Friday, April 29, 2022

HaZelnut Coffee

From the hot weather of Chennai, I transported to chilly post winter Wisconsin in March of 2005 within a couple of years after my foray into the software development world. After hearing a lot of stories about the United States from colleagues, friends and the talkative aunts at weddings who spoke more about California and Texas than probably the governors themselves, it was finally time to explore by myself.

One of the first things I got accustomed to having
around at home was the microwave and the plethora of microwaveable ready to eat food. The story about the dim-witted me trying to boil an egg in it in the middle of the night and what ensued needs a blog post of its own.I leave that to your imagination. 

My then roommate taught me how to make hazelnut coffee with milk in the microwave.It was Love at first sip and I have been in the relationship
ever since. I love hazelnut in my desserts too but
there is something about its combination with coffee thats absolutely heavenly. I am not a big fan of instant coffee. It can never replace the taste of filter coffee but this was a whole new revelation.

In Singapore coffee outlets are quite common where you get good hazelnut coffee but I am yet to find a good instant coffee brand with hazelnut flavour. Recently I discovered a 3-in-1 ready to mix 
version that seems quite close.

As a result, my Sunday mornings are my moments of peace in my rocking chair with the morning newspaper, watching the sun
rise. Me, my memories, my thoughts and my cup of hot, delicious hazelnut coffee. 

How do you like your coffee ?

I drew this with Sketch on my phone.



Food for thought:

Today's food for thought is not a saying or quote. Its an interesting information shared by my son to me. I made up a kiddie story about a tiger hunting  zebras. He intercepted and argued that it was not possible as Zebras are found in Africa where there are no tigers and so they do not know each other. Now that was an interesting point. If a tiger is moved to a place very different from the habitat it grew up in, will it develop the skills to look out for food alternatives ? Or does it believe that anything that eats grass is food? 

We humans often find ourselves in places or situations where the food is absolutely alien to us, not to mention the added complexity if one is vegetarian. Do you have any such experience to share?

**************************************

There I have done it! Hip HipHurrah! The whole of April I was part of the A to Z blogging challenge where one had to publish one post everyday in alphabetical order from A to Z. This is the final post of the series for this year. 

To everyone who has visited my blog, read my posts, sent messages or left comments I would like to give a big Shout-out ...THANK YOU :)  

To everyone else who participated irrespective of whether you published all 26 or a part of it ... Kudos to you!!! You rock! 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Yam and Yoghurt

 Have you heard of Yam ??

Image credit: wikimedia commons


Well, yam is a family of plants that produces edible tubers. It comes in different varieties and is commonly found in India and across South East Asia. I do not know if its eaten in other parts of the world.

One type of yam we regularly use is senaikkilangu  which apparently translates to Elephant Foot Yam in English. If you see the picture you may agree that its an apt name.

Its brown on the outside and a sort of yellow on the inside. It can get a little itchy while cutting and the tip to handling such vegetables is to soak them in sour substances like buttermilk or tamarind water or even starchy water gotten from washing rice. 

We make the sauteed version of the vegetable to go with rice. I personally love flavouring it with fennel seeds and it gives out a beautiful flavour. We can also make curries with it. 

I remember one of my friend's mother replacing fish with yam in a fried fish recipe when they had to go vegetarian for a month for some religious reason. In India, its common for non vegetarians to abstain from meat on days of religious significance 

After staying in Malaysia and Singapore , a unique discovery was yam flavoured icecream. I believe its made from the sweeter varieties of the vegetable. On Google I found out that it is a popular Filipino delicacy and is called Ube.

Food from other lands:

During my growing up years,  trains and buses were our main modes of intercity transport. My first flight journey was after I started working. That was not the only first on that day. It was also when i tasted yoghurt for the first time. Reading that line again, I guess I am close to making it sound like to an event of historical significance! Ha ha!

