Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pepper Fish Fry – Kuttanadan Special & An Inspiring Video Clip !

Act I: Scene I
A newly married couple comes to Chennai after a grand wedding to commence their much dreamed about life together…….the girl, though loveable is quite a spoilt one and one of her priceless possessions is a notebook, scribbled with some basic everyday recipes, which she prepared under the guidance of her mother and aunts just two days before marriage; but it is to be appreciated that she has a heart to learn cooking and make her husband happy….. Honeymoon days are going on… her advantage, she has the beginner‘s luck in the kitchen and everyday tries to whip up something and make it look edible and interesting when husband comes to dinette …..After a week of cooking mainly vegetarian dishes and managing with Mom and MIL's fish pickles, she thinks her life is smooth and can manage the show easily…….one evening, the ‘fish-aholic’ husband comes up with a very interesting idea, “Shall we buy some fish and make curry or fry?” …"hmm…not at all a bad idea”, says the girl, based on her experience in the kitchen and the newly acquired confidence. Both hit the famous Fish ‘O’ Fish in the neighborhood……….girl starts to get a bit uncomfortable now……some weird smell….the whole place STINKS !! she hesitates to enter the store…….husband makes all sugar-coated talks, trying to get her into the store….finally he loses patience and gives her A LOOK !! Girl gets the signal and very obediently, though with little hesitation, forces herself inside the store and makes the purchase ! Also she comes to the realization that life is not all about that honey dipped and sugar-coated words !!.

Act II: Scene I
The couple comes to Uncle Tom’s land after a short stay at Chennai, and life has been very good for both of them…. previously spoilt girl has now transformed into a perfect home-maker and a good wife who sure can host a decent dinner…. the couple makes adjustments and adapts to the new culture and life style but something seems to be missing …….somehow the bland tilapia fillets available in the stores do not bring smiles on their faces…..but as the saying goes, half a loaf of bread is always better than none, and hence they try to make adjustments…..years go by and one fine day, they happen to spot an International Store with Asian groceries in the radar and both decide to check out the store……on reaching there, the girl's face beams with glow and exuberance……the sight is incredible…. a big tank full of live fishes and lots of variety on the frozen section too and some of ‘em are varieties that are available back home in kerala!! You name it, it is there….Sardines, Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, King fish, Pomfret, Smelts, Shrimp, Crab and what not !! The whole scene appears to be someone seeing a light at the end of the tunnel or finding out the last clue in a treasure hunt or finding the treasure itself!! At that moment, the store gets their most loyal and most frequented seafood customers!!

-The End -

Are you still wondering who the main characters are ? :P If you are still having no clue, read more here.

Till my marriage, fish fry was something that looked reddish brown in colour. During my ‘irregular visits’ to the kitchen, I remember Mummy making a marinade with chili powder, pepper powder, turmeric, garlic paste et al….but after marriage, CJJ kept raving a lot about a particular type of fish fry, his grandma used to prepare and I wanted to get that recipe, mainly to impress him and show that I ‘can’ also cook and make it tasty! His grandma is from Kuttanadu, "the rice bowl of Kerala" a place near Alappuzha and though I have never been to Kuttanadu, CJJ has described the place so eloquently that, for me, this place is all about narrow canals and small rivers… lush green paddy fields……locals traversing in small country boats……. men herding a flock of ducks and the tail wagging and quacking of ducks ..:) and for many others, it might be the delectable duck roasts and crispy ‘Podimeen’ fry (a small variety of fish), Meen Pollichathu (fish wrapped in banana leaves) et al ….:) Anyway, his loving grandma was ready to share her secret to taste; fresh pungent peppercorns ground with a stone mortar and pestle and then mixed with the fresh ginger and garlic paste and yes, it is quite luscious. I got to taste the one with fresh peppercorns last time when we went home. But since the fresh peppercorns were something that’s unavailable here, I substitute with dried ones and still it was appealing to us.

