Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mexican Black Bean And Tomato Rice

October was a very exciting month and so was November! Since I have quit my job I think I am doing a lot of things I never had time for, distinctly interesting things that make me happy. 

I went away to Gondavale for 10 days and returned home and guess who was here in Mumbai? Remember her first visit yes that was my first Bloggers Meet and therefore special. P of Evolving Tastes was here again.

Mails went back and forth and while I was away the ladies met up at Harini's do that I missed. So finally since no one else could make it when I was back P and me decide to meet up at Matunga. Well I wanted to take her to Gaiwadi Balaji temple in SOBO and rediscover Girgaum with her but to save travel time and the long commute we agreed finally on Matunga in keeping with the South Indian theme that we had in mind.

That afternoon, I was travelling to Matunga after very long and since it was on a week day I thought going to King circle by train was wise. After buying the ticket and travelling right upto Kurla while chatting up with a co-passenger I realized that King circle is a station on the Bandra line! Being away from Mumbai for so long I had forgotten some things and this was a relearning of sorts for me. I did know though that Guru Tej Bahadur or Sion Koliwada is a station closer to King Circle so I hopped off from the train and a helpful Sardar showed me the way to the bridge. Now I was outside the station and waving out at the cabs but none were ready to go the short distance. P was already waiting for me as she reached early and I was getting late. I jumped on to a BEST bus that went all the way near King circle, yeah the conductor pointed it out from the bus for me but suddenly the bus swung into a back lane. I was just getting so irritated with all this.

Finally I walked up to the Aastik Samaj Temple and we were happy to see each other, again! Meanwhile P had already done 3-4 rounds of that street peering at the various colorful shops. It was a hot day and we just needed to cool off in a place that had a/c. So we trooped into A. Ramanayak & Sons at King circle. It's a tiny place and looked like a women's club at that moment. Amid chatter from other tables we had Rasam vada and Mysore masala dosa, it was good, excellent chutney but sambar was more like a dal. Both of us were going to hop around to some thali place so these were like starters for us.

With the temporary fueling done we walked thru the shaded streets of Matunga and stopped to peer at the tiny Annapoorneshwari stores, shopping for Kai murukku, appams and chutney pudi, having used all of it now I can tell the stuff was quite good.

Since it was getting late for proper lunch we decided it had to be at The Udipi Shri Krishna Boarding we both were smitten by the legend. I had faint memories of eating there sometime but was so confused with the other establishments around. Well in Matunga you see a Rama Nayak's board every where, its like the Maganlal Chikki in Lonavala, there is the Idli house, the A. Ramanayak & Sons and the Nayak's sweets all are the medias pets. So with a very high expectation we walked in. We were told that a unlimited meal served on plantain leaf will be too heavy for us, the manager must have figured out we did not exactly look starved. So we bought coupons for a plate meal and walked into an area marked for ladies. Through a crowded passage and waiters balancing stacks of thalis we seated ourselves on the squeeze in tables so typical of Udipi joints making the most of the space which is more expensive than gold. As they started serving, some thing told me the food was not going to do much for us. I was so disappointed with the meal. This was not a meal that any homebody or gourmet would enjoy. The Udipi Shri Krishna food turned out to be so passable that they lived up to their name of being a bachelor's hope for South Indian food, yeah bachelors never have a choice. The worst thing was their cloyingly sweet tiny gulab jamuns that were vanilla flavored! I am never going to go there again or take any of my friends there. I may be a purist for my tastes and skills for Canara cuisine were honed in the land of the origin.

However shopping at Chheda Stores put us back in the mood. We bought lots of stuff to bring back home and the same things for P to take back to US with her. Here is my loot.

We then loitered around a bit, Nallis, Milap is a readymade blouse wonderland, a pooja item store where we found many editions of Samaithu paar but I did not buy any. P bought puja clothes for her Gauris, to be used during the season.

It was late afternoon and we were tired with all the sweating in the October heat and just needed to sit down and have a refreshing drink. P wanted to try the Mawa cake. There are legendary ones from Merwan and Yazdani but what was accessible to us was Koolar & Co. at the Kings Circle on this day. We were shown a table reserved for ladies, it had a view of the circle and was near one of the large doors that make the Irani cafes inviting. I ordered the Irani chai and a 'esspecial' for P. A tasting of brun maska and mawa cake that did not really please anyone but here is my recipe of brun that has worked every single time I make it. Oh, but I forgot to tell P that a brun maska is eaten dipped in tea! Won't you all try to make brun at home?

Then before we parted we did the food exchange, here are the gifts from P.

