Vangi bhath: Of the long and short of stitching!

Am seriously excited – having just acquired a new possession – a birthday gift from my mom – yep, in my fifties, I still get birthday gifts from my mom – one of the unalienable rights of daughterhood – as my daughters love to remind me – laying it on rather thick in case I forget their birthdays when they reach their fifties!

But I was forgetting (oops!) – my gift! A spanking new, shiny white, Singer sewing machine with just about every feature under the sun! In fact, I’m not too sure that it can’t be used in operation theatres to assist the surgeon “close up”! It is a thing of beauty and hopefully, like the last sewing machine I got as a gift – also from my parents – when I was about ten years old, will also be  a joy forever.

Growing up with a downstairs “aunty” who was an accomplished needlewoman and my grandmother, who also loved to stitch and a mom, who used to occasionally stitch frocks for me when she wasn’t stitching up people, not to mention many aunts who were pretty nifty with a needle themselves, it was almost inevitable that I fall in love with this art.

Having come home with my first machine – a treadle one – which I could just about see over when I sat down, my mom proceeded to fix up a teacher – one of her patients – who used to come home to teach me. The first thing she cut and taught me to stitch was a very Victorian pair of “pantalets” (see attached pic of   – A nice example of Queen Victoria’s silk drawers, sold for £9,375 on 1 Nov 2011, Paul Fraser Collectibles. These drawers were made sometime in the 1860s. They appear quite plain, and baggy for the size of the waist!) – hilarious bloomers which hung out like a diaper on a baby’s bottom, made of something like sandpaper called “gaada” cloth! Having satisfactorily disposed of them by “donating” them to the maid’s grandchild, I proceeded to dispense with my teacher and to learn stuff on my own – basically by cutting up stuff and figuring out how to put it back together!

Without too much idea of cutting, basting, sewing, I ruined many things before beginning to figure out stuff… and then stitched up everything I could lay my hands on! Skirts to lungis to curtains to baby clothes to quilts, my mother’s attitude of “Of course I can do it – it’s not rocket science and if it is, you just need to go to rocket science college” – was what guided my efforts – meeting with inevitable disasters like sewing the right side to the wrong side instead of two wrong sides together and then turning them right side out, clothes cut too small and then, in a spirit of over-correction, clothes meant for Gulliver – all having to be corrected “somehow”. Well, what couldn’t be corrected had to be endured – the spirit of the age was not about waste, after all! So, we wore clothes to grow into them – five years hence maybe!

The same attitude with which I approach new dishes! How difficult can anything be? Thankfully (from my family’s point of view that is) with a lot more success!

And so, here’s a dish for my daughters – not a rocket science level dish – just a hoary old favourite from Karnataka/Maharashtra…






  • Dhaniya/coriander seeds 2 tsp
  • Chana dal 2 tsp
  • Urad dal 2 tsp
  • Methi/fenugreek seeds 1-2 tsp
  • Peppercorns 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon 1″ stick
  • Cloves 3
  • Cumin seeds 1 tsp
  • Biryani ke phool/patthar ke phool/kalpasi/dagad phool – 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Copra/desiccated coconut 1/4 cup(grated)
  • Sesame seeds 2 tsp
  • Asafoetida 1/4 spoon.


Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp – add to roasted ingredients at the end and powder all together.




  • Basmati or sona masoori rice – 2 cups.
  • Ghee – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp


Cook rice together with ghee and turmeric so that the grains are separate. Spread with a fork and cool.




  • Brinjals – 15 – sliced and soaked in water to prevent discoloration
  • Capsicum/bell peppers – 1 – sliced.
  • Tamarind paste – 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Gingelly oil – 1 tsp
  • Ghee – 1 tsp
  • Cashewnuts – 2 tbsp – broken
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds/jeera – 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 3 sprigs
  • Red chilies – 1 or 2
  • Salt


Heat ghee and fry cashewnuts. Remove from oil and add to rice.

Add oil to the same pan and temper with mustard, red chilies, urad and cumin. Add curry leaves and saute till crisp.

Add sliced brinjal/eggplant, salt and turmeric. Mix well, cover and cook, stirring occasionally till almost done, adding capsicum halfway through the process – about 7 – 8 minutes.

Add masala powder and mix really well along with the rice.

Serve with appadams and raita or a salad and yogurt.


Stitch ’em up in admiration!

[Pics: Courtesy internet]