(Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Summertime Refreshment

I am back. To blogging and to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) too. And what better way to do that than bring a most delicious summer drink on the table? A drink, that besides being of delectable taste, also packs a punch in terms of nutrition. But first, a little about the fruit that yields this yummy drink.

Found all over the sub-Himalayan forests, and indeed across the whole of India, Bilwa or Bel (Aegle marmelos/Bengal quince) is a most sacred tree for Hindus. Its leaves and fruits form an integral part of the worship of Shiva--a part of the all-important Hindu trinity of gods. A symbol of fertility, all parts of the Bilwa tree contain medicinal properties. This article provides a wealth of information on the tree as well as the fruit.

Talking of the fruit, it too boasts of numerous health benefits. In fresh, half-ripe form, Bel is used as an antidote for treating diarrhea, hepatitis, TB, dysentery, and dyspepsia. Learn more about the fruit's healing power here.

Personally, I am very fond of Bel. It's inexpesive, tasty, and memory-filled. One of my typical summer vacation activities during school years used to be getting a bel broken by someone (the fruit has a hard exterior and needs some mettle for dismantling) and scooping out the soft, sticky pulp with a spoon. I would just have it like that, without any ado. And dare I say, this favourite fruit of Lord Shiva, did indeed taste divine. It has a sweet fragrance and the taste is naturally sweet. The unchweable and bitter seed did pose a bit of hindrance, but I overcame that with my persistent interest in eating the scooped-up pulp.

I can't recall exactly when my rustic manner of eating a disintegrated Bel graduated into relishing this amazing drink made from it. However, the graduation has surely been most rewarding. Let me waste no more time then to introduce you to one of my favourite summertime concoctions.

Beler Pana/Bel Lassi (Bel drink with yogurt) [For a single serving]


Bel pulp: 2 tablespoons (Scoop out the pulp, mash it, remove the seeds, and strain to get a smooth pulp)
Natural Yogurt: 2 tablespoons
Sugar: 1 1/2 tablespoons
Water: 1 cup
Ice cubes


1. Take Bel pulp and yogurt in a glass. Add sugar and beat the mixture well. Make sure there aren't any lumps.
2. Add water and mix well.
3. Add the ice cubes.
4. Cheers!

If you can get hold of this fruit, do try this aromatic drink. You are likely to fall for the rich, sweet taste and vow to enjoy it all through the hot weather.



Saturday, April 22, 2006

Regarding Comments

This is to let all our wonderful readers know that the comments settings of this blog doesn't allow us to post anonymous comments. So when you post us a comment, please leave your name in the box given.

In the present scheme of things, the anonymous comments do come to our inbox, but won't get published. When I try to publish them, I get an error message.

From time to time, we keep receiving some wonderful anonymous comments, but unfortunately we can't post them. So please leave your name the next time you comment.

Thanks for everyone's lovely comments in the blog. It's what keeps us going :).


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Citrus, Luscious, Sweet

For me, that is a combination to die for, when it comes to desserts.

In my previous post I sent out best wishes for the Bengali new year, which we welcomed last Saturday. In keeping with the very Indian tradition of greeting any auspicious or joyous occasion with something sweet, I have brought a dessert as my first blog offering in the new year. As you can guess by now, it's not just sweet though, but also juicy and refreshing.

It is komlalebur payesh or orange-milk pudding I am talking about. I have mentioned in some previous posts that I am not much of a sweet lover. I stand by that statement. This dessert comes in as a bit of exception though. How so? Because it uses my most-loved fruit as a main ingredient! Easy to make, this pudding is zestful, sweet (of course), and aromatic. A perfect finale for summertime meals.

Komlalebur Payesh (Orange-Milk Pudding)


Oranges: 4-5
Condensed Milk: 1 can
Milk: 2 tablespoons
Sugar: To taste (Since the condensed milk is sweet, I didn't add any extra sugar. You can, as per your taste though)
Cardamom powder: 1/2 teaspoon
Chopped almonds/cashews/pistachios


1. Peel the oranges. De-skin and de-seed them.
2. Put the orange pulp in a bowl and keep aside.

3. In a separate bowl, pour the condensed milk and the milk. Whisk well. Add more sugar if you want at this stage.
4. Now add the orange pulp and cardamom powder to the milk base and lightly stir it.
5. Put the chopped nuts and refrigerate.
6. Serve chilled.

If you are a sweet lover, unlike me, you will love this. If you are an orange-lover, like me, you will want to eat it again. And again.

And of course the open secret is, since this is amongst the simplest of desserts to make, it won't even hurt to go for repeat performances.

Shall we? Dig in, I mean ;)


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Shubho Nobo Borsho!

That would be Happy New Year, when translated. Today is the first day of the Bengali calendar, the first month being Boishakh. It is a day when new business enterprises are launched and also when business people open new ledger books, called Haal Khata. Ganesha, the god who bestows good fortune is worshipped and customers are requested to settle their previous dues. Everyone also gets free refreshments in the form of sweets and other savouries from the businessmen.

In fact, it is considered auspicious to start anything new on this day. Youngsters are often encouraged to make pledges to study harder throughout the year to come or hone other skills on this first day of the year.

Poila Boishakh, or the first of Boishakh has a special place in my heart. It's a day when we wear new clothes, feast on good food, and enjoy cultural functions. A day to spread cheer all around. A time when young people pay respect to their elders by touching their feet. The elders in turn shower their blessings to the younger generation.

So here's wishing all of you a wonderful Poila Boishakh and a great year to follow :).


