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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Diwali

May Goddess Lakshmi fill the year ahead with happiness, success and prosperity !!!

Today's special - Malai rolls, Khirkadam (from Banccharam's) and baked dahi vada 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mysore chronicles

A trip to Mysore is considered mandatory if you are staying in/visiting Blore. So, after taking up residence in India's IT capital for nearly two years, we traveled to the cultural capital of Karnataka over the last weekend. We took the same route on which we had travelled to Coorg, except that being a Friday it was much less crowded once we hit the outskirts of the city.

We started around 7:30 am from Marathahalli and made the first stop at Kamat Lokaruchi around 10 a.m.. After a princely breakfast ( had to order those 'Moode' Idlis once again ) and some really great tea, we hit the road again. Feeling tempted by all those food outlets that dots this stretch, we grabbed some more snacks at a Macdonalds outlet.

It was around 12 that we reached Srirangapatnam. It is a city of magnificent ruins and the ancient gate ( which one of the entrances to the fort of Srirangapatnam) that one takes to enter the city is simply spell-binding. The straight road took us the place where Tipu Sultan's body was found after the battle of Seringapatnam(1799). A simple marble memorial marks the place. As one goes further, one can see the 'Water Gate', and the destroyed palace which has been turned into a park. At a short distance, one can see the Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple, This ancient temple is a major tourist attraction and photography is strictly prohibited inside the premises. A massive stone idol of Lord Vishnu in a reclining posture is located in the inner chamber of this temple. Many other idols have also been installed and are being worshiped.

From the temple, we went straight to the Summer Palace and Museum of Tipu Sultan. A simple structure standing amidst a huge garden, it is covered with green blinds on all sides. The walls are richly decorated with frescos/murals depicting various wars and processions but most of which are currently in different stages of deterioration. Some are faded, while others seem to have been attacked by moss/fungus/dampness. Very few remain intact. The displays consist of sketches, portraits, weapons and artifacts used by Tipu Sultan himself. Some of his old robes are also on display. I was particularly captivated by the furniture which was so well maintained that it almost looked new. I guess it is very good quality teak wood that went into the making of those pieces. Most of the palace itself is made up of wood which is a great heat insulator. It did feel quite cool inside the structure.

As we walked back to the car, it started raining heavily and we were almost drenched by the time we covered the distance between the main structure and the entrance. We decided to skip the Gumbaz where the bodies of Hyder Ali ,Tipu Sultan and their family members are laid to rest. It has some beautiful structures, including a mosque. I had already been to this place during a college trip and it is a must see. But we had to skip it due to the heavy downpour. On the way out, we passed by the Jamia Masjid, the mosque built by Tipu Sultan. He is said to have offered his evenings prayers here.

Image - Courtesy Google

We reached the hotel around 1 pm. Kings Kourt is a simple hotel located on Jhansi Road. Though nicely done up, it is an old structure( something you will not notice if making the reservations online). Though the had provided a LED tv and a small fridge, the room was not as per our expectations but since we had made an advance reservation and it was just a matter of a single night, we decided to stay there. Thankfully the lunch was good (though room service was quite expensive) and they served it within 45 mins.

After lunch and a quick nap, we started off for the Chamundeshwari Temple around 3:30 pm. Situated on top of a hill, A revered Shakti Peeth, it is regularly thronged by devotees. According to the legends, Shakti peeths are spots where the body parts of Devi Sati (Lord Shiva's consort) fell on earth. Since the hair of Sati is said to have fallen on this spot, the deity here is named as Chamundeshwari Devi. While there was a long queue as it was a friday but it took a relatively short time to get the darshan. The actual statue of the goddess is small but made up of gold. She is further decked up in various ornaments. The doors to the inner chamber are also made up of silver or atleast silver-plated. I loved the elaborate flower decorations that adorned the entire temple. Their fragrance literally filled the whole place.

Since the temple is situated on a hilltop, it gets quite chilly here. We were just warming up with some hot corn-on-the-cob and bhajiyas when the downpour started yet again. It was as if the rain gods were playing pee-a-boo with us. Canceling the plans to see the famous 'Nandi' statue which is situated a little distance from the temple, we returned to the safety of our vehicle and started off towards our last destination for the day.

It was almost 6:30 by the time we reached the St Philomena's church which is supposed to be the second largest one is Asia. Built by the Wodeyar kings,it is a imposing monument ( btw its spires were also visible from our hotel room) in gray which looked quite surreal thanks to the dark clouds which loomed over it. It is built in the Gothic Style and preserves the 3rd century relic of St. Philomena in a catacomb below the main altar. The beautiful stained glass paintings depict scenes from Christian folklore like the birth of Jesus Christ, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. It was still raining quite heavily and the evening service has just started. We joined the prayer for 10-15 minutes and it felt wonderful. I guess we all need a bit of soul-cleansing (something akin to a dip in the holy Ganges) everyday.

Image- Courtesy Google

We returned to the hotel as we were half-soaked and feeling very cold. Though it was just 7:30 pm, there was no tea available. The hotel staff was busy with the preparations for dinner and said that it would an hour to get the tea ready. Feeling irritated, we decided to head out and have dinner it some restaurant. Our driver who was a local guy took us to a place a RRR. Though it seemed small, there were people waiting to get a table. Finally when our biryani arrived on a banana leaf, we were thankful the guy. It was very delicious and so was the 'Chicken 64'. Yeah, it is not a typo. They had mentioned it as 'Chicken 64' instead of  'Chicken 65'. But sadly, we could not tell the difference between the two. After the meal, we directly returned to the hotel as all the shops had downed their shutters. Mysore is a city that sleeps early.

The last and the best was left for the second (and also the last) day of our trip. The famed Mysore Palace (or Amba Vilas Palace) is undoubtedly the first on every tourist's iternary. It is said to have been demolished and rebuilt four times by the Wodeyar kings. The current structure which is gray and gold with red marble domes, is just over a hundred years old. We reached there around 10:30 am when the crowds had just started to form. Depositing our footwear at the entrance, we made our way inside it. Passing through cavernous halls, the first display that caught our attention was that of various dolls and the 'Golden Howdah' or the throne on which Goddess Chamundeshwari is carried during the Dusshera procession. It is known as the Gombe Thotti or Doll's Pavilion. It was followed by another display of the invites/mementos that the various Wodeyar kings had received. This is the casket room. As we walked from one room to another, we occasionally stopped to admire the walls that were decorated with various murals and paintings. There was a Portrait room filled with the portraits of the various kings, queens and princes/princesses. Another had silver chairs and a mirror stand on display. As we entered the public Durbar Hall, it was a sight that caught us off-guard. Apart from the paintings of various goddesses and the richly engraved/painted pillars, even the domed roof of the hall displayed rich paintings depicting Indian mythology. There was another private Durbar Hall on the floor above it. This one was even more opulent and awe-inspiring with beautiful gold and blue shades. The ceiling was intricately craved and even the doors was decorated with rich cravings. There was a silver door for the private Durbar hall. A beautiful marriage mantap where the royal marriages used to take place is another must see.

There are three large temples outside the palace but located within the premises. Also there is a private residential museum located behind the main palace building. This one was being skipped by most tourists but we decided to have a dekko at it. It is quite modest and looks more like an old wooden house rather than a palace. The guide mentioned that it is around 600 years old. It contains some items of clothing, footwear, various carriages (palanquins), furniture, , pooja items and household items used by the royals. There are a lot of paintings of gods and goddesses which are less opulent than the ones we see in the main building. Some weapons, including a golden sword were also displayed here.

It took us more than two hours to cover the palace premises and left us exhausted (more so from having to carry a toddler). We immediately started off from Mysore (around 1 pm) and stopped only twice on the way, once at Kamat for lunch and another halt at Channapatna for picking up some wooden artifacts. Taking the exit from Kengiri to Electronics city, we had to pay Rs 70 as the toll but managed to avoid most of the traffic. Finally we reached home around 4 pm.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Budha Kakudi Raee

After making the khatta last week, I was still left with a big chunk. Since I was in a rather lazy mood (which is becoming a permanent fixture btw) for the next two days, I decided to make a simple raee that my mom used to make. While the raee can be made in a dozen ways, I stick to the method which is simplest and most frugal. It is something like one of those '5 ingredients fix' that one sees on lifestyle or cooking channels but I have used seven instead of five.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups budha kakudi/ripened cucumber (chopped into small pieces)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds + a pinch for tempering
  • 7-8 garlic flakes (crushed)
  • 1-2 green chilis
  • 2-3 pinch turmeric
  • 2 tsp mustard oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Grind the mustard seeds, 1 green chili and half of the garlic flakes into a smooth paste.

Take the mustard paste, chopped green chili, budha kakudi and turmeric in a mixing bowl. Mix together.

Cooking - Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok. Add the mustard seeds and 2 crushed garlic flakes. Allow the seeds to splutter.

Add the budha kakudi and mustard seeds paste to the wok. Add salt and 1/2 cup water. Cover with a lid and allow to cook till the pieces soften.

