Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Visit to Agra - the Taj Mahal

Our first view of Taj Mahal.....

One of the seven wonders of the world, Monument of Love, example of architectural brilliance...

Even taken on a simple camera with no expertise what so ever (by yours truly), it is still an awesome sight....

The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his favourite wife Arjumand Bano, known world-wide as Mumtaz Mahal. She died in 1631 while birthing her 14th child. In 1666, Shah Jahan was also laid to rest beside his beloved queen....

Besides being known as the most expensive monument of love, (it took 17 years for completion - till 1648, and 40 million rupees ), it is also known for the bilateral symmetry and the artistry of the artisans from India, Iran and Central Asia...

Made from Makrana marble of Rajasthan, it has a lot of inlay work done in the Pietra dura style .

The Taj has four minarets which look straight, but are slightly slanted outward so that in the unlikely event of an earthquake or such they do not collapse on the dome.

The main structure with the dome is as tall as it is wide, making it visually pleasing. All four sides of the Taj are identical.

The main entrance where the tombs of both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are represented. The actual tombs are on a lower level, and restricted to visitors.

Windows frames are carved entirely from the white marble.

The Marble inscribed with the Holy Quran and the lovely art marble inlay work known as 'Parchin Kari' or Pietra dura. The inlay is semi-precious stones like malachite.

....more of Pietra dura ..inlay work with yellow marble, black kadappa etc.
The back view... just as impressive

The makrana marble, despite it's density, has the quality of translucence. When light is shined on it, the marble is lit from within. In moonlight, the Taj and it's surroundings are supposed to look like paradise on earth.

It was a good trip.. more snaps to follow..

Friday, September 25, 2009

J'Adore tien Blog Award

A big thank you to Rita for thinking of me while passing on this award... She is a great artist and her creations are very cute and adorable. Do visit her blog rkdsign88 cute & fun arts . A big sorry to her too, for not posting this sooner... I was a bit tied up with a couple of fevers and birthdays :)

The rules area as usual

  1. Add the logo to your blog
  2. Link to the person who passed on the award
  3. Nominate blogs of your choice
  4. Leave a message on the nominee blogs
And so, my nominees are....

My Owl Barn - lovely Owl things - especially loved the cupcakes

365 Days of mine - interesting pics and a unique viewpoint

Gawd's Own Country - a pleasure to read and close to home

Cen's Loft - my day is not complete without a visit here

Ann's Snap Edit Scrap - Loaded with talent

Hot Rocks - exciting jewellery named after songs

Nancy's Arts Crafts and Favorites - Eclectic and interesting

Some of you may already have this award, but I wanted to pass on the award to these blogs anyway.

We are having a three day weekend due to the Navratri functions and have decided to go visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. So hopefully I will bring back loads of pictures of our trip ...Starting out tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Semiya payasam (Vermicelli pudding)

This is a pudding/ payasam I made some time back. Slightly different from the one I make normally.

Semiya/ vermicelli - 1 cup (roasted, or if not , lightly roast in 1 tsp ghee till golden brown)
Saboodana/ chowari/ sago - 1 tbsp
Water - 1 cup
Milk - 1 + 3 cups
Sugar - according to taste ( I used 1/2 cup because I do not like it very sweet)
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
Chironji seeds - 1 tbsp (lightly roast the seeds)

Cook the semiya and the sago in 1 cup water and 1 cup milk till the sago is mostly translucent. Now add the sugar, cardamom powder and the rest of the milk and bring to a boil. Add the choronji seeds . You may add cashews and raisins lightly fried in ghee (clarified butter) instead of the chironji seeds to make the traditional semiya payasam

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The last couple of days have been a bit tough...my daughter had a high fever the day before and temperature went as high as 103.2F... she lay listless, drinking a few sips of milk and water...we rushed her to the doc and were relieved to hear it was just normal fever...as is usual with her, as soon as we went to the doctor, her fever subsided..

Yesterday, it was fuss time..... demands for water, I had to carry her every second, if I sat down she was on my lap, and tears at every breath taken....!! needless to say, nothing got done, and dinner was home delivery from 'Mystic Punjab'...

