Monthly Archives: August 2016

Georgia Travel Diary 3-Georgian Bread

Food is an essential component of any travel that one embarks upon. If I am traveling to a new destination, my mind first searches for the food/cuisine found in that place. This is not only because I love to eat and cook, but would hold true for most travel enthusiast. Traveling is the journey that one sets upon to learn new things about the place one visits, it’s people, it’s culture and its food and cuisine, and in the process to discover or rediscover oneself too. This would be the true definition of what traveling means for me.

As already mentioned in the Georgia travel Diary : 1 blog post, the food, wine and oldest wine making method of this place was what drew us to visit the country Georgia. I would like to share the pictures that I took when I visited the local bakery.

Shoti-Georgia bread
Shoti-Georgia bread

Local bakeries making the Georgian Bread called Shoti is a typical sight that we get to see in all the streets. This local and typical Georgian bread that is called Shoti or Shoti puri can be similar to the Indian bread called Tandoor Roti or Naan, or to the Afghani Naan or the Arabic Kuboos that I see here in the UAE. All these require the Tandoors or clay ovens for baking the bread. It is customary to be serving the Shoti along with wine, the local winemaker we visited told us and offered us this bread and samples of his homemade wine-both the red wine as well as the white wine.

Wine tasting at the local wine maker

Wine tasting at the local wine maker, see he offered us the bread.

I saw this bread bakery in Kvareli town. After our day trip was over and our hired taxi dropped us at the hotel, we set out on foot to explore the peaceful town of Kvareli.

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Kvareli Town
Kvareli Town
Kvareli (City Centre) Town
Kvareli (City Centre) Town

After stopping to taste the local ice-cream at the supermarket shops lining the road, we came across people carrying freshly baked bread in paper rolls or sheets. I followed the road from where I saw people were coming with bread and reached this bakery. It was already late in evening and the baker was busy baking the last batch of bread. I requested for clicking the snaps and he immediately agreed. He could not speak English and still we were able to communicate, this is best part of any travel. He was busy doing his job without being bothered by my questions or me moving around in his bakery to click the pictures of the bread being baked.

The oven is called Tone. It more or less resembled an Indian Tandoor, only the shape could be bit different if I am not wrong.

The oven to bake Shoti is called Tone.
The oven to bake Shoti is called Tone.
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The tools used to remove the bread from the hot oven.
The bread dough
The bread dough
This could be the vessel to make the dough
This could be the vessel to make the dough
The special tools to remove the bread from the oven.
The special tools to remove the bread from the oven.
With one he scraps the bread free from oven and with the other looped one he lifts the bread, using both he removes the bread from the oven.IMG_4583
The baker expertly removes the hot bread from the Tone.
The baker expertly removes the hot bread from the Tone.
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The hot bread from the oven is kept on the wooden rack to cool and sold to customers as they walk into the bakery.
Freshly Baked Shoti.
Freshly Baked Shoti.

As we were watching the baker busy with the bread making, we saw two customers walk into the bakery, purchase the bread and walked away, it was wonder in their eye to see me busy clicking away pictures with my camera.

The freshly made bread smelled so amazing and our mouths watered and suddenly I felt so hungry. Every Resturant meal I ate I had ordered this Shoti bread. I am fond of any type of Tandoor roti or bread and hence it was perfect for me to eat this typical Georgian bread at every meal during my full tour. 🙂

Enjoy!!

ashu

Flower Of The Day: Dahlia

Flower for the day: Dahlias/Aster

These flowers were sold in the Flower market in a Pune Bazaar, India. In India we have flower shops outside of the temples too apart from being sold in the weekly bazaars or the wholesale bazaars, where worshipers buy the flowers to offer to the deity before entering the temples or places of worship.

Flower of the Day
Flower of the DayIMG_3601

Check out Cee’s Photography (Flower of the Day) to see more beautiful flower photos.

