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Posts from — August 2010

Week 3: Akki Roti or Rice Roti

This week had me thinking quite a bit about what to cook… Finally my tummy made the choice 🙂

Akki Roti (Rice Roti)


3 cups rice flour
1 cup cooked rice (optional)
1 big onion
2 medium size chillies
Fist full of coriander leaves
½ tsp Jeera (cumin) powder
Salt to taste
Textured cloth napkin or handtowel


Finely chop onion, chilles and coriander.

Mix  the rice flour and rice in a bowl. Add chopped onions, chilles and coriander. Add jeera powder and salt to taste.

Knead the mixture into dough. Add water slowly as not much water will be required. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Adding rice is a trick I learnt from Mom. Cooked rice (especially when a bit old) acts as a gluing agent and gives the roti its own texture too.

Wet the textured cloth napkin or handtowel so that it is moist but not dripping. Place a ball of the dough on this and pat flat to required thickness with your fingers. Keep dipping your hands in water to make sure the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers.

Heat a girdle (tava) and add a few drops of ghee before gently but firmly flipping the roti (with cloth) onto the tava. Now slowly lift away the cloth and cover the girdle to cook the roti on a slow flame. Flip roti, add some ghee and cook until both sides are golden.

Older generations pat the roti out right on the pan. I find the cloth method easier and it lets me thin out the roti quite a bit too.

The roti’s take a while to cook so you may want to use two pans. Be careful to not over-fry as then they become very crisp.

Serve hot with pudi, chutney, pickle or curry. Serves two hungry people 😀

August 22, 2010   4 Comments

Spicy Meaty Cheesy Cutlets

Chenthil’s been away this week in Alleppey leading a Photography On The Move workshop and of course that meant a lot of quick simple food (simple = roti, curd & pickle) for me. Since he’s returning tomorrow I thought I’d try something special for him. Try it and tell what you think of it… or just ask him (@ChenthilMohan) 😀

Spicy Meaty Cheesy Cutlets

Ingredients –

5 potatoes
3 onions
2 green chillies
4 garlic cloves
1 inch ginger piece
1 tsp jeera powder (cumin)
½ tsp red chilly powder
½ tsp ginger garlic paste (optional)
1 cup powdered poha (beaten rice)
Salt to taste
½ cup boiled mince meat
Cheese slices
Wheat flour

Preparation –

Boil potatoes with a little salt. Peel and mash after cooling.

Grind onions, garlic, green chillies and ginger to fine paste.

Mix mashed potatoes and onion paste in a bowl with jeera power, red chilly powder, ginger garlic paste and mince meat. Once mixed well add the powdered poha to thicken the mixture. Add salt to taste.

Make four pieces out of each cheese slice and make big lemon size balls of the potato mixture.

Flatten each ball; add the cheese slice and fold sides in until cheese is covered uniformly. Flip the cutlet in flour and keep aside. Repeat for all balls. 😀

Shallow fry the cutlets in oil until golden brown.

Serve hot with mint sauce or tomato sauce.

Update: – Potatoes don’t always work well for holding in molten cheese. Using eggs or maida as a wrap will keep the cutlet well together. Beat eggs and flip the cutlets in it before frying or make a thin maida batter and dip cutlets in this before frying.

August 15, 2010   No Comments

I hate cooking! and a Sweet & Spicy Carrot Soup with Bread Sticks

I hate cooking! Well, not really… I hate cooking regular food. My favourite dish in the world is Dal and Chaval (rice) but I hate cooking it and its varieties every day. I haven’t cooked in a while and have started to miss the kitchen now, so I decided to give the hubby a break and cook once a week (magnanimous isn’t it :D)

The challenge is to enjoy cooking in the true sense – feel the textures, savour the aromas and get all excited to see the outcome. To hold me down to my resolution, I’m posting it up here. As we go along I will share my experience and recipes too! 🙂

I’ve had a bad sensitive tooth this whole week and haven’t eaten much. I just kept getting tired of chewing in only one side of the mouth. I really did get tired! So this week’s recipe is…

Sweet & Spicy Carrot Soup with Bread Sticks

Ingredients –

5 Peeled Carrots
1 Tomato
10 Almonds
1 dry red chilly (or chilly flakes would do)
3 cloves Garlic
½ tsp. Ginger Garlic paste
1 tbsp. Butter
1 pinch Jeera
1 Maggie Magic soup cube
Pepper (corns and powder)
1 cup Milk
1 pinch Rock salt
Salt to taste
1 Bread loaf

Preparation –

Boil carrots and tomato in three cups of water with ginger garlic paste and a little salt. (two whistles should do it)

After the veggies cool, remove skin of tomato and blend the carrots & tomato to a puree. (save stock)

Grind almonds to a fine powder, add the chilly and grind again. Finally add garlic and grind again, it should form a paste. Do not add water while grinding.

Heat the butter (adding a few drops of oil before you add the butter will prevent it from burning), put in a pinch of jeera and a few pepper corns. Add the almond paste to the butter and sort well.

When you get the aroma of roasted almonds with a twinge of chilly, add the carrot-tomato puree.

Mix it well and sort for a bit. Add the remaining stock and the soup cube. Let the mixture cook for 5 minutes. The colour will lighten a bit.

Add pepper powder to taste with a pinch of rock salt. Add 1 cup milk and salt to taste. Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve hot and garnish with celery or coriander.

For bread sticks – cut strips from bread slices. (I find it easier and cleaner to cut the slices before roasting.) Roast the slices in an open pan on slow flame. This takes a while but gives a great crispy texture.

August 8, 2010   1 Comment

Isolated and faraway Ladakh is no longer a final frontier

This week has been a bit crazy. There’s been a product launch in the BookBuzzr family. (Check out fReado to win books or even a Kindle while playing games) And we travelled Monday night to Kovilpatti. I’m skipping nostalgia this week for fresh experiences but I do have a guest – meet Santosh, an old friend and traveller who loves to explore the unknown and unseen.

The isolated and faraway Ladakh is no longer a final frontier for adventure travellers.

I remember when biker buddies Satya and Omi set out on a 45 day expedition from Bangalore to Leh in 1996(their second or third) – I went to the railway station to see them off. The sense of an adventure like that those days gave me goose bumps. It remained a dream in me until I set out to do the same in 2002. By then itself things had changed. Satya and Omi’s stories of riding out into the vast mountains, high roads and passes made no sense at all. There was black tarmac roads built, new passes were opened, signboards, guesthouses; home stays along the road, made this a very doable ride. One, no longer needed big bikes to conquer the road that was counted among the ‘Top 10 in the world’. Life had changed – there were more people riding/driving/flying into once forbidden land of Ladakh. But the sense of an adventure to Ladakh was still exotic when I made my first trip.

2010 – Today, I am sitting in Leh. I am annoyed at the way things have developed here. Facebook, Orkut, Mr. Aamir Khan and the various commercials, which includes a Maggi noodle ad in Ladakh, has changed the character of this faraway land. Four lane highways, a tunnel to tame the Rohtang pass, a proposed rail connection from Manali, road connections into Zanskar from all sides, will continue to make Leh, the Manali/Shimla of Ladakh. Hotels and guesthouses are built by the dozens every season, new restos crop up every season and newer businesses find their way into Leh – massage parlors, tattoo artists and many more.

Frooti tetrapacks are found in some of the remotest villages.

What remained a destination for the adventurous of travellers has been decimated to a destination for the package tourist – the kind who wants to carry their kitchen with them. Thanx to corporatized tour companies like Makemytrip. As I walked into my favorite guesthouse Oriental – I was surprised to see the change in genre of travellers. As I sat at the open area by the kitchen, I hear a tourist who yells out from the window of his room “areh there is no hot water in the room”. Staff replies “ it takes a while for the solar heater to warm up the water”. Our man says “then get me a bucket of hot water”. No thank you’s, no please’s in the whole conversation. Then another white shirt, Bermuda shorts clad tourist walks into the kitchen. Same question “hot water”. Followed by another who complains of not having EPABX (intercom) or he would have yelled from the intercom itself. What hell, I thought.

