Climbing the Mango Tree

Although my knowledge of the works(on TV or otherwise) of Madhur Jaffery are extremely limited(read zilch), I was extremely excited to read Climbing the Mango Tree, her childhood memoir.

If you look at the book you will know what I mean. It’s a good looking book, if I may say so. I also enjoyed reading this delicious book; full of history, culture,food and beautiful childhood memories.

Although this is not a ‘novel’ as in it has no real story to tell, Madhur keeps us ( well..me, anyway) captivated with her recollection of life in a joint family household( sometimes there were up to 40 members of her family for dinner; Oh the logistics of it all!).
Make that super wealthy joint-family.She invokes beautifully detailed images of the lavish parties they held, the gilded childhood in Delhi mansions and Himalayan hill stations, the family picnics with a retinue of servants ,the summer breaks when the entire household shifted to Shimla, her school life or even of the dry heat of the summer garden

“I loved history in school,” Jaffrey writes in one of the early chapters of Climbing the Mango Trees. And she definitely shows us her love. Early on she discovers the “Red Book,” chronicling the history of her family and so we are given detailed description of the history of her ancestors.

She also infuses history, in the form India’s transition from empire to independence when she recounts the partition, Gandhiji’s assassination, and the resulting violence, riots and massacres. Her family, while Hindu,was progressive enough to have ties with the Muslim culture of northern India, and even embraced many aspects of Muslim culture. Thus her viewpoint makes for interesting reading.

Her graceful prose is however best when she describes…YES , FOOD. Check this out…“venison kebabs laden with cardamom, tiny quails with hints of cinnamon, chickpea shoots stir-fried with green chilies and ginger, and tiny new potatoes browned with flecks of cumin and mango powder”…I mean, Boy!! She can make me hungry.

And as bonus Jaffrey also includes several family recipes for her favorite dishes in Indian cuisine….a treat for the mind and the stomach.

Especially for the stomach.

I have 2 recipes to share with you from this delicious book…one of these I will share today. ( I am still looking for the pics of the other:))


Cauliflower with Cheese
This turned out to be too bland for my tastebuds…but Im sure many of you may like it//.

Ingredients
2 Tbsp. olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1½ lb. (8 cups) medium-sized cauliflower florets, cut so each floret has a stem
1¾ cups grated fresh tomatoes
1 piece of fresh ginger, one inch square, peeled and grated to a pulp on the finest part of a grater or Microplane
2 fresh hot green chiles, cut into slim rounds (see Note)
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
¾ tsp. salt, or to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
¼ cup coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
Steps

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Pour the oil into a large, preferably nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the cauliflower florets and stir them around for 2 minutes. Add the grated tomatoes, ginger, chiles, cayenne, turmeric, ground coriander, and salt. Stir to mix. Stir and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the tomatoes are almost absorbed and the cauliflower is almost done. Add the cilantro and mix it in.
3. Put the contents of the pan into an ovenproof dish about 8 inches square, add the cream, mix, and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Put in the top third of the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and developed a few light brown spots. Serve hot.

Notes

Do not use jalapeño or serrano chiles for Indian dishes; they have the wrong texture and flavor. Green bird’s-eye chiles or any long, slim, thin-skinned variety, such as cayenne, are ideal. If you can’t find them, use 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper instead of 1/4 teaspoon.

The Scream

1893_Edvard Munch The ScreamI often wonder if Munch painted ‘The Scream’ after witnessing the plight of a mother. I’m pretty sure that’s what inspired him. The last week was crazy, to say the least. Birthdays, dinners, kids rebelling; at one point I though I was doing all this for a reality show! I mean, it just had to be that. I dropped my son off at his squash class came home, had some essential grocery shopping to do which was basically a grab-and-run foray into the market. Got back, went to pick and drop off my son at his taekwando class. I then had to take my by-now-wailing miserably younger son to the park and then finally pick up my older son. Just when I thought the ordeal was at its end my car broke down. CAN YOU IMAGINE!!!i walked back in a daze, waiting for the director to say CUT any moment now. The traumatic cumulative day rendered me too sweaty and exhausted and emotionally fragile to properly make enjoy the dinner I had prepared but the unanimous verdict was that it was GREAT! Anyway here’s how I made the simple but appetizing Pasta with tomato sauce.
Make and Go - Pasta
Pasta (any kind) 2 big cups
Tomatoes- 5 grind coarsely
Big onions- 2 chopped finely
Garlic- 4 cloves, crushed
Sugar 1 tsp
Spices and herbs- basil, oregano and chilli flakes
Any seasoning mix, I used taco seasoning mix.
Grated cheese- ¼ cup
Butter 2 tbsp, softened

Cook the pasta in enough water as per packing instructions. Drain and keep aside. In a saucepan, heat the butter and sauté the onions and garlic. Add the sugar and fry a bit longer until it browns a bit. Now add the ground tomatoes, the spices and the seasoning mix. Fry it well and add most of the grated cheese. Mix once more and then add the pasta. Stir well to coat the pasta and garnish with tomato sauce or cheese spread. Add remaining grated cheese and bake at 180 C for 8 minutes or until cheese melts.

Lemony Cheese and Yogurt Cake

Lemony Cheese and Yogurt Cake

Lemony Cheese and Yogurt Cake


Although my kids and husband are die-hard chocolate lovers, i dont mind trying out different flavours every once in a while. So it was with a certain bit of apprehension that I tried out the following recipe. I got the recipe from Farida’s Azerbaijani s wonderful site.Although Feta cheese was what was actually recommended, I opted for the regular processed variety as anyother variety is rather hard to come by here in Goa.The recipe did say specifically no salted cheese….but i didnt have a choice and bravely decided to go ahead!!

The cake was sweet and moist and tasted very much like a cheesecake and i am a sucker for cheesecakes! I loved the lemony flavour in the cake but my kids( not surprisingly) did not really like it too much. Nevertheless, it was a good easy recipe and the end result was quite nice.

LEMONY CHEESE AND YOGURT CAKE

Ingredients

(250 g) unsalted white
1/2 cup (4 oz/113 g) butter, melted
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
Coarsely grated zest of one lemon
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C

2. In a large bowl crumble the cheese into small bits; add the flour, eggs, vanilla and the melted butter. Beat at medium speed until blended.

3. In another bowl beat together the yogurt, sugar and the lemon zest.

4. Combine the yogurt mixture and the cheese mixture. The batter will be quite thin, as it is supposed to be.

5. Pour into prepared pan and place the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the cake is slightly golden on top and spongy when lightly pressed. The cake would not have risen, but that’s the way it should be. Once cool dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

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