Dadpe Pohe| Beaten Rice (Poha) Salad

The husband and I absolutely love poha. We make many different versions of poha (aka beaten rice, flattened rice or rice flakes, aval in Tamil), for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yes, that’s how much we love it!

I’m always on the lookout for new styles in which to cook poha, so I got all intrigued when I read about Dadpe Pohe recently. Dadpe Pohe is basically a Maharashtrian specialty, and is consumed in some parts of Goa as well. The unique thing about this dish is that it is uncooked – except for the tempering that goes into it. This makes it a poha salad, eh?

The term ‘dadpe‘ means ‘weighing down’. Typically, this dish is prepared and placed in a bowl, covered with a small plate, with a weight (maybe a bag of beans or a pestle or a couple of large potatoes) is placed on top of it. The lid presses down on the various ingredients, releasing juices from them, allowing the poha to soak them in and become flavourful.

Inspired by an online recipe, I went on to prepare dadpe pohe too and, my, just how beautiful it turned out! We are amazed at just how a dish can be so, so, so easy to make and so delicious too!

Here’s how I made the dadpe pohe.

Recipe Source: Vadani Kaval Gheta

Ingredients (serves 3):

  1. 2 cups thin poha or rice flakes
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. 1 small onion
  5. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  6. 1 green chilli
  7. 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
  8. 1 small carrot
  9. 1 tablespoon oil
  10. 1/4 cup groundnuts
  11. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  12. A pinch of asafoetida
  13. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  14. Juice of 1 lemon or to taste
  15. 2 tablespoons jaggery or to taste

Method:

  1. Chop the onion, green chilli and coriander finely. Grate the carrot finely. Keep aside.
  2. Dry roast the peanuts on medium flame, till they get crispy. Transfer to a plate and keep aside.
  3. Wash the poha under running water a couple of times. Place in a colander and allow all the excess water to drain out. When the drained poha is moist but not soggy, add the salt and turmeric powder to it. Mix well, gently. Transfer the poha to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and let them pop. Now, add the asafoetida, cumin seeds and groundnuts, and let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  5. Add the chopped onion, green chilli and coriander, the grated carrot and coconut, jaggery and lemon juice to taste to the mixing bowl. Add in the mustard-asafoetida-cumin-groudnuts tempering to the mixing bowl, too. Mix well, gently.
  6. Close the mixing bowl with a lid, and let it rest for just about 2 minutes, for the poha to absorb the flavours from the rest of the ingredients. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. There are a variety of ways to make dadpe pohe. The technique differs from one household to another. Here, I have used a method that appealed to me.
  2. Most households use sugar to make dadpe pohe. A few use jaggery instead of sugar, though. I have done the latter.
  3. Don’t let the poha sit around for too long after mixing up all the ingredients, as this will make it very soggy and alter the taste. Make sure you serve the dadpe pohe after just a couple of minutes of resting.
  4. I don’t think grated carrot is typically used in the making of dadpe pohe. I have used it here, to make it more nutritious. You can use finely chopped tomatoes, instead, too.
  5. Here, I have used thin poha from Bhagyalakshmi. This poha is slightly thicker than ‘paper poha‘ or ‘nylon poha‘ or the poha that is used to make chivda. This kind of poha needs to be washed and drained before being used in cooking. If you are using ‘paper poha‘ or ‘nylon poha‘ instead, there is no need to wash and drain it. Just mix together all the ingredients with the raw poha in that case, and let it rest just for a few seconds before serving.
  6. Some Maharashtrian households use coconut water for soaking or washing the poha, as required. I am sure that would lend a beautiful flavour to the dadpe pohe. Here, I have used just plain water to wash and drain the poha.

You like? I hope you will try this dadpe pohe too, and that you will love it as much as we did!

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This post is for the Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge. The theme for this month is ‘Recipes from Goa’. I was paired with Anu, who writes about food at Ente Thattukada. Anu gave me two secret ingredients – jaggery and coconut – and I chose to use them to make Dadpe Pohe.

 

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Around Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai: A Photo Story

Most everything in the town of Madurai revolves around the famous Meenakshi Amman temple. Most tourists are in the town to visit the world-famous Meenakshi Amman temple. There is an entire ecosystem built around the temple – there are shops selling everything from eatables and fruits and vegetables and vessels and flowers to clothes and wigs and cosmetics and jewellery here, for this very reason. Directions to tourists here are often given in terms of the temple – a place is almost always located straight ahead from, right or left from, or just around the Meenakshi Amman temple. The temple is the heart of the town, it’s heartbeat, rather. Walk around the roads and bylanes of Madurai, like we did on our holiday, and you will, more often than not, end up at the Meenakshi Amman temple.

