Friday, September 27, 2013

Odia food: Ghanta tarkari

Today's a special day in Odisha. Women in kitchens across the state are preparing a common dish - the ghanta tarkari (a beautiful medley of vegetables and sprouts with no onion and no garlic).

Though it is a common dish in most Odia households, today's ghanta tarkari is special. This one day of the year...everybody looks forward to ghanta tarkari...not just the one cooked in their house but those cooked by their neighbors.

As a child I remember my grandma and mom preparing for this special dish at least a couple of days ahead of this day. They would soak whole moong and chana overnight and drain them the next morning, carefully leaving it in a vegetable strainer with a lid on so that the warmth would germinate the seeds. 

And then the day before they are supposed to cook a huge dekchi full of ghanta tarkari, they would shop for all kinds of vegetables...almost all kinds of vegetables go into this single dish. 

Loads and loads of vegetables are cut in the morning. Coconut is scraped or cut into tiny bits. 

Women of the house gather to discuss how Renu apa's ghanta tarkari was awesome last year or how Meena apa's ghanta tarkari could have been better. Grandma would analyze what made our ghanta tarkari the second best in the neighborhood and suggest ways how mom could balance the amount of different vegetables, how adding some more pumpkin this year would make this year's ghanta score 10/10 for our family. A silent ghanta tarkari competition of sorts. 

As children, how we loved running around distributing hot ghanta tarkari to all our neighbors. And sampling all the ghanta tarkaris from our neighbors' kitchens.

In north India, people exchange sweets on Diwali. In Odisha, today is the day when people exchange ghanta tarkari with friends and relatives.
And if you are wondering what labor goes into it, here's the simple recipe of how I cooked my ghanta tarkari this morning. 


  • Pointed gourd/ parwal (potala) - 6 pieces
  • Indian beans (simba) - 6-7 pieces
  • French beans (bean) - 200g
  • Cow beans/black eyed beans/lobia (jhudunga) - 250g
  • Brinjal (baigana) - 200g
  • Ash gourd (paani kakharu) - 250g
  • Cucumber (budha kakudi) - 1 big one
  • Carrot - 1
  • Radish -1
  • Colocasia roots/arbi (saru) - 4 pieces
  • Pumpkin (kakharu) - 750 g
  • Elephant apple (oau) -1/4 ( use one that's not ripe and not too young...young ones taste bitter; The fruit has many layers of flesh and it is hard on the outside. First cut this fruit into half. Remove the inner portion. Separate the layers and cut then into thin long pieces. Always better to remove the skin of the outer layer. The inner portions are slimy, carefully cut it. For this recipe, I prefer to coarsely crush the pieces.) 
  • Spouts of moong and chana - 1 1/2 cup (I love sprouts)
  • Turmeric powder (haladi gunda) - 2 tsp
  • Ginger (ada) - 1 inch cut into small pieces and crushed
  • Bay leaves (teja patra) - 2
  • Cumin seeds (jeera) - 4 tsp
  • Red chillies (sukhila lanka) - 6
  • Coconut – cut into small pieces (kata nadia) - 1/4cup 
  • Coconut - scraped (kora nadia) - 1/2 cup
  • Refined vegetable oil (tela) - 2 tablespoons
  • Salt to taste 


Roast half the cumin seeds and red chilies in a pan and then make rough powder of the same. Keep it aside.

Cut the vegetables after thoroughly washing them. Boil all the cut vegetables (except the elephant apple). Add salt, turmeric powder, ginger, bay leaves. When the vegetable are almost cooked, add the sprouts and the coarsely crushed pieces of elephant apple. The elephant apple adds a tangy taste to the tarkari. Adding it earlier may mean you will need more cooking time for the other vegetables. After adding the sprouts and elephant apple, cook for 2 minutes.

Heat oil in another pan. Add the cumin seeds and 3 red chillies to it. After they crackle, add the boiled mixture of vegetables etc. and stir continuously. Add the coconut pieces. Put the pan on low flame for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the scraped coconut. Add the cumin seeds and red chilli powder to the pan and stir well. Now your Ghanta is ready to be served.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Origami - Sea Creatures

We are in a 'crafty' mood again.

