July 24, 2012
July 16, 2012
She once wrote a meme on her blog about the “5 Things To Eat Before You Die” and the last item on that list was her “87th birthday cake”. Today would have been her birthday, and even though she isn’t here to celebrate it, I’m happy to celebrate her spirit and courage by dedicating this post to Barbara. May you continue to be happy but at peace and free of pain and suffering wherever you are.
Jeanne and Meeta are dedicating this month’s edition of the Monthly Mingle to Barbara’s memory with the theme “A Taste of Yellow” and I hope I’ll be seeing you all there.
I’ve been seeing pumpkin flowers at my market for the past few years but never thought of cooking with them. Never having seen anyone I know cook with them, I didn’t know what to do with them. This year I took the plunge, and bought a couple of bunches of pumpkin flowers.
I understand that pumpkin flowers are very much part of the food culture in the Indian states of Orissa and West Bengal. There they make fritters (both stuffed and plain) with pumpkin flowers which they call Kumro Phool Boda/Bhaja (Bengal) or Kakharu Fulla Bhaja (Orissa). Think of an Indian style pumpkin blossom tempura and you have an idea about what I’m saying.
I decided to make some fritters, the plain kind, and this recipe is all my own and so is not authentic or representative of the fritters made in the mentioned states. In India, a favourite batter for making fritters is one made with chickpea flour and rice flour so that’s what I’m using here. You could add a 1/2 tsp of baking powder to the mix if desired. If you would like to fill them you could use a spiced mashed potato and pea mixture or spiced paneer.
July 11, 2012
It is much the same with the banana plant. We use every part of it except perhaps the roots! The raw fruit is cooked and eaten, as is the ripe fruit. Even the flowers of the banana plant are cooked in different ways. Traditionally, we use the leaves for steam-cooking certain food s in as well as for serving meals. The banana leaf as a plate means no plates to wash and the used leaves are completely biodegradable and often fed to cows. The stem of the plant yields strong fibre, and in some varieties is also cooked and eaten.
I haven’t posted too many raw banana and related recipes mostly because I haven’t been able to find the “core” ingredients here where I live. I see a lot of banana plants here but it seems people here eat only the ripe fruit. It’s a different matter that I don’t particularly like raw banana.
My vegetable vendor looked surprised that I wanted to buy them and asked, “Aap is ka kya karte ho? Iska subzi banathe ho? Accha lagta he kya?” (Translation: “What do you do with this? Make a curry? Does it taste good/ Do you like it?”) I picked up 2 small ones to make into a traditional stir-fry sort of preparation. Banana flowers are very easy to make and take very little time to cook. What takes time and a lot of effort is removing the flowers, cleaning and chopping them.
Banana flowers are best cooked fresh and tend to a bit bitter. The bitterness can be removed but some varieties of banana flowers do remain bitter no matter what. The bitterness comes largely from the sap in the flowers. Trimming off the base of the flowers and removing the stamen in each of the more mature flowers is a must. Then the flowers are chopped and immersed in diluted buttermilk or very sour yogurt. This also ensures the flowers do not discolour and turn dark brown/ black.
There are many different ways of cooking with banana flowers. This time I chose to cook it as a "thoran/ poduthuval" which is a sort of South Indian style stir-fry finished off with fresh grated coconut. There are many versions of this, and my version contains lentils.
Though I may not like eating banana flower preparations much, I went a bit trigger happy with my camera and hence the overdose of banana flower photography!
July 4, 2012
One point to consider is that if you use the auto-focus feature on your lens (I do this a lot) then the lens will focus on the point nearest to it, which would be the highest point of your plated food.
Another point to consider is the aperture value you would use. If you would like to have a shallow DoF in your photograph, then a large aperture (small number, big opening in lens) is desirable, but if you would like your overall composition to be in focus then a smaller aperture setting (big number, smaller opening) would be the way to go.
I wanted to take a photograph of a slab of dark chocolate but wanted to do something different with the styling in a minimalistic composition. One way would have been to break off bits and perhaps stack them one on top of another, to create some texture.
I wanted to show the geometric pattern on the top of the slab, so I broke the chocolate slab and “arranged” it so that was broken yet the whole slab was there. I used a foam board real close to the chocolate and over-exposed slightly so there’s very little shadow. The slightly shiny nature of my background and some post processing also helped me get the result I wanted.
Other Exercises In This Series: