Author Archives: Veena S.

About Veena S.

'Travel broadens the mind.' It's been a wonderful journey through the past few years, living and travelling to many countries. Certainly there were few eye openers, at other times just a comparison on cultures and food and cuisines. My blog is my learning journey to capture and re live these moments, share photographs and use technology. Come ...see the world with me.

World Palate Recipes: Banana Flower Vegetable ( Kele ke phool ki sabji)

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World Palate Recipes: Banana Flower Vegetable ( Kele ke phool ki sabji)

Life cannot exist without trees.’

In gratitude for all the fruits and flowers, bees and butterflies that Nature surrounds us with, here is a post, from our very home garden.

Its summer, and our small kitchen and flower garden is blooming! Hubby spends hours of hard work in preparing soil, planting and caring, researching about plants, their care, fertilizers and composting methods. I do my teeny bit preparing the kitchen waste for composting. Gardening is indeed very rewarding! Every new leaf or flower brings a sparkle to the eyes, a visiting butterfly or bird (and oh no! caterpillars, insects) brings a smile (or a frown).

”All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seed of today.”  

Chinese Proverb

It’s been over a year we have planted banana plant of Cavendish variety. The plant ( it is not a tree) yields only one fruit bloom, then it needs to be cut down so as to encourage new growth from the rhizome. In case few suckers (small plant shoots) spring up, only the healthiest is left to grow, the others are discarded. The plant grows in sub tropics, needs plenty of well drained moist soil. There are different varieties of bananas – some for dessert, raw ones for vegetable or chips. South East Asia, Sri Lanka, coastal India, Hawaii and Fiji islands are top growers of this plant. Interestingly! every region has its own story and culture around this much revered plant.

For Story Time check these: Monkey and banana plant, Banana tree and Goddess Laxmi, Kepler and Rust in HanaHou magazine talk about preserving bananas in Hawaii.

Every part of this plant is useful, thus the importance becomes meaningful.The trunk is hollow from inside, the broad leaves are used as bio-plates to serve food to the Gods and guests, as suggested in a Vedic ritual, the flowers make for a delicious curry, and the fruit easily slips into desserts, porridge, snack, fritters and more.

The plant is a gigantic herb, with a false stem- made of of layers of sheath. It produces a flowering spike, that drops down with its own weight. The deep purple/pink calyx or bracts tightly enclose the yellowish white long flowers. There could be up to 10-15 bracts, tightly bound. They open up slowly revealing the florets. The last few florets that do not open are then cut off, so as to let the other florets bloom and grow into banana fruit.

Here I am engaging in a fascinating science lesson at home! Everyday we checked if another bract had opened, when could we cut off the unopened bloom? Why is it important? How tall did this plant grow? How these broad leaves are sturdier than other banana plant leaves that are often sold in markets. What will the hollow sheath look like once the plant is cut? How do you cut and grow the sucker shoot?

As we wait for the tiny bananas to grow plump and change colour, this is the first time I prepared this exotic vegetable. My mother used to cook it differently, using tuvar dal and not adding any peanuts or shredded coconut.

Banana Flower Vegetable /Vazhapoo Thooran/ Kele ke phool ki Sabji

The preparation time to clean the florets is very time consuming, and the yield is small. But EXOTIC it is!

Ingredients: ( difficult to give exact amounts, as it depends on yield and taste)

Cleaned up florets, ( stamen and white sheath covering to be removed)

diluted buttermilk ( yoghurt diluted very watery)

Shredded coconut

peanut powder (optional, if allergic)

For tempering: oil, cumin seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder, salt and chilli powder ( or dry red chillies) to taste.

Cleaning the flower:

Oil your palm, else they turn dark colour! Open each bract carefully, remove each floret. Open each one to remove the black stamen and the clear white sheath cover of each floret. YES EACH one! These will not cook! ( I can hear you grumble, mumble).


 

Cut the remainder of the florets and soak in very diluted buttermilk. Prepare the tempering, hear the splutter and the aroma bursting. Put in the florets, discarding the watery liquid. Add salt and chillies, sprinkle the coconut and peanut powder. Cover, cook on low flame, adjust little water, to cook, so it does not become dry.

Serve hot with warm rice. (Jasmine or jeera rice will be great!

It does not store well, as it goes bit bitter. I served it fresh and warm.

 

If you have another way of making this, please post your comments. Is you have never seen the bloom, how do you feel? Where do you live? 

All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2020) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.comPlease see copyright disclaimer

 

 

 

 

World Palate Recipes: Curry Leaves (Kadipatta) Chutney

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Hello everyone!

The world is going through an intensely difficult time due to the COVID 19 virus. Stories of labour migrating to villages, loved ones strained across continents, medical and essential staff working round the clock, closure of schools and colleges leaving many children stuck at home, online classes using technology,  free online courses, craft, exercise classes and meetings using the popular app ZOOM. Dealing with multiple issues has brought upon stress and anxiety socially and economically, to some. Philosophically, though we now better understand that money cannot buy everything…not health, not peace of mind!

So everyone – Stay at home, stay healthy, stay safe! Let’s not be a burden on the hospitals and government.

Now that I’m home bound too, our garden is getting much attention. Every new leaf and flower bud is noticed and talked about…and here come the butterflies too. That means, watch out for hidden caterpillars! Fresh herbs add lots of flavour and colour to food. Today, I’ve plucked plenty of curry leaves that stand washed on my kitchen top.

