Something sour and something sweet

11:29 a.m (P.S.T)

I can’t find my keys. Cheerfully optimistic that I have just misplaced them, and that they will amiably turn up when I am looking for something else, I have decided that I am not going to get worked up trying to find them. Instead I have decided to work from home and enjoy the buzz of the heater while I cozily curl up under the razai with my warm laptop on my (where else?) lap.

Today is the last day of the year. And tomorrow, is the first day of a brand new year. I know, it must seem like I am just stating the obvious. But all I am really doing is letting the words roll off my tongue and onto this virtual space, wondering why they sound so important. Why intangible time stamps like the end and beginning of a year, are labels of such consequence, and to some, even infinitely comforting. But there is something so forgiving about a New Year, isn’t there? Almost like there is about a blank sheet of paper. There may have been several crumpled sheets of paper before this one, but this new blank sheet gives you the permission to let go of those, if you wish. And to place your smooth inky gel pen on it, and mark its newness. Because with a blank sheet of paper, the possibilities are endless.

It does seem cliched to wax philosophical on the brink of a New Year. But, imaginary time stamp or not, I find it very comforting to cling on to cliches on this last day of the year. And so, continuing with honoring cliches, today I thought I’d make something sour and something sweet. Or really, somethings more tangible than the moments they pay homage to.

4:30 p.m

Remind me never to switch on food network in the middle of the day. I was watching some marathon food competition that was on and just couldn’t tear myself from the TV. Till now. And now watching all the tension and kitchen drama has made me nervous. Will I be able to complete these two somethings and post the write up and pictures in time?

6:30 p.m

And yay! I did. And here they are.

Something Sour/tangy : Tamarindy Coconut Chutney (Hing Phulia)

My Konkani aunt made this for us last weekend, as an accompaniment to hot, crispy Dosas. I am usually not a huge fan of  coconut chutney but I found the tangy combination of tamarind, coconut and coriander/cilantro irresistible. And so I thought I’d try making this today using the scraps of instructions that I managed to retain (in my head).

First,I dry roasted 3 slit green chillies with more than a pinch of hing/asafoetida, till 1 or 2 brown spots began to appear on the skin of the chillies. Then I extracted a marble-sized ball of tamarind in half a cup of warm water. I ground 1.5 cups of coconut with the tamarind water, chillies, 1/3 cup of coriander/cilantro leaves and salt. I found the resulting combination not tangy enough to warrant the ‘something sour’ tag and so kept adding tamarind till I achieved the desired level of sourness. What I would recommend though, is to take a marble sized ball of tamarind in 1/2-3/4 cup of tamarind water and heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds before extracting the tamarind.

For the final seasoning: In a drop of coconut oil, I heated a 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds and asafoetida. Once the mustard seeds were done spluttering, I added it to the coconut chutney. We plan to eat this with dosa tonight.

Something Sweet: A Figgy Payasam/Kheer/Rice Pudding

For this dish, I decided to just wing it and see what resulted.Ofcourse, winging it, has its consequences and mine was that I have learnt never to try to blend dried figs in my small food processor. For a minute I thought I’d broken it. I figured out that I hadn’t broken it, only after I’d nicked my finger on the blade. So, yes, I will not be trying that anytime soon. What I did end up doing was to tear 4 dried figs into pieces of varied sizes. I kept them aside, along with slivers of almonds that I’d roasted in a drop of oil.

I heated a fistful of basmati rice in 1/4 cup of skim milk, in the microwave for 4 minutes, making sure to check that the rice wasn’t sticking to the bottom of the dish. Then in a copper bottomed steel saucepan, I heated a mixture of a 5oz can of evaporated milk and 1 and 1/4 cup of skim milk for a few minutes, before adding the almost cooked rice. I also added 2 green cardamoms (crushed, without the green cover) along with the fig pieces and 2 tsps of brown sugar. I heated this for around 15-20 minutes and then shut it off just as S was getting in from work. I tasted it and wondered if I had added too much sugar. S, tasted it and said that there wasn’t enough sugar. Thankfully, I did not listen to his suggestion of adding more, but proceeded to heat the mixture for 10-15 minutes more, till it became slightly thicker and the sweetness from the sugar and figs sort of came together.

I, the inveterate payasam hater (ok- i don’t hate payasam. I’m just indifferent to it), just loved this version. I loved biting into the soft pieces of figs in the payasam  and I am  glad now that I was unable to puree them.

I garnished it with the roasted slivers of almonds. Here’s how it looked:

Have a wonderful New Year All, filled with all that is sweet and savory!

P.S I found my keys.


  1. How fitting to post recipes that represent the inevitable mix of sweet and sour moments that make up a life. Thank you for your participation in the marathon, Lavanya, and your thoughtful poetic posts. Have a wonderful new year!

  2. Rujuta

    Hi! Lovely post and a fitting sweet & sour way to end 2009……
    Wishing You & Your Family A Very Happy & Prosperous New Year!!

  3. i always drool when i read your blog [wipes up the keyboard]. 🙂

    happy new year! may your 2010 be filled with joy, sparkle, warmth & especially love. hugs to you my dear friend!!

  4. Sweet and tangy..Yum..dosa and coconut chutney always works!

    I have been reminding myself to watch Iron chef today..It is gonna be the white house special judge..and I forgot that it is today..till I read about the FN competition here. Hope it will be a challenging one with Emeril thrown in.

  5. Love Italy. We were there for a week, loved everything. Roma, Venetia and Florence too. Wish I could take kids back there, too expensive from here I guess and all that VISA hassles. Lovely pics. Enjoy.

  6. Oooh you’ve been very busy posting and cooking up a storm i see. I’m going to fix my afternoon sweet craving with figgy payasam. (will tell you how it turns out).

    Cliché-clinger i am too and lover-of-new-beginnings (though blank canvases tend to put performance pressure on me). I like your foody way of bringing in the new year Lavi, the tangibles (chutney +payasam) make it less daunting.

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