Friday, August 30, 2013

Roasted Pepper and Tomatillo Salsa

I got some roasted Hatch Chilies a specialty of New Mexico sent home by one of DH's colleagues. There are a couple of guys at his work who enjoy trying the food that DH packs for his lunch like this aloo paratha, Rustic Chicken curry , Spicy Vegetarian Beans Chili or this Rajma Paneer Biryani. I usually pack a small box for one of them who likes to try different kinds of foods.

Anyway I did not realize there were others who were trying the food as well till this big bag of roasted New Mexican Peppers came home. This other colleague's mom ordered a big batch from New Mexico and I got a substantial stash. I have been on the lookout for making a recipe ever since that will highlight the flavor of these chilies. I added them to some Lamb Bean Chile gave a nice smoky flavor but the chilies by themselves did not stand out.

These chilies are not very spicy so I decided to give it a try in a salsa which would be a dip for corn tortilla chips and as a topping for some Tostada bowls we were having with beans and chicken. These chilies are not too hot but have the right amount of kick to it. Store bought salsa be it with tomatoes or otherwise never really taste fresh. Another incentive to give this a try.

If you do not get Hatch Chilies any chili like Poblano (might be a bit on the spicier side), bell peppers, Anaheim, banana peppers or even jalapenos will work. Roast them on the stove or toaster oven - cool in a brown bag, peel the skin and use. I have also seen smoked chilies in jars.

Roasted Pepper and Tomatillo Salsa
Preparation Time:20 minutes (if smoking the Chili Peppers)
Cooking Time:25 minutes
Ingredients
  1. 2 medium sized Tomatillos diced
  2. 1 1/2 cups of minced smoked chilies (about 10-12 chili peppers)
  3. 1/2 tbsp of distilled white vinegar or Pique(
  4. 1 tsp of sugar (see Note:)
  5. 2-3 tsp of olive oil
Method
  1. In a sauce pan heat 1/2 tsp of oil and when hot add the tomatillos and let it cook till they are completely soft and can fall apart when pressed with the back of a spatula takes about 8-10 minutes.
  2. In a food processor minced the smoked chilis (seeds and all) so there are no chunks but take care not to make a paste.
  3. Add the minced chilies to the tomatillos along with the sugar if using and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Half way through drizzle the vinegar and cook for another 2 minutes or so.
  5. Add in the remaining olive oil and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Cool and store in an airtight container. Will stay in the fridge for more than 2 weeks.
Note:
  • If using Pique no sugar is needed since it contains sugar already.
  • This condiment can be used for making fried rice, as a dip for corn chips, topping for burritos, as a spread for toast.
  • If you still prefer the popular tomato salsa - here is the recipe.

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    Eggless Peach Ice cream with nuts

    The farmers market I frequent is well, not exactly a farmers market in the truest sense as there are no farmers selling their produce. Instead the people who run this farm besides bringing produce from their farms they also buy from other local farmers and market them under the same tent.


    Fresh Peaches!

    It is in a very convenient location for me to visit often and all through the summer we have been enjoying fresh peaches, corn, tomatoes and the like. "It is a sign that we are reaching the fag end of the peach season when apples start to show up" one of them said.


    Diced peaches cooking with sugar.

    I have been planning on making a peach ice cream for a long time and after hearing that I got a bit anxious. Lucky for us, we ran into a an orchard which markets their fresh produce right there and they had all the peaches that I could possibly need. There is no way to describe a juicy luscious fresh peach just picked off the tree.


    Custard

    Trust me I am no peach fan. It is DD2 who can sing odes to the peach. She prefers eating them as is while I like them in a smoothie or ice cream or as a jelly. Peach is one of my favorite ice cream flavors and to think that I can't eat a fresh peach. Go Figure!.


    Peach Compote

    Anyway I was determined to make some peach ice cream before the school starts and I succeeded in making some delicious tasting peach ice cream and compote over the weekend. The kids went back to school all energetic from the amount of peach they ate over the weekend. Just kiddin...


    Freshly Churned - The BEST!

    I personally prefer ice creams made from cooked milk rather than just mixing tons of whipping cream and freezing the lot. So I decided on a custard base for peach ice cream. Making the compote helped me accomplish two things. One is the ice cream and the other is a compote to store the peaches for later use.


    I followed this recipe for making the peach compote and then proceeded to make the custard. I had hazelnuts on hand and also love the taste of powdered nuts in ice cream so added those. Since this does not contain any cream it is very light and refreshing.