The Kadipatta or curry leaves plant loves plenty of sunshine and is sub tropical plant. A mature plant grows a hardy stem that can reach 4 feet tall! So its best to prune it once a while, so one can reach the fresh top leaves. The leaves are extremely aromatic. They are dark green in colour and are liberally used to flavour  curries, rasam and sambar, and even rice. The leaves are used as a herb in Ayurveda and Siddha medicine. ”If you want to grow dark lustrous hair, eat a few fresh leaves, first thing in the morning” remarked my friend, an Ayurvedic doctor…pointing at many white hair peeing out on my scalp.

Pin on Kinyua K

Courtesy: Pinterest Kinyua K.

It’s kadipatta chutney today. Look at the gorgeous leaves…munch , crunch…flavour and health!

I also made kharampodi (dry powder) blended with masala. This can stay bottled for over a month and can be used as flavouring masala (especially when curry leaves are unavailable).

Ingredients:

1 cup curry leaves, de stalked, washed and dried on towel

1 inch ball of tamarind or pulp

1tsp jeera /cumin seeds

1 tsp dhania /coriander seeds

1 tsp. white urad dal (broken variety)

salt to taste

3-5 dry red chillies ( or green if unavailable)

2-3 tablespoon cooking oil

hing /asafoetida ( optional..if you do not like the smell)

Method

As suggested remove leaves from the stalk, check any fungus or wilted leaves, wash and dry the leaves on a towel for some time.

Prepare the ingredients on a plate, in the meanwhile.

In a pan or wok, heat the oil, toss in jeera, dhania, red chillies, tamarind and dal. Stir fry till the aroma fills the kitchen. Remove and let cool. Toss the curry leaves in the hot pan, add a drop of oil and roast till mildly crisp, so that moisture has evaporated. There is slight discoloration as the leaves go darker in colour. Cool.

Use a blender to mix and powder the dry ingredients. Add the roasted leaves, water and salt as required and blend the chutney. Enjoy with idli, upma, dosa or warm fluffy rice and a dollop of ghee. You may also use it as a paste and roll a stuffed roti, or make a kati roll. The aroma is full and it even lingers on the fingertips! Stay healthy with this nutrition filled chutney.

For a little creative Art therapy, this afternoon, a friend had posted this challenge (now that everyone has so much of time on hand, due to COVID 19 outdoor movement restrictions).

Here is my humble response. Why don’t you get creative too?

Do let us know how the prepared chutney tasted or whether you engaged in Art therapy. 

My response

Mondrian said: “The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” and thus, he led a life of modernist experimentation, augmenting existing trends and later, defining his own language. ( Courtesy: Piet Mondrian paintings, bio )

Now get started. What are you waiting for?

The Mystic Land of Rishikesh…To Market or Not?

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Jai Maa Gange! Har har Gange.

DevBhoomi it is, as referred to by locals of Rishikesh. To the western world it is the mystic land of Yog and meditation. The land of the pure, revered, holy river Ganga (not Ganges!). Since ancient times, sadhus and munis have wandered here, meditated in the hills and caves in search of the Truth. It is said having a dip in the river, washes away all negativity and sins. No wonder the river is popularly reffered to as Mother Ganga! ‘Jai Maa Gange‘ is the popular chant heard everywhere.

So what brought us to Rishikesh? The idea of immersing ourselves into the International Yog Festival and rejuvenating and heal our bodies and mind. (www.internationalyogafestival/rishikesh.com) Every evening it was purely magical to witness the spectacular ‘aarti’ by the riverfront. The blowing of the conch, ringing of bells,  chanting and lighting wick lamps and finally singing the Jai Maa Gange aarti transported us to another world of peace and harmony.

Go to the Triveni Ghat to witness the best aarti. And browse the market near the Ghat.’ suggested the organizers . ‘Madam, don’t forget to eat fruit chaat and hot samosas. You can buy gur and Jhangore in the local market there’ he grinned.

Here is a recipe of this local delicacy we enjoyed every afternoon. Jhangore, finger millet is widely grown on the terrace  slopes of Uttarakhand. Its cuisine is highly nutritious and rich, catering to the winter season.

Jhangore ki Kheer

The popular markets are: Triveni Ghat, Lakshman Jhuula, Ram jhuula and Parmarth Niketan street market.

Triveni Ghat market:

I shared an auto ride from Munni ki Reti area to the main entrance of the market at a cost a mere Rs. 20/-Bonus point – One gets to meet friendly locals and have a chat.

The decorated archway adorned with Hindu gods stands tall guarding the main entryway of the street. Numerous small shops fill up both sides of the street. ( Sorry, I did not notice the street names). Sarees, wedding attire, shops selling woollen shawls, caps and children’s winter wear, belts, colourful bangles, belts and…much more.

‘But where can I buy some wool and some jaggery or gur? ‘ I inquired. ‘Turn into the adjacent lanes’ directed some locals. Aha…so here I was in the midst of a local market selling every day needs: cheap clothes, plastic buckets, toys, slippers, puja items like idols, chandan, kumkum, agarbatti, colourful bundles of wool spilling onto the floor as its only a seasonal need. I was greedy enough to buy yarn too, as it was much cheaper and better than what I would get back home. Knitters and crochet enthusiasts are NEVER satisfied with their stashes secure in various places at home. And so I have heard.

