An Indian Treat, Camelback Hike and a lost ring- Exciting Start to 2011

by Shumaila

After a year, 2011 is finally here!! (didn’t know I can be corny and rhyme at the same time!) Happy New Year every one! Welcomed the new year partying with our friends in Phoenix. Lots of fun. 🙂

I stopped making new year resolutions long back, mainly because they used to revolve around one theme- my weight. And well, most of you know, how such resolutions end up- being broken. But, this year I decided to give the theme another try with a slightly modified resolution. I am not resolving to lose weight, (with my love for all things baked and fried -don’t think that would be a practical resolution)– so I resolve that out of the 7 days in a week, 5 days I will try to get some form exercise– it could be yoga, running or time spent in the gym. I can almost hear myself saying “yeah right, all the best” in a mocking tone, but this time I am determined! Again I hear the voice: “haha, we will see”. To it I say, “Yes, we will!”

Fortunately, the first day of the new year was spent doing just that- showing my inner self that yes I can do it. Even though we had a late night (slept at 4 in the morning), and slightly hung over from the New Year party, I was up on 1st morning (well it was almost noon 😉 ), ready to hike the Camelback mountain in Phoenix.

Camelback Mountain, the best-known feature of the Phoenix skyline and the city’s highest point, is an irresistible lure to hard-core hikers, fitness fanatics and tantalized tourists. Both routes to the summit, Echo and Cholla, though fairly short, are among the steepest trails in Arizona, guaranteed to leave even the fittest of the fit huffing and puffing as they slog their way to the top. The first mile and a half of the Cholla trail, though steep in places, is easy enough for the most casual of hikers to enjoy. But the final quarter-mile is rather nasty, requiring a fair amount of scrambling along a bouldery ridgeline to the top. It is a 3.5 miles round trip for the Cholla Trail.

I managed to complete the trail, exceeding V’s expectations (he thought I would give up half-way. But I didn’t!) , and all was going according to plan! Good start to the new year.

The next day though, things went from good to bad. Woke up with a sore body, feeling pain in muscles I never knew existed in those parts of my body. That was still fine. It turned bad when, on our way back from Phoenix, I realised my yellow sapphire gold ring missing! I knew I had it in the morning before we left our friends’ house but somewhere on the way, the ring slipped from my fingers (well, the positive: I lost weight from a one day hiking trip! The negative: at the cost of a very expensive ring!) Anyways both V and I were very upset, but then things like this happen. I never wanted to wear the ring but V told me to, because he believes that the stone would be good for my overall prosperity and good luck. Since I don’t believe in such things, I wasn’t too keen. On his insistence I wore it. The irony is that once lost, I feel its a bad omen and my prosperity would be affected ( well, not that I was working or anything, but still, any chance of finding a job would get lost). Well, ok, I am not THAT superstitious but I would have felt more sure of my prosperity and my luck if the ring was in my fingers. Anyways, that too, we shall see!

Coming to today, I decided on treating V and myself to some real Indian comfort food: Poori, sookhe kale chane and Sooji ka Halwa .

Poori is a deep fried unleavened flat bread eaten in India. The dough is made of whole wheat flour, water, salt and a little ghee (clarified butter). One can also add carom seeds (Ajwain), like I did, for an added flavor.

Sookhe Kale chane is a north Indian dish, popularly made during Ashtami, (a Hindu festival) as part of Kanjak puja ( a ceremony performed for little girls). Generally, it is made sans salt (it is a fasting period and salt is not allowed). The salt is replaced with black salt (kala namak). Also, traditionally, ginger and tomatoes nor onions are used, but I have added them in my recipe (well, since we are not fasting!)

Sooji ka Halwa is a sweet dish very,very popular in most Indian households. It is also one of V’s favorites. Unfortunately for him, my first few attempts at the halwa have been disastrous. Its a tradition for newly weds to cook halwa for the husband’s family. Now, before marriage I had never entered the kitchen to cook, to bake-yes, but to cook, never. Well, probably once or twice, but that’s it. So, when I decided to make something for V’s family, I had no idea where to begin! Luckily, my in-laws had gone out of the house and the cook helped me making the halwa. Actually, I tried once, but it was a mess. So, had to take the cook’s help! Surprisingly, its very easy to make but also very easy to mess up. Fortunately, this time I found the microwave version of the recipe and thought to myself, I can;t goof up with this. And what would you know- I did! But, only slightly and because I had to third the recipe as I only had 2 cups of milk in the fridge. I also burnt the almonds in the microwave (I knew something was burning- but multi-tasking to prepare food in time for V’s lunch just ended up burning the almonds- but luckily, only a few!) The end result, though, was unexpectedly, pretty good. Actually very good!

Update: Just spoke with my mother-in-law and it turns out that losing a stone ring is good if it happens in the natural course of your day. It means all the bad energies leave you with that stone. Hmm.. 2011 looks promising! 😉

AJWAIN POORI (Indian deep fried puffed bread)

(makes about 24 pooris)


  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsp ajwain (carom seeds)
  • 2 tbsp melted ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, carom seeds, ghee and salt.
  2. Add in the water, in parts. Knead. If required, add more water/flour as the case be.
  3. Knead for 5 minutes till you get a smooth, soft dough.
  4. Keep aside covered for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Once rested, knead again. Heat oil in a wok.
  6. Divide dough into small balls.
  7. Take each ball and flatten it to make a small disc. Flour both sides.
  8. Roll the flattened disc into a thin circle (not too thin else the pooris won’t fluff up).
  9. Lift each disc and gently slide in the hot oil. The poori will slide up, gently press down with a slotted spoon. This makes the poori fluff up. Flip it once. The pooris should be golden brown.


  • 1 cup black chickpeas, soaked overnight in water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3-4 green chillies, slit lengthwise
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp pomegranate powder (amchoor)
  • 1/2 tsp black salt
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped


  1. Pressure cook the chickpeas in a cooker for 3-4 whistles. Leave on sim for 15 minutes. Take off fire and let sit till pressure comes down.
  2. In a pan, heat oil. Add cumin seeds and let sizzle till brown. Add the slit green chillies. Fry,
  3. Add the ginger-garlic paste. Fry till golden brown.
  4. Meanwhile, take the lid off the pressure cooker. Drain off any excess water. Add the chopped tomatoes, onions, black salt, pomegranate powder.
  5. Add the coriander powder, garam masala, red chilli powder to the ginger-garlic paste. Mix and remove off fire.
  6. Add the mixture to the pressure cooker. Mix together and close the lid. Let sit until time to serve.
  7. Top with coriander leaves.


Serves 6-8 people

Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor’s Microwave Cooking Made easy


  • 1 cup semolina
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 cups milk
  • few strands saffron
  • 1.5 tsp green cardamom powder


  1. Place the semolina in a microwave dish and roast uncovered, on Microwave HIGH (100%) for three minutes.
  2. Place almonds in a glass bowl in one and a half cups of water. Cook, uncovered, on Microwave HIGH (100%) for three minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water and peel. Place in a microwave dish and cook, uncovered, on Microwave HIGH (100%) for three minutes, they should be crisp. Remove, let cool and chop. Reserve some for garnishing.
  3. Mix ghee and roasted semolina in a deep microwave casserole. Cover and cook on Microwave HIGH (100%) for three minutes.
  4. Stir well and add sugar, milk, saffron and green cardamom powder. Cover and cook on Microwave HIGH (100%) for five minutes.
  5. Add chopped almonds, reduce the power to Microwave LOW (40%) and cook, uncovered, for twelve minutes or until thickened.
  6. Stir well. Sprinkle the reserved almonds on top and serve hot.