Sunday, 28 February 2010

Mathi meen varuval (Sardine fry)



Sardines are named after Sardinia (an Italian island),  where large schools of these fish were once found. I saw these fresh sardines in the market. Immediately,  I started to drool on the thought of the fish fry which my mom prepares. Her fish fry recipe calls in for a special type of ground masala which is very different from tamilians preparation. I think it's a keralite way of preparation. Whenever I go for the fish market she would say " buy sardines if it is available they will be very nice for frying". The sardine fry turned out to be very tasty. Since the fishes were very small they became very crispy in no time. So here comes the recipe:

Ingredients

Sardines ( wash and clean them)
Ginger 1 inch piece
Garlic 10 small pods
Pepper- 1 tbspn
Fennel seeds- 1/2 tspn
Curry leaves- lots (some 50-60 leaflets)
Turmeric a pinch
Chilli powder- 1 tbspn
Salt to taste

Method

Clean the sardines. Grind all the items given in the ingredients column (ofcourse except sardines) into a very smooth paste. This ground masala is excellent for all types of fish fry. Try it. You will love it.  Marinate the sardines in the ground paste. Keep aside for atleast one hour. Take a shallow pan, add oil and shallow fry the fishes. I would love to have the fishes in the most crispier way. So when to stop the frying process depends on you.

Sardines contain lots of fat in them.They are very good source of omega-3 fatty acids. When you eat sardines, you  do not have to worry about the sharp bones. They are very fragile and when you fry sardines they become very crispy, so "appadiye sapidalam". In this way you get a lot of high quality calcium. Sardines are claimed to be good for cardiovascular health, memory, joints, skin and energy level but the most important reason to indulge in a plate of sardines is it's taste


. Happy cooking!!!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Thursday, 25 February 2010

A peahen named Roy, part II




So after the weekend is over I called a forest department personnel and explained him everything. He said that he will come and take the bird with him. I am sad, really sad. Two days with the bird is enough for me to form an affectionate bonding. Two days later the forest department personnel came. He didn’t seem to have any real concern for the bird from his looks and talks. He asked me ‘enga irukuma’? (Where is the bird?). I showed him my little bird. He looked at me in a very confused way and asked are you sure it’s a peachick? I am astonished by this question from him. I told him that I am 100% sure. His eyes looked at the bird one more time and then he turned to me and said ‘this bird is very small, it won’t live long’. ( Oh!!! How much I hated that person and his words). I looked at him pathetically. He mentioned few golden words. ‘ KEEP IT YOURSELF’, I can’t take it with me. I tried to hide my joy and asked whether we need a license? He said let us see if it is alive and left the place. I looked again at the poor creature.It looked happily at me without any tinge of fear. So this is how our Roy came to live in our family.

Nothing happened as the forest department personnel said. Our peachick started growing day by day. Within a month it is big enough to chase our cats. It loved to eat whatever we ate. Chappathis, idly with coconut chutney, sugar were some of her favourites. It would also visit our backyard and gulp down insects and tender parts of plants. It’s most favourite snack was raw onions. It can’t even wait untill my mom cut the onions into small pieces. Like a small child it will be eagerly waiting for it. If you say ‘Roy poochi, poochi’ it comes running from wherever it is. My mom is it's most favourite person in our home. It tolerated most people very well. It never troubled young children. But it had hatred for two people. One my grandpa and the next is our servant-maid. I should mention that both the above persons hated animals. My guess is they must have troubled our Roy in someway or the other. When our homemaid takes the broom stick for sweeping the home our Roy would stretch its wings, raise it small tail and run after her (like how she appears in the second picture). Panchu (homemaid's name)  immediately becomes panicked and will shout ‘amma parungamma’ (mother come and see). My mom have to pacify our Roy and remove it from that place. My dad christened it as Roy. It also shared a special bonding with my dad. Their favourite pass time was to sit outside our home on the steps, with Roy sitting on his lap. Roy used to get itching near it's neck region during summer. My dad used to apply nycil powder on her neck. Thats a wonderful scene to see ofcourse. Roy will be eagerly showing her neck to my dad. It also guarded our home. No strangers are allowed inside home. When any outsider come they are stopped by our Roy before they enter the front hall. Many people are familiar with a dog guarding the house but seeing our Roy guarding our home is a kind of huge surprise for them. In the evening slowly she started to roam around in our community. She would fly to the nearby houses. She will sit on their compound wall and stare around. Everybody liked her. Many people were very happy if our Roy visited their home. In Hindu mythology, Lord Muruga used peacock as his vehicle. So they considered the bird as pious too. Children too used to chat with our Roy (The first picture shows a neighbouring girl talking something to her, my dad clicked it without her knowledge). Our Roy will be sitting among them without any fear. We are eagerly waiting for our peachick to grow into a beautiful peacock with colourful, long tail. When she grew we understood that she is a female. We are happy with her whether she is a beautiful peacock or less attractve peahen. She is afterall our Roy!!!

