Travel Shot: At The Vana Durgai Temple, Kathirmangalam

We spotted this beauty in the grounds of the Vana Durga temple at Kathiramangalam, near Kumbakonam. We made a pit-stop at the temple during our recent visit to Kumbakonam.

Is she resting? Abandoned? The story stays unknown to me. Whatever she might have gone through, she is extremely beautiful and captivating, for sure. I couldn’t resist this picture.

About the Vana Durgai temple, Kathiramangalam

The village of Kathiramangalam, a short drive away from Kumbakonam, houses a beautiful, ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Durga, where this picture was taken. The 6-foot tall idol of the Goddess within has a rustic beauty to it, the same way that the small temple itself does.

There are several legends associated with this temple, popularly called the Vana Durgai (Forest Durga) temple. It is believed that the famed sage Agasthiyar performed penance in the forests at this place, and that it is he who created the idol of Goddess Durga here.

Popular legend has it that the Goddess visits the holy land of Kasi every night, and comes back in the mornings to preside over the temple in the day time. She is believed to be highly powerful, and devotees come from far and near to seek her blessings or relief from their problems. The special pooja held at this temple during Rahu Kaalam is very popular.

Tips for travellers

  1. This temple is located in the midst of an almost forest-like area, with no shops, ATMs or eateries nearby. If you plan to visit, do make sure that you are well prepared for this.
  2. The temple is located roughly 15 km away from Kumbakonam and about 7 km from Mayiladuthurai. Kumbakonam and Mayiladuthurai are the nearest railway stations, while the nearest airport is at Trichy.
  3. A taxi from either Mayiladuthurai or Kumbakonam is the best way to reach this temple.
  4. You can combine a visit to this temple with visits to several other temples in and around Mayiladuthurai or Kumbakonam. Do speak to your cab driver beforehand and fix up an itinerary.
  5. The Rahu Kaalam pooja at this temple is believed to be highly auspicious. If you are interested in witnessing it, do find out the exact timings of the pooja and plan your visit accordingly.
  6. Different kinds of flowers are offered to the Goddess here by devotees seeking relief from different issues. For instance, the ‘manoranjitham’ flower is offered by people seeking reunion for separated couples, while roses are offered by devotees seeking marriage.

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I hope you have been reading and enjoying my posts about our trip to Kumbakonam. If not, please do!

Acquainted, finally: Degree coffee in Kumbakonam

Kumbakonam, in the midst of Masimagam

What dining at a 100-plus-year-old eatery feels like: Sri Mangalambiga Vilas, Kumbakonam

Travel shot: The man and his friend, the beast

Kalyana Sundareswarar temple, Thirumanancheri: The temple of marriages

Travel shot: Kumbakonam vettalai (betel leaves)

Garbharakshambigai temple, Tanjore: Abode of the Mother who protects the womb

 

 

10 Simple But Beautiful Home-Made Ice Creams| 10 Easy Frozen Desserts You Must Try

There’s always room for desserts, particularly if the dessert in question is ice cream! Well, that’s how the husband and I are, both of us with a huge sweet tooth! We often turn to ice cream to satiate our sweet cravings, and that is what led me to experiment with making different flavours of frozen delight at home.

This summer, I tried out a whole lot of simple ice creams at home, and was extremely pleased with the results. I made some classic, old-time flavours – like mango and malai kulfi. Then, I also went on to try out some ‘twisted’ flavours, like chocolate-chilli and sesame-jaggery. Everything was equally loved, equally hungrily devoured. The best part? Every single one of these ice creams was so very easy to make!

Here, I present to you recipes for 10 beautiful flavours of ice cream that you can try out at home very easily. I hope you will try out at least a few of these recipes, the next time you have guests coming over, are hankering for dessert, want to celebrate something, or just want to brighten up a dull day!

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Click on the name of each ice cream, to get the respective recipe!

  1. Lemon ice cream

This is the very first type of ice cream that I tried making at home, and so very special to me. This recipe yields a beautiful, creamy, lemony ice cream that is pleasantly tangy and sweet. The lemon peel in the ice cream elevates its taste to a whole new level!

