Freda's flowers

A friend was visiting from India and they are expecting a baby in December. Luckily, I was able to finish this quilt and give to him only a day before he was returning home.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to doodle around the flowers in the border. I’m so glad that they lured me in as that first unsure step is out of the way. I’m looking forward to trying more things in free motion quilting.

The backing is an old fabric by Fabri-quilt. And the binding is ‘Look and learn’ by American Jane. Thank you Nanette, for this beautiful pattern!

While we were in New York, we visited Gray-line linen shop in the garment district. They have a wide selection of linens that are mostly priced at $8 per yard. I got a yard of each of these fabrics. They were very helpful and friendly. I would love to visit this shop again if we go to New York city.

And I did make a quick trip to Purl soho… I just kept running my hands on their Liberties and couldn’t believe how soft and sweet they were! I didn’t have the heart to cut into any of them… instead contented myself with some Sashiko thread and these quilting needles. I haven’t heard of these needles before and I'm curious to see how they work.

Happy weekend! ( " u " )


Dappalam (pumpkin stew)

Fall evokes warm fuzzy feelings and cravings for things cinnamony or sweet. And it sure does entice our thoughts toward ghastly looking creatures and plump pumpkins of autumn harvest.

…I guess it is time for a hearty pumpkin stew with chockfull of wholesome veggies that is sure to make our tummy, hauntingly happy!

Dappalam is a stew traditionally cooked with pumpkin along with bottle gourd, eggplants, sweet potato, okra and Drumsticks possibly because these are in season locally but it can be prepared with any vegetable at hand.

The sweetness of Pumpkin is perfectly complemented by the sour juice of tamarind and the heat of green chilies. And the rice flour added towards the end mellows the slew of flavors and brings out the earthiness which is signature of this dish.

For some reason, in all of our childhood stories – the ones which were told on dark starry nights, ghosts took up residence on tamarind trees... whenever we neared a tamarind tree the rush was indescribable as was the thrill of ghoulish adventures and the nightmares that followed. So, I felt it is apt to talk about tamarind in the Halloween month.

Unlike sweet Tamarind, the one that is meant for cooking purposes is pucker-inducing tart and imparts sharpness to the otherwise mildly sweet dishes. Tamarind pulp is an important ingredient in most of the south Indian recipes especially in dals and stews where as in the North, Amchur (dry mango powder) is the chosen ingredient for this use. Though they both taste sour, each adds its unique flavor. Amchur is easy to use in stir-fries because of its powdery form and has a slightly metallic tinge to it.

Tender tamarind sprigs which begin to bud with the arrival of spring are made into many beautiful dishes combined with either dals or vegetables or meat and are considered delicacies as these tiny first leaves are available for only a very short time in the year. Tamarind leaves too are sour and if we happen to pass by a tamarind tree, we reach for the leaves, pluck a few and nibble & relish just like candy!

Preparing tamarind extract

Tamarind pulp comes in a compressed bar form or is readily available as a concentrate or paste in a jar.
Break lemon-sized tamarind pulp from the bar into pieces. Rinse and soak the pulp in a cup of hot or warm water. And set it aside for at least 30min. This softens the pulp and makes it easy to extract the juice.
Squeeze out as much juice from the pulp as possible with your hands into a separate bowl. Repeat the process by adding more water to the pulp until there is no more juice left to extract.
Sieve the extracted juice into a fresh bowl. You could store this juice for up to a week in the refrigerator.

If you are using the concentrate, you can simply put the required amount directly in the stew when we come to that part.

serves 4.