The temple surroundings buzz with activity, frenetic with the comings and goings of locals and tourists alike. The place wears the look of a fair ground, especially so on the days of Indian festivals. Today, I present to you some sights we captured from around the famed Meenakshi Amman temple, on our camera.

A shop selling a variety of snacks, at the very entrance to the Meenakshi Amman temple
A short walk away from the temple is a little market, where you can spot the freshest of vegetables, among other things. We found these beautiful, beautiful little bittergourds there.
Panneer drakshe, Indian Gulabi or rose-flavoured grapes, for sale outside the Meenakshi Amman temple. Simply gorgeous, these are!
A row of tailors operating in the Pudhu Mantapam, adjacent to the Meenakshi Amman temple. These tailors stitch garments that adorn deities in temples as well as dance costumes, I believe.
There are several Muslim-owned shops around the temple that sell a variety of pooja paraphernalia. Some of these stores offer excellent freshly ground sandal.
Mounds of karupatti or palm jaggery for sale on the streets outside the Meenakshi Amman temple
A busy thoroughfare in Madurai with the Meenakshi Amman temple’s gopuram rising up majestically
Colourful, colourful bangles on offer at the shops in Pudhu Mantapam, near the temple. You get an excellent selection of colours, shapes, types and materials of bangles here!
Cast iron and iron utensils on sale at a shop inside Pudhu Mantapam. I treasure the mini idli maker and the dosa pan that I picked up here!
A tree near the temple, considered sacred and being worshipped
The famed Madurai mallige aka jasmine, being sold outside the temple by weight
Colourful old-fashioned trunks being sold in the marketplace near the Meenakshi Amman temple
This kind of shops are everywhere around the temple – they sell a variety of knick-knacks, most of them priced at just INR 10!

I hope you enjoyed this virtual journey with me! Do let me know, in your comments!

PS: The Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple was in the news earlier this month because of a fire that caught hold of some of the shops around it. A short circuit in one of the shops is believed to have caused the fire, which gutted over 50 shops. Read details here.

Fresh Fruit Platter| How To Make A Fresh Fruit Tray For A Party

Holi is just around the corner! Just a few more days to go before the festival of colours arrives!

If you are looking for an easy-peasy recipe that you can present at your Holi party, your search ends here. This fresh fruit platter is so very simple to prepare, yet so delish that it will surely win you accolades. The platter is as healthy as it gets, so you need not worry about calories either. Present the varied colours of Holi to your guests on a platter, all natural of course!

You can get as creative as you want with the arrangement of this fresh fruit platter or keep it really simple, as I have done here.

Here is how to make a fresh fruit tray for a party.

Ingredients for 1 fresh fruit platter (serves 2):

  1. 4-5 slices of pineapple, core and thorns removed
  2. 1 small Robusta banana, chopped into rounds
  3. 4-5 segments of orange, seeds and strings removed
  4. A handful of seedless green grapes
  5. 1/2 of an apple, chopped into thin slices
  6. A handful of pomegranate arils
  7. 4-5 medium-sized strawberries, cut into halves
  8. A few almonds
  9. Chaat masala, as required
  10. A dash of lemon juice
  11. Honey, as required

Method:

  1. On a wide platter, arrange all the fruits artistically.
  2. Drizzle some honey evenly over the fruits.
  3. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruits.
  4. Drizzle chaat masala evenly over it all.
  5. Arrange the almonds here and there, on the platter.
  6. Serve the fresh fruit platter platter immediately, with toothpicks on the side.

Notes:

  1. There are several ways to make a fresh fruit tray for a party, to present the cut fruits on the platter. I have kept it really simple here. You can go as creative with the arrangement as you want to.
  2. I haven’t peeled the apples here (I never do!), so I get the benefit of the beautiful red colour of the skin showing through.
  3. You can add in other fruits of your choice, mixed nuts, cheese, et al, to the fresh fruit platter. I have restricted myself to just a few Indian fruits here, and some almonds to add a crunchy effect.
  4. We like the lemon-honey-chaat masala dressing on fruits, so I have used the same in this fruit platter. You can choose any other dressing you want to.
  5. You may use slightly chilled fruits to make the platter. I have used all the fruits at room temperature here.
  6. I have used MDH chaat masala and honey from Bee Bliss to make this fresh fruit platter.
  7. You can use roasted peanuts (skins removed) for the crunch factor, instead of almonds, too.
  8. You can prepare the dressing by combining honey, lemon juice and chaat masala well together, and then drizzling it over the fresh fruit platter. I just used each of these ingredients separately.

