Monday, July 26, 2010

Playing Indian

In India I became besotted with Masala Dosa, a crispy rice pancake, often filled with spicy potato and served with a small bowl of soup and coconut chutney and served as a snack or for breakfast. Ever since, it has been a misson of mine to be able to replicate the recipe.

Wild Fermentation  by Sandor Katz contains a recipe for the dosa batter, which is also used to make Idliis, a steamed dumpling. So a new jar appeared on the work bench, it was pink in colour and over the next few days began to bubble. The coconut chutney recipe, which can also be fermented, or not, was on the following page. Was I excited! I had been making the masala potato recipe for years as a side dish to curries, so we began to experiment cooking dosa with our crepe pan which is flat like a tava. The results were tasty, but not as crispy, or a large as the real thing. The chutney was fabulous but I had no leads on making the soup.
In an Indian supermarket in the city, not only did I find a non stick tava, but a spice blend for making the soup, or rasam. Another dosa making session, this time larger ones but still not crispy. I tried oil on the pan, oil brushed around the edges and thinning the batter which made lovely lacey dosas. The only crispy ones were the ones left next to the wood stove overnight. They were much appreciated by the chickens! 
The quest continues.
Here’s the recipe for the chutney which I have adapted slightly from the original...
Coconut Chutney

1 C dessicated coconut, soaked in ½ C warm water to soften.
3 Tbsp chickpea flour, toasted in a frypan till it begins to smell nutty and turn golden.

2 Tbsp tamarind puree
1tsp salt
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1Tbsp honey or sugar
1Tbsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds                     
1 C kefir or yoghurt

In a blender process coconut, chickpea flour, spices, tamarind and honey.
Fry the mustard seeds in the oil until they begin to pop and stir in half the yoghurt and stir to combine.
Add to the blender with the rest of the yoghurt and process until combined.
Add extra yoghurt or water if the mixture seems too dry.
You can eat it now, or cover with a piece of cheese cloth and let it ferment for a couple of days before storing in the refrigerator.

Serve with dosas, samosas, curries, on toast....on everything...I love this chutney!

Masala Potatoes
2 Tbsp oil
1tsp black mustard seed
10 curry leaves, preferably fresh
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp grated ginger
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 crown onions, diced
500g peeled potatoes, cut in even 2cm cubes
1 Tbsp tamarind puree

Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, cooking until they pop.
Add the rest of the spices, chillies and onions and cook until the onion is soft.
Add the potato cubes and a cup of water to the pan, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked and the liquid has vanished.
Add more water if you need to in order to cook the potatoes until soft.
Stir in tamarind and season with salt.
A quicker method is to pre boil your potatoes but frying gives a more authentic flavour.
Add yoghurt to any cooled leftovers to create a tasty potato salad.
If anyone has a tip for crispy dosas, please let me know...
Enjoy your cooking.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Grandma's undies

My grandparents never owned a washing machine and had probably never imagined a clothes dryer. As a child I remember tea towels and nappies would be boiled (separately) in the copper and my grandfather would do the rest of the weekly wash in the bath tub.
We lived in a very damp part of the Home Counties. In summer the washing was hung on ropes with hand carved wooden pegs we bought from the gypsies who visited each year and propped with long  forked sticks. In the winter, the washing was hung on a clothes pulley above the kitchen which boasted an electric oven and an open fireplace and was the warmest room in the house. The pulley loaded with wet washing was hauled up into the air, resting near the ceiling where it dried in record time.
When I first moved here, I was delighted with the fact that my Raeburn wood stove in the kitchen and high ceilings meant I could have a pulley of my own. It was cheaply constructed from timber off cuts of 630cm of 40mm x 20mm timber salvaged from old garden chairs and 7 x 180mm lengths of 10mm dowel. A chain was attached with screws at each end and used to hang the builders twine that was then threaded through two small pulleys attached to the ceiling. The cord is knotted to prevent it from coming away and is hitched onto a firmly secured hook set into solid timber.
Please take care that the cord and all other cords are kept out of reach of children. I recently found our ancient poodle with it round his neck, walking around in very confused circle. If he had managed to pull the cord off the hook, the weight of the washing would have strangled him. 
I can put a full load from my washing machine up in the rafters in the evening and most of it is totally dry by morning. My visitors, the ones that notice it, are hugely entertained by it but most people don’t notice it. I do try to remove the underwear from it each morning and to not load it up when I am cooking anything with a strong smell. The dogs may love me smelling of lamb roast but it’s not a great perfume for supposedly clean clothes!
This simple solution to clothes drying uses the heat from the stove, which also heats our hot water (and the house) and there is no tripping over clothes horses or rushing in and out as the rain comes and goes. Spread with a towel, it dries my felting. In summer it can dry herbs and chillies in bunches or lay on fly wire. When not full of washing, it airs the bathroom towels. My ten year old grandson insists he’d like to sleep on it!
Can your clothes dryer do all that and not cost you an extra cent on your power bill?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Phone Wars

It is Thursday afternoon. In the last ten days, I have made what seems like a thousand phone calls, had messages left by Indian voices I cannot understand; spent hours on hold, listening to muzak and have had no internet or phone line. I have even thrown myself in front of the local Telstra technician’s truck to plead for help.
Three weeks ago it was requested that the second phone line to the granny flat be connected. It finally happened on Monday morning when Telstra in their wisdom, decided to disconnect the house line and connect the new line and number to mine. That meant I had lost my phone and Internet. I would have to wait until my number was reconnected and then request the Broadband be reinstated. My phone company told me it would take 1-2 days to reinstate this line and I would be liable for a reconnection fee.
Telstra meanwhile assured us that all was sorted and the phone to the back would be turned on overnight, freeing my line. Telstra said the tenant would not have to pay a connection fee, to compensate her for the problem. As for me, I wasn’t a customer so they couldn't help me.  I lodged a formal complaint which they said would be dealt with within two business days. I had another call from someone trying to contact the tenant and explained this was not her line. Did I mention I had an active line that is not my number or account and needs to be disconnected so that my provider can reconnect me? I can’t get it disconnected as it’s not my account!
The second phone line was finally connected on Friday morning. The house line was disconnected at 4pm, far too late to do anything about a reconnection. It took my phone provider and Internet provider a day and a half to reconnect me...amazingly fast compared to Telstra.
Living in the country and running two online businesses, we are vulnerable to any communications meltdowns. Telstra still owns the lines, it seems they can disconnect you at will and take no responsibility for their actions. There is still no word about my formal complaint which is `waiting for a case manager to be assigned.’  I have spent hours each day trying to sort the problem, become stressed, angry and frustrated talking to a different voice each time that promised to help and appeared to do nothing. Everyone I speak to have a similar story to tell. Is this what free trade does to business or is it merely incompetence? I had better stop boring you with my woes and get to work. Now I am up again there are a hundred emails to deal with!