I grew up playing around moringa(maskasangi) trees. Everyone has atleast one tree in their garden in our place. My parents always told us how maskasangi was full of iron and slightly nudged us to eat it. But I had never tasted the leaves(pallo). Aayi would make phodi (which is still one of my all time favorite dishes) out of the flowers and the pods were used in many dishes. Few years ago, I started reading about leaves being used in many dishes and when I asked aayi, she also confirmed it. So I started buying it here and made up my own recipes. This Moringa leaves rotti is one such dish that I tried and we all enjoyed it very much.
The first time I tried it, I prepared this with only rice flour. But then I started adding the other flours. These days I have started using almond flour a lot in my cooking. So this time, I used it in this rotti. Adding warm milk to the flours cooks them slightly and gives a very soft rotti compared to using normal milk.
My long time readers know that I usually post pictures of my kids birthday cakes around this time. This year I took up a lot and made a very ambitious plan for the party. We had the party at home, in our backyard with water balloons, huge bubbles, big balls, dart games, piñata and more. Ayaan has been a huge fan of the series Super Why for last one year. He watches the show whenever he gets screen time and he loves books because of that. So he decided that he wants a Super Why cake. Ishaan came home with a Pokémon card few months back and then had a craze for the cards as well as the show Pokémon – Indigo league on Netflix. So that was what he picked for the cake theme when I gave him few options.
I knew Ayaan would love chocolate cake. So I picked this moist chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for him. He loved it so much that he ate it for 4-5 days till he finished the last morsel of cake. It was loved by all the kids as I had guessed.
Ishaan asked for vanilla cake. I wanted to try out something different. I tried this Italian sponge cake. I have never tried a cake without baking soda or baking powder. So this was totally different. I was very skeptic but it turned out very soft and tasty. I added a layer of buttercream and a layer of mango jam in between two layers. All the grown ups absolutely loved this cake. It tasted a lot like the pastries we get in India. I did not have time to make the figures, so I used some from his collection.
I picked simple dishes for the dinner which did not take too long. Every one of them came out really good. In all it was a fun and successful party. Here was the menu.
For a long time I have been hearing about the electric pressure cooker Instant pot. Although everyone that owns it had all the positive feedbacks about it, I wasn’t very inclined to add another gadget to my already over-crowded kitchen. But then during Thanksgiving sale, my friend gave me that last nudge and told it was on a sale. She said I am never going to get it at that price. I gave in and bought it. The big attraction for me was the steel inner pot. Since then I have used it a lot, prepared all kinds of dishes in it. This Spinach pulav with Coconut milk, loaded with vegetables and paneer was one of the first dishes I tried making in Instant pot.
I am trying to include more greens in our diet. Spinach gets added to pulavs, chapatis, bread, soups, gravies etc. This time I wanted to use up some beetroot and paneer, so I added them to pulav along with spinach. Coconut milk gave a very mild taste to it. This pulav came out so good that I will have to make this regularly.
Pictorial: Heat oil/ghee and fry the spices, followed by onions, cashews. Add tomatoes, followed by spinach paste, garam masala.
Add rice and fry for few minutes. Then add the vegetables, coconut milk and cook till done.
Spinach Pulav with Coconut Milk
Delicious and healthy spinach pulav with creamy coconut milk and loaded with vegetables, paneer.
I associated bottle gourd (gardudde in Konkani) with mostly with the burfis(khadi). It was my favorite sweetdish while growing up. So whenever we got this vegetable, which was not that frequent, aayi made sure to prepare the burfis. Thanks to the yoga guru Ramdev’s TV programs, I started hearing more about this lauki(in Hindi). Due to the medicinal values of this vegetable, I started buying it and now it has become a regular in our diet. When I asked aayi for other dishes that we make with bottlegourd, she mentioned this ambat. This gardudde ambat is made like any other Konkani dali ambats.
Dali ambat is made with toor dal, a coconut masala and a vegetable. Finally a onion or mustard seeds-curry leaves seasoning is added. The taste of dal is influenced largely by the taste of the vegetable used.
Pictorial: Cook bottle gourd with dal and onions. Fry coriander seeds and grind with red chillies and coconut to a smooth paste. Add it to cooked dal. Fry remaining onions and add as seasoning.
Bottlegourd Dal (Gardudde Ambat)
A classic Konkani dal with bottle gourd and dal cooked in coconut base.
In my last post I promised to be more regular here, then at the last moment we decided to visit India. To say I was homesick would be putting it mildly. We decided to squeeze in the trip before Ishaan’s school started. Some of you asked to post pictures of food/garden back home. So decided to post this.
We mostly stayed in Bangalore this time with few days trip to Belgaum and my hometown Kodkani in between. Kids had a fantastic time with family. Ishaan bonded immediately with my brother’s 3 year old. It was such a delight to see them moving around everywhere hand-in-hand. Before we left from here, my brother asked me what I wanted to do in India. I said spend time with you all and eat a LOT. While my parents made sure to feed me every one of my childhood favorites, my brother took me to all his favorite restaurants in Bangalore (we ate out twice a day sometimes!!).
When we landed, my brother had loaded the freezer with all kinds of fish. Aayi made this yummy spread on the second day.
Although mango season was over, we could find some in the market of Neelam variety. Kids loved them. We enjoyed them in ambe humane one day.
I had all plans of clicking pictures of the food we had in restaurants. But whenever we went out, we all got busy in managing 4 little ones, it was a miracle that we could eat anything. After few times of my 15 month old throwing food all over me, we decided to take the booster seat to all restaurants. That was such a big help. So whenever we went out, I just forgot all about camera and concentrated on enjoying great food.
It is rainy season in India. That meant we could get all the specialities of this season. Our breadfruit tree was full of breadfruits. My all time favorite with these is the phodi, so easy to make and delicious.
Whenever we visit my parents, they make these lovely baskets out of jackfruit trees and make hittu/khotte. Ishaan had a great time watching my mom make these. The pillowy idlis wrapped in these leaves were to die for.
Although we stayed only couple of days in Kumta, we were lucky to get the naturally grown mushrooms. These are big delicacies during the season. They are sold by hundreds.
My parents frontyard had a lot of turmeric leaves, our neighbors shared some from their garden too. So kadamb was on the menu one day.
My maternal uncle(mama) came visiting us one day and he sent us very fresh jilebis from Sirsi. These are sold only one day a week and they are just out of this world when enjoyed fresh.
For me, rainy season means enjoying lot of pathrode and ankre tambli(will post soon). No matter how busy she is, aayi makes sure to prepare this combination for me. Pathrode leaves were abundant in our garden. Ankre are different leaves available during the season. The garden was full of elephant yam/Surnu/Suvarnagadde plants. The plants grow wherever the roots are. Only few of these will eventually have big beautiful yams (shown in below picture).
I am happy to announce here that we were blessed with our second baby boy – “Ayaan” couple of days ago. Life has changed again with us trying to adjust to an almost 4 year old and a newborn at home. We have been very lucky to have my parents here to help us out, I cannot imagine how we would have managed if they were not here. It would challenging once they return to India next month.
This post won’t be complete if I don’t mention our friends here in Kansas. Throughout pregnancy and after childbirth, our friends here gave every bit of support we needed. They took care of Ishaan when I was tired and needed a break, brought us food when I was down, brought their kids to our place so Ishaan would be entertained, picked him from school, threw awesome baby showers for me, helped with everything for Ishaan’s (over-ambitious) birthday party (when I was just a couple of weeks away from due date). They did everything and we did not even had to ask. We truly feel blessed to have amazing friends in our lives.
So what is going to happen to this blog? I have already realized that life with two little ones is going to be very very busy. But I will make sure to update this place when I get some breathing time. Meanwhile enjoy the 1000+ recipes that are already on the blog.
In the last few years, we have tried to document different festivals that we celebrate along with recipes that are very close to us. Here is one very important celebration which is very important to us.
Monsoon marks the beginning of many festivities in our part of the country. With pouring rain, we can see beautiful greenery everywhere in the beautiful Konkan coast. This also marks the beginning Â of Shraavan month (maas). Married G.S.B. ladies celebrate Choodi pooja on all Sundays of this month every year. Shraavan is the most auspicious month for us. This pooja is a pooja of nature and the Sun god. It is firmly believed that it satisfies the Sun god and the nature. It is an occasion where pooja is done in every home and then the choodi is offered to other married ladies in the community. A choodi is a bunch prepared with different plants and flowers.
While forming the choodi (bunch) we use many plants and flowers which are easily available in this season in the garden. Everyone uses different plants/flowers in their choodis. Here I am going to specify the ones I use. These are named differently in different places by people. We use the following plants, these all are local Konkani names – dhirmankur (durve or garike), maad, Sita chavari, vaganangut (majra nangut), aarati, mandri, amshe phool, udka dentu, paarijaat leaf etc. We also use different flowers in the choodi. Some of them are paarijaat, tera phool, ratnagandhi, karaveer etc. All these plants are said to have medicinal values.
