Home and Food (A full home meal: Sambar, Ivy gourd fry, and spinach fry)

I am very far away from my home now. When I think about my home, the picture I get in my mind is this: the house painted in pista green, mud in front of the house wet from the rains, me sleepwalking and lying down in the swing for another short nap, mom calling out my name from the kitchen to get my name, the smell of sambar cooking, the filter coffee, the damp floor at the backyard, the rain drops on the leaves in the plants, etc. Food is an important element in my family. We all want our food tasty and on time. A proper meal would be ready, with rice, a gravy, and a vegetable, by 8 am every day. My dad gets frustrated (and angry??) when he doesn’t get food on time. I think I have inherited those genes too 😛

I have been craving for my mom’s sambar for a couple of days. It’s a bit longer process; I have been lazy to make it and finally decided to make it today. I couldn’t be more happier because it turned out to be really good! I have not even in my dreams thought that I could do it. While growing up, I have thought that my parents would always be with me (or that I would always be with my parents). I hate to admit, but I was taking them for granted a little too much. Even now, I get jealous of my brother for three things: he gets to eat the food cooked by my mom daily; he doesn’t have to cook; he gets to stay with my parents.

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I don’t get tired of eating rice twice or even thrice a day. So, I decided to cook rice to eat with sambar. Now, for the side dish, I had spinach and ivy gourd. I will add the recipes for each of these here:

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Sambar

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Ingredients

Vegetables: Potatoes, Ladies finger (Okra), Drumsticks, Tomato, Taro Root

Tamarind concentrate: 2-3 tbsp (according to taste)

Salt

Toor Dal: 3/4 cup

Ground turmeric: 1/2 tsp

Water: 2.5 cups

To Roast and Grind

Corriander seeds: 2tbsp

Chana dal: 1/2 tbsp

Mehti seeds: 8-10 number

Red chillies: 4

Grated coconut: 3/4 cup

Hing

Water: 1/2 cup (or as required)

Coconut oil: 1/2 tsp

Seasoning

Coconut oil (1/2 tsp), Mustard seeds, 1 red chilly, curry leaves, and corriander leaves

Recipe

1. Cook toor dal by adding the 2.5 cups of water and ground turmeric. (I pressure cooked it. It saves a lot of time.) Once it is cooked, mash it well.

2. Heat 1/2 tsp coconut oil; Add coriander seeds and chana dal. Once they start turning brown, add mehti seeds, red chillies, and hing. In 5 -7 seconds, transfer them to a plate. (After adding mehti, do not heat it for more than 5-6 seconds since it will turn very bitter.) Once it cools down, grind this along with grated coconut and water.

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3. Boil all the veggies until they are fork tender. If adding capsicum or ladies finger, I fry them first so that the raw flavour of capsicum is gone and the ladies finger doesn’t turn mushy.

4. In the pot with boiled vegetables, add the fried ladies finger and capsicum, and add tamarind concentrate. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes.

5. Keeping the heat in low, add the cooked dal and the ground mixture. Adjust salt, hotness, and sourness.

7. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes in low heat.

8. Heat coconut oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and red chilly; add this seasoning to the sambar

9. Garnish with curry leaves and corriander leaves.

Ivy Gourd Fry

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Ingredients

Ivy gourd, Salt, Water, ground turmeric, red chilli powder (1/2 tsp), ground corriander (2 tsp), mustard seeds, coconut oil

Recipe

1. Boil ivy gourd by adding salt and turmeric.

2. Strain the water once it is cooked until tender.

3. Heat coconut oil in a pan, and add mustard seeds.

4. When the mustard seeds splutter, add red chilli powder and ground coriander.

5. Add the cooked ivy gourd immediately and keep sautéing until it is fried.

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Spinach fry (thorn) 

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Ingredients

Spinach, 2 tbsp of coconut oil, mustard seeds, ground turmeric, salt, 1 green chilly, and half cup of grated coconut

Recipe

1. Wash the spinach.

2. Heat coconut oil in a pan, and add mustard seeds.

3. When the mustard seeds splutter, add spinach.

4. Add salt and ground turmeric.

5. Keep sautéing it until all of the water is evaporated.

6. Mince green chillies and mix it with grated coconut. (I used only half green chilly because I didn’t want it to be very spicy. You can add one chilly if you want it hot. I grated the chilli and mixed it with the coconut.)