2. Mango ice cream

Being the sucker for mangoes that I am, how could I not go ahead and make some mango ice cream? The mango lends a lovely all-natural colour and flavour to this ice cream, which is as easy to make as 1-2-3!

3. Sesame & jaggery ice cream

This ice cream is an attempt to recreate the gorgeous, gorgeous Lonavali ice cream I have grown up eating in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Instead of the peanut brittle aka chikki that the ice cream traditionally uses, though, I used sesame-and-jaggery revdi. The revdi, with a hint of rose in it, as well as the jaggery I used to sweeten the ice cream makes it an absolute delight to eat!

4. Meetha paan ice cream

Love meetha paan? Then, you must absolutely try out this ice cream! I created this dessert using meetha paan from a street-side paanwallah, and the end result was perfectly delectable!

5. Mexican chilli-chocolate ice cream

This dessert looks like good old chocolate ice cream, but it is so NOT! Eat a spoonful, and you will find the rich, lovely taste of chocolate swirling on your tongue. The very next moment, the hint of chilli in the ice cream will hit you, in a good way. Try this ice cream out to understand exactly what I mean!

6. Coffee crunch ice cream

The beautiful fragrance of coffee and the crunch of dark chocolate chips – the two things that majorly make up this ice cream – what is to not love? Try out this super simple but utterly scrumptious ice cream the next time you are craving some dessert!

7. Barfee-flavoured ice cream

Do you have some pieces of barfee left over that no one wants to eat? Use them to make this barfee-flavoured ice cream that everyone will want at least a scoop of! Delectable, this is!

8. Cotton candy ice cream

This ice cream is pure nostalgia in a bowl, a throwback to older and simpler times when weekends meant a visit to the neighbourhood park, followed by a treat of buddhi ke baal aka cotton candy. Do try out this pink beauty some time!

9. Malai kulfi

This is an extremely simple dessert, with not many ingredients, but definitely gorgeous in taste. The sinfully creamy texture, hint of rose essence, slivers of pistachio and refreshing sweetness will surely bowl everyone over.

10. Stuffed mango kulfi recipe

Delectable malai kulfi stuffed inside a sweet, juicy, ripe mango – sounds good? Well, let me tell you that this dessert tastes great as well. What’s more, it isn’t very tough to put together either! Try it out, will you?

Which of these simple ice cream recipes did you like the most? Which one/s are you the most tempted to try out?

 

The Living Root Bridge Of Nohwet Village, Near Mawlynnong

I am sure every person who has ever dreamt of going to North-East India has read about the living root bridges that are common in this part of the world. These bridges, made by joining the roots of rubber trees (Ficus Elastica), are very much a part of living trees and are, in consequence, live too. They are believed to have the ability to renew and strengthen themselves, as the trees grow and gain strength. Quite safe and sturdy, these living bridges form part of everyday life for the various tribes inhabiting North-East India.

The lesser known living root bridge of Nohwet Village

The living root bridge of Cherrapunjee, a double-decker one, is perhaps the best known of all such bridges. Crossing the Cherrapunjee living root bridge (a UNESCO heritage site) is said to be a must-do, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. The scenery around is extremely beautiful, but the trek is an arduous one, involving the climbing of over 3000 steps. At the end of this tough trek, you are amply rewarded with a glimpse of the gorgeous Rainbow Falls, but this task that can take hours on end is not meant for the faint-hearted, people who aren’t really fit or used to trekking. Our tour guide advised us not to attempt the trek with a child in tow, and the husband and I acquiesced, understanding that our fitness levels are definitely way below good.

Contrary to popular belief, though, the Cherrapunjee bridge is not the only living root bridge that exists – there are many more, some lesser known, some not known to tourists at all. There’s an equally beautiful and awe-inspiring living root bridge in the village of Nohwet, near Mawylnnong, relatively lesser known to tourists, for instance. Our tour guide suggested we visit this bridge, seeing that we weren’t in a position to do the Cherrapunjee one, considering getting down to this one wasn’t as tough a job to undertake. And that is exactly what we did.

