The Sabarmati Riverfront, Ahmedabad, And Glimpses From the Flower Show 2018

Once upon a time, very, very long ago, the Sabarmati river used to be the lifeline of Ahmedabad city. The city was founded along the banks of the Sabarmati, in fact, in 1411. The river was the city’s main source of water, economic activities and recreation for the residents of Ahmedabad.

The sad state of the Sabarmati

As the years passed, though, the Sabarmati began to get more and more neglected. Sewage water and waste from industries flowed into the river, and slums built up alongside its banks. The detritus after performing poojas and the last rites of loved ones began to be thrown into the waters of the river. Over the years, the river began to wear a dull, grey look as it ran wearily through the city. The charm of the Sabarmati was lost, entirely.

Cut to 2005.

The Sabarmati began to see some heavy-duty action, all for the better. A plan for the refurbishing of the river (which was proposed as far back as the 1960s) finally began to, finally, see the light of day.

The slums alongside the river banks were cleared, and the displaced slum dwellers were rehabilitated. The waters of the Sabarmati underwent deep cleansing. Facilities were set up for the effective disposal of the city’s sewage and industrial waste, and to ensure that the river waters stay free of pollution.

Landscaped gardens, walking and jogging tracks, play areas for children, activity centres, food and drink stalls, boating and zip-lining facilities and well-lit pavements began to be constructed around the river. The unorganised vendors who congregated every Sunday by the riverside to sell everything from antique locks and typewriters to goats, second-hand clothes and books were organised into a well thought-out, proper marketplace.

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People enjoying a boat ride at the Sabarmati Riverfront, when we visited in January 2018

Cut to 2014.

The rejuvenation of the Sabarmati river was finally completed, at the cost of crores of Indian rupees. The Sabarmati Riverfront became a beautiful, beautiful place, well-lit and cheerful. The waters of the river now looked pristine, a pretty deep blue that were a far cry from the murky depths it held just a few years ago.

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A lady zip-lining across the Sabarmati Riverfront, when we visited in January 2018

The Sabarmati Riverfront today

Today, the Sabarmati Riverfront is a major attraction for tourists and locals alike, a weekend hot-spot. It is a lovely, lovely place, perfect to spend a few hours in. It has something to offer everyone, a well thought-out, well-constructed space. On our recent visit to Ahmedabad, we visited the Sabarmati Riverfront and, I must say, I was stunned to see just how beautiful it looked. This is the first time I saw the river after the riverfront was developed.

The pristine waters of the Sabarmati Riverfront, as it stands now

The banks of the Sabarmati have always been the venue for the International Kite Festival, but the festival became hugely popular only after the development of the riverfront. Today, the International Kite Festival here draws crowds from several countries across the globe. A flower show is also held here every year, attracting hordes of people from all over the city. We had the opportunity to check out both the International Kite Festival 2018 and the Flower Show 2018 while at the riverfront, earlier this year.

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Some participants at the International Kite Festival 2018, at the Sabarmati Riverfront, caught in action

The charm of the Sabarmati is back, big-time. The river is, once again, the lifeline of the city. Wikipedia says, “The riverfront has succeeded in re-establishing the connection between the residents of Ahmedabad and the Sabarmati”, and I very heartily agree.

A speedboat plying the waters at the Sabarmati Riverfront, when we visited in January 2018

Glimpses from the Flower Show 2018

We were lucky to be in Ahmedabad exactly when the Flower Show 2018, held at the Sabarmati Riverfront, was on. The event has been a huge success in the last few years, and it was so this year as well, if the crowds thronging the venue were anything to go by. We got to see some really lovely installations, and I managed to capture some of them on camera, despite the jostling crowds.

I leave you with some visuals from the Flower Show 2018.

The tall, tall, tall flower giraffe!
The rosy dinosaur!
Pretty lady!
Ducks! Ain’t they cute?!
I loved these flowers at an exhibit at the Flower Show. Are these what are called Cabbage Roses? I’m not sure.
A lovely exhibit at the Flower Show
More prettiness!
Reindeer (?) made of flowers
These peacocks made of flowers were so, so beautiful. These were my personal favourite at the Flower Show.
A carriage of flowers!
At a flower show, the dustbins must be decked with flowers too!
Roses and butterflies!

Do visit!

The Sabarmati Riverfront is a charming place, spacious enough to accomodate the huge crowds that can usually be found here, especially on the weekends. When we visited, it in broad daylight, the riverfront looked absolutely gorgeous. I hear the place looks stunning in the nights, all lit up. Well, day or night, this is definitely a spot that merits a visit. Whenever you are in Ahmedabad, do check out this lovely place!

There is no entry fee. If you wish to take up an activity – like boating or zip-lining – separate charges would be applicable. Do try to time your visit with to Ahmedabad to coincide with an ongoing festival here – I bet you’ll love the experience!

