Tuesday, 19 February 2008


The word market brings back some of my sweetest childhood memories. My dad was (and still is) the grocery shopper and sometimes he would insists that I tag along. I must admit that I didn't enjoy the trips to Coimbatore markets much. How can I, when I have been to much better markets in Madurai with my grandmother. We always looked forward for the trips to Madurai during our school holidays. If one were to put all my paternal cousins in a room, we could easily make 2 cricket teams including substitutes and umpires and still would have few left for audience. My grandmother took us all (well most of us younger ones, the older ones had far more important things to do) with her to the markets. I simply loved it. She would get us steamed or grilled corn on the cob and lots of raw mango seasoned with chilli powder and salt. My granny had a unique bargaining style, which always swinged her way. She could have taught Hillary a helpful trick or two, if she were alive now. And of course she knew all the vendors by name and found time for family/market gossip with them. I think my love for markets started there.

Then there were the trips to maternal grandmother's village. A small tiny village that wouldn't show up on any map, however much one zooms in. In contrast, I was the oldest grandchild to my maternal grandmother and enjoyed a special privilege (still do) in the family. There were no markets in the village, so the fruits and vegetables came from the fields, milk from the herd, the chicken from the pen and mutton only on very special occasions (like when the son-in-laws came for a visit). Back then there was a concept called santhai (sort of farmer's market), where one came to buy and sell their produce. It was generally held in the nearest town. The connection to the town was by a bus which made 3 trips daily. My granny took us to the town in the morning on the day of the santhai, the long narrow road winding its way through many more tiny villages. The bus was filled with people who somehow were related to one other and would in turn fill the bus with baskets and fellow passengers with happenings in their village.
The mornings were spent in the markets and my granny would treat us to lunch in one of the eateries and then there would be a movie in the afternoon. After which we went back home in the evening bus. What I loved about the trips were the santhai and seerani (a sweet that is very special to the town, I have never seen it anywhere else). The smell of the market and noise with all that battering was such a glorious experience. As a child I would stare wide eyed at the wares on display and enjoy the snacks that my granny brought me. She would meet a whole load of her relatives and friends (she was a teacher and it seemed to me that she knew everyone). One of those relative-meeting gave me a fascinating insight to my grandmother's life, the one I didn't know about. She is one of those million unsung feminist in the world, without whom the things we take for granted (like education for girls) wouldn't have happened. She was a truly remarkable person and I attribute my fiery feminism to her influence.
Last week my mother described about this new supermarket near our home in Madurai during our weekly telephonic conversations. My heart skipped a beat when she explained about the rows of vegetables and fruits and the cool air conditioned room they were stacked in. Wal mart I hear is steering to swipe the small markets off in the premise of 'more choice for customers'.
Luckily there are 4 farmer's markets around the area I live. I cannot visit the Solihull market as it is on a Friday. But the others which are on Saturdays, I make a point to visit with the troops on toe. Below is a picture of some produce from the Kings Norton Farmer's market.

No more corn on cob for the kiddes, it is hot dogs now. But at least I know the sausages are devoid of the dreaded 'Es' and the bread is whole meal, organic. Another picture of Moseley Farmer's market where one can buy Ostrich burgers.
I somehow think shopping in the farmer's markets would cultivate a sense of respect for the food we eat in the children and hopefully they will follow the tradition as adults.
I had a write up of markets lying in the Draft for quite some time. When Gay of Scientist in the Kitchen announced the 'To market, to market' event, the post has been dusted and is now ready to enter the event. I am looking forward for the round up and reading about markets all around the world.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Batata Nu Shaak (Pan fried potatoes)

RCI is a wonderful food event started by Lakshmi of Veggie cusine and the current month's event is hosted by Mythili of Vindu. Her choice is Gujarati cuisine. My exposure to authentic Guajarti food was pretty late in life. Better late than never yeah. I have two good friends who happen to be Guajarati and fantastic cooks. Through them I was introduced to goodies like Dhokla, pakoda kadi and Undhiyo, things I didn't know existed before. It will be a sin not to mention the soft rotlis they make. They turn out the same size everytime, soft and almost melting in the mouth. What I like best is that the rotlis stay soft even after hours. It is simply amazing the way Guajaratis create varieties of snacks with chick-pea flour (gram flour).
My entry for the RCI - Gujarat event is Batata Nu Shaak a simple potato fry, that can whipped up in less than 20 minutes. The recipe is from Madhu Jaffery's 'A Taste of India'. Here is how it can be made

