Utensils in an Indian Kitchen

When we first moved to India we went shopping for kitchen things.  As with every country there are special foods and the pots and utensils have been made to suit the cuisine. You’ll recognize most of these items and will find in future posts how (and why) they are used.

  • Saute pot

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  • Pressure cooker

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Observation: I just learned watching Annette cook that when using a pressure cooker you use the number of times the pressure valve (at the top) pops as a unit of time measurement. Rice cooks in 3-4 pops, potatoes 3 pops, etc.  And pressure cookers while sounding scary (they are just blowing off steam – literally!) are truly amazing at speeding up cooking times!

  • Blender (with small chutney sized bowl)

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  • Marble rolling board and pin

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You can see the size of this relative to my foot (nice nail polish, right?!).  It is small, but quite heavy and cool so the perfect spot to roll the dough.

  • Chapati pan (not edges) and flat wooden spatula
  • Dosa pan (with edges)

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  • Oil pot (this is pretty small, probably holds 1 cup and has a little ladle in it)

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  • Other special spoons – the ones on the left and center are general use and the spoon on the right for making dosas since it is more like a ladle, but flatter

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  • Metal bowls and covers – so simple and so useful but used for food mixing and storage

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Scrambled Eggs with Onions and Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 tbs. oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. tumeric powder
  • 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs

Instructions

  • Heat oil in saute pan
  • Add chopped onion, chili powder, tumeric, tomatoes and salt and cook for 10-15 minutes until very soft.
  • Add eggs and mix vigorously to scramble them so there are no big pieces of yolk or egg whites.
  • Cook for a few minutes until eggs are cooked through.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Observation: Tumeric is primarily used for coloring and to kills strong odors, in this case eggs!

Chana

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, rough chopped
  • 1 small tomato, rough chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp. garlic paste (chopped)
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • Pinch tumeric
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 3-4 tsp. coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 c. chana beans, soak for 3 hours in water (chickpeas!)
  • Pinch mustard seed
  • 6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions

  • Blend onion, tomato, garlic paste, coriander powder, tumeric, chili powder, coconut milk and fresh coriander leaves until smooth
  • Heat pressure cooker base
  • Add 3 – 4 tsp. oil after cooker is heated
  • Continue to heat oil for a few minutes
  • Add pinch mustard seeds to oil, cook for 30 seconds
  • Add fresh curry leaves and heat for a minute
  • Add onion and tomato blended mixture, stir together and cook for five minutes on medium-high heat.
  • Add 1/4 c. water to blender to get rest of sauce out and add water mixture to cooker.
  • Add drained chana beans and salt.
  • Mix and make sure the mixture isn’t too thick.  Add additional water to right consistency.
  • Close pressure cooker and cook on medium heat about 15 minutes, but really by the number of pressure releases.  Every time the top pops it is a unit of cooking time.  So this dish requires 3 – 4 pressure releases before the dish is done.  DO NOT OPEN THE PRESSURE COOKER IN THE MIDDLE!

Makes about 2 cups

 

Methi Paratha

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 handful methi leaves (Fenugreek) soaked in water to clean
  • 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. jeera powder (Roasted Cumin powder)

Instructions

  • Heat oil in saute pan
  • Add chopped onion and saute for about 2 minutes until cooked
  • Take methi leaves from water and squeeze out liquid, add to oil and onions
  • Cook for a few more minutes until methi leaves are wilted
  • Add mixture to flour and add salt and jeera powder.  Hand mix a bit to distribute ingredients evenly.
  • Add about 1/4 c. of water slowly and knead dough until it holds together, but isn’t sticky.
  • Cover and let sit.  The dough won’t rise, but you want to make the parathas last so they are warm!
  • When you are ready to eat, break the dough into 6-7 evenly sized balls and roll each out on a cool surface using extra flour to prevent sticking.
  • Heat the chapati pan well (about 5 minutes) on a medium-high heat.
  • Add the parathas one at a time and cook for a few minutes on each side, flipping at least three times (so each side is cooked twice).  When you first put the paratha on the pan add a little oil to the side that is up and spread it around.  Do the same when you flip the first time to the first side that cooked.  (Did that make sense?!)
  • Flip using a flat spatula.
  • Cook until both sides have brown spots.
  • You’ll find that later cooked parathas will cook faster because the pan is hotter.
  • To keep parathas warm put them in tinfoil and continue cooking until all are ready.

Makes 6 – 7 methi parathas

What do we eat?

Amazingly enough after being here over two months we aren’t hankering for non-Indian food.  That doesn’t mean we don’t periodically go out and enjoy a bowl of pasta, but generally we are very, very happy eating Indian food every day.

I think this is because of the immense variety and wonderful flavors.  The spices are incredible (I’ll do a separate post on that!), the breads varied and we haven’t found eating vegetarian to be difficult.

Paneer provides the protein.  They call it cottage cheese here, but it is more sturdy in structure than our cottage cheese.  There are lots of ways to include paneer in your diet.

