Thursday, December 31, 2009

Moru kaachiyathu (tempered beaten curd )

The past week was a miserable one, both health-wise and because plans for a family get-together fell through ... and when down in the dumps, comfort food works best. If there was anyone else to do the cooking, maybe the menu may have been something else, but since I had to do the cooking, I opted for one of the easiest fixes - moru kaachiyathu.

Like chicken soup elsewhere, this is a very comforting curry with hot kanji (gruel) and some veggies. Especially when a bad cold makes your taste buds go on strike, this helps bring them back to working order.

Beaten curd - 1 and 1/2 cups
Onion -1 small (sliced thin)
Green chillies - 3 (sliced)
Ginger - 1 inch piece (cut into strips)
Garlic - 5 to 8 cloves (cut into halves)
Curry leaves - 1 stalk (separated)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek/ methi/uluva seeds - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Dried red chillies - 2
Salt to taste

In a deep-bottom pan, heat about 1 tsp of oil, splutter the mustard seed, add the fenugreek seeds and the dried red chillies.
Then the onion and curry leaves. once the onions sweat, add the garlic, ginger, green chilles. Now add the turmeric powder and now add the beaten curd. stir and take off the fire before the curd comes to a boil.

Add salt to taste. Add a pinch of cumin powder at this point.

Note: for a totally different taste, add one sliced tomato with the garlic, ginger and green chillies .

Serve with rice, chammandi podi and tender mango pickles. Great combination with red fish curry.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wish you a Merry Christmas...

After promising to do more blog posts, I have been absent again... with my daughter ill, and having caught the bug myself, I guess I will take some time to relax and recuperate...

Meanwhile, I wish all fellow bloggers and friends a great Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

No-bake fruitcake with Marshmallows

This photo of the fruitcake has nothing to do with the recipe... I just borrowed it from the internet pictures....Fruit assembled like cake!!!!!.

I picked up a few books this weekend and this recipe was in a book by Debbie Macomber , called Glad tidings. This is a tried and tested recipe by the author and since it is no-bake, maybe easier to achieve. Another good thing is that you do not have to wait weeks to taste the results. It can be had as soon as it is made.

I haven't tried it out, but it looks good and I am sure some of you out there may want to make a quick fruitcake, with Christmas so close ...

Golden or dark raisins - 1 cup
Dates - 2 cups
Mixed candied fruit - 2 cups
Chopped nuts - 4 cups (or you may reduce to 3, if you so prefer)
Evaporated milk - 3/4 cup
Marshmallows - 2 cups
Finely crushed Graham crackers - 2 cups

Mix raisins, dates, candied fruit and chopped nuts in a large bowl.

In a saucepan, (or using microwave) bring the evaporated milk to a boil, add marshmallows and stir well till the marshmallows are melted and mixed thoroughly with the milk.

Finely grind the graham crackers till they are at flour consistency.

Mix the crackers with fruit and nuts mixture.

Add the milk and marshmallows to it. Mix well with wet hands.

Rinse hands, pat the mixture and press it into a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for 2 days

Variations : instead of 2 cups candied fruits, add 1/2 cup candied fruit, 1/2 cup flaked coconut and 1 cup candied pineapple for a tropical taste. If the mixture feels too dry, add a bit of orange juice or strawberry jam.

It has no alcohol, so it is a better option for young children.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Back to the routine...

My parents, sister and brother-in-law had come visiting and we took them to visit Jaipur. It was a great few days and we enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Sadly, my blogging and entrecard dropping had to be neglected . But I will start posting and dropping cards from now on.

A big Thank you to all the EC droppers who still visited my blog. Also i found that my follower have increased. So I have to ensure that I deserve the attention :)

For starters, a picture of a gateway at a courtyard of Amber fort in Jaipur. This was our second trip to Jaipur, but no less breathtaking ...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jumbo sauteed prawns

When I get absolutely fresh prawns, this is one of the nicest ways to enjoy prawns. Don't bury it in any sauce and gravy. A quick preparation that locks in all the flavours and retains the juicy quality of the prawns.

Jumbo prawns - peeled and deveined (400 gms)

Marinate the prawns in a bit of lime juice, salt and a few drops of oyster sauce /soy sauce and keep for about 5 minutes.

Onion - 1 finely chopped
Ginger garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Red chilly powder - 1/2 tsp

In a wok, heat about a tsp of oil, add the onion, saute well till brown, add the ginger garlic paste and the turmeric and chilly powders. when that is done, add the prawns and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes.

The prawns are done !!!! Garnish with chopped mint leaves and serve hot.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shredded chicken and cabbage

This is a great way to use left over chicken from a roast, a curry or even simply boiled chicken.
If curried, just wipe away the remnants of the gravy and shred it.

Onion - 1 (sliced)
Green chillies - 2 (slit)
Cabbage - 2 cups (shredded)
Celery stalk with leaves - 1 small (diced fine)
Cooked chicken - about 100 gms or a half cup (minimum)
Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
Soy sauce - 1/2 tsp
Butter - 1/2 t
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Chilly powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

In a non-stick pan, put the butter and a few drops of oil so that the butter won't brown. Add the sliced onions and saute till golden. Now add the cabbage,green chillies, turmeric and chilly powder. Add salt to taste at this point since the chicken will already have salt. Now add the chicken, soy sauce and pepper. Finally garnish with the celery.

If mixed with a bit of mayonnaise, it can be used as a salad or as a filling for bread rolls, in a tortilla or chapati. Add bit of relish or pickled gherkins and spread on toasted bread slices for a superb sandwich.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crochet cap - instructions

These are the instructions to crochet the cap I had posted here. The other day, i just clicked on the link for the video, all i got was the site. I could not find the video in there. Then finally, I searched one whole day until I found the video again. This time, I decided that it is better to record it here since I will definitely be making this cap again.

Please note that the instructions are written down in a language that makes sense to me, and should be easy to understand by anyone. Experts in crochet kindly excuse ...!!!

Materials specified

Yarn - 2 (103 yards long) there will be yarn leftover.
Crochet hook - size 10.5

Step 1: Tie a knot with a slip stitch and make 8 chain stitches.Connect both ends to make a tiny ring.

Step 2: 2 single crochet stitches in each stitch (so there will be 16 stitches now)

Step 3: Single crochet stitches in 1st, 2nd and 3rd stitches and 2 single crochets in every 4th stitch.

Step 4: Single crochet all around

Step 5: 2 Single crochet stitches all around

Step 6 : Single crochet stitch in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stitches and 2 single crochets in every 5th stitch

Step 7: Single crochet all around

Step 8 : Single crochet stitch in 1st, 2nd, 3rd,4th and 5th stitches and 2 single crochets in every 6th stitch

Step 9: Single crochet all around

Step 10: 2 Single crochet stitches in every 7th stitch

Step 11: 2 Single crochet stitches in every 8th stitch

Step 12: 2 Single crochet stitches in every 9th stitch

Step 13: 2 Single crochet stitches in every 10th stitch

Step 14: 2 Single crochet stitches in every 11th stitch

Step 15: 2 Single crochet stitches in every 12th stitch

Step 16: 2 Single crochet stitches in every 13th stitch.

Step 17: After the step 16, counting is not required for a while. Single crochet every stitch for many rows till you get the depth that is required to fit over the head. At this point, the edges of the cap should slightly curl inwards, which means you are doing everything right ...

Step 18: Single crochet 1st, 2nd and third stitches and skip every 4th stitch.

Step 19: Single crochet 1st, 2nd and third stitches and skip every 4th and 5th stitch.

Step 20:To close the end, take a big loop, tie a knot, cut, then tuck the hanging ends neatly into the cap with the crochet needle.

The cap is ready...!!!

The instruction were given in a video by Threadbangers and they called it chrochet hat. So google it and you may just be lucky enough to find it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An update...

My parents are coming down for a brief visit... so I am a bit busy with trying to organize my pantry, cupboards and also a few places that may have so far not know a human presence :)

Meanwhile the little one is busy broadcasting the news to one and all, acting smart even before the grandparents are here to spoil her rotten and undo all the good manners that we have inculcated with the greatest difficulty( It takes just minutes in the play school to undo a year's good habits !!!!)

The icing on the cake is that her Suni chitta (my sis) and husband will also join us for the weekend. When I explained that they would be here for a few days and that we could visit them later, she is all set to pack her bags and go with them ... And when we went out for our weekly shopping trip today, she was disappointed that we were not going by plane...

Can't blame her...most of her favourite people can only reached by plane and I guess she has had enough of seeing just boring mom and dad...!!!

We are planning some trips to nearby fun spots the next week. Hope to have new places and things to post about.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Free Kitchen tips for New Cooks

These are a few tips that I have been compiling for some time, and have come from my own trial and error and a few of my friends' too. I thought I would share these tips with others and may come in handy for those who are starting out as cooks.. Experienced cooks, please ignore this....

Let me know whether you agree or not ..:)

  • The taste of any dal preparation (lentils) is enhanced with a few drops of lemon juice. Please note that a few drops mean just that, and not spoonfuls....

  • Once rice is boiled, switch off, cover with a lid and leave it for 10 minutes...most rice like basmati, raw rice etc cook with that . In case it needs more cooking, a few more minutes should do. If you leave the rice boiling for a long time, more than likely it would overcook.

  • Cook pasta and rice with atleast 1/2 tsp of salt to stop it sticking...

  • Soaking dried pulses overnight will reduce cooking time more than half.

  • Wash brinjal, lady's finger etc before cutting so they won't turn mushy when cooked.

  • When frying fish, always add a bit of lemon juice to the marinade for better taste and smell.

  • Try not to empty the mixer before switching it off. (Someone I know of, did this !!!)

  • When making spicy curry, add a pinch of sugar to enhance the taste.

  • Brown onions while cooking meat ....instead of just turning it soft and get the dish taste it's best.

  • Add at least 1 green chilli to dishes to increase the flavour.

  • When preparing mutton, add 1/2 tsp of jeera (cumin) powder for better taste.

Will post more of these depending on your opinions...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An eventful weekend..

Caught a flight to Mumbai on Saturday.

