Apr 16, 2018

Tips & Tools: How to Make Perfect Fluffy Rice

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We eat rice every day, twice a day. Before I moved to South Asia I had rarely cooked rice. I had never even used a rice cooker! Googling the subject of cooking rice only revealed numerous methods with less than perfect results. So I emailed my Chinese-American university pal Eileen as to how to properly cook rice. I quickly learned that western methods of cooking rice were overly complicated and prone to failure.

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The first thing my friend recommended was to buy a rice cooker. Well, we had a rice cooker but it had no instructions and we rarely had electricity to even run the thing back then. Now that we have 20 hours of electricity a day I can concur that a rice cooker is one of the most cost-effective gadgets ever. If you cook rice on a regular basis you definitely need a rice cooker. It is the easiest and most time-saving appliance ever, just set it and forget it!

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This is the kind of rice we eat every day!

The technique my friend Eileen taught me to cook rice is the absorption method. This is the most common way to cook rice in Asia. Rather than drowning the rice in water and hoping for the best, one adds only as much as the rice needs to cook, and waits for it to absorb while cooking. -It is the simplest way to cook rice and I have found it gives the most reliable results. The method you use to cook rice also depends on the variety of rice you are using. Indians tend to use long-grain rice and use techniques to create separate grains that remain perfectly intact. The Chinese use starchier medium-grain varieties so that the rice sticks together, making it easier to pick up with chopsticks. I have cooked both a local short-grain pearl rice and long-grain Basmati rice with this absorption method with excellent results for the past 10 years!
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1/2 cup uncooked rice = 1&1/2 cups cooked rice

First, you'll want to determine how many servings of rice you wish to make. I usually estimate one and a half cups of cooked rice per adult for my Indian family then add an extra half cup just in case. Rice triples in volume when cooked so that's one-half cup per person of uncooked rice.
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The second and most crucial part of this technique is the ratio of rice to water. All sorts of variables come into play here: the type of rice being cooked, the age of the rice, humidity levels, how well the lid fits on the pot you use, the temperature of the burner being used, altitude, what phase the moon is in (kidding) - the list goes on. Because of all these variables, this is the step that may require some trial and error. The best place to look for the proper ratio the rice is to be cooked at is the directions on the package the rice came in. (Amazingly enough, the instructions on the back of rice packages are usually correct.) If that is unavailable I usually estimate one part rice to two parts water. Sometimes we buy local rice that comes in a plain burlap sack from a village and sometimes we buy rice from the supermarket that's labeled. If the rice is really fresh (as in recently harvested) it may need a little less water to cook. Rice harvested more than a year previous generally requires more water than recently harvested rice due to decreased moisture content. Cooking rice is game of ratios, so be sure to measure carefully unless you want a bowl full of disappointment.

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This is how rice gets cleaned so there's bound to be twigs, pebbles, or bugs in it!
Third, unless you are using rice that is fortified or enriched you will have to wash it. Rinsing traditionally polished rice alters its texture when cooked. Rinsing removes the thin layer of starch from the surface of each grain and keeps the rice from sticking together thus ensuring perfectly separate grains. Long-grain rice, like Basmati, is always rinsed for this reason. This doesn't have to be an extremely thorough sort of a cleanse. I usually rinse the rice twice over the sink by submerging it in water, swirling the rice with my fingers, then pouring off the cloudy water. Submersion allows any debris like twigs, bran, or insects to float out of the rice also. I have seen recommendations on the internet to rinse rice until the drainage water runs clear- this will never happen no matter how many times you rinse the rice I assure you.
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2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline: the aromatic compound that gives bread, jasmine rice, basmati rice, pandan, popcorn, & bread flowers their characteristic scent
Fourth, you need to decide if you wish to soak the rice or not. Soaking the rice speeds up cooking which affects the flavor of the rice. By letting the rice soak for 15 to 30 minutes, you can decrease the cooking time of most rice varieties by about 20 percent.  2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline is the flavor compound in aromatic rice varieties that is responsible for their characteristic popcorn-like aroma.  2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline dissipates while cooking. The longer the rice is exposed to heat, the less of an aromatic flavor it will have. By soaking the rice and shortening the cooking time, you will get more flavorful results. Some people rinse again after soaking the rice, I do not find it necessary.

