Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Weekend Kittaya Blogging

Curious Kittaya - Photo by Vijay Singari
Curious Kittaya

Pretty Kiri of Clare’s is celebrating one year anniversary of WCB Event at a weekend getaway to Mudgee. Is it already one year? Wow, congrats Clare, you made this event what it is now! Keep up the good work!

Weekend Watching:

Daily Kos Convention Live on C-span, right now.
World Cup Soccer

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Saturday June 10, 2006 at 12:39 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Moong Dal Payasam (Pesara Pappu Payasam)

A Cup of Moong dal Payasam
A Cup of Moong dal Payasam for Indian Sweets~101

If I have to choose between a cup of payasam and a slice of cake, I’d always go for the cup. Here, mothers prepare cakes lovingly; back in India, payasams are the norm. Every Saturday my mother would prepare payasam for puja naivedyam. I believe she prepared payasam mainly because of us, four little darlings:), who would come home from school hungry for something sweet. We had half-day school on Saturdays and afternoon meals at my mother’s home always included a type of payasam. Creamy rich with full of cashews and golden raisins, it was like spoonful of heaven on a warm afternoon.

Together between my mom and mother-in-law, there are recipes for at least a dozen different payasams. Who would really need a cook book when you have this type of rich resource right a phone call away? Because they all follow a basic method, it’s not that difficult to remember the procedure. Moong dal payasam is one such easy recipe I picked up from the family.

Moong dal is cooked in sweetened and thickened, rich poppy seed milk. Light golden hue, incredible, inviting aroma and delight to the senses - this is how I would describe this payasam.

Roasted in Ghee - Yellow Moong Dal


Moong dal, yellow (pesara pappu) - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Milk - 5 cups
Poppy seeds (Khus-khus, gasa gasalu) - ¼ cup
(Soaked in ½ cup of warm water for at least half an hour, to soften them)
Cashews and Golden Raisins, each - ¼ cup
Cardamom (Elachi, aluka) - 6
Ghee (neyyi) - 2 tablespoons

Prep Work:

1 In an iron skillet or tava, heat a teaspoon of ghee on medium heat. Add and roast, yellow moong dal until the color changes from yellow to light red and releases the wonderful fragrance. Remove them to a plate. Aromatherapy starts with this first step.

2 In the same iron skillet or tava, heat a tablespoon of ghee on medium heat. When it is hot, add and toast first golden raisins and then cashews. Golden Raisins puff up like little gold balloons and cashews turn from creamy white to light gold. Take care not to burn. Remove them to a plate.

3 Powder cardamom seeds to smooth powder in a mortar using the pestle or in a spice grinder.

Toasted in Ghee - Cashews and Golden Raisins
Toasted in Ghee - Cashews and Golden Raisins

In a pressure cooker, take roasted moong dal, sugar, milk and soaked poppy seeds along with the water it’s soaked in. Mix and close the lid. Pressure cook until two whistles. Once all the valve pressure is released, remove the lid and with a wood-masher or immersion blender lightly mash the dal. Pressure-cooking is my method; I follow it mainly for the convenience of not stirring and for the speed. In actual recipe, they would take all the ingredients in a wide, thick-bottomed vessel and cook until the dal reaches fall-apart stage. If you don’t have a pressure cooker at home, then follow the second method. It may take little bit more time, but the end result will be worth the trouble, I promise.

Add the toasted cashews and golden raisins along with the ghee they toasted in. Also stir in the cardamom powder to the cooked payasam. Have a taste and add sugar and milk, if needed. Simmer the payasam on medium-low heat about 20 to 30 minutes, until it reaches thick, creamy consistency. Serve warm or cold.

