Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Traditions

Today is a day of many festivals. Maghi in the north, makar sankranti in Western India and pongal in southern regions, the day variously marks harvest, new year and start of an auspicious time. My favourite festival though happens a day before January 14. On lohri day, my state of Punjab celebrates winter solstice with bonfires and much signing and dancing.

As with all festivals, food forms a major part of lohri. It's traditional to eat peanuts, sesame brittle called rewri and for some strange reason, popcorn, on the day. The same foods are also thrown into the bonfire, an offering to bring in good luck.

There are also sweets, of course. The more popular one is bhugga, made of condensed milk and sesame seeds, bringing in warmth in the cold months. But it's this lesser known sweet that I wanted to tell you about.




This sweet springs up at all sweet shops in Amritsar the first week of January. It's called khajoor, the same name as dates. And yet, the sinful treat has nothing healthy or date like going for it. This is instead, a dough ball made of sugar and flour and ghee. Then deep fried in more ghee so the outside becomes crisp and crumbly while the inside is soft, white and truly rich and delicious. I have memories of khajoors eaten just a short while out of the frying pan, still warm and oozing ghee. Then, just like magic, they vanish a day later, not to be seen for another year.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Polenta



There is no grain that polarises opinion more than polenta. Most people I know can't stand it. Even an Eastern European friend, who should be guzzling this stuff, couldn't understand why I would order polenta fingers at a restaurant. It's peasant food, he said.

But peasant food or not, I like the simple comfort of polenta. I like it even better when it is cut into fingers or wedges, then pan fried. And topped, in this case, with a creamy mushroom sauce.

I am not going to tell you how to cook polenta because it varies from one package to the other. So go by what it says on yours. Once it's cooked through, pour into a greased pan large enough to hold about 1 inch thick layer. The one you see above is in fact a bit too thick. Once it's in the pan, leave it in the fridge overnight to set.
Next day, cut into fingers or wedges or a shape of your choice. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan and shallow fry your polenta until browned on both sides. The thinner you set it, the crisper it will be.

I like polenta best with this creamy mushroom sauce that's also super easy. Wash 4-5 mushroom. Remove stems, pat dry and cut into thin slices. Peel and finely mince a clove of garlic. In a small pan, melt a tsp of butter. Add garlic and sauté until it starts to brown. Then add mushrooms and stir fry on a high heat until they are browned and cooked through. Now add 2 tbsp cream, cook for just another minute to heat it through and finish with a pinch of salt and a dash of fresh ground pepper.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year


Here's to a year full of...

          The richness of cream

          The decadence of chocolate

          The sweetness of vanilla

          The comfort of cinnamon

           And the joy of tiny, tiny marshmallows.

Have a delicious 2014!