(Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t

Friday, June 16, 2006

Remembering Grandma – I


It’s been more than fifteen years since I lost her, yet I still miss her cooking. Titti, as my brother and I used to call my maternal grandmother was a remarkable person. A writer with powerful wordsmith skills, she held equal dexterity in other departments—sewing, knitting, and of course cooking. She was also an active social worker. I miss her wisdom, her sunshine presence, her selfless love. And like I said in the beginning, I miss her cooking.

Titti was an innovator. Not only did she excel in preparing traditional recipes to perfection, she also often created splendid wonders out of seemingly ordinary and at times unusual ingredients.

And so it was with her experiment--successful, and oft-repeated--with Amaltas flowers. Whenever I see these resplendent yellow clusters, also known as golden showers, blowing through the hot Delhi summer breeze, I think of Titti. And I think of the delicious fritters she produced from these flowers.

So recently, when the prolific and talented Shilpa tagged me for the ten things I miss the most about my mother’s cooking, I thought of starting these posts about my grandma. You see, since my mother is right here with me, I don’t have to miss her cooking at all! But we both miss Titti’s full-of-love edible creations. Just last week, Ma thought of remembering my grandma by getting a bunch of Amaltas and frying some fritters off them.

Even though I enjoyed helping Titti make these delightful pakoras or fritters, I didn’t know Amaltas is the proud owner of several medicinal properties.

The ancient Indian system of medicine attributes medicinal properties to almost all parts of amaltas tree, but it is the pulp of its fruit which is considered as an excellent laxative. The amaltas’ pulp has a peculiar flavour and is sweet in taste and cold in effect. It also has digestive, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic and blood purifying properties. A strong purgative, the root of amaltas is used in various skin diseases, while its leaves form an important part of many ointments and poultices. The bark of the tree, which is known as sumari, has astringent properties. From this link.

Let me share with you all the simple recipe of Titti’s Amaltas fritters then. Since it fits the theme so well, this is also my entry for Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging.

Titti’s Amaltas Fritters


A bunch of freshly-plucked Amaltas blooms
Gram flour (besan): 2/3 cup
Green chili (chopped): 3-4
Nigella seeds (kalonji): 1/2 teaspoon
Salt, to taste
Water: 1 cup


1.Make a batter using the above ingredients. Make sure it has a thickish consistency, so you can make small fritters.
2. Heat oil in a wok and deep fry the fritters in batches.
3. Serve hot with chutney or ketchup or just like that.

Nothing special about the fritters, really. Yes, they do taste yummy, but then most fritters do, don’t they? It’s all about the memory for me. I miss Titti, but then she smiles back with the waves of the cascading Amaltas bunches.

~ Sury

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy Birthday!!!!

That's right! It's our very own Sury's birthday today! Best wishes blogger buddy, make room for all the yummy stuff. Party!!


Friday, June 09, 2006

Pass the dip!

Well, the date has come. Sports fans (particularly soccer fans) know what I'm talking about. Yup, it's the World Cup. I'm personally a wrestling guy myself (as Sury can testify with an eye-roll or two, lol) but I'm sure there are many among our blogger friends who are really excited about it.

So in the spirit of this big occassion, how about something you can enjoy while sitting in front of your TV. That's right, people. Take out the chips. The dip is on us tonight.

The key word is: avocados. Most of us know them, but then, many do not. A while back I spend and nice chat with Sury talking about this vegetable which for a number of reasons she had not had the chance to taste. Avocados (we call them palta in Peru) are green egg-shaped vegetables. The skin is hard and rough but extremely easy to peel if ripe. Actually you can take the whole skin of one half with one pull. It is soft inside with a very big circular pit in the center, which also comes off really easily. You can eat avocados in salad or you can make a paste with it for a number of preparations.

Which is exactly what we are going to do.

You guessed it. We're about to make guacamole.

So, separate a few minutes before the game. Pick one avocado, cut it in half, remove the skin and pit. Then, in a bowl, squash the avocado halves with a spoon or fork. Keep squashing and stirring until you end up with a uniform paste.


Next, chop up some red peppers, aji, onions, cilantro and add to the mix. Also mix some salt, garlic powder, pepper a dash of sugar and some seasoning powder. Finally squeeze one or two halves of lemon.


Stir everything together until it's all nicely blended.

That's it! And you are in time for the National Anthems.

Enjoy the dip, enjoy the game ;)


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bhapa Doi - Bengali Dessert

So we completed a year. With this blog, I mean. What a fun-filled ride it has been! What better way to celebrate this blog's anniversary than to bring something traditional? And how would it be if that something is also sweet? Good you say? Well, I agree.

Back in the nascent days of this blog (not that it's in any way grown up now), my talented writer friend Lisa once remarked, "Your blog needs more dessert items." Ouch! 'Seems like neither of the two bloggers who write this foodie journal have a well-cultured sweet tooth. But that shouldn't keep us from sharing the goodies with sugar lovers out there. Here's a good way to rectify this lack in this blog year then. With a traditional Bengali dessert.

Bhapa is steamed in Bengali and doi is yogurt. So there you have it--steamed yogurt. This is amongst the simplest of sweet dishes to whip up and easily amongst the yummiest. Don't let the simplicity underestimate its worth for you. In about ten days from now, this very Bengali sweet dish will be on the menu for the official celebrations of Britain's Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday.

Shall we get to the whipping up process then?

Bhapa Doi (Steamed Yogurt)


Natural yogurt: 100 grams
Condensed milk: 100 grams
Cardamom (crushed): 2-3


1. Take around 400 grams of natural yogurt and drain the water off it by hanging it in a fine cloth for at least 6-7 hours. You will get about 1/4 the original amount of yogurt.