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Fifth, add a little oil, ghee, or butter to the rice and water before cooking. This is optional but it will add flavor to the rice, help keep the grains separate, and prevent dryness if the rice is left standing for more than an hour after cooking. Restaurants usually do this to keep cooked rice tasting fresher and tender longer. I usually only add a little butter or ghee for special occasions such as if we are having dinner guests. Most Indians and Nepalis do not add salt to their rice when cooking so I don't add it either.

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Sixth, cook the rice over medium heat and with the lid on. If the temperature is too high you run the risk of scorching the rice at the bottom of the pot or unevenly cooked grains. If the temperature is too low you'll get a gloopy mess of undercooked rice. Put the lid on and keep it on throughout the cooking process. I recommend only lifting the lid to check the rice after 15 minutes. Do not stir the rice while it is cooking as you risk breaking the grains, releasing more starch, and a mushy mess. You can tell that the rice is completely cooked when all the water has boiled away, there are "fish eyes" or holes in the rice, and you can hear a crackling noise rather than a bubbling noise signifying that the water has completely boiled away.

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The last and most important step: let it rest! Resting is an unskippable step. When the rice has finished cooking remove the pot from the burner and let it sit with the lid still on. Allow the rice to rest for at least 10 minutes after it's done cooking to achieve optimum texture. This rule goes for all types of rice. Keep the rice covered until you’re ready to eat. Just before serving fluff the rice with a fork or rice paddle. As the Indian proverb goes, grains of rice should be like brothers – close, but not stuck together.
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So there you have it: ratio, rinse, soak, flavor, cook, rest, and fluff! Follow these easy steps and you'll get perfect, fluffy, rice every time. This is it - the foolproof recipe to cook rice on the stovetop:

1&1/2 C long-grain white rice
3 C water
1 tsp cooking oil, butter, or ghee (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) Measure out 1&1/2 cups rice and place into a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cooked rice expands to three times its original size so be sure to choose an adequately sized pot. 
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2) Over the sink add room-temperature water to the rice until it is covered by about an inch. Use your fingers to swirl the rice and water around the pan. Drain the cloudy water off of the rice through your hand. Discard any debris that floats to the surface. Repeat this process one to two more times. 

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3) Add 3 cups water to the rinsed rice and a teaspoonful of oil, butter, or ghee if using. For fluffier rice, the rice should be soaked for at least 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes prior to cooking.

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4) Cover and place the pot on a burner set on medium heat. Allow rice to cook for 15 to 20* minutes or until water has evaporated and the rice is tender. I usually check on the rice after 15 minutesYou may raise the lid occasionally to see if the water is boiling, see if the water has evaporated, or to listen for a crackling noise signifying that the last of the water has boiled away. Do not stir the rice while it is cooking.

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The little holes you see in the rice are called 'fisheyes' and signify that the rice has been cooked properly.

5) Remove pan from heat. Keep the lid on. Let rice stand, covered, for 10–15 minutes to firm up and absorb the last bit of water.

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6) Remove the lid just before serving and fluff the rice with a fork or rice paddle. Serve hot. This recipe makes 4&1/2 cups cooked rice.

Helpful Hints:
The same procedure can be used for a rice cooker. Instead of step 4 just place the pot in the rice cooker instead of on a stove burner.

*If cooking at altitudes over 3,000ft/1,000M increase cooking time by 5 minutes.

A special thanks to my dear friend Eileen!

Apr 9, 2018

Indian-Style Yellow Cabbage

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This simple cabbage stir-fry uses zesty mustard seeds, earthy turmeric, garlic, and a pinch of red chili to create a flavorful side dish that can quickly be made for a gathering. An easy to make vegan recipe that pairs well with rice and rotis.

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This recipe is adapted from 5 Spices, 50 dishes by Ruta Kahate. The premise of her cookbook is simple: with five common spices and a few basic ingredients, home cooks can create fifty mouthwatering Indian dishes, as diverse as they are delicious. Ms. Kahate teaches regional Indian cooking from her home-based school in Oakland, California, which has been featured on the Fine Living Network. I bought this book when it first came out in 2007. It is very well written and beautifully photographed. About half the recipes are authentically Indian while the other half are interesting modern fusions with western cuisine. My only complaint is that the recipes are a bit bland for my family's tastes- this is usually easily remedied by simply doubling the spices.

