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Ammi's Pandaan


I have many pleasant memories of this pandaan from my childhood.
Papa used to eat pan and this pandaan was a functional part of our house.
However it had a different look then. It had a silver qalai(coat) on all the pieces of this beauty, as it sat on the outermost edge of the kitchen slab. Fresh crispy pans that Ammi bought regularly from her trips to Jama Masjid area, wrapped in wet cloth were placed on the top tray. A sarauta (beetlenut cutter), missing here also shared the space on the tray along with pans.
The containers under the tray all had their specific contents:
The two mini handias with the flat spoons were for Choona (white) and katha (brown) pastes. The tiny spoons were applicators for their contents on the pan. I even remember how Ammi bought dry solid katha and then cooked it with water to melt it, which finally was transferred in the little handiya.
The two big canisters housed- chhaliya(betelnut)- one as full rounded nuts and the other cut into small pieces by the sarauta. The third canister contained saunf(anise). The thin canister in the middle contained tobacco leaves.
Each time papa wanted a pan, either ammi or sometimes Papa himself followed the process of ‘making a pan’ applying the contents in the following order- choona, katha, chaliya and tambaku- and finally the whole pan was folded into a conical form called gilori.
Interestingly the only person who ate pan was papa. Ammi made them several times in a day, but I never saw her eating herself. We kids also never seemed interested in trying one.
When I was in high school, papa decided to give up tobacco. He just left it cold turkey. Pandaan still remained functional. But some years down the road he realized pan was unhealthy and he must cut down if not stop it altogether. So the pandaan was wrapped up and he chose to get a single pan in a day from the panwala.
This pandaan from 1930s that came to our household in Ammi’s jahez(dowry) in 1964 was carefully packed in a plastic bag and kept on the topmost shelf in the kitchen.
With tarnished and dull look, the pandaan rested on the shelf for about 25 years. Out of sight is out of mind and we all forgot about its existence.
About 15 years, as my siblings renovated the kitchen, this pandaan again came down on the kitchen slab. I happened to visit them during that period, and the sight of an ugly big ‘thing’ brought back the memories of its heydays.
Seeing my interest in it, I was chosen to be the next owner of this treasure by my siblings and Ammi saying, “You treasure such things.”

I brought it with me and it became a part of our desi decor in Makkah. As we moved from there it was dumped in a carton for almost a decade. Periodically I looked around for a trusted person who would repair it, refurbish it and can bring out it’s original copper instead of the silver enamel.

Today, on the last day of 2019, the person who agreed to follow my instructions, and did this job chose to come himself with the finished form and proudly present it to us, tell us how precious this piece is, and most importantly to inform us how much personal efforts he has put in to bring this pandaan to a new life.
The sight of this sparkling gem not just made my day, but also made me feel accomplished in life. đŸ˜€
I hope the next decade also brings such wonderful outcomes and happiness for us and for you all.
Happy 2020 folks !

Will India Pakistan Feed Their Hungry with War & Nuclear Weapons?


Poochhna hai ab mujhe yeh Hind-O-Pakistan sey,
Peit bhookon ka bharogey kya jang ke samaan sey?
(I now have to ask this from India and Pakistan, 
Will you feed your hungry with the weapons of war?).
~Kunwer Mahinder Singh Bedi Seher

India and Pakistan, both nuclear nations, have been embroilled in conflict over the territory of Kashmir since 1947. Several times in past 70+ years have they come very close to war.

However, their human life indices tell a very sordid story.

Global Hunger Index for past 13 years has been ranking countries based on four key indicators — undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. Zero is the best score and a reading above 100 is the worst.
You can see the detailed list here: https://www.globalhungerindex.org/results/.

Out of 119 countries ranked on global hunger index,  the countries ranks in South Asia region in 2019 were as:

  • Sri Lanka- 62
  • Nepal- 72
  • Bangladesh -86
  • India- 103 (was 100 in 2017 and 55 in 2014) (Score= 31.6)
  • Pakistan -106 (Score 32.6)

Together between these countries, there are over 1 billion children and youth whose lives are at stake because of warmongering, which is unnecessary and unwarranted.

Here are some pictures of children from India and Pakistan:

Hunger

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hunger 4

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Old Fashioned Sweet and Sour Pickle


Eons ago as a teenager I had a delicious pickle at an aunts place.
For almost 4 decades I hunted for it in the aisles for pickles in desi grocery stores, searched for it on family or friends tables. I even asked if anyone knew or made it.
Some friends knew about the pickle but I never had the luck to find it ready anywhere.

