Monday, November 25, 2013

Cranberry Tokku - 3 perspectives + some thoughts, giving Thanks and cooking with Cranberries

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. November is my month of contemplation for many reasons besides the traditional Thanksgiving celebrated this week. So here is my rambling on the topic, feel free to skip and go to the recipe but I promise I have links to some great reads below that might interest you :-).

All this started a couple of months back when a dear friend of mine shared an article titled "Why Women still can't have it all" by Prof Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor of Politics and International affairs at Princeton University. If you follow news and trends regularly you are probably familiar with Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean in' concept. This article is a little taunt for 'leaning in'. I understand both points of view at some level but don't agree with either 100%. 'What does having it all" mean to you? What you need/want is never a constant, it changes through out life and is true for both men and women. Life is more complicated than it was in my mom's generation but that doesn't mean you cannot enjoy it. I am neither glorifying a working woman having a family nor do I consider a non working mom to be deficient. My mom never worked outside home though she was qualified to do so and I have plenty of friends who make it seem so effortless as they work outside home and come back and take care of things at home too. So, 'having it all' is defined by you as an individual and there is nothing more to it.
The second perspective came when a colleague of mine sent this link - it does a good take on why nobody should apologize for having a life outside work which is very true and has taken years to come to be accepted. I still remember when I first started work, it was a taboo to talk about family commitments or tell your manager you had leave to take care of your child. It was an unspoken thing that you would compromise your career if you did that. I remember the early days of DD's day care experience when both of us used to be wreaks by end of the day. In the late 90s in India, corporate world was not mature enough to consider women taking time off for maternity, child care or there were no options to work from home or work part time like there are today. It is wonderful to see things changing and work places recognizing and respecting personal lives of their employees.

Finally, I saw this movie (one of my treadmill movies :-)) called "I don't know how she does it" which has the glamorous Sarah Jessica Parker who does not look glamorous at all in the movie & Mr.Bond, Pierce Brosnan. It is an affable comedy, of a working executive who also happens to love her family and is trying to balance her 2 worlds. There is a MIL who constantly tells her how things were different (and obviously better) in her times, there are a couple of exaggerated stay at home moms from the school that find fault with everything she does, a robotic female assistant who works long hours and shuns marriage but finds herself as a single mom and there is a male colleague who stops nothing short of stealing ideas and sabotaging efforts at the last minute. It made me smile as she puts a store bought pie into an old container at home so everybody at her daughter's school thinks that she made it herself for the annual bake sale. It is very relatable as she has to bail out last minute on a family Thanksgiving dinner to attend a client meeting. All in all it is a fun watch. The movie ends with her taking a stand refusing to make a business trip on a weekend and telling her boss, "Sorry, I am unavailable, I got to go make a snowman.". Oops, spoiler, but I am sure you would guess the end as you watch the movie, so it is all fair :-)
When I think about all this, I find myself extremely fortunate to have been brought up by a father who encouraged his little girls to do anything they wanted to in life just as he cheered his boys. He was of a generation where working women were not prevalent but he just looked at us as individuals with ambitions of our own and gave us opportunities every step of the way. Wish he was here still. I married this guy when in my twenties who thinks that my dreams are as valuable as his and willingly accompanies me when I take the leap. He never thinks low of my pursuits but instead has molded part of his own journey to accommodate the co-traveler. I feel blessed to have these wonderful people in my life.

With that we celebrate our Thanksgiving with a fingerlicking cranberry thokku, I am giving a miss to my Thanksgiving traditional lunch this time as we are headed out for a much needed break this long weekend. Looking forward to signing off from work on Wednesday. Cranberries have become such an integral part of my Thanksgiving celebrations, I love these tart berries as they are very amenable to Indian cooking. I made some no grate, no grind tokku this time, it is a much less time & effort consuming Tokku compared to these here & here and has a gorgeous, inviting garnet color and delicious taste. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving season, count your blessings and share some. I will be back next week to talk to you all.
What do you need to make Cranberry Tokku?
4 cups fresh cranberries (you can use frozen ones too but not the dried cranberries)
1 Tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
1 Tblsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
pinch of asafoetida
3 Tblsp oil
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves

How do you make Cranberry Tokku?
  • Wash Cranberries by soaking them in a vessel filled with water. You will be able to easily rinse them with hands and pick out any mushy cranberries out.
  • Heat a pan and roast the methi seeds without any oil on low to medium heat constantly stirring until the seeds turn light pink. Let cool and powder it in a mortar & pestle or using your spice grinder.
  • Add oil to the same pan (my economic way to reduce dish washing, you can use different pans if you have the luxury :-)), add mustard, let it pop. Add the curry leaves followed by washed cranberries.
  • Add salt, stir it all in so the cranberries get a coat of oil and let it cook on medium heat.
  • Within a couple of minutes, you will hear the cranberries popping, stir once or twice to move the berries around so they get a contact with the hot pan and pop open.
  • The idea is to have all the berries open up and become a mushy goop. This will take about 7-9 minutes. The berries do not leave a lot of water but it is important to cook on low heat so the rawness goes off completely.
  • Add the red chili powder, mix it in and do a taste test for salt or red chili powder and adjust.
  • Let this cook for another 8-10 minutes until oil starts to ooze out from the sides, do not expect a lot of oil to come out of the sides since we have used a small quantity to begin with.
  • Add the powdered fenugreek seeds, mix and switch off.
  • Once completely cooled, store it in dry, air tight containers. This will stay fresh for a month if you use dry spoons to serve. Makes a great spread on toasted breads, rotis, chapatis etc.
  • Roast the fenugreek seeds slowly on a low-medium heat, burnt seeds spoil the taste entirely.
  • Make sure all berries pop open, give them a little assistance if needed by crushing them with the back of your spatula. This helps them absorb the flavors better.  
  • One of the ways Nammamma used many of the thokkus made at home was to convert it into a quick and delicious one pot rice item. Here is how - Cook rice until soft but grains are fluffy and separate. Add desired amount of the thokku and mix it in. Make a seasoning of mustard, chana dal, urad dal, curry leaves and peanuts in oil and add it to the rice. You will have a quick and yummy rice to fill your lunch box with. Enjoy.


NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice write up. happy thanks giving celebrations to all sattvaa shopping happily and enjoy the long weekend. very beautiful cranberry tokku both in color and taste also. it goes as aside dish or even a main course with hot rice and ghee.

LG said...

Needs and Wants indeed change with time. Well written. Fresh cranberries looks so good! Have never had them anytime. I munch on dried cranberries though. Loved thokku's color.

sashi said...

You could add brown sugar/jaggery to tone down the sourness of cranberries.