Masala Vadai| Spiced Paruppu Vadai

Today’s post is a little nostalgic, a little glum, a little fearful, a little hopeful. It is definitely about a big reality check that all of us need to pay attention to. I’m also sharing our family recipe for Masala Vadai, a monsoon-special delicacy from South India.

I absolutely adore the rains. Rain uplifts my spirits almost immediately. Bangalore becomes all the more beautiful in the rains (yes, waterlogged roads and traffic jams come into the picture too, but I still love it). The heady scent of wet earth, greenery sprouting everywhere, the diffused sunlight peeking through the clouds, the pitter-patter of raindrops – all of it leaves me with a fresh, clean feeling. Life starts anew in the monsoons, and I cannot not be charmed by that. And then, there are the hundreds of delectable monsoon-special foods to think of!

This year, though, there are no signs of a robust monsoon here in Bangalore. It started turning skin-blistering hot in February this year, and a scorching few months followed. The weather definitely started getting cooler in June, but there was no sign of the overcast skies, pleasant drizzles and heavy thunderstorms that usually set foot in Bangalore in April or May. The peacock in my soul has been waiting. Only in the last week or so (in July!) we had the beginnings of rain – cloudy skies in the evenings and a couple of showers. I am eagerly looking forward to the full works that I have come to love Bangalore for. Meanwhile, we had to celebrate the start of monsoon with some Masala Vadai, crispy deep-fried lentil fritters that are a specialty in the South of India.

While we are on the subject of delayed monsoons, I cannot not talk about the acute water crisis that Chennai has been facing for the last few months. It has been disheartening and scary reading media reports about the same. This report about Bangalore’s water situation going the Chennai way scares the living daylights out of me. Ground water in Bangalore (among other Indian cities) has been dipping lower and lower by the year, and there is a huge chance of it running out all too soon. It is time we do something about the situation – or we are going to be left high and dry. As a family, we have been doing our part and I urge all of you to do so, too.

Coming back to the Masala Vadai, they are delicious, delicious things that I just cannot have enough of. Made using coarsely crushed chana dal, jazzed up with onions, fennel, mint, coriander, chillies and curry leaves – these vadais are nothing short of a treat. A simpler version of these vadais is made in South Indian homes on festival days and other auspicious occasions, called Aame Vadai or Paruppu Vadai. I’m presenting an amped-up version here that is just perfect for regular days. Make these as a tea-time snack or when you have guests over, and it’s sure to be a huge hit. It is a great choice for those days when it’s pouring outside and your tastebuds crave for something deep-fried and lovely. πŸ™‚

Amma makes some mean Aame Vadai and Masala Vadai, a skill that she has passed on to me. I have extremely fond memories of Amma waiting with a plate of these fritters for me to get back home from work on rainy days. She knows I love them to bits, and her care and affection washed away all the woes of commuting home, soaked to the skin, in the midst of a downpour.

These fritters are actually super-easy to make. You need to soak chana dal for a few hours, and once that is taken care of, the rest falls into place fairly quickly. Below is the recipe, with some tips and tricks to get the Masala Vadai perfect. This is an entirely plant-based, vegan recipe. It can easily be made gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used here.

Ingredients (makes about 20 vadais):

  1. 1 cup chana dal
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. 2-3 generous pinches of asafoetida
  5. 2 green chillies
  6. 2 dry red chillies
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  8. 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (saunf)
  9. 1 big onion
  10. A handful of fresh mint leaves
  11. 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander
  12. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  13. Oil, as needed for deep frying

Method:

1. Wash the chana dal well under running water, a couple of times, draining out the water from it each time. Add in just enough fresh water to cover the chana dal and let it soak, covered, for 3-4 hours.

2. When the chana dal is done soaking, drain out all the water from it. Transfer the drained chana dal to a mixer jar.

3. Peel the ginger, chop it roughly and add to the mixer jar. Chop the green chillies and dry red chillies roughly and add them in too. Also add salt, turmeric powder and asafoetida to the mixer jar. Coarsely grind the ingredients together, without adding any water.

4. Take the oil for deep frying in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place it on high flame and allow it to heat up.

5. In the meantime, transfer the ground chana dal to a large bowl. Chop the onion, curry leaves and mint finely and add them in. Also add the finely chopped coriander and fennel seeds to the mixing bowl. Mix up the ingredients well.

6. When the oil has heated up fully, reduce the flame to medium. Form 2-3 small patties out of the chana dal mixture we prepared earlier and slide them into the hot oil. Deep fry them on medium flame till brown and crisp on the outside, taking care not to burn them. Shape patties from the entire mixture similarly, and deep fry them in the same way. Serve hot.

Notes:

1. Do not over-soak the chana dal. Soaking for 3-4 hours is good enough.

2. Prepare the masala vadais immediately after you grind the ingredients. Plan out the soaking according to when you want to make the vadais. Frying the vadais long after the batter has been ground often results into them getting very oily.