Ingredients (Approx) :-
  • 4-5 steak pieces of King fish/Seer fish/or any fatty fish, washed and cleaned
  • 4tsp freshly ground pepper powder OR preferably ground paste of fresh peppercorns
  • 1tsp fresh garlic paste
  • 1tsp fresh ginger paste
  • 2tsp lemon juice
  • 2-3tsp water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup oil for frying, preferably coconut oil :)
Mix all the ingredients and make a thick paste; marinate the fish evenly on both sides and keep it for atleast 2 hours to let the fish slices absorb the marinade. Heat oil in a flat non-stick pan and when it is steaming hot, place the fish gently and shallow fry at medium heat by flipping each side when it is done; do not crowd the pan and give some room for each slice; The cooking time varies depending the thickness of the slices and also depend on how crispy and firm one wants it to be. Overcooking the fish will make it very crisp; those who want it firm but soft and moist, may remove the cooked pieces when the oil stops spluttering.

For more of grandma's Kuttanadan recipes, CLICK HERE.

Here is a link that I came across recently... Thought it's quite a novel idea and inspiring as well. Click Here...

UPDATE: I have posted grandma's original version of this recipe, using fresh green peppercorns HERE.

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Experiencing the Ethiopian Food & A Restaurant Review !

Restaurant hopping and trying out new cuisines have been two enticing activities for me and CJJ right from day one and our stay here in US opened up a whole new spectrum for us when it came to various exotic and ethnic cuisines. CJJ has an Ethiopian colleague at work and when he mentioned that Ethiopian food is quite similar to our Indian food and recommended a restaurant in our town, we decided to give it a try and were off to this place, Abyssinia, Indianapolis, last month and it was quite an exotic experience.

Located in a strip mall, Abyssinia, IN is a small place that does not boast of a very sophisticated and stylish ambiance but depicts the Ethiopian culture and traditions and gives a peek into the traditional arts and crafts. Our hostess, an Ethiopian woman clad in traditional wear, greeted us warmly and gave us the option to choose either a table or a massob. The child in me did pop up exactly at that moment and even before CJJ could open his mouth and express any hesitance, I grabbed a place around Massob, an Ethiopian communal serving basket made of woven grass and acts as a low table, surrounded by some stools and chairs for the diners. A picture of the Massob below:

Our hostess was a quite friendly and warm woman who was willing to answer all our doubts and also talk a bit about her culture and traditions. There was a coffee corner near our massob and she was quite excited to brief us about the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony; coffee drinking is an integral part of their social and cultural tradition practiced with lots of elaborate ceremonies and she explained how the woman of the neighborhood get-together and spread the grass on the floor to set the stage for the ceremony.....then roast the coffee beans on a charcoal burner and later brew them in a coffee pot, locally named Jebena and coffee is accompanied by some snacks like peanuts or popcorn. The coffee corner in the restaurant reflected all the elements of this tradition with a small low table, kept on a mat, woven with grass, with the charcoal burner on the side and Jebena, the coffee pot and the china clay cups and a plate of popcorn placed on the table! A picture of the coffee corner below: -

We felt the menu had more options for non-vegetarians, though they had a section for vegetarian dishes with lentils, leafy vegetables, potatoes etc. The carnivores that we are did not really bother to order much from the vegetarian section. We started with an appetizer, Yesiga Sambusa, a pastry stuffed with spiced ground beef ($2). It was nothing but our own Indian Meat Samosa but let me state here, it was the best Sambusa or I should say the best beef Samosa I have ever had in my life ! Once we finished the Sambusa, I started having some doubts on the similarities between the Ethiopian food and Indian food, as I had already read somewhere that Ethiopian food is eaten with hands; all my doubts turned positive once the main dishes arrived. Our orders, Yedoro Wett, ($8.99) chicken marinated in lemon and sautéed in herbed butter, stewed in berbere sauce (an Ethiopian spice mixture) with onion, garlic and ginger root, served with hardboiled eggs and some Ethiopian yogurt; Sega Wett, ($9.95) tender beef pieces cooked in berbere sauce and seasoned with spices and herbs; Yebeg Alecha, ($9.99) a lamb dish stewed in herbed butter with onions, garlic and ginger roots; Yemisir Wett, ($5.50) red split lentils cooked in berbere sauce and fine herbs and one more yellow lentil dish, were served on a large plate lined with Enjera bread, a crepe like sour and spongy flatbread and the entire platter was placed on the Massob. Enjera (Also written as Injera) to Ethiopians is what rice is to Asians; it’s quite bland on its own, made with teff, a tiny, round grain that flourishes in the highlands of Ethiopia. Personally I felt it’s something very similar to the Palappam we get in Kerala and though the ingredients are different, both require fermentation and both have airy and bubbly texture. Our hostess explained how Enjera is fermented and she also pointed out that though only teff flour is used in Ethiopia for making this bread, here in US they have modified their recipes and add wheat flour too as teff is a bit costly here. Enjera is not only an ‘edible table-cloth’ but also a utensil to scoop up the dishes and pop it on your mouth. The spiciest in our plate was the chicken dish, Yedoro Wett and it was tangy and sour too. Our personal favourite, Sega Wett, reminded us of the beef preparation in Kerala and Yebeg Alecha resembled the mutton stew :) More rolls of Enjera were served along with the platter. We did not find much choice at the dessert section though they had some Ethiopian tea and beer in the beverages. Pricing was reasonable too.

