Paneer capsicum stir fry

Are you watching Bigg Boss? | Quick Paneer stir fry

The newest expletive around here is “Julie”. That one name signifies every person you ever hated, the lowest of the low, the back-stabbing, the “sombu-thooking”, the phony, the desperate wannabe, the conscience-less, the opportunist. If you’re not watching Bigg Boss you’ve missed watching the most hated character in the history of Tamil television, ever. So hated, that an entire lexicon of swear words inspired by “Julie” could very well come into common usage – “Bloody Julie”, “Julie you!”, “Juliehole”. Whether you’re watching just for Kamal Hasan or because you’re curious how low it can get, or because the troll videos are too funny and you need to follow the show to follow the trolls or you’re watching as a social experiment, you’re watching Bigg Boss. That’s all that matters. Let’s not get all elitist about it. It’s ok. Plenty of people have taken offence at the show for a variety of reasons, the lamest among them being – “There are so many better things to do, so many important burning issues to solve. Instead they are making Bigg Boss”. That’s the most fucked up reason I’ve ever heard. Does that mean we cancel all TV shows, movies, theatre shows, stand-up comedy, concerts & cricket matches and employ actors, comedians, models, musicians and cricketers in the army to fight at the border, in laboratories to research life-saving drugs, in environment groups to clear the oil spill and clean the beach and the koovam? People are doing their jobs. They are doing what they’re best at. How difficult is it to change channels if you don’t like a show? What do you reckon these self-important socially-conscious people solved yesterday, last week and the week before? Did they set right the water purifier at home that hasn’t been working for the past couple of weeks? These are the ones who typically read multiple newspapers front to back, watch news channels to corroborate what they read and then take every conversation opportunity to put forward their stand on Kashmir, Trump, Syria and what you should be watching on TV.  Pop culture is too common for them, water purifiers too existential, Bigg Boss too crass. Mamiyaars have taken a breather from comparing notes with fellow maamiyaars about their marumagals. Marumagals are discussing something other than their maamiyaars. Colleagues have momentarily shifted focus from office politics to discuss bigg boss controversies. People all over TamilNadu are...
how to make avial, easy avial recipe

Avial

It’s almost the end of summer vacation and it looks like we did every “don’t”. I woke up late everyday. The kids woke up even later. They didn’t work on their handwriting. They didn’t read. They didn’t help around. They did watch Bahubali thrice. They watched Inception with Jagan, Maanagaram and Kannathil Muthamittaal with me and Vijay TV serials with my mother. They binge-watched cartoons. I joined them at times if they were watching Motu Patlu. Hasini, Yuvan & Paati struck a secret deal with the Kwality walls fellow to stop every morning at our gate at an hour that I am usually scurrying around to get ready for office. Hasini and Yuvi eat their ice cream under the protection of the grandparents and arrive at the breakfast table with wiped mouth and hands and a poker face. They learnt to ride their bicycle without the practice wheels. They sing all of Bahubali’s songs. Yuvi does a katappa head bow when I ask him to finish his dosai. I am hoping that all the cinema will give them a good foundation in the arts. I didn’t make any of the vathals I planned to make. I bought vadu maangai with good intentions, lovingly stored them in the fridge just until they rotted and promptly threw them away and felt a weight lift off me. Weekends were even lazier which meant I made a heavy breakfast served it late and pretended to not notice lunch time. One lazy weekend morning we had this adai avial for breakfast. I’ve never been a big fan of Avial. But I was a convert once I ate Adai Avial at a restaurant. I asked my friend Lakshmi how she made Avial at home. She expertly and very simply broke down the Avial recipe for me in between mouthfuls of Adai Avial we were sharing. It worked like a charm. Boil vegetables with salt till tender, grind together your avial masala, combine everything together and top it off with a fragrant coconut oil tempering. That is really all there is to it. Try it.  
stuffed okra