Note: That image is of a stitch pattern indigenous to Bengal. It's an embroidered quilt known as Nakshi Kantha. The motifs are taken from everyday life in rural Bengal and are done by ordinary womenfolk of the region. These quilts are also an example of thrift as pieces of old cloth are stitched together to produce something new.

Monday, April 10, 2006

¡Muchas Gracias!...

...dear fellow food bloggers :). Ever since we started this blog, my life has been a feast. And not just virtually. Really. Not only have I been having a wonderful time relshing the delectable treats on offer on food blogs such as yours, I have also had some fantastic culinary explorations by way of cooking your recipes and enjoying the bites for real.

It doesn't hurt to post some of these mouthwatering phenomenas as they turned out in my kitchen. Please forgive me if the photographs don't do justice to the actual dishes. I am terrible with the camera. As for taste, I can give you the testimony of a devoted food lover (yours truly) that these are gems you would like to produce again and again. What's more, they are easy to prepare. With many thanks then, here we go:

1. Cesar's Peruvian Rice Chicken. Prone to experimenting, I added a dash of lemon grass to Cesar's list of ingredients. If you are a chicken lover, you have to try this. Lovely taste of peppers, peas, corn, chili (it's a pity we don't get aji here), all blending with the succulent chicken and delicious rice.

2. Brinjal-Ginger Curry from Indira's Mahanandi. Ever since I saw the recipe and her terrific image, I knew I had to make this. It took me a while to finally get to it, but the result was delightful all the same. The taste of ginger and coriander was new to me in a brinjal preparation, and I did like it a lot. I used green brinjals in place of the violet ones. I don't think that altered the taste too much though, because I am going to make this quite often now. Thanks Indira :)

3. Cesar's Tuna Pasta. This one was long overdue, and when I finally couldn't wait anymore, I went ahead and made it with spirali instead of the bow-tie Cesar suggested. But hey, what's cooking without a little creative license? Since the first time I made it, it's been much in demand at our home. You can tell why ;)

4. Anthony is one person I can always trust for recipes. His confident stance, passion for cooking, and mature taste buds are probably the reason behind that. Well, I must say, this self-proclaimed Maharaja of bachelor cooking doesn't have any reason to be modest. For his recipe delivers 100% to attest to that self proclamation. I tried his Green Moong Khichdi the other night for dinner and was bowled over by its deliciousness. And I didn't even add a dollop of ghee or butter to the hot khichdi. It still tasted finger-licking delish. Definitely something I will come back to often.

5. And to round off this mouthwatering spread, what could be better than a very Indian dessert? A big thank you to Ashwini for sharing the recipe of Lapshi. It turned out rather nice, and I reckon there's quite a bit of nutrition packed in it too. All sweet lovers out there, don't miss this one.

It was a joy to savour all these unknown treats, and I know there will be many more explorations in the times to come. I do feel a little dwarfed in the midst of such seasond kitchen experts as you all, but as long as I can try out such lovely food, I am not complaining. I am just smiling--with a mouthful or three ;)


Monday, April 03, 2006

Peruvian Dish: Papa a la Huancaína

Time for another glance at Peruvian food. So far I've given you an idea of some desserts (like Mazamorra, Alfajores or Milk Rice), some Chifa, some Causa, and even some Pisco Sour. Now it's time to get even more traditional.

This time I bring you one of our most famous entreés, typical from the city of Lima, where I'm from. This dish is yet another prove that many Peruvian dishes aren't really difficult to make, but the flavor they pack, that's something else. In this case you basically need our old buddy Ají, some white cheese (we call it "fresh cheese") and our noble potato. Yup, one of our major contributions to the world of food, potatoes in Peru are abundant in countless forms. We can't run this blog, without potatoes having their own post.

The time has come.

Our dish today: Papa a la Huancaína ("Huancayan" Potato)

Papa a la Huancaína is a cold entrée, a key dish of Criollan food (the food from Lima) and one of the most beloved. It is basically cooked potatoes served with a cream made with cheese and aji.

How it all began:

The history behind this dish goes back many years ago, during the construction of a railroad from the capital city Lima to the mountain area. This enormous work was in charge of a number of crews that worked at 2000 m.a.s.l. You can imagine how a project of this magnitude can wear down even the toughest worker.In consequence, people (especially women) from the Huancayan population would approach the crews with meals for lunch. Among these people, one woman stuck out because of the dish she brought: nice potatoes with a delicious cheese-based sauce and some hard-boiled egg pieces. The sauce consisted of crushed cheese mixed with minced "rocoto" (a sort of aji) and diluted with some milk. This particular dish was a hit and crews would expect this woman's arrival, calling out:

"A que hora llega la papa de la Huancaína" (What time does the Huancayan's potato arrive?)

With time, the recipe evolved. Rocoto was changed for ají and oil began to be included in the preparation. With the advance of technology, the ingredients began to be mixed with the aid of blenders, in contrast to the original mortars. However, one thing did not change, and that was the uniqueness of this dish.

The following is a simple recipe for Papa a la Huancaína:


1 kg potatoes
4 green ají
1 tbsp. sugar
500 gr. fresh cheese
1 cup milk
3 lemons
2 eggs
lettuce leaves
salt and pepper
10 olives


Boil the aji (no seeds) with sugar; remove after boiling and then blend with egg-yolks, cheese, milk, lemon and oil. Add salt. Use this sauce over previously cooked (boiled) potatoes over a bed of lettuce leaves. Decorate with half a hard-boiled egg and olives.

Simple, huh? Give it a try, and when you do, let us know how it went.