Thursday, 14 November 2013

Tava Idli

This post goes out as a tribute to Tarla Dalal.

I remember, the news of her death causing a stir on a certain group on FB, for obvious reasons , not many were just ready to accept her passing away as yet, yours truly included. But sadly the news was just true.  
She has been a source of inspiration to me too like many Indian women. No, not that I did not know how to cook, but her recipes were a savior, during those times when I was bored of the usual cooking routine. Her legacy would live on through her numerous recipes and books.

I had bookmarked this recipe from her site, sometime back. Yesterday was just perfect for me to try out the same since I was clearly not interested to make the usual Idli Fry or Idli Upma.

Well this recipe required me to go fetching for Pav Bhaji masala for I have never tried making Pav Bhaji at home ever.  Having never had Tava Idlis before it was a real challenge for me to get it right not knowing how Tava Idlis tasted ever.

Never the less, the dish turned out a little low on being tangy, but I thoroughly enjoyed this Spicy Tava version  of Idli. I did use up the left over Green Peas Masala in this dish as well.

Head here for the recipe.

Monday, 11 November 2013

NanKhatais for a SMILING cause

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of your presence is, on this beautiful (degrading) planet? I have, plenty a times and never found an apt answer to it. Never the less, I kept looking for the answer from all corners and all kinds of experience I have had in life.

It isn't easy to know what makes one happy until the experience sinks in.

I remember being happy

  • when I helped the class teacher maintain the attendance register,
  • when I helped(rather wrote) a class mate with Hindi homework and winning a rakhi brother,
  • when I shared my clothes with the needy,
  • when I helped unknown faces through philanthropy at work,
  • when I shared some time with disabled orphan children at an NGO near home at Chennai.

I realized over time, sharing is what made me happy. The very purpose of our existence here on this mother Earth is to share and care.  The only problem, I was/am too emotional about it.  I remember Mom telling me, I used to burst out the moment I saw the homeless on the street as a kid
not because I was petrified about them, but because I felt bad seeing them that way.

Over time I was able to do my bit for at least a handful of people and I am very very proud and happy about it. When I quit work, the only regret I had was I would not be able to help the needy financially going forward. Time could always be shared I realized. It wasn't easy with a kid at home. But, when an opportunity came by after so many years I did not stop myself. I was apprehensive how I would conduct myself. But I crossed all those borders yesterday and yet again I am happy I shared time there.

The purpose of the group was to bring on some smile and fun in the lives of few children at Desire Society. The fact that the NGO was closer to my place was even more inviting for me to be a part of SAS.I hope to be a part of the group in future too.

 I wanted to do something more than just spending time with the kids and of course I wanted to bake the kids something to cherish. Cookies were the obvious choice but which one?
I decided to stick to Nankhatais but I made two versions of them. The traditional one and the cocoa infused Nankhatais. The children instantly recognised that they were impressions on the cookies :) and I was more than glad. This time around I have used the traditional recipe itself rather than healthy version.

Since the aim was to share a smile, I have tried to incorporate the same.

Maida/ All purpose flour                                200 gms
Rava/Sooji/Semolina                                      100 gms
Castor Sugar                                                   150 gms
Butter                                                              125 gms
Baking Soda                                                   1/4 tsp
Curd                                                                2 Tbsp
Chopped/Crushed Pistaschos                          75 gms to 100 gms
Cardamom Powdered                                      1 Tbsp 10 -20 gms
Cocoa Powder                                                 30 gms

My way of making
1. Beat together butter, sugar and curd in a dry bowl.
2. In a separate bowl whisk in apf, semolina, baking soda. For the chocolate version add the cocoa powder as well.
3. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine them well.
4. You can either include the pistachios in the dough mix or top the cookies with individual pistachios and garnish with powdered cardamom.
4. Pre heat oven to 160C.
5. Pinch out balls from the dough and lightly flattened them and place them atleast 5 cms apart and bake them at 160C for 15-20 minutes.
6. Relish them hot as an evening snack.

1. Different flavours can be added.
2. Choco chips could be added too in the chocolate version.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Meen Peera

For starters, this is the first time I got to attempt and taste this dish. Fish peera aka Meen peera is more of a South Kerala dish to be specific from Kottayam.  Like all other states, each district of Kerala have their own recipes when it comes to food.
Fish/ Meen peera is essentially nothing but a dish made with lots and lots of coconut. It can also be related to the Vegetable dish thoran. Ideally it can be called as fish thoran too.

Now why did I chose to make this particular dish? When I went fetching for some fish , white sardines (മലയാളം : വെള്ളുരി ) were the only familiar fish that was left with the vendor and having heard of the goodness these fish carry with them, I thought why not bring them home.  The cleaning is a pain but they taste just so so good that one would not mind cleaning them for hours!

These sardines carry with them a whole lot of nutrition ranging from the Omega -3 fatty acids, Minerals, Phosphorus to Vitamin B12. Its no joke that doctors and dieticians suggest to replace red meat with fish in ones diet. 

Most of the time these fishes are almost confused with Anchovies (മലയാളം : നതോലി ). They look similar but they vary in their body constitution. The fish vendor clearly explained and told me all the differences and the only one I managed to recollect is one is sleeker than the other, now don't ask me which. To me any type of fish is a fish and it ends there.  

My mom always associates a certain story at the mere mention of the fish velluri. It also happens to be her favourite fish so much that my maternal grandmother makes it a point even today to catch hold of some when mom is around at Kerala.

I have adapted the recipe from a malayalam magazine (Vanitha) in which seer fish (നെയ്‌, മീന) was used. I don't buy this magazine but thanks to my mom and mom in law. I just bring along the recipe pages whenever I visit them.

White Sardines/Velluri                                       250 gms Cleaned with head cut
Coconut Oil                                                       2-3 tsps 
Turmeric Powder                                               1-2 tsp
Fish Tamarind/ Kudam Puli/ Gambooge           2-3
Crushed Peppercorns                                         5-6 tsps (As per taste)
Water                                                                 1-2 tbsps
Salt                                                                    As per taste
To grind
Grated Coconut                                                 75-100 gms
Shallots                                                              20 gms (15-20 nos)
Ginger                                                               10 gms ( one small piece)
Green chillies                                                     4-5 nos (as per taste)
Curry Leaves                                                     1 sprig
Salt                                                                    As per taste

My way of making
1. Place a wok and pour in the oil. When the oil is hot enough sauté the fish with turmeric powder and salt.  Its better not to use a spoon and just lift the wok and turn and shake it around.
2. Pour in very little water (if required) since fish emits water and cook along with the tamarind.
3. When the fish is cooked, add in the ground masalas  and cook covered for about three four minutes until a soothing smell of coconut comes in.
4. Watch for the liquid consistency to reduce to an almost negligent consistency. Switch of the flame  and sprinkle in the crushed pepper corns and keep covered.
5. Peera is best had hot with steaming Kerala rice.

1. Its best to use an earthen cookware when cooking fish.
2. Sunflower oil can be used instead of coconut oil. But the dish tastes best and authentic with Coconut oil.
3. Do not use a spoon to mix the ingredients. These are small and brittle fish and they would break easily if done so. Always lift the vessel and shake them around like mention in step no 1