    Eggless Peach Ice cream
    Preparation Time:10 minutes
    Cooking Time:30 minutes
    Freezing Time:3-4 hours
    Ingredients
    1. 4 fairly big sized peaches
    2. 3 cups of full milk (2% or 1% fat free milk should work fine too)
    3. 4 tbsp of custard powder or corn starch
    4. 1 cup of sugar
    5. 1/4 cup of toasted hazel nuts (optional)
    6. 1 tsp of lime juice
    Method
      For the Peach Compote
    1. Boil a pot of water and make a cross slit on one end of the peach and drop them in the water for 3-4 minutes. Remove and peel the skin and chop the peaches into small pieces.
    2. I an thick bottomed pan add the peaches 3/4 cups of the sugar and lime juice and let it cook. After about 8 minutes or so mash the peaches with the bottom of a spoon or a potato masher and let it continue to cook.
    3. Keep stirring as it continues to cook. Turn off the heat in 25 minutes.
    4. Set aside in the freezer for about 30 minutes or so.
    5. For the Custard
    6. As the compote is cooking get the custard ready. Set 2 3/4 cups of milk to boil. In the 1/4 cup of cold milk dissolve the custard powder without any lumps.
    7. When the milk starts to boil add in the mixed custard powder and keep stirring till the milk thickens to about condensed milk consistency. Set aside to cool. If using ice cream maker place the custard in the fridge with a plastic wrap set snug against the surface - this is avoid the film that forms on the surface. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
    8. Make the Ice Cream
    9. Toast the hazel nuts and make a coarse powder if using.
    10. Mix the custard base and the peach compote and pour into the ice cream maker and freeze as per instructions. Towards the end of the churning process mix in the nuts.
    11. (OR)iff not using ice cream maker mix the custard and compote and whip them using a egg beater till smooth, mix in the nuts and freeze the mixture.
    Serve with some compote on top or slivered nuts.
    Do not have access to peach? Try pineapple ice cream - Pineapple ice cream with custard powder

    Sunday, August 25, 2013

    Jack Fruit Seeds Roast - Palakottai varuval

    How early can you teach kids about financial responsibility? After the financial crisis everyone who has anything to do with finance and kids are of the consensus that it is never too early to teach kids financial literacy. The earlier the better is their opinion. I agree 100%. Financial sense does not arrive overnight when the kids are off to college. It comes by trial and error and being given responsibility doesn't it?.

    Anyway like with most things while growing up in India nothing was explicitly taught, instead we learned through watching, listening and observing. While this was fine for some things it perhaps was not enough for managing one's finances. That is unless you lived in a hostel and had to manage money in some form or the other, be it tuition money, hostel and mess fees or pocket money. Most kids don't have that opportunity. So it is not surprising that while some of us can deal with money efficiently some of us can't and end up in deep trouble.

    DD2 all of 8 years old had just that kind of teachable moment a few days ago. She was going out for a movie and lunch after that with her friend and his mom. She took $20 with her. She came home happy and singing with a pack of Pokeman cards of which she has only several hundred of them all dumped in a box and left in the basement and never touched unless I threaten to throw them in the trash. I asked her to give a breakdown of how she spent the money. She did that pretty well. Her friend's mom had paid for the movie tickets so she decided to buy the cards with the leftover money. When I asked her how she could spend money on useless Pokeman cards her answer was it was "her" and was free to spend the money as she wanted.

    This gave me an opening to talk about handling money and the related responsibilities that go with having money. We had a talk about useful and useless things and there was not much difference between her money and my money. If she was not careful pretty soon her piggy bank will be empty. That got her thinking and hopefully on a path to avoid buying things for just the sake of buying. This has also given me an opportunity to talk about finances now on a regular basis. Bring up hypothetical situations and ask how they will utilize the money on hand. Hopefully this kind of talk will prepare them to deal with situation when they arise. I know I have a long way to go and it is even more urgent for the teenager at home.

    Do you all talk about money and finances with your children? What do you think is the right age for this kind of conversation?

    Have you heard of the website Mr.Money Moustache? I enjoy reading this site and more importantly admire how he managed to retire in his 30s. I read the site more for entertainment value because I'd like to think we are already doing the more common sense advices he has. Well anyway if you are interested in money matters for getting some ideas or for entertainment here is the link. Are there any money/finance sites that you all enjoy? Please share.

    Well moving on to the recipe. I have always loved jack fruit seeds while DD2 hates the smell of jack fruit she enjoys the seeds. Those days when we were kids the cooking in my grandparents' houses was done using firewood. The burning embers that were left behind were perfect for roasting the dried jack fruit seeds. That is perhaps my most favorite way of eating the seeds.