One day she went out on her routine flight and never came back. Everyone in my home was totally heart-broken. My mom even cried. Many young lads who live around our home were sent in search for her in all directions. But there was no news of her. Then came my servant-maid with a clue. Some person has told her that he sighted a peacock some 1 km away. My mom and the sevant-maid hired an auto and went to that particular place where she was sighted. There she was on top of a window sill, sitting very sad and tired. My mom's joy knew no bound. She started calling her ‘Roy, Roy’. Soon a small crowd gathered around smiling and talking among themselves around my mom. But Roy was more afraid of the crowd . She stood still in the same place. An idea flashed in my moms mind. She bent down touched the ground and said ‘Roy poochi, poochi’. Like a small child running towards her mom she came flying and running towards her. So all three of them came back home in the auto. She looked so weak and tired. It has been two days since she got lost. Her legs had some thread tied to it. We suspected that someone caught hold of her and tied her so that she can’t run away. But she somehow escaped and lost her way home. Immediately after arriving home she drank water and ate some sugar. After this incident she is much more careful. She tried to be indoor and safe most of the time.

She was with us for 2 and a half years. But one fine day she departed us and flew away. The main reason behind this is her age. She attained reproductive maturity. Her reproductive instincts were much stronger than the affection that she had for us. During that period she became very restless. She started to keenly hear the mating calls given by peacocks from the nearby fields. When she heard those sound she became very restless and started walking to and fro with some kind of agitation. When she saw her own reflection on the polished surface of the refigerator she started to peep back of the refrigerator to see whether some of her own species was there. And one fine day she took her flight for good and never to return back. Almost a year later she gave ‘dharshan’ to my dad and mom near my home. When my dad was brushing his teeth in the morning he suddenly noticed her sitting on top of a haystack near our home. My mom and dad shouted Roy, Roy come here, even they tried the ‘poochi technique’, but she just flew back again just to give them one last glance of her. She must have visited to show that she is well and to see whether we are well too. The last one year I am not at home. I am in Germany. So lost the opportunity to enjoy her companionship. But still I become very emotional when I think of her. Good bye friend hope your are doing well with your kith and kin.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A peahen named ROY, Part I



How many of you had or have pet animals at home? We always had pets at home, one or the other. We had cats, dog, parakeets,rabbits, a hare,  squirrels, fishes, and even a wounded crow and wood-pecker which fell down in our backyard. Pets make best friends. They make you happy whenever you are down. Just watch them play you can feel your sadness melting away, especially when you watch a kitten play you forget all the adversities. Pets are scientifically proven to reduce stress and high blood pressure. Animal assited therapy (AAT) is now-a-days widely used to treat many physical,mental and psycological health problems. Having said this, I would love to introduce to all of you one of the best pets we ever had- ROY.

