Thursday, January 21, 2016

Judima Festival & My Book Release

A year-old judima served with fried chickpeas
It's been a while since I last posted.The reason is that with the Judima Festival coming up in my hometown, Haflong on 23 & 24 January, the organizers suggested that the book on Dimasa cuisine that I had been working on could be released there. Thankful for a platform like that I hurried to finish the book. It is about food that I grew up with and what I know best. Titled Shong Dima: Recipes From A Dimasa Kitchen some of the recipes are on my blog too. I had started writing the recipes a few years ago but it looked like I would never be able to finish it. This was the push I needed to finally get it to the publisher. We are leaving tomorrow morning to attend the festival and for my book release. 
Judima is the rice wine brewed by Dimasas. There will also be a workshop on several aspects of the brew including making it commercially viable. It will be interesting to see and to listen to inputs by knowledgeable people attending the festival. 
 And the other reason is that there's major construction work going on in our house. With the flooding in summer, we are raising the floor of our ground floor by a several inches. I'm using our upstairs kitchenette and it is a little difficult with all the downstairs stuff shifted upstairs. The tiles are now being laid and  one room should be ready by next week. And if one is ready the rest will soon follow.
Hopefully, I'll be able to dedicate more time for blogging in the coming month. And if I haven't been blog hopping like before, I'll surely be back at it again soon.:)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Honthai/Steamed Rice Balls

Honthai/Steamed rice balls
Honthai/Steamed rice balls (with a chocolate filling)
Checking my pantry to see what I had that needed to be used up, I came across a container of rice flour that my mother had sent a while ago. I had used a major portion of it as a thickener for curry. Made from reddish sticky rice the flour was a pretty shade of pinkish/purplish. Since there was only about a cup left, I decided to make steamed rice balls.
Traditionally this is made with a filling of grated jaggery.  Or with grated coconut, fried and sweetened with jaggery.  And steamed in a colander placed on a pan of hot water. Sometimes you want the easy way out.Since I wanted to do it in a jiffy and not go through the process of grating coconuts, I checked my fridge for the filling.I found the answer in a small bar of chocolate. But first I had to toast the rice flour in a pan as it was almost past its shelf life and it was about to go off. 
1 cup rice flour (made from reddish sticky rice)
1 small bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk
Hot water to mix
This amount was enough for 9 balls

Break the chocolate into squares. Since the pattern was imprinted in the chocolate, it made sense to break them that way. Set aside.
Place the flour in a bowl. Add a bit of hot water and let it cool down enough to be handled.
Mix into a soft dough. Take enough dough to make a walnut-sized ball. Press in the middle and place the chocolate. Seal the dough till the chocolate is covered. Repeat till the dough and the chocolate is used up.
Grease a colander and place it in a pan containing hot water. Seal the sides where the colander meets the pan with a wet strip of cloth. This ensures that the steam does not escape.
Put the balls in the colander and keep it covered. Let it steam for about 15-20 minutes on a medium flame.
Remove and transfer to a serving bowl.
This is a wonderful accompaniment with tea or coffee.
With the usual white rice, the steamed balls remain white. But with reddish sticky rice, steaming turns the rice flour into a darker shade. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Goan Holiday

Cottage No.9 was where we stayed for four days
Ala Goa..that's where we stayed on our first ever visit to this former Portuguese colony. 18 kms from Dabolim airport, the resort is in the village of Betalbatim in south Goa. Set amid lush coconut and banana groves, it's the ideal place to get away from the daily grind. We woke up to bird song, walked to our heart's content on the beach which was 10 minutes away, did the sights in both the north and the south of Goa and returned to this haven. It was bliss. The resort had a pool, a multi-cuisine restaurant, spa and ayurvedic massage centre, and plenty of books.

For the natural look in the rock  borders, more of mud and a bit of cement was used. I loved this pairing of flax lilies and ginger. I grow both and had never thought that this combination could look so good!

More cottages in the property.

There are fruit trees all across the property. Papayas, chickoo, pineapple, guava, ivy gourds, and of course the innumerable coconut and banana trees.

The bar area next to the swimming pool. I enjoyed having a drink of feni, the local brew made from cashew nuts.

In the lake area adjacent to the property, water birds abound. And the lantana blossoms under the coconut trees attract myriad butterflies. Seen in this collage: the gray pansy and the common sailer.

Father Christmas has a rollicking good time in this holiday season. Travelling the Goan roads, it was a joy to see them at regular intervals.

Nativity scenes were beautiful particularly with the lighting at night.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus which holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier and is  a UNESCO World Heritage site. The church is located in Old Goa which was the capital during the days of Portuguese rule. This is one of the oldest churches in India. Construction work began in 1594 and the church was consecrated in May 1605 by the Archbishop, Dom Fr. Aleixo de Menezes.

Se Cathedral is the cathedral of the Latin Rite roman Catholic Archdiocese of Goa and Daman and the seat of the Patriarch of the East Indies. This stands opposite to the Basilica of Bom Jesus.

Part of an old house, Casa Araujo Alvares in Goa. Built by a Portuguese family in the 1700s, it is maintained by the descendants of the same family and draws a large number of visitors.

A corridor in the house.

A room overlooking the garden.

When it came to food, I was happy to feast on the seafood platters with clams, mussels, squid and prawns. And sea fish! I wanted nothing else! The shots of the red berries (gulab jamun in Hindi) and the nutmeg were taken at Sahakari Spice Farm.

Views from a river cruise on the Mandovi river. This river is the biggest in Goa and divides the Union Territory into north and south.

Some  of my buys. Goan sausages are spicy and do not need refrigeration. Seen in this picture are some of the packaged masalas like Recheado and Xacuti, and packets of prawn pickle. Also in the picture  are vanilla beans, dried lemon grass, allspice and Goa's famous layered cake, bebinca. The cashew nut packets to be given to family and friends are not included in this photo.
Outside the basilica with my husband...windy morning.
The best part was that my husband played the harmonica in two restaurants. Goa has a wonderful music scene and the musicians are excellent in their chosen fields. My husband's Facebook friend, Dilip Naik, a harmonica player himself made it all possible. He sent a clip of my husband's playing (in a restaurant the previous evening) to a well-known bass guitarist, Colin D'cruz and that's how the harp in this track happened. I hope you enjoy listening to the number by clicking on the link above. The singer is Ernest Flanagan who writes his own lyrics and has been doing so from a young age. 

We returned feeling refreshed after this break. The owner of the resort and the man behind the wonderful garden was kind enough to give me five banana plants. He also packed some small and sweet bananas locally known as elaichi bananas to have on our long flight home. The first thing I did after getting home was to plant them in cement bags so that I can take them to agricultural land that we have in another town. That will have to wait for the rainy season. Until then they can take root in their little temporary homes.:)