Monday, July 20, 2015

A Short Trip To Meghalaya

A variety of ginger blooming in Umden
In my last post I had mentioned about our trip to Meghalaya. Today I'm sharing some of the pictures I had taken on that trip. Going to the "Abode Of The Clouds" for that is the meaning of the word, Meghalaya, it's apt that we are greeted by dense mist/fog on a rainy July morning. We had wanted to go to another location but it was booked till a certain date so we headed to Umden.

A tea garden on the way to our destination. Umden is a village that is about 55 kms from our city. We headed to the Eco Park that has two cottages with basic amenities. The owners, a Khasi couple, went out of their way to make our stay most comfortable. Food was simple and prepared with minimal ingredients, all put in a bamboo hollow and cooked on an open fire. The aroma was wonderful and reminded us of the chutneys and the steamed preparations using bamboo.

Our cottage in the woods.:)
Front view of the cottage
The cottages were very clean and comfortable. Food was served in the dining area and every dish was made with locally grown/sourced ingredients. Even the bamboo used for cooking was freshly cut. The flavour and the aroma was fantastic. Unfortunately, because of the low lighting, I couldn't get clear pictures in the dining area.
This collage shows mt brother-in-law having a go at angling. Later Ilias, the owner caught a fish. All the time spent turned out to be fruitful! Bird's eye chillies are widely grown and used in local cuisine.
The next day we headed to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.
A view of Shillong from Galeria restaurant at Centre Point hotel.

The hotel lobby had beautiful floral arrangements. Honestly I had never used mother-in-law's tongue/Sansevieria in decorating before. Love the idea!

Apart from the local cuisine, it's always Chinese food that we eat hog whenever we are there. Chicken and pork dumplings, two kinds of chicken, noodles and fried rice were what we had. Each dish was delicious!

Then we went to Ward's lake, another popular tourist destination. The hydrangeas must have have been a sight to behold a month or so earlier. I always enjoy walking around this lake and feeding the fishes from the bridge. But now the bridge is being repaired and it did look as if something was missing...
Water lilies, dahlias, rudbeckias and zinnias in bloom.

Ducks resting on the green slopes

Never seen fungi like this one before!
View from the restaurant where we stopped for coffee
On our return we stopped for a coffee break/long walk on the banks of this lake at Umiam also known as Barapani. The lake has boating and other water sports facilities.
Umiam lake
Soon it was time to head back home. And cook with the beautiful ingredients we had bought on this trip.:)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Roasted Beet & Plum Salad

I just got back from a two-day trip to the neighbouring state of Meghalaya. I went with my sister and her family to a place called Umden and then to Shillong. I might be posting about the trip later on but the fruits of Shillong and beautiful local produce from Umden came back with us. We gorged on peaches, pineapples and plums, sampled ethnic cuisine of the region, had some wonderful Chinese food and came back laden with produce. I couldn't wait to start.

Plums sold in Police Bazar, Shillong. Shillong is only about 3 hours away but the winding uphill road leads to a beautiful place where the climate is mild and the landscape is filled with pine trees. For us from the plains, it's the most popular getaway particularly from the heat and the humidity. One comes back rejuvenated!

Rather than use them in baking, I made a salad using two kinds of plums and some beets. The ingredients are given below:
3 small beets
4 plums (I used 2 of each...yellow and red)
A bunch of mint leaves
2 tbs toasted pine nuts
2tbs strained yoghurt
 
For the dressing:
1 quarter tsp freshly grated pepper+ extra for the yellow plums
Honey to taste
Salt, as per taste + extra to be added to the yellow plums
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
  1. Wash and wipe the beets. Wrap them in foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 45 minutes. Remove and let them cool. Top and tail them then peel off the skin. Cut in half vertically and chop them. Set aside.
  2. Cut the plums in the centre. Twist and remove the seeds. Cut them like the beets. I kept the yellow ones separately so that the yellow would stand out in the salad.
  3. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl.
  4. Place the prepared beets and red plums in a large bowl. Add the mint leaves and pour the dressing on top. Mix well.
  5. Transfer the salad to a serving platter. Scatter the pine nuts all across. Season the yellow plums with a dash of salt and grated pepper. Add them to the salad by placing them in strategic points where the yellow stands out.
  6. Dot the salad with the strained yoghurt. Put a drop of the purple dressing juices on some of the white 'dots'. Your salad is now ready.
I think this is one of the best salads I have tasted. The natural sweetness of the beets complemented the sweet and-a-hint-of- sour plums. It wasn't just the taste....it looked very attractive too!