A Cup of Moong Dal Payasam with Poppy Seeds, Cashews and Golden Raisins

Poppy seeds can block the cooker nozzle and that may create a mess, if they not soaked in warm water beforehand. Soak poppy seeds in water first, if you are to cook this in a pressure cooker.
Chana Dal Payasam - Link

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets), Sugar, Milk, Moong Dal (Washed), Indian Sweets 101, Poppy Seeds (Friday June 9, 2006 at 8:31 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Moong Bean Salad (Pesara Guggullu)

Moong bean Salad (Pesara Guggullu)

Moong bean guggullu or salad was our after-school snack at least once a week when we were children. One cup of this guggullu (salad) and one cup of tea, we would be set until dinnertime 8pm.

And now, I often prepare them at home for light lunch. This traditional Indian salad is filling, nutritious (good protein and Folate content), and can be prepared within 10 minutes, with some preplanning.

Moong Beans, Onion, Green Chilli and Freshly Grated Coconut

1 cup of moong beans
(Soaked in water for 2 hours and simmered in salted water until tender)
1 onion and 2 green chillies - finely chopped
1 tablespoon of freshly grated coconut
1 teaspoon of ghee or peanut oil
Salt, turmeric and cilantro to taste
Saut? finely chopped onions and green chillies for few minutes, stir in simmered moong beans and seasoning- fresh grated coconut, salt and turmeric. Mix and cook covered for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle some fresh cilantro and serve.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Moong Dal (whole), Amma & Authentic Andhra (Thursday June 8, 2006 at 9:21 am- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Another First for Mahanandi

My dear readers, I want to share a happy news with you all.

One of my photos about spice box is picked up and published today, in Christian Science Monitor, an online daily newspaper. All thanks to my blog reader and friend Vijaysree Venkatraman. Thanks Vijaysree!

Link to the published article and photo:
A Spice Box and A Cookbook Got Her Started

* Vijaysree blogs at Apropos of Nothing
* My Blogged Piece about Tadka and Spice box - here.
* Publishing world is a tough place to break into, that’s what I’ve heard all these years. I would greatly appreciate if you could contact the editor about her excellent choice of article selection and to show support to the author and the photographer. Thank you!

Updated on June 9th:
Thanks Aparna Tula, for taking time to contact the editor to express your opinion of the article and hearty congratulations on your published letter.

*Comments section is closed at this time.*

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Wednesday June 7, 2006 at 9:18 am- permalink)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Punjabi Naan

Naan with walnut-raisin toppings

Hot and fresh from tandoori oven, light and chewy, Naans epitomize everything that is good about wheat flour. But preparing naans at home means inviting disappointment most of the times. Recreating the tandoori magic in a home style-baking oven is impossible and invariable comparison to the Indian restaurant tandoori baked ones will lead to frustration.

But sometimes, mainly because we don’t have an Indian restaurant in this town, I’d prepare them at home following a traditional Punjabi recipe. (This recipe is again from our kind neighbor, an old acquaintance Deviji.) The dough is prepared with milk or yogurt. I usually go with fresh homemade yogurt, for naans with little bit of sour note.

I can’t say the end result is excellent; of course the culprit is the baking method, not at all the recipe fault. What I can say and recommend is they are worth the effort, good in taste department, and come close to the original in texture and softness. So give it a try. But please don’t expect the tandoori magic.

Naans all ready to go into oven
Naans all ready for baking

(For 8 to 10 naans)

4 cups of fresh all-purpose flour
1 to 2 cups of yogurt
(I usually use home made yogurt. Fresh yogurt gives a unique taste to naan. If you are not sure of quality of yogurt, go with milk)
2 tablespoon of melted ghee at room temperature
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
Yeast mixture:
In a small cup, take 2 tablespoons of warm water add pinch of sugar
Stir in 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Mix and wait for it to rise.
To top:
I went with walnuts and raisins this time.
(Cumin, Sesame seeds, Minced onion, garlic, they all work too.)

Baked Naans
Oven Baked Naans

1. In a large bowl, sift flour, stir in salt, sugar and ghee. Add the yeast water. Mix by gradually adding the yogurt. Add and mix until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl and comes together in solid lump.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands and knead it for 5 minutes. Keep it covered overnight or for at least two hours. (I usually leave the dough covered for overnight.)

