Have you heard of Shankarpale – Indian Biscuits..

Have you heard of Shankarpale – Indian Biscuits..

These were never my favorite things to eat. I have never cherished eating Shankarpale. First thing about them was their different name (Shankar in Marathi Means – Shiva ) and Pale means small vessel so there was no connection between Shiva and the Small Vessel and the sweet.

I was never enthusiastic about the whole thing because may be Aaji or Aai used to make it mostly during Diwali and it was just one of the savouries that they used to make so my attention was diverted to other tasty things like Chakli ( Murukku), Chivda, my favorite for 35 years 🙂 I think I was born to love Flattened Rice and all the recipes made out of it. More on my love of flattened rice later. So, this odd named savoury called Shankarpale were never in my list of favourites until somebody presented me with a very crunchy, mushy and sweet version of it.

I was spellbound to eat those small pieces of a wonderful snack which could be relished with a cup of tea or coffee especially in the afternoon. Post meal 2-3 hours is the time to eat something which you can munch on. It can be puffed rice, chivda or my newfound love Shankarpale.

Instead of giving into those sugar laden donuts, tea cakes, biscuits, it is better to savour 3-4 Shankarpale, I realized it late and felt that this is the most sustainable snack I can ever have. We can also replace maida to wheat flour in due course to make it better. But deep frying should never be avoided ( I mean baking something which needs to be deep fried takes the whole concept and nutrition out of it ) Instead of eating 10 we can munch on 5 but the Shankarpale need to be deep fried.

Me and Shrilekha were brought up in a Orthodox Brahmin household where FOOD was EVERYTHING. It was nutrition but more than that Food was a Soother. My mom was a fantastic cook, she was naturally good at making everything. I do not think she has learnt any recipe from anybody. It was her quest of providing her children and her family authentic and nutritious food which made all her recipes special.

As I remember, she was discovering a different way to make the Shankarpale more crispy, ultimately she did and we were excited to have her new version of small biscuits. She even made it with cumin and salt, for people who wanted cracker type Shankarpale.

Why I am reminiscing all this is because yesterday I was making Shankarpale for Joshi Caterers and I slowly slipped into the past. The whole process of making the dough, rolling it, making it into perfect square and frying it was therapeutic.

Mom used to make all snacks either pre lunch/dinner (main cooking ) or post lunch/dinner when there is no disturbance of serving other things. I used to call this as her “Udyog” means business. 🙂

As per her guidelines, I completed everything yesterday and started making Shankarpale post dinner, till around 9 PM. How was it? If you ask, it was heavenly.

With food I have strange equation, now a day, more than eating food, I have started enjoying the process of making. My sincere confession is that I never enjoyed cooking, I am still very reluctant enjoying it but yesterday was different.

In childhood one just eats whatever is served with a bit of tantrum, during teens one can chose what is to be eaten but with very less knowledge about food, during twenties we realize the process behind cooking and most of us try to survive, in thirties, we have a choice whether to eat a lot or make people relish the food made by you..I have chosen the later. 🙂

P.S. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter. This is my first post.

The Story of a Biryani

The Story of a Biryani

Today in the want of a one pot meal, I made a vegetable biryani. It tasted great. Mind you, it took me 10 years to make great biryani.

I am a Maharashtrian, raised in a orthodox deshstha brahmin household. All my life I have religiously munched on whatever my mom cooked. Though she was an ardent devotee of so many gods, for me there was only one religion “ FOOD”. Deshastha is a branch of Brahmins which has Koknastha brahmins on the other side ( this is just for information) . My mom used to cook amazing food. She was a very pious lady and used to cook exactly the same menu during different festivals. For example, for Nagpanchami which is celebrated in Maharashtra, we never remember having anything else other than “ Sakharbhat” and “ Dind” (which is a type of small pancakes) there were many logical reasons behind her cooking. All the food which she used to cook involved seasonal vegetables and grains. Her cooking method never involved a lot of masala or a lot of frying. She seldom used onion, garlic, eggplant in her cooking. I wonder how she used to cook delicious food without using many ingredients.