By 10 PM, she was in high spirits and singing and dancing....while trying to sleep, she has a big routine of saying her prayers, then 'Good night, sweet dreams..' about 50 times to which both of us have to reciprocate, then 'mindathe kidakku' .. roughly translated as (keep silent and sleep), which is usually what I have to tell her a dozen times each night ... and finally, something new...a big hug and 'Ichunu amme ishtaayi' ...meaning 'Ichu likes amma'......

One hurdle over, thousands to come, the rewards just, and .....life is good ....Thankyou God...!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pear crumble with vanilla custard

I made mutton biryani for my husband's birthday since that is his absolute favourite. Since he is not very comfortable when I fuss about his big day, I decided to make a special dessert instead of cake... So finally, I came up with Pear Crumble..

I was actually searching for an apple crumble, but I had some great pears, so I just switched fruits..and there were so many variations of the recipe out there, that I just decided to go with a gut feel... It came out very well, but still, I think I have to tweak it a bit more, to make it even better...

So the recipe I am posting here is the revised version,

Pears - 3 large (peeled and cut into cubes)
Brown sugar - 2 tbsp
Water - 1 tsp
In a thick bottomed pan, add all the above ingredients and heat on a low fire till the water is gone and the sugar dissolves and coat the pears.

In a bowl put in
Oats - 1/2 cup
Flour - 1/2 cup (I used 3/4 of a cup, but have decided that is a bit too much)
Sugar - 2 tbsp
Baking powder - 1/4 tsp
Butter - 50 gms (cut into cubes - I used 100 gms of Amul butter, but it was a bit sticky instead of crumbly)

Rub all the ingredients together to make a crumbly mass. The crust was really thick, so in the revised version, I have reduced the amount of flour and butter.

Grease a baking dish, put the pears in and then the crumble should be layered on top and press it down. Sprinkle brown sugar on top. Preheat oven and bake at 180C for 25 to 30 minutes

Serve with.......

Chilled Vanilla Custard sauce

Egg yolk - 1
Cornflour - 1 tsp
Sugar - 2 tbsp

Beat well

Warm milk - 1 cup
Beat the mixture well again. Add 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence . Cook on a low fire, stir constantly until the mix is neither thin nor very thick. Refrigerate and serve with the pear crumble.

Everything tasted great, but the nicest thing was that as soon as my husband came home, our little one climbed up on his lap, rained him with kisses and informed him...'it is Acha's birdday '.... so we did underestimate her generosity after all...!!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Quiet time...

I am grabbing some quiet time while my darlings are asleep... It's my husband's birthday , so I had plans of making him a special card... but that was not to be, since my little one gets really upset if someone other that she, has a birthday...

Actually,... that is not true..! she loves to go to her friends' birthday parties, give them gift and sing and dance.. it doesn't matter to her if I accompany her to these either... she really has a grand time and sometimes I have to work really hard to bring her back home...

I guess she has decided that since she is the 'baby' only she is supposed to have a birthday at home...!!! Yesterday, as soon as I mentioned about a card for her dad, she made a long, sad face and said.. 'ithunte birday theventh duly..kazhinju' ...(Ichu's birthday is on 7th July ...it's over...) .

When her dad came home, she told me while I was opening the door..".Acha's a naughty boy, Mamma "...a little later I found out that naughty 'boys' do not have b'days or cakes ...!!

So I guess the b'day boy and I will be singing 'Happy Birthday to Ichu'...tonight....... :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Olan/I shtu - stewed lentils and veggies in coconut milk

This is yet another member of a Kerala sadya. But unlike a few of it's counterparts, the main ingredients in Olan usually are very varied...

It is a very simple, yet very very tasty dish to make. Another dish that would be agreeable to most people who are used to totally different cuisines than ours. This one can also be used as a side-dish for rotis or chappatis.

Red lentils / vanpayar- soak overnight or for 4 to 6 hours
Coconut milk - Ist extract , and 2nd extract
This means that the first thicker and creamier extract should be kept separate and then add water to the coconut to get another thinner extract. In case you use the coconut milk powder , 1 tbsp to 1 glass of water for the 2nd extract and 1 tbsp to a little less than half a glass of water for the 1st.