How did you like the recipe? Do let me know in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Holi On My Platter’.

 

Maangaai Tengaai Thogayal| Raw Mango And Coconut Chutney

This manga tenga thogayal – a raw mango and coconut chutney with onion – is a recipe from my mother’s repertoire. I learnt how to make this chutney from Amma, because I love it to bits, and it is now a huge hit in my household as well.

This raw mango and coconut chutney is a burst of flavours, sweet and spicy and sour. It makes for a lovely pair with rice, dosas and idlis alike. Do try it out, and fall in love with it, too!

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Ingredients (makes about 1-1/2 cup of manga thenga thogayal):

  1. 1/2 cup chopped raw mango
  2. 1 small onion
  3. 3/4 cup freshly grated coconut
  4. Salt, to taste
  5. 4-5 dry red chillies
  6. 2 tablespoons of jaggery, or to taste
  7. 1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon oil
  8. 2 tablespoons chana daal
  9. 2 tablespoons urad daal

Method:

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pan and add in the dry red chillies, chana daal and urad daal. Fry on medium flame till the daals turn slightly brown and begin to emit a nice fragrance. Stir intermittently, and ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Transfer to a plate, and allow to cool down completely.
  2. Chop the raw mango into small cubes. Chop the onion into cubes as well. Keep the grated coconut handy.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in the same pan we used before, and add in the chopped raw mango, coconut and onion. Fry on medium flame till the coconut begins to turn brown. Stir intermittently, ensuring that the ingredients do not get burnt. Transfer to a plate, and allow to cool down completely.
  4. When all the ingredients have entirely cooled down, proceed to grind the chutney. Put the grated coconut, onion and raw mango in a medium-sized mixer jar, and add in salt and jaggery to taste, as well as a little water. Give it a whirr in the mixer.
  5. Now, scrape down the sides of the mixer jar, and add in the fried red chillies, coconut, urad daal and chana daal. Give it a couple more whirrs in the mixer. Done! Serve the manga thenga thogayal with steamed rice. It also makes for a lovely accompaniment to idlis and dosas.

Notes:

  1. Totapuri raw mango (‘kili mooku manga‘ in Tamil) works best for this chutney, as it has just the right level of sourness. If you want to use another variety of raw mango that is slightly more sour, you might want to reduce the quantity that you use.
  2. I have used refined oil to fry the ingredients here. You may use coconut oil, instead, too.
  3. Add in the roasted urad daal, chana daal and red chillies after the chutney has been half-ground. This will ensure that the daals get only coarsely crushed, adding to the taste of the chutney.
  4. I have used the small, round Salem Gundu chillies to make this chutney. You can use any variety of dried red chillies as you please – just adjust the quantity according to the spice levels you prefer.
  5. If you want to, you can add a tempering of curry leaves, mustard seeds and asafoetida to the manga thenga thogayal. I have skipped it.

You like? I hope you will try this raw mango and coconut chutney out too, and that you will love it as much as we do!

Broccoli & Baby Corn Khichdi

The husband and I love khichdi, and often make a meal of it. We love tucking into a bowlful of ghee-drizzled khichdi for lunch or dinner. I love experimenting with khichdi – using different ingredients, different styles – all the time. This Broccoli & Baby Corn Khichdi was one such recent experiment that turned out to be a very happy one.

This recipe was born out of sheer necessity – I had broccoli and baby corn lying around in my refrigerator and wanted to use it in something, and we were craving for khichdi. The end result was this beautiful fusion, this khichdi infused with the goodness and beautiful taste of broccoli, the baby corn lending it a nice crunch.

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Let’s now see how I made this Broccoli & Baby Corn Khichdi, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1/4 cup moong daal
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  6. Red chilli powder, to taste (optional)
  7. 1-1/2 cups finely chopped broccoli
  8. 5-6 pieces of baby corn, chopped into rounds
  9. 1 small carrot, peeled and chopped finely
  10. 1 small capsicum, chopped finely
  11. 1/4 cup shelled green peas
  12. 3 green chillies, slit length-wise
  13. A few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
  14. 1 tablespoon oil
  15. 1 tablespoon ghee
  16. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  17. 2-3 dry red chillies
  18. 1 teaspoon cumin (jeera)
  19. A pinch of asafoetida

Method:

  1. Wash the rice and moong daal together under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water. Pressure cook the washed and drained rice and moong daal with about 5 cups of water, for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
  2. When the pressure has released completely, remove the cooked rice and moong daal from the cooker and keep handy.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan, and add in the chopped broccoli, carrot, capsicum, baby corn and green peas. Saute on medium heat till the vegetables are cooked, but still retain some of their crunch.
  4. Now, add the cooked rice and moong daal to the pan, along with the slit green chillies, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder (if using) and garam masala. Mix well, but gently. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes, stirring intermittently to ensure that the khichdi doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. You may add in more water if you want.
  5. While the khichdi is cooking, prepare the tempering in another pan. Heat the ghee in another pan, and add in the mustard seeds. Let them pop. Now, add in the cumin, dry red chillies and asafoetida. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds. Switch off gas.
  6. Add the tempering to the khichdi, mix well. Switch off gas.
  7. Mix in the finely chopped coriander to the Broccoli & Baby Corn Khichdi. Serve hot with curd or raita of your choice.

Notes:

  1. I have used Sona Masoori rice here. You can use any type of rice that you prefer, to make this Broccoli & Baby Corn Khichdi.
  2. I have used ghee to make the tempering for this khichdi. You can use oil instead, or a mix of oil and ghee.
  3. You can use any other vegetables that you want to, in this khichdi. Onions, beans, tomatoes, potatoes and cauliflower would make nice additions.
  4. I have used home-made garam masala to make this Broccoli & Baby Corn Khichdi. I had to use very little, as home-made garam masala tends to be fresher and way more fragrant than store-bought versions. If you are using store-bought garam masala, you might want to increase the quantity a bit.
  5. You can add in some ginger-garlic paste while sauteeing the vegetables, too. I have skipped this.
  6. A piece of cinnamon, some cloves and cardamom can be added to the tempering as well. A few cloves of garlic, chopped finely and burnt a little in the oil, can be added too. I have skipped this.
  7. If you think the heat from the green chillies is enough, you can skip adding the red chilli powder.
  8. Here, I have cooked the rice and moong daal separately and then mixed in the sauteed veggies. This helps in keeping the vegetables crunchy, preventing them from turning mushy. If you don’t mind mushy veggies, you can pressure cook all ingredients together and then add the tempering separately. If you want to pressure cook all ingredients together, do chop the veggies slightly larger to avoid them getting overcooked.

Do try out this Broccoli & Baby Corn Khichdi, and let me know how you liked it! I’d love to read your comments!

 

Masterclass With Chef Tanmoy Sarvardekar At Cinepolis Coffee Tree

Famed Chef Tanmoy Sarvardekar, who heads The Winking Macaron in Bangalore, recently held a masterclass in association with Coffee Tree, Cinepolis, at the Royal Meenakshi Mall. I had the pleasure of attending this masterclass and ended up having a lovely experience while there.

For the uninitiated, Cinepolis is the world’s second largest movie theatre circuit, also touted to be India’s first international theatre group. Coffee Tree is the in-house gourmet coffee shop at Cinepolis, serving a variety of delicious snacks, beverages and, of course, coffee to cinema goers and mall visitors alike.

Chef Tanmoy Sarvardekar, all set to begin the masterclass

At the masterclass, Chef Sarvardekar demonstrated some of the signature snacks from Coffee Tree’s extensive menu. He started with one of his personal favourites – Chilli Cheese Toast.

Chef Sarvardekar demonstrating Cinepolis Coffee Tree’s Chilli Cheese Toast

The audience got to sample the Chef’s creations, and I loved this cheesy, spicy toast.

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Cinepolis Coffee Tree’s Chilli Cheese Toast, prepared by Chef Sarvardekar

Next up, Chef Sarvardekar demonstrated the preparation of a Chicken Burger, a la Cinepolis Coffee Tree. This snack, too, won the oohs and aahs of the audience.

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The Chicken Burger demonstrated by Chef Sarvardekar

The next dish that Chef Sarvardekar demonstrated was a Vegetarian Pasta Arrabbiatta, one of my all-time favourite dishes.

Chef Sarvardekar preparing Vegetarian Pasta Arrabbiatta, off the menu of Cinepolis Coffee Tree

The chef paired the Pasta Arrabbiatta with a Masala Lemonade from the Coffee Tree menu, a cool and refreshing drink that I absolutely loved.

The Vegetarian Pasta Arrabbiatta prepared by Chef Sarvardekar

Post the cook-off, four volunteers from the audience contested in the preparation of a Double Decker Sandwich and Virgin Lemon-Mint Mojito.