3. A handful of dill leaves and/or garlic can be added to the Masala Vadais too. I usually don’t.

4. Increase or decrease the quantity of green chillies and dry red chillies you use as per personal taste preferences.

5. Make sure you fry the vadais on a medium flame. This will ensure even frying and delicious vadais.

6. The oil should get nice and hot before you turn down the flame to medium and start frying the vadais.

7. Grind the chana dal coarsely. Don’t make a fine paste, for best results.

8. Do not overcrowd the pan while frying the vadais. Fry them a couple at a time.

9. If you find it difficult to shape the batter into patties, mix in a couple of tablespoons of rice flour. I typically don’t.

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This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group that I am part of. Every Monday, the members of the group share recipes based on a pre-determined theme.

The theme this week is #RimJhimBarse, wherein we are showcasing monsoon-special recipes. The theme was suggested by Preethi, author of Preethi’s Cuisine, a lovely blog with many wonderful recipes from across the globe.

I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #284. The co-hosts this week are Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

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

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Pressure Cooker Rajma Masala| Kidney Beans Curry

Growing up, I was never a fan of Rajma Masala. It would be prepared occasionally at home by Amma then, with some very South Indian flourishes. πŸ™‚ I wouldn’t mind it per se, but I didn’t really take to the dish till the husband introduced me to the Delhi version many years later. The city’s love for Rajma Chawal caught on to the husband too, and it became comfort food for him the many lonely days he spent in Delhi. I would accompany him on some of these work trips, and the cook at the office guesthouse taught me the proper North Indian version of Rajma Masala. Over the years, I have made it many, many times, falling in love with it a little more every time. Slowly, my own style of Rajma Masala emerged – a relatively simpler, easier and healthier one that perfectly suits my family’s tastebuds.

Today, I present to you my Pressure Cooker Rajma Masala recipe, which yields a hugely delectable result. I don’t use many whole spices in it, nor cream. All the flavour in it comes from the country tomatoes that go into it and the chana masala that I usually use in it. Once you have the rajma soaked and ready, the rest is a breeze, considering this is a one-pot recipe.

Kidney beans aka rajma is a legume full of health benefits, as I’m sure many of us are already aware. This curry is a delicious way to use them! It turns out just the right amount of thick and super flavourful. The husband likes this Rajma Masala with plain steamed rice, while I prefer it with rotis, parathas or pooris. These pickled onions are just the perfect accompaniment to it, I think.

The next time you consider making Rajma Masala, I hope you will try out this pressure cooker version. Do share your feedback!

Let’s now check out the recipe for Pressure Cooker Rajma Masala.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 1 cup Kashmiri rajma (small red kidney beans)
  2. 1 tablespoon oil
  3. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  4. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  5. 4 large tomatoes
  6. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  8. 1 large onion
  9. Salt to taste
  10. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  11. Red chilli powder to taste
  12. 1 tablespoon chana masala or to taste
  13. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste (optional)
  14. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. Soak the rajma for 8-10 hours or overnight, in enough water to cover it.

2. When the rajma is done soaking, drain out all the water from it. Transfer the soaked rajma to a wide vessel and add in just enough fresh water to cover it. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for about 5 whistles or till the rajma is cooked through. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Peel the garlic cloves. Grind the tomatoes, ginger and garlic to a fine puree without adding any water. Keep aside.

4. Chop the onion finely. Keep aside.

5. When the pressure from the cooker has entirely gone down, get the cooked rajma out. Retain the water it was cooked in.

6. Dry the pressure cooker you used to cook the rajma. Heat the oil in it. Add in the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

7. Add the chopped onions to the cooker. Cook on medium flame till they start turning brown.

8. Add the tomato-ginger-garlic puree to the cooker, along with a little salt. Cook on medium flame till the puree loses its raw smell. This should take 3-4 minutes. You will need to stir intermittently.

9. Now, add the cooked rajma, along with the water it was cooked in. Add salt to taste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, chana masala and jaggery powder (if using). If you feel the gravy is too thick, you can add in a bit of water at this stage. Mix well.

10. When the rajma begins to simmer, close the pressure cooker and put the weight on. Pressure cook on high flame for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

11. When the pressure has gone down completely, stir the Rajma Masala gently. Sprinkle chopped coriander over the Rajma Masala. Serve hot.

Notes:

1. Adjust the time for pressure cooking depending upon the type of rajma you use. Different types of rajma take different times to cook, as do different makes of pressure cookers. I use the small Kashmiri rajma from Popular Essentials, and make this in a 5-litre pressure cooker. The above cooking times are just perfect for me.

2. Make sure the rajma is well cooked, but not mushy, when you pressure cook it for the first time. Only then you should add it to the onion and tomato gravy and cook it further.

3. Kitchen King Masala, garam masala or rajma masala can be used in place of chana masala. I love using chana masala in this recipe.

4. If the Rajma Masala turns out a little watery, you can simmer it for a bit after the pressure has gone down fully.

5. You can add in a bit of amchoor powder or lemon juice to the Rajma Masala for extra tanginess. Alternatively, you can mix in a little curd into the Rajma Masala, at the very end. I don’t use any of these ingredients typically.

