Monday Memories 1 – Bottomless Pits, Edible Weapons and More


I was looking for more ways of wasting time and thought of starting a new series called ‘Monday Memories’ .  There are times when some little thing in the present takes you back to some moment in the past. Some bittersweet memory comes floating to you and then the things you remember are more real than the things you see in the present. I always wondered if a moment from past tasted the same . Sometimes it does. You can actually feel, hear, see touch exactly the way you did at that moment or maybe you believe you do and that’s all matters. It keeps you going in hard times, in times of loss, separation, loneliness.

My boys are now grown up and many a time a simple little thing as a pack of cookies, a box of crayon, a song or a sentence in a book sparks a memory of  their childhood, a childhood that was an adventure for them as well as for me, and I realize how those memories are piles in endless stacks inside me.

My elder one is now 21 and I guess we spend 3,000 more hours on our first-born than the second one. Every little thing the child becomes precious. I don’t think I remember his “Firsts ” or  “Lasts” but I do remember some particular incidents that filled my young mother’s heart. Raising boys is not for wimps. It is a challenge only some can endure. I guess I developed eyes at the back of my head when Adi was growing up. He was one little explorer who was curious about anything that he could lay hands on. A complete foodie and an absolutely fearless boy. While I struggled to keep things under control without going insane he invented different ways to bring the house down. Those were moments when I cried and laughed at the same time unable to decide which was the best thing to do.  Never thought that these very incidents will become irreplaceable with time.  I had to think two steps ahead to find a way to involve him while  I went about doing my household stuff. One of them was colors. He would sit for hours totally immersed in various types of coloring material, old newspapers etc and create masterpieces on everything in the color zone including himself. He would then look around quietly, make sure I am not watching and then slip through the door with a riot of color in his little hands. He would pin it somewhere or place it where I will surely see and then hide. Waiting for me to make the move. As I said, I had somehow developed superpowers so I would know exactly what to do. I would pretend to do something right where his treasure lay and accidentally discover it. It was such a joy to see him creatively involved. I would say ‘ look what I found. This is such a beauty and who made this gorgeous piece of art? ” and he would shyly emerge from his hiding place , his eyes sparkling with joy and pride and his a big dimpled smile lighting his face and say , “me’. I would hug and kiss him and we would sit and talk about his masterpiece all covered with colors of love. For many years I kept those paintings and drawings till they were discovered by another curious adventurer who had found the art of dismantling, dissecting, tearing and making new objects what could be  anything from weapons of war to some new inventions of a technical genius. 😀 My second boy was exact opposite of his elder sibling. four years his junior he loved a leisurely peaceful life most of the time. Another bottomless pit was added to my misery. At times I thought I was created for just two things- cook and clean.

Shubhang was always curious about the “hows” and “whys” of life and he practically dismantled anything and everything to observe the intricate machinery that lay within the mundane looking objects.  If a watch was missing we knew where it would be or for that matter bigger things like camera carelessly left unattended. It would all end up in the junk box or will be discovered months later buried under something neatly tied in a bundle. One really needed a high IQ to figure out what that originally was.  Watching him working with rapt attention on some complex toy or gadget that he had decided to open up I would often marvel at the working of his mind at such a tender age. Of course I went into a rage on finding something destroyed for good but then there was some magical spell these boys put on me every time they screwed up something. Yes, they were a gang of two. Partners in crime and vowed to defend and protect each others honor at all times Unless there the offered bait was a better option :D. I had to shell out big time in kind more than in cash to get the desired information. This was the beginning of a very strong bond between them which I can see even now.

One thing one must remember as a mother of growing up boys is that anything can be converted into weapons and landmines. It is through cuts and bruises and spilling of blood one learns this unless you are prepared for it and you never are. You never can possibly know what will burst under your feet or hit you from nowhere. It just isn’t possible to know. I realized it when I watched these brats chew their toasts in shape of guns and shoot each other or target strategic places or people with things they found uninteresting to eat. Although I hovered like a chopper to watch over the proceeding they managed to turn almost anything into a missile. I just had to learn and master the art of being alive.

