Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Year That Was ... Part I

Blog-wise, this was a no show year for me. I had promised myself I would keep blogging, irrespective of the four-month hiatus in India, beginning January this year. Actually, the husband was supposed to contribute while I figured out how to get the darn Internet to co-operate, but he couldn't make up his mind about plausible blogging subjects, being as it were my blog.

And here we are 10 months down the line, New Year resolutions, promises-to-self, a thing of the past -- I suspect mine are hiding with the clothes that fit me pre-pregnancy. The clothes, I have pretty much given up on. As for the resolutions, I figure it's never too late (or early) to start with those. It's about time anyway, being November and all. (As you can see, I am a bit of a planner. Whether the planning actually takes places as planned, is of course a different matter. But, plan I will. Now, that's something the husband could write realms on.

It was an eventful year, 2009. Starting with a 26-hour long flight and a nine-month in tow. All she wanted to do was crawl and cry, all I could think of was to crawl somewhere within the depths of the earth, where neither man nor baby could find me. Ah, well ... the best laid plans. We know what happens to those. So, after much bawling (and lots of mental-hair pulling on my part) we landed at Chattrapati Shivaji Airport. By then, I'd almost forgotten the arduous flight, and was looking forward to reaching home. The Gods must be smiling upon us, I whispered to my daughter, as we cleared immigration etc., within no time. Luggage too came swimmingly along, followed by the car-seat. Now, only if the stroller would show-up, I said to myself. Of course, it didn't, being my lucky day, as it were. After much standing around, hopelessly-hoping the stroller had made it in after all, a couple of missing-luggage forms and two-and-a-half hours later, the smell of 26-hours of traveling, my ravenous infant and I, finally made our way into the open arms of waiting family.

Ahhh ... the smell of home. Four years later, the mornings still smelled the same. An odd mixture of Chitale milk and pollution. I knew the wee one was too small to understand any of it. Mommy's home and her odd associations. But, I wanted her to see and absorb, as much as she could, even if she didn't comprehend. I think it comes naturally, once you are a parent and especially an immigrant one. However unfair it maybe, almost every parent I know, expects their progeny to love and take to things that they grew up loving. Be it sights that comfort, or odd smells that spell home -- all of it is fair game.
As, it turned out, I had inhaled in too much of the Mumbai morning. In a couple of days we were both sniffling and sneezing the whole house down. Ahhh ... home.

Between January and April, time pretty much flew by quickly. Three days before her first birthday, and five days after AM joined us, our daughter took her first steps in my in-laws' living room. Since then, she hasn't stopped running circles around us all. Of course, now that's behind us, and she's mastering a few words at a time, we are waiting for her to speak a complete sentence. Parent's and their expectations, what can I say?

The last three weeks of our vacation were a blur of gastrointestinal problems for me. (I know, I know, this is a food blog. But, this post is all about digressing and being all over the place). In between said problems, we did manage to sight-see a couple of places. Diarrhea or not ... I was going to make the most of this trip.
We visited Matheran, a first for me. Sick, or not, stomach -- more water than gut -- I was going. Growing up, my grandfather told me the most wonderful stories revolving around this small little hill-station of Maharashtra. Tales of lions, tigers, monkey's and snakes and brave shikaris, all mushed together like soft rice and dal, fed ever so lovingly. Some real, some a figment of his imagination -- it was an enchanting place for me. He'd promised me that he would take me there someday, but unfortunately he passed on before he and I ever got a chance. Then, it took me all these years to not be sad about visiting without him. It wasn't the best time, seasonally speaking, being dry and scorching hot. But, it was enough. All I wanted was to make a memory with my first-born, in a place that reminded me of the most unforgettable childhood stories. After all, this trip was all about keepsakes ...

To be continued ...

♣ Leena Maushi's Golden Dosas

One of the things I miss most about home is probably one of my favorite Udipi restaurants -- Vaishali on F.C. Road, that has graced the city of Pune since 1951. A substantial amount of my college life, and almost every second weekend has been spent in her warm embrace, but as hugs go, they are scarcely ever enough.
My mother and I have spent a considerable part of our lives trying to replicate their crisp, golden dosas at home. We've come to terms with the fact that, that will probably never happen. It's really like attempting to replicate your grandmother's signature dish.

So, when Mum's cousin Leena, told us about this recipe that turns out beautiful, crisp golden dosas, we had to give it a whirl. It's not Vaishali, but I think it's very close. The addition of pigeon peas (toor dal) give the dosas a lovely gilded hue, while the beaten rice lends them a perfect crunch.

You need:

3 cups rice (I used Sona Masuri)
1 cup urad dal (black gram)
1/2 cup toor dal (pigeon peas)
1/2 cup thick poha (Flattened/beaten rice)
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil


Mix in the fenugreek seeds with the toor dal, and soak in water overnight. Similarly, soak rice and urad dal in separate containers. The following morning, soak poha briefly in water to moisten it thoroughly. Then, grind everything separately to form a smooth batter. Mix together, spoon in salt to taste and add water to get a batter of pouring consistency. Leave it to ferment the entire day (eight hours minimum) in a warm place.

When you are ready to make dosas:

On a medium-flame, heat a non-stick pan or a well-oiled and seasoned cast-iron pan. While the pan warms, take a cup or so of cold water in a container, and mix in a tablespoon or so of salt, drop in a clean cloth rag and keep near the cook-top. Pour some cooking oil in a small bowl and place nearby as well.

Check the consistency of the batter, adding in more water if required. What we want is for the batter to fall in a smooth, steady stream.

Once the pan is hot, pour in a small teaspoon of oil, squeeze excess water from your cloth rag and quickly swab the pan with salted water. Using a round-bottomed ladle, pour in a ladleful of batter and in a swift, circular motion, form thin dosas. Pour in a few drops of oil around the edges and a few on top, cover with a lid (preferably something see-through) and let steam for a few minutes until the edges start to brown. Remove lid, and carefully lift an edge, sliding in the spatula until the entire dosa lifts easily. Fold it over carefully and transfer on to a wire-rack, and repeat the process to make remaining dosas. (If leftover, the batter stays well for a day or two). Enjoy piping hot with a variety of sides.