    When we visited India in July it perhaps a little late for jack fruit and we did not get a chance to taste them. If we had visited Kerala or Ooty we might have come across some of them. Oh Well!

    Now I don't have regular access to jack fruit but occasionally we would get them at the Asian Markets. But the most common way it is available to us here in the US is as frozen precooked seeds. I can never resist buying them but that does not necessarily mean cooking them immediately. I had a packet laying in the fridge and no other vegetable to cook and it finally go cooked.

    Jack Fruit Seeds Roast - Palakottai Varuval
    Preparation Time:10 minutes
    Cooking Time:20 minutes (for precooked frozen seeds) 35 (for fresh/dried seeds)
    Ingredients
    1. 3 cups of cooked jack fruit seeds
    2. 1 cup of chopped onions
    3. 4 garlic cloves smashed and skin removed and chopped

    4. 1 tbsp red chili powder

    5. 1 tsp turmeric powder

    6. 2 tbsp roasted channa dal (pottukadalai / dalia)

    7. 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds

    8. 1 red chili

    9. salt to taste

    10. 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp sesame/gingelly oil (nallaennai) (recommended)

    11. 1 tsp of regular oil or sesame oil

    12. seasonings: mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves

    Method
    1. If using fresh dried jack fruit seeds cook the seeds in a pressure cooker or on a stove top. Take care not to make them mushy.
    2. In a wide mouthed pan or kadai heat 1 tsp of oil and when hot add the seasonings - mustard seeds and cumin seeds followed by curry leaves.
    3. When the mustard seeds starts to pop add the chopped onions and the smashed garlic and saute till the onions are just starting to turn brown.
    4. Now add the cooked/frozen jack fruit seeds and let half the moisture be gone.
    5. Add the turmeric powder and chili powder and give a good mix. Let them saute for about 5 more minutes.
    6. In the meantime powder the roasted channa dal (pottukadalai) with the cumin seeds and the red chili to a slightly coarse powder but not smooth. A coffee grinder works best.
    7. Add the channa dal powder and salt to the jack fruit seeds and mix it in well. From this point on drizzle the sesame oil and continue to roast till the mixture is dry and nicely roasted.
    Serve them as is or as a side for rice and dal.
    I was a little apprehensive about the frozen jack fruit seeds but the taste was fantastic and whole family wanted more.

    Case of mistaken identity - Guess this vegetable? Revealed and a Curry

    OK! I had these creepers growing all over the garden. I weeded out quite a few of them. The seeds I am guessing came from the compost pile.

    I thought it was one vegetable turned out to be quite another one altogether. The sad part it is not the first time it has happened to me.

    Can you guess what the vegetable was mistaken and what it really is?

    You know what?


    Update:
    Most of you guessed it to be squash or bottle gourd which is exactly what happened to me though the thought of squash did not enter my mind.

    I thought that the vegetable was a bottle gourd. The reason why I harvested it way before it was ready :( I realized it was a butternut squash only after I cut it in half. It still had the characteristics of a butternut squash, creamy and slightly sweet and it went into making a simple curry with some black eyed peas.

    Friday, August 23, 2013

    Case of mistaken identity - Guess this vegetable

    OK! I had these creepers growing all over the garden. I weeded out quite a few of them. The seeds I am guessing came from the compost pile.

    I thought it was one vegetable turned out to be quite another one altogether. The sad part it is not the first time it has happened to me.

    Can you guess what the vegetable was mistaken and what it really is?

    Sunday, August 18, 2013

    Trip to Leh - Part III - Pangong Lake and Leh Local

    Jullay! Welcome back for the final episode of our Ladakh trip. As we were planning our trip the pictures that impressed us most were those taken near and around Pangong Lake. I mostly had that image in my mind while traveling there and this leg of the trip was the one I most looked forward to.

    After our trip to Nubra Valley we had a day in between before leaving to Pangong Lake. The day was for local trips around Leh. We visited a few ancient monasteries. Learned quite a lot about Buddhism, Buddhist sculptures and representations of Buddha in forms I have never seen before. I had assumed that Buddhists have only one form and that was of the Buddha himself. I was wrong.

    War Museum - a must see!
    On our second day of the local Leh trip we first stopped at the War Museum which is run by the army and dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the Indo Pak wars. This is a visit not to be missed and if possible to be visited before you embark on any trip inside Ladakh. Our itinerary had this on the last leg. Ask your tour operators to move it around so you visit it first. Besides teaching about the history of the Ladakh region and the sacrifices of the soldiers who fought to preserve it from foreign invasions it gives you a good idea of the geographic area, flora, fauna, the regions of Ladakh and their importance. All good information for a tourist visiting the area. No brochure provided as much information as this museum did. Once you have information available to you planning your trips inside Ladakh can be better organized around places you most want to visit. I figure this is possible only if you have an assigned vehicle.


