Category Archives: South India

Recipe? What recipe?

March 2017

Cups, teaspoons and tablespoons are the bane of my life.   Who needs measurements anyway? As I try to write down exact measurements and directions for my recipes, I find I don’t like it one bit. For this I blame my mother.  Every little cook learns by observing. It seemed to me that my mother would throw random spices in random amounts into a pot to create a tasty dish. Her recipes for family favorites were safely tucked away in her head. Nothing was ever recorded or written down.  Cooking was an art form for my mother but that doesn’t help me now as I try to re-create childhood favorites. I have to rely on my memory and my palate.

So what would have happened if I had insisted that my mother share a recipe? I imagined her poetic and cryptic answer to my question.

What Recipe?

Where is the recipe, I ask my mother

What recipe, she replies?

Just take a small onion

A pinch of hing

A hint of turmeric

A splash of golden ghee

Some diced onion and mustard seeds

A few okra

A couple of tomatoes

A handful of shredded coconut

Just a little coriander powder

A bit of cooked lentils

Two fiery peppers

Salt, pepper and tamarind

Mix, cook, and serve

The tangy smoky sauce perfect with steaming rice

How did she do it?

Give me a recipe, I plead.

What recipe, she asks?

Just add a handful…

You get the idea.

THE END

 

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Filed under cooking, dinner, food poems, Indian food, meatless, mother's kitchen, my mother's kitche, Nilgiris, Personal experience, poetry, recipes, South India, Uncategorized, vegetables

This Kitchen Does Not Discriminate

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Meatless Meal in Minutes

January 2017

Welcome to a new year!

Our household is a melting pot, a microcosm of America. Here East meets West in harmony (mostly).

This fusion and mingling of cultures is most evident in my cooking. My kitchen does not discriminate. Mustard seeds co-mingle with Italian pasta. Monterey Jack Cheese melts in homemade Indian Chapatti bread. Kale and eggplant simmer in coconut milk. Feta cheese adds a tangy bite to warm potato salad.

Take tonight’s dinner for example. The menu consisted of angel hair pasta with an Indian twist and cauliflower and chard tossed with toasted almond slices. The entire meal took less than 20 minutes to cook and was tasty as it was colorful. Can harmony in the kitchen translate into world peace? Perhaps not. But I like to think it is a step in the right direction and that I’m bringing people together, one plate at a time.

So here’s my recipe for world harmony!

South Indian Pasta

1 package De Cecco Angel Hair pasta, cook for barely 2 minutes and then drain and soak in cold water.

Meanwhile…

You will need:

1 large onion chopped

1 sprig curry leaf

2-4 tablespoons channa dal (Indian yellow split peas)

2-4 tablespoons coconut oil

1 can of beans, any kind, drained. I used white beans

1-2 tsp. turmeric powder

¼ cup chopped coriander leaves

1-2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt

Juice of one lemon

Heat a large pot, add desired amount of oil.  Warm. Add mustard seeds and allow the seeds to pop. Immediately add chopped onion, sprig of curry leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add channa dal and continue cooking until the dal is brown and toasty. Stir in turmeric powder. Add beans and coriander leaves. Stir. Drain pasta and add to the pot. Sprinkle Himalayan Pink Salt. Stir. Add lemon juice. Stir and taste for salt.

Cauliflower Almandine

I head cauliflower, cut into florets

I bunch chard, rinsed and chopped roughly into pieces, stem and all

Steam the vegetables for about 5 minutes, don’t overcook.

While vegetables are steaming…heat a tablespoon of butter plus one tablespoon olive oil. Add generous half cup sliced almonds. Stir and cook the almonds until they are golden brown. Be careful not to burn them. Add steamed vegetables to the almonds. Stir. Add 1 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt. If you want you can squeeze some lemon juice over the vegetables but they taste fine without the juice.

Dinner is served. Sit in quiet peace and enjoy.