As I got married to a South Indian household, I was not very sure what to expect because everything was very very new. All I knew that they would be having dosa and idli more than my home. I came to Chennai keeping my mind open and slowly I realized that there is a lot of difference in the cooking method of my mom and south india. Being computer savvy, I could easily get information about different recipes which people had generously put on their portals may be to help people like me.

But to tell the truth “ NOTHING” worked.

I could make the “Kozhumbu” but it quite never tasted like one. I could make “ Sambar” but it used to be much like “Dal” and not the sambar that my people were used to. Idlis were not as they would make and I could barely make good dosas. Those were the starting days of our married life. Couple of years on, I could now make okiesh food which people could eat. They say as you become a mother, you slowly become a good cook. But my daughter also could not completely change the way I cooked. Some poriyals, some sabjis were amazing. I could make soft fulkas from the day one and that was my plus point. But that was it.

After around 6 years, I appointed a cook, Kamakshi. She is from a village near Karaikudi and has worked in a Chettiyar household. An amazing cook and a very efficient househelp, Kamakshi realized the different ways of eating of my household quickly and adapted to the same. She makes great food. She is my first source of knowing authentic tamil dishes. The kozhumbu that she makes is lip smacking and so is the tomato thokku. The rasam made by her has its own fan following. The vegetable biryani that she makes is our staple food on EVERY sunday. The gobi pakodas which she makes as an accompaniment is my daughter’s fav food.  

Before Kamakshi, I could never know the real authentic taste of tamil cuisine.

Every dish is to be made a certain way and that certain way can be known only when somebody makes it in front of you or you have the taste engraved in your mind that you can replicate the ingredients and make the same.

Kamakshi is a god sent help for me to learn from an authentic source. But did I learn with her. NO.

It is her absence which taught me to remember the taste of each dish that she made and replicate the same. Today in the want of a one pot meal, I made a vegetable biryani. It tasted great. Mind you, it took me 10 years to make great biryani. It was not learnt from anybody, I just used my senses remembering the taste of Biryani made by Kamakshi and a lot of ingredients to make it great. Slowly,

I am realizing that good food is more about the exact ingredients that we add at the right time and nothing else.

Cooking is not an art but simple mathematics which I was ignoring all these years and was wondering why my mom never taught me to make great food like her. Perhaps she wanted me to come out of my shell and take my own time to learn cooking so that I love it all my life.

How did I make Biryani?

Prep:

  • Peel a generous amount of garlic and clean the ginger, peeling off its skin.
  • Cut beans ( ½ inch pieces) and carrots in julienne
  • Cut couple of onions ( long )  and dice tomatoes as usual
  • Make ginger garlic paste in a mixer ( I have recently bought a mortar pastle so I made it in that)
  • Make sure you have star anise, couple of cloves, couple of big cardamoms, cinnamon,  bay leaf and fennel seeds. ( if possible take it out and keep it in a plate)
  • For today I got Biryani Masala because I had to make stuff in giffy. If you have the patience and know how to make biryani masala, please make it beforehand. I used “Aachi Biryani Masala”
  • Curd around a cup
  • A couple of spoons of ghee ( clarified butter) and a spoon of ground nut oil.
  • Soaked Basmati Rice ( 1 big cup )

The Making:

  • Cooker is the best utensil you can make the Biryani in. So use your cooker. I recently bought a prestige clip on cooker which is an amazing cooker serving as a frying pan and a handi. You can use any of the available cookers though.
  • Make the cooker hot and put ghee as well as oil.
  • As it gets warm put star anise, cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, bay leaf and fennel seeds.
  • In a couple of minutes, the aroma of these spices will prompt you to add onions.
  • Fry the onions for a minute and let it get soaked in the oil and heat till it turns golden brown. Add tomatoes to it.
  • Once onions and tomatoes leave their juice into the oil, add veggies and saute.
  • As they mix together and make a fantastic visual with their colors, add biryani masala.
  • Give it a good stir, some people also add lemon juice but I avoided it.
  • Add curd and again stir well.
  • By now, the whole stuff would be looking like a gravy. Nice and thick. This is the indication of adding soaked basmati rice.
  • Mix it well and add 3 cups of water. ( The Basmati rice which I have is new and soaks less water, check instructions on the cover of basmati rice to prevent Biryani turning into Khichadi ( LOL)
  • Add salt as per your taste.

