Saturday, 17 February, 2007

Drumstick leaves pulao

While drumsticks are highly popular in the South, the tree's leaves, I think, are grossly underrated. Not only are they delicious -- in curry, kootu and pulao -- but also highly nutritious. The leaves are rich in iron and my granny always insisted that taking them at least once a week would strengthen our bones and hair significantly.

Here's a recipe to make drumstick leaves pulao, which is also my entry (sans pix) to Nupur's A-to-Z of Indian Vegetables series:

Fry 1/4 cup toor dal without oil till it changes color slightly. Cook it in a cooker with 1 cup washed basmati rice till just done. Reserve. Saute 1 finely chopped onion, 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste, 3 tablespoons of tomato puree, and a few pieces of cinnamon and cloves. When these are cooked, add 1 cup of washed drumstick leaves and salt and saute further. This takes about five minutes to cook. Add the cooked rice-dal and mix well. Serve with onion raitha.

Digital duster

The other day my newly installed Windows XP (yeah, yeah, until very recently I was using an ancient Win 98 OS) pointed out primly: "There are 12 unused shortcut icons on your desktop. Shall I get rid of them for you?" Well, the words weren't the same but the idea was. I happily pressed the 'y' button. I have a feeling that even if I had said no, Win XP Ma'am would have coaxed/cajoled/convinced/threatened me into saying yes.

Now, how I wish I had one such cleaner for the rest of my house, which is a permanent mess. Imagine a software that would notice the clutter on the table and wipe it off at one go. Or one that would eliminate the football, teddy bear and pile of books lying on the sofa so that the furniture can be actually used by people to sit on. Or even one that would whack my kids on the back the next time they change into a new outfit and dump their school uniform in the middle of the cot.

Guess Bill Gates already has such 'home solutions' deployed in his hi-fi home. But ordinary minions like us would need to wait another 40 years at least. By then I'll be wishing for a friendly robot to clean my dentures and dust my walking stick.

Thursday, 15 February, 2007

That villain called a ‘husband’

Please don’t rush to conclusions. My husband is among the best products of this species. He is sensitive, responsible, warm, caring, affectionate and great fun.

That ‘villain’ bit refers to the scum of humanity that happens to have wedded my dear cousin.

My cousin is a tall, strikingly attractive, well-educated and a wonderful person. She also holds a lucrative job. As luck would have it, she has married a man who simply doesn’t deserve her. He abuses and tortures her at the slightest pretext. The very sight of him frightens their child, a smart girl of 10. She ignores him when he is at his best (read ‘sleeping/eating/off to office’), and shrivels when he becomes abusive. Certainly, this bum of a husband is far from being a gem of a father, as well.

What beats me is WHY my cousin is putting up with this fleet-of-trucks-load of bullshit. As I said before, she’s educated and employed. She’s smart enough to carry on in this world without a husband. For emotional security, she has doting parents and a nice kid. The child will never miss him, for his contribution in producing and bringing her up is NIL – yes, even the sperm is not his, for the child is adopted.

Why, then why, doesn’t Cousin Dear take a divorce? About the entire town and its aunt have advised her to approach the family court but my cousin is stoic in her refusal.

She doesn’t want the ‘divorcee’ tag. Is she right? I honestly don’t know.

Tuesday, 13 February, 2007

Measles mania

Feeling very bogged down. My son is down with measles. Has rashes all over his face, hands and feet. The fever is quite high, making me quite nervous.

If it had been any other illness, I would be less worried. Measles is hardly a terror, but the way it's perceived in our community as. It's considered a manifestation of the anger of Goddess Amman. So people tend to fuss a lot about it. Much of it has scientific roots, such as isolation to prevent the spreading of the disease.

However, my period is due and that positively frightens me. It's considered filthy -- something that will pollute the person with measles -- the one in whom Amman is currently residing. They will not let me miles near my sick child if I happen to 'get it' tonight or tomorrow morning.

Who will feed him, keep an eye on his rashes, check his temperature and give him his medicines? Only Amman should help me :-(

Thursday, 8 February, 2007

Kancheepuram Idli

All my dosa batter is depleted. For me, that's a very profound state of affairs. I bank on a Tupperware container full of batter, ground on Sunday, to last breakfast for the entire week.

