Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Daring Cooks June Challenge: Mutton Meatballs With Apricots

Kebab

Long long ago in mid May, the Daring Cooks posted there June Challenge on Meatballs from around the world. Meatballs being a family favorite,I wasted no time in making them. In fact I made 2 types of meatballs.

They were made and devoured the first weekend after the challenge was posted and amidst all other things never mentioned. Not on the Daring Cooks internal forum nor here when the “day” we can go public with our challenge.So, while it’s still June I must correct this oversight.

One of my friends mom had made these Turkey meatballs stuffed with apricot and light spiced gravy a few summers ago. They were really awesome. Juicy, flavorful with the sweetness from the hidden apricot. Spices from the northern state of Kashmir – cardamom, saffron and cinnamon. Or so, I recalled of that dinner.

When the challenge was posted, I decided to use spices common to the northern state of Kashmir and extend that to the flavors of Silk Route. Ingredients sourced and recipe built from a variety of sources – memory of that turkey meatball, lingering taste of kafta kebab and shammi kebab.

Here I had a recipe that was great on paper.When I actually made it, it turned out a bit dry and not so juicy. An egg or two should help with that problem. I was hasty and added the kebab to the gravy before they achieved their golden – brown color. Cooking them in gravy instead of adding at the last-minute to get the flavors to meld was another rookie mistake. Here is a modified recipe that I am sure would work. I just need another free weekend to re-try this.

Kafta kebab

Mutton Meatballs With Apricots Recipe

  •  10 – 15 dried apricots soaked in water for an hour, seed removed
  • 1 lb Mutton or Turkey mince ( use ground and mix of dark and light meat to make juicy meatballs)
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 green chili finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 3- 4 cardamom pods , shelled and seeds powdered
  • A pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 3 -4 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated
  • 1 egg
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoon oil for frying

Gravy:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves finely diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  •  2 inch  cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 Red Onion finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt
  • Salt to taste

Make Meatballs

1. Mix all the ingredients listed except the oil and mix well. Adjust seasonings per taste.

2. Form the meatballs, stuffing an apricot in the center of each. Set aside.

3.Heat oil and fry the meatballs on medium-low flame till golden brown. Set aside.

Make Gravy

1.Heat oil. Add spices once the oil is hot but not smoking. Add onions and fry till cooked through. Add yogurt and let onions cook in this yogurt base.

2. Crumble a meatball in the crazy and cook through so that the gravy thickens.

3. Add salt and adjust seasonings to taste.

To serve

1. Add the meatballs to the gravy and cook together for few minutes till heated through.

2. Serve warm with rice or rotis.

Enjoy!

Travel Tales From Nilgiris – The Flower Edition

A post all about flowers in Ooty and Coonoor. Its the best I have seen in India. No more words, only pictures. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

purple flowers

White rose

Blue flowers

White flower

White flower 2

Purple flower

Red Dahlia

Pink rose

Pea flower

Fuschia

Lantana

birds of paradise

White flowers

Dahlia

Lavendar

Travel Tales From Nilgiris – Coonoor Sightseeing

The day after our trip to see the fantastic views from Upper Bhavani lake, we took it easy and spent the morning taking in the sights around Coonoor: Dolphins Nose and Lambs Rock. They are all in the same area almost along the same road and can be pretty much covered in a morning.

The morning was clear and we wanted to make the most of the sunshine.We drove out after breakfast.

Dolphins Nose
A long winding road out of Coonoor, through thick sholas and road-side tea gardens, led us straight up to Dolphins Nose. The verdant hills beckoned us. It was green from the tea gardens, thick sholas, silver oak trees and even moss and grass thanks to recent rains.

We saw Law falls from here and Coimbatore plains below. Do pay for the use of telescope as the guy will show you a native tribal hut camouflaged to human eye. Be ware of monkeys – they are aggressive and will snatch food from your hand. I bought passion fruits at the vendor and the monkeys started following me waiting to see if I will feed it to them.I ran to the car to store them while we wandered around.