Ahren's preparing for an Origami competition in school tomorrow. And he wants to prepare an underwater scenery.

I helped him prepare a few sea creatures including a fish, a crab, a squid and a clam. Here's what we got. Now, it's for him to make a few more and compose them into a beautiful scenery.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

TOI Goof Up: Once More?

Bollywood's first true superstar, Rajesh Khanna passed away last afternoon. I have always adored his acting, that nod of the head, that smile...My mom, like most ladies her age, must have been a bigger fan of that icon. 

There have been obituaries about him all over the internet and I expected a good leisurely read about Khanna and his career in the newspaper.  

And no, I still haven't changed my daily newspaper. I still read the Times of India every single day like I did when I was in college. It's a die-hard habit now, I guess. But why is the TOI deteriorating in standards? Here's a news about Amitabh paying tribute to Rajesh Khanna. 

The caption under the picture says, "Amitabh outside Aashirwad on Wednesday". Right...yesterday was Wednesday! So where's the goof-up, you ask? 

It's right in your the first line. It says, "Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna’s co-star in Anand visited the late actor’s residence Aashirwad on Friday to pay his tribute. " Friday??? It's Thursday today. And it was Wednesday yesterday...not Friday. 

The goof ups do not end at that. Here's one more. 

The last sentence reads "Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan also played respect to Bollywood’s first superstar." 'Played respect' or 'payed respect'...Okay, that's only a typo, probably! But why? I love the TOI. Shouldn't it be error free? Is it too much to ask for?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Indian Marriage

They say an Indian marriage is not the marriage of two individuals. It is the marriage of two families and their extended families.

Ours is a typical Indian marriage. Sixteen years ago, on this day,when I married into the new family, I had no expectations...only apprehensions. But today, I am more a member of this family than the family I was born into.

For twenty odd years, I was brought up in a family where I lived the carefree life of a little child. I was the typical tomboy. No, I did not dress up in shorts and trousers most of the time. Neither did I sport a crop of short hair. I have always had my hair tied up in a pony or two pig tails or a braid. But I do not remember putting on fanciful clips and hairbands. I always thought 'only barbie doll sported pink'. And no, I never had a Barbie. I always believed kite flying was more interesting than playing with dolls.

I used to hang out with the boys more often than with the girls. As a little girl, I learnt to cycle much before the boys of my age in the neighborhood. Even before my brother learnt how to ride a scooter, I was known to zip through the narrow lanes of Cuttack on the Kinetic Honda. I fell out of favor with people who tried to clip my wings.

But when the time of marriage approached I was a different person. It was an arranged marriage. I did go and get a special photograph clicked for the marriage proposals. No, no... not one where I was all decked up. It was like any other photograph of mine. I was in the same dress that I had worn to the hospital that day. No special hairdo. But the photographer at the photo studio did insist that I pose differently for the 'photo shoot'.

I had agreed to get married wherever my parents wanted me to. But I had put one single precondition... that I will get married to the first person who comes to see me. Dad had his own precondition. That I will not fool around and that I must dress up when somebody comes home to see me. "Dress up?" What did that mean? I had no idea. "Okay, do as you wish but please be in a sari," said Dad. So, I agreed to be in a sari. When M's family (read 'extended family'... in India, 'family' always means the 'extended family' unless specified)came to see me, I was in a sari, as promised to Dad. No gorgeous silk sari or beautifully flowing georgette sari. I was in a yellow cotton sari that my Mom had worn at home the previous day. It wasn't even washed, starched and pressed that day. No special hairdo or makeup.

I don't remember if M even cared to look at me. His aunt and uncle did most of the talking, asking me more about the two girls in my class who they knew rather than about myself. No, M and I did not speak or exchange glances. Both seemed equally disinterested in what the families were 'plotting'.

