Friday, October 26, 2012

Straight From The Hands Of A Master Chef!

The Poster
 Dibs  rushed back home from her shopping still unfinished, and dragged me back to the same  Mall again. She said that  a surprise awaited me at the Mall. We reached there after a fifteen minute walk. I was more than thrilled with what met my eyes! Kumar Pereira of 'Master Chef Australia' ( the popular cookery show ) fame was giving a promotional cooking demonstration! 

The demonstration
The demo had just begun. There was not much of a crowd yet. And we witnessed a command performance by one of the most favoured Master Chefs of the 'Master Chef Australia' show. Knives and ladles were flying in his magical hands effortlessly!
The Master Chef in action
 The very first dish that he prepared turned out to be Bruschetta, an easy to prepare vegetarian dish. (The other two dishes were non vegetarian ). Samples were served to the viewers by a girl who was done up as a mobile dining table!
The mobile table
 Dibs and I were excited when we tasted the Bruschettas infused with a  special flavour (what we call 'kai manam' in Tamil ) by the magical touch  of the super Chef. We had the great opportunity to talk to him. Dibs got his autograph for my twelve year old grand daughter who is a great fan of 'Master Chef Australia', especially of Kumar Pereira.
Autograph for D 2 !
 Here is the recipe of Bruschetta as it  is in the  pamphlet which was distributed among the viewers.
6 large ripe tomatoes,chopped 
2 red onions, finely chopped 
1 small bunch basil ( 1/2 cup ), remove stems and finely chop leaves 
1 loaf pana di casa bread, sliced for toast 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
1 tbsp white vinegar 
2 tbsp olive oil 
1 clove garlic, crushed 
1 teaspoon dijon mustard 
1) Combine tomatoes, onion and basil in large bowl. 
2) Mix vinegars, olive oil, mustard and garlic together in small jug and pour through the vegetables. 
3) Toast bread and drizzle with oil. 
4) Pile vegetables atop toasted bread to serve. 
Bruschetta with the Master's touch
The chef added pine nuts to lend  his special touch to the recipe. Enjoyed!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kadalai Paruppu Poli /Pooran Poli For Navaraatri

Durga Maata
I was very happy to visit a Durga Pooja festival held at Sydney,  in a local school. Mother Goddess Durga dazzling in all her opulence took the center stage. A picture of Lord Shiva adorned the top. Idols of  Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Ganesha and Kartikeya were positioned on Her either sides.
A Congrigation Of All Dieties

A banana tree dressed up in a saree represented Mother Nature.The gorgeously decorated and illuminated stage along with the sacred idols reminded me of our Navaratri Kolu
A priest was guiding the people in batches to offer their prayers (Pushpaanjali) with recitations of Sanskrit verses. Flowers, fruits, sweets and Aarati were offered to Durga Maata. There were food stalls, and stalls which sold books, artifacts and trinkets outside the alter. Children danced to the disco music played on speakers. People bedecked specially for the occasion offered prayers and cheerfully interacted with their friends as they waited for the 'bhog ' to be served. 
Samosas getting fried
Samosas and Brinjal Bajjis were being fried in huge kadais, full of smoking oil. 
Brinjal bajjis 
 'Prasaads' consisting of cut fruits and interestingly, a ball of 'poornam' ( a mixture of coconut and jaggery cooked together) were distributed in paper plates. 

'Poornam'  - it is symbolic of the 'infinite complete whole' or 'sweet bliss' which we call God.  All the creations are manifestations of the same Sweet Bliss or 'Poornam'. Whatever the outer shell it is encased in, and whatever worldly ordeals it goes through,  'poornam' remains the same (infinite and complete) till it finally reunites with the infinite whole.  Though the stuffed sweets go through different cooking methods like steaming as in Kozhukattais, roasting as in Polis, and frying as in Suhians, the inner Poornam remains intact and the same. It is to remember this eternal truth that Poornam stuffed sweets are always one of the offerings to the Divine on all special pooja occasions.
Bengal Gram Dal - 2 cups 
Powdered jaggery - 2 cups 
Cardamom powder - 1/4tsp 
Ghee - 3 tbsps 
1. Soak the Bengal gram dal for half an hour . 
2. Pressure cook soaked dal with 1 cup of water till it gives out three whistles and switch off flame, and allow cool down. 
3. Remove cooked dal from the cooker and drain well. 