Once the budha kakudi or cucumber pieces are cooked, drizzle the remaining oil over it and add the remaining garlic flakes. Remove from the flame.

Serve with white rice and dal.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Healthy Kids Make for Happy Mothers

Ask any mother what she asks from God in her everyday prayers. Nine out of ten would reply that their foremost wish is the health of their children. Only when the kids are healthy and happy, would they be able to focus on other things. Whether she is a stay-at-home mother or a career woman, the ability to carry out her daily responsibilities revolves around her children.

A happy kid is a bundle of positive energy and has the ability to light up everyone's spirits. Whether it is turning the house upside down or leaving a mess in their wake, their antics become part of the family anecdotes. But on the other end, a sick child is like an endless pit for draining away any positivity and happiness. Whether it is the refusal to take food or the constant whining, it is heart-breaking and unnatural to see these innocent and hapless children in such a dormant state.  As a mother, I have experienced both extremes. Needless to say, I always hope for the former and try to avoid the latter. And I do take very possible measure within my reach to make this happen.

Starting with a diet that is vital for the development of his body and brain, I try to supplement it with health drinks and ayurvedic formulations. With the deteriorating environmental conditions, they are regularly exposed to pollutants and viruses that are becoming increasingly strong. And not to forget the problem of pollen allergies that is very evident in Bangalore. I believe that my child needs that 'extra' bit of care and nutrition to fight and overcome these external enemies. Hence I trust something like Dabur Chyawanprash which draws from the rich and ancient ayurvedic tradition of India and has proven 'immunomodulatory and anti-allergic potential'.

I remember my mother forcing me to take 'Chyawanprash'. As a kid, I hated those white bottles with the red cap and the sketch of a sage etched in red. I think if I looked hard, I would still find a few of those in the storage room. But looking back in time, I do acknowledge that it is very helpful in keeping away/curing minor irritants like a running/itchy nose, sore throat, cough or even sneezing fits (trust me they can be really irritating if they are as bad as mine used to be). Though she would sometimes forget it during the remaining year, my mother always made sure that I took those two spoonfuls of Chyawanprash in the early winter months. 'This is the right time for building immunity', she would exclaim. And I have kept the tradition alive. 'Like mother like daughter'.

[This post is written for Dabur Chyawanprash.]

Kalara Chop (Karela Tikki)

Everytime my MIL comes to Blore, bittergourd or karela becomes an integral part of our meals. As she is a diabetic and bittergourd is the most beneficial vegetable for her, we keep finding/trying out new recipes with it. After we got bored of having it in various avatars like stir-fried, stuffed and mashed, we tried out an odia style chop with it. Yeah, we love our chop and make it with almost everything. Potato, green banana, cauliflower, cabbage, mushroom,prawns, chicken, fish. The list is endless. The North Indians lovingly call them 'tikkis' but I prefer to stick to the old-fashioned chop.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 medium sized bitter gourd
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1-2 green chilis
  • 1 tsp mustard oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped coriander leaves
  • salt to taste
  • oil for shallow frying
  • 3 tbsp cornflour for dusting
  • lemon juice (optional)

Preparation - Wash and transfer the bittergourd and potato into a cooker along with 1 cup water and salt. Cook for 2-3 whistles.
Keep aside till steam escapes. Open lid and drain off excess water.

Peel the potatoes, transfer to a mixing bowl and mash them. Cut the bittergourd open and remove the seeds if any. Mash it and add to the potatoes.

Chop the onions and green chilis and add to the mixing bowl. Also add 1 tbsp cornflour, 1/2 tsp mustard oil, salt and coriander leaves. Mix well.

Shape into small flattened dics.

Cooking - Heat a tawa. drizzle it with 2 tsp oil. Place the discs on the tawa and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. (Once you notice an even browning,

remove them from the tawa.)

Drizzle with lemon juice. Serve with white rice.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Panchras Dal (Gujrati recipe)

Another one of Tarla Dalal's recipes, this is a spicy Gujrati dal preparation that is fast becoming a permanent fixture in my kitchen. Apart from being very healthy, it tastes similar to some of the spicier dalma preparations of Odisha (even my husband kept asking from whom I had got the recipe). A must try for folks who love the dalma served at temples, this one is much more spicier (and just a little tangy) than the variety that we usually cook at home. While the recipe calls for the use of onions, one can skip the onions without compromising much on taste.