Roy is a peahen. The name didn’t match because we named her before we could know her sex. The way she entered our home is an interesting story. One day myself and my friend were strolling around in the university where I studied. At a distance a young dog was playing with something in its mouth and its mother was happily lying down and proudly watching its kid. Wondering what was there in its mouth I took a few step towards it. The moment the little dog saw me it dropped that thing from its mouth and ran away. I could now clearly see what it was. It was a bird, a small bird which appeared to be a little bigger than a pullet. I took the bird in my hand, the poor little thing’s neck was lying low on one side (as if it is broken) of its body and it’s eyes were closed. On the top of both it's eye there were sand particles. I am very worried on seeing it and thought it was dead. I understood that it is a peachick (young one of a peacock) as I have seen only a day or two before, a peahen with its chicks. Totally heart broken I tried to examine it and that little one somehow sensed that it is in safer hands and opened its eyes and slowly lifted its head. ‘’How happy am I at that moment?’’. The happiness lasted only for a few minutes. Then I started to wonder what to do with that little one. As far as my eyes could see I could not spot its mother or the other young ones. I took it to my lab and kept it inside a safe basket. I called my mom. ‘Amma, I have found a peachik’ I told her abruptly. There was a deep silence on the other end. She told me after few seconds ‘ Look Manju don’t bring it here’. Now there is a hard silence from my side and then I replied as usual ’I will’. My mom was so angry and she hung up the phone. I know my mom very well. She loves animals. She has fed so many animals with her hand and I knew well that she will take care of this poor creature too.

So I went home with the peachick. My mom on seeing us didn’t speak anything. She pretended as if she is watching TV. After a few minutes she could not control her eagerness to look how a peachick will be. When she turned around I started giggling. She looked at me angrily and said ‘your sister only a few days back bought two stray kittens from the street and now you!!!’. That’s true. My sister had already bought two stray kittens which were thrown away on the street by some heartless creature only a week ago and need not to say my mom was taking care of them too. And one more important thing is we already had 4 or 5 cats in our home. My mom looked at the peachick and said ‘this looks very small and you know about our cats, don’t you?, whenever they get a chance they catch and gulp down the nearby pullets (young one of a hen), will they spare this poor creature?’ Now I started to panic a little. Then I thought ‘ok let dad come’ we will find a way. When my dad came and saw the little one he was very hessitant to have it at home. Since peacocks are our national bird, it is considered as a protected species. You need a license to keep it as a pet. After hearing this all my hopes were lost. My dad said 'you must inform a forest department personnel about this little one and then let us decide what to do'. Next two days were holiday. So I am at home all the time. I am worried about our cats tearing that little thing apart. The cats were very excited about the peachick.They were standing here and there, watching the little bird eagerly. But when they knew that the bird is ours and we are taking care of it they never troubled it (animals are very intelligent, you will never know this untill you move with them closely). Then a problem arouse about feeding the peachick. ‘What to feed the little one ?’. When I threw a few grains of rice in front of it the peachick didn’t know what to do. It just watched and kept quiet. Then an idea came to my mind. I put few grains of rice in my mouth chewed it nicely, kept it in my tongue and opened my mouth and showed my tongue with ground rice to the bird. My chweet, intelligent creature immediately picked it from my mouth. Then I fed it with biscuits the same way. Soon the peachick started roaming behind me.Wherever I went it followed me. Naturally it thought I am its mom as I am feeding it. After the week end I went to the university. My mom started to take care of it. She took an ink-filler, crushed rice or biscuits and fed the peachick with it. Soon the little one shifted its attention from me to my mom. It started assuming that our mom is it’s mom. She will be always following my mom wherever she went. When she goes to take a bath, our peachick will be standing outside the bathroom door and will be shouting in a non-stop manner untill my mom comes out. After seeing my mom it immediately becomes quiet and happy. When I am at home I taught the peachick one important thing. ‘How to look for earth worms by digging the mud?’ :). I would take a small stick dig the mud and tap the ground and say ‘ Roy poochi, poochi’ ( a word for insect in tamil). On hearing this and on seeing me digging and tapping the ground it will come running to me to eat the exposed earth worm. The time spent with this amazing bird is one of the beautiful time in my life!!! :)
                                                  To be continued.......