6. You can mix in a little cream and/or crushed kasoori methi after the Rajma Masala is done. I usually omit the cream, and add the kasoori methi once in a while.

7. Ghee or butter can be used for the tempering in the Rajma Masala, instead of oil.

8. You can add the tempering at the very end too, after the Rajma Masala is fully cooked and ready.

9. You can make the Rajma Masala in a pan too. I prefer making it in a pressure cooker as it is easier and the flavours get better absorbed this way.

10. Skip the onions, ginger and garlic if you plan to make a Jain version of this Rajma Masala.

11. You can also grind the onion along with the tomatoes, ginger and garlic, to a puree. I sometimes use chopped onion in Rajma Masala, and sometimes puree it with the tomatoes. Both methods yield an equally delicious outcome.

12. Country (nati) tomatoes work best in this recipe. They add a lovely tart flavour to the Rajma Masala.

13. Whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves and dry red chillies can be used in the tempering. I prefer keeping my Rajma Masala really simple, though, and using only cumin in the tempering.

14. Using the jaggery powder is optional, but I would highly recommend it. It doesn’t make the Rajma Masala sweet, but helps round out the other flavours beautifully.

15. This is a completely plant-based, vegan and vegetarian recipe. It can be easily made gluten-free as well, if you only omit the asafoetida used in the tempering and use chana masala that is free of any ingredients that include gluten.

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

I’m sending this recipe to My Legume Love Affair #129. This is a monthly event started by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, the legacy carried forward for a long time by Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen. This month, My Legume Love Affair is being hosted by Seduce Your Tastebuds.

I’m also linking this recipe to Fiesta Friday #281. Do hop over to see the other interesting recipes there!

Quick Pickled Onions| Pickled Red Onions

Pickled onions are an important constituent of a meal in a few parts of India, especially so in the north. One cannot imagine a meal of, say, butter naan or roomali roti with palak paneer or paneer butter masala without some pickled onions on the side. These onions, however, are pickled in vinegar to impart a delicious tang to them and to increase their shelf life. Today, I bring to you our family’s simple recipe for Quick Pickled Onions, red onions soaked in lemon juice instead of vinegar, and every bit as delicious.

These natural Quick Pickled Onions or Pickled Red Onions are one of my all-time favourites. Especially during the hot days of summer, I love tucking into a plate of curd rice with this simple pickle. Oh, yes, they do make a wonderful, wonderful pair! My little one loves these onions just as much as I do.

Mom has been making these Quick Pickled Onions for ages now, and I grew up with them. It never occurred to me to put out a recipe for these onions on my blog – wasn’t it something that everyone everywhere already knows about and does? No, as it turns out. Every single guest I have served this pickle to has raved about it, marvelled at its simplicity, but has claimed never to have sampled it before. So, after a long deliberation, here I am with our family ‘recipe’ for Quick Pickled Onions or Pickled Red Onions.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 2 medium-sized red onions
  2. Salt to taste
  3. Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

1. Peel the onions and chop them finely.

2. Take the chopped onion in a bowl. Add salt to taste and the lemon juice. Mix well.

3. Let the pickle rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Notes:

1. I prefer using big red onions in the making of this pickle. However, you can even use the small ones, also called sambar onions.

2. I use rock salt to make this pickle.

3. Make sure all the hard parts of the onion are removed.

4. I prefer chopping the onions finely for this pickle. You can even chop them length-wise if you so prefer.

5. It is important to let the pickle sit for at least 30 minutes, for the onions to soak and absorb the salt and lemon juice.

6. I typically make this pickle in the morning and we finish it over the course of the day. I think it can be stored, refrigerated, for a day more. Any more than that, and the smell begins to get too strong.

7. These Quick Pickled Onions make for a lovely accompaniment to curd rice. They can also make a wonderful side for a full-fledged thali meal or parathas, or be used as a topping on pizza, burgers, rolls and the like.

8. You may add one or more green chillies to the pickle, if you want to. We don’t.

If you have never tried this out before too, please do. I’d love to know how you liked it!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #280. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You.

Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram| Healthy Finger Millet Snack

I’m sure all of us are aware of the many health benefits contained in ragi aka finger millet. I myself have waxed eloquent on this subject several times over, on this blog. Rich in fibre, iron and calcium, among other nutrients, low in calories and easily digestible, ragi is an excellent food for weight-watchers, healthy eaters and diabetics, as well as babies, toddlers and growing children. Today, I present to you the recipe for a delicious, healthy snack made using ragi – Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

Roasted ragi porridge was the very first food we fed the bub, when she was ready to take solids. She still eats the porridge for breakfast every once in a while. I, however, didn’t grow up consuming ragi, and was not very fond of it per se, to be honest. Life in Bangalore and parenting acquainted me with the many delicious things that can be made using ragi, and I am now quite in love with some of the dishes we use it in at home often. This Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram, for instance.

With the sour buttermilk, curry leaves and green chillies that go into them, these Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram are supremely delicious. They are quite easy to make too, and make for just the perfect snack when you are looking for something healthy but delish and filling.

This dish can be easily be made gluten-free too, if you only skip the asafoetida used in the tempering.