We do make curd at home but flavored yoghurt was a new discovery and i have been hooked ever since. It is a family favorite. I especially love the ones that have fruit bits like strawberry or nata de coco or aloevera . We get the low fat versions mostly and so its a healthier dessert compared to icecream. I love yoghurt on my salads too. Yoghurt and herbs dressing with carrots, peas, pineapples and almonds ! Ooh !! 

Food for thought

The quote for Y is also from Thirukkural, a great literary work of Tamil on ethics and morality that is supposed to have been composed around 2000 years ago. It consists of 1330 couplets (kurals) of seven words each. 

These words are from anciemt literary Tamizh and totally different from the colloquial or contemporary literary versions of the language.

Yaakaavaa raayinum naakaakka kaavaakkaal
soakaappar sollizhukkup pattu

This sort of tongue twisting kural has deep meaning.

Naa (naaku) - tongue

Kaaka - guard

Aayinum - even if

Yaakaavaarayinum - whatever one does not guard

Soakappar - face misery

Sollizhukku - fault of speech

Pattu - become subject to


Whatever be the possessions we guard or fail to guard, we must guard our tongue. 

In other words , exercise caution while talking. If not, once own words can cause one sorrow or misery.

Basically , it says , restraint is a must in speech. In todays world of social media its very important, isn't it ?

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

X - FoXtail Millet , Xonocostle

 Millets are called sirudhanyam in Tamil translating to small grains . Traditionally varieties of millets like kodo millet, pearl millet etc have been part of our agricultural produce and cuisine. With the advent of modern living and lifestyles , the usage had taken a backseat but now thanks to increased focus on health awareness and healthy lifestyles their usage is becoming popular.

They are apparently packed with proteins and fiber and are a healthier choice compared to rice. In fact now we have facebook groups that are dedicated to sharing recipes using these millets.

I am more familiar with their Tamil names and any one of the millets can be used in the recipes i am familiar with. We can substitute them instead of rice for the traditional savoury items. We have millet upma(cooked millets sauteed with spices and vegetables), pongal (grains cooked with lentils) , dosa (something like crepe) made with ground millets and the list goes on. To be honest , sometimes its tough to get people to switch to the slightly different texture compared to rice especially those who prefer taste to nutrition. My first attempt had a " Something is not right in the Pongal today" from my kids. We have cookie recipes too.

One type of millet is the foxtail millet, known as Thinai in Tamil. When I googled foxtail millet , i could understand why its called so. The plant has shoots that do resemble a fox's tail in shape.  

Image credit: wikimedia commons

Food from other lands:

I had no clue of any food item with X and so I asked good old google. Apparently there is a fruit called xonocostle in  Mexico that is obtained from a type of cactus plant. The prickly pear is supposedly sour and put to a lot of use in the local cuisine as an ingredient in soups and stews. 

Have you heard of this before ? Do you know any food items starting with X ? 

Food for thought:

Tough to find a quote with X , so my own thought for the day.

Sometimes things will go haywire. Inhale, eXhale , take deep breaths and keep calm . The problem wont be solved but will look more manageable! 



Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Ward off the Evil Eye with Winter Melon

 There is a vegetable commonly available in TamilNadu known as vellai pooosanikkai which translates to white pumpkin.

Image credit: wikimedia commons

Apparently it is also called Ash Gourd. In these parts like Singapore and Malaysia, we get slices of something called wintermelon at the supermarket which looks and tastes quite similar and that is what I use for the vellai poosanikkai recipes. I am not sure if they are the same, if not they are definitely siblings!

This watery vegetable is quite big and oblong in shape. We add them to our curries and even make halwa with them . ( a sweet about which I had spoken in my H post.)

Another use for this vegetable is in a non food context. The poosanikkai is extensively used to remove "kan dhrishti" or the evil eye! It is believed that when anything good is happening , or anything is functioning well as expected, the onlooker's thoughts or envy can cast an evil eye that may have repercussions.  Babies, newborns, pregnant women, children, newly married couples,  new job, new home, new car, wealth, health, fame,beauty..... the subject's list is limitless!