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Pasalai keerai chutney/ Bachalla kura pachadi


Rajender likes it. He used to say when his mom makes this pachadi he would absolutely love the smell of it. I got a fresh bunch of pasala keerai from Indian shop this week. Asked my sister-in-law for the recipe and here it is for you.

My hubby is from telangana region. Rice, chillies, onions, ground nut, coriander seeds, garlic, mangoes, tamarind are some of the locally grown crops there. So these items take an upper hand in their kitchen too. The dishes are very tasty but done with minimum ingredients. For example chicken is cooked with ginger, garlic paste and coriander powder. No extra spices like, cinnamon, cloves, aniseeds etc are added to it. But taste-wise they are excellent.

As a tamil girl I am not much aware of these pachadis before coming to Germany. But after coming here and mingling with the telugu community people I started watching with surprise how they can make pachadi with almost anything :). I am not a big fan of this Indian spinach (pasalai keerai) but after eating this chutney I have become a fan of it. You can have this pachadi with rice, idly, dosa or even with chappathi!!!

Ingredients

Pasalai keerai- 1 bunch
Dry red chillies- 6 nos ( Use 5 or 6 more if you like it really hooot!!!)
Coriander seeds- 2 tbspns
Cumin seeds-1 tspn
Garlic- 2 pods if it is very big / 5 or 6 small ones
Tamarind- one lime sized ball (deseeded)
Oil (as needed, preferably groundnut oil)

Method

Cut the pasala keerai into small pieces. Do not throw away the stem part. Use them too. The stems are rich in fibre and it gives a fulness to this pachadi too.

Take a non-stick pan. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. When the oil gets heated add the pasalai keerai and saute till it becomes half of it original volume. Keep it aside.

Now add a teaspoon full of oil and fry the coriander seeds and red chillies till it gives out a nice aroma.

Take a mixer jar. Add cumin seeds, garlic, tamarind and fried red chillies and coriander seeds. Grind these items into a nice powder. Then add pasalai keerai and salt and grind till it becomes mashed. Try to avoid grinding it to a smooth paste consistency.

You can now temper the ground pasalai keerai mixture with 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 red chillies, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and few garlic pods. If you like the taste of raw onions cut them into small bite-sized pieces and mix them with the chutney.

This chutney keeps good for a few days without getting spoiled. But if you would like to add raw onions add before serving.

Happy cooking!!!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Our third wedding anniversary (22.2.2007)


Today is our 3rd wedding anniversary. We have known each other for 6 years as of now. The journey with him is very pleasant.  I just want to thank God for giving me the privilege of spending my life with Rajender :). Have a beautiful weak ahead!!!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A snow is a snow is a snow :)



This year there have been a lot of snowy days. The first snow of the year is usually very amusing. It is very beautiful to see snow flakes floating and trying to land on the ground. When it falls on your face it tickles you gently and when a snowfalke occasionally lands on your lips and melts......hmmm that feeling is wonderful. But, the day  when the temperature starts to rise and the snow starts to melt a fear grips me tightly when I have to go outside. "Will I fall down?". I am very much worried about falling down and hitting my head somewhere or breaking my leg. It really skids when you least expect and the feeling you get suddenly is comparable to a roller-coaster ride and I hate roller-coaster rides :) So this winter I am extra cautious, trying to keep each and every step very carefully. Even after all the precautions, one morning I woke-up with pain in my foot. When I walk slowly the pain is horrible. But when I start walking fast the pain stops. Strange isn't it? Waited for a couple of days and went to a doctor. She examined my foot. Touched a particular muscle, it is very painful. She told me "I think you are extra cautious while walking on a snowy ground, you must have exerted too much pressure on your leg muscle", so just massage that particular area then the pain should go away. Two days of massage the pain went away like magic and I love that doctor. The moral of the story is "A snow is a snow is a snow", however careful you are you suffer from it someway :D. The above still is captured from my living room window today morning.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

