October 20, 2011

Harvest Lunch

October 20, 2011
The ground is hidden under a golden quilt of fallen leaves and the landscape is painted with colours. Admiring the beauty of the withdrawal season, autumn, makes me count the blessings. There is so much wealth in life, in and around us.

Money and fame are what most people are driven by. In these days, success is measured by ownership to assets and riches. However, life is but a cycle of seasons and by the time we reach autumn and winter, designations we have clung to will be stripped away. Why to complicate things when living? Why not be grateful for whatever comes on our way, without urge to control and lord it over. What is the point of becoming visible in the eyes of the world, if we lose the sight of truth while racing it?

There is so much opulence available for free: knowledge, wisdom, simplicity, peacefulness, honesty, cleanliness, tolerance, forgiveness, satisfaction, gentleness... Wealth is a state of mind, an attitude of acceptance and gratitude. There is plenty of beauty and magnificence to experience. We don’t have to own the sunrise or its twilight dance on the frosty fingertips of twigs and trees in order to be content. It is enough that we live and breathe. Being is more important than becoming or having been.


I am a thankful cook with the colourful gems of harvest goods under my care: Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, pumpkins, chestnuts, herbs, purple cauliflowers, mangold, kale and freshly milled spelt. All of them are earthly tasting ingredients that tribute to the generosity of nature. I will offer them back by cooking with devotion, uttering a prayer and enjoying the remnants. The wealth of heart – faith, values and qualities – are the only ones we take along when the winter ends. They will sprout again in the spring.


JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP

6 big potatoes, in small cubes
½ kg Jerusalem artichokes, in small cubes
½ kg mangold or Swiss chard, chopped
1 coconut, grated (a spice mill does the job well)
Ghee/oil
Grated ginger
Bay leaf (tejpata)
Hing
Black pepper
Dry-roasted fennel, coarsely powdered
Ground coriander
Whey/water/vegetable stock
Salt
Fresh herbs

Heat up the ghee, sauté the ginger and bay. (Remember to squeeze out and save the ginger juice for a later use).
Add the hing and black pepper, sauté for a moment.
Add the potatoes and artichokes; let them get a bit colour.
Add the chopped mangold and coconut.
Add enough whey that the vegetables are well covered.
Add fennel, coriander and salt.
Bring to boil and let simmer until the vegetables are soft.
Take out the bay leaf.
Make it smooth with a hand blender.
Add whey if necessary to reach the consistency you want.
Add the ginger juice and fresh herbs.

FRIED CAULIFLOWER

A purple cauliflower
Ghee/oil
Hing
Cayenne
Curry-powder
Salt

Cut the cauliflower into thin slices.
Heat up the ghee on a frying pan.
Sprinkle the spices and add cauliflowers in a single layer.
Flip them over when nicely browned.
Place the spicy cauliflowers on the top of the soup.

PARATHA WITH THREE FILLINGS

Of the bread, the yeastless ones are the best. Freshly made parathas guarantee the happiness of palate and heart. They are fragrant and tasty.

Parathas can be made with or without a filling. There are many ways to roll them out. When layered with ghee, they become flaky pastries.


PARATHA (10 breads)

1 litre wholegrain spelt (you can substitute part of it with white flour if you want a lighter and more pliable dough)
½ tablespoon salt
100 ml melted butter/ghee
About 3 – 350 ml warm water
Extra flour for dusting
Ghee for frying

Mix the flour and salt.
Add thebutter and rub it in well.
Add the water and knead until you get a smooth, medium-stiff dough in a shape of a ball.
Cover and let stand at least 15 minutes.
Divide into 10 parts.
Roll them into balls and cover with a damp cloth.
Take one ball at the time, flatten it a little with your hands and form a shape of a cup.
Place a spoonful of filling in the purse.
Collect the edges and seal the filling in.
Flatten a bit with your hands.
Roll out carefully with the help of flour into a flat disc.
Brush a hot griddle with ghee.
Place the paratha on the griddle and fry for about a minute or two.
Drizzle little ghee on the edges and on the top.
When it has cooked for about 2-3 minutes and there are dark spots on the bottom, flip the paratha over.
Drizzle with little ghee again.
Cook for about 2 minutes.
When the paratha is puffed and crisp, remove it from the griddle (you can encourage puffing by pressing it gently with a spatula).
Repeat (if you make a larger amount, you can use simultaneously 2-3 griddles to fry them).