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One of the contestants and fellow food blogger Madraasi Deepa, busy preparing her Double Decker Sandwich
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Another contestant, preparing Virgin Lemon-Mint Mojito

Chef Sarvardekar then sampled the creations of all four contestants, offering them comments and suggestions for improvement.

Speaking about the masterclass, Chef Sarvadekar said, “The experience of collaborating with Cinépolis was an exhilarating one. The response from the audience was very warm and encouraging. Coffee Tree, as a concept, is very unique and has some good offerings in terms of food and beverage options, which people always look for while going for a movie watching experience.”

All in all, it was a delightful afternoon, where much fun was had by all.

 

Mixed Vegetable Kurma| Mildly Spiced Indian Curry With Coconut Milk

This curry was born out of sheer necessity and sheer chance. A while back, I needed something to serve with rotis for lunch, and ended up with making this Mixed Vegetable Kurma with whatever was available in my kitchen pantry. I mixed and matched, tasted and added, tried and retried, and the end result, I must say, was absolutely fantastic.

This Mixed Vegetable Kurma uses veggies like broccoli, zucchini and babycorn instead of the usual suspects like potatoes or beetroot. I have used coconut milk and garam masala here, which are not very common in kurma, as a result of which this curry tastes very different from the usual stuff. It does make for a lovely accompaniment to rotis, as I have learnt from experience, and goes well with dosas and steamed rice as well.

Here is how I made the Mixed Vegetable Kurma.

Ingredients (serves 4):

Vegetables to pressure cook:

  1. 4-5 pieces of babycorn
  2. 4 medium-sized florets of cauliflower
  3. 1/4 cup shelled green peas
  4. 1 small turnip
  5. 1 small capsicum
  6. 1 small carrot
  7. 4 medium-sized florets of broccoli
  8. 4-5 french beans
  9. 1/2 of a small zucchini

To grind into a paste:

  1. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  2. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  3. 2 green chillies

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 medium-sized onion
  2. About 100 grams of cottage cheese (paneer)
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Red chilli powder, to taste (optional)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
  7. 1 tablespoon oil
  8. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  9. 1 teaspoon mustard
  10. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  11. 1/2 cup thick curd
  12. About 1-1/2 tablespoon gram flour (besan)
  13. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves

Method:

First, we will get the vegetables ready for the kurma.

  1. Peel the carrot and chop into batons.
  2. Chop the cauliflower and broccoli florets into half.
  3. Remove strings from the beans and chop them into batons too.
  4. Chop the capsicum and babycorn into 1/2-inch pieces.
  5. Peel the turnip and chop into cubes.
  6. Chop the zucchini into cubes.
  7. Keep the shelled green peas handy.
  8. Take all of the above veggies in a wide container. Take about 1/2 cup water in a pressure cooker bottom, and place a stand above it. Place the container with the veggies atop the stand – there’s no need to add water to the container. Close the cooker and pressure cook for 2 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

Now, we will grind the paste that will go into the kurma.

  1. Peel the ginger and chop into small pieces.
  2. Chop the green chillies into small pieces.
  3. Peel the garlic cloves.
  4. Grind the chopped ginger and green chillies, along with the garlic, in a mixer, using a little water. Keep aside.

Next, we will make a few other small preparations to enable us to cook the kurma easily.

  1. Chop the coriander leaves finely. Keep aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the gram flour with a little water to make a paste. Keep aside.
  3. Chop the onion length-wise. Keep aside.
  4. Chop the paneer into cubes. Keep aside.

Now, we will proceed to make the mixed vegetable kurma.

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Add in the asafoetida, and allow it to stay in for just a second.
  2. Now, add in the chopped onions. Saute on low-medium flame till they start to turn brown. Ensure that they do not get burnt.
  3. Add in the pressure cooked veggies, along with the ginger-garlic-green chillies paste. Saute on low-medium heat for a minute.
  4. Now, add in 1/2 cup of water, the thick coconut milk, the gram flour paste, paneer cubes, turmeric powder, salt to taste, red chilli powder to taste (if using) and garam masala. Mix well. Let everything cook together on medium flame for about 2 minutes. Stir intermittently, ensuring there is no burning.
  5. Now, add in the curd. Cook on medium flame for a minute more, stirring intermittently.
  6. Switch off the gas and mix in the finely chopped coriander leaves. Serve the mixed vegetable kurma hot with steamed rice, jeera rice, ghee rice, rotis or dosas.

