Tag: Winter

The special thing about shelled peanuts

The special thing about shelled peanuts

So the husband came home with a bag of these. 

N looked at it curiously. ‘What is this’, she asked? 
‘Mungphali’ (peanuts), said I. 

It rang no bell for her. 

‘So how do you eat these?’ she asked giving the shell a lick and finding no flavour at all. 
‘That’s the shell, silly,’ said I, ‘you’re supposed to crack it open, like this, I demonstrated.
Tentatively, she followed and then jumped with excitement .. Ooh this has peanuts inside it, she said, like she’d met an age-old friend. She does love peanuts.
That made me laugh.
And yet it made me wonder at how unaware H and N were about simple things like unshelled peanuts. You know what’s even more interesting? They’ve seen pictures in their science books but cannot connect it with the real thing even when they see it. How strange is that!
When we were young it was ‘normal’ to have to shell peanuts. In fact during the winters it was quite a tradition. We’d sit in a circle  all bundled up against the cold, monkey caps or shawls pulled up over our heads, with a big tray of peanuts in the middle. We’d shell and eat them with coarsely ground garlic-chili-coriander chutney. And it was the the most delicious thing on earth. Over anecdotes and stories and age-old family jokes time would simply fly.
If we happened to be sitting around a fire we’d occasionally throw the shells into it and watch as they flared up and burned out in an instance. Such a thrill that was!
Sometimes my grandmother would shell some peanuts and fold my fist quietly over them. That tiny fistful of shelled peanuts made me feel the most special person on earth.
Now my kids take it all for granted. They might be getting their peanuts shelled, salted and ready to eat but there’s nothing special about them anymore.
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.

Welcoming Winter

Welcoming Winter

Winter it is.. finally. However here in Pune, this quiet Western part of India, it hardly comes to stay. Even so, I find myself disliking it more and more. I never was a winter person and have gotten worse over the years. Age is catching up, maybe.

I go around shutting doors and windows, yet it makes sure to find that one window I forget to shut and comes rushing right in. I find myself yelling at the kids to wear chappals and jackets. I find myself secretly wishing they wouldn’t go down to play. I am reluctant to go down for my evening walk. I have to admit though, that when I do go, I quite like the little nip in the air which is all we can boast of here.
The kids don’t seem to mind the cold at all, don’t seem to even notice it. ‘Was I ever like this?’ I wonder. Like I said I never was a winter person but there are some things about it that I truly loved. Here are a few..

The bonfires
For instance there’s nothing like a North Indian winter to teach you the fantastic camaraderie between a bonfire, roasted peanuts and hot chili garlic chutney. Heck! That sounds so Chinese.. Let me put it this way – Lehsun aur mirch ki chutney – that’s more like it. What a cosy threesome that is. We’d sit around shelling peanuts, eating and chatting for ages by the light of the bonfire. How we loved watching the fire flare up when we threw in a bunch of peanut shells only to be half heatedly reprimanded by our mum or dad.


Makkhan malai
Then there was Lucknow’s own answer to the videshi souffle – the fluffy, frothy, light as air makkhan malai that would melt in your mouth. It was such a Sunday ritual for us. We’d wait for the bhaiyya to come around on those lazy mornings. He’d weigh it out and hand it to us on earthenware plates. We’d compare for ages who’d got more, not believing for a moment that 100 gms had to be the same on each plate. One of my more enterprising cousins would shamelessly ask the bhaiyya for an additional dollop and, to the chagrin of the rest of us, he was never disappointed.

The sunshine
And of course there’s the sunshine. Winter in Lucknow came with the warmest sunshine ever. We’d lay out a rug on the grass in our garden and settle down with a book for long hours of lazy reading. The asparagus creeper would be in full bloom and it gave out a sweet sickly scent that seemed to be a huge hit with the flies. They came in hordes and hung around the creeper all the time it bloomed. Their buzzing had an oddly soporific effect. That and the warm sun would make sure the book fell aside within the hour and we were lulled into the most delicious sleep ever.

There were other pleasures too like 

– Snuggling into huge heavy cotton quilts with a hot water bottle when the temperatures fell. It was the best ever.
– The thrill of waking up in the morning and wondering whether it was still night. How grown up I felt!

– The delicious smell of fog.. quite like that of the first rain showers. 

– Coming from school and mum handing over freshly ironed still warm clothes to wear. Bliss!
– Blowing ‘smoke’ from imaginary cigarettes. We would try for hours to form rings like we’d seen the villain doing in the 70s flicks. The rings never came but the ‘smoke’ was fun enough.

I do miss all of that. Maybe winter wouldn’t be such a bad idea if I stopped trying to shut it out. Now that’s an idea! I’m off then folks.. to fish out my woollens, dress up to the T, and go to meet winter in all it’s glory.