POTATO FILLING

Ghee
Finely grated ginger
Indian bay leaf
Fresh chilli (finely chopped)
Hing
Boiled potatoes, mashed
Coarsely ground dry-roasted jeera (cumin)
Ground coriander
Turmeric
Salt
Brown sugar
Lemon juice
Fresh coriander

Heat up the ghee.
Add grated the ginger (squeeze the juice out before adding it. Save the juice and add it to the ready filling) and bay leaf.
Fry until the ginger turns light golden colour (mix with the spatula all the time).
Add fresh chilli.
Add hing.
Add the potatoes, jeera, coariander, turmeric, salt and sugar.
Fry for a moment until the potatoes and spices are nicely mixed.
Remove from the stove.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice, the collected ginger juice and fresh herbs.
Let the filling cool before stuffing the parathas.
Take out the bay leaf.

A tip: In a filling I like to use as little whole spices as possible. It should not be crunchy or the spices detectable. By coarsely grinding jeera, you can make it less prominent. Some structure may remain there, it doesn’t have to be pulverized.

KALE & PANEER FILLING

Ghee
Finely grated ginger
Hing
Black pepper
Finely chopped kale
Ground coriander
Turmeric
Dry-roasted, ground fenugreek
A little bit water or whey
Paneer (fresh cheese)
Salt
Blacksalt
Fresh coriander

Heat up the ghee.
Add grated the ginger (squeeze the juice out before adding it. Save the juice and add it to the ready filling).
Fry until the ginger turns light golden colour (mix with the spatula all the time).
Add hing and black pepper.
Add kale, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek powder and mix well.
Add a bit water and let it simmer until the kale is cooked (5-10 minutes).
Add fresh paneer, salt, black salt and mix well.
Remove from the stove and fresh herbs.

A tip: You can make paneer by boiling 3 litres of milk and adding 1 litre kefir, sour milk or yoghurt. When the curd separates, sieve and drain it. Save the whey for cooking.

PUMPKIN FILLING

Ghee
Finely grated ginger
Hing
Black pepper
Grated pumpkin
Grated coconut
Coarsely ground dry-roasted jeera (cumin)
Ground coriander
Cinnamon, clove and cardamom powder
Turmeric
Cayenne
Salt
A little bit water
Fresh coriander

Heat up the ghee.
Add the grated ginger (squeeze the juice out before adding it. Save the juice and add it to the ready filling.)
Fry until the ginger turns light golden colour (mix with the spatula all the time).
Add hing and black pepper.
Add the pumpkin and grated coconut, let it fry for a moment mixing well.
Add the rest of the spices and a bit of water.
Mix well, let simmer until the pumpkin is soft (about 5-10 minutes).
Remove and let it cool.
Add the fresh herbs.

 SANDESH WITH CHESTNUT CREAM

In sandesh the qualities of goodness manifest in a perfect proportion. It is rich, juicy and sweet, but not too sweet. The silky, smooth and freshly made cheese that melts in the mouth is the essence. Many delicious confections are made with cheese: rasgulla, rasmalai, malai chum chum... but the humble sandesh is the best of all. It is unpretentious and pure.

In the unorthodox kitchen of spontaneity, I’ve taken the liberty to simplify the uncomplicated recipe even more. Sandesh, or part of it, is usually slowly and carefully cooked on a frying pan to incorporate sugar and to make it glossy. I skip the step. I find it unnecessary if powder sugar is used. If done inattentively, it can cause more harm than good. If you have tasted grainy and dry sandesh, you know what I’m talking about.

Sandesh is wonderful even without added flavours. Popping it into the mouth feels probably like a baby-calf feels when reaching the mother’s udder for the first time. Joyous! To make it more sophisticated vanilla, cacao or carob, cardamom, lemon zest, rose-water and other complimenting tastes can be added. I like to use saffron myself.

Because I had fresh chestnuts at hand, I cooked them into a puree and made chestnut-cream to fill some of the sandesh with. Ooh, they were excellent! My husband called them “malai yum yum” (malai meaning cream)!

For the decoration I mixed nuts and raisins with a spoonful of honey in the blender and rolled them into balls. It is a healthy snack. However, I don’t recommend combining it with sandesh. It has a strong, overpowering taste that covers the subtlety of sandesh. If you have several sweets to serve at the same meal, always start with sandesh. It is so sublime that any other sweet taste will diminish the experience.

SANDESH

1 part fresh cheese (paneer)
1/3 to ½ part powder sugar
A pinch of saffron dissolved in a drop of hot milk
(Cardamom powder – optional)

Let the paneer drain in a sieve for an hour. It should be fairly dry, but not too dry. Knead the cheese as well as you can on a clean counter. You can use a blender to do the job, it does it very well! The smoother the cheese, the better the sandesh will be. It is cruisal to get it as grainless as possible.

Knead in the sugar. The volume varies from the half of the amount of cheese to the third of it, depending how sweet you want it to be.