We bring all of them together to form a bunch whichÂ is called as choodi. These are tied in paarijaat leaf. We usually form fifteen choodis. Choodi is offered with paana veedo(veelya – betel leaves and areaca nut).
Here is how I celebrate choodi pooja. Everyone has their own ways depending on what they have been following for generations – On Shravan Sunday, after taking bath, I keep these choodis on two banana leaves in our devakoodi(god’s room) after applying gandh(sandlewood paste), turmeric paste and kumkum. I decorate these choodis with flowers.
Some people prepare some sweets for naivedya(offering). We were using sugar and ghee earlier. These days I use only fruits for naivedya. I worship choodis with agarbatti(insence sticks) and aarati. I offer akshatas(rice mixed with kumkum) to these and pray to god. After pooja , I take them to Tulsi vrindavan/katte infront of our home. I worship them again, do pradakshinas to Tulsi and offer aarati and akshatas to Sun god. I pray the Sun god and nature. I offer choodi to Sri Tulsi, Sun god, kalpavriksha (coconut tree), jaladevata (water well) and main door (hostilu). I offer to Kuladevata(family god).
After wearing it myself I offer them to elders in the house and distribute them to other married women in the community.
I keep thinking about posting more often here, but time just flies by. Last few weeks had been very hectic. We just returned from a week long vacation to South Dakota. The trip planning/shopping took more time than I imagined. But I am glad it went well. Ishaan just started going to preschool today – I am trying to calm down my nerves even after I saw he was ok when I left him at school this morning!. So I thought I will write something here today and instead of posting a recipe, I thought of posting something that I wanted to post for a long time – some pictures of my home from rural India.
When I visited India last November, many of you asked me to post some pictures of my aayi’s beautiful garden. I took dozens of pictures, of every corner, but never got the time to post any. I haven’t even processed them yet!!!. But anyway, I will get to all of it soon, now that I will have few hours free for myself!.
I spent first 2 decades of my life in this beautiful home. Somehow, even after living in different places, setting the home all by myself, I still feel this home – where my parents live, where I spent my childhood, gives me that feeling of really being at home. Every corner of this place has many memories associated with them. I don’t think I can put down everything in words, so I will just stop here and show you all some pictures that I clicked.
Almost every house in the village has a “tulsi katte”. We pray here every day. Pappa waters the tulsi (holy basil) plant every day. Aayi lights a diya every night, there is a small opening in the rectangular blue stone you see in the picture where diya can be kept. Â Every couple of years this place is painted, we loved painting it when we were kids.Â
Sprinklers are relatively new here. When we were kids, pappa watered the plants with huge pipes. It used to be such a hectic process. Now the sprinklers make it relatively easy.
My parent’s garden has many banana, coconut and jackfruit trees.Â
It is very hard to save bananas from monkeys. Everyone covers them to make it harder for monkeys to get, but aayi tells me monkeys have figured out a way to open these bags!!
Our front yard.Â
It was Diwali time, what is the fun of Diwali without some firecrackers. We thought Ishaan won’t like it, but he enjoyed them a lot. When we were kids, pappa would bring big bags full of firecrackers, we would light up the entire house. We would light diyas or candles infront of the house. It was loads of fun.
Heating water. We still use this traditional water heating system, dried trees and leaves are used for this.
A well infront of the house – this is the only source of water for us. My parents still take out water using a rope for drinking and cooking. A electric pump is used to fill a overhead tank for other uses.
River is very close to our home, so we get very fresh seafood.
It is lot of fun to stick hand in a bucket of live crabs and take out one! And yes, that is Ishaan!
On the way to the river which is a short 5 mins walk from home. It is lined with beautiful coconut trees.
The trees you see in the below picture are on a tiny island. Many people live on this island, but they have to cross the river for their daily shopping and other things.
This blog is 8 year old today. (Somehow I like to call it blog birthday because I feel it was born on that day!!). Thank you so much for all your love and support in these years. This blog would not have survived without that.
We would love to hear from you on this occasion – those who always make sure to leave a comment and those who read the blog but never comment. Please take a moment and say few words. It would mean a lot to us. This would let us know who you are and what you like to read.
Thanks again, keep visiting.