Stuffed Bhindi

Yesterday I did what no fat mommy should do. I looked through my wedding albums (after 7 years). So much younger, half the width, half the circumference… Everybody else seemed to have aged too, which was comforting. There were some who had since lost weight. That irked us a bit and in a fit of childish competitiveness, Jagan and I decided we had to exercise twice a day and eat once a day. I decided also, To not buy jeans till I lose weight. That I can’t find one that fits, and if I do and if I wear it, my behind looks like a huge parentheses is immaterial.    To not wear said parantheses jeans in the name of social good.   To not buy new clothes as they may be too large once I’ve lost weight.   To not attend parties & weddings until I lose weight.   To stay out of selfies, to avoid having to shoot 100s of photos, to avoid turning sideways or hide behind someone or hold my breath or photoshop the hell out of it.   To camouflage my fitness tracker. I wear a Garmin vivofit fitness tracker all the time. I like to believe I am fitness conscious. I am conscious that I am not doing anything about my fitness every time I look at my fitness band. Wearing it though has given me great grief. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE asks me what I am wearing and once I’ve explaied – how much I’ve walked and how much weight I’ve lost. Once they hear I’ve not achieved much yet, their reactions go from smug satisfaction to ridicule to advice. One very thoughtful lady went as far as to ask why I would even try, beyond this point, suggesting that I am married, a mommy and that I am old and I should settle into my parantheses. I will meet her once I’ve lost weight. Till then I am not telling anyone it is a fitness tracker.   Very important. To not look at the wedding albums till I lose weight. That felt like therapy, like a pact to myself. Thanks for hanging in there. Now on to today’s recipe. This recipe for stuffed okra/stuffed bhindi is really close to my heart. It is easy, slightly time consuming than your regular okra stir fry but totally worth it. I love the stuffing in this...

Spiced Bhindi and baby potato fry

You know how you instantly like the turquoise blue saree in Sundari Silks, you shortlist it, set it aside lest anybody buys it and then go over the rest of the shop to make sure that you are right. You then realize that this shop is not the universal set. So you drag your mother/husband/friend to RMKV, Pothys, Nalli and Kumaran Silks and go over their inventory. You shortlist some at each place but can’t take your mind off the turquoise blue saree you saw first. So you go back to Sundari Silks, and ask for your shortlisted turquoise blue saree. You decide that this is the one. You ask the salesperson to bill it. Then a peacock blue saree catches your eye. You ask him for that saree. Meanwhile the lady next to you pulls up the turquoise blue saree, inspects it and asks the salesperson to open it up. You decide immediately that turquoise blue saree it is. You swiftly pay for it and leave.  My shopping dilemmas are worse now. I spent the better part of a Sunday scrolling through 845231 dresses across multiple sites, filtering, comparing, measuring Hasini every which way, poring over size charts, saving/liking the dresses (the online shortlisting equivalent), turning the dresses around and inside out and finally deciding on a couple of them. It is late afternoon and I already have a throbbing head-ache. Then my sister tells me I ought to check if there are coupons I can use. I appreciate her presence of mind. I check and I find that there is a 25% off coupon if only I bought for 700 rupees more. Wow. There is something to all this online shopping thing after all. So we scroll through 6549 dresses for my sister, filtering, comparing, measuring, checking with size charts, saving/liking dresses and turning them around and inside out and finally deciding on one. We add it to the cart triumphantly. We key in the coupon code. It said “coupon not applicable on these items, choose from our list”. I empty the cart, close all windows and shut down my system. If I am out shopping, I am thinking I might get a better deal online, I might have more choice. If I am online, I always feel the material is going to be cheap, it is going to look nothing like what it looks on the screen....

