Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jamun Raita

There is a legend associated with Jamun fruit and it begins with these lines , "Sutta Pazham Vendumaa Sudaatha Pazham Vendumaa". These are the immortal lines uttered by Skanda disguised as a child to Avaiyyar an ascetic and a poetess of the Sangam period. She was such a realized soul and yet she thought she was hitting a plateau in her learning curve and was thinking of retirement. Lord Muruga seized this opportune moment and let her know that learning is a lifelong process and ego is an obstruction to it, through these innocent words. I have explained the same below. 

Avvaiyar a travelling minstrel got tired one day and decided to take rest under the shadow of a Jamun tree. She was hugry and thirsty. Skanda disguised as a shepherd on the tree,  asked Avvai whether she wanted roasted fruit or unroasted fruit . Avvai answered that she wanted roasted fruit without thinking too much. Lord Muruga scattered some Jamun fruit to the ground. Avvaiyar started picking up the fruit and blowing the sand that was stuck to it. The fruit had become warm because of the hot sand. At that time the little boy asked her whether the fruits were warm. Being a highly evolved person she understood that this was divine play because it is not possible to have roasted fruit from the tree and yet there she was blowing on the fruit as if to cool. She was amazed by this analogy and was curious to find out the identity of the boy. Upon enquiry she found out that the little boy was none other than Lord Muruga. This legend is associated with a place called Pazhamudircholai in Madurai. This is the story behind the simple Jamun fruit and now I'm heading to the recipe.

I have made a raita out of this fruit. This is also known as Java plum. 

Jamun fruit-1 cup
Curd-1 cup
Salt to taste

To temper
Oil-1 tsp
Mustard-1 tsp
Urad dal-1 tsp
Asafoetida-a pinch
Red chili- 1 or 2
Curry leaves-a sprig
Method- This is incredibly easy to make. Take a cup add add the cut pulp of the Jamun fruit, salt and curd and mix well. Add the tempered ingredients. And your done! This tastes awesome sweet and slightly tart. I made this pachadi as a side dish to bisi bele bath. The seeds of this fruit is dried and powdered and is used to treat diabetes.  I loved every mouthful of this raita, leaving behind its unique taste and stories of a bygone era.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Green coconut chutney

I always land up making tomato chutney. And this coconut chutney with coriander and curry leaves truly tastes refreshing. Idlis and dosas taste so much better with this chutney. This is the procedure that I followed to make this chutney. 


Grated coconut-I used half of the coconut
Fried gram-2 fistfuls
Coriander leaves-2 fistfuls
Curry leaves-2 fistfuls
Green chillies-2
Salt to taste

For tempering
Oil-1/2 teaspoon
Mustard-1 teaspoon
Asafoetida-a pinch

Method: Grate coconut and keep aside. Take a mixer add coriander and curry leaves and blend well with a little water. Now add the grated coconut ,fried gram,green chillies and salt to taste. Blend well till done. Now temper with the ingredients provided above. It was a welcome break to savor this chutney after a long time.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun

When you walk into Tuscana Pizzeria, you get the vibe, a warm unpretentious vibe, a place bustling with good food, people and cheerful banter. Created by Vipin Sachdev and Chef Willi, this is clearly one of the best places to eat authentic Italian fare.  

Just Outside the Pizzeria

On a Friday afternoon I visited this place with a friend. We ordered my favorite soup, the Minestrone col Pesto. It is almost become a ritual for me to order this soup. While we were waiting, we were served some crunchy crudites and dip made of olive oil and basil. 

Finger Food:The bread sticks and the dip made a lovely combo.

Minestone Soup
Coming to the soup, this is a traditional vegetable soup with pistachio pesto and olive oil. I really loved that the soup had generous amounts of Italian vegetables like zucchini, carrots, French beans, sweet peppers and white beans. It was incredibly light on my palate with just the right amount of tomatoes and olive oil. A perfect eat and slurp soup which is a meal by itself. Every time I took a sip I was reminded of Ratatouille the animation film and the simple pleasures of home cooked meal. Double muah's to the soup.

For the main course I ordered a foldable pizza, the Calzone Ripieno.

   A folded pizza with mozzarella and ricotta cheese, tomato sauce, spinach and mushrooms served straight from the oven.

First up, it is heartening to know that there are two options to choose from, for the base, the whole meal option and the classic base. The tomato sauce has no onion or garlic. This is a great feature for people who would like to skip the same. I ordered the classic 9" pizza. The pizza was cooked to perfection thanks to the traditional wood fired oven used at Tuscana. The pizza was served hot and I cut up a chunk to check out the emerald spinach and mushrooms inside. Every bite was bursting with "Popeye the Sailor and Olive Oyl" goodness! This was incredibly filling leaving no room for more food but dessert! I sprinkled some oregano flakes to enhance the flavor. Personally, I would prefer to have a thin crust pizza next time.

"Are you a pizza liberal or a pizza conservative? A comprehensive American survey found that while liberals prefer thin crust pizza with a little wine, conservatives take to the deep-dish variety served with coke and French fries."

This was an interesting tidbit I read in the Times of India

For dessert I was craving coffee, but I settled for their famous Panna Cotta.

                Chocolate Panna Cotta layered cake with compote of fresh oranges

The dessert was rich and gratifying. The soft moist chocolate cake played the perfect foil to the tang of orange compote. The monotony of chocolate was broken by the fresh citrus burst; the able sidekick was the cream. Spoon a slice of the cake and eat it along with the orange compote and the next time dunk in the cream. What a life!

                 Tiramisu:Mascarpone,cream,coffee and lady finger biscuits
I just had a spoonful of Tiramisu from my friend's plate and my coffee craving was fixed. The creamy decadence of mascarpone cheese and the spongy ladyfingers with a light hint of coffee was heaven indeed. You can finish this in minutes and still want for more.What a lovely way to end a meal, satisfaction guaranteed.

With food so good, it is not surprising that Tuscana has won many awards to its credit.
Times of India Award 2010 - Best Italian Restaurant
the Miele Guide 2009/2010 - Asia's Finest Restaurant - Best Wood Fired Pizza 2010

I also make it a point to be seated in a cozy nook close to my favorite picture the wasp shaped Vespa. 

An array of pictures adorning the walls of the Pizzeria.
On the whole it was a delightful experience. I enjoyed the food and will go back for the minestrone soup. This was pièce de résistance for me. This is an ideal place to hang out with friends and family, thanks to its informal setting. So do head out there in droves. Coming to price it is a tad expensive, but these days even the American pizzas are equally expensive. The prices were commensurate with the quality of ingredients used. The service was good. The staff was very helpful and did not rush us Life is beautiful indeed with Tuscana just around the corner!

Many thanks to Chef Willi and Chennai Food Guide for making this happen. A new and spacious Tuscana on Chamiers has opened its doors recently to all lovers of good food. Do make a visit. 

Sending this to the Paisley Passions Party. , Little Brick Ranch, and Food on Fridays

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