Monthly Archives: June 2012

Aside

Every new academic year (in India it starts in June), I go through what is often termed as ‘starting trouble’.

I work as a resource teacher at a Montessori school, telling stories from mythology to elementary age group children.

My job involves linking topics that are part of the curriculum or current events, to mythological stories and folktales from around the world.

I absolutely love my job.

I love the fact that I learn so much through the research I need to do for each story, the imagination and creativity I need to exercise to present foreign mythology to kids aged 6-11 and the fact that I get to sing with them….story-songs, songs in other languages…..tops it all.

Yet every year, before I begin, I always wonder whether I really want to continue.

But just one class with the kids is enough to convince me that, I do.

I love their reactions, the interactions, their honesty and guilelessness.

They never fail to make me smile. It’s always a day well spent.

When I wrote the Pizza post…..‘The Need to Knead’, I remembered the most wonderful story that I tell my school kids.

This one comes from West Africa:

IYADOLA’S BABIES

Nyame the sky God was sitting bored up in the sky. So he took a basket, a big round basket, filled it with leaves and plants and trees.

He cut a curved hole in the sky so that he could push the basket out through it and he hung this basket from a cloud.

To see the basket better, he cut out a few jagged holes in the the sky.

The curved hole was the moon and the jagged ones the stars.

He enjoyed watching the blades of grass dance in the breeze, the leaves change their colour and the creepers wind their way around other plants.

But after a while this too was boring. So he took another basket and filled it with all kinds of wonderful creatures. Birds, animals, fish …..some soft and fluffy, others colorful, some huge, others minuscule, some fierce, others gentler.

He poured the contents of this basket out through the curved hole, into the first basket, The Earth.

He loved to watch the animals frolic through the cutouts in the sky.

Inside Nyame there lived two little spirit creatures. They loved to creep up to the edge of Nyame’s mouth or nose and look out onto the earth along with him.

One day while they were all watching the animals on the earth, Nyame sneezed…..a humongous Sky God sneeze!

Out tumbled the spirit man and woman, out through Nyame’s nose, through the holes in the sky and down into the earth.

Once they reached the earth they found it so different from the warmth and darkness of Nyame’s body. But soon they began to enjoy it. They loved walking on the soft grass and relaxing under the shade of a tree. They learnt to eat what they could find on the trees and bushes.

The spirit man began to make a few weapons and soon he was off hunting animals for their food, leaving behind the spirit lady in their cave home.

The spirit lady was very lonely as the spirit man never ever took her hunting.

She got a brilliant idea and told the spirit man that they should make little clay creatures that looked exactly like them. They could bake them in a fire, blow on them and make them come to life. They would be able to move and talk just like the spirit man and lady. They could be our children, she said.

The spirit man liked the idea and began to build a fire while the spirit lady moulded the clay children.

As they put the first few clay dolls into the fire and sat back to wait and see how they would come out, they heard Nyame come thundering through the trees. The spirit man and lady quickly pulled out the clay children, wrapped them in leaves and hid them under the bushes.

Nyame had just dropped by to check what the spirit people thought of the wonderful earth he had created. Then he stomped out the way he came in.

The spirit man and woman quickly made some more clay children……but as they put them in the fire, Nyame was back and they had no time to even pull them out of the fire.

‘Why are you sitting by a fire?’ asked Nyame. They mumbled something about how they were feeling cold, but as the sun was shining bright, Nyame did’nt seem convinced. As soon as Nyame left they pulled them out and wrapped them in leaves.

Every time they put more clay children into the fire, Nyame would unexpectedly pop by to check on them on some silly pretext or the other.

Finally, Nyame got hungry and went back up, to the sky.

The spirit man and woman unwrapped all the little clay children they had made. Such a variety of colours!! Some were in the fire for a very short time and so were very pale. Others had been there for too long and were dark, almost black. Then there were a whole range of different colours like yellow-brown, rosy pink, red-brown and plenty in between.

