Thursday, December 6, 2012

Menu planning, recipes tried and wine making

In an attempt to organise the chaos that is my life I chanced upon the Flylady. This fine website takes you step by step through your house and life, setting things in order. What's for dinner is a major trauma to many home-makers.

Inspired by Flylady's Saving Dinner, I found myself a good menu planner and hope to eventually make meal preparation hassle free fun. 

Some of the tasty things I've cooked this week are taken off the Internet:

1. Amla rice 

It's sour like lemon rice and I would think of adding finely chopped cabbage along with the grated Amla for a more complete one dish meal

2. Amla rasam 

I morphed it to my convenience, grinding the chopped amla, a bit of onion and garlic in a mixie with some water and boiling this water with a finely chopped onion. I added rasam powder in the final boil.

3. Aval vadas 

This is an excellent use as such recipe and provides a fancy snack or breakfast food with some good chutney

4. Ragi dosas 
One can also add a bit of ragi flour to left over dosa batter to have healthier dosas.

I've been making wine at home since the late Eighties. My first wine was probably a Rose Wine: a beautiful beverage but a recipe which I have been unable to repeat as rose petals are expensive. :( I did once find the recipe on line but cannot locate it now :(

I then discovered more wine recipes in a cookery book by Thangam Philips I bought in Guruvayur and which I cannot locate on line now-it had recipes for beetroot, pineapple and amla wine, if I recall right.

A further treasure trove in those days was a gem of a book written by a Manglorean father for his about-to-be-wed daughter: it contained everything from recipes to poultry farming! I used many of its wine recipes but, alas, in those days I mainly used plastic jars and I do think that affects the taste.

I've resumed my wine making of late (the last couple of years) with great success. My range has increased and so has my fascination with wine making.

Here are some of the recipes I use:
This is quick and most delightful!

Pineapple skin 
With some good dried ginger, it's heavenly!


Amla I add yeast!




Golden Wine 




Come mango season, I shall try making Mango Wine.

My challenge now is to find wine yeast and, in the meantime, I might try culturing the yeast from a good bottle of bought wine-but I need to figure out a more easily available culture medium than agar.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hotel Rajwada, Baner Road, Pune

We've been eating out quite a lot since moving to Pune. And Pune is a city where folks seem to eat out a lot-much like Kuala Lumpur. And last night we dined at Hotel Rajwada

Last night I planned to make Kachoris at home for dinner because there was cooked white Urad Dal leftover from the night before and a friend who'd dropped in for pot luck'd brought over some roasted aloo topped with cheese and a packet of Everest Panni Puri Masala and a bag of Gol Guppas. 


Don't be. It's very simple! I cook something and Mr. X drops in with an agenda of his own. Mr. X loves good food and loves eating out. Mr. X is not given to complimenting people to their faces. Thus, he drops in for dinner with food of his own :D. Perhaps I should buy one of those Hotel signboards which say: No Outside Eatables Allowed! But then I do love when he brings tubs of ice cream and such. Life is never simple. I cook Makki ki Rotis and White Urad Dal and he brings things that just don't go with the aforementioned and don't you tell me that Makki ki Rotis do not belong with Urad Dal 'cause there aint no Sarson ka Saag to be found this time of year in this here part of the world.

Still confused?

Ok. Let's keep it simple: The morning after I awoke to find left over Urad Dal and Paani Puri Masala and Gol Guppas staring me in the face accusingly. I struggled with guilt all day, atoned somewhat by making patties with another leftover dal: A small cup of yellow Moong Dal. Why guilt? Because I had no green chilies, no ginger and no Amchur with which to make White Urad Dal Kachoris to go with the Paani Puris. Clear as ditchwater, right? 

Still confused? Go see a shrink or go back to school. 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Mr. X phoned us last night to tell us about Hotel Mahabaleshwar and my Hairy Half who was getting quite fed up of my attempts to explain my dinner plans to him, leaped with joy at this escape route and that is how we had dinner at Hotel Rajwada finally.

More confused?

Well, it's like this: we were driving down the road to Hotel Mahabaleshwar and Rajwada was in our way. So, rather than run it over, we decided to try it out.