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Cabbage was never a favorite vegetable of mine until I moved to South Asia. I never cared for the western methods of preparing cabbage whether raw and shredded as in coleslaw, braised, or even pickled as in sauerkraut. Asian cuisines do cabbage best with simple stir-fries or salads dressed lightly with pungent oil and vinegar or lime juice dressings. This recipe is exemplary of how simple yet flavorsome a cabbage dish can be. (It's also quite pretty in it's glossy and golden yellow presentation.) I have altered the spices in the recipe to suit my family's tastes and to accommodate a slightly larger amount cabbage than entailed in the original recipe. I've used Kashmiri mirch instead of the recommended cayenne. Kashmiri mirch gives more of a rich chili flavor than cayenne and boosts the brilliant yellow coloring of the turmeric in this dish. Most cabbage dishes in Nepal or India are served a little crunchy or al dente, we prefer ours a bit well done. I also prefer frying the cabbage the Kashmiri way in salted oil. Frying in salted oil results in those little carmelized bits of loveliness that add so much flavor. Don't be too skimpy with the oil in this recipe as that's what is carrying the flavor. If you are using a non-stick pan you could probably get away with 3 tablespoons full of your favorite cooking oil, if not then I'd advise sticking to the full quarter cup. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

3 to 4 TBS cooking oil of choice
1&1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds/rai
4 cloves garlic/lahsun, minced finely
1&1/2 tsp ground turmeric/haldi
1 small to medium head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
salt to taste
1/2 to 1 tsp Kashmiri mirch or  cayenne pepper/degi mirch (use less for less heat)

Here's what to do:
1) In a large lidded skillet or kadhai, heat the oil with 1 teaspoon of salt over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add mustard seeds and reduce heat to medium. Add the minced garlic and allow to just brown a little bit.

2) Add the sliced cabbage, turmeric, and chili powder and give the mixture a good stir to coat the cabbage with the oil and spices.

3) Cover and cook until the cabbage is cooked to desired tenderness. (We like our cabbage VERY tender which takes about 10 to 12 minutes.) Stir every three minutes or so. If mixture begins to scorch or stick add a tablespoonful of water, reduce heat and stir. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Serve hot or warm with rice and/or rotis.

Helpful hints:
Try to choose a smaller head of cabbage for this dish, they are more tender and have a milder flavor than the larger heads.

Do not use purple cabbage for this dish unless you don't mind the sickly blue-green shade it will turn when you fry it with the turmeric

Apr 2, 2018

Madhur Jaffrey's Garam Masala

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There are as many versions of garam masala as there are home cooks in India. This recipe for the versatile and aromatic spice mix is from the famed cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey. "Masala" means "spices" while "garam" means "hot," which refers to the body-warming properties of the spices in Ayurvedic medicine.

Madhur Jaffrey
For those of you who don't know who Madhur Jaffrey is - she's a Delhi-born actress credited with bringing Indian cuisines to the Americas with her debut cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking (1973). She has written over a dozen cookbooks and appeared on several related television programs, the most notable of which was Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery, which premiered in the UK in 1982. Her recipes are not always authentic due to their being written for western home cooks and what would be available in a western supermarket in the 70's and 80's. But they are always beautifully written, easy to follow, and can be relied on to taste great!

Ms. Jaffrey's recipe for garam masala is quite lavish in its use of spices yet quite practical. Costly green cardamom takes center stage in this vibrant mix while the less expensive but equally flavorful cumin, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg are the supporting cast. This does not taste anything like the garam masala you'd typically buy readymade! No cheap fillers like coriander or fenugreek in this blend. Ms. Jaffrey has also scaled this recipe down to the perfect amount that will easily fit into an electric coffee grinder like you'd find in a western kitchen too. This is the perfect recipe if you wish to make just a few servings of this bold, versatile, and traditional spice mix.

1 TBS green cardamom/elaichi pods
1 tsp cumin/jeera or black cumin/shahi jeera seeds
1 tsp whole black peppercorns/kali mirch
1 tsp whole cloves/laung
1-inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark/dalchini, broken into pieces (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg/jaiphal or allspice

Here's what to do:
1) Place all the spices in a coffee or spice grinder and grind until to desired consistency.

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2) Keep in a sealed airtight and light-resistant container in a cool dark place for up to 3 months.