Enjoy :).

ashu

Georgia Travel Diary 2: Flowers of Georgia

The beauty of the landscape is enhanced by the flowers seen around. This Georgian tour I had many blessed moments to be surrounded by the beautiful flowers in all the places that I visited in Georgia. The vast open stretches of fields/terrain, mountains covered with wild grasses and wild flowers of many colors were so fresh and brightly colorful, and it was the perfect moments to sing and jump along in happiness. These locations reminded me of the Sound Of Music movie. I had the most amazing time adorning my hair with these beautiful flowers, the best hair accessory that I could ever lay my hands on. Everyday of the tour I got matching color flowers to go with my outfit for that day, indeed I was on top of the world.

Most Indian females love to wear flowers in the hair, I am no exception, and flowers in hair is a must whenever I am wearing my traditional look or the sari.  Georgia travel became the exception that each day of my travel I had the beautiful matching colored flower in my hair, irrespective of the outfit worn :).

Blessings drop their blossoms all around you-Rumi.

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These beautiful flowers below were seen at St. Nino’s Monastery, Bodbe.

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St. Nino's Church, Bodbe, Georgia.
St. Nino’s Church, Bodbe, Georgia.

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The Earth laughs in flowers –Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The flowers below were caught on camera during the hike to the Trinity Church from the Stepantsminda town. It was a beautiful and fun walk/hike to reach to the top to see the Gergeti Trinity Church. The town is surrounded by the mountains on all sides and we get to see the most beautiful view of the Mount Kazbegi that is at 5047 m.

Stepantsminda Town, Georgia
Stepantsminda Town, Georgia

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Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia
Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia
Mt. Kazbegi, Georgia
Mt. Kazbegi, Georgia

A flower blossoms for its own joy- Oscar Wilde

The street of Tbilisi adorned these flowering trees in straight line along the pavements, each tree loaded with these colorful flowers, adding color to the street as well as working its magic on travelers like me who would stop after every few steps and capture these flowers in the camera lens. I loved all these flowers that to me reminded of our very own Hibiscus flower, such variety in color and shade, simply amazing!

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Nature has the power to calm and sooth the soul. I always feel fresh and rejuvenated when I find myself in nature. It was a very happy experience to be among these gorgeous Georgian flowers.

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere- Vincent Von Gogh.

Enjoy!

ashu

 

Georgia Travel Diary- 1

ashusTravels-Tbilisi, Georgia.
ashusTravels-Tbilisi, Georgia

Summer holidays for kids brought up the decision to go sightseeing and my elder one took up the responsibility to decide the travel destination for this summer of 2016. After having gone through a list of lot many places to select from, she had decided on Cambodia, and since the flight from UAE is via Bangkok, so it was going to be Bangkok and Cambodia. But then the scenic beauty and direct flight to Georgia was looked up, this food and wine destination stole our hearts and finally the tickets for Georgia were booked. The vineyards and oldest wine making method used in Georgia were the deciding factors for selection of this travel destination. I am writing this post after visiting the country, so I am happy to say here that it was a good choice. We went for a seven days tour, but the last two days of the tour being very hot made me think that a 4-5 days travel would have sufficed as we were going on vacation to escape from the UAE summer sun. It is a small, less populated and quiet Country with serene, beautiful scenic views of the mountains, countryside, friendly people and extremely safe to roam around even late in the night. We saw police patrols everywhere in Tbilisi when we were out  having a late dinner and later roaming the streets and shopping till late in the night.

It is a direct flight to Tbilisi from Dubai, takes you 3 hrs. to reach and visa was on arrival for the UAE residents. Air Travel was okay, a short sitting time at the Dubai airport lounge, some snacks and sweets tucked in the tummy and we set out for the short three hour air travel. The passport control at the Tbilisi airport was also quick and soon we were near the exit searching for our tour guide, Nino, a young smart girl, who was waiting for us along with the driver of the vehicle that was going to be our transport for the rest of our tour. And our seven day Georgia travel started and it was a good experience with two wonderful people, one spoke English and one could not. The driver was extremely caring and though he could not speak English, but we somehow managed to converse with Nino’s help. The advantage of travelling in private hired vehicle/hired taxi is it allows us to spend more time at places that are of our interest., the kids get to relax and be comfortable so that they are not cranky all the time 🙂 !

Tbilisi city tour through my eyes: We started the city tour in the hired taxi and I got busy click pictures through the car window.

Tbilisi
TbilisiIMG_3598
Freedom Square
Freedom SquareIMG_3668

It is a city founded in 5th Century AD, named after the hot spring found here, The streets are cobbled streets as we see in any European country and is a good blend of the old and new. Here we can find Georgian orthodox, Armenian Gregorian, Roman Catholic churches, Synagogue and Zoroastrian temple in close vicinity to each other. It was sure interesting to see this.

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Tbilisi means warm in Georgian and I can tell it sure was quite warm in July. Most of the sightseeing in Tbilisi is in the old town, and all the sites are within walking distance, yeah it helps if one is wearing comfortable shoes. We got down from the taxi and walked around the town on foot, yes the sun was at its peak so be prepared to carry a hat or cap and use sun block for protection of the skin.

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After an anxious lunch, as I was tasting the Georgian cuisine for the first time, we started our old town Tbilisi tour on foot with our tummies full of yummy meal.

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The first stop was Sulfur bath. It was amazing and also breathtaking to see the town and cobbled streets and looking up skywards to see the green lush mountains and blue sky with pure white cotton candy like clouds floating past. For me the picture was just out of a children’s reading book that show lovely mountains with beautiful blue skies. I was already getting soaked into the beauty of this city.

Abanotubani Sulfur Bath District

Sulfur Bath District
Sulfur Bath District

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Water fall, coming from the Botanical gardens (as per our guide Nino)

Souvenir shops lining the Sulfur Bath area
Souvenir shops lining the Sulfur Bath area
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Wine bottles displayed by the local Restaurants as we move through the old town.
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Grape vines
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Sioni Cathedral

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Sioni Cathedral- considered the most sacred places in the country, holds the holy cross of St. Nino. Our guide also named Nino told us St. Nino was the young woman who converted Georgia to Christianity in the early 4th Century.

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Peace Bridge, Tbilisi

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Holy Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi

Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi is an important cathedral, and is the main Georgian orthodox cathedral. One is supposed to cover the head with a scarf and also no shorts allowed when we entered the churches in Georgia.

It was a learning experience for this traveler to know that almost all religious places be it the temples in India, the Gurudwaras, the Churches, or the Mosque that I visited in Abu Dhabi require us to cover our head, wear full length before we enter these holy places.

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Narikala Fortress

Narikala Fortress, a medieval fortification overlooking the Sololaki district. The panorama view from the Narikala fortress of the old town Tbilisi is quiet interesting, we get ample classic shots of the Tbilisi city from here.

Botanical Garden, Tbilis
Botanical Garden, Tbilis
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Panorama view from Narikala Fortress, Tbilisi
Panoramic view of Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress
Panoramic view of Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress
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Old TV Tower, Tbilisi
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Mtastminda Amusement park, Tbilisi

These above pictures were clicked from the top near the fortress. We have a rope-way to come down into the city from the top of Narikala fortress. We drove our taxi to the top but we returned down using the cable car.

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Looking down from the cable car

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The Mtkvari river and the Peace bridge captured from the cable car ride.

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We get down from the cable car and walk out to this monument that says Europe Square.

‘Travelling leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller’- Ibn Batuta

The quote perfectly describes my thoughts, and here I make an effort to take you along on the travels through my posts with the travel pictures captured by me.

This was our first day site-seeing in Tbilisi, Georgia. Hope you all liked going through the pictures as much as I loved sharing them here with you all. More about this beautiful country famous for its wine making and food in another post on the blog tomorrow.

ashu.

 

 

 

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: FUN

This week’s weekly photo challenge is Fun.

For this challenge I have selected a pic from my photo archives, was taken a couple years ago.

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Enjoyed the Twisting Dragon ride at the Dreamland Aqua Park, Umm Al Quwain, UAE.

Fun means to enjoy doing things that make you happy. I had a thrilling day doing the rides in the water park with family, the together moments and creating more memories back then.

Wishing you all a fun-filled day ahead.

ashu

 

Dill Sabji

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Dill Sabji

Dill, a green leafy vegetable that can be used as vegetable or a herb , it has a typical flavor that is strong, is aromatic, and was something that I had never tasted in my mother’s house before marriage. My dad never liked the strong flavor of this vegetable and hence mom never made it in our home. I got introduced to this leafy bundle after my marriage, my mother-in-law used to make it perfectly, and I have adapted this recipe from what I have tasted when she cooked it. Both my kids love these greens, and this recipe is the most preferred method of the two that I use to prepare these Dill greens. We can prepare the greens using soaked Mung dal too. I usually do not like to see oil oozing out on to the plate from any sabji that I cook  for the day, but for this one I usually add a little extra oil.

Until last month I had eaten Dill leaves in this particular sabji form only, never cooked or tasted its different recipes. But during my recent Georgia travel, I got to taste some amazing recipes using the herb Dill. It is used extensively in other cuisines too, and I loved the versatile uses of it. It was used in soups, salads, as well as rice, and some unique chicken and mutton recipes. I loved the use of it in soups, it enhanced the flavor of the vegetables and chicken so perfectly, the taste still lingers on my tongue. I hope to try out some of these below recipes in my kitchen soon.

These couple food picture below that I am sharing are from my Georgian travel, the soups and Chicken salad that used dill as a herb, it imparted a perfect flavor to these simple recipes.

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Now let us get on with the preparation to make the Dill sabji. It is also called as Shepuchi bhaji in Maharashtra in India.

DILL SABJI/SHEPUCHI BHAJI

INGREDIENTS:

Dill greens: 2 Bundles

Green chilies: 2 long ones

Onion: 2 Medium

Tomato: 1 Medium

Garlic: 2-3 Cloves

Oil: 3 Tbsp

Turmeric: 1 Tsp

Cumin: 1 Tsp

Salt: To taste

METHOD:

Clean the leafy bundle by separating the tender stems and leaves. Wash and towel dry the Dill greens.

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Slice the garlic cloves. Finely chop the green chilies, onions,  and tomato.

Heat a Kadai on the gas stove. Add the oil to it, once it gets hot then add the cumin.

Next add the chopped green chilies and garlic. Saute, then add the finely chopped onions. Cook till the onion become pinkish, then add the chopped tomato. Cook till it gets soft and we see oil at the sides. Then add the turmeric and salt.

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Then add the chopped Dill greens. Cover with lid for 5 min, and then remove the lid. We cover it for only few minutes because we just want to ensure the tender stalks get cooked but without changing the color of the leaves. If we cover with lid for long, it adds water to the sabji and gives it a dull color, and also the taste is compromised.

ashus-Dill Sabji
ashus-Dill Sabji

Cooking the greens does not take much time, and hence try and be near the stove while it is getting done.  Dry up any liquid from the sabji and put off the flame from the stove, and empty the sabji on to a serving plate or bowl.

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I had made a simple bottle gourd Dal to go with this sabji, a freshly made cucumber salad, fulka and some red groundnut chutney. This was my simple dinner menu the other day. I have one roasted papad too on the plate.

ashusrecipe-Dill Sabji

ashusrecipe-Dill Sabji

I will try and make a post of my other Dill greens recipe that I make adding the Mung dal sometime sooner.

This is a simple vegetarian sabji that I make in my kitchen, and am happy to share with you all here on the blog. Hope you like this easy-to-make Maharashtrian recipe.

Enjoy 🙂

ashu

 

 

Kale Chane ki Chaat

 

ashus- Kale Chane ki Chaat
ashus- Kale Chane ki Chaat

This is one of the easy-to-make dishes of mine that I often love to make and pack for lunchbox. The family is always happy when this chaat is packed for tiffin. The simplicity and versatile aspect of this dish makes it a favorite of mine too, I have a good scope of adding different ingredients each time. If the chane are kept boiled, ready to be used, then one can end up making a couple preparations out of them. Today for this post I am sharing my chaat recipe.

The chaat is loaded with fiber not only from the Chane but also the vegetables and fruits used. It has the sweet and sour taste of the green apples and hence I have not added lemon juice. The finely chopped onion and the green capsicum gives it a good crunch . We can add any single colored or all the bell peppers and make it a more colorful combination. I have used only the green capsicum as I wanted to impart the capsicum flavor without adding more of its sweetness. The pomegranate pearls add the sweetness as well as the fiber. Any chaat is incomplete without the savory Sev, a must for all chaats, use it as per your own requirement. As this chaat is made of chana and the Sev is also made of gram flour, so we do not need heaps of Sev on this chaat, just a small sprinkle is good enough. One can pack this for school or office snack/lunchbox or can also serve as a chaat accompaniment in the party menu at home. One can keep the boiled chane handy in the refrigerator and can make a quick snack when hungry. It is a good recipe for those who are trying a weight loss regimen, the bowlful chaat is full of protein and fiber and hence gives fullness to the tummy as well and does not make us go for another quick bite of food. The fiber load makes it good for Diabetics too.

KALE CHANE KI CHAAT

INGREDIENTS: (For one portion)

Kale Chane: 150 gm

Oil: 1 Tbsp

GingerGarlic paste: 1 Tsp

Onion: 1 Medium

Turmeric: 1/2 Tsp

Coriander powder: 1 Tsp

Red Chili Powder: 1 Tsp

Chaat Masala: 1 Tsp

Cumin: 1/2 Tsp

Mustard seeds: 1/2 Tsp

Capsicum: 1 small

Green Apple: Few slices (1/2 apple)

Pomegranate: 1/2 (as per requirement)

Barik (Fine) Sev: 1 Tbsp

Green Coriander: 1 Tbsp (Finely chopped  for garnish.)

NOTE: I have given recipe for one portion only. You can increase the chana quantity and accordingly the rest of the ingredients to make more portions.

METHOD:

Soak the kale chane overnight and bring to boil upto three whistles in a pressure cooker.

Overnight soaked kale chane
Overnight soaked kale chane

Finely chop the onion, capsicum, green apple and green coriander. Remove the pearls from the pomegranate and keep ready. (You can click here to know the easy method to remove the pearls.)

Heat Kadai on the gas stove, add oil and as the oil heats up add the mustard seeds and cumin. As they crackle, add the finely chopped half onion, saute and as it turns pinkish, add the spices.

Then add the boiled chane to the kadai and cook. If little water of the boiled Chana gets added then cook till all the water is dried up. Switch off the gas stove, then sprinkle the chaat masala over the Chana and mix.

Empty the Chane in a bowl or serving plate. Top the Chane with the finely chopped half portion of onion, green capsicum, green apples and the pomegranate pearls. Then sprinkle on top with the fine Sev and finally garnish with finely chopped green coriander.

 

Whole Black gram Chaat
Whole Black gram Chaat

You can note how easy and fast the recipe can be prepared. If a recipe has many health benefits then it should be definitely tried out at home and encouraged to be eaten by all.

Hope you all enjoy trying out and tasting this quick Chaat dish, and making it a more versatile version by adding your favorite ingredients, provided you keep it as healthy.

Happy eating home cooked food and maintaining a good health. 🙂

Check out below links for my other Chaat recipes:

  1. Click here for my Corn Chaat Recipe.
  2. Click here for my Cow Peas Salad.

ashu

 

 

 

AamRas and Kurudi Papad

ashuskitchen- Aamras & Kurudi Papad.
ashuskitchen- Aamras & Kurudi Papad.

The food available during the season decides the menu for most festivals in Indian homes. For us summer is the mango season, the market is flooded with lots of varieties of mangoes. The fruit starts appearing first in the market as the suns intensity increases from end of February to early March. March  month sees the Badam variety of mango starting to appear on the fruit stalls. The taste of the mangoes is best as the summer heat peaks up. In today’s times many fruit sellers resort to methods to quickly ripen the fruits, but that alters the taste.  With the market flooded with mangoes, the different dishes or recipes of mangoes dominate the dining table menu :). The summer months also is time for school vacations, and it was the best time during my childhood to enjoy as many varieties of mangoes. Too much or over excess of mango eating results in the boils appearing overnight , but still one would not care as it was vacation time. Also we had many local varieties of the fruit available brought directly from the farms, something that is greatly missed now as an adult, something that my kids have never even got to taste, as we reside out and here the supermarkets have fruits supply coming from many countries.  Still I  try to make the dishes with whichever variety of mango is available in this region.