Truth is, Hairy Half and I have been eyeing it for a while now as we cruise down the tree lined (Half the road is tree lined) avenue that leads to Sanjay Sports Academy where we plan to take up dancing classes: Bollywood Masti or Zumba. So far we've only cruised past and we're probably going to join some time next year. 

But we did get round to visiting Rajwada and so we deserve a pat on the back!

Haveli-like, Rajwada has an inviting look to it. Park your Vahan without breaking into a sweat. Descend and ascend a small regal flight of steps to an imposing old world Darwaza. Step through and step into a dream of ancient splendour. 

Tables are laid out in the huge garden and diners enjoy night skies on the one hand and the golden glow of the hotel on the other. 

I had read a review that spoke of slow service which left me quite unprepared for the fast as lightning service. There were moments where it was almost:  "Pudding-Alice; Alice-Pudding. Remove the pudding!"

A last glug of beer was, for example,hastily snatched off the table and the waiters made haste to dump the last bits of dal and sabzi on our plates. Not the most comfortable of hospitality, to my eyes!

Nor was it very hospitable of one of the waiters to tell Mr. X "Wait!" when asked for some green chilies.

And the food? Passable-not bad. Small helpings add to the general lack of hospitality.

Superb ambience thoroughly ruined by most offhand service.

And don't have a paan from the little cigarette shop outside (BTW the Hotel does not permit smoking): the Mitha Paan was like a stale burfi.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Water Melon Rind Chutney

It's water melon season and we buy almost one melon per week.
Watermelon slices BNC
Photo by Prathyush Thomas,
My mother-in-law, who was a Malayalee, once told me that the white part of melon rind could be used as a substitute for Kumbalanga or winter melon. This white fleshed pumpkin is a frequent ingredient in Kerala cuisine. I have often made a simple dish which I learned from her using this substitute: a mulakushyam . The recipe in the link is almost similar to how I learned it:

1 cup tuvar dal
1 cup chopped kumbalanga
1 or 2 green chillies
A pinch of turmeric powder
Salt to taste
A few curry leaves
A few drops of coconut oil
Wash the dal and cook it with about 2 cups of water. When it is nearly soft, add the cubed vegetable and salt and turmeric and continue to cook till the vegetable is soft. 

Add the green chillies (slit if you like the heat or un-slit if not or not all if you can't take the heat). 

Take the vessel off the fire and add fresh curry leaves and a drizzle of coconut oil.

Since this gourd is hard to find in North India, I delight in using melon rind in summer.

I've had to become more adventurous as the quantity of melon rind is more than I can cope with using only the one recipe.

I've made a chutney over the weekend which tastes quite like coconut chutney.

We morphed the recipe a lot - merely roasted the dals and some red chillies and the rind and ground them coarsely and tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves, a red chilli and some channa and split white urad dal.

I'm still in the throes of trying to make a melon rind candy. There seem to be a lot of things one can do with melons!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

News From My Kitchen - Glen Cook Tops are a Big No No

We returned to India after 5 years in Malaysia somewhere around July 2010. A stove was a priority and we went to Big Bazaar in a Mall in Gurgaon. Maybe the one in Sahara Mall. I fell for the following deal
Buy Glen 3 Burner Glass Top Gas Stove & Get Glen Mixer Grinder, Sandwich Toaster, Electric Kettle and Iron worth Rs.6660/- FREE

Silly me! The stove has almost never worked well: the burners rarely burn well, mostly burning very low. The Mixer Grinder started falling to pieces with every use and the Sandwich Toaster works slowly and to a very unsatisfactory effect-crispness is rarely achieved. 

It was stupid of me to buy a stove of non-Indian make. Firstly, the gas cook top is not such a commonly used kitchen item, I'm pretty sure, in the Brand's own country. Secondly, Indian Brands benefit from our consumer power-we complain freely. Lastly, our country still remains a dumping ground for third rate goods from so called First World Countries. 

As I do not have much spare time I did not find the time to complain right away. When I did use the contact format on the Glen website,  a service man came and did something and I had to pay. It worked fine for a while after but soon relapsed to its stubbornly inefficient mode. 

This March I approached them again and they were willing to send a service man to set right the issues for payment!

