Mum's end to tiffin box tantrums......

Monday, 19 December 2011

Kenya: The strawberry bowl of Africa; simply splendid;

A typical strawberry farm land in Naivasha, Kenya

Kenya is the core place of hi quality agricultural products. Due to the fertile soil and advanced research in agri soil science , Kenya is one of the leading producers of Strawberry and other agricultural products. My recent visit to a strawberry growing farm gave me a lease of fresh concepts about this agricultural crop which really earns in millions to the country.

Strawberry ready to be harvested
Strawberry or Fragaria sp. is a very high value crop with a great scope to generate income and employment. Recently , the Govt. has taken some effective steps to promote value added facilities and conduct conferences. Global organisation came forward to help the farmers  with effective knowledge on strawberry farming and the procurement of seedlings.

Freshly harvested varieties
Anyways a recently published journal on Agri science development of Kenya says that there are certain challenges faced as per the procurement of strawberries are concerned. Farmers has to buy seedlingd from the roadside vendors who sell at .45- .65 $ per plant. Anyways there is an agro enterprise in Limuru which sells seedlings at .3 $ per seedling , a much lower price . The challenge is that the seedlings are sold in unrooted condition proving to be difficult for the farmers to grow effectively without prior experience.

Strawberry saplings
We saw a farm land with strawberry plants sprouting, rooting and even ready ones. The plantation was a very systematic one with equal distances between each sapling and proper quarantine arrangements. It was really mind boggling to see the fresh , colorful strawberries and tasting them was even exciting. We as a visitor were offered fresh hand picked strawberries to get the real taste of it. It was truely awesome.  More exciting was to see the harvesting process and the way they are packed and sent to the market for sale. Kenya has a natural market as well as a huge prospective market in the European Union dominated countries.

Excellent watering technique used in  farms.
We were amazed to see the watering technique as several feet long pipes with equidistant outlets are used to to spray water as well as insecticides. The approximate measurement of the farm lands are almost 21 hectares on average.

I was undoubtedly a nice day amid the nature!!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Chicken n mushroom sauté- A must for try

Chicken forms a delicious affair with any combination of vegetarian or non vegetarian partners. A wonderful creative cult came to my brains when I was on a dinner with my family at a Chinese restaurant. The former was done with the same combination of pork and mushroom. I thought why not with chicken? And I rushed back at home and created my signature dish with mushroom and chicken , and added an 'out of the box' terminology 'Chicken n mushroom saute'. Words can’t express what a creation and what a taste that proved to be. Let me share the secret of my signature dish with all my readers.

Ingredients: (for preparation of 4-6 people)

Chicken (400 Gms.),
Mushroom (250 Gms.),
Tomato (6 medium pieces cut into pieces),
Red Onions (4 pieces cut into pieces),
Spring onions (cut into elongated pieces),
Jalapeño (4-6 pieces),
Capsicum (2 big pieces chopped into smaller chunks),
Dark soya sauce (4 tablespoons) ,
Vinegar (2-3 teaspoons),
Tomato sauce (3 tablespoons),
Chili sauce (2 tablespoons),
Garlic paste (3 teaspoons),
Ginger paste (1 teaspoon)

Procedure: Marinate the chicken with soya sauce, vinegar, soya sauce, garlic paste, ginger paste. Keep for about 20 minutes. Boil button mushrooms in a container till it becomes soft and drain the water. Oil should be heated in a container. Fry onions, tomatoes, garlic cloves, capsicum in it. Cook till the vegetable becomes soft. Add the already marinated chick in it. Cook till the chicken releases water and becomes soft. Add aji no motto in it. The color of the chicken will turn slight brownish. Add the par boiled mushrooms in it and mix well. Add Jalapeño, tomato sauce, soya sauce and chili sauce to it. Cook till the entire mixture takes a typical reddish brown color and sprinkle spring onion pieces on top. In case you like the hot taste you may sprinkle powdered black pepper on it.

You are ready to serve a dish that is exceptional and innovative. I believe those friend who love Chinese cuisine will surely appreciate the effort and remember the dish forever.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Crunchy, buttery ‘Oats n coconut’ cookies- Try the exciting taste this Christmas!!

Christmas is nearing your doorsteps, jingle bells ringing, Santa Claus planning to visit your kids and spread the message of love and peace . So, what special are you planning to give the’ ultimate of surprising treat’ to your dear kids and family? May be I can impart an idea that will make your kids jump with joy and you will feel at the top of the world with this innovative treat. This week, I created a special recipe ‘Oats n coconut cookies’ with one of my friends who is a baking expert in the town. Let’s see the secret of this special recipe.

Ingredients: (for the preparation of 30 cookies)

White flour (350 gms.),
Sugar ( 200gms.),
Unsalted butter/margarine (250 gms.),
Dessicated coconut ( 100gms.),
Oats ( 125 gms.),
Warm milk ( 100cc.),
Sodium bi- carbonate [baking soda] 1 ½ teaspoons,
2 teaspoons of Oats, 2 teaspoons of desiccated coconut for toppings.

Procedure: The procedure is shown in a step wise process schematically with the help of photographs. Hope fully this will give the readers a very clear idea of the process.

Step 1: Batter margarine/unsalted butter with sugar and make sure that it makes an even mixture with no remains of crystalline sugar. Add white flour, baking soda, coconut, Oats to the mixture and mix evenly. Keep it for 30 minutes minimum.