From the back: dried white and yellow nectarines, thyme and oregano, in the front : Turkish apricots and black beans.

I made this hearty Mexican black bean and tomato rice, it had to be an authentic dish using 2 of the items from above, black beans and oregano.

When I did the FB contest showing this rice bubbling away it was fun to see the imagination of people and their guesses. The funniest part is so many thought I was using Koli masala in it just because I announced a give away of it. Well I must say unlike my forefathers I do not add Koli masala to everything I cook ;)

Now lets go to this very easy recipe. It's delicious and protienious beany and oh so soul satisfying. It is Mexican but yet feels so Indian. We enjoyed the nutty black beans a lot and Thanks again P for all the gifts!

Recipe source: Fine cooking, I adapted the method to smarter cooking and time saving.


1 cup medium grain raw rice (I use Surti Kolam)
400 gms fresh tomato diced (original uses canned)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 medium cloves of garlic chopped
1 medium fresh jalapeno ( I grow mine)
1 cup black beans soaked overnight
2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used Kashmiri for the vibrant color)
1 heaped tablespoon dried oregano or (as in original recipe: 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves and stems)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
salt to taste

At first pressure cook the soaked black beans for 4-5 whisltes or 30-40 mins. This will cook the beans well. The cooking time is longer as these beans are quite nutty and even when soaked hold their shape well when cooked.

Now in the cauldron heat the oil, brown the chopped garlic and add the slit jalapeno till an aroma emanates. Now add the cooked blacked beans, salt, cumin powder and chili powder. Stir and let it come together. 

Add the diced tomatoes and let them crumble completely on high heat. Add 4 cups water. Reduce to a simmer. At this point wash the raw rice and add to the boiling curry. Cook covered on lowest heat till the rice grain when pressed between the thumb and fore finger feels cooked.

In the end add the oregano and the cilantro give it a nice stir and Serve steaming hot!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Doll Cake For Meetu

On the 11th Nov my helper Sweety was asking for a day off when I got to know it was her daughter, Meetu's birthday on 12th Nov. I asked her if she was going to come to our area on the day. She lives 4-5 kms from my home. I offered to bake a cake for Meetu if she could come pick it up.

So I just had a day for buying the material and ingredients from my neighborhood shops. I baked the cake on a day prior to decorating it. It allows the cake to cool completely and also to allow icing and decoration in a relaxed mood.

To begin making this cake you will need a few special materials

For the decoration

1. A pudding mould, this is used to bake the cake which for the skirt for the Doll.
2. A real doll. The size of the doll should match the size of the mould, such that the mould should form the skirt of the doll.
3. Sugar Sprinkles: I used colorful stars, moon crescents and small beads.


For the sponge

1.5 cups all purpose flour / maida
½ tin sweet condensed milk
¼ cup oil
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
1 cup milk

In a large bowl first whip of the wet ingredients, condensed milk, oil, vanilla extract, milk and sugar. The sugar should be dissolved completely.

Now in a sieve add the all purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda and salt. Sieve thru into the whipped up wet ingredients. Fold the flour into it. The batter should fall in folds.

Grease a pudding mold with oil and dust with flour. Remove the excess flour. Pour the batter into the mould. Preheat oven to 180 degrees for 10 mins. Place the mould filled with cake batter and bake for 20 -25 mins till golden brown and knife inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely in the tin and then remove on to the rack. Keep it aside for a day or atleast till completely cooled down so that the icing holds well onto it and does not melt.

For the icing

1 pack Whipped cream

Prepare as directed on the pack. I used Blue Bird brand whipped cream. I kept it white as I do not use artificial colors. If you are using colors match it up with the dress of the doll.

Note: This is the first time I used Whipped cream. I hate artificial foods and so this trial of Whipped cream also did not match up to my taste. It was light and frothy but just so artificial. I am not used to it and do not want to recommend it. I would rather use fresh cream/ Mascarpone/ hung curd/ sour cream for icing or frosting.

Steps for the decoration

On a cardboard covered with foil create a base with the cake. Turn the cake upside down with wide side as the base. With a long spoon scoop out the center, big enough for the doll to stand in it.

Now, upturn the skirt of the doll's frock so that you are not messing it when decorating the cake. Smear the cake with the whipped cream. Use the decorating knife to give the whipped cream, a pleated look. How you do this is with the tip of the knife stroke the whipped cream in upward movements, it will looked ridged.

