Gongura Pulihora| Sorrel Green Rice

Hola guys! How has the end of the year been treating you? I hope you have been having fun this holiday season!

This year, I’m using Paperless Post, a USA-based website, to send out my holiday greetings. Paperless Post believes in making online communication so much fun that you don’t miss hand-written greeting cards, flyers, invitations and other notes. They have some really lovely designs by established artists, beautiful options to choose from for various types of communication needs. You can customise the design you opt for, for your cards, as well as the envelope front and backing and the message. I’ve been enjoying creating customised cards for my friends and family, and plan to use Paperless Posts for upcoming events as well. Do check out the website, folks!

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One of the New Year cards I made using Paperless Post

Moving on to food now, today, I present to you a recipe for Gongura Pulihora or Sorrel Rice. All of us at home love gongura – aka pulichakeerai, sorrel, roselle, kenaf or aambadi – the greens with a sour taste to them. Sadly, though, they are one of the least used greens in our household. We use them only occasionally to make Gongura Thokku, a spicy Andhra Pradesh-style pickle. Considering that these leaves are very rich in iron, folic acid, antioxidants and various vitamins, I wanted to use more of them in our daily diets. So, a Gongura Pulihora or sorrel-flavoured rice was made recently, which turned out to be much loved.

Gongura Pulihora aka Sorrel Rice

Let’s check out the recipe for this delicious Gongura Pulihora!

Ingredients (serves 4):

To roast and grind:

  1. 1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon of oil
  2. 2 cups tightly packed gongura (sorrel) leaves, chopped
  3. 1-1/2 tablespoons chana daal
  4. 1-1/2 tablespoons urad daal
  5. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
  6. 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (sabut dhania)
  7. 5-6 black peppercorns (kali mirch)
  8. 4-5 dry red chillies, or to taste
  9. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek (methi) seeds

For the tempering:

  1. 1/4 cup peanuts
  2. 2 tablespoons oil
  3. 3-4 dry red chillies
  4. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  5. 2 pinches of asafoetida (hing)
  6. 1 sprig curry leaves

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 2 tablespoons jaggery powder, or to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
  6. Lemon juice to taste (optional)

Method:

  1. Wash the rice under running water a couple of times, draining out the excess water each time. Pressure cook the washed and drained rice with 2.5 cups of water, for 4 whistles. You may also 3 whistles, if you want grainier rice. Allow the pressure to come down naturally.
  2. In the meanwhile, wash the gongura leaves well under running water. Place in a colander, and allow the excess water to drain out. Then, chop the gongura leaves finely and keep aside.
  3. Heat a pan and add in the peanuts. Dry roast on low-medium flame till crisp. Ensure that they do not burn. Now, transfer to a plate and allow them to cool down fully.
  4. Now, we will roast the ingredients we need to grind. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pan. Then, lower the flame to medium, and add in the urad daal, chana daal, coriander seeds, methi seeds, black peppercorns and dry red chillies (listed under the ingredients ‘to roast and grind’). Fry till the ingredients begin to change colour and emit a lovely fragrance. Take care to ensure that they do not burn, stirring constantly. Now, add the coconut and fry for a minute more. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate and allow them to cool down completely.
  5. In the same pan, add another teaspoon of oil. Add in the drained and chopped gongura leaves. Roast on low-medium flame till the gongura wilts and changes colour, about 3 minutes. Then, switch off the gas and allow the gongura to cool down entirely.
  6. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down fully, open it. Set the rice under a fan to cool down completely. Then, fluff up the rice gently. The rice is now ready to use in the gongura pulihora. Keep aside.
  7. Transfer all the roasted and cooled ingredients from Step 4 above to a mixer jar. Add in the fried and cooled gongura leaves to the mixer jar too. Pulse a couple of times, without adding any water. Stop in between and scrape down the sides of the mixer jar with a spoon. You should get a coarse paste. Keep aside.
  8. Now, we will prepare the tempering for the gongura pulihora. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow to pop. Now, add the dry red chillies (listed under the ingredients ‘for tempering’), asafoetida and curry leaves. Allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds. Add in the turmeric powder and dry-roasted peanuts. Give everything a mix with a spoon. Switch off gas.
  9. Add the cooled rice to the pan, along with the spice mix we ground earlier. Add in salt to taste, red chilli powder (if using), and jaggery powder (if using). Use your hands to mix well, but gently. Add in lemon juice to taste, and mix well. That’s it! Your gongura pulihora is ready to be served – you can serve it either warmed up or at room temperature.

Notes:

  1. I have used Bullet Rice aka Wada Kollam Rice to make this Gongura Pulihora. You may use any other variety of rice instead, too.
  2. I have used 2.5 cups of water to cook 1 cup of rice here, which is less than what I usually use. Normally, I would use 3 cups of water per cup of rice, to make plain white rice. This is because I needed slightly grainy rice to make the pulihora, which is not overcooked or mushy. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon how grainy you want the rice to be.
  3. Gingelly oil tastes great in this Gongura Pulihora. If you don’t have it, though, you may use any other variety of oil.
  4. Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the dish to be. I have used Salem Gundu dry red chillies here.
  5. If you find the dish to be less spicy, you could add in a bit of red chilli powder, to taste. That is purely optional.
  6. Make sure the rice has fully cooled down before you fluff it up and use it in making the Gongura Pulihora. Otherwise, you will end up with a mushy, tasteless dish.
  7. Adjust the quantity of gongura aka sorrel leaves you use, depending upon how sour they are. The gongura I had wasn’t very sour, so I had to use more of it, and also add in some lemon juice. If your sorrel leaves are very sour, you can leave out the lemon juice entirely.
  8. You can skip the jaggery powder if you don’t like a hint of sweetness in your food. To us, it was the perfect addition.
  9. This Gongura Pulihora doesn’t really need any accompaniment, but some potato chips, papad or fryums would go beautifully with it.
  10. I was approached by Paperless Post to try out the experience of using some of their online stationery, on a complimentary basis, and I decided to give it a go. I write about it solely because I loved the stuff they have on board. The views expressed in this post are entirely honest, entirely my own, not influenced by anything or anyone.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #256. The co-hosts this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.

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Broccoli Masala Dosa

Do you love dosas? We do!

Dosas make an appearance on our table often, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yes, we are the sort of people who would be interested in eating dosas any time of the day. 🙂 We are forever looking for new ways to eat them dosas, and this one with a broccoli stuffing is the latest version we tried out at home.

Here’s presenting to you Broccoli Masala Dosa!

Broccoli Masala Dosa is a delicious spin on the regular masala dosa, a great way to use up those green florets. The filling is super simple to make too, taking just about 15 minutes in all to whip up. This makes Broccoli Masala Dosa a great meal choice, for weekdays and weekends alike.

Here’s how to make Broccoli Masala Dosa.