7. Fry them well for another 4-5 minutes.

 

 

Easy-to-Make Cauliflower and Bell Pepper (Capsicum) Curry

I spend some days doing crochet, watching tutorials, or learning new crafts the whole time only to realise that it’s already evening and I am late to start cooking. On such days, I would like to make curries that could be made in half an hour or so. You get creative and confident to try a few things once you have gained enough experience cooking. My mom used to make sambar out of leftover rasam she made in the morning when some unexpected guests arrive for dinner unannounced. But, the best part is that it used to taste delicious and there won’t be any leftovers.

I always used to get surprised at how quickly she fixes a meal with the available ingredients even after a long day at work. It was her experience and confidence, and let’s also blame it on the situations and the demand that she was compelled to get creative 🙂 These days, I realise that I have also found few tricks to make some curries in lesser time than it used to take initially when I started cooking. The cauliflower and capsicum curry is one such curry that I made in less than half an hour. I also kneaded the roti dough while the curry was getting cooked.

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Ingredients

Cauliflower – 1

Capsicum/Bell pepper – 2

Green chillies (optional)

Ginger

Tomato

Salt

Ground Turmeric – 1/4 tsp

Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp

Sabji masala/Garam masala/curry powder – 1tbsp (Adjust the quantity according to taste)

(Note: This could be substituted with ground coriander and red chilli powder)

water

Kasuri Mehti

For Seasoning

Mustard seeds

Cumin seeds

Corriander leaves

Recipe

1. Wash and cut the cauliflower.

2. Add cauliflower to a pot, add water and ground turmeric, and let it cook for 5 minutes so that it becomes tender. Make sure it doesn’t get overcooked.

3. Wash the bell peppers, deseed them, and dice them.

4. Wash and dice the tomato.

5. Grate or mince ginger. (I cut it into very tiny pieces), and cut green chillies.

6. In a pan, heat coconut oil (any cooking oil).

7. Once the oil is heated, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds

8. Add green chillies and ginger. Saute for 10 seconds and add cauliflower. Fry it for 2-3 minutes or until it starts turning brown/golden.

9. Add the bell peppers to it now and saute it really well.

Note: If you think the cauliflower has been fried enough and that it may burn if you keep sauteing it for more, transfer the cauliflower to a plate and fry the bell peppers and then add the cauliflower back.

10. Once the raw flavor of bell peppers is gone and it is cooked, add tomatoes.

11. Cook it covered for 2 minutes.

12. Add turmeric, salt, and chilli powder and cook covered for 4-5 minutes or until the tomatoes turn mushy.

13. Add garam masala/curry powder/sabji masala and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

14. At this point, if you think the gravy is watery, cook it uncovered until the water evaporates and you get the consistency of your choice.

15. rush some dried kasuri mehti and add that to the curry.

16. Garnish with corriander leaves.

17. Serve with roti, rice, dosa, etc.

 

 

 

10-Minutes Wheat Dosa (Gothambu Dosa)

Don’t have much time to make a meal? Try this simple and easy dosa that can be whipped up in 10 minutes. It can be served with a variety of choices.

People who have eaten South Indian food only in restaurants always have the notion that idli and dosa are to be eaten with chutney and sambar. But if you come to my house, you can see us eating dosa with sambar, rasam, or any other left-over gravy we have made for lunch, inji puli, buttermilk + milagai podi/green chillies, etc. I try to pair up dosa with a variety of other things too. Any left-over side dish made for Roti, pickles, jams, salsa, and an “n” number of other things also go well with any type of dosa. My recent favourite in this list is “Trader Joe’s Pepita Salsa”. The tanginess and hotness along with the sourness of dosa has a very pleasing reaction in my mouth. You should really give it a try.

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Why wheat dosa? It is tasty, healthy, easy to make in less time. Can you imagine making a dosa batter in like 10 minutes without having to soak rice and urad dal and grinding them together to make the traditional rice dosa batter? Well, wheat dosa and a lot of other types of dosa batter can be prepared in such a less time, with no compromise in taste or texture 🙂

Let’s see how to make wheat dosa.

