Friday, 26 June 2015

Stubborn Food for a Stubborn Lady - Khichri

Think of a word for those who don’t leave their house. Most of us or I should say almost all of us will go for “Lazy”. But, under different conditions, when a person says “I am not leaving this God Damn House” then that person is known as a “Holdout”. Government or private firms try to woo such people by offering them millions of dollars for their land. That piece of land might not be large enough but crucial enough for that project. Many go for those million dollars but a few become “Holdouts”. One such story is of Deepti Sen living in West Bengal, India. Deepti stayed on rent at our place as she had her project for 6 months (in the year 2011). She became a good friend of mine and has an interesting story associated to her. The girl and her parents were offered huge money for their house in Bengal. Builders wanted that piece of land for a commercial project. However, she was least interested in money and said “No”. This was her 108 year old ancestors farmhouse. She has seen a lot of in this house. This house must be more living for her than other things. In the end, what we cling on to are the memories. They may be good ones or bad ones but once you are over them, they are memories, beyond good and bad. 
Deepti had been to many places, but that farmhouse was always something she looked forward to. The most living thing among the living ones. She said that she won’t leave that house until her death. She was stubborn enough and didn’t leave that house and so is this food for today’s menu - Khichri. That’s a good recipe I learnt from her. Khichri has been in South Asian meals, especially India for centuries and will be there forever. With Eid-ul-Fitar coming ahead also check my recipe Mutton Biryani. For today, let’s try vegetable Khichri, loved by Asians especially Indians. Khichri is served with papad. Papad is a thin and crisp disc shaped Indian and Pakistani food. It is based on seasoned dough which is made up of black gram flour (urad daal flour). It is fried or prepared with heat. Many kinda flours are used for the same eg. lentils, rice, tapioca, chickpeas, potato etc. We get prepared papad in markets of India and Pakistan. All we needa do is fry or heat the discs and serve immediately. It’s chiefly popular in India. Nevertheless other countries enjoy it too. If you ask me why South Asian recipe? It’s because my research for Dragon Boat Race festival showed me a lot of new recipes.
4 Cloves,
1 Bay Leaf,
2/3 cup Rice,
4 Curry Leaves,
3¼ cups Water,
Salt as required,
1 chopped Onion,
1 small Cinnamon Stick,
1/3 cup Split Yellow Gram,
1/4 teaspoon Cumin Seeds,
2 tablespoons Clarified Butter,
1 cup chopped Mix Vegetables,
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric Powder,
Black Peppercorns as required,
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder.
Preparation Method:-
  1. Wash and soak rice plus split yellow gram (Chana daal) in water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, drain and keep aside. Dice mix vegetables (carrots, beans, potatoes). Also use peas.
  2. Heat clarified butter in a deep pan over medium flame. Add 3¼ cups water to boil. When clarified butter is hot enough, add cinnamon, black peppercorn, curry leaves, cumin seeds, cloves and bay leaves. Stir for 40 seconds.
  3. Add chopped onion, saute until it turns golden brown. Add mixed vegetables. Saute for 3 minutes, reducing the heat. Now add soaked rice, daal, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt. Mix well and saute for another 3 minutes.
  4. Add water and cover it with a lid. Simmer for 20 minutes over low flame. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Keep the pan after turning of the flame for 5 minutes to cool a bit. Serve hot.
  5. You can also prepare the recipe in cooker, using 2 whistles such that it is completely cooked. Cool the cooker for 5 minutes after the second whistle.
  6. Garnish with tomato as shown. Serve hot with Papad and Pickle!
Enjoy the treat!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Dragon’s Zongzi - Food for Health

