THE TREE OF LIFE

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A coconut tree is once such tree where each and every part of the tree is useful.

The roots were used to make dyes, tooth brush, mouthwash and it also has medicinal values.

The leaves are used to make thatched roofs. Also used in making containers for storage. We store rice

The coconut water, we all love to drink. The thick, crisp, inner flesh of the mature seed is a regular ingredient in a diet for people in the tropics and subtropics.And from the same flesh of the mature seed oil is extracted, which is used for cooking and frying. Coconut milk is also made from the same, which is used to flavor different curries.

The coir from the fibrous husk is used in making a variety of furnishing products.

The coconut also has a religious and cultural significance in certain societies particularly in India

On this note I want to share some memories of a trip that I took to my village.

The part of India that I hail from Karawar in Karnataka is rich and luscious with coconut trees. Whenever I visit my maternal ancestral home the first thing that is served is fresh coconut water.

I went to Aversa a village  few kilometers away from Karwar where my ancestral home is in the rains. It was a trip that was planned on the spur of the moment. At 8:00 am in the morning I got a call from my uncle Balu kaka, saying I should attend the Nopi festival, which was a day away. So by 9:00 am I packed my bag and headed to the airport. Surprisingly I managed to get a ticket for the next flight and landed in Goa at 1:30 pm.

Found a local taxi that would take me straight to Aversa. It was a beautiful mesmerizing two, hour drive. Driving through the small winding roads and passing through quaint villages was so nostalgic. Finally reached Aversa and on seeing my entire family the fatigued of the travel just vanished.

As always Balu Kaka (uncle) went and plucked a coconut and served me fresh coconut water while the rest of the family was surprised to see me. Balu kaka and I decided to make it a surprise after her had convinced me to come. My parent, cousins, aunts and uncles were really happy that I came.

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The evening was spent well with family, we went for a long walk to our fields nearby and then returned home to see a sumptuous spread that my aunts and mum had made of fried fish, batatya talasni (sauté potatoes), dalitoi (dal made with ginger and chilles and laced with coconut oil) and rice. Nothing to beat a simple home cooked meal.

The next morning was even more fun. We all cousins had left for a town called Ankola at 6:00 am to buy the vegetables, coconuts, fruits and the rest of the ingredients that were going to be needed for the pooja the next day, where after the pooja the entire village is given a feast and so we had to go to the town to procure all the goods. All the ingredients and us cousins were loaded on a small truck back to Aversa, where the truck driver dropped us off to the village temple. The bumpy ride back home was fun but our bones were creaking too at some point.

My uncle who was the chef and in charge sorted the vegetables, fruits, flowers and over 100 coconuts and kept in their respective places. He was going through his lists and checking the stock and scribbling on small chits of papers assigning jobs for the prep.

After a while it was announced that I will be chopping vegetables along with other ladies of the village and then if time permits and my job done, I was also instructed that I would have to assist in making the garlands for the gods. These are anyways a few of my favorite jobs to do.

The menu for the next days lunch was a very elaborate and a traditional one of gajbajya randoi (a vegetable curry using gourds), muga molya randoi (sprouted mung curry), bhendi ghosalya upkari (okra and ridge gourd vegetable), dalitoi, rice, ambaya nonche (hog plum pickle), payasam (Kheera), kesar bhaat (saffron and sugar rice). The number of people eating would be 600, so one can imagine the kilos of vegetables to be chopped and the number of coconuts to be scraped, sounds tough but I was sure it would be fun.

In the afternoon after we returned home, the rest at home were relaxing in the courtyard sipping wine and vodkas and relishing freshly fried crisp mackerel that Balu kaka was frying and having a gala time. We joined in as well and had a wonderful afternoon where lunch went on till 4 pm till we finally one by one crashed in our beds for an afternoon siesta.

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After a cup of hot tea in the evening at around 7:00 pm we all assembled in the temple courtyard where the vegetables were washed and kept. We were 8 women who were on the job of chopping vegetables. As we were about to start one of them started singing hymns and the rest followed. I don’t know how to speak kanada very well so I was a silent observer enjoying it completely. By about 10:00 pm all the veggies were chopped and the coconuts were scraped and everything was neatly kept in a small room and locked.

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The next morning my uncle Gundu who was the chef woke up at 4:00 am and after a cold water bath at the well and headed to the temple kitchen with his team. So for this festival the cooking is done only by the males of the family, while the women get dressed in their fineries and head to the temple for the pooja.

So I along with the rest of the ladies at home, got ready in my fineries and went off to the temple and sat down to make the garlands.

