WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: FOCUS

For the Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

For this weekly photo challenge I found this picture that I had tried capturing in my iPhone camera, but was not very happy with the result as it was not very clear. I was trying to focus the Bee Hive that was formed on one of the young tree in my friend’s garden, but with the bees flying in all directions and me avoiding being stung, it was difficult to go more closer for better focus.

But I was happy clicking this picture as it sure is very fascinating to see the bees working on the hive and to see it grow this closely, a rare sight for city dwellers 🙂 .

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ashu’s Photograpy

 

ashu

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: ORDER

For the Weekly Photo Challenge: Order. 

Flea market stall in Tbilisi, Georgia.

IMG_5336

Biryani Handis stacked in order on top of each other in front of a shop in the Charminar area, Hyderabad, India.IMG_6978

Display of souvenirs made of sea shells in a shop in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India.

IMG_7820

Goods displayed from Turkey in the Turkish Pavilion in Global Village, Dubai.

IMG_9338

These were few of the numerous photographs from my travels that I loved sharing for this photo challenge. Hope you all enjoyed viewing them 🙂 .

ashu

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: REFLECTING

My entry for this Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting.

The pictures are from the Kundala Dam Lake area in Munnar, Kerala, India.  I found it to be a very beautiful spot that  instantly charmed this city dweller who got drawn to this serene, peaceful place and felt the perfect nature’s paradise. I wished we could stay longer and explore the area, do the boating, but we could not. The boating was closed and we could not enjoy the water more.  The extremely tall Nilgiri (Eucalyptus) trees all around, and the thick forest with different variety of trees some with colored leaves (we had visited Kerala in March month) reflecting in the water below, it was a very silent and soothing time for me, perfect escape from bustling madness and traffic chaos of the place where I live.

ashu’s Photography
ashu’s Photography

The Houseboat stay and ride through the backwaters in Alleppey in Kerala too was thoroughly enjoyed, calming and soothing with fantastic view all around, a must include.

I would highly recommend a tour of Kerala, rightfully called as Gods own Country, if you have not yet visited it.

ashu.

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: DANGER

My entry for this week’s Photo Challenge: Danger

This picture is from my most recent India visit, returned home just last week. This was clicked when visiting my dad’s village near the banks of the river Wainganga, around noon with the summer temperature being above 43+ deg C.  The huge tree provided the must needed shade when we got down from the AC cars and took shelter under the tree. Most were unawares of the danger lurking around with the creepy crawling creatures moving nearby, my eyes caught this little fellow changing color and I quickly captured the picture.

ashu’s Photography-WPC:Danger

(Can you all spot the Chameleon in the picture ?!) 🙂

ashu

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: DENSE

For the Weekly Photo Challenge: Dense

For this weekly photo challenge I have decided to share some pictures from God’s Own Country 🙂 , yes our Kerala tour, capturing nature’s bounty of some of the dense fruits and flowers that were seen around the cities in Kerala, India.

ashu’s Photography-WPC-Dense
ashu’s Photography-WPC-Dense
ashu’s Photography-WPC-Dense
ashu’s Photography-WPC-Dense

Hope you enjoyed my entry for this challenge.

ashu

 

Thank You for +200 Follows

I am extremely happy to see this notification from yesterday that informs me that my blog now has 200 + followers.

I am ever so grateful  to you my fellow bloggers and readers and take this opportunity to Thank each and every follower of my blog, all the readers who stop by and read my posts, to all who give me the Thumbs up by clicking the Like button, and to every one of you who cares to leave a valued comment after the posts. Thank you my fellow bloggers, love and appreciate this gesture.

These small happy moments add on and make this journey a really wonderful experience. Appreciate your presence and interaction on this platform.

Thank You 🙂

ashu

Prawns Potli

ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli
ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli

ashu’s new recipePRAWNS POTLI- my tribute for my elder brother.

The flow of life is ever changing, making us drift along with it, sweeping us through its different waves and giving us the moments, emotions, and experiences that one may not always be ready to accept or deal with. But one does learn to sail through if we allow ourselves to accept and adapt. It is in our hands how we handle each and every moment that we have to face on a day-to-day basis.

This post is made in memory of and as my fond remembrance of my eldest sibling whom we lost this month. The loss of our loved ones leaves a huge vacuum and fills us with grief, I have been dealing with my share of this emotion. But it would be wrong to let grief overtake the memories and good times that were shared, one should be celebrating the sibling bond and the strength it imparts. As I look back and lovingly cherish the journey I shared as his younger sibling, remembering all the positives that I got to learn from him, I decided to cook a new recipe in his honor as my tribute and respect towards him.

He was a big time foodie, and as I reflect back to my childhood days, he was the influence I think that might have pushed me to this hobby of cooking and learning new recipes. He was the connoisseur of food of our family, loved different cuisines, and introduced us siblings to restaurant foods and knew the best food joints/places in the home town while we were growing up and later too, and also at the same time was the most dreaded critic of our cooking, the cooks of the house, even until the recent days. He was a perfect event manager, menu planner for any functions or marriages that happened in the household.