The spirit man and woman blew on these clay children and they all began to stretch out their legs and move….running around the earth.

Now the spirit lady was no longer lonely when the spirit man went hunting, her children kept her occupied.

The spirit lady would hug them all, loving each one equally.

The spirit lady is called Iyadola, which means ‘Earth Mother.’

I love this story, which explains how there are so many different skin colours in the world and the allegory that we were all baked……for different times…..but essentially all the same…..just clay, with a common Mother!!

Picture credits: http://dickinsg.intrasun.tcnj.edu/Docs/iyadola/iyadola.html

http://child-of-africa.blogspot.in/2007/09/beauty-of-human-diversity.html


Iyadola’s Babies…………A Yarn.

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Move me to Sri Lanka……just for this…..LAMPRAIS! (Foodie Gyans and yarns-3)

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“The best things in life are the people we meet, the places we’ve been and the memories we’ve left along the way.”

 

There had to come a time when I would have to….. just have to write about Sri Lanka.

3 glorious years in Sri Lanka……and other than back home in Bandra, Mumbai……..a tiny bit of my heart rests there.

I loved everything about Sri Lanka….but the joie de vivre of it’s people reminded me so much of Bandra.

Like Bandraites, people here know how to enjoy life. Laughter and smiles flow easily as do graciousness and generosity.

The FOOD!!!!

Whoo hoo…..little shops selling ‘short eats’ all through the day…..cutlets, rolls, stuffed buns, puffs, patties, tarts and pastries.

My all time favorites were Fab and Green Cabin.

Again, all these reminded me of all our little ‘snack bars’ in Bandra.

Lovecake, Bruedher, Milk toffee, hoppers, idi-oppers, kiri-baath and so many more all have to be written about in detail…..but none more so than the Dutch Lamprais.

My link back to Colombo and the ‘Lamprais’ is thanks to my friend Shankari, who carts a load of them for me back form Colombo every year. The kids and myself wait eagerly, relishing every last grain of rice on the banana leaf.

Lamprais are something you either love or hate.

My hubby hates them……but all the more for us, we say.

They are available all over Colombo, made by  Burgher ‘Aunties’ who specialize in this. Everyone has their own favorite and mine was a beautiful lady called Jean just off Nawala Road and Lorraine who sells them at the Dutch Burgher Union.

The kids and I just LOOOOVE it !

So what are these LAMPRAIS I keep raving about.

 

Lamprais are made up of :

  • Short grained rice such as ‘Suduru Samba’ that has been cooked in a meat/chicken stock
  • Lamprais Curry which is a piquant gravy of diced meat, ideally boneless
  • Brinjal Pahi, a sweet n spicy fried brinjal preparation
  • Frikkadels, a crumb fried meatball of meat or chicken
  • Blachang, a finely grownd dried prawn ball flavoured with lime juice and chilly.
  • Seeni Sambol, made with fried onions, sugar and chilly.
  • Sometimes, Fried Ash Plaintain

 

All these are carefully arranged in a Banana leaf, wrapped into a packet and steamed.

The flavours all merge beautifully and a wonderful complex aroma hits you as you unwrap the leaf, causing your tummy to rumble in anticipation of this gastronomic delight!

Normally one would serve a boiled egg along with it.

According to my Burgher friend Annie, the Dutch Lamprais packets are small, as compared to the Sinhalese lamprais which are more like a lunch packet containing an enormous quantity of rice. I won’t waste my time on these.

A true Dutch Lamprais would not contain an egg within the packet nor would the meat be bone-in……so I was informed.

Whatever the case, Lamprais have me hooked for life. It was something I just had to carry back for family and friends every time we came to India on holiday.