For westerners, tearing a piece of enjera, dipping and scooping up the dish and eating the meal with fingers, may seem a bit strange, but what was strange to me was the way it was served and eaten; the Ethiopian culture encourages communal eating and hence, everyone dips into the same platter and share the food !! Yes, the snob in us might wonder about all the hygienic aspects but according to the Ethiopian culture, it’s a belief that those who share and eat the food from the same plate, do not cheat each other and hence it’s considered a way of promoting bond of friendship and loyalty. Though sitting on high chair and bending onto the massob to scoop up the food was a bit uncomfortable for us, it was definitely a truly and unforgettable experience. A picture of our platter below. Click on the picture for an enlarged view.

To sneak a quick look into the Ethiopian arts and crafts that were displayed at Abyssinia, IN, please click on the picture to start the slide show.

After enjoying the exotic food as well as tasting a rich cultural experience too, on our way back home, CJJ popped up the interesting and the expected question, "So ....what do you think....shouldn’t we travel to Ethiopia once....:) ? " Yes, that was one more addition to the long list of the places we want to visit :)


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Down The Memory Lane Celebrating Vishu, A Kerala festival & A Virtual Glimpse Into The Backwaters Of Alleppey, Kerala.

To start your Slide show , Click on the picture below.

A couple of days back, I received a comment from someone saying that he/she is a regular reader of my blog. I felt very happy at the fact that I do have some regular readers and some ghost readers, though I started my blog hardly 2 ½ months back. But I dread the day when someone comes saying that I am a "prisoner of the past" as my rambling and musings occupy more space than my recipes and hence, better change the title from Mishmash! to Nostalgia! or as my dear friend LJ puts it Nosti ! ;-) So if someone is contemplating on the above-mentioned suggestion, then I have only one thing to say, I don’t mind being a prisoner of the past if the imprisonment is with some sweet memories :)

Whenever the festival season arrives, I get swallowed up in the whirlwinds of nostalgia and today was one such day, Vishu, a festival of Kerala and is considered beginning of a New Year even though it is not the first day in Malayalam Calendar. Last two days, I have been thinking about my childhood days and the picture of my grandfather’s house kept flashing in my mind as we used to be there during most of the festival season; A big house, our Tharavadu (ancestral home) in an extra-ordinary large plot with lots of coconut trees, mango trees, jackfruit trees and much more..In the front yard, there was a Jambakka tree and during the time of Vishu, the tree was illuminated with its own jambakka fruits, and the most splendid sight was that of the fully bloomed Kani Konna (Cassia Fistula/Indian laburnum), a golden yellow flower which is a must-have in the Vishu Kani, the most important ritual on a Vishu morning and it used to appear like a ‘golden shower’ as the Konnappoo ( flowers of Cassia Fistula) fell when the winds touched ‘em gently :)

