Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Hornbill Festival


The most famous festival in our region is the Hornbill Festival. Named after the Great Indian Hornbill which figures in the folklore of many tribes of our region, the festival is held every year from 1-10 December. The best of everything that about the state of Nagaland is beautifully displayed in this festival. Being an agrarian society, many of the dances are connected with sowing and harvesting. The clothes that the performers wear are vibrant. Each tribe has their own distinctive colours and patterns.
Hornbill Festival
A view of Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, seen from our hotel window

Hornbill Festival
The venue of the festival at Kisama about 12 kms from Kohima
Kisama, the Naga Heritage Village where the festival is held every year, is about 12 kms from the capital city of Kohima. Nagas are fine craftsmen. The objects on display and sale had many figurines of humans, birds and animals. I loved the horticultural section where local produce were sold. Spices, fruits and vegetables vied for space in the shelves.

Hornbill Festival

The pictures below show the different tribes performing. All the tribes take part and for visitors, it is a wonderful opportunity to see them all on one platform.
Hornbill Festival


Hornbill Festival


Hornbill Festival


Hornbill Festival
The Dimasa troupe at the festival


Hornbill Festival
The horticultural section had many different begonias


Hornbill Festival
Contests held during the festival


Hornbill Festival
Kitchen and garden equipment for sale

Hornbill Festival
Finely crafted bamboo and wooden cups, containers, stands and trays


Hornbill Festival
The representation of the tribes were also in their dwellings, or the replica of the village dwellings that also had a kitchen from where the food was cooked and served. We feasted on rice beer, fried pork, chicken, and snails cooked with perilla seeds. Food and drink were served in bamboo glasses and banana leaf plates. The outer area displayed (also for sale were) traditional clothes, jewellery and bamboo and wooden decorative as well as utility items. 
Hornbill Festival
One of the kitchens


Hornbill Festival
Young girls enjoy a nutritious drink made of locally-grown maize
Hornbill Festival

Right from top the view of the "morungs" or dwellings built on different levels. This is by far the most well-arranged festival in our region. No wonder it has grown over the years. We spent a day there but a day isn't enough.Maybe next year we'll find ourselves heading back to Nagaland to spend more time at the Hornbill Festival.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Apple Pie With A Leafy Crust!

Apple pie with a leafy crust
One of my favourite pies to bake is...apple pie! I have done quite a few posts here on my blog with just apples or teamed them with other fruits like pears and star fruits. Usually I make it with a lattice top but this time I decided to add some vines and leaves.:) The idea came from Ms. Google. I was going through pie crust images and came across one that was so beautifully done. 
I decided to go with leaves since I am in a bit of a hurry as we are leaving for the neighbouring state of Nagaland for the Hornbill Festival. It's one of the biggest festivals in our region and it'll be a first time for me there. Coming back to the pie, I'll get on with the recipe.
For the pastry:
100 grams butter, chilled
200 grams all-purpose flour, sieved
1 egg
Keep a small bowl of cold water to sprinkle on the dough
Transfer the flour into a large bowl and grate the butter on top of the flour.
Mix with your finger tips till it resembles breadcrumbs.
Break the egg and add to the mixture. Sprinkle some cold water at this point.
Bring the mixture together. Divide it into two, shape into discs, wrap in clingfilm, and chill for at least 40 minutes.

The filling:
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
The juice of one small orange (all the juice will not be needed)
A quarter tsp grated orange rind
A handful of raisins, washed and patted dry with a kitchen towel
Sugar to taste
A quarter tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp flour
1 egg yolk for the eggwash

As the pastry chills, mix the cut apples with the orange juice so that they do not turn brown. I usually add lemon juice but it's the season of oranges....
Add the grated orange rind, the cinnamon, the vanilla extract, the raisins, sugar and the flour. Give it a good mix and set aside.
Roll out one disc of the pastry dough by skimming a fine dusting of flour on your worktop and line the loose-bottomed pie tin. Run the rolling pin along the edge of the tin to remove any extra dough. That can go back to the fridge to be taken out a little later for more 'leaves'.
Prick the rolled-out pastry with a fork and chill it as you work on the other disc.
Roll out the other disc and using a cutter, cut out as many leaves as you think you'll need. Work as fast as you can. 


 
Take the rolled out dough from the fridge (the bottom portion) and place the prepared filling in it. 
Even out the surface with a spoon.
Arrange the leaves in a circle all across the circumference of the pie by adding a bit of the egg yolk. Cut off a few strips and make some curves. Add to the crust creating a pattern that you like.Keep on adding more leaves (with a little help from the yolk) till most of the surface is covered.
Brush with egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven till the pie is golden brown. I baked this pie for 40 minutes at 200C for the first 15 minutes and then at 180C till it was done.
This time I did not use extra butter to grease the pie tin. There's enough butter in the dough and the pie came off (the tin) effortlessly. The amount of sugar I used wasn't much. I do taste the filling to see if it's (sweet) enough. There's no sugar added to the pastry as I'm happy with the hint of sweetness from the filling. The freshness of citrus comes through as you bite into it. It's refreshing! Carrying this on our journey. I must sign off now and do some packing...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Plum Cake