White vegetable kurma

I had my dream holiday a couple of weeks back – alone at home, husband away on a business trip, kids off to school and everybody else in the family away on a trip. Whoa! One entire kitchen all to myself, nobody to defer to on the menu, no one to please, no one to cook up a competing second menu, no one to fill up the fridge. I was king. It was too precious. I couldn’t afford to waste even a minute of it. I had to plan well. I couldn’t be making sambar nor lemon rice. I had to do all the things I could never do. I could make any crazy, wildass dish I wanted and not have to explain and not fret that no one ate it. I wanted to slowly doze off into an afternoon nap while reading a book and sleep un-disturbed without kids climbing over me, without anybody waking me up for filter coffee or oreo. I also wanted to straighten out all my cupboards. I wanted to change the curtains, hang up a chalkboard on the kitchen door, revamp the garden, clear out the lofts and lose 5 kilos weight – in one week. I was getting ahead of me. First things first. I emptied the fridge, the dining table and the counter top of ages old murukku, disfigured pomegranates, teeny tiny portions of sambar, kuzhambu, chutnies and assorted poriyals. The chickens in our backyard (we have real chickens in our backyard), thought I was crazy. They got half the loot. The rest went into the bin. The first day I made spaghetti in a creamy alfredo sauce with green peas, corn and mushrooms. That was the craziest wildass dish of the week. I made other memorable, lazy ass meals that Hasini, Yuvi and I enjoyed that week. They’ll always be special. Then I did what I didn’t believe I would. I made rava kheer, sambar, vadai, rice and poriyal that week when I noticed that it was Yegadesi that day. I thought to myself while frying the vadais that my maamiyaar’d be thinking I’d miss it, that I am a lazy ass, that I probably made something as blasphemous as lasagne and how I had proved her wrong. And when I very proudly recounted later to my maamiyaar when she returned, she simply replied that she never considers Yegadesi during theipirai...

My shortcut Palak Paneer with Radish parathas

Ratha thadha the the , Ratha thadha the the.. Yennai Arindhal! The song’s been on my mind ever since I saw the movie a few weeks back. I have one question for Gautam Menon, many questions, but one most important one – Where are the real life versions of Dev.. Satyadev, Anbu Selvam and Raghavan? Chivalrous, desirable guys opening doors, saying all the right things, cooking meals, spending time with girlfriend’s kids (Jagan checks his records if it is in fact his turn to take the kids to the toilet before bed)! But mine is a ‘Mounam Pesiyadhe’ Surya, an ‘En Rasavin Manasile’ Raj Kiran. So it doesn’t apply. If somebody’s really got a ‘Varanam Aayiram’ Krishnan, ‘Vettayadu Vilayadu’ Raghavan do let me know in the comments box (below the post). I am curious. And by the way don’t you think that’s a great way to describe someone – short, crisp, spot on and everyone gets it. Imagine these matrimonial ads: “Want an “Idhayam Murali” type doctor maapillai (instead of “soft-spoken, sincere, sensitive, doctor cum poet”)” Or Want a “Suryavamsam” Sarath kumar (village side, dhuttu party) for a Devyani type IAS aspirant. Succinct, don’t you think? Now, where was I? I like watching his movies. It is just that the men in his movies are too good, too nice, too gentlemanly and the setting unrealistically perfect, stylish, wishful. And rarely ever any interfering family around except maybe a doting “Daddy”. The women are IIT/UCLA grads or in seemingly important positions but carry empty laptop bags. Everybody speaks flawless English, women wear starched cotton sarees and FabIndia outfits, people live in Anna Nagar or Adyar, the men are cops or romantics or both. They get down on one knee, play the guitar, fly overseas to meet you (how many times did you have to catch an auto because your husband couldn’t take a detour to pick you from office? All the time!), propose instantly and say insanely sweet things like so:        Radish Paratha to Palak Paneer: Ivlo azhagu! I am in love and you are responsible. Palak Paneer:  I didn’t think much of parathas but now I want to spend the rest of my life with you radish paratha. I see in his movies things I had written in college slam books, wishful romantic fantasy stuff (Rom-fan?!). But I really did think the radish paratha and palak paneer went extremely...

