Friday, August 24, 2007

Onam: Thiruvadira Kali

Let me just add in my very first line that this is a non-food related post.

Onam ashamsakal (onam greetings to you)

Onam is such a special festival for me, every year I thoroughly enjoy taking part in activities, whatever I can, that make this beautiful festival so unique. I love making the athapoo/pookalam (flower carpet), I absolutely love making the sadya (which I plan to on the weekend). I love the whole story of mahabali coming to visit his land, his people from exile. It even amazes me on the way I have fallen head over heels in love with the kerala culture. Some malayalees may even doubt me. But I know I do it for myself, not for anybody else.

For the past couple of years I was lucky to learn and be part of the thiruvadira kali dance that is performed at this festival time every year. It is usually organized by the kerala samajam of Botswana. Oooh this dance is not easy at all, your knees need to bend and you end up getting a good work-out.

This bending knee business is a big joke with my mallu girlfriends, because our dance teacher would shake her head and tell me…

“..BEND Rajne (Rachna), bend!!!”, and I would bend my back and lean forwards….and she would say
“NO NO …… bend rajne….bend”

…. hearing that phrase from our teacher at every dance practice after a month or so I realized I had to bend my knees (not my back) and squat… and she began to say…

“ade…ade (yes yes) rajne…”

And after practice all my girlfriends would be on the floor in splits…

Seriously this is beautiful dance. You need to be in a semi-squat position, sway your hips and hands, to the left and right. All the dancers need to move in a circle in a rythmic motion. See the dance here.

I am showing you dance pictures from 2004 and 2005, the one we did in 2005 was also aired on the Malayalam television channel Asianet (which automatically makes me a TV star anyway). See if you can pick me, especially from the last picture. I may not blog hop for some time as I am on tiny holiday visit to South Africa to tie rakhi to my dear brother for rakshabandhan on 28th and celebrate my bday on the 29th with him… later later then, c ya

Here at the end of the dance we are trying to make a traditional villaka (traditional kerala lamp) by joining the small lamps in our hands, can u see it?

Dance from 2005


ok pick me from this pic

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Botswana: the gem of Southern Africa, the diamond of Africa

As I near the completion of 20 years in the beautiful country of Botswana, I decided to dedicate a post to it and send a postcard to lovely Bee and Jay at Jugalbandi. When I finished the postcard, I still had a lot to tell about this lovely country and I had gone through tons and tons of my old photographs. I didn’t know which picture to send in the postcard and which not to. I selected a few and the rest I show you today with ramblings here and there.

Bouganvilla outside my house: Spring arrives late in southern africa

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A marula tree outside my office: no sign of marulas yet

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Botswana countryside: comprised mostly of thorn bushes and brown mopane trees
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Botswana highway: the main highway in Botswana runs north south next to the railway line.

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Thick dry mopane bush: waiting for the rains

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Mopane leaves beginning to get green: after the rains start, they will be teeming with mopane worms.
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Most rivers are dry throughout the year and only fill up during the rainy season.

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Chibuku: the local alcoholic drink, "feel the goodness"??

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Our lodge chalets in Francistown: where we stayed recently

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Approaching the Botswana Border from South Africa: As you approach Botswana by road you will realize that the vegetation gets drier, less greener and with more thorn bushes (as we approach the semi-desert Kalahari.
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The village of Letlhakeng: This is a typical village in Botswana, huts and modern houses together and scattered over long distances. Letlhakeng is the start of the Kalahari Semi Desert which stretches all through the west, south- west of the country into South Africa and Namibia.

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Typical homes in the village of Molepolole: This a typical yard in a village; notice the little kitchen outside the house on the left.

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Elaborate fence in Letlhakeng: Some houses in the village are fences using dried tree logs dug into the ground.

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Beautiful traditional baskets: A basket weaving lady made these beautiful baskets, she was too shy to get photographed. In my opinion some of the villagers are so talented.

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A sheepskin entrepreneur in Letlhakeng: he is sitting outside his home and about to cut the skin to stitch some bags and slippers.

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Ostriches: An ostrich farm in the village of Letlhakeng. Ostriches are farmed for their eggs and feathers.
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Takatokwane Pan: A salt water pan near Letlhakeng. There are so many salt pans in Botswana, many are dry; the largest being the Makgadikgadi pans towards the north. See the emptiness of the makgadikgadi pans here.
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Khutse: Chalet lodges at Khutse Game Reserve. There are numerous game parks with luxury accommodation that bring you closer to the wild animals.
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Eland at Madikwe: In my opinion this is such a beautiful animal… a cross between a camel and a deer, the game rancher told us. They are good at jumping over fences and escaping the border fences of the game parks.
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Baby and Mother: A baby elephant hides under its mama at Kruger National Park in South Africa: cho chweet
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Elephants: at Chobe National Park in the north of Botswana

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Hippos at Chobe: It easy to think that you are watching clear ‘empty’ water. And as you wait they start appearing one by one and you realize it flooded with hippos in the water!!

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Hippo at Chobe: They all go back in and then one comes out to give a huge grunt and spray water in the air.

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Chobe National Park: Do you spot a lion in the bush?

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Lioness at Chobe National Park: Even when you know you are safe in your van; when you see the real lion out in the wild, you definitely break out in a sweat and your breathing gets short and heavier!
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Lionesses at Chobe: whoever said the lion is the king of the jungle? All he does is fight with each other for supremacy, it’s the lionesses that do the real stuff like hunt for food and take care of the cubs. From now on its queen of the jungle!

