of my growing up years, this Paratha was what resolved most of our (my) skirmishes....

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Making Paneer at Home...a pictorial


I don't usually do this. It is so much more convenient to buy a block of Paneer from the store than actually make it. But sometimes, when I run out of choices and am craving for something specific (like today), and a trip to Indian store is not even a remote possibility, or if I need fresh crumbled Paneer for preparations like Paneer ki bhurji, I do this. I did explain making Paneer at home here, but here's a quick pictorial from today. 

Paneer

Put milk to heat .....

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shakargandhi-ki-Chaat - Easy Peasy Lemon Sqeezy

Through winter and spring in Delhi, Shakargandhi was a common sight at vegetable vendors. Stacked right next to the potato piles, the two were barely distinguishable. My mom had 2 ways of cooking up this tuber- the first, bury them deep underneath the koyla and wood. in the angeethi (wood-burning stove) and not worry about it for a couple hours at least; gave the best, smoky, juicy shakargandhi ever, The second, teeny-bit less on flavor, but definitely faster was to use a heavy iron tava (griddle) on a very low flame. She never cut up the shakargandhi, and she never used oil. And I could never resist either version....
 
Here in USA, I tried to make Shakargandhi on a hot tava like my mom. Never got it. They got too mushy, the flesh stuck to their skin, and I got very little out of them. When my mom came to visit, she tried to make them as well, without success. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Humble Beginnings: Khichdi

In a country as diverse as India, where language, religion, clothes, celebrations....anything you name,  changes within a few miles, the humble Khichdi holds fort as one unifying force. Gujrat may like its khichdi with Kadhi, and the Southern states may call it Pongal, it still remains a rice and lentil comfort food across India. In Eastern India, it represents traditional Pooja food. At many Kali Baris in Calcutta and at the Jagannath temple in Orissa, we've been handed this out as Prasad after a Pooja. Around the locations that I'm familiar with- Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi- it is a simple dish strictly meant for family times, never ever made for guests or visitors. According to Wikipedia, Khichdi, believed to have originated in South Asia, went global with the British who concoct their own version with fish and eggs and call it Kedegree! And recently, I came across the mention of an Arabic dish called Mujahadra that is nothing but ....our Khichdi

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simplicity at it's finest- Achaari Aloo

I find it pretty amazing that most of my "memories" of people and incidents are somehow also linked with food. Even when food is not the central focus in that memory; it is still prominent.  Not only does my mind take me back to the day that I'm reminded of, but sometimes the feel and smell of the day is revoked as well.  

Traveling with food comes naturally to most of the families from the Indian sub-continent. My MIL packs a stash of "Pooris" and a boiled potato.  After peeling and chopping the potato, she'd mix in some salt and pepper and it was ready to eat with her Pooris. My parents, and my grandparents before them, always travelled with their traditional  potato preparation called "Achaari Aloo" along with wonderfully crisp "Parathas".  As soon as the "tiffin" opened, the smell of this mix between an achaar (pickle) and a subzi permeated the whole train car.  I have these elaborate memories of us sharing our food with whoever happened to be our neighbor in the train car, or got drawn to our berth by the mouth-watering aroma of Achaari Aloo.  Not even my mom could make this dish taste like my grandma's. Towards the end of every summer vacation at my naani's, we'd get a letter from my dad (this was the pre-telephone era in India) requesting that she send him some of her Achaari Aloo and parathas. Naani always did. And daddy got to the food the moment we got home, and ate it all up. If, per chance, there was some left over, he'd tell my mom that he wanted it for breakfast - this from a guy who never ever liked leftovers......

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Osaman: Gujrati Moong Dal Rasam

When in doubt, grab moong daal is my cooking motto. You can always dress up its simplicity by any add-ons you can think of. I add vegetables to it, change my tempering, play with the seasoning. And every little tweak adds a new dimension to this otherwise kind-of-bland lentil. Moong daal in my family was what Arhar daal (pigeon peas) is in my in-laws' home - a no-fail, anytime dish. 

This recipe for a moong dal preperation called Osaman showed up radomly one day on my reading list. As I read through, I was reminded of a dinner at a Gujrati friends' some time ago. As always, not only did my kids get hungry again barely 10min after we'd cleared the table, but baby P rather ungraciously declared that she didn't like the dinner we had earlier and wanted something else.  In true spirit of Indian hospitality, ignoring my embarrassed attempts at cover up, the lady of the house opened up her fridge and kitchen for baby P to pick her dinner from.  The saving grace (sort of)... after she polished off her plate of rice with what seemed to me a soupy daal; baby P walked up to our hostess and declared "Now my tummy is full- that was a good dinner"....This is where I first heard the word Osaman; and that the in the Western state of Gujrat, where food is meant to confirm to the 5 senses of taste- sweet, sour, salty, spicy and tangy, Osaman is usually an integral beginning of any family meal, especially if older family members live with the family.  My incentive for trying it out was 2-fold; (1) Baby P had liked it, and I could hope for a similar "tummy is full" satisfaction if I pulled it off..... and (2) I'd only add to my small repertoire of moong daal recipes. It was a totally win-win situation.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dahi-Vada: with Moong Dal; and Das Lakshan Parv

The Jains' observe a week of renunciation and austerity during the months of August-September; and I gave you a glimpse of that in my last week's post on Paryushan. As with any other matter of the heart; the Jain religion is split up in the middle into two major sects. And despite being almost identical in faith and lifestyle, the observances between the two sects vary. Which is why one Jain is fasting this week; ending on Sept 29th - the Anant Chaturdeshi day, equivalent to the Samvatsri in my last post. Which is also why, in my home, the entire experience gets extended to 18 days (A and I come from the two different sects of Jains, and in my zest to neither give up and yet be accepted, I've been trying to assimilate the differences in observance). This year, I've split my observances with my visiting MIL, who is responsible for the 10-day long Das-Lakshan Parv, as opposed to my 8 days of Paryushan. I definitely get the better deal out of this whole arrangement :-))

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Paryushan & Samvatsri: The Jain regimen and significance. Plus my menu.

I'd never thought I'd do this...a post about religious beliefs. But then I figured, that I did write about Diwali, and Holi and other festivals that are a part our social culture, so why not Paryushan- something that I grew up with and is an integral part of my memories.  I am not the best person to be telling you about this practice, for I myself know very little. But I'll attempt a little write up nevertheless. 

The 8-day long change in lifestyle that we call Paryushan typically adhered to at the end of the rainy season; or Chaturmas. Normally, we associate festivals with gaiety and indulgence. Instead, Paryushan is a celebration of solitude, minimalism, introspection and self-restraint.  The guidelines to be followed for spiritual up-liftment include modesty, self-restraint, penance, renunciation and celibacy. The strictest of my family members would sustain themselves only on a handful (chullu) of boiled water for these 8 days. The others took a pledge, or Niyam, to alter their lifestyle to fit the soul of this whole process.  I remember my dad making more time for meditation and introspection (Samayik); while my mom, who was always restless about getting things done for us kids would give up some of her favorite foods and activities, and just slowed down.