Pressure Cooker Jeera Rice| One-Pot Indian Cumin Rice

It was September 2008. A ‘boy’ had come from Bangalore to our place in Ahmedabad, with his mom and his brother, to ‘see’ me. Well, it wasn’t the first time the boy, his family and I were meeting – a year before their visit, courtesy of my Bangalore aunt, I had already met them. The boy and I had kind of approved of each other but, for one reason or the other of the boy’s making, official talks of our wedding never happened. Then, one fine day, a year after we met, this boy pings me on chat saying he’s had enough and that he’s serious about getting married to me! We started chatting regularly, a lot of doubts clearing, new respect and love building. His family and mine were thrilled that the cogs were finally turning and some progress was happening in our relationship. So, when this boy and his family came over to Ahmedabad to visit, deep, official talks were conducted, as was an unofficial engagement ceremony. And then, in January 2009, this boy became my wedded partner in life. He became my husband, and I his wife. 10 years since, today, together we stand.

Why am I talking about this today? Because I am about to share with you guys the recipe for the first-ever dish I cooked for the husband and his family – Pressure Cooker Jeera Rice or One-Pot Indian Cumin Rice – at my place. From what I knew of the husband’s family, they were a typical non-foodie bunch, used to typical South Indian home-cooked meals. This Pressure Cooker Jeera Rice was my way of indicating that a change in the household’s culinary scene was in order, shortly, yet nothing too jarring or disruptive or disrespectful. πŸ˜€ I served the jeera rice with a simple Dal Tadka, and the combination was quite liked by them.

This is an easy one-pot recipe that gets ready in a jiffy. In just about 10 minutes, it yields supremely flavourful, fluffy cumin rice that makes for just the perfect accompaniment to dal or a gravy-based curry.

Try this out, will you?

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 1-1/2 cups rice
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 2 green chillies
  4. 2 teaspoons jeera aka cumin
  5. 2 tablespoons ghee
  6. 3-3/4 cups of water
  7. 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander, to garnish

Method:

  1. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep them ready.
  2. Wash the rice a couple of times in running water, draining out the excess water each time. Keep the washed and drained rice ready.
  3. Heat the ghee in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the cumin seeds, and let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  4. Add in the slit green chillies and the washed and drained rice. Saute on medium flame for a minute, ensuring that the rice does not burn.
  5. Now, turn the flame to high. Add in the water and salt to taste. Mix well.
  6. Allow the water to come to a boil. At this stage, close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on.
  7. Cook on high flame for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
  8. When the pressure has entirely gone down, open the cooker. Gently fluff up the rice. Mix in the finely chopped coriander.
  9. Serve hot with a gravy-based curry or dal of your choice.

Notes:

  1. I have used Sona Masoori rice to make this One-Pot Indian Cumin Rice.
  2. It is imperative that you use good-quality cumin, rice and ghee in this recipe, since these are the ingredients that will impart maximum flavour to the Pressure Cooker Jeera Rice.
  3. I used a 5-litre pressure cooker to make this One-Pot Indian Cumin Rice.
  4. Some people add in whole spices like bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon and/or cloves, as well as caramelised onions and shelled green peas to the One-Pot Indian Cumin Rice. I have skipped all of these ingredients, and used just the most basic ones.
  5. You can use basmati rice in place of Sona Masoori rice, too. In that case, adjust the quantity of water you use accordingly.
  6. To cook plain steamed rice in a pressure cooker, I use 3-1/2 cups of water per 1 cup of Sona Masoori rice. For this Pressure Cooker Jeera Rice, however, since I wanted it to be grainy but well-cooked, I have used 2-1/2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice. So, for 1-1/2 cups of Sona Masoori rice, I have used 3-3/4 cups of water in total. Adjust the quantity of water you use depending upon the type of rice used and how grainy you want the One-Pot Indian Cumin Rice to be.
  7. Pressure cooking for 3 whistles gives just the perfect output for us. You may want to increase or decrease the number of whistles depending upon the make of your cooker, the quantity of rice you are cooking, and the texture of rice that you are aiming at.
  8. After adding salt to the water in the pressure cooker, taste it. It should be a bit salty. When the rice is added to it, the salt content turns out to be just perfect.