Check out the recipe for the Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram!

Ingredients (makes about 28 pieces):

  1. 2 cups ragi (finger millet) flour
  2. 4 tablespoons rice flour
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 cup sour curd
  5. 2-4 green chillies
  6. A handful of curry leaves
  7. About 2 teaspoons Eno Fruit Salt
  8. 1 teaspoon oil + more as needed to make the paniyaram
  9. 2 pinches asafoetida
  10. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Method:

1. Take the ragi flour in a large mixing bowl. Add in the rice flour, salt to taste and sour curd.

2. Chop the green chillies into large pieces and add to the mixing bowl.

3. Tear the curry leaves roughly with your hands and add them to the mixing bowl too.

4. Heat the oil in a small pan, and add in the mustard. Let it sputter. Add the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of seconds. Add this tempering to the mixing bowl.

5. Mix the contents of the bowl well to a thick batter, similar to idli batter. You may add a bit of water while mixing. Ensure that there are no lumps in the batter.

6. Heat up a paniyaram pan on high flame, and add some oil in each of the cavities.

7. You will be making the paniyaram in four batches or so. Take the batter for the first batch in a separate bowl, and add in about 1/2 teaspoon Eno. Mix well. Pour the batter into the greased cavities of the paniyaram pan, till about 3/4. Cook covered on medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until they fluff up into balls and are well done on the bottom. Then, use a fork to turn the balls over. Drizzle a little oil around the balls and cook, covered, till they are done on the other side too – about 2 minutes. Transfer the cooked paniyaram to a serving plate.

8. Make paniyaram using the rest of the batter in the same way, in three more batches. Serve hot, with chutney of your choice.

Notes:

1. I have used store-bought ragi flour here.

2. For best results, use curd that is quite sour.

3. Add just enough water to make a thick batter. Too much water will make a runny batter, resulting in imperfect paniyaram.

4. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt in each batch of the batter, just before it goes into the paniyaram pan. This is critical. Adding all the Eno at one go will not yield fluffy paniyaram.

5. Use 2 fresh packets of Eno Fruit Salt, for best results. Do not use old packets.

6. Use regular, unflavoured Eno Fruit Salt.

7. Baking soda can be used in place of the Eno too. I have not tried it out yet, though.

8. Finely chopped onions and other veggies can be added to the paniyaram too. I haven’t.

9. I prefer cooking the paniyaram covered, so they are done evenly and are crisp on the outside.

10. I use ordinary refined oil in these Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

11. I have a small pan that makes 7 paniyaram at a time. So I have divided the batter into four parts, cooking one batch at a time. If you have a larger pan, you can reduce the number of batches you cook the paniyaram in. Adjust the quantity of Eno you use accordingly, in that case.

12. A simple coconut chutney goes beautifully with these Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

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This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop that I am part of. Every Monday, a group of us food bloggers get together to present recipes based on a pre-determined theme.

The theme this week is #RagiTales, suggested by Poonam of Annapurna. Poonam’s blog is something you must check out, for her very well-explained recipes from around the world. For the theme, we are all showcasing dishes made using the very versatile ragi aka finger millet.

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #279. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog

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

Mawa Gulab Jamun Recipe| How To Make Gulab Jamun With Khoya

As much as I love everyday stove-top cooking, the making of Indian sweets is one thing that scares me. My mom is famous in the family circuit for the beautiful 7-Cup Barfis, Badam Barfi,Β Coconut Barfi and Gajar Halwa that she turns out, among many other delectable desserts, but I have always shied away from these. The making of traditional, Indian sweet dishes is a task that daunts me to no end. On festival days or when we have guests over, I stick to making a simple fusion dessert or taking the safe way out with Sakkarai Pongal or Payasam. This is a barrier I had to break, and I did just that with this Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe, recently.

My little daughter is a big fan of gulab jamun, just as everyone else in my family is. After all, who wouldn’t love these balls of bliss, soaked to perfection in sugar syrup? After beginning to conquer my fears with regards to baking, it made sense to start doing the same with a traditional Indian sweet that the bub loved – Gulab Jamun. So, one fine day last week, Amma and I stood side by side in my kitchen making gulab jamuns from scratch with khoya, she pouring out her years of expertise on the subject, me soaking it all in, taking mental notes and making the dessert under her watchful eye. The results were spectacular, I must say, and the gulab jamun went on to be devoured the very same day. The eating proved that this particular pudding was done just right.

That said, I am amazed at how much of that fear was all in my head. Making gulab jamuns from scratch was not at all the hugely difficult task I had thought it would be. It needs patience, yes, but it is also one of the easiest of Indian sweets to conquer. The tricks here are to be gentle with the mixing and do the frying right, and the rest automatically falls into place. I’m so very glad I did this, and hope my lucky stretch continues with the other, tougher Indian desserts that I plan to try out soon.

There are a few different ways to make gulab jamun, one of them being with khoya or mawa. Khoya refers to the milk solids that are left over after cooking milk on the stovetop for a long, long time. Considering how much of a time-consuming process the making of khoya is, we resorted to a store-bought version. A mix of maida and fine sooji has been used here to bind the jamuns, and you can use either.