Scenes from the Nohwet living root bridge

The minute you land in Nohwet, a little village, the site of the living root bridge, you begin to feel a definite change in the surroundings around you. This village is very well structured and organised, and it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into its layout. There are proper channels for rain water to flow, cobbled streets and lamp posts. The houses are small but beautiful – thatched huts with a small porch, a little patch of green around the front, hens roosting here and there. Following the example of Mawlynnong, I suppose, Nohwet too is very clean, with spotless roads and conical bamboo dustbins set up everywhere to collect waste. For a proper tourist spot to be that clean is, I believe, something highly commendable.

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A thatched house in Nohwet village

Walking along the beautiful Nohwet village, following the signboards clearly directing us, we headed towards the living root bridge. Along the way are quaint little shops, selling pineapples and local berries and jackfruit and bamboo artifacts and what not.

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A shop selling snacks and refreshments at Nohwet village, just before the trek to the living root bridge begins

After just a few minutes of walking, the gorgeous sound of water gushing and gurgling filled our ears, and we knew we had arrived. A minute or so later, we came to a place that I can only describe as heavenly – lovely, lovely green all around, almost a jungle, the sound of water and crickets chirping renting the air, a river gushing by, and a magnificent bridge made entirely out of the roots of trees straddling the river. I couldn’t help falling in love with the place there and then, and a ‘Wow!’ escaped me. If this lesser-known bridge was so beautiful, just how beautiful would the double-decker living root bridge of Cherrapunjee be?

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The rocky descent to the living root bridge

The descent to the spot of the living root bridge is rocky, but not very tough. We managed to get down in about 15 minutes, walking slowly and gradually, holding on to each other and the bub. The sight that met our eyes was totally worth every ounce of energy we spent on the descent, that is for sure.

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The living root bridge over the river Thyllong, at Nohwet

The Thyllong, a river held sacred by the Khasis, flows extremely picturesquely beneath the bridge. The living root bridge has been prepared by the locals by training the roots of rubber trees, trees which were planted as far back as 1840. The plaque at the spot doesn’t indicate when exactly the bridge was built. It is, however, clear that the bridge was built so as to enable people from the surrounding villagers to cross the river, which I hear gets unimaginably swollen in the monsoons.

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Another view of the living root bridge at Nohwet

The bridge is still very much in use by the villagers and, in return for a nominal entry fee (INR 20 per head or so), tourists are allowed to visit it as well.

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Another view of the Thyllong river

It is such a serene, magical place, something straight out of the pages of a fairytale. We managed to visit at the best time, just before the sun went down, when there were not many tourists around. I would have loved to lounge around this place, sitting on a rock by that gurgling river and reading or simply staring at all that bounty of nature, soaking it all in. Sadly, though, we had a hotel to check into, a drive to head on, places on our to-do list to check off, and could spend only a short while (much too short for my taste, actually) here.

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The Thyllong river

Some other time, some other vacation, I am going to make sure I stay put at this place to my heart’s content.. Till then, I will make do with memories. 🙂

Tips for travellers

  1. A trip to the Nohwet living root bridge can be combined with a visit to the adjacent village of Mawlynnong.
  2. A boat ride at Dawki and a visit to the India-Bangladesh border at Tamabil can also be combined with a visit to this living root bridge. Do check with your tour operator on this.
  3. Mawlynnong, as far as I understand, can be accessed only via taxis, private or shared.
  4. The living root bridge can be visited any time of the year, but monsoons are the best time to do this, actually. During monsoons (between March and August), the river is apparently at its beautiful best.
  5. There is an Eco Park at the same spot as this living root bridge. We weren’t able to visit it due to paucity of time, but I hear it is very beautiful too.

I hope you have been reading my posts about our recent trip to North-East India, and enjoying them too. If not, please do check them out!