Thankfully for this belief, there is a counter system in practise. There are ways to ward off the evil eye effect. Some light camphor and move it in a circle in front of the family members especially children. Some do the same with red chillies and then throw them in the fire. Some apply a small black mark under the child's foot with kajal( a paste traditionally made with soot used for eye make up). Some tie black threads to the bonnet of newly bought cars. Some hang pictures of donkeys or demonic masks outside of their homes. This topic needs a book on its own and a post can't cover even 10%.

Coming back to the vegetable, it is a common practice to light camphor on this melon, move it in circles and then crash it on the ground to ward off all evil eye effect.

At a spiritual level some believe this to be related to aura etc. Some say that it is just a superstition.It is the belief system I grew up in and if you ask me if I believe it, I would be lying if I said Not at all! Its a deeply engrained part of our culture. I don't know if its true but no one proved otherwise! Anyone can tell me something is beautiful. Camphor or the wintermelon can handle the effect! Ha ha  

Food from other lands:

I tasted wasabi flavored chips some time back. Its a Japanese condiment or paste made from a radish type plant as far as I know. It has a strong pungent flavor. Something that hits you on the head - that strong! Have you had wasabi before?

Food for thought:

Simple requests:

SAVE WATER

DO NOT WASTE FOOD

There are people that have to walk miles for drinking water or struggling for a fistful of rice. Let us do what we can !


This post is written as part of the A to Z blogging challenge, an annual event in April when many of us bloggers all over the globe publish one post every day for each letter of the alphabet(except Sundays)




Vadai and Vallavan

 My father enjoyed good food and family outings to restaurants were almost a weekly occurance. During our vacation trips, he used to insist that we should start our day with a heavy breakfast so that we would have sufficient energy for roaming around. Thanks to his frequent travels as part of his sales profession, he was like a database of the popular food joints of every town or city.  Our breakfast would invariably start off with a plate of Idly-Vada.

One should see the hustle and bustle in a South Indian restaurant during breakfast hours! At the entrance would be the cashier's desk and mounted on the wall behind would typically be a deity's picture with a small oil lamp and a burning incense letting out a wonderful fragrance. Waiters would be scurrying around carrying trays laden with hot idly, crunchy vada, crispy dosas or fluffy puris.  The wonderful aromas from all the food would waft in the air. A stereo system may be on, playing some music( not the soft fine dining type, get-the-day-started peppy ones). Some waiters may be going around refilling the chutney and sambar containers. On some tables, people would be pouring the coffee back and forth between the tumbler and the metal saucer in an attempt to cool it down.  Mixed into all this would be the cacaphony of fifteen tables having animated conversations not to mention the occasional running of the tinier lot! Writing about it brings about so much nostalgia!


Vadai (in Tamil its Vadai but its referenced to as Vada in some places) Ground lentils deep fried , resulting in a crispy snack. The vada served during breakfast is made with urad dal and made with a hole in the centre. It sort of resembles a donut in appearance. Suda suda(hot hot) kara kara(crispy crispy) vadai on a rainy evening! Bliss, indeed!

Vadai when dunked in sambar or curd has a unique taste of its own and is served as a separate menu item.

 Gosh!! I am writing this close to bed time and now I am craving for a vada, ha ha. 



Food from other lands:

I am a big fan of salads. The colors and crunchiness and the freshness of the ingredients combine to make it a very refreshing meal. Speaking of salads,  vinaigrette comes to mind. I love experimenting with salads and salad dressings. Be it simple lemon , salt pepper or a complicated ground and pounded mixture. 

Do you like salads ? What is your favorite dressing? 

Food for thought;

Todays quote:

Vallavanukku pullum aayutham.

Aayutham - weapon (tool in this context )

Vallavan- Smart / talented person 

Pullum - even a blade of grass 

This translates to - For a smart person even a blade of grass serves as a tool.

Basically if we set our mind on something, smartness lies in figuring out how to maximize the use of the resources at hand and thinking out of the box!  Something or the other could be put to use if we put our creativity into it !

