Our terrace in my hometown in India looks down to acres of empty land. Empty of human occupation that is. To the left was 'the glorious land', there were trees as tall as our house, shrubs and bushes at every inch of the land that had been kept untouched and wild for no one had the time to clear that forest of sorts.
On the right was the barren land, one that got cleared every few months for weeds and wild grass. We could look down at these two lands of extreme in its entirety divided by a tall muddy brick wall. During summers, monkeys would often sit on it and trespass into our garden area for treating on the mangoes much to my father's dismay.
When it rained, the peacocks would show up on the barren land, spreading their glorious feathers dancing to the unassumingly rhythmic monsoons. It was as if, they were there from the neighbouring land to put up a show, or perhaps they were just looking for some privacy. Though they didn't seem to mind the elders and kids from our mohalla (residents of the houses in our lane) that would pass by our house to cheer the dancers.
But it must be when we spotted a snake in or around our house that gathered the most crowd. How dangerous was it? Should we kill it? Was it just a rat eater? Was it poisonous? The kids hiding behind their mother's legs, watched the mohalla men chase the snake with a stick back to the woods. The length and strength of the snake was a matter of discussion for rest of the week. The men proudly narrated the story over and over until the glorious land send some other creature our way.
When we went to our town this year, I was both scared and excited for my daughter Tasnim to experience some of that real human and animal circus. Sadly, after decades of wildness, the land was cleared by the owner. My mom confirmed though, the peacocks still come to put up a show.
Curried Red Quinoa, Peas and Paneer Salad
My daughter loves quinoa in salads and I'm continuously experimenting to introduce Indian food in quinofied form and this one has been on rotation for a while. Though it cooks like a dry curry, it is more like a salad. Additionally, I throw in whatever I might have on hand, shaved asparagus, tomatoes, sliced red onions, arugula or even some roasted cauliflower.
1/2 cup red quinoa, cooked
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ginger paste
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp coriander powder
3/4 cup peas
1/2 cup paneer
1 tsp garam masala
1 pinch of kasturi methi
1 tsp of lemon juice
Salt and peper to taste
roasted or shaved asparagus
Heat oil in a wok and add the cumin seeds. Once they crackle, add the ginger paste and spices.
Tip in the peas and paneer and stir well to coat the spices on paneer and peas. Cook till the peas have softened. Add the garam masala and crushed kasturi methi.
Add the cooked quinoa and toss well. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Serve warm or room temperature with yogurt. We serve it with a tablespoon of green chutney stirred in a cup of yogurt.