 

The Legend of Lamprais

(From http://www.lankanewspapers.com)

“The Golden Age of Dutch exploration and colonialism in the 16th and 17th Centuries saw traders and armies of the Dutch East India Co. sail East from Holland with the Trade Winds, around the Cape of Good Hope and onto the East Indies in their quest for spices and riches. When the winds changed and favoured their return, the journey back home was most often by way of what was then called Zeylan. Their travels uncovered untold treasures and firmly rooted many traditions in most of the countries in which they settled. Possibly their greatest find for gastronomes would be the then humble lomprijst . Discovered in Java, the locals ate the small packets of rice wrapped in a banana leaf holding it in the palm of their hand. Typically, this would consist of a few leftover curries and condiments from the previous meal thrown together with a handful of rice and wrapped in the ubiquitous leaf. It was essentially a working man`s nourishment, carried on his person ready to be eaten whenever time allowed. The Dutch explorers knowing a good thing when they saw one and being good eaters in their own right, took the concept and refined it, adding a few touches of their own to produce what is now the elusive lamprais. Lamprais is an Anglicisation of the original Dutch term lomprijst , the origins of which are unclear, but could stem from either the Malay word klemper, which refers to a ball of lutinous rice wrapped in a banana leaf, or the Dutch words klomp, which means lump and rijst which means rice. Terminology notwithstanding, the contents of the lamprais is a highly debated topic amongst veterans of the chase.

 

So if you ever visit Sri Lanka….try this, it is such an explosion on your taste buds!

A Sunday afternoon favorite……but I won’t complain if its served during the week either!

I’d love to go back and live there just for this!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget the Frozen Pizza Dough!

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Remember when I made the whole wheat pizza dough?

If you don’t or are reading this blog for the first time….check it out here.

I froze a part of  it for later.

Well, the kids are back at school and I’m back to dusting the cobwebs off my creative brain cells, urging them to somewhat creakily wake up and think up interesting goodies to pack for lunch.

5 am…..Y A A AWN and S..T..R…E…C…….H………………

Desperate scramble for my morning jolt……a cuppa coffee…….

Light bulbs pop……hey there is some frozen pizza dough!!

I took the dough out and left it to thaw and rise again.

(You could leave it in the fridge the previous night)

Using the pizza sauce which I always have on hand, frozen, I sautéed some mushrooms, corn and leftover grilled chicken and mixed it with the pizza sauce.

Cut the dough into equal pieces….as many as you require.

Roll it out and put some of the filling along with some cheese.

Fold over and seal by brushing a little water or egg around the edges and pressing

with the help of a fork.

If you look carefully, you will notice that I have left a small corner unsealed.

This allows for the steam to escape and prevents the bread from splitting while baking.

Cover with a damp cloth and leave it to rise for @ 10-15 minutes.

Brush with egg wash before baking.

Bake at 200 deg C for 10 min or till firm and golden.

….And TAA DAAA…….

Perfect little CALZONE for the lunch box!  Delicioso!!!

CALZONE literally meaning a stocking or trouser is nothing but a folded pizza.

It’s filling consists of ingredients similar to pizza toppings.

My 7-year-old only eats a Pizza Margherita and hates any toppings on her pizza.

This is a great way to stuff all kinds of veggies into a bun…..it’s not visible!

But considering that it is a ‘totally cool’ lunch…..it goes down with pride!!

So don’t forget that frozen pizza dough………….

I talked to a calzone for fifteen minutes last night before I realized it was just an introverted pizza. I wish all my acquaintances were so tasty.
”

Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title

Aside

I cannot believe that it has been a month since I began blogging!

What started as a lark, with absolutely no plan, has panned out beautifully and I feel truly blessed.

I was new to blogging….still am, but I enjoy the lessons that it teaches me everyday.

In this one month, other than the first day, I’ve had hits on my blog everyday. Ranging from just 2 hits on a day to 165 on another and I enjoy watching the blog statistics.

It humbles me to see that visitors from countries like China, Colombia,Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Japan and Philippines stop by. Places where I do not know anybody. Thank you for seeing something in my posts that interests you and ‘liking’ my posts.

Of course family and friends from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada and the US who take time to stop by and comment …..Thank you.

