Friday, October 30, 2015

Patoli - A Lentil and Bean Stir-Fry

My mother used to make this dish, though without beans. It was quite delicious, especially with hot rice and ghee, some good South Indian pickle and some pappadums. Lately, I love having it with rasam as the sour soup goes well with this dry dish.

I never really learned how to make it from her but I’ve tried it out using my memory of the taste.


1 cup chana dal or ½ cup chana dal and ¼ cup each of yellow moong and arhar.
1-2 large onions, sliced not too finely
2-6 cloves of garlic, sliced or ground
A small piece of ginger, in juliennes or ground
1-2 green chilies, chopped
Some curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
A pinch of fenugreek seeds
A pinch of hing
½ tsp or less Haldi powder
½ tsp or to taste of red chili powder
2 tbsps oil 
Some coriander leaves for garnish


Soak the dal/dals for a few hours. Coarsely grind them in a mixer. 
Heat the oil on a low flame so that nothing burns. Add the mustard seeds and, when they begin to splutter, add the curry leaves, sliced onions, ginger, garlic, and green chilies. 
When the onions are translucent, add the ground dal/dals and stir well. Sprinkle the haldi, red chili powder and salt and keep stirring and scraping in case things start to stick. When the dal begins to brown a bit, your dish is ready. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve!

Note: Make sure the oil is adequate by observing if the onions appear to be more than the oil. This dish does require a little more oil than you would think.   
Variation: Add a cup of chopped, steamed beans of almost any kind: French, cluster, broad beans.
You can always try it with other vegetables such as some gourds, zucchini,  or bell peppers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tamatar Matters - How To Seed Bonds

Our little family, now just the two of us, always did a bit of gardening. From the time our son was a toddler and enjoyed playing in the mud, right down to today when he is very grown up indeed, we still bond over plants. 

The first thing I do when he visits is drag him into the garden to show him my latest “baby”. Today it’s a capsicum which is very bravely growing bigger every day. Near that plant, stands the Mogra I planted for my Daughter-in-law and I love to see her sparkle when it flowers.

Hubby’s a busy bee, absent minded and a workaholic to boot. But say “Garden” and he’s all agog, be it watering or pruning, pest control or composting, he’s there beside me, toiling away joyfully.

Peering at Methi

Right from my days as a young mom, I got into a habit of throwing almost all seeds from the vegetables I was cooking into pots. Now, of course, we have a garden and that’s where they go.  The amazing fact is that most of them sprout. Many of them even go so far as to flower and a few brave ones are bold enough to offer me the odd vegetable or two.

The real joy is when you can gift your freinds and relatives a bit of what you have grown. I once had some lettuce seeds that I can't find now in any shop and they grew so easily! Each time I could crop a bit and use it or present it to a guest and it would grow bountifully all over again.

The easiest of the lot are tomatoes. I love tomatoes! Just can’t get enough of them. So imagine my thrill when, long long ago, I threw a rotten tomato into a pot and plants grew!

Alas, that’s all they did for some time. Tomato plants take some amount of pampering as do other plants. They need support.

Although you can buy and plant all kinds of vegetables and enjoy family time with your dear ones, sowing, caring and harvesting, tomato still remains my favourite.

Saucy Saas! Now that I'm a mom-in-law, I get to have a lot of fun sharing snacks with my DIL. And what's a snack without some sauce? Ketchup figures prominently on my grocery list. I'll admit that, as a DIY fanatic, I've tried making tomato sauce at home and it's usually a miserable flop. That's why I remain a diehard Kissan fan. From childhood to now, in my fifties, I can't resist my favourite brand of ketchup.

Tomato Treats Not only can you make a lot of tasty dishes with tomatoes but they are also excellent for health. Hubby and I are still trying to master a tomato chutney that he once ate and loved and which we almost got right recently.

Basic Recipe
Coarsely chop a few tomatoes and onions and finely chop some ginger, garlic and green chilies.

Heat some oil and saute, first the onions, then the ginger, garlic and chilies. When the onions are translucent, add the chopped tomatoes and cook lightly.

Season with salt, a dash of haldi, some red chili powder to taste and temper. For the latter, heat a Tbsp. of oil and splutter some mustard seeds, a few pieces of broken dried red chilli, some curry leaves and some urad dal if you so desire.

Goes well with puris but also with anything else.

Jai Kissan! I was so excited, recently, when surfing for things to do with tomato sauce, I came across a website where you can not only order seeds but access a whole PDF on growing tomatoes! And that’s not all - there are a whole lot of activities for your kids! What better way to bond?!

Family apart, neighbours get engaged once you start exercising your green thumb. In modern life, who cares for neighbours? Loneliness is silently becoming a major problem for the growing numbers of the elderly in India. With a little thought, we can all address this problem by
Being aware that this issue exists.
By being discretely aware of the elderly people in our neighbourhood and of their needs.
Set a reminder to visit at least one such person per week, just to say hello. Often, a simple gesture or two will be of enormous help to them - ask them if you can get something for them when you shop, if they need a lift, etc.

Down the road from me, live an elderly couple. They have a lovely, neat garden and, earlier, they grew a lot of vegetables. But these days they are lonely and getting on in years and gardening can be a major exertion at that age. They are very dear to me and pop in now and then and always head straight to the garden to see how my plants are growing. As we chat, the old lady plucks a flower or two for her puja and, of course, some curry patta.

A little kitchen garden can build the best bonds within a family and even beyond. Somehow, food growing is a blessed sight to all.

In the West, today, unused public spaces are being used to grow food. What if, in some of our condominiums, we initiate a small kitchen garden? Of course, there would be many problems. But start small, with the help of kids and the elderly and try to avoid ego and possessiveness and you will plant the seeds of a better tomorrow for all.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Hotel Veg and Nonveg, Aundh, Pune

This little place is one of many - all over India - but most especially in Pune where eating out is a ritual obediently followed by many. 
Tall Order They serve Breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. The cuisines they claim to serve are Punjabi, Chinese, Indian and Biryanis. My husband always laughs when he reads this - as if Punjabi is not Indian and Biryani is a nationality!
It is a delight to see this kind of place hold its own when, on the opposite side of the road there are many fancy places. Though those are also small and most of them also have outdoor seating, they all cater to the upper middle class. Youths with guitars love such hangouts.
The Verdict Judging by the poha, I feel that it is honest home made food. Simple fare. The dish was not too spicy and the groundnuts were fresh. The poha was served with a small sprinkling of sev on top and a small side dish of sweet sambhar.

Poha may seem simple to prepare but I’ve had some truly awful ones and, since I also tried to make it, I find it’s not that easy. Good poha is light and easy to digest. There is relish in eating honest food served without fuss in a clean setting. 
Though it is difficult, it is good to find such places wherever one goes. Especially in Pune such joints are usually run by a family. Since there are not many hired hands, one is a bit more sure that the food will be untainted by the mood of the server whereas, in many places, the workers are treated badly or are unhappy for some other reason. I always find that I’m suspicious when it is like that.

With a Pashankar Honda Authorized 2 Wheeler Service Centre to its right and Croma to the left, this cute little place is usually busy feeding employees from these places. But it also attracts other passersby like us.
This Sunday we decided to give it a try for a late breakfast as Croma which we had come to visit was not yet open.
There is indoor as well as outdoor seating and though the restaurant is tiny and humble, the place is very clean.
Cheap, Clean, Wholesome Hubby had Misal pav and I had poha. Both were quite light and fresh and tasty and filling. It was very pleasurable to sit in the open and eat together. Sarjaa Road is very beautiful, tree lined and leisurely.

The bill came to Rs. 58.