Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time-Off ...... & Panchmel Daal-Baati.

What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it - like a secret vice. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

No I ain't apologising nor am I offering any explanation. I know I have been away for some time....but to only replenish the spring within me that will never dry. I have taken time-off to retreat to my soul, my haven for rest. There are days in my otherwise chirpy & active life when solitude becomes a heady wine that intoxicates me with freedom. I am on a high !

Afterall its only in quiet waters that things mirror themselves undistorted.
My alone-time was not without people, yet not 'being' with them.....like the lotus flower that is amidst the muddy water yet is above it all....smiling to the sun...content being with itself.

How many times in our lives have we felt weary (not physically) about the fact that we have to keep appointments/dates, call so and so, greet, console, cheer, congratulate, finish the never ending list of to-dos, hit the gym, stay healthy, eat, cook, spend time with family and friends, go to church, play, seal deals, toil at the workplace,chill at a party.....et al.

And exactly how many times have we stopped ...shut the whole world out and be with thy ownself ?!! Its important....very important....for to be able to do all that we want to in our lives, we must take a break from all of 'it'. Trust me it works wonders. You are recharged...its theraupatic...and nothing beats this therapy. Talk to yourself....spend time with your own self, when we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death - ourselves.

And those who truly love you will help you with this. The highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the 'solitude' of the other.

I am not trying to sermonize here, instead I am sharing with you all what I have attained in the past few days. I have been taking such "time offs"...for as long as I can remember...earlier it was more so unconciously and on hindsight I knew I was cut off from the universe when my mom used to ask me "whats wrong? has someone scolded you...or have you been hurt etc etc."; for she was worried her talkative darling was suddenly quiet.However she was instrumental in showing me the way to 'satsang'.
"Sat" means august and "Sang" means company.

These breaks became more evident when I started attending satsangs (translation: the company of learned men and women) every other Saturday. I am not someone who will renounce the world to attend religious gatherings for hours...infact I am not a religious soul. This particular satsang that I attended however was different...it did not stress that I had to pray everyday, or fast, or give offerings to Gods and Goddesses; it just suggested that I take time off to watch my deeds, my actions, my words, feel proud that He has created me, revel in the joys of humanity, respect myself for I am His child, truly love myself above all....for if I did that I would love all....this isn't selfish ...but selfless love.

I cannot put into words something that is so deep that it needs to be felt rather than heard/read.

By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear.
~George Herbert

Keeping with the "simplicity" , I share with you this recipe. Its a typical Rajasthani dish, made from simple ingredients that the desert belt has to offer.
Rajasthani food was not created in a day. It evolved over the centuries of royal governance of the Rajput Maharajas for whom a lavish lifestyle and lots of good food was as important as collecting revenue from their subjects.
There is scarcity of water and fresh green veggies in the state of Rajasthan, so it is preferred to use milk, butter milk and butter in larger quantities to minimize the amount of water while cooking food.
Out of all the Rajasthani dishes, dal bati churma is perhaps the best known.

Panchmel Daal and Baati

Panchmel Daal:

This is a lentil curry comprising of five different pulses. Hence the name "panch" (five) "mel" (meeting) , meaning meeting of five varieties. It is highly nutritious and full of protein. Those of you who are watching your weight can binge on this without guilt...just skip the ghee/ clarified butter.


1/3 cup split bengal gram/chana dal
1/3 cup toovar/arhar dal
1/3 cup masoor dal
1 tsp urad dal/split black lentils
1 tbsp whole moong/mung dal
3 teaspoons chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder/haldi
1 tsp coriander/dhania powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
2 green chillies, slit
a pinch asafoetida/hing
2 tsp amchur/dry mango powder
2 tsp tamarind/imli pulp
3 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
salt to taste


Clean and wash the dals and add 4 cups of water. Pressure cook for 2 to 3 whistles or till the dals are cooked.
In a bowl, combine the chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala with 3 tablespoons of water and mix well. Keep aside.
Heat the ghee in a pan and add the cloves, bay leaves, cumin seeds, green chillies and asafoetida. When the cumin seeds crackle, add the prepared masala paste and saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the cooked dals, amchur, tamarind pulp and salt and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust the consistency of the dal before serving and if required, add some water.
Serve piping hot.


As the name suggests, baati in Hindi means a bowl, as this part of the dish resembles a bowl. For this you need thick ground wheat flour. If you’re getting freshly ground wheat flour , then you can specifically ask the person to grind it to make laddu bati ka atta.
If thick or mota atta is unavailable, you can go with the regular atta/whole wheat flour, but mix three cups of atta, with 1 cup of suji/semolina to make it thick, as that’s the consistency we need to prepare baati. Traditionally, baati is prepared on earthen ovens, with dried cow dung cakes burned as fuel.
However we will prepare it using the trusted oven/gas stove.


3 cups – atta/whole wheat flour
1 cup – suji/semolina
1 cup – ghee/clarified butter
lukewarm water


You need to make soft dough out of the atta and suji mixed with salt, ghee and lukewarm water.
Set aside for half an hour.
Make lemon sized round balls with the dough.
Bake them in an oven on 170 degrees C (approx), till it browns and forms a crisp crust.
Now, if you so desire you can roast it on the gas stove slightly with the aid of tongs, just so that the crust becomes crispier.

Dip in clarified butter/ghee, and serve with panchmel daal and mirchi ka achaar/pickled jalapenos/chillies.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cheeky Chikoo Smoothie..for the Maman and Gourmand Smoothie/Shake Recipe Contest!