    Likir Monastery - Buddha
    One of the next places we visited in Leh - a place that made all of us happy - water. Yes! The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers. The amount of water that flows in those rivers has to be seen to be believed. The water looks pretty calm on the surface but the currents beneath the calm exterior is got to be swift. We were warned not to test it when DD2 tried to get into the water and wade into it.


    Confluence - Indus and Zanskar
    Pangong Lake
    The trip to Pangong Lake was every bit as impressive as the trip to Nubra on the mountains and the altitude related problems not as bad as the altitude was not as high as Nubra or by the time we had adjusted well to high altitudes. The landscape near this side of the mountains were much different than those on the way to Nubra - more greenery and streams flowing.


    This meant more animals yak, donkeys and smaller ones like the marmot.


    Black and White Yak!!
    Since the route did not require climbing any high mountains it was much more pleasant trip than to Nubra but I had other problems like a fever to fight and I crashed in the tents after taking a tour of the lake which was as beautiful as many of the pictures that I had seen. This is also a salt water lake.


    First view of Pangong Lake!

    The view from the tents were fantastic with just a short walk to the water and a tiny sliver of a stream with water from the mountains which emptied into the lake running just near our tents. Pretty Yes! The flow of the water stopped in the night though Quiz! How? As the temperatures dropped the melting also stopped. The rest of the beauty like the moonrise, sunrise, wading in the water etc., were conveyed to me as I was snug in the tent fighting the fever. Anyway lucky for me the fever was gone the next day and by the time we reached Leh I was almost back to normal.


    Tents near Pangong Lake.
    I have told you enough about the beauty of the mountains on the way. Since it is hard to sleep when we are traveling on mountain roads and hence very hard to miss the beauty that is all around. We stopped in the meadows took in the beauty of the water and the goat herd mending her goats. Goats looked like pygmy goats much shorter than the ones on the plains.


    Pangong Lake (the tiny stream from near the tent is visible)
    Apricots While in to not miss a visit the market and buy fresh apricots. These apricots are the size of olives and much sweeter than the apricots that we generally get here in the US. With apricots tree everywhere your morning breakfast would invariably have apricot jam on the table. Our hotel had a few apricot tress and the areas in and around Leh and Nubra valley had a lot of these apricot trees.


    Apricot tree near Alichi monastery
    I have talked much about our wonderful driver and I will amiss if I do not show his picture. Here he is.

    I will end these series of posts with these words of wisdom from the Dalai Lama. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Jullay!


    Other in this series

  • Trip to Leh, Ladakh - Part II - Nubra Valley
  • Trip to Leh, Ladakh - Part I - Delhi and Leh
  • Friday, August 16, 2013

    Instant Mango Pickle

    When we reached India the mango season was at its fag end but we still got to taste a good variety of them. After a couple of days the interest wears off - yes to the point of turning them down. You will do that once you start eating them for morning, noon and night. Raw mango on the other hand is different, never loses it's thrall for me no matter how often I eat it.

    As soon as we reached here after the India trip on my first run to the Indian grocery store I pick out a few raw mangoes with the intention of making sambhar with it but it lay in the fridge for a couple of weeks till DD finally notices it and asks me to make pickle with it - the instant kind that she enjoyed the last time I made them.

    So here we are. There are quite possibly a number of ways to make this as there are number of cooks making them. If you like a quick mango pickle recipe with garlic, green chilies and ginger follow this recipe.

    I have added lime juice because the mangoes were not very sour and also this works if the mango is a slightly ripe as well.

    Instant Mango Pickle
    Preparation Time:10 minutes
    Cooking Time:20 minutes
    Ingredients
    1. 2 raw mangoes seeded and chopped into small cubes (1 1/2 cups)
    2. 1/4 cup of sesame oil/gingelly oil (nallennai)
    3. 1/2 - 1 tsp mustard seeds + 1/4 tsp for seasoning
    4. 1/2 tsp fendugreek seeds
    5. 3 red chilies
    6. 2 sprigs of curry leaves washed and dried completely (a few minutes in the microwave)
    7. a small piece of asfoetida
    8. 2 tbsp red chili powder (or to taste)
    9. 2 tsp salt
    10. 1/2 tbsp lime juice (if the mango is not sour)
    Method
      For the powder
    1. Dry roast the fengugreek seeds,mustard seeds and the asfoetida for a couple of minutes till the fenugreek seeds start to turn a darker shade. Add in the red chilies and roast for a 1/2 minute more. Cool and blend to a powder. A spice grinder or coffee grinder works for this.
    2. Now heat the oil till it starts to smoke a bit. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Now add the mango pieces and give a good mix. Add in the spice powder, red chili powder and salt. Mix and cook for a couple of minutes
    3. Add the lime juice cook for another minute and turn off the heat.
    4. Cool and store. Stays for a week outside. Refrigeration is better if it is going to last longer.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Trip to Leh, Ladakh - Part II - Nubra Valley

    Jullay! Hope all of you are doing good! Here goes my second installment and in this one I will try to talk about the food we ate. Food is after all an important part of any trip. The first part of the trip is here.


