27 July 2010

Container gardening- Fresh fenugreek!

I have been meaning to do gardening for a while now. I mean, if I get a chance to pick and choose fresh food right from the garden at anytime of the day, why wouldnt I want that? Couple of issues though- first, we live in an apartment, so all I have is a little balcony. And second, I have never ever dabbled in gardening, so who knows whether I have a green thumb or not??

Anywho, one of the first things I started of with was growing fresh fenugreek leaves. Fenugreek (or 'methi' as we call it in India) is a regular feature in my pantry. Immensely versatile, this little leafy vegetable is not only one of the easiest things to grow on earth (or in containers, as in my case) but quite likely also the cheapest. I started with:
- some store-bought seeds,
- a used but clean aluminium foil container
- a big packet of commercial potting mix (I used the MiracleGro mix for two reasons- it looked reliable to my novice-garderner-eyes and more importantly, it wasnt too expensive- just 5 bucks for a big packet)
-and lots and lots of enthusiasm!

I started the planting by following instructions in this video here:

A couple of weeks later, here's what my tray looked like! Yaayyyy!!

And here's the harvested methi!!

I used it to make some fresh methi theplas :)

For those of you who have any inclination for gardening but havent yet dared to take the leap, here's my bit-
the best part about growing my own food was the satisfication in seeing life grow right in front of my eyes (I now know how parents feel about their kids). And then of course, there are the added advantages- you know what went in your food, you can have fresh fenugreek right when you want it (no need to run to the store) and yes, it saved me $1.99 that I spend on each bunch of the store-bought greens. Also remember, veggies and herbs like fenugreek which are easily available in some parts of the world, may not be available in others. I know of a friend in US who needs to travel 1 hour to get to a lonely Indian store- am guessing that easy home gardening like this would work just perfect for people like that.

For those of you who are already into home gardening, you know what I mean!

Whats not to like?

14 July 2010

Back from the blogging coma!

Cant believe its more than 2 months since I wrote my last post...if there is ever such a thing as 'time flying', I guess this is it! I have been away from my blog-o-baby for way too long..not that I wanted to neglect it; nor that I didn't have enough material to write about or ideas to share (in fact, have way too much to write and share) but I just haven't had a chance to put pen to paper..or more appropriately in this electronic age, put finger on the keypad :D:D

A lot has happened since my last post:
- I have now officially entered the 'know-what-you-eat-and-grow-atleast-a-little-of-your-own-food' club. Its summer time here in Vancity and just the perfect time to do some container gardening in my tiny apartment balcony.
-Finished reading a couple of books- including the super-enthralling 'A Glass Castle' by Jeanette Walls. What a book- review coming up soon!
-Had a couple of lovely summer trips to Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada and Portland, OR, USA.
-And finally, hit (but didnt really celebrate) the one-year anniversary of my blog! Yup, its been a year since I began my crazy ride and though my posts have been sporadic and bumpy, the experience has been nothing-but-awesome!

Will be back on the weekend with my first real post since a long time; expect a post on each of these topics in the next few days.


09 May 2010

Mum's the word

Picture from: www.wallpapersphere.com

When I think of her, I think of her face
Her face which is now etched with wrinkles and lines
Lines so lovely- of age, of laughter, of worries, but mostly of love,
Love we share since the day I was born (and even before)

When I think of her, I think of her hands
Her hands which are now weary from years of work
Work all day- from the start to the end and then to another start
All that work to bring comfort to our lives

When I think of her, I think of her strength
Strength I know comes from deep within
From within her values, her people, her faith,
The faith that tells me too that ‘all will be okay’

When I think of her, I think of her thoughts
There have been ups, and then there have been downs
There been lots, and then there have been droughts,
But all she passed on were the ups, and the lots.

When I think of her, I think of me
Because without her, there would be no ‘me’.

This one is for the two mothers in my life- HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO BOTH OF YOU, AAIs!!
Also decidated to the two babas- because after all, they are as much special, just a little different!
And then finally, this is for all those mothers everywhere- because I think every mother is special!

