एक शहर ये भी – कविता 5 – महरौली


 

 

बचपन में दिल्ली रिज पे रत्ती बटोरा करते थे
कॉलेज में दोस्तों का हाथ थामे किसी टूटी मुंडेर पे बैठे
क़ुतुब मीनार को ताकते या आवारगी के आलम में
युहीं फिरा करते, कीकर, बबूल,बिलाङ्गड़ा, पिलखन
के दरख्तों और जंगली झाड़ियों के बीच
हज़ारों बरसों की यादों को सहेजे मेहरौली की
संकरी गलियाँ, दरगाह, बावड़ी, मस्जिदें और मक़बरे
हमें शहर के शोरशराबे से दूर सुकूं का अहसास दिलाते,
आज फिर सोहनलाल की खस्ता कचौरी खाने निकले तो मन
रबड़ी फालूदा, समोसे चाट पकोड़ी कबाब, नहारी,
कोरमा और खमीरी रोटी की खुशबुओं में खो गया,
अलाई मीनार के पास निगाहें चुड़ैल पापड़ी पर
सदियों से बसे जिन्नो को फिर ढूढ़ने लगी पर
नाग फूल पर जाकर अटक गयीं और फिर
बड़े पीलू की बूढ़ी हड्डियों से सरसराती हुई
बेर के पेड़ में उलझ गयीं, बस यूँही पेड़ों की
परछाईयों में लुकते छिपते तुम कागज़ पर
नामों की लिस्ट बनाने लगे- ढ़ाक, रोंझ,
करील, देसी पापड़ी और न जाने क्या क्या,
तुम्हें पेड़ों से लगाव था और मैं मेहराब, गुम्बद,
दर-ओ -दीवार, झरोखों, मेहराबों और जमाली कमाली
के खंडहरों में खो जाना चाहती थी, शम्सी तालाब,
जहाज महल, ज़फर महल, औलिया मस्जिद
की रूह को छूना चाहती थी, सैरगाहों, इबादतखानो,
हवेलियों में बीते कल को ढूढ़ना चाहती थी,
मोहम्मद शाह रंगीले की रंगों में रंगना चाहती थी,
मैं दइस शहर की नब्ज़ टटोलना चाहती थी,
मेहरौली की वक़्त से भी लम्बी दास्ताँ इन धुल भरे
पत्थरों में ज़िंदा हैं और उसी की नब्ज़ पर हाथ रखे
हम चल पड़े,आँखों में रेत सी चुभती भद्दी नयी इमारतों,
कूड़े के ढेर और झाड़ झंकाड़ के बीच आखरी सांसें लेती,
अतीत की उन अनछुई दस्तानो को परत दर परत खोलने
युहीं घूमते फिरते हम सूरज गुरुब होने से पहले
पहुंचे ख्वाजा बख्तियार काकी की दरगाह पर,
सैर-ए-गुल फरोशां की यादों से मन महक उट्ठा ,
लोभान और गुलाब की खुशबू ,पेड़ों पे पंछियों का
कोलाहल, जाली में बंधे मन्नत के धागे, रौशनी की दुआ
के सजदे में झुके सर और क़व्वालों की गूँज से मुबारक
समां में बंधे हम मोहब्बत और अमन की शमा दिल में लिए
शाम के गहराते सायों में घुल गए और यूँ ख़तम हुआ
एक और दिन दिल्ली की गलियों में

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Two New Poems On Love


MOSS ROSE 
I want to place this red blossom
in your hair just behind your ear
as you stand by the window
in the shadows of morning
people think we are close friends,
brothers even, so long have they seen us
laughing together
soon they will know we are lovers
I want to walk along the street
holding your hand, your hair with its flower
giving spring to the town
in the heat of summer
( Inspired by a photo and caption posted by Onir on his Instagram story )
****************************************
MY LOVER IS A WOMAN 
I couldn’t love so I wrote
words became fingers
the paper her skin, raw, sensual,
quivering with desire
my love for her became a protest
love – a weapon, a tool,
an agent of change
I wanted to rebel with poetry,
with dreams, with colors,
with Kohl lined eyes,
lips upon lips, with spring pollen,
with rhythm of the rain,
a bit of summer sky,
the seasons of the city spilling in her veins
– her body an alchemy of color palette –
Gulmohar, Jacaranda, Bougainvillea
 It is in these words I found her
and in turn found myself
and since then I can’t stop coming out
I want to come out in all possible ways
I want to come out and love
unabashed and unapologetic
I want to come out in rainbow colours
and say out loud –
yes, my lover is a woman
and you can put me behind bars
but never back in the closet