Notes:

  1. I have used home-made garam masala here. You can use a store-bought version as well. Home-made garam masala tends to be more fragrant and fresh as opposed to the store-bought version, so be careful and use it in a lesser quantity.
  2. There is no need to add water while pressure cooking the veggies. The steam building up within the pressure cooker is just enough to cook them.
  3. Just 2 whistles are enough to cook the veggies. This will cook them well, but still enable them to retain their crunch, as opposed to overcooked, mushy vegetables.
  4. You can use any vegetables that you have on hand, to make this mixed vegetable kurma.
  5. You can use sambar powder or chana masala as well, for a different-tasting kurma.
  6. Add the curd (thick) at the very end. Do not cook the mixed vegetable kurma for too long after adding the curd.
  7. This mixed vegetable kurma is best cooked on a low-medium flame. This reduces chances of curdling and improves taste.
  8. Avoid using the red chilli powder if you think the spiciness from the ginger and green chillies is enough.
  9. If you want to, you can add a small piece of cinnamon, a bay leaf, a couple of cloves and cardamom pods into the hot oil before adding in the onions. You can add in a few curry leaves as well. I skipped all of this.

You like? Do try out this Mixed Vegetable Kurma, and let me know how you liked it! I would love to hear your experiences!

Pussycat Dosa| Food Art For Kids

You eat first with your eyes,’ some wise person once said, and just how true is that! Well-presented food has a huge impact on building one’s appetite, making one want to eat the said food.

Food art, or the artistic presentation of food, is more than just building appetite in the diner. It is a way of creating drama on a plate, of letting imagination run wild, of creating masterpieces on a blank plate. It is a way of having fun as a cook, and making sure the diner has some too.

I think it is very important, though, to make sure the food that is presented very beautifully tastes equally good as well. It is all too easy to get caught up in the task of always presenting beautiful platters, so caught up that it doesn’t matter how tasty or healthy the food is. All show and no substance – that is just not the way to go, in my humble opinion. There are too many high-end restaurants losing track of the balance between healthy, tasty and beautiful, these days, a sad state of affairs.

Why am I talking so much about food art today? Well, because ‘Food Art’ is the theme for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop this week. I am no high-flying artist, food or otherwise, but I did try out a very simple Pussycat Dosa for the theme and absolutely loved the experience! The bub loved the dosa and could recognise the pussycat figure (though I think it looks a little like a monster, in hindsight), so I’m happy. And I think this little experiment in food art has put me on a new track – now, I so want to continue doing this, building beautiful plates with the simple food that I cook at home, to bring some drama into our kitchen! Wait and watch! 🙂

So, here’s the sort of Pussycat Dosa that I made for the theme.

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Let me tell you how I went about making this plate, now.

Ingredients (for one pussy cat dosa):

  1. Dosa batter, as required
  2. About 2 tablespoons of cooked kidney beans aka rajma
  3. A few pieces of pineapple
  4. A couple of pieces of capsicum
  5. 2 kernels of sweet corn
  6. A small piece of carrot
  7. Salt, to taste
  8. Red chilli powder, to taste
  9. A dash of roasted cumin (jeera) powder
  10. About 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon oil

Method:

  1. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a pan. Add in the cooked kidney beans, the corn kernels, and the carrot and capsicum pieces. Add in salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder to taste. Saute on medium flame till the carrot, corn and capsicum turn slightly tender, just a couple of minutes. Make sure the kidney beans are all evenly coated with the salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder. Switch off gas and keep aside.
  2. Heat a dosa pan until droplets of water dance on it. Then, lower the flame to medium. Make a medium-sized circle in the centre of the pan, then make a smaller circle exactly above it – the pussy cat’s belly and head, respectively. Make ears and a tail for the pussy cat out of the batter. Spread 1/2 teaspoon oil around the dosa. Cook on medium flame till the dosa browns at the bottom, then flip over and cook on the other side till done. Transfer the pussy cat dosa to a colourful serving plate.
  3. Shape the pussy cat’s eyes out of the sauteed corn kernels.
  4. Pinch the cooked carrot piece to make a smiling mouth out of it, and place it below the eyes.
  5. Place the cooked kidney beans below the pussy cat dosa.
  6. Fashion a small flower out of the pieces of capsicum and pineapple, adjacent to the pussy cat.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. I have used home-made dosa batter to make this dish. You can use multi-grain batter, adai batter or multi-millet batter as well.
  2. I have used whatever ingredients I had, handy, to create this dish. You can let your imagination run loose and use the ingredients you have lying around in your pantry, too!