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Courtesy: runnybabitcrafts.wordpress.com

Time for some street food. If its prepared fresh, no tummy upsets, I was told.

Mouth watering, piping hot aloo tikki (potato patties) served with tangy tamarind chutney.

Deep fried samosas and Dal kachori is another winter favourite.

Here it is finally walking into the street…Gur ki bhel (mounds of jaggery made from boiling sugarcane juice. This is a winter product in North India, where sugarcane is cash crop. There were push carts with roasted groundnuts, fresh made pop corn /makki pop, sweet Petha (white gourd) and all time favourite Til ki revadi ( sesame seed and jaggery candies).

Laxman Jhoola Market:

This iconic area is extremely popular with tourists, both Indian and International. The iron jhoola or bridge was constructed over the holy river connecting Pauri district with Tehri district.

Legend has it that Sri Ram’s younger brother Lakshman, (refer to the epic Ramayan) is supposed to have crossed at this spot into the forest during their exile period, using a jute rope. Hence the religious importance of this place. Many tourists and pilgrims and followers of Yog and meditation throng to the temples and markets here.

This market is as colourful as the tourists, a bit pricier too. Yog mats, loose clothing, Boho crochet bags, shawls, silver trinkets, embroidered bags, books on spirituality and regional birds, brass idols and bells, conches and rudraksha malas….the market is just a haven for tourists! In return, the locals make brisk business, meet tourists, even learn foreign languages. ( we met a young school going girl selling candies by the bridge. She said she could say hello and farewell in English, German and Dutch…whereas Hindi is the regional / school language).

Some tourist women happily posed for me, later they took me along to enjoy murmura ki bhel (puffed rice savoury). Yumm…

Street market near Parmarth Niketan

Internationally popular Parmarth Niketan, is a popular yoga ashram and has study programmes all round the year. Situated at the river front it makes for an ideal meditative walk. The narrow street market that leads up to it, is usually crowded with tourists and International attendees.

Ayurvedic oils, medicines, healing Patanjali products, music CD’s and spiritual books make up for most of the shops. Others shops selling trinkets, beads, rudrakshas, yoga pyjamas, exotic Pashmina shawls can be found here. Its such a vibrant, buzzing but intensely clustered market. There is no dearth of food joints…so do Yog and well…beware of what you eat!

Time to head back for yoga and meditation. Think twice at any market, before you buy. Is there a need or is it just greed?

Dear readers, I value all your comments. So do drop a line and share your experiences on the topic.

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Courtesy: Patanjali AZ Quotes

World Palate Recipes: Fluffy Idli (Rice and Lentil Steamed Cake)

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When you say South Indian breakfast, the first thing that comes to mind is soft, white fluffy idli (and assorted chutneys that go with it). Idli is a characteristic Tamil dish, perhaps one of the oldest fermented foods in India. The batter, made from soaked raw parboiled rice and urad dal, is then left overnight, placed on the kitchen counter to ferment. Traditional kitchen tops are  usually made with grey Cuddapah stone, but in recent times  granite is widely used. South India enjoys a relatively warm climate year long, making it conducive for the batter to ferment and rise to almost double, overnight. Natural bacteria and microorganisms (probiotics) do the trick and no yeast is involved! The ‘good bacteria’ in fermenting was a way of preserving food, long before the days of refrigeration. Fermentation can produce distinctive, strong slightly sour flavours…similar to sourdough breads or Japanese Sake.

What are the benefits of fermented rice? You are what you eat, say Yoga and Ayurveda.  Ever heard of the intelligent, witty, highly educated, culturally rooted South Indian, whose memory recall for reciting complex Sanskrit stotras is remarkable? Then its the Tam Brahm!(Tamil Brahman). Idli, dosa and appam are breakfast delicacies made from fermented food. ( Of course, other cultures have produced many a scholar too).

Cultural Notes: The home of a South Indian is distinctly traditional, religious oriented, disciplined in daily routine. Women of the household, urban or rural, are early risers. The stainless steel coffee filter is the first gadget on the kitchen top to be filled with fresh ground coffee. Then water is set to boil and pour into it, letting the deep brown decoction percolate. Time for morning stotras, music to be melodiously filtering the entire house. Next is drawing muggu at the doorstep with rice powder, and invoking goodness and clean Spirits to enter the household. This is done by sprinkling water (or mopping) at the doorstep /threshhold and placing exact number of pearly white dots for the muggu pattern. With swift and dextrous hand movements between those dots, a beautiful pattern emerges. Intricate dot counting becomes Art!

Kapi ready irke” she tells the house as she pours steaming hot frothy, brown brew into stainless steel tumblers ( yes, there is a reason for the metal tumblers of particular size, to keep the coffee warm and taste retaining too. Definetely better than Star Buck mugs!).

Its time for other gadjets to appear on the counter. Set up the idli stand and prepare the tangy sambar.

 

 

 

 

Muggu / Kolam pattern drawn with rice flour. 

I too have assembled my equipments. A Pressure cooker, idli stand, blender/mixer or a traditional stone grinder, small hand shaped spoon to remove steamed idli, banana leaves for serving, stainless utensils and katori (cups), stainless scooping spoon, stainless steel coffee filter.