As I walk into the town – I was shocked to see the change in landscape of the town. New buildings, new shops, new restos, and many more new’s – I have not dared to walk back to town again. Leh has lost its charm.

There are other stories to be heard. Oriental owner rattles – it is difficult with all the high impact tourists coming this way. Leh runs on diesel generator power, the whole town I mean – all the geysers, lights, TV’s, water heaters, water pumps all of it. Some of them like Oriental have solar powered water heating systems and basic lighting running alternatively. The makemytrip types don’t see the point or value the scarcity of resources. They stand below hot showers emptying the overhead tanks, insist on keeping the generator ON all night, and turn a blind eye on conserving. I guess the problem is awareness.

Now there is a problem in a larger scale. So far Ladakh has been seeing independent travellers. These independent travellers have been scattering their monies into the many restos, guesthouses, taxis, and other local setups. There was a split and all involved locally were happy and earned their share. Then comes the corporate tour operators; charter flights arrive, hotels are mass booked with obscene discounts bringing in the ‘every minute packaged’ tourists. This ‘every minute packaged’ starts at the hotel and ends at the hotel. Every meal every snack is planned at the hotel. On local tours – packed food from the hotel is carried along. Instead of smaller vehicles big buses are used to ferry the packaged.

Now this is what might happen, serious travellers avoid the touristy places. We have seen what has become of the Ooty’s and the Manali’s of the world. So the smaller businesses who depend on tourism suffer cos the ‘every minute packaged’ cant afford to explore the offerings of the town. They are tied into their packages. The serious travellers who scattered their monies are no longer there. The taxis don’t have much business cos the ‘every minute packaged’ are ferried in big buses. Guesthouses, hotels, have to scale up to have TV, intercom, geysers, and god knows what to satisfy the high impact tourists, thereby they getting into a debt game. I have not even spoken about the trash and solid waste management.

Where does it stop or where does it begin?

When Ladakh opened to tourism – year 1974 – 500 travellers braved the journey to visit Ladakh. This season when the corporate tour operators floated their Ladakh packages – one single company got in 10000 tourists, they want to bring 50000 tourists next year. Where is it headed – no answer to the question, but we have seen what has happened to the popular hill stations of the India. Aren’t they in a mess?

Few tips to make ur trip in Ladakh low impact –

1. Pick a local Ladakhi operator or a conscious travel company
2. Make an effort to share ur money into local hands
3. Avoid an ‘every minute packaged’ tour. They are cheap but they don’t give a local experience, they just make the bigger hotels, operators and themselves richer and fleece the smaller fellows
4. Value and conserve the local resources – use buckets instead of showers – simple things like that
5. People in Ladakh are a wonderful lot – they are peaceful and welcoming – pls treat them well or we will loose the innocence of a breed of happy simple people
6. Pls don’t trash the place – avoid things like mineral water bottles. Carry ur own bottles which can be refilled at local places. There are spots in town where one can fill in filtered water. This is an effort to cut down trash by locals
7. Pls be more aware – I am sure u don’t want to be counted among the ‘every minute packaged’ tourists.

One doesn’t have to have a reason to travel – it’s as simple as getting out there to take it within! Propagating the same message for over a decade, Santosh has traversed turbulent rivers, worked with an NGO, built solar fences & initiated an outdoor gear store and meandered through most of India. For those who know him better, he’s just stirred something within them…
After leading inspiring ventures like
Getoffurass, Photographyonthemove & Getofftraveler, there’s only one nonchalant reaction from him- “It’s been an interesting journey so far”!

Photo Credit: Anukaran Singh

August 5, 2010   2 Comments