The next few hours were just totally divine and mesmerizing. The melodious sounds of the mantras, the fragrance of the flowers, camphor and the incense sticks and the rain had simply put me in trance.

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By the time the pooja was over it was 1:30 pm and all the villager were queued up with their little offering of flowers, bananas and coconuts. After which they all moved to a hall where the food was going to be served. I too went along with my family, but to serve the lunch that was cooked by my uncle.

It was a long hall with a smooth slurry flooring where the banana leaves were placed in rows. One by one all the villagers sat down and washed their banana leaves with the water that was served for drinking. After that we all started to serve. First the pickles and salt was served followed by the dry vegetables and then the curries. Finally the rice and dal was served. After the priest finished saying some mantras aloud the people started eating. The system of serving was so well organized that I just didn’t imagine we had serve more than 600 people that afternoon. At the end my family and I sat and relished the meal to our hearts content.

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I returned home really tired but totally satisfied. This was indeed one of the best trips ever for me.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS… MEMORIES

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As a child, till I was a young adult, dad would take me to Sasson docks at Colaba every Sunday morning and mind you for me it was a very unearthly hour then 5:30 am: I would literally drag my feet and with a frown sit in the car and leave. Somehow I have never managed to sleep in a car, have never figured out the reason till today.

Well, with the windows down, the cool early morning breeze would be refreshing. All the way from Bandra to Colaba early in the morning, the drive would be peaceful. Back then the traffic was not that bad as its today. As we would be close to the dock the stench of the fish would just get into my head. We had a Fiat car and in the back seat of the car there would be two huge ice boxes kept.

The smell of the fish came in stronger as we went closer and I would gear myself for the mehem. Dad had a usual spot to park his car and then we would walk into the docks by 6:45 am and it would a crazy scene there. Loads and unimaginable loads of fish with the fishermen yelling on top of their voices while the auction was going on at every 10 feet was a crazy sight.

Dad would make me stand in one corner and then he would set out to buy the fish. After every ten to fifteen minutes he would be back with 10 huge pomfrets, 10 kgs of prawns, 6-7 surmai, mackerel and on the days he got lucky crabs, clams.

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So I was taken for these adventure trips every Sunday just to guard all the fish he would buy and then help him to arrange them in the ice box and in the boot which was well covered with plastic incase the water leaked!

After all this we would head back home and mum would be all ready with the breakfast of idli, sambar and chutney laid on the table. Every Sunday breakfast was the same. Those days microwave was a luxury so since we didn’t want to trouble her reheating the food again and again we all made it a point to eat our Sunday breakfast together and hear dad bragging about how cheap he got the fish and by the all these talks would on the phone with his younger brother who would lived in Goa and the next few minutes would go in who bought how much and for how much!! They still have the same conversation even today.

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After relishing the soft idlis and the robust sambar I would head for a shower and then off to play. While mum along with her house help Meera would clean all the fish and store it in a big deep freezer we had.

And the afternoon lunch would be a feast. Can you imagine the fish would last only for the week as my parents had a large social circle and their friends would come over very often and my mum was a superb host.

Today I went to the Malad wholesale market and saw the same craziness and chaos that I would experience as a child and missed my parents.Well I bought some clams, surmai and prawns and came home happy and proud of myself with the money I paid and called my dad and told him all what all I bought and for how much? On the other end of the phone I could sense my dad feeling happy

 

And so on this happy note, here is a recipe of the fish that I have fried for my son today.

5-6 slices surmai (you could use pomfret, ravas even prawns)

2 cups of fresh coriander chopped

5 kokums

6 cloves of garlic

1 ½ tbsp chilli powder

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp turmeric powder

Grind all the above to a fine paste using very little water.

Coat both sides with a thin layer of this above masala and marinate the fish for 15-20 minutes

Coat the fish with rava or semolina

Heat a pan with oil for shallow frying and once the oil is hot place the coated fish and fry till evenly crisp on both sides for 3 minutes each on a medium to a high flame and serve it hot.

Yug loves to have fried fish with sol kadi and steamed rice

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Chaitanya by The Walke’s

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Sometime back my friend KD mentioned about an eatery at Dadar, which serves the most amazing Malvani cuisine. A foodie that I am, I decided to visit this place called Chaitanya, which was highly recommended.

And so a drive from Andheri to Dadar was planned to enjoy dinner at this simple quaint eatery along with my friend Sheetal. At first it was a bit difficult to spot this place but after a few turns and returns and reverses I found it. Honestly it was not very difficult but I think “I” could not find it.

