Drab and smelly

I thought I would kill several birds with one stone... Stage a comeback on my own blog, for starters. Do Pel proud. (Anita, wipe that frown off your brow for it is an informal expression.) Introduce Medha to new tastes and smells. Take pictures like one obsessed - for Click - where it seems to be rather wind-y today.

I bought jackfruit. I paid $2.99/lb for this little chunk that weighed 2.35 lbs to be exact. Over $7. Plus tax. From which came maybe 20 pieces of pulp and even fewer seeds. Given how way too many bloggers had featured the jackfruit last year, I really don't know what I was thinking. No matter what I tried, the results were not enthusing. I even took some corny shots of the jackfruit in my dogwood tree with lovely bokeh in the background. The rind of the poor fruit started turning brown as every nook and cranny of my home quickly absorbed its sickly sweet smell. The natives also started getting restless, and were becoming increasingly biased against the fruit because of the odor fragrance. Then the sun did what it does every evening, a minute or so later each day now, and my home was infused with a warm golden glow.


I also decided to push the boundaries a bit and make it look like nothing on this earth. Alien, if you will.

The jackfruit was done by this time, too! One critic called it drab, for lack of a better word. I was very amused because if he had been able to smell it, drab would have been farthest from his mind.

We ate the crunchy pulp after much rinsing. Milky sap covered my hands, my table, my plates and even on some parts of my camera. Intuitively, I rubbed my hands with vegetable oil and then washed them with warm soapy water and the sap washed off rather easily. That's a Handy Tip, people! I just don't fancy doing the same to my camera though.

I roasted the seeds but they weren't very popular. I am very hesitant to throw them into the trash. Maybe the birds will eat them?

The smell pervaded everything in the house. And to get rid of it, I did the next best thing: added another dimension to the smell. If the jackfruit is a sensational fruit from the land, then this is an exotic flower from the ocean. Baby cuttlefish. Come on! Stretch that imagination a little bit, will you

Flower from the Ocean - my entry for Click

Not everyone's smelly cup of tea. And certainly not spring bounty. But it is Au Naturel.

Cuttlefish are really mollusks and although they lack a skeleton, they do have a inner porous structure called the cuttlebone which is made of calcium carbonate. This provides them with buoyancy. Squids and octupi are also cuttlefish.

The natives became restless again, not sure which of the two was worse. Medha appreciated Jai's strategy of walking around with an agarbatti stuck to her nose. But it backfired when the strong artificial scent of jasmine almost sent her lungs into shock.

The cuttlefish is currently marinating in soya sauce, garlic and some mirin sauce. A quick stir fry might be in order, unless someone gives me a better idea.

I was trying to figure out which of these three pictures to send for Click - Au Naturel. Alien might be too weird, Flower of the Ocean is too strange and I can see several vegetarians being put off by it. And Mothership is just another staid shot of the jackfruit. I am not particularly inspired by any of these. Are you?

Updated: The Flower from the Ocean goes to Click. Thank you all for your input!


golden wheat

It is still I, Anita, holding the reins here! I had meant to get here sooner...but I needed to squeeze in a couple of trips outside Delhi so that all of you could get a(nother) glimpse into rural India. On both trips I was traveling on Indian Rail, and a great way to travel it is. On many express trains today meals are included into your ticket price. The food can be barely edible to fairly good depending on which train you are on and which part of the country you are traveling through.

On the first of the two trips, to Bharuch (Gujarat), my colleague and I had an older Punjabi woman as our companion. A veteran traveler on the Indian Rail, she shared advice freely with us. Chatting up fellow travelers is getting rarer and rarer as we (Indians) become more western in our attitudes and redefine our concept of private space. There was a time when it was common courtesy to share your food with fellow travelers; how impolite it seemed if you opened your tiffins and ate all by yourself. Those days are almost gone; we had better enjoy the conversations while it's there.

I am sure you want me to share the Punjabi Aunty's gems... My much-younger colleague was telling us how she finds herself cooking the same-old same-old all the time. Well, what do you know? Have you tried adding sambar powder to your bhindi subzi? I interjected that I had tried it with potatoes...Well, had I tried it in curried potatoes with poori? And, did you know that one of the best ways to cook the uninspiring bottle-gourd is with wadi? [Cook it just as you would wadi aloo, replacing the potatoes with the squash.] Guess what was for lunch the day I returned? Finger-licking good; you have my word.

Another very intriguing tip she gave, which I haven't tried yet, was about the addition of salt. Most of us add salt to our subzi after we have added the vegetables; well, if we add it to the tadka it will be quite another story it seems!

Our client in Bharuch served us quite the breakfast after we declined the hotel buffet. Let me try and see if I can recall it all. There was dhokla, sev khamani, pattis (fried dumplings filled with savoury-sweet spicy potato mix), bakarwadi, bhajjia (with methi - yum)... washed down with masala chai. Everything other than dhokla, was deep fried, and most had besan as the main ingredient. The variety of besan preparations in vegetarian Gujarati and Maharashtrian cooking is truly astounding.

I learnt to make Khandvi, also called surali chya vadya in Marathi, from my mother-in-law, a popular Gujarati snack which is quick, easy, and also low-fat. It hits the spot when you are looking for some healthy instant gratification.


equal parts besan (gram flour), water, and yoghurt
(1 cup besan will yield 4 servings)
pinch of turmeric

for tempering:
1-2 tsp peanut oil
hing, a pinch
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp fresh or frozen grated coconut
2-4 tbsp chopped cilantro

Whisk all ingredients together to form a smooth slurry. Cook in a heavy-bottomed or non-stick pot till it has thickened and the besan is cooked (5-7 min). Use a few drops of oil to grease inverted thalis or baking sheets. Spread a ladleful of the cooked paste quickly on to the prepared surface, as thin as possible. You have to be quick as the paste will keep thickening as it cools. I use a wooden spoon to do this which allows me to handle a very hot paste. Repeat till you have used up all the paste.

While this cools, prepare the tempering. Heat the oil in a heavy pan. Add hing followed by the mustard seeds. Cover the pan to catch all the spluttering seeds. Turn heat off.

After the paste has cooled (a few minutes), score at 1.5" intervals and roll from one end. Alternately, you can make one big roll and then cut into 1.5" sections. Spread the tempering evenly over the khandvi. Sprinkle generously with grated coconut and cilantro.

Will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to three days.

With a recipe that is very much at home in Manisha's kitchen, I hand her blog back. I hope her loyal readers enjoyed this brief interlude (the recipe is a bonus!) and have not changed their feeds already.

golden wheat
The other trip, it was to Wagah (near Amritsar)... another time perhaps (another place?).

Season for Change

Well, well...how is the weather where you are? Is it spring yet? The changing weather is the least news-worthy of things tonight. What do you say - would you like to see some changes on IFR? I know I would. I like change. Don't they say it is the only constant?

This is where I, Anita, will be blogging from now on. Manisha? A soon-to-be distant figure in the history of this blog. You can find her over there even though I think you should stick around here, which is where things will be happening!

Since I am very tech-challenged, I am going to leave the template well alone for now...First things first. So, first let me try to put 'food' back into Indian Food Rocks. That's what I am good at: simple recipes you can use everyday. No posts without recipes!

Next, I will fix the 'Indian' part. Authentic, traditional, genuine Indian. No fusion, no blasphemous stuff, no short cuts...The change from tradition will be restricted to lower fat cooking, so we can continue to eat healthier. So, no swimming-in-oil recipes. [I do have to work with Blogger though; oh! how I miss the emoticons!]

Let's get the conversation going; put on some tea! And get your aprons out - there's going to be lots of cooking here!