Jayasri Alladli

Never Take A Pig To Lunch!

In Cooking The Books on June 3, 2014 at 7:46 PM

imageMy Big Brother , who I consider to be Mycroft , (no ,that doesn’t mean I’m Sherlock, ), because  he knows everything, and forgets nothing, mostly in a  happy way, has this to say about Upma and Potatoes- 

“The best cook never made the perfect upma, and the worst cook never made a bad potato curry.”

I believe it’s true. I also know that everyone reviles upma  but eats when it’s dished up, regardless, while  the potato , well, who can resist it. It’s the one vegetable that comforts you while you wallow in the guilt of consuming it.

Meanwhile there are other things, veggies and fruits that  fall somewhere between the upma and the potato, that mom says , have to be eaten.  Lady’s fingers for the brain, carrots for the eyes, and cabbage for the mmmphm ( grown-ups can be pretty vague about the goodness of cabbage, and know they sound very very fake indeed as they try to persuade you that it is “good for you”, while finding it disgusting themselves.

It just so happens that some jolly grown-ups remember exactly how it felt when they were kids, and moms and grandmas were trying to stuff their face with  broccoli and beet and parsnip, and have written  some jolly rhymes and poems to savor while actually  eating the yucky stuff.

I found this delightful book , at  Herndon Fortnightly library,    that  understands the child’s and the child inside the grown=up , who likes to play with food, talk to it,  scold it, and threaten it, and pretend it’s a person ,over whom you have absolute control.

There won’t be a child  (6-11 years) who will not delight in the smorgasbord of over 60 poems in the book,  which has themes like “Silly”,  “We like”, Table Manners, and  the difficulty of eating with chopsticks.

Here’s why , according th Susan Alton Schmeltz, you should Never Take A Pig To Lunch-

Never Take a pig to lunch                                                                                                                     Don’t invite him home for brunch                                                                                                    Cancel chances to be fed                                                                                                                            Till you’re certain he’s well-bread

Quiz him! Can he use a spoon?                                                                                                                      Does his sipping sing a tune?                                                                                                                        Will he slurp and burn and snuff                                                                                                                  Till his gurgling makes you gruff?

Would he wrap a napkin round                                                                                                                    Where the dribbled gravy’s found?                                                                                                            Tidbits nibble? Doughnuts dunk?                                                                                                                Spill his milk before it’s drunk?

Root and snoot through soup du jour?                                                                                                        Can your appetite endure?                                                                                                                          If his manners make you moan,                                                                                                                  Better let him lunch alone.

A clever trick, doubtless, to make it about the other kid, the pig,  when you tell the child about table manners!

I found this little gem from Richard Armour,

Shake and shake                                                                                                                                              the catsup bottle                                                                                                                                            nothing will come                                                                                                                                           and then a lot’ll

And how can we not have Ogden Nash, in a kid;’s book about food?  Celery, raw/ Develops the jaw,/ But celery stewed, /is more quickly chewed, says Nash, before  busting the scam called parsnip in these lines- The parsnip, children, I repeat                                                                                                                     Is simple ,  an anemic beet                                                                                                                             Some people call the parsnip edible                                                                                                             Myself, I find this claim incredible.

Eve Merriam speaks of  a Peculiar boy – I once knew a boy who was odd as could be                                                                                               He liked to eat cauliflower and broccoli                                                                                                       And spinach and turnips and rhubarb pie                                                                                                 And he didn’t like hamburgers or French fries.

Not just peculiar, I’d say. A boy who brought disrepute to the cult of  kiddyhood whose motto is to revile  the veggies!

A poem on learning to eat with chopsticks, by Arnold Adoff  drops down like the food that a kid is trying to pick uo with chopsticks- I am learning to move my chopsticks through the vegetables and meat and through the oriental treat we have tonight but in between my  smiles and bites I write a emssage to the sweet and sour pork  I need a fork!  goes this poem as the words drop down in a tiny confetti.

In My Mother Says I’m Sickening, Jack Prelutsky laments  that his mother says he’s crude when she sees him playing Ping pong with his food!  And in a long poem, Trouble With Dinner, J.A.Lindon wonders “Why can’t I dig with my spoon and make potato castles like on the beach?

It’s Spaghetti! spaghetti you  wonderful stuff, I love you  and  Wouldn’t you love to have lasagna any old time the mood was on ya? and   there’s a joyful poem about how you make a peant butter jelly sandwich from scratch , and the joys of eating icecream, and chocolate. And this big giant who calls for one hundred pancakes , not one less and enough maple syrup yo amke a giant mess!

