Thursday, February 14, 2008

The year that was and a zest for food blogs
(Arusuvai Friendship Chain)

Its almost been a year. I have the dubious distinction of not posting on my blog for one whole year. Why , you ask? Well, let me lay the blame on the monumental changes that took place in my life last year . I moved across the world, and returned to the India from the US . The months following my return were a blur. I had a new job, had to learn how to avoid getting myself killed while driving in the rabid Delhi traffic and had to shop for the big day till I literally dropped. Then came the best part of the year- my wedding. A big week long Kashmiri wedding . I was touched that so many relatives came from far and wide, people I had not seen or not talked to in years but who took out time specially to be a part of our happiness. Looking back at the year that was, I can say that it has been a very joyful one. I am married to my best friend and boyfriend of many years. I have also successfully managed to become responsible enough to manage my home ( or so I would like to think, my husband would most likely differ on that). So that was a quick recap on the year that was.

I had envisioned this blog to be an avenue to share my charcoal drawings. A passion which I re-ignited back in the US. I have been overwhelmed and completely bowled over by people's reactions for my art and it still feels a little unreal. This year I nursed some other interests as well which were on unchartered territory and cooking was one of them. It all started with me being the single girl living on her own and cooking for herself once in a while. Thats when food blogs entered my life in a big way, I was a complete amateur and took guidance from the wise words of much accomplished cooks. Now I am addicted to them and spend hours poring through them. The interesting stories, the dazzling pictures, the snazzy ingredients - I can almost smell the heady aromas wafting up from those recipes. I religiously keep myself updated with my favorite food blogs and love trying out new recipes now and then. One of my favorite bloggers is Anita. Its not just the Kashmiri connection that brings back umpteen memories from my childhood in Srinagar, but its also how vibrant and eclectic her blog is. She is a story teller par excellence and every recipe has some wonderful tidbits attached to it - she makes it all a very personal experience. So when she asked me to be a part of the Arusuvai Friendship Chain, I was delighted. I was getting a chance to be on the other side of the food blog for once ! So heres my first non drawing post .

When Anita told me she had sent me the secret ingredient, I was expecting some kind of a powder but what I got threw me off balance for a bit. I had never seen it before and at first glance, it looked like a spherical oatmeal cookie. A closer inspection told me that I was on a different tangent all together. I saw pepper and dhania seeds embedded in it. As I dug deeper into the package, I saw the actual secret ingredient. It was dark brown in color with similar spices . Tasting a speck of it rather gingerly, it dawned on me that this might be the vadi or varifol as my mom called it. The first one was easier to figure out, it was the Amritsari Wadi generously sent by Anita in addition to the actual ingredient. To decipher the other one I needed some help from the expert herself, it turned out to be the mangodi, a tamatar mangodi to be specific. After fighting with a camera gone wonky and a laptop which refused to let me do anything useful, I am finally down to posting the recipes. The photos were taken with my cell phone so are a little grainy.

I made two creations - A sweet potato mangodi sabzi and gujarati kadhi with mangodi.

Shakarkandi and Mangodi ki Sabzi

After searching around for wadi recipes, I found that the potato was the wadis best friend. The smoothness of the potato goes well with the flavorful spicy wadi and they complement each other perfectly. I wanted to try something a little different and so I settled on the sweet potato. The spicy and sour tamatar mangodi mingles with the sweet shakarkandi to give this dish a unique sweet and sour flavour.

4 mangodis
3 medium sweet potatoes
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 green chillies
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon oil
coriander leaves
a pinch of hing

Break the mangodis into bite size pieces. Shallow fry for a few minutes. Boil sweet potatoes and peel them. Sweet potatoes tend to turn black so keep them submerged in water. Chop into cubes.

Heat oil in a kadai and add cumin seeds. When they start spluttering , add ginger and hing and fry for a minute. Add tomatoes. Fry them till they are tender and become mushy. Now add the chilly powder ,coriander powder and salt and cook for a few minutes.

Add the boiled sweet potato pieces and the mangodis. Add enough water to cover both these ingredients. Cover the kadai and let it cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Remove the lid and let the gravy thicken for a few minutes.

Garnish the dish with a tinge of lemon juice, fresh green chillies and coriander.

Gujarati Kadhi with Mangodis

While the Shakarkandi and mangodis were simmering on the stove, I was thinking of another recipe to create a complete meal. I finally decided on the Gujarati kadhi, a simple preparation and a great comfort food. My husband whips up a mean kadhi and thanks to him, I have developed a love for kadhi. Unlike the punjabi kadhi, the gujarati kadhi is thinner in consistency and has an element of sweetness . I decided to make kadhi the gujju style , but added pieces of mangodi to it - the equivalent of the pakodes in the punjabi kadhi.

2 cups yoghurt

5 cups water
2 tablespoon besan

3 dried red chillies
10 curry leaves
4 mangodis
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 small banana ( optional)
salt as per taste
1 tablespoon oil

Shallow fry the mangodis . Beat the water , yoghurt and besan to a smooth consistency. No lumps should be formed. Pour in a thick bottomed vessel and simmer on medium heat. Add turmeric powder , salt and jaggery. Now add the mangodis and let them cook in the kadhi. In a separate pan, add oil. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the asafoetida , curry leaves and dried red chillies. Pour the tadka on the simmering kadhi. Stir continuously to prevent the kadhi from boiling over. Add a thinly sliced banana as another surprise element to this kadhi. This is optional! Boil for 10 minutes and the kadhi is ready.

Thanks to Anita for tagging me in this chain . I am passing on the baton to Nandita, an old friend and a talented writer and Gayathri, a fellow foodie whose contact was passed onto me by Srivalli, the enthusiastic co-ordinator for the Arusuvai friendship chain. Hope you guys have as much with fun with this as I had. A secret ingredient will be zipped of to you guys pretty soon.


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