It is this foodie nature of his that I want to cherish forever and sharing a part of him with you all by the above writing about him.  As he loved non-vegetarian food, hence I decided to try something new using Prawns.

PRAWNS POTLI

ashu’s -Prawns Potli

INGREDIENTS:

For The Dough:

Refined Flour: 200 gm

Fine Semolina: 100 gm

Salt: 1 pinch

Water: 100 ml ( or as much-needed to make soft dough)

For The Filling/Stuffing:

Prawns: 500 gm

Onion: 1 Medium-to-small

Green Chilies: 2 (or add as per personal taste)

Green Coriander: 2 Tbsp (few sprigs)

Cumin: 1 Tsp

Salt & Pepper: as per taste for seasoning.

Cooking Oil- As required for Frying

ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli

METHOD:

Put the refined flour, semolina and a pinch of salt in a glass bowl or any bowl and mix together. Adding water to this mix make a soft dough and keep it covered until we prepare the prawns filling. Before using the dough we should knead it well.

Clean and devein the prawns, wash and pat them completely dry with a napkin or kitchen tissue roll.

Coarsely grind the onion, green chili, coriander, cumin, and the Prawns in a mixer pot or food processor pot. Add the salt and crushed peppercorns. We do not want the prawn flesh to become gooey, but remain smaller chunks. (For the initial Potli’s I had used this uncooked raw filling, but the wet content leaked and oil spluttered. )

ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli

Heat a fry pan/Kadai and add 1 tsp oil (just to avoid food sticking) and then add this ground mix and saute so that the prawns get slightly cooked and all extra liquid if any gets completely dried away. This will be our filling for the Potli.

ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli

Knead the flour dough well to get a softer dough. We can use a drop or two of oil to avoid the dough from sticking to our palm.

Make small round balls of the dough and roll out thin circular discs as seen in the picture below. Place little amount of filling and bring the ends closer, twisting and tightening together towards the center. Make sure to seal it in center and leave the ends free so that it resembles a Potli.

ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli
ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli

Once the Potli’s are ready, heat a thick bottomed pan or Kadai and pour oil in it for frying. As the oil heats, slowly we slide the Potli’s into the hot oil and deep fry first keeping the flame of the stove on high and later making it to medium heat. The Potli’s should be fried to golden brown, reducing the heat ensures the ends become crispy .

The frying part needs our attention and demands more patience from us. If any water from the prawns makes the filling wet, and if the ends are not properly sealed then the liquid oozes out into the hot oil, making it splutter and also burns the oil. Hence try to avoid any water/liquid in the filling. Initially I had not used cooked filling, but the raw coarsely ground prawns and the water from the onion and prawns made the oil splutter and hence I pan dried the water. Avoid cooking the filling for long, Prawn flesh is delicate and we do not want to make it rubber textured.

ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli

As you can see my potli’s are of different shapes and sizes, more patience required in future I guess 🙂 .

We can make all the round discs first, later fill the filling and seal the ends, and thus make and keep the potlis to fry together. Or one could make it in batches of 3-4 and simultaneously fry while making. Do as per your convenience 🙂 .

ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli

I preferred to keep the prawn filling simple. The sweetness of the prawns, the heat from the green chili, the fresh herb taste and dash of the cumin and freshly ground peppercorns, perfect taste with each bite of the potli. Also note, it is better we make the potli’s smaller in size, they puff up a bit while frying and we can get perfectly sized ones to hold and which can be finished up in a bite or two. We need to fry them to perfection so that the outer ends are crispy and the bottom part is medium soft to bite into.

Serving Options: I used store-bought Tomato and Chili sauces as dips to serve with the Prawns Potli. We could also serve it with a hot and tangy green chutney.

ashu’s recipe-Prawns Potli

I am feeling happy as I share this recipe that I made with love and affection for my brother, in his memory and in the process doing my bit to carry on the legacy of introducing new foods and recipes with the folks who are part of my life and also with those who cross my path.

Enjoy and stay content doing whatever that makes you happy 🙂 .

ashu

Happy Gudi Padwa

Ashu wishes you all a very Happy Gudi Padwa / Ugadi. A happy Chaitra Navratri too.

Gudi Padwa is a festival celebrated in Maharashtra on the first day of the Chaitra month, it marks the beginning of the new year of the Hindu calender.  It is the time to welcome the mango season 🙂 . Ugadi is celebrated in Andhra as the first day of the new year.

The rituals followed for this auspicious day are making colourful rangolis on the front entrance of the house, tying a marigold flowers and mango leaves toran at the entrance door. A gudi is setup and   worshipped and an elaborate vegetarian meal is cooked and offered as Naivedyam. A Shrikhand Puri, or Amrakhand or Puran Poli sweet is made. Pachadi too is made in some houses, it is a neem leaves, tamarind and jaggery mixed liquidy dish. I do not make this, never learnt it, though my mother used to make it. Raw mango dishes too are made.