There’s a poor crocodile who finds  being l—o—n—g a great trial. Said a very long crocodile/My length is a terrible trial!  I know I should diet/ But each time I try it I’m hungry for more than a mile!

Time to sign off with this wisely anonymous poet’s Fatty Fatty Boom-a-latty;                                                                                                                            This is the way she goes!                                                                                                                               She’s so large around the waist                                                                                                                    She cannot see her toes!


A great book to spend an afternoon with,  whether you are o r a kid or a grwon up! The book is  been illustrated by Nadine Bernards Westcott, who also selected the poems.

This is what Kirkus Review had to say about the book:

 There isn’t a child on earth who won’t sample, snack, and nibble with delight at this delicious smorgasbord of more than 60 poems. A first course on eating “silly” things (Nash’s “Eels”; Livingston’s “O Sliver of Liver”) is followed by a section on eating things “we like” (“We All Scream for Ice Cream”; Prelutsky’s “Fudge”). Gobble up a group on eating too much (Ciardi’s “Betty Bopper”) and another on table manners (Burgess’s Goops show up here, as does the title poem). Meanwhile, Westcott’s zany children, animals, and food race riotously across the pages; the gusto with which these pint-size epicureans take to their tasks is contagious. A wish: that one positive poem had countered the two negative ones about the difficulty of eating with chopsticks, if only because children don’t always read the difference between laughing “at” and laughing “with.” Still, three-star attention to detail coupled with four-star appeal.











Dahl Tadka!

In Cooking The Books on May 27, 2014 at 5:47 PM



Is there anyone who will keep on surfing the channels even after stumbling upon Matilda or Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, or James and the Giant Peach?   Not stop right there, drop the remote, forget that aloo kurma simmering on the stove , and tell anybody who asks for dinner to go order a pizza, without taking those eyes off the TV even for a blink?

I didn’t think so.

Now, is there any one who can put “revolting”, “disgusting”, and food together in the same sentence, and still have kids and adults drooling ?  Go slurp! slurp! drool! drool! over the  wondercrump,  scrumdiddlyumptious  chocolates, and Candy-coated Pencils For Sucking in Class, or a swig of Frobscottle?

I do think so. His name is Roald Dahl.

In fact,  Roald Dahl, passionate lover of chocolates and children and stories, who makes these ingredients come together to make great magic,  was thoughtful enough to leave a list of everything that ever gets eaten in his stories, and his wife, Felicity with the task of figuring out how to create them, and eat them . Even though, in his own words, “Oh No, Liccy, the work!. The thought daunts me!”

When I was a kid,  before I discovered Dahl,  I was a picky eater, and annoyed my mother a great deal by fussing over food. The vegetable was not placed in the circle I’d drawn with my finger, and there was too much rice, and not enough rasam. I wanted lady’s finger, and she’d got me beans.  The sambhar was touching the rice at the wrong spot.  And so on.

She soon learned to leave me to my devices, and  I  began talking to my food. I hoped that my ceaseless chatter would make them go away. I think I’ll eat you first, I’d tell the potato. Onion was disgusting, and I’d ignore it altogether, and then “Don’t worry  you little ball of rasam rice, I’ll eat you up as soon as I’m done eating this nice piece of roasted potato”.  Brinjal was , verily, the poisoned apple that Snow White bit into. Sometimes the coriander turned into creepy things, the snakegourd, was, well, a snake. And the bitter gourd -euw! was not only bitter, it looked like an alligator come out looking for a snack in the wrong place! Tomatoes,  were the favorite,

Eventually they got eaten, of course, much helped by  my aunt, Kokila, , aka Doctor Athey, who was , of course a doctor.  She  pointed to that little brown calf, snuggling by it’s mother, who was being milked , and the neighborhood maamis waited . The calf had a cane basket muzzling its mouth, and  Doctor Athey told me it was because the calf had refused to eat its food. Sometimes my cousin Manjula came to my rescue, when my mother’s  tolerance wore thin, and she was considering delivering a sharp smack,  lifting me up and saying, “Maami,  leave her alone. Don’t make her cry”.

Only Dahlizens like Charlie can live on margarine, not butter, , and just bread for breakfast,  boiled potatoes and cabbage for lunch, and  cabbage soup for supper.  Cabbage figures frequently in Dahl’s stories to describe boring or disgusting food. Charlie never grumbles about it, and finally becomes the winner of Willie Wonka’s  contest to find the most deserving child  to inherit his chocolate factory.The others lose because they are greedy and spoilt. Charlie gets to eat a bar of chocolate once a year, on his birthday, and he cherishes it greatly, for it is the most delicious food of all, and this is how Dahl  helps us tell the good guys from the baddies. The greedy, fat Augustus Gloop and gum-chewing Violet Bearegarde, end up with just desserts, while Charlie is the winner.