Chettinad Kathirikkai (eggplant) gravy

After an un-inspiring week of idli sambar, dosa sambar and rice sambar potato thokku at home and then a nice languid trip to Pondicherry, beautiful vanilla crepes, gratins and curries later I am still blank and clueless. The vegetable basket in the fridge is near empty. I’ve not stood staring at stuff in a grocery store in weeks. The stash of fresh rosemary and dill I lovingly bought are dried, wilted and frozen for eternity in my freezer. The last my oven saw any activity were some nice crispy Parmesan biscuits weeks back. The oven has been having a holiday ever since. But I’ve been hoarding bowls, plates and cups like a mad woman. I can’t think beyond tiffin sambar for idli, potato fry and sambar. I’ve got into the dangerous home cook rut. It is scary. I turned to my cookbooks for help, for inspiration, for solace. I found this Kathirikkai gravy in the “Chettinad cookbook”. I found joy. I found one more side dish for dosai. I found a sustainable alternative to sambar. I made this curry in 15 minutes flat when Hasini and Yuvi were clamouring for their breakfast on a Saturday morning. It was very late in the morning (too late to mention). We had taken our time with the weekly “yennai and thalai-kulial” (oil massage and hair-wash). I had Pogo on to distract them while I got the gravy underway, but the commercial breaks are so much longer and the kids come running again. I heave the dosa kal (tawa) on to the stove while the Kathirikkai gravy simmers beside it, the aroma already wafting up from the kadai. While the dosa kal heats up, I try to engage little Yuvi in some conversation “Cone dosai” or “Round dosai” or “Kutti dosai”. Yuvi: “Yedha kuda ippo” (Give something now) I pour some dosa batter on the tawa and furiously spread it out in fast concentric circles to make a crisp dosa, drizzle some oil and then check the gravy, nearly done. I ladle hot chettinad kathirikkai gravy beside each dosa and bring it out to my cartoon watching, by now furious patrons. Hasini declared “I don’t want kathirikkai”. I cajole, threaten, lie and coax her to taste the gravy. She does. She asks for a second helping. Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 15-20 mins Serves: 5 Ingredients Kathirikkai/Eggplants/purple brinjals – ¼ kilo cut into...
Asian stir fry paneer and veggies

Asian stir-fry of Paneer, sweet corn and Vegetables

I didn’t make much of it when in our early days Jagan’d say often how he loved travelling to far-off places, driving all the way. He loved being behind the wheel. Little did I know that that meant me becoming the ‘cleaner’ buckled into the passenger seat for hours together, fishing for change for toll booths, operating the GPS navigation keying in destinations and via-points and handing around water, snacks and cooling glasses, only relief being when the kids had to pee and I got to stand straight. I have a strong feeling I’ve taken the shape of XUV’s bucket seats after 5 days of travelling from morning till night. Every morning we’d wake up, shower, eat, pack up and pile into the car. We’d drive all day, reach our destination just in time for dinner, eat and sleep. Wake up next morning and drive to the next one. 5 nights – 5 places. We covered around 2000 km in just over 5 days. He has all the makings of a champion truck driver no doubt. It’s been more than a week since we returned. I still grope around for the seat belt even when I sit in my office chair and I feel faintly irritated whenever somebody asks me to sit. Thippanahalli home-stay in Chikmagalur The only time I willingly sat down was for the delicious home-cooked Malnad food – fresh Kadubus (rice balls), Akki rotis (rice flour rotis) served with a lip-smacking hot chutney, fragrant Tomato Rasam, steamed rice and Chicken Saaru in Chikmagalur. Heavenly! We stayed at an absolutely wonderful home-stay “Thippanahalli” set amidst a huge coffee estate in Chikmagalur.  Coffee beans, grown on the Thippanahalli estate I stalked the cook and helpers for the recipes the entire time I was there and managed to extract a quick abridged recipe rundown from the host’s mother who must have thought ‘Silly Apprentice cook – doesn’t know even Tomato Rasam’. My Maamiyaar must think the same thing too. I make a few nice rasams but I’ll go after every good rasam out there, think what people may. Rasams are some of the simplest yet soul-stirring foods there are.  Taking a walk through the coffee estate The recipe today is not from our drive-athon trip though (it’ll come soon). This is a simple light stir-fry that is great for after-trip guilt. Having stuffed my face with all the good food...

