29 January, 2008

Announcing: Ode to Potato

The year 2008 has been declared the International Year of the Potato (IYP) by United Nations to raise awareness of Solanum Tuberosum. IYP was officially launched on 18th October, 2007. Did you know that the plastic bag of humble potatoes you casually pick up at the local supermarket is in fact vital food source for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world? Almost 213 million tonnes of potato are grown to eat every year from which half of it was plucked from the soils of developing countries, making it the fourth most important food crop in the world preceded by Rice, Wheat & Maize. Potato output has grown double in the past fifteen years and is expected to double again by 2020. This unassuming tuber is playing a strong role in developing countries due to the fact that it is more nutritious and it can grow very quickly on less land even in harsher climates than any major crop. In a right sense this humble Potato has become a Global Crop.


Image Source: IYP

According to the International Year of the Potato (IYP), "The celebration of the International Year of the Potato (IYP) will raise awareness of the importance of the potato - and of agriculture in general - in addressing issues of global concern, including hunger, poverty and threats to the environment."


Mission Statement
The mission of the International Year of the Potato is to increase awareness of the importance of the potato as a food in developing nations, and promote research and development of potato-based systems as a means of contributing to achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.


Image Source: IYP

IYP 2008: Challenges and opportunities
The International Year of Potato aims at raising the profile of this globally important food crop and commodity, giving emphasis to its biological and nutritional attributes, and thus promoting its production, processing, consumption, marketing and trade. Celebration of IYP 2008 is an opportunity to make a valid and effective contribution towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals:
  • Food Security - improving access to safe and nutritious food
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Sustainable use of biodiversity
  • Sustainable intensification of potato-based farming systems
IYP Logo
The logo of the International Year of Potato was created by Italian graphic designer Giancarlo de Pol. The main graphic elements - above, a bowl with harvested potatoes and below, in the earth, a golden tuber - symbolize the intimate link between humanity and agriculture. The slogan, "Hidden treasure", highlights the often overlooked importance of the potato for rural people, the economy and global food security. The IYP logo is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.


Because of the importance of this underestimated tuber, I have decided to host an event noting the key role of the potato as a staple food in the diet of the world’s population. I am hoping that our strong food blogger community will get together and increase the awareness of International Year of the Potato (IYP). Hence I invite you to participate in this one-off event - “Ode to Potato”.

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The Guidelines:

1. Potato recipes in Indian and International cuisine are plenty. Mashed, boiled, grilled, fried, sautéed; you are spoiled for choices. Simple everyday potato recipes are most welcomed but it would be really interesting to try something new, something that you have bookmarked from your fellow blogger and wanting to try.
2. Any information and pictures of Potato you want to share are welcome.
3. Please remember that this is a fun event and don’t stress yourself if you are unable to participate. No one is gonna chase you with broom stick :) Send your entries if you are cooking up something in your kitchen and think it could be an entry to this event.
4. Feel free to use the logo in your post or on blog sidebar and please don’t forget to link back to this post. 2008 being a international year of the potato, you are welcome to use this logo whenever you post any potato dish but do link back to this post.
5. Once you have posted your recipe with a link back to this post, send your entries by March 15, 2008 to sia[at]monsoonspice[dot]com with the subject line ‘Ode to Potato’. Don’t forget to include your name, your blog’s name, the permalink of the entry, and picture of your recipe in your email. Don’t worry about resizing the image.
6. If you don’t have a blog but wish to participate in this event, send your entries with a picture, your name and recipe to sia[at]monsoonspice[dot]com before the deadline. I will post the recipes with your picture in my blog and include it in the round-up.
7. I will post the round-up by the end of March 08.

Please note that, I may not be able to leave comment in your blog due to time constraint but I’ll try to respond to your emails within 3 days. Please go through the guidelines carefully and mail me your entries. I'll not include your entries in the round-up unless I get them through emails as it's not feasible for me to check individual blogs and pick your entries. If you don’t get reply to your mail within 3 days, please send me the entries again as there is a high chance of your mail being sent to my spam folder.
Thank you friends. I am hoping to see grand round-up of this humble tuber:)

Cheers
Sia

Update:

Looks like it’s gonna rain potato this season in blogsphere. Our fellow blogger Dhivya of Culinary Bazaar is also hosting an event- The Potato Fe(a)st. Yup, another Potato event. So hop in all you wonderful foodies and let’s celebrate double dose of Potato;)

27 January, 2008

Want Some Tea?