Cheers to all mums,

P.S. Main shaayar toh nahi but this poem's is straight from my heart (and I think mothers are all about sentiments and hearts), so all is well :)

21 April 2010

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

For once, I am going to cut my crap and get to the point. You know how I babble and babble before coming to the actual food recipe? Not today! Here’s a recipe that is:
-Literally hassle-free
-Quite different from the usual soups
-Kids-friendly? (my guess is 'yes' but you tell me)

I got the recipe from Jessica, our lovely nutritionist at work, who brought in a big pot of soup a couple months back. Jessica loves to come up with food (and non-food) ideas to help us become more active and manage weight. The soup she brought was a big hit so there was no chance on earth that I would miss it! I love how the squash and apple flavours blend to give way to a taste that’s totally different and superbly appetizing. The suprise flavour, though is the nutmeg- I was pretty amazed at how a little nutmeg can go a long way.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Original recipe: Bon Appétit, October 2003 by Antoinette Muto, Los Angeles, CA
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients (this is the original recipe; see my variations at the end):
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 1/4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 1/4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
1 Gala apple, peeled, cored, diced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup low fat coconut milk
Light sour cream
Chopped fresh chives

- Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat.
- Add onion and nutmeg; sauté until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add squash, 4 1/4 cups broth, apple, and apple juice. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered until squash and apple are tender, about 30 minutes.
- Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth.
- Return soup to pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more broth if desired.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with sour cream and chives, if you wish

My variations:
- For the vegetable broth, I used a Maggi vegetable soup bouillon cube along with 4 cups water; worked superbly
- I cut back to about 2 tbsp for the coconut milk
- I skipped on both the light sour cream and the fresh chives (since I didn’t have any on hand) and there was no big difference in taste

Per Serving: Calories -116 cal; Fat 6g, Protein 1g, Fibre 2g, Sodium 79 mg

A perfect weekday recipe, if you aks me. For those of you who think food can’t be tasty and nutritious at the same time, think again!


P.S. Anyone notice how I have a lonely coriander leaf sitting as garnish on most of my food photos? N keeps making fun of it; says I should give 'the poor solitary coriander leaf' some rest!

12 April 2010

A matter of perspective

I notice it first when I am brushing my teeth at night.

My heart skips a beat. I tell myself that it cannot possibly be true. Its these 'yellow' North American lights, I tell myself. They can cause you to see things that aren't really there! I blink. Then blink again. But it just wont go away! N stands behind me brushing his teeth. Maybe I should tell him what I see? I dread his reaction though. But then I have got to tell him (its inevitable- he'll notice it anyways, I tell myself).

So I cautiously ask him, 'Do you see what I see?'
Him: Huh? Whaad-doo-zoo-meeen?
Me: I see a gray hair!!!!!!!!!!!!
Him: Huh? Where??
Me: On my head, you gumbo!
So he peeps closer, inspects it for a moment and breaks into the weirdest, happiest dances I have ever seen (and trust me, I am used to N's dances- they can be quiet funny, if you are in the mood for funny. But this one didn't strike me one bit as 'funny).
Me: Do you see it too?? (am near tears now)
N is still oblivious to my grief- he's merrily dancing way...I notice some toothpaste droplets flying and hitting the wash room walls- now I am furious!!!
After about 45 seconds of weird-cum-happy dance, N finally stops. He tells me wisely, 'its just a sign of growing up, honey'. Exactly what I told him a few years back when I saw his first gray hair; but now that the joke's on me, the line no longer makes sense!

I go to bed thinking about my first gray hair. I am not even 30 yet and I already have one! Does this mean my body is aging already? I mean, who knows what else is prematurely aging? N tells me that this officially marks my entry into the 'Auntie' world.....ick ick!! That night, I dream in black-and-white-and-gray! In spite of the colour scheme in the dream, there is one hair on my head that looks gray..crazy dream, I tell myself.

