Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An event and a Chaat

This month, we celebrated my daughter's 7th birthday. As I sat there mulling over what make-ahead starters we could have for the gathering of 40 or so friends, my memory registered seeing a blog competition about legumes the day before . A quick google brought me up to this announcement by Sia of Monsoon Spice who is hosting Susan's event this month. And an idea was born! I decided to make an effortless matar chaat, so popular on the streets of Old Delhi. It is easy, make ahead, and was real successful at my get-together. Unfortunately, there was no time to take pictures of the actual thing - I promise to remedy this soon enough!

Zhatpat Chatpat Matar Chaat
(Dried peas salad)
Dried green peas 100g soaked for about 4h 
Cucumber 2
Onion 1
Tomato 1
Lemon for juice 1
Red/Orange pepper 1
Ginger juice 1 tsp
Apple juice 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Green chillies 2-3/ to taste
Chaat Masala to taste

Now, it is all a matter of tossing everything together!
  1. But first of all, drain the soaked peas and cook them al dente. I used a pressure cooker, and cooked for about 10 min. (till two pressure whistles) in 1/2 cup of water. When done, the peas are almost dry. 
  2. Chop all the veggies as desired- I had kids at the party so I chopped them up real fine! 
  3. Toss the veggies together with apple juice, lemon juice and ginger juice and reserve till the peas have cooled down. 
  4. Now mix the veggies and peas together, add the green chillies, salt and chaat masala. Keep aside for 30 min or more, to blend the spices together.
And voila, you have the chaat from streets of Chandni Chowk! Serve it with the spicy pudiny-dhaniya chutney and sweet and sour Imly chutney on the side, for that additional spice. The street vendor back home will serve you this chaat garnished with julienne of sweet radish and ginger, sprinkled with cilantro and sev and an additional wedge of lemon. Try all the frills- you won't be disappointed! Another option is to serve it with toasted pita bread on the side. This here, then, is my entry for September's My Legume affair.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Musings Sweet and Sour

It's the little things in life that make a big difference, a smile, a kind word or gesture, or even a thought can make your day. I long for time to watch the sun and clouds, sit and do nothing or play with my kids without worrying about chores left undone, almost as much as I long for my mom's perfect come-home-to lunches during my growing up years. My mom, like everyone else's mom, was the greatest cook on earth. And I, like most of you (I hope), took her cooking for granted. She didn't have any recipes written down, and I had no interest in learning how to cook. At first, it didn't matter. I could cook the everyday stuff reasonably well, so we didn't go hungry. 

But then, as years passed, that nostalgia for mom's food came out of shadows and took on giantesque proportions. We ate out, I tried to cook like ma, but it wasn't the same. It was never the same. I could never figure out the little something that made my mom's cooking so extra special. So, please forgive me if I bang my own drum to inform you that I've finally perfected ma's technique of making this sweet and sour imli chutney. On second thoughts, I might even have beat her to it.....(okay guys back off, I was just kidding! I know I can't be better than my own mother....). This common accompaniment to most Indian snacks and chaats is surprisingly simple and almost makes itself once you get the ingredients together. 
Imly and date Chutney 
Imly (Tamarind) 100g 
Gur (Jaggery) 75g or to taste 
Kala Namak 1tbsp/ to taste 
Red chilli powder 1/2 tbsp/to taste 
Sultanas/ Raisins A fistful 
Dates about 10, pitted and chopped 
Fresh pomegranate seeds about 1/4 cup (optional) 

  1. The tamarind I used is available as a block in most Indian grocery stores. I took half of this block and soaked it in about 300ml water for 3-4hrs. When the tamarind softens, mash it in your palms and separate the seeds and fibers from the pulp. You can add more water and soak for an additional 1h (or even overnight) if you wish.
  2. Pass the tamarind paste through a large mesh soup strainer. Collect the tamarind water, and try to separate as much pulp as you can. 
  3. That's it, like I said, this chutney will cook itself. Add the salt and half of gur to tamarind water, and cook on low heat for about 20 min with occassional stirring. 
  4. Taste the chutney, add the rest of the gur, dates and raisins and keep cooking till the volume is reduced to half. You might want to do an occasional taste test and add the gur slowly, since both raisins and dates will also contribute to the sweetness. 
  5. And lastly, add the fresh pomegranate seeds just before you turn off the stove, and your chutney is ready! The little things that made a big difference in the chutney this time ( I think),
  1. Separating tamarind from seeds rather than the ready-to-use paste that I always used. I think the little fiber that remains from tamarind block adds to the texture and taste.
  2. Kala Namak or black rock salt instead of regular salt
  3. And finally, the pomegranate!
I've finally hit the taste-pot with this one! Linked to Pickles & Chutneys Event.

Fasting Feasting

My thought for today is- why does fasting make you think of food? I am really not kidding, I challenge you to prove otherwise! Probably that is why the fasting holidays in any religion end with scrumptious feasts! The nine days of Sharad Navratris, saluting the strength, power and the femininity of the Supreme, are celebrated with a flurry of fasting, poojas and all-night dandiyas. The Navratras also herald the beginning of the annual Hindu festive season. The fasting during these days means that you can only eat one meal a day, and you can't eat "Anaaj", which loosely translated includes all grains, dals and legumes so staple to an Indian diet. That brings us back to comment on feasting - when I decided to fast these Navrartras, I had all intentions of truly fasting, with only a once-a-day fruit diet. On the very first day, I had my stomach growling with hunger at 11am, and I was hallucinating about the yummy food my mom made during this time. I could smell, and even taste, the sabudaana vadaas, makhane-ki- kheer, kuttu ke pakore, sabudaana kheer, aloo tikki and what not.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Timeless Ritual

Today, I am sad, and happy. I'm happy to see my daughter back in school, and sad as I realize that she's grown up a whole year today! As schools re-open and kids go back to school, I'm reminded of two sayings that I read recently. First, that if it wasn't for schools to take children away, moms would be inmates of an asylum! Second, Labor day is a wonderful holiday because it is the end of summer vacation- it would have been called Independence Day, if we did not already have one! Both, so true. But then, I'm thinking like a mom.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Going Nuts and Bananas

Well folks, I'm back again. One more impromptu "We're craving for...." request sent me hurrying over to the kitchen. Don't get me wrong; I do feed my kin. But they definitely have a knack for putting me up against odds. Oh sorry! No more rambling; here's what happened. One of the holiest season amongst Jains is what is observed as 8-day long Paryushan by the Svetambra sect or the 10 holy days of Das lakshna by the Digambars. Its essentially celebrated as a festival of forgiveness, and observance includes fasting and abstaining from your favorite foods, to build self-control. So, we (read "I") decided that my family will give up store-bought baked products (as in cakes), which is essentially a staple snack around my home.