Because India is a poor country things are really available seasonally.  Right now we are in summer so the mangos are really starting to appear (they need a few rains to make them even sweeter), jackfruit, and other seasonal fruits like mash melons (looks like cantaloupe to me!) and watermelon.

Right now because of the mangos Annette is making mango lassis daily.  They haven’t been too hard to consume.  So this might be breakfast.

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For us lunch is usually leftovers from the night before.  Annette makes enough for Eric to pack a lunch box, or a modern day tiffin box and enjoy a great meal.  It makes it really easy, but by the time he gets home it is time for dinner so we eat early.

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Annette works 10am-4pm and leaves dinner for us each evening.  Here are some sample meals over the past few days.  My next post will show how these are made (including recipes!)

  • Meal 1 – Fried Eggplant, Green Gram Dal with Onions and Tomatoes, Vegetable Biryani, Paneer Masala, Cucumber Raita and Chapati

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  • Meal 2 – Methi Paratha, Scrambled Eggs with Onions and Tomatoes and Chana
  • Meal 3 – Vegetable Fried Rice with Prawns, Prawns with Spices and Okra with Potatoes
  • Meal 4 – Dosas with Potato, Onions and Coriander filling and Onion Chutney and Coconut Chutney

Most Indians actually enjoy a large breakfast and lunch with a small and late dinner, around 10pm.  The heat around dinner time makes it less pleasant to eat a heavy meal. Obviously we are still on an American clock!

 

Baaghi

Our first Bollywood movie.  Bought the tickets online in the club area.  Total $11 for two tickets.  Added soda, water and popcorn for another $4.50 and we were ready.

It is amazing how easy it is to understand the gist of a movie even if you don’t know Hindi.

Things I loved

  • The music: This is the Cham Cham music video from the movie.  Aside from the fact that this is really an action movie, they figured out a way to make it rain in India and sing and dance.
  • The absurdity: Fitbit on the beach as product placement? Sidekicks like a blind taxi driver being guided by his son as he drives around Bangkok? NO traffic on an Indian street?!!!!
  • The belief in love: In a country where many, many people have arranged marriages these Bollywood movies seem to be about “true” love.
  • Crazy special effects: As the hero was fighting off the bad guy they showed which bones were being crushed (broken neck, ribs, etc.  Don’t want to ruin the ending!). You are watching this brutal fight scene and they are adding stuff that makes you laugh out loud.  Is that what they wanted?!
  • Popcorn: Haven’t had it since we got here and it was reassuring that popcorn and movies are a worldwide phenomena.  On the other hand, we could also have had samosas and lots of other interesting Indian snacks as well.
  • Abs: OK, how could you not enjoy this?

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  • Check out Eric’s Facebook review for more.

Things I didn’t love

  • Fight scenes: Fast motion, slow motion over and over.  The only good thing was that not as many people were killed as in American movies of this type (of course, we don’t have singing and dancing in the rain either).
  • Stupid commercials: Worldwide they have dumb commercials that I could do without.  Not even interesting coming attractions.
  • Not understanding everything: Actually I didn’t need to understand everything, but there were a few critical moments that I wish I had understood what was being said.

We will see more Bollywood movies and will report on them in the future.  Stay tuned and enjoy this Sab Tera video from the movie and see if you can spot the Fitbit.

What food do we miss?

Cheese and Crackers.  They sell some but odd kinds (who ever heard of eating Parmesan cheese on a cheese board?).  Indians don’t eat crackers so they aren’t available.  The imported ones are crazy expensive – and outdated.  So, we might be bringing in cheese and wheat thins on our next trip back!  This vintage cheddar is pretty good!

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Pizza. Because the cheeses here are different pizza, which is everywhere, including several American chains, doesn’t taste like home.  I’m sure the tomato sauce is canned as well. Heading to Bills for a slice or two when we are next in Newton!

Fish.  Bangalore is landlocked and with questionable transportation and refrigeration (I was given a free ice cream bar the other day from a supermarket after buying a lot of stuff and it had clearly melted and been refrozen, maybe multiple times) so buying “fresh” fish isn’t an option.  Sometimes the odors of the fish market area even in expensive supermarkets is enough to knock you off food.  So, we have tried prawns and they were good.  Waiting for some good salmon at Legals.

Hamburger.  There is beef, but from questionable sources.  We’ve eaten it at hotels, but have resisted purchasing it in stores.  Shake Shack here we come!

Salads and Raw Vegetables. This has been the saddest part of our journey.  Not feeling comfortable enough to eat salsa, or a salad, or a raw carrot.  I’m happy to report that just this week I was able to do my first lettuce harvest so Eric and I had homemade salad.  We expect more over the coming months and hope to add peppers and tomatoes to make it more colorful!

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Ice cream. It is hard to compare anything to ice cream from Massachusetts, particularly our hometown favorite, J.P. Licks.  Even though they imported Jersey cows into India a few years ago because of the better output (versus A2 native Indian cows) they still don’t have the same cream and that’s what makes for good ice cream.  We found a temporary placeholder, but expect to consume quite a bit when we are home!

