Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Urulaikizhangu Podimas - Potato Lime Curry

URULAI KIZHANGU PODIMAS

Potato Lime Curry

One of the most common and all time favourite curry in South India, our blog would be incomplete without a post on the simple Urulaikizhangu Podimas. This post is also for my daughter’s friend who says that she lives in ‘white bread country’, and has no access to these dishes, unless she tries cooking herself!

The literal meaning of podimas is ‘mash’. Urulaikizhangu podimas is the name given to mashed potatoes. Indian kitchens are always equipped to convert any bland dish into a very tasty delicacy with just a dash of the right spices, and mashed potatoes are quickly transformed into this delicious and versatile curry.

My children loved to eat urulaikizhangu podimas curry rolled in chapattis during their tea breaks at school. It also makes delicious filling for sandwich toasts. Combined with a scoop of sautéed onions it becomes an irresistible filling for the masala dosas. It goes very well as a side dish with poories, and although an unusual combination, it goes very well even with the hot spicy bisibele bath!

This very same curry goes into the making of the famous potato buns baked at all Iyengar bakeries as well. Whenever I visit my close friend she welcomes me with a plateful of potato buns which is her ever favourite dish. We chat and chat for very long hours while the quartered potato buns add spice to our conversation!
INGREDIENTS:
Potatoes – 6 medium size
Lime – 2
Salt – 2 level tsps
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Cooking oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Black gram dal (Urad dal) – 1 tsp
Bengal gram dal (Channa Dal) – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Curry leaves – a few
Chopped Green chillies – 3
Coriander leaves – a little
METHOD:
1. Wash and cook the potatoes in the pressure cooker. Or you can boil it until it is soft and can be easily mashed.
2. Once the potatoes cool down, remove the peels.
3. Crumble the potatoes one by one by, by gently pressing it between the palm and the thumb.
4. Potatoes should not become mushy, and neither should there be very large lumps.
5. Extract the juice of the lime, and add salt and turmeric powder and keep it aside.
6. Heat oil in a pan and the mustard seeds.
7. When it splutters add the dals and fry till they are golden in colour.
8. Add asafoetida and the chopped green chillies.
9. Add curry leaves, followed by the lime juice, salt and turmeric mixture.
10. Stir once and switch off flame immediately. This is done to remove any raw smell from the turmeric. Be careful to switch off within a second, as prolonged heating will make the lime juice bitter!
11. Now add the crumbled potatoes and blend with all the seasoning.
12. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Enjoy the urulaikizhangu podimas curry in any of the combinations you like.

This post goes to FIC Yellow event at Tongue Ticklers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Click Red - Cocktail Garnish

Half a holiday, over 100 snaps, battery recharged twice, wasted chillies, a missed lunch and heaps of frustration! I did not send in any of these attempts for the event.
I finally settled on this snap that I had clicked 'just like that' some time ago, for the recipe here. So here goes our entry - Cocktail Garnish - for Click Red 2009


Friday, January 23, 2009

Maddur Vadai - A fried snack from Maddur

Maddur Vadai

In the 1940 – 50s, my grand father was employed in the Southern railways. Adorned in kakhi half trousers, a well pressed full sleeves shirt, brown belt and brown boots, stockings pulled up to the knee, and a hard bonnet like hat he looked every inch like a star from the western movies He was a very handsome old man with his bright set of real pearly teeth and an immaculate smile. As a child, I enjoyed traveling with him in the trains and felt very proud when all and sundry greeted my grandfather with great respect. Our family of six enjoyed the privacy of the first class compartment, and grand father never forgot to buy us the idly and maddur vadai parcels as soon as our steam engine pulled up into the Maddur railway station. The aroma of Maddur vadai filled the compartment even before we could unwrap the parcel made of news paper lined with dried muttugada yelae (a dried leaf which is used to wrap food). I still can not forget the aroma and the heavenly feeling which I experienced when the hot Maddur Vadai melted in my mouth .

