Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Karva chauth di sargi: Early morning vermicelli pudding

I love fasting on karva chauth despite it being a grueling day of controlling your hunger and thirst, and not because it’s the most fanciest custom that bollywood has to show in their movies nowadays. But fasting like this is when one gets to really appreciate the food we eat and the water we drink daily.

Mostly I feel more thirsty than hungry. But somehow it feels good to fast on the day. Its not just 'fast for your husband's long life' as is mostly portrayed, its also about celebrating your wedded life and marriage.

The day started for me at 3:30am, when I got up to eat my sargi and to drink all the water I could before sunrise. ‘Sargi’ is just the (punjabi) name given to the delicious vermicelli kheer (see recipe below) eaten in the morning.

According to traditional custom, a married woman takes the 'sargi', which is prepared specially for the ocassion by the mother-in-law, and leaves on the previous day to go to her mother’s house. In the wee hours of the morning she eats it with her mother and other aunts that have gathered there. The fast begins at twilight, and women fast from food and water.

When the day starts, the women folk spend decorating themselves with henna and getting dressed up in their wedding apparels, and pretty much look like brides. In today’s times they go shopping, they especially buy decorated bangles and sometimes spend the afternoon at the movies!
Around late afternoon, ranging between 3pm to 6pm (depends on the individual family custom), the daughter-in-law arrives with her mother and her aunts at her in-laws place. Here all the ladies, including that of the neighbourhood gather to perform the ‘poiya mansna’ ceremony. They get into a circle and rotate their pooja thalis whilst singing traditional songs.

Ive always heard the one that Ive shown below, “kudiye karwada....”. Here in Africa, we gather mostly at the local temple hall and do this ceremony. Then one of the elder lady tells us the ‘katha’, the story behind the fast. The hardcore ‘pindi’ punjabi (village accent) becomes a foreign language to me and I’m lost after a few lines into the story!

I just enjoy the whole ceremony of seeing so many women all dressed up. Its like seeing all your friends, aunts, and all women as brides all on the same day! We admire each other’s jewellery, mehndi and wedding gowns etc. :D

A lot of woman take their first sip of water after this ceremony, and have some form of liquid to relieve themselves. They have food only after the moon comes out. Some (really dedicated wives) wait with thirsty throats up until the time the moon comes out.

I had a big glass of water at 4:30 pm and then another glass of juice. From then the wait starts…for the moon to come out. In India, I have heard from my mum that the moon comes out around 8:00pm. Then all the women rush outside and offer obeisances to the moon and see the moon through a seive (I have no idea, why all this is done so). Thereafter they break their fasts.

And because some of us are in the southern hemisphere… we waited till 10:30pm and there was no sign of the moon… After another gruelling, half an hour…the moon was sighted at 11:00pm and we finally broke our fasts and had food. By then I wasn’t even hungry, but nevertheless ate to replenish the energy I had lost! My malayalee husband still doesn’t get why I need to do all this… I know I do it for the fun of it!

"Karva Chauth Day falls on the 4th day of the Kartik month every year. On this day it is customary for the wife to fast the whole day. She does not drink water either. She paints her hands and feet with henna, dresses generally in red apparel ...

On Karva Chauth day, which is observed in North India, tens of millions of women keep a fast, .... Only after seeing the moon do the women break their day-long fast in the evening/night. Normally women go out of their houses and on their roof tops to see if the moon is up yet.

Here is the song sung by punjabi women, while they exchange thalis seven times.

Veero Kudiye Karwada...., Sarv Suhagan Karwada...,
Aye Katti Naya Teri Naa, Kumbh Chrakhra Feri Naa,
Aar Pair payeen Naa, Ruthda maniyen Naa, Suthra Jagayeen Naa,
Ve Veero Kuriye Karwara,Ve Sarv Suhagan Karwara....... "

picture and text:http://www.karwachauth.com

Karva chauth ki sargi

What you need:

- 250 gm wheat vermicelli
- 50 gm ghee (can completely zero the ghee, if you want to make it fat free)
- 1 Lt full cream milk (can easily use 2% reduced or even skim milk to make it ‘lighter’)
- 200 gms sugar (again, this amount gives the kheer a mild sweetness, up or own the amount to suit your palate). Here sugar can also be substituted for brown sugar or jaggery for more flavour.
- A few pods whole elaichi
- Saffron strands
- Chopped nuts of your choice ( I did not put any in this version)

What you need to do:

1.) In a large pot roast the vermicelli in the ghee. The vermicelli can be dry roasted too (without any ghee for a low fat version). Stir frequently to allow equal roasting.

2.) Add the milk and elaichi pods and bring to the boil. When boiling, reduce gas to a simmer and cook for a further 10-12 minutes. The vermicelli will swell in size and soak up the milk.

3.) Switch off the gas and decorate with saffron and nuts. The kheer (pudding) can be had warm and or can be cooled down and refridgerated and served chilled.