Potato - 5 small potatoes (cleaned and diced)
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1tsp
Asafetida - a pinch
Cumin powder -1/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
turmeric powder - a pinch
salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan, when hot add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter add the asafetida, turmeric powder and then the potatoes. Stir the potatoes to ensure even cooking. When the potatoes are cooked add the cumin, corriander and chilli powder. Mix well with the potatoes and continue frying for 2 more minutes. Remove from fire and serve as a side dish. It went very well with parupu sadam (lentils and rice). Madhu suggests that the dish can also be served with roast and grilled meat.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Cookies for my lover...

and the children. Love is in the air and so are the hearts searching for that elusive perfect gift. I have never been a good gift giver. I spend ages thinking, planning, shopping and end up with something that is never appropriate. S is quite used to all this and it is our 8th Valentine Day's together. This year, I thought would be no exception until I chanced upon Zorra's event. What a wonderful idea, an edible heart. My first instincts were to make a lamb briyani and shape into hearts. Now that should give an insight into my gifting abilities. And then as luck would have it, I chanced upon Sunita's cookies. It had to be cookies then for the lover and the children (they are in the middle of a mid term holiday). I had never made cookies at home and so they are a real treat. Thanks Sunita for the recipe and thanks Zorra for hosting the event.
The recipe is essentially the same as Sunita's. The only change I made to the recipe is to substitute the porridge with powdered cashew nuts.
The batter was less watery and the cookies didn't spread that much. The cookies were well received even though S is on diet.

Ah the joys of food blogging, a decent gift at last.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Stir Fried Chinese Noodles

Year of the Rat starts today. As a toast for the Chinese New Year I made this easy stir fry noodles. My older son was so excited with his present of a red envelope with a coin inside by one of his Chinese classmate. He was so excited that he showed the envelope to everybody and talked about it. The little thing also learnt to say thank you in Chinese.

A New year every month, how nice. There will be a break in March and then with April a New year starts in the Tamil and Telugu (?) Calendar. Some helpful soul has found out that the Cambodians also celebrate their New Year in April. If the wise chief minister of TamilNadu could move the Tamil New Year from April to March instead of January, we can have a hatrick of New Years. Now wouldn't that be nice? What would definitely be nice is this noodles and read on to find out how to make it.


Noodles - 250 gms (cooked according to the packet instructions)
Carrot - 1 cut into thin strips
Green chillies - 5 cut into thin slices
Mushroom - 100 gms (sliced thinly)
Onion - 1 sliced
Garlic - 1 (cut into thin strips)
Chicken - 100 gms (cut into bite strips)
Prawns - 6 big ones (cut into bite sized pieces) or 12 small ones

Soy Sauce - 7 Tbsp
Oyster Sauce - 2 Tbsp
Rice Vinegar - 2 Tbsp
Fish sauce - 2 Tbsp

Peanuts - 4 Tbsp (roasted and crushed)

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain the noodles and rinse under running water and dribble some oil(sesame oil gives it a special flavour) in the noodles and mix it. This prevents the noodle from sticking.

Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a very hot wok. Having a hot wok is important for any sir fry. When the oil is hot, put the onions, carrots, garlic and green chillies. Fry until the onions turn brown and then add the chicken. When the chicken is sealed, it is the turn of the mushrooms. The prawn goes in next. Fry for a minute and then add the soy, fish and oyster sauce. Since the ingredients are not seasoned, be liberal with the soy sauce. Lastly add the noodles and give ir a good stir. Garnish with coriander leaves and the peanuts. The peanuts add a lovely crunch to this yummy noodle. This noodle is the perfect dish to curl up on the sofa with and watch Master Chef.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Cooking from blogs - Aappam and Stew

Hooray !!! I found an aappam recipe that does not require coconut in any form.
If you are looking for a working combination of aappam and stew, then look no further, for you are in the right place. If you are looking for an authentic Keralan recipe, then this is not it. I’ve been looking around for a non-coconut recipe and finally spotted it here. It is a down to earth no-nonsense food blog and is to-the-point. There is an elaborate catalogue of South Indian veggie recipes. I am raring to try the snack recipes.
The stew is derived from 3 different recipes. The basic is from Mandhu Jaffery's Flavour's Of India. The second source of inspiration is from this lovely blog. Finally the idea to pressure cook the stew is from here.
Oh yes, the original recipe for aappam had coconut, but I cut it off and it still tasted great.