My father too, never forgot to take a diversion to the Maddur Railway Station hotel to get a parcel of the vadais when ever he drove to or from Mysore. Later when the popular eatery - Maddur Tiffanys came into existence, we had an easy royal access to the Maddur Vadais right on the side of the high way. It has been 55 years since I started relishing Maddur Vadais. Yet I feel that nothing can beat the taste of the vadais, which grand father bought for us. I used to wonder with horror when my uncle teasingly said that the vadais I ate, were prepared out of engine oil and hence the taste!

There are various recipes with different proportions of the ingredients to make Maddur Vadais. Dibs has prepared the vadais with her version of ingredients and she said it turned out very well and melted in the mouth as it should do. I missed the taste but at least contented with the look of the virtual Maddur Vadais, which has brought out the old memories from my heart.
- Chitra



Ingredients
Fine chopped onions – 1 cup
Chopped Green Chillies – 2
Curry Leaves – a few
Cashew nut – 6 pieces broken into pieces
Plain unbleached flour or maida – 1 tbs
Rice flour – 2.5 tbs
Semolina (rava) – ½ cup
Salt – ¾ tsp or to taste
Unsalted Butter – 1 tbs (about 15 grams)
Sufficient Oil for deep frying

Method
1. Mix onions, green chillies, curry leaves and cashew nuts in a large bowl
2. Add plain flour and rice flour and salt.
3. Next , add the semolina and toss everything together.
4. The butter should be straight out of the fridge, and not soft. Cut it into pieces and add it to the mixture.
5. Combine the butter with the ingredients, such that the mixture resembles bread crumbs. (If you are using salted butter, adjust the amount of salt you add in step 2 accordingly)
6. Now add just ½ tsp of water and combine everything into a smooth dough. Be careful, while adding water and add drop by drop – as even a drop of extra water will make the vada mixture dilute in seconds!
7. Heat oil in a pan.
8. Take a lump of batter and shape it like a ball. Then flatten it to about ½ cm thickness, and drop it into the oil. Wait until the vadai is firm, and then turn the side.
9. Fry until reddish brown and place it on a paper towel, to absorb any excess oil.


Note:I tried this vadai for the first time, and it was a little softer than the original Maddur Vadai! However its tasted superb. The next time I will probably avoid butter and use heated oil! While the butter makes the vadai very yummy, it made it very heavy too!

- Dibs
***

I am updating this to send to the Just For You event at Sindhi Rasoi! It was just for my mom, aunt to remember their grandfather (my great grand father!), and of course, I really made this for my hubby who had never heard of this vadai before!
- Dibs

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blog Birthday and Announcing the 'Kitchen Masterpiece' Event

Blog Birthday and Announcing the 'Kitchen Masterpiece' Event
It is a year since my daughter, Dibs, goaded me into publishing a recipe blog. Since I was a novice in the field of computer technology, I hesitated a lot to get down to it, and there were many apprehensions. She persuaded me by saying she would create the Chitra Amma’s Kitchen blog, and publish all the posts, until I felt comfortable enough doing it myself. Since then, there was no looking back, (although she still continues to do all the posting!) Thanks to all my fellow bloggers, this blog is celebrating its first anniversary on 19th January 2009! We decided to celebrate the anniversary by announcing an event. What better way to celebrate than with Food, Art and Craft our all time favourite hobbies!

What can be submitted?
Create any form of art or craft, made of either raw or cooked food products. Since this is a veggy blog, please use only vegetarian items. Examples include vegetable carvings, sugar craft, coconut carvings, ginger bread men and so on. It does not matter whether your masterpiece is eatable or not! For example a kolam made of rice flour, or a rangoli made of raw grains cannot be eaten, but are most welcome for the event! None of us are Picassos or Ravi Vermas (or maybe few of you are!), so please don’t hesitate in taking part! Blog about your art or craft work, and include pictures or videos of your masterpiece. Write about how you made it, what inspired you and so on kin your post.