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for Foodie Monday Blog Hop, a Facebook group that I am part of. Every Monday, the participants of this group cook and share recipes for a pre-determined theme.

The theme for this week, suggested by Swaty Malik of Food Trails, is #DownMemoryLane. As the name of the theme suggests, each of us participants have to share a recipe that means something to us, which has memories attached to it. I chose to write about this simple Pressure Cooker Jeera Rice recipe for the theme, as it brings back a rush of several fond memories.

I’m also sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #262. The co-host is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Classic Falafel Recipe| Easy Home-Made Falafel

The husband often visits the Middle East and surrounding regions on work. Much as he loves his rasam, rice and potato roast, he has been brought out of his comfort zone on such work trips. πŸ™‚ Over time, life (and I!) has taught him to explore the local cuisine of wherever he is travelling. He has now gotten acquainted with falafel and kebobs, dolma and pita sandwiches, hummus and baba ganouj, various dips and hand-made Israeli cheeses. He reports it has been a happy change, considering the Middle Eastern cuisine has so much to offer vegetarians, and full of flavour at that. It was his ruminations about the food of the Middle East (still quite exotic, quite unexplored to me!) to try my hands at the cuisine. Today, I present to you the recipe for Easy Home-Made Falafel, one of the husband’s favourite snacks while on the aforementioned work trips.

Falafel‘ refers to deep-fried fritters made using chickpeas or fava beans or a mix of both, with a few herbs and spices added in. The origin of falafel has been linked to Egypt, though today, it is quite a common street food across most Middle-East countries, and is very popular even in India. With time, several versions of the falafel have come up the world over, including a healthier, baked version. Mine, however, is a Classic Falafel Recipe, where the snack is made the traditional, deep-fried way.

Making basic falafel from scratch isn’t a difficult task. Once you have the chickpeas soaked and ready, preparing it is a breeze. All the ingredients that one needs for falafel are easy to find in an average Indian kitchen, too. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, they make for a delicious evening snack, especially on rainy, cold days. They are super versatile – lending themselves easily to make a more filling pita bread sandwich or wrap or burger, which would be just the right party snacks. They are deep-fried, yes, but full of protein, and better any day than snacking on junk food.

Enough said. Now, without any further delays, let us move on to the Classic Falafel Recipe!

Ingredients (makes 25-30 falafel):

  1. 1 cup chickpeas aka kabuli chana
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
  4. 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
  5. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  6. 1 medium-sized onion
  7. 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
  9. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin (jeera) powder
  10. 1 teaspoon coriander (dhania) powder
  11. A dash of lemon juice
  12. 1-2 tablespoons maida or gram flour/besan (optional)
  13. Oil for deep frying

Method:

1. Soak the chickpeas for 8-10 hours or overnight, in just enough water to cover them.

2. When the chickpeas are done soaking, drain out all the water from them. Transfer the drained chickpeas to a mixer jar.

3. Add the chopped mint and coriander to the mixer jar, along with salt to taste.

4. Peel the garlic cloves. Add them to the mixer jar.

5. Chop the onion roughly. Add to the mixer jar.

6. Add red chilli powder, black pepper powder, roasted cumin powder, coriander powder and lemon juice to the mixer jar too.

7. Gently mix up the contents of the mixer jar. Pulse a couple of times, a couple of seconds each time. Stop in between to mix up the ingredients. Remember not to make a fine paste – just a coarse mixture. There’s no need to add water while grinding, but do add a spoonful or two if you are finding it absolutely impossible to dry grind.

8. Meanwhile, take the oil for deep frying in a pan. Place on high heat. Allow the oil to get nice and hot.

9. Try to shape small balls out of the mixture you ground earlier. If you are able to form balls that hold their shape, you can drop them – 3-4 at a time – into the hot oil straight away. Then, turn the flame down to medium and deep fry the balls evenly, till they turn brown on the outside. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. However, if the balls crumble when you try to shape them, you might need to mix in some maida or besan. This will help the balls get a bit firmer, post which you can deep fry them in the hot oil.

