Apr 28, 2016

Sunrise, Sunset

After a very brief dawn drizzle this appeared-

(says Mother Nature)

And then the rest of the day the sky proceeded to fester into a smoky beige haze. AGAIN. So I got my inhalers, eyedrops, and antihistamines on board and went out to the garden.

At least the dahlia patch is doing well this blistering hot and dry Spring. Other years I've tried to grow dahlias they've only resulted in a mouldy mess but this year they're doing well. I call this cactus flowered beauty "Phyllis Diller" for it's distinctive spiky tipped 'do.

A pied and pompom shaped dahlia blossom, the particoloring is the result of a viral infection. 

This pale pink almost candy striped stunner is a dinner plate dahlia nearly a foot across. All the dinner plate dahlias look a bit scorched around the edges but beautiful none the less. 

A swirly whirly semi double apricot hibiscus with a crimson colored stamen in all it's tropical glory. 

A brief but gloriously sultry pink, purple, and plum sunset over the Himalayas as the sun hurtles westward.

With respiratory system and eyeballs aflame,

An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Apr 27, 2016

On the Road to Shangri-La...

We went for a little business trip to Kathmandu. The only road connecting our town to Kathmandu is the 108mi/174km long Prithvi Highway. The highway was completed in 1973 with help from the Chinese government. It is a narrow, two lane, heavily congested, landslide prone, semi paved road with no passing lanes that twists it's way through the narrow river valleys of central Nepal. It was a hot, dusty, smoky, dangerous, bumpy, and miserable trip.

A view from the Prithvi Highway of lush rice paddies surrounded by steep hills baking in the arid pre-Monsoon heat. This has been one of the driest and hottest Aprils on record, rainfall has only been 20% of normal.

In the hills that flank the Prithvi Highway are some of the most important Hindu shrines. Here's the gate to Manakamana Mandir. The actual shrine is atop that steep hill in the background and is accessible by cable car. "Mana" means heart and "kamana" means wish, it is believed that all those who make the pilgrimage to the Goddess Manakamana will have their wishes granted. Most Hindu goddesses are more likely to grant wishes if a blood sacrifice is performed. There is a separate cable car for live animals to ride in up to the temple for sacrifice. That gray haze is smoke in the air from all the agricultural burning this time of year. Usually you can see the Austrian made cable cars going up the hill but the smoke was so bad that the gate was all you could see clearly.

Here you can see what starts as agricultural burning soon gets out of control and entire mountainsides are ablaze. If a fire like this happens in my native California it would be a national disaster and firefighting teams and borate bombers would be everywhere. Here in Nepal they just let it burn itself out. Yes, occasionally entire villages burn down and one year a hospital went up in flames. There are always about 20 to 30 deaths annually due to these fires. Breathing becomes a problem for many with all the smoke, I'm sure there are many more fatalities due to respiratory problems. These hillsides get so thick with thatch and undergrowth even goats can't get through, if they didn't burn it annually Nepal might suffer those super heated wildfires like we have in California.

Just one of the many switchbacks and hairpin turns on the highway. We were stuck in traffic for three hours ascending this final grade into Kathmandu.

This is typical of what most of the highway is like, straight up on one side of the road and straight down on the other. Barely a six foot shoulder on either side of the road. The small terraces you see in the lower part of the photo are usually planted with corn and beans at the start of the Monsoon. It's drier and dustier than I've ever seen it here before.

Our view for about three hours stuck in traffic was the back of this sand truck.  Cheerfully emblazoned with such enigmatic themes and commendations like "Love Star," "Mother is God," and "Doy ou love me I miss you" while spewing diesel fumes on it's way into the bustling chaos of Kathmandu. Sorry I don't have any photos of entering the Kathmandu valley as it was shrouded in smoke and dust also.

An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Apr 23, 2016

Bibi's Paruppu (South Indian Style Dal)

Every region of the Indian Subcontinent has their own unique way of preparing dal. South Indian dal preparations often feature curry leaves and coconut. I've tasted various versions of paruppu at restaurants and served as a first course at South Indian weddings. In this dish I've paired masoor dal's velvety texture with rich coconut cream, aromatic spices, and the zing of lime juice. Serve with steamed rice, rasam, papads, buttermilk, or whatever South Indian dish you love.

coconut masoor dal easy simple recipe paruppu

I make no claims that this dish is authentic in any way. It is very tasty though. I made this recipe up after tasting a similar dish at a South Indian restaurant in Delhi. I love anything coconut and the brightness of curry leaves in a dish. Unfortunately, coconuts and curry leaves are rarely available in Nepal. So I've used canned coconut cream in this dal for richness, along with cilantro and lime juice in to brighten up the flavors as fresh curry leaves would do.