A wedding, meeting up with my sister and brother-in-law who drove down from Pune, a couple of drives around Mumbai, meeting up with some dear college mates and their better halves and kids, shopping, the reception...

And a flight back on Sunday

It was short, yet we all enjoyed the trip a lot. Of course, with gifts like a Barbie and a smart new dress, our daughter could have stretched it out a week or a month...she also tried to bring her new friends home,(children of our friends) by promising to eat rice...!!!for her, that is the ultimate sacrifice!!!

It is amazing, the rapport we never lost with our friends, and that we had with their partners... seems like we were all linked in another life... it was a wrench to say goodbye to them and my sister and Nikhil, but we came back recharged and happy that we had this weekend with them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mushroom, sausages and mashed potatoes

This felt more like an assembly job than actual cooking and it was very very tasty.

Onion - 1 (sliced thin)
Mushrooms - 200 gms (quartered)
Sausages - 400 gms (sliced across into bite sized pieces)
Green capsicum - 1 medium (sliced thin)
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Oyster sauce - 1/2 tsp
oregano -dried - 1/4 tsp
Potato mash flakes - 1 cup
Eggs - 2
Grated cheese - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Crushed pepper

Saute the onions, then mushrooms, sausages and the green pepper .Add the oyster sauce and the chilli powder. Salt to taste.

Now lightly sprinkle the potato flakes with a bit of water, keep aside. dont let them become very soggy,just to make them lightly moist.

Beat the eggs, add a pinch of salt, the grated cheese, oregano and crushed pepper.

In a greased baking dish, add the sautéed onion, mushrooms, sausages etc first. Now add the mashed potato flakes on top. The eggs and cheese go on top.

Bake at 180 C for 15 minutes till the egg is cooked and cheese is melted..or you may extend the time five more minutes to get the crust a bit brown.

Serve with pita, lebanese or crusty bread.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Speech pains....

It has been a comment from many, who met my little girl that she was very very quiet... she did not speak much till she was about 2 years old and that is very rare in the girls of our family....

Most of the time I wasn't bothered, because she would talk at home and with people she was comfortable with. And unlike children of her age brought up in Kerala, she had to deal with three languages at once - malayalam at home, english at playschool and hindi everywhere else. But sometimes, it would get difficult to fend off questions like ..."she is too quiet...have you taken a doctor's opinion...she is not like so and so..blah blah..."

Well if the same people heard her now, they would know she is perfectly fine... she started speaking out one fine day, just like she does at home... her teachers now tell me it is difficult to make her sit quietly. She speaks in malayalam to both of us and to all out Malayalee friends, to the maid and dhobi she speaks in hindi and she speaks to some of her friends and a few of ours' in English.. all perfect well-formed sentences, and purely the specific language. No mixing or inserting other words to make things easier...

So if there are moms out there who worry about their 'otherwise' normal kids speaking a little late, please do not worry.(I was never worried because my daughter was very expressive at home.But I was exasperated with a few well-meaning advices)

Kids are each unique and very special and everyone has their own way of dealing with things... they will speak when they are ready, and not a minute sooner..!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ramayan play ...and our very own Kaikeyi

This happened a few weeks back... our daughter's teacher told us that they had been rehearsing the Ramayan at the playschool and that Ichu had Kaikeyi's role.

She had initially been given some role where she did not have to say any lines.. but since she had suddenly started talking, she was given two whole lines...!!!

"I am Queen Kaikeyi...." and ...

"Maharaj, Ram ko jangal bhej deejiye, aur Bharath ko raja bana deejiye..."

Some how, bagging the pivotal role of Kaikeyi (who is instrumental in sending Ram to the forest and gets the ball rolling - enter Ravana to abduct Sita, meeting Hanuman, the war, Rama killing Ravana...) did not seem to entice my daughter enough..... She was more interested in being Ravan because he had a big sword and got to say, "I am Ravan, King of Lanka.... "

When I later shared this fact with a few of the other mothers, I found out that there were a few more tots who wanted to be Ravan..even 'Ram', whose mom told me that he had been practicing his lines thus...

"I am Ravan and these are my brothers... Bharath, Lakshman and Shatrughna..."

Somehow the moral of the Epic seems to fly right above the tiny ones... they were impressed by the weapons Ravan got to use and the loud yells he got to make while fighting...

All the kids were asked to dress from home as befitting their roles... there wasn't much time to prepare or buy had to make-do with what was at home.

The silver colour 'saree', I had already made, so the next was her crown and a veil to cover her hair.

I sacrificed my white dupatta. 1/3rd of it's length, with a little silver glitter complemented the saree. I had white chart silver paint and some glitter and bindis was all that was needed for the crown.

A pearl necklace, a black metal chain and a double string of colourful beads and bindis completed the picture. She was quite happy with her outfit .

The second picture is of my daughter and her friend, who was given the role of Shatrughna (Kaikey's step-son),and yet another aspiring Ravan..!! I made his crown and wrist band. The crown suffered a bit at his hands, if you look closely, you maybe able to see the tape job on it ..(actually, quite a bit of it!!)