To those of you who have called, messaged,mailed and commented…..thank you….I thrive in your constant encouragement.

To those who have shared my blog on FB, Pinterest, Twitter…..please keep doing so, you guys have driven many more to my blog. Thank you and Mwah ❤

To my fellow bloggers,  I know you only through your writing, and you, me, through mine.

Although its only been a month I can see a little circle forming, each of us encouraging the other.

To me this is the most profound part of blogging.

The ability to see and appreciate the beauty of another’s writing, approach, humor and candor, is  all encompassing…..bringing out appreciation, encouragement, awe and inspiration.

 This was nothing I could ever imagine as a non-blogger.

I thank you all again and again…….

But here I need to mention:

Deeba Rajpal of   Passionate about Baking.  The fact that an Indian living in India could have  such a beautiful blog was inspiring. Deeba very kindly answered my questions about recipe copyrights and I was on my way. Check out her blog for fabulous recipes and food photographs.

Thank you Deeba.

Aarti Mahesh, who’s casual comment, urging me to start a blog, wormed it’s way into my head and stayed there gnawing away till I did start.

My sister Mary-Lou who sent out a zillion emails to every one she knew telling them about my blog…..I’m sure she was single handedly responsible for  the 165 hits on day 5.

Sindu Sanjith…..I guess I could call you my most ardent follower…..Thank you for trying out so many of my recipes and posting them on FB…..I truly appreciate the effort.

Charmaine, Kuki….you too, your posts brought me many more hits.

My son J who helps me with the photo’s, an amazing creative writer, he is also my critic.

My hubby V and daughter D who put up with my late nights at the computer and patiently wait for their meal while I get the photo’s done!!

My parents who have instilled in me this love for food…….all my foodie knowledge was picked up by osmosis at home.

My Mama has also tried really hard to figure out the computer just to read my blogs!

There are so many of you to name…..so I will stop here….but THANK YOU ,THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

Today is also the day MOJO   started…….Mostly Organic by Jo.

Every Monday I bake mostly organic goodies which friends and family can pick up.

 Today we had Wholewheat Carrot and Apple Cupcakes and Mix fruit and nut Oatmeal Cookies.

Thanks to every one who did order and appreciated my products.

I’m happy to say that we supplied Redwood Montessori School who are committed to offering their children fresh organic produce.

June 11th 2012…..MWAAH!

A Month since JosMojo……and a new beginning….MoJo

Memories….Teriyaki steaks a la Papa.

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Memory, is a child walking along a seashore.  You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.  ~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

A few months ago,when I connected with one of my old school friends on Facebook, she told me how one of her dearest childhood food memories was of the  ‘Teriyaki Steaks’ from my parents food store, ‘Majora.’

Then, a couple of weeks later, I got a call from a cousin in Bombay who wanted the recipe.

“I’m dying for the flavor of those steaks,” she said, “why don’t you share the recipe, now that Majora does not exist any more.”

But it obviously DOES exist in the memories of everybody who enjoyed it’s food.

It’s amazing that I had always taken Majora’s Teriyaki steaks for granted. They were marinated in-house and sold frozen, ready to broil. They were delicioso…..even if I say so myself.

It’s amazing how seemingly stray comments trigger memories. Most often these memories are multi-sensory.

You remember certain smells, textures, flavours, sights and sounds. Sometimes one of these, trigger memories that bring on many more…..of good times, friendships, special celebrations, which in turn trigger many more sensorial and emotional ones.

So I called my Dad, who was thrilled that I wanted his ‘world famous’ steak recipe.

Ofcourse he rattled off ingredients and I was left to figure off the quantities ‘andaaz sey’…..which in Hindi literally means using your own judgement.

I am pretty much someone who cooks ‘andaaz sey’……my own slap dash gourmet technique. But for the sake of putting down a recipe on this blog, here are the approximate quantities.