Sharing couple pictures from today. I have not made many a dishes like the masale bhath and raw mango daal etc, made puran poli for sweet though I got Alpohsnso mangoes for the Amrakhand that I did not make 🙂 , will make it for the weekend menu! I made Bharli Vangi, mixed daal vadas/pakode, alu vadis, varan baath and mattha and fulkas. Even though I skipped some dishes but this itself was a heavy lunch, couldn’t stop with only one puran poli😀.

ashusphotography -Gudi
ashusrecipe-vegetarian meal

Wishing you all a blessed New year 🙂 .

Enjoy!

ashu

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: BEING GREEN

For this Week’s Photo Challenge: It is easy being Green, I am sharing couple pictures from my Georgia travel.

Surround oneself with the beauty of nature and enjoy the best moments of the day 🙂 , capturing the different shades of green.

ashusphotography-WPC-Being Green
ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Georgia Travel
ashusphotography-Georgia travel (Gudauri)
ashusphotography-Georgia travel (Gudauri)

ashu

Chicken Momos

ashu’s Steamed Chicken Momos

Chicken Momo is a dumpling which is one of my favorite and hence a frequently made food in my kitchen. I make it using refined flour and boiled chicken that is seasoned with simple seasonings. I have already shared a couple other recipes of momos, but the chicken momos was not yet posted.

CHICKEN MOMOS

INGREDIENTS:

Refined Flour: 250 gm

Boiled Chicken: 250 gm

Green Coriander: 2 Tbsp

Salt: To taste

Pepper: For Seasoning as per taste

Water: 1 glass (as needed)

METHOD:

Boil/Steam the chicken (I used 1 chicken breast) in a pressure cooker or rice cooker for a single vessel or 15 min.

Take a bowl and make a medium soft dough of the refined flour to which a pinch of salt is added, and keep the bowl covered.

Shred the boiled chicken, add salt and pepper as per taste and the chopped green coriander. This will be our Momos filling.

ashuskitchen -Chicken filling for the Chicken Momos

Divide the dough into small balls and roll out thin circular puris. Spoon the chicken filling  on the puri, and then  bring together and close all the ends giving a twist before sealing at the top. I prefer to remove the excess dough at the top end.

We can give any shape to the dumplings, but I prefer the one seen in the pictures. The more one practices shaping and making the momos, the better the shape 🙂 . I like to make smaller shaped momos, easier to eat in a single or two bites. Also note, the thinner the outer coat, it tastes better, my personal preference here.

ashuskitchen-Chicken Momos

ashuskitchen-Chicken Momos kept ready for steaming

Brush the steamer basket with oil before putting the momos for steaming, this prevents them from sticking to one another or to the basket, and we can easily remove them without the filling falling over from torn momos.

Steam the momos for 10 minutes, until the flour cover becomes shiny.

ashu’s-Steamed Chicken Momos

Serve them hot with a dip of choice, I have served with the parsley pesto that was handy in my fridge. Click for the Parsley Pesto recipe here.  It tastes best with the spicy red chutney made of tomato and ginger. You can click here for this recipe.

ashu’s- Chicken Momos

As always I am happy to share with you all another of my favorite and nutritious recipe. Hope you would like to give it a try in your kitchen too. Do click the links below for my other momos recipes:

Kheema (Mutton Mince) Momos

Tandoori Momos

Happy cooking delicious food 🙂

Enjoy!

ashu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: ATOP

The Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

For this photo challenge I am sharing pictures clicked  at night from  At The Top, Burj Khalifa, the 124th floor Observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, using my iPad-Air.

ashus photography-View below from At The Top, Burj Khalifa.
ashus photography-View below from At The Top, Burj Khalifa.

The view below from here leaves one spell bound, it is truly magical. 🙂

ashu

 

 

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: WISH

My entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Wish.

Jen has asked us to show a wish and let our blog be the ema to share it upon.

We often see people visiting places of worship and praying for their wishes to be granted. I am wishing here that all the wishes of those who wished at these places gets fulfilled 🙂 .

I wish for peace and happiness to all.

Manakamana Temple, Pokhara, Nepal
Visitors going to the Tal Barahi Temple, Phewa Lake, Pokhara Nepal
Devis Falls, Pokhara, Nepal

People usually make a wish and throw a coin into the water, may all their wishes get fulfilled.

Wishing you all a great day ahead.

ashu

 

 

Khinkali, A Georgian Dish

ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Georgia travel

The visit to Georgia in July 2016 introduced me to this dish- Khinkhali, a dish that I find to be a similar version of Momos that I am so very fond of eating and making in my kitchen.

The first lunch after landing in Tbilisi, Georgia in a restaurant in the busy Tbilisi Center, the menu card displayed this bigger version of dumplings that looked similar to momos. The guide told us it is called Khinkali and also informed us the way how we were supposed to eat it. It is a boiled dumpling with filling inside, a fried version could also be seen in the menu card. The inside filling could be of either Beef, lamb, chicken, potatoes or cheese etc. The menu card in the restaurant displayed the various Khinkali that were sold.

ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Georgia travel

While visiting the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mtskheta, we stopped for lunch in the neighboring restaurant and I was able to see and click these amazing pictures of the Khinkali in making.

The Khinkali are shaped and kept on a board and are ready to be put into boiling water.

ashusphotograpy-Khinkali
ashusphotograpy-Khinkali
ashusphotography-Khinkali
ashusphotography-Khinkali
ashusphotography-Khinkali added tot he boiling water for cooking.
ashusphotography-Khinkali added to the boiling water for cooking.
ashusphotography-Khinkali getting cooked
ashusphotography-Khinkali getting cooked
ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Khinkali
ashusphotography-Khinkali

The hot Khinkali is then served to us and we hold at the folded top part and eat the rest of the khinkali and leave behind the top thick part on the plate. The filling is as per our choice and order.

I find it interesting to note that the mountainous regions are colder and one needs food that is easy to make, simple, and hot. The Nepal travel saw steaming hot momos being listed on the menu cards, the Georgian travel to the Mtshekta region saw the Khinkali in the process of making. This Georgian dish is famous throughout the country, and I would like to add here that it is similar to the steamed Momos, only the size is bigger and also the coating seems to be thicker. The potato and cheese filled Khinkali was too bland for my taste with only salt added , hence I could not relish them both.

Travelling to places makes us aware of not only the region, landscape and people but also the food habits and one finds a lot of similarities in food across far-flung regions with similar dishes but having the regional names. I find similarity of the Khinkali to the dumplings that one gets to see in a Chinese, or Tibetan or a Nepal menu. Do take every opportunity to travel, so that the foodies like me get to learn new recipes after each tour 🙂

I have tried making my version of the Khinkali yesterday and that will be my next post, so do return to check that out too 🙂 .

Enjoy!

ashu

 

 

 

 

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: THE ROAD TAKEN

My entry for this Week’s Photo Challenge: The Road Taken

I have always been fascinated to click pictures of the road that lays ahead or passed by while I am sitting in the passenger seat of the moving vehicle. These pictures are from our Barbecue picnic outing with friends in the month of January 2017 to the Jabal Al Jais mountains in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. We have to crisscross through the mountains to reach to the point at the top until where the road is open for public use, construction is still seen in progress further up this point.

The Jais mountain is part of the Hajar mountain range bordering Oman. The tallest part of the Hajar mountain range lies in the neighboring Oman and the Jais mountain is the second largest of it that lies in the UAE.

WPC: The Road Taken to Jabal Al Jais
WPC: The Road Taken to Jabal Al Jais
WPC: The Road Taken to top of the Jabal Jais Mountain
WPC: The Road Taken to top of the Jabal Jais Mountain
WPC: The Road Taken
WPC: The Road Taken

This is the view from one of the mountain top that we had hiked to after parking the car at the end of the motor-able road that is open to public. The view is breathtakingly beautiful to see from here; the cotton candy clouds, the sun rays giving a golden glow, the blue clear skies and the chilling winter air that sends a shiver through us, it indeed was a beautiful long drive that is worth driving on.

You can check out my post on the Jabal Al Jais mountain here.

ashu 🙂

 

Paneer Kathi Rolls

ashuskitchen recipe -Paneer Kathi Rolls
ashuskitchen recipe -Paneer Kathi Rolls

The food packed for the school lunchbox should be nutritious, healthy, balanced and most importantly appealing to the kids. It is always challenging to manage to pack food keeping all these factors in mind, especially if the kids are foodies and very picky in taste. My kids, like most kids love Paneer, it is a good source of Vegetarian protein. It is one of the best ingredients to make recipes that are quick, easy to make as well as nutrient packed. Sharing here today one of the many recipes of Paneer that I make in my kitchen, an extremely easy and yummy roll that is best for school lunch, as breakfast or a wholesome snack for a brunch or picnic or travelling. My Jr. does not like it if I pack the vegetables and roti or paratha seperately, and hence the Wrap or Rolls always are a welcome food item.

Almost all households with kitchen have the basic spices and condiments handy, using the fresh ingredients like the paneer, green coriander, spring onions, fresh peas the rolls have a softer and more juicy filling and are very tasty. If fresh paneer and peas are not available then we can make use of frozen one, as I have done for this one. Having lived in Vadodara I am very fond of using Amul products in my kitchen and hence I sometimes get the frozen paneer packet to stock up the fridge for moments when I cannot get the fresh paneer from the stores. I am sure most of you too must be using Amul products, and have eaten Amul butter and Cheese since childhood.

INGREDIENTS: (Makes 8-10 Rolls)

Paneer: 250 gm

Mutter/ Fresh Green Peas : 100 gm

Mixed Bell Peppers : 1 cup finely chopped

Onion/Spring onion: 1 Small

Oil: 2 Tbsp

Ginger Garlic paste: 1 tsp

Coriander Powder: 1 Tbsp

Red Chili Powder: 1 Tsp

Garam Masala Powder: 1 Tsp

Chat Masala Powder: 1 -2 Tbsp (as required)

Salt : To taste

Tomato: 1 small (Optional)

METHOD:

Defrost and dip the frozen paneer in hot water, this makes it softer. Drain and dry on a kitchen tissue roll. Grate or crumble the cubes and keep in a plate.

Heat a Kadai and put 2 tsp oil into it. Add the finely chopped onion.

Then add the ginger garlic paste, saute and then add the peppers and green peas. Cook for 3-4 minutes, fresh peas do not take long to cook.

Then add the paneer crumble and sprinkle all the dried spices and salt and mix well. Turn off the heat and lastly add the teaspoon of the garam masala powder.

The filling for the roll is ready.

Take the chapati and apply the parsley or Basil pesto if you have it handy, then take a tablespoon of the paneer filling and lay it on the chapati, sprinkle pinch of chaat masala and roll the chapati carefully and tightly so that the filling does not spill out.

Roll out this size Chapati
Roll out this size Chapati
ashuskitchen recipe-Paneer Kathi Roll
ashuskitchen recipe-Paneer Kathi Roll

Make all the rolls and keep them in the grill machine for couple minutes so that the rolls become crispy on the outside and retain the shape.

Cut the rolls and serve with a dip or simply pack them as is for the school or office lunchbox.

NOTE: The tomato can be finely chopped and spread over the filling if the rolls are eaten instantly or otherwise can be added to the Paneer filling when it is being cooked.

For making the chapati follow the fulka recipe here. I made the roti a bigger size than the Fulka and applied oil/ghee on top of the roti and cooked it on the Tava/fry pan and not puffing it on the gas stove as for Fulka.

For the Parsley or Basil pesto follow the recipe here.

You could avoid using the pesto and apply coriander mint chutney too if that is handy. I always keep these pesto handy in the refrigerator and hence I can make the rolls at any given time as all the ingredients are readily available in my kitchen.

This recipe was saved to draft and was supposed to be on the blog earlier in January, but I completely forgot about it. I had made these rolls for my daughter when she was attending a Concert in Abu Dhabi on the New Year’s eve 🙂 .

Hope you like this Zhat -pat recipe of mine and try it out in your kitchen.

Enjoy!

ashu.

 

 

 

TILGUL LADDU

ashus recipe-TilGul Laddu
ashus recipe-TilGul Laddu

Each January month the Hindus celebrate the festival of Sankranti. In Maharashtra the new crop harvested is worshiped before the Sun god, mother used to keep the Sugarcane cubes, the red Ber, the Mutter ki Phalli (peas in the pod), carrots, Tilgul, and some whole wheat.  The haldikumkum is also performed in the Maharashtrian houses, a function where the married ladies are invited at home, haldi (Turmeric) and Kumkum (Vermilion) is applied to the forehead, a ritual that I too do every year since my marriage.  Also flowers and a handful of five of these foodstuff is given as part of the ‘Oti’-wheat, Sugarcane cubes, Green peas, Carrot cubes and Ber along with the TilGul (Sweet made of Sesame seed and Jaggery) and a small gift. These were the things I grew up seeing my mother offer to the invited ladies for the function. It is not always possible to get/gather all the five things that form as part of the ‘Oti’ for me since living here in the UAE. I try giving it only when I can otherwise only the flowers, sweet and the gift is given for the Sankranti Haldikumkum to the invited ladies.

Sankranti Haldikumkum tray
Sankranti Haldikumkum tray

It is customary to wear a black Sari during this Sankranti haldikumkum, and I loved wearing my Black Chanderi Sari and my most favorite (and heirloom) jewelry-my mother’s wedding Nath and hubby’s grandmothers Ekdani (the gold & black beaded necklace). Both were gifts given to me by these elders, and I love wearing them for this special function.

The Tilgul that I make during Sankranti and offer is in the form of Laddu. I have been fond of the taste of Laddus that my mother makes and hence continued to follow her simple recipe each year. It is a blessing to carry forward the traditions set by the elders and I enjoy each and every moment of it. With the many Job changes over the years, we have moved to many different places and the numerous friends at every place we stayed have always loved these laddus and hence I have decided to share it here on the blog.

My stay in Vadodara has seen us enjoying this Uttarayan festival as it is called in Gujarat with the whole day flying kites and enjoying the special dish-Undhiyo and sweets Jalebi. It is so much fun, the whole city and state is in the festive spirits with loud speakers blaring loud music on each terrace, and the whole day spent with family and friends flying the hundreds of kites that are kept ready and stacked to last the whole day of 14th January. I learnt to make Undhiyo from my Gujarati neighbors and since then every year I make this dish in my kitchen in January. I have to hunt the local markets for the numerous vegetables and other ingredients that are needed for this dish, but the trouble is worth it. Most times my family members have packed the special papdis and Tur dana that goes into the dish for me and gave them to me if I happened to travel to India in the December holidays. Unfortunately I am yet to get all the ingredients needed and have yet to make it this January, but hopefully soon.

The most delicious sweets are always very simple to make at home, one needs a little effort and inclination to prepare and the whole family can continue to enjoy the innumerable traditional and tasty Indian recipes.