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Helpful Hints:
The original recipe specified cardamom seeds. I do not have the patience to sit there and peel an entire tablespoonful of green cardamom pods. Plus my frugal Prussian farmer and Scots-Irish cheapskate genes will not let me toss those gorgeously fragrant and EXPENSIVE green pods. So I just grind them up too!

Madhur Jaffrey does not recommend dry roasting this garam masala so I don't. Works for me! I usually end up frying or cooking whatever I'm using the garam masala in anyway.

Mar 26, 2018

Taking the High Road...Literally

Paving our little dirt road has truly begun here in Nepal. Trucks filled with building supplies have been arriving daily and a crew has been working dawn to dusk. Construction is going surprisingly quick even though most everything has to be done manually. Above you see a truck full of river rock being unloaded by the basketful.

These cone-shaped baskets are how most large loads are carried here in Nepal. You will often see porters going up and down the mountains carrying all sorts of things in these baskets like produce for markets, bricks, firewood, and even trekking gear for tourists. It's a very simple but brilliant design that leaves the arms free and alleviates pressure on the shoulders. Large and bulky items can easily be transported on the steep and narrow trails that crisscross the Himalayas connecting towns and villages using these conical baskets. The young woman in the above picture is using a shawl looped around the basket and across her forehead to carry it.

When it comes to hard, physical labor men and women work side by side in Nepal. These two ladies are digging a trench with pick and shovel for the drain on the new road. The woman on the left is about 3 months pregnant. She will work up until she gives birth and then only take one day off. The maintenance and clearing of trails in the mountains are considered women's work also.

Here they're placing a layer of river rock along the bottom of the drainage trench dug by the women. If you think that drainage trench looks a bit shallow you'll see how they've chosen to deal with that in the next few photos.

A layer of concrete is placed over the river rock in the drainage trench.  Once again the concrete is both mixed and transported by hand. No fancy concrete mixer. A simple slurry is mixed on the ground with shovels and carried by the bucketful to be smoothed over the river rock.

On top of the layer of concrete over the river rocks, two low parallel walls were built. These are to be the walls of a tiny canal that will drain the road. It is my understanding that the road will be built flush to the height of these walls. If you look to the left of the photo you can see how high the top of the drainage canal is compared to the land and houses bordering the road. It is a lot higher!

In fact, this is what it looks like through our front gate! The road is going to be a full 23 inches higher than the land our house and yard are on.

His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan demonstrates the alarming height of the future road. As you can see this means using our driveway will be impossible without some major modifications. I really hope this drain works to keep water away from our house during the Monsoon and that our yard doesn't become a drainage pond!

And then some folks were just delighted with the new drain! Little Mr. Raju jumped right in while his sisters looked on in amusement. Or disgust?

After two weeks of road building, the crew decided to have a celebration of sorts. Anytime you see an animal tethered by its front foreleg in a field it's fairly certain there's going to be some butchering. The man holding the ax will hit the water buffalo on the head with the back of it which will stun it. Then he will either deliver the final blow by severing the spinal cord with a chop to the back of the neck or by repeatedly striking it on the head until it falls to the ground. Then the animal's throat will be slit. Sometimes the initial bonk to the head does not entirely stun the animal as desired. I have seen times when an errant blow glances off of a buffalo's head which only enraged the animal. You do not want a horned beast that weighs a metric ton mad at you. Tying the animals front leg to a post will cause it to fall down if it tries to charge you or run away.  Hopefully.  About a year ago I heard horrific screams midday coming from this very field. I looked out the window to see a water buffalo with an ax hanging from his forehead making the most horrific sound I had ever heard. Water buffaloes make grunts and groans like Chewbacca when they call to each other, when distressed they make a screech that is bloodcurdling!

The buffalo was soon skinned and dismembered on a plastic tarp. Every part of the animal will be eaten or sold to the tanners. Water buffalo meat tastes like lean, good quality beef. It is not as fatty as beef nor does it have any of the gamey taste of goat (mutton), lamb, or venison. It can be a bit tough and requires marination making it great for kebabs. We rarely eat it because Kashmiris feel it is inferior to lamb. Although Kashmiris think goat (mutton) is inferior to sheep (lamb) also.

Butchering a large animal like this is usually only a once or twice a year event for most people in Nepal. Any meat that is not eaten in a few days will be salted, seasoned with timur (Szechuan peppercorns), and dried to make a sort of jerky.

