Posted in Recipes, Soups

Makhlouta – Lebanese Mixed Bean Soup !

Makhlouta/Makhluta translated to mixed in Lebanese Arabic, so in its simplest meaning, Makhlouta is a soup or a bean casserole of sorts, of mixed beans and grains. Traditionally made in the mountains in the winter, it is easy to make, versatile and in most ways fuss free. It is also cooked and consumed in Lent when devouts abstain from meat.Another tiny trivia that gleamed when I dug up a little bit on this soup was that, it is also prepared at the end of the winters, to use up the tiny portions of beans leftover to prevent them from spoiling as the weather get warmer and before the new harvest comes in.  In any way, when I stumbled upon the recipe, it sounded so hearty and satisfying, I knew I was going to make it for my soup nights. It is typically a mix of 5-7 beans and grains and everyone uses whatever is available in the pantry.

Makhlouta / Makhluta – Lebanese Mixed Bean Soup – soup 22 of #100happysoups ! I will confess, the soup turned out to be much less fancy than it's name, when I first stumbled upon it on a blog. In all ways, it is probably a cousin of our humble misal but even more simply spiced and seasoned than misal to tell you the truth. Makhlouta / Makhluta literally translates to "mixed" in Lebanese Arabic and this soup is essentially a mix of 5-7 beans and a grain or two of choice that are soaked for 8-10 hours before being simmered into a soup with seasoning. One blog says that this soup was made in olden days to use up the leftover beans at the end of winter and before the spring harvest so that the old stock doesn't go waste. Another blog calls it a dish consumed in Lent when the devout fast and abstain for meat. In any way, I liked the idea and promptly decided to make it. I have used barley as the grain but whole wheat grains, broken wheat or even brown rice works. The beans I used were Chickpeas / Garbanzo, Kidney Beans, Whole Red Lentils ( Masoor ), Red Double Beans, and Whole Black Lentils ( Urad ). They cooked until soft and simmered with sautéed onions, salt, pepper and cumin. A squeeze of lemon and a handful of parsley ( I used coriander ) and it is done. It is hearty, it is tasty ( no I am not saying this for the sake of it, it was yum!! ) and it is easy to make. I should probably remember that we Indians don't own a copyright to simple things like mixed beans. The recipe is up on the blog to wake it up from hibernation! 😁 #makhlouta #makhluta #mixedbeansoup #lebanese #srujans100happysoups #vegetarian #beansoup #indianfoodiye #nammabengaluru #nammabengalurufoodie #bangaloreigers #igersbangalore #myblr #sobangalore #trellfood #trelltalebangalore #foodtalkbangalore #foodtalkindia #goodfoodindia #indiancuisine #buzzfeedindia

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review ) – Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair !

I find rating books in stars a little difficult these days. Probably because I don’t have a clearly etched benchmark of what a 5-star rated book should be like. It happened that way with this book. This is my second book by Anita Nair, the first being Alphabet Soup for Lovers. Parts of this book were brilliant, especially the initial 150 pages or so. It begins with Akhilandeswari, a 45-year-old, single woman who works as an income tax clerk, buys a one-way ticket to Kanyakumari. When she steps into the Coupé ( this Coupé thing itself sounds so romantic and beautifully fictional because I have never travelled by a Coupe ), she meets and talks to six women, all from different walks of life, and listens to their life stories as narrated by them. In parallel, her thoughts take us through how she has become what she has become.