NOTE: Clip on the lid and DO NOT PUT ON THE WHISTLE ( Thank you Shrilekha for this invaluable tip) in 10 mins please check whether the water content is fine and if it is then your Biryani is ready….Let it rest with the steam.

What are the takeaways:

  • You get a gorgeous Biryani Color
  • Nice Aroma
  • Well cooked basmati grains
  • A great taste.

I am not a fan of garnishing ( and lazy too) but you can always garnish it with freshly cut coriander and pudina… Take pics and post it on social media for extra satisfaction  🙂 🙂

 

Shopping Hacks for Busy Moms!

Shopping Hacks for Busy Moms!

Shopping has always been fascinating. We definitely have vivid memories of Sadhana dancing to the tunes of Jhumka Gira Rey Bareilly ke bazar me. Markets enthuse us with huge amounts of energy. Then let it be the Budhwar Bazar of Mahal or Sitabuldi Nagpur, Kamothe Bazar of Navi Mumbai or the hustling and bustling market of Mylapore, Chennai.

One of the prime reasons why I love marketplaces is that as a buyer I get to meet new people. Engage in a conversation. Talk to them in their local language. And yes here it is how I learned Tamil! We all have that preferred and favorite vendor who we wish to buy from. We trust her trade. We try to reach them for the best deals.

The lights at the night time at a marketplace, the arrangements of vegetables is many times love at first sight.  After a great shopping of grocery, vegetables one often tends to eat up at some local hawker to make up for the tired, dehydrated self. With changing times, we have to acclimatize with the newer situations.

I underwent a transformation when it came to my buying habits, after marriage. Now I had less time at hand to spend with my husband, for me and for the household. It was then, at that time when our late Perippa Mr Vishwanathan told me and cultivated the idea of buying the grocery and vegetables online. Local baniya was a popular online store in Mumbai, then.

And that decision to trust the new found love “APPS” gave my marital life and now postpartum life a breather. Four years and still on, I am a dedicated online shopper for grocery, vegetables, and other daily needs of the household.

Online shopping is indeed an order of the day and how?

 

  • It saves time:- Time for me is money. With my little one demanding all my time and attention, I invest this very dimension of my life very calculatingly. Just a day before if you order, you get the stuff right at your doorstep. No need to stand in long queues of time-consuming billing counters.
  • More variety:- Some of the online stores claim that they have more than 1000 brands of a particular item. I am sorted in this aspect and hence options don’t confuse me.
  • Good quality:- Four years my relationship with online shopping has always been a qualitative one with reasonable rates. And what if you find rotten carrots? Well, you can always return the same and get the money credited to your account.
  • Deals, Offers, and Bonuses:- A huge amount has been credited to my account as I avail many offers and bonuses. Loyalty comes with a price.
  • 24*7 customer care:- Most of the online portals selling vegetables and have great support. You can always chat with them or call them and they are indeed happy to help.
  • What more? Well, you can also avail their gifting facility. Present your loved ones with anything and everything.

Online shopping of vegetables and grocery is constantly evolving. Life becomes easy and hassle-free. Some of the online stores in main cities are

  • Bigbasket
  • Zopnow
  • Godrej Basket
  • Grofers
  • Spencers
  • More
  • Onlinesabjiwala

I am a Bigbasketeer! Are you?