Ingredients

Wheat flour

Salt 1 tsp (alter according to taste)

Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp or Green chillies (cut into small) – 1

Hing (Optional) 1 pinch

Water (As required)

Curry leaves and Cilantro leaves (Optional)

Gingelley oil (or any oil of your choice): 1 tbsp

Note: We add a few drops of oil for each dosa.

Recipe

1. In a dry mixing bowl, add 1 cup of wheat flour, red chilli powder (or green chillies), salt,  and hing. Mix them well.

2. Add water and whisk the batter well. Make sure there are no lumps. (Note: If there are lumps, feel free to use your hands to break them down.)

3. The consistency of the batter should be equivalent to that of batter

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3. Meanwhile, heat a pan in medium flame.

4. Once the pan is heated, pour, using a ladle, the batter onto the pan. It may be a bit difficult to spread the dosa. Hence, we make the batter really watery/thin so that we can just pour the batter on to the pan and spread only the very top layer a bit.

5. Add a few drops of oil around the dosa.

6. Let it cook for a minute; flip and cook the other side until the sides turn brown.

7. I like my dosa a little more brownish. Somewhere between cooked and burnt 😛

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8. Serve with your choice of chutney. I had mine with coconut chutney and cauliflower and bell pepper (capsicum) curry. You can also get creative and pair it up with anything spicy, tangy, or sweet 🙂 

Note: If you find your dosa to be very sticky and that it doesn’t turn crispy, add 1/4 cups of rice flour to it. Different brands of wheat flour yield dosas with different texture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Meadows One-Skein Scarf in Red Heart Super Saver Ombre Yarn (Jazzy)

I have been wanting to make a scarf with a multicolour yarn for a while now. I had bought Lily sugar and cream ombre yarns, but not enough to make into a scarf since I have balls of different colors that cannot be combined into one scarf. I looked at a variety of options before stumbling upon Red Heart Super Saver Ombre Yarn. I looked at Lion brand’s Mandala yarn, Caron cakes, Caron simply soft stripes, and Caron simply soft ombre, etc. But their reviews were mixed. The Red Heart Ombre yarn had good reviews and I loved the color choices it offered. I picked two colors: Jazzy and Anemone. The yarn is soft and easy to work with.

For the Green Meadows scarf, I chose the Jazzy color. It is in shades of pink ranging from baby pink to an almost fuchsia pink (color description may vary based on individual perception of colors). The color and the gradient are beautiful. I love the way the gradient transitions from a lighter shade to a darker one.

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I am using the free pattern from justbcrafty. I love the spearmint color used in the pattern (it’s on my Wishlist already.) It is a beginner-friendly pattern with instructions easy to follow. Once you finish the first three rows, you are simply repeating the third row until you get the desired length. It is a good one to work on when you don’t want to concentrate much on what you are doing. After you do the first 10 rows or so, you know what you are doing and hence need not refer to the pattern. I finished half of this scarf while watching TV.

I have completed three-fourth of the scarf so far. I took my time with this project because I had to prepare myself for making delicious treats for Diwali, the festival of lights. I made a savory (Ribbon pakoda) and a sweet (Gulab Jamun).  You can find the recipes by clicking on the hyperlinks.

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I am gonna finish up this scarf and start working with the Anemone color next. I am yet to decide on what I am going to make with it.

Happy crocheting!!

Ribbon Pakoda, an Easy, Spicy, Snack Treat (Using Sev/Murukku Maker)

Diwali isn’t complete without savouries and sweets. I decided to make Gulab Jamuns and Ribbon Pakodas for Diwali this year. Ribbon Pakodas are a pretty easy snack to whip up in an hour or less.

All you need is some chickpea flour, rice flour, salt, red chilli powder, ground turmeric, hing, water, oil, and Sev/Murukku Maker. You make a dough by mixing all ingredients except oil, use the Sev/Murukku Maker to push the dough to get the shape of ribbon, and deep fry it.

In case you are wondering what is “Sev/Murukku Maker”, this is how it looks. Most households in India has this. It has four or five plates that you can change to make savouries that vary in shape and slightly in ingredients. There are different types of Sev/Murukku Makers. The one I have is the traditional one I had seen in my home during my grandma’s time. We used to have one whose piston was made of wood. Here’s the one I have:

To make the ribbon pakoda, we have to use the plate with two horizontal holes on it.