Ingredients (makes 8-10 dosas):

For the broccoli masala:

  1. 6 medium-sized florets of broccoli (roughly 1 cup when finely chopped)
  2. 1 medium-sized onion
  3. A handful of shelled green peas
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. 4-5 cloves of garlic
  6. 1 tablespoon oil
  7. Salt to taste
  8. Red chilli powder to taste
  9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  10. 2 generous pinches of asafoetida
  11. 3/4 tablespoon chana masala or to taste
  12. 3/4 tablespoon amchoor powder or to taste
  13. 1/2 tablespoon sugar or to taste
  14. 8 cashewnuts
  15. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

For the dosas:

  1. 8-10 ladles of dosa batter
  2. Oil, as needed to make the dosas

Method:

1. Chop the broccoli and onion finely. Keep aside.

2. Peel the ginger and chop finely. Peel the garlic cloves. Grind both to a paste in a small mixer, using a little water. Keep aside.

3. Chop the cashewnuts roughly. Grind to a paste in a small mixer, using a little water. Keep aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add the chopped broccoli and onion, along with the shelled green peas. Saute for a minute.

5. Add the ginger-garlic paste to the pan, along with salt and red chilli powder to taste, and turmeric powder. Saute on high heat for a minute.

6. Add the sugar, chana masala and amchoor. Saute on high flame for a minute more. The vegetables should be fully cooked by now.

7. Add the cashewnut paste to the pan, along with a little water. Mix well. Saute on medium heat for a couple of seconds. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Switch off the heat and mix in the finely chopped coriander. The broccoli masala is ready.

8. Now, we will prepare the dosas. Heat a dosa pan well on high heat till drops of water dance on it. Reduce the flame to medium, and place a ladleful of dosa batter in the centre of the pan. Spread it out with the back of the ladle. Spread a little oil around the dosa. Cook on medium heat till the dosa gets brown on the bottom. Now, flip the dosa over to the other side, and cook on medium flame for half a minute. Transfer the cooked dosa to a serving plate.

9. Spread a little of the prepared broccoli filling in the centre of the dosa. Serve immediately.

10. Prepare all the dosas in a similar way. Serve hot.

Notes:

1. You can use garam masala in the filling instead of chana masala.

2. Don’t skip the sugar in the broccoli masala. It brings out the other flavours beautifully.

3. Adjust the quantity of sugar, salt, red chilli powder, chana masala and amchoor powder as per personal taste preferences.

4. You can add some grated cheese and/or broken cashewnuts to the filling too, just before serving.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #256. The co-hosts this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.

Butterfly Pea Lemonade| Colour-Changing Magic Lemonade

Today’s recipe is a magic one! Christmas time, the season of Santa Claus and fairies and unicorns and secret gifts and all that, eh? 🙂

Now, this is a simple lemonade recipe at heart, but a magical, colour-changing one! When served, this drink is a pretty, deep blue. Squeeze some lemon into it, and it changes colour to a gorgeous purple! Let me hasten to add that this happens very naturally, without the help of any artificial colouring agents. The secret ingredient here is butterfly pea, a beautiful blue flower that grows in several Asian countries, including parts of India.

Also called Shankapushpam, blue pea, cordofan pea, Asian pigeonwings, bluebellvine, Darwin pea and Aparajita, the scientific name of the butterfly pea is Clitoria Ternatia. The blue flower is used as a natural food colouring in several parts of Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia and Burma. Adding a few of these flowers while cooking infuses the dish in question with a lovely blue colour – it is, actually, quite difficult to believe that such a brilliant blue colour can be achieved in food this naturally, without any chemical involvement at all! The colour of the food further changes to purple or pink, depending upon what ingredients have been added to it.

So, how does this colour-changing happen? It is simple science. Butterfly pea flowers contain a high concentration of something called anthocyanin, a pigment whose colour depends upon the amount of acidity present in its environment. When added to plain water, the pigment makes the water blue. Add something acidic to the water – like lemon – and when the pH level changes, it turns purple. When the acidity increases further – say, the addition of more lemon – the water turns a pretty magenta or pink.

Thanks to being rich in antioxidants, the butterfly pea flower aids in relieving stress, improving blood circulation, bettering eye health, and nourishing one’s skin and hair. This is precisely why the flower is widely used in South Asian countries in various food products as well as skin- and hair-care products.

I was introduced to these flowers for the first-ever time on our recent holiday in Thailand, in our hotel spa. I dropped in to the spa for a massage, and was served a warm blue-coloured tea with a wedge of lemon on the side. I was stunned to see the tea turn purple with the addition of the lemon, and wondered why on earth would they be using something so artificially coloured in a spa that claimed to use only traditional Thai methods and natural ways of healing! It was much later that I came to know that what I was offered was, in fact, Butterfly Pea Tea and that the blue was entirely natural. I had to pick up a packet of dried butterfly pea flowers in a Thai departmental store to get back home (very reasonably priced, I must add) – and good I did that too, for they cost an arm and a leg online!

On its own, the butterfly pea extract does not taste like much. It has a mild woody taste, not unlike green tea. I am not particularly fond of that, but when mixed with something else – like rice or lemonade, for instance – the woody taste gets masked by the other ingredients. This Butterfly Pea Lemonade tastes just like regular lemonade, but is much more healthier thanks to the addition of the flowers. The colour-changing property of this lemonade makes it a perfect drink for parties – especially Christmas parties. Instead of pre-mixing it, serve it with some lemon on the side, and watch your guests’ mouths open with wonder as they see their drink change colour! Just imagine how much kids will love this – mine did, to bits!

Enough said. This wondrous flower needed this long-winded introduction. Now, without further ado, let us check out the proceedure to make this Butterfly Pea Lemonade.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

  1. 1 tablespoon dried butterfly pea flowers
  2. 3 cups of water, at room temperature
  3. 6 tablespoons of sugar, or as needed
  4. Lemon halves, as needed
  5. Chilled water, as needed

Method:

  1. Heat the 3 cups of water on high flame, till it comes to a rolling boil.
  2. Add the sugar to the boiling water, and mix well. It will dissolve immediately. Let the water boil for a minute, then switch off gas.
  3. Add the dried butterfly pea flowers to the hot water. Close the pan with a lid, and let the flowers steep in the hot water for 20-30 minutes. By this time, the dried flowers would have let out their colour into the water, which would have turned a bright blue.
  4. Strain out the flowers from the water (you can choose to keep them in, too!). Allow the blue extract to cool down completely.
  5. When you are ready to serve the Butterfly Pea Lemonade, fill up as much of the blue extract as you need in serving glasses. Add some plain chilled water to the glasses, as needed. Taste and adjust quantities. Serve the glasses with lemon halves on the side.