    Prayer (Mani) Wheel
    The end of the second day of sight seeing led us near the ancient Leh palace. This was indeed ancient and compared to the other monasteries (gompa as they are called in the local language) which are usually in the outskirts this one is in the heart of the city very close to the Leh market and the shopping area. In all of these gompas there are prayer wheels(or mani wheels as the locals call them) which we spin clockwise and the effect is supposed to be same as reciting the mantra (Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ). All of us religiously spun these wheels which are lined along the walls of the monasteries as we climbed up.


    Stream running near the hotel
    We did not spend too much time shopping as we had to return to the hotel to get ready for the 140Kms(one way) trip the next day. It is a journey which took us into the Himalayas on roads partially paved but mostly dirt roads. The journey was expected to take a good 5 hours provided there were no problems en-route. Mountain driving is arduous not so pleasant and for those with a queasy stomach down right painful. But let me tell you the views are breathtaking. For people used to driving in the US with clean rest rooms and food facilities along the way even in remote parts be aware this is not such a journey.


    One of the many streams on the way to Nubra Valley
    Remember my advice to carry toilet paper? It was for precisely this trip. While going behind a rock is perhaps the best possible thing but if you are averse you could stop at the villages on the way sure but there is no guarantee that the bathrooms are even usable and sometimes there is no water!.


    With the hard part of the journey out of the way we can talk about the good things now, namely our trip to Nubra Valley.

    The trip to Nubra Valley that took us on the highest motorable road in the World - Khardungla Pass and along the way gripping views of the muddy looking but speedily rolling Shyok river. Only a South Indian especially those of us from the parched areas in Tamil Nadu can truly understand the majesty and the power of a river. The silted water our car driver told us runs to Pakistan. Our car driver was a treasure trove of knowledge and being a Ladakhi he had a lot information about the area down to the last detail.


    Yak!
    We left a good hour later than we had planned and it hurt us quite a bit.
    Advice: Make sure you leave on time that is at first light which was 5:00AM there. This way you are not stopped by road construction which robably starts around 9:30 -10:00 AM I would assume.
    Weather is another matter altogether. If there is heavy fog or rain the roads are closed. Luckily our trip was not altered because of weather but there were tourists in the hotel who had to go and come back half way because of bad weather conditions. But en-route we were stopped for a couple of hours as they were dynamiting the rocks to clear way for road building. Road erosion was fairly common because of the runoff from the melting snow in the mountains. We drove through the streams running on the roads.


    Nubra Valley!
    We were tired, thirsty and hungry by the time we hit Khardungla Pass but lucky for us there was this tiny canteen selling hot green tea, steaming hot momos, maggie noodles - very popular around here. There was an alter for Shiva and DD2 the sweet addict she is figured out there was prasad in the tin in front. There were these tiny orange change or orange mittai as we called them. Alka of Sindhi Rasoi has a picture here. Once I saw that I had to run back and get some for myself. Of course I have not see those in a long time!


    Tents in Nubra Valley!
    All through the journey we got treated to the amazing views of the Himalayas in all its glory. The majesty and the beauty is hard to describe as I am not a poet! The first sight of it is enough to send any poet into raptures. The topography of the great Himalayan mountain range is that it not the same throughout. It changes it colors and features as we travel along. Throughout the hundred and something kilometers of the drive there was something new to see. The Himalayas being cold and arid after all the brown and grey it is a pleasantly refreshing to see a meadow with wild flowers and a stream flowing nearby. The flowing water and streams are where the villages and vegetation are.


    Nubra Valley is like an oasis nestled among the desert. We stayed in a desert camp in fairly luxurious tents and we were very reluctant to leave the place when it was time to go. The path leading to this camp is exactly like traveling in a desert with sand dunes, sand storms and everything in between. It is in these sand dunes that we took camel rides which completed the desert experience. Standing in the valley overlooking the towering mountains all around is a perfect place for a Bollywood hero and heroine to break into a song and dance. We did not have that in our party so we played soccer, tug of war and wet our feet in the cool clear stream that flows nearby.