Mula Ni Bhaaji Nu Shaak| Gujarati Radish Greens Curry

The next time you spot a bunch of tender radishes with the leafy greens attached to them, don’t turn a blind eye to them. Buy them!

Radish greens are very much edible. They are rich in iron, calcium, fibre, protein and Vitamin C. Not just that, they possess cancer-fighting properties, aid digestion and help the body eradicate toxins.

These leaves make for some highly delicious dishes. They can be used raw, in salads, or made into daal or a variety of curries, too. This Mula Ni Bhaaji Nu Shaak, a Gujarati-style dry preparation using these greens and gram flour (besan) is just one way to use them.

It isn’t very tough to come across radish greens here in Bangalore, especially in winter. In winter, you get absolutely gorgeous radish greens, full-bodied and very tender, with the tiniest of radishes attached to them. I can’t resist a good bunch of radish greens when I spot them at the vegetable vendor’s. More often than not, I end up making this Gujarati Mula Ni Bhaaji Nu Shaak with them. Amma learnt this recipe for Mula Ni Bhaaji Nu Shaak from a Gujarati neighbour of ours, and I, in turn, learnt it from her.

This shaak is a huge favourite at home, making for just the perfect accompaniment with rotis and kadhi or daal. The sugar (or jaggery) used in this dish balances out the slightly bitter taste that radish greens possess, as does the gram flour. It is such a simple thing to make too, something that gets ready in a jiffy!

Here is how we make the Gujarati-style Mula Ni Bhaaji Nu Shaak.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. About 3 cups of young radishes + their greens, chopped finely
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. Jaggery powder, to taste
  4. Red chilli powder, to taste
  5. Gram flour (besan), about 1/2 cup
  6. 2 tablespoons oil
  7. 1 teaspoon mustard
  8. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  9. A pinch of asafoetida

Method:

  1. . Dry roast the gram flour on medium flame till it turns slightly brown and begins to emit a lovely fragrance. Ensure that it doesn’t burn. When done, transfer to a plate and keep aside.
  2. Now, heat the oil in a pan. Add in the mustard, and allow to pop. Add in the asafoetida, and let it stay in for a couple of seconds.
  3. Add in the chopped radish and the greens. Cook, covered, on low-medium flame till the radish and the greens get tender.
  4. Add salt, jaggery powder and red chilli powder to taste, along with the turmeric powder. Mix well.
  5. Cook on low-medium flame for a couple more minutes, or till the radish and the greens are fully cooked. This should take 6-7 minutes. The radish will let out water – you need to cook the radish and the greens till all the water is fully absorbed.
  6. Now, add the roasted gram flour to the pan. Mix well. Cook on low-medium flame, uncovered, till all the ingredients are well integrated together. This should take 3-4 minutes.
  7. Switch off gas. Serve with rotis and daal tadka or kadhi.

Notes:

1. Use radishes and greens that are very tender, in the peak of winter, for best results.

2. This curry is supposed to be dry. If you feel it is very dry, though, you could add a splash of water before adding in the gram flour.

3. Sugar can be used in place of jaggery powder. Do not skip the jaggery/sugar, because it is what gives the curry a beautiful, well-rounded flavour.

 

You like? I hope you will try out this Mula Ni Bhaaji Nu Shaak too, and that you will love it as much as we do!

Bajra Pesarettu| No-Rice Moong Dosa

At the very start of this year, I won an Instagram contest organised by Currylines in co-ordination with the Government of Karnataka. The contest was a run-up to the very eventful Organics & Millets Mela 2018, which was held later in January. My prize was a beautiful cookbook, filled with recipes for a huge variety of food – from starters, soups and appetisers to various national and international main course and dessert dishes – all made with different types of millets!

So, here I am, putting the cookbook to good use. The recipe I am going to present to you today, courtesy of this cookbook, is that for Pearl Millet (Bajra) Pesarettu. I tried out the recipe recently, and was thrilled with how beautiful the bajra pesarettu turned out. They were fabulous in taste, and so simple to make too.

The rice that we typically use to make pesarettu has been substituted here with bajra, making this dish an extremely healthy and filling one! This dish is perfect for weight watchers and diabetics, and those who are considering cutting down on rice in their daily diets.

Why don’t you try it out, too?