And who can help but admire Willie Wonka, the master chocolatier, who can be quite childlike in his excitement over The Inventing Room , plainly his favorite place in the factory. “This is the most important room in the entire factory! All my most secret new inventions and cooking and simmering away in here! Mr Wonka exlaims, opening the door  Charlie stares around the gigantic room where all about him black metaol pots are boiling and bubbling on huge stoves. Dahl’s Revolting Recipes and Even More Revolting Recipes, are as delightful, or even more delightful to read as his stories are.  Felicity informs us in the introduction to Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes,  that a few weeks after the conversation about a book for children, she found , on her blotter, a pile of papers neatly clipped together,  listing every food from Willy Wonka’s Nutty Crunch Surprise to the mound of mysterious spare ribs consumed by Hansel and Gretel in Rhyme Stew. On top was a note saying “It’s a great idea, but God knows how you will do it.”               Well she did do it. And Revolting Recipes, an interpretation of some of the scrumptious and wonderfully disgusting dishes that appear in the books, with illustrator Quentin Blake’s  drawings that make Dahl’s characters dance into your hearts, came to be. Dalhophiles everywhere have lapped it up, and there are blogs dedicated to food from Dahl’s world , like dahlicious.

A note for the cook says “These recipes are for the family to enjoy making together. Some could be dangerous without the help of an adult. Children, please, ALWAYS have an adult with you when you are using knioves, handling anything hot, or using a good processor or blender.

Of course, most people who buy cookbooks  do more “book” than cook, and they’re lying if they say otherwise.  Revolting Recipes are fun to read, and it’s simply impossible to  desist from cooking from them too. I mean,  can anyone just read the recipe for Mr Twit’s Beard Food from The Twits, and move on, without spending an afternoon putting it together. Felicity says you can do it with two large potatoes, mushrooms (for the nose)  a hard oiled egs and two olive halfs to make the eyes, and pretzel sticks to make the beard. It needs  cocktail franks. for the lips (I guess vegetarians can stick in some baby carrots) bread to make eyebrows and  the teeth.

“Nose bags on!” or “Grub’s up!” was Roald’s way of announcing the meal when it was ready.  His fascination with food began  very early. Felicity notes, in Even More Revolting Recipes that  he once told her about the start of his holidays at his grandparents house in Oslo. His maiden aunts sat on the veranda with large bolws of multer, a special yellow blackberry antive to Norway. They each would be holding a needle, and very carefully examine the berry if a little worm was inside. If they found one, they would make a stab and remove it. Roald thought the the worms were not stupic. They were always in the sweetest berries.

Roald’s mother kept every letter he wrote to her from boarding school, tied neatly in small bundles with pink ribbon, like barrister’s briefs,  Felicity says. He was constantly asking her to send him food. Even food that was not easy to post. Like raw eggs!

Thanks awfully for your letter, and the eggs and the foot stuff.One egg was broken, so we had to throw it away but the rest were fine. I had two of them poached last night for supper. And that foot powder is jolly good. i put some in this morning, Roald wrote in a letter. Felicity hopes that he didn’t put it the poached eggs!

Felicity also suspects that a letter describing a lesson on China  might have been the seed of an idea which developed into  the centipede’s song in Jamie And The Giant Peach.  In the introduction to Even More Revolting Recipes, Felicity  hopes the book will inspire the reader to be as inventive with the cooking, as Roald was with his. “And i certainly hope that they will not amke you suffer from indigestion as he did on January 25, 1930, hen he wrote to his mother, Thanks awfully for the Tablets. I took some a few times and the indigestion has stopped now. They’re jolly good.

I’m ogling at the Grobswithy Cake  ( from BFG) and considering  James’  suggestion to try Boiled Slobbages. He assures me that they’re grand when served beside Minced Doodlebugs and Curried  Slugs. I might also try Mosquitoes’ Toes but I think I’ll skip the Wompfish roe.

The recipes for Revolting Recipes were complied by Josie Fison, and it was Lori-Ann Newman who transformed the foods named in  the Dahl books into real food.  Everything from Bruce Bogtrotter’s Cake in Matilda, to the Hair Toffee To Make Hair Grow on Bald (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) is a recipe that can be made and eaten.