Come, let me show you how to make gulab jamun with khoya, a la Amma. Here’s presenting the Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe!

Ingredients (makes about 22 small pieces):

  1. 200 grams khoya aka mawa
  2. 2 tablespoons fine sooji aka semolina or rava
  3. 2 tablespoons maida
  4. 1 tablespoon warm milk or as needed
  5. Oil as needed for deep-frying
  6. 1-1/2 cups sugar
  7. 2 cups water
  8. 1/2 teaspoon rose essence (optional)
  9. 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

Method:

1. Take the khoya in a large mixing bowl. Crumble it gently, using your hands. Alternatively, you may grate it.

2. Add the sooji and the maida to the mixing bowl. Mix together gently.

3. Add just enough warm milk as needed to bring the mixture to a dough-like consistency.

4. Heat oil as needed for deep frying, in a pan. Meanwhile, keep the dough covered.

5. Simultaneously, take the water in another pan, add the sugar to it, and place on high flame. Allow the sugar to get completely dissolved in the water. Cook on medium heat till the sugar syrup attains half-thread consistency or till it thickens a little. Switch off gas. Add the rose essence (if using) and cardamom powder to the syrup. Mix well. The syrup for soaking the gulab jamuns is ready. Keep aside.

6. When the oil is nice and hot, reduce flame to medium. Greasing your palms with a little oil, make small balls out of the dough we prepared earlier. Deep fry these balls in the hot oil till brown on the outside, about four at a time, taking care not to burn them.

7. As soon as one batch of the balls are fried and ready, drop them into the sugar syrup. Let them sit undisturbed and soak in the syrup. Continue till all the balls are soaked in syrup.

8. Serve the gulab jamun hot or after allowing them to soak for a few hours. Store the unused ones at room temperature, in a clean, dry, air-tight box.

Notes:

1. Make sure the khoya is at room temperature when you begin to make the gulab jamun.

2. Use great-quality khoya from a known source, for best results. I used Milky Mist khoya, which is entirely made using milk solids, with no added flavouring agents or preservatives.

3. Make sure you prepare the ‘dough’ for the gulab jamun using very gentle hands. Gather the ingredients together, using gentle, light movements, rather than kneading them together. This is imperative for getting soft, melt-in-the-mouth gulab jamuns.

4. I have used a mix of fine sooji (aka semolina or rava) and maida in this Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe. You can skip either of these ingredients – just increase the quantity of the other ingredient you are using, in that case.

5. Make sure you fry the gulab jamuns at medium heat. This will help them get evenly cooked, on the inside and the outside. Cooking them on high heat will turn them brown on the outside, but keep them raw inside.

6. You can fry the gulab jamuns in ghee instead of oil. I have used ordinary refined oil here.

7. Do not crowd the pan, while frying the gulab jamun. Fry them in batches, a few at a time. Drop them in the sugar syrup immediately.

8. Make sure the gulab jamuns are not crowded while they are soaking in the syrup. Use a large pan to soak them.

9. Do not overcook the sugar syrup. Stop cooking when the syrup is slightly thick or has attained half-thread consistency.

10. You can skip using the rose essence in the syrup. Real rose petals can be added instead – make sure you use clean, organic, sweet-smelling flowers in that case.

11. Use warm – not hot – milk to bind the ingredients for the gulab jamun. Make sure you use just as much as needed. The dough should be just right to roll into balls and not too sticky or watery.

12. In case the dough gets a bit sticky, you can use a little more fine sooji or maida to adjust it.

13. Use only fine sooji in the Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe, if you are using it at all. Do not use the larger, grainier variety.

14. I have kept the gulab jamun small here, but you could make them bigger as well. Remember that they increase in size further on soaking.

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Foodie Monday Blog HopI’m sharing this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. Every Monday, a group of us food bloggers get together and share recipes based on a pre-determined theme. The theme this Monday is #EidWithFoodies, wherein we are all presenting dishes for the festival of Eid that is just around the corner. I thought this Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe was just perfect for the season.

I’m also sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #278.

Pasi Parippu Kosumalli|Simple South Indian Lentil Salad

Best wishes for Sri Rama Navami!

Today, I present to you the recipe for Pasi Parippu Kosumalli, a simple South Indian-style lentil salad. This mildly spiced salad is extremely delicious and healthy, and is a breeze to put together. A dish that is traditionally prepared in Tamilian households on the occasion of Sri Rama Navami, this cooling salad is just perfect to beat the summer heat that is soaring by the day.

Pasi Parippu Kosumalli is also quite commonly prepared in Karnataka. On the day of Rama Navami, you will come across make-shift stalls on the roadsides in Bangalore, handing out leaf bowls full of this kosumalli (‘kosambari‘ in Kannada) and disposable glasses of neer more (‘majjige‘ in the local language) and panagam (‘panaka‘ in Kannada).