Next place the sugar sprinkle stars and crescents on the pleats in the center, leaving the ridges to stand out. Do this in the front side. On the backside and at the base sprinkle the tiny multicolored beads to form a nice trimming. Don't worry if it is not very neat, actually a little awry looks good and natural.

Turn down the skirt of the cloth frock as it should be. There your Doll Cake it ready!

Just one more thing personalize it with a little flag with the birthday girl's name on it, after all it is a special cake. You can even pipe the wishes with cream on the sides. I did not do it as this cake was to be carried by Sweety to her home 5 kms away from mine and she was going to take a bus. That was another challenge so I packed off the cake in an upside down plastic bin. Doesn't she look like Anarkali shrouded in a veil, waiting to be revealed to Meetu!

I wished Meetu a happy 4th birthday!

The next day Sweety told me that her girl was thrilled and immediately grabbed the doll even before it was cut! She had hosted a party of 35 people and ordered another cake at a Shop as any careful host would do. I felt happy when she came back the next morning and told me that her party loved the Doll cake and the taste and that mine was better!

 Yay! Felt so satisfied. Next time I feel confident to make a princess cake.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Orange Marmalade Shortbread

Mrs Rekha Karmakar posts on her son Kalyan's blogShe is a storyteller who is full of wonderful memories. Whether it was her going back to Diamond Harbor looking for that home of her childhood vacation along with her two school going sons or her rediscovering Delhi, her memories of Jalpaiguri  or her travels around the world take you back into a different era. I feel like I am listening to my own aunt telling stories.

When I conducted a contest on the Fb page Mrs. K participated in it, I was happy she did as she was just recovering from bad health. She deserved a treat!

So along with the pack of masala I promised to send her for her enthusiasm to participate in the contest; I also made Shortbread with Orange marmalade. Keeping her health in mind I thought this is mildly sweet so she will be able to enjoy it and hoping she will like it.

Thanking Mrs. Rekha Karmakar for sharing her wonderful memories of travels and childhood and wishing her good health!

Basic recipe source: Indian food rocks


2 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup ghee
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Orange Marmalade

Just dump everything in the food processor and whiz. Remove to counter and knead to form a smooth ball. Line a baking sheet with foil. press the dough into the sheet. Roll out evenly. Score into fingers. Chill the baking sheet with the dough for 20 mins. 

Preheat oven to 140deg Celsius for 10 mins. While you do that, remove the baking sheet from the fridge. Use the fork to prick the dough so that it does not puff up. 


Bake the shortbread for 20 mins. Remove on counter. Score the fingers again on the same lines to ensure the fingers can be separated out after baking. Bake again for 5 mins to get the pinkish tinge on the fingers.

Remove the baking sheet. Cool for 5 mins. Then lift out the foil along with the shortbread fingers carefully separate out the fingers. Put them on a rack to cool completely. Store in air tight container.

For chocolate drizzle
2X2 inch piece of chocolate + 1/4 teaspoon of ghee 

Zap in the microwave for 20 secs. Give a stir to thin the molten chocolate evenly.

Since I was to speedpost these for Mrs. K I did not drizzle chocolate on hers. But I thought let me do it for Dad and so there you see. Well I just drizzled with a fork for neater drizzle use a ziploc bag or icing bag.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Moongachi Bhaaji

This is a delicious very Koli style curry made with whole moong. It difficult to say why it is soul satisfying, the protein or the masala. It is very quick to make as moong gets cooked fast in the pressure cooker.

A Koli home if not well stocked on green veggies will always be stocked with green moong for sure. But I hate it when most relatives cook it up for me just because I do not eat non veg. It's not about not affording to buy vegetables but pure laziness to even look in the bazaar for veggies and they expect me to sing their praises after the force fed meal. Yet I am polite, I always thank them for entertaining me.

However once in a while when I crave for my homely flavors and when I want to make something that will make a lipsmacking meal for Dad without too much effort then I go to this familiar taste.

Here is how to do it...


1 cup whole green moong
1 whole potato with skin on

Soak moong in hot water for 1/2 hr OR if cooking directly use water enough to cover the moong, about 1 inch above the moong level. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles or 30 mins. Cool completely and open the cooker. Mash some moong with the back of the spoon. Keep the potato aside.

The masala

1/4 cup grated fresh or frozen coconut
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon koli masala (buy it now)
1/2 inch piece ginger
4 cloves garlic
handful cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 green chili

Grind in fine paste in the chutney grinder. Keep

The Phodni 

2 teaspoons oil

Heat oil in a vessel. Add the ground masala and fry a bit for about 2 mins. Cut the potato into 4 long wedges and  add along with the cooked whole moong into the masala. Top up with water. Keep a thickish consistency. Boil well to remove the raw smell of masala. Put off heat and let it sit for atleast 15 mins before serving.