"The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second shatters my loneliness.
The third causes the wrongs of life to fade gently from my recollection.
The fourth purifies my soul.
The fifth lifts me to the realms of the unwinking gods."
-Chinese mystic Tang Dynasty

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Location: Wayanad, Kerala, India
Click Here to view enlarged image.


A little cup of friendship
With a bag of tea
When you drink this
Think of love from me.
-Unknown Author

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Location: Wayanad, Kerala, India
Click Here to view enlarged image.

24 January, 2008

Don't Learn Safety by Accident!

Imagine you logging into your blog one day and find your blog has vanished without any trace. Horrifying isn’t it? It is worst nightmare any passionate blogger can have. When I saw Sunita’s post in DH, I realised how important my blog is to me. I just couldn’t bear the thought of losing it due to unforeseen error. I am the one who is used to backing up each and every file and project I am working on as I learnt it hard way as how important it is back up. Since the day I lost all my project work on the day of its submission during my semester exams I make it a point that each and every file is securely backed up. I can’t see any reason as why I should leave my blog vulnerable to all unforeseen accidents. Forgetting to backup your blog or website is not a big deal until you realise that you have lost all your posts, comments, pictures and there is no way you can restore them to their formal glory!!!



Picture from Here

Backing up your blog is very important for any blogger and there are few simple ways to keep your blog safe. I follow two methods to back up my blog.

First one is to simply backup my blog using online blog backup service via Blog Backup Online. This according to me is the best backup service available and that too FREE!!! You don’t need any software or coding/programming knowledge to back up your blog. All you need to do is sign-up and register your blog you want to backup and it will backup your blog daily! How cool is that :) One thing is to remember is it is free as long as long as you use 50 MB of storage space.
Pros:
  • You don’t need to download any software and also you don’t need to be technical savvy.
  • Your blog will be automatically backed up everyday. Initially when you register your blog it does Full Back up where all data to date will be backed up. Once the Full Backup is finished, it does daily Incremental Backup meaning it will look up for new posts you add and will back it up.
Cons:
  • It can backup upto 50 MBs of data which is not that bad. But if your blog size exceeds that limit you may have to take professional service to back up your blog.
Second thing I do is export my blog contents to wordpress account. Here you will need to create a wordpress account. Once you have created an account with wordpress go to Manage->Import and click on Blogger. It will display all your blogger accounts and all you have to do is press magic button Import to import all your blogger posts & comments with pictures. By Importing your blog posts and comments from your Blogger account to Wordpress doesn't mean that you will lose all the data from Blogger account. If I have to say in simple words, it is same as you copying the data from your PC harddisk to external drive/storage or CD and having 2 copies of same data. Which in turn means you have two copies of all your posts both in Blogger and Wordpress account and whenever it's needed you simply have to export all the posts from Wordpress to Blogger account intact with all the comments and pictures. But remember you need to Import data on regular basis from Blogger account to wordpress in order to have an up-to-date copies.
Pros:
  • You will have backup of all your posts, comments along with pictures which you just need to export to your blog when needed.
Cons:
  • Unlike Blog Backup Online, wordpress account will not import the data automatically and you need to do it manually. It is not exactly a method for backing up your blog but it’s always better to have another set of your blog backup.
Also Read few other ways to backup your blog.
1. Blogger Backup from Blogger Help.
2. How to backup a Blogger blog by Alex.
3. Wordpress Backup by Mr.Byte.
4. Blogger Backup for Dummies by Peter Chen.