The Kitchen Masterpiece Logo
This logo comes from a masterpiece that was made by my bright little granddaughter Dhrithi, who is all of seven years old. It is a fairy made from dosa! She made me make the dosa, and then did all the decoration! You can see more art work, poems and essays by Dhrithi here!

Prizes!
Prizes are really exciting aren't they? We were thinking about making this a contest - but then who are we, or anybody else for that matter, to judge your masterpieces! Every work of art is an outlet for creativity, and brings joy and positive emotions to the artist and to others. So instead of a contest we decided to do a lucky draw with names of all participants. A few lucky folks will get some nice gifts! Once we have the lucky winners, we will announce the results on the blog during the round up, and let you know by mail as well.

What do you need to do?
- Make a fresh and independent post on your blog. Link back to this event in Chitra Amma's Kitchen. We’d be happy if you used the logo, but it is optional!

- Ensure that your entries do not violate any copyright laws.

- Drop us a mail with a link to your post at chitra.ammas.kitchen@gmail.com or chitra(dot)ammas(dot)kitchen(dot)com, with the following details.
Your Name:
Name of your post:
URL / Link:
You need not send any details or photos, as we will directly pick it up from your post.

- You may send as many entries as you wish.

- In case you do not have a blog, you are still welcome to participate. You can simply send your entries to our e-mail address at chitra-ammas-kitchen@gmail.com or chitra(dash)ammas(dash)kitchen(dot)com.

- This event is open till 19th February '09, midnight, Sydney, Australia Time (so those in the West actually get almost a day in addition!). The round up will be posted a few days later.

- Feel free to contact us via mail or in the comments section if you have any questions.

So get the creative juices flowing, and we really look forward to seeing your Masterpieces!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Red Rice Ragi Muddae - Red Rice and Finger Millet Balls

RED RICE RAGI MUDDAE

A dish that is invariably prepared during Avare season is Ragi Muddae. English translations of regional dishes pose all of us bloggers a problem, and often give hilarious results! Ragi is known as Finger Millet or African Millet, and that sounds decent enough. Muddae translates to a lump or Ball!! So there you go – Ragi Muddae – or – African Millet Lump or Finger Millet Ball!

This is a dish that you will love or hate; let us just say it is an acquired taste! Many cannot understand what is there to like in a mass of cooked flour, but one can surely appreciate the nutritive qualities and benefits to health. Among other good qualities Ragi stands out for its Calcium Content. As a comparison-- as little as 100grams of Ragi contains 344 mg of Calcium, while same quantity of rice contains 9 mg only. One ragi muddae, taken along with raw onions and a green chilly can keep one satiated and going till long hours of toil, and therefore a staple dish for farmers. Ragi can also be used to make porridges dosa, rottis with salt and even baby food.

We are great fans of Ragi, and land up making muddae or rotti quite often along with Avare Kaalu Sambar. The combination is simply mind blowing. The Sambhar can be prepared in the same manner as the Chinna Vengaya Sambhar, by using Avare Kalu instead of Onion.

Mother prepared ragi muddae once a week since all of us had taken a liking to it. We loved to form a dimple in the centre of the muddae which could hold a teaspoon of home made ghee. Mother usually added a scoop of rice while cooking the muddae. This gave the muddae a good chewy texture and we never had the unpleasant experience of swallowing a gooey mash.

I have tried to make the muddae more nutritious by using broken red rice and here is the recipe. Red rice is supposed to have more protein, fibre and calcium than white rice. It is said to lower cholesterol as well.

INGREDIENTS:
Plain Ragi flour – 2 cups
Pressure cooked broken red rice – ½ cup
Cooking oil – 1 tbsp
Salt -1 /2 tsp
Water – 2 cups METHOD:
1. Heat water in a thick bottomed pan.
2. Add salt and oil to it.
3. Add the cooked rice, and allow to boil.
4. Add the ragi flour and cover with lid and cook for two or three minutes.
5. The flour at the bottom of the vessel would have cooked by this time.
6. Now quickly stir the dry flour standing on the top and swirl everything together into a big mass.
7. Cover and cook for half a minute more and turn off the flame.
8. Dip your hands in cold water and take a ladleful of the cooked flour, and quickly shape it into a roundel or muddae. The flour is very hot, so you must do this quickly; else you can burn your hand!