Indian kitchen gadjets

Ingredients:

2 cups parboiled raw rice (not Basmati) or Ready packed idli rice flakes

1 cup urad dal

2 tsp. avval /pohe /beaten rice (optional)

few seeds of soaked methi/ fenugreek

water and salt as required

Method

Wash the rice ( or pakaged idli rice flakes) and urad dal few times, seperately till water runs clear. Grind them seperately to a semi fine batter along with (optional) beaten rice. Now mix both the batters, add soaked methi seeds and salt and water as required. The mixture should be semi thick, pouring consistency. Place in large bowl or utensil and cover with a plate. The batter should rise when left overnight (or 5-8 hrs.) in a warm place.

Next day early morning, check batter, give a good stir.

Now put 2 – 3 cups of water in the pressure cooker or steam cooker. Prepare idli stand by washing and lightly oiling, so the idlis can be scraped off easily. (traditionally each sieve is filled with batter and covered with a muslin cloth, that helps retain the steam, as well as easy to tip off idli, once ready). I do not do this at my home.

Place stand in cooker  WITHOUT the pressure whistle. Steam for 10 -15 mins, check if done by inserting a sharp knife or fork into the fluffy idli. Keep them to settle in the cooker for another 3-5 mins. Remove lid, take out stand and use the spoon to scrape out the fluffy, soft idli , place in warm box or serving bowl. The softness will depend much on the preparation of batter consistency and the fermentation due micro organisms, developed in warm place.

Practice makes perfect, so do experiment if you are a novice.

Now, as in a traditional South Indian home, light a lamp at the altar, light some incense stick /agarbatti and listen to some melodious chants. Serve fluffy steaming idlis along with Sambar (Tangy vegetable stew) and some coconut chutney.

           ‘Anna he poorna Brahman’ Enjoy your breakfast.

Wait here for the sambar and chutney recipes, please.

Do leave your comments in the box, it helps us all to interact and learn from each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Essay: Flowers – A Way of Life, Art and Business.

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Indian culture is almost incomplete without flowers. Flowers have an important value in tradition, culture and religion. Spiritually too flowers and blooms add positive effect to home and mental well being. They signify love, beauty, happiness and  generosity. Give a bouquet of flowers to a patient, friend or a loved one and see that instant wide smile.

     Flowers take the tears of weeping night, and give them to the 

                              sun for the day’s delight. 

Joseph Cotter.

From dawn to sunset it’s a hectic time for flower gatherers and sellers. Flower picking, sorting, packaging and delivering to markets and then making garlands and selling them is a long day’s process. Whether they are used for decorating homes, for festivals, weddings, adding grace to a bride’s hairdo or offerings in a temple, flowers find their way into every Indian home! In Ayurveda and medicine also flowers of Basil (Tulsi), Coriander and Jasmine are widely used. Many a Bollywood song and dance sequence are in the midst of blooms. ‘Phool khile hai gulshan gulshan’ and phool tumhe bheja hai khaat mein describe the beauty of blooming gardens and sending flowers in love letters.

A trip to Bengaluru flower market

Malleshwaram and adjacent Yeshwantapuram street markets in Bengaluru, India were buzzing at 10 am. Women vendors busy completing arranging flowers, men making garlands of 3-4 kg. each, decorating them with glitter, and customers who wanted to offer flowers to the nearby temples made for a colourful sight. This place is not near the famous KR market, which is in the heart of the city).

Thanks to my dear friends who took me and guided me with many a local story and flower name as we busied ourselves with photo taking.

Street market, Malleshwaram, Bengaluru

Mounds of coral coloured Kanakambaram, yellow tiny petaled chamanti or crysanthemum, fragrant white malligai, pinkish white jaji malligai, petals of fragrant red roses, blossoms of orange marigolds or banti phulu and other deep purple crispy flower heads, the scene was surely a photographer’s delight! Forget the shabbily erected wooden platforms and petals strewn on the floor underneath, both men and women sellers had no time to waste looking at us with our cameras. They sensed we were not the ‘interested’ buyer!

 

Lakshmiamma and Narsaiiah are two such vendors who rise early at 2 am each day and buy flowers from the main market haggling for the right price of the day. Back home with heavy baskets, they begin to sort, pack and make malai for selling, along with family or others from community. By 7 am they have few baskets ready, lined with tender green banana leaves to wrap the flowers in. Off to the market, to set up shop, carrying their tiffin food. They (like other vendors) will spend much of the day sitting crouched or cross legged busy tying assorted flowers to make garlands and sell.

‘ It’s Friday today, day for praying to the Devi goddess‘ reminded my friend. Prices go up, especially for flowers used for temple offerings – like malli, kanakambaram, red hibiscus, lotus and Tulsi These flowers are associated with Indian Gods and Goddesses ( mind you, there are hundred different ones!) but Lakshmi, Vishnu, Saraswati, Kanak Durga and Maa Kali to name a few.

Flower garlands for temples and weddings

We watched a group of men working fast and concentrated on stringing white tuberose flowers. They inserted a long needle into the tubular end towards making a huge garland. To make it circular, each time 8 flowers were stranded diagonally. After measuring about 3 inches in height, they would then add 1-2 inches of rose flowers and folded assorted green leaves for a colour change. A garland would take 2 people about 4 hours and would weigh between 2-5 kg. Sold at Rs. 500 to Rs. 800 per piece, depending upon the weight and type of flowers the  garlands are truly works of creativity, besides being a photgrapher’s or artists delight.

Next stall a vendor delightfully called us to see specially crafted small ‘veni’ or malai made with tightly closed white buds. These veni are specially given to married women and young brides to decorate their hairdo’s on festive occasions. Extra thoughtful touch of this street artist to tie the buds in coloured threads of blue, green and red to match the wearer’s traditional saree. Sold at Rs. 70 each,for a small piece, they were special.

”Çome, come”….waved another vendor, eager for us to take some exotic photos. Bright pink rose petals tied tightly to form a long pendular piece and finished off with rolled tubular green leaves.’Where did you learn this?’I inquired. “From my father came the reply, I used to sit with him after school hours, now I own this business.”

Such artists find work ONLY if there is a customer! And exotic garlands and bouquets of flowers do not come cheap, and depend on the climate and season.

The traditional ever fragrant malligai malai was in circular mounds, flowers came from Belgaum or far away Madurai, world famous for these flowers. ( Even BBC travel magazine has an article dedicated to it.) Each ‘more’ or hand length sold for about Rs. 30, price adjusted higher for the festivals and puja season. These fragrant white jasmine strings are most popular with women. At times they are interspersed with rose petals, orange buds or green fragrant marjoram leaves to give a colourful twist.

Bride’s jada malai or garland for bridal hair do.

Not just flowers, but tender coconut leaves are crafted into Thoran used to decorate doors, a wedding dias or mandap and temple gateways. Deft hands and time tested experience is required to be able to source the best leaves and twist them as needed. ( I’ve seen elaborate similar craft in S.E. Asia, especially in Bali for temple decorations).

coconut leaves thoran or pendular hangings

This write up just cannot be complete without the highlight of our outing. Saving the best to the last!

There was a (trained) Indian bull commonly called Kole Basava parading the busy street, and his care taker played tunes on his pipani or shehnai. The bull was adorned with embellishments, trinkets and ankle bells and clothes, donated by people in exchange of blessings. Strings of colourful flowers- red, roses, yellow crysanthemums, white jasmine were tied around his neck and horns, the simplicity and purity of flowers was Mother Nature’s best way to decorate the animal.

We took lots of photos with this ‘special’ animal, as the Kole Basava or Gangi Reddu ( as called in Andhra) visits homes and market people only around Sankranti festival. The caretaker played some old traditional tune for us on his pipani, in exchange for some alms. The Kole Basava are a surviving folk art form, and the community lives on alms. The bull is taken from village to village, house to house and they collect and survive on the donated grain and clothing. The bull is much revered to date, as people seek his blessings.

At the end of our visit it was time to tuck some fresh malligai into my hair known for its natural perfume. The trip however would be incomplete without the traditional Udipi dosa and filter kapi. Rightly so, it was the next stop.

Do tell us if you have visited a flower market and what did you see there ? Or leave your comments on this article if it has interested you. 

For another flower market see here.

 

Year End 2019: Finding Meaning in the Memories

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The year 2018 goes by. Another sunset. Another year to collect our memories.

Sunset 2019

Photo courtesy: Ulhas D.

What ARE memories? Memories are the mental capacity of reviving or retaining facts, impressions, events of people and places, or recalling numerical facts. However, on an average the worst memories stick with us, and the pleasant ones seem to slip away too fast. The importance of memories lies in the emotions and learning that takes place. Isn’t it befitting then, to shake out and share some memories at year end? By sharing we make our bagfuls lighter.

Here are some memories dear to me that gave me an ‘Áha‘ moment, enriching me.

On Events: 

What a wonderful way to begin the year! A surprise birthday party for me made magical with food, laughter and fun with  cousins. Traditional greetings and a game of story telling  involved everyone’s participation. Lessons learned in gratitude towards all the wonderful people in my life!

Visiting family and friends is always a great way to relax. Opportunities to exchange ideas, savour cultural differences and try varied cuisines. Remembering that ‘adjustment factor’ is key to living amicably. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans’ is a wise old saying.

Endless memories of constant caring for our elders at home coupled with recent death of loved ones has been on front burner. Dealing with petty needs, practicing patience, understanding the psychology of demential behaviour are just some eye openers in caring for aged. The fear of being incapacitated and immobile tends to snatch away the self esteem and interest in their life. As for us – It is an honourable chance to do our good Karmic duties and negate any residual loans in Life. Ónce they cared for us, now its our turn to look after them and be part of the cycle of Life.

Both pleasant and mentally tiring memories come to mind. The few pleasant interactions and short conversations, singing, reading to them made life more beautiful for both of us. The faint smile and the frail hand that reached out lovingly brought tears to us both. And memories of feeding a ripe mango and sweet kheer (milk and rice pudding) that dribbled down onto the shirt brought back my own childhood memories of being fed caringly by my parents.

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Photo courtesy: express.co.uk

Then there are recent memories of attending my differently abled niece’s Talent show. Seeing these children perform with musical instruments, do traditional dance and learn a new language just demonstrated their grit and determination to learn as well as enjoy. Well done!

Can you recall any memories of social inclusion and work that you may have done?

On Friends and Relatives:

Friends, laughter, food, sharing thoughts and a shoulder to cry on -this sums up what friends are for.

Because of you I laugh a little, cry a little, talk a little …more‘ Thank you to EACH one of you, my dear friends. It was you who  comforted me when in pain and chided me when erring! (and I know some of them will be reading my blog post). Sitting in the warmth of your company, sipping tea or being fussed over with delicious home cooked food, or having discussions on storytelling and gardening- you inspired me!