Of course, the batter manifests itself on the breakfast table in various avatars. On day one and two, it's soft, fluffy idlis with coconut chutney or milagai podi (gun powder). The third and forth days, you have crisp dosas with tomato masiyal (recipe via another post) or ginger/groundnut chutney.

By the fifth/sixth day, the in-laws are politely inquiring about the age of the batter while the kids are complaining vociferously. So out comes the batter with finely chopped onion as thick, crisp oothappam or crisp-outside-soft-inside kuzhi paniyaaram!! By day seven, the batter has sunk to the nadir of the Tupperware, so the masking is not worth the trouble. At this juncture, I add the leftover to freshly ground adai or pesarattu batter. Not a drop wasted!

Well, coming back to today's issue, it was just Thursday and the idli/dosa batter, a South Indian woman's best friend, was already depleted, thanks to a hungry bunch of guests yesterday night. Time-pressed that I was, I couldn't grind fresh batter, so I decided to make Kancheepuram idli for tomorrow's breakfast. It's easy to prepare and great to eat.

I'm not sure if these idlis originated in Kanchipuram, but I'm told it's offered as neivedyam for the Varadarajaperumal deity there.

Recipe for Kancheepuram idli:

Raw rice: 1 cup
Par-boiled rice: 1 cup

(alternately, you can take 2 cups of raw rice)

Urad dal - 1 cup

Curds - 1/2 cup

Masala: Black pepper, cumin seeds, 1-inch ginger piece, 1 sprig curry leaves and salt to taste

Mustard, black gram and bengal gram for seasoning.

Gingelly oil - about 5 teaspoons

Soak the urad dal and rice separately for about two hours. Grind the urad dal (I use a food processor or mixie, since the quantity is small and doesn't require the wet grinder) to a fine paste. This takes about 3 minutes. Remove this and then grind the rice to a coarse paste, which takes about 3 minutes again. Do not add salt at this stage, as it tends to dilute the batter. Mix the ground urad dal and rice and store.

After about 8 hours, your Kancheepuram idli batter is ready. Grind the black pepper, cumin seeds, ginger, curry leaves and salt to a coarse powder. Heat the gingelly oil and add mustard. When it sputters, add the black gram and bengal gram and toss till golden brown. Now switch off the stove and immediately add the ground masala powder and turn till it gives off a nice flavor. Add this to the batter with the curds.

The seasoning requires at least 5 teaspoons of gingelly oil. This is essential to obtain the genuine taste of this idli.

Here comes the interesting part. Kancheepuram idli typically comes in odd shapes. For want of other options, you can cook it in your regular idli mold. Else, pour the batter to about an inch thickness in a round vessel and cook (in a cooker/microwave/electric cooker). This takes about 20 minutes. On removing, you can cut it into various shapes.

I have purchased a cute Kancheepuram idli mold from Ramanathan's in Chennai. It has six small cups arranged on a plate. This can be cooked in an idli cooker or a regular cooker. This takes about 10 minutes.

Serve hot with chutney/gun powder. This idli tastes just as good when it's not warm. Also, it doesn't spoil for at least 48 hours. So it's ideal travel food. Apart from being a godsend when your dosa batter is depleted, of course.

Tuesday, 6 February, 2007

Moving in

Whew! Here I am finally.

An avid blog reader for about 2 years now, I've been planning to start my own for ages. Well, as so many of my other 'projects', this too had 'starting trouble'. Choosing a blog site, finding a name that the zillion other bloggers have spared for me, selecting the template -- the chores kind of reminded me of shifting residence.

The biggest block, come to think of it, was inhibition. Would I be able to key in something that someone in some nook of the planet would find vaguely readable? A link I once came across during a blog-exploration event -- "The World's Dullest Blog" or some such -- settled the question for me. If a pro-claimed dull(est) blog can be actually read and recognized, chances are mine may scrape through.

Then popped the next question -- what do I write about? Cooking? My fav subject, but I don't own a digital camera, so a full-fledged food blog is ruled out. Parenting? My kids are decent but not exemplary. Journalism? That's my profession but I doubt if I'll be able to contribute much there.

So I shall put out a mixture. I will write on just anything that catches my fancy. At least, the rotten tomatoes will physically not reach me!!