Another Monday and it’s Lemon rice and potato kari

Another Monday and I had to drag a whining Yuvi out of bed and into the shower, threaten him, cajole him and persuade him to wear his shorts and put on his shoes and go to school. He went from “sound asleep” to “distraught outburst” in seconds when he heard the word “School”. He couldn’t believe it was Monday already and he just couldn’t bear the thought of going to school and spending 3 hours among his bawling friends and harried teachers. He’s not yet accustomed to Mondays. I am not, after 30 odd years. I hate Mondays too as I do all working days, only more because it’s the start of many more working days to come. Hasini is more resigned to the inevitable and goes about getting ready looking dull and downcast. Hasini takes lunch to school these days. So lunch has to be readied before 8:30 am. Have you noticed that you oversleep when it’s raining or when it’s Monday? You don’t? Then it’s probably just me. I generally over-sleep and I was trying to find some pattern. But whatever it is, Monday lunch has to be quick and simple. You don’t want to fiddle around with koftas or vazhaipoo vadai on a Monday. Nothing like Lemon rice for a hustled, rushed Monday morning. As much as I deride Lemon rice, Lemon rice is what I turn to it when I am in trouble. Plus it is perfect for packed lunches. You know the cardinal rule of variety rices. If you don’t remember please go back and read it here. Variety rices must be accompanied by a heavy duty side dish or potato chips. So I made Potato kari to go with the lemon rice. This potato kari also features on my TamilNadu meals I made a couple of months back. Now I call this dry potato fry a “potato kari” for a reason. Did you notice that it is “kari” and not “curry”? This is an Iyer style potato fry, the way Tamil Iyers (Brahmins) make it using a kari powder (Recipe given below) and that’s how they call it. They (clue: I am not TamBrahm but I love their food) call vegetables “karikai” and their vegetable preparations as “potato kari”, “kathirikkai kari” and so on. There is no garlic, ginger or onion in this fry but it tastes fantastic with lemon rice or just plain...

Breaded sweet potato crisps

I waited outside the gate to the kindergarten section at Hasini’s school this morning bracing myself for a fight. I was prepared to talk to the Head-mistress if necessary or stage an online protest, post facebook ads… whatever it took. I came home on Friday last week to a teary eyed Hasini who ran up to me and wailed “Amma, Miss adichitaange ma, thititaange ma, naa school po maaten”(Teacher beat me, scolded me, I don’t want to go to school). She cringed at the mention of school but she could not get it out of her mind either. However much I tried to move the conversation to cheerier things, she circled back to school Me: “2 days leave – Saturday and Sunday. Jolly!” Hasini: “Adhukku apparam school a” (After that is there school?) Me: Lunch pidichidha inniki? (Did you like your lunch today?) Hasini: Nariye yen vecha? (Why did you pack so much?) I could not bear to see my child so forlorn and anxious. She forgot her worries temporarily over the weekend watching Chotta Bheem, splashing around in our huge new inflatable swimming pool (which I spent 2 hours inflating with a hand pump and would have taken another 8 hours but then remembered our vintage vacuum cleaner and managed to finish inflating in 2 minutes) and getting her nails polished. But she woke up today, silent and dull and wouldn’t eat a thing. When the assembly was finally over, I walked over to her classroom and met her teacher determined to be direct, diplomatic, firm and tough all at the same time. I introduced myself and told her how miserable Hasini was. The teacher replied smiling “I know Hasini well. I was just being stern.  I think of them as my own kids..” and I burst into tears. The teacher was mighty embarrassed and had a hard time consoling me. For all my bravado, I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to my kids. I really hope the teacher meant what she said. And I hope Hasini had her lunch. I made these breaded sweet potato crisps that she really enjoyed eating recently (at Mathsya’s buffet) for lunch today along with baby corn pulao. The sweet potato crisps were nice, crisp and tasty. I carefully packed a small portion of pulao and sweet potato crisps so she wouldn’t worry about finishing lunch. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes:...

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