Note, there are higher end grocery stores that are tailored to ex-pats that have Halo tangerines (I think they were about $1 per tiny tangerine) from California and other fruits and vegetables from Australia and Japan.  And other things like cereals, jams, peanut butter, etc. Much more expensive, but sometimes worth a splurge.  They will have some specialty ingredients for Japanese, Mexican or Italian cooking, but again they are expensive and more of a treat to break from regular dining than to use with any kind of frequency.

So we will wait to indulge until we get home.

 

Indian Treasures – Part I

These will be very periodic posts because we are on a random mission to collect special items from our stay here in India and, more broadly, Southeast Asia.

In Jaipur we were lucky enough to visit a wonderful shop that has a wide variety of merchandise (as do most Indian stores), but they, in particular, go into small villages and purchase heirloom handwoven and embroidered wall hangings, which I consider art.

We watched as they unfolded one after another and could have purchased most of them. Many times you can see how an item was used and loved in a home, but because of financial necessity it has been sold.  We figured we could provide a new, loving home to one such item.

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This wall hanging measures 45 in. wide x 77 in. high and is from Kachchhh bhuj which is in the western part of India, in the Gujarat state Pakistani border.  It is probably over 100 years old (they preserved the delicate fabric with the red border and backing), but the rest of the history has been lost.

Details below. Every time I look I find another bird!

 

 

Jaipur Environs – Talabgaon and Lalsot

Welcome to Talabgaon Castle.  This 200 year old Heritage fort is located in Talabgaon village about an hour from Jaipur.  The family that owns it recently converted it to a lovely hotel with pool, lots of out door seating and dining and polo grounds.  You can see the horses being trained in the back grounds, and, if you are lucky, even watch a polo game during the tournament that takes place in April each year.

The serenity and beauty at Talabgaon cannot be described, but need to be felt.  After the clamor of Indian cities this is a welcome respite.

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Entrance

Each room is unique and beautiful.

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There are many peacocks on the grounds.  They were pretty shy except at sunrise so, instead, this is some of the lovely art on the walls at the pool house.

This is one of the polo horses being exercised.

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Many of the people who work at Talabgaon Castle are from the local village.  We were fortunate to get a tour by some of the local boys.  The thing that we most noticed is that people seem so happy with what they have.  The pace of life is slower, the days much the same (so we were really a treat and gained quite the following during our walk.  It helped that I was giving out candy to the kids.) but there is joy.

Observation: Indians are nothing if not creative.  Transportation is expensive and people have found that they can construct a Jugaad, or truck made of wooden planks, a tinkertoy engine (my words) and miscellaneous jeep parts.  You see them all over the countryside moving people or supplies around.  They don’t have a lot of oomph, but boy are they pretty!

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Our final visit of the day was to Lalsot, a nearby larger village of about 30,000.  My guess is that Talagbaon has about 6,000 inhabitants.  Note most of the young people leave for the city as soon as they are able to and don’t return.

Here are some of the images from Lalsot.

One of the very cool things we witnessed is two men making the lacquer bracelets.  They start with a stick of what looks like wood, color it and then start melting and forming bracelets.  One does the first part and the second guy takes the strip of lacquer and forms it into a round.  Once cooled they will apply lots of lovely sparkly gems.

And what the final ones look like.  India is all about sparkle and color.

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Desserts in India

Baking in India is all about breads, not pastries.

That is not to say that there aren’t sweets here.  There are (and there is a huge problem with diabetes as well) since Indians love sweets but most are incredibly sweet (too much for even my sweet tooth) using jaggery.  The picture above is Gulab Jamun, it is the most popular Indian dessert and is sort of like a doughnut, but soaked in sugar syrup. Sticky and sweet!

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Different kinds of jaggery

Only in some of the higher end hotels do you find baked goods (and excellent ones at that) where they import ingredients like flour and chocolate from Europe.

This is a yummy Chocolate Hazelnut Cake from the Marriott that we bought for our party.

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Chocolate is hard to find, particularly baking chocolate.  Most homes don’t have ovens. Our place does but it has questionable heating powers.

This is my oven.

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2A Crescent Park Oven

This is the temperature settings for my oven.  Someone did a really good job cleaning…

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Now you understand why figuring out 350 degrees (or 175 celsius) for my first attempt at brownies was quite the failure.  They were very dark (some might say burnt) on the bottom.  (No pictures!) The tops were cooked on one side and soft on the other.

Our driver LOVED them.  Gave him a bunch to share with his family and only a couple made it home.  Guess the mix of flavors was different enough to be enjoyable!

But I was disappointed with the outcome.  Fortunately I have more chocolate chips in the frig and will try another day. And I’m bringing back an oven thermometer from home (they don’t sell them here) so I can at least get a sense for the internal oven temperature.