Ingredients (makes 18-20 bajra pesarettu):

  1. 1 cup whole bajra aka pearl millet
  2. 1 cup whole green moong
  3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  4. Salt, to taste
  5. 4 dry red chillies, or to taste
  6. 2 green chillies
  7. 2 medium-sized onions
  8. 1 sprig of curry leaves
  9. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  10. Oil, as needed to make the pesarettu

Method:

  1. Wash the whole bajra and green moong thoroughly under running water, a couple of times. Ensure that no impurities remain. Soak the bajra and green moong together for 5-6 hours, in just enough water to cover the grains.
  2. After 5-6 hours, drain out all the excess water from the bajra and green moong. Transfer to a mixer jar, and add salt to taste and the dry red chillies. Chop the green chillies and add to the mixer. Peel and chop the ginger and add it to the mixer jar as well. Grind to a coarse batter, stopping a couple of times in between to scrape down the sides of the mixer and mix the ingredients together with a spoon. Add a little water if necessary, while grinding.
  3. Set the batter aside for 3-4 hours to ferment, in a large vessel, covered. Choose a dry place in your kitchen to let the batter rest, out of range of direct sunlight. Once fermented and risen, the batter is ready to use.
  4. When you are ready to make the bajra pesarettu, chop the onions finely and add to the fermented batter. Tear the curry leaves roughly and add to the batter too. Chop the coriander leaves finely and add to the batter. Mix well. Heat a dosa pan till water droplets dance on it, and then lower the flame. Pour a ladleful of the batter in the centre, and spread it out using the ladle. Pour a little oil around the batter. Let it cook on one side and then flip over. When it has cooked on the other side too, transfer to a serving plate. Serve the bajra pesarettu hot, with chutney of your choice or on its own. I served them with a beautiful pineapple thogayal.

Notes:

  1. Ensure that you soak the bajra and green moong for about 5-6 hours only. Over-soaking will yield a very smooth batter and the resultant pesarettu will not be so flavourful.
  2. The batter might take more or less time than 3-4 hours to ferment, depending upon the weather conditions. If it is quite hot where you live, 3-4 hours is just enough. In colder climates, though, the batter might take longer to ferment and rise.
  3. The batter is ready to use once it has fermented and risen. If you don’t want to use the batter immediately after fermentation, just add in the chopped onions, curry leaves and coriander, mix well and place it, covered, in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator and use as needed – make sure to thaw the refrigerated batter well before use, in that case.
  4. Increase or decrease the quantity of dry red chillies and green chillies in the batter, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
  5. Some people prefer to use the pesarettu batter as soon as it is ground, without fermentation. I prefer fermenting the batter, Amma doesn’t.

Do try out this bajra pesarettu, and let me know how you liked it!

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This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Cooking from a cookbook’.

Pineapple Thogayal| South Indian Pineapple Chutney

Did you know that pineapple can be used to make a beautiful chutney? I didn’t, until very recently.

The husband and I are big-time pineapple lovers. We love eating pineapple as is or on pizza, in ice cream or juice, in gotsu or salad, in kebabs or rasam, in just about everything! When I discovered that I could use pineapple in chutney too, I was overjoyed. Quite predictably, the pineapple chutney was a huge hit at home, too.

I used the recipe here to make the pineapple chutney, which is apparently from a cookery show on Jaya TV. I followed the original recipe to the T. The end result – a South Indian Pineapple Thogayal – tasted just gorgeous. This chutney is just perfect with idlis, dosas and pesarettu.

Here is how I made the pineapple thogayal.

Ingredients (makes about 1 cup):

  1. 1-1/2 cup chopped pineapple, cores and thorns removed
  2. 1 teaspoon oil
  3. 1 teaspoon mustard
  4. 1-1/2 tablespoons chana daal
  5. 1-1/2 tablespoons urad daal
  6. 4 dry red chillies, or to taste
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  8. Salt, to taste
  9. 1-1/2 tablespoons jaggery, or to taste

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a pan. Reduce flame to medium, and add in the mustard. Allow to pop. Now, add in the chana daal, urad daal and dry red chillies. Fry on medium flame till the daal turns light brown and begins to emit a nice fragrance. Stir constantly. Add in the chopped ginger and fry for a minute. Ensure that the ingredients do not get burnt. Transfer the fried ingredients to a plate and allow to cool down completely.

2. In the same pan, add the chopped pineapple. Keep the flame switched off. Saute the pineapple lightly. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool down entirely.

3. Take the pineapple pieces in a mixer jar when cool. Add in salt to taste and jaggery. Pulse for 2 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the mixer, mix the contents of the mixer with a spoon. Pulse again for 2 seconds.

4. Now, add the fried mustard, chana daal, dry red chillies and urad daal to the mixer. Mix the contents with a spoon. Grind till you get a coarse chutney.

5. When the pineapple thogayal has completely cooled down after the grinding, transfer to a clean, dry, air-tight container.

Notes:

1. Use ripe pineapple that is a mix of sweet and sour, for best results. If the pineapple is too sweet, you might want to skip the jaggery altogether.

2. Store the pineapple thogayal refrigerated when not in use. It stays well for 3-4 days.

3. Use only a clean, dry spoon to remove the pineapple thogayal.

4. I prefer grinding the pineapple lightly first, then adding the roasted daals and dry red chillies. This will ensure that the pineapple is ground well, and the daals and dry red chillies are coarsely ground.

