Thursday, 4 September 2014

Potato-Free Pav Bhaji

Good food, like good music, is nourishing and cleansing for the body and soul.

Nothing quite makes a cold weeknight better than a hot, home-cooked, flavourful pot of goodness, warming up your insides as you gobble it up without a second thought. The enlightening music and gas heater add considerable value, no doubt.

During such considerably cold nights feeling a little lazy; a little calm; a little content under a warm blanket, my heart inevitably steers towards the likes of Carnatic and Hindustani based tunes. A few months ago, I saw the movie Ram Leela and fell in love. Not with the movie, but with the song Laal Ishq; with Arjit Singh. Honestly, his voice is not powerful; powerful is his voice! The song contains great depth, particularly in the chorus and the second verse. A depth that is often poorly attempted in most compositions. That depth is only understood when it sparks something in you that you don't expect. It's a beautiful feeling. The raag really consumes me. Mera naam ishq hits the high notes beautifully, and it's even more beautiful when he graually descends to mera naam, tera naam, mera naam ishq.... Magnificent and addictive composition.

"Bas ek rahe mera kaam ishq,
Mera kaam ishq, mera kaam ishq,
Mera naam ishq, tera naam ishq,
Mera naam, tera naam, mera naam ishq.."

"Yeh kaali raat jhakad loon,,
Yeh thanda chaand pakad loon.
Din-raat ke bairi bhed ka
Rukh mod ke main rakh dun"

I don't like Pav Bhaji - SAID NO ONE EVER. It's a smell on the streets of Mumbai that will force you to succumb at any time, any day; although any dish laden with ghee smells amazing. Traditionally a street fast food served with a soft toasted pav bun, it is a spicy onion and mashed vegetable curry infused with tangy spices and liberally complimented with ghee. In it's best form, it probably isn't the healthiest meal you could eat. Carby buns and starchy potatoes don't exactly spell healthy for dinner, but alas! The taste can still be achieved without all that. I subbed the potatoes with mashed cauliflower, and used multigrain buns instead. Believe me, even your picky 'yeh kya khilaa rahi hai?' friends won't know the difference.

Total time required: 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4

1 large onion diced
1 large tomato diced
1/2 a cauliflower
2 strands of curry leaves

3 green chillies finely chopped
3 tablespoons of ghee

1 teaspoon jeera
1 teaspoon of Pav Bhaji masala
1 pinch of turmeric
2 tablespoons milk
1 garlic clove minced (optional)
Salt to taste

Extra ghee, chopped coriander and freshly squeezed lemon/lime to garnish.

Cut your cauliflower up into bite size florets and boil in hot water till completely cooked. This will take at least 20 minutes on high heat with a closed lid.
Whilst the cauliflower is boiling, in another hot pan/kadai, add 2 tablespoons of ghee and once hot, add jeera, turmeric, curry leaves, pav bhaji masala, green chillies and onion. If you take garlic, add this now too. Saute on medium heat for a few minutes till golden and fragrant, then add the tomatoes. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Add a little water if it starts to dry up.
Once the cauliflower is cooked, run under cold water. Once cool, throw into a blender/food processor, add the 2 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of ghee and blend till you have a thick and creamy mashed-potato-like consistency.
Add this to the hot kadai and mix well. Add salt to taste. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

Garnish generously with lemon and coriander leaves. Serve each bowl with a dollop of ghee in the middle and a some hot toasted buns.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Simple Vegan (Potato-free) Quinoa Patties

I used to be a skeptic. I still am to an extent. I inherently question things far beyond what is usually questioned. One of the primary things I questioned until recently were the concepts behind nutrition and health. I've learnt over some time that there are very few foods in this day and age that are completely healthy. Everything else either has too many preservatives, is highly genetically modified, is sprayed with an exorbitant amount of pesticides, or is high in carb/fat. It doesn't help when every time you try and read something written by someone who seems to be an expert in the field, you get information that somehow contradicts with everything you've come to know thus far. Sound familiar?