The space between these memorable moments were filled with hair-raising tales about which I will talk some other time and between those tales of horror I cooked endlessly to fill those bottomless pits. It was something I loved to do till it became the sole purpose of my living. “WHF, I would say , You guys just had your meal” and they would look at me with those innocent puppy eyes and I wold melt like butter on toast and tie my apron once more.

But you know what, although I could kill with bare hands and I got so tired at the end of the day that I wanted the earth to split wide open and take me in I never restricted them in any way. I disciplined them but not at the cost of snatching away their childhood thought they may feel differently.

That bond which we three developed grew with passing years and slowly we rose above the mother-sons  relationship without even noticing it. This is a friendship which I think should be there between all parents and children where the kids aren’t extensions or your subordinates but individuals. You got to respect their uniqueness and intelligence to gain respect and love. You got to listen to them, praise , them, guide them and make them believe in the fact that they can count on you for anything and you value their presence in your life.

Anything is possible in the house with growing up boys. It is fantasy land where you can trip on cars, you got to dodge flying objects and things popping out of no where, where there are no time zones, where there is battles are won and lost every day and you can hear one of the finest remixes and music pieces ever written. It is also a warm cozy zone of love and togetherness, of laughter and craziness, of pains and pleasures that life offers. Here you will find yourself floating in a cocktail of emotions almost all the time. From birth every stage of their enchanting life is an irreplaceable miracle.  You learn the biggest lessons of life and the greatest strategies of survival in this world. You got to enter at your own risk but once in you are part of the gang. Once in never out. That’s what friendships are all about.

This is for my boys with love and a warm hug. I treasure them and very proud to see them all grown up into sensitive, discerning young adults.

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Semolina Pudding (Halwa/Sheera) with Saffron and Fresh Grated Coconut


I have a sweet tooth and fortunately I have no issues with either ghee or sugar so my preferred desserts are mainly Indian sweets. Every region has its own specialty and a distinct way of preparing the sweets.  Sweets were offered to the deities and were part of every auspicious occasion in Indian households. No meal is considered complete without a sweet dish. Mostly the sweets are made keeping in mind the local ingredients, climatic conditions, geography and cultural heritage.

Indian sweets are mainly f two kinds – milk based and flour based. No where in the world one would find such richness of textures, flavours, colors and shapes  in desserts as in India. Many of these recipes originated centuries ago and a lot of them have slowly disappeared from the home kitchens and markets due to the  time-consuming and tedious process of preparing them. Many sweets were just limited to homes and were cooked on special occasions, festivals only. These irresistible delicacies evolved and influenced by other cuisines over the time but they have not lost their original identity, in fact they have become richer and suited to the palate of modern health conscious people.

Some of the desserts like kheer, laddoo and halwa (pudding), barfi  are popular across North India and prepared more than other sweets.  Some variations of these are also used as Prasadam in various temples and in religeous ceremonies at home.

I love Carrot Halwa, Moong daal halwa  and whole wheat halwa but sooji halwa is something one can make in jiffy on any given day when the craving becomes too much to handle. 😀

Sooji or semlina halwa is one of the most popular desserts in India and there are many variations to the dish. This moist “spiritually infused” comfort food is loved by almost everyone. It looks very easy to make but can go wrong drastically if not made with care. Many new brides are told to make it as their first preparation in the kitchen to judge their culinary skills :D.

Here is my recipe of Sooji halwa with saffron and fresh grated coconut.

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Ingredients :

Sooji / rava or Semolina – I cup (I use the coarse variety not the fine one)

Sugar – 1 cup ( according to the taste)

Grated Fresh Coconut – 1/2 cup

Milk – 2 table-spoon

water – 3 cups

saffron – few strands

Nuts and Raisins – per choice

Green cardamom – 2-3

Clarified butter / Pure ghee – three table Spoon full

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Method :

Warm the milk and add saffron strands to it. Mix well and leave to get the color and flavor.

Dry roast semolina on low flame till pink . (Always slightly roast semolina before putting in away in air light containers. It won’t go bad)

Dry roast fresh grated coconut on low heat till it changes color slightly .

