About ten years back, I did my first water color art. It was part of the school activity I had joined. Besides that one time, I have never tried my hand at doing a full fledged water color art before. So, a few weeks back, on our visit to Michaels for buying paint stuff for the trunk, I thought I will get a sketch book and a set of water colors. I initially thought of oil paints but they were more expensive and I was under the impression that oil painting is more difficult. Well, my mom told me that I was wrong and its more difficult to cover up mistakes in a water color painting. And, you know how it is, mom’s are always right. It wasn’t like painting the trunk where I was able to take a cloth and remove excessive paint- a mistake done in water colors is difficult to correct- the mark always remains. Sigh!

Now, came the question- what should I paint.

In India, the start of anything new is done by worshiping Lord Ganesha. He is considered the god of luck and “of opening the way”. Perfect! I needed a lot of luck for this to go right and so decided to paint him. And, who knows, Lord Ganesha might just open the way to the world of art for me!:):)

So, with background music set as “Damn! It’s good to be me” by Uncle Cracker (a little pep talk doesn’t hurt any one!), I set out on painting my second water color art after ten years! This was my afternoon project, and I am proud at the speed with which I finished the painting, even though its not perfect. The lines are crooked at places. Ganesha’s stomach should have been a little more bulging. The effect of the different colors could have been better. But, then when did I say I was perfect. I’m just a novice housewife ;)!

I am yet to see V’s reaction. He hasn’t come back from work. Let’s see what hubby has to say! Till then I’ll have my afternoon siesta!

I am getting better at things. More quick. I was done with preparing lunch, sweeped and mopped the kitchen floor, loaded Jaywanti (our dishwasher) – I usually wait till night for this- but today I had time on my hand. I also set the table and after no more excuses left to not take a bath- I took a shower too. All this, in less than two hours! For me, this is an achievement. I remember, during my first few weeks of marriage, I used to struggle getting the food ready just in time for V to come home for lunch. The kitchen used to be a mess and I, too, used to be one. But, now, I have become more comfortable with cooking Indian and thus, more efficient (self pat on my back!) :).

Now, V has a list of favorite food. He can eat the same thing day in and day out for days, weeks and months. The list includes: arhar ki dal (yellow lentil curry), baingan ka bharta (roasted eggplant cooked with spices), biryani (a rice based dish), bhindi (okra). And when I say that he can eat these dishes day in and day out, I mean it. He used to do that when he was a bachelor. He does the same when he goes back home. The dal is made everyday and the bhindi and the baingan ka bharta alternated during his stay.

V’s favorite things made me wonder, what’s my list? What things can I eat again n again without getting bored. And, I realized, even my favorite of favorite things- I can’t repeat them more than two consecutive times, max three times. After the third time, I would need a change. I need variety. But, yes, there are a few things that do come close to things I could eat repeatedly- (I am not including chocolates, cakes, cookies here- talking about stuff that I could eat as a meal). My list is:

1. Maggi noodles

2. Parantha made out of leftover dal (a flat Indian bread made from leftover cooked lentils and whole wheat flour)

3. Chilli chicken (dry)

4. Dal makhani (black lentil curry cooked in lots of butter)

Now, one look at V’s and my list, and you would know why I am the size I am, and why V is the size he is. He likes all the healthy stuff. The food I like is not unhealthy per se (agreed, the Maggi is unhealthy), but it surely is fattening!

So, when I started cooking, I thought of cooking what V likes, that ways I too get into the habit of eating healthier. It hasn’t worked completely. I still eat more chocolate than he does. I also snack more, when he is in office and I am alone at home! But, overall, its an improvement. I have warmed up to healthier vegetables like bitter gourd and eggplant, and to food like yellow lentil curry- things I never ate before- things that my mom is shocked to learn I ‘willingly’ make in my home!

So, today I made baingan ka bharta. Its an Indian dish made with roasted eggplant that is cooked with some onions, tomatoes and other Indian spices. The key to good baingan bharta lies in the smoky flavor you get after roasting it. Roasting can be done either directly on the gas flame or by basting the eggplant with some oil and leaving it in the oven at the highest setting for 15-20 minutes, or until the skin gets the burnt color and starts peeling off slightly. This time I tried roasting the eggplant directly on the flame but the next time I’ll try broiling it in the oven. It’s just less messier that ways!

Also, a lot of the recipes I saw, called for mustard oil. But, since its banned in the US for human consumption- supposedly because of its high content of erucic acid, which is considered noxious, I used vegetable oil. I still don’t know how unsafe it is to use mustard oil, though, generations in our family have used it and, touch wood, faced no problems. Some forums, do mention that heating the mustard oil to a smoking temperature does reduce the noxious substances. I feel its just a matter of buying from a reputed manufacturer.

Lot of people also make this dish with peas, but I did not have any on hand, plus, I am not that big a fan. But, feel free to add!

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Mint chutney- a versatile condiment that goes great with appetizers and is an excellent sandwich spread

 

UPDATE July 15, 2016: The picture above of the mint chutney is from the original post that went live in August 2010. I don’t know how many times I have made this chutney since the first time I posted it. I was a newly married woman then and very new to cooking. I got the recipe from my mom and adapted it over the years thanks to the suggestions my friend Bhinee told me. After making it countless times I now know this recipe by heart that I just eyeball it. So feel free to make adjustments, but use all these ingredients. Every time I make it I have at least one person either asking for the recipe or telling me how good it is. For being a condiment I think that just proves how good it is. Its perfect with chicken tikkas, samosas or any other appetizer. It also makes a great sandwich spread- some cream cheese, cucumber, mint chutney and tomatoes -yum. Hope you get to try it.

ORIGINAL POST:

Yesterday, the Food Network Channel announced its Next Food Network Star, and what would you know- its an Indian! So, a week from now, we are going to see Aarti, previously doing the circuits on the internet world as a food blogger, teaching Americans how to incorporate the exotic Indian taste in everyday American Food. Do I see my future in her?…Nah! I am too camera shy! So I will stick to just blogging.

Yesterday, I wrote about mooli paranthas and how we enjoy ours with mint chutney. Now, mint has a terrific smell and it tastes wonderful too, and when you mix it with onions, chillies and lemon, another dimension is added to the whole taste. This chutney is such a versatile condiment, and can be served with almost any food. It is also one of the more popular Indian chutneys, served with kebabs, pakodas, samosas, etc. And, would you know, the mint in the chutney helps in digestion. A perfect dish for those who find Indian food too heavy to digest! The best part – its made in a jiffy!

Mint chutney- a versatile condiment that goes great with appetizers and is an excellent sandwich spreadMint chutney- a versatile condiment that goes great with appetizers and is an excellent sandwich spreadMint chutney- a versatile condiment that goes great with appetizers and is an excellent sandwich spread

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