Terraced tea gardens

Law Falls

Monkey eating human food

Sholas and tea gardens

Harvesting Tea
Around here, we saw a lot of folks harvesting tea. They were all super busy in their work, but allowed us to take turn harvesting a few leaving and posing for pictures. It is backbreaking work ; plucking the leaves, filling in sacks, hauling them to trucks. I don’t think I will take my morning cuppa so lightly. Its hard work!

Harvest time

Harvest time 2

Next to Lambs Rock

Playing in tea garden

Lambs Rock
We drove down to Lamb’s Rock which is also known as shooting point. The views here were more or less the same as that of Dolphins nose and as it was more crowded we didn’t stick around for too long. We could have easily skipped it.

View from Lambs Rock

Private tea estate near lambs rocsk

Needlecraft
There is another place we could have skipped in Coonoor -Needlecraft. Advertised all over Coonoor as the place for hand-embroidered linen,we wanted to check it out for gifts. This place is run by two snooty women who don’t give a damn about customer service and sales. They are probably doing this out of boredom with no real need for selling their wares. The embroidery is beautiful but not extraordinary or worth the steep price.

Their garden is exquisite. Rambling country style-in full bloom.I could have spent the day there if only the owners were more co-operative. The kids were antsy by now wanting to play again.

We headed back to the resort for lunch and for an afternoon of Spa-time. If you stay at Taj resort in Coonoor, don’t miss the spa. Getting a shirodhara massage on a cold rainy afternoon next to a roaring fireplace is an indulgence you cannot afford to miss in India. Am sure you are gonna love it!

Stay tuned for more travel tales from Nilgiris. What to shop, what else can you see, flowers…

Travel Tales From Nilgiris – Upper Bhavani Biosphere and Lake

Sholas, Farms and Little villages

After taking the toy train from Coonoor to Ooty, we spent the rest of the day in Upper Bhavani Biosphere and Lake. It’s about an hour’s drive or so from Ooty via Emerald Lake Village.

Farms along the way

To say that the drive is scenic is an understatement. Farmlands dot along the way as you weave in and out of rolling hills. Dense sholas or forests along edges of small farming towns, and acres upon acres of cabbage, carrots and beets farms. We even stopped to pick carrots from a from en-route. There isn’t much in terms of facilities along the way, so stock upon snacks and water in Ooty or in Emerald lake village. The road is in good condition. Private vehicles are not allowed in the sanctuary and you have to switch to government jeeps or eco-tour buses.

Freshly pulledcarrots

Little goat

We took a private jeep for us and headed inside the sanctuary. The initial part of the sanctuary was ho-hum. Fallen tree branches and muddy roads due to the heavy rain from previous day made everything slick. Red and brown mushrooms were the only interesting things we observed.

Brocooli forest

First stop inside was to view the cauliflower ( or broccoli) shaped trees. Dense forests with green florets. Clouds weaved in and out over the trees. To see such pristine dense forest in India with no littler is a rare scene. Not to mention very few tourists. A lovely waterfall reminded us of Lonavla in monsoon.

Templeandwaterfallthru the clouds

Temple next to waterfall

Next up was a Bhavani Temple located next to a waterfall. It was perched on a cliff side and was straight out of movies. The wind was very strong here and we had to make sure that we held on to the kids tight. The river meandered in the valley below again densely covered with those broccoli florets trees.

Bison

We drove further and saw a majestic wild bison en-route. It was tall, young and could have easily trampled us with its strength if we encroached its private space. Luckily it crossed the road and disappeared into the forest and we continued on – excited about its sighting.

bhavani lake

The last stop of the trip was at Upper Bhavani lake -an artificial lake created by the dam which helped the farmlands flourish in the area. The lake was hidden behind clouds when we arrived but when they parted – we were mesmerized. It looked like an infinity lake snaking across valley below. The sparkling water now a muddy brown due to rain and the silt that flowed into it’s from surrounding brown red mountains.

We parked and took in the views despite the cold. The kids were bundled up and in the car as we didn’t want them to fall sick. Vipul with our friend S,with whom we were travelling, headed to the Upper Bhavani Falls which was another picturesque setting. The falls were classic and the guys hiked to the bottom to enjoy them more while we waited in the car with the kids.

waterfall

Vipul insisted that we go see the falls too, so we left the kids in the car with S and headed down the rocky path to the falls. When we turned the corned, clouds had rolled in and we couldn’t see a thing. We saw some tall trees and nothing much beyond. But the sight of the falls right ahead of us when the clouds parted was simply marvelous.

We were cold and didn’t want to hike down on muddy path so we headed back.
It was drizzling a bit all this while and once we started driving back it began to pour. We were soaked in the 15 seconds it took to switch from the govt vehicle to our car.

We dried off the kids and started our drive back to Ooty. Suddenly, we all realized we had skipped lunch and everyone was very hungry. With all the excitement of bison, new vistas and lakes behind us, our stomach’s grumbled but we had about an hours drive back to Ooty. The carrots we had in the car were freshly pulled and were not in ready to eat condition. They had to be scrubbed clean. We ate some bananas that we had stocked on hand for the kids. We survived somehow till Ooty where we had a late lunch of dosa and utthapam. The weather cleared up by the time we had lunch and filter coffee and so we did some shopping – chocolate, seeds and more fresh vegetables to bring back home.

I bought this bunch below for just over a dollar.

Vegetables

By then the kids were tired from being in the car and wanted their play time. We headed back to Coonor where they could have free reign on the lawn and run to their heart’s content.

It was another lovely day in the mountains. We were so inspired that we are now planning another trip there when the weather is brighter and sunnier.

Travel Tales From Nilgiris – Toy Train Ride

The third day of the trip was actually the highlight of our trip in Nilgiris. In the morning we had a ride in the toy train from Coonoor to Ooty.

Varun was absolutely elated. He simply couldn’t wait for the train to arrive at the station. This is what happens at Coonoor station an hour before the actual journey.A train comes up from Mettupalayam to Coonoor. Two additional coaches are attached to this train at Coonoor.Tickets for these coaches are sold at Coonoor station 40 minutes before the train departs. You may need to reserve in advance  in high season, but we could walk in and get tickets on the fly.

The train ride was fun with kids. Looking out of the windows, screaming when in a tunnel, breeze through your hair, and amazing vistas – farms, gardens, eucalyptus and oak trees. Every conceivable shade of green. Lantana was blooming and nodding along with grass and other brush. It was pleasant and a new experience.

The actual trip in a pictorial format below. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

At Coonoor Station looking forward to the train trip.
At Coonoor station

Train tracks leading the way to Ooty
Train tracks

Trees from the train window
Trees from train

Little colorful villages below
Views from train

Choo….choo train
Train Chooo choo

Tea gardens across the valley
Tea gardens from trian

Views of Farmland in the valley below
Farms from Train

Finally, after about an hour, at Ooty station
At OOty station

And ready to play…
Palying at Ooty station

We had to drag them out of the train station into the car so we could continue to Upper Bhavani Lake Exploration. Rain threatened and they reluctantly agreed with some kicking and fussing.

Stay tuned to see the Upper Bhavani lake vistas – they are simply mind-blowing.

Travel Tales from Nilgiris – Ooty Highlights

After a long day of travel and visiting the Tea factory in Coonoor, we slept early and woke up refreshed ,ready to take on the mountains.

The plan was to go to Dodabetta peak and other sites along the way. The  basic sights outside of Ooty. After breakfast we headed out towards Ooty, ooh-ing and aah-ing at views along every turn. More tea estates, cute bungalows and roadside fresh vegetable sellers with just pulled carrots, radishes on sale. Seriously, Ooty has to be the root vegetable capital of India! The colorful carrots, radishes, beets have never looked so inviting and fresh in India!

Carrots for sale

Doddabetta Peak
Views ofOoty below

The dark clouds parted making way for sunshine and every now and then a light drizzle added to the misty weather around us. The kids were bundled up and cosy. After about an hour from Coonoor we reached Dodabetta, the highest peak in the Nilgiris. It was windy and super cold. We just had lame wind cheaters and hurriedly bought fleece caps from a hawker who made most of the opportunity by selling cold weather clothes from the trunk of his car.

Us at Doddabetta

Doddabetta peak telescope house

We almost ran from the car to a tea stall on the peak who was making brisk business on this cold windy day. We wandered around, chased the kids who kept warm by running around and even went up the tower that had the telescope to take in views below. Clouds drifted in and out revealing and hiding the Ooty city below. It was a bit like being in Switzerland minus the Alps, snow and crowds.

Cloudy misty peak

Oh, and the plump dahlias and marigolds and a host of other flowers at the top were envy inducing.

Nilgiris Tea and Chocolates
Nilgiri tea and chocolate

After an hour or so we headed back to the car and drove back towards the city stopping en-route at Niligiris tea shop for another round of tea. Kids had chocolate. It’s an experience to sit amidst tea gardens and sip hot tea. And variety of tea like masala tea, green tea, cardamom tea, even chocolate tea! We definitely OD’ed on tea and chocolate while we were here. Luckily all the walks and chasing Varun helped with keeping the weight piling on.

Pykara Lake
Boating at PykaraLake

Next stop on agenda was Pykara lake. It was cloudy but not raining hence we decided to make most of it and went boating. The kids were cold, but were thrilled about going out on the boat. there are no views here to talk about but if you want to have a boating experience while in Ooty, this is probably a better bet than Ooty lake ( which is very crowded). I didn’t like this spot as much.

Pykara Falls
pk2

Our driver recommended going to Pykara falls from here and I didn’t really have any hopes. But we went along nevertheless. This was a surprise for me. Although the monkeys here are aggressive, the falls were very beautiful. These are the kind of falls you can sit on rocks on and enjoy levels of falls all around. The water was brown due to rain run off but I really liked them. They had an earthy, down to earth quality about them without boasting about being the widest, tallest, most visited or one with most water. Arum leaves nodded in the light breeze, couples walked hand in hand to the falls and odd visitor sat by a burning log to keep warm. It was a bit slippery due to rain and moss and we had to keep an eye out on Varun to ensure he didn’t slip. We returned to tell the tale without any accidents.

By now, we were all hungry and headed to a “dhabha” or a road side eatery for lunch. It looked clean so we ordered food which to our surprise was very fresh – dal, curry, rotis and rice. We were set. We got some bhaajis or fritters from a neighboring stall as appetizer while waiting for our food to arrive. It starting pouring heavily and we contemplated sitting there over lunch and prolong it to tea to wait it out. But as if on cue, rain stopped after we had lunch and we could step out to take in more photos of the scenery in rain.

Photosession us

We left Varun in the car and wandered around to get some couple photos 😉

Nine Mile Stop
9 milepoint

Our driver prodded us to go to another “tourist” attraction on the same road -the nine mile stop. It is so-called as it is 9 miles from Ooty and is a popular spot for movie shoots. It’s an overview point. You have to climb a small hill to get to the top to the view-point but the rains made it very slick. We managed to make it to the top with Varun who as he was cold pulled his cap over his face and proclaimed he is a Spiderman. Things kids do!

Varun as spiderman

Vipul ran around taking photographs while Varun and I huddled closely to keep warm. The wind was wild on this exposed location and we were pushed by the wind. Varun and I headed down and soon Vipul and other’s joined us. Back in the car we were warm and happy.

Getting tired of the cold we headed back to our resort in Coonoor, even though there are additional attractions ( Pine Forest, Six mile stop) in this area. Back in the resort we sat by the fireplace enjoying some more hot tea while the kids played around.

eating by fireplace

Latter that night there was a bon-fire where we sat, joked and had drinks.

Wildas fire

It was another awesome day of sightseeing, great scenery and amazing company. The evening and night were spent at the resort- resting and charging for another day ahead!

As we headed to bed that night we couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful Ooty must be when the weather is better in early summer months of March and April. Sun soaked hills and valleys would be the perfect getaway – no wonder it is called the Queen of the Hills. We dozed off dreaming of the scenic vistas and great company counting our blessings for being able to enjoy this!

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