Meethe Makhane | Jaggery Coated Fox Nuts & A Parfait


Phool makhana are one of my favorites. They are also known as lotus seeds or fox nuts. A versatile  sweet treat that is gluten free, low calorie, vegan and full of healthy nutrients. I have the savory version HERE  and a Kheer HERE.  These are very addictive but you can eat them free from all guilt. Add to vegetable curries, make desserts or munch on the savory snacks and if you have a sweet tooth like I do then make these gur ke makhane or jaggery coated makhana. These popped seeds are good to eat in fasting days too and provide instant energy. You can even give it to toddlers.

Popped Makhana is chewy but once nicely roasted it becomes crisp and nice.

 

One of the quickest snacks you can assemble. I won’t go into details of the benefits the two ingredients provide. Do Google it.

Here is how even a kid can make it in a jiffy.

Ingredients :

Fox Nuts | Makhana – 1 Cup

Organic or Chemical free Jaggery powder or grated Jaggery  – 1/4 Cup

Pure Ghee – 1 tbsp

Water – 1 tbsp

Cardamom | Til | Desiccated coconut – As per your choice ( I have not added anything here)

Steps – 

Heat ghee in a heavy bottom pan and add the popped Fox Nuts seeds. Roast them on low flame till they become crisp. Make sure to keep the flame low and do a finger test by breaking the makhana between two fingers. If done it will crumble nicely. If it doesn’t then roast a little more. Once roasted, take them out in a plate.

Toast the Til or desiccated coconut in the same pan if using and remove in a plate.

Add the jaggery powder with a tablespoon of water to the same pan and let it melt on low flame. Once the jaggery fully melts turn off the flame and add the roasted makhanas and the other ingredients if using. Stir to mix everything and let it cool in a large plate. Once the coated makhanas are cool enough to touch ( 5 minutes) separate them gently.

Store them in an airtight glass container and munch on these power snacks anytime.

You can caramelize the fox nuts with brown sugar or white sugar too but I prefer jaggery. Here I have used Organic jaggery from Monsoon Harvest Farms that was bought from Farmer Uncle . I mostly buy all my fruits and many of the other staples from them. Do take a look at their website.

The Parfait Story 

Now, I had never used caramelized makhana in a parfait.  Usually I just munch on them but this idea of substituting roasted beaten rice or Poha with fox nuts is by Sangeeta Khanna. I treasure her recipes and often look up for interesting combinations or tricks to make things better.

I make parfaits of all sorts with chilled home cultured curd. Adding, fruits, nuts, ramdana or popped amaranth seeds, roasted Poha or beaten rice flakes but this is by far the most delicious thing. The makhanas are a chewy swollen dumplings inside the smooth chilled home cultured curd. You can check the other Parfaits from the search bar but here is One of the recipes.

This is the first mango of the season. A little sour so it has given a unique flavor  the whole composition. The sweeter the fruit is the better. Eliminates the use of white sugar or any other sweetener. Just perfect for a quick breakfast.

Here’s how I made the Caramelized Fox Nuts and Mango Parfait.

Cube the best ripe mangoes (1-2) and chill. Whip and chill a cup full of homemade curd with a little honey or mango puree. I sometimes use hung curd too.

If you have the caramelized makhanas then you are ready to assemble but if you don’t then quickly caramelize them fist.

Now, take a glass and layer the curd, mango cubes and makhana till you reach the top.

Serve immediately.

I can’t tell you how delightful this tastes. Do try and let us know how it worked for you. You can caramelize a few makhanas in five minutes for this parfait so go for it.