3 TBS coconut oil or ghee
1/2 C onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp black mustard/rai seeds
1/2 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
1/2 tsp fennel/saunf seeds
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
1 tomato, diced finely
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped finely
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika plus 1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
1 C masoor dal/red lentils, rinsed thoroughly
3 TBS coconut cream
3 TBS fresh cilantro/dhania, leaves and stems chopped finely
2 tsp salt
1 TBS lime juice (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) In a large stock pot heat coconut oil or ghee with 1 tsp salt. Fry onions until just beginning to brown.  Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds. Fry for 2 minutes.

2) Add garlic, ginger, tomatoes, green chilis, Kashmiri mirch, and turmeric. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until tomatoes soften.

 3) Add masoor dal, coconut cream, 1 tsp salt, cilantro, and 4 cups water, stir well and bring to boil.

4) Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 40 minutes to an hour or until dal is to desired tenderness. Stir every 10 minutes or so to make sure dal is not sticking to the bottom. Add water if necessary until dal is to preferred consistency. Stir in lime juice if using, salt to taste and serve.

Helpful Hints:

This recipe can also be made with urad dal or in a pressure cooker also.

I've got a lov-e-ly bunch of coconuts!

An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Apr 22, 2016

Keep Calm & Say I Do

What to my wondering eyes  & ears did appear this morning? Another wedding procession!

Let's get this party started!!!
In South Asian cultures your wedding is the highlight of your life. For at least two weeks there will be feasting, singing, dancing, and numerous ceremonies.  You and your spouse to be are the king and queen of the world!

Here's the marching band with the traditional giant horns in front.

Along with quite a few drummers.

And one little horn at the end. 

Then we have some lovely little ladies all glammed up and carrying all manner of fruits and sweets for the groom to gift his dearly beloved.

The maids of honor are also bringing sweets and treats for the bride. Red is the traditional color for all ladies attending a wedding, including the bride!

Oh my, the groom's wonderfully enfleuraged taxi cab is accompanied by a ceremonial guard. Please note that it is 93F/34C this fine morning and this gentleman is wearing a sweater under his suit jacket. Tibetans would be walking around bare chested and complaining of the heat but Nepalis don't take their sweaters off until it's around 98F/37C.

 And the winsome groom is off to fetch his beautiful bride!

Eight hours later:

The groom returns with the bride to be!

A fleeting glimpse of the bride all bedecked and bejeweled in red with her groom and her maid of honor.

And they all lived happily ever after!

An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Apr 21, 2016

Our Ms Chinger

Introducing the grand matriarch of our kitty clan & my sole photography assistant-

 Ms Chinger. 

"Chinger" means ratty or rodent-like in Hindi and Nepali. When Ms Chinger was tossed as a tiny kitten over our compound wall by some kids ten years ago she looked very ratty indeed. Small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, poor little Ms Chinger also suffered a skin infection which caused all the fur on her tail to fall off. She looked very rodent like as a kitten with her tiny black furry body and a long white scaly tail. Despite being the smallest and rattiest of our kitties she has a heart like a lion and can easily eat more than her weight in chicken. Nothing scares this little grand dame, despite her petite size I've seen her smack street dogs in the face with her paw and tease huge water buffaloes by running through their legs.

Here you can see Ms Chinger at work as my photography assistant. I'm getting ready to do a food shoot in my high tech ultra modern studio which also happens to be the patio table with one of my kurtis draped over it. As I adjust the patio umbrella or "natural lighting" as we say in the photography biz, Ms Chinger is assisting with draping the background.

Now Ms Chinger has decided she needs to freshen up a bit. Or take a full spit bath in the middle of the photo shoot. She has the entire yard to do this in but no, here is where she must bathe.

Ms Chinger has always been very chatty and expressive. She has a peculiarly grating whine that sounds like she's perpetually annoyed rather than any sort of typical kitty "meow."

Ms Chinger's lifelong mantra seems to be "SCREW YOU!" Which is most likely what she's saying here.

They say actions speak louder than words. This definitely seems to be the case here. I'm getting the hint that Ms Chinger really doesn't think there should be any taking of photographs at this location and vegetarian dishes should not be allowed to exist. Looks like it's time for a clean shirt, new shooting locale, a fresh plate of food, and a less opinionated photography assistant.


An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Apr 20, 2016

Karim's Aloo Ghosht (Mughal Style Mutton with Potatoes)

Muslim mughlai goat lamb mutton Indian famous Karim restaurant

Since 1913 Karim's has been the most famous and iconic Mughal restaurant of old Delhi. "Aloo" means potato and "ghosht" is Urdu for mutton. In classic Mughal style, mutton is simmered in a rich blend of caramelized onions, warm aromatic spices, and tangy yogurt until falling off the bone tender. This creates the savory and spicy red gravy so prized by the royals of the Mughal court which perfectly pairs with the creamy and delicate potatoes.

