Monday, February 13, 2017

Badami Rocks!!! - A travelogue


"If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday"
-Pearl. S. Buck

I am not sure about the exact time since I started getting these pangs to visit the fabled cave temples of Badami. It could be during my childhood years, when I stood staring at the framed painting of the famous eighteen-armed Nataraja that my Grand Uncle had recreated on canvas. Or it could have been during those times when I was studying the rise and fall of the Chalukyan Empire in school. Or did that desire arise when I brought this book called Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal- By George Michell? Even though I am not sure about the exact moment, I am sure that my imagination was kindled and created an incipient urge to see the fabled cave temples of Badami. However, my trip to the temple town could only materialize in 2016.



My sister and I began to plan for this trip during May, 2016. We decided to visit Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal during the month of July. My baby sister made the hotel reservations and the other necessary arrangements. It was an all Girl’s trip and we spent five glorious days exploring Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal, Bijapur and a few other places around this region. Since I have a lot of memories and photographs to share with you, I decided to break this post into a five-part travelogue. I hope you enjoy these posts, As much as I enjoyed writing them.



Since we planned the trip during the monsoons, we were a little apprehensive about visiting badami. “What if there is a storm and we get stranded in the middle of nowhere??” we thought. However, we couldn’t have visited the place during a better time. The sand stone mountains seemed to come alive during the monsoons. I somehow felt that the rainwater extracted all the hidden beauty of the temple town. The small town magically turns greener and offers breathtakingly beautiful views that can be savored by nature lovers.


Badami, which is now a small town, was once a thriving capital of the Chalukya dynasty. Who are the Chalukyas? I hear you ask. According to the legends, The Chalukyas belonged to northern Kshatriya Race, who migrated from Rajasthan during the 5th century. The founder of the Chalukya dynasty is said to be one Jaya Simha. He was followed by his son Rana Raja who was in turn Succeeded by his sun Pulakesin the first. Pulakesin the first ascended the throne and established Vatapi or Badami as his Capital.


The credit for the incredible architecture goes to Pulakesin’s sons, Kirtivarman and Mangalesha. It feels like every nook and corner of Badami tells the tale of the Borthers incredible contribution to art and architecture. These Cave temples are both mind blowing and captivating at the same time. I couldn’t help but wonder how one could transform something as dismal as sand stone into architectural marvels, way back in 6th century. The stones are carved to surgical precision and it seems like each wall in the cave has a story to tell.



The cave temples of Badami are segregated into four sections. The first three caves are dedicated to Hindu deities and the Fourth and topmost cave is dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras. This shows that the Chalukyans were tolerant to Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism and Jainism.



The first cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva. You will find a Dwarapalaka or a Guard on the left side and on the opposite wall you will find the five feet tall, Eighteen armed Shiva, dancing the Tandava, welcoming you. This Nataraja is carved in such a way that each combination of a pair of hands represents a Mudra in Bharatanatyam. It is said that a total of eighty-one Mudras are depicted in this amazing Sculptre.


Inside the first cave, you will find Harihara with four hands and Snakes on hair and waist and on the other side there is Ardhanarishwara, attended by the bull and the skeleton Bhiringi. The ceiling of the cave is decorated with a very realistic Adi sesha or the serpant king.



The Second cave is dedicated lord Vishnu. Vishnu is depicted as the Trivikrama or Vaamana with one leg on the earth and the other pointing towards the sky. He is also depicted as the Varaha Avatar rescuing mother earth from the clutches of demon, hiranyaksha. Another Dwarpalaka or guard can  be found at the entrance holding a flower.





The third cave is perhaps the grandest and the biggest of them all. This cave has six pillars and each one is exquisitely carved with festoon like chains. There is a glorious eleven feet high Statue of Narasimha on the west wall and a statue of Harihara on the southern wall. There are also depictions of Trivikrama (vamana) and Varaha avatars in this cave. But the most beautiful sculpture in this cave temple has to be of the one where Vishnu is seated on the coiled Adi Sesha. It is a rare pose and one doesn’t get to see this often. These sculptures left me humbled, dwarfed and in a state of awe!!










The fourth cave is a jain temple and is dedicated to Jain tirthankaras. Unfortunately I could not photograph in this cave because of the fading light and the lingering monkey menace. All I could manage was a couple photographs on my cell phone.




 One word of Caution!!! These caves are full of monkeys. They have the reputation of snatching handbags, food, water, etc. One monkey almost snatched my mother’s handbag. It would have disappeared with it too had my mother not put up a brave fight.


As we left the pinkish-brown sandstone mountains of Badami, turning golden in the setting rays of the sun, I felt humbled and content. It truly melted my heart and made me wish that I return to this amazing place again. I hope that my travelogue entices you to pay a visit to this magnificent place called Badami.