My grandfather’s house had a couple of maids (Yes, that’s an Indian luxury!!) to help us in the outdoor chores and I remember how they used to clean up the yard and burn all the dry leaves and branches as the day before Vishu is called Sankranthi and cleaning up is part of the tradition. As kids, all our cousins used to be high spirited as we got new clothes during the festival time as well as got to burst the crackers and sometimes we started this one week in advance :) The night before the festival, my aunts made arrangements for preparing the Vishu kani, the most important ritual of Vishu, which literally means the first thing that you see or a good omen and it is based on the traditional belief that since Vishu marks the beginning of a new year, one is supposed to see good things which will bring prosperity and fortunes in the whole year. So my aunts used all the brass metal cleaning liquids and made the Uruli, a wide mouthed bell metal vessel shine like gold and then it was filled with grains and topped with traditional vegetables like a golden cucumber,mangoes, jackfruit, banana, pumpkin, a halved coconut containing oil and a wick to be lit in the morning, a mirror and some silver coins and gold ornaments on a traditional Kerala saree (as shown in the picture) and this was placed in front of a garlanded statue of Lord Krishna. Early morning on Vishu, one of my aunts would get up around 5 am to light up the lamp, to view the Kani, which is the abundance and prosperity of nature and then she used to wake up others in the household and led them blindfolded to the place where Kani was kept. Special instructions were given to all small kids not to open their eyes and have a sneak peak at the things around them :) And then followed the most luring tradition of the season, 'Vishu Kaineettam’ (a handsel) given by our grandfather and it used to be new shining silver coins. To be frank, we were a bunch of greedy kids and hence were interested in receiving some currency rather than coins and all those uncles and aunts who used to give currencies, used to be our favorite aunts & uncles ;-) We used to spend all that money for buying more crackers :)

After seeing the Vishu Kani, for us kids it used to be fun time with crackers again and my mother and aunts used to hit the kitchen to prepare Sadya, a grand feast, a vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf. And I remember my father saying that when my grand mother was there, she used to prepare 'Vishu Katta and Manga Curry' ( A rice dish with Mango curry) for breakfast but I 've never tasted that and don't recollect anyone making it when we were kids. Anyway, the most interesting conversations and gossips took place at this time in and around kitchen..I still remember how two of my aunts sat on the floor and grated the coconut sitting on a 'Chirava', a wooden seat attached with serrated blade for scrapping the coconut, (the main ingredient in most of the dishes prepared for Sadya) and exchanging stories, a euphemism for gossiping, about relatives and marriage proposals and all related stories ..and two in the other corner chopping the vegetables....another pair at the kitchen doing the main cooking.....and there were some who used to be the motivators...Now one of you might be wondering how big our family is...indeed big enough for an army battalion! My father had 9-10 siblings and all their spouses and kids and these days a dozen grand kids too!! By noon, Sadya was made ready and I remember my father and uncles going into the backyard to cut the fresh banana leaves and in those days we were supposed to sit on the floor cross legged and eat; believe me, it is a fat man's as well as tall man's agony. I used to hate sitting on the floor cross legged as I could never enjoy the feast thoroughly; I used to get pain on my thighs. And when one was going through all that pain and discomfort, one of my aunts would pop up that most annoying question, whether the banana should be served on the extreme top-left or bottom-left of the banana leaf and then there followed an exchange of opinions. Now I know what is the reason behind all those discussions as there is a specific place for each of these dishes, starting with banana chips, pickles and so on. And the food used to be heavenly with two types of desserts. After the lunch time, there was generally a lump in the activities...some hit the most cozy rooms and curled up like snakes and snored like owls....some enjoyed a movie...some were still busy 'exchanging stories' !! For us kids, it was more crackers...more crackers...and more :)

Sigh !!!! Sitting in Uncle Tom’s land, at times I rewind my memories to my enriching childhood and get lost like this.....! And hey, apart from this festivals and feast, there is one more thing which is as heavenly as this, the pristine beauty of the backwaters of Kerala ! In this post, I have shared some of the snapshots from our trip at the backwaters of Alappuzha, Kerala..gliding along the backwaters in a Kettuvallom (houseboat) .......unwinding oneself enjoying the serene beauty of the nature...floating along the coconut and palm tree fringed narrow canals...paddy fields....the locals passing by in small country boats carrying vegetables and milk for diving into the waters searching for clams & mussels...taking an interim stop to buy fresh catch of Karimeen (pearl spots ) for the day’s meal and enjoying a bottle of fresh toddy (Local liquor) .......relishing the fresh meals prepared on board with local delicacies like Meen Pollichathu, Podimeen fry (small fish fried), Kakka Erachi (Clam/mussels fry)..etc..Let me tell you, ours was quite an amazing experience and I strongly recommend a backwater trip for anyone visiting Kerala. You can hire the boat for a whole day and night and the boats are the floating version of a typical Kerala house with fully furnished bedrooms and toilets, dining room, conference halls and decks with all the modern amenities. If a trip to Kerala is not in the cards, then please take a virtual tour through my slides :) For a list of 20 MUST Do’s in Kerala, Click here.