Next morning, I wake up hoping that this was all a nightmare. But as I get ready for work, I see it again!ick ick ick!!

Thank goodness for work- it makes me forget about the first melanin-deficient hair on my head. I get back early from work and plop myself on the TV. Its Tyra Bank's show on one of the channels. I like Tyra- she is pretty, she is sweet and she is all about women empowerment; what's not to like? Today she is interviewing a woman called Mandy Sellars.

(Photo from: www.guardian.co.uk)

Mandy is from UK and suffers from Proteus Syndrome. It means that while her upper body is a petite Size 8 and weighs just 31 kgs, her legs weigh 61 kgs! And they are still growing, making her legs about 4 times that of an average person! The special shoes she needs cost her $3800, which means she can afford only pair at a time (thats not fair to any woman, I say!!!).

She tells Tyra that how the doctors had told her mum that she wouldnt probably survive 2 weeks past birth but she has proved them wrong by adding 34 years to that! What strikes me most is Mandy's spirit. She talks about her friends, her life, the dating scene and even a possible leg amputation, with so much ease and matter-of-factedness, I am bowled.

Suddenly one gray hair doesn't seem earth-shattering.

That night, I dream in technicolour again.

Its all about perspective I say,

11 April 2010

Poll verdict

After my rants in the last post, here's what my readers had to say about my blog:

- Everyone loves my writing (yooohoooo...shammi kapoor ishstyle!)

- Almost everyone would like to see me post once a week (fortunately, no one chose the option 'never ever' so that gives me a yooohooo!!!)

- As far as the preference for post topic, people seem to like all four categories (though there was a marginal preference for food posts)

- 75% have tried or plan to try my food recipes (I am guessing the remaining 25% didn't vote for the food posts)

- 75% love my book reviews- 25% consider them 'whatever'! Oui oui!

- Everyone, without any exceptions, loves my 'More' posts (looks like everyone enjoys reading about uselessness as I much as I do :))

- Finally, the average reader thinks my blog rates 7/10 (there were a few who gave it a 9 rating but I will be modest here)

With this, I accept the 'junta ka faisla'. I guess this means that, whether you like it or not, you will be seeing more of me in the future (hoping to write once a week).

Thanks to each and everyone of you for taking the time to fill out the survey and giving me an idea of what you think about my blog. There were more responses than I had hoped for and way-too-nice things about the blog there than I had expected.

And yes, if you have nicer things to say to me, remember no one's stopping you :)


30 March 2010

Lessons learnt and a poll

Anyone wondered where I have disappeared of late? Not really? hmm, doesn't help my ego you know? Did no one miss my posts and writing and food? REALLY?? Well, its been a good nine months since I started my baby blog..whew! And in the last nine months, I have posted 50-odd posts: on topics close to my heart. So what have I learnt?

- I am lazy.
I can barely manage a post a week- this is my second post in the whole of March. When I look at some of the fellow-bloggers pumping as many as two posts a day, I want to crawl under the bed. Not a bad idea actually- b’cause I will crawl there and most probably sleep :)

- My writing is…..well, just that- my writing.
Yes, sweet little readers have come back and complimented me on my style and humor. But lets face it- I am neither a Shakespeare nor a Johnny Lever. I can write a little and I laugh a little- but the words ‘little’ are key!

- My food photography skills are dismal.
I blame N for this. No, really. I know my pics will look so much better with an SLR camera but he refuses to buy me one. We have a perfectly functioning, really lovely point-and-shoot digicam and he refuses to share my belief that only SLR cams can shine the light on my food. ‘The cams only shoot what you make’, he says. I suspect this is directed at the food I make- he knows he cant openly challenge my food (his daily eating supplies are at risk here) so he throws this meek taunt around. I don’t care what he does- N is to blame for my sad food photos. That’s the final word on this!