My way out: eat simple. With the stress of work, long commuting hours, social obligations, and endless housework, it's often hard to eat simple and healthy. You will inevitably grab that sugar-filled muesli bar or packet of "wholegrain" chips, thinking it's healthy. They have the potential to be healthy, but they're not. Why? Additives, sugars, pesticides and genetic modification. What's the problem with eating genetically modified and pesticide-filled food? Simple. It's unnatural. It's unhealthy for our bodies - our 120 pound bodies that crave goodness against all odds.

Eat simple. Simple is what our ancestors ate. Simple is the way it was always supposed to be. My friend always says to me - if the ingredients on the box contain something you can't even pronounce, put it back. I've always only eaten home-cooked meals, but I also now only eat home-made snacks. These include my daily protein shake (natural protein powder, soy milk, berries and water), raw nuts and seeds, yoghurt, 100% rye crackers, baked zucchini/sweet potato/plantain chips, home-made granola, and the occasional fruit or piece of dark chocolate. All this with a generous skull of water per day, of course.

I follow Vardhini's blog religiously. She's brilliant. Inspired by her quinoa bites recipe, I created these healthy Vegan Potato-free Quinoa Patties:
These delicate rounds of simple, healthy and flavourful ingredients are completely sinless. Most patties contain potato, and whilst I'd stuff my face with potato for eternity if I had the choice, potatoes are on my no-no list. These patties are far healthier, substituting potato for besan (chickpea flour), and adding spinach and cabbage for a fiber and vegetable component. You could even call them savoury pancakes for the addition of flour in them. They make for an excellent lunch with salad, patty for a sandwich, appetizer on a stick in smaller sizes, or snack for that midnight hunger we're all guilty of experiencing.
Total time required: 40 minutes 
Yield: 12 patties

1.5 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups chickpea flour/besan (or blended/mashed up canned chickpeas if you don't have the flour)
1 cup spinach
1 small bunch of coriander
4 green chillies or 1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 cup shredded cabbage or any other shredded vegetable
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
A pinch of Himalayan Salt / Black Salt (or chaat masala)
Salt to taste
Oil to grill

Combine cooked quinoa, chickpea flour, shredded cabbage, cumin seeds, himalayan salt and cooking salt in a bowl.

Grind up the spinach, coriander and green chillies. Add to bowl. Mix. Add water little by little and mix through until you have a very thick and viscous consistency.

On a hot griddle/tava, pour in a ladle of this mix. It should stay together. If it spreads like dosa or pancake batter would, your batter is too runny. Add some chickpea flour to make it thicker.

Apply a few drops of oil, keep it on the lowest heat, and allow it to cook for at least 5 minutes with a lid on the pan. It will puff up beautifully - don't ask me why. Flip it over. Cook for another 5 minutes, still maintaining low heat with lid.

Alternatively, you can add 2 tablespoons of oil into the batter, pour ladles on a non-stick baking tray and bake them in the oven.

Serve hot with some spicy tomato chutney and a generous dollop of yoghurt.
Enjoy these patties with this beautiful melody from a recent film Maryaan. "Innum Konjam Neram" is sung by Shweta Mohan and Vijay Prakash, composed by the Mozart of India, A. R. Rahman. The specialty in this song is Vijay and Shweta's lint. Their voices melt into the notes. The sangadhis in which Vijay sings "yen avarasam, enna avarasam, nillu ponney" are simply magnificent. Likewise, the sweetness and mother-like voice in which Shweta sings the line "yen avasaram, enna avasaram, chollu kanne" is unmatched. Simplicity prevails in this hearty village song. It is etched into my heart -

Sri Om

Friday, 13 December 2013

Eggless Whole Wheat Linzer Cookies

So, it's almost Christmas. You want to bake. You want something that melts in your mouth, without the unnecessary calories and fats. I hear ya. Loud and clear. So loud, that this will forever be the recipe I go to, to make Christmas cookies.