Half of small pumpkin
Half of a small Bottle gourd
Onion – 1 medium
Okra - about 5
Egg plant – need about 1/4 cup to ½ cup of chopped egg plants
Sweet potato - 1
Drumstick - 2
Green chilies - 4 (slit length-wise)
Ginger - 1 tbsp (finely minced)
Tamarind extract - 1 tbsp (adjust to taste)
Salt - to taste
Turmeric - ½ tsp
Rice flour - 1 tbsp
Oil - 2 tbsp

for seasoning

Oil or ghee or butter - 2tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Red chilies - 1 (broken into pieces)
Fenugreek seeds - ½ tsp
Kari leaves - a sprig
Garlic - 1 clove (crushed)
Asafetida - a pinch

Preparing the vegetables

Pumpkin: cut in half. Remove seeds and strands. Peel the shell and discard.
Cut into medium-sized pieces.

in the pic, you can see the spongy part of the Bottle gourd piece which contains seeds is separated.

Bottle gourd: It is a summer squash shaped like a bottle. It tastes mildly sweet.
It is better to pick a smaller one which is tender with seeds and fiber not very mature.
Peel the skin and discard. If the squash is not tender, we can easily remove the spongy part along with seeds and discard. Cut into med-sized cubes.

Sweet potato: peel skin and cut into med-sized cubes.

Eggplant: cut into med-sized pieces.

Okra: Trim the stem & tail and discard. Cut 2 inch cross-wise pieces.

Onion: cut into medium sized chunks.

Drumstick: Scrape the skin slightly. Trim the ends. Cut cross-wise pieces which are about 3 to 4 inches in length.
Drumstick or munagakaya (as we call it) is a woody vegetable with translucent pods nestled in a soft green flesh in the inside. The outer skin is very fibrous. Tender drumsticks are prefered as the pods and flesh in them are baby soft.

The way we eat it after having cooked is to suck the sweet juice out of the drumstick piece… while it breaks open, scrape the soft flesh with teeth and eat it along with the pods. Then we chew on the woody outer skin until it’s pretty dry and spit out the pulp. It kind of feels messy, but it is one of those simple pleasures where time stops and you just forget everything else around you and indulge in for a wee little while.

I forgot to take a picture of the inside, but you can see it here and read more about this nutritious and medicinally rich plant.

We grew up with a huge Drumstick tree in our backyard and have many interesting stories around it, one being dodging the spiky caterpillars that cover every branch of this tree and lose their grip and take free falls from time to time… eeks!

cooking the vegetables

Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Add onion chunks and green chilies. Cover and cook until the onions are translucent but should still hold the shape.

Add all the chopped vegetables along with finely minced ginger. Sprinkle turmeric and salt.
Mix well. Cover and cook on low-med heat. Keep stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft. They usually get cooked in the water that oozes out of them. But if necessary add little water and let them cook until they are done.

Add tamarind juice and mix carefully to not mush the vegetables.
Adding the sour tamarind juice before the vegetables are cooked slows down the cooking process. That is why we add it later.

Don’t cover the pan now. Let the veggies simmer and soak-up the juice for about 10 min.
At this point if you feel the stew is too thick, add water and adjust the salt & tamarind juice to taste. It is like a balancing act to get the sweetness, tartness and saltiness of the dish just right.

The best way to go about it if you are hesitant is to add everything little by little and balance until you get the desired results.

Mix a tbsp of rice flour in half-cup of water and stir-in. This serves as a thickening agent and gives the stew a creamy consistency. All-purpose flour or Besan (chickpea flour) can also be substituted for rice flour.

Let it cook on low-flame for about 5min. Sprinkle cilantro sprigs and remove from heat.

Seasoning the stew

Take a wide skillet and set it on medium heat. Add oil or butter or ghee. Once the oil is hot enough, add red chilies. After a couple of sec. add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and then cumin seeds and a crushed garlic clove. When the mustard seeds are beginning to splutter, add a pinch of asafetida and Kari leaves. Hold a lid or spatter screen over the pan so that the seeds won’t splatter all over.

Pour this mixture into the stew and mix well.
Serve with rice or enjoy a hot bowl of this stew with a toasted slice of bread on a chilly evening.

~ The acidity of tamarind reacts with metals like copper, tin or aluminum. So, it is better to store the juice or concentrate in glass containers.
~ Fresh Drumsticks can be hard to find it here. But frozen drumstick pieces are always available at Indian groceries.