 

Bring Back The Clay – Earthenware into the kitchen

Bring Back The Clay – Earthenware into the kitchen

I love earthenware, crockery, glassware in short anything which can be broken easily and does not promise to last long. I love them because I somehow feel that it takes immense efforts to make earthen pots and crockery. The cups, saucers, trays, tea kettle, tea sets are the most favourite things of mine since childhood. While we were kids, we had a huge set of small utensils, which had fridge, washing machine, gas and everything which mom had in her kitchen. We also had a nice tea set made of bone China, it was a miniature and we used to celebrate our tea parties with those tiny cup saucer and tea kettles. So the love of all things like it was innate or may be mom inculcated it. We never had many things in crockery but we certainly had a great set of mugs, tea cups and saucers. Mom was a tea lover and while having tea she used to spend 2 mins on her own ( it used to be her me time) now we call it as hygg practice 😉 anyway, so we had a great set of teacups even then. The water used to be stored in a matka. And she never failed to give a swirl of alum on the water after filling it to keep it purified. Earthenware has its own charm. I have people at home who can not drink cold water from the fridge, for them water from the earthen Pot is a blessing. Yesterday while shopping some Sundry items me and Shrilekha saw this very colourful earthenware shop on the side of Mylapore tank. The girl who was selling the earthenware was speaking flawless English. While running the shop she was also looking after her 2 year old. She inspired me in her own way. I purchased a jar, couple of glasses and a condiment caddy. The colours made me immensely happy. The touch of hand and the effort which has gone to make the pot touches my heart. As I came home, people were amused thinking that I love earthenware, crockery, glassware in short anything which can be broken easily and does not promise to last long. I love them because I somehow feel that it takes immense efforts to make earthen pots and crockery. The cups, saucers, trays, tea kettle, tea sets are the most favourite things of mine since childhood. While we were kids, we had a huge set of small utensils, which had fridge, washing machine, gas and everything which mom had in her kitchen. We also had a nice tea set made of bone China, it was a miniature and we used to celebrate our tea parties with those tiny cup saucer and tea kettles. So the love of all things like it was innate or may be mom inculcated it. We never had many things in crockery but we certainly had a great set of mugs, tea cups and saucers. Mom was a tea lover and while having tea she used to spend 2 mins on her own ( it used to be her me time) now we call it as hygg practice 😉 anyway, so we had a great set of teacups even then. The water used to be stored in a matka. And she never failed to give a swirl of alum on the water after filling it to keep it purified.
Earthenware has its own charm. I have people at home who can not drink cold water from the fridge, for them water from the earthen Pot is a blessing.
Yesterday while shopping some
Sundry items me and Shrilekha saw this very colourful earthenware shop on the side of
Mylapore tank. The girl who was selling the earthenware was speaking flawless English. While running the shop she was also looking after her 2 year old. She inspired me in her own way. I purchased a jar, couple of glasses and a condiment caddy. The colours made me immensely happy. The touch of hand and the effort which has gone to make the pot touches my heart. As I came home, people were amused thinking that this is another new experiment but after drinking that thirst quenching water everybody was impressed with the attempt. Today while chitchatting we discussed about bringing back the clay pots for cooking and storage…I am sure it will bring back old memories and also would bring in some flavour in food which is long lost.

 

Backyard to Table – Making Jams and Pickles The Grandma Way

Backyard to Table – Making Jams and Pickles The Grandma Way

Recently, I heard Rujuta Diwekar speaking about food confusion. She speaks about food many times and reiterates stuff like ” Eat local and seasonal food”. What she tells is nothing different that why my Aaji, Aaji in law and my mom practiced. It is just that we stopped listening to them as we grew up. Anything homemade has a charm of its own. I loved the way the whole family got engaged while aaji made papad and pickles. She also used to make Sandge ( grated mixed veggies dried in the hot summer sun) or vaththals as we call them in Tamil, on the side. The dried variety includes Moong Vadi, Carrot and other vegetable sandge, Layvadya ( Made out of leftover jowar porridge), Mor Mozhaga or Dahi Mirchi ( These were staples). Maybe in my next post, I will elaborate on each of them and write about the papad variety. But today I am going to share the mango jam recipe and pickle recipe which many of you asked.