I've devoured many Linzer cookies in my day. Gorgeous festive little treats with jam filling, bursting out of that little hole in the middle, snowed under a generous shower of icing sugar. The most beautiful cookies, in my opinion. How faced would you be if I told you these cookies could be made eggless and whole wheat? Oh yeah. Take a looksie -

My co-workers loved these delicate little cookies! At first, they took me a while to make, but once I got the hang of it, it was relatively easy to whip up the dough and press the cookies into the oven. They'll be a sure fire hit at any pot luck!

We enjoyed these cookies with milk on a Friday night, singing along to a tune that is really close to my heart - Kandukondain Kandukondain from the movie of the same name. My friend Yokesh and I love singing this song. In fact, we'll take every opportunity to relish this beautiful tune in the raga, Nalinakanthi. 
Composed by Rahman, lyrics by Vairamuthu, sung by Hariharan and Mahalaxmi Iyer:

"Kandukondaen Kandukondaen, Kaadhal Mugam Kandukondaen
Viral Thodum Dhooraththilae, Vennilavu Kandukondaen
Vennilaa Velichcham Kinnaththil Vizhundhu Niraindhaal Vazhindhaal Magizhchchi
Vennilaa Velichcham Kinnaththai Udaiththaal Uyirai Udaippaal Oruththi
En Kan Paarththadhu En Kai Saerumoa, Kai Saeraamalae Kanneer Saerumoa
Kandukondaen Kandukondaen Kaadhal Mugam Kandukondaen

Malarmanjam Vizhi Kenjum Manam Anjumallavaa
Uyir Minjum Ival Nenjam Un Thanjamallavaa
Un Thanimaik Kadhavin Thaal Neekkavaa
Kandukondaen Kandukondaen Kaadhal Mugam Kandukondaen"

Now to relish on these drops of heaven...

100 grams unsalted butter
100 grams wheat flour
30 grams cornflour
60 grams icing sugar (plus more for dusting on top of cookies)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon milk

2 cups jam of your choice
50 grams butter

Allow the butter to soften to room temperature. Do not melt it in the microwave. Beat it with an electric beater or stand mixer till it is creamy and soft. Add sugar and vanilla essence and beat again for 2 - 3 minutes till it is well combined and aerated. Finally add milk and mix through.
Sift wheat flour and corn flour 3 times together. It will now be a well incorporated and aerated dry mixture. This is very important.

Add this to the butter sugar paste in three portions, and use a spatula to combine it gently. Then use the electric beater/stand mixer and combine into a thick dough. It should not be runny at all. Knead the dough a little. Don't overwork it.
Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius.

Take a small portion of the dough and roll it into a ball. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 2mm thin sheet so you can cut out the cookies evenly. Use any plastic sheets you may have (sandwich/zip lock bags) to help you roll out small portions of the dough like so:

Use either small star shaped cutters or anything small with a round hole at the bottom (pen caps, frosting tips, hand cream lotion lids, perfume lids etc) to cut out the middle part of each cookie.

Place the baking tray into the oven on a low level. If you place it too high up near the coils, your cookies will brown and burn quickly.

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until the cookies have a golden brown on the sides.

Dust icing sugar on your cookies, and you can either fill them with just jam or butter cream. A few people told me that the jam was a bit too sweet, so one of my managers, Andrew Gifford, suggested that I put in buttercream instead! What a fantastic idea that was - they were lighter and the cookie taste was more vibrant as the jam didn't take over.

For the buttercream, simply beat the 50grams of butter till it is soft and fluffy, then add in the jam in small increments and beat it together till you get the perfect colour and taste to your liking. Done! Fill this in the cookies and they look spectacular!



Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Venn Pongal and Gotsu/Gojju - A Marriage Made in the Kitchen

Some combinations go so well together, that you simply cannot make one dish without the other. Typical combinations in terms of South Indian dishes go - Mogalu Kozhambu and Paruppu Thogayal, Vendekka Morr Kozhambu and Kathrika Kaai, Vengaya Sambhar and Urlakizhangu Roast, and of course, Venn Pongal and Gojju. This pepper-infused kichdi perfectly complements it's partner - the tangy eggplant stew. They're a match made in the kitchen. A beloved staple breakfast in South India, devoured for generations on a banana leaf, sitting on the cool floor beside your children, parents and grandparents, taking in that whiff of fresh ghee. 