Notes:

  1. For those of you who are interested, I picked up the dried butterfly pea flowers at Big C, a departmental store in Pattaya. The store stocks most traditional and contemporary Thai products, priced quite reasonably.
  2. If you are planning a visit to Thailand or have a friend or relative flying in, dried butterfly pea flowers are something you could ask them to get you. They are also available online, on websites like Amazon, but they are heavily priced.
  3. I haven’t worked with fresh butterfly pea flowers in my kitchen, so I’m not sure how they need to be used. If you have access to them, you may try using them instead, in this Butterfly Pea Lemonade recipe.
  4. In Thailand, these flowers are used in rice-based dishes, cocktails and mocktails, bakery goodies, ice creams and patties, among other things. I have not yet tried any of these things out, but I am simply amazed at the world of culinary possibilities these little butterfly pea flowers have opened up for me.
  5. You may use a healthy sweetener – like palm jaggery, coconut sugar or honey – in this lemonade recipe, instead of refined sugar, too. However, I am not sure how that would alter the pH level of the lemonade, and alter its colour.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog HopThis recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is #FlowersAndFruits, wherein members are cooking recipes using fresh or dried flowers and/or fruits. I chose to make this Butterfly Pea Lemonade for the theme.

I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #256. The co-hosts this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.

 

 

 

Experience The Flavours Of Winter With Rajdhani’s Swad Kesariya!

Winter is when you get out your shawls and sweaters and jackets. It is when you bundle up in warm blankets and spend entire days reading, gulping down cups of hot cocoa or chai. Winter is also the time to ogle at all those beautiful, beautiful Christmas trees and decorations that seem to be everywhere. Winter is also feasting time – when an abundance of gorgeous vegetables flood the markets, waiting to be converted into delectable, piping hot winter treats. For Bangaloreans, winter is also the time to feast on the delights at Rajdhani’s Swad Kesariya.

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The gorgeous reds and browns and greens of winter, on display at Swad Kesariya, Rajdhani. Doesn’t that sight just make your heart soar?!

Swad Kesariya, the winter-special menu at Rajdhani, is a much anticipated affair in Bangalore every year. This year too, Rajdhani recently launched the winter menu, which I had the pleasure of sampling yesterday.

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Part of the winter-special spread, Swad Kesariya, at Rajdhani

There are several winter delicacies from Gujarat and Rajashtan on offer at Swad Kesariya, including Kand Ki Tikki (patties made using root vegetables), Undhiyu (a Gujarati slow-cooked delicacy made with loads of winter vegetables), Kela Methi Na Gota (Gujarati-style deep-fried fritters using bananas and fenugreek greens), Hare Chane Ki Sabzi (fresh green chickpea curry cooked the Jaisalmer way), Mogri Peru (a curry made using Mogri, a special vegetable that is available only during winters), Kacchi Haldi Ki Sabzi (a Rajasthani curry made using fresh turmeric root), Shakarkandi Halwa (a dessert made using sweet potato) and everyone’s favourite Gajar Ka Halwa (a winter-special sweet treat typically made using those beautiful red Delhi carrots).

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Top left and right: Kand Ki Tikki and Surti Undhiyu; Centre left and right: Mogri Peru and Kela Methi Na Gota; Bottom left and right: Beautifully puffed-up phulka rotis and Haldi Nu Saag or Kacchi Haldi Ki Sabzi. All of these are part of the Swad Kesariya menu at Rajdhani.

I was especially thrilled to see and taste the Undhiyu at Rajdhani’s winter-special festival, as it is something I have grown up with in Gujarat, and have always loved to bits. I am happy to report this Undhiyu tasted every bit as delicious as the one I remember from back home.

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Top left: Lilva Kachoris, Gujarat- and Rajashtan-special deep-fried dumplings with a lovely green pea/pigeon pea stuffing; Top right: Hare Chane Ki Sabzi from Jaisalmer; Bottom Left: Shakarkandi Halwa; Bottom right: Churma Laddoo and Saunth Ke Laddoo, sweet delicacies from Rajashtan that are typically consumed during the months of winter.

Apart from the Undhiyu, my other favourites from Rajdhani’s Swad Kesariya menu were the Lilva Kachoris and the gorgeous chutneys made with wood apples. I also loved the Adadiya Pak (a Gujarati winter-special sweet made using urad daal flour), Gajar Ka Halwa and the Shakarkandi Halwa too. As always, the home-style, simple Daal Khichdi at Rajdhani delighted. The Kesar (saffron) Lassi was just perfect, great to wash down the hearty meal we had.

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The man behind that sumptuous spread – the Head Chef at Rajdhani, whom I had the good fortune of meeting at Swad Kesariya yesterday

Well, I hope you enjoyed the visuals from Rajdhani’s Swad Kesariya!

If you are in Bangalore or plan to be here sometime soon, don’t miss this chance to grab some exclusive North Indian winter delights in the ‘Uru. The Swad Kesariya menu will be available at all Rajdhani outlets across the city for a couple of months, depending upon ingredient availability.

PS: Please do note that the above is a showcase of all the dishes that are part of the winter-special menu at Rajdhani. While the Swad Kesariya menu is available every day at all Rajdhani outlets, all of these dishes might not be served every day. The menu rotates every day, so it is best to call the outlet and check availability if you are looking forward to sample any dish in particular. That said, major dishes like Undhiyu are served at all outlets on an everyday basis.

 

 

 

Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding| Steamed Fruit Cake

It’s almost Christmas! I absolutely have to share this Christmas-sy recipe with you – one for an Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding!

Bangalore is extremely beautiful right now. There’s a nip in the air, the weather just gorgeous, the diffused light perfect for photographs. Big Christmas trees, Santa Claus cut-outs, reindeer, red and green bobbles, lanterns, silver snowflakes and golden stars are everywhere. Plum cakes and other Christmas treats have started making an appearance in the bakeries of the city. There are Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and Christmas-special menus galore. Little and big shops, homes, and shopping malls (and food bloggers too!) are getting ready to usher in Christmas.

Our humble little Christmas tree is all set up, but we are yet to decorate it. That will be an afternoon project for the bub and me, one of these days. Did I tell you that the bub’s year-end holidays have started? She is already running amok in the house, wreaking havoc. 😛 This Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding was prepared with her in tow, over the weekend, to keep her from getting into too much trouble. 😀 Well, I can’t say the pudding served its intended purpose, but I did have loads of fun making it! Also, it did turn out absolutely delicious, a sweet treat just perfect for the holiday season! You can make a sauce to go with this pudding if you want, but you don’t really need one – just dust it with powdered sugar, and it turns into one stunner of a looker!

What do I say about this pudding? The name says it all. It is an eggless dessert, a steamed one made in a pressure cooker. It contains loads of fruit and nuts, cinnamon and cloves, like a Christmas fruit cake. Texture-wise, this is less dense than a fruit cake, a bit softer. Taste-wise, this is an almost-fruit cake.

If you are looking for something different, yet awesome to make for the Christmas season, do try this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding out. The process is a bit time-consuming, but I wouldn’t call it laborious. Put the pudding in the cooker to steam, turn the flame to low, and you don’t need to hover around the stove-top. Not really. The end result is totally, totally worth it, I can assure you of that.