My mom used to make amazing pickles all through the year. She believed in the goodness of pickles prepared in a specific season. In Summer, she used to make mango pickle which we used to call Big Pickle. Apart from the big pickle, there used to be one “Chalu Lonche” which can be eaten as it is made. The term Chalu means something which is in practice. So this pickle we could eat till the Big Pickle soaks in all the ingredients and gets ready for consuming. Apart from Big Pickle and Chalu Pickle, she used to make “Takku”. “Takku” is a spicy mix of grated raw mangoes, red chili powder and tampering with mustard oil. Takku stays around for 1 month and is a go-to accompaniment for hot chapati or poori. These were savory varieties of year-long mango treasure. Among the sweet varieties, she used to make mango jam ( Mango chunks and grated mangoes)  and aam panna ( sharbat). As the true Annapoorna that she was, in winters, people used to swear by the delicious vegetable pickle that she used to make. The taste of Amla Pickle still lingers in my mouth. Have you heard about curd pickle made with Amla, she had named it as “Raveni”.

This year 23 kgs of mangoes were harvested from the backyard and I did not waste a single mango. Used all of it to make these amazing varieties of real, homemade condiments.

Last year, while I went for cutting mangoes for pickle, there came a lady. She asked me, do you know how to make pickle? I said “ yes”. She said will you help me make it. I said I am not a “pro” but I can make it.

Since 2016, we have been making pickles with my sister’s mil “Ganga Narayanan”. Ganga Mami is Annapoorna herself and every pickle that she makes is tasty, stays well for years together. This time I wanted to try it out and give her some of it. Thank you Ganga Mami for making me adept with pickle making process. Can’t thank you enough.

As I posted it on my WhatsApp status and FB status, many people have asked about the recipe for homemade jam or Sakharamba/ Gulamba.

Mango Jam Or Sakharamba

  • Once you get the mangoes from the market or from the backyard, see that you soak them in water for at least an hour. After an hour take them out and let them get dried for further process.
  • As they look fresh without any oil on them, start peeling them and cutting them into small/ medium pieces. You can keep bigger chunks for the jam. You can even grate the mango for getting an exact jam-like texture.
  • Get a big kadhai or pan, and add 8-10 teaspoons of ghee. I used homemade cow ghee, but you can use any brand.
  • Add mango chunks. Keep it simmering till all the chunks become golden brown. Once the chunks are golden brown you can add the sugar/palm jaggery/jaggery to it. I eyeballed the quantity of sugar ( Approx 2 kgs for 4 kg of mangoes) as per the taste.
  • Mix the sugar and add water till it covers ¾ th of the mango chunks. Keep stirring. You can off the gas stove when you see that the water and sugar have combined really well, soaking in the mango chunks. Leave the sugar syrup little lose because after cooling down it hardens giving it a jam-like consistency.
  • Once the Jam or Gulamba has cooled down, transfer it in a bigger airtight jar.
  • Instead of opening a store bought mixed fruit jam or store-bought gulamba, this is a simple method to enjoy the goodness of homegrown mangoes in the summer.

How to make Mango Pickle

Mango pickle is the trickiest of them all. The reason behind it is that you have to look after the pickle like a baby. As you make it, you have to transfer it into airtight glass jars or the china clay pots which are specially made for pickles, cover the lid with a small muslin cloth. Keep mixing the pickle very 30 days once. I eyeballed all the quantities so this recipe wouldn’t be elaborating on the exact quantities but will give you a basic idea.

  • For 5-6 kgs of mangoes I used, 2kgs of Sesame Oil, 2 kgs of Salt, 1 kg of Chily Powder, 500 gms of mustard seeds ( Which were crushed into powder), Fenugreek powder ( very little)

Okay, enough of disclaimers. Here is a recipe

  • Mangoes need to be soaked in water and dried thoroughly
  • Once they are dried, cut them with Amba Fodni ( Mango Cutter ) or get it cut from the market
  • If you are getting the mangoes cut from the market see that you wipe off each and every piece
  • Soak the mango pieces in salt, keep it for 30 mins or so, then add Chily powder and mix well. Once it is mixed, add mustard powder, fenugreek powder. Keep it aside.
  • Take a big kadai, make it hot on the stove pour the oil and off the gas.
  • The oil needs to be warm while adding not hot.
  • Once you add the oil, mix it thoroughly.
  • As you transfer it in an airtight jar, first add a layer of salt to the jar and then fill in the pickle.
  • Keep the jars in a place where they get indirect sunlight.
  • In 4-5 days the Pickle will be ready to eat.