(10/36 of 2017 ) FR – Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair. I find rating books in stars a little difficult these days. Probably because I don't have a clearly etched benchmark of what a 5-star rated book should be like. It happened that way with this book. Parts of this book were brilliant, especially the initial 150 pages or so. It begins with Akhilandeswari, a 45 year old, single woman who works as an income tax clerk, buys a one way ticket to Kanyakumari. When she steps into the Coupé ( this Coupé thing itself sounds so romantic and beautifully fictional because I have never travelled by a Coupe ), she meets and talks to six women, all from different walks of life, and listens to their life stories as narrated by them. In parallel, her thoughts take us through how she has become what she has become. Her childhood and the part which describes a weekend from when her Appa was alive is the part of the book I didn't want to move on from. I silently judged her mother, just like Akhila did, from dissolving her existence in the pool that was nothing but her husband. I am not particularly impressed with the characters of Akhila's family, but they are quite realistic. But some parts of the book are magical. It is probably the hapless romantic in me but it was like I stood on the other side of the curtain of steam that rose from a mound of white, glistening grains of rice her mother served her father on a plantain leaf, every Sunday. Here I quote the author: "Piping Hot, fragrant with the alchemy of steam, spices and Amma's devotion to the man who, for her sake and the children's', lunched on curd rice and a slice of lime pickle, six days a week and never complained." A few paragraphs later, I am smiling in approval as Amma makes fried, succulent, half moon Kathirikai Bajjis for Tiffin but doesn't mix filter coffee decoction until she has the Kesari ready to serve. [ Continued in the comment below ]

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Posted in Historical Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Mythology, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni!

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni can be called a retelling or a reimagining of Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective. A lot of plot details are redefined with a feminist perspective often by changing a few points in the story. Sometimes it adds to the value, sometimes it doesn’t. However, as a complete book, I quite enjoyed it. It was a much-recommended book after Karna’s Wife by Kavita Kane and I can say the recommendations were justified! The blurb of the acclaimed book calls it half history, half myth and wholly magical. I enjoyed reading this book enough to wholly agree with the first 2 of the tags, not wholly convinced about the third. And I don’t find the magical tag inapplicable as a criticism, but because it sort of defeats the purpose of how the narrator, Panchaali, is depicted in the book. I personally like the part of the book where she is still, in essence, Dhrupad’s Daughter and Dhri’s sister, “The Unexpected One” or “Offspring of Vengeance” as she thinks of herself. And it’s not the daughter or the sister that defines her, it is completely her, unsure of herself, in awe of Shikandi, protective of Dhri, and who doesn’t know if she wants to be a part of the prophecy that she and her brother were born to fulfil. I love this part because it makes her real, unsheathed of any divine aura, not the golden halo-ed or wronged woman as she has been repeated called as.

( Book 9/36 for 2017 ) FR – The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni ! It was a much recommended book after Karna's Wife by Kavita Kane and I can say the recommendations were justified! 👍🏼 The blurb of the acclaimed book calls it half-history, half-myth and wholly magical. I enjoyed reading this book enough to wholly agree with the first 2 of the tags, not wholly convinced about the third. And I don't find the magical tag inapplicable as a criticism, but because it sort of defeats the purpose of how the narrator, Panchaali, is depicted in the book. I personally like the part of the book where she is still, in essence, Draupad's Daughter and Dhri's sister, "The Unexpected One" or "Offspring of Vengeance" as she thinks of herself. And it's not the daughter or the sister that defines her, it is completely her, unsure of herself, in awe of Shikandi, protective of Dhri, and who doesn't know if she wants to be a part of prophecy she and her brother were born to fulfill. I love this part because it makes her real, unsheathed of any divine aura, not the golden halo-ed or wronged woman as she has been repeated called as. While the book isn't specifically about her, her childhood is hands on the most fascinating part of the story for me. Probably because we have heard about the war a hundred thousand times over. I am not really interested in knowing anymore about Krishna or the Pandavas or Bheeshma. They don't have the same enigma surrounding them. Take, for example, Shikhandi, who tells Draupadi, "Wait for a man to avenge your honour and you'll wait forever." After she morphes into Panchaali, the book moves a decently engaging pace. The Maya Mahal that the demon Maya conjures up for them in the forests of Khandaav Pradesh is again very interesting. I didn't want this book to be another discourse on Mahabharata, and in about half of the book, it didn't fail me. About the second half, well, you cannot write a book on one of the characters of this epic and not talk about the war, it is unavoidable. All in all, it is most definitely one of the better books on Indian Mythology I have read, although I haven't read too many of them. Most certainly recommended!

