Tag: food

Grandmas and green chickpeas

Grandmas and green chickpeas

There is something about fresh seasonal produce that I find quite irresistible. Ruby red tomatoes, creamy cauliflowers, shiny purple brinjals, crunchy white radish and the greens – spinach, fenugreek, dil and coriander – all alluringly beautiful.

Hence vegetable shopping these days is an exercise in self control. The husband has his own theory of course. He insists it’s my all-encompassing shopping bug that does not even spare vegetables. 

Just LOOK at those colours. I clicked this one at Mahabaleswar but you do get the idea, right?

But really, they’re so fresh and healthy that they’re a complete delight to behold. I buy them and get them home and then don’t quite know what to do with them. A case in point being chana or green chickpeas that make an appearance in the winter. It was Rachna who reminded me of them.

During winter months our grandmoms would sit in the warm afternoon sun in the angan, talking till the sun went down. Yet, they were never really idle. Even as they chatted, their hands would be busy knitting, cleaning rice or daal, making sewains (the handmade ones) or of course shelling peas or chana.

We’d be drowsing by, a book in hand. The clink of chanas dropping into the steel bowl took on a hypnotic quality. Through half open eyes we’d watch the bowl filling up steadily, while the branches with empty pods still on them, piled up on the other side. We’d chip in sometimes, eating more than we shelled, only to be shooed away.
They would then be ground by hand on a stone sil-batta to get a bright green paste, which was then cooked with the most redolent of
spices – cinnamom and bay leaf, cloves and cardamoms black and green and many many others.
Finally it would turn into a thick shiny emerald green flavourful gravy. With a blob of home-made butter, it sat on a mound of equally aromatic basmati rice and made our winter lunches memorable. It was called the nimoma.
My grandmom would also make green boondi laddoos. She would grind chana, make tiny boondis (just like the ones made from gram flour) then add sugar syrup and bind them into delectable laddoos

The laddoos remained beyond me but the nimona I did try a few times. However, I never could get it right. It may have to do with
the fact that I don’t quite have a master’s touch when it comes to cooking. Or maybe I just don’t have the meticulous way with ingredients that turns them into works of delicious art.

Mostly, I suspect, it’s because, it is a mindboggling amount of work.
I cannot but marvel at how much dilegence and precision that generation put into cooking. That too without weights and measures and teaspoons and tablespoons. I’d watch in fascination as my grandmom would measure out the salt that went into our daily daal on the palm of her hand – and I’m talking rock salt crystals not the powdered salt we use today. She’d get it right each time, every time.
Here I am, not even able to make tea without precisely measuring out
the water cup by cup and woe-betide anyone who changes the spoon in my teabox. I never could get the ‘andaaz‘ thing right. 
So I stick with the simple and uncomplicated – like this salad. The recipe is here at Rachana’s blog. I added flax seeds for extra crunch. Try it, it comes out great, I might add.

Sunday Breakfast

Sunday Breakfast

Sunday morning I woke up craving Upma – a savoury dish made from semolina with peanuts and loads of veggies. I set out chopping carrots and defreezing peas. 

As I started roasting the semolina in walked N. 
‘What are you making mama?’ she asked, ‘Halwa?’ 
Halwa is a sweet preparation also made from roasted Semolina, a huge favourite with both the kids. H followed soon, sniffing, ‘Ummm I haven’t even smelt halwa for soooo long.’ He’s such a sniffer, this one. He goes around smelling flour and dough and sugar and raw vegetables. 

The halwa used to be a breakfast staple till The Husband turned diabetic. I, in any case, am a perpetual weight watcher. Besides, I’ve been in consultation with a dietitian for the past few months and am allowed a ‘what-I-want’ breakfast only on Sundays.

Anyway, even as the kids hung around the kitchen, before I knew it, just like that, I was pouring ghee (clarified butter) in the pan, then the roasted semolina and the sugar and making halwa.

Instead of this..

Doesn’t the upma look great with all those colourful vegetables?
Photo courtesy: Dreamstime.com

I ended up with this.

