Friday, January 27, 2012

Palak Kachori and What Took Me So Long

Spinach Kachori 2

We  spent the New Year's eve with some of our closest friends. We did nothing but chatted, ate some simple home cooked meal, shared stories while cardamom tea was simmering on the stovetop, laughed with each other and quietly ate some sitafal ice-cream while baby monitor in the background could tell that the kids are asleep. Next morning over breakfast we were discussing our new year's resolution. Answering the question I realized how important this blog has become to me and how important all my readers have become to me. In the past few months a lot of things happened (and still happening) in my personal and "professional" life as a food writer. Those things have been keeping me so busy that the time I spend here on my blog and in connecting with you has suffered. Irrespective of that, you have been very patient and supportive of me, but you might have to bear with me for a little more. Why? Well, let me tell you the story then!

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So one fine morning the publishers came knocking on the door. I opened the door and asked how I can help them. They asked, "can you write a book for us"? I looked behind, left and right and checked if they were actually talking to me. After a lot of affirmation when I finally believed that it was actually a real proposal I was ecstatic. I might have screamed a little harder, but who cares! The next thing I know I am testing recipes and writing a proposal. Proposal for a BOOK that I am going to WRITE! I can't believe that I just wrote those three words together. Its been sometime since I said yes and I still cannot believe that its happening. You have no idea how tough it was to keep all of this from you. But now that its out of my chest I can sleep soundly today. So my friends, that is what kept me busy and away from Indian Simmer all this time and the move (yes, I moved again!) and a vacation and a mad family! Well, story behind that might ask for another post(s).

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But before anything else, today I just want to take a moment and say Thank You to each and everyone of you who have always supported me. Thanks for taking some valuable minutes of your day to come and read my blog. Thanks for being appreciative and for your constructive criticism of whatever I put forward on Indian Simmer. Two years ago I would not have thought in my wildest dreams that one day I will be a cookbook author and it has all happened just because of You so thanks so much for being there for me. And I really hope that you will be by my side all along this ride!

Now lets put the mushy talk aside and talk food, shall we? A lovely blogger friend reached out to me sometime back and asked if I would be able to contribute something to her beautiful blog. After much long email exchanges, we finally decided to dig back again to my childhood and bring back something with which will tag along a lot of memories. So I chose Palak (Spinach) ki Kachori, a simple crispy deep fried bread but packed with love and healthy goodness.

Spinach Kachori

My mom used to make them when we were little and me and my brother ate them so much that I promise we still have some spinach stuck in our teeth. They are easy to make and just ask for a few basic ingredients like water, flour, salt.. Oh, and spinach. You can either make them plain or stuff something inside and fry them. Trust me however hard you try you will not be able to mess them up! So please hop over to Sandhya's Kitchen for the recipe.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Starting 2012 with Pure Vegetarian by Lakshmi- Indian Simmer Loves

This blog and my readers(you people!) have been one of the most important part of my life for the past almost two years. You laugh with me when I laugh, you are excited on my achievement, you are worried when my little one falls sick, and you always lend you ears when I want to talk. But for the past one year I always regretted that because of a busy and unpredictable schedule I was not a very good listener to you guys. I was not not able to respond to your emails as promptly and was not able to keep this space up and running as you would have expected me to. Then again family and some demanding food writing projects made things even busier and crazier by the leg of 2011. Some residual is still here but stepping into 2012 I promised myself to change that. So cheers to that and wishing all you extended family a Very Happy New Year!
What better way to start the new year with a post by a person who's images have the ability to take you to a different place and recipes will leave you drooling! Today I present to you Pure Vegetarian by Lakshmi. With her flawless writing, dreamy photographs, yogi lifestyle and a pure heart I promise you will love her because Indian Simmer loves Pure Vegetarian by Lakshmi!

Going Raw!
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When Prerna kindly asked me to write a guest post, I hesitated. I’m on a break from blogging for good reasons. One of them is that I saturated myself with sugar during the autumn while baking and making sweets more than necessary. By December I reached my limit of tolerance and took time to adjust and reform my diet. As I’m writing now, I’m sipping delicious green smoothie made of broccoli, spinach, avocado, sunflower seeds and simple spices. I’m going raw.
Don’t worry; it is a temporary phase of detox to balance the metabolism! It is perfect. It gives such clarity and vitality. My digestive system is relaxed and satisfied. I’m mentally alert, focused and enthusiastic. For a long time I haven’t felt physically so content. Combined with regular exercise in the fresh winter air, life couldn’t be better! Welcome New Year!

