Wednesday, October 31, 2007

KARVA CHAUTH "करवा चौथ" long live the Husband!

29th October, Monday was KARVA CHAUTH - a wife's devotion to her husband.

My wife Sonali applying a vermilion TIKA on my forehead after finishing the prayers and other rituals to the Moon God.

The ritual of touching feet is a kind of respect shown to elders and in some instances also means that the person touching the feet loves you so much that he/she is willing to share the burden of your sins.

All married women with their Thalis as they start the prayers for the long life of their husbands.

This is a festival for all the married women and is mostly celebrated in the North Indian states. Some overzealous Moms put their unmarried daughters through this very tough whole-day fasting ritual. Karva Chauth is celebrated according to the Hindu calendar and falls on the fourth day after full moon in the month of Kartik.
On this day women get up before sunrise bathe, pray, eat some sweets normally Ghevar (a vermicelli kind of thing with milk) and drink water - this is supposed to last them till almost 10.00pm when the moon rises and they offer their prayers for the long and healthy life of their husbands. Women dress in almost bridal like splendor usually in red and are bedecked with jewelry. Rituals involve story-telling, passing a tray around while singing hymns, lighting Lamps with clarified butter and finally offering water to the Moon God while praying for the longevity of their husbands.

In addition to all this the woman's day is spent in cooking dishes particular for this festival. Things like Aloo-Tamatar (potatoes & tomatoes), Poori (fried wholewheat bread), Kachories (pooris stuffed with spiced lentils), Arvi (taro roots), Kaddu Bhaji (pumpkin), Rice Kheer (rice pudding), Puas (wholewheat and jaggery fried dumplings), Dahiwadas (fried lentil dumplings in yogurt).

I personally find it a little bizarre since all widows, divorcees and unmarried women are excluded from this act and also find it to be a sexist kind of festival where the women go through all this for their spouse and the husband never does a thing like this in return for his wife. Maybe it was an accepted form of love when man was the sole bread earner and the protector of the family. But in today's world when women are in step with men on all fronts it seems a little silly.

I will be posting the recipes for a couple of the dishes served that day on this blog later.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lemon Pickle

One of the Spice Nite attendees at Passage to India on Oct 7th had requested for the recipe of the Lemon Pickle that we make in the restaurant. It is one of my Mom's recipes and she used to make it without the oil but the salt quantity used to be twice. After two years the lemons would turn a dark brown and it was given to us as a digestive medication also. I still have almost a half pound of it that she brought for me in 1998 on her visit to US. It is a very dark and dry thing with the salt crystallized on top. Most of the Indian traditional recipes are all about a balance between the net effect of the food which is usually mentioned as either heat or cool causing. The Black Salt and Ajwain are a part of the digestive powder called CHURAN which is available in different forms, sometimes as a coating over dried fruits like Dates, Figs, Apples, Amla (Gooseberry) etc. Enough of that, on with the recipe:

Lemons (cut into 12 pieces and squeezed) 2 pounds
Oil (sesame or soybean- heat and allow to cool) 1 cup
Ajwain (Carom) seeds powdered 4 ounces
Cloves powdered 1 teaspoon
Peppercorns powdered 1 teaspoon
Black salt powder 2 teaspoons
Salt 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon

Mix all the ingredients and put them in a glass bottle with a tight fitting lid. Press down so that the top is covered with oil. Cover tightly and leave in the sun for 4-5 days. Open, mix well and press down so that the oil comes to the surface. Leave in sun light for another two days. The pickle will be ready in another 5-7 days. Keep in the frige where it should last for a couple of years. ALWAYS use a dry and clean spoon to take out any pickles.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Spice-Nite dinner went off well and people could actually eat all the spicy food served. I eat a lot of spicy food but this group could definitely handle a lot more.

First Course with Chicken Kali Mirchi Kabab, Mirchi Pakora, Parsi Lamb Cutlets with chili-onion Kulcha

Second course had Fish in Raw Mango Curry, Lemon Rice, Garlic-Chili Kulcha,Shrimp Balchao, Aloo Chokha and Mussels in tamarind in the center.

Third course comprised of Mirchi Gosht, Red hot Pork Vindaloo, Green Chili Chicken, Spicy Mint Paratha, Mirchi Ka Salan, Green Tomato-Serrano Launji was served with steamed Basmati rice.

Steamed Rice flour dumplings stuffed with fresh coconut, cracked peppercorns, poppy seeds, jaggery and cardamom. Served with a coconut milk and burnt sugar sauce.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Something other than Indian food

Tried cooking Greek for my daughter's Graduation party। The spread has mostly mezethes items and I had to incorporate a couple of middle eastern foods as well। Most items were made from raw ingredients but for the dolmas, brined olives and the mozzarella balls. The dishes were:
Sardeles (sardines)
Lakerda (tuna)
Sadziki (also pronounced Tzatziki-the cucumber & yogurt)
Revitis Keftedes (something like falafel)
Tomato/Mozzarella/Olive Salad
Brined Olives (green and black)
Greek breads-bought from a store
Lamb Keftedes
Sun dried tomatoes
Greek cheese platter
Taramasalata (fish roe)
For the main food which was served around midnight we had a Chicken and rice dish which was pretty close to a biryani using some greek ingredients for flavor.
I used up all the oregano and basil at home by the time I was done. I was helped in the menu planning by my contractor who had just remodelled our home. His name is guessed it NICK. Everybody enjoyed the food but then I did not have a Greek to check it out. We all had dressed up in Greek togas.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I am preparing a SPICY dinner for the members of on October 7th, 2007 at my restaurant Passage to India. Attendees have to be members, and those who wish to join can register for free at, the premier foodie website in Washington DC area.
The menu is as follows

DONROCKWELL.COM members only
OCTOBER 7th, 2007 AT 6.30 pm

First course
Mirchi Pakora-batter coated chili fritters
Chicken Kali Mirch Kabab-char grilled chicken with cracked peppercorns
Lamb Parsi Cutlet- pan fried spiced lamb from the Parsi delicacies
Chili Onion Kulcha- leavened white flour bread stuffed with onion and chili

Second course
Shrimp Balchao- sour, sweet and spicy shrimp pickle
Mussel Vendiam- steamed with fenugreek, curry leaf and tamarind
Meen Kozhambu- South Indian fish curry with raw mangoes
Aloo Chokha- fresh baked potatoes with burnt chili and mustard oil
Rice and bread

Third course
Mirchi Gosht- lamb simmered with ground chili, coconut and cilantro
Pork Vindaloo- a Portuguese influenced spicy and vinegary dish
Green Chili Chicken- verdant chicken with garlic, chili and jalapeno paste
Mirchi Ka Salan- sautéed chillies in a sesame & peanut sauce
Tamatar Launji- fennel flavored tomatoes stewed with serrano chillies
Rice and bread

Green Chili & Cilantro
Garlic & Red Chili
Vengayam (Onion)
Thenga (Coconut)


Spicy Modak (Steamed rice dumpling with peppercorns, milk solids & jaggery)

Only for Don members
Please register at for free membership
$65 per person (includes tax and tip)