A simple, healthy snack with fried bengal gram / garbanzo beans



When I am really in need of a quick, heart-warming and a real hot snack I make it. It's one of my comfort food. I beleive every comfort food carries with it many fond remembrances of our childhood. For me it reminds me of the cold, rainy days in madurai and my dad. When it starts raining my dad would ask me whether we can make this snack. Takes a minute to prepare and makes you very warm and cozy during a cold, rainy season. After I prepare it me and my dad will be have it, sitting near the door of our kitchen, watching the rain outside and having a hearty conversation. Wonderful days they are!!!

The recipe is very easy. Take two hand fulls of fried garbanzo beans. To that add finely crushed dry red chilli (amount depends on how hot you would like to have it. For me I would add 3 crushed long,dry red chillies. If you need it less spicy perhaps one is enough), 1/4 tspn of cumin seeds, 1/2 onion cut into bite sized pieces, 1or 2 tspns of seasame oil (you can instead use virgin olive oil) and 1/4 tspn of salt. Mix everything well. Smell this mixture it smells divine!! Now it is ready to eat. This quick recipe I learned from my dad. Probably it's from my grandma (dad's mom). It's a snack  prepared in those days in villages because it's cheaper and at the same time healthier.

Bengal gram or garbazo beans is a very good source of protein. Cumin seeds have many medicinal properties and extremely good for digestive disorders. Onion have potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Red chillies have high vitamin C and carotene content. They contain a compound called capsacin which acts as an anti-analgesic. Capsacin also has anti-coagulant properties and it increses our blood circulation. And if I could say one more good thing about red chillies :), they increases your endorphin levels and will actually make you feel happy. Seasame oil or olive oil is a source of healthy fat.

Is there a better snack to eat on a rainy, cold day?? Our ancestors are very intelligent ofcourse!!! Happy cooking friends!! Have a beautiful week-end!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Are you getting married? Ask for medical fitness certificate!!!

We were in India few weeks back. Had a wonderful time with our kith and kins. When talking with people I got to hear many stories both good and bad. I am very much moved with one such incident. My hubby's friend got married few months after our marriage. Everything seemed to go on well until his wife got pregnant. As every couple they went for a medical check-up. There they got to hear the horrible news. The girl is HIV-positive!!! Her husband also took a HIV test. Till now he maintains that he is HIV negative. Even today when I imagine the plight of this couple I could not control my tears. The most horrible thing in this story is the girl carried the baby to term. After giving birth the baby died of AIDS. The only connecting bridge between them is now gone. The girl now lives with her parents.

One more tragic incident. A girl got married. Few months later the girl and her family came to know that the boy is suffering from kidney failure. The worst thing is that the boy and his family already knew this. The girl’s parent wanted her to come back home. But the girl refused and agreed to live with that sick person (both mentally and physically!!!). This story ended with the death of the groom only few months later!!!!

These are real life stories. Getting married is the most important decission in any persons life. If you believe in horoscope matching go for it BUT please do aks for a medical fitness certificate. It will avoid many horrible things that might happen in your life. Never think this will not happen to me. Everyone is in danger. Prevention is better as there is no cure for many heartaches. Be realistic!! Be safe!!! Be happy!!

I heard that few function halls in tamilnadu demand a medical fitness certificate from both the bride and the groom. Kudos!!! to them. Its high time Indian government recognises the seriousness of the situation. Our government should take immediate steps to frame laws stressing the importance of medical fitness certificate in marriages.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Cooking is my passion