And lastly, our beloved cat Tikka passed away. Tikka was Ms. Chinger's first daughter and they were very close. When Chinger died last October Tikka became very sad. Tikka was very shy and did not like to be touched by people but lavished her affections on her brother, Baacha Khan and her mom Chinger.

Poor Tikka had suffered many a mysterious feline virus these last few years but I think Chinger's death really affected her for the worse. I was not Tikka's favorite person as I was the one administering her medications. But when she wanted anything she had no hesitation to voice her requests to me. Tikka always wanted to be a mom and would even steal kittens from other mama cats and bring them home. We will miss you Tikka.

Any major construction going on your way? 
Have any of y'all in northern climes thawed out yet?

Ciao for now,

Mar 18, 2018

Green Apple Chutney

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Try this green apple chutney for a hot and spicy way to eat your apple a day! This easy recipe pairs well with everything from rice and rotis to steaks and roast chicken.

Every great once in awhile our local market gets a load of Granny Smith apples in. Often there seems to be some confusion as to where these tart, crisp, bright green apples come from as you can see in the above photo.  It boggles my mind that the apples probably spent 2 to 3 months in a nitrogen-flushed container on a ship from the US to get all the way to Nepal. Then they had to ride on a train and a truck from a port in Mumbai or Kolkata across the searing plains of India up here. After that, I get the pleasure of buying 3-month-old apples for about $3USD a pound! Nevertheless, Pippins and Granny Smith's are my favorite apples and I buy them. I've seen several recipes for South Asian style chutneys combining green apples and cilantro all over the internet. The combination sounded intriguing but few of the recipes suited my family's tastes. Too sweet, too tart, too bland were the complaints. After much trial and error, this is the recipe I've come up with for a green chutney using green apples. It has a nice balance of tart to sweet while garlic, ginger, and chilis give it some spicy heat. We enjoy this chutney with rice but it would also pair well with barbecued meats, kebabs, Mexican dishes, or roast chicken or turkey. Eating healthy is easy when it tastes this good!

1 tart green apple, cored and chopped (leave the skin on)
2 C cilantro/dhania, leaves and stems roughly chopped
1 TBS oil of choice (I use rice bran oil or virgin olive oil)
2 tsp ginger/adrak paste or 1-inch fresh ginger
2 tsp garlic/lahsun paste or 2 cloves garlic
1-2 green chilis/hari mirch (omit for less heat)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch or chili powder (omit or use less for less heat)
1 TBS lime juice or 1 TBS white vinegar

Here's what to do:
1) Whiz all ingredients in a mixie, blender, or food processor to a fine paste. Salt to taste.

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 2) Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Helpful Hints:
Chutney keeps for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 If the chutney is too sour for you try adding a pinch of sugar to sweeten it up.

 If the chutney is too hot for you try adding a tablespoonful of yogurt to cool it down.

I know I'm a day late but Happy St Patrick's day!

Mar 11, 2018

Garam Masala Spiced Almonds

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Garam Masala Spiced Almonds are the perfect healthy snack with a kick. The bold flavors of traditional Indian spices make these nuts addictively delicious!

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Typically when you pay a casual visit to a household in India or Nepal you are served a warm drink, something salty, and something sweet. The drink is usually sweet, milky chai (tea) or sweetened "milk coffee." The salty item can be anything from readymade chaat mixes to potato chips. The sweets are usually biscuits or cake. (I've even been served some unique combinations such as cake and potato chips.) Garam Masala Spiced Almonds are something I started making to serve guests before we could buy readymade chaat mixes (like Haldirams) in packets here in Nepal. It seemed a natural choice as almonds are a favorite treat in my husband's native Kashmir. I'm not sure where I originally found this recipe but I suspect it may have been from the legendary Canadian Chef Vikram Vij.

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Parsi-Style Garam Masala
Over the years I've added and altered the recipe to our tastes. Instead of cayenne, I use Kashmiri mirch for a richer chili kick. Lime juice adds a tart zing in place of the sweeter amchur/mango powder sometimes. Adding asafoetida/hing or garlic powder was entirely my idea to add an umami boost to the mix. You may certainly vary the flavor by using different regional versions of garam masala blends. You'll find recipes for Garam MasalaParsi Garam Masala, Kashmiri Garam Masala, Nepali Garam Masala, and Mughlai Garam Masala on this blog. The oil you choose to make this recipe with can change the flavor a great deal too. Using coconut or sesame oil adds a rich, traditional note while flavorless oils like canola and sunflower oils add none. You can even use raw cashews in this recipe too but be sure to roast them separately from almonds as they cook faster. I hope you'll love this recipe as much as my family does! Off to the recipe:

1 TBS garam masala
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch or cayenne powder
1 tsp mango powder/amchur or 2 tsp lime/lemon juice
1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing or garlic powder (optional)
 2 TBS vegetable oil of choice oil
 3 C raw almonds or cashews
2-3 tsp salt to taste 

Here's what to do:
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

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2) In a large bowl, combine spices, and oil. Add almonds or cashews and stir until well coated. Pour coated nuts onto a baking sheet and spread out evenly over the pan.

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3) Bake for 6-8 minutes. Stir with a spatula or spoon, return to oven and bake an additional 6 minutes. Be careful not to burn or scorch the nuts- if the almonds start to turn dark brown around the edges they are burnt. Remember that the almonds will continue cooking for a few minutes after you remove them from the oven.
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4) Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving. Store in an air-tight container for up to one month in a cool, dry place.

Helpful Hints: 
If after roasting the nuts are not salted enough for your taste simply sprinkle additional salt and stir them with a spatula or shake them in a jar.

If you are making this recipe with raw cashews be sure to shorten the cooking times by 4-5 minutes.

Mar 5, 2018

March, the Month of Wind, Taxes and Flowers!

Yes, it's the blustery, balmy, and boisterous month of March here on this planet we call home! We started off with the festival of Holi last Friday. Yours truly did not participate in the festivities but as you can see in the above photo plenty of other firangis (foreigners) did! Holi is a movable feast that somehow always manages to usher in Spring!

Speaking of Spring and colors here are some gorgeously scarlet petunias just beginning to bloom in my garden. They're one of those new-fangled breeds that hold their trumpets upright and do not trail like old-fashioned petunias do. Not sure if that's truly an improvement

Speaking of things red and floral the Sheikh brought me 21 red roses for Valentine's day! I had completely forgotten it was Valentine's day! Flowers typically come prearranged like this in India and Nepal. Rarely do you see bouquets in cellophane sleeves like you do in western countries. It's kind of neat because you don't need a vase. Just place the foam brick of the arrangement in a bowl or dish of water.

Speaking of roses I didn't know that David Austin had a rose named after Kate Middleton! Apparently, the world-renowned rose grower from the Midlands brought out two new roses for the royal couple in 2011 also.  Where have I been? According to the David Austin website:

"Kate is beautiful at all stages as the long elegant buds with attractive, silvery magenta pink outer petals gradually open to wide blooms of up to four inches across. The David Austin Wedding Rose Kate has many magenta pink petals which give the overall impression of rich raspberry pink. As the roses age, the petals deepen in color, taking on hints of purple. The flowers are fully double with exquisitely waved outer petals. Over time golden yellow stamens are eventually revealed. The mature flowers are in the style of 18th and 19th century Gallicas, with some of the characters of both Charles de Mills and Tuscany Superb, which are generally considered amongst the most beautiful of all roses. The fragrance is a beautifully balanced, pure rose fragrance with what our fragrance expert, Robert Calkin, describes as having a “touch of after-rain freshness”. There are also subtle hints of raspberry, redcurrant, geranium, and bergamot. The fragrance varies in intensity as the flower ages." 

I wants me the preshusssss!

Speaking of things rosy and raspberry, I found this at our local departmental store. Yes, it is a can of air freshener named "Aromas of Kashmir." Air Wick is a British owned American brand trying to establish itself in India. This looks to be an attempt to appeal to Indian tastes with a line of home fragrance called "Scents of India." A paragraph on the back of the can promises "a unique and tender mix of roses and saffron fills your home with sweet and romantic moments." That sounded interesting enough for me to hand my $3 over for it! Upon spraying it I was a bit disappointed. The scent is vaguely recognizable as rose. There is something faintly warm and woodsy lingering in the fragrance that might be saffron I suppose. Mostly it's about fake raspberry with a lot of white musk. Actually, all the floral Air Wick scents had this flat raspberry note. C'mon Air Wick! This is India! We don't do twee raspberry here! We know what rich and sunny saffron should smell like and we love a velvety Taif or Damask rose!