My favourite time of the year to enjoy this dish is during Margazhi Month. I wish I could be in India every year during this month, listening to the Thiruppavai every morning, visiting temples, attending Gana Sabhas, and getting a taste of the authentic ghee-doused Pongal. We would have a bowl full of it everyday, but never got bored of it...

The combination of Pongal and Gojju is often also accompanied by a generous serving of Coconut and Coriander Chutney, easily whipped up using just a few ingredients.

Pongal isn't particularly the healthiest breakfast, but it is healthy to some extent, credits to moong dal. One you've cooked the rice and dal together in a pressure cooker, this dish will take you hardly 10 minute to put together - it's that easy. The gojju on the other hand will take you about 20 minutes.

Pongal and Eggplant Gojju

Yield: Serves 4
Total Time Required: 30 minutes + 30 minutes to cook the rice and dal.

2 cups white rice
1 cup moong dal / payatham paruppu
4 tablespoons ghee
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 strands curry leaves
1 teaspoon jeera
2 tablespoons cashew nuts (preferably broken into half and quarter pieces)
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida / hing / perungayam powder
Salt to taste

Pressure cook the 1 cup of moong dal and 2 cups of rice together in one pot with 9 cups of water for at least 4 whistles, to ensure it's thoroughly cooked throughout.

Once cooked, put into a large basin, add asafoetida and salt, and mix through well using a spatula.

In the smallest kadai / deep pan you have at home, add 1 tablespoon of ghee and allow to heat on stove. Add the cashew nuts and roast till golden. Put this into the basin with the rice and dal.

In the same kadai, add another 1 tablespoon of ghee, allow to heat, and add 1 tablespoon whole black pepper, 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 2 strands of curry leaves, 1 teaspoon of jeera and 1 tablespoon of minced ginger. Allow to splutter for just 30 seconds, and pour into the basin with rice and dal.

Mix all of this with your spatula thoroughly. The aroma of the curry leaves, ginger and pepper should be infused throughout the dish. Add the remaining two tablespoons of ghee on top right at the end.

Serve HOT and FRESH :)
Yield: Serves 4
Total Time Required: 20 minutes.

2 tablespoons oil
1 large eggplant, or 3 small eggplants
1 large onion
1 tablespoon of tomato puree, or 1/2 tomato crushed
1 ball of tamarind (golf ball sized), or 1.5 tablespoons of tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds / kadugu / rai / sarson seeds
3 tablespoons of split bengal gram / chana dal / kadala paruppu
2 tablespoons of split urad dal / ultham paruppu
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds / vendhayam
5 curry leaves
3 green chillies
1 tablespoon corn flour
Salt to taste

Cut onion in to small 2cm pieces, and eggplant into bigger bit size chunks. Keep aside separately.

Cut the green chillies into big pieces so they can leak out their flavour in the pot. Keep aside.

Take the tamarind ball in a bowl and pour in 3 cups of warm water. After a few minutes, use your hands to squeeze the essence out of the tamarind, so the water becomes dark brown. Filter it into another bowl. Repeat the same process: put the tamarind back into the first bowl, add another 3 cups of water and use your hands to squeeze out the essence. This time, the tamarind water won't be as dark, but you will have squeezed as much essence out of it as possible. Add this water to the other bowl. (If you are using tamarind paste, just put the 1.5 tablespoons of tamarind paste in 6 cups of hot water and keep aside).

In a deep pot, pour 2 tablespoons of oil and allow to heat. When hot, add 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 3 tablespoons of chana dal, 2 tablespoons of urad dal, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds and 3 green chillies. Roast till golden brown for a few seconds.

Throw in onions and curry leaves. Stir and allow to cook for 2 minutes till the onions are slightly golden brown. Throw in the eggplant chunks now, and cook for a few minutes, but ensure you don't stir it too much, otherwise the eggplants will fall apart and become mushy.

