Monthly Archives: February 2011


Rose hip and orange face scrub

I went to throw out my leftover rice from dinner, and Pushpa told me off. Round here, you don’t throw out food. She collected all the leftovers (none of us can actually finish everything she gives us– I swear she’s trying to fatten us up) in a bowl and took it outside saying “there are birds and squirrels and monkeys that don’t eat enough. In the kitchen, instead of a compost bin, she has a ‘cow bag’. All kitchen waste goes in the cow bag, and it goes outside every night for the cows to eat. By the way I wish I could put a voice recording of Pushpa saying “cow bag” because it’s insanely cute. But she won’t even let me take her photograph, let alone immortalise her speaking.

She saves all my yogurt pots to use for her plants. Every citrus peel is chopped up and dried. Bucket showers are the norm– you fill a bucket with water (we just got hot water!) and scoop that over yourself to wash. In the corner of the bathroom is a little broom, made from local grasses. Every person makes their own. It takes so little time, and is so effective. It’s really amazing to watch, and to think about how much WASTE we generate in the US without even thinking about it. All vegetables here are bought as they are without little plastic bags. Containers are saved. Most milk comes in small plastic bags which are a fraction of the waste of the big plastic containers we use. They don’t even use toilet paper!! There’s a tap by the toilet and you use your left hand to wash your bits. Eat with your right, shake with your right, never offer your left hand to someone, and if someone offers you theirs, well don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And there is no stove here. Only a couple of gas burners. No fancy kitchen. No fancy dishware. No fancy pots. Her knife is a piece of metal that’s been sharpened. I was chopping onions for her (there’s been progress– I’m allowed to do the jobs nobody else wants), and I have a new respect for the marvels that come out of Pushpa’s kitchen now. Because really, anyone can cook with the best equipment and the best knives and the best ingredients. It’s making do on a few dollars a week, with nothing but the most basic of tools, that deserve so much respect.

Which brings me back to rosehips, because they’re free. All the pollution here, the sugar, the dirt, and I’ve broken out. But luckily I have everything with me to make my favourite face scrub– honey and sugar are easy to come by, I had some dried rosehips just in case, and there’s orange peel drying outside on the patio.

Scrubs are the easiest– in fact I never, ever buy them anymore because I’ve found this one to be so effective. But of course it is– honey is amazing like that, it sucks dirt and grime out of wounds and pores alike. Add some sugar for the scrubbing effect (and a natural source of glycolic acid), rosehips (vitamin C) and lemon peel (also vitamin C) and you’ve got a fancy scrub that could never be sold in stores because it has no preservatives or chemicals (where’s the fun, man?!).


The best face scrub ever

1 cup honey

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup rosehips (ground to powder)

1/4 cup ground orange or lemon peel (I actually prefer lemon, but I’m making do with what I’ve got)


Mix everything together in a big bowl, and store in a tupperware. The honey and sugar won’t go off– I keep mine right by the bath.

To use, steam face, or take a hot shower, then massage into face (avoiding the eyes) for a few minutes. Leave on for 2 minutes, then rinse.


Dosas with tomato chutney

My days here look something like this:

Wake up as Lou and Meghan are going to yoga class. Have an Indian coffee (2 spoons of instant, 2 spoons of sugar, top up with milk.). Take a bucket bath (with warm water now!). Skype Jam, write for a wee bit. Then go to yoga.

After yoga I’ll go to the coconut stand and have a couple of young green coconuts, then wander home, past the little shanty town, past all the houses, up a small hill (past the tree where people dry out the cow poo) and back to Pushpa’s. Where she’s waiting with breakfast and coffee.