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While the book isn’t specifically about her, her childhood is hands on the most fascinating part of the story for me. Probably because we have heard about the war a hundred thousand times over. I am not really interested in knowing anymore about Krishna or the Pandavas or Bheeshma. They don’t have the same enigma surrounding them. Take, for example, Shikhandi, who tells Draupadi, “Wait for a man to avenge your honour and you’ll wait forever.” After she morphs into Panchaali, the book moves a decently engaging pace. The Maya Mahal that the demon Maya conjures up for them in the forests of Khandaav Pradesh is again very interesting.

Her relationship with Krishnaa is also wonderfully etched out. He is not a confidante, not the way I felt. In her own words, in Krishnaa, she had found her match. He often served as his eyes and ears to the world, not like a spy, more like someone who brought her the news from the world. I also like how her perception of the queen mothers of Hastinapur changes over time. At first, of irritation but later it changes to admiration and source of strength. All of this brings a very humane touch to the epic, unlike the divine way it has always been narrated to us!

I didn’t want this book to be another discourse on Mahabharata, and in about half of the book, it didn’t fail me. About the second half, well, you cannot write a book on one of the characters of this epic and not talk about the war, it is unavoidable. All in all, it is most definitely one of the better books on Indian Mythology I have read, although I haven’t read too many of them. Most certainly recommended!

Posted in Historical Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Mythology, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane!

Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane is the story of Karna, the unsung and undercelebrated hero from Mahabharata, from his wife Uruvi’s eyes. It is the story of Karna’s life unfurling as the princess of Pukeya, who is beautiful, brave and worthy in every way, falls for the Karna, becomes his queen and goes through this series of wrong-doings and setting-rights called Mahabharata. I am overall not a huge fan of the Indian Mythology as a genre. It’s probably a mental block, but the subject doesn’t engage me much due to several reasons. But, I will say that this book was a pleasant read despite all my personal limitations in the genre. We all grow up listening to granny’s tales on summer nights and watching reruns of tv series during summer vacations, so by the time we grow up, we have a garbled version of every story and sub-story in our minds. For example, we have always been told over and over again that Karna was a good guy, unfortunately fighting on the side of evil. I have never really been able to wrap my mind around this one. Now, as kids, we often accept this stuff as is, no questions asked. Which leaves us midway in clarity. Every plot/subplot/character in these epics have infinite layers to it and we usually don’t delve further than a few layers. So this is where books like Karna’s wife become a pleasant read if you don’t build your expectations up.

FR – Karna's Wife, The Outcast's Queen by Kavita Kane ! This book didn't carry any burden of my expectations on its shoulders. I am overall not a huge fan of the Indian Mythology as a genre. It's probably a mental block, but the subject doesn't engage me much due to several reasons. But, I will say that this book was a pleasant read despite all my personal limitations in the genre. We all grow up listening to granny's tales on summer nights and watching reruns of tv series during summer vacations, so by the time we grow up, we have a garbled version of every story and sub story in our minds. For example, we have always been told over and over again that Karna was a good guy, unfortunately fighting on the side of evil. I have never really been able to wrap my mind around this one. Now, as kids, we often accept this stuff as is, no questions asked. Which leaves us midway in clarity. Every plot/subplot/character in these epics have infinite layers to it and we usually don't delve further than a few layers. So this is where books like Karna's wife become a pleasant read if you don't build your expectations up. The book takes you through the epic with Uruvi's point of view, the princess who braves public shaming, ridicule and outrage to marry Karna, a charioteer's son, beneath her social status. Her attraction to Karna, brave and worthy, and yet ridiculed at every step, has been outlined well. Why Karna feels indebted and attached to Duryodhan is interesting too. It's enjoyable as long as I don't start looking for literary gems in the prose. Believe me when I say this, it's not the author's fault, it is the genre's. It has happened to me before when I read Amish Tripathi's Immortals of Meluha too. Adjectives start sounding repetitive, the prose looks similar everywhere and other than the plot, nothing really makes it engaging. Also, this jumbled mix of stories/dialogues/books from childhood in Hindi/Gujarati makes it difficult to enjoy this genre. So far, I haven't really found a book on Indian Mythology hasn't conflicted with the premise in my head and yet,whose prose captivates me! Pick it up as a light read with minimal expectations and it won't disappoint you.