Name a festival celebrated by many but with different stories of its evolution? There are a lot of them and this goes on to prove that though we have different stories, we reach the same end or a beginning, may be. However, in China you call it “Duanwu Festival” AKA The Dragon Boat Festival. Chinese have this ancient thing with Dragons - I guess we all do. According to Chinese mythology, Dragons are evolution ancestor of humans and control Water, Rainfall, Hurricanes and Floods. They are the symbol of power, strength and good luck. If we look closely, we realise that every important thing which can affect our lives is either controlled or represented by Dragons- they do matter a lot. Stories behind Dragon Boat Race fest are quite amusing. One story says, “Qu Yuan”, a poet and minister committed suicide by drowning in river due to a disagreement with the King. 
His followers searched for him with their boats - hence the Dragon Boat race- and threw rice dumplings - the food of this blog- so that fishes won’t eat Yuan and go for rice instead. Other one says a girl named “Cao E” jumped in river to save her drowning father but both of them drowned instead. So this day is to remember her sacrifice. I see Duanwu as a festival to celebrate and respect sacrifice. On this day people go for the Dragon Boat race(obviously!), wear perfumed medicine bags, MAKE AN EGG STAND at Noon and eat ZONGZI with realgar wine. Even you should try to make an egg stand at noon and get good luck for the next year! All in all people pray for a healthy and happy life. Chinese food is my all time favorite. Since this festival is in June, let’s try Zongzi for a healthier, safer and a ‘Food Full’ year.
4 Strings,
4 Mushrooms,
100 gms Abalone,
4 salted Egg Yolks,
4 Japanese Conpoy,
600 gms Green Beans,
600 gms Glutinous Rice,
4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce,
280 gms chopped Pork Belly,
1/2 Tablespoon Five-spice Powder,
4 dried round large size Lotus Leaves.
Preparation Method:-
1. Soak rice and green beans for 5 hours. Then drain. Now soak mushrooms and Japanese conpoy for 2 hours. Drain well.
2. Marinate the pork belly with five-spice powder plus soy sauce for 2 hours. Lay down the lotus leaf on table with stem side facing down. Place rice in the centre of the leaf.
3. Add the marinated pork, Japanese conpoy, mushroom, abalone, salted egg yolk and green beans on top of rice. Add glutinous rice until the filling is covered.
4. Carefully wrap four sides of lotus leaf over the filling in a cone shape. Tie tightly with help of a string. Place zongzi in boiling water. Cover and cook for 3 hours. Serve hot!
Enjoy the fest!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Coco Chanel and Soupe A L’Oignon - Never Out of Fashion

Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”. Well, I guess she was right. She learned about luxury the “difficult way”. Born to an unmarried mother “Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel” or famously known as “Coco Chanel” was a smart and a self made woman. Thanks to her smartness and a penchant for comfort, women around the world were relieved of those “breathtaking” corset. Her father sent her to a convent where she learnt this art of sewing and those days at convent had an impact on her future projects. Though she fell in love with French, Russian, German and English men - the best of them - her first and last love remained ‘fashion’. She started with Hats and then implemented revolutionary ideas in the field of fashion.

Let it be Chanel No 5 or the Little Black Dress, she sure was upto something. Her one concept which I love is of Costume Jewellery. Wear one or two expensive jewels, then add a lot of imitation jewels over it- cheap thrills for me (tight lipped smile). And yes, one more thing, she was supposedly a Nazi spy. She had her “dances” and those who knew her, saw those impeccable moves. Now here is the part where food enters. She was a French who struggled her way to the top and and today Chanel is one of the leading fashion brands. There is one more thing from France which has been on top for quite a long time now and will stay too - Soupe A L’Oignon. I love French recipes. This classic French Onion Soup will sure hit the right spot.
50 gm Butter,
1 teaspoon Sugar,
1 kg sliced Onions,
4 cups Beef Stock,
4 sliced Garlic Cloves,
4 slices French Bread,
1 tablespoon Olive Oil,
250 ml Dry White Wine,
2 tablespoons All-purpose Flour,
140 gm grated Gruyere Cheese.
Preparation Method:-
1. Melt butter and oil in a pan. Add onions and fry for 10 minutes until soft. Sprinkle sugar and cook for 20 minutes.
2. Stir till caramelized. The onions must be golden and soft. Make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
3. Add garlic at final few minutes of the onion's cooking time. Sprinkle in the flour. Stir well.
4. Increase heat and keep stirring while adding wine, followed by stock. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. For serving turn on the grill and toast bread.
5. Ladle soup into thick bowls. Put a slice on top of bowls of soup. Pile on the cheese. Grill until completely melted. Serve hot!