After 2 - 3 minutes, add the tamarind water and allow to cook and come to boil for 5 minutes. Then add the 1 tablespoon of tomato puree, and allow to cook and boil for a further 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, put in 1 tablespoon of corn flour and 3 tablespoons of water. Mix well till it binds. Add to the hot pot.

Add salt to taste. Boil for another 5 minutes then turn off the heat.

Serve HOT and FRESH with it's partner in crime, Pongal. Enjoy the compliments!

We enjoyed this typical South Indian Pongal and Gojju listening to a verse from one of my favourite slokas, The Andal Thiruppavai. Every time I chant a verse, my soul yearns to be in a temple in India, sitting peacefully and embracing the positive vibrations. There is no other sloka quite like the Andal Thiruppavai.

"Chitram siru kaalae vandhu unnai saeviththu
Un potraamarai adiyae potrum porul kaelaay
Petram maeyththu unnum kulaththil pirandhu
Nee kutraeval engalaik kollaamal pogaadhu
Etraip parai kolvaan anru kaan govindhaa
Etraikkum aezh aezh piravikkum, un thannodu
Utromae aavom unakkae naam aatcheyvom
Matrai nam kaamangal maatraelor embaavaay"

Please hear why in this very early dawn,
We have come to worship your golden holy feet.
You were born in our family of cow herds,
And we are but there to obey your every wish,
And not come to get only the drums from you,Oh Govinda.
For ever and for several umpteen births,
We would be only related to you,
And we would be thine slaves,
And so please remove all our other desires,
And help us to worship Goddess Pavai.
Soure: WIKI

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Chickpea Flour (Besan) Based Pizza | A Sinless Alternative

I don't think I'm ever going to brave enough to fly pizza dough in the air like the pros do it. I haven't been a big fan of the traditional pizzas bases anyway - they're filled with carbohydrates and provide basically no nutrition.

Yes, I know - pizza isn't the healthiest thing in the world and to try and find nutrition in pizza is like trying to extract blood from a stone. Solution? Use healthy toppings and find a healthier base. That starts with finding a healthier flour, and I we need not look past Besan (Chickpea/Garbanzo Flour). It's protein rich, lowers cholesterol, and is also abundant in folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. It's a highly versatile flour too - it cooks super fast, and is used widely to make parathas, bondas, dosas, cutlets, pakoras, and now, pizza!

Once you have a healthier base, you don't feel half as bad scoffing down a few slices. It's delicious - a healthy base, some fresh veggies and seasoning, and a decent amount of good cheese. I'm sorry - if you're going to try and make pizza and cheap out on the cheese, you may as well not eat Pizza at all! Go and eat a salad sandwich instead. :P

It started with a lazy weeknight, uninterested with the usual upma, stir fry, or roti and subzi. I once saw a recipe that used a dough made of wheat and quinoa as a base for pizza, but since I had not the energy nor the time to venture into something like that, I went for this alternative. It's damn good. It tastes even better than Gourmet pizza. Better yet, it takes hardly 20 minutes to plate up.

My only regret with this pizza is that I didn't have stock of my two favourite ingredients - haloumi cheese and jalapenos. This pizza would have been the ultimate had I added these!

Chickpea Flour / Besan Based Pizza 

Total Time Required: 20 minutes
Yield: 2 pizzas

For Base:
2 cups Chickpea/Garbanzo/Besan flour (aka Kadala Maavu)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of oil (1 tablespoon per pizza)

For Toppings:
(Keep it simple; don't overload the flavours)
2 cups Grated Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano)
Dried Oregano flakes (1 teaspoon per pizza)
Chilli flakes (sprinkle as much as you want on top whilst cooking)
2 large Capsicums, sliced
1 cup julienned mushrooms
2 onions, finely sliced
1 cup sliced olives
A pinch of salt per pizza
Add further toppings according to your taste, such as baby spinach, pineapple, haloumi cheese, jalapenos, sun-dried tomatoes, paneer etc)


Mix the besan flour, salt, chilli powder together in a bowl. Add 1 cup of water first and mix well till it forms a sticky thick dough. Then proceed to add water little by little till you form a batter that is semi-thick (pancake/dosa batter consistency).
Keep cut vegetables aside, ready to be used.