I have fond memories of watching my grandmother preparing a big bowl full of this beautiful salad on Rama Navami, for the entire extended family. My mom continued the tradition after her, and she passed on the recipe to me too. All those memories came flooding back as I prepared a bowl of Pasi Parippu Kosumalli this morning. My little one munched on it delightfully, amidst tales of how ‘Rama Umachi‘s (God) birthday came to be. πŸ™‚

This is a gluten-free preparation that can be made vegan if you skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. If you skip the tempering altogether, this becomes a no-cook recipe, perfect for a raw food diet. The split moong daal that goes into it makes this salad full of protein, the carrot and cucumber adding to its nutritional value.

Let’s now check out the recipe for this Pasi Parippu Kosumalli.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1/2 cup split moong daal (pasi parippu)
  2. 1 medium-sized carrot
  3. 1 medium-sized seedless cucumber (vellarikkai)
  4. 3-4 green chillies or as per taste (paccha milagai)
  5. Salt to taste
  6. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
  7. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  8. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut (thengai)
  9. 1 tablespoon oil (ennai)
  10. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (kadugu)
  11. 1 sprig curry leaves (karuveppilai)
  12. 2 generous pinches of asafoetida (perungayam)

Method:

  1. Wash the moong daal well under running water, a couple of times, draining out all the water each time. Then, add in enough fresh water to cover the daal, and let it soak for 1-2 hours.
  2. When the moong daal is done soaking, drain out all the water from it. Place the soaked moong daal in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Chop the cucumber finely. Add to the mixing bowl.
  4. Peel the carrot and grate it medium-thick. Add to the mixing bowl.
  5. Add the fresh grated coconut to the mixing bowl, along with the finely chopped coriander.
  6. Now, we will prepare the tempering for the salad. Slit the green chillies length-wise, and keep them ready. Heat the oil in a small pan. Add in the mustard, and allow it to sputter. Turn the flame to low. Add the asafoetida, curry leaves and slit green chillies – allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds. Ensure that the tempering does not burn. Add this tempering to the salad in the mixing bowl.
  7. Add in salt to taste and lemon juice to the salad. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. 1-2 hours of soaking makes the moong daal soft and adds flavour to the salad. However, if you are in a hurry, about 30 minutes of soaking also works.
  2. Pomegranate arils and grated raw mango can also be added to the Pasi Parippu Kosumalli. I have kept it very basic, and skipped these two ingredients.
  3. Adjust the quantity of salt, lemon juice, green chillies and coconut as per personal taste preferences.
  4. Add the salt at the very end. The salad will start leaving water once you add salt, so do not let it sit for too long after salt is added.
  5. For best results, use ‘European’ or ‘English’ cucumbers that have very few seeds. These are also called ‘seedless cucumbers’.

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

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #271. Ai @ Ai Made It For You is the co-host this week.

I’m also submitting this recipe to the 127th edition of My Legume Love Affair (MLLA), a monthly event that celebrates legumes. This event was started by Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen and Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. This month, MLLA is being hosted by Amrita of Motions And Emotions.

Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta| Indian Spiced Eggplant Mash

For many, I am sure the name ‘Baingan Bharta‘ conjures up images of slow-cooked, delicious, hearty meals, often prepared by a loving mother or a doting grandmother. Baingan Bharta or eggplant mash made the Indian way is comfort food for a whole lot of locals. It is, for me too, but the smell I associate with Baingan Bharta is different from the usual.

Let me explain. Baingan Bharta is typically cooked by char-grilling a large eggplant on the stove till the skin blackens and the flesh within starts falling apart. The skin is then peeled away, and the flesh mashed and cooked in a pan, with various spices added to it. A smoky flavour permeates the dish, thanks to the char-grilling. This ‘smokiness’ is what most people look forward to, in a dish of Baingan Bharta. My version, which I learnt from my mom, does away with the char-grilling – here, the eggplant is cooked in a pressure cooker, then mashed and again cooked on the stovetop. There is no smoky flavour in our Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta, but let me assure you that it is equally delicious.

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The pressure cooker method is faster and a whole lot less messy than the char-grilling method. It does not leave you with a messy stove that takes ages to clean up, afterwards. Also, since you cut upon the eggplant before pressure cooking it, you can always check for worms (they do have a way of getting in, in spite of no visible holes in the vegetable – eeks!). If you are not a fan of the ‘smokiness’, like the husband, this pressure cooker method works beautifully. Even if you do, do try out this version too – the result is so finger-licking delish that I’m sure you will like this as well. πŸ™‚

Amma‘s secret ingredient in this Pressure Cooker is a wee bit of tamarind paste. It adds a whole lot of flavour to the dish – trust me on that! Purists can baulk all they want, but I will continue to love this method just as much. I grew up with this, after all. Now, this reigns supreme in my household, too.