TILGUL LADDU:

INGREDIENTS:

Til (Sesame seeds): 300 gms

Jaggery: 250 gms

Desiccated coconut: 2 Tbsp

Cardamom Powder: 2 Tsp

METHOD: (Makes 15-18 Laddus depending on the size.)

Dry roast the Sesame seeds so that the raw taste is removed as they get roasted and acquire a slight brown color. Take care that you should not brown the seeds too much, this results in a burnt taste of the powder that we will make of the roasted seeds.

ashuskitchen-Roasted Sesame seeds
ashuskitchen-Roasted Sesame seeds

Powder the roasted Sesame seeds in a mixer pot. Grinding to almost a fine powder does not require addition of few drops of milk to set the laddus.

Powder the roasted Sesame seeds
Powder the roasted Sesame seeds

Grate the Jaggery using a fine grater. I have used the solid Kholapur gur, it is easy to grate and mix.

Grate the Jaggery
Grate the Jaggery

Mix the grated Jaggery, Sesame powder, the desiccated coconut, and the powdered green Cardamom together. Care should be taken to ensure the thorough mixing of the Jaggery with the powder, this helps prevent lumps being formed. One can use a few drops of milk to bind if the mixture is too dry and cannot be formed into laddu shape.

Taking a small amount of the mixture shape into small laddus and keep in airtight box. The ladoos can be enjoyed for long as they have a longer shelf life.

ashuskitchen-TilGul Laddu
ashuskitchen-TilGul Laddu

They are so yummy that one tends to eat quite a few, but one need to take care and avoid overeating as it might result in an upset tummy 🙂 .

I did the haldikumkum at my place last week and since then have been trying to post the Laddu draft post that I had kept ready, and today finally it is time to publish the post 🙂 .

Happy Makar Sankranti to all of you my blogging friends and readers 🙂 .

Enjoy!

ashu

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: GRACEFUL

For this Week’s photo challenge : Graceful

This picture is from my recent travel to India. While visiting the Ganpati temple in a city in Maharashtra, India, I stopped to chat with this smiling lady, a fruit and vegetable vendor. I requested her for permission to click her picture, and she smilingly agreed telling me that many stop and click her picture 🙂 .

The old lady is portraying the Maharashtrian look of a married woman, wearing the traditional nine-yard sari called ‘Navvari, the Maharashtrian jewelry-the Mangalsutra, the Motiychi Nath (Pearl nose pin), the green glass bangles called ‘Chuda’ with the gold Patli (bangles) and the red Kumkum (Vermilion) on her forehead. It felt wonderful to capture the warmth and happiness in her smiling face, the long journey of hardship of life seen in the somewhat tired eyes, yet the pride with which she wore her traditional attire. For me this was a graceful and elegant old lady, hence my choice of photograph for this WPC.

ashusphotograpy-WPC:Graceful

ashusphotograpy-WPC:Graceful

ashu

Jabal Jais Visit

ashusPhotography-Jabal Al Jais
ashusPhotography-Jabal Al Jais

The UAE is a country that is a federation of seven kingdoms or Emirates. The capital is Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven Emirates, and the other six Emirates are-Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah.

The first impression of the UAE as a tourist way long back was that it is a Desert country. Back then I had visited Dubai with little or absolutely no knowledge of the country (yes, how ignorant I was I to wonder now!!). It sure was a very different place as compared to now, none of today’s famous landmarks like the Burj Khalifa or the Dubai Mall or Atlantis, and not even the Metro, but still I had loved my visit. It was beautiful to visit this place where one could see people from so many countries living in harmony. The visit to Mall of the Emirates left me awestruck , never had seen a Ski slope inside a mall. The Desert Safari too was the most exciting and magical experience, a must do for visitors I would say. The thrill, and  at the same time the scare, of the SUV ride climbing and coming down through the steep sand dunes was a first ever experience, the beauty of the Desert sands, the wilderness around and the camp in the center, it sure is something one should experience if you ever visit this country.

I am now a resident of this beautiful country and I sure love this place. The country, especially Dubai has seen tremendous growth, and I am witness to the ever growing change in this place, something new is always upcoming and we see constant development. The infrastructure, the public service transport, the civic facilities are top class, the greenery too is so evident and the seasonal flowers add so much color to the roads and surroundings during the harsh summer months. The pristine beaches, huge well-kept parks, are the best to enjoy family gatherings, barbecues, and also picnics with friends during the cooler months.

This country not only has the Desert sands, the beautiful beaches but also has magnificent mountains too. The landscape completely changes as we travel to Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, the other smaller Emirates of the UAE. The car drive trips up the Jebel Hafeet Mountain are the best mountain rides I have had, and was keen to do the Jabal Al Jais mountain road drive since I came to know about couple months ago. I was looking up to go on as the weather became cooler, and finally in December 2016 I was able to go. The road was fairly recently opened and is still under developed in terms of tourist interest things, but one can simply enjoy the long drive.