 

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Filed under Book clubs, Celebrations, cooking, dinner, harmony, Himalayan Pink Salt, Indian food, meatless, my mother's kitche, pasta, Personal experience, pots and pans, South India, Uncategorized, vegetables, world peace

Shopping is a personal experience at your local farmers market!

NOTE: An edited version of this article appeared (August 14, 2016)in  The Sacramento Bee’s Forum Section.

Sorry to be sending this out again, but the numbering was messed up in the previous post.

You don’t need 10 reasons to shop at a Farmers Market

Want to know the tale behind your kale? Or what is the back story on that white nectarine? Well, then you need to visit your local Farmers Market because here every bit of produce has an earthy beginning or a seasonal anecdote.

Our area market is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month and it is a perfect time to visit your local market and make that important connection between food and farmer.

Shopping in south India was an intensively personal experience. We knew the farmer who grew the spinach we used in flavorful dal (lentil) dishes. Everyone knew the Egg Man (with an odd egg-shaped head) provided not only the freshest eggs, but also legal advice on the side.

While I miss shopping in my hometown market in the beautiful Nilgiris or Blue Mountains of south India, I find solace at the Davis Market. Here the personal touch is not lost, it is celebrated. Along with nutrition the melons, onions, leeks and cherries provide a dash of nostalgia.

Top Ten Reasons to shop at a local Farmers Market:

10.Taste before buying. Cheese, bread, apples, peaches and berries are there for you to taste.

9. Variety. Everything from fresh peas to tortillas is for sale. Buy an artisan loaf of crusty bread, a container of eggplant pesto or even a lemon tart. It’s all there at your local Farmers Market.

8. You get to meet the farmer. Shopping at the Farmers Market is a chatty experience.

7. Even kale tastes better if it comes from the Farmers Market. Everything is so fresh that you’ll never eat supermarket produce again.

6.  You can buy a lot or just a single tomato. Choose exactly what you need.

5. Eat seasonally. This can mean a lot of broccoli in winter and lots of corn and tomatoes in the summer.

4. Yearning for days of old? The leisurely pace of shopping at a Farmers Market will satisfy the Norman Rockwell part of your soul.

3. You will never know who you will meet at the Market. A long-lost friend? An acquaintance from Little League days.

2. You will be missed if you skip a Market. If you are a regular customer, farmers take notice and will actually want to know why you didn’t come last week.

1. Forget about politics for a few hours. You may find that choosing a bunch of turnips is more important than talking about Trump or sampling some chili-lime pistachios is better than re-hashing Hillary’s emails.

So no more excuses. Visit a Farmers Market and enjoy the last of summer’s bounty.

THE END

 

 

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Filed under Celebrations, Davis Farmers Market, Fresh fruit, Fresh produce, garden, harvest, my mother's kitche, Personal experience, Shopping, South India, spring, renewal, Uncategorized

Birthday Pudding

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July 2016

Birthday cakes were not part of my childhood celebrations.

But don’t feel too sorry for me. For birthdays, and on other special occasions, my mother prepared a creamy cardamom-spiked pudding. This addictive dessert was the perfect ending to a spicy meal.

There are many variations of the pudding but the main ingredients are rice or vermicelli, milk, sugar, ghee, cashews, raisins and cardamom. A richer version of the pudding uses expensive saffron threads, pale green pistachio nuts and tiny currants.

My mother liked the simplest version and so that is my preference too.

She used Indian vermicelli that was super thin. The vermicelli was broken up into bite size pieces and then toasted in a little bit of ghee. The scent of toasting vermicelli always brings back memories of many birthday celebrations.

Indian cooking (and other types too!) is a multi-sensory experience. My late mother-in-law never used the timer when baking her famous apple pie. She knew by the aroma when it was done and she was never wrong! When you have an instinct for cooking this is easy but for those of us who tend to forget what’s on the stove or in the oven, a timer is essential.

Birthdays meant the scent of cashews frying in golden ghee. Celebrations were never complete without the pungent and heady scent of green cardamom pods being crushed.

My mother only added the smallest amount of raisins (perhaps they were expensive) but it didn’t matter; the finished pudding was always delicious.

