Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A simple lunch menu

I love cooking.  Having said that, I generally love cooking routine dishes.  Am not a specialist.  My food is pretty decent and hence I am daring to write a blog on cooking.  However, this is the first time I am writing about cooking on a blog.  Hence E & O E.  :-)

Today I am going to start sharing some simple lunch menus.  Some of the dishes which are not so well known will be described with the recipes.

Today's lunch has simple chappati, rice, ladies finger, potatoes and cabbage "molagutal".  

"Molagutal" is a very typical part of the Kerala Iyer menu and is a generic term for any vegetable or combination of vegetables that are cooked in dal.  The various vegetables that can be used is a combination of cubed (small - medium sized) bottle gourd/dudhi/lauki or white pumpkin, carrot, peas, beans and potato, or just cabbage, or finely cubed banana stem or  palak which has been cooked and mashed in a mixer or in a "kalchatti" i.e. a vessel made of stone as shown below.  (More on the "kalchatti" below).  

Recipe for Cabbage Molagutal:  

Ingredients:  One medium or small sized cabbage.  
                       1/2 coconut (small sized) grated.
                       1- 2 red chilli(s) - to suit taste 
                       1 table spoon jeera (cumin seeds)
                       2 teaspoons  udad dal
                       Asafoetida (hing) - a small piece or a generous pinch.
                       2 teaspoonfuls of oil

                    Tur / Moong dal - 3/4 to 1 cup (vaati) (depends entirely on individual   preference)
                       8-10 kadipatta/curry leaves 


Heat a teaspoonful of oil.  Add the hing, jeera, red chilli and udad dal to the oil.  Allow to roast till the  udad dal turns a light brown.  Add this to the grated coconut and grind finely in a mixer.  Keep it aside.

Shred cabbage finely.  Cook with salt, turmeric and half a spoonful of sambar powder (available in various brands such as 777, MTR, Nilgiri's etc.  Can also be made at home.  Shall share the recipes of various masalas very soon) and the curry leaves.  Cook tur dal or moong dal well and mash it well.  When cooked, add to the vegetable.  Add the ground masala to the vegetable and dal.  Allow to froth.  Then allow the mustard to splutter in 1 teaspoonful of oil and add it to the molagutal.

The molagutal is ready to be eaten with steaming hot rice.

P.S.  Although traditionally no onions are added to "molagutal", I am no purist.  I do tend to add onions and/or garlic to it, if I want to eat it with chappatis.

P.P.S  The "kalchatti" is a very traditional container which is extremely versatile and can be used to cook a variety of items.  It absorbs a lot of heat and keep the food piping hot for a very long time.  It can be used for cooking, serving as well as for storing food.  It is available in certain places in South India like Srirangam (near Tiruchy).  It needs to be seasoned before use failing which it will crack as soon as put on the fire.  To season a kalchatti, a mixture of oil and haldi is applied to it inside and outside and it is kept out in the sun.  This process is repeated for 4-5 days.  Then water is boiled in it for a couple of times till any traces of fine stone vanish.  Only after this it is ready to be used for cooking.  A bit tedious, may be, but food cooked in it has a special taste to it.  I am a complete kalchatti freak.  

Another point to be taken care of is that there should ALWAYS be some water in the kalchatti.  DO NOT ALLOW ALL THE WATER TO EVAPORATE otherwise the food will get burnt and the kalchatti will crack with the heat.  It is therefore best suited to cook dishes such as sambar, molagutal and kadhi.

The kalchatti, being heavy, should NEVER be picked up with tongs.  Always pick it up using a cloth. 

Of course the "kalchatti" is not indispensable.  In fact very few people use them these days.  An ordinary vessel will do very nicely too.  :-) :-) :-)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Jaago India Jaago, Mahaan Bano!!!!!

One more Independence Day has come and gone.  More programmes on TV celebrating our independence and more shouting from the roof tops about how great we are.  More odes sung to all the glorious achievements of India and Indians.  We have produced the likes of Aryabhat who gave the world the concept of "0", given the world Ayurveda, trigonometry, chess, ....... (I do not know the veracity of all these claims - I have not checked them out - these are just a few of the claims about which we keep thumping our chests over the ages).  

All very fine. But what have we achieved or what are we achieving in recent times?  Does not help to rest on our laurels and that too laurels achieved by people in ancient times. How long will we continue to harp on them?

We talk of the achievements of Kalpana Chawla - she achieved whatever she did on foreign soil.  The opportunity to do so was given to her by a foreign country.  How many women or even men in our country have been given this opportunity here?  We boast of the number of successful Indians in foreign companies in the US or the UK.  Why are these people not in India?  What made them leave the country and go out?  What is the population of India?  How many people can we account for who have done something noteworthy?  What percentage of the population does that account for?

Leave aside our achievements.  Look at our politics.  Look at our politicians.  I need not recount a list of all the "achievements" of those "greats" who occupy the highest positions in our country.  It is there for all to see, on the front pages of newspapers every morning, on all the new channels on the hour, every hour and throughout the hour.