On Skills Upgrading:

To stay young and fit, sharpen your memory’ is an old saying. True, as you age, the neurons in the brain shrink and you loose the ability to remember facts, names. One way is to keep learning, staying abreast, developing new hobbies, meeting new people or solving brain teasers. ( I’m nervous to upgrade to a new mobile phone and learn/unlearn many a function). Don’t laugh please!

Observing screeching parrots and noisy Cockatoos in one of the parks sparked a new interest. Time to buy sketch pencils, colours and a drawing book, I thought to myself. Since then I’ve been recording bird facts, observing and feeding birds, searching You tube tutorials, and sharing my book with friends and school children. Be inspired, get creative!

Here is a simple bird story for you.

The Peacock And the Crane

Storytelling is another tool in my cap. Just like reading, listening to stories brings numerous benefits to children. It improves listening, recall, imagination, public speaking and becoming creative to make up own stories.

What are your memories of Grandmother stories?

Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.”

Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge

On Blogging: It’s been a wonderful journey since 2014 to date. in my first year I did not know the ABC of creating or writing a blog. Memories of late nights writing and erasing a post, getting stuck with a writer’s block or even crying over unsaved work make me laugh a bit now that I am more experienced. Phew! I survived. I learned. I’ve grown a bit. see here. for my blogging journey.

Let me stop here, for the bag seems a bit lighter now after sharing. Surely the memories have taught me many a lesson and because they are my very own…I can always tuck into them whether happy or sad.

It’s time to hear some of your memories of year 2018. Did they change the course of your journey?

Photo credit: Jeanna Gabellini  htpps://masterpeacecoaching.com

                 Wishing you all a very Healthy and 

                      Peaceful New Year 2020.

 

 

World Palate Recipes: Coconut Stuffed Banana( Malabar Style)

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When you mention bananas, lush tropics immediately come to mind. The banana tree is not a tree, but a herb. It is encased in a sheath of leaves, that blooms with a pendulous flower head, that will bear multiple tier of fruit. Bananas are high in nutrition – potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6. The easily digestible starch in them provides fiber and keeps hunger at bay. To lift your mood and keep blood pressure away – eat a banana. It contains serotonin and dopamine nutrients. Even the peel is very high in nutrients, and makes for a rich addition to kitchen compost. Humble banana!

Know your banana well! Cooking banana or dessert/ fruit banana, which one? Dessert bananas come in different sizes and colours. They are sweeter due to higher starch content. The yellow ones that sit on supermarket shelves are just one variety – others are deep purple, red, amber and yellow.Just a simple snack or smoothie or frozen banana yoghurt – bananas are just so versatile yet delicious!

The mild taste of bananas is great for cooking, frying or baking. Green raw bananas are popular in Kerala, Carribean, Honduras, Phillipines for making chips or fried vegetable.

Young banana plant growing in our garden. I love to make rice pockets with the leaves, or use them plate liners.

Recently I bought a dozen thick peel, delicious bananas. After munching a few as a snack, I wanted to experiment on a few desserts. Here is a very popular Malabar/ Kerala style dessert /snack called Pazhum Nirachatu ( stuffed banana) that I share with you today. Though I am not from that region, I remember my mother used to cook this delicacy for her ‘ladies lunch meet’ And as hungry children, we would get our share of warm stuffed bananas, right after school. Nutrition pack!

Ingredients

3 small size just ripe bananas (yellow or red skin)

1 cup grated fresh coconut ( use frozen/thaw if fresh unavailable)

4-6 cloves of cardamon

2 spoons maida / plain flour

1/2 cup fine sugar

few raisins, cashews for garnish

3-5 spoons of ghee

Method

Peel the bananas, check their firmness. Make a lengthwise slit /scoop and keep aside. In a pan add 2- 3 spoons of ghee , lightly roast the coconut, add sugar and stir. Do not let it caramelize! Keep aside and cool, add cardamon powder and raisins.

In a small container put the maida and add drops of water to make a thick paste.

Now use this stuffing to fill into prepared bananas. Coat the stuffed side with the paste lightly.

In a pan, add ghee, place the prepared bananas and roast them to a deep brown colour on all sides. See that they retain some firmness. Remove cool, garnish with raisins. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you wish, add a dollop of vanilla ice cream for a twist. Enjoy!

Stay healthy and blessed with Nature’s gifts.

 

Let me know if you make this recipe and have changed it a bit. How else do you cook your banana for dessert? 

Post Cards from Tonga: Life on an Island

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If you’ve heard the name Tonga, you will immediately think of  deepest blue seas, soft sandy beaches, and swaying coconut fronds! Are’nt most islands like that? Well, yes and no. Each place is unique and Tonga in the Pacific Ocean is where you can swim with the enormous, yet gentle migrating whales! So informs P.

Well, after a BIG swim P decided to head to the local Nuku’Alofa market to find some fresh local vegetables. Maybe a walk in the sunshine would dull the bobbing in her head due to boat rides.

Underwater Mother Whale and calf, Tonga.

Here are some photos for a slice of Polynesian life.

From hand-made woven Pandanus leaf baskets, to Tapa mats, bunches of ripe bananas, tuber vegetables to whale-bone artistry, sea shell artifacts the Nukuálofa Tongan market has it all. Crowded and buzzing like all other markets, there seems to be a carefree calm spirit. Maybe the Sea (Moana) watch’eth and protect them all.