    Camel rides on the sand dunes - Hunder!
    It was starting to drizzle and the weather was getting iffy and our driver was getting restless. We skipped visiting the Diskit monastery with a life size sitting Buddha overlooking the Nubra valley. We had hit highest altitude on this trip and staying at an altitude higher than what we were used to at Leh. It was here that diarrhea hit for a couple of us, maybe it was the late lunch or the altitude itself we are not sure. Our party by then tired and raggedy was not in a physical condition to climb up to the Diskit monastery and the ominous looking skies told us not to delay any further. Remember I had talked about the skill of our driver without that we would have very well be stuck on the mountains. He was sure footed on a foggy, rainy, snowy and less than 25 feet visibility on treacherous mountain roads. As we climbed down the mountain to reach Leh, the sun peeked out and the sky was blue and bright again albeit a bit chillier than when we had left. As we reached the hotel we knew we were lucky to have made it down without stopping on the way. Those who were leaving from Leh to Nubra, Pangong Lake or catching a flight out were all turned back because of the roads and the airport was closed. We had luckily missed all of that.

    Food in Leh

    As we getting ready to leave for Leh my cousin advised me to carry a few boxes of noodles. It was really good advice but in the rush I forgot to buy some. Watery hot Maggie noodles tastes delicious once you have spent about 10 minutes climbing a steep hill or numerous steps to get to where you want to go. Carrying food is not necessary. Like anywhere in India restaurants are plentiful and so are different kinds of food. Our trip package included breakfast and dinner. Lunch was our responsibility. During lunch time we were out and about and so getting lunch was not a problem and it actually gave us all kinds of experiences.

    Lunch one day at a local eatery which served steaming hot momos. Noodles, momos and soups were all done excellently anyplace which advertised local food. Another day we ate a restaurant which offered Indian, Indo Chinese (very popular around those parts) and local Ladakhi fare. We ate soups, fresh grilled fish, fried rice and the like. The kids ordered something called sabagleb which was listed as Ladakhi food. It was stuffed fried bread and tasted delicious. The restaurant was run by a group of Nepalese who lease the place during the summer months. One of those days we had some excellent lunch at a Gurudwara which was maintained by jawans and kept spic and span. After a long drive down from the mountains on another relatively hot days we stopped at a Punjabi dhaba and had ourselves some hot rotis and plated lunch.


    Steaming hot food in Khardungla Pass
    Most of our meals were at our hotel was a lot of North Indian fare so much so that my Paneer Butter Masala loving DD can't bear the sight of it anymore. We had poha, tomato and cheese sandwiches, all kinds of vegetable gravies, some fantastic chicken curry, mustard masala fish. The food tasted great and those stuffed parathas were delicious but we had a smell problem meaning all the food was cooked with mustard oil. After the first couple of days the smell started getting to us. I know I am going to offend everyone north of Vindhyas by saying this. But I hate the smell of mustard oil. The smell seem to permeate everything - clothing, hair and anything we came in contact with. We were even served idli and sambhar when we were in Nubra valley. Still we all craved for home made rasam and sambhar. We called MIL as we boarded our plane from Leh asking her to make some spicy hot rasam!

    Other in this series

  • Trip to Leh, Ladakh - Part I - Delhi and Leh
  • Trip to Leh - Part III - Pangong Lake and Leh Local
  • Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Dried Figs and Fresh Peaches Smoothie - Breakfast Ideas

    Breakfast as we all know is the most important meal of the day. But for a lot of us getting something done that is both appetizing and good is not an easy task. Eating cereal, doughnut or muffins while easy also adds unnecessary sugar early in the morning be it kids or adults. While homemade muffins could be nutritious and not filled with sugar, store bought ones are no better than doughnuts methinks. While I am still debating if eating sugary foods is bad or compared to no breakfast at all.

    The day after we came back from India I made oatmeal. We had not eaten it for breakfast for a month so it would be welcomed or so I thought. The look on DD and DD2's faces said it all. After a month of pampering and a wide variety of hot and tasty breakfasts, oatmeal did seem like a punishment. I have turned to oatmeal so many times now that though I don't exactly like it I don't hate it either.

    There was an article in the Washington Post about how important breakfast is for everybody and especially school age kids and the many options that are available to provide a good hearty breakfast. By the way did you know Washington Post was bought from the family who owned the paper for more than 80 years by Jeff Bezos of Amazon? Not to digress, If you are interested in what the paper had to say about breakfasts here it is - 'Taking the stress out of weekday breakfasts with kids'. It gives a lot of ideas so if you are one like many of us struggling to come with breakfast ideas for your kids please do read.

