Thursday, January 13, 2011


Ven Pongal & Gothsu
With the advent of Pongal Pandigai (festival), I thought this is the right time to bring you the recipe of one variety of Pongal. Known as Ven Pongal (ven meaning white literally), this is a salted variation and is also made of freshly harvested rice and moong dal (பயத்தம் பருப்பு ). It’s a hot favourite in my family and while I learnt this recipe from my mother, I have added my own inputs and the addition of milk was an idea given by my sister Jayu – resulting in a flavour nearest to the prasadham offered at Tirupati.


Rice – 1 cup
Moong Dal (பயத்தம் பருப்பு) – ¾ cup
Water – 5 cups
Milk – 1 cup
Cashewnuts – 5-10 (broken into pieces)
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste

For sauté:

Black pepper corns – 6-8
Powdered black pepper – ½ tsp
Jeera – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Grated ginger – ½ tsp
Asafoetida (हिंग) (பெருங்காயம்) – 1 pinch


1.    Wash the rice and dal together and keep aside.
2.    Take a pressure pan and heat the ghee in it. Once hot, fry the cashewnut pieces in it.
3.    When the nuts are golden in colour, add all the sauté items and turn them around.
4.    Pour the water, milk and add salt.
5.    Then add the washed rice and dal. Close the pan and let it cook for 3 whistles.

The delicious Ven Pongal is all ready to eat when you open the cooker. It can be served with coconut chutney or Gothsu.

GOTHSU (கொத்சு) is the gravy that can be had along with this.


Tamarind – the size of a lemon
Tomato – 1 (chopped fine)
Onions – 2 (chopped fine)
Green chillies – 2 (cut into twos)
Red chillies – 2 (cut into twos)
Curry leaves – a few
Mustard seeds (राइ) (கடுகு) – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds (मेथी) (வெந்தயம்) – ½ tsp
Channa dal – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
Chilli powder – ½ tsp (you can use less if not keen on spicy food)
Oil – 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Besan (चन्ना का आटा) (கடலை மாவு) – 1 tsp


1.    Add water 2-3 times and squeeze the tamarind and filter the extract and keep aside. This should be about 2 cups.
2.    Heat the oil in a saucepan and crackle the mustard seeds in it. Add the fenugreek seeds while they crackle.
3.    Then add the channa dal and fry till golden brown.
4.    Add both types of chillies and curry leaves now.
5.    Turning the mixture, add the chopped onions and fry for a couple of minutes.
6.    Add the turmeric and chilli powder and mix before adding chopped tomatoes and stir well.
7.    Two minutes later, add the tamarind extract to this and let the whole mixture boil for about 7-8 minutes on a slow gas after adding salt.
8.    When the boiling mixture reduces to two-thirds, mix the besan in 3-4 tsp of water and add to the pan while stirring.
9.    The gravy will thicken and get all set to be served in 2 minutes.

This katta and spicy gravy pairs perfectly with the rather bland Ven Pongal.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I made this yummy Halwa on New Year’s Day. I have tasted it at Gujju weddings and suddenly felt the urge to try it out. The recipe is my own – tried and tasted!


Moong Dal – 1 cup
Water – 2 cups
Sugar – 1 cup
Ghee – ½ cup
Cashew-nuts – 6 (cut to pieces)
Almonds – 4 (cut in lengths)
Kishmish – 10
Cardamom powder – ½ tsp


1.    Add 2 cups of water to the moong dal and pressure cook it for 3 whistles. Mash the dal well after opening the cooker.
2.    Heat a spoonful of ghee in a saucepan and shallow fry the dry-fruits in it, adding the kishmish last. Remove and keep aside.
3.    Heat the rest of the ghee and add the mashed moong dal to it. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the sugar. Now, you have to cook longer until the mixture starts to leave the sides.
4.    Add the cardamom powder at this point and mix well before switching off the gas.
5.    Transfer the Moong Dal Halwa into a bowl and garnish with the dry-fruits.

Served hot or cold, it tastes heavenly. The shelf-life for the Halwa is at best 3 days in this cold weather. You may refrigerate it and reheat in a microwave oven before serving.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Radha-Gopinath at the Sanctorum
I have been wanting to write about special places of Mumbai for a long while. The first one, about Koolar Restaurant @ Matunga was published on my blog in July last year. Unfortunately, it has taken me more than six months to come up with a second Mumbai jewel. I hope to have more on my blog in the future.

My sister-in-law Chandra had come to stay with us on January 1. She had plans of visiting the ISKCON Temple at Chowpatty the next day morning. Chandra goes to the temple every Sunday. I was keen to go with her on this Sunday and luckily for me, I could make it.

Temple Gates
We set off in a cab at 7.45 in the morning - yeah, on a Sunday. I surprised myself. We got off at a point as Chandra was not too sure about the way and walked a bit.

Entrance to Radha Gopinath Temple
It was terrific walking around in Chowpatty that early on a Sunday morning. There were some pedestrians and almost no moving vehicles around. I got to see the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (University of Bombay) for the first time in daylight. What a lovely building, it is!

