Flounder!

I try and make fish at least once a week but typically stick to salmon and tilapia.  This week I thought I will try a different fish and picked flounder – I tried cod a while back with not so good results so I may not go back to cod for some time now.  Flounder is not as rich in Omega-3’s as salmon but is a good lean source of protein.  I bought frozen filets from Wegmans and since the filets were quite thin decided to make breaded fish for dinner and served it with Italian bread and grilled asparagus and broccoli.  The recipe can be found here.

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Drumstick leaves!

Drumstick – not chicken drumsticks, of course – refers to a vegetable commonly found in tropical countries named so because of its long, slender and triangular shape.  Both the  vegetable and the leaves are used in cooking.  Drumstick leaves are powerhouses of nutrients – significant sources of vitamins, protein, beta carotene and more – and they also have medicinal qualities.  The whole tree – from leaves to seeds to roots – is used in traditional medicine and it was very common to grow this tree in backyards.  I have not seen these leaves in the Indian grocery stores here before so I was quite surprised and happy to find them.  The leaves can be prepared in many different ways … I mostly use them in daal or saute them like spinach.  Before cooking the leaves have to be stripped from the branches – a bit time consuming but well worth the effort.

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Ingredients:

  • Drumstick leaves – one bag (yields about 3 loosely packed leaves)
  • Moong daal – 1/2 cup
  • Green chillies – 6 (or more or less depending on your spice level)
  • Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Chana dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Curry leaves – few
  • Dried red chillies – 1
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Coriander powder – 1/4 tsp (optional)
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – about 1 tbsp

Method:

  1. Boil moong daal with 1 cup of water until they are soft but not mushy
  2. Pick and wash leaves; chop them roughly but that is optional
  3. Heat oil and add mustard seeds; when they splatter add urad dal, chana dal, cumin seeds, red chilli and garlic; fry till it’s aromatic (one thing I love when I cook is the smell of this seasoning which we call popu)
  4. Add leaves along with slit green chillies and curry leaves
  5. Once the leaves soften a bit add boiled moong dal and salt; mix well and cook with the lid on for a few minutes; keep stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn at the bottom and if the curry looks very dry add a tbsp of water
  6. When the leaves are cooked add coriander powder, mix well and cook for about a minute
  7. Serve with rotis or rice

 

Avocado rotis!

Incorporating healthy foods into everyday diet is such a challenge – especially for me, since I am not very creative in the kitchen – so I was so thrilled when a friend told me that she adds avocados to rotis.  Roti is an Indian flatbread made most commonly with wheat flour although other flours are also used to make rotis..they look like tortillas.  Rotis made with sorghum flour are an integral part of my home town’s cuisine and my favorite.  I already incorporated flaxseed meal into my rotis so I couldn’t wait to try avocado rotis.  Since avocados have high fat content the rotis came out quite soft…and they were approved by the kids.  I guess, this is a keeper!

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Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat flour – 1 cup
  • Avocado – 1/2
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 1 tsp
  • Flaxseed meal – 1/2 tbsp
  • Salt – 1/8 tsp
  • Water – as needed
  • Oil – optional

Method:

  1. Sift together flour and salt
  2. Add 1/2 avocado and mash into the flour
  3. Add oil and mix into the flour
  4. Heat about 1/2 cup of water – not boiling hot just warm – and add to the flour a few tbsp at a time and knead.
  5. Continue kneading for at least 5 minutes…add water if needed.  The dough should not be too hard nor too sticky.  It should be soft.
  6. Cover the dough with a moist cloth or paper towel and let it rest a few mins.  If you do not cover the dough it will get hard and cracked.  Ideally it should rest at least 30 mins but 5-10 mins will do too
  7. Divide the dough into balls the size of lime
  8. Roll each roti out – sprinkle flour on the rolling surface and the dough as you roll so the roti will not stick to the rolling board/pin
  9. Heat a skillet and toss the roti onto the skillet
  10. Bubbles will form in a couple minutes.  At this point if you are using oil brush oil onto the top surface of the roti and flip it
  11. Brush oil on the cooked side of roti and flip it after a few seconds
  12. Press down on the edges of roti with your spatula as you cook
  13. Continue flipping and cooking until the roti has a nice brown color
  14. Serve it immediately or if you saving for later store them in a air tight and preferably insulated container to keep them warm.  Line the container with a paper towel to soak up the condensation from the steam that comes out of the warm rotis.
  15. Serve the rotis with dal or curries or a pickle

A guide to the Birds of East Africa!

“A guide to the birds of East Africa: A novel” – by Nicholas Drayson. This book is an accidental find – a happy find but purely accidental. I recently went on a safari and a friend who had been on safari recommended that I take a book on birds on East Africa since it will be handy to identify the birds I see on safari. Everyone talks about animals, especially Big 5, and the Great Migration if you go on East African safari but no one talks about the birds…and that is such a shame because the number and variety of birds you see is amazing.

So, shortly before I left I went to the library and searched the catalog for “A guide to birds of East Africa”, scribbled down the call number, grabbed the book and rushed out.  Even when I picked this book up from fiction section of the library – and not from the reference section – it did not occur to me that something was off.  I realized only after I started reading that it is a fiction based on birds set in Nairobi…that the most important theme of the book is ornithology.  With its pencil illustrations of birds – which are very nice – at the beginning of every chapter and reference to different birds of Kenya the book is sort of a guide to the birds of East Africa.

It is, however, about an unusual love story of Mr.Malik, a retired and widowed Indian, and Ms.Mbikwa, an expat that made Kenya her home and leads the Tuesday morning birds walks for East Africa Ornithological Society.  As the book opens Mr.Malik is trying to profess his love for Ms.Mbikwa and invite her to a ball, although he is not a dancer himself, when a childhood nemesis, Harry, shows up to steal Ms.Mbikwa right from under Mr.Malik’s shy, loving gaze.  As all gentlemen do, they decide to fight each other to determine who gets to ask Ms.Mbikwa out and in the spirit of East Africa Ornithological Society and the title of the book the one who gets Ms.Mbikwa’s hand is the one who sees most birds in a week.

The stage is set and the game is on…who you root for and how the book ends is all so very predictable.  What makes it a pleasant read is the narrative style – full of wit and charm.  It is hilarious when the author calls out on English explorers on naming that “huge wet patch in the middle of Africa” Lake Victoria.  The author lived in Nairobi for 2 years and so he presents the landscape – both geographical and political – well.  The book starts out slow but chapter by chapter it gets deeper and more complex.

A reviewer called this “a sort of P.G.Wodehouse meets Alexander McCall Smith” and I completely agree.  What I also loved is the way he ended the story…yes, it does end on a happy note but with a slight twist.  Through out the book the author fills you in on Mr.Malik’s and Harry’s childhood but he leaves one particular and important story untold…”he may be sharing the story on Jack but I never shall tell”…and I thought that was a brilliant touch.

At 262 pages, it is a short read and when you close the book on “If at this moment he is not the happiest, short, round, balding brown man in all the world then I don’t know what happiness is” note…you will be smiling! A delightful read!