- I digress.
Anyone noticed how my blog title has the word 'Travel' in it? and that I have only 6 (out of 50) posts on travelling? I know I write more about 'More (i.e. useless)' things in life but I cant help it...just like this this guy here.

So here's an appeal to you, my readers:
I have added a poll at the very top in the right side column. Answer it for me and help me know what you think of my blog and my writing (good things, not-so-good things, whatever). All responses will be completely anonymous so write what you wish. I'll take it if I like it, and let it float away if I don't :)

Looking forward to god-knows-what-my -readers-think-about-my-blog,

P.S. You want to know how crazy blogging can get? Check this out..haha:

10 March 2010

Book review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow

Back of the book says:
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of WWII, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her new book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she's never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He'd come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique-spur-of-the-moment way: as an alibi to protect members from arrest by the Germans.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society's charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters, she learns about their island, their taste in books and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their lives, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her life forever.

Quite a title, eh? My first thought after looking at the title was what-the-heck is Guernsey and how-the-heck can a literary society have the words ‘potato peel pie’ in its title? But when I read the book, I must admit- I loved, loved, loved it!

Here’s one book that is witty, genuine and totally heart-warming all at the same time. The entire book is based only on letters exchanged between Juliet, her publisher, her friends and yes, members of the Guernsey L&PPP Society. And as their lives unravel in the letters, you can’t help but fall in love with these characters - well, at least I did!

For those of you in my league i.e. the ignorant, Guernsey (spelled as GURN-zee) is a small island south of England and west of France. The island is part of neither the British nor the French territory but (if I got my facts right) pledged allegiance to the British Empire. The book talks about the experiences of all the characters as they go on with their lives after the Second World War: London (where Juliet lives) – a victim to German bombing, and Guernsey –to German occupation.

The biggest appeal to me was the simplicity and realness of the book, and of its characters. They don’t pretend to be too-goody or too-baddy, which is such a welcome relief! Here’s one of the few WWII books I have come across which is sane enough to admit that the Hitler and Nazism legacy doesn’t automatically mean that all Germans were bad. Nor does it discount the traitors and betrayals in the Allied forces. I guess there is never a black and white in real life.. it’s just important to recognize this and not generalize things, don’t you agree?

I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it is to resurrect your life from ashes (forget one as big as the WWII) but the book astonished me about how people seemed to have gone ahead with their lives on this tiny island- all based on love, goodwill and yes, books! I know the book is fictional and the characters are merely that- characters, but I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to draw some inspiration from something so nice - fictional or otherwise!

My absolute fav line in the book? Perhaps there is a secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. Well, this book definitely has its instinct bang on !

Finally, if I have to say something not-so-nice about the book, all I will admit is that it is a little girly but if you live with that, go for it!

A big thumbs–up from me anyways,

24 February 2010

Lazy lamhe: Eggless rawa cake

Its Olympics time in Vancouver..the city is buzzing with excitement and energy since last Friday as the gracious host for the 2010 Winter Olympics. I have this whole week off from work (can you believe my luck??) and plan to do a big NOTHING these 5 days!!!I have put my foot down and told N that I will be doing no things he wants and only things I want (didn't go too well at first, but when he remembered how heavy my foot is and how flimsy these wooden North American houses are- he yielded). We have a deal- I give him food three times a day and he lets me be by myself (thinking back, I think a little more foot thumping from me and maybe he would have been the one making the meals- now that would be a supergood vacation, I say!).

Anywho, the last 3 days have been pure bliss. For the first time in last 4 years, I have vacation just to spend by myself. I have slept, cooked, read, watched the games, and some movies, gone out, cleaned some parts of the house- all at my leisure!! When N gets back from his lab, I actually have time to sit and talk with him (something we just don't have the energy to do on workdays) -so all in all, vacation's going fab so far!

Today, I am going to share a recipe of egg less rawa (semolina) cake I made yesterday. The cake is lovely substitute for the regular flour cakes and is one I totally enjoy. I have passed on this recipe to few of my friends, who have become loyal fans ever since. I remember making this for my in-laws when they were here last summer for vacation- they enjoyed it so much that they put in request for one to take with them on their journey back home!