So one day I hunted for its recipe on the net. And there it was,  at several places.

To my utter surprise the method of preparation was very simple. So there was no excuse left to not make it myself.  So here it is:

Sweet and Sour Pickle of Carrots, Turnips and Cauliflower with Jaggery.

Ingredients:
Carrots: half pound
Turnip: half pound
Cauliflower: 1 pound
Anise seeds(saunf): 1tsp
Black seed(Kalonji): 1tsp
Fenugreek seeds(methi): 1tsp
Mustard seeds(Rye ): 1tsp
Jaggery (Gurr): 1 pound
Mustard Oil: 2 tbsp
Salt, chillipowder, garam masala powder:  to taste

Cooking method is described with the pictures:

Step 1: Chop washed carrots, turnips into medium thickness sticks and break cauliflower into medium sized florets.pic1

Step 2: Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar and half pound of jaggery in a pan and leave on slow flame till all the jaggery melts.
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Step 3: Boil water in a large deep pan till it bubbles. Once boiling, add the chopped vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are blanched. Drain off water and spread the vegetables on a kitchen towel till dry. (I did for about an hour).
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Step 4: Heat 2 tbsp mustard oil in a wok. Add mustard seeds, anise, fenugreek and black seeds and let them splatter for half a minute. Then add salt, ground garam masala and red chilli powder. Finally added the vegetables. Stir fry them.
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Step 5: Stir fry the vegetables with seeds and spices.

Step 6: Add vegetables mixed with spices  & seeds into vinegar and melted jaggery mixture. Cook till most liquid evaporates.
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Step 7: Once cooked and cooled, store it in a sterilized air tight cannister and leave in the sun for 2 days to pickle well. 

Step 8: Once ready(in my case in 2 days) enjoy it with parathas and hot steaming chai. 🙂
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This pickle is a delicacy prepared in winter in Northern India specially because that is the time carrots are available.

Its easy and very delicious. I wonder why did I just keep looking for it everywhere and did  not try it myself all these years? Do try it out in a smaller amount as a trial. You will not regret it.

Happy Pickling !

Eid e Nowruz : The Persian New Year


The word Nowruz meaning New Day, is the most anticipated and favorite celebration for Persians. It occurs exactly on the Spring Equinox. This occasion has been renowned in one form or another by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. Sumerians, 3000 BC, Babylonians, the ancient kingdom of Elam in Southern Persia and Akaddians in the second millennium BC, all celebrated this festival. What we celebrate today as Norooz (Also spelled Now Ruz, Norooz or Norouz) has been around for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrians of the Sassanian period.

It’s no secret that Persians love any excuse to celebrate. But of all the many reasons to celebrate, Norouz, The Persian New Year, is by far the most important and dear in the hearts of Iranians around the globe. Literally translating to “A New Day,” Norouz marks the first day of Spring (March 21st) and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar.

Originally a Zoroastrian holiday, Norouz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years. The most significant aspect of Norouz is the fact that it is a non-religious and non-ethnic celebration. Norouz brings together several hundred million diverse peoples spanning from Iran to northwest China, India and Central Asian republics,Turkey and Eastern Europe, Iraq and westward to Egypt; all celebrating this joyous holiday which represents new Beginnings, and the start of Spring.

Sofreh Haft Seen

In harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Persian new year celebration starts on the first day of Spring, illustrated by a beautiful spread Haft Seen:

haft seen1

 

A symbolic illustration of Norouz is the “Haft Seen” (Persian translation of “Seven S”), a ceremonial table spread, including at least seven items whose names start with the letter “S” in the Persian alphabet; hence the name “Haft Seen” or “Seven S”. The spread itself is usually a beautifully crafted and decorated fabric such as “Termeh.”

At the specific time of Vernal Equinox (when the sun is observed to be directly over the equator) which varies every year, the family gathers around Haft Seen holding hands. At the moment of transition into the New Year or “Sal Tahvil,” family members embrace each other and eat a sweet…for a sweet year! This is followed by exchanges of “Aydi” (cash gifts exchanged) and having the traditional new year dish “Sabzi-polo and Mahi” (herbed rice and white fish).