I enjoyed this drive and if you looking out for a long drive experience and being in nature then you might too. The vegetation around would be only the Ghaf trees that is seen in these parts of the desert, we do spot mountain goats that are seen roaming around, some even very high at the top of some mountain. The road passed through the rugged, wind scared surface of the mountains that which gave it a beautiful  and carved look. It was very cold at the top of the mountain, and by evenings the temperature dropped and was too cold for a single hoodie and jeans clad me. The heater of our SUV was our rescue. A word of caution, if you are driving in the December month be equipped with proper winter wear as the temperatures drop in the evenings at the top of Jais Mountains.

ashu's Road trip to Jabal Jais
ashu’s Road trip to Jabal Jais

Driving to Ras Al Khaimah from Sharjah takes about a little more than an hour, depending on the traffic. As one drives on towards Ras Al Khaimah, the road passes through the desert surroundings and on entering the emirate we can see the mountains in the backdrop.

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I have driven through the other mountainous regions-Kalba, Fujairah, but first time to this Jabal Jais and hence the excitement to know what lay in store ahead. The Jais mountain is part of the Hajar mountain range bordering Oman. The tallest part of the Hajar mountain range lies in the neighboring Oman and the Jais mountain is the second largest of it that lies in the UAE.

After entering Ras Al Khaimah, following the Google Maps App of the cellphone we were lead on to the road leading to the mountains. I did see proper sign boards guiding us to the Jais Mountains. We had selected the cafeteria at top of the Jais Mountains on the App. It was a cloudy and windy day and the late afternoon sun played hide and seek, it sure gave some spectacular view of the surroundings, a nature lover couldn’t ask for more.

Flat ground on way to Jabal Jais
Flat ground on way to Jabal Jais

We ate our homemade packed lunch amidst the flat ground that was surrounded by the mountain range from all side. This ground area is with toilet facility, a camping & barbecue site. It is a favorite recreation for people living in the UAE to go outdoors or camping in the winter /cooler climate. Long drives, barbecues, picnicking are some of the most sought out activities during the Nov to Feb months. I too had gone for long drive and camping to Musandam in Oman (Hajar Mountain range) a couple years back during the Eid break in October.

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Ghaf trees

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On the way to Jais mountains.
On the way to Jais mountains.

After lunch and clicking numerous pictures with the camera and also selfies in my cell phone, we continued on our drive uphill. The ride was smooth except for the occasional speed breakers with most drivers driving cautiously, and the sun helping to give us spectacular view and different shades of the mountains. It was a magical experience at times with lovely sun rays highlighting some parts of the mountain and same time making other part dark. Though I missed on the thrill of driving on this road, but was enjoying the view and clicking pictures sitting in the passenger seat of our SUV.

The Jais mountains
The Jais mountains
Jais mountain drive
Jais mountain drive
Jais Mountain ride
Jabal Jai drive
Sun playing hide & seek, Jabal Jais drive
Jais Mountain drive
Jais Mountain drive

Nearing the top we did see stops for viewing the panorama and one could halt and park the car to soak in the view. The look below of the zigzag road around the mountains to reach to the top was spell-binding from the top. The humongous natural beauty reminded me how minuscule my existence in contrast to the surroundings. In spite of this, each one of us matter and are important on this face of the Earth, a thought that I absolutely love. The view was breathtaking, the wind was super cold, and the sun was at its best, disappearing and surfacing again and giving us the perfect picture moments.

Panorama view below of Jais Mountain
Panorama view below of Jais Mountain

The top most part is still not accessible, but we can drive to almost near it. There is space allotted to park, camp, as well as to view the mountain from the top part. We saw many families were seated around with bonfires, some using their barbecues, some even had set up tents, and many simply crowding near the cafeteria that was set up in a truck. It was serving hot Karak chai (hot tea), coffee, soft drinks, water, snacks, biscuits. It was well stocked on the basic supplies that a picnicker would need, even disposable plates and glasses. So even if the picnic party is short of any eatables or essentials the cafeteria guy seemed to have it all. The garbage pickup trucks were busy collecting the garbage and ensuring the place is clean. It is very difficult to see many folks litter around and spoil the natural habitat, I feel it is so very important to do our part to collect our own garbage when visiting such locations and help to protect the environment. It is upon us to preserve the natural habitats.

Cafeteria near top of Jais mountains
One of the Cafeteria near top of Jais mountains
One side view from near the top of Jais mountains
One side view from near the top of Jais mountains
Driving further near to point closer to the top till where the car drive is possible.
Driving further near to point closer to the top till where the car drive is possible.

It was almost dusk and hence low visibility for the camera to get the best shot of the construction and development below that was seen from the top.

View below from near top of Jais mountains. The sea is masked in the orangyish hue of the sunset.
View below from near top of Jais mountains. The sea is masked in the orangish hue of the sunset.
Sea below seen from the top
Sea below seen from the top

The sea was visible to the naked eye, but the camera picture does not show it very clear. For this I do plan to visit the place again, and also to wear my sneakers that I had completely forgotten as it was not a planned outing to the mountains. Do wear comfortable footwear if you love hiking, it could be a painful fall if one missed a step on deciding to climb the reachable mountain tops after parking the car. I did see many visitors climbing the smaller peaks of the mountains and getting the hiking experience, something that I missed as I was wearing fit flops. After enjoying piping hot cups of the Karak chai and coffee and cookies from the cafeteria and watching the lovely sunset colors on the horizon, we started our return drive downhill.