It was a fun day for us mothers too... I hope there are many more such events to come .....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stuffed Karelas (bittergourd)

The first time I ever tasted stuffed karelas was when we visited my mom's second brother and family in Hyderabad. Our aunt made this dish for dinner one day and we all enjoyed it a lot.. at that time however, I wasn't too fond of this bitter vegetable. So though I really liked what my aunt made, I would never had bothered to make it...

All that changed when I was pregnant... guess what I craved most at that time...??? yep... bitter gourd... I had severe 'morning sickness' that lasted the whole day, for the first 4 months... at the least provocation I had to run for the loo.. anything from the smell of rice to the sound of daily TV serials ..!!! but I would drool at the smell of bitter gourd cooking and I sometimes would just saute it with a little onions and tomato and have it semi-cooked... my husband never could understand that.. he told me normal people would puke at smelling half-cooked bitter gourd and there I was, in my delicate condition, shoveling it down like it was the tastiest thing in the world..!!!

Four years later, I still love bitter gourd, and if it is fried to cinders, even my husband likes it with curd and rice. When I bought the tiny karelas, I had decided to try stuffing them..but when i checked for recipes, many of them were very complicated, so I just read them and then decided to go ahead and give it my own twist as I normally do to most of my cooking.

Bitter gourd/ karelas /paavakka - 6 small ones

Wash them well, scrape all the spines slowly with a knife and keep it aside to include in the stuffing.

Slit one side of the karelas. Scrape off the seeds inside.

For the stuffing

Oil - 2 tsp
Onion - 1 diced fine
Tomato - 1 diced fine
Aloo mash flakes - 1 and 1/2 tbsp (or mash a very small boiled potato)
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Jeera/ cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander/ dhania leaves - finely chopped about 1 tbsp

Heat oil in a pan, saute onions, then add the tomatoes and saute till the oil comes out. Add the scraped bitter gourd spines, chilli, turmeric and jeera powders, saute and cook for 5 minutes.Add the mashed potatoes, the dhania leaves and the salt to taste.

Now stuff the bitter gourds and shallow fry in a non-stick pan till brown on all sides.

We had it with rice, curd and omelettes. They will be great with chappatis too.I will definitely make them as soon as possible, since I got a thumbs up from my husband too... !!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My First Cooked Food - Gothambu (cracked wheat) Payasam

I have made Gothambu payasam many many times and it is my favourite item to complete a Vishu or Onam sadya.

Other than that this payasam also has the distinction of being the first ever thing that I tried my hand at cooking ..!!! It was when I was in my 6th standard. I was at my mom's place for my Onam vacation and I had a friend in the neighboring house called Razia.

After being shooed away from the kitchen for the umpteenth time,( I had a great fascination for the wood stove) I decided enough was enough... we had to try cooking just like the grown ups...!!

The first thing was deciding what to make.. we finally settled on payasam since it needed no cutting or preparing and the ingredients were easy to procure...

Next was where? ... there was a sort of shed, which provided cover from prying eyes... and we decided the cooking had to be done during the grandparents ' siesta time.

So we made a stove with three bricks, got a pot which had a hole near the neck area and the rest of the ingredients were

Gothambu nurukku (cracked wheat) - 1 glass (approx..)
Water - lots of it
Milk - about 2 glasses
Jaggery - 2 big lumps

We successfully lit the stove.. it was very easy to do so since I had watched my Mattemma or Ammamma do the same many times, kept the water on the stove and waited for it to boil... but since the stove was very tiny and could not hold much fuel, it took forever to even heat.. so we added the wheat and the jaggery and restlessly waited... after waiting for what seemed like hours, the jaggery was all liquid and bubbling away.. we tasted it and found it very sweet I added the milk and then we both decided a little more water was called for....

The end result was a very watery, lumpy (sticky cracked wheat, since we did not know to roast it) and smoky..since we did add a lot of dried leaves for the fire to burn quickly...

And we stirred the payasam with a stick since we did not think of taking a spoon from either of the kitchens..!!! Finally, we took our offering to our grandparents ...we were so thrilled about our first cooking effort, that we decided to chance the scoldings.

I remember my grandfather exclaiming in wonder that it was the best payasam he had ever tasted,(he was a sweetheart) and my grandma grumbling about fire and naughty kids... after that afternoon, my grandma did not sleep unless I was also lying down beside her ........!!!

I had posted the recipe of Gothambu payasam earlier... but when Shama invited me to the 'My First Cooked Food Event', I could not resist reliving that eventful day... :)

It was many years before I tried making the payasam again... but by then I knew a bit about cooking ..atleast enough to realise that you didn't just dump everything into the pot and occasionally stir it ....!!

So this is the better and grown-up version of the Gothambu Payasam.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The art of engraving copper

Copper was extensively used in India for utensils, jewelery and many other things. But the bowls, jugs, trays, goblets and other items that are on sale in Agra are a class apart.

The copper objects are actually meant for daily use, but what make them markedly different from their counterparts are the engravings done on them. They are then embellished with enamel colours to give added beauty. This is yet again an art that is supposed to have originated in Persia.

If I remember right, there are a few pieces of it collected by my dad.. a miniature set of hookah, jug, matching goblets and tray and also a dancing peacock.