Par boiled rice - 1.5 cups
Raw rice - 1.5 cups
Urad dal - 1/4th cup
Fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
Cooking soda - 1tsp
salt as required.

Wash and soak the rice, lentils and fenugreek seeds for at least 8 hours. Grind them to smooth batter. It takes quite a while even in the grinder. Add salt to the batter and ferment it overnight. If living in cold countries shove the batter container in an oven and turn on the light. Or better still sit the container in the boiler room overnight (this never fails, if you have the boiler on for a reasonable period of time in the night). When it’s cooking time, add the cooking soda to the batter and thin it with water or coconut milk to a consistency that is between double and single cream. The batter should flow freely. Take a big ladle of the batter and pour it on the aappam chatti (wok) and rotate it to spread the batter in the wok. You will end up with thin batter on the sides and the rest settling in the middle. Cover it with a lid and cook until done. If you don't own an aappam chatti, you can use small size frying pan (which is what I did before I owned an aappam chatti).

The resultant aappam was light with the crispy sides and fluffy centre – in one word perfect.

Chicken Stew
For the chicken stew you will need

Cardamom -5
Cinnamon - 1 inch stick
Cloves - 6
Peppercorns - 1Tbsp

Onions - 2 medium size sliced thinly
Ginger - 2 inch sliced into strips thinly
Green chillies - 6 (4 whole and 2 slit)
Flour - 1 Tbsp

Potatoes - 2 medium sized (cut into chunks)
Chicken - 700gms (cut into medium size - for best flavour use thighs)

Coconut - 1/2 ground into a smooth paste
1Tbsps fennel seeds and 1 Tbsp poppy seeds (ground together into fine powder)

Small onions or shallots - 4 finely sliced.
Curry leaves - 1 twig
salt as required

Lemon juice - 1 Tbsp.

Heat oil in a pan and add in the whole spices. Saute for a few seconds and then add the onions, ginger and chillies and fry till the onions are transparent. Add the flour and saute for a minute. To this add the chicken and potatoes and give it a stir. Season with salt and then add the coconut paste, poppy-fennel powder and some water (if your stew is very thick). Close the cooker and pressure cook to 2 whistles. When the steam is settled, open the cooker and adjust the water level (if too thin boil off the excess liquid in a high flame, if too thick dilute it with some water). Heat a small pan and add some oil. When the oil is hot add the sliced shallots and fry it until golden. To this add the curry leaves. Pour the onion-curry leaves seasoning into the stew and remove from fire. Finally add the lemon juice and mix well.
The troops loved it. To be honest, I was surprised by the wonderful flavour of the stew. This is one lipsmaking recipe and will find a place of pride in my everyday menu.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


Two revelations on pancake day. One, I don't own a whisk. I really don't. Everytime my hand holds a fork, my brain makes a mental note to pick up a whisk the next time I go shopping (it has become an auto reflex of sorts) to be duly forgotten. Two, my photographic skills sucks, sucks big time. I belonged to the majority which did not know about PD until I read about it in the newspapers. The younger troops consider pancakes as special treats. The truth is I make pancakes when I run out of idli and dosai batter or to inject some fruit into the troop's systems. Today happened to be one such day and I can't let Pancake Day pass without savoring it. So here goes the recipe which is incredibly simple.

  • Self raising flour - 5 Tbsp
  • Egg - 1
  • Milk - 1 cup
  • butter/oil as required

Beat the egg in a bowl and add the milk to it and mix it. Sift the flour into the egg-milk mixture. Whisk it up with the butter or oil (I prefer olive oil to butter), till the flour is well combined and forms a batter of single cream consistency. Add more milk if necessary. I prefer to add flour to the liquid as the batter ends up smooth without lumps. Take one ladle of batter (apprx about 3 Tbsps) and pour on a greased pan. Rotate the pan in a circular fashion to spread the batter evenly. It takes about a minute to brown on one side. With a flat spoon flip the pancake over. If you want some fun try flipping it the Chefy way. I have never been one for any kind of physical action. I put it down to a lack of hand-eye coordination. S had tried to get me into badminton and table tennis and now knows better. I use a flat spoon to flip my pancakes. The other side requires less than a minute (apprx 40 secs) to cook. Stack the pancakes to keep warm. Serve it with syrup of your choice.
I prefer to serve it with jaggery syrup. It sounds weird, but it is my idea of a perfect match. Plus the iron in the jaggery would not hurt much.

Variations: To the pancake batter, add some mashed banana to make banana pancakes – camouflaging fruits for fussy eaters.