I wonder what Dahl would have made of my childish misadventures with food. What would rasam become, or sambhar or poori and parantha , in Dahlworld? Sneezer-teaser.  lentil gloop , hot-air balloons and potato cushions? Nah.

It takes Dahl to be DAhlicious.  Dahl is the tadka on Revolting Recipes.

Nirmala’s Navarasams

In Rasam on January 28, 2013 at 1:47 PM
Lemon Rasam

Lemon Rasam

IMG_0544Thirteen years ago, I told Nirmala, one of those friends who made school a happy place,  that one day I would write The Book of Rasams,    and  she promised to send me her own nine gems,  to get me started.   She returned to Vellore, where she lives, a very busy and savvy businesswoman as a distributor of consumer goods , at the end of this rare reunion ( Ani, Nimralla  and I talked and laughed and it had seemed as if   the years between the those young days and now, were a mere comma punctuating our story! ) .

And I returned to my work,  making sure I put my “nose for news” to work and truly deserve my salary as a journalist. A few weeks later, an important looking brown envelope arrived,  by post, and  in it was a letter from Nimralla, and  four pages of computer print-outs . She apologized !  for the delay,  and gave me a couple of tasks to do that involved making a couple of phone-calls,  arranging a Reiki master for Sharmila, and promised that we would be in touch, whatever happens.

I am mortified to confess I  have done precious little about the contents of the brown envelope, and The Book of Rasams  remains a figment of my imagination. Although I must say I never lost the envelope or its contents, and here it is now,  telling the story of its journey to America, and finally being  liberated!

First, the rasam powder

Red chillies —   250 g

Dhaniya (coriander seeds)- 250 g

Tur dal-  2tbsp

Channa dal- 2tbsp

Cumin – 2tbsp

Whole black pepper- 2 tbsp

Asafoetide- a pincREmoved from fire when ith

Dry turmeric  4 sticks

Fenugreek seeds (Optional)- 2 tsp

Pick, clean and dry all the ingredients in the sun, break turmeric into pieces, crush asafoetida. Pound all ingredients together to a fine powder, Store in airtight containers.

Important : The Rasam should never be allowed to boil over. Remove from fire when it begins to boil , add the tempepring and immediately cover. Rasam made in the eeyachombu ( a small, heavy vessel that seems to contain lead, though it is said to be an alloy of tin)  give off the best aroma.There is a mystery about the eeyachombu that I mean to crack, but for the nonce, everyone seems to be in  great haste to deny that this wonder vessel contains lead.

Now on to the rasams and how to make them.

I Paruppu Rasam  


Boiled tur dal-  1/2 cup

Tamarind- lemon-sized ball

Tomato-  1 cut into 8 pieces

Rasam powder- 2 tsp

Asafoetida- a pinch

Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp

Jaggery- marble sized piece

coriander – a sprig

Curry leaves- a few

Tempering- ghee,  cumin and mustard

Method: soak tamarind in water and extract pulp. Add salt, asafoetida, turmeric, rasam powder and cook slowly with some water. Add tomato and jaggery. add coriander. Remove from fire when it just begins to boil. Add pureed/mashed dal or  just the stock.

Temper using a tsp of ghee to which a 1/2 tsp each of mustard and cumin is added and popped. drop this over  curry leaves on top of the rasam and immediately cover with a lid to trap the aroma.


II .Tomato Rasam


Red tomatoes- 6

Rest of the ingredients are the same as that of paruppu rasam–

Boiled tur dal-  1/2 cup

Tamarind- lemon-sized ball

Tomato-  1 cut into 8 pieces

Rasam powder- 2 tsp

Asafoetida- a pinch

Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp

Jaggery- marble sized piece

coriander – a sprig

Curry leaves- a few

Tempering- ghee,  cumin and mustard

Method :Chop and boil the tomatoes in 4 cups of water, and  add salt, asafoetida, turmeric, rasam powder and cook slowly with some water. Add tomato and jaggery.. add coriander. Remove from fire when it just begins to boil. Add pureed/mashed dal or  just the stock.

Before tempering, sprinkle a 1/4 tsp of freshly crushed pepper. Pour tempering over this for a peppy rasam 

Temper using a tsp of ghee to which a 1/2 tsp each of mustard and cumin is added and popped. drop this over  curry leaves on top of the rasam and immediately cover with a lid to trap the aroma

III. Garlic Rasam 


Pulp from a lemon-sized ball of tamarind-  2 or 3 tsp

Garlic cloves 3 or 4 or more according to taste

Cumin- 1tsp

Pepper- 1 tsp

Rasam Powder- 1 tsp

Salt- to taste

For Tempering:

Ghee 1 tsp

Mustard: 1 tsp

Curry leaves: a few 

Method: Boil pounded garlic cloves and tamarind in  water, add rasam powder, asafotida and salt . Once the garlic is cooked soft, add  crushed pepper and crushed cumin. Don’t let the rasam boil over.