Cafeteria near top of Jais Mountain
Cafeteria near top of Jais Mountain

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Do note the road has no electric poles and hence the zigzag drive downhill in darkness would be very risky. We started the drive before it was pitch dark.

I did read recent newspaper articles that stated people camping for the night at the top. It would be a very very cold night out at the top with temperatures dropping to very low in December-January months.

 

I loved sharing my experience of this long drive to the Jais mountain top. Hope you readers do find it interesting and get the joy of this drive on any of the days as long as the weather permits it.

Enjoy the ride 🙂

Wishing you all a Happy & Joyous 2017

ashu

 

 

Hara Chana Malvani style

Hara Chana (Green Chickpeas) Malvani Style
Hara Chana (Green Chickpeas) Malvani Style

The weekend brought with it a craving for the Konkani style of cooking, with fresh coconut and Kokum, hence decided to go and buy seafood but instead we ate a Jumbo Crab lunch at one of the Dubai Restaurants. But the craving for my style of cooking of the malvani curry was still lingering and hence I decided to cook this Hara Chana for dinner, it was supposed to be the next morning breakfast 🙂 .

Green Chickpea that I used is the dried Hirva Harbara/chana as it is called in Marathi. The fresh chana tastes sweet, but even the dried ones taste bit sweeter when compared with the black chana. For this preparation I used freshly grated coconut for the gravy masala, added Kokum for its typical sweetish yet tangy taste, and used my homemade garam masala powder that I grind weekly or fortnightly and keep ready for use. The ground garam masala has Cumin, Black Cardamom, Green cardamom, Star anise, Black Peppercorns, Bayleaf, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Caraway seeds and Cloves. I also used the dried coriander powder that has Cumin added to it while powdering it.

The coconut adds a rich creamy sweetish taste, the whole dried red chili/ red chili powder and the garam masala adds to the perfect hot and spicy taste and the Kokum imparts the necessary sourness that can be adjusted by adding the kokum pieces according to ones taste. This gravy is mouthwatering, very flavorful and yummy to those who love the Konkani or Goan cuisine, one of my favorites.

INGREDIENTS:

Hara Chana: 300 gm

Hara Chana or Green Chickpeas
Hara Chana or Green Chickpeas

Onion: 1 small

Freshly grated coconut: 3 Tbsp

Tomato: 1 Medium

Dried Red Chili: 2 no.

Ginger & Garlic paste: 1 Tbsp

Coriander powder: 2 Tsp

Red Chili Powder: 2 Tsp

Turmeric: 1/2 Tsp

Garam Masala powder: 1 Tsp

Salt: To taste

Kokum: 5 pieces

Cooking oil: 2 Tbsp

Water: As needed for boiling the chana and also to add and adjust the thickness of the gravy.

METHOD: 

Wash the dried Hara chana and soak in water for 5-6 hours or overnight. Boil it for 3-4 whistles in a pressure cooker.

Heat Kadai or fry-pan on the gas stove, add few drops of oil, then put the red chili, the chopped onion and saute, then add the chopped tomato and finally add the grated coconut and fry till this masala is cooked. Grind this to a fine paste once it is cool.

Hara Chana Gravy masala
Hara Chana Gravy masala

If the ginger garlic paste is not ready, then we can add a small piece of ginger and 4 garlic cloves to the above masala while grinding.

Heat another Kadai and add the remaining oil, put the ground masala paste and ginger garlic paste and cook till the oil separates and is seen at the edges of the kadai. Use little quantity of water, if required, to fry the masala as this prevents the masala from getting burnt. Then add the turmeric, red chili powder, kokum, salt and simmer for a minute or two and then add the boiled chana to this masala. Let it cook on slow flame for 10 minutes. This allows the masala to mix well with the boiled chana. Do add all the water that is in the boiled chana when it was kept for boiling.

Add the garam masala just before the gas is to be switched off. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander.

ashuskitchen-Hara Chana Malvani style
ashuskitchen-Hara Chana Malvani style

SERVING OPTIONS: This can be served with Puri or Paratha or Roti, Dosa, set dosa or any bread of choice. I served it with whole wheatflour puris and some finely chopped onions. Rice and Hara chana gravy too can be another option.

ashuskitchen-Hara Chana Malvani style served with Puris
ashuskitchen-Hara Chana Malvani style served with Puris

NOTE: The home ground garam masala is fresh, stronger in flavor and hence very small quantity is required. If you are using outside store bought one then do adjust quantity as per the taste.

I enjoyed eating this yummy dish and feel happy to share it here with you all. Providing the links below to some other similar recipes that you might find interesting from ashuskitchen 🙂 .

For my other Chana post: click.

For similar healthy Cowpeas curry and salad recipes, click here and here.

Enjoy!

ashu