The beginning of school and a schoolmoon

Visiting the abode of Kamakhya, the powerful menstruating Goddess

10 reasons to plan for at least a day’s stay at Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village

Playing hide-and-seek with the clouds at Meghalaya

10 experiences we thoroughly enjoyed at Shillong

Saragva Ni Kadhi| Gujarati Drumstick Kadhi

Saragva ni kadhi, a Gujarati dish made using curd and drumsticks (‘saragva’ is Gujarati for ‘drumsticks’), is a hot favourite at our place. One of our Gujarati friends taught us how to make this kadhi, years ago, and I have been making it ever since. The husband loves it, the bub loves it, and so do I. This kadhi is something I prepare often at home, whenever there is sour curd left over. Hey, sometimes I even set extra curd just so I can make this! 🙂 Beloved as this dish is, it was only natural that I chose to make it recently, on the OH’s birthday.

It is a commonly held myth that all Gujarati dishes are sweet, that they have at least a dash of sugar in them. That is SO not the truth. There are a whole lot of Gujarati food items that do not contain any sugar at all. This saragva ni kadhi is one such no-sugar preparation.

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Saragva ni kadhi or Gujarati drumstick kadhi

This Gujarati drumstick kadhi tastes absolutely delish, and is a delight to eat with rotis and rice alike. It is a great way to get those super-healthy drumsticks into your diet, and to make use of any excess curd lying around in your kitchen. What’s more, it is fairy easy to make too, a matter of minutes.

Now, let’s find out how to make saragva ni kadhi, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the garnish:

  1. 2 tablespoons oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 2 dry red chillies
  4. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  5. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

Other ingredients:

  1. 2 medium-sized drumsticks
  2. 1 medium-sized serving bowl of thick curd
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Red chilli powder, to taste
  5. 2 green chillies, slit length-wise
  6. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  7. 3 tablespoons gram flour (besan)
  8. A few fresh curry leaves
  9. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Remove the ends of the drumsticks, and chop them into 2-inch pieces.
  2. Heat some water in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add a little salt to it. Drop in the drumstick pieces. Cook them, covered, on a medium flame, till they are tender. This will take 4-5 minutes. You will need to keep checking on them in the interim, adding more water if required.
  3. While the drumsticks are cooking, get the curd ready to make the kadhi. Take the curd in a large mixing bowl, and add in about 1/2 cup of water. Add the gram flour, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, slit green chillies and curry leaves to it. Mix well, ensuring that everything is well incorporated together.
  4. When the drumsticks are cooked, add the curd mixture to the pan. Keep the flame on medium.
  5. Stirring intermittently, let the curd mixture come to a boil. At this point, turn down the flame to low.
  6. Let the kadhi simmer for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, get the garnish ready.
  7. For the garnish, heat the oil in a little pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add in the fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, and then switch off the gas.
  8. Add this garnish to the simmering kadhi. Mix well. When the 2 minutes of simmering are up, switch off the gas.
  9. Add in the finely chopped coriander leaves. Mix well.
  10. Serve hot or warm with rotis or rice.

Notes:

  1. Use curd that is slightly sour, for best results.
  2. You may add a dash of sugar or jaggery to the kadhi if you want, but that is purely optional.
  3. I sometimes tear the curry leaves, using my hands, before adding them to the curd. This way, I make sure they are consumed along with the kadhi, and not left on the side of the plate.
  4. Add more or lesser water to the curd, depending upon how thick you want the kadhi to be.
  5. Make sure the drumsticks are just about cooked, and not overcooked.
  6. Do not cook the kadhi for too long after it has reached boiling stage. Overcooking might cause the kadhi to curdle or lose its taste.

Did you like the sound of this Gujarati drumstick kadhi? I hope you will try this out, too!

If you make this kadhi at home, I would love to hear of your version!

 

 

Eid Special| Thoughts About Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix

Eid Mubarak to all those who are celebrating today! 🙂

This day, I had to break open the packet of Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix that I had been hoarding for a while! It is the day of Eid after all! Let me tell you, I absolutely loved the way it turned out, and so did everyone at home.

What is sheer khurma?