10. Serve the falafel piping hot, with a dip, sauce or chutney of your choice.

Notes:

  1. Falafel can be made with either fava beans or kabuli chana, or a mix of both. The ancient, traditional versions of falafel were made using fava beans, however the more recent versions use kabuli chana. I have made these falafel using only chickpeas aka kabuli chana.
  2. Traditionally, parsley is used in falafel, for flavour. However, as parsley is not very commonly used in our house, I have used a mix of fresh mint leaves and coriander in the above recipe.
  3. I have served the above Easy Home-Made Falafel with a simple hung curd dip. Here’s how I made the dip – Grind together a handful of fresh mint leaves, 1 green chilly, salt to taste, 2 garlic cloves, a dash of lemon juice and some honey. Mix this into about 1/2 cup of hung curd (curd that has been hung for 2-3 hours to remove all the moisture from it). Mix in some finely chopped coriander, and the dip is ready to serve!
  4. Do not cook the chickpeas. They need to be used raw, in the above recipe, after soaking.
  5. Freshly soaked chickpeas work best in this recipe, rather than canned ones.
  6. Make sure you grind the falafel mixture coarsely. Do not make a fine paste. At the same time, you need to make sure that all the chickpeas have broken down completely – pick out any whole chickpeas that remain after grinding.
  7. Adding water while grinding the falafel mixture is purely optional. If you are able to make a coarse mixture without adding in any water, it’s completely fine. However, I typically add in a couple of spoonfuls of water while grinding – not only does it make the grinding easier, but also makes the falafel softer, I think.
  8. You can use either maida or besan (gram flour) to adjust the consistency of the falafel mixture, and enable you to shape the balls. If you are able to shape the balls as is, there is no need to add a binding agent like maida or besan.
  9. Make sure the oil is nice and hot, before dropping the falafel into it for deep-frying. Reduce the flame to medium while you fry them, which will help in even frying.
  10. The above is a Classic Falafel Recipe, meaning a recipe for the most basic version of deep-fried falafel. There are several variations to the classic falafel – baked versions, those with sesame or beetroot or herbs.
  11. This Easy Home-Made Falafel can be served on its own, with a sauce, dip or chutney of your choice. They can also be used in a sandwich, made using regular bread or pita bread. They can also be used in burgers or wraps, along with hummus, pickled vegetables, sour cream, chopped onions and tomatoes.
  12. The falafel mixture can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to a day, to be deep-fried and served later. I prefer grinding the mixture fresh, though, just before frying up and serving the falafel.
  13. Some people include a bit of baking powder/soda in the mixture, to make the falafel soft. I typically don’t use any. Even without the baking powder/soda, the above recipe does yield soft and delicious falafel.

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is Levantine Cuisine, wherein members need to present dishes from the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordon and Cyprus). This week’s theme was suggested by the very talented Sujata Shukla who blogs at PepperOnPizza – you have to check out her blog for various exotic and traditional recipes!

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #261. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.

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!

 

Lemon Thokku| Instant Lemon Chutney

The husband recently left on a 10-day international work trip, a move I am not too happy about for a lot of reasons. Anyway, as he says, work has to be done and, in the course of it, work trips do need to be undertaken. As he embarked on this journey, I wanted him to carry a little piece of home with him, to get him through stressful days and loneliness. Hence, a batch of Lemon Thokku got made a day before he left, got packed into a nice, air-tight bottle, and flew off with him.

This is not the first time I have made Lemon Thokku, though. It is something much loved in our family and, hence, gets made often. I love the sweet-sour-spicy flavours of this thokku, the lemon peel lending it a slight bitterness. Call it Lemon Thokku or Instant Lemon Chutney, I find it incredibly versatile – it goes beautifully with everything from dosas and parathas to plain steamed rice.

Making this thokku is a very simple task, one that takes just about 20 minutes in all, prep included. I make it whenever I manage to find fresh, juicy lemons cheap, and keep it refrigerated to use when the need arises. This way, it stays for up to 20 days.

Try it out, will you? I would love to know how you liked it!

Here is how we make Lemon Thokku aka Instant Lemon Chutney.