Mixture of oats n coconut as toppings.


Step 2: Prepare evenly shaped flattened dough. Press then with your palms to make a flattened structure. Keep little oats, desiccated coconut separately and use for toppings on the flattened structure. You may use minute amount of cold milk so that the toppings may stick to the flattened dough.

Step 3: Arrange them in a baking tray and place the rounded dough at equal distances of 1 cm from each other. The tray should be greased with little oil before placing the flattened dough. Pre-heat the oven 200 degree Celsius. While you bake the cookies, the temperature must be maintained at 180 degree Celsius for 20 minutes. While the baking procedure continues, you should keep a watch on the color of the cookies. When it turns light brown it indicates that they are ready.

Step 4: Remove from the oven and keep them in open air for the cookies to cool down and get a crunchy texture. It’s advisable to store the cookies in an air tight container to avoid sobbing.

Crunchy , tasty cookies at last.

The cookies are ready to be served. You may use these with coffee, or as a confectionery item. I guarantee that your children will enjoy to a great extent. In fact, Christmas will never be so exciting without home baked crunchy cookies. What a treat for the family!!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Chanar jilipi- the fun filled sweet treat again, from Bengal!

As I have already mentioned that Bengal is the right place for all sweet lovers, sweets made from fresh milk as well as dessicated milk, coconut and other varieties there is another dish which will not only make my readers spellbound but also create the sense of tantalizing effect with the digestive enzymes spilling out of the oral cavity.....quite tough to resist. The wonderful dish is 'chanar jilipi' or it's a twisted structure made from milk solids. Let's see the way to prepare the wonderful, mouthwatering dish and initiate the sense of 'get ,set, go' for tasting at very first glimpse.

Ingredients: ( for the preparation of 20 pieces)

Solidified condensed milk or Mawa (250 gms.),
Semolina or suji ( 100 gms.),
Ghee ( 3 teaspoons),
Water ( 100 cc.),
Sugar 150 gms. (for the preparation of syrup)
Cardamom or elaichi (2-3 pieces)

Procedure: The procedure is really not a very complicated one, but it's represented schematically in the figure below in step wise methodology. Hopefully it will give my readers a crystal clear idea about the way of preparation. Anyways, it's the easiest method of preparing sweets.

Step 1: Mix all the ingredients together ( semolina, solidied milk solids, ghee and water) in a container. Use your hand to mix well in order to make a homogeneous mixture. The mixture should be such that it should not be very tight neither too much on the liquid side.

Step 2: Make equal doughs and make an elongated structure, the way shown in the figure above. 

Step 3: Twist the either side of the elongated structure and make a round network as shown in the figure above. This twisted structure is the real shape of a jilipi.

Step 4: Fry the twisted structures in a pan filled oil. Fry them until they take a golden brownish structure. This is the real color of chanar jilipi.

Step 4: Boil water with sugar in a container to make a sugar syrup. Release cardamom pieces in the sugar syrup so as to obtain a nice, mind boggling essence.

When the sweet is ready then use a spoon to see that if it's soft or not. If yes, then it's time to take it from the heat and serve on a plate. To be very true, making sweet is not a very expertised job, with a little methodical steps you too can make world class sweet dishes at home. So, in your next family dinner be ready with this exclusive dish to treat your friends and relatives.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

'Chum chum'- the delicious wonder of Bengal


Bengal is well known for it's tradition of sweets. Well every Bengali friend of mine must be mouth watering after having a look at the picture. Bengal masters the art of making sweet. 'Chum chum' is a desired variety of sweet among all the crafted pleasures by expert halwai in the very land of Goddess Durga. Well, there are many festivals througout the year where sweet will be served to the guest, relatives in order to make the relation sweet through out one's lifetime. Chum chum is a wonder treat , extremely delicious, 'melt in mouth' item which is remembered forever for it's awesome taste. Let's see the method of preparation of this sweet item.

Ingredients: (for preparation of 12 pcs.)

Full creme milk (4 lts.)
Vinegar/ lime juice to extract the creme of milk
Suji ( semolina) 30 gms.,
Sugar (200gms. to prepare the sugar syrup)
Food color (1/2 teaspoon ) to enhance the color of the home made cottage cheese.

Procedure: The procedure is quite simple if it can be observed in a step wise method as represented schematically in the figure down.

Step 1: Boil the full creme milk and add vinegar ( about 50ml.) to extract the creme. Separate the creme and drain the excess water. You may add food color ( marron/deep red ) or any other colors of your choice as shown in the picture. Use your hands to make a dough and leave it for about half an hour.

Step 2: Prepare smaller rounded doughs from the structures and make it a little elongated to get a shape as shown in the figure above.

Step 3: Boil sugar in water to prepare a sugar syrup.

Step 4: Release the prepared elongatd doughs in the sugar syrup. Allow it to simmer for 20 minutes. Check with the help of a spoon if they are soft enough to pierce. Then switch off the burner and allow it to cool down.

You may serve the prepared chum chums in a serving plate and it's ready to romance with your tongue. So, really if you have a little conception and apply little effort making sweets at home is really  your cup of tea. Perhaps this will be a perfect sweet dish for your family members in a get together/family reunion.