Image taken from Here

In case you don’t backup your blog and by mistake have deleted or lost your blog there are few basic thing I would suggest you do.
1. Don’t panic. Easier said than done, hun? I know I am being philosophical here but you won’t get your blog back by cursing yourself or banging your head to the wall. You need to take control of the situation and not the other way round. Be calm and do the following.
2. Before anyone takes your blog URL go and get it. It is possible that someone might take your blog URL (high chances if you are on top Technorati chart) and use it. It is difficult to retrieve your old URL and you may need to start from scratch. So don’t leave any chance. Re-register your blog URL as soon as possible.
3. Contact Blogger Support Team through here. There are high chances of them missing your mail. Keep mailing them till you get some human response instead of automated reply. Blogger will eventually restore all your blog posts along with pictures and comments but can’t say really when. For some it took few hours, for other some days and even month. So don’t lose your heart. You just need to be persistent and keep mailing Blogger Help till you get response from them.
4. You will probably have almost all your blog posts stored in your or your friend’s Google reader or in their Feedburner. And also major search engines like Google will have your most of your posts locally which are known as ‘Cached Copy’. Just clicking on Cached link you will be able to see your individual posts and retrieve them. So there is high chance of retrieving all your posts although it is little time consuming.
5. If you have set your blogger account to send you an e-mail when someone leaves a comment on your blog you can retrieve all your comments too. To set this option go to your blogger Setting->Comments. Type in your e-mail address on box which says ‘Comment Notification Email’. This enables you to collect all your comments as individual emails to your mailbox.
6. Same thing applies if you are moderating your comments.
As my Grandma always said “Precaution is better than cure”, why take chance and repent later? Make blog backups a habit and ‘Prepare and prevent, don't repair and repent’ :)

Happy Blogging and Backing up ;)

Cheers
Sia

21 January, 2008

Corn-y Affair: Sweet Corn Sundal

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Sweet Corn Sundal

The sky is ablaze with glorious colours- fiery red, searing orange yet the outer edge of the blazing sky had begun to cool with the indigo of the night. The golden globe of sun was slowly descending in the backdrop of red-orange water and one could see all the colours of rainbow reflecting off the sea as the sun and water becomes one. You see the birds heading back to their nest and hear the roaring sound of tides hitting the shore. A light, cool breeze sweeps across, wiping all the stress and worries. You take a deep breath inhaling the smell of sea, sand and Bhutta….

Yes, ‘Bhutta’ or ‘Makkaai’ in Hindi is the roasted corn on cob. When the first rain indicated the onset of Monsoons in India, I would eagerly look forward for delicious treat. The sight of corn vendor or Bhuttawalah with his wooden cart stocked high with fresh corn and a small coal stove would make my taste buds tingle and eyes twinkle. Parked on road side, beaches, cricket play grounds, school/collage gates, this corner, that corner, every nook and corner would become the center of frenzied activity as the Bhuttawalah’s lured the passers-by with the delicious roasted aroma of Bhutta being roasted on open charcoal stove. The smell of the fresh roasted corns is so enticing that people are drawn to the cart to pick and choose the Bhutta.

The process of eating these Bhutta may sound very simple and straight forward but to actually experience the real taste of Bhutta the process starts right from selecting the right corn; the one which is neither too hard nor too tender. The hard ones with yellow colours give your teeth a tough time to chew and the tender one with creamy colour leaves you unsatisfied and wanting for more. The trick to get the right one is to open the husks and poke few of the kernels by digging your sharp nails to see how fresh and right the corn is.

Once the right corn is selected, the Bhuttawalah puts the corn on iron coal stove and keeps turning the corn to roast it evenly. Within few minutes of perfect technique of roasting as he fans the coal to keep them astir, you have your aromatic, roasted corn on the cob ready. The best is yet to come… that is the zesty end to the Bhutta story. With freshly cut piece of lime dipped into a mixture of hot red chilli powder and salt, the Bhuttawalah artfully massages the length of cob, leaving trails of hot, sweet and sour flavour all over the kernels. If you are like someone like me who likes to test her spice scale then you are in for treat. With another coat of fiery green chilli chutney deftly applied on them you will be testing your spice scale to its limit. Can’t handle too much of spice? No worries. Bhuttawalah is too happy to apply silky butter which will melt at the very touch of hot Bhutta. As the butter dissolves chilli, lime, salt and chilli chutney creating perfect harmony of flavours, the pleasure of biting into Bhutta and savouring the taste is something which one needs to experience to understand.