Here is a country that sends people fighting against corruption to jail. It is something the British did to freedom fighters. Anna Hazare is fighting for freedom from corruption. And our own government is sent him to jail. So how are we any different from our erstwhile colonial masters, nay tormentors?

Is this what the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and other freedom fighters sacrificed their lives to get us independence for?

Look at the gross indiscipline on the roads.  Look at the lack of work ethic, be it amongst the poorest of the poor who work in menial jobs or people who man high positions in the government machinery.  Look at the corruption and inefficiency all around.  Look at the filth, illness and poverty everywhere.

Does the number of vehicles on the road, the number of mobile phones in the country and the number of television channels available make us a great country?  Or is it the number of malls that have replaced the "kirana waala's dukaan"?

Sorry, it is not that I am not patriotic or don't want to be proud of being Indian.  I am simply unable to rejoice over our independence till we pull our socks up and develop something called social and national conscience. Where is our honesty, where is our discipline, where is our work ethic? What about the moral bankruptcy in our country? How can we be proud of ourselves or ever look people all over the world in the eyes?  Forget others, how can we look at ourselves in the mirror and say "We are great"?

It has become our habit to revel in various "facts and figures" and forget what we as a country have to come to. It is just my agony over the existing state of affairs that makes me present these other facts here. This should be food for thought for all of us Indians.

What we really need to do to grow as a nation is to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror and see all the blemishes in ourselves. Only when we see our own faults can we really set about correcting them and grow into a truly great nation - which we have a immeasurable untapped potential for. What we really need is to develop something called national character.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Bas! Bas! (Enough, enough)

I love travelling, but have always had a hard time on buses. Before you all start writing me off as a snob, I would like to say it is not me. It is my stomach. It seems to have an allergy to any vehicle called a bus and protests at the very word. I can almost hear it screaming for mercy "Bas, bas, no bus for me" at the very mention or thought of the word. 

The history of my bus rides goes back to my childhood. Those days, cars too were an equally detested mode of transport. I remember my aunt taking me in her chauffeur driven car to Zaveri bazaar - shopping for my cousin's wedding - and I left my indelible mark on it by the time we got back. Of course with threats from aunt to make me clean up the car myself.

The next memory of a bus ride in Mumbai is of me - a 4 or 5 year old - going with my Mama. The bus breaked somewhere in between and I fell flat on my face. That was bad enough, but the outrage at such buses being called "BEST" buses was tremendous. "What are their worst buses like"? I asked when I got back home.

Back in Kerala, when travelling once by bus, the poor bald guy sitting in front of me was at the receiving end of my indignant stomach. Those days I used to be given lemon and ginger to suck - all to no avail. Many years later, when I was unwell, my parents struck a deal with Guruvayoorappan, that they would bring me to the temple (even if it meant physically dragging me) if he would make me well.  (Talk of corruption having reached the high heavens in India!) As consolation, I was given an anti-emetic. All along the way I wanted to sleep, while my mother kept trying to wake me up asking "Have you come to sleep or to see the scenery"? She conveniently forgot that I had not come - I was dragged along. By the time I got off the bus, I was sick. I was given 2 idlis to compensate the loss. After that my brain packed up on me and I passed out. But my parents were not to be deterred. Both of them gave me a shoulder on either side and dragged me round the temple.

Why am I talking of all this now? Well, just to explain why I do not travel by bus
. For further explanation, refer to this picture.

That is not a great incentive is it, to travel by bus? This is what buses in Bangalore frequently look like. Besides, all the boards being in Kannada, I don't know where the bus plans to take me - up, down, left or right. Any enquiries earlier were met with the very helpful answer "Gottilla" (don't know). So my preferred mode of travel these days is on my Activa or by autorickshaw. 

My experience with auto rickshaws has been a varied one. I have shared this previously in "10 Golden Rules of Auto-rickshaw etiquettes". Yesterday I needed to go to the old part of the city for some work and so hired one. The driver stopped midway and explained with a sweet smile that his accelerator cable was broken. So I was grateful to get off. Unfortunately other drivers did not share my enthusiasm to go to the part of town where I needed to go. Just as I was wondering what to do, a bus came along. I enquired if it was going to Town Hall and when the answer was in the affirmative, I made to enter, but the bus started moving. Not one to be deterred, I actually managed to jump onto it all the same. That was a major achievement which made me feel good about myself. I have not become as old as I imagined. And the bigger achievement was the fact that without a word, I managed to get the conductor to stop the bus once again - he probably is not used to seeing middle aged women try such stunts. The other achievement was the fact that my stomach did not actually protests too loudly - it just went into a major sulk for the rest of the day. I can deal with that. Maybe it is mellowing down with age. 

In any case, I am extremely grateful to the rickshaw driver for helping me rediscover my innate gifts (jumping onto moving buses) as well as for saving me a fairly goodish pile. 

Maybe in due course of time, I will muster the courage to step into a bus once again. In fact, one of these days I plan to buy myself a monthly pass, go on every bus in town to find out where it goes and where all it stops. It will spare you the need to read all this stuff here - I will be too busy travelling to write and my tum like the proverbial shrew will be tamed too.