Cooked and drained dal
4. Grind the cooked and drained dal with powdered jaggery into a thick paste. 
 Palm Sugar used instead of Jaggery
5. Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pan and add the ground paste. 
6. Keep stirring till the poornam leaves the sides of the pan and a pleasant aroma of the caramalised jaggery fills the atmosphere. 
7. Switch off flame , mix in the cardamom powder and allow the poornam to cool down.
1. Plain flour / Maida - 2 cups 
2. Salt - 1 pinch 
3. Turmeric powder - 1 pinch 
4. Sesame oil - 4 tbsps 
1. Sift maida, salt and turmeric powder into a bowl. 
2. Add 2 tbsps of sesame oil and mix well. 
3. Add water little by little and knead the flour into a smooth and elastic dough. 
4. Smear one more tbsp of sesame oil on top and cover the ball of dough with a lid. 
5. Allow the dough to soak for one hour. The more it soaks the more it becomes pliable and elastic. 
1. Grease a banana leaf or a plastic sheet with a liberal sprinkle of oil. 

2. Take out a lime size ball of dough and place it on the greased surface. 
Dough ball smaller than the Poornam ball
4. Take out a ball of poornam, double the size of the dough ball and place it in the middle of the patted poorie
Poornam ball on flattened dough
5. Pull the edges of the poorie over the poornam and press to seal.

Edges pulled over Poornam
6. Invert the stuffed poorie and again start patting it evenly into a poli, so that the poornam spreads out evenly inside the maida cover. 
'Patting' Poli
7. Heat a greased tava and gently place the flattened poli on it. 
Poli cooking on a tava
8. Cook on low flame till the raw look on the top of the poli disappears and flip it to the other side. 
9. Cook till golden brown coloured patches appear on both sides and remove the poli on to a flat plate.Similarly make all the Polis on low heat. 
Kadalai Paruppu Poli
 Offer the flavoursome Kadalai Paruppu Poli / Pooran Poli topped with ghee to Mother Goddess.
Ready to be served
 Enjoy Her blessings with the delicious prasaadam.

For those on Facebook,   you now know the answer to the question on Friday! :-))

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kalakose Cooker Sambar - Brussels Sprouts Sambar


Dibs had bought Kalakose / Brussels Sprouts along with various other colourful and healthy looking vegetables from  Paddy Market. The baked kalakose she prepared was delicious with a crisp exterior and a soft luscious interior.
1. Wash 500 gms of  kalakose thoroughly and halve them.
2. Rub them evenly with a tablespoon of olive oil.
3. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt and 3/4 tsp of crushed pepper and toss well.


4. Spread out the prepared klakose on a flat baking tray in a single layer.

5. Bake in a preheated oven (200 degrees centigrade) for about 25 minutes till it starts  becoming crisp and brown.
Baked Kalakose

My mind went 50 years down memory lane while I relished the baked Brussels Sprouts. 

My beloved paternal aunt was a super cook. She was the first to bring in 'non traditional' vegetables into our kitchen where we always cooked traditional food with only 'traditional ingredients' and 'traditional vegetables'! Sarasu Athai purchased 'English vegetables' from Russell Market and with her magical touch converted them into super delicious innovative as well as conventional dishes. Her Kalakose Sambar was one of them, the taste of which still lingers in my mouth. 
I used a pressure cooker to prepare kalakose sambar for convenience.

Brussels sprouts /Kalakose - 10 
Fresh Fenugreek leaves / Menthya Keerai (chopped) - 1/2 cup 
Tomato - 1 big ( chopped ) 
Split yellow pigeon peas/ Tuvar dal - 1/2 cup 
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch 
Tamarind - Marble size 
Salt - 2 tsps 
Sambar Powder - 2 tsps 
Sesame oil - 2 tsps 
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp 
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp 
Red Chillies ( broken) - 2 
Asafoetida - 1 pinch 
Curry leaves - a few 
Fresh grated coconut - 2 tbsps
Jaggery - 1/2 ts

1. Wash Tuvar dal and keep soaked for half an hour. 

2. Remove the loose outer leaves if any and wash the Kalakose in running water. 

3. Soak tamarind in warm water and extract a thick juice. 

4. Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add the mustard seeds. 

5.When the mustard seeds splutter add the fenugreek seeds and fry till golden in colour. 

6. Add broken red chillies and asafoetida. 

7. Add curry leaves and the chopped fenugreek leaves after the chillies turn crisp, and saute till you get a pleasant aroma and switch off flame. 

8. Add the soaked dal, tamarind extract, jaggery, turmeric powder, salt, sambar powder, coconut, chopped tomatoes and the Kalakose to the seasoning and stir well. 