        

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lima beans in Tomato Gravy- A no onion, no garlic recipe


Butter beans or Lima beans is one legume that I never grew up eating. It was never cooked in my mother's or my Grandmother's place and neither was it made in my In-law's place. So I never knew what to make out of these white colored legumes. It was only a few days back that I got to taste Lima beans in the form of this curry. I was instantly smitten by this dish and I had to ask for the recipe.


Rich and spicy tomato gravy, Soft and chewy beans, slightly bitter undertones of Dried fenugreek leaves and lots of coriander leaves on top. This pretty much describes this unassuming curry. Similar to the rajma masala, this curry can be made for those quick weeknight meals. This Gujarati Style, Lima beans curry is quick to prepare and quite comforting. All of you who love beans or legumes for sides, would know how addictive it can get.


Lima beans in tomato gravy is wholesome yet it does not require too much of effort. The use of some varied spices, Jaggery and yogurt, imparts a sweet and sour tang to this dish. The only down side of this recipe is that, the beans require long hours of soaking. So it has to be planned well in advance.


Since this is recipe does not include any onion or Garlic, this can be made during Auspicious occasions and Vrats. Try giving this healthy and nutritious recipe a try. I assure you it will leave you incredibly satisfied to the tee.


Butter beans in Tomato Gravy recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time- 30min
Serves- 4

Ingredients:
Butter beans- 170 gms, Soaked for 6-8hrs or overnight
Oil- 2tbsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2tspn
Asafetida- A large pinch
Ginger paste- A tsp
Tomatoes- 3med, blanched and pureed
Salt- to taste
Jaggery- 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri Red chili powder- 1 tsp
Cumin seed powder- 1/2 tsp
Coriander seed powder- 1/2tsp
Kasuri methi- 1tsp
Garam masala- 1/4tspn
Besan or gram flour- 2tspn
Thick Yogurt- 3tbspn
Coriander leaves to Garnish

Method:
  • Drain the soaked butter beans. Pressure cook the beans along with two cups of water and half a tsp of salt for five to six whistles and turn off the heat. Allow the steam to dissipate itself before  opening the cooker. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to crackle. Add the Asafetida and the ginger paste and fry for a few seconds.
  • Add the blanched tomatoes, salt, Jaggery, red chili powder and fry for 3-4 mins.
  • Stir in the coriander seed powder, cumin seed powder, Kasuri methi and the garam masala and fry for a few more mins or till the oil separates. 
  • Add the cooked butter beans along with the water and mix well. Allow the mixture to simmer for a few seconds.
  • Mix the gram flour along with the yogurt to make a thick paste. Add this mixture to the simmering gravy and mix well.
  • Allow the mixture to cook on a low flame for 3-4mins more before taking off the heat. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or rotis.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Khara bhat or Rava bhat


Let me start this post by wishing all my friends and Readers a very Happy New year!!! I hope you all had a fun filled holiday season!!


Allow me to begin 2017 with a light, comforting and hearty breakfast recipe. I have to confess that we over indulged on food during the last few weeks. Right now, I am not just left with extra pounds but also a bad throat. So a light meal is exactly what I need right now.


As far as my holidays are concerned, I spent them well with my little family. S, Purvi and I spent a lot of time shopping, and doing those short touristy things. We did eat out a lot. So I took a break from cooking. We spent a quite New Years Eve at home watching movies. And before I knew it 2016 was behind us.

Coming to the recipe, for those of you who are wondering what Khara bhat is. It is nothing but Umma which is loaded with vegetables and spices. Like upma, Khara bhat is light, moist and is studded with crunchy bites of nuts and lentils. 

The char bhat is a healthy whole grain dish with porridge like consistency with flavorings of Vangi that or bhat of visible bhat. In short, the Khara that or the Rava bhat is wholesome dish that can be had for breakfast or as light meal on a hot sommer's day!!


Khara bhat recipe:
Preparation time: 15min
Cooking time: 10mins
Serves- 4

Ingredients:
Thick Semolina or upma rawa- 1cup or 150gms
Tamarind- a small lime sized, Soaked in 2tbsps of water
Oil or ghee- 3tbsps
Mustard seeds- 1tsp
Channa dal- 1/2 tsp
Urad dal- 1/2tspn
Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
Asafetida- a large pinch
Diced Vegetables- 1 cup (I used 1small carrot, 3-4 french beans, 2tbspns of peas and a tbsp of chopped green bell pepper)
Tomato- 1small, finely chopped (optional)
Turmeric- 1/4tspn
Salt- to taste
Jaggery- 1tspn
Freshly grated coconut- 2tbspn
Vangi that powder or visible that powder- 1-1/2 tbsp
Coriander leaves to garnish
Lemon wedges to serve

Method:
  • Dry roast the semolina in a thick bottomed pan till brown and fragrant and set aside.
  • Extract the juice from the soaked tamarind and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they sputter, add the channa dal and Urad dal and fry till they turn brown.
  • Stir in the Curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. Add the asafetida and the diced vegetables and fry for a minute.
  • Add the chopped tomato, turmeric, salt and jaggery and continue frying for a two minutes.
  • Add the tamarind pulp and quarter cup of water and cook covered for 4-5minutes or till the vegetables soften.
  • Add two and a half cups of water to the vegetable mixture and allow the mixture to boil. Reduce the heat and add the roasted semolina while stirring continuously.
  • Add the coconut and the Bisibele bhat/ Vangi bhat powder and cook covered on low heat till the water is absorbed completely and the semolina is completely cooked.
  • Take off the heat, Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas fruit cookies- A guest post for Lubna Karim from Yummy food



First of all I wish to thank Luana for having me on her beautiful space. Kitchen flavors was one of those blogs that I "grew up" following and emulating. So you can imagine delight when Lubna asked me to do a guest post for her.