Plum cake

Coming back home after a two-week stay in Delhi, I brought a whole lot of ingredients and a small packet of pricey plums! Browsing the tempting shelves at Modern Bazar, I had visions of a cake, sitting pretty on my new cake stand. The sliced pieces tinged with the deepest shades of red!! I couldn't wait to get back to my oven! But returning home and the routine that follows (after each trip) is a punishing one. There's SO much to be done. 
Despite all that work it was a joy to see the new blooms and today's harvest. Two kinds of beans, French and hyacinth. The latter is symbolic with our winters. There are many shapes and sizes but this is the only one I am growing. It's more than enough for us. Most of the beans are distributed between family and friends.
This morning's pictures...caught the dew on the nasturtium too!
Just a thought about plums...when we were kids we had 5-6 plum trees in our backyard. The blooming period was beautiful and the fruit-bearing/ripening season, more so. We used to call them alu-bakra, our own version of the Hindi word for the fruit- alu-bukhara. Although the fruits were sour and turned sweet only at the over-ripe stage, we loved them to bits. They were consumed with salt and crushed or powdered chillies and my mother made them into jelly that tasted so good with bread. But for baking they wouldn't have been good at all as they were too acidic.


I used only three plums for this recipe and it looked as though the slices were overcrowding the cake tin. But as the baking progressed, the batter rose, the plums sank a bit, enough to create a pattern on the top. I don't remember why I didn't snap a picture before the cake went in. Could be the thought of all the chores waiting to be done!

Ingredients:
140 grams plain flour+ extra for dusting the tin
50 grams almond meal
110 grams fine sugar
120 grams butter at room temperature+ extra for greasing the tin
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder 
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
Some milk
3 plums, sliced evenly

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Grease a 9" cake tin and dust it with flour.
Combine the flour, almond meal, the cinnamon and baking powders and keep aside.
Cream the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs one by one and whisk till fully incorporated.
Add the vanilla extract. Add a bit of milk (about 4 tbs).
Fold in the flour mix and transfer the batter to the baking tin.
Even out the batter with a knife or a spatula.
Arrange the sliced plums all along the surface forming a pattern.
Bake for 45-40 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and serve while still warm.

Because of the browning, I reduced the the temperature to 160C after 35 minutes. I did not use a foil as I felt that the slightly singed look on the plums would look attractive, rather like the appearance of a well-baked French apple tart.
 
The wooden cake stand that happily followed me home!:)

Although the cake looked a little too brown, that didn't make any difference to the taste. It's a lovely moist cake and I had it with a cup of tea and a little bit of whipped honey-cream.
Thank you for stopping by. Do check out my Facebook page as well.:))

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mutton Curry With Vegetables


Mutton curry has always been comfort food. With the usual spices and chunks of potato. The potatoes are rubbed with a mix of turmeric and salt and shallow fried till they turn golden brown. They are later added to the curry when the meat becomes almost tender. By the time the curry is done, the potatoes are thoroughly cooked too. I started to make the same yesterday but with winter vegetables in abundance now who can resist the temptation of adding some peas and  some spinach to nearly everything?

Ingredients:
500 grams mutton, cut into regular pieces
6 medium-sized potatoes
A small bunch of spinach, washed and halved
A bowl of peas
2 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped 
2-3 Indian bay leaves
3 large onions, sliced thin
10 cloves of garlic
Thumb-size ginger
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tbs coriander powder
A quarter tsp ground pepper
1 tbs cumin powder
A quarter tsp turmeric+ extra for frying the potatoes
A quarter tsp garam masala
Salt to taste +extra for the potatoes
4 tbs vegetable oil
Chopped coriander for the garnish 

Grind the garlic and the ginger and transfer the paste to a large bowl.
Add the powdered spices (except the garam masala) and mix well.
Marinate the mutton in this mixture as you prepare the potatoes.
Peel and halve the potatoes. If the potatoes are large, quarter them. The sizes should be even.
Rub a mixture of salt and turmeric on the potatoes and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the potatoes.
Fry for a short while turning them all over till they turn golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen paper.
In the same oil add the bay leaves and fry the onions till they turn translucent.
Add the meat and continue to cook till the oil separates stirring at regular intervals. This will take about 35-40 minutes. 
If the curry looks like it's going to burn, add a quarter of a cup of water and stir. By now the colour will also look good. Season with salt. The chopped tomatoes can go in now.
Add the potatoes and stir well. Add about two cups of hot water. This will depend on the amount of gravy you want.
After 8-10 minutes, add the spinach and the peas and cook till the vegetables are done.
Check the seasoning and make any adjustments, if needed. Sprinkle the garam masala and stir gently.
Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with the chopped coriander.