Serve with hot steamed rice.

Enjoy mixing it with your fingers and licking up!

In Thal food is mostly cooked at home and then at lunch time packed and taken to the fish drying area and the little account offices that are put up in the huts on these fields, where family slogging it from morning awaits. In the old days it used to be carried in small terracotta pots called handis or brass vessels, then put in a basket and carried on the head. I wanted to recreate that scene so I used large terracotta diyas which I had from the last years Diwali. Then came Diwali and I actually found a small pot much like a handi but still not a handi. I am still looking out for a handi that is used for cooking fish curry.

I also made a teeny bit of Moogache puran just to make Dad happy, for he loves to end all his meals with a little bit of sweet and as long as his health can afford it I will continue to indulge him.

With these pictures I can almost hear one of our Khapnarin (lady staff) calling out "Jevaan hanlay gharshi!" which meant lunch has been brought from home. Then some one would rush to help offload the basket which was carried on the head and put it on stable ground without spillage.

Then every thing would be removed from the basket and the basket would be overturned to cover the pots and a heavy something would be placed over the basket so that no cat or dog attacked the food before the family.

Then one by one everyone would wash their hands as they would be smelly with handling fish. If this was the exact menu, then the men would ask "Koncha upas hai?" LOL you see my Koli people cannot live without fish! and the day there is no fish in the meal it is Upas/ Upvas or fasting for them!

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Green Balcony Is Back As The Window Grill Box

Are you done with Diwali indulgences? I am. So today lets not talk about food.

Ever since I returned to Mumbai, I wake up to the chirping of the birds and a view of the Gulmohor. A priceless view especially when the Gulmohor is ablaze in the summers. It was not like this when we bought this home in 1995 but our neighborhood green initiatives have fruitioned. 

Introducing a new label here, the "Window Grill Box". The Green Balcony that saw me adopting so many environmentally conscious activities and successfully making them a part of my everyday life in a city, is now back in the form of a Window Grill Box. 

The last time I posted about growing greens was in May. That is when the renovation in my home started and it went on for 2.5 months. I was lucky that I was able to move some of my plants to my bro's side of the home. So when The Window Grill Box was ready I did not really start from scratch. Yes but it has taken time to get back to its glory.

Except the change in structure nothing much changed in that area. The Green balcony had the Daily dump unit and it still stand at the right end. Now it's a Bay window where I can sit and talk to my plants and nurture them. Those colorful jars are my Diwali decor. The Terracotta bell has moved to the right end from the left, and the left is not bare...

Right to left: The Daily Dump KhambaChavali creeper, Brahmakamal, Peace lily, in the wooden crate Tur and lemon grass, sitting on it spot the bird feeder. The last are tomato saplings that are growing fast and I can't wait for the harvest, everyday I whisper to them to hurry up!

The leftside view reveals a money plant, a pumpkin creeper that has flowered well but no fruit yet. Then you have more tomato saplings, Jalapenos in the tall porcelain pot. More Chavali creepers and tomatoes. Hanging from the roof are two new elements I added a decor lantern which is a copy of the Petromax of a bygone era and a wind chime that reverberates in the silence of my home.

The Window Grill Box in the living room is smaller, but we have a lovely green view of the Gulmohor and its great to see lots of birds nesting in the benevolent branches. That middle seat is my perch every evening with the new binoculars that I bought just to watch them. Yeah but I haven't been too lucky to show you some clicks, but there will be more lucky days to come I hope.

Outside that window in the grill box this is what you will see...

The hibiscus on the left
Lemon grass, more Jalapenos, Curry leaf plant.

While my side of the home has undergone change my bros side continues to bloom. You saw it here and here.

Now that you are introduced to the Window Grill Box rather boxes do come back to read on what's making my home green.

Annaparabrahma's green journey in pics is available here.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Happy Deepavali 2013!

Happy Deepavali 2013!

Thank you my dear readers who shower all that love on me and this space. On October 9, 2013 this blog celebrated its 7th Anniversary. Since I was away at the time we missed the celebration here. 

So light up the Deep, play the shehanai, a recorded one is alright! ;) and lets celebrate it with the big bright festival of the year!

I need to thank all those wonderful people who did business with us this year. Most of our last years clients did repeat business with us. That means a lot to us! 

All the Mumbai and Suburb orders have been delivered. All Pune orders are in transit. So Set your self for a wonderful Deepavali and just Enjoy!!

On Trail