Enough said. Let’s now check out the recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1 large purple eggplant
  2. 6 medium-sized tomatoes
  3. 2 medium-sized onions
  4. 6-7 cloves of garlic
  5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  6. A small piece of tamarind (optional)
  7. 2 tablespoons oil
  8. 2 generous pinches of asafoetida (hing)
  9. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  12. About 3/4 tablespoon garam masala or to taste
  13. Red chilli powder to taste
  14. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  15. Salted butter as needed, to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Chop off the stem of the eggplant and peel it. Chop into large pieces.
  2. Take the chopped eggplant in a wide vessel and add in about 1/2 cup of water. Add a little salt. Place the vessel in the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the ginger, garlic and onion. Chop the garlic and onion finely. Grate the ginger finely. Keep aside.
  4. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep aside.
  5. Soak the tamarind (if using) in a little hot water for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, extract a thick paste from the tamarind. Keep aside.
  6. When the pressure in the cooker has gone down entirely, open it and get the cooked eggplant out. Discard the water the eggplant was cooked in. Mash the cooked eggplant using a masher, and keep ready.
  7. Heat oil in a pan. Add in the cumin seeds and the asafoetida. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  8. Add the chopped onions to the pan. Saute on medium flame till the onions begin to change colour.
  9. Add the grated ginger, chopped garlic and tomatoes to the pan. Cook on medium flame till the tomatoes turn mushy, about 2 minutes.
  10. Now, add the mashed eggplant, salt and red chilli powder to taste, turmeric powder, garam masala and the tamarind paste (if using). Mix well.
  11. Stirring intermittently, cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the mixture comes together well.
  12. Switch off gas. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Your Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta is done! Serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with slivers of salted butter, alongside rotis, parathas or dosas. Baingan Bharta goes especially well with makke di roti aka rotis made using cornmeal flour.

Notes:

  1. For best results, use a fresh eggplant that is firm, with shiny and non-wrinkled skin. Make sure the eggplant has no holes in it, while you buy it – holes might indicate the entry of worms.
  2. Buy an eggplant that is light in weight in spite of its large size. This usually indicates that it will have fewer seeds and, hence, well suited to the making of Baingan Bharta.
  3. You may choose to add in the water in which the eggplant was cooked, too. In that case, you will have to cook the Baingan Bharta a little longer, till all the water is absorbed.
  4. I use ordinary refined oil to make this Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta. Some people use mustard oil or ghee instead.
  5. I use country (nati) tomatoes in this Indian Spiced Eggplant Mash, which are more sour than farm-grown ones. If they are sour enough, you can avoid using the tamarind altogether. I usually add both the tomatoes and the tamarind, since we like our Baingan Bharta to be tangier than usual.
  6. Use only a very small piece of tamarind to sour the Baingan Bharta. You may use lemon juice as needed, instead, too.
  7. Chana masala or a mix of coriander powder and roasted cumin powder can be used in place of garam masala.
  8. Make sure the eggplant is cooked well before mashing it and adding it to the pan. Cooking times might vary depending upon the water used, size of the eggplant, and make of the cooker. For us, 4 whistles works perfectly.
  9. Adjust the quantity of salt, garam masala and red chilli powder, as per personal taste preferences.
  10. If you do not plan to use the Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta immediately, allow it to cool down completely and then store it in a clean, dry, air-tight container, refrigerated. This way, it stays for 4-5 days.
  11. We typically eat Baingan Bharta with rotis, parathas or dosas. However, you can also use it as a dip for crackers or as a sandwich spread.
  12. My mom uses a whole lot of oil in making this dish – she says this is one of those dishes that tastes best when cooked in a lot of oil. I disagree. πŸ˜› I stick to about 2 tablespoons of oil while making this, and it still tastes equally delicious! Mom also prefers avoiding the garam masala, keeping the Baingan Bharta very basic – using just salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder. I like adding either chana masala or garam masala – we prefer it this way.

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

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A to Z Recipe Challenge

This post is for the A-Z Recipe Challenge. The challenge was initiated on a Facebook Group, wherein a group of bloggers come together and we choose key ingredients alphabetically to cook and post a dish every alternate month. This month’s Alphabet is β€˜E’ and I decided to use ‘Eggplants’ as my star ingredient.

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #257. The co-hosts this week are Suzanne @ Frugal Hausfraualupinthekitchen and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

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. πŸ˜› This Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding was prepared with her in tow, over the weekend, to keep her from getting into too much trouble. πŸ˜€ 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.

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!

 

Cocktail Idli Flowers| Beetroot, Carrot & Spinach Mini Idlis

The days are long, but the years are short.”

~ Gretchen Rubin

I think the above quote sums up parenthood (motherhood, in my case) just about perfectly. The countless sleepless nights, never-ending tantrums, spilled food, the tears that seem to come suddenly out of the blue, the endless reasoning and chastising – all of it did seem overwhelming and interminable when I went through it with the bub as a toddler. However, there were also innumerable sloppy kisses, toothless grins, tight hugs, endless cuddling up, reading, visits to the park, baby talk, playing peek-a-boo, dressing up, pretend cooking and what not. These were the good parts, which kind of balanced out the overwhelming bits.