Add the flavourings if you use some.

A tip: You can make paneer by boiling 3 litres of milk and adding 1 litre kefir, sour milk or yoghurt. When the curd separates, sieve and drain it. Save the whey for cooking.


CHESTNUT PUREE

½ kg chestnuts
400 ml milk
120 ml (about) raw sugar
1 tablespoon carob
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons paneer

CHESTNUT CREAM

1 dl chestnut puree
1 dl cream and a bit of sugar and vanilla to go with it

Cut a cross on the round side of the chestnuts.
Boil them in water for 20 minutes.
Peel them.
Boil them with the milk and sugar for another 20 minutes or until they are soft.
Throw the nuts and milk/sugar in a blender.
Add carob, butter and paneer.
Mix until it is completely smooth.
Let it cool.
Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla.
Mix part of the puree with the cream.
Roll the sandesh into the smooth logs.
Make a slit lengthwise half way through each log.
Pipe the filling in.

A tip: Sometimes sandesh is a little bit too wet and difficult to handle. Sweep your hands and utensils with tasteless oil (sunflower for example) or ghee. It helps in rolling them into shapes.

39 comments:

  1. Such a lovely blog, Laksmi. Beautifully worded post.
    I recently stumbled on to your blog and can't seem to stay away from it.Hopefully when I grow up I can come close to putting my ideas and thoughts into such beautiful images.
    Sandesh was the major food group that sustained me as a child growing up in Calcutta, as I was a very poor eater. Brings back the nostalgia and the excitement of tasting them soon on my upcoming visit.
    Sandhya.

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  2. Oh, Sandhya, you are a Bengali! Bengal is my favorite part of the world. And not only because of Sandesh, although it is a good reason to love it :-)!

    I'm sure you will be able to do whatever you want in life, whether cooking, writing or photographing. Life is a good place to practice these things :-).

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  3. I still have a little bengali in in this Tamilian self!
    Well said about doing whatever one wants to do, only the person comes in the way.
    Your pictures for sure will be one of my sources of inspuration.

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  4. For me more interesting are polish names of paratha's fillings:) Or maybe I should write this comment in polish? :) Most beautiful photos in the world, I just adore your blog!

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  5. Just wonderful! Look yummy, dear!

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  6. Lakshmi, I really really look forward to your post and true to wait I am always delighted /in awe when I see your creations, makes me want to run and start preparing them right that minute, your posts never disappoint, I am going to try making sandesh this diwali.

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  7. LAkshm what a beautiful post this is. It was difficult to take my eyes off from these beautiful clicks. very inspiring work an awesome recipes.

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  8. I have never seen Sandesh so beautifully presented! or any other food for that matter :) you make simple things look stunning, Lakshmi! Your blog, photos and write-ups are so tranquil and inspirational that makes me never leave this place. thank YOU!

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  9. Indeed beautifil post and not o mention a delicious post too.
    I think when ever i come here you cheer me up with your pics and posts.

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  10. sighhhhhs what can i say lakshmi...i m floored....you are a true inspiration...Love love love the blackboard and the writing and the paisley things- just keep it coming!

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  11. What a beautiful post! Everything you created is amazing and looks divine. I love fall...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  12. wow.wow.wow. I'm repetitive, I know. But I love all of this post. Especially the photo with pumpkins - love the detail of red house in the background and contrast of veggies :)

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  13. I love your passion to create beautiful foods with great stories :)

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  14. These recipes all look delicious! Especially the artichoke soup, yum!!

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  15. Dear Laksmi,
    I think you should add "wisdom" to your blog discription. It should go like it :
    Pure vegetarian food and photography blog with simple and delicious recipes and trully beautiful wisdom.
    You know that I admire your photography with almost blind devotion at first sight. Now I'm getting in love with your understanding of life and philosophy. Love what you wrote at the beginning of this post. It is such a Truth! And sounds like it comes from the person who relised all the knowledge she is speaking about.
    Food & Philosophy Blog- only you could do it such a wonderfull way.
    Love Cintamani

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  16. Lakshmi, it's my first time visiting your blog - it's absolutely beautiful and inspiring. Just in this one post I've found a zillion things I want to make :)

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  17. Another beautifully bountiful post Lakshmi! So many delicious and so many beautiful photos, but I have to say that photo of the Paratha on the green boards is breathtaking!

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  18. Your words, they are so right! I think in today world, it is so easy to forget the wealth in life, the blessings that we have. I am so moved and inspired.