I urge you to please cook ‘andaaz sey” and taste as you go along. I like my marinade to lead with the sweet and then the salt.

Teriyaki is a Japanese method of cooking meat.

A piece of fish or meat which has been marinated in a sweet soy marinade (tare) and then broiled or grilled.(yaki)

TERIYAKI STEAKS A LA PAPA

Beef Tenderloin  750 gms  ( you could experiment with chicken as well, if you don’t eat Beef )

For the Marinade:

Ginger paste  1 tsp

Garlic paste 1 tsp

Mustard paste 1  1/2 tsp

Soya sauce 2 tbsp

Wine 4 tbsp

( should be rice wine but all I had at home was some French white which I added in. But red would be better with beef)

Brown Sugar 3 tbsp

Olive oil 2 tbsp

Method:

Cut the tenderloin into thick roundels and flatten using a steak hammer.

The hammering tenderizes the meat.  Covering with a piece of cling wrap, helps to prevent the meat from sticking to the hammer and damaging the steak.

In a bowl measure out the ingredients for the marinade and stir over a slow flame till slightly thickened.

When cool, pour over the tenderized steak and marinade overnight preferably or for a couple of hours at least.

Heat a skillet and when hot, broil steaks, covered,  till done and all the liquid has evaporated.

Keep basting the steaks from time to time if you are grilling them.

I served the steaks with Balsamic Roast Vegetables and a Jacket Potato.

There are so many special food memories we all have. Special treats made for special occasions or achievements.

What are yours?

Are there any aromas that trigger memories?

What about smells sights or sounds?

I’d love to hear from you.


Aside

If you had to ask me what my favourite cuisines are, I would have to really think.

Coz I love all food, I love variety. 

I thank my lucky stars that my palate was exposed to a great variety from the time I was quite young and so am very willing to try anything new. 

But if I just HAD to, they would be Japanese, Cantonese, South East Asian and Mediterranean.

As you can see Japanese comes way up.

However, I do not cook it nor do I profess to have eaten a whole variety.

 But a platter full of sushi and sashimi always hits home.

I love its simplicity and wholesomeness.

The dominance of fish and sea food of all kinds!

The SEE food as well!

What I mean is that Japanese food is so pretty.

There is so much effort taken in the presentation that it’s hard to dig in!

Of late I have been reading a lot about FUGU.

What is it?

FUGU means, quite literally in Japanese, Pacific Ocean Native  fish.

I was familiar with it as ‘Puffer Fish’ or ‘Blow Fish’.


Eating Fugu is kind of like a gourmet Russian Roulette.

The skin, ovaries, testicles, eyes and especially the liver is extremely poisonous.

The poison ‘tetrodotoxin’ has no known antidote and is more than a 1000 times more poisonous than cyanide.

Yet this fish is considered a delicacy in Japan.

Chefs need to have licenses to just cut the Fugu to ensure that their skillful cutting does away with all the poison.

It is said that if a Fugu chef serves a piece that kills his patron, it is honourable that the chef disembowel himself. 

 JEEZ!!!

These guys spend 10 years of their life just in training!!!!

Seems like Russian Roulette and Fugu go hand in hand! Even with the chefs lives!!

Confidence is definitely a quality required if your ambition is to be a Fugu Chef!!

Well, the best part is, that the slivers of Fugu Sashimi are ironically served in the arrangement of a chrysanthemum, the national flower of Japan but also the flower of choice at Japanese funerals!!

YIKES!!!

Now apparently the ‘in’ thing is for the chefs to leave in just a trace amount of poison so that fugu connoisseurs can feel a numbness on their lips and tongue and just flirt with the danger!

Is the flavor of the fish so unique that this danger is worth it?

Apparently there are mixed reactions.

But as I think about Fugu, I think about all the things I’d love to do!

Skydiving, Bungee jumping, tight rope walking…..but have absolutely no guts to.

But one CAN dream!!

So if someone gifted me an @ 300$ Fugu meal…..well I’d definitely be looking for the exchange policy.