Here’s a cyber Vishu Kani for all my readers and fellow bloggers; since mine was not a very traditional Kani, our friends R & R was generous enough to share a picture of their Kani for you all, so let me thank my friends too :)

And here’s the Sadya I prepared at home and hope you enjoy it the cyber way :)

We wish you all prosperous days ahead !

UPDATE: For Sadya recipes check out SADYA VIBHAVANGAL - Learn to make the traditional Kerala Feast- An Artist’s Edible Palette !


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Kappa (Tapioca) Biriyani - A Thattukada Specialty !

Preparation of tapioca/cassava/Yucca root in a Kerala fast-food style!

Thattukada, Kerala’s local version of fast-food joints, is a road side eatery and for any non-resident Keralite, it brings back lots of nostalgic memories and I see CJJ and his friends going all gaga over the "thattu" specials when they cherish their bachelor days. I have also had my share of "thattu" specials after pestering my father who used to give me a lecture on the hygienic and the quality of the food, whenever we were on our weekend shopping; but as a teenager, I could never resist the temptation of those ‘kappa’ and beef fry and the irresistible sight of the stacked up porottas (a multi-layered Indian flat bread). As I already mentioned in one of my previous posts, I can resist everything but food temptation!! And these Thattukadas used to be located near our local grocery store and like me, many others, both the grocery shoppers and those waiting at the nearby bus-stop, would also be in an internal tug of war, struggling to conquer their temptation to go and buy a parcel of ‘porotta’ with a side dish of beef curry or chicken fry or sometimes grab a plate of "thattu dosa" and omelets.

Around evening time, these thattukada-s, typically a moving four wheeler covered carts with a kerosene lamp and fresh banana bunches hanging down in ropes, are in full swing by firing up a large wok/kadai,an extra-ordinarily large cast iron pan as well as a steaming vessel of milk and boiling water in the cart . When someone orders tea/coffee, the guy starts pouring the beverage into the glass after stretching it to almost two arms’ length for blending, creating a foam on the top which usually fills up half of the glass; so if you order a glass of tea, usually you get to drink half a glass of tea and half a glass of foam ;-) Adjacent to these carts, one can also find rectangular shaped steel tables used for making Porotta/Parotta and it’s the best example of real craftsmanship when the guy starts punching the dough, then throws in the air for stretching and then layering and winding them like small spiral balls before he rolls out the dough. The customers would be sitting on long benches, enjoying this craftsmanship as well as relishing their food. The regular "thattu" specials are Kappa, beef fry/curry, chicken fry, Peas Masala, Dosas and Omelets, pazham pori (banana fritters) etc. The multi-tasking of "thattu" owners in making the tea, dosa and omelets at the same time and also catering to the instant orders of the customers...the sizzling sound that comes from the wok when the 'chef' throws in the ingredients... the impatient look on the face of the customers while waiting for their next order... the battle with the temptation of the passers-by..the screeching sound of the vehicles and the honking of the massive traffic ...the beaming light from the nearby shops in the background thriving with energy and activity...let me tell you, this is a MUST HAVE experience for anyone visiting Kerala and longing to enjoy the local flavor !!

Last time when we went to India, my brother introduced us to one more delightful "thattu" variety called Kappa Biriyani, a mix of tapioca/yucca root and chicken/beef curry topped with the traditional seasoning of mustard seeds, onions, dry chilies and curry leaves in coconut oil. Since my father has come to adjust himself with the reality that there is no point in straightening his two spoilt kids and an equally or more spoilt son-in-law, he let us have this dish whenever we had a craving. Also there was this sympathy wave working,"oh ..the kids come home once in two years.. let them enjoy!! :) :) And before returning from India, I made my brother narrate the visual preparation of this dish as he used to be the one who frequented this roadside eatery to buy the parcel and I tried to reproduce almost a similar version in my kitchen along with some expert tips from my mother. This dish is also called as 'Kappa-Erachi" and "Kappa Beef" in some places. Recipe follows :-