3. When you are ready to bake, take the dough out, knead for another 5 minutes. Divide the dough into lemon sized rounds. On a board or countertop, dust a little bit of flour, and roll out each ball into a big round with 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness.

4. Prepare all the rounds like this and neatly place them on a greased or parchment paper lined baking tray for baking. Brush them all lightly with melted ghee. Sprinkle and press toppings (walnuts).

5. Preheat the oven to 425 F. When oven is ready, place and bake for about 5 to 10 minutes. White dough changes in color from light cream to pale pinkish red like baby’s cheeks. Keep an eye on oven and take care not to brown/over bake. Remove and serve hot with a curry.

Naan and Turnip Kurma
Naan and Masala Turnips (Shalgam)

Flour choice: King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
History of Naan : Link
More Naan Recipes: Sugar and Spice, Gattina, Egullet

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in All-Purpose Flour(Maida) (Tuesday June 6, 2006 at 3:05 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Ripe Plantain Dessert (Pazham Puzhungiyathu)

Steam-Cooked Ripe Plantain
Steam-Cooking the Ripe Plantain

Vijay loves all things plantain; so much so, he even wrote a guest post on homemade plantain chips on my blog few months ago. When I saw the recipe for sweet plantain dessert, at LG’s Ginger and Mango, I knew Vijay is going to like it.

Dessert with sweet plantains usually involves deep-frying, but this traditional Kerala recipe was different and healthy because it was steam cooked. I tried it with one ripe plantain and we both liked the end result. Easy dessert and they were like small venna(butter) biscuits, the kind that would melt in mouth but with gooey, banana sweetness.

Steam Cooked Ripe Plantain Piece ~ Removing the Skin

I ripe plantain
Ghee and sugar - half tablespoon each or to taste.

Wash and cut plantains into 4 or 5 pieces crosswise. Steam-cook them for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they soften. The outer skin will turn black and insides will turn soft. Remove the steam basket from steamer and let them cool. Peel the skin, cut each piece into 3 or 4 thin rounds.

Take melted ghee and sugar in a small cup. Stir until sugar melts in ghee. Lightly dip each plantain round in ghee-sugar mix, remove. Or sprinkle some sugar on top of these rounds and serve. Good treat, I think particularly for toddlers.

Semolina Upma with Peanut chutney and Sugar Coated Ripe Plantain Rounds
Sugar Coated Ripe Plantain Rounds and Semolina Upma with Peanut chutney ~ Our Simple Meal Today

Recipe: LG’s Ginger and Mango - Traditional Kerala Recipe

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Arati Kaaya (Plantain), Sugar, Ghee (Monday June 5, 2006 at 2:33 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Mango Windfall ~ An Opinion Piece

I have observed a lot of elation here about the recent agreement between India and US to export Indian mangoes to the States. But, from reading what is happening in south and central American countries, which also made similar kinds of agricultural deals with US and other parts of the western world, I can guess what is going to happen to mangoes in India and I am going to list my thoughts.

1. The US, to protect their environment or just because it can, will specify only one of few varieties of mangoes to import from India.

2. Compared to the home market, the profit margin looks great when done business with US. Few may resist at first the lure of dollar, but sooner or later the mango growers will heed the call of money siren and will start to cultivate the US demanded mango types, running down the current variety.

3. This will create a shortage in supply and more importantly in variety at home front. Say in das, bara years, we won’t have a chance to find different treasured varieties like Banginapalli (Andhra specialty) etc.

4. One might say that the Indians are going to get rich with dollar money. Really? How many in India are mango growers? My guess - the number will be less than 0.00001%. But the exports make them unavailable to more than 90% population. Also this type of deals are never about the farmers welfare.