We (mum and I) had it cold in the morning, drank lotsa water and went back to sleep!
This is going to Vee of Past Present and Me for the wonderful event JFI special series: The festive series...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Peanut ladoos for navratri, contribute for Feed-a-hungry-child and a meme

These ladoos are so easy and are great for kids to learn and make.
But first I want to put in a plea to keep contributing to ‘feed a hungry child’ as there are still a few days left for the fund raising drive. Even though the fund-drive goal of raising 3, 360 dollars has been crossed, we can contribute more to feed more mouths.

(FHC): feedahungrychild.org is a not-for-profit charitable organization formed in a collaborative effort of the like-minded people from all around the world. It aims to replace the empty plates of the underprivileged children and replace them with ones of food. While FAHC addresses the holistic needs of each children it supports, it believes illiteracy, malnutrition, and other concerns can only be addressed when hunger is appeased.
Join the fight against global poverty…. Help feed children one by one…

Please chip-in and contribute here, or here or go to the FHC website...

And now onto the easy-peasy laddoo recipe:

What you need:

- 350 gm peanut butter (crunchy – if you want bits of nut, smooth – if you want a smooth texture)
- 250 gm khoya (make a semi-hard dough with full cream milk powder and milk and microwave it for 10 minutes on low, cool and grate finely)
- 200gm brown icing sugar (can use normal icing sugar too, and reduce the amount if you find it too sweet)
- 1 tsp elaichi (cardamom) powder
(This amount made 50 ladoos of 2.5 cm diameter (average size for a ladoo) )

What you need to do:
1.) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl thoroughly. Shape into round ladoos.

-Use splashes of milk to moisten a dry mixture, that is becoming to difficult to combine.
- If the mixture is too wet and gooey (which it will hardly be), you can use dry dessicated coconut to make the mixture pliable.

Verdict: These ladoos look and taste exactly like besan (gram flour) laddoos in texture and 90% in taste, so they are great for when fasting from grains. You just get a peanutty taste instead. Also, there is no ‘extra’ ghee I added this time and they tasted great; the only fat comes from the peanut butter. Plus, I looooved making them because of how easy they were to make. They are really good for kids to make too.

See how I made them last year for Navratri, the recipe is pretty much the same, except I didn’t put ghee this time.

This is going to Vee of Past Present and Me for the wonderful event JFI special series: The festive series...
This is also going to Viji of Vcuisine for the wonderful event RCI Tamil Festive Series...

Now for my first meme that Sweet Sig tagged me for:

4 Places I’ve lived:

- Kisumu, Kenya
- New Delhi, India
- Selebi- Phikwe, Botswana
- Gaborone, Botswana

4 Jobs I’ve had / (wish I could have)

- Computer Technician Attachee / Interior Decorator
- Systems Analyst Junior / Coolest restaurant-in-town owner and chef
- Assistant Computer Lecturer (in parallel with 2) / Flower Bouquet Designer(I’m gonna do this when I’m old and grey anyway)
- Computer Engineer / Pencil, Pastel and Oil Painter

4 Favorite places I’ve holidayed:

1. Venice – I was in awe of all the canals dotted with the beautiful houses, the islands and the awesome Italian food. And people, Venice is sinking… hope the engineers can save it in the nick of time.
2. Vienna – Oh this city is truly musical, the opera we went to was to-die-for… and they played all the famous classical numbers especially my fav ..Mozart… there was even a Pavarotti look a like with a ballerina…sigh….
3. Cape Town – was amazing… with all the history and unique flora and fauna, vineyards and wine….Robin island where Mandela spent 26 (?) years.
4. Pongundam near Kottayam – This is a huge rubber plantation… my sin-in-law’s in-law’s place. It was breath-taking and beautiful. And my SIL’s MIL made such yummy food for us…

4 Favorite foods

1. Homemade corn pizza (with bits of paneer)
2. Pasta Recco – at our fav Italian restaurant, I don’t even bother looking at their menu…
3. Chilli Gobhi Dry - Also at out fav south Indian restaurant…. I’m trying really hard (with the help of my mum) to recreate this dish at home… and when I told this to a fellow blogger friend, she loved it too… will post it soon
4. Tie between Appam-stew and Onam sadya(incl parip payasam) – Coz after consuming both relishes, it induces a zombie reaction in the body, where we drift towards the next closest place to lie down and drift into slumber land.

4 Places I’d rather be

- On a looooong drive with M (hubby) where we talk and talk and talk.
- Playing with my son, and going to see the bho-bhos (dogs)
- Touring the world
- Doing something creatively fun (painting, cooking, crafty things).

4 bloggers I like to tag

Wanted to tag Musy, and Lakshmi(Yum), but they’ve already done this meme…

Please take it up only if you wish to...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vrat Kadi for Navratri: carrot kofta in yoghurt gravy

Its navratri time, time to fast, feast and wait for all the rest of the festivals to hit you! Navratri is composed of nine days of celebrating the female energy of our creation, in the most revered form, the Mother Goddess. All throughout India, from state to state, the Goddesses are prayed.