    Anyway back to the oatmeal, so when oatmeal is on the table what makes it even palatable is the suggestion of a smoothie. For some unknown reason this always makes ups for whatever else that I put up for breakfast.

    Smoothie is a gift that keeps on giving. Seasonal fruits with a few dried fruits for the sweetness is all that is needed. I have to tell you though that if you have dried figs on hand you are in for a real treat. With farm fresh peaches available now everywhere you have got to try this smoothie.

    If you are open to it add a few spinach or kale leaves into the smoothie for added nutrition. I can't drink the smoothie after I have done that though.

    Leaving oatmeal aside, alongside smoothie a couple of toasted whole wheat bread slices with a spread makes for a hearty breakfast.

    It is a good idea to have some spreads like these in the fridge/pantry,
  • hummus
  • harrisa
  • home made tomato thokku pickle
  • jams and jellies (the smoothie is sweet so we prefer the savory kind)
  • Dried Figs and Fresh Peaches Smoothie
    Preparation Time:5 minutes if soaking 20 minutes
    Serves: 3
    Ingredients
    1. 3-4 Peaches (we used yellow and white) pitted and diced
    2. 4 Dried Figs chopped
    3. 3 cups of milk (we used fat free)
    4. 1-2 cups of ice
    Method
    1. Soak the chopped figs in about 1/4 cup of milk for about 15 minutes or so (optional really, you can still blend without soaking).
    2. Take the soaked fig with the ice and diced peaches and a cup of milk and blend till smooth.
    3. Add the remaining milk give another whirl. Pour into glasses and if required add more ice and serve.

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013

    Trip to Leh, Ladakh - Part I - Delhi and Leh

    Jullay! Hope all of you are doing good! Here goes my second installment and in this one I will try to talk about the food we ate. Food is after all an important part of any trip. The first part of the trip is here.


    Prayer (Mani) Wheel
    The end of the second day of sight seeing led us near the ancient Leh palace. This was indeed ancient and compared to the other monasteries (gompa as they are called in the local language) which are usually in the outskirts this one is in the heart of the city very close to the Leh market and the shopping area. In all of these gompas there are prayer wheels(or mani wheels as the locals call them) which we spin clockwise and the effect is supposed to be same as reciting the mantra (Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ). All of us religiously spun these wheels which are lined along the walls of the monasteries as we climbed up.


    Stream running near the hotel
    We did not spend too much time shopping as we had to return to the hotel to get ready for the 140Kms(one way) trip the next day. It is a journey which took us into the Himalayas on roads partially paved but mostly dirt roads. The journey was expected to take a good 5 hours provided there were no problems en-route. Mountain driving is arduous not so pleasant and for those with a queasy stomach down right painful. But let me tell you the views are breathtaking. For people used to driving in the US with clean rest rooms and food facilities along the way even in remote parts be aware this is not such a journey.


    One of the many streams on the way to Nubra Valley
    Remember my advice to carry toilet paper? It was for precisely this trip. While going behind a rock is perhaps the best possible thing but if you are averse you could stop at the villages on the way sure but there is no guarantee that the bathrooms are even usable and sometimes there is no water!.


    With the hard part of the journey out of the way we can talk about the good things now, namely our trip to Nubra Valley.

    The trip to Nubra Valley that took us on the highest motorable road in the World - Khardungla Pass and along the way gripping views of the muddy looking but speedily rolling Shyok river. Only a South Indian especially those of us from the parched areas in Tamil Nadu can truly understand the majesty and the power of a river. The silted water our car driver told us runs to Pakistan. Our car driver was a treasure trove of knowledge and being a Ladakhi he had a lot information about the area down to the last detail.


    Yak!
    We left a good hour later than we had planned and it hurt us quite a bit.
    Advice: Make sure you leave on time that is at first light which was 5:00AM there. This way you are not stopped by road construction which robably starts around 9:30 -10:00 AM I would assume.
    Weather is another matter altogether. If there is heavy fog or rain the roads are closed. Luckily our trip was not altered because of weather but there were tourists in the hotel who had to go and come back half way because of bad weather conditions. But en-route we were stopped for a couple of hours as they were dynamiting the rocks to clear way for road building. Road erosion was fairly common because of the runoff from the melting snow in the mountains. We drove through the streams running on the roads.


    Nubra Valley!
    We were tired, thirsty and hungry by the time we hit Khardungla Pass but lucky for us there was this tiny canteen selling hot green tea, steaming hot momos, maggie noodles - very popular around here. There was an alter for Shiva and DD2 the sweet addict she is figured out there was prasad in the tin in front. There were these tiny orange change or orange mittai as we called them. Alka of Sindhi Rasoi has a picture here. Once I saw that I had to run back and get some for myself. Of course I have not see those in a long time!