TIP: You can also shape hot ragi flour by taking a ladle full on a clean wet cotton or muslin cloth. Hold the cloth on either sides and toss the flour around in the center. This way you can get a round shape, without handling hot flour!

Relish it with onion salad and Avare Kaalu Sambar and of course with a dollop of ghee.
My grand children like the taste of muddae but they get put off by the look and size. Hence I shape the cooked muddae into marble size balls as shown in the picture and float them in a soup bowl of sambar. They are highly thrilled about this ‘five star’ service!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Simple Hituku Bele and a Visit to the Avare Bele Mela!

Simple Hituku Bele and a Visit to the Avare Kai Mela!

I have already blogged about Avare Kaalu (or Hyacinth / Lilva / Navy Bean??) in this post a few days back. Here is yet another Avare post, to share the excitement of the Mela (Festival) in Bangalore, as well as a very simple and tasty dal (lentil) we have at home.

My experiences of Melas in general – whether it’s the village Santhai at Valiapatti, or the Farmer’s Market at Portland, are a flood of stalls and vendors spread out in large open areas! So little did I imagine that the famous Avarekai Mela at Bangalore, would be confined to a mere crowded shop at Sajjan Raw Circle, and few pavement sellers! My initial disappointment was quickly replaced by excitement, as I entered the shop with my husband and Yosee. As we wended our way through the avaricious crowds, we could glimpse through the multitudes of preparations, packed and stacked in rows and rows of shelves. Nipattu, Chakli, Mixture, Avalakki, Ladoos, Chikkis, and many more snacks were available, where avare bele was liberally thrown in.




The spicy fried avare bele was the only chaste avare preparation, as it was not corrupted with any other ingredient. Avare Kai enthusiasts seemed to be pouring in on and on but no one seemed to leave at all. As the crowd kept swelling, we came out of the shop after a few purchases. There were chefs cooking a dozen dosas at a time on large tavas on the one side and efficient hands were rolling out delicious obbattus on the other side. Hot Uppittus and even Bhel Puri was being sold. The flavoursome Avarekai Saru accompanied the hot hot dosas' which were embedded with cooked avare bele and minced onions. Masala Vadais were also selling like hot potatoes, or should I say, like avare beles! The unusual sweet Avarekai Payasa was another attraction for children.

My husband who is the honorary photographer for the blog went bersek with so many Avare Kai dishes around him. He alternated between buying and clicking and finally we made our way to Yosee’s place, fully loaded with parcels of Avare Kai dishes. After enjoying a buffet tea of the dishes, we thankfully washed it down with a hot cup of filter coffee offered by Yosee. Back at home as we sat loading the pictures into the computer, a sense of fulfillment over took us.

HITUKU BELE or SQUEEZED OUT AVARE BEANS



I have shared what is ‘Hituku Bele’ and how the beans are squeezed out of their membraneous skins in the earlier post here. Lakshmi shares the technique here. Squeezed Beans are readily available as well, if you want to skip this laboursome task.

INGREDIENTS:
Hituku bele - 2 cups
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
Asafoetida powder – 1 pinch
Salt – ½ tsp
Juice of one lime
Oil – 2 tsps
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Green chillies - 2
Fresh coriander leaves – a few

METHOD:
1. Boil two cups of water in a wide pan and add the lentil.
2. Add turmeric powder and asafoetida and cook till tender but not mushy.
3. When the bele is cooking, mash one portion of the bele with the back of the ladle inside the cooking pan..
4. This will give a consistency to the bele.
5. Stir well and add salt and cook for two more minutes.
6. Blend in the lime juice and switch off flame.
7. Heat oil and add mustard seeds.
8. After it splutters add the chopped green chillies.
9. Pour the seasoning on the dal
10. Garnish with fresh corriander.