Ingredients (makes about half mason jar):

  1. 10 big fresh lemons
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. 2 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
  5. Red chilli powder to taste

For the tempering:

  1. 2-3 tablespoons gingelly oil
  2. 2 teaspoons mustard
  3. 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
  4. 4-5 dry red chillies
  5. 2 tablespoons fresh curry leaves

Method:

  1. Wash the lemons well under running water. Pat completely dry, using a cotton cloth.
  2. Cut each lemon into half. Now, cut each half into quarters. So, you should get 8 small pieces out of each lemon.
  3. Remove all the seeds from each lemon piece. This is crucial, to ensure that your Lemon Thokku does not become too bitter.
  4. When all the seeds have been removed, transfer the lemon pieces to a mixer jar. Grind to a paste.
  5. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Add the curry leaves, the asafoetida and the dried red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  6. Turn the flame to medium, and add the lemon paste to the pan.
  7. Add in salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and the jaggery powder. Mix well.
  8. Cook on low-medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the Lemon Thokku begins to thicken and come together. Switch off gas.
  9. Let the Lemon Thokku cool down completely before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Store refrigerated, and use a clean, dry spoon to remove the thokku.

Notes:

1. The Lemon Thokku will taste slightly bitter initially. Allow it one or two days for the taste to stabilise.

2. Adjust the quantity of jaggery powder, salt and red chilli powder as per your personal taste preferences.

3. Use very fresh lemons and curry leaves, for best results.

4. Gingelly oil works best in making this Lemon Thokku. However, if you do not have gingelly oil, you may use any other type of oil that you prefer.

5. This Lemon Thokku stays for up to 20 days when stored under hygienic conditions, refrigerated.

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I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #233 and to Friday Frenzy.

Ahmedabad, after ages

So, so, so, that long-pending trip to Ahmedabad finally happened! On New Year’s day, the husband got confirmation for a work trip to Ahmedabad, and he asked if the bub and I would accompany us. We did just that, flight tickets were booked, and we were off the very next day – as simple as that. After 6 long years, I finally visited the place where I grew up, and it happened Just.Like.That!

Did I find traces of the city I loved so much or has it changed drastically?

Read on, to find out!

Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us Comes To Bangalore!

Renowned international toy brand Toys’R’Us made an entry into India last Saturday. The brand launched its very first outlet in India in Bangalore, at the Phoenix Marketcity mall in Whitefield. I was thrilled to be invited to the launch with the husband and the bub – a grand affair, with a number of fun activities for kids and adults alike arranged all day long.

The Bangalore outlet has two sections – Toys’R’Us, which stocks an unimaginable array of toys meant for children up to 11 years of age, and Babies’R’Us, which offers everything related to infants, from clothes and diapers and formula to breast pumps, potty seats, high chairs and princess beds.

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The entrance to Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us at VR Bengaluru, beautifully decked up for the launch

The store is huge, huge, huge and the three of us had a gala time walking through the aisles. We admired this and that, reminisced over the times when the bub was a little babe we could carry in the palms of our hands, had a fun time watching the magician’s performance, wishlisted a number of toys for the bub (and me, of course!), and even bought an early birthday present for the kiddo.

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Some of the stuff I loved at the store – a doll with a darkish skin tone; a doll that eats, drinks, poops and pees (yes!); the huge range of moisturisers for babies and moms alike; cutesy bows and hairbands on sale; a mermaid doll; and a pink princess bed that was straight out of a fairytale

There are a whole lot of toys available to the kids of today, I realise, a lot more opportunities to create memories and happy moments, for better or worse. Yes, there are a lot of toys and appliances that aren’t really necessary for the healthy upbringing of a child, and neither do they really help the child in any way. That said, there are a whole lot of toys out there that not only help keep a child engaged, but also help in developing creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and decision making, aid eye-hand co-ordination, and help in the development of motor skills. As a parent or a loved one, I think it is you who need to choose wisely, select the right kind of toys for a child. A walk through stores like Toys’R’Us act as an eye-opener to all that is available to a child today, allowing you to make an informed decision.

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More stuff off the shelves of the store – baby hand-print kits; travel pillows; feeding bottles by Dr, Brown’s (a brand that isn’t easy to come across in India); and cute, cute, cute clothes

I love how the store has a huge array of products for infants, toddlers and children, at different price points, from both Indian and international vendors. There’s something here for everyone, I am sure. You just need to take your time checking out different things and choosing what works for you.

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Some more stuff that caught my eye at the store – a Freddie the Firefly high chair toy; Superbottoms cloth diapers; a little piano; and a baby-proofing kit

Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us plans to open more stores in India in the near future, at Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.

If you are in Bangalore, you must surely visit this pretty store!

This post is in collaboration with Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us. The views expressed herein are entirely mine, not influenced by anything or anyone, and completely honest.