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Tell us about yourself and what you would say is your food philosophy?Cooking and relationship with food have interested me since childhood. I grew up eating home cooked meals by my mother. She is an austere person and our breakfasts, lunches and dinners reflected the mood. There was enough to eat – and it was tasty – but there was an underlining reverence that kept the act of eating on a serious side. We never indulged.

As a teenager I turned vegetarian for ethical reasons. I ate raw vegan food for many years. When I came in contact with the Vedic culture and philosophy of India, cooking, serving and eating revealed a sacred dimension unparallel to anything I had been aware of. Preparing food became one of the most important spiritual practices and an integral part of the yoga process to me. It is an easy, concrete way to approach divine through consciousness.

As a bhakti-yogi I am a servant of Krishna. Krishna is a Sanskrit name for God introduced in the ancient yoga literature. It means “all attractive”. Everything belongs to God and is godly by nature. It is a paradigm 100% opposite to materialism that is rooted in the idea of me, the living entity, possessing and controlling everything. In the Western tradition God, at best, is providing for our needs: “...please forgive our sins and give us our daily bread”. In the Eastern tradition, man is the one who owns nothing and whatever is given under his care or has any value to him, he offers back to God. It is the way to sanctify life by cultivating virtues like selflessness and humility. And it is the path and perfection of yoga, connecting with God with love and devotion.

Yoga-lifestyle is different from the secular way of living in regards of the state of mind. Externally it looks the same. There are many vegetarians in the world and we may share the same recipes, but the thoughts, feelings and motivations that drive us while cooking produce different results. In our line of discipline, we want to connect the cow who gives the milk and the plant that bears the berry, fruit or vegetable also to God. It is done via mantra, a prayer, uttered with sincerity. Whatever is accepted by God, we enjoy as prashad, mercy. It is a blissful reciprocation.

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What led you to starting a food blog?
Cooking makes me happy. It is an intimate dialogue with Krishna. It is a meditation and allows me to be who I am in the deepest sense of understanding.

I bought a camera and started to photograph what I cooked in order to share my gratitude and happiness with others. It was a surprise there are people who like the pictures. Having had posted on Flickr for a year, I felt a need for a dining room in the Cyberspace where I could better serve visitors.

Attached to Flickr and other social media there is lot of extra package: psychological hang-ups, egos and ambitions that border unhealthy traits of interaction at times. I have a constant inner-conflict of how much I want to be part of and contribute to that. A blog is naturally more peaceful venue to meet and get to know people because I can set the content and mood to correspond the values that nourish me, and hopefully others, too.

What would you say "Pure Vegetarian By Lakshmi" is all about and please share a recipe that best describes your blog?
I’ve been blogging for a short time, six months to be exact. I’m not able to define what Pure Vegetarian By Lakshmi is about better than a work in progress. It is a partial documentation and by-product of a simple, meaningful life that I live. I live to live; not to blog. Whatever I do, I aspire to be physically, mentally, intellectually and spiritually present and do it as well as I can, because every moment spent in hankering, lamenting or dreaming of something else, better or more is a moment lost. Self-satisfaction and gratitude in all circumstances open unexpected opportunities even in situations that seem doomed and insignificant. Therefore I don’t go out of my way to look for exotic ingredients or fancy recipes, but utilise whatever there is at hand.

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For today’s recipe here at Indian Simmer I made raw pastry as a sweet treat. When you stay away from sugar long enough, taste buds will celebrate the natural sweetness of fresh and dried fruits! Sophisticated beauty may not be the foremost character of these sweets, but they are oozing peppiness and energy. After eating them, you feel empowered and light, as opposite to dull and heavy caused by regular sugar.

Because I had leftover filling, I made a refreshing smoothie by adding rice milk to it. What a wonderful lunch!

Raw Pastry (makes about 6-8)

2,5 dl (250 ml = 1 Cup) whole almonds (with skins)
1 dl (100 ml = 0,4 Cup) walnuts
200 g dry dates, pitted
4 tablespoons carob powder
Juice and zest of one small orange

For handling the dough:
1 dl (100 ml = 0,4 Cup) hazelnut powder

Filling:
2 bananas
1/3 pineapple
1 carrot
1 large, juicy orange

Instructions:
Mix the pastry ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Sprinkle the pastry dough with hazelnut powder for easier handling.
Line small pastry forms with the dough.
Make sweet balls from the leftover dough, rolled in carob powder.
Mix the filling ingredients in a blender.
Fill the pastries.

Smoothie:
Mix the leftover filling with enough rice milk to get a running consistency of your liking.
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