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.