Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Sri Lalit “Achar”ya, Cheetal Resort, Madhai, Madhya Pradesh, 010219

March 26, 2019

When I went for the Bird Survey at the Satpura Tiger Reserve, in Madhya Pradesh,I stayed at the

Cheetal Resort at Madhai

It was a most impressive home stay, but apart from everything else, I spotted this sign:


Pickle and food research room! That intrigued me very much. Little did I know that I was going to get a course on Pickle Making 101 from Sri Lalit Khattar, who owns the resort!


At lunch, Lalit ji noticed me taking a lot of interest in, and relishing, the ginger, small-mango (“midi mAvinkAi” in Kannada or “mAvadu” in Tamizh) and date pickles


that Karthik Hegde gave me to try, and walked up, asking if I would like to know more, and see the Pickle Research room. I was delighted to agree!

A very instructive and interesting time followed as my friends Harish, Sharmila and I went with him. Here he is, with some of his pickle jars.


Lalitji says that pickles can be made from almost any vegetable or fruit.Properly made, he adds, the pickle has as long a life as the person who’s making it, and possibly longer!


Harish and Sharmila talk to Lalit ji

Some pickles, he says, need to be made with oil, and some without. Very few pickles need the constituent vegetable to be boiled or otherwise cooked beforehand. However, he cautions, the process must be very carefully followed.

Most Indian pickles (called “achAr” in Tamizh, it’s “oorugAi”, meaning, “soaked vegetables” and in Kannada the name is “uppinkAi” or “salted vegetables”) have condiments (a combination of various spices) added to them,stuffed or marinaded , to soak into the vegetable, fruit or flower, and add the unique taste. His research, he remarks, is to try various combinations of spices, and also vary the process of preparing the pickle, and to see what tastes the best, and lasts the longest.


Lalitji shows some of the “masAlA” (condiments) made to be added to the pickles.

His oldest pickle, that he showed us, was made with lemon…35 years ago! It still smelt heavenly!


These are pickles made with “kundru” (Coccinia grandis, the ivy gourd, or “tindOrA”) They were crunchy.

He had some very unusual pickles to show us, too. Here are pickles made from Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) flowers. I knew that they were used to make a potent liquor, but the pickles were something new.


He showed us a pickle made from Guava seeds, and mentioned how he’s made pickles with the seeds of the Tulsi (Basil) plant. “The cost of the seeds is about Rs.500 per kilo,” he said. “Oh, who buys it then?” I asked. “I don’t sell it!” was the reply. I make it for my own satisfaction and consumption.” Now that’s what I’d call a “consuming” passion for the pickle-making art!

Karthik Hegde, who manages the home stay, is an enthusiastic participant in the ongoing research. It was he who gave Lalit ji the recipe for the small-mango pickle…which was made perfectly, tasting absolutely authentic, from the small mangoes that grew on the trees in the homestay (which is also a farm in itself.) Here, Karthik and Lalit ji discuss the product and the process.


Storing the pickles properly is vital to the long shelf-life of the pickle, Lalit ji is quick to emphasize. But if stored properly, he adds, metal, glass, or plastic containers, anything can be used for storage. His room bore witness to his words.

Many tart substances, such as lemon or lime juice, or tamarind, can be used as a base for pickles. These, too, should be properly processed to ensure a good shelf-life. Tamarind itself can be a pickle! So can chillies, apart from being a component of the condiment, in the form of chilli powder, or added as green chillies to give heat to the pickle. Apparently, chillies, and their varieties, are a huge subject by themselves, in this art.

Some pickles need to be kept in the sun for a few days or weeks; some need to be stirred at regular intervals. Definitely, there needs to be an investment of patience, time, and dedicated effort in making these delectable additions to our Indian meals.

A pickle can be eaten with anything; whether it’s rOtis, nAn, rice or pulAo, just with curds (yoghurt)..or sometimes, as I did lip-smackingly with the date pickles.. all by itself!