This dish goes best with steaming hot rice!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Potato, Leek & Broccoli Pie

Potato, leek & broccoli pie
And pie it is again. A savoury vegetable pie with bits and pieces of chicken thrown in for good measure. With my boys preferring savoury to sweet I threw in as many vegetables in a pan of well-seasoned chicken stock. Potatoes, leeks, and broccoli were cooked till done. Then I added about half a cup of cream cheese and gave the mix a good stir. More pepper went in before the filling cooled down and went into the pie shell. Although the browning looks like it is a bit too much, the taste was fine. And here in my sons' student accommodation, the oven I am using is much smaller than I have at home. I did cover the pie with the last piece of silver foil but it didn't cover the whole pie!
Unsalted butter from the Farmers' Market & the 'before/after' shots of the pie
I had earlier picked up some wonderful unsalted butter at the Farmers' Market and it was a pleasure to incorporate it into the pastry dough. There's no recipe in this post because the only measurement I made was to see whether there would be enough filling for the shell/tin. When I saw there was space for more, the broccoli florets went in. So it turned to be more of a very mixed pie!! But the combination was delicious. As I type this not a crumb remains. My boys and their two friends along with my b-i-l finished it off. Good for me as I have another excuse to go and bake another one!:)
Thank you for stopping by today. Happy December!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sangri ki Sabji

It's always interesting to find out ingredients that are different from the ones in your own region. The other day I picked a bundle of beans from the vendor known as sangri or sangar. I must have cooked with the fresh variety only once before and certainly did not blog about it. But I'm more familiar with the dried ones that go into the famous and delicious Rajasthani dish kair sangri ki sabzi, a combination of desert berries and beans. These are the beans of the tree Prosopis cineraria known as Khejri tree in Rajasthan. Here are some facts about the plant from Wiki.

Prosopis cineraria is a species of flowering tree in the Pea family, Fabaceae. It is native to arid portions of the Indian subcontinent and several areas of the Middle-East. It is the state tree of Rajasthan. The wood is a good fuel source and provides excellent charcoal. The leaves and pods are consumed by livestock. The tree improves soil fertility and its deep roots avoid competition for water with other crops. With the regular browsing by camel and goats, the tree takes on a (pruned) bush-like appearance. The pods, both fresh and dried are consumed. Both are also used as cattle feed. More facts about the tree here.
Ingredients:
200 grams sangri
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled, and diced
A quarter tsp cumin seeds
2 tejpatta
2 green chillies, scored lengthwise, seeds intact
1 tbs cumin and coriander powder, toasted and ground
1 tomato, blanched, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 tsp chilli powder
Salt to taste
2 tbs vegetable oil
Fresh chopped coriander for the garnish

Remove the ends of the beans and cut into one and a half inch bits. The tapering ends are tough so snip off where the tenderness ends.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds and the tejpatta.
Put in the green chillies and the beans. Stir.
Add the rest of the spices and cook till almost tender. This will take about 15 minutes.
Season with salt.
Then add the potatoes and the chopped tomatoes.
Cook till it all comes together. This will take a few more minutes.
Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with the chopped coriander. 

I squeezed a bit of lemon juice before having it. Another option is to use amchoor powder for a bit of tang.
Optional....the beans can be plunged into boiling water for a minute or two before being cooked. This is to remove the very slight hint of bitterness you might get from the beans.
This dish goes very well with Indian flatbreads.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mutton Curry With Turnips

With the turnips that I bought at the Farmers' Market, I decided to cook the same with mutton. Potatoes are usually added to our mutton curries but once in a while they can be substituted with other vegetables. I would love to cook the fabled Kashmiri dish with turnips called Shab deg but that will have to wait till I get back home. This is the easier version but tastes wonderful anyway.
It also helps that the butcher in the area sells excellent quality of meat and that makes cooking mutton in Delhi a sheer delight.

Ingredients:
500 grams mutton
4 medium turnips
4 large onions, sliced thin
10 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
Thumb-size ginger, grated
1 tbs cumin powder
2 tbs coriander powder
1 tbs red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp pepper powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
4 green chillies, scored lengthwise, seeds intact
3 tomatoes, blanched and chopped
2 bruised black cardamoms
3-4 tejpatta
Salt to taste 
A bunch of chopped coriander leaves for the garnish
4 tbs vegetable oil


Cut off the ends of the turnips and peel them. Cut them into quarters, rub some salt and keep them aside for about an hour.
Wash off the salt and drain the vegetables in a colander.Heat 2 tbs oil in a pan and lightly fry the turnips till they start to turn a little golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Add the rest of the oil. Throw in the bruised black cardamoms and the tejpatta.
Put in the onions and fry till they turn golden. Now add the meat, ginger, garlic, turmeric, green chillies and the rest of the spices except the garam masala.
Stir at regular intervals and keep cooking till the meat is tender. If it threatens to catch at the bottom, pour a bit of water and continue cooking. This will take about 30-35 minutes. Season with salt.
Now add the tomatoes and stir well. Check the seasoning and make any adjustments.Once the tomatoes blend into the dish pour about 2 cups of hot water.
Add the prepared turnips and cook for another ten minutes.
Remove from the flame, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh coriander.
The cumin and coriander powder that I used were roasted and ground.
The garam masala was made of equal proportions of cardamom, clove, and cinnamon, broiled together and ground.
The whole cardamoms and the tejpatta can be removed from the dish.
I loved this curry. And it went very well with plain rice, arhar dal and a simple cucumber and carrot salad that we had for lunch.