Now, without further ado, let’s check out the recipe for this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Lite Bite

Ingredients (makes 1 medium-sized pudding, serves 8-10):

  1. 2-1/2 cups of mixed fruits and nuts
  2. Juice of 2 oranges
  3. 1-1/4 cup demerera sugar
  4. 1 cup maida
  5. 1 cup bread crumbs
  6. 4 cloves
  7. A 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon
  8. A small piece of nutmeg
  9. A pinch of salt
  10. 1 tablespoon oil
  11. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  12. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  13. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  14. A little butter, to grease the pudding mould

Method:

1. Chop all the nuts (like cashews, almonds) you are using into small bits. Similarly, chop the candied fruit (like oranges, ginger, kiwi, pineapple) into small pieces. If you are using fresh apples, grate them medium-fine. Take all the prepared fruit and nuts in a bowl.

2. Squeeze the juice out of the 2 oranges. Pour this over the prepared fruit and nuts in the bowl. Cover and let the fruit and nuts soak for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.

3. Pound the cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg using a mortar and pestle. Powder them together in a small mixer. Keep aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, place the maida, bread crumbs, salt, the cinnamon-cloves-nutmeg powder, the baking powder and baking soda. Mix together. Keep aside – these are the dry ingredients for the pudding.

5. Place the demerera sugar in a pan, and place it on high heat. When the pan gets hot, reduce the flame to low. Wait till the sugar is dissolved, and switch off the flame – don’t cook the sugar for too long, otherwise it will turn hard. Immediately, pour 1/2 cup of room-temperature water into the sugar and mix well. You should get a dark brown caramel syrup.

6. Pour the caramel syrup into the fruit and nuts, once they are done soaking. Add the oil and the vanilla essence to it, and mix well – these are the wet ingredients for the pudding.

7. Add the wet ingredients little by little to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix well, ensuring that all the wet and dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated together. The batter should be thick, and not very runny.

8. Grease a medium-sized vessel or pudding mould with a little butter. Pour the batter you prepared (in the step above) into the greased mould/vessel. Cover the mould/vessel with aluminium foil, and secure it with a piece of string. Keep ready.

9. Take 10 cups of water in a pressure cooker bottom. Place it on high heat and allow the water to come to a boil. Place the covered pudding mould/vessel with the batter (which we prepared in the step above) into the water. Cover the pressure cooker with the lid, and turn the flame down to low-medium.

10. Let the pudding cook on low-medium heat for 2 hours. It is ready when a knife or toothpick inserted into the centre of the pudding comes out clean. You can serve this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding warm or at room temperature, dusted with some powdered sugar.

Notes:

1. The mixed fruits and nuts should come to roughly 500 grams. I used one apple (grated), 50 grams of broken cashewnuts, 50 grams of black currants, 100 grams of raisins, 100 grams of candied oranges, 100 grams of candied pineapple and a few chunks of candied ginger.

2. You can use any odourless oil to make this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding. I used refined sunflower oil.

3. You can use ordinary white sugar to make the caramel here, instead of the demerera sugar. However, demerera sugar adds a lovely dark brown colour and a beautiful flavour to the pudding, so I would suggest you use that instead.

4. Make sure you don’t burn the sugar while making the caramel. Keep the pan on low heat, and switch off the gas as soon as the sugar dissolves. Add water immediately. If these steps are not done correctly, the sugar might become too hard, making it difficult to prepare the caramel.

5. Stand away while pouring water over the dissolved sugar. It sputters.

6. You can use any permutations and combinations of fruits and nuts, while making this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding. However, I would suggest you not miss out on the candied orange and ginger, grated apple, cashewnuts and black currants, for it is these ingredients that add a lovely touch to the pudding. Bananas, candied mixed fruit peel, cranberries, dates, cherries, candied kiwi, slivered almonds, etc. are some other things you might use.

7. Ensure that you place adequate water (10 cups) in the bottom of the pressure cooker while steaming the pudding. Keep checking at intervals, and refreshing the water in case you find it has come down.

8. The time that this pudding needs to get completely steamed would differ, depending upon the make of the cooker and ingredients used. Keep checking after 1-1/2 hours (by inserting a toothpick in the centre of the pudding – it should come out clean), and steam till fully done. Mine took exactly 2 hours to get done entirely.

9. Cover the pudding mould securely with a sheet of aluminium foil, and tie a piece of string around it. This will prevent any water from getting into the pudding.

10. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can use any large vessel or pan with a lid to steam the pudding.

11. Allow some space for the pudding to rise, in the mould that you use. I didn’t have a pudding mould, so I used an ordinary steel vessel for the steaming.

12. I have not tried making this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding with whole wheat flour yet, but I think it should be doable.

13. I have used store-bought bread crumbs here. You may make the bread crumbs at home, instead, too – just pulse 6-8 slices of day-old bread in the mixer till you get crumbs.

14. Make sure you steam the pudding on a low flame, to ensure even cooking.

15. You can soak the fruits and nuts in the orange juice a day in advance, before you make this pudding. In that case, take the fruits and nuts in a bowl, pour the orange juice over them, and allow them to soak in the refrigerator, covered. I just allowed the fruits and nuts to soak for about 30 minutes, before I started making the pudding.

16. Once the pudding is completely steamed and ready, set it aside for 20-30 minutes before unmoulding and slicing it.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is ‘#ChristmasSpecial Recipes’.

I’m sending this recipe for Fiesta Friday #254. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

Panel Discussion: Resurgence Of Millets In My Plate

Last week, I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to be part of a panel discussion, titled ‘Resurgence Of Millets In My Plate’, by eminent personalities from the state of Karnataka. This discussion, organised by the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Agriculture in co-ordination with the Department of Home Science of the Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, was held at The Capitol on Raj Bhavan Road on December 7, 2018 .

The panel discussion was a lead-up to the next Organics & Millets International Trade Fair, which is scheduled between January 18 and 20, 2019, at the Bengaluru Palace. As always, the discussion opened up to me the immense world of millets, all that one can do with these wonder grains, in one’s own kitchen and at the country level.

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The event started with a welcome speech by Dr. K.G. Jagadeesha, IAS, Commissioner – Department of Agriculture. He spoke about the mammoth scale of the Organics & Millets International Trade Fair 2019, and of how the fair has already proved to be a great success in the past years.

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Dr. A. Sundaravalli, introducing the agenda of the panel discussion

Post this, Dr. A. Sundaravalli, Head of the Department of Home Science, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, spoke about the panelists and the agenda of the discussion, i.e. how to enable millets to make a come-back on the plates of the common man, after the ancient grains having been considered as ‘poor man’s food’ for so long. She spoke of how, considering the immense health benefits of millets, it is critical for them to start gaining a wider acceptance than they already are.