Soak the raisins , almonds etc in some water , drain and keep aside.

Now take a heavy bottom wok or pan and put the clarified butter / ghee in it. Heat the pan on high flame and then lower the flame.

Add sooji /semolina in it and keep stirring till it becomes slightly golden-yellow. Then add grated coconut and green cardamom to it.

Stir the mixture on very low heat till you can get the aroma of the roasted ingredients and make sure not to brown them too much.  Tip: Use wooden spoon or a spatula.

Once done add water and stir quickly so that there are no lumps. Keep it on medium flame.

Add saffron milk and stir. Lower the flame again.

The mixture will bubble and thicken.

Once all the water is absorbed add sugar. (Some people make sugar syrup but I prefer it this way. Adding sugar after the mixture has absorbed ware will ensure that the semolina has properly soaked the moisture and puffed properly. Once sugar is added the process stops)

Gently turn the mixture so that it gets cooked properly . Add raisins and nuts.

Once the halwa gets a nice pudding like grainy texture and leaves the sides. Make sure it doesn’t become too dry or too sticky. Keep heat low.

Making it a few times will get the right texture. After all it is an art. 🙂 Just follow the simple rules of heat adjustments and measurements. Water should be thrice the amount of sooji. 1 cup sooji – 3 cup water. Keep the heat on lower side. Give it some love and patience. There are no short cuts to good cooking. Roast sooji properly or the raw taste will ruin the halwa but do not brown it too much. Keep trying  and you will succeed. I too had my share of horrors when I learned it as a girl. 😀

Turn off the heat and stir & break the pudding in such a way that it doesn’t form a large mass. Take it out in a serving dish.

Garnish with nuts and serve hot.

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As we say in Hindustani ” meetha khao meetha bolo” ( Eat sweet and speak sweet )

Konkani Tendli Sukke Variation – Recipe


Since GudiPadwa I was craving for Konkani food that was so lovingly cooked in my maternal  grandmother’s kitchen. As my father belongs to Uttar Pradesh we had a mixed cuisine at home. Most of the recipes were from North India and especially from Kayastha style of cooking heavily influenced by Mughal cuisine or the typical Banarasi khana where my mother grew up but as my mother belongs to North Kanara we also got the taste of Konkani dishes.

North Kanara  comprises of Kumta, Honnavar, Bhatkal, Siddapur, Sirsi, Ankola and some other regions. My mother hails from chitrapur saraswat community from  Honavar.  Their cuisine is simply delicious and full of healthy nutrients. Most people in this region rely on what grows in the backyard of their beautiful homes. The use of coconut is ample in both veg and non-veg dishes. I love sukke, Upkari, dhoddak, Kokam curry, ambat, dalitoy and randayi to name a few.

Tendli ( Ivy Gourd) Sukke 

Tendli or Ivy Gourd

Tendli or kundru ( in north) is called Ivy Gourd in English. The tender fruit is green in color and is often eaten in salads or used in vegetarian preparations. It is full of beta karotin , vast variety of B vitamins, vitamin A & C, fiber and minerals. It helps to keep blood sugar in check.

Here is a variant of traditional sukke (a dry dish) . We like to make this tendli ( ivy gourd) veggie with slightly thick gravy and not really dry but the ingredients are same.

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Ingredients :

Tendli/ kundru/ivy gourd – 1/2 kg.

onion – I small

Fresh grated coconut – 1/2 of a large coconut

Tamarind – a small piece (1/4 teaspoon paste)

Jaggary – 1/2 Teaspoon

Mustard Seeds – 1/4 teaspoon

Dry red chili – 1 or 2

Coriander seeds – 2 Tsp

Urad dal- 1 teaspoon

Salt to taste

Turmeric powder – 1/4 teaspoon

Just enough oil for cooking.

Curry leaves ( optional. I don’t use them in this recipe)

Method : 

Dry roast coriander seeds, red chilies, urad dal and mustard seeds. Ensure none of these burn.

Grind and Keep aside.