9. Add 2 1/2 cups of water. 

Ingredients in the cooker
10. Cook till the cooker gives out three whistles (After first whistle, turn flame to medium from high) and switch off flame. 

11. Remove when the pressure subsides and stir it once so that only the dal becomes mushy.

Kalakose Sambar

Relish the flavoursome Kalakose Sambar with steaming hot rice topped with a spoon of fresh ghee.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stuffed Jalapenos



We are enjoying a good holiday at Sydney with my daughter's family. We are exploring more food and more eateries on our weekend picnics.  Last Saturday our son-in-law took us on a long drive to Hunter valley.

Hunter Valley - A scenic view
The wonderful scenic drive took us through misty hills, lush valleys and brimming rivers. Hunter valley is blanketed in green meadows where healthy cows and horses graze happily. Olive trees, vineyards, blue lakes and sky scraping trees abound the serene valley.

Cheese tasting section
We reached a place with restaurants where they serve food under a canopy of grape vines beside gurgling fountains.The wine centers and cheese centers offer samples for tasting along with bites of crackers. 

Dibs bought lots of goodies and here is what she prepared using the Harrigan's Irish cheddar cheese.
Jalapenos - 6 
Hung curd (or Ricotta cheese) - 2 tbsps 
Grated Irish cheddar cheese - 4  tbsps 
Pepper powder - 1 pinch 
Salt - 1 pinch 
Cumin powder - 1 pinch 
Oil - 1 tsp 

Jalapeno Peppers

1. Wash, wipe and cut the jalapenos lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.

De-seeded jalapenos
2. Grease the halved jalapeno shells using one spoon of oil and keep aside. 
3. Mix the hung curd, grated cheese, pepper powder ( use crushed pepper if you like the spicy crunch), cumin powder,  and salt. 

Cheese stuffing mixture
4. Take a teaspoon of the prepared cheese mixture and press it  into every jalapeno shell.

Stuffed Jalapenos
5. Bake in a pre-heated oven until the jalapenos are cooked (200 degrees centigrade for about  25 minutes) and the cheese starts to form brown and crusty spots. 

 Enjoy the Stuffed Jalapenos straight from the oven!

Our Dinner: Very Hot Stuffed Jalapenos & a Cold Salad!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Stopover At Malaysia.

My husband I were highly charged with double excitement when we left Bangalore a few weeks ago. First of all we were about to meet our daughter and our doting little grand daughter residing at Sydney. Secondly, thanks to an offer by Malaysian Airlines, we had the opportunity of enjoying a two day break at Kuala Lumpur, en route to Sydney.
We landed at around  seven 'o' clock in the morning at the Kuala Lumpur International airport. A one hour drive in a prepaid cab took us to Hotel Istana. We were welcomed with a cool drink, while the luggage was taken care of. We had to wait for a couple of hours in the grand  lounge  before we were accommodated  in a beautifully furnished room. 
The irritation and fatigue due to the long wait for the room, and disturbed sleep during the night were flushed out by a hot and relaxing shower.
We were very hungry when we walked into 'Taman Sari' ('Garden of flowers' in Malay) for the complimentary breakfast. It was a sprawling dining  hall with a beautiful garden view comprising of a swimming pool.  A great variety of breakfast dishes prepared to please diverse palates of people coming from different cultural backgrounds were  lined up on the counter. Coconut rice parcels were attractively arranged in baskets. Chana Masala, Dal Makni and other hot and spicy curries were  steaming in their pots. I opened an enticing parcel of coconut rice, and quickly learnt that the locals enjoy it garnished with wedges of boiled eggs and fried anchovies!!! Needless to say, I landed up wasting one parcel!

Coconut rice known as  Nesi Lemak in a conical parcel and Mini Camai Rotis

Mini Camai rotis -  hot and crunchy, looked very  inviting. Curries, Pastas, noodles, strawberry yogurt, mango yogurt and many more dishes vied with one another.  A whole row was dedicated for bread varieties. Ten  people could toast their bread at the same time using the huge open bread toaster. Butter and cheese varieties were sumptuous. The colourful  cut fruits and the fresh vegetable salad section was very attractive and there were three or four salad dressings to pick from.  Yummy cakes, croissants and other desserts added the finishing touch, while coffee and tea were served at the table. An interesting pastry was a light bun stuffed  stuffed with sweet potatoes and dusted with powdered sugar .