The Most Common Haft Seen Items: 

Sib (Apple): Red apples representing health and natural beauty.

Sabzeh (Sprouts): Wheat, barley or lentils sprouts growing in a dish,
symbolizing the fertility of the land in the Spring and the rebirth of nature.

Samanu: Common wheat sprouts are transformed and given new life as
this sweet and creamy pudding, representing the reward of patience.

Sir (Garlic): Displayed in beautifully decorated dishes, garlic represents
good health, and is believed to chase away evil spirits.

Sumac: A popular Persian spice used as a symbol to wish for some zest
in life in the new year.

Senjed (Oleaster): The Senjed or wild olives represent love and compassion.

Sombol (Hyacinth): Hyacinth is placed in the Haft Seen to signify the beauty
and fragrance of Spring, and the rebirth of nature.

Sekkeh (coin): Coins representing wealth and hopes for prosperity.

Serkeh (vinegar): The vinegar also placed in a beautiful bowl or decorative
container is a symbol for maturity, and the wisdom and patience that comes
with age.SONY DSC

Other items not starting with letter “S”, but included because of their symbolic
meaning and cultural significance include:

Mirror: The mirror is usually set at the top center of the Haft Seen,
representing self-reflection.

Candles: Lit candles are more commonly set on each side of the mirror
and represent enlightenment and happiness.

Gold Fish: One of the most fun traditions of Norouz is buying the gold
fish for Haft Seen. The gold fish are used to represent joy and movement.

Holy or Poetry Book: Religious families will often place their holy book
in the center of the Haft Seen. Others opt for famous poetry books such
as Divan of Hafiz or Shahnameh.

Eggs: Usually, one for each member of the family, artfully decorated eggs
are used to represent the human race, as well as, fertility.

Sweets: Traditional Persian sweets are another popular item for the Haft Seen.
The pastries are a symbol for a sweet life and are meant to be eaten
during the celebration.

Seville orange: Floating in a bowl of water, it represents the earth
floating in space.

(Credits: The above text and pictures are crossposted  from here: http://www.partybravo.com/Norooz-Persian-New-Year-Haft-Seen).

Other traditions of Nowruz:

Hajji Firouz:

Haji Firouz (Persian: حاجی فیروز / هاجی فیروز – Hāji Firuz‎‎) or Khwaja Piruz (Persian: خواجه پیروز – Xwāje Piruz‎‎),[1] also spelled Hajji Firouz, is a fictional character in Iranian folklore who appears in the streets by the beginning of Nowruz. His face is covered in soot, and he is clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine, and is the companion of Amu Nowruz(“Uncle Nowruz”).
(Source & further details: here >> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajji_Firuz).

Lyrics:
BeĹĄkan BeĹĄkan
BeĹĄkan beĹĄkan e, beĹĄkan! (It’s a snap-snap, snap!)
Man nemi-ĹĄkanam, beĹĄkan! (I won’t snap, snap!)
Injā beťkanam, yār gele dāre (If I snap here, this one will complain)
Unjā beťkanam, yār gele dāre (If I snap there, that one will complain)
In siāh e bičāre če qad howsele dāre! (How patient this poor man is!)

Bonfire:

People traditionally jump over bonfires, shouting “Zardie man az to, sorkhie to as man,” which means “May my pallor be yours and your red glow be mine.”
The flames symbolically take away the unpleasant things from the last year.

Nowruz fire.jpg

Following is my favorite song  Nasim-e-Farvardin( The breeze of Spring) by Marzieh , an ode to arrival of  Spring:

Silky Creme Caramelle


Traditional Creme Caramel was the first  dessert I learnt to cook.

A favorite of my Papa’s, I saw my mother make it religiously on his birthdays. After he passed away in 1997, it became a ritual dish to celebrate his birth anniversary with his loved dessert.

I found this the easiest of desserts to make and with basic ingredients which were always there sitting in the kitchen-milk, eggs and sugar. Over the years I  tried several personalized modifications like baking with pineapples, with raisins and nuts, or  adding  flavors like coffee and chocolate. However nothing worked well except it’s old fashioned caramel flavor.

We all  loved the caramel top the most, and always reserved it  for the last bite. So in my greed for more caramel I thought why not caramelize the whole thickness for once. And the result was the following creme caramel.

My folks loved it, and now prefer it over the traditional creme caramel.

Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar( or more if you like it more sweet),
1.5 liters full cream milk,
6 large whole eggs,
1 tsp vanilla essence.

For topping:
Soft fresh whipping cream ( lightly sweetened)
I tbsp Caramel sugar

Method:

Put granulated sugar in a thick base pan and keep on medium heat. Let the sugar melt slowly and then caramelize to golden brown. Remove the pan from heat and add on it 1.5 liters of full cream (4%) milk. Continue on slow heat till the caramelized sugar dissolves in warm to hot milk. Take it off the stove and let it get luke warm.
Break 6 large eggs in a plastic bow and whip them. Add them to the lukewarm caramelized milk. Add vanilla essence and whip thoroughly.

The key to a silky cream caramel is its next procedure of baking it in a bain-marie ( water bath).
{I take a pyrex rectangular dish way larger than the one in which the caramel is to be cooked. Add boiling water in it to half its height. Place over it the dish with the cream caramel liquid}.

Place the bain marie( water bath)  in the oven and cook at 180 degrees Celsius  for 60 minutes. Let it bake slowly in the bain-marie without bubbling. At the end check if the middle of the dessert is set by pricking it with a tooth pick. If it comes out clean, it has set well. If not, give it some more time in the oven.

Let it cool for a while, and then take out the set cream caramel. Refirgerate it overnight. Next day spread sweetened whipped cream over it, and then make a little caramel sugar again and drizzle it over the cream as shown in the picture.

Serve it cold ( unlike the traditional cream caramel which is served warm).

Its the silkiest of desserts your taste buds would have ever felt.

Happy feasting !!!

 

P.S. Would love to hear back how did it turn out? 🙂

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Ashure’ : Noah’s Pudding


Ammi called me early in the morning on Friday, the day of Ashura( 10th Moharram). Ashura commemorates the day of the battle of Karbala for Muslims.
I knew why did she call that early, as it has been a regular practice since years, I have lost count of
“One request beta.”
“Yes Ammi.”

I knew it but still wanted her to say it.
“Please don’t play music today on Ashura.”

This is all she expects from me. But she does a bit more than just not listen to music. One of her routines is to cook a pot of Khichra( Haleem) and not let anyone touch it, or munch any of the ingredients till the Niyaz is done.

South Asians make Haleem on Ashura, a complete food with multiple ingredients in one: whole wheat, lentils, rice, barley, and meat with a host of rich spices in a lengthy procedure.

Along the same lines, the Turks make a sweet Haleem, called Ashure or Noah’s Pudding. The ingredients vary from 7 to 10 to 12 varying from whole wheat, beans ( red and white), chick pea, to dry fruits including figs, peaches and nuts like almonds and raisins.

There are multiple legends associated with it.

It is cooked on the day of Ashura ( 10th Moharram) by all communities in Turkey across different sects: Sunnnis (Balkan Sufis), Shias, Alevis and Kurds.

Ashure is then distributed to all in the neighborhood in small bowls, after performing prayers for health and harmony.

Alevites fast for 12 days, and break it on Ashura with this special dish Ashure. Alevis prepare it with 12 ingredients in their version of the dish. They refrain from killing animals or eating meat in these days of fasting.

There is also a different but popular legend of why it came to be known as Noah’s pudding. According to the legend, it was the day when Noah’s Ark came to the banks of Ararat and Noah’s family cooked a dish from all ingredient leftovers in the Ark.

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As I asked a Turk friend to confirm my list of ingredients, she added:
“The most important ingredient is the ‘Intention’ and the ‘Will’ to make this dish. In Turkish we say ‘Niyet Etmek.’ “

Asure – Noah’s Pudding
Ingredients
(can be found at any Whole Food Markets or Middle Eastern Store) –
• 1 cup of barley whole wheat
• 1 can of chick peas,soaked & boiled
• 1 can of white kidney beans
• 3/4 cup of black dried currants & raisins
• 3/4 cup of almonds/pistachios
• 6 dried Turkish Figs – cut into small quarter
• 6 dried Turkish Apricots – cut into small quarter
• 2 cups of brown sugar ( or plain white sugar)
• 1 lemon zest or orange
9– 12 cups of cold water/4 tsp rosewater(optional)
Condiments: salt/cloves/cinnamon sticks
Garnishing: Fresh pomegranate