I did want to discuss some of the short-life pickles I make (such as “menthiya mAngAi” or “puLi miLagAi”) but alas, the survey that we had come to do didn’t leave much time for discussion! So I mean to have a further chat the next time I go to Madhai..and meanwhile, let me confer the title of “AchAryA” (respected teacher, and a pun on the word “achAr”) on Sri Lalit Khattar!

Long may his research on this tasty part of Indian cuisine last. I have been savouring the wonderful date pickles that he told Karthik to gift me as I left (I saw it only when I returned home!) and think of the very interesting time I had with the “AchAryA”!

How food is cooked on a massive scale

March 28, 2017

Having seen for myself the deteriorating quality of food on trains on the Indian Railways, I watched this interesting documentary on IRCTC:

It’s rather long, watch only if you have the inclination and the time!

I couldn’t believe all the good food being prepared…why, I thought, do I never see phulkas or salads, even on the Rajdhani? And halfway through the film, the answer appeared. In response to complaints about the quality of food, the catering was take away from IRCTC itself (who then started concentrating on the corporate sector) and given to independent contractors who, I feel, are definitely running the catering service into the ground now. The video is still worth watching (as are several on how temple kitchens function) for the scale of food preparation.

Here’s one that’s also fascinating:

(Most temples in Karnataka provide food to the devotees who visit.)

Achari Baingan, St.Louis, 171013

October 17, 2013

How I followed this recipe (with some variations).

Today’s directions on the fridge board for me said, “D cook north Indian brinjal dish”

So I looked up

Tarla Dalal’s recipe


To be mixed into a marinade
2 tbsp ginger-garlic (adrak-lehsun) paste
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
salt to taste
1 tsp oil

Other ingredients
2 cups brinjals (baingan / eggplant), cut into 1″ cubes
oil for deep frying
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
1 tsp mustard seeds ( rai / sarson)
1 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/2 tsp asafoetida (hing)
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup sliced onions


1 tsp ginger-garlic (adrak-lehsun) paste
1 tsp chopped green chillies
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp dried mango powder (amchur)

I used a little tamarind as there is no amchur powder in the kitchen.

salt to taste
3/4 cup curds (dahi), whisked well
1/2 cup fresh cream

I left out the cream.

3 tbsp chopped coriander (dhania) for the garnish
Combine the brinjals with the prepared marinade and toss gently. Keep aside for 15 minutes.


Heat the oil in a kadhai and deep-fry the brinjals in it till they are golden brown. Keep aside.

I did not fry the brinjals, as it would have upped the calorie count steeply.

Combine the fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida in a small bowl and keep aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the above mixture.
When the seeds crackle, add the onions, ginger-garlic paste and green chillies and sauté till the onions turn translucent.


Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, Punjabi garam masala, dry mango powder and salt and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add the curds, fried brinjals and fresh cream and mix gently.


Cook for 3-4 minutes.


Garnish with coriander and serve hot with rice or rotis.

No…keep the garnish, and transfer to a nice glass bowl so that it can be microwaved and garnished later in the evening!


And what the recipes never mention…clean the stove, the pan in which you’ve cooked, the ladles, the cutting-board, and make sure the kitchen does not look as if you’ve cooked there at all! All this while a certain baby is crawling around underfoot, trying to climb up your leg!

A quiet, happy, peaceful, hard-working morning

August 20, 2013

I decided to make mooli (radish) parathas. Ofkose I didn’t photograph most of the donkey work…the grating of the mooli, the mixing with the spices, the draining of the mooli water, the kneading of the dough, and the rolling out the parathas…I’ve just photographed the parathas being cooked on the tava, with oil and a touch of ghee (lower that cholesterol!)

DSC06363  200813 mli prtha

The paratha-making task was considerably lightened by the appearance of Ms Northern Cardinal, in the Japanese Maple outside the window…

DSC06362 1 ms crdnl  200813 stl

I timed my work very well…just as I finished, two beady eyes peeped at me after the morning nap…

DSC06364 bda 200813

Just finished feeding him his rice and vegetables (a task that needs an octopus’ number of arms)…and he’s playing again, cooing like a demented pigeon, while I make this entry…I’m lucky to have such simple joys of life.