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Posted in Pasta, Recipes

Pasta chi Vruocculi Arriminati aka Pasta in Cauliflower Sauce!

I am not as big a fan of cauliflower as I am of the Harry Potter Rowling. Or House of Cards. Or…. I can go on, but that is not the point. The point is, it is one of the things that I cook because I got to cook. My mom told me it is good for me, and that is that. I do not enjoy it one bit. I have tried quite a few things before I accepted that Cauliflower and I are not meant to be BFFs. Until I stumbled upon this thing called Pasta chi Vruocculi Arriminati in the cookbook called Long Weekends by Rick Stein. Nestled in the segment on Palermo, this beauty has probably started the first sparks which might kindle our friendship. Of course, I made it promptly, I am a good girl, ain’t I? I mean, cauliflower disguised as a bechamel kind of sauce in which spaghetti is tossed, might not really sound exotic, but oh boy, it was yum! It was creamy, mildly sweet and most importantly, didn’t taste like Cauliflower! Bingo! ❤

Titled “Pasta Chi Vruocculi Arriminati aka Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower, Anchovies, Currants and Pine Nut”, the recipe contains tinned anchovy fillets, which I proceeded to promptly exclude. But, if you wish, you could use them here, because hey, never say no to some proteins if you can! Now, the curious cat that I am, I did a bit of Google search and stumbled up this page here, which turned out of a treasure chest of information on the dish. Do read up, if you are as curious as I was then, or simply get going and make some yourself.

Spaghetti chi Vruocculi Arriminati ( Spaghetti mixed with Broccoli , although all the versions I have come across use Cauliflower 🤔) from Rick Stein's book Long Weekends, is our Saturday Brunch! The recipe is from the Palermo segment of the book and surprisingly has no dairy products at all. I was stoked ever since I read the recipe in the book and finally tried it today. I have a mostly hate relationship with cauliflower, so while I was wary, I was immensely curious about how would a cauliflower sauce taste like. The sauce is made up of cooked and mashed cauliflower seasoned with a small onion, salt pepper, saffron and chilli flakes. The book version has no cheese no milk whatsoever, but uses saffron which in my Indian brain doesn't work unless I soak it in warm milk. So I took the liberty and used a few tablespoons of milk. In a juxtaposition of sorts, the recipe calls for topping the pasta with toasted bread crumbs, ( poor man's cheese apparently, so the Internet tells me ) but adds saffron to the sauce which is, let's admit it, a little pretentious an ingredient. I used basil and peeled almonds ( I didn't have pine nuts ) to top along with toasted bread crumbs l. But all in all, I heartily approve of the recipe and is probably one way I now like cauliflower! Buon Appetito, folks and have a Happy Weekend ! #weekendbrunch #rickstein #spaghetti #vruocculiarriminati #cauliflowerpasta

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Posted in Breads, Recipes

Whole Wheat Bhature!

So, last weekend, I tried out a few recipes from Jigg’s Kalra’s Prashād and one of them was the recipe for Bhature, which are a pretty much a staple accompaniment to Chhole in any form. Here is the Platter in which I served the Bhatures.