I urge you to try out this lovely chutney, especially if you are a fan of pineapples like us. I’m sure you will fall in love with it, too!

Monkey Business At Pookode Lake, Wayanad

Wayanad has several tourist attractions, ranging from lakes and waterfalls to beautiful, ancient temples and national parks. On our recent brief holiday to Wayanad, however, we decided to take things reallllllyyyyyyy slow – not endlessly checking off things from a to-do list, but exploring at our own pace, just as much as our hearts (and bodies and our little daughter!) dictated.

In the two full days and two half days that we spent in Wayanad, we ended up visiting only two lakes – the Pookode Lake and the Karalad Lake. We absolutely loved Karalad Lake and were not much charmed by the Pookode Lake, though it is just as beautiful a place as the former.

A view of the Pookode Lake, a tourist boat plying over it

The moment we entered the premises of Pookode Lake, our senses were soothed by the sight and sound of water lapping against the banks. The very next moment, we felt tension seeping back into our minds and bodies again – the place was super crowded, there was just too much chaos, and a closer glance revealed that the water was quite dirty.

The lake premises have too many things crammed into it, we felt – boating, a small temple, a permanent exhibition of Wayanad-special products, a children’s play area, an ice cream shop, a canteen, caricature artists, a fish spa, an aquarium… just too messy. And, oh, the monkeys! There are scores of monkeys at Pookode Lake, very naughty, very bold, not one bit afraid of the tourists.

We were told getting a chance at boating on the lake would involve a wait of at least two hours, so we decided against it. Instead, we chose to take a walk around the lake and settle down on a stone bench to just be and take in the surroundings around us.

It was rather sad to see this plant bearing the brunt of vandalism! So many names, so many initials carved into its leaves – sigh!

The monkeys kept us thoroughly entertained, the hour or so we spent at Pookode Lake. I have come across monkeys at tourist spots before, but never ones as precocious, as atrocious as the ones here. The monkeys at Pookode Lake are absolutely undaunted. They don’t have second thoughts about pulling at tourists’ clothes or bags, to get hold of their ice cream cones or popcorn packets. They appear out of nowhere, seem to jump out of everywhere. They sit right next to your bench, staring you up and down, sniffing the air, as if telling you they know all about the bag of chips you have hidden in your backpack. They don’t allow the tourists a moment of rest and relaxation, really. You have to see them in action to believe me.

This particular monkey was busy biting its tail, when we entered Pookode Lake. Later, we saw it had bitten a hole through its tail!

I had read about the monkey trouble at Pookode Lake earlier, so we left all our food in the car and did not carry any in our backpacks. We did not buy any food at the in-house canteen, either. The monkeys, therefore, left us alone, well, relatively at least.

A little monkey quenching its thirst, at Pookode Lake

Thankfully, the monkeys did not seem to be all that interested in my camera. They were content to do their mischievous acts, letting me capture all of it on camera.

A naughty monkey enjoying an ice cream cone snatched off a tourist!
This little one was so happy playing with his mother’s tail and lying down on it! It was so very cute to watch!
Another monkey, another ice cream cone, another tourist’s dupatta grabbed
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We sit on the heart of India!

We walked away from Pookode Lake with mixed feelings.

Of the two big tourist hotspots in Wayanad – Pookode Lake and Karalad Lake – I personally preferred the latter. Both lakes are equally beautiful and offer boating facilities. However, Karalad Lake is quieter and much better managed, as they have just a few boats to offer and very limited tourist activities. There are no monkeys at Karalad Lake, either! I much preferred the calm of Karalad Lake to the chaos of Pookode Lake. If you have to choose any one of these two, I would suggest Karalad.

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Tips for travellers:

  1. There is a minimal entry fee for visitors to Pookode Lake, INR 20 per head or so. Camera charges are separate.
  2. The lake tends to get quite crowded, especially so on weekends. Boating might involve standing in a queue and long wait times. Please do be prepared for this.
  3. The monkeys here are atrocious. Please do be on your guard at all times, and safeguard your children as well. It would be best not to carry any food with you into the lake premises, and avoid eating at the canteen too. Do not feed the monkeys, try to scare them or entertain them in any way.
  4. The parking lot is a short walk away from the actual lake. Please do bear this in mind while travelling with very young kids or aged people. You could make use of the local autos to commute from the parking lot to/from the lake. If you are travelling via a cab, you can request the driver to drop you at the lake and then proceed to the parking lot – that is allowed.
  5. The permanent exhibition within the Pookode Lake premises is quite good. It stocks a variety of products indigenous to Wayanad, all of it reasonably priced. This is a good place to shop for souvenirs and for exotic ingredients to take back home with you from your trip.

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I hope you enjoyed traversing Pookode Lake with me, virtually. Do let me know, in your comments!