Aamras is the sweet dish made up of ripe mangoes. It is just mango pulp, sugar and little milk or water added to get a thinner consistency. It is part of the meals as a sweet dish. When the aamras is made, then the kurudi or papad are also deep fried to eat along with the Aamras. Also, boiled homemade Sevai or Vermicelli is eaten along with the Aamras. This becomes a part of the whole vegetarian meal or thali. It is a popular and delicious sweet dish. The many different varieties of mangoes can be used to make Aamras. The best taste would be from Alphonso variety of mangoes, but I equally prefer the Junagad Kesar variety of mango that I used to buy when I was residing in Gujarat, India. The Kesar mango that we get is Gujarat is my personal favorite.

Currently I reside in the UAE, and the supermarket or vegetable vendors have mangoes from many countries being sold here. As I visited my home country in the month of May I was able to relish the fresh mango produce of Alphonso mangoes and also the Aamras.  This weekend I got the Chaunsa variety of mango, a produce of Pakistan from the supermarket, and decided to make the Aamras for this post. The taste of this Aamras is definitely different, but when Alphonso mangoes are not around then this or whichever variety is available would do if one craves for the Aamras, right?! 🙂

AAMRAS & KURUDI PAPAD

INGREDIENTS: 

Ripe Mangoes : 500 gms

Sugar: 25 gms

Milk: 100 gms

METHOD:

Chaunsa variety of Mango.
Chaunsa variety of Mango.

Wash and dry the ripened mangoes. Remove the skin using a sharp knife and cut the mango into small pieces and throw away the seed.

Mango chopped in small pieces
Mango chopped in small pieces

Take mixer pot and put the cut mango pulp and sugar into it and whisk the mixer on high speed so that we get a smooth paste. Add milk to it and get the thinner consistency as desired.

ashuskitchen -Aamras
ashuskitchen -Aamras
Kurudi papad, a type of papad made of soaked wheat .
Kurudi papad, a type of papad made of soaked wheat .

The kurudi papad is deep fried in oil and served with Aamras.

ashuskitchen-Aamras & Kurudi papad
ashuskitchen-Aamras & Kurudi papad

NOTE: The amount of sugar used depends upon the sweetness of the mangoes.

The Chaunsa mangoes that I have used were extremely sweet and I had to add very little quantity of sugar for the mango pulp/cubes used to make the Aamras. Do use the sugar quantity as needed depending on the mangoes used and also the sweetness preferred.

Any traditional Vegetarian Maharashtrian or Indian meal for that matter is served in a thali form , a big steel plate with all the dishes for the day served in small portions along with the sweets that form as the dessert and served to the guests. It consists of two to three types of vegetables, curry, pickles, chutneys, papads, roti, rice & dal with ghee, and the sweets. When you serve the Aamras with the Kurudi, the meal served becomes a feast, the guests too are happy. This was the way we ate our meals in childhood, but now mostly only on festival days or special days, as any regular day it is usually not so elaborate but simple and more of regular kind of food.

Nowadays one mostly prefers to make mango milk shakes or smoothies, but do give this dish a try and serve it as part of a vegetarian meal or thali meal and enjoy the different flavors in your meal.

Wishing you all a good day.

ashu 🙂

 

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: MORNING

My entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Morning.

This was the view of the Caucasian mountains that I first saw in the morning from my hotel window during my recent visit to Gudauri, Georgia.

Gudauri is famous for its Ski slopes, and the mountains were beautifully green in color at this time, which otherwise would be white as covered in snow during the winters. I could see the mountain tops covered in snow, some not even visible due to thick fog, moving clouds, in some parts the clear blue sky and the welcoming coldness in air. It was a beautiful morning, and I enjoyed soaking in the view.

As I reside in the UAE and currently experiencing the extreme summer months in this region, and when your morning starts with bright and harsh sun rays gleaming through the window and waking you , just close the eyes and  visualize the perfect cold morning of Gudauri.

ashusphotography
ashusphotography
Gudauri, Georgia.
Gudauri, Georgia.

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ashu 🙂

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: NARROW

My entry for the Weekly photo challenge Narrow.

This picture was clicked during my visit to Mahabalipuram, Chennai, India in December 2015.

Climbing the narrow Spiral stairs is always an experience in itself, be it this one or the many others that I have got the opportunity to climb on. The most memorable one for me was the climb up the spiral staircase to the top of the dome at the Vatican in Rome.

#ashusphotography
#ashusphotography