Do let me know how you liked this Pussycat Dosa, and if you’d like to see more such food art for kids on my blog. I’m no expert, I’ll repeat, but, hey, I promise to try my best!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Food Art’.

Kite Fever In Ahmedabad: A Photo Story On Uttarayan

The best time to visit Ahmedabad (anywhere in Gujarat, actually) is during Uttarayan or Makara Sankranti, in my humble opinion. That is when the citizens go all out to enjoy themselves, when the kite mania is on, when you get to see the city in a whole new avatar. This is apart from the Navratri season, when the city is decked up at its glorious best, of course.

Gujarat and kites are inseparable. Yes, you can see kites being flown in a few other parts of India as well, but nowhere is it as frantic and frenzied and grand and alluring as it is during Uttarayan in Gujarat. When I used to live in Ahmedabad, about 9 years ago, the entire city would come to a standstill the two days of the festival – on Uttarayan, January 14, and Vasi Uttarayan, January 15. On these two days, every single Gujarati family would practically live on their terrace, eating tal-gol ni chikki (sesame brittle made with jaggery), undhiyu and jalebi and a whole lot of other delicacies, blasting loud music, flying kites, competing with the other kites that threatened to cut theirs off. Now, the kite-flying fervour is, more or less, contained to the Old City, the ancient pols of Ahmedabad, where people gather with their extended families to enjoy the festival big-time.

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Kites, hats, plastic noise-makers, and a variety of other things on sale, just before Uttarayan, in Ahmedabad

Makara Sankranti is when the sun begins its transit into the zodiac of Capricorn (‘Makara‘ refers to Capricorn, in Gujarati), commonly on January 14 every year. This day signifies the end of winter and the beginning of summer, hopes for a plentiful harvest and good times. While South India celebrates this harvest festival as Pongal, by making overflowing pans of sweet and savoury pongal, Gujarat celebrates by flying kites, on a BIG scale.

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A store selling kites and assorted paraphernalia for flying them, just before Uttarayan, in Ahmedabad.

Come January, and little make-shift stalls start appearing all over the city, some selling a variety of kites, threads, finger caps, sunglasses and many other small and big things that make up the entire experience of flying kites. Some of these stalls offer ready-to-buy thread on firkis for flying kites, many boasting of the best-quality one from Surat.

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Firkis or spools of thread on sale, at Ahmedabad, for flying kites

At some stalls, you can spot craftsmen busy at work on spools, getting thread ready for the big day, lacing it with glass to make them stronger, dyeing it pink or yellow or blue or a myriad of other colours.

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Yellow thread being readied for kite-flying, in Ahmedabad
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Black thread in the making, at Ahmedabad, before Uttarayan

Some of these stalls sell chikki, undhiyu, jalebi and fafda, those quintessential snacks that are a pre-requisite for a Gujarati’s celebration of Uttarayan.

The last couple of days before Uttarayan, there is much hustle and bustle on the streets. These make-shift stalls (specially those in the old part of the city) burst to the seams with people choosing the kites they want to fly, the right sort of thread, the other accompaniments they would need, lanterns that would go up in the sky at night, snacks to nibble on as the family flew kites, and so on.

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A family heading home, having chosen their kites and thread for Uttarayan

On the days of Uttarayan and Vasi Uttarayan, shouts of ‘Kaipo chhe!’ ring out from terraces as families indulge in warfare in the skies – kite-flying competitions which sometimes go on for hours on end. Latest Bollywood songs and remixes add to the feeling of josh on the terraces. This, for sure, is something you must experience at least once in your lifetime.

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A Gujarati family all set to fly a huge, golden kite
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High, high, high up the kites fly!

The sad part about Uttarayan is the huge number of humans, animals and birds who die on the streets, their bodies cut deep and ugly by stray pieces of sharp thread. Pick up a newspaper in Gujarat just after Uttarayan, and the kite-thread death statistics are as astonishing as the stories are gory. As a preventive measure, it is best not to walk or ride around the streets in open vehicles just before and during Uttarayan.

On our recent visit to Ahmedabad, just before Uttarayan, I noticed a new wire contraption affixed to several two-wheelers in the city. I hear this is an innovation born out of necessity, a device that shields the faces and necks of two-wheeler riders from any bits of thread that might cut their bodies, as they drive. This is something very new, something I saw for the first time this year, being sold on the streets and used by quite a large number of two-wheeler riders. It is quite effective in preventing accidents too, I hear.