Ingredients for Kappa/Tapioca Preparation:
  1. 2 medium size Kappa/Tapioca washed, peeled and chopped into small cubes
  2. ½ tsp turmeric
  3. Salt to taste
Ingredients for Beef Curry Preparation:
  1. 1 ½ lb beef diced into small pieces (Around ½ to ¾ kg)
  2. 3 tsp roasted coriander powder
  3. 1 ½ tsp roasted chili powder
  4. 1 tsp freshly grounded pepper powder
  5. ½ tsp turmeric powder
  6. 1 ½ tsp fresh garlic paste
  7. 1 tsp fresh ginger paste
  8. 2 + 2 green chilies
  9. 2tsp coconut oil or any oil
  10. 1 medium size onion coarsely chopped
  11. 1 medium size tomato diced
  12. ¾ + ¼ tsp garam masala
  13. 1 cup green peas
  14. 1 sprig curry leaves
  15. ½ cup water
  16. Salt to taste
For the seasoning:
  1. 2 tsp coconut oil or any oil
  2. ¾ tsp mustard seeds
  3. 4 dry red chilies
  4. 1 sprig curry leaves
  5. ½ cup finely chopped red onions for garnishing
  • To Prepare Kappa/Tapioca: Wash the cubed pieces thoroughly in cold water; fill a large saucepan with water enough to cover the Kappa/Tapioca and bring to a boil. When it boils, drain the water and fill the pan again with cold water and add salt and turmeric and cook until the kappa/tapioca is soft when pierced with a fork/knife. Drain off the water completely and keep it aside. For a pictorial description on cleaning and cooking the Kappa/Tapioca, click here.
  • To Prepare the Beef Curry: Marinate the beef, thoroughly blending the ingredients from 2 to 7 and adding two green chilies and salt and keep it in the room temperature for 30 minutes and then pressure cook at medium heat. I wait for 4-5 whistles. Then switch off the stove and wait till the sizzling sound stops. There is no need to add water while pressure-cooking the beef, but if you are really scared of the safety valve (of the pressure-cooker) flying in the air, you may add ½ cup of water.

  • Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan and sauté the chopped onion and 2 slit opened green chilies until translucent and at this stage, add diced tomatoes and cook well. Now add the ¾ tsp garam masala and mix well. To this mixture, add the pressure-cooked beef and stir and combine well; add ½ cup of water and salt and bring to a boil in medium heat. When it boils, do a taste test and adjust the salt level and add fresh curry leaves and stir it and also add 1 cup of peas. Let the peas cook along with the meat for 4-5 minutes and later reduce the heat to the lowest level until the gravy is thick enough; do not make it too dry as the gravy is required to blend well with the Kappa/Tapioca.
  • Preparation of Kappa Biriyani: Add the cooked Kappa/Tapioca pieces to the beef gravy (both should be in equal quantities) and mix them well and finally toss with ¼ tsp garam masala to get the aroma and the flavor of the spices, at low flame. In another small pan, heat 2 tsp oil and splutter mustard seeds, dry red chilies and curry leaves and pour this seasoning onto the Kappa Biriyani. Garnish with fresh finely chopped big onions before serving.
Note: To roast the coriander and chili powder, heat the pan at low flame and roast the powdered spices separately until they change its raw color and turn a bit dark from the original colour. It will not take more than a minute to roast the powdered spices. It is always better to use fresh ingredients to make the dish taste better.

So, what do you think ... ready for a carry-out ? :)

For a list of MUST DO things in your next trip to Kerala, click here.


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Edible Easter Eggs! Edible Centrepiece too! - Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs.

Yesterday morning, it was a perfect spring day ..a pleasant morning with lots of sunshine and breeze and blue sky and we were enjoying our lazy morning chit-chat in our balcony and in between, I asked CJJ to share some of his childhood memories on Easter, thinking that he will be able to throw some light into the family traditions at the time of Easter, as he was raised in a typical Kerala Christian family. I confess I had some vested interests behind asking that question, yeah.. I wanted to get some childhood stories for preparing my write up for the latest post on Easter eggs ;) But he thoroughly disappointed me saying that it was all about 40 days lent and attending the midnight mass to observe Easter Vigil and no fun stuff like Easter egg hunt or Easter bunny et al ! And since I was brought up in a Hindu family, the only picture I have in mind is that of a yellow coloured egg which P aunty gifted along with some other Easter delicacies to my grandma. As a kid, that yellow coloured egg did tickle my curiosity and honestly I always used to wait for P aunty’s Christmas and Easter trays as she used to prepare yummy cakes and puddings ;) Anyway, CJJ’s response did get me into a thinking mode. It is true, there was no Easter egg hunts or Easter bunnies or peeps or jelly beans, atleast in those parts of Kerala, where we grew up. There it was all about Lent, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and Pesaha Appam, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter vigil and Easter Sunday; a pure religious festival celebrated to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and there is usually grand dinner or lunch in homes and visits from relatives. But after coming to US, my picture of Easter celebration has been completely changed... every year around Easter time, I see the grocery store aisles showing up a myriad of objects like Easter baskets, decorated eggs, bunnies, peeps, jelly beans and what not.