I've had about enough. I've learned my lesson: Be Indian, Buy Indian is a sane, wise way to live as an Indian in India. Outside of India too, it might be wiser for NRIs to stick to Indian Brands. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pune@Food, December 15th to January 3rd

Yesterday we went to Sector 31, Gurgaon, to buy chicken and stopped at a vegetable seller’s to pick up some cucumbers. The hawker tried to seduce us with some big succulent brinjals/aubergines/eggplants (Bharta ke liye) but I told him we’d just returned from a place where we just about had enough of the dish. He grinned “Guest House?” 

Well, although the food at the Pune guest house was nice and simple and what we call “homely”, it took some yogic equanimity to put up with endless repetitions of bharta, pohe, dal, chillas, and such. 

I withstood the monotony better than others for I was reared in an Ashram where taste was not the main criteria for food served (I could thus uncomplainingly survive University Hostel food in the eighties-JNU). Also, I was glad of this long break without having to cook and wash up endlessly.

The only alternation was when I accompanied my husband to the University where he was conducting his workshop-again simple Hindu vegetarian fare. Nice. But it was here that I discovered Ragda Pattice
And then there was the trip to Sinhagad where every step uphill and downhill resounded to the cries of Kanda Bhajji

But I had already encountered this crunchy snack over lunch with a fair young translator whom I had only known virtually till then. She took me to 96K - Select Maratha Food and treated me to a nice chill beer (she abstained!) with the ever present masala pappad appetizer and kanda bhajji over talk of Maratha culture. This young atheist discussed books and cuisines while the benevolent Pune sun danced around us. And then it was a light but sustaining lunch of  bhakri with a kind of hot and sour sprouts curry, accompanied by two very hot chutneys-one was made with crushed green chillies and garlic and I don’t know about the other-Thechas?

And then a foodie friend of us joined us on the 1st of January, 2012, and after that it was all kinds of food mayhem from a lunch of Schezwan Dosa, Kada Handi Pav Bhaji and something Indo-Mexican to a dinner (after Sherlock Holmes at E-Square) at a Madurai shack (really light on the pocket and food not bad at all) with a really pleasant young man running the show, followed by Malai kulfis and paan.

Desserts were astrologically doomed for me as the following two anecdotes will reveal. When we returned from Sinhagad, I mentioned Christmas Cake as it was the 25th of December and one of our companions bought a small Xmas cake. After dinner at the guest house, he asked the kitchen staff (a gleeful trio of Nepalis) to bring a knife and plates. The cake was cut and passed around –thin slivers as most of us were full to the brim with the hearty but simple Guest house fare after the long haul up and down hill.  I had muttered something about sharing with the staff and thus, all confused, we left the cake there, not to mention the barfis and chikkis bought at the Macdo on the way there (the time we lost our way in search of the famous hill). The day after that the cake buyer remarked that he could do with a piece and called for it.  The boys said it had been thrown away :D! 

And then after the Shiv Sagar lunch we had bought a small box of sweets as I craved dessert. We headed for the guest house, the men talking Science gobbeldy gook as they handed over the sweets to the kitchen staff. Soon tea was brought to us –in glasses the way they assumed my husband likes it. After a few minutes tiny saucers followed. Our hearts perked up in anticipation but no sweets followed to be served on those :D!

I think it was a cultural misunderstanding-the boys assumed we had given them gifts. I took my revenge by raiding the fridge each time they were out of the kitchen and taking tiny nibbles-the sweets were marzipan like in taste.  
And to cap it all I lent my colour crayons to a six year old friend and they never returned! And when I narrated this series of unfortunate incidents to a person, I had to listen to lectures about lack of charitable nature to boot harumph !

Anyway upon our return to Gurgaon the balance was restored from the Air India dinner rasagoola to a box from Om Sweets and our own small box from Kaka Halwai-an assortment of two types of sweets both very reminiscent of something Middle Eastern-one looked like a mottled salami-some fruit based sweet pulp with a nutty sheath and a fig and cashew paste cuddled by thick khoya arms. And the bakarwadi packet still humbly awaits its fate. 

I conclude this gastronomic vision of Pune by tipping my hat to Air India: I have quite enjoyed my flights to and from Pune, especially the breakfasts. While the mutton dinner on a previous flight was obnoxious, this time the vegetarian dinner was an absolute dear: kadhi and a mixed veg sabzi as main course. The staff is quite friendly if a tiny bit mature and it’s a pleasant journey even given the stuffy nose announcements.