    Tents in Nubra Valley!
    All through the journey we got treated to the amazing views of the Himalayas in all its glory. The majesty and the beauty is hard to describe as I am not a poet! The first sight of it is enough to send any poet into raptures. The topography of the great Himalayan mountain range is that it not the same throughout. It changes it colors and features as we travel along. Throughout the hundred and something kilometers of the drive there was something new to see. The Himalayas being cold and arid after all the brown and grey it is a pleasantly refreshing to see a meadow with wild flowers and a stream flowing nearby. The flowing water and streams are where the villages and vegetation are.


    Nubra Valley is like an oasis nestled among the desert. We stayed in a desert camp in fairly luxurious tents and we were very reluctant to leave the place when it was time to go. The path leading to this camp is exactly like traveling in a desert with sand dunes, sand storms and everything in between. It is in these sand dunes that we took camel rides which completed the desert experience. Standing in the valley overlooking the towering mountains all around is a perfect place for a Bollywood hero and heroine to break into a song and dance. We did not have that in our party so we played soccer, tug of war and wet our feet in the cool clear stream that flows nearby.


    Camel rides on the sand dunes - Hunder!
    It was starting to drizzle and the weather was getting iffy and our driver was getting restless. We skipped visiting the Diskit monastery with a life size sitting Buddha overlooking the Nubra valley. We had hit highest altitude on this trip and staying at an altitude higher than what we were used to at Leh. It was here that diarrhea hit for a couple of us, maybe it was the late lunch or the altitude itself we are not sure. Our party by then tired and raggedy was not in a physical condition to climb up to the Diskit monastery and the ominous looking skies told us not to delay any further. Remember I had talked about the skill of our driver without that we would have very well be stuck on the mountains. He was sure footed on a foggy, rainy, snowy and less than 25 feet visibility on treacherous mountain roads. As we climbed down the mountain to reach Leh, the sun peeked out and the sky was blue and bright again albeit a bit chillier than when we had left. As we reached the hotel we knew we were lucky to have made it down without stopping on the way. Those who were leaving from Leh to Nubra, Pangong Lake or catching a flight out were all turned back because of the roads and the airport was closed. We had luckily missed all of that.

    Food in Leh

    As we getting ready to leave for Leh my cousin advised me to carry a few boxes of noodles. It was really good advice but in the rush I forgot to buy some. Watery hot Maggie noodles tastes delicious once you have spent about 10 minutes climbing a steep hill or numerous steps to get to where you want to go. Carrying food is not necessary. Like anywhere in India restaurants are plentiful and so are different kinds of food. Our trip package included breakfast and dinner. Lunch was our responsibility. During lunch time we were out and about and so getting lunch was not a problem and it actually gave us all kinds of experiences.

    Lunch one day at a local eatery which served steaming hot momos. Noodles, momos and soups were all done excellently anyplace which advertised local food. Another day we ate a restaurant which offered Indian, Indo Chinese (very popular around those parts) and local Ladakhi fare. We ate soups, fresh grilled fish, fried rice and the like. The kids ordered something called sabagleb which was listed as Ladakhi food. It was stuffed fried bread and tasted delicious. The restaurant was run by a group of Nepalese who lease the place during the summer months. One of those days we had some excellent lunch at a Gurudwara which was maintained by jawans and kept spic and span. After a long drive down from the mountains on another relatively hot days we stopped at a Punjabi dhaba and had ourselves some hot rotis and plated lunch.


    Steaming hot food in Khardungla Pass
    Most of our meals were at our hotel was a lot of North Indian fare so much so that my Paneer Butter Masala loving DD can't bear the sight of it anymore. We had poha, tomato and cheese sandwiches, all kinds of vegetable gravies, some fantastic chicken curry, mustard masala fish. The food tasted great and those stuffed parathas were delicious but we had a smell problem meaning all the food was cooked with mustard oil. After the first couple of days the smell started getting to us. I know I am going to offend everyone north of Vindhyas by saying this. But I hate the smell of mustard oil. The smell seem to permeate everything - clothing, hair and anything we came in contact with. We were even served idli and sambhar when we were in Nubra valley. Still we all craved for home made rasam and sambhar. We called MIL as we boarded our plane from Leh asking her to make some spicy hot rasam!

    Other in this series

  • Trip to Leh, Ladakh - Part II - Nubra Valley
  • Trip to Leh - Part III - Pangong Lake and Leh Local