एक शहर ये भी – कविता 4 – भूली बिसरी यादें


आज कुछ सायों से मुलाक़ात हुई
पुरानी यादें थी साथ हो लीं
दरयागंज में गोलचा सिनेमा के पास
संडे बुक मार्किट में किताबों के पन्ने पलटते हुए
पुराने दिन याद आ गए, भीड़भाड़, किताबों, सिक्को,
कपड़ों की छोटी छोटी दुकानों से गुज़रते हुए
हम दिल्ली गेट पहुंचे, यहीं सड़क पे जाती एक बस से
याद आयी डी टी सी की वो डबल डेकर बस
जिसमे हम कभी कभार छुट्टियों में
अंग्रेजी फिल्म देखने जाते थे
तब सिंगल स्क्रीन सिनेमा हॉल का ज़माना था
और फिल्म देखना एक लग्जरी
दिल्ली में तब हरयाली ज़्यादा और
भीड़ कम दिखती थी और अक्सर
इन बसों की छतें डालियों की मार से
डेंटेड रहती थीं
१४-१५ साल की उम्र में इन
डबल डेकर बसों से दिल्ली शहर
कुछ अलग ही दिखता था
ये समय था फटफटिया, लम्ब्रेटा या वेस्पा स्कूटर का
सड़कों पे ज़्यादातर फिएट और एम्बेसडर
ही दिखती थीं या फिर कभी कभी किसी
रईस की फॉरेन गाड़ी सर्राटे ने निकल जाती थी
राजपथ पर साइकिलों का मजमा एक आम बात थी
ये वो समां था जहाँ सेंट्रल दिल्ली के पेवमेंट
जामुन से रंगे रहते थे और हम ठंडी मीठी गंडेरी
चबाते नीम की छांव में गर्मी की शामें काटा करते थे
ट्रैफिक के शोर से परे वो मीठी आवाज़ें कानों में गूंजने लगीं
“लैला की उंगलियां,मजनू की पसलियां, ताज़ा ताज़ा ककड़ियाँ”,
” फालसे काले काले, मुझसे भी ज़्यादा काले”, गंडेरी गुलाबवाली
मीठी मीठी मतवाली”, एक दबी सी मुस्कराहट होटों को छू गयी
और हम चल दिए उन्हीं गुलाबों की भीनी सी खुशबू लिए
शाहजहानाबाद की सैर को

Bengali Kachcha Aamer Mishti Chutney


The one is the down right corner is without sweet for my mother. If you use sugar instead of jaggery the color will be golden yellow.

It is amazing how certain dishes are prepared and relished all across India with slight variations in the spices. This version of launji is slightly different from the one I make North Indian style.  Here is the recipe for Meethi Khathai as called it since childhood.

In this version of kachcha Aamer mishti chutney I have used panch phoron. I keep the mango stones ( guthli) in the dish as I love to suck on the spicy tangy sweet guthli. I also keep a lot of liquid in this. A mandatory side dish in summer when the markets are flooded with raw and ripe mangoes.

You can have a bowlful on its own or pair it with steamed rice, paratha, roti etc. Some people peel the mangoes in this dish but I keep the peel.

One more thing that I do is marinate the raw mango slices with red chili and salt for 10 minutes so that the fruit releases water and softens a little.

It quickens the cooking process too.

Here’s a simple way to make this wonder dish.

Ingredients –

Raw mangoes – 1/2 kg (4 medium size)

Organic Jaggery (grated/powder) – 1/2 cup / as desired ( I prefer the chutney a little sour) Fresh grated ginger – 1/2 tbsp

Water -3-4 cups 9 depends on how much liquid you need)

Whole dry red chilies – 2-3

Black mustard seeds – 2-3 tsp

Panch Phoran – 1 tsp (roasted and pounded cumin, fenugreek, mustard, nigella and fennel seeds)

Salt – to taste

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Red chilli powder – 1 tsp

Mustard oil – 2 tbsp

Steps – 

Wash and cut mangoes with skin lengthwise. Keep the stone.

In a wide plate keep the mango slices and stones, sprinkle salt and red chilli powder and rub it in till every piece is coated. Let it rest.

After 10 minutes heat mustard oil in a thick bottom pan.

Add the mustard seeds and dry red chilli as a tempering. Once the seeds crackle, add the marinated mango pieces and the mango stones. Give a good stir.

Saute it for 5-10 minutes n low medium heat and then stir in grated ginger and turmeric.

Add water to your liking, increase heat and bring it to boil. This preparation is a bit thin so I keep one and half cup extra jhol over the amount needed to cover the mango pieces.

Once the liquid starts boiling lower the heat and let the mango cook till soft yet firm. Don’t let it disintegrate.

At this point add the jaggery. You can use Sugar too. Mix well. Test for sweetness, salt and spice threshold. Add if required more. If you add the jaggery/sugar before the mangoes won’t soften so make sure the mango pieces have softened to your satisfaction.

Sprinkle the panch phoran and stir. Turn off the gas and let it cool to room temperature.

Spoon the aam er chutney in a glass bowl or Jar. Always use glass containers for sour dishes.

You can keep this in an airtight container for 5-7 days in the fridge.

Use dry, clean spoons to take out the chutney.

Relish this side dish as a post meal dessert or with steamed rice or luchi.

Note – If you do not have panch phoran you can use bhaja masala or roasted cumin and roasted fennel powder too.

