Recipe & Food Styling | Home Cooked Vegetarian Thali – When long forgotten memories came flooding back..
I was immersed in a flurry of vivid memory the moment I stepped inside that large kitchen area at a photo shoot recently. The heady smell of sweets wafting out of the kitchen instantly transported me back into time, to the family weddings conducted at my granny’s place.
Long forgotten memories of my childhood came flooding back as I watched traditional Halwais work in the giant assembly line at Bombay Sweets in Thanjavur during a food photo-shoot last week.
The large portico gets transformed into a make-shift kitchen with colourful shamiyana (tent) and my granny’s house would be abuzz with frenetic activities & excitement as the wedding dates near.
The sight of saffron infused sugar syrup bubbling away happily in huge cauldrons, golden pearls of Boondis dancing over hot oil, plump Halwais vigorously twirling the orange batter tied in a cloth making Jalebis, middle-aged ladies singing folk songs and rolling ladoos…oh the sight of pure happiness.
Memories of waking up to the same intoxicating blends of flavors and aromas again after ages is like searching joy in small things. It’s amazing how sense of smell can stir up intense feelings and evoke nostalgia and sentiments, even years later. Thanks to my recent food photo-shoot for Bombay Sweets at Thanjavur, I could experience the same again.
I was not comfortable packing my props and travelling out station for styling projects, and I tried my best to avoid this project for the same reason.
But the constant follow ups, extra sweet talks and ‘never say die‘ attitude of Srinivasan (in-charge for the whole project) made me accept it, and I am glad I did it 🙂
He made sure that my stay and travel was comfortable from the start to finish for the said project.
I reached Thanjavur around 5 am and there was a cab waiting to pick me up. I freshened up in my hotel, had coffee and went out for some time to catch up with the early life of the temple city. It was a pretty sight to watch cheerful women cleaning and putting ‘Kolam‘ (rangoli) at the entrance of their houses.
A small vendor hurriedly arranging puja articles on a make-shift cart outside a small temple, in anticipation of early morning sales from the devotees flocking the temple for early morning ‘aarti‘ (prayer).
The shoot was arranged in the factory premises and one of the directors room was given to us for the shoot.
Some popular traditional sweets called Chandrakala and Suryakala in making…
The shoot ended as planned and I started my journey back to home the same day.
Back home, there was one another food photo-shoot scheduled for the week. It was packaging shoot for Gold winner brand with Kiran.
During a discussion over phone both Kiran and the client wanted to come home and see the props so that they can finalize the layouts accordingly. But after visiting home their plans changed and they asked me if they can shoot at my home as it will be easy to select props. The studio was cancelled and the shoot happened at my home.
Photo shoot in progress..
The shoot was for various lentils (Daal) of Gold Winner and I prepared a few recipes from each lentil for the shoot.
Home Cooked Vegetarian Thali
Back home, my online activities have reduced due to regular photo shoots and the food revolves around cooking more of simple & quick cooking Indian meals. This Thali has a healthy sprouted green moong bean curry, spicy okra, onion raita, Kodo millet rice, fresh carrots with whole wheat Phulkas (flat breads).
1. Sprouted Green Moong Daal
- 1/2 cup Moong/Moth beans
- 1 large onion
- 1 large tomato
- 3-4 garlic pearls
- 1/2 tsp. grated ginger
- 1 tbsp. oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp. coriander powder
- 1 tsp. red chilly powder
- 1/2 tsp. cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- A pinch of asafoetida powder
Method; Wash and soak the beans for 2-3 hours if you are not using sprouted beans.
Finely chop onion, tomatoes and crush the garlic pearls.
Heat oil in a pressure cooker, add finely chopped vegetables, crushed garlic and grated ginger in it and sauté for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
Add all the dry spice powers, salt and combine well.
Add soaked beans, pour about one cup of water, close the lid and cook for about 4 whistles.
Let the pressure cooker cool done.
Adjust the consistency of the gravy by adding more water if required, garnish with fresh coriander leaves if you wish and serve with Indian flat breads or plain rice.
2. Rajasthani Bhindi Masala or Spicy Okra
- 1/2 kg Okra or Ladies finger
- 2 tbsp. mustard oil
- 1 tbsp. chickpea flour
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp. coriander powder
- 1 tsp. dry mango powder
- 1 tsp. red chilly power
- 1 tsp. cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp. fennel
- 1/2 tsp. nigella seeds
- 1/4 tsp. fenugreek seeds
Method; Wash and pat dry all the Okra (bhindi).
Chop the top (head) and bottom (tail) portion from all the okras and slices them into 2 inch long pieces.
Mix all the dry spice powders and chickpea flour in a large bowl and add 1 tbsp. of oil in it.
Add sliced okra in this spice-mix and combine well to coat each okra with the spices.
Heat a wok or kadai and add fennel (saunf), nigella (kalonji) and fenugreek (methi) seeds in it and sauté for a few seconds.
Add spiced coated Okras in the kadai and let it cook on medium heat till done.
3. Kodo Millet Rice
- 1 cup Kodo millet
- 3 cups water
Method; Wash and soak Kodo millet in water for 20 minutes.
Boil water in a vessel and add soaked Kodo millet in it.
Let the millet cook for 10 minutes on medium heat.
Switch off the flame, cover the vessel and let the millet cook in its own steam for another 10 minutes.
Serve this healthy Kodo millet rice with Sambhar, rasam or any other Indian gravy dishes.
- Add a little garam masala powder and a dash of lemon juice to green moong daal recipe before serving for better taste.