Here's the recipe (from Hamkhaas Pakshiddhi by Mrs. Jayashree Deshpande)
1.5 cups rawa (semolina)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 cup yogurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 pinch baking soda
1 tsp (leveled) baking powder

- Grease an 8" round cake pan. Preheat oven to 350C.
- In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually until it gets well-blended with the butter.
- Add the yogurt in small batches and mix well.
- Add the vanilla essence, baking powder and baking soda and mix thoroughly.
- Now add the rawa, followed by milk.
- Stir just enough to combine the ingredients without beating - don't
overstir - and immediately pour into the prepared baking pan.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or till the cake tests done and is golden brown on

Super-easy, eh? Yup, it is! just make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before you begin and the end result should be pretty good!

Goes superbly with a cuppa chai and a good book! Reminds me, got to go back to my lazy moments now :)

More in the next couple days, until then...Go Canada go!

11 February 2010

Book review: 'The death of Vishnu' by Manil Suri

Back of the book says:
'At the opening of this masterful debut novel, Vishnu, the resident odd-job man, lies dying on the staircase he inhabits, while his neighbours the Pathaks and the Asranis squabble over who will pay for an ambulance. as the action spirals up through the floors of their building, the drama of the residents' lives unfold. Mr. Jalal's obsessive search for higher meaning; Vinod Taneja's longing for a wife he has lost, the comic elopement of Kavita Asrani, who fancies herself the heroine of a Bollywood movie.

Suffused with Hindu mythology and the exuberance of Bollywood, this story of one apartment building becomes a metaphor for social and religious divisions of the contemporary India, and Vishnu's ascent of the staircase parallels the soul's progress through the various stages of existence. As Vishnu closes in on the riddle of his own mortality, he begins to wonder whether he might not be the god Vishnu, guardian not only of the fate of the building and its occupants but also of the entire universe'.

Pretty interesting premise, wont you agree? I thought so too- which I why I picked it up the library to read it. The book starts off great; the building setting just like any other you would typically see in Mumbai- too little space, too many people, too many dreams, a fair dose of selfishness - nothing extraordinary. But Suri does really well in painting the picture. Vishnu's anguish as he lies dying and his recollections of his sweeter memories (of Padmini, a pretty prostitute who was the love of Vishnu's life or those of his mother telling him the story of Vishnu-the-God) are nicely portrayed. The constant friction between the Asranis and Pathaks over money, space and other petty issues is seriously funny. The lives of Jalals and Taneja as the upper floor occupants unravels nicely as well. So all in all, Suri does really well setting up his characters.

And while I found the book really good in a quite few places, I must admit I was a little lost in others. Especially the ones where Suri treads on the fine line between philosophy, religion and real life. And then there is a constant undertone of sexuality and lust throughout the book. I understand the sensuality is a big part of life but there were times when I found it a bit too much, sometimes even unnecessary. The story's okay, Suri's writing style is excellent but most importantly, his attempt of braiding mythology and religion with real life deserves a read. So in spite of those little bumps, I will still give the book a thumbs-up.

After I finished reading the book, I was wondering what will happen to 'me' after I die! Trust me, I couldn't go on thinking for more than 5 mins!! I mean, who knows where I will end up? and what about N, my family, my loved ones? If I don't meet them in my after-life, I will be lost, wont I?? So I told N, whatever happens to me, I am never-ever-ever going to leave him ('mera saaya saath hoga' type)..freaked him out completely..hehe!

Besides, N and I have this constant argument- I keep telling him that in our next births, I will be husband, he will be the wife and as revenge for this life, I will boss him like crazy! Sweet dreams, he tells me! His counter-argument? Maybe I was the husband is our last birth and its his revenge this time (yikes, don't like that..makes me look bad!) and more importantly, how do I know this one isn't the last of the mythological seven births of us together?? (double yikes, no more chances of revenge for me??)!