Along the downstairs corridor
We reached the temple by 8.15 and I started clicking away my camera beginning at the gate. Believe me, the temple was beautiful with carved pillars and motifs and paintings. A lovely vision, indeed!

An intricately carved wall
The temple is set in the heart of Mumbai and its obviously prime property. The decor and etchings are amazing. Looking at some of the pictures, my daughter Vinitha mentioned that they could have been shot somewhere in Rajasthan.

Up the staircase to the first floor
We went to the first floor where there was the sanctorum with idols Radha-Gopinath in the middle; Lord Gopinath’s devotees on the left and Udipi Krishna on the right. The idols were beautifully decorated in jewel colours and I have tried my best to capture them in my camera.

The Sanctorum with the beautifully decorated idols
Bang opposite, at the other end of the hall (about 50 ft long), was the statue of Srimad Prabhupada sitting on a chair. The statue appears so lifelike. At the two corners on the same side were idols of Garuda and Hanuman facing the sanctorum.

Srimad Prabhupada at the other end
The ceiling was painted beautifully with chandeliers, both big and small. The walls around had a number of wood carvings and paintings of scenes from Lord Krishna’s life. I feasted my eyes on all of this, not getting enough. There were a lot of devotees dancing away as they waited for the morning Bhagavatam lecture that began at around 8.30 am.

The ceiling with chandeliers
That Sunday was the scene when Lord Rama confronted Ravana, the King of Lanka. The person who gave the lecture – it was in English – first read the shloka, letting the audience repeat after him and then gave his explanation.

Bhagavatam lecture in English
The lecture:

Lord Rama looked at Ravana and called him ‘abominable’ and ‘shameless’ for taking away another’s wife. The Lord points out to Ravana how despite having all things material, he still felt the greed to possess something that belonged to another.

The beautifully polished floor with a Rangoli painted on it
The lecturer suggested that we contemplate on this. He pointed out that how the greed for material possessions has made man so uncaring that he keeps grabbing from nature, depleting it. Today, he said, Mother Nature is reciprocating with Tsunamis and Volcanoes but Man is unable to relate to this for what it is.

One section of a wall of the hall with carvings and paintings galore
There are a number of summits happening around the world to bring down Global Warming. But the lecturer suggested that the solution to this cannot be brought about by materialism but only by spirituality. I could not but agree with him.

The decorative fountain just outside the sanctorum
There was more on the same lines and also how Man is being punished for his sins. Well, I don’t believe in a punishing God and hence I could not relate to this. But the audience obviously enjoyed the lecture. It lasted about an hour and was a unique experience for me.

The rich carving with gold motifs next to the sanctorum. This is just one side.
We went down after that and had prashad for breakfast – it was upma made of lapsi and tasted yum with a lot of vegetables. They also served herbal tea, but I did not have any as I don’t much care for the taste.

Painting - A scene from Krishna's life on a door panel
We visited the ISKCON shop selling herbal products and other sacred things. Chandra bought some packets of agarbatti for me.

The shop selling pooja articles
There was a tiny Satyanarayana Temple in the same compound. We visited that too and went around the compound clicking more pictures.

Entrance at the side to the Satyanarayana Temple
I had prayed that I should get to visit the various places in and around Mumbai in 2011. And exactly that happened right on the second day of the New Year. A totally wonderful experience, indeed! All thanks to God and Chandra.

Satyanarayana & His Consort



Monday, January 3, 2011


Gajar Halwa
The season is just right for this one. Red carrots are available in plenty. I will not discuss the soaring rate of vegetable prices on this platform ;)


Carrots – ½ kg (peeled and grated)
Ghee – ½ cup
Milk – 1 ½  cups
Sugar – ¾ cup
Powdered Cardamom – ½ tsp
Badam, kaju, pista (a few of each - sliced)
Kismis - 10


1.    Heat a couple of spoons of ghee in a saucepan and shallow fry the badam, kaju, pista and kismis. Remove and keep it aside.
2.    Heat the rest of the ghee in the saucepan and shallow fry the grated carrots in it until soft.
3.    Add the milk and let it cook well till all of it is absorbed and the mixture is turned to the consistency of halwa.
4.    Add sugar and powdered cardamom and cook well for a few more minutes.
5.    Pour the halwa in a bowl and garnish with the fried dry-fruits.

It gets polished off within an hour in my home. You should try it too.

NOTE: You may use condensed milk instead of regular milk. About 50ml should be fine. Do not add sugar in that case.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sharing: GOODBYE 2010! WELCOME 2011!

Goodbye 2010!
I am glad that we are one year closer to The Golden Age. The world is moving at a fast pace towards the Aquarian Age that will be so full of happiness and peace with the consciousness level of human beings enhanced tremendously. All this is thanks to Amma Bhagavan who have come down to earth to bless MAN with enlightenment. There are already a few thousands of people who have attained enlightenment and Bhagavan has predicted a tremendous pace of progress in 2011. I am really looking forward to this and thank Amma Bhagavan for being here on this earth to bring about this monumental feat.

And more importantly, I am grateful that I am also born on this earth at this point in time, to ring in the Golden Age.

Thank you, Amma Bhagavan, for giving deeksha to millions of people through me – using me as an instrument to bring about enlightenment.

Thank you Amma Bhagavan, for letting me help you in your Avatar purpose – to bring enlightenment to man.

There are also an infinite number of things that I would like to thank God for bringing about in my life in the year 2010. I am but bringing a few highlights to you.

1.    Life has been wonderful for all four of us – Venkat, Vinitha, Vigneshkumar and myself, especially healthwise. We have come into these aloe vera health supplements – Forever Living Products – manufactured by a 32-year-old American company. The best products that I have come across in all the years of my life. Our lives have changed after we started to use these supplements on a regular basis. Now, we can probably bifurcate our life as before FLP and after FLP. Thank you Amma Bhagavan.
2.    Another good thing that came out of this was that Vignesh has taken FLP as his full time business. At present he has grown up to the state of Assistant Supervisor, which is a great thing. This also gives him enough time to pursue his music career. Thank you AB.
3.    Talking of music career, Vignesh has his own progressive death metal band, ORION. Besides that, now he is also part of the power metal band, ALBATROSS. He is the guitarist for the same. Thank you God.
4.    Another wonderful thing was that we could get a music processor, a hi-fi one, for Vignesh. I am grateful to God that we could buy this as it is very helpful in his progress in the music world.
5.    Vignesh got Typhoid in the beginning of September. He was quite ill for a while. But thanks to AB, he had an extremely quick recovery and is as fit as a fiddle today. Thank you AB!
6.    Vinitha’s had a gala year too. She stood first in her college (MBA, Jamnalal Bajaj) for both the first and second semester exams. It is a great achievement for her as she has always been an average student at school and a just above average performer at college. Thank you so much Bhagavan.
7.    As far as Vinitha’s career is concerned, that is also going places. Her name appeared in The Times Of India, not once, but twice, in December 2010. We are all mighty thrilled about the same. Thank you Amma.
December 10, 2010
December 27, 2010
8.    Venkat’s health is way better than it had been the earlier year. His stomach problems are set right forever with the advent of FLP in our lives. Thank you Bhagavan.
9.    Venkat is also busy with our building society work. There were any number of problems that had to be faced in our building this year, especially a major water problem. But Venkat could sort them all with great clarity all thanks only to Amma Bhagavan. He is also enjoying the work, while he is well appreciated doing the same as the secretary of our building.
10.    Major renovations are happening in our building and Venkat is the main person taking care of the same with a bit of help from a couple of others. The building is so wonderful now. Thank you God.
11.    Due to structural repairs in our building, we also had to carry out some renovations at home. All this progressed smoothly and our drawing room appears awesome with box grills and lovely new windows. Thank you Amma!
12.    It is thanks to AB that Venkat, Viggy and I could take a short trip to Govinda Resorts in Lonavla. It was a lovely one. 
13.    I have a cook since the beginning of the year. Tina is a treasure and a great help every morning as she prepares lunch and packs all our dubbas. Thank you Bhagavan.
14.    I have forayed deeper into the blogging world. Besides Flaming Sun that was begun in June 2009, I have two more blogs added to my kitty. There is Cupid Strike Series which is a blog of my romantic novel series. One novel, The Malhotra Bride, is already completed. The second one, Meghna, is on just now.  Then there is Rising Sun – a Project 365 venture. This is a photo blog that features one photo per day on a daily basis. Thank you Amma!
15.    I even have a fan page on Facebook for Cupid Strike Series. It has 140 fans since I started it in November, 2010.
16.    I am so glad that my sister Suja’s daughter Vidya is engaged to be married. It is due to God’s grace that Sujatha and Athimber found a son-in-law very close to home. And I am really looking forward to attending Vidya’s wedding and Vijay’s poonal in February 2011 along with my whole family. Thank you God.
17.    My Thatha passed away peacefully in May 2010. He lived like a legend till the grand age of 97 and was nothing less than a king just as his name suggested. Thank you God for bringing moksham to my grandfather.
18.    As usual, I save the best for the last. May 2010 was appraisal time at work. While the CEO of the company agreed that I did a great job, he gave me a pittance for a raise with a measly 5% hike. I was told that it was because I was already highly paid. With great disappointment, but with unwavering faith in AB, I went and spoke to him for half an hour. Thanks to my Thatha’s skills of persuasion and with God’s super blessings, I got a new letter making my hike all of 20% the very same day. Thank you so much Amma Bhagavan.

Well, that is the end of a wonderful 2010 and I cannot say that I am sorry to see it end. A New Year with wonderful beginnings especially in the field of enlightenment is what I am looking forward too.

Here’s wishing all my readers a WONDERFUL 2011!