An excerpt from our life; the morning of April 28th 2009.

DH: “Hun I don’t want to have anything for breakfast…not feeling like it.”
Me: “ What…not again…I am not letting you go till you have breakfast…it’s the most important meal of the day.”
DH: “In that case just give me liquid breakfast…one of your fruit smoothies/milk shakes…you have chickoos in the fridge..right?!”

Well that is how the Sapodilla fruit smoothie came about. In my quest to provide wholesome nutrition (without tipping the balance) to ourselves,at breakfast. Here is my Cheeky Chikoo smoothie (pardon the pun). ;p

I am a fruit-person (from the dessert-first type category). If you are a regular reader ….you would know the concoctions I have made using fruits.
Try my Austrian Walnut-Strawberry Torte, or spoon out my Bluberry-Papaya Syllabub, or my prize winning Persimmon & Walnut Croquants Trifle, or the Dragon fruit brownie in true fusion style, the Berry Jam, or the more recent Alphonso milk shake...to name a few. I love fruits and I love having them plain as well as in innovative forms.

I added a little ground almonds to this smoothie to make it healthier and it imparts a beautiful nutty flavour to the drink. Since the chikoos were extremely sweet I did away with the sugar too. It’s a simple, no-hassle smoothie prepared in a jiffy.
(Ideal for working couples with/without kids, especially if their significant half/child doesn’t like the idea of having to ‘eat’ breakfasts.)

The fruit of the Sapodilla tree is called Chikoo /Sapota in India.
The use of ripe chikoo in our diet gives agility and freshness.
It activates the performances of intestines. It eliminates the excessive bile in the body.
Infact the Ayurveda has held this humble fruit in high opinion…just do a google search and you will know what I mean.
It is one of the few fruits that have edible skin. I just wash them and slice the ripe brown fruit. However I skip the skin when preparing my smoothie/shake.

Not many of us know that the latex extracted from the chikoo stem forms the base material for the chewing gum.

Cheeky-Chikoo Smoothie

2-3 ripe medium sized frozen chikoos/Sapodilla fruit, washed,peeled & de-seeded
1 ½ glasses skimmed milk, chilled
1-2 tbsp sugar (optional)
3 tbsp ground blanched almonds (which I keep ready in the fridge at all times)

In a blender puree the chikoo fruit with the ground almonds. Now add the milk with sugar, if using.
Blend on high and serve chilled.
This smoothie is pretty filling and a glassful only keeps you satiated till lunch.
Update: I have edited this post as a few friends wanted to vote for my drink for the contest. However thats not happening as I am not listed. Just a tiny glitch in the contest rules and my entry. No problems. Thanks all ..anyways!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Malaai ki Subz ....from my Mom.

A good cook is one who not only makes great food, but makes food taste great with what is available at hand.”
-- My late Nani ji
(the greatest cook I have known from close quarters, followed closely by mum)

That’s my maternal grand ma for you. I have discussed at length about her in few of my earlier posts, like this one.
She was the first one who instilled in me the desire to enter the kitchen and cook up delicacies in a jiffy with local stuff, food that enticed all the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and feel.

We talk about plating dishes now, but she had taught her daughter and grand-daughter about presentation a long time ago. You would want to eat all that she dished out.
My mother being her direct descendant has inculcated the same skills and has obviously (like all future generations) has improved upon them. This is one such dish—
Malaai ki Subz.

I don’t know how many of you out there, collect the malaai (cream) of milk; like my mom I have been in the habit of collecting the milk’s cream/malaai.
It serves two purposes…
1) this makes the milk you drink comparatively less in fats.
2) also, you don’t have to but tetra packs of fresh cream , when you have it in your fridge at all times.

Like most of my dishes this one too has a story. It was when I was in standard eleventh (I guess), when in my ever varying tween moods I had given impromptu invitations to two of my buddies for lunch, without even informing my mum( read designated chef).

Anyways I did surprise my mum with my two friends. I didn’t have to tell her that they would be staying for lunch, for in my home it was a given that guests would be fed as if there was a gala party. So while mum had made lunch only for me, she had to check the pantry and the fridge to come up with something quick for all of us hungry souls.

It was then that this subzi was born. It was made with malaai/ milk cream and some aromatic Indian spices. And with a few veggies thrown in, the malaai was well disguised (urrgghh ! how we hated malaai back then), and the dish lip smackingly good.

I made this dish today, for lunch, as I wanted something tasty yet simple with no elaborate preparations. After which I called mom to tell her that she has taught me so much while not actually saying a word. Thanks Maa!!

Malaai ki Subz
4 tbsp malaai/milk cream
a pinch of cumin
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 medium sized potato, boiled and cubed
2 tbsp chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp carrot, diced
2 tbsp frozen peas
1 tbsp green bell-pepper/capsicum, diced
½ tsp ginger-garlic paste
a pinch of garam masala ( an indian spice mix)
½ tsp chopped green chillies
1 tsp cooking oil
salt to taste

In a wok, heat oil, and add cumin seeds. Once they splutter add the chopped onions and sweat them a little.
Now add the tomatoes, carrots, capsicum, peas and chillies . Add the ginger-garlic paste and garam masala. Add salt as desired. Cook covered for half a minute, stirring occasionally.
Finally add the boiled potatoes and milk cream. Stir well.
Serve hot with parathas/ chapattis.

I share this with Mahimaa for her 15 minutes cooking event, and with EC for her WYF Quick Meal event.