Lubna is one of those people who needs no introduction. She is the face behind the awesome blog called Kitchen Flavors. She is an amazing cook and whips up some mouth watering dishes. She is also an extremely talented photographer. Her photographs often take by breath away. She is a very passionate blogger and a very generous friend. So generous, that she dropped everything and decided to help me out when I was facing some issues with my blog. 

Although we have never met, I did get a chance to speak to her a couple of times. There is something about Lubna, that we have been friends ever since.

So when she asked me to do a guest post for her, I was filled with a wild enthusiasm. I knew I had to bake something special for her. With a spring in my step, I decided to bake these delicious Christmas fruit cookies for her. 

These cookies are inspired by Ina Garten's Fruit cake cookies from here. But I have made so many changes to the recipe that I am not even sure if there is any ingredient that remains unchanged. 

These are made with all the ingredients that go into making the traditional fruit cake. It has a whole lot of dried fruits, mixed peel and nuts. It also has the richness of butter and the goodness of the spices. In short, these cookies are packed with all the "awesomeness" of a fruit cake. 


So if you are one of those people who hates fruit cake. Or for some reason you are not able to bake one, then cookies are just for you. You can enjoy the holiday flavor with a crisp and chewy texture. So head over to Lubna's blog and  check out the recipe. This is surely an enticing treat!!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dhingri Matar- Mushroom and peas in poppy seeds and cashew gravy


I am back with a rich, indulgent yet simple Gravy. The dhingri matar is a delicious combination of Mushrooms and fresh green peas, simmered in a luscious, thick gravy.



The Dhingri matar is something that is often made at a our home. I make this side dish during those week nights when I really need something comforting. And this dish fits the bill perfectly. It requires minimal preparation time, it is comforting and unbelievably delicious. 


Each time I make this curry, I tend to experiment with the spices and ingredients that go into making this side dish. This version of dhingri matar features an amalgamation of spices, a generous dose of full fat milk and a luxurious paste of cashew and poppy seeds. Needless to say we love this subtly spiced creamy curry. 

Do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. They are something that are easily available in every Indian kitchen. This is a highly adaptable recipe. You can change and replace the ingredients as per your tastes.


I have used whole milk in this recipe. But you can go ahead and replace it with a few tablespoons of yogurt and cream. I highly recommend the use of Kasuri methi or dry fenugreek leaves. It lends a subtle bitter flavor and a wonderful aroma to the curry. 


This recipe is one of the best things to come out of my kitchen. I am sure you will love the rich mouth feel and the tantalizing flavor of this sabzi!!


Dhingri Matar recipe:
Preparation time: 20mins
Cooking time: 15mins
Serves- 4

Ingredients:
For the cashew-poppy seed paste:
Cashew nuts- 3tbsp, chopped
Poppy seeds- 1-1/2tbsp, dry roasted

Oil- 2tbsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2tsp
Onion- 1med sized, finely chopped
Green chili- 1, slit
Ginger-Garlic paste- 1tspn
Fresh or frozen peas- 1/2cup
Button Mushrooms- 250gms, sliced
Turmeric or haldi- a large pinch
Salt to taste
Sugar- 1/4tspn
Red chili powder- 1/2 tsp
Tomato- 1 Large, finely chopped
Kasuri methi- 1/4tspn
Garam masala- a large pinch
Full fat Milk- 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves- 1tbsp, to garnish


Method:

  • To make the cashew-poppy seed paste, combine the cashew nuts and poppy seeds in blender jar and blend without using any water.
  • Add a little water and blend again to get a smooth paste and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottomed wok and add the cumin seeds. Once they turn brown add the chopped onion and fry till they turn transcluscent.
  • Stir in the Ginger-Garlic paste and the slit green chili fry till the raw smell goes.
  • Add the peas and sauce for two to three mins. Stir in the sliced mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes more.
  • Add the Salt, Sugar, Turmeric, red chili powder, and the chopped tomatoes, mix well, and cook covered for five minutes or till the vegetables are cooked.
  • Stir in the cashew-poppy seed paste, Kasuri Methi and the garam masala and mix well.
  • Add the milk and allow the mixture to simmer on low heat for 2-3mins or till the mixture thickens.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rotis or Parathas or with Jeera rice
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