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A wire contraption that shields two-wheeler riders from stray bits of thread, a quite recent phenomenon in Gujarat

Watching hundreds of colourful kites flitting in the sky on the days of Uttarayan and Vasi Uttarayan is a sight in itself. Even more breath-taking, though, is the sight of the sky at night on these two days – when it is lit by hundreds of tukkals, paper lanterns with candles in them. The latter is a scene straight out of a fairytale, surely.

Kites, stuck in trees, post Uttarayan, which is when all the revelry ends, and life is back to normal.

The kite fervour in Gujarat is something that you must absolutely experience. My heart is full of memories of beautiful Uttarayan days gone by, and I hope you build some of your own too. Ahmedabad – well connected by train and air from different parts of India – is a great place to do just that!

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I hope you have been reading and enjoying my other posts about Ahmedabad. If not, please do! 🙂

#SmartlyOwn With #Rentomojo

Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of a bloggers’ meet by Rentomojo, an event that turned out to be quite an interesting and enlightening one.

What is Rentomojo, you ask?

Well, it is a relatively new ‘made in India’ venture, a platform that allows you to rent bikes, furniture and household appliances in exchange for a nominal ‘Rental Monthly Instalment’ (RMI). The idea is based on the way the modern youth thinks and the way their career paths commonly seem to evolve. For instance, most employees these days are faced with uncertainty about their careers in the long term – not many can really predict where they will be working (another job? another role? another city? another state or country?) beyond a time span of two years.

Considering this, it does make sense to rent out the things you need in your home, vis-a-vis buying all of it. And, Rentomojo is convinced that it is the best platform to do so, that it will make better financial sense to the customers of today than buying assets through upfront cash payments or Equated Monthly Instalments (EMI).

Why rent? Why not buy? The rent vs buy argument.

I have always been the sort of person who has bought things over renting them out; I have always been that way. I don’t even rent out books – I buy them so I can read them without any pressure. That said, this meet-up by #Rentomojo has definitely been an eye-opener.

The discussions with Mr. Geetansh Bamania (founder and IIT alumnus) and Mr. Amardeep (Marketing Head) at the event have opened me up to the various benefits that renting out stuff hold as against buying them.

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A pictorial comparison of EMI vs. RMI. Source: Rentomojo

~ When you buy furniture, home appliances or vehicles – buy on EMI basis, actually – it locks in your capital, which could have otherwise been used for more useful purposes. Adhering to a #subscriptionlifestyle instead, where you rent out the things you need leaves your capital free – you don’t have to shell out big-time money upfront in this case.

~ Renting is, indeed, the smart way to own in these days of uncertainty about one’s career. When you change jobs or houses or cities, the assets that you purchase will be a burden that you will have to relocate or dispose of. A #renttoown agreement keeps you free of such worries.

~ Renting things allows you the option of discontinuing when you want to. It allows you the option of getting new things as per the changing lifestyles, changes in the home interior, relocating from a rented house, changing circumstances, changing styles and the ever-evolving and changing you. Buying doesn’t allow you this kind of flexibility.

~ RMIs are quite nominal (at least on Rentomojo) as against EMIs.

~ If you rent appliances or furniture from Rentomojo, you get free relocation services when you change cities/states. If you buy possessions, though, hefty relocation charges need to be undertaken whenever you move out of your current residence.

~ RentoMojo also offers free maintenance of the products you rent from them. Just how nice is that?!

~ With RentoMojo, you get the ‘Rent-To-Own’ option, i.e., the freedom to purchase the product you rent out if you want to. You also have the freedom to swap to a better product than the one you are renting out, if you so wish to.

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Left: One of the products offered by Rentomojo, a dining table, displayed at the bloggers’ meet; Right: The RMI for renting out the said dining table

Other salient features of Rentomojo

~ There is a refundable deposit involved when you rent things from Rentomojo, equal to about two months of RMI.

~ The firm also believes in very fair and reasonable cancellation charges, in case you decide to close the rental agreement before the pre-decided time period is up.

~ Thorough checks of the products are ensured before they leave for the customers’ place.

Expansion plans

Rentomojo is presently operational in eight Indian cities – Bangalore, Pune, Noida, Gurgaon, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai. Plans to expand to other parts of India are in the offing, as are plans to increase the types and number of products that are offered for rent on the platform.

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Thought-provoking, right? Doesn’t it make a whole lot of sense in today’s world?
Isn’t renting out a great way to #smartlyown?

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Rentomojo. The views expressed herein are entirely honest, entirely my own, not influenced by anything or anyone.