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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

JEWELS OF INDIA . . . and RED LENTILS



Meenakari is the art of coloring and ornamenting the surface of metals by fusing over it brilliant colors that are decorated in an intricate design.”

The craft is practiced all over India, but especially in Rajasthan. 

A lot of Meenakari jewelry is very heavy and ornate, but we pounced on Nicole’s pendant in a jewelry store in Ranthambore.

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When I was living in India in the early 1970s, I learned that  pearls may have healing properties! 


I was dining with a Brigadier General and his wife and another Indian couple at the brand new Ashoka Hotel which was sponsored by the Indian government.  It looked very grand and very traditional in its architectural style. 

“A certain cure for any disease in this country,” the civilian gentleman informed me, “is to crush a pearl and mix it with milk in the right proportion.  Do you have any idea what a course of such treatment costs?”

Mentally imaging a beautiful pearl necklace poised at his mouth, I barely managed to shake my head.

“100,000 rupees,” he declared.

Gulp!

In 1970, the exchange rate was  7.56 Indian Rupees to 1 American dollar.

All the lights went out.  . .  a power failure.  

The Brigadier was annoyed.  “Poor show for India, what?”

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A history book about India told me that the Mughals used crushed pearls as an aphrodisiac.

Pearls may have seemed common to them, though, because they had them sewn all over their slippers.

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In India today, other gemstones are believed to have interesting properties.  Google Emeralds, for instance, and you will find:

§  Emerald strengthens Mercury (Buddh) which is a benefic planet. It gives its wearer Intelligence, Wit and Quick Learning Ability.
§  It is also beneficial for business and trade, especially those which are related to communication, conveyance, connections and networks.
§  Emerald grants its wearer creativity and helps talented and artistic people achieve success.
§  It ensures the overall health and strength of the green colored components of the human body e.g nerves, veins etc.
§  Mercury (Buddh) is known as 'Vaani-kaarak'or the 'Agent of Speech' in Hindu mythology. Therefore, Emerald bestows fluency, public speaking skills, confident voice and oratory upon its wearer.
§  Emerald is very favorable in matters of education. It grants mental agility and is believed to be very auspicious till under-graduate level degree.

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DHAL . . . and . . . LENTIL SOUP      

Q.  What can make the difference between a good Indian dinner and an excellent Indian dinner?
A.  A side dish of dhal to put on basmati rice!

Here’s a recipe for DHAL that will give you an additional course of delicious soup!

Based on a recipe by Irene McGuinness . . . a food stylist in Vancouver.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 onion = 8 ounces
1 tbsp peeled and finely chopped ginger root
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
7 cups vegetable stock or water
28 ounce can of tomatoes (796 ml)
2 to 3 inch Cinnamon stick
2 cups dry red lentils

Salt to taste

·        Finely chop the onion and set aside.
·        Finely chop the ginger root.  Add to the onion.
·        Chop the tomatoes in a food processor. 
·        Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat.  Add cumin seeds and mustard seeds.  Sauté until mustard seeds begin to pop. 
·        Add onion, ginger, turmeric, and ground cumin.  Sauté until onion is soft -- about 3 minutes.  
·        Add stock (or water) and tomatoes and cinnamon stick.
·        Rinse lentils and drain.  Add to the soup pot.
·        Bring to a boil over high heat.
·        Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes until lentils are soft.
·        Add salt to taste.

·        Remove about 3 or 4 cups of drained lentils and set aside for dhal.

·        Purée the rest of the soup. 

·        Add some of the soup to the reserved dhal.  Save the dhal to serve on rice with a main course!

·        Serve the rest of the soup.  A swirl of plain yogurt in it makes it look as fantastic as it tastes!


·        Chop some cold roasted meat into a salad, slice some bread, et voilà . . . a lovely light, nutritious dinner!