Looking back, I wonder at just how quickly time has passed – the bub is 4 already! I remember a lot of the moments, the memories, we created together, a few of the not-so-good times too. But, really, I wonder, should I have just hugged her, cuddled her, coddled her, a little more, focused a little less on the imperfections? How long will it be before the bub is no longer a small girl, and will no longer want to be held or hugged? 😦

Toddlerhood – the time when a child is between 1 and 3 years of age – is a precious phase. This is the time when kids are at their most notorious, driving their parents up the wall every so often – yet, this is when they are at their most vulnerable and adorable best. This is also when the time when they are exploring the world around them, food included. They are slowly learning to navigate the world, understand what they like and what they don’t and, as parents, it is our duty to help them do just that. In terms of food, toddlers should be exposed to a variety of finger foods – stuff they can easily hold in their little hands and eat on their own. This has a number of benefits, from improvement in gross and fine motor co-ordination and sensory integration to improved bonding with the parents and a deeper sense of ‘home’.

This week, the theme at Foodie Monday Blog Hop is just that – #ToddlerFingerFoods, as suggested by Poonam from Annapurna. For this theme, which is super close to my heart, I decided to prepare pretty Cocktail Idli Flowers, naturally coloured mini idlis arranged into flowers. I have added pureed beetroot, carrot and spinach to home-made batter, to create three different colours of idlis. This has always been a favourite with the bub and when I made it again for her last week, she happily gorged on them all over again.

Cocktail Idli Flowers or Beetroot, Carrot & Spinach Mini Idlis

Let’s now see how to go about making these coloured mini idlis, shall we?

Ingredients (makes about 70 mini idlis of each colour):

  1. 3 cups idli batter, separated
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 10-12 large spinach (palak) leaves
  4. 1 medium-sized carrot
  5. 2 pinches of turmeric powder
  6. 1/4 of a medium-sized beetroot
  7. Fresh coriander, as needed
  8. Capsicum, cut into sticks, as needed
  9. Oil or ghee, as needed to grease idli plates

Method:

1. Take 1 cup of idli batter in three separate mixing bowls. Keep it tick, without adding any water to it.

2. Wash the spinach leaves thoroughly under running water. Ensure no mud or dirt remains on them.

3. Bring about 1 cup of water to a boil, and add in the spinach leaves. Blanch the spinach – let the leaves stay in the boiling water, on high flame, for 1 minute. Switch off gas, and transfer to a colander. Let all the water from the spinach drain away. Allow to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, peel the carrot and beetroot. Cut them into large-ish pieces, separately.

5. Pressure cook the carrot and beetroot separately, with a little water, for 3 whistles. Use very little water. Allow the pressure to release naturally.

6. When the blanched spinach has completely cooled down, chop it finely. Grind it in a small mixer, with a little water. Add the spinach puree to the idli batter in one of the mixing bowls. Add salt to taste. Mix well. Keep aside.

7. Drain out the water from the cooked beetroot. Chop finely. Grind to a puree in a mixer, using very little water. Mix the beetroot puree to the idli batter in the second ball, along with salt to taste. Mix well. Keep aside.

8. Similarly, drain out the water from the cooked carrot. Chop it finely, and grind to a puree using a little water. Add the carrot puree to the idli batter in the third mixing bowl. Add salt to taste and turmeric powder. Mix well. Keep aside.

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When idli batter looks so pretty!

9. Grease mini idli plates with oil or ghee and keep ready.

10. Spoon a little idli batter into each cavity of the greased plate, one colour at a time. Steam for 12 minutes. Allow to cool down a bit and then remove the cooked idlis.

11. Arrange the idlis in the shape of flowers on a serving plate, warm or at room temperature. Decorate them with sticks of capsicum and fresh coriander. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Don’t add any water to the idli batter. Keep it thick, since you will be adding pureed vegetables to it later.

2. You may add a little ginger and green chilly paste to the batter too. I haven’t.

3. While chopping the cooked veggies and pureeing them, make sure the colours don’t mix. Do the chopping and grinding one vegetable at a time, washing the knife and mixer thoroughly in between uses.

4. Since we are grinding very small quantities of veggies here, use the smallest jar of the mixer.

5. Add very little water while grinding the cooked veggies, otherwise the batter will become runny and the idlis will not turn out well.

6. You can serve these mini idlis with sambar, chutney or podi of your choice, but they don’t really need any accompaniment.

7. I have used a gas-based mini idli cooker to steam these colourful idlis. It is a time-consuming and laborious affair, indeed, to make them, but the end result is totally worth it. You may use ordinary idli plates with big cavities to steam the idlis instead, too.

8. Don’t steam the idlis for any more than 12 minutes. First, let the water in the idli cooker base come to a boil, then place the plates with the idlis on, and cook for exactly 12 minutes. More than this, and the idlis stand a chance of becoming hard.

9. You may add a couple of pinches of baking soda or Eno Fruit Salt (plain) to the batter, just before steaming. I haven’t.

10. Allow the steamed idlis to cool down slightly before removing them. Otherwise, they’ll be too sticky and might lose their shape.

11. 70 idlis of each colour might seem like a very large number, but I’m talking about very small, ‘baby’ idlis here. An adult can easily have 20 of these at a go, at the very least.

12. Any leftover mini idlis can be made into a stir-fry or upma the next day.

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This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is #ToddlerFingerFoods.

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