Relish the simple, light and delicious hituku bele with rice or rotis.

This post goes to Srivalli's My Legume Love Affair-7th helping. My Legume Love Affair was started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.

***

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ananda Tandava,The Tao of Physics, and Thiruvadirai Kali

Ananda Tandava,The Tao of Physics, and Thiruvadirai Kali

The month of Margazhi (Tamil Calendar) or the Dhanur masa is dawn in Heaven, and the day breaks for its celestial inmates. Waking up the omnipresent Lord every morning by chanting the Suprabatha (Good morning!) is a very exhilarating experience for a staunch devotee. Since Margazhi is dawn to the Lord, praying and chanting during this month acquires greater religious fervour.

Lord Sri Narayana opens the doors of his abode Vaikunta for his devotees and blesses them on Vaikunta Ekadashi day. Similarly, on the day when the star Adhirai (or Arudhra) falls on the full moon day of the Margazhi Masam, Lord Shiva blesses his devotees with his blissful Cosmic Dance performance - the Dance which creates, sustains and destroys the entire universe. Thiruvadhirai is supposed to be the birth day of the Lord who is beyond births and deaths. Fritjof Capra draws a parallel between Shiva’s Ananda Tandava (Blissful dance) and the dance of the sub atomic particles in his book – The Tao of Physics, which was published in 1975. It explains the very faint line between modern physics and the age old mysticism. Therefore whether you are a scientist or a mystic, whether you are a theist or an atheist, Thiruvadirai is the day to celebrate Lord Shiva’s Cosmic Dance.

On Thiruvadirai day, we wake up early in the morning and offer our prayers to Lord Shiva. A sweet dish – Thiruvadirai Kali – is prepared and offered to the Lord along with Yezhu Kari Koottu, which is prepared with all the vegetables which are harvested during the season.

THIRUVADIRAI KALI
INGREDIENTS:
Rice – 1 cup
Jaggery – 1 cup
Cardamom – 4
Cashew nuts – 10
Raisins – a few
Ghee – 4 tbsps
METHOD:
1. Dry roast rice until it becomes pink in colour.
2. Dry grind the roasted rice till it becomes like fine semolina.
3. Dissolve jaggery in 3 cups of water and add 1 tbsp of ghee.
4. Bring the jaggery water to a boil, and add the roasted and broken rice.
5. Stir well and cook until it becomes a lump.
6. Add 3 tbsps of ghee and blend well.
7. Heat the remaining ghee in a ladle, and fry the cashew nuts to a golden colour.
8. Add the raisins and fry till they bloat, and add to the prepared Kali.
9. Mix in the cardamom powder and offer it to the Lord.

Relish the hot prasadam with a dollop of butter, and Yezhu Kari Koottu on a cold Margazhi morning. The recipe for Yezhu Kari Koottu is given here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Avare Kaalu Kurma

AVARE KAALU KURMA

It is raining Avare Kai in Bangalore! Pardon us for not providing the correct English name for Avare Kai. We tried net searching and found various names including field beans, lilva beans, hyacinth beans, navy beans and so on, but they seem to be used interchangeably with a number of varieties of beans! Avare Kai is called Mochai Kai in Tamil. The pods are removed, and the beans that are used in cooking are called Avare Kaalu or Mochai Kottai.


Most of us - Avare Kai Foodies - are eating, breathing and living Avare kai during this season. The flavoursome bean is grown around Bengalooru, and is ingrained in the food culture of Kannadigas since time unknown. As per legend, during his hunting expedition, a tired and hungry king was welcomed and served a meal of boiled beans by a poor old lady. Touched by the lady’s hospitality, the happy and contented king named the place after the delicious boiled beans as Benda-kaal-ooru literally meaning city of boiled beans. The present name of the metro city Bengalooru is believed to be the derivative of the above name. It was anglicized by the British to Bangalore, and has now again reverted to Bengalooru! Whether this is the real story of Bengalooru got its name is uncertain. Here is an interesting write up with other stories as well!

