30 September 2007

An Alpine Folklore

An excerpt from our recent holiday....

We stepped off the train at Wengen to click some pictures of this scenic village. Out of nowhere, buttoning up his coat, a man in traditional costume made a dash through the crowds of curious tourists and vanished. As the train chugged off into the mountains, the people dispersed. The calm, charming village nestled in nature's lap, the breath-taking landscape and the sounds of lilting melody....was it all a dream? Some one was playing a pleasant instrument we couldn't identify.....where was this beautiful music coming from? We looked and looked and looked, till we saw them.......

An alphorn is a handcrafted, long, flaring spruce tube with a mouthpiece. It measures about 8 to 12 feet in length. It does not have any valves, holes or keys and hence gives pure, soft, clear and resonant music. It is used to call out to the cows.

There was more music now accompanying the alphorn...... cowbells! The sounds grew louder but there was not a cow in sight. Then they marched in.....

Was that a wedding procession? Were they going to church? Like all curious on-lookers, we followed them........as they walked clanging the bells by knocking their knees against them in perfect tandem.

This was a "Cheese Festival". According to a Swiss folklore, as one of them kindly explained to me, at the end of summer the cows return from the high pastures of the Alps bringing the cheese with them. This home coming is celebrated by playing the alphorn and cowbells. The procession ended at this tent where there was more music, fun and games, and food, ofcourse for all the village folk who had gathered there!

Would you like to try.......

Swiss Rosti

or Raclette

or bacon

or pastries, cakes and croissants

or pickles, preserves and jams, flower flavoured sugars

and herb and berry honeys and liqueurs

or say "cheese"?

18 September 2007

Food Safety

Foodborne disease remains a signifcant health issue in both developed and developing countries. WHO published the five keys to food safety. Click here to read.

Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook has written quite a few articles on food hygiene which are reproduced here, with her consent ofcourse. Thankyou Susan!

· RULE NUMBER 1 for safe food handling is WASH YOUR HANDS. The germ theory is not a theory anymore; it has been the cornerstone of medicine since its acceptance back in the day of Louis Pasteur (1890s), the Pasteur of “Pasteurized” milk, juice, etc. Germs cause illness and they are spread through contact.

· RULE NUMBER 2 for safe food handling is DO NOT EAT ANYTHING OFF THE FLOOR. That’s right, folks, the 5-Second Rule is a lie. You know, that mischievous little superstition we invoke when we cannot bear the thought of parting with a chocolate cookie that’s fallen to the floor, perhaps the last chewy, gooey cookie in the house. We rationalize that germs can’t possibly contaminate the cookie because it’s only been on the floor for 5 seconds or less. Oh, yes they can and they do. Germs love cookies. They are clingy, needy. They want to live; they need to eat, too.

• Handling raw animal products (meat, poultry, eggs and fish) requires prompt clean up of work surfaces and utensils. You don’t want to be cutting your salad fixings with the same unwashed knife on the same unwashed cutting board that you just used to trim the fat off your steak. This is called cross-contamination and can easily be avoided.

• Clean up means hot, soapy water and a new or freshly sterilized sponge, cloth wipe or paper towel. Rinse the soapy residue well with fresh water. Cleaning means washing away germs as much as it means killing them. Keep several rolls of paper towels on hand; they are convenient and can be disposed of immediately after use.

• Sponges absorb everything & are particularly inviting breeding grounds for germs. Replace them often, but until you do, you can sterilize them with some diluted chlorine bleach in a bowl of water, squeezing under the water to make sure you introduce the bleach into all those dark, dank interior cells. (Please wear latex gloves to protect your hands.) Again, rinse well with fresh water. Bleach is a poison and must be respected.

• Consider plastic cutting boards and stirring spoons rather than wooden ones. Wood is attractive and traditional, but can trap raw juices into its grain, especially as it becomes worn. Wood also requires more careful cleaning since it will warp if exposed to water too long, hastening the very cracks you want to discourage. Though stronger and less porous than wood, plastic will also wear out in time; check your tools periodically for excessive wear and replace as needed.

• Antibacterial soaps and detergents do work, but they are no substitute for hot, soapy water. If you must use them, take extra care to rinse thoroughly with fresh potable (drinkable) water. READ THE LABELS of the cleansers you are using. Many are hazardous to human beings and family pets; directions for their use are clearly stated on the labels and must be followed.

Did you know?
· One bacterium can become 2 in just 15 minutes. This means that within 6 hours, 1 bacterium can multiply to over 16 million. To be harmful, some bacteria need to grow to high levels. Other bacteria can cause illness when they are present in very low numbers. The smell, taste and appearance of food are not good indicators of whether the food will make you sick.

· Meat, seafood, cooked rice, cooked pasta, milk, cheese and eggs are foods that provide ideal conditions for microorganisms to grow.

Some tips.