Homemade Basic & Fruit Juice Infused Rasgullas


shows how Instagram addiction works. Forgot to keep a copy without heart emoticons.

Pressure cooker Rasgullas:

Cooking is not just about creativity it’s mainly science. I’ve been dying to get the rasgullas right since sometime and though they always tasted good something was amiss. Recently I decided to do some research and the most trusted source for that is Sangeeta Khanna’s blog. I read her recipe and immediately knew what was wrong. The art of making the right chena for good soft spongy rasgullas lies in doing it the scientific way and that’s where I was going wrong. I tried her method and Voila! the rasgullas came out excellent. I made them a few times before posting the recipe here.

This time I tried the fruit juice infused rasgullas too from her blog. The yummiest ever. I did some variations of my own.

Here’s how you make the softest chena for any Bengali Mithai and especially Rasgullas. If this step goes wrong the rasgullas may not turn out the way they should. There is no substitute for this step. Market bought Paneer is NOT a replacement to homemade chena. The perfect rasgullas are soft, porous and spongy not rubbery or chewy.

This Nolen Gurer Sondesh recipe has the steps to make perfect chena and also the link to Sangeeta’s blog post. Do check it out.

So as we now know that rasgullas are soft balls of Indian cottage cheese dunked in sugar syrup. They are boiled in the syrup or in plain water if going into a fruit juice cocktail ..

Now the Ingredients and the steps.

Ingredients : 

To make chena :

Full fat milk / Cow’s milk – 2 Cups

Juice of lemon – 1/2 lemon  or 4 tbsp curd (home cultured preferably)  or  1-2 tbsp white vinegar

For Basic Rasgullas – 

Water for syrup – 600 ml approx

Sugar – 200  gm

Steps :

Once the chena is ready take in out in a large plate and rub and knead with the heals of your palm till you get a smooth, lump free cohesive dough. When you feel the fat from the cheese on your hand its done. Do not overdo it. Make a smooth ball of it and cover with a damp cloth. If the chena crumbles then it is not good for making any sweets, use it for stuffing parathas, cutlets or make a veggie with it. A dry chena will disintegrate in the syrup or boiling water so it needs to be soft and cohesive mass.

In a pressure cooker boil the water with the sugar to make the syrup. You can add a few threads of saffron or 2-3 green cardamom to give a flavor to the syrup. We keep enough water to help the rasgullas expand. They swell up 2-3 times of their original size. Do Not crowd the pressure cooker with the chena balls. Keep some free space.

While the syrup boils, make small balls with the palm of your hands. In 500 ml full fat milk chena usually I make 6 large rasgullas.

Once the syrup is boiling away nicely gently dunk one rasgulla in it to see it it floats and swells up or disintegrates, flattens etc. This will give you heads up to go for the rest. Drop them gently in the syrup one by one.

Close the lid of the pressure cooker and after one whistle let the rasgullas cook on low flame for 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them cool.

Once you open you’ll have the perfect soft bouncy rasgullas.  You can see i nthe piucture that there is a lot of syrup. I keep it that way for the rasgullas to expand then use as much as needed. Rest I keep for other things.

Take them out in a wide bowl and let them chill. The rasgullas will take different shapes as the sides press against each other but will regain their round shape when removed in a serving bowl. That is the test of a good rasgulla.

Serve them chilled with a little syrup.

When making the fruit juice infused rasgullas do not use the sugar syrup. Instead boil plain water for poaching with lemon, orange zest if using orange juice or keep it simply plain.

Once the rasgullas cool down, squeeze them to remove excess poaching water and add the rasgullas to a bowlful of your favorite juice. Let them absorb the juice for a good flavor. The juice will give them a nice color too.  You can click the link above to see how Sangeeta has made exquisite cocktails with rasgullas etc.

I used fresh orange juice and Real cranberry juice for infusion.

In the cranberry fruity rasgullas I used cranberry juice, fresh lemon juice, a dash of gin and pomegranate pearls. Topped with mint.

In the Orange Juice infusion I opted for fresh orange juice  which gave a lovely citrus flavor to the rasgulla. I have observed that the more you keep the rasgullas soaked in it  better the flavor. I’m sure a bit if Vodka would go superbly with it but this time it is just pure juice.

You can use aam panna bael panna, pomegranate juice, pieces of fruits like lemon or prange wedges, apple or pomegranate pearls etc and get creative with the cocktails. I will post some other variations as i make them. Perhaps a mango panna or bael panna cocktails as this is the perfect time for these drinks. Stay tuned.