We enjoyed our pudding at room temperature or even warm. But if you prefer your pudding cold, feel free to chill the mixture.

You can’t place candles in this pudding, but getting older will be a little easier when you taste a bite of this creamy soothing dessert.

RECIPE

4 1/2  cups whole milk

1 cup vermicelli (Indian is best, but Italian will work too), broken into bite size pieces

1 can condensed milk

4 tablespoons ghee

1 tablespoon raisins (you can add more if you want)

4 tablespoons whole or halved raw cashew pieces

4-6 cardamom pods, peeled and then crushed in a mortar and pestle

PREP:

Bring milk to boil (TIP: Coat the pan with water before adding milk to keep from sticking). Let the milk simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large saucepan and roast the vermicelli until golden brown.

Add the vermicelli to the thickened milk and cook for 6-8 minutes (depending on the kind of vermicelli).

Once the vermicelli is tender, add the condensed milk. Keep stirring and cooking for an additional 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat. The pudding will thicken in the fridge and as it cools. If it is too thick add a few tablespoons of warm milk before serving.

In a small sauce pan heat the remaining ghee. Add the cashew pieces and sauté until a light brown, add raisins and keep stirring until everything is golden brown. In a few minutes the raisins should get nice and plump. The kitchen will be filled with a golden nutty aroma.

Remove sauce pan from heat, add crushed cardamom and stir. Add this mixture to the cooling pudding and stir thoroughly.

Enjoy warm or cold.

Warning: Birthday candles will sink! Serves 2-4 or sometimes just one!

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Filed under Cardamom pudding, Celebrations, Delicious desserts, Indian dessert, Indian food, mother's kitchen, my mother's kitche, South India, Uncategorized

An evening of slow food

It was a party at Samantha’s house on Thursday evening when members of Slow Food Yolo gathered to listen to stories from My Mother’s Kitchen and watch a cooking demonstration.

They watched me prepare feathery light rice dumplings called idlis and Ishtu stew made of ginger, coconut milk and potatoes. There was also spicy tomato chutney and sweet milk pudding with vermicelli and cardamom. What a tasty and fun evening!

http://www.slowfoodyolo.com/

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Filed under garden, harvest, Indian food, mindfulness, Sacramento Slow Food, Slow Food USA, Slow Food Yolo, South India, Uncategorized

A Pearl of Wisdom

June 2016

My maternal grandmother had the coolest name: Pearl.

Granny Pearl died in her mid-40s from an untreated benign tumor and her older sister whom we called “Muthi or granny” kept her memory alive with vivid stories about her. Pearl was an accomplished pastry chef and her skill at twirling chickpea pastry dough into perfect circles was in high demand. Her nimble fingers were able to twirl the chickpea dough into a huge circle, in some cases 101 times around, without a single breakage.

The pastry circle was made of chickpea flour flavored with cumin seeds, red chili pepper powder and sea salt. The completed pastry or muruku was air dried and then deep fried for a melt-in-your mouth treat.

As a youngster, Muthi was always reminding me to be more like Granny Pearl. According to Muthi, Granny Pearl was so gentle, compassionate and kind-hearted that even her footprints didn’t leave a mark on the earth.

Apparently fiction writing and story-telling is an inherited family trait!

When I was a child I had no idea what Muthi meant. But now, decades later, I can see the hidden truth in her words.  Granny Pearl left no negative footprints. She was so full of warmth, love and kindness that being in her presence was soothing to the spirit.

I’m thinking a lot about Granny Pearl these days. The world needs more of her empathy and tenderness. Whenever I am dismayed about the state of the world, I try to conjure up Granny Pearl’s humanity. More than a century after her death, she is still remembered for her tolerance.

So when violence and hatred swirls around you, try to be more like my Granny Pearl. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be remembered, decades from now, as a loving and kind person, just like Granny Pearl?

Granny Pearl was wise and aptly named.