See what a book can do to you?


29 January 2010

Shrimp primavera pasta

Until just a few years back, the word 'primavera' would have sounded quite distant to me...I mean where does pasta and primavera fit in with daily desi food like varan-baath (i.e. dal-rice), kolambi aamti (shrimp curry), right? My biggest leap by far for 'change-from-the-routine-ghar-ka-khana' would have been the North Indian palak paneer or rajma masala.

But coming to Vancity has changed all that, and definitely for the better. The city is one heck of a vibrant, multicultural cosmopolitan city and one of the best things it has to offer are the food joints scattered all across the city. Fresh, colorful produce at farmer's markets make food making not only enjoyable but also refreshingly healthy. And ever since our trip to Italy last year, we are all into healthy (notice the underline) pastas and pizzas!

Today I share a recipe of shrimp primavera pasta that I came up with one night when we were looking for a change from the routine and wanted to wrap up dinner with a quick, one-meal dish. The sauce turns out superbly creamy and the shrimp brings in the seafood flavour just the way we like it.

A warning before you continue reading: this is a cheater's recipe. I don't make the primavera sauce myself (use a store-bought sauce) but the end result is really fabulously creamy and spicy!

15-20 medium zed shrimps, cleaned and de-veined
1 cup uncooked pasta (any type of pasta will work fine, I used the shell shaped one)
1.5 tbsp oil (olive oil works best)
1 small onion, diced
2 scallions (spring onions), diced
2 big cloves of garlic, minced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 packet Knorr parma-rosa sauce mix
1.5 cups milk
salt and pepper for seasoning

-Cook the pasta as per instructions on its packet (dont forget to add salt to the water) and set aside.
-Heat the oil in a pan and add onions and the scallions. Saute on medium heat till they turn transluscent.
-Add the garlic and saute for another 15-20 seconds until fragrant. Take care its does not burn.
-Add the green pepper and saute again for 1 minute or until they turn a little soft.
-Now add the sauce mix and the milk, whisk and stir well. Let the mixture cook on low heat for 3 mins. Stir once in a while. It will thicken considerably and turn creamy.
-Add the shrimp and let it cook on medium-low heat for about 2-3 mins. Take care not to overcook. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
-Remove from heat, garnish with the green portion of the scallions and serve.

-I have tried a few sauce mixes and this one is by far the best.
-I usually dont add too many spices (the sauce mix is spicy enough for me) but dried oregano or rosemary would work well.


P.S. Do you like the new look of my blog? I had problems with my earlier template..like this one so much better!

26 January 2010

A trip down the memory lane

Just as N and I sat down for our dinner last night, he announced that there was nothing interesting for us to watch over dinner. For any 'watching-TV-while-having-dinner' critics out there, we have tried the so-called 'let just talk- no more TV' tactic...it lasted for exactly 5 mins...the forced talking made us feel like idiots..and on came the idiot box!

Anywho, last night, N and I turned to you-tube and one video led to another, till we came on to this one. Anyone who grew up in the 80's and 90's in India will know exactly what this video is about- the commercials on the one and only national TV at that time, Doordarshan. Some of the DD ad gems: hamara bajaj, rasna, vicco vajrdanti, dabur amla tel, lijjat papad...the list goes on!

There are even more DD-ads nostalgia videos out there..check one out here.

N quickly reminded me of two videos that not one child in those days could have missed:

And remember all the crazy movie songs? Like the Govinda-Neelam song Aap ke aa jaane se? Given how good the music is, I am pretty sure its an 'inspired' tune! Govinda's jhatkas and matkas are to die for :)

N warns me about the abrupt start on the next video...on my part, I just could not believe he had even seen the video before!!!