Peshawari Chhole, Golden ( Crisp on the outside soft on the inside ) Whole Wheat Bhature and Punj Rattani Daal was our Brunch today as a early Valentines Day Celebration! ❤️ Well, one should never wait for a particular day to express affection and for a few reasons, I have been cooking only Daal Roti Sabzi kind of quick meals since a fortnight now. And since February the 14th is going to be a weekday, we celebrating it today! So I decided to treat Mr. Desai today with a few favourites. All the recipes are from "the Czar of Indian Cuisine" Jiggs Kalra's renowned cookbook Prashad. I found an old, fairly battered copy of the book at Blossom a few weeks ago and grabbed like it was the last copy on earth. And to make it even more irresistible, on the front page, there was a note from a loving Mom to her daughter who is about to embark on the marital journey. 👩‍❤️‍👩 Would you put such a book, dripping with love and affection back in the shelf ever? I don't have the heart! 🤗 The Peshawari Chhole had no red chilli powder / green chillies / turmeric / powdered Garam Masala l. It has been flavoured with a Whole Spice + Tea leaves wala muslin cloth satchel while the chickpeas were pressure cooked, and then, ginger, onions and Amchoor ( use AnaarDaana powder if possible, I didn't have any ) ! It's not very garam masala intensive curry, it won't cause any acid reflux! ❤️ The Punj Rattani Daal is something on the lines of Panchmel Daal but with a unique Tadka. It has Kala Jeera + Ghee in the tempering in which tomatoes are cooked till mushy. Then you add dry spices and Bhuno-it ( there is no other word with so much feeling as Bhuno, in Gujarati we have Santadvanu but Indian words are the best 😍😍😍 ) till the oil separates. Finally yogurt is added to the tomatoes before it is poured over the simmering mix of 5 lentils! I wrote a bit too much but I couldn't resist! Have a happy Sunday folks! ❤️ #chhole #chholebhature #peshawarichole #bhature #daal #peshawari #weekendlunch #valentinesdaylunch

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Posted in Food and Drink, My Bibliothèque, Romance

{ Book Review } – Alphabet Soup for Lovers by Anita Nair!

Alphabet Soup for Lovers is not a collection of recipes. Nor is it a riveting tale of two ill-fated lovers who get together after a long struggle, sacrifices or a display of strong character. For me, Alphabet Soup for Lovers felt like tucking in a bowl of warm, ghee laced khichdi, occasionally biting into a whole peppercorn or a piece of mango pickle accompanied by a rather limp, oil soaked papad which should have brought it some texture and flavours into the khichdi but ended up rather being a nuisance.

Book 4 / 36 – Alphabet Soup for Lovers by Anita Nair is not a collection of recipes. Nor is it a riveting tale of two ill-fated lovers who get together after a long struggle, sacrifices or a display of strong character. For me, Alphabet Soup for Lovers felt like tucking into a bowl of warm, ghee laced khichdi, occasionally biting into a whole peppercorn or a piece of mango pickle accompanied by a rather limp, oil soaked papad which should have brought it some texture and flavours into the khichdi but ended up rather being a nuisance. The story begins with the narrator and my favourite character in the book, Komathi, expressing her frustration at not being able to pick up the English Alphabet. She is an old retainer of the female protagonist, Lena, who lives in the idyllic Nilgiris and is described to be in a sort of an emotionless relationship with her husband KK. In contrast, the Komathi's character is very well etched. And the food metaphors that she uses are endearing. She decides to associate each letter with a fruit, vegetable or dish. That way she will never forget it. As she winds her way through alphabets, she is mostly an impassive witness to the illicit attraction that springs up between Lena and Shoola Pani. As she goes through this beautiful journey from A for Arisi Appalam, choosing the humble Appalam over her granddaughter's A for Apple and makes her way to the calm and soothing end with Z for Zigarthanda ( I know, it starts with J but Komathi chooses Jigarthanda for Z ) her back story unravels revealing a surprise, an unrequited love, and explains why her thoughts are what they are. What I did not like was how hollow the rest of the characters and the stories sound in the book. I found them dull because nothing explains why a character behaves the way she/he behaves. Not their thoughts, not their words and neither a third person assesment of their behaviour, like Komathi's thoughts about them explains the story development. Looks like the author didn't heed Komathi's advice and fried the Arisi Appalams in smoking hot oil, leaving the Appalam uncooked on the inside and sticking to the reader's teeth. Detailed review on the blog, link in bio!

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