While I did the cooking part, I felt I have revived the trend of bringing in the whole family together for this culinary experiment of mine. My FIL got the mangoes from the backyard, my dad helped me peel it, cut and grate it. My husband helped to cut mangoes for the big pickle, my daughter was a witness to all the work that was going in. I hope she learned a thing or two. This is the way we can propagate the idea of sustainability to our next generation.

This post is a part of the Godrej Food Trends Blogging Contest hosted by FashionableFoodz in association with Vikhroli Cucina and should not be repurposed, republished or used otherwise. The content herein is owned by the blogger. Godrej Food Trends Blogging Contest, FashionableFoodz or Godrej is not responsible for any infringement caused. #GodrejFoodTrends2018Contest  #GFTR2018

A Beginner’s Guide To Indoor Plants

I am having indoor plants for a year or so now. Initially, I was a bit scared because I do not have a green thumb. As we shifted to a new place, which had a lot of places to keep these indoor plants I decided to have some of them. But going to any nursery and getting them was a tough task.

One day I visited the CP Ramaswamy Art Gallery in Alwarpet and found that there were some good plants kept in the exhibition. The one which struck the chord was the bamboo plant standing tall. I quickly got it along with a money plant and an Aloe Vera sapling. I was scared because this was the first time I had indoor plants. It has been a year that we have the bamboo and I have propagated money plant very well in four to five small saplings.

Aloe Vera has already delivered so many small saplings…

I got the plants from the exhibition and a stall of The Artium by Rajalakshmi. Rajalakshmi has a studio in Kottivakkam. I have not visited her studio but she has a lot of nicely potted indoor plants. You might ask, one can get indoor plants from any nursery why such a reservation about getting plants from The Artium. My only way of answering to this is that the plants which I got from other nurseries in the past could not survive.

There may be a fault in my ways to look after the plant but the Bamboo has survived for a year and a half, lit up the corner of our home. please visit The Artium by Rajalakshmi to get wonderful plants which survive. 🙂

indoor plants

Here are some points that are important while getting your indoor plants

The Direction of the House:

My home faces south and there is not much light inside the house during the day. There are very few corners which are lit up in the house. So this was a primary concern while getting the indoor plants. I kept Bamboo plant in such a way that it gets indirect sunlight from the entrance door. I guess that was enough for it. Bamboo is also a water plant, so I keep changing the water in around 15 days. The same row where we get ample indirect sunlight has four indoor plants, Philodendron, Money Plant, Bamboo and Snake Plant. Philodendron is a relatively new plant, not sure how would it behave but so far going well.

Soil or Water

My attempt at growing a money plant inside the house in soil was totally spoilt. For a brief period, I kept it outside. Aloe Vera and Money plant were growing together. But then, I tried taking out the growing nodes from money plant and kept them to grow in water inside the house. To my surprise, It was growing very very well. So, if any of the indoor plants are not doing well inside, please give it a chance to survive outdoors where you do not get direct sunlight. The sapling might bloom.

General Care

If you are planning to have a money plant in water, please change the water often. For Bamboo, it is okay to refill every fifteen days. But while doing so, wash the roots properly so that the infections if any get washed away.

For plants which are potted in soil, I feel a strict vigil on the water content of that soil and watering it when needed would help.  

Mobile phones, chargers, laptop chargers and other gadgetry should be avoided where the plants are kept.

The pots you use

I have used glass vase, a bottle, a mason jar, a tea kettle and repurposed wine bottles for growing my money plant and aloe vera. You can try your unused crockery for the same. Check out the type of plant you are potting and give it a try. It is all try-worthy.

Let me know if you have any existing indoor plants. Would love to know how do you care for them.