And a final forgettable-video-superhit-song:

Cant believe how bad the choreography was!or how crazy the hero-heroines were!Not to mention the bad fashion trends they set ablaze- I cant help laughing out loud when I think of dhoti suits, banjaras, divided skirts, or baggie pants. N shakes his head thinking about how coloured slacks were once in fashion!I think the image of fat aunties moving on the roads in those slacks has scarred him forever :):)

But no matter how crazy, all these videos will always bring my most cherished memories..my childhood! A time when life was simple...and innocence and carefree laughter were my regular playmates!

Oh my!!!What a trip..needless to say, this was one dinner, N and I thoroughly enjoyed! Just couldn't help sharing it with you :)


17 January 2010

Signs of growing up: karela (bittergourd) bhaaji

It's pretty funny, isn't it? The very things you think as a child you will 'ban' once you grow up are the things you enjoy as an adult. Take karelas (or bitter gourds), for instance. I hated them when I was little, but I have been enjoying this bitter veggie in the last few years. I don't know when the change happened but seems like a sign of me growing up (N doesn't agree veggies should be the gauge of determining maturity but I do!)

This weekend I made karela bhaaji (thats what we call sabzis or curries in Mumbai); this is a very easy recipe and takes about 30 mins to make. I made it based on a recipe from Hamkhaas Pakshiddhi by Mrs. Jayashree Deshpande; a cookbook aai gave me when I got married. Mrs. Deshpande almost seems my like culinary mom to me now! The tamarind and jaggery (this is unrefined sugar with a distinct taste) in the recipe complement the bitterness of the gourd superbly and the roasted sesame seeds lend a lovely taste.

1/2 lbs (3-4 medium sized) fresh karela/bittergourds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
tadka ingredients (1 tsp mustard, 1/8 tsp asafoetida, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder)
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp goda masala (this is a typical Marathi masala; use garam masala if you don't have it)
1/2 tsp tamarind pulp
1-2 tbsp jaggery (substitute with sugar if you dont have jaggery; start with one tbsp and add more if you wish, depending on how much bitterness you can tolerate)
2 tbsp oil (Mrs. D says 3 tbsp in her recipe but I couldn't help cutting it down to two)
salt to taste

-Dry roast the sesame seeds and powder coarsely.
-Wash the gourds thoroughly; remove the outer ridges a little if you wish (i kept them intact). Cut the gourds into thin rings
-Take about 1.5 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed vessel, add the gourd rings and saute/fry them in the oil till the seeds turn brown and crispy (took me about 10 mins). Remove the rings and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil in the vessel and add the tadka ingredients.
- Once the mustard seed sputter, add the gourd rings, tamarind, jaggery, salt, chilli powder, sesame seed powder and goda masala. Add 2 cups of water and cover. Lower the heat to medium and let it cook for atleast 10-15 mins. Stir once in a while.
-After about 10-15 mins, the bhaaji should be ready. Cook a little longer on high heat if there is lots of water left and you want to thicken the gravy.
-Garnish with cilantro leaves. Once done, your bhaaji will look like this! Serve with hot rotis or dal-rice. Lovely comfort food!

Mrs. Deshpande has two lovely tips on cooking bitter gourds:
1. Covering the gourds while cooking results in a bhaaji that is not-very-bitter (true, I vouch).
2. Because you pre-fry/saute the gourd rings, they stay pretty crispy till the end.

I am also sending this recipe to Cooking with seeds- Sesame Seed Events hosted by Priya's EasyNTasty Recipes


11 January 2010

First 13 days of 2010: Never Let me go, 3 khans and amazing art

Time please!

That's what we yelled as kids if we needed a breather while playing [or in my case, cheat by asking for extra time :)]...20-odd years later, I still want to cheat and ask time to give me a breather. 13 days in the new year have already passed. What the heck?? I haven't done any-any-any!thing in the last 13 days except laze around and waste time with my one and only bakra N. One thing I did do was finished reading Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro [After the much-work, much'er'-fun food marathon in the last week of December, must admit I was quite ready to take a break from food posts]. I had heard some interesting things about the book so picked it up at the library a few weeks back.