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The panel discussion started, moderated by Dr. Santha Maria, Dean, Faculty of Home Science, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

Dr. Santha Maria, introducing the esteemed panelists to the audience

The esteemed panelists included:

  • Dr. Manjunath C.N., Director, Jayadeva Hospital
  • Dr. Mahesh D.M., Consultant Endocrinologist, Aster CMI and Medpoint Diabetes & Thyroid Clinic
  • Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy, President, Indian Dietictic Association
  • Mr. Sihikahi Chandru, Actor, Producer & Director
  • Mr. Prashant Parameshwaran, Managing Director, Soulfull
  • Mr. Vilasbhargav, Managing Director, South Ruchis Square
  • Mr. Suresh Hinduja, CEO, Gourmet India.com
  • Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal, Former Indian goalkeeper of Indian Hockey
  • Dr. Swarnalatha Chandran, Swarayu Wellness Clinic
The panelists, in the course of the discussion. From left to right: Ms. Swarnalatha Chandran, Dr. Mahesh D.M., Mr. Vilasbhargav, Mr. Suresh Hinduja, Dr. Santha Maria, Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal, Mr. Prashant Parameswaran, Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy, and Mr. Sihikahi Chandru

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Putting forth his views about the importance of using millets in today’s world, Dr. Manjunath stated that there has been a stark increase in the incidence of lifestyle diseases in India, in the last couple of decades, both among males and females. What is even more alarming is the age group among which the incidence of these diseases is on the rise – more and more people in their 20s and 30s are being affected by rising blood pressure and cholesterol as well as heart problems, which is something very serious. At this rate, the day is not far when India will be the ‘disease capital of the world’. There are several factors which are leading to this negative development, as per Dr. Manjunath – including improper food habits, sedentary lifestyles, improper work situations, high stress levels and rising air pollution. Millets can go a long way towards bringing this alarm-inducing situation under control, he strongly opined.

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Dr. Manjunath putting forth his views at the panel discussion

The primary prevention of most lifestyle disorders starts with food, Dr. Manjunath stated. A lot of these diseases that are prevalent among today’s Indian youth can be controlled by increasing the consumption of millets, as well as consuming more vegetables and fruits (at least the minimum recommended dietary requirement for an adult). Dr. Manjunath stated that awareness among people about the various health benefits of millets needs to increase further, which will in turn bring about a better acceptance of them.

He went on to appeal to the audience not to think that the consumption of millets will automatically resolve all of one’s health issues. Millets are not a panacea. They should be used in combination with other components in one’s diet, like fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fats, wheat and rice. Every food group is important, he said. A 60:40 combination of millets:other ingredients will go a long way towards making them more palatable to the general public, he stated.

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Dr. Mahesh then went on to further elaborate on the various benefits that the consumption of millets offers. He stated that millets are the only food that offer everything to the human body, from fat, protein and antioxidants to vitamins and minerals. They are of great help in exercising the gut, and ensure the slow release of sugars into one’s blood stream. Considering this, it is very important for millets to start gaining wider acceptance among the general public, he stated.

The panelists, engrossed in the discussion

Prevention is better than cure. To cut short lifestyle diseases before they occur, it is high time we start paying close attention to what kinds of foods we are putting into our systems, Dr. Mahesh stated. It is high time we started recognising the importance of these wonder grains called millets, and gave them pride of place on our dining tables, he added.

Dr. Mahesh also spoke about the criticality of inculcating good eating habits, millets included, among children and youth, which will go on to ensure that we grow up into healthier adults and a healthier nation. Educating them about healthy eating will go a long way towards increasing acceptance, he stated.

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Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy went on to bust some common myths about the consumption of millets in India:

  • There seems to be a misconception among some Indians that eating a dark-coloured millet like ragi or finger millet will cause one’s skin to become dark. That is so not the case! Millets do not affect the colour of your skin, or that of your unborn child during pregnancy!
  • Millets are not a panacea for all diseases. Increasing the consumption of millets in one’s diet does not mean that all one’s ills will be cured.
  • Millets cannot replace everything else in your lunch or dinner plate. Your meals every day cannot be all-millet. A balanced diet, including good portion of all food groups, is more important. Moreover, millets might not be suitable in large proportions for certain people, such as those with digestive ailments.
  • Using millets in any proportion and in any way does not help. Using a small portion of millets in a dish, while the rest is made up of sugar or fat is not a healthy way to consume them. You don’t get the health benefits of the millet in your system, that way.
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Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy putting forth her views about millets at the panel discussion

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Mr. Sihikahi Chandru spoke about how he started reading up about millets a while ago, when he heard about the numerous health benefits they possess. He was surprised to discover that millets are not some new-fangled marketing drama, but an age-old grain that has been in use in India since centuries. He spoke of how his grandparents and ancestors grew up regularly consuming millets, and lifestyle disorders never seemed to affect them. Further, he went on to speak about how, when he himself tried to inculcate millets in his daily diet, it took a while for his system to adjust to them. He urged the audience to give millets a chance, to give their bodies enough time to get used to them, to not give up on them too soon. Mr. Chandru also spoke about the need to cook millets in a way that is palatable to the general public, so as to improve their acceptance.

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Mr. Sihikahi Chandru, speaking at the panel discussion

In conclusion, Mr. Chandru stated that millets need to be made more affordable, so as to enable common men and women to consume more of them. The production, distribution and affordability of millets needs to be worked upon.

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Mr. Prashant Parameshwaran spoke about how his firm, Soulfull, is working towards making millets more palatable and acceptable to the kids of today and the younger generation. He went on to speak about how Soulfull is making millets easier to use, so that they can get wider acceptance by the general public.

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Mr. Parameshwaran also talked about how the onus of change (from a largely wheat- and rice-dominant diet to a millet-inclusive one) lies on several people, including doctors, media, teachers, bloggers, food critics and housewives. All of these stakeholders need to work towards this goal, for it to be successfully achieved.

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Mr. Vilasbhargav talked about increased awareness among his customers at South Ruchis Square, a fine-dining restaurant located in Bangalore, about the health benefits of millets. He spoke about how customers today are more willing to try out various dishes made using millets, and of how such dishes are getting a good response in his restaurant. There is scope to do a lot more using millets in the culinary world, he added.

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Mr. Suresh Hinduja spoke about the need to tackle the non-acceptance of millets among children and adults alike. It is critical to introduce millets to children early on, so they are more receptive of them at later stages in life, he rightly stated. Also, there is a need to educate adults about the many ways in which millets can help them lead a healthier life, he said, which enable them to accept the grains more readily.

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Mr. Suresh Hinduja, speaking at the panel discussion

Mr. Hinduja also re-emphasised the need to serve millets in a way that is more acceptable to the children and youth of today. Millet-based drinks, energy bars, chocolates, pancakes and snacks are good ways to introduce the younger generation to the wonder grain, he stated.