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The Madikwe boys (two young male lions) at Pilanesburg National Park. On of my favourite game parks is Pilanesburg which is located on an extinct volcano; this is where all the ranchers are on a walkie talkie. When they sight animals they keep informing each other and if our van is nearby, the ranchers lets us know that there is a lion, cheetah nearby and drive towards it. I can’t forget these particular lions because firstly they were so close to our vans and secondly I was expecting (preggy) at the time and my excitement even made my baby excited: he started kicking me from inside. It was a double scare for my husband! The next scheduled game drive I stayed behind at my camp :)
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Female Springboks: They are female because they don’t have any horns!
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A magestic Kudu: Isn’t he beautiful.
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Vervet monkey: at madikwe game park.
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Warthog in the bush: A mother warthog and her baby at Kruger National park
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Rhino at Pilanesburg: Perfect profile of a rhino
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The zebra couple at Kruger

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A rhino sleeps under the bush at Kruger National

Friday, August 17, 2007

Methi and Leftover dal ki missi poori with aaloo

Ok, I give in. This whole week, I said to myself I wudn't fry, and be on this 'healthy' salad diet. And what do you know? There's an event, more like an invitation to a party to encourage us to fry pooris and to have it with the ever tempting aaloo sabzi...grrrr

So yesterday I said, what the heck...I might as well make it :) which made hubby the happiest person on the planet. Anita, this whole week you are shining on my blog :), you sure are good at tempting others to cook. With blogging about food like this, for sure we will never loose our tyres....

Since its raining poori aalo in the blogosphere and everyone was making pooris with plain aata, I thought I should make my dal methi poori. Using leftover dal? u ask; yup, I say.

I have two aaloo bhaji recipes here, one which I've always had in my parents house with poori, kachori, etc and the second one is a southie version, my mallu friend taught me. Each is in its own league. I made the second one yesterday which was devoured before I could take any pics :S

I usually make these pooris whenever there is any kind of leftover dal, and my hubby always encourages me to make excess dal so that I make his dal pooris!! For the pooris I made yesterday I had lots of dal palak (mung dal split with spinach and onion tomato tadka) left from the previous day. The dal should be a mushy mushy consistency. Offcourse these methi pooris can be made on the tava with lesser oil too, but Anita said F R I E D, so we fried, :p.

Image : The dry ingredients before kneading with the dal
For the methi missi poori you need:
-1 cup aata (any brown bread flour)
-1 cup besan (chana flour)
-2 tbsp dried kasuri methi
-1 tsp dry dhania powder (optional)
-some leftover dal

what to do
1. In a bowl throw in the aata, besan and methi. Optionally add a tsp of dry dhania powder. Use the leftover dal to knead the dough (dont use any water). If you run out of the dal, use milk to combine the rest of the flour. Make a fairly stiff dough. Even if they dont rise while frying, they will be moist because of the besan and dal. No chance of getting any cluries (cardboard like poories)!!

2. Take enough dough to make a 10cm round which is 1/4cm in thickness (it should not be too thin, else you run the danger of them becoming cluries; it should not be too thick, else you run the danger of them not getting cooked through).

3. Deep fry them, in hot oil until they are pink in colour. Alternately toast them on a tava like missi roti, painting with a little bit of oil on both sides.

4. Find any bhaji to eat with and devour quickly. Also you can have them just like that rolled with mango or lemon pickle. Its excellent tiffin and picnic food. (Makes 12 small pooris)

Aaloo bhaji 1 (northie version)- has more gravy
what you need
- 3-4 boiled potatoes finely chopped
- 1 tomato finely chopped
- 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
- 1 tsp methade (whole fenugreek seeds)
- 3 tsp oil (any vegetable oil)
- salt and chilli powder to taste
- 3/4 tsp haldi (tumeric)
- handful of finely chopped green coriander

what you need to do
1. Heat the oil in a deep pan. When hot, throw in the jeera and methade. When they change a few shades darker (which takes a few seconds), put in the tomato and saute briefly. Add three of the chopped boiled potatoes and add 3 cups water.

2. Whilst it starts coming to the boil, mash the one potato that was not added. Add salt, chilli powder, and tumeric. Dont think the tumeric is too much, we need a deep yellow colour. When it comes to a strong boil add the mashed potato and simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve with poori or kachori.

Aaloo bhaji 2 (southie version) - is a semi dry consistency
what you need
- 3-4 boiled potatoes coarsely chopped
- 1 onion coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
- 4-5 green chillies split
- 1 tsp rai (mustard seeds)
- 1 tsp urad dal
- 3 tsp oil (any vegetable oil)
- salt and chilli powder to taste
- 1/4 tsp haldi (tumeric)
- 4-5 sprigs of mint

what you need to do1.
1. Heat the oil in a deep pan. When hot, throw in the mustard seeds and urad dal. When the mustard seeds starts to splutter(which takes a few seconds) add the urad dal and ginger and green chillies; saute until they change a few shades darker (which again takes a few more seconds) or when you hear people in the adjacent room coughing. Put in the onions and saute for some more time, until the onions become translucent. Add the chopped boiled potatoes and add 1 and a 1/2 cups water.

2. While it starts coming to the boil, add salt, chilli powder, tumeric and mint. Here we need a light yellow colour and I promise you the mint is the king in this dish. When it comes to a strong boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Serve with poori.