Sunday, 24 May 2020

The Little Fairies of My Garden

Spring does bring in prettiness and charm to my garden in the form of these pretty blooms.
I call them my Little Fairies as they actually look like Fairies in their white flowing gowns, swaying over my garden. I regard them as the protective charms of my garden.  

This beautiful Orchid is commonly known by three names, the Fragrant Fox Brush Orchid, Fragrant Aerides and Fragrant Cat's-Tail.
In Assamese too it has several names. It is called Ganesh Kopow (গনেশ কপৌ) as each tiny floret on the stalk looks like the head of Lord Ganesh. At some places it is also known as the Bhatou Thutiya Kopow (ভাটৌ ঠুটীয়া কপৌ) as the florets look like the beak of a Parrot. 
Since it blooms in the Assamese month of Jeth (জেঠ মাহ), it is also called the Jethuwa Kopow (জেঠুৱা কপৌ).
Scientific name being Aerides odorata.

                       It’s been probably two decades now since these Orchids are blooming in my                                                                          garden. 

I had collected and brought two small plants of this variety from Jorhat and grown one plant of this Orchid on the trunks of each of the two Indian Rosewood Trees (Sisoo/Sheesham) alongside the main entrance of our home. 

Over the years they multiplied really well; hence, I had taken a small plant out and grown on the Neem Tree. 

Today Aerides odorata is flourishing on the Neem Tree too. 

Flowering starts from around second week of May and lasts till first week of June. The luxurious blooms hanging from the trees look like wedding decorations, particularly by night.

Growing Orchid is very easy. They do not need any care particularly the local varieties. 

I hope and pray that my Orchids grow well, flourish and live long to tell these tales to my grand and great grand children some day ...

Oh what a splendid sight it is to watch them hanging from the tree trunks on a Moonlit night …

Monday, 18 May 2020

Pink Shower

I planted two Radhachura saplings in my garden, at a time when my daughter was a young girl and my son wasn’t born yet. As the years passed, I watched the saplings grow alongside my children. My children are now independent, thoughtful adults trying to make their mark in the world, while my saplings have grown into two beautiful trees, ushering in spring every year with their pink blossoms. They are rightly named Pink Shower, because they shower my heart and my garden with happiness and hope.

My children grew up playing around these trees and painting pictures of them. Naturally, they were very attached to them. To them, these weren’t just trees, they were dear friends. I let a couple of Orchids too to grow on their trunks, which bloomed every year along with the Pink Shower blooms.

With their calm, shaded branches, the trees invited many a feathered folks, and became home to quite a few.
As my home was agog with activities, bringing up my two children, so was the garden. It was bustling with life, with a variety of birds carrying on with their daily chores on the two Radhachura trees. 

In Assam, spring is the season when trees blossom, throwing a riot of colours against the blue sky. Travelling through Assam during this time is a pleasure, because both sides of the roads are dotted in golden yellow, stunning red, magnificent mauve, beautiful blue, mesmerising white and pretty pink. My favourite is a Radhachura in its full glory.

Seeing the ground under this tree covered with a beautiful carpet of pink towards the end of the flowering season never fails to amaze me.

Time goes by so soon, and before I knew it, my children had flown out of the nest to start their own lives. All I was left with were memories, and the Radhachura trees. This is when they became my companions. As I sat marvelling at them, I noticed so many species of birds visiting. I started capturing them in photos, so I could hold on to their beauty. And that’s how I ended up investing in cameras and lenses. I haven't stopped capturing the beautiful birds, butterflies and various flowers that bloom in my garden ever since. So far captured around forty (40) species of birds in my lens on these two Radhachura trees alone.

The Pink Shower is also called the Apple Blossom Tree, even though it does not bear apples or any other edible fruits. The similarity of their flowers to apple blossoms is probably the reason for this name.

2020 as we all know, has been a year of misfortune to the whole world. It’s also the year when a bordoisila  uprooted one of my beautiful Radhachura trees. It was devastating to see it fall, like losing a family member. When I told my children about it, they were heartbroken and felt helpless sitting hundreds of kilometres away. They asked if it was somehow possible to save the tree, but I had lost hope.

My husband however hadn't. He was thinking hard, trying to figure out a way to save the tree. He started inspecting the uprooted tree closely to see what could be done. 

He let the tree rest gently on the strong beam of the porch roof as that was the way Radhachura was leaning after the storm uprooted it. He then piled some earth at the base so that the roots were not exposed to harsh heat and got the necessary nutrition and moisture. Then some heavy branches needed to be cut off from the tree as they would pull the tree further down. That done, he assured me that the tree would survive. I informed the children. We all prayed. 

 Few weeks later, the fragile Radhachura started flowering despite losing more than half her branches and leaning on support. Maybe she was trying to say something. Maybe it was a heartfelt gesture to all the years of love and care I’ve showered on her. It fills my heart to think how love can be reciprocated this way. We continue to pray for our Radhachura, that she may get stronger every day. 

This is one of the pictures painted by my daughter when she was in the 9th standard, sitting under the Pink Shower Trees.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Spring Beauties of my garden

Common name: Many Flowered Fox Brush
Scientific name: Aerides multiflora

North East India is known for its exquisite blooms, particularly the colourful Orchids. Spring is the main season for these Orchids to bloom.

 In Assam the most popular Orchid is the Kopow Phool, commonly known as the Foxtail-Orchid (Rhynchostylis retusa). Bohag Bihu is incomplete without this Kopow phool. It blooms during the month of Bohag which is from mid April to mid May.