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Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal talked about how the inclusion of millets is important for sportspeople and those are conscious about their health. Millets are a gluten-free food filled with nutrients, thus making for the perfect pre-game food. He spoke about how he began including millets like ragi and jowar in his own daily diet and that of his team, at the recommendation of doctors, and how that benefited them hugely.

Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal addressing the audience at the panel discussion

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Dr. Swarnalatha spoke about how millets are loaded with health benefits, but might not be suitable for all types of personalities, all age groups, and all times of the day. For instance, she stated, the system of someone with a kapha-dominant personality would be more acceptable to millets rather than someone with a vata– or pitta-dominant personality. Millets take time to digest, which is why they should preferably be consumed earlier in the day, between 6 AM to 2 PM, she said. She also spoke of how what you consume the millets with affect what nutrients you absorb from them – for instance, cooking them with an acidic substance like lemon or tamarind helps in better absorption of the iron in them.

Dr. Swarnalatha addressing the audience, at the panel discussion

Dr. Swarnalatha went on to state that it would be wrong to say that millets cannot be consumed by goiterous people or those with thyroid issues. The consumption of millets only has a very small bearing on goiter and thyroid problems, she stated. It would be best to consult a qualified dietician or doctor for better clarity on these aspects, she added.

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The event concluded with the answering of audience questions by the panelists. This was followed by a vote of thanks to the panelists on behalf of the Department of Home Sciences, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

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As always, there are several events planned to the run-up of the Organics & Millets Trade Fair 2019, including cooking contests, millet fairs, runs and more. Stay tuned! Also, don’t miss marking your calendars for the gala fair that is slated to happen in January 2019!

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I’m sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #254. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

Monaco Mango Bites| Cheesy Sweet & Salty Nibbles

Are you looking for a quick nibble to perk up a boring day? Are you looking for an interesting, different-from-the-usual appetiser to serve at a party? Try out these Monaco Mango Bites!

These Monaco Mango Bites are a beautiful medley of flavours, which your guests will surely love. It was a big hit at home, when I tried it out recently. The classic Monaco biscuit lends its saltiness to the nibbles, the mango its sweetness, the red chilli powder a hint of spice, while the cheese and gherkins add an element of surprise to them. All of them together pack a flavour punch!

This is a super simple snack that you can whip up within minutes, if you have ingredients on hand, albeit not very healthy. You can use toppings of your choice to these nibbles too, and come up with a different-tasting snack every time you make these!

Let’s now check out the recipe for these Monaco Mango Bites, shall we?

Ingredients:

  1. Monaco biscuits, as needed
  2. Dried mango (with sugar), as needed
  3. Cheese cubes, as needed
  4. Pickled gherkins, as needed
  5. Red chilli powder, as needed

Method:

  1. Slice the gherkins thinly. Keep aside.
  2. Slice the cheese cubes thinly. Keep aside.
  3. Make small bite-sized pieces of the dried mango. Keep aside.
  4. Arrange Monaco biscuits on a serving platter, as per requirement. Place a piece of dried mango on top of each biscuit, along with a slice of cheese and a couple of slices of gherkins. Drizzle some red chilli powder on top of each biscuit. The Monaco Mango Bites are ready! Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. I used the basic old-fashioned salt biscuits from Monaco to make this dish.
  2. Here, I have used some of the dried mango that I bought in Thailand, which has some sugar in it. It was soft and easily chewable, so I did not need to soak it.
  3. I have used cubes of Amul processed cheese, which I have thinly sliced.
  4. I have used store-bought pickled gherkins, also called ‘Sandwich Fillers’. They are, usually, thinly sliced and used in sandwiches to add flavour. Check out this Subway-Style Veggie Delight sandwich in which I have done just that.
  5. Use very little red chilli powder, just a drizzle, over the Monaco Mango Bites. It should not make the nibbles spicy, but just add an element of interest and surprise to them.
  6. You can use toppings of your choice to make these nibbles – dried lemons or oranges, cheese, jalapenos, chaat masala, anything goes in the right permutations and combinations. Let your imagination run wild!

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This post is for the Healthy Wellthy Cuisines group that I am part of. The members of this group cook for a particular theme every fortnight. This fortnight, all of us are cooking dishes using dried fruit and/or nuts, and I chose to prepare these Monaco Mango Bites for the theme.

Check out what the other members of the group made for the theme!:

Badam Puri by Ruchi| Date Truffles With Oats by Sasmita|Nutty Fruity Cookies by Rosy| Salted Cashewnuts by Jayashree| Zarda Pulao by Vanitha| Shahi Mewa Korma by Shalu| 5-Minute Pavlova Parfait by Seema| Fruit & Nut Granola by Mayuri| Fruit & Nut Raita by Geetanjali

I’m sending this recipe for Fiesta Friday #254. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

 

Vazhaipazham Sakkarai Pongal| Banana Sweet Pongal

Vazhaipazham Sakkarai Pongal is a lovely twist to the regular sweet pongal that is commonly prepared in South India on auspicious occasions. Adding bananas elevates the taste of the sweet pongal up by several notches, and is a great way to get the goodness of the fruits in. This little touch makes the regular sakkarai pongal more exotic, makes it just perfect to serve guests on parties and other festive occasions.

This is a simple pressure-cooker recipe that can be put together in a matter of minutes. I’m sure it will be much loved by people of all age groups, including fussy kids. My daughter absolutely adores this!

Let’s now check out the recipe for this Vazhaipazham Sakkarai Pongal aka Banana Sweet Pongal, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 5-6):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1/2 cup moong daal
  3. 3 cups jaggery powder
  4. 2 cups milk
  5. 2 pinches of cardamom (elaichi) powder
  6. 2 big Robusta bananas
  7. 10-12 cashewnuts
  8. 2 tablespoons raisins
  9. 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons of ghee

Method:

1. Take the rice and moong daal together in a wide vessel. Wash a couple of times under running water. Discard the excess water.

2. Add 2 cups of milk and 2-1/2 cups water to the washed and drained rice. Mix well. Pressure cook for 4 whistles on high flame, or till the rice and moong daal are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the jaggery syrup for the pongal. Heat 2 cups of water in a pan, and add the jaggery powder to it. On high heat, allow the jaggery to get completely dissolved in the water. Cook till the syrup comes to a rolling boil.

4. When the jaggery syrup comes to a boil, add the cooked rice and moong daal to it. Cook on medium flame till everything is well integrated together, 3-4 minutes. Stir intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan.

5. Add the cardamom powder as well as 2 tablespoons of ghee to the pongal. Chop the bananas into slices and add to the pongal too. Mix well, and cook on medium flame for a minute. Switch off gas.

6. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee in another pan. Turn the flame to low, and add in the cashewnuts and raisins. Keep them in till the cashewnuts turn brown and the raisins plump up – take care to ensure that they do not burn.

7. Add the fried cashewnuts and raisins to the pongal. Mix well. The Banana Sweet Pongal is ready – serve hot or at room temperature.