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  19. Ciao Laksmi!:)
    Finally I have time to translate everything all right. I like all the recipes, I'll make them all:))
    The photos are superb and your post is a novel culinary!!
    Really ... I'm speechless!:))

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  20. Thank you for visiting this shed I'm trying to host :-)

    Mar,good that you didn't write in Polish because I know about 10 words in the language, jarmuz and twarog being included. I wrote recently an article in a bhakti-yoga magazine in Poland, therefore some of the pictures are with Polish tags. My husband is a Pole & I adore him and Poland :-)

    Cin, I'm afraid of blind devotion but since I know you, I accept your kind words :-) I'm always amazed by you being such a generous soul.

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  21. Hihihi, I did not realize that the tags were written in Polish! But when I saw "twaròg" I understand!
    I am a russian (but I live in Italy for many years) and also in Russian says "tworog ":)))

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  22. Magnifique Blog,photos vraiment belles.
    BRAVO

    Amicalement,

    Manon

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  23. Beautiful words and pictures! How long does a post like this take you, including all the cooking and photographing? It just blows my mind. I've never had paratha but I'm thinking I want to try those out. :)

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  24. Laksmi- Why did you delate the Polak-Burak comment? It was funny, makes me laugh so much yestarday eveninig:-))))
    I'm going to give a try to your chestnuts sandesh. Do you think Lord Caitanya likes chesnuts???

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  25. Erin, it takes a couple of days. I dislike cooking and photographing at the same time, because cooking is an important activity to me and I don't want to be disturbed while doing it. I don't cook to blog, but blog whatever we eat. Sweets are easier. If you make them today, there might be some left tomorrow to be photographed :-). Sometimes it works, often not. Main dishes are more difficult because they must be top fresh to look decent in pictures. I haven't gotten into photographing them yet. Baby steps :-)

    Cintamani, I thought someone who doesn't know my quirky sense of humor might find it offensive. Regarding chestnuts, I'm pretty sure Mahaprabhu likes the cream made out of it. Chestnusts, I've heard, are considered as peasant food in many parts of the world. It's hard to believe.

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  26. Lakshmi, your pictures are absolutely amazing. They have this almost ethereal quality which makes them so special.

    The dessert looks perfect for the festive season. Happy Diwali to you!

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  27. LOVE the idea of a chestnut sandesh. Gorgeous photos.

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  28. You are an artist. who could have thought of imprinting your soup with a purple fried cauliflower? That looks like its painted with a brush!

    I have never made spelt parathas. They look so very earthy and wholesome and worth every bite.

    Lakshmi you have taken the Sandesh to another dimension :) chestnut cream in in! How beautifully done. So this is the uncooked Sandesh, right? loving the cute raisn nut balls. I should try this. I do it often with figs/anjeer, but the kids do not like the seeds. may be the raisin will work better for them.

    This post is so beautiful and not just for the recipes. what you have said is so true.. the gifts of nature are so much in abundance, but most of us are still running behind the mundane. you do inspire!

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  29. Soma, I rarely use wheat, because spelt is so much tastier. I get it directly from a farm. It has a perfect ratio of flour and bran. To make a finer dough, it could be sieved, but I'm lazy in this regard. If we had guests coming for a lunch, I would sieve it :-). It is a bit rough to roll and might crack every here and there when fried, but it doesn't affect the taste. On the contrary. It makes rustic roti.

    The sandesh is uncooked. They have to be consumed quite quickly. I don't think it is a problem for any of us :-).

    If your kids don't like seeds, try the dry-fruit-nut-balls with dates. It is even better than with raisins. Or mix both. Dates have such a pleasant sweetness, raisins are sometimes oversweet.

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  30. Your blog is truly stunning, Lakshmi! Not only the images but your writings! Totally beautiful in every way!

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  31. Your post brought such peace to my mind today. I felt my shoulder relax for the first time in months. I am going let life take over for a change.

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  32. Oh my god, what a beautiful post, what a beautiful photos...I am in love :).

    May I ask you, what kind of camera/lenses are you using...? Photos are pure joy! Congratulations!

    Greetings,
    anne

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  33. Thanks Anne. I'm using Canon 40 D with 50 mm f/1.4 lense.

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  34. Thank you Lakshmi. One again, beautiful blog and stunning photos!

    Greetings,
    anne

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  35. You make the most beautiful foods~ and the most wonderful blog with such delightful photos! I would love to try your recipes some time. Thank you so much! ~Donna

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  36. Amazing blog you have! :) Happy to have stumbled my way here.. awesome pictures... makes me very hungry right now!

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  37. This is the most beautiful blog I have ever seen...breathtaking in every aspect from photography, illustration to your inspirational writing style. I feel like a mere embryo in comparison. Thankyou xx

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  38. This is all so beautiful, to see and eat, and pin... love your blog :-)

    Ciao
    Alessandra (also a vegetarian)

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