Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Pongal Post- Finally an Update!

pongal kolamI am like the worst blogger. Ever. Okay, that is probably an exaggeration- neither do I update only once a year nor do I leave random burns on other blogs. But I am down there with the ones that seldom reply to the comments you leave on their blogs and the ones that never post recipes to yummy food they put up pictures of. Anyhoo, Happy New Year and Happy Pongal, people!

I have been monstrously busy since 2014 slid in and I am still trying to find time to click pictures of stuff that Amma (or I) cook. No, seriously. I am so behind on blogging that I haven’t even done my post for the monthly Photo Styling Challenge and we are done with two Mondays already this month. I am aiming at getting that up over the weekend. We had good holidays, ate wonderful food, like this Orange Cola Cake (with leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving) that the NJ aunt made-
orange cola cakeI know, crappy pic but it was a rainy day and  I had to click before anyone got to it, which meant switching on the kitchen lights in a very photogenic kitchen. Blasphemy, I know! So we got back down south on New Year day and hence began the same ol’. Preparing for the commencement of semester, running behind Aarabhi and finding a good daycare. All of the above were achieved, I went to school for a couple of weeks, we celebrated a rather important Indian festival, Pongal. We call it the Indian Thanksgiving but during the three days of Pongal, we show our gratitude to the Sun, the hardworking farmers that plow our fields of rice, without which almost all South Indians would starve!
pongal4
The first day of Pongal, called Bhogi, signals the end of one Tamil month (Margazhi) and the beginning of another (Thai). Until around ten years ago, people used to burn leaves and papers amongst other things, signifying the death of all things old and the beginning of everything new (and good). Well, the good news is that we have stopped setting fire to random combustible objects but  Bhogi still means  let the good times roll, baybay!

The second day is the most important day of all four: Pongal. On this day, we make a huge feast which begins with boiling new rice with milk and jaggery. When this concoction boils over, we yell “Pongal-o Pongal”, which literally means “Boiling over, boiling over!” Sounds weird, right? It is actually so much fun at home, when all of us are peering over the brass pot perched on the cooktop, with a metal plate and ladle in hand. And when the white milk rises to the brim, bubbles up and starts overflowing, with clangs and clings, we yell (most of the time into each others’ ears) with all the lung power we can muster!
pongal2After all the screaming (at the pot of milk by the whole family and later, by Paati at us to go take a shower), we get clean, wear new clothes, bring out all the yummy food and thank the sun for being merciful on our farmers and the crops. Phew! That was a pretty long narration. This year, Pongal was special because it was A’s first and for the first ever time since we got married, we had a set of parents at home with us to celebrate with. Thankfully the weather behaved itself too, a surprise since we have been seeing a lot of rains.

So about the blog: the url has changed! You can find us at http://www.chefettespicy.com from now. We have a new banner also. And as always, I will do my best at keeping the updates consistent and constant. Thassal, folks!

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Photography Styling Challenge- Order

order6Sneaky little December breezily slid in while I was not looking, bringing with it the deadline for this month’s photography styling challenge topic, Order. Ironically, my house is at its least orderly self, thanks to the huge load of baby stuff we bought/got as gifts in the past six months. This, topped with crazy Black Friday shopping for Christmas gifts, I feel like a bull in a China shop at the moment.

Thankfully, the weekend was long and I had a couple of good ideas. Hence, I managed to photograph the handful of order we had around the house and call the challenge done. Next month’s topic is chaos. I am beside myself with excitement for this one. I probably have to wrap up the shoot by 19th of this month because we are off on a holiday after that and would return only by the 1st of January. And then it would be time for the madcap semester to begin (I will whine more about that later, I promise!). But now, here is to December and the much needed inspiration for order this photoshoot brought my way.
order3I had to take a pic of this before babygirl starts crawling and we pack them away. These are just a few trinkets, most of them gifts from friends and family. My absolute favorite has got to be this bell from Germany, a gift from my wonderful friend, N. Aarabhi already tries to grab this off the lowest shelf of the television table.

orderI’ve always been known for being a reader and not a collector of books. I owned a Kindle for a few months, didn’t really dig e-books and gifted it to my sister. We’ve bought multiple Kindle devices on my account since, but none of them for me. I have a very small collection of books at the moment, no thanks to poorly stocked county library in the city I used to live before moving down south. I hardly found Indian authors or Magic-Realism books there so I have been skipping libraries since and buying a few every time I go to India from Landmark Bookstore in Madras. I have no place for bookshelves in my apartment at the moment so my books sit on the side table in the living room. I have also found them to be a good source of conversation when we have guests over.
order4Ah, the divine altar at home. This shelf used to be such a mess until my mom-in-law decided to come to its rescue. Right now, it is in perfect order… as are the three other shelves below this. Zen, finally!
order2This is the hub’s handiwork. For the uninitiated, this is a collection of my pregnancy ultrasounds. Although our photographs (who prints them anymore, right? I do!) are in a mess in one of my drawers, the K man meticulously arranged these in order. We hardly look at them but it is good to know that they are around when we feel like taking a peek.

As always, you can read about the challenge here and take a look at other participants’ entries. Here is the list:
Redesigned By M
Red Lovin Pixie
At the Corner of Happy and Harried
Inge Kathleen Photography
My Food Tapestry
Pies and Puggles
A Woven Life
City Girl Searching
A Tree Grows in the Bayou
I Live under a Rock Called Table Mountain
Hooked on Homes

Ah, chaos, come to mamma!


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I Scream!

It felt like the fog had lifted finally. I felt more energized, did not want to throw up at the smell of cooked rice and could eat just about anything I wanted. The week before Thanksgiving was a dream, yes. Since I have to cramp the last three weeks of coursework in two and then do my finals before I fly, I requested my professor to give me more work for the long weekend. We had no plans, except sprawl on the couch and take in all the NCAA and NFL action we could. So I thought I could get on top of my assignments and emerge a very intelligent, studious person. As my granddad would say, “God has his own plans, my dear.”

First, K came down with a cold. Poor thing. He is not a very fussy patient: gets very silent and calm. I fussed around him, of course, like Molly Weasley, fluffing his pillows, making hot green tea and hot water for steaming. As he got better, I fell sick. Since I am the fussy one, K spent three days tending to me. I still have a terrible cough but I am getting better, thank you for asking.

Being sick did not stop me from wanting cold treats. I have always wanted to experiment with making ice cream but I don’t have an ice cream maker. A quick search landed me on David Lebowitz‘s blog yet again. Man, David. Sigh. I ogle at his web site everyday. He is handsome, talented and makes me drool… over his food. And he totally makes me want to ditch my life here and run away to Paris in search of my dream! Anyway, back in cold old Down South, I decided to use my recipe and his method to make handmade ice cream. No, I didn’t even use my trusty KitchenAid to make this.

Since this was my first time whipping up ice cream, I went with a basic custard-base vanilla recipe (with a little bit of my touch). Which means this one is loaded with calories. I shall experiment with more low-cal, healthier ones as I go.

Vanilla-Almond Ice Cream

Ingredients:
Two cups heavy cream

One cup skimmed milk

Eight egg yolks

One cup sugar (or replace with a Stevia-based one)

One tsp salt

One tsp pure vanilla extract

Half tsp pure almond extract (optional)

Half cup blanched, skinned almonds (you could roast almonds with skin instead, for a nutty flavor), chopped

Method
Heat the heavy cream and milk together over medium heat. When it begins to boil, switch the heat off and give it an ice bath. While it is cooling, mix the egg yolks, sugar and salt into a thick paste. When the milk has warmed, temper the egg yolk paste with a ladle or two of the cream. Pour the tempered solution into the rest of the cream and return the pot to the stove. Switch the heat on to medium-low and keep stirring. The custard is done when it gets thick enough to coat the back of your spatula and you are able to draw a clean line with your finger on it. This is time consuming. It takes so much time that you may want to abandon your project at various stages. Don’t.

Cool the custard in the ice bath again. Mix in the essences and chopped almonds. I used a stainless steel pot so I covered it with plastic wrap slightly touching the surface of the custard. You can transfer it to a plastic/glass container with a lid and freeze it too. Now comes the best past: waiting. You could click on this link for David’s detailed, step-by-step version or follow my poorly (and hastily) written one.

Our primary goal is to break up the ice crystals that form on the custard as it freezes. If we fail, we have a frozen log of custard ice that cannot be consumed. So let the ice cream freeze for 45 minutes. Bring it out of the fridge and you will notice that it has started freezing in the sides. With a spatula or a whisk (or a hand blender), break this up vigorously. Mix it again and freeze. Continue doing this once in 30-45 minutes until the ice cream has frozen completely, sans the ice crystals. When done, transfer to a container with a lid and freeze overnight. The cream gives it a beautiful store-bought texture but your special touch gives it a home made, rustic taste you will not find in commercial products. Enjoy!