5. It’s not like we are starving for mangoes here. US already imports mangoes from Mexico, Peru and other South American countries. Not enough it seems. Here in US, we could gorge ourselves with Indian mangoes, and people back in India like my hard working mother and father and most of my relatives back at home, won’t be able to afford the US inflated mango prices. You don’t have to look further for an example. The famous basmati rice from India. How many of us had basmati rice every day, growing up? Very rare, in my case never, because first of all we won’t find it and second in rare cases of availability, could not afford. All that is cultivated in India, I guess comes straight to the local Sam’s Club.

That same thing will happen to Indian mangoes in few years. That’s my prediction and I hate the people who pushed this deal with US.

Gandhiji, the great man who lived his life with simple means once observed, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” This deal, in order to bring Indian mangoes near to about a quarter-billion people, is going to make them dear to more than a billion people.

Added on June 5th:
Thank you all for opening up your hearts and to show what you made of. I greatly appreciate it mainly and more so, because I had written this piece last month for Jihvā and kept thinking about it, whether to publish or not. After all this is Indian mangoes we are talking about, a passionate subject for us all; I have seen nothing but welcoming mango thoranams and loud celebratory noises to this deal so far, be it in the mainstream media, blogosphere or in real world. Anything contradicting the self indulgent bully power of US is not popular, and expressing it means inviting abuse and ridicule usually. But my desire to express my point of view was so strong. I am happy that I published this piece and I am glad to see that I am not alone in my concerns. Thank you!

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Sunday June 4, 2006 at 1:18 am- permalink)
Comments (38)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Strawberry~Mango Scones


Strawberry mango scones are crisp outside and crumbly and soft inside. What makes them stand out is the flavor combination of sweet and tart in the same bite. This dessert is delicious, attractive and easy to prepare. Don’t fear the fancy title, scones are nothing but freeform style baked cakes.


All purpose flour : 2 cups
Sugar : 4 tablespoons
Salt : ½ teaspoon
Baking powder : 2 teaspoons
Baking soda : ¼ teaspoon
Cold and solid butter : 3 tablespoons, finely chopped
Wet Ingredients
Firm and fresh Strawberries : 1 cup, chopped
Dried mango : ¼ cup finely sliced
Yogurt : ½ to 1 cup of fresh yogurt
Lemon glaze
Lime juice - ¼ cup and sugar- 2 tablespoons. Bring them to a boil in a small saucepan and let the juice thicken a bit - lemon glaze is ready. (Prepare this while baking the scones.)

In a mixing bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder and soda. Stir in sugar and salt. Add and mix the finely chopped butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

To this flour mixture, add strawberries and dried mango pieces. Add the yogurt gradually and mix to form tight, sticky dough. Gently knead the dough for 2 minutes, take care not to break and bleed the strawberries.

Turn the dough out onto a floured or parchment covered baking sheet and press out into a big round with a thickness of half to one inch. (This is the messy and sticky part. Apply oil or ghee to the rolling pin or use flour to prevent dough from sticking. )

Preheat the oven to 425?F. When the oven is ready, place the baking sheet and bake. The dough will puff up and increase in volume. Bake until golden brown, for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and drizzle the lemon glaze on top. Let it cool a bit, and slice into 6 to 8 triangle slices. Serve warm and enjoy.

Ready for baking - Strawberry Mango Scones
Dough ready for baking

Strawberry and Mango Scones with Lemon Glaze
Golden and Glazed

Strawberry- Mango Scone with Lemon Glaze
Berry Good Treat ~ Strawberry Mango Scones
For JFI-Strawberries Event, Hosted by Pastry Chef and Baker, the lovely Baking Fairy

Recipe Adapted from Foodblog - “Delicious!Delicious!”
Dried mango Source: Indian grocery shops.
Flour Choice: King Arthur brand All Purpose Flour

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in All-Purpose Flour(Maida), Mango, Strawberries (Thursday June 1, 2006 at 2:03 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

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