Dad said our family would wait for their family's decision first. Within the next couple of days, M's uncle informed my dad that they were agreeable to the alliance if my family would agree to a quick engagement in November and a wedding in May the next year. I agreed. According to my own precondition, I had said I would marry the first person coming to see me. I wanted no further information about the person. Wonder what would have happened to my 'precondition' if M and his family had shown no interest! :)

Anyway, we got married.

This picture  of an Indian wedding is from Megha Chhatbar's sketchbook. If you like her artwork, leave her a message.

I might not have been a coy bride. After the bidaai (the ritual goodbye accompanied by crying and wailing), I was put into the rear seat of a car that was decorated with flowers and sent off to create a new world of my own. Cuttack to Bhubaneswar is only a few minutes' drive. However, I was too tired after the day's activities; so, I took a quick nap. My husband had to wake me up when we reached Bhubaneswar.

It was a new world altogether. I became the typical Indian bahu after I entered the house. Life changed. Life's priorities changed. Nobody called me Natz anymore. They called me 'Bahu Ma' instead. The short-tempered, loud mouthed Natz was now the well-behaved, cultured and obedient bahu ma. I mellowed down. I wouldn't say I hated that change. In a way, I enjoyed the slow transformation.

Lots of things have changed over the years. But I simply love the new me - the patient wife, the obedient daughter-in-law, the caring mother. Marriage transforms a person and I am happy about who I am today. I also love my past all the more. That was a different me and this is a different me. But I love both the phases of life. Basically, I love life and I am kind of obsessed with myself.

Happy Anniversary to me! Happy life to me!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Crochet Purse Completed

I rarely complete a major stitching or knitting project. I love starting a new project. But I soon lose interest and jump over to a new project. I am glad I completed this project.

If you have been following my blog, you probably read about the crochet bolero I had started. I haven't started working on the sixth doily yet. Did you read about the day I made those bookmarks? Well, I started a small crochet purse that day. Guess what? I completed it a couple of days back. Here it is. It is made from pieces of left over yarn.

It didn't turn out to be as nice as I would have loved it to but I am glad it is one completed project of mine. Not like the pink silk saree. Which saree? Do not even ask... It has become the joke of the family now. I started embroidering a saree way back in the 90s, it is almost done...but that's it. It is only 'almost done'. One of my incomplete projects...probably the longest one.

Trash Craft: Tea Coasters from Magazine Strips

Okay, here are the long promised pictures...the tea coasters from magazine strips.

Months back when Sony and I were looking for innovative ideas for trash crafts, we came across the idea of using gum wrappers to make long chains by linking them. We tried it out and made a picture frame by the same technique of linking folded pieces of gum wrapper. We used folded polythene strips instead. Here is the post of the picture frame made from strips cut out from a polythene carry bag.

After that we used strips from a magazine to make tea coasters by weaving the strips together like a mat. I had promised to share the pictures. I found the pictures from my phone recently. Here they are.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Today's Crochet Expedition

Hooked to the crochet hook!

I did not work on the pink crochet bolero today and yet it was a very satisfying day. I worked on many other projects. Small, quick ones. Felt really nice.

Here's a fairy crochet bookmark I made for my daughter today.

Last night also I had made a couple of other bookmarks. They were from white cotton crochet thread and not from synthetic wool like this one. Here are the white bookmarks. One is a fairy.

The other is an alphabet bookmark with the letter 'U' in the middle. This is for my daughter's friend, Ujeshna. It's her birthday today. Hope she likes it. 

Okay, coming to today's works... I first made a few flower doilies.

Then I decided I wanted to make more bookmarks. Here's a bookmark I made from a light blue colored flower doily.

I have had enough of bookmarks. So I set about to make a colorful purse instead. This is isn't completed yet but I felt like sharing the picture. Hope you like them.

Hope to complete it soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pink Crochet Bolero for My Daughter

No idea when I shall finish this project. But yes, this is my newest project - a crochet bolero for my daughter.

Crocheting runs in the family. I learnt the basics of crocheting from my grandmother but never really made anything worth boasting about... maybe just a few laces here and there which I often gave out as gifts. 