An additional note:  My book is so close to having 50 reviews on Amazon and apparently after 50 reviews Amazon will throw a big party and you are all invited! Seriously, that number 50 is the Holy Grail for many authors. Can you please help me in my quest? A huge thank you to everyone who has already written a review!

 

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Filed under amazon review, Book Club recommendations, grandmother's wisdom, mother's kitchen, my mother's kitche, South India, Uncategorized

Book Club Review

Book blogger Kristen Galles of Bookclubclassics says  “book clubs that appreciates beautiful prose, rich culture and tempting treats will love My Mother’s Kitchen!”

Check it out: http://bookclubclassics.com/Blog/2016/04/25/mothers-kitchen-review/

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Filed under Book Club recommendations, Book clubs, book review, Indian food, media, mother's kitchen, South India, Uncategorized

Radio Interview

Hello All,

I was interviewed by Radio 12 host Anita Ahuja on Thursday, April 21. Here’s a link to the in-depth interview.

http://12radio.com/archive.cfm?archive=3CD0C2F8-26B9-4187-866E6AB5E0E0E084

 

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Filed under media, mindfulness, mother's kitchen, Radio interview, South India, Uncategorized

Another review!

Hello friends,

Things are warming up in My Mother’s Kitchen! Freda’s Voice, a Canadian book blogger, just posted a wonderful review of the book. You can read it right here: http://www.fredasvoice.com/2016/03/my-mothers-kitchen-by-meera-ekkanath.html

 

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Filed under book review, Canadian book blogger, Indian food, my mother's kitche, South India, Uncategorized

Mindfulness and slowing down

February 2016

I was reminded of the importance of “mindful eating and cooking” at a recent event. Both Slow Food Sacramento and Sacramento Food Co-op Chef Adam advocate this philosophy.

Slow Food Sacramento has a worthy mission of wanting to provide good, clean and fair food for all.  At the same event Chef Adam advised guests to use their hands, put away electronic devices and be mindful while cooking.

Being mindful of not only eating but paying attention to every aspect of life is something we should all try to do. We let our electronic devices control us and so we end up doing more than one thing at a time. This multi-tasking can lead to an unfocused life which in turn leads to stress.

I was fortunate to have someone very wise in my life who always urged me to “slow down and take my time.” This meant doing one thing at a time, being mindful of every action. It was not easy to follow this great advice. When I was a reporter in a busy newsroom, I was expected to do more than one thing. Later on motherhood meant multi-tasking in another way. It was hard to do just one thing at a time when there was so much to be done. However I did learn that teens responded better to undivided attention and one-pointed listening. Life on an elementary campus was not conducive to doing just one thing at a time either.

But now that I stay home I have the time to be more mindful. I begin my day early so that I can enjoy a quiet cup of hot tea and not feel rushed.  My dog, Duke, is a great at doing just one thing at a time. When he eats, all his concentration is on his food. When he goes for a walk and stops to sniff a blade of grass, he takes his time and doesn’t move until he is done.

Most afternoons he quietly (and persistently) insists on me joining him outside. Instead of being annoyed by his loving request, I put aside my work and go out into the fresh air. My hound and I sit together in silence, listening to the birds and buzzing bees. During this time I let my mind slow down and soon my breathing and my body quieten down. I look forward to these moments of mindfulness now. I find all my senses are alert after my afternoon session with therapist Duke. A cool glass of lemon water is refreshing and enjoyable. Cooking our evening meal is a pleasurable task that I take my time doing.  I am more focused at an evening exercise class. Being in the moment helps me relax and get ready for bed.

I urge you to try a moment of mindfulness every day and reap the benefits and if you have a four-footed therapist to enjoy the moment with, so much the better.

A programming note:  Please tune (or set your DVR) to Channel 31 on Friday, March 18. At 9 a.m. I will join Good Morning Sacramento host Tina Macuha to demonstrate how to make Aviyal stew and to promote my book.

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Filed under Indian food, media, mindfulness, pet therapy, Sacramento Food Co-op, Sacramento Slow Food, South India, television, Uncategorized