Updated on Jul 7th : Thank you so much for each and every one who took time to say something. Feels great to know you all still read the blog.
One of the questions I get asked very frequently is ‘how I manage to cook with a very active child at home’. So I thought of writing this post. I am by no means a person who can give tips on this topic, but I am happy to share how I manage. If it helps anyone, I will be very happy.
I grew up watching my aayi cooking for large functions at home. She would make everything from scratch, with some help from dad and my granddad. We had very frequent power cuts, so she had to grind big quantities of coconut on manual grinder to make traditional Konkani dishes. My brother and I were very clingy kids, so I don’t know how she managed it. I have never cooked for such large gatherings. But I have started cooking for smaller gatherings these days. One of my worry was the food won’t be enough for everyone – I am okay if I have left overs that my family can eat next day, but I don’t like if my guests go hungry. I am getting better at judging the amount now.
I cook 3 meals almost everyday, but I like to eat out once a week. Our eating habits have changed after Ishaan was born – I have become more passionate about cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients, take for instance the pasta sauces, the pickles etc. I haven’t started making pastas from scratch yet, may be sometime soon!. After a recent India trip, I realized freezing food is very handy. When I have leftovers, I freeze them instead of having it the next day. This helps on those days when I come home late from Ishaan’s ‘play in the park’ for long hours or after his swimming class.
I have realized that, when a child is at home fulltime, they need full attention, most of the time. When Ishaan went to daycare, I had more time on hand, I didn’t feel so guilty about leaving him to play alone. Now he wants me all the time – to play with him, to be with him. So it becomes a little hard to spend lot of time in kitchen. But I try to have some friends home once in a while, Ishaan LOVES when we have company.
Here are some things that I follow when I have guests, all are simple ones, probably you all are already aware of most. – Involve child in whatever I am making. I always get a stinky eye from parents when I say this!. I started involving Ishaan in cooking from a very young age. I know involving him means anything that takes 5mins would now take 30mins!. But it is a fun activity for him and he is learning a skill. I let him add chocolate chips if I am making a choc-chip cake, let him measure out sugar and so forth. I mix the chapati dough and have him try and mix it by himself. Two things come out of it, one, he has fun and second, the chapatis come out extra soft with all that mixing and punching. I cut small pieces and give them to him to make small dough balls. If I make making something with boiled eggs, he peels the eggs. The best part of all this is, he gets very excited about eating what he has helped me make, a win-win situation. If he is not helping, he sits on the counter and looks at my work. I started this after he turned around 2 and I never leave his side when he is on the counter.
– Take enough breaks. Instead of making everything at a stretch, I stay in kitchen for sometime, then I take a break and play with him for sometime. That way he is engaged in some play when I finish work.
– Take shortcuts wherever possible. I take many shortcuts to get things done faster or get things done without me standing in kitchen. Some of my favorites on the list are:
I use my KitchenAid stand mixer to make cake batters, make chapati dough (when I am making chapatis in large quantities)
Use mortar and pestle to make a quick ginger-garlic paste if I am using it for one dish. If I am using it for more than one dish, I make it in mixer/blender
I use oven wherever I can. I have started making veggie patties for many get togethers, instead of shallow frying, I bake them. I serve them with simple sweet-sour chutney and sev.
Instead of making two chutneys that go in most of the chaats, I make one combining all the ingredients in one. So I make a simple chutney with dates, chillies, tamarind, coriander leaves, mint leaves, roasted cumin. No one misses two chutneys (unless they are way too specific about them!)
– Plan ahead, it is not fun to do shopping with a child running around!. I am not good at planning ahead, there are days when I don’t know what I will be making till I step into the kitchen. I open the fridge, find out what I have and come up with a menu. This works perfectly for me, but when I have guests, this does not work very well. So I have started planning ahead. Instead of thinking the menu in myahead (which I used to do before), I write down atleast some of the main dishes I am going to make. Then I write down what I need to buy to make those. I still throw in some last minute dishes with what I have on hand, but atleast the main dishes get prepared without extra trips to grocery store!.
– Try to pick easy dishes that don’t require too much time to cook. I try to avoid making things like chapatis that take a long time. I make them if I have 4-5 people, more than that, I avoid making them. I make idlis because they are very easy.
– Multitask. Like when potatoes or daal is cooking on the stove, start chopping. I do these in right order so that I am not standing near the stove waiting when something is getting done.