To make pakodas, attach the plate with two horizontal holes to the lower part of the screw and screw the two parts as shown above.

Once the lower half of the Sev/Murukku Maker has been fixed, fill more than half of it with the dough. Use the piston (upper part of the whole arrangement), as shown above, to push the dough into the hot oil.

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RECIPE FOR PAKODA

Ingredients

Chickpea flour (Besan): 2 cups

Rice flour: 1 cup

Red chilli powder: 1 tbsp (Add more or less according to your taste)

Salt: 1 tbsp (Add more or less according to your taste)

Ground turmeric: A pinch

Hing (powder): 1/2 tsp

water: 1/4 cups to 1/2 cups (May vary based on the texture of the flours)

Oil for deep frying the pakodas. I used coconut oil. Refined oil, rice bran oil, or sunflower oil may be substituted.

Recipe

1. In a mixing bowl, mix all ingredients except water.

2. Sprinkle water and knead the dough well to ensure there are no lumps. The dough should be soft.

Note: To check the consistency, fill the Sev/Murukku Maker with dough and try pushing the dough into the same mixing bowl. The dough should move smoothly through the maker. If it doesn’t, sprinkle some more water, knead the dough again, and check for consistency. This is important because if the dough doesn’t move smoothly through the maker, it would be very difficult and dangerous to do it in hot oil.

3. Taste and alter the salt/chilli according to your taste. Please note that saltness and hotness reduces a bit when fried in oil.

4. Brush the plate, inside of the sev/murukku marker, and the inside of the piston with oil. (This step is optional).

5. Heat oil in a pan. Quantity of oil will depend on the amount of pakodas you are going to add in each batch and the size of the frying pan. Make sure that there is enough oil for the pakodas to be immersed completely in the oil. This is important for them to get cooked evenly.

6. Once the oil is hot, steam/smoke will start coming up. Alternatively, you can drop a pinch of the dough into the oil to see if the oil is hot enough. If the oil is hot enough, the dough will come up to the surface quickly when it is dropped in the oil. If the dough does not come up to the surface of the oil quickly, it means that the oil is not ready. Wait for some more time and repeat the same steps.

7. When the oil is ready, fill the Sev/Murukku Maker with the dough. More than half of the maker should be filled with dough. Push the piston so that the dough falls into hot oil.

Note: Be very careful during this step. The oil will be very hot; hence, make sure your face is a bit away from the oil. Also, make sure that you keep the Sev/Murukku Maker at a certain height.

8. Fry the pakodas until they turn dark orange and become firm when you touch with the spatula used to take out the pakodas from the oil.

Note: Make sure you fry the pakodas in medium heat. While taking each batch out of the oil, reduce the heat to low. After adding the next batch of pakodas into the oil, increase the heat to medium, cook them, again reduce the heat to low while taking that batch out of oil, and repeat.

9. Make them in batches and transfer the fried pakodas to a paper towel to remove any excess oil. (Each batch of mine only as much pakodas you see in the pictures).

10. Let it stay for 4-5 minutes and enjoy. 🙂

Notes:

1. The fried pakodas will be soggy. They will get crisp only after 2-3 minutes.

2. Always wait for 5-6 minutes after making the first batch. Check if the pakodas become crisp or not. If they did not become crisp, that means that the oil wasn’t hot enough. In that case, please ensure that the oil is hot enough before making the second batch.

3. If you find that the pakodas are too hard to bite, you can reduce the amount of rice flour into half when you make it next time.

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Enjoy this ribbon snack treat with hot coffee or tea as an evening snack 🙂

Gulab Jamun Using MTR Instant Gulab Jamun Mix

Diwali is the festival of lights, but it is not complete if the lights aren’t accompanied by those delicious mom/grandmom-made sweets. Diwali was on the 27th of November, 2019. This was my first Diwali after my wedding, and hence it could also be called our “Thala Diwali”. I was in the US, and I had to make these sweet treats this year for the first time. These are some of the things that remind me that I am now married and am to take up more responsibilities that were taken up by someone else in the house for all these years.  My husband and I went to visit his sister in Florida during Diwali.