"All Hindus celebrate this festival at the same time in different ways in different parts of India as well as around the world. In the northern part of the country, the first nine days of this festival, called Navaratri, is commonly observed as a time for rigorous fast, followed by celebrations on the tenth day. In western India, throughout the nine days, both men and women participate in a special kind of dance around an object of worship. In the south, Dusshera or the tenth day is celebrated with a lot of fanfare. In the east, people go crazy over Durga Puja, from the seventh till the tenth day of this annual festival. Although, the universal nature of the festival is often found to transcend regional influences and local culture, the Garba Dance of Gujarat, Ramlila of Varanasi, Dusshera of Mysore, and Durga Puja of Bengal need special mention." Source.

From my childhood days, Ive spent these nine days fasting and feasting on yummy fasting food, hearing bhajans glorifying the mother goddess and waiting for my ‘kanjak’ on the 8th day. (In Punjab, on the 8th (ashtami) day, little gifts and a plate of halwa-poori, chole is given to little girls). Now that I’m a big girl :D I make these special dishes at home too and hand out kanjaks to little girls around the neighbourhood and daughters of my friends!

Now onto some yummy fasting food: fasting on navratri days usually, means restricting oneself to only certain things and avoiding grains, dals and most spices and vegetables. Different people fast in different ways so please go ahead and tweak this kadi in anyway to suit you. This kadi may have some ingredients that are not taken for strict fasting, and I will try to offer substitutions.

What you need:

For the koftas:

-2 cups finely grated carrots (can substitute with grated plantains or sweet potato)
-1 cup (approx) potato flour (can use rajgro flour that’s used during fasting)
-1 boiled and mashed potato
-Salt (some people use black/rock salt) to taste
-1/2 tsp chilli powder.
-1 tsp whole black peppercorns
-Oil for deep frying

For the kadi:

-¾ cup potato flour

-1 cup full cream milk (can use water too)
-2 cups yoghurt (preferably sour Indian curd)
-Salt (some people use black/rock salt) to taste
-1 tsp chilli powder

For the tadka:

-2 tbsp ghee
-4-5 whole dried red chillies (broken into pieces)
-2 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)

What you need to:

1. Combine the ingredients for the kofta to make a soft, moist dough, it should not be dry. Make into small balls. Makes about 22. (I made this to take to the temple). Deep fry them in oil (or ghee, if you want). Allow the koftas to cool.

2. Add milk, salt and pepper to taste to the potato flour and combine to make a dosa-(pancake)-batter-like consistency. Keep aside. In another bowl, lightly beat the yoghurt (curds).

3. In a big pot make the tadka: add the ghee and when hot, add the jeera and broken red chilli pieces. When the spices become a shade darker, add the potato flour batter and then add the beaten yoghurt. Bring to the boil.

4. When the kadi is boiling vigourously, turn the gas to a medium-low, and let it simmer until it thickens.

5. When the kadi thickens, switch off the gas and let it cool slightly. Add the koftas and gently stir. Let the kadi sit for some time (maybe 10 minutes) to allow the koftas to soak up the liquid. Serve hot with vrat rice or have as is with jeera potatoes.

This is going to Vee of Past Present and Me for the wonderful event JFI special series: The festive series...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Clicking Eggs after completing a year

I just cant believe that Ive been blogging for just over a year now. Most people like me discover the food blogosphere in the quest for a recipe... I was looking for Naranaga Pickle and stumbled upon Injipennu's Ginger and Mango... then onto Asha's Foddie's Hope....and I was amazed at the way these ladies would cook and present their recipes. I was truely inspired... I wanted to make my contribution too and hence (Fusion Food then) and Soul Food now was born... and in the process discovered so many amazing blogs and lovely friends. Food blogging has become such an obsession and even though I dont have very deep archives, I thoroughly enjoyed sharing recipes and finding new recipes and great food ideas.

I get so amused when I think back ... one time putting hubby and baby to sleep and getting up in the middle of the nite to write a post!! Ive met such amazing people who've become such good friends. Asha was the first one to always visit my blog and encourage me frequently, thank you so much dear. There are some who are such darlings with whom Ive exchanged so many emails; and there are those that always come to read about ramblings and comment on my recipes. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

And what better way to celebrate than to click a picture for the cutest couple in the blogosphere, Jay and Bee!!! They've got a cooool event going on to encourage food photography. Its a theme based event and just what I was looking for to push me to take better pictures... This month they want us click some eggs. Ive put a ostrich egg next to normal farm eggs to show a comparison in size. Ostriches are native to Africa and lay the largest eggs in the world. One ostrich egg is equivalent to 2 dozen chicken eggs!!

Wikipedia says: Ostrich eggs can weigh 1.3 kg and are the largest of all eggs, though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the bird. The nest may contain 15 to 60 eggs, with an average egg being 15 cm (6 inches) long, 13 cm (5 inches) wide, and weigh 1.4 kg (3 pounds). They are shiny and whitish in color. The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the male by night.
All pictures were taken by a Sony Cyber-shot. The third picture was an amazing artwork that we picked up at Outshoorn, a small town full of ostrich farms in South Africa.