Heat a non-stick pan/griddle and when hot, pour in two ladles of the batter, and spread out slightly using the ladle in concentric circles. The pancake should not be spread out too much, otherwise the base will be too thin - hence why we're using 2 ladles of the batter.

Once you've put it on the pan, IMMEDIATELY REDUCE THE HEAT. You don't want the base cooking too much and going brown. You need to grill this next.

Immediately, drizzle the 1 tablespoon of oil around the base. Ensure it is on the lowest flame.

Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese and cover the whole surface area. Sprinkle the oregano on top. Now pile on the vegies, decoratively of course! Lastly, sprinkle only a tiny pinch of salt and liberally compliment with chilli flakes, topped with Parmesan cheese.

Cover the lid on the pan, and allow to cook on the low flame for 5 minutes.

Turn your grill as soon as you've closed the lid, and allow the grill to heat up in this 5 minutes.

Open up the pan, and transfer it (open) to the grill. Allow to cook in the grill for at least 5 minutes.

Once the cheese on top becomes slightly brown, and the pizza is aromatic, it's ready.

Plate it up and serve immediately. Don't make your taste buds wait for something this good!

Alas, a successful experiment! We enjoyed this delicious, quick and healthy home-made pizza watching an old favourite film, Nayagan. If you haven't heard the song Nee Oru Kadhal Sangeetham, you have no idea what you've been missing out on! This song alone defines my love for music, and I could listen to this song for the rest of my life. I don't even know what else to say about this song - it is the personification of everything beautiful in life -

Nee Oru Kaathal Sangeetham
Vaai Mozhi Sonnaal Deiveegam
You are a love melody. If said out loud, you’re divine.]

Vaanambaadi Paravaigal Rendu Oorvalam Engo Poagirathu
Kaathal Kaathal Enumoru Geetham Paadidum Oasai Kaetkirathu
Isai Mazhai Engum...
 Isai Mazhai Engum Pozhigirathu 
Engalin Jeevan Nanaigirathu
Kadalalai Yaavum Isai Magal Meettum 
Azhagiya Veenai Surasthaanam
Iravum Pagalum Rasithiruppoam
[Two songbirds are going on a procession somewhere  
A song about love can be heard being sung
A rain of music everywhere...
A rain of music is pouring everywhere and our souls are getting wet
All the waves will lift the daughter of music, the beautiful veena music
We will keep enjoying (the music) day and night]



Friday, 23 August 2013

Murukku (Melt-in-the-mouth Crisps) & Chennai Express Film Review

First - the Chennai Express Film Review.
So, my husband and I went to watch Chennai Express, and I have some strong feelings to share. There are a large number of South Indians who have watched this movie all over the world and expressed their sheer rage and offense over this movie, claiming that it "mocks" South Indians and stereotypes them as aruva-kathi gundas who fight in rings all day, feast on yoghurt rice and are part of large don-families who don't care about their children and siblings. It's rubbish - what they're saying. I will stand up and say very honestly that as a cultured and tamizh-speaking South Indian, the film was genuinely funny. We thoroughly enjoyed the film, and so did many more of my South Indian, tamizh-speaking friends. The film is out to provide comedy to the world and humorously display the way in which North and South Indians would interact, given the opportunity, not knowing each others' language. Sure, Shahrukh Khan's Tamizh was really, REALLY bad, but who cares? Has the world become so racist and racist-phobic, that we can't even enjoy a film for its sole intent to provide harmless humour? Will the world only criticize and ban films like this which don't have malicious intents, but do absolutely nothing when people are tortured, abused, spat on and hated all in the name of caste and race?

Shame on you. Get some perspective, you small-minded humans. Humour is humour. Racism is racism. Know how to differentiate the two, and react accordingly.