Picture source:from here

The story is narrated by Kathy, a 31-year old 'carer' giving the readers a peek into her memories of Hailsham, an offbeat boarding school in England where the children are brought up to believe they are special and different from others. Kathy's memories are mostly connected with her two dear childhood friends, Ruth and Tommy and their teachers at Hailsham and later. Just how 'special' Kathy and Tommy and Ruth are, the reader gets to know at the end. To be honest, the story gets a 'just okay' from me. But its Ishiguro's story telling that is definitely interesting. He manages to paints a picture of Hailsham right before your eyes- something that I know isn't easy with words. Reminded me of Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things. If you have read this book, you know what I mean. Sometimes, its not about the story itself but the way it is told. And just for that, you have to credit the writer. NLMG is one such story.

Speaking about good stories, N and I caught Aamir Khan's 3 idiots last weekend...yes, we were a little late on this one but we wanted to watch this one only in the theatre and the muhurat came by only last weekend..must say, what a fab movie!!!!!!!!!!Loved it...all izz well bhaiyya :) For those of you desis who haven't watched it yet, do yourself a favour and watch it for 3 hours of serious comedy! Also caught the first glimpse of Shahrukh Khan's My name is K-k-k-khan and Salman's Veer...the first seems like any other SRK-Karan Johar movie-foreign locales, multimillion homes and dhumdhum music..the only thing new/interesting seemed to be SRK's autistic character! Sallu's Veer seems equally uninteresting..after having tortured ouselves through some of his recent senseless movies (Mr & Mrs Khanna, Wanted, Hello), I have lost my faith in him....no more Sallu movies for me!Thanks, but no thanks, I say!Isn't movie making supposed to be an art?

While we are on the subject of art, here are an art video I cant resist sharing..got it in a forward email some days back and was absolutely awestruck!

This video shows the winner of " Ukraine’s Got Talent", Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary Ukrainian people were affected by the German invasion during World War II. Un-freaking-beleivable talent!!! Whatsay?

13 days older in 2010,

01 January 2010

WIPGYOR series: Red is for tangy prawns curry

I started my WIPGYOR series with a Goan dish and I am ending it with one too. The traditional Goan shrimp curry I make at home is a coconut-based one. But as I said before, we use too much coconut in our food so I am always on the lookout for some interesting alternatives. Which is why I decided to try Mahek's tomato-onion based prawns masala curry. Click here to go to Mahek's blog about Goa...she has some pictures there of Goan food, beaches, temples and markets that will make any Goan nostalgic!

I tried the curry for the first time last night and must say, it came out a winner. The onions substitute very well for the coconut and lend lovely consistency to the gravy. But its the tanginess of the tomatoes that compliments the prawns flavour perfectly. Try this curry out for its simplicity, taste and spiciness!I will definitely be revisiting this recipe, sometime very soon I think :)

Here are the ingredients I used:
About 15-20 medium sized prawns, cleaned, de-veined and salted
1/2 medium sized onion blanched and pureed [Mahek had more in her recipe, but I cut down on mine for two reasons- first, I think she means two Indian onions and not the giant American ones we get here. Second, I dont like too much onion in my curry]
2 small tomatoes pureed
1 tsp tomato paste (store bought, I used it for getting the red colour)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Finely chopped coriander and a wedge of lime for garnish

- Heat oil in a pan and saute the onion puree till light brown, add ginger garlic paste and stir.
- Add the pureed tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir till oil separates
- Add all the masala’s and stir well
- Add the prawns, add a little water and let it cook till the prawns are cooked, which takes about 5 mins
- Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and a wedge of lime
I served the curry with steaming rice. N absolutely loved it!!

That's it....I can't believe I am done with the series. And with the year! It has been a amazing joyride and I have enjoyed every bit of it. The year. The blog. The marathon. The mood. The sharing. The appreciation.

Thanks everyone for joining me on this joyride. I will see you all in the next year. May peace, joy and happiness be with you and your families as you start the new year.

Best wishes,