Friday, 29 April 2016

Happiness in Feathered Bundles


All these years, I have only known the presence of three birds in my
 premises.



The first are my pet pigeons. A pair appeared one day, out of nowhere, and built their nest in the gap of a ceiling. Now they are one big family. 


The second is a large family of House Sparrows.  


They are permanent residents now and have multiplied so much in due course that I have lost count.


And the third is the Common Myna, apart from the common crows of course.



The Asian Pied Starling or the Pied Myna 


A Dove cozily taking shelter from rain on the Neem tree.

I was too busy with work and life in general to really take the time to look around. The hectic schedule at work and a busy social life left me with very little time to discover a beautiful side of nature - lovely creatures right at home. To be with nature I would always take a trip to some resort, wildlife sanctuary or some quiet country side.
The dainty Dove 
The pair of Doves now mostly sit on the Neem tree. While I am writing this, I can see they are busy making nest. They will soon have babies.

The Crimson-Breasted Barbet or the Copper-Smith Barbet

Then one day I fell ill. It gradually became worse and I had to be in complete bed-rest . I was devastated. I could not move out of bed or turn even on my sides without help. I went into depression. Forget reading or writing, I even stopped answering phone calls.
  


The Red-Vented Bulbul


I would lie in bed upstairs, constantly gazing at the garden through the window, watching the season change. The Neem tree by my window stood by me throughout, witnessing my pain, giving me strength. 
The Blue-Throated Barbet

It was mid summer and a lovely shower had just washed the garden. I saw a dove perched cosily on the neem tree, taking shelter from the rain. I called out to my husband and asked him to hand me my camera which was just lying around gathering dust. And that is when I clicked the first photo of a bird.



It triggered the first ray of hope in me.




The Oriental Magpie Robin. It can sing in several different tunes. The best tunes are the ones just before sunrise and sunset.


Then I clicked another, and yet another. Looking at these images made me feel better.

Then I would look around for more doves, but to my surprise, along with the pair of doves I noticed a tiny black and white bird too. I was overjoyed. I had something to look forward to. What would I see tomorrow? Would the pretty little black birdie or the green one visit again?



The Rose-Ringed Parakeet, eating flowers of maize in my garden


I no longer felt depressed. I wish I had realized earlier that these sweet little birds could come to mean so much to me.


The Black-Hooded Oriole


I had to then leave the city for treatment. A month later, I returned home, but was once again bound to my bed for a month. Gradually, I started to walk and move a little. Now I could sit on the balcony and on the terrace for a short periods. But what I saw there was beyond my imagination. My joy knew no bounds. Words fail me as I narrate what I saw.

 The Black Drongo, a courageous bird. It attacks any predatory bird to protect the smaller timid  birds.


There are beautiful birds sitting on the Apple Blossom(Pink Shower) or the Sheesham tree right next to me! They fly away to collect insects or fruits from nearby trees, but they always come back to perch themselves again on the trees by my side. Some just show up once in weeks for a few minutes. Sweetly enough, my presence didn’t seem to bother them at all.


The Yellow Footed Green Pigeon

Watching them and clicking their pictures became my hobby. Every morning I would sit on the corner of my terrace and wait for different species to show up. Now I no longer miss the busy life I was leading. My depression slowly gave way to happiness and hope; and all this by just looking at these lovely little innocent feathered creatures go about their business!



The Chestnut-Tailed Starling or Grey Headed Myna


Guwahati city is rapidly turning into a concrete jungle. Trees are being cut, hills are being pulled down to make highways or erect high-rises. Jungles and wetlands are being encroached on by humans, chasing away the fauna. We humans have been so insensitive. Till now, I was completely unaware of the fact that my neighbourhood, the heart of the city, was home to so many species of birds. 



The Javan Myna

Just a few flowering trees can shelter so many species of birds in our gardens and in our cities! Although my garden had quite a few fruit and flowering trees, I have ordered and planted a few more now. I hope more birds can enjoy and make these their homes here. 