Deepika did a very commendable job. It wasn't an easy role, and her attempt, although not perfect, to imitate the Tamizh accent whilst speaking broken Hindi was well done. It was the first movie I saw of hers, where I enjoyed watching her acting. Their chemistry was great, and most of all, the film was decent. Apart from that one song where some half-naked woman is dancing provocatively and making a fool of herself, there was absolutely no vulgarity, no A-jokes, and no nonsense. But gone are the days when people cared about these things. These days, its all about misinterpreting dialogues and analyzing meanings behind films to somehow portray them in a bad light, all the while forgetting to criticize movie directors out there who exploit women for their bodies and videograph disgusting songs like Munni Badnaam Hui and Fevicol Se. The women are senseless too, of course. Apparently the excessive abuse of women in our country wasn't enough to wake people up, so women continue to exhibit more than half their bodies for the world to see. They make it look like it's excusable, and it is far from that. My point is, Chennai Express had none of this. It's a decent film which you can take your parents and your kids to watch, and guarantee everyone will have a memorable and wonderful time. This is my honest view in light of recent negative comments about the film. I respect that everyone might not agree with me, but this is my opinion.
Onto other things in life, the music in Chennai Express was quite nice. I especially liked the song Titli, beautifully sung by Chinmayi and Gopi Sunder. His voice didn't match Shahrukh at all, but strangely enough, it seemed to work; it didn't sound off. I loved the tamizh part and the picturisation of the bharthanatyam scene. The sunset in the background was perfect, and the lyrics were beautiful -
"Kondal vannanaik kovalanay venney
Unda vayan en ullam kavarndhanai
Andar kon ani arangkan en amudhinaik
Kanda kangal marronrinaik kanave"
Translation: I have seen the One whose color is like dark rainclouds
He is the one with the mouth that swallowed the butter of cowherds,
He is the Lord of the devas,
He is Lord Ranganatha (Lord krishna)
He is my nectar, my life!
My eyes have seen my Lord and will not see anything else! 
(written by a poet Thiruppaan Alvar (8th century A.D) several hundred year back) 

I've had this song on my mind for a few days now. It's pleasant on the ears and makes me feel good. Ideal to listen to on a weekend when you're relaxed and making some sweets and savouries for a festival. I made Murukku on the weekend. Whilst it's not my absolute favourite snack, it's one liked by many and easy to make. Don't believe me? See for yourself!

Total Time Required: 30 - 45 minutes (depending on how many you make)
Yield: Approx. 30 murukkus

2 cups Rice Flour (fine)
1/2 cup Ultham maavu / Urad Dal Flour (fine)
1/4 teaspoon of perungayam / hing / asafoetida
3/4 cup Ghee / clarified butter
3 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

In a large frying pot, fill it half way with oil and turn on the heat. It will take at least 5 minutes to reach optimum heat for frying. 
In a bowl, put in the 2 cups of rice flour, 1/2 cup of urad dal flour, hing, sesame seeds and salt.
In a frying pan, add the 3/4 cup of Ghee and heat it till it becomes aromatic. Pour it into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix it through with a spatula. It should be partially combined. Sprinkle some water and mix it till you get a dough. You do not need to knead the dough. As long as it's well incorporated, that's sufficient. Have a look:
That snazzy little piece of equipment is available everywhere these days, even here in Sydney! My mother in law sent me this press (kozhal / acchu), and it's great. It comes with all types of attachments to make murukku, thengozhal, ompuri, kola vadai and ribbon pakoda!

Fill up the inside of the press 3/4 way with the dough. Take a plain plastic sheet or a zip lock bag as the base and press the murukku in concentric circles, close to each other, then seal the end like so - 
Check if the oil is ready by dropping a tiny piece of the murukku dough into the oil. It if immediately sizzles, the oil is ready. Carefully lift the plastic sheet, flip the murukku over on your hand and slip it into the oil carefully. Don't throw it in otherwise the oil may splash on your hand.

Fry till golden brown and then drain and transfer to a bowl with paper towels to absorb the extra oil. Serve warm or cold - they're awesome either way!


Sri Om