I wanted to make some sweet, something that is easy and that doesn’t take much time. I also wanted to make sure that it’s something that all three of us enjoy. Gulab jamuns were my first thought because it is very easy to make them and we can find the Instant Gulab Jamun mix at most of the Indian stores in the US. All you need is the Instant mix, ghee or oil to fry the jamuns, and sugar to make the sugar syrup. Also, it was something that all of us enjoyed eating.

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I used MTR Instant Gulab Jamun mix. It yielded around 25-30 medium-sized jamuns. I forgot to take pictures of the final batch. The final yield was almost twice of what can be seen in the picture above. I used ghee to fry the Jamuns, and did not add any flavour to the sugar syrup. Feel free to add saffrons, cardamom, or rose essence to the syrup. The jamuns were soft, syrupy, and sweet.

The instructions to make Jamuns are written on the pack, but I would love to share how I made them:

1. Make the jamuns

Take a mixing bowl and empty the Instant mix pack into it. Please measure the quantity of the mix that you are adding into the bowl. This is important to measure the amount of sugar needed to make the syrup. If you are using the whole pack, you can read the quantity mentioned in the pack. Sprinkle water and knead the dough to a consistency where it becomes soft, but not too soft. Set it aside for 5-7 minutes.

2. Get the ghee ready for frying

Pour ghee into a deep pan. Pour ghee enough to cover the balls. If you are planning to make bigger balls, you will need more ghee. Ghee can be substituted with any oil that you use for deep frying. (Note: Coconut oil is a no-no, because it has a strong flavour. I have not tested any other oil.) Refined oil and sunflower oil works well.

3. Get the jamuns ready for frying

Roll the dough into balls smaller than that of desired size (please note that the jamuns puff up a little while drying and while soaking in the syrup).

4. Make the syrup

For one cup of the instant mix, four cups of sugar is needed. I had used 2 and a quarter cups of instant mix, and hence needed 9 cups of sugar. For each cup of sugar, an equal measure of water is needed to make the syrup. I used 9 cups of water.

To summarise, I used 2.25 cups of instant mix, 9 cups of sugar, and 9 cups of water. You can reduce the quantity of sugar if you do not want it to be very sweet. From the second time onward, you can use a measure of sugar that is appropriate for your taste.

Take a deep pan or a cooking vessel, add the sugar and water and start boiling the mixture. Keep boiling the mixture until all of the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts thickening a little. (Please do not let the mixture thicken a lot as it will thicken a little bit more when it cools down).

5. Fry the jamuns

Once the ghee is heated enough and the syrup is ready, start deep frying the jamuns. Fry 5-6 at a time or more or less depending on the size of the cooking vessel used for frying. Transfer the fried jamuns into the hot sugar syrup directly after frying.

6. Soak the jamuns for a while and enjoy the treat 🙂

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Hope you will give this a try. Enjoy these delicious desserts along with a full course Indian meal. The jamuns can be served hot or cold and can be stored in refrigerator for more than a week.

Diwali isn’t complete with only sweets. There has to be savouries too. I made ribbon pakodas, which is an easy snack that takes less than an hour to make.

Happy Diwali!

Handmade Birthday Card

There is always something new to learn. We all write; it may not be long articles or stories. We make to-do lists, write journals, write notes for our loved ones, etc. Though some of us can write beautifully than others, getting creative with writing is fun. I have been dreaming of learning calligraphy for many years. I started learning online like I learnt many crafts, however, I could never get perfection in my works. So, I decided to learn it from someone.

Recently, I attended a hand lettering workshop focusing on faux calligraphy and brush lettering. The workshop was two hours long. I was a bit suspicious about the extent of learning you do in such a short time period. Throughout the workshop, I was feeling that we were rushing through. But surprisingly, it was very resourceful and helpful. My post-workshop lettering aligns closely to my visualisation.

A couple of important takeaways that helped change my letter significantly were the ways to hold the pen while lettering and the type of tools used to do lettering. Here’s a birthday card that I made a few days after the workshop. I used Tombow Fudenosuke pen. This card was an inspiration from this pin.

My work still needs more years of practice to reach perfection, but I am happy that I can see progress in my work.

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