Potatoes - 3 medium (peeled, washed, cut into cubes)

Ash pumpkin/ kumbalanga - 100 gm slice (peeled, washed and cubed)

Green chillies - 5 to 6

Turmeric powder- a pinch

Onion - 1 (peeled and sliced lenghtwise)

Add all the ingredients except the 1st extract of coconut milk in the pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles. Once the steam escapes, switch the stove back on, if gravy is watery, reduce it by evaporating. Now add salt to taste. Finally, add the 1st extract of coconut milk and then add a tsp of cooking oil and curry leaves. Be careful to put off the stove before it boils. Thick coconut milk curdles when boiled.


Instead of adding onions in the beginning, chope shallots, fry in oil and add last.

Instead of red lentils substitute a tomato.. the taste will be very different.

Carrots and green peas with potatoes instead of lentils and pumpkin make another interesting curry. A half teaspoon of crushed pepper enhances the taste.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ulli curry

I have no pictures of the entire feast this year.. I was a bit busy to take the snaps before my guests arrived and I did not want to focus on the food while there were others present.

I made Parippum neyyum, Ulli curry, Sambar, cabbage thoran, kaay mezhukkupuratti, kaalan, Olan and Gothambu paayasam.

The biggest hit of all was the Ulli curry . My grandma used to make this to make me eat my daily idlis.. so I thought it was high time I tried to make this. It was a great substitute for the normal inji curry.

Cheriya ulli (shallots) - 250 gms, peeled and cut into rounds
Green chillies - 4 to 5 sliced round

Heat oil, about 1 tbsp temper with
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Dried red chillies - 2 to 3
Curry leaves.

Now add the shallots and green chillies and fry till the ulli is nearly golden brown. keep aside.

Tamarind - 2 lemon-sized portions - extract the pulp

The liquid should be about 2 glasses. To this, add

Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tbsp
Asafoetida powder - a pinch
Salt to taste

Mix everything with the tamarind pulp and bring to a boil..let the liquid reduce to about half the quantity. Add the ulli and green chillies and boil well. Finally add a spoon of jaggery or 1 tsp of sugar.

This is a great side dish for dosas, idlis or rice with curd.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Onam, Thiruvathira Kali and Ammamma

Every Onam celebration in Kerala or anywhere else for that matter, is incomplete without the beautiful 'Thiruvathirakali'... I love watching it, but I have never taken part in the dance so far...however, my Ammamma (mom's mother) was a specialist in this dance, as I found out more than a decade and half ago....

During one of my Onam vacations, I overheard my grandma sing this beautiful thiruvathira song.. it was not one that I had ever heard before, but it caught my attention because it was about Krishna and Kaliyamardana (Krishna killing the evil serpent Kaliya)... she could not remember all the lines, so within the next half-hour, we set off, with a book and a pencil... I had no idea where we were going, but it was a journey of discovery for me...!!!

We walked to a house that I had never been to before..(Ammamma did not go to too many places without us) ...she told me it was the home of one of her friends and that she had been living elsewhere and had come home this Onam.. she hollered from the verandah and her friend came out... a very elegant lady with snow-white hair. The friends started talking and at first I did not pay attention... then as Ammamma was asking the other lady named Manka if she remembered the lines of that particular song, I began to listen... they had become friends while learning Thriuvathira kali from the same teacher. All of them teenagers, aged between 12 to 18..and there were 21 of them. Girls of marriagable age considered this an asset in their repertoire of skills in those days. Finally, when the class was dispersed, all of them collected a rupee each and bought a Gold sovereign for their teacher. Imagine... a gold sovereign for 21 rupees ...!!!

While they were trying to remember the song, another friend dropped in...this lady was called Bhargavi, and I had met her on numerous occasions...though this was the first time I was told that she was also one of the 21 girls... of the three of them, my grandma was the youngest and it was mind-boggling to watch her being treated like a kid by the others...!!! while they sat reminiscing, I was trying hard to imagine them as young girls dressed in long skirts and half-sarees...

The dresses were a breeze, but the best I could do was give them all black hair... their wrinkled skins, grins with missing teeth, and lightly stooped bodies were a bit difficult... so I gave up...!!!

Finally, the three of them pieced together one song and came up with lines of four other songs.. I wrote it all down ... I lost that book a few years back, had memorized the song earlier ... I will post the song another day, just in case I do forget in the future ...

All three friends have passed on, but anytime I hear a thiruvathira song, I remember those three 'girls' and the great afternoon I spent with them.

The photograph was taken from the net.