We walked into Chaitanya not expecting anything more than good food and service. It was a small place, done up very simply, where 7-8 simple tables with chairs were place in a row. The owner Surekha Walke sitting right at the entrance managing the counter. She seemed busy and as I walked in she just looked up through her spectacles and looked towards a boy wearing a white shirt and khakhi shorts with a napkin on his shoulder, suggesting him to seat us. We were seated on a table of 6 while we were just 2 of us while the eatery was almost empty. Sheetal and I took our seats and said hope KD is right about this place. Sometimes looks can be deceptive. The boy again came upto our table with a wet cloth and wiped it clean and in a hurry placed 2 steel galsses of water. From the way he was operating I realized this place must be usually busy.

So, after scrolling down through the menu, we decided to order our thalis without wasting any time. Sheetal ordered a fish thali while I the vegetarian option. We also ordered some extra dishes like fried crabs and Kaap (rava coated fried potatoes). The wait was not too long and what came on our table was simply outstanding.

So the fish thali had a fried pomfret, a surmai curry, sol kadi (kokum kadi) and rice bhakri (roti)

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My vegetarian thali was like a feast fit for the king. There was a kalya vatanyachi usal (black peas curry with the traditional malvani garam masala) bharli vangi (stuffed brinjal) methichi bhaji (fenugreek subzi), gavar (cluster beans), dal, chapatti and a very unusual dessert called the fruit khand (fruits mixed with homemade shrikhand).

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The food was truly wonderful. After such an amazing dinner the chef had to be complimented and so we walked to the counter and gave our compliments to Surekha tai (sister). She also had showcased a few masalas which she had kept on a rack to sell. I bought the fish fry masala which when I tried at home was indeed loved by all.

At the end of the day Sheetal and I both left like two happy souls. A) because the food was really delicious and B) it suited the pocket.

 

BARBEQUE TIME

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We are 9 couples in our building who are family to one another.Once in a few months my friends and I from the building plan a barbeque by the poolside. We all  await this day. The planning begins a week earlier. Each one of us has to get a dish to grill. Most of them are meat eaters but we also have a few vegetarians. Some of us get the meats and loads of vegetarian food is also planned which even the non – vegetarians love to relish.

It’s a fun day for all of us. We meet up around 12 noon and Allan our friend the barbeque specialist organizes the gazebo for us to sit, fans and the iceboxes to cool the drinks. The barbeque is placed in the corner and all set up to grill the food. We ladies dress up in our casual Sunday linens and hats while the men our in their shorts and tee shirts all geared up to grill.

Sophie is known for her potato salad. Some of us carry dips and chips. Gauri’s salads are amazing, fresh, light and crunchy. Trisha’s hummus is out of the world with the pita bread. By the way all this food is just to munch while the food is getting grilled. So you can imagine the amount and the variety of food that is there.

Usually the barbeques land up with loads of food, wine, gossip and fun. Some of us exchange recipes that have turned out really well. Some of us take a dip in the pool to cool ourselves. The children have fun in the water too and they come out of the pool for a bite and jump back in the pool again.

Allan, Abhinay both are superb at grilling. The way they come with the meat and the veggies grilled is awesome.

On one such afternoon Prakash our friend got drunk and went to the children’s pool and tried to get on the slide but unfortunately he got stuck on it and Abhinay had to push him really hard to get him off the slide. It was a sight. We were initially worried but then we all had a good laugh over it.

Loads of hulla gulla, food, chatting, laughing just wouldn’t realize how the day would end. But his blog cannot end without sharing some vegetarian recipes with you.

Here they come your way

 

STUFFED ZUCCHINI

INGREDIENTS

1 large zucchini cut into 2” thick rounds

1 packet button mushrooms cleaned and sliced finely

1 tsp garlic paste

½ tsp pepper powder

1 tbsp flour made into a paste

1 cup milk

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups of cheese

1 tbsp chilli flakes

Salt to taste

METHOD:

  1. Scoop the center of the zucchini leaving a thin layer at the bottom and blanch them
  2. Heat a pan and add the olive oil and add the garlic, and the mushrooms and sauté them till they are cook. Add the salt and mix well and keep aside
  • Heat the milk and add the butter, pepper powder, salt and the flour paste and boil to a sauce consistency and add the mushrooms to the sauce
  1. Stuff the sauce in the zucchini and sprinkle the cheese and the chilli flakes
  2. Grill in an oven or barbeque till the cheese has melted and serve hot

 

 

POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS

5 medium potatoes boiled peeled and diced

2 cups of hung curd

1 medium onion finely chopped

¼ cup cream

¼ tsp garlic paste

½ tsp pepper powder

1 medium stem of celery finely chopped

Salt to taste

METHOD:

  1. Besides the potatoes mix all the ingredients well and then add the potatoes and serve chillies on a warm day