This visible difference between traditions and customs forced me into some googling yesterday and found out that though Easter is a festival celebrating the resurrection of Christ, ‘some’ of the Easter traditions go back to medieval times and some are pagan in nature, have nothing to do with Christianity and some are influenced by European settlers to North America. Wikipedia says that the English and German names, "Easter" and "Ostern," are not etymologically derived from Pesach (another name used by Europeans for Easter) and are instead related to ancient name for the Anglo Saxon goddess, Eostre, Goddesses of mythology signifying spring and fertility whose festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox. It is a spring holiday and spring is synonymous with fertility and new life and eggs are linked because of their connection to the fertility. Painted eggs represented the sunlight of spring in medieval times and it seems German settlers in America are said to have brought over the tradition of a bunny named "Oschter Haws", the white Easter Hare who would visit houses on Easter Eve, leaving coloured eggs for children. Now, that explains why Easter bunny is not popular in our place :)

So, it is that egg-stra special time of the year where kids and adults get to enjoy the fun in decorating eggs. There are various colouring kits and acrylic paints available in craft stores for decorating eggs but using natural dyes also produce equally beautiful and at the same time, edible eggs. Our kitchen is full of natural dyes. Just rummage around your pantry and refrigerator and to your surprise you will come across numerous options available from turmeric to beetroots, blueberries to onions and coffee to spinach !! Here’s my share of the fun: -

  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Beet roots
  • Turmeric
  • Coffee Powder
  • Vinegar
  • Vegetable shortening or butter
  • Hard-boil know-how: Boil around 8 cups of water, or enough to cover the egg, in a saucepan and when it brings to a boil, simmer it and place the eggs into the pot and let it cook for 8-10 minutes. I usually use a ladle to place the eggs gently in the boiling water, to avoid cracking. When it is done, turn off the stove and drain the hot water and fill the saucepan with cold water. Completely dry the eggs before colouring them and apply some vinegar on the shell in order to help absorb the egg colour.
  • Pink & Red Eggs: Boil the beetroots (3 nos) chopped, with some salt and 1 tbsp vinegar in 4 cups of water and crush them well to extract the maximum juice and strain the dye; soak the hardboiled eggs overnight in the refrigerator. For a lighter pink shade, soak the eggs for not more than 3-4 hours.
  • Yellow Eggs: Boil 3 tbsp turmeric with some salt and 1 tbsp vinegar in 4 cups of water and soak the hardboiled eggs overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Brown Eggs: Make strong coffee solution and leave the hardboiled eggs in it over the night and keep them refrigerated throughout the dyeing process.
  • Polishing: Remove the soaked eggs from the natural dye and place on a paper napkin to dry. When dry, gently polish it with a bit of vegetable shortening or butter to make it look glossy.

Note: Naturally dyed eggs are edible (make sure they are refrigerated until they reach the breakfast table) and they make a great centerpiece too, on your Easter breakfast table. It is safe to eat naturally dyed eggs but if you display decorated eggs longer than two hours outside the refrigerator, do not eat them. Adding a pinch of salt while hard boiling eggs makes it easier to remove the shells. The fun part is that you never know what colour will appear when using natural dyes. If you try soaking the eggs in two beet solutions, it will produce two different shades and the patterns :)

Check out for some Easter facts here and egg decorating techniques here and for some eggy facts,click here.

I would like to thank Johanna of The Passionate Cook for accepting my entry at the last minute for her WTSIM (Waiter, there's something in my ... Easter basket!) event !

Let me also thank Janelle of "Talk of Tomatoes" for accepting my entry for her
Centerpiece of the Month Event, an excellent idea to come up with novel and unique centerpieces every month from all fellow bloggers.

This may be an Easter tradition, but I think it’s also a great craft idea to have some fun-play-time with kids and also to lure those fussy eaters to a colourful plate of nutritious food.

Have fun colouring the eggs and HAPPY EASTER/SPRING HOLIDAYS :)


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.