After the breakfast,  the boy at the desk booked us a cab for sight seeing. The charges were 30 Ringgit per hour, and the deal was that we had to take the cab for a minimum of three hours. The agreement was sealed! We drove amidst a jungle of high-rise buildings of numerous sizes, shapes and designs which seemed to merge seamlessly, hiding the entire skyline of the City Center.  We wound our way through heavy traffic via various 'Jalans'  for about an hour, doing a window sight seeing of the plush Kuala Lumpur City.
We were astounded when suddenly the 400-million-year-old lime stone hill with caves carved out by nature, loomed in front of us.The sight of the flight of 272 steps which disappeared into the cave entrance, the overhanging  stalactites in the rocky archway, and the gigantic golden Murugan Idol at the foot of the hill were breathtaking. Yes! We had reached  The Batu Caves where the Pattumalai Murugan is enshrined.

Batu Caves
The pleasant smile on the face of the gigantic golden idol of Lord Murugan at the foot of the hill seemed to bless all His devotees from far and near.

Gigantic  Golden Murugan

The drizzle which had started when we reached there, soon turned into a heavy downpour compelling  us to leave. Our driver said that it was impossible to do any more sight seeing unless the rain stopped. He suggested that he would drop us at an  eatery  which served Indian food close to our hotel, so that we could walk back easily after having our  lunch there.Though the deal was for three hours, he honestly charged us for only one hour. His gesture touched us and we booked his cab for the next day too and  of course the same conditions applied!
There was a row of eateries where they served vegetarian as well as non vegetarian food all along the street. The tables and chairs occupied three fourths of the space of the adjoining foot path.The hot and sugary tea served in tall glasses was a great relief after the cold Parota and dal meal. Regretting the rain which had spoiled our sight seeing, we rested for some time in our room. 
The sky had cleared all of a sudden and we decided to take a walk nearby, kick started by the hot coffee we prepared by ourselves in our room. Jalan Raja Chulan is one of the arterial roads which connects a network of numerous other Jalans,  crisscrossing the entire City Center. Far down the road, we entered a sky walk which lead us to busy shopping centers and malls without having to worry about the traffic.

The Sky walk

A view of the world's tallest twin towers- The Petronas -clicked from the sky walk.
We exited the sky walk by an elevator and walked into the Convention Hall which also housed the KLCC Aquaria. Land and aquatic creatures were exhibited in huge glass cases furnished with the favourable  environment for the inhabitants. The deadly 'smile' of the Ray fish which glided  over our head, inside a glass tunnel gave us real spooks! Oh ! We did miss our grand children!

Ray Fish in the aquarium
Back at the Taman Sari a beautiful  buffet dinner with lots of desserts and an awesome chocolate fountain welcomed us.
Chocolate fountain

 As we felt that we could not do full justice to a buffet meal which had only  few 'really' vegetarian options, we decided to have a small a la carte meal.The banquet manager was concerned as he had realized that we were hard core vegetarians. He arranged for a simple but delicious meal specially prepared for us. Saffron Pulav with nuts and raisins, a spicy mixed vegetable curry (they use a lot of red chillies), Cucumber Raita, fried Papads, sweet pickles and curds were more than what we wanted. 
After a good nights sleep and a good breakfast in the morning, we set out for the real sight seeing. Our taxi driver who promptly took over  the role of a guide as well, said that we would first visit the  Istana Negara, the royal Palace of the King.

The Royal Insignia
The palace is surrounded by a vast area of lush green gardens and beautiful water bodies. According to our 'guide', the King resides in one wing of the Palace and the rest of the space houses a museum. The high gates of the palace and the supporting pillars are decorated with spirals of gilded Hibiscus flowers. Incidentally Hibiscus is Malaysia's National flower. The royal insignia shines brightly  beside the gate.

The Palace gate
After a photo session in front of the palace we set out towards the Thean Hou Buddhist Temple. It was a beautiful drive on a hilly road bordered by tall trees, delicate ferns and green grass studded with tiny flowers. 
The Thean Hou Temple

One of the Goddesses

The awesome temple stands on top of a hill overlooking the city.The ornamental carvings and the decorative architecture of the temple, glitters with a pronounced red and golden hue. A wooden stair case leads us to the sanctum  where in the three Mother Goddesses are gorgeously enshrined.
On our way  to the National Mosque (Masjid Negara ) we passed by the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station ( Stesen Keretapi), which has an impressive blend of eastern and western architecture. I do not know why, but I was reminded of the Palace Office buildings at Mysore. 
Our next stop was at the National Mosque ( Masjid Negara ). The mosque is located inside a vast garden. The courtyard is paved with stones creating  star motifs everywhere. Palm trees sway their plumes from star shaped grass beds all around. The roof of the Mosque resembles a blue umbrella. Crystal clear fountains, pillars and the floorings of marble and granite add to the glitter.