That’s halwa – Sweet and nutty and delicious.
Photo courtesy: Dreamstime.com

That’s what kids do – saunter into your lives without as much as a ‘May-I’ and change your plans completely. What’s stranger, you don’t realise it for a long long time and when you do, you don’t really mind it. They do bring along lots of sweetness, right? 
That kind of makes it all worth it.
However, what they do not do, is stave off Upma cravings. And so after I was done, up went another pan and I set out roasting a fresh batch of semolina and made the Upma too. No point stifling your cravings.
The Sunday breakfast table was one happy place yesterday.

Linking to # Microblog Mondays hosted by Mel at Stirrup Queens.

The food convert

The food convert

Kebabs to Vada Paos
Biryanis to Bhakris
Dal Paranthas to Puran Polis
Tunde to Bedekar
Lucknow to Pune. It was quite a gastronomic shocker. And a confession ..I found the grandest Maharashtrian food too plebeian, compared to even everyday Lucknowi cuisine. 

First there’s the pao factor
Everything has to be eaten with the quintessntial pao (bread) – vada pao, pao bhaji, misal pao, keema pao and if you’ve got nothing better there’s maska pao.

Then there are the names
The nomenclature did me in. I mean why would you call a simple chhole tikkiragda pattice (Yes Pattice NOT Patties)? And there was the weird sounding kacchi dabeli, which had nothing to do with Kutch. What a complicated name for a pao (again!) with some filling! and Jhunka Bhakar.. oh it was absolute gibberish.

And then …
…very slowly, like most things simple and unpretentious, Puneri food wove it’s magic. Before I knew it I was standing at a raodside stall watching the vendor deftly throw in ruby red pomegranate seeds and crunchy peanuts into my kacchi dabeli. When it rained I craved the vada pao. The December nip in the air drove me to the city seeking out famous misal joints. I’d sit there sweat pouring from my face despite the cold, nose running as I dipped into the devilishly hot misal served straight from a boiling cauldron… and then I would be done for the day.

The most famous Bedekar Misal is served with bread. and you can add that gravy to make it spicier. Whew!

Finally there’s the thali.
What stole my heart completely, was the Maharashtrian thali. To begin with I love the concept of food without frills. At the thali joints food is served in a very Puneri, very no nonsense manner, none of the Awadhi formality here. By the time a Lakhnawi would get over with his ‘tashreef rakhiyes‘ and ‘naush farmaiyes‘, the thali joints would have welcomed, served and sent off a a bunch of customers and very happy customers at that. 

A typical thali joint would look like this. The plates are already laid out so food comes on as soon as you’re seated. You don’t place a order since the fare is standardised. This picture is taken at Durvankur.

Of course there’s the issue of finding a place to sit. It’s like you’re the enemy till you’re seated and then you transform into a cherished guest. Your plate fills up miraculously and you’re plied with food in a typically Indian ‘ you-must-eat-till-you-can’t-move’ manner. The ambience is nothing to write home about but the food is right up there at the top.

Sample this…

The accompaniments.. Meethi chutney, teekhi chutney, nariyal chutney, shengdana chutney…. take your pick
The basic stuff

What you cannot see is the many kinds of chapatis.. Bhakri, missi roti, puri, along with the wheat rotis, and there’s rice.. masala rice, khichdi, plain rice topped off with dollops of ghee.. no skimping here. You cannot even sample them all let alone have your fill of each. 

So if you ever come to Pune my advice would be skip the biggies, go for the traditional fare to feel like a true blue Punekar.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013. Today’s prompt is ‘food’. For some scrumptious entries click here..

Blog-a-prompt 5 – Spicy

Blog-a-prompt 5 – Spicy

Whew!!! Last minute entry for today’s prompt.
There really is nothing as spicy as street food. Whether it’s the vada pao, misal or bhajiyas from my current hometown – Pune or it’s Lucknow’s chaat, sprout bhel, khasta, chana jor garam or baati chokha – it just has to be hot hot hot.
Take a look… 
Chillies occupy pride of place amidst the chana and the masala is to die for.

Spicy Tea.. anyone?

Some Magi to go along with that tea.. or will it be a bread pakora
or boiled eggs or aaloo vadas?