PhotobucketBhuttawalah roasting Bhutta on Charcoal
Photo Courtesy: Arun Shanbhag (Thanks Arun:)

“....pray what more can a reasonable man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of ears of green sweet-corn boiled, with the addition of salt?”
-Henry David Thoreau, 'Walden'

I do agree with you Mr. Thoreau. With non-stop rain pouring without any break, all I could think of is biting into sweet, spicy, tangy and hot Bhutta. It being Sunday evening and all the supermarkets closed I had to settle for canned Sweet Corn!!! I chose to make Sundal which is usually made using Black or White Chickpeas/Kabuli Channa and is given as Prasadam in most of South Indian Temples. Cooked black/white channa is tempered with mustard and urad dal and garnished with fresh coconut flakes is my favourite Prasadam in Temple which always makes me wanting for more. To this basic recipe of Sundal I used canned sweet corns which quite surprisingly tasted great. This crisp sweet corn is sautéed lightly with crunchy onion and sweet tomatoes with a touch of green chilli and a splash of lime juice to give it a zest. It was a quick and great snack to munch on while we watched rain dancing around us. I am sending this to lovely Mansi of Fun and Food who is hosting fun event Game Night Party as its a perfect dish to prepare within ten mins and enjoy with your friends.

Sweet Corn Sundal
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 5 mins
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
2 cups Sweet Corn (We used canned)
1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
1 small Tomato, finely chopped
1 Green Chilli, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp Lime Juice
1 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste

For Tempering:
½ tsp Mustard Seeds
1 dry Red Chilli, halved
1 tsp Oil
Few Curry Leaves (Optional, but recommended)
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Sweet Corn Sundal

Method:
Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, red dry chilli and curry leaves.
When mustard starts to pop and splutter add finely chopped red onion, green chilli and sauté it for 30 seconds.
Now add finely chopped tomato, sweet corn, salt to taste and sauté it for 1-2 mins over medium flame.
Turn off the gas, add lime juice and chopped coriander leaves and mix well. Serve hot and enjoy.


Notes:
Add grated fresh coconut and raw mango to get different flavour.
Replace sweet corn to cooked black or white kabuli channa.
Omit onion when preparing it for Neivedyam.

17 January, 2008

Disco H2O!!!

Yes......... At last I did manage to Click something before deadline :) This is my first entry for Jai & Bee's Click-a photo event and unlike last few months where I was too busy admiring other entries and had completely forgot to post my Click. So here I am sending 70's theme, ooops...Click-Liquid Comfort...

Disco H2O!!!

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Click Here to see enlarged image

P.S: This picture is a result of minor accident at home. These beautiful water drops are shot in natural light and no software is used to get this colour effect :) I will reveal the secret as how I clicked my CLICK very soon ;)

14 January, 2008

Pleasure of Slow Cooking with Rajma

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Rajma

January, cold January…. As I stare down another long, bitter cold, horrid and dark January, my thoughts turn to the kind of food that nurtures my tummy and soul, brightens my mood, soothes my senses. When I ask myself what’s soothing on a gray winter day, I picture tucking into deep bowl of soup or dal rice. First thing I reach for is comfort food when the weather turns bitterly cold in the depths of British winter. And who can blame me for this when the central heating at home is on full blast and air-conditioning unit in office don’t seem to get over the fact that it’s no more summer. For most of us comfort food has three characteristics- it offers a substantial hit of carbos; it is never over-flavoured, neither bland nor too spicy/sweet; and it is always easy to eat without much fuss. From the time I got back from my trip I seem to have spent most of last two weeks feeling miserable, homesick and continuously struggling with my work deadline. Ultimately it’s comfort food that sooths my nerves and hugs me in its warmth as it touch my lips and spreads its warmth to my soul.


Yes, lately I have been cooking comfort foods. I am not talking about some high calorie sins here. I am cooking and eating simple, traditional, no-fuss food which I crave for. It’s a food which takes me on a virtual tour to back home where I see little 6 something me eating holding small balls of rasam/dal rice in my little chubby fingers and eating it while listening to stories. These small balls of rasam/dal rice with ghee, “Kai Thuttu" as we call, was given by Amma would taste heavenly in spite the fact that it was just every day food. It’s mother’s love that transferred this common food to something extra ordinary. It’s one experience which every one of us will treasure for rest of our life. Even now in my mid 20’s I never spare a chance of eating Kai Thuttu when I am at home with my Amma.