Could I trade that in for a meal at ‘The Fat Duck’ or ‘Noma‘ ……PLEEEAZE????

What about you?

Are you DYING to try FUGU????

To Fugu or not to Fugu? Would you?— Foodie Gyans and yarns-2

The Need to Knead (Wholewheat Pizza Base)

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The plan was pizza for dinner tonight.

Got my sauce done in the morning and planned to get the base done in the evening.

How I love to see the vibrant red sauce, so fragrant, simmering on the stove!

All food that needs to be simmered, slowly, patiently, intrigues me. Considering that by nature, I am not a patient person, I find this very interesting!

Soups, stews, simmering pots of stock and sauces, all have a special place in my foodie heart.

I love that the flavors intensify, bringing out multiple layers and interesting nuances.

Bread dough.….another favourite, is another ‘demand-er’ of tons of patience.

Yet this too, is me….all impatient me!

I love watching the yeast react with the sugar and bubble up……MAGICAL!

Watching the dough rise up and double in size……FASCINATING!

I love to knead, I find it mindfully MEDITATIVE.

That a tumble of flour, water, oil and yeast, rather messy looking, needs just a bit of kneading to turn into a smoothly polished ball of dough is fascinating.

Yet how much easier is it for me to do this, than knead gently into relationships with those around me.

My patience evaporates.

As I kneaded the dough for the base this evening, I could not help but dwell on this…..

……and work out my biceps at the same time. ; )

I had, for the longest time, been trying to zoom into a great wholewheat pizza base recipe…..I was really happy with the results of my experiment this evening.

The dough when baked was soft yet crusty on the edges, lending a beautiful texture to the pizza.

WHOLEWHEAT PIZZA BASE

( adapted from Oprah.com)

3 tsp fresh yeast

2 tsp honey

3 cups wholewheat flour

1 cup flour (maida)

2 tbs olive oil

2tsp salt

*Mix the yeast and honey in a bowl with @ 1/2 cup tepid water. Make sure you disperse the yeast completely.

Leave this yeast mixture aside and keep the other ingredients ready.

I prefer working directly on a clean kitchen counter.

*Measure out the flour and make a well in the center.

*Pour the oil into the center of the flour.

*Check the yeast mixture. It needs to have bubbled on the surface.

If it has, pour this into the well of flour and mix gently into the flour.

*Once you have mixed up the oil and yeast mixture with the flour, pour in the remaining water, bit by bit. Mixing well after each addition. (approx 1 cup)

Once you feel that you have a firm dough stop adding the water and begin to knead.

*Place your right hand to the top of the dough at a 12 o’clock position and your left at the 6 o’clock position.

Begin to knead with your right hand while holding the dough with the left. For some more tips click here.

Roll the dough and continue this action till you find the dough has developed a smooth texture.

Note the picture above and the one below to notice the difference in textures.

By kneading, the gluten strands are strengthened allowing for a more uniform crumb.

*Roll into a ball.

*Keep the dough ball aside in a bowl to prove. Make sure you cover it with a damp kitchen towel.

*Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back down by punching the dough and dispelling the air.

*Leave it to prove once again.

*Once it doubles in size again, knock it down and roll out into the desired base size.

*You can wrap the extra dough in cling film and keep it in the freezer to use at a later date.

* Allow it to prove for 5-10 mins and then add the pizza sauce and toppings.

* Bake in a preheated oven at 200 deg C for about 10 minutes.

To ensure that the dough is cooked, press gently. If there is a small depression it is not yet ready. Bake till the dough pops back up when pressed.

“Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven”

Yiddish Proverb quotes

Loved this proverb…………leads to an interesting story from African mythology. Iyadola’s Babies.
Resource guide for Chennai:

Organic Wholemeal flour – Econut and ReStore. Pro organics or Letter Mantra Brands available in Nilgiri’s

Fresh Yeast – Nilgiri’s…..look in the refrigerated section.