I am passionate about cooking. When I am in the kitchen I never feel bored. The good thing is that my hubby too loves my cooking. Beleive me I am good cook :).  For cooking and for doing good research you need lots of imaginations!!!. In other words a good cook can be a good researcher too (thats me ofcouse!!!). The saying 'way to a man's heart is through his stomach' is very true. I started cooking from the age of 12 and the first dish I made was potato fry. My sister is a great fan for the potato fry I prepare. My mother-in-law is a great cook too. She is also passionate about cooking to the extent that she allows nobody in her kitchen. Lucky me! the only thing I have to do when I visit my in-laws is just to sit and eat and appreciate her 'nalabagam'. In Tamil there is a word called 'kaipakkuvam'. I couldn't translate it into english. But to explain it if you give the same recipe to two different persons and ask them to cook, definitely the final product will not turn out to be the same. Anyone can cook food but only a few can cook tastily :) . Ok I will stop blabbering and would like to present one of my recipe here.

Oyster mushroom fry




Ingredients

Oyster mushrooms- 500gms
Big Onion- 1 no
Green chillies (according to your taste)
Mustard and jeera (cumin) seeds 1/2tspn
Urad dhal- 1 tspn
Curry leaves
Turmeric a pinch
Coriander powder- 1 tspn
Chilli powder (accoding to your taste)

Method
Heat oil in a non-stick pan. When it gets heated add urad dhal. Let it brown then add mustard and jeera seeds. When it splutters add curry leaves. Fry for a second and then add onions and green chillies. Fry for a minute. Add required amount of salt fry for some more time till the onions turn translucent. Then add turmeric, coriander and chilli powder fry for few seconds. Then add the mushrooms which are torn into big pieces. Do not add water. Mushrooms have lot of water content in them. When the water content of the  mushroom evaporates simmer for 5 min till the mushrooms are fried well and turn crispy and golden in colour. Mushroom fry is now ready. I didn't add any masala powder. I beleive simple cooking brings out the natural taste and flavour of many vegetables and sometimes even non-vegetarian items.

Mushrooms are a great source of protein. There are two varieties of mushrooms available in the market. Button mushrooms which are white or brownish in colour and are not spread on its top. The above ones shown in the picture are oyster mushrooms. These mushroom's top portion are well spread out and looks like oyster shells. Tastewise oyster mushrooms have no other competitor. Actually more than these artificially cultured oyster mushrooms the real, naturally growing ones taste soooooo good. In my village after 2 or 3 days of rain my dad would ask the nearby kutti pasanga (who are actually farners sons) to bring them. The children go to plantain fields and there these mushrooms will be growing on the stems of banana tree. It will be like a festival in my home when these mushrooms arrive. Every one will be eager to taste it when it is finished. They taste excellent!!! When you buy these mushrooms at shop please do not throw away the stem part. The real taste is eating the fried stem. Here in Germany sometimes I get only the top part and not the stem portion.

Caution: Only few mushrooms are edible. Always buy them from shops. Do not collect them from anywhere. Only experienced people can differentiate between poisonous and non-poisonous ones. Happy cooking!!!


What am I upto?

I am a researcher in the field of biology. To be very specific I am a stem cell biologist for the past 3 years. And to be much more specific I work on novel methods to convert embryonic stem cell to insulin secreting β-cells with a hope to use them for type I diabetes therapy in the near future. If anybody reading this are interested to know about this in detail you are very much welcome to contact me. I would love to write more about this exciting field in the near future.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

I love photography :)



I love nature. The place I stay in Germany is a very small town. In summer I feel absolutely wonderful here. It is a feast for my eyes to watch all the green plants and beautiful blossoms. When the sun is shining bright I love to roam around in our locality with my camera. One such day I clicked these dandellion seeds. Actually dandellion is a collection of many tiny flowers grouped together. After a dandelion blooms each flower produces a seed and each seed is attached to the a stem with fluffy white threads. That is what you see in this picture. Hope this picture is a feast for your eyes too!!

Welcome message!

Dear friends,

I am very new to this world of blogging. I am in need of constant encouragement and valuable criticisms. Hope to make many new frienships here! What am I going to write? To tell briefly I will be writing about life and so in a broader sense I will be writing about everything under the sun. Wish you all a very beautiful 2010!!!

Love,
Manju Rajender