Saturday, May 13, 2006

Pyaaz Pasanda

Since consuming shallots (small onions, sambhar onions, Bombay onions, or whatever you call it) in summer is supposed to be good, I tried tweaking a traditional paneer recipe using shallots, and loved the outcome. Perhaps you'd like to try it too.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups shallots, peeled
1 large onion, peeled and diced into large pieces
4 carrots, diced into large pieces
3 large tomatoes, quartered
4 green chillies
A 1-inch cube of ginger, peeled
4 cardamoms
4 cloves
A 1-inch long piece of cinnamon
2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
4 tablespoons refined oil
Salt, according to taste
Finely chopped coriander leaves, for garnishing

Method

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a cooking pan, add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, and fry for a minute.
2. Add the ginger, green chillies, cubed onions, tomatoes and carrots, and saute for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water, close the vessel and cook on low flame for around 10 minutes, stirring once or twice in between.
3. Allow to cool, and then grind in a mixer-grinder.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a kadai, and saute the shallots till golden brown in colour.
5. Add the chilli powder and fry for around 30 seconds.
6. Add the ground paste and required salt, and continue cooking on low flame for around 10 minutes till the fragrance creeps into your nostrils and excites your gastronomic juices!
7. Add the garam masala, simmer and cook for a minute.
8. Remove from fire, garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves, and serve hot with puri. For a North-meets-South combo, serve with aappam!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Height of Discrimination!

On my first trip to Jaipur, I visited all the usual touristy locations, one of them being the Jaigarh Fort. It's an amazing place and I was astounded by the artistic and functional architecture. One of the sites of interest inside the fort is a temple of Ma Kali, which houses an idol brought and installed by one of the rulers after a conquest in Bengal.

The idol depicts a fiery goddess; otherwise it looked like a normal temple to me, and I went in for a darshan. As usual, I completed my chants and namaskar and waited in line to accept the arati, kumkum and thirtha (holy water). I was given the first two, but when I extended my hand to accept the thirtha, the priest gave me a nasty look and pushed my hand away with such vehemance, that I turned around and walked away in a miff, without giving him a second glance. What kind of discrimination was this... my brother received the thirtha, so did all the men in the temple, but none of the womenfolk!

It was when I was waiting at the door (with an annoyed expression on my face) for my brother to come out, that I noticed what the devotees were offering to Ma Kali... a box of sweets and a bottle of liquor! So that was what was in the priest's copper cup, and that was what the men were receiving as thirtha. No wonder the tourist guides kept going back for second and third helpings of the holy water.

That explains the priest's action, but two years later, I am still annoyed with the discrimination. If men can taste the holy liquor (!) why not women? Being a teetotaller, that would have been my first real taste of alcohol, and this punditji had to spoil it ;-)

Heard of Creativedot?

There is this amazing online community called Creativedot that I joined a few weeks back, and it's really great to see how many people are prepared to share their creative work in an "open" way, under the creativecommons or copyleft licenses.

We post photographs, poems, recipes, and what not, which anybody is free to use as long as the user credits the original author of the work. And there are several collaborative book authoring efforts also going on. In fact, we have just started authoring a cook book called CookingDot!

As explained in the Creativedot site, "Creative.linux-delhi.org, also referred to creativedot, is a momentary, delicate experiment, that explores whether creatively-inclined people in India are willing to share their creative artworks such as photography, calligraphy, illustrations, graphics, designs, sounds, music, video clips, and more, under a creativecommons or copyleft license.

This initiative owes its gratitude and thanks to the free-spirited linux-delhi community, and to Sarai. A note of appreciation also for members publishing their photographs and artwork under the licenses on this site. Spread the word. The digital dandi march is happening."

It's really interesting, and I am enjoying myself there. I thought I'll spread the word, so more people can enjoy Creativedot. It's not about any tangible benefits, it's about enjoying the journey. If you are inclined to, do check it out sometime. Connect to: http://creative.linux-delhi.org/

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A sculpture that sculpts itself

I just returned after spending a few hours at the Akshardham Cultural Centre, New Delhi. While the whole centre in general, including the temple and the audio-visual presentations, is very inspiring, one particular presentation in specific affected me very deeply.

This was an exhibit depicting a sculpture sculpting itself! It took five years for seven thousand artisans to build Akshardham, but how many artisans are needed to sculpt one's destiny, questions the presenter. One. Just one. We humans are sculptors sculpting ourselves. Only I can shape my destiny and only you can shape yours.

How true! So, let us pay more attention to how we sculpt ourselves and make a good job of it :)