Oops, I made it sound like a corporate motivational message on LinkedIn , didnt I ? Ha ha 




Sunday, April 24, 2022

Upma and a quote from Kannadasan

Upma (oopma - the u is like the u in put not the one in cut) is a commonly seen item in South Indian kitchens and we make it almost every week for breakfast or dinner.



It is a fast to cook dish that takes like 15 minutes or so overall to prepare.  The basic ingredient would be some broken grain like semolina or coarsely ground rice or broken wheat. We could use millet varieties or wheat products like vermicelli.

Sautee lentils, curry leaves , green chillies , ginger add in roasted broken grains and water and it cooks in a jiffy. Whether we add the water first or the grain first is a matter of preference.

I normally add vegetables like carrot, potatoes, cauliflower, beans and peas to my upma.

I have heard of it being described as bland and boring especially in youth circles. Some subtle details like amount of water, quality of grains used, what goes into the garnishing, what is served as accompaniment decide the taste factor of this dish. It can be anywhere between a very bland porridge like substance to an aromatic, colorful , soul-stirring scrumtious meal. Its upto the cook to move it towards the latter.

Besides,

The taste one enjoys what eating depends upon ones measurement on the hunger scale!  Don't you think so ? 

Food for thought:

Kannadasan was one of the most famous lyricists of Tamil cine industry.  His works were prominent in the movies of the black and white era in the 1950s and 60s. Kavignar(poet) Kannadasan has penned many verses with profound meanings. The below are from a movie song released in the year 1960.

Unakkum keezhe ullavar kodi

Ninaithu parthu nimmadhi naadu

The above are one of my most favorite lyrics from him.

Unakkum keezhe - even beneath you

Ullavar - who are there

Kodi - crore ( millions)

Ninaithu - think

Nimmadhi - peace

Naadu - seek

No man on earth is devoid of problems and everyone of us has some hardship or the other to face or endure. The lines say , there are always millions at a situation worse than yours. Think of them and be at peace! 



Friday, April 22, 2022

Thuvayal Thokku Tofu

 Thuvayal and Thokku are two items that can be just mixed with rice and eaten or used as a side dish for other recipes.

A thokku is like a pickle but not exactly the same. Basically grated , minced or ground vegetables are sauteed in sesame oil with some red chilly powder or paste for the spice and salt to taste. This is left to cook for some time till it reaches a nice spread sort of consistency. Thokku can be preserved in the fridge for over a week.

Thuvayal and small onion (shallot) thokku

Thuvayal is sort of a coarse chutney. Its made by roasting lentils and red chillies and ground with some other ingredient like curry leaves or mint or corriander leaves or coconut. My mother in law makes excellent thuvayals and a whole variety of them including ones with brinjals( thats what we call eggplants in India) . You can even make thuvayals with the peels or other parts of some vegetables which we might otherwise throw away! The inner filling of snake gourd  for instance (snake gourd is a vegetable. Have you heard of it? )

Hot rice, coconut thuvayal with tomato raita on the side was a favorite combination for me and my brother. Its easy to cook and great to eat.

Food from other lands:

Tofu . After over a decade of stay here in Singapore, tofu has become a part of our weekly diet . It is manufactured using soy beans and is a key constituent of vegetarian Chinese food. It couldve scrambled like eggs , fried  , added to soup. I have also heard that silken tofu is a good replacement for eggs in some of the baking recipes.

Food for thought:

Todays quote is from Thirukkural, one of the most renowned works in Tamil literature comprising 1,330 short couplets, or kurals. Each kural is of seven words and many of them convey important life lessons. The text is close to 2000 years old. Thirukkural quotes are taught to children in schools and used in oratorical contexts too.

Theeyinar sutta pun ullaarum aarathey naavinar sutta vadu.

Thee - fire

Pun - wound

Sutta - burn 

Naavu - tongue 

Aaru - heal

The wound or the burn caused by fire will heal and fade, but the hurt caused by the tongue or harsh words will never heal ( or last forever).

We must exercise restraint of speech as the hurt of words runs pretty deep and is indelible !