Karim's original restaurant in Old Delhi.
When the coronation of King George V as Emperor of India was held in Delhi in 1911 the son of one of the cooks of the former royal Mughal court, Haji Karimuddin, had a brilliant idea. He opened a small restaurant called a dhaba to cater to all the people coming from all over India to attend the coronation. Haji Karimuddin opened the first Karim's in Delhi stating "I want to earn fame and money by serving the royal food to the common man." The origial Karim's near the historic Jama Masjid mosque served just three items, aloo ghosht, dal, and rumalli roti. This is legendary dish that launched Delhi's most famous culinary destination - Aloo Ghosht.

I first saw this recipe on an Indian television show a few years ago featuring Indian MasterChef winner Pankaj Bhadouria. With a bit of tinkering and some educated guesses as to what was actually implied by the rather vague recipe on her website I have to say this does indeed taste exactly like the original dish as served at Karim's. The key to this recipe is getting the caramelized onions right, brown them perfectly. Not a bit black or the onion's flavor will be bitter and burnt and ruin the entire dish. Err on the side of underdone with the onions if you must. The Mughals and Karim's would leave the cardamoms, cloves, and peppercorns whole, I have chosen to grind them with the yogurt for a boost of flavor. Whether you choose to leave the spices whole or ground this dish is a delicious incarnation of the nostalgic flavors of old Delhi's royal Mughal heritage.

1kg/2lbs mutton/goat, bone in, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 C onions, thinly sliced into half moons
1/2 C ghee
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala
3 large potatoes, boiled until tender, peeled & cut into 2 inch pieces
Grind until smooth for masala:
1 C full fat yogurt/dahi
1 tsp flour/maida (this will keep your yogurt from splitting
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2 TBS ground coriander/dhania seeds
1 TBS ground cumin/jeera
1 TBS Kashmiri mirch ( or 1&1/2 tsp cayenne plus 1&1/2 tsp paprika)
2 tsp black peppercorns/kali mirch
1 tsp turmeric/haldi
9 cloves/laung
9 green cardamoms/elaichi
4 black cardamoms/kali elaichi
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients listed under masala to smooth paste, set aside.


2) Heat 1/4 C ghee with 1 tsp salt in kadhai or large heavy bottomed skillet. Fry sliced onions over medium heat until a deep golden brown. This will probably take about 12 to 15 minutes. Watch them carefully as you want them browned and caramelized  but not black. If you overcook them to the blackened stage they'll be bitter and you'll just have to throw them out and start over.

3) Set browned onions aside and allow to cool. Be aware that thee onions will continue cooking for a few minutes after you take them off the heat so leave them a bit underdone. When cooled grind browned onions to a smooth paste.

4) Heat 1/4 C ghee in a pressure cooker or large stock pot. Add mutton pieces and ground masala paste. Stir well and allow to simmer for 7 minutes. 

5) Add fried onion paste, 2 tsp garam masala, and 1&1/2 C water to meat mixture. Stir well. 

6) If using pressure cooker, seal and steam until meat is tender. If using stock pot on stove simmer until meat is tender adding 1/2 C water as needed to prevent drying out, this will take about 3-4 hours. If using crock pot or slow cooker transfer meat mixture to cooker and allow to simmer on medium for 3-4 until meat is tender.

7) When meat is tender and oil separates from the gravy stir in potato pieces and allow to heat through. Salt to taste and serve.

Helpful hints:
If you are not fond of mutton/goat this recipe would work well with beef, lamb, water buffalo, venison, or elk shank or stew meat, simply shorten cooking times accordingly.

Do not burn or blacken the onions, you will ruin the entire dish.  Brown is what we want, remember the onions will continue to cook for a few minutes after you've removed them from the heat. Fry the onions over medium heat.

Apr 19, 2016

Bibi's Buy-athalon!

You just never know what you'll find when you go to the supermarket here in Nepal. Rarely the same thing twice that's for sure.

Lotsa mozzarella! 
Courtesy of the Developmental Dairy Corporation of Nepal we can now buy locally made buffalo milk mozzarella. Yippeee! Yes, pizzas are popular with both natives and tourists alike here in Nepal. Well, what they serve here at pizzerias is sort of like pizza. I mean it has tomato based sauce and cheese on a round flat starchy thing. Ok, so it's more like naan with oregano spiked masala gravy and yak cheese partially melted over it. It's still pretty good. Did I ever tell you Desis eat ketchup on their pizza? It's for true!