Apart from simple Dals and Rasams one such dish which I strongly believe falls into comfort food zone is Rajma-Chawal. Delicious Red Kidney Beans simmered in creamy and aromatic onion-tomato gravy lightly touched with right spices served with a steaming bowl of basmati rice is special favourite of mine for seeing off the winter blues. Rajma is one dish where you hardly need to sweat out in front of the stove yet unbelievably the end result is one lip smackingly delicious meal. When ever I cook some lentil/pulses I follow slow cooking method where the pulses are simmered in gravy for long hours to blend in all the flavour. One thing to remember when you go for slow cooking method is to use heavy bottomed pan or utensils so that the gravy doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If you own an earthen pot then you will sure to experience another dimension of taste. With little stirring here and there this Rajma recipe is simple to nothing and it is sure to please everyone’s taste buds. I'm sending this comforting bowl of Rajma to Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook who has asked us to cook with beans/pulses for her My Legume Love Affair and Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey who is hosting MM-Comfort Foods. How can I say no to these lovely ladies!!! Hope you girls enjoy it.

Photobucket Print This Recipe


Rajma (Kidney Beans in lighly spiced Onion-Tomato Gravy)
Prep Time: 5-10 mins (Excluding soaking time)
Cooking Time: 45 mins - 1 hour
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:
1 can Kidney Beans or 1 cup Rajma/Red Kidney Beans, soaked over night
1 large Onion, finely chopped
1 can chopped Tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 inch Ginger, thinly sliced
2-3 Garlic Flakes, finely chopped
2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
1 tsp Amchoor/Dry Mango Powder or Anardaana Powder
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi
1 inch Cinnamon
3 Green Cardamoms
2 Cloves
½ + ½ tbsp Oil
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Hing/Asafetida
Salt to taste



Photobucket
Rajma

Method:
If using soaked kidney beans, cook the beans in pressure cooker with little salt and enough water for about 15 minutes till it is cooked.
Heat ½ tbsp of oil in a pan and add ginger, garlic and onion pieces to it. Sauté it for about 1-2 mins till onion turn translucent and raw smell of ginger garlic is gone.
Add chopped tomatoes or canned tomatoes and sauté it for about 2 minutes. Switch off the flame and let the onion-tomato base cool down a little.
Once cooled take onion-tomato base, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves in a blender and grind them to smooth paste.
Heat ½ tbsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add cumin seeds and hing. When jeera starts to crackle transfer the ground mixture to the pan and give a good stir. Cook on a medium flame for about 3-4 minutes.
Add cooked/canned Rajma, chilli powder, amchoor/anardaana powder, kasuri methi and salt to taste. Mix 1-2 cups of water and reduce the flame.
Cook cover in low flame, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 minutes till all the flavours blend well. This slow cooking gives creamy texture to the gravy as well as great taste.
Serve hot Rajma garnished with coriander leaves with steaming bowl of Basmati Rice or Roties and enjoy.


Note:
Substitute Rajma with White Kabuli Channa or Black Channa with Potatoes and follow the same recipe for different flavour.
Add greens like Spinach/Palak, Methi/Fenugreek leaves to add more green intake.
Few more Comfort Foods (Dal/Rasams) of mine posted in Monsoon Spice are

06 January, 2008

Slu.........rrrrrrrp :)

Simple Delights of Life

Mangoes, Carrots, Indian Gooseberries and Pineapples in Brine are the speciality of small “Gaadi” in Kerala. Just one look at them and I was floored. It was our favourite thing to munch on during our stay in Wayanad. I call them Simple Pleasures of Life… I am sending these pics to my dear friend Jyothsna of Curry Bazaar who is hosting this month's RCI-Kerala.

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Small Gaadi called Untu Vandi selling Mangoes, Carrots, Pineapple and Gooseberries in Brine.
Location: Wayanad, Kerala
Click Here to view enlarged image

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Beautifully arranged Fruits in Brine
Location: Wayanad, Kerala
Click Here to view enlarged image.

PS: Thank you everyone for your lovely wishes through mails, comments and messages. I am bit held up with my project launch. I will be back with more recipes and memories soon. Till then Happy Cooking and Blogging.

01 January, 2008

New Year Day...

"A new year is beginning to peak through
softly beautiful and different like new falling snow,
each day unique and shaped just for you.
Your life adding something as each day does grow.
My wish for your new year is beauty
and softness with surprises thrown in for delight.
Love for each day bringing happiness to you,
making your life a scene of sparkle and shining sunlight."
-- Author Unknown

Wishing You & Your Loved Ones
A Very Happy New Year...



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Location: Our Estate in South Canara
Click Here to view enlarged Image.
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