Pack some baati chokha off the streets. Baatis (Litti in Bihar) are crisp
dough balls with a filling of spicy ‘sattu’ that go perfectly with the chokha
which is a baigan-aaloo bharta with a liberal sprinkling of green chillies
that bring on the hicupps and make your nose run.

… and finally the khasta teams up perfectly with potato sabzi which also
has a liberal sprinkling of green chillies.

Oh and the jalebis are here for two reasons.. One, I figured you might want some
meetha after all that spice and two, khasta-jalebi is a combination that has always
been a combination here in Lucknow. There’s never one without the other.

The food checklist – in Lucknow

The food checklist – in Lucknow

I’m a list person. When there’s too much to do and time’s short, it serves to have a checklist. This being such a crucial issue, my first Lucknow checklist has to be FOOD.

Disclaimer: It would be grossly unfair to consider this post a master list of Lucknow food. More so, since I turned vegetarian. Leaving out Tunde and the lesser known (but my dad’s first favourite) Sakhawat, is a shame. You’ll find no kebabs, kormas, biryanis here. This is simply a personal list of my favourites. Lucknow really has much much more to offer a foodie.

I’ll begin with doodh-jalebi for breakfast – that’s jalebis dunked in milk. The Punekar might like it as dessert but for a true Lakhnawi jalebi is breakfast. It’s in the morning that the mithaiwalla will bring out this piping hot treat. Come evening and you’ll have a tough time finding fresh jalebis. All you’ll get is their cousin — the imarti. Slide slim crisp jalebis in your bowl of hot milk and crunch them up quickly before they get soggy, the milk tempers their sweetness perfectly. Or else you might try them with curd.

Then there’s khasta, or kachori to the Punekar. Deep fried (I so need to remember to forget the diet), filled with urad dal, it’s the perfect spicy foil to the sweet jalebi at breakfast time. Khasta-jalebi – absolute soulmates. The right way to eat it is to make a hole in it and stuff the spicy potatoes that come along. Then bite into it with your nose running and eyes watering. It’s wise to keep a few jalebis handy to cool the heat on your palate. And forget about lunch.

Next on the list is thandhai at Raja’s in old Lucknow. That used to be, and still is, the star attraction for us in Chowk. I’ve never had thandhai that tastes the same – without the overly strong flavour of saunf or black pepper. When we were kids we’d be given the option of a glass of thandhai or a film and we’d unfailingly choose the former. That was a pretty smart ploy by our canny parents to watch a film unencumbered by a brood of noisy kids.

Then there’s Sharma’s for the most delicious chaat ever. I’m not sure that shop would still be there. Once there used to be a string of chaat shops in Chowk but each time I come home I find fewer and fewer of them. The paani ka batashas never do taste the same anywhere else. However, what’s really special is the matar which I’ve yet to find out of Lucknow. Dried peas.. soaked, boiled and then fried over a slow fire in loads of ghee on a huge tawa. Served with a sprinkling of fresh coriander leaves, chillies and ginger juliennes, it’s a treat. For a person on a diet the sight of the ghee-filled lota kept on the tawa can be pretty daunting .. but for once I’ll let the tastebuds rule.

Next baati chokha off the roadside. That’s baati (roasted balls of dough) with the spiciest baingan bharta you would have ever had. Nothing special about this one except that I’ve yet to find it in Pune and it’s low on fat… so if the dust germs don’t kill you, you’re safe.

Finally.. the sweets. Malai Gilauri at Ram Asrey’s, Malai chamcham at Classic. Fresh and glistening boondi laddoos with the tiniest boondis and kaju katli made the right way, more kaju than khoa.
I almost forgot the kulfi. I’ll have some at Ram Asrey topped with falooda and I’ll also have some from the kulfiwallah who comes calling at our doorstep each evening with his potful of wares covered with that red cloth.

Umm… I think that about covers it. I need to ask my sister to draw up a list of new places that have sprung up. Lucknow is no longer just about chaat and kulfi. I spotted some swanky new places along the way that need to be explored.

God bless my stomach please.

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