Monthly Archives: June 2012

Mom’s very green rice

I’ve been counting days with a sinking heart.  Three months later is finally here.  Mom and dad are leaving for India.  These parents didn’t give birth to me, but as I keep telling them, they’ve given me re-birth, the chance at a new life.

Until recently, I was a mother who worked part time, working in snatched moments.  My main focus was my children.  It was necessary and important, but I did feel an occasional twinge.  That my universe was not much larger than a family.

I’ve found better balance now, but it’s been like riding a bike on an unknown road.  There’s also been a realization of how fragile and in the end, how short-lived, the past years have been.

“When will you return” I had asked my in-laws anxiously, when they left last year.  “When you find a job,” my mother-in-law had replied confidently.  When the time came, they were here all the way from Vizag, and just a phone-call later it seemed.

I’ve come home every evening in the last three months, found myself a plate, and heaped it full of home-cooked food from the kitchen. Spicy sautéed vegetables, yellow lentil and steaming rice with ghee.  The food has just been cooked or it sizzles on the stove as I wander around, filling the air with a delicious scent.  My belly gets filled, as does my heart.

I’m learning a thing or two about unconditional love.

Mom’s very green rice

I’ve named this dish for Mollie Katzen‘s Very Green Rice from The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without which sounded so much like this one.  I love this dish because it’s so brightly green and because the taste of the fenugreek leaves adds an addictive earthy, leafy aroma to the rice.  The bits of chickpea, green pea and cashew add texture and interest to the rice and make it a whole meal when combined with raita, which is a savory yogurt side with minced fresh vegetables.  My father-in-law makes a fantastic raita with a mix of finely chopped onions, cucumber, de-seeded tomato, green pepper and on occasion, fiery bird’s eye chillies.

I especially like this dish, because the green paste can be made a day or two ahead in time and mixed into leftover rice.  Alternatively the paste can be made while the rice is boiling.  What takes a little time really is the washing and trimming of the gritty fenugreek leaves.

I love serving green rice with paneer butter masala and even with Gujarati or Punjabi kadhi.

Serves 4

1 cup of white rice, boiled (yields about 3 cups)

1-2 green chillies, optional

2 cups of methi/fenugreek leaves, washed well and with just the leaves snipped off from the stems

2 cups of coriander leaves

OR 4 cups of spinach leaves, roughly chopped

Spices

2 whole green cardamom pods

1” piece of cinnamon stick

½ tsp cumin seeds

Additions to toss-in

1 cup of boiled chickpeas

½ – ¾ cup of cooked green peas

¼ – ½ cup of cashews, broken and toasted in a spot of ghee

Other

1 tbsp oil

Salt to taste

1.  Cook the rice and keep aside to cool.  When the rice is boiling, add the boiled chickpeas and fresh green peas towards the end such that everything cooks through with the rice.

2.  While the rice is cooking, blend the coriander and fenugreek leaves along with salt and the green chillies, if using to make a thick paste.  Now bring a tablespoon of oil to heat in a large pan.  When the oil is hot, sputter the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Add the green paste and cook for several minutes until it becomes fairly dry and turns a bright green.  Adjust salt if needed.  Remove from flame.

3.  Now add the rice, chickpeas, green peas and toasted cashews into the pan and toss gently until the green paste coats the rice.

4.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Crumbly, sticky jam tarts

I haven’t made jam tarts since I stepped out of the old kitchen in my childhood home at Bright Street.  Yesterday, while searching for an activity to do with five year old Agastya that didn’t involve colorful playdough bits stuck all over the carpet, these buttery jam tarts came to mind.  If you are not too fussy about the exact so and so of your shortcrust pastry, this recipe, dredged up from my memory of an old British Ladybird book recipe can be made in minutes with ingredients straight from your fridge and pantry (cold butter, flour, salt and jam), given to a child to roll out and cut into circles and then pressed into a muffin pan to yield delicious mouthfuls of hot jam and biscuit.  Even better with some whipped or clotted cream and perfect with afternoon tea.  I’ve written about these tarts before here .