2. Put the dehydrated yogurt in a large bowl. Add the condensed milk to it and whip. It should turn into a smooth paste. Take care to see there are no lumps.

3. Add the crushed cardamom and mix once more.

4. Place the curd mix inside a container with a lid.

5. Steam it for 15-20 minutes. I used the pressure cooker without the pressure vent device. I filled the cooker with some water, placed the container inside it, letting the water cover half of it.

6. Take curd mix off heat. Let it cool naturally.

7. Serve in room temperature or cold. You can cut it into pieces like I did or just scoop it up with a spoon and enjoy.

The texture of bhapa doi is cheesecake-like soft. The taste has a hint of yogurt and a creamy richness. Add to that the sweetness and the aroma of cardamom. It's a delight, which, if you bite into once, will pull you again and again.

All yours :)

In case I can't post another entry within this week, this is my contribution to Anthony's Curry Mela.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Blowing the Candle

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

Today is the day for this blog to turn a year old. Just like every other purpose under heaven, it’s time, too. Time for us to reminisce some, celebrate some, and wonder ever more. Just what I find myself doing as I grin at the almost absurd, yet exhilarating outcomes of writing this blog.

So what’s been my biggest gain on becoming a food blogger? I learned to cook! Trust me, I am not kidding you. Before I started this blog with Cesar, my appreciation of food was limited to just polishing off food cooked by others. I was never pushed into the kitchen, and I never thought there was anything interesting in the act of cooking. In fact, one of my arguments against cooking used to be this: it takes hours to prepare elaborate meals, but how long does it take for people to chow down? Minutes.

This past year saw my attitude to cooking take a 180-degree turn. I realized how naïve I had been to think of cooking as uninteresting. It is anything but that. As I took baby steps into the land of pots and woks, ladles and serving spoons, spice mixes, and their aromas wafting about me, I knew it was love. Chopping vegetables as the view from the kitchen window—curry leaf and basil plants swinging with the breeze—greeted me with a smile, turned out to be a meditation most satisfying. And least philosophical.

To release raw vegetables into hot oil and see them bursting euphorically, turning colour within the wok was akin to the adventure of finding old, dusty boxes on some abandoned loft as a child. Adding salt, just the right amount, was pulling off a chemistry practical assignment to near perfection. And the feeling inside when others let out that wide, approving grin after tasting one of your creations? Heaven. You bet, cooking has had me entranced into its deliciously magical realm.

Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy.And, cooking done with care is an act of love

- Craig Clairborne

In this past year I bought a new chopping board, a knife, a mortar-pestle set—my playthings for the new sport I discovered. I learned cooking pasta for the first time at home (thank you, Cesar). I learned cooking meats, I learned different ways of chopping onions, I learned making vinaigrettes, I craved to buy an oven (still saving money for that), I surprised family members (“You can really cook, eh?”) and myself, I ran riot in the kitchen. I cooked.

The blog also opened a window of learning for me. I found out the fascinating regional variations of Indian food, I celebrated festivals of different Indian states with food bloggers across the world, I got a glimpse into cultures not known to me, herbs I have never smelled or tasted (thanks, Kalyn!), and edible delights that still remain shrouded in enticing mystery for me. I got the opportunity to join a wonderful food forum comprising members from all the inhabited continents (many thanks, Farid and Ji Young), which in turn has become my encyclopedia for exploring culinary cultures.

What started with two food-crazy friends setting up a little corner to share their eating exploits became a venue enriched by other food lovers—buoyant, knowledgeable, and suave. I have reasons to see this blog as more than just that. It has been a blessing. I have a reason to be grateful to all you wonderful fellow bloggers and readers. You all have been my inspiration. THANK YOU.


It was about a year ago when my dear friend Sury proposed a fun idea. You see, I met Sury two years ago in a writer’s community and it wasn’t long before we became the best of friends. We would get together on chat and talk about our days and share stuff about our countries, places we visited, people we came across… and, of course, stuff we ate.

For, you see, we just happen to come from two countries with huge culinary traditions. On one side—India in the East, with its different regions and flavors; on the other side—Peru in the “New World,” a place which became literally a food laboratory with the coming of the Spaniards, resulting in the breeding of unique ingredients.

So Sury says to me, how about we do a blog together? It was supposed to be a simple task, just sharing different dishes and traditions, anything to do with food. We’d be getting to know a bit more of each other. Plus, we would be training those writing muscles that need a constant workout.

Last June we published our first post, a little welcome for some of our friends. And the word spread. Suddenly more people were dropping by, reading about Biryani and Causa and Khandvi and Mazamorra and Patishapta pithey and Ají de Gallina. And those people liked what they found. Before we knew it, our number of visitors had multiplied in geometric progression.

Today we have constant visitors, people who come back regularly, drop comments, ask for recipes and share their doubts regarding some ingredient. We’ve been invited and have participated in a few blog events, such as the meme we did for New Year where Sury and I shared our particular favorites.

Did we expect any of this? No we didn’t. This was a little project between two friends. Are we happy with how it turned out? We are delighted. We are elated to have such wonderful visitors to our ‘big little blog’ and we jump at the chance to share even more. Because what we’ve gone through up till now, is just the tip of the iceberg. India and Peru have so much more to offer in the food field. So many things we want —so many things we feel we MUST—share with all of you.

Thank you for being part of our project. We want you to stick around, send us your comments, and share your thoughts.

All the best to all of you, friends, from two opposite sides of the world which have found a way to stay together for a long time to come.