For the uninitiated, sheer khurma or sheer korma is a special kind of milk pudding, containing dates and vermicelli, that is commonly prepared by Muslims on the occasion of Eid. Wikipedia tells me that this pudding constitutes festival day breakfast or dessert, and is largely prepared in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia.

The backstory

I have always been intrigued by sheer khurma, and have always wanted to try out an authentic version. I have even bookmarked a couple of recipes for the pudding from the Internet, but somehow, never got around to making the pudding from scratch at home. Recently, when a fellow foodie, Soumya Gopi, posted about her highly successful attempt at making sheer khurma using a ready mix by Shan, I was tempted to try it out too.

I have frequently come across garam masala and other spices by Shan in departmental stores, but never picked them up. After Soumya’s post, I kept my eyes open for the sheer khurma mix and, soon enough, found it, a while back. Today seemed to be a very auspicious occasion for experimenting with it.

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The delectable sheer khurma that I prepared using Shan Mix

About Shan Foods

Shan Foods produces and offers a wide variety of spice mixes that are commonly used in making Pakistani dishes. This Pakistan-based firm has been around since 1981.

I have been hearing great things about their pulao masala and meat masala, but this is the first product by them that I am trying.

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Left: Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix, Centre: The pouch inside the mix, carrying all the magic, Right: The contents of the pouch, the magic mix

My thoughts about Shan Sheer Khurma Mix

1. Like I said earlier, all of us at home loved the way the sheer khurma turned out. It was absolutely delish, and disappeared within minutes of the making!

2. I liked how the sheer khurma had a generous quantity of dried fruits and nuts, unlike some ready mixes where they are added just for the name’s sake.

3. There was no chemical, artificial smell to the sheer khurma, which sometimes happens in case of pre-packaged mixes. The pudding tasted as if it had been made fresh, from scratch, in my kitchen.

4. I would have loved to see slightly more dates in the sheer khurma. Also, the dates didn’t seem to have any taste to them – I’m guessing that is because they had been dried before packaging. Using fresh dates would have made a whole lot of difference, I think, but of course, that isn’t possible in a pre-packaged mix.

5. I loved how it was so very simple to make the sheer khurma. All I had to do was boil a litre of full-cream milk, add the mix to it, and simmer for a few minutes. The pack came with clear instructions about usage, which were no trouble following.

6. The package suggested how to make three different versions of the sheer khurma, each one with a subtle difference in taste. I followed one of these instructions, and added 1 cup of condensed milk to the boiled milk, along with the mix. The pudding turned out perfectly creamy and just the right amount of sweet. I am not sure if I would had to add extra sugar, had I not used the condensed milk. I think the pudding would still have been creamy, sans the condensed milk, because I used full-fat milk to make it.

7. I loved how the mix had strands of thin vermicelli in it, and not big, fat ones. The vermicelli added to the taste of the dish, rather than becoming one big, goopy mess.

8. This 150-gram mix yielded enough sheer khurma to generously serve 5 people. So, for the INR 70 that the package costs, I think it is totally worth it.

9. It must not have taken me more than 15 minutes to get the sheer khurma ready. It would, therefore, work wonderfully for those times when you need to whip up a dessert for guests within minutes, and do not have ingredients (or experience!) on hand. It would make for a lovely, different-from-the-usual dessert, too.

10. Shan masalas (and this mix as well) are readily available in several departmental stores in Bangalore. You can find them on Amazon as well. After this, I am sorely tempted to try out their other mixes and masalas! Like Soumya says, food does not (and should not) have any boundaries!

11. I am not qualified enough to comment on the ingredients listed on the package, so I will refrain from doing the same. 

Disclaimers

  1. This is not a paid or promotional post. I paid for the packet of Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix and wrote about it here because I really liked the result.
  2. The views expressed here are entirely my own, and are not influenced by anything or anyone.
  3. I do not recommend the use of processed and pre-packaged mixes, and rarely buy them. I do get tempted by unique stuff such as this, though, and pick them up to try them out.

How do you make sheer khurma, if at all you make it at home?

Have you tried out products by Shan? What are your thoughts about them?