Boil tamarind in some water to make a paste.

Keep aside

In a blender add grated coconut, ground spices and tamarind paste.

Blend with little water to make a smooth paste.

In a pan add a little oil and heat. Lower the flame and add mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter add finely chopped tendli. If the tendli is very tender I just pound it and use it whole.

Add turmeric powder and salt and let it cook in little water till soft.

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Add the coconut paste with a little water , stir and bring it to one boil and remove from heat. (You can exclude water and keep it dry as originally the Sukke is)

In a seasoning pot heat a little oil and add curry leaves and finely chopped onions (I don’t use curry leaves).

When the onions become slight golden pour the seasoning on top of the Sukke and stir.

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Serve hot with rice and dalitoi  as I did.

(Dalitoy is plain Arhar dal seasoned with mustard seeds, garlic cloves,whole red chili, green chili, curry leaves and asafoitida)

Happy Cooking.

Healthy Stuffed Fat Green Chili Peppers -Recipe


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During the lazy days of summer and the rainy days of monsoon one thing that always accompanies the main course in my home are these healthy sumptuous stuffed green chili peppers.  Full of goodness of  Calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate 0r Folic acid, capsaicin, antioxidants , Iron, Vitamin B5-6  and other useful vitamins & minerals these fiery little green chili peppers make a tasty bite with almost anything. The spices add to the benefits as well as to the taste.

As my parents came from two different cultures we always had a perfect blend of food from Maharashtra / Konkan and Uttar Pradesh.  All of us love experimenting with various cuisines, ingredients and spice combinations.

This is my mother’s recipe for stuffed green chili pepper perfected in our kitchen. Summer is incomplete without the fresh green coriander  mint chutney & stuffed green chilies and  their variations.

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So here are the Ingredients :

200 gms. – fat green chili peppers

1/4 teaspoon – mustard seeds

1 heaped teaspoon – Saunf (fennel seeds)

3 heaped teaspoon – coriander powder

1 teaspoon – haldi ( turmeric powder)

1 teaspoon – amchur powder (dry mango powder)

1/4 teaspoon – kalaunji ( onion seeds)

Salt to taste and a teaspoon of oil to shallow fry the chilies.

A pinch of red chili powder if you want to add more fire to it.

 

Method :

The Filling  :

Powder the fennel seeds and onion seeds coarsely.

In a shallow bowl mix all these ingredients. Use only half of the powdered fennel seeds.

Make a hollow in the mixture and pour the refined oil (I sometimes use olive oil) in it.

Thoroughly mix and make a crumbly mixture using your fingers.

Cover and keep aside.

 

The Fat Green Chilies :

Pick chilies which are light green and not bruised at any place. Try to choose all chilies of similar size.

Wash them clean and place them on a cloth to air dry. Wipe them with a clean cloth after a while.

Slit each chili lengthwise in the center. You can either cut the stem or leave it.  Remove the seeds or let them be as I do.

Now it is time to fill the stuffing. Make sure you don’t over fill it.

Heat a little oil in a shallow wok  (kadhai) and when it is hot  lower the flame and add  a little mustard seeds and hing (asafoetida)

Immediately add the stuffed chilies and stir so that the fennel seeds don’t burn.

Turn them over a couple of times and cover over low flame.

The spicy tasty lite bite will be ready in five minutes.

Remove from heat and take the stuffed chillies out in a dish. Sprinkle some fennel seed powder as garnish.

Serve as an accompaniment with Parathas, rice, poories or roties.

 

Variations :

1. Instead of kalaunji and amchur add 1 teaspoon of thick tamarind pulp + 1 teaspoon of fine sugar.

2. Do not add Kalounji instead add lightly roasted besan (gram flour) in the final mixture. You may add a sprinkle of buttermilk too in this mixture.

3. You can vary ingredients but make sure not to brown the chilies and keep the oil to a minimum. For stuffing you can use potatoes, mashrooms, cottage cheese, mince meat or any other thing you can dream of but this tangy spicy pickle bite will always stay at the top most favorite.

 

Spice it up and enjoy your meal.