· Labelling on food package give valuable information on instructions for storage, manufacturing date, use by date, expiry dates, notes for allergy etc. which are to be followed.

· When buying food at the supermarket, buy frozen food last and go straight home. Do not leave food in the car's boot too long where there is no air conditioning.

· Do not buy cans that have swelled or have rust on them.

· Avoid buying potatoes that have green spots on them or are sprouting.

· If the power is off, avoid opening the fridge. Depending upon the kitchen temperature, fridge food can remain cold for 4 to 7 hours.

Asha has, as always given some safety tips at Aroma. Read here.

Off for a short vacation, see you'll soon! :)

12 September 2007

Coriander Chutney

The state of Karnataka in South India has a rich cultural heritage dating to thousands of years, from temples and palaces to elaborate cities, now lying in ruins. In 2005, the Indian Pavilion at the Dubai Shopping Festival brought alive many of the wonders of this amazing state. The Indian Pavillion being the largest, prettiest and grandest attracts the most number of visitors each year. Around 300 stalls were accommodated within the 1,30,000 sq.ft pavilion. The theme that year showcased Karnataka, with the Mysore Palace replicated, complete with the extravaganza that is a part of the Dussera celebrations. The centre of attraction was the ruins of Hampi. Needless to say India bagged the award for the Best Pavilion.

My only exposure to Karnataka cuisine was the Udipi hotels in Mumbai frequented by one and all to have "idli-dosa". Little did I know that some of the dishes my mother prepared like lime rice, mysore rasam, masala dosa etc actually belonged to Karnataka cuisine! So here are some recipes that were tried, tested and devoured.

Set Dosa
The only way to describe them is soft, spongy, melt-in-the-mouth. For the recipe, head over to Seema's Recipe Junction. Thanks Seema, we absolutely enjoyed them! Serve the yummy dosas with a spicy gravy or coriander chutney.

Coriander Chutney
You need:
¾ cup coconut grated
3 green chillies
1 bunch coriander leaves
a marble sized tamarind
3 cloves garlic
salt to taste

Grind all the ingredients to smooth paste using water.

Lime Rice/Chitranna

My entry to RCI- Karnataka hosted by Asha, event initiated by Lakshmi.

Lime Rice

You need:

2 cups cooked rice
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp chana dal
½ tsp urad dal
3-4 green and red chillies
a handful of peanuts a handful of cashews
a sprig of curry leaves
1 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
juice of one lime

Heat a tsp oil + a tsp ghee in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add the peanuts and allow it to cook. Add the cashews, chana dal and urad dal and stir fry till they turn red. Add the curry leaves and chillies and fry till the chillies change colour. Add the rice, turmeric, lime juice and salt and mix well. Serve hot with rasam/yoghurt.

10 September 2007

How safe is your food?

Ever given a thought how safe your food is? Take this little quiz below.

1. Where should you put an open jar of jam?
A. In the fridge B. In the cupboard C. Sometimes in the fridge, sometimes in the cupboard – look on the manufacturer’s label

2. How long can leftovers be left at room temperature?
A. 30 minutes B. 2 hours C. 4 hours

3. What is the correct way to thaw frozen chicken?
A. Place in a warm room B. Immerse in a sink of hot water C. Place in a refrigerator

4. What temperature should your fridge be kept at?
A. 0 – 5 deg Centigrade B. minus 5 to 0 deg Centigrade C. 5 – 8 deg Centigrade

5. What is your pet peeve regarding food safety?

If you wish to add something on food safety or contribute an article or your views on it, you may leave a comment or mail me. Have a nice day!

2 September 2007

Palada Payasam

It's been raining "sweets" this week with Onam, Raksha Bandhan, relatives returning from India and a birthday all packed into the last seven days!!! Here's a palada payasam I'd prepared for Onam, very similar to a pal payasam. Back home my mother and grand mother would have made the ada or rice flour pressed into flakes which is a long process in itself, I took the easy way out and bought the ada. Ofcourse store bought ada is just not as soft and tasty like the home made ones which are worth all the effort in making them.

You need:
¼ cup ada or rice flakes
5 cups milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp butter
a handful of cashew nuts and raisins for garnish

Cook the ada in 2 cups of milk till soft. Add the remaining milk and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and cook till the milk reduces to 2/3rd. The milk should turn pink. Add the condensed milk and cook for another 10 minutes. Depending on the sweetness of the condensed milk, you may add sugar at this stage if the payasam is not sweet enough. Take it off the flame. The payasam will continue to thicken, so keep it liquid. Heat butter in a pan, add the cashews and raisins and fry till golden and the raisins are plump. Add to the payasam and serve hot or cold.

My entry to JFI-Rice going off to Sharmi - I know I'm late!!!

I also thank my blogger buddies for passing on these awards to me.

The Power of Schmooze Award is for bloggers who “effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

Thankyou Sandeepa, Sia, Pravs, Mallugirl, Archana! I pass this on to all those reading this post :)