The National Mosque

We removed our foot wear  near the entrance. Volunteers were ready to help visitors to put on the prescribed dress before entering the Mosque. My husband was already wearing a pant and a full sleeved shirt. I was  helped to wear a purple colour hijab  (a piece of dress  to cover the head down to the neck) and a jilbab (a gown which flowed from neck down and touched the feet) over my saree.

The Prayer Hall
The spacious  prayer hall dazzles in the light of the gorgeous chandeliers. The blue sun light which pours  through the blue and gold stained glass window panels lends a mesmerizing look to the hall.
We passed via  the National Museum and drove through a lush green park and reached the Taman Burung -  which boasted of being the world's largest Free - Flight Walk - In Aviary.

Taman Burung 

 The whole park with tall trees, dense bushes and running water bodies is cocooned inside a huge net. Winding ramp ways  lead us to different levels of the park enabling us to view multitudes of big and small  tropical birds. There are fixed timings for the visitors to interact with the birds. I liked the way in which the corn cobs and fruit pieces are stuck to the dry wood of a tree for the smaller birds to feed.

Blue Mynah
It was exciting to watch Mynahs with  peacock blue backs,  Golden Orioles and Bulbuls at such close quarters.

A blue grey bird with a crest
The park was milling with people but the sounds we heard were only that of the birds. This was heaven indeed!

Is this a white Pheasant?

After all one need not be Salim Ali to enjoy the most beautiful, colourful and musical  creations of God!
Golden Pheasant
We had walked quite a lot and the pangs in the stomach  reminded us that it was hunger time ! Dib's had called up to give us the address of 'Annalakshmi', only the previous evening. Our driver cum guide had a slightly tough time locating this place in spite of the address, because it was in a residential area called Brickfields.

The ethnic South Indian decor of the restaurant, the benevolent Abhaya Hastam of Goddess Annalakshmi in bronze and the kind and friendly staff  gave us a warm welcome.The aroma of the buffet lunch spread provoked  our taste buds and in no time we found ourselves lining up in front of the counter.

Carrot and Tofu Porial, and Greens Koottu 
It was the usual South Indian fare with Rice, Broad beans Sambar, Vengaya Kuzhambu, Greens Koottu, Carrot and Tofu Porial, Cauliflower and Potato Curry, Jeera Rasam, Vadai, Thair Pachchadi, Sweet Potato and Sago Payasam, Appalam, chutney,  pickles and Vattals. 

Vengaya Kuzhambu
There was also a course of Vegetable Pulav and Paneer Matar prepared in South Indian style. Poories or Chapaties were also served  on request. Finally there was South Indian filter coffee to wash down the delicious meal. 

Paneer Matar And Cauliflower and Potato Curry

We ended our sight seeing after a hearty and delicious meal at 'Annalakshmi' and started towards Hotel Istana. Our driver pointed out another land mark as we passed by. The eerie looking dilapidated building was a jail   built by the British in 1895.  We were immensely pleased that we were able to do so much of sight seeing in such a short span of time. Thanks to our kind driver cum guide.
We wanted to retire to bed soon since we had a hectic day. And we had to check in early in the  morning for the  Sydney flight. We rested, showered and packed our bags before dinner. The friendly and considerate banquet manager once again put together a simple vegetarian meal for us. Since we had to leave at 4. A.M. the next morning we requested the front desk  to prepare our bill so that we could finish all payment beforehand.The area general manager and the other 'Hosts' of Istana met us at the lobby and chatted up as if they were  our long lost friends ! They refused to charge us for the dinner though we were entitled for only two breakfasts according to the package! They made us cancel the taxi which we had already booked and arranged for one of the hotel cabs to drop us at the air port the next morning! One of the 'Hosts' even offered to pack some breakfast for us before we left for the Air port! We were thoroughly puzzled and quite overwhelmed by their kind gesture! We racked our brains on why a commercial establishment would go so far as to ensure our needs were met, and not charge us either - and came up with a dozen theories which didn't ring true either!  The Ringitt we had carefully put away for any emergency and for the taxi charge towards  the airport journey, is still tucked away in my husband's wallet!

A friendly Chef
 Anyway three cheers  to Hotel Istana and Malaysian hospitality!