Saturday, May 17, 2014

Palak Kofta

This dish is very special because the palak I used is organic and what more, it is from my own terrace garden :)

For the kofta:
Palak leaves - chopped and blanched in hot water
Boiled and mashed potatoes - 1 big
Grated ginger and garlic - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder and salt as per taste
Gram flour (besan) - 2 tbsp

Squeeze out water from palak. Mix with other ingredients and make a firm dough. If too dry, add a little water while kneading. If the dough is too watery, add more gram flour.

Make small balls and deep fry in oil until golden brown. Set aside.

For the gravy:
Onions - 1 big
Garlic - 6 to 8 cloves
Tomato puree - 2 cups
Curd - 2 tbsp
Milk - 1/4 cup
Turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder and salt - as per taste
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Fresh coriander leaves - finely chopped
Oil for frying

Coarsely grind the onion and garlic. Heat oil in a pan and fry the coarse paste on a high flame till all the water evaporates.
Continue to fry on medium high heat until it turns golden brown.
Add coriander, red chilli and turmeric powder and mix well
Add tomato puree and curd. Stir and fry till oil separates from the gravy.
Once the gravy thickens, add water as required. Cover with a lid and cook for few minutes.
Add garam masala powder and mix well.
Add milk and stir continuously to blend all the masala.
Once the gravy reaches the required consistency, add the deep fried koftas.
Turn of the heat and garnish with coriander leaves.

We had this with mooli (radish) paratha - the radish was a product of my OTG.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The little presents from my OTG

It has been 5 months since the idea of an organic terrace garden sprouted in the depths of my mind. The feelings I have right now as I write this post are so varied. The apprehensions and longing hopes when I sow a seed soon begin to fade away upon the first sighting of a green head poking out against a stark dark brown background.From that moment, the feeling of love and care that I feel towards my plant grows with the seedling. I am not ashamed to admit that I have come to see my plants as my babies. What is more, my son has begun to address them as "Your babies".

The joys of finding that a veggie is ready to be harvested or that fruit ready to be plucked off of the plant is second only to the joys of motherhood. In fact, I am increasingly inclined to think that gardening is another kind of motherhood!!

Watermelon in the making :)
Every time I go up to the terrace to tend to my plants I have a treasure waiting for me. I return home with the same joy as a child carrying a favorite toy would return from the toy store!! Beyond this, I am constantly learning by doing. Be it having more than two plants of a particular veggie or sieving the compost at the right time or figuring out ways to support climbing plants - it is enriching to learn from mistakes.

Freshly harvested carrot

Long sisters

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Schezwan Sauce

I've always loved the tangy and pungent taste of Indo-Chinese delicacies. Be it spicy chilli paneer or piping hot gobi manchurian or Schzewan noodles that leaves you hot all over your face - I love them all!!
Considering the way the taste of different spices hits your taste buds so boldly, yet in a delicate sort of manner, I assumed that a whole lot of work goes into whipping up these dishes. Well, it turns out I was wrong!!

I've always felt that the noodles that we make at home lacks a certain something. I could never put my finger on it though. I was then quite taken aback to learn that coriander leaves are included in most Chinese sauces!!!

It is amazing how everyday-spices can be combined to make a mind-boggling, mouth-watering sauce!!

This is what you will need:

Half an onion - chopped finely (You can also use chopped onion stalks)
Ginger and garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Soya sauce - 1 tsp
Vinegar - 1 tsp
Red chillies - 4 to 6
Garlic cloves - 4
Tomato - 1 small
Water - 1 cup
Sugar - a pinch
Finely chopped coriander leaves -1 tbsp
Cornflour - 1 tbsp
Sesame oil - 1 tbsp

What you need to do:
Throw in the whole red chilies and garlic cloves into a cup of water. Boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the water and set aside for later use.
Remove the stalk and grind the chilies and garlic along with tomato to make a fine paste.
Heat oil in a heavy pan. Saute ginger-garlic paste. Add onions and saute until slightly brown.
Add the paste, coriander leaves, vinegar and soya sauce.
Add drained water as per required consistency. Allow to boil for two minutes.
Make a paste of cornflour in water and add to the simmering sauce. Thrown in a pinch of sugar to remove the pungent taste.
Stir and allow to boil for another 2 minutes.

Schezwan Noodles - Using the sauce that I prepared

This sauce can be used to make different Indo-chinese dishes. By reducing the quantity of water, a thick paste results. This can be refrigerated and used for close to two weeks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nature - the best teacher

Whoever said 'nature is the best teacher' was damn right!! The things I have learned about gardening in the last three months are worth more than years of college education in botany. My misconception about a garden being some odd plants that need daily watering and no other care has been completely annihilated!! But be warned, that I am still learning a lot about gardening and have much more that I want to research. I don't even feel I know enough to call my self a novice gardener!!

This post is to list some of the things that caring for and nurturing a terrace garden has taught me. In fact, many of these practical lessons have made me feel ashamed because I have just thrown my college education in biology out the window. Many a times, I have said the phrase "Of course, why didn't I think of this?"

Throwing a bunch of seeds into a pot will not ensure you get a good yield of plants. This is the deadliest and most sinful mistake any gardener can commit. I have done it. But learned not to do it through emotionally painful lessons. Each seed will sprout into a separate plant. Some may never sprout. I lost my spinach plants to this mistake. It was depressing. They were ALL doing so well until ALL of them drooped and wilted. It was the most heart wrenching experience - overcrowding and fight for light and nutrients claimed my greens.

Merely watering plants will not give you any results. Every alternate weekend I continue to turn up the top soil and add fresh compost and supplement the soil with egg shell powder and 'panchagavya'. I carefully examine the soil surface to pull out weeds. I have also been able to figure out that the greens like spinach and mint prefer partial shade.

I am also using crushed dry leaves to protect the potted soil from drying up in the intense heat that Bangalore is beginning to see. This was how I lost my carrot seedlings initially. I am also able to judge how much water each plant needs.

Above all, gardening has taught me to be patient, has taught me to segregate waste, learn to be disciplined in following the process of composting.

I have had my first harvest of okra, coriander, fenugreek and spinach. Hopefully with a harvest of tomatoes, onions and beans, I hope to reach out to my neighbours to educate them about composting and benefits of organic vegetables.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Green - The most refreshing colour

The new year saw me going out to Russel Market to buy different seeds - spinach, carrot, onions, peas so on. I also had seeds of double beans and green chilli that I had saved at home. I was very skeptical yet excited about the whole thing. With complete gusto, mom and I prepared the soil by mixing red sand and vermi-compost that I had procured from a local nursery. We set up different pots and sowed the seeds.

I remember thinking that this was going to fail very badly. And I couldn't help looking into the pot every few hours!! Then, I shook myself up mentally and told myself that if none of the seeds had sprouted in two weeks, I would consider myself unlucky!! Today, I feel lucky to know that I am indeed blessed with green fingers. 

All the seeds, with the exception of brinjal have sprouted. What makes me most happy is the fact that the chilli seeds I saved at home have sprouted as well. 
I watched a video about growing mint from market-bought mint sprigs. I placed one sprig of mint in a glass jar containing water. I changed the water every two days for a week and then I completely forgot about it. When I looked at the jar the day before yesterday, I noticed that sprig had developed numerous roots. I have now transplanted it into a pot. 

From this experience, I can vouch that no colour can be more refreshing than the delicate green colour of new shoots emerging against a brown background!!!

Picture taken on 2nd Jan, 2014

Picture taken on 17th Jan, 2014

Friday, January 3, 2014

Vegetable Upma

"Amma, the upma is very yummy...I'm wondering who made it"...This is the statement that Surya made while eating upma last evening. What better praise than the one received from my little boy!!

As a south Indian, I've detested rava upma for as long as I remember. Well, there are exceptions to everything in this world. Vegetable rava upma is one of those exceptions. Hot and spicy, served with coconut chutney, it is a dish that I have seen being served as a breakfast or snack option during weddings and other functions. Yet, extremely easy and quick to make - no wonder it is a staple dish cooked by most south Indians!!

Finely chopped veggies of your choice - 1 cup
Finely slit onions - 3 tbsp
Chopped tomatoes - 3 tbsp
Rava roasted in a teaspoon of ghee - 2 cups
Water for boiling - 2 to 3 cups

For seasoning:
Urad dal, mustard seeds, channa dal - A tsp each
Oil as required

To grind without water:
One tomato
Green chillies as per taste
Ginger - a generous piece
Coriander leaves
Curry leaves

  • Heat oil in a kadai and temper the ingredients listed under 'Seasoning'
  • Add the onions and saute until it becomes translucent
  • Add the chopped tomato and ground paste and fry for a few minutes
  • Toss in the veggies and keep it covered for a few minutes
  • Then add salt and turmeric powder
  • Add water. (Adjust amount of water as per consistency of upma required)
  • Allow the water to boil.
  • Then add the roasted rava while continuously stirring the water. Else lumps will be formed.
  • Keep the vessel covered with a plate. 
  • Finally, add a tbsp of ghee and mix well. Serve with coconut chutney.