Feast for Thought

Not pontificating. Only trying to bat on the side of the environment. And ethics. And simple living. And slowing down. (And trying to learn and practise before preaching or teaching...)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sangeet Natak Academy's treat to Delhi-vaasis Part 1

The Sangeet Natak Academy awards for 2008 were given away last Tuesday, and over the last few days, the Akademi has strived to present the awardees' talents to the public. We enjoyed the rare treat, for treat it was! - at CCRT, one of the venues that was happily next door to us. These pictures convey only in a very small way the immense joy of watching talented performers who belie their age in the worship of their ageless art forms.
Saroja Vaidyanathan (73) Bharatanatyam
Ramani Ranjan Jena (68), Odissi
Ramhari Das (56) Music for dance, Odissi
Narasimhachariar (67) and Vasanthalakshmi (55), Kuchipudi
B Sasikumar, (60), violin and Mannargudi Easwaran (62), Mridangam
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar (54), Hindustani vocal


Monday, July 13, 2009

Nutmeg (aka jadikkai) pickles

Meals in India's households are incomplete without dollops of pickles - those special spicy side dishes that can easily lend a 'taste good' factor to the blandest course.
At any given time, you're sure to find a few of the infinite varieties of lime, mango, gooseberry, garlic, ginger, tomato, tamarind... pickles in the larder of any home in India. (At this stage I feel it may be necessary to differentiate a pickled fruit - simple immersion in vinegar - from the spicy tropical preparations that belong to the class of chutneys and jams). The pickles are carefully prepared in bulk usually in summer or during the season of the particular fruit, and the jars stay in attendance day-in and day-out.
Non-natives may not have heard of the nutmeg fruit, much less of nutmeg pickles. The species is available aplenty in Indonesia, Kerala in south India, Malaysia and a few other tropical regions.
Thus far I was familiar with the potential use of only the inner parts of the fruit - the red petal-like delicate part called mace, and the seed kernel - understandable, because the mace and the seed profess several medicinal values, and are also used as flavouring for sweet and spicy dishes, and the outer flesh is forgotten, left to rot beneath the nutmeg tree.That's the fruit ready to shed the precious spices.

The vermilion coloured mace that covers the kernel has a leathery feel when it is prised from the kernel. Both the soft mace and the kernel that contains the seed are sun-dried before reaching the market.
For the pickle, you'll need the fleshy part (pericarp / pod) of the fruit - plucking it just when it's ready to split and shed the mace and the kernel.
Here are pictures from our pickle-making session, followed by the recipe.

For 10 fruits (about 300 gms of chopped outer flesh), you'll need about 75 gm red chilli powder (powdered dried cayenne pepper), 1 tsp roasted fenugreek powder, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, salt to taste.
Saute the pieces in oil till soft. Add salt and the rest of the powders, mix well, let cool and store in dry jars.
The nutmeg has a slight tangy taste, and the pickle perfectly accompanies any of the cooked rice dishes.
If the whole fruit is not part of your friendly neighbourhood grocer's stock, never fret; you could try out the recipe with raw mango, lime and other vegetable.
(Suggestion: Do arrive at your own proportions of the added powders. In India, we have regional variations in the degree of "hotness" of the pickle. You'll find some of the hottest pickles in regions of the hottest clime!)
Now that you've had a taste of our wonderful world in India, do visit many more worlds


Monday, July 06, 2009

Mangoes Gala - Man goes gaga!

Want to see mangoes, smell mangoes, taste mangoes, feel mangoes, and hear (the slurp of) mangoes all day? Answer Mango quiz, write mango slogans, buy mangoes, pickles, and plenty of other products by the crateful? Look out for next year's Delhi Mango Festival. We were lucky to have made it in time for the Delhi Tourism's 3-day show July 3-5, at Pitampura Dilli Haat), which more than made up for our sorely missed mango season in south India. ("what a harvest this year! you just missed it" was the refrain rammed into the ear all June when we holidayed in mango-rich Kerala)
Rows and rows of the aam-yet-khaas (common, yet special) fruit in umpteen shades of green, yellow, orange & red - Chausa, Safeda / banganapalli, Neelam, Totapuri, Rumani, Sukul, Cipia, Rari, Fazli, Lalo, Malda (Bihar's best), Aish, Mithua, Ichakdhari, kachakdhari, Dinga, Haldi, Sensation, Sharda, Ramkela, Pusa Surya, Amrapalli, 'Tommy Atkins', Kesar, Maya, Ambika,Vishwanath, Shubha Pasand, Dhobari, Lal sindoor, Motichur, Taimur Lang, Nawab pasand, Lakhan bhog, Arunima, Kalani, Dogala, Jardalo, Hathi dhol, Haldi chandan, kaale aam, Menaka, Prabhashankar, Suvarnarekha, Olur, Ram bhog, Krishna bhog, karela, sinchita, mahabali ....... Sonpari, Neeleshwar, Neelgoa, Neeluddin, (cross varieties) If only each of the 1000+ varieties reached the market!
This 2 kg specimen is named Mahabali, and comes from prize-winning Mustafa Orchards, Uttar Pradesh.

You could have your pick of pickled mangoes
The mango-eating competition. You are offered 3 kgs of choice fruit, and 3 minutes. I'd prefer to enjoy them away from the glare, perhaps curled up with 'The House of Blue Mangoes'!

ये आम फल थोडी है? ये ख़ास है! (pun intended)

Need I say more? This week we have all-mango menu chez nous.

Visit more worlds
A rather multi-lingual post, I notice.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Caution or Pessimism? You're welcome to decide

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