Just check the pictures to see how you like them...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zardosi embroidery

Another item that especially stands out when one visits Agra is the exquisite Zardosi work on the garments.

They give a real feel of the richness and artistry of the costumes donned in the by-gone eras. Zardosi is said to have originated in Persia and were favoured by the Mughal royalty.These days wedding garments are invariably beautified with Zardosi work.

Of course if you do not feel like wearing such richness, you may buy pieces that may be framed and hung, or there are cushion covers, purses, satin slippers, hand bags and even pieces that are to be used as rugs... though, how one can put them on the floor is beyond me....!

The Zardosi work is done by using specially made gold, silver and other metallic threads. Embellishments are done with metallic wires, semi precious stones like opals, garnets and such and look stunning.

I took a couple of snaps of the work that were framed and displayed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The art of Marble Inlay - Parchin Kari / Pietra Dura

The inlay work on Taj Mahal

An artist carving on a plate.

A lovely fruit bowl... I loved this one.

Display in a shop window...sadly photography was prohibited inside... it was a treasure trove there....
Inlay work on black kadappa stone.... this is slightly (very slightly) less expensive
A superb dining table that can seat at-least 8 persons.

A coffee table....

As I had mentioned in the earlier post on Taj Mahal, the inlay work found on the Marble of Taj Mahal is called Pietra Dura.

There are many artisans in and around Agra, who practice this art, and there are many shops where you can purchase marble souvenirs decorated in this manner.Show pieces (like miniature Taj Mahals, statues of Gods etc) as well as objects that can serve a practical purpose are available... We bought a picture frame with the inlay work, but I I took snaps of a few of the objects that caught my eye...

I also got to speak to a young artisan, who was working on a plate ... it is a long and tedious process and takes a lot of years to master. I asked them if they were unhappy being put to work at a tender age, and he told that if others (the general public) go to school before they have to earn a livelihood, that is what he and others like him are doing....!!! Only, they know what they will do to earn their livelihood early on and they become specialists in their craft....

And the beauty of their creations are breath-taking... it is very difficult to be content with owning just one piece... atleast, I felt like picking up everything in sight...

You may judge for yourselves...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Entrecard dilemma....

Thank you for all of you who took the time to visit my site and answer my questions.. I did go check out the blog.. as I could infer, the only way to opt out of the 'sponsored ads' and still remain on entrecard, is to pay $ 50 a year.

Well like many others, I am not in a position to shell out that kind of money... but I am also kind of used to entrecard... i love visiting all the great blogs out there and somehow, it is better on entrecard.

So for now, I think I will reserve judgement till the sponsored ads start running... if they are totally unacceptable, I will stop using entrecard...

So friends...what think you of that idea?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Paid ADs on Entrecard?

Hi I read that a few Entrecard users are discontinuing membership because the paid Ads are going to be back... I am afraid I missed that news... the last notification I found was about the referrals and that they would get extra EC credits...

I have not heard about the paid Ads coming it true??????

Please let me know...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Visit to Agra - the Taj Mahal

Our first view of Taj Mahal.....

One of the seven wonders of the world, Monument of Love, example of architectural brilliance...

Even taken on a simple camera with no expertise what so ever (by yours truly), it is still an awesome sight....

The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his favourite wife Arjumand Bano, known world-wide as Mumtaz Mahal. She died in 1631 while birthing her 14th child. In 1666, Shah Jahan was also laid to rest beside his beloved queen....

Besides being known as the most expensive monument of love, (it took 17 years for completion - till 1648, and 40 million rupees ), it is also known for the bilateral symmetry and the artistry of the artisans from India, Iran and Central Asia...

Made from Makrana marble of Rajasthan, it has a lot of inlay work done in the Pietra dura style .

The Taj has four minarets which look straight, but are slightly slanted outward so that in the unlikely event of an earthquake or such they do not collapse on the dome.

The main structure with the dome is as tall as it is wide, making it visually pleasing. All four sides of the Taj are identical.

The main entrance where the tombs of both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are represented. The actual tombs are on a lower level, and restricted to visitors.

Windows frames are carved entirely from the white marble.

The Marble inscribed with the Holy Quran and the lovely art marble inlay work known as 'Parchin Kari' or Pietra dura. The inlay is semi-precious stones like malachite.

....more of Pietra dura ..inlay work with yellow marble, black kadappa etc.
The back view... just as impressive

The makrana marble, despite it's density, has the quality of translucence. When light is shined on it, the marble is lit from within. In moonlight, the Taj and it's surroundings are supposed to look like paradise on earth.

It was a good trip.. more snaps to follow..

Friday, September 25, 2009

J'Adore tien Blog Award

A big thank you to Rita for thinking of me while passing on this award... She is a great artist and her creations are very cute and adorable. Do visit her blog rkdsign88 cute & fun arts . A big sorry to her too, for not posting this sooner... I was a bit tied up with a couple of fevers and birthdays :)

The rules area as usual

  1. Add the logo to your blog
  2. Link to the person who passed on the award
  3. Nominate blogs of your choice
  4. Leave a message on the nominee blogs
And so, my nominees are....