 

Product Review: Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Baking Kit

Baking with the bub has always been a dream of mine. Ever since I became a mommy – even before that I think – I would dream of, one day, standing alongside the bub in our kitchen, measuring out ingredients, mixing them up, placing a cake or cookies in the oven, letting her lick the last of the batter from the mixing bowl, waiting for the oven timer to go off, and laughing at the look of awe on her face on watching the finished product get out of the oven.. all of this and more. You get the drift, right?

I never actually attempted anything like this, though, till very recently, when I won a Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Baking Kit on an Instagram photo contest.

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The Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies baking kit that I received!

About Bake Me India

Bake Me India is a New Delhi-based business venture that offers kid-friendly baking kits – brownies, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops and the like. The kits contain all the dry ingredients that would be required, as well as handy equipment such as a tray, rolling pin, piping bag, butter paper, and even a wee apron and chef’s cap! The kits also come equipped with cards that outline in detail the steps in the baking proceedure.

Through these kits, Bake Me India aims to promote fun family baking times, especially by encouraging parents to bake alongside their kids. These kits are simple enough to be used by even very young kids (under adult supervision, of course!), and the parents need not be expert bakers themselves to use them. The use of good-quality ingredients and equipment is assured.

The kits (available in both ‘with egg’ and ‘egg-free’ versions) make for wonderful DIY gifts. You could opt to buy them individually or on a subscription basis, for as many months at a time as you desire. Prices range between INR 499 and INR 1699 per box, depending upon the nature of the product within. Home delivery across India is free, as of now.

Our experience with the Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies kit

~ The kit I received included cookie dough, chocolate chunks, vanilla essence, powdered sugar, colourful sprinkles, instruction cards, cookie cutters, a little apron and chef’s hat, a tray and rolling pin, as well as butter paper. I loved how every possible dry ingredient and little tool that we might need for the baking process had been taken care of. I didn’t need to go looking for much.

~ The kit could, really, have done without the sprinkles and the apron and chef’s hat, but I loved that these things were thought of and included. Little stuff like these are just what kids love, right? The bub loved the multi-coloured sprinkles and donned the chef’s hat and apron as soon as they were out of the box!

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What was inside my Bake Me India kit! Don’t miss the little apron and chef’s hat in there!

~ I loved the detailed instructions on the cards, which told me every single we needed to do, to bake the cookies. There were explanatory pictures as well. The instructions were simple and clear enough for even a child to follow. Thanks to them, the baking process was a breeze.

~ The cards clearly stated the other ingredients and tools I would need to make the cookies, apart from the stuff already included in the kit – just some butter and an oven, in my case.

~ I loved how all the ingredients were packed really well, in Ziploc pouches.

~ The quality of ingredients and equipment provided was really good, and I loved that about Bake Me India. There was nothing sub-standard about the kit.

~ The bub and I loved, loved, loved baking the cookies together, though she mostly just watched, excitedly. It was messy, it was chaotic (with the bub wanting to put everything into the mixing bowl at once!), but it was so much fun! The husband was pressed into action as official photographer for the ceremony, and, all put together, it was just the break we needed, perfect family bonding time. And, as always, it was magical to watch dough go into the oven and come out all transformed into beautiful cookies!

~ All the ingredients (flour, powdered sugar, chocolate, sprinkles and vanilla essence) had already been measured out carefully, and included in just the right quantities that would be needed for the recipe. I didn’t have to do any measuring out at all, and could concentrate on just the fun part of the baking process!

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The finished product – the scrumptious vanilla shortbread cookies!

~ We chose to do away with the cookie cutters and shape the cookies with our hands, as rustic as it gets. I am so glad we did that – sensory play and all that!

~ The cookies turned out absolutely scrumptious and were gone within a day of the making!

~ I still have the rolling pin, cookie cutters, apron, chef’s hat and tray in the kitchen. I love the fact that I can get them out and use them again, whenever the bub and I fancy a bit of baking. I can clearly see this becoming a habit!

~ At INR 1499, I think the price of this kit is on the higher side. That said, I’m not sure how much it would cost me if I were to put together all the stuff that was part of the kit – the dry ingredients and reusable kitchen equipment included.

~ I didn’t spot a ‘best before’ date on the kit. Ideally, it should be included.