The yearly Avare Bele Mela, has commenced with all its star studded pomp and festivity. The entire venue at Bangalore's Sajjan Rao Circle, looks fresh and green, and the atmosphere is filled with the unique aroma of the beans. Sri Vasavi Condiments, is the shop which hosts the mela and offers hoards of huge varieties of eatables, sweet and savoury, prepared from avare kai. A true Avare Kai buff never chooses, but grabs all the varieties offered and craves for more!

Mother-in-law was a real Avare Kai fan and she would buy sacks full of them during her marketing stints. The old Kariappa after tending to the cows, would sit down with a mountain of Avare Kais in front of him, to remove the beans from the pods. We used the cooked beans in dosas, idlies, uppittus, rottis, sambars and usilis. Hituku Bele, literally meaning squeezed beans, is used to make a special dal. Avare Kaalu are soaked for about 6 to 10 hours, and then , each bean is squeezed out of its thin membraneous skin, one by one! Although it was a time consuming task, it was worth the wait for the delicacy prepared by my mother-in-law with great expertise.

Now a days we get Hituku bele or already squeezed beans in the horticultural societies. The fun of running behind and picking up the naughty lentils that leaped far, when squeezed out of their jackets is totally lost!

The Kurma below does not need Hituku bele, and can be made with just the Avare Kaalu. I will be sharing the recipe of Hituku bele dal as we make it in the next post!

AVARE KAALU KURMA
INGREDIENTS:
Avarekaalu – 2 cups
Curd – ½ cup
Salt – 2 tsps
Fresh Corriander leaves - 2 tbsp
Finely chopped tomatoes – optional for garnishing.
For Seasoning
Cooking oil – 2 tbsp
Finely chopped onion – ¼ cup
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Bengal gram dal – 1 tsp
Cashew nuts – 10
Curry leaves – a few
For Kurma Masala Paste
Grind the following ingredients to a fine paste:
Fresh grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Coriander seeds – 2 tbsps
Garlic – 4 pods
Fresh ginger – 1’’
Cloves – 6
Sambar powder – 1 tsp (or green chillies – 2)
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Cumin seeds – ¼ tsp
Cashew nuts – 10
Soaked Poppy seeds – 1 tbsp (optional)

METHOD:
1. Boil avarekai until tender and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
3. When it splutters add Bengal gram dal and fry till golden in colour.
4. Add cashew nuts and roast till golden in colour.
5. Add the chopped onion and curry leaves and cook till the onion is glassy. .
6. Now add the ground kurma masala paste and fry it, until the oil separates out.
7. Add the cooked beans, a cup of water and salt and cook.
8. Blend in the curd and cook for a few more minutes.
9. Garnish with fresh coriander and finely chopped tomatoes.
Enjoy the hot kurma with poories, chapaties or ghee rice!

My children loved to carry ghee rice and avarekai kurma to the Drive-in theatre, and relished it as they watched the Hindi masala movies on the large screen. If it was Friday evening, then Drive-in was the favorite outing, as the movies changed every Friday! If it was Drive in it, then we had to carry Avarekaalu kurma and ghee rice. This habit had become a family "ritual" for almost a decade, until Drive-in was shut down to make way for a large Shopping Mall!
This post goes to Srivalli's My Legume Love Affair-7th helping. My Legume Love Affair was started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Eve at Sydney

New Year's Eve at Sydney!

Wish you a very Happy 2009! This post is not about food, and does not have my mother’s delicious recipes! However, I had to blog this…

A week ago, my new boss asked me if I was going to the harbour on New Year’s Eve. I suddenly woke up to the fact that we were in Sydney, the first part of the world to see 2009, and the city which offers the world famous Harbour Bridge fireworks display! With last minute scrambling we found all the ticketed events on and around the harbour were sold out. Anyway, neither that nor the fact that 1.5 million people attend this event and we would have to brave the crowds at the free vantage points, deter us from experiencing the spectacle live.