Bunches of yellow – green bananas are major produce, being tropical wholesome fruit. Hmmm.. do they use the oblong leaves of the plant ? In India, eating on the banana/plantain leaf is a traditional feature, in Malaysia fish and rice are cooked in small leaf pockets called ketupat. 

The long, brown tuber roots are Taro -the only local grown vegetable. Taro is much revered in Polynesian culture. Nothing else grew here. Washed and cleaned the root is hammered into a loose reddish white paste and has a mild flavour.

With the coming of colonials and recent migrants exotic vegetables like cabbage, tomatoes and lettuce, Chinese leafy vegetables find their place alongside local produce.

 

Coconut trees grow in sandy soil and need plenty of water, thus commonly found on most islands. Almost every part of the the tree finds use. There are many stories woven around the coconut tree, though each culture has its own version.

The coconut tree legend

Being an island, life in Tonga revolves around the Sea. The Moana is deeply revered. Ancient Polynesians were great navigators who traveled the high swells to hunt for whales and other fish, that was staple diet. They used the night sky and stars as their compass.

Effectively then, womenfolk busied themselves in making artifacts from whalebone, wood and sea treasures. Fancy a big sea shell carving? Or a musical clinking chime of seas shell to  hang in your home garden? Polynesian wood mask carving and bowls would make a treasured souvenir too! Besides promoting local Art.

You can’t miss these stalls at the market. THAT is what attracts the global visitor ensuring a peek into local culture. Special fine woven mats Ta’óvala worn by men and womenfolk are tied at the waist for ceremonies or funerals. Made with strips of thick coarse Pandanus leaves and patterned with a distinct red border it can take up to 2-3 months of preparation and weaving. They are generally passed from one generation to another.

See the starched paper or beaten leaves with Aboriginal drawings? Mostly sea creatures like turtles, fish, mermaids, Sea God and waves are sketched and inked.

What then is life on an island? Away from buzz of city pressure. In reverence with Nature, listening to the sound of the Sea, of sunrise and moon rise making poetry in the sky, of soft steps on the sand making temporary foot marks in time, of scanning the coast for the swish of fish tails, of communal celebrations of Life.

Yes! Don’t you , the city dweller dream of it?

Have you come across any cultural story in the Polynesian islands? Do share with us readers.

 

World Palate Recipes – Re blog Dosakaya Pappu

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Once again the Dosakaya /yellow cucumber creeper is growing well in our kitchen garden. We’ve harvested about 5-6 mild flavoured, thin skinned fruit. I’m experimenting adding them into various different lentils – but it tastes best in Tuvar or Arhar dal.

After taking new photos, I found I have already shared the recipe with you a while ago. See here.

Under the creeper are the dark green coloured triangular Colocassia /Arvi leaves flourishing in the recent rains. They are supposed to be rich in iron. The garden leaves are so tender, they cook up very fast. It’s important to retain nutrients, so no overcooking greens. For a recipe see here.

 

 

Crochet: Eco Friendly, Reusable Draw String Pouches

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Who says granny pouches are so passe?

Potli bags or granny pouches were ideally reused fabric from old dresses, sarees, shirts or sheets. History mentions their effective use for putting in herbs, medicines and dry aromatic leaves, since the Vedic times. In recent years small pouches find utility as key holders or jewellery or coin pouches. Embroidered or lace edged or exotic beaded pouches have become a fashion statement in recent times.

I stumbled upon a informative post of an 80 year old lovely lady who keeps herself creatively busy making drawstring pouches!

It brings back memories of my very enthusiastic and deft mother who was a good seamstress. Often leftover fabric would be converted into carry bags. However, she did not crochet or knit, as the climate did not demand the need.

From Germany to New Zealand, This 89-YO Granny’s Potli Bags are a Global Hit!

The last few months was a wonderful ‘crochet time’ as I busied  myself making drawstring gift pouches. It was great way to learn new stitches and practice old ones too!

The pouches were then stuffed with a small jewellery gift and some traditional haldi -kumkum’ (auspicious turmeric and vermillion packets). At the Mehendi ( Henna ) party, after much laughter, karaoke songs and exchange of recipes it was time to give this unique parting gift and make a formal invite for the wedding.

The specially hand crafted, eco friendly, crochet pouches were indeed a surprise! There was much awe and smiles too. Each lady received a special drawstring pouch with her name tag. The tag also spread the message of love for crochet and the importance of learning a hobby and being creative.

Here are some of the stitches used :
Bead stitch, single crochet, double crochet, fan /shell stitch, lark’s foot stitch, granny square, mitered granny.


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To avoid much seams, and complete the project in desired time, all the pouches were made as a rectangle of desired length and width and then sewn up at the base end and side. At the top end, make sure to include space for inserting the string and closing off with a picot stitch or fan stitch for a neat edge.

Tips to think : Different thickness of wool, different stitches and the tightness of hand may vary the desired size by few centimetres. Keep extra wool for tassels making and joining. If adding embellishments like beads – good to practice on a seperate project. It takes time, but adds to beauty.

One of my favourite colour combination that was effective with the Larkspur stitch is this one. Try different colour combinations, use one in Nature. It’s a great way to appreciate colours!

So, what’s your hobby? What have you recently made with yarn or fabric or other materials? How does your hobby help you – financially or emotionally? 