My Owl Barn - lovely Owl things - especially loved the cupcakes

365 Days of mine - interesting pics and a unique viewpoint

Gawd's Own Country - a pleasure to read and close to home

Cen's Loft - my day is not complete without a visit here

Ann's Snap Edit Scrap - Loaded with talent

Hot Rocks - exciting jewellery named after songs

Nancy's Arts Crafts and Favorites - Eclectic and interesting

Some of you may already have this award, but I wanted to pass on the award to these blogs anyway.

We are having a three day weekend due to the Navratri functions and have decided to go visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. So hopefully I will bring back loads of pictures of our trip ...Starting out tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Semiya payasam (Vermicelli pudding)

This is a pudding/ payasam I made some time back. Slightly different from the one I make normally.

Semiya/ vermicelli - 1 cup (roasted, or if not , lightly roast in 1 tsp ghee till golden brown)
Saboodana/ chowari/ sago - 1 tbsp
Water - 1 cup
Milk - 1 + 3 cups
Sugar - according to taste ( I used 1/2 cup because I do not like it very sweet)
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
Chironji seeds - 1 tbsp (lightly roast the seeds)

Cook the semiya and the sago in 1 cup water and 1 cup milk till the sago is mostly translucent. Now add the sugar, cardamom powder and the rest of the milk and bring to a boil. Add the choronji seeds . You may add cashews and raisins lightly fried in ghee (clarified butter) instead of the chironji seeds to make the traditional semiya payasam

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The last couple of days have been a bit daughter had a high fever the day before and temperature went as high as 103.2F... she lay listless, drinking a few sips of milk and water...we rushed her to the doc and were relieved to hear it was just normal is usual with her, as soon as we went to the doctor, her fever subsided..

Yesterday, it was fuss time..... demands for water, I had to carry her every second, if I sat down she was on my lap, and tears at every breath taken....!! needless to say, nothing got done, and dinner was home delivery from 'Mystic Punjab'...

By 10 PM, she was in high spirits and singing and dancing....while trying to sleep, she has a big routine of saying her prayers, then 'Good night, sweet dreams..' about 50 times to which both of us have to reciprocate, then 'mindathe kidakku' .. roughly translated as (keep silent and sleep), which is usually what I have to tell her a dozen times each night ... and finally, something new...a big hug and 'Ichunu amme ishtaayi' ...meaning 'Ichu likes amma'......

One hurdle over, thousands to come, the rewards just, and is good ....Thankyou God...!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pear crumble with vanilla custard

I made mutton biryani for my husband's birthday since that is his absolute favourite. Since he is not very comfortable when I fuss about his big day, I decided to make a special dessert instead of cake... So finally, I came up with Pear Crumble..

I was actually searching for an apple crumble, but I had some great pears, so I just switched fruits..and there were so many variations of the recipe out there, that I just decided to go with a gut feel... It came out very well, but still, I think I have to tweak it a bit more, to make it even better...

So the recipe I am posting here is the revised version,

Pears - 3 large (peeled and cut into cubes)
Brown sugar - 2 tbsp
Water - 1 tsp
In a thick bottomed pan, add all the above ingredients and heat on a low fire till the water is gone and the sugar dissolves and coat the pears.

In a bowl put in
Oats - 1/2 cup
Flour - 1/2 cup (I used 3/4 of a cup, but have decided that is a bit too much)
Sugar - 2 tbsp
Baking powder - 1/4 tsp
Butter - 50 gms (cut into cubes - I used 100 gms of Amul butter, but it was a bit sticky instead of crumbly)

Rub all the ingredients together to make a crumbly mass. The crust was really thick, so in the revised version, I have reduced the amount of flour and butter.

Grease a baking dish, put the pears in and then the crumble should be layered on top and press it down. Sprinkle brown sugar on top. Preheat oven and bake at 180C for 25 to 30 minutes

Serve with.......

Chilled Vanilla Custard sauce

Egg yolk - 1
Cornflour - 1 tsp
Sugar - 2 tbsp

Beat well

Warm milk - 1 cup
Beat the mixture well again. Add 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence . Cook on a low fire, stir constantly until the mix is neither thin nor very thick. Refrigerate and serve with the pear crumble.

Everything tasted great, but the nicest thing was that as soon as my husband came home, our little one climbed up on his lap, rained him with kisses and informed him...'it is Acha's birdday '.... so we did underestimate her generosity after all...!!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Quiet time...

I am grabbing some quiet time while my darlings are asleep... It's my husband's birthday , so I had plans of making him a special card... but that was not to be, since my little one gets really upset if someone other that she, has a birthday...

Actually,... that is not true..! she loves to go to her friends' birthday parties, give them gift and sing and dance.. it doesn't matter to her if I accompany her to these either... she really has a grand time and sometimes I have to work really hard to bring her back home...

I guess she has decided that since she is the 'baby' only she is supposed to have a birthday at home...!!! Yesterday, as soon as I mentioned about a card for her dad, she made a long, sad face and said.. 'ithunte birday theventh duly..kazhinju' ...(Ichu's birthday is on 7th July's over...) .

When her dad came home, she told me while I was opening the door..".Acha's a naughty boy, Mamma "...a little later I found out that naughty 'boys' do not have b'days or cakes ...!!