What you will need:

Equipment: A muffin or tart pan, a circle pastry cutter that is slightly bigger than tart pan circle, some wax paper, a rolling pin (pastry or otherwise)

Ingredients

To make 10-12 jam tarts

1 cup flour

1/2 stick or 4 tbsp of cold butter (half the amount of butter as flour)

A few tsps of cold water

1/8 tsp of coarse salt, mixed into the flour

About 1/2 cup of your favorite jam, I like strawberry

1.  First, heat oven to 350F and keep your muffin pan ready.  Next, chop up the cold butter into little squares.  Then rub the butter into the flour-salt mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs — let your small helper do this, but don’t let him or her overwork the dough.   Now add water, one teaspoon at a time and keep working the dough until it comes together in a ball.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces and set it aside.  Work in a cool environment if possible.

2.  Place a piece of wax paper on your rolling surface and put one of the dough pieces.  Add another piece of wax paper on top and let your child roll out the dough until it’s of a 1/8″ thickness (doesn’t have to be too even).  The wax paper will prevent sticking.  Now, remove the top wax paper and let your little one cut out circles with the pastry cutter.  Remove the circle from the bottom paper and press carefully into the muffin pan with your fingers such that a little basket shell is formed.  Collect all the leftover bits of dough and roll again until all the dough is finished.  Prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork — kids love to do this.

3.  Place the tray in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, until the edges of the pastry start to look a tad golden.

4.  Take out and carefully spoon in a little jam in to each shell.  The pan will be hot.  Don’t fill too much jam into the cups as this makes the tarts too jammy and sweet.

5.  Place back into the oven for several minutes – say 7-10 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

As good as it gets

Do you remember the times that your life moved forward in an almost unseen way?  When in a moment you knew, for certain, that life had changed.  When, despite everything, a shadowy dream seemed to take life. Like the words from Rainbow Connection.

Have you been half asleep?

And have you heard voices

I’ve heard them calling my name…..

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it

There’s something that I’m supposed to be

It seems to me, that I’m here finally.  I’m filled with warmth, hope, and desire.  In an odd way, I’m reminded of winter, when it seemed that spring would never come.  The trees reached upward with bony, gnarled fingers.  I couldn’t see any sign of buds or blooms.

I should have had more faith.

To celebrate these new beginnings, I’d like to share my mother-in-law’s recipe for seviyan kheer.

This nutty, creamy milk pudding with thin strands of melt-in-your mouth toasted noodles, bits of almond, and crushed cardamom, is filled with the flavor of celebration and festivity. I never thought I’d even like it, let alone fall so utterly and deeply in love with it.  It’s sweet, rich and nourishing.  I can’t stop eating it, and I usually fall asleep at night thinking about when it might be ok to make it again.

Seviyan Kheer

For this kheer, you can use any thin vermicelli noodle.  However, the variety that comes from Pakistan, found in the Indian grocery stores like Patel’s and Bhavani, is far superior in flavor.  Go in and ask for the “seviyan from Pakistan,” and the people in the store will send you to the right shelf.

Serves 4

1/2 gallon milk (about 2 litres)

2 roughly filled cups of vermicelli noodle

1 tbsp ghee

¼ cup raisins

½ cup whole raw almonds, soaked, skin removed and sliced

about ½ cup sugar, brown or white

1 tsp of cardamom powder, if possible freshly pounded

  1. Bring the milk to boil on medium heat in a big pot until it reduces by ¼ of its original volume.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  2. Separately, heat the ghee in a small pan on medium heat.  Add the vermicelli and toast for a minute until it turns into a deeper brown.  Turn the heat off, and keep aside until the milk is ready.
  3. When the milk is about ¾ of its original volume, add the toasted vermicelli, the almonds and the raisins.  Keep boiling the milk until it reduces to half its original volume.
  4. Now add the sugar and continue to cook.  Taste for sweetness (be careful not to burn your mouth) and add more sugar if needed.  By now the vermicelli should have cooked through and the pudding should have a fairly thick, dropping consistency.  Test by pinching a strand or two of vermicelli between your fingertips.  Add the crushed cardamom and remove from flame.
  5. Enjoy hot or cold.