I have made a few changes in the original recipe to save time and effort. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -
  • 1 cup toor dal
  • 1 cup red pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup potatoes
  • 1 cup raw banana
  • 1/2 cup eggplant
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp corinader powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp oil/ghee
  • salt to taste

For the masala paste

  • 1 /2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 whole Kashmiri chili
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 tbsp dried coconut milk powder
  • 2 tsp oil

Preparation - Soak the toor dal for 1-2 hours.

Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok. Add the cumin and coriander seeds. When they start to give out a fragrance, add the broken red chili, followed by the chopped onion. Fy till onion starts to turn light brown. Remove from wok to a blender. Add the chopped ginger, green chili and tamarind. Buzz for 30 seconds to 1 minute to get a smooth paste.

Dissolve the cconut milk powder in 2-3 tbsp warm water and keep aside.

Cooking - Wash and cook the toor dal with 2 1/2 cups water, salt and turmeric for 2-3 whistles. Keep aside till steam escapes. Mash the dal with a heavy ladle.

Simultaneously, heat the oil in a wok. Add the cumin seeds . When it starts to splutter, add the chopped veggies along with all the powdered masalas. Fry for 2-3 min on medium heat. Then add 1 1/2 cup water, salt and a pinch of turmeric. Cove with lid and cook for 8-10 mins.

Once the veggies are almost done, pour the cooked dal and the masala paste into the wok along with 1 1/2 - 2 cups of water (adjust consistency as per your taste/preference). Simmer for 5-6 minutes before taking to a boil. Allow to boil for 3 mins or till everything is mixed together. Add the coconut milk and boil for 1 more minute. Remove from flame.

Serve hot with rice/rotis.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tulsi Tea & Ginger lemon Tea : Reviews

A dreary long afternoon without power. Though cocooned from nature's fury by virtue of its geographic location, the aftermath of Hudhud is being felt in a very different form in the IT city(refer news). While the power shortages have disrupted our set schedules, it has also opened up new avenues of entertainment. No telivision/no laptop equals to more books/going to the park/chatting up with neighbours. On one such afternoon as I was engrossed in a Paulo Coelho, the doorbell rang. As I was expecting a package from Borosil, I ran excitedly to open the door. 'Ah at last', I exclaimed when I saw the courier guy with a package. I signed and took the package in my hands. It felt different.  I took a proper look at the consignment details. That is when I saw the words 'Paper Boat' along with their logo embossed on the package. Had missed it in my excitement. They have launched two new variants of their drinks and had sent it for review. (PS- I loved the tiny note you guys sent with it!!!)

This is the third time I am reviewing their products which are all natural ready-to-serve 'Indian' beverages. Have previously reviewed all the exising flavours and I think these two variants are a nice addition to their repetoire. Both the flavours 'Tulsi Tea' and 'Ginger Lemon Tea' are much loved and widely consumed especially during winters. Touted to be the sure cure for all sore throats, they are essentially hot beverages. But the twist is that these RTS beverages need to be 'served chilled'. So how did they fave on my gusto-meter ??

The samples came in a jute bag (this time it is brown) enclosed within a cardboard box (brownie points for the eco-friendly packaging). There were two samples of each flavour. Though it was mentioned to 'serve chilled', I could hardly wait to try them. So, I tried them at room temperature first. Both turned out to be quite refreshing but tasted somewhat similar ( both have those lemony notes ). The Tulsi variant is a litle too subtly flavoured and maybe they can upp the flavour by a notch or two. I liked the Ginger-Lemon variant among the two. It has that right balance of flavours ( and that ginger smell which I really dig ). It think it is really nice. Reminded me of the CCD iced tea that was a favorite at one time.

[The remaining samples were duly kept in the fridge and tried later. Yes, they do taste better when chilled. Stock them in your fridge for those hot ( and also not-so-hot ) days.]

Yaay's -
1. Low on sugar ( just 6 g/100ml)
2. Traditional Indian flavours
3. Low on calories ( 27.4 Kcal/100 ml for Ginger Lemon and 24 Kcal/100ml for Tulsi )
4. No preservatives
5. No added colors
6. All natural ingredients (as listed on package) - water, sugar, black tea leaves, lemon juice concentrate, ginger, lemongrass, tulsi leaves.
7. Nice taste (when slightly chilled)
8. Priced at Rupees 30/250 ml.

Naay's -

1. I expected the Tulsi version to have a stronger flavour.

Rating - Since Paper Boat Drinks are in a league of their own, it will not be favourable to comapare them with other beverages. However, i would rate it a 4.25/5 based on taste/calorie content/pricing and health perspective.

[ Though product samples sent by the company, my opinion is unbiased and strictly personal.]