So I guess the b'day boy and I will be singing 'Happy Birthday to Ichu'...tonight....... :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Olan/I shtu - stewed lentils and veggies in coconut milk

This is yet another member of a Kerala sadya. But unlike a few of it's counterparts, the main ingredients in Olan usually are very varied...

It is a very simple, yet very very tasty dish to make. Another dish that would be agreeable to most people who are used to totally different cuisines than ours. This one can also be used as a side-dish for rotis or chappatis.

Red lentils / vanpayar- soak overnight or for 4 to 6 hours
Coconut milk - Ist extract , and 2nd extract
This means that the first thicker and creamier extract should be kept separate and then add water to the coconut to get another thinner extract. In case you use the coconut milk powder , 1 tbsp to 1 glass of water for the 2nd extract and 1 tbsp to a little less than half a glass of water for the 1st.

Potatoes - 3 medium (peeled, washed, cut into cubes)

Ash pumpkin/ kumbalanga - 100 gm slice (peeled, washed and cubed)

Green chillies - 5 to 6

Turmeric powder- a pinch

Onion - 1 (peeled and sliced lenghtwise)

Add all the ingredients except the 1st extract of coconut milk in the pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles. Once the steam escapes, switch the stove back on, if gravy is watery, reduce it by evaporating. Now add salt to taste. Finally, add the 1st extract of coconut milk and then add a tsp of cooking oil and curry leaves. Be careful to put off the stove before it boils. Thick coconut milk curdles when boiled.


Instead of adding onions in the beginning, chope shallots, fry in oil and add last.

Instead of red lentils substitute a tomato.. the taste will be very different.

Carrots and green peas with potatoes instead of lentils and pumpkin make another interesting curry. A half teaspoon of crushed pepper enhances the taste.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ulli curry

I have no pictures of the entire feast this year.. I was a bit busy to take the snaps before my guests arrived and I did not want to focus on the food while there were others present.

I made Parippum neyyum, Ulli curry, Sambar, cabbage thoran, kaay mezhukkupuratti, kaalan, Olan and Gothambu paayasam.

The biggest hit of all was the Ulli curry . My grandma used to make this to make me eat my daily idlis.. so I thought it was high time I tried to make this. It was a great substitute for the normal inji curry.

Cheriya ulli (shallots) - 250 gms, peeled and cut into rounds
Green chillies - 4 to 5 sliced round

Heat oil, about 1 tbsp temper with
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Dried red chillies - 2 to 3
Curry leaves.

Now add the shallots and green chillies and fry till the ulli is nearly golden brown. keep aside.

Tamarind - 2 lemon-sized portions - extract the pulp

The liquid should be about 2 glasses. To this, add

Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tbsp
Asafoetida powder - a pinch
Salt to taste

Mix everything with the tamarind pulp and bring to a boil..let the liquid reduce to about half the quantity. Add the ulli and green chillies and boil well. Finally add a spoon of jaggery or 1 tsp of sugar.

This is a great side dish for dosas, idlis or rice with curd.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Onam, Thiruvathira Kali and Ammamma

Every Onam celebration in Kerala or anywhere else for that matter, is incomplete without the beautiful 'Thiruvathirakali'... I love watching it, but I have never taken part in the dance so far...however, my Ammamma (mom's mother) was a specialist in this dance, as I found out more than a decade and half ago....

During one of my Onam vacations, I overheard my grandma sing this beautiful thiruvathira song.. it was not one that I had ever heard before, but it caught my attention because it was about Krishna and Kaliyamardana (Krishna killing the evil serpent Kaliya)... she could not remember all the lines, so within the next half-hour, we set off, with a book and a pencil... I had no idea where we were going, but it was a journey of discovery for me...!!!

We walked to a house that I had never been to before..(Ammamma did not go to too many places without us) ...she told me it was the home of one of her friends and that she had been living elsewhere and had come home this Onam.. she hollered from the verandah and her friend came out... a very elegant lady with snow-white hair. The friends started talking and at first I did not pay attention... then as Ammamma was asking the other lady named Manka if she remembered the lines of that particular song, I began to listen... they had become friends while learning Thriuvathira kali from the same teacher. All of them teenagers, aged between 12 to 18..and there were 21 of them. Girls of marriagable age considered this an asset in their repertoire of skills in those days. Finally, when the class was dispersed, all of them collected a rupee each and bought a Gold sovereign for their teacher. Imagine... a gold sovereign for 21 rupees ...!!!

While they were trying to remember the song, another friend dropped in...this lady was called Bhargavi, and I had met her on numerous occasions...though this was the first time I was told that she was also one of the 21 girls... of the three of them, my grandma was the youngest and it was mind-boggling to watch her being treated like a kid by the others...!!! while they sat reminiscing, I was trying hard to imagine them as young girls dressed in long skirts and half-sarees...

The dresses were a breeze, but the best I could do was give them all black hair... their wrinkled skins, grins with missing teeth, and lightly stooped bodies were a bit difficult... so I gave up...!!!

Finally, the three of them pieced together one song and came up with lines of four other songs.. I wrote it all down ... I lost that book a few years back, had memorized the song earlier ... I will post the song another day, just in case I do forget in the future ...