Monday, July 13, 2015

Jackfruit Seed Hummus

Jackfruit seed hummus
Jackfruit seed hummus
It's still the season of ripe jackfruit and that means using the seeds as well. In curries and mashed chutney. Or simply boiled and eaten as a snack. Although I'm not too fond of the ripe fruit, I like to use the seeds in several dishes. I had seen jackfruit seed hummus on the internet some time ago when the fruit was yet to make its appearance. But with the abundance of seeds now I thought I would give it a go.
For this recipe I did not measure. It was all by eye. If the main ingredient (usually chickpeas) measures two cups, the measurement for tahini will a little over half a cup. Here are the ingredients.
Jackfruit seeds
White sesame seeds for the tahini
A few cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped fine
Freshly-grated pepper as per taste
Salt
Paprika
Lemon juice
Toasted and ground cumin seeds
Extra virgin olive oil
Chopped coriander leaves for the garnish
Jackfruit seed hummus
  1. Wash and boil the jackfruit seeds till done. They should be cooked through but not mushy.Drain in a colander and let them cool.
  2. Remove the seed casings with the help of a small knife. Roughly chop up the seeds. Keep a few whole/halved seeds aside for the garnish. Set aside as you prepare the tahini.
  3. Toast the sesame seeds in a hot pan till the nutty smell comes out and they start to crackle. Take care that the seeds do not burn so stir them all the time.
  4. Remove and cool. Transfer to the food processor and blitz. Pour some olive oil and blitz again. Remove and set aside.
  5. Transfer the  jackfruit seeds to the food processor. Grind by adding a bit of water. Add the garlic cloves, the lemon juice, salt, tahini, olive oil and blitz again. Check the taste and make adjustments. Maybe some more lemon juice. Or salt...
  6. To serve, take a wide-rimmed plate and drizzle the border with olive oil. Scatter the chopped coriander all along the edges. Transfer the hummus to the centre of the plate and leaven it with a spoon. Create a hollow in the middle and drizzle more olive oil. Add a few reserved seeds there along with a stem of coriander. Sprinkle a generous amount of toasted and ground cumin. Repeat the same process with a dash of paprika.
Jackfruit seed hummus

We had this with rotis made the usual way but with the addition of yeast. Before I made this hummus, I really didn't think that it would taste so good! But the loveable task of mixing cooked jackfruit seeds (or boiled chickpeas), garlic cloves, lemon juice, sesame seeds, olive oil, salt, and a few spices into creamy submission creates nothing less than magic. My boys licked the plate clean.:) There's still a packet of jackfruit seeds left. I think I'll need to forget about curried seeds for a while...

Adding a link to my earlier post of chickpea hummus:
http://blendingflavours.blogspot.in/2014/12/hummus.html

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cooking With Papaya Flowers

Papaya flowers We headed to the city's outskirts yesterday to buy vegetables. There is no dearth of markets within the city but once in a while it makes sense to head towards where the produce is more interesting. And fresh. And organic. So in this little wayside market almost every vendor had mounds of papaya buds and flowers. Next to vegetable fern, more edible flowers, bamboo shoots, jackfruit seeds, lasia spinosa, colocasia (shoots, leaves/stems and tubers) apart from the many varieties of gourds that abound during this season. I couldn't wait to try the papaya flowers as it's been years since I last cooked them. It reminded me of the time decades ago when I heard a conversation of the family elders taking about chopping down a papaya tree because it turned out to be male. It sounded strange to know that certain plants were male and therefore, could not bear fruit. To know more about this you might find this site interesting.
 Papaya flowers
Papaya flowers are bitter but there are quite a few vegetables that have the same taste and yet are so much a part of our diet. They are believed to be beneficial for our system.  Bitter gourd, neem leaves, leaves of the passion fruit plant are some of them. The flowers are removed from the stalks and blanched for a few minutes before cooking.
The first dish I made was a stir-fry with the addition of potatoes and water spinach/Ipomoea aquatica
Papaya flowers
Ingredients:
1/2 cup blanched papaya flowers
1 bunch water spinach (I used the the leafy bits from the top portion leaving the lower ends to be used later)
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
6-7 Bird's eye chillies, whole (the idea is to take/taste it or leave it)
1 large onion finely diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
Half-inch piece ginger, chopped fine
A quarter tsp mustard seeds
Salt to taste
A dash of paprika powder
Pinch of turmeric
2 tbs vegetable oil
Tear off the top tender ends of the water spinach and wash in several changes of water. Drain.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it becomes hot, add the mustard seeds.
As soon as they sputter, add the onions, ginger and garlic. Add the chillies and the turmeric powder.
Sprinkle a bit of water so that the turmeric powder does not burn.
Cook till the onions turn pale then add the potatoes and the blanched papaya flowers.
Cook on high heat for about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt. Then add the water spinach and continue to cook till the leaves wilt. This happens very fast as water spinach leaves are soft. As for the taste, it is mild.
Check for adjustments and remove from the flame. Transfer to a serving platter. 
This goes best with rice and dal. There is only a hint of bitterness in this dish. I loved it!