Are you still with me? ( ' v ' )
It looks elaborate but once the vegetables are cut, it is very easy to make.
Hope you’ll give it a try with an assortment of veggies that are available to you.

Have tons of fun carving eerie eyes and wicked smiles too ( ^ w ^ )


New York City - Unique Eats

We came across this program called Unique Eats on Cooking channel which featured best places to dine/snack. Of particular interest was the episode where desserts were featured and so when we planned our trip to NYC we had to put this on the top of to-do list.


Though this place is a vegan bakery, the cupcakes and donuts we had were very very delicious. We tried Red Velvet, Chocolate cupcakes and a Lemon-coconut Donut. The cupcakes were yummy and moist, though I was not crazy about the frosting. Beet juice was used to achieve the color in the Red Velvet cake. The donuts are baked not deep fried and the best I ever had including the frosting. Since the frosting is made from flour it is healthy as well.

Crazy staircase apartment building - was the intention to have a private emergency exit for each apartment? ;-)

Four and Twenty Blackbirds
This pie shop is another hidden gem in Brooklyn. The restaurant itself felt like a refuge from the hustle and bustle of NYC. The interiors were warm and made us feel very cozy. We did not take any pictures of the pies because we simply forgot and digged right in as soon as they arrived! They are not masterpieces to look at but out-of-this-world to eat. We had Salted Caramel Apple, Honeyed Fig pies and a Savory pie with egg plant. Honeyed Fig was our absolute favorite and for a moment I thought I was passing out. The girl at the counter was surprised because we had one slice after the other with the last one to go.

Van Leuween Icecream
Parked at various locations in NYC, the color of the truck itself makes you want to have the icecream. Yet another place like Babycakes and Blackbirds who believe in honest goodness of natural and best ingredients. We tried Earl Gray and Hazelnut+Chocolate flavors. Earl Gray was simply the best, aromatic and floral. Some of the reviews I read complained about the flavor being muted but really the icecream is made out of basic ingredients and no additives. Read their interview at Etsy.

Another must visit is the new Eataly, a european style market founded by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich to bring gourmet food to NYC. The market features products that you may not find in any of the Whole Foods and the likes. Also, there are several food stations that you can dine at.

Shots of Chrysler and Empire State buildings from Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library.

One thing I look forward to when in NYC is featured Arts for Transit on the subway trains. Here are the "excerpts" of the two I took in a moving train.

Have a great weekend.

- Kalyan


Udaipur - City of Lakes

In 1568 again when Mughal emperor Akbar captured Chittor (story from my previous post - for the third and last time, the rajput men fought bravely rushing out of the fort walls charging the enemy but lost this time too) Udai Singh left the fort and founded Udaipur.

Udaipur is known as the City of Lakes and the beauty of numerous palaces around the lake seem to be enhanced especially when the lakes are full after a good monsoon season.

Lake Palace (now a hotel), is very captivating and romantic to look at. I have seen couples having a dinner in the middle of the lake on a floating platform with food/drink being ferried from the hotel. Very fancy! The palace served as a royal summer palace to escape the heat.

Parrot resting on a tree at sunset with hills and lake palace in the background:
City Palace complex, huge and overlooking the lake is stunning when lit at night.
Kitchen utensils from that era:
Mirrors and inlaid glass lattice work:
View of the lake from the terrace of the City Palace:
City Palace in the background and Lake Palace in the foreground:
Monsoon Palace, served as a resort and observatory to the royalty, at 3100 feet, the views are distant and stunning. I kick myself everytime I see this picture because I did not pay attention and the right window got chopped. Otherwise, it would have been a perfect picture. Jag Mandir Palace, another lake palace where Shahjahan (who built Taj Mahal) took refuge here as he rebelled against his father Jahangir to become a hier to the Mughal kingdom.
We came across this vibrant and colorful folk art in a crafts village:
The Mahout took naps all of afternoon on this female elephant which is named Raju (meaning king?!). We fed her few bananas:
Hope you are all having a crisp and lovely fall weekend. Have fun.