Drop the curry leaves and pour the tempering over it. Cover immediately.

Good for tummy upsets and cold, says Nimralla. 


IV. Lime Rasam


Boiled and mashed tur dal- 1 cup

Green chillies- 6

Ginger a small piece

turmeric powder- less than 1/4 tsp

Salt to taste


Ghee- 1/2 tsp

Mustard- 1/2 tsp

Cumin- 1/2 tsp

Finally-  the juice of half a lemoon

Method: Crush the chillies and ginger  roughly.  Cook for a few minutes in water, adding salt. Keep covered as the pungent aroma can cause irritation in the throat. Add dal, and turmeric , add water to get the desired thin consistency. Drop the chopped coriander and curry leaves and the tempering. Top with the lime juice.

V. Cumin Rasam (Jeera Rasam)


Tamarind pulp- from a lemon sized ball of tamarind

Rasam Powder- 2 tsp

Cumin seeds- 2 tsp

turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp

Asafoetida- a pinch

Salt to taste

Curry leaves for garnish

Method: Add tamarind extract, salt, rasam powder,  asafoetida,  to one cup of water and boil. Add 4 more cups of water and bring to boil. Grind the raw cumin with a little water and add this to the rasam.

Add the tempering of ghee , mustard  and curry leaves. Serve hot.

VI. Dal Kofta Rasam

For Kofta 


Tur dal- 2 cups

Red chillies – 4

Black pepper- 1 tsp

Turmeric powder-  1/4 tsp

Asafoetida- a pinch

Salt to taste 

For Rasam

Pulp from a lemon-sized ball of tamarind

ghee- 1 tsp

pepper- a few corns

Salt to tate

Tempering: 1 tsp each of ghee, cumin, mustard, curry leaves.


The Kofta

Soak tur dal for 2 hours, WAsh, drain and grind to a coarse paste, adding chilllies, pepper, asafoetida, turmeric and salt.

Pour this “batter” into an idli mould and steam (without the weight) for about 5 minutes, till it is half done, and you are able to roll  it into  lemon-sized balls.  Keep aside.

For Rasam

In 4 cups of water, add the tamarind pulp, salt and turmeric. Boil. Add the kofta balls.ad continue cooking till the koftas float to the top.

Grind tur dal, black pepper and cunim with a little water . Add this to the boiling rasam, allow to simmer for a few minutes without boiling, add tempering and curry leaves.


VII Pepper Rasam


Tamarind-  two lemons-sized. 

Pepper- 2 tsp

Curry leaves,

Ghee- 1 tsp

Mustard- 1 tsp

Turmeric, salt asafoetida

Method: Extract tamarid pulp and add to 4 cups of water. Add salt, turmeric, asafoetida. and bring to boil.

When the raw smell goes, add pepper ground to a paste using very little water.Cook for  5 min, Temper with mustard , and curry leaves.

Serve hot.


VIII  Neem Flower Rasam

During the season, collect the neem flowers , dry in the sun and store in airtight containers.

For the Rasam: 


Tamarind- pulp from a lemon-sized ball.

Red Chillies- 2

Asafoetida- a pinch

Jaggery- 1/2 spoon

Curry leaves

Dried Neem Flowers- 1 tsp

Method: Add tamarind, to 4 cups of water. Heat ghee ina kadai, add mustard and chilles broken into smaller bits, neem flower, pour into the tamarind water. Add salt, asafoetida, and jaggery, boill for about 10 min removed and add the curry leaves.


IX  Mysore Rasam


Tur dal – cooked and mashed, 1 cup

Channa dal – 1 tsp

Dry coriander seeds- 2 tsp

Red chillies- 3 or 4

cinnamon- 1  inch

Coconut -fresh grated- 1 tbsp

Jaggery- 1 big lime-sized ball

Tamarind- pulp of one big lime-sized ball

Method: Boil tamarind extract for 5 minutes.Add the dal paste to this water. Roast all the ingredients for masal and the coconut in ghee, adding the coconut last. and remove from stove when the coconut begins to brown. grind to a fine paste and add to the rasam. Add jaggery, chopped coriander. Add the tempering of ghee, mustard, curry leaves and asafoetida.