Preparation:
One day Before: Soak 1 cup of barley whole wheat in 3 cups of water the night before. This will allow the barley to soften.
Day of:
1. Drain the soaked barley, pour into a deep cooking pot fill with 8-10 cups of cold water leaving about 2-3 inches of the top. At this time add in, sprinkle some salt, add in the cloves and cinnamon sticks.
2. Over a medium to high bring the pot to broil fior 30-40 minutes. The barley will have cracked open and have become white and soft to touch and taste.
3. In the mean time into a small sauce pan, boil the black currants and in a cup of cold water. Once the color of the water turns dark, drain the currants through a sieve.
4. Once the barley has softened, add in the washed chick peas and kidney beans and stir.
5. Add in the rest of the ingredients – the drained currants, raisins, apricots, figs, and almonds, stirring each time you add in an ingredient. Let this mixture boil for 8-10 minutes.
6. To thicken fast, in a cup of cold water mix the 4 tablespoons of corn starch, leaving no lumps. Add the corn starch into the boiling barley mixture and give it a thoroughly stir. *the corn starch will act as a thickening agent.
7. Add brown sugar to your liking, and again stir thoroughly, continue cooking over medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve.
8. Finally add in the zest of the lemon or orange and the rose water and let cook for a 5-7 minutes.
9. Let cool for about 15 minutes, ladle into serving bowls. Top with cinnamon, nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Ashure can be served warm, at room temperature or cold.

Ashure is a vegan dessert too.

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Ashure served with a traditional touch:

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The King of Kebabs- Behari Kebabs


Behari Kababs !

Which meat loving South Asian  doesn’t relish them ? In fact, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad has called them, the ‘finest’ kebabs in his food memoirs.

I grew up watching on very special occasions, my mother prepare and barbeque these Kebabs very diligently on and with much effort, on a charcoal grill. All I remember was that it was a great hard work. And hence, for many, Behari Kebabs is a delicacy to be eaten in restaurants, as cooking them at home is very cumbersome.

I too believed so, till once, I thought of experimenting them in the convenience of my kitchen, in the electric oven. I made them with wooden skewers, and the first attempt wasn’t bad at all. Second time, it was for a dinner party, and the guests could not believe they were homemade, till my husband showed them the oven, tray and the wooden skewers on which they were made.

I moved on, more confident. Got  custom made, iron skewers that fit my tray size in the oven. As I have moved cities, these iron skewers have obediently moved with me too.

Warning: Instead of red meat, I make them here with white meat, and instead of a charcoal grill, I grill them in an oven. Nevertheless, can assure you, they are a different delicacy in their own right.

Ingredients:
Chicken breasts 1 kg
( each sliced into 4 thin fillet)
Onions: 4 medium sized
Ginger : 100gms
Garlic: One whole,
(peeled into cloves)
Green Papaya: 100gms.
Spices: Cumin, coriander, and red chilli powders, and salt to taste.
Mustard Oil- 1 Cup
Fried Browned onions: 2tbsp
(P.S. Some add yogurt, but I don’t.)

Method: 
All the ingredients except the chicken breasts are made into a paste in the grinder. Pour the paste into a wide bowl, and mix in Mustard oil.

Add the chicken fillet in the paste and marinate them for preferably overnight to 24 hours.
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As they are ready to be cooked, spread out each marinated fillet inside a plastic bag, one by one.
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Once arranged 4-5 fillets, fold to close the open end of the plastic bag, And pound them with a wooden pound to make them softer, and such that the spice paste seeps into the fillet..

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Take them out of the plastic bag, one by one, to mount on the iron skewers. My skewers seen here are about a feet long, specially made to fit my baking tray.

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Mount the fillets on the skewers, piercing the iron rod, through the flesh of the fillets at 2-3 inches apart, then gathering them closer.

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Arrange the skewers on the baking tray adjacent to each other.

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When completed, place them in a preheated oven, at 225 degrees C for 30 minutes.
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Once ready, place a burning coal on the side of the tray, and douse it with oil to bellow smoke. Cover the tray, and close the oven, immediately, for the smoky aroma to be absorbed in the Kebabs.
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When ready, serve them hot, with pickled onions, yogurt sauce and chutneys. Naans and parathas go equally well with these Kebabs.

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The children are fond of taking the left overs to school, rolled in a naan as Kebab rolls.

P.S. The blog has been diligently made for a Kebab loving and Kebab cooking fellow Delhiite Parshu Narayanan. 🙂

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