Armed with sunglasses, caps and a huge bottle of water, a few friends, hubby and I set off as early as 2:00pm to get hold of a good spot. The Town Hall station and all the roads to the harbour had become an ocean of people. After plodding along in the queue, we finally reached the Opera House area. Families had already parked themselves in every visible inch of space, with blankets, foldable chairs, large picnic hampers, umbrellas, radios, playing cards, guitars and some had even pitched their camping tents! We found a fast disappearing spot between three families and a flight of stairs and quickly pitched ourselves for 9 hour wait to 2009. The afternoon summer sun shone away fiercely with Vitamin D and UV rays fighting for supremacy to get under our skins! We did not feel the wait, as we watched various people and their antics. A boisterous college crowd from Taiwan waving their flag and yelling non-stop;school girls deciding which party tops to wear just before the fireworks; wild looking guys sporting pink hair and scary tattoos; girls dancing away while waiting in the queue to the ladies room; a family of 3 generations that stuck shiny pink stars all over each others faces in all seriousness; good old desi families from north, south, east and west carrying huge umbrellas and picnic hampers. On the terrace of the Opera house – elite folks waved even while sweating it out in their formal evening dresses and tuxedos. Every boat or helicopter that went by would trigger a cheer from the crowd. The Security group had happily hogged the best spot on a flight of stairs.. and not to forget, the small old wrinkled man nearby, who had secured a place right in the front, had a beer and then happily slept soundly throughout the entire din till midnight!


As the evening set in, there were aerial shows with the entire crowd trying to guess what was being spelt out across the sky as each smoke alphabet appeared. Smoke trails of advertisers spanned the sky. The sun finally set and at last there was some respite with a small ocean breeze. Coloured projections on either sides of the Sydney Bridge began welcoming the crowd to Sydney in multiple languages. At 9 PM, there was a count down and then the horizon burst into a riot of multicolored fireworks. The mini Family Fireworks had begun. As each flare sailed up and bloomed in the sky the crowds cheered, hooted and whistled in appreciation. This brief display only whetted the appetite for more. As the last fire balls died out we noticed an illuminated whale making its way slowly around the dark waters. We then saw another large fish, and was that a rose? And then suddenly a ghost ship too! Watching these mystical giant creatures slowly moving around was a dream-like and surreal experience. This was the Harbour of Light Parade where over 55 illuminated ships, charters and ferries made their way around a 15km circuit on Sydney Harbour. When these boats came closer to us, the crowds waved and cheered enthusiastically, and were fully reciprocated by several people partying on these boats!
As the time went by, folks began getting restless. Just 45 minutes to go for midnight, 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes ….30 seconds …and then the count down projections on either side of the bridge began. TEN…NINE… EIGHT …. the crowd counted along ….SEVEN SIX …FIVE… …almost time…. FOUR…THREE… 1.5 million people chanting in unison…TWO …ONE .... all was quiet for a second, and then the sky erupted on all sides. Stunning explosions, myriads of color, dazzling flairs, and sparkling bouquets sailed across the sky. The Sydney Harbour Bridge came alive, with a central digital display, and choreographed fireworks, not only above, but also horizontally across the bridge. All eyes were riveted to the spectacular semicircle. Fire fountains and balls of light criss-crossed each other creating amazing patterns. There was even a giant golden water fall from the bridge into the ocean. The illuminated boats stood still to watch the extravaganza, and added to the magic. At the grand finale the whole sky was filled with light, fireworks went off from the tops of the tall buildings lining the harbour, and all the ships simultaneously blew their horns, competing with the roar from the enthralled crowds. Cries of 'Happy New Year' rent the air, as strangers and friends greeted each other. As per the news, the show involved 5,000kgs of fireworks with about 11,000 shells, 10,000 shooting comets and 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects!
A walk back with the joyous crowds, a train ride, and two hours later we were home, tired and ecstatic; and filled with positive emotions that a year that begins this way, can only get better and better.
****

Photos by Loga, Aby and me. Thanks a ton Loga and Aby!