All three friends have passed on, but anytime I hear a thiruvathira song, I remember those three 'girls' and the great afternoon I spent with them.

The photograph was taken from the net.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

For Onam

I usually post the recipes of the Onam feast after the fact, but I thought that it would be helpful if I give the links of the dishes I prepared earlier.

For people who do not know, Thiruvonam falls on September 2nd this year. I will be making a couple of new dishes which I will post later.

Happy Onam Everyone......

Beetroot Pachadi

Maambazham (Ripe mango) curry


Vendakka khichdi

Recipe for the simplest 'Parippum neyyum'.

This is simple thur dal cooked well. Thur dal should be pressure cooked to 4 whistles with a pinch of turmeric. While the dal is still hot, add 1 tsp ghee to 1 cup of dal and salt to taste. This is the very first thing that is served on hot rice. In different parts of Kerala, this item maybe a more elaborate preparation. But this simple recipe is really very tasty...try it ...


Friday, August 28, 2009

Lost.... and found !!!

I lost the diamond on my ring yesterday... and I was really upset... thankfully, my maid found it today morning while sweeping....

When I was 10 years old, my dad had bought me a pearl ring. It was a fairly large pearl, round....almost perfect..and set in a gold ring. It looked like a perfect globe, but when I used to rub it against my lips, a slight dimple was noticeable... I loved that pearl and used to admire it fairly often...and wear it all the time..

And then was exam time... I was a bit busy to pay attention, and one day when I looked at my finger, the pearl had fallen out ...I have no idea what I wrote for my exams that day.. all I was thinking about was where and when i'd lost that pearl ... I looked for it everywhere, got a scolding from grandma for being late .. when I told her the reason, she looked at the ring and said..'oh.. it was just the stone ... at least you did not lose the gold..' she took the ring from me and tied it on the tip of her mundu for safe keeping...

I never got that pearl and after that for the next 20 years I never bought a ring set with anything valuable... until this diamond that my husband bought for our 8th Anniversary.. it was just a bit of a diamond, but I loved this ring too..

When I lost the diamond, all I could think of was that I was not meant to wear anything that pretty on my fingers.. it is not that I have not lost valuables before.. I have lost more than my share of gold earrings.. and once I almost lost a huge gold butterfly pendant while bathing at the dad's friend caught it as it was floating towards the sea bed..but some things mean more to you than others and it has nothing to do with their monetary just is...

That pearl was very very special to me.. I do not remember if my dad gifted it on a birthday or something like that..but I have never seen another pearl that I liked so much... For the few hours I lost the diamond, I was upset about the current loss as well as that which happened more than a couple of decades ago.. I love this very first diamond I got and rejoiced when I got it back.....but... I still mourn the loss of my lovely pearl !!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shiva Thandav - water colour and acrylic

Ever since I saw this picture of Shiva, I have been wanting to paint Shiva in his 'Thandava' pose. However, though I do get inspired from other works of art, I am adamant about my work being as different from the inspiration piece as can be... I can safely say that the end result is a very different thing altogether !!!

A reason why my painting turned so colourful is because I happened to catch a documentary about the lovely temple art of Kerala.. it was almost a lost art, but is slowly experiencing a revival... the very colourful images remained in my mind.. so the painting finally looks nothing like either type of work... But I am happy about how this has turned out..... and frankly, this is one of the more colourful of my paintings..

I would like your opinion too....!!

I did use a lot of brown while painting this picture....and it seems when her teacher was asking all the kids about their favourite colours, my daughter answered brown. The teacher told me that was quite an unusual choice for a child of three... she was very impressed though.... so when I asked my daughter about her choice, she told me "brown is used a lot for painting and it is also mamma's and my (skin) colour.. so Ichu likes 'baraoun' a lot" ...!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sukhiyan - batter fried, sweet green gram balls

Sukhiyan is a very popular tea-time snack of Kerala. It had been a while since I had had them, and I had never made them before. Green gram, which is used for the stuffing is something that I do make on a regular basis.. so last time I made the cherupayar (green gram) mezhukkupiratti, I cooked the green gram without adding any turmeric or chilli powder,with just a pinch of salt and saved half for the sukhiyans.

Cooked green gram - 1 and 1/2 cups
Jaggery (powdered)- 1/4 cup (add more if you wish)
Ghee - 1 tsp
water - 1 tbsp
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder - 1 tsp

In a thick bottom pan, add the water, when it is hot, add the jaggery and melt it, once it boils, add the ghee and then the cooked green gram. when the jaggery is well-coated on the green gram, add the grated coconut and finally, the cardamom powder.

Wait a while till the mixture cools down. Now roll it into lemon-sized balls.

Make a dipping batter with 1 cup maida (plain flour)and water. the consistency should be just thick enough to coat, but not runny. (Mine was a bit thin)

In a wok, heat about 2 inches of oil, and when the oil is hot, coat each of the balls in batter and fry. When the coating is golden brown, they are done. Serve hot.

As you can see from my picture, the batter needs to be a bit thick and coat the stuffing well. Otherwise, when you fry, the batter becomes translucent and the filling is visible. But it tasted really good :)