In conclusion…

I think the concept of the Bake Me India baking kits is absolutely lovely. The kits, albeit priced a tad high, make for a fun baking experience with your family, creating loads of fond memories in the process. They are great rainy-day DIY activities, and lovely gifts as well. This is, surely, something I would encourage you to pick up, for yourself and for your loved ones.

Find Bake Me India online: Website| Facebook| Twitter| Instagram

I received the product free of cost, because I won it in a photo contest. I was requested to do a review on my blog, and I obliged. The views expressed herein are entirely honest and completely my own, not influenced by anyone or anything.

The Husband’s Birthday Lunch At Farzi Cafe: An Underwhelming Affair

Farzi Cafe had always been on my list of eateries to visit in Bangalore, thanks to a number of blog posts I have read praising the place. I was in awe of the very innovative ways in which the cafe presents its food. So, it was Farzi Cafe in UB City that we chose to celebrate the husband’s birthday recently, and headed to for lunch. True to the reviews that we had read, the cafe did dish up food in very different ways, but we, sadly, ended up underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Ambience and decor

Located in the posh UB City, Farzi Cafe has an ambience that I would call ‘buzzing’. The eatery was teeming with people when we visited, and most of the ample seating area was occupied. Thankfully, though, we didn’t have to wait for long for a table to open up.

The seating was quite uncomfortable, we felt, a fact that has been pointed out in several Zomato reviews. The place tends to get quite noisy too (something we noted during our lunch, and on several past visits to UB City), so it is definitely not somewhere you visit if you want to have an uninterrupted conversation.

Cuisine

Farzi Cafe has a varied and extensive menu, including Indian as well as fusion dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The eatery is known for its off-beat take on popular foods as well as innovative presentation styles.

The food and drinks

First up, we ordered the Mac N Cheese, served not the usual way, but in the form of deep-fried balls. The taste was strictly okay.

The Orange OK, an orange-based mocktail, that we ordered was just average too.

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Left: Orange OK, Centre: Mac N Cheese; Right: The complimentary Mishti Doi Shots

The Vada Paav we ordered next – paav inside the vada, and vada outside the paav, deep-fried – was presented beautifully, but, again, we found it just okay taste-wise.

For main course, we ordered their English Paav Bhaji, paav bhaji made with ‘English’ vegetables and served with foccaccia instead of the paav that usually comes with it. Presentation-wise, it was terrific, and the taste was definitely not bad, but we didn’t find it really out of the ordinary. I typically use all sorts of veggies to make paav bhaji at home, and this was the same.

We were offered a complimentary tamarind palate cleanser in between the two courses, with great fanfare, the sticks plucked out of a large white ceramic tree. It was okay, and I’m not complaining about that either.

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Left: Vada Paav, Centre: The tamarind palate cleanser offered complimentary in between courses; Right: English paav bhaji

The Rasmalai Tres Leches Cake that we ordered next was good. The presentation was good, and the taste was good, too.

We were given some complimentary mishti doi shots, which we loved. The paan (cotton candy shells filled with dehydrated paan mix) was good, too.

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Left: Rasmalai Tres Leches cake; Centre: The complimentary paan; Right: The typewriter in which our bill was presented to us!

Service

We found the service to be okay – the staff was polite and courteous, but they took ages to bring each dish to the table. It wasn’t really a problem, because we did want to have a leisurely meal.

Prices

We felt the food to be quite expensive here – like everything else in UB City is. We paid INR 2500 for this meal.

In hindsight…

We felt more than a bit underwhelmed by this birthday lunch at Farzi Cafe, a fact that is as sad as it gets. Overall, I guess, we had built up too much of expectation thanks to all those rave blog reviews, and those didn’t match up to the reality. Maybe, we are purists who don’t like their food to be tampered with too much. Maybe, we just didn’t choose the right dishes. Maybe, it just wasn’t our day – we kept feeling like the lunch we had had here wasn’t a hearty affair. Maybe, this is the sort of place where presentation is key, and that isn’t always the lookout for us.

I’m confused about whether I should give this place another go or not.

Saragva Ni Kadhi| Gujarati Drumstick Kadhi

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

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

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Saragva ni kadhi or Gujarati drumstick kadhi

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

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

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the garnish:

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

Other ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Notes:

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

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

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