I got married into a house where everything was covered with a beautiful crochet lace. The sofa, the center table, the TV, the music system, the dressing table, the filter and even the gas stove in the kitchen... My mother-in-law was always crocheting in her 'free time'. She even had the patience to crochet a beautiful bedspread for my first wedding anniversary. I got back into crocheting again. Started making laces again though they never turned out to be as nice and beautiful as my mom-in-law's laces. She made dresses for my daughter...lacy skirts and tops and jackets and hairbands and what not. 

My mother also got back into crocheting. She makes woolen crochet frocks and tops and jackets for Sony almost every single year. I also made some woolen caps and scarves for the kids. I wanted to get back to making lacy crochet stuff out of cotton yarn. This interest rekindled because recently I have been teaching my help, Pooja, several different designs for the crochet laces she has been making to cover pooja thhalis

After some search on the Internet for an easy crochet design for a bolero, I chose this one. It required me to make 10 crochet doilies first and then sew them together. 

Sony loves pink. So I chose pink cotton yarn. I have made 5 doilies so far. Here is one of the doilies I made. Hope you like it. 

Looks like the bolero will turn out nice. Fingers crossed!

If you like this design, or are looking for more crochet patterns with free instructions online, check out this blog. I found some really beautiful designs there. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January - Births and Deaths

January almost about to end. And it reminds me of the joys and sorrows that January brought my way.

Oh yeah, I was born in January. Of course I am still an Aquarian (by the 12 Zodiac signs). Add Ophiucus, the 13th sign and I am a Capricorn. Not that I do not like Capricorn people. But I love being me. Love being an Aquarian... a li'l eccentric maybe but very very very friendly. Friends are my world. I know, once I start talking of friends I may not be talking of anything else. Let's come back to our topic...January.

I was talking of how January affects my life.

Richa, my friend from college was born on 1st of January. My daughter's friend Vidhi was also born on 1st Jan.

1st of January was Tukun Baba (my paternal uncle)'s birthday as well. Baba and I spent many hours together discussing his scientific experiments. Why, he would even discuss medical knowledge with me! He was an Engineer but that never stopped him from reading a lot about medicine as well. During my childhood, every New Year's Eve, we would sit down together in the living room and watch television till late in the night. And at the stroke of midnight, everybody would start wishing each other Happy New Year. Loved to see Baba's happiness when we wished him 'Happy Birthday' or 'Many Happy Returns of Day'. No cakes, no gifts...a simple handmade card was all it took to make him happy. Smoking killed Baba. He died of gangrene due to thromboangitis obliterans. Miss you Baba.

No more 'Many Happy Returns of the Day' on January 1st for the family. Not just because you are no more, Baba. Maa is no more too. Maa, my grandmother died on the 1st of January on her second son's birthday. She was my favorite person in the family. Love you Maa. Miss you lots.

This month is also the birth month of  many friends and relatives: Sony's cousin, Moonoo's cousin, my bhabhi, a close friend from Stewart, one from Ravenshaw and another from SCB Medical College. So many birthdays!

Now, Aja (my maternal grandpa)'s death this year has added another dark day to the month of January. Today is his eleventh day when we send out a prayer for his soul to rest in peace. Aja, was a centurian. He was 100 years old and had seen the India we only read about in our history books. He lived all his life like a true Gandhian.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Turning Forty

So now I am in the 'Golden Decade' as a friend puts it! Forty years...what's changed in life? A lot, maybe. Or maybe nothing at all.

I have more friends than I had in my twenties. And a lot more acquaintances. In spite of all the dislike for cooking, over the years I have learnt to make good chicken kalimirch and 'wow' peanut butter chocolates...though that's only a recent addition.

All said and done, looking back I realize I have 'grown older' too. I seem to be watching more nonsense on TV than I ever did. I seem to be playing mindless brick breaking games on Facebook and commenting on pictures even when I don't have much to say.

And physically too, age is catching up with me. I think, not once or twice but many times, before deciding to climb the flights to stairs to the fourth floor. I prefer to make a telephone call to a friend in the next block rather than simply walk down to her place.

Wondering ... am I into the fab forties of life or the fat forties of life? :)