Notes:

1. I have used Sona Masoori rice to make this pongal. You may use any other variety of rice you prefer, instead. You may even reduce the quantity of moong daal you use or skip it altogether, too.

2. Edible camphor (pacchai karpooram) can be added to the Banana Sweet Pongal. I haven’t.

3. I have used 4 tablespoons of ghee in the pongal, in total. You may use more, if you so prefer.

4. Use full-fat milk to make this pongal. I have used Nandini full-cream milk here.

5. Use boiled and cooled milk to make this Vazhaipazham Sakkarai Pongal.

6. You may skip the milk in the Banana Sweet Pongal too. In that case, cook the rice and moong daal in 4-1/2 cups water.

7. 4 whistles on high heat was just right to cook the rice and moong daal in my case. This might differ, depending on the make of the pressure cooker and the quality of ingredients used. Adjust cooking time accordingly.

8. If you feel there are impurities in the jaggery, you might want to filter the syrup before use. I did not find the need to do so.

9. The amount of jaggery you will really need depends on the type you use. Adjust quantity accordingly. In my case, 3 cups worked just fine. Typically, double the amount of jaggery to the amount of rice + moong daal works perfectly.

10. I have used Robusta bananas here. If you want to use any other variety of bananas, you might want to increase or decrease the quantity accordingly.

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week, as suggested by fellow food blogger Preethi of Preethi’s Cuisine, is #PotluckRecipes. The participants need to share recipes of their specialty dishes, which they would feel confident carrying to a potluck party. I chose to make this Vazhaipazham Sakkarai Pongal or Banana Sweet Pongal for the theme.

I’m also sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #253. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons and Mila @ Milkandbun.

I’m linking this post to My Legume Love Affair (MLLA) #123, an event conceptualised by Susan and hosted by Lisa.

Coconut & Mango Pulav

Coconut and mango is a classic combination, one that is much loved. The two flavours marry beautifully, which is why they are found together in many dishes like Sticky Rice With Mango, Mango & Coconut Smoothie, Mango & Coconut Bliss Balls, and the like. The dish I present to you today – Coconut & Mango Pulav – uses this classic ingredient combination again, in a very Indian way.

This Coconut & Mango Pulav tastes lovely. The coconut flavour comes from fresh coconut milk, and I have used some of the dried, sugared mangoes that I picked up while holidaying in Thailand recently. I tried out this pulav recently at home on a whim, and it was an instant hit with everyone.

This is a pressure-cooker dish, a one-pot meal that can be put together in mere minutes. It makes for a different-from-the-usual lunch or dinner, perfect for busy weekdays or lazy weekends. Kids will love this Coconut & Mango Pulav – mine did!

Let’s now see how to make this Coconut & Mango Pulav, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 3):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  3. 4-5 beans
  4. 1 medium-sized onion
  5. 1 small carrot
  6. 2 tablespoons shelled green peas
  7. 4 green chillies
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1 tablespoon oil
  10. 2 small bay leaves (tej patta)
  11. 4 cloves (laung)
  12. 4 cardamom pods (elaichi)
  13. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon (dalchini)
  14. 4 large pieces of dried mango (with sugar)
  15. 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

  1. We will first prepare all the vegetables we need to use in the pulav. Peel the carrot and chop finely. Chop the onion finely. Remove the strings from the green beans, and chop them finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep the prepared vegetables aside.
  2. Wash the rice thoroughly under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water.
  3. Now, heat the oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon (broken into two), cardamom and cloves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  4. Add the chopped onions to the pan, along with the chopped carrot and beans, and the shelled green peas. Saute for a minute.
  5. Add the washed and drained rice to the pressure cooker. Saute for a minute.
  6. Add the 1 cup of coconut milk and 1.5 cups of water. Add in salt to taste and the slit green chillies. Mix well.
  7. Put the pressure cooker lid on. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
  8. Meanwhile, chop the dried mango into small pieces.
  9. Mix in the finely chopped coriander and the mango bits. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. I have used Sona Masoori rice here. You may use any other variety of rice you prefer.
  2. The heat in this pulav comes only from the green chillies. Adjust the quantity of green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the dish to be.
  3. Use only a minimal amount of vegetables in this pulav. Only mango and coconut are supposed to be the dominating flavours here.
  4. I have used dried mango from Thailand here, which had some sugar in it. It was quite soft, so I just had to chop it into pieces and add it to the pulav. There was no need to soak the mango.
  5. Increase or decrease the quantity of dried mango you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.
  6. I have used 1 cup of thick home-made coconut milk here. Alternatively you may use 200 ml of store-bought coconut milk, which roughly comes up to 1 cup.
  7. I have used a 5-litre pressure cooker to make this Coconut & Mango Pulav.
  8. I have used refined oil in this pulav. You may use any oil of your preference or ghee, instead.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

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I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #253. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons and Mila @ Milkandbun.

Grand Palace & Temple Of The Emerald Buddha, Bangkok

The temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok was one of the reasons the husband and I finally undertook that long-pending trip to Thailand, this October. 9 long years ago, while we were honeymooning in Thailand, it was at this very temple that I made a vow – a vow to come back later, with any children that the future might bring into our lives.

Our secret connection with the Emerald Buddha

We were shy newlyweds then, on a tour to the temple not unlike many other Indian tourists. The Thais place immense faith in the Emerald Buddha, housed in the Grand Palace (the former residence of the country’s royal family), and strongly believe that no prayer goes unanswered here. When we visited, back then, the aura of sacredness came off the place in waves. When our tour guide mischievously suggested that the husband and I should pray to the Emerald Buddha for a cute baby girl, I went ahead and did just that. I prayed for the husband and I to lead happy, healthy lives together, vowed to Him that I would come back with our cute little one to see Him again. I kept my pact with Him this October, introducing Him to the cute and little (but also, super naughty and super frustrating) bub. The experience made me feel all light-hearted and warm inside. Touchwood.

People’s expressions range from ‘Whhhhhatttttt?’ to ‘Squeee! Just howwww romanticcccc is that!’ when they hear this story. I’ll leave you to decide on that. I’ll just say that, back then, the prayers came straight from the heart, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world to do. This post is a glimpse into the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha, through my eyes.

About the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha

The Grand Palace in Bangkok refers to the former residence of the royal family of Thailand, since 1782, which is when it was constructed by King Rama I. It is not a single structure, but rather a collection of a number of buildings, halls, lawns and open courtyards, and a temple. Considering that these buildings were slowly added on over the years, their styles of construction are quite different from each other. This asymetry is evident as soon as you enter the main gate of the Grand Palace, but the painstaking detailing and prettiness of each building will not fail to blow your mind away.

The various buildings that the Grand Palace houses, visible as soon as you enter. Can you notice the mixed architectural styles?

By the year 1925, the royal family had completely moved out of the Grand Palace. However, there are a few royal government offices that are still functional here. Parts of the palace grounds are open to visitors, who come in droves. Even as I write this, the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha within are among the most visited sites in Thailand by tourists.