Do leave your comments, I love an interactive audience. Cheers!

Summer Fruit: Mangoes reign Supreme

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Summer Fruit: Mangoes reign Supreme

Though the summer in most parts of India is now in full fervour,  mangoes are yet to make their abundant presence in the market and in the homes it brings the lip licking and drooling. Last week I did go to the market to get my first batch…but I was not impressed with its taste.

Mangoes when raw are green, but on ripening turn orange or golden yellow. Raw mangoes find their way into many a recipe and cuisine across India and South Asia. Mouth watering chutneys, tongue tantalising Andhra pickles, refreshing cool aam panna from Gujrat and Maharashtra, sliced wedges of raw mango dipped in salt for a tangy roadside snack to mamudikaya pappu or raw mango laced dal, a tangy dal salad or snack called vaatli dal.

In Sri Lanka raw mangoes are blended with coconut paste and used in fish curry.

So, as you wait for the mangoes with me, here is an older post. See here. I’ll be back soon.

 

 

 

Beachfront Weekend Market at Manly, Sydney

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Blue skies, warm weather, a long weekend in April were the perfect conditions to enjoy a day out at Manly beach, north Sydney. ( Yes, Sydney ‘Time Out’ listed its weekend markets, which was a bonus). Excitement and anticipation swelled as we waited in the long snaking queues at Circular Quay Ferry Wharf along with other tourists and Sydney siders for a ferry ride across the harbour.

At Manly wharf, eager holiday crowds descended on to the main street, heading towards the blue sea and surf. This quaint suburb had its very own distinct architecture. Art deco buildings of 1800 -1900’s had been given a fresh paint, buildings at street corners were shaped angular and balconies were round shaped. The main promenade or ‘The Corso’ has had multiple redevelopments. The local Council takes pride and interest in promoting local culture and heritage, which in turn stimulates business and tourism. The weekend market is one such project.

We passed many shops selling ice creams, sun hats, sunglasses and Billabong surf and beach wear. There were  travel agents selling flight brochures, a Cole’s supermart well stocked with groceries, and some other sundry items.

In the 1860’s there were just two or three hotels here and few cafes along the sea front. Today, Manly is a rich and bustling tourist suburb with many more charming beachfront bars and restaurants. White shade giving parasols and outdoor chairs made for a picture perfect scenic seafront.

Away from this frenzy quietly tucked away on Sydney street, was the colourful weekend market. With so many people there…it sure was a buyer’s and browser’s haven!

Care for a Hawaiian shirt or hand-made beaded jewellery? Soft smelling soaps or Art deco posters? The market had something for everyone! Else…head out to the azure blue waters and soft sands just across.

I took a carefree slow walk, peering almost at each stall. The open air market had a mixed smell – sea breeze mingling with aroma of roasted coffee beans wafting from the nearby cafes. How intoxicating! Stalls displayed a variety of loose printed shirts, beachwear in white, blue and coral colours, sunglasses, books and exclusive beeswax paper used to cover food items . There was handmade bead jewellery, bracelets of shells and raffia strings. Catering to the hungry crowds – the makeshift mobile vans at the far end of the street turned into fast selling food stalls. Caramel, boysnberry and pistacchio Gelato, Turkish Gozleme that are spinach and cheese wraps, burgers and sandwiches, hot fries, ham strips and Mexican nachos. “No one goes hungry. Come on, tuck in” called the vendors.

I settled in for a cappuccino and some handmade hazelnut chocolates. Hmmm…aromatic and the crunch complemented each other.

Want a Hawaiian print shirt? A soothing scented hand-made soap? Or souvenirs and paintings from locals ? Or just have a chat with one of the stall holders and hear about their way of life. Aren’t markets a great place to walk and talk?

Visit: http://www.timeout.com/sydney/shopping/manly-markets to know more and plan your trip.

Smelling the fresh seaside air, listening to live music in the background, smiling at children licking their ice creams while frolicking around water fountains, around this vibrant market was just so relaxing. I carried no bag, no intentions to buy.

But what is a place if you do not interact with its people? So…I introduced myself to the man behind the crafted books. “My name’s Bob, I’m a retired engineer” he said in thick Australian accent extending a friendly handshake. “Look, I have something special for you, Indian lady” he said as we exchanged more notes. ” Here is a lovely Indian dictionary for you, can you read it to me?” …..And as we re read…he turned pages to the discrete carved out hollow within! ” This is where you can hide your cash and put the book on the library shelf! ” he smiled and insisted he gifts me the book safe.

 

The lady at next stall was selling sweet-scented hand-made soaps and candles. “Making these is therapy for me, on weekdays I work as a Prison Manager” she said. “‘ The job is tough and compelling.” She has been a regular seller here for past two years and enjoys the market’s ambience and summer sea breeze. She is getting queries from customers for more product range and is planning to set up an online business. “Happy Easter” we wished each other.

I soon mingled into the ”other” seaside crowd. The soft sands, thundering waves and frothy foam seemed so magical. At one end were professional surfers and paddlers, at the other children and non swimmers gleefully wet their feet with froth and cool waters.

Manly – a slice of life for each holiday maker. Shopping street and cafes, the market and the seaside. What’s your interest?Come, live it up!

For another Sydney market, at the scenic Sydney harbour see here

Have you been to a beachfront market place? What curios caught your eye there? Do leave your comments below.