– Cook as much as possible when child is sleeping. Ishaan used to sleep by 8 when he was younger. So after he slept, I would cook some dishes. I do not like staying up late cooking, so I am out of kitchen by 9-9:30. I wake up atleast one hour before he wakes up. I get so much done. I use this time very effectively.
– Make the preparations ahead. Although I chop the veggies when I cook every day, I like to chop veggies ahead when I have company. (I have tried chopping veggies and saving them on weekends for weekday dinners, but it never works for me, because I do not want to spend whole weekend standing in kitchen).
– Use dishwasher. I can load a dishwasher with a sink full of utensils in less than 5 mins, but if I am washing them by hand, it takes min 20mins. So even if I have to start the dishwasher multiple times a day, I like to use it. For me, it saves time. Only thing I have to be careful is to remove all the food particles from utensils. I have one nonstick tava that I use for dosas and 2 cast iron pans – one grill pan and another pan that I use for everything else, that needs hand washing. Everything else goes in dishwasher. The best part is, the little one loves to unload all the dishes after it is done!.
The biggest lesson I have learnt is – No matter how much you like to entertain people, it is good to take it cool and relax when you have a child below 2 years of age. After that age, it gets a bit easier. If you still want to have friends over at home, go for potluck. Personally, I would like to prepare everything on my own, but potluck makes it easier on you. You can make a few dishes and others can get a few, that way you don’t have to stand in kitchen for a long time.
Two menus from recent get-togethers I had at home – 1) Had 4 adults and 1 child for dinner plus 3 of us Starter – Veggie patties with sweet-sour-spicy chutney and Sev
How I prepared these – On the previous day – The previous day morning, marinated the chicken. Chicken gravies always taste better theÂ Â next day. So I prepared the gravy the previous day evening. – Prepared peas kurma – Roasted vermicelli and rava(sooji) well in advance while I was making dinner few days before. Soaked them in yogurt the previous day and added all other ingredients (except soda). – Chopped capsicum and all other veggies needed for sambar – Prepared sweet-sour-spicy chutney
On the day of get-together – In a pressure cooker, kept the potatoes and veggies needed for pattis in one cooker insert and dal in the other. – While they are cooking in pressure cooker, got everything else ready for sambar. I like to cook the vegetables on stove top with tamarind, salt and asafoetida (I used to cook them in pressure cooker before, but now I like stove top better). – Chopped onion first, while they were cooking, chopped potatoes. Added potatoes and capsicum to onions and prepared the potato-capsicum dish. – Prepared chapati dough. – Once cooker is cooled, prepared the sambar, while it was cooking, prepared the patties mix, shaped into pattis and kept them aside. – Started off the jeera rice on stove top and then moved it to rice cooker. I use a steel vessel in my rice cooker – i.e, I use it just like a pressure cooker. This helps in easy cleaning up, the steel vessel goes into dish washer after rice is done. – While idlis were steaming, prepared chapatis. – Just abut 20mins before my guests arrived, kept the patties in oven for baking. So they came our hot and crispy when they arrived.
2) 4 families were visiting us. 8 adults + 8 kids and 3 of us Starters Hummus(homemade) with multigrain crackers(from costco) Grilled pineapple – corn salad Veggie pattis with sweet-sour-spicy chutney and sev Chips
How I prepared these – On the previous day – Cooked potatoes and other veggies needed for pav bhaji and patties – Shaped the patties and refrigerated them. Since I had to make lot of patties, I didn’t want to keep that work for day of get together. – Prepared hummus (will post recipe soon) – Prepared sweet-sour-spicy chutney – Just like the previous party, I roasted the vermicelli and sooji well in advance. Then mixed all other ingredients on previous day. – Cut the buns for pav bhaji
On the day of get-together – Prepared pav bhaji. I used tomato paste here instead of using fresh tomatoes to save time. – While pav bhaji was cooking, kept the dal in pressure cooker. (I could have done this the previous day, but my cooker can fit only two inserts and I had to cook a lot of veggies, so there was no space). – Prepared paneer biryani on stove top and white rice in rice cooker. – Prepared sambar, while it was cooking, grilled pineapple. – Cooked corn in microwave while grilling the pineapple. Prepared the salad and refrigerated. – Steamed idlis and in the oven kept the patties for baking.
PS: I don’t have enough serving bowls/plates/cutlery to serve food to so many people. So I use plastic/aluminum foil use and throw trays/spoons/forks and paper plates. I absolutely hate the wastage, so I am hoping to find a better solution in future.