I guess you will need to acquire a taste for these but rust me these healthier versions are perfect if you want to avoid white sugar. Homemade juices work out the best and are healthier option.

They look pretty too though I am such a lousy photographer.

In any case the rasgullas were a huge hit and that made me happy.

Do give these a try and let me know your experience.

 

Healthy Snacks – Pan Roasted Spiced Fox Nuts


Fox nuts are highly nutritious and make a wonderful low calorie snack. They are also known as Lotus seeds and Phool Makhana and come from an aquatic plant called Euryale Fox which grows in stagnant waters or ponds in Eastern Asia. In India, makhana is used in many religeous rituals including fasting meals. A variety of dishes are prepared with this versatile puffed seed.

Roasted makhana makes a healthy snack because it’s high in magnesium, iron, zinc and low in sodium content. It has a low glycimic index and is protein rich, high in carbohydrates, gluten free and naturally vegan.

Makhana kheer, gur makhana, masala makhana or spiced makhana are some of my favorite dishes made with fox Nuts. It is also used in curries, soups, raitas and vegetables. You can add them to homemade Granola and nuts & seeds trail mixes.

This pan roasted spiced makhana recipe is easy and doesn’t take much time. You’ll love it’s crunchy texture. The puffed seed has a neutral taste so it takes on the flavors of any combinations of spices.

You can roast a large batch of makhanas and add your favorite spices to a portion whenever you feel like munching on a light snack. You can also add it to your dahi poha like I do. They pair very well in breakfast cereals. So caramelize them and toss a few in your oats, parfaits etc.

Ingredients –

Phool Makhana or puffed Fox Nuts – 100 gm

Red Chilli Powder – to taste

Black pepper powder – to taste

Pink Salt / sendha namak – to taste

Chaat masala – to taste (optional)

Turmeric- if desired a pinch

Ghee – 1 tsp

Dried mint – to taste (optional)

I have mentioned all the spice powders to taste because it all depends on your spice threshold. I prefer them mildly salted and spiced.

Steps – 

Heat a thick bottom pan on medium heat and  add makhanas and roast them on low heat so that they brown evenly and not burn. Be patient with this.

Keep stirring constantly till they become crisp. To test, take one fox nut and press between your fingers, it should crumble.

Now take them out in a plate.

In a bowl mix all the spices.

Heat ghee in the same pan and add the spices and curry leaves if using.  Stir well  and add the roasted fox nuts. Mix well so that all the fox nuts get coated properly. Roast for another minute or two and then take them out in a bowl.

You can serve them warm or let them cool before serving.

Store them in an airtight container for later use.

I used some of it in my breakfast bowl of savory Dahi Chiwada or Dahi Poha ( Beaten rice flakes in home cultured curd)

You can add, remove the spices and make your own variations. Smbhar masala, curry powder, roasted cumin powder,  peri peri powder, dried herbs, Italian seasoning all go well with it.

I used curry leaves and turmeric in one mix and black pepper, rack salt in another.  Different spices give nice aromas and flavors to the fox nuts.

Fox nuts have a good shelf life so they can be stored in air tight containers for future use. I plain roast them and keep it ready to use as desired for both sweet and savory dishes.

You can make puffed rice snack in the same way and add coconut slivers, peanuts, roasted chiwda, cashews, roasted chana, roasted chana daal etc to make an even more healthier snack. Those wanting to lose weight must include makhana in their diet.

 

 

Hope you enjoy munching on these delicious spiced Fox Nuts. I will post the jaggery coated ones in a few days along with the parfait I make.

You can perhaps roast them in air fryer too or in the oven.

Till then eat smart and stay healthy.

Crossing The Threshold – A Poem


 

 

in the half light of dawn the breeze-

laden with the scent of mango blossom-

drifts in from the courtyard,

calling her thoughts to the waiting river;

quietly she leaves her bed,

gathers her unkempt hair in a loose bun

then pauses for a moment,

listens to her husband’s measured breathing,

then silently tiptoes out,

tucking in the corner of her sari at the waist

she hastily collects the fallen Parijatak in her pallu

placing a few in her hair at the same time,

the red from their stalks rising to her cheeks;

beside the well the empty pitchers wait,

nearby the battered clay stove

recalls her own scars,

for a split second she wavers, then crosses

the threshold, her heart frantic with haste,

leaving behind the walls

that had risen around her brick by brick;

the river hears her hurried footsteps 

with rapt attention, at its bend

under the shade of the mangroves,

a boat and a promise patiently wait

ready to carry her away.