I have no idea what is going on here. 
Why is the American flag on a bag of 30 single serving instant Mongolian salt tea packets with English and some other language in Cyrillic script on it? Whom is that ginger whiskered TeaKing person giving us the thumbs up on that bag? The TeaKing looks to be a not too distant relative of Ronald McDonald perhaps that's the connection?  McMongolian tea? I would assume Nepalis have no use for instant Mongolian salt tea nor the positive recommendations of Mr Teaking as these bags have been sitting on the same shelf unmoved for 8 months now.

Pillsbury has been trying to break into the Desi marketplace with different instant mixes for years now.
Here we have instant mixes for idlis which are a steamed rice cake popular in Southern India and dhokla a traditional Gujarati treat. It seems a bit odd to see the American doughboy telling Desis that Pillsbury mixes are just like home. Pillsbury had to make their cake mixes smaller and eggless to accommodate Desi tastes and preferences, it took them like 3 years to figure that one out. Nepalis don't eat idlis nor dhokla so these have been sitting forever in the snack aisle next to various packaged premade chaats for months now too.

The ultimate shortcut gulab jamun!
Gulab jamu n in a box! That's right just pop open one of these boxes for instant gratification. Or stick a bow on it and gift it to your elegant host or hostess at the very next gala event you happen to attend. Perfect for both formal and casual occasions! I've never tried these so I'm not sure if they're any good or not. The canned rasgullahs are pretty good if you goose them up with a drop or two of rose water.

That concludes Bibi's buy-athalon of the week, stay tuned for more fun and adventures!

An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Apr 18, 2016

Aloo Mattar (Curried Potatoes & Peas)

Sumptuously spicy and hearty enough to be served as a main dish this is my version of the classic North Indian menu item aloo mattar. Aloo means potatoes and mattar means green peas, both are combined with traditional warm aromatic spices and slow simmered to tenderness in a rich yogurt and tomato gravy. This popular vegetarian dish pairs well with rotis, rice, or naan. 

We had a bumper crop of potatoes this year, those you see in the photos are Yukon Golds from my garden. If you can't find Yukon Golds where you are Russets or any baking type potato will do. In this dish we first make the gravy and then add the peas and precooked potatoes. The peas we get here aren't the tender kind we get in western countries, they're a bit tougher and require some cooking so I use a pressure cooker for this dish. If you're using the tender green peas found in western countries you could simply use a heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai to make the gravy then simply stir the peas in at the same time as the precooked potatoes and allow the dish to simmer for an extra five minutes or so.

3 potatoes, boiled until tender, peeled and cut into one inch cubes
1 cup green peas/mattar, fresh or frozen
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
2 onions, sliced finely into half moons
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
1 cassia leaf/tej patta
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasoori methi
1 tsp salt
Grind until smooth for masala-
3 tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2 C yogurt/dahi
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger'adrak paste
2 tsp Kitchen King* masala (or garam masala)
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania seeds
2 tsp cumin/jeera, ground
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp cayenne plus 1/2 tsp paprika powder)
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
1-2 green chilis/hari mirch (optional, omit for less heat)
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Boil potatoes until tender, then peel and slice into one inch cubes and set aside. Grind all ingredients listed under masala to a smooth paste and set aside. Heat oil in a pressure cooker, heavy bottomed skillet, or kadhai with one teaspoon salt and fry onions until beginning to brown.

2) Add cumin seeds, cassia leaf, and ground masala paste to fried onions, stir well and bring to simmer. Allow to simmer for about 7-9 minutes or until oil separates from sauce. If mixture begins to scorch or stick add 1/4 cup water, stir and reduce heat.

3) Add peas to fried mixture. If using pressure cooker add 1cup water seal and cook for 2 whistles. If using heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai add 1/2 cup water and simmer until peas are just tender. (The peas in South Asia are a bit tough and require a lot of cooking unlike the tender peas found in Western countries. If you are using the tender peas found in Western countries you might want to stir them in with the potatoes in step 4 to prevent them being overcooked. )

4) If using pressure cooker allow to cool and open, stir in boiled potato cubes and simmer until gravy is to desired consistency. If using skillet or kadhai stir potatoes in and simmer until gravy is of desired consistency. Salt to taste and serve.

Helpful hints:
Kitchen King is a popular North Indian premade spice mixture. My favorite brand is Catch but MDH is good also. If you can't get Kitchen King masala a good substitute is: 1/2tsp cayenne + 1/2tsp paprika + 1tsp cumin + 1tsp coriander + + 1/2 tsp fennel + 1/4tsp ground fenugreek +1/4tsp mace + 1/8tsp nutmeg 
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