Speaking of smelly things does anyone recall this fragrance from the swingin' seventies? Yes, it's Paco Rabanne pour Homme! This was an "old man" scent when I was a teen in the 80's. The sort of thing balding middle-aged men sporting top-stitched polyester leisure suits, white patent Gucci loafers, gold chains, and gradient aviator sunglasses would wear. A client gifted my husband a bottle of this at Christmas time. What an absolute classic! It has changed over the years. The oakmoss has been dialed down and the honey note seems to have all but disappeared. Laurel and sage still provide herbal greenness but a rather loud 70's style animalic musk still is the star of the show. It's a bit like a posh version of that other 70's hit Irish Spring deodorant soap. Fabulous performance with great longevity and tasteful sillage when applied with restraint. I love it!

More smelly things! This is Jeanne Arthes' Extreme Limite Energy which I found at our local departmental store for about $7USD. It's a passable dupe for the very $$$s Chanel Allure Homme Sport. Same citrus and ozone blast at the opening fading to vetiver with a base of white musk, slightly sweet amber, and tonka. It is missing the Chanel's black pepper note. Other than that adequate longevity and sillage for 6-8 hours even in South Asian Monsoon humidity and heat. A lovely light and brisk freshie for the men in your family when the summer heat kicks in. The bottle is positively hideous though.

Speaking of heat here's the ongoing battle in our neighborhood. This Mexican standoff of sorts is our very own HIM the Baacha Khan vs his arch nemesis the Djinn Cat. The initial contest involves long hours of sitting atop walls facing each other while growling and yowling. The wall should preferably be as close to a neighbor's window in order to be as thoroughly annoying as possible. Djinn Cat is an intact feral tomcat, HIM the Baacha Khan is decidedly not. This never ends well. So before things get too vicious and the neighbors get too miffed I usually squirt them with the hose forcing an immediate cease and desist on both sides. The bottom photo is HIM the Baacha Khan sulking away after Bibi put a watery kibosh on his caterwauling.

Sometimes these territorial kitty wars do escalate to fisticuffs and such was the case later that same day. The next day after the fight HIM the Baacha Khan developed a walnut-sized abscess over his left eye. I spent 20 minutes draining and debriding that mess on one very unhappy cat. This was followed by a 5-day course of antibiotics and our patient is now fit enough to fight again. You can see the scar in the photo over his left eye. Some possibly useful information: The Indian pressure cooker makes a great jugadi autoclave and dental floss makes for adequate kitty proof sutures.

Our newest member of the family is doing well too. Naughty Spotty has revealed himself to be quite the character! When the Sheikh (my husband) picked him out I thought he'd be quite shy. Spotty was hiding under a table at the adoption center when we first saw him and when we picked him up. I figured he'd be one of those sorts of cats that would hide under the sofa for a month or two before reluctantly engaging with his new owners. WAS I WRONG! Spotty has been all over this house like gangbusters. He loves people and greets everyone with sandpaper kisses and purrs. Unfortunately his new Aunty Tikka and Uncle Baacha Khan aren't thrilled with him. The hostilities have subsided from hisses and growls to complete indifference. This has not deterred Spotty from trying to engage his older housemates with adoring headbutts, tail pulling, and even flying leaps off of the bookcases on top of them. HIM the Baacha Khan refuses to eat in Spotty's presence, HARUMPH!

Our road is being paved. Civilization is coming to our door. Or at least a backhoe loader came and dug a four-foot trench along each side of our road. There's the neighborhood homeowners committee looking on gleefully at the arrival of the tractor. As you can see by the blue-roofed bus stop our road sits about 12-15 feet below the main road. On the left side of the road, there is a 150-bed clinic and hospital. There is a steep little frontage road that connects our road to that main road above by the bus stop. Unfortunately, drainage has been a problem in the past with water flooding down that steep frontage road directly into the hospital compound. That retaining wall and frontage road have been rebuilt three times in order to mend flood damage. I hope they take these drainage issues into consideration building the new road.

And here's the aforementioned backhoe loader just inches from our front gate. Now we have a four foot wide and two foot deep trench to jump across right out side our gate. No further work has been done since this tractor tore up the road last week. We're just renting so we have no say in the matter. Sigh.

I'll leave you with this photo of the notorious B.K. doing his best hoodlum pose. I hope he doesn't go the way of Tupac.

Not much else going on around here, anything happening your way?
Has Spring sprung where you're at or is it still miserably wintry?

Toodle pip!

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