There are other varieties of Orchids which bloom little late, like this one I have posted here, blooming in my garden. This Orchid is commonly known as Many Flowered Fox Brush (Aerides multiflora). It starts flowering from late April and lasts till around little over a month.

Then there are other varieties which bloom from late May. This way the entire Spring these pretty Orchids keep blooming bringing Spring to my garden. Hence, I have lovingly named them my Spring Beauties.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Soya Cashew Cutlet

Ingredients: for the Cutlets:
1. Soya chunks (badi) 50 g
2. Cashew nut 12
3. Potato 1 medium
4. Paneer (cottage cheese) 10 g
5. Onion 1 big 
6. Garlic 2 pods
7. Ginger 1 tiny piece
8. Green Chilli 1 (to taste)
9. Salt to taste
10. Garam masala powser half tsp 
11. Fresh Coriander leaves (I didn't have, so couldn't add)
12. Oil for frying

Ingredients: for the Batter: 
1. Egg 1
2. Flour 3 tbsp
3. Corn Flour 3 tbsp
4. Refined oil 1 tbs
5. Salt to taste
6. Water 1 tbsp (or little more if too thick)

Method: to make the Cutlets:
Boil Soya chunks in water till tender. Drain and let it cool. Squeeze the water out completely. Mash with hand if you like to bite tiny pieces like meat or grind in a grinder for a very smooth paste. Tastes great both ways. 
Boil Potato. Let it cool. Take off skin.   
Grind Cashew, may leave it coarse if you like to chew a few tiny pieces in the Cutlet. 
Mash Paneer 
Chop Onion, Ginger, Garlic, Green Chilli, Coriander leaves

Mix all the ingredients for Cutlets together except oil. Mix well. Check salt. 

Make 12 equal portions (I made 11 Cutlets), roll on your palm and flatten them. Make all the Cutlets and keep. 

Method to make the Batter: 
Mix all the ingredients for the Batter. Mix well. 

Now heat oil, dip the Cutlets in the Batter and fry on medium to low flame. 

I shallow fried the Cutlets. But can be deep fried to get tastier Cutlets.
Serve these amazingly tasty Soya Cashew Cutlets with freshly made Green Chutney. 

Ingredients for Green Chutney: 
1. Pudina (Mint leaves) 1 bunch
2. Dhania (Fresh Coriander leaves) 1 bunch
3. Garlic 3 to 4 pods
4. Fresh Green Chilli 1 (or to taste) 
5. Salt to taste
6. Iimli ripe (Tamarind) little 
    Lemon juice 2 tbsp (or to taste

Method for Green Chutney:
Mix all the above ingredients and put in the Chutney maker. Grind till very smooth.
Chutney is ready. You may add little oil and sugar if you like to the Chutney. 

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Kon Bilahir Poora Pitika

Pitika is a delicacy each Assamese love. Lot of other vegetables, fruits and even a few variety of Fishes are eaten this way.  
Some Assamese Terminologies:
1. Kon Bilahi: Cherry Tomato
2. Poora: to grill on open flame
3. Pitika: to mash
Kon Bilahir Poora Pitika: Grilled Mashed Tomato

Cherry Tomatoes are so very tasty, particularly the home grown organic ones. 

For this Pitika, just remove the stems and wash them whole. 

1. Cherry Tomato tastes best but any ripe Tomato can be used 
2. Salt to taste
3. Fresh Green Chilly to taste. chopped 
4. Raw Mustard Oil a few drops, depending on the amount of Tomato you are using
5. Fresh Green Coriander leaves, chopped

 Put Tomatoes through skewers and place on flame. Ideally it should be done on hot coal made out of fire wood. But in a kitchen of a city home this can be the best option.
Keep rotating the skewers so that the Tomatoes are grilled evenly.
For this Pitika, I love using home made bamboo skewers like the way they do in the villages for this Pitika. (Check the pictures) 

Remove the skin of the Tomatoes. Do not wash as it was already washed before grilling. Let the flavour of grill remain. 
Now Mash adding Salt, Mustard Oil, Chilly and fresh Coriander.
Your Kon Bilahir Poora Pitika is ready to serve.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Palak Corn

(This amount Serves 6)
The two main Ingredients are:

1. Corn Kernels, 1 cup 

2. Spinach, one big bunch. Wash and chop.

Other Ingredients are:
3. Tomato 1 big, cubed
4. Onion 2, make a paste
5. Ginger paste 1 tsp
6. Garlic paste 1 tsp
7. Green Chilli to taste. chopped or Red Chili powder
8. Butter 3 tbsp
9. Salt to taste
10. Jeera powder 1 tsp
11. Dhania powder 1 tsp
12. Fresh Cream for garnishing

Heat little butter, add Spinach, Tomato and Green Chilli . Stir adding little Salt. cook on low flame. Both Tomato and Spinach will give out water. Stir occasionally. Cook this way for barely 3 to 4 minutes. 
Take out and let it cool. 
Grind the Spinach+Tomato in a grinder and keep aside. 
Heat Butter on low flame, add onion paste and fry till translucent. Add Jeera powder, Dhania powder and stir well. If you use Red Chilli powder instead of Green Chilli, then add at this point. 
Finally add Corn Kernels, Ginger paste, Garlic paste and keep stirring. Fry this way for about 2 to 3 minutes. Now add the ground Spinach+Tomato paste. Keep stirring. Add little warm water if needed. Cook for some more time. 

Check Salt. Add more Butter if you prefer. The gravy should neither be too thick nor thin. 
Palak Corn is ready to serve. Serve garnished with fresh Cream.