Love and mushrooms…

August 15, 2013

I went to the Farmers’ Market with my friends Divya and Chinmay, who’ve just arrived in St.Louis, with their son, Siddhartha. I love mushrooms, and I saw a nice lot of it there. But AM had told me they are not everyone else’s favourite, so…since I love my daughter, I came home without buying them

The next day, she came home from grocery shopping, and lo and behold, a box of mushrooms were in her hand…”These are for you, Amma, because you love them!” she said. I love mushrooms dearly, but I love my daughter even more….

So here are the mushrooms, getting sliced for the khumbh-matar that I made…

DSC05978 130813 stl mshrms

Here’s the matar part of the khumbh-matar:

DSC05979 130813 stl matar

Onion, tomato and ginger ground together and sauteed made the base for the dish.

DSC05980 130813 stl masala

The mushrooms and the peas were simmered together in this base, and it was a delicious dish…which passed into history almost immediately…the surprise fan being 2-year-old Siddhartha, who polished the last of it off while we were walking back from visiting the Zoo!

The pleasures of summer…Mango Pickles!

April 19, 2011

One of the pleasures of the summer is certainly….mangoes! From the most unripe to the most ripe, we can enjoy mangoes in a variety of ways…and with unripe mangoes, we can make a variety of pickles.

It suddenly occurred to me that right now, I’ve got three different mango pickles in my kitchen…all home-made!

When the mangoes are tiny, they are called (in Tamizh)…mA vadu. This particular pickle is made by a process where the juices of the tiny mangoes flow out with the salt in which they are soaked. With proper preparation and storage (and frequent “shaking up”), this pickle can last for a year or so. I no longer have the ceramic “jAdi” in which pickles are traditionally stored, but here’s my photo of “mAvadu”:

mAvadu 190411

When they are slightly larger, but yet without hard stones, mangoes can be chopped small, and made into “menthiya mAngAi”. This pickle also uses roasted and ground fenugreek seeds, as well as asafoetida. This pickle does not have a long life, but will keep in the fridge for a few days (the mango pieces lose their crunchiness after this.) Here’s menthiya mAngAi:

menthiya mAngAi 190411

Larger mangoes, with hard stones, cannot be cut at home, usually; the shopkeeper cuts them into largish pieces, and they are made into “AvakkAi”…a pickle that originates in the Andhra region. This, too, can keep for a year or so. Here’s AvakkAi:

Avakkai 190411

I also wanted to photograph the ripe Alphonso mangoes that KM had bought (the first and, alas, the most expensive, of the season!) but I realized that they were already eaten, too! Will wait for the next lot.

Indian/Italian/Jewish mother thing…

December 18, 2006

I seem to be waking up at about 5.30 am no matter where I am..and since we got back late last night and it is a Monday morning, I am now organizing packed lunch for DnA.

I am NOT one of your devoted,maternal mothers, and am NOT a “make-rice-just-so-perfect” cook, but I do enjoy providing nice cooked meals for my youngsters, and helping with their home tasks while I am here. Many Indian parents I know do help out a LOT, and I have heard a lot of resentful comments about parents becoming unpaid help when they are in the US. Well…as far as I am concerned…I do enjoy it a lot. I know how hectic the pace of life is here and since I have enough time to spare from my own activiites…several hours’ walk each day, internet, perhaps a half an hour of TV watching…I do enjoy the fact that in some small ways, my presence here is not an additional burden to them but is a help. But I suppose this is a two-way thing; DnA make it very clear that I am doing these little tasks of my own free will, and that they would carry on if I were not to do them. Indeed, my daughter is pretty prickly about my ever feeling that I am a unhired help! But the fact is, her kitchen is SO organized and handy, working is really enjoyable here…I do, however, like to get the cooking done and out of the way and then I enjoy the rest of the day with other activities. I enjoy planning about a day ahead.Tomorrow we run out of fresh vegetables, so I will see what happens!

It is strange…I thought I was NOT the typical Indian/Italian/Jewish mother sterotype…but I still find myself wanting to help out with the housweork, and more importantly, providing food….so I suppose it is in my genes and let me not fight it!

Anyone for sambar, eggplant subji, and rice? I could pack your dabbas…