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The entrance to one of the structures in the Grand Palace. Can you spot the crowds of tourists?
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Just how beautiful is this structure at the Grand Palace!

Wat Phra Kaew (more commonly known as the temple of the Emerald Buddha) is a chapel located within the palace grounds. Apparently, King Rama I had the temple constructed in 1782 to house the 60-foot tall statue of the Buddha that he had carved out of green jasper stone. This statue exists in the chapel till date, and is considered one of the most important Buddha idols in Thailand.

Our experience at the Grand Palace

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A pretty mural we came across in the Grand Palace. This was a part of an entire series of similar murals, all of which apparently depict the Thai version of the Ramayana.

It is a hot and humid October afternoon when we visited the Grand Palace for the second time. The taxi we hire drops us off at the designated spot for the same, from where we proceed walking towards the palace. Only to be stopped by a smiling local, dressed formally and wearing some sort of a tag around his neck – he goes on to tell us that the Grand Palace was closed till later in the day, that we should probably head out to some of the other surrounding tourist attractions and come back post that. The husband and I sense something fishy about this, and walk away saying we would check with the tourist information desk at the Grand Palace anyway. Only later do we come to know this is a popular scam around here – a way to make tourists part with some of their cash by making them go on unnecessary tuk-tuk rides and visiting spots they hadn’t planned for in the first place.

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A structure inside the Grand Palace. Just how pretty are those ‘ball’ trees?
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One of the many ‘bearers’ we spot at the Grand Palace, holding up the many pillars and blocks present here

The Grand Palace is very much open, as we suspected already. We buy our tickets and head inside, not opting for the services of a guide or an audio tour. Instead, we decide to rely on the maps freely available to tourists at the ticket counter, and tour the premises ourselves. Swarms of tourists walk in with us. Thankfully, the Grand Palace premises are huge (almost 2,20,000 sq mt., to be precise), and it does not feel stiflingly crowded inside.

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A demon guarding the temple of the Emerald Buddha within the Grand Palace compound. Check out the detailing on the idol! There were six huge ‘demons’ like these, every single one crowded with people who wanted selfies with them!
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Check this out! Beautiful detailing on one of the walls within the Grand Palace premises

The premises of the Grand Palace are extremely neat and well-maintained, just as I remember them from our visit all those years ago. The traditional golden-coloured Thai monuments glitter as they catch the rays of the sun, as does the fine detailing in crystal, glass and gold detailing that seems to be everywhere. Personnel from the Thai Army and Police are everywhere too, infusing order to the movements inside the palace compound. All over again, I am entranced by the place at the first glance.

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A beautiful, beautiful white-and-blue structure within the Grand Palace premises
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Statue of a Chinese guard spotted at the Grand Palace

I can understand why a visit to the Grand Palace proves to be quite overwhelming for some tourists. The droves of tourists, the hordes of uniformed guards, all those monuments, all those different architectural styles, all that detailing and bling, a highly sacred Buddha in the midst of it all – it can be too much to take in and process. The husband and I take it really easy, for this very reason. We have no agenda in mind; we are not there just to check the place off a long checklist. We have come prepared to stay for a few hours’ time, simply walking around and taking in the scenes and sights and sounds, one little piece at a time, taking breaks in between just to sit in silence. I can’t say we understand the entire layout of the Grand Palace or figure out the many stories associated with the place, but I can definitely say we thoroughly enjoy exploring it at our own pace. This way, our visit turns out enriching and oh, so rewarding.

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The surroundings of the Emerald Buddha temple. Again, the same mix of different architectural styles.
Outside the temple of the Emerald Buddha

Walking around, we reach Wat Phra Kraew or the temple of the Emerald Buddha, and get inside to pay our respects. The inside is cool and refreshing, a welcome respite from the heat that is beating down outside. Photography is not allowed inside the temple, so I have no pictures of the idol to show you. However, we are surely left breathless by all the ornate work in and around the temple.

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Some of the detailing on the walls outside the Emerald Buddha temple
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A mythological Thai creature that is half-woman, half-animal

We sprinkle some of the holy water from the temple over our heads, and gear up to walk around some more. By then, the sun was at its hottest best, and we are quite tired. We realise we should be heading out soon, and that is just what we do. On the way back, we capture a few more of the charming, painstakingly done sights that the Grand Palace has to offer.

A model of Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple, in the Grand Palace premises. Cambodia used to be a vassal state to Thailand (erstwhile Siam) in those days, and legend has it that King Rama I had this constructed so he could show people this beautiful temple from the other country that was also under Thai rule.
Rows and rows of cannons spotted in the premises of the Grand Palace. I kind of shudder to think that these must have been in actual use at some point of time.

Tips for travellers

  1. Visiting the Grand Palace can be quite an overwhelming experience for some travellers. It helps to take this place easy and explore it at one’s own pace, like we did.
  2. You can hire the services of a guide at the Grand Palace, if you so wish. He/she will help you understand the history of the place better. However, make sure he/she speaks good English, and do fix a price for the tour beforehand to avoid heartache later.
  3. Beware of tourist scams in and around the Grand Palace. Be careful with your belongings.
  4. Dressing conservatively is a must at the Grand Palace. Shorts and dresses that expose knees and/or ankles are a strict no-no. If needed, you can rent a wraparound from a stall located near the ticket counter.
  5. Photography is allowed everywhere in the Grand Palace, the parts that are open to public I mean, except inside the temple of the Emerald Buddha. The chapel is highly sacred to the Thais, and it is advisable to follow the rules and maintain the sanctity of the place.
  6. Entry fees at the Grand Palace are 500 Thai Baht per head, for foreigners, which is actually pretty steep.
  7. The palace remains open between 8.30 AM and 3.30 PM daily, except on special holidays which are usually announced well in advance.
  8. The Grand Palace gets really, really crowded with tourists! If you would like to explore it quietly, you would do well to reach before it opens, before the maddening crowds descend upon it.
  9. Walking around the huge premises of the Grand Palace can be a tiring, draining affair, especially in the months of summer and monsoon. Ensure that you don’t carry much while you walk around, wear loose and breathable clothes, and have a bottle of water with you as you explore.
  10. Do read up a bit about the history of Thailand and the Grand Palace, as well as a bit about Thai culture and mythology, and I can bet you will have a fascinating experience here. No time to do that? Check out the place at leisure, and then do your reading after you get back home – like we did.
  11. There are several places that you can visit around the Grand Palace – the temple of the reclining Buddha aka Wat Pho, for instance, Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, and the famous Khao San Road. You may combine a visit to the Grand Palace with any of these places.
  12. You can use a cab, the BTS Skytrain or river taxi to get to the Grand Palace, or just walk down if you are staying nearby. We used a cab.

I hope you liked this post, and found it useful! Do tell me in your comments!