The Crimson-Breasted Barbet or the Copper-Smith Barbet

I feel contented. In the darkest of hours, hope shines like a bright ray of sunlight. It’s up to you to look for it and seize it.





A pair of Chestnut-Tailed Starling. They are known to whistle back in exactly in the same tune as humans.

Here are some of the nests I could discover in my garden. This is Indian Rosewood tree (Sheesham tree) stands tall at the gate for over 28 years. 



  
The Barbets and Chestnut Tailed Starlings chisel out holes inside trees to build their nest.





Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Stuffed Capsicum


Capsicum : I have used the long ones. The round ones too can be used. 
Wash, pat dry. Make a slit length wise, carefully take the seeds out. Make sure the capsicum remains whole. 



Filling :
Fry onion, mushroom with salt and little powdered jeera+dhania and garam masala. Add paneer and boiled mashed potato. Mash it well while stirring. 

Any non-vegetarian filling tastes good too. 



Stuff the capsicums with filling. Dip in a batter made of flour, water and a pinch of salt. Flour can be replaced by besan. Flour makes it crunchy and nice.



Fry stuffed capsicums dipped in the flour batter. Serve hot with any meal. Tastes great.



These capsicums are grown on my terrace garden in boxes. They are very healthy as you can see and fully organic. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Spinach-Chicken



Ingredients :
1. 500 gm chicken (broiler), diced
2. A big bunch of spinach, ground to a fine watery paste
3. 2 big tomatoes, chopped
4. 3 medium onions, chopped
5. Paste of 1tbsp each ginger and garlic
6. Green chilly 2 or 3, sliced lengthwise
7. Salt to taste
8. Refine oil for cooking
9. 2 tbsp ghee 
10. 2 tbsp cream (optional) to garnish
11. Powdered masala :
                           1. Jeera 1 tsp
                           2. Dhania 1 tsp
                           3. Garam masala 1 tsp


Method :
Fry onion in oil for a minute, add chicken, salt, ginger+garlic, chilly. Fry for another minute, add tomato and all the dry masala. Keep stirring over low flame, cover in between. Keep heat low throughout the cooking. 
Once the tomato dissolves, add spinach paste. Stir, cover and cook. Add little warm water. 
It should neither be watery nor very dry. 
When cooked, add ghee. Spinach-Chicken is ready.


Decorate with fresh cream while serving (optional)
Tastes great with steaming hot rice or roti.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Mutton Dum Biryani




A very simple method of cooking Dum Biryani without using a heavy bottomed copper vessel and burning hot charcoal in a city kitchen.

Ingredients (for marination) :

1. Mutton : 1 kg
2. Pumpkin : 1 cup, grated (or any meat tenderiser) 
3. Curd : 400 g
4. Turmeric : 2 tsp
5. Chilly powder : 2 tsp
6. Jeera powdered : 1/2 tsp
7. Dhania powdered : 1/2 tsp
8. Garam masala powdered : 2 to 3 tsp
9. Cardamom (whole) : 5 each of black and green
10. Cinnamon (whole) : 2 sticks
11. Clove (whole) : 5
12. Black pepper (whole) : 1/2 tsp
13. Salt : 2 tsp
14. Mint leaves : a few
15. Ghee : 4 to 5 tbsp
16. Onion : 3 big, chopped lengthwise and deep fried till golden crisp
17. Ginger paste : 2 tsp
18. Garlic paste : 2 tsp


Method :
Mix the above ingredients well keeping aside little fried onion for later use. Marinate for 8 hours or over night, in the fridge.


Ingredients (for cooking) :

20. Rice : 500 g, extra long super Basmati
21. Milk : 1/2 mug, hot
22. Saffron (Kesar) : 2 g
23. Salt : 2 tsp
24. Ghee : 4 tbsp
25. Wheat flour (Atta) : 1 cup


Method :

1. Cook rice with more water than needed, ghee and salt. Remove from fire after around 20 minutes when rice is half cooked. Drain the remaining water and leave in a perforated vessel/bowl.
2. Heat milk, remove from flame and add saffron. Leave for 20 minutes.
3. Knead little atta and water to make a smooth dough.


4. Put the meat along with the marinade in a heavy bottomed vessel. Layer with rice fried onion, kesar mixed milk and ghee (optional).
5. Seal the mouth of the vessel with dough. Cover lid.
6. Place a heavy iron tawa below the vessel/cooker while cooking.


7. Cook on high flame for 35 minutes, then 10 minutes on medium flame.
8. Put off gas and keep for 15 minutes before opening the lid.
9. Biryani goes well with raita. Boondi raita with this Dum Biryani was a perfect treat.





Thursday, 30 April 2015

Triangle Paratha/Parota



A soft and delicious Paratha/Parota. Can be served with any curry but my family's favourite is with mutton curry 

Ingredients : (Makes 10 Parotas)

1. 5 cups Maida/Flour (the cup I use for measuring is a little smaller than the usual tea cup)
2. 2 tsp Ghee
3. 1/2 tsp (level) Salt
4. 1 tsp Sugar
5. Water to knead
6. Ghee to fry 




Method : 

Mix the ingredients from 1. to 4. Once mixed well, add water, a little at a time and knead well. Knead till it is very soft. 
Make 10 equal portions. Take one portion, flatten between your palms and roll out like roti, but very thin. Take half a tsp of Ghee and spread over the rolled out roti like the above picture. Sprinkle Maida over it and fold into half. 




Spread Ghee on this folded roti now, sprinkle Maida and fold again. It will look like the above picture. 



Roll it out again, but carefully this time so that the layers/folds remain, triangle shape is good, yet rolled out properly like the above picture. Make the rest of the Parotas this way. 
Put a tsp of Ghee on tawa, fry Paratha on medium heat. 



Serve hot with any curry, preferably mutton.... Love the taste but more than eating, I love to make this Paronta and serve.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Saboodana (Sago) Vada



Saboodana Vada, just the right snack to enjoy with a cup of your favourite tea in the late afternoon. 
Sago = Tapioca Sago or Tapioca Pearls 

Ingredients : (makes around 16 vadas)
1. Sago 1 cup
2. Water 1/2 cup
3. Potato 3 medium
4. Peanuts little less than 1/2 cup
5. Green chilly to taste
6. Salt to taste
7. Sugar 1/2 tsp
8. Oil to deep fry



Method :
Soak sago in 1/2 cup water for 4 hours.
Roast peanuts, grind a little (coarsely).
Boil potato, mash with salt, chopped green chilly, peanuts, salt and sugar


Now mix sago carefully to the mashed potato.
Make round vadas flattening a little on your palms.
Deep fry on medium heat till golden brown on both sides. 
Serve with your favourite chutney.


Friday, 3 April 2015

Saboodana Khitchree



Big pearls of Sago (Tapioca Sago or Tapioca Pearls) is preferred for this recipe.   




Ingredients : (serves 2)
1. Sago (Saboodana), 1 cup
2. Water, 2 cups
3. Peas, (shelled) half cup
4. Potatoes, 2 medium
5. Almonds, 5
6. Ghee, 3 tbsp 
7. Mustard seed, half tsp
8. Salt, to taste (may use Sendha namak/Rock salt which is used during fasting)
9. Curry patta, a few
10. Lemon juice, 1 tbsp (optional)




Method : 
Soak Saboodana in 2 cups water for 5 hours. Drain remaining water, spread on a big plate and keep under fan to dry for another hour or so. 





Soak almonds for an hour, peel and slice. 
Peel and cut potatoes into small pieces. 
Cook peas in water adding a little salt till tender. Heat little ghee, stir fry peas for a minute or so and keep aside.
Heat little ghee, fry almonds till golden, keep aside.
Heat little ghee, fry potato till cooked and turns brown. Keep aside. 
Heat ghee, put the mustard and curry patta, cover and let it splutter. Add potato, peas, almonds and saboodana, salt. Stir fry carefully for 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon juice (optional). 





Serve with a cup of tea. Any nuts or any vegetable of the season may be used in this recipe.