Yesterday she was waiting for me with dosas and tomato chutney. Pushpa makes me dosa instead of chapati (though she doesn’t understand why I will not eat the chapati. Threats of diarrhea and migraines and swollen joints and tummy cramps really don’t convey just how little I want to be bed-ridden for 3 days of my short trip). They’re a morning dosa, and an evening dosa, as I found out a few days ago when I ordered a dosa in a restaurant at 3pm. The waiter looked at me like I was actually insane, and pointed to the list of puri, which are an afternoon food. I ordered a sweet lime soda, tried not to be in a bad mood about the whole thing, and went back at 5pm when dosa time started. Hmph. By the way, a meal for 3 of us, with sweet lime sodas and (we were being extravagant) lassis too, with a butter dosa for me, and palak paneer and Lou had a vegetable jalfrezi and Meghan (which means ‘cloud’ in Hindi) had something coconutty, with rice and puri and raita cost us around $5. This is the most extravagant meal we’ve had since we got here. Aside from the plane fare, which was quite expensive, one can have a lovely holiday here and spend less than one would spend in a week in the US.

But back to the dosas. The crispy pancakey dosas, that have a slight sourness to them, and a crunch on one side (softness on the other). They’re really simple to make– Pushpa will throw the ingredients together in the morning, then at 7pm (she was very specific) will blend the whole thing. Leave it out overnight, and in the morning it’s ready to go.


2 parts rice

1 part white lentils

pinch fenugreek seeds

2 parts water

Put all the ingredients in a big bowl, and leave out to soak for about 7 hours. After 7 hours, put in a blender, or food processor, and blend until it’s a thick soupy mixture. Add salt (a couple of pinches should do), and put back in the bowl. Leave out overnight (or refrigerate) and the next morning it’s ready to cook.

Heat up a crepe pan, dosa pan, or frying pan of some kind. Oil it, and when it’s very hot, ladle a scoop of the batter out onto the pan. Pushpa uses the back of the ladle to spread the batter out across the pan, instead of picking up the pan and swirling it around (which is what my impatient self would do). So use the back of the ladle and make a spiral from the centre of the batter, out towards the sides of the pan, moving the batter (but obviously not touching the bottom of the pan, or you’ll have holey dosas). Cook until it’s a dark golden brown on the bottom, and the top is cooked though. Flip it over, cook for 30 seconds or so, then flip back, and fold in half, and then onto a plate. Serve with chutney.

Tomato chutney

Tomatoes (about 5 medium)

1 onion

coriander leaf (1/4 cup, chopped)

1/2 spoon mustard seed

big pinch turmeric

1 spoon green chili

big pinch asafoetida

3 curry leaves

salt to taste

lemon juice– 1 tsp

pinch sugar

Heat a pan with oil (according to Pushpa: put pan, heating with oil), and fry the mustard seeds until they pop. After popping, add the onion, and sautee until golden brown. Then add the tomato. Add the turmeric, green chili, asafoetida, coriander, curry, salt, and lemon juice. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off.

It’ll keep up to a week in the fridge- just reheat before serving.

Can be eaten with rice, dosa, idli, on toast, on cheese, on anything.


Pushpa’s lemon rice

I’m in India. South India, to be specific. Mysore, to be even more specific. I’ve been wanting to come here for years, and was getting so sick of seeing my [lovely] sister post amazing photos of all the stuff she was seeing, that I booked a ticket to come out here myself.

So far, I’ve been on sensory overload. The colours and the smells and the tastes. Mysore smells of cow poo and of incense. Of curry and of dirt. Of jasmine flowers and of car exhaust. It’s truly amazing. Magical, even.

I’m staying at Pushpa’s house. My sister, Lou, met Pushpa a few years ago, her first time in Mysore. She was wandering down the street, getting frantic because it was getting dark, and she still had nowhere to stay. Desperate, she collapsed on the ground in front of a big statue of Ganesha, and said “Oh please, Ganesha, help me find a place to stay.” Not ten seconds later, a hand touched her shoulder, and a woman said “Are you looking for a place to stay?”. And that was Pushpa. She stays with Pushpa for months at a time, and Pushpa cooks for her, and looks after her like a mummy.

So naturally, I stayed here too. She’s a drill sergeant in the kitchen, that Pushpa– we’re not allowed to touch anything at all, only watch. Imagine how hard that is for somebody who loves to cook…But it’s worth it. Her food is phenomenal. The best food I’ve tried here, even after going to a few places that are supposedly “the best”. I’ve been watching her prepare every meal, while she tells me what she’s doing, and I frantically take notes and photographs. She’ll give me tidbits like “add asafoetida for good health” and “fenugreek is for diabetes” and “never mix curd and dairy” (even though curd IS dairy), and I am just completely transfixed by the whole thing.

I have a few favourites: idli, covered with ghee, with a coconut sambar. Dosas. And lemon rice. Lemon rice is just amazing. It’s lemony and coconutty and has little crunchy bits (the peanuts). Usually I avoid peanuts– I actually hate them. Passionately. But these peanuts are little and cute, not big and gross. They’re quite delicious in a dish where you barely taste them.

If you can’t find little Indian peanuts, I’d try chopping peanuts, if you like them, or using another nut, like almonds or pistachios, just for the crunch. If you can’t find curry leaves, try basil– they’re still fragrant.

Pushpa’s Lemon Rice.

Serves 4

2 cups rice

4 cups water (preferably NOT Indian tap water)

3 tb ghee, for frying

1 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 cup peanuts

1 cup yellow lentils

1/2 cup white lentils (if you can’t find then just use all yellow)

green chilis (to taste)

1 tb chopped curry leaf (substitute basil if you can’t find it)

1/2 tsp asafoetida

1 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 tsp turmeric

1 cup grated coconut (if you can find freshly grated, even better, if not then soak overnight in water to rehydrate)

Cook the rice– put the rice and water, plus a pinch of salt, in a pan, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, undisturbed. After 20 minutes remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Fry the mustard seeds in the ghee, until they start to pop. Add the peanuts and lentils, and cook until starting to brown, then add the chili, curry leaf and asafoetida. Cook until all the lentils are a golden brown colour, and then add the cilantro, lemon juice, turmeric and coconut. Stir for 20 seconds or so, then remove from the heat and leave until the rice is cool.

Mix the two together, and serve. It’ll keep for a few days, refrigerated.

If you’d like to be privy to all my Indian adventures, add me as a friend on facebook. I am Rebecca McTrouble. Nice to meet you.


Rosehip Pannacotta

Wandering around London, I’ve been seeing tons of rose bushes with the rosehhips hanging on for dear life. My friends, if you want to  play this wild thing game, now might be the time to go and steal a few (responsibly of course) from a sleeping neighbour.

I’ve been going through a pannacotta phase lately. I mean, I made blood orange ones a few weeks ago, I order it every time I see it on a menu, and the first thing that I thought of with rosehips was pannacotta. I figured it’d be easy– just substitute rose hip syrup for the sugar and flavour, and I was right. Creamy. Slightly tangy from the hips, and with a touch of vanilla to round it out. If I didn’t convince you of how unbelievably easy panna cotta is to make last time, then here it is again. From start to finish, the whole process takes under fifteen minutes. You use one pan and one spatula, and a lot of the ingredients are things that are often just lying around (if you keep gelatin around like I do). Even more attractive is that it’s a great way to use up raw dairy that is turning sour, and for some reason it never fails to impress guests even if it only took 15 minutes and you didn’t break a sweat once.

Rose hip panna cotta

3/4 cup rose hip syrup

1 cup cream

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

1 packet (1 tsp) gelatin

Warm up the cream and syrup and vanilla, and remove from heat. Remove a few tablespoons of the liquid into a bowl, and stir the gelatin in. Stir the gelatin